There is nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a cold glass of iced tea. It is getting to be that time of year again for cold coffee on the porch. In the winter, I enjoy a hot cup of coffee by the fire. In Summer our kids like slushies, cold soda, cold lemonade, or in the winter they enjoy a hot cup of hot cocoa. There isn’t much that is more disappointing than returning to my cup of coffee in the morning and discovering that I neglected it too long when it became stale and lukewarm. 

I have shared before about our time in Ukraine. Cold drinks were an entirely new concept to Ukrainians, they could have drinks from a refrigerator; slightly cooled, but never, ever, ever should you drink something with ice cubes! We tried for years to convince them that it is ok to have a cold glass of milk. We only managed to convince a few of the younger ones, but that was one tradition we couldn’t start.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. – Revelation 3:15, 16

Laodicea was a wealthy community

It sat at the crossroads of two major trade routes. The first came from Rome and ran eastward into Asia Minor, the second entered the city from the north and continued to the Mediterranean. Laodicea was built in the Lycus valley where these two major highways crossed, which, combined with their industries, brought them fame and fortune.

They were famous for luxurious black wool that they made cloaks from (The ancient world’s London Fog). It has never been determined if they made the wool from sheep bred in this area or if it was dyed, but its quality was prized all over the world. Archeology also discovered a medical school in Laodicea which produced an eye salve from Phrygian powder. Many wealthy people from Rome sought this Phrygian eye salve for its famous healing properties. These two industries gave rise to a third opportunity: Banking. It is theorized that Laodicea may have produced the world’s first insurance salesman (Thanks a lot!) They learned early on lending and interest to multiply their vast wealth. 

However, Laodicea was not known for its water, for it had neither quantity nor quality. The river narrowed and at certain times of the year, completely dried up. Their neighbors to the north, Hierapolis, had hot springs which still attract tourism to this day. To the east, Colossae was enviably tucked into the foothills of Mt Cadmus, where the snow-capped mountains flowed into the Lycus river. In Laodicea, they siphoned water up from a spring that was 5 miles south of the city but brought with it a lot of calcium deposits that made it barely potable water and was more useful to flush the city’s plumbing system.

Jesus uses this illustration to point out the spiritual welfare of Laodicea.  

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.   

– Revelation 3:17-18

This is Laodicea that he says this to! They were so proud of their wealth, black wool, their eye salve, and their gold. Jesus just wiped the floor with all they valued most. 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

This passage is often used to teach how to become a Christian, but read it again.  Jesus said this to the Christians in Laodicea. John wrote it to people who were already saved, but shut the door of their heart on Christ again. 

My family visited a church in Wittenberg while on vacation in Germany. (pictured to the write) Martin Luther famously wrote 95 theses and nailed them to the door of the church. At the time Martin Luther was a young disillusioned catholic priest, frustrated with his congregation and questioning his theology. What he said (I invite you to read them Martin Luther 95 Theses: The Full Text ( ) was not popular with the Catholic church and they condemned him a heretic. but he was not detered. He was disgusted with the churches exploitation of the people for money and took a stand even though it was going to affect his standing in the church.

If you could nail a 95 thesis to the door of your church, what would it say? What would you be upset about, or are you one of the lucky ones whose church is perfect? The controversy after Martin Luther’s actions set the country on fire. Thanks to Johann Gutenburg’s recent invention of the printing press, Martin Luther’s theses soon were in the hands of priests all across the country. The Catholic church disfellowshipped him but the damage had already been done. He put a permanent crack in the people’s confidence in the ideas of paying money to get out of purgatory. 

Martin Luther was still a long way from the truth

You will find many incorrect ideas and assumptions, but his actions caused priests and parishes all over Germany to search for truth.

In our modern language hot is good and cold is bad, which makes it difficult to figure out what Jesus meant. Jesus said he needs us to be one or the other. In a parched land, cold water was indispensable, the hot springs were also therapeutic.

We need to be hot water to soothe the painful soul, or cold water to satisfy the thirsty. Lukewarm is not useful to him. Many Christians sit in church Sunday after Sunday,returning to work on Monday after Monday, and never allowing the Holy Spirit in them to affect those around them. I remember the words of a camp song from my childhood:

I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me

Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see,

Opens prison doors, sets the captives free.

I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.

Spring up, O well, within my soul.

Spring up, O well, and make me whole

Spring up, O well, and give to me

That life abundantly

One Comment

  1. Katie, I love the information about the cities. Especially about the eye salve and black wool of Laodicea. There is another connection in your article: Hierapolis – hot, Colossae – cold, Laodicea – lukewarm. I love that the letters of the cities and their water match!! Thank you for explaining about Rev. that it was written to Christians not the lost. That is a misquoted verse that is used so much. Love this. The Church at Las Vegas isn’t perfect, and I know the Holy Spirit has some things to teach us as well, we are listening!

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