- I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)
These are a set of verses brought up by those who say salvation can be lost. I once believed that, too. To start with, at the beginning of the paragraph, you can see this is addressed to a church, as the angel is the messenger of the church:
- ¶ And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (Revelation 3:14)
A foreshadowing question that I'd ask next is can Jesus spue out a part of His body? That wouldn't make a lot of sense. And aren't believers part of the body of Christ?
- So we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5)
As we continue, I would ask that you look at the next verse from our topic to gather some context:
- Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (Revelation 3:17)
- And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, [and] be merry. But God said unto him, [Thou] fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:19-20)
- ¶ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:23-24)
After verse 17, Jesus advises those same people on what they should do:
- I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3:18)
I believe gold tried by fire is defined here as the trial of our faith, so it only will apply to those who have had faith:
- That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:7)
And these people who are lukewarm do not have white raiment. How else does the Bible define white raiment? As being saved:
- And round about the throne [were] four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. (Revelation 4:4)
- He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)
- ¶ Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
- For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)
And how about the anointing of the eyes in Revelation 3:18?
- As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (John 9:5-7)
- He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. (John 9:11)
- He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with [their] eyes, nor understand with [their] heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (John 12:40)
Carrying on further into the chapter, Jesus further advises those He is talking to, which looks a great deal like an offer to be saved:
- Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
- For this people's heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and should understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:15)
Specific cross-references can be made for the metaphors that seem to cause us confusion at times, and I believe the ones I've provided, found in His word, may bring light to the meaning of the admonishment we're presented with in Revelation 3, especially to the Laodicean church. Perhaps this was a church that was preaching the correct gospel at some point but has fallen away from that. Or that had similarly been very grace-oriented and became more law-oriented, mixing both.
It's my contention that the Lord Jesus Christ would prefer we believe in the pure and simple gospel, or a completely works-based gospel. That "hot" is the real free gospel, of faith and not of works, "cold" is something like completely works-salvation, and "lukewarm" are those who try to mix works with their faith for justification, a "lukewarm" mix of "hot" and "cold".
I think that He would prefer we believe in a "cold", purely works-based gospel, instead of a "lukewarm" mix, because, to those who are honest, they'll soon see how incapable they are of keeping the law and that will lead them to the real "hot" gospel in the end. The danger of the "lukewarm" gospel is that it has enough truth in it that we can lie to ourselves about being justified. We can think that when we fall short in keeping the works up, Christ's sacrifice will fill in the gap. That is a lie from the devil and any church that preaches that risks being spued out of His mouth (risks losing its organization, purpose, and blessings, I assume) because they're preaching a gospel that damns. Justification is all of Christ and His works or nothing at all.
There are other interpretations out there that don't require this passage to be about salvation that I think could apply, as well, but I'm not certain.