Letter to the Church in Laodicea



Laodicea on the Lycus was a major city in ancient Anatolia, located on a plateau between the rivers Asopus and Caprus in the Lycus Valley of western Asia Minor, in what is now Turkey.

It was founded in the 3rd century BC by Antiochus II Theos, king of the Seleucid Empire, and named in honor of his wife Laodice, whom he later divorced, likely for political reasons. Laodicea quickly became a wealthy city due to its strategic location on a major trade route and its production of textiles, wool, and medical ointments. It was also known for establishing banking.

The city was also a center of learning, with a famous school of medicine. Laodicea was also a religious center, with temples dedicated to Zeus, Apollo, and Artemis.

In the 1st century AD, Laodicea was one of the seven churches of Asia Minor addressed by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation. The church at Laodicea was criticized for being lukewarm in its faith and for being materialistic and self-satisfied.
Laodicea remained an important city until the 7th century AD when it was destroyed by an earthquake. The city was never rebuilt, and today, its ruins are located near the modern city of Denizli.

Following are some of the key points about the background of the city of Laodicea:
• Founded in the 3rd century BC by Antiochus II Theos, king of the Seleucid Empire
• Strategic location on a major trade route
• Wealthy city due to its production of textiles, wool, and medical ointments
• Center of learning and religion
• One of the seven churches of Asia Minor addressed by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation
• Destroyed by an earthquake in the 7th century AD

Laodicea is an important city in Christian history, and its message of lukewarm faith is still relevant today.

Laodicean Water

Laodicea received its water from a series of springs located to the south of the city. The water was carried to the city via an aqueduct, which was constructed in the 1st century AD. The aqueduct was approximately 5 miles long and consisted of a series of arches that carried the water over valleys and other obstacles. The water from the aqueduct was distributed to public fountains and baths throughout the city. It was also used to irrigate crops and gardens.

The water supply of Laodicea was considered to be of good quality. However, it was also known for being lukewarm, which is why it is mentioned in the Book of Revelation as a symbol of spiritual lukewarmness.

In modern times, the ruins of the Laodicean aqueduct can still be seen. It is a testament to the engineering skill of the Romans and the importance that they placed on water supply in their cities.

Letter to the Church in Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-22

14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 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— 18 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. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore 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 dine with him, and he with Me. 21 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. 22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

Study Notes

In His letter to the church in Laodicea, Jesus, the eternal Son of God (cf. Col. 1:15ff.) and the true witness and the only way of salvation (Rev. 3:14; cf. John 14:6), rebukes the believers there for their lukewarmness and self-sufficiency. He tells them that they are neither hot nor cold and that He is about to vomit them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16). Jesus also tells them that they are naked, blind, and poor, even though they think they see, are rich and have everything they need (Rev. 3:17).

Jesus then calls the church in Laodicea to repent and turn back to Him (Rev. 3:18). He offers them the gold of a purified and true faith (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-9), the white garments of His righteousness through faith in Him and His cross (cf. Isa. 1:16-18; Rev. 7:13-17), and the enlightening eye salve of His Holy Spirit, who opens our eyes to the truth of God’s Word and points us to Jesus for life and salvation (Rev. 3:18; cf. John 3:3,5-6; 6:44,63; 16:13-14; Ps. 119:18). Jesus also promises to reward those who overcome and remain faithful to Him (Rev. 3:21-22; cf. Rev. 2:10).

The letter to the church in Laodicea is a warning to all Christians about the dangers of lukewarmness and false confidence in ourselves, our faith, and our works — thinking all is well with our souls when, in fact, we are spiritually poor and faithless. Jesus wants us to be truly penitent and hold fast to Him in faith, trusting that only in Him and for the sake of His cross can we have forgiveness and life. He wants us to be humble and recognize our need for His help.

Jesus stands at the door and knocks, desiring that we repent and open the door to Him in faith and walk in fellowship with Him (Rev. 3:19-20; cf. Heb. 12:5-11; Prov. 3:11-12; 1 John 1:5—2:2) unto life everlasting. Those who overcome will reign with Christ in His kingdom (Rev. 3:21; cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-12).

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:22).

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