In the letter to the church in Laodicea, the final of the seven churches, Jesus addresses the church as “the beginning and end, and the perfect example,” and warns them of their lukewarm uselessness.
The church in Laodicea is the last out of seven churches in the Roman province of Asia (modern Turkey) to receive a letter dictated from Jesus. Revelation 1:2 said that God communicated the message “by His angel to His bond-servant John.” There, the word translated angel comes from the Greek word “angelos,” which means “messenger.” In that context, the messenger referred to Jesus, who gives God’s message to John.
Here in Revelation 3:14, as with the greeting to each of the seven churches, the word angel is also the Greek word “aggelos” which means “messenger.” Following the instructions for blessing in Revelation 1:3 to read, hear, and heed, it can be inferred that the messenger here is the person who is going to read the letter to the church in Laodicea. It seems unlikely that there is a heavenly angel/messenger that John is referring to, but rather a human messenger who will deliver the letter from John to the people of Laodicea.
Therefore, Jesus the “messenger” gives a message to John, which he is instructed to write and deliver to the seven churches of the Asian province by means of human “messengers.”
As with the other six cities that received a letter from Jesus, Laodicea was a Greek colony that became a part of the Roman empire in what was called the Roman province of Asia. The letters to each of the seven churches starts with a greeting, but it is more like a “memorandum” greeting format such as “To: all office employees” rather than the more formal greeting that is seen in the Pauline letters.
Here, Jesus introduces himself as the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.
The call throughout the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 is to be faithful and true witnesses with Jesus as our guide as the ultimate faithful and true Witness (Revelation 1:5). Believers are exhorted to follow the example of Jesus, and thus to share in the same rewards and blessings that Jesus received (Romans 8:17b; Revelation 3:21).
Jesus says He is the Amen. Amen is a transliteration of the Greek word “amen” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word “amen.” In our modern era, we tend to think of “amen” as “the prayer is ended.” Both the Greek and Hebrew word “amen” has as its root meaning the idea of certainty. It means “so be it” or “it is surely true.” Jesus is the I AM. He is existence. All that exists has its form and substance in Him (Colossians 1:16-17).
He is the Beginning of the creation of God. Jesus is the agent of creation (Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus was in the beginning with God, and He was and is God. As the Apostle John states, speaking of Jesus as “the Word”:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”
Not only is Jesus the I AM, the root of certainty and existence, He is also the ultimate example of what it looks like to be a witness that is faithful. The primary purpose of Revelation is to let believers (His servants) know that even though difficult times come, we have the opportunity to gain great rewards if we are faithful witnesses, and overcome loss and rejection from the world.
The Greek word for Witness in the phrase faithful and true Witness is “martyreo,” from which we also derive the word “martyr.” We tend to think of a “martyr” as someone who was killed for their faith, as indeed many faithful Christian witnesses throughout time have been. But physical death is not necessary to be a faithful witness. Rather, to become a witness that is faithful we need to die to ourselves and live a life of obedience to Christ. By living as Jesus directs, we testify to others about the work that Jesus has done in us (Matthew 10:38-39).
Jesus was the perfect example of a faithful and true Witness when He was obedient to God’s call to set aside His comfort in heaven and come to earth as a human to do His Father’s will (Hebrews 10:7). Jesus is the Beginning of the creation of God, and yet He was willing to humble Himself to become a human, to become a part of the creation He had made.
The Bible exhorts us to follow this same submissive mindset exhibited by Jesus (Philippians 2:5-10). When we do the will of the Father, we are following the example of Jesus. God’s will for us is to be sanctified; to walk apart from the world and walk in His truth (1 Thessalonians 4:3). It is by setting aside appetites and pleasures, dying to self, that we are able to follow in faithfulness as the kind of witness Jesus exhorts us to be (Matthew 16:25).
Thus, the memorandum version of this greeting could read something like: “From Jesus, the beginning and end, and the perfect example.”
Next, the letter moves to the section of rebuke for the church in Laodicea:
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
Some say that Laodicea had hot mineral springs that people could go to for healing. There were also cold springs coming out of the mountains where you could drink the cool water. Both had important and different uses. But mixing the two together, creating a lukewarm water, wasn’t useful. Likely mixing the high-mineral-content hot water together with the cold would make a nasty-tasting mix that would be terrible to drink. It would cause you to want to spit it out.
Jesus describes the church in Laodicea as lukewarm, saying So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. The church has lost its useful properties by being lukewarm. It is no longer nice to drink, or useful for healing, so Jesus will spit them out of His mouth.
This is similar to the rebuke of the church at Ephesus, which was told it would have its witness removed if it did not add love to its stand for truth. In the same manner, the image of spit you out of my mouth indicates that Jesus will have no useful role for the Laodicean church in His work on earth, unless it repents.
If they fail to repent they will become like the wicked and lazy servant who shirked his assigned responsibility and lost his reward (Matthew 25:24-28). The entire book of Revelation is written to Jesus’s servants, His people (Revelation 1:1). He is providing this chastisement because He disciplines those whom He loves, and He loves His people (Revelation 3:19).
Jesus is not insistent on how the church chooses to be useful. They can be cold, like refreshing water to drink. Or they can be hot, like healing mineral water. Each person has a different gifting, and each of these seven churches have a different assortment of opportunities. Jesus just desires them to be diligent, and be useful to His kingdom. If they do not repent Jesus says He will spit you out of My mouth. They will lose their place as a witness.
All seven churches who received these letters existed at once, so any church can have the characteristics and issues displayed by these churches at any time. But these letters can also be viewed as representing eras of the western church.
The church in Laodicea can be viewed as representing the modern church, starting in 1919 with the end of World War I. The Laodicean church had a problem with pride, which is why the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, is a reasonable place to start this period. At the Treaty of Versailles, a group of men came together after World War 1 and arbitrarily drew new country lines on a map. They had the hubris to believe that they could make the world in their own image, which is similar to the mindset of the church in Laodicea.
Also, this is an era of self-sufficiency and material prosperity. Western/Roman people in this age are prone to believe that we have all we need, and have no need of God. This will be explained in the next section. When a population becomes wealthy, they tend to seek pleasure and comfort for themselves above all else. This easily leads to them becoming a lukewarm people.
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
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