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  • Writer's pictureJacob Mamachan

Context In Crisis! Redeeming The Context Of Scriptures - PART 2

In my previous post I presented an introduction on the requisite to understand the context behind the biblical writings.

Now let us look at an example from some Scriptures, for instance, from the book of Revelation. This book is replete with vivid images and as any committed bible student would identify, it has a spectrum of interpretations.

Let us focus on Revelation 3:14-16 – '' To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold, I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.''

Traditionally we have interpreted these passages very differently. God was warning the church at Laodicea to be either hot – to be zealous of the things of God just as the Israelites were zealous; or to be cold – deny the faith and be completely uncommitted. If one would be “lukewarm”, then God would spit them out.

Getting the context of Revelation 3:14-16 is of paramount importance. The geographical context will help identify the setting of Laodicea and the surrounding region in the first century. G.K. Beale in his commentary on the Book Of Revelation has a relevant section where he has mentioned, “The hot waters of Heirapolis had a medicinal effect and the cold waters of Colossae were pure, drinkable, and had a life-giving effect. However, there is evidence that Laodicea had access only to warm water, which was not very palatable and caused nausea. Indeed, Laodicea had grown as a town because its position was conducive for commerce, but it was far from good water. When the city tried to pipe water in, it could manage only to obtain tepid, emetic water”

This information about the first century Laodicea allows us to modify our understanding of the text. The idea would be conveyed that God wanted the Laodiceans to be “useful” and not “useless”. Their involvement in witnessing for Christ had to be fruitful to their society. Hot and cold waters were both useful, but lukewarm water could not be consumed and would even be unhealthy at times.

It had nothing to do with being fired up for God or not. God was not hinting that He would prefer if they were uncommitted to their faith than being lukewarm. If we think about it, technically being cold and lukewarm should deserve “spitting out” but God only spits out the lukewarm.

Additionally, in a survey of the letters to the seven churches, nowhere was God promoting some kind of “coldness” in any churches as a lack of “hotness”. Rather He is commanding all to repent as any deviation would be answered with just recompense and judgement.

The traditional “hot” and “cold” interpretation will not capture this depth of understanding that would have made perfect sense to the recipients of the letter. This is not to indicate that one would be in error or an apostate for partially interpreting this passage, however, it exposes the simplistic reading of the text leading to a commentary on one’s own understanding of scriptures without consulting the relevant context. Consequently misapplication is still prevalent and we need to be better interpreters of the Eternal Word of God as there is no excuse for that.


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