Summary: Can you imagine your doctor being indifferent about disease? Your feeling sick, so you go to his office. He looks at you, takes you pulse and tells you to pay the nurse on the way out.
THE REVELATION OF JESUS
LAODICEA - THE LUKEWARM CHURCH
Revelation 3: 14-22
Can you imagine your doctor being indifferent about disease? Your feeling sick, so you go to his office. He looks at you, takes you pulse and tells you to pay the nurse on the way out.
Hey! Wait a minute, what’s wrong with me Doctor? you ask. He looks at you and says, there’s nothing to worry about, you have a bad case of pneumonia. You look back in astonishment and say, aren’t you going to put me in the hospital or give me some medication? What about my family, is this contagious? People die of pneumonia, don’t they?
The doctor looks at you and says, That’s all right, Dan, you have to die sometime. It might as well be from pneumonia, that’s better than cancer or aids. If you needed surgery, then I could help, but not this stuff.
Can you imagine a doctor like that? Imagine a church lukewarm about Christ, it doesn’t make any sense! That’s Laodicea.
Laodicea was one of three sister cities in the valley of the Lycus River. Colossae (famous for it’s cold water springs), Hierapolis (hot water mineral springs), and Laodicea were in the region of Phrygia, some forty miles south east of Philadelphia.
If this was the last stop for the letter carrier of Revelation, he could return to Ephesus (his starting point) by traveling one hundred miles due west.
Laodicea was founded in the third century BC by Antiochus II, the Seleucid king who named the city after his wife Laodice. It was at the cross roads of the north-south highway (Pergamum - Attalia) and the east - west highway (Antioch - Ephesus).
Being a vital crossroads city made it a major commercial success.
In John’s time Laodicea had a great reputation as a banking center. When Cicero was traveling in Asia Minor it was at Laodicea that he cashed his letters of credit. Laodicea was one of the wealthiest cities in the world.
Laodicea famous textile industry specialized in black woolen fabric. It was also a medical center. The medical school was famous for two things, ointment for the ears, and ointment for the eyes. To this day doctors use the symbol of a staff with two serpents wrapped around it. This is the symbol of Aesculapius, the medical cult in Laodicea.
The most serious problem with Laodicea was its lack of reliable water. The Romans built a stone aqueduct that piped water several miles to the city from springs in Hierapolis. The stones were designed to remove the mineral deposits. Even then the water was lukewarm and barely drinkable.
Like the other cities in the region, Laodicea was subject to earthquakes. In 60 AD the city was destroyed, but they were wealthy enough to rebuild it without outside help. Today the town of Denizli is close to the original site.
The gospel probably came to Laodicea while Paul was at Ephesus (Acts 19). Although Paul mentions the church (Colossians 4) he does not mention visiting it personally. Epaphras, Paul’s companion, worked in these three cities.
Characteristic vs 14
Jesus identifies himself for Laodicea as the amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
As with the letter to Philadelphia, the characteristic of the Lord is taken from outside the opening vision of Christ. In the Old Testament God is literally, the God of the Amen or the God of truth (Isaiah 65:16), one who is completely trustworthy and truthful.
This designation applied to Jesus is in stark contrast with the untrustworthy Laodiceans. This designation is similar to Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1:15 & 18. Remember Paul had given instructions that the letter to the Colossians be read to the believers in Laodicea as well.
Jesus may well be appealing to the Laodicea believers knowledge of Paul’s epistle and that Jesus as supreme Creator and Ruler of the universe has every right to critique his wayward church.
NONE! Like her sister church in Sardis, Laodicea receives no compliment.
Criticism vs 15-17
These believers are neither hot nor cold. They are lukewarm. The most common interpretation has been that hot means spiritual fervor, and cold means outright antagonism to the things of God. I think it is obvious that Jesus prefers outright rejection that spiritual lukewarmness.
However, Laodicea was near two cities. Hierapolis had hot medicinal waters and Colossae had cold, pure, refreshing water. Both were wonderful. What was terrible was the water in Laodicea. The water that came on the aqueduct was lukewarm.
We drink hot and cold tea, and hot and cold coffee, but either at room temperature is disgusting.
Jesus proceeds to tell them that he will spit you out of my mouth. Literally means vomit. That’s how bad they taste to the Lord.