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THE CHURCH IN LAODICEAScripture Reading: Rev. 3:14-22Now we will speak of the last church. We have seen the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, and the movement of the brothers. Among these, God has chosen the movement of the brothers. Thyatira entirely failed. Although Sardis was better than Thyatira, the Lord still rebuked them. Only Philadelphia did not receive a word of rebuke. The Lord's promise is in Philadelphia. (But Philadelphia also has a calling for overcomers.) If it were up to us, we would have stopped with Philadelphia and written nothing more. However, in these churches the Lord prophesies concerning the condition of the church; therefore, it is necessary to take a step further to Laodicea, with which everyone is most familiar. If you asked which church Laodicea refers to, many could not answer. Many of God's children are not clear concerning Laodicea. Some think of learning lessons from her as individuals; some consider her as referring to the general, desolate condition of the church. But the Lord is speaking prophecy here.Laodicea, just like the other churches, has special meaning in her name. It is composed of two words: laos, meaning "laymen'' (laity or common people), and dicea, which may be translated as "customs'' or "opinions.'' So Laodicea means the customs of the laymen or the opinions of the common people. Here we see very clearly the meaning—the church has already failed. The church has turned to the pattern of taking the opinions and customs of the laymen. In Philadelphia we see brothers and love for one another. But here we see laymen, opinions, and customs.Please remember one thing: If the children of God do not stand in the position of Philadelphia, they will fall and fail. However, they cannot return to Sardis. Once a person has seen the truth of the brothers, he can no longer go back to the Protestant churches, even if he wants to. Since he is not able to stand firmly in Philadelphia, he retrogresses from Philadelphia to become, as here, Laodicea. That which came out from the Roman Catholic Church is called the Protestant church; that which came out from the Protestant churches is called the brothers; and that which goes forth from Philadelphia is called Laodicea. Sardis comes out of Thyatira, and Philadelphia comes out of Sardis; likewise, Laodicea goes out of Philadelphia. God's children today have a misunderstanding; that is, whenever they see a certain denominational church, the condition of which is wrong, they say that that is Laodicea. That is wrong. A wrong denominational church is Sardis, not Laodicea. The different denominations are the Protestant churches. The denominations are not qualified to become Laodicea. Only failing Philadelphia can become Laodicea. The condition of Laodicea is not the condition of Sardis. Only that which has tasted the goodness of Philadelphia and is now fallen is Laodicea. That which actually does not have much is Sardis. That which does not keep the spiritual riches in the Holy Spirit becomes Laodicea.What kind of a fall then is this? Beginning with Ephesus we see abnormality in the midst of normality. In Pergamos we see the teaching of Balaam. In Thyatira we see Jezebel; the mediatorial class has its root there. Sardis gives us an open Bible, but Sardis herself creates another mediatorial class. In Philadelphia we see only brothers; the class that conquers the laity no longer exists. Everyone comes back to the word of the Lord to obey the Lord's word and to obey what the Holy Spirit has spoken through the word of the Lord. But one day, by not standing in the position of brothers who receive the discipline of the Holy Spirit and by falling from the position of brothers to that of laymen, Laodicea appears. In Sardis the authority lies in the hands of the pastoral system. In Philadelphia the authority lies in the hands of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit exercises authority through the word and the name, and all are brothers loving one another. Now in Laodicea it is neither the Holy Spirit exercising the authority nor the pastoral system, but the laymen. What do we mean by laymen exercising authority? We mean exercising the authority of the majority. The opinion of the majority is the accepted opinion; as long as the majority is in favor, it is all right. This is Laodicea. In other words it is not the fathers who rule, nor the pastors, nor the Holy Spirit, but the opinion of the majority that counts. Here it is not brothers, but men. Laodicea does not stand in the position of brothers; rather, it is men who are according to the will of the flesh. Everyone raises the hand, and that is all. We must know the will of God and look at Philadelphia according to the will of God. Whenever there is no brotherly love but only the opinions of men according to the flesh, you meet Laodicea.Here the Lord speaks of Himself as "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God'' (Rev. 3:14). The Lord is Amen. Amen means all right; it means "so let it be.'' Thus, He will fulfill everything, and nothing will be in vain. The Lord Jesus testified of the work of God on the earth. Among the many beings and things created by God, the Lord is the Head."I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spew you out of My mouth'' (vv. 15-16). Sardis is living in name, but dead in reality; Laodicea is neither hot nor cold. To Ephesus the Lord said, "I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place'' (2:5). To Laodicea He said, "I am about to spew you out of My mouth.'' The Lord will not use them again; they are no longer the amen. The problem is that they are neither cold nor hot. They are filled with knowledge, yet lacking in power. When they were hot, they were Philadelphia; but now they are colder than before. Once Philadelphia falls, she becomes Laodicea. Only the people of Philadelphia can fall to such an extent.Because you say, I am wealthy and have become rich and have need of nothing'' (3:17). I have mentioned already that the movement of the brothers is far more significant than the Reformation. The Reformation was but a reformation in quantity, while the movement of the brothers was a reformation in quality, recovering the original substance of the church. This power is really great. But because these brothers were stronger than others in conduct and in truth to the point that even a cook among them knew more than a missionary in the Protestant churches, they became proud. "You are all incompetent; only we are competent,'' was their attitude. No one was competent in the Protestant churches. The famous Scofield went to the brothers to be taught. Gypsy Smith, so widely known, went into their midst to obtain profit, taking their doctrines to preach. All workers, students, preachers, and believers received help and light from them. We do not know how many more received help from their books. Many must acknowledge in their hearts that in the entire world, no one can teach the Bible as well as the brothers. As a result some of them became proud. "Our students are the teachers of others,'' they say. Although they are greatly opposed, some are self-declared heroes. The most evident result is that some became self-satisfied. Some brothers do have brotherly love and seek the good of others, while others have nothing but knowledge. Therefore, it was inevitable that they become self-exalted and conceited. The Lord shows us that a proud Philadelphia is Laodicea, and Laodicea is a fallen Philadelphia. Consequently, in many places the meetings in their midst have trouble with their behavior and teaching. The special feature of Laodicea is spiritual pride. As far as the historical side is concerned, the Lord has fulfilled this for us.We can meet Philadelphia today, and we can also meet Laodicea. Both are quite alike in their position as the church. The difference is that Philadelphia has love while Laodicea has pride. There is no difference in outward appearance; the only difference is that Laodicea is a proud Philadelphia. I do not wish to relate many things concerning them. I will just give you some illustrations. A brother among them once said, "Is there anything spiritual that cannot be found among us?'' A certain brother, after seeing a new magazine, said, "What new thing can it give us? Is there anything that we do not have?'' He returned the magazine without reading it any further. Another brother said, "Since the Lord has given us the greatest light, we should be satisfied; if we read what others have written it is a waste of time.'' Another said, "What do others have that we do not have?'' And still another said, "What others have, we have, but what we have, others may not have.'' When we hear this kind of talk, we should immediately recall what the Lord says regarding those who say, "I am rich.'' Oh, how careful we must be that we may not become Laodicea!On an island in the Atlantic Ocean, there was a hurricane which destroyed many houses, including the homes and meeting halls of the brothers. Within a few hours brothers from all over the world sent them more than two hundred thousand pounds sterling, the relief reaching them more swiftly than that of the government. In their midst there is really brotherly love, but there are also those who have become proud. The Protestant churches are not qualified to become Laodicea. Sardis herself acknowledges that she has nothing. I have been working for more than twenty years, yet I have never met a missionary or pastor in the denominations who claims that they have the spiritual things. They always say they are inadequate. The failing and weak Protestant churches are Sardis, not Laodicea. Only Laodicea has the special feature of spiritual pride. The Protestant churches have many sins, but spiritual pride is not their outstanding sin. Only the fallen brothers would say, "I am wealthy and have become rich and have need of nothing.'' Only fallen Philadelphia can become Laodicea. As to wealth of spirituality, Sardis knows quite well that she has nothing. They often say, "We are not zealous enough; our zealous members have run away.'' Richness is the condition of Philadelphia, while boasting of their richness is the distinguishing mark of Laodicea. Only Laodicea can boast. A person who departs from the position of Philadelphia cannot go back to Sardis. Asking a brother to go back to Sardis is an impossibility; he can only go on to be Laodicea. Laodicea also does not continue the line of the orthodoxy of the apostles. She goes beyond the line of the apostles. They are those who have vain knowledge; they have no life and are self-satisfied, self-exalted, and conceited."And do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked'' (v. 17). What they say is really quite true: I am wealthy and have become rich and have need of nothing! Indeed, they are marvelous before God. They have reason to boast. We acknowledge that there are many things in their midst of which they may boast. But it is better to leave this to the feeling of others and not to feel it ourselves; let others know about it, not ourselves. It would indeed be good if others say so; but if we say so, it is not good. Spiritual things must not be boasted of. If one boasts of his riches concerning worldly things, the money will not fly away nor will the amount decrease; but spiritual things vanish away when you boast of them. When a person says he is strong, then that strength is gone. The face of Moses shone, yet he himself was not aware of it. Whoever knows that his face is shining will lose the shining of his face. If you do not know you are growing, you are blessed. There are many who are so clear about their own condition, but on the contrary they have nothing. If you have spiritual authority, that is all right, but if you know you have spiritual authority, that is not all right. The Laodiceans are too clear in the estimate of themselves; they have too much. In God's eyes they are blind, poor, and naked. That is why we must learn the lesson. Laodicea is too clear regarding her richness. We hope that we will grow, yet we do not want to know it ourselves.The Lord said, "You are wretched.'' The word "wretched'' here is the same as the word "wretched'' used by Paul in Romans 7:24. The Lord is saying that they are just like Paul in Romans 7: On the spiritual side they are wretched, they are embarrassed, they are not like this and not like that, and in the Lord's eyes they are miserable. Following this, the Lord points out three reasons why they are wretched and miserable: They are poor, they are blind, and they are naked.Concerning poverty, the Lord said, "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire that you may be rich'' (Rev. 3:18). Although they are rich in doctrines, the Lord sees them as still being poor. They must have living faith; otherwise, God's Word is useless to them. Their failure, their weakness, is due to the fact that their faith is gone. Peter says that gold proved by fire is faith on trial (1 Pet. 1:7). In days when the word given forth is poor, you must pray. When the word increases, you must have faith that mingles with the words you have heard. You must pass through all manner of trials so that the words which you have heard will be useful in a practical way. Thus, you must buy gold tried in the fire. You must learn to trust even while in tribulation; then you will really be rich.Moreover, the Lord says, "And white garments that you may be clothed and that the shame of your nakedness may not be manifested'' (Rev. 3:18). We have already mentioned that the "white garment'' refers to behavior. The "white garment'' here is the same as the white garment spoken of in several other places in Revelation. God's purpose is that they should have no contamination, just as the garment is white. God wants them to walk continuously before Him. It is impossible to be naked before God. In the Old Testament no man could approach God without being clothed. When the priests went to the altar, their nakedness was not to be discovered. Second Corinthians 5:3 says, "If indeed, being clothed, we will not be found naked.'' But here it is not a matter of being clothed or unclothed, but a matter of whether or not the garment is white. The Lord Jesus says, "And whoever gives to one of these little ones only a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward'' (Matt. 10:42). This is the white garment. We may treat others with a feast, yet it may not be "white.'' If we do it just for the sake of maintaining the glory of our group, that cannot be counted; if it springs from a motive that is even meaner than this, there is even a lesser reason for it to be counted. It is not clean enough. The Lord desires that we have a clean purpose and a clean motive to work for Him. There are many activities and many motives in which we sense many impurities once we touch them; they are not white. "That the shame of your nakedness may not be manifested.'' When we walk before God, we should not be shameful.The Lord also speaks of buying "eyesalve to anoint your eyes that you may see'' (Rev. 3:18). Buy eyesalve to anoint your eyes—this is the revelation of the Holy Spirit. You must have the revelation of the Holy Spirit; then you can be counted as seeing. On the contrary, knowing too much doctrine may result in the decrease of the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Doctrine is the transmission of thought from one to another; yet the spiritual eyes have not seen. Many people are walking in the light of others. Many elderly brothers speak in this way, so you speak in this way. Today you say, "So-and-so told me''; if there were no "So-and-so'' to tell you, you would not know what to do. You receive doctrine from man's teaching, not from the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus says that this will not work; you must have the revelation of the Holy Spirit. I cannot write a letter to a friend asking him to listen to the gospel for me so that I can be saved. Likewise, anything received from the hands of man is finished when it comes to us; it has nothing to do with God. According to the Bible, this is blindness. Without touching the Holy Spirit, you cannot deal with spiritual things. It is not a matter of how much you have heard. Many times it is merely an increase in doctrine, an increase in knowledge, yet without seeing anything before God. So you must learn one thing before God—you have to buy eyesalve. Only seeing by myself is really seeing. Seeing is the basis of what has already been gained and is the basis of seeing again."As many as I love I rebuke and discipline; be zealous therefore and repent'' (v. 19). The words spoken previously are rebukes. But the Lord shows us that He rebukes and chastens in this manner because He loves. Therefore, be zealous. What should we do? Repent. First, we must repent. Repentance is not just an individual matter; the church also must repent."Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me'' (v. 20). There is quite a lot in this statement. What kind of door is this door? Many use this verse to preach the gospel. It is all right to borrow this verse for the preaching of the gospel; it is all right to lend this verse to the sinners; but it must not be borrowed too long without returning it. This verse is a verse for the children of God. It does not refer to the Lord knocking at the heart of a sinner; this door is the door of the church. Because the door here is singular, the Lord is referring to the church. It is indeed strange that the Lord is the Head of the church, or shall we say the origin of the church, yet He is standing outside the door of the church! "Behold, I stand at the door''! This is really a terrible condition. If the Lord is outside the door of the church, what kind of church is this?The Lord says, "Behold''! The Lord says this to the whole church. The door is the door of the church. "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door...'' These two words—"if anyone''—show that the opening of the door is an individual matter. In the Bible there are two lines in regard to the truth. One line is the line of the Holy Spirit, and the other line is the line of Christ; one is subjective, and the other is objective; one concerns experience, and the other concerns the faith. If someone pays too much attention to the objective truth, then he can be seen mounting the clouds and riding the mists, which is impractical. If he constantly stands on the subjective side, excessively stressing the inner working of the Holy Spirit, then he will look continuously inward and become dissatisfied. Everyone who is seeking the Lord must be balanced by both truths. One shows me that I am perfect in Christ, and the other shows me that the inner working of the Holy Spirit causes me to become perfect. The greatest failure of the Brethren was their excessive stress on the objective truth and neglect of the subjective truth. Philadelphia failed and became Laodicea. Her failure was due to too much objective truth. This does not mean that there was nothing at all of the inner working of the Holy Spirit, but generally speaking, there was too much of the objective aspect with too little of the subjective. If you open the door, "I will come in.'' This means that the objective becomes the subjective; that is, He will change what you have of the objective into the subjective. In John 15:4 the Lord speaks of both aspects: "Abide in Me and I in you.'' In Revelation 3:20 the Lord says, "I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me." If you open the door, He will dine with you. This is fellowship and this also is joy. Then you will have an intimate fellowship with the Lord as well as the joy that springs from such fellowship."He who overcomes, to him I will give to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne'' (v. 21). Among the promises given to the overcomers in the seven churches, many say this is the best. Although some like the other promises to the overcomers, many have told me that the Lord's promise to Laodicea excels them all. In the previous promises to the overcomers the Lord did not say anything concerning Himself. But here the Lord says that if you overcome, you will dine with Me. Since you have passed through all kinds of overcoming, you can sit with My Father on the throne. You must overcome so that you can sit with the Lord on His throne. The overcomer here has an exceedingly high promise because the church age is ending. The overcomer is waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, the throne is here.