Very few among us wish to be associated with "the church of the Laodiceans." Among the seven churches, Laodicea is the last before the return of Christ, and it is unquestionably dominant today. Philadelphia, both chronologically and organizationally, has now virtually disappeared from the scene, leaving only patiently enduring individuals scattered through many church groups. The far-reaching works conducted under the direction of Herbert W. Armstrong are fading memories.
What is so bad about Laodiceanism? Why is Christ, the Head of the church, so angry with this church? Laodiceans have an infectious spiritual malaise that, if left to fester, will seriously jeopardize their eternal life! Those who consider themselves Philadelphians must now contend for their spiritual welfare or succumb to Laodiceanism. This study will examine this seventh church and its implications for all Christians.
1. Christ calls Laodicea "lukewarm." Where does this condition originate and to whom does it apply? Revelation 3:15-16.
Comment: Herbert Armstrong said he first noticed Laodiceanism in the church in 1969. Fervent, zealous Christians began to cool off. A feeling of "we will automatically qualify for the Place of Safety and the Kingdom of God simply by being here" began to affect God's people. This lukewarm approach was in and among "Philadelphians." Either Philadelphians were morphing into Laodiceans, or new members were Laodicean from the beginning.
2. Can a person change church "eras"? Did some "on fire" Christians turn lukewarm so that Christ had to spew them out? Revelation 3:16.
Comment: One can indeed change eras. Anyone in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) over several decades has observed many ministers and lay members alike turn from zealous crusaders to complacent deadbeats. After years of diligent service, some ministers became merely tired hirelings.
3. How did this happen? Can one believe he is Philadelphian when he is actually Laodicean? Revelation 3:17; Hosea 12:8.
Comment: Part of the "Philadelphian psyche" is that Philadelphia "has it made"—that it is the golden age of God's fondest affections, and simply being a part of it guarantees a spot in the Place of Safety and a high position in the Kingdom. This exaltation of the era and the accompanying personal pride create complacency and poor, biased judgment of themselves. Some still consider themselves Philadelphian and that those in any other church group are Laodicean. This is a dangerous spiritual position to take.
4. What does this approach indicate? Revelation 3:17; Matthew 25:1-13; Jeremiah 17:9; James 1:22-27.
Comment: Just as with Sardis, those in Laodicea are completely self-deceived. Their view of their spiritual state is diametrically opposed to that of Jesus Christ. Laodiceans think they are okay; they generally do not know they are Laodicean. In most cases, they think they are still Philadelphian and thus in good standing with God. They believe everyone has been asleep but themselves, yet Christ says, "They all slumbered and slept"!
One of Laodiceanism's major characteristics is utter self-deception. Each of us must look carefully into the Word of God for a true test of our spiritual condition, not presuming our evaluation of ourselves is the same as our Savior's. He is the ultimate Judge.
5. How do we know Philadelphia has lapsed into Laodicea? Revelation 3:16; Lamentations 2:1-8; Romans 3:10-23; Deuteronomy 28:15-47; Leviticus 26:33; Jeremiah 3-5 and especially 3:10.
Comment: Christ's grotesque use of vomit spewing from His mouth captures the violent and repulsive scattering of the church. No part of His church has escaped the scattering of God. We have all sinned and come short of His glory. None have been righteous, no, not one! Among the curses for following the Word of God improperly is scattering and withdrawal of blessings. Some still claim God is blessing them greatly, but these are mainly empty words and false hopes. The scattering continues and will do so until God is satisfied that repentance has been achieved. God's objective is to show us that we are still far too complacent, not having turned to Him wholeheartedly, merely feignedly.
6. Can any in the church today honestly deny his participation in the rebuke and chastening of the Lord? Revelation 3:17-19.
Comment: The Laodicean's problem is that he does not even grasp that he is one, nor does he seriously consider the possibility. He really believes he is Philadelphian. He is blind to his nakedness and instructed to salve his eyes so he might see. This should cause anyone who considers himself a Philadelphian to take a long, hard look at himself in the light of Scripture. Could we be deceiving ourselves about our true state? Jesus Christ says so. It is somewhat paradoxical, but in this day of scattering and chastening, if we think we are of Philadelphia, we are probably Laodicean. If we think we are Laodicean, we may be waking up and beginning to see our faults. If we do something about them, we will be donning garments of true righteousness.
7. Do we hear the analysis of the One who can read the thoughts and intents of the heart? Is He knocking on our door? Do we hear His voice? Revelation 3:20; Isaiah 52:1-2, 11.
Comment: Laodiceanism is not the end of the world. It can be overcome. Those who wake up to what Christ is saying here, who really hear Him, will overcome this spiritual blindness, nakedness and self-deception and sit with Him on His throne in His glorious Kingdom!