7 Letters – 7 – Laodicea

The last of the seven Letters of Jesus to his church. And it speaks to so many now.

Reminder: there are several assumptions that are made here that should be reviewed. These are in the original essay on these 7 Letters.

Revelation 3:14-22 “Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator, of God’s creation says: 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 going to vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Once again we are faced with sorting out the concepts that drive our perception and resultant decisions. If years of desultory pursuit of Good and Evil are manifest in your concepts, this Letter is a fitting end piece to the previous ones. Jesus is disgusted with you and spits you out. And in case, you think you don’t fit the criteria, he stated it in a strange way – you must be cold. Or Hot.

But, the concept in the above paragraph does not fit with the whole Letter. Neither does it fit with the Kingdom of Heaven principles that he taught us.

Jesus starts this Letter, as with the previous Letters, with some identifying characteristics. He is the Amen : the one who is the emphasis – the Witness : the one who testifies – the True – the beginning of Creation . This introduction may be intended to function like the statements God Most High made to Job; a focus on perspective. When I am able to put my self-awareness into a conceptual frame that includes the identity of God Most High, I have little or no ability to have confidence in my impressive traits.

Jesus, as in most of the Letters, says he knows the works of Laodicea. And here is where the parabolic language begins – Laodicea is neither cold nor hot. If we initiate our Good and Evil concepts, we are immediately confused. In the Law, the culmination of Good and Evil, one is either Good or Evil. A mixture of cold and hot is lukewarm. If cold and hot are intended to represent desirable behavior vs undesirable behavior, then lukewarm is a mixture of the 2. Partially Good and partially Evil. Which then would lead us to read that Jesus wants us to be either Good or Evil.

This logic then must lead us to deciding in what ways we are to be evil. I hope that such an objective crosses the line for you as it does for me. I do not want to be evil.

Jesus would not be encouraging us to be even a little wicked. So cold and hot cannot be referring to an assessment of the works of Laodicea against the rule of Good and Evil.

We could just see it as he described it, that they are not pleasing to his allegorical palette.

Which then begs the question of why are they not pleasing? And Jesus answers: they are convinced they have all they need. In his spiritual sight, Jesus sees that Laodicea thinks themselves rich: “I am wealthy and need nothing.” How could they get to such a spiritual position? If they had embraced the whole Law, especially with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and similar teachings, they would see that they are wretched, pitiful, poor, naked, and blind. But if they had customized the Law, it would be an almost unavoidable result that they would perceive themselves as spiritually wealthy. We see this throughout the history of the church. People will naturally and instinctively develop views of Good and Evil that support their particular tendencies. Many groups will exact punishment on certain sets of Evil (as defined by the Law and Jesus), but explain away other sets of Evil.

We grow very weary with our wretched, pitiful, poor, naked, and blind condition. As Paul said (using first person present tense) “Oh wretch that I am!”. So, being blind and without ears to hear, we seek to build our fig leaf garments. We declare that it is OK to trim the beard, we declare it is OK to curse at your parents, although not desirable behavior (the list here goes on for a very very long time). But lest our nakedness be exposed, we support the complete destruction of people who have committed some specific subset of Evil as described by the Law and Jesus.

And having destroyed some, we hold up our works to the King of the Kingdom of Heaven and feel very Good about our situation. We are on His side!

And he gags. Disgusted that his Kingdom of Love has been changed into the Kingdom of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

To confirm this for us, Jesus carefully addressed this Letter to Laodicea which means “people ruling”. When people rule, they will always build a society and rules that support the lives of the law builders. In other words, they are self-righteous.

So these self-righteous people are repulsive to Jesus.

But, he is Jesus. Who, having dreadfully accepted the role, paid for the sins of the whole world. Who told us, while enduring the shame and filth of carrying the sin of the whole world, “It is finished”. AMEN – emphatic assertion of validity. It is finished.

He is Jesus. The King of the Kingdom of Love.

So what is his response to these people who have disgusted him? Come get your sins covered, be clothed in white (remember the last Letter), get that shameful nakedness covered. This has direct connection to the Fall in the Garden where the scripture is careful to illuminate that Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness BEFORE eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But AFTER eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were (and are) ashamed.

“Buy from me Gold so that you will be rich”. Jesus just said they are poor, now he says to buy Gold. How do you buy Gold when you are poor? Hopeless. Except that he has made it clear many times before this that the only thing you can bring to him is belief that he is the Key, the Open Door (to use the language from the last Letter). In other words: Faith. Hebrews 11 – He who comes to God must believe that HE IS and HE REWARDS THOSE THAT SEEK HIM. Spend that and get some Gold and be rich.

Jesus says that he will heal their blindness as well. There is much behind this statement, especially when viewed in the light of the Sign Miracles of Jesus healing the blind. Pursue that if you feel led.

So Jesus does not reject them. The spewing from the mouth is allegorical to show that he really finds their present condition repulsive. BUT He still Loves them. And because he Loves them he sends this Letter as a rebuke and discipline.

It is critical when understanding Love to understand the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is retribution. It is the essential component of a system of Law. Without retributive action Law is merely impotent guidelines. Punishment is the primary component of Justice. Knowledge of Good and Evil includes the knowledge that Evil calls for Punishment.

The punishment (wages) of sin is death.

The Punishment for Evil was finished when Jesus said it was. In his Kingdom.

Discipline is a process entirely aimed at improving a person and developing skills beyond what that person currently possesses. It is not associated with Punishment. It is an entirely separate process.

Jesus tells Laodicea: I am telling you all this because I Love you and I want you to improve.

The English version I copied in at the top of this essay says “Be committed”, although it does note that the word is could be “zealous”. And a brief glance shows this to be the more common English word to use. I suppose the translators chose to use “committed” because “zealous” is not a well understood word. And “committed” is a very similar word, on one level. It is illuminating to see that the Greek word (transliteration zelos) is often translated to the English word “jealous” and is used in other contexts in the New Testament in other ways than “committed”. Of note is that etymology of the Greek “zelos” has to do with the “sound of a pot boiling over” and is used often to describe the feeling of strong desire (of any kind). With this understanding of the word, we can see that Jesus says “be passionate, earnestly desiring”.

Repent. Change your mind.

In case Laodicea still has not got the message in the right context, in case they still believe that the custom set of Rules will justify them, Jesus says something that has become one of the verses often quoted out of context. (the context is the letter is to self-righteous christians, not non-christians).

Behold (meaning “PAY CLOSE ATTENTION this is important”) I stand at the door and knock, If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and we will have fellowship.

He did NOT say, If any man keeps more of the Law I will quit being disgusted. He did not address Good and Evil at all.

He built this invitation based on relationship. And the simple choice to open the door to the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, who wants to have a direct love relationship with each person in Laodicea. He wants a relationship with each of those people who made their disgusting behavior the standard for their group. No punishment, just discipline. Come, be my disciple, learn from me. Lesson one: I forgive you.

As with his other Letters, he calls for them to endure as this incredible faith is tested by the demands of Good and Evil. The one who is enjoying an eternal meal with Jesus gets to be with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the same way that Jesus established victory over the effect of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, we too join in that victory – through his death and resurrection. Jesus conquered through his death and resurrection. In the same way, through his death and resurrection, we are victors.

To paraphrase this last Letter using the concepts suggested:

To my people at Laodicea: I remind you, I am the one who finished it at the cross, who was there at the creation of all things – you are hearing from the only one who is truly perfect. You are very proud of how well you are doing, but your mindset and resulting behavior are repulsive. You need to know that you bring nothing of value to our relationship. Except yourself. Trust me to make you beautiful and whole. Renew your passion by changing your mind about how impressive you are. Come learn from me. All it takes is letting the real me Love you. The person who does this has conquered all just like I conquered all: through my death and resurrection.

I pray that you have ears to hear.

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