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Previous: Revelation 3:15-16

15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 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- Revelation 3:15-16

At this point we can apply the same verses (Revelation 3:15-17) to the last period of the prophesied Church Age - from the mid-1900's to the beginning of the Tribulation Period. We, of course, are eye-witnesses to the events of this time span. During these years we have seen a gradual erosion of biblical values and the increase of immorality. More and more, our culture is ignoring God's revealed will, and the Church is allowing it to happen by not taking a strong enough stand against this trend. This is a spiritual struggle that has raged from the First Century until now. But it is getting worse in our generation for a number of reasons.

Before we list some of these reasons, let us explain why we call this seventh period the "Worldly Church." Bible teachers often refer to this as the era of the "Apostate Church." In our own website, Prophecy Central, we have tracked "apostasy" as one of the most significant sub-topics of prophecy. This section features Bible passages that predict a downturn in morality during the end times. It also records many disturbing news stories that show we are living in a time of serious moral decline. Some of these prophecies apply to the "Beginning of Birth Pains" (the generation just before the Tribulation begins) and some apply to the Tribulation Period when things will get even worse (see Matthew 24:3-31 - Jesus' own outline of the future). They all describe the decay of true Christian influence on culture.

And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. - Matthew 24:12

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. - 1 Timothy 4:1-2

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. - 2 Timothy 3:1-5

The normal use of the word "apostasy" today refers to those who have defected from their belief system. It implies a serious, permanent decision to leave the faith, and a harsh judgment against them by those who still believe. However, the members of the Church at Laodicea had not formally given up on their Christian orientation; they had just gradually drifted away from a firm belief in what the Bible teaches about Jesus, salvation, and a godly lifestyle. That is why Jesus said, "I could wish you were cold or hot." If they were cold they would not even have pretended to be Christians. If they were hot, they would have been committed, "on fire" believers. But, for the most part they were in the middle - just lukewarm - and were not pleasing at all to the Lord.

The Greek word that is translated "apostasy" is apostasia, meaning "to stand apart," or "to depart." The noun form of the word is only used twice. In one instance it pertains to Moses (Acts 21:21), and the other is most likely a reference to the "departure" of the Rapture (2 Thessalonians 2:3). In its verb form the Greek word is used fifteen times in the New Testament. Dr. Thomas Ice explains:

Of these fifteen, only three have anything to do with a departure from the faith (Luke 8;13; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb 3:12). The word is used for departing from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19), from ungodly men (1 Tim. 6:5), from the temple (Luke 2:27), from the body (2 Cor. 12:8), and from persons (Acts 12:10; Luke 4:13). (The Rapture in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 - by Thomas Ice - http://www.raptureready.com/featured/ice/TheRapturein2Thessalonians2_3.html)

So, to return to Jesus' descriptions: if His readers or listeners were cold, they would be apostate - separated completely from Him. If they were hot, they would be faithful and vibrant Christians. But, if they were lukewarm they, would best be described as "worldly." Jesus used this concept in His teaching to His disciples.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. - 1 John 2:14-17

The Bible sometimes refers to "the world "as the Earth and the created universe, but at other times it means the corrupted "cosmos" world system that is temporarily dominated by Satan (Matthew 4:8-10; John 12:31; John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 15:9).

The Apostle Paul also warned against being conformed to this evil world system.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. -Romans 12:1-2

Paul had a different way of describing the "lukewarm" Christian. In his letter to the Corinthians he explains a similar division of mankind according to one's spiritual condition. Where our current passage in Revelation describes the three possibilities as "cold, lukewarm, or hot," Paul speaks of people being "natural, carnal, or spiritual." He starts with the two extremes: natural and spiritual, and then describes the unfortunate middle position as carnal.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? - 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:3

These three states correspond to the three-fold nature of humanity.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23

All living creatures on Earth, including plants, have a body. A living body normally does certain physical things, like eating, growing, and reproduction. It may do other things, like responding to its environment.

Animal life has another aspect: "personality," which includes the invisible characteristics of intellect, emotion, and will. As you know, plants do not have these (though some plant-lovers may think they do), but animals do have them. Your pets can be smart, loving, and obedient.

Human beings have an additional essence: a spirit. This is the part of man that was created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:26-28). Jesus said, "God is spirit..." (John 4:24). However, because of sin, humans are spiritually dead (separated) from God until they are born again (made alive spiritually). They are then "spiritual" beings, able to communicate with God (John 3:3 ff).

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:1-6

Returning to Paul's explanation: a "natural" person (Greek psuchikos - "having a soul) can be intelligent, talented, and even "good" by human standards, but he or she does not know Christ or have the gift of, eternal life (John 1:12; 3:16). Such a person is controlled by his or her soul. In the context of our passage in Revelation, Jesus would call such a person spiritually "cold."

On the other hand, a "spiritual" person (Greek pneumatikos), is a "new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and is controlled by his or her spirit, which, in turn, is directed by the Holy Spirit, as long as he or she submits to His control (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16). Jesus would call this person spiritually "hot."

But Paul complained that he could not talk with the Corinthian believers as spiritual people. They were not walking in the Spirit. Therefore, they were "carnal" (Greek sarkikos - "fleshly") or controlled by the appetites of the body. These are the ones Jesus would call "lukewarm."

What is happening in the Christian world today that would be a fulfillment of this prophecy? Is it really "lukewarm," or "worldly"? Please keep in mind that in every age of the Church there were representatives of all seven churches, and at this stage of history there is still a large, dedicated remnant, especially from the missionary era. But if we look at the trends honestly, we must admit that their numbers are declining, and a less-biblical, more theologically-liberal element of the church is growing.

Next: Revelation 3:15-17 - Cont. 2


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