Lessons From the Churches of Revelation: Laodicea

Do you care for what is written in this article? If I wrote and said that baptism is not essential for salvation, would it matter to you? It would not have mattered to the church in Laodicea based upon what we know of them in Revelation 3:14-22. During the time of the Roman Empire, Laodicea became a major trading center, and as a result grew immensely in wealth and power. Because of this, those who lived in the city grew content and drew happiness from the pleasantries of the city. Unfortunately, the church in this city was also vulnerable to the temptations of the city.

When Jesus addresses the church of Laodicea, this is the only one that He has no good qualities to praise. On the other hand, He only warns them of their wicked ways, and of the judgment against them if they choose not to repent. Jesus even expresses how sickening it is to see how they act. He tells them, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (vv. 15-16). The Christians in the city exemplify what Paul is talking about in Romans 6:16: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” The church in Laodicea believed they could have the best of both worlds. They wanted the salvation of Christ, but they also wanted the freedom to enjoy the vanity of the world. They prided themselves in the physical wealth they had, but they forgot about their spiritual wealth. Jesus calls them out and says, “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

After Jesus tells them of their spiritual poverty, He advises that they repent. He even does so while calling out the goods the city prided themselves on. He says they should buy gold refined in fire that they be made rich just as the city prided themselves in their wealth; He tells them to be clothed in white garments just as the city valued their fine expensive wool; He tells them to put on salve to heal their eyes just as the city prided themselves in the incredible miracle salve they created. In doing this, Jesus shows that what He offers them is greater than anything the city has to offer. Finally, Jesus shows that He has no pleasure in correcting them, but by rebuking and chastening them, He shows how much love He has for them. He wishes they would just decide to either be hot or cold, but He greatly desires that they make the right decision in being hot, or, “be zealous and repent” (v. 19).

Therefore, are you hot or cold? Am I hot or cold? Or are we somewhere in the middle, in other words, lukewarm? Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” If I am lukewarm, that is very displeasing to God — even revolting. He would rather I be hot or cold, to make up my mind whether if I will be devoted to Him or not, just so it will be clear. However, He still wishes and pleads that we will make the right decision in devoting our life to Him, so that He can have fellowship with us and that we may have salvation. It’s important that we care and take spiritual matters seriously, and not be ensnared by the pleasures of this world. Otherwise, we squander all the blessings that we have been bestowed with.

Oren Caskey