The 7 Churches of the Revelation, #4 of 4 – Church Without Walls International

Hi all,

Now we come to Philadelphia – it is the Greek word for ‘brotherly love’ and used throughout the New Testament to describe exactly that. Like the letter to Smyrna, there is very little the Lord finds wrong with the body of Christ there.

In The Revelation 3: 7-12 He commends them in that they ‘are very weak, yet have kept my Word and not denied my name’. Then the Lord makes an amazing promise about a future time of judgement where they will be vindicated; 

“I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” 

It reminds me of Matthew 12: 41-42 when the Lord told the people around Him that the people of Nineveh will rise up in judgement against that generation because someone greater than Jonah was in their midst, and the same with the Queen of Sheba as there is one greater than Solomon in their midst. 

It speaks to a time when people who scorn us now will one day see Who and what we were talking about. The Lord has the last say on our life, and we need to be encouraged when people speak against us or treat us poorly.  

Laodecia – the rich church in need of nothing

The city was located on the Lycus river like Colossae and Hierapolis, which was a major east-west travel route. Hierapolis was just 6 miles to the north (10km) and had hot springs that served as the water supply for Laodecia, transported there by an aqueduct. 

When the water started in Hierapolis it was very hot, but by the time it reached Laodecia it was lukewarm, meaning it was too hot to drink but too cold to use for cooking – it wasn’t good for anything unless someone either heated it or cooled it based on their need. 

Additionally, because of the hot springs and mud that went with it, Laodecia had a huge medical complex for eye and other diseases, believing the mud-based salve to aid the healing of diseased eyes. Both these cultural facts figure in to how the Lord speaks to them:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. 21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

It could be argued Laodecia became lukewarm because of its great wealth – we can see that in our day as well. They had a prosperity gospel which was actually consistent with some in Judaism who believed wealth was a sign of God’s blessing on a person’s life. That isn’t always the case, for the church He is coming for is one that is very practical and down to earth – I was hungry…thirsty…naked…a visitor….sick…in prison…and you took care of me. That is where the blessing of God rests on a person, in the things no man sees, but the Father only. 

To me, the ‘oh me’ lesson is that these Christians did not know they were no longer righteous in the eyes of the Lord. He said they were ‘wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked’, and He said they needed to ‘buy white robes’. (Robes of righteousness, Revelation 19: 8, 14

I wonder today how many believers are unrighteous like the Laodecians – not going to hell, just not right before the Lord. Maybe I should include this thought. If our lives are like a pizza with 12 slices, maybe in 11 of those slices we are upright and right before the Lord. But some have that secret 12th slice where they hold onto the secret sin, or they hold onto that bitterness or haven’t restored fellowship with a friend, or are in envy, strife or divisions. That 12th slice makes them unrighteous in that area of their lives. The Lord will for the sake of privacy, bless those other 11 slices while at the same time working on the heart of the person about that 12th slice…

Paul said the same in his first letter to the Corinthians, 3: 3-15. He said their strife and divisions were wood, hay, and stubble that would be burned away on judgement, though they would be saved, but as one having come through fire. The Corinthians loved the Lord, were tongue talking believers – but they were full of strife and divisions – that part would be burned away in judgement if they didn’t deal with it this side of heaven. 

It’s interesting that the first letter, to the Ephesians was about a church once zealous for the Lord but now cooled down, and ends with the letter to the Laodecians about the same subject. The caution throughout these letters is to guard against complacency, that lukewarm faith that sits in neutral gear rolling along with the flow of ‘traffic’, just going through the motions. 

Some read the messages to the 7 churches as periods of church history – starting with Pentecost and great zeal like Ephesus then falling into works in the name of the Lord but no real relationship at the end of the 1st century. Then they see the persecution of Smyrna being the time between The Revelation and the legalization of Christianity in the 300’s AD, and so on, ending with Laodecia being the church today. 

I find that to be a rather self-focused American or western way of looking at things. Over 20 years ago various organizations posted estimates that at least 173,000 Christians are martyred every year for their faith, and from what I’ve read since, things haven’t changed. More Christians are being killed for being Christian today than ever before. And not every Christian around the world is wealthy enough to feel lukewarm about the Lord. 

But if we look at each church representing seasons of our own spiritual lives… 

I think that can fit. Many of us had an initial season of zeal like Ephesus, then found ourselves going through the motions like they did…And like Smyrna, early on we suffered persecution, rejected by friends and family for our new faith.

Then like Pergamos we had a time that seemed to be with people from the ‘synagogue of Satan’, worldly people, maybe we had a seasons of ‘falling away’ from the faith. And maybe like Thyatira we had our time in the world’s system, a Christian in our hearts but doing business as ruthless business people. Or we got caught up in the system, compromising our morals and ethics in the name of making money and gathering ‘things’. 

Next was Sardis, asleep in the light, the feeling spiritually dead church – having experienced the world perhaps like Thyatira and the deep sins of idol worship and sexual immorality, we went through a season of spiritual deadness, asleep in the light, keeping our thoughts about the Lord and ‘what we needed to do’.

…and then we had a season of Philadelphia, turning our hearts to love and forgiveness, wanting to rejoin ‘brotherly love’, learning to grow a backbone though surrounded by unbelievers, humbling ourselves to those we broke fellowship with, making our way back to the Lord. Then to Laodecia, thinking all was well, after all God was blessing, but in the heart still searching for the real, the genuine, the true…and maybe that’s for some today.

And to that He tells them: “I am here! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens I will enter into and we will share a meal together, and you can sit with me in my throne and kingdom….”

There is something today for everyone in the Lord’s messages to the 7 churches so long ago. Whatever elements are quickened to you, follow that ‘rhema’, that element the Lord is showing you, and get all the spiritual nourishment you can get! Come quickly Lord Jesus! 

New subject next week, until then, blessings,

John Fenn

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