Laodicea was located about 100 miles east of Ephesus, which was the first city that was sent a letter. Laodicea was part of the tri-city area that included Colossae and Hierapolis. The city was founded around 261-253 BC by Antiochus the II who was a Seleucid king who ruled Syria after the death of Alexander the Great, and he named after his wife Laodice. Eventually Laodicea became a part of the kingdom of Pergamum and the Roman Empire, and it was located in the fertile Lycus valley on a flat-topped mountain. Even though at first it was a nothing little town, it later grew and became known as the “gateway to Phrygia”. In addition, because of its location caravans from the east and the west would stop in Laodicea, which helped it to become extremely wealthy because of the cross trading it provided.
The city of Laodicea was known for its commercial life, medical practices, its wealth, and it was also the banking center of Asia which made it the most prosperous of the seven cities and in the ruins of Laodicea there are many beautiful homes that are still visible. There was also a particular breed of black sheep that was raised in the area, and its unique glossy black wool was woven into special clothes. The city of Laodicea was like a bank, department store, and hospital all rolled into one and there was a medical cult of Aesculapius located in Laodicea that was known for their eye and ear salve. Laodicea was so prosperous that when the town suffered a great quake in A.D. 66 it was able to rebuild the city without applying Roman Money to do so. An interesting point is that the symbol of a snake wrapped around a staff that was the symbol of the medical cult in Laodicea is still worn by doctors in the U.S. military today. Paul understood the temptations of the Church of Laodicea, and took a deep interest in it by understanding their enticement due to their intellectual pride and their worldly prosperity. However, John’s letter had a totally different tone.
14) And 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;
15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17) Because 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:
18) I 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.
19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20) Behold, 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.
21) To 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.
22) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Chapter 3 Verse 14
In this verse Jesus refers to Himself as the “Amen”. Amen is a Hebrew word that can be used in the context of “firm” or “trustworthy”, which means that Jesus may have been trying to tell the Church of Laodicea (and us) that Jesus is the only firm and trustworthy person that they (we) should be relying on. In addition, the word Amen is also used to end prayer (so be it). Since Jesus is also called the Alpha and Omega then Jesus being called Amen brings to light that he fulfilled all scriptures that was ever written concerning the Messiah. Next we see that Jesus tells them that HE is the faithful and true witness which lets them (us) know that he is always faithful to (even when we are not), and that he is the author of truth (I am the way, the ‘truth’, and the life). We must always remember that Jesus proved himself faithful to the Father in all he said and did so now because of that the Father has put him in charge of all things. Finally he tells them that he is the “beginning of the creation of God”, which means that he was the creator of all things which establishes that by him all things were made, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). All these titles show us that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith, and it is to him and him only that we should cling to which apparently the Church of Laodicea did not do.
Chapter 3 Verse 15-16
The Laodicean Church is the first church where Jesus goes straight into a rebuke without any commendation at all. He tells them that he KNOWS that they are neither cold nor hot, and that He wished that they were either cold or hot. The word cold here means “sluggish” or “destitute of warm Christian faith and the desire for holiness”. Or in other words they no longer care about doing and being what Jesus had called them to be (1 Peter 1:15-17). In contradiction the word hot means “boiling hot” or “fervent in spirit and zeal for what is good”. In other words, he would rather us be “on fire for God” or as “cold as an ice cube”. So what about “lukewarm”? Many people think that lukewarm is someone who is in the world one day and in the church the next, but the word lukewarm actually means a “condition of the soul that wretchedly fluctuates in and out of spiritual lethargy and a fervor of love”. This means that one day you want to be Mr. / Mrs. “On Fire Christian” and other days you don’t really care about doing anything for God. I think of it like a “yo-yo”; one day you’re in and the next day you’re out. So why would God rather you be hot or cold than lukewarm? If a person is hot then they are walking daily with Christ, and he leads them where he needs them to be. If a person is cold then God knows they can be reached because they know they are not where they need to be. However, the lukewarm person things they have it altogether and they don’t need anything. In other words, the Laodiceans were completely apathetic about Christianity and only did it when they felt like it. The town was a great example of this. Laodicea did not have water of its own so it had to bring hot water from Hierapolis to the north, and cold water from Colossae to the southeast. However, by the time it got to Laodicea the hot water was no longer hot but lukewarm. So what does God do to the lukewarm believers? He SPUES them out… The word spue means to “vomit or to reject with extreme disgust”. While we know that God HATES sin, we must also realize that God HATES lukewarm Christians because not only do they do nothing for his kingdom; they can in fact be very harmful to it. How many times have we heard “Why do I have to be a Christian, I am as good as so and so”. We need to remember that our lives have a direct impact on everyone around us so God would rather us be a cold and dead “prodigal” son that lukewarm. Another way to look at “lukewarm” is someone that is “carnal”, which means they are governed by their flesh and not the by the Spirit. So how do we know if we are lukewarm? Are there signs? Yes there are very distinct signs of being lukewarm!
Chapter 3 Verse 17
If we think back to the history of Laodicea we remember that it was a banking center and the richest of the seven cities that John wrote to so perhaps this is why Jesus said “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing…” Since they had so much “blessing” they may have thought that they were 100% in the will of God, however he continues and tells them that “and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”. In other words they had allowed themselves to become entangled in money and thought they had it all together because of what they owned. However, they were actually afflicted, pitiful, destitute of Christian virtues, blinded by pride and conceit, and totally naked so that they did not have the covering of Christ’s righteousness in and over their lives. We must always remember that Jesus must be our ONLY source, however many Christians have turned to other things hoping to pad their accounts and live an easy life on this planet. Jesus said it very clearly when he said “Lay NO treasure on this earth”, and I believe he meant what he said and that there was no ambiguity in that statement. The Laodiceans however it seems took the easy way out and decided to a life of luxury. Does this sound familiar?
Chapter 3 Verse 18
The loving thing about Jesus is that even though we fall, he ALWAYS has a way back for us unless we decide to never come back. He tells them to “buy” gold that has been tested from HIM that has been tried so that they be rich (in the kingdom), “white raiment” so they may be clothed and their nakedness will be covered, and finally he says to anoint their eyes with eyesalve so that they can see. When we look a little deeper, the first thing Jesus said was to not just buy gold, but gold that had been TESTED. This meant that they needed to get their lives in line with the Word of God, which means that they would have to be tested for their faith to see if they were really serious about following him. The next thing they were told is to buy white raiment, which symbolizes the Righteousness of God. Apparently the Laodiceans were relying on their works or their own form of righteousness, but they had forgotten that their righteousness was as filthy rags to God. Finally, he say to obtain holy eyesalve so that they could see. There was a school of medicine near Laodicea that produced an eyesalve that was supposed to be a cure for weak eyes, but what Christ was saying was to let the Holy Spirit anoint their eyes so they could spiritually see again. The amazing thing I have learned about our Lord over the years is that he is quick to forgive, slow to anger, and always has a plan to bring his children back and this is what he was trying to do with this church.
Chapter 3 Verses 19-20
If you ever want to know if you are God’s then ask this question, have you ever been chastened? Most people who teach try to make the chastisement of God cruel like broken cars, sickness and disease, or other calamities. However, God has a multitude of ways he can chasten us and the worse for me is when I know that I am not in his favor and he withdraws his presence. Some may say, but he will never leave us nor forsake us and that is true but sometimes the presence of God may not be there. The word chastise here does mean to chastise or to strike like a father spanking his child, but it also means to train a child or to cause one to learn. I believe that the level that someone is “chastened” is based on many factors like how many times they have committed the sin or in my case how hard headed someone is. However, God is a loving Father and would your Father give you cancer to teach you something? Absolutely not, but if we are not in fellowship with Him as we should be then we open up ourselves to our enemy who is more than willing to strike us down. Next he says to be zealous and repent. The word zealous here means to burn with zeal, to be heated or boil in the pursuit of good, to strive earnestly after GOD. Do you see what I see? The ONLY way to get out of the “lukewarm” state is to BOIL over for God. Why? Because the only other way someone lukewarm can go is totally cold. However, Jesus is a gentlemen and he will not knock the door down to get into our lives. He says “Behold, 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”. He is always knocking on a lukewarm or cold person’s hearts, however he will never push his way in. Christianity is voluntary life, and only those who voluntarily let Christ in get to be with him forever. Is Jesus been knocking on your door? Isn’t about time you let him in?
Chapter 3 Verse 21
The promise to those who repent is a simple one. First, they will sit next to Jesus, and they will rule with him in the Millennium. What a Promise!!
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Laodicea Poem – John Newton
Hear what the Lord, the great Amen, The true and faithful Witness says!
He formed the vast creation’s plan, And searches all our hearts and ways.
To some he speaks as once of old, I know thee, thy profession’s vain;
Since thou art neither hot nor cold, I’ll spit thee from me with disdain.
Thou boasteth, I am wise and rich, Increased in goods and nothing need;
And dost not know thou art a wretch, Naked and poor, and blind and dead.
Yet while I thus rebuke, I love, My message is in mercy sent;
That thou may’st my compassion prove, I can forgive, if thou repent.
Wouldst thou be truly rich and wise? Come, buy my gold in fire well tried,
My ointment to anoint thine eyes, My robe, thy nakedness to hide.
See at thy door I stand and knock! Poor sinner, shall I wait in vain?
Quickly thy stubborn heart unlock, That I may enter with my train.
Thou canst not entertain a king, Unworthy thou of such a guest!
But I my own provisions bring, To make thy soul a heavenly feast.