Big Idea: The Church in Laodicea is Committing Apostasy by Affluence
Intro: Well morning friends and visitors and those watching online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are looking at the last of the 7 Churches in Revelation – Laodicea. Next year, we will come back and look at more of Revelation. But today we finish out the first section of Revelation looking at Laodicea. So lets pray…
Intro: Well today my big idea is that the church in Laodicea is committing apostasy, by affleunza. Its not a perfect summary. But it is a reasonable summary. Apostasy, by affluneza. So let me introduce you to affluenza.
(Slide 1) Oliver James, Brithish psychologist writes (READ). Richard Dennis – chief Economist at the Australia Institute writes (READ). John De Graaf – American author writes; (READ). And one of my favorite non Christian Australian academics – Clive Hamilton – PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC ETHICS at Charles Sturt University also released a book (READ). I like the subtitle “When too Much is never Enough”. I would like to read a slightly longer quote from this book…
Now given the sheer number of books (and papers) written on Affluenza (just do a google search) – I hope you will just concede that this is a real problem. I’d say Affleunza is the delusion that we have everything we need to be happy, while always hungering for more. And I’d say Laodicea’s main problem was a form of affluenza.
(Slide 4 – Map). On this map – you can see Laodicea, Heiropolis & Collosse. The three cities are only about 8-10km apart – and the Apostle Paul lumps them together in Colossians. Let me show you (ENTER). Now all three towns are in the beautiful LYCUS VALLEY which was incredibly fertile. It was prime agriculatural land and the arrea became famous for a special type of black wool from sheep. They used this black wool to make undergarments called TRIMITA. And these garments started to make the area wealthy.
Now when Laodicea was established around 260BC (by Antiochus II) he populated the city predominantly with Jews from Babylon and many of these Jews proved to be very good business people. Now again, on the map (SHOW) you’ll see ONE ROAD COMING IN from the east (part of the silk road) AND TWO ROADS GOING OUT – north west towards Rome and the other west towards Ephesus. So, trade was high; banks were established and Laodicea soon became the wealthiest city in Asia Minor. Now to give you some idea – a major earthquake destroyed much of Asia Minor in 60AD. Most cities had to beg Rome for financial support to rebulid, but Laodicea did it all on their own (very quickly).
What more, Heiropolis was also a medical center. Coins minted in Heirpolis show ASCLEPIUS the healer with his serpent rod. Similar stuff was happening to Pergamum. But Heiropolis was named after a man named Herophilus who studied human anatomy in ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT. Herophilus worked out how blood vessels and the heart and the brain worked by cutting up prisoners while they were still alive. Christian writer Tertullian claims he killed 600 people this way and even Galen (high priest of Asclpeius) considered him a butcher. But Heirophilus was named in his honor and developed as a place of healing around its hot water springs.
So Laodicea, really had it all – beauty, agriculture, textiles, money, medicine and a confident SELF-ASSUREDNESS that even a major earthquake could not shake…
Point 1: The Church in Laodicea is Committing Apostasy (by Affluenza)
Show: Rev.3:14-16 (READ)
Explain: Well obviously, Jesus is NOT HAPPY with the church in Laodicea. They are not a sweet taste in Jesus’ mouth. So, he is about to spit them out. Now this is significant, because whatever they are doing – it is now close to APOSTASY. Jesus is about to reject them. And the only thing Jesus would reject his people for – is apostasy
You see, Jesus promises he will NEVER LEAVE OR FORSAKE his people. The only thing in the Bible that seems to jeopardise this promise is apostasy. APOSTASY is when one of God’s people denies their faith and starts to worship a false god. This is what the Jews did when they made a golden calf. Although God had just sealed the Old Covenant with them (Ex.24), their apostasy moments later (Ex.33), meant 3000 people died. Apostasy is likened in the Bible to adultery in marriage. There are warnings in Scripture that apostasy can nullify God’s covenant.
Now a few weeks back I had a conversation with BISHOP MICHAEL STEAD – about the nature of APOSTASY – in relation to medical ethics. I was arguing that there may be a point where pharmaceutical practice – becomes a type of apostasy – even if no false god is obviously present. Michael argued that unless Christians are engaged in obvious worship of an actual idol – then its NOT APOSTASY, its just sin. But I pointed out that in Colossains, Paul says get rid of “greed”, which is idolatry. The point is greed – can be idolatry (and ipso facto apostasy) even though no obvious false god is present.
Now this is relevant – because there is no obvious idolatry or apostasy taking place in Laodicea – apart from greed. They’re not involved in worship of false gods like those in Pergamum, or even Thyatira. Yet, Jesus theatening to spit them out of his mouth – because they are dancing on the edge of apostasy. I think the idol is now money or even affluence itself.
They have reached the point where they believe they don’t really need Jesus or God. The church says; “I am rich. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” ie we don’t really need you Jesus, or God.
Now the church in Laodicea – was meant to read PAUL’S LETTER to the church in Colosse. And if the Laodiceans did read Colossians they would see a very unique phrase in Revelation 3:14 – that comes directly from Colossians 1:15. Look again at Revelations 3:14 (READ).
Now this is a quite UNIQUE PHRASE that is ONLY found in Colossians. Let me show you. (Slide 8-9). Now the idea is that because Jesus is the source of everything good and he literally holds all things together – he should always come first in our lives. That’s what, “have the supremacy” means. It means come first in our lives. THE PROBLEM IS – when Jesus blesses us and gives us good things we often start to worship the gifts, rather than the giver. And this is the essence of idolatry or apostasy. This is what MUST be happening in Laodicea.
Apply: So Jesus says – he is about to spit them out of his mouth because they are lukewarm. Now this is usually taken to mean they lack zeal and commitment. Mixing our metaphors they’re half-baked Christians. (Slide 10) If you look again at the map – the medical facilities of HEIROPHILUS were built around hot mineral springs. And COLOSSE to the east had the cool flowing water of the Lycus river. But Laodicea was built up the hill (ENTER) with a very poor water source 6-8 km to the south. Now if you open a bible commentary – most scholars will say the water coming to Laodicea was luke warm – because it was coming from hot springs and was cooling down in the aquaducts OR it was coming from cold springs and it was heating up on the aquaducts (in the sun). Hence, luke warm water, representing luke-warm Christians. Now I think this interpretation is probably on the right path – because Heiropolis had hot water and Colosse had cold water. Laodicea was in the middle. But scholars then ask – why would Jesus say “I wish you were hot or cold”. Why is cold better than luke-warm?
So, I want to add an extra layer. I think Jesus might also be drawing attention to Laodicea’s SHEER STUPIDTY. He wishes they had the wisdom of Heirophilus or Colosse to at least build their city on a stable water source. Everyone knows we need water to live. But Laodicea neglected this most basic principle and ended up with a water supply that was not only lukewarm, but was also very PRECARIOUS. They recently excavated a stone on the Laodicean aquaduct – that threatened 5000-12,500 Denarii fines for anyone who interferred with Laodicea’s water supply. That is a huge amount of money and it shows how vulnerable the city was because of poor planning.
So, I suspect Jesus is also saying – their prosperity has made them foolish. They have just about everything, EXCEPT the most important things of water and/or Jesus. So their elaborate, wonderful city is little more than a – house of cards – which could very easily fall over if A) the water is turned off or B) the ultimate Colossians source of life spits them out of his mouth. I wonder if it’s the same for the western world. We may feel confident and unassailable and like nothing could shake us – but maybe we are more vulnerable than we realise…
Point 2: The Church in Laodicea is Blinded by their Affluence
Show: Rev.3:17-18 (READ)
Explain: Well as you can see the church in Laodicea – thinks they are rich. The phrase “do not need a thing” implies Jesus is now irrelevant. They’ve already got heaven on earth (or so they think). But Jesus calls them wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Now I’m sure Laodicea would refute all these words. They’d respond we’re not WRETCHED – we’re blessed. We’re not PITIFUL, we’re the envy of the world. We’re not POOR we are the richest city per capita. We are not BLIND – we have a famous salve for the eyes AND we’re certainly not NAKED – we all own trimita undergarments. For every problem that Jesus identifies, they now have their own EARTHLY SOLUTION.
Now most scholars believe the Laodiceans are only looking at their MATERIAL AFFLUENCE when they say; “I am rich”. But as many psychologists will tell you – you can be RICH in dollars and yet be BANKRUPT in relationships or mental health or time. And if you aim to be materially rich or have a great career (at the expense of personal relationships and family) it may be as foolish as building a city without a stable water supply. Thinking that we can have all the things of heaven (without God) is actually one of Satans favorite lies.
So we buy fancy clothes to hide our nakedness and brokeness forgetting people see straight through us. We get heart transplants and bionic ears; cataracts taken out of our eyes and face lifts forgetting we are still mortal (and one day we’ll die). Of course, giving us a heart transplant, ears that can hear, eyes that can see and fine white clothes to hide our nakedness – used to be confined to realm of the MESSIAH. (GOSPEL) That’s what Jesus did for us – through his death on the cross. As Jesus lay down his life and died for our sins he took the punishment for everything we did wrong. Jesus died for your sins so that you could be forgiven. This is God’s gift for everyone who believes. Believe in Jesus (as your Saviour and Lord) and you get a one way ticket to heaven.
Then as you truly grasp what Jesus did for you, you begin to love God for saving you. This is the heart transplant. But Jesus (through his death and resurrection) also opened our EARS to God’s Word, gave us EYES that could see what true glory looks like and RIGHTEOUS, CLEAN ROBES fit for heaven…
But false Aesclepian Messiahs now gives us pale reflections of these things. If I need a heart transplant – I just need $150,000. If I need new eyes or a bionic ear – again health insurance will cover that, no need for Jesus. Sadly, our affluence – financial, material and medical relegates Jesus to the back seat. We respond (like Laodicea) thanks Jesus – but we have everything we need.
But whatever this world is now offering us it is still compromised by sin, lies and our mortality. Whatever the world offers – its nothing compared to the immortality and satisfaction of heaven. So don’t trade in the heavenly for the earthly. That’s the deal Satan is trying to get us all to make. WE NEED TO REMEMBER that no eye has seen, or ear has heard or heart has comprehended what God has prepared for those who love him. Hold out for that. As good as our world can make things (without Jesus) – there is always going to be 1) a dark underbelly, 2) lots of false advertising and 3) a sugary, candy like taste left in our mouth that doesn’t really satisfy. Yet, all too easily, we start trusting the lies of Satan, rather than the promises of Jesus. And the minute we start trusting Satan (more than Jesus) or this stuff starts to become more important to us (than Jesus) we are dancing on the edge of APOSTASY.
Point 3: The Church in Laodicea is Counselled to Repent
Show: Rev.3:19-22 (READ)
Explain: Well please notice in verse 19 – Jesus says “whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” The way this is written suggests Laodicea may have recently been rebuked and disciplined by Jesus. Its now time to repent. Gee, I wonder if something has recently happened to them – that was meant to be a wake up call? Perhaps something like a loud knock at the front door – that shook the whole city. Oh that’s right – there was this LITTLE EARTHQUAKE in 60AD – that levelled half the cities in Asia Minor.
Friends, one of the key things we read about in Revelation is that God is using NATURAL CALAMITIES – including 1) plagues, 2) famines, 3) sword and 4) earthquakes to bring people to repentance. Now seven times (remembering 7 is significant) EARTHQUAKES are seen as part of Jesus’ rebuke and discipline. But a scary little refrain keeps repeating – still they refused to repent. (Rpt) Then we get to Revelation 16 – just before the end of the world, we are told about the biggest earthquake the world has ever experienced. But instead of people hearing Jesus’ loud knock and repenting of their sin – we are told humanity CURSED GOD.
Even as Jesus’ knocking gets really loud – and things are literally falling off the shelves – we’re told most people don’t repent. So the final judgment comes. Of course, if people heeded the knocking (of all the natural calamities) and repented of their sin – Jesus would forgive us and he would come into our lives and give us true glory (on the last day). But when we reach the point where we only see NATURAL CALAMITIES as natural calamities, rather than God’s discipline, we are in serious danger. And welcome to our world…
I shared with you a few weeks ago – that Dispensational Pre-Millenial Christians often see the 7 churches of Revelation as correspondoing to seven specific periods in church history.
Now we should admit that could be possible – because God knows everything in advance and each church may be prophetic. But, like I said, there is nothing in the biblical text to suggest that it is necessarily true. Yet with that said – I think Laodicea may intentionally be the last church spoken of in Revelation for a reason…
Generally speaking, since the beginning of time – humanity has been advancing. Bit by bit we’re becoming 1) more wealthy, 2) more-healthy, and 3) more-capable at hiding our nakedness and mortality. I would suggest all of this ADVANCEMENT has come from God’s common grace and special grace – especially in the western world. But in recent times – we’ve seperated the gifts from the GIVER. We no longer recognize that every good gift comes from the Father of heavenly lights. This rejection of the true God probably started in the western world in the European Enlightenment of the 1600’s. But since then – it’s been speeding up. Our rejection of God is now blatant.
But whats different to all other ages of humanity – whether Babylonian or Greek or Roman – is that the western world actually had a knowledge of Jesus and the gospel (and we decided to reject Jesus). It wasn’t sin in a place of ignorance like Babylon, or Greece or Rome. OUR WESTERN WORLD knew about Jesus and (had reaped his blessings) – and yet in our affluence, wisdom and pride we decided to reject him (eyes wide open). The only other period in human history that may be similar is when Israel entered into the PROMISED LAND around 1000BC. At that point the Jews had tasted that the Lord is good. They were in a land flowing with milk and honey. But sadly the very blessings and affluence that were gifts from God – became their downfall. They figured they could have the blessings while rejectingthe covenant.
Now of course, God was PATIENT and pleaded with them through the prophets to repent. Then when they refused 1) plagues, 2) famines and 3) sword started to come. That’s God’s discipline trifecta.
PLAGUES like coronavirus. FAMINE and FOOD INSECURITY – like in parts of Europe, Sri Lanka, South America and parts of Africa. And of course, SWORD means war. At present – just Eastern Europe and maybe the Taiwan strait. (Nothing to worry about). But then of course, there’s also been things like flooding, bushfires and droughts that seem to be getting more intense. So I’m beginning to wonder if Jesus’ knocking at the door of this world is getting louder. Are we meant to recognize this is rebuke and discipline? (What do you think?)
Isaiah 29:6 – says (Slide 16). Of course, Revelation plays with these words in Isaiah 29. The closer we get to the end of Revelation – the louder the knocking gets. (Slide 17); Slide 18; Slide19. Now I’m not saying this the end – because no one knows definitively about that day or hour. But I am saying these are things we are told to expect at the end. Lots of loud knocking – calling us to repent…
Apply: THE PROBLEM is we’ve so naturalised every calamity – we no longer hear the knock of Jesus. Earthquakes are just tectonic plates moving. Coronavirus is just a spot of bad luck out of Wuhan. The storms, the famine and the bushfires are all just the result of too much carbon in the atmosphere. But is the scientific explanation and the biblical explanation necessarily MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.
All the natural calamities that begin to fall on the world in Revelation are meant to bring people to repentance. But what concerns me is that in 1) the Global Financial Crisis, or 2) the recent coronavirus, or 3) even the growing concerns about our planet – no church leader has the courage to suggest that it may be judgment from God. No one seems to be suggesting repentance from sin may be the answer. Why? Why didn’t we see significant church leaders calling for repentance, or calling people to prayer and fasting in the recent coronavirus. Sadly, the only thing I heard CHURCH LEADERS calling people to do was get vaccinated. Respond to the pandemic in the exact same way as the world.
And anyone – who even dared to suggest that this might be Jesus’ judgment – was labelled a nut-job. Well remember – Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel – were all called nut-jobs too – when they started saying I can hear God knocking. So let me say – (I’m beginning to think God is knocking. SERIOUSLY). And if the knocking continues and it seems to be getting louder – I wouldn’t be too dismissive. Our western world has made some decisions recently where we’ve eyes wide open trodden Gods word and Jesus’ blood underfoot. Now as God’s discipline comes upon the world (and I think it must come for blatant disobedience) non-Christians are likely to respond with all sorts of PHARMAKIA AND there’ll probably be more PRINTING OF MONEY AND more efforts to control THE ENVIRONMENT AND possibly even WAR as people give in to fear. But if the knocking gets louder – our response as Christians should be to put Jesus first, repent of our sin and get our house in order.
Sadly, Revelation 9 – tells us that in the end most people do not repent (Slide 20 & 21). Friends, given the background of modern medicine with Aescelpius, Hippocrates, Galen and Herophilus – I don’t think I can safely say “PHARMAKEIA” only means sorcery and black magic. (Now I’m not saying all pharmakeia and medicine is wrong). But when we cultivate pharmakeia (or medicine) by destroying human embryos OR we use pharmakeia RU486 to abort babies, OR pharmakeia – DDMA to euthanise people OR pharmakeia – Histrelin to prevent children going through puberty – I think it is becoming a type of black magic. Just because it’s dressed up in science and a white lab coat – doesn’t mean it’s not as black as hell.
Now hopefully another big REFORMTION takes place and we see huge amounts of people repentingof their sin and putting their trust in Jesus. But, if the knocking at the door continues to get louder – you know what your meant to do. Repent. Get your house in order, trim your lamps and lift up your heads – because your redemption day may be drawing near.