Background

  • Laodicea was situated in the Lycos Valley in the province of Phrygia and was founded by Antiochus II (261–246BC) of Syria, who named it for his wife Laodike, and who populated it with Syrians and Jews who were transplanted from Babylonia.
  • The ruins of the city show it to have been very large, situated in a volcanic region upon seven hills. It became a great and wealthy centre of industry, famous especially for the fine black wool of its sheep and for the Phrygian eye powder which was manufactured there.
  • Laodicea lacked a sufficient and permanent supply of good water. Water had to be piped in from the soda-laden hot springs at Hierapolis (6 miles to the south) and arrived via an aqueduct, lukewarm, possessing emetic qualities (i.e. qualities that induce vomiting).
  • Laodicea often suffered from earthquakes. It was completely destroyed when an earthquake occurred during the reign of Emperor Nero. The inhabitants were so wealthy that they declined Roman assistance to rebuild the city and instead opted to quickly rebuild it at their own expense.
  • No good thing was said of this ecclesia and it represents an ecclesia in the fullness of its apostacy, sitting upon seven hills. Because of its spiritual misery, poverty, blindness, and nakedness, it was reduced to utter desolation and irrecoverable ruin.

Exposition

3:14 These things saith the Amen: Jesus Christ is the individual Amen who had been dead and is now living for evermore (1:18). All the promises of God are established in Jesus Christ, the Amen (2 Cor 1:19-20). They will one day be faithfully fulfilled. The full development of God manifestation, all the Sons of God, is fulfilled in, by, and through Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Rom 8:19).

the faithful and true witness: Jesus Christ witnessed to Pilate, to Caiaphas, and to the people that he was the Anointed One, the Son of God, the witness to the truth (John 18:37; Matt 26:64). His contemporaries rejected him as a false witness (John 3:32). Title is drawn from Isaiah 55:4.

the beginning: Gk arche = chief, principal part.

of the creation of God: Jesus Christ is the first and principal element of a new creation (Col 1:15-19). Saints need to be renewed within to become part of that work (Col 3:10).

3:15 I know thy works: Laodicea was perfectly self-satisfied, delighting in things that perish, rich in the wealth of the world and high in favour with the ruling powers.

that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot: Hierapolis had famous hot springs. Cold mountain water came from Colossae. Both were piped into Laodicea but by the time they arrived they were tepid and lukewarm. He wanted them to be either cold and refreshing (Prov 25:13) or hot and fervent (Acts 18:25). Apathy is condemned (cp Zeph 1:12).

3:16 I will (Gk mello – “am about to”) spue thee out of my mouth: Jesus Christ contemplated them with nausea and disgust. Their lukewarm condition left them ignorant of their true condition. The figure is based on Leviticus 18:25 (the land vomiting out the wicked inhabitants of Canaan) and Job 20:12-15 (the wicked eating sweet things and vomiting them up).

3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: Here was a proud declaration, made without any embarrassment. Danger of wealth without faith (1 Tim 6:5-10; 17-18; Luke 12:15-21). They were self-satisfied, complacent and indifferent.

and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: A similar term is linked with Christ’s message to the ecclesias existing at his return (Rev 16:15).

3:18 I counsel thee: The Lord sought their welfare (cp Prov 19:20).

to buy of me gold tried in the fire that thou mayest be rich: A true faith comes from contending for the faith and striving against sin (1 Pet 1:7; Rom 5:3-5).

white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed: 3:4-5 – robe of righteousness (Isa 61:10; Rev 19:8)

anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see: they had to open the eyes of their understanding through the power of the Word (Eph 1:18).

3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke (Gk elegcho – “strongly admonish”) and chasten (Gk paideuo – “chastise with blows, as a parent with a child”): Trial and chastening is an expression of Christ’s love! (Prov 3:11-12; Heb 12:6-11).

Be zealous therefore, and repent: ‘zealous’ is akin to ‘zestos’ rendered “hot” in v16. The Spirit urged the Laodiceans to heat up their ardour for the truth and repent; change their thinking.

3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock: Gk kuruo – implies an urgent rapping. The door is referring to their collective ears (Acts 19:10; Matt 7:7-8). Allusion to Song 5:2.

If any man hear my voice: Call of the shepherd (John 10:16,27).

and open the door, I will come in to him: For Christ to enter in and dwell within us we must take to heart his words and abide in him (John 14:23).

and will sup with him and he with me: He offers the closest fellowship.

3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne: cp Rev 5:10, Luke 22:29-30. Those who become victors over the seductions of the Laodicean apostacy and apathy will reign in glory and majesty. Who then will hearken to what the Spirit saith to the ecclesias?