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

"To the angel of the Laodicea church 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 Pipe and RuinsThis epistle is one of seven Revelation's letters addressed to the ancient city of Laodicea, called originally "Diospolis" or "City of Zeus." Laodicea was probably founded on an earlier town 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

AntiochusInterestingly, Antiochus appears in the "Edicts of Ashoka," the Emperor of India, who received Buddhist proselytes and herbal medicine to treat 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."

Laodicea Water Supply

The Laodicea water aqueduct provided water for the city's woolen clothing manufacturers. Salve ointment remedies and the violet tunics were the sources of their wealth compared to baptism's pure white robes. The people highly prized the sheep's soft, violet-black, glossy wool manufactured into outer garments. It made its producers very rich. Their material prosperity contrasted with their spiritual poverty. 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 for producing eye salve as a healing ointment and 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 a 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."

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 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 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 became rich in Laodicean silver coins.

Meandering River

Meandering riverThe meandering Laodicea river was symbolic of the lethargic church 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.


Icon of ArchippusSaint Paul criticized Archippus for his negligence. When Paul was writing to neighboring 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 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 as the seventy apostles in the Eastern Christian tradition. 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" reprimand Archippus. It says 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 American English pronunciation may be "ah-men" or "ay-men!" ✞

God of Amen

"The Amen" affirms 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 for his truthfulness and reliability.

Authentic Jesus

Court JudgeIf 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, trustworthy, and genuine beyond any doubt. Court witnesses must have seen with their own eyes the occurrence to which they relate. They must be open so that they can repeat what they have heard and seen. Their statements must make the right impression on their hearers. Testimony cannot be hearsay, although expert witnesses can advise on their area of particular knowledge or expertise. Rabbinic scholars from medieval France believed the Hebrew word for "faith" or "emuna" was derived from the root word "amen." ✞

Origin and Beginning

LaodiceaThe 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 interconnect 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 everything, 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.

Ruler of Creation

ButterflyJesus' creation witness indicates that Christ is the creation originator in heaven and earth because he is truly God. The phrase "the ruler of God's creation" in Revelation 3.14 reflects that Jesus created the water itself. "The ruler of the beginning of God's creation" emphasizes 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" who began the creation process. Jesus is also "the beginning." The word for "beginning" is "arche." Jesus is the "arche" or "archetype." He is the original pattern or model. All things begin in him.

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 wealthiest of the seven cities in the "Ephesus Crescent" and became renowned as a vital banking hub. Laodicea was so prosperous that the Romans permitted it to mint coins. 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.

Water Problems

Hierapolis SpringsAncient Laodicea always had water supply problems. The Laodicea lukewarm faith was like its water and 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 "warm" when it arrived. Its Hierapolis Springs' neighbors' hot springs were famous for their ample hot water for bathing. People came from great distances to bathe there, believing they had medicinal powers." People journeyed to Hierapolis to the hot spring baths 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 but lukewarm!

Laodicean Earthquake

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

Six Mile Aqueduct

Laodicea AqueductIn Roman times, raised water courses traveled long distances to provide a water supply to outlying communities. 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. An "aqueduct" was a large stone or brick engineered structure built to transport water over vast distances. The word "viaduct" comes from the Latin "via" for "road" and "ducere" for "lead." The waterway effectively delivered the water, which was an impressive construction feat. Some aqueducts remain today because of the excellence of Roman engineering skills two thousand and more years ago. Sadly, however, the water gained heat along the way to Laodicea. By the time it reached its destination, 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.

Roman Bathhouses

RomeInterestingly, in many of Rome's squares today, you can still see fountains where the Roman bathhouses and brothels used to be. Jesus' statement to the Laodicea church is that their spirituality had faded and was about as useless as their tepid water. Therefore, Jesus harshly warned the Laodiceans as he does 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.

"Laodicea Lukewarm Faith"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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