November 1, 2016
The book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ opens with a sobering description of our glorious Lord. It is followed by messages to the pastors of each of the seven churches. These were literal churches that existed in that day. The meaning of each name reveals a good deal about what each church looked like. In our day, there are churches that exhibit some of these characteristics. While the text does not prophesy future historic periods, it takes only an elementary understanding of history to see that these names clearly identify each period from the early church to this very day.
The Laodicean church identifies with “the rights of the people.” It is the “lukewarm” church. It is also interesting that this is the church that is caught away from the earth. That is evident from chapter four in that there is no mention of the church on earth during the following seven years.
This is the Laodicean age, the period of the lukewarm church when the church has fallen asleep at the wheel. It possesses a lot of things and is very busy. The essential things, however, appear to be missing. There is snoring and plenty of noise, but it is snoozing spiritually.
WHERE IS THE BOOK?
The majority of professing Christians hardly ever pick up their Bibles, either electronic or printed. For some, it's only once a week when they go to what is called “church.” In most churches, the book is never even needed. Personal Bible study is an unusual activity for most Christians, and serious Bible study in most churches has become a thing of the past. For the minority that still have more than one meeting a week that might include any study, the time is short - just a God token. If it is serious Bible study, perhaps a total of little more than one hour a week would be a stretch for most of today's churches.
Many of the current Laodicean churches provide only one service a week, and the amount of biblical truth provided in it could be put in a thimble. If there are other meetings, they probably represent less than ten percent participation of the whole group. This is exacerbated by the fact that, in most of these churches, more error is taught than truth.
This is the age of the goat church. It would have been difficult to find any unsaved person in any of the early local churches. On the other hand, in this lukewarm age it might be difficult to find any true believers in the entertainment church. This is due in part to the fact that so few of these churches have leaders who actually know the Bible although they, of course, know about the Bible. Note that when one of these leaders tells us that authoritative truth about God isn’t limited to the Bible, the crowds cheer. Anything to make the Bible say what they want it to say. You may not like them being described as goats, but if they look, smell, act, eat, and socialize like goats, what else might you call them?
The millennial age is the quintessential Laodicean church - forget a sovereign God and the authority of the Scriptures. It despises the very message they need. The “rights of the people” demand that we stop quoting God about sin. They are asleep in the pseudo-love church. God's love demands holiness, and that is the most hated doctrine of the current church of Laodicea.
WHERE IS THE CHURCH?
Many of these groups will not use the word “church,” particularly as part of their name. In most cases, that is good since they really aren’t churches anyway!
A biblical church is a “family” with a local resident headship. How can you have a core family when its members are in the same home only once a week? How can you be a family when most of the members never function to the benefit of the family unit? They are brothers and sisters only if God is their Heavenly Father. God intended that every true believer should be part of a local church. There are a hundred reasons why this is necessary. The local church is definitely Christ’s clear plan for this church age.
A biblical local church is a flock for sheep, with a local resident shepherd to lead the flock with all the implications of the illustration. The loose affiliation of the Laodicean church certainly does not represent this picture, and that is why the individuals in these gatherings are so easily gobbled up by wolves who teach error. False teachers in this lukewarm age can draw great crowds and have massive organizations because the people of this age know so little of what the Bible teaches about a holy God.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears. (II Timothy 4:3)
The biblical local church is a body. The present Laodicean church hardly represents a body, but is more like a pile of bones. A healthy body would expect its members to function well and to do the things that are expected of each specific member.
Take an honest look around you. There are many groups who call themselves a church, but where is the evidence? There once were many churches that demonstrated the power of the gospel, but now many of them are gone. Others have little spiritual power - not enough power to blow the nose of a flea! What happened? It is the age of lukewarm, and they are asleep.
THE GOOD NEWS
Take heart, however. There are a few churches that look and sound like Ephesus (desired). Some churches I know are going through suffering (Smyrna), and there are actually some Philadelphia churches (brotherly love). There are churches where biblical preaching is the center of the ministry. The idea that true believers are not interested in preaching that represents true doctrine is absolutely false. Goats hate it, but true believers love feasting on the green grass every Lord’s Day. They even have spiritual stomach upset when the “food” is ill- prepared and (God forbid) boring.
There are fellowships that act like a family, where the members long to be together. They care for one another and bear each other’s burdens. They share in the sorrow of the home-going of the elderly and join in the joy of new babes born to the young. These churches love to worship “in spirit and in truth” where God, and not man, is honored. They feel safe in a congregation where sin is not welcome, but where the repentant sinner is comforted.
Do you know churches like that?
Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address email@example.com or the Shepherd’s Staff.