The prosperity of Laodicea was a result of its favorable trading location in the Lycus valley. It was a rich and ostentatious city. Its strategic weakness was its water supply: from the hot springs of Hierapolis six miles away, the water was channeled into the city by a visible aqueduct. This meant that the city was vulnerable to an enemy siege. By the time the water arrived, it was lukewarm; this, of itself, was insignificant, but it illustrated the spiritual condition of the church. The manufacture of textiles used a special black wool from the local sheep. The city was also known for its medical facilities and the production of various ointments for ear and eye ailments. These features of the city are alluded to in the letter.
After the final address to “the angel,” Christ spoke of Himself in a threefold way. First, He is the Amen; all of God’s truth is perfectly seen and confirmed in Him. There is no truth outside of Him or beyond Him. Second, He is also the faithful and true witness to His Father; He declared, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Joh 14:9). The writer to the Hebrews described Christ as “the express image of his [the Father’s] person” (Heb 1:3). We tend to think of “Amen” as the closing word but, third, Christ is also “the beginning of the creation of God,” not in time, for He is eternal, but in rank and honor.
Christ knew the Laodicean believers through and through, and condemned them for their lukewarm character; by that, He meant their lack of zeal and commitment. They went through the motions of church activity but would have found enthusiasm an embarrassment. They were more comfortable with compromise and a studied neutrality in spiritual things. Had they been cold, Christ might have warmed them; had they been hot, He could have used them mightily in His service. As it was, He could only condemn them. It was not that they lacked ambition – many of them were successful business people – but their sole boast was of physical and material things. They were proud of their wealth and had become self-content, thinking that they needed nothing more.
The reality as revealed by Christ was quite different, indeed shocking! He saw them as spiritual paupers, completely blind to the things that really mattered, and naked of any redeeming graces. They were “the poor rich,” so poor because all they had was money. We would be hard-pressed to imagine someone like that – blind, naked, destitute.
The Laodiceans knew all about the value of material gold. Christ appealed to the church to value that which was more precious, by far, and worth paying for with their lives – the spiritual riches that are available to those who live wholeheartedly for Christ. Yes, there was a cost involved in terms of sacrificial living, but these riches would be eternal. They should clothe themselves with the enduring beauty of holiness in Christ-like service (Rev 19:8). They also needed His healing touch so that they would once again view life and eternity with a clarity of vision that had been hitherto lacking.
It was on account of His love and concern for them that Christ issued His rebuke and spoke of His chastening. He desired that they would regain their spiritual zeal by urgently making the necessary changes in their thinking and behavior. They had been excluding Him in their pride and self-sufficiency; He felt as one left outside. With patience and tenderness He still sought to bless them, but they must be willing to respond to His “knocking” and make room for Him again. The overcomer was promised a place of honor by His side upon the throne, sharing in His glory and rule.
An Application for Today
Christ does not feel welcome when a church becomes careless and carnal. It is sadder still that some members may not miss Him; “We have all we need” is their boast. The danger is that materialism can eat away at the very heart of our spiritual lives and impoverish us, no matter how much money and how many things we might have. Paradoxically, some of the poorest saints are the kindest and know what it is to give sacrificially, just like the Macedonians. They were afflicted and poor but by the grace of God they were known as those who were joyful and generous (2Co 8:2). Such saints, “the rich poor” of this world, are both spiritually wealthy and adorned with the beauty of Christ. They live with an eye on the future and eternity.
Our brief studies have reminded us not only of our individual responsibilities but also of our corporate responsibilities in the local church. Wholehearted devotion, diligence in service, patience in suffering, faithfulness in doctrine, and holiness in behavior are always in vogue as far as the Lord is concerned. All of these virtues honor Him. However, to be loveless, lifeless or careless is a serious defect that the Lord cannot overlook. Similarly, worldliness and uncleanness are inexcusable blemishes when it comes to the life of any individual or the testimony of any assembly of believers.
These letters to seven churches in Asia complement the New Testament epistles to other churches. As mentioned at the beginning of these studies, there are no perfect assemblies of Christians. However, Christ not only encourages His people but shows that He Himself is the answer to their every need. It is when we begin to drift away from Him and allow other things to come between that we can suffer great spiritual loss. All of us must be brutally honest with ourselves and take stock. We then need to be bold to make the changes that are necessary, so that we begin again to move forward in humility and dependence upon Him alone.
When love is rekindled and truth is reclaimed, the floodgates of blessing are opened. Whatever your present spiritual condition, or the condition of the assembly of which you are a part, seek to fill your heart with Christ and His love, fill your mind with His Word, and fill your hands with His work, and He will fill your life with blessedness and fruitfulness. Better still, He will share His heavenly glory with you when you see Him for the first time, face to face, and hear Him say, “Well done!” You shall be with Him at last and be like Him forever.
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.