From Rev. 3:14-22(ESV)

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered 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.’”

Basically, Jesus Christ wanted the church to be either hot or cold, but never lukewarm. So my question is what does hot, cold, and lukewarm represent for this verse?

  • Francis Chan has had a lot to say on the topic of the "lukewarm." Here's a YouTube link to a message he delivered on the subject when he was a pastor in Simi Valley -- I highly recommend it. Jun 20, 2013 at 4:31

9 Answers 9


In addition to what was said before hot and cold being opposites one a passionate for God and another being cool. Both hot and warm water were considered luxuries during the days in which the epistles were written and both had positive qualities. Stagnant lukewarm water however had a special meaning to the Laodicean's as is related in the following explanation from March 5 2013 Sparking Gem From the Greek by Rick Renner:

The city of Laodicea was built in a region that was full of seismic activity and had experienced many earthquakes. As often happens in a seismic area, vents came up from the depths of the earth, allowing boiling hot water to reach the surface. In the nearby city of Hierapolis, these hot springs were famous. People came from great distances to bathe in those waters, believing they had medicinal powers. An experience in those waters was viewed to be therapeutic and effective in improving one's health.

Another city named Colosse was not too far away. As Hierapolis was known for its hot springs, Colosse was known for its cold waters. Just as people journeyed to Hierapolis to bathe in the hot springs for health purposes, people would travel great distances to vacation in Colosse, where they could invigorate themselves by taking frequent dips into the famous, refreshing, cool-to-freezing waters of that city.

Laodicea may have been the biggest and richest city in the area, but it had neither hot nor cold water. Therefore, the people of Laodicea had to leave their luxurious homes and travel to Colosse if they wanted to enjoy fresh, cool water. On the other hand, those who desired to soak in the hot springs had to travel six miles to Hierapolis.

Once in an attempt to bring the hot water from Hierapolis to Laodicea, a huge construction project was commenced. The goal of those who initiated the project was to build pipes that would channel the hot water six miles from Hierapolis to the city of Laodicea. The pipes effectively delivered the water - a real feat of construction at that time. Sadly, however, the water lost its heat along the way. By the time the water reached Laodicea, it was not only lukewarm, but it had developed a sickening, nauseating taste. The taste was so revolting that no one wanted to drink it!

  • Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes has the same explanation. Apr 26, 2017 at 0:50

Laodicean meaning: lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics

Laodicea was a wealthy city having a lukewarm water supply.

There can two possible meanings for the word "Lukewarm" in this verse.

  1. Apathetic: The people in the Church of Laodicea were losing their enthusiasm for Jesus Christ and his ministries. They were satisfied with the spiritual blessings given to them when they received Jesus Christ. They simply enjoyed their salvation and had no zeal to preach the Gospel to the lost around them. They became stagnant and not giving out anything. Cold water is good for drinking, hot water is good for luxurious drinks, but lukewarm water is tasteless and better to spit it out. Jesus warned them that he will spit them out if they do not repent or change their attitudes.
  2. Impure Faith: The church might have tolerated heathenism among the members and were serving both Jesus and other pagan gods, mixing their previous pagan beliefs with the new Christian beliefs. It could also mean they were serving both God and money. They were neither completely loyal to Jesus nor to their pagan gods or worldly things. Jesus was not happy with their services.

    Matthew 6:24 (NIV) "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."


In general, hot and cold are understood as being either strongly for God (on fire, passionate), strongly against God (cold to the things of God) and lukewarm as apathetic ( listless, having passion for neither side).


Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Thou art neither cold nor hot - Ye are neither heathens nor Christians - neither good nor evil - neither led away by false doctrine, nor thoroughly addicted to that which is true. In a word, they were listless and indifferent, and seemed to care little whether heathenism or Christianity prevailed. Though they felt little zeal either for the salvation of their own souls or that of others, yet they had such a general conviction of the truth and importance of Christianity, that they could not readily give it up.


Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

I know thy works,.... Which were far from being perfect, and not so good as those of the former church:

that thou art neither cold nor hot; she was not "cold", or without spiritual life, at least in many of her members, as all men by nature are, and carnal professors be; she was alive, but not lively: nor was she wholly without spiritual affections and love; to God, and Christ, to his people, ways, truths, and ordinances; she had love, but the fervency of it was abated: nor was she without spiritual breathings and desires altogether, as dead men are; or without the light and knowledge of the Gospel, and a profession of it, and yet she was not "hot"; her love to God and Christ, and the saints, was not ardent and flaming; it was not like coals of fire, that give most vehement flame, which many waters cannot quench the had not fervency of spirit in the service of the Lord; nor was she zealous for the truths of the Gospel, and for the ordinances of it, and for the house of God and its discipline; nor did she warmly oppose all sin, and every error and false way,

  • @PaulA.Clayton - That certainly may be. It's something I hadn't heard before, but if you're right, and you can find a reference, it would make a good alternative answer. Jun 12, 2013 at 4:04

I think it is helpful to notice that there is a "Chiastic structure" in these seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. There is a lot of literature describing "Chiastic structures", but for a quick explanation it describes the pattern where topics are discussed, and then revisited in reverse order. So the outline of topics in a Chiastic Structure might look like this:

  • Topic 1
    • Topic 2
      • Topic 3
    • Topic 2 (revisited)
  • Topic 1 (revisited)

So, in the case of these letters to the 7 churches, we would pair the letter to Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7 (as "topic 1") with the letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 (as "topic 1 (revisited)".

Then we can see how we arrive at an explanation of "lukewarm" by reading that the admonition to Ephesus, which notices their "works, labor, patience", that they didn't bear with evil, etc, but He adds "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (verse 4). He follows this with an earnest appeal to repent.

When this topic is revisited in Laodicea, we see it developed as it would be in the hearts of believers who heard the admonition to Ephesus. He first takes up the outcome of those who didn't sincerely heed the call to repent. The "works, labor, patience" in Ephesus has now become "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot...". Having "left their first love" and continuing to not remember "from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works" (2:5) they now delude themselves into believing that they are "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;" (3:17) not knowing that in reality they are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind"... and "lukewarm".

So the lukewarm state can be labeled "indifference". They were indifferent to the loving appeal to return to their first love, and then indifferent to their spiritual state that they eventually became.

In contrast, those who do respond to His appeal to repent and return to their first love would be seen described as having fellowship with Him: "if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." (3:20)

  • Chiastic structure is quite interesting. BTW, the Parable of the Prodigal Son uses the same structure Sep 9, 2013 at 8:58
  • wow! solid observation! did you find that on your own? I thought about parallels to Ephesus, but would have never expected a chiasm. If this is true it would strongly favor the passionate / dead approach
    – SeanDowney
    Nov 7, 2014 at 4:57

Lukewarm is described in Revelation 3;17 as follows: Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked:

Revelation 3;18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire; that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear, and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou may see.

The phrase; "gold tried in the fire" lends itself to a purification process and could be construed as " hot" Those unsaved would be "cold". More importantly is the implication of purity.

Jeremiah 17;9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wickwd: Who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try every man according to his ways, and according to the fruits of his doings.

Some fruits of self deception are: Matthew 22;11-12 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Matthew 7;22-23 Many will say to me in that day, LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The group in the church of Laodicea ignored the advice of James

James 1;22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

  • good connection! I may have missed that
    – SeanDowney
    Nov 7, 2014 at 4:58

From the Wikipedia

However, a more recent interpretation has suggested that this metaphor has been drawn from the water supply of the city, which was lukewarm, in contrast to the hot springs at nearby Hierapolis and the cold, pure waters of Colossae. The archaeology shows Laodicea had an aqueduct that probably carried water from hot mineral springs some five miles south, which would have become tepid before entering the city (see main Laodicea article). The imagery of the Laodicean aqueduct suggests not that "hot" is good and "cold" is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is emetic


What does being lukewarm mean in contrast with being hot or cold for the church of Laodicea?

God welcomes those who are excited to come to him. God can correct those who are hostile to him. However, those who are disinterested in him are those that little can be done with.

Prosperity is not the blessing that many might think. It often leads us to see our wealth as the source of our well being and can lead us to see God as irrelevant, inconsequential, and even unnecessary.

Comforts and amenities tend to blind us. Freedom from this soft prison lies with truth. The person who suffers cries out to the Lord. The person who is prosperous is annoyed by the crying of others.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Jesus calls Christians to turn from the enticement of comforts and rekindle zeal.


The usual ways of consuming water is either cold, or hot. Natural spring water is cold and such water heated up, and poured into a cup, becomes a 'hot cuppa'. Lukewarm water, on the other hand, is equated with stagnant pool-water; water that is usually not used for drinking but for bathing in. Lukewarm water is therefore dirty, impure, water. It is for that reason that God says that he can not drink that kind of water, and will spit it out.

Cold (spring) water stands for a moving, developing spirit. Hot water stands for having a burning zeal for God. These two are related, because the latter comes out of the former. Unrelated to the other two, lukewarm water, refers to spiritual stagnation.

  • Modern-day examples. 1). "Waiter, I can't drink this coffee. It is lukewarm, and there is a cigarette butt in it too; besides, I did order herbal tea!". 2). "Waiter, I can't drink this. I asked for cold water. This is lukewarm tap-water. If you don't have any chilled water, could you at least put some ice cubes in the glass for me. And, please, could you also add a slice of lemon, while you are at it". Oct 16, 2018 at 11:17

The best way to take this is the way it is written.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:”

It was written to the angel of the church, not to the individual believer.

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Jhn 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The description of the people does not sound like believers in Christ, but unbelievers who made a good portion of the membership.

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

A true believer would never be described this way.

  • 1
    John wrote Relevation for the seven churches in Asia Minor, which includes Laodicea. Moreover, in case you didn't notice, in verse 18, Jesus invites them to return to him and in v 19, he tells harsh things about them because he loves them. After all, does the father not discipline his child? what do you think? Mar 21, 2014 at 12:49
  • This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. On this site, we're not looking for personal interpretation, but rather focusing on what various Christian groups teach. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? Mar 21, 2014 at 23:08

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