What is the significance of “gold”, “white garments” and “eye salve” in Revelation 3:18?
Before answering the question I want to quote the entire message of the Lord Jesus Christ addressed to the Church of Laodicea:
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous andrepent. Behold, I standat the door andknock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door,I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to himto sit down with Me on My throne, asI also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22)(NASB)
Of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, the message addressed to Laodicea was the heaviest, because the Lord Jesus only rebuked it and nothing worthy of appreciation was found in this city, i.e the people of the Church of this city. All figures of speech used by the Lord Jesus in His message were associated with certain realities of their city, so that they could easily understand their condition and repent. So, when He says that they are neither cold nor hot, Jesus makes a comparison with the water that supplied the city. An aqueduct carried cold water from the city of Colossae. This city was situated more than 30 km away from Laodicea. The hot water came from the city of Hierapolis, which was about 10 km away. So, until the water reached Laodicea both the cold water and the hot water became lukewarm. This comparison shows that they are like lukewarm water in relationship with the Lord Jesus and just because of this, they will be spit out of His mouth – a great threat which later became reality. Over several hundred years in this city there was a great earthquake which left only ruins. I also had the opportunity to visit the ruins and I was shaken to see what remained of the once very rich city, that failed to heed God’s warning.
Now, let’s see what the Lord Jesus was referring to when He advised them to buy gold refined by fire, white garments and eye salve.
Gold refined by fire
The words “gold” and “silver” are synonyms for “money”. The city of Laodicea was a wealthy city that was enriched just by selling black wool of very high quality and a medication for eyes. They did not lack gold, namely money and all their attention was focused on material wealth. Christians in this city were so concerned about their businesses and so satisfied with their spiritual condition that the Lord Jesus said they became wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked spiritually and they did not even see that. Therefore, He recommended them to buy from Him gold refined by fire. What is this gold refined by fire? Apostle Peter answers to this question when comparing faith, which is compared to gold:
You, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold whichis perishable,even though tested by fire,may be found to result in praise and glory and honor atthe revelation of Jesus Christ; andthough you have not seen Him, youlove Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible andfull of glory, obtaining asthe outcome of your faith the salvation ofyour souls. (1 Peter 1:5-9)(NASB)
Faith, this is the gold that Christians from Laodicea had to buy from Jesus. But why did they have to buy it? God said to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah that through obedience to Him spiritual values had to be bought:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to thefaithful merciesshown to David. (Isaiah 55:1-3)(NASB)
In the same way Christians from Laodicea were called to buy faith from Jesus Christ without money and without payment, but with obedience to God and listening to His word.
As I said before, the city of Laodicea was famous for the black wool that was produced there and enriched them a lot financially. But the Lord Jesus told them that they were naked spiritually and recommended them to buy white garments from Him. What are these white garments? The Word of God answers in the book of Revelation when it tells us about the great crowd that the Apostle John saw in heaven:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.Amen.” Then one of the eldersanswered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in thewhite robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” Isaid to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of thegreat tribulation, and they havewashed their robes and made themwhite in theblood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and theyserve Him day and night in Histemple; and He who sits on the throne will spread Histabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sunbeat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be theirshepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; andGod will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:9-17)(NASB)
White garments are the ornaments of the saints and they are WHITE because they were washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb who is Jesus Christ. This is what the Lord Jesus required from the saints in Laodicea – to wash their garments in His blood and whiten them.
Although they were producing the best eye salve in antiquity, the inhabitants of Laodicea, and especially those who considered themselves Christians, were blind when looking at their spiritual state. Therefore, the Lord Jesus tells them to buy eye salve from Him to see their spiritual state. The Word of God is this eye salve, as David wrote in the book of Psalms:
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalms 19:8)(NASB)
In the Epistle of James it is written:
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer butan effectual doer, this man will beblessed inwhat he does. (James 1:22-25)(NASB)
Christians from Laodicea came to such a low spiritual state because they disobeyed God’s Word and their escape was only a sincere return to God and His Word.
But what is your spiritual condition, dear reader? How much are you concerned about your financial condition and how much do you care about your living with God? How much time do you invest for each of them? The very fact that a Christian comes to be satisfied with his spiritual condition is dangerous. The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. A man who is poor in spirit will never be satisfied with his spiritual condition and wants a better state, a closer relationship with God and to serve Him more. And its opposite condition is extremely dangerous, because man considers himself in a good condition, thinks that he is righteous and sees no need for a better relationship with God. What is your state?
Translated by Felicia Rotaru