CHURCH OF LAODICEA; SOME UNPLEASANT BACKGROUND
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 nor hot. I could wish you
were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I
will vomit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:14–16).
come now to the last of the letters to the seven church of Asia. We digress from
our analysis of the letter to review some recent church history, some of which
some of us have lived through.
charge of lukewarmness, being neither cold nor hot, has been the theme of many
sermons for generations. In the history of the Christian Church, the message of
lukewarmness often appears as movements and revivals begin to cool down and lose
the most passionate preaching on the Laodecian condition of lukewarmness has
been carried on within the Church of God Movement at large. Our lecture today
deals with that passionate preaching rather than the actual letter to the church
at Laodicea. Some people in this Movement will have vivid memories of the
preaching and attitudes that grew out of that preaching. Some have not
experienced perhaps even the mention of this church letter. For people that are
not associated with the Church of God Movement, this lecture will probably be of
little value; it is an exercise in honesty.
is a serious matter to expose the dirty linen in the history of any church,
denomination, or movement. There is always the temptation to deny the past.
There is always the attempt to assign blame, to criticize, and to cast doubt on
the spirituality of those from the past on any side of any issue. But, honesty
is always the best policy and rather than to deny, to justify; it is best just
to acknowledge what happened in the past and not make the same mistakes.
bear with me as we go over some unpleasant background of the teaching of
Laodiceanism. The pitiful thing is that the passionate preaching of the past 100
years missed the entire meaning of this last letter to the churches of Asia:
Church of God Movement that began about 1880 saw the Book of Revelation as the
story of the biblical church throughout the gospel dispensation. This Movement
saw itself pictured as the church at Philadelphia and existing under the sixth
seal as seen beginning in Revelation 6:12. That Movement of largely rural and
uneducated but very sincere people crossed the United States and went around the
world without any supporting organization, carrying the message of holiness and
the one biblical church during the first 30 years of its existence.
the 1920s the zeal of the Movement began to decline and consolidation began to
take effect through the umbrella of the General Ministerial Assembly
headquartered in Anderson, IN. Along with this consolidation, certain teachings
and practices of the original Movement were called into question and allowed to
be modified or discontinued.
1933 a minister by the name of W. S. Goodnight published a book titled Chart
Explanation of the Revelation: With the Opening of the Last Seal. This book
was published by the Warner Press in Anderson, IN, but it is doubtful that the
leadership of the Movement actually endorsed it. This book was distributed among
the ministry most of whom ignored it, but a significant minority was sympathetic
with the intent of the book, if not the details contained in it. Goodnight
claimed that the Movement, Church of God (Anderson), was fallen and apostate and
he called for another reformation, primarily from within the church. He claimed
to have new light on the Book of Revelation saying that in 1930 the seventh
trumpet had sounded and the seventh seal opened. He believed the changes taking
place in the Movement were evidence of the Laodicean lukewarmness. Through a
mathematical calculation he claimed that the seventh seal church age would come
to an end in 1980 and that no one in the world would be saved after December 31,
1980. He believed that by 1980 all the saved and sanctified people would be
gathered together into one organized and visible church—the Camp of the
Saints. Be believed Jesus would return around June 1983, 3½ years after the
closing of the seventh seal church age. He also taught that only the saved and
sanctified would go to heaven at the return of Christ. Those that had only
experienced justification, the first work of grace, and had not experienced
sanctification were included with the ungodly and would be thrown into hell with
wrote several other booklets on various subjects of his new light. He cooperated
with a man named G. W. Pendleton in publishing a holiness paper called The
Seventh Trumpet. This paper was dedicated to the advancement of the
understanding the Book of Revelation and the transition of prophetic time into
the seventh and final seal of the Revelation. The paper is still being published
by Pendleton’s daughter, Juanita Coy.
seventh trumpet message appealed to many church of God congregations because of
the changes that were taking place in the Movement and the desire of these
congregations to remain true to their convictions on the many things the
Movement was then abandoning. In time, many congregations left the Movement to
remain independent, but yet fellowshipping with like-minded congregations in
various camp meetings across the country.
the seventh trumpet message caught on among these independent congregations,
many of the radical views of Goodnight were dropped, but the vitriol directed at
the Movement centered in Anderson, IN remained. In the late 1950s and early
1960s a new champion of the seventh trumpet and seventh seal by the name of
Emerson Wilson emerged preaching in camp meetings and revivals across the
country and calling more congregations out of the Movement. Wilson saw this
seventh trumpet movement as God’s replacement for the Anderson movement. He
says in his series on the Seven Trumpets,
in this 100 years there are two generations. The first generation following
1880, had these truths poured out on them. “Babylon is fallen, come out of
her, my people, that ye partake not of her sins.” There has been a let down
and the message has been neglected and another generation has come on.
100 years he mentions is an allusion to Genesis 6:3, the 120 years of
preliminary judgement before the Great Flood. In his thinking, the sixth and
seventh seals were God’s preliminary judgement of the world leading to the
Second Advent of Christ. Wilson said, “. . . the day of God’s wrath
mentioned in the 6th chapter of Revelation is about 100 years. It
began in 1880 . . .” In that 100 years there are two generations, each lasting
about 50 years: The sixth seal from 1880 to 1930 and the seventh seal from 1930
to 1980. Wilson nowhere predicted the return of Christ and the end of the world.
is cautious not to condemn the Anderson Movement by name, but he used loosely
veiled statements that were understood by most of his listeners, such as this
from chapter 35 of his book on the Seven Trumpets titled “An Image To
the thing got so human (that is when the Methodist organization got so human)
out of it came a bunch of people. They said we cannot take it any longer. It is
just a human work. So, out they came. One group called themselves Nazarenes, and
Wesleyan Methodists, and then the Pilgrim Holiness came also, that was good, but
they turned right around and built an image again. . . . The very minute they
built an image and started the wheels of human machinery running, the power of
God moved out. It works individually or collectively. If you go to governing
your own experience and make up your own mind, the power of God will just move
on. If we, as a people, begin to turn the wheels of human machinery and have our
own government God will just go get a people that will let him be the head. Now
this is a hard statement but I am going to make it. I do not know any movement
that is exempt from this. I do not know any movement that has not built an
image. Now if you know of any, tell me about it after the service. The trouble
of it is, people are still deceived, even right in the Church of God movement,
people are deceived.
then dips into his personal experience with the Anderson Movement.
law of God never got me, the by-laws got me. Come on. I made it crystal clear
that they did not have any Bible against me. The man made by-laws got me.
Let’s face facts. The ministry can back off the Word, disregard, refuse to
preach it, refuse to live by it, decorate themselves like Jezebels, and then
what will they tell you. “You ought to have enough of the love of God to line
up with them.” You can cross the Word of God, you can cross the teachings of
the Word, the very doctrines that were the backbone of the Church of God
reformation, and still be a good brother, but if you break one of their human
by-laws you are going out. So what is governing them? Let’s get awakened. When
some church government begins to speak other than God’s Word and then has
enough human machinery back of it to enforce that thing; that is an image. The
second definition of an image is when they have got their own mark of
recognition. It is an image. The true mark of the Church of God is the blood. We
reach our hand in fellowship to every blood washed one. Whenever we begin to get
any mark of recognition other than the blood, we are building an image. F. G.
Smith tried to tell them that 20 years ago. Somebody said what do you mean, some
other mark beside an image? All right, this image put the mark on people that
you cannot buy or sell unless you have got the mark. What is it? the mark of
recognition among the ministry. In religious work, you do not buy and sell
cheese, you sell the Gospel. But you cannot preach for that organization unless
you have got their mark. The first charge they had on me was because I let men
preach for me that was not in the year book. Another mark creeping up there.
Blood is the mark and I will still stand on it. It is pretty sad right around
the Church of God when a Church of God preacher makes a statement that the blood
is the mark and you only get one amen. Some places you go a woman has to have a
knot of hair on the back of her head; that is the mark. Other places you have
got to have the necktie off; that is a mark. Nothing but images, the blood is
the mark. People today are not guided by the Word of God, but guided by the
teaching of their organization.
this new independent movement, criticizing the Anderson Movement was popular and
seen as an important part of the seventh trumpet message. It became a standard
part of its teaching on the Revelation and particularly the lukewarmness as seen
in the church of Laodicea.
1980 the seventh trumpet message was becoming threadbare and people were
beginning to lose interest in Revelation preaching so that by the turn of the
century Revelation preaching had ceased among many of the various fellowships.
identifying Laodicea with the Anderson Movement may have had a purpose, that
purpose was short-lived. In reality, the lukewarmness was not limited to just a
Movement, it is a condition that can effect, and has effected, the Christian
church throughout history. The six conditions seen in the previous letters to
the churches of Asia are very much alive today, and we must stand watch against
them, but lukewarmness is the insidious sneak-thief of spirituality in the
is history and when it is part of our own background, it can be quite
distasteful if not embarrassing. The Church of God is not the only movement that
has used the Book of Revelation as a weapon or as the article justifying its
is deplorable that abuse has been carried on in the name of preaching the truth
or new light on truth, especially from the Revelation of which there are varied
and sometimes proprietary interpretations. Most of the teaching we just
discussed was done in a sincere attempt to find and teach the truth to be found
in the Book of Revelation—even if somewhat misguided at times.
said this, we wish to put the past behind us without further considering the
rubble left behind.
next lecture will study the letter to the church at Laodicea.
Wilson, Emerson, The Sounding of
the Seven Trumpets, New-Ark
Church of God: Newark, OH, 1963,
Ibid, pg 149.
Ibid, ppg 149 and 150.