Verse of the Day Devotion: Revelation 3:14
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:” – Revelation 3:14
Over seven days, I will be looking at what John wrote, by the inspiration of God, to the seven major churches in Asia Minor. In these seven letters, God gives a message that is specific to each and speaks of issues that could fit the Churches throughout history. It is important to look at these and examine our church and ultimately ourselves to see where we stand regarding these.
Now Jesus writes to the last Church in this list, the Church of Laodicea. Laodicea was in the Lycus Valley about sixty miles southeast of Philadelphia and a hundred miles west of Ephesus. It was situated where a major east-west route from Ephesus intersected other roads going north to Philadelphia and Sardis and south to the Mediterranean coast. Founded by the Seleucids in the mid-third century B.C. on the site of older settlements, it came under the control of Pergamum in 188 BCE and then Rome after 133 BCE. Laodicea was home to Greeks and Roman businesspeople. Like many of the cities in in this list, it was an administrative center where court cases were heard during the Roman period. The city’s relations with Rome were strong. Laodicea competed for the honor of building a provincial temple to the emperor Tiberius in 23 A.D., although permission was given to Smyrna. In 79 A.D. a statue at Laodicea honored Titus as “son of god,” since he was the son of the deified Vespasian. Laodicea was formerly called Diospolis, or “city of Zeus.” In Roman times there was a statue and altar to Zeus, who was often called the Savior, along with other dedications to Zeus and sometimes Hermes his messenger. A coin from the city shows Domitian on one side and Zeus on the other.
In our focus verse, we read the introduction to this letter. “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:” Revelation 3:14. In this verse, AMEN is a title referring to ‘the faithful one’. It also refers to Christ as “the beginning of the creation of God.”. This is reiterated by John in his gospel when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:1-3. Then, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” John 1:10. And finally, the person is alluded to in verse 14 as Jesus. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
Then, He states the issue He has with them. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16. Notice that both cold and hot are understood as being positive states, in comparison to tepidness, or being lukewarm. Theologian Craig Koester puts it like this. “The message addresses readers whose wealth made them comfortable, and the writer turns images of wealth into a critique that is designed to make them uncomfortable. Banquets were occasions for displaying wealth, when people would be served fine foods with chilled or heated wine. To challenge them, the message invokes the banquet images of hot, cold, and tepid to critique the congregation’s complacency before the risen Christ and to call for the repentance that will allow him to eat with them in true friendship.”
The Laodiceans became complacent in their faith, and Jesus would rather them passionate. The Lord is describing the “lukewarm” heart attitude of those in the Laodicean church, an attitude manifested by their deeds. The Laodiceans were neither cold nor hot in relation to God, just lukewarm. Hot water can cleanse and purify; cold water can refresh and enliven. But lukewarm water carries no similar value. The Laodiceans understood the Lord’s analogy because their city drinking water came over an aqueduct from a spring six miles to the south, and it arrived disgustingly lukewarm. Laodicean water was not hot like the nearby hot springs that people bathed in, nor was it refreshingly cold for drinking. It was lukewarm, good for nothing. In fact, it was nauseating, and that was the Lord’s response to the Laodiceans—they sickened Him, and He said, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth. This is essentially what Jesus is saying to them. You do not care about your faith. There are many that witness to people to be saved by helping them understand the truth or point out errors within their brothers and sisters; getting them to repent (Hot). Then there are those who encourage believers in their faith, building them up to be stronger and more perseverant (Cold). They did neither of these, for they were more attached to their wealth, and along with their ‘semblance’ of true religion, led them to a false sense of security and independence. They cared more about their wealth than their faith.
He finishes this idea with, “Because you say, I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Revelation 3:17. Jesus has no good words for them. He says they are wretched and miserable people, and that they are not all that rich or wise, but poor. Blind and naked. They had nothing going for them that was useful in the kingdom of God. This is harsh, but it seems this Church was more interested in physical wealth that spiritual passion. Then He tells them to repent. “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. “ Revelation 3:18. He is calling on them to give up their love for earthly riches and replace them with spiritual riches. Then they will wear the white robes promised to all believers so that their nakedness will not be seen, and they can begin to see more clearly, as one who applies medicine to their weak eyes can regain their sight. He then closes this section out by declaring that He loves them, for He would not have reproved or disciplined them if He had not. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.” Revelation 3:19.
He then closes this out with a positive ending. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:20-21. He is calling them to come to Him, give themselves to Him, repent and relinquish their love for physical wealth, looking for spiritual, never ending wealth. Jesus is saying that His authority is extended to His followers, “as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21:b.
The Laodiceans enjoyed material prosperity that, coupled with a semblance of true religion, led them to a false sense of security and independence. The expression “I am rich; I have acquired wealth” stresses that the wealth attained came through self-exertion. Spiritually, they had great needs. A self-sufficient attitude and lukewarm faith are constant dangers when people live lives of ease and prosperity. In summary, the church at Laodicea had become apathetic in their love for Christ. They were allowing “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things [to] come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Christ called them to repent and live zealously for Him. “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15. The Lord Jesus called the Church in Laodicea to choose who they will serve, Him or wealth. And the same call is made to those who say they follow Him today.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.