The Letter to the Church of the Laodiceans
With the letter to the church of the Laodiceans we will finish up studying those letters to churches God severely rebuked: the churches in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea.
The Church of men, not of the Messiah
And to the messenger of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘The Amein, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of Elohim, says this: (Rev 3:14)
In the very opening of the letter to the church of the Laodiceans we should notice something that can be easily overlooked. But before that let us see how the Messiah opens His letters to the assemblies we already studied in the series The Seven Letters to the Seven Churches.
In His letters to Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, Yeshua addressed His messages as “to the assembly in Pergamos (Rev 2:12), in Thyatira (Rev 2:18), in Sardis (Rev 3:1). Note what He says: in Pergamos, in Thyatira, and in Sardis.
The two exceptions from this pattern are in His letters to Ephesus and Laodicea: the assembly of Ephesus (Rev 2:1) and the assembly of the Laodiceans. What is the difference?
While in His letters to the churches in Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis, Yeshua simply has stated that these congregations are located in the corresponding cities, in the letter to Ephesus we do not see that. In the letter to the Ephesians He draws our attention to the assembly of Ephesus, as if He is telling us that that congregation or church belongs to the pagan city of Ephesus. And the reason being, most likely, is that the Ephesians have forgotten their first love, as stated, I hold this against you, that you have left your first love. (Rev 2:4)
In the letter to the church of the Laodiceans, we see another subtle deviation from the pattern: Yeshua addressed His letter to the church of the Laodiceans, with which He makes the point that the church of the Laodiceans belongs to the Laodiceans, not to Him. Let us recall that the assembly or the church is the body of the Messiah and He is the head of it. And if He says that their assembly is of the Laodiceans, that can only mean it does not belong to Him; it belongs to them. He is not their head, they have their own leader.
Let us keep this in mind as we will advance in our study of the letter to the church of the Laodiceans.
In His letter to the church of the Laodiceans Yeshua the Messiah is called The Amein, the Faithful and True Witness.
Let us first focus on ‘The Amein.’ The word ‘Amein’ is one of the most misused words in the Christian Church today due to its common and vain use. It is translated as ‘so be it!’ but in Hebrew, Amein is related to ‘Emunah’ or faith. Hence, The Amein is the Faithful and the True Witness.
The preexistence of the Messiah
The Messiah is also called ‘the Beginning of the creation of Elohim.’ How could that be understood?
In ancient Middle East culture, a messenger was named after the one who has sent him, because he had come in the name of the one who had sent him and he was not to speak his own words, but the words of the one who had sent him.
Speaking of the prophet who would come after him, Mosheh said in Deu 18:15-18 that He would come and speak in YHVH’s Name. This prophet, the Messiah, the image of the invisible Elohim is named Yehoshua (Yehovah saves) after the One who has sent Him (Yehovah).
The messianic expectation was an integral part of the Israelites’ faith and in the Judaism today. The Messiah was understood to have preexisted with YHVH and to have a transcendent nature beyond and outside the ordinary human understanding.
We find such references to the Messiah in the Tanak and more particularly in Eze 1:26-28, Dan 7:9-14, and Isa 6:1-3, where He is described as an appearance of man sitting on the throne in heaven.
Apostle Yochanan goes even deeper into the matter of the preexistence of the Messiah, as he says, the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim? (Joh_1:1-3)
The Sages teach that if one speaks, his words are not separate from him, but they are his expression of who he is. Therefore, the Word YHVH has spoken is His, that is Him, and He is the Word He has spoken.
In Pesikta Rab. 152b we find another answer to our question that states,
From the beginning of the creation of the world king Messiah was born, for he entered the mind (of God) before even the world was created.
In the book of Revelation we find a verse that provides further evidence regarding the fact of the Messiah’s preexistence.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8)
This statement is not to be taken literally, but figuratively, i.e. the slaughter of the Lamb has been in the Redemption Plan of YHVH from the very beginning of the world, hidden in Elohim who created all through the Messiah (Eph_3:9, Heb_11:3, Psa_33:6), who is the likeness of the invisible Elohim (Col_1:15-20), through whom He speaks to us in the last days (Heb_1:2).
The word Beginning in Rev 3:14 is the same word in Gen 1:1 bereishit and can be translated: first or head, summit, most importantly, chiefly or primarily. Therefore, we can translate Rev 3:14, this time from Hebraic perspectives, thus,
The Amen, the Trustworthy and True Witness, the first, the head, the summit, most importantly, chiefly and primarily, of the creation of Elohim,
And indeed the prophet Isaiah and John speak of the same Messiah as the glory of YHVH:
And the glory of YHVH was revealed, and the mankind saw it and will see it again, because the mouth of YHVH has spoken it (Isa 40:5). And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14)
The stern message in the letter to the church of the Laodiceans
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. (Rev 3:15-16)
Let us recall again that the seven letters to the seven churches or assemblies are the words of YHVH and the Revelation of Yeshua to Yochanan. And if He says that it is better to be cold or hot than lukewarm, this must be something very important to Him.
And indeed, if we are found cold, He can turn the heat up on us to try our souls. If we are too hot, He will cool us off a little bit, so that we will not burn out, that is to sin inadvertently, in our passion to better serve Him.
But, if we are found lukewarm, as the Laodiceans, He says, He will vomit us, that is He will separate us from Him in the most irrevocable way one can imagine and the repentance will have a little chance. That was the message in the letter to the church of the Laodiceans straightforward from the very beginning.
But, the worst with lukewarm people is that they do not know and do not want to know that they are ignorant of YHVH’s will for them. They think that they abound in faith and grace, while in Yeshua’s eyes they are the most miserable, the poorest.
The rich church of the Leaodiceans
We keep on reading from the letter to the church of the Laodiceans.
Because you say, ‘I am rich and made rich, and have need of nothing,’ and do not know that you are wretched, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Rev 3:17)
Yeshua did not stop there to call the Laodiceans ‘lukewarm.’ He said that because they said of themselves they were rich and made rich and had lack of nothing, they did not know they were the most miserable of all. Interestingly, we find an almost identical message in Hos 12:7-8 to that in the letter to the Laodiceans, as we read,
Kena’an (a merchant): in his hand are scales of deceit, he loved to oppress. And Ephrayim says, ‘Indeed, I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself. In all my labors they shall find in me no crookedness that is sin.’ (Hos 12:7-8)
The Northern Kingdom Israel, here represented by Ephrayim, is called Kena’an. It is called Kena’an, not so much on account of his attachment to the idolatry of Kena’an, as we see it in Eze_16:3, but it is called a deceitful merchant (Kena’an also means a merchant) who strove to become great in wealth by deceit.
We derive this from the commercial skills of the Kana’anites (Phoenicians); the Kena’anites were sons of Kena’an, son of Ham, son of Noach. Hence, the name Kena’an has become synonymous with merchant or trader (see also Isa_23:8) seeking advantage in deceitful trade to become rich and wealthy.
But that was not the only sin Ephrayim was blamed for. Ephrayim prided himself on the false premises that although he had acquired wealth and riches, he thought he had committed no wrong or sin.
We cannot overlook that the church of the Laodiceans like Ephrayim had become rich and prideful in its wealth and the most pitiful thing was that they found no sin in themselves. Therefore, we may say that the church of the Laodiceans was seen as the mega church of Asia Minor: a church of wealth and influence.
I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so that you become rich; and white garments, so that you become dressed, so that the shame of your nakedness might not be shown; and anoint your eyes with ointment, so that you see. (Rev 3:18)
What was meant in this advice, but a last chance for the Laodiceans to make it right before the Messiah who is appointed to be the Judge.
Again, we find a reference in the Tanak in which a refiner is chosen to purify Israel, as we read,
And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver; and there shall be they that shall offer unto Yehovah offerings in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to Yehovah, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years. (Mal 3:3-4)
He that will refine and purify the silver is none other than YHVH’s Messenger of the Covenant (see Mal 3:1) whose coming as a judge is imminent. Like a silversmith He will hold the silver in the fire (Psa_66:10) to burn away all the impurities (Pro_25:4, 1Co_3:13).
And the Messenger of the Covenant will know when the silver is completely purified when He sees His image in it, when the pure silver has no dross any longer, and when it is completely set apart from the impurity. Then and only then the purified people of YHVH can bring their offerings before Him.
But, had the rich Laodiceans gotten the message? As we said, the worst thing with lukewarm people is that they do not know and do not even want to know that they are in sin in which case repentance has a little chance.
Yet, the Messiah said in His letter to the church of the Laodiceans He still loved and gave them a chance to repent.
As many as I love, I reprove and discipline. So be zealous and repent. (Rev 3:19)
The promise in the letter to the church of the Laodiceans
See, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I shall come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Rev 3:20) and Blessed are those who have been called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Rev 19:9)
In the end of His letter to the church of the Laodiceans, Yeshua said He would stand at the door of their church and would even knock, but they, not the Messiah, had to open the door and invite Him in; they had to do their part of the repentance process, not the Messiah. But will the rich Laodiceans repent?
And Yeshua concludes His letter to all assemblies that only those who will overcome will sit with Him on His throne, because all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Mat 28:18), for the Father judges no one, but has given all the judgment to the Son, that all should value the Son even as they value the Father. He who does not value the Son does not value the Father who sent Him (Joh 5:22-23).
To him who overcomes I shall give to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. (Rev 3:21-22)
But, do the wealthy Laodiceans today value the Son as they value the Father? Because, if they do not value the Son they do not value the Father either.
With the letter to the church of the Laodiceans we finished up studying those letters to churches Elohim severely rebuked. These are the letters to the five churches in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea. Five out of seven churches were found more or less guilty before the Lord, and the church of the Laodiceans is the rich church.
Five out of seven!
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.