Summary: A continuation of the bible study on the seven churches. Laodicea has become synonymous with being lukewarm. Not only was this church the last in the Revelation churches but it was the worst of the churches.
The Lukewarm Church of Laodicea
Introduction: There are more than a few scholars who view the seven churches in Revelation as representative of “church ages”. They believe each individual church represents a certain era in history leading up to the rapture of the church. If they are right, then Laodicea would represent the last day church age and many Christians, including myself, believe that we are living in it.
Laodicea wasn’t just the last of the seven churches, it was the worst of the seven churches. Christ is gracious to consider them a church at all, they might as well have been a community center for all the good it did them. Yet they were proud of themselves, which made their lukewarm condition all the more repulsive.
The lukewarm Laodicea church was the opposite of Philadelphia. There was nothing to condemn in Philadelphia and there is nothing to commend in Laodicea. There is nothing bad ever said about Philadelphia and there is nothing good said about Laodicea. When the good was there even in the worst of the churches, Jesus found it and commended them for it. But when it is nowhere to be found, He won’t flatter them in their sins for the sake of kindness.
He introduces his letter “these are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler (beginning) of God’s creation.” v.14 The word ‘Amen’ in the Greek means “so be it” or ‘surely’ or ‘truly’. This speaks to his holiness and his absolute unequivocal truth. There is a sense of finality to this word, just like Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; the BEGINNING and the end. He is going to give the truth, because He is the truth and there is no other truth but HIM! He is worthy to be trusted because he existed before the beginning of creation and He is the Lord of it. Which qualifies him to say what he is about to say to his church in Laodicea.
Transition: He gives them four things to consider: a diagnosis, a deception, a cure, and hope. First Jesus offers a simple and blunt diagnosis of the church in Laodicea
I. A Diagnosis of the lukewarm church (v.15,16)
“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” v. 15,16
Jesus lets them know that he knows their deeds better than they do and since it is his church, he offers the most honest and truthful diagnosis of it. It is possible that in the process of time this church degenerated from being “on fire for God” to becoming warm and eventually lukewarm and became most comfortable with that temperature because it was the most agreeable to the world and required the least amount of effort. It would have been better if they had back slid out of the church than to be lukewarm and still staying in it, because they might be convicted to return and rekindle the fire they lost. But they were content and happy being mediocre. Matthew Henry said “If religion is worth anything, it is worth everything.” The Lord would rather have you either be intensely for him or be intensely against him.
It’s interesting that the city of Laodicea sat between Colossae, just 10 miles southeast, and Hierapolis which was 6 miles north of it. Hierapolis was famous for their hot springs. The springs were therapeutic for healing and relaxing and are still used today. And Colossae had a mountain stream that always provided cold water, even in the heat of the summer like the Barren fork river, it was always cold. Laodicea had long aqueducts made of terracotta that brought their water to them and when it reached the city, it was dirty and lukewarm. It was neither hot for healing nor cold for refreshment – it was lukewarm, if you drank it, it would turn your stomach and make you vomit. We read in these churches how some churches made the Lord angry, some make him weep, but this one made him sick.
They were neither hot nor cold. They were not atheists, but they were not committed Christians; they were not immoral, but they were not zealous for God; they were not cold like hard hearted unbelievers, but they were not hot in their passion for Christ. They are not so cold that they would deny Christ but they are not so hot to advance his cause. They weren’t opposed to the gospel, but they never would defend it either. They were what the world would call ‘moderates’ they wanted to be respectable, but not seen as fanatical. They love the mainstream and the best of all worlds. They want the praise of both the church and the world at the same time. They do all they can to be seen as religious, but will also do all they can to avoid being insulted for it.