The Last Church

On the internet, in malls, newspapers, and on TV advertisements people are being offered a glimpse of the future through tarot cards, crystal balls, horoscopes, and special revelations from beyond the grave. This thirst for a peek into the future is big business, bringing in billions of dollars. For all they promise, a common element missing from all these mediums is one that predicts the future and has a record of being 100 % accurate. There is only one medium that for thousands of years has maintained 100% prophetic accuracy. That medium is the Bible. This book contains prophetic revelations which originate from One who is not only the Creator of the Universe but who controls the future. The very current day we are in was predicted within the Bible and here is what it says:

There are seven churches mentioned in the Bible that depict the seven church ages, from the time of Jesus Christ on earth to this very day. Some might think this is just a coincidence, but seven for seven is pretty good odds. These church age revelations are covered in the book of Revelation chapters two and three. With the advantage of looking back through history, we can see the progression of these seven churches through the ages. Their description is remarkable in describing the predominant church through a particular age. All of the first six have completed their term. The seventh and final church describes our age to the nth degree.

Not only are these churches reflective of specific church ages but they share two other characteristics. One is that they were actual churches at the time of the Apostle John’s writing. Secondly, that in any Church Age every church contained characteristics from one or more of the seven churches. The predominant characteristic when putting the churches to a test of averages is what depicts the specific age.

What does God reveal about these seven churches? He reveals what they are doing both good and bad and then what needs to be done to correct any shortfall. The exceptions are the persecuted church of Smyrna, which contained no shortfall and the last church, Laodicea, which contained no good traits.

Because few, if any, churches reflect exactly any one of the seven, churchgoers can be lulled into thinking that these revelations might contain some interesting reading, but hold nothing important to their particular situation. That is a dangerous thought. To understand the danger, we must look upon our time here on this earth as a battle. The Bible is full of battle language as it talks about our armor and being a good soldier of Christ.

To take the battle seriously means we have to prepare for the battlefield. Desert warfare is certainly different than mountain or jungle. Plus the logistics required for fighting in winter requires different gear than for summer warfare. Strategically, to engage an enemy who faces you with tanks and planes certainly requires a different strategy than an enemy that hides among a peaceful populous. If missiles are being fired across our borders killing innocent civilians and we concentrate all our power and might in keeping fishermen from illegally fishing in our waters, then we would be considered poor Commanders. We should listen closely to this voice from the past:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.Quote

This insight should help us understand the importance of the seven churches. Jesus is laying out today’s battlefield, your strategy, the consequences of failure, and the reward for victory. All seven churches are important for today because each church will have a mixture of the strengths and weaknesses. But the age of the church tells you where the major battle is raging. If you don’t see that, you will be focusing your energies on the illegal fishermen while your borders are being hammered by missile attacks.

Where is the major battlefield today? Where is Satan focusing his attacks, trying desperately to shape the church of the 21st century? It is centered squarely on the seventh church of Revelation , the church of Laodicea !

Here is what Jesus said about the seventh church in Revelation 3:14-22.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; these things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 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: 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 eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: 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. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Hot or cold! Where do we sit? Laodicea was fed by a hot spring through high-pressure stone pipes at Denizli, some five miles away. By the time the water reached Laodicea it was lukewarm. There are different ways to look at the HOT and the COLD. One is the HOT representing the medicinal hot springs and the COLD the refreshing waters that quickly quench the parched throat. The other is the HOT being the on fire zealous Christian who takes up his cross and obediently serves his Savior. The COLD then depicts the person who rejects God and lives the wayward and licentious life. For this exhortation, I will take the latter view on HOT and COLD.

The epistemology of our postmodern age can be described as one of syncretism one that functions according to the dialectical methodology. How we arrived there is fairly straightforward, but too lengthy for this article. In short, the clearly identifiable path started back during the Renaissance with Thomas Aquinas where humanism took off, but eventually crashed in despair with Hegel in the early 1800s. This is when society began moving away from operating on the basis of thesis and antithesis to something in-between called synthesis. I apologize for throwing out all these confusing philosophical terms, but understanding how the huge majority of people and institutions operate today on the basis of synthesis makes understanding the middle-ground of the Laodicean Church that much clearer. Hopefully, the following will help enlighten this philosophical progression.

The Laodiceans are fence sitters. They do not fully commit one way or the other. They are busy, but the busyness is a façade that tries to hide the fact that they lack true commitment. So many of today’s churches have all the pageantry; do all the proscribed things during those special religious occasions; make their buildings as comfortable and eye-pleasing as possible; get the most certified and professional people; do everything they can not to offend their “clientele.” Yet, with all this flurry of activity, how many in the church are actively involved in evangelism. How many put evangelism before choir practice; before the annual church picnic? How much time and budget is devoted to evangelism. How many meetings focus on strategic plans for reaching the community? How much concern is there to help everyone in the church become an integral part of reaching the lost for Christ? How many Sunday Schools build an urgency for reaching the lost from kindergarten on up to the old-timers? How many Sunday Schools make evangelism a major part of their activity rather than just building a perpetual knowledge base? How many churches have the poor and destitute a viable part of the church? In how many of today’s churches would the poor and destitute even feel welcome?

…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:

Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship said this about how most churches reach out to the lost:

Priority goes to constructing an attractive edifice in a location near a growing suburb and as far from crime-infested downtown as possible. Next come the committees organizing concerts, covered-dish suppers, Bible studies, slide shows, and the like. Then, with fresh welcome mat at the door, the members enthusiastically wait for all the lost and needy souls to come and join them.

Of course they never do. What the church attracts are the neighbors who are bored with their old church anyway, or those looking for a group with a bit more “status.” The folks “out there” have no interest in the handsome sanctuary and progressive programs and wouldn’t feel comfortable inside no matter what wonderful attractions were offered. (And probably the church members wouldn’t feel comfortable if they did come.) …

Those who need the gospel message of hope and the reality of love, don’t get it; and the isolated church keeps evangelizing the same people over and over until its only mission finally is to entertain itself. [Loving God”, 1996, Zondervan Publishing House, pp.243-244.]

What caused this condition? The world with its Hollywood propagated modern philosophy was ripe for the fence sitters. Embracing this syncretistic mindset, many churches try to outdo one another in attracting this modern receptive audience. If you think this isn’t really the case, I challenge you to see how many you can get involved in evangelism. I challenge you to urge the people in your church that missions is not just for the “professionals” overseas, but for every Christian, especially locally. I challenge you to get your church to budget more for evangelism and missions; to teach the children that people each day are going into an eternity of Hell because they keep fighting against God and his gift of salvation. I challenge you to encourage the pastoral staff to stress outreach to the lost and living moral ethical lives that reflect the teachings of the Bible. See what kind of response you receive. In all but a few cases, I would imagine an unpleasant reaction. And the most unpleasant reaction will be a nod of approval and then either nothing gets done or you begin to feel the pressure moving you out of that church body.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: 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.

So, what can one realistically do? We must, I repeat, must call things the way they really are. Like the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, we need to be like innocent children and with unabashed honesty shout out “The emperor is naked!” And, like Jesus, if we find ourselves outside the institution, knocking at the door to enter in, we must be willing to live with that consequence. There are two things I very often keep reminding myself, especially when I face an uphill battle. First, to remain faithful to my Lord. And secondly to always move forward.

For those who fear being considered a rabid frothing religious fanatic, Jesus is telling you to stop playing the game; drop the façade. Go ahead and be COLD! Live like hell. Be licentious. Be totally selfish and anti-God. Why would this be good? Because then you would reflect the reality of truth that requires both a thesis and an antithesis. In other words, there is demonstrated good and evil; right and wrong; truth and falsehood. And the world needs to see this contrasting testimony to truth. Whereas the fence sitters distill truth so that it becomes a mere piece of grey dust that floats from one surface to the other depending upon the shifting winds (whims) of a relativistic majority.

Those who think they can play both sides, balancing God and the world are only fooling themselves. The passage in Revelation doesn’t say God will wink at this syncretistic behavior. No, it is very clear.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

To actually be thrust from God in such a manner should bring shivers up and down one’s spine. If so, we have a task before us. Our church age is the Laodicean church. We are called to warn those within this vomit-inducing church; to knock at the door; to make sure the truth is not watered down, that a demarcation between the Cold and Hot is clearly evident for the world to see.

“How handsome the Emperor’s clothes are!” they all cried. “What a perfect fit! What marvelous colors!”

No one would say that he could see nothing, for that would have proved him very stupid and unfit for his office. No clothes of the Emperor had ever been so much admired.

“But he has nothing on!” cried a little child.

“The child tells the truth,” said its father quietly.

And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said. “He has nothing on! A child says he has nothing on!”

Soon all the people were saying aloud, “But he has nothing on!”

And the Emperor, hearing what they said, shivered, for he knew that their words were true. But it would never do to stop the procession; and so he held himself stiffer than ever. And behind him, his officers held their heads higher than ever, and took greater pains to pretend to carry the Emperor’s train, which was not there at all.

The 100% accurate prophetic Bible tells us to fight the raging battle, on the right battlefield, using the right weapons and armor, while implementing the proper tactics. It is a battle for the ultimate outcome. The story has all the people finally proclaiming “But he has nothing on!” Exhortation is not just the responsibility of the pastor but is a responsibility of all Christians and is especially required in the last days, the days of Laodicea.

But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

We can all be blindsided as Satan has so many evil tools at his disposal. If we don’t watch each other’s backs, we will be hit by blows that should have been avoided due to a warning from a brother or sister in Christ.

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Ralph Wendt