The chief difficulty in the city of Laodicea was that there was no local water supply, so the water was piped in by aqueducts from hot springs at Denizli, six miles away to the south. So, when the water came into the city, it not only was no longer hot, but also was bitter and full of sediment. This became the complaint and lament of its citizens who had everything needed for a comfortable lifestyle except good, refreshing hot or cold water. John is challenging them about their spiritual condition that has turned into self-satisfaction and complacency. Jesus is the one who sustains and corrects us. He is calling us to be diligent with our faith so we will pursue Him with vigor and we will not bend over to unfaithfulness or indifference.
· The Church of Laodicea is now modern Pamukkale. It sits ten miles west off the cost from Colosse. In John’s time, it was an important, prosperous, and wealthy city known for its medical schools as well as its flourishing banking, and medical and textile industries. It was the capital of the “Cibryatic Convention,” a consortium of twenty-five townships. As with the other Roman cities, it had its temples and patron gods such as Apollo, Asclepius, Hades, Hera and Zeus. This city also had a significant Jewish population. Since no antagonism is mentioned, it is assumed they were “lukewarm” too. Some believe this was the place of the martyrdom of the Apostle Philip.
· The Amen, meaning a title for Christ as “the God of Truth,” is the affirmation of God’s truth that He is our promise. This denotes “the God of the Amen” from Isaiah. “Amen” usually means “so be it” or “most assuredly” (Isa 65:16; Rom. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:20).
· Faithful refers to a characteristic of God, who is faithful and true (as in, He is personal and reliable). He is One who is completely trustworthy and faithful (Psalm 2:7; 89:27; Prov. 14:5, 25; Isa. 8:2; Acts 13:33; Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:15-18; 1 Tim. 6:13; Rev. 1:5; 2:10-13; 3:14;19:11).
· The ruler/beginning of God’s creation is another title for Christ, showing us His divinity as He is first in “rank,” “who is the origin,” and “point of time.” He is not merely a created entity or first thing created; rather, He has always existed. In contrast, the Roman Emperor’s title was “Princeps” meaning the first one, as first amongst all Roman citizens. Christ is First not only among Christians, but also of the entire universe (Col. 1:15-16; 4:16; Rev. 1:8; 22:13).
· Neither cold refers to the preferable and refreshing impact that cold water has, and hot or “spiced” water, whereas lukewarm water does not refresh as much as it is nauseating.
· Nor hot. Hot water was preferred for washing and bathing and the hot springs that it was from was medicinal. Lukewarm water could neither satisfy the bather nor heal someone. Hot water then was a special treasure.
· Lukewarm. This is a call to us to be “refreshing” and “medicinal” and not allow complacency and/or smugness to rule how we come before God or treat one another. Jesus is not to be taken lightly!
· Spit/vomit you out of my mouth. John uses this as a parody that as the lukewarm water with its bitterness makes the people sick, the people’s spiritual condition makes God sick.
· You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” The city of Laodicea was so wealthy that when it was devastated by an earthquake in 60 A.D., they refused relief or help from the Roman government. The point here is that wealth and self-sufficiency can breed arrogance and make us feel we are good because of our accomplishments, and not realize our need for God. Wealth can be a great tool in the hands of pious, humble people. It can also be a major spiritual distraction to an insidious corrupting pressure that will blind people and destines them to be judged (Matt. 5:3; Rev. 2:9).
· Wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. We see here an image of immorality and lewdness; they were not necessarily engaged in such sins. Jesus uses this image to reprimand them and show them how heinous it is to be in spiritual poverty and lack righteousness. This was also an attack on the material goods and prosperity of the city in which its Christians took pride and comfort. They had wealth, fine clothes, and material goods, yet they were shamelessly naked before Christ (Rev. 19:8).
· Buy from me gold refined in the fire. This means that we are to trust in Him, not in our wealth or accomplishments. What we do brings us to complacency and creates spiritual deadness in both the believer and the church. Refined refers to building character and maturity through difficulties, whereas extravagance tends to build only self-righteousness (Job 23:10; 1 Pet. 1:6-7).
· White clothes. This was a contrast to the famous black wool that the city of Laodicea was famous for, and refers to our faith and obedience as being our clothing (Rev. 3:4).
· Salve to put on your eyes. Laodicea was known for its balms and medicinal powders and ointments that were revered all over the known world. It would have been an insult to say that they had good eye medication but were spiritually blind. They had good medical schools and aides, but were not able to mend their bankrupt spiritual condition. This is a call to allow God to heal us when we are sick in our spiritual formation (2 Pet. 1:9).