There are three words in the book of Revelation denoting gold.
- χρυσίον (chrusion) Rev 3:18, 17:4, 18:16, 21:18, 21 is used to denote either true gold associated with the Jew Jerusalem (Rev 3:18, 21:18, 21) or false gold associated with false Babylon (Rev 17:4, 18:6). Technically, it is a diminutive form of that below.
- χρυσός (chrusos) Rev 9:7, 18:2 is used to denote a false gold of the crowns on the demonic locusts and the false gold traded by mystic Babylon. Elsewhere in the NT it denotes either money (Matt 2:11, 10:9, Acts 17:29, James 5:3) or the gold associated with temple items (Matt 23:16, 17, 1 Cor 3:12).
- χρυσοῦς (chrusous) is an adjective, "golden" denoting either the golden lampstands (Rev 1:12, 20); the golden sash around Jesus or the saints (Rev 1:13, 15:6); golden crown on the saints (Rev 4:4, ); golden bowls (Rev 8:3, 15:7); the golden altar of incense (Rev 8:3, 9:13); golden rod (Rev 21:15). Twice it is used of something false associated with Babylon (Rev 9:20, 17:4)
- χρυσόω (chrusoó) a verb meaning to adorn or overlay with gold, ie, pretend to be gold but is not as per Rev 17:4, 18:16.
Note the important distinction throughout the book of Revelation:
- The true gold associated with Jesus, the saints, the temple items and the city of New Jerusalem
- The false gold and plated gold of the great prostitute and the city of Babylon
The gold of Rev 3:18 is thus the true gold of heaven because it has been tried in the fire. There are many parallels to this in Scripture such as:
- Zech 13:9 - This third I will bring through the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ ”
- Jer 9:7 - Therefore this is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do because of the daughter of My people?
- Prov 17:3 - A crucible for silver and a furnace for gold, but the LORD is the tester of hearts.
- Isa 48:10 - See, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
- 1 Peter 1:7 - so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
- 1 Cor 3:13 - his workmanship will be evident, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will prove the quality of each man’s work.
Thus, the gold refined by fire appears to be a common Bible metaphor for the godly character refined by trials permitted by the LORD for such purposes.
Eyesalve for the eyes
κολλούριον (kollourion) is a NT hapex legamenon. Its meaning is simply "eyesalve" (as per BDAG, Thayer, etc). This was clearly a treatment for a common eye condition associated with laodicea (one its claims to fame).
The eyes feature significantly in the book of Revelation (1:7, 14, 2;18, 3:18, 4:6, 8, 5:6, 7:17, 19:12, 21:4) and always (with the exception of the first) metaphorically. This is consistent with NT usage (Matt 6:22, 23, 7:3-5, 20:15, 33, 7:3-5, Mark 7:22, John 4:35, 9:39-41, etc.) That is, "eyes" were for spiritual eyesight of spiritual understanding.
Thus, Rev 3:18 advises the residents of Laodicea to acquire three things:
- gold refined in the fire - a sterling character polished by Godly trials and afflictions
- white garments representing the righteous acts of the saints (Rev 19:8)
- eye-salve to improve and heal spiritual eyesight
Ellicott succinctly observes:
(18) I counsel thee to buy.—There is, perhaps, a touch of irony here.
How could the poor and naked buy? But the irony has no sting, for the
counsel but recalled the invitation of the prophet to buy “without
money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).