The 144,000 and the Laodicea Church
God has always accepted His people as rough diamonds, but He will not accept it, when His people wish to remain as rough diamonds. God is concerned, that those who call themselves His people, accurately reflect His character. Therefore, God has a ‘polishing process’ in place for rough diamonds. This process is called sanctification (the process of making saints). Sanctification operates on several levels of intensity. There is the gentle level, where the voice of the Holy Spirit is accepted by those “who have ears to hear.” For those who do not have ears to hear there is another level of intensity called “the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). The first level takes small steps over a long period of time and can be relatively painless. The second level is designed to catch up for lost opportunities; it is sudden, severe and painful.
Sanctification is a fundamental part of the plan of salvation, because God has always wanted a pure people. He has always been the Gardener working in His vineyard to produce perfect fruit (see Isa. 5:1-7; Jn. 15:1-8). He has pruned, sifted and refined his people throughout history (see Amos 9:9; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:2,3; Lu. 22:31,32). In the last days He brings His sanctification process to a successful conclusion – God’s efforts produce the 144,000. The Laodiceans are invited to participate – they are offered the gentle level of intensity, or the ‘furnace of affliction:’
I advise you to buy from me faith, which is like gold purified in a furnace and proven to be true, the kind that will make you spiritually rich; buy from me a white robe woven from my righteousness alone to cover your shameful spiritual nakedness; and apply the heavenly eyesalve administered by the Holy Spirit to help you truly see and understand the things of God. Those whom I love, I correct and discipline. So be earnest, repent and change your ways. I am standing at your heart’s door, knocking. Anyone who hears my voice and opens the door will be glad, for I will come in and eat with him and he with me. He who overcomes will receive the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and now sit with my Father on His throne. If you have ears to hear, then listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you. Rev. 3:18-22. The Clear Word, paraphrase.
If the Laodicean has ears to hear and heeds this counsel, from the Lord, he will no longer remain in the Laodicean state – he moves his spiritual address. If He is a commandant-keeping, subscriber to the third angel’s message, he has no other option, than to be found among the Philadelphians. The question that remains is: what happens to the Laodiceans, that refuse to acknowledge their true condition, and they refuse the Lord’s invitation to repent?
Jacob and Esau
We have already noted the relevance of the experience of Jacob, to the experience of the 144,000. Jacob’s experience serves as a type and the experience of the 144,000 serve as the antitype. We have also noted that the 144,000 and the Philadelphia Church are the same. Therefore, the life and experience of Jacob are just as much an antitype for the Philadelphia Church as it is for the 144,000. We have also noted, that Jacob had a twin brother called Esau. It is at this point, that we need to recognize, that not only does the experience of Jacob serve as a type, but so does the experience of Esau. Jacob’s life and experience serves as an antitype for the Philadelphia Church and Esau’s life and experience serves as an antitype for the Laodicea Church. Again, we can quote Ellen White, as an authority for something that we already know, from the Bible:
Jacob and Esau represent two classes: Jacob, the righteous, and Esau, the wicked. Jacob’s distress when he learned that Esau was marching against him with four hundred men, represents the trouble of the righteous as the decree goes forth to put them to death, just before the coming of the Lord. SR 97.
Just as destruction, at the hands of his own brother, seemed imminent to Jacob, so too, does destruction seem imminent to the Philadelphia Church, at the hands of their ‘spiritual brothers’ in league with the world. These ‘spiritual brothers’ are known as the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
Jacob, Esau and the Synagogue of Satan
Esau was a part of the chosen people. He was a member of the kingdom of God. But he despised his birthright and traded it in for temporary physical sustenance. He considered the physical things of the world, more important than the spiritual things of God – as do the Laodiceans, they are “increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17).
Esau’s attitude was further expressed, in his choice of wives. Instead of going to the people of God, as Abraham did for Isaac, he chose to mingle and associate himself with the world (see Gen. 26:34, 35; 27:46). By contrast Jacob took wives from among his own, and God’s people.
Jacob’s descendants established the nation of Israel (and latter Judah). Esau’s descendants established the nation of Edom [also known biblically as Mount Seir], which was to the immediate southeast of Judah. There were many wars between these nations. Eventually the Judeans conquered and forcibly converted the Edomites to Judaism. Thus, the prophecy given to Rebecca was fulfilled. She was told that there were two nations in her womb, and that one would be stronger than the other, and that the elder would serve the younger (see Gen. 25:23). This prophecy was accurately fulfilled in the history of these two nations. Jacob’s (the younger) descendants eventually conquered or ‘supplanted’ Esau’s (the elder) descendants.
However, as with most Old Testament history, the life and actions of these two brothers, is pregnant with prophetic symbolism. As the scroll of history unrolls, we can see that the relationship between Jacob and Esau, serves as a type, which is repeated as antitypes, throughout history, culminating in the last struggle between the spiritual descendants of Jacob and Esau. The Bible often portrays God’s kingdom as being co-habituated by two classes of people, such us; the good fish and the bad fish, the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, the wise virgins and the foolish virgins, the Philadelphians and the Laodiceans. Jacob and Esau are simply a lesser-known example of the others.
Jacob was tested and he won the victory. Because he ‘overcame’ his name was changed – to Israel. Esau was also tested, and he failed – and because he failed to overcome his name was also changed – to Edom. Edom means ‘red’ – his name was changed to Edom because the lentils he purchased at such a cost were red (see Gen. 25:30). It should therefore be obvious, that these two brothers do represent two different ‘nations,’ or classes of people. They are meant to be compared and contrasted, and they have prophetic significance as types, for which there have been antitypes throughout the history of God’s people.
Three of these antitypes are worth mentioning. The first is found in 2 Chronicles chapter twenty. Here there is the record of a great marshalling of opposition forces that march on Jerusalem. Prominent among the enemy are the Edomites (vs 10, 22,23). The enemy appears to be so strong and so overwhelming that Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, turns to God and pleads with Him for deliverance. The result is; without having to resort to arms, the people are miraculously delivered. The Edomites and their allies are totally destroyed. This incident will be repeated in the last days. God’s people will be threatened with imminent destruction. But just as Jacob wrestled with the Lord, and just as Jehoshaphat appealed to the Lord, so too, will God’s people in the last days pray and seek the Lord for deliverance, and God will intervene to save His people. The promise is:
Be not afraid not dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 2 Chron. 20:15.
To Jehoshaphat and his people, the situation appeared hopeless. The enemy had an overwhelming advantage over them. However, this advantage was only apparent. Because the battle was not theirs – it was the Lord’s. In the same way, at the end of time, the enemy will appear to have a huge advantage over the people of God. However, the same principle applies. At that time the people of God, need to remember that Scripture teaches that, “the battle is not yours but God’s.”
A second antitypical fulfillment can be seen in the actions of the Jewish people after they rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The New Testament does not portray the Jews in a flattering light. The Gospel writers tell us that the unbelieving Jews were instrumental as accusers and persecutors of God’s people (see Acts 9:23; 13;44-52; 14:1-7; 17:5-14; 18:12-17 etc.). They were the antitypical Edomites of their day. In rejecting Jesus, they had despised their birthright, and like the descendants of Esau, they attack the spiritual descendants of Jacob.
The last fulfillment appears in the book of Revelation, in the message to the Philadelphia Church. Here we have antitypical Edomites, in the last days, which fulfill the same role as the Jews in the time of Jesus and the Apostles. They are people who formerly belonged to the people of God, but they give up the Truth [sell their birthright], and join the opposition. Once again Esau and his 400 men ride against Jacob and the people of God. Collectively, they are entitled the ‘synagogue of Satan’ – their great sin is that, “they say they are Jews, and are not – but do lie” (Rev. 3:9). In other words, they claim to be part of the Kingdom of God. But they are not, they are the tares, the bad fish, the goats, the foolish virgins and they are the Laodiceans – they are the spiritual descendants of Esau.
These false Jews are not literal Jews they are spiritual Jews. The distinction between false Jews and true Jews was made at the very beginning of the Christian Church (see Rom. 2:28, 29). A false Jew was one who rejected Jesus, a true Jew was one who accepted Jesus. False Jews and true Jews is just another way of saying; wheat and tares, sheep and goats, wise virgins and foolish virgins etc.
These false Jews, this synagogue of Satan, will function just like Esau, in the last days. They will attack God’s people (the Philadelphia Church). They will co-operate with state authorities in the persecution of the Philadelphia Church. They will not just be the spiritual descendants of Esau, but they will also be the spiritual descendants of Judas – they will betray God’s people – they will sell God’s people for ‘thirty pieces of silver.’ We are indebted to the spirit of prophecy to know exactly who these people are/will be. Ellen White wrote to a brother who was preaching a false understanding of the synagogue of Satan. In order to correct him, she wrote the following:
You think that those who worship before the saints feet, Rev 3:9, will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you, for God showed me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and “crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” And in “the hour of temptation,” which is yet to come, to show everyone’s true character, they will know that they are forever lost, and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saints feet. A Word to the Little Flock, p. 12.
Thus, according to Ellen White the synagogue of Satan is made up of ‘professed’ Adventists. ‘Professed’ means they believe they are Adventists, they attend church, they pay tithe, they hold church offices, but when the test comes in the last days, they choose the red lentils offered by the state, instead of the eye salve offered by Jesus. They choose the thirty silver coins offered by Babylon, instead of the pearl of great price offered by Jesus. The result of these choices is a tragic one. Eventually the scales fall from their eyes, and they fall down and worship at the feet of the Philadelphians because they come to realize “that I have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9). They finally, realize that it is the Philadelphia Church that Jesus loves, and the realization that, they have been fighting against Jesus, fills them with anguish and horror indescribable.
Thus, the church in the last days is composed literally of Philadelphians and Laodiceans. Literally, they co-exist in the same literal body/church – but spiritually they grow and develop along different paths. This is consistent with other images that illustrate a division in the church, such as we have emphasized already – the wheat and the tares etc. Jesus has also told us that this would be the condition of His church until the end of time (see Matt. 13:30). It is the ‘shaking’ that reveals who belongs to which group. It is the shaking that divides that separates the Philadelphians from the Laodiceans. This shaking occurs in the last days before the close of probation and the second coming of Christ.
Laodicea and the Shaking
God wants to bless His people, but He has always reserved the right to ‘shake’ His people when they rebel and refuse to do His will. At the time of the Babylonian captivity God said: “For, lo, I will command, and sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth” (Amos 9:9). God is sifting His people. He will have a clean and holy church. Elsewhere in Scripture, this same sifting and shaking process is defined as ‘refining’ (see Isa. 48:10; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:2,3). It is all part of the sanctification process – the process whereby God creates a church in His image.
As the scroll unrolls and the history of this world reaches its climax, it is inevitable, that this process, must come to its natural conclusion. As the end draws near, God begins with the gentle approach. He sends a message called ‘the straight testimony’ directed at the Laodiceans in the church:
I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and it will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among god’s people. I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified. EW 270.
We are currently living in the time of the straight testimony:
The mighty shaking has commenced and will go on, and all will be shaken out who are not willing to take a bold and unyielding stand for the truth and to sacrifice for God and His cause. EW 50.
During this shaking time, God will continue to apply ‘pressure’ on the church to come out of the Laodicean condition – “as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent” (Rev. 3:19). As the end nears the pressure intensifies, culminating in persecution. When the ‘furnace of affliction’ is applied to the church there are mass defections:
As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbathkeepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them. GC 608.
Soon God’s people will be tested by fiery trials, and the great proportion of those who now appear to be genuine and true will prove to be base metal. Instead of being strengthened and confirmed by opposition, threats, and abuse, they will cowardly take the side of the opposers. 5T 136.
It is this process, beginning with the straight testimony, and ending in the furnace of affliction that separates the Philadelphians from the Laodiceans. The Philadelphians go on, to triumph as the 144,000. The unrepentant Laodiceans go on, to join the ranks of the enemy as the synagogue of Satan, and they become the ‘accusers of the brethren.’ Esau with his 400 men rides against Jacob again. The false Jews stir up the authorities against the disciples of Christ again.
However, just as the physical descendants of Jacob proved to be the stronger and ‘supplanted’ the Edomites, so too, will the spiritual descendants of Jacob ‘supplant’ the synagogue of Satan and the ‘Edomites’ will “worship before the feet” of the true Israelites.
In the original type we see Esau making peace with Jacob, because Jacob was under the protection of the Lord. Therefore, we see the same in the antitype. We see the spiritual descendants of Esau attempting to make ‘peace’ [bowing at their feet] with the spiritual descendent of Jacob [the Philadelphia Church], because they now realize that, “I [the Lord] have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9). However, in the antitype no peace can be made. There is a crucial difference between the type and the antitype ruling out the possibility of peace. In the type, there was no close of probation – the Edomites could still find salvation among their more spiritual brethren the Judeans. In the antitype, probation has already closed. Therefore, the ‘Edomites’ are in agony at the feet of the 144,000 – knowing they have no hope of salvation. Such is the tragic fate of the unrepentant Laodiceans – the door has been closed and they are locked out (see Matt 25:10-12).
As the history of this world progresses towards its end, both God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom reach their maturity. As each kingdom develops and grows the distinctions between the two kingdoms begin to become more and more obvious. The conflict between the two kingdoms becomes more and more intense.
As these two kingdoms grow and develop, so too, do the citizens of each kingdom grow and develop. The citizens of Satan’s kingdom, become more corrupt and evil. The citizens of God’s kingdom become more sanctified and holy. At any time, before the close of probation, the citizens of Satan’s kingdom can renounce their citizenship in his kingdom and join God’s kingdom. At any time, before the close of probation, the citizens of God’s kingdom can renounce their citizenship and join Satan’s kingdom.
After the close of probation, citizenship cannot be changed. After the close of probation all choices have been made. The wheat remain the wheat and the tares remain the tares, the sheep remain the sheep and the goats remain the goats etc. The same applies to the Philadelphians and the Laodiceans. If the Laodiceans do not repent and change their citizenship, before the close of probation, they become ‘the synagogue of satan’ and they will eventually fall at the feet of the Philadelphians and mourn their awful mistake.