The Last Days of the Church
Vol: 27 Issue: 3 Monday, October 3, 2016
In the Book of the Revelation, Jesus instructed John to “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” (Revelation 1:19)
There is much to be learned from this verse. First, John was instructed to write down what he is seeing; that is to say, Jesus didn’t dictate the whole Book, but rather, for the most part, John witnessed the events and described them in his own words.
His vision was of things which ‘are’ (from John’s place on the timeline), and of the things which shall be ‘hereafter’ cover the timeline from the Church Age through to the Great White Throne Judgment at the end of time.
John’s narrative begins with the things ‘which are’ and is the only part of the Book dictated directly by Christ. The first three chapters outline the seven letters to the seven Churches that existed in Asia Minor in John’s day.
The Lord outlined the relative strengths and weaknesses of each Church. In hindsight, Bible scholars found that each letter also addressed the particular characteristics that dominated during particular periods of time, or ‘epochs’ within the Church Age.
The sixth letter was written to the Church of Philadelphia, often called, “the Missionary Church.” Of the Church of Philadelphia, Jesus writes,
“I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My Name.” (Revelation 3:8)
Although most Bible scholars calculate the demise of the ‘Missionary Church’ as coinciding with the 19th century ‘Age of Enlightenment,’ the Laodicean Age has not yet formally begun.
The Church at Philadelphia is the final Church of the Church Age, and it concludes with the Rapture. Comparing the modern state of the Church with that of the Church of Laodicea is tempting, but the Word, rightly divided, says we are the members of that Church ‘which hast a little strength.’
Despite global efforts to outlaw Christianity, no man has yet been able to ‘shut the door’ on Jesus. There are still Christians in this present age who bravely keep His Word and proclaim His Name and the Good news of salvation by grace through faith.
Although in every age, believers looked up expectantly for His return for His Church, Jesus promises the Church of Philadelphia that He will come ‘quickly’. And He promises a special ‘crown’ to the Philadelphia Church.
“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” (Revelation 3:11)
There is only one ‘crown’ that fits the context;
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.” (2nd Timothy 4:8)
It has been a long, long wait, but there remain those in this present age that continue to patiently proclaim His soon return. The Lord promises a unique reward to those patient Philadelphians:
“Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
Note that Jesus refers to the ‘hour’ of temptation that He will keep the Philadelphians from experiencing. The use of the word ‘hour’ is significant. It signifies a brief but intense period that will “try ALL them that dwell upon the earth.”
But the Philadelphians, because they patiently waited and trusted in His Word, will be ‘kept’ from that ‘hour’. The Apostle Paul describes the fulfillment of that ironclad promise, issued directly from Jesus, to the Philadelphia Church:
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Having explained it, Paul tells us why;
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)