How to Settle God's Stomach
Revelation 3:16 is our text for this week.
16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.— Revelation 3:16 (HCSB)
We first should look at the context of this verse. This is the part of Revelation where Jesus is writing the letters to the seven churches, and this is from the letter to the church at Laodicea. Verses 14-22 comprise the entire letter to the Laodiceans…
14To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
"The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says: 15I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. 17Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. 20Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me. 21The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22"Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."— Revelation 3:14-22 (HCSB)
In verse 14, the Author of the letter identifies Himself as “the Amen,” the “faithful and true Witness,” and the “Originator of God’s creation.” The first term is not an uncommon term - most people, when they pray, will end their prayer with “Amen.” This means “so be it,” and implies that what has preceded it is valid and true. The next term, “Witness,” reminds the readers that Jesus came and remained a faithful Witness to the Father (John 14:24b). The final term, the “Originator,” speaks to the power that the Author has over the people to whom He is talking. He existed long before they did (John 1:1), and their very existence is due to His working.
The biggest problem that Jesus has with this church (expressed in verse 16) is that it is no longer working for Him. The members aren’t actively supporting evil, but they have become lulled to sleep, as it were, while on the watch. It has been said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing*. This is all that Satan has to do. He doesn’t have to get us to turn to evil, he just has to get us to turn from good! He can do this through distractions, busyness, or, in the case of the Laodiceans, complacency.
As is always the case, though, Jesus doesn’t just find fault; He tells the church what they need to do. They had a false view of themselves in their minds, which He identifies in verse 17. They think that they are rich, and have fine clothes, and are well-fed, not realizing that they are actually poor, naked, and hungry. They are like the person described in James 1:23-24, that look at themselves in the mirror, then immediately forget what they just saw. The church knew better, and Jesus had better things in store for them. In verse 18, He offers them the very best in wealth, clothing, and food; and, in verse 19, He assures them that He rebukes those that He loves. This echoes Hebrews 12:8, where the author contends that if you don’t receive correction, you are not a child of God.
If the passage stopped there, that would be good enough. But it doesn’t! In verses 20 and 21, Jesus offers them even more - a personal, intimate relationship with Him. The picture is beautiful; ever a gentleman, He stands at the door and knocks. If we let Him into our hearts, we can have fellowship with Him; and, though this fellowship begins here on earth, we will also be together with Him, victorious over sin, and will be with Him on His throne! What a transformation - from making God vomit (v. 16) to reigning with Him (v. 21)!
The key to this is in verse 20. He is standing at the door and knocking. If you have never let Him in before, I pray that you will consider it. If you have, but have been shutting him out, filling your heart with everything but Him, I pray that you will let Him back in. He can do wonders in cleaning out the dust and grime, but He’s not interested in making you feel badly about it. He simply yearns for that fellowship with you - whether you let Him in is your
* This quote is commonly attributed to Edmund Burke, but cannot be confirmed to him - see the “Quotes” section of the link.