Laodicea Lukewarm Faith
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21. Laodicea Lukewarm Faith
Revelation 3.14-16

"To the Laodicea church angel write, 'These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, God's creation ruler. I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.'" (Revelation 3.14-16)✞

Laodicea

Laodicea Pipe and RuinsThis epistle is one of seven Revelation's letters addressed to the ancient city of Laodicea or "Diospolis." Laodicea was founded in BC 262 by the Greek King Antiochus Theos of Syria (BC 286-246) on the River Lycos and named after his wife Laodice I. It is mentioned six times in the New Testament and was Asia's most southerly church. In Turkey, Laodicea city, now called "Denizli," had the grim distinction of being the only church that the risen Christ had nothing good to say. "This city of Zeus" commemorated the ancient Greek deity of sky and thunder. During the second Syrian war, Antiochus 11 received the title of "theos" by one of his liberated peoples.

Lukewarm Faith

Interestingly, Antiochus appears in the "Edicts of Ashoka," the Emperor of India, who received Buddhist proselytes and herbal medicine to treat both humans and animals. This Revelation letter reprimanded Laodicea for their lukewarm faith, although with no particular faults singled out. "The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's Creation," says to them in Revelation 3.16, "because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out." Salve ointment remedies and the violet tunics were the sources of their wealth compared to baptism's pure white robes. Their material prosperity contrasted with their spiritual poverty. The Laodicea water aqueduct provided water for the city's woolen clothing manufacturers. The people highly prized the sheep's soft, violet-black, glossy wool manufactured into outer garments. It made its producers very rich. The risen Christ's words spoke directly against this reliance on wealth. In their minds, their riches eliminated even their need for God!

Impaired Spiritual Sight?

Laodicea Silver CoinsLaodicean coins are symbolic of the wealth acquired by the Laodicean medical center. It was best known and made a lot of money from producing eye salve as a healing ointment and a remedy for various common eye problems. In this Revelation passage, sight and perception contrast with Laodicea's blind spirituality. It did not take a stand for anything, and indifference led Laodicea to idleness. It was just as if they had visual impairment or vision loss, for they could not see the real needs around them. The Laodicean church needed eye-salves themselves but in a radically different spiritual sense. By neglecting to do anything for Christ, the church was now hardened and self-satisfied. It had become spiritually blind. Jesus said in John 9.39, "For judgment, I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind."

Why was Laodicea a commercial hub?

LaodiceaAs a medical center, Laodicea was on the most strategically important highway in Asia. It joined Ephesus in the west to Syria in the east. The road that ran through Laodicea began at Ephesus' coast and climbed up an 8,500 feet high central plateau. It followed the River Meander valley, which wandered about the valley until it reached what was known as the Gates of Phrygia. Laodicea was a most critical hub in this part of the Roman Empire. It exported its famous eye salve around the Roman world and made a great deal of money in Laodicean silver coins.

Meandering Laodicea River

Meandering riverThe meandering Laodicea river was symbolic of the lethargic church and its Bishop Archippus, who Saint Paul criticized for not completing his ministry. When Paul was writing to the neighboring church of Colossae in Colossians 4.17, he says sternly, "Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.'" Archippus is somehow failing in his duty. About thirty years before Revelation's writing, the rot had already set in with Laodicea's lukewarm faith. Beyond the Gates of Phrygia lies a broad valley that linked together Lydia, Phrygia, and Caria. Laodicea's river, called the River Maeander, enters that valley by a narrow, steep gorge through which no road can pass. The way, therefore, detours through the Lycus valley, and in that valley stands Laodicea. "The ruler of God's creation," or "the beginning of God's creation," addresses these churches in Revelation 3.15. Jesus condemns the Laodicea lukewarm faith more than the other Churches of Revelation. There seems to be no redeeming feature in it.

Archippus?

Icon of ArchippusArchippus was Greek for the "master of the horse" in the First Century AD. He may be one of the seventy-two Christian disciples, also known in the Eastern Christian tradition as the seventy apostles appointed by Jesus. Luke 10.1-2a explains, "After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.'" Some manuscripts read "seventy" instead of "seventy-two" in verse 17. "The Apostolic Constitutions 8.46" reprimanded Archippus. It said that Archippus should have been careful to fulfill his appointed ministry.

Jesus' amen words?

Hebrew Amen JesusThe Laodiceans heard Jesus' amen words or the final commands of "the ruler of God's creation." Jesus knew the Laodiceans' deeds and acts. This Laodicea letter begins with a series of titles for Jesus Christ, including the most prestigious title, "The Amen." "Amen" is used after a prayer, a hymn, or sometimes by a congregation member to show agreement. Hence the phrase "Amen to that!" "Amen" means "it is so" or "so be it." The English word comes from the Hebrew "Amen," meaning "certainty," "truth," and "truly." The English pronunciation may be "Ah-men" or "ay-men!" Being called "The Amen" is an affirmation of Jesus' deity, but it sounds somewhat strange because of its origins. The English translation calls God "the one true God" or "the Amen." Isaiah 65.16 says, "Whoever invokes a blessing will do so by the Amen. Whoever takes an oath will swear by the Amen." In Hebrew, God Almighty is called the "the God of Amen." "Amen" shows an agreement with the prayer and recognizes the "God of Amen" and the "Jesus Amen." Jesus Christ was called "the Amen" in Revelation 3.14-16, with a reminder of his truthfulness and reliable promises.

Who is the authentic Jesus?

Court Judge"Amen" is often placed at the end of a solemn statement to authenticate its truth. If Jesus is "the God of Amen," then his words can be utterly relied upon to be entirely accurate. Jesus Christ's promises are authentic, honest, true, accurate, and genuine beyond any doubt. Rabbinic scholars from medieval France believed the Hebrew word for "faith" or "emuna" was derived from the root word "amen." The angel of the church in Laodicea writes in Revelation 3.15, "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation." "Amen" means "the origin" or "beginning" of God's creation." The Son of God and the Creation connect in the New Testament. Saint John's Gospel says of Jesus in John 1.3, "Through him, God made all things; without him, God made nothing that is in existence." Saint Paul wrote of Jesus in Colossians 1.16, "For in him God created all things: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, powers, rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." As Christians see it, the Creation God the Amen, and the Redemption God are the same. All three expressions refer to Jesus. Jesus is "the authentic witness" on whom we can count. Court witnesses must have seen with their own eyes the occurrence to which they relate. They must be honest so that they can accurately repeat what they have heard and seen. They must have the ability. Their statements must make the right impression on their hearers. Testimony cannot be hearsay, although an expert witness can advise concerning their area of particular knowledge or expertise.

Who is the ruler of creation?

ButterflyJesus' creation witness indicates that Christ is the created things originator in heaven and earth because he is truly God. The phrase "the ruler of God's creation" in Revelation 3.14 reflects the fact that Jesus created the water itself. "The ruler of the beginning of God's creation," emphasized the Creator God. Jesus can speak of God because he coexists with his Father. His witness is faithful because he is "God's creation ruler" and began the creation process. Jesus is also "the beginning." The word for "beginning" is "arche." Jesus is the "arche" or "archetype" of all things. That is, all things begin in him.

What was the Laodicea banking center?

Laodicea Silver CoinsIn the First Century AD, the Laodicea banking center was well known. It was about 100 miles east of Ephesus and was the seven cities wealthiest in the "Ephesus Crescent." It was founded in 255 BC by King Antiochus 11 and became renowned as an important banking center. Laodicea gained its wealth from black wool as well as eye and ear treatments and was so prosperous that the Romans permitted it to mint coins. It's wealth came from manufactured specialty woolen garments and a medical school to administer eye and ear treatments. When Cicero (BC 106-43), a Greek philosopher and one of Rome's most exceptional speakers, traveled in Asia Minor, it was at the Laodicea banking center that he cashed his credit letters. It was undoubtedly one of the wealthiest Roman cities at that time.

What were Laodicea's water problems?

Hierapolis SpringsAncient Laodicea always had water supply problems. The Laodicea lukewarm faith like its water was neither hot enough for a bath nor cold enough to drink. The water traveled so far by viaduct from the Hierapolis springs that it was "neither hot nor cold" when it arrived. The word "viaduct" comes from the Latin "via" for "road" and "ducere" for "lead." Its Hierapolis Springs neighbors had ample hot water for bathing. The nearby Hierapolis hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe there, believing they had medicinal powers." Its neighbor Colosse was also not far away and had ample refreshing cold water for drinking. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was famous for its cold water. People journeyed to Hierapolis to the hot spring baths for health purposes and vacationed in Colosse, taking frequent dips in its famous, refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters. The Laodicean viaduct, however, delivered only tepid water. Laodicea's Christian faith was similarly neither hot nor cold.

How did Laodicea cope with an earthquake?

Earthquake Pavement CrackIn 61 AD, Laodicea was devastated by an earthquake. The wealthy and independent citizens refused any Roman government help to rebuild their town. They did it from their resources. No wonder Laodicea's boasted that it was rich and had no need of anything. The city was also so prosperous that it did not feel the need for God.

What was the Laodicea six-mile aqueduct?

Laodicea AqueductAn aqueduct is a large stone or brick engineered structure built to transport water over vast distances. The Laodicea aqueduct carried water for 6 miles from Baspinar to Laodicea across valleys on tall brick columns and arches and through tunnels in the mountains. The pipes effectively delivered the water - a real feat of construction. Sadly, however, the water gained heat along the way. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste! The ancient Romans loved to bathe, and therefore good hot water was an essential element in their social wellbeing. In many of Rome's squares today, you can still see fountains where the bathhouses and brothels used to be. In Roman times, raised water courses traveled over long distances to provide a water supply to outlying communities. Some aqueducts remain because of the excellence of Roman engineering skills two thousand and more years ago. Jesus' Laodicea church statement is that their spirituality had faded and was as useless as their tepid water. Therefore, Jesus harshly warns the Laodiceans as he does many today in Revelation 3.16, "I am about to spit you out of my mouth!" The ancient ruins of Laodicea are sadly all that remains today.

"What was Laodicea's lukewarm faith?"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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