January 8, 2011
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We come this time to the last of the seven churches, the letter sent to the angel of the church of Laodicea. One of the many things that I find truly amazing concerning the Word of God is how the Holy Spirit never wastes words. There is no “filler” in the Bible. Everything is for a purpose, and corresponds to other things in scripture if one will search it out. This is certainly true with the book of Revelation. The various ways the Lord identifies Himself to each of these churches, and the promises and instruction to each one is specific to that particular congregation.
If you will recall, we said that by a miracle of divine inspiration these seven letters correspond also to seven periods of church history as well. They cover everything from the “birth” of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, 33 A.D., (the Apostolic church); all the way to the final church that will be on the earth at the time of the rapture, (the Apostate church) and therefore cover the entire Church Age. It might be a good time right here to review the four-fold application one can give these seven letters: 1) Locally – They certainly applied to the local churches to which they were addressed; 2) Ecclesiastically– That is, they have instructions important to every church of every age.; 3) Personally– There is obviously valuable personal instruction for each believer in these letters.; 4) Prophetically– Again, the Holy Spirit gives us an overview of the entire Church Age within the messages to these churches.
It is of course the prophetic application of these letters that we have been focusing on. If indeed these seven letters correspond to seven distinct periods of Church history, and I maintain that they do, it is interesting that we would see the three final churches Jesus speaks to all present and operating in these last of the Last Days. We see Sardis, representing the Reformation Church, the church that had a name that it was alive but had long since died. We have Philadelphia, representing the Missionary Church, the church motivated by its love for the Lord and people; taking the gospel to the farthest regions of the world. And we see Laodicea, the lukewarm, indifferent church, self-satisfied; self-absorbed, oblivious to their true spiritual condition. This is the Apostate Church. It is with this church, the Apostate Church, that I believe an increasing number of professing Christians are truly identified.
Why do I say this? I assure you it is not to be negative. I take no pleasure in having to say that a good number of Christians in America are to a greater or lesser extent apostate, but I can only proclaim what I observe. As a watchman I must sound an alarm. What people do with the message is between God and them. Think with me, some 224,457,000 (85%) of Americans identify themselves as Christian. This number would take in the 38,000 Christian denominations that can be identified in the world today. Of this number, many would identify themselves with the Restoration Churches, (i.e. Lutheran, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Methodist, etc.) A still larger number would identify themselves as Roman Catholic. (For the record, even though I recognize that there are born-again people within the Catholic Church, I do not recognize the Roman Catholic hierarchical system as truly Christian). A good number of Christians would be of the Missionary Church, or Evangelical with respect to their faith. They would be doctrinally and theologically conservative. I would identify myself with this group. I am a part of a classic Pentecostal denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. My belief in a literal interpretation of Bible prophecy compels me to share the gospel with as many people as I possibly can before the catching away, and subsequent onset of the Great Tribulation and rise of the Man of sin, the Antichrist.
My point in all of this is, if 224,457,000 Americans were trulyChristians, we would turn this world up-side down just as the early disciples did. Unfortunately many today are Christian in name only. They professbut don’t possess. They are not in relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by virtue of the New Birth. Many assume that they are Christians because they are American, however such is not the case. The actual number of Americans who are genuinely born-again is much smaller I assure you. A good number of professing American Christians would be a part of the Laodicean Age, or the Apostate Church.
Let us take a look at this last of the seven churches of Revelation. To them our Lord said, And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I 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.[Rev. 3:14 – 22NKJV]
There are a few things about Laodicea that we need to learn that make Jesus’ words to them all the more poignant. First, Laodicea was located six miles south of Philadelphia, and was the banking center of the region. Consequently, it had ample money to spend on entertainment, which would explain the thirty thousand seat amphitheater whose ruins still stand. Also, Laodicea throughout history was known for being very tricky politically because the city was built in such a way that it really wasn’t able to defend itself militarily. The only way they could survive was through making compromises with their enemies. Another interesting thing concerning this city is, even as Aristotle noted, Laodicea was known for the eye salve manufactured there, highly valued in the ancient world. All of these factors figure in to what Jesus will say to this group.
The name Laodicea is comprised of two Greek words. In the first place it is, laos, from which we get our word, laity, or people. In the second place it is, Diece, meaning, decision rule. Thus, the church of Laodicea was directed by the people rather than guided by the Lord. Notice how Jesus describes Himself to this group, These things says the Amen. “Amen” is, so be it. In essence He is saying to this group so given to compromise, “There is certainty. It really is me.” Next He says something a Laodicean does not like to hear. He declares Himself to be, the Faithful and True Witness. The Greek word translated, “witness” is, martus, from which of course we get the word, martyr. Ensconced within this word then is the definition of what a witnesstruly is. A “witness” is, someone who lives so much like Jesus Christ, and is so in love with Jesus Christ that he ends up being crucified even as Jesus Christ was crucified. That is a message that the Laodicean church does not want to hear!
They are the people who say, “Don’t talk to me about suffering! We just want to be positive and happy!” Yet the Word declares, Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. [2 Tim. 3:12NKJV] The truth is, if you want to live in a godly manner and walk close to the Lord in this time, you are going to get nailed! I can’t put it any more plain than that. The question the modern Church needs to ask is, Do I want to walk according to the Word or the world?You cannot do both.
The last part of verse 14 says, the Beginning of the creation of God. You may encounter a cultist sometime, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who will try and convince you that this verse means that Jesus is created and thus not coequal with the Father. But the Greek word translated “beginning” is arche, which actually means “the origin.” It is important to understand the correct doctrine here. The Father created all things by the Son [. 1:16], by the power of the Spirit. [. 1:2] The entire Godhead was involved in creation.
Jesus continued, I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Laodicea was built in a region that was full of seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often is the case in such places, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling hot water to reach the surface. In the neighboring city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People would travel for miles around to bathe in these waters, believing they had medicinal powers and would improve one’s heatlth.
Another city named Colosse was not too far away. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was known for its cold waters. Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot nor cold water. They had to travel to Hierapolis if they wanted hot water, Colosse if they wanted cold. At one time a plan was concocted to build an aqueduct system from Hierapolis to Laodicea and then on to Colosse to bring in the hot water. Remarkably the system worked to transport water! However, by the time it reached Laodicea it was lukewarm. Thus, as lukewarm water flowed through their city, the Laodiceans would know that hot water was useful, cold water was refreshing, but lukewarm water was not much good for anything. It is the same with you and me. The Lord says concerning His people, “If you are hot, I can use you. If you’re cold, I can deal with you. But if you are lukewarm you won’t be hot enough to use nor cold enough to correct.”
There is much more to look at here. Join us next time as we examine the rest of this important letter.
The Weekly Word is found in Revelation 3:17 – 22. Here the Bible says,
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I 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.
[Rev. 3:17 – 22 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson