Laodicea’s Only Hope
By Mark A. Finley
The ancient city of Laodicea was located about 100 miles (c. 160 kilometers) from Ephesus on a well-traveled crossroads between north and south, east and west. The city was a great commercial, banking, educational, and medical center. When Cicero traveled in the area, he cashed his letters of credit at Laodicea. In A.D. 61 an earthquake devastated the city, and although Rome offered to help rebuild the ruined city, Laodicea’s independent, proud inhabitants refused. They wanted to rebuild it themselves.
Laodicea was a wealthy, sophisticated city. In this atmosphere of money and materialism, Laodicean believers evidently became lukewarm. They did not give up their faith; they were just no longer passionate about it. They were not spiritually dead; they were spiritually asleep. The letter to the church at Laodicea is a heartfelt appeal for a renewed spiritual experience.
1. Read Revelation 3:14. What three titles of Jesus did the apostle John use to introduce the message to Laodicea?
The three titles John used to introduce the message to Laodicea are significant. Laodicea is the last of the seven churches. Jesus is the “Amen,” with His final message to His church before He returns. He is the “faithful and true witness,” who knows the deepest secrets of our hearts but will never forsake us. He is faithful to us when we are unfaithful to Him. He is the “beginning of the creation of God.” This expression can be a little confusing. It does not mean Jesus was created first. The original word for “beginning” can be translated “the One who began, or the beginner of.” Jesus is the beginner of all creation.
The all-powerful Christ of creation speaks to the Laodiceans, promising to work the miracle of re-creation and breathe into them spiritual life.
2. Read Revelation 3:15-17. What is Jesus’ spiritual diagnosis of Laodicea?
They are not hot or cold, but lukewarm. What a fitting symbol of Laodicea! The city of Hierapolis was just six miles away, where hot mineral springs flowed through a system of aqueducts to Laodicea. By the time the water arrived, it was lukewarm. The inhabitants of Laodicea had not rejected Jesus: they did not rebel against His teachings—they were just complacent and unconcerned.
3. How did the church at Laodicea view its spiritual condition? How was their view different from Jesus’? Read Revelation 3:17.
Our perception of our own condition before God is sometimes different from reality. We may see ourselves as righteous and holy. But God, who looks at the heart, often sees something quite different.
4. How does the Bible describe human nature apart from the righteousness of Christ? Read Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10, 11, 23.
5. What is Jesus’ counsel to the church at Laodicea? Revelation 3:18.
The believers claimed to be religious, but failed to understand the essence of true spirituality (John 9:39-41). According to Jesus’ own statements in Luke 4:18, He came to bring “sight to the blind.” The apostle Paul prayed that the Holy Spirit would give the church the “spirit of wisdom,” that the “eyes of your understanding” would be opened (Eph. 1:17, 18). Only the Holy Spirit can give us the spiritual discernment to understand our true condition before God and accept by faith His righteousness.
6. Read Revelation 3:19. Why did Jesus give this message of sharp rebuke to His people?
7. Read Revelation 3:20, 21. What does Jesus long to do, and what is His promise?
Jesus longs to have intimate fellowship with us. In the beautiful symbolism of a Middle Eastern supper, Jesus pictures Himself as sitting around a table with us, sharing our conversation, listening to our inner longings, and encouraging our hearts. These special moments with Jesus are just too good to miss. Those who enter into this fellowship with Jesus now will have the joy of sitting with Him on His throne and rejoicing with Him throughout eternity.