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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, February 15 2024

Laodicea: truth under fire

The messages to the seven churches of Revelation illustrate the social, political and religious conditions in the late first century AD when the New Testament Church began. They also prophetically outline the movement of the Church through history.

Laodicea: truth under fire
Ruins within the city of Laodicea, Turkey

Many Bible commentators note the first message to the church at Ephesus is characteristic of the apostolic period, with the last message to Laodicea describing the final state of apostasy of the end-time Church, just before the return of Jesus Christ. As mentioned in previous issues of Bible Insights Weekly we are living in an era when belief in God and the Bible continues to decline, moving closer to a time Jesus described when He asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

A growing number of people no longer look to God, but consult horoscopes on a regular basis.(See the accompanying article this week Horoscopes, Palm Readers and Psychics.) Even more deny God as the Creator, believing life and the universe exist by evolutionary chance. In America and other Western democracies the affluence the majority of us enjoy has also become one of the most dangerous situations we face. The question for us is, are we using it to God's glory, or do we let it lull us into complacency?

Jesus addressed the lack of spiritual effectiveness in Laodicea by telling them: "I know your works, that you're neither cold nor hot. I could wish that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). The Christians in Laodicea were not bearing spiritual fruit. There probably wasn't much about their lives that made them stand out from the general population as different.

Christ then goes on to tell the Laodiceans the reason for their ineffectiveness: "Because you say, 'I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked" (verse 17).

Laodicea was known for its wealth. The city was situated on a major trade route and was a financial center. Black sheep were bred on nearby farms that produced luxurious, black wool, commanding high market prices, resulting in the city containing many who would be considered billionaires by today's standards. These people were extravagant benefactors who built many public facilities. For example, Laodicea had not one, but two amphitheaters, providing entertainment and distraction for the population on a large scale.

But, in spite of their wealth and many amenities, Christ calls the Laodiceans "wretched, poor, blind, miserable and naked." They thought they were safe and secure, physically and spiritually, but they were neither. In verse 18 Jesus goes on to tell them they needed to take corrective action about their relationship with God, by using another local example, "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 eyesalve, that you may see."

Christ pointed out they were spiritually blind, telling them they need white clothing, a symbol of righteousness, and that they must "also buy refined gold to eliminate spiritual poverty." Christ was giving them a final chance to change, telling them that if they would heed, there was still hope: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore," He says, "be zealous," listen and "repent" (verse 19).

In verse 20 He shows how much He desires to have a deep relationship with them, if they would turn from their lax ways and earnestly seek Him: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me." An invitation from Christ should never be taken lightly, but Laodicea was lulled to sleep by their wealthy, distracted lifestyle. They thought they knew Christ and their salvation was secure, but He was telling them they were wrong and needed to examine their way of life and their relationship with their Creator.

The message to the Laodiceans shows a Christian disciple, even in times of plenty, is not immune to spiritual weakness. The danger of wealth, entertainment and distraction is that we can forget God, the source of our blessings. Each of the seven messages to the churches ends with the same admonition from Christ, "He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches."

This is not just an historic message to people nearly 2000 years ago, the messages speak to the condition of our present world. We live in a time when truth is under fire. Through education systems and the media culture, we are watching our minds and the minds of our youth be conditioned to accept philosophies, lifestyles and world views that are immoral, ungodly, and anti-biblical.