The Seven Churches, Part XI: The Church of Laodicea

“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: “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, have 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 rep ent. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ” Revelation 3:14–22.

The Last Church

In our study of the seven churches, we have come to the last church—Laodicea. God has some straight things to say to the Laodicean church! How wonderful it is to be living in the last days, right before Jesus comes! With the added privilege of living during this time, however, comes added responsibility. God holds us responsible for more than He does any other generation.

The message to Laodicea begins with, “I am Jesus, the Faithful and True witness.” The words, “I am Jesus,” are not actually given, but before the messages to the previous churches, Jesus is identified as the One speaking. The very first verse of Revelation says, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you.”

Jesus wants us to know that what He is declaring in this message is true and accurate. It is not exaggerated; God neither overlooks nor does He exaggerate. It is a true account of the condition of God’s people in the last days. Of course, God’s account of each of the seven churches is faithful and true, but He felt the need to especially remind the last church of that fact. Because His counsel to it is so stern, He wanted to make sure that His people would not take it lightly.

Those Before

To bring everything into perspective, we will briefly review the first six churches. The first church, the church of Ephesus, was representative of the Christian churches during the apostolic era. They were faithful, diligent, and theologically correct, but they had lost their first love. They had that love once; the disciples had it at the time Jesus left, but they lost it before the church was through, and God had to remove their candlestick.

Ephesus, in some ways, was like Laodicea, although Laodicea is worse. Ephesus had left their first love. They were the church which thought they could never be moved, because they were the apostolic church. But God cautions not to think that we can never be removed, because He can remove our candlestick.

Ephesus was followed by the church of Smyrna, the persecuted church. Persecution brought back the love that Ephesus had lost. It weeded out those who had lost their first love. Smyrna is one of only two churches about which God had nothing bad to say; He had only good things to say about it. God is not all negative, by any means. He is a faithful and true witness. He does not call out only the evil deeds. The message that came from God for the church of Smyrna was only encouragement and nothing else. God said to that church, “You are doing well. You think that you are poor, because you have been stripped of earthly goods, but actually, you are rich. I am pleased with you. I am happy with what you are doing.” Would you like God to say that about you?

The church of Smyrna was just the opposite of the church of Laodicea. God had not one good thing to say about Laodicea. The church of Laodicea thought they were rich, but God said that they were poor. The church of Smyrna thought they were poor, but God said that they were rich.

144,000 Represented

Now, the church of Smyrna was like God’s people who come out of the church of Laodicea. It typified the 144,000. Persecution had refined and purified the church of Smyrna. The 144,000 will be refined and persecuted. “Then one of the elders answered, . . . ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ . . . ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ” Revelation 7:13, 14. Again, not one bad thing was said about them.

Remember the ten virgins, representing those, in the last days, who are waiting for Jesus to come? They thought they were all waiting for Jesus, but what were they really doing? They were sleeping. (Matthew 25.) However, some of them awakened, trimmed their lamps, and made ready for the Lamb. Those who had extra oil, who had been diligent Bible students, the Lord used.

In Revelation 14:5, it is written, “In their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.” This is how the Bible describes the 144,000 who come out of the church of Laodicea. These people will be of like character to those of the church of Smyrna that came out of the church of Ephesus. Oh, how wonderful it would be to have God say this about each one of us! If we are faithful, this can be said about us.

What is it that helps us to gain this experience? The trials and troubles that come our way help us to learn to look to the Lord and trust in Him. As we experience trials and troubles, just remember that God is getting us ready to be among the most privileged people who have ever lived. Only two people have ever gone out of this world alive, without dying first—Elijah and Enoch. But there will be saintly people alive, when Jesus returns, who will live forever. These people are approved of God, “for they are without fault before the throne of God.” This is God’s purpose and His will for each one of us.

Blessings to Perdition

The church of Pergamos followed the church of Smyrna. This church came about when Constantine, the emperor of Rome, declared himself to be a Christian. Then the church became very, very popular, but with popularity, the church became worldly.

What a shame it is that, when God gives us peace and ease and blessings, we, so many times, use these very blessings to our perdition. You would think that, when God gives us blessings, we would use them for our salvation. But too many times we use the very blessings God gives to us to forget Him and be lost. Have you ever known people, with lots of trials and troubles, who looked to God, prayed, became Christians, and found happiness? God took away their troubles, blessed them financially, blessed them with good health, but then, sometimes, they became so engrossed with their money, their pleasures, or their families, that they forgot all about God. It is not long until such people end up unhappy, like they were before, but too proud to repent to God.

Such people think they have too much going for them to spend time with and for the Lord. They do not need to follow Him; that is for the poor or the ugly or the weak. They can make it in the world, you see. What a shame that the very blessings God gives to us are sometimes used for our demise! That is what the children of Israel did.

God, speaking to Jeremiah, said, “I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown. Israel [was] holiness to the Lord.” Jeremiah 2:2, 3. This was in the days when Israel was poor, living in tents.

Verse 6 continues, “Neither did they say, ‘Where [is] the Lord, Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, Who led us through the wilderness, Through a land of deserts and pits, Through a land of drought and the shadow of death, Through a land that no one crossed And where no one dwelt?’ ” When they were in Egypt, God said that they were holy, but when God brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of plenty and prosperity, what happened? They completely forgot Him.

“I brought you into a bountiful country, To eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land And made My heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where [is] the Lord?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me.” Verses 7, 8.

Well, that is what happened to Pergamos. They became rich and prosperous, and God did not have much good to say about them.

The next church, Thyatira, was in existence during the Dark Ages. God did not hold those people as responsible as He did the others, we are told, in Revelation 2, because they did not have Bibles. The Bibles had been taken away. God just told them to hold fast to what they had. In that church, the papal leaders were likened to Jezebel.


Then we come to the church of Sardis, the period of the reformation. Except for Laodicea, God has the least good to say about this church! We look back to this period as a great and wonderful time, but the Bible says, regarding that church, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1. The church of Sardis had some wonderful leaders, but the church did not follow them, so the reformation did not accomplish what God purposed. It fell short, and the beast’s wound was healed.

Second Reformation

This was followed by the second reformation—the age of Wesley, Whitefield, the Quakers, and others. During this time of the church of Philadelphia, many people fled to America to escape persecution.

There was some persecution in America’s beginning. Roger Williams had to flee to Rhode Island because of persecution. Nevertheless, for the most part, they did not have as much persecution as did the sixteenth-century reformers. Not one good church escaped persecution, but no church suffered as much persecution as the church of Sardis. Yet, even in comparative prosperity, which the church experienced, at times, the church of Sardis developed a character that God approved. I do not know of any other time in the Bible where that happened.

God had not one bad thing to say about them. This was a time of revival and reformation. When Wesley preached, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people came to hear him, especially in America, but in Eng-land too. The people would leave their jobs to listen to him speak. The same thing happened with Whitefield.

This was a time when the missionary societies were started, sending missionaries all over the world. The Bible societies were organized and began translating the Bible in all languages. People gave offerings—this is when serious mission offerings began. This is a time when prayer meetings and evangelistic meetings began. This was a time of Baptist lay preachers and Methodist circuit riders. So this takes us to the last church, the church of Laodicea. This is the church upon which God pours out His special blessings, because He is getting a church ready, a special people ready for the Second Coming.

A Church Ready

What are God’s requirements of His church when Jesus comes again? Ephesians 5:25, 26 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” He has been going through a great washing process for 2,000 years with seven different churches. We are in the last church, the church of Laodicea, culminating with the 144,000.

We could almost say that the 144,000 are an eighth church, which comes out of Laodicea, but they certainly are not like Laodicea! God does not list the 144,000 as a church, however. The list of churches ends with Laodicea. Nevertheless, the Bible says there will be a remnant—a remnant out of Laodicea, a remnant out of the churches.

What is the church going to be like when God is done washing it, purifying it? We are told, in verse 27, “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” That is what God says about the 144,000.

The Greatest Work

This last church has the greatest work of history to do. This work is outlined in Revelation 14:6, 7. In verse 6, we read, “I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth . . . .” To whom are they to preach? “Every nation, tribe, tongue, and people”—Chinese, Africans, South Americans, Caucasians, Russians—to everyone.

The devil would like to close every avenue he can to keep the gospel from going throughout the world, but the Lord has allowed for many inventions to take place in these last days—things like radio, television, and mass publishing—that go right into areas that are “closed” to Christianity. Most people in countries such as Russia and China have shortwave radios, and many hear the gospel on them. God has people in those countries, people who are willing to risk their lives for the gospel.

Before the communist revolution in China, God helped the Seventh-day Adventist Church to become firmly established in China. All through that vast country, from Mongolia to Shanghai to Hong Kong, churches were firmly established for almost 50 years before the revolution. The church has continued, but not because of Americans or missionaries, because missionaries have not been allowed to enter China since 1947. Some of the missionaries who were there at that time went to jail for the next 30 years. Some of them died there.

The Chinese work continues, just as it does in Viet Nam and Cambodia, and all other countries, because God has faithful, national people there who are true to Him and who, at the risk of their lives, continue to hold worship services where they can preach the gospel.

The devil does everything he can to close up the work, but he cannot close out the gospel. And so, the Bible says, the gospel is to go “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.’ ” Verses 6, 7.

God’s Requirements

God gives special blessings to the last church in order to fulfill this commission, in order to become holy, in order to give the gospel to the world. But with increased blessings come increased responsibilities. When God gives greater privileges, He requires more.

Jesus said, “That servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare [himself] or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:47, 48.

This is why the church of Pergamos was told, “I do not require so much of you.” He required something; they had to overcome. Those who overcome will be saved. He also counseled to hold on to what you know, and to do what you know. This is why we should not question people, because we do not know how much light they have received. There may be people who are not nearly living up to the light we have, who are better Christians than we are! We cannot judge people. Some people say that their mother, their father, their grandmother, and their grandfather were good Christians, but these people did not do everything God requires them to do. Why not? Because God may not have required it of these forefathers.

We, however, are living closer to Jesus’ Second Coming than have our parents. We are living much closer than have our grandparents. Jesus did not come in their day. They were not among the 144,000. And so, today, God is requiring more, and He is giving more. We cannot go by what our fathers or our forefathers did.

More Required

God requires more of the last church. We look at the counsel to the last church, and we see that not one good thing is said. Someone may say, “My, this is a terrible church!” Well, if you compare it to some of the other churches, it is probably better than some, from a human perspective. But the others did not have as great privileges or as much knowledge.

Look at what the Lord has given to the last church. Revelation 3:14 says, “To the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.’ ”

Two things are implied in “the Faithful and True Witness”:
(1) What God is going to say about Laodicea is correct and faithful and true. It is not exaggerated.
(2) Beyond this, God is renewing His witness, His testimony to the church in the last days.

In Revelation 12:17, we read: “The dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” The Greek word, loipoy, which is here translated as rest, also means remnant. This means “the last part,” which actually is implied in the Greek.

Testimony of Jesus

“The testimony of Jesus Christ,” the witness of Jesus, is rather a technical term in prophecy. We find, in Revelation 19:10, as well as in Revelation 22 and other places in the Bible, that the testimony of Jesus Christ is the Spirit or the gift of prophecy.

God promised different gifts to the church. In 1 Corinthians 12, various gifts of the Spirit are given. There is the spirit of discernment and the spirit of working miracles. The spirit of helpfulness is an interesting gift, which God talks about in Romans 12. There is the spirit of administration, which may not have been a miraculous gift, but it is a gift of ability which God gives people. There is a spirit of being able to speak in other languages. Then there is a spirit of prophecy. This spiritual gift is going to be renewed in the last days, we are told in Revelation. God says to this last church, I am “the Faithful and True Witness.” He renews His witness in the last days. God continues, “the Beginning of the creation of God.” Revelation 3:14.

In the Beginning

The beginning of the creation of God, as given in Genesis 1 and 2, is when the Sabbath was made. “So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God created and made.” Genesis 1:31–2:3. In fact, the Sabbath, as we are told in the fourth commandment, is the memorial of the creation: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day [is] the Sabbath of the Lord your God: . . . For [in] six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that [is] in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8–11.

It is interesting that it does not just say to remember the Sabbath day, but to remember also that “the seventh day [is] the Sabbath,” and “to keep it holy.” God does not say, “Make a sabbath,” or “Keep one day a week.” He is as specific as He can be. It is the Sabbath, and “you shall do no work,” because in six days He created everything, and on the seventh day He rested from His works.

The Sabbath is the commemoration of the creation. It is what God has given to us to help us remember that He is the creator. Evolution is wrong, and all false religions are wrong. We cannot make up our own philosophy or religion or any- thing else. God is the creator. Everything here is created, and we are creatures.

If only people had kept the Sabbath and kept the meaning of the Sabbath, there would not be all the false religions we have today. The Sabbath teaches people about creation.

When more than in the last church do we need the teaching of the Sabbath? We have the teaching of the creation and the Creator and the memorial of creation, restored on earth. That is done by the seventh church, the church of Laodicea.

To be concluded . . .

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.