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Revelation Lesson Eight: Chapter Three – Laodicea

14 Oct

REVELATION STUDY (LESSON #8 – Letter to the church at Laodicea): Well, as they say, we have finally come full circle. Well actually the seven churches formed an arc but this is the final letter in the series to the seven churches. Laodicea was about 40 miles east of Ephesus and about 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia. The name of the town means ‘rights or justice of the people’. This is very fitting as Laodicea represents the visible church or Christendom of the last days (these days). Churches today are run by man and not by God in too many cases. People want Burger King religion where they can have it their way. Hence the choices in worship, contemporary vs. traditional, and the choices even in which version of God’s Word best fits you as a person. It is indeed the church of the people. This is likely why, unlike all the previous six letters where Christ says “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus” (and Smyrna and so on), here He begins with a slightly different phrase. “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans”. Before the letter was to the church of a city, now instead of saying the “church of Laodicea” He says it is a church of those people.

Historically, the city was founded by Antiochus II and named after his wife who had the very common name of Laodicea. Situated on the Lycus River which flowed into the Maeander River, Laodicea sat in a valley known in the those days as the ‘Gate of Phrygia.” It was in a gateway to East and West for trade. Caravans would come from the Orient and go through Laodicea on the way to coastal cities like Ephesus and Miletus. Laodicea was a prosperous city with two Roman theaters, a large stadium, and three early Christian churches. It was a commercial and banking center which is mentioned by the Roman senator, Cicero, in 51 B.C. who used its banks to cash in his letters of credit. Earthquakes severely damaged the city in 17 A.D. during the reign of Tiberius and again in 60 A.D. during the reign of Nero. Apparently the Roman government offered to help rebuild the city during the second event, but Laodicea refused all outside help saying they were wealthy and had no need of it (sound familiar to the Lord’s words to them?). According to Tacitus, “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us.”

The city was famous for an eye salve called cellyrium or Phrygian powder as they often sold it as a tablet. They took clay from nearby Hierapolis (which interestingly the Syrians used to refer to as Magog according to Pliny) and mixed it with spikenard. They made alot of money from it but modern analysis has shown the substance has no medicinal value. It was ‘snake oil’. They also bred black wool sheep. They also made alot of money from the sell of garments made of this wool.

Christ introduces Himself with, “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (3:14). Here Christ describes himself as:
(1) The Amen – This is the only place in Scripture where Amen is a proper name, and it is the name of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” The Lord Jesus is the Amen. He has the last word. He lets the Laodiceans know this because this is the church that has rejected the Lordship of Christ. The word Amen is the only thing that He refers to from the first chapter description.
(2) The faithful and true witness – This reveals that the Lord Jesus Christ alone is the One who will reveal all and tell all. 1John 5:9(a) If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater…
(3) The beginning of the creation of God – John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. Rev. 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

The condemnation: *It should be noted that God’s report card often has a different tally than ours at the end of the day.

(1) What they thought they were: “I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (3:17; see also Lk. 12:16-20 The rich man and his bigger barns). Notice that Philadelphia didn’t brag about itself, but Laodicea was boastful.

(2) What God said they were:
(a) They were lukewarm – Indifferent towards Christ, tolerant of sin and evil. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm.…I will spew [Greek is emeo, ‘to vomit’] thee out of my mouth” (3:15, 16).

Charles Ryrie writes:
“Near Laodicea [about six miles] were hot mineral springs whose water could be drunk only if very hot. When lukewarm it became nauseating.” (Revelation, p. 31) See photos in previous entry below for pictures of the aquaducts which were prone for clogging due to the heavy calcium content.

The Laodiceans built an aqueduct to bring that cold water down from the mountains. When it left the mountains, it was ice cold, but by the time it made that trip all the way down the mountains to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. (J.V. McGee)

According to his words here, Christ apparently has more respect for fiery hot zeal or for icy cold formalism than for lifeless and lame lukewarmness.

(b) They certainly had this world’s goods but they had a very serious problem spiritually.

[1] They were wretched,
[2] They were miserable.
[3] They were poor.
[4] They were blind (2Peter 1:9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.).
[5] They were naked.

The counsel of Christ: They are to obtain from God three things so desperately needed:
Isaiah 55:1-3 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you…
(1) Gold – (blood) Ephesians 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
(2) White raiment – (The divine righteousness of Christ) which is imputed upon salvation of the soul. Romans 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
(3) Eye salve (spiritual discernment), that they might see the truth that would set them free. His eye salve works when theirs did not.
Matt 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

The challenge:
(1) “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (3:19; see Heb. 12:5-8). This rebuke is to the individual. He does not call the church as a whole to repentance. Their judgment is sure, He will vomit them from His mouth. This is the only letter in which there is no mention of His return. This call of repentance is therefore to any man (individual) who will answer.
(2) “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” (3:20).
This passage is often separated by expositors and treated as a general call to the sinner. But the original intent was for it to be part of the Laodicean letter as Jesus closes each letter with “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” which comes later in the last verse. NOTE: In the beginning at Ephesus, He walked in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Now He is on the outside. He is not hoping for the whole church to welcome Him but is desirous that some wheat will stand up amongst the throng of tares that He might have fellowship with him or her.
(3) “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (3:21). There are two kinds of people in churches today, saved and lost. The overcomer is the saved, born again believer according to 1 John 5:5 “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Just as Ephesus represented the early Apostilic Age (Pentecost-100 A.D.), Smyrna the time of persecution (100 A.D.-313 A.D.), Pergamos the time from 313 A.D at the signing by emperor Constantine of the Edict of Toleration (Edict of Milan) to about 590 A.D., Thyatira the time when the Roman church reached a pinnacle of its power, Sardis the church period from 1517 to about 1700 (the period of the Protestant Reformation), and Philadelphia the period from about 1700 to the Rapture, Laodicea represents the visible church at the end of the Church Age. In fact, Laodicea and Philadelphia represent, I believe, a dichotomy of two polar opposites. Philadelphia is the true believing remnant of God’s people spread across denominations (not religions:) and Laodicea is the visible and very worldly church.

The following excerpt, taken from “The Book of Revelation, The Christ-Honoring Commentary Series” by James W. Knox, aptly describes this church of the last days known as Laodicea:

“The Laodicean church is, no doubt, the church of the last days. She is marked by compromise and worldliness. In the church of the last days the professing Christian has made God his servant, has set himself up as the reviser and corrector of the word of God, and has heaped to himself teachers who will exalt humanity.
This church is spiritually lukewarm, abundantly wealthy, and morally impoverished. It is a church that campaigns for human rights, women’s rights, minority rights, gay rights, and the right of third world nations to self-determination.
It is a church that will ordain women, homosexuals, and even endangered species as pastors.
This same church will remove the blood of Jesus from its Bibles, the masculinity of Christ from its hymnals, the doctrine of repentance from its pulpits, and standards of holy living, modest dress and pure speech from its memory.
This church builds a million-dollar auditorium and then signs a call for an end to world hunger while it sits on a $100 thousand CD.
This church has all night lock-ins for its teenagers while moaning to the press about pornographic movies.
This church adopts the hair-styles, vocal patterns, dancing girls and musical rhythms of the world’s secular artists and calls it contemporary worship. (Who is being worshipped, God or man?)
This church calls for unity and an ecumenical spirit while hatefully condemning street preaching and the King James Bible.
In this church, the preachers relate their sermons to Godless TV shows and teach that it’s ok to drink in moderation, women dress to be seen and the men lust after them all the while sending their money to radio psychologists who mutter and peep about family values.
In the days of Laodicea Norman Peale, Robert Schuler, Jesse Jackson, Joel Osteen, Ruth Carter, Hillary Clinton, Amy Grant, Toby Keith, Dolly Parton and Rush Limbaugh are Christians cause they mention God in a song or a speech but clean-living fundamental pastors are hate-mongers equated with Islamic terrorists.
In the Laodicean church the Catholic priest, Episcopal rector, Methodist pastor and Baptist minister will link arms to picket the abortion clinic or protest the legislature over gay marriage and then all go out for a beer.
This is the church that makes God sick and He promised to spew them out of His mouth.”

The inscription on the cathedral in Lübeck, Germany, is still true:
Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us:
Ye call Me Master and obey Me not.
Ye call Me Light and see Me not.
Ye call Me Way and walk Me not.
Ye call Me Life and choose Me not.
Ye call Me Wise and follow Me not.
Ye call Me Fair and love Me not.
Ye call Me Rich and ask Me not.
Ye call Me Eternal and seek Me not.
Ye call Me Noble and serve Me not.
Ye call Me Gracious and trust Me not.
Ye call Me Might and honor Me not.
Ye call Me Just and fear Me not.
If I condemn you, blame Me not.

“THINK ON THESE THINGS…”

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