Laodicea received the harshest criticism from Jesus Christ as compared to the other churches described in the Book of Revelation. Laodicea was the wealthiest of the churches. Laodicea was situated on the southern bank of the Lycus River. It was located just 11 miles downstream from Colossae and 6 miles from Hieropolis. Colossae was known for its cool refreshing water, and Hieropolis was known for its soothing hot springs. On the other hand, Laodicea’s water was tepid and nauseous.
Despite the water, Laodicea was financially prosperous. It was a banking center. Laodicea was also known as a center for the wool and dye trade. Additionally, it was the home of a medical school known for the treatment of eye problems, where it produced a famous eye salve. As a testament to its wealth, Laodicea had two theaters, a gymnasium, and a large stadium. The city was heavily damaged by the earthquake of AD 60, but because of its wealth, the city declined assistance from Nero and rebuilt with its own funds. The city was a part of Paul’s missionary field, but it was probably initially evangelized by Epaphras (Col. 4:13). One of the house churches met in the home of a woman named Nympha (Col. 4: 16). Laodicea was probably also an intended recipient of the letter to the Ephesians.
Jesus Christ instructed John to write to the pastor of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14). Jesus Christ described Himself as “the Amen,” “the faithful,” “the true witness,” and “the beginning of creation” (Rev. 3:14). At the beginning of a discourse, amen means “truly or most assuredly.” Jesus Christ personifies truth. We can have absolute confidence that Jesus Christ speaks and manifests the truth. The Greek word pistos is translated as “faithful or trusty.” We can trust in Christ because He is absolutely trustworthy. As an example, we can have an absolute confidence in His Second Coming, in our future resurrection, and that after death, we will go immediately to be with Christ in Heaven.
Jesus Christ is the “true witness” because He is absolutely reliable. He is the perfect manifestation and representation of the character of God. If you have ever wondered about what God is like, He is like His Son. Like the Son, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. His commands are not burdensome. He is easy to be around. The pinnacle of human existence is fellowship with the Father and Son. The quality of our existence and experience of the fullness of life is measured by the degree that we live in fellowship with the Father and Son. Jesus is referred to as “the beginning of God’s creation” (Rev. 3:14) because all things were created by Him, through Him, and for Him (Col. 1:16). Jesus Christ is the imager of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). Paul summed up his entire life with one word: “Christ” (Phil. 1:21). If your entire life is not in, by, and with Christ, you are missing out on true living. We are promised that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Our free will matters. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Then Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16). Jesus used the water of Laodicea as an analogy to teach the Laodiceans. The water of Laodicea was not cool and refreshing like the water of Colossae, and it was not warm and soothing like the water of Hieropolis. Wealth, success, and prosperity can be a huge distraction to our witness and spiritual life. Perhaps we are not warm and soothing to others, or perhaps we are not cool and refreshing either. Our obedience to God is very straightforward. We must love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we must love our neighbors as ourselves. Unfortunately, our current existence in the United States seems to be spiraling into more and more hate. We cannot practice love if we do not practice forgiveness. We must ignore many insults to persevere in the spiritual life. We must not overreact to the hatred of others.
Then Jesus said, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:17). They were materially wealthy and successful, but the Laodiceans were spiritually impoverished. Strangely, many Christians believe that material wealth and success are proof that God is pleased with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two are often not related. Yes, the Bible has examples of heroes of faith that were blessed materially by God. Examples include Abraham, Joseph (Abraham’s great grandson), and David. However, more often than not, faithful Christians are not counted among the rich, powerful, and successful (1 Cor. 1:26). Jesus Christ himself said that it is nearly impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:23-27). In other words, not many wealthy people live in a state of humility and dependence on God. Not many wealthy people accept a life under God’s authority. It is not surprising that the Church of Laodicea was the most harshly criticized of the seven Churches of Revelation.
Jesus followed up by saying, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (Rev. 3:18). Jesus used markers of the Laodiceans’ prosperity like gold, textiles, and eye salve to show their true spiritual poverty. They needed spiritual wealth. True spiritual wealth is refined by testing. We are perfected in weakness and need. We must put on the spiritual life, which is not natural to us. In other words, we were not born with a spiritual life. We put on the spiritual life by drawing near to God, by learning the Word of God, and by overcoming adversity again and again. The shame of one’s nakedness is the lack of a spiritual life. Imagine your shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ when you realize that, although you were a Christian for many years, you actually had no spiritual life. You never advanced beyond spiritual infancy. Of course, if you had any self-awareness, it should have been apparent. Your irrational fear of death or inordinate anxiety or lack of self-control or stubbornness or lack of peace or anger or obsessiveness or unhappiness or selfishness or bitterness or envy or self-pity or self-righteousness or dishonesty or hatred or covetousness were all telltale signs of a failure to mature in your spiritual life. Instead, we should have a life characterized by faith, hope (confident anticipation) and love. Only God can give us eyes to see. The Spiritual Life is an eye salve.
Jesus then said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). If we stay faithful to God for many decades, we will undoubtedly be reproved and disciplined by God many times. Sometimes, it is very painful. Not only do we reap what we sow, we sometimes suffer to learn obedience and perseverance. We will never totally escape suffering. Every one of us will grow old, lose friends and family, and die. Life requires a type of perseverance that only God can teach. We must have a drive that only God can give. The Greek word metanoeo means “to change one’s mind.” It is often translated as “repent.” To have a strong drive to advance in the Spiritual Life, we must have a “change of mind.” We definitely cannot base our life on the lives of others. We must adjust our scale of values. Pleasing God must be our highest value.
Jesus then said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). This is not an invitation to someone who has never believed. This is an invitation to someone that already believed, and he or she is being encouraged to draw near to God. The picture of dining together is a picture of intimate and pleasant fellowship among friends and loved ones. To hear His voice, the hearer cannot be hard of heart. Such a believer must be humble and receptive to the movement of God. Then Jesus said, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21). God’s intent for mankind to rule and govern with Him dates back to the beginning (Gen. 1:28). Most Christians have been slow to see this promise and opportunity. To be an overcomer and victorious Christian, we must remain faithful until the end of our lives. As previously discussed, the Book of Revelation refers to these faithful believers as the 144,000, which is a symbolic number for the unique and special eschatological people of God. I believe that they will number into the millions. As will be discussed in future blogs, the 144,000 (the Fraternity of Faithful Believers) are the elect (meaning chosen from a large group of believers). The Greek word eklecktos means “chosen.” In my opinion, the “chosen” does not refer to everyone who ever believed, but instead, refers to the 144,000, the faithful. As Jesus said “For many are called [kletos], but few are chosen [eklektos]” (Matt. 22:14). This is a smaller group picked out from a larger group for special and unique blessings. The prayers of the elect will change history. The apostles chosen by Jesus were a shadow of this larger, chosen, and unique group of believers (Acts 1:2). These will be and already are the heirs of the Kingdom of God (Jas. 2:5). We will develop this idea in future blogs and podcasts.
Jesus closes His remarks to Laodicea by stating, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:22). The ministry of the Holy Spirit is indispensable to the spiritual life. Our ears must be open to God. We must maintain our humility. If we are not receptive to the Spirit, we are spiritually dead.
 “Laodicea.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman, vol. 4, K-N, Doubleday, 1992.
 “G281 – amēn – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G281&t=NASB>.
 “G4103 – pistos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4103&t=NASB>.
 “G3340 – metanoeō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3340&t=NASB>.
 “G1588 – eklektos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1588&t=NASB>.
 “G2822 – klētos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 2 Mar, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2822&t=NASB>.