Now lukewarm water can be used, but it’s not very useful. Cold water can chill food, cool your hot brow, or make a glass of ice tea. Hot water can sooth a sore back, clean dirty clothes, and cook your dinner. However, in a functional since, lukewarm water can do none of this. Its “in-between-ness” renders it useless for most circumstances. So, when Jesus used the terminology we find in Revelation 3:15-16, it would have been understood by everyone. In fact, whether you lived in Laodicea 2000 years ago or in North East Texas today, this concept works the same. Lukewarm water is useless.
Before we look at Revelation 3, I want to pose a hypothetical question to you. I will describe 2 situations. Then, after you have considered the implications of both circumstances, I want you to answer this question: If you had to choose, which situation would you rather live in? Another way to say it is …which is the better of two evils? And by the way, answering neither is not an option. Do you understand the rules? Okay here goes…
You’ve been married for several years; you have 2 children, and a big problem; your partner is unfaithful. You both know the truth, and you know the other person is aware. This is the way it’s been for some time; however, to save face in the community and to keep up the front that your marriage is wonderful and healthy, you never say a thing, not even to each other. On the outside, and by societal standards, you have the perfect marriage and the perfect family. On the inside you and your spouse are hollow actors on the stage of life.
You’ve been in a marriage for several years; you have 2 kids, and a big problem; your partner is unfaithful. This is the way it’s been for sometime how, and it’s not going to change. You are both fully aware of the situation and have fought over it many times. You and your spouse no longer have any desire to make the marriage work; you don’t even like each other. However, for the kid’s sake, you’ve decided to stay in the same house and be parents….not partners. As soon as the kids are old enough you will do publically what you’ve already done privately…end the relationship.
Okay, now make your choice. I realize both options stink, but which is the better of 2 evils? I actually posed this question to several people a few months ago. At first, they all tried to squirm out of it. However, after holding them to the rules, they made the undesirable pick. And unanimously, the choice was to live in situation #2. Not only were the votes unanimous, but the reasons for choosing #2 were all very similar. At least in situation #2, the couple is honest about the circumstances and their feelings. In situation #1 you had to deal with the infidelity and with lying to yourself and others around. You had to pretend everything was “okay” when it obviously was not.
Now, please hear what I’m about to say, this the picture Jesus painted when He addressed the Laodicean church about being lukewarm. Let me explain. The concept of being “cold” is easily understood. We speak of having a cold heart, or being icy toward others. This paints the picture of being emotionless and uncaring. A cold person is easily detected and easily felt. Relationships are not sought after by this person. And those who would attempt to have a relationship with a cold person are rejected and denied. On the other end of the spectrum, we understand what hot denotes also. We say things like, our love is on fire, or refer to a person as very fervent or zealous, or passionate. These are “hot” emotions. These relationships have the potential of being fulfilled and exciting.
On a spiritual level, a cold person would have no desire for relationship with Christ; they are spiritually lifeless and dead. At the same time, a hot person would be warm and zealous in their love and service for the Lord. Here, I want to make a quick point, and then we will get to the next verses in the Laodicean Letter. The status of a hot and a cold person may stand in complete opposition to each other, however, they do have one thing in common that Jesus appreciates…honesty. A cold person may be rejecting Christ, but at least they are honestly rejecting Him. As terrible as open and deliberate rebellion is, as far as Jesus is concerned, it is highly preferable to the third option. Let’s take a look at the text…
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
I don’t care who you are, those are some hard and blunt words. Jesus, with these words, has begun a swift and decisive judgment of the spiritual condition of this church in Asia. Remember He is “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, and the Beginning of the creation of God.” Consequently, He alone holds the right to judge them, and be sure, He will do it in fairness. In other words, they deserve exactly what they are about to get.
Jesus begins His no holds barred assessment of the Laodicean church by making and inarguable statement: “I know your works…” The verses following this statement lead us to the understanding that this body of believers had progressed to an unacceptable condition. They were wealthy, highly touted, and acceptable in the eyes of the community; unfortunately, the church had fallen into the trap of putting stock in that opinion, and hailing it as the measure of a successful church. This condition was the end result of a silent voyage. At some point in the past, they had begun a perilous journey down a road that the Bible warns “leads to the fall”. The vehicle they were was in was pride (Proverbs 16:18). Pride seduces you into morphing into a creature that God detests, while at the same time blinding you to the fact that you are changing. It is a magic mirror that shows you want you want to see. The Laodicean church was looking into their self-made magic mirror and they saw a top notch, prize-winning church, when in fact, they were an ugly, deformed creature in God’s eyes. They were fooling the world, they were fooling themselves, but Jesus was not fooled…”I know your works…”
After stating the fact that He could see through the façade, Jesus tells them what He sees. “…that you are neither cold nor hot.” Obviously, Jesus desires a church whose fervor for Him is on fire; hot with passion for the Gospel, and burning with love for God. Yet, at the same time, in Jesus’ illustration, there is no such thing as a cold church. Spiritually cold people would never go to church to begin with. Jesus adds insult to injury when He tells them, “I could wish you were hot or cold.” Christ’s desire for them to be hot is obvious, but His rathering they be cold, instead of what they actually were, was a sobering slap in the face. Cold means no church at all. Jesus is basically saying since you’re not hot, I wish you were not even an operating, functioning church at all. Why Jesus? His answer comes down like and avalanche; “because you are lukewarm.”
I want you to think back to the situational illustration I gave before. Two very undesirable circumstances, but one was more detestable than the other. It was the couple that was acting as if they were a happily married, with a wonderful home life, while playing the role for the world to see. This is the view Jesus has of the Laodicean Church. They have all the markings of a house of God, but in the spiritual since, they are living a lie. Sure, this is heartbreaking for God, but it’s much more than that. The rationale is simple; the Laodicean church was making a mockery of the death of His only begotten Son. They were using the name of Jesus to build their empire, and in the meanwhile, they were refusing to give Him the love, service, and worship that He absolutely deserves. This state of operations infuriates the Father, and Jesus exemplifies the extent of His anger with His next words.
“…because you are lukewarm…I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
Listen, I want to be very honest about something, I HATE to vomit. In fact, if you somehow enjoy it, you’ve got other issues that need to be addressed. Vomiting is the body’s way of rejecting a substance that is detrimental to its health. Actually, that definition is quite sterilized. The act of vomiting is just plain awful! Throwing up is an exhausting, full body work out; you sweat, you heave, you spasm, you make un-natural sounds. The only redeeming quality is that when it’s over, you have gotten rid of the problem. This is exactly what Jesus is saying to the church in Laodicea. In essence, He is telling this church, you make me sick at my stomach, you are a detriment to my body, and therefore, I am going to endure the painful process of vomiting you up and out!
People, this is not a pretty picture by any account. The longsuffering patients of the Lord is renown throughout the Word. However, He had reached a point of no return with Laodicea’s church. Some of you may ask, “Didn’t He give them a chance to repent?” The answer is undeniable…no! I know this is true because of one easily overlooked word that Jesus used. He said, “I WILL vomit you out of My mouth.” The deal was sealed when Jesus said the word “will”. Now, I want to make an important distinction that I will expound on in a later installment. The Laodicean church, as an entity, was finished; however, the individuals that attended the church were not.
I realize this isn’t the most uplifting 2 verses in scripture. In the proceeding verses, Jesus will explain to the church exactly what their problem is, and then, like only God can do, He will give them a way to find relationship with Him again.
Please join me next time around as we look at verses 17, 18, and 19 of the Laodicean Letter.
Until then, keep seeking the truth