Volume 38 | Number 3 | May/June 2010

Inglés Español

Post Fundamentalism—Part One
The End-time Church and Its Rejection of Jesus Christ

By Dr. H. T. Spence

For the next several issues of Straightway, we will be unfolding aspects concerning the End-time Church, where it is headed, and how its assimilation of Fundamentalism will be a necessity. We have observed in previous articles the philosophical presupposition of “Postmodernism,” a philosophy beyond “modernism” or “reason.” Postmodernism is built upon the premise of existential experience to the point of denouncing reason and absoluteness of truth. This philosophy arises within the institutional Church across the world mainly under the title of the Emergent Church or the Emerging Church. Postmodernism has even made its way into the political world of our country under the label of “Post America,” which has been thrust upon us by the “Obamanation” of Washington. Nevertheless, there has been the true, historic Christian faith that has stood outside the trends and changes of time; it has ever based its belief upon the absoluteness of God’s Word, the Bible.

In order for Fundamentalism to inevitably become a tragedian part of the Neo-Christianity of our times, it must enter into a postmodernism of its own which we are calling Post Fundamentalism. It is our prayer that these articles will be a spiritual call for a biblical awakening to take place among the puritan remnant remaining within Fundamentalism today. True Fundamentalism in its public voice is basically dead; for all practical purposes Fundamentalism has become Neo-Evangelicalism, maintaining little or no distinction between the two. In order to understand the changes that have taken place to bring us to Post Fundamentalism, it is imperative that we view the larger picture found in the End-time Institutional Church. This will be the burden of these first two articles.

Where Are We in Church History?

The Books of Daniel and Revelation are apocalyptic. Apocalyptic means “to unveil” or “to uncover” and thus “to reveal” something which has been beforehand veiled, covered, or hidden. Apocalyptic books are usually written in times of great trouble and distress for God’s people. The Book of Revelation gives evidence that persecution and trouble were already threatening the early Church. Both without and within, serious problems were present.

Chapter nine of Daniel speaks of “seventy weeks” of years (490 yrs.) that are to follow the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity. These appointed weeks of years not only speak of the trouble that will come to the Jews and Jerusalem but also reveal God’s appointed time of the rule of the Gentiles. The first sixty-nine weeks of years (483 yrs.) conclude at the Jewish nation’s rejection and cutting off of Christ the Messiah. There still remains the final seventieth week of years (7 yrs.) to come.

In this context for the Jews, Daniel does not inform us of what takes place between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week, although we know that there is a final week against the Jews and Jerusalem. It has been almost two thousand years since the fulfillment of the sixty-ninth week, yet the seventieth week has not come. Could it be that the seven churches that are mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3 also represent time periods, and that these time periods are to be found in the prophetic Word for the time between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week? We dare not minimize the literality of the seven churches chosen by the Lord from Asia Minor; it is obvious that many churches were located in the well over five hundred districts of Asia Minor. Nevertheless, God divinely chose seven churches and seven churches only; He did not send messages to other churches that conceivably might have been more important.

In Revelation 2 and 3, the geographical order of presentation of the churches is as follows: beginning at Ephesus, moving north to Smyrna, then farther north to Pergamos, then east to Thyatira, south to Sardis, then east to Philadelphia, and southeast to Laodicea. Did these seven churches represent the full range of characteristics that marked all of the churches in existence at that time? Each church needed a particular message, and the spiritual state of each church corresponded precisely to the exhortation which was given. The selection of these churches was also governed by the fact that each church was in some way normative, able to illustrate conditions that were common to local churches of that time as well as conditions to unfold throughout the history of the Church.

These seven churches teach the decline of the Church on earth. The professing Church, instead of increasing in spiritual and world converting powers declines to lukewarmness, faithlessness, and Christlessness. Just as we can view the decline of Israel in the Old Testament, we can also see an obvious decline in the visible Church within the epistles of the New Testament.

In Romans 11:15–27, the apostle Paul gives a parable of two olive trees. He shows how the “natural branches” of the “good olive tree” (Israel) were broken off because of “unbelief,” that the “wild olive tree” of the Gentile Church might be “grafted in,” which in turn, because of unbelief, would be displaced that the “natural branches” might be “grafted back again.” This clearly indicates that the Church does not take the place of Israel permanently; it merely fills up the gap between Israel’s “casting off” and “restoration of divine favor.” This is the Gentile Church period. Could we presently be at the time of the transition of the Gentile Church into unbelief and the prelude of Israel’s return to belief?

The Seventh Church Period

“If” chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation are viewed from a prophetic-historic perspective of seven periods of the Church, it would mean that the Laodicean period closes the “Church Age” as the “fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25b). This phrase in Romans 11 is different from the “times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” of Luke 21:24. The former is dealing with the Gentile Church period while the latter is referring to the Gentile political government of world rulership. The former “fullness of the Gentiles” will consummate at the rapture of the saints out of the last Church Age, after which God will begin bringing the Jews to that spiritual relationship with Him. The latter “times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” will consummate with the kingdom of Antichrist, and its final overthrow at the Second Coming of Christ. The former concludes at the secret advent of the Second Coming and the latter concludes at the open advent of the Second Coming. The former concludes the Gentile Church Age; the latter concludes the Gentile government age.

The “times of the Gentiles” clearly began with Nebuchadnezzar, while the “fullness of the Gentiles” began (it seems) in Acts 13 at the sending forth of Barnabas and Paul unto the Gentiles. In that calling, God did not specify where He was sending them; it was simply declared, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The rest of the Book of Acts records predominately Gentile churches being established, not Jewish churches. During these chapters the Gentiles spiritually came to the forefront.

Two thousand years have passed, and it is evident by the way Church history has unfolded that the Gentile Church has come to the same end as did the nation of Israel. The Jewish nation rejected the First Coming of Christ; we the Church are rejecting Christ as well, and particularly His Second Coming. We must realize that much was said of the Jews as to the First Coming of Messiah. Oh, the details they knew of His coming, even to the very little town in which He would be born (Matt. 2:4–6); however, only a few knew Him when He came. Much is said and written about the Second Coming today, but only a few will truly know Him. Are we coming to the end of the “fulness of the Gentiles” when God will turn us over to apostasy as He did Israel? As there are seven Gentile empires mentioned by Daniel and John (beginning with Egypt and culminating with the worst, that of Antichrist), are there also seven periods of the kingdom of heaven on earth ending with its worst?

Each of the seven churches appears to have a distinguishing characteristic. 1. Ephesus, meaning, “to relax,” seems to cover Christianity from a.d. 70 (the destruction of the Jewish city and temple) to a.d. 170 (the end of the Apostolic Fathers). It was a time of a backsliding Church. The final epistles to have been written in the New Testament warned of such an impending reality of the present church then.

2. Smyrna (meaning “myrrh” or that which is identified with death) was a persecuted church. God took His earthly Church through great crucibles of persecution, especially from around a.d. 170 to a.d. 313 (when the Edict of Milan was passed to legalize Christianity).

3. Pergamos (meaning “a marriage”) was a very licentious church resulting from the union of the world’s government and the church’s congregations (a marriage between the two). This seems to have spanned from a.d. 313 to a.d. 606 (the height of Gregory I, who vastly influenced every aspect of the Church from theology and preaching to living).

4. Thyatira (meaning “feminine oppression”) brought the rise of the Roman Catholic Church and the beginning powers of the papal system, covering the years from a.d. 606 to a.d. 1517 (the beginning of the Reformation).

5. Sardis (meaning “escaping one” or “coming out” one) is addressed at the opening of Revelation 3. It had a name that it was alive, but it was dead; and sad to say, the Reformation ended up in Rationalism (by a.d. 1600) and the Enlightenment Period. In the latter part of this Church Age which covered from a.d. 1517 to a.d. 1750, the powers of reason made vast inroads into the institutional Church.

6. Philadelphia (meaning “brotherly love”) brought a great stirring to dead Christendom. It was the era of mighty revivals and awakenings on both sides of the Atlantic from a.d. 1750 to a.d. 1900. This Church Age also brought a fresh burden for missions, which had almost died in the Church. There has been no move of God like this time period in the Church. It was a time of revival of life and fraternity among the Christians. As they had kept His Word and had not denied His Name, there was the promise to be kept from the Tribulation to come (3:8–10). Yes, this truly was a great spiritual move of God before the coming final collapse of the Church. Moreover, it was also the time of the awakening and the cry “Behold the Bridegroom cometh!” Thus, it was during this time period we see the doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ being revived within the Church; deeper insights into the Books of Daniel and Revelation appeared, whereas heretofore understanding of these books had been limited.

7. Finally we arrive at the last church mentioned by the Lord Jesus Christ: the Church of Laodicea (A.D. 1900 to the present).

In contrast to this Church Age, it is interesting to read of the men of God during the Philadelphia time of history. Spirituality marked the lives of these men, no matter what their theological system was. “Perfection” was a term that became prominent throughout Europe as men longed for perfection in every aspect of life: architecture, art, drama; even the “Classical” period of music brought the longing for “perfection” in both law and sound. This human pursuit prompted the question in the Philadelphia Church period, “Is it possible to have a Christian perfection?” The word perfection (in the Greek teleios) simply speaks of Christian maturity, or coming to maturity in the walk and life with God that is easily defined as “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Yes, the Great Commandment became the hope of Christian living, of Christian perfection, of coming to “maturity,” and thus, the need of being ready for the coming of Christ in a secret rapture of the “true” church.

Joseph A. Seiss (1823-1904) lived during the time of this explosion of insight concerning the Second Coming of Christ. He wrote his classic commentary on the Book of Revelation called The Apocalypse in the 1870s. After viewing the six churches from a similar historical perspective, he wrote this concerning Laodicea:

There is yet one other phase. Shall I say that it is yet future, or that we have already entered it? [referring to the Laodicean Church Age] There are still some whom Christ loves, mostly suffering ones, under the rebukes and chastenings of their gracious Lord. But the body of Christendom is quite apostate, with Christ outside, and knocking for admission into his own professed church. Paul prophesied of the Church that in the last period, men would be mere ‘lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.’ (II Tim. 3:1-5). This is a fearful picture, almost as dark as that which he gave of the heathen world before Christianity touched it presented in Romans 1. But it answers precisely to the Saviour’s portraiture of the characteristics of the Church in its last phase.

Although Seiss was not sure whether he had entered into the last Church phase (Laodicea) or if it was yet to come, he saw what it meant and the beginnings of its powers already invading the institutional Church of his time.

Oh dear reader, is this the last phase of the Church’s history? When did it start? Many place it at the turn of the so-called “Christianity century,” the twentieth century. The Philadelphia Church Age gave the initial cry of the Second coming of Christ, but the worst apostasy of the Church since its beginning has arisen in that of the Laodicean Church Age. If this age began in 1900, then we are well into its mature powers and influences.

The word Laodicea means the “popular judgment” or “the will of the people.” This spirit is the extreme opposite of the Nicolaitans found in the first and third Church ages culminating in the fourth. Instead of a church of domineering clericals, this is the Church of the domineering mob, the laity, in which nothing may be safely preached except what the people are pleased to hear. It is the Church in which the teachings of the pulpit are fashioned to the tastes of the pew, and the feelings of the individual override the authority of God’s Word. It is the Church in which the people are in control (congregational government), when they become more powerful than the authority of an honorable pastor and the pulpit.

Christ described the Laodicean Church as “lukewarm.” Nothing is decided, partly hot and partly cold, divided between Christ and the world, not willing to give up the pretense and claim to being a Christian and going to heaven while clinging close to the world! Having too much conscience to cast off the name of Christ and yet too much love for the world to take a firm and honest stand entirely on Christ’s Word, it is self-satisfied, boastful, and empty. Having come down to the world’s tastes and gained the world’s praise and patronage, the Laodiceans think they are “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.”

Laodicea boasts of splendid and expensive churches with congregations of great influence and intelligence. Their preachers are possessors of all kinds of degrees, magnanimous in personality and international persuasion. Their so-called worship services are admirable in the world’s eyes, with the best of musicians, and yes, the “moving” of the music. The Church has become an excellently manned and endowed institution. It has missionaries all over the world, short-term and long-term. It has compassed the globe with the gospel, with radio and TV stations and with its multi-million dollar edifices. Even millions and millions of dollars are given for charitable causes! Such an array in all the attributes of greatness and power! What more could be said?! What more could be desired?! The Church has reached the cry in Christianity: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing!”

It is evident by the words of the Head of the Church, that as the nations are weighed in the balance and found wanting, the institutional Church is found wanting as well! What the “outward” appearance of the Church declares is not what the corrupt heart of the Church declares; it does not know that it is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Churchmen talk of the Church as if it is destined by God to glorious triumph, as if it is commissioned of God to convert the world! Nevertheless, the “AMEN” hath spoken! The Faithful and True Witness has declared, “I will spue thee out of my mouth.” The Greek is strong here: “I am about to spue thee out of my mouth!” “I am on the verge, at the point, of doing so!” (When will this spewing take place? And how? We have yet to know.)

What is found in the seven declarations of these two chapters of Revelation is Christ’s own history of His Church! They are Christ’s own criticisms upon all its characteristic features and doings for some two thousand years. These seven are epistles of Christ Jesus. They declare that the history of the Church on earth is a sadder story than that of the fall of Israel. Is the tendency of Christendom toward improvement and perfection? No, like everything else with which fallen man has to do, it is earthward, deathward, and hellward. It must be understood that the promise of Matthew 16:18, “And upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” is only addressed to the true Church, not the institutional Church! Christ is building the true Church; man is building the institutional Church. The gates of “hell” or “Hades” or death have prevailed against the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and many others. They are dead! And Christ is outside the world-wide institutional Church. When will Fundamentalism be seen as part of the Laodicean Church? When will the final “joining-up” take place?


Will the true flock of God ever be anything else in this segment of history, in this present age, other than a feeble, depressed, and hated minority? We have come to an hour when the remnant is being hated and despised and pressed down by the public Christianity. As the Church is growing more and more in world renown, it seems to be in labor to get rid of those who preach against the Church’s backslidings and apostasies. It despises being called into question about its contemporary music, having to give an account for the obvious changes taking place, and its departure from the spiritual legacy of the forefathers.

As we view the horizontal accomplishments and earthly glory of the Church increasing, may God help us to see that she has refused to see herself as Christ sees her. Are we in the final phase of the Church? Is this the last period of time? Are we in an awakening or in an apostasy? Every Christian must answer these questions in the light of the times in which he lives.