Revelation 3: 14|
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;
Link to letter written by Ellen White (in 1892) to General Conference President
- Appeal to heed the Message to Laodicea
The message of Christ to the church of the Laodiceans is most strikingly significant in the setting of the history of the city of Laodicea. The city was located about forty miles southeast of Philadelphia and one hundred miles east of Ephesus. It was founded by Antiochus II between 261 and 246 BC, and was named in honor of his wife, Laodice, who afterward poisoned him. This is the Antiochus who formed the marriage league with Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, in fulfillment of Daniel 11:6.
Laodicea was mostly populated with Syrians and Jews transported from Babylon. The city was located on the Lyeus River, and was distinguished from no less than six other cities by the same name by being designated Laodicea on the Lyeus. It was located at the junction of the two post roads from Ephesus and Pergamos running eastward into Syria. The highway entered on the west through the Ephesian Gate and left the city on the east through the Syrian Gate. East of the city was a pass through the mountains called The Gate of Phrygia, of which Laodicea was the gatekeeper.
Laodicea was located in the midst of a rich farming country and was famed for its wealth. In it extensive banking operations were carried on. Cicero proposed to cash his treasury bills of exchange in Laodicea because of these facilities. The city had large markets controlled mostly by the Jews, of whom there were 7,500 besides women and children at the time the epistle was written. So wealthy were the citizens that when the city was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 60, they refused the help offered by the imperial Roman government and rebuilt at their own expense. This example of self-sufficiency was so rare that it made the city famous. Because of their situation Christ’s statement regarding the pride of spiritual wealth on the part of the church members is full of meaning. He spoke to the rich merchants and bankers of this wealthy mercantile city in their own dialect.
The city was also noted for the black cloth manufactured there from wool produced in the valley. The wool was glossy black and of a soft texture almost like silk and became famous throughout the whole region. Black garments were almost universally worn by the Laodiceans, and of them they were very proud. Christ advised the Christians of the city to buy of Him "white raiment," which represented the beautiful robe of His own righteousness. The people of Laodicea were familiar with the white toga worn by Roman citizens and officials. To be privileged to wear this white garment was esteemed a high honor. To the Romans it was symbolic of victory, and to the Christians it represented purity of character through the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ.
In connection with the Temple of Karu was a renowned school of medicine. This temple was one of two hundred throughout the Greek and Roman world dedicated to Aeseulapius, the Greek god of medicine and the pagan counterfeit of the Messiah. He was known as "The Great Physician." In this temple was made the famous Plixygian eye salve, called collyrium, which was sold in all parts of the then-known world. This gives forceful meaning to the counsel of the Great Physician, who advised the spiritually blind Laodiceans to buy eye salve of Him that they might have spiritual vision.
Also near the city were a number of hot, cold, and lukewarm springs, and especially the latter. Most of these waters contained minerals with supposed healing properties. Thousands of sick people journeyed to Laodicea to be physically benefited by the eye salve, the mineral water, and the hot and lukewarm baths. Although the water was pleasing to the body for bathing, most of it was nauseous to those who drank. This makes very appropriate the language used by Christ in this epistle. He declared that because the Christians of Laodicea were lukewarm in their affections, He was about to spew, or vomit, them out of His mouth.
The boast, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," has in it not only a ring of independence but also a spirit of insolence and arrogance. The citizens wanted the world to know that their mercantile city at the meeting place of three important highways was no pauper. The inhabitants were noted for their skill in manufacturing and dyeing garments, rich in color and exquisite in texture. In extravagant fashions and fine apparel the city was the Paris of its time.
Laodicea was also famous as a pleasure resort for the physically strong and prosperous, and a health resort for the sick. The magnificent stadium, which was twelve years in building, had an arena nine hundred feet in length, in whose basin a modern ocean liner could easily anchor. There were at least two, and probably three, theaters, one of them with seats of polished marble with bases carved in the form of a lion’s feet. Its gymnasium was a work of art, containing chambers and porticoes and baths. There was also a library with reading rooms. The city had a remarkable water system in which pure water was brought from the hills through a stone aqueduct, the ruins of which are still visible.
At the time of this epistle the Lyeus valley was a beautiful spot. The crooked Lyeus River flowed through Colosse and past Laodicea and Hierapolis before joining the Maeander. Near Colosse the Lyeus disappeared and flowed underground for more than half a mile, a phenomenon that attracted much attention. Its tributary streams left deposits of minerals along their courses, and these remarkable formations added much to the beauty and fame of the valley. Of these formations Lightfoot wrote: "These incrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground. Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside they attract the eye of the traveler at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness."
Another writer thus describes the glory of this miracle of nature: "In no place known to the ancients was the power of nature more strikingly revealed. The waters of almost all the streams in the Lyeus valley deposit limestone; but the splendid hot springs of Hierapolis exceed all the rest in this quality. If a tiny jet of water is made to flow in any direction, it soon constructs for itself a channel of stone. The precipices immediately south of the city, about a hundred feet or more in height, over which the water tumbles in numerous little streams, have become an immense frozen cascade, the surface wavy, as of water in its headlong course suddenly petrified." - Richard Chandler, Asia Minor, Page 68.
This frozen, or petrified, cascade of limestone deposits has been called a Frozen Niagara. This scene was near the village of Hierapolis, five or six miles north of Laodicea, from which it was clearly visible. Because of its limestone deposits Hierapolis was sometimes called the Cotton Castle. The following pen picture by Lightfoot stimulates one’s imagination: "It is at Hierapolis that the remarkable physical features which distinguish the valley of the Lyeus display themselves in the fullest perfection. Over the steep cliffs which support the plateau of the city, tumble cascades of pure white stone, the deposit of calcareous matter from the streams which, after traversing this upper level, are precipitated over the ledge into the plain beneath and assume the most fantastic shapes in their descent. At one time over-hanging in cornices fringed with stalactites, at another hollowed out into basins or broken up with ridges, they mark the site of the city at a distance, glistening on the mountain side like foaming cataracts frozen in the fall. The streams to which the scenery owes the remarkable features already described are endowed with remarkable medicinal qualities, while at the same time they are so copious that the ancient city is described as full of self made baths," and "to this fashionable watering-place, thus favored by nature, seekers of pleasure and seekers of health alike were drawn." These features constitute a background for the expressions used in the epistle to Laodicea which made it meaningful to the members of the local church, and greatly add to the impressiveness of the message to the Laodicean period of the church universal.
The church in Laodicea was doubtless established by some of Paul’s fellow laborers during his three years’ stay in Ephesus, when "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:10.) According to Colossians 2:1, it seems that Paul never visited Laodicea and the other churches in that vicinity. He did send the Laodiceans a letter, and asked that it be read also to the Colossian church, which was near by. He also gave instructions that his letter to the Colossians be read to the Christians in Laodicea. (See Colossians 4:13-16.)
Many believe that the Laodicean letter referred to was not one that has been lost, but his Ephesian epistle, which he desired should be read in all the churches of the province. There has been considerable conjecture over this so-called "lost epistle of Paul." The famous Council of Laodicea was held in AD 364, with thirty-two bishops present. Christ’s message was finally rejected and the Laodicean candlestick removed. The local church is no more, and not even one Christian is to be found in the vicinity. The city has long been deserted, and most of the stones have been removed to build near-by villages. The ruins of the stadium and two theaters are still visible, as is also the stone aqueduct that furnished the city with an abundant supply of fresh water.
The Laodicean period of the universal church reaches from about the middle of the nineteenth century to the end of the Christian dispensation, or until a mighty revival and reformation brings God’s remnant people back to the Philadelphian state of fervent love for God and man. The Laodicean message is a sad comment on modern Christendom. The last of the seven letters of Christ applies to the last era of the history of the church militant in the last generation. Laodicea is made up of two Greek words, laos, meaning "people," and dika, or dikee, meaning "righteous judgment." It therefore means "the judging of the people," or "the judgment of the people." It is the church living in the time of the judgment.
The Laodicean message is applicable during the time of the investigative judgment, which began at the close of the 2300-year time prophecy of Daniel 8 and 9, in 1844. At that time the door into the holy of holies of the heavenly sanctuary was opened by Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, and the last phase of His mediatorial work began. No man or angel can close this door till the solemn work of judgment is finished in heaven, and the judgment-hour message is carried into all the world. (Revelation 14:6-14.) To prepare the way for this last solemn message, the doors of the mission fields of the world have been opened by a divine hand, and by the same power they will be kept open till the work is finished. A faithful remnant will accept the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans and will return to their first love and thus be fitted for the latter rain and translation.
In the year 1865 Dr. Joseph A. Seiss declared that the Philadelphian era is "now rapidly giving place to Laodicean half warmness, self-sufficiency, empty profession, and false peace, in which the day of judgment is to find the unthinking multitude who suppose they are Christians and are not." "And will it answer to say that all this is not largely and characteristically the state of things at this very hour? Can any man scrutinize narrowly the professed Church of our day, and say that we have not reached the Laodicean age? Is it not the voice of this Christendom of ours which says, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing?’ And is it not equally the fact that this selfsame Christendom of ours is ‘the wretched, and the pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked?’ Did the ‘Mene, mene, tekel upharsin’ of Belshazzar’s palace better fit the ancient heathen than this modern Christian Babylon?" (Pages 143, 200.)
The same writer further declares: "The key exactly fits the lock, the impression answers to the stamp, the cast bears the precise outlines of the mould; and it would seem to me like trifling with the truth not to admit that, in the mind of Jesus, they belong together. Let us see to it, then, that we hear as the text commands, and learn to view the Church’s errors, corruptions, mistakes, and sins, as Christ views them; to love what He loves, to hate what 1Ie hates, and to hope only as He has given us authority to hope. And to this may almighty God grant us His helping grace! Amen. (Pages 202-03.) Another writer said that "the prophetic and historical fit each other as wax to the seal. It is the honest and sincere conviction of many careful Bible students of various denominations that the universal church is now in the Laodicean stage of its existence.
To the Laodiceans, Jesus introduces Himself as "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." This is the only instance in the Scriptures where Amen is used as a personal name. It is here given as one of the 250 names and titles attributed to Christ in the Scriptures. Amen is a Hebrew word that has been transferred without change into the various languages into which the Bible has been translated. The root idea carries the meaning of firmness, solidity, or stability is rendered "truth" in Isaiah 65:16. It means the True One. Jesus is the Amen of the Godhead. Paul says of Him, "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us." 2 Corinthians 1:20.
Regardless of the number of promises of God to man, they all have their confirmation in Christ, and through Him they meet their fulfillment in us. Christ is the spokesman of the Godhead, who not only speaks the word or the truth, but He is Himself the Word and the Truth. He is the Amen. Therefore the message of the Amen comes to us with absolute authority and finality. Amen also has the meaning of "It is true, or "So be it." What Jesus says, is true and dependable. He is the divine Amen personalized. He places His own personal guarantee on the truths He proclaims.
Coming at the close of a sermon or prayer, Amen indicates the end or the last. It indicates that the Laodicean message finishes Christ’s appeals to His people, and that there is no more to be said. It is the last of the seven epistles to His church during the Christian dispensation, and therefore constitutes His final appeal before probation closes. No other message will follow. The divine Amen will never speak again to the church militant. Those who reject the Laodicean message will never hear another divine call to repentance and salvation.
Not only is this message the last call to repentance, but like its divine Author it is "faithful and true." It is a true picture of the spiritual condition of God’s remnant people in the last generation. It is an appropriate introduction of the last of the seven epistles, because it ends with a divine confirmation of the whole. Amen literally means, "It is fixed and cannot be changed." The eternal certainties of Christ’s message to His people are sealed with the stamp of His unchangeable authority. Amen is rendered "verily," or "verily, verily," twenty-five times in the Gospel of John. Jesus often said, "Amen, amen, I say unto you."
Jesus is also "the faithful and true witness." This is said to be the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Amen. The testimony, or revelation, to the Author of truth is dependable. There are three requisites of a faithful and true witness. First, he must be an eyewitness and speak from personal knowledge. Second, he must be competent to relate what he knows. Third, he must be willing to bear testimony to the facts. There must be no misrepresentation or exaggeration. Man often testifies of what he thinks he knows, but Christ speaks from absolute knowledge. Jesus said to the Jews: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and you receive not our witness." John 3:11.
Jesus never glosses over or whitewashes conditions to make them appear better than they really are. When He speaks, we ought to listen, for on our attitude toward His testimony depends our eternal destiny. True witnesses are very scarce in this generation of trucebreakers and false accusers. The ninth commandment is almost universally transgressed. But the Laodicean message is one hundred per cent true, for "these are the words of the Unchanging One." (Twentieth Century New Testament.) The church may change, but Christ is always the same, "yesterday, and to day, and for ever." The church has compromised with the world, but Christ looks upon compromise with the same antipathy as during the Ephesian, Pergamos, and Sardian periods of church history.
Christ also introduces Himself as "the beginning of the creation of God." "The origin of God’s creation," "The Progenitor of God’s creation," and "The beginning and Lord of God’s creation," are other translations. This text was used by Arius to disprove the divinity of Christ and to show that He was a created being. But it manifestly cannot be given this interpretation, or else it would contradict many other Scriptures which plainly declare Christ to be the Creator. (John 1:1-3, 10-14; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:13-16; Hebrews 1:1-3,10.) Our text declares rather that all things had their origin and beginning with Christ, because He was the Creator. He is the Beginner, Author, Source, and Moving Principle of all creation, because as the Spokesman of the Godhead He called all things into existence. "Not the first of creatures as the Arians held and Unitarians do now, but the originating source of creation through whom God works." (Robertson, Page 321.) In the Laodicean message the Amen and Creator bears witness to the spiritual condition of the modern church, and as the Creator-Redeemer He has the power to renew spiritual life and to restore to the favor of God. Christendom today needs the creative power of the new birth that produces new creatures in Christ Jesus.
This introduction is also appropriate because the modern world is saturated with the evolution theory of the beginning of life and matter. It is a rebuke and challenge to the modern scholastic philosophy that denies the Genesis record of creation. In this faithless and skeptical generation, when even many professed Christians give the glory and honor of creation to the creature rather than to the Creator, Christ sends a searching message to His church, with the announcement that He is the Creator and Lord of all creation. He intimates that the same mighty power that created and upholds the worlds can recreate and uphold the modern Laodiceans who accept His counsel. In Him there is complete victory even over the spirit of self-deception and pharisaism. He is abundantly able to cleanse from the terrible sin of half warmness, self-complacency, and worldly conformity.
Read more about the Laodicean message - An Indictment
Video about the Church of Laodicea - Kenneth Cox
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