by Mike Ratliff
“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. “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16 ESV)
I have heard numerous sermons and read even more teachings on Revelation 3:14-22, which is is our Lord’s letter given to the Apostle John to be sent to the church at Laodicea. I have written and taught on this passage myself numerous times. In any case, there are two aspects of it that we will look at in this post that point directly to the apostate mess that is going on right now in the “visible church.” I just returned from a week in Washington, DC and Philadelphia, PA. I found it incredible that both cities are full of very large, ornate church buildings while all around those very same building was what could only be described by John Bunyan as “Vanity Fair.” I won’t go into detail about the aggressive panhandling in Philadelphia as well as the very obvious racial hatred projected against us as we walked to and from our hotel into the historical area of that city. However, I did recognize much of the rhetoric coming from one of their “demonstrations” as Black Liberation Theology. Interestingly, I witnessed none of that in Washington, DC. Instead, what I saw there was pure hedonism in every form projecting itself in every way imaginable.
I had a lot of time to think and pray about how to put these two seemingly different “experiences” together in relation to this post. In our flight home yesterday I read about the first half of the book of Jeremiah. I was about five or six chapters into it and I already knew what I was going to write about in this post. I think my wife sensed it as well. I stayed away from the internet and work the whole time I was off and spent as much time as possible with my son and wife, but she could tell when I got back into the groove. She reached over and started patting my leg. She knows that my primary love is for God and His Word and she can sense when I get into that teaching or preparing to teach mode. I have been working on this post in my mind and heart ever since.
In any case, what Jeremiah was called to do was be the prophet to warn of God’s coming judgment to apostate Judah. They were still very religious. They still offered their sacrifices and held their festivals, but they also mixed in worship of other “gods” that called for the sacrifice of their own children. Jeremiah was threatened. He was beaten by the priests and told to shut up. He was put into stocks. When the Babylonians did come and fulfill the judgment he had prophesied, he was still despised by the apostates. The point is that God would not allow him to quit. He had to continue to preach. He had to continue to tell the truth. Even if only a few listened, he had to remain faithful. The religion that he preached against was the religion the people wanted. It was man-centered. Now keep that in mind as we look at the four Greek words that are key to understanding Revelation 3:14-22.
The first three are ψυχρός or psuchros, which the ESV translates as “cold,” ζεστός or zestos, which the ESV translates as “hot,” and χλιαρός or chliaros, which he ESV translates as “lukewarm.” Here is Revelation 3:15-16 from the ESV, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Here is Revelation 3:15-16 from the Greek New Testament, “οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα, ὅτι οὔτε ψυχρὸς εἶ οὔτε ζεστός· ὄφελον ψυχρὸς ἦς ἢ ζεστός· οὕτως ὅτι χλιαρὸς εἶ, καὶ οὔτε ζεστὸς οὔτε ψυχρός, μέλλω σε ἐμέσαι ἐκ τοῦ στόματός μου.” Here is a word-for-word translation of the Greek text, “I know of you the works that neither cold you are nor hot. I would cold you were or hot. Thusly because lukewarm you are and neither hot nor cold, I am about you to vomit from the mouth of me.”
The word ψυχρός not only means cold, but “frigid cold, sluggish, inert with cold.” This is the cold of death. In a metaphorical sense then, the ψυχρός are spiritually dead since they have an an aloofness to Christianity. They are lost and do not care that they are lost. On the other hand the ones our Lord described who are ζεστός actually means to be so hot as to boil. In a metaphorical sense, then, this would describe Christians who are fervent in their faith. These are genuine Christians who are spiritually alive. Who the the χλιαρός whom our Lord is so disgusted with that He is ready to vomit them out of His mouth? This word means “tepid, warm, a mixture of cold and hot.” The “church” at Laodicea was a mixture of professing Christians who were simply religious, but who were lost. They had some real believers, but they tolerated the apostates. They tolerated the worldliness. They tolerated the compromise and this created the lukewarmness, which was nauseating to our Lord. Many were professing Christianity, but were not Christian at all. This is apostasy, which is: Professed Christianity but a denial of its basic truths.
Now we come to our fourth key word for this passage. Actually, it is not found directly here only indirectly. In the ESV version of Revelation 3:14 our Lord says, “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.” The city where the church is is Laodicea or, in Greek, Λαοδικείᾳ, however, the people there were called “Laodiceans” or Λαοδικεύς or Laodikeus. This word is comprised of two words: λαός, which means “people” and δίκη, which means “law, right, custom, and even prescribed punishment (depending on the context of course).” Combining these words together gives us the concept of “the law or custom of the people” or “the people ruling.”
As I stated earlier, what we have going on now in the “visible church” is this very thing. Everything is backward or upside down. It has all become people-centered. People have the authority instead of the Word of God being the authority. This is why someone like Rick Warren can strip mine the Bible, twist it like a pretzel and make it look like it supports everything he is doing and saying when it most certainly does not. The entire “seeker” movement is built upon or based solely upon what people want. This is Laodicean to the core.
What I witnessed in Washington, DC was an entire social system built around the worship of the god of self-indulgence. What I witnessed in Philadelphia, PA was a very bitter part of society demanding their “right” to what they considered what was being withheld by others simply because they were a different Race. It was still a “false gospel” based on something other than the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. None of it, nor any other man-centered ideology in between these extremes use the Word of God as their authority because if they did, they could not stand. These things are based on what people want rather than what God says.
Before I left for my trip I was beginning to read about Presuppositional Apologetics after listening to two separate podcasts that talked about it. It was as I heard it boiled down to its finer points that I realized that I have been practicing a form of it for quite some time now without knowing it. In any case, my form is that my belief system is not just a category that is isolated from all other parts of my life. No, my faith is my life. My walk with God is where I am centered and all I do, think, say, and how I do my job, et cetera is based on this. This is why when some come to this blog wanting me to back off certain points or to “widen the gate” broader than what the Bible actually says, it isn’t going to happen. This is what I am praying that all reading this will commit themselves to do as well, via the work of the Holy Spirit in them of course.
We are all sinners. None of us are perfect. We sin. We must come daily to the throne of grace, confess our sins, seeking forgiveness, and by the grace of God, turn in repentance from those sins. It is God’s Word that is the objective truth He gave us that we can trust to always be right and that the Holy Spirit will use to transform us as we learn to walk before the Lord as living sacrifices. Forget perfectionism. Forget keeping the Law to earn Heaven. If you are in Christ it is because of the Grace of God and so, your call from now on is to be that disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are all called to be.
Soli Deo Gloria!