The Church of Laodicea

Sermon Text:
Revelation 3:7-13

The greatest threat to the spiritual vitality of the Church is not persecution, but prosperity. Prosperity has undermined God’s people for millennia. On the eve of entering the Promised Land, God warned the twelve tribes of Israel of prosperity’s corrosive effects.

The traveler from Philadelphia would go forty-five miles southeast to Laodicea on the same major postal road that stretches from Pergamum through Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia to the Mediterranean. The city was also one hundred miles east of Ephesus on the main Roman trade route to eastern Asia Minor. Philadelphia and Laodicea were situated on the only two routes into Phrygia (the eastern province) from the west. This confluence of major trade routes made Laodicea critical for trade and communications in the province. Laodicea was the more important member of a tri-city formation with Hierapolis six miles north and Colosse ten miles east; all three cities were part of Phrygia. It eventually became a banking center and an increasingly wealthy city. Known for its soft, raven-black wool, it outstripped other garment manufacturers in the district and became wealthier still. There was a famous school of medicine at Laodicea, connected with the temple of Men Karou (“god of the valley”), the god of healing. Followers of the teaching of Herophilos believed in compound medicines for complex diseases and developed a compound for curing eye diseases called “Phrygian powder,” which brought Laodicea even more fame and money. There were only two drawbacks to Laodicea. First, like Philadelphia it lay in a region prone to earthquakes. An earthquake in a.d. 60 virtually destroyed the city, but unlike Philadelphia (and Hierapolis), Laodicea wanted no financial aid from Rome. Instead, the wealthy citizens rebuilt their city. Second, Laodicea had no water supply. They had to pipe in water from Denizli, six miles south, via an aqueduct that left the city vulnerable to weather and enemies.

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