The church that was asleep!
One of my greatest concerns for the church has been that we are asleep. In the late 1980’s and early 90’s we experienced a Thyatiaran experience in the Church of God. The church was taken over by “Jezebel,” a reference to the wife of Ahab, King of Israel who introduced or solidified the worship of Baal in the northern Kingdom of Israel. Apostasy reigned in the church just as it controlled the northern kingdom.
In Revelation 3, the message to the church which followed that to Thyatira was Sardis, a church that is characterized as being asleep or even dead. Have we considered the impact of that evaluation on ourselves? Burn out and weariness can be a feature of protecting what we believe.
Sleep can be useful for the body, but if we use it to escape the problems we face, hence it can be deadly. That was the warning given to us through the message to the church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-7).
How does this stupor appear? Our current debate is focused on government, and the government of the church has been misused to change doctrine to suit the whim of one man. Are we alert to the way in which our understanding of the teaching of God’s Word has been polluted and undermined? Almost every aspect has been undermined to suit the ‘look good’ approach of public relations. Is the Word of God intended to suit the whim of human beings? Clearly no. Our behavior and conduct should suit the purposes and goals of our Heavenly Father and His Son.
Cast you mind back almost 30 years to the period before the death of Herbert Armstrong. What motivated you then? Was it a desire to see the gospel preached in all the world so that the Kingdom could be established? Do your offspring have any idea of that sense of urgency that existed them? Do they even understand what the Gospel really is and why it must be preached?
Of recent date, we have seen an assault on our understanding of the role and identity of Israel in the end times as set out in prophecy. Doing some more research on this subject has reignited in me an appreciation of just how central this idea is to the role of the church in today’s world. It was an understanding that came to drive Mr. Armstrong over the 56 years of his ministry. In 1929, he wrote an almost 300 page letter to Mr. Dugger, one of the leaders of the Church of God, 7thDay outlining to him a synthesis of the teachings of the church in terms of prophecy, the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the identity of Israel and the Ezekiel message as a blueprint for preaching the gospel to this world. The Church of God had a limited understanding of the Holy Days and the identity of Israel, but Mr. Armstrong brought them focus such as had not been the case.
That understanding drove the church for all the years of Mr. Armstrong’s life and our Father added to the church daily such as should be saved. That church was not asleep. Did we have problems? Yes. Did we need to grow in grace and knowledge? Yes, but in the process it is as though we have fallen asleep.
It is time to awake, cast off the stupor of the past years and seek to recover that zeal that motivated us in our early association with the understanding of God’s Way of Life and His plan for humanity. That zeal needs to be conveyed to those who have been born and grown up in the church since those days. That is our challenge—be awake, be alert, strengthen those teachings that we valued so highly.
By Peter Nathan