Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 3:15

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Backsliders;   Church;   Instability;   Laodicea;   Lukewarmness;   Scofield Reference Index - Apostasy;   Kingdom;   The Topic Concordance - Chastisement;   Coming;   Government;   Hearing;   Indifference;   Jesus Christ;   Knowledge;   Love;   Rebuke;   Throne;   Victory/overcoming;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Laodicea;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Snake;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Church;   Lukewarmness;   Zeal;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Archippus;   Laodicea;   Philadelphia;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Asia Minor, Cities of;   Laodicea;   Revelation, the Book of;   Works;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Archippus;   Asia;   Laodicea;   Magi;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Brotherly Love;   Ephesians Epistle to the;   Laodicea;   Lukewarm;   Zeal;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Sepharvaim;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Laodice'a;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Cold;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Cold;   Colossians, Epistle to the;   Heat;   Revelation of John:;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for December 24;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

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.

I would thou wert cold or hot - That is, ye should be decided; adopt some part or other, and be in earnest in your attachment to it. If ever the words of Mr. Erskine, in his Gospel Sonnets, were true, they were true of this Church: -

"To good and evil equal bent,

I'm both a devil and a saint."

They were too good to go to hell, too bad to go to heaven. Like Ephraim and Judah, Hosea 6:4; : O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it passeth away. They had good dispositions which were captivated by evil ones, and they had evil dispositions which in their turn yielded to those that were good; and the Divine justice and mercy seem puzzled to know what to do to or with them. This was the state of the Laodicean Church; and our Lord expresses here in this apparent wish, the same that is expressed by Epictetus, Ench., chap. 36. Ἑνα σε δει ανθρωπον, η αγαθον, η κακον, ειναι . "Thou oughtest to be one kind of man, either a good man or a bad man."

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

I know thy works - notes on Revelation 2:2.

That thou art neither cold nor hot - The word “cold” here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold toward another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc. The word “hot” would denote, of course, the opposite - warm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subject - such words as ardent (that is, hot or burning); fervid (that is, very hot, burning, boiling) - show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but he found nothing but indifference.

I would thou wert cold or hot - That is, I would prefer either of those states to what now exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled. Why he would prefer that they should be “hot” is clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldness - a state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the following answers may be given:

(1) Such a state of open and professed coldness or indifference is more honest. There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state “may be found”; we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are never to be realized - to a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.

(2) such a state is more honorable. It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character. Of a man who is false to his engagements, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity. In the character of Saul of Tarsus there were always the elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot there were never. The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitor - a man of essential meanness.

(3) there is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a case. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when “breathing out threatening and slaughter”; of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence of personal piety; who are content with a name to live. This is so, because:

(a) the essential character of anyone who will allow himself to do this is eminently unfavorable to true religion. There is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what he really is not, is riot a man on whom the truths of Christianity are likely to make an impression.

(b) Such a mall never applies the truth to himself. Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners he does not apply to himself, of course; for he does not rank himself in that class of persons. Truth addressed to hypocrites he will not apply to himself; for no one, however insincere and hollow he may be, chooses to act on the presumption that he is himself a hypocrite, or so as to leave others to suppose that he regards himself as such. The means of grace adapted to save a sinner, as such, he will not use; for he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be. What right have they to go back of his profession, and assume that he is insincere? As a consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when one enters the church deceived.

(c) It may be presumed that, for these reasons, God himself will make less direct effort to convert and save such persons. As there are fewer appeals that can be brought to bear on them; as there is less in their character that is noble, and that can be depended on in promoting the salvation of a soul; and as there is special guilt in hypocrisy, it may be presumed that God will more frequently leave such persons to their chosen course, than he will those who make no professions of religion. Comp, Psalm 109:17-18; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11; Isaiah 1:15; Hosea 4:17.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-3.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot.

Two possible meanings of this are intriguing, and either one or both could be correct. Which is the right turns upon what Jesus meant by "I would thou wert cold or hot." If the Lord's reprimand here is the rough equivalent to, "You Laodicean Christians are just like the notoriously lukewarm drinking water in your town," then he meant that the Christians should be either like good cold drinking water, or like a beneficial hot drink from one of the thermal springs. On the other hand, if the "lukewarmness" here has reference solely to the spiritual temperature of the people, then he could have meant that he could prefer them to be cold, "because a lukewarm Christian can do the church more harm than an outright enemy of the faith."[64] Others have explained the possible meaning thus, "An honest atheist is more acceptable to the Lord than a self satisfied religious man."[65] Whatever, exactly, was meant, the principal idea is devastatingly clear. This church had lost its enthusiasm, zeal, and excitement concerning their holy religion. Through the ages they have come to stand for the most disgusting thing on earth, a fat, lazy, self-righteous and complacent church, basking in their own presumed achievements, but wholly unacceptable to the Lord.

[64] John T. Hinds, op. cit., p. 62.

[65] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 105.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole 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,

I would thou wert cold or hot; which must be understood, not absolutely, but comparatively; and not that it was an indifferent thing to Christ whether she was one or the other; but he alludes to what is natural among men, it being generally more agreeable to have anything entirely hot, or entirely cold, than to be neither; and so uses this phrase to show his detestation of lukewarmness, and that it is better to be ignorant, and not a professor of religion, than to be a vain and carnal one; Christ desires not simply that she might be cold, but that she might be sensible of her need of spiritual heat and fervency.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

12 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

(12) The proposition of reproof is in this verse, and in (Revelation 3:16) a threat while in (Revelation 3:17) a confirmation declares the same. To faith and repentance in (Revelation 3:18-19) a conditional promise is added in (Revelation 3:20).
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

neither cold — The antithesis to “hot,” literally, “boiling” (“fervent,” Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11; compare Song of Solomon 8:6; Luke 24:32), requires that “cold” should here mean more than negatively cold; it is rather, positively icy cold: having never yet been warmed. The Laodiceans were in spiritual things cold comparatively, but not cold as the world outside, and as those who had never belonged to the Church. The lukewarm state, if it be the transitional stage to a warmer, is a desirable state (for a little religion, if real, is better than none); but most fatal when, as here, an abiding condition, for it is mistaken for a safe state (Revelation 3:17). This accounts for Christ‘s desiring that they were cold rather than lukewarm. For then there would not be the same “danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle” [Alford]. Also, there is more hope of the “cold,” that is, those who are of the world, and not yet warmed by the Gospel call; for, when called, they may become hot and fervent Christians: such did the once-cold publicans, Zacchaeus and Matthew, become. But the lukewarm has been brought within reach of the holy fire, without being heated by it into fervor: having religion enough to lull the conscience in false security, but not religion enough to save the soul: as Demas, 2 Timothy 4:10. Such were the halters between two opinions in Israel (1 Kings 18:21; compare 2 Kings 17:41; Matthew 6:24).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-3.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Neither cold (ουτε πσυχροςoute psuchros). Old word from πσυχωpsuchō to grow cold (Matthew 24:12), in N.T. only Matthew 10:42 and this passage.

Nor hot (ουτε ζεστοςoute zestos). Late verbal from ζεωzeō to boil, (Romans 12:11), boiling hot, here only in N.T.

I would thou wert (οπελον ηςophelon ēs). Wish about the present with οπελονophelon (really ωπελονōphelon second aorist active indicative of οπειλωopheilō without augment) with the imperfect ηςēs (instead of the infinitive) as in 2 Corinthians 11:1, when the old Greek used ειτεeithe or ει γαρei gar See 1 Corinthians 4:8 for the aorist indicative and Galatians 5:12 for the future.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Cold ( ψυχρός )

Attached to the world and actively opposed to the Church. “This,” as Alford remarks, “as well as the opposite state of spiritual fervor, would be an intelligible and plainly-marked condition; at all events free from the danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle which belongs to the lukewarm state: inasmuch as a man in earnest, be he right or wrong, is ever a better man than one professing what he does not feel.”

Hot ( ζεστός )

From ζέω to boil or seethe. See on fervent, Acts 18:25.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

I know thy works — Thy disposition and behaviour, though thou knowest it not thyself.

That thou art neither cold — An utter stranger to the things of God, having no care or thought about them.

Nor hot — As boiling water: so ought we to be penetrated and heated by the fire of love.

O that thou wert — This wish of our Lord plainly implies that he does not work on us irresistibly, as the fire does on the water which it heats.

Cold or hot — Even if thou wert cold, without any thought or profession of religion, there would be more hope of thy recovery.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-3.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Hot. The word must not be understood as referring to excitement, but rather to energy and decision. It is calm and steady fidelity, resulting from settled principle, and not a short-lived ardor, which exhibits the true character of Christian devotion.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/revelation-3.html. 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Ver. 15. That thou art neither cold] Such are our civil justiciaries, political professors, neuterpassive Christians; a fair day mends them not, and a foul day pairs them not; peremptory never to be more precise; resolved to keep on the warm side of the hedge, to sleep in a whole skin, suffer nothing, do nothing, that may interfere with their hopes or prejudice their preferments.

I would thou wert] Better be a zealous Papist than a lukewarm Protestant. A zealous Papist (saith one) dare tell us to our heads that our religion is error, ourselves heretics, our end destruction; that one heaven cannot hold us hereafter, one church now; that our damnation is so clearly set down in our own Bibles, that there needs no more to assure us thereof than to open our eyes and read it; that if we be not damned, he will be damned for us, &c. This is better than forlorn recklessness in right religion, and that detestable indifference above specified. (Campian, Rat. 10; Bristow, Mot. 36; Coster ad Osiand.)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-3.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 3:15

Lukewarmness.

I. The first alarming symptom of lukewarmness is a growing inattention to the private duties of religion. And among these are private prayer, the study of the Bible, and self-examination. The lukewarm Christian begins by omitting his private devotions on the mornings of his busiest days, or on the nights when he is wearied and worn out in the service of the world. Next, he contrives to shorten his prayers, and leaves his Bible-readings for Sundays. Thus little by little lukewarmness takes possession of the soul, and brings forth its shrivelled and sickly fruit.

II. Another evidence of the encroachments of lukewarmness is carelessness in attending public worship. The single sin of neglecting public worship, if persisted in, will eat out of the soul every germ of its spiritual life.

III. A third symptom of lukewarmness, about which there can be no possible mistake, is an indifference concerning the benevolent enterprises of the day and scant offerings for their furtherance. The disease of lukewarmness is so very prevalent that its presence has ceased to create alarm, and people are sometimes found who have exalted this sin of lukewarmness to the rank of a virtue. They admire and praise the zealous man of business and zealous patriot, but when they speak of the zealous Christian the word suddenly changes its meaning, and it becomes little better than a sarcasm and a sneer. The philosopher's good man is four-square; and cast him where you will, like a die, he always falls sure and steady. It is only such who can make the world better and happier, for they give it the advantage of precept and practice both.

J. N. Norton, Golden Truths; p. 113.


References: Revelation 3:15.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 88; F. O. Morris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 148. Revelation 3:15, Revelation 3:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol, ii., p. 424.

I. Look at the loving rebuke of the faithful Witness: "Thou art neither cold nor hot." We are manifestly there in the region of emotion. The metaphor applies to feeling. We talk of warmth of feeling, ardour of affection, fervour of love, and the like; and the opposite, cold, expresses obviously the absence of any glow of a true, living emotion. So, then, the persons thus described are Christian people with very little, though a little, warmth of affection and glow of Christian love and consecration. (1) This defectiveness of Christian feeling is accompanied with a large amount of self-complacency. (2) This deficiency of warmth is worse than absolute zero. If you were cold, at absolute zero, there would be at least a possibility that when you were brought into contact with the warmth you might kindle. But you have been brought into contact with the warmth, and this is the effect.

II. Note some plain causes of this lukewarmness of spiritual life. (1) The cares of this world; the entire absorption of spirit in business. (2) The existence among us or around us of a certain widely diffused doubt as to the truths of Christianity is, illogically enough, a cause for diminished fervour on the part of the men that do not doubt them. That is foolish, and it is strange, but it is true. Beware of unreasonably yielding to the influence of prevailing unbelief. (3) Another cause is the increasing degree in which Christian men are occupied with secular things.

III. Note the loving call to Christian earnestness: "Be zealous therefore." The word "zealous" means literally boiling with heat. We must remember that zeal ought to be a consequence of knowledge, and that, seeing that we are reasonable creatures, intended to be guided by our understandings, it is an upsetting of the whole constitution of a man's nature if his heart works independently of his head; and the only way in which we can safely and wholesomely increase our zeal is by increasing our grasp of the truths which feed it.

IV. Observe the merciful call to a new beginning: "Repent." There must be a lowly consciousness of sin, a clear vision of past shortcomings and abhorrence of these, and joined to these a resolute act of heart and mind beginning a new course, a change of purpose and of the current of our being.

A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, April 8th, 1886.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/revelation-3.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 3:15. I would thou wert cold or hot. This is not to be understood absolutely, but comparatively; as when our Saviour says, If any one come to me and hateth not his father, &c. the meaning is, not that a Christian should absolutely hate his father, but that he should love Christ above him, or any worldlyconsideration. So here Christ does not approve of coldness in religious matters absolutely; but declares that lukewarmness therein is a worse disposition than absolute coldness: the reason of this is plain; because that faint heat here expressed to be in the angel of Laodicea, is a false and deceitful principle, which makes a man presumeupon himself, as if he were good enough, and hinders him from aiming at genuine Christian experience and holiness of heart: whereas flat coldness is plain and sensible, and does not fill a man with such false notions; but makes him rather immediately, upon feeling the truth of it through grace, ready to hearken to the admonitions of Christ. So that in reality, when exactly compared, it is a better disposition than lukewarmness, which must of necessitybring along with it negligence and hypocrisy, by making them seem wise and good in their own conceits; and it is plain from what follows, that the Laodiceans were so.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-3.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

I know thy works; I know and observe thy behaviour, thy ministerial function.

That thou art neither cold nor hot; thou art neither openly profane and grossly scandalous, like heathens, or such as make no profession; nor yet hast thou any true zeal or warmth, either for the faith once delivered to the saints, or in love to God, seen in keeping his commandments, having the power and efficacy of godliness, teaching thee to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, Titus 2:12. Thou hast a form of godliness, but deniest the life and power thereof.

I would thou wert cold or hot: we must not think Christ wisheth any persons cold absolutely, but comparatively, intimating to us, that the condition of a downright atheist, or profane person, is more hopeful than that of a close, formal hypocrite: the latter is in the road to hell as well as the other, and no more pleaseth God than the other. It is better not to have known the truth, than knowing it, to live contrary to it, Luke 12:48 2 Peter 2:21. Commonly such men also are proud, and self-conceited, having something to stop the mouth of their natural conscience, harder to be convinced of their evil state, Matthew 21:32,33.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-3.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Neither cold nor hot; lukewarm, indifferent in religion.

Thou wert cold or hot; madest no pretension to my service, or else wert zealous in it.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Revelation 3:15. The contents of the Epistle now begin. That thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. The latter words throw light upon the interpretation of the former, for they show that we cannot well understand by ‘cold’ either the state of a heart simply untouched by the Gospel of love, and occupying thus a merely negative position, or that of one which has relapsed from former zeal for the truth into a condition of indifference. In no circumstances could either of these states be to the Lord an object of desire, for experience shows that there is none out of which it is so difficult to awaken the heart to a proper reception of the Divine message. There must be some positive quality in him who is thus ‘cold.’ for the sake of which Jesus can say, ‘I would thou wert cold or hot;’ and this being so, it seems only possible to think of ‘coldness’ as real attachment to the world, and active opposition to the Church. It may indeed be objected that such a character is wanting in that Christian element which we must suppose to exist in what is ‘cold’ before it could be spoken of in the language of this verse; but there is nothing to compel us to think of such an element; and the first words of the exhortation in Revelation 3:19, ‘Be zealous,’ may with perfect propriety be referred to that natural disposition which, although not in itself Christian, is always the ground upon which the true Christian character is reared. ‘Hot,’ again, can only express warm Christian zeal. The church at Laodicea was neither ‘cold’ nor ‘hot.’ It had received the truth outwardly, but no deep impression had been made upon it. Its members were not zealous for the truth, but neither were they zealous against it. It was lukewarm, destitute of enthusiasm for anything whether good or evil. Had it been ‘hot,’ it would have been all that Jesus wished. Had it been ‘cold,’ it would at least have possessed those elements of natural character which might be turned to a satisfactory issue. As it was, nothing could be made of it.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/revelation-3.html. 1879-90.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Neither cold - antithesis to "hot" [ zestos (Greek #2200) boiling ("fervent," Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11 : cf. Song of Solomon 8:6; Luke 24:32), requires that "cold" should mean more than negatively cold; positively, icy cold: never warmed]. The Laodiceans were cold comparatively, not as the world outside, and those who never belonged to the Church. The lukewarm state, if the transitional stage to a warmer, is desirable (for a little religion, if real, is better than none); but fatal when an abiding condition, for it is mistaken for a safe state (Revelation 3:17). Hence, Christ desires that they were cold rather than lukewarm; for there would not be the same 'danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle' (Alford). There is more hope of the cold - i:e., these of the world not yet warmed by the Gospel call; for, when called, they may become fervent Christians: as the once-cold publicans, Zaccheus and Matthew. But the lukewarm has been within reach of the holy fire, without being kindled into fervour; having religion enough to lull the conscience in security, not enough to save the soul: as the halters between two opinions in Israel (1 Kings 18:21 : cf. 2 Kings 17:41; Ezekiel 20:39; Matthew 6:24).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-3.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
I know
1; 2:2
that
2:4; Matthew 24:12; Philippians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:22
I would
Deuteronomy 5:29; Psalms 81:11-13; 2 Corinthians 12:20
thou
Joshua 24:15-24; 1 Kings 18:21; Proverbs 23:26; Hosea 7:8; 10:2; Zephaniah 1:5,6; Matthew 6:24; Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:27,28; 1 Corinthians 16:22; James 1:8
Reciprocal: 2 Kings 17:41 - these nations;  Psalm 119:20 - soul;  Psalm 119:81 - fainteth;  Jeremiah 2:31 - We are lords;  Ezekiel 20:39 - but;  Hosea 5:3 - know;  Matthew 12:30 - that is;  Matthew 13:12 - from;  Matthew 13:47 - and gathered;  Matthew 25:3 - foolish;  Matthew 25:30 - cast;  Luke 11:23 - GeneralJohn 3:21 - that his;  John 10:14 - know;  Romans 12:11 - fervent;  1 Corinthians 8:3 - is;  2 Corinthians 11:29 - and I burn;  Revelation 3:8 - I know

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-3.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

I know thy works. Again this is used in the sense of disapproval for it is followed immediately with something that is bad. I would thou wert cold or hot. The figure is based upon the idea of food and its agreeableness to the taste. Some articles are supposed to be eaten hot and others cold. If either kind becomes neutral on the subject of temperature it will be objectionable. Also there are some articles of food that are suitable in either condition, but it is not desired that they be between the two states. On that basis as an illustration the Lord desires his disciples not to be neutral.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-3.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 3:15

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot.

Christ had tried all the works of this Church, of here elders and members; all their administrations, all their worship and ordinances, all their duties to God, and all their services of love one to another; and Christ found the elders and members of this Church to be Luke -warm, neither cold nor hot.

I would thou wert cold;

that Isaiah, one that makes no profession of God and Godliness, of Christ, and of the gospel; or rather,

I would thou wert hot;

that Isaiah, had zeal, life, grace, faith, etc. and the zealous, lively, fervent acts and exercise thereof.

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-3.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Revelation 3:15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would that thou wert cold or hot! Coldness here is the love produced by self, heat that which is kindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit'—comp. Luke 12:49, Acts 2:2-4, Romans 5:5. The latter is called in the Song the flame of the Lord. Song of Solomon 8:6, "Its glow is fiery and a flame of the Lord, so that even many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it." It may seem extraordinary that the coldness is here placed higher than what stands mid-way between it and the being hot, lukewarmness. According to the common threefold division of the praise and blame, the not being cold appears also as a reproach. And what is still more, it is the wish that the angel at Laodicea would be either cold or hot, which is expressed. With the common remarks, "thou shouldst then be more easily brought right," or that the "I would" should not be taken too stringently, etc., we plainly cannot be satisfied. One always conceives a considerable amount of one-sidedness to cleave to the matter when so represented. Out of the coldness, apart from fellowship with Christ, one may, on applying himself generally to Christ, become a lukewarm person. The lukewarm in the church of the Old Testament were the Pharisees. But the Lord could never have given utterance to the wish that the Pharisees would become Sadducees. There is only one solution of the difficulty. The Lord speaks here only of the condition of those who stand in a relation to himself. In regard to others the word in 1 Corinthians 5:12 holds good. So that we can only think of being cold in such a manner, as has connected with it the painful consciousness that one is cold, a hearty desire to become hot. To the saying: Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, this: Blessed are they who in their own feeling are cold in spirit, goes hand in hand. In order to become warm, one must first have been cold; and even if one has become warm, the being cold still does not lose its signification; every advance is conditioned by the being cold, and proceeds in exact proportion to it. In a manner similar to the being cold here, the being blind occurs in John 9:41, "Were ye blind (q.d. did ye but feel yourselves blind) ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remains." Accordingly, the being cold is an absolutely preferable state to the being lukewarm. The latter is also not to be tolerated as a transition-state. It does not, like the being cold, lie on the path of a healthful development, but is degeneracy, sickness, in many cases a sickness to death. Where the work of salvation proceeds, there a direct transition to warmth is never experienced, but the first stage is always that of coldness. Would that thou wert cold, the Lord is also saying to our Laodicean age! Were it but come to that, the warmth would soon appear of itself.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/revelation-3.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

15.Neither cold nor hot—The metaphor is taken from water, which, when cold or hot, (boiling, , from , to boil,) may be palatable, but nauseating when lukewarm. But it is a serious problem, the difficulty of which, is liable to be overlooked. What is that coldness which the Lord prefers to lukewarmness? Luke-warmness itself is that indifference which we commonly call coldness of religious state; and so this cold must be something colder, something implying the absence of even that degree of warmth implied in the equilibrium of indifference. Hence Dusterdieck, followed by Alford, represents it to be a state of actual unregeneracy, of “enmity and opposition” to Christ! And the reason assigned is, that it is easier to convert the enemy than it is to rouse a lukewarm Christian to heat; a reason overwhelmingly contrary to experience. Dusterdieck’s illustration is: “Saul was cold when he persecuted; and when he became Paul he was hot.” So it was easier for Saul to become Paul, than for a lukewarm Christian to become hot! But Paul had a troop of followers as cold as himself, none of whom would warm into conversion, leaving him an exceptional case. But how absurd to make the Lord wish this Church to be as Jewish persecutors, or heathen; like the world around them, rather than a Christian Church, even in its lukewarm phase! On the contrary, Hengstenberg’s view very nearly solves the problem. Not the coldness of the unregenerate, or the apostate, but the coldness of one still a Christian. In this Laodicean coldness there is not only the condition, but the Christian consciousness, of the cold, which is an uncomfortableness, and negatively, at least, feels the need of heat. He is, therefore, dissatisfied, and is more easily disturbed into repentance and zeal, than the man who was at once cold and warm enough to be satisfied and self-determined in his indifference. It is not the coldness, as a fact, but the coldness, as a feeling, which grounds the Lord’s preference. The feeling may be latent, only an unconscious susceptibility; but it is a susceptibility responsive to an awakening appeal.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-3.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 3:15. The moral nausea roused by tepid religion. It is best to be warm, and energetic; but even a frank repudiation of religion is at least more promising from an ethical standpoint (Arist. Nik. Eth. vii. 2–10) than a half-and-half attachment, complacently oblivious of any shortcoming. The outsider may be convinced and won over; there is hope of him, for he is under no illusion as to his real relation to the faith. But what can be done with people who are nominal Christians, unable to recognise that they need repentance and that Jesus is really outside their lives (Revelation 3:20)? Cf. Dante’s Inferno, iii. 30 f. For such homely metaphors and their effectiveness, compare the criticism of Longinus in (xxxi.): “Sometimes a plain expression like this tells more forcibly than elegant language; being drawn from common life, it is at once recognised, whilst its very familiarity renders it all the more convincing”. The spirit of the verse resembles that which pervaded Christ’s denunciation of the religious authorities in his day for their , and his more hopeful expectations with regard to the harlots and taxgatherers (Ecce Homo, ch. xiii.); the former condition of religious life was to Jesus a sickening feature in the situation. Just as spiritual death, in the case of the Sardis Christians, meant a lost vitality, so in the case of Laodicea lukewarmness implies that a condition of religious warmth once existed. “He who was never fervent can never be lukewarm.” In his analysis of this state (Growth in Holiness, ch. xxv.), Faber points out not only that its correlative is a serene unconsciousness and unconcern (cf.Revelation 3:17b), but that one symptom is a complacent attention to what has been achieved (cf. 17 a) rather than sensitiveness to what is left undone, with “a quiet intentional appreciation of other things over God” (cf.Revelation 3:20), which is all the more mischievous that it is not open wickedness.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-3.html. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

15. I know what you have done. Sardis was sinking into death, but Laodicea was already dead spiritually. Christ has no word of praise for them. They are barely warm (tepid). They are not hostile to Christ, but neither do they love him.

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 3:15". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/revelation-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.