Deliverance from Religious Bondage
Wade E Taylor
“…Where the Spirit is Lord, there is liberty.” II Corinthians 3:17 Paraphrase
At this present time, many are feeling an intense burden for the Body of Christ and sense that something, beyond our present level of understanding, is about to unfold. It is very important that the mistakes of the past are not repeated during this coming visitation.
The Word of the Lord to the seven Churches (Revelation 2:1-3:22) prefigures the progression of events that span the entire Church Age. Indications as to why past visitations did not come into the fullness of all that was intended, or why they did not last, can be found within the Word of the Lord to each of these seven Churches.
The first of these, the Church at Ephesus, was told that they had departed from their “first love” (Revelation 2:4). This was the Church that witnessed the faith and power of the early Apostles who had personally experienced the presence of the resurrected Jesus. The Lord expected those within the Church at Ephesus to maintain this experience of His personal (manifest) presence, but they had already begun to fall away.
The Church of Ephesus was commended, however, because they “hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). There is no explanation given in Scripture as to who these Nicolaitans were. However, we can come to an understanding of their identity through the meaning of the word “Nicolaitan” itself.
“Nikao” means to conquer or consume the “Laos” or laity, the people. Those who became identified as being Nicolaitans advocated a compromise with the world system so Christians would be able to take part, without embarrassment, in the social and religious activities of the society in which they lived. In the time of the Church at Ephesus, the Nicolaitan teaching allowed Christians to participate in the Roman civil religion.
This resulted in the withdrawal of the manifested presence of the Lord from their meetings, which caused the loss of the spontaneous, quickening power and stirrings of the Spirit that came to the members of this Church. Thus, the Nicolaitans represent a clergy that departed from the “presence and power” of the supernatural, and substituted “form and ritual” in its place. The compromise that they advocated caused the “dulling of the spirits” of the Lord’s people, as they became conversant with the society and practices of their time.
Also, the “clergy” gained control over the functions of ministry, and did away with the spontaneity of worship that resulted in the manifest power of God being present. Thus, the people became “spectators” to the functioning of the clergy.
In His message to the Church at Ephesus, the Lord clearly said that He hated the deeds of a clergy that causes His people to depart from experiencing His manifest presence and the operation of the supernatural. In Ephesus, these Nicolaitans were present, but hated. In the third Church, Pergamos, they are again mentioned by the Lord, “So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15). Here, they were firmly entrenched.
Then in the fourth Church, Thyatira, the Lord said, “But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine.” (Revelation 2:24). By now, the Nicolaitans were in control, and only a remnant remained.
This teaching of “compromise” by the clergy led to a progressive spiritual declension that culminated in the Dark Ages. During this time of intense spiritual apostasy and darkness, a spark of revelation concerning “Justification by Faith” came to Martin Luther. This began a progressive restoration that developed within the fifth Church, Sardis, and found its full outworking in the last two Churches, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Concerning the fifth Church, Sardis, the Lord said, “I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead” (Revelation 3:1). This Church had returned to right doctrine, but failed to experience the restoration of the fervent “first love” that had been lost at Ephesus. Apparently, the Nicolaitans still exercised considerable control, and hindered the Lord’s people to the extent that they were not able to experience the “quickening” of the manifest presence of the Lord, nor the “power” of the Holy Spirit moving in their meetings.
The sixth Church, Philadelphia, speaks of an overcoming Church that experienced an “open heaven.” Of this Church, the Lord said:
“…I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength....” Revelation 3:8
Here, the Nicolaitans were totally defeated and lost all of their influence and control. This Church had cultivated the presence of “He that has the key of David, He that opens, and no man shuts: and shuts, and no man opens” (Revelation 3:7). The Lord’s manifest presence burned within them, and all bondage melted away, as the Holy Spirit had His way in their lives and assemblies.
Once again, the Lord’s people possessed this same fervent “first love” for the Lord that had been lost at Ephesus. At this present time, there are those who are also experiencing the manifest presence and power of the Lord. These have contended for, and gained an open door into the operation of the supernatural in their meetings. Much will be accomplished through a present-day “Philadelphia Church” that will allow an open display of the Lord’s presence and power.
Seventh and last is the Church of the Laodiceans. The Word of the Lord to this Church is:
“Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17
This present-day Church has been blessed with more prosperity, gifts, and ministry than any previous Church. Though it is quick to testify about these blessings, this Church is exposed by the Lord as being spiritually immature (blind and naked).
However, this prosperity, both spiritual and natural, is not the primary cause of their spiritual blindness and nakedness. Their problem rests in the fact that they did not recognize their spiritual need - “and have need of nothing.” They were satisfied with the things that they possess and were not seeking after the One who gave all this. Therefore, the Lord is revealed as standing outside of this prosperous Laodicean Church, knocking upon its door, seeking to attract their attention:
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: 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.” Revelation 3:20
Because this Church had lost its sensitivity to His voice, the call of the Lord changed to seeking out individuals - those who would respond to His knocking on the “door” of their spirit (if any man).
The doctrine of the Nicolaitans has caused this Church to become “dull of spirit.” The acceptance of, and adjustment to material prosperity has effectively hindered the visitation of the Lord within this end-time Church. This is one of the primary causes of the failure of the “Charismatic” visitation (their emphasis on prosperity).
Thus, the Nicolaitan spirit that sought to bring about compromise with the world system in the early Church is still present within the Church of our day. Jesus clearly said, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). James told us that “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Notice the contrast between these two present-day Churches. In Philadelphia, the Lord has set before them an “open door” into the revelation of His manifest presence, and the operation of the supernatural in their midst. In Laodicea, He is outside of the Church knocking upon a “closed door,” seeking out any individuals who are able to hear His voice, inviting them to turn aside and commune with Him.
The Lord counsels those who willingly open the door of their spirit to Him, to “buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich” (Revelation 3:18). This “gold” speaks of the divine nature as being of far greater value than all of these external riches that they possess and rejoice in.
A glorious promise is given to those who choose to turn aside from this materialistic spirit within the Laodicean Church:
“To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” Revelation 3:21
This is the greatest of the promises that were given to these seven Churches, yet the most difficult to attain, even more so today, because of the many subtle deceptions that must be discerned, especially the intensity of the temptations that must be resisted. These hindrances to true spirituality, that must be overcome, are greater than any pressures that other generations had to face. It is easy to compromise, but the cost is high, as those who do will not be able to hear the gentle knock of the Lord on the door of their spirit – “If any man hear My voice.”
The Lord is looking for those who are willing to pay the price in order to be a part of the “Church at Philadelphia,” and gain the spiritual life and strength that is available therein. Few will pay the price, because the “Church at Laodicea” is very popular. It knows and uses the techniques that will bring about Church growth and material prosperity.
At this present time, the Lord is making the following passage of Scripture very real to those seeking a higher level of personal communion with Him.
“I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me… that I may cause those that love Me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasure” Proverbs 8:17, 21
The word “Philadelphia” is derived from the Greek word “phileo.” This is the highest form of human love (phileo) and speaks of compatibility in relationship – “I love them that love Me.” This speaks of those who are experiencing a new “first love” for Jesus Himself.
Those who turn aside from all that is religious and self-serving, and are gathered together in the out-flowing of His love through them, are finding an eternal treasure that they had little anticipated. They will never be disappointed as they pass unhindered through this “open door” into His glorious presence.
“That I may cause those that love Me to inherit substance (the Lord Himself); and I will fill their treasure” (a new “first love” for Jesus Himself).