The last church that Jesus addresses in His revelation to John is the Church at Laodicea. This admonition contains two of the most well known teachings of Scripture, both of which are regularly misunderstood.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 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, 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. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
– Rev 3.14-22
Jesus, as He has with all six of the other Churches, defines Himself according to the coming warning. He is “the Amen”, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. Amen literally translates as, “So be it”, but when it begins a phrase it is usually found in Scripture translated as, “Truly” or “verily”. He is the Truth and the fulfillment of the will of God, the witness who is never quieted – regardless of His circumstances, and because of His faithfulness is the first born of all creation, and in particular the first raised to new life of the new creation.
This is in stark contrast to the complacent Church who is neither hot nor cold. Some have wondered if being hot implies a fervor for God and being cold is the extreme opposite. But we know from all of Scripture that God pours out His wrath on sinners who do not repent. Therefore, we must conclude that both hot and cold are desirable. It has been suggested that the analogy lies in the geographical reality of the Church: a city nearby, Hieropolis, contained hot springs from which Laodicea built aqueducts to transport water – which would grow tepid by its arrival to the city, and also nearby Colossae had the pure cold water. The analogy is simple, they are – by their deeds – lukewarm water: undesirable and useless.
Notice that Jesus is pointing out specifically their deeds, and not their heart. They are complacent, they are self-sufficient, and they are doing nothing of value or service to God. They have become wealthy and comfortable and are not relying on God, and doing nothing to His glory or service. Jesus describes their Spiritual state as ” wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked”. In essence this Church has accepted Jesus to take care of their eternity and are comfortable taking care of their own livelihoods on Earth. Sound familiar? But when we strive to live our lives in our own strength and without Jesus, we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. And we have no expectation of hope in the end.
Jesus implores them to turn to Him; to buy gold refined by fire, Spiritual gold, to become Spiritually rich, so that they can be clothed Spiritually in white garments which are free from sin and blemish, washed clean by His blood. And Jesus will anoint their Spiritual eyes so that they can see their Spiritual state and the things which have true, eternal value. He is chastising them out of love, because “Those whom [He] love[s], [He] reprove[s] and discipline[s]”.
This is of utmost importance: Jesus is addressing a church. Remember the Parable of the Soils we looked at when studying the letter to the Church at Sardis? The seed of the Gospel has fallen on the Church at Laodicea, and there has been some measure of response, some life. Jesus, therefore, is stepping in and helping them remove the stones that are blocking their Spiritual depth: wealth and comfort. If they do not repent, they will shrivel up and die. But they are alive and Jesus loves them and is calling them to repent, become zealous for Him – to follow His example of being a faithful and true witness. He is standing at the door of their hearts knocking, admonishing them to repent. Jesus is not standing at the door of every heart knocking, we know that there are some who were created as vessels of wrath (Rom 9), and we know that there are some with whom Jesus already resides (the Church at Philadelphia). Jesus stands at the door of sinning believers who have tasted of the Heavenly gift, calling them to repentance. And he who opens the door, he who turns from his lukewarm ways,
“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.”
Do you want to reside with Jesus? Do you want to be one with Him as He is one with the Father? Do you want to rule with Him throughout all of eternity? We must turn to Him, rely on Him, obey and serve Him faithfully here on the Earth. The Church at Laodicea sounds to me like the American Church. Very few of us are concerned about our next meal. We have electricity, we have a roof, we have transportation, and we are struggling for very little. Therefore we are complacent, we are not zealous, and our deeds are lukewarm. Let us heed the warning of Jesus, to focus on eternal rewards, on eternal wealth, and exhausting our resources on the kingdom of Heaven. Let us be zealous for Jesus and His return. Otherwise, we may find ourselves being spewn from His mouth.