“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16
Laodicea was a city located about forty miles to the southeast of Philadelphia. The city was known for their soft black wool that they manufactured, their eye salve, and mostly for their abundant riches. The city was so prideful that when a massive earthquake devastated the area in A.D. 60, they were the only city to refuse Rome’s relief money, stubbornly paying for the repairs themselves.
Unfortunately, this self-sufficient attitude and trust in riches and material prosperity had infiltrated the church of Laodicea. They boasted in their accomplishments and assets, but Jesus had to show them how poor, naked, and destitute they really were. In love Jesus called them to forsake their arrogance and proud self-sufficiency and realize their desperate need for Him.
“Jesus illustrates the church’s spiritual problems using the city’s well-known water problems. Hierapolis to the north enjoyed hot springs useful for healing while Colossae to the east had cold, refreshing drinking water. But Laodicea received its water from a spring about five miles to the south. By the time this mineral-rich water made its way over the Roman aqueduct to Laodicea, it had become lukewarm and disgusting to drink.”47
“The language of 3:17-18 employs the technique of irony common in ancient texts: thus, for example, a blind seer tells a sighted king that he sees but will be blind, and is rich but will become poor; but the metaphor is especially common in biblical prophets.”48
“Unfortunately, Laodicea had no reliable water supply of its own…In addition to serving as a leading banking center, the city was well known for manufacturing garments of soft, black wool and was home to a famous medical school specializing in the treatment of eye diseases.”49
“Even though the Lord is thoroughly disgusted with this church because it fails in its duty as light-bearer, nevertheless, there is grace here: wonderful, tender love and admonition. Christ does not really say: ‘I will spew thee out of my mouth’, but ‘I am about to spew thee out of my mouth.’ The Lord is still waiting. He sends this epistle in order to drive out that lukewarm spirit. He is very severe in His condemnation because He is very tender and kind, loving and gracious…Who is more to be pitied than an individual who imagines that he is a fine Christian, whereas in reality the Christ Himself is utterly disgusted with him?”50
“Laodicea’s repentance must be expressed in zeal (Rev. 3:19), which will come only when they discover their destitution and Jesus’ sufficiency. Jesus’ advice is paradoxical: When you see how poor you are, then I counsel you to ‘buy from me gold refined by fire…and white garments…and eye salve to anoint your eyes’ (Rev. 3:17-18). How can paupers buy such precious commodities? Jesus echoes the divine Marketer who spoke through Isaiah: ‘Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost’ (Isa. 55:1). This transaction is not a conventional purchase, for only those who cannot pay may partake. Everything we need must be the free gift of the Beginning of God’s creation. Only he can clear our sight, cover our naked shame (Gen. 3:7, 21; Rev. 16:15), and make the poor rich (Matt. 5:3; Luke 1:52-53; James 2:5).”51
- Does the church at Laodicea, with all its riches and feelings of smug self-sufficiency, sound familiar?
- Why does Jesus indict Laodicea the way He does instead of just wiping them out? How does this encourage you?
- Do you see any of the downfalls of the Laodiceans in your own life? Jesus offered the Laodiceans the very things they boasted of having, what would Jesus offer you that you think you have apart from Him?
- Jesus tells the Laodiceans to “Be earnest (or zealous) and repent!” How does earnestness and zealousness differ from complacency and self-suffiency?
Even the lower class in America is richer than most of the rest of the planet and we are in severe danger of the sin of the Laodiceans. Ask the Lord to show you where you may be relying on things other than Him.
Repent of this sin, ask the Lord to give you earnestness, zeal, and repentance and to show you how truly poor you really are apart from Christ. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3)
47, 49 Duvall, J. Scott. Revelation
48 Keener, Craig S. Revelation
50 Hendriksen, William. More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation
51 Johnson, Dennis E. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation