LAODICEA 3:14 THE TRUE WITNESS
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things said the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). With these titles Jesus emphasized His authority: He is the one who created and sustains all that we see around us (“the Beginning of the creation of God”), whatever He says is always true (“the Faithful and True Witness”) and He has the last word (“the Amen”). But even while the Philadelphia revivals were taking place Satan was laying the groundwork for his end-time masterpiece—to rob God of His place of authority in the lives of His children.
The Middle Ages were all about temporal authority—the authority of the church, of the popes, the bishops, the kings and emperors, tradition, and the ancient philosophers. The Protestant Reformation, along with the Renaissance, broke the stranglehold of the church, but in doing so it opened the way for rationalism and skepticism. Rene Descartes was one of the first modern philosophers, and his famous statement “I think, therefore I am” embodied the idea that the rational, thinking man is the starting point for all knowledge—a marked departure from the first words of scripture, “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). Later philosophers built on the foundation that the human experience and reason are the basis of our understanding of the world and even of God, rather than divine revelation.
In the meantime, scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler and especially Galileo were questioning the church’s understanding of the nature of the universe. The church clung to the idea that the earth was the center of the cosmos, even resorting to persecution to impose their view, and when ultimately proven wrong, the church lost prestige and respect for her teaching. Isaac Newton, with his brilliant mathematical explanations of physical phenomena, transformed the view of nature into a predictable system based upon unvarying laws that did not need the immediate intervention of God in order to continue its operation. Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution, which seemed to negate the need for God as the one who directs the details and development of His creation.
The rational, skeptical attitude also invaded the field of theology. In Germany a rationalistic movement ironically known as the “enlightenment” called into question the authority and relevance of the traditional church, the existence of miracles, and the reliability of God's Word. “Higher criticism” became prevalent, in which every detail of the scriptures was subjected to skeptical scrutiny and dissection. Intense effort was applied to the questions of which persons and events of scripture are actually historical and which verses are authentic. The natural result was widespread doubt about the authority of the scriptures. Another major movement, the “social gospel,” took the emphasis away from salvation and victory over sin and placed it upon human effort to improve the plight of the poor and unfortunate.