Summary: 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.
Reading Rev 3:14-22
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea
The postman has reached his final destination.
This is the last of the 7 churches written about in the Book of Revelation. The city of Laodicea was located roughly 45 miles south of Philadelphia. It occupied an almost square plateau several hundred feet high, about 2 miles south of the Meander River in the Lycus valley..
Antiochus II founded the city in the middle of the 3rd Century BC and named it after his wife Laodice. The city was a prosperous centre of banking and commerce. It was famous for clothing made from the wool of black sheep, and for a popular eye ointment produced by its medical school.
The city was so well-off that, unlike Philadelphia, it was rebuilt after the earthquake of AD 17 without any financial assistance from Rome.
In spite of its prosperity, the city had a major strategic weakness - the lack of an adequate and convenient water source. Water had to be piped in using an aqueduct from springs 6 miles away. An enemy could easily cut off the water supply, leaving the city helpless.
This letter to the Laodicean church contains Jesus’ harshest appraisal. He says nothing good, no commendations. Jesus begins by identifying Himself in vs 14 as the "Amen", a divine title used by the prophet Isaiah, who speaks of "the God of Amen".
The Amplified Bible puts it this way
So it shall be that he who invokes a blessing on himself in the land shall do so by saying, May the God of truth and fidelity, the Amen, bless me; and he who takes an oath in the land shall swear by the God of truth and faithfulness to His promises [the Amen] Isaiah 65:16
This word we use so often in worship is an acknowledgment of that which is true and valid. It literally means “I agree”.The faithfulness of Christ is seen in sharp contrast to the half-heartedness of the Laodicean church. They were blasé, indifferent to the Truth.
In vss 15-16 Jesus tells this church, in a manner they could easily understand, that they were neither hot nor cold, but
They were just lukewarm.
North of Laodicea was Hierapolis, which means Holy City and was famous for its hot mineral springs, a popular place to bathe for health reasons (like a spa). South of Laodicea was Colossae, known for its pure, cold mineral waters which were refreshing to drink.
In the middle was Laodicea.
By the time fresh water arrived from six miles away by aqueduct to Laodicea it was lukewarm. Hot and cold water were useful; lukewarm water wasn’t particularly good for anything. Sometimes we think of something hot as passionate and something cold as indifferent - but not in this context.
Christ tells the church, "I know your deeds-you are neither hot or cold; I wish you were one or the other!"
The church’s lack of devotion was distasteful to the Lord. It had become useless, bland, and repellent to Christ. The consequence of complacency is found in vs 16, "I am about to spit you out of My mouth."
Jesus is disgusted with nominal, half-hearted commitment. The church that ceases to actively serve God ceases to be a church. Laodicea was a Christian church in name only. Jesus’ advice in vss 17-18 reveals that this congregation was unaware of its true condition.
Satan’s most effective weapon is to give people a comfortable, prosperous life. If you have no needs you may well not need God either. But our true wealth isn’t measured by how well the economy’s doing. Laodicea was "caught up" in the whole success fantasy, the idea that material prosperity is an indication of spiritual prosperity. They were so well off and self-sufficient that they thought they didn’t need God. Being wealthy isn’t necessarily a blessing.
Many churches today preach a ‘prosperity gospel’. This basically means that if you are rich and healthy it is because you are spiritual. On the other hand if you are poor and unhealthy it is because you don’t have enough faith.
The "gold refined in fire" refers to spiritual riches that have been tested and found to be genuine. Our true wealth is found in Christ.
The "white clothes" mentioned are to cover spiritual nakedness. Like Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, these affluent, well-dressed believers were actually spiritually exposed.
Their sense of spirituality was an illusion. Laodicea’s woollen textile industry couldn’t provide garments of righteousness.
The cause of these problems was spiritual blindness, and so Jesus suggests, a bit tongue-in-cheek perhaps, that they use some of their own local eye ointment to enable them see the truth.
The church was penniless despite their bank accounts, it was naked despite their textile industry, and it was blind despite their eye medicine. They could manage without an Roman subsidy, but no one can manage without the grace of God.