Monday, September 7, 2009

A Questionable Eternal Security, Part II-G: Revelation 3:15-16

“‘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.’ This, it would seem, supports the Arminian view that God rejects those who reject him. This appears to be confirmed by the fact this threat is given ‘to the churches’ (v.22) and that it refers to God’s warning to ‘discipline’ (v.19) any who do not repent of their sins. However, even if true believers are in view, to ‘spit [them] out’ is not a phrase that speaks of hell. More likely it is addressed to those believers who have turned ‘lukewarm’ in their walk with God and need their fellowship restored. Notice the church is asked by Christ to ‘dine’ (i.e., have fellowship) with him (v.20)” (Norman Geisler, “Four Views on Eternal Security,” by J. Matthew Pinson, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002, page 102).

The above verses quoted are from Revelation 3:15-16.

I am pleased to say that this is the LAST post in Part II of my series on the Doctrine of Perseverance (coming from the book titled “Four Views on Eternal Security”). There are other parts to be covered in Geisler’s work, such as the responses from the other three writers to his amassed evidence of “proof-texting.” For now, though, I will cover this last passage before moving on to some other quotes of Geisler, which are a lot more questionable than what I’ve provided so far.
Geisler remarks about Christ’s warning of “spitting” out the church of Laodicea:

“However, even if true believers are in view, to ‘spit [them] out’ is not a phrase that speaks of hell. More likely it is addressed to those believers who have turned ‘lukewarm’ in their walk with God and need their fellowship restored. Notice the church is asked by Christ to ‘dine’ (i.e., have fellowship) with him (v.20).”

The letter is addressed to lukewarm Christians, those whose zeal for God has waned in their walk with Him. Geisler is correct in stating this. But there are hints from the text that reveal a very serious spiritual condition that God does not just “pass over.”

First, in verse 15, the Lord tells the church that “I wish you were cold or hot.”
The church is “lukewarm,” but this is the most detestable state to God (even more despised than being spiritually “cold”).

What hints we get of Laodicea’s problem are given in verse 17:

“Because you say, ‘I’M RICH; I HAVE BECOME WEALTHY, AND NEED NOTHING,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked…” (Rev. 3:17, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Laodicea is a church consumed by material riches. Because of their wealth, the church believes it is complete, a church that has everything it needs. The Lord, however, makes it clear that they are spiritually lacking: “you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (v.17). For instance, let’s look at the word “wretched.” The word in the Greek for “wretched” is “talaiporos,” which can also mean “miserable” or “distressed.” The church believes it is happy, but in reality, it is miserable and in a poor spiritual state. It’s fascinating that in the text, the Lord compares their idea of being “rich” (v.17) with the fact that they are “poor” and “naked” (v.17). In verse 17, the Lord also mentions that the church is “blind.” Peter’s words accurately describe this church:

“The person who lacks these things [goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love] is BLIND AND SHORTSIGHTED, and HAS FORGOTTEN THE CLEANSING FROM HIS PAST SINS” (2 Peter 1:9, HCSB).

In addition, look at the Lord’s counsel to the church:

“I advise you to buy from Me GOLD REFINED IN THE FIRE SO THAT YOU MAY BE RICH, and WHITE CLOTHES SO THAT YOU MAY BE DRESSED AND YOUR SHAMEFUL NAKEDNESS NOT BE EXPOSED, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see” (Rev. 3:18).

When the Lord tells them to buy refined gold from Him, He’s saying that doing what He requires is the ONLY thing that will make the church rich in the end—only what they do for Christ will last. When He tells them to buy “white clothes,” He is telling them to put on “purity” and strive to overcome their current sinful state. After all, in the Book of Revelation, “white” is what all overcomers wear (Rev. 3:4; 4:4; 7:9, 13-17).

There is something else to notice. I must cover it since, if we overlook it, we will miss something vital to this text.
The Lord tells the church in verse 18 to buy from Him “white clothes so that you may be dressed AND YOUR SHAMEFUL NAKEDNESS NOT BE EXPOSED…” The idea of shame is mentioned by John in his first epistle:

“So now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears we may have boldness AND NOT BE ASHAMED BEFORE HIM AT HIS COMING” (1 John 2:28, HCSB).

Above the idea of shame being connected with sin, we have the first mention of “shame and nakedness” in Genesis:

“So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’
And he said, ‘I heard You in the garden, and I WAS AFRAID BECAUSE I WAS NAKED, SO I HID.’
Then He asked, ‘Who told you that you were naked? DID YOU EAT FROM THE TREE THAT I HAD COMMANDED YOU NOT TO EAT FROM?’” (Genesis 3:9-11, HCSB)

As we can see, Adam and Eve become afraid after they have eaten from the forbidden fruit. ONLY AFTER THEY SINNED did they realize they were NAKED and HID as a way to cover their shame. From Genesis 3, the concepts of shame, sin, and nakedness become interconnected. As in Genesis, so in Revelation. The church at Laodicea were the “Adam and Eve” who needed to “see” their truly sad spiritual condition.

I have one more note about Genesis: notice that after Adam and Eve sin, the Lord punishes Adam, Eve, and the serpent for their wrongdoing in the Fall. After the punishments, however, God does something amazing:

“The LORD God MADE CLOTHING OUT OF SKINS FOR ADAM AND HIS WIFE, and He clothed them” (Gen. 3:21).

The Lord clothed them with skins, upon sin revealing their nakedness. The Lord was telling the church to do the same thing—realize their nakedness because of their sin, and receive white clothes from Him so that they could “cover” their sin. Notice that the Lord told them to buy clothing from Him so that “your shameful nakedness may not be exposed…” If the Lord returned, and the Laodiceans had not repented of their sin and turned back to the Lord, their nakedness (sin) would be on display and they would be “ashamed” at His coming. The situation would not be a pretty one, I can assure you of that.

Now, what does all this analysis have to do with the idea of the church being “lukewarm?” The spiritual state the church was in was detestable to the Lord—and just like a person hates anything “lukewarm,” the Lord was about to “do away” with the church at Laodicea. When a person “spits” something out of their mouths, they do so because the food or drink is nasty-tasting. If something is pleasant, they taste it, eat it, drink it, savor its substance. Laodicea was about to be spiritually “disowned.”

The church at Laodicea had not been condemned to Hell—yet; but if the church didn’t change her ways, she would be estranged by the Lord when He returned. However, if we take things according to Geisler’s interpretation, the Lord’s warnings to the church were just about “restoring fellowship.” In that case, the Lord’s words regarding “endurance” are just words to “shake” the believer—not that God would actually make good on His promise…

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