Many of us have a head knowledge of what the Bible says concerning matters of life, but if we are to be truly revived and on fire for the Lord we must have an experiential knowledge of God’s Word. We must take God’s Word and make it a living part of our being. Of course, God’s Word gives us the prescription for doing just that. Proverbs 2:1-5 tell us, 1 “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”
First of all, we must read (verse 1a). If we are willing to receive His Word and to consistently read His Word we are well on our way to internalizing the Word of God and making it real in our lives.
Next, we must memorize His Word (verse 1b). He expects us to hide the things we have read in our hearts. Memorizing portions of the Bible will keep us from sin. We are told in Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Memorizing Scripture will also give us strength in times of need.
Then we must hear the Word of God – with our heart (verse 2a). Wisdom comes from hearing what God says, and from applying that which we have heard. Verse 4 tells us we must then study the Word. The truth of the Scriptures must be searched for, but just like silver, it is well worth the effort. II Timothy 2:15 tells us that studying the Scriptures brings approval, a lack of shame, and true knowledge–“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Back in verse 2b, we see that meditation is an essential part of taking in the Word of God. Joshua 1:8 mentions that meditation on the Word of God is the key to spiritual prosperity and success if meditation on the Word is made a constant and daily habit.
Finally, in verse 3, we see the importance of prayer in relation to internalizing God’s truth. As we cry after knowledge and lift up our voices for understanding, God will be faithful to grant us our request. Verse 5 promises that after we read, memorize, hear, and pray, “Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” May this be our prayer and our desire as we live in these last days.
I normally do not watch a lot of television, but I did catch a show the other day that got my attention. A “pastor” made the statement that no one should ever suffer physically. I couldn’t believe what she just said. Did I hear her right? Apparently, I did because her partner sitting across the table chimed in that she was absolutely right. Together they went on to downgrade the Biblical doctrine of health and suffering.
The thinking behind the many erroneous statements that were made was that if someone is sick, it is because of a lack of faith on their part, or perhaps unconfessed sin is the culprit. Although I know there will be those who just do not see it, the Bible is very clear on the topic of health.
The word sick appears 39 times in the Old Testament and another 50 times in the New Testament. To be sure, there are many accounts of sickness being attributed to sin in the Bible The same can be said for today. If someone smokes a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, they may find themselves with lung cancer. It could be that someone given to alcohol may end up with liver disease. These are sicknesses we bring about ourselves, many times knowing the possible results.
The Apostle Paul
But other diseases often attack the very healthy. It is inherent to the human race. So why do we insist that if someone is suffering they are not walking with God; that they are out of God’s will?
One of the greatest church leaders to ever live, the Apostle Paul, suffered greatly even though he was walking side by side with his Lord. Paul says of himself In II Corinthians 12:7-10, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Let us look closely at these verses. First, we must agree that Biblical context shows us that Paul was a godly man, a man seeking after Christ. Other than Jesus Himself, Paul may have been one of the godliest men to ever exist. He kept a close watch on the life he lived. When sin did enter the picture, Paul was quick to confess it and make it right with his Lord. Still, we see Paul suffering.
First, notice that Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh.” We realize that the thorn is not literal, but rather a messenger of satan. We also see that the “thorn” was applied to his body, his flesh. God allowed satan to attack Paul’s body with an illness. He refers to this as an infirmity in verse 9. The word infirmity here means an illness, disease, sickness, or weakness. In other words, he was suffering from a health issue. Here we have a godly individual taken in bad health.
Paul does not elaborate on what that illness may have been. Some believe Paul may have had a vision problem as he was temporarily blinded on the Road to Damascus. That is possible. Paul does not tell us the particulars, just that he physically suffered.
He suffered at the hand of satan. Some believe because satan is involved that Paul is talking about a habitual sin problem. Again, this is an attack on the body, not the spirit.
Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his infirmity, but each time God answered “No”. It was for Paul’s good. God allowed this infirmity to follow the apostle for the rest of his life. Why? Because Jesus says in verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” It was God’s will for Paul to suffer so that God might shine forth.
What about Paul’s wallet? It was empty. He spent most of his time suffering in prison for the cause of Christ.
A Modern Day Example
I remember years ago hearing an evangelist by the name of Tim Lee preach. His message was super powerful. By the time he finished, there was not a dry eye anywhere. The simple reason for this powerful message was simply that he lived what he preached.
You see, Tim Lee was a Viet Nam veteran. He lost both legs while fighting for his country. He hobbled up to the pulpit on two stumps that were once his legs. He held himself up at the pulpit by supporting himself only with his hands. He used no wheelchair. He maneuvered just like anyone else with the exception of his extremities. He was physically weak, but God was made strong that day through his earnest message. If Tim Lee was perfectly healthy, his message would not have had near the great effect that it did. . .
God’s choice servant Job was blessed tremendously. In Job 1:3 we read, “His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” Job was wealthy even by today’s standards. He had both great wealth as well as health. We know he followed his God for we read in verse 1, “. . .was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”
We know that he suffered greatly. In the first two chapters, we see that Job lost the family business. All of his children died, and his body is infected with a loathsome disease. Job’s loving, comforting wife tells him, to “. . . curse God, and die.” His world completely fell apart. Again, this was brought about by satan and allowed by God. Still, we see a servant of God suffering both the loss of health and wealth.:
A Third Example
If health and wealth were meant for everyone, then we have a serious problem. No human ever suffered like Jesus, nor were any ever so poor. Speaking of Jesus’ bank account, Jesus Himself says in Matthew 8:20, “. . . The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Jesus’ life was a life of homeless wanderings.
His suffering far exceeds that of any human. But the suffering of Jesus had a different purpose – a purpose that only He could fulfill. His purpose was to save mankind from its sinful condition. It has often been mentioned to me that a loving God would never send anyone to Hell. This is true. Man sends himself to Hell if he rejects the only hope he has.
A sinner cannot pay the price of another person’s sin. but the sacrifice also had to be human. A lamb could never pay the price for a human’s sin. Let’s face it. We all have sinned and separated ourselves from a perfect, holy God. But God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die in the place of the sinner. That involved excruciating pain and suffering.
Still, the choice is ours. We can continue in our arrogance and pride to refuse to believe we need a Savior substitute, thus separating ourselves from God forever. Or we can turn to Him and accept His great sacrifice for our sins.
It is not about religion. It is not about being a good Samaritan. It is not about keeping the 10 Commandments. After all, we haven’t. My only hope lies in the One who came to take my place and paid for my sin on an old, wooden cross. I have made my choice. Now you must make yours. By the way, to not make a choice is to make a choice. You are still accountable, just as I am.
Peter tells us in I Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” You are not called to a life of ease; to a life of health and wealth. It just is not found in the Bible.
You are called to walk in Christ’s steps, steps of suffering. We are to live by His example. His example was a life of pain. I do not mind saying that the health and wealth philosophy found in many churches today is anti-biblical. A Christian’s life in many ways is a life of pain and suffering, and that is what is to be expected, not a life of ease and carefree days. If you choose to serve Him with your whole heart, know that there is a heavy cost. Are you ready – are you willing to pay the price?
This concludes our short study of the 21st-century American church in Bible prophecy. Shall we continue to look at the comparison between the Laodicea church circa 95 AD and the present church in America? The crown has fallen from Liberty’s head in more ways than one.
A Little About Laodicea
The city of Laodicea was built by Antiochus II in 261-253 BC and was named after his wife, Laodice. It lay approximately 10.5 miles west of the city of Colossae and about 99 miles east of Ephesus. It was part of Phrygia.
Outside of the city were many springs. Some were boiling hot. Others were refreshingly cool. It took much effort for the Laodiceans to capture the fresh water and bring it back to the city. In the process, even though fresh, the hot water soon would become lukewarm as it cooled on the trip back to the city. Likewise, the cold water would soon become lukewarm.
Picture this scene. It is the middle of July, ninety degrees, and you have just poured yourself a tall glass of iced tea with a slice of lemon. Condensation dripping down the glass calls you to refreshment. The phone rings. You put your glass on the counter and pick up the phone only to find that it was the wrong number.
Then you suddenly remember that today you had planned to mow the lawn. You grab the mower and begin plowing through your work in the back yard. An hour later, your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth, you remember the glass of cool, refreshing iced tea sitting on the counter. You rush in, sweat dripping from your brow, and pick up the glass. But, it is no longer refreshing. It is warm and watered down, and you pour the drink down the sink.
Now, put yourself in this scenario. It is the middle of January. You have just put on a pot of coffee getting ready to settle down by the fire when your elderly neighbor calls. He asks if you could shovel the snow from his driveway. The wind chill is below 0 degrees and you soon lose sight of that cup of coffee. Forty minutes later you return, chilled to the bone, only to find that your cup of hot coffee has become lukewarm. Disgustingly, it also gets tossed down the sink.
Remember Jesus said in Revelation 3:16, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Again, In Revelation 2:4 and 5 Jesus said, Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works. . . .”
Clearly, Jesus would have His Body, the Church, to be red hot for Him, burning for Him in a lost and dying world, but just like that cup of coffee, Laodicea became lukewarm in her love for Him, it is disgusting to Him – and to a lost and dying world as well. He would choose for the Laodicean church to be refreshing and satisfying, as a cold glass of iced tea on a hot, humid day and as comforting as a piping hot cup of coffee on a winter’s day. Laodicea was neither cold nor hot. It sickened the Lord.
The Pitiful Condiion of the Laodicean Church
The Lord did indeed find this church to be in a pitiful state of dilapidation. Reading on in verse 17, the Lord continues, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked . . . “
Notice this was a self-description of the Laodicean church. It was the church saying they were rich. It was the church saying they were increased with goods, and – they had need of nothing. Nothing includes Jesus. The church had become so self-sufficient, Jesus no longer occupied even a pew.
That well-known verse – Revelation 3:20 is often used when leading someone to Christ. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
If you can lead someone to the Lord using this verse, go ahead, but realize the proper context. Jesus is outside of His church knocking to get back in. In John 1:12 we read, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” We can rightfully apply this verse to the Jewish people, but oh, we can apply it to the Christian church today. He has been ostracized from His own people by His own people. Maybe He is knocking at your heart’s door even now, pleading for you to open the door. You are the only one who can.
Now, may we backtrack a step. See how Jesus introduced Himself to this church in Revelation 3:14 – “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God . . .” He begins by using one of His names – Amen. The word Amen, as it is used here, means to be firm, or trustworthy (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). What better way to address a church that has fallen from grace?
Jesus is firm. Jesus is trustworthy. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “. . . I am the light of the world . . . .” He follows that statement in John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus knew He would not always be physically present in the world. Other arrangements would need to be made.
That mantle was passed to His disciples in Matthew 5:14 which reads, “Ye are the light of the world.” Jesus is no longer bodily the light of the world. You are! Think of the privilege it is to shine for the God of the universe. I realize it is Jesus who is to shine through us, but He has chosen you to be the lamp which holds His flame. It was no different for the Laodicean church. They failed. It is no different today for the 21st century American church. Might Jesus, the Great Judge, be speaking the same message of condemnation to His church today?
The rest of verse 14 continues, “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” The Light of the church should be a very present sight to behold. Unfortunately, today the Light is so often hidden under the bushel of the world. We are clearly told in verse 16 to, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
We have brought into the church house the world’s music – music not to worship a holy God, but the music of emotion that so often glorifies self. We have allowed the church to be run by the world’s business practices rather than through the fervent prayers of righteous saints. We have adopted the world’s programs and gimmicks to get and keep folks coming to church. Have we forgotten the power of love – God’s love?
God’s love is enough to keep the pews full when music fails. His tenderness toward the sinner is what wins people, not a fancy business practice, The Word of God is to be the focal point of meetings. Jesus is to be the focal point of the meetings, not glamorous programs and tricks.
God’s address to the church at Laodicea does not mention the particulars of their fall. I cannot say what was taking place in this church, but I can see all around me what is taking place in the church today, and for the most part, it is not good.
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus mentions that we are also to be salt. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Could it be you have lost your savour? The Laodicean church did, and they were promptly trodden under foot.
Jesus continues His introduction by referring to Himself as faithful and true and has given witness to that fact. He was and is faithful and true to His people. It is His people that so often do not reciprocate. The fact that the Laodicean church fell into this category is plainly seen in Scripture. This, of course, was in the past. In today’s present, the church no longer exists. American church – take warning!
Still, God held out hope for this gathering of believers. Yes, these were believers. Even though they had fallen far away from the Lord, they were still a church, an ecclesia, a called-out assembly. We are told in Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” The son, the church at Laodicea, arrived at the crossroads – repent and return to their first love as the Lord challenged the Ephesian church or face chastening. We also see in verse 19 this warning of chastening is given out of God’s great love. “As many as I love (Emphasis added), I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
The story is not all doom and gloom, however. We read in verse 18, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”
This a direct offer from the Lord. He offered them true wealth rather than the temporal. He would remove their shame by clothing them in His purity and righteousness rather than allowing them to remain in their own filthy rags. He would anoint their eyes with eyesalve so they could truly see their condition. The spirit lives forever. The body is temporal. Living for Jesus has eternal rewards. When we live for ourselves, we will stand before the King with empty hands. God wants us – He wanted this church, to be fruitful.
Revelation 22:12 says this, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Jesus plans to reward His church at his coming. The Greek word misthos is translated in our King James Bible as the word reward. Its meaning has to do with wages; with payment for service rendered. Unfortunately, it would appear that the Laodicean church had nothing coming to them in the form of payment.
The American church which was once strong seems to be taking the same path. We cannot rest on what we have done in the past, for II John 1:8 is still in the Bible as well – “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.” Here, the word wrought is used to denote the Greek word ergazomai. It means to toil; to labor. Payment will be rendered for the labor we have done.
But notice please this verse clearly speaks of loss. It is very possible that our reward can also be lost. We may not receive a full reward. Revelation 3:11 adds, “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Could it be that crowns we have won can be taken away if they are not protected? It would seem that rewards and crowns can be lost. We must stay the course to receive all that God has planned for us. This is where the church at Laodicea failed. This is also where the present-day American church has failed.
What about opportunities God has given us that have been ignored? What about service and ministry that was left undone or incomplete? In II Timothy 4:5, Paul tells Timothy to make full proof of his ministry, He mentions in Colossians 4:17 “. . . Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” To fulfill your ministry is to make full proof of it.
Realize too, that ministry is not always performed by a professional minister. What is a professional minister, anyway? For we are labourers together with God (I Corinthians 3:9). All acts of service for God will be rewarded, but the rewards can also be lost if we do not guard them. So guard them!
In this installment, we’ll continue to look at the seven churches of Revelation.
It was on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther sent his 95 Theses to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz. He may have also posted the Theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany later in November of that year. This was the beginning of the Reformation, and although many things were wrong with the Reformation, it did usher in the next period of church history – a likening to the church in Philadelphia.
It was from 1517 to the early 1900s that we see John’s secondary prophecy fulfilled. The Lord tells the church in Revelation 3:8, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
There were no negatives mentioned about this church. God simply set before them an open door – a time of great effectiveness of and for the Lord. This time period was perhaps the most powerful period in history for the propagation of the Gospel other than that of the ministry of Jesus and Pentecost.
This was a great time period of mission growth. We see men like William Carey, Jonathan Goforth, David Brainerd, and others. It was a time of great revivals with the likes of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, and D. L. Moody preaching and reaching many during this era of church history.
Revival and the Revolution
Whether we want to admit it or not, America was born during a period of spiritual Revival. It was July 8, 1741. Jonathan Edwards had just finished preaching his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The colony of Connecticut was changed from that single message. That single message was largely responsible for The Great Awakening in America. David Brainerd followed and ministered to, among others, the Delaware Indians of New Jersey.
At this point in time, The USA resembled the Philadelphia church. As years went by, there was a general cooling of religious affairs. It took a second Great Awakening in the mid-1800s to once again bring America back to her foundational religious beliefs. It was during this time that men like Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, and R. A. Torrey preached.
But, alas. America may have gone too far to ever recover. Time will show.
The open door existed until the early 1900s. Next up – the Laodicean Church.
The Pitiful State of the Laodicean Church
Two churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, received nothing but commendations from the Lord. Four of the churches, Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Sardis received both commendation and condemnation. Laodicea was the only church to receive only condemnation, and it was brutal.
We read in Revelation 3:14-16, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
So what is this all about? John is told to write to the angel of the church. If the angel was a heavenly angel, there would have been no need for John to write. Jesus is very capable of communicating in the heavenly realm. The term angel simply means a messenger – probably the pastor of the church. Although this letter was sent to the messenger, he was to deliver the message to the whole church.
This messenger, if indeed he was the pastor, would have been responsible for taking this message to the church. Hebrews 13:17 reminds us of the serious duty of pastors. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
They watch for your souls, in part, because they will answer before God as to their leadership of the church. The pastor may not be directly involved in every program of the church, but he is to oversee everything that takes place in the church. What pastor could possibly justify not relaying this important message to his parishioners? This was indeed a blistering message for the entire church.
So, in history we see the church leaving her first love as persecution comes. The church turns worldly and begins to compromise during the Dark Ages. This leads to the church becoming dead, yet a spurt of growth takes place between 1517 and the early 1900’s.
It is during this time in church history that we see a rise in mission activity as well as great revivals taking place. Unfortunately, this period was short-lived, and the church has fallen into the lukewarmness we know today – the Laodicean Age.
Granted – this is to be the condition of the church when Jesus comes back, but we must look at the complete letter to the Laodiceans. Revelation 3:18-22 continues, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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. To him that overcometh 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
What lessons can we take away from this? Yes, the church may be lukewarm, but we are encouraged to buy gold from the fire and to put on white raiment. We are to anoint our eyes with eye salve that we might see. Jesus is waiting at the door of the Laodicean church asking permission to enter. This is not a hopeless situation at all. Jesus, Himself is the answer.
It is He from whom we buy the gold. He is the provider of the white raiment and eye salve – and He stands knocking, waiting for us to open the door.
In this Age of Laodicea, we see individual churches resembling the Ephesus church, the Pergamum church, and the church at Smyrna – why not the church at Philadelphia? We only need to open the door. Yes, we are in the last days. Yes, these are cold times in which we live, but God is still on the throne. Revival is up to us. Seeking the presence of God is up to us.
Enter – The church at Smyrna. The Lord had nothing but commendation for this church. They lived out their faith on a daily basis, but we need to see that the church of Smyrna was a much-persecuted church. What would it take to have you turn your back on Jesus? I’m afraid in many cases it would take very little. The backbone of the American church is weak. We want the glitter and the gold. We want to feel good. We want our ears tickled.
The fuzzy, feely church of today is not representative of the church at Smyrna. The church endured persecution and poverty, probably far beyond what you and I can imagine. Not only was the church at Smyrna persecuted, but it also represented the time period between 100 A.D. – 313 A.D. Much persecution was brought to the church at large during this time. The prophecy of that time period was seen as a type through the Smyrna church.
Let me mention a couple of thoughts about persecution. We read in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.“
The temptations spoken of in verse 2 do not refer to temptations to commit sin, but rather refers to adversity; to hardships in life; to persecution. James is saying that through these severe trials of life, we are made perfect, that is, complete. One of the blessings of persecution is Christian maturity – the blessing of strength.
Persecution brings purity. The church that has been purged is a pure church. They have come to rely on the Lord Jesus in a way we know not of in America. The persecuted church is both mature, complete, and pure. Although the flesh says, “I do not want to face hard trials and testing,” I believe what America needs is a strong dose of persecution. Will the real Christian please stand up?
Poverty also was a part of the life of the Christians at Smyrna, yet these followers of Christ drew their line in the sand. They would trust the risen Lord even if it meant death – and it did.
Where do you stand, fellow servant? Is it not fitting that the resurrected Savior would present Himself to this church by saying, ” . . . These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;” Many of the members of the body at Smyrna were dead, were martyred. Oh, but they were alive in Christ. They had the blessing of Heaven. Their earthly death gave them real life, never to suffer again. Their rewards were great as well. So I ask you again. Where do you stand, fellow servant?
The Church at Pergamos
Next, Jesus visits the church at Pergamos or Pergamum. Pergamum held the distinction of being the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor.
Our Lord commends His Bride to be at Pergamos in Revelation 2:13 – “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” He immediately goes on to tell them their faults in verses 14-16.
The city was home to a variety of pagan cults. It was the first city in Asia Minor to officially recognize Caesar worship by building a temple to Caesar. Some have the opinion that this city was more idolatrous than all of Asia Minor combined.
The church was largely made up of Gentiles who were once pagan. They became very worldly in their approach to worship. It was during the time period of 313-500 A.D. that the description of this literal church can be seen.
It was during this time that Emperor Constantine brought the church and the world together. Heathen priests became “Christian” priests. The heathen temples became “Christian” churches. Heathen feast days were kept and pulled into “Christianity” like Christmas and Easter – forms of Ishtar worship. “Christianity” became the state religion.
Christianity grew in name, but not in purity. The church grew in numbers, but not in maturity. The church at Pergamum was divided, but not complete.
The Church at Thyatira
Next, Jesus addresses the church at Thyatira. The city of Thyatira could be found seated on the Lycus River, a tributary of the Maeander, located in Phrygia. Its location was roughly 40 miles east of Pergamos. Largely, this was a city of trade.
Thyatira was known for its production of wool and purple cloth. We see in Acts 16:14 that a woman by the name f Lydia sold some of this purple cloth in Thyatira. Thyatira also was the home of many trade guilds which paid allegiance to the patron gods, Tyrimnos and Caesar. These were considered the sons of Zeus – the god of gods. It is no wonder that this letter from Jesus Himself begins by saying, “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God . . . “ This was the Son of the living and true God who was speaking His heart. This is the only letter of the seven that uses the term “Son of God”. Perhaps Jesus chooses this term for this church to point to the false worship of the city.
Among the church’s strong points, Christ mentions their works, charity, service, faith, and patience. But what about the evil lurking inside the church? One word describes the problem with the church at Thyatira – Jezebel.
Some see the use of the word Jezebel, as symbolic. It is possible that she was a real person leading the church into idolatry. Whether she is symbolic or not, the point is, the church had fallen into spiritual adultery as well as physical adultery. The guilds were known for their worship of fertility and had a negative effect on Christian growth during this time period. In the matter of the secondary prophecy, this time period took place between 500 A.D. to the early 1300s AD.
The Church at Sardis
Moving on to church number five, the risen Lord addresses the church at Sardis. Matthew Henry credits the Apostle John with establishing this church. If that was the case, it must have pained the Apostle greatly to hear Jesus’ condemnation of the church.
In Revelation 3:2, the Saviour speaks the words, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” This was the church of the living dead. G. R. Beasley-Murray says this of the church at Sardis – “The appearance [of the Sardis church] is that of a beautifully adorned corpse in a funeral parlour, and the Lord is not deceived.” (Revelation, p. 95). G.B. Caird calls Sardis “the perfect model of inoffensive Christianity” (A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, p. 48).
Christ comes to this church with this statement, “These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God . . . .” This church was in great need of revival. It needed to fall in worship before the Seven Spirits of God (Revelation 3:1) who was the Lord Himself. The church had lost the pure testimony it was meant to have and traded it in for an empty shell. Death was at the door of the church.
Paul Kroll says this about the church at Sardis, “The church needed to stir up the living Spirit of God in order to salvage what was left. What was dead about the church and what needed reviving? First, there was no indication of persecution or trouble from outside forces. Neither was there any heresy within, in contrast to some of the other churches. Things seemed to be peaceful and religiously correct. Perhaps it was a church that was too good to be true. Its religiously proper appearance may have only meant that it had fully and silently compromised with the truth and the pagan society around it.” (Sardis: The “Dead” Church) The closing of the church door was not far off.
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.” (Revelation 3:8)
In this short series, we will examine briefly the Seven Churches of Revelation. At this point, I’m not sure how much detail we will get into, or how many installments there will be. This is just a brief overview. We will not go into great detail as we see how America is prophetically represented by the seventh church mentioned – the church at Laodicea. To keep things in context we will also look at the other six churches and the message Jesus had for them as well.
There is so much we can learn from Scripture, and in a variety of ways. Prophecy is only one way this portion of the Holy Writ can be applied. Although prophecy is not always spelled out, in hindsight we can see the fulfillment. Shall we begin?
John on the Isle of Patmos
The Fulfilment of Prophecy
The vision of Revelation was given to the Apostle John as he battled persecution on the Isle of Patmos. We know that it was a vision of prophecy for in Revelation 1:3 we read, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
Notice there is a promise here for both the reader of the letter and also those who hear what is read. The promise is nothing short of a blessing but notice further. It was the reading and hearing of “the words of this prophecy.” We tend to look at chapters 4 through 22 as prophecy – the time of the Great Tribulation and beyond, but realize John is saying the whole book of Revelation is prophecy. Chapters 1-3 are also prophecies.
The letters to the seven churches were real letters, sent to real churches, read to real people, and had real implications. But, as in the case of many, if not most prophecies, a secondary application is hidden within. As time passed, the secondary foretelling comes into view. In order to understand the application of Laodicea and its secondary prophecy, we must take a look at the other six churches involved in John’s prophecy.
It has commonly been taught that the seven churches of Revelation prophetically represent seven periods of church history. As we look at the attributes of these seven churches, we can see that over time, each of the church’s characteristics can be seen to represent a specific time period in history. Those periods are generally listed as follows
Ephesus – The Church Leaving Her First Love; Pentecost to 100 A.D.
Smyrna – The Persecuted Church; 100 A.D. to 313 A.D.
Pergamos – The Worldly Church; 313 A.D. to 500 A.D.
Thyatira – The Compromising Church; 500 A.D. to the early 1300s
Sardis – The Dead Church; early 1300s to 1517 A.D.
Philadelphia – The Faithful Church; 1517 A.D. to the early 1900s
Laodicea – The Lukewarm Church; Early 1900s to Present
Revelation Chapter One
Keeping chapters 2 and 3 in context requires us to quickly take a look at chapter 1. In chapter 1 we are told, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him [John] . . . .” We must consider the fact that what we read of the seven churches of Revelation was given to us by Jesus Christ. It is not the revelation of John. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ.
It is His revelation. The revelation about to be exposed belongs to Jesus Christ, but it is also a revelation of His person. Christ takes much effort to describe Himself in the first chapter. Not only is it a revelation belonging to our Lord, (“the Revelation of Jesus Christ”), but it is a revelation about (“the Revelationof Jesus Christ”), our Saviour.
The descriptions He uses to describe His being, He also applies to each church. Although the letter focuses on the seven churches individually, it also includes them collectively, just as it includes us. The lessons for the churches of Asia Minor can and must still be applied to Christ’s church today.
John begins in earnest in chapter 2 to describe what each church needs. He follows the same pattern throughout. He begins by addressing the church by name. Then he passes on a description of His character from chapter 1:12-18 that directly relates to His particular church. When we combine the descriptions used for each church, we have the description that Christ uses of Himself in chapter 1.
Next, He gives the church His evaluation. He begins with a commendation of the church. He praises them for what they are doing right. He then moves on to give a rebuke – something that needs to be corrected in the church, followed by measures to correct the error. All who have ears to hear will take it to heart.
The Church at Ephesus
That brings us to the first church mentioned in chapter 2 – Ephesus. Revelation 2:1-7 reads as follows – “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
See how the loving Lord comes to His bride-to-be and communicates his approval of much of what He sees. He describes Himself in the same terms He used in chapter 1. Revelation 2:1, in part, says, “These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks . . . ”
The Ephesian church was, for the most part, a good church. God saw their works and their labors. He saw how they properly judged false prophets. Yet there was a problem; a problem big enough, if not addressed, that would result in the removal of the church. Does God ever close the doors of a church? Absolutely.
What was happening in the church that would call for such drastic measures? They left their first love. There were outward signs of their Christianity, but inwardly they became stale. The work of the church was no longer exciting, but rather routine – business as usual. Have you ever felt that way? That is the Ephesian church creeping in.
The Church began at Pentecost and by 100 A.D. that vibrant, exciting, honeymoon love had dissipated. Historically this came to pass, but also this period of time represents the secondary prophecy. The church, in general, would leave her first love.
We will continue to examine the other churches in the next installment.
Pinpoint Analysis is my favorite elf-authored book. It deals with mystery in the Atlantic Ocean which leads to an encounter and escape from hell by the hand of God. Purely fictional, but with a Gospel warning for all who may someday come face to face with the “king” of hell. You can read it in its entirety at https://letterpile.com/serializations/Pinpoint-Analysis or you can order it from Amazon.
Les needed to talk with Hoss.
“Hey, Buddy. I’ve been checking out the film and doing some research. I’ll fill you in later, but for now, I need the chopper Wednesday night, or morning depending on how you want to look at it. We need to be at the coordinate points at 2:06. Will that work for you?”
“Oh, sure. No sweat. I’ll meet you at the heliport about an hour earlier. That should give us plenty of time. We really don’t have to go that far. Until then, what’s the plan?”
“I need to get down to San Juan and check out that abandoned Navy ship. When would be a good time to schedule that?”
“Les, I’m completely bored. How about now? Skyforce 7 sits witing!”
Within the hour, the two were off for San Juan. The trip was uneventful as they touched down just before sunset. Hoss and Les hurried to the stranded vessel – yellow warning tape everywhere as the waves continually rocked the ship.
The duo searched for a way to get inside. They safely made their way to the deck but could go no further. Finally, Hoss found a small window. He looked at Les. “What do you think?”
“I can’t get through that, Hoss! It’s too tight!”
“It’s the only way, and you know I’m not going to fit. Come on. I’ll help you.”
Les hoisted himself up on the wide windowsill and started through the opening headfirst. Hoss remained on the deck floor. “Hoss, you’re going to have to push. I can’t get through.”
Hoss braced his feet against the railing and began to push Les as he partially hung from the small cabin window. One huge push and Les toppled through the window and onto the floor – headfirst. The flashlight went on. Les eventually located a door and forced it open, calling for Hoss. Hoss joined him inside.
Les couldn’t believe how the ship had aged. He knew the ship was only a few years old, fairly new by Navy standards. The smell of rust and mildew filled the air. Hoss noticed another odd smell coming from a room to the left.
Hoss pushed hard against the door. Finally, it gave way, and the two entered the room. A stench filled the air. Les pointed his flashlight in several directions. The beam fell on a gruesome sight. The men were surprised. Then shock set in. Several bodies were scattered on the floor. Some were clinging to the walls. Most were partially melted into the steel walls and floor.
The faces and bodies of the sailors were disfigured. Something terrible had happened. Les began to think. “Radiation! These men were affected by radiation. We’ve discovered the source of the radiation in the sea – No. no, it’s not radiation. And it wasn’t radiation that affected the sea creatures back in Miami. It was the effects of electromagnetism, the same cause for the rusted steel.”
Les’s mind immediately went to the Philadelphia Experiment.
Although Les regarded The Philadephia Experiment as mostly legend, he began to wonder if there wasn’t a certain amount of truth to it. Maybe similar things were taking place in The Triangle. Teleportation, strong electromagnetic force fields, invisibility.
Les’s phone was beeping. A familiar voice spoke on the other end.
“Les, this is Commander Colbo. Don’t say a word. Just listen. I know what you’re doing, and I commend you for it, but you have to get out of there now. Too much exposure to the electromagnetic fields could greatly damage you or even kill you.
“You’re in grave danger by being in contact with anything that is or may have been on that ship. You’re also in grave danger because Secretary Adams is on his way to the ship to do his own investigation. I must go. Just get out of there now.” The phone went dead.
Hoss followed Les’s lead and both men ran as fast as they could back to the helicopter. The investigation was cut short, but much information had been gathered, enough to keep Les at his desk for a week. Still, he knew 2:06 a.m., November 21 would arrive all too soon – then Thanksgiving. That would no doubt delay further study somewhat. More film needed to be examined. More theories needed to be discussed. More importantly, he knew he needed some rest. The holiday would be welcomed.
We have seen previously that America will probably be destroyed by a nuclear attack from Russia. So the question now becomes, Is there anything that we as Americans can do to prevent this? The short answer is no. God has already declared in His Word that this will take place.
Why would God allow this? For sure, sin in America is out of control. We could look at the homosexual agenda, drugs, abortion, and abusive behavior. The list goes on, but I believe the reason for America’s failure is ultimately the Christian. We have failed. Ezekiel 26:22 says, ” Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” America has reached this point. Even the religious leaders of the day have placed no difference between the holy and the profane. Revelation tells us that we are kings and priests, and we have made no difference. Our families have failed. Our churches have failed. Our country has failed.
Further in the book of Ezekiel God says, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them…” God is looking for someone to stand in the gap – someone to stand for Him. I wonder if God were to look at your heart right now (and He is), would He find you standing for Him in the gap?
I hear that the way to cook frogs is to put them in cool water and slowly turn up the heat. If they were placed immediately into boiling water they would jump out, but the gradual raising of the temperature lulls them into complacency. Is that happening in your life? Have you been slowly lulled to sleep? God expects us to make a stand, to go against the grain, to be effective for Him. In these last days, will you join me in doing just that?
If you have not read Part One yet, please do that first as you’ll need that information to make sense of what follows. We pick up where we left off.
Not only does America have a mother country. Not only is it a new world country. Not only is it the “melting pot” of the world, but Jeremiah 50:26 gives us more insight into identifying this Babylon. We see that the utmost border will be attacked. Alaska would be considered the utmost border of America. She has storehouses of oil and mineral wealth.
On to chapter 51 and verse 7–Notice that Babylon (America) has been used by the Lord. America has been in times past responsible for reaching the world in missions. The wealth that God blessed America with had been used for God’s purposes, especially during the 1800s and the modern missions movement. That same wealth also made the earth to be drunk with her wine.
The description of Babylon is carried further in verse 13. “O thou that dwellest upon many waters…” Ancient Babylon was not surrounded by much water but consider this. The entire eastern border of America is met with the Atlantic Ocean. The entire western border meets with the Pacific Ocean. The Gulf of Mexico closes in the south. The Hawaiian Islands are completely surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The Great Lakes separate a large portion of America and Canada, and our utmost border is closed in by the Arctic Ocean and Bearing Sea. America is a land of many waters and God promises His judgment against this land.
How will Babylon be destroyed? Scripture gives us some information, and we will look at it as we begin Part 3 next time.
It seems that Bible Prophecy tends to be confusing at times. I’m not sure why. It was never meant to be. Those of us in the Christian Community know that we are living in the last days. What does Scripture have to say about the place of America in the end times? I know that some may disagree. Some will not see. But apply the weight of Scripture to the question and judge for yourself.
Much detail could be given to this topic. It is not my point to go into detail. If you have further questions or wish to discuss it further, please feel free to contact me. Also, it would be good if you were able to read the verses that I list along with this short article.
Notice that the prophet Jeremiah mentions God has spoken against Babylon (Jeremiah 50:1-4). Prophecy, as I understand it, usually has a primary and a secondary application. Certainly, the Babylon of old was destroyed. As we continue reading chapters 50 and 51, however, we see that there are some descriptions of Jeremiah’s Babylon that do not fit the description of the past destruction of Babylon. We must first identify Babylon and then look at her fate. Let’s examine some of these passages.
We see as we read in Jeremiah 50:12, that this Babylon has a mother. Original Babylon in Iraq did not have a mother country, but it was in fact, the cradle of civilization.
Verse 12 continues by mentioning that Babylon is the “hindermost” of the nations. In other words, this is a young country, a new world country. Are you beginning to get the picture? New world America was birthed by our mother England.
As we read on, verse 16, we see that “they shall flee every one to his own land”. America has long since been known for the fact that all people are welcome here, from any and every nation. We truly are the melting pot of the world.
We’ll look at some more descriptions next time. Much more can be said and will be said. But for now, consider the Scriptures.