So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth – Revelation 3:16
In this verse, the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to the congregation of ancient Laodicea. His message is not one that is unperturbed by their sins and accepting them regardless. On the contrary, it is a threatening rebuke that offers damnation for those that reject His words.
Theologian A Johnson (1999) writes “The two adjectives in “neither hot nor cold” should be understood together as equivalent to “lukewarmness” (v. 16). That is to say, they were useless to Christ because they were complacent, self satisfied, and indifferent to the real issues of faith in him and of discipleship.”
Laodicea was a wealthy city. The people had money. They were merchants of purple cloth (a luxurious item at the time to trade with), they had special medical breakthroughs which supposedly could cure blindness. They were self sufficient and indifferent about it. However, the deeper problem in the Laodicean church was not simply their indifference. It was their ignorance of their real condition: “You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'” Notice how this statement is related to the general condition of the majority of the population —rich in material possessions and self-sufficient. The spirit of the surrounding culture had crept into the congregation and had paralyzed their spiritual life.
The Laodiceans may have interpreted their material wealth as a blessing from God and thus have been self-deceived as to their true spiritual state (Johnson. 1999). A congregation that believes material blessing is a sign God is pleased with them, is one whose theology is disconnected from the poverty of the Son of Man. Hanging on a cross and enduring suffering for the sinful, whilst offering a cross and self denial to his followers. The same Son of Man who states, “blessed are the poor” and “woe to the rich”.
This message spoken to Laodicea speaks to our own comfortable, material rich lives today. Not reading the Bible daily, not repenting of sin, prayer becoming an inconvenience, and offering one’s life in servitude to the poor? How few of us in the West can honestly say we are following Christ wholeheartedly? Many are Luke warm. Destined to be spat out and sadly blind to their spiritual condition – just like the Laodiceans they believe their material ‘blessings’ are a sign of God’s favour.
Christ’s statement “I rebuke and discipline” speaks of his love (Prov 3:12; 1Cor 11:32; Heb 12:6). He spits out those he does not love and “rebukes” (elencho, “reproves,” “convicts”) and disciplines those who hear his voice. The difference between the expelled and the disciplined lies in their response: “So be earnest [zeleuo, `zealous,’ `enthusiastic’] and repent.” Repentance comes from rekindling ones loyalty to Christ and proving such repentance by your deeds (Acts 26:20).