To the Church in Laodicea
to the angel of the church in Laodicea, write this:
‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation says this: “I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. for you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. I will give the victor right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne.’
“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The church in Laodicea (3:14–22) was closely related to its sister church in Colossae and Hierapolis . Its spiritual condition was lukewarm—neither hot nor cold. Six miles north of the city were the thermal springs (not drinkable) at Hierapolis, whose white calcareous cliffs were visible in the distance.
To obtain drinking water, the Romans built an aqueduct that ran five miles south to an abundant spring (now in Denizli). The cool spring water would become lukewarm as it passed through the aqueducts into the city. The city was strategically located for trade and commerce, and became a leading banking center. It had accepted aid from Rome following earlier earthquakes.
However, after the earthquake in 60 that devastated many Asian cities, only Laodicea refused to accept Roman financial assistance because she was so wealthy. This attitude of material self-satisfaction, “I am rich,” had seemingly entered the church also. The church’s spiritual blindness was ironic because a famous salve for treating eye disease was produced by the medical school there.
The exhortation to buy white garments to cover their shameful nakedness is another example of irony. For the believers were living in a city where the Romans had established textile factories to manufacture clothing from the famous black wool of the region. Laodicea was a “throne city” because a citizen Zeno became king of Cilicia in 39 B.C. and of Pontus in 36.
His family continued to rule in some measure in Anatolia over the next century. The Zenoid family figures prominently on the Laodicea ‘s coinage. Again the victors are promised that they will sit with Jesus on his heavenly throne.