What does it mean when Jesus said “I will spit you out of my mouth” to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:16?
In this post, I do a step-by-step Bible study covering the true meaning behind Jesus’ reference to the hot and cold liquid and His statement about spitting out the lukewarm drink.
You’ll be surprised by who Jesus was actually referring to when He said they were lukewarm.
I’ll also answer Questions such as:
- What is a lukewarm Christian?
- Are lukewarm Christians saved?
- What does the hot and cold represent? (Revelation 3:16 meaning)
- Why does Jesus call them poor, blind, and naked?
- And more…
If you don’t want to read, I highly recommend watching my video which is almost a word-for-word explanation of this post ⬇️
I will spit you out of my mouth meaning
When it comes to the letter that was written to the Church of Laodicea, There is a lot of misinformation that comes with interpreting what it actually means.
I’ll start by talking about the most common interpretation of this passage… then I’ll talk about the real meaning of what it says based on scripture since most of what Jesus said refers back to the scriptures.
What is a lukewarm Christian?
A lukewarm Christian is usually referred to as someone who claims that they are a believer, but doesn’t fully live out their beliefs in God. They are often described as someone who is lacking in their devotion to God, living in sin, or just isn’t really doing anything for God’s kingdom because they’ve become complacent.
The place where people get the term Lukewarm Christian comes from a passage in Revelation 3:14-22 were Jesus addresses the church in Laodicea.
The problem with this is that Jesus never actually calls them Christians… He just calls them lukewarm.
And I’ll talk about that, but first, let’s read what it says in Revelation 3:
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
The most common interpretation of this passage doesn’t come from the Bible… it comes from the geographical location of the city of Laodicea.
You might have seen this photo before of the Lycus River Valley that shows 2 sources of water that come together to meet in Laodicea through an aqueduct.
They say one aqueduct carried Hot water from the Hierpolis Hot Springs and another carried cold water from the Colossae Cold Springs.
The idea is that by the time the water would get to the city of Laodicea it would mix together to create this lukewarm water.
This Water was not pleasant to drink and would sometimes be used to induce vomiting which is the actual word for spit out in verse 16 of our passage.
Then people go on to say that the hot water represents Christians who are on fire for Jesus and are fully devoted to God. On the other hand, the cold water represents people who are complete non-believers who are living in sin.
Mixing the two together, you get lukewarm water.
Basically, someone in the middle between hot and cold that is usually described in the dangers of lukewarm Christianity.
But this theory of hot and cold is false on so many levels.
And here’s why:
When Jesus said I will spit you out of my mouth for being lukewarm, He was not referring to 2 hot and cold rivers that met in the middle to create lukewarm water.
That’s because there were no aqueducts carrying Hot and cold water into Laodicea from Hierapolis and Colosai.
First off, the hot water from Hierapolis was heavily mineralized which would clog the aqueducts very quickly from mineral buildup. This was not drinkable water, this was water used for bathing and dying fabrics.
This is another problem because Jesus was talking about drinking the hot liquid.
In addition, The terrain for an aqueduct from Hierapolis to Laodicea was also not suitable since it would have to be twice as tall as one of the largest aqueducts the Romans built at that time and would have to go through a valley that was 330 feet deep to get to Laodicea.
The cold water Aqueduct from Colossai was also highly unlikely because there were much closer cold springs to Laodicea which made it impractical to build an aqueduct from there.
Laodicea got its water from the much closer south, unlike these 2 sources which came from the north.
Not just that, but there was no evidence that the water in Laodicea was bad or undrinkable. In fact ancient writings referred to Laodicea’s water as more drinkable than Hierapolis (High-Raw-Polis).
You can learn more about these 2 aqueducts here.
I would rather you be hot or cold meaning
So if Jesus wasn’t referring to a hot and cold aqueduct creating lukewarm water, what was he referring to?
Revelation 3:20 says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him”
He was referring to drinking something hot or cold in the context of dining with Him.
By the way, It never says WHAT He was drinking so we don’t even know if it was water.
What was more common during that time in a dining context was that the host of a house would serve a guest with wine mixed with water. The water was either cooled with ice or heated on coals then mixed with the wine which would cause the wine to be either hot or cold.
Both hot and cold drinks were considered good since those who are hot find cold drinks refreshing, and those who are cold enjoy the warmth of a hot drink.
And Jesus himself said “I wish you were either cold or hot”
On the other hand, serving lukewarm wine was considered insulting to a guest and lukewarm water was used to induce vomiting.
So in that sense I agree, The lukewarm drink does represent something negative which I’ll talk about.
Regardless of what the drink was, Jesus was not referring to the hot drink as a Christian that was on fire for him in their devotion and the cold drink as a complete non-believer living in sin.
Since when has it been better for someone to be a complete non-believer living in sin then a “lukewarm” Christian who is struggling with their faith?
The hot and cold drinks both represent something that Jesus enjoys or is satisfied with that just have different functions. In other words, both the hot and cold drinks represent born again believers.
But what about the Lukewarm drink?
Is Jesus going to spit you out of His mouth if you are lukewarm?
When Jesus says He is going to spit you out if you are lukewarm, it actually does mean that He is going to reject you and you will not enter the kingdom of God.
But this is where most people get it WRONG.
Most people think that Jesus is rejecting lukewarm CHRISTIANS for their works because the letter is written to the Church in Laodicea.
But is Jesus actually going to reject a born-again believer from entering the kingdom based on their works when Ephesians 2:8-9 says that you are saved by grace through faith and not by your works?
Or is it possible that Jesus is referring to a group of people within the church of Laodicea that claim to be Christian and try to do the works, but are not saved?
Let’s look at what Jesus says to these people:
Revelation 3:17 says “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
First, Jesus says that these people say “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”
Is there another reference to this in the Bible? Yes!
Hosea 12:8 says: “Ephraim has said, Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” (Hosea 12:8) NASB
Hosea ALSO talks about Ephraim as a people who claim to be rich and without sin in all their works.
Then Hosea 12:14 (NIV) continues with: “But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger; his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.”
Hold on a second, did God just say that He’s going to leave Ephraim guilty of their sins and repay them for it?
But Ephraim is a tribe of Israel, which is supposed to be God’s people. Why would God not forgive their sins?
It’s because they are self-righteous and do not think they have sin. Therefore, they do not see the need for forgiveness.
It’s no wonder the tribe of Ephraim isn’t included in the 144,000 of the tribes of Israel that are sealed for God’s kingdom in Revelations 7. (You can look into that yourself)
When Jesus describes the people in Laodicea as rich, he is not just saying that they are financially wealthy, even though they very well could have been. He’s saying they are like the tribe of Ephraim, who are supposed to be God’s people, but are self-righteous and don’t think they need forgiveness of sins.
Jesus also says because you say you’re rich…“you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked”
Then Jesus gives them a solution for their poverty, blindness, and nakedness when He says:
18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
Now Let’s break this down:
Why Does Jesus Call The Laodiceans Poor?
Jesus said in Luke 4:18 that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. And in Matthew 5:3 He says “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (NLT)
When Jesus talks about preaching the Gospel to the poor, he’s referring to people who are poor in spirit that realize their need for forgiveness of their sins.
Jesus is doing a play on words here when He calls the Laodiceans poor. What He’s saying is that those who claim to be rich are poor, and those who know they are poor become rich.
Those who know they are poor are open to hearing the Gospel and receiving Christ which causes them to become rich in Christ.
The people in Laodicea were claiming to be rich or without sin because of their self-righteousness, therefore they were actually poor or sinful.
That’s the reason why Jesus advises them to buy from Him Gold refined by fire.
What does the gold refined by fire represent?
1 Peter 1:7 says: “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
1 Peter tells us that gold refined by fire is the proof of your faith… The proof of your faith is the works that reveal your faith since it is your works that will be tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13)
Jesus said earlier that their works were neither hot nor cold, but were lukewarm therefore He will spit them out.
If Gold refined by fire is the proof of their faith and Jesus is telling them to buy it from Him…Then that means their works showed that they had no faith in Christ. They were not saved.
But wait, there’s more…
Jesus also calls them blind.
Why Does Jesus Call The Laodiceans Blind?
John 9:39-41 says “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. (John 9:39-41)
In this passage, Jesus does another play on words just like before but this time with the blind saying that those who claim to see are blind and those who are blind will see.
And when He talks about blindness, He refers to sin. Sin that remains…
Just like with Ephraim.
What He was saying was if only you realized that you are blind or sinful you would know the need you have to be able to see or be forgiven of your sins. But since you say you see, you will remain sinful.
Like Ephraim, the Pharisees were supposed to be God’s people.
They knew the law better than anyone else, they did all the “good” works, but they never received Christ and His forgiveness. They Crucified Him instead.
The Pharisees saw themselves as self-righteousness and not needing forgiveness for their sins.
And so did the Laodicens…which is why Jesus also told them to buy from Him eye salve to anoint their eyes so that they can see.
Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Let’s go over one more thing He calls them: Naked.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they realized that they were both naked.
And not just that but, God had to sacrifice an animal to clothe them with animal skin to cover their nakedness.
Just like He sacrificed His son Jesus to clothe us with righteousness.
To this day, we as people also need to be clothed from our nakedness, not just physically, but spiritually.
Galatians 3:27 says “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
This means that if you have put your faith in Jesus and have been born again, you have already been clothed with Christ and are no longer spiritually naked.
So if Jesus is really addressing Christians in Laodicea… why would he call them naked?
And not just that, but He tells them to buy white garments from Him.
What do the white garments represent?
Revelations 19:7-8 says “7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The white garments are given to the bride of Christ and they represent the righteous acts of the saints. Righteous acts that are produced by your faith in Christ.
In addition, Revelations 3:5 says that He who overcomes will be clothed in white garments.
Who are the ones that overcome?
1 John 5:4-5 says: “4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Those who believe in Jesus and have been born again are the ones who overcome. These are the ones who get the white garments.
Jesus also spoke to the Church of Sardis about the white garments saying:
“4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”
The church in Sardis had people who soiled their white garments and a few who didn’t.
The point is:
Both of them HAD garments.
The people in the church of Laodicea didn’t even have white garments.
They were naked.
Therefore, not having the white robes also meant that the people that Jesus was referring to in Laodicea were not born-again believers.
At this point, Some of you might be thinking:
Well, what about Revelation 3:19 where Jesus says to the Laodiceans: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”
Isn’t Jesus addressing them as believers since He refers to them as those whom He loves and disciplines? Like the way God disciplines his children?
Actually no…and here’s why:
Jesus just got done rebuking and disciplining 4 other churches right before Laodicea, but He doesn’t tell any of them: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline;” as if they didn’t know.
He just tells them to repent.
So why would He say this to Laodicea before calling them to repentance?
It’s because when He says those whom I love, He’s not referring to them…He’s referring to those whom He loves who are believers who know what it’s like to be disciplined as a son or daughter…
It was not normal for these Laodiceans to receive correction like this because many of them were not children of God yet.
Jesus tells them this as if He’s making an exception by correcting those who are within the Church who are still not born again.
And if you still don’t think Jesus is addressing non-believers within the church of Laodicea, all you gotta do is examine the next verse after this.
Revelation 3:20 says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him”
Jesus is standing at the door of their heart knocking… because they have not let him in.
And if they open the door….Notice what He says:
“I will come in to him and will dine with him.”
Meaning they don’t have Jesus living in them.
When Jesus comes into you, you become born again and you’re able to have fellowship with God through Christ.
It’s really that simple.
Now with that being said, I do want to clear some things up:
First off, I do believe there were real born-again believers in the Church of Laodicea because Paul writes to them in his other letters.
However, When Jesus addresses the church of Laodicea in this letter, He is addressing the “ekklēsia” which is the Greek word for church in our English Bibles defined as an assembly or gathering of believers…
In this case the gatherings of believers within the city of Laodicea. These were not buildings, they were groups of people meeting for Christ.
Now Is it possible that within a city that has born-again believers who gather for the name of Jesus, that a large portion of those people who gather are those who say that they are Christian, but aren’t born again?
It’s exactly what we’re seeing in America today. We even have pastors, worship leaders, and ministers who claim that they are Christians who aren’t born again…Let alone the congregation.
That’s who Jesus is addressing in this letter.
A large portion of people who are gathering in the name of Jesus within Laodicea who don’t actually know Him and are not saved.
The second thing is that Jesus is not referring to the Laodiceans as Christians who have fallen away.
In other words, He is not telling them that He will reject them because they were born again at one time and then fell away. He is referring to people that were too self-righteous to let Him in their hearts in the first place.
To all 6 of the other churches, Jesus tells them to either return to where they were before, hold on to what they have, or remember what they have received.
But He never says anything like that to Laodicea.
He simply said “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth”
That’s because there is no middle ground / grey area with Jesus when it comes to salvation.
It’s either you are forgiven and saved, or you’re not.
And if you are saved but you’re struggling… He isn’t going to reject you, He’s going to work on changing you.
Look at what Jesus said in John 6:37:
“37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”
The ones whom Jesus rejects are the ones who never come to Him in the first place.
Finally, I don’t share this with you as an excuse to allow Christians to do whatever they want and just be complacent because they’re already saved.
I want believers to be on fire for Jesus and do God’s works as much as the next guy.
But when you start teaching Christians that they are going to get rejected by Jesus because they’re struggling with their faith or aren’t doing enough work for God, You put them in greater bondage.
It becomes a work-based relationship with God where you put demands on yourself to do something from a place of fear and striving instead of love and when something happens to your works, for whatever reason, you go through a fall because you think your relationship is based on what you do instead of what He’s done.
As a result, you do worse, not better because you see God as just a taskmaster instead of a loving Father.
When Jesus spoke to the Church of Laodicea, He was not referring to born-again believers when He said they were lukewarm but to those within the church who claimed they were without sin and had never put their faith in Jesus because they were self-righteous.
Jesus calls them to repentance by telling them He is knocking at the door of their heart waiting for them to let Him into them so He can dine with them.
And that is the question for you today:
Have you truly invited Jesus to come into your heart?
If you still like living in your sin and keep coming back to it over and over again, there’s a good chance you haven’t been born again or saved.
If that’s the case, I want to invite you to make a decision right now to put your faith in Jesus simply by asking Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you of your sins.
Then, let me know in the comments below by saying “I received Jesus today”