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How should we understand the letter to Laodicea in Revelation?

Is the letter relevant to us today? Does it represent a figurative Laodicean Church Age?

Revelation 3:14 - 22

ESV - 14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!

Clarify (1) Share Report Asked October 27 2015 Stringio Vincent Mercado Supporter

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Headshot Cindy Jennings 1 Saved by Grace
I think all seven churches are relevant to us today. Most have problems!

The trouble with the church at Laodicea is that it was neither cold (openly rejecting Jesus) nor hot (eagerly professing the Gospel). Instead, much like the water that flowed there, which was tepid, they were hypocrites, saying they knew Christ but they did not belong to Him. He certainly was not first in their lives.

Christ will ultimately reject such believers, as we know (I never knew you).

October 28 2015 5 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Raymond F. Beaton
I think that Rev 3:22 addresses one of the most significant ailments of contemporary "Christianity". If we claim to know and desire to follow Christ, there is no room for complacency and accommodation of competing liberal "inclusive" ideologies. Christ wants zeal, passion and commitment in his followers and anything less is "lukewarm" and worthy of his rejection. When we look at the failure rate of so many mainstream churches, we are looking at Laodicia. Where do we see zeal for Christ? We see it in those Bible-oriented, evangelical Churches that are attracting passionate adherents who love the Lord.

October 28 2015 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Figtree logo thinkspot 500x500 Scott Broberg Fig Tree Ministries
One way of understanding the lukewarm - not hot or cold - message of Laodicea is to understand the geographical context of the letter. 

John, when writing Revelation, uses a mixture of local metaphors (that all his churches would understand) and text from the Old Testament. Revelation has the most allusions or quotes of the Old Testament than any other book in the New Testament. 

This is especially true with the seven churches. Each letter speaks directly to something those in that church would understand. Something concrete. 

Laodicea is located in the Lycus River valley in modern-day Turkey. And is situation between the cities of Hierapolis (to the north) and Colossae (to the southeast). Check out Colossians 4: 13-16. These cities are in close proximity to one another with Laodicea being a more important city in the region than Colossae. 

Hierapolis was (and still is) known for its thermal baths. Hot mineral springs come right out of the hillside. The hot water is good. It was relaxing and rejuvenating - just like a hot spa is today. Here is a photo: https://photos.app.goo.gl/9PwWDKzxZKKoHT5N6

Colossae, on the opposite side of Laodicea, was known for the cold fresh streams that ran down from the snow-covered mountains just to the south of the city. Fresh cold water was good. It refreshes you. 

Laodicea, unfortunately, was known for their awful water. The city had no natural source of water and had to pipe it in from other springs. The water was full of minerals and clogged up the pipes at the fountain. You can still see the fountain today: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1JD36nBgVq74E3v29

In my opinion, John is playing off the water situation that everyone is aware of. He wants the church there to be either hot like at Hierapolis - which is good, or cold, like at Colossae - which is good. But the lukewarm water at Laodicea was good for nothing. "I wish you were either one or the other!" (Rev. 3:15). 

John mixed this metaphor with the Old Testament text: "Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them so that the land where I am bringing you to live will not vomit you out" (Leviticus 20:22). 

Laodicea was a wealthy city and grew apathetic. "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired great wealth and do not need a thing.' (Rev. 3:17) 

John wants them to be good for something! 

There are many other metaphors relating to Laodicea in the letter. No space here. 

You can see more photos on my website: http://www.figtreeteaching.com/laodicea.html

Hope this helps. 

BTW - a great resource is a book 'The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in their Local Setting' by Colin J. Hemer, pp. 178-209 (W.B. Eerdmans, 1989).

February 12 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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