“I will spew you out of My mouth!” — Letter to the Lukewarm Church (an explanation).

“I will spew you out of My mouth!” — Letter to the Lukewarm Church (an explanation).


Revelation 3:15-17 (NKJV)

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.


The first three chapters of John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ contain seven distinct letters to seven different Churches scattered across Asia Minor (Rev. 1:4). Each letter contains its own emphasis, reprimands and encouragements for each of the recipient local Churches.


The Saviour of His Church, Christ Jesus, uses very strong words in addressing these Churches, some of which, if not properly interpreted, may be stretched to imply a loss of salvation. In fact, the proponents of “temporary salvation” take a strong footing in this Book of highly metaphorical language in an attempt to discredit other clear instances that plainly declare that the Lord saved His Church forever. This, really, is an endeavour dead on arrival as a basic fundamental rule of Biblical interpretation is to never build Bible doctrine on symbolic verbiage or ambiguous texts. To properly exegete, you start from the CLEAR to the UNCLEAR, not the other way around. So, it is quite obvious that the Book of Revelation is one which must be handled with MUCH CAUTION due to its largely figurative content. This article does not seek to explain every letter to the seven Churches but would narrow in on the letter to the seventh Church — the one at Laodicea.


To begin with, it is important to observe the opening statements of the Book. Many rarely do so. As we will see, the Book opens with the very assurance of eternal salvation found in Christ Jesus.


Revelation 1:4-6 (NKJV)

4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:


Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.


To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


Observe verse 4: “..Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come”


This statement is one that characterizes the opening of the Apostolic writings (see Rom. 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3, 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2 Peter 1:2, 2 John 1-3 and Jude 1:2. Note the exceptions in Hebrews, James, 1 John and 3 John)


It is a statement of endearment, affection, fellowship and cordiality, to show a mutual relationship between both parties. So Revelation 1:4 is saying that the recipients of the writing have a union with the Lord, they are on good ground. It begins emphasizing identification and the benefits of the same.


This is further explained in the succedent verse


5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.


To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,


Jesus is called “the faithful witness.” This nomenclature is often used for one whose testimony of Truth cost him/her his/her life (see Rev. 6:9, 11:3, 12:11).


“Firstborn from the dead.” The word “firstborn” is from the Greek word “prototokos (πρωτότοκος).” It is a compound word from two other Greek words “prṓtos” (which means “first, pre-eminent”) and “tíktō” (meaning “bring forth”). “Prototokos (πρωτότοκος)” refers to a first experience of something, which serves as an example that others would follow identically after. This is typified in the Old Testament offerings (see Gen. 4:4, Deuteronomy 12:17 & Exodus 22:29) and explained in the Epistles, as relating to Christ Jesus.


Colossians 1:15 (NKJV)

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.


What creation? The succedent text explains.


18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.


Jesus is seen as the first of creations who have been raised from the dead (New Creations, the Church). Obviously, the “death” here cannot be physical death ALONE as several individuals had been raised from physical death before Him (see 2 Kings 13:21, Matthew 9:23-26, Luke 7:11-17, John 11:43-44). Hence, He cannot be referred to as the “firstborn from PHYSICAL death.” This “death” would be the spiritual death of sin (Gen. 2:15-17, Isaiah 53:9), particularly that consummated in Sheol (Matthew 12:40). He dies carrying the sins of humanity. However, at Jesus’ Resurrection, He is not just raised BODILY but is raised FREE from sin (or “born again”), hence Acts 13:32-33.


Acts 13:32-33 (NKJV)

32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:


‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.’


He is “begotten” anew. So Jesus is the first Man to be born again out of sin and spiritual death and He then becomes the “prototype” (“firstborn”) as it were, for His Church — all who believe on Him become EXACTLY like Him!


Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.


He tastes Resurrection and glorification from sin FIRST, then His Church follow suit in His image.


Hebrews 12:22-24 (NKJV)

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.


John points the attention of the Churches to the blessed fact that Christ has been raised from the dead and in His Resurrection is theirs. (For more on this, get the teaching “What God Always Wanted”)


Revelation 1:18 (NKJV)

18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.


“the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5). This explains the authority He received at His Resurrection (Matthew 28:18). This authority was received to be exercised by His Church (see Ephesians 1:19-23, 2:4-6). God’s plan has always been to have a spiritual kingdom of kings and priests (Exodus 19:5-6) but Israel rejected this plan in their unbelief. However, God’s counsel is now accomplished in His Christ (Rom. 5:17); He creates a Kingdom of men who are to rule as kings. This Kingdom is immaterial and supernatural (see John 18:36, Rev. 5:9-10). It is not political, it is sown in men’s heart via the Gospel. (For more on this, get the teaching “A Place on Earth: Understanding the Kingdom of Heaven within).


“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5)


The word “and” (“kai” in the Greek) is to further explain how He loved us. The love of God is demonstrated towards man in the death of Jesus Christ for sins (see John 3:16, Romans 5:5, 8, 1 John 3:16, 1 John 4:9-10). So, in His blood, we have been washed from our sins. The word “washed” as used here was translated from the Greek word “luó (λύω).” It actually refers to a loosening or a deliverance from; to release or unbind. John is saying that by His blood, we have been set free from our sins. This is similar to the thoughts expressed in the Epistles (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14, Colossians 2:13). The Apostle John states clearly the fact that Jesus has delivered the Saints from their sins, His blood is the ransom paid to set them free!


Then he reiterates “and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.” This Kingdom is here and now, it is where the Saints are!


So we see that the very first words of the Book of Revelation are loaded with the realities of the New Creation and salvation. It begins with a strong assurance of all Christ has done and John would expect that they are read and well understood before moving on to the larger portion of the material.


Having examined the opening statements, we may now proceed to the words of the Lord to the Church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) or “the lukewarm church” as it is infamously called, as that is the focus of this article.


Revelation 3:14 (NKJV)

14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:


The word “angel” as used here is repeated in the letters to the other six churches (Rev. 2:1, 2:8, 2:12, 2:18, 3:1, 3:7). It was translated from the Greek word “aggelos (ἄγγελος).” The word “aggelos (ἄγγελος)” simply refers to a messenger or delegate, someone sent to proclaim a message, either human (see Mt 11:10; Lk 7:24, 9:52; Gal 4:14; Js 2:25) or heavenly (Matthew 4:6, 11; Matthew 28:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 16:22; Luke 22:43); this is often determined by the contextual usage of the word. The term “angel” was often used to describe the Biblical prophet (see 2 Chron. 36:15-16, Hag.1:13, Mal.3:1 & Matt. 24:31). Hence, it is no surprise that here (Rev. 3:14), it refers to a key leader in those Churches i.e their pastors or elders who exercise spiritual oversight therein.


Jesus addressing the leaders is very much expected as He put the congregation under their care, hence, they would be responsible for them (Acts 20:28, John 21:15-17, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:1-4). Similar titles to those in Rev. 1:5 are yet used for the Lord, with the addition of “the Amen.” The word “Amen” was translated from the Greek word “amén (ἀμήν).” It means “fulfilled.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 explains this better


2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.


So, John is referring to the fact that all the promises God made in the Old Testament Scriptures concerning salvation have found consummation in Christ Jesus. He is the “Amen” or the fulfillment of all that He said He would do to deliver man from his sins!


Now, John starts to record Jesus’ words to the Laodicean congregation (primarily to its leader)


Revelation 3:15 (NKJV)

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.


This has often been interpreted, unfortunately, in a literal sense, with “cold” being “a state of total spiritual apathy” and “hot” interpreted to mean “a state of fervour and fervency in the things of God.” Hence, Jesus wants either COMPLETELY inactive Saints or COMPLETELY fervent ones. This interpretation is fanciful at best. Various fields of Biblical interpretation help us in unraveling the meaning of a text, one of which is known as “historical criticism” (often called “higher criticism”). Scholars in this field study the authorship and audience of a book, the date of its composition, the historical circumstances surrounding its composition, the authenticity of its contents, and its literary unity (Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 9). The belief here is that the physical, cultural and social environment in which a text was written affects its content (nothing is written in a vacuum), hence, these environments can provide aid in interpreting the literary material. This is the case in Revelation 3:15; its interpretation is found in its historical and geographical contexts.


Laodicea was situated in a valley in-between two important cities, Colossae and Hieropolis. Colossae was literally a “city on a hill” with a spring of cool water which flowed down its hilly foundation to the Laodicean valley. Hieropolis, on the other hand, was famous for hot springs which contained soothing minerals believed to restore back health. These hot springs also flowed down to the cliff facing the valley where Laodicea was situated. But interestingly, Laodicea could enjoy no benefits from either springs because on arrival, they were both lukewarm, putrid and disgusting! So, while at Colossae, the water was cool and refreshing for quenching thirst and at Hieropolis, the water was hot and provided healing, the water at Laodicea was neither cold (for drinking) nor hot (serving no medical purposes). That is, it had no benefits! (C.J. Herner, “Seven Cities of Asia Minor,” in R.K. Harrison, ed., Major Cities of the Biblical World (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers,1985), pp.246ff).


So, the reprimand against Laodicea is not that they are neither fervent nor apathetic (that would not flow with the text, as they would later be described as “lukewarm,” taking this interpretation, that would mean “coldly-hot” or “hotly-cold” or “unbeneficially beneficial” or “beneficially unbeneficial”). The Lord draws inferences from physical representations around them to describe their spiritual state — that have no benefit, are totally ineffective!


“I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot..” That is, I wish you at least had a benefit (either like the cold waters which quench thirst or the hot springs which grant healing. Both hot and cold are beneficial within this context!), but you are lukewarm (i.e you have no advantage, just the putrid waters around you). This is not the Lord Jesus saying “I wish you were completely fervent (often interpreted as the meaning of “hot”) or altogether apathetic (often interpreted as the meaning of “cold”). Jesus is not saying that He would prefer their outright apostasy (“cold”) to an inconsistent commitment (“lukewarm”), as this text has been frequently interpreted to mean. Rather, He is saying that He wishes that they had an impact on their society with the Gospel. “Lukewarm” here is not “doing little,” it is doing nothing at all (like the lukewarm waters at Laodicea, good for nothing!) It is apparent that the Church at Laodicea has blended in with its societal norms at the expense of the ministry of the Gospel. They had become “lukewarm” (doing no good to their society with the Gospel). So the Lord’s reprimand is to correct this.


“..I will vomit you out of My mouth.”


It must be understood that John’s Revelation uses metaphors, imageries and similes from the Tanakh to explain salvation, eschatology, spiritual growth and Christian conduct. Here, he borrows words found in Leviticus 18:24-28.


Leviticus 18:24-28 (NKJV)

24 ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. 25 For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, AND THE LAND VOMITS OUT ITS INHABITANTS. 26 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and SHALL NOT COMMIT ANY OF THESE ABOMINATIONS, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you 27 (FOR ALL THESE ABOMINATIONS THE men OF THE LAND HAVE DONE, who were before you, and thus THE LAND IS DEFILED), 28 lest THE LAND VOMITS YOU OUT ALSO when you defile it, AS IT VOMITED OUT THE NATIONS that were before you.


The phrase “I will vomit you out of My mouth” is simply to express disgust at the state of the Laodicean Church; their actions are an ABOMINATION before the Lord. It can be rephrased “I will find your actions abominable.”


They have abandoned the ministry of the Gospel for materialism.


17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.


They were walking in disobedience by chasing wealth at the expense of the Gospel. The relatively poor church of Smyrna (in Rev. 2:9) were still labouring in the Gospel, so the Laodicean Church had no excuse. In their pursuit for riches, they had become wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked! These descriptions are of their CONDUCT, true riches are found in Christ — in souls saved and grown in the Gospel! Hence the Lord counsels that they purchase from Him “gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”


This usage of symbolism was well understood by the recipients. Genuine faith and works of obedience to the Lord were usually described figuratively in terms  of jewelry in Scripture (see 1 Pet.1:7, 1 Cor.3:12-15); nakedness is figurative for disobedience (Gen. 3:7), whereas, to be clothed in “white garments” was used to describe a state of moral purity i.e the right or expected state of being, the resultant effects or works which accompany justification (see Matthew 22:11, Revelation 19:8). This is a call to return back to the mandate of the Lord and His original plan for the Church He justified.


“..and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”


“Blindness” was often used to describe a man’s impotence and inability to see into the plans and purposes of God as he ought (Lev. 21:18, Deut. 29:4, Matt.13:13-15, 16:1-3, 2 Cor.4:3-4, 1 John 2:11). This state of the heart is usually corrected by a positive action by the Lord Himself — He gives the “eye salve” so a man may be able to see as God sees i.e receive His plans in his mind (Luke 4:18, Acts 26:17-18, 1 Corinthians 2:14-15). The Lord instructs that they go back to seeing as He does, as He has revealed in His Word (the “eye slave” would be proper Bible teaching which would correct their extreme materialistic slants). They are to focus on those things that really matter — ministry.


However harsh the rebukes might sound, they are not a show of rejection or loss of salvation. Hence the Lord says,


Revelation 3:19 (NKJV)

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.


This admonition is similar to Hebrews 12:5-11. The Lord’s love is seen in not allowing the Saints go astray but in “rebuking” and “chastening” bad conduct. This chastening is not done via sicknesses, plagues, accidents or ills. Rather, it is done via His Word (2 Timothy 3:16). Proper Bible teaching is the antidote for deviant behaviour. Hence the letter is addressed to the Pastor of the Church, who has responsibility in that regard. That is how they would be zealous for the things of God and repent (change their minds).


Then He goes on to say


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 dine with him, and he with Me.


This often has been used as a text for evangelistic outreaches. However, the words therein are directed to a Church, not the unsaved. It would appear that this is a call for a Christocentric mindset again in the Church; to put the Lord Jesus back in the forefront of His Church, where He belongs. He should dominate every form of worship and religious activity that goes on. His plans and purposes should rule ours as the Head of the Body.


The letter ends with a final declaration:


21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame 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.”’”


This does not describe a future hope but the present-day reality of every believer. “He who overcomes” is he who has put faith in the Lord Jesus (1 John 5:4-5). There is no other kind of believer! “To sit with Jesus on His Throne” speaks of having same authority. It is the Kingdom and dominion of the Son of His love. The believer was conveyed into that Kingdom at salvation (Col. 1:13). Principalities and powers have been disarmed already (Col. 2:15). We are kings and priests with Him already (Rev. 1:6); we are more than conquerors because He fought the battle in our stead, we rest in His victory (Romans 8:37). The Lord Jesus reigns even now (Acts 2:29-36), having all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18-20). And He is reigning with and in His Church today!


So the Lord Jesus corrects their behaviour and redirects their focus to the work of the ministry, whilst reminding them of what He has done and who they are ALREADY in Him; overcomers and co-heirs. This style is typical of the Epistles. I trust this helped you. Let me know. Share with a friend too.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2020.

1 Comment

  1. Shonubi Temiloluwa

    Really helpful!

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