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Hot, Cold, and Lukewarm

Hot, Cold, and Lukewarm

A Lesson in Historical Context

by Ryan Habbena

 

 

QUESTION: What does Jesus mean in Revelation 3:15-16, where He states, “I wish you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither hot or cold, I will spit you out of My mouth”? Is he saying that it is better to not believe (i.e. be cold) than to be indifferent (i.e. lukewarm)?

 

ANSWER: This passage is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied in all of Scripture. I frequently hear the interpretation noted above. The misunderstanding of this particular passage is a great example of how contemporary ideas are often read into the Biblical text. In order to properly understand this portion of Scripture (and indeed all of Scripture), it is profitable to thoroughly examine the background and context of the passage.

 

The book of Revelation is one of the most unique books in all of Scripture. It combines the elements of an epistle, of prophecy, and of apocalyptic literature. The passage at hand occurs in the midst of the Lord’s commanded exhortations to the 7 churches of Asia. 1 Each church was exhorted in different matters and in various ways. The church in Laodicea is the church to which Jesus gave the “hot,” “cold,” and “lukewarm” rebuke. A careful reading of Jesus’ admonition reveals that this particular church had become focused on riches and wealth, with pride and spiritual complacency being the result. This is the general context and background of this passage.

 

What, then, does Jesus mean when He says He wishes they were either “hot or cold?” First, we must discover what Jesus is referring to here. When we examine the entirety of the preceding verse, Jesus clearly presents what He is specifically speaking of. He proclaims: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot” (Revelation 3:15a). Therefore, it is clear that the analogy of “cold, hot, and lukewarm” is directly related to their deeds. Yet, how are we to relate this analogy to “deeds”? An understanding of the historical background of the city of Laodicia in the first century sheds much light on this issue.

 

The city of Laodicea was located between the cities of Hierapolis and Colossae. Both of these cities were known for pure waters that flowed through them. Nearby Hierapolis had a spring flowing with hot, medicinal water. Nearby Colossae was known for its cold, refreshing mountain springs. Laodicea, on the other hand, was renowned for its dirty, lukewarm water, which visitors almost immediately spat out after tasting. In light of this, we can see that both “hot” (like a hot shower) and “cold” (like a refreshing drink) were considered both good and useful. Yet, the “lukewarm” water of Laodicea was of little good use.2

 

When we apply this background to the admonition Christ gave the church at Laodicea, it is evident He was using the “waters” as an analogy to their own spiritual situation. Instead of being useful in service for the Lord, as the hot and cold waters of the area were useful, they were comparable to the virtually useless water of their own city, and the Lord was about to rebuke them by “spitting them out of His mouth.”

 

In popular evangelical culture “hot” is often used to convey an idea of great spiritual fervor (i.e. ‘on fire for Jesus’). “Cold,” on the other hand, is often used as to describe one as spiritually dead or unfeeling (i.e. ‘what a cold-hearted person’). These ideas, then, are incorrectly read into this text. The original audience would not have had such presuppositions. Rather, both “hot” and “cold” were considered good and useful, it was only “lukewarm” that had an overtly negative connotation. Therefore, Jesus is not stating that He would rather have the Laodiceans overtly reject Him. Since “hot” and “cold” were considered good and useful, Jesus rebuke was directly related to their “lukewarmness” – their spiritual slothfulness.

 

It is clear the potential rebuke in this passage is intended for discipline, not punishment. This is made clear when we read further, Christ states: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore and repent” (Revelation 3:19a). We read of God’s disciplining love in Hebrews 12: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5b-6).

 

God will not tolerate sin and spiritual slothfulness in the lives of His children. This discipline may come in a variety of forms. We are not told exactly how Jesus disciplined the Laodiceans. Given the severely admonishing tone of the letter, if they refused to repent it appears the discipline would have been nothing light. This passage should serve to both motivate and comfort us. It should motivate us in the fact that we have a Lord that will not tolerate spiritually slothful children. The Scriptures are clear that our God and Savior practices discipline. Yet, this should also comfort us. Our Lord will not allow sin to go unchecked in our lives – He is working to conform us into His glorious image.

 

He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

 

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Israel & New Breed – Alpha & Omega

 

[Verse]
You are Alpha and Omega
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
You are Alpha and Omega
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised

[Chorus]
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised

[Verse]
You are Alpha and Omega
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised

[Chorus]
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised

[Chorus]
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised
We give You all the glory
We worship You our Lord
You are worthy to be praised

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The Mundane Matters

 

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  1 Corinthians 10:31

 Scripture Focus: 1 Corinthians 10

 As Jesus grew, He came under the tutelage of His father, Joseph, who taught Him his trade. Modern translations often describe it as a carpenter. The Ancient Greek noun tektōn (τέκτων) is a common term for an artisan/craftsman, in particular, a carpenter, woodworker, mason, builder, teacher, or engineer. 

 While He lived on this earth, Jesus had to learn to work with His hands and His mind. The mastermind behind the universe, the eternal logos, had to learn mathematics, aesthetics, and the physics behind how this world functions. The Word that created all things out of nothing learned how to take raw materials and create something useful. 

 Jesus had what we would call a secular job. We know from Jesus that He did only what the Father told Him to do (John 5:19). He was growing in closeness to His father on the job. His ministry was an extension of what He learned through His trade. If you are tempted to believe that your job is not significant, take a second look at Jesus! Everything that He did was infused by His nearness to His heavenly Father.

 Insight: Pray today that God would take you under His tutelage and show you how you can work for Him in your occupation.

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BE PATIENT for ISAAC OR SUFFER your ISHMAEL – by Russell Durose

The promises of the Lord have certain longevity that tries
anyone’s patience.

The Lord gave me this Word just now, as I have just walked in the
door from a very full day, of challenges and grace challenges that
come with disciplining a life in a troublesome life. The Lord is calling
us to wait for Isaac. Are you willing? Or are you wanting to
produce what is easy and natural? You see when our patience
level reaches a breaking point, we must at that point quieten
ourselves, then hold ourselves, until we dominate our flesh. It is
here where our battles lie…the impatience of our humanity abort
many divine processes.

Between the promise of Isaac and his birth, I estimate that 25
years went by. But in between, there was a great temptation that
came and manifested itself. The answer which was of divine
promised is polluted by a deceitful thought you must collaborate
with God…YOU MUST MAKE THAT FIRST MOVE, YOU MUST
DO SOMETHING…this was the greatest error ever made, and
today we live with its costly consequences.

Rather, let us compare for a moment, two women…Sarah and
Hannah…Sarah was the initiator of impatience…Hannah was the
sufferer for the cause of the promise. For Hannah, the shame and
the plaguing of that which was natural, but closed to her, for a
season, yet she continued on until she surrendered herself, and
God granted her desire. But her wait for the seed promised, took
prayers, crying, fastings, torture, yet the benefits are felt today…
because Samuel brought in the reign of Saul, through anointing,
and then David through anointing.

Let us transport this to your ministry dream…are you willing to
wait for your Isaac? Or will you “help God out?” Ishmael spells
trouble and strife. He mocks the promise of God…He wars against
it. I am certain that in our churches there are so-called Ishmaels,
who were never truly born again, but go through the religious
motions. Yet they cause so much strife. This strife even creates
wars, between tribes, creates states, and divides worlds. So what
does it cost – our impatience? It can cost you very life.

~SOURCE:

http://www.prayer-revival-initiative.com

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CLASSIC CCM 90’S – Jon Gibson – “Can’t Live Without Jesus” (HQ)

This is a song about love
That’s freely given from above
It’s the same old song
You’ve heard it before
But this time it’s really knockin’ at your door
You can’t live without Jesus anymore
Mmm, no more

This is a story ’bout a King
And the eternal Kingdom He will bring
Well it’s the same old story
You’ve heard it before
But this time it’s gonna knock you to the floor
You can’t live without Jesus anymore
Oh, no more Mmmm, Oh my Lord, I know you’re hurting
It’s okay it’s okay it’s alright it’s okay

It’s the same old story
You’ve heard it before
But this time it’s gonna knock you to the floor
You can’t live without Jesus anymore
Anymore, yeah
You can’t live without Jesus anymore