Historians tell us that in old times there was a town of this name in Turkey, whose ruins are now called "Old Castle" ("Eski-hissar"). It was initially called Diospolis, then Roas, but was rebuilt under the name of Laodicea, given by Antiochus II, king of Syria, in honour of his wife Laodice. The name Laodicea (Greek Laodikiâi) is significant however, because it translates as "only people" or "people ruling".
It is mentioned in the Bible (Colossians 2:1, 4:15 and Revelation 1:11), because in the beginnings of Christianity there was in that place an assembly of believers converted through the initial preaching of the Gospel throughout Asia Minor. The inhabitants of the town were wealthy because of the great commerce in the region and were proud of their relative political and economic independence. This attitude ended up permeating in the assembly which formed there.
In the prophetic letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, the assembly of Laodicea appears last (*). The seven assemblies existed when the book of Revelation was written, and the situation in which they found themselves was as described. No doubt the letters are not just a warning to them, but also to all churches which present the same conditions throughout the centuries until the present day.
There is also the prophetic aspect, becoming more evident in our days when we can examine the history of Christianity since its beginning and verify that, in a general manner, the character of Christianity has followed in a surprising manner the sequence of the characteristics of the seven churches. It is not just a fortuitous coincidence but it is, no doubt, the fulfilling of a marvellous prophecy. The last assembly is Laodicea, the nature of Christianity in general in our days is like it.
The assembly in Laodicea is portrayed in Revelation 3:14 to 22 as being an arrogant church, proud of its "autonomy" - so independent as to do what it pleases - but so far from Christ that He knocks at the door so that someone may let Him in. Laodicea is typical of the majority of churches calling themselves Christian in our time. As a general rule, they consider themselves rich and self-sufficient, well equipped with buildings and human and material resources, and have political and economical power.
They are, however, governed by men rather than by the Word of God: in most cases their leaders are democratically elected according to the preference of their members (2 Timothy 4:3-4), instead of those who have the necessary spiritual qualities being acknowledged (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1) as gifts from God to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
These churches are useless to the Lord because they do not preach His Gospel, nor do they aim to keep themselves immaculate from the world (James 1:27), consequently being conformed to it. They are blind concerning spiritual things, without discernment, without hope as regards eternal life, and do not await the return of Christ (2 Peter 2:1-22, 3:3-4).
The local assembly has the characteristics of the members composing it. If we wish our assembly not to become similar to the church in Laodicea, we must start from ourselves. We must have already opened the doors of our hearts to Jesus Christ and He must be the Lord of our lives - not only in words, but in all reality.
Paul already warned: "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful… I will not be brought under the power of any and … not all things edify." (1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23, NKJV). This is not so much an option for each Christian, as the manner to walk and to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1).
In his letters, Paul writes about many things which are or not suited to the Christian's way of life, for example:
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." (Romans 12:3 - NKJV). Paul tells us to be modest, using the gifts and talents which God gives us, not thinking of ourselves more than we ought. We make ourselves a personal image, but this image must be moderated with "faith": in this case "faith" is the knowledge and experience of the Gospel of Christ which God has provided to us. Care must be taken not to consider ourselves more able than we really are.
"But among you there must not be either sexual immorality, impurity of any kind, or greed, as these are not fitting for the saints." (Ephesians 5:3 - NET). In our days these are considered trivial, current matters which fill the news, magazines, books, television and the Internet. We must put them away so far as not to even mention them amongst us.
"Neither should there be vulgar speech, foolish talk, or coarse jesting, all of which are out of character , but rather thanksgiving." (Ephesians 5:4 - NET). Let us remember that "The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell." James 3:6 (NKJV). The tongue must be carefully controlled.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." (Colossians 3:18 - NKJV). This is a wise commandment, and its obedience can save many marriages.
"Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." (Colossians 4:6 - NKJV). The subject is once again control of the tongue - wisdom is needed to talk one to another in a graceful fashion. It is interesting that he mentions seasoning with salt, not sweetening with honey. This merits reflection.
"We urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God." (1 Thessalonians 4:1 - NKJV). Paul was sure that his teaching came from God, and Peter confirmed it (2 Peter 3:15-16). the "Pauline" epistles are integrally part of the Word of God.
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient …" (2 Timothy 2:24 - NKJV). All those who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord make themselves His servants. This must be the attitude of all of us. "To quarrel" is to argue in an aggressive manner. To discuss gently is constructive if we have the aptitude to teach, but involves patience and even suffering at times.
"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1 - NKJV). Sound doctrine needs to be learnt, and the source is the Word of God only. The Holy Spirit has endowed the church with "teachers" (1 Corinthians 12:28). They were specially useful at the beginning, when churches didn't have the New Testament available to them (Acts 13:1), and they continued throughout time making sure that churches followed the truth and got rid of false teachers.
"We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." - (Hebrews 2:1 - NKJV). This special care is essential for all of us because the possibility of drifting shows up at each step.
These are only some examples of what each one of us ought to do. The assembly where all its members diligently apply themselves to do that which "is fitting", as we learn from the Scriptures, will be lodged safely from the influence of the Laodicea which surrounds us. This church will know that its "autonomy" is subject to the Supreme Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, Who directs it by means of the Holy Spirit which inhabits each one of those who receive Him as Lord and Saviour.
His Word teaches us how the local assembly must be organised and conducted, as an organism, by His servants. It is necessary for there to be order and discipline, each member taking an active part according to the gift given him. The local assembly is the body of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head. Such subjection must be seen in all its activities.
Laodicea surrounds us, it is attractive to the younger in the faith because of the false "liberty" it promotes. But they must not forget that when receiving Jesus Christ as personal Saviour they become His servants.
Let us always remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and He desires and deserves all our reverence and attention. How many have the habit of referring to the Lord just as "Jesus", as if He were on the same standing with us! From His resurrection God made him Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), and this must be very evident in our worship.
There is little worth in a noisy "praise" where the deafening of the instruments hushes the sincere worship of redeemed souls. Let us verify if the lyric of the songs conforms with the Word of God, if God the Father and the Lord Jesus are really praised. Many are the songs which exalt the "I" - see how often it appears!
Concluding, every local assembly has the character of each one of its members added to the others. Each will be judged by himself when he stands before the judgement seat of Christ (Revelation 2:23), and "the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another… As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:7-11 (NKJV)
(*) Note: to see comments on this prophecy click here
Rev 3:14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
Rev 3:15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Rev 3:17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—
Rev 3:18 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 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Rev 3:20 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.
Rev 3:21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Rev 3:22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Revelation Chapter 3 verses 14 to 22