By Jeffrey Whittaker
In these most challenging days of navigating through the dangerous rocks of spiritual irresponsibility and exploitation, we must (as always) turn our eyes and hearts to the unchanging witness of God's forever settled Word. As we will see in the chosen passage from which I have derived the title of this article, the Church of Jesus Christ (not the world) is called by the Lord Himself to examine itself, repent, and value that which He Himself values.
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 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" – Revelation 3:14-22, New King James Version (NKJV).
Laodicea's name is derived from the Greek word Lah-od-ik'-i-ah, a compound word made up of Laos [people, Thayer's Lexicon # 2992] and Dikae [judged, ruled by the customs and rights of the people; Thayer's Lexicon #1349]. So the first thing we notice is that the church of the Laodiceans was ruled by the customs and desires of the people.
The first charge the Lord levelled against this group was that they had come to a state of lukewarmness. As I meditated on this I recalled my first year at university when I took an “environmental studies” course to fulfil a science requirement. (As a music major, science was the least of my priorities!). The course textbook was entitled Entropy by Jeremy Rifkin. This introduced me to the laws of thermodynamics (the transfer of useful heat energy). The summation of these laws (not theories such as evolution) is that there is a limited amount of heat energy in the universe, and that heat moves from a state of use to disuse on a one-way street toward “heat death” or “homeostasis”.The concept of entropy is that all things move from a state of usefulness to a state of uselessness, from order to chaos (my children's bedrooms are evidence of this law!) So as I meditated upon the condition of the Laodicean church, I saw that they had allowed themselves to go the way of all nature; from hot to room temperature, from order to chaos, from spiritual usefulness to uselessness.
Looking at it another way, this group whose name means “ruled by the customs and rights of the people” had found the world's temperature and achieved spiritual homeostasis. This is the very essence of the modern “seeker-sensitive” and “emergent” movements. By taking the world's temperature through opinion polls and surveys instead of the Word of God, the church is doomed to degrade itself from being prophetic to becoming merely pathetic.Paul the apostle wrote to the young pastor, Timothy:
Therefore I remind you to inflame anew the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands - 2 Timothy 1:6, Modern King James Version (MKJV).
Thayer's definition of inflame comes from the Greek word “a-na-zo-pu-re'o”, which means “to kindle, inflame one's mind, strength, and zeal”. The only hope for the New Testament believer is to stay in contact with the Holy Spirit of God and His Word, the only true sources of eternal “heat energy”; guaranteed to keep one's spiritual temperature at the right level. If any of us begin to lean upon our own intellectual strength, religious self-righteousness, or political zeal, we will dissipate and end up resembling the rest of the lost world around us.
Now lest you think I have forgotten the verse from which this article derives its name, let us consider verse 18 again: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.Our salvation has been purchased for us through the precious shed blood of Jesus by the Grace of God's Spirit, and is therefore given as a free gift by God:For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord - Romans 6:23
The meaning of the Revelation verse is that of making a value judgment of the heart, calling each believer to treasure the Presence and Will of God above all things, thereby “buying” it. The key in this verse is the true call to genuine Christianity, as well as to vital Spirit-filled, Spirit-led living. Now let us turn our attention to seeking after the gold tried by fire!
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit & Fire
The modern charismatic movement (beginning in the mid 1960s following Vatican II) has been characterized as the historic period when human beings from nearly every denominational and creedal stripe were “baptized with the Holy Spirit” with the physical experience of speaking in other tongues. Historic Pentecost (late 19th early 20th Centuries), on the other hand, was characterized in its initial stage by earnest believers, seeking to be baptized by the fire of God, yearning for deeper holiness and surrender.The quest was characterized by the pursuit of God's Glory reflected in the face of the Lord Jesus. As the first apostles (and our early “holiness fathers”) sought after biblical, fire-baptized sanctification and empowerment, rather than an “experience” which proceeded through a statue representing the person and presence of Mary as in the 1967 Roman Catholic “outpouring” at the now-famous Duquesne University retreat, which is considered by most as the birthplace of the modern charismatic renewal. (As By A New Pentecost - Patty Gallagher Mansfield, Franciscan University Press, 1992; p.35.)
In contrast consider the magnificent Old Testament prophecy given through Malachi:
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness” - Malachi 3:1-3
Who is this Lord whom we should be seeking? According to this description, I don't think that I want to treat His coming, nor His refining work lightly; but rather with reverence and godly fear. Do we see this prophecy finding its fulfilment in the New Testament? Yes, we do.I (John the Baptist) indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire - Matthew 3:11-12
This prediction was fulfilled in the earthly ministry of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. We find that after His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, the risen Lord renewed this promise to His disciples just before His ascension to glory:
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which," He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" - Acts 1:4-5
According to the witness of Scripture, we know that the promise of the Lord Jesus was fulfilled in the upper room prayer meeting on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. For the purpose of our study, let us turn to the record of the first Pentecost to gain deeper understanding and insight into God's original design. Before you turn to Acts 2, let me warn you that we have to go back quite a bit further than you might expect.
The First Pentecost
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at the LORD, and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near the LORD consecrate themselves, lest the LORD break out against them." But Moses said to the LORD, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai; for You warned us, saying, 'Set bounds around the mountain and consecrate it.'" Then the LORD said to him, "Away! Get down and then come up, you and Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the LORD, lest He break out against them." So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them. (GIVING THEM THE 10 COMMAND- MENTS IN Exodus 20, just to have them break them and reject His Lordship)…. 32:28 …and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men
- Exodus 19:16-25; 32:28Many modern Pentecostals believe that the day of Pentecost was all about speaking in tongues, when it was (and is) so much more! According to Leviticus 23, Yahweh established the Feast cycle which was given to Israel to commemorate His mighty works of redemption. The Feast of Pentecost is observed 50 days after Passover (the prophetic feast fulfilled in the death of Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God). In Exodus chapters 19 through 32, passages that we have just referred to, Mt. Sinai was covered with a thundering cloud of lightning, fire, wind, and the blasting of trumpets. The Children of Israel did not run towards the mountain, but rather withdrew themselves and cried out that they would rather hear the voice of a man than God (rather Laodicean don't you think?).
BUT WHAT WAS IT THAT CAUSED THE DEATH OF 3,000 ISRAELITES IN ONE DAY?
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." And Aaron said to them, "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD." (A MAN-CENTRED, MAN-ORDAINED FEAST, BUT NOT A FEAST OF THE LORD!~JLW). Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down!
For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'"… So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses' anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it - Exodus 32:1-8; 19-20
The water that Israel was drinking was that which flowed from the split rock at Horeb! Much later Jesus Himself proclaimed to the Israel of His time in John 7 at the last day of the FEAST OF TABERNACLES, “Come to me and drink”. What He was saying was that He was the personal fulfilment of the prophetic type embodied in the Split Rock. Paul the apostle, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 affirms this interpretation when he states:
Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.If the Rock was Christ, what then was the water? According to John 7:38-39 the water was (and is) the emblem of the Holy Spirit.
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.If the Split Rock of Horeb was a type of our Lord Jesus, and the water which flowed from it represents the blessed Holy Spirit, then the judgment of God through Moses (Exodus 32:20) demonstrates how the ashes of the GOLDEN CALF makes the sweet waters which flow from Christ bitter!
This is exactly what happens time and time again when the people of God (both Old and New Testaments) create a god of gold to take the place of the awesome majesty of Yahweh! We declare feasts after the fashion of Aaron, and dance before gold-plated, manmade revivals, only to have them turn to ash under the scrutiny of God's holy fire. The sad thing is that these false moves only serve to make bitter the very gift of God that was given to sustain the church in the wilderness of this fallen world. That is why as you read this article there are thousands of Christians, as well as denominations (the American Assemblies of God for one) that are having to drink the bitter results left behind from “golden calf” feasts from Toronto, to Brownsville, to Todd Bentley of the so-called Florida Revival! It was because of Yahweh's righteous anger and judgment that the 3,000 apostate Israelites fell at that first Pentecost!Now let us finally look at the New Testament fulfilment of Pentecost, and be inspired to pursue the types and teachings of His Feasts in all of their righteous glory!
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.…. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them - Acts 2:1-4; 41
The original giving of the Law at Sinai was followed by death, but the giving of the Holy Spirit brings life!
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men, it having been made plain that you are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, not having been written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not on tablets of stone, but in fleshly tablets of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God, not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God; who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive - 2 Corinthians 3:2-6 (MKJV)
You see, the well-deserved rebuke of our Lord to the Laodicean church was that they had a self-perceived wealth and righteousness, but lacked a total commitment to GOD'S GLORY (GOLD) which left them dangerously close to being spewed out of the Lord's mouth. May we live on our knees at the foot of the Rock, Jesus Christ; drinking daily from the pure water of His outpoured Spirit, allowing Him to refine us with His Holy Fire; and may we take the fire-baptized message of His Salvation to the ends of the earth!