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Bible Church Of Laodicea

To the Church at Laodicea

To the Church at Laodicea
By Chuck Missler

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;” – Revelation 3:14

Name Meaning – Laodicea means “rule of the people.”

Historical Church Identity – Laodicea is the wealthy, self-absorbed church of compromise.

Laodicea Background

About 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia, and just a few miles north of Colossae, stood the large and prosperous city of Laodicea. It rested luxuriously on the banks of the river Lycus, a tributary of the Meander. Laodicea didn’t have a good location for military defense, so it survived by compromise. It was an old city, dating to 2000 B.C. Its name was changed from Diospolis to Rhoas by the Lydians, and when Antiochus II captured and rebuilt the town in 250 B.C., he named it after his wife Laodice.

Laodicea was a successful commercial and financial center in central Asia Minor, and the remains of its theater, aqueducts, baths, gymnasium and stadium all testify to the wealth it enjoyed in its heyday. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Laodicea was able to restore itself after a major earthquake without aid from Rome. Cicero held court in Laodicea and did his banking there. Laodicea was known for producing textiles made from high quality black wool and for its famous school of medicine which produced a particular eye salve called “collyrium.”

Six miles east of Laodicea stood the city of Hierapolis, which was renowned for its hot springs. Though Laodicea was built on the Lycus, it depended on water piped in from nearby cities Hierapolis and Colossae. The hot springs water from Hierapolis had cooled to a tepid temperature by the time it reached Laodicea, and the cold water from Colossae had warmed to a tepid temperature as it traveled through the aqueduct in the sun, so Laodicea was a city that truly understood lukewarm water.

The church of Laodicea was likely founded by Paul’s friend and coworker Epaphras, who also ministered to the people of Colossae. Colossians 2:1 indicates that neither Colossae nor Laodicea were visited by Paul himself, although he certainly joined Epaphras in his zealous prayers for Colossae and Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Paul also wrote Laodicea an epistle, which the people of Colossae were instructed to read, even as the people of Laodicea were to read Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. Thirty years before Revelation, Paul warned Archippus in Colossians 4:17 to be diligent in the work of the ministry that God had given him to do. There is a tradition that Archippus became the bishop of Laodicea. It may have been his weakness which contributed to the poor spiritual condition of the church there.

Christ’s Letter to Laodicea

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;” – Revelation 3:14

He is the Amen, the solid and trustworthy One, perfect and perfected, faithful and true.

The phrase “beginning of the creation of God” can be confusing terminology, as though Christ is merely a created being. That’s clearly not His intention, because we know from several verses that Jesus was in the beginning with God the Father and that the worlds were created through Him. When Paul uses the same kind of terminology in Colossians 1:15-16, he refers to Christ as “…the firstborn of every creature,” in one breath while declaring in the next, “For by him were all things created…” We need to understand that the word translated “beginning” is arche from which we get words like archangel and archenemy. It means “highest” or “chief” or “ruler.” Jesus is the chief or ruler of the creation of God. His role as the firstborn also places Him in the highest position. He’s the one with the authority.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:15-16

The Laodiceans were tepid, just like their water. It’s natural to enjoy a drink of chilled water, especially on a hot day. These days we have the convenience of water sanitation and freezers full of ice, but in the ancient days, cold water meant safe water. Icy water from a deep well meant water more likely to be clean and safe to drink. The warm water in Laodicea had traveled through aqueducts, but in that day warm water often meant standing water that had the opportunity to bear bacterial cultures and amoebas and insect larvae. Hot water is good and cold water is good, but lukewarm water at just the right temperature can be used to induce vomiting.

Jesus does not want us lukewarm. He does not want us half-hearted about our faith or our walk with Him. If we’re spiritually cold, there’s a remedy. If we’re spiritually hot, then praise God. However, if we’re lukewarm, then we think we’re all right, but we’re really in a bad place.

When sharp evangelists go onto college campuses, they work to convert the radicals first. Why? Because when radicals come to recognize who Jesus really is, then they fire up the whole campus. Closet nerds need to be saved too, but the passionate radical will quickly reach more people than the shy souls who hide in their rooms. We should all be full of the fire of God, passionate about loving this world in Christ’s name.

Laodicea was named after the wife of Syria’s Antiochus II, but the name has a meaning of its own: “rule of the people.” In other words, this particular church is not looking to Jesus Christ as its leader. It’s ruled by popular opinion. This is the user friendly church that compromised to please the culture.

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” – Revelation 3:17

The church in Laodicea thought they were doing okay, because they had money. They were wealthy, and we humans easily make the mistake of assuming that having money means having the blessing of God on our lives. Al Capone had money too, remember. The Pharisees and Sadducees had money. It’s great that certain churches are wealthy and able to develop a wide range of church programs. That’s great. But, money doesn’t represent God’s stamp of approval. The church of Laodicea felt at ease because they had their physical needs met, not realizing that they were spiritually wretched. They weren’t dead like the church of Sardis, but they were doing badly enough.

Every one of the seven churches had a surprising report card, but probably none greater than the Laodiceans. They thought they had it made. They were the social church, and their membership included all the top executives of the community. Senators and congressmen attended. The heads of corporations provided large tax deductible donations. They didn’t understand that Jesus looked at them through a completely different lens.

“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” – Revelation 3:18

Jesus offers hope to the Laodiceans. It’s not over. They have a chance to fix this thing. It’s interesting that Jesus consistently uses metaphors that these churches understand. The Laodiceans knew all about gold and rich raiment and eye salve. These were strengths they had; textile manufacture and banking made the city prosperous. Their doctors had developed a renowned eye ointment. Jesus contrasts their versions with His own, however. They specialized in black woolens, and Jesus offers them pure white spiritual raiment. They produced ointment, but He offers them something better than physical sight – He offers the ability to see the truth.

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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.” – Revelation 3:19-20

Jesus doesn’t hate the Laodiceans. He loves them, and that’s why He’s sending them this letter to rebuke them. He’s giving them a chance to change before it’s too late. After His rebuke, He gives them this beautiful picture. He’s standing at the door and knocking! He’s not hiding from them or driving them like cattle. He offers them this kind and personal promise. If they just open the door to Him, He will come in and enjoy a meal with them. For a lukewarm church, that’s a warm and intimate offer from the King of Creation.

Notice something, however. Jesus is not already inside the church of the Laodiceans. He’s standing outside, knocking on the door, waiting to be let in. They need to open the door so that He can join them. It’s certain that He was once a part of their congregation, but over the years they must have shut Him out – as they chose instead to be ruled by the opinions of the people.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” – Revelation 3:21-22

We have a great High Priest who passed through the heavens and dwelt with us, taking on the form of a human and living life here with us. He was tempted in all ways just as we are, yet without sin. This gives us great freedom to fall boldly at His throne to seek help in times of need, because He understands exactly what we’re going through. He knows. He’s been there Himself. He overcame, and that’s the greatest news of eternity. Jesus Christ overcame. He conquered!

As we read through these promises to the overcomer, we remember how it is we overcome. We are overcomers through His victory – and His victory in our lives.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” – Revelation 12:11

There is an inscription on a cathedral in Lubeck, Germany that I’d like to present here. As we read these letters, we remember that they are written to churches that existed nearly two millennia ago, but they apply to every one of us. We can agree the churches are historical and we can see their prophetic links to churches of the Church Age, but these churches also represent us personally.

– Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us:
– Ye call Me Master and obey Me not.
– Ye call Me Light and see Me not.
– Ye call Me Way and walk Me not.
– Ye call Me Life and choose Me not.
– Ye call Me Wise and follow Me not.
– Ye call Me Fair and love Me not.
– Ye call Me Rich and ask Me not.
– Ye call Me Eternal and seek Me not.
– Ye call Me Noble and serve Me not.
– Ye call Me Gracious and trust Me not.
– Ye call Me Might and honor Me not.
– Ye call Me Just and fear Me not.
– If I condemn you, blame Me not.

That gets the point across.

Sin in our Times

We believe in liberty in our culture, but it’s gotten out of control. There’s a point at which we need to agree with God, “No. That’s wrong. We don’t do that.” The world will do what the world does. However, in our churches do we let the culture tell us what to think, or do we follow the Word of God?

Sin is an uncomfortable subject in our times. Our culture no longer believes in sin. Yet, without a recognition of our own personal failure, a recognition that we deserve to be punished, there’s no reason for us to seek a Savior. Jesus did not come to condemn us, but to save us. However, without the conviction of our sin, we have no understanding that we need to be saved. We think we can get to Heaven by being “good,” and we don’t think anybody really goes to Hell – except maybe Hitler and Stalin. We fail to recognize that we are all lost, every one of us, until Jesus Christ’s blood washes us clean.

One of the questions we might want to ask is whether our churches have fallen into a worldly mentality toward sin. Do our churches recognize the world is filled with lost people destined for Hell without Jesus Christ? Do our churches offer us salvation through Jesus Christ alone – the good news that God loves us and sent Christ to die for us? We need to speak the truth in love, or people will die with no appreciation for their true predicament. We cannot preach the user friendly message of “You’re okay. I’m okay.” We need to say, “Hey! We’re all in trouble! The earth is falling out from under us and we’re all going to die! But good news! God has made a bridge to the other side of the canyon! Take it!”

We are a lukewarm culture, and for too long we’ve allowed the world to tell us what to think. We need to be fire-hot Christians, filled with true, longsuffering and devoted love for our fellow humans. If we open ourselves to the guidance of His Word and His love through His Spirit, I think we’ll be astounded where the Lord takes us.

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