Messianic Community in Laodicea
Laodicea, most likely named after the wife of Antiochus II Theos, sat on a hill between the valleys of two small rivers, the Asopus and Caprus which flow into the Lycus. The town was originally called Diospolis or ‘City of Zeus.’ In 60 CE an earthquake leveled the city, but the residents would not take government assistance and rebuilt the city themselves. Laodicea was known for a major medical school where they made an eye salve from a local stone. It was known as a financial center throughout the ancient world because of its gold and for its black wool, and the garments it exported known as trimata. Today, Laodicea is near the city of Denizli, Turkey.
Many Jews were transported from Babylon to Laodicea in the days of Antiochus the Great. Though they sent gold annually to the Temple in Jerusalem, it was confiscated by Roman citizens. Because of the large Jewish community in Laodicea, the message of Sha’ul (Paul) was readily accepted. A home fellowship met in the home of Nympha in Laodicea. From the book of Colossians, it appears that his letters were shared between Laodicea, Colossae which was 11 miles west, and Ephesus which was 99 miles east (Colossians 4:15-16).
“To the angel of the Messianic Community in Laodicea, write: ‘Here is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Ruler of God’s creation: “I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth! For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked! My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eye salve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see. As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins! Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities'” (Revelation 3:14-22).
Yeshua sends the seventh and final messenger to the community of Laodicea and reveals himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, Ruler of God’s creation.”
‘Amen’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘so be it.’ In Hebrew, aman means ‘to support or confirm, to be reliable or established.’ Its root comes from emunah or ‘faithfulness.’ As the person of the ‘Amen,’ Yeshua has the final ‘so be it’ regarding the condition of this community. His words are faithful and true, the witness of two establishing his words.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Amen, aman – אמן
א Alef – An Ox means ‘first’ and ‘strong.’
מ Mem – Water means ‘chaos’ or ‘mighty.’
ן Nun – A Fish means ‘life.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for aman: first strong mighty life.
The Council of Laodicea
The Council of Laodicea met in this city about 360 CE. The main focus was to regulate the behavior of church members. At this time, many anti-semitic doctrines were established that remain part of Christian theology today. One significant tenet is Canon 29 which outlawed the keeping of the Biblical Sabbath and encouraged resting on Sunday.
It is obvious that those at this council knew ‘The Lord’s Day’ was not the Sabbath. However, they instilled the idea that ‘The Lord’s Day’ was the ‘first day of the week’ and needed to be honored separating the church from the community of Isra’el and the God-give eternal Sabbath.
“Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day. Rather [they should] honour the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, rest then as Christians.”
The Set-Apart Sabbath
In the beginning, through His Word, Elohim created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. He blessed the seventh day and set it apart for Himself. The seventh-day weekly Sabbath is a memorial to the week of creation and His rest (Exodus 20:11-12).
Yeshua was with God and was part of the seven days of creation, including the Sabbath: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being” (John 1:1-3).
The Sabbath is a sign between Elohim and His people so that we know Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is our God: “I am Adonai your God; live by my laws, observe my rulings, and obey them, and keep my shabbats holy; and they will be a sign between me and you, so that you will know that I am Adonai your God” (Ezekiel 20:19-20).
The Sabbath is given to the nations: “And the foreigners who join themselves to Adonai to serve him, to love the name of Adonai, and to be his workers, all who keep Shabbat and do not profane it, and hold fast to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:6-7).
Delighting in the Sabbath brings delight in Elohim and encompasses blessing: “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, Adonai’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them. If you do, you will find delight in Adonai — I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya‘akov, for the mouth of Adonai has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14).
The Sabbath will be celebrated in the new heavens and new earth and is prophetic vision for Eternity: “For just as the new heavens and the new earth that I am making will continue in my presence,” says Adonai, “so will your descendants and your name continue. Every month on Rosh-Hodesh and every week on Shabbat, everyone living will come to worship in my presence,” says Adonai. “As they leave, they will look on the corpses of the people who rebelled against me” (Isaiah 66:22-24).
Yeshua, is the “Ruler of Elohim’s Creation” –– the Lord of the Sabbath: “For the Son of Man is Lord of Shabbat!” (Mathew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5).
The edict by the Laodicean Council not only contradicts the Fourth Commandment given by Adonai in Exodus 20:8-10, it is rebellion to every Sabbath Scripture. Keeping the seventh-day Sabbath has nothing to do with Judaism, but has everything to do with obeying the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
The deliberate twisting of the Biblical Sabbath has kept the church from is Biblical foundation and the blessings of a Biblical walk. It has also successfully kept the gentiles from provoking the Jewish people to jealousy for Yeshua which is their divine calling according to Sha’ul (Paul) in Romans 11. The Council of Laodicea acted out of arrogance and, at that moment, were cut off from the Olive Tree of Isra’el losing the nourishing sap of the root. Those who accepted and followed their edicts brought anti-semitism into every church denomination, an anti-semitism that remains today.
A Tepid Temperature
Many believers in Messiah claim to be ‘on fire for the Lord,’ but that doesn’t make them ‘hot.’ To be ‘hot’ means to be close to the ‘fire’ of Elohim. Moshe stood next to that ‘fire’ in the burning bush and removed his shoes in the holy presence. That ‘fire’ burned in a pillar over the Tabernacle in the wilderness and only a few could go near it. A ‘fire’ of Elohim burns in the heart so intensely, it cannot be humanly contained (Jeremiah 20:9). It is a ‘hot’ fire that refines a spiritual life, removing the dross of sin (Zechariah 13:9).
To be ‘cold’ means to be far away from ‘the fire’ of Adonai’s presence. A gentile foreigner separated from Elohim, His people and His teachings is ‘cold.’ ‘Cold’ means to be pagan with lustful desires and embracing false gods. ‘Cold’ means to have sterile ways of thinking, an intelligence shrouded in darkness, and to be estranged from the life of Elohim. ‘Cold’ means to be atheist –– irreverent, secular, and profane (Ephesians 2:11-12).
According to the dictionary, ‘lukewarm’ is a state of being warm, but only barely like a forgotten cup of hot tea. When it comes to the people of Laodicea, they lack zeal and enthusiasm for the ways of Adonai. In a Biblical context, ‘lukewarm’ is the mixing of the hot holiness of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh and the profane coldness of pagan idolatry and foreign gods.
The priests of Isra’el were warned about mixing the ‘holy’ and the ‘profane.’ Ezekiel tells them they do ‘violence’ to Torah by not distinguishing between the ‘clean’ and ‘unclean” and hiding their eyes from the Sabbath. This behavior profanes the name of Adonai among themselves and among the nations around them (Ezekiel 22:26).
The Hebrew word ‘violence’ in this verse is chamas and means ‘do violently against.’ Profane in Hebrew is chol and means ‘to make common.’ This is the antithesis of being “Holy as Elohim is Holy.”
Come Out From Among Them
“Therefore Adonai says, “‘Go out from their midst; separate yourselves; don’t even touch what is unclean. Then I myself will receive you. In fact, I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters.’ says Adonai-Tzva’ot.” Therefore, my dear friends, since we have these promises, let us purify ourselves from everything that can defile either body or spirit, and strive to be completely holy, out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).
These verses from 2 Corinthians had a profound impact on my faith walk. It clearly stated that I was to separate myself from certain people and touch no ‘unclean’ thing. By obeying Adonai’s commands, I become His daughter. From many years in the institution of the church, I just assumed I had a Father/daughter relationship –– the unconditional love on His part, but nothing from me. I also read that I had to purify myself from everything that contaminates body and spirit out of reverence for Adonai.
I began searching a concordance for ‘unclean’ and I found myself in Leviticus 11 that outlined what Adonai considers ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ foods – or what He just considers to be food or not food. At the very end of the chapter He states, “You are to be holy as He is holy.”
I was excited to receive a Word from Adonai. I wanted to share what I learned with friends; however, those friends told me emphatically that I was wrong. They said ‘we are no longer under the law’ and if I followed those commands, I would be ‘legalistic.’ I had never heard those two arguments for ‘disobeying’ Adonai’s commands so it became clear from whom I was to separate.
Sha’ul only quoted the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and my ‘new testament’ friends rejected the words. As part of the royal priesthood serving Yeshua, I am to strive for the same standard of holiness as the Levitical priesthood; in fact, I am held to a higher standard of holiness. I am not to mix the ‘holy’ and the ‘profane’ or become indifferent to the Sabbath. I am not to become lukewarm and profane the name of Adonai. As for one-sided unconditional love, Yeshua said a daughter’s response to her Father’s love obedience which is reverence.
Most of Christiandom is lukewarm; they don’t understand the difference between what is ‘holy hot’ and ‘profane cold.’ Through centuries of traditions, they mix the holiness of Adonai with the pagan ways of the nations. They exchanged Adonai’s Sabbath for the catholic Sunday as proclaimed by the Council of Laodicea. They have combined the spring renewal of the goddess Astarte/Easter with the resurrection of Yeshua. They have confused the birth of the sun-god Saturn with the incarnation of the Son of God. They falsely believe that Yeshua’s death changed pigs, horses, and eagles so they can now be consumed, or they believe he abolished Torah removing sin and disobedience.
Yeshua is telling Laodicea a different message. They are told that they are so lukewarm that ‘the faithful and true witness’ wants to vomit them out of his mouth. The Greek word for ‘vomit’ is emeo and means ‘repulsed, showing utter rejection, and disgust.’ In other words, the people in the Laodicean community disgust Yeshua that he wants to utterly reject them. This doesn’t sound much like the unconditional-love gospel message preached today.
The people of Laodicea see themselves as so rich that they have need of nothing. Their materialistic lifestyle makes them prideful and deceived to their real spiritual condition. Yeshua uses the clothing, gold, and eye salve that Laodicea values to rebuke his community. He doesn’t look at their outward appearance, but at their heart. He sees them as poor, naked, and blind. In his compassion, he offers them correction.
Sardis had soiled clothes; Laodicea has no clothes. They deceptively believe they are clothed in the righteousness of Yeshua, however, their man-made clothes do not cover their nakedness. The are like the wedding guest at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb who didn’t have wedding clothes. Though the guest had been invited, he didn’t properly dress. He had not been to the rehearsal dinner, so he didn’t know what to wear (Matthew 22:11-14).
Even though the city has a rich reputation from their gold, Yeshua tells the Laodiceans that they need to purchase gold refined in the fire. They exchanged a life of riches for an eternal reward of being with him where there are streets of transparent gold. They have become so arrogant that they need the ‘holy hotness’ of the refining fire to remove the dross and purify them.
The Laodiceans need to stop their violence against Torah by mixing the holy worship of Elohim with pagan gods likes Zeus, Saturn, Tammuz –– their own golden calf. For their spiritual blindness, Yeshua tells them they need eye salve. They don’t need the medical eye salve made from the Phrygian stone powder, they need eye salve like Yeshua made with mud and water so the scales fall from their eyes and they see their spiritual idolatry (John 9:11).
The people of Laodicea are so complacent Yeshua has to command them to “exert yourselves and turn from your sins!” ‘Exert’ means ‘put forth some physical or mental action.’ The deceptive doctrine of “Yeshua fulfilled the law so I don’t have to do anything” has utterly deceived them. These people do not need a message of resting in Yeshua, they need a ‘put-forth-some-effort-because-you-need-to-repent’ message. Because Yeshua loves the people in this community, he rebukes them harshly. He disciplines them so they will not be lost for all eternity (Psalm 118:18).
The Ten Commandments given to Isra’el were listed in Hebrew, not Roman numerals. In the Hebrew, the Fourth Commandment is the letter dalet with a letter picture of a ‘door’ meaning ‘pathway.’ The pathway commandment is: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
On the seventh-day, Yeshua stands at the dalet knocking. He pleads with the Laodicean people to repent and return to the ‘true witness’ of their relationship with his Father. He wants someone to open the dalet so he can come in and feast with them. If they open the ‘door,’ they will celebrate the eternal Sabbath together. This is the same Sabbath that the Council of Laodicea changed and encouraged Messianic believers to discard.
The reward for the overcomer is to sit with Yeshua on his throne. The action of sitting after a victory is symbolic of rest and cessation of work. This is the original purpose of Sabbath –– to cease work and rest. If the Laodiceans open the ‘door’ and guard the Sabbath as it was created, they will no longer be naked, poor or blind to the prophetic vision. They will rule and reign with Yeshua, the Lord of the Sabbath, in the his Messianic Kingdom.
“Those [in Laodicea who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit, Ruach haKodesh [the holy wind] is saying to the Messianic community.”
Yeshua uses these same words in the gospels when he speaks in parables, however, he doesn’t include the words, ‘what the Spirit says to the communities.’ One reason he taught in parables was so that people could ‘look but not see, and listen but not understand’ the message of the Kingdom (Isaiah 6:9-10, Luke 8:10). Because he wanted his disciples to have a deeper understanding of the coming Kingdom, he explained the hidden meaning away from the crowds.
Yeshua spoke all of his parables before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the ‘holy wind’ was poured out and the new covenant was instituted (Acts 2:2). With the arrival of the new covenant, men and women who obey the message of Yeshua are given new hearts and a renewed spirit. The Ruach haKodesh gives them ‘ears to hear what the Spirit is saying’ so they can obey His voice.
Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ his message, but ‘listen’ to it. His message was to be heard through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd (Psalm 95:7-8, John 10:27-28) His sheep were to ‘listen’ and ‘obey’ the message so they would be overcomers –– Isra’el –– and receive their eternal reward.
But you [Laodicea], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Matthew 13:14-16).
Revelation 4 – Heavenly Throne
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