Laodiceanism: The Malady of the End-Time Church of God

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The Churches of Revelation

In Revelation we find that Christ gave a message to John about seven churches.

It is relevant for the Church of God for all times!

Even though they have a linear chronology, it seems at least four will be extant to one extent or another at the time of Christs return.

Thyatira

Active in the 12th-16th century but adopted wrong teachings and moved into Protestantism.

Revelation 2:25 But hold fast what you have till I come.
Revelation 2:26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—

Sardis

Most prominent from the late 16th century in England. These Sabbath-keepers can be found making their way to the US in 1664.  A remnant of the Sardis era are still around today in one form or another, though it appears most no longer keep the holy days.

Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief [1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4], and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Notice two things here about the succession of these eras:

  • We see an overlapping.
  • More than likely the previous era will be a small remnant.

Philadelphia

Now we come to the 6th era of the church where a work was accomplished for 50+ years! 

Where are they now? We see that they will also be around during the return of Christ:


Revelation 3:8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Revelation 3:9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Revelation 3:11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Matthew 24:45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
Matthew 24:46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

Now we come to the last era, the one that will be the main one when Christ returns.

Laodicea

This will be the predominant era and attitude at the time of Christ’s return. This attitude can and will be found in every church organization.

We are near the beginning of the end times now.

Matthew 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Where are they now? How big are they now?

God’s true Church has always been a little flock comparatively, so when an era passes and it is no longer the dominant one in the church it stands to reason that the numbers would decrease even further like the two previous eras to Philadelphia

So, if Laodicea is/will be the main era of the end time and we are living in the end-time AND typically the numbers of the preceding eras ebb as a subsequent era takes up its position, then what does that tell us? We can only conclude that most of the people in the present day Church of God are Laodicean!

Let’s keep this all in mind as we move forward.

City of Laodicea

A little background on the actual city of Laodicea to add a little historical insight to scripture.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Though Laodicea stood on the great highway at the junction of several important routes, it was a place of little consequence until the Roman province of Asia was formed in 190 BC. It then suddenly became a great and wealthy center of industry, famous specially for the fine black wool of its sheep and for the Phrygian powder for the eyes, which was manufactured there In the vicinity was the temple of Men Karou and a renowned school of medicine. In the year 60 AD, the city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake, but so wealthy were its citizens that they rejected the proffered aid of Rome, and quickly rebuilt it at their own expense. It was a city of great wealth, with extensive banking operations.

  • Textiles in particular the black wool

  • Medicinal aids such as the eye salve

  • Banking industry – due to their wealth

The Attitude

What does the Bible have to say about the Laodicean’s

Revelation 3:13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘

This is how the section to the Philadelphian’s ends, but it is also a good way to begin this next section to the Laodiceans.

This is for everyone with the holy spirit. Christ says this at the end of each message to a church – which is effectively at the beginning of the message to the next church.

So I think this can serve as an admonition to the previous church and an attention-getter to the next one.

Churches…so it is a message to each church any way.

Revelation 3:14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:

angel of the church of the Laodiceans … The word here is plural: Laodiceans. It is a church of these type of people; it seems to me that Christ is making a point here that the Church, which is composed of the called out ones, the lion’s share of them will be made up of Laodiceans.

Laodicea means “judgment of the people”

the Faithful and True Witness… Jesus Christ in :14 is a contrast to the description of the Laodiceans that follows. 

This was the problem from the very beginning and it will be so even in the church until the return of Christ

Two Trees

Genesis 2:9 The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Faithful and True Witness – of what? Of everything that He does and He is this way without fail. This is a statement of the character of Christ they we are to follow.

We are to be this way as well:

Isaiah 43:10 “You are My witnesses,” says the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. [by the word that we hold on to and the actions that we live by, we witness the true God]

Isaiah 43:12 I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, And there was no foreign god among youTherefore you are My witnesses [by example],” Says the LORD, “that I am God.

There is no other God; there is no other way; We testify and witness to that fact…by the faith we confess AND by the way that we live and walk

To be a witness in this respect we too must be faithful and true following the example of Jesus Christ in Revelation 3:14… and in contrast to the Laodiceans.

The Laodiceans are not doing this; they are failing in their example: They did not exemplify God, they were not as a light on a hill being a shining example. In fact it is declared to be the opposite as we will see later.

Lukewarmness

But first a little more on the history of Laodicea: 

Larger cities are often founded on significant water supplies. But as we mentioned before Laodicea was at the junction of several routes. This put travelers in their city and gave them more opportunity for business. So this came at the cost of being next to a natural water supply.

Archaeology shows that Laodicea had an aqueduct:  hot springs from nearby Hierapolis and cool pure water from Colossae. Both of these would have become tepid before entering the city.

Lukewarm water is an emetic. 4-5 cups helps you vomit (according to Wikipedia)

It appears that God is drawing on an analogy that they would have been familiar with at that time

Revelation 3:15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.

An assessment, this is something that all the churches should really sit up and take notice of: It is Christ that is telling them what their works are…this is the problem of the Laodicean. Out of concern for us in the end time (:19), God is giving us an accurate heads up.

We should really sit up and take notice! 

Since God is talking to the church, those with His holy spirit, He is talking about their WORKS

God doesn’t want us to commit the unpardonable sin. So He is not saying that He wishes that were in a state that would warrant our being sent to the Lake of Fire.

I could wish you were cold…

lukewarm χλίω chliō (to warm); tepid: – [doesn’t warming imply moving from cool to a place that they shouldn’t be]

Rather, if we are to continue in this analogy, I take this to mean that there are different good works that can be done that are, generally speaking,

  • refreshing like the cool waters of Colossae or
  • soothing and healing like the spa waters of Hierapolis

The only other place that this word for cold is found:

Matthew 10:42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

The context here is even doing a good work. So, Christ is talking about their works not being up to par.

Revelation 3:16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

lukewarm: lacking conviction, halfhearted, not resolute, uncommitted, unresponsive, indifferent, impassive and apathetic;

They compromise in their works

What is the hall mark of all the church groups today?

Everyone is doing something different. They are doing what is right in their own eyes. That is the judgment that is going on, today this happening on a group level or personal level. Everyone is making a judgment for themselves what THEY think is right and are not accurately weighing against the word of God.

When God encounters a lukewarm condition like this, His reaction is to spew them out in a similar way that our natural tendency with lukewarm water is to vomit it out. 

If we are to live this way of life, then we are to live God’s way fully and not in half measures or in a spirit of compromise.

Now let’s understand this: The Laodiceans were workers in their day and I believe that they are “working” today. BUT Works, doing a work, is not a sign in and of itself that you are of God and on the track.

James 2:14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James 2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
James 2:16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
James 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Faith and works are inextricable!

Christ starts off in this section to the Laodiceans by saying He is faithful and implying that we should be as well. Then He says that I know your works. So, we see that the Laodicean faith and belief are defined by a work that is hindered by a lukewarm approach.

Works must be done with faith and our belief – that is according to every word of God. 

So when we are doing Works are we doing what we are supposed to be doing? When we are teaching and preaching, are we teaching and preaching what needs to be declared? What kind of works did they do?

Apparently these were wrong, dead or ineffectual works based on compromise. They were staying in the middle which seems like it was a “necessary” thing to do for the ancient Laodiceans. No one wants to believe that they fall into this category, but if we have ears to hear then we must examine very carefully the state of the church as well as our own spiritual temperature.

Revelation 3:17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—

But when they say that they are “rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” [which apparently is a quote from the ancient Laodiceans], they think they have already made it spiritually. The reality is that they were: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They were not assessing their condition properly

Here is the reason why we must be exacting in this:

Self-deception

It is because the Laodiceans have fallen into the trap of self-deception. We need to appeal to God to show us our ways the way He sees them.

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

What we have here is a real bad case of self-delusion which is more common than we believe.

  • We are told to watch out for it and stay on top of it.
  • We are given warnings about our carnal nature which will rear its ugly head every chance it gets, or
  • The heart that will deceive us, or the way that seems right in our own eyes.
  • There is seemingly no end to the ways that we can fool ourselves.

We need to renew our minds daily and ask God to impress upon our fleshy heart His perfect and righteous way.

Christ admonishes them in:

Revelation 3:18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

Gold

1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
1 Peter 1:7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

White Garments

Revelation 7:14 And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Eyes Blind

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Matthew 23:24“Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
Matthew 23:26 “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

It is interesting that Christ often healed the blind [physically] but His real goal was the healing of spiritual blindness.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

1 Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
1 Corinthians 11:32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
James 1:24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Why is Christ standing at the door asking to come in? Why was he on the outside to begin with?  Christ returning at the time of the Laodicean era and they do not allow Jesus into their lives sufficiently to be known by God.

Revelation 3:21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Laodicean’s still have a chance to be in the Kingdom of God! They have to overcome all that we have talked about: spiritual indifference and self delusion, self-righteousness and self-contentment; repent and become zealous in seeking God and His righteousness.

Revelation 3:22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘ “

The problem is that in the end time most will be convinced that everyone else is Laodicean!

Choice to Make

We have to differentiate – between Laodicean and Philadelphian. We are to become Philadelphians! Everyone wants to be one, but we have two choices before us — of which we have to make one.

Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
Matthew 7:14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

We must be conscientious about this decision

Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
Hebrews 2:2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
Hebrews 2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

As the end draws near, we must be vigilant and diligent to heed the words of Christ as a warning!

It’s not too late to change… yet!