In Revelation 3:16 we read that Jesus was "about to spit [the church of Laodicea] out of his mouth…" This raised the question whether the elect can be lost. The answer is that the elect cannot be lost. But what, then, about statements such as these, and the following:
Romans 11:21, 22 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. 22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
The elect will be saved but it does not mean that they will be saved without being sanctified, and sanctification cannot be achieved without the mortification of the old, sinful nature. The sinful nature only dies through the furnace of affliction. To destroy that which is natural to one, is an awesome task and cannot be accomplished without the word of God being heard regularly, without the sacraments, and without the burden of discipline.
So, wherein, then, lies the comfort of the elect? It lies therein that they know that they belong to Jesus Christ and that his meritorious sacrifice made it possible to engage the old nature, become the master of it and deny it its pleasures and practices, and seek, by following a new nature, the preaching of the gospel, the celebration of the sacraments, and the communion of the saints. Now that the believer knows that the price has already been paid securing eternal life, the true joy of being a Christian becomes a light that shines forth from that life.
But what about the statement in Romans 11:22 "Otherwise, you also will be cut off?" The apostle Paul addresses believers here. Does it mean that the elect might be cut off? No, but is it possible for God to cut them off? Yes, of course, nothing is impossible with God but because He is faithful in keeping his word, we believe that when God says, "…no one can snatch them out of my hand…" that He means it and there is nothing, absolutely nothing that can move God to go back on his word.
Based on the promise that Jesus has overcome death and removed its sting, and that we will live in glorious new bodies with him in heaven forever, we already live according to that new citizenship here on earth. We do not live according to the nature that will be destroyed, but according to the nature that will live forever in heaven: the nature of Christ.
But why, then, do we see these threats that we may be cut off, or spat out, if God has promised not to do that? Why not threaten the reprobate but give aid and comfort to the elect? Why make us live under the same threat as the reprobate?
It is because we share a sinful nature with the reprobate and we are prone to pride and sin while boasting in the name of Jesus; while proclaiming to have been saved, going to church, and even celebrating the sacraments. We may proclaim to be Christians but we think nothing of it to act in anger, steal from others, curse those who were made in the image of God, let foul language come from our lips, slander others, dishonor our parents, and many other things that one would expect from unbelievers. If we also believe that we have "arrived" in our faith, that we have perfection already, we may easily boast in them.
So, the threat of being cut off is applicable to those who choose not to believe and also those who decide not to live like Christ. This threat is aimed at the reprobate and all those who wish to disregard the treasure they have in Christ and act like the reprobate, even some of the elect. For the elect to recklessly play with the dead side for whatever reason, is to succumb to the temptation that Jesus suffered at the hand of Satan, "…throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" (Matt 4:6, 7).
Psalm 106:14 In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test.
But since God has promised that none of the elect would be lost, He can also not allow man and his actions to thwart divine justice and his divine plan for his creation. We know that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39). So, the elect who are still not living the life of a Christian, refusing to repent, will be handed over to Satan till the end of time so that their souls may be saved on the day of Christ, which is to be cut off, to be spat out, and separated from the congregation. What terrible affliction and trial will befall those elect who wander so far off the way that was prepared for us in Christ? Would anyone who is a true Christian be able to snub at the sacrifice of Christ and rather follow Satan?
Let's see what Scripture teaches us in this respect. Pay particular attention to God's ability to cut anyone off if He so chooses, his promise to remain faithful to us, the admonition to remain humble, and the way we should live to reflect Christ's image:
Romans 11:17 - 25 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. 22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! 25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
I Corinthians 1:9, 10:13 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 10:13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
John 15:4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Romans 8:28 - 30 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
II Corinthians 3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:22 - 24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Colossians 3:5 - 12 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Romans 12:1 - 5; 9 - 16 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Commentators do not often address these few words and one tends to read them without plumbing their meaning. Even in the face of being spat out, Jesus 'counsels' them, advises them to rethink their course of action and repent: how to avoid the sin before them.
After Cain became angry with Abel, before he murdered his brother, God came down to Cain and said to him the following:
Genesis 4:6, 7 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
We may infer from what happened that Cain was not of the elect but yet, God offered him a sure-fire way to avoid the sin that was crouching at his door. Although God knew beforehand what Cain would do, He, nevertheless, offered him an opportunity to confess and repent. But, alas, Cain rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High. (Psalm 107:11).
Here, too, Jesus offers the church of Laodicea a unique opportunity to repent, to heed his counsel. They, too, have a choice. They can either choose the way of Cain or that of Ahab, who heard the words of the Lord and humbled himself and so deferred the judgment of God. (I Kings 21:27-29).
The reprobate have no promise, no comfort, and they don't have the Holy Spirit: things the elect do have, so they ought to spontaneously heed the words of God, accept his wise counsel and not act as if they are without these treasures.
Psalm 16:7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
Psalm 73:24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Psalm 107:11 For they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.
There is only one way to repentance for them, and Jesus counsels them in the language that they understand: trade. We all know that one cannot buy the refined gold of faith from Jesus but here he points out to them that their trading is in the wrong things, that they would become rich in faith if they would apply their resources more wisely. What they are trading in now leaves them poor and naked but dealing with Christ and spending their efforts with Him would give them eternal wealth.
Trading with Jesus is unlike anything that secular economics would agree with because there is a discriminating condition required to participate, namely, one must have no money and no wealth; one must be unable to pay. As soon as one is able to pay, that one is specifically disqualified. As soon as one believes that he is in no need of Christ's trading practices and has sufficient resources to pay for any of these treasures, that person is as poor and naked as the church of Laodicea.
Isaiah 55:1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost."
II Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
James 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
I Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
It is a question of the heart. If you believe that you can obtain some of these treasures by your own volition, your heart is with yourself and not with the One who truly provided for you in full. There is no need to replenish Jesus' resources; his were completely sufficient for you for all time.
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Acts 8:21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.
Consider your heart, then, because it is an indication of where you consider your treasure also is. If you find that your heart is not reflecting the image of Jesus, you should leave no stone unturned to find that treasure.
Matthew 13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
Once you are able to trade with Jesus, you would recognize your wealth in Christ and receive white clothes to wear, the mercy garments from Christ. These white clothes make our sins invisible in the glare of God's judgment, covering our shameful nakedness.
Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Jeremiah 3:25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God.
II Corinthians 5:3 Because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.
The salve that Jesus refers to here is, once again, speaking in their own vernacular, since they produced the eye salve that cured an eye ailment. But, they did not understand that their salve was useless for the ailment they were suffering from, while Jesus offers them a salve that would cure their blindness.
"Seeing" plays an important part in the symbology of the salvation message, such as when the reprobate are accused of blindness so that they are unable to discern the message of the gospel.
Jeremiah 5:21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.
Matthew 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
Romans 11:8 As it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day."
There is a
similar figure of speech in the salvation message regarding the water of life.
John 4:14 But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
These words are the source of great comfort for those who are afflicted, knowing that God would not visit those in whom He has no interest. Because the sanctification of the elect has to follow the path of destruction of the sinful nature and building up of the new nature in Christ, it necessarily comes with spiritual surgery, or refinement. The refinement that is effected in the believer is likened to that of gold and silver being refined in a fire.
The heat applied to the precious metals illustrates the heat, pain and suffering that is inflicted upon the believer to 'melt' out the impurities resulting in a purified precious person, fully reflecting the image of Christ. The suffering believer suffers with joy and with utter gratitude towards the Surgeon of life who is continually removing impurities and infirmities from us, and instilling in us the eternal qualities found only in a heavenly being. The joy we ought to have while suffering on behalf of Christ is that of a patient who eagerly and gladly subjects to surgery to remove a life-threatening condition, foreknowing and expecting already the relief from that condition.
If we fail to see Christ's rebuke and discipline we ought to be truly concerned that we might have stepped away from the way of the Lord and are suffering from blindness and deafness, believing that we are rich and comfortable like the church in Laodicea did, while our spiritual lives might be bankrupt and we might be shamelessly naked.
Christ speaks here emphasizing the personal pronoun "I" as a stern warning to this church, and to all believers, that He is not merely a friend, meek and mild, but that he is also the awesome God, the judge of all; the Sanctifier, the One who has paid the price and now prepares his possessions. There is no meekness or mildness when Jesus acts in his office as Judge.
Deuteronomy 8:5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
II Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.
Job 5:17 "Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty."
Proverbs 3:11, 12 My son, do not despise the LORD'S discipline and do not resent his rebuke 12because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
Proverbs 15:10, 32 Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die; 32he who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
Isaiah 26:16 LORD, they came to you in their distress; when you disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer.
Jeremiah 31:18 "I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning: 'You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me, and I will return, because you are the LORD my God.'"
I Corinthians 11:32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Hebrews 12:5 - 8, 11 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
These words are not merely making a suggestion that we should be earnest and repent, they are an admonition, a command. Jesus could just as well have said, "because I love you, which is evident in my sanctifying work within you, you must be earnest and repent." There are no other options and Jesus makes burning with zeal for Him and repentance mandatory. We cannot be lukewarm or cold. Once we experience the weight of Christ's love upon our sinful lives, we must have zeal and we must repent.
Some translations of this verse renders "earnest" with zeal, which has been translated from the Greek word Zeloo, which means to burn with zeal; to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger; in a good sense, to be zealous in the pursuit of good; to desire earnestly, pursue; to desire one earnestly, to strive after, busy oneself about him; to exert oneself for one (that he may not be torn from me); to be the object of the zeal of others, to be zealously sought after; and to envy.
Jesus accused the church of Laodicea of being neither hot nor cold. The 'hot' that Jesus referred to was translated from the Greek word Zestos clearly the adjective related to Zeloo which means to burn with zeal. Zestos means boiling hot but, as a metaphor, can be translated with 'fervor of mind and zeal.' Similarly, the 'cold' of Revelations 3:16 has been translated from the Greek psuchros which means cold; or metaphorically it means sluggish, inert, or one destitute of warm Christian faith and the desire for holiness.
In Matthew 24:12 we read the following, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold," which has been translated from the Greek word Psucho meaning to breathe, blow, cool by blowing; to be made or grow cool or cold; or metaphorically of waning love.
Translating Zeeloo with earnest portrays rich qualities that is virtuous to the Christian's life, but, on the other hand, it loses the underlying meaning that a Christian ought to burn with zeal for Christ.
All this zeal must result in repentance, turning away from the road on which one is traveling, which means we have to employ our burning zeal for Christ to effect a continual reformation in our lives; a continuous suppression and eventual mortification of our sinful nature.
Some take these words as proof that Jesus is endlessly, and rather helplessly, knocking on people's hearts and is only able to enter when He is allowed in, much like a homeless traveler seeking shelter. Jesus' knocking on our hearts is that of the master waking up his servants, that they should be ready when He returns. At Jesus' knocking on the door of our hearts we should jolt upright and prepare to meet Him; ready to open the door and worship Him.
Luke 12:36, 37 Like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.
John 14:21, 23 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. 23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
Revelation 19:9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
To imagine that Jesus is helpless until we open the door of our hearts to him, is a sad mistake. Jesus is the owner of our hearts, the master who will return like a thief in the night, expecting to find us prepared and ready for him. He stands at the door as a judge, not a hapless subject of our will.
James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door.
On the other hand, one should also not imagine Jesus being far off and distant, but the elect have this comfort that if they should stumble, or those who are still shackled by their sinfulness, Jesus is the one who reaches out to his loved ones; He is the one who knocks and persists in patience, not like we understand patience, but in such a way that we are not lost.
Jesus refers to the sheep from his flock that recognizes his voice and the word 'anyone' does not mean anybody indiscriminately, but the elect who recognize his voice.
Exodus 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."
John 6:45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.
John 10:3 - 5, 18:37 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.
John 18:37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
The Loadiceans cannot avert his arrival by ignoring his knock, but their response to his warning will determine whether his entrance brings them the joy of the banquet or the exposure of their shame.
Sitting down and eating with someone was a sign of peaceful association, fellowship, and friendship. Abraham knew that God has found favor with him when He appeared with two angels and sat down and ate with him. (Gen 18). The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is a meal that we enjoy together ensuring us of our fellowship with Christ. On the other hand we are not to eat with those who call themselves Christians but indulge in immorality and other sinful things. (I Corinthians 5:11). So, to hear Jesus promise those who open their hearts to him that they will fellowship with him, is a glorious prospect that brings joyous comfort and peace.
Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Where Jesus enters one's heart there is fellowship and also fellowship with others who have Him in their heart. It is an inescapable consequence.