In a small town, there was an assisted living center. Inside it lived a cat of modest age. She was cared for by two workers- a rat and a dog. Neither of the workers wanted to work there, but for both, it was the only job they could get in such a small town.

The dog did her duty each day, but the rat was always willing to go that little extra step to make things comfortable for the residents.

One day, the cat became very ill, and was bedbound. The dog, during her shift, did nothing. "She probably won't live long." said the dog. "and even if she lives, she'll have a poor quality of life."

When the rat began her shift, she immediately tended to the sick cat. She sat by her bed, talked with her, fed her warm broth and read her stories.

Under the kindly rat's ministrations, the cat made a full recovery. when she was back on her feet, she decided that she did not want to live where the dog was working. She instead bought her own house and asked the rat to be her personal caretaker. The rat lived very happily in her employers house, and when the old cat passed away many years later, with no family, she left everything to the rat who had been so kind and friendly to her. To the dog, she gave nothing.

A little caring goes a long way.

Today, we're talking about Laodicea, a church which is known for a lack of caring. But Laodicea really can't be discussed without the mention of Philidelphia. So we'll be talking about both, really.

First, a little background:
Laodicea was a city which lay in a valley. It had three chief industries- gold, linen and salve. The salve was made from clay taken from the nearby mountains which was mixed with spikenard. Analysis has shown that neither the clay nor the salve which was made from it have any healing properties, save the sedative properties of the spikenard. It must have smelled pretty good, though.

"Lukewarm" had a special meaning to the people of Laodicea. Near the town were icecapped mountains and hot springs. The people built an aquaduct to collect icewater from the mountains and carry it into the city, but by the time the water got there, it was lukewarm. Likewise, water from the hot springs was lukewarm by the time it was carried into town.

As one of the seven ages, Laodicea represents the very last age, extending from somewhere in the mid 20th century through the end of the tribulation. And as I said in my last sermon, the Laodicean age has already started while the Philidelphian age is still going. We have two rather distinct church bodies existing side-by-side.

How did this dichotomy come to be? From what I can see, it started way back in the fourth century, when the church began what would become its first major split. The baptistics, who were very quiet for centuries, became the progenitors of the "hot" church, not only in their own sect, but among protestants as well. Meanwhile, the "cold" church, the one which Jesus declared dead (Sardis) had become the lesser group, but continued to exist. The church full of assumed "Christians" gained in popularity as a sort of a religious placebo. One can attend such a dead church, do nothing, have no relationship with the Lord, and yet come away feeling very spiritual. It became another entree in the religious smorgasboard which today's society enjoys. "Create your own religion" says the world. "Whatever works for you." A little judaism, some pantheism on the side, sprinkle liberally with taoism, top with islam and garnish with animism. Christianity becomes reduced to a casserole. And while we baptists are renowned for our casseroles, that's not what it's about.

The Philidelphian church is motivated by love. Not love for their neighbors (which they've got) but love for God, which demands love of one another.

The laodicean church abides by the silver rule. Don't do unto others what you wouldn't have them do unto you. This is the popular interperetation of love. Live at peace with your neighbor. Don't kill, don't steal, don't swear, don't do drugs, and just be generally pleasant to everyone and you'll go to Heaven. Many people don't realize, though, that God is a part of "everyone". No, I don't mean that everyone is connected to Him. Quite the contrary. I mean that God is a person, just like everyone else. If we love every mortal in the world yet treat God with callous indifference, we have fallen short of the goal. It's like a 995 foot bridge over a thousand foot chasm. "Almost" isn't good enough.

Yet the people of the laodicean church treat God as though he He were a movie star. They listen to Him, they applaud Him, and they walk away and forget Him. There's no relationship and no lasting effect. Wouldn't you hate it if people treated you like that? I know I do, and this group is proof of that. Many of you were my fans before you were my friends. But because you let me, I pursued a relationship with each one of you. It wasn't always a great one, but it was a relationship.

Jesus counsels the laodiceans to buy from Him gold (the ransom of His shed blood) clothing (righteousness) and eye-salve (Revelation of the Holy Spirit). Of course, when one does this, they are no longer laodicean in character.

the name "Laodicea" is a compound word which means "Judgement of the people". And here is why that is significant.

Jesus makes a promise to the Philidelpian church and a threat to the laodicean church. He promises to keep the Philidelphians from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world. He warns the laodiceans that He will "spit them out of His mouth". Two great theologians, McGee and Ironside, agree with me that these are two parts of the same thing. When the time comes for the tribulation to fall over the world, the Philidelphians, those who love God and have a relationship with Him, will be raptured. The laodiceans, those who think they know Christ but do not, will be left behind. And while I know that there are those here do not believe in the rapture (you don't have to to be saved) it's in the bible. Jesus spoke of it Himself in Matthew 24 and Luke 17. I believe that it will be pre-tribulation because life will be going on as normal, and because nobody knows when it's coming. I believe that it is the Christians who will be raptured because of this very clear promise in the letter to Philidelphia. (I could go on about my reasoning, but this is a topic for another sermon.)

So the laodicean church will exist on its own for seven years. In fact, the bulk of it will be absorbed into the single world religion set up by the Antichrist (false prophet). There will be Christians alive during that time. Some of them will become Christians as a result of witnessing the horrific events of the end times. I've no doubt that you each know at least one already. But I would not want to be alive at that time. We're talking about an era when even American and Canadian citizens will suffer decapitation for their faith in God. Those who reject God as God has rejected them will be friends with the world, but they will still be subject to the twenty-one judgements of the Revelation. And that is only the beginning of misery, because believe me, death apart from Christ is not peaceful. It is a real and very literal Hell. There are those of us who have seen it, and it is not something I would wish on anyone.

This brings us to today's challenge. If you're not a Christian, I urge you to take to heart the words of this prophecy and accept Christ as your savior while there is still time to avoid the coming tribulation.

If you are a Christian, double-check to see what kind of Christian you are. Are you driven by a love for God? Are you "hot", actively seeking to serve and to pass His love on to others? Or are you a nominal Christian, lukewarm in passion as you sit in the pew and soak up the religious atmosphere?

Today's reading
Revelation 3:14-22
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
16 So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."