Summary: This is the last in a series of eight sermons looking at the seven churches of Asia
And so he had come to the end of his journey. It seemed like a life time ago that he read the first letter to the church that was situated in the city of Ephesus. Since then he had travelled to five other cities and read to them the words of the risen Christ. Words of commendation and words of condemnation. Believers had basked in the praise and bristled at the reprimands. How many times had he had to say “Hey I’m just the messenger?”
The last letter that he had delivered had been a real joy, it had been read to the Christians in Philadelphia and Christ had nothing but praise for the church. The one that he was about to read was a little different. It was like the worst had been saved to the last. Just as there had been nothing bad to say about the Philadelphian church there was nothing good to say about the Laodicean church, nothing, zip, nada. And he really wasn’t looking forward to delivering this letter.
The city of Laodicea was neither the youngest nor oldest of the seven cities founded 300 years before the Revelation was written by Antiochus of Syria and named after his wife Laodice. Laodicea was on the of the greatest commercial centres of the day, it literally straddled the major trade route that lead from Ephesus to Syria which meant that the majority of east west trade had to pass through the city. Originally Laodicea had been designed as a fortress but it had a major liability in the fact that it had no internal supply of water and it’s only source of drinking water was a piped in supply from six miles away. The Roman Historian Pliny, referred to Laodicea as “A most distinguished city.”
On historian said that “It needed only peace to make Laodicea a great commercial and financial centre.” And that peace came in the form of the dominion of Rome. This was one of the richest cities in the known world. When devastated by an earthquake in 61 a.d. they refused any aid from the Roman Government and from their own resources rebuilt an even greater Laodicea.
If we pull up our map for the last time we discover that Laodicea completes the circular route this letter took. Situated here in what is now Turkey the city approximately 100 kms South East of Philadelphia. Which if you were here last week you’ll remember was the only one of the seven cities with an NHL team.
We’ve already mentioned that Laodicea was a city of great wealth and commerce. It was also known for clothing manufacturing. The sheep which razed round Laodicea were famous for their soft, black, glossy wool. The city was also famous for the mass production of inexpensive outer garments as well. It was also a centre of medicine, just thirteen miles to the west stood the temple of the Carian and this temple eventually became known for it’s school of medicine which had it’s administrative centre in Laodicea. The school and it’s physicians were so well known that they were honoured on some of the local coins. The medical school was famous for the eye and ear ointment that they produced which became famous throughout the known world.
It was a great city, a city of commerce, culture and science and all that remains of it today are ruins.
And so it was to the church in this great, wealthy city of commerce and medicine which
the Risen Christ addressed his most scathing letter.
And again he begins with the words Revelation 3:15 “ I know all the things you do A frightening reminder that the church does not serve under a blind eye. Everything we do or don’t do is observed by Jesus. Every time we neglect to do the things of God it’s seen. Each one of us will be judged individually on our relationship with Christ, a relationship of “Grace based on faith.”
But the corporate entity known as the church will be judged as a corporation, and that judgment will be based on how well we represented Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. If Jesus stood before us today as a church and said “I know all the things you do.” Would the words be words of praise or condemnation? The words to the Church in Laodicea were harsh because Jesus continues and says Revelation 3:15 “ I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other!” The words that Jesus uses here are extremes, the world “Cold” is the Greek word Psychros and it literally means cold to the point of freezing. This isn’t just a little cold this is teeth chilling, slurpee tumour cold. At the other extreme is the Greek word Zestos which Christ uses for hot, it means hot to the point of boiling. Metaphors and analogies, are great for those who were there. Kind of like inside jokes. People in Laodicea heard “Neither hot nor cold” and probably went “Ahhhh” while on the other hand we say “Huh?” So there are a couple of different view points as to what Jesus meant.