In the beginning our Creator established the gentle waning of the day and its transition into night. But He never ordained the spiritual darkness that overtook the first church, nor the violence that followed. Who was the author of that?
The marvelous light of the first church expressed the reality of how they lived their daily lives together. Their love and unity was the mark that they were truly disciples of Yahshua, the Son of God.1 Their radical life revealed their authenticity.2 They were true and full of life -- they had the Son. The love they had for each other was the light, and as long as they kept their first love, they were walking in the light.
Each disciple had taken that clear stand to be saved out of the perverse world around them3 and set apart in a place where they could serve their Messiah together. "All those who believed were together," living a life of devotion.4 They were a community. The sincere expression of their love for Messiah was found in their practical expression of love for their brothers.5 The Word they received made them into a true family, the family of those who do the Father's will.6
Because they had obeyed the Gospel, they had a real place, a clean place, a holy place with an address. It was a place where orphans and widows were cared for. You could go there anytime and find them working or resting together.7 They were not entangled with split motives, trying to serve God and also maintain their own lives, their own goals, their own families who were unwilling to serve Him.8 His calling and His cause far surpassed anything else they could ever have or cling to.9
They had a profound and deep fellowship, the total sharing of all they had and were. They shared their meals together and they had a common purse. There were no rich or poor in their midst. All their time and energy went to build up their common life. They had entered a covenant to care, guard, and encourage each other daily.10 These were real people, and this was real fellowship.
One of the greatest signs of being moved by the Spirit of God is that all speak. Each one's voice was needed and heard as they gathered in a circle.11 The outspokenness of each member was the mark that they were a healthy, living, growing Body.
Their common life was full of families and children, prophets, teachers, and shepherds. They had one heart and one soul, with no divisions and no denominations. They were of one accord. They gladly submitted to one another out of reverence for the Messiah. They gathered morning and evening to sing and pray together. The life of love they had was the fulfillment of a deep prophetic hope, shining as a light to the world.12 They were the resurrection of something long desired by our Creator: a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.13 They were the restoration of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.14 Their life together was bearing fruit that would mature until it brought about all that was in the Law and the Prophets.15 This was the normal expression of the first love of the first believers when great grace was upon them all.16 Their life together was the light of the world.
But the Savior prophesied that a time of darkness would fall upon the earth when no one could do the works that made the first believers such a radiant light.
We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.17
As the first love of the first believers began to dwindle, darkness fell upon the land, fulfilling the Savior's words.
Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness crept in when subtle divisions formed, which the disciples tolerated in spite of the urgent pleadings of the apostles.18 They began to tolerate the leaven of gossip and malice,19 so love departed and their unity was lost. Over the course of the next 1900 years, the "loaf" was fully leavened into 46,000 denominations, absolutely contrary to the Savior's most earnest prayer.20
Once there was no longer any semblance of a Body to be accountable to, each man did what was right in his own eyes, thinking he was being led by the Holy Spirit. He would work where he felt led to work, vacation where he felt led to play, spend where he felt led to buy, and give or not give in accordance with his own confidence that he was being led by God. Just as Israel had done throughout its history, they mingled with the nations around them. The presumption of having "a personal relationship with God" made room for self-indulgence, which was a far cry from the fellowship of first love. Eagerly participating in the politics, culture, entertainment, and ambitions of the world they were called to separate themselves from,21 they fully lost their salt.
No longer were they devoted to gathering together daily. What took its place was a meager token offering of an hour or two a week22 -- a far cry from the life of devotion they had at first. They stopped sharing all things as the first believers had, and they drifted apart. Divisions between the rich and poor were tolerated, even within the same church. They no longer "felt called" to give up everything for the sake of the Gospel, as those in the first church had done. Instead, they opened wide the course that had once taken Ananias' and Sapphira's lives23 -- for multitudes to follow. Feeling full, they did not see that they were wretched, poor, blind, and naked.
The widows and orphans were neglected, leaving that "duty" to the professional institutions. No longer could the needy find a place. The rich were favored, the poor reluctantly tolerated. The abundant community life gave way to ritual. The shining light, the life of good works that gives clarity, was replaced with the deep confusion of theological councils and doctrinal debates as the church became Babylon. Dividing again and again, the glory had departed, the lampstand snuffed out. The deeds of love that characterized the first communities eventually became branded as if with a curse word: works. Faith was divorced from any necessary practical expression. The dissenting sincere were put out of the church.
Thus arose a vast confusion of renegade prophets, fat shepherds seeking their own comfort, self-appointed super-apostles seeking a name for themselves, who jockeyed for positions as "messengers of the light." But the flocks were not cared for. They spoke great, swelling words of "liberty," yet they themselves were still slaves of corruption. They found their confidence in the great numbers they could gather to hear a lukewarm, compromised message. The gospel that once called people to the most radical covenant of love was replaced with cheap grace, empty tracts, and altar calls, causing the dissatisfied ones to hop from church to church.
The most frightening sign that the light was completely gone and that the night had deeply fallen was the resounding silence -- the "holy hush." The circle was gone, slyly replaced by rows of pews in each place. With this, the rise of the Nicolaitans was complete. The conquered masses filed in silently, taking their seats, awaiting the message that would tickle their ears. Then they paid their dues and went on their way in "peace" to carry on with the life that Messiah had commanded them to abandon in order to follow Him. The rule and reign of this Nicolaitan system has oppressed all until this very day.
Today Christianity still believes they are the narrow way and boasts that a third of the world's population are among their ranks. Strongly deceived that they are "one" with all the other dismembered members of the mystical "Body of Christ," they claim to call on the very One who asked, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I say?" Instead of simple obedience, the church has sought for global dominion through richly funded missionary endeavors, the propagation of mega-churches, stadium crusades, and enchanting rock-and-roll worship bands. And, of course, their eyes are always set to gain the reigns of political power, claiming that their friendship with the world is a sign of God's blessing.
Although her very essence is opposed to all that the first disciples stood for, she still calls herself the Church. This is the darkness of the "night" that Yahshua predicted.
But there is also an appointed time for the light to rise again. There is a time for the restoration of all things, the light and life of true disciples who have paid the high price the true Gospel calls for. Love is again shining on the earth. To those who long for the truth, who know that they are trapped in a broken system of darkness, comes the great and mighty call:
"COME OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE!"