I’ve shared some of Herald of Truth’s videos over the past few months, but I never shared the video I put together for our book. Book trailers have become common over the last few years, so we developed one for Letters From The Lamb. It’s only 90 seconds, so why not take a moment to watch it?
Speaking of the book, we’re preparing some promotional materials with quotes from readers. If anyone would like to submit a “blurb,” we’d be thrilled to have it.
The imagery of Revelation 3:20 captures the imagination, Jesus standing and knocking at the door of the sinner’s heart. Many have used this as an image of conversion, taking this passage as a teaching verse for non-Christians.
The only way to do that is to ignore the context. This letter isn’t going out to the unconverted. This is an appeal to the Christian who has fallen away. In Letters From The Lamb I wrote:
Jesus is speaking to a group of people who already profess to be his followers. They need to recognize that they have reached the point where Jesus is no longer in their lives, no longer in their hearts, and they need to find the way to let him back in… Christians can reach the point where Jesus vomits them out of his mouth, they can travel to the place where Jesus is no longer in their lives. That’s when we stop, repent, and open the door to let him back in. Or we will have our name blotted out of the Book of Life.
Jesus has no words of praise for the church in Laodicea. It would have been easy for them to think that he no longer loved them. In fact, the very opposite was true. The fact that he cared enough to discipline them showed his love. As I wrote in Letters From The Lamb:
It’s common in our modern world for parents to feel that the best way to show love for their children is to give them free rein and not correct them in anything. Yet the Bible says the exact opposite. If we truly love, we will discipline. The letter to the Hebrews says it well: “And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” (Hebrews 12:5-8) Failure to discipline is not love; it’s either a lack of love or it is cowardice. True love disciplines, challenges, corrects. If Jesus did not love the church in Laodicea, he would not waste his time writing to a church that had lost its passion. The very fact that he cares enough to point out their faults shows that he loves them.
One of the most famous images from the letter to Laodicea is that of the “lukewarm” Christian that Jesus will spew from his mouth (the original word means to vomit). Knowing a bit of the geography of the area helps us understand a bit more the meaning this reference would have had for them:
The great vulnerability of the city of Laodicea was its water supply. Water had to be piped in from far away, leaving the city vulnerable to attacks in times of war. (This fact forced the politicians in Laodicea to become skilled in the art of diplomacy!) In fact, the most outstanding ruins where Laodicea once stood are the remains of an aqueduct system which once helped bring water to the city; the pipes had cleaning grates at regular intervals to allow the mineral deposits to be scraped out due to the high mineral content in the area’s water. The nearby town of Hierapolis is famous for its hot springs; the water flowing from them formed large white terraces, in a place now called Pamukkale (“cotton castle”). It’s a popular resort in Turkey, with people traveling miles to bathe in the hot springs. Though soothing to soak in, the water has a foul odor and is sickening to drink. If the water were transported to Laodicea, it would merely be a tepid, brackish drink, capable only of inducing vomiting. In the other direction lies Denizli, a town whose name means “place with a large body of water.” The name probably comes from the existence of underground springs in the area. This water, refreshingly cool when it appears at the source, is excellent for drinking. However, by the time it was piped several miles to Laodicea, this water would also arrive in a lukewarm state.
The Christians at Laodicea would have understood in a vivid way what Jesus was talking about when he referred to them being neither hot nor cold. They would understand why Jesus was ready to reject them.
As always, God communicated his message in a relevant way for those who first heard it.
The letter to the church in Laodicea is the last of the seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3. The church was confident that it was healthy and prosperous, but Jesus thinks otherwise. He sees them as a needy church, maybe the neediest of the seven.
Why were the Laodiceans so self-assured? Maybe it was because their city was living a special time:
Under the Romans, the city flourished, situated as it was at the juncture of three important trade routes. The richest city in the area, Laodicea refused all aid offered by the Romans after the earthquake of A.D. 60, even though all of the surrounding cities gladly accepted the government funds and tax exemptions. Laodicea was a banking center; Roman statesman Cicero was able to cash his letters of credit when visiting the city in 50 B.C. It was an industrial center, home to important textile manufacturing. The water around Laodicea was rich in minerals and was especially suited for the dyeing of wool; Laodicea became known for a high-grade black wool, known for its sheen and softness. At least four types of garments were made from this wool and marketed around the world. Guilds and trade unions were influential and numerous in Laodicea, one of them called “The Most August Guild of the Wool Washers.” The other source of fame was that, like Pergamum, Laodicea had an outstanding medical school. This school was known for the Tephra Phrygia, a salve for the eyes which was sold in tablet form and exported throughout the Roman empire. Prepared from poppies which grew around Laodicea, the powder was shaped into little rolls called kollurion, a Greek word which appears in Revelation 3:18.
When Jesus wrote to the church, he told them that they weren’t rich at all, that they were wretched, pitiful and poor. To this rich city, Jesus tells them they need to buy pure gold from him. To this textile center, he tells them that they are naked and need to buy clothes from him. To this center famous for eye salve, he tells them they are blind and need to buy eye medicine from him.
The two richest churches of the group receive no praise from Jesus. What the world counts as riches mean nothing to Jesus. Our treasure is not measured with dollar signs. Having stuff tends to create more of a barrier between us and God. In the parable of the sower, Jesus talked about the deceitfulness of riches that could choke out the faith of the Christian. The church in Laodicea seems to be a living example of that trap.