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Revelation and the Laodicean Message

Laodicea

A Bible Study

 

 

 

There have always been messages that were more timely than others. Truth seems to come alive when its time has come. At its appointed moment, the currents of thought and politics in the world work together to make it most relevant. Or its revelations may describe so perfectly the condition of God’s people that the student’s mind finds itself flooded with a sense of its truthfulness.

 

Some messages have always been timely.

 

We must keep Jesus our pattern ever before us. This is and ever will be present truth. It was by beholding Jesus and appreciating the virtues of His character that John became one with his Master in spirit. With spiritual vision he saw Christ’s glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; and he was changed from glory to glory into His likeness. – 1888 Materials, p. 135. Emphasis Supplied.

 

The message to the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-21) is speaking to men again, to a greater number of them, and with greater force. It spoke first with authority to a city in Asia Minor. Other churches that had an ear to hear were invited to listen for their own edification. In that sense it has pled with every generation. There has not yet been a period when Jesus failed to be knocking on the door of the heart of His professed followers. Even the liveliest of believers have experienced in themselves the truth that “as many as I love I rebuke and chasten.”

 

But the city of Laodicea received the message as one written especially to them. Their particular weaknesses and needs occasioned a special revelation from the Faithful and True Witness. We can only hope that their later pastors had reason to say (as Paul did of the repentant Corinthians) “For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea what [discipline]! In all things you have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:11.

 

If the reader doubts that the message of Revelation 3, written to the angel of the church of Laodicea, applies with particular force to the church at this time, we might offer two words of wisdom.

 

  1. The message is written to those that do not feel their need. Revelation 3:17. A brief exercise of our mental faculties would make it clear that men can not safely discount the message based on their feelings of security or assurance.
  2. Read on nonetheless, for the message concludes “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” It will edify the hearer in any age.

 

We might enter into a phrase-by-phrase exposition of the nine verses. But even if we succeeded in teaching only truth, we might change the meaning and force of the passage as a whole. The whole of it can be read easily in two minutes. Without a comment added, its greatest messages may be understood by the prayerful and earnest one. Read it carefully now.

 

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. Because 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:

I 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.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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.

To 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Re 3:14-22.

 

Recognize the primary thrust of the True Witness. The condition of the Laodiceans, minutely pointed out in verse 17, it will be our first order of business to understand.

 

“Because thou sayest…and knowest not.”

 

This is a characteristic of men. Elihu accused Job of having “spoken without knowledge”[1] only to have the accusation turned on him by the All Knowing One. “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” Job 38:2.

 

Job, however, took the rebuke personally. He answered the question “Who is this” with the confession “therefore have I uttered that I understood not.” Job 42:3. It is dangerous to speak of those things that we do not understand. Timothy was warned that some had turned away from the faith. They were anxious to teach but were “understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” I Tim 1:6-7.

 

Laodicea converses each weekend regarding salvation, assurance, and the gifts of grace. These topics are broached in Sabbath school with characteristic boldness. We, as members of the church, are looking forward to Christ’s coming. But we don’t understand.

 

Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? The day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.[2]

 

Amos uses metaphors familiar to us. The serpent, the lion, the comfort of getting home after danger. Perhaps we are not as mindful of the bear, that animal called by God to punish the mocking of his special messenger. Elisha’s deliverance from the irreverent youth by the attack of a she-bear harks forward to today. Adventists, waiting and hoping to go home to heaven, anxious to escape the roaring lion on their track, will find at last that they have been deceived by the serpent and that their treatment of Heaven’s prophet has not endeared them to Heaven.

 

We are represented by Amos as expecting great things from the Coming of Jesus. Our riches, whether or not they include material prosperity, include an assurance that all will be well with us in the end. Laodicea knows, in a superficial way, that her destiny depends on her love and her faith. She is aware that those with a faith/love relationship are the ones that are justified. But rather than being a source of worry, this thought comforts her from day to day. She is confident enough of her standing with God to speak of it.

 

“I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing “

 

There are certain conditions upon which we may expect that God will hear and answer our prayers. One of the first of these is that we feel our need of help from Him. He has promised, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.” Isaiah 44:3. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may be sure that they will be filled. The heart must be open to the Spirit’s influence, or God’s blessing cannot be received.

Our great need is itself an argument and pleads most eloquently in our behalf. But the Lord is to be sought unto to do these things for us.[3]

 

Laodicea might be more conscious of her need if she understood the nature of faith and love. These, according to James and Paul, are the riches of the gospel. But James speaks of men who “say” they have faith, yet do not.  James 2:14-20. And John speaks of men who “say” they have love, but have it not. I Jn. 4:20.

 

It is interesting, in this context, to notice that faith in God’s truth and selfless love were the two significant virtues missing from the Laodicean church in Paul’s time.

 

For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh. That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; Col. 2:1-2

 

James speaks of those that are “rich in faith” and identifies them as the same class as those that “love” God.

 

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith[4], and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? Jas 2:5

 

Our God is spoken of as being, Himself, “rich in mercy.” This is shown by the “great love wherewith he loved us.” Eph 2:4. Faith and Love are combined in a number of other passages.[5] A working faith can never be separated from love, for “faith works by love.” Gal. 5:6. It would be appropriate in a study of Laodicea to take a moment to probe the meaning of these golden values. An understanding of faith and love might wake Laodicea to a hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

 

The Nature of Faith

 

“The just shall live by Faith.” “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” “Let the Word of God dwell in you richly.” “A man is justified by faith.” “receive with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save your soul.” “Whatsoever you ask in faith, believing, ye shall receive.” “If my word abides in you, ye shall ask what you will and it will be done unto you.”

 

Without taking further pangs to prove it, let me state that faith is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Faith is a relationship with the Word. Faith submits to the Word. It lives and acts as if the Word itself has power to do the thing it promised.[6]

 

What does faith look like? That depends on the nature of the Word that faith is resting on at the moment. When faith comes to a warning, faith looks like preparation and “taking heed.” When faith comes to a rebuke, faith looks like confession and repentance. Faith lets the principle of the Word become the ruling power in the life. When faith comes to inspired history, it looks to the world to be akin to naiveté. It takes the Word at face value. Faith recognizes the creative power in the Word of God. When faith comes to a Calvary and lets the glory of that story move the will, faith looks like tears, penitence, humility, courage, and selfless love. When faith comes to a promise, it looks like “hope.” When it comes to a command, it looks like obedience. When confronted with a Counsel it looks very much like a desire to please God. When to an inspired hymn, faith may even look like music.[7]

 

This could be partially expressed as a graph.

 

The Nature of the Word                                                        The Appearance of Faith

A Warning                                                                                  Preparation

A Rebuke                                                                    Confession and Repentance

History                                                                                          Belief

A Promise                                                                                        Hope

A Command                                                                                 Obedience

Counsel                                                                               A Desire to Please

The Story of Calvary                                      Tears, Penitence, Humility, Courage, Selfless Love

A Spiritual Hymn                                                                         Spiritual Music

 

When the Bible asserts that we are saved “by hope” and justified by “works” and excused by our “thoughts” and condemned by “idle words”[8] the Book makes no contradiction with those statements that faith alone can save us. The repeated statements that we are judged according to our works and even the statement that we are justified by our “words” are only a development of the theme that man “shall live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

 

The Word “every” must be allowed to have its meaning. Unbelief is selective. It may incorporate portions of the word, the promises and stories, while spurning the counsels and commands. It may acknowledge the laws and regulations while slighting the Sacrifice. Unbelief has never saved a soul and never will. So James says that a man may try to show his faith without works but that James will “show my faith by my works.”

 

Just as Laodicea has falsely supposed she had a great deal of faith, she has been misinformed regarding love and does not recognize her dearth of the treasure.

 

The Nature of Love

 

Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Unspiritual people do not love. “Everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” And those with Jesus in their hearts most certainly do exercise love. “That Christ may dwell  in your hearts, that you, being rooted and grounded in love may know.” “He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love.” Love is so rare that its possession attracts the attention of the world. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

 

This is not to say that unconverted mothers do not love their children. Neither can we justly deny that an unconverted man may truly love his converted wife. But selective love is a mere reflection of the virtue itself. Jesus made this contrast in Matthew 5. He suggested to his audience that the love they showed their families and friends did not indicate any relationship to their “Father in Heaven.” If they would be His children they must love their enemies.

 

Loving our enemies does not change the fact that they are our enemies. Love is not an ecumenical cover-up of differences. Love is, on the contrary, selfless service. Service of others, at the expense of one’s own interests and comfort, will be an identifying mark of God’s last day people.

 

Love in the Last Days

 

The Bible makes a number of statements regarding the significance of love to end-time events. We observed earlier that the first century church of Laodicea (Col. 2:1-3) had a crying need to be “knit together” in love. This need, a characteristic also of the last day church, is signified in the term “lukewarm.” What is spiritual heat in this end-time context?

 

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Matt. 24:12-13.

 

Enduring love characterizes the finally saved. The cooling of this selfless principle characterizes the church in its Laodicean condition. But prophecy foretells more than a love that survives. Paul speaks of end-time love as one that thrives.

 

And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. I Thes. 2:12-13.

 

Our love, if we are to be found blameless at Christ’s coming, must be growing for our leaders, our fellow members, and for those that are “without.” If it is not growing, it will be dying.

 

Visit your neighbors in a friendly way, and become acquainted with them. . . . Those who do not take up this work, those who act with the indifference that some have manifested, will soon lose their first love, and will begin to censure, criticize, and condemn their own brethren.–{ChS 115.3}

 

What does love look like? That depends on the need of the one that is brought into our sphere of influence. In the home, love looks like a father cheerfully doing the dishes day after day. Love looks like disciplining oneself to keep tracts on hand to give away at gas-stations and super-markets. Putting the needs of others first, true love, may look like taking fewer pictures and giving a larger offering for Mission Extension. When a brother is found doing wrong, love looks like patience and correction. When a brother is in danger, love looks like a solemn warning and a helping hand. If your brother has done you wrong, love looks rather like faithful rebuke and attempted reconciliation than like gossip. Lest we miss this last point, Jesus used it as example of what His own Love means. He wrote to Laodicea:

 

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”

 

Hot or Cold

 

Somewhat selfless Christians make the universe confusing. The Lord of Glory, with sympathy for those whose destiny’s will be decided by the vacillating witness of the church, says that He is repulsed by half-measures in self denial.

 

His promise to “spew out” those that continued on with their mixture of self-interest and God-pleasing ought to lead our church to remember Jerusalem.

 

Do not resist Him

 

 

Do not resist Him

When He is calling

The peace we now have

May not always be

The HolyCity

God’s own Chosen

In His Favor

Thought she’d always be

 

When the walls were burning and

Lighting a million tear-stained face

And the cedars that were there

Were making mountains glow

All the soldiers had been told

“Do not destroy that place”

But the God of Heaven said

“It must be brought low”


And when Jesus tried to tell

The people of their danger

They reminded Him of what

it seemed had slipped His mind

But He said that to the faith

of Abram they were strangers

And it would not help them if

their blood was from his line

 

Do not resist Him

When He is calling

The peace you now have

May not always be

The HolyCity

God’s own Chosen

In His Favor

Thought she’d always be


Like a mother hen, He said

That he would have gathered them

If they would have come to Him

When the prophets called

But they all went their own way

To their chosen problems

And they left God no way

To save them from them all

 

Do not resist Him

When He is calling

The peace you now have

May not always be

The HolyCity

God’s own Chosen

In His Favor

Thought she’d always be

 

 

Jesus, John the Baptist, and Jeremiah all argued against the smug “we are the people” mentality.

 

To this point we have discussed Laodicea’s opinion of herself. She has thought, we have thought, that she was rich. Her misunderstanding of love and faith has led to this delusion. She has been lukewarm and cooling in her selflessness. This, in the face of a call to a growing and enduring love and a warning of dire consequences otherwise, has endangered her position as the chosen of God. She would rather not acknowledge this danger and so the True Witness finds other ways to “tell her.”

 

Wretched, Miserable, Poor, Blind, and Naked

 

The Greek word talaheeporos, translated “wretched,” is found in only one other passage in the scriptures. In Romans 7 Paul describes the experience of a man that is in bondage to the law of sin and death, a man that wants to do right but who finds another law bringing him “into captivity” to the law of sin.  This man, like all those that have not yet been “set free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2) cries out, “who shall deliver me from this body of death!” Wretched Laodicea does not know Jesus. She wants to do right but is unable.

 

Eleeinos, “miserable” in Revelation 3, is also found in just one other passage of scripture. Paul, in arguing the reality of a physical resurrection, describes the condition that we would all be in if there were no rising from the dead.

 

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 1Co 15:19

 

If there was to be no resurrection, our Christian hope would be a delusion. The hope of most Laodiceans is also. Wretched and miserable, wanting to do right and hoping for heaven while captive to sin and doomed to death—This is our general condition.

 

The gold of Revelation 3, the gold of Scripture, is faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Laodicea is poor in the same sense that she is lukewarm.

 

Luke’s gospel presents “the poor” as the recipients of heaven’s choicest blessings. Jesus came to preach the gospel to “the poor.” He called “his disciples” “ye poor” and blessed them saying “yours is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor are to be invited to Christian feasts before friends and relatives.  And when the invitation to the Heavenly feast is refused by others the command is “go quickly” into the highways and call, among others, “the poor.” The Rich Ruler is invited to sell all he has and give to the poor. Sadly spurning the offer, his crown went to another. In the next chapter the Wealthy Zacchaeus is invited by the Spirit to do the same and volunteers his willingness to do it. Finally, it is the “poor widow” that out gives the wealthy in the book of Luke. Luke 4:18; 7:22; 6:20; 14:13,21; 18:22; 14:8; 21:2-3.

 

But our church is not “poor in Spirit” in the beatitudal sense that would bring the blessings of which Luke wrote. She is “proud, knowing nothing” of her condition, arguing “about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,” 1 Tim 6:4. Her contentions do not tend to increase her affection and self-less disposition.

 

Spiritual blindness is not first mentioned in Revelation 3. The Pharisees were “blind leaders of the blind.” They were offended at Christ’s instruction in Matthew 15. When the disciples tried to apprise their master of how these leaders felt, Jesus said “let them alone. They be blind leaders of the blind, and both shall fall into a ditch.” They were making of none effect the Testimony of the Law of God (v. 6) and were shutting out the very light that might have saved them.

 

In chapter 23, Matthew records that Jesus spoke with great plainness to these men. He said “Ye blind guides” “fools and blind” “fools and blind” “Ye blind guides” “ye blind Pharisees.” v. 16, 17, 19, 24, 26. They missed the idea of true spirituality. Their religion was superficial. It was focussed on the largeness of the institutional offerings and ignorant of the smallness of institutional piety. But when certain Pharisees asked Jesus “are we blind also?” He answered almost cryptically.

 

And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. Joh 9:40-41

 

It was not Jesus that denied their blindness. They denied it in their hearts while asking about it with their lips and Jesus quoted to them their heart’s answer. This is precisely Laodicea’s problem. She may even come to Jesus and ask “am I blind?” But her question is unbelief. Jesus has already told her that she can not see and offered to heal her eyes. The question is a denial of the illness.

 

What a tragedy it is, for “wretched, miserable, poor, blind” persons are the very ones the gospel has been custom-made to help. It was, in fact, the call of the apostle Paul to open spiritual eyes to the light that they might receive “forgiveness of sins.”

 

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Ac 26:18

 

The words we have studied thus far are all code for “unconverted.” Jesus has said to Laodicea, “you are unconverted, unconverted, unconverted, unconverted.” And He says it again with the word “naked.”

 

We are familiar with the idiom of wearing Christ’s righteousness. We think we are clothed. How embarrassing to find that we are not! Our confusion stems from our ignorance of Christ’s righteousness and of how to put it on. Jesus offers us “white raiment” and we will study that offer after considering His first proffered gift—Gold.

 

I Counsel Thee to Buy

 

The Heavenly Merchantman has presented His wares in the Old Testament as well. There we learn how one as poor as Laodicea may “buy” riches as Christ offers here.

 

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good. . . .Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Is. 55:1-7

 

Isaiah does not say that listening carefully to God and forsaking our evil way is the cost of God’s blessings. His mercy is “without money and without price.” But these actions of our will are nonetheless the condition upon which we may “buy” and satisfy our soul hunger. This passage is too much for many persons. They can not see consistency in having conditions attached to a free gift. “If we have to buy it, it is not free. If it is free, we don’t have to buy it.” Let them argue with Jesus in Isaiah and Revelation. We only want to believe the marvelous offer and to seek the Lord “while He may be found.”

 

“Thou Mayest be Rich . . . be Clothed . . . and See”

 

Pause here and drink in the glory of the promise. From the wretched state we are in we are told in the plainest language, “there is hope!”

 

So we come to Jesus for the Gold of faith and love. How do buy them? By an ongoing act of the will. Faith and Love are fundamentally the very same thing. They are a choice on our part to let God’s creative Word live through us. Then we can choose to live by each portion of the Word that we find, to put the needs of even those we have never met before our own conveniences.

 

Everything here depends on the right action of the will. If we will “let the Word of God dwell in us richly” and “let love be without” falseness, God will “work in us both to will and to do of His Good pleasure.” These heavenly plants, faith and love, grow prodigiously when cared for by the constant exercise of the will. Our decisions to help others incline our wills even more in that same direction. Our choice to deny our desires so that we may live by a God-breathed principle makes us more like Him that spoke the principle.

 

And White Raiment

 

Perhaps the Clothing that Christians wear is one of the least understood aspects of Righteousness by Faith. In the minds of many this spiritual robe is about equivalent to having “pardon” written by our names in Heaven. But this is not the way Paul and John present it. Here we are given two reasons to buy and wear the garment. The first is to avoid nakedness itself. The second is to prevent the shame of that nakedness from being witnessed. This last point hints that this robe more than forgiveness. The world can see when we are “naked” and though we are unconscious of our exposure, it is shameful nonetheless. Paul speaks of what it means to put on the robe. He does not speak of covering filthy garments with clean ones, but of removing the first to make room for the second.

 

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness . . . . But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Rom. 13:12,14.

 

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying . . . Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. Eph 4:22-5:2

 

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Col. 3:8-14.

 

This “true holiness” as it is called in Ephesians 4 stands very distinct from the sham righteousness that is called “Christ’s” by those that know Him not. What a light Laodicea would be in the world if she were stripped of her filthy rags and covered with Christ’s robe of lovely living.

 

The man in Matthew 22 that accepted the invitation to the wedding but failed to put on the wedding garment typifies Laodicea.  He thought that accepting the invitation was all that was required.

 

There are many who are represented by this man. They have accepted the invitation to the marriage supper, but have failed to comply with the conditions for entrance to the feast. They will not lay aside the garments of their own self-righteousness, and put on the robe prepared for them at an infinite price. They have accepted the theory of the truth, but they do not possess and cultivate the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. They do not appropriate the truth to their individual needs, and become partakers of the divine nature. They are not willing to have the earthliness removed from their character, in order that the heavenly graces may be imparted. They will be speechless before the King when he comes in to examine the guests, and asks them why they have not put on the righteousness of Christ.  {YI, October 28, 1897 par. 1}

 

And Eyesalve that thou Mayest See

 

We have observed already that blindness is lack of spiritual understanding. Paul expresses this thought in Ephesians in such a way as to make it clear that the Eyesalve is the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Eph. 1:17-18; 3:16-19

 

Our need of the Holy Spirit, and the ability of that Spirit to bring us all that we need, these were the favorite themes of Jesus. A thorough study of the promise of the Spirit would dwarf our study of Revelation 3. We will notice here only a few important points.

 

First, a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit is promised to the church at the very time that Laodicea is counseled to receive it. The conditions of receiving that gift are few and simple.

 

Our faith, working by love, must bring obedience         Acts 5:32

We are to be asking for the gift                                         Lu 11:13; Zech 10:1

We must move forward to know God more and more                Hos 6:1-3

We must turn from our sins                                               Joel 2:12-23

 

 

As Many as I Love I Rebuke

 

The Love of Jesus would not be appreciated by many. Those that perceive revulsion in rebuke and condemnation in correction could not bear the searching Love of our Sin-Bearer. The church age that is warned of its lack of true love is given an illustration of the nature of that love in the love-inspired rebuke of the True Witness. Indeed, to refrain from giving needed instruction is a type of hatred.

 

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Le 19:17

 

This is not to say that all rebuke is produced by selfless service. If some “preach Christ of contention” there can be no doubt that some rebuke “for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness.” But all the false-hearted instruction ever given will make true-hearted instruction less needed.

 

“Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 6:23.

 

Not only does Jesus reprove, He also “chastens.” “Despise not the chastening of the Lord.” Job 5:17, Pr 3:11, He 12:5. This thrice repeated maxim reflects the deep-seated antipathy of men for having their wrong course pointed out. One of the most self-deceiving ways of despising reproof is to simply avoid hearing it. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” Joh 3:20. That this is a danger for Laodicea is apparent in the Spirit’s admonition to “hear.” Rev 3:22.

 

Be Zealous and Repent

 

This passage is evidence enough that zeal and repentance are also functions of the will. We chose what we will dzaylohoe, Greek for “earnestly desire.” This is the sense of “be zealous.” And we chose from what and to Whom we will turn. This is repentance. But it is manifest in the words that some source of information must inform the soul what from what he is to zealously repent. Misguided zeal and undirected repentance can not be intended.

 

They zealously affect you, but not well . . . But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. Ga 4:17-18.

 

The question, “repent of what?” is answered by the implications in the next verse.

 

Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock

 

This is the last of the code-phrases for “unconverted.” Jesus dwells “in our hearts by faith.” But for unbelieving Laodicea He patiently waits at the door. The Prince of Peace is outside and so peace itself can not be inside.

 

The Saviour says, “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.” Rev. 3:20. He is not repulsed by scorn or turned aside by threatening, but continually seeks the lost ones, saying, “How shall I give thee up?” Hosea 11:8. Although His love is driven back by the stubborn heart, He returns to plead with greater force, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” The winning power of His love compels souls to come in. And to Christ they say, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Ps. 18:35.  {COL 235.2}

 

Two Conditions to Christ’s Entrance

 

“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.”

 

Deaf persons today often have doorbells that trigger lights in their house to blink on and off. Unless they are sleeping, this signal will alert them to the presence of a guest. Jesus presents the case to Laodicea as if it is not a matter to be assumed that she will “hear” his voice. If she does not hear his voice, she will not think to open the door. What is Jesus saying? He is saying “Repent.” Repent of what?

 

Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets . 2Ki 17:13

 

The Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. Prophets have, in whatever ages they were called, called the people to obey the various counsels and commandments of God. But those that will not read the testimony of the prophets will not hear the voice. The last day church not only keeps the commandments but has “the Testimony of Jesus.” Prophetic counsels have come to her as the voice of Jesus calling her to repent, to open the door of the heart by turning from her evil ways.

 

Those who will not read the Testimonies have neglected the first of the two conditions for special fellowship with Jesus in our day. For them the command to repent in verse 19 is a vague call, perhaps for someone else. They would rather excuse their wrong on the basis of their fallen nature and are not keen on reading testimonies that would make them feel the accountability that accompanies their depravity.

 

The second condition is to open the door. This is the only reasonable response to hearing the voice. But those that are unfamiliar with Jesus may not be comfortable opening a door to someone that demands so much. If they have not learned to recognize the love in His life-giving “reproofs of instruction” they will rise up against them. Rather than let the Guest in they will confound Him with an enemy and treat Him spitefully.

 

Said the angel: “God will bring His work closer and closer to test and prove every one of His people.” Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols and heed the counsel of the True Witness. . . . Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.  {LHU 375.2}

 

I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.  {EW 270.2}

I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified.  {EW 270.3}

 

This, then, is the end result of the message. It will purify some and harden the rest. Some have been frightened, almost as if the shaking will cause weak Christians to lose their way. But it is not weak Christians that refuse the voice of Jesus. It is false ones. Not the small grains of wheat, but the chaff will be blown away.

 

For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. Amos 9:9.

 

I will Come in and Eat with Him

 

The food that Jesus offers is his truth. Prophets are represented as eating scrolls (Ez 2 and Re 10). Jeremiah wrote “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart.” Jer 15:16. On the surface it might seem that all have access to this feast. But it is not so. They may eat the words alone. But if they would eat them with Jesus, they must open the door. And the words, without Jesus’ indwelling, will not be a true profit.

 

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Heb 4:2

 

Does Revelation speak of any special meal of truth being made available to Christ’s followers? Any special Word from Him? Certainly. The Testimony of Jesus, as given to the RemnantChurch, not only invites the church to open her door but proffers a true abundance of good things for those that do invite Christ to enter.

 

To Sit with Me on My Throne

 

“This honor have all the saints..” Ps. 149:9. We then, a kingdom of priests here, will reign also as kings and priest above. The twenty-four elders already reign This way. Re. 5:10. Our destiny, to sit on an eternal throne, makes certain behavior’s unacceptable. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, not for kings to drink wine . . . lest they drink and forget the law.” And regarding priests, “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.” Le 10:9-10.

 

Our calling to being judges in the future sets us apart even today.

 

Even as I also Overcame

 

This study opened with a statement on one unchanging element of present truth. Beholding Jesus ever has been and ever will be current theology. In closing His message to the Laodiceans, Jesus presents His own life of self-denial and service as a model for those that would be overcomers. The most notable overcoming on Christ’s part was the defeat of his own inclination to escape the cross. “If it be possible,” he prayed in human weakness, “let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done.”

 

Not my will. That is the way that Christ overcame. “Even as I also” did, He invites, “you may also.”

 

Long afterward, when John had been brought into sympathy with Christ through the fellowship of His sufferings, the Lord Jesus revealed to him what is the condition of nearness to His kingdom. “To him that overcometh,” Christ said, “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.” Revelation 3:21. The one who stands nearest to Christ will be he who has drunk most deeply of His spirit of self-sacrificing love,–love that “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, . . . seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5),–love that moves the disciple, as it moved our Lord, to give all, to live and labor and sacrifice even unto death, for the saving of humanity.  {AA 543.2}

 

Amen.

 

—-

 

For the Word Doc click here: Rev_3_-_Laodicea



[1] Job 34:35

[2] Amos 5:18-19

[3] SC p. 95

[4] See 1Pe 1:7-8 for another correlation of “faith” with “gold”

[5] see the following passages:

Ga 5:6  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Ga 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Eph 1:15  Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,

Eph 3:17  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Eph 6:23  Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Col 1:4  Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

1Th 1:3  Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

1Th 5:8  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

1Ti 1:14  And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

[6] The author has written more fully on faith. Readers are invited to request the study from canvassing@canvassing.org

[7] Col 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

[8] See Ro 8:24; Ja 2:24; Ro 2:15; Mat 12:36

(2) Comments

  1. You stated: But our church is not “poor in Spirit” in the beatitudal sense that would bring the blessings of which Luke wrote. She is “proud, knowing nothing” of her condition, arguing “about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,” 1 Tim 6:4. Her contentions do not tend to increase her affection and self-less disposition.

    I believe it’s fair to state, the Laodicean message is not written to the “church.” It’s written to the “angel” of the church. This is important to recognize.

    Rev. 1:20–“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The SEVEN STARS are the ANGELS of the seven churches…” Who are the “seven stars” that He “holdeth … in His right hand” (Rev. 2:1)?

    “God’s MINISTERS are symbolized by the “seven stars, which he who is the first and the last has under His special care and protection” (Gospel Workers 13, 14). Christ is primarily addressing the leadership. I believe if they would understand and receive the message, the laity would certainly follow.

    “The members of our churches are not incorrigible; the fault is not so much to be charged upon them as upon their teachers. Their ministers do not feed them” (Special Testimonies, No. 10, p. 46; 1890). I’m not very smart, but a little spiritual common sense is needed.

    “The message given us by A.T. Jones, and E.J. Waggoner IS the message of God to the Laodicean church, and woe be unto anyone who professes to believe the truth and yet does not reflect to others the God-given rays” (1888 Material, pp. 1051-1052).

    It’s clear as sunlight for all the “scholars and ministers of the “gospel.” Instead of telling about Waggoner and Jones’s downfall as so many do, passed down from one generation to another, let’s dig through their writings and start perceiving some truths that are null and void from most of the pulpits today. Oh, let’s lift up the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

    from a nobody, John

    • John, thank you for writing. I am a strong advocate of reading precious materials by Jones and Waggoner, particularly Lessons on Faith (which I recommend widely.) I was blessed by “The Glad Tidings” and by “Waggoner on Romans” and by Jones GC Bulletins.

      But do not forget that phrase, “let him that has ears hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” God has not made the members wholly dependent on their spiritual leaders. If the message of Jones and Waggoner was the Laodicean message, then you should see the truth of what I say in the fact that they took the message to the common people in articles and preaching in the years after 1888.

      I do not think, however, that the fact that God used them widely is reason enough to whitewash their later apostasy. God uses weak men. That is an important lesson for our time.

      Thank you, brother Sheffield, for caring about the truth. If you are a nobody, so then am I.

      Be faithful,

      Eugene

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