The Conservative Laodicean
Vol: 33 Issue: 12 Saturday, June 12, 2004
President Reagan’s passing has brought his conservative ideology and its effect on American society out of the closet as even CNN struggled to praise President Reagan without praising the ideology he championed.
We often discuss liberals and conservatives in the Omega Letter, and how they interact, and even how the two philosophies dovetail with Scripture in the last days.
But defining a ‘conservative’ is a little like trying to describe the color red to a blind man. At best, all you can do is describe it technically; red is one of the prime colors, etc. You have to see red to know what it really IS.
So some of this background information might seem a bit dull. I apologize. It is necessary to the ultimate point.
To begin with, a conservative worldview is defined more by what it isn’t than what it is. In the broadest possible definition, it means supporting things as they currently are, and being somewhat skeptical of change.
Social conservatism is a social doctrine first clearly articulated by the Irish thinker, Edmund Burke. Burke wrote at a time when European thinkers were beginning to develop the ideology of modernism.
‘Modernism’ as an ideology, emphasizes progress guided by reason. That isn’t to say that conservatives oppose progress, or reject reason.
Instead, conservatives believe that human reason alone is incapable of ensuring a good society, and believe in the necessity of humility when confronting the unknowable.
One way to describe a conservative would be one who puts his emphasis on tradition as a source of wisdom that goes beyond what can be demonstrated or even explicitly stated.
To a conservative, existing institutions, like religion, have virtues that cannot be fully grasped by any single person or interest group.
There are Jewish conservatives, Christian conservatives, even agnostic conservatives, but all recognize the importance of faith to the social fabric of human society.
Conservatives fear efforts driven by reason alone to modify the complex web of human interactions that form human society for the sake of some unproved doctrine or theory. The risks posed by the law of unintended consequences looms large in the conservative worldview.
In broad strokes, then, a conservative embraces an attitude that is deeply suspicious of any attempt to remake society in the service of any ideology. Human freedom is something rooted and organic; to try to prune and shape it according to the plans of an ideologue is to invite unforeseen disaster.
Social conservatives emphasize traditional views of institutions such as the family and the church. For example, social conservatives would typically define family in terms of formal marriage and kinship, and would oppose innovations in the institution of marriage.
They are less likely than others to consider unmarried heterosexual couples, even those with children, as families. Social conservatives see gay marriage as one of those examples of how tinkering with the institution of marriage can invite the law of unintended consequences.
Religious social conservatives tend to reject any reinterpretation or modification of what they see as traditional beliefs in areas of morality and biblical scholarship.
Conservatives also tend to respect other traditional institutions, like the military and traditional government.
Most people on the political left tend to view ‘right wing’ and ‘conservative’ as interchangeable terms. Conservatives would find little in common with what actually are ‘right wing’ objectives, like establishing a single religion, even Christianity, as the state religion of the United States.
Finally, the major political difference between a conservative worldview and a liberal one is how each views the source of the government’s authority to govern.
To a liberal, the authority to govern is derived from the people themselves. A liberal worldview has no room for political absolutes; the majority rules. If the majority approves of gay marriage, then, to the liberal, gay marriage is moral. If the majority approves of abortion, then killing the unborn in the womb is a ‘right’.
If the majority voted to legalize prostitution, recreational drug use and lowering the sexual age of consent to 12 years old, then liberal ideology says these things would become morally acceptable.
To a conservative, authority to govern is derived from the Almighty. If the majority voted to legalize something prohibited by the Ten Commandments, it would not be moral, and engaging in the prohibited practice would be wrong, even if it were legal.
Politically, the differences between the two worldviews mirror the differences between a Constitutional Republic and a pure democracy. A pure democracy could legalize murder with a majority vote, whereas a Constitutional Republic could not.
Now, we’ll try and pull everything together. Be patient with me. There’s a lot to cover.
In His appearance to John at Patmos, Jesus dictated seven letters to the seven churches of Asia. Each of the letters corresponded to one of seven church epochs, or ages.
Jesus outlined the leading characteristics in the life of the church at different periods in history, from John’s day to the Last Days.
There is Ephesus, bold in resolute endurance, discerning, intolerant of departures from the faith — this was the Apostolic Age.
There is Smyrna, battling nobly with tribulation and danger in the midst of poverty and suffering rich in faith and good works. The Age of the Martyrs.
There is Pergamos, married to the world. This church epoch began with the Emperor Constantine declaring Christianity to be the State Church of Rome.
The Church at Thyatira was condemned for its continual sacrifice and the introduction of new doctrines during the Dark Ages. (Purgatory, indulgences, and the Inquisition).
Sardis was the ‘dead church’ as it had become by the time of the Reformation. The period from the Reformation in the 15th century to the end of the 19th century, was the epoch of the Church of Philadelphia.
This was the ‘missionary church’ that took the Bible to the New World, to darkest Africa, to China and the far corners of the earth.
The end of the Philadelphia Church Age coincided with the ‘Enlightenment’ in Europe, brought about by ‘modernist’ thinking near the end of the 19th century.
From Philadelphia to Laodicea, distinguished for its worldly riches, its high-toned profession and spiritual pride; yet lowest in the scale and standard of all, neither cold nor hot a religion of boasting words, but devoid of moral strength “poor, blind, and naked.”
Partly conservative, partly liberal, completely lukewarm. Still with me?
The Church of Laodicea is the last church epoch in human history. Unlike all the others, Jesus has NO words of commendation to offer it.
Instead, He says it is lukewarm, sickening, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14)
Jesus’ counsel to the last-days church at Laodicea continues through to the end of Chapter 3, concluding with this cryptic comment; “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (3:22)
So, we sharpen our ears and listen. There is a message from the Holy Spirit to each of the Churches. What does the Spirit have to say to the Laodicean age?
Jesus described — in detail — the characteristics of each church epoch. And He did it so clearly that we can look back through history and map them in reverse.
As we stand in our place in the timeline of history, we can look around us and easily identify this epoch as corresponding in every respect to that of the Laodicean epoch.
Here is where it all comes together; note the very next verses — (Revelation 4:1-2)
“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither . . . (whereupon John says he was translated) “And immediately I was in the Spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”
Are you still with me? Chapter Four begins the Tribulation Period, with its judgments, from the perspective of heaven. From that point forward, there is no mention of an earthly church, despite the preceding three chapters being devoted to no other subject.
So, where is the earthly Church from Chapter Four to Chapter 22 of Revelation? Compare John’s description to that of the Apostle Paul:
“For this we say unto you BY THE WORD OF THE LORD, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (John’s immediate translation into the Spirit)
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and SO SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD.” (1st Thessalonians 4:15-17) (John’s ‘catching up’ into heaven)
“Come up hither . . . immediately I was in the Spirit . . . a throne was set in heaven. . .”
Paul described it from one perspective, John from another, but both were describing the same event; the conclusion of the Church Age with the Rapture, followed by the Tribulation.
We are well into the Laodicean Church Age — and the Bible gives no indication of any church epoch to follow. We ARE the generation that will see the return of Christ.
But at some point before the Tribulation Period kicks off, we, who are alive and remain, will first hear, ‘Come up hither!”
“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)