Having established the close connection between Colossae and Laodicea, this does not account for the use of “cold” in conjunction with the city. It is the presence of Colossae’s cold, fresh water streams that would have supplied this descriptive title to the city. Laodicea was located to the southeast of Colossae, and to the northeast of Hierapolis, near the Lycus River. This meant that the waters of Colossae (colder because Colossae was situated at the foothills of a mountain), flowed down towards Laodicea.
The water, quite naturally, would lose some of its coolness as it flowed, rising a few degrees in temperature by the time it reached Laodicea. On the other hand, the water from Hierapolis had to be brought uphill, which explains the aqueduct. That water from the hot springs of Hierapolis would, of course, cool down as it traveled the aqueduct to reach Laodicea, though it would still be prized for its healing qualities even if it had fallen in temperature.
In the case of both the water from Colossae and the water from Hierapolis, by the time it reached Laodicea, the water would be lukewarm. Thus, the rhetorical effect is preserved, with hot, cold, and lukewarm all making reference to water. Furthermore, in conceptual terms, the city that would be located roughly halfway between the hot city and the cold city could easily be thought of as the lukewarm city (halfway between hot and cold). Thus Laodicea would come to be referred to as the lukewarm city, with this being common knowledge for all of the residents of the region, with nary a thought related to the spiritual tenor of the city.
Because of the interesting geographical positioning, and the unique feature of the water supplies to Laodicea, the cities came to be linked together in common usage as the “triangle cities.” So if it was common for the cities to be linked and identified together, and if Paul links the cities in his letter, why should one be surprised if Jesus, communicating through the author of Revelation, also links the cities, doing so by taking advantage of common nicknames that were applied to them?
Is it warranted to think that these highly spiritualized (today and in popular ways of thinking) terms are little more than nicknames that are meant to aid in identifying the real problem within the church in Laodicea, rather than an indicator of those problems? Why not? Once it is established that it is not possible to revert back to thinking that hot, cold, and lukewarm are to be applied in spiritual terms or to spiritual state, then it is possible to move towards a far more proper understanding of what Jesus is attempting to communicate to this, one of His churches.
Is it warranted to think that these were simply nicknames or shorthand references for those cities? Again, why not? This is not without precedence today. Much like what was true of the utilization of terminology in context and according to then-current understanding in order to rightly understand what is being communicated (as in the case of Nimrod), most people ready make these types of applications such that they become second nature, which should cause an observer to realize that thinking about the letter to Laodicea in this way is not wholly unique. Individuals freely and casually operate within their own historical and cultural contexts, so imagining that men and women of the first century also operated in such ways is not exactly far-fetched.