Monday, December 22, 2014

Laodicea's Wealth (part 3)

As a result, Jesus implores this church---the very church upon whose door He stands and knocks so that He might come in and share a meal---to “take My advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich!” (Revelation 3:18a).  This is another reference based on historical context.  Laodicea is a place in which large financial transactions take place, with this making a major contribution to the wealth of the city in general, and more than likely, to some of the individuals within the church.  Understandably, precious metals such as gold would have been standard fare in the financial world of the day, which makes sense of Jesus’ reference to the need to buy gold from Him. 

There is no need here to go to any discourses about the impossibility of buying the things of God, or to ponder what it is that Jesus insists needs to be obtained.  Such would be inappropriate, and need only be ventured if one fails to consider the context of Laodicea’s position, its trade, and its source of wealth.  An abundance of gold will generally cause those that possess such abundance to consider themselves rich.  However, Jesus has already informed this church that their practice, quite to the contrary, has made them truly poor.  If they will but discard the practice and enter into what it is that He desires, as demonstrated by His life and practice, then they will truly be rich. 

If the Biblical narrative pattern is followed, these riches (blessings?) that are indissolubly linked to practice will probably have some connection to the Abrahamic covenant.  The true gold that will be purchased from Jesus will be inextricably connected to the kingdom principles that He demonstrated throughout His ministry, and according to the Hebrew prophets, there can be no greater riches than those which are connected to the established kingdom of the Creator God.

According to John, Jesus continues on to say, “Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed” (3:18b).  Here is yet another contrast.  The issue of putting on clothing appears to be a regular theme in the earliest church.  In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes: “For in this earthly house we grown, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling, in indeed, after we have put on our heavenly house we will not be found naked.  For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (5:2-4).  Though Paul makes reference to houses, dwellings, tents, and clothes, the subject at hand is the glorified, resurrection body that the believer will have when the kingdom of the Creator comes in its fullness. 

In the letter to Laodicea, the shameful nakedness would seem to have the same point of reference, as there will be no glorified body available, and no place in the kingdom of the covenant God made possible for those that operate contrary to the principles of that kingdom in the course of their natural term.  The purchasing of “white clothing” is yet another reference to that which has garnered wealth for Laodicea, which was the textile industry.  Laodicea was a center for the manufacture of clothing, and the sheep that grazed around Laodicea were quite famous for the soft, black wool that they produced, which in turn created a high demand for clothes made from this black wool. 

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