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527 Laodicea: Church of the Mark of the Beast.



KEY SCRIPTURES: Revelation 3:14-22

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;15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


RELEVANCE

Not all Christianity is easily influenced by its surroundings, but enough of it is. Even today, we don't need to look far to find a smoke machine clouding a church stage. 


Neither is it difficult to generate complacency. All you require is to have your needs and wants already met, and you will find that you're not so desperate for God after all.


The Laodicean church, in particular, was in a state of spiritual lukewarmness, a condition that is all too familiar in our modern churches. 


God accused the churchgoers of having a faith that was neither hot nor cold. That means they had not made a decision for or against Christ. They were neither hot for Christ, as a passionate Christian should be, nor had they flatly denied Him as a devoted unbeliever would. They spent their time as tepid Christians—unenthusiastic, apathetic, and uninterested, but still attending church with a smile. The cup of communion should never be offered to these types of people, as Christ's definitive sacrifice means nothing to them. 


We understand that faith must be as blazingly hot as the Altar of Sacrifice. If it were merely warm, how would our self-sacrifice burn to ashes? It wouldn't. Therefore, Christ's cry for believers to deny themselves and follow Him through the Strait Gate would not happen in Laodicea. This is a call to action, a reminder that our faith must be active, not passive, to serve its purpose truly. 


Laodicea was a city situated on the southern banks of the Lycus River. Antiochus II founded it between 261 and 246 BC and named it after his wife, Laodike. Many towns and cities are found beside rivers. The reason is that everything within the city and its surroundings is naturally watered, and growth is plentiful. Businesses and domestic homes both prosper when built on a river. Psalm 1 tells us that people who plant themselves by the river of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God have fruit and leaves that don't wither but bless others. When our spiritual river dries up due to our negligence, we're dry as old bones in a grave, yet still alive. 


Laodicea, a mere 17 Km from the Colossian church, was on a significant business route. In 60 AD, after being struck by a severe earthquake, it was rebuilt with the private wealth of her citizens. It was a banking centre and, therefore, enjoyed considerable prosperity. However, other income streams assisted with its financial notoriety, such as the wool from its famous black sheep and the production of its widely sought-after poultices for eye ailments. It was an affluent city that had been minting its own coins for hundreds of years. Hence, we see the direct connection between their comfort in this wealthy environment and the references within God's letter. 


When you have sufficient money to buy your way out of problems, faith is rarely needed. James 2 cautions believers to be aware of the influence of certain rich people who join their congregation. It becomes a problem if they consider the rich more worthy than the average congregant. I recall attending a wedding once and seeing a prominent political power broker. I initially thought, "Wow, he's here!" Then caught myself as I remembered numerous negative changes to society he had been involved in. I found myself not being so impressed after all. 


It is rarely the poor who influence change, which had me wondering what adjustments had taken place in Laodicea that the rich in the Church voted for to suit their gains and the poor had lost on.  We have all seen politicians entering or leaving churches when news photographers coincidently happen to be there on the day. That little photo or video clip provides us with a tad of consolation, only to be erased by their policies. 


These congregants fell into that easy trap of spending so much time on non-spiritual things like money, wheeling and dealing, visions for the future, etc, that they allowed compromise to furtively slither in. Their desires changed along with their love for their Saviour. They had counselled many people about investments, what to buy and not to buy, to ensure a profitable future. But due to their neglect of God's Word, God counselled them to buy His gold and biblical wisdom tried in the fire. That wisdom leads to everlasting life, whereas their counsel ends at death. 


This type of church will participate in the grand delusion and take the mark of the beast, that end-time tattoo imprisoning all personal financial transactions. It would be too deeply invested in the world to notice the great deceit happening around it. When you are so steeped in temporal concerns, you lose your sharpness and ability to discern right from wrong, truth from lies and the holy from the profane. Christ, the foundation stone for genuine Christians, was too unstable to be an adequate safety net for them. Due to their hollowness of spirit, money was the only substructure they could trust for the future. 


Laodicea was the church to whom Jesus said, "I stand at the door and knock." If Jesus were inside the door, He wouldn't be knocking, would He?


This letter came down to their underlying issue—making a decision—either way. They had lived an extraordinary life so far by not making a direct choice to either follow God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength or ditch Him completely. Their constant cloak of spiritual respectability—deceitful church attendance—concealed their principal inclination, greed and an overly comfortable existence.


That convenient fence upon which they sat between the paddocks of Christ and Satan now became their Judgement seat of personal decision for or against Heaven. 


But even to this willfully undecided church, which seems to exclude the Lord from every conversation and recommendation, He extended His grace once again. What love our Jesus has for the lost and misdirected, even us. His love and patience give hope to every believer, backslider, and good thief on a cross who hasn't yet known the Saviour. 


The song reads, "What a wonderful Saviour is Jesus, my Lord". How wonderful indeed. 


Jesus reminds us all about decisions of this nature when he cautions us in John 6:27 to Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.


Laodicea, in particular, would have been instructed on this verse. John wrote it initially and also penned their Revelation letter. They would also have been familiar with Paul's lean existence of self-denial. But words like that cannot impress such as congregation, as they have little desire to follow that lifestyle.


Like these churchgoers, we can easily forget the written word when we don't read it to follow and fulfil.


PRAYER

My dear Saviour, thank you for Salvation. 

Photo by Alexander Mils

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