5. RICH ONLY IN DOCTRINE
In the history of the Lord’s move, following the recovery five hundred years ago through Martin Luther, another step was taken by the Lord about one hundred and forty years ago through the so-called Brethren. At the beginning, that was truly the church at Philadelphia, but it did not last long They soon degraded into Laodicea. Philadelphia is an improvement upon Sardis, but Laodicea is a degradation from Philadelphia. What is the problem with Laodicea? It is that Laodicea has everything; they are indeed rich yet, in the same principle as Sardis, just in doctrine. They thought they had everything, they thought they had need of nothing, but the Lord Jesus said that they were neither cold nor hot.
There is a danger in the church life that we too may one day become lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. We may say that we are rich, but we will be rich in doctrine, not in experience. We will be rich, but dead. The Lord Jesus told Laodicea to buy gold that they may be rich and eyesalve that their eyes may be opened. We must be on the alert lest we too have many so-called riches, riches concerning life, concerning the Spirit, concerning the church, yet just in doctrine. We may think that we are so rich, we may think that we know, but we do not see. We may have the knowledge, but not the light. We may have the doctrine, but not the gold. We may not be cold, but neither are we hot; so the Lord will spit us out of His mouth.
Now listen to the promises of the Lord. To the church at Ephesus: "To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life" (2:7). To the church at Pergamos: "To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna..." (2:17). To the church at Laodicea: "If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (3:20). The Lord promised that if we are on the alert to avoid all kinds of religion, we will be kept continually in the enjoyment of the Lord, we will be given to eat of Him as the tree of life, as the hidden manna, and we will sup with Him and He with us.
In the seven epistles of these two chapters of Revelation we see that something of religion has been mixed with something of the Lord. Throughout the centuries up to this present time, the Lord has been doing a separating work to divide all that is of Him from anything religious. All the religious things will be gathered together and consummated to the full in the great Babylon of chapters 17 and 18. Babylon the Great is the consummate development of religion. It is the place to which all the steps towards religion in these epistles lead. On the other hand, the consummate development of all the Lord’s separating work throughout the centuries is the Bride, the New Jerusalem. The Lord’s separating work for His Bride today is in the local church. The local church is the ultimate part of this separating work to prepare the Bride. Thus, throughout the centuries we see that there has been a move in the history of the church towards mixture. The end of that is Babylon. But throughout the centuries there has also been a divine, separating work in progress. In the last part of this the twentieth century, the Lord is recovering the local churches as a full separation from the great Babylon. Eventually this will result in the final issue of the Lord’s separating work, the Bride. Hallelujah! Following Revelation 17 and 18, we come to chapter 19, where the Bride has made herself ready. In chapter 18 we hear the Lord’s call, "Come forth, my people, out of her, that ye have no fellowship with her sins" (v. 4). And in chapter 19 we have the word, "The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready" (v. 7). Praise the Lord that we may be in the local church life today, fully separated from anything religious, and thus prepared as the Bride of the Lamb.
In all these chapters we have been seeing Christ versus religion. The ultimate issue of Christ will be the Bride, and the consummate development of religion will be Babylon. Thus, Christ versus religion will eventually be the Bride versus Babylon. It is not a small matter to be separated from everything religious and to be in the local churches as a preparation for the Bride. Hallelujah!
(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 12, by Witness Lee)