Most people have heard the strange whispers of CT Russel’s fascination with pyramids. He traveled to Egypt and became enamored with them. Using measurements from the Great Pyramid of Giza he proclaimed they were a prophetic sign from God to indicate future events. This post is not about that however. Although weird and eccentric, most JWs will at least admit this about their founder while nervously chuckling (Although they have no idea how crazy this belief really was and what wound up in WT publications of the time. Seriously go google it, its insane). When CT Russel died in 1916 he was famously (or infamously) buried next to a large pyramid monument decked out with the WT cross and crown emblem. His actual tombstone next to the pyramid gives Russel the title “The Laodicean Messenger”. This was something I had never heard applied to Russel before and was confused about what the title meant anyway. So lets go digging! About the meaning of the title…..not the grave….that would be weird……anyway….here we go!
The only thing I could think of when I first heard the term ‘Laodicean Messenger’ was of the Biblical town in Asia Minor Laodicea which was one of the 7 congregations Jesus sent letters to in the book of Revelation. This wasn’t to far off the mark however. The rest of the puzzle was filled in by a podcast I heard, where an Evangelical preacher was explaining his denomination’s explanation of this part of the book of Revelation. For this segment of Christians, the 7 congregations are prophetic and foretells the whole history of the Christian Church in order of appearance. Ephesus, the first congregation, is the Church during the time of the apostles. Smyrna, was during the Roman persecution during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Pergamum, was the Church during the time of Constantine and the fusion of Church and state. Thyatira, was the Catholic Church period of the early middle ages. Sardis, was the Protestant reformation, Philadelphia, was the Church of the enlightenment period, and Laodicea, was the end times Church that everyone thought was in process. All the counsel of the letters could be applied to the time periods it pertained to, with a little eye squinting. Some took it a step further and applied the ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’ of the congregation to a specific person of the time period. The apostle John, Martin Luther, Calvin, etc. I had to admit, when I first heard of this idea of prophetic application it was intriguing. Way cooler than WT teachings on it, or so I thought.
You see, while Watchtower of today keeps with the understanding of the 7 cities of Revelation that it had in 1988 when the “Revelation-Its Grand Climax at Hand” was released, as is the case with most of their teachings, it wasn’t always the case. The current understanding is that the 7 letters to 7 congregations in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 “have their major application since 1914…the seven congregations picture all the congregations of anointed Christians during the Lord’s day.” (See ‘Revelation’ book page 32) So no biggie there, just reminders for Christians today. However, as was mentioned it was not always viewed this way. JW teachings under CT Russel was heavily dominated with Evangelical theology and ideas of the period. Take as proof of this the 1918 book, ‘The Finished Mystery’ (although it technically was published 2 years after Russel’s death). To WT at the time, as this book clearly shows, it also applied the 7 congregations prophetically and to each angel (messenger) a specific person. Their list goes as follows: St. Paul, St John, Arius, Waldo, Wycliffe, Luther……..and for the ‘Messenger of Laodicea’ it gives the title to:
So there you have it. CT Russel was prophetically spoken of in Revelation as the ‘Laodicean Messenger’ for the Church of the last days. Just forget the fact that 90% of his teachings have been dropped by his followers today.