Seven Churches of Revelation

Part 7

7. Laodicea: Rich and Increased With Goods

††††††††††† Forty-three miles southeast of Philadelphia and about a hundred miles from Ephesus, Laodicea was the richest of three cities in sight of each other in the Lycus River Valley. The other two were Hierapolis and Colossae. Pliny reports that Ionian Greeks founded the city, naming it Diospolis, "City of Jupiter (Zeus)." Later it was called Rhoas. Antiochus II of the Seleucid dynasty rebuilt the town in 250 B.C., naming it Laodicea after his wife Laodice, by whom he was afterwards poisoned. Six cities bore the name Laodicea, this one distinguished by the term, "Laodicea on the Lycus." In 133 B.C., Laodicea became part of the Roman Empire, and was made a district court town.

††††††††††† Laodicea commands the gateway to Phyrgia. A town of great commercial prosperity, it controlled trade which flowed down the river to the seacoast, as well as being the hub of three great roads. Laodiceaís position made it one of the richest commercial centers of the ancient world, and the center of banking for Asia Minor.

††††††††††† In the earthquake of A.D. 17, Laodicea suffered along with Sardis and Philadelphia, receiving construction aid from Emperor Tiberius. In A.D. 60 or 62 , it was again laid waste, but this time Laodicea completely refused all aid, rebuilding the city out of its own resources. It became much finer than before, with three theaters and a circus so large it held 30,000 people.

††††††††††† Laodiceans had the attitude, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," Revelation 3:17. They were so well off, Laodicea felt they needed help from neither man nor God, and could do without God. Christís message to Laodicea says, "You are rich, and proud of your riches; but in things that matter you are poverty-stricken, and do not know it."


Jews, Black Wool Clothing, Eye Powder and Theater

††††††††††† Perhaps a key to Laodiceaís prosperity lay in the fact that the city and surrounding area contained a large number of Jews. The regular policy of Seleucid kings had been to offer free citizenship to all Jews, who brought money and trade to every city in which they settled. In 62 B.C., there were about 7,500 adult male Jews in Laodicea and the surrounding district, plus women and children. Jews were so powerful in Laodicea that, as Josephus mentions (Ant., 14.10.20), they successfully appealed to the Roman governor for the right to follow their own customs and laws, including the Sabbath.

††††††††††† Much of Laodiceaís wealth came from the wool and clothing industry. The country around Laodicea had a special breed of black sheep noted for its soft, glossy wool. Laodicean factories exported four kinds of outer garments all over the world. One was a tunic called the trimita, famously identified with Laodicea. Revelation 3:18 shows that despite Laodiceaís clothing exports, they were naked spiritually but didnít know it.

††††††††††† Laodicea was a center of worship for Men, the god of healing, later identified with Asklepios. Laodicea had a famous medical school, presided over by some of the most distinguished successors of Galen. It was noted for two kinds of medicine: (1) an ointment to cure sore ears, and (2) tephra phyrgia, a world famous eye powder, exported in tablet form, ground down and applied to the eyes. This eye powder was held to be a good remedy for weak and failing eyes. Christ counsels Laodiceans to "anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see," Revelation 3:18, and it is ironic that the people who exported eye-salve needed to cure their own spiritual blindness.

††††††††††† Laodicea may well have had a "cultural foundation," for it earnestly cultivated the arts and sciences. A large theater and amphitheater are in the cityís ruins. Barclay says Laodiceans were "strangely modern," trusting in material prosperity, outward luxury and physical health.

††††††††††† Today, Laodicea is a heap of ruins, known by the Turks as Eski Hissar, "Old Castle." He who removed the candlestick of Ephesus has rejected Laodicea out of His mouth. Gibbon wrote that "the circus and those stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes."


The Lazy, Apostate, Persecuting Church of Laodicea

††††††††††† The gospel may have been first introduced to Laodicea by Epaphras, Colossians 1:7; Philemon 23. From Colossians 2:1, it is certain that Paul had never been in Laodicea when he wrote the Epistle to the Colossians. But through Epaphras, Paul had learned that false teachers were spreading false doctrine at Laodicea, Colossae and Hierapolis, and wrote his epistle to counteract them. See Colossians 2:1, 4:13, 15-16. Paul wanted his letter read in Laodicea as well as Colossae. He had a great zeal and conflict of soul over the Colossians and Laodiceans. Perhaps Paul knew the coming sad fate of the Church of Laodicea.

††††††††††† According to the Apostolical Constitutions (viii. 46), the first bishop of Laodicea was Archippus, some thirty years after Paul wrote Colossians. This despite the unfavorable mention he receives in Colossians 4:16-17, "And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." Archippus typified the Laodicean attitude of laziness. He forgot Paulís admonition to the ministry in II Timothy 4:2-5. Archippus seems to have been Philemonís son, Philemon 2.

††††††††††† After Constantine took over the visible church, making it universal or Catholic, Laodicea emerged as a center for Catholics. In A.D. 361, the important Council of Laodicea finally settled the canon of Scripture. And in A.D. 365 , the Council of Laodicea prohibited Sabbath observance: "Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather, honoring the Lordís Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ."

††††††††††† From laziness, to apostasy, to persecution of the faithful remnant of the true Church, Laodicea is the epitome of a Church gone astray. Nothing survives today of the once famous Church of Laodicea. But, as we shall see, its ideas are prevalent today.


Worship Messiah, Not Ideas of Men

††††††††††† Revelation 3:14: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning [beginner, Fenton translation] of the creation of God."

††††††††††† God is the God of Truth, Isaiah 65:16. "Amen" or "so be it" is an affirmation or guarantee that a statement is absolutely true and trustworthy. Christ is the Truth, John 14:6, because everything He says is reliable and sure. By starting the letter to the Laodiceans, the Savior is saying, "Iím telling it like it is," or "you may not believe what Iím saying applies to you, but Iím telling you the truth."

††††††††††† Christ created all things, John 1:3, and He is the source, author, originator of salvation, Hebrews 12:2. He is the door, John 10:9, the only way to salvation. Not by following a particular man or organization do you obtain salvation, but only by and through Christ. You may be able to fool men, but never Christ. The Laodiceans are mixed up about the source of salvation, not realizing that though they think they are righteous, it will be revealed whether they really are so, I Corinthians 3:12-15; II Timothy 2:20-21.

††††††††††† Christís description of Himself in His letter to the Laodiceans condemns the false teaching which existed there. Those of Laodicea, along with Colossae, were going after philosophy and the traditions of men. They were letting menís opinions cause them to neglect properly eating meat and drink, and the observance of Holy Days. They were following a type of asceticism and even angel (messenger) worship. See Colossians 2:8, 16, 18, 20-22. Christ is the ONLY one to worship, not the ideas of men, Revelation 22:9. Christ is the one mediator, I Timothy 2:5, and we need no other.


Lukewarm Believers Are NOT Christians

††††††††††† Revelation 3:15-16, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will [am about to] spue thee out of my mouth."

††††††††††† The word for lukewarm is chliaros, which means tepid. Around Laodicea there were hot mineral springs whose water had a most nauseating taste. Christ is saying that He feels just like this about the Laodiceans: their lukewarmness makes Him want to vomit them out of His mouth.

††††††††††† Apollos was a really fervent Christian, Acts 18:24-28, as we all should be, Romans 12:11. We should have an unquenchable burning love for God, Song of Solomon 8:6; Luke 24:32. Paul was zealous, II Corinthians 11:2, and so was Christ, John 2:17 and Phineas, Numbers 25:11-13. "Zealous" can also be translated "godly jealous," and is a characteristic of the Almighty, Exodus 34:14; Isaiah 9:7, 59:17; Psalm 122:1; Deuteronomy 4:24, 6:15; Ecclesiastes 9:10. Prayer and fasting is one way to be zealous, James 5:16; Psalm 69:9-10. We should be zealous, wanting to go "all the way" with God, not half way, not being "half-hearted."

††††††††††† God wants a Christian to be genuine, all the way or not at all, Revelation 22:11. Instead, Laodiceans are straddling the fence. They are "mugwump" believers, with their "mug" on one side and their "wump" on the other! Laodiceans should become zealous, 3:19. It is far better not to have known the truth, than to rest self-satisfied, in indolence, apathy, and indifference, Luke 12:48.

††††††††††† It appears that the messenger (angel) of the Church is addressed from verses 14 through 18. He is responsible for the souls of the people. Their blood is on his head if he does not warn them of the danger of disobeying the Eternal, Ezekiel 33:7-8. Likewise, Archippus was not properly fulfilling his ministry, Colossians 4:17, and neither will other Laodicean leaders.

††††††††††† Sin results in punishment from God. Just as the Canaanites were spued out of the land, so also will Godís people if they fail to keep His statutes and judgments, Leviticus 18:26-28, and 20:22, "Ye shall therefore keep all My statutes, and all My judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out." Leviticus 18 refers to sex sins. As the Canaanites were prominent in sexual license, so are also the Laodiceans. Another area appears to be that of Holy Days, which are statutes. Do the Laodiceans pervert the Holy Days? Colossians 2:16 seems to indicate so. Those who despised Mosesí law died without mercy; how much sorer shall be the punishment of those Christians who use grace as an excuse for license? Hebrews 10:28-31.


Wretched, Miserable, Poor, Blind, and Naked

††††††††††† Revelation 3:17, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."

††††††††††† Laodicea was the wealthiest of all seven representative Churches of Asia. Philadelphia was the poorest. Yet spiritually, Laodicea was the poorest, "the Church of which there was nothing good to say" (Barclay). Money is valueless in proclaiming the truth of the Eternal, if one is really poor and wretched spiritually.

††††††††††† Jesus said, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" Mark 10:23. "Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death," Proverbs 11:4, and "he that trusteth in his riches shall fall," verse 28. The rich are wise in their own conceit, thinking they know it all, Proverbs 28:11. Riches tend to make one forget God, Jeremiah 5:7-9 and Deuteronomy 8:10-14, 32:15. Other scriptures to note are: Psalm 37:16; Proverbs 30:8; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Ezekiel 7:19; Micah 6:12; Zephaniah 1:18; Matthew 6:19-21, 19:24; Luke 12:15, 16:13; I Timothy 6:9-11, 17-19; James 5:1.

††††††††††† Riches can make one fail to produce fruit, and fall into self-deception, Matthew 13:22, "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word and he becometh unfruitful."

††††††††††† "Rich" Laodiceans persecute the "poor" Philadelphians, James 2:5-6, "Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith . . . . But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgement seats?" James 5:1, 3, 6, "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you . . . . Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days . . . . Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you." Isaiah 66:5, "Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at His word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for My nameís sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed," (compare Revelation 3:9).

††††††††††† In Hosea 12:8 is a boast similar to that of the Laodiceans: "And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance [paraphrased: I have gotten rich all by myself]: in all my labors they shall find none iniquity in me that [which] were sin."

††††††††††† Isaiah 47:7-9 says, "And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart [lukewarm attitude], neither didst remember the latter end of it . . . . thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children . . . ."

††††††††††† Laodicea was famous for clothes and eye salve. Yet she was spiritually naked and blind, and knew it not. Some in Laodicea should have known better, as it says in John 9:40-41, "And some of the Pharisees . . . said unto Him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." II Peter 1:9, "But he that lacketh these things [spiritual fruits, verses 4-8] is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."

††††††††††† Sardis and Laodicea are the two Churches that have sunk the lowest spiritually. Yet there is no trace of adversaries from within or without, nothing to invoke zeal and fervency. Godís Church needs trials and affliction, I Corinthians 11:19, Psalm 34:19.

††††††††††† Revelation 3:18-19, "I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich: and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."

††††††††††† Where is Laodicea going to obtain the gold, white raiment, and eye-salve? In the fires of persecution, the Great Tribulation that Laodicea has to go through, Revelation 12:17. A common misconception must be corrected: the reason why Philadelphians are spared from the tribulation, Revelation 3:10, 12, is NOT that they are too weak to bear it, but that they have already proved themselves in preceding trials, having kept the word of Godís patience. They will be nourished for 3 1/2 years for additional growth to maturity. Laodiceans are the weak, lukewarm Christians, and the only way to get them zestos, or boiling hot, is to chasten them.

††††††††††† The only other place the word "wretched" is used in the New Testament is in Romans 7:24, where Paul lamented, "O wretched man that I am!" This shows that Laodiceans are dominated by their carnal desires, and the spark of eternal life is about to go out. Like the five foolish vigins, Matthew 25:1-13, they donít have enough oil (symbolic of the Holy Spirit), and they slept when they should have been working. The wise virgins advised them to go out and buy oil, but when they did and came back, they found the door shut. Few Laodiceans will make it through the Great Tribulation. Those who do see the light will repent of their lukewarmness, Deuteronomy 4:29-31.

††††††††††† Revelation 3:20, "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."

††††††††††† Christís return is imminent, at the very doors. His sheep will hear His voice. But the Laodiceans are going to have to repent and come to Christ first; they have to open the door and admit they have been wrong. "If any man" shows the appeal shifts from the messenger of Laodicea to the individual: "If any of you repent and beome zealous, Iíll have you at My marriage supper."

††††††††††† Like a lover knocking on the door of his sweetheartís house (Song of Solomon 5:2-6), Christ loves the Laodiceans and earnestly wants them to repent. When He comes, they better be "on the ball" then, Luke 12:36-37, or they will find the door shut, Matthew 25:10.

††††††††††† Revelation 3:21, "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."

††††††††††† Those who do overcome and go through the Great Tribulation will have really proven themselves, and receive a great reward. But the question remains: how many Laodiceans will actually make it through the Tribulation?

††††††††††† Why not be zealous now and escape the Tribulation?


Lot: First Laodicean?

††††††††††† Perhaps Abrahamís nephew Lot was the first Laodicean in attitude. His late departure from Sodom was the result, not of his righteousness, but due to Godís mercy.

††††††††††† The fire from the Almightyís judgment is coming, and now is no time to be dawdling like Lot, nor looking back, like Lotís wife.

††††††††††† May we open the door to the Messiah, let Him into our lives, and dine with Him. Will we hear, heed what the Spirit says, to the Churches? 



 †††††††††† Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lessons 49-53.

††††††††††† Ambassador College Personal Correspondence Department, "Who Were the Nicolaitanes?" 1960.

††††††††††† Armstrong, Garner Ted, "Is This The Laodicean Church?" Tyler, Texas: Church of God, International, 1978.

††††††††††† Barclay, William, Letters to the Seven Churches. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957.

††††††††††† *Briggs, Lawson, What Became of the Church Jesus Built? April, 1972.

††††††††††† *Blackwell, Dean C., A Handbook of Church History, April 1973.

††††††††††† Bullinger, E.W., Things to Come, November 1896, January 1897, September 1898, October 1898.

††††††††††† *Bunch, Taylor G., The Seven Epistles of Christ, Review & Herald Publishing Assn., Washington, D.C., 1947. ($10 photocopy reprint from Giving & Sharing)

††††††††††† *Conybeare, Fred C., Editor and translator, The Key of Truth, A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898. ($15 photocopy reprint from Giving & Sharing)

††††††††††† Dankenbring, William F., "Where is the Laodicean Church?," Altadena, California: Triumph Publishing Company, ca. 1988.

††††††††††† Dankenbring, William F., "Lethargy, Laziness, Laodiceanism and ĎLaodicean Joeí!" Altadena, California: Triumph Publishing Company, written in 1966, published in 1989.

††††††††††† Dodge, Charles, "Message to the Seven Assemblies," Waynesville, North Carolina: New Beginnings, ca. 1985.

††††††††††† Hoeh, Herman L., "A True History of the True Church," Radio Church of God, 1959.

††††††††††† MíCheyne, Robert Murray, "The Seven Churches of Asia," Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1986.

††††††††††† McKnight, William J., John to the Seven Churches. Boston: Hamilton Brothers, 1927.

††††††††††† *Ramsay, William R., The Letters to the Seven Churches. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985 reprint of 1904 edition published by Hodder and Stoughton, London. 446 pp. ($15 photocopy reprint from Giving & Sharing)

††††††††††† Tate, Andrew, The Messages to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor. London: 1884.

††††††††††† Trench, Richard C., Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia. London: 1890.

††††††††††† Twentieth Century Watch, September-October 1988, page 26.

††††††††††† Williamson, J.T., "Seven Churches of Revelation," in April 1, 1924, Bible Advocate, published in Stanberry, Missouri.

††††††††††† Woodrow, Ralph, Babylon Mystery Religion. Riverside, California: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1966.

 †††††††††† NOTE: Items preceded by an asterisk (*) are available from Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849. Or, call (307) 686-5191 for more information on these and other resources.


Seven Churches Quiz

Match the number of the Church with its characteristics. Each Church has many items. 

1. Ephesus, 2. Smyrna, 3. Pergamos, 4. Thyatira, 5. Sardis, 6. Philadelphia, 7. Laodicea

___††††† Overcomers promised the tree of life.

___††††† I will make liars of Synagogue of Satan worship before thy feet.

___††††† "High and exalted," on a steep hill, great library, parchment, Temple of Zeus, emperor worship, link between two Babylons, ancient and modern.

___††††† Saith the Son of God, with eyes like fire, feet like brass.

___††††† Tribulation ten days.

___††††† A few names which have not defiled their garments.

___††††† I stand at the door and knock, let Me come in and sup with you.

___††††† Saith the Alpha and Omega, which was dead and is alive.

___††††† "Judgment of the people," black wool clothing, world famous eye powder, theatre, medical school, "old castle."

___††††† Overcomers shall be pillars in Godís temple with name of New Jerusalem.

___††††† Endured tribulation and poverty, but they were rich.

___††††† Get white raiment, and anoint your eyes with eyesalve so you can see.

___††††† Patiently labored for His nameís sake.

___††††† I say: you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

___††††† Shall not be hurt of the second death.

___††††† Remember how you have received and heard, and hold fast.

___††††† They hated deeds of the Nicolaitanes.

___††††† Antipas was a faithful martyr there.

___††††† "That which is left," its rich, overconfident, citizens thought their city was impregnable, but it was taken twice.

___††††† Buy from Me gold tried in the fire.

___††††† Repent, or Iíll remove your candlestick!

___††††† Be zealous, and repent!

___††††† Overcomers will sit on My throne.

___††††† Repent, and do the first works.

___††††† Repent, or Savior will come and smite with sword of His mouth.

___††††† Overcomers to be given a crown of life.

___††††† A "desirable" place to live, excellent harbor, "first city of Asia," temple of Diana. Now, totally in ruins, inland.

___††††† Charity, service, faith, patience, last works more than first.

___††††† They left their first love.

___††††† "Myrrh," death perfume, modern Izmir, large harbor city.

___††††† They allowed Jezebel to teach and seduce them to commit fornication.

___††††† They lived where Satanís seat is.

___††††† Saith He that hath the seven stars in His right hand.

___††††† Those who have not known depths of Satan, will be given no other burden.

___††††† Told to strengthen the things which remain, and are ready to die.

___††††† "Never weary of contrite sacrifice," manufacturing city of purple and trade guilds, "white castle."

___††††† You say: ĎI am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.í

___††††† They tried self-proclaimed apostles, found them liars.

___††††† Hold Fast, that no man take thy crown!

___††††† A name that you live, and are dead.

___††††† To be given the morning star.

___††††† Iíll keep you from the hour of temptation which will try all the world.

___††††† Overcomers clothed in white clothes.

___††††† Saith the Amen, the beginner of the creation of God.

___††††† Neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm.

___††††† Contended with blasphemers of the Synagogue of Satan.

___††††† Overcomers to be given power over nations, ruling with a rod of iron.

___††††† Some in this church held the doctrine of Nicolaitanes and Balaam.

___††††† A little strength, has kept word, not denied my name.

___††††† He that has the key of David, opens and shuts; an open door before you.

___††††† Overcomers to eat of hidden manna, white stone with new name.

___††††† "Brotherly love," earthquakes, gateway, "city of God."

Answers: 1, 6, 3, 4, 2, 5, 7, 2, 7, 6, 2, 7, 1, 7, 2, 5, 1, 3, 5, 7, 1, 7, 7, 1, 3, 2, 1, 4, 1, 2, 4, 3, 1, 4, 5, 4, 7, 1, 6, 5, 4, 6, 5, 7, 7, 2 (or 6), 4, 3, 6, 6, 3, 6.


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