Summary: With the other churches, when the Lord Jesus said, “I KNOW THY WORKS,” He meant good works; He was commending them for good works. But the Lord Jesus has no word of commendation for this church.
By: Tom Lowe Date: 6-29-15
Lesson: The church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)
Revelation 3:14-22 (KJV)
14 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;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 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:
18 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.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20 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.
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am down with my Father in his throne.
22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
‘THE CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS was situated in Phrygia, on the border of the Province of Asia, along with nearby Hermapolis (modern Pamukkale) and Colossae, in the fertile Lycus Valley, about 66 miles south and east of Philadelphia. It was an area where there was a very large Jewish population. So many Jews immigrated here that the Rabbis protested against the Jews who sought the wines and baths of Phrygia. It was the last city in this clockwise loop of cities in the travel pattern for delivering the letters, beginning with Ephesus.
In the ancient world there were at least six cities called Laodicea and this one was called ‘Laodicea on the Lycus’ to distinguish it from the others. The name Laodicea comes from Laodice, the name of the wife of Antiochus II of Syria who founded the city between 261 and 253 bc. The settlement was called Diospolis before it became Laodicea ‘city of Zeus,’ which accords with the fact that Zeus was the chief god of Laodicea. There was also a cult practicing emperor worship, and another that worshipped Asclepius, the god of healing.
In ad 60 a great earthquake destroyed Philadelphia and Sardis, and devastated the city; but its citizens were so rich and independent that they refused any help from the Roman government and out of their own resources rebuilt the city. No wonder Laodicea could boast that it was rich and had amassed wealth and had need of nothing. It was so wealthy that it did not even need God (or so they thought).
It is clear from this passage that the wealth of the city greatly affected the church. It seems strange to most people that riches and sorrow go together. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Most of the time, riches produce rotten living. There are a few rich people who serve God, and there are a few rich churches that are spiritual; but the general rule is that riches brings sorrow. Jesus said “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” That does not mean that God cannot or will not save a rich man—He can, and He will. But the sad fact is that riches and spirituality do not seem to walk together.
In the first century bc Laodicea became a financial center and a place where gladiatorial games were held. Prosperity was due, in part, to the wealth this city had acquired in the first century through the philanthropic gift of 2000 talents, a gift from Hieron, one of its leading citizens, who adorned Laodicea with many fine public buildings. The influence of the family of Zeno the orator, who had led the resistance against the Parthians under Labienus in 40 bc and thus received Roman citizenship from Mark Antony, helped the city’s stature. A main road from Rome and Troas to the east went through Laodicea, helping to make the city an important commercial center.
Laodicea was well-known for its wool industry, the wool being softer even than that of Miletus; it was a Raven black color, which was attributed to the water the sheep were drinking. It is true that the water in the area is calcareous (chalky) and that it gathered other elements as it flowed from hot springs and other sources.