Laodicea (1914-1993 A.D.)
Revelation 3:14 begins the message to the final church:
14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
Laodicea was originally known as Diospolis, the City of Zeus. In the third century B.C., King Antiochus II (called Theos, “The Divine”) changed its name to Laodicea, after his wife Laodice. This Antiochus was the king prophesied in Dan. 11:6, who, in 246 B.C., married Bernice, the daughter of Ptolemy II of Egypt, to cement a political peace. When Bernice’s father died in July of that year, Antiochus returned to his first wife, Laodice, and Bernice was sent back to Egypt. However, Laodice gave orders to murder Bernice while she was on the way to Egypt, and this was the cause of The Laodicean War between Antiochus II of Syria and Ptolemy III of Egypt.
Laodicea, then, had a colorful history. It was situated on the great east-west trade route in the lower Lycus Valley between two lofty mountain ridges. For this reason it became a major trade and banking center of the entire region and was quite rich. It was famous for its manufacture of cloth and tunics, especially those made from a soft glossy black wool. These black tunics were called trimita. They were so well known that many years later at the Church Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., Laodicea was called Trimitaria.
About 13 miles west of Laodicea stood the temple of the Phrygian god, Men Karou, the original god of that valley. It was also the sponsor and protector of a school of medicine in Laodicea which was famous for its Phrygian Powder, ground up from Phrygian stone to make eye salve. It was also famous for an ointment made from “spice nard” that was used to strengthen the ears.
Laodicea has been called “the city of compromise,” mostly on account of its mixture of many ethnic groups in the city, which required compromise and toleration.
The city was well fortified, but its weakness lay in the fact that its principle source of water was six miles to the south. The water was brought by aqueduct to Laodicea, and any invading army would have known that to take the city, one only had to cut off its water supply. There is no longer any trace of the aqueducts. The water itself was lukewarm by the time it arrived in Laodicea. Likewise, cold water piped from Colossae, too, was lukewarm by the time it arrived in Laodicea.
A friend of mine took a trip to Turkey and later sent me this picture of the lukewarm springs at Laodicea.
Picture taken by Mark Shoberg
The glorified Christ introduces Himself to the church of Laodicea as “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” This refers to Isaiah 65:16-18,
16 Because he who is blessed in the earth shall be blessed by the God of truth [Heb. Amen]; and he who swears in the earth [in court] shall swear by the God of truth [Amen]… 17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth… 18 I create Jerusalem for rejoicing…
The Hebrew word amen, “faith,” is closely related to amet, “truth.” Amen was how a man responded when taking an oath to tell the whole truth in a court of law. (See Deut. 28:15-26.) Those taking such solemn oaths were held accountable if they committed perjury, for if they lied under those circumstances, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (An example of this is found in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:4.)
In Greek thinking, faith is more akin to positive thinking or to confidence in religion. Unfortunately, this definition of faith has found fertile ground in the modern church as well. But in Hebrew thought, faith was a spiritual response to truth, or bearing witness of the truth. In connection with this, the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord is important, for blasphemy is deterred by having respect toward God when bearing witness of truth.
For this reason also, the seventh Spirit of the Lord—the One giving this message to Laodicea—is the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2). In other words, to be an overcomer in the Laodicea church is to have ears to hear the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord. Those who hear are those who truly bear witness to the truth in a time of universal deception. Their lives, too, are lived by the Amen principle, saying only what they hear their Father say, and doing only what they see their Father do. By becoming the Amen of God, the overcomers may participate in the creation of the new heavens, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem.
The first heavens and the first earth were created in the same manner. The Father spoke “Light,” and the Son said, “So let it be” (i.e., Amen). All things are established by a double witness, and hence it took both Father and Son to create all things, along with a third witness, the Holy Spirit. Therefore, John tells us in John 1:3,
3 All things came into being by [dia, “through”] Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Creation came into being through Christ, the Logos, who was the Amen of God. John’s message is to show that Jesus Christ was not only present at the time of creation, but He was not left out of the creative process in even the smallest detail.
The same principle is seen also in creating the new heavens and the new earth, where the Amen again is central to creation. This time, the overcomers are called to be Amen people (like Christ Himself), bearing witness of the creative word to restore the earth to its original glory and purpose. Nonetheless, as we have seen with the earlier churches, only a few actually qualify as overcomers. All of the churches (as a whole) fail to follow the Spirit’s message and warning.
The Lukewarm Church
Revelation 3:15, 16 says,
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
The lukewarm water of Laodicea provided the metaphor for the church’s relationship with God. It was not a requirement for them to become fanatical or obnoxious in witnessing for Christ. The focus was upon the compromising church. I noticed long ago that the Laodicea church of the twentieth century generally has followed the world’s views of morality and culture. They only lag behind the world by a few years. The world sets the example of so-called “truth,” and the church soon adjusts its view to conform to the beast’s world view.
Standing firm in the truth of God does not need to be done in an obnoxious manner. Neither does an Amen person need to be so fanatical as to kill or harm others in defense of the truth. God only requires that believers take the lead and influence the world around them, rather than having the world influence them. Believers are not the world’s amen people; they are God’s Amen. We do not adopt the world’s moral (or immoral) standards, but live according to Kingdom culture and morality.
Those in the church who are lukewarm in this matter will be spit out of God’s mouth, unless they repent. They either need to take Christ seriously or stop pretending to be Christians.
In Rev. 3:17, 18 Christ advises the church of Laodicea,
17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eyesalve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
The first thing to note is that the church was blind to its true condition. It believed itself to be rich, because it measured riches in monetary terms, not seeing things through God’s eyes and with His perspective. Secondly, the church was naked—again, without realizing it. In short, this church was in captivity to Babylon and had adopted the Babylonian world view, while thinking it was seeing things as God saw them.
The worst feature of spiritual blindness is that the one who is blind does not know it. Because he sees with his physical eyes and can imagine things with his soulish eyes, he believes that he can see spiritually as well. Perhaps the foremost problem is that he cannot distinguish between his spirit and his soul, nor between faith and positive thinking.
In Matt. 6:22, 23 Jesus speaks of such blindness, saying,
22 The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Israel of old was also blind. Even after Israel had been tested in the wilderness under Moses for forty years, the prophet told them in Deut. 29:4, 5,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear. 5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness…
During the first year of Israel’s wilderness journey, Moses had to put a veil over his face, because the people were not prepared to see the glory of God—that is, to know Truth fully. Paul says in 2 Cor. 3:14, 15,
14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remained unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart.
This veil did not blind Moses’ eyes, but rather it blinded the people from seeing the glory of God in Moses’ face. Paul tells us that the veil is the result of the Old Covenant mindset, which blinds the people and hides the truth from them.
It appears that the same veil had come upon the eyes of the Laodicea church as it began to forsake the New Covenant and adopt the carnal rituals and perspectives of the Old Covenant. Yet because their practices were religious in nature, they did not know that they were spiritually blind. They could not tell the difference between true spiritual things and ordinary religious views and activities.
Of course, God took credit for bringing about this condition. Isaiah 29:9, 10 says,
9 Be delayed and wait. Blind yourselves and be blind. They become drunk, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. 10 For the Lord has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep; He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.
In other words, God commanded the people to blind themselves, and they did so. God thus poured over them a spirit of deep sleep, shutting their eyes and covering their heads. This seems to be inherent in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—that is, in Pentecost.
The Pentecostal Movement
In the final years of the Philadelphia church, the Holy Spirit was poured out from 1900-1914, giving rise to the modern Pentecostal movement. It was the church’s final opportunity to repent and thereby avoid the captivity that was soon to come. A few did, but their numbers were insufficient to prevent the captivity of the Laodicea church which began in 1914.
Here is where it again is important to understand how King Saul was a Pentecostal type of the church, having been crowned on the day of “wheat harvest,” later known as Pentecost (1 Sam. 12:17). The main problem with Saul was that the people wanted a man to rule over them, rather than being ruled directly by God (Christ). Hence, the main problem of Pentecost was the spirit of denominationalism, where men rule the people through religion, rather than being ruled directly by Jesus Christ and being led by the Spirit.
In the early 1900’s the Pentecostal movement was almost fully denominationalized between 1909 and 1912. They followed the pattern of the Israelites who had demanded a king, and as a result the captivity was ensured. With this came “a spirit of deep sleep,” as Isaiah tells us. An Old Covenant way of thinking settled into the movement. In their ignorance of the law, combined with their desire for holiness, they became legalistic, establishing standards about outward things that were not mandated in the divine law but were rather just the traditions of men.
They also began to support Jewish Zionism’s claim to the “Holy Land,” and their terrorist methods of gaining control. They began to believe that it was in God’s will to support the genocide and expulsion of the existing Palestinian peoples as if they were Canaanites being destroyed by Joshua under the Old Covenant. They began to interpret Scripture by Old Covenant thinking, focusing upon externals, rather than upon matters of the heart.
One of the main keys to such blindness was their belief that one’s genealogical descent from Abraham made a person “chosen,” regardless of his lack of faith in Christ. In so doing, they overthrew a great portion of Paul’s teaching, in particular Galatians and the book of Hebrews. The result was that the Laodicea church gave its inheritance to Jews who yet hated Jesus Christ. Putting it another way, the Laodicea church became enslaved to Mystery Babylon. Paul’s warning not to allow “false brethren” to “bring us into bondage” to the Old Covenant (Gal. 2:4) went unheeded.
Even as the Hezekiah church prepared the way for the Captivity church under the Old Covenant, so also the Philadelphia church prepared the way for the Laodicea church to go into captivity.
In God’s mercy, He blinded the eyes of the church so that they would not realize what they were doing. Blindness lessened their accountability. Sleep seemed to shorten their days in captivity. They could enjoy the blessings of the Holy Spirit, healings, and miracles without being encumbered by truth.
During this captivity to Mystery Babylon, the church has thought of itself as being rich. There is little doubt that Babylon brought apparent prosperity to the West, though most of it was at the expense of third-world countries. Most people were unaware that the Federal Reserve Act had given the power to create money to a few powerful banking families. These were happy to give credit to governments, who issued bonds (debt notes) in exchange for newly-created money. With all this newly-created money at their disposal, they had the appearance of wealth and tried to forget that every new dollar was actually a debt note that had been monetized, as it were, by magic.
The church prospered and said, “I am rich and have become wealthy.” In the 1950’s the age of mega-churches was born, and men marveled at these new Charismatic Cathedrals that were even greater than the Roman Catholic cathedrals of past centuries.
Along with this rise in wealth came the power of positive thinking, whose roots lay in the writings of Charles Filmore during the early days of the Pentecostal movement. Filmore pretended to be a Christian, and even used biblical terms, but he redefined them according to his Metaphysical Dictionary, which he entitled, The Revealing Word. Sin was redefined as ignorance. The cross was redefined as “that state of consciousness termed ‘mortal mind’.” Faith became positive thinking. God became impersonal. Our relationship to God was bound up in our ability to derive wealth by thinking positively and by the power of sowing and reaping. Spiritual laws were just useful tools in an impersonal “field” that were used to acquire wealth and happiness.
Both the Pentecostal and the Metaphysical movements were birthed at the same time in the early 1900’s. Norman Vincent Peale popularized the Metaphysical movement in his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, and others brought this into the church with minor adjustments. The result is that the church of Laodicea no longer had the ability to discern between the soulish and the spiritual. The law of sowing and reaping was used often to defraud the people, as preachers told them to “sow” into their ministries in order to receive God’s blessing. Some of these ministries became very wealthy; most of the people remained poor.
God advised the church “to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich” (Rev. 3:18). He was referring to 1 Peter 1:6, 7, which says,
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Faith is compared to physical gold (or wealth in general). Even as gold is refined by fire, so also is our faith refined “by various trials.” Hence, Christ was telling the Laodicea church that they ought to seek genuine faith that is proven and tested by experience. Since “faith comes by hearing the word” (Rom. 10:17), it is clear that refined faith comes by putting it to the test—that is, by applying the revelation of the word experientially.
This is why Rev. 3:19 says,
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.
God’s discipline is the “fire” that tests our faith and refines it to the point where it actually works. Many have faith that is not yet practical or useful in real life. What is lacking is the refinement process.
It is not enough to learn the word or even to hear God’s voice. The word must bring about an active response in order for it to be refined and usable. The foundational difference between Metaphysical Christianity and True Christianity is this: Metaphysical Christians decide for themselves what they want, or what is good for them, and then they use positive thinking to fulfill their goals. True faith hears God’s voice, determines His will, and then seeks to put that into experience. False Christianity begins with man’s will; true Christianity begins by seeking God’s will.
It is surprisingly difficult for even Christians to understand the difference. Gold (or money itself) is not the difference. The difference is whose will is being done. Let us buy true gold and not rely upon the world’s fools gold.
Buying White Garments
The second piece of advice that Christ gave to the Laodicea church in Rev. 3:18 was to buy “white garments.” Such garments can only be purchased with Kingdom currency—the “gold refined by fire” mentioned previously. White garments are made of “fine linen” which “is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev. 19:8). These are the garments required to minister to God in the sanctuary (Lev. 16:23). Such garments are worn by those who do the works of God, doing only what they see their Father do.
The stated purpose for buying such garments is “that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (or exposed). This refers to the time of Adam and Eve, when they were “naked” after they sinned. In Gen. 3:10 Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked.” From then on, nakedness was a Hebrew idiom for sin being fully exposed and hidden things being manifested (2 Cor. 5:3).
Since Laodicea was known for its cloth industry and its manufacture of tunics, everyone reading this advice in John’s time would have recognized the irony inherent in this advice. Even as one could choose earthly or heavenly “gold,” so also could men choose between earthly and heavenly clothing.
The third thing that Christ counseled the church to buy was “eyesalve to anoint your eyes.” Once again, Laodicea was known for its eyesalve made of Phrygian powder, and hence there was earthly and heavenly eyesalve. Phrygian powder was used to heal physical eyes, but one needed heavenly gold to purchase heavenly eyesalve that could heal spiritual blindness.
The implication is that heavenly gold, which is faith refined by the baptism of fire, must be obtained in order to remove the blindness upon the Laodicea church. It is ironic, then, that in spite of the Pentecostal revival that occurred at the end of the Philadelphia church era, the Laodicea church was blind and did not realize it.
It is precisely because Christians have received Christ, and Pentecostals have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that they cannot comprehend how they could be blind to the word of God and to what is happening around them. It seems inconceivable to them. It is as incomprehensible as it was with the religious leaders in Jesus’ day.
Yet Jesus healed blind eyes in order to show us that He is also the only Source of healing for spiritual eyes. In John 9 we read the story of a man who had been born blind (John 9:1) and how Jesus healed him. This was the sixth out of eight miracle-signs in the gospel of John, which correlate with the eight days of the feast of Tabernacles.
The blind man was healed when he washed off the clay which Jesus had placed upon his eyes. The clay represents the flesh, because we are all “clay” in the hands of the Potter. Isaiah 64:8 says,
8 But now, O Father, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou art our potter; and all of us are the work of Thy hand.
In putting clay upon the eyes of the blind man (John 9:6), Jesus acted as Creator making the vessels of clay. In telling him to wash off the clay, Jesus gave instructions on how to be set free of blindness. In that this was one of the signs correlating with the feast of Tabernacles, it also shows that blindness is healed, not in Pentecost, but in Tabernacles. The power of the Spirit operating in Pentecost has healed many blind eyes, but to heal spiritual eyes is done only through the power of Tabernacles. Hence, those who are enlightened to see the truth in the word have tapped into the power of Tabernacles.
This is the promise given to the overcomers. The typical result is that they are excommunicated from the religious system, even as the blind man was put out of the synagogue (John 9:34). The blind do not want those who are healed to bear witness of the truth, lest the light force the people to admit their blindness and wound their pride.
Paul speaks of such blindness in terms of the veil that is over the eyes of those who read the writings of Moses by the dim light of the Old Covenant (2 Cor. 3:14, 15). Later, he says in 2 Cor. 4:3, 4,
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
He goes on in verses 6 and 7 to compare us with Gideon’s army, which carried earthen vessels from which the light shone when they were broken:
6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.
All true believers have the light of Christ in them, but until their clay vessels are broken, the light remains hidden, or veiled. Blindness, then, is seen in two or three kinds of people: (1) those who have Old Covenant eyes and limited understanding, (2) “unbelievers” in general, and (3) those believers whose clay has not been washed away—or clay vessels that have not been broken.
To some extent all retain some degree of blindness until the day that the sons of God are “manifested,” or unveiled. Nonetheless, the overcomers are given a foretaste of Tabernacles even during the ages of Passover and Pentecost.
In 2 Cor. 5:1-4 Paul likens this manifestation to a change of clothing. This connects the theme of “white garments” to the removal of blindness and the spiritual eyesalve that the church was supposed to purchase in Rev. 3:18.
Revelation 3:19 continues,
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.
Discipline is one thing that the church (as an organization) does not like—unless they are the ones doing the disciplining. Discipline is never a happy time, but Heb. 12:11 says,
11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
This assumes, of course, that such discipline is received with humility, so that one’s clay vessel may be “broken” to shine forth the light that is in it. Scripture warns, however, that some remain stubborn and rebellious, refusing to be corrected by such discipline (Deut. 21:18). Of such, Heb. 12:8 says,
8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
In other words, we are all “partakers” of divine discipline, but some remain “without discipline.” These are proven to be “illegitimate children and not sons.” One’s response to divine discipline ultimately proves one’s status (inheritor or non-inheritor) in the family of God.
Christ Stands at the Door
Revelation 3:20 says,
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.
This word is given specifically to the Laodicea church, because it is the last of the seven churches prior to His return. But this also has a personal, individual appeal, saying, “if anyone hears My voice and opens the door.” Since blindness and deafness go hand in hand, when one’s spiritual eyes are healed, so also are one’s ears healed. Such is the mark of an overcomer, who has been touched by the feast of Tabernacles.
To “dine” with someone (in Hebrew thought) is to have fellowship, or communion. Western culture has some elements of this concept of communion, but nowhere near the level of significance found in Scripture. Paul alludes to this in 1 Cor. 5:11, telling the believers not to eat with those who, as a normal manner of life, habitually live in sin. To “eat” is the equivalent of “not to keep company” with such people.
This does not mean believers must shun such people, but rather that the level of our association with such people should not be so close that they change or influence our Kingdom life style. For each individual, this should be applied according to the strength and maturity of the believer. In that way, believers may continue to be witnesses of Christ in a lawless world.
The Overcomer’s Reward
Revelation 3:21 says,
21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Christ has already presented Himself to the Laodicea church in terms of being “the Amen” of God, by which all things are created. This speaks of the authority of the double witness, where the first witness comes from heaven and the second from the earth. The first witness comes from the Sovereign God, while the second comes from one with authority. Sovereignty is self-derived, while authority is authorized by a higher power.
At the end of the message, the Laodicea church is invited to identify with Christ in His throne. Only the overcomers themselves actually achieve this, but the offer is extended to all. There is a Scriptural path that a prospective overcomer must follow. First, one must identify with Christ in His death in order to identify in His resurrection life (Rom. 6:5). Only then can one qualify to be identified in His ascension to the throne, where spiritual authority is granted.
The gap between resurrection life and ascension is filled with divine discipline and intercession and is given incrementally according to the will of God alone. (See my book, Principles of Intercession, which shows the five steps toward spiritual authority.) Jesus followed this path and established the pattern for us all to follow in His footsteps.
Illegitimate sons need not apply.
Revelation 3:22 concludes,
22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This concludes the message to the seven churches.