Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lesson 12: The Church Militant

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Rebellion and Redemption
Lesson 12: The Church Militant
"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm,
and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth."'" (Rev. 3:14-16)

Our lessons for this week touch on descriptions of each of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. However, because the author of these lessons stated that "we shall study them from the perspective of the original recipients," there is no discussion of the importance of the last church, Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22), as it applies to the time in which we are living, and Christ's message to that church. Therefore, this essay will address the "last church," and its connection to the 1888 message.

Just as the word "Amen" always comes at the end of a prayer, so this message is the closing appeal of Jesus' seven letters to His churches. The message applies to the church today, in the very last days of this world's history. There is no eighth church yet to come!

"Laodicea" means "the judging of the people," or "the vindication of the people." This church lives on the earth during the time of the preaching of the three angels' messages: "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come" (see Rev. 14:6-12).

The time period of contemporary Laodicea is the same as the work of "judgment" or "cleansing of the sanctuary," which began in 1844 when Christ entered the Most Holy apartment for His final work (see Dan. 8:14). Thus the church of Laodicea covers the period from 1844 to the end of human history, when He will return the second time.

Although it is true that "the Laodicean message, like a sharp, two-edged sword, must go to all the churches" [1], over and over again Ellen G. White applies it primarily and especially to the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Further, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church understands and receives that message, she says, "the loud cry of the third angel" will no longer be delayed. We acknowledge that the Latter Rain and Loud Cry have been delayed for many decades. The only possible conclusion is that there must be something in the Laodicean message which we have not understood or received.

Consider this significant statement: "I was shown that the testimony to the Laodiceans applies to God's people at the present time, and the reason it has not accomplished a greater work is because of the hardness of their hearts. ... When it was first presented, ... nearly all believed [correctly, it is implied] that this message would end in the loud cry of the third angel. ... It is designed to arouse the people of God, to discover to them their backslidings, and to lead to zealous repentance, that they may be favored with the presence of Jesus, and be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel." [2]

For over a hundred years, probably more sermons have been preached among us and more words written about the Laodicean message than any other single topic. Yet, for some strange reason, the change the message calls for seems never to have taken place. Has the familiar language of Revelation 3:14-21 become so common to us that it is blasé? When will the last sermon on the Laodicean message be preached that will result in action that fulfills the "counsel" given by the True Witness?

When we look at our Lord's message from an uncommon perspective—that of the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness, the familiar words of Jesus to the seventh church take on a new and startling significance in the light of our post-1888 history. They become "present truth."

It is God's plan that truth shall bring His people into a perfect working unity, so that we can learn to glorify our Lord both as individuals and as a body, and truly act upon His "counsel" in the Laodicean message. Strident voices tell us there is no hope for the church; but there is hope—if we will do what our Lord says: "Be zealous therefore, and repent" (vs. 19).

In sacred history Nineveh stands out like a beacon to show that a nation can repent. The whole corporate body can repent, "from the greatest of them even to the least of them" (Jonah 3:5). The Lord Jesus longs for the repentance in the Laodicean message to spread from the top to the bottom throughout the worldwide church. The Holy Spirit will make effective the message once the "angel" of the church accepts it.

There is a profound and mysterious link that relates the 1888 message to Christ's appeal to His beloved Laodicea. We see many times that Ellen White tied these two together. For example, the following taken from a letter written in the context of the 1888 message and the reaction against it (righteousness by faith is the subject):

"The Laodicean message has been sounding. Take this message in all its phases and sound it forth to the people wherever Providence opens the way. Justification by faith and the righteousness of Christ are the themes to be presented to a perishing world." [3]

The divinely appointed remedies for the Laodicean condition of pride are "gold tried in the fire," "white raiment," and "eyesalve," essential themes of the 1888 message. With the passage of time it becomes increasingly apparent that the remnant church has never clearly understood the dynamics of this message. Dare we deny that this pointed rebuke penned in 1890 is applicable today?

"How can our ministers become the representatives of Christ when they feel self-sufficient, when by spirit and attitude they say, 'I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing'? We must not be in a self-satisfied condition, or we shall be described as those who are poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked.

"Since the time of the Minneapolis meeting, I have seen the state of the Laodicean Church as never before. I have heard the rebuke of God spoken to those who feel so well satisfied, who know not their spiritual destitution. ... Like the Jews, many have closed their eyes lest they should see; but there is as great peril now, in closing the eyes to light, and in walking apart from Christ, feeling need of nothing as there was when He was upon earth. ...

"Those who realize their need of repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, will have contrition of soul, will repent for their resistance of the Spirit of the Lord. They will confess their sin in refusing the light that Heaven has so graciously sent them, and they will forsake the sin that grieved and insulted the Spirit of the Lord." [4]

If the Laodicean message is designed that the church "be fitted for the loud cry of the third angel," and "the state of the Laodicean church" "since the time of the Minneapolis meeting" is said to be perilous "as never before," it is obvious that here is a field of study deserving our closest attention. In the simple fact that the Loud Cry has not yet gone forth as it should, history demonstrates that here is "present truth." Our concern for finding the real cause for the long delay must lead us to a restudy of the message of Christ to the Laodicean church.

Something must happen in the end of time that has never happened before. Millenniums of defeat must be reversed. This is the only way the cleansing of the sanctuary can be completed. Daniel's prophecy declares it "shall" take place (Dan. 8:14). The infidelity of Laodicea will be cured by denominational repentance. The key to this attainment is the true and pure message of righteousness by faith. The Lord tried to give this to us over 100 years ago in 1888.

As A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 "messengers" put it: "Why should we not honor Him instead of ourselves? Shall I not honor Him instead of myself? It is not individual confession that is wanted so much as a General Conference confession. It is a General Conference clearing of ourselves that is needed." [5]

Does Laodicea need a hearing aid? No! Man-made devices can never do for her what the clear simple call of the True Witness provides. He speaks through the Holy Spirit and even a deaf person can hear this pleading call:

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto [Laodicea]" (Rev. 3:19-22).

—From the writings of Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short
[1] Testimonies for the Church, "After the Camp Meeting," vol. 6, p. 77.
[2] Ibid., "The Laodicean Church," vol. 1, p. 186.
[3] The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 964 (Letter 24, 1892).
[4] Review and Herald, "The Righteousness of Christ," August 26, 1890.
[5] "General Conference Proceedings," The Daily Bulletin of the General Conference (Worcester, Mass.), Feb. 24, 1899, p. 3.

Raul Diaz