The Seven Churches Of Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3)

The seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation, chapters 2-3, reveal many characteristics of the church, both good and bad.  We can use these churches as a check against our own respective vineyards today, since our churches are similar to the early church.  You may see traits of your church in several of these examples.  Dr. Henry M. Morris III from the Institute For Creation Research (ICR) wrote the seven sketches of the churches below in the devotional “Days Of Praise.”  They are all listed below.  Afterwards, enjoy the superb video of The Seven Churches.  In Christ, Pastor Steve

Lukewarm Laodicea
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.                     Evidence for Creation

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; . . . 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.” (Revelation 3:14-16)
The Lord Jesus used intense language to rebuke this church, the last of the seven He had John write to in the book of Revelation. Laodicea was dangerously near the brink of being disavowed by He who is the Head of the church.
Such churches believe they “have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). Worldly wealth, extensive property, and popular recognition blinded these members and their leaders to their true spiritual condition. They failed to understand that, from the Lord’s perspective, they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
The cause of this terrible spiritual destitution is being spiritually tepid. It’s like expecting a glass of cold water or a cup of hot tea but finding everything at room temperature. This church “tasted” just like the world around them. They were neither godly nor in rebellion—just “nice people” who blended in well with the community. Their spiritual reputation did not smell either like life or death (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Despite the Lord’s distaste for such a condition, He loved and counseled them to “buy” from Him the gold of the Kingdom’s true wealth, righteous clothing that would cover their shameful exposure of worldly behavior, and to anoint their spiritual eyes so that they could see eternal values rather than temporal things.
As the Lord graciously closed His letter, He “stands at the door” of the church, waiting for anyone to open and let Him in (Revelation 3:20). Tepid spirituality keeps the Lord outside. What a shame that such could ever be said about any church. HMM III

Strong Philadelphia
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.      Evidence for Creation

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; . . . 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.” (Revelation 3:7-8)
Philadelphia and Smryna are the only churches that did not receive warnings from the Lord in the seven letters recorded in Revelation. Philadelphia had “a little strength” because they had built their church on the two foundations of the Word of God and the name of the Lord Jesus.
The foundation of Jesus Christ Himself (1 Corinthians 3:11) and the foundation of the writings of the “apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20) that are inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) make the church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Philadelphia had faithfully held these eternal principles and was therefore given an “open door.”
The Lord’s introduction to Philadelphia cites the “Key of David,” suggesting a reference to the treasure house of the king (1 Kings 7:51) and to Christ’s authority as the heir to the kingdom (Isaiah 22:22). The treasure of the eternal Kingdom is not physical riches but the gold, silver, and precious stones of God-ordained work for the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).
But just as the talents and the pounds granted to the servants in the parables (Matthew 25; Luke 19), the open door is an opportunity to use the resources of the King for His benefit—not a guarantee of success. The Lord grants the resources, but the work and the use of those resources are our responsibility. We will be held accountable.
If we use those resources well, even those of the “synagogue of Satan” will “come and worship” (Revelation 3:9) and “every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). HMM III

Dead Sardis
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.                   Evidence for Creation

“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Revelation 3:1)
The church at Sardis received the saddest of the Lord’s seven letters in Revelation. Sardis seemed to want to remain known as a “live” church, but the Lord saw their real testimony and reputation and concluded that they were “dead.” Many such places around the world today are enshrined with stained glass, statuary, crosses, and inscriptions that have the “name” of Christianity emblazoned throughout their property, yet they are dead spiritually. Such churches might be compared to the monuments and gravestones erected in cemeteries to honor the memories of faithful men and women of past generations who were alive for a time with a solid reputation for godliness yet whose families have drifted away from the Lord.
Yet, “even in Sardis” there was a small number who had remained faithful in spite of the drift of the church itself, as there are also in families now adrift but with a Christian heritage. The advice to Sardis (and certainly to families as well) is this: “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (Revelation 3:3).
The Philippian church received the same counsel: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). The verb is “do.” Heritage is wonderful, but each church—and each of us—will be held accountable for what is actually done. HMM III

 

Tolerant Thyatira
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.
Evidence for Creation

“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; . . . I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee.” (Revelation 2:18-20)
The Lord Jesus’ letter to the church at Thyatira is the longest among the seven recorded in Revelation. Although they were faithful in their works to the city, had a strong charity among themselves, and were evidently growing in their reputation and perhaps even in number, the Lord Jesus used some very harsh language to rebuke their behavior.
Whether or not the woman who held influence in the church was actually named Jezebel, she had entrenched herself as a prophetess. Her namesake in the Old Testament (1 Kings) was the wicked queen and wife of King Ahab of Israel during the days of Elijah. Her evil deeds are recorded throughout seven chapters—more than any other woman in Israel’s history!
The Jezebel of Thyatira had been allowed “to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Revelation 2:20). It is not clear if the Lord spoke of physical fornication among the church members, but the practice of sacrificing to idols was a serious rebellion against the second commandment and a clear violation of God’s Word (Exodus 20:4-5).
Those who were committing “adultery with her” (Revelation 2:22) had entered into “the depths of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). Whether this behavior was a physical practice or not (as was common among the pagan religions of the day), it is most certainly identified as spiritual adultery when those who name the name of Christ worship other gods (Jeremiah 3:1, 20; Hosea 9:1; etc.). May God protect us from such horrible leadership. HMM III

Permissive Pergamos
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.
Evidence for Creation

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; . . . 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 . . . . But I have a few things against thee.” (Revelation 2:12-14)
Retaining a clear identity as a church of the Lord Jesus in an evil environment is worthy of commendation. And indeed, this body of believers at Pergamos held fast to its Christian name—even in a city that was known (at least by God) as the place where Satan had his “seat.” One of their members, Antipas, was killed for his faith. Yet, the church at Pergamos remained faithful with a spiritual testimony, a small light in a sea of wickedness.
But perhaps because of the pressure surrounding them, the Lord warned them that they were allowing two destructive doctrines to flourish among them. The first was compromising with “wages of unrighteousness,” exemplified by Balaam, which had become entrenched among the church (2 Peter 2:15). The second was the “doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,” which their sister church in Ephesus also confronted (Revelation 2:15, 6).
Balaam was a well-known prophet who willingly accepted an assignment with an enemy of God’s people so that he could receive a large sum of money (Numbers 22). And, even though God would not permit Israel to be cursed, as the enemy wanted, Balaam continued to promote his “error,” and Israel lapsed into grave sin (Jude 1:11).
Not much is written in Scripture about the Nicolaitanes. The word basically means “conquer the people.” This early teaching developed into a strong hierarchy of church polity over the next decades, and by the end of the second century, it was well established in the major cities. Jesus taught against such leadership (Matthew 20:26-27) and clearly said that He hated it (Revelation 2:6). HMM III

Faithful Smyrna
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.
Evidence for Creation

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; . . . I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) . . . . Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:8-10)
The Lord Jesus recognized this struggling church, which is not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, as one of only two churches mentioned in the book of Revelation that did not receive any warning or condemnation.
He saw them very differently than our “church growth” movement might today. Many tend to envy the churches with big auditoriums or grand building programs. Most of the world praises those churches that are “emerging” from the restraints of godliness and churches that are “driven” to attract and please the ungodly.
Smyrna was poor, troubled by those who hated God’s message, and suffered tribulation for their works. Some were thrown into prison for their willingness to be identified with the truth. Generations have passed since anything like that has happened to churches in the Western world. Those countries that persecute Christians today seem only like scattered incidents that have little bearing on the day-to-day life of “civilized” nations. May God protect us from such attitudes.
But the One who walks among the “candlestick” churches of Revelation (His churches) saw Smyrna as rich and worthy of a crown of life. He praised this little church and encouraged them to remain “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10). When the King gives out His rewards from the great judgment seat, these faithful, poor, persecuted, troubled, and imprisoned souls will enter eternity with great riches and joyful liberty in the “general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23). HMM III

 

Careful Ephesus
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min.
Evidence for Creation

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;. . . 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.” (Revelation 2:1-2)
This church, founded by the apostle Paul, had grown in its doctrinal precision and careful attention to the words of Scripture. They were intensely focused on purity of leadership and were vigilant against any form of false teaching. Most of us would find that kind of church a refreshing example to follow in these days of indifferent (and often heretical) theology.
They hated the “deeds of the Nicolaitanes,” which was a horrible practice that the Lord Himself hated (Revelation 2:6). Peter had warned against this domineering attitude in his first general letter to the churches when he insisted that the elders of the churches should not be “lords over God’s heritage, but [be] ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
Ephesus was a “good” church, but the risen Lord Jesus had “somewhat against” them. Apparently, amid all of their careful attention to doctrine and to purity of leadership lifestyle, they had “left [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4). They had fallen from the deep bond of love they had demonstrated years earlier when Paul called the elders to Miletus to encourage and exhort them to remain faithful to “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). They were so much in tune with Paul’s heart for the gospel that they “all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him” (Acts 20:37).
The drift away from that “first love” was so serious that the Lord warned Ephesus to repent or He would take away their “candlestick” (Revelation 2:5)—their authority to represent Christ as one of His churches. Cold, precise doctrine must never take away our love for people or for the truth. HMM III

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