"To the Angel of the church in Laodicea
Laodicea was a city in Asia Minor, near the modern city of Denizli. Founded by Antiochus II, it lay on one of the great Asian trade routes and was considered to be the wealthiest city of Roman times.
It was also a leading banking centre, and when the city was destroyed in the earthquake in A.D. 70, no doubt it was the rich banking firms that refinanced the rebuilding of the city, for Laodicea refused the Senate's earthquake relief.*
"These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation." (Rev. 3:14b)
Jesus is identifying Himself as the ruler of the Earth, and as its ruler, what He says is not disputable. It isn’t made up. He clearly sees the hearts, and He has the authority to speak in the manner that He does!
Interestingly, the letter to the church of Laodicea is one of the only two that does not begin positively. And if you compare this letter to the letter to the church of Smyrna (See (Studies on the Seven Churches of Revelation, Part 6) ), you will note that Jesus has even harsher things to say to the Laodiceans than to the church of Smyrna. Thus, it is important that they understand He has the authority to speak to them in this manner!
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16)
Isn't this strange imagery?
Interestingly, Laodicea lay near an area of thermal activity, and water from the hot springs was piped into the city. By the time it reached its destination it was no longer hot, but lukewarm. Jesus is simply using this analogy because the people of Laodicea knew what it was like to drink lukewarm water!
"Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked...'" (Rev. 3:17)
The valley where Laodicea was situated produced a glossy black wool, the source of black cloaks and carpets, for which the city was renowned. Laodicea was also the home of a medical school, which manufactured Collyrium, a famous eye salve. More than likely, the city's exposed position and easy wealth was the cause of the spirit of compromise and worldly-mindedness in the church.
Notice that Jesus specifically attacks the three items in which Laodiceans took great pride: Financial wealth ("You are wretched, miserable, poor..."); Eye salve ("...blind...") and Extensive textiles ("...and naked..."). In other words, Jesus is saying, though you see yourself as without need, your need is, indeed, very, very great!
But this doesn't speak of us today, does it?
Is it not the bane of humanity to think of ourselves as being self-sufficient, in need of nothing? We see ourselves as better than we really are, and just like the people of Laodicea, who refused government help after the earthquake, we see ourselves as strong and unshakable, as "good" people who have not real need of God! This letter is a wake-up call to us all, friends!
And this is the counsel Jesus gives us: "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see." (Rev. 3:18))
White garments are what God is recorded as wearing: "I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow..." (Dan. 7:9). We are told that "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow." ((Is 1:18); and that "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness..." (Is. 61:10)
What Jesus is telling us is that we don't need worldly wealth. What we need is Jesus! We need His redeeming power to flow through us and cleanse us from all sin! And more than this, we also need to be healed of our blindness!
But Jesus does not leave even such a wayward bunch of people without hope: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Rev. 3:19-21)
In ancient times, dining was an image associated with intimacy. Thus when Jesus says He will come in and dine with us, He is, in essence, saying that He is standing outside our heart's door, reminding us gently that He is there, waiting and hoping for an invitation to have warm closeness with each of us!
And there's more! Inviting Jesus in and having that close relationship with Him will assure us of a place in the throne room of the most High, at the right hand of God Himself!
Isn't that a prize worth working for? Far better than being spewed out of God's mouth!
Let's heed the warning to the church of Laodicea. Let's recognize our need! Let's let God cover us with His righteousness! Let's let Him open our blind eyes that we may truly see! Let's depend on Him for our needs, so that we may truly be rich!
Then we may truly sit at the right hand of God at the throne of Glory.
This is the last study on the seven churches of Revelation. My prayer is that you have been blessed by these lessons. If you have missed any of them, they can be found online by clicking here. Or if you have any difficulty accessing the lessons from the website, just email me.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
* Taken from commentary given in The Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, Copyright ©
2005 by the Zondervan Corporation, pages 2046, 2050, 2052, 2057.
(To access the entire "Studies on the Seven Churches of Revelation" mini-series, please click here.)