Philadelphian & Laodicean Churches
The Budding of the Fig Tree
In the previous article concerning the budding of the fig tree, Jesus used the fig tree as an illustration that as the buds assure us that the leaves and fruit are not far behind; so the generation that sees and experiences the cataclysmic end of this sin-cursed age, as described in Luke 21:20-26 will also experience the ushering in of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom.
There, I made the statement that Christ’s true Church, composed of all His redeemed; will not be among this generation that experiences the indescribable terrors of the Tribulation as God’s wrath is poured out on this sin-cursed earth in its final hours. Why? Because seven years earlier, Christ’s true Church, composed of all those whose trust for salvation is in Christ Himself, will have been caught up supernaturally into Heaven in new glorified bodies, impervious to sin and sin’s curse.
In this article I want to give you reasons why I believe Christ’s redeemed, true Church will escape the Tribulation.
I. The Revelation in context
First, let me give you a reason you can discover for yourself simply by reading through The Revelation, John’s heavenly vision of the end times. Let’s trace the Church through the book of The Revelation.
In Rev. 1-3 Jesus speaks to the seven churches of Asia Minor, a type of the entire Church Age since it began at Pentecost. It’s quite evident that the seven churches trace church history on this earth from the time of the Apostles to the beginning of the Millennial reign of Christ. The dates I give you are rough estimates.
Ephesus – The Apostolic Church from 30-100 AD Revelation 2:1-7
Smyrna – The Persecuted Church from 100-312 AD Revelation2:8-11
Pergamos – The Idolatrous Church from 312 – 606 AD Revelation 2:12-17
Thyatira – The Church of the Dark Ages 606 – 1517 Revelation 2:18-29
Sardis – The Church of the Reformation 1517 – to 1750 Revelation 3:1-6
Philadelphia – The Faithful Church 1750 – Rapture Revelation 3:7-13
Laodicea – The Apostate Church 1950 – Tribulation Revelation 3:14-22
2. In Revelation 4:1-2 we see the Church being caught up into Heaven, which speaks of the Rapture of the Saints. The Tribulation follows on earth.
3. Revelation chapter 4-5 The Church in Heaven is identified by the Elders, clothed in white raiment with crowns on their heads. In Chapter 4 they give glory to Christ, their Creator. In chapter 5 they give glory to Christ their Redeemer.
4. Note, the Church is not mentioned in Rev. 6-18, which chapters are a description of the Tribulation. The reason for the absence of the Church on earth is because it has already been caught up into Heaven before the Tribulation began.
An exception is the false church, described as the harlot in Revelation 17. She is seen riding the Beast or controlling the Anti-christ until in his fury, he destroys the harlot church and proclaims himself as god, demanding all to worship him or face execution.
5. in Revelation 19, The Church, clothed in white raiment and crowns on their heads, follows Christ from Heaven to this earth to witnesses the destruction of all Christ’s enemies as He assumes His Millennial rule over the entire world.
II. The faithful Church will not face the wrath of God during The Tribulation.
I Thessalonians 5:1-11 makes that clear. Though the Church is chastened when needed by Christ, she never faces God’s wrath. See verse 9 in that fifth chapter.
Yes, we face tribulations in this world, as Jesus said we would in John 16:33, but that is a far cry from the horrors of The Great Tribulation under the Anti-christ. II Thessalonians 2 also makes it clear that the church escapes the Great Tribulation. To understand this chapter, go to the category PROPHECY and scroll to # 8, The big Picture. That will help explain II Thessalonians 2 in detail.
Titus 2:11-13 is also a great passage on the Rapture, describing it as a Blessed Hope. If the Great Tribulation is part of the picture for Christians, then the rapture of the church ceases to be a “Blessed Hope”.
So I do not believe true Christians need to look forward to The Great Tribulation. Rather, we escape it via the Rapture.
The Churches of Philadelphia and Laodicea
Finally, I want to share some thoughts with you concerning two of the seven Churches we mentioned at the beginning of this article; the Church of Philadelphia and the Church of Laodicea.
First the faithful Church of Philadelphia, characterized by brotherly love. This church, faithful to God’s Word and to fulfilling the Great Commission of evangelizing the world, probably got started early in the 18th century and will be caught up in the Rapture just before the Great Tribulation is unleashed on this earth.
Christ’s promise to the Philadelphian Church ONLY is found in Revelation 3:10. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation (testing) which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” From this verse I find comfort that His faithful church will be raptured before the Tribulation is unleashed.
In contrast, the Church of Laodicea which I personally believe symbolizes the new church movement that got started about 1950 and will continue into the Tribulation. For more information abut this crucial event that took place in 1950 go to my category, LIBERALISM and Scroll to the article, The Kingdom of God in America.
Is the Laodicean Church a part of the true Church, the spiritual body of Christ? I believe it is. It tells us in Rev. 3 that Christ loves the Church, but He is grieved and even disgusted with it. It nauseates Him. Does the Laodicean Church get raptured? I wonder! Jesus only promises the Philadelphian Church deliverance from the hour of testing to come upon the world. Again, I believe He is referring to deliverance from the Tribulation. It would not surprise me if the Laodicean Christians goes through the Tribulation and faces martyrdom for their faith.
Regardless, both are true Churches, though one is carnal and the other is spiritual. In either case, these are people who seeing they are sinners, have put their trust in Christ and been given the gift of eternal life which no power can take from them. See Romans 8 on this. But just because they have eternal life is no guarantee that they will both escape the Tribulation. Look again at Revelation 3:10. Note why the Philadelphian Church escapes the Tribulation. Can the same be said of the Laodicean Church?
In which Church are you?
How can we distinguish a Philadelphian Church from a Laodicean Church?
The best way I know is to read Jesus’ message to each of the churches. To the Philadelphian Church, Christ message is found in Revelation 3:7-12. To the Laodicean Church His message is found in Revelation 3:14-21.
I think we could summarize the two churches this way. The Philadelphian Church hungers for God’s Word. Preaching the Word is the most important thing. The Laodicean Church has turned away from the preaching of God’s Word. They reject any preaching that makes them feel guilty. They label Biblical preaching that deals with sin as “legalistic”. Their entire church life centers in good emotional feelings of what they call worship as their preachers give them what they want to hear. Their lives are not much different from the lost all around them.
Christ tells the Laodicean Church that He stands at the door of their hearts, knocking to gain entrance. He wants fellowship with these carnal Christians. To those who open the door, He will come in and enjoy fellowship with them.
It is not our responsibility to judge churches anymore than we judge individual Christians. However, we need spiritual discernment to know where God wants us to worship and be fed. It tells us in Acts 17:10-11 that the Christians in Berea were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they listened carefully to the preaching and then discerned whether the preaching they were hearing was in line with the Word of God.
What you eat and don’t eat to a large extent determines your physical health. The preaching you hear and digest at church to a large extent determines your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your children. May God give you His discernment and His peace as you determine where you are going to worship and be fed God’s Word.
Read again Christ’s messages to the Church of Philadelphia and to Laodicea in Revelation 3:7-21 and then determine whether yours is a Philadelphian Church or a Laodicean Church.
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