“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)
Laodicea was a prosperous city in Asia Minor, now modern day Turkey. The city had an important black wool trade along with other businesses that frequently transacted larges amounts of money. It was about 12 miles west of Colossae and 5 miles south of Hierapolis. It was founded over three hundred years previously by Antiochus II Theos in 261-253 BC. The people of the city were hard working, self reliant, and were very successful on their own. This is evident because in 60 AD Laodicea was completely destroyed by a strong earthquake. Tacitus reports in his history how Laodicea refused aide from the Romans to rebuild and rebuilt their city entirely by their own means. The people worked hard, prospered, and were not dependent on anyone. The city was not only known for its businesses, but it was also a cultural, scientific and sports center. It has temples, theaters, and a stadium. It also had an aqueduct, which carried water from hot mineral springs five miles south of the city. The disadvantage was that the water tasted tepid, unlike to hot springs of nearby Hierapolis, or the clear cold water of Colossae. Laodicea had a renowned medical academy and had many well known doctors, including an ophthalmologist. The church in Laodicea was a microcosm of the city. The members were wealthy, prosperous, and able contributers to the city's economy and life.
As Christ looks at this prosperous city and church, what does he see? The description of Laodicea is ironic. Physically it is prosperous, energetic, builds great wealth. Spiritually it is poor. The church is neither energetically for Christ nor against Christ. They are as bland as their tepid water. Economically they are rich, but spiritually they are poor and wretched. They do not energetically store up their heavenly treasures. While their knowledge of medicine is great and they are famed for they knowledge of eyes, they are blind.
It is interesting how Christ describes himself to this church. This gives us a clue where the Laodicean church is lacking. Christ calls himself the "amen," "the faithful and true witness," and "the beginning of God's creation." In other words, Christ's words are absolutely true, unchanging, throughout all of time from the beginning to the end. The unstated contrast is that the Laodicean church does not unflinchingly hold to the truth and to Christ.
But the church is not lost. Christ tells them how to find their way. They need to buy their gold from Christ along with his white garments. The white garments are the garments made by Christ's death pays and covers the nakedness of their own unrighteousness. The gold is the Christ's righteousness that is given to the believer who has nothing to offer for her or himself.
How do you get these garments and gold? The very fact that Christ is reproving them is evidence that he loves them and has not given up on them. They are to listen to his knocking and open their life to Christ and he will dine with them. Eating and feasting is a happy activity where they will share in the delights of knowing Christ that they will experience by opening their lives to Christ. Those that dine with Christ will be the ones who conquer. They will sit with Christ and the Father at the thrown of grace. But note, they will conquer as Christ conquered. Christ conquered through perseverance and through death. This is not a conquering the world generally expects. It is, in many respects, and ironic conquering -- losing their life to find it.
I live in a wealthy part of my city, state, country and world. In fact, most who are reading this blog have the material wealth that resulted in the education and access to technology to read this blog. For each of us, it is tempting to build upon our wealth, either in things, such as houses, cars, household goods, media, etc. We are the envy of most of the world that is materially impoverished. We are the envy of kings in centuries past by the comforts and plenty we have at our disposal. Yet are we truly spiritually rich? Are you dining with Christ, intimately and faithfully sharing your life with him? Are you conquering through self denial and ready to die for Christ and his people? If not, listen to Christ's knocking at your life. If Christ is reproving you for your life and you hear his knocking, know that Christ's discipline of you is evidence of his deep and tender love for you. Open your life to him and dine with him. He will give you the white garment that covers your sinful, naked life, and gold you'll be able to store in heaven.
Take time to read about the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3. These also give insight