Laodicean Church

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The Laodicean Church was a Christian community established in the ancient city of Laodicea (on the river Lycus, in the Roman province of Asia, see also Anatolia). The church was established in the earliest period of Christianity, and is probably best known for being one of the seven churches addressed by name in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 3.14-22).


References in Colossians[edit]

The Christian community in the city seems to have been connected with that of nearby Colossae (also in the Lycus valley - only 11 miles distant). Laodicea is mentioned four times in the New Testament's epistle to the Colossians (Col. 2:1; 4:13,15,16). In writing to the Colossians, Paul sends greetings through them to a Laodicean named Nympha(s) and the church at his (or perhaps her) house (Col 4.15). He additionally greets Archippus, who may also be from Laodicea (4.17), and he instructs the Colossians to exchange his letter with one he has written to the Laodiceans (4.16). If the Colossian epistle is genuinely by Paul, then this would indicate a Christian presence in Laodicea as early as the AD 50's. It would also indicate that Laodicea (like Colossae) was not evangelized by Paul, but possibly by his disciple Epaphras.

The Laodicean letter, mentioned in Colossians is considered to be lost.[citation needed] However, following a suggestion by Tertullian, that Marcionite heretics changed the title, Harnack suggested that the canonical epistle to the Ephesians is this lost letter.[citation needed] Few modern scholars accept this, and some scholars claim that the apocryphal Epistle to the Laodiceans is a later pastiche, while many say it could be the canonical Epistle to the Ephesians in the Bible.[citation needed]

The Laodicean Church in the Revelation of John (Revelation 3:14–22)[edit]

In John's vision, recorded in the book of Revelation, Christ instructs John to write a message to seven named churches in Asia Minor. The message to Laodicea is one of judgement with a call to repentance. The oracle contains a number of striking metaphors.

"I wish that you were cold or hot" (3:15–16)[edit]

"15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (New International Version (NIV)).

It is thought that the Laodiceans were being criticized for their neutrality or lack of zeal (hence "lukewarm"). Based on this understanding, the pejorative term Laodicean is used in the English language to refer to those neutral or indifferent in matters of faith.[1]

However, some scholars have suggested that this metaphor has been drawn from the water supply of the city, which was lukewarm, in contrast to the hot springs at nearby Hierapolis and the pure water of Colossae (Barclay). The archaeology shows Laodicea had an aqueduct that probably carried water from hot mineral springs some five miles south, which would have become tepid before entering the city (see main Laodicea article). Strabo states that the water was hard, though drinkable.[citation needed] The imagery of the Laodicean aqueduct suggests not that "hot" is good and "cold" is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is useless.

"Poor, blind, and naked" (3:17–18)[edit]

"Because thou say, 'I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;' and knowest not that thou are the wretched, and miserable,and poor,and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy from me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment , that thou mayest clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see" (KJV).

The words attributed to the Laodiceans obviously mark an ironic over-confidence in regard to spiritual wealth. They are unable to recognise their bankruptcy. However the image may also be drawing on the perceived worldly wealth of the city.

The reference to eye medication is again often thought to reflect the historical situation of Laodicea. According to Strabo (12.8.20) there was a medical school in the city, where a famous ophthalmologist practiced. The city also lies within the boundaries of ancient Phrygia, from where an ingredient of eye-lotions, the so-called "Phrygian powder", was supposed to have originated.

"Behold, I stand" (3:20)[edit]

Holman Hunt's painting The Light of the World inspired by Rev 3:20's metaphor of Christ knocking at the door of the Laodicean Church.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me" (WEB).

This is among the most famous images of the Revelation, and is the subject of the famous painting The Light of the World by Holman Hunt. It bears similarities to a saying of Jesus in Mark 13:33–37, and Luke 12:35–38. The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside.[1]

Commentators[who?] variously view it as a metaphor of intimate fellowship, and/or a reference to the eschatological parousia of Christ. It is noted that the theme of divine invitations to eat, are found both in the New Testament (e.g. the Parable of the Wedding Feast) and in Graeco-Roman religion. Various papyri, such as POxy 3693, include invitations to attend a dinner with gods such as Sarapis, however these are issued by specified individuals to feasts at a temple of a god – and do not suggest the visitation of the home by the divinity.

Later Christian Laodicea[edit]

There was a Council in Laodicea, A.D. c.363-64, although the date is disputed. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 approved the canon of this council, making these canon ecumenical. The city remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church, Laodicensis in Phrygia.

The Laodicean Church in Christian Writings[edit]

Up to 600 C.E.

The Book of Revelation

From 1800 to 1930

Interpretations of the Laodicean Church in the Book of Revelation

1930 to the present

Interpretations of the Laodicean Church in the Book of Revelation

Letter to the Church in Laodicea[edit]

1. Paul, an apostle not of men and not through man, but through Jesus Christ, to the brethren who are in Laodicea: 2. Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. I thank Christ in all my prayer that you are steadfast in him and persevering in his works, in expectation of the promise for the day of judgment. 4. And may you not be deceived by the vain talk of some people who tell (you) tales that they may lead you away from the truth of the gospel which is proclaimed by me. 5. And now may God grant that those who come from me for the furtherance of the truth of the gospel (...) may be able to serve and to do good works for the well-being of eternal life. 6. And now my bonds are manifest, which I suffer in Christ, on account of which I am glad and rejoice. 7. This ministers to me unto eternal salvation, which (itself) is effected through your prayers and by the help of the Holy Spirit, whether it be through life or through death. 8. For my life is in Christ and to die is joy (to me). 9. An this will his mercy work in you, that you may have the same love and be of one mind. 10. Therefore, beloved, as you have heard my presence, so hold fast and do in the fear of God, and eternal life will be your portion. 11. For it is God who works in you. 12. And do without hesitation what you do. 13. And for the rest, beloved, rejoice in Christ and beware of those who are out for sordid gain. 14. May all your requests be manifest before God, and be yea steadfast in the mind of Christ. 15. And what is pure, true, proper, just and lovely, do. 16. And what you have heard and received, hold in your heart and peace will be with you. [17. Salute all the brethren with the holy kiss.] 18. The Saints salute you. 19. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 20. And see that this epistle is read to the Colossians and that of the Colossians among you.




  1. ^ Hunt, W.H., Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, London: Macmillan, 1905, vol.1 p.350

See also[edit]