Reading the Word
Revelation 3:14–22 (ESV)
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
Understanding and Applying the Word
This passage is a good example of why we cannot force our modern usage of words onto the Bible. When we say someone is hot or cold about something today, we mean they are either passionate or disinterested. Is that what Jesus means when he tells this church that he wishes they were hot or cold rather than lukewarm? Is he saying he wishes they were either for him or against him rather than riding the fence? Does that not seem odd?
To better understand what Jesus means we need to understand the historical background. Nearby Hierapolis had hot springs while nearby Colosse was known for its cold pure water. What did Laodicea have? It was infamous for the lukewarm water that was piped in via an aqueduct built by the Romans. The hot springs were desirable for bathing. The cold water was great for drinking. And the lukewarm water was good for nothing!
Jesus’ statement about being cold or hot is about being useful for something. Lukewarm water is undesirable and useless. May we never be found useless to our Lord. Let us serve him and have a deep fellowship with him as we await his return.
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