Dr. Stephen Phinney
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So Because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Revelation 3:14
Passivity is the gateway to disembarking from the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ. Droves of churches in our culture are less likely to stand on the absolute Word of God & more likely to hold to social justice issues. Drinking from the cup of what most churches offer is like drinking from a river plagued with dysentery.
The church of Laodicea reveals the details of the final state of apostasy (falling away). Laodicea is one of the seven churches Jesus addressed harshly. The city’s name comes from the wife of Antiochus II (Laodice), the Syrian who ruled in the early days of the city in and around 261 BC.
Laodicea had a small problem—earthquakes. The area seemed to be plagued with natural disasters. Every time this great city began to enjoy their wealth, wham, another disaster. Shortly after John wrote the warnings in Revelation chapter three, Laodicea was hit by the great earthquake of AD 62.
From all accounts in Revelation, this wealth greatly affected the condition of this church. It appeared strange that their riches and sorrow were consistently in harmony with each other. God said that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that certainly was the case with Laodicea. Very few rich people serve God, and few rich churches serve God. Money is a compulsive substance, which acts as a master all by itself. Jesus stated that it was “easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven,” which communicates the problem with Laodicea. We could rephrase this statement to say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich church to get into Heaven,” which is the warning given to the church of Laodicea. It is difficult to understand that riches and True Spirituality somehow do not mix; they are like oil and water.
The church of Laodicea was known for its luxury, self-satisfaction, pride, worldly liberal Christians, and the revitalizing of the Tower of Babel. Today, God has completely leveled the city; several times. Its wealth is no more, the people are scattered (we find them in churches throughout the generations), and their splendor lies in a pile of dust. However, eschatology reveals Laodicea raises their ugly head in the end times – shortly before the Seven Year Tribulation.
All it will take is a couple of pandemics, and God will have the church on its knees—no longer able to rely on their big budgets, their gold-plated walls, or the people who are supporting and giving to their funding from their wealth or their poverty to help sustain these “towers of Babel” (churches).
There are ruins showing signs of the Romans’ extreme lust for going over the top, but God did not allow another city to takes its place. As you look at Biblical history, you’ll find that once God was finished with Laodicea, He truly did spit them out of His mouth. If you watch church news, you should see Laodicea has been resurrected of sorts. You should also see God’s pattern of using natural disasters & pandemics to address the church is in motion once again.
After the departure of the believers from Laodicea, most settled into Colossae, which was the city Biblical Paul addressed harshly. The conditions of that particular assembly bothered Paul tremendously (Colossians 2:1). Paul was troubled over their pride, material idolatry, and selfishness. They did not need God, and why would they? They were able to buy anything and everything they needed. Paul noted they found glory in what they had and not in what they possessed in Christ Jesus.
The struggle Paul experienced in his day is no different than today. Since the church of Laodicea is the symbolic period of the day of Pentecost to the Rapture, we need to evaluate the same issues the early church faced many years ago.
In Revelation’s passage, Christ introduces a new title for Himself in this passage. He calls Himself the Amen. The title is a Hebrew word meaning both the True unchangeable nature of Christ and the unchanging message of God’s Word. Scholars of Hebrew tell us the actual meaning for the word Amen is translated as Truth or Believe. Therefore, Christ is starting His introduction to the Laodicean church as He is Truth. When we hear the word Truth spoken, we better be certain that we’re speaking of the life of Jesus Christ.
The second title Christ gives Himself is The Faithful and True Witness. Because of the sins and frailties of man, Christ is the One and only True Witness. The rest of us fall completely short without His life. Finally, He refers to Himself as The Beginning, representing the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end).
Now comes the rebuke. Jesus states, “I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth”—an issue that is relevant for us today. Like most people, a cold drink is refreshing, and a hot drink is comforting; but a lukewarm drink is distasteful. That is the message being communicated here. If necessary, Christ would prefer this church to be as cold as ice, but He would prefer the church to be hot—inflamed by the Holy Spirit. Lukewarm is an indifference. They were without the Spirit of fire, but they did not run around publicly following/serving Satan directly but rather indirectly, and that’s what indifference is. They were just indifferent to the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit and the angel who was assigned to this group of “believers.”
The Laodicean members were indecisive, spineless, and not willing to take a stand for anything representing the life of Jesus Christ. They feared they would lose their wealth and possessions if they held to the convictions of the Gospel. They had no fear of God, which is what got them into trouble. The seventh church is in the worst condition of all of them. The church of Laodicea has the greatest impact on our churches today. It is like cancer with a mission to pass itself down from generation to generation—much like how viruses work—from generation to generation. The ultimate goal of Christ’s enemy is to steal, kill, and destroy. In the case of the lukewarm church, he has accomplished this.
Christian wealth is viewed by our present society, much different than the way Christ viewed the wealth of Laodicea. Yes, many of these leaders and their ministries fall into the category of being Laodicean, but the Truth is, prosperity doctrines only work in a prosperous society. If the Bible is correct in God bringing a close to such Christian prosperity, then the Church will be in deep despair very soon. It is likely to happen through the madness method of Satan’s socialistic platform.
Talk about reading the hearts of modern Americans and other countries who seem to bathe themselves in a social gospel. Because of their present wealth, they will overlook the morphing of a new government approaching. When wealth has been taken from the people, socialism will be welcomed. Why? The masses will not have the ability to pay their bills, and each will depend upon the government to meet their needs. And…that includes the church(s) that depend on social welfare.
Authentic ministries are key. I have often questioned the Lord as to why He keeps our little ministry living hand to mouth. After studying the historical elements of the church of Laodicea, I have no further questions regarding this issue. Needs create dependency, and dependency forms intimacy with a provider. Christ is offering this challenge to all of us, not just the lukewarm church of Laodicea. I have realized that whatever I am, and whatever I have, I am to be well content. It is through a lack that I find my true intimacy in Christ.
Christ offers the church some counsel. He says, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire.” Both in Greek and Hebrew, that fire means a refinement or a purification process. He went on to say, “So that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” The refined gold is the purification process of their souls, most likely what we would call persecution today. His offer of white garments can only be obtained through Salvation. Therefore He requires them to have a born-again conversion through Him. The white robe is offered to them because He dipped His robe in His blood, and it is the only way they can cover their nakedness before God. The eye salve is the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit in touching their eyes, opening them to the Truth, so that they may be healed to see the truest things of God.
Now comes the repentance part. Jesus said…
“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”
Jesus is communicating His great love to this church, and He wants them to be hot for Him. The only way this can occur is the conditions He sets before them must be accepted as a refining fire to come to repentance. Jesus warns them of the process; being disciplined and refined, and He now sets a way out before them.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
We know this as the infamous verse of Salvation used by Bridal members throughout all generations. Since the day of John’s writings, he has laid out a pathway of becoming born-again, which requires being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is living in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the living God. He stands, He knocks, and He waits. If we do not open the door, we lose. Jesus coming to live in us is our sealed hope of eternal life and blessings. The church is being offered the most gracious act of all eternity. Let’s hope they hear the knock, open the door, and allow Him to come in and dine with them.
Dining is a very important part of Hebrew culture. When you dine with someone, you’re accepting them unconditionally. This is a message for all unbelievers living in the church—thinking they are saved, but they are not. He even speaks of their reward. He says…
“He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
We could easily paraphrase this as, if any of you overcomes this lukewarm state you are in and accepts Me, Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I will give to you the right and privilege to sit with Me on My throne as my Beloved Bride.
May we all have ears to hear this message. Every believer suffers from moments, days, months, or years of being lukewarm. “Believers” are leaving the faith by the droves. It is almost as if there is a great apostasy that has already started. But this is one message that we cannot pass off as just for the lukewarm church in Revelation. We all need to be heated up by the Holy Spirit.