Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there.
Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.
AW Tozer – The Knowledge of the Holy
In the last post on Laodicea, we completed our examination of the seven letters Jesus wrote to the seven first century churches. I’ve also made the case that each church corresponded to a successive era of church history in the 6th Dispensation. And since Laodicea represents the last era (and the one we are currently in), it’s safe to assume that the clock is ticking on this dispensation.
Also, keep in mind that the last four churches Jesus wrote to will ALL still be around in some form at the end of this era since those letters made explicit promises to those churches that directly referenced Jesus’ return.
The Mystic-driven religion of Thyatira currently dominates Latin America, and the dead denominationalism of Sardis can still be found in Europe and North America. The fire of revival may have dimmed in the first world, but Philadelphia is still going strong in parts of the third world, particularly China and India.
And of course the Laodicean lukewarm church is prevalent in the west, (and seems to be influencing the doctrines of the other three as we’ll see below).
So then how does the 6th Dispensation end?
We can be pretty sure that the 6th Dispensation will fail as did the previous five. But since we are still IN the 6th Dispensation, we don’t have hindsight to tell us EXACTLY how it will end. We can only speculate on its failure based on how the others have ended.
All the previous dispensations ended when the objects of the dispensation chose themselves over God. What is the scenario in which the Church (the object of the current dispensation) would choose itself over God, and when will it happen?
As I postulated in an earlier post, I believe it ALREADY has!
I obviously have some explaining to do (and I might not be right…)
In this dispensation, God chooses to communicate directly into the hearts of believer’s through Grace, and the Church has the option of listening to Him and becoming sanctified or ignoring him and not growing.
The first step in the failure of the 6th Dispensation occurred when the Laodicean-style church in the west let the fire of revival die.
Doped by its cultural influence and prosperity, the church became stagnant and bloated – interested primarily in maintaining its position and preserving its relevance.
When atheists attack
Unfortunately the secular world was not willing to abide the status quo. The theocracy of the mystics in Europe had diminished greatly by the 18th century, replaced by a rabid and voracious secular humanism that clothed itself in the facade of scientism and intellectualism. This movement grew greatly in influence over the next few centuries.
The humanists and atheists of the 1950’s and 60’s attacked the doctrines of the stagnant church with a fury which became known as the “God is Dead” movement.
They vigorously questioned the fundamental and existential truths about God – Is there a God? If so, how can He allow evil? Isn’t God just a primitive myth? Hasn’t science proved that we don’t need God?
Unprepared and unable to provide contrastive and non-contradictory answers to these questions (if only this blog was around back then!), the church leaders made the decision that would result in the end of the church age and the 6th Dispensation.
Influenced and intimidated by the secular intellectualism, the church responded to the existential questions about God by declaring that NO ONE CAN OBJECTIVELY KNOW WHO GOD IS!!
From an excellent article in Newsweek (which I HIGHLY recommend reading):
“Drawing from Nietzsche’s 19th-century declaration that “God is dead,” a group of Protestant theologians held that, essentially, Christianity would have to survive without an orthodox understanding of God. Tom Altizer, a religion professor at Emory University, was a key member of the Godless Christianity movement, and he traces its intellectual roots first to Kierkegaard and then to Nietzsche. For Altizer, a post-Christian era is one in which “both Christianity and religion itself are unshackled from their previous historical grounds.” [From author William James] “Religion … shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they consider the divine.”
Going without an orthodox definition of God was the perfect evasion for the lukewarm church. After all, if the church isn’t willing to definitively say what God IS, then the secularist can’t definitively say what God ISN’T!
But this leads to a HUGE problem
If you follow the “ladder of logic”, it becomes clear that instead of being an escapist retreat for the cowardly Christian leadership, the open-endedness of Godless Christianity, actually makes it one of the greatest heresies of all time!
If God has no objective definition, then He is WHATEVER the Church wants him to be.
If God is whatever the Church wants Him to be, then the Church defines God.
If the Church defines God, they also define the Bible and Christian doctrine!
And if the church can tell God who He is, and what His Word says…then the Church has made itself greater than God and the Bible!!
The many-faced “God” of our age
The Godless Christianity movement, enslaves God’s identity, personality, motivations, and methods to the arbitrary, self-serving, (and contradictory) whims of the human thought process.
This results in people believing quasi-biblical perversions of doctrine, based on who they “feel” God is. This has caused the modern church to split into various Laodicean camps depending on their defined “God”. For example:
If you believe in the “God” of emotive “Love”, then your doctrine will be based on being superficially nice to everyone, ignoring sin (aka “tolerance”), rejecting justice, demonizing those whom you deem to be judgmental, and embracing moral relativism (e.g. Post-modernists and Emergents)
If you believe in the “God” of unearned abundance and prosperity, then your doctrine will see God as a magic money genie who will give you all your material desires if you have “faith currency”. Thus God’s love and approval of you (and your church/pastor)
Thus God’s love and approval of you (and your church/pastor) is measured in monetary terms (e.g. The Word/Faith movement, and “Prosperity Preachers”).
If you believe in the “God” who verifies His presence through the supernatural, you will likely gravitate to churches where the “gifts of the spirit (real or imagined) are manifested. And you’ll value “signs and wonders” over less spectacular Biblical doctrine (e.g. the Charismatic movements, “faith healers” etc.).
If you believe in the “god” of strict religious legalism and tradition, then you’ll likely embrace the fanaticism that leads to oppression, cults, bigotry, lack of uniqueness and freedom, rejection of mercy and a dead theology. (e.g. the various extremist religious groups, and “Christian” cults).
No Grace, no Church
The Godless Christianity movement brought about the end of the Church because it perverted and inverted the method that Jesus intended to sanctify His Bride and make her worthy of Him – Grace!
Grace is the voice of the Holy Spirit who subtly influences the heart of Christians and leads them into truth. But if the church believes that it can tell God who He is, then the church has made itself GREATER than God! So when they DO hear the real voice of Grace, they reject it because it doesn’t fit their idea of what the “God” they invented would actually say!
But if the church believes that it can tell God who He is, then the church has made itself GREATER than God!
So when these Christians actually DO hear the real voice of Grace trying to correct them and reveal real truth, they reject it because it doesn’t fit their idea of what the “God” they invented would actually say!
Instead of listening to true Grace, the Church listens to the “God” they invented and defined. But they are actually listening to their own flesh!
And since they believe the words from their own flesh (and/or from the heretical preachers they idolize) are from God, they reject anyone who tries to introduce sound Biblical doctrine and they feel justified when doing so!
By rejecting an orthodox definition of God in the 1960’s, the Laodicean church replaced the voice of the Holy Spirit with their own. They chose themselves over God!
Thus the 6th Dispensation fails just like all the previous Dispensations that came before it.
Soooooo, if the 6th Dispensation has ended…why are we still here?
That is the question that my position begs. The Godless Christianity paradigm happened over 50 years ago. If that caused the failure of the 6th Dispensation, then shouldn’t we have moved on? Doesn’t the failure of a dispensation trigger the next one?
Yes, but not always immediately. In fact, most of the Dispensations had a gap of time between its failure, judgment, and the start of the next one for various reasons.
After God pronounced the failure of the 2nd Dispensation, there was a gap of 120 years before the Great Flood. There were at least a couple of generations between the Tower of Babel in the 3rd Dispensation and 4th Dispensation and Abraham.
And although the 6th Dispensation began about a month after Jesus’ death and resurrection (which ended the 5th) the judgment that Jesus promised on Israel didn’t happen for another 40 years.
So if my theory is correct (and I admit that’s a big “if”), what’s the reason for the delay this time? My speculation is that God is giving the Church one generation (more or less) from the advent of the Godless Christianity decision to see if the Church will repent (hint: it’s not looking good).
IF that speculation is correct (an even bigger “if”) then we probably don’t have much time left…
So does this failure mean Jesus doesn’t get His Bride?
Not at all! Remember that each of the letters ended with the phrase “he who has an ear, let him hear”. This means that the letters were not JUST meant for those specific churches, but for ALL believers individually.
All believers fall into at least one of the categories Jesus mentioned, whether it’s focusing on doctrine at the expense of love, enduring suffering for faith in Jesus, compromising with the world, embracing mysticism, following dead legalistic theology, holding fast to faith, or refusing to take a stand on uncomfortable issues and justifying yourself by reinventing God.
And all believers have the opportunity to heed Jesus’ words of repentance and embrace Grace and faith like the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. The believers throughout each era of the 6th Dispensation who do so are the TRUE Bride of Christ. And Jesus promised to return for his Bride.
HOW Jesus returns for His Bride constitutes one of the most important, controversial, hotly disputed, and frankly preposterous doctrines in the Bible. In the next post, we begin an examination of the “Rapture”.