Notes (NET Translation)
14 “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:
In the words “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” Christ reiterates his faithfulness that was first mentioned in 1:5 (cf. Isa 65:16). Also in 1:5 Christ is said to be the firstborn from the dead. G. K. Beale therefore takes the phrase “the originator of God’s creation” to mean Christ is the originator of God’s new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). The new creation is inaugurated with Jesus’ resurrection. Others, probably the majority, take the phrase “the originator of God’s creation” to refer to creation in general (cf. Jn 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15, 18).
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!
Note that Christ wishes the Loadiceans were either cold or hot. Both extremes are viewed positively. Verse 14 describes Christ as the true witness and so it is likely that the Loadiceans are being criticized for failing to be faithful witnesses. Perhaps, like the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira, their witness had been compromised by their participation in idolatrous practices. The hot waters of nearby Heirapolis were known for their healing effects and the cool waters of nearby Colossae were good for drinking and thus life-giving. But by the time the water came to Laodicea through the aqueduct it was lukewarm and not very palatable. Laodicea’s witness was “lukewarm” because it provided neither spiritual healing nor life.
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!
The Loadiceans mistook their economic success for spiritual success (cf. Hos 12:8).
[T]he Laodiceans are probably doing well economically because of some significant degree of willing cooperation with the idolatrous trade guilds and economic institutions of their culture. Already in the preceding letters spiritual compromise because of economic factors has been seen as an unavoidable temptation for Christians living in the major cities of Asia Minor (see above on Pergamum and Thyatira). The words used for wealth in 3:7 are used elsewhere not only for unbelieving “merchants” who have intercourse with idolatrous Babylon (so 18:3, 15, 19), but also for those who make gains by involvement with idolatry (so 6:15, alluding to the idolaters of Isa. 2:10ff., 19, 21, and 13:16; the πλοῦτος [“wealthy”] word group is used predominantly in OT prophetic literature of ungodly Israelites).
This conclusion receives additional confirmation from the intentional contrast with the poverty (πτωχεία) of the church in Smyrna, which was spiritually “rich” (πλούσιος), while the “wealthy” (πλούσιος) church in Laodicea (πλούσιος) was spiritually poor (πτωχός). We have seen that the material poverty of the Christians of Smyrna lay in their refusal to conform to the pressures of idolatry (e.g., that of the Roman cult), which brought them spiritual riches. The Laodiceans were the mirror opposite of the Smyrneans. Their apparent willingness to participate in idolatry, even if through insincere, token acknowledgment, ensured their economic well-being, but ironically indicated their spiritual poverty. (Beale 304–305)
Christ advises them to buy gold without impurities. This symbolizes a pure Christian witness without any idolatry. The white clothing makes the same point (3:4-5; cf. Isa 43:3; Ezek 16:36; 23:29; Nah 3:5). The eye salve is to cure their spiritual blindness. The words used in these verses are ironic for Laodicea was known for its wealth, glossy black wool, and eye salve.
19 All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!
The Loadiceans still have a chance to repent and avoid judgment (cf. Prov 3:11-12).
In a text containing such violent and terrifying imagery as does Revelation, it is at times hard to hold on to a vision of God’s love: many may find themselves agreeing with Jung’s famous description of the book as ‘a veritable orgy of hatred, wrath, vindictiveness, and blind destructive fury’. But the love of God revealed in Christ, and throughout the New Testament, is no soft and easy emotion, but a costly and demanding love. (Boxall 78)
20 Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me.
The image of the door is drawn from Song of Solomon 5:2. It is a call for the Laodiceans to renew their relationship with Christ who is presently outside of their community. The meal symbolizes fellowship with Christ (possibly in the Eucharist). “In the Near East the sharing of a common meal indicates the forming of a strong bond of affection and companionship” (Metzger 46).
Two principal interpretations of v. 20 exist: (1) that it represents a call to the individual for present fellowship, and (2) that it is eschatological and speaks of the imminent return of Christ. The latter interprets the verse in conjunction with the reward promised the overcomer in v. 21 (an eschatological scene, to be sure), while the former ties it in with the call to repentance in v. 19.507 In that the phrase “he/him that overcomes” serves as a semi-technical term that leads to the close of each letter (cf. 2:7, lib, 17b, 26; 3:5, 12) and because v. 20 provides a strong positive motivation for the repentance demanded in the previous verse, it seems best to interpret the saying as personal and present rather than ecclesiastical and eschatological. (Mounce loc. 2416-2421)
21 I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
The overcomer will rule with Christ just as Christ rules with God the Father. The time and nature of the fulfillment of this promise is ambiguous. In 1:6 the saints are said to already be sharing in his royal rule.
22 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
Boxall, Ian. Revelation of Saint John, The. Black’s New Testament Commentary. Baker Academic, 2009.
Brown, Raymond Edward, ed. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Pearson P T R, 1991.
Fee, Gordon D. Revelation. Kindle ed. New Covenant Commentary Series. Cascade Books, 2010.
Koester, Craig R. Revelation and the End of All Things. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001.
Metzger, Bruce M. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993.
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. Revised. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
Osborne, G. R. Revelation. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.