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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:

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?”


From → Insights

  1. Ed Lauter permalink

    Now that is some good journalism.

  2. Blondell permalink

    By no means considered it that way.

  3. Hi Al,
    Great to see this message in video. As a teacher, I try in my classes to use as many learning styles as possible, hard to do in a blog, but thanks to faithful witnesses such as yourself, a few judicious updates helps to accommodate other styles. I’ve added your link to the main body of my blog for those that prefer video instead of words, but who may not read the comments and study further.
    God Bless,
    Prof J

  4. Al from Hastings UK permalink

    I was delighted to read this article, considering that I have just posted a video on this very same subject, with a similar conclusion:

    It’s good to see the truth being revealed about this passage from Revelation 3. I personally know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the “heavy legalistic spiritual thermometer” exhortation, unjustly accused of being lukewarm and likely to be vomited out of Jesus’ mouth. Not a very pleasant experence!

    Clearly the passage is talking about grace – especially considering Rev. 3:20, which is an obvious reference to receiving the grace of God.

    Every blessing,

    Al (from England)

  5. Hi 4GodisJust,

    I am touched that you and Coco are in agreement as so many are not. Truly, not only are many unwilling to desire Meat, but more alarmiing is that so many Pastors, Teachers, and Lay Leaders only have milk to give. The great falling away is gaining speed, and it brings tears to my eyes that so many will find themselves in hell when all is said and done.

    God Bless,
    Prof J

  6. 4godisjust permalink

    Awesome post as always, Thank You so very much! I agree with Both Coco and you, I truly believe this is our world today, they don’t want the rich Meat of the word they want it their way and only their way. Praying that people see what is really going on, but I fear that won’t until it is too late!

    I pray you have a blessed night and a great week!

  7. Hi Coco,
    I apologize for the delayed reply. This week has been very busy with testing, interviews, and visitations.

    Lukewarm has so many applications, as you note, and unfortunately too many Pastors and Teachers are spitting out milk. There is an old saying: “Nobody drinks the milk and then eats the cookie. Nobody drinks the milk and then eats the cake. Nobody drinks the milk and then eats the steak. Everybody eats the cookie, cake, or steak, then washes it down with milk.”

    If only those about to be vomitted, milk spitting leaders would give their folks meat, then top it off with milk, perhaps more people would see that God’s word is living and active, and would start getting hot or cold instead of sitting on their behinds, having frothy white upper lips, and basking in a haze of stupidity and lack of knowlege of God and His Word.

    Glad to see you are anything but lukewarm!

    God Bless,
    Prof J

  8. Cocopea permalink

    Hi Prof. J.

    Excellent! Excellent! teaching on a verse many of us never really delved into for it’s deeper meaning. Most of use know the difference between hot, cold and lukewarm water, and of course we know what “vomit” is…yuk!

    So, I think in terms of the way this verse is presented to us, along with the very thought of Jesus vomiting a church out of his mouth, does make it seem as if it’s either the extreme of good or the extreme of evil, which as you explain, the latter is not something God would advise.

    I’ve often thought in terms of “you cannot serve two Masters” as well, “plucking out your eye if it causes you to sin”, “better to have a milestone hung around your neck than to cause a little one to sin”, etc….all these quotes from Jesus show a stark contrast or example to the extreme consequences of not choosing to walk in His ways. I think the term “vomit” is another one.

    Straddling the fence, backsliding, being double-minded, all these things speak to the Church and behavior of many Christians….they are heavily into a lukewarm Gospel. Only a baby or child needs a lukewarm bath– once you are grown, you can handle a hot bath or cold shower, and benefit from both as you gave many examples to show. So I also think this applies to many lukewarm congregations…they are still being milk fed, they have not matured and many don’t want to.

    Ultimately, that is why it continues to come down to a individual choice on how you choose to walk with Christ. Yes, he will hold the Pastors and Preachers accountable, but he will also hold you accountable. He gave instructions to both, there will be no acceptable excuse on judgement day, period!

    Great post, you always provide so much good food for thought! Thank you!


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