We know that the final letter John writes in Revelation three is to the church at Laodicea. We also know that this church represents the current apostate church of the era immediately preceding the Lord's return. The seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3 were all located in Asia Minor. When Paul was at Ephesus starting in Acts 19, he spent over two years teaching and preaching Jesus Christ throughout all of Asia Minor.
While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote a letter to one of the churches he had originally "planted" which was in small town of Colosse which was about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Within the Colossian epistle there are numerous references to other towns, chiefly Laodicea, which was a much bigger city and was a major trade center. I wish to call your attention to a verse that most people who read the epistle of Colossians never stop and think about. It is found in chapter 4 in verse 16:
"Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."
What is the epistle from Laodicea? We have no record in our King James Bible of any epistle to the Laodiceans, do we? No, we don't and that is a tragedy, for there was such an epistle and there is nothing wrong with it. When the final decisions were made as to which books would be included in the Bible, the epistle to the Laodiceans didn't make the final cut.
The epistle to the Laodiceans is only 19 verses long. There is extremely strong textual evidence that this was every bit as legitimate of an epistle as Colossians. In fact, the two epistles were probably written at the same time and sent by courier to the two towns with instructions to exchange letters when finished reading them. Remember that these two towns were a very short distance from each other.
Here, in its entirety is the short epistle to the Laodiceans:
"Paul an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, to the brethren which are at Laodicea.
Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank Christ in every prayer of mine, that ye may continue and persevere in good works looking for that which is promised in the day of judgment.
Let not the vain speeches of any trouble you who pervert the truth, that they may draw you aside from the truth of the gospel which I have preached.
And now may God grant, that my converts may attain to a perfect knowledge of the truth of the gospel, be beneficent, and doing good works which accompany salvation.
And now my bonds, which I suffer for Christ, are manifest, in which I rejoice and am glad.
For I know that this shall turn to my salvation for ever, which shall be through your prayer, and the supply of the Holy Spirit.
Whether I live or die; (for) to me to live shall be a life to Christ, to die will be joy.
And our Lord will grant us his mercy, that ye may have the same love, and be like-minded.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have heard of the coming of the Lord, so think and act in fear, and it shall be to you life eternal.
For it is God who worketh in you.
And do all things without sin.
And what is best, my beloved, rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, and avoid all filthy lucre.
Let all your requests be made known to God, and be steady in the doctrine of Christ.
And whatsoever things are sound and true, and of good report, and chaste, and just and lovely, these things do.
Those things which ye have heard, and received, think on these things, and peace shall be with you.
All the saints salute you.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Amen.
Cause this Epistle to be read to the Colossians, and the Epistle of the Colossians to be read among you."
It is very apparent why this epistle was left out of the cannon of the scripture since it sounds like the Readers Digest condensed version of Philippians. But, if you think about it, there is very little overlap between Colossians and this epistle. Paul had just written the Philippians and the information was still fresh in his mind and he wanted to share some of it with the Asian churches.
It is significant to note that some forty years after this epistle was written to the Laodiceans, the apostle John writes the letter to them in Revelation. Much had happened since the day Paul had written them, namely the martyrdom of Paul and Peter and almost everyone else who was involved with the first century church. Jerusalem had been destroyed decades earlier and Gnosticism had invaded and taken over most of the Asian churches. Persecution had wiped out almost all of the early pillars of the church.
Yet, God miraculously spared John, and he wrote the book of Revelation while on the Isle of Patmos in either 95 or 96 A.D. He had left Jerusalem shortly before it was destroyed and had moved to Ephesus. He served as the head elder over the Asian churches started many years earlier by Paul. Some twenty five years later, during a time of intense persecution, he writes Revelation and starts the book by writing the seven short letters to the seven churches of Asia; of which, Laodicea was one of them.