Some things become more significant the more you think about them. In our visit to Smyrna, we had a chance to sit down and talk with the current Catholic Bishop. This man operates from the “Church of St. Polycarp.” Polycarp is mentioned in the Church Ages Book on page 112, and was from this city.
I showed the Bishop the Church Ages Book, and asked him if he had been to the sites of the ancient churches. He is an educated and well traveled man, and had in the past visited them. Then I showed him the dates of the Church Ages in the front of the book and asked him if he had ever heard of this interpretation. After some discussion with translation help from our guide we determined that he had not. The Bishop is not fluent in English nor in Turkish, so it was a bit of a challenge.
I then explained how the conditions of the church in Laodicea seem to match the conditions of the church in the world today, and he heartily agreed with that— the church is rich and blind, and he is quite burdened about that. In fact, he informed us, the ecumenical movement is working to solve that very thing, and there were joint prayer meetings going on in the city this very week, between the Anglicans, Protestants, and Catholics, and we were invited to join! (Is this getting interesting yet?)
What happened next was rather stunning. In our last blog post, “Mystery in Colosse” I mentioned that the lost book of Laodicea, that might be buried under the unexcavated mound at Colosse.
(See the post farther down). Well, as we were discussing the ancient church sites, the Bishop for some reason mentioned this very thing, that there was an unexcavated mound at Colosse, and the letter to Laodicea might be there. What a coincidence that he would bring up this obscure tidbit of history, when we had just come from there!
So I asked the Bishop—if the lost book of Laodicea were to be found, would it be scripture? Absolutely!—the Bishop informed us, it is a letter from St. Paul to a church, just like the other New Testament letters. I then asked him, if we don’t have the letter, but if it were found it would be scripture, does that mean there is truth out there somewhere that the church does not yet have? It seemed to get a little confusing at this point, either the Bishop did not understand what I was asking, or he did understand, but did not like the question. I really don’t know which.
At this point, I thought it might be helpful to bring up Joan of Arc. She is mentioned in the Church Ages Book on page 217, and many places in the Message. The Church of St. Polycarp, like many Catholic Churches, is drenched with artwork on the walls and ceiling. I did not know it at this moment, but later when we toured the church, I saw that one of the paintings was of Joan of Arc. Joan of Arc is now considered a Catholic Saint, though Catholic priests previously burned her at the stake.
So I asked the Bishop about Joan of Ark, if she was a considered a saint, and if she was also a prophetess, who had visions from God that were accurate? After some discussion, the Bishop seemed to concede that she did, but was quick to point out that visions of the future were not necessary now. He repeated this several times.
Well, the avalanche was clearly ready to fall, but this was a gentle man who was talking to us by recommendation from a friend our guides knew. So I simply pointed out, that if there is truth that the church does not have (the lost letter to Laodicea) and if prophetic gifts exist in the church, (Joan of Arc) then it would be possible for a prophetic gift to arise in the church which could show us more of the truth that we don’t yet have, correct? (We worked on this point quite a bit, but seemed to be running into increasingly greater translation problems)
In any case, I offered him a copy of the Church Ages Book, and told him that I believe this book contains that very thing—a prophetic gift in the church has arisen that has revealed to us more of the truth, that we have agreed today might be out there. If he would like to read it, we could get him a copy in French or Italian, which are better languages for him. He agreed that he would be willing to take a copy.
The Bishop then kindly walked us through his church, explaining the artwork and relics, with help from a volunteer who spoke better English. They had a “copy” of the burial cloth of Christ posted full size on the wall, and a piece of the skull of Polycarp — or so they claimed— was mounted in a display case near the front.
For us it was a bizarre experience to be talking to a Catholic Bishop in the city of Smyrna where Polycarp was from, understanding that Polycarp was rejected as the messenger to the Age because he leaned toward organization. Here in the end time, we encounter a Catholic Church, the final fruit of generations of organization, dedicated to Polycarp’s name. Here we have the chance to talk it over with the current Bishop at the end of that centuries long chain.
As we left, Michael and I were looking at each other thinking, “What just happened? Did that just happen?”
We have a video recording of the entire interview.