Laodicea

Laodicea: The Church with a Closed Door

Revelation 3: 14-22

Laodicea was a city of exceeding riches.
Even when it was partially destroyed by an earthquake about A.D. 60,
it needed no financial relief from the Roman government.
It was the main commercial city of the region.
Three Roman roads came together at Laodicea making it a city of great prominence.

Great prosperity and great prominence made Laodicea easy prey to lethargy
and self-satisfied complacency.
The spirit of the town was also the spirit of the church.

Identification, 3: 14

Christ identifies Himself to this church as "the Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the beginning of the creation of God."
All of this is a declaration of His essential glory.
Laodicea is an example of abject failure.
Christ addresses Himself as One incapable of failure.

The word "Amen" came from Hebrew to Greek to English untranslated.
In its original meaning it carried the idea of nursing or building up.
The derived use which has come down to us is that of something which is established and positive.
In this context it indicates the stability of Jesus who writes to this weak church.
He is the faithful and true witness because of His stability.

When He was here, He said, "I am the truth." (John 14:6)
He is the truth about God, and in life and deed He bore true witness concerning God.
He is the original agent in God's creative work.

This is a similar statement to that of Paul in Colossians 1: 15-18:
"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,
for in him were all things created... all things have been created by him
... and in him all things hold together
."

Complaint And Counsel, 3: 15-18

Christ's complaint has to do with the spiritual lethargy of the church.
It was neither cold -- that is, it was not complete and utter indifference.
Nor was it hot -- that is, it was not characterized by fervent heat or zeal.
It was lukewarm -- tepid.

Travelers coming across country to go Hierapolis, which was nearby,
found beautiful springs of water.
Being weary and thirsty from their journey they would stop expecting to quench their thirst.
But the water was tepid mineral water, which was terribly distasteful.

The Lord said that was the way He felt about a tepid church.
It was distasteful to Him.
He would "spew it out" of His mouth.

It is easier to deal with a frozen church than one that is tepid -- lukewarm.
A church with no urgency, no zeal, no warmth and no compassion, was repugnant to Him.

Counsel and complaint are woven together in verses 17 and 18.
The commercial background of Laodicea is reflected here.
There were three chief businesses in Laodicea.
The Lord uses all three of them to illustrate the attitude of the church at Laodicea.

1. Laodicea was a banking center for the region.

Great riches flowed into this city.
They were proud, arrogant, and self-sufficient because of their riches.
They said, "We have gold; we need nothing anyone can give."
That was their attitude and their witness.

The faithful and true witness says, "You do not realize that you are wretched,
and miserable and poor
."

They had material wealth, but they were spiritually poverty-stricken.
They had no enrichment of character and were so lukewarm that it did not matter.

The Lord counsels them to come and receive from Him the true spiritual riches
so that they may truly be rich.
A person can own all the money in the world and still be a pauper.
Or a person can have none of the world's goods and still be rich.
It depends on what a person counts as riches.

2. The second great business in Laodicea was the black wool markets.

They produced a black, glossy wool which was made into fine garments,
and was in demand everywhere.
Christ says: "In spite of this you are naked. You need to come and obtain from me
a robe, a covering, that will really hide your exposed condition before God
."

Their robes of haughty self-sufficiency did not cover them up before God
as well as they did before men.
Their clothing left them naked before God.

3. The third business was the preparing of an ointment used as a balm for the eyes.

There was a medicine center in Laodicea.
After traveling over the sand with the sun and wind beating in their eyes,
travelers found this balm a welcome relief.

"You are blind and do not know it. Come to me and I will give you spiritual eye salve
that you may really see
."
Christ possesses all that this church sorely lacks.
He is ready to bestow on them true wealth, true raiment, and true vision
if they really desire it.
He will not force it upon them if they do not want it.

Warning, 3: 19

He will not force these true riches upon them but because He loves them,
He will reprove and chasten them.
He truly loves them.
Even His complaint is voiced in tones of pity and compassion.
It is His way to chasten those who He loves.
This is seen in Hebrews of all 12: 5ff.

Everyone who is a child of God is disciplined when he rebels and sins.
Therefore, Christ warns them to turn from their lethargy,
and to be zealous, to be filled with zeal rather than be in a lukewarm condition.

Promise, 3: 20-21

The church at Laodicea had everything in it except Christ Jesus.
He was on the outside seeking to come inside.
If anyone would respond to His knocking, He was ready to come in
and have fellowship with the church.
He could begin with even one individual whose heart was responsive
and who desired Him.

To the one who overcomes the spirit of lethargy and becomes zealous for God,
He promises glory and fellowship.
They will sit down together, even as He and the Father,
once he has overcome the obstacles in his way.

Neither hope nor imagination can go beyond the possibilities
that Christ provides in this promise.
Perhaps He makes this great promise because of the extreme difficulty
of overcoming the lukewarm condition in the church.
There could never be a greater incentive for overcoming than this
which Christ has offered to this church and to any church.

The glorified Christ, standing in the midst of His churches,
looking with piercing eyes of flame, brings His commendation, complaint,
warning, and promise.

The message delivered first to the churches of Asia minor is universal.
Its truth applies wherever similar conditions are found today.
It would be difficult to find churches where at least some of these conditions are not found.

The warning against spiritual apathy still stands,
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."

Adapted from the book, Worthy is the Lamb, by Ray Summers