How should Seventh-day Adventists apply the message of Revelation 3:18-21 to themselves? What is there in the text that could be applied to all Christians in every age? Gold can express the value we have in God’s eyes. There are three key symbols in the passage that form the core of the counsel that Jesus gives to Laodicea. 1) Gold can express the value we have in God’s eyes. Although Jesus Christ is the creator of the entire universe (John 1:3), He would have died just for one human being. That places an infinite value on each one of us. 2) White raiment would most naturally seem to represent the righteousness of Christ that is available to all who trust in Him. 3) Eye salve represents the spiritual discernment that helps us clearly see our need for Christ.
The core issue of Laodicea seems to be a lack of authenticity. What Laodicea claims about herself and what she actually is are two completely different things (Rev. 3:17). Hence Jesus’ diagnosis that Laodicea is repulsively lukewarm. Her claim to have the riches of Christ heads her in the right direction, but in reality the claim is proved to be false. The spiritual life that she claims isn’t real. In place of her failure to see the truth about herself, Laodicea is invited to use the recommended eye salve. In place of her satisfaction with a righteousness of her own making, she is invited to put on the righteousness of Christ. In place of her self-esteem based on the worthless riches she claims, Jesus offers a self-worth grounded in the value that he sees in her.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church from the beginning has struggled over its identity. On the one hand, there is the perception of its vast importance as the end-time people of God with a unique mission to fulfill. This can easily lead fallible humans to spiritual pride and inauthenticity. To a people who are called to present Jesus’ last message of mercy to the world, Jesus gives the warning that she herself can lose her way (see 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). She needs to see her condition and danger clearly, and take hold of the gospel for herself, before she can be effective in delivering the final gospel message to the world. In the words of a perceptive analogy, God’s evangelists are simply beggars telling all the other beggars where they can find bread. They cannot give what they do not have.
Although Jesus disciplines his church as needed (Rev. 3:19), He never forces anyone to follow Him. He gently invites us to “open the door” receive Him (3:20). That “door” has a latch only on the inside. But while the decision is ours to make, there is a powerful incentive to make that choice. Jesus holds out the promise to end all promises to Laodicea. If we identify with His death and resurrection (Rev. 3:21; 5:5-6), we will participate in His throne. As expressed by the gold tried in the fire, God sees infinite value in every human being, whether or not they have responded to Him. In a sense, he has chosen all to be saved (Eph. 1:3-14). But there is no compulsion in the gospel. God will never force anyone to love and trust Him. The invitation to receive Him, however, remains open. But if Laodicea is the final church of earth’s history, the door will not remain open forever. “Today, if you will hear His voice. . .” Psalm 95:7-8.
We can all take courage in the awareness that many ancient Christians remained faithful to God in the midst of godless cities. We today have been given the means to do the same.