Does anything make God sick?
So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! – Revelation 3:16
15 I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!
16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
17 You say, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
In the ancient Mediterranean world, Laodicea was one of the great commercial and manufacturing centers. It was located in modern-day Turkey. It was founded circa 250 BC by Antiochus II and was named after his wife Laodice.
Its importance was due entirely to its geographical location. It was situated along one of the great roads that ran from West to the East. It had one serious drawback, its lack of an adequate water supply. The waters of the nearby Lycus River were muddy and undrinkable. All of its water had to come via aqueduct, an artificial pipeline, from hot springs about six miles away. Roman technology and the Pax Romana allowed Laodicea to become a rich and prominent city.
Laodicea became a great banking and financial center. He had a famous textile industry that mass-produced outer garments made out of soft, violet-black, from glossy wool. An advanced medical school was located there as well. Its doctors were well-renowned. Due to all of their advantages, the Laodiceans amassed great wealth.
The Laodiceans had no clue that their wealth created spiritual poverty. As an advanced center of clothing production, they never realized that they were naked in the eyes of God. The medical center developed highly effective eye and ear ointments that were exported all over the world. But they never realized that they were spiritually blind.
Their material achievements and riches led to abysmal spiritual poverty. The Laodiceans boasted that they were rich and needed nothing. In their minds, their great wealth diminished any need for God.
The Lord Jesus Christ addresses seven congregations in Revelation 2 and 3: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Each letter is tailor-made for its specific destination taking into consideration its distinctive conditions, culture, and attitudes. The letters contain His personal evaluations, commendations where appropriate, critique, and instruction.
The water of the nearby Lycus River was muddy and essentially undrinkable. Therefore, the water of Laodicea came by aqueduct. Remains of the aqueduct still exist today. Deposits encrusting the pipes verified the poor quality of the water. By the time it reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm. Further, to make matters even worse, due to impurities, the water had an emetic effect, that is, it induced vomiting.
Nearby was Hieropolis, famous for its medicinal hot springs, and Colossae, known for its pure, cold water (Wiersbe). Thus the words “hot” and “cold” have historical significance that informs the understanding of the condemnation presented by Lord Jesus Christ. Too often people take this passage entirely out of context. Knowing the background unpacks its meaning.
Revelation 3:16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
REFLECT & PRAY
Ephesians 4:30 Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Father encourage and enable us to have lives that are refreshing or helpful to others. May we be pleasing in Your sight.
Laodicea received no commendation. It stands alone when compared to the other six churches. The Laodicean church was just like the city’s water supply: lukewarm. “The condemnation of Laodicea begins with a picture of almost crude vividness; because the Laodiceans are neither cold nor hot, they have about them a kind of nauseating quality, which will make the risen Christ vomit them out of his mouth” (Barclay). This may seem a bit confusing in the 21st century, but the people of Laodicea understood exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ was saying.
The Greek word which is translated as spit or vomit is emeo. Emeo literally means to spit out, vomit, or throw up. The English word emetic is derived from this word and it refers to a substance that induces vomiting. Spitting is frequently an act of contempt (Luke 18:32). This anthropomorphism indicates the intense disgust of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to be lukewarm?
This is understood in light of the water supply. The water of Laodicea traveled some 6 miles from the aqueduct. By the time it reached the city, it was tepid, lukewarm, and emetic. This is in contrast to the nearby cities of Colossae, known for its cold, crisp mountain water, and Hierapolis, which had hot springs with water that was often used for medicinal purposes.
The water of Laodicea was a metaphor, a perfect fit for the church’s spiritual condition. The Greek word which is translated lukewarm is chliaros. This word is only used here in the entire New Testament. Chliaros means tepid, warm, or between hot and cold.
The Lord Jesus Christ found the people’s attitudes repugnant. Their hearts were tepid, impure, proud, and arrogant. How might we characterize being lukewarm? It connotes being equally removed from two opposite extremes. In that the Lord Jesus Christ used it in a pejorative sense could it mean middle-of-the-road, uncommitted, indifferent, lethargic, unremarkable, mundane, mediocre, unexceptional, apathetic, halfhearted, lacking zeal, and the like?
They were complacent, self-satisfied, self-sufficient, obtuse, and lacked commitment to the Father and word of God. They were just going through the motions spiritually. They had one foot in the world and the other in church. They were ambivalent being content with their wealth and materialism. They were obtuse to their spiritual poverty. The Lord Jesus Christ declared that they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Revelation 3:17).
Yet, despite their moribund, deluded condition, the Lord Jesus Christ loved them.
It is no coincidence that the Lord Jesus Christ calls upon them to repent. He makes a magnificent offer and promise.
Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
Rather than being spiritually bland, as lukewarm water, we are to be refreshing or restorative, as cold or hot water.
Upon reflection, perhaps the church at Laodicea provides ample motivation for each of us to examine our hearts.
Are we lukewarm?
Was Revelation 3:20 written as an appeal to unbelievers? Was this addressed to those who had not put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ Lord? Or was it addressed to lukewarm children of the King? What does the context indicate?