I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold…” – Revelation 3:15-16a (NET)
The vast majority of those reading this study live in a world that bears very little resemblance to the first century world of the middle east and Asia Minor, and that fact must be borne in mind when approaching Scripture and its world. No matter how educated one is in terms of being able to interact in the world on multiple levels and in and with a variety of disparate environments or group, or how Spirit-filled one may consider himself or herself to be, and no matter how strongly one declares a strong reverence the Bible, serious presentations of the all-important message of the Gospel cannot take place without serious study.
In that light, when looking at this sliver of the message to the church at Laodicea, it must be insisted upon that one cannot casually approach the Scriptural text as if the terms in use carry the precise meaning today that they did when first penned. In addition, it would behoove a reader not to overly rely or place a possibly un-warranted confidence in a knowledge of either Greek or Hebrew. This knowledge often finds one translating the words from their original language and then interpreting the translation according to a modern understanding within one’s own subjective pre-determination that has been probably been determined by a relatively un-critical (and even unacknowledged) acceptance of a prevalent theology, philosophy, soteriology, ecclesiology, or eschatology, while simply congratulating oneself on the use of the ancient languages and acting as if truth has been rightly grasped.
If and when effort is undertaken to translate from the original languages of Scripture, it is critical to be all the more attentive to the historical, cultural, and social contexts into which the words were uttered, bearing in mind that the words may have carried a meaning in those days that has been lost to modern hearers or readers, but which can be re-discovered upon the application of adequate effort in such a pursuit. Words are regularly re-defined through usage, and often take upon themselves a variety of meanings and connotations that may very well be entirely foreign to original usage.
To take a non-controversial Biblical example, consider the name “Nimrod.” A reader will come upon this name in the tenth chapter of Genesis and read that “Cush was the father of Nimrod; he began to be a valiant warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. (That is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’)” (Genesis10:8-9) From there, one can go on to find out that he was a king and the builder of great cities. Without going into further detail of the life of Nimrod, it is quite clear that he was a man that demanded great respect. He is called a valiant warrior and a mighty hunter. He was the builder of a kingdom, and men flocked to his leadership. His name, in his day and in the days that followed, was a great name.
Now, however, the situation is dramatically different. In this day, if somebody is referred to as a “Nimrod,” the name is being offered as an insult. That person is being referred to as a fool, with the ensuing implications standing at a great distance from “valiant,” “warrior,”, “mighty,” and the like. So in a bygone era, if somebody was referred to as being a Nimrod, it would have been considered an honor. Today, this is not the case. Words change.