Seven Churches, Laodicea

The Message to Laodicea

To the angel of the church in Laodice write: "This is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the origin of all that God has created.

I know what you have done; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!
but because you are barely warm, neither hot not cold, I am go­ing to spit you out of my mouth!
"I am rich and well off, you say, "and I have all I need". But you do not know how miserable and pitiful you are! You are poor, nak­ed and blind.
I advise you then, to buy gold from me, pure gold, in order to be rich. Buy also white clothing to dress yourself and to cover up your shameful nakedness.

Buy also some medecine to put on your eyes, so that you may see.

I reprove and punish all whom I love. Be in earnest, then, and tum away from your sins.

Listen! I stand at the door and I know; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me.

To those who win the victory I will give the right to sit by me on my throne, just as I have been victorious, and now sit by my Father on his throne.

If you have ears, then listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!"

Rev. 3, 14-22

In the ancient world there were six cities called Laodicea. But the Laodicea mentioned in the Book of Revelation was defined as "Laodicea on the Lycus". This city was situated 250 kms East of Iz­mir and 6 kms from present day Denizli, near the village of Eskihisar, on the intersection of three main roads. Near it lay two other cities, also mentioned in the Bible (Epistle to the Colosseaus), viz. Hierapolis (now Pamukkale) and Colossae (now Conaz).

On the site of Laodicea first lay an older city; according to the Roman historian Pliny known as Dispolis. Later, about 250 RC, An-tiochus II Seleucid King of Syria, founded a new town here, and nam­ed it after his wife Laodice. After the defeat of the Seleucids in the battle of Magnesia in 190, the town was handed over to the Kingdom of Pergamum, that was an ally of Rome then. After the death of At-talos III, the last king of Pergamum, in 133, a Roman garrison was stationed in the town. In the first century A.D the town was destroyed by an earthquake. Laodicea had a brilliant period in early Chris­tian and Byzantine times. One of the Seven Basilicas according the list of the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation was built here. Its ruins are situated on the South bank of the ancient Lycus river, now Cürüksu. An important Oecumenical Council was held here in the fourth century AD. But in 1094 the town passed over into the hand of the Seljuks, and some two hundred years later in those of the Ottoman Turks. Since then the town became abandoned; the main center of population of the area became the present Denizli.

The importance of Laodicea was due entirely to its situation in a fertile river valley. The main road from Ephesus to the East led through the city; this road was the most important of all those in Asia-Minor. Beyond the Phrygian Gate, a mountain pass, lay a broad valley through which the main roads to Lydia and Caria branched off. So Laodicea was a major city and main commercial center in the ancient world; the city was also of high strategic value.

Originally the town had been a fortress, of which the water supp­ly was secured by an underground aquaeduct, fed by rich flowing springs. Round this fortress the city had developed, due to its situa­tion on the crossing of several main highways. Besides the ones men­tioned before, two other roads passed through Laodicea. There was a North-South road from Pergamum leading to Pisidia and Pamphylia on the South coast, where Antalya is now. A branch road led to the coast near Perge, an important harbour. Further led a road from Caria to Central Phrygia through the town.

According to Strabo, Laodicea raised sheep to get soft black wool. He says that these animals provided a splendid revenue to the Laodi-ceans. The woollen tunics manufactured in Laodicea that were known as "Trimita", gave the city a nickname: "Trimitaria". Due to this situation and these valuable products, Laodicea became a ma­jor center for the manufacture of woollen goods and for the dying of purple, and also for banking, commercial and financial affairs. Also fine linen fabric was manufactured there.

Moreover, the city was an important medical center. It used the healing hot mineral waters from the springs near Hierapolis (Pamuk-kale), and the refreshing cold waters descending from the winter-snowfields on the Lycian and Phrygian Taurus Mountains. Both types of water were excellent for keeping or restoring health. But just beyond Laodicea, the hot waters from the mineral springs and the cold waters from the mountain streams mixed up into the Lycus River, and became "luke-warm" losing their healing qualities. Thir­teen miles to the West, between the city and the mountain pass call­ed the Phrygian Gate, a temple had been erected for the worship of the Carian God-Man. This temple was the social, cultural, com­mercial and administrative center of the whole area. In particular this temple developed into a flourishing medical center and school. On the coins of Laodicea appeared the names of famous doctors like Zeuxis and Alexander Philatethes.

The medical school of Laodicea was, in the ancient world, famous for two things:

a: Treating and curing of ear diseases, and preparing medicines for these, and

b: Treatment of eye diseases, and preparing a fine eye-ointment, that under the name "Koulourion", was exported to all major places of the known world.

As in the other cities of the area, there was a large Jewish popula­tion. Many of these Jews had immigrated here from Phrygia. In 62 BC. the Roman governor of this province, Flaccus, was alarmed about the great economic influence of these Jews and the great amount of currency that they were withdrawing'from the temple taxes that every Jew had to pay. He then put an embargo on the tradeware that were exported from Phrygia. The result was that up to a weight of twenty pounds of gold were seized from the Jews as contraband, both in Laodicea and in all Phrygia.

Due to all these activities, both in industry and trade, and in medical affairs, Laodicea became a great banking center, rich in gold and silver coins. Laodicea then was a very prosperous and very wealthy city; it needed nothing from outside. When after the earth­quake of 60 A.D., when the city was totally destroyed and had to be rebuilt, a great gift for that purpose was offered by the Romans, the wealthy Laodiceans disdained to accept it. In the Byzantine times also, the city continued to flourish for some another six hundred years.

A great Christian church developed here; it was founded already in the first century, together with those in nearby Hierapolis and Colossae, by Epaphras, a disciple and fellow-worker of the Apos­tle Paul. This Apostle wrote two letters to the Churches of this area; the Epistle to the Collosians, that is recorded in the New Testament, and a lost letter to the Church of Laodicea. There are Bible scholars who consider the Epistle to the Ephesians the same as the unknown lost letter from Paul to the Church in Laodicea, for in the oldest Bible-manuscripts the words "to those from Ephesus" are missing, while both Epistles discuss about almost the same objects and problems of a young Christian community. And in the Epistle to the Colos-sians, both Hierapolis and Laodicea are mentioned as the Churches, where this Epistle also should be read, while a "letter to the Laodi­ceans", mentioned here by name, should be read in Colossae in return. Many Apostles and Evangelists, like Paul, John, Philip, Luke and Timothy worked as missionaries in this area. Even some of the Seven Great Oecumenical Councils of the old Church in the first centuries of Christianity were held in Laodicea.

Among the ruins of old "Laodicea and Klycum" are known: a foun­tain with excellent sculpture work on its facade (the Nympheum); an unidentified temple of Ionic order a small theatre from the Roman period; a Roman Stadium, a Gymnasium, an Odeion, etc. Among these ruins, the Nymphaion is most interesting because of its parapet in the basin, that was adorned with mythological reliefs depicting the Hero Theseus. Presumably it was erected under the reign of Emperor Caracalla (212-217 A.D).

The letter to the Church in Laodicea is predominantly of a blam­ing character. The claims of the Risen Christ are a kind of condem­nation of the "barely warning of their faith. In the Dutch translation is spoken of "lukewarm" and "neither cold or hot". The letter is also a condemnation of the vividness and wealth of the members of the Church, originating from their commercial activities. Their wealth, however, is poverty, for the Christians in Laodicea were proud of their wealth from the lucrative textile trade and that of the magnifi­cent garments they produced.

Also the church members prided themselves on the eye-ointment of the city. So the good advice of the Lord is, to use this ointment "that they might see". But, even for a self-sufficient church like this in Laodicea, there is the gentle warning and invitation: "See I stand at the door and I knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me". In the East, sharing a meal together, was, and still is, a sym­bol of mutual and close friendship. So the Lord will be the Friend of every one who will accept Him in faith and love.

But, alas, the gentle warning in the letter has become fully true; nothing remains or is left over from this once so flourishing and mighty city, and of its rich church, except a few ruins. Indeed, because they were "hike-warm", neither cold or hot, they were spit­ted from the mouth of the Lord, and they totally disappeared.

May, at last, this gentle, but nevretheless pressing warning, be ap­plicable to all of us, both who wrote this booklet and those who will read it, to be always alert and on the watch on the kind, but urgent warnings that are written down in the Bible and in the other Holy Books of the various religions, to live the life of good men, for the well-being of our fellow-men and to the comfort and satisfac­tion of each of us in person. And, although according to the pro­mise, the reward is given by God, man can now do his best to work, and to contribute, each for his minor share, but very effective when doing this all together, for the coming of a better world.

 

Seven Churches Revelation Message
Ephesus This is the message from the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven gold lamptands.
Smyrna This is the message from the One Who is the First and the Last, Who died and lives again.
Pergamum This is the message from the One who has the sharp two-edged sword.
Thyatira This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes blaze like fire; whose feet shine like polished brass,
Sardis This is the message from the One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know what you are doing; I know that you have the reputation of being alive, even though you are dead!
Philadelphia This is the message from the One Who is holy and true, Who holds the key that belonged to David, Who opens and none can close, Who closes so that none can open.
Laodicea This is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the origin of all that God has created.
I know what you have done; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!
but because you are barely warm, neither hot not cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth!

 

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