WISDOM FOR MARRIAGE FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATION – Part 8: Lessons from the Letter to the Laodicea Church

Living in this world can distract us from what’s really important. Even worse, we can deceive ourselves into thinking anything of this world can bring us joy or satisfaction. What do you desire most? And where do you seek your treasure? And how does this affect your marriage relationship?

Wisdom for marriage is found throughout the Bible–from the first book to the last. This Couple’s Bible Study series looks at the last book–Revelation–and gathers wisdom from the letters to the seven churches in Asia. Each letter is full of truths that will help us strengthen our marriage as we grow closer to each other and to the Lord.

So far, we have seen what God teaches us from His message to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, PergamumThyatiraSardis, and Philadelphia. This week we conclude this series by learning what God has to say for our marriages using His message to the church at Laodicea.

We read Jesus’ words to this church in Revelation 3:14-22:

Revelation 3:14-22

 

A Little Background

Laodicea was the wealthiest of the cities addressed by Jesus. It was at the crossroads of two major trade routes. Because of this it became the banking center for the region where money could be safely deposited and exchanged by traders and travelers.

Sheep grazed on the hillsides around the city. Their soft black wool was greatly desired across the Roman empire.

A medical school located there produced an ear ointment and an eye salve that were in high demand.

Some springs in the city were said to produce some of the clearest and coldest water in the area. And there were also hot springs full of minerals that people believed had healing powers.

It is no wonder that the people of Laodicea prided themselves on their wealth and self-sufficiency. They claimed they neither wanted nor needed help from anyone, including Rome. In fact, when an earthquake hit the region in A.D. 60, they were the only city to refuse aid from Rome.

All of these facts are important to understand Jesus’ teaching to the Christians at Laodicea and how it applies to our marriages.

Jesus’ Authority

Jesus begins this message by describing Himself in three ways. First, He says that He is “the Amen” (Revelation 3:14). He is the final word from God. When Jesus speaks, it is the same as God speaking…and nothing else needs to be said.

Jesus also says He is “the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14). Just as He assured the other churches He addressed, Jesus promises the church at Laodicea that they can believe and count on what He says.

Finally, He identifies Himself as “the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14). He is God. He created all things and, therefore, rules over all things.

This is affirmed in John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”   

Hot, Cold, or Lukewarm?

Having made the case for His authority, Jesus makes the same statement He made to other churches:  “I know your deeds” (Revelation 3:15). Once again, we have the assurance that Jesus knows all about us and our marriage. But this is also a warning, for what He knows about us is not always good.

Jesus says He would rather they be either hot or cold, but they are lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16). What does He mean by this?

Hot is typically thought of as a total commitment to Christ. And cold a complete lack of concern about Him and His ways. So lukewarm would be somewhere in between.

But certainly Christ doesn’t mean He would rather we ignore His teaching altogether than at least be somewhat concerned about following His Word. So what exactly does He mean?

To help us understand this, let’s recall the two springs of water in Laodicea we discussed earlier. Both the cold springs and the hot springs had a positive purpose. The cold provided good drinking water while the hot provided medicinal value.

If either spring became lukewarm, it would lose its purpose and value. Instead, it would only provide disgusting water to drink. Anyone who drank it would immediately want to spit it out of their mouth. And this is just what Jesus said He was about to do to the Laodicean Christians (Revelation 3:16).

Hot springs

How does this apply to marriage?

Jesus clearly desires for us to faithfully follow the teachings on marriage found in His Word. He wants us to seek how to serve Him together according to His will. And He wants our lives and marriage to be centered on Him—devoted to Him.

If we do not seek and follow Christ’s will for our marriage, like the Laodicean Christians, we will not have His guidance and power which we so desperately need.

What or Who Do You Depend On?

Jesus also rebukes the Laodicean Christians because they did not depend on God. Instead, they depended on their wealth, the material things they had acquired, and the worldly power those things brought to them (Revelation 3:17). They didn’t think they needed anything–including Rome or God.

But Jesus confronts them by saying in reality they are “wretched” (Revelation 3:17). The original Greek word is “talaiporos,” which means “in distress” and “unhappy.” He also says they are “pitiful,” “eleeninos” in the Greek, meaning “in need of mercy.” And He also declares they are actually “poor, blind, and naked.”

These traits may not have been physically true. In fact, recall that they had a medical school and special eye ointment to keep them from going blind. And these believers were wealthy and certainly didn’t lack money or material things, including the finest clothes made from the best wool in the Roman empire. But these things were all true of them spiritually.

This is why they were in such distress and needed Christ’s mercy.

In marriage, we must be cautious not to fool ourselves and think we are “happy” and doing well, when we are actually “wretched” and moving away from God.

We must carefully place our trust and hope in the Lord alone. Remember God’s warning in Proverbs 11:28: “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” And we must not forget Jesus’ warning in Mark 10:25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”              

It’s not that being wealthy and having possessions is a sin. But these things can tempt us to move our trust away from the Lord and put that trust in the things of this world. This is what the Christians in Laodicea had done. If we do the same, it will mean disaster for us and our marriage.

Where Do You Find Your Wealth?

But Jesus doesn’t leave them there. He takes time to give them “counsel” (Revelation 3:18). He tells them how to get on the right track as His devoted follower. And this is counsel we need to follow in our own lives.

First Jesus tells how to truly be rich. He says “buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich” (Revelation 3:18).

Peter writes about this in 1 Peter 1:6-9: In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”          

Revelation 3:20

True wealth is complete faith and trust in Christ.

It is only in this wealth that we find the “white clothes to wear, so [we] can cover [our] shameful nakedness” (Revelation 3:18). Only with this wealth can we purchase the “salve to put on [our] eyes, so [we] can see”. And only in this wealth will we have a blessed marriage.

If we have not trusted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we will stand naked before Him and the Father on judgment day. Our sins will condemn us to eternity in hell. But if we place our faith and trust in Him, we will stand before God in our white clothes, washed clean by Jesus’ blood as He died for our sins on the cross.

If we have trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord, then our eyes are healed. We can see clearly and understand His truth. We can live our lives based on His truth as found in God’s Word.

If you have never trusted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you must begin there. You cannot have the wonderful life and marriage God desires for you until your life is committed to Him. If you desire to give your life to Jesus or just want to know more, please read Meet Jesus.

As we depend fully on Christ for everything in our lives and recognize our wealth is found in Him alone, we will see our marriage become the beautiful relationship God designed.

Repentance and Forgiveness

Jesus closes this message to the church at Laodicea, and to all of us, with the wonderful, tender words found in Revelation 3:19-22.

He has spoken some harsh words of “rebuke and discipline” (Revelation 3:19). But He has not spoken them out of anger or to harm us. He has spoken them because He loves us and does not want to see us go down a path that will lead to destruction and hell.

We are told about this in Hebrews 12:5-7:

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”

Jesus encourages the Laodicean Christians (and us) to “be earnest and repent.”

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of a sin–including against our husband or wife–we should sincerely repent. We must not try to hide, deny or justify the sin. We must confess it, ask forgiveness, and ask God’s help to never do it again. That is earnest repentance.

And God will forgive us. He promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

And we must follow His example of grace. If your husband or wife confesses and repents of a sin committed against you, forgive them.

Jesus said clearly in Luke 17:3-4: So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’”

Repentance and forgiveness is a key to a right relationship with God and with each other.

Revelation 3:20 is often used in evangelism to tell a person how to be saved. Jesus says: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

This promise can certainly apply to the first time we ask Jesus to be our Savior and Lord. But it also applies when we sin. Jesus–through the Holy Spirit–will knock and convict us of our sin and call us to repentance. When He knocks and we open the door for Him by repenting, He gives us His forgiveness, and we experience the joy that comes with it.

We read Peter’s God-inspired words in Acts 3:19: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Peter is talking about the initial salvation experience here. But it certainly also applies to us when we repent of our sins. We will have that intimate relationship with Jesus so beautifully characterized by eating together (Revelation 3:20).

Repentance and forgiveness will keep our marriage relationship strong and growing.     

Our Eternal Hope

Jesus concludes this message with a glorious promise for the church at Laodicea, as well as for us as individuals and as a couple.

If we will follow His Word faithfully, we will be with Him and the Father in heaven forever (Revelation 3:21).

Men, let us commit to lead our wives in such a way that we will experience God’s eternal blessing. And ladies, commit to pray for and help your husbands to do this.

When we see our hope in God alone and we place our trust and devotion in Him, our marriages will thrive. For we will seek Him through His Word and depend on Him to help us live faithfully each day. And in doing so, we will be able to love each other with His gracious love.

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QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God has taught you through it that will help you have the marriage He desires for you.

♦   Where do you stand in your relationship with Christ, individually? As a couple? Are you hot and cold? Have you prayed, studied God’s Word, and found the purpose He has for you? Are you living out that purpose? Or are you lukewarm? Are you just living for yourself? Wherever you are right now, ask God to help you know and live out the purpose He has for you. It is the only way to have real joy in your marriage.

♦   What are you depending on for help and security in your life? Is it Christ alone? Or is it things that the world tries to tell you are the source of peace? Commit together that with Christ’s help that you will depend on Him alone. Ask Him to help you do this.

♦   Is there something you need to confess and ask forgiveness for? Do you need to forgive your spouse for something? Remember, as long as there is unconfessed and/or unforgiven sin in our lives, we won’t have the relationship with God or each other that He desires and we long for.

♦   Close your time in prayer. There have been many things mentioned in this post and in these questions to pray about. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to pray as you need to. Husbands, lead your wives in this as God directs in His Word (Ephesians 5:25-27).

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This was the last letter to the seven churches, and this concludes our series from the book of Revelation. But we hope you’ll join us next week as we have a new study from God’s Word to help strengthen your marriage.

Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
David

Other posts in the WISDOM FOR MARRIAGE FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATION series:
Part 1: Can This Book Really Teach Us About Marriage?
Part 2: Lessons from the Letter to the Ephesus Church
Part 3: Lessons from the Letter to the Smyrna Church
Part 4: Lessons from the Letter to the Pergamum Church
Part 5: Lessons from the Letter to the Thyatira Church
Part 6: Lessons from the Letter to the Sardis Church
Part 7: Lessons from the Letter to the Philadelphia Church
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Header photo by SW Austin Dixon via Snapwire (CC0 1.0), cropped/text added.
Hot springs photo by Steppinstars via pixabay (CC0), cropped/text added.

Living in this world can distract us from what’s really important. Even worse, we can deceive ourselves into thinking anything of this world can bring us joy or satisfaction. What do you desire most? And where do you seek your treasure? And how does this affect your marriage relationship? Join us for this Couple's Bible Study from Revelation to see what Jesus has to say about it. | Simply One in Marriage.

 

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.