CHAPTER 3:14-22 - LAODICEA (7)
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
|Preamble:||3:14||"...Here is the message of the Amen, the trustworthy, the true witness, the Principle of God's creation."|
|Historical Prologue:||3:15||"I know about your activities..."|
|Ethical Stipulations:||3:16-17||"I wish you were one or the other..."|
|Sanctions:||3:18-20||"I warn you..."|
|Succession Arrangements:||3:21-22||"Anyone who proves victorious..."|
You may want to consult the Summary of the 7 Churches in the Charts and Handouts section.
Laodicea was built at the junction of the Lycus and Maeander valleys and at the intersection of three major Roman highways. Beyond Laodicea was the Rome's eastern province of Phrygia. Laodicea's strategic position helped to make it one of the richest commercial and financial centers in the Roman Empire. The city was famous for its local black wool, which helped to make the city a textile-manufacturing center. Laodicea was also known for its medical school and for an eye salve produced by the oculists Zeuxis and Philetos, which was famous throughout the Roman world. In addition to the city's great wealth, Laodicea had one of the largest Jewish populations in Roman Asia with over 7,000 adult male Jews according to a 1st century Roman census. These were Hellenized (Greek culture) Jews who were granted the right to preserve their own customs and religion.
The church of Laodicea was a church in the midst of an extremely affluent, sophisticated society. This Christian church began by meeting in the home of a woman named Nympha (Col. 4:15) and may have been established by the preaching of Paul's associate Epaphras. It was Epaphras who had introduced the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Laodicea's sister cities of Hierapolis and Colossae. Read Col. 1:5-8 & 4:12-17. Col. 1:5-8: "because of the hope which is stored up for you in heaven. News of this hope reached you not long ago through the word of truth, the gospel that came to you in the same way as it is bearing fruit and growing throughout the world. It has had the same effect among you, ever since you heard about the grace of God and recognized it for what it truly is. This you learnt from Epaphras, our very dear fellow-worker and trustworthy deputy for us as Christ's servant, and it was he who told us about your love in the Spirit." Col. 4:12-17: Epaphras, your fellow-citizen sends his greetings........v13 I can testify for him that he works hard for you, as well as for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis...(etc)." Laodicea was located between these other two cities. At the time St. John wrote his message, the spiritual condition of this church had sadly deteriorated. Laodicea receives the most sever condemnation of all the 7 churches. It is interesting that this church is in sharp contrast spiritually to this city materially. The city is rich, produces a world famous eye medicine to improve eyesight, and luxurious wool clothing, but this church is spiritually poor, blind, and naked.
Verse 14: "Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea and say 'Here is the message of the Amen the trustworthy, the true witness, the Principle of God's creation:" This is the only letter where the titles for Christ are not drawn from chapter 1. This passage is a reference to Isaiah 65:16 "Whoever blesses himself on earth will bless himself by the God of truth, and whoever swears an oath on earth will swear by the God of truth..."
Question: What are the 3 ways in which Christ identifies Himself?
Answer: (1) "the Amen", (2) faithful and true witness, (3) Beginning (Principle or Source) of God's creation.
Let's look at the first title: "the Amen."
Question: What is your understanding of the meaning of the word 'Amen'?
Answer: The usual understanding is that this word means "I believe" or "it is true," but although this is how the word is used now and in the 1st century, that is not the literal meaning. If you use that meaning in v.14 does the sentence make sense? The Hebrew word is an acrostic formed from the first letters of three Hebrew words: "El meleck Ne'eman" which means "God is a trustworthy king." (Source =The Jewish Talmud; Shabbat 1196). Now read verse 14 with this meaning and see if the verse makes sense to you? The first use of amen is found in the Old Testament in Numbers 5:21-22. Also see Deut. 27:15-26 and Neh. 5L:2-13. But it is the Isaiah passage, Is. 65:16 that helps us understand what we are really saying when we pronounce the word amen. It is by Christ's perfect obedience, atoning sacrifice, and constant intercessions in the heavenly court on our behalf that He guarantees the coventenal promises made to us (2 Cor 1:20; Gal, 3:13; Heb 7:22-28; 9:24-28; 10:10-14). So our 'amen' in the liturgy of the Mass, and in every prayer we utter, is both an oath and a recognition that our salvation is completely dependent upon the perfect covenant keeping of Jesus Christ, "God the trustworthy king," and not on our keeping of the covenant because He has placed Himself under the covenant stipulations and curses in our place.
The second title "the faithful and true Witness":
He is a faithful witness because He is an infallible, authoritative witness and we can eternally depend completely upon His word!
The third title "the Source of God's creation" (New American): The Greek uses the word 'arche'
for 'source' which in Greek can mean origin as well as ruler or supreme authority. Christ is both the Origin and the Ruler of all creation as Paul wrote in Col. 1:15-18: (v. 15-16 "He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth:...") And John testifies in his gospel (John 1:13) that "all things were made through Him." Jesus, God the Son, along with God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, is the Creator of heaven and earth. Read Genesis 1:1-3:"In the beginning God (=the Father) created heaven and earth. ....(v2) there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind (=God the Holy Spirit) sweeping over the waters. God said (God spoke Words), 'Let there be light..."(=God the Son). To more completely understand read John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through Him. What has come into being in Him was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it."
The One who bears testimony against the church at Laodicea is the Trustworthy king, the guarantor of the covenant, the infallible, true witness who comes with all the authority promised by the Creator and King of the Universe.
Verse 15-16: "I know your activities: how your are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were one or the other, but since your are neither hot nor cold, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth." Laodicea was located between 2 other important cities: Colossae (Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians and requested that it be sent on to this church in Col. 4:16) and Hieropolis (St. John's disciple Papias was bishop here for circa 30 years). Icy mountain streams watered Colossae, situated in a narrow valley between tall mountains. But Hieropolis was famous for its hot mineral springs. It was these same heavily laden mineral waters that were carried by a Roman aqueduct to supply Laodicea with water, but by the time the water reach the city it was no longer hot but lukewarm and putrid. The community at Laodicea, like the water, was ineffective: not hot and healing, nor cold and refreshing.
Question: On what was the church being judged? Why does Jesus say "I wish you were one or the other" ?
Answer: I do not think that the church is being judged so much on her spiritual temperature as on the barrenness of her works. That is why He says "I wish you were one or the other.." Jesus isn't saying that outright apostasy is preferable to middle-of-the-road commitment. He is instead calling for them to have an influence on the pagan and Jewish society, to either actively and energetically evangelizing them (hot) or to turn away and to completely reject interaction in their lifestyle and worldview (cold).
If a church is not transforming its society and Christianizing the culture, what good is it? Matthew 5:13: "You are salt for the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, what can make it salty again: It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled under people's feet.".
It is not our calling to blend in with our environment but to transform it, convert it, reform it, and reconstruct it in terms of what God has mandated in His Word!
Question: What about your Parish? Is your Parish active and involved in being a force for Christ in the community and in the world?
Question: What will be His judgment on Laodicea?
Answer: He will spit them out; He will bring judgment by withdrawing the Holy Spirit from this church.
Verses 17-19 "You say to yourself: I am rich, I have made a fortune and have everything I want, never realizing that you are wretchedly and pitiably poor, and blind and naked too. I warn you, buy from me the gold that has been tested in the fire to make you truly rich, and white robes to clothe you and hide your shameful nakedness, and ointment to put on your eyes to enable you to see. I reprove and train those whom I love: so repent in real earnest."
The only good thing in Laodicea is the church's smugly good opinion of herself and that is false. She claims to have everything and yet she has nothing.
That fact that Jesus rebukes her shows that He has not cast her out. He still professes his love for His Bride: "I reprove and train those whom I love...".
Question: What contrast does Jesus make between what these people believe they have and what they really are?
Answer: riches and every material necessity vs. their true state of spiritual poverty, blindness and nakedness.
Question: There is a wonderful contrast here in verse 17 between the city's wealth and importance and this community. Reread the introduction to find that comparison.
Question: What is "the gold that has been tested in the fire" that will make them truly rich? Hint: read 1Corithians 3:10-15 and 1 Peter 1:7.
Answer: True faith and genuine works of obedience are symbolized in Scripture in terms of jewelry and especially gold. For those who die in a state of grace, the bad works (sins) will be purged in Purgatory, and after they have been purified they will be judged on the good works that survive that purifying fire. Our heavenly Father will reward those good works tested by the fire.
Question: What is nakedness symbolic of, and what are the "white robes" with which we will be clothed? Hint: read Gen 3:7 and Isaiah 55:1.
Answer: Nakedness is a symbol of disobedience (see Gen. 3:7) while white is a symbol of righteousness and purity. Biblically white, the color of light, is the divine color because it symbolizes the holiness and perfection of God: Ps. 104:2; Dan. 7:9= "...the One most venerable took His seat. His robe was white as snow.."; Rev. 1:14' 19:11; and Rev. 20:11 = "Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it.". In verse 18 of Rev. chapter 3 the white robe is a symbol of both our justification and sanctification (Gen 3:21; Matt. 22:1l Rev. 19:8) and also calls to mind our white robes which signify our spiritual rebirth in baptism (read Isaiah 55:1 which is a prophetic promise of our baptism in Christ).
Question: What about the reference in verse18 about our ability to see? What does the blindness represent symblically?
Answer: Blindness is a symbol for man's impotence and falleness without God's restoration of man to true sight which results in the Spirit filled ability to judge between righteous and ungodly behavior. Reference: Lev. 21:18; Deut. 29:4; Matt. 13:13-15; 16:3; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 4:18; Acts 26:18; 1Cor. 2:114-15 and 1John 2:11 ("But whoever hates his brother is in darkness and is walking about in darkness not knowing where he is going, because darkness has blinded him.").
Question: Does Jesus show His anger in His message to this church? What is His final demand?
Answer: Repent immediately! His continuing love for this fallen Bride is the source of His genuine, righteous anger. Because I LOVE YOU, He says, I discipline you!
Question: As far as Laodicea has fallen, can she be restored?
Answer: Yes, All Christians need God's discipline from time to time and some of us more frequently than others. What is important is whether or not we pay attention to the warning, mend our ways and, turn back in obedience to God. Proverbs 3:11-12 "My child, do not scorn correction from Yahweh, do not resent His reproof; for Yahweh reproves those He loves, as a father the child whom He loves." After quoting these same words in the Epistle to the Hebrews (New Testament), the inspired writer adds: It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Heb. 12:7-8). Remember: God is NOT a permissive father. He is a perfect Father!
Verses 20-22 "Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person's side. Anyone who proves victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I have myself overcome and have taken my seat with my Father on His throne. Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Sprit is saying to the churches." Jesus now speaks some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. This passage is so full of symbolic imagery and meaning to Catholics and yet it has been widely misinterpreted by Protestant fundamentalists. The Protestant Evangelist Billy Graham always ends his gospel message with this verse and yet he only reads the first two sentences and ignores the rest of verse 20. When this verse is used out of context and only half quoted it is watered down to the point of becoming the request from a weak and helpless deity who is helpless to open the door without man's cooperation. Remember this is The AMEN, the trustworthy king, the faithful and true Witness, the Creator and Sovereign King of Kings. He is not making a feeble request.
Question: To whom is Christ speaking?
Answer: His is directing His message to His Church; not to Christians as individuals, but to Christians as members of the Sacred Assembly. (Of course, Christ offers Himself to people outside the Covenant as well, but in this case He is addressing those who have sword an oath to the New Covenant in Christ. It is important to remember Christ's offer of salvation is never made without the commitment to come to Him within the context of the Covenant, the Kingdom, and the Church. The key to understanding verse 20 comes in the last phrase of verse 20. "I will come in to share a meal at that person's table."
Question: What is the meal that He will share with us?
Answer: The Eucharist. This is the Biblical doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In this verse He is extending to His Church an offer of renewed communion with Himself and the very heart of center of our communion, our fellowship, with Him is at His table (our earthly table which He has made His own). The most basic and most profound offer of Christ's salvation is His offer to eat with us by offering us Himself as the meal. In Holy Communion we are genuinely having dinner with Jesus Christ. We are lifted up into His heavenly presence and we are feasting on the Living Bread come down from heaven. This is truly an example of "You are what you eat." Read John 6:53-57
Christ has taken His seat with His Father on His throne. Hebrews 8:1b "....He has taken His seat at the right of the throne of divine Majesty in the heavens,..." Psalms 110:1 "Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take your seat at my right hand, till I have made your enemies your footstool.'" Also see 1Peter 3:22; Mt 22:44; 26:64; Acts 2:34-35, 33; Heb 10:12-13.
Question: What is the final promise to the overcomer? Is this only a future hope?
Answer: The promise of ruling with Christ belongs to all Christians, those of us here on earth, and to all Christians throughout time. His dominion is progressive through out history until the final consummation at the end of time. Futurists see this verse only as a promise of what is to come but Scripture tells us the Christ has entered upon His kingdom already (Col. 1:13 "It is He who has rescued us from the ruling force of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son that He loves..") He has defeated Satan and the demons already (Col. 2:14-15: He has wiped out the record of our debt to the Law, which stood against us; He has destroyed it by nailing it to the cross; and He has stripped the sovereignties and ruling forces, and paraded them in public, behind Him in His triumphal procession."), and we are now kings and priests with Him already (Rev 1:6 "and made us a Kingdom of Priests to serve His God and Father.."). So, because He is the conquering King, we are ordered to go forth: (Matt 28:18-19 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father ,and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...") We are His heirs and we are commanded to conquer in His name. Furthermore, are commanded to be victorious! Christ ends His message with the same phrase that He has used at the end of the other messages in verse 22.
Question: What Salvation History references did you find? The last letter (to Philadelphia) covered the period of the destruction of Solomon's Temple, the Exile, the return from Exile, the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple, and the period of the Maccabees which completes the Old Testament. What is the next period in Salvation History?
Answer: The coming of the Messiah (AD 1-30) and the Last Days of the Old Covenant (AD 30-70) . This church, over confident in its self-sufficiency and wealth and yet blind to its actual poverty and nakedness, is fitting imagery for Pharisaical Judaism of the first century (Luke 18:9-14). This church is warned that she is about to be spewed out of the Land (the curse of Lev. 18:24-28; Luke 21:24) parallels Israel being urged to repent and accept Christ offered in the Eucharistic meal by Christ's Apostles in Acts of Apostles and the letters of Paul and the Catholic letters of the other Apostles and bishops.
The seven letters to the Churches of Asia follow a pattern of Salvation History from creation to the end of the Old Covenant Church.
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