“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16
In Russia, it is a tradition for people to visit the sauna. People especially love to do this in the middle of the winter. This tradition is hundreds of years old, dating back to the time when people didn’t have running water in their villages or homes. People would join all their friends at the local sauna once a week not only to get clean but to spend an evening of fellowship.
Today everyone has running water in their homes in Russia; nevertheless, people still go to the sauna, for it remains a very important part of Russian culture. And because I live in Russia, I frequently go to the local sauna with brothers from the church for an evening of fellowship and prayer.
After we have all sat in sweltering hot temperatures, I watch in shock as the Russian men leap into huge tubs of bitterly cold water. Or sometimes while we’re on a ministry trip, we’ll stay at a farm and I’ll take a sauna with the brothers from the local church. These brothers will run out of the building; dive head first into the snow; roll around in it for a few minutes, screaming and shouting; and then dash back into the sauna where it’s nice and warm. They tell me that the purpose for this practice is to get their blood moving!
I enjoy going to the sauna with my fellow brothers in the Lord, but I refuse to leap into subzero cold water or dive into snow when it’s already forty degrees below zero outside! I don’t care if it is good for the circulation; I will not do it! I find it much more enjoyable to rest in a tub of lukewarm water that is relaxing. Going from sweltering “hot” to freezing “cold” is just too much for me!
When I refuse to go from one extreme temperature to the other and even ask for lukewarm water to be poured into a tub especially for me, the men sometimes joke with me, reminding me about Jesus’ words to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:16: “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
The city of Laodicea was built in a region that was full of seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often happens in a seismic area, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling hot water to reach the surface. In the nearby city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe in those waters, believing they had medicinal powers. An experience in those waters was viewed to be therapeutic and effective in improving one’s health.
Another city named Colosse was not too far away. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was known for its cold waters. Just as people journeyed to Hierapolis to bathe in the hot springs for health purposes, people would travel great distances to vacation in Colosse, where they could invigorate themselves by taking frequent dips into the famous, refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters of that city.
Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot nor cold water. Therefore, the people of Laodicea had to leave their luxurious homes and travel to Colosse if they wanted to enjoy fresh, cool water. On the other hand, those who desired to soak in the hot springs had to travel six miles to Hierapolis.
Once in an attempt to bring the hot water from Hierapolis to Laodicea, a huge construction project was commenced. The goal of those who initiated the project was to build pipes that would channel the hot water six miles from Hierapolis to the city of Laodicea. The pipes effectively delivered the water – a real feat of construction at that time. Sadly, however, the water lost its heat along the way. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste. The taste was so revolting that no one wanted to drink it!
So when Jesus told the Laodiceans, “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth,” this was a message that carried a strong punch. He was telling them, “Because you have become so dead, dull, sickening and nauseating – because no spiritually refreshing waters flow from you and you have no healing properties left – I will spue thee out of My mouth!”
The word “spue” is the Greek word emeo, and it means to vomit, to spit out, to regurgitate. This picture of Jesus threatening to “spue” the Laodiceans out of His mouth doesn’t mean He was rejecting them or disinheriting them. It just reveals how utterly distasteful a spiritually lukewarm condition is to Jesus. The fact that these believers were lukewarm means they weren’t good for anything; they were neither cool and refreshing, nor were they hot and healing. They were just stuck in the middle, like something that has lost both its flavor and its heat along the way.
These words in Revelation 3:16 could be interpreted:
“Because you’ve lost your temperature and become lukewarm; because no refreshing waters flow out of you and you have no healing properties left – I find your taste in My mouth to be disgusting! I can’t bear it anymore, and I have no choice but to spit you out!”
That’s how God feels about a lukewarm spiritual walk. You see, with God there is no middle ground. But if you have allowed your walk with God to become lukewarm, you can reverse that abominable condition! God has tossed the ball in your court, and now it’s up to you. He is calling you to repent of your lukewarm attitude. Go after the things of God with all your heart, soul, and strength!
Rick Renner and his wife Denise pastor the Good News Church in Moscow, Russia. He and Denise join James and Betty this week to discuss his new book on the seven churches of Revelation, A Light in Darkness, Volume One.