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Lukewarm Laodicean Vomit

April 17, 2011

In Jesus’ message to the church of Laodicea he says: “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.” (Revelation 3:15-16)

Many scholars, pastors, lay people, and others explain this to mean that Jesus wishes you were either for him or against him, that you would choose either to be holy or unholy, that you would choose good or evil. I believe this is a completely, totally, and unacceptable, unbiblical explanation of this passage. Never, ever, does God desire or encourage us to choose against good and choose evil, to chose against God and choose Satan. Scripture is loaded with passages that encourage us to be holy, to be set apart, to separate ourselves from worldly things and choose the things of heaven. I cannot accept that in this one passage, God would change his tune, for God changes not – he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

To get a better picture of the hot and cold images used in this passage, one needs to understand the culture and location of Laodicea. Laodicea was centrally located only six miles south of Hieropolis and eleven miles west of Colossae. Hieropolis to the north was well known for its many hot springs which provided hot water and Colossae to the east for its fresh springs which provided cold water. Because Laodicea lacked a natural water supply, it was dependent on its neighbors for this vital resource and therefore drew water from both, as well as from other surrounding sources. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was “lukewarm”, neither “hot” nor “cold”.

The word, hot, then refers to hot mineral spring waters, generally 95 degrees or warmer. Hot water has many medicinal benefits, such as:
● it relieves the pain and stiffness of arthritis.
● it reduces muscles spasms and alters the sensation of pain, reducing stress.
● it stimulates circulation, boosting the health of all the body’s tissues by carrying oxygen and nourishment to the cells.
● it loosens mucus, relieves sinus congestions, and opens breathing passages when breathed as steamy vapors.
● it increases body metabolism, stimulating the intestinal tract and the liver, aiding digestion.
● it stimulates the immune system
● it can help promote feelings of physical and psychological well-being.

The word, cold, then refers to refreshing spring waters, generally 60 degrees or cooler. Cold water also has many medicinal benefits, such as:
● it relieves the pain and inflammation after acute injury or surgical procedures.
● it lowers the temperature of the injured tissue, which reduces the tissue’s metabolic rate and helps the tissue to survive the period following the injury.
● it quickly cools and keeps the body at an optimum temperature to reduce swelling for up to 2 hours.
● it contains health-restoring minerals like lithium, calcium and magnesium, which help sustain healthy blood and oxygen levels.
● it serves as a detoxifying agent to flush out toxins, can provide an added energy boost, and can increase mental alertness for those who drink it regularly.
● it can reduce the amount and severity of headaches at high altitude, when taken in quantity.
● it relieves depression helping to promote feelings of physical and psychological well-being.

This background, then, gives us a more accurate biblical interpretation of what Jesus was saying. The imagery states not that “hot” is good and “cold” is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is useless.

The Laodicean church was providing neither healing for the spiritually sick (as would hot water from Hieropolis), nor refreshment for the spiritually weary (as would cold water from Colossae)! The church was simply providing lukewarm water which was not helpful at all. It was, in fact, useless for any kind of healing or medicinal benefit. For this reason, Jesus says he would vomit [εμέω emeō G1692] them out of his mouth.

You may enjoy watching a video on this very same subject, with a similar conclusion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFxeZK_2xpY

As Christians, we are to provide either hot water or cold water to those who are spiritually sick or weary. Which water will you give to others in their need – hot water or cold water? Give one or the other, but do not give lukewarm water and be vomited out! One does not want to be found wanting as one asks: “How close are we to the return of Christ?”

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