Exposition of Revelation: Revelation 3:14–19

Revelation 3:14–19
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,’ but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! 19 All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!’”
 (NET Bible)

The Church at Laodicea

Your wife wanted to paint the bedroom in earth tones and sent you to Lowe’s. Do you have any idea how many earth-tone paints there are at Lowe’s? Dozens, maybe hundreds, if you count mixing options. And don’t forget the drop cloth, brushes, and putty knife — each available in several types.

When you got home, you just wanted to watch a little TV and rest. But which of the six football games did you want to see? Or maybe seven hours of President’s Cup golf would be better.

Dreamer! You forgot your own daughter’s soccer game, which starts in twenty minutes!

So, when the Holy Spirit knocked at the door of your heart, it was just easier to wait for him to go away or get in line with all the other things. What is wrong with this picture?

The Laodiceans were also paralyzed because they could not make up their minds! In contrast to them, Jesus presented himself as the epitome of rock-solid reliability: “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation” (3:14).

But the people in the church at Laodicea were not committed to a new creation; they were quite happy with the current one (3:17). As a result, they had made no clear commitment to Christ and his kingdom, no clear break with the wealthy, corrupt culture in which they lived; their deeds were neither cold nor hot (3:15).

Relevant to the hot/cold metaphor used by Jesus is that fact that Laodicea had access only to a heavily mineralized water supply that tended to cause nausea. Nearby Hieropolis had a medicinal supply of hot water, and neighboring Colossae had pure, drinkable cold water. Laodicea had none of these benefits. Greg Beale says, “‘The effect of their conduct on Christ was like the effect of their own water’ — Christ wanted ‘to spew them out of his mouth.’”[1] [Spew is positive spin on the word; the Bible is sometimes more graphic than its translators can stomach.  :) ]

The church in Laodicea — like the city itself — was blinded by its own wealth. Craig Keener[2] says that Laodicea was a wealthy banking center, a source of great civic pride.

Before we consider Jesus’ words to this wealthy city, you should also know that Laodicea was famous for black wool and an eye salve made by a noted doctor who lived there. With all these things in mind, reread Jesus’ mocking words in Revelation 3:17–18 (see Scripture box above).

The people with the great eye doctor are blind! The city famous for black wool is naked! The wealthy bankers need to buy gold from Jesus to purchase white clothing and eye salve! The biting irony is only apparent when you know the city’s historical circumstances.

In spite of the sharp tone, Jesus intends to bring the Laodicean Christians close to him, and he calls on them first to repent and then to join him in fellowship symbolized by sharing a meal (3:19–20)

Beale[3] offers an insightful analysis of what it means to be one who conquers, a theme appearing in all seven messages to the churches. With unexpected irony, this overcoming depends on imitating Christ in his willing self-sacrifice on the cross. Jesus conquered through being obedient to the Father even to his death. Overcoming is to be understood primarily as persevering in faith and good works.

One choice matters the most!

Most Americans do not look upon themselves as wealthy, but many people on earth would find that view a bit silly. While we are deciding what to have for supper, millions are desperate for food. We are trying to decide when to go to bed, yet many know that malaria-bearing mosquitoes will be on them the moment their eyes close. But a malaria-ridden and hungry African who lives in obedience to Christ will conquer, and a wealthy American who focuses his life on how to enjoy his wealth will not.

Remember, the next distraction is just one telephone call, one trip to Lowe’s away. That could prove a very costly trip! Focus instead on Christ and his kingdom.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999) 253, quoting C.J. Hemer.

[2] Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 159-160.

[3] Beale, Revelation, 270-271.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!