Hot and Cold: Both Good

Posted on September 6, 2019

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By David Ettinger

Wrongly Interpreted
It’s one of the more well-known passages in the Book of Revelation, and it is often wrongly interpreted.

In Jesus’ messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor, he directs his most pointed criticism at the church in Laodicea. He tells them: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

Several teachers say the “hot” refers to believers, and the “cold” to unbelievers. Their point is that either way, at least they are passionate about what they believe or don’t believe.

This, the logic would follow, was better than the spiritual apathy the Laodicean church was known for. And because they were apathetic toward God, the Lord had no use for them and would therefore spit them out of His mouth.

This is a wrong interpretation.

The Background
The city of Laodicea was located in a popular traveling route and was situated between the cities of Hieropolis to the north and Colosse to the south.

As related to the “hot” and “cold,” Hieropolis was known for its hot springs, which have great medicinal value. Colosse, on the other hand, was known for its cool springs, a great source of refreshing during hot weather. Therefore, the “hotness” of Hieropolis was good in its way, just as the “coldness” of Colosse was good in its way. One was “hot,” one was “cold,” but both were very, very good.

However, Laodicea was between the two, though closer to Hieropolis, from where Laodicea piped in its water. By the time the hot-spring water from Hieropolis reached Laodicea, it lost its heat, but neither was it cold. It was lukewarm, and pretty much not good for anything! If you drank that lukewarm water, you would spit it out.

Spiritually Hot and Cold
So in what ways are Christians “hot” and “cold” – both of these being good?

The answer lies in our spiritual gifts, talents, and leanings. “Hot” Christians are those who have the gifts of mercy and by nature are tender, caring, and compassionate. They are the prayer warriors and those who care for others, bringing them meals when sick and visiting others in the hospital.

“Cold” Christians are on the scholarly side of the coin. They put more time into studying the Word and teaching it than in praying. They are probably more issue-oriented and kick around such concerns as theology and doctrine, the place of the more “charismatic” gifts in the Church, and prophecy.

Of course many of us have some of the characteristics of the other, and both can be fervent Gospel sharers, but we are basically wired either “hot” or “cold.” The main thing is that whatever our gifts, talents, and leanings, we need to be passionate about them, using them faithfully to serve God and the body of Christ. God wants us to throw ourselves into our service and love for Him, and to do so with joy and zeal.

What Christians should never do and always fight against, is becoming apathetic, as were the Laodiceans. We never want to be regarded as useless by God because we have lost our zeal for Him. We are to be ardent and loving in our “hotness” or “coldness,” and serve God with all joy.

And just like the hot springs of Hieropolis and cool springs of Colosse, may we always strive to bring healing and refreshment to this perishing world which is in such desperate need of salvation!