I was always perplexed by Jesus’ words to the church at Laodicea….until I understood the nuances contained in them. As we enter the final stretch of our study of the seven churches of The Revelation, we finish at Laodicea, the church that I am calling The Lukewarm Church. While Christ’s words to the church at Sardis send chills up and down my spine, His words to the believers at Laodicea serve as a stiff warning against a lukewarm faith. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s consider the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:14-22 (ESV).
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”
The city of Laodicea was considered the greatest city in the valley and was named after the wife of Antiochus II, Laodice. Known for its wealth, it’s medical school, and the manufacture of a glossy black wool cloth, Laodicea was a first century Wells Fargo, Macy’s, and Mayo Clinic all rolled into one city.
Laodicea was destroyed in AD 60-61 by an earthquake, but the city was so wealthy that it refused help from the emperor in rebuilding. Aquaducts, a theatre with an arena about 900 feet long, and a large gymnasium have been excavated on the site of the city.
While the church at Philadelphia received no rebukes, the church at Laodicea received no commendations. Jesus had not one good word to say about the church at Laodicea. There is nothing in the entirety of the New Testament, other than this mention in Revelation 3, about the church at Laodicea.
Let’s turn to the greeting of Jesus to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14.
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
‘Amen’ was an Old Testament title for God. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul tells us that Jesus is the AMEN of God. He confirms every promise made by God.
When Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the True and Faithful Witness, He was telling this church that He was getting ready to reveal the true spiritual condition of the church.
The phrase ‘beginning of the creation of God’ has been source of confusion used by false teachers to try and prove that Jesus was a created being. In fact, the word beginning here means source or origin. Jesus was the source of creation. The believers there had been given a watered down teaching about Jesus, and it is possible that this is one of the reasons for the lukewarm state of this church.
Next week we will examine the rebukes given to this church by Jesus. Hold onto your hat, friends. That lesson may bite a bit. Now, let’s engage.
- Was there anything in today’s lesson that challenged your faith?
- How does Jesus’ description of Himself as the True and Faithful Witness impact you?
I have developed a chart that gives a quick overview of the seven churches of Revelation. I hope it will be a handy-dandy reference that you can keep in your Bible to help you remember the basics of our study of the seven churches. If you would like a copy, please send me an email to [email protected] and I will email a copy of the chart to you.
Here is a sneak peak of the chart.