Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hot, Cold & Lukewarm (part 4)

With all of that said, having posited that the “temperature” terms were geographical indicators, it is now possible to posit that use of “hot” is in all likelihood a reference to the city of Hierapolis.  It should be said that this is not groundbreaking by any means, and the same can be said for the applications that will be made to the usage of both cold and lukewarm.  These things have long been understood, but for some reason, they have been completely obscured in modern and popular considerations of Revelation and its letters to the churches.  It might be casually referenced, but not worked out to its logical and contextual conclusion, as commentators want to tread the far more popular path of Revelation as a book that tells the future, rather than a writing that tells about a faithful God and what He expects from His people as they go about living their lives in this world as His image-bearers. 

The city of Laodicea was located five miles north of the city of Hierapolis.  In Hierapolis, there were hot springs.  Owing to this, Hierapolis gained fame as a health resort, as well as being the place for the worship of the god Heracles, who was looked to as the god of health and hot waters.  Archaeology indicates that Laodicea had an aqueduct that probably carried water from the hot mineral springs of Hierapolis. 

If this is the case, remembering that this study is attempting to determine the impetus of the communication from the context of what could be readily understood by its recipients rather than from the position of attempting to unravel the events of world history using Revelation as a guide in the effort, then not only should one think “Hierapolis” when reading “hot,” but one can easily imagine that the residents of the region would have thought of Hierapolis in connection with hot as well. 

If “hot” is a reference to a city, then it would make sense that “cold” is also a reference to a city.  Furthermore, if the “hot” of the nearby city of Hierapolis is a reference to its famous hot springs, then for rhetorical consistency, “cold” should also be making reference to water as well; and that city should be in the general vicinity of Laodicea.  Is there a city to which one can logically apply this epithet?  It seems that there is, and the candidate is the city of Colossae. 

Colossae and Laodicea were situated in relative proximity.  Not only are they close in that they are approximately eleven miles apart, but the churches appear to be close in communication, owing to the Apostle Paul’s references to Laodicea in the close of his letter to the Colossians in which he instructs the church at Colossae to share the letter with the church at Laodicea, while also indicating that they church at Laodicea will share its letter with the church at Colossae.  Paul also makes mention of Laodicea earlier in the letter, when he writes: “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, and for those in Laodicea” (Colossians 2:1a).  Clearly, there is something of a close connection between Laodicea and Colossae.  The churches were familiar with each other. 

Beyond the multiple mentions (five) of Laodicea, one can also happily find a reference to Hierapolis in this letter.  Paul, writing about Ephaphras, says that “he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis” (4:13b).  This implies a relationship between Hierapolis and Laodicea beyond that of an aqueduct.  If the church at Colossae “learned the gospel from Ephaphras” (1:7a), as Paul communicates within his opening statements to the Colossians, and then goes on to mention Epaphras in connection with both Laodicea and Hierapolis, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that Epaphras may well have been responsible for bringing the message to all three cities (though one should certainly refrain from dogmatism on this statement). 

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