To the Church in Laodicea
To the angel of the church of Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy form me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white robes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so you can see.
To those whom I live I rebuke and discipline. SO be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
~ Revelation 3:14-22
Now this letter, in contrast to the last, is very harsh in its words. We see that the people of this church see themselves as wealthy and in need of nothing. They are completely content with their lives that they have created for themselves. The city of Laodicea was the wealthiest city in Phrygia in its time, and it took great pride it the wealth it accrued through a flourishing banking, medical, and textile industry.
But the church in Laodicea was basically worthless. They are described as neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Many people will take this verse out of context and use it to mean that they are simply indifferent, that cold means a cold heart not open to the word of God, and hot would be a heart that is passionately seeking God. But if this were true, then why would Jesus wish that they were one or the other? If it were true, then lukewarm would be favorable to cold. And yet, it is not. What this verse really means is that lukewarm water is simply without use. Both hot water and cold water have their purposes: hot water is used for cooking and cleaning, cold water for drinking and for medicinal purposes. But lukewarm water is useful for neither. And so is the state with this church, it is not good for anything.
And Jesus knows that the spirituality of this church is pointless, and that they will not care about anything unless the consequences are very severe. He says he is about to spit them out, like he is absolutely disgusted with the church, and yet he follows this by telling the church why the consequence is so severe. HE does not rebuke the church so harshly because he wants them to be scared, but because he loves them and this is the only way that they will listen. Jesus also tells them what they must to in order to repent. They must buy gold refined in the fire, and white clothes, and salve for their eyes. While at first this seems like it is possible to buy one's salvation, it is meant to seem contradictory to the people. These people see themselves as rich, but they must acquire gold; they have expensive clothes, but they are told to cover up with nakedness and they think they know of this world but they are told that their perspective is warped and twisted, making them blind to those who are in need of the help of a church. They are not being told to buy gifts for themselves in heaven, but rather to exchange the things they have on this earth, that will be destroyed by rust and time, for things that will never be destroyed in heaven. They should want to abandon all the material things they take pride in and be given a new heart to want to serve God and man.
But notice, too, that while the reproof is very harsh, the reward is the most profound of all the letters. They are not being promised a unique gift from God, or even a place in heaven, but a seat on Jesus' throne. They are being promised a seat of the highest honor and the chance to sit and eat with Jesus. But it is also not something that is just given to them if they believe: these people must hear God's call in their life and answer that call. They must see their need for a savior and repent of their sinful ways, allowing themselves to be filled to overflowing with Jesus' love that they cannot help but share the Gospel with everyone they meet. They must be a completely changed person, no longer living for themselves, but living only for God. Once you have opened the door to let Jesus in, your eyes will be opened and you will see the need for others to find Jesus, and if you let your eyes be opened to this, then you will be given the highest seat of praise from God.