Laodicea, number seven in the journey around the churches.
Most Christians would recognise the name as the church that Christ criticised most strongly, quoting from Ramsay in his ‘Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia…
The Laodicean Church is strongly marked in the letter as the irresolute one, which had not been able to make up its mind, and halted half-heartedly, neither one thing nor another. It would fain be enriched, and clad in righteousness, and made to see the truth; but it would trust to itself; in its own gold it would find its wealth, in its own manufactures it would make its garments, in its own famous medical school it would seek its cure; it did not feel its need, but was content with what it had. It was neither truly Christian, nor frankly pagan.
Let’s have a look at ancient Laodicea.
Situated on the long spur of a hill between the narrow valleys of the small rivers Asopus and Caprus, which discharge their waters into the Lycus, Laodicea was approximately 160 km east of Ephesus and, according to Strabo, it was on a major road. It was also a manufacturing centre. There was produced in the valley a valuable sort of wool, soft in texture and glossy black in colour, which was widely esteemed. So, with many ‘avenues’ of income, Laodicea was a prosperous city.
Planted right on the line of the great road Laodicea was a very strong fortress; but it had one serious weakness. It was entirely dependent for water-supply on an aqueduct conducted from springs about six miles to the south.
The aqueduct was under the surface of the ground, but could hardly remain unknown to a besieging army or be guarded long against his attack. If the aqueduct was cut, the city was helpless; and this weakness ruined the character of the city as a strong fortress, and must have prevented the people from ever feeling secure when threatened with attack.
So here, in the character of the city, we see some of the charges Christ levelled against the church in Laodicea.
“… “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing….” Rev 3: 17
The piped in water supply, whether cold from Colossae, or from the hot springs at Hierapolis was lukewarm when it arrived.
Christ charged the people with being lukewarm…
So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Rev : 3: 16
And in another verse…
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see. Rev 3: 18
Interestingly this verse seems to confront more than one issue… sources of their riches, were banking/currency exchange, Christ says to buy gold refined in fire. Another source of income was the glossy black, high quality wool, that they made into garments and sold, Christ tells them to get white garments. The eye salve was another source of wealth… and Christ tells them to anoint their eyes with eye salve that they may see.
In short, succinct phrases, Christ targets exactly what they need to change, and those things are the areas in which the people think they are rich and have need of nothing.
The characteristics of the city were in the character of the people.