08 January, 2011

Laodicea Revisited

(Written by Ron Graham)
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Revelation 3:7-8.

Seven letters dictated by Jesus Christ Himself, and written and distributed to those seven churches by His most beloved Apostle, John, were to both commend and admonish those churches in those days. The churches, in the order they are addressed, lay out a history of the Christian church throughout the past two thousand years. The last church Jesus addresses is the Last Day’s church of planet earth.

The church of Philadelphia was singled out by Christ as being the most faithful of all seven churches. Ask anyone in any church congregation which of the seven churches in the book of Revelation does their church most closely resemble and without hesitation they’ll tell you their church most resembles the church in Philadelphia. Actually today’s church has very little, if anything at all, in common with the Philadelphian church. But there is a church where the resemblance between it and a huge number of the Protestant churches of today is uncanny.

The church I’m referring to above is of course, the church of Laodicea. No true born again believer in Christ wants to be branded with the title “Laodicean”. It’s sad, but whether they appreciate that designation or not that is precisely where most protestant churches are today – well established and fully at peace in this, the most apostate category of Christian churches imaginable.

Perhaps some of you will need a short refresher course as to just what was so bad about the church at Laodicea. As I said before, Jesus had just confronted six other churches. Some with praise and others He rebuked, and some were both praised and rebuked. But when we read His letter to the Laodiceans we notice a huge change in His demeanor.

"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Revelation 3:14-16.

First of all our Lord explains just who is addressing them, in this case "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God". Jesus refers to Himself by various titles and with each one Jesus is unquestionably referring to Himself as God Almighty. These things saith the Amen: Jesus is the Amen, the "so be it," the "it is done."

Jesus is "the personification and the affirmation of the truth of God." Jesus is the Faithful and True Witness, and this is a contrast to the Laodiceans, who will be shown to be neither faithful nor true. Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God. The idea behind the word for beginning – the ancient Greek word "arche" – is that of a "ruler, source, or origin," not of first in a sequential order. This verse does not teach that Jesus was the first being created, but that He is the ruler, source, and origin of all creation – the Amen!

After Jesus establishes His authority He then goes on to tell this fully apostate, unfaithful church just what He thinks of them, and here’s where it gets ugly. For those who don’t really know the Lord Jesus this will seem quite out of character for Him. Many folks think Jesus was just some sort of mamby pamby, wimpy little man, cowering each time someone picked up a stone. That’s because they don’t know who Jesus Christ really is. I can make this promise to anyone who doesn’t know Jesus as Savior and Lord, you’ll never want to hear the Creator of the universe telling you, "I will spue thee out of my mouth".

Many interpret incorrectly the references to hot, cold, and lukewarm spoken of by Jesus in verse 16 above. They assume the “hot” would reference an “on fire” attitude for the Lord, and they’d be correct, but then when we get to the “cold” this they attribute to being useless or dead. In this case they would be wrong. Lastly, we have “lukewarm”. What would be so bad about “lukewarm”? Well let’s take another look at it. “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16b. The Greek word for “spue” is “emeĊ” which actually means to vomit, vomit forth, or throw up. Jesus is speaking figuratively of His utter abhorrence of the condition of the church at Laodicea. Jesus uses the idiom lukewarm as He refers to the spiritual state of the Laodicean church, which afforded no refreshment to the Lord, such as is ministered naturally by either cold or hot water. When Jesus, being fully God, tells a church they are “lukewarm” He’s telling them they are good for nothing, absolutely useless, and deserve nothing more than condemnation.

Not a very endearing letter to the church by our Creator, yet according to the Apostle Paul this will be a prominent, albeit damning, quality of the Christian church of the last day’s just prior to Christ’s return. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” 2 Thessalonians 2:3a.” The word used in the Greek for falling away is “apostasia” and it signifies an apostasy from the faith, rebellion, and defection. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 1 Timothy 4:1-2. Paul clearly spells out the look of the church in the “last days”. According to a recent study done by the Barna Research Group, this “Last Days” Laodicean church is more visible today than any other period in the history of the church.

Let’s take a break from the lashing the Laodiceans are receiving while we look at an admonishment to the Philippians by the Apostle Paul “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12. Paul calls the Philippians to put forth real effort into their Christians lives. This is not to work their salvation in the sense of accomplishing it, but to work out their salvation - to see it evident in every area of their lives, to activate this salvation God freely gave them. Here is where the Laodiceans fall flat, there is no evidence of salvation in that church, and as you will soon see there’s no evidence of our Lord Jesus Christ in this “Last Day’s” church either.

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;” Revelation 3:17a. So they have everything and need nothing, not even Jesus. But in truth, the Laodicean church “…knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” Revelation 3:17b. These folks who call themselves Christians have no idea they are the last days church. Jesus says they are actually wretched, and miserable. What He’s trying to tell them, in the plainest language possible, is that they are pitiful, deplorable, contemptible and pathetic to the point of pure disgracefulness. To vomit them out of His mouth reflects judgment. Since they will be judged they cannot possibly be born again, in Christ believers.

Those of us who are truly born again will not be judged. On the other hand, those who believe in and follow today’s false teachers who claim they know the truth but who are actually instruments of Satan, will one day be very sorry; they are the “Last Days” Laodiceans, and Jesus Christ says judgment is upon them.

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Revelation 3:19. Jesus won’t give up on anyone; He’s still trying to turn these folks around. He rebukes and chastens those He loves, and He loves everyone. The Lord’s very next words are a solid rebuke to the church of the last days. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20.

Once again, and in no uncertain terms, Jesus tells the last days church that He’s not in the church, He’s not among them. They’ve booted Him out, yet even though He’s outside He continues to knock asking to be let back in. But He’s no longer addressing His Church, but individual lost souls. “…if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him…” v20. Jesus is now addressing each person individually to accept Him before it’s too late.

A large number of folks making up the “last days” church will never have become born again. It will consist of a bunch of wretched, poor, lost, perishing souls. But “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne” Revelation 3:21a. So, the question begs to be asked. What are we? Overcomers or Laodiceans. Remember there is no in between area, no room for maneuvering for those who like to play the whole field, no grey area for those who make procrastination their life pursuit . Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me…” Matthew 12:30.

Who are the Laodicean? They neither know Jesus as Lord and Savior nor do they need/want Him in their church. Whatever you decide to do with the rest of your life, be sure Jesus Christ is the most important part. Leave the church at Laodicea to the Laodiceans.

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