Church in Laodicea: Jesus' Message to the Lukewarm Church

Church in Laodicea: Jesus’ Message to the Lukewarm Church

Welcome back to our journey through the messages of Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation. Today, we arrive at the final letter, the message to the church in Laodicea. This letter, found in Revelation 3:14-22, is perhaps the most famous yet misunderstood one. It is Jesus’ message to the lukewarm church.

To properly grasp Jesus’ words about the church in Laodicea being “lukewarm,” we need to understand the history and geography of the ancient city. Unlike many cities in Asia Minor, Laodicea was extremely wealthy. It was a major banking and financial center known as the “home of millionaires.”

Despite their wealth, Laodicea lacked a fresh water supply and had to pipe it in from neighboring cities. The city had to get its water from the hot springs of Hierapolis and the cold waters of Colossae. Unfortunately, by the time the water arrived in Laodicea, it was lukewarm and no longer useful for medicinal or drinking purposes.

With this backdrop, we see the depth of Jesus’ critique in Revelation 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.”

Jesus wastes no time in His assessment of the church: they are lukewarm. But what does it mean to be lukewarm? Contrary to popular interpretation, it’s not about having zeal for Christ or being indifferent towards Him. Christ is not saying that He prefers one of two extreme spiritual states: either spiritually “hot” and on fire for Him or spiritually “cold” and opposed to Him.

Rather, their lukewarm state symbolizes the church’s ineffectiveness and lack of spiritual vitality due to being disconnected from the true Source, which is Christ Himself. Just like lukewarm water loses its usefulness for refreshment and medicinal purposes, a lukewarm church fails to fulfill its intended role in bringing spiritual healing and refreshment to those in need.

The church in Laodicea had become spiritually tepid due to their self-reliance. They boasted of their wealth and believed they lacked nothing (v. 17). However, Jesus saw through their facade of self-sufficiency and identified their spiritual poverty. This self-reliance is the antithesis of true Christianity, which calls for radical dependence on Christ.

Jesus offers a remedy for their condition: to buy from Him gold refined by fire, white garments to clothe themselves, and salve to anoint their eyes. These symbolic gestures represent faith, righteousness, and spiritual vision—gifts only Christ can provide. The solution to spiritual lukewarmness is to turn away from self-reliance and fully depend on Christ.

We can’t miss the mercy and grace behind Jesus’ words. Yes, He rebukes the church in Laodicea, but only because “those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (v.19). This leads to one of the most touching invitations in Scripture: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (v.20).

Though often used as an evangelistic call to salvation, this is actually depicting Christ pursuing His beloved but wayward church. Jesus stands at the door and knocks, urging His church to open the door and welcome Him in. This intimate imagery underscores Christ’s desire for fellowship with His people, even those who have kept Him at arm’s length. It’s a call to move from halfhearted commitment to wholehearted surrender.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He promises victory to those who overcome. The letter closes with the promise awaiting those who remain connected to Christ: “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” (v.21). What a great reminder that our triumph is not based on our efforts but on Christ’s finished work on the cross.

As we reflect on Jesus’ message to Laodicea, may we heed His call to radical dependence, repentance, and surrender. Let us open the door to intimate fellowship with Christ, allowing Him to transform us from lukewarmness to vibrant faith. May we find assurance in His promise of victory, knowing that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion.


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