The Problem with Laodicea
The ancient city of Laodicea is situated in modern Turkey and was one of the economic centers of the ancient world. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 60 A.D. and instead of receiving help from the empire, the citizens proudly rallied together and repaired the city from their own resources. Laodicea was well known for its medical school, and its specialty was in treating eye diseases with an ointment called eyesalve, which was made from a special powder mixed with oil. All in all, Laodicea’s economic security and position of eminence, filled them with pride. But ironically, while Laodicea could boast in its medical ability in assisting people with their sight, they were unaware of their own blindness. Pride tends to make one blind. There was no local water supply for the city, so they had to transport water through an aqueduct 6 miles north from a city called Hierapolis. Yet, while this water came forth boiling hot from a spring at Hierapolis, by the time it reached Laodicea it was lukewarm, repulsive to drink and only good to wash in.
Jesus likens this lukewarmness with His church. Yes, you heard me right! He is not speaking of the beast or Babylon, but His church! This is the church that He loved and gave His life for. To His church He says, “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.” Revelation 3:15-17
Did you catch what Jesus said? He said that He wishes to vomit us out! Now why would He say this? Jesus employs such language because He loves. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” Revelation 3:19. He wishes to waken the church from its spiritual malaise and propel it to proclaim the Everlasting Gospel “to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people…” Revelation 14:6. Present circumstance may indicate that God’s church will permanently remain upon the fence, but we are assured that there will come a time when it does wake up, receiving a refreshing from on high, which supernaturally enables them to close off this work and declare the mystery of God. The Great Controversy points forward to this time in great anticipation when “there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.” Great Controversy 464 (see also Revelation 18:1-4).
The Latter Rain
So, what is it that reverses Laodicea’s chronic condition? It is the latter rain. James, Jesus’ brother, borrows this language from Joel 2:23 where He speaks of the latter rain in connection with the second coming of Jesus. “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” James 5:7-8. In the Ancient Near East, the early rain would fall just after the seed had been sown and that would help the seed to germinate and begin its growth. The latter rain, however, would come at the end of the season and would bring the crop to maturation, ready for harvest. Both of these rains, at the appointed time of the beginning and end of the cycle were necessary for fruitfulness of the crop.
And while the early and latter rain are both outpourings from the Spirit, they both have different purposes. The early rain assists God’s people in their growth in spiritual graces, but the latter rain has a specific purpose, at a specific time, in preparing God’s people for the coming of Jesus. The early rain prepares for the latter rain. With no early rain, the latter rain means nothing because there has been no growth to complete.
The Bible repeatedly speaks of the coming of Christ as the great harvest at the end of the age (see Matt 13:39 & Revelation 14:14-16) and it is the latter rain which prepares God’s people for the return of Christ. “The Holy Spirit did for them that which they could not have accomplished for themselves in a lifetime” Acts of the Apostles 38-40. And so, it is when the latter rain is poured out without measure that the movement which began with great power at Pentecost finishes with an even greater power!
The ultimate question is how can we make sure that we are a part of this? The answer is simple, it doesn’t need to be complicated. God has outlined our lukewarm condition, but do we recognise it? Or do we instead seek to justify ourselves? The only remedy for such a state is to heed the counsel given by Jesus Himself to His people.
“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.” Revelation 3:18-21
Jesus knocks at the door of your heart, but will you answer?