As in all the previous letters, our Lord introduces Himself in this letter in words that have deep significance. In His opening lines, the Lord gives the Laodicean believers the key to what they need.
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3:14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation."
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The first noteworthy thing the Lord says is that He is the "Amen." This is a familiar word to all Christians, though perhaps it is not so familiar in this particular usage. We are used to hearing or saying Amen at the close of a prayer or when we want to express our agreement with a meaningful statement. It is a word that means "so be it" or "truly."

"Amen" is a word that Jesus used frequently, although we may not be aware of this fact from reading English translations of the four Gospels. If you read through the words of Jesus you will frequently encounter the phrase, "I tell you the truth." Or, if you are more familiar with the King James Version, you find, "Verily, verily, I say unto you." In the original language of the New Testament, what Jesus says is, "Amen, amen, I say unto you." He used this phrase to underscore to His listeners that what He was about to say was extremely important and utterly true. He always highlighted significant truths this way. So when you encounter this phrase in the conversations and discourses of Jesus pay close attention to the important truth He is sharing.

"Amen" is the last word, the mark of trustworthiness, the imprimatur of truth. So it is only fitting that this word applies to Jesus, who is the final Word and who is the embodiment of truth. The book of Hebrews begins by declaring, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." The word of Jesus is the last word, the reliable truth, the Amen. Anyone who would claim to give revelation beyond the word Jesus has already given is not giving us a new truth but is departing from the final truth, the Amen, that has been spoken to us in the person of Jesus Christ.



Second, the Lord calls Himself "the faithful and true witness." He has emphasized His truthfulness in previous letters, but here He adds the word "faithful" to stress the fact that He not only tells the truth, but He tells the hard truth. He faithfully, plainly, clearly reveals to the church everything that the church needs to understand. Because of the confrontational nature of this letter, the Lord wants the Laodicean church to be very much aware of the truthful and faithful side of His nature.

The next phrase, "the ruler of God's creation," is in my view a mistranslation. It should actually read "the beginning of God's creation." It is the same Greek word we find in John 1:1, which reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Two verses later, John amplifies this thought, saying, "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." Jesus is not merely the ruler but the origin, the source, the beginning of God's creation.

Note, too, that the Lord does not use the word "creation" merely to refer to the old creation, the physical universe in which we live, including the great galaxies of space, the planets, the sun, and the earth itself. More than that, Jesus is the source of God's new creation as well.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" We are part of a new world that the Lord is bringing into being. In fact, it has already begun: the old has gone, the new has already come!

This is a truth the church in Laodicea desperately needed to apprehend. Note that at the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul adds, "After this letter has been read to you [in Colosse], see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea." So the Laodiceans were to be familiar with Paul's letter to the Colossian believers the letter in which Paul strongly emphasizes Jesus' link with the beginning of creation. Jesus, says Paul, is the "firstborn over all creation" and the "firstborn from among the dead" through His resurrection. The resurrection, in fact, is the new creation.

The church at Laodicea needed to be told important truth, even painful truth. And the truth they needed to hear was the truth about how to relate to God's new creation.


For the seventh and last time in Revelation, we encounter the phrase "I know your deeds."
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3:15-16 "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."
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These are chilling words especially that opening line, "I know your deeds." Imagine receiving a phone call from an anonymous caller, and his first words to you were, "I know what you did." Would you feel gratified or ashamed to know that someone else knew your deeds?

When the Lord said, "I know your deeds," to the church in Philadelphia, it was cause for rejoicing. But when He said these same words to the church in Laodicea, it was cause for mourning. The Lord had been watching the church in Laodicea, and what He saw was not pleasing. There were two problems in the Laodicean church.

First, there was something tragically lacking in their commitment. "You are . . . neither hot nor cold" says the Lord. Like Disraeli's unappetizing meal, these Christians were tepid and lackluster in their devotion to Christ. The Laodiceans were not like the church at Sardis, which was as cold as death. Nor were they like the church at Philadelphia, which was hot, alive, and vital. They were merely lukewarm.

Archaeologists have discovered an interesting fact about the city of Laodicea. The source of the city's water supply was a hot spring at Hierapolis, about six miles away. The water was carried by aqueduct from this spring, and by the time it reached Laodicea the water was no longer hot, nor was it cold. It was lukewarm. Cold water is refreshing on a hot day, and hot water can be made into a warming, pleasant tea, but lukewarm water is nauseating.

So the Lord used the lukewarm water of Laodicea as an analogy for the lukewarm character of the Laodicean church. And His word to the church is, "I am about to spit you out of my mouth" because of the lukewarm commitment of the people. The word "spit" is a very weak translation. The word should be "vomit." The Lord is not merely saying He finds the works of the Laodicean Christians unappealing, but downright nauseating.

How did the Laodicean congregation get into such a state? There can be only one answer: compromise.

How do you get lukewarm water out of the tap? You turn on the cold water a little and you turn on the hot water a little. You combine a little of each, and the result is a lukewarm compromise.

Most humans don't like extremes of climate. In fact, some of us are still searching for that mythical corner of the world where the temperature is a constant 72 degrees year-round. What a retirement haven that would be! "Give me my comfort zone!" we say. "Let me just lie in the shade and take it easy."

But Jesus wants to move us out of our comfort zone, just as He wanted to move the Laodiceans out of theirs. What was their comfort zone? What issues were they compromising on?

They were compromising important doctrine. They were compromising truth. They were compromising spirituality for the sake of comfort. They had found that it is much more comfortable to attend a church where nobody takes doctrinal issues too seriously, where discussion of controversial issues is avoided. It is a lot easier to keep the peace if you just tone down the teaching a bit, so that no one gets ruffled or convicted. The Laodicean church had just enough truth to salve the conscience without anyone becoming a fanatic. They had a little truth mixed with enough restraint to keep the truth from affecting their will and launching them into service for Jesus.

The Laodicean church was a comfortable church. You could attend there for years and probably find it very pleasurable. You would never be challenged, rebuked, or corrected. You would never even have your conscience pricked. You would only be encouraged and stroked and flattered, because this was a comfortable, compromising church.


"I am about to vomit you out of my mouth." Or, to paraphrase, "Yuck! How nauseating! It gags me!" The people may love the lukewarm climate in Laodicea, but Jesus does not. It makes them comfortable, but it makes the Lord sick! And the tragedy of the Laodicean experience is that it is being repeated again and again, in thousands of churches around the world.


The Laodicean church was symptomatic of an attitude I run into all the time: "The church belongs to the people." I believe this is one of the most dangerous and destructive attitudes a church can have. The idea that the church is owned by the people and that it exists for their benefit is what turns so many churches into what some have called "religious country clubs," operated for the exclusive benefit of the members.

Some years ago a young pastor called me and said, "I need to know what you would do if you were in my place. Last week the chairman of the board of our church called me in and said, 'You've been pastor here for a year, and you're a fine young man. We like you. You're a good Bible teacher. But there are a couple things we want you to understand before we renew your contract as pastor of this church.