Wednesday, 14 October 2020
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: Revelation 3:14
We now come to the final letter addressed to the seven churches. As with all of the other letters, it is addressed “to the angel of the church.” This speaks of the leader of the church, not an angelic being. He is the leader (angel) “of the church of the Laodiceans.”
The name Laodicea comes from two separate Greek words, laos which is a gathering of people, normally of the same stock and language, and dike (pronounced deekay) which is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as “judgment,” “vengeance,” and “punish.” It is associated with a judicial hearing or decision which especially contains a sentence of condemnation. What a fitting name for the words which will come from the Risen Lord.
Of this location, Laodicea, Charles Ellicott gives us the following insights –
(14) Laodicea.—Situated half way between Philadelphia and Colossae, and not far from Hierapolis. It received its name from Laodice, wife of Antiochus the second king of Syria, by whom it was rebuilt and beautified. It had borne in earlier times the names of Diospolis and afterwards Rhoas. It shared with Thyatira and Sardis in the dye trade; the woods grown in the neighbourhood were famous for their quality and the rich blackness of their colour. Prosperity in trade had so enriched the population that when their city suffered in the great earthquake (A.D. 60) they were able to carry on the work of rebuilding without applying, as many of the neighbouring towns were compelled to do, to the Imperial Treasury for aid. The language of St. Paul (Colossians 1:5-8) suggests that the churches of Colossae and the neighbourhood first received Christianity from the preaching of Epaphras, though it seems strange that so important a city, lying hard upon the great Roman road from Ephesus to the east, should have been passed over by St. Paul in his journeyings throughout Phrygia (see Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23); yet, on the other hand, Phrygia was a vague term, and the language of Colossians 2:1 is most generally understood to imply that the Apostle had never personally visited either Colossae or Laodicea. (… Colossians 2:1.) But it was a Church in which St. Paul took the deepest possible interest; the believers there were constantly in his mind. He knew their special temptations to the worship of inferior mediators, and to spiritual paralysis springing from wordly prosperity and intellectual pride. He had great heart-conflict for those of Laodicea (Colossians 3:1), and in proof of his earnest solicitude he addressed a letter to them (Colossians 4:16), in all probability the epistle we call the Epistle to the Ephesians. From the Epistle to the Colossians we may gather that when St. Paul wrote the Christians at Laodicea assembled for worship in the house of Nymphas (Colossians 4:15) probably under the presidency of Archippus (Revelation 3:17).
It is to this church in Laodicea that John is instructed to “write.” Jesus’ words are spoken to John in his vision, and he is to then transmit the Lord’s words to the church, saying, “These things says the Amen.” This is a title only here ascribed to Jesus as a proper name. However, it is another confirmation that He is Yehovah incarnate.
The phrase is taken from Isaiah 65:16 which twice says concerning Yehovah, b’elohe amen, or “in the God of Amen.” Of this, Vincent’s Word Studies rightly notes, “The term applied to the Lord signifies that He Himself is the fulfillment of all that God has spoken to the churches.” The term not only speaks of what Christ says, but of who He is. He is the embodiment of the truth, and, therefore, everything He speaks is the truth. In this, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown then reconfirms the deity of Christ by saying –
“The saints used Amen at the end of prayer, or in assenting to the word of God; but none, save the Son of God, ever said, ‘Amen, I say unto you,’ for it is the language peculiar to God, who avers by Himself. The New Testament formula, ‘Amen. I say unto you,’ is equivalent to the Old Testament formula, ‘as I live, saith Jehovah.’”
This title, the Amen, is given now to contrast the character of those in Laodicea where it will say, “that you are neither cold nor hot.” The Amen is firm, fixed, and unwavering. But to be neither hot nor cold is vacillating at best, and totally uncommitted in any important way at all.
To bolster this marvelous title, the Amen, the Lord next says, “the Faithful and True Witness.” The term ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστός, or “the Witness the Faithful,” is repeated from verse 1:5. To this is added καὶ ὁ ἀληθινός, or “and the True.” Being the Faithful Witness refers to Christ’s testimony, but especially his death. The word martus, or “witness,” is where our word “martyr” comes from. When standing before Pilate, Jesus said –
“You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:37
John understood that Christ’s life, even to the point of death, was a witness to God’s plan of redemption that had been promised since the very fall of man. Christ Jesus faithfully accomplished His work. In doing so, and without sinning during the process, He became the firstborn from the dead as noted in verse 1:5. Along with this, the term “the True” isn’t referring to the speaking out of truth. Rather, it conveys the sense of true as a witness. Everything that embodies Christ as a witness is the absolute truth of God.
Finally, in this verse, Jesus says He is “the Beginning of the creation of God.” The word is archē. It does not indicate being a part of creation, but rather He is the Beginner of the creation. He is not a caused part of creation, but rather the principality behind the creative effort. He is thus the Lord over creation. This is seen, for example, in John 1:1-3. In Colossians 1:15, He is called the prōtotokos, or “firstborn,” over all of creation. It is He who possesses life which is self-existent, meaning without dependency on anything else.
Life application: Laodicea is mentioned last and it certainly fits the state of many churches in the world today, just as it has been true at other points in church history as well. As such, it is fitting that we should take the words from the Lord to heart and carefully contemplate what is being said. There are no words of commendation given in this letter. The church is wealthy, arrogant, and dead in its own self-satisfaction.
As noted, “Amen” is a word spoken to indicate security, soundness, reliability, and complete assurance – all things which are lacking in this corrupt church. As the “Faithful and True Witness,” He testifies to His own nature, needing nothing to be added to it.
In both testaments, the “testimony of two or three witnesses” establishes a matter. But Jesus testifies to Himself because He is the second member of the eternal Godhead; He is complete in and of Himself. His witness therefore testifies to His gospel upon which the faithful can peacefully rest. And His faithfulness means that He is true, and His word is true. They can be fully relied upon.
As He the First Cause of the creation, He is the sovereign Ruler of it. He is the Lord, Yehovah, revealed in His fullness. He was, and is, and ever will be. He is unchanging and immutable. He is the initiator of all things and He is the One who will bring all things to their satisfactory completion. In the Risen Lord, we serve the eternal and glorious manifestation of God. He is Jesus.
Oh Lord Jesus! The thought of You and Your greatness fills our souls with joy. We know that we can trust completely and wholeheartedly in You. You are ever faithful and ever true, and Your glory fills the earth as the waters cover the sea. Praises belong to You, now and forever! Amen.