November 1, 2019 Brethren Letter
When I was seventeen, I started my first job working in a restaurant. That day (Sunday), the manager placed me at the beverage station serving clientele everything from steaming hot coffee to ice cold water. I believe that was the only time I was given that specific duty. The manager had other, more challenging jobs in mind when he hired me. However, he wanted me to start small and learn the restaurant business from the ground up. So, the beverage station was my beginning!
With over 500-600 customers that first day, I found something very common among them. Either they wanted something piping hot to drink or something icy cold. I don’t believe one person ever asked me to serve them a glass of room temperature tea or to pour them a cup of lukewarm coffee. I’m sure that doesn’t surprise anyone, but it does illustrate a point. Now, just what is this personal story leading to?
In the book of Revelation we see seven different churches described in chapters 2 and 3. As Mr. Armstrong taught, not only were the names described literal churches located in Asia Minor, they also pointed prophetically to specific ERAS of the Church of God.
He wrote the following in Mystery of the Ages…
The book of Revelation records seven messages to seven churches that existed in Asia Minor toward the end of the first century A.D. These churches — Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea — were located along one of the mail routes of the old Roman Empire.
Riders would follow the route — carrying messages from town to town.
The messages to the seven churches have words of both encouragement and correction and they clearly show the dominant characteristics of each of the congregations at that time.
But these messages were intended for a wider audience than the Christians in these small towns.
They are a series of remarkable prophecies, by which the future of the true Church was foretold in outline form, from the day it began on Pentecost, A.D. 31, until the Second Coming of Christ.
The history of the Church would fall into seven distinct eras — each with its own strengths and weaknesses and its own special trials and problems.
Just as a message could pass along the mail route from Ephesus to Laodicea, so would the truth of God be passed from era to era.
It was like a relay race — in which the baton is passed from runner to runner, each one doing his part, until the finish line is reached.
Each church listed showed the dominate characteristic of that specific congregation. Jesus Christ gives both commendations for their strengths as well as rebuking them for specific weaknesses. The church in Ephesus for instance labored patiently in the gospel and hated evil. But they also lost their “first-love” (Revelation 2:4), that of conversion. Here’s an important admonition written in Jude 3. “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
In the Sardis Church (Revelation 3:1-6) a few had not defiled their spiritual garments (verse 4), but they were corrected for being spiritually “dead” (verse 1).
Once again, the conditions spoken of in Revelation 2 and 3 also point to the prophetic fulfillment of seven specific Church eras with those same dominant characteristics throughout the centuries, starting in 31 A.D. to the present.
We also see that the church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13), was given no correction.
7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8 I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie–indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall
come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:7-10)
Now, getting back to my opening remarks… I mentioned the words “hot,” “cold” and “lukewarm” in my personal example. Why are those words important, Biblically? As we see in verse 16 of Revelation 3, the overall spiritual condition described for this congregation, as one of being “lukewarm.” This also depicts the DOMINANT characteristic of the last era of the Church of God.
14 And 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: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:14-19 NKJV)
Christ states that He wishes for a Christian to be either “cold” or “hot,” (verse 15), and not “lukewarm” (verse 16). Our being well-grounded in the TRUTH, having true spiritual zeal (not spiritual LETHARGY), is paramount to our success as Christians! Spiritual “lukewarmness” can happen to anyone if we’re not strong in the FAITH. Mr. Armstrong expressed concern about God’s people becoming “lukewarm” as indicated in his November 2, 1972 “Brethren Letter.” Here are some paragraphs from that letter…
November 2, 1972
Dear Brethren of God’s Church,
…it is incumbent on us at all times to revere the Supreme Government of GOD, and to pray earnestly “Thy Kingdom come — quickly — thy will be done” — and to bow in humble submission to His chastisements now laid upon us in this present financial dilemma, and to CONFESS and deplore our SINS in becoming LAX in prayer and personal Bible study, as well as our SINS in allowing worldly interests and pleasures to start drawing us away from our God, and our zeal for HIS WORK, I call on all Brethren to CONFESS
this lukewarmness and this drift from the needed CLOSE WALK WITH GOD, and to PRAY, with all FERVENCY and CONTRITION, for God’s pardon for these offenses, and for a permanent BLESSING on HIS WORK henceforth, continuously to its final completion.
Brethren, many if not most of us have let other interests creep into our minds and hearts till we do not have ANYWHERE NEAR the ZEAL for the GREATEST WORK ON EARTH, that the football players have for a football game. Football players get themselves “UP” for a game. They are “UP” emotionally, psychologically, physically. Last Sunday the San Francisco 49ers, supposedly “underdogs” for their game with Atlanta, got themselves “WAY UP” for that game, because they all HATED the Atlanta coach, and wanted revenge. They won by a big score.
WHY can football players get themselves “UP” in almost fanatical ZEAL, motivated by HATE, when we are indifferent, “DOWN,” and lukewarm about the MOST IMPORTANT AND GLORIOUS CALLING OF ALL TIME?
Brethren, remain zealous, steadfast and close to God through prayer and Bible study. God’s promises are magnificent and REAL!
…for He [Christ] is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
Have a wonderful Sabbath Day’s rest everyone.
Sincerely, Your Brother in Christ,