Verse 14: After calling Himself the Amen, Jesus next calls Himself The Witness. As we saw earlier (Rev 1:2, 5) a witness is someone who gives an accurate report of what was seen or heard. By applying it to Himself Jesus is saying that this prophecy which He is speaking to Laodicea contains precisely the words given Him by the Father. The prophecy did not originate with Him but came from the Father who gave it to His Son to give to His bondservants (Rev 1:1). And beyond this role as an accurate reporter of the Fathers words there is still a larger role for Jesus as Gods witness. He is the supreme witness to the Father because in Him the Father is perfectly revealed to the world (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:11; 7:16-18; 8:26, 28; 12:49; 14:9, 24).
Verse 14 (continued): His title as witness is strengthened by two adjectives: First, He is a faithful witness which means His promises can be trusted without having to worry whether or not they will actually come true. And second, He is a true witness which means nothing He says is mixed with deception or lies. His words are accurate reports of spiritual realities. And as Gods divine Son He is in a unique position to do this because every other prophet or teacher can only speculate about spiritual realities. They can only guess about what is true in the spiritual world, but Jesus reports what He has seen firsthand and because as the Son of God He dwelled eternally in heaven before coming to earth at the incarnation (Jn 3:11-13, 31-36; 8:12-20, 40-47). And, of course, the resurrected Jesus dwells now at the Fathers right hand (Ps 110:1).
Verse 14 (continued): The final title He uses to introduce Himself to Laodicea is, the ruler (arche) of the creation of God. The Greek word means ruler or first in the sense of a prototype from which all others are to be copied. In Jesus both senses of this word are true. He is the ruler whom God has set over His creation and He is the prototype or perfect expression of what God desires all humans to become. Verses 15, 16: His assessment of the church in Laodicea is that they are lukewarm. He says their works reveal this. They are neither the works of believers who are zealous for Jesus (lit: boiling, Ac 18:25), nor the works of unbelievers who dont know Him at all (lit: very cold). The few works they do for Him are heartless and dutiful and fall desperately short of what needs to be done to win the lost or bring Gods love to the needy. This is because most of their passion and energy is focused on the pursuit of materialism.
Verse 17: The church is located in a prosperous city and has experienced little persecution so they still have plenty of money and enjoy comfortable lives. Jesus characterizes their attitude as I am rich and have gotten riches and I have no need (literal). In this way they model the parable of the sower that explains what happens when the seed of Gods word is sown among thorns. It says it becomes unfruitful because Gods word is choked out by the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth (Mt 13:22). And because of such thorns the church in Laodicea has become a great disappointment to Him. His assessment is very different from their own. He sees a church that is miserable, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. This tells us that their wealth, comfort and peaceful circumstances did not result because they just happened to live among a group of very tolerant unbelievers, but because they did so little ministry and were willing to compromise their faith to avoid confrontation. In fact, if we take the words of His assessment literally, many must not have been saved at all. At best it was a church full of nominal believers.
Verse 17 (continued): Yet this church did not perceive their sorry spiritual condition, instead they thought of themselves as needing nothing, meaning they were exemplary Christians who fulfilled all God asked of them. But, the zealous service of Christ always produces a backlash of persecution, and passionate believers invariably speak about Him and serve Him and thereby stir up some type of backlash. So the tranquility in Laodicea was a sign of spiritual indifference, not Gods favor. For many eternal life was just a dim uninspiring glimmer on the horizon of time. Their real passion was for the pleasures of this life.
Verse 18: Jesus counsels them to pursue true spiritual riches which He calls gold refined by fire. By this He means the treasure which can be stored up in heaven (Mt 5:19-24), and that gold has to do with the character of Christ which is worked into us personally and the people we have helped bring closer to Him. The fire which refines this gold is very likely both the fiery trials (1Pe 4:12) by which faithful believers share the sufferings of Christ (1Pe 4:13) as well as the fire of Gods final judgment in which everything not done by the leading of the Holy Spirit and with the proper motives (faith, hope, love; 1Co 13:13) will be reckoned as worthless and destroyed along with all the other ungodly aspects of our lives (1Co 3:12-15). Both forms of fire will test our works and cause that which is real to shine more brightly like gold that has been melted until it is a liquid and the impurities it contains are skimmed off.
Verse 18 (continued): Jesus counsels the Laodicean church to buy these things from Him. The first, as we have seen (v 17), means they need to reprioritize their lives to focus on eternal riches rather than worldly ones. The second is white garments to cover the shame of their nakedness. This is a very serious charge if taken literally. To be naked and without a white garment means nothing less than that they are not covered with the robe of Christs righteousness, and if they are not covered with Christs righteousness then they arent saved (Mt 22:11-14). In no way does the term white garments mean He wants them to work harder to cover themselves with their own good deeds. It can only mean that they lacked Christs righteousness which is given as a gift to us by faith (Ro 3:23, 24; Gal 3:27; Php 3:9; Isa 1:18; Rev 3:4; 7:13, 14; 19:14). The fact that He needed to say such things to a church means either the gospel has been rejected or the preaching of it has been compromised to the point that people are joining without being born-again.