14And 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;
15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20Behold, 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.
21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:14-22, King James Version)
Question: What is the most important word in the above passage? What word do you focus on?
Importance of words can be determined in a number of ways. One way to determine how important it is is to see how often the word occurs in a passage. After throwing away the “is”, “thou”, “be” and other common words, which ones are left that occur 2 or more times?
Maybe the word you thought would be there isn’t.
Zealous and Repent
Christ says, “Be zealous therefore, and repent.” Be zealous about what? Repent of what?
Think about it. Can you repent unless there is some sort of trespass involved? So, what is the trespass of the Laodiceans?
People concentrate upon the “lukewarm” part. Christ says the Laodiceans are “neither cold nor hot” but are lukewarm. Lukewarm about what? What does Jesus say?
- Does Jesus say they are not preaching the Gospel?
- Does Jesus say they are not printing enough booklets?
- Does Jesus say they are relying too much upon the Internet?
- Does Jesus say they are not receiving “new revelations”?
- Does Jesus chide them for not seeing “new truth”?
I do not see those words written there, do you? Then why do people read it as such?
And, what does “lukewarm” mean, anyhow?
The imagery of the Laodicean aqueduct suggests not that "hot" is good and "cold" is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is useless.
~ Laodicean Church. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved 3 Dec 2010 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laodicean_Church.
Because Thou Sayest
According to Jesus, the Laodiceans say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Jesus is condemning them for what they say about themselves. Why would He do this? He continues to point out that they “knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”!
Think about what that means. They say one thing but really are another.
What do you call that?
Now, can hypocrisy lead to not preaching the Gospel? Sure. Can hypocrisy lead to watering down doctrine? Of course. Can hypocrisy lead to skewed priorities? Naturally. However, these things are symptoms, not the root cause.
Why did they feel they had “need of nothing”? Because they perceived themselves as “rich” and “increased with goods”. What we are viewing is good old fashioned materialism. They put their trust in their material, physical wealth.
28He that trusteth in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. (Proverbs 11:28, King James Version)
Job’s 3 friends and even Jesus’ own disciples had trouble comprehending that rich men weren’t necessarily blessed by God. The assumption was that you must be blessed by God in order to prosper. That’s why the disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” (Mt 19:25).
The Laodiceans, it would appear, suffer from the same malady. “Look at me!” they would cry, “I am well off. I must be being blessed by God!”
When you are comfortable, you feel no need to change.
However, the Laodiceans were spiritually the opposite. They were hiding behind the mask of material blessings, not even seeing their own hypocrisy.
Their hypocrisy and pride made them spiritually useless!
Can You Be Infected?
Norbert left the following comment on “Back to Sabbath Basics, UCG”:
Considering the comments in your last paragraph, to which I believe numerous other people share similiar circumstances. Why should any person demand someone else to keep the sabbath better than they are?
You know, that’s a fine question. In the comments, I chose to point out that if we are waiting for perfect people to teach us, then we will never be taught. Our ministers, no matter how dedicated and sincere, are only human.
I wish it were that simple, though. Norbert brings up a good point. It is especially strange because one person has charged that some of those who are making the most noise in the Roig case actually own businesses that stay open on the Sabbath. If true, that is intriguing to put it mildly.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t have standards. Our standards should be based upon the clear word of the Bible. When we fall short, we need to “man up” and make the effort to do better next time.
You bring out some interesting points. The idea that Laodecia is defined by a lack of zeal to preach the gospel is an idea that was developed in WCG and repeated enough that many just accepted it as a fact and today it is assumed by many as a given. As you point out the letter to Laodecia doesn't say this at all. A similar point can be made regarding the "Work of God". Ask most COG members today what the "Work of God is and you will likely be told it is a media campaign to preach the Gospel to the world. However, take a Bible program and search on the terms "the work of God", "the work" etc and you will see this is not how the Bible defines that term. Preaching the gospel is only a part of God's Work. THE work of God is the process of changing human kind into God Kind. It is the conversion process that ultimately brings about more God Beings. Distributing magazines and booklets to a largely unconverted audience that is not being called at this time serves a Godly purpose but that in no way can be equated as being the sole meaning of God's Work.
It's truly amazing how one person or one group can read a passage and get something totally different from it than another person / group.
Generally speaking mainstream evangelical Christianity currently teaches much about a more intimate relationship with Jesus (similar to a "date" and dining that Jesus speaks about to Laodecia – v. 20), versus the Puritanical religious servant relationship of the 17th- early 20th centuries.
When I was in WCG I tended to see Philadelphia church as the Puritans or Puritan-like. After all, their reward is to be a "pillar" – more cold in nature, willing to suffer, strong, supportive, etc.
I prefer the repentant Laodecian's reward of direct fellowship with Jesus and sitting with Him on his throne, instead of being a cold pillar. But to each his own. I respect and admire those qualities of Jesus in Philadelphia.
A couple more things about Philadelphia and I'm finished.
1) Jesus said people would know His disciples by their love for one another. I seriously wonder when people read sites like cogwriter.com if they come away thinking, wow, this guy really loves God's people!
2) Philadelphia doesn't deny Jesus' name. Yet I very clearly remember WCG rarely using the name of Jesus, substituting it with Christ. And rarely if ever did you hear Lord, substituting it with Eternal. In fact in Doctrines class at AC we were told to use "Eternal" instead of Lord.
Forgive me if this is too long. You hit a nerve.
John, I would like to add another point for consideration about Laodicea. Not only are they hiding behind a mask of material blessing, I would suggest that they are also hiding behind spiritual blessings. To me they are spiritually self-sufficient. Rather than recognizing that it is God through his Spirit that opens their minds to the truth, they are relying on their own resources alone.
Rather than recognizing that they are spiritually naked without God’s help, they think they are spiritually rich. They know the truth through their own intellect, not acknowledging God’s part in revealing it to them.
While we need to do our part in studying God’s word etc., if we in effect only rely on our own intellect and not recognize God’s key part in opening our mind to the truth, we become spiritually self-sufficient and this is the error of the Laodicea.
Hello to John and all;
Very well put John and a good question. All of the comments also seem well put. I would just add one other thought, if I may.
Probably the most important point of the letter and the least focused on is the word BLIND! Those in Laodicea are more expressly explained by the 5 foolish virgins–(which is also a time compared to Laodicea)–Christ said this to His disciples; Mark 8:18 "Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?(NKJ)
Laodicea becomes blind to certain restored truths and various previously taught Godly principals, forgetting them–the first and formost was the willingness to lay down ones life for the Gospel commission. (See Mark 8:34-35 & 10:29) They also seem to have lost sight of Christ Himself–failing to follow closely.
This blindness to Scriptural revelation has lead them into every other point because they cannot see any of those things in themselves, also the compromises and the hypocrisy now being produced.
How many times do we all read something in Scripture and see something that really is not there–but we have been told or taught for years that it is? We need to get rid of all our preconcieved notions and learn to believe what the Bible is really saying.
We all need to repent and be more zealous for the word of God and what it actually says–without all the recent distortions!
There is a mentality that Laodecia is a combination of many people. In reality Laodecia is made up of one person. That individual is you or me, or the person down the street. It is not about what we do or do not do. It is about who we are as a person and what our relationship with our Creator is like. To say that I am rich and in need of nothing is a slap in His face. No one can say that for me, feel it for me, or live it for me. It has to be me and me alone. Zealous for God, on an individual level, no one else can save you or do it for you.
What is happening today within United, is sad to say the least. However, it is what it is and as a member I am disgusted by attitudes everywhere I turn. Choose one subject that is to be hot or cold, and you lose the whole concept. Be what God wants you to be, living a life that pleases Him and there is no need to worry. That begins with humility, and ends with love. Love for God first and your neighbor second, you cannot lose. There is no Laodecia within that scenario. Love, does it get any more simple than that.
Yet, to say that I have what I need, I am rich and in need of nothing would simply mean I love God and man. God seems to be saying, I am sorry but somehow you seem to misunderstand what it means to love.
Yes, it may be simple. But, in some ways it more complex than anything He requires out of us. Because it is at the base of it all. It is the Foundation of Christianity. We are poor, wretched, and naked when we cannot see our own lack of Godly love.