The seventh and final letter in Revelation 2-3 is addressed to the church in Laodicea:
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would 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. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:14-22 ESV)
I think its possible to learn something from the text of this letter without knowing anything about the aqueducts leading into the city of Laodicea. Unlike the church in Philadelphia which Jesus had nothing to say against, it seems that Jesus has everything against the church in Laodicea.
What does Jesus say about the church in Laodicea? 1) He knows their works. 2) He knows that they are “neither hot nor cold”. 3) He knows that they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
This is all negative. The church in Laodicea has deceived themselves into believing that they are prosperous, while in fact they are just the opposite. Apparently, they are not measuring themselves in the same way that Jesus measures them. They are using the wrong comparison, perhaps comparing themselves to the people of their culture instead of comparing themselves to Jesus Christ himself. More than that, they seem to think that they are independent, not needing anyone or anything outside themselves.
What does Jesus have against the church in Laodicea? While Jesus does not mention anything specific that he has “against” the church in Laodicea, everything in this letter is negative. It seems that Jesus has everything against these people.
Furthermore, for the first time, Jesus mentions that he reproves and disciplines those that he loves – suggesting that this includes the church in Laodicea. This is a warning, but also offers hope. Yes, Jesus is going to discipline his followers in Laodicea in order to teach them to trust him alone. But, more than that, he continues to love them in spite of their faithlessness.
What is Jesus’ remedy? 1) They are to be zealous (eager or earnest). 2) They are to repent.
Jesus wants the church in Laodicea to be zealous or eager. This probably explains why they are “neither hot nor cold” – they are not zealous. In this letter, Jesus tells them some of the ways in which they need to repent – to change their minds and their lives. Primarily, he says that they are to come to Jesus for their gold, garments, and ointment – those things that they Laodiceans consider to be important. In other words, anything that is important comes from Jesus.
This letter helps us see what is important to Jesus and what is not important to Jesus. What is important to Jesus? Faith in him and reliance on him. What is not important to Jesus? Wealth, fine clothes, etc. These things may be important to the culture, but if we define ourselves by these and depend upon our ability to create our own riches, then we are walking away from our trust in Jesus. Only he can supply what we truly need.