What is Laodicea—an era or an attitude?
(Recently updated with links to other articles)
Or perhaps it is both of the above and even more! The first thing that I would like to bring to your attention in this new article is that we have talked about the Laodicean era and its traits in many past articles and from many different perspectives. However, there are some smaller COG independent groups and several in some of the larger groups that do not want to believe that the Laodicean era is here yet, nor do they have a right concept of Laodicea. Coupled with that is the fact that many today in the scattered COG have lost or else never had a good understanding of Philadelphia or Laodicea and eras. In the past, prominent and leading individuals in the COG have deviated from the understanding and teachings of HWA about church eras. Even HWA did not grasp the truth about Laodicea until perhaps the last years of his life. Even he was still struggling to understand this, as many of his writings attest to, along with the MOA book. So an article was prepared, About Church eras, the last two, bringing out some of these points. Mr. Armstrong had to discipline some of the ministers from time to time during the time of Philadelphia, even leading evangelists. Some in the ministry became bitter and left or were put out of the Church back in the 20th century for various reasons (attitude) and one long time evangelist was exiled from others for a time as discipline, even his conversion was questioned at that time by letters from HWA. Some of these ministers remaining unrepentant have thus far failed and so an article was written, titled WHEN MINISTERS FAIL. HWA, as the leader of the Philadelphia era, made it clear that those competing for position and power and the chief seat was not the way Christ wanted things done, which is what the Scriptures truly do indicate as well. This goes to attitude of mind in any of the seven eras.
I am writing this article in the hope of increasing some understanding about Laodicea, (or bringing something else to your attention) for those who may have a need to understand the difference. As time has marched on into this last era and many are slumbering and compromising, (Matt.25) the truth on several subjects have become polluted and watered down. We wrote an article called LUKEWARM—who? for some explanation of those who may not understand Laodicea is reprimanded for being lukewarm—not for being Laodicea. Many have drifted further and further from the faith and doctrines that were once and for all delivered to the saints, as it says in Jude 3 and we find many “odd” concepts developing in the minds of “leaders” and ministers that are now being presented to brethren for their acceptance as truth. Newer brethren do not seem to understand how many things of Scriptural teaching are being twisted today, because they have not first been taught the truth, nor proved it for themselves. (2Pet.3:15-18) These things were not happening to this degree in early to mid Philadelphia, under the leadership of HWA, as the COG was growing spiritually. It was only after HWA was taking the Gospel of the Kingdom of God into other countries personally, leaving others in charge at home, that liberalism began to creep in. Today, many of those older ministers as well as younger ones are doing things unbecoming. Some ministers today have the idea that only ministers can be servants of Christ, which shows their attitude and lack of understanding Scriptural teaching in many passages. Others want to teach that all elders are equal and have therefore nullified the clear understanding of differing positions of authority or a chain of command in the COG. This is both the lukewarm spirit of Laodicea and a watered down approach to truth.
Some in these COG groups today mix truth with error as Protestants have done for centuries, putting little subtle twists on passages here and there, while others say things that actually have no truth at all, contradicting Scripture. These watered down and even false and deceiving statements range from what the COG is and where it is, to what the Gospel of Christ actually was and is today, to what is the first step to salvation, to who was the Elijah and who is still Philadelphia and if that era is still going on, who is in authority over the Church as an apostle or prophet or evangelist, or is it just a council of twelve men, as the COG began under Christ! The editor of mtCOGsm personally believes the main doctrines of Christ, including the true Gospel, were restored to the Church once again through HWA, in fulfilling a prophecy of Christ. (Matt.17:11) The Scriptures reveal that the era or time of Sardis was considered a dieing Church and many things had become lost to them. Philadelphia came with the establishment of an ordained apostle and one who was restoring lost understanding of truth. That time frame is also now gone since the death of HWA back in the 20th century and we have been in Laodicea for nearly a quarter of a century, with an ever increasing lukewarm approach to a majority of those truths! One “odd” and possibly damaging concept or statement was made very recently to several thousand called out ones (which is what the word “Church” means in Matt.16:18) by an evangelist and is very misleading to those of this time frame. It is, in its wording, actually opposite to what Scripture reveals about what God wants of Laodicea. We will see an exact quote a little later and compare it to Scriptural revelation.
However, during Christ’s ministry and when the Pharisees were deceiving people with their own ideas and traditions, Christ felt the need to bring this to His disciple’s attention often, so they would not be caught off guard and led astray. Paul did the same later on for the COG under his care. (Matt.16:6-12, Luke 12:1-2, 1Cor.15:6 & Gal.5:9) Christ also rebuked the Pharisees sharply in Matthew 23 for their hypocrisy. Based on the nature of some of the leaders today who seem to have a proclivity to want to deceive their followers on various points of truth, we feel that studying into the subject of “LAODICEA” and what it is will be beneficial to those who really desire the truth on some of these things. To those who do not see this as important nor have any desire to get the true facts, having a need of nothing attitude, then perhaps nothing short of the great tribulation will wake them up! So we go now to the quote, a statement that stands alone and is self condemning to anyone of Laodicea. The writer of this—however well meaning it might have been intended— says this, seemingly speaking for God; “He does not want “Laodiceans” in His Kingdom.” (Quoted word for word and with his emphasis)
This was quite shocking in its condemnation of an entire era of the COG, but after pondering that statement, I personally believe that the writer was just very careless in not saying exactly what he meant—but the connotation of the statement—going out as is could be spiritually damaging to COG people of recent conversion in Laodicea, this last era. Anyone with a Spirit led mind (Phil 2:5) should be able to grasp the implications of such a statement. For an individual that preaches periodically that this is the Laodicean era and his organization has baptized hundreds of people in this time frame of Laodicea; that should be a frightening statement to all who are Laodiceans! (That era of time in the COG) Does God really not want all of you in His kingdom? Peter records for us that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
In the statement of beliefs of that particular organization, it claims “we are the continuation of that Philadelphia era”, and yet they preach over and over that this is the Laodicean era! It cannot be both ways—(HWA taught these eras as being successively –if we hold to that teaching and history itself proves this out as far as I am concerned)—just as the days of the week are one after the other. The sixth day does not lap over into the seventh and still be going on along with the seventh! If this is the Philadelphia time frame, then it cannot be Laodicea, (As another new group now claims—but ignores many facts) just as Tuesday cannot be Wednesday! Time cannot “continue” into the second day of the week and still be the first! Everything around us, who are the COG with eyes to see and ears that hear, tells us that this truly is Laodicea! The whole COG today is in the time frame of Laodicea, not Philadelphia! (It would be more accurate for them to claim to be clinging to an attitude or spirit of Philadelphia, even though Laodicea is now here, and some do that. The KJV & NKJV are a little misleading when it comes to the wording of Rev.3:14, which also needs to be considered.)
SEVEN CHURCHES—SEVEN ERAS—seven predominate spirits
For those who pay attention to this passage in these versions, they will have noticed that this is the only letter out of the seven found written this way. Example of what emphasis this has on things; the RSV, NAS, NIV translation and others, say of all seven churches—IN Ephesus or IN Smyrna etc, and IN Philadelphia or IN Laodicea, of the last two. The same thing applies to the eras of time. All of these seven churches are one body—one true COG down through time! Philadelphians are not of one body and Laodiceans of another—they are all the same COG body, but in different time frames and with different approaches or spiritual attitudes! Is one Christian more important to God than another, if they both struggle to overcome? NO, because God Himself inspired the Scriptures to teach us that He shows no partiality! (see our Bible study on Partiality) This obviously would also apply to every time frame of true Christians and Laodicea is the last time frame of God’s true Church. Let us think about this; if during the time frame of the early Church and all seven of these Churches were in existence in these physical cities, (Which they were) they would be the same Church but different congregations in different locations. For example; a faithful minister of the COG body, being ordained at the city of Thyatira, then was sent to the city of Philadelphia to minister there, would he be considered less of a minister by Christ, because he came from Thyatira? Let us look at it another way; if a minister from the city of Laodicea was sent to Philadelphia to minister to those brethren and this was the Ephesus or first era, might he be considered a Laodicean minister because he came from Laodicea, although in the era of Ephesus? Do you grasp the point? A Philadelphian would be from that city and a Laodicean would be from Laodicea, but they would both be Christians of the COG body if faithful—and if this were in the first era of the Church—they would all be called by us today as the ministry of the Ephesus era!
You will find that it was this Ephesus era after a period of time that lost their first love and were told to repent or Christ said He would remove their lamp-stand or candle-stick from its place. (Rev.2:5) The very first era that started out so well and had all of the early apostles—but many of those became martyrs and the others died out, being replaced by others not so faithful. They overall did not repent as Christ admonished and the lamp-stand (true COG) was removed and the era closed. The COG continued right on however, but in a different time frame or the next era. (True Christians were taken out of the existing congregations in Ephesus, that were not repentant of falling away from truth.) These true brethren continued to grow spiritually and teaching others, having a right Spiritual approach to truth. They were later recognized as the Smyrna era, as true Christianity moved through time. Now these seven city Churches were also used by Christ for another reason as well. They all had some different characteristics that distinguished them from each other, typifying the different spaces of time or eras with differing spiritual traits. As the COG has always been a Spiritual organism and one Spirit led body, there have been seven distinct “personality traits” if you can call it that. Predominate spirits is another way to put it, as the COG passed down through time. This helps to determine the Church through time and history by what characteristic is found. (I would recommend that the reader find the booklet, “God’s Church through the ages” written by the late John Ogwyn, and read it. Today many are not teaching the Church eras and the true history of the COG and others who do seem to ignore certain truths. The seven letters are not well understood because of this.)
ERA OR ATTITUDE
What sets the last two eras apart from one another, even though they are both considered God’s true Church? Remember, seven is for completion and Laodicea is # 7, the time frame that Christ will return in and when the faithful COG will be taken to safety to protect her. The early Philadelphian era, (CE 1933-34) the leadership was not driven by the lust for money, power and prestige, coupled with the spirit of competition, as the many group leaders are today and to a degree were then—tail end of Sardis. Philadelphia was the sixth era and was prophetically preparatory for the seventh, just as the 5th was for the 6th and as one day of the week leads into the next until the week is complete. When Sardis was coming to a close, the world in general was ignorant about many things of the true history of mankind, as was the COG, which had lost so much truth it once held dear. Fulfillment of certain later day prophecy was about to begin, one thing then leading to another. (Matt.24:8-13 & Dan.12:4) The truth of these things needed to be revealed or restored, even in the COG and a people needed to be turned back to God through His restored truth. The Gospel had to be restored and preached and other truths of Scripture meant for the COG to understand had to be restored. This was prophesied and now has been fulfilled through the era of Philadelphia, that of brotherly love and “open doors,” as well as zeal for truth, the capstone sign (Matt.24:14) of where we were; prophecy of the true Gospel going to the world as a witness to all nations, through those open doors. This part is still going on by several, though no one today is doing the work with the magnitude that was being done at the close of Philadelphia under HWA, who had a great love for God and mankind, especially the true Gospel message and the COG.
The very fact that we have now moved past that is a solid proof of where we are in time! Only a small percentage of that characteristic is alive in the COG today and it is scattered among many groups and mostly in individuals that make up the true COG. The liberalism or watering down characteristic began in the 1970’s as Philadelphia was grinding down to a close, but with one last burst of zeal, HWA tried to clean it up, ousted his own son, with other liberal ministers and tried to set the Church back on track. God gave him seven more years and then he died, passing the baton on to Laodicea. As that liberal attitude crept in during the 70’s, the predominate spirit of Philadelphia/brotherly love began to wane, the ministry began to focus more on themselves and on more of a “get” attitude and less on the good and well being of the COG and the work. It was during this time that some of the more liberal ministers kept themselves concealed for fear of being ousted—just waiting and biding their time while others became very dictatorial and abusive in their offices, the ordained ministry of the time. (Rev.3:9)
Things began to get watered down as lawlessness was abounding in the ministry (Matt. 24:12 & Mal.2:7-9) and zeal for the work of God began to cool off, becoming lukewarm and infecting more and more of the ministry. When the new leadership and the era of Laodicea took off, it was approximately only three years before the work of God was beginning to be seriously affected by the predominate spirit of lukewarm-ness and compromise. Things were changing quickly but those who were deep in slumber did not see it. Certain men began to want to take control of some things, exalting themselves. The work began to suffer more and more and the converted brethren began to be confused or lulled to sleep while liberality flourished. This was no longer the Philadelphian character and mindset, nor was it done through brotherly love or zeal for the work of God! It became apparent to some that Philadelphia was over! Those who were striving to remain in a Philadelphia spirit began to be persecuted and pushed aside—some had to go into hiding or were pushed out of the Church, similar as to what happened in Smyrna for the same reasons. (Rev.2:9 & 3:9) Many ministers trying to hold to the truth were fired for not preaching heresy. This could have never happened in the Philadelphian era of love for God, truth and the brotherhood of the COG, if you understand the mindset of that leadership and the letter to it! Was Christ the Head of the COG through all of this? Of course He was and still is—and that is the whole point! But , we need to have the understanding of what the COG really is! The true COG is made up of those who have and are being led by the Holy Spirit, in every era of time! They would cling to truth.
Even for long time and leading ministers in early Laodicea, many began to get this attitude of wanting the chief seat and power over the people and some already had been disciplined for that under HWA, as stated above. The COG began to fragment because of lukewarm-ness and compromising the truth and work of God under power hungry and apostate ministers—another proof that Philadelphia was over and Laodicea was here! Other COG groups began forming. Finally the appointed messenger (By HWA) of Laodicea went too far in compromises and lukewarm-ness and became apostate—taking many of those around him down with him. God removed him by death and very possibly spewed the rest of those apostate ministers and brethren out of His mouth, beginning the sifting process and trials in the COG as to who would hold fast to His truth and be repentant. (Rev.3:16-19)
Christ, as the head of the Church did as He did in the first era and removed the true Church from the midst of this once faithful but now corrupted COG organization! That organization has now even denied the name and cannot even be recognized as the COG. Those who have embraced that mindset are not a part of the COG body, having been vomited out. People began to flock to groups who at first appeared to be holding fast to truth and those doing the work of preaching the Gospel—only to find more hurt and confusion and after a few years, these groups also began to splinter—further scattering brethren and shattering the power of the Church to do the work of God! This is beginning to build toward the fulfilling of Dan.12:7, which will have its completion during another prophecy soon to be fulfilled. (Dan.9:27) All these things, the wise in the Church understand were to come in the end time era, or Laodicea. (Dan.12:10)
Backing up a bit for a little more history; those who had already left the COG under the guise of holding fast the truth and being the remnant of Philadelphia very quickly proved themselves to also be of a lukewarm, compromising or very dictatorial nature in one way or another. Two of the better known groups fit this, one started out saying they were Philadelphia but never preached the Gospel and the leader quickly began to make wild claims of offices he thought he fit into. (There are a few other smaller groups that fit into this type of scenario as well.) The other was preaching the Gospel, an organization that appeared to have a collective and cooperative leadership, with some of the older evangelists that served well under HWA, but this “leader” was soon flip-flopping back and forth on governance and misapplying some Scriptures himself, causing that organization to final split apart. Although the claim was that they were also the remnant of Philadelphia, there was an attitude of arrogance and competition, putting down other brethren not choosing to come with them as being “more Laodicean” than they. This was divisive instead of helping the overall COG, which is the spirit of Laodicea and a lukewarm approach—not Philadelphia and brotherly love. One of their claims now by some is that only those “Philadelphians” in their group will go to safety.
(Another group, risen in 1999 and formed by an individual twice disfellowshipped by the same organization now claims that he is an apostle, having authority over the entire COG and we all need to be in “his” group to be in the COG or go to safety!) Few of the brethren seem to understand any of this, but most of the truly Philadelphian brethren of that era have already gone to their place of protection, which is the grave—fulfilling Rev.3:10—as Laodicea continues on to its ultimate destiny as well. The whole COG today is Laodicea as a time frame, but not everyone is of a lukewarm and compromising spirit. This is the missing understanding of Scripture in far to many today and it is not being properly taught. Even with the predominate spirit of lukewarm-ness and compromise, there are some that have not succumbed to this predominate spirit of the time. Some still have and work hard at maintaining a Philadelphia spirit of love for God and truth, out going concern for all the called out ones today, as well as having zeal to do the work of spreading the truth of the Gospel. However, Philadelphia as an era is over and Laodicea is now going strong as the end is drawing much closer than many realize.
Laodicea is the true COG!
A “Laodicean”, can be a truly converted person with the Holy Spirit of God actively guiding them, and therefore is a member of the COG, even in the last and seventh time frame. Nothing in Scripture says that all of Laodicea have to be lukewarm, even though the predominate spirit of the time is. That is what Christ does not want! Some of them will be in a place of safety and in the first resurrection while those that are smugly believing they are Philadelphia and have a need of nothing attitude, will not be! That is a choice that people make on their own, based on their attitude, obedience to God and innermost being. Others, by listening to the subtle deceptions from some of their leaders and not proving all things for themselves will fail to make it. (Matt.24:24) Many older ministers and members alike that could be considered OF Philadelphia have now really become lukewarm and have let down, infected by the spirit of the time and compromises with truth. They cannot see this in themselves and do not know they are really very lukewarm, being blind to it. Anyone who does not know the difference between being in Laodicea as the COG and of a lukewarm and compromising spirit, would also not recognize that God says of those in Laodicea that He wants them all to be in His kingdom; therefore they are loved by Him!
True Christians will not be separated by an era of time in the resurrection, (Heb.11:39-40) but people are today in the COG by wrong attitudes, lack of love and a wrong approach to the Christianity of Scripture. This could keep them from the first resurrection and possibly even the kingdom of God! True Christians should know they cannot turn to compromise, be unloving and selfish, filled with malice and contempt for others, or complacency for God’s work. Those committing sins of lying, partiality and beating up on their brethren while perverting truth and the Gospel will not be in the kingdom, unless they repent! Those that do this to other brethren and are without serious repentance are throwing away their crowns.
Those faithful brethren of Laodicea (Baptized since 1986) should know that God deeply desires for them to be in His kingdom, the very purpose for their being called and chosen! They know, or at least should be taught, that they have come to REPENTANCE and been baptized for the forgiveness of sin, receiving the Holy Spirit to help them grow in faith. They will come to know that God inspired it to be written that we must first obey God before we can receive the Spirit! (Acts 5:32)True Christians of every era of time have understood that the word of God is where truth comes from, not the words and writings of men seeking to enlarge a following and lead others astray. Yes and any true convert will also know that if they have let down as a Philadelphian, they will also have to repent, same as those of Laodicea. God’s word tells us all "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” WHY? WHY does CHRIST say this to those of LAODICEA? V.21 "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev.3:19, 21-22-NKJ) Does this sound to you like God does not want “Laodiceans” in His kingdom?
Where are you in your Christian growth and understanding of truth? What Priorities and choices are you putting at the top? Are you still buying into the subtle deceptions of men and their organizational compromises and lukewarm approach to truth, or are you learning the truth of Scripture about some of these things? The lukewarm attitude and willing compromises of truth are what will keep you out of the place of safety and possibly the kingdom, not because you were not called in Philadelphia! Some who were called in Philadelphia have already turned aside and will not make it. If you find yourself in what you feel is a lukewarm environment then by all means, do your best to improve it or get out of it—but stay spiritually convicted to holding onto a love of the truth and the brethren, while helping to get the Gospel out! You will still have to assemble somewhere and keep the Holy days at the right or appointed times. IT is always better to have the fellowship with others of like mind on the basic doctrines than to sit at home alone and slowly die Spiritually.
No single COG organization today can guarantee you to be in a place of safety, or even that they will all go; but you can give it up by allowing yourself to be deceived by untruthful statements of men and following after men or false & watered down teachings! Being in Laodicea, (“Laodiceans”) the last era of the COG is not the problem, but yielding to the predominate spirit of superiority, compromise and lukewarm-ness, watering down of truth will surely get you into trouble, no matter what organization you are in! You or I cannot change the time frame we are in, but we can change our own attitude and any hard hearted approach to others, especially the lukewarm approach to the Word of God in this era and there are many who need to do that. It is called repentance!
Feel free to write in with any question about this or any other article. (The editor for mtCOGsm)