The Tale of Two Churches

by Pete Garcia

The Book of Revelation chronicles the history of the church and the times to come after the age of the church has ended.

The Book borrows heavily from the Old Testament, particularly, from chapters 4 onward.  This is done for a particular reason, so that one who is well versed in only the Old Testament could easily understand the symbolism that the Apostle John conveys here.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, written in 95 AD, placed at the end of all the other New Testament gospels and epistles, has remained hidden to non-Christians because of its heavy reliance on symbolism.  This is significant and done purposefully to reach a particular audience.

When reading the book of Revelation, you read in chapter 1 that John is told to write the things which he has seen, the things which are, and the things which would come thereafter.  John then hears and sees ‘One like the Son of Man’ and notices that He was walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands.  We come to find out that the lampstands represent seven churches in which Jesus instructs John to copy down the dictation He is about to give.

Chapters 2 and 3 therefore are the Seven Letters Jesus speaks to the Seven Churches.  They were real churches, with real people and real issues.  They could be applied to any church from any age, because churches are still populated with humans, and we humans still suffer from the same sort of failings.  But what is unique about these letters, is the particular order they are addressed in.  Add to the fact that only seven letters were given, when there were hundreds of churches (some larger and better known) by 95AD.  Jesus has some very specific things to say to each church and when looking at them chronologically, we have come to see that they would also speak to the specific ages/eras that the church would go through within these last 2,000 years of Christendom.

Each church still exists in some form or fashion, whether it is as the individual believer or to the congregation.  There are still churches like the persecuted church in Smyrna in many parts of the world today.  There are still churches that have left their first love like the church in Ephesus.  The church in Thyatira most resembles the Roman Catholic Church in its secrets, heresies, and traditions.  Although she (the RCC) doesn’t command the same legal and political authority she once held over kings and kingdoms, the RCC will rise once again on the back of the revived Roman Empire.

The Protestant church, which most resembles the church in Sardis, thought they were alive, but were really dead (spiritually).  When the Reformation liberated millions from legalism, their congregations only thrived for a short time before smoldering into the Age of Reason, because they continued in the same dead eschatological beliefs as the RCC.  At least with the RCC, you had the beauty in its ritualism and aestheticism.  But today, the mainstream denominations resemble that ‘dead’ remark more than they care to admit, with their church attendance rolls plummeting faster than the Greek stock market.

But it is to the last two letters that I would like you, the reader to hone in on.  To the church in Philadelphia, Christ had nothing but praise for.  To the church in Laodicea, Christ had nothing positive to say.  Let’s look back at Matthew’s Gospel for a moment as we pick up on something that Jesus once spoke about.  When Jesus asked His disciples who men said He was, they answered:

“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  Matthew 16:14

Jesus then pointedly asks Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” In which Peter rightly answers… “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (vs. 16)

Then, in this most often misunderstood verse, Jesus responds:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:13-19

The Church would be built upon Peter’s confession of who Christ is, not on Peter himself as the Roman Catholics would have you believe.  After all, the entire discussion is about who Christ is, not about how great Peter was for recognizing that.

Fast Forward

We live in a world today that is increasingly antagonistic towards the Gospel, so much so, that any church or believer, who is not firmly rooted in the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, is buckling under the pressure the world has placed upon them.  Believers who hold to the views of: salvation by grace through faith, inerrancy of Scripture, Triune nature of God, Deity of Jesus Christ, and the exclusivity of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone…are becoming increasingly smaller in number.

Christianity has all but been purged from the public arena of ideas, and anyone who dares mention discussion about Creationism for example, are immediately discredited and blacklisted.  Anyone who dares speak their mind about the truth of Mormonism or Islam, are immediately labeled as a bigot.

If a pastor preaches that abortion or gay marriage is abhorrent, protesters will disrupt their services and protest outside their doors until either the law is forced to intervene, or that pastor publically recants.  Even a man such as the Franklin Graham, who called into question the President’s Christianity (or lack thereof), had to publically recant because of the pressure brought upon him.

These two churches, Philadelphia and Laodicea, exist side by side in the last days.  Philadelphia has a little strength because the world is attempting to snuff the life out of it.  Laodicea preaches everything and anything, but Christ crucified.  They are rich, ecumenical and emergent, preaching a social gospel that is palpable to all, so as not to offend anyone.  They promote the word-faith message, and the prosperity gospel.  They are also seeker-friendly and purpose driven.  Philadelphians take a stand, and are marginalized and mocked.  They are attacked as obtuse, antiquated, and irrelevant.  Laodicea refuses to make waves, and is praised for their ‘tolerance’ and left alone to spread their infectious apostasy.

Although the Laodicean church takes up the last spot on the list of churches, it is not the last Church.  They are what is left over.  Christ said He would build His church, and the ‘gates of Hades’ would not prevail against it.  How could Christ build His church and then subsequently be stuck on the outside knocking on the door?  You cannot be a true Christian, and not be in Christ, or He in you.  How could Jesus build a church that He seemingly only wants to vomit out of His mouth because they have become so lukewarm and self-aggrandizing?

The Philadelphian church is really the last church in which Christ is building, and it is thischurch the gates of Hades will not prevail against.  They exist in a time, much like Smyrna, yet suffer a different form of persecution, but persecution nonetheless.  (2 Peter 3:3-92 Timothy 3:1-9) Look at how much more vitriolic and hateful the world has become in just these last ten years here in the West.  And so it is today, where the world is becoming almost unbearably hostile to the Christian, it almost seems as if the dam of evil is on the verge of breaking and sweeping over the Church.  But it only seems that way, because Christ has promised the Philadelphian church something wonderful instead…

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”  Revelation 3:10-11

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