When Jesus first spoke of his church, he assured Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That meant that no matter how bad things get in the world, the church will always exist until it is taken out of the way.
When Jesus described the true church of the end times, he used the example of Philadelphia to make his point. John wrote (with my commentary in bold):
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
8 “‘I know your works (the work of God is to believe in the one He has sent). Behold, I have set before you an open door (to the kingdom of heaven), which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power (your numbers are small), and yet you have kept my word (My Gospel) and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan (who reject the Gospel) who say that they are Jews and are not (Not descendants of Abraham by faith – Galatians 3:7), but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down (in repentance) before your feet (during the Millennium), and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance (amid persecution), I will keep you from the hour of trial (the tribulation) that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth (I will judge all who dwell upon the earth but the church will be kept from it). 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have (Remain in the faith), so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers (remains in the faith), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
The first point that Christ makes is that the true church of the end times will have little power. Paul describes the source of its power when he wrote:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17).”
So, if the true church has little power, that means that there are very few people just prior to the rapture who will receive salvation through faith in Christ. The reason for this, as we can see now, is because none of the pastors in the other churches will be preaching the Gospel.
We know that faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). However, if no one is listening because they are preoccupied with other priorities, or if they are listening to Gospel-less messages, then we should expect the numbers of the true church to be fairly small. We should expect, in the end times, the most popular churches to be pastored by ‘ear ticklers’ whose congregations are large and faithless.
When a church ‘grows’ in this environment, it is not a good thing. It does no one any good if the churches of Sardis and Laodicea grow at exponential rates. No one is being saved by the ‘love gospel’ or the ‘prosperity gospel’ so it does not matter how many people hear their messages. The people who go to these churches are no better off than the heathen who have no faith at all.
Every Christian should understand that when a pastor preaches a different Gospel than the one Paul preached, he is taking the name of the Lord in vain. When he ascends to the pulpit, he is supposed to be telling us what God wants us to know. God does not want us to know how to find our purpose, how to have our best life now, how all white people are racist or that if we love one another we will create utopia on earth.
Those people who feed on this nonsense are in very deep trouble. God will not hold the preachers that preach these messages or their congregations guiltless. Christ himself calls these pastors and their congregations to repent and be forgiven in His name for violating the third commandment of God.
As Christ continues in his letter to his church, it should be noted that he is primarily speaking to the Gentiles. God has partially hardened the hearts of the Jewish people until the full number of Gentiles have come to faith. Although some Jews will come to faith during the church age, there is a remnant that will also come to faith after the church has been raptured.
When we read Christ’s letter to the church of Philadelphia, Jesus makes mention of those who are of the synagogue of Satan. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he expands on what this means to the Jews and the nation of Israel:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery (that the Gentiles are joint heirs with Israel through the gospel and share together in the promise of salvation through Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)), brothers, so that you may not be conceited (do not be arrogant toward the branches – Romans 11:18)): Israel has experienced a hardening (spiritual blindness) until the full number of Gentiles (the church) has come in (at the rapture). And so all (repentant) Israel (Jews and Gentiles of faith) will be saved as it is written:
The deliverer (Jesus) will come from Zion (the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2; Isaiah 2:1-5); he will turn godlessness away from Jacob (the biological descendants of Abraham who have faith, not the church). And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins (Isaiah 59:20, 21; Daniel 9:24; Jeremiah 31:30-37) (at the end of the tribulation).
As far as the gospel is concerned, they (biological Israel, not the church) are enemies on your account (they are enemies of the Gospel); but as far as election is concerned (Deuteronomy 7:6-9), they (not the church) are loved on account of the patriarchs (Romans 9: 1-5) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)), for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable (God will keep his covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)). Just as you (Gentiles) who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they (the biological descendants of Abraham, not the church) have now become disobedient (rejected their Messiah) in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:25-32).
In Christ’s message to the church of Philadelphia, he made it known that the Jews were to leave Judaism and put their faith in Him. This message enraged the Jews and led them to demand the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross for our sins. As a result of their rejection of the Son of God, their hearts were partially hardened against the Lord. Their punishment was that they would remain in Judaism and forced to undergo the tribulation that God was sending on the whole earth. Fortunately, a remnant of God’s people, the Jews, will come to repentance through the tribulation.
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (not the church) a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11 On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo (Zechariah 12: 10,11).
In the meantime, Jesus told his church to patiently endure all the evil that is coming upon the world prior to the rapture. That evil is beginning to descend upon us even now.
No doubt many Christians have noticed that the heathen are becoming more belligerent and violent with each passing day. When they begin to act on their anger, they will not be directing it against the Muslims or other lost religious groups. They will be coming for those who are faithful to the God who sent His only Son to die for our sins.
Since this is what is coming, Christ further commands his people to remain in the faith until he returns.
We know that in ‘later times’ some will abandon the faith and submit themselves to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. Paul and the other apostles in Christ understood this and urged their congregations to remain in the faith to be saved with the following admonitions.
22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister (Colossians 1:22-23).
16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers (I Timothy 4:15-16).
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (faithlessness). 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:12-14; See also Hebrews 6:4-8).
8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for (the work of God is to believe in the one he has sent) but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (II John 8-9).
Jesus goes on to state that his church will be kept from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole earth. When the full number of gentiles have come to salvation, God will remove his church and turn his attention to his people the Jews.
There are two events that we can now watch for so that we know that the time of the rapture is near. The first is apostasy in the church.
Sign One: Apostasy
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers (pastors) to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (II Timothy 4:3).
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these people who cause divisions (in the church), worldly people, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 18,19).”
”Let no one deceive you (Matthew 24:4) in any way. For that day (the day of the Lord) will not come, unless the rebellion (Apostasy, Falling Away from the Faith) comes first, and the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the (rebuilt) temple of God (in Jerusalem, Israel), proclaiming himself to be God (II Thessalonians 2: 3,4).”
Now the (Holy) Spirit expressly says that in later times (the end times) some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits (false teachers) and teachings of demons, through the sincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from food that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth (I Timothy 4:1-3).
Although we seem to be in the cusp of this falling away, we are not quite there yet. There is still time to stand against apostasy and to call these people to repent. This, of course, will offend them greatly. However, we all need to keep in mind that we are not here to win a popularity contest, but to save souls from the fires of hell.
Sign Two: No one to Intercede
The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice (due to great wickedness that results from lack of faith).
16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene (God’s people had little strength); so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak (God will bring tribulation).
18 According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due.19 From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory (during the Millennium).
For he will come like a pent-up flood (during the tribulation) that the breath of the Lord drives along.
20 “The Redeemer (Christ) will come to Zion (to judge the earth), to those in Jacob (the faithful of the nation of Israel) who repent of their sins, “declares the Lord (Isaiah 59:15-20).
Although this was written to the people of Israel due to their decline into faithlessness, it is also type and shadow of what will happen in the end times.
As it stands now, we still have a large number of people who are standing up for what is right and have not yet been silenced. Men like John McArthur and Brannon Howse are still speaking out publicly about the evil that is engulfing this nation and the world. Also, other public figures who appear to be guided by faith like Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, Candace Owens, Jason Whitlock and a host of others are yet to be silenced.
Therefore, we know the time is not yet.
The true church of Christ will keep his word and not deny his name. It will continue to proclaim the Gospel until it is removed. Of this church Paul writes:
13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (II Thessalonians 2:13-15).
Since this is our calling, it is incumbent upon all Christians to find a church where the Gospel is actually preached.
According to Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Kongsvinger Lutheran Church in Oslo Minnesota, the role of the pastor is to preach:
· Sin and Grace
· Law and Gospel
· Repentance and the Forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.
This is an excellent guide for the laymen to use when trying to determine which church will best benefit his family. It is not that difficult for the obedient pastor to preach any section of Scripture with the above as his theme. You will hear none of this in the dead and Laodicean churches.
If the pastor follows this guidance, he should have no problem preaching a Christ based sermon. If he spends too much time preaching about how to improve your relationships, or how to handle your money, or how to better manage your time, you need to look elsewhere for a church.
The sermons of the true church of Christ should always be faith based rather than works based. If the pastor is preaching about how you can please God or build a better world, you are in the wrong place. Christianity is about what Christ has done for us, not what we can do for him.
We go to church to strengthen our faith through our worship of the Lord, not to engage in good works to make God happy. When we come out of our churches, it should be as testifiers and proclaimers. We have the same task that Paul was given:
20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:20-24).
All Christians should remember that the great falling away is happening at this moment. The time to proclaim the Gospel as Paul did is now.