“I would thou wert cold or hot” (Revelation 3:15 ASV. Scripture quotations in this article are from ASV and RVIC).
by James Parkinson
The closing period of the Gospel Age is shown in the letter to the Laodicean period (Revelation 3:14-22). Our Lord gives us few commendations for our period of Christian history. Let us each apply the lessons to self, before trying to apply them to anyone else.
Verse 14, “And to the angel1 of the church in Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:”
“Amen” means “Let it be so.” Are there other kinds of “witnesses” in our age? Are there those who deny that Jesus had a beginning, though Jesus is the first of God’s creation, and the one who worked with God to create everything and everyone else (John 1:2-3)?
Verses 15, 16, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
We prefer to drink cool water or a hot tea, but not either when lukewarm. What is more refreshing than a cold drink on a hot day? Many hot teas are healing. We should be both refreshing and healing. If we are faithful, then on a grander scale in the thousand-year kingdom of Christ we will provide the world with the “water of life” and provide the leaves of the tree [cross of Christ] … for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). But if we fail now to encourage and refresh others, and we do not do our best to comfort all that mourn (Isaiah 61:2), then others will take our place and do so.
Need to Change Self
Verses 17-19, “Thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich; and white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest; and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
We live in the financially wealthiest time in history, but it is no more than loosely correlated with happiness and contentment. It is good to earn something more than one needs, so that we have some to share with the less fortunate (Deuteronomy 15:7-11, 24:14-15, Galatians 2:10). Yet, when we have enough, there is danger that we forget that we are imperfect — a mixture of good and evil tendencies (as Apostle Paul also confessed, Romans 7:15-23).
There are other ways in which the fallen nature may think we have need of nothing. Might I think: See all these Bible translations I have on the shelf? and concordances and lexicons? and “Studies in the Scriptures”? Reprints and other things? I have kept them like new. What more do I need? What good are Bibles and their helps if simply left on the shelf? Let us appreciate a well-used Bible. Beyond that, its Scriptures must be put into practice.
(1) The messenger to the last church would be active at its beginning and deliver the Laodicean message. Pastor C.T. Russell began in the 1870s, taught ransom and restitution worldwide, noted the degraded state of Babylon, and called Christians to come out.
There are differences in head-knowledge. That Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom for all is the foundation of the Christian faith. That Jesus Christ did “taste of death for every man” means that everyone will benefit — “the testimony to be borne in its own times” (1 Timothy 2:5-6, Hebrews 2:9). This good news should be central in our message to the whole world.
If we conclude that Christ’s Second Parousia has begun (in its initial phase, before the world’s resurrection), then we are called to come out of Babylon. We must act on what we believe.
Less vital, some conclude from Scripture that Restitution/Restoration begins with Christ’s return, while others conclude from Scripture that Restitution awaits the completion of the faithful church. Still others conclude from Scripture that if we can be in the time of the end, but the end is not yet; then we can be in the Times of Restitution, while Restitution is still future. Whichever I think, would I do anything different were I to change my mind about this question? Important is the concept, to comfort people with the hope of Restitution, and that we “strive not about words” (2 Timothy 2:14).
God gave the Law through Moses to show fleshly Israel their sinfulness, and hence, their need for a Redeemer. Does our study of the Scriptures drive home to us how far short we are of the standard of perfection?
Gold refined by fire reminds us that the divine nature must be developed by “fiery” experiences (1 Peter 4:12-16). Jehovah “is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver” (Malachi 3:2-4). When gold ore in a crucible was refined by fire, the dross burned off until the refiner could see his own image reflected in the gold. Likewise for each of us.
White garments suggest purity, the purity which can be gained only by the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The angel of Jehovah said, “Take the filthy garments from off him … Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with rich apparel” (Zechariah 3:4).
We need to keep our eyes wide open: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 ASV). Today there are some invented or exaggerated stories of saints (in one denomination or another), or organizations which say you must join them to be saved, or that speak in strange tongues (whether foreign languages or gibberish), or that put forth divine healers (especially for money).
Of these, be wary. If from Holy Scripture you question part of a creed, some say your faith is failing (so bad things will happen to you). Such are to be avoided. But, “Let us reason together, saith Jehovah” (Isaiah 1:18). What is important is Christian character. One must join Christ to be saved.
Pastor Russell on Differences
The most difficult suggestion Pastor C.T. Russell has made on spiritual needs of the Church may be this: “There should be frequent regular meetings at which reasonably full opportunities would be given to anyone to present what he might believe to be a different view of truth from that perhaps generally held and approved by the Ecclesia.”
He first counsels, “In the study of the divine revelation the congregation should first, last and always recognize the difference between the foundation principles of the doctrines of Christ (which no member may change or alter, nor consent to have questioned) and the discussion of advanced doctrines, which must be fully in accord with the foundation principles” (Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 6, pages 314-319).
He then explains why: “Unless there be some such vent, two dangers may be encountered: One, the danger of falling into the condition we see prevailing now in the nominal churches of Christendom, in which it is impossible to find access to their ears through their regular Church meetings, every avenue of approach being carefully guarded. The other danger is, that the individual having a theory which appeals to his judgment as truth — no matter how false and irrational it might be — would never feel satisfied unless it should have a reasonable hearing, but would be continually obtruding the topic.”2
(2) Ca. 1963, this writer asked Pastor C.T. Russell’s nephew, Joseph Russell Land (Atascadero, CA), how Pastor Russell handled it when there was a difference of opinion in the [Bible] class. He replied, “Well, there are those back east who knew my uncle better than I, but I’ll tell you what I remember. He would let this one have his say with his scriptures and then that one have his say with his scriptures. He might let the first have more say with more scriptures, and then the other have more say with more scriptures. Then he would cut it off and summarize. He wouldn’t let it go on and on.”
“I Stand at the Door”
Verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
To the 1st, 4th, and 6th stages of the church, Jesus says, “I come” or “I come quickly” (Revelation 2:5, 25, 3:11). But to this last stage of the church, “I stand at the door and knock,” or, I am here. Now we are to listen to his voice, as in Revelation 10:11 (“Thou must prophesy again over many peoples”) and 18:4 (“Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins”). It is an individual matter.
Verse 21, “He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.”
First, we must overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. “Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him: if we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12). Or, succinctly, no cross, no crown.
Some things to overcome are suggested in Revelation 20:4-6. “Beheaded for the testimony of Jesus [are we testifying? and to whom?], and for the word of God … worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand … over these the second death has no power … they … shall reign with him a thousand years.”
Verse 22, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” Who can hear what the Spirit says, except he who has the holy Spirit? (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). The message is to us.
The seven spirits of God, dormant before the throne of God, are introduced before Jesus’ first advent. It was in the plan of God. But with the sacrifice of Christ, the seven spirits of God (the holy Spirit in seven stages) are “sent forth into all the earth” (Revelation 4:5, 5:6). The holy Spirit is sent to each of the seven stages of the church in this Gospel Age to develop the priesthood for the coming age. It is our lot to live in the concluding stage. Let us “hear.”