Introduction To The Church Ages
In order for you to fully understand the message of the Church Ages I would like to explain the various principles that allowed me to arrive at the names of the messengers, the length of the ages, and other factors involved therein.
Since this study was to be the most serious one I had ever undertaken up to this time, I sought God for many days for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Then only did I read the Scriptures on the Church Ages and delve into the many church histories written by the most unbiased historians that I could find. God did not fail to answer my prayer, for while I read the Word and the histories, I was enabled by the Holy Spirit to see unfolded a pattern that runs through the centuries and right into this present, last day.
The key given me of the Lord whereby I was able to determine the messenger for each age is a most Scriptural one. In fact it might be called the Keystone of the Bible. It is the revelation that God never changes, and that His ways are as unchangeable as He is. In Heb. 13:8 it says "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever". Ecclesiastes 3:14,15, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." Here it is: an unchanging God with unchanging ways. What He did at the FIRST He will have to keep on doing until it is done for the LAST time. There will never be a change. Apply that to the Church Ages. The kind of man that God chose for the first age, and how God manifested in that man's ministry, would be the example for all other ages. What God did in the first church age is what He wants to do in all other ages.
Now we know exactly from the Word which was recorded by the Holy Spirit how the first, or original church, was founded and how God manifested Himself in her. The Word can't change or be changed because the Word is God. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." To change one word of it, as did Eve, brings sin and death, even as it says in Revelation 22:18-19, "... If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Thus, what the church was at Pentecost is the standard. That is the pattern. There is no other pattern. No matter what the scholars say, God has NOT changed that pattern. What God did at Pentecost He has to keep on doing until the church ages close.
Though scholars may tell you the apostolic age is over, don't you believe it. Such a statement is wrong on two counts. First of all, it is wrong to suppose there aren't any more apostles, just because the original twelve are dead. An apostle means a `sent one'; and there are many sent ones today, but they are called missionaries. As long as men are being called and sent forth with the Word of Life there is an apostolic age going on. Secondly, they refer to an age of `manifested Holy Ghost power' as being over since the Bible has been completed. That is untrue. There is not even one Scripture that suggests that, but many conclusively state otherwise. Here is our proof that both of these charges are false. Acts 2:38,39. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." The promise of power with which the apostles were endued at Pentecost is to "you (Jews), and to your children (Jews), and to all that are afar off (Gentiles), and to as many as the Lord our God shall call (both Jew and Gentile)". Until He stops calling, the Pentecostal message and power will NOT CEASE.
What the church had at Pentecost is her inalienable right. Originally, she had the pure Word of God. She had the power of the Spirit manifested in divers signs and wonders and gifts of the Holy Ghost. Hebrews 2:1-4, "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the Word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience (to the Word) received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?" That original church was not organized by men. It was led by the Holy Ghost. It wasn't very big. It was hated and despised. It was oppressed. It was persecuted unto death. But it was true to God. It stayed with the original Word pattern.
Now don't get led astray here. When I said that God and His ways never change, I did not say that the church and its messengers could not change. The church isn't God. So she can change. But what I said was that because of the unchanging God with unchanging ways we can go back to the beginning and see the first and perfect act of God and then judge by that standard. That is how it is done. The True Church will always try to be like the original at Pentecost. The True Church of today will try to approximate that early first one. And the messengers to the churches, having the same Spirit of God in them, will try to approximate the apostle Paul. They won't be exactly like him; but the true messengers will be the ones that come the closest to Paul, who was free of all men, sold out to God, and gave forth the Word of God only, and manifested the Holy Ghost in power. None else would do. You have to work from the original. As like begets like, the True Church will always be the one that tries to follow in the steps of her founders at Pentecost and her messengers will follow the apostle Paul, the first messenger to the first church age. It is that simple, and that wonderful.
With this key, so simple, yet so wonderful, I was able, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to read the Book of Revelation and the histories and find therein each age, each messenger, the duration of each age, and the part each played in the purpose of God from Pentecost to the consummation of those ages.
Since you now understand how we judge what the True Church was like (what she was at Pentecost and what she was in the apostolic age as set forth in the Word in the Book of Acts) we can apply the same rule to show us how the church failed. The basic error, or errors, that crept into the first church and were revealed in the Book of Acts and Revelation and also in the Epistles will become more and more visibly manifested in each subsequent age, until we come to a complete blackout of truth in the last, or Laodicean Age.
Now out of this first key that we have received of the Lord, there comes another and slightly less wonderful truth. I said that the True Church would always try to be like it was in the Book of Acts. That is exactly right. But we have discovered that the Word also teaches an invasion of error until there is a complete blackout of truth in the last day when the Lord is about to appear. The question now arises in our minds; does God forsake His own and let them fall into a state of complete deception? On no account, for the Scripture says very clearly in Matthew 24:24, that the `Elect' CANNOT be deceived. "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, they shall deceive the very elect." What then? The answer is clear before us. There is a True Church and a false church. There is a True Vine and a false vine. But of course that false church, false vine body, will always try to usurp the position of the True Church and contend that she, and not the Elect, are the real and authentic. The false will try to kill the True. That is how it was in the Book of Acts, that is how it is set forth in the seven ages, and that is how it is declared in the various Epistles. That is how it has been. That is how it is now. That is how it will be. It can't change.
Now let us be very careful that we are not confused at this point. Thus we will seek the Word to validate this claim. Let us go back to the Book of the beginning, Genesis. In the Garden of Eden there were TWO trees. One was good; one was evil. One produced LIFE, the other produced Death. There were two children who originally offered sacrifices to God. Let me repeat that, they BOTH offered sacrifices to God. Genesis 4:3-5, "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect..." But one (Cain) was evil, being of his father (that Wicked One), while Abel was righteous before the Lord. Again, there were two children from the flesh of the same parents. They were the twins of Isaac and Rebekah. One was the elect of God and the other was reprobate. Both worshipped God. In every single case there was worship of God involved. In every case the evil hated the righteous and persecuted the righteous. In some cases the evil destroyed the righteous. But notice. They were planted together. They lived together. They both made claims upon God and worshipped God.
These illustrations depict perfectly the parable of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said that the kingdom of heaven was like unto a man who sowed good seed, only to have an enemy come and plant tares amongst those good seeds. God did not plant the tares. Satan planted those tares right amongst the good seed of God. Those two kinds of plants (people), from two different seeds, grew up together. They partook of the nourishment in the same earth, they shared in the same sun, rain, and all other benefits, and both were harvested in their turn. Do you see it? Don't ever forget these truths as we study the church ages and later the seals. And above all, don't forget that it is in this last age, when the tares are getting bound for their burning, that they will shove out the wheat that is to be garnered by the Lord.
I want to carry this thought all the way through, so let us go a step further. Have you ever studied the history of revivals? Now a revival signifies a move of God in power. And every time God moves, Satan is there to move also. It never fails. In the days of the great Welsh revival (and most people don't know this), the insane asylums filled up quickly, and there was a great display of devil power to take away the attention from God. It is written that in Wesley's day the people would do most peculiar things that were definitely of Satan to try to mock the goodness and power of God. In Luther's day it is said that the miracle of his ministry did not lie in the fact that he successfully protested the Roman Catholic Church, but the miracle lay in the fact he could, and did, stay sound and sane amidst the fanatics who were often filled with, and guided by, wrong spirits. And if you have been aware of this last day ministry, you will have noted the same invasion of false and wicked spirits. It has to be that way. Now I hope and trust you are spiritual minded enough to get that, and capitalize on it.
Just to seal this point on the True and false vines mingling and demonstrating the two spirits that are at work, let us look into I John 4:1-4, and Jude 3,4,12. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and EVEN NOW ALREADY is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: (antichrist spirit) because greater is He, (God's Spirit) that is in you than he that is in the world." Jude 3,4,12. "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the SAINTS. For there are CERTAIN MEN (not Saints) crept in unawares (these have not come into the fold by means of the DOOR and are therefore robbers), who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, UNGODLY men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast WITH you, feeding themselves without fear..." It cannot be denied in the face of these Scriptures that the True Church and the false church are intertwined, having been planted together but of different seeds.
Now then, I think there is something else you ought to know. The seven churches which are addressed by John are in Asia Minor and are all Gentile churches. He does not speak to the church at Jerusalem which was mostly Jewish with perhaps just a few Gentiles in it. The reason is that God had turned from the Jews to the Gentiles. Thus the whole of the church ages is God dealing with the Gentiles, and calling out a Gentile Bride to Himself. That makes the `Church Ages' and `The Fulness of the Gentiles' the one and the same thing. Acts 13:44-48, "And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the Word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the Word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Romans 11:1-8, "I say then, Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, say- ing, Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant According to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day."
Romans 11:25-29, "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the Fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
These seven churches located in Asia Minor contained certain characteristics within them, at that ancient date, which became the mature fruit of later ages. What were just seed plants back there came out later in a mature harvest, even as Jesus said, "For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Luke 23:31. 7ch008.htm
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