“And to the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, having become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (NKJV)
1. The City of the Epistle, v. 14.
Laodicea was founded about 250 BC at a critical point in the road system of the country. It was very strongly fortified, but had one serious weakness: it was dependent on water from a system of aqueducts from the north and south. Ruins of these aqueducts exist today. We’ll have more to say about these aqueducts later on.
The city became famous for three things, all alluded to in the letter. It was a great commercial and financial center. It was the manufacturing center for several kinds of widely esteemed garments. It was the location of a famous medical school, which was noted, among other things, for its medicine for the eyes.
In the 4th century, a council was held in the city which, humanly speaking, established the New Testament canon.
“Laodicea” comes from two words meaning, “the voice, or rule, of the people” – democracy, as opposed to the voice or rule of God, or theocracy. The church there was a rich church materially, but in a condition of absolute poverty, spiritually speaking. Surely it speaks of the church in our time, with all the fancy buildings and hierarchy and organization, but little if any real effect on our culture. Indeed, much of the professing church seems to be adding to the debasement of that culture. Truly, Lamentations 4:1 may be applied to this church and to the church of our time: How the gold has become dim! How changed the fine gold!
2. The Christ of the Epistle, v. 14.
Our Lord uses three titles to establish His connection with this church and to remind them of their own responsibility and failings.
The Amen. This is an untranslated Hebrew word meaning something is established, certain and positive. In the case of God’s dealing with Israel – and with mankind in general, it means that what He has said, He will do. He is dependable and trustworthy. We may trust our eternal souls and being into His care. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20. He will not fail. He cannot fail.
The Faithful and True Witness. See Hebrews 1:1, 2. No matter how faithless or false the church may be, its Head remains Faithful and True (Genuine). Our Lord has never once denied or deserted the purpose of God. Never has He left perfection or righteousness. He is faithful. But He is also True. Many founders or followers of cults and false religions are faithful to what they believe, but those things are not true. They are not of God. But Jesus is. Because He is, He gives a complete and correct description of Laodicea. They could deceive themselves and others, but not Him.
The Beginning of the Creation of God. There are those who knock at your door who will say that this simply means that the Word was the first act of creation, “the firstborn over all creation,” Colossians 1:15. After that, He, the Word, created everything else. However, Colossians 1:16 goes on to say, For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible…. The JW bible, The New World Translation, (which I DO NOT recommend!) translates this verse as “because by means of him all [other] things were created….” They add the word, “other,” to the verse, though they do mark it as added. They also add the word 4 other places in vs. 16-20. “All [other] things,” v. 16, “He is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things,” v. 17, “reconcile again to himself all [other] things.”
An interesting fact is that in their interlinear Greek NT, which is the standard 1881 Westcott and Hort text, Colossians 1:16 reads, “because in him was created all the things in heavens and upon the earth.” Surely one can see the difference! The Greek text says Christ created everything; the JW version says He created everything else! There is a difference. There is no word for “other” in the Greek text! In any of the four verses the NWT had it. The NWT is a false translation.
JWs also make a big deal out of the word “firstborn” in Col. 15, He is the firstborn over all creation, though they translate it “the firstborn of all creation,” as do the KJV and some newer translations. According to them, this means that He was the first-created of creation. However, in Scripture, the word “firstborn” has two different meanings. It does often mean the first child born in a family, whether human or animal, as, for example, in Genesis 48. The chapter recounts Isaac’s blessing of Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. When it became apparent that Isaac meant to bless Ephraim more than Manasseh, Joseph stopped him, saying that Manasseh was “the firstborn,” v. 18, also Genesis 41:51. Manasseh was the older, and by right and custom, should have had that blessing, cf. 43:33; Deuteronomy 21:17, but Isaac said that Ephraim was to receive it. By the way, those brothers in Genesis 43? They were terrified because they thought the man who was their host had some magical or demonic power because he knew their birth order. They had no idea he was actually the brother they had sold into slavery.
In addition to the meaning of being the first one actually born, it also means “preeminent” or “given priority.” We see an example of this in 1 Chronicles 5:1, Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel – he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed [Genesis 35:22], his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph….
It is this second meaning of “priority,” “preeminence” that Colossians 1:15 uses. Paul concludes the thought of these verses, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that might mean “may or may not.” The word denotes certainty, not mere possibility.
Make no mistake about it. The day is coming, and we hope, soon, when our Lord will return to this earth, and there will no doubt that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
(Lord willing, we’ll finish this in our next post.)