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Revelation 3:14-22 | Free Grace Bible Study

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I remember the first time I visited a hot springs location. Arkansas has a famous place where boiling water comes bubbling up out of the ground. Years later, I would find myself in Yellowstone National Park, where the water comes out so hot it can boil a buffalo. Literally, a park ranger told us a bison fell into Old Faithful once, and it smelled like beef stew for a year. 

I’ve also visited some amazing cold mountain springs. After hiking for two days on one of the tropical islands of Vanuatu, we came upon a trickling spring that ran down a bamboo pipe that some of the local tribesman had built. I have been told not to drink local water when traveling, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to try it. It was cold and fantastic. What a refreshing gush of life-giving water! 

I’m from Texas where water is ALWAYS artificially cooled with ice cubes. When I was a kid my family had a name for a cup of water that had been sitting out for a few days. We called it wax water. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that wasn’t a common term. That was apparently something we made up. But we called it that because a three-day-old cup of water was not only lukewarm but by then had enough dust from the air settle into the cup that it tasted like ear wax. At least that’s what me and my brothers thought. 

What a contrast from hot springs to cold mountain streams, to ear wax water. I think that’s about as good of a setup as I can do for the passage we are going to look at today. 

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Lesson Description

We're tackling the tough love letter to the Laodiceans from Revelation 3:14-22. Jesus doesn't hold back as He calls out their lukewarm faith, comparing it to their city's tepid water—neither refreshing nor healing. He's looking for them (and us) to be either hot or cold, valuable in our faith and deeds. Through a mix of sharp rebukes and promises of rich rewards for those who overcome, Jesus lays down the challenge to open our doors to His discipline, promising intimate fellowship and a share in His victory. It's a call to spiritual wake-up for all believers, urging us to seek true wealth, vision, and righteousness from Him. Let's dive in and explore what it means to be hot, cold, and anything but lukewarm in our walk with Christ.

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Passage | Revelation 3:14-22

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”

Bible Study

3:14 What Jesus is about to say to the First Church of Laodicea will likely hurt, so he reminds them that He is trustworthy by identifying Himself as the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.

3:15 Laodicea is the only church of the seven, to whom Jesus says nothing positive. To start He points out that they are neither cold nor hot. Many have become confused about this because we often use the word cold in a negative way. If a person is cold, in our modern thinking, that is not a good thing. However, we must correct our thinking to understand His instructions. He says He wishes that they were cold or hot. So hot would be good, but cold would be good too. 

3:16 One of Laodicea’s neighboring cities had hot springs that were believed to have medicinal benefits. The hot springs were a desirable location that brought people in from all over. Another of Laodicea’s neighboring cities had a chilled spring of refreshing water that flowed out of the mountains, clear and cold. 

Unfortunately, Laodicea didn’t have either of these water sources in town. They had to rely on an aqueduct to bring in water, and it was tepid, lukewarm, and a bit nasty by the time it arrived in the city. It was not pleasant to drink because of its high mineral content. It might have even made some feel sick to their stomachs. So historically, hot or cold water was a desirable commodity, but the lukewarm water that was drunk in Laodicea was a constant annoyance. Jesus uses the knowledge of this phenomenon to teach them an important lesson. 

He’s already said He wishes they were hot, which would be a good thing, or cold, which would be a good thing too. However, since they are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, He was going to vomit them out of His mouth.

Some have proposed the odd notion that Jesus wants people to be either for Him or Against Him and that being hot or cold is related to that. That, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. Jesus wanted them and us to be for Him. That’s it. When He says He wants them to be hot or cold, He means he wants them to be good for something, useful, adding some spiritual value to the world. 

Others have come to believe that being vomited out of Jesus’ mouth must mean that these individuals were going to lose their salvation. Others have proposed that they must not have been saved in the first place. However, that doesn’t make sense in the flow of this letter. 

Remember, Jesus is talking to the church, and the consequence of these messages falls on the church as a whole unless otherwise stated. So he’s threatening a church-wide discipline, much like when He told Ephesus that He would come and remove their lamp stand, which was the church itself (2:5). Thus, Jesus is warning the church as a whole about a corporate discipline that would fall on the entire church. If they don’t repent, the church would soon cease to exist. Not just by lamp stand removal but by projectile vomit. What a colorful word picture. 

3:17 Laodicea had a reputation for being extremely rich. When an earthquake destroyed much of the city, they did not accept financial assistance from Rome to rebuild as they had need of nothing. While that was the secular municipality, it seems that that attitude was present in the church of Laodicea as well. Jesus reveals the truth that they were wretched, miserable, and poor.  Jesus uses irony in that Laodicea was known for a medicinal eye salve, and yet He calls them blind. They also had an acclaimed fashion trade that came out of Laodicea with fine fabrics for which people coveted, and yet Jesus calls them naked. 

These biting words remind us that material wealth, corporate quality organization, and our Sunday’s best dress don’t matter all that much to God if we are living lukewarm, insipid lives. If we are spiritually tepid, it makes Jesus sick. 

3:18 Jesus builds on His claim that they are poor, miserable, and blind as he tells them to buy from Him gold refined in the fire. This is clearly a call to seek eternal rewards, as it reminds us of His famous words: Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:20).The Laodicean fashion industry wasn’t what they needed, but instead white garments. He has already offered white garments for those who overcome (vs 4-5).Laodicea’s famous eye ointment couldn’t heal their spiritual blindness. Instead, they need Jesus’ metaphorical eye salveso that they may see. There is no medicine as good as the truth, given from the Amen, the Faithful And True Witness (vs 14).

3:19 He now turns from the corporate discipline of vomiting out the church, to a more personal admonition. It’s not for the sake of raw anger that he disciplines, but it’s for those He loves. As many as He loves, He rebukes and chasten. Rebuke has the sense of verbal correction, while chasten means to discipline. He has already shown that He often uses natural circumstances to discipline His believers (2:22). 

Repent, in this context, is not a call to salvation since these are already saved believers. It is a command to change, to get back on track, to have zeal (vs. 19), and to stop being so annoyingly lukewarm (vs. 14)

3:20 Once again Jesus offers fellowship with Himself as a tremendous reward, both in this life and in the next. He gives a word picture, like a neighbor whois at the door knocking. You can hear the knocking from inside your locked house and are faced with a choice. The one who opens the door will be blessed with an amazing opportunity. In the last session, Jesus talked about taking walks with overcomer. Now he says he’ll dine with the ones who are open to his correction and rebuke. There is nothing that communicates friendship better than eating together. 

Many have tried to turn this verse into some kind of call to a greater emotionalism. That is, however, not what He’s saying. He is offering correction and discipline. Opening the door means simply that they must not resist the discipline. They must be open to the change He’s proposing.  

3:21 For the one who is open to Jesus discipline, He offers the greatest expression of intimacy and rulership we’ve yet seen. To him who overcomes, is addressed not to lazy Christians, but only those believers who strive for spiritual victory in this life. For the ones who fight for the win, He will grant to sit with Him on His throne. Scripture has many times promised positions of rulership to those who live faithful lives (Revelation 20:4, 5:10; 2 Timothy 2:12; Daniel 7:18, 27). 

Being an overcomer is not for the faint-hearted. He reminds us that He Himself is one when He says,  I also overcame. Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to be an overcomer. He wasn’t lazy, waiting listlessly for the end, avoiding the hard stuff. He conquered! He was a death crusher. A snake stomper. A Godly debater. A resurrector. That’s what it means to be an overcomer.

 He gives a hint as to what the benefits of sharing a throne are when He paints a word picture of Himself conquering and then sitting down with His Father on His throne. So, the throne is not just about ruling; it’s also about fellowship, intimacy, friendship, and closeness. When He sits on the throne, He isn’t alone. He’s with His Father. There is no greater fellowship in all of the cosmos than that which exists between the persons of the Trinity. In a similar way, we will have an incredibly intimate fellowship with Him if we overcome because we will share His throne with Him. He will employ us for his eternal work in the age to come, and in so doing, we will work intimately with Him. 

What an amazing opportunity. May we stay faithful to achieve it, Lord!

3:22 One last time, Jesus reminds us that this is not just a message for Laodicea but for all of us when He closes this section with those seven-fold repeated words: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Jesus identifying Himself as the "Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" in Revelation 3:14 set the tone for His message to the church in Laodicea?
  2. In what way does the analogy of hot, cold, and lukewarm water in Revelation 3:15-16 help us understand Jesus' criticism of the Laodicean church's spiritual state?
  3. Considering the historical context of Laodicea's water supply, how does Jesus' desire for the church to be either hot or cold apply to our spiritual lives today (Revelation 3:15-16)?
  4. Why does Jesus use the stark imagery of vomiting the lukewarm church out of His mouth in Revelation 3:16, and what does this tell us about spiritual complacency?
  5. How does the wealth and self-sufficiency of Laodicea contrast with Jesus' assessment of their spiritual condition in Revelation 3:17?
  6. What does Jesus mean when He advises the Laodiceans to buy gold refined in the fire, white garments, and eye salve from Him in Revelation 3:18?
  7. How does Revelation 3:19 demonstrate Jesus' love through discipline, and what is the significance of His call to repentance for believers?
  8. In Revelation 3:20, what does Jesus imply about fellowship and discipline through the imagery of knocking on the door and dining together?
  9. How does Revelation 3:21 redefine the concept of being an overcomer, and what does it imply about the rewards for faithful living?
  10. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:22). How does this final admonition in Revelation 3:22 encourage personal reflection and application of Jesus' message to our own lives?

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