“Then, to the angel in the assembly of Laodicea write, “These things say the Amen, the Faithful and Trustworthy Witness, the origin of the creation of God: I have perceived your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would [you were] cold or hot!
“So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spew you out of My mouth.
“Because you say that “I am wealthy and I have become affluent so I have no need,” and you do not perceive that you are the one wretched and miserable and impoverished and blind and naked—I counsel to you to redeem from Me gold fired by fire in order that you may be made prosperous and white apparel in order that you may clothe yourself and that your shame and the disgrace of your nakedness would not be exhibited, and to anoint your eyes with eye salve in order that you would see.
“As many as I would love I reprove and correct: accordingly, be zealous and repent. Behold, I am standing at the door and I am knocking: if anyone hears the sound of Me and opens the door, then I will come in to that one and I will dine with that one, and that one with me.
“The one who prevails I will give to that one to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also prevailed and sat down with My Father on His throne.
“The one having an ear: Listen, comprehend, attend to what the Spirit is saying to the assemblies.”Revelation 3:14-22
A Wealthy City
In the mid-second century BCE, in honor of his wife Laodice, Antiochus, one of the kings of the Seleucid Empire, built Laodicea on the foundations of an older city. Located by the River Lycus and rising above the valleys on either side of it, Laodicea rode along a low hill flanked by the smaller rivers Asopus and Caprus, which in turn fed into the River Lycus.
Its location in such a fertile and well-watered area contributed to Laodicea’s riches, as did the trade routes that followed the river system surrounding their city. Like Philadelphia, Laodicea was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 60 CE, and needed Nero’s favor in order to rebuild.
Still, the city became a banking and financial center, and dealt extensively in black wool garments and rugs commerce. Beautiful monuments throughout Laodicea spoke of its affluence. Wealthy inhabitants collected Greek art and antiquities, their universities advanced the fields of science and literature and was home to two famous sceptics—Antiochus and Theiodas—and the city minted its own coins. Famous for its medical center, Laodicea also produced a pharmaceutical powder used to treat eye ailments.
At least two thousand families in this city were Jewish, having been relocated by Antiochus from the Babylonian Diaspora. Prosperous and devout, they sent so much gold as their yearly contributions to Jerusalem each year, that in 62 BCE, Flaccus, the governor at the time, put an embargo on the export of currency from Laodicea. He evidently confiscated nearly twenty pounds of gold destined for the temple. Nevertheless, as might be expected for the richest city in the region, there were temples to a large variety of deities in Laodicea.
Interestingly, the city’s water system originated at a hot springs six miles away in what is now Denizili. But, traveling through underground aqueducts for miles, by the time it arrived at the city, the water had lost its heat.
Connected with Colossae
In his letter to the Colossian Christians, Paul also mentioned believers in Laodicea whom he had never met.
For I want you to know how greatly I strive for you and for those in Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face.
Apostle Paul, Colossians 2:1-3 (NRSV)
- I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love,
- so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding
- and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
At the end of his letter, Paul sent greetings to those he knew, intending that his letter be brought by messenger to the believers in Laodicea.
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him. And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my coworkers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, greets you. He is always striving in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills. For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you. Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea and to Nympha and the church in her house.
And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.Apostle Paul, Colossians 4:10-17 (NRSV)
Jesus introduced Himself to the Laodicean assemblies as “So Be It.” This was, in the Gospel of John, Jesus’s signature statement, often prefacing a teaching based upon His Own authority with the words, “Amen, amen, I say to you …” meaning, “most assuredly.” The apostle Paul said of Jesus that
For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God.Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NRSV)
Jesus came also as the Witness Who is both faithful, and trustworthy, truthful, and true. Taken together, Jesus presented Himself as the One who most assuredly meant, and would follow through with, what He said.
But there was more.
For Jesus was also the very origin of the creation of God. Laodicean Christians, who had presumably received Paul’s letter to the Colossians, would have been familiar with this portrayal of Christ.
[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.Apostle Paul, Colossians 1:15-20 (NRSV)
This is also John’s testimony, opening his Gospel,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.John 1:1-3 (NRSV)
Now Jesus was sending His own letter to Laodicea.