The Church of Laodicea
What Happens To Christians, Page 2
The Great Tribulation, Part I
From The Main Message of
Bread Upon The Waters Ministry
In the previous page, we said that we are living in the historical Age of the Church of Laodicea. We also presented a breakdown of the pattern of the things that Jesus said to Seven Churches in Revelation 2 & 3. In this page, using the overall approach to understanding these letters presented in that page, we will look at everything Jesus said in His letter to the Church of Laodicea. We will particularly focus on what is wrong with the Christians of the Church of Laodicea, and what is going to happen to them. It was also said that this Church Age began with the American Revolution. We will explain why this is so.
The Meaning of the Word, "Laodicea"
As shown in the previous page, the name of each Church in the Seven tells us something about the Church. It was also shown that a name can have two meanings. In such a case, one meaning refers to the spiritual condition of the Church. The other is about its historical destiny. This is true of the Church of Laodicea. The word "Laodicea", like the Church of Thyatira, is formed from two Greek words. These words are laoV, which means "people", and dikazo, which can mean either a personal opinion or a decree, i.e. a sentence, given by a judge. Therefore, we find that the word "Laodicea" can mean both "people's opinions" or "people judged".
The meaning "people's opinions" is a clear reference to the present state of the Church and is also the basis of the reasons why we must conclude that the Church of Laodicea began with the American Revolution.
We are living in a world in which Christendom is divided, by some estimates, into over 25,000 different denominations and sects. There are over 800 established denominations in the United States alone. This is not counting all the totally independent congregations. The latter range in size from storefront operations with tiny congregations to huge operations with thousands of members. The basis for all the different denominations and independent Churches is either one or both of two things: manner of worship and/or doctrinal differences. (With the independents, though, it is frequently a matter of idolatrous personality cults.) Doctrinal differences by far account for most of the division. In fact, it can be said that there is so much difference of opinion within the Church today that there are almost as many different forms of Christianity as there are Christians. This situation actually constitutes a serious, pervasive sin condition in the Church. See John 17:21 and I Corinthians 1:10-16. (See also "What's Worth Arguing About".)
Special Note: This writer has concluded from his study of the Biblical concept of the Church constituting the "Body of Christ" (See I Corinthians 12) that needlessly causing division in the Church is one of the worst sins a Christian can commit. To do so is true heresy, in practice.
Before the American Revolution
The Church wasn't always that way. Until the Protestant Reformation, there were probably less than a dozen distinct forms of Christianity in existence. At the time of the American Revolution, in spite of the Reformation and the availability of common - language Bibles, there were probably still less than a hundred distinct forms, and this is probably a generous estimate. The result of this was that, even among the Protestants in the 13 Colonies, there was effective unity in the Church. Therefore, the clergy had some real moral and legal authority and there was real constraint on what was preached, taught, and/or published in the Churches. Anyone who went to far off with what he preached or wrote did so at the risk of his life.
After The Revolution
The American Revolution changed all that. Religious tolerance became the law in the United States, coupled with freedom of speech and the press. These ideas, in the name of "inalienable rights", (actually, an unscriptural idea as applied to freedom of religion - see Deuteronomy 13:1-5) soon spread to other countries. It became possible for anyone to preach, teach or publish anything of a religious nature that he wanted to, with little or no fear of reprisal from the authorities. This threw the door wide open to all kinds of division and dissension within the Church. The following century saw a massive proliferation of different denominations.
It also allowed for all kinds of unrestrained error and out - and - out heresy. The same period saw the beginning of "aberration groups" such as the Seventh Day Adventists and the Shakers. It saw the beginning of big pseudo-Christian cults like the Mormons, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Science. (The only thing like that that ever happened before was Christian gnosticism, which had a short-lived run in the third and fourth centuries AD, and then died out.) It also saw the beginning of the New Age Movement. The New Age began with the writing of the book, "The Secret Doctrine" by Madame Blavatsky in New York City in the late 19th century. It is the "bible" of Theosophy, the parent cult of the New Age Movement. Before the Revolution, anyone who wrote a book like that would have been executed, probably by being burned at the stake. Eastern religions would not have been tolerated, even in the 13 Colonies, before the Revolution. Nor would most of the other occult stuff that is now wide open in the Western world.
It might be added that the same period has seen a tremendous rise, world - wide, in the worship of "Mary". It has been part of Roman Catholicism for a long time, but nothing like what it has become in the last two centuries.
The bottom line of all this is that unity has disappeared from the Church, along with almost all moral and all legal authority. This has been accompanied by a gradual decline in public morality, and the Church has been powerless to stop it. There have been some revivals that temporarily, and usually, locally, bucked the trend. But they have always been relatively short lived. In recent decades, the gradual moral decline has turned into an avalanche of immorality. The Church itself has sometimes been party to it, by, for example, in some cases encouraging the tolerance of homosexuality. And Christians expect a global revival?
There have been many other bad things that have happened, worldwide, since the Revolution that are all related to the same basic problem: "People's Opinions"!
This meaning of the name is a reference to what Jesus said about the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:16, and is related to the implications of Revelations 3:19. In Revelation 3:16, Jesus said that because the Church of Laodicea is lukewarm, He will vomit them out of His mouth. Understand two things about this statement:
- The word "vomit", sometimes translated "spit", is the Greek word emesai, transliterated "emesai", and it means "vomit", not "spit"! (It has been the observation of this writer that some words in the original languages are softened in their meaning when translated. The Bible does lose something this way. That's why anyone who is going to teach or preach must study the original languages.)
- The word translated " will" (or "going to") is an absolute " will", not a "might". The Greek word it translates is mello, transliterated "mello". It occurs about 20 times in the New Testament and every where else it occurs, it refers to something that really happens, never to a mere possibility.
It appears obvious that the act of vomiting is used as a visual metaphor for absolute, unconditional rejection. Jesus will completely reject the Church of Laodicea at some time in the future. The logical time for this to happen is when the Tribulation begins. Jesus' statement in Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten", tells us that the intent of the rejection is chastisement, not damnation. (Compare this idea to I Corinthians 5: 4 & 5.) From this, and other Scripture references, we understand that the "People Judged" meaning of the word "Laodicea" is a reference to the Great Tribulation being as much a great chastening of the Church of Laodicea as it is a great judgment of the unsaved world.
To put it differently, the purpose of the Tribulation, as far as Christians are concerned, will be the final, great purification of the Church. See Revelation 7:9, 13 & 14.
What Jesus Said About Himself
What Jesus says about Himself in Revelation 3:14 is actually a scathing rebuke to the Church of Laodicea. In fact, it is far more so than even what He says to the Church of Sardis: "These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God."
- With the word "Amen", which basically means "So be it", He says that the way He says it will be, is the way it will be. It is a declaration of authority.
- With the words, "The Faithful and True Witness", He is saying, indirectly, to the Church of Laodicea, "I tell the truth. You don't! You lie!"
- With the words, "The Beginning of the creation of God", He is reminding the Church of Laodicea that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1: 1 & 3)
In other words, He was proclaiming, "I am still Lord! The Truth is still what I say it is!" This is a rebuke aimed at all the efforts by Laodicean Bible scholars and theologians to redefine who Jesus is and what He means to us. He is still, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Those who are trying to say different are digging a pit for themselves to fall into. Believe this; they will fall!
What He Said About The Church of Laodicea
Jesus began His analysis of the Church of Laodicea by wishing they were either cold or hot. If hot, with love and zeal for Him, no problem. If they were cold, they could be truly revived. But lukewarm? Forget it!
So, of course, He says He will vomit them out of His mouth. Then He gives a breakdown of their problems.
They say that they are "rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing". Understand that by "rich", Jesus meant "spiritually rich". The Greek word translated rich is plouto, and Jesus used it in Revelation 2:9 to tell the Christians of Smyrna that they are rich, and in 3:18 in relation to the Laodicean Christians becoming rich. The Church of Laodicea is not materially rich, as some have thought. Rather, they think they have it all together as Christians. They think they are the embodiment of what Christians should be. They think that they have "arrived", as the saying goes. But we can paraphrase what Jesus said about them with the words, "proud and deceived".
Then, in verse 17, He gives a point - by - point breakdown of what is wrong with them:
- They are wretched. This is one of those Greek words that only appears twice in the New Testament. The only other place it is found is Romans 7:24, where it refers to the condition of a person who is in bondage to sin. Applying this idea to the Church of Laodicea, we find that they are in trouble already.
- They are miserable. The Greek word here cannot be directly translated into English. "Miserable" is not a very good reading of it. The same word is rendered "to be pitied" in I Corinthians 15:19. The true sense of it is that they are seriously in need of God's mercy - mercy that the context indicates they will not receive.
- They are poor. They do not have the fullness of the Holy Spirit that they claim to have. All their talk about spiritual gifts and power is often little more than that - talk. Sometimes, it is deception. See Matthew 7:21-23. Neither do they really have the agape¢ love they talk about so much. If they did, there wouldn't be so much division in the Church.
- They are blind. This follows naturally. They don't really know the Lord, and they can't see their true condition. If they did, they would repent. They don't really have the Truth. If they did, again, there wouldn't be so much difference of doctrine. However, this is a blindness that is their own fault. It is to a great extent both caused by and responsible for the final problem:
- They are naked. This is the worst of all. Nakedness, in the Bible, is a metaphor for being guilty of unconfessed, unrepented sin. Especially the sin of idolatry. In our times, it is mainly the result of the failure of the Church of Laodicea to obey the admonition of II Corinthians 6:14 -17. Rather than being separate from the world, the Church of Laodicea is embracing it. On the part of Catholics, however, it is mainly manifested in the 'veneration of "Mary" '.
Christians today, especially Protestants in the Western World, are embracing the secular worlds of art, entertainment and sports to the point that there is no identifiable dividing line between the two. Rather than teaching the world to conform to Christ, the Church is conforming to the world. This manifests itself, among other things, in the way many Churches and Ministries are using slick promotional techniques to increase their attendance and giving. This gives them better numbers, human and financial, but it does not make for better Christians. On the contrary, it has spawned a population of so-called "Born - Again Christians" who barely know what the word "Christian" means. And they show it by what they do with their lives.
Back in the late '70s, a group of Christian leaders -including this writer - were preparing for the huge "Here's Life" - "I Found It!" ("It" = "New Life in Jesus Christ") evangelistic campaign in New York City. Note that the main thrust of the outreach of this campaign was through the mass media. When the campaign began to encounter financial difficulties, the directors fired the man who had been the manager of the campaign. In his place they hired a man with an excellent record as a business man, but who had been a Christian less than a year (an unscriptural decision - see I Timothy 3:6). The first major decision he made was to cancel all funding for the prayer ministry part of the campaign. The campaign went off flawlessly, materially speaking, but the fruit from it was almost zero. (The man has since then publicly admitted that what he did was wrong.)
This is an example of a mentality that pervades the modern Church. Doing things in the wisdom of the flesh instead of by the Word of God. And saying, as was literally done in the case above, that "it is God's way". But this is only one minor facet of the totality of what is wrong.
Again, Christians are embracing the secular world of arts, entertainment and sports. Christians are told to "touch nothing unclean", meaning, in the New Testament context, anything morally and spiritually unclean. But these things are riddled with immorality, as Christians know well. But Christians are embracing them just the same. They are full of idolatry, too. When someone is called "a movie idol" or a "rock'n'roll idol", there is often far more truth to it than the people who use the term realize. Celebrities are really idolized! This writer has seen Christians - Christians employed in full time Church work at that - lay down $90 a pop for tickets to a Michael Jackson concert. These same Christians would balk at paying $15 to get into a Gospel concert. Consider also what happened when Princess Diana died. Christians are just as guilty of this kind of idolatry as the secular world. Again, Christian sports fans have stood in line all night to get tickets for major sports events. Have you ever seen anybody standing all night in line to get into a Church service? There are very few Christian events that are well enough attended to require it.
As previously stated, most Christians in any Age of the Church will to some extent manifest the spiritual problems (or strengths, in some cases) of the Age in their own Christian walk. This is catastrophically true of the Church of Laodicea. Jesus will vomit these Christians out of His mouth.
Understand this: Most Christians will not be ready!
We will not discuss what Jesus said the Church of Laodicea should do about the spiritual problems identified in this page. For that, see the "Three Switches" section of "Strangers and Pilgrims on the Earth".
What Jesus Said To The Laodicean Overcomers
Jesus made a promise to the overcomers of the Church of Laodicea that is quite amazing if taken in the context of the other promises in the Seven Letters, and in reference to something else in Revelation. He told them, "To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne...".
He told the overcomers of the Church of Smyrna, one of the best, that, "He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death".
Now, if we look ahead in Revelation to verse 20:6, we read, "Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years".
Comparing these three promises, it appears that the same basic promises are made to the overcomers of Smyrna and Laodicea. We should ask "Why?".
The reason appears to be that these two Ages are the ones in which it is hardest to be an overcomer. (Note: to be an overcomer, not necessarily the hardest in which to merely be a Christian. In the Church of Laodicea, depending on where you live, it can be very easy to just be a Christian.) But the reasons why are drastically different. In the Church of Smyrna, the difficulty in being an overcomer came from outside the Church, in the form of deadly persecution. In the Church of Laodicea, the problem comes from inside the Church. It comes in the form of so many spiritual problems, so much sin, so much error, and so much worldly influence embedded in the teachings and practices of the modern Church that even being conscious of it all is a practical impossibility. And so much divisiveness that maintaining "the unity of the Spirit" (Ephesians 4:3) is also a practical impossibility. That is why there will be very few overcomers, relatively speaking.
Yet there will be overcomers, and we will discuss what will happen to them, and the Church of Laodicea as a whole, in the final page of this section. But first we will take a look at a major issue that is particularly relevant to this part of the message:
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Contact Author, William D. Brehm