Is it a city of Asia Minor—an era of time—or an attitude and attribute of the end-time COG? Perhaps it is all of this and more.
Most zealous Bible students know that Laodicea is the seventh of seven letters recorded in Rev.2 & 3. Some also understand those letters are prophecy of the one true COG through time. (Rev.1:19-20) What is there in COG history, that has gone on before us, that might help in understanding Laodicea a little better?
Many in the COG today seem confused, maybe even ignorant on a few things concerning the COG of this 21st century time frame. It appears, from the Biblical perspective to be all of the things mentioned above, and perhaps even more! Attitudes, human attributes and mindsets even in the COG can change over time, just as surely as some, who HAD a spirit of brotherly love, clearly no longer have that as a predominate characteristic. Those are still circulating within the COG realm masquerading as if still “Philadelphian”, but the ones that have that fruit are few and sometimes far between. An organization does not determine if one is “Philadelphian” or “Laodicean”! No one seems to want to acknowledge they are Laodicea, because of the perceived stigma attached to it. However, is some of that because of past misunderstanding, preprogrammed into the mind of many older brethren, ministers and members alike?
Do misconceptions of the past get passed on to newer brethren as truth? The reverse of that of course, has also happened; the truth of what was revealed previously has been passed on to some today as misconceptions and replaced with error. Today, we find many “odd” concepts developing in the minds of members and even “leaders”; ministers that are now presenting these “oddities” to brethren for their acceptance as truth. These oddities are actually no more than a clever mix of truth and error, a blending of false or watered down doctrines in a new package. Newer brethren do not seem to understand how many things of Scriptural teaching are being subtly twisted or perverted today.
Some men are approaching some things with a very different mindset than what HWA had. New brethren to the COG believe what they are being taught by the ministry is the truth, without proving it for themselves. This has happened in the past and some of those brethren of decades in the COG still do not have a good understanding of some Scriptural points. Of course we are all still growing, if converted and led by the Spirit but there is an element of neglect that has always existed with some, which has now become the predominant characteristic and approach of this end time era of the COG—that of Laodicea.
This negligent and now lukewarm attitude toward Scriptural truth is also affecting some that have been in the COG for several years, accepted as the “Philadelphians” of days gone by and yet have been too busy with their personal ambitions to put enough time into continuing to prove truth. (2Pet.3:15-18) Godly Spiritual growth is essential for strength to overcome in every stage of the Church and takes effort. (Eph.4:13-16) Some in these COG groups today have begun to mix truth with error, as Protestants have done for centuries, putting little subtle twists on passages here and there to fit their own ideas. Once again, this is not new to the COG, but is another sign of the time we are now in. Some preach things in sermons or write them in statement of beliefs or other material that are actually contradicting the truthfulness of some passages of Scriptures. (This is the “Judgment of the people” and a need of nothing attitude) These “watered down” and even falsified Scriptural statements are deceptive to the unlearned who may be seeking truth. These things range from what the COG is and where it is, to what Christianity is and what the Gospel of Christ was & is today. Some have concluded they are to decide if the Gospel should even be preached, and how it is to be done, ignoring the pattern established under HWA. Some have determined the annual HD calendar that was restored is wrong and have devised their own; others, in their statement of beliefs and teachings want to change everything from whether we are “born again” now to what is the first step to salvation, to who really should be “in Charge”; what kind of government they should have, who are the “Laodiceans”—(Which can be based on the KJ & NKJ mistranslations of the word in the letter) to where the marriage to Christ is to take place and how; even when Christ is to return—on Pentecost or Trumpets and on it goes! Of course all of these things are explained in Scripture—for the real believers—but apparently not to the liking of some who would like to rewrite much of the Bible, adding in their misconceptions and watered down versions! This is no different than hundreds of years of Protestantism and their false claim to being Christian!
SEVEN Church locations—SEVEN eras—SEVEN spiritual attributes
So let us see something about Laodicea by looking at all the letters leading up to this time frame. The Scriptures reveal that the era or letter for Sardis, the 5th Era, was considered a dead Church and many things had become lost to them, over a long period of time. But let us go all the way back to Ephesus, the first letter, and get just a peak at some history through time, spending a little more time at the end with Laodicea and where we are today. This book of Revelation was the last book written by John and the time frame for its writing has been given as anywhere between 90 & 100 ad, (or C.E for Common era). Let us imagine the time frame was 91 ad, (for the sake of this article) so that would mean that most of the original apostles had already left the scene, being 60 years past the first Pentecost and the founding of the NT COG. John is the only remaining apostle at that time, appointed by Christ Himself, but as we see in the letter it uses some of that already past time frame in addressing this first era or the early COG already on the scene and what it had become. (Keep in mind also that there were many other cities where the COG assembled, but Scripture only deals with these seven specifically—which is a teaching tool in itself.)
The letter starts with; “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:” (ASV) They are commended for their “toil, patience and not bearing evil men in their midst, proving those who claimed to be apostles as false. They had not grown weary in those things for many years, but it says they had left their first love. So they were now, some 60 years later, (again, a random time frame chosen for the sake of the article) letting that wane as the faithful leaders died off and the newer needed to repent. Rev 2:5 says; “Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, (Look back and perceive) and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.” (American Standard Version) This actually happened as time move forward and the majority did not repent.
Now think about that for just a moment, because we will see that is very similar to what the COG is faced with once again, in the last era. This first era was losing its zeal and focus (Love) on many aspects, including strict obedience and preaching the Gospel. Paul, possibly 30 years earlier had this to say of those in that city, starting with Eph.1:15; “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (NKJ)
So all of this the scattered congregations of the COG of that time frame had now “fallen from”, plus their testing those who made the claim of being “apostles” or leaders and finding them false was also waning. (3 Jn.1:9 “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.”—NKJ) This Diotrephes had set himself up as being the leader over the COG there and was not being submissive to true ordained authority. John goes on to call this what it really is; “I will bring up what he is doing, prating against me with evil (malicious—NKJ) words. And not content with that, he refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church.” (3 Jn.1:10—RSV) Sound familiar? Christ had John to write this at the end of that letter to Ephesus; "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Not applying just to Ephesus the city where true COG congregants were, but all of them in that time frame and on beyond, that were losing focus and needed to repent.) To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."' (Rev 2:7—NKJ)
Rev 2:8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,”----(NKJ) Moving on through time the COG suffered more and serious persecution at the hands of Satan in the 2nd Era or Smyrna, through his agents, who at that time were again infiltrating the COG masquerading as “Christians” among them, but were liars! They were the instigators of persecutions on the true Christians or true COG! Rev 2:9 "I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews (Christians) and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (NKJ) They were not Christians at all and this “ten days” of tribulation the true Christians went through (actually ten years, applying the day for a year scenario found in other parts of Scripture, which also agrees with their history) could have been somewhere around 303 to 313 ad—right about the time of Constantine coming into the picture. Smyrna had no words of correction or condemnation from Christ because it remained faithful as it moved through time and Pergamos comes on the scene.
Rev 2:12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,”---(NKJ) Not having the time to give more history of each Era, though it should be obvious from the letters that with each new stage of the COG, some were very faithful, suffering martyrdom while others cooled down under the influence of the unconverted around them and went into apostasy—falling away and fading into the society of the time. This Pergamos era of time gave in to the old- “doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.” (Rev 2:14—NKJ—and we see today this same thing has returned with a vengeance. Everywhere you see the female body and nudity being seductively flaunted—that has stemmed from the doctrine of Balaam!) So they were also admonished to repent of these things and many did not, falling away. However, some did remain faithful and the COG carried on through time. Christ said it would never die out completely. (Matt.16:18)
Rev 2:18-19 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, --19 "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.” (NKJ) So again we see renewed faith and commitment at the beginning, then it falters, but revives and ends even better than it started. The points to be made here, as we have seen with each one of these letters, there is a beginning and an end as we move through time, with some repentance required in most of these time frames, with some (Letter-era’s) lasting much longer than others, when the actual history is looked at. Again in this letter we find this; "Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” (Rev 2:20—NKJ) This Era had a longer amount of time it seems. Things must have happened in the leadership through that time frame to allow this. The fact of it and what happened may be the thing that made some come to their sense and realize their need for repentance and did so, while others did not. Rev 2:24 "Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.” (NKJ) That brings us back to the Sardis letter or Era.
As we have already noted earlier, Sardis was at the point of dying, having lost so much truth at the time of HWA coming on the scene. Rev 3:1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,”--(NKJ) This time frame extended from around the 1600’s; beginning shortly after the protestant reformation of 1585 until the early1930’s before God removed the mantle or candlestick, bringing in Philadelphia. Christ said of Sardis; (later part of V.1) "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, (They were the continuing COG of their day, seeing themselves as the most zealous) but you are dead.” (NKJ) As the context is read, it becomes obvious that they were not yet completely dead, (Matt.16:18) but were dying Spiritually and some of that later history is revealed in the autobiography of HWA and his perspective of it. Some of those had their eyes opened to what had been happening and repented. It is possible some few had remained faithful; V.4 “But thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” (ASV) The point to make here as we move into Philadelphia is that just as the letter says, they as a whole did not recognize when their mantle or candlestick was taken from them and passed on to Philadelphia, the next era of time, because of their dead state. The organization, even though very limited in the scope of any true work, still exists today and is still not zealous and alive by promulgating strong Biblical truth. It has had its own divisions in modern times. (Rev 3:3 -- thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”—ASV) Some things they produce is contradictory to Scriptural revelation and prophetic fulfillment, showing a lack of spiritual guidance or understanding. That brings us to Philadelphia and the need for the truths to be restored, as Sardis had left off actually preaching the Gospel as well.
Rev 3:7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,”---(NKJ)
Many people have accepted, seeing Scriptural evidence as well as historical, that the predominate attribute or characteristic of Philadelphia came on the scene with the establishment of an ordained apostle, HWA. He was one whom Christ used and began restoring lost understanding of truth, while pulling people into unity of mind to obey God, keep the Sabbath and annual Holy Days and get the Gospel to the world. That time frame lasted from late 1933 (May have begun as early as the late 20’s with HWA’s calling) when the Gospel first went out over radio until it was going to the world as a witness. (Matt.24:14) He was given open doors to proclaim the truth, which he did, but the magnitude of that work has now also faded into history. HWA, after decades of labors, personally passed that mantle or “baton” off to another man and another Era began. That was in the beginning of 1986, when that authoritative and dedicated leadership died and was replaced. The new leadership came in with an ever-increasing lukewarm and compromising approach (Which had actually began by him earlier) to a majority of those same truths—finally even doing away with them in apostasy! The seventh Era and end time generation had now come. So we find ourselves in Laodicea and the many who began to slumber and compromise during the previous time frames, as we have not noticed. However the “fruits” are un-mistakenly Laodicea today and many are blind to this in their own organizations also just as in previous times, all claiming to be the COG.
Note Rev 3:14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,”--- (NKJ) Do you notice anything here that is different from the beginning of previous letters? This mistranslation may be a cause for some to misunderstand. The ASV, RSV, NAS, NIV translation and others, say of all seven churches—IN whatever the city is representing the time frame and predominate characteristic.
(There were other cities, as mentioned before, where the COG congregations were at in the time of John writing this, but were not chosen by Christ to represent the COG through time until He would return. Only these seven were used to portray these common characteristics of the COG as they play out through time.)
Note this introduction now from Rev 3:14 (ASV) “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:” This is in consistency and is the way it should be translated.
Philadelphians are not of one Spiritual body and Laodiceans of another—they have different predominate attributes for the different time frames and conditions of the world around them, but are all the same COG body! (With the exception of those who are unconverted or who have let the Spirit of God go dormant with neglect and already been separated.) The world has been changing through time and different environments and locations have an effect on the COG. Even here in the USA, it is considerably different now than back in the 1950’s and 60’s. The attitude is now far more liberal and corrupt. God has been systematically pushed out of every public place that His Commandments could be displayed and creation is no longer allowed to be taught in public schools. The COG has also rapidly changed, as the world around it has. We have now come through a massive apostasy against those truths of God once again, by Satan’s agents (Rev.3:9—mid 1990’s) but even though the environment is changing that the COG is in, the truth never changes. The true converts are still allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 16:13) and are clinging to those age old truths, still trying to grow in grace and knowledge. (2Pet.3:18)
Based on the nature of some leaders today who seem to have a proclivity to want to deceive their followers on various points of truth, the subject of “LAODICEA” needs to be reviewed or re-studied from this new angle of where we are and what has transpired that affects the COG. However we must not take the lingering approach of one long time evangelist who said this a few years ago, seemingly setting himself to speak for God; “He (Meaning God or Christ) does not want “Laodiceans” in His Kingdom.” (Quoted word for word and with his emphasis.)
Anyone with a right Spirit led mind (Phil 2:5) knows better than that and should be able to grasp the implications of such a statement, especially to a newly converted person in this time frame. That is very discouraging to a person who knows he or she has been baptized in the time frame of Laodicea. For an individual to preach periodically that the Laodicean era has come, and yet claim to still be the 6th era, should explain for the COG from the Biblical standpoint how that is made clear. (The idea of these two eras running side by side is a misconception in itself) That certainly seems like an inconsistency with all of these other letters and could be fueled by the mistranslation revealed above! (This inconsistency in translation may be going un-noticed by many and taken with the negativity it generates.)
We are all no doubt in the time of Laodicea, have been for years; just as surely as the 6th and 7th days of the week are not the same time, running parallel to each other. Several characteristics of past eras are obvious in the COG today but those eras themselves have passed into history. They come successively, one after the other from start to finish, which HWA understood and taught correctly. Now; Does God really not want brethren of Laodicea in His kingdom, as the evangelist so vehemently stated, and more than once? Peter records for us that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) That is what the letter to Laodicea indicates as well. Counsel is given by Christ with the time and intent that those who would heed it may repent as they are directed, before any tribulation begins.
Is one Christian more important to God than another, if they both struggle to overcome, but in different time frames and circumstances? NO, because God looks on the heart and inspired the Scriptures to teach us that He shows no partiality! (Rom.2:11—See the Bible study on Partiality, which is obviously a problem some organizations, leaders, ministers and some brethren have. It is a sin! James 2:8-10) God’s mercy obviously would also apply to every person in any time frame of true Christianity, who hold fast in a not so faithful time frame or organization, which is made clear in the letter to Sardis.
They were true Christians down through time and these seven city Churches were to portray that one Spiritual organism; one Spirit led body with good and bad traits; revealing there have been seven distinct “personality traits” if you want to call it that. Predominate attitudes or attributes, is another way to put it, as the COG passed down through time from one era to the next. Every one of these “Eras” had some of those seven characteristics existing in all times. The predominate characteristics help to determine the Church through time, as well as history, by what characteristic is found most prevalent in that particular time frame. So HWA called these church eras, which was appropriate.
When the new leadership and the era of Laodicea took off, it was approximately only three years before the work of God was beginning to be seriously affected by the predominate spiritual attitude of lukewarm-ness and compromise. This was already there below the surface, before HWA died, unseen by the majority and was an unconverted element, just as before. (Rev.2:9 & 3:9) Things were changing quickly however but those who were already becoming lukewarm and now deep in slumber did not see the spiritual implications of it. This applied to much of the ministry and the work began to suffer more and more! Newly converted brethren that were not solidly grounded in truth began to be confused or quickly lulled to sleep while liberalism flourished among “leaders”. This was no longer the Philadelphian character and mindset, nor was it done through brotherly love or zeal for the work of God or love of brethren! (1John 3:16) It became apparent to some early on that Philadelphia was over and Laodicea had come, but here again the COG as a whole did not seem aware, so only the faithful held fast to truth! (Rev.3:11)
Some of those ministers trying to hold to the truth were fired for not preaching heresy. This subtle persecution is still happening to a certain degree in some organizations today. Was Christ the Head of the COG through all of this? Of course He was and still is—but again, what is the COG? This had happened before, the true COG continued right on and that is the whole point! Any one single organization today does not comprise the whole body of believers—the Church. Even HWA taught that! The true COG is made up of those who have and are being led by the Holy Spirit, in every era of time—being a Spiritual organism! The truly converted would cling to the truth and love of God and each other, striving for unity to work together where possible and not fall for falsehoods and heresy. They would then be persecuted and pushed out of the organization—but they were still the COG.
Christ, as the head of the Church did as He did in the first era and removed the true Church from the midst of the corrupted COG organization as time moved forward! Those who have embraced that wrong mindset are not a part of the COG body, perhaps never were or have been vomited out for becoming too lukewarm and compromising. (Rev.3:16) New COG groups or organizations sprang up as the COG was once again being scattered. People began to flock to groups who at first appeared to be holding fast to truth and those doing the work of preaching the Gospel—only to find more hurt, compromise, confusion and dictatorial leaders! After a few years, these new groups also began to splinter—further scattering brethren and shattering the power of the Church to do the work of God! This is fulfilling Dan.12:7, which will have its completion during another prophecy soon to be fulfilled in the last years before Christ returns. (Dan.9:27 & Amos 8:11) All these things, the wise in the Church came to understand, were to come in the end time era, or Laodicea—not Philadelphia. (Dan.12:10) It is part of their works and obvious fruits that go unnoticed by the lukewarm majority as true Christianity. We are all being tested who are still alive and as time draws to a close. The number of living true Christians is far fewer that most understand.
When the more zealous for truth find themselves being forced into complying with an organization on heresy or hypocrisy, they will move to another more peaceful environment if possible and continue to hold fast the truth until death or Christ returns. (Rev 3:12 – “he will not go out from it anymore;--(NAS)--- Christ’s counsel to the COG ended, He says this; "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” WHY? If He does not want “Laodiceans” in His kingdom, as the evangelist stated, why bother? He does love His Church, even Laodicea, wanting them fully repentant and in His Family. "To him who overcomes (in all seven eras) I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, (Rev.20:4) as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev.3:19, 21-22-NKJ)
So in conclusion; Where are you in your Christian growth and understanding of truth? Are you arrogantly exalting yourself above many other brethren that truly work toward being in the kingdom of God? Some do that by claiming THEY ARE “Philadelphian” and all others are “Laodicean” and far less desirable to God? That my friend is not a “Philadelphian” attribute nor is it Godly character! Are you still buying into the subtle deceptions of men and their organizational compromises and lukewarm approaches to truths, or are you learning more truth of Scripture about some of these things, by proving to yourself Biblical truths and the consistency of Scripture? (John 10:35)
Laodicea is the end time era of the COG, which we are all now in. NO ONE has to have an attitude of competition, compromise and lukewarm-ness or lawlessness, (Matt.24:12) as that is a choice people make. Even the attitude of superiority is lukewarm, compared to a loving and zealous Christian mind of service to all, and that will have to be repented of no matter what organization you are in! No one can change the time frame they are called into the COG because God is in control of that. (1Cor.12:18) However, we can change our own attitude, approach to other brethren and especially any lukewarm approach to the Word of God. To be in Laodicea is to be in the end time COG, but that does not mean you automatically have to be lukewarm and compromising. Christ counsels any to repent of becoming that way and time is running out!
(The editor for TCOGMSO)