The biblical month of Elul is here and that means the trumpet is sounding in synagogues around the world. Every year when this season rolls around, Jesus lays something very important on my heart. Elul is a time to reflect on our lives and pray about important issues affecting our nation and world. If you don’t know what the month of Elul is, or what it represents, you should check out these links, or previous blog posts I’ve written. This year, the month of Elul begins on August 28, 2022 (technically at sunset on August 27) and will last until sundown on September 25.
A few days ago, as Elul approached, Jesus used one of my favorite beverages to remind me of an important lesson from the Bible that applies to believers (and non-believers) in our world today. It’s a crucial topic to understand because this is playing out in our churches right now. The “believers” I’m going to blog about do not hear the sound of the trumpet. They are a sleeping church that will not be ready when Jesus returns for his Bride. As you read this post, try to think of people you know who this post may apply to–not for condemnation, but for the purpose of opening their eyes.
I’ll start this post by alluding to my favorite beverage in the world! Thank you Lord for using this to teach me…..
Lately I’ve been super annoyed with my coffee. Why? Because it always seems to be lukewarm! Yuck! Who wants coffee that is slightly warm, bordering on cool? I like my coffee nice and hot! In contrast, some of you might like your coffee to be really cold and filled with ice. Nonetheless, I doubt any of you want a cup of lukewarm Folgers in your cup.
My coffee becomes lukewarm when I stop paying attention to it. Oftentimes while it’s sitting on the table, I get up and do other things. In essence, my attention is drawn to more important matters. Other times, I completely forget about my coffee. Then, when I remember and come back to take a sip, the barely warm liquid coats my tongue. Immediately, I want to spit it out of my mouth!!!! Are you wondering where all this lukewarm coffee talk is going? Well, there’s a biblical lesson and it’s found in the book of Revelation.
But first, let’s define lukewarm: Here’s a few dictionary definitions…
- Moderately warm, tepid
- Lacking conviction; half-hearted
- Having or showing little ardor, zeal, enthusiasm; indifferent
Hmm…that doesn’t sound very good, does it? Would you want a lukewarm friend? How about a lukewarm wedding celebration? What about a lukewarm pilot who is flying through a raging lightning storm? No thank you!
Let’s look at a passage from the Bible that mentions some very LUKEWARM “Christians” known as the Laodiceans.
“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.’”Revelation 3:14-22.
When you read the passage it’s clear that the Laodiceans are not receiving an award or a stellar evaluation. In fact, they are being reprimanded for their lukewarm behavior. But what does lukewarm mean in the Bible? Using the Blue Letter Bible concordance, we find out that lukewarm is the Greek word chliarós, which means to liquefy, melt or become tepid. The other definition listed is “the condition of a soul wretchedly fluctuating between a torpor and a fervor of love.” It’s interesting to note that this word is only used ONE time in the New Testament and that’s here in this passage of Revelation 3.
So, if we apply this definition of lukewarm to the passage, we can see that the Church of the Laodiceans was not fully devoted to Jesus. Their relationship with him (if you could call it one) lay somewhere between apathetic and totally sold out.
But there are other clues that give us more insight….
Laodicea means “people ruling.” This means that this particular church was not ruled by Jesus. In fact, when the verses say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” that’s a big clue. First of all, Jesus is standing outside, not inside. That means he isn’t part of this church that’s ruled by the people. He wants to come in and dine with these people, but unfortunately, they are too busy with their own agendas. They don’t even know he’s knocking on the door.
Another clue lies in the way the passage begins: it says, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write.” Notice it doesn’t say, “to the angel of the church in or of Laodicea.” If you look at the other churches that are addressed in Revelation 2 and 3 (there are six others besides Laodicea), you will see they are addressed like this:
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write”
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write”
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write”
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write”
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write”
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write”
But with Laodicea it says:
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write.”
Translation: Jesus wasn’t in the Church of Laodicea! Instead, it says it’s the church of the Laodiceans. It was their church! Keep in mind that not all translations will write it this way, but if you go back to the original Greek words and translation, this is what it actually says. The KJV and NKJV happen to use this original translation.
Since these people were the rulers of their church, they really didn’t need much from Jesus.
Jesus tells them, “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.”
The Laodiceans of biblical times had plenty of wealth and a great standard of living. Additionally, they were known as a center for banking. With all their money and status, what did they need Jesus for? Sadly, they didn’t even see how poor they were. Jesus tells them they need to anoint their eyes with eye salve so they can see. There’s a reason Jesus used this example.
According to Drive Thru History (a website that researches and reports on the historical connections between the Bible and history/archaeology):
“The medical school in Laodicea was known throughout the Empire and especially famous for ophthalmology, including an eye salve which is mentioned by multiple ancient sources. In the medical works of the 2nd century AD physician Galen of Pergamon, he described an eye medicine made from a Phrygian stone, probably broken down into a powder or made into a clay, and the eye ‘salve’ John mentions in connection with Laodicea is the same word used by Galen and other medical texts of antiquity.”
Jesus was reminding the Laodiceans that even though they possessed the best eye cream in the world, they were blind! The members of this church did not possess the Holy Spirit, which is what would help them see spiritually. Why didn’t they have the Holy Spirit? Because they weren’t really Christians. They may have claimed to be Christians. They may have even thought they were Christians. But the truth is that Christ was not in them! He was actually standing outside the door of their heart, trying to get in. He’s knocking and knocking, but no one is answering.
The next part is the key to understanding this idea.
Jesus tells this lukewarm church, “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.”
The hot believers in this verse are those who are truly saved. They profess Jesus and they follow him. This doesn’t mean they follow him perfectly. It means they truly love Jesus and have a relationship with him. They struggle with sin, but walk with Jesus as best they can. Some people think being hot means these believers are on fire for Jesus and running around professing his name everywhere they go with great excitement. While that can be true, these believers don’t necessarily have to do that. They can be quiet and reserved, but their heart is sold out to Jesus. I’ve met so many wonderful believers whose gentle humility has made a huge impact in the Kingdom of God.
In contrast, the cold non-believers mentioned in Revelation 3 are those who are not saved and do not claim to be saved. They are either atheists who openly reject God or perhaps Gnostics who acknowledge God somewhat, but don’t see him as being in control or sovereign. They also reject the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Additionally these cold non-believers could be people who aren’t really sure about God and don’t really care to know if he’s real. But, the point is that these people don’t claim to know God or accept him (Jesus) as their Savior.
And now we get to the lukewarm believers. Ahh, but are they really believers? Well, the sad thing is that unlike the cold unbelievers, these lukewarm church members profess themselves as “Christians.” Unfortunately, they are deceived because their true god is money, status and themselves.
So, what’s up with these lukewarm people? Why do they think they are saved? Maybe they were baptized at church, or perhaps they said the Sinner’s prayer at some point. But, did they really believe it? Did they really accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior? Was there ever a transformation that took place in their heart?
Imagine the gospel being shared with you and when the time comes to make a decision to receive Christ you say, “Well, that sounds ok. I guess so.” This answer reveals one thing: there was no solid acceptance of Jesus. It’s like going through the motions and checking the box. Some people may get “saved” and say yes to receiving Jesus, but what is really happening in their heart? Only Jesus knows whether that person truly accepts his gift of salvation or not. Only he knows if it’s a lukewarm yes.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of people like this who say they are Christians, but they do not have a relationship with Jesus. They might go to church every week, but that doesn’t mean they know Jesus. The devil can go to church and sit there. That doesn’t mean he loves or follows Jesus. Additionally, some people “get saved” but then they totally drop Jesus afterward. They don’t pray. They don’t think about him. But if someone asks, “Are you a Christian?” they will say, “yes” because they went through the motions at some point. Still, there’s others that have their own agendas that don’t involve Jesus or his Word. They like the label of “Christian” but they do not follow what the Bible says and instead follow their own hearts.
Historically, there’s a connection to this concept of lukewarm water. When Jesus tells the Laodiceans he will spit them out of his mouth, he was possibly referring back to something backed up by archaeology and ancient records.
Drive Thru History explains this:
”The church at Laodicea is also accused of being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm in their spiritual life (Revelation 3:15-16). This spiritual insight used a historical reality by comparing the water of Laodicea to the hot springs of nearby Hierapolis and the cold mountain water of nearby Colossae. Unlike those nearby cities, Laodicea did not have a hot spring or a cold mountain water source, but instead an aqueduct piped in water saturated with minerals from springs about 8 kilometers away using a double pressurized pipeline. This water was so concentrated with minerals that the Roman engineers designed removable caps on the aqueduct pipes so they could be cleared of mineral deposits. By the time this water reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm and full of mineral deposits, which probably made it unpleasant to drink. However, this water was apparently so prized to Laodicea that anyone who tried to divert any of it or use it for agriculture would be fined, anyone anyone who damaged a water pipe would be fined (5,000 denarius/close to a year’s wages for entry level agriculture, scribes, and teachers), and city officials who allowed free use of the water would be fined even more.”
As you can see from the details, this water was lukewarm and full of mineral deposits. My husband just put a water filter on our faucet and I have to say that the water tastes great! I used to be ok drinking tap water, but now it tastes “minerally” to me. In fact, I almost spit it out of my mouth when I taste it now. But the water in Laodicea tasted ten times worse than tap water! So, when Jesus says he wants to spit it out of his mouth, I can understand what he’s saying. Also, the temperature of the lukewarm water didn’t help its taste.
Still, there’s yet another detail to unravel and investigate.
Jesus says to the Laodiceans, “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.”
Let’s look again at Drive Thru History:
“The textile industry, and particularly wool, is evidenced by the discovery of buildings used to dye wool and from inscriptions. An inscription was found at the north theater named traders and craftsmen, one of which was called ‘The Most August Guild of the Wool Washers.’ The black wool and dyed wool for which the city was famous would have been seen as an obvious contrast to the reference in Revelation about clothing themselves with white garments. In the letter found in the book of Revelation, the people of Laodicea were called wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, and then advised to buy gold to become rich, white garments to clothe themselves.”
We see that the Laodiceans are famous for their black wool, but what they really needed were white garments. The problem is that they couldn’t see their need for these white garments. They refused to acknowledge that their own lives had been blackened by sin and they couldn’t clean it up because they hadn’t truly received Jesus. Instead, they’ve received the world’s wisdom, which does not cleanse or save.
The passage aimed at the Laodiceans begins with Jesus being described as the “Faithful and True Witness,” but the Laodiceans are anything but faithful. In fact, since they are neither hot or cold, it seems their faith is indifferent, or it does not stem from Jesus. Perhaps their faith is in themselves or humanity? Sounds a lot like this generation, doesn’t it? Social media is full of selfies and braggarts who lift themselves up by touting their accomplishments, showing off their ”fabulous” lives, or posting mantras about having confidence in themselves. It’s rare for people to mention Jesus in their posts or to give any kind of glory to him–not that Jesus needs social media to get glory. My point is that this generation is putting their faith and hope in their social status, how they look, what they can accomplish and how many “friends” they can get to like their posts.
Jesus doesn’t just address Laodicea in the seven letters of Revelation 2 and 3. He addresses six other churches. Two churches receive only commendations and no rebukes from Jesus–the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. The other four (Ephesus, Thyatira, Pergamum, Sardis) are given some commendations, but also rebukes.
But Laodicea gets not one single commendation. Not one single, “good job.” It’s all rebukes.
Historically, there were seven churches with these names that existed in biblical times. When Jesus is speaking to these specific churches, he is referring to what characterized each one of them as a whole. But he’s also speaking to the churches of our day. No, our churches don’t have these specific names, but we have all of these types of believers within the churches that are in existence right now. Within your very own church, you have many of these kinds of believers (or unbelievers) –some may be like the believers of the church of Philadelphia, while others are like those in Sardis. Still others may be like those in Smyrna, while others are similar to the Ephesians. And of course, there are also those who resemble the lukewarm Laodiceans.
Additionally, there are some churches in existence today that have more of one kind of believer than the other–this includes church leadership. Some churches may have more of a Sardis-type congregation and leaders, while another is filled with mostly Laodiceans.
This next part is something you’ll want to pay close attention to and soon you’ll realize why.
Laodicea was a wealthy city during the Roman period. The Book of Revelation was written during the reign of a very cruel emperor named Domitian (81-96 C.E.). He was infamous for declaring himself as a god while he ruled. Domitian did as he pleased and punished anyone who did not participate in the pagan rituals that involved worshipping emperors and their families. Jewish citizens were exempt from participating, but many Christians were not exempt.
In an issue of the Bible Archaeology Review, professor Mark Fairchild explains: “As part of the Pax Romana, the staunchly monotheistic Jews in the cities of the Mediterranean world were exempt from the requirements of emperor worship. As long as Christianity was considered a sect within Judaism, the Christians in these cities were likewise exempt from emperor worship.” The article explains further by saying, “At first, the Christian Church was composed almost entirely of Jews. However, as more Gentiles (non-Jews) converted to Christianity, the percentage of Jewish people in the Christian Church decreased, and, therefore, Christians’ special status as Jewish monotheists, which permitted them to refrain from emperor worship, was removed. The Christians at Laodicea were affected by Domitian’s decrees. Their response to this persecution—which even involved their ability to buy and sell—is what causes the author of Revelation to call them ‘lukewarm.’”
The Laodiceans who refused to worship the emperor lost their livelihood, or were killed. Of course, there was a lot of pressure on wealthy Christians to maintain their lifestyle. Furthermore, much of Laodicea’s wealth relied on trade and this put these “Christians” in a predicament. Would they worship the emperor so they could maintain their ability to buy and sell (trade), or would they lose everything for the sake of Jesus? Well, according to Revelation 3, most succumbed to the pressure.
Does this sound familiar? It should because in Revelation 13 the Bible says that one day a mark is going to be forced upon those who live on earth during the Tribulation. No one will be able to buy or sell without the mark– also, this mark is an act of worship.
"And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666."
During the Covid era we saw a shadow of this playing out in the world. While the deadly “vaccine” is not the mark, the way it was used bore a striking resemblance to Revelation 13. Mandates were instituted around the world and like the Laodiceans, many gave in to the pressure. Fear of not being able to “buy and sell”–aka losing jobs/lifestyles, or the ability to travel, led many to get the shots. By the way, I’m not saying that everyone who got the “vaccine” is lukewarm. Certainly that’s not the case. Some people were afraid or didn’t understand the full implications of what they were doing. Others felt backed into a corner with no place to go. But, sadly, many church leaders went along with the propaganda and didn’t warn their congregations. They didn’t stand up against the mandates. Some even partnered with the government to administer the shots. Why? Well, I don’t know their hearts. Were some of these members lukewarm “believers?” That’s possible. Were they afraid of losing their wealth or church members if they didn’t go along with the narrative? Only God knows. I can’t claim to know the reasoning behind the church leaders who said things like, “Be a good neighbor and get the shots.” Obviously, many did not discern what was happening and were deceived. They also did not heed the warnings spelled out in Bible prophecy.
Interestingly enough, ancient Laodicea was a center for medicine and our post Covid world is inundated with pharmaceutical products. The Greek word for sorcery in the Bible is pharmakeia, which is where we get our English word pharmacy. The genetic therapies these vaccine companies make are tied to the use of aborted fetal cells which screams of pagan sorcery. And the use of lab-made mRNA and DNA vector technology is a step toward altering the genetic code that our true King designed.
Getting back to the types of believers in the churches, as I mentioned before, it stands to reason that there are certain denominations that have more of one type of believer than others because of doctrines they have accepted into their teachings. Also, as time keeps moving forward, more and more churches are changing their doctrine to match what the world says. Churches who used to have solid believers that followed biblical teachings have given into the culture of the present day. By doing this, they are attracting new “believers” that aren’t really becoming transformed. These new members have itching ears that want to hear only the things they agree with or like. They don’t want to deal with sin. They just want to feel like they are good people. Many of these “new believers” aren’t really Christians because the faith of the church is neither hot nor cold. Instead, it is given over to another master–popular culture. Jesus has been pushed out of the church so new doctrines can be proclaimed. He’s knocking at the door but they won’t let him back in!
Recently I was on vacation in Virginia and I was visiting the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. This college is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. There was a Baptist Church across from the campus with a rainbow colored banner that had messages written on it about affirming the LGBTQ community, as well as social justice narratives. I was surprised because at that point I had never seen this type of message openly displayed at a Baptist Church.
Anyway, that photo above was taken at 4:22 p.m. and at the time, it was sunny with no signs of stormy weather. Well, within four minutes of taking that photo something eerie happened. All of a sudden the wind started blowing and the skies got dark and cloudy. See the picture below. This was taken four minutes after I saw the Baptist church with the rainbow banner.
The clouds became darker and by 4:30, I had to find a place to take cover. I ended up going inside the Religious Studies Building, which was ironic considering the banner I had just seen hanging from the nearby Baptist Church. There was no one inside the building at the time. It was as if the building was deserted! As I walked around inside I could see the lightning and stormy weather getting worse outside. While I stood there looking out of the windows, I couldn’t help but think about all the churches in my nation and around the world that are following the guidelines of man instead of Jesus. They are hot when it comes to their own ideas, but lukewarm when it comes to what the Bible says!
Here are some examples of how some of the churches today look like the Laodiceans:
- They are housed in big buildings, have great music and light shows…all the bells and whistles are there… but the Bible isn’t being taught in full. Things are left out so no one is offended–the people rule in this church so touchy subjects like abortion, gay marriage and sexuality are not addressed or discussed. If they are discussed, the issues are treated vaguely or in a neutral tone. A lukewarm stance is taken.
- They have plenty of members and they do not lack funds for new programs. But these programs do not prepare people to be Christians and live for Jesus. Essentially, they make the people and parents happy, but do little to create disciples.
- They are teaching a different gospel than what the Bible teaches. Some may not focus on sin and the atoning blood of Jesus. They do not emphasize that Jesus is the ONLY WAY to salvation. Instead, they focus on social issues such as racial justice, accommodating homosexual lifestyles, women’s rights or even climate change. They are more concerned with the culture of the day than what scripture says. They preach the “me” gospel which focuses on making people feel better about themselves. They may also preach the prosperity gospel which says that people can have whatever their heart desires–name it and claim it.
- They may be ignoring certain parts of the Bible so their own agendas can be propped up. They do not address prophecy because they believe they can create “peace on earth” through their Church by doing good works. The hope of Jesus’ return is not emphasized. (Scripture tells us that only Jesus will bring peace to this earth and we must know prophecy to understand this)
- They teach the Bible somewhat, but it doesn’t produce transformation. Perhaps it’s mostly ritual, but those rituals have no meaning. People go through the motions instead of developing a relationship with Jesus.
- They may follow global agendas such as those instituted during the “Covid Era.” They have yet to see the evil that was perpetrated by the dangerous “vaccines” (genetic therapies) and continue to trust the government for their protection. They put their faith in man, rather than Jesus.
Keep in mind that I’m not pointing out any one particular “church.” In the end, only Jesus knows who has really received him. Also, in some cases people are simply deceived–this doesn’t mean they aren’t saved. Churches as a whole can be deceived as well, but it’s important that as HOT believers in Jesus we discern the world around us and we do not become lukewarm in our faith.
As Christians, we have to be set apart and truly devoted to Jesus in our hearts and minds. We can’t sit on the fence with a wishy-washy attitude towards our salvation. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it seems and truly, there’s only a remnant of believers who really follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Only a remnant hears the trumpet– not just during the month of Elul, but every single day.
My son painted a picture that inspires me on multiple levels and it comes to mind often when I’m learning biblical truths. As I was thinking about the Laodiceans and the lukewarm church this picture came to mind. See the picture below:
Notice that most of the birds are going the same direction, but one bird is flying the opposite way. The birds traveling the same way are a reminder of the Laodiceans. Why? Because the lukewarm “believer” goes along with what society, culture and the world says. That influence is much stronger than Jesus’ influence. This group has plenty of members because they just follow each other, or the latest trends in the world.
The little bird traveling the opposite way is the HOT believer–the one who is truly saved. Jesus said that those who find salvation enter through a narrow gate.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
If you are following a crowd something is wrong because the truth is that the crowd is on their way to that horrible coffee shop…..what’s it called???? Oh yeah, it’s the Lukewarm Café. Ugh, no thank you!
But we know where the one little birdie flying in the opposite direction is going! Of course, he’s flying to heaven! Don’t you see him flying into the clouds? He’s following the sound of the trumpet instead of the noise of the world. I think I’ll follow him…I bet he knows where the HOT coffee is at!
Elul begins on August 28, 2022 (August 27th at sunset) and will last until sundown on September 25. Then, the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) will begin as the sun sets on September 25. The Feast of Trumpets is also known as the Day of Alarm. The trumpet has sounded–an alarm is ringing out– but who is listening? I know I am, and I sure hope you are…..