Increasingly, organized religion is leaving true believers unfed, constraining them to keep their disruptive light under a bushel and the joy of the Lord to themselves. What is a child of God to do?
Something is happening. Across the nation, and across the globe, as the return of our Lord in the Rapture draws near, people are awakening to His voice. Those with ears to hear are waking up to the fact that their current walk with God and the setting they find themselves in is leaving them spiritually malnourished and frustrated. Suddenly, they seem to have hit an impasse.
Not only are they not getting fed, most find when they try to share the joy of the Lord with others around them, they are being silenced, shunned, or even ejected from fellowship. They search other churches, looking for signs of Life, but find only self-satisfied religious types, snoring away, slapping away the hand of anyone who tries to awaken them. This is the Church at Laodicea, the “lukewarm” church in all its infamy. Most end up wandering alone in the wilderness, following the voice of our Lord. Some have done so for decades.
What is a saint who can find no local body of believers to fellowship with to do? The answer is not simple, and something you will never have heard preached from any pulpit, but it can be found by searching the scriptures and coming to an understanding of the problem of Laodicea. To the assembly, the Church at Laodicea, Christ said:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Written in AD 96, Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 are not just messages from Jesus to a collection of churches that have long since turned to dust, but a prophetic picture of the course of Church history from Pentecost to the Rapture. The living Word of God was sent to perform His will in every age, every setting, and every heart.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it.” John 1:1-5
The Word appeared bodily in the person of our Lord Jesus at His first coming. The Holy Spirit has also transmitted it to prophets and apostles who transcribed it miraculously and faithfully over a period of centuries so that most believers are able to hold it in their hands; consume it and treasure it. It continues to work powerfully in the hearts, minds and spirits of believers as it resounds through the ages. It was the means God used to create all that is, and it also continues to take down strongholds and judge the wicked.
The seven Churches were real churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time that John wrote Revelation. They also have existed sequentially in the centuries since, and most are probably present in one form or another somewhere on Earth today. Clarence Larkin described them thus:
“These Seven Churches then must be representative or “typical” churches, chosen for -certain characteristics typical of the character of the Church of Christ from the end of the First Century down to the time of Christ’s return for His Church, and descriptive of Seven Church Periods clearly defined in Church History.” Larkin, Clarence. Dispensational Truth [Illustrated]. PreservedWords. Kindle Edition.
I would venture to say that most believers now alive who are truly looking for the return of our Lord came out of the Church of Laodicea and have been added to the assembly at Philadelphia, God be praised!
The Philadelphian Church received no rebuke from the Lord but were presented with an open door that no one could shut. (Rev 3:8) Where do you think that door leads if not into the presence of the eternal Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords? He is our Bridegroom, desirous that we should be with Him for eternity. Our longing to be with Him pales in comparison to His yearning to have us at His side.
Meanwhile, back on Earth: Literally in the shadow of Mount Sinai, just days after hearing the voice of almighty Jehovah booming from the mountaintop, the Children of Israel twisted Aaron’s arm and motivated him to create a golden calf for them to worship. As the image was completed, Aaron said “These are your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” Exodus 32:4
Did your mouth just drop open?…mine did. Having been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, walking on dry ground through the Red Sea which immediately thereafter swallowed Pharaoh’s army, and witnessing others of God’s miracles, it is inconceivable to us that they would turn to idols almost as soon as the echoes of the voice of the almighty Jehovah were dying away.
That’s what 400 years of idolatry will do to you. Just as Israel, in their flesh, failed repeatedly to please God, the Church has also turned to idols and rituals as substitutes for walking with the Lord. The messages to the seven Churches spell out just exactly how most of them failed, and continue to fail.
Revelation is a book of endings and new beginnings, a book of judgements and blessings. The judgements take center stage for most of the book, and those judgements begin at the house of God. The Church, in its wickedness has deteriorated to the point that it is not only sinful, but has excluded the living Christ altogether, as documented in the message to the Laodicean Church; the last of the seven Churches.
One mysterious term that pops up in Christ’s messages to the seven churches is “The Nicolaitans”. This term is used twice; first to Ephesus; the first church mentioned:
“But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Rev 2:8
It pops up again in His message to Pergamum, third on the list, only in that instance they no longer hated the works of the Nicolaitans. It is a term that has become obscured by time, and by the perfidy of those very Nicolaitans of whom the Lord spoke. Just who or what are these Nicolaitans, whose works the Lord said clearly that He hates? A scholarly dissection of the word reveals that it is derived from two words indicating rule over laity; the people.
“They were not a sect, but a party in the Church who were trying to establish a “Priestly Order.” Probably trying to model the Church after the Old Testament order of Priests, Levites, and common people.” Larkin, Clarence. Dispensational Truth [Illustrated] . PreservedWords. Kindle Edition.
The presence of the Nicolaitans surfaced almost immediately, as their works are described as a focus of the Lord’s hatred in His message to the very first Church: Ephesus. Religious flesh always wants to play church.
One thing that is not obvious but should be appreciated is the fact that the sins of the seven churches were cumulative. The sin linked to each church persisted from one to the next, being compounded on down to the seventh church, Laodicea (With Smyrna and Philadelphia being the notable exceptions.). What is the nature of this inroad of Satan that began to manifest at the very beginning of Church history?
As it turns out, it was nothing new at all. It was nothing more than that ‘old time religion’ that like us, the Christians of the first century AD had been exposed to most of their lives. I like to describe it as butts in seats; the bulk of the assembly listening passively while some exalted authority feeds them with words designed to tickle their ears. It is the antithesis of the New Testament Church that was, by contrast created to elicit the flow of the Spirit of Truth from each member as they ministered, one to another; an environment of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Eph 5:19)
The works of the Nicolaitans reached their zenith in the ecclesiastical structure that became the Roman Catholic Church. Their leaders; the priesthood, separate from and exalted above the people, assumed a position of ultimate authority; the bridge between God and man.
The word Pontiff, frequently used to describe the Pope actually means ‘bridge’, or ‘bridge builder’. A bridge provides access, but it is also a powerful way to deny access if it is blocked or destroyed. The sin of the people was in accepting that they needed any man to provide them access to God.
The works of the Nicolaitans were a satanic imitation of the system of priests and temple services that most early Christians had grown up with. Always God’s ape, Satan creates nothing but only perverts and abuses the creations of God. The result is often like a sugar substitute. It looks the same and kind of tastes the same but provides no nutritional value, and may even be toxic.
The Nicolaitans locked away all access to scripture and conducted all services and rituals in Latin; a language foreign to the listeners. This choke-hold on the word of God created a spiritual dark age and continued for centuries until 1517 when the Reformation and the invention of the printing press again opened the door to truth. Fueled anew by the living Word of God, the Church caught fire.
As described by the Lord in Revelation 3, today’s “Christians”, members of the assembly at Laodicea believe they are rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing. In reality, they “are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Rev 3:18)
Passively looking to some revved-up radio reverend, private-jet-flyin’ megapreacher, fly-by-night YouTube messiah, snake-handling cult leader or local white-washed sepulcher to provide them with spiritual sustenance, Laodiceans neglect the written word of God and never feed directly on the eternal living Word of God. Any light they may have is hidden under a bushel and never allowed to shine on their brethren or other unsaved.
What is the will of God for those in Laodicea who, hearing the Lord knocking at the door, open that door and allow Him in to dine? Are we to remain among those in Laodicea who continue to go about their business, content in the knowledge that they are rich, increased with goods and have need of nothing? Is some believer shifting restlessly about in his seat in a megachurch any better off than one sitting, kneeling, or genuflecting among the spiritually dead in a massive cathedral? Are either being fed, or feeding others?
I will risk wading into some fairly deep prophetic water here, but it is necessary to make a vital point about Laodicea. In Rev 17, the Apostle John saw this:
And on her forehead a name was written, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6 I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered with great amazement.” Revelation 17:5-6
I will try to keep this short, so, hang on. John is speaking here of religious Babylon. This ‘Mother of prostitutes’ is the source of every false religion back to Cain’s substitution of fruit for a blood sacrifice; every one; from the most primitive aborigine smeared with blood, paint, and cow-poop; hopping around a fire in the wilderness to the Pope, ruling in his majesty from the Vatican. It also embraces every protestant sect on every level that is not led by the Holy Spirit. Unrepentant Laodicea is a part of Mystery Babylon.
What is the call to God’s people in Revelation regarding Babylon?
“Come out of her, my people, that you have no participation in her sins, and that you don’t receive of her plagues, 5 for her sins have reached to the sky, and God has remembered her iniquities.” Revelation 18:4-5 (emphasis mine)
Many who have harkened to the voice of our Lord continue to maintain fellowship with those who have no ear to hear simply because they see no alternative. Though their church seems to be a lost cause, every other church looks just as bad, so they remain where they are and struggle among the tares to walk with God.
If they do make the break from their church and visit other fellowships, the Christ in them is quickly spotted and rejected. His life, shining from their countenances and flowing through their words is a disruptive presence; a light shining in the darkness that begins to draw others. It cannot be tolerated by those with a stake in keeping the offerings flowing. Guilty of rocking the boat, the believer is asked, either politely, or not so politely to either shut up or move along.
The current system of religion is one that most believers have been reared with. In our minds, we have been conditioned to think that Godly people go to church, take their children to church and send their children to church schools. If our eyes are opened by the Holy Spirit to this massive deception and we begin to see Laodicea for what it really is, what alternative are we left with?
Many of us have actually been fed to some extent as shreds of the word of God included in the Laodicean liturgy are quickened by the Holy Spirit to meet our hearts. We assume others are being fed as we are, so we continue to wade through the garbage of the landfill, looking for treasure. We may have connected with another member of the Body of Christ among that fellowship who, like us has invited the Lord in, and together, we pray to see the rest of the congregation converted. We see no viable alternative; but is that the will of God for us? What can we do?
In recent years, though the internet has mushroomed primarily as a tool to propagate pornography and enslave the hearts and minds of billions through their allegiance to social media outlets like Facebook, it has also eliminated the barrier of distance between believers across the globe. We can effortlessly listen to the Word of God spoken by a brother or sister thousands of miles away, and instantly respond with anything the Holy Spirit reveals to us.
One pastor in Hawaii has a flock that encompasses the Earth; unseen, unnumbered, and, but to God, anonymous. This pastor reports the message that appears most commonly in his email is from believers asking if he knows of any church in their area that teaches Bible prophecy like he does. People feel locked into the lifeless churches wherein they have awakened but they hunger for the Word of God.
God has moved sovereignly via the internet to unite small, loving fellowships composed of isolated believers emerging from years of wandering alone in the wilderness, following the voice of our Lord. Hampered by distance from assembling together, they nonetheless minister to one another, allowing the Living Water to flow.
What can be done to enrich the lives of these isolated believers with the kind of personal fellowship, the physical assembly of believers which the Lord provided to feed and support us as we watch together for Him? And what about others just emerging from Laodicea, seeing no Godly alternative to meet their spiritual needs? I believe many have reached an impasse in their walk with God simply for that reason.
The Lord recognized this problem and presented this challenge to those bound up with the Church of Laodicea:
“He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.” Revelation 3:21 WEB (emphasis added)
The Lord’s challenge to us it to overcome; overcome Laodicea and the lies of Satan that bind us in place. We can overcome nothing in our flesh, but through focused faith, we are empowered by God as He gets us out of Laodicea and gets Laodicea out of us. Where will this path lead? Deprived of the ‘leadership’ and society we have become comfortable with, what are we left with?
The answer, both simple and radical was spelled out by our brother, the Apostle Paul:
“Therefore he says, “Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; 21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.” Eph 5:14-21 (emphasis mine)
In another passage in Hebrews, also likely written by Paul, the author places the purposes and importance of fellowship in Godly context:
“Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 and having a great priest over the house of God, 22 let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water, 23 let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful. 24 Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.” Heb 10:19-22 (emphasis mine)
There is it, a recipe for fellowship; guidelines for your very own New Testament Church. Leave Laodicea behind and grow where God has planted you. Though it is something that we can barely even conceive of, building a Christian fellowship begins with the Word of God. Begin by establishing a weekly Bible study, a time that you set aside to study the word of God and worship Him in your home by yourself or with family members.
For some, facing the limitations of physical ailments or their situation, even this modest form of fellowship may be out of reach. All they have is a few brothers or sisters they communicate with via telephone or the internet, sharing their faith, praying and ministering to one another. It only takes two or three to form a fellowship. How much greater then will their joy be when they stand among the throngs of worshippers before the throne of God.
It’s likely that you will find this a more momentous undertaking than anything else God has ever called you to do, but you simply need to get into motion. God cannot steer a parked car, but once you take this step of faith, the Lord will lead the way and will reward your faithfulness by sending others to study, and worship together with you. He will provide the various members needed and the ministries to make the fellowship flourish. Alternatively, He may lead you to a local body of believers, meeting in some home or humble building who have already taken this step of faith.
This encouragement for the formation of small, local bodies is such untrodden ground that I cannot begin to provide any clearer guidance but to look to the Lord and search the scriptures. Wait on the Lord, and meditate on how the early Christians, hated and persecuted must have gathered together; each one exercising the gifts they received from the Holy Spirit. It is but another step toward that heavenly communion that we are soon to enjoy with our Lord, and with one another for eternity.
- Adapted from #91237724/Jankovoy-adobe stock.com
- #178202041/Didier Sibourg-adobe stock.com
- #63461794/learchitecto-adobe stock.com
- #174778128/bnorbert3-adobe stock.com
- Don’t Mess With Israel by Greg Lauer @alittlestrength.com