“I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Laodicea (Part 1) (Rev. 3:14-22, Bible Study)


The church in Laodicea in Asia Minor was addressed in the seventh and last letter to the churches in Revelation.

14And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (revelation 3:14-22, KJV)

Here I quote the KJV because of the strength of some of the language. For a comparison to a contemporary translation see:  To the Church in Laodicea, Rev. 3:14-22 (NIV).

The letter to Laodicea is tied directly to the history of the city. For a review of this history, see: Tale of the Tel: Laodicea

The Laodiceans received only harsh rebuke from Jesus and no praise. Because of this rebuke and Jesus’ reference to the Laodicean chruch as being “lukewarm.” this is the most recognized letter to the seven churches found in Revelation. The city of Laodicea had become extremely wealthy and decadent. Because of this wealth they believed themselves to be completely independent, requiring the support of neither Rome nor God. When the city was destroyed by an earthquake c. 60 AD it was rebuilt by the local merchants. They refused the assistance of Rome.

In the same way, the Christians in Laodicea credited themselves with their prosperity. They believed themselves to be in control of everything they needed. Due to their wealth, the attitude was “If I need it, I’ll buy it.”

The letter to the church in Laodicea is full of references to scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament, and to the things that had made the city successful. (For the history of Laodicea, see: Tale of the Tel: Laodicea A large portion of the Christians in the Laodicean church would have had Jewish backgrounds. They would have been quite familiar with scripture.

In this discussion, quotes are taken from the NIV. Compare these quotes with the KJV quote of the entire passage.

v. 14a “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:” The angel would have been the “guardian angel” of the Laodicean church. During the age of the writing of Revelation, it was believed that each congregation, church or synagogue, had a specific guardian angel. Many today believe that each believer is also assigned a guardian angel.

v. 14b “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness,” We commonly think of “Amen” meaning “So be it” and conclude prayer with that word. It also means “truth” and “truth with finality.” God’s truth, His promises, are made final in Jesus Christ. (See: Isaiah 65:16)

v. 14c “the ruler of God’s creation.” The Son of God was also there at the beginning. He is a witness to the creation and, being the Word of God, is the creator! Note the differences between the KJV and the NIV.

v. 15-16 “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.” Neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Those in the Laodicean church knew what was expected of them, but they did not follow Christ’s teachings with fervor. They had become too comfortable, content in their successes, their wealth. Just as they did not rely on Rome to rebuild their city following an earthquake, neither did they see the need to rely on God. God, as the Creator of all things, is also the Owner of all things. The Laodiceans took credit where the credit belonged to God. They were building up their worldly treasures, not their heavenly ones.

Note again the changes in wording between the NIV and the KJV. The word “spue” literally means to “vomit.” The indifferent, lukewarm actions of the Laodiceans made Jesus sick.

This portion of the study will continue with Part 2.

My thanks to my rabbi, Pastor Michael, and the faithful men of the “Men on the Grow” Bible Study group for these insights.

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom, Art
Alive in the Word

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Tale of the Tel: Laodicea


The city of Laodicea was home to the seventh church addressed in the Book of Revelation. As with the other six churches, specific references were made to the geography, commerce and the culture of the city. Paul’s letters 1 Corinthians, Colossians and 1 Timothy also mention or reference the city. Colossians references a letter from Paul to Laodicea that has been lost. Some Biblical scholars believe that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians may actually have been addressed to the Laodiceans.

Laodicea was founded c.260 BC by the Seleucid king, Antiochus II, Theos, who named it for his wife Laodice. The city was originally established as a fortress to protect a major east-west trader route through the Meander Valley. It quickly grew to be a very wealthy city because of its woolen clothing, banking (particularly money exchange) and medicine (particularly a salve used for eye care.) Each of these is referenced directly in the letter to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3.

The city itself was located some distance, roughly 4 miles, from a dependable water supply. The water supply was from a calcium laden hot springs. It was transported to Laodicea in clay pipes that became clogged by the calcium. (See picture at the top.) Periodic openings covered with flat stones, much like modern manholes, they provided for cleaning the deposits from the clay pipes. By the time the water arrived at the city it was no longer hot, but tepid… or lukewarm.

The clothing manufactured in Laodicea was woven from an unusual black wool from the flocks in that area. The salve, claimed to be a cure-all for eye problems (can you say “snake-oil?), became so famous that eye doctors in Laodicea even had coins struck with their images.

As with modern-day Turkey, this entire area suffered from frequent devastating earthquakes. Most of the city was destroyed by an earthquake c. 60 AD. The city was so wealthy that it refused assistance from Rome to rebuild it.

Laodicea quickly became a center for Christianity in the Roman Province of Asia. It was here that the canon (approved books) of the Bible was completed in 361 AD.

The lack of dependable clean water led to the eventual decline of Laodicea. All that remains today are ruins. Much of the ancient city has yet to be excavated.

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom, Art
Alive in The Word

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Tale of the Tel: Thyatira


Thyatira is the fourth of the seven churches addressed in letters in Chapters 2 & 3 in the Book of Revelation. As the world would see it, Thyatira would have been the least significant of the seven cities, yet it received the longest of the seven letters.

Thyatira’s founding and strategic importance

Following the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was broken into four parts, each ruled by one of his generals. One of these, Seleucus I, established the state of Pergamum in 282 BCE. Thyatira, which means “the citadel or fortress of Thya’, was built as a first line of defense for the larger cities of Ephesus and Pergamum further to the west. The city itself would not have been worth fighting for. Instead, it was garrisoned by guerrilla type forces who would fight a delaying action while the western cities prepared to defend themselves against any invading force. Archaeological evidence shows that the city changed hands between Pergamean and Syrian rule. Thyatira, therefore, did not grow like the western cities.

Thyatira fell to the Romans in 190 BCE and became first part of the Pergamean Kingdom and then part of the province of Asia. In 133 BCE, the king of Pergamum willed his kingdom to Rome. What followed was an era of peace and prosperity.

Thyatira’s commerce and trade

Under Roman control, Thyatira derived its strength and wealth from being in a central place for communications. Archaeology has turned up many Thyatiran coins indicating a thriving commercial system. The city was also a thriving center of manufacturing things such as wool, linen, leather and bronze; also potters, tanners, bakers, slavers and dyers. Thyatira was also a producer of “purple dye,” highly valued by royalty. While the purple dye of the western cities came from oysters, the Thyatrian dyes came from a purple flower, producing a unique dye that was a bit redder than the others.

Lydia, one of the Apostle Paul’s first gentile converts to Christianity, came from Thyatira:

One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Pauls message. (acts 16:140

Guilds

Guilds were associations of craftsmen who banded together to both protect and expand their particular craft. There were more guilds in Thyatira than in any other city in the area. They served a number of different commercial purposes.

First, they protected the skill and knowledge of the particular craft. The technology of producing purple dye, for example, was closely protected within the guild.

Second, they protected their markets. Different guilds formed alliances with one another and would trade only with those belonging to their “brother” guilds. Those who were not in a guild had no chance of developing a market for their trade.

Third, each guild also had a “patron” pagan god. A very active social practice was to hold festivals, often drunken affairs and even orgies, to celebrate these gods. It was truly a “good time at the guild hall.”

This presented a huge problem for Christians. In order to succeed as a craftsman, they had to belong to a guild. But belonging to a guild meant worshiping pagan gods and engaging in sexual immorality. These, along with eating foods sacrificed to pagan gods, were the complaints the Spirit waged against the church at Thyatira.

The significance of this and the letter addressed to Thyatira in Revelation will be explored in another blog in The Revelation Study Series.

Shalom, Art
Alive in The Word

Addendum:

Ancient Thyatira is the modern Turkish city of Akhisar, which means “white castle.” (No, not from the hamburger joint, but the fortress built there in 290 BCE)

The city is believed to be Greek in its origins, not Phoenician. It lies some 50 Miles (80 km) from the Mediterranean Sea. The “purple dye” manufactured there was from plants, not the shell-fish used by the Phoenicians.

Guilds probably did not originate there, but because of the wide variety of trades practiced there Thyatira had more guilds than any other city in the Roman Asia province. This proved to be a tremendous challenge to Christians in the city. This is addressed in the letter to the church in Thyatira in Revelation 2. I’ll speak more to this in a blog in the Revelation Series.

Paul met Lydia while in Philippi, but she was from Thyatira. This demonstrates that women could hold important business positions in Thyatira. Lydia would almost certainly have been associated in some way with the dyers guild in order to be a business success.

It is possible that Paul and Silas visited Thyatira during Paul’s second and/or third journeys, although this is not certain. They are known to have visited several smaller cities in the area during these journies.

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom, Art

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Hidden Manna, A White Stone, A New Name (Rev 2:17, 2/16/11)


Hidden Manna & a White Stone

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious (overcomes), I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17)

This is the end of the letter to the church of Pergamum, the third of the Seven churches of Asia addressed in Revelation 2.

As with the other churches, the Christians of Pergamum were heavily persecuted. Rome demanded Emperor worship. There were major temples dedicated to pagan gods in Pergamum. By refusing to worship any god but God, Christians were actually committing a capital offense. Christians were often executed in barbarous ways for public entertainment.

Those who were “victorious” (had overcome) stayed true to their Christian faith. To these, Jesus made two promises:

I will give some of the hidden manna

Manna was the bread-like, starchy flakes that God provided the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness during the Exodus. (In Hebrew, manna means “What is it?”) If you need a refresher on the story of the manna, see Exodus 16

As a reminder of what they had gone through in the wilderness for 40 years AND of God’s providence, Moses had Aaron put some manna in a gold jar that was kept in the Ark of the Covenant. The other two items kept in the Ark were Aaron’s staff (the staff which had blossomed showing God’s selection of Aaron) and the clay tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

The Ark of the Covenant stayed with the Israelites until about the time of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 587 BCE. According to some Jewish tradition, the Prophet Jeremiah had taken the Ark and hidden it on Mt. Hebron (Mt. Sinai).

4It was also contained in the same writing, how the prophet, being warned by God, commanded that the tabernacle and the ark should accompany him, till he came forth to the mountain ” where Moses went up, and saw the inheritance of God.5And when Jeremias came thither he found a hollow cave: and he carried in thither the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door.

6Then some of them that followed him, came up to mark the place: but they could not And it.

7And when Jeremias perceived it, he blamed them, saying: The place shall be unknown, till God gather together the congregation of the people, and receive them to mercy.

8And then the Lord will shew these things, and the majesty of the Lord shall appear, and there shall be a cloud as it was also shewed to Moses, “and he shewed it when Solomon prayed that the place might be sanctified to the great God. (2 Maccabees 2:4-8, found in the Apocrypha)

The resurrected Jesus, the Messiah, was the Bread of Life.

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. (John 6:48-50)

He (Jesus) is the hidden manna.

I will also give him a white stone

During the time Revelation was written, it was common practice to render a trial verdict by giving the accused either a white (innocent) or black (guilty) stone. By giving those who were victorious a white stone, Jesus was declaring them innocent of their sins. (This is the origin of the term “blackballing” someone that remains in use today.)

with a new name written on it

The new name is now what is commonly known as a person’s Christian name. God did this many times when He called someone to a specific purpose throughout the Bible. Examples are Abram becoming Abraham, Jacob becoming Israel, Simon becoming Peter and Saul becoming Paul. This tradition has continued today in may religious orders and positions today. An example is Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger becoming Pope Benedict.

To the Christians who has a strong Jewish background reading Revelation these “symbols” would have been readily recognized. They knew their scriptures and the Jewish traditions. It would have been much less clear to the Romans… just as it is not clear to many of us today.

My thanks to Pastor Michael and the Men of the Grow Bible Study group for providing this background.

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom,
Art
Alive in the Word

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..companion in the tribulation.. (Rev. Study Notes, 11/17/10. Pt 2)


I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1:9 KJV)

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Rev. 1:9 NIV)

John on Patmos

This is the only reference to the Island of Patmos in the Bible. John records that he was exiled (imprisoned) on this barren island because of his belief in and testimony of the Word of God. It was while on the island that he received his visions from Jesus Christ. It is likely that he actually recorded the Book of Revelation after returning to the City of Ephesus in Asia-Minor.

John was exiled to Patmos during a period of extreme persecution of Christians by the Romans. Nowhere was this treatment more intense than in Asia-Minor. The Romans had declared their Emperors to be deities, to be worshiped by all subject to Roman rule. Christians refused to do so.

The word “tribulation (KJV)” or “suffering (NIV)” is the Greek word thilpsis meaning pressure, particularly pressure on the human spirit. In this case it is the pressure of oppression. The “kingdom” is the royal reign of God.

The Christians of Asia-Minor were not naive. They knew the risks of maintaining their faith. In calling for patience, John was calling for an active patience. Christians were still to maintain their faith and actively follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

To live as a Christian means that you will be persecuted. John is also reminding us of the promise of the end, that we will be saved.

John may very well have been referring to Psalm 23:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (v 4, KJV)

This patient endurance is not something we can do on our own. It is something we must achieve through the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives.

My thanks to Pastor Michael and the Men on the Grow Bible Study Group.

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom,
Art
Alive in The Word

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The Almighty (Rev. 1:8, Study Notes, 11/17/10, Pt.1)


Almighty God

The study notes from the November 17, 2010 Men on the Grow study of Revelation will be broken into two parts. In this part we will finish Revelation 1:8:

€œI am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come€” the Almighty One.€

The wordAlmighty occurs seven times in the New Testament, six of those are in the Book of Revelation and the other in 2 Corinthians.

In the Greek, the word used is pantokrat…r (Strong G3841) meaning: “the all-ruling, that is, God (as absolute and universal sovereign):€”Almighty, Omnipotent.”

When we put this into the context of the time of Revelation’s writing this means that Christianity is taking on the world. This applies primarily to the rule of Rome over the Empire. This was a rule of repression and brutality. Christianity, the church, is taking on the power of Rome without armies, Instead, believers rely on the complete dominion of God.

Not only does God have dominion over world oppression, but also over death itself through the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

So long as the church stays true to God it can overcome everything.

God IS sovereign!

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom,
Art
Alive in The Word

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The “IS-ness” of Jesus (Revelation 1:8; Study Notes, 11/10/10, Pt 2)


“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)

In Western culture we view time as linear. We are bound by the concepts of time and space. In other cultures, particularly in the Orient and Asia Pacific, time is viewed differently.

God is not of either time or space. He is the Creator of both. Therefore, time is meaningless to God.

It took mankind a long time to invent (or discover) the concept of “zero” in mathematics. In terms of a value, we understand “zero” to mean none, nil, emptiness. We use it as a numeral to hold a place.

But it is much more difficult for us to come to grips with the concept of nothingness! For both time and space, that’s what there was before God created… not only nothing, but total nothingness in the time/space dimensions.

Revelation 1:8 speaks strongly to this:

“who is, who was and who is to come…”

This is the isness of God (the Trinity). It explains how He can be all places at all times. This is how God (Father, Son and Spirit) can give 100% of His attention to all of us and each of us 100% of the time.

John the Apostle records this same message in John 16:12-33:

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy

16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:12-33)

Contrast that with the is-ness of God. In all of time and space as we understand them, He IS!

This relates directly back to Exodus when Moses asked Who to say sent him:

God said to Moses, “IAM WHO IAM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘IAM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)

Jesus also spoke directly to this when He addressed the Sanhedrin:

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:57-59)

As shown in the diagrams (click on image to enlarge), we humans have a defined beginning (conception). We live our lives, die and will rise to eternal life if we believe.

Jesus, on the other hand, has always been, is and will be as a deity. At the direction of the Father He became flesh, lived among us, died and was resurrected to life. This may take a bit of pondering, but it is crucial to John’s message and to Christianity’s very foundation.

There is much more to Revelation 1:8. We’ll continue in the next segment.

My thanks to my rabbi, Pastor Michael, and the Men on the Grow Bible study group.

This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs

Shalom,

Art

Alive in The Word

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