The Footsteps of Paul Blog

A Walk Through the 7 Churches – Laodicea

Posted By: Chris Posted In: Blog, The Seven Churches Date Posted: August 21st, 2012 Comments: 2

Photo (Chris D.) “Ski field in the tropics” – Rocks of Laodicea, looking across the valley to Hieropolis.

Issue #22 – “Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock”

The archaeological work being done at Laodicea at present is impressive. They have discovered over this last year that it was a very religious city, having unearthed the ancient ruins of many churches!

As one stands above the beautifully situated Roman theatre and looks across the valley, Hierapolis, modern day Pamukkale stands out like a ski field in the tropics. “Pamukkale” means Cotton Castle in Turkish. It is only as one gets up close that you realize the dazzling white mountainside is in fact years and years of lime deposit left by some 17 hot water springs ranging in temperature from 35c – 100c that flow down the mountainside.

“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 3:15-16

In John’s day too, Hierapolis was a source of thermal hot water, some of which was piped across the valley for three miles and into Laodicea, arriving distinctively lukewarm. In contrast, it is thought the city also piped water, cold water, from across the opposite valley, from Colossae, which was 11 miles away. Hence the Lord’s metaphorical admonition to be either hot or cold, but not an insipid lukewarm.

Photo (Chris D.) Hot pools of Pamukkale (Hieropolis) facing Laodicea, 5 kilometers across the valley on top of the first line of hills.

What was the source of such spiritual “lukewarmness”?

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” 3:17

I refer to Laodicea as “the worldly church”. This is a church that was (and is) self-satisfied, due to material wealth. It was a very “successful” trading city on one of the most traversed silk routes from Asia through to Europe. It produced black wool and was renown for it’s woolen fabric. According to Strabo (12.8.20) there was a medical school in the city, where a famous ophthalmologist practiced. The city also lies within the boundaries of ancient Phrygia, from where an ingredient of eye-lotions, the so-called “Phrygian powder”, was supposed to have originated.

Once again, the Lord speaks in metaphor when he says,

“ I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” 3:18

My thoughts on the Church at Philadelphia included opinion that most of us associate ourselves with that church – probably because it receives no rebuke from Jesus, only commendation. I would like to challenge our presumption in this respect. The Laodicean Christians thought they were doing OK too. At least they congregated, as evidenced by the large number of churches there! But, if we look at some of the Colossian passages where Laodicea is mentioned we find something interesting. (Laodicea is mentioned four times in the New Testament’s epistle to the Colossians: Col. 2:1; 4:13,15,16)

Colossians 2:1-3 says,

“I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

It appears that Paul was concerned that they didn’t really KNOW Christ.

In Colossians 4:12, addressed to Laodicea as well as Hieropolis and Colossae, Paul says that Epaphras is,

“Wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

It looks like these folk were having difficulty standing “firm in the will of God” and had no faith in the “assurance” of salvation in Christ.

When we read Jesus’ admonition to Laodicea we have to ask ourselves if they were in fact saved at all? Had they not personally received Jesus as Lord?

When one observes the lack of spiritual fruit and fervor in the lives of many church attenders in our well-off western (and non western) churches, together with an ambivalent attitude toward the last, the lost and the least, one could well ask the same question.

“I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (3:16b)

This is one of the most terrifying verses in the New Testament.

And then follows one of the most comforting verses in the New Testament…

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (3:20)

This is preceded by a verse that is both comforting and terrifying at the same time!

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” (3:19)

For the worldly, lukewarm church, Jesus in His love and compassion stands at the door of our heart, quietly knocking, patiently waiting for us to respond, to repent, and allow Him into every area of our lives.

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (3:18-19)

Christ’s exhortation is for the worldly church to get her priorities in order. Church is not about making money and getting rich, building the most elaborate building and promulgating a theology of prosperity. The exhortation holds true for individual church attenders like you and me. It’s about seeking true, eternal riches: friendship with God. It’s about being clothed in robes of righteousness: forgiveness and cleansing through faith and obedience to Christ. It’s about getting the planks out of our own eye and being a faithful and true witness in the world around us.

Look at these first words of the letter to the Laodiceans,

“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” (3:14)

This is the challenge for us: to truly and faithfully witness to and reflect the character of God in our families, in our church, in our communities and to the world at large. Our aspirations should be Godly character as opposed to worldly acquisitions.

“Behold I stand at the door and knock”

What an invitation. It simply requires humility and courage on our part to open the door against all the mores and values of a secular and materialistic world and ask Jesus into our lives.

“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (3:21-22)

Photo (Susanne D.)There is not much left standing in Laodicea today although recent extensive exploratory and reconstructive work is changing all that. Well worth a visit.

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let the discussion begin!


  • Lloyd Carey - 22 August, 2012 at 2:45 am - Reply

    Having visited this site I realise what you are saying is so true
    Love your writing
    I am off to PNG this weekend running a Christian business course

  • John - 30 August, 2012 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Very good writing!

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