I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
I want to pick up where we left off last time on a post we entitled, “False Prophets and the Last Days Church”. I want to start off with a bit of clarification. Last time I referred to those who propagated the “Revelation 12 Sign” and pointed to September 23rd, 2017 and the unusual planetary alignment accompanying that date as a direct fulfillment of the, “great wonder (sign) in heaven (or the starry heavens in this context), clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet, wearing a crown of twelve stars” the Apostle John described in Revelation 12:1 – 6.
As we mentioned in our two teachings on this, the Revelation 12 sign teachers rightly identified (or at least most of them did) the “woman” as Israel. This sign also mentions a, “great red dragon” (which of course is Satan), and a “Man-child”. I believe the Revelation 12 Sign teachers incorrectly identified the “man-child” as the Church, and consequently saw the “catching away” or rapture of the Church pictured in this sign, and many went on the record as predicting that the Church would be caught away to Heaven on September 23rd, 2017, or some date in close proximity in conjunction with Rosh Hashanna and the Feast of Trumpets 2017. Now of course we know this did not happen. Here is where I need to offer some clarification.
Last time I referred to those who had propagated this view of Revelation 12 as, “false prophets.” In doing so I unintentionally used too broad a brush in painting some sincere brethren and researchers who simply came to some wrong conclusions in their research. Make no mistake, among the group of Revelation 12 teachers are some actual false prophets and teachers who have a track record of making false claims and predictions surrounding the Coming of the Lord. These individuals can usually be found on YouTube making their claims, and some of them unfortunately have large followings. There are however genuine and sincere brethren who have simply come to wrong conclusions in their research. There is a definite difference between these two groups, and I wanted to make that clear. I in no way wish to disparage genuine teachers and researchers who come to wrong conclusions in their research. Let’s face it, none of us are immune to doing this. We presently, “see through a glass darkly.” None of us have perfect understanding or insight into the scriptures, and we all just need to be honest enough to admit that. I can look back over the years and remember when I used to teach certain things I no longer do, or view scriptures in a certain light that through additional study and research I have come to see differently. There is nothing wrong with this. We just need to be humble enough to admit when we miss it.
I want to add quickly that I believe it is always wrong, no matter how one comes to their conclusions, to predict definite dates when it comes to the rapture of the Church. This has always proven to be a disappointment and embarrassment to those who do this, and really for the Church at large. It also gives all of us who teach Bible prophecy somewhat a “black-eye”, even if we were not involved in making the predictions. I only pray my brethren who were involved in this will learn from their mistake and not get involved in something like this again. The false prophets however I know will come up with new dates and predictions, and the deception on that front will continue. All we can do is pray these individuals will repent or be exposed for what they are. OK. We have talked about false prophets and teachers, which there is no shortage of, nor has there been for almost two-thousand years of Church History. What about the Last Days Church?
As we stated last time, I think we can see characteristics of all seven of the churches of Revelation in the world today, but specifically I believe the Last Days Church can really be seen in the last two of the seven – Philadelphia and Laodicea.
If you will recall, we identified Philadelphia as the Remnant Church. Remember we said that a remnant is a small part. It is that which remains. It is a vestige of what once was. Philadelphia was one of only two of the churches of Revelation for which Jesus had no word of correction or condemnation, the other being Smryna. Smryna was faithful to the Lord in the midst of terrible persecution, whereas Philadelphia was the church who remained true to the Word and would not deny His Name. Interestingly, both of these cities are still in existence today, whereas the others lay in ruins. In Philadelphia are the ruins of a Byzantine church showing there was a strong Christian presence there through the twelfth or thirteenth centuries. It is believed there is a small Christian presence there to this day, although they are underground out of fear of persecution.
This church held on to the Word of God, they did not deny His Name. Even though they had a, “little strength”, Jesus set before them an “open door.” I believe this again was an open door of opportunity and understanding. I believe the Lord has set this same “open door” before the remnant church today. Again, the remnant church is not viewed as the most successful by the world or even the majority of the Christian Church. You are not going to see the remnant being interviewed by Oprah or Ellen. You won’t see remnant preachers being asked their opinion in the midst of crisis or disaster. Remnant preachers aren’t drawing the largest crowds in the world, although a growing number of people are becoming disillusioned with “business as usual” in the Church and long for something real. Many of these people will come out of the Babylonian system of man’s religion and will join the remnant. This is the Church Jesus is Coming for without “spot or wrinkle”. This is the body of believers who love and long for His appearing, who will leave their worldly entanglements and distractions behind when He returns and rise to meet their Savior in the air. Even so, Come Lord Jesus! Yes the remnant is growing. We are not in the majority, we are the remnant, but in these last of the Last Days Jesus has set before us an open door! What about the majority?
LAODICEA – THE MAJORITY CHURCH
The majority of the modern Church, the Last Days Church, I submit to you can be seen in the Church of Laodicea. Prophetically, I believe we are in what I and others refer to as the, “Laodicean Age.” The characteristics of this church are found in Revelation 3:15 – 17. Let’s review Jesus’ message to this church,
“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:” [Revelation 3:15 – 17 KJV]
First, notice Jesus says, “I know your works.” “Know” translates the Greek, eido (I-doh). This is to see, perceive, have knowledge of, consider, and understand. Jesus looked deep inside this church, just as He did all of these churches, and saw that which human eyes cannot; namely, intentions and motivation. In other words, He not only saw what they did, but why they did what they did. He is God, and He sees the heart.
The second salient word I would like to call your attention to is, works. This translates the Greek, ergon, (air-gone), work, employment, undertaking, acts, or deeds. Jesus said, I see what you are doing. I know your heart. I see your motivation. The heart and motivation of this church was not good. In the rest of the churches “works” referred to their good works, but such is not the case for Laodicea. In fact, Jesus has no word of commendation for them at all. All is condemnation. The heart and motivation of the majority of the modern church in the western world, I submit to you, is not good either. The church in Laodicea, that is this congregation, had grown lukewarm. The majority of the modern church in America has as well. Historical writings of the time give us some insight as to why Jesus used the analogy of “lukewarm” to describe this church.
Geographically speaking, the city of Laodicea was located in the Lycus valley. Because of their location they had a water supply problem. To deal with this they built an elaborate (at least for the ancient world), aqueduct system designed to bring sparkling clear cold water down from the mountains near the city of Colossae, and hot water from from the mineral springs in Hierapolis, some five miles to the south of Laodicea.
The problem was by the time the water reached Laodicea it was no longer hot or cold. It was lukewarm. It was in between. In the metaphor Jesus used it is important to understand that He was not saying that hot was good and cold was bad. Both are useful. Jesus wants His people to either be zealous (hot) for Him, or completely uncommitted (cold), but not middle-of-the-road. Lukewarm water is nasty. It can make you sick. Lukewarm water is good for nothing. You either have to heat it up or add ice cubes to cool it down. If you can’t, the only other option is to throw it out.
Metaphorically speaking Jesus took a “drink” of this lukewarm church and said He would “spue” them out of His mouth. This is an old-English word for vomit. I know that may be a bit graphic for some, but that is what Jesus said. In fact, most modern translations actually render this word, “vomit” or “spit.” Here is the application beloved. “Cold” churches and believers have denied the cardinal or essential doctrines of the Christian faith. They are given over to formality and are carrying on in active opposition to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ. They are liberal. Hot churches and believers, on the other hand, have real spiritual zeal and passion for the things of God. They are both evident. They have each taken their stand.
Lukewarm churches and believers take no stand. They are in the middle on every issue. On the one hand, they won’t deny the cardinal doctrines of scripture. If you look at their statement of faith it is often quite orthodox. They won’t come out and deny the Word of God, but they won’t take a stand for those truths either. After all, they don’t want to offend anyone, but they don’t want to be known as liberal either. So here they are in the middle-of-the-road, lukewarm and really good for nothing. These professed believers make Jesus sick. It is what He said, not me. And I submit to you this is the condition of the majority of the modern Church of the west. These are the people who will stand before the Lord in the end and say, “…Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” [Matt. 7:22 KJV] To them Jesus will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” [Matt. 7:23 KJV] Somebody says, “You’re being awfully negative and unloving!” No, it is the preacher who truly loves people who will proclaim the Truth. What is the answer for the modern western Church? The Last Days Church?
First, they need to see themselves as Jesus sees them. The mantra of the modern western church lines up perfectly with what Jesus said in Revelation 3:17 that the Laodicean church was claiming, “…I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing…”. America is the land of mega-churches, expensive programs, state-of-the-art equipment, and professional singers and musicians in those churches, yet Jesus looks at the vast majority of them and says, “…thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked…”. [Rev. 3:17b KJV] The Lord paints quite a picture here. Let’s look at it.
- Wretched – This translates the Greek, taliaporos (tuh-li-po-ross), which means to be afflicted or miserable. Used metaphorically, as it is here, it is to suffer emotional or spiritual misery. Behind the plastic smiles and positive words of the majority of the western church is emotional and spiritual misery. This was true in Laodicea, and it is true in the Laodicean Age. Why? Because even though the Church should be the place where the hurting can be healed and set free, it has become in many places the place where hurts and wounds are covered up out of fear of being judged or accused of not having enough faith.
- Miserable – This condition is really the result of wretchedness, that is to suffer emotional or spiritual misery. They are really miserable. This word translates the Greek, eleeinos (ellie-a-noss), pitiable, to be pitied, or miserable.
- Poor – They say they are “rich”, Jesus says they are really, “poor.” Please understand Jesus is not referring to their material wealth. They had amassed great wealth and possessions. They were like their culture as Laodicea was a wealthy city, a major center of education, banking, and medicine. They had developed an eye salve that had made this city quite wealthy and well-known around the region. The church in this city had become like the culture. They too were wealthy and prosperous in every way except one; they were spiritually poor. “Poor” translates the Greek, ptochos (toe-hoss) – To be reduced to beggary. To be lowly, afflicted, and destitute of the Christian virtues and eternal riches. In other words, they were poor in the things that count for eternity. Many in the modern western Church are as well.
- Blind – This is mental blindness in this context. “Blind” is the Greek, tuphlos (to-floss), to be blind physically or mentally. It is from the root, tupho (too-fo), which is to emit or raise smoke. Figuratively tupho is to be conceited or inflated with pride. It is a picture of something being slowly consumed without flame. This is a person so full of pride and conceit it is consuming them and causing them to see everything as if looking through or into opaque glass.
- Naked – This translates the Greek, gumnos (goo-noss). It literally speaks of the naked human body, or being clad in merely undergarments. Metaphorically it is to be stripped or laid bare. This reminds me of Hebrews 4:13, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” [Hebrews 4:13 NASB] Motivation can’t be hidden from Jesus, He knows all. There can be no pretense, He sees through it all. So what does the modern Church need to do? We have seen Jesus’ diagnosis, what is the cure?
“I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” [Revelation 3:18]
In essence Jesus is setting forth the terms of doing business in the marketplace of God. This is marketplace terminology Jesus is using here. This seems to beg the question, how can spiritually poor people “buy” anything? This is reminiscent of Isaiah 55:1, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.” [Isaiah 55:1 KJV] The currency of Heaven is faith. Jesus admonishes this church:
- “Buy of me gold tried in the fire…” This represents true faith. (See 1 Peter 1:7)
- “…white raiment…” This speaks of imputed righteousness ( See Revelation 19:8)
- “…anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see.” This represents enlightenment by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. ( See Psalm 19:8; Ephesians 1:18; Hebrews 6:4; 1 John 2:27)
It is important to understand that Jesus genuinely loved this church, just as He does the modern Church,which is why He rebuked and corrected them. He tells them to be zealous – Greek zeloo (zay-loo-oh or zay-lah-oh) to burn with zeal and be passionate in the pursuit of good, and to repent – Greek metanoeo (meta-nah-eh-oh) – The Greek here means to change one’s mind, to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of past sins. It is much deeper from a Hebraic perspective. The Hebrew word for “repent” is teshuvah (teh-shoo-vuh), and it means to return. To return to God’s Law and ways. It is from the root shuv, to return to God. It is really a turning from sin and and evil, and a turning to good and God. It is the idea of turning around And this is precisely what Jesus said the Laodicean Church needs to do. Isn’t it ironic that repentance is the message many popular teachers in the Church today say Christians don’t need!
Jesus is calling to individuals in this hour. He is calling to you, and He is calling to me. He is standing at the door and knocking. [Revelation 3:20] Will you open the door? I pray that you will.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson