This verse by verse study on the Laodicean Message has been especially prepared for prayerful study for God’s people in the world. Its purpose is definitely not for agitation in the Church, but to produce a deep heartfelt repentance, the prerequisite for genuine revival and reformation, which is so desperately needed among God’s people today.
Based on a careful study of Rev 3:14-21, this study is intended to awaken God’s remnant people to a realization of their true condition. The time has come when we, the shepherds of the flock, should evaluate our spiritual situation. Putting our self-opinion aside we must apply the eye salve of God’s Spirit and look at ourselves through the spectacles of Christ – THE TRUE WITNESS.
Feeling a great urgency to prepare this study it has been written under pressure of time; but in spite of human mistakes and inaccuracies may the good Lord bless the reading of these pages so that they will fulfill the intended purpose: “to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings and to lead to zealous repentance, that they may be favored with the presence of Jesus/ Yeshua, and be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel.”
Lastly, this message intends to renewal our situation by changing from works of law to works of Faith which pleases God; in other-words, we should adopt a new and hopeful method Jesus/ Yeshua introduced to us in exchange of the old hopeless method (During Moses’s time) which was a shadow of things to come which are now. This message bares no name as it is Gospel for God and whoever put it on paper was just blessed by God; so there is no need to boast.
Feel free to Download a full version of this verse by verse study from this LINK
God bless you all.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
UNIT NO. 1 – INTRODUCTION
The book of Revelation is primarily a prophetic book concerning the time of the end, and therefore has special significance to the Christians living in these last days. In this book is revealed “Things which must shortly come to pass;” (Rev 1:1), and to those that read and take heed to its messages a special blessing is attached: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Rev 1:3). However, since the book of Revelation is written in a highly symbolic ^Language it is like a hidden treasure which requires much spade digging. It is our purpose to do this very thing in this study of the Laodicean Message, so that we may understand and appreciate this vital present truth for the remnant Church.
The Spirit of Prophecy places great importance upon the Laodicean Message because of its close connection with the three angel’s message, which is in verity the glorious truth of Christ Our Righteousness. This truth must swallow every other doctrine because it is the only truth that is able to qualify a people to stand before the judgment seat of God and which will fully vindicate the power of the Gospel amidst the most trying conditions of the last days. In this connection consider the following statement:
The Laodicean Message has been sounding. Take this message in all its phases and sound it forth to the people wherever Providence opens the way. Justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ are the themes to be presented to a perishing world.
As Laodicea is the last of the seven Churches (see Rev 1:10, 11), the message to this church must apply in a special way to the believers living at the end of time. Not only does the Spirit of Prophecy apply the Laodicean Message to us as a people, but worse still, she clearly states that we have not paid heed to it. This indeed is a serious matter. Note the following:
The message to the Laodicean church is highly applicable to us as a people. It has been placed before us for a long time, but has not been heeded as it should have been. When the work of repentance is earnest and deep, the individual members of the church will buy the rich goods of heaven.
………………. There is a dead fly in the ointment…. Your self-righteousness is nauseating to the Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ. (Rev 3:15-18 quoted). These words apply to the churches and to many of those in positions of trust in the work of God
I was shown that the testimony to the Laodiceans applies to God1s people at the present time, and the reason it has not accomplished a greater work is because of the hardness of their hearts.
The message to the church of the Laodiceans is a startling denunciation, and it is applicable to the people of God at the present time.
The Laodicean message applies to the people of God who profess to believe present truth. The greater parts are lukewarm professors, having a name but no zeal.
In the light of these statements and in view of the fact that the Laodicean message is closely related to the doctrine of justification by faith and Christ Our Righteousness, we must give serious consideration to this message. It should become the basis of all our preaching, for it is the very thing, which the members of the church need. “He that hath an ear to hear let him hears what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 3:22)
UNIT NO. 2 – LAODICEA IS ADDRESSED – Rev 3:l4
AND UNTO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS WRITE} THESE THINGS SAITH THE AMEN, THE FAITHFUL AND THE TRUE WITNESS, THE BEGINNING OF THE CREATION OF GOD.
In the first unit we established the fact that the Laodicean message applies in a special way to the people living at the end time in this world. In this unit, however, we will look at the specifics, that is to say; who especially is this message addressed to, and what is the source of this message?
According to Rev 1:11 the Apostle John is counseled to “write (what he sees) in a book, and send it unto the seven churches…..” As Laodicea is the seventh church and symbolizes God’s remnant people we may conclude from the above statement that the Laodicean message applies to God’s people as a whole. However, while this is true, in considering the message itself, we discover that it is “the angel of the church of-the Laodiceans” that is specifically addressed.
Now, who is the angel of the Laodicean church, and how does he differ from the church itself? We must be absolutely clear that in the introduction to the messages to the seven churches, a distinction is made between the angels of the seven churches and the churches themselves. Note Rev 1:20: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand (v.l6), and the seven golden candlesticks (v.12, 13). The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
The seven churches, of which Laodicea is the seventh, are represented by the seven candlesticks. A fitting symbol of what the churches should be: “You are the light of the world…. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:l4, l6). The angels on the other hand must symbolize “those in positions of trust” the ministerial pleaders, teachers and workers. The word angel means “messenger” and in Scripture angels are described as ministering spirits (Heb l: l4). Thus the angel of Laodicea is a fitting symbol for the shepherds of the flock. In fact “The Living Bible” actually uses the word leader instead of angel in Rev 3:14 and the Pulpit Commentary interprets the word angel of Rev 3:14 as the “Churches’ Chief Officers.”
Actually, the seven stars which Christ is seen holding in His hand and which represent the seven angels of the seven churches clearly represent the ministers of the church. Note the two following statements:
God’s ministers are symbolized by the seven stars, which He who is the first and the last has under His special care and protection. The sweet influences that are to be abundant in the church are bound up with these ministers of God, who are to represent the love of Christ. The stars of heaven are under God’s control. He fills them with light. He guides and directs their movements. If He did not, they would become fallen stars. So with the ministers.
These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand. These words are spoken to the teachers in the church – those entrusted by God with weighty responsibilities.
From this investigation it becomes clear that the Laodicean message must first apply to the ministerial leaders and workers of the Church, who in turn must present it before the people. Here then is a message that applies to the whole Church. The spiritual condition of Laodicea does not apply to some or a few in the Church but to the entire people of God on earth. Beginning with the administrators, pastors, evangelists, teachers and down to the last member of the Church, all must take heed to what God has to say to the Laodicean people.
Having dealt with the ones addressed, we must now turn our attention and consider the source of the Laodicean message. It is important that we know the origin of this message: who is the one addressing Laodicea? “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” These descriptive terms are full of significance in reference to the Laodicean message and apply to none other than Christ Himself.
The word “Amen” which means “Let it be ”so” or “truth”, is used here as a proper name for Our Lord, so that Laodicea might know that Christ is indeed the “True One”. In Isa 65:16 the prophet Isaiah refers to Christ as the “God of truth.” Since Laodicea’s self-opinion contradicts Christ’s evaluation of the Church, God wants us to realize in reading the Laodicean message that what Christ has to say about Laodicea is the truth. In analyzing the Laodicean message we will discover that Laodicea’ problem does not lie on the surface but is a hidden, unconscious one. Outwardly we appear to be spiritually rich and increased with goods. But Christ’s judgment of Laodicea is based beyond a superficial examination. He sees under the surface, for He knows what is in man (Jh 2:24, 25; Lk 16:15).
Hence Christ is indeed “the faithful and true witness”. Our Lord’s evaluation of our spiritual condition is both accurate and true. The message to Laodicea is certainly not a very pleasant one. But, if we, as God’s ministers and leaders, along with the Church will humble ourselves in repentance and confession, and willingly receive His rebuke and counsel, then surely “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9).
It cannot be said too often or emphasized too strongly that the Church leaders and members need to seriously consider the Laodicean message. Whatever may be our personal opinion of ourselves, or the church, it does not count, for “the heart is deceitful above all things …. who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). Only Christ, the faithful and true witness, who sees beyond the surface to the very depths of our hearts, can give us a true picture of ourselves. And if that picture is a formidable one, we had better take some serious steps, as given in the counsel to Laodicea, lest we be spued out of Christ’s mouth and become a rejected people as were the Jews.
Again, in considering the source of the Laodicean message, Christ is referred to as “the beginning of the creation of God”. Some have mistaken this to mean that Christ was God’s first creation. This is a misinterpretation of the phrase. The word “beginning” can either mean the first or the source. Here it is used in the latter sense and therefore this expression simply means that Christ is the source of all of God’s creation. The New Testament clearly teaches this: “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jh I: 3; read also 1 Cor 8:6; Eph 3:9; Col 1:16, 17).
What God wants Laodicea to know is that Christ, who is the source of all of God’s creation longs to recreate in us “a clean heart . . . and renew a right spirit” within us. In other words, Our Lord’s longing desire is to fulfill in us His new covenant promise: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days (after Israel repented), saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people”. (Heb 8:10; read also Joel 2:17 in connection with verses 28, 29).
According to Rev 10:7 it is prophesied that the mystery of God will be finished in these last days. What this mystery of God is, is explained to us by the Apostle Paul in Col 1:27; It is Christ in you, or Christ manifested in us, the hope of glory. Two thousand years ago “the light shineth in darkness” (Jh 1:5), when God was manifested in the flesh in the person of Christ (see Jh 1:11 ;). This revelation Paul refers to as the great mystery of godliness (1 Tim 3:16). Now, in these last days, it is God’s purpose to manifest Himself again through the last generation of Christians. This will be realised when the character of Christ will be perfectly reproduced in His people (read C.O.L. 69). When this happens the earth will be once again lightened with His glory (Rev 18:1). This will be God’s final display and pleading message to a doomed world before the end comes. (Matt 24:l4).
It is through Laodicea that God plans all this to be realised. In view of the fact that Laodicea has special reference to the end time Church, how long are we going to keep Our Lord in suspense by our stiff-necked attitude? May God’s grace soften our hearts as we now begin to consider the Laodicean message itself, and give us a willing spirit to receive this message without reservations, so that the Divine purpose will be fulfilled in this generation. AMEN
UNIT NO. 3 – LAODICEA IS EVALUATED – Rev 3:15, 16
I KNOW THY WORKS THAT THOU ART NEITHER COLD NOR HOT: I WOULD THOU WERT COLD OR HOT. SO THEN BECAUSE THOU ART LUKEWARM, AND NEITHER COLD NOR HOT, I WILL SPUE THEE OUT OF MY MOUTH.
The message to Laodicea begins with a clear statement, made by Christ, the faithful and true witness. This statement declares, “I know thy works.” May I say that a clear understanding of this statement along with the rest of verses 15 and 16 is the key to a meaningful understanding of the whole of the Laodicean message. This is because the message to Laodicea is based or centered around her works which are neither cold nor hot but lukewarm.
The word “works” has to do with ones activity or behavior and by “works” Jesus/ Yeshua is not primarily concerned with our institutional and other denominational organised works as such, but to the spiritual behavior of His people as a whole. Naturally our spiritual condition will greatly affect our denominational organised activities. Hence it is our spiritual works that Christ is most concerned with, for everything elsei3 dependent on this Not only does the context of the message indicate that Christ’s evaluation of Laodicea is in reference to her spiritual works but in examining the messages to the other six churches it will be noted that in each case it is the spiritual condition of the churches which Christ has in mind.
Needless to say, all the money, effort, and time we put into our institutionalized church works, such as our hospitals, clinics, schools, orphanages etc. become of no value if something is desperately wrong with the spiritual condition of the Church itself. In other words, if we as a people are spiritually bankrupt, which is what the Laodicean message indicates, then surely all our works which we perform as a church become simply the fair showing of the flesh which in God’s eyes are “filthy rags” (Isa 64:6),
Laodicea is not short of works; this is not her problem. On the contrary, Jesus/ Yeshua says, “I know thy works”, which indicate that she is not lacking in works. However, what, Christ has against Laodicea is that her works are lukewarm; they are neither hot nor cold but a mixture of the two and this is unacceptable in God’s sight. In fact, lukewarm works are nauseating to the Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ.
This brings us to the next consideration. According to verses 15 and 16 our spiritual works are neither nor hot but lukewarm. What do these expressions mean and why is it that Christ will not tolerate lukewarm works? Obviously it is important that we have a clear understanding what the terms cold , hot and lukewarm signify if we are to get to the bottom of laodicea’s problem, and this is what we must now investigate.
Now cold and hot are two conditions that are very much opposite and contrary to each other. However, when the two are mixed or marriaged together the result is lukewarm. Bearing in mind that these terms cold, hot and lukewarm are used with reference to our spiritual works, we must now proceed to investigate what these terms symbolize in terms of works. What, in other words, does the Lord mean by cold works, hot works, and lukewarm works? As previously mentioned a clear understanding of these expressions found in verses 15 & 16 is vital to a true and meaningful understanding of the Laodicean message.
When we examine the Bible, especially the New Testament, with reference to what it has to say about works, we will discover that it divides all human activities or works, into three distinct categories; they are: Works of the flesh works of faith and works of the law. On closer examination, and allowing Scriptures to explain itself, it will be seen that these three types of works resemble and therefore represent the cold, hot and lukewarm works indicated in the Laodicean message. Let us see how this is so.
We will begin with works of the flesh which may be identified with cold works. The word flesh, used in the Bible in a spiritual sense, refers to the whole or total man in his depraved condition, dominated or under the control of the law or principle of sin. This, Paul makes very clear in Rom 7:14-23. Consequently, works of the flesh are equated with the sinful acts that proceed from men living indepent of God. A good example of this is in Gal 5:19-21 where the Apostle Paul, in enumerating the various sinful behaviour of fallen men, declares: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultly, fornication, uncleanness………..”
Having identified works of the flesh with sinful acts of the flesh, we must now proceed to see how these are symbolised by cold works. Speaking of the last days Jesus/ Yeshua prophesied: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt 24:12). Here the word “cold” is linked with iniquity or abounding sin. Another example that will help us in our investigation is found in 1 Theses 5: 5-8. In this passage believers are equated with children of light and day in contrast to the unbelievers, the children of night and darkness. Now all will agree, and this is especially true in Bible lands, that cold and night go together just as hot and day are inseparable. And the works of night in this passage are equated with sinful acts, while the children of day are counseled to put on “the breast-plate of faith and love” the basis for all hot works.
From this and other statements in Scripture, it is clear that cold works symbolize the sinful behavior that proceeds from the flesh or self. Therefore we may conclude that cold works are synonymous with works of the flesh – the sinful activities of those walking and fulfilling the desires and lusts of the flesh. These are the natural fruits of sinful men living without God (Eph 2:1-3).
In contrast to cold works we must now consider hot works which we will see signify works of faith. In Paul’s epistle to the Galatians the works of the flesh are contrasted with “the fruit, of the Spirit” (compare Gal 5:19-21 with v.22, 23). Now the fruit of the Spirit are simply the righteousness of Christ reproduced in the believer who is abiding in Christ by faith (see Jh 15:4, 5). Since the fruit of the Spirit is synonymous with Christ bearing fruit in us; and in view of the fact that Christ dwells and walks in us by faith alone (Gal 2:20), which is the same thing as walking in the Spirit, than it is obvious that the fruit of the Spirit is identical to works of faith mentioned in James’ epistle. (See James 2:l4-26; also 1 Thess 1:3).
When a believer has lost all confidence in the flesh (self) because he believes God, that nothing good dwells in him (Rom 7:18), and seeks by faith to experience the righteousness of Christ as Paul did (read Phil 3:3,8,9); then the activities of this parson is referred to as works of faith. Such an individual may be said to be “walking in the Spirit” (Rom 8:4; Gal 5:16) or “walking in the light” (1 Jh 1:7) or “walking in love” (Eph 5:2) and the works that proceed from him are works of faith, since walking in the spirit, light or love can be realised only by faith or total dependence on God. Such works are the very opposite to works of the flesh and therefore may be symbolised by hot works. For example, was it not for this reason that Jesus/ Yeshua referred to John the Baptist who did a great work for God: “He was a burning and a shining light.”? (Jn 5:35).
We may therefore conclude that hot works symbolize the works of faith and love, which are in reality the righteousness of Christ reproduced in the lives of the believers through the indwelling Spirit when they live by faith alone (Gal 5:4, 5; 2Cor 3:17,18).
The best examples of works of faith or hot works is Christ Himself. The Bible speaks of Jesus/ Yeshua doing “mighty works” (Matt 11:20; Lk 19:37); yet He Himself confessed “I can of myself do nothing” (Jn 5:19,30). Clearly then, the mighty works that Jesus/ Yeshua did were works of faith that originated from the Father (see Jn 10:32, 37, 38; 14:10), the result of living “by the Father” (Jn 6:57). Hence hot works or works of faith may be described as godliness manifested in the flesh which is the mystery of God (1Tim 3:16; Col 1:25-27). All this is in complete contrast and a contradiction to the cold sinful works of the flesh which is the natural fruit of fallen man dominated by sin and the devil.
But the faithful and true witness declares that Laodicea’s works or spiritual behaviour is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm- a mixture of the two. What does this signify? Before we can proceed to answer this question, we must first be absolutely clear what it does not mean.
By lukewarm works Christ certainly does not mean that at times our works or activities are cold, which as we have seen, refer to the sinful behaviour of the flesh; and at other times we are producing works of faith (Christ’s righteousness) which is symbolized by hot works. Neither does lukewarm-ness mean that we used to be cold in the past, but now we are improving, or progressing and are moving ahead towards being hot, but presently have arrived at the lukewarm stage, which means our works are not quite so sinful, but neither are they fully righteous. No! No! We are lukewarm all the time, for Christ declares that Laodicea is neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. The condition of God’s people is and has always been lukewarm; that is to say, our total works belong to the category of lukewarm works. What this signifies we must now investigate.
We have seen so far that cold works represents the sinful behaviour of the flesh (self), while hot works symbolise works of faith, the righteousness of Christ produced by the Holy Spirit in the lives of those walking by faith alone. The Bible however describes a third kind of works or human behaviour that is neither sinful in appearance (i.e. cold) nor belonging to the righteousness of Christ (i.e. hot), but a compromise of the two. This is referred to as “works of the law”.
Now according to the clear teaching of Scripture, works of the law always refer to man trying to keep the law by his own effort or to the best of his ability. Good cases in point were the Galatians believers. According to Gal 3:3,10, the Christians in Galatia were trying to improve their standing before God by their own works of the law instead of fully resting in Christ’s righteousness which is by faith.
Whatever may be ones outward motive for works of the law, of one thing we must be clear. That in the Bible works of the law only means one thing: man’s own attempts to keep the law or produce righteousness. Scripture is absolutely clear on this point and so must we be. And such works are a mixture of cold and hot. Let us now proceed to see how this is so.
The Bible clearly teaches that the flesh (self) is “carnal sold under sin” (Rom 7:l4), and therefore nothing good dwells in it (Rom 7:18). Consequently we may say that the flesh belongs totally to the realm of sin (cold). For this reason Scripture states that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God because it is corrupt (1 Cor 15:50); it also teaches that man’s body is a “body of sin” or “death” totally incapable of producing righteousness (Rom 6:6, 7:24). On the other hand, the law of God is defined as being “holy, just and good”& “Spiritual” (Rom 7:12, l4), all of which belongs to the realm of righteousness (hot). There is nothing in common between sinful flesh (the natural condition of fallen man) and the righteousness of God revealed in His law. These are contrary or opposite to each other. To put it in Paul’s words, “The carnal (fleshly) mind i.e. enmity against God: for it is not subject the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom 8:7).
In view of this, how could the cold and the hot be mixed? In truth they cannot, but herein is the great deception of the devil through which he has blinded the eyes of Laodicea. By deceiving God’s remnant people, Satan has convinced us to believe a lie – that the cold and the hot can be married. The flesh which belongs to the realm of sin (cold) can keep to a degree, the law of God which belongs to the realm of righteousness (hot).
Such is our situation and condition says the faithful and true witness. Our spiritual works are neither sinful (cold) nor are we bearing the fruit of the Spirit (hot); but instead our activities, generated by the flesh, are full of self-righteousness. This is lukewarm, a mixture or marriage of cold (flesh) with hot (spirit). This indeed is a very true picture of Laodicea, for surely, we must confess, much human energy, effort and means are being used in every line of our works.
Now, the works of the law, symbolised in the Laodicean message as lukewarm, may take many forms. The most obvious of course is man’s attempt to obey the Ten Commandments to the best of his ability. Other forms however may be doing well, Christ like works, like healing the sick, feeding the poor, clothing the destitute, etc. But whatever form these works of the law may take the Bible identifies all of them as “works of the law” man’s own righteousness (Rom 10:1-3; Philip 3:6, 9). This incidentally, is the foundation upon which ALL heathen religions and, May I add, worldly Christianity, is built.
Further, various reasons, some religious, others for personal gain, may cause men to engage in works of the law. To illustrate: the Jews of Christ’s day, for example, insisted on the works of the law as a means to salvation. Today’s Church on the other hand claim that they do the works of the law as a sign of love for Christ – often backed up by Christ’s words “If you love me keep my commandments”(Jh 14:15). Actually, this is subconsciously a small kind of payment for God’s supreme gift to man – the principle of reciprocity. Again, many engage in works of the law for ulterior motives such as getting a job with the Mission, or to add “stars in their crown” or even for helping God’s church get a good name. But what may be the given motive that causes us to produce works of the law, one thing we must get clearly settled in our minds. At the very heart or center of ALL works of the law is to be found SELF, this own way-ness of sinful man (Isa 53:6), the chief ingredient that goes to make up tae flesh.
This then is the great disease of Laodicea. Her works are full of self-righteousness; appealing to human eyes, but sickening to Our Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ. That the lukewarm ness of Laodicea is equated to our self-righteousness is clearly substantiated by the Spirit of Prophecy from the statement following:
Your self-righteousness is nauseating to the Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ. (Rev 3:15-18 quoted). These words apply to the churches, and to many of those in position of trust in the work of God.
Before concluding this chapter, in which Christ is evaluating the works of Laodicea, two questions must be answered. Why does Our Lord declare that He would rather have us to be cold or hot? And secondly, why our lukewarm condition nauseating to Him?
Having discovered the true significance of cold, hot and lukewarm works the answer to the first question is obvious. Christ wants us to take an honest and genuine position. From the diagram included in this chapter, it will be seen that both the cold and the hot refer to works that are true to nature. In other words, it is absolutely natural when the flesh produces sin and the Spirit produces righteousness. These works, even though they belong to opposite camps, are nevertheless, genuine works. According to Scripture, the flesh can only produce sin and the Spirit righteousness. However, when the sinful flesh tries to produce righteousness then it is deceiving and giving a false appearance. This Christ will not tolerate.
Which brings us to the second question. Why do lukewarm works nauseate Christ? Four main reasons may be given. Firstly, lukewarm works are hypocritical. When man, whom the Bible clearly states is “carnal sold under sin” (Rom 7:14), pretends to be good, this indeed is hypocrisy and disgusting to the Lord. God has made it clear; our righteousness is like filthy rags to Him (Isa 64:6). Why then do we insist on bluffing ourselves that He is pleased with our lukewarm works?
Secondly, works of the law are based on unbelief. God says there is none good and none who can do righteousness (Rom 3:10, 12). Yet we insist that this is not true and by trying hard enough we can produce some righteousness. This is indeed unbelief, the sin that delayed Israel of old from entering into the Promised Land for forty years. Is this not why modern Israel has been kept back from entering the heavenly Canaan?
For forty years did unbelief and murmuring and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.
Thirdly, all works of the law are a contradiction to God’s love (agape). We have seen already that at the heart of all works of the law is to be found self. This is in complete contradiction to God’s love which “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor 13:5). If we are absolutely honest with ourselves, we will confess that it is not out of pure love for Christ that we labor for Him, but it is seeking for a reward that is the basis of all our good works. Like Peter and the disciples we insist that we love Christ and will not deny Him; but let the test come, as it has to some already, and our true motives will come out into the open. Surely the Church needs to be broken as the experience of the cross broke the disciples.
Finally, works of the law are a denial of Christ Our Righteousness. The flesh puffed up with self will not admit that spiritually it is totally bankrupt and therefore cannot produce one iota of genuine righteousness. Hence, it insists on making some contribution towards the righteousness it receives from Christ by faith. But Paul makes it absolutely clear: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Gal 5:4, 5) We cannot have it both ways; on the one hand receive the righteousness of Christ thereby confessing we have no righteousness of our own, and then try to improve our standing before God by producing our own righteousness, thereby claiming that we have some goodness in us.
The only hope for the Laodiceans is a clear view of their standing before God, knowledge of the nature of their disease.” How long are we going to continue taking an unconcerned attitude towards our situation? The faithful and true witness has made it clear; unless we change from our lukewarm condition, He will spew us of His mouth. This is too serious a matter for us to treat it lightly. Let us take note of the following warning:
To those who are indifferent at this time, Christ’s warning is: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, will I spew thee out of my mouth.” Rev 3:16. The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in any wise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you.
DIAGRAM ILLUSTRATING REV 3:15, 16
In concluding this important study regarding our works, in which we have endeavored to take an honest look at ourselves; we must confess that what the faithful and true witness has to say about our spiritual condition in the Laodicean message is altogether true. Could it be that herein lies the heart of our problem and the main cause why the Loud Cry of Rev 18:1, 2 has not yet even begun to sound in our respective countries?
Terrible is the thought that thousands are going and have gone into Christ-less graves because of our failure. No longer must we allow our institutional success, large baptisms, progress reports, or denominational pride to blind our eyes as to our true condition. The time has come for us to repent and seek the Lord with fasting and prayer. Thank God that it is not too late, Jesus/ Yeshua still stands at our heart’s door knocking. How long shall we keep Him waiting outside of our lives?
In spite of our sincerity and zeal the majority of God’s people are still groping in the dark as to the true meaning of righteousness by faith. We have somehow been deceived by the evil one to accept and proclaim a perverted gospel that has proved to have no power unto salvation. I believe that if we who are spiritual leaders and shepherds of the church would openly repent and follow the counsel of Joel 2:17, then the much sought for promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28, 29) will become a reality in our day and the earth will be lightened with His glory. Is not this the end-purpose of the Laodicean message?
UNIT NO. 4 – LAODICEA IS DECEIVED – Rev. 3:17
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:
Having discovered the true significance of our lukewarm condition, the foundation has been laid to a true and meaningful understanding of the rest of the Laodicean message. In this unit, which will deal with Rev 3:17, the faithful and true witness goes on to show how our lukewarm works have greatly deceived us. I trust our last study has opened the way for us to appreciate the truth concerning Laodicea and that by God’s grace we are now in the position to accept what Christ says about us in verse 17, no matter how painful this may be to our denominational pride and self-conceit.
Taking a glance at verse 17 you will notice that this -verse is divided into two parts. The first part has to do with Laodicea’s own self-opinion about her spiritual condition: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” the second half is Christ’s evaluation or reaction to it: “thou art wretched, and miserable and poor, and blind, and naked.” The two of course, do not agree, for Christ absolutely contradicts what we are saying about ourselves. This of necessity must raise up the big question which we must look into. Why does Christ disagree with, and contradict our self-evaluation? And further, what does the Faithful and True Witness mean by thou “knowest not”? In other words, the thing that must concern us most in this study is the thing that has greatly deceived us. After all, our one desire must be to get to the bottom of our problem.
Beginning with the first half of verse 17, which deals with what we have to say about ourselves, it is important to note that our self-opinion is closely connected with our lukewarm works of verse 16. That is to say, our lukewarm works or the works of the law have led us to the conclusion that we are spiritually rich and increased with goods, so that nothing could be added to our self-righteousness. This is clear from the fact that Christ begins to describe Laodicea’s personal evaluation of herself by the phrase “Because thou sayest.” The word because is the connecting link between verses 16 and 17, so that we may rephrase the two statements like this: “So then because thou art lukewarm thou sayest this about thyself, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. What you do not know and realize is that you are really wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: It would have been easy to deal with you if you were either cold or hot but now you are deceived by your lukewarmness and totally blind about your true condition.” This is basically what verses 16 and 17 put together are saying.
It must become very clear to us that if our lukewarm works are all wrong then consequently our self-opinion must be all wrong too. This in fact is the heart of our problem. Our lukewarm works, which appear to be good, have greatly deceived us. Let us now proceed to see how this is so.
In the last unit we discovered that lukewarm works are synonymous with works of the law, which correspond with man’s own righteousness. How this has greatly deceived us can only be realised when we have clearly understood the distinction between works of the law (lukewarm) and works of faith (hot). Since the two look very much alike it is very easy to be misled. This has been the cause of our great deception. How is this so?
The difference between works of the law and works of faith is indeed a very subtle one, so that unless our eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit (hence the need of eye-salve in v.18) it is very easy to confuse the one for the other. This in fact was the great mistake the Reformers made. The result being that they could not appreciate James’ Epistle (Luther called it a “straw Epistle”), for the simple reason that James included works in justification by faith which they thought contradicted Paul’s concept of justification by faith, which excluded all works. (Compare James 2:21-24; with Rom 4:l-5). Actually, what Paul condemns in justification by faith is works of the law – man’s own righteousness (note the word “fletfh” in Rom U:lj see also Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16; 5:4). On the other hand James teaches that genuine justification by faith must always reveal itself in works of faith. And this is in full agreement with Paul’s theology (read Eph 2:8-10; Phil 3:9; 1 Thes 1:3; Titus 2:7,14: 3:8; Heb 10:24).
The difference between works of the law and works of faith does not lie primarily on the work itself but in its origin or source. This is where the subtlety lies. As we have already discussed in the last unit, works of the law always have to do with man’s own effort to keep the law or produce righteousness. This is true no matter what your reason behind such works may be – that is, to be saved or to show your love for Christ. In contrast, works of faith refer in Scripture to the fruit of the Spirit the manifestation of the indwelling Christ, borne in the lives of those living by faith alone. Such works, incidentally also conform to the law of God (Rom 8:4 Gal 5:23). Hence, on the surface both works look alike or resemble each other. Thus it is very easy to confuse the one for the other and be deceived.
It is only when we examine the source that we note the great difference between the two kinds of works. All works of the law originate from the flesh (one’s own ability), in the one who is trying to please God to the best of his ability. On the other hand works of faith originate from Christ Himself, without any fleshly contribution, when the believer is living solely by faith. A good comparison between works of faith and works of the law is found in Gal 14:21-31. Here Paul equates works of the law with Ishmael or the old covenant, and Isaac with works of faith or the new covenant. Ishmael was the product of Abraham’s own effort whereas Isaac was the product of faith (see also Rom 4:17-22). The two are enemies and cannot be united (v. 29), neither will God accept any contribution of the flesh, it must be “cast out” (v. 30).
Faith, we must realize, means or involves, putting away all confidence and dependence on the flesh (self) – the true significance of circumcision (Phil 3:3; Col 2:10,11) and resting entirely or totally on Christ for righteousness, both in terms of justification (our standing before God) as well as sanctification (our daily living before God). This is the true meaning of entering into God’s Sabbath rest (Heb 4:9, 10; Ex 31; 13). The believer doing works of the law may actually pray to Christ for help, but nonetheless, at the very heart of all his works or activities is to be found the natural energy or strength of the soul.
Because works of the law and works of faith closely resemble eachother in out-ward appearance, it is not hard to see how one could be mistaken for the other. And not only that, the one engaged in works of the law could also be deceived into thinking that his works are well-pleasing to God. This was the situation of the Pharisees of Christ’s day and unfortunately Laodicea has fallen into the same subtle trap.
It is of utmost importance for the deliverance of Laodicea that she realises that firstly her works are of the law and not of faith. It is for this reason that Christ offers us “gold tried in the fire” Rev 3:18, which symbolises faith and love because Laodicea lacks true faith which produces works. And secondly, God despises works of the law. This is because while man judges by the outward appearance, God on the other hand judges, or looks at the heart – the source (1 Sam l6:7; Prov I6:2 Matt 23:27,28). And as we have seen, the source of all works of the law is the flesh or the carnal mind which is at enmity with God and really cannot be subjected to the law of God (Rom 8:7).
If Laodicea is to really understand the cause of her great deception, so that no longer she “knoweth not“, then we must come to grips with two facts. Firstly, we have confused works of the law with works of faith – the same mistake that the Reformers made.
Please note how we have identified works of faith with: “To observe the law of God to the best of one’s (self) ability.” Surely this is our deception, the flesh trying to bluff that it loves Christ and can keep the law. Something that is impossible, since the flesh and the Spirit of Christ are at war (Gal 4:29; 5:17).
Secondly, because works of the law and works of faith look very much alike not only have we confused our self-righteousness with Christ righteousness but we have married the two together (i.e. Christ plus us), so that when it comes to holiness of living many teach that we must do our best in producing righteousness and Christ will make up the difference. Sanctification, in other words, is the result of faith plus our obedience to the law or works. This can never be! Besides contradicting the Gospel formula (see Gal 2:.20, NOT I BUT CHRIST) this teaching is unacceptable to God since the Bible makes an absolute distinction between Christ’s righteousness and self-righteousness and the two can never be mixed together. This is because self-righteousness belongs to the flesh while Christ righteousness belongs to the Spirit.
Every Believer must realise that not only does God equate self-righteousness with “filthy rags” (Isa 64:6), but that the great sin of spiritual Babylon is this unlawful marriage of our righteousness with Christ righteousness. According to the three angels message the great sin of Babylon is fornication and God warns His people to come out of this. We must realise that this involves more than coming out of a particular denomination. It is very easy indeed to be a Christian in good and regular standing, or even a leader in the cause, and yet be deeply involved in the sin of Babylon unconsciously.
This brings us to the next important point, and that is, what is the great sin of modern Babylon and has it anything to do with Laodicea’s problem? The word Babylon is derived from the word Babel which means confusion. In fact it is very significant that one of the things excavated by the archeologist Robert Koldewey in ancient Babylon was the foundation and outline of the Tower of Babel, known as “E-Temen-an-ki” (the House of the Foundation Platform of Heaven and earth), believed to have been the ruins of the ill-fated “Tower of Babel”. We all know that the “Tower of Babel” project was the result of man’s unbelief and his own efforts to save himself both of which are founded on the principle of self. Likewise, ancient Babylon was also built on this same principle of self: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of His power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30 emphasis supplied).
This same fact is true of modern New Testament Babylon. But not only is spiritual Babylon founded on salvation by works, or self-effort but she has committed the great sin of fornication (Rev 14:8). Now fornication is the union of two unlawful parties. Spiritually this could apply to a mixture or marriage of the Spirit with the flesh, or the Church with the world, or faith with self-effort, or Christ righteousness with self-righteousness, or grace with works, God’s love (agape) with human love (Eros). In other words, hot with cold.
Surely Babylon has made all nations, including Laodicea, drunk with the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Herein lies our big sin too. We have mixed the truth as it is in Christ, with human ideals and therefore Christ righteousness with our righteousness. The three angels’ message is also a call to Laodicea to come out of Babylon’s mixture of unlawful union between what is of Christ and what is of Adam. We must obey this call or else be spewed out of God’s kingdom for flesh and blood cannot inherit heaven (1 Cor 15:50).
In the last unit it was made clear that Christ will not tolerate our lukewarm works, or our own righteousness of the law, for it is nauseating to Him. In this unit we must discover that self-righteousness is a great deceiver and that Christ will not tolerate this mixture or marriage between His righteousness and ours. This is true both in terms of justification as well as sanctification. Our righteousness must be ALL of Christ (Phil 3:9).
What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception. They know not that their condition is deplorable in the sight of God. While those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition, the message of the True Witness breaks their security by the startling denunciation of their true condition of spiritual blindness, poverty, and wretchedness.
Self-righteousness is not the wedding-garment. A failure to follow the clear light of truth is our fearful danger. The message to the Laodicean church reveals our condition as a people.
Satan is seeking with all his subtlety to corrupt mind and heart. And or how successful he is in leading men and women to depart from the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ’. … Ministers and Church-members are in danger of allowing self to take the throne.
The Laodicean message must be proclaimed with power; for now it is especially applicable . . . Not to see our own deformity is not to see the beauty of Christ’s character. When we are fully awake to our own sinfulness we shall appreciate Christ … Not to see the marked contrast between Christ and ourselves is not to know ourselves. He who does not abhor himself cannot understand the meaning of redemption.
There are those who profess to serve God while they rely upon their own efforts to obey His law to form a right character, and secure salvation. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. Such religion is worth nothing
Surely the evidence is clear, our great problem is self-righteousness. This sin has not only deceived us but it has robbed us entirely of spiritual power. Yes, we flatter ourselves that we have the truth and the Spirit of Prophecy (the Jews of Christ’s day did the same thing – Rom 2:17-20), and therefore are rich and increased with goods. But consider what the Faithful and True Witness has to say about us in Rev 3:17.
Firstly Christ declares that we are “wretched and miserable”. This word “wretched” (Gk. talaiporos) appears only twice in the New Testament. The first is found in Rom 7:24 where Paul is using it to refer to his total inability to conquer sin or produce righteousness in and of himself. It come at the end of his long argument in which he is proving that fallen man has been sold as a slave to sin (Rom 7:14) and therefore of himself cannot produce one iota of righteousness, even after conversion (read Rom 7:14-24) This same word “wretched” along with “miserable” which means basically the same thing, appears in Rev 3:17 where Christ is using it to describe Laodicea’s condition – her total failure to produce righteousness. The big difference however is that in Rom 7:24 Paul is openly confessing his wretchedness while in Rev 3:17 Christ says that Laodicea “knowest not” that she is wretched. This is her great tragedy. How self-righteousness has deceived her!
The birth of a son to Zacharias, like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten and we are able to do the works of righteousness
Also note the following:
All our good works are dependant on a power outside of ourselves.
Of ourselves we can do nothing good.
All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin; but that which is wrought through faith is acceptable to God.
The next thing Christ has to say about Laodicea in Rev 3:17 is that we are “poor”. This is in direct contradiction to our saying that we are “rich“. We have already discussed the connection between v.l6 and v.17 of Rev 3. With this in mind, we must ask, what is it that has led us to say we are rich? Clearly our lukewarm works or self-righteousness. But according to the True Witness our lukewarm works have produced the very opposite, so that we have become paupers. How is “this so? Obviously self-righteousness has robbed us of Christ righteousness. This is clearly substantiated by verse 18 where Christ is offering us “white raiment” (His Righteousness) in exchange for our “filthy rags“. Because we have confused works of the law for works of faith we have subconsciously substituted our righteousness for that of Christ’s. The result is that while we think that we are rich, in actual fact, we have become bankrupt of Christ’s righteousness – the only thing that counts in God’s eyes: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom 10:4).
Besides being wretched, miserable and poor, Christ also declares that we are “blind”. This is the terrible thing about self-righteousness. Not only has it deceived us, but it has also blinded us. This was the situation of the Pharisees and Scribes too in Christ’s days. In Matt 23 (read the whole chapter) we find Christ describing the situation of the religious leaders of His day. He calls them “blind guides” and “hypocrites”. What was at the heart of their problem? Self-righteousness, the same thing which is at the heart of Laodicea’s problem. Note, for example, verse 5: “But all their works they do for to be seen of men:” Or again, verse 28, “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” This is our situation too.
It seems clear from reading Matt 23, that in this chapter Christ is raking an evaluation of the remnant of Israel of old, just as in Rev 3:14-20 He is evaluating the situation of the remnant of modern Israel. There is a very close resemblance. Sad to say, history has repeated itself. Ancient Israel was rejected because she refused to repent. Let this be a serious warning to modern Israel. Christ is the same “yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Heb 13:8), and unless we repent and be zealous we too will be rejected for the True Witness declares “I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
Finally Christ says we are “naked”. What a shameful condition to be in – spiritually naked. This was the first discovery Adam and Eve made after the fall, and they tried to cover their shame with fig leaves (Gen 3:7) – a symbol of salvation by works. Of course, it was a hopeless attempt. Hence God made them coats of skins (Gen 3:21) a symbol of Christ’s righteousness. The Lord longs to do the very same thing for His remnants to clothe us with His “white raiment” so that “the shame of thy nakedness do not appear” (Rev 3:18). We who preach that the hour of His Judgment is come, do we not know that everything that is a sham will appear clearly for what it is before the searching eyes of the Judge? Having our eyes opened, why do we not discard our “filthy garments” in exchange for the wonderful white raiment of Christ?
Having discovered our true condition, what shall we do? God forbid that we continue to deceive ourselves that all is well. “Grievous and presumptuous sins have dwelt among us. And yet the general opinion is that the church is flourishing and that peace and spiritual prosperity are in all her borders.” Surely “The church has turned back from following Christ her leader and is steadily retreating toward Egypt. Yet few are alarmed or astonished at their want of spiritual power.” This situation must not continue. The time is short, very short.
Before we bring this unit to a close it would be well for us to look into the very heart of ancient Israel’s problem, with regards to their total failure to attain the righteousness God demanded from them. After all, their history has been recorded for our admonition “upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10;11, 12). According to Rom 10:2 Israel had “a zeal of God” but unfortunately it was “not according to knowledge”. The result was: “Israel which followed after the law of righteousness hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore?; Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” (Rom 9:31, 32).
The same mistake was repeated by the Galatian church. False teachers had deceived them into believing that by their own works of the law they could please God and improve their standing before Him. Paul’s whole purpose of writing to them was to correct and deliver them from this perverted Gospel (Gal 1:6-9). When the Galatian believers turned from righteousness by faith alone and added righteousness by works they were in great danger of falling from grace altogether (Gal 5:4).
Sad to say we have followed in this very same path in our denominational history. Like Israel of old and the Galatian Christians we have sought righteousness “not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” As God’s messenger declared we have preached the law and the law until we have become as dry as the hills of Gilboa without dew or rain. To many of the pioneer missionaries this has been the old landmarks by which they stood.
But thank God it is not too late. “The wonderful thing about the message to Laodicea is that it offers a remedy.” The solution to our problem is found In Rev 3:18, the counsel to Laodicea which will be our next study. But unless Rev 3:16,17 has opened our eyes, to our true condition there will be no zeal nor repentance and the counsel will become meaningless. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Prov 12:15).
Oh God, make us wise that we may heed Thy counsel.
UNIT NO. 5-LAODICEA IS COUNSELLED – REV.3:18
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.
The wonderful thing about the Laodicean Message is that it offers us a complete remedy to our problem. Having our eyes opened to Laodicea’s true condition the counsel from the Faithful and True Witness becomes a most precious message, the very thing which God’s people need to heal us from our disease. If only we as a Church and as individuals will humble ourselves before God and man and fully surrender to what Christ says about us, painful and unpleasant as it may be, then surely we cannot but greatly rejoice in the offer of Christ Our Righteousness.
In view of Laodicea’s “deplorable” condition described in Rev 3:15-17, Christ offers her to buy of Him “the rich goods of heaven“, as the only and perfect solution to her problem. However, the first thing that we must take note of, concerning this counsel to Laodicea, is that this offer of the heavenly merchandise is not free, but has to be bought. We must not pass by this word “buy” for it reveals a most important truth. The offer made by the True Witness to Laodicea, as we shall discover more fully later on, is: faith and love, Christ’s Righteousness and the discernment of the Holy Spirit; all vitally necessary ingredients to our situation. But according to Scripture these are normally free gifts of His grace. Why then does Christ say to Laodicea “buy of me” these things? And further, what is the price which we must pay?
The answer to the first question is that this offer is a free gift only to those who are “poor in spirit”, as were the publicans and sinners of Christ’s day. But to the self-righteous Pharisees, as it must be with Laodicea, these are not free gifts, a price must be paid. Clearly, the offer made to Laodicea by the Faithful and True Witness is the very same offer that was made to Israel of old through the prophet Isaiah: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isa 55:1 emphasis supplied).
This brings us to the second question. If money is not the price to be paid for these rich heavenly goods, then what is the price? Now the word “buy” simply means that we give up something we already have for something that we want. This is the basic principle of all buying. According to our previous study, we have discovered that Laodicea is rich in self-righteousness – the result of her lukewarm works of the law. However, Scripture makes it plain: “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified -in his sight:” (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16). This means, when it comes to the judgment, that Laodicea stands naked and this is a most shameful and dangerous condition in which to be. For this reason Christ offers her “Justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ”
But if Laodicea is to receive Christ’s Righteousness which is by faith alone, then she must be willing to give up her own righteousness which is of the law. As the Apostle Paul, who as a Pharisee was “blameless” when it came to “the righteousness which is of the law”, had to consider and count his self-righteousness as “dung” to gain Christ’s Righteousness; “And be found In Him, not having mine own (self) righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;” (Phil 3:3-9). So also this is the price of which Laodicea must pay. Our glory and righteousness must be given up, or cast down to the dust in order that we may receive the Righteousness of Christ.
This truth Jesus/ Yeshua made very plain to the self-righteous Jews of His day by relating to them two parables; The Parable of The Hidden Treasure and the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt 13:44-46). Both parables teach the same important truth that we must give up or sell all of our self-righteousness, the filthy rags that are so dear to us, for the beautiful white robe of Christ. “If the Church will put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance with the world (self-principle 1 Jn 2:16), there is before her the dawn of a bright and glorious day.”
But the tragedy is that “glorious day” is still future. Why? “Many present the doctrines and theories of our faith; but their presentation is as salt without savory for the Holy Spirit is not working through their faithless ministry. They have not opened the heart to receive the grace of Christ;…….They do not appropriate the righteousness of Christ; it is a robe unworn by them, a fullness unknown, a fountain untouched.”
This brings us to a most important consideration. Like many in Christ’s day so also among Laodicea today there will be, unfortunately, some who will not be prepared to pay the price for the heavenly robe. The price of giving up self-righteousness in exchange for Christ’s Righteousness becomes a stumbling block. “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law (lukewarm works). For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in zion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Rom 9:31-33).
What will be the result when some among God’s people today refuse to sell all for the Pearl of Great Price?
But what is this “straight testimony” called forth by the counsel of the True Witness? Clearly it is this fact that we must buy of Christ His Righteousness. And this means, as we have seen, saying goodbye to our self-esteemed righteousness which has contributed so much towards our self and denominational pride. We are told this straight or solemn testimony “must work deep repentance“. And repentance in this context means turning away from our self-righteousness so that in exchange we might receive Christ’s Righteousness. And this, some are not willing to do.
They are not willing to be deprived of the garments of their own self-righteousness. They are not willing to exchange their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness, for the righteousness of Christ, which is pure unadulterated truth.”
Of this we must become absolutely clear. It is impossible for any to receive the righteousness of Christ if such a one insists on clinging to any of his own righteousness or goodness. Paul made this clear to the Galatian Christians: “Christ are justified by the law; ye is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you’re fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4).
Neither will God allow the righteousness He has prepared for us in Christ to be mixed with our righteousness. As already discussed, the great sin of spiritual Babylon is this synthesis of Christ’s righteousness with our righteousness, and this God will never permit, any who is involved in this spiritual fornication “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God …” (Rev 14:10).
There are some today in our midst who teach that the doctrine of Righteousness by Faith applies only to justification or the imputed righteousness of Christ. Sanctification, or the imparted righteousness of Christ, they say is not by faith alone, our works or obedience must be included. May I say that this is a subtle deception and really no different from modern spiritual Babylon’s fornication in a modified form. The righteousness of Christ by faith, that Laodicea has to buy, is offered in the setting of her works and therefore must include the imparted righteousness of Christ. This is fully substantiated by the Spirit of Prophecy. “The present message justification by faith is a message from God; it bears the divine credentials, for its fruit is unto holiness.”
While it is true that justification by faith qualifies us for heaven, since we will be judged on the basis of imputed righteousness; nevertheless, the Gospel of Christ can never be vindicated in the judgment unless its power is fully demonstrated in sinful flesh. This is really what Christ must have meant when He declared that before the end can come the gospel must be preached for a “witness” or demonstration (Matt 24:l4; compare with 1 Cor 4:20). The foundation that the Reformers laid in the 16th century was justification by faith. They did not see at that time the full relationship of this doctrine to sanctification by faith or the imparted righteousness of Christ. For this reason they undermined the Epistle of James which teaches that genuine justification by faith must manifest itself in the imparted righteousness of Christ, or sanctification. Since Laodicea refers to the last Church on earth, then clearly it is through her that this earth must be lightened with Christ’s glory. (The Loud Cry of Rev 18:1). This will only be realised when justification by faith is fully imparted. This is present truth.
Having seen clearly the significance of the word “buy” in the counsel to Laodicea, let us now proceed to analyse the rich merchandise of heaven offered to us by Christ Himself. They are three in number: Gold tried in the fire: white raiment; and eyesalve. Each of these three elements are absolutely essential for the cure of Laodicea’s problem; each is to counteract the diseases we have contracted and are therefore vital to our needs.
We will begin with eyesalve, for even though it is last on the list, it must become first in application. This is because the first and foremost-desperate need of Laodicea is that she sees, knows and realises her poverty and wretched condition. The necessary prerequisite for Laodicea to buy the gold tried in fire and the white raiment is repentance, and this can only be realised after her eyes have been opened to her true condition.
We have already noted that: “The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception.” Surely then, in view of this, Laodicea’s first need is to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” Like the Pharisees of old not only has our self-righteousness made us “hypocrites” but it has also turned us into “blind guides” (Matt 23). The eyesalve ointment refers to the Holy Spirit whose work Jesus/ Yeshua said would be to guide His people into all truth (Jn 16:12, 13).
According to the Spirit of Prophecy, “The eyesalve is that wisdom and grace which enables us to discern between the evil and the good, and to detect sin under any guise.” The eyesalve also enables us to: “Discern necessities of the time” “Distinguish between truth and error”; and “see and shun Satan’s wile” And all these abilities are communicated to us when we put self aside and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us. Said Jesus/ Yeshua, “He (The Holy Spirit) shall glorify me- for he shall receive of mine, and show it unto you.” (Jh 16:14).
There is still hope for Laodicea, but only when she surrenders to the convictions of the Holy Spirit. “The heart (human mind)” says the prophet Jeremiah, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). And the one the heart deceives most is self. “There are those who, though professedly serving God, are witnessing against Him.” This is hard to believe yet it is nevertheless true. This was the case of Saul the Persecutor; this is also the case with Laodicea. We need desperately to meet Christ on the Damascus road.
For too long we have appraised ourselves on the basis of our baptismal success and the glowing progress reports. But the time has come when we must put these aside and anoint our eyes with the eyesalve, the discernment of the Holy Spirit, so that we may see ourselves as Our Lord does, when He declares “I know thy works… thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked.” Speaking about those “who have held positions of trust in the work of God”
Faith and love are golden treasures, elements that are greatly wanting among God’s people…. Unbelief is closing their eyes so that they are ignorant of their true condition. The True Witness thus describes their blindness.
Surely our denominational success has deceived us into a false evaluation and a false security. It is my sincere prayer, “That the God of Our Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe….” (Eph 1:17-19).
Once our eyes of understanding have been opened and we see ourselves as Christ sees us, we will be able to appreciate the precious gold tried in the fire that Christ is offering to Laodicea. For this gold is none other than the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua. According to the Apostle Peter, gold tried by fire is equated with faith that has endured the test: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perished, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus/ Yeshua Christ.” (1 Pet 1:7).
Laodicea is well aware of the fact that before Christ comes the Church will be plunged into a time of trouble “such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” (Dan 12:1). The prophet Jeremiah describes it as the time of Jacob’s trouble, “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer 30:7). What will make the testing time for God’s people so great? Certainly not the physical hardships and sufferings. It will have to toe the mental anguish as a result of what seems from a human standpoint, God forsaking us and laving us to the mercy of Satan and his wicked world. (Isa 54:7, 8)
In the light of this, how can Laodicea stand and glorify God? Certainly not in her own strength. The only faith that has endured the consuming fire of God’s wrath was the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua, when at the cross God “spared not His own Son” (Rom 8:32) the full wages of sin – God abandonment (Matt 27:46). The faith of Jesus/ Yeshua endured this fiery test because it was grounded on self-sacrificing love. It is only this faith which worketh by love and which has already been proven to the uttermost at the cross that can take Laodicea through the time of Jacob’s trouble and vindicate the power of the gospel.
The gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work; but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ (i.e. Divine Agape, and not human Eros), we can never be numbered with the family of heaven.
The gold here recommended as having been tried in the fire, is faith and love. It makes the heart rich, for it has been purged until it is pure, and the more it is tested the more brilliant is its luster.
But may I remind Laodicea that the gold tried in the fire must be bought. It must be communicated to us through the Holy Spirit: “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus/ Yeshua Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love,” (Gal 5:5, 6).
According to the counsel of the True Witness, Laodicea is offered gold tried in the fire, that she may be rich. The cause of our poverty is not that we lack faith. Like our works, our faith too, is of human origin. This means that it is polluted with self, or in other words, it is self-centred or ego-centric faith. It is the same kind of faith that the Apostle James condemns in his Epistle, because it is without love and therefore cannot produce fruit. It is faith void of genuine works and hence it is really dead (James 2:l4-26). This faith has made us spiritually poor. Our faith in Christ and our service for Christ are not motivated by self-sacrificing love, but is full of self-interest. But:
Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing.
This is our situation. Trapped into a subtle form of legalism by the enemy of souls, God’s people today, on the whole, are “engaged in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment.” Our faith, generated from a selfish heart, has produced self-righteousness. Something that looks good on the outside, but is really a counterfeit and filthy rags in God’s eyes.
By teaching our people that justification by faith is merely the forgiveness of our past sins, rather than the receiving of ALL of Christ’s righteousness, we have produced a people who are still insecure about heaven and therefore are putting forth effort to keep the law, motivated purely by selfish interest in order that they may secure salvation. This false concept of justification by faith has robbed us of love for Christ and consequently the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua which worketh by love and whose fruit is the righteousness of Christ (white raiment) imparted to the believer.
When we as a people, through a clear understanding of the three angels message which is in verity, righteousness by faith, finally surrender or give up our self-centred faith for the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua, and are willing to be found only in Him, not is not something we can generate; it belongs to Christ alone and having our own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness of Christ, both imputed and imparted, which is by faith, then will come to pass the prediction of Rev 14:12. God will declare to a sceptical world: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God (not in letter but in Spirit, Rom 7:6), and the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua.” That will be a great day for God, and may it come soon.
We come now to the final element Laodicea must buy of Christ: “white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness does not appear.” We do not need to use many words to identify this white raiment all are aware that it refers to the perfect righteousness of Christ (Matt 17:2). In Rev 19:8 this white raiment, or fine linen is referred to as “the righteousness of saints” – obviously the righteousness of Christ imparted to them: “The white raiment is purity of character, the righteousness of Christ imparted to the sinner.” Please note that it is the imparted righteousness of Christ not merely imputed. It is a “spotless character made pure in the blood of their dear Redeemer.” The character Christ developed by faith in His humanity, which humanity was identical to ours (Heb 2:14-l8; Rom 8:3), will be developed in His people when they take hold of His faith – the gold tried in the fire.
As the last generation of Christians we need and must have both the imputed as well as the imparted righteousness of Christ. This is because, not only must we appear clothed and without shame, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, before the judgment seat of God now going on in heaven; but much more. We must also be clothed and without shame through the imparted righteousness of Christ, in the final impending conflict that will vindicate the victory of Christ over Satan, when as God’s people we will be tested and tried to the uttermost in the War of Armageddon (Rev 12:17; l6:12-14). In this war “every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day (of judgment) shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor 3:13; also read v. 11-15). Clearly, the only works that will withstand this fiery test (1 Pet 1:7) will be that which has been produced by the gold already proven by fire – the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua.
The real test or Issue that every believer comprising the last Church on earth must face at the time of Jacob’s trouble is this: Are you willing to sacrifice heaven, as Moses and Paul were (Ex 32:31,325 Rom 9:1-3), and still be loyal to God? Only thus can love, the love of God, really be vindicate. Certainly the flesh can never endure such a test for it is sold under sin or self (Rom 7:14). It Is only the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua which worked by love, that will be able to stand, for it proved itself on the cross when Christ, even though forsaken of God, refused to come down from the cross and save Himself.
As leaders of the Church, and Shepherds of the flock we are all aware that “perilous times” have come upon us (2 Tim 3:1). The world is indeed ripe for the end but alas God’s people are not ready:
The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodiceans as in a position of carnal security. They are at ease, believing them-selves to be in an exalted condition of spiritual attainment.
What we have failed to do during the time of prosperity we must now accomplish in these very difficult days. Thank God it is not too late, but time is short. This false security must go for it will not carry us through the fire. Let us repent therefore and take heed to the heavenly voice. This is my plea:
Again and again has the voice from heaven addressed you. Will you obey this voice? Will you heed the counsel of the True Witness to seek the gold tried in the fire, the white raiment, and the eyesalve? The gold is faith and love, the white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the eyesalve is that spiritual discernment which will enable you to see the wiles of Satan and shun them, to detect sin and abhor it, to see truth and obey it.
UNIT NO. 6 – LAODICEA IS BEBUKED AND CHASTISED – REV. 3:19
AS MANY AS I LOVE, I REBUKE AND CHASTEN: BE ZEALOUS THEREFORE, AND REPENT.
The Laodicean message does not stop at the counsel. It would have been enough for Christ to do so had God’s people been only cold. But being lukewarm we have been deceived into a false security and our unconscious sin of self-righteousness has made us a very proud people, hard to convince, stubborn and not easily teachable. The result is:
The Testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance, and all that truly receive it will obey it and be purified.
The message to Laodicea has not accomplished that zealous repentance among God’s people which I expected to see, and my perplexity of mind has been great.
The True Witness” ‘foreseeing all this therefore does not stop at the counsel but proceeds to rebuke as well as chasten Laodicea. Insubordination is a terrible sin in God’s eyes. And yet, as God’s people and especially as leaders and shepherds of the flock, we (and I include myself) are guilty of this very thing. God is not pleased with our attitude, but because He loves us and wants us to repent He must rebuke and chastise His Church.
Today, we as a people are confessing that the Second Coming of Our Lord has been delayed because we have not finished the work and therefore it is our fault. While this is both good and true it is not enough. This is because the real problem behind the delay is not an unfinished work but an independent work. With the modern means of communication available to us and a bigger budget, surely it is possible to proclaim the three angels’ message a thousand times around the world. And yet this will not accomplish the task, as long as self is still on the throne.
What Laodicea must realise is that the three angels’ message is really the revelation of God’s power to deliver man from sin – not just its guilt and punishment but also its power. Unless we as a people can demonstrate to a skeptical and unbelieving world that Christ is able to deliver us from the principle of self (Babylon) and produce in us His Righteousness, which manifested the self-sacrificing love of God, our task will remain unfinished. Thus the only way “the work” will be finished is when Christ has a people who through “deep repentance” have turned away from self-dependence. This is Righteousness by Faith.
With longing desire Christ has been knocking at our door for the past 90 plus years. He is waiting for a people who will open the door and make themselves TOTALLY available to Him, so that he may lighten this earth with His glory (Rev 18:1). Hence the Laodicean message must work “deep repentance”, since self must be dethroned in order for Christ to be enthroned. But because of our unbelief and stiff-necked attitude towards the straight testimony of the True Witness, this will only be accomplished after the Lord rebukes and chastises us. Why this is necessary is what we must investigate in this unit.
But first of all it is of utmost importance that we as a people fully understand what is our role and task in these last days. What the Christians must accomplish in these difficult times. After so many years the church must confess with shame that it has failed to reveal to a lost world the life and character of their Saviour. The church’s failure to manifest the life of Christ may well have stimulated the famous remark of Nietzsche, the pagan philosopher: “If you want me to believe in your Redeemer, you’ll have to look a lot more redeemed!” The well-known Mahatma Ghandi of India made a similar statement when he was in South Africa: “If Christians were to live the life of their master, all India would bow down to Christianity.”
This is now our task, to show this doomed world what Christ is really like. And this task of lightening the earth with His glory must begin with a clear understanding of the truth as it is in Christ. For Jesus/ Yeshua said: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free….if the son (i.e. the truth) therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (Jn 8:32-36). The context of this passage is the bondage to sin or self, the stumbling-block to holy living.
The reason why self, this stumbling-block to the unfinished work, plays so great a part in everything that we do as a people, is because we have failed to grasp the full significance of the cross of Christ, the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor 1:18). All Christians are aware the fact that on the cross Christ died for our sins. It is through this supreme sacrifice that forgiveness of sins becomes possible. But wonderful as this may be, Christ’s death for our sins cannot deliver us from the power or principle of sin that has all men in its grip. That which will accomplish our deliverance from “the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23) is OUR death in Christ.
But here is a truth that very few of God’s people are familiar with. According to the clear teaching of scripture, not only did Christ die to sin but much more, we too died in Him. (Read 2Cor 5:14; Col 2:20; 3:3; 2Tim 2:11; 1Pet 2:24). Having gathered unto Himself the whole fallen Adamic race in the Incarnation, Christ, as the second Adam, brought to an end the sinful life of the first Adam at the cross. Thus He condemned sin-this life of sin-once and for all in the flesh (Rom 6:10; 8:3). Then in the resurrection He raised up this Adamic race with His own life; a life which produced perfect righteousness in sinful flesh. Thus He not only freed us from sin but made it possible for us to “walk in newness of life”. (Rom 6:4).
It is this life of Christ which He laid down for us at the cross and which we received in the resurrection (1Pet 1:3) that makes it possible for fallen man to live above sin and fulfill the righteousness of the law (Rom 8:4). This truth accomplished at the cross is made real in our experience by faith alone, when we surrender to the cross of Christ and are baptised. According to Roman 6:3-6 the true meaning of baptism is our union with Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected. Baptism thus understood becomes not only the basic of our salvation (MK 26:15, 16) but also the basis of our deliverance from the power of sin. True baptism must result in walking in newness of life. But unfortunately, very few of God’s people have grasped this truth and the result is our Laodicean condition. Note this inspired statement:
The new birth is a rare experience in this age of the world. This is the reason why there are so many perplexities in the churches. Many, so many, who assume the words Christ are unsanctified and unholy. They have been baptised, but they were buried alive. Self did not die, and therefore they did not rise to newness of life in Christ.
Once the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes and given us understanding of this vital truth of the cross, and we surrender to it, then like Paul we can declare: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20). The formula of the Gospel for Christian living defined here in this text, is: “It is not I but Christ.” Hence there is need for “deep repentance” – a turning away from a perverted and false Gospel to the truth as it is in Christ. This is truly coming out of Babylon.
When we turn to the Old Testament we find this same important truth of death to our self-life so that we may walk in newness of Christ-life clearly taught in the Exodus experience, which incidentally, has been recorded for our benefit “upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor 10:11).
According to 1 Cor 10:2 the crossing of the Red Sea is equated with the baptism of ancient Israel. When the Jews passed through the Red Sea they were actually saying goodbye forever to Pharaoh (symbol of Satan) and to Egypt (symbol of the world) and were baptised into Moses (symbol of Christ). Unfortunately, in going through this experience they did not say goodbye to their own self-life, which they should have done, if their deliverance from the “house of bondage” was to be fully accomplished. The result was that their self-life became a stumbling-block to them to the wilderness and which made it impossible for them to enter Canaan (symbol of heaven). This is clearly brought out in 1 Cor 10:5-10 and Heb 3:15-19.
It was for this reason that God had to rebuke and chastise His people in the wilderness for forty years. He had to get rid of their self-life which was a hindrance to His Divine purpose.
The wilderness wandering was not only ordained as a judgement upon the rebels and murmurers, but it was to serve as a discipline for the rising generation, preparatory to their entrance into the Promised Land. Moses declared to them: “As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chastened thee ,”to humble thee (crucify self), and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart (self-life), whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no.”
Finally as a concluding lesson, God required those that entered into the Promised Land to be rebaptised in the river Jordan. Note carefully what took place in this experience. According to Joshua 4:2-9 the leaders of Israel were to take 12 stones from the midst of the Jordan across to the Promised Land and build an altar “for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.” (v.7). In exchange Joshua took 12 stones from the wilderness and placed them in the midst of the Jordan (v.9). Thus the true meaning of baptism was brought home to God’s people: This self-life which they had brought along into the wilderness was to die and be buried in the Jordan for ever, and in exchange, they were to enter Canaan with the new resurrected life of Christ.
The very thing which delayed Israel of old from entering Canaan has delayed modern Israel from entering the heavenly Canaan: For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan,. In either case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.
As it was with ancient Israel, so it is with Laodicea. At the very heart of our unbelief, murmuring, worldliness, unconsecration and strife is this self-life that loves itself, the world and things of this world. Therefore as God rebuked and chastised ancient Israel so He must deal with Laodicea. This self-life must be brought to an end so that Christ’s life may take over and fulfill the Divine purpose. Any form of repentance or confession that does not accomplish this is falling short of the Divine objective!
In analyzing this text under consideration (Rev 3:19) it would be well for us to observe the following facts. The first is the motive in His dealing with us. It is both wonderful and assuring to note that God’s rebuke to Laodicea begins with this statement: “As many as I love.” Surely this is encouraging and must give us hope. For even though we have failed miserably in our task and therefore greatly disappointment Our Lord, it is not out of anger but infinite love that Christ rebukes and must chastise us. If not for any other reason, this itself should be enough to bring about the desired repentance.
The next thing which we must take note of is the distinction between “rebuke” and “chasten”. To rebuke generally means to scold or tell off, while chasten has to do with punishing. The rebuke naturally comes first, but when this fails to bring about a change in us, the chastening must follow. This is how it was with ancient Israel. After repeated rebukes through His prophets had failed to produce deep repentance, God finally had to cure His ancient people of idolatry through corporate punishment in the form of the Babylonian captivity.
Once again, it seems that God will be forced to repeat the same procedure with modern Israel. For certainly His many rebukes have failed to accomplish the required repentance:
The rebuke of God is upon us because of our neglect of solemn responsibilities. His blessings have been withdrawn because the testimonies He has given have not been heeded by those who professed to believe them. Oh, for a religious awakening! The angels of God are going from church to church, doing their duty; and Christ is knocking at the door of your hearts for entrance. But the means that God has devised to awaken the church to a sense of their spiritual destitution have not been regarded. The voice of the True Witness has been heard in reproof, but has not been obeyed. Men have chosen to follow their own way instead of God’s way because self was not crucified in them. Thus the light (the truth as it is in Christ) has had but little effect upon minds and hearts.
Even though the above statement was written many years ago, sad to say, our attitude today towards the straight testimony of the True Witness has not changed; self remains uncrucified and therefore Christ is still patiently waiting outside of our lives “knocking at the door.” Consequently not only has God withheld the outpouring of His Spirit but now it seems the chastening process has begun.
But as with the rebukes, so also with the chastening, it is all given out of infinite love by a God that cares: “For whom the Lord loved He chastened, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth,” (Heb 12:6). The Bible makes it very clear that the chastening of God is always for the good of His people: “For they (our earthly fathers) verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasures (to give vent to their anger); but He (God) for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” (Heb 12:10).
The Bible has much to say about the chastening of God. It would be well for the reader to consider the following texts: Deut 8:5; Job 5:17; Ps 54:11-15; Prov 3:11,12; Isa 48:10,11; Mal 3:1-3; Jn 15:2; Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 4:15-18; Heb 12-,5-14; 1 Pet 1:3-7; 4:12-14. A careful reading of these passages clearly reveal that chastening is God’s most successful means of purifying His people of self and reproducing in them His righteousness: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” (Heb 12:11).
However, please note that God’s chastening becomes meaningful only “unto them which are exercised thereby.” And this brings us to our final point. The whole purpose behind Our Lord’s rebukes and chastening is that we “be zealous therefore, and repent.” Clearly, without this zealous repentance the chastening of the Lord will not bear fruit – the peaceable fruit of Christ’s righteousness.
From Laodicea’s point of view our most desperate need is to have our eyes opened to our true spiritual condition – that we are spiritually destitute. But from God’s point of view the most urgent need is that we as God’s people, repent; that means turning away from depending upon our resources of the flesh to Christ and His resources of the Spirit. Without this, God’s hands are tied and therefore we are left helpless to finish the work. The result being all our promotional programmes to hasten the finishing of our task will bear no genuine results.
It is important that we, as the shepherds of the flock, fully understand and are perfectly aware of what it means when Christ calls us to zealous repentance. It must become clear to us that this involves more than an acknowledgement of our responsibility for the more than eighty year delay of the Second Advent. The word “zealous” used here by the True Witness means “fervent” and this means that Christ is looking for more than a public confession from the Church regarding our faults and failures of the past. To put it better, God wants “deep repentance” from His people and this involves a total rejection of self and a heartfelt appreciation of Christ Our Righteousness. Without this earnest and deep repentance we shall fail to experience the outpouring of the Latter Rain, the vital ingredient necessary to “finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness” -(Rom 9:28)
As mentioned earlier in this unit, any confession or repentance that does not bring about a radical change of direction by God’s people from self-dependence or this mixture of Christ plus self to a total dependence on Christ, that is, righteousness by faith alone, both in terms of the imputed as well as the imparted righteousness of Christ, such repentance is falling short of what God demands from Laodicea.
The word “repent” as found in Rev 3:19 (Gk. metanoason) means “to have another mind“. And this is what God requires of His people to turn away from our carnal mind and have the mind of Christ. The mind Laodicea has is the mind of self-righteousness “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;” From this attitude we must turn away and like Paul cry out: “o wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” It is only after we have such a change of mind that we can confess; “I thank God through Jesus/ Yeshua Christ our Lord.” (Rom 7:24,25).
In Phil 2:5 the believers at Phillippi were counselled by the Apostle Paul: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus/ Yeshua:” What does it mean to have a mind like Christ? In the first place it is a mind that is totally emptied of self. Expounding on the mind of Christ, Paul declared, “But made himself (Gk. emptied himself) of no reputation” (Phil 2:7). And secondly, it is a mind that is under the full control of the Holy Spirit, so that the thoughts, desires and actions proceed from God (read Lk 4:1; 14). Such was the mind of Christ.
Recorded in the Gospel of John we have these words of Jesus/ Yeshua Himself, “I can mine own self do nothing.” (Jh 5:19,30). Because of this attitude Christ lived entirely “by the Father” (Jh 6:57). According to Jesus/ Yeshua’ own words this meant “I do nothing of myself” (Jh 8:28). The mighty works that Jesus/ Yeshua did were therefore works that proceeded from God (read Jh 10:32,37,38; 14:1O,11). Unlike us, Christ as a man walked entirely in the power of God through the indwelling Spirit. Thus He manifested God in the flesh (see Jh 14:9; 1 Tim 3:16). This is truly Righteousness by Faith.
In Rom 8:5-10 Paul describes for us two kinds of minds possible in the life of a believer: the carnal mind that is “enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (v.7). And the spiritual mind which gives life “because of righteousness” (v.10). The latter belongs to Christ (v.2) and is what God wants Laodicea to have. Armed with such a mind the Apostle Peter tells us we will cease from sinning (read 1 Pet 4:1). The mind of Christ is a mind that will never consent to sin but always to righteousness. Such a mind, even though it will bring suffering and disappointment to the flesh each time we are tempted (see Heb. 2:18), will nevertheless glorify God. And is this not the only desire we must have in these last days?
Having taken our humanity, the sinful humanity of Adam after the fall, Christ, the Captain of our salvation, had to be made perfect through sufferings (Heb 2:10; 5:8, 9). In other words, in order for Christ to produce perfect righteousness in our sinful flesh in which He was made, He had to suffer in this flesh which craved for sin, because it was sinful. This is the principle of cross-bearing: “If any man will come after me (i.e., walk in my footsteps), let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Lk 9:23).
For Laodicea to experience the righteousness of Christ this total obedience to the law she must have the “faith of Jesus/ Yeshua” (Rev 14:12); and to have the faith of Jesus/ Yeshua she must have the mind of Christ, a mind that has totally emptied itself of self. In the light of Laodicea’s lukewarm condition this is only possible through “deep repentance”. This will not be easy for it will bring untold suffering to this proud, self-righteous flesh of ours. But brethren, there is no other way: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” (1 Pet 4:1).
Proceeding with our study of Rev 3:19 notice that Christ not only demands repentance from Laodicea, but He also says, “be zealous”. Now this word “zealous” (Gk. zeleve) actually means hot or fervent and comes from the same root word for “hot” (Gk. zestos) found in Rev 3:15,l6. So then, when we put the word “zealous” together with the word “repent” we get a clear picture of what the True Witness wants of Laodicea. He wants us to turn away from our present lukewarm works which are of the law, to the hot works which is righteousness by faith alone.
In simple terms, Christ wants Laodicea to turn from righteousness by works to righteousness by faith; from producing her own righteousness of the law through self-effort to bearing the fruit of the Spirit, the righteousness of Christ. And the fruit of the Spirit, which we have already discovered as works of faith, can only be experienced by those who have lost all confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3) and are by faith abiding in Christ (Jh 15:4-8).
It is true that as a Church we claim to believe and teach Righteousness by Faith. But the doctrine of Righteousness by Faith means different things to different people. The Roman Catholic Church for example, whom we have rightly branded as Babylon, also believes and teaches Righteousness by Faith. So do the Evangelicals, and in fact most Protestant denominations. In other words, today may be found a variety of beliefs and teachings all labelled under the same heading: “Righteousness by Faith.” In the light of this fact, the question that we must ask ourselves is not are we preaching Righteousness by Faith, but are we proclaiming to the world and teaching our own people the true Righteousness by Faith? As it was in Paul’s day, so it is today. There are many concepts of the Gospel but only one true Gospel (Gal 1:6,7; 2 Cor 11:14).
Today, the various views held and taught on Righteousness by Faith may be divided into three fundamental concepts; they are (1) The Roman Catholic view which minimises Justification by limiting it to only forgiveness of past sins, and elevates Sanctification by making it all important, including the basis for our qualification to heaven (2) The Calvinistic or Reformation concept which teaches that Justification provides the believer with all of Christ’s Righteousness and therefore is everything. Sanctification, they teach, is important but does not belong to the doctrine of Righteousness by Faith because it includes our obedience or works. Then (3) we have this teaching which elevates both Justification and Sanctification as vital parts of the doctrine. In Justification by Faith God recognises the believer totally righteous in Christ and, like the Reformation concept, this qualifies us for heaven. Sanctification, which is also by faith alone, manifests Christ’s righteousness in us. Hence Justification and Sanctification are inseparable and must be both taught in this all important doctrine of Righteousness by Faith.
Since we, as the Church, have not taken a clear unified stand on which position we hold, all three concepts are preached and taught today among us. Thus many are presenting the Roman Catholic view with emphasis on what Christ does in us, others are teaching the Reformation view emphasizing what Christ did some two thousand years ago outside of us, and a few preaching the **1888 view which emphasised not only what Christ did outside of us but Insisted that this must be manifested in us by Christ’s work inside us. The result is, sad to say, much confusion about this subject, both among our people as well as in our witnessing.
UNIT NO. 7 – LAODICEA MUST OPEN THE DOOR – REV. 3:20
BEHOLD, I STAND AT THE DOOR, AND KNOCK: IF ANY MAN HEAR MY VOICE AND OPEN THE DOOR I WILL COME INTO HIM, AND WILL SUP WITH HIM, AND HE WITH ME.
When we turn to Rev 3:20 we come to a very sad note in the Laodicean message. For here we see Christ, the Faithful and True Witness, as the beloved Groom-loving, patient, longsuffering – knocking at the heart’s door of His Bride, the Church. But alas! She is asleep, unconcerned, does not want to be bothered and is quite satisfied without Him. This is indeed a very sad picture and one that must strike our conscience hard; for it is a picture of our own sad denominational history.
All the universe of heaven witnessed the disgraceful treatment of Jesus/ Yeshua Christ, represented by the Holy Spirit. Had Christ been before them, they would have treated Him in a manner similar to that in which the Jews treated Christ.
Unpleasant as this revelation may be, truth requires that it be faced honestly. Had the Church as a whole fully surrendered to Christ Our Righteousness in the fullest sense – that is with reference to both His imputed as well as His imparted righteousness, then clearly the Churches established in the Mission Fields, most of which were founded since 1901, would not have been built on the foundation of righteousness by works of the law. Yet twelve years of Mission service has clearly revealed to this worker that this is our true situation. Without doubt, it is clear that this is the result of our unfortunate history. We are reaping today in the Mission Fields the fruit of our sad history, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt 7:20).
It is of utmost importance therefore, in considering Rev 3:20, that we investigate the fundamental meaning and the full implication of the “knocking at the door.” For I believe that after almost ninety years of wandering in the wilderness of sin and self-righteousness, God, in His great mercy, longs to restore this most precious message of Christ Our Righteousness to His people and bring us once again back to the borders of the heavenly Canaan. And this time we cannot afford to fail Him, for the desperate situation of the world demands the Loud Cry and the Latter Rain.
We will begin our study of this unit by looking first at the introduction of our text, which is summed up in one word – “Behold”. This word literally means “to become aware of” or “take notice“. Since the source of our righteousness is self – the works of the law – we have unconsciously left Cur Lord outside of our works and are happily moving towards our goal, just as Joseph and Mary were proceeding towards their home after the Passover Feast, unaware that Jesus/ Yeshua had been left behind. Therefore Laodicea must “Behold” – become aware of – Christ Our Righteousness being outside of our works and as long as He is not the source, our words and works are but “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Laodicea must come to the realization that, wonderful as she may appear, there is a vacuum in her works – they are without Christ. Hence He is standing outside knocking at the door seeking an entrance. Having realised this fact in our studies of the previous units, our great need therefore is to hear or take note of the knocking – “if any man hear my voice.” And secondly, having heard the knocking, we must “open the door“. What does this all mean and involve? In other words, where actually is Christ standing and knocking from, and which door must Laodicea open? These are vital questions that must be answered if we are truly to benefit from the Laodicean message.
There are many in our midst whose understanding of Rev 3:20 is that Christ is standing outside of us seeking an entrance inside of us. Clearly, if this is the situation, we, as a people, are unconverted, and therefore unsaved. For the Apostle Paul makes it clear: “Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom 8:9). But this is not the situation of Laodicea. It may be true that there are many in the Church who are still unconverted even though they have been baptised, but when Christ addresses Laodicea He is addressing His Church, the last generation of Christians. Laodicea on the whole is made up of born-again Christians who have accepted Christ as their Saviour.
While it is obvious from the Laodicean message that there is much in common with our spiritual condition and that of the Jews of Christ’s day, our situation is nonetheless not identical to theirs. We have not openly rejected Christ but on the contrary believe in Him and are part of the Christian Church. Our sin is actually a subtle one and therefore difficult to detect. While Laodicea may be made up of born-again Christians who stand justified before God, she is nevertheless a carnal Church and here is where our problem of lukewarmness lies.
In view of this, where is Christ standing and knocking – which door please? If we are to understand the cause of our carnality and the real significance of the “knocking of the door”, it is essential that we clearly understand the fundamental structure and function of man as a spiritual being. Once this becomes clear to us we will be in a position to both understand and appreciate the true meaning of Rev 3:20 as well as come to grips with the very cause of our carnal condition. It is hoped that this in turn will help to bring about the necessary “deep repentance.”
When we consider man’s physical structure as a doctor does, we discover that he is made up of various components or organs, each having a specific function within the body but which at the same time, are closely related to eachother. So likewise, when we look at man through the spectacles of Scripture, or as a spiritual being, we will discover that he is made up of three components or organs (spirit, soul and body), each having a specific work in the spiritual realm, but which at the same time are closely related to eachother. Desirous for the total sanctification of the Thessalonians Christians, observe how Paul defines the whole mans “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23).
The great error of the Christian Church, after the Apostolic Period, was to separate the body from the soul and give the soul a separate existence independent of the body. This dualistic concept was borrowed from the Orphic religion f the reeks and is not a Biblical teaching. According to Scripture man is a complete
unit made up of spirit, soul and body, which together make up the whole man. The function of each of these three elements or components is distinct, contributing to the spiritual existence of the whole man, but none of these is able to exist
independent of the others, so that at death the whole man, spirit, soul and body
dies (Ezek 18:4,20; Ecc 9:5, 6; 8:8).
In examining the spiritual structure of man, as revealed in Scripture, we will find that there exists a definite connection between the temple of God as outlined in the old Testament, which was the Tabernacle or Sanctuary, and the Temple of God in the New Testament, which is the Christian himself (see 1 Cor 3:16,17; 6:19). This is because the Sanctuary or Temple of the Old Testament was a type or symbol of Christ incarnate (see Ps 29:9; Jh 2:19-21; Rev 21:3; also compare Ps 77:13 with Jn 14:4-6), who in turn is the prototype of the regenerate believer (read Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:5; Heb 3:4-6; 2 Cor 6:16).
You will notice in reading your Bible that the promises of God as given under the New Covenant are but the reality of the type as seen in the Sanctuary of the Old Covenant (read Jer 31:33,34; Ezek 36:26,27; Heb 8:6-13; 2 Cor 2-6). In studying carefully these texts, we see how that which war revealed in the Old Covenant is to be fulfilled in the New Covenant. In the Old the law was written on tables of stone and placed in the ark. In the New the same law is written in our hearts and placed in the “inward man” (Rom 7:22). In the Old God dwelt in the innermost part of the tabernacle, while in the New God in the person of His Spirit dwells in the innermost part of man. (Ezek 36:27; Jn 14:17; Rom 8:9, 11). In the Old the Sanctuary structure represented the temple of God but in the New the Christian himself becomes the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16, 17; 6:19).
Thus as God formerly dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex 25:8), so the Holy Spirit, Christ’s representative, indwells the Christian today. We know that the Sanctuary of the Old Covenant was divided into three parts (read Ex 25:8-27: 18; also Heb 9:2-4) – the Courtyard, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Likewise the Christian who in reality is God’s Temple (read Isa 57:15), is divided into three parts. The body with its various members may be compared with the Courtyard, occupying an external position with its life visible to all; this is the place of sacrifice (Rom 12:1; Col 3:5). Inside is man’s soul which constitutes the faculties of his mind (i.e. his emotions, the will and the intellect) through which God operates; this corresponds with the Holy Place, where the daily ministry of the priest was carried out. Innermost and behind the second veil, and man’s self-consciousness lies the human spirit which may be equated with the Most Holy Place, the dwelling place of God for in the converted man the Holy Spirit dwells in man’s spirit; it is “the secret place of the Most High”.
The following is a simple diagram of the Sanctuary, God’s Temple in the Old Covenant, which was a shadow or type of the Christian, who in Christ is the reality, the Temple of God in the New Covenant. The Sanctuary in other words typified Christ in the first place, with the believer in Him (“You in Christ” – The Objective Gospel) and secondly it also typified the Christian himself (“Christ in you” – The Subjective Gospel). Thus we may say that the Sanctuary of the Old Testament was God’s model plan of the Everlasting Gospel which was first fulfilled in Christ and must now be realised in the Church, of which each believer is a part.
Having discovered the facts, that spiritually man is constituted of spirit, soul and body, we can now proceed to consider the place and function of each of these elements and their relationship to the work of Christ in men through the Holy Spirit.
Every believer must realize he has a spirit, otherwise it will be almost impossible to worship God in the spirit (see Jn 4:23, 24); instead you will worship God according to your feelings (the thoughts and emotions of the soul), which is no true worship, and which unfortunately is the problem with much of our worship today. The Bible teaches clearly that every person possesses a spirit. This spirit must not be confused with our breath, nor equated with our soul, nor identified with the Holy Spirit. The following texts give ample proof that man, as created by God, possesses a spirit:
Prov 25:28 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
Zech 12:1 “… saith the LORD, which … formeth the spirit of man
within him.” (emphasis supplied).
1 Cor 2:11 “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save
the spirit of man which is in him? , .„”
Rom 8:16 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit
that we are the children of God,”
Besides the above texts, many other texts in Scripture clearly indicate that man has a spirit; and I believe it was this that God had primarily in mind when He declared: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:” (Gen 1:26); for “God is Spirit” (Jh 4:20). It is man’s spirit that makes him, above all, different from the animal’s and it is for this reason too, that we find even the most primitive man worshipping some form of a god. For the spirit of man desires to commune with the spirit world, just as our bodies communicate with the material world and through our souls (minds) are social beings. Man, in other words is a spiritual, social and physical being because he is made up of SPIRIT, SOUL and BODY.
Now the spirit of man was created or formed by God in order that He might have a dwelling place in man, as a result of which He could control and direct man’s mind or soul, which in turn, controlled the whole body (Col 2:19). Thus the whole man, living in total dependence on God, who indwelt him (in his spirit), could reflect the very character of God, which character is unselfish or selfless love
(1 Cor 13; 1Jn 4:7,8). This was God’s original plan and purpose for man when He created this world and our first parents.
But sad to say, the entrance of sin marred this wonderful program. When Adam sinned the Holy Spirit left him leaving his spirit vacant. As a result Adam’s life was plunged into darkness (selfishness replaced love) and he came under the dominion of Satan (see 2 Pet 2:19):
Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind (i.e. Spirit-controlled). He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy. But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love. His nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of evil. He was made captive by Satan, and would have remained so forever had not God specially interposed.
This is how, unfortunately, all the children of Adam era born, uninhabited by God and slaves to the Devil and sin. Thus, using fallen man as his tool, Satan has developed this world in total opposition to God. Therefore, men born in this world, uninhabited by God’s Spirit, can only walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Eph 2:2).
Nevertheless, sinful man has not been left without hope; for “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”(Eph 1:3). The plan of redemption formulated in the mind of God “before the foundation of the world” (see Eph 1:3) was designed to fully recover man from his fallen state and restore in him the image of God. This is what Christ has prepared for each one of us in His humanity and which now is made available to the believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Before conversion, the spirit of man is uninhabited by God’s Spirit so that its function can hardly be felt, except for the convictions made by the Holy Spirit from without. Consequently, that which dominates the whole man, prior to the new birth, is the soul with its life of self and the body with its lusts (Eph 2:3). However, at conversion the spirit of man is regenerated or made alive by the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Man’s spirit after conversion becomes the dwelling place of God and the seat of God’s will. This is what the new birth experience is all about, which experience is absolutely essential to justification, the imputed righteousness of Christ, and which is the prerequisite to sanctification; the imparted righteousness of Christ, the process by which God’s character is reproduced in man.
The believer who has experienced the new birth is a born again person who has received the life of Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit. Such an individual is described in Scripture as a babe in Christ (1 Cor 3:1), who is saved from the guilt and punishment of sin and is accounted righteous (justified) but who has yet to learn to “Walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:16). Just as a new born baby has to learn to walk on its feet, so also a baby in Christ must now learn to walk in the power of the indwelling Spirit; this is the process of sanctification. And as the Holy Spirit begins to increase in strength (i.e. control) in the life of the believer (this is only realised as we learn to walk by faith alone, which is by the Spirit), two things will be manifested: In the first place a change will take place and will be seen in the believer’s character (outward behaviour), so that it begins to reflect, more and more, the character of Christ, and secondly, the Christian will begin to sense that which proceeds from his spirit and that which comes from the self-life of the soul. This is the separation spoken about in Heb 4:12 between soul and spirit, which is produced by the Word.
It is in man’s spirit that God regenerates us, teaches us, and leads us into His rest. But sad to say, due to long years of bondage to the self-life of the soul, many Christians know very little of their spirit and the “Spirit of life” that dwells in them and which is able to make them “free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:12). We ought to tremble before God daily, asking him earnestly to teach us through experience what is spiritual and what proceeds from the feelings and emotions of the soul. Even in our Bible study we tend to depend and rely more on our mental ability (hence the emphasis on education and degrees) rather than letting the Spirit guide us into all truth (read 1 Cor 2:12-14; Jn 16:13).
The element which makes us human belongs to the soul. Some of these elements are: ability to learn and think; ideals, love or hate, feelings, discernment, choice and decisions etc. Numerous examples are to be found in the Bible, in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments (i.e. Hebrew and Greek), where the word “soul” is used to refer to man as a person
(a few are: Gen 14:21; Ex 1:5; Deut 10: 22; Acts 2:41; 7:14; Rom 13:1). This is because the seat and essence of man’s personality is to be found in the soul, which are the faculties of the mind (see Job 7:15 – will; Prov 2:10; 19:2 – knowledge; 2 Sam 5:8; Job 10:1; Jn 12:27 – emotions).
Since the soul is the seat of our personality, it is the seat of the real “I”. For this reason the Scriptures often use the word “soul” (in the original) as a personal pronoun such as I, You, Me (some examples are Gen 12:13; Deut 23:24; Mk 14:34). Therefore our “self” is our soul. Hence, everything that originates from the soul is polluted with self, and which the Bible equates with iniquity; that is why self-righteous acts are condemned by God in the judgement as works of iniquity (see Matt 7:21-23).
Again, since everything originating from man’s soul is infected with self, the Bible uses the word “soul” often to refer to self. Two examples that may be cited are Lev 11:43 – “yourselves” (original = soul) and Esther 9:31 – “themselves” (original = soul).
The soul, with its life of self, is fallen man’s natural life and is referred to in the Scriptures as “the flesh” (see Gal 3:3; Rom 8:4). This is an important fact that all Christians must realise, for it bears greatly upon whether you become a spiritual Christian or remain a carnal (fleshly) believer (see Rom 8:5,6). Since the life of the soul is none other than the life of self, therefore, the thoughts, desires, opinions, love, feelings, etc that originate or proceed from the soul independent of God’s Spirit, are all controlled by self. This is our natural life because we inherit it at birth. Consequently, such a life is the life of the flesh, which is the only life the unconverted man can live; and nothing we do of ourselves can change this life, not even education or culture. But, sad to say, this life of the flesh is also the experience of the carnal believer (see 1 Cor 3:3), a life that is a contradiction to Christ and the life of the Spirit.
In the wholly sanctified man, however, the self-life of the soul is crucified through the application of the cross of Christ (see Gal 5:24); as a result that which proceeds from the soul (mind) as well as the behaviour of the body (since the body is controlled by the soul), is now under the direction and authority of the Holy Spirit which indwells the believer’s spirit. Such a life is the Life of Christ reproduced in the believer, and is well pleasing to God.
This brings us now to our main point and that is the operation or work of Christ’s Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. We have established the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in the spirit of the believer; but it is in the believer’s soul or wind that He operates. Just as God, in the Sanctuary of the Old Testament, dwelt in the Most Holy Place, but directed His people through the ministry of the Holy Place (Ex 28:30; Num 27:21), so likewise the same procedure is followed in the human temple; Christ through His Spirit, dwells in the believer’s spirit but operates through his soul. When this happens, the believer has the mind of Christ (read Phil 2:5)
It must be made clear at this point that the believer’s body, and therefore his behaviour, is never controlled directly by the holy Spirit, but is done through the soul (mind). Going back to the earthly Sanctuary you will notice that access to the Most Holy Place was only possible through the Holy Place, so that it was impossible to communicate from the Most Holy Place to the courtyard except through the Holy Place. Similarly, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer’s spirit (represented by the Most Holy Place) can have access or controls his body (typified by the courtyard) only through his soul (symbolised by the Holy Place).
In order to see how this works in actual practice we must consider the life of Christ, for He is the prototype and our example. The humanity of Christ was identical to that of ours in every point (see Heb 2:17); so that the body He received through Mary was a body of sin (Gal 4:4; Rom 1:3) which was dominated by the law of sin (Rom 8:2,3). For this reason Christ could be and was tempted in all points as we are (Heb 4:15), which was through the lust of the flesh (James 1:14). However, right from His birth or conception, Christ was born of the Spirit (Lk 1:35); and not only that, but from the very beginning of His earthly existence, He learnt to walk in the Spirit, so that Luke could declare, “the child (Jesus/ Yeshua) grew, and waxed strong in spirit …” Thus the mind or soul of Christ from the very start of His human history was under the full control of the Holy Spirit who dwelt in His Spirit (see Lk 4:1,14 for example).
Now the temptations of Christ came to Him through the sinful (selfish) desires of His flesh; as mentioned above, the same way as ours do. For example it was through bodily wants that Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness, to use His Divine power to satisfy self, independent of His Father’s will (Lk 4:2-4), or again, it was the natural fear of death (self-love of the flesh) that led Jesus/ Yeshua to plead thrice with His Father to remove the bitter cup of the cross (Mk 14:34-41). But the fact is, that the self-centred desires of the flesh cannot be satisfied without the consent ‘ of the mind or soul; in other words temptation in and of itself is not sin until the mind consents to the temptation – see James 1:14-15 “when lust hath conceived (in the mind) it bringeth forth sin:” But since the mind of Christ was under the full control of the Holy Spirit, the response of His mind to every temptation was NO! ….That is to say, “not my (self) will, but thine (God’s) be done.” Therefore sin had no part in His life (Jn 6:38); but instead He condemned sin (the law of sin or self) in the flesh (Rom 8:2, 3). Christ’s flesh being sinful flesh like ours, lusted after sin, but His mind being spiritual never yielded to sin and therefore He conquered sin in the flesh, through the power of the Spirit. So likewise, if we have the mind of Christ, or to put it in Paul’s words, if we put on “the Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ” we will make” no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lust thereof.” (Rom 13:14).
In Heb 2:18 we read, “For in that He (Christ) himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Every time Christ was tempted He suffered. Now we know that Christ was tempted as we are, otherwise His being able “to succour them that are tempted” would become meaningless; but the question we must ask is where did Christ suffer being tempted? The answer is found in 1 Pet 4:1, “FORASMUCH then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise (like Christ) with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” Please note that the suffering of Christ which Peter is here referring to, has to do with victory over sin and not His physical suffering on the cross. Christ being tempted in the flesh, suffered in the flesh (see Heb 2:10), but His victory was in the mind. So also says Peter, if we arm ourselves with the mind of Christ, which was the mind of the Spirit (see Rom 8:5-10), sin will cease in our lives, but the flesh will suffer. This is because the nature of the flesh will always desire to sin and therefore must suffer if not satisfied.
It is in the mind or the soul that Christ gives the believer victory over sin, through the indwelling Spirit. In fact, it is this to which Paul was referring when he declared in Rom 7:25 “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Note also the admonition found in Rom 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world (i.e. “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” – see 1Jn 2:16) but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (surrendering the mind to the Spirit), that ye ‘nay prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The mind is surrendered to the Spirit by a continual attitude of prayer. This is what is meant by “praying in the mind.”
In the unbeliever, the soul as well as the body is under the dominion of sin (self-life) so that perfect harmony exists between the two. Paul made this clear to the Ephesians when he reminded them of their former or pre-converted life, which was “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;” (Eph 2:3). This is because the life of the soul is also the life of the body in the unconverted man, which life has been contaminated with self, as a result of the fall. In the carnal Christian who is born of the Spirit but still walking after, or in the power of the flesh (self-life) the mind may desire to keep the law or do the will of God, but unaided by the Spirit, it cannot overcome the law of sin in our members (read Rom 7:22,23). Such a life is also therefore marred by sin, although such sins may not be as grievous as the unbliever’s. But the spiritual Christian is one who is not only born of the Spirit but by faith, absolutely surrendered to the spirit (has the mind of Christ),so that it is no longer him but Christ, through His Spirit, that is living in him. Thus: “the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4).
The body in fallen man is the instrument which gives expression to the self-life of the soul. What the soul (mind) wills is expressed through the body. Now the body as created by God was made to be a servant of the soul, which in turn was to be under the direction and authority of God’s Spirit, dwelling in man’s spirit. Thus the desires of the body such as sex, hunger, love etc. as originally created by God were to be controlled by God through the soul (mind) so that man’s behaviour would reflect the character of God. But when man sinned and separated himself from God’s authority, becoming independent, the natural desires of the body, now polluted with self, became lust, satisfying self rather than God. Thus man’s nature became perverted so that the lust of the flesh became the controlling factor in man’s life. Hence the life of fallen man is in harmony with the principle of self originated by Satan, which is the very opposite of what God originally planned for man.
According to the Scripture our bodies, in their sinful condition, are referred to as “the body of sin” (Rom 6:6). This is because the principle of sin which is the principle of self has permeated every member of the human body (see Rom 7:23). Now the body in and of itself is not sinful, but it is the self-life that motivates the body and which originates from the unregenerated soul that is sinful and therefore makes our bodies sinful. And this body with its life of sin is beyond repaid, for this reason the believer looks forward to the Second Advent when our sinful bodies will be redeemed (Rom 8:23; Phil 3:20,21; 1 Cor 15:50-54). Until then the principle of the cross which is the principle of self-denial must daily be applied through the Holy Spirit to our sinful lives (See LK 9:23)
The body of sinful man as well as his soul are both under the power of self so that at his very best, without God, he is totally self-seeking. This is the clear teaching of Scripture: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;”
(Isa 53:6, emphasis supplied; see also Phil 2:21; 2Tim 3:1,2). Thus the natural life of man is the life of the flesh which we must now consider.
The natural self-life of the soul and body together make up the life of the flesh. Man becomes flesh by birth (Jn 3:6). The natural man therefore cannot live any other life but the life of the flesh. Man may educate himself and become highly cultured, but he will still live the life of the flesh. That is to say, selfishness in one way or another will be the controlling factor in his life. The unconverted man is powerless to fulfill any of God’s will being “weakened by the flesh” (Rom 8:3). In fact, the flesh is hostile to the Spirit of God and will not truly submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot (Gal 5:17; Rom-6:7). Every believer must fully realise that the corruption of the flesh is unrepairable (1 Cor 15:50-53). Great though His power is, God will not transform the nature of the flesh into something that is pleasing to Him. This is because the self-life of the flesh belongs to the realm of Satan which realm is condemned by God unto destruction. For this reason, at the cross, Christ crucified the flesh (Heb 10:19, 20).
Both the soul and the body are by nature of the flesh, and we must never forget this. The unbeliever and, unfortunately, many Christian, do not understand God’s Word and are therefore always trying to improve or reform the flesh. Now the flesh being sinful is deceitful (Jer 17:9) so that it can appear good on the surface to oneself and to others; but within it is “full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (read Matt 23:25-28). Hence all genuine attempts to improve the flesh, either by punishing the body, or making promises and resolutions are bound to meet with failure. Due to its exceeding corruption, God warns His people to hate “even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 23).
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” said Jesus/ Yeshua (Jn 3:6) and therefore it will always remain so. God recognises the impossibility of the flesh to be changed, improved or bettered, since its originator, the devil, cannot change. In saving man, therefore, from the power of sinful flesh, He does not try to change the flesh. but has put it to death through the cross of Christ and instead gives man a new life, the life of His Spirit. The FLESH MUST DIE. This is salvation from the power of sin (Gal 5:24). Once the self-life of the soul surrenders to the cross of Christ by faith, this makes it possible for the Spirit to take over the faculties of the soul (mind).
It is important at this point that Laodicea also understands the dual works or behaviour of the flesh. When the lusts of the body dominate the life of an individual, such a life is full of wickedness. However, when the soul dominates a man he may live by high moral standards (moralists) so that his character may be a fairly good one. Nevertheless, the lives of both these individuals are the life of the flesh, even though their characters may be very different. The acts (or behaviour) of the flesh may therefore be divided into two distinct categories: (1) sinful acts and (2) self-righteous acts. The sinful acts mainly proceed from the lusts of the body and you will find a list of these acts enumerated in
Gal 5:19-21, referred to as “the works of the flesh.”
The self-righteous acts, on the other hand, proceed from the soul and do not resemble the defiling sins of the body. On the contrary, they are good, often religious and commendable acts. The self-righteous acts of Paul before his conversion are a good example (see Phil 3:4-6). This is called “works of the law”, Christians may hate the sinful acts of the flesh, but they often love the self-righteous acts (see Gal 3:3; 6:12, 13). This in fact is Laodicea’s problem. But in God’s sight both these works are condemned as sin, or iniquity (see Isa 64:6; Matt 7:22, 23). It is only when we Laodicean Christians realise this that we will be able to appreciate the stand Paul took with reference to his self-righteousness: “But what things were gain to me (his previous self-righteousness) those I have counted loss for Christ . . . and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own (self) righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Phil 3:7-9).
From the human point of view, self-righteous acts are highly valued and that is why Laodicea has been deceived; but from God’s point of view all the good acts of the soul (or flesh) are hostile to the Holy Spirit. This is because the flesh makes self the center and elevates self-will above God’s will. The soul may serve God, but always according to its own idea or feelings, not according to God’s; it may even try to keep God’s law with all its power, yet self never fails to be at the heart of every activity.
In 1 Cor 3:1-3 the Apostle Paul divides all believers into two classes: the spiritual Christian in whom the indwelling Spirit of God controls the whole man -spirit, soul and body; and the carnal Christian who has experienced the new birth (see v. 16) but is still dominated by the life of the flesh. Consequently, the life of the carnal Christian is not much different from that of the ordinary man (i.e. the unbeliever). The spiritual Christian on the other hand, is reflecting the life of Christ, being filled (i.e. wholly controlled) by the Holy Ghost (see LK 4:1; Acts 2:4; 11:24; Eph 5:18).
The major problem facing the Laodicean Church today is the problem of carnality. Our churches are full of babes in Christ, even though the believers on the whole are old Christians. According to Paul this was the problem of the Corinthian and Galatian churches (1 Cor 3:1-35 Gal 3:1-3). History has repeated itself, sad to say, but thank God it is not too late, Christ still stands at the door. May every believer learn therefore that there can be no partnership between the flesh and the Spirit -and that the ONLY formula for the Christian life is “IT IS NOT I (self-life) BUT CHRIST (Life).
Hence, victory over the flesh should be the deep longing of every believer, living in these last days since the glory of God is to lighten the whole world in our day (Rev 18:1). And this victory is gained through the deeper work of the cross, as the Holy Spirit daily brings it to bear upon us. Once a believer has by faith reckoned himself crucified with Christ (Rom 6:11) he must now allow God’s Spirit to put this into effect, crucifying daily the self of the flesh. Each time self pops up its ugly head, the Spirit will bring conviction; our reaction must not be to defend or excuse ourselves, but surrender this self to the cross of Christ. When self is completely crucified in God’s people then the splendor of God’s glory will shine forth through our mortal bodies (see Rom 8:11-14). This is the Loud Cry that will lighten the earth with Christ’s glory.
The total life of the Christian is intended by God to be a life guided and controlled by the Spirit of Christ (read Prov 3:5,6). Thus the Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is the one who (1) Liberates us from this self-life of sin and reproduces in us the glory of Our Lord (2 Cor 3:17,18). (2) Is the means of sanctification
(2 Theses 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). (3) Guides us into all truth (Jn 16:13) – (4) makes our prayers meaningful (Rom 8:26; Jude 20); and (5) gives us the power to witness the Gospel (LK 24:49; Acts 1:8). Therefore putting self aside through deep repentance we must make full provision for Christ’s Spirit to communicate unto us the full salvation prepared and provided for us in Christ Jesus/ Yeshua. This is what the opening of the door involves.
Returning to Rev 3:20 let us now consider the true significance of the knocking on the door in the light of what we have just studied. Clearly, Christ through His Spirit is dwelling in our spirits but is outside of our souls or minds. Hence, self still dominates us and therefore, even though we are born-again Christians, we are nevertheless walking after the flesh which makes us carnal Christians. Consequently our works are lukewarm – they belong to self-righteousness. But if our works are to be well pleasing to God, Christ must have all of us and as long as self is enthroned in our minds He is left outside of our works.
In the Sanctuary of the Old Testament the veil separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. This veil represented the flesh of Christ (see Heb 10:20), which flesh was really our flesh which He took upon Himself. On the cross this veil of the temple “was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matt 27:51). This meant that now God dwelling in the Most Holy Place (spirit) had full access to the Holy Place (mind). This incident signifies that at the cross Christ brought to an end the self-life of the flesh so that God may not only dwell in us but also walk in us (2Cor 6:16).
When this truth is applied to our lives by faith, it represents Laodicea opening the door of her mind to let Christ in. Please note that the opening of the door, as indicated in Rev 3:20, involves an intimate relationship with Christ: “I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” This same desire Jesus/ Yeshua expressed to His disciples! “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (Jh 15:4). This of course can only be realised when we as God’s people are willing through deep repentance, to surrender this self-life of ours to the cross of Christ and in exchange allow Christ’s life to take over control of our minds and thus dominate the works of the body.
This is the cleansing of the soul temple is a vital part of the final atonement Christ began in this generation: “For on that day shall the priest (Christ) make an atonement for you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It shall be a Sabbath of rest unto you (Righteousness by Faith), and you shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.” (Lev 16:30,31, emphasis supplied).
According to Col 3:10, we are as Christians “complete in Him (Christ)“. This means that everything necessary to qualify us for heaven as well as live holy lives here on earth has been prepared and provided for us in Christ Jesus/ Yeshua. In view of this Paul admonished the Colossian believers: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus/ Yeshua the Lord, so walk ye in him.” (Col 2:6). From this it becomes clear that Christ not only wants to impute His righteousness to us (i.e. receive Him) but much more; He also longs to impart His righteousness to us (i.e. walk in us). But for the latter to be realised we must put “off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:11). And this simply means the exchanging of our self-life for Christ’s righteous life. The one great truth Paul wanted the Colossians to know was this: “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3). This truth Laodicea also desperately needs to learn if her works are to be well pleasing to God.
In seeking an entrance into our minds, Christ longs to fulfill the New Covenant promise, which promise declares: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws in their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Heb 8:10 emphasis supplied). This is what Christ has been patiently waiting to do for His remnant people since the message of Christ Our Righteousness was brought to us.
When finally Laodicea does open the door of her mind or soul temple to the Lord, then shall we be, in the fullest sense, the “temple of the living God” and “as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them (those who worship self), and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved (Laodicea), let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 6:16-7:1, emphasis supplied).
Christ wants to enter into a new relationship with His Church, Laodicea. He still
stands at the door of our minds and wants to be admitted. It is the Lover of our soul,
who wants to come in; so beautifully described in the Song of Solomon: “Hark! My beloved is knocking. Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one …………………………………..
my beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me. I arose to open to my beloved.” (Song of Solomon 5:2-5). When this happens it will indeed be a glorious day for Laodicea, she will become truly “one flesh” with Christ.
My precious Church, Behold, I stand ,…
Is there no room inside?
I’ve waited long – so many years –
Just knocking here outside.
My arms are filled with special gifts,
Pure gold and healing balm,
A costly robe of whitest white,
There’s joy and peace and calm.
Must I go now and let you sleep,
Or should I knock some more?
I love you still; please move the things
And just unlatch the door!
UNIT NO. 8 – LAODICEA MUST OVERCOME – REV 3:21
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.
In the last unit Laodicea was offered an intimate relationship with Jesus/ Yeshua Christ if only she is willing to harken to the voice of her Beloved and through humility and deep repentance open the door of her heart to Him. Now as we turn to Rev 3:21, the conclusion of the Laodicean Message, we are offered the fruit or result of such a relationship with Christ along with a most precious promise: “As for the victorious, I will give him the honor of sitting beside me in my throne,” (Rev 3:21,).
We have already observed in our study of Rev 3:19 that God’s purpose in rebuking and chastising Laodicea is that we may, through deep repentance, become zealous for God. This repentance or change of mind in turn will cause Laodicea to open the door to Christ as author and finisher of our righteousness. The outcome or result of this will be victory for Laodicea. And this is the ultimate goal Christ has in mind for the last generation of Christians; that they might overcome “even as I (Christ) also overcame.”
When Christ came to this world, God sent Him “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). This meant that the flesh of Christ was identical to ours which is dominated by sin or self. At the end of His earthly ministry Christ declared to His disciples, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jh 16:33). By this Jesus/ Yeshua meant firstly that He had overcome the devil, and secondly, He had overcome all that is in the world, that is: “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”(1Jn 2:16). In other words, Christ “condemned sin (self-will) in the flesh.” (Rom 8:3) – that principle of sin and death that has made all men slaves to sin and the devil. And all this He accomplished in order that “he might deliver us from this present evil world,” (Gal 1:4); and give us everlasting hope in this life “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us (imparted righteousness), who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4, emphasis supplied).
This total victory Christ attained over Satan and sinful flesh, He now longs to communicate to Laodicea. This is the heart’s desire of the True Witness for His remnant people; that they might overcome even as He overcame. This means in the first place He wants us to overcome the world, “For whatsoever is born of God over-cometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world even our faith.” (1 Jh 5:4). Secondly, this also involves overcoming Satan and all the forces he can muster against God’s people, “Behold, I give unto you power …. over all the power of the enemy;” (Lk 10:19). Finally, Christ wants us to overcome the very nature and essence of sin which is self-love, so that men may see in us the self-sacrificing love of God (Jn 13:35).
In Rev 15:2 the Apostle John has recorded for us a most wonderful picture of Laodicea after she finally repents and overcomes: “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass having the harps of God.” What a glorious success, but how will Laodicea accomplish it: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (all the agents of the Anti-Christ): because greater is HE (Christ) that is in you, than he (Satan) that is in the world.” (1Jn 4:4).
At the end of His earthly mission Christ could claim that Satan had nothing at which he could point his finger. (Jn 14:20). The devil, and sinful flesh, was totally defeated. Likewise, at the end of the Church’s history, Christ will also produce a people in whom Satan can find no fault (Rev 11:5), even though they will be tried and tested to the uttermost in the time of Jacob’s trouble. This final display of the power of the Gospel will vindicate Christ forever in the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan. Through Laodicea, Christ will finally demonstrate His victory over sinful flesh and the devil. And it is only when this is accomplished that Jesus/ Yeshua will declare “It is finished” and He will come for His own, to usher in everlasting righteousness and peace.
Thus Paul declares, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2Cor 10,4,5). Surely, if only Laodicea will allow Christ to be “Our Righteousness” then we can join Paul in saying, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,” (Rom 8:37).
But now we must come to a most important consideration. What is involved in being an over-comer? The cost of overcoming as Christ overcame, is, in one word, BROKENESS. To understand what this means, it would be well for us to consider the great lesson brought to us through nature. We are all aware of the fact that every grain of seed possesses life within itself. This life is to be found in the germ which is located in the very heart or innermost part of the seed. For this life to break forth and be fruitful the outer shell of the seed must die or be broken. Until this happens the life of the seed remains dormant, encased in a hard impenetrable shell. But when the seed is cast to the ground the outer shell dies but the result is that the life within breaks forth to bear much fruit, (l Cor 15:36).
Using this simple lesson from nature, Jesus/ Yeshua declared,” Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (Jn 12:24). Applying this truth to the believer, Jesus/ Yeshua continued,” He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (v.25).
The natural self-life of the soul with its outer shell, the body, is the great hindrance to the inner life of the Spirit which every believer possesses through the new birth. This is because the life of the flesh loves itself and all that goes to make up the world. Consequently, unless this outer life of sinful man dies or is broken, through the application of the cross of Christ, the life of Christ we possess through the indwelling Spirit remains dormant and as a result the believer bears no genuine fruit. This is clearly Laodicea’s problem.
Anyone serving God will discover sooner or later that the great stumbling block to his work is not others or the church but himself. He will discover that his outward man, the flesh, and his inward man, the Spirit, are totally out of harmony. He will also sense the inability of his outward man to surrender to the Spirit’s control, thus rendering him incapable of obeying God’s commandments, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Gal 5:17; see also Rom 7:22,23).
If Laodicea really understands her divinely appointed mission as outlined in Rev 14:6-12; we will readily confess that this self-life of the flesh is and has been truly a great hindrance to the cause of God. It is very true to say that God is much restricted by man. Therefore unless this sinful life of ours is made ineffective through the death of the cross of Christ, the great commission placed upon Laodicea’s shoulders will never truly be accomplished.
In the Gospel we have recorded a most beautiful illustration of how Christ’s selfless love may flow out of us. It is found in the story of Mary and her Alabaster Box of Precious Ointment, a story which Jesus/ Yeshua said will be told wherever the Gospel is preached (Matt 26:6; Mk 14:3; Jn 12:3). The Scriptures refer to the ointment of Spikenard in the alabaster box as being “very precious”. Likewise, “Christ in you” is also very precious to every believer for He is “the hope of Glory” (Col 1:27). As Paul put it to the Corinthians, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the Excellency of the power may be of God, and not us.” (2Cor 4:7).
But, as in the case of Mary’s incident, if the alabaster box is not broken, the pure and precious fragrance of the spikenard will not flow out. So likewise, unless our earthen vessel is cracked open, the precious life of Christ within us will go unnoticed. But strange to say, many are still treasuring the alabaster box, thinking that its value exceeds that of the ointment. Many think that the outer life of the flesh with all its attainments is more precious than the Inner life of Christ and its righteousness. This has indeed become one of the great problems of the church. For one will treasure his degrees thinking the church cannot do without it; another will treasure his administrative abilities thinking it is quite important to the cause of God; again another will treasure the soul-winning gimmicks he has invented thinking that the church’s success depends upon it; and so forth.
But is it not high time that we realise that we are not antique collectors or vase admirers? Beautiful as our earthen vessel may seem to us, the real treasure lies inside the righteousness of God in Christ through the indwelling ointment of the Holy Spirit. And our one and only desire must be to let the world smell the fragrance of this ointment – the glory of Our Lord Jesus/ Yeshua Christ. But without the crucifixion of the outward man, this earthen vessel, there can be no revelation of Christ, the precious indwelling ointment.
The Holy Spirit has not ceased working in our midst. One event after another, one thing after another, comes to us. Each rebuke or each chastening from the Lord has but one purpose: to bring to nought the activities of this sinful self-life of the flesh, so that in exchange Christ in us may come through. Yet here lies our big difficulty: we fret over trifles, we murmur at small losses, we complain when mistreated by the brethren. The Lord is working through circumstances, yet scarcely has His hand touched us, than we feel most unhappy with His dealings and become filled with self-pity. We are stubborn and will not be broken and therefore Christ’s glory cannot shine forth through this hard shell of ours.
The Treasure indeed is in the earthen vessel, but if the earthen vessel refuses to be broken, who will be able to see the Treasure within? What is the end-purpose of the Lord in rebuking, chastising and knocking on Laodicea’s heart’s door? Is it not to break oxen this earthen vessel, this alabaster box; to crack open our shell, this outer mask of self-righteousness? The Lord longs to lighten the earth with His glory so that this doomed world may be blessed through the church – His chosen vessel Brokenness is the only way that others can be blessed through us. And only deep heart-felt repentance can break this outer man so that the world may be aware of that most precious ointment within.
This is the way of being victorious, of bearing much fruit; but it is also a path sprinkled with blood – the cross. When we offer ourselves for His service and glory, we cannot afford to be lenient with ourselves. As Christ did not consider equality with God something to be held on to, but emptied Himself, not sparing Himself, so likewise, we must deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him (Lk 9:23).
We must allow the indwelling Spirit of the Lord to utterly break our outward man -this proud self-righteous flesh, so that He may find a way for His outworking: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (having the mind of Christ) that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:1,2).
Coming back to our text, to overcome and be victorious does not mean that now we have learnt and trained ourselves how to imitate Christ and His works. External imitation is not of God: it is of man, the flesh. It is self-righteousness made to appear like Christ-righteousness. But in God’s eyes this is filthy rags: all who seek the Lord must learn to totally depend on the indwelling Christ, not just conform outwardly. Whatever is manufactured externally through self-effort is a sham; it is unreal and doomed to destruction when “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” (1 Cor 3:13).
One who unconsciously possesses a counterfeit (this is Laodicea’s problem), defrauds others as well as himself. As counterfeit behaviour multiplies, the person himself believes that such is his real self. Often it is hard to convince him of his unreal-ness, for he has become spiritually blind and cannot distinguish the true from the false. This is the terrible situation, or condition of Laodicea. Years of outward conformity to the requirements of the law has deceived us into believing that we are now “Rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”, while in actual fact we have become “Wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
Laodicea’s desperate need therefore is to be broken at the foot of the cross, as were the self-seeking disciples of Christ. Once this proud, stubborn flesh of ours is broken through deep repentance, we will readily open the door of our minds for Christ to come in and take over. This is the true preparation for the Latter Rain. And when this is realised we will over-come even as He overcame. This is God’s ultimate purpose for Laodicea. The Laodicean message as was pointed out earlier, is “justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ” . And justification by faith, “Is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust” This is in order that the righteousness of Christ may shine forth through us.
May God give us the grace to be willing to submit to all that is involved in overcoming as Christ overcame. Then we can join Paul in confessing: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Cor 4:16,17). Also we might say, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus/ Yeshua (i.e. to self), that the life also of Jesus/ Yeshua might be made manifest in our body.” (2 Cor 4:10; see also Phil 3:9,10).
Today the world is shouting at the Church, “Show us God!” In response to this cry it becomes our duty to ask ourselves, “Why this demand?” Clearly and obviously because the Church has failed miserably to manifest God to the world. All that men have seen in us is a poor imitation and a sham. Jesus/ Yeshua said,” Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16). It maybe true that the world has seen some of our so called good works. But they are giving the denomination the credit and not “your Father which is in heaven.” Why is this so? Obviously because the source of our good works is self and not God.
With reference to her works, Laodicea can not proclaim as did Christ of Himself, “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, shew us the Father (God)? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works,” (Jn 14:9,10; emphasis supplied). It was through His works that Christ manifested God in the flesh. Likewise, it must also be by our works that Laodicea must manifest God in us.
While on earth, Jesus/ Yeshua made it clear on the one hand that, “I can of mine own self do nothing. , . „ If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” (Jn 5: 30,31). Yet on the other hand He declared, “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father.” (Jn 10:32). Christ’s greatest claim that He was indeed the Messiah was His works. “If I do not the works of my father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.” (Jh 10:37,38). “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very work’, “sake” (Jn 14:11).
On what basis could Christ claim that His works originated from God and not the flesh? Upon the basis of one fact, that they were supernatural works, or to put it in Christ’s own words, “If I had not done among them the works which none other men did, they had not had sin: But now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” (Jh 15:24). With regards to Laodicea’s medical, welfare and other good works, can we say that it is works “which none other man did”? Surely the United Nations, a worldly organisation, is not only duplicating our works, but is far exceeding them.
If Laodicea is to manifest God in the flesh to an unbelieving secular world, it will have to be done not by our words, or our theology, nor by our doctrines but by our works – WORKS OF FAITH. The greatest proof that we are Christians who possess the very life of Christ is when our justification is manifested by our works. This is the true import of James’ message when He declared, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,.” (James 2:17,20,26). Speaking about the true believer, Jesus/ Yeshua said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” (Jn 14:12).
Because of our works of the law, we have shamefully failed to manifest genuine justification by faith which is demonstrated by works of faith. Today, this lost world desperately needs to get a glimpse of the “matchless charms of Christ” through His people. But if our works do not manifest Christ how can the world believe on Him? Whether Laodicea will fulfill her mission in revealing Christ to this present generation will depend entirely upon our attitude towards the straight testimony of the True Witness to Laodicea:
The Lord calls for a renewal of the straight testimony borne in years past. He calls for renewal of spiritual life. The spiritual energies of His people have Iong been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King’s highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the Pentecostal energy. This Will come, for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power.
How long shall we continue to take an indifferent attitude towards the straight testimony to Laodicea? It is the Lord’s desire that one day Laodicea will share His heavenly throne. What a privilege: But first we must overcome.
In the Gospel, we see the presence and working of God in one man-Jesus/ Yeshua Christ. In the Book of Acts, we see the presence and working of God in the body of Christ-the Church. But the “falling away” from the truth as it is in Christ has deprived the Church of spiritual life and the manifestation of God’s glory. Today, in these last days, God longs to restore His glory in the Church, so that the world may have one final chance to believe and be saved before the end comes.
In Rev 6:14-17, we have recorded for us a vivid description of the Second Advent. In connection with this great event, the question is asked: “For the account given in verse 15 the answer to this question seems to be; no-one will be able to stand. But when we proceed to chapter 7 of Revelation, there is hope presented: the 144,000 will stand because they have been sealed with the character of Christ (see Rev 14:4,5).
With longing desire Christ has been waiting to reproduce His Character in Laodicea. But we have kept Him waiting all these years, too absorbed in our own affairs and theology, and quite happy with outward progress. In the meantime, taking advantage of the sleeping virgins, the devil has plunged the world into even greater darkness. As Jesus/ Yeshua once again pleads with Laodicea today, what shall be our response? “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev 3:22).
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely……He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus/ Yeshua. (Rev 22:18,20).