If you’re new to this series, catch up @
https://polination.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/the-seven-churches-of-revelation-part-thirteen/ (and prev)
I’ve been puzzling and puzzling over the last three Letters. The best I can come up with is that they are about our relationship with God, but that five and six (Sardis and Philadelphia) form a contrasting pair, while the last (Laodicea, pron. lay ahd ih cee’ uh), is something different that stands on its own in some very special way.
In the Bible, the number one usually means God, while two often refers to things that are either complementary or contrasting. E.g., Adam and Eve (male and female) vs. two thieves who died with Christ (one lost, one saved). To me, Sardis and Philadelphia seem to be mostly the latter (though some of those in Sardis have not “soiled their garments”).
5. Sardis: “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. … I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.”
6. Philadelphia: “You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
5. Sardis: “If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.”
6. Philadelphia: “Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial.”
These remind me of the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
Luke 18:9-14 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus describes Himself to Sardis as “The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” The seven spirits represent God’s power and knowledge [Rev 5:6]; the seven stars represent the whole church [Rev 1:20]. IOW, He owns you and He knows you, you pompous poopy heads, and He is sooooooo not impressed with your fancy “pillar of the church” reputations! (Ouch.)
Jesus then describes Himself to Philadelphia as “The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open” and tells them, “I have left an open door before you, which no one can close.” Since He’s set up an Insiders vs. Outcasts scenario here, it means a lot that He has the key and He is keeping a door open. I also love how the Philadelphia victor will be made into “a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it again. On him I will inscribe the name of my God and the name of the city of my God … as well as my new name.” Wow!
Sardis and Philadelphia seem pretty straight-forward. But what about the last Letter?
Laodicea (lay ahd ih cee’ uh) was a very wealthy city set at the crossroads of the major trade routes in the area. I find this crossroads position interesting. Coming from Philadelphia to the north, at Laodicea we have the choice to keep going straight south, which gets you down Israel way, or to turn left and go east. Both of these choices hook you up with the Silk Route in the East.
The other choice would be to turn right and go back to where we started at Ephesus, which I’ve been using for the church of the Apostolic Age. Geographically, the three choices work rather nicely with cold, hot and lukewarm imagery in the Letter. The “right turn” imagery back to Ephesus also works well with this:
- Laodicea: If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.
- Ephesus: To the victor I will give the right to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God.
Jesus describes Himself to Laodicea as “The Amen, the faithful and true witness.”
In the greeting section of the Book of Revelation, Jesus is described as “the faithful witness” who “is coming amid the clouds and every eye will see him”, a clear reference to the Second Coming at the End of Time. “Amen” comes at the end of a prayer and witnesses present testimony at a person’s trial, that is, after the events but prior to judgment. IOW, there’s a finality to all these images.
Plus, until now, there’s been a distance to the imagery, because the Letters are … well, letters. Letters get sent from a distance. Even at the sixth Letter to Philadelphia, Jesus says, “I am coming quickly”, which could be a message in a letter. But when he gets to Laodicea, he says,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”
That is really up close and in person. Heck, my mail box is all the way down the driveway and across the street. My DOOR is right up on the porch, just a few feet from the living room. So I’m thinking maybe the Letter to Laodicea is addressed to the End Time church, maybe even to the post-Rapture church. But I want to go check out the last three Seals before I write any more. See you then!
New American Bible online @ http://www.usccb.org/bible/
Holman Bible Dictionary online @ http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T3759