Why should we care about the message to the Laodiceans?
What is the message to the Laodiceans and why is it important for us?
I would suggest that the message to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14-22 is particularly important because, being the last of the seven churches, it is Christ’s last message to His church before His return. He also has a message to the world (Rev. 14:6-12), but this one is for the church. I can point only to some of the key elements of the message.
1. THE SELF-PERCEPTION OF THE CHURCH
Jesus uses the metaphor of water temperature to interpret the condition of the Laodiceans: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot” (Rev. 3:15, NIV). Jesus knows because He watched their behavior, and behavior reveals character. Hot and cold water are the two extremes of temperature, and both are undesirable. Who wants to take a shower with or a sip of boiling water or ice-cold water? Yet Jesus says, “I wish you were either one or the other” (verse 15, NIV). If they were hot or cold, they would immediately realize the undesirability of their condition and would look for something better. But they are in a state of self-complacency. They see themselves as rich and having no need; they are self-sufficient. This is the risky state of lukewarmness that may result in vomiting. The Laodiceans seem to have good convictions, but these are not part of their lives—their works do not correspond to their beliefs.
2. JESUS’ PERCEPTION OF THE CHURCH
After declaring the Laodiceans lukewarm, Jesus now explains what He means. They are wretched (a psychological miserable condition of unhappiness; see Rom. 7:24); pitiful (a mental pathetic condition); poor (so poor that they are beggars, depending on others); blind (they don’t see their true spiritual condition; they have drifted away from Christ; see 2 Peter 1:5-9); and naked (they are in the state of Adam and Eve, separated from the Lord, seeking to preserve themselves through their own works; Gen. 3:7). In the list of problems, nakedness is last, to emphasize its importance and to suggest that it lies at the center of the problem. Jesus is about to reject them as His people (i.e., to “vomit” them out).
3. THE SOLUTION OFFERED BY JESUS
Out of His great love the Lord calls the Laodiceans to deal with their condition (Rev. 3:18). The solution is to buy from Him (not literally, for they are poor and miserable), in the sense of appropriating by faith what He offers (Isa. 55:1, 2). He offers them gold of high quality to become rich—immovable faith in Him (1 Peter 1:7); white clothing, to cover their nakedness—Christ’s justifying grace made available through the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14); and eye salve to heal their blindness—the gift and work of the Spirit that will open their spiritual eyes to see Jesus as Savior and Lord (cf. Eph. 1:17, 18).
The message is a call for the church to repent—to turn back to Christ in faith and love (Rev. 3:19) and allow Him to come into their lives to sanctify them (verse 20). Did the church respond to Jesus? The remnant of Laodicea has listened to the message and is described as dressed in white robes. A segment of Laodicea, called Babylon, claims to be rich and wears its own costly clothing. At the judgment they will realize too late that they are naked and poor (Rev. 18:14; 17:16). Concerning God’s people John says, “I looked, and there . . . was a great multitude . . . standing before the throne and before the Lamb. . . . They were wearing white robes” (Rev. 7:9, NIV). They are covered by the free gift of justification by faith that leads to a holy life.