The Church Christ Loved - Pete Garcia - http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=8122
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. Matthew 16:18
If one were to look back in history, one would notice the rise and fall of all the various Christian denominations and movements that have come and gone over the past 500 years. Some have survived the centuries but look remarkably different from when they began. For example, just compare the writings and teachings of the Lutherans of the 1600s, to that of the Lutherans of today. Compare the Methodists of John and Charles Wesley's day, to that of the Methodist church today to gain a better understanding of where Christianity is moving in the long scheme of things. It seems, that no matter how well intentioned a church or movement ever began with, they all atrophy spiritually over time on account of the same common denominator…man.
Despite that, the closest modern man ever got to a more perfect understanding of the Holy Scripture since the days of the Apostles, was the Dispensationalist movement of the 19th and 20th century. That might sound like an audacious statement, but for the first time in almost two millennia, believers began taking the entire Word of God at face value. The principles which guided Dispensational thought was to take the text for what it said, all the while, maintaining the normal historical, contextual, and grammatical rules of interpretation. Because Dispensationalism does this, it comes to some fundamental and axiomatic understandings regarding the two main players in the Old and New Testament;
1. The Church is not Israel, nor Israel the Church
2. God is not through with the Jew
I realize that this is a bold claim here, but it is this writer’s belief, that Dispensationalism saved Evangelical Christianity and extended its stay for another 185 years in the West. Dispensational thought opened up for the first time in millennia, an explosion of new understanding by reconciling all of God’s word in perfect harmony. This wasn’t new revelation as many critics charge Dispensationalism with (i.e…the old and debunked Margaret MacDonald accusation), but by new illumination, by way of rightly dividing the Word that has always been there.
New illumination, simply means that we understand something in a new way. The material remains the same, but your perspective changes based on how the Holy Spirit moves you in understanding it. (Daniel 12:4, 9-10) Juxtaposed to this, “New” revelation would be akin to Joseph Smith claiming that God gave him new information by way of invisible, golden tablets for which he added too and changed Holy Scripture in order to fit his supposed revelation and create a non-Christian cult.
Dispensationalism doesn’t add one jot or tittle to God’s word. What it did, was allow for believers to see God’s word in a new light, by taking ALL of God’s word at face value. In practical application, it allowed both clergy and parishioner, the ability to shed the Tradition and Denominational biases that had kept many believers stuck back in the theological Dark Ages. It is for this reason, that Covenant and Reformed theologians, Amillennialists, Post Millennialists, Historic Premillennialist, Dominionists, and Roman Catholic all hate Dispensationalism with equal fervor. What’s ironic, is that although the aforementioned groups all ideologically, eschatologically, and doctrinally disagree with each other, they all share in their hatred of Dispensationalism. That should be telling in and of itself.
Furthermore, it is because the Dispensationalist, believes in a Pre-Tribulational Rapture, and holds to a Pre-Millennial return of Christ, that we are usually on the receiving end of ridicule and vitriolic responses. I’m pretty sure that if Dispensationalism had been Amillennial or Post-Millennial in its Eschatology, no one would care.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”. “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Rev. 3:7-9
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John is told to write Seven Letters to seven churches as dictated to him from Christ. Out of the seven, only two had no mention of condemnation to them. These churches (Smyrna and Philadelphia), are two examples of churches that Christ found no fault in. I believe that the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 1-3, form the;
There are two kinds of Godly churches in this world, and they are the kind that is suffering through violence and persecution, and the kind that is not. But persecution comes in many forms, and sometimes it is intense brutality through mob, police or military actions. Other times persecution comes in a more subtle form through political, economic, or cultural intimidation and pressure. But here in the West where it has found political refuge and freedom over the last 500 years, Christianity has flourished and then become corrupted. Instead of the church going out into the world, the world has come into church. Yet, God always has His remnant, and either a Church departs from the denomination because the denomination goes apostate, or a denomination remains true to God’s word, and churches abandon it for looser interpretations.
Comparing Smyrna and Philadelphia, one would see what they had in common, and what they didn’t. We see on one hand, that Jesus offered no promise of deliverance for the Smyrna believers, but told them to endure ‘ten days’ and that they would ultimately pay with their lives, but would receive the ‘Crown of Life’. The ‘ten days’ were represented by ten Roman Emperors who would bring on those believers intense persecution.
On the other hand, the church at Philadelphia were told to endure, but that they would be delivered prior to the world’s ‘hour of testing’. Since we know that this hasn’t happened in the past on a global scale, we must assume that this is still yet a future event.
Those who represent Philadelphia, share in persecution, but not to the extent of those in Smyrna. Likely, these Philadelphian churches would be represented more by those in the West who tend to enjoy more religious freedom, but still live under secular control. While they may not have their head cut the head off just yet, or burnt at the stake, or thrown in prison for holding to their beliefs, we see the culture bringing increasing pressure through economic, academic, and political intimidation on these believers.
While this has happened in previous generations in places like England and Germany prior to the Protestant Reformation, we are only just now seeing it for the first time since Israel has been brought back together as nation in 1948. Prophetically speaking, this is significant because now we are seeing another group of people, of whom the Bible devotes a significantly larger portion of text too than we Christians, being brought back into the global discussion for the first time in almost two millennia. The Dry Bones are assembling back to life.
In Philadelphia, they received commendations and encouragements from Christ for the following things:
I would venture to guess, that outside the boundaries of Western nations and the United States, most Christian congregations resemble more Smyrna than they do any other church. There have been more Christians killed in this past two centuries, than in all the previous centuries before them combined. While inside the boundaries of western nations and the United States, very few churches resemble Philadelphia. Most churches have given themselves over to the culture and continue to compromise their beliefs in a vain attempt to remain relevant. Many pitfalls have sidelined denominations these days, and whether it is faulty doctrine, or faulty leadership, both have laid to waste many a soul in these final days, despite the outpouring of prophetic signs God has foretold us about as both a warning and an encouragement.
The truth is, that despite our best efforts, every movement, denomination, or outpouring on man’s behalf to establish some semblance of the Kingdom here on earth, has and will fail. Not because the message is faulty (although many are), but because man is. Dispensationalism is one of the few, if not the only view that dogmatically sticks to the idea that mankind cannot usher in the Kingdom through our own efforts. Nor does Dispensationalism spiritualize away the Kingdom into some whispy, unseen eternal state. Dispensationalism teaches that the Kingdom will one day find its physical fulfillment here on earth through Christ Himself at His Second Coming.
As we draw nearer to the end of the age, we are seeing a rapid rise in both the antichrist spirit, and the mystery of lawlessness being unleashed. The former breeds false doctrine and damnable teachings (primarily focused in the West), and the latter (primarily in the East) increased violence and hostility against true Christianity. Because of this, Dispensationalism is dying out. The prophet Hosea once wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’. (4:6) Notice he doesn’t say, ‘my people are destroyed for lack of faith’, or ‘lack of social justice’, or ‘lack of relevance’. It is divine knowledge, which provides for sound doctrine, which guards the flocks against heretical and apostate teachings which decimate the flocks.
Sound doctrine also provides for sound Eschatology, which acts as God’s ultimate encourager, as the days grow darker and darker. If the Seven Letters were meant to be understood also as epochs within the Church Age, then the message preceding the letter to the Philadelphians, is the Church of Sardis. This would signify the era of the Protestant Reformation on forward, those being the mainline protestant denominations which have all but turned away from sound eschatology. Notice what Christ warns them of…
Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Rev. 3:3
Moreover, the church at Philadelphia seemingly understood and embraced that Christ would return before that ‘hour of testing’, which is why Christ didn’t need to warn them. This is why I say that Dispensationalism, although not a church, was the system God used to preserve His churches (Presbyterian, Baptist, Non-Denominational, Calvary Chapel, etc.) throughout the last 185 years. God always has His remnant, and Christ loved the church who did not deny His name nor did they have a lot of strength. It is this writer belief that before the light goes out on Dispensationalism, Christ will return as promised (John 14:1-3) and deliver His own, before that great and terrible Day of the Lord.
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. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ Rev. 3:10-11