By Nathan Jones
Laodicea - The Church in Apathy
If you're a Christian living in North America and the EU, you know that in our parts of the world it's a pretty sad time for Christianity. It seems like the once solid Christian foundations of society all around us have been removed by churches that are jumping off the sound doctrine ship, and that we are now certainly living in a post-Christian era. It's bleak and depressing.
And yet, this is exactly what Jesus Himself wrote would happen in the last days before His return. In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus wrote 7 letters to 7 churches in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). Each church had a different "personality" concerning their relationship with Christ and with others. Not only were these actual churches existing when Jesus wrote the letters, but each was also representative of other churches which demonstrate that behavior, other believers who demonstrate that behavior, and time periods within the Universal Church.
The Seven Churches in History
Concerning the emphasis of one church's "personality" over the others in different time periods, let's look at what Dr. Reagan teaches from the "Christ in Prophecy" episode The Seven Church of Revelation: Introduction.
The Church at Ephesus - representative of the apostolic period from 30 AD to 95 AD, when the Church was concerned about organization and doctrine to the point that it became legalistic.
The Church at Smyrna - represents the persecuted Church, or the martyred Church that existed from 95 AD to 312 AD. It's the Church that existed at the time that the book of Revelation was written.
The Church of Pergamum - Then we have the liberal Church of Pergamum representing the apostate Church that existed from 312 to 590. This period developed after the Emperor Constantine was converted and the Church and the state were welded together. As is always the case in such unions, the state began to corrupt the Church.
The Church at Thyatira - represents the dark pagan period from 590 to 1517 when the Papacy developed and the Church became full of Babylonian occult practices.
The Church of Sardis - When we come to the reformation, in 1517, we think of it as a time of life, but it was only partially so. The reformation produced the protestant state Churches of Europe, Churches that had a reputation for being alive, but were really dead because of their union with the state. So, the Church of Sardis, the dead Church, with a reputation for being alive, represents the post reformation period from 1517 to about 1750.
The Church at Philadelphia - The opposite of Sardis is the Church at Philadelphia, the alive Church. It represents the period of Church history from about 1750 when the Church began to send missionaries out all over the world, until about 1925, when the German school of higher criticism invaded seminaries worldwide and destroyed many people's faith in the word of God.
The Church of Laodicea - The final and sorry Church of today that we are so sadly experiencing is represented by the Church of Laodicea, a Church that says to the world, "I am rich and have become wealthy and need nothing whatsoever." But Jesus says to that Church, "you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" (Rev. 3:16). It is a worldly, apathetic, apostate Church that will not even let Jesus in the front door.
But, let's look at how these churches also represent different churches that co-exist at the same time. Herin is where we can see great hope in these bleak days.
An article entitled "Culture Wars: Six Million African Muslims Convert to Christianity Each Year" by David Virtue of VirtueOnline.com (May 23, 2008;
http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=8293) reports on an Al-Jazeerah broadcast of Sheikh Ahmad Al Katani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, which is an institution specializing in graduating imams and Islamic preachers. Sheikh Al Katani reports of an alarming trend in Islam in the African continent:
"Islam used to represent Africa's main religion and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. So in the section of Africa that we are talking about, the non-Arab section, the number of Muslims does not exceed 150 million people. When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century. On the other hand, the number of Catholics has increased from one million in 1902 to 329 million 882 thousand (329,882,000). Let us round off that number to 330 million in the year 2000.
As to how that happened, well there are now 1.5 million churches whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed.
From what I have heard from reliable sources, six million may be too low. Reliable accounts say that one hundred thousand Africans convert to Christianity per day, though not all of them come from Islam."
Now, where the Sheikh gets his numbers and as to whether all these conversions are actual salvations, cannot be verified. But, that we get such an amazing report (and from a Muslim no less) of the massive amount of conversions taking place in Africa to Christianity is truly, truly uplifting.
God has not left the Church to fall apart. God's work is not done in this age. While the overall Church predominantly at this time is wallowing in Laodicean apathy, such a report is clear evidence that God is still strongly on the move and will call all those to Him that are His.
"'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'... and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." - Matthew 16:16b,19 (NIV)