And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I with you would be cold or hot. Thus, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich and have grown rich and have need of nothing,’ and don’t realize that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold having been refined by fire, that you might be rich, and white garments that you might be clothed and the shame of your nakedness might not be made manifest, and eye-salve to anoint your eyes that you might see. As many as I might love, I rebuke and discipline. Be zealous therefore and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone should hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with me. I will give the one overcoming to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
This church of Laodicea is one that lacks any kind of zeal. We find Christ mentioning that He is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, and then going on to explain why Laodicea has not been a faithful and true witness. They have grown lax because of their riches, and they don’t even realize their bankrupt spiritual condition. Christ beckons them to buy from him, because they apparently don’t even have the most elementary things at work within them: discernment (eye-salve), the righteous acts of the saints (white garments), and faith (gold refined in fire). No doubt that their lack of zeal would be why Jesus tells them to be zealous and repent. At least if they would be either hot or cold, that would imply being zealous for something. Rather, this church is so not committed that they won’t even get up to open the door! It is like the overweight man who can’t get up from the couch to go to the refrigerator and continue to feed his face.
In the introduction, Jesus’ title of “the Amen” might be a reflection of Elohim amen in Isaiah 65:16. The head (arche) of the creation of God is very reminiscent of Colossians 1:18. It is possible that the Laodiceans would recognize the similarity between Jesus’ words here and the letter to the Colossians, especially since Paul had told the Colossians to share their letter with the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16).
The “true and faithful witness” comes from Jeremiah 42:5, and we see the same words reversed in Revelation 19:11.
In verse 17, we find “I am rich and do not need a thing” being a direct translation of Hosea 12:8. In this, we see the context of Hosea 12:8 to be that God is reminding Israel of her history, how God has rescued her from Egypt, and even how Jacob wrestled with the angel and overcame. Thus, we see the correspondence here. Just like Ephraim at that time had said, “We are rich,” so too is Laodicea saying it. Just like God reminded Ephraim through the prophet Hosea of the fervor that Jacob, their father, showed, and the warning that God will not relent until they will also show this zeal, we find the language of Jesus to rebuke this church and say, “Be zealous and repent!”
We can compare verse 17 with Proverbs 13:7-8, Matthew 19:21, 28-29, and Luke 12:15-21. Proverbs reads, “One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat.” In Matthew 19, Jesus was talking to the rich young man, and tells him to go and sell all of his possessions and give to the poor. He walked away saddened. In verses 28-29, Jesus explains that they who have worldly possessions for his sake will surely receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Luke 12, then, has the parable of the rich fool who built for himself barns to store away all of his riches, but that very night was the night his life should be demanded of him.
Laodicea seems to be the church that has great wealth, and indeed they probably have worked hard for it. Yet, even with their great wealth, their spirituality is too poor to even discern their own condition before God. They continue to say, “Shalom! Shalom! (peace, peace)”, but there is no shalom! All is well; except that they don’t even know the times they live in.
As they continue to go through their lives, they go about with what culture and society would say is the norm, and all the while the net is closing in around them. They continue to play soccer mom and soccer dad, and by the time that the water is hot and the frog is boiling, it’s too late. (Watch the video above for this statement in fuller context.)
In 1 Peter 1:7, Psalm 66:10, and James 1:2-4, we find the parallel of faith and gold being made. For Christ to ask them to buy of him gold refined in the fire, it is very possible that he is calling them to faith once again. Store up for yourselves gold in heaven, and not merely on this earth (Matthew 6:20, 19:21), which are spiritual riches manifest even in this life (Colossians 1:27).
As for the white garments, see note from the church of Sardis here.
Compare Hosea 4:7 where glory and shame are contrasted as opposites. Also note that shame and nakedness go hand in hand. Contrast Colossians 3:9-12 where Paul says to “take off” the old self and “put on” compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. The “shameful nakedness” may come from Ezekiel 16:36 and 23:29 where God tells Israel that He will expose her idolatry.
For the eye-salve, the best I can figure is from John 9:6.
Verse 19 is unmistakably taken from Proverbs 3:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 11:32. Also compare 2 Corinthians 7:10, where Paul mentions that godly sorrow leads to repentance. Also notice that the word used is φιλεω and not αγαπη for love.
The knocking is not eschatological, as in James 5:9, Mark 13:29, Luke 12:26, or Luke 22:29-30. The context is of a friend seeking to commune, not a Judge coming to recompense. Compare John 10:3 and 14:23.
Finally, verse 21 can be compared to Colossians 3:1 and Ephesians 2:6. For Christ’s overcoming, see John 16:33 and the concept is being described in Hebrews 5:8-9.