Summary: A historical look at the church of Laodicea, with present day application.
Laodicea: Revelation 3:14-18
Laodicea. What thoughts does this conjure up in your mind? It is a word that we like to throw around as a people. Whenever things are not as we feel they should be, we blame it on being the Laodicean Church, and possibly this is quite true. This morning I would like to spend some time looking at the historical Laodicean Church and see what lessons we can learn for today.
Revelation 3:14. Jesus introduces Himself to this church with three names, three titles shall we say: The Amen. What does Amen mean? It means, "Let it be so." "Let it be established. It’s kind of the stamp that says, "Certified, Done!" Christ says, I am the Amen! The message is coming from the One who is certified. And then He says this is a message coming from the faithful and the true witness. Why would He have to introduce Himself to this church as being the faithful and the true witness? Could it be that the message He has for this church is so radical, so shocking, so out of line with their perception that He has to remind them that this message comes from a Witness who is faithful and true, and therefore you’d better pay attention to it?
And then He adds one more emphasis. Not only does He say, "Do I have the last word? Not only is My witness faithful and true, but I am the Archaei, which can mean the chief or the beginning or the preeminent or the ruler. The Archaei, the ruler of God’s creation. Christ is the Creator Who rules over the Creation.
The message that he is about to give them is so unbelievable to them that they have to be told that it comes from the faithful and true Witness; it comes from the Ruler, the supreme Authority.
This message from the Supreme Authority of the Universe is a message we ought to pay attention to. This introduction is designed to capture their attention; to grab them by the shoulders, look them square in the eye and say, “Listen carefully to what I say, it is extremely important for your salvation.”
Rev 3:15-16. I want to look at Laodicea’s perception of itself. And then we’ll come back the lukewarm part. Revelation 3:17. Now why would a Laodicean say, "I am rich, I have become wealthy, and have need of nothing?" Why would the church say that? Laodicea is a very interesting city. It was founded couple hundred years before Christ, kind of as a little outpost to guard a crossroad of two major trade routes, so that trade could get through. If you control the crossroads, you control the trade. When Rome became the ruling power, and the famous Pax Romana was signed there was no threat of nations rising against this little city. Under this Roman peace, they flourished into a major financial centre, almost the Wall Street of their day. They had major banking, not unlike Swiss banking today. Laodicea was a major centre too; they were into currency exchange, banking and investments, what ever. As a result they were supremely rich.
They also had, of course, their garment industry, which was focused on black woollen garments. They also had their medical industry which involved eye powders, or salve, which was to help improve vision. Therefore, between the medical establishment, the fashion industry and the financial industry, these people were rolling in money.
What is of interest is that in AD 60 Laodicea was flattened; it was levelled by catastrophic earthquake. We have all seen images of what Earthquakes can do; what happens after a major earthquake? A TV appeal is launched to the public and the Government comes to the party and directs some aid money towards them. Laodicea gets flattened, and so the Emperor sent a delegation offering money to help them rebuild their city. They declined the Emperor’s money. They rebuilt their own city with their own money and they were still rich. This is a very self-reliant city. "You flatten us? We’ll pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. We don’t need your help. We help everybody else."
They were self-confident. They didn’t need anybody. "We can fix it ourselves." Now, when you are self-confident with regard to civic pride it’s good. But when pride and self-confidence comes into your spiritual life it’s bad. It was the nature of this city to be self-confident, "We can do it ourselves." These folks had a huge self-esteem issue. They had too much of it. Many psychologists would love Laodiceans, and compel us to be like them. They don’t see anything negative about themselves. "We’re rich, we’re increased with goods, and we need nothing. We don’t like to hear negative things in Laodicea. It undermines our self-worth, and our morale." Laodicea is this church who needs nothing. "Just tell us positive things, Pastor. We don’t want to hear negative things and hurt our self- esteem. We can serve God best when we feel good about ourselves."