“So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
“Man, it is hot out here. Son, would you please open up that cooler and hand me an ice-cold bottle of water?”
“Sure Dad. Here you go.”
It’s mid-August in Oklahoma. The sun is at its highest peak for the day, beating down on a father and son as they bale hay in the fields of their family farm. The dad gasps, “Thank you–” desperate for breath after chugging the cold, refreshing drink. “That really hit the spot.”
Now just imagine if this dad had asked his son to crawl into the cab of the truck to get his hot coffee, or even a lukewarm bottle of water. Neither the hot coffee nor the lukewarm water would’ve served the proper purpose, which was to cool him off. It was hot outside so he needed a cold drink. Cold was very good.
Let’s fast-forward to the middle of December that same year.
“Dad, I’m freezing!” the young man exclaims as they hunt in their snow-covered woods. “I can’t wait to get back home for some hot chocolate!”
“You and me both, buddy. That sure sounds nice. And maybe a dip in the hot tub too. I might fire it up.”
Would it make any sense to you if the boy said, “I can’t wait to drink a frozen lemonade when we get back to the house!”? No, not at all. It would be nonsensical to drink a cold beverage in such a situation because he’s cold. It would serve no purpose. Neither would a lukewarm drink. He needed something hot. Hot was very good.
Purposefulness, I repeat, purposefulness is the proper context behind one of the most fear-mongering, religiously abused passages in the Bible, Revelation 3:16:
“So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
From the pulpits, street corners, and internet, those who struggle greatly with self-centeredness will scream, “God won’t stand for lukewarm Christians! He will spit you out of His mouth on Judgement Day! You better get to work and do more before it’s too late!”
Friend, don’t worry. The good news is, as Christians, we’re not in God’s mouth. We’re in Him. Paul explains:
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
For a moment, allow me to digress into the wrong outlook of Revelation 3:16. Even if we were in God’s mouth and even if He did spit us out, because of the Cross and our faith in it, He would slurp us right back up. But God is not spitting Christians, slurping Christians, spitting Christians, slurping Christians–based on our performance. We are His beloved children, we are one with Him forever, and nobody can snatch us out of His hand. Jesus assures us:
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:29)
God is no liar and His hand is strong. So why do so many people use Revelation 3:16 as a threat of losing salvation for not doing enough? Several reasons, and all of them lie in the mind of the individual making such false accusations. Here are two of them:
Over the centuries many sanctimonious men and women have tried to unravel the mysterious writings in Revelation, some with diagrams and “detailed” timelines. But we would be lunatics to think we can accurately decipher this vision John had while banished to Greece’s version of Alcatraz, Patmos Island. Rather the third chapter–in regard to the verse in question–or the twentieth, the entire book of Revelation is symbolism. So when we begin to create graphs and chart out a man’s dream into principles and itineraries, we’re just asking for egg on our faces. God spitting out Christians is no different.
I understand this will infuriate the most well-educated, but I don’t care. Some theologians and professors are too book smart for their own supernatural good. Unlike the other letters written to the churches by John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews (more than likely, Paul), Revelation is not meant to be read the same. It’s a great painting of what will happen to Creation, a panned out picture of what’s yet to come.
This revelation penned by John as he was exiled is dramatic, metaphoric, symbolism. It’s all true, but the bottom line behind the book is this:
THE DEVIL LOSES. WE WIN.
Just read the last page. Other than that, if we believe we’re experts on the things John wrote, it’s only a matter of time before we get embarrassed in a severe way.
Disastrously, grace-confused people will sandwich Revelation 3:16–“God will spew you out of His mouth!”–with something Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Don’t let this worry you either. It was not written to Christians. Jesus is speaking to some unbelieving Jews before the Cross; those who wanted to practice the Law of Moses to earn righteousness with God rather than believe He was Messiah. This is why He said, “you who practice lawlessness.” Lawlessness was breaking Mosaic Law. Christians were never invited to obey the Law of Moses because the Law is not of faith (see Galatians 3:12, Romans 6:14, 10:14).
These Hebrew people wanted to brag on their “amazing feats” in order to earn their way into heaven–even doing them in Christ’s very name. Satan was more than happy to give them results which were not from God, although it looked like they were, as they cast out demons and performed miracles.
The problem was this: Jesus never knew them, personally. Never means never, that’s why He said it.
If I say, “I know Donald Trump,” and then I do a bunch of things while attempting to represent him, then I meet Donald Trump and act like we’re friends, he’d look at me like I’m crazy. We have no personal relationship. Same with these Law-lovers and Jesus Christ.
Therefore, this passage is not for Christians who don’t do enough works to get into heaven, but for legalistic yahoos who thought they were “on fire” for God. “Lord, Lord, look at what all I’ve done for you!”
Do you see it? That’s not the gospel. The gospel is, “Lord, Lord, thank you for what all you’ve done for me.” They knew exactly who Jesus was but He never knew them in a personal way. For us saints, He does know us.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14)
I can already hear it, “Yeah right, Matt! You’re just telling people they can be lazy! You’re just telling people they can sin away! You will be one of the false prophets God spews out of His mouth! Jesus said only he who does the will of my Father will enter heaven!”
Friend, breathe. There is rest in Christ. At no point in my books do I ever say we can be lazy. I say we are motivated from within and that’s where our true fulfillment comes from. Is Christ lazy? No, and He lives in us and works through us. Neither do I say, ever, we can sin away. We are free from sin, not free to sin. Even deeper, the truth is we don’t want to sin. Try sinning and you’ll see. If you’re saved, there’s no permanent life in sinning. It’s always a dead end street. So, don’t sin. Is that clear? You’ll regret sinning every single time eventually if not instantly.
And yes, Jesus does say only those who do the will of my Father will enter heaven in Matthew 7, but what is the will of the Father? Like the Pharisees, it sounds to me like you’re turning the word will into work, and you know what? That’s a great idea because Jesus said this to the legalists who wanted to be told to do more stuff:
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
Believing, to God, is the greatest work we could ever do. Believing Jesus can, and will, forgive. This is why Revelation 3:16 cannot be combined with Matthew 7:21-23. If you have this mindset, dump it. It’s demonic, out of context, and anti-Cross because it puts the focus on what we do rather than on what Christ has done.
The entire chapter of Revelation 3 is a call to the symbolic churches in Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, to repent of turning away from the simplicity of the gospel. Read the entire chapter and you’ll soon see that these churches had become fat and lazy. This section of the body of Christ had turned lukewarm–neither hot nor cold. They had lost their purposefulness not their salvation. Losing salvation is absolutely impossible because Jesus would have to die permanently. Losing salvation is absolutely impossible because the promise the Father and Son made to each other at the Cross would have to be broken. That will never, ever, ever happen! (See John 1:12, 3:16-18, 14:19, Colossians 3:4, 2 Timothy 2:13, Hebrews 1:3, 6:16-19, 7:25, 9:26, 10:10,14).
Further, there’s nothing wrong with being cold! Cold serves a wonderful purpose! For those who want to tell you, “You’re not on fire for God! You’re going to be spit out!” they really need to read the passage before Revelation 3:16. John said we should be hot or cold, not just hot. It’s lukewarm that’s the problem. Lukewarm does nothing and serves no purpose. Pond water is lukewarm, stagnant and idle.
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (Revelation 3:15)
I hate that this will hurt the feelings of the on fire Christians, and I’m sorry. But to God, cold is good too. The people being addressed in this passage were not having their salvation threatened, but their purposefulness being brought to light. Their usefulness. Their actions and attitudes were lukewarm and that’s no place for a child of God to be. There’s plenty to do while we’re still here, and while we still have the ability. So we should get to work! We’ve been recreated in Christ to do good things–but getting to work and doing good things doesn’t save us nor keep us saved. Only Christ’s life does.
So today, my friends, know this: God would never spit us out. He holds us close. He’s never disappointed in our lack of works, either. To Him, disappointments are called sins and Jesus took those all away at the Cross. Instead of shaking His head in disgust, He’s always smiling warmly and encouraging us with the truth. When we lose sight of our first love, the one who saved us, Jesus, His Holy Spirit guides us back into the truth…gently, with grace. You are safe. You are secure. You are loved. Don’t be afraid.
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, what an amazing gift you gave us at the Cross. The promise of eternal life with you forever. Satan has done diabolical things in the minds of Christians by making them believe they can be spit out by you for not doing enough. Set them free today, in their thinking. Let them know Jesus did enough! So many of these dear readers are still afraid that they’re lukewarm, cold, or not hot enough. Reveal the true context of Revelation 3. Teach them they have nothing to fear because fear has to do with punishment–and you already punished Jesus in full. Both our sins of omission and commission were dealt with at Golgotha! It’s been finished! Give them freedom in their minds today as they learn the truth of the gospel of grace! Amen.
This devotional is from The Christian Identity, Volume 2. Get your copy here!