I would like to speak tonight out of Revelations 2 and 3 looking at the churches, but looking at the seven churches Jesus speaks to. Jesus as we know created His church to be His representatives on earth. We were to mimic Him, what He did, and He said we would do more. We would do more because His time was limited, but the door was opened up for us throughout the generations of believers to manifest His Presence on the earth.
When Jesus speaks about the specific churches, I believe He was speaking about the churches in actual time, and giving a prophetic view of the future of those churches for the future. As we look at the churches we are also looking through a window of our own lives, our struggles, our denials, our weakness, but also our strength, perseverance, and lives that live the nature of God as overcomers of spiritual darkness.
So when we read what Jesus was saying to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three, you can gather that He was saying to us today to be ready, and set apart to be light, for the preparation to preserver through this age, and show those maybe in the next, meaning next generation, that we must be a light, shining bright, all the way until the time of the last trumpet when we will lifted from the earth.
Revelations 2:7, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
For 2000 years now, Jesus’ proclamation still stands true, even today.
If you have read any of these passages, you see that even today, in the ages that we currently live, Jesus’ words line up perfectly with history. He prophesized it, and it did happen. We are on the backside of history can see it.
When we look at the seven churches, what is important is the common elements that Jesus was speaking about.
The first thing Jesus did was direct our attention to specific aspects of His own majesty with the purpose to equip us.
In any of the ages we would always need the direction of the Holy Spirit, and live a Spirit filled life to combat worldly ideals that would keep us and others in bondage. We need the Helper, who is in us, speaking the words of God to us to keeping us engaged with heaven.
For us today, we not only are equipped to stand against ungodly influence and temptation, we are equipped to stand up to persecution in its many forms.
As we understand that, it equips us to bear the attacks and not to back away because some worldly Christians thinks we are to religious, or we walk in strange fire or whatever they think of us.
Speaking of those of us who are engaged in believing what the Bible says, I like what Mike Bickle said specifically about the Book of Revelation, “that it is the most politically incorrect document on the planet, the writings in this Book even cause issues within the church because they don’t want to believe it.” The church doesn’t want to believe a lot of scripture, because it exposes their insecurities, and their sin.
Jesus was attempting to reveal to the church, His example to becoming an overcoming church no matter extension of time they would represent Him on the earth. When speaking to the churches, He was exposing weaknesses that they needed to deal with.
So tonight I want to give a little over view of each church, I could spend a night on each one, and I hope to during another evening of teaching in the future. Its quite fascinating when you get into the history of the cities, and the churches, and how Jesus in His Majesty and knowledge of the Great God knew what was to happen.
Lets look at the churches. I’m going to give a historic overview first, then speak about what Jesus saying and its application to us. Some of the churches I am going to go through quickly, but make some good points on others.
All of these churches were Greek Cities in the time of the Apostle John, and are now in the western part of Turkey near the Aegean Coast. All had influence by the Apostle Paul. He may have planted some, or influenced their planting. All of the cities had many entrenched pagan influences. Roman, Greek, and Babylonian.
The time lines I am speaking of concerning the churches vary by scholar, and by the different belief structures of the church overall. I believe that Jesus was talking about the churches in the days of the Apostle John, and for future ages.
1st Church, Revelation 2:1 - The Church of Ephesus. It was the Apostolic Church. The Uncompromising Church. This age started in AD30. The word Ephesus means, “Overseer”. It was the age of the Apostles, the beginning of the church. It was a time of new birth and the display of a glorious church moving out in the power of the Holy Spirit. A true first generation explosion of a great awakening to spread the Gospel. This age ended in ~AD100.
2nd Church, Revelation 2:8 – The Church of Smyrna, this is the persecuted church starting in AD100. The name Smyrna means bitterness. It comes from the Hebrew word Myrrh. During this age, the church was brutally persecuted by the Romans. That brutality actually beginning in ~AD64. Coinciding with the Romans attack on Jerusalem, and the destruction of the Temple in AD70. It is said that “Out of the 54 emperors who ruled between AD30 and AD311, only about a dozen went out of their way to persecute Christians, but their persecution was a trying time for the church. Christian persecution ended at “the edict of Milan” in AD313, and so did the age of this church.
3rd Church, Revelation 2:12 - The Church of Pergamum. Pergamum means Citadel or fortress. This was the Compromising Church. It’s age beginning in AD313. This church allowed paganism to creep in during this age. Pergamum was the capital of a Roman province that was a center of Pagan worship.
This church began in the age of Constantine. Constantine the Great was the Emperor of Rome from ~AD306 – AD 337, He played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan in 313, which declared religious tolerance for Christianity in the whole Roman empire. He basically made Christianity the state religion, so persecution ended. That became the church’s downfall.
The church had prosperity, and in that prosperity, Satan infiltrated the church, and what was not acceptable, was made acceptable, worldly influence and practices crept in, and rotted the church from the inside out.
The church began to be political, seeking power over people and seeking riches and conquest of nations and land. Jesus was not the center anymore, the institution was. This age has not ended, because this church is still intact, with all of its power, and money, and it rules men and countries throughout the world today. It is an apostate church that will be destroyed at the end of the age. Now not all think as I do in this one, but I a line myself with many others who do. Study it yourself for your own conclusions.
4th Church – The Church of Thyatira, age beginning in AD600. This is the Church of the Dark Ages, also called the Tolerant Church. This city was at one time called Semiramus, after the high priestess wife of Nimrod, the Queen of Babylon, the mother of god, the Madonna who was worshipped as the mother with child; Venus. Paganism was deep there.
During this age of this church, true believers in Jesus Christ were persecuted. This institutionalized church, ran roughshod over the nations in its zeal for power and control run by political leaders positioned by ruling families whose money and power used the name of Jesus to destroy those who would not bow down to them. During this age it is estimated that the church killed ~68 million people, many who believed in Christ alone for their salvation. This age ended at the reformation in 1517.
5th Church – The Church of Sardis, - The Church of the Reformation. This age began when Martin Luther sent his 95 Theses enclosed with a letter to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz, on 31 October 1517. This church thrived and brought a renaissance into the church as well as general public life. Denominations and fellowships were created and spread, but with glaring divisions that we still see today, and through it all, an absence of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul called the church of Sardis, “the sleeping church”, “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” “Bible.org” Jesus said, “you have the appearance of being alive but you are dead.” This church still continues today.
6th Church – The Church off Philadelphia, The Faithful Church. The city was named Philadelphos, meaning “the one who loves his brother.” The beginning dates vary for this church by scholars, some say beginning around AD1648 and others AD1730 some ~AD1900. All varying by belief. But this was the Awakened Church & Missionary Church. This church was the beginning of the great spiritual awakenings in Europe and America, including the birth of the missionary movement throughout the world. The great awakenings brought a fervency to seek God and ushered in a move and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements as well as the Jesus movement would be born within it with signs wonders and miracles following. This church still continuing today.
Lastly the 7th Church – The Church of Laodicea, meaning “church of the people”. I conclude that it is not the Church of Jesus Christ. Some say the age beginning in 1900, I believe ~1945 when the 2nd World War ended and prosperity came into the free world.
But this is the lukewarm church. It’s surprising but Laodicea was the wealthiest of all the 7 cities. It had a large textile industry. They ran an aqueduct from a hot spring to the city, but by the time the water got there, it was neither hot nor cold. They said the water was tepid, undesirable for their needs. Lukewarm of no good use. It is written that the believers there did not take a stand for anything, and their indifference led to idleness, thus they were of no good use for the Kingdom.
Looking at each of these churches was a representation of what was to come, and what did come. But each church was representative of what the Christian life could be or should not be.
The Church of Ephesus was like a new believer who was on fire for Jesus. But it also represented a church that knew the nature of the Kingdom of God. They initially had that first love. They knew the love. They acted on the love. They spread the love. They were uncompromising to the things of the world. Jesus commended them, “I know your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not,” Rev 2:2.
The early church had adjusted their thinking to the nature of the Kingdom. The Kingdom that Jesus displayed and preached about. When you adjust your thinking to be Kingdom minded, that nature rules you, and compromise is not part of that nature.
Because the kingdom nature is the nature of the Spirit of God, the two are the same because God is the Kingdom. He established it. He is in it. So when our nature is conformed to it, we live it out.
But we must abide in Christ for that Kingdom nature to be alive in us through the Spirit.
I believe that the abiding in Christ was the Church of Ephesus’s first love. That is why the Kingdom spread. They lived the Kingdom. But over time, I believe they lost that zeal they had in the beginning. They could have been tired, or started to get lazy, complacent. Jesus said basically, “wake up, and remember that first love.”
We can see ourselves in this. But Jesus is saying, “abide in me”. Put that nature of God that comes from Me onto you and let the Holy Spirit energize you.” That first love will return.
Jesus said in John 15:4-5, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
So we graft ourselves into Jesus, and we stay in His Presence. We can do that. We want to do that. In His Presence there are no shadows, so we stay in the light all the time, and in that light we cast no shadows. We emulate the truth. Jesus was saying that to the Church of Ephesus. Stay in my light, and we will move forward together.
The Church of Smyrna, they were persecuted. Jesus said, “Thou art rich”. What a commendation! They stood strong. Jesus is saying the same thing today. That we are rich too. I know we may not think that, but we have the Spirit, and we have His nature available to us. We just have to clothe our self in it.
He is with us whatever we go through. Jesus is saying stand strong, for I am with you. I am in you!
The Apostle Paul declared that statement. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
So that Kingdom nature is in us to live it out. To have faith in all opportunities whatever is against us from our past, today, or in the future.
Knowing the reality of the kingdom allows us to operate in the dominion of the kingdom. If the kingdom nature is in us, the dominion of the kingdom is for us to operate in. Right? So we know that.
Persecution or life issues we have to deal should having us saying, “Wow! Something great is going to happen!” “The enemy is coming against me, so yes Lord!” Victory, or that open door is right there. “I am walking with you Lord!”
Its not “oh whoa is me.” That response just shoves the nature of the kingdom aside and we take whatever we get and walk in defeat, again.
Jesus gave us a command to seek first the Kingdom of God, why? So we would connect with His nature. Then all these things that He has promised will be added unto us. Because the nature that we receive is righteous peace and joy that only comes from heaven. It is a kingdom experience. When people, problems come up against us, we just Jesus it off us. Amen!
Pergamum. The Compromising Church. We just know better. Do I have to even get into this one. Kind of self explanatory. The people of this age and church allowed sin and worldly thought to infiltrate them. When we compromise in the small things, we will compromise on the large ones. It always happens that way. Little things lead to big things. Small doors open to larger ones, until oops, you are gone. It’s bad enough for people who don’t know God, but for the people of God it can be spiritual death.
This is why we listen to the Holy Spirit. We cannot disengage. Ever!
We allow only one door to open up to our hearts. The one Jesus stands at and is knocking on. We need to encounter the Holy Spirit, daily, all day, be in that presence, because when the Holy Spirit is encountered, He breaks off every thing that wants to enslave us, but we must let Him do it. We allow Him to invade every place of our being to erase anything that wants to connect to us that is not God.
No compromise, None!
Only continued encounters with the Holy Spirit forcing our nature to be Jesus. That is liberty in the Holy Spirit. That Liberty gives us freedom not to do just what I want to do, but because of the Holy Spirit, I have liberty to do things that are right. That is true freedom, and that brings peace.
Our personal encounters with the Holy Spirit change us, and frees us to move our hearts in the direction of Christ to long after His desires that depletes our fleshly ones.
Thyatira, I’m skipping that. The Dark ages are gone. I decree that over us in Jesus name. We may think the dark ages are coming, but the Glorious Church of Jesus Christ is going to be right there in the face of the dark covering it with light. Amen! Yes Jezebel is in the church today, but those with her spirit and other like her in the church are going to be purged, and the spotless Bride of Christ is going to fulfill its destiny by the Word of God. Amen!
Sardis the reformed church? “You have the appearance of being alive, but you are dead.” Lots of that around today.
“Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”
Jesus said it. Remember what you have heard. Many in the church will be astonished that what they believed that came from men was lies, and they will have a regret that they did not believe the Word of Jesus. The issue for many people is the Holy Spirit. Remember what I said about the Holy Spirit and the nature of the Kingdom? No Holy Spirit infilling, there is no presence, no understanding of the Kingdom nature, which means no understanding of God Himself. Fleshly people understand from the mind, not the heart. You are alive, but you are dead. Wake Up. Remember! Be filled with the Spirit.
The Church of Philadelphia.
“Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close.” Rev 3:8.
We pray that we are that church.
It goes back to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seek first is our first thing to do. We seek first for our own breakthrough. Then our responsibility as a Follower of Christ is to pursue breakthrough for those bound by things that are not in heaven. Living in that Kingdom nature again.
We minister to the Lord, and intercede for the people. That intercession may be prayer, and it may become physically helping people. We are compelled by the love of Jesus. The Church of Philadelphia was the city of brotherly love. Love your neighbor as yourself.
We have to remember, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is in us. We have that resurrection power. We can give life. We need to use that authority we have received as ambassadors of Christ for God’s glory, so people can be saved. Broken people freed.
Remember how the Apostle Peter’s shadow healed people? Because he was covered. Covered by the Holy Spirit, as he walked in the nature of the Kingdom. He believed in it. Truthfully, whatever shadow covers you, cover others. Don’t it? So what covers you? I got that from Bill Johnson a couple days ago. Wow! So true!
I have been given the power and the anointing to overcome and I can bring heaven into every situation where there seems to be loss and death and sin, and even denial. I have the power because I operate in the nature of God to change those situations.
This church, the Philadelphian church age that we are now in, is the last church that will display the glory and nature of God and bring healing and restoration not seen since the Church of Ephesus. But do we believe that? God trusts us to do it you know, we need to trust ourselves, and trust Him to fulfill that in us.
The Church of Laodicea. And I am ending with this. It was the church of the People. I believe it is called this because man thought himself better to run it than Jesus.
“You are neither hot nor cold. You say that you are rich and in need of nothing because you are wealthy.”
Truthfully it is a time for self examination. Who is in charge?
Have we even personally put ourselves into a position where we think we know better. “I can handle this.” Putting “me” first. I think this is what all this is all about. “I’m okay.” I have my act together.” “I can manage myself,” and really we are working our own salvation, and in the process, compromising it.
The church of Laodicea was all about spiritual pride. Jesus gave the church no affirmation that they were faithful in anything. He called them wretched. But he did not close the door on them. He called them to repentance then opened the door to give them a way out.
“Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.” Rev 3:20
Behold, He stands at the door and knocks to us too. He wants us to be ready, He wants us to live in His and His Fathers nature, so that we will not only be overcomers……overcomers of spiritual darkness, but that we will display the Kingdom to everyone, honor the Father with our lives, and be free and in peace in the process.
Jesus showed us the church in all its mess, but also gave us hope and a way to live in His glory. But it is up to us to make up our minds as to whose shadow we want over us. There is no half shadow. We know about the lukewarm image Jesus gave us. It is up to us to go for broke and be the nature of the kingdom, and be fully covered by the glory of the Lord and shine real bright. Amen!