Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
The signs that indicate the end of the church age are appearing all around us. Something is going on! If you keep yourself informed you will have noticed that this year is not like last year, and next year will not be like this year. Time is marching on, and we are about to enter into a new era in God’s master plan. The Bible warned us well in advance to prepare us for things that will happen. It was never the Lord’s intention to induce fear in us about the changes that we will see, but instead to comfort us with the knowledge that He knows the end from the beginning.
The spiritual condition of the church in the last days received much attention in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Paul made a long list of behaviours that we will see in the last days. I have seen a strong move toward these attitudes in my own lifetime. While we may think that he is talking only about the world here, he turns our attention to the church when he adds “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5) Yes, worldly attitudes have found a home in the church!
It is shocking to see the contrast between the church of about a century ago, and the church of today. After the Reformation we saw movements such as the Puritans, the early Methodists, and various revivals that impacted the church around the globe. The ministries of John G. Lake, A.B. Simpson, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Jonathan Edwards, James McQuilkin, and many others come to mind. The awe of God in meetings, true repentance, the genuine operation of the gifts of the Spirit, the presence of God in prayer meetings – are some of the things that newer Christians have never seen. I had the privilege to be exposed to some of it in the church of my childhood, and my heart continues to long for those days.
There is something about Jesus’ letters to the seven churches in Revelation that calls for deeper investi-gation. The fact that He did not mention the most prominent churches of the time, such as the ones in Jerusalem, Corinth, Rome, and others, tells you that there is something more to it than report cards of seven random churches that don’t exist anymore. A closer look at the trends that prevailed in these churches reveals familiar patterns that we recognize when we look at church history in stunning chronological order.
The church started with love and zeal for the Lord. The doctrines were simple but pure, but it didn’t take long for heresies to find its way into the church, resulting in the rise of apologetics to defend the truth. Soon the focus shifted from love for the Lord to defending the doctrines of the apostles.
The church went through different stages such as persecution (think of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna), the compromising church that opened up to false doctrines and tolerated sexual immorality, the corrupt church, that welcomed false prophets and allowed sexual immorality, the dead church that had a name that they were alive while spiritually dead. Then the Reform happened, and the church saw a return to its original truths and faithfulness to the Lord, followed by the faithful church that were commended by the Lord.
Lastly, we have the lukewarm church, the last of the seven churches and the one that concerns us the most. If it is true that the Lord actually addressed the trends in the church as it moved through the centuries, we have now come to the last church.
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked… Revelation 3:15-17
While pockets of faithful churches exist today, the church at large is indeed wealthy but lukewarm. We have spectacular buildings, modern equipment, light shows, highly skilled musicians, graphic artists, yet Christians look and live just like the world. Attending church has become more important than being the church. Actually, very few understand that the church consists of the born again, new creations in Christ Jesus. Far too many think their denomination or organization that is registered with the government is the church. You cannot go to church because you are the church! You can attend gatherings of believers, but you are the church, the called-out ones, called out of the world into the family of God.
Without painting too gloomy a picture, we do notice that entire congregations are falling away from the truth, with pastor and all. Doctrines of demons are openly taught or practised. Church members blindly follow their backslidden pastors because they themselves do not know the teachings of the Bible well enough to discern between true and false doctrines.
Thank God for churches that cling to the full truth of the Word! They may be small in the eyes of the world, but in the spiritual they are huge. We have strong promises for the true church, the Bride of Christ, so there is no reason why we should give up now. Persecution of true believers is slowly rising in the West, but those who love the Lord and serve Him faithfully have much to look forward to.
This is not a good time to love the world or what it has to offer, but rather to focus on doing the Lord’s will, and to be busy with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19. Saving the lost from eternal damnation is now our highest priority. Church buildings don’t matter anymore, but souls do.
Difficult times are coming, and standing firm in the faith will be met with persecution of some kind. If your relationship with the Lord is not your highest priority and prized possession, it will be easy to silently deny Him and blend with the world.
We live in serious times, so our message must be brought with urgency. Signs of His coming are everywhere; the greatest event in human history is upon us, but don’t expect to see any of it on your favourite news broadcast. It simply makes no sense to them. It is of great importance to every believer to connect what happens in the world to the prophecies of the Bible, to know the times that we live in, and to know what to do.
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17
Jesus is about to come for His bride. The falling away is here. Don’t be part of the lukewarm church; be wide awake with your lamp burning bright with the oil of the Holy Spirit. Stir up the zeal for Him in your heart, and be faithful to Him in all things. Already we hear the Holy Spirit’s call in our spirit, “Come!”