The Churches of Revelation: The Totality of the Church

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The Totality of the Church

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The Churches of Revelation: The Totality of the Church

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This is the first part in the Bible study series: The Churches of Revelation. This Bible study will provide an introduction and overview of the churches of Revelation—giving especially some history, geography and context—so that as we study each congregation in detail in subsequent studies we will more fully appreciate what we are reading. The churches spoken of in Revelation 2 and 3 have multiple meanings and applications—both of the actual congregations of the first century A.D., and of our church down through time.

Transcript

[Peter Eddington] Well, good evening everyone. I hope you had a good day today. A big thank you to those who made dinner for us tonight at the home office. Very nice. Appreciate that. Thank you. And welcome to this new eight part series on the churches of Revelation. So, let me ask God’s blessing upon the study and we can get right into it.

Our father and almighty God with Jesus Christ at your right hand, the leader of your church, we come before your throne, Father, here this evening as we begin this series on the churches of Revelation, the first few chapters of Revelation. We thank you for the work you have given us. We thank you, Father, for the enlightenment that it gives us. We thank you for the lessons that we can learn from it and ask, Father, for your blessing upon this series and especially on tonight’s presentation which will be an overview and an introduction to the churches of Revelation. Please bless us. Please inspire and guide us with your holy spirit. As your people we thank you, Father, and ask for your blessing now. In Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.

So, as I mentioned in the prayer there, tonight’s portion will be an introduction and an overview of the churches, giving especially some context to the geography and the history of this particular area of the world. So that as we study each church in succession over the next seven studies we will more fully appreciate what we are reading and what we are learning. For this Bible study series, a map of the seven churches has been handed out to you tonight. And those of you that are watching on the webcast either live or later on can also get a copy. There is a download link in the top right of the page. When you click on that a box opens and you can click on it and download it to your hard drive of your computer if you wish. But copies have been handed out here tonight for you. It is two sided. One side is a wider view of the area we are talking about. And the other side is a closer up view highlighting more on the seven churches in that area. So we will look at this with more detail in a few minutes time. I would like to thank Tom Disher for creating the slides that you will see tonight in the Prezi format. It is as online tool for making presentations. So this is what you will see on the webcast as well as for us here in the room, on the screen. So, appreciate Tom doing that for us tonight. And, of course, our video and sound crew working tonight, we have them here once again to make these studies a success.

So, the churches existed in what is modern day Turkey today. I’ve got my handy trusty antenna here today. My antenna in case I need to use it tonight. But this is modern day Turkey. I find it interesting that all the churches are grouped in that area, which makes it a little bit easier for us to study and to make sense of. The book of Revelation was specifically written for the church, for God’s people, for you and me. But not just the church of the first century but also the church down through time and the church in the end time. God has called His people “temple of God”. We see that mentioned in these chapters of Revelation. The church is now the spiritual temple.

In 70 AD the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. It was called Herod’s temple. At that time it was destroyed and since then it is the church now that is the temple of God and we are pillars in that temple. So, the book of Revelation opens with a message for the seven churches, represented, Revelations says, by seven lampstands. Seven often represents completeness in God’s scripture. And these seven lampstands portray a composite picture of the light of God, which is the light of the world. The church is one body. It is not seven. The church is one body just in various locations. For example, in the United Church of God we have…I counted them today on the congregations section of our website. We have 400 congregations. Exactly 400, 194 which are in the United States and 206 which are outside the United States. But 400 altogether. But, that is why I am calling this the totality of the church tonight. Because in Revelation as we study the history of the churches listed there, we see seven specific congregations of believers that effectively represent the totality of the church. The church throughout all time. Throughout all seasons. There were a lot more than just seven churches in the time, in the first century. But here in this vision written down by the apostle John here in Revelation we see just seven. And these seven come to represent the totality of the church and its personality and mission. So that is why this first Bible study is called the Churches of Revelation the Totality of the Church. 

The church is spoken of in Revelation 2 and 3 have multiple meanings on multiple applications. Both the actual congregations of the first century AD and of our church down through time, and the end time. There is a book from 1989 called The Revelation of Jesus Christ by John Walvoord.  Here are a few notes he makes on pages 51 and 52 about the seven churches. Let me read it to you. Walvoord says there were from 500 to 1000 townships in the province of Asia in the first century; some of them far larger than the cities of Thyatira and Philadelphia and undoubtedly a number of them had Christian churches. So, he is acknowledging that there were more than just seven churches at the time. There could have been many hundred. The messages to the seven churches, he says, therefore embody admonition suitable for churches in many times of spiritual need as well as the messages were exhortations that were personal in nature, or personal in character, he says, constituting instruction and warning to the individual Christian. So it is not just general instruction to a congregation but individual instruction to each of us, too. He says that many expositors believe that in addition to the obvious implication of these messages the seven churches represent the chronological development of church history spiritually. It is kind of also the development of the church down to the last 2000 years and the challenges it would face. They note that Ephesus seems to be characteristic of the apostolic period in general. And that the progression of evil climaxing in Laodicea would indicate the final apostasy of the church. And then he says …the order of the messages to the churches seems to be divinely selected to give prophetically the main movement of church history.

The overall message is that Christ reveals the overall strengths and weaknesses of the church both in John’s day but also down through the ages including our time in the 21st century. And He reveals what appears to be a sweeping picture of the future of His church, of Jesus Christ’s church.  At that moment in time, when John wrote this, Christ’s followers were a discouraged and persecuted group. And they waited for Jesus to return in power and glory to establish His kingdom here on earth. And that is the same message for us today. We, too, have our trials, problems, and difficulties living in this world and we, too, long for God’s kingdom. They also needed to be put back on the right path spiritually. That is exactly what Christ did for them through these verses, through this book of Revelation. He set them back on the right path. We are reminded what God expects from His servants, me and you, as well. Each congregation exhibits its own personality, as we will see here tonight.  But within these congregations are common virtues and common problems that all Christians face, in all generations, no matter which century. We see things that we should either follow or we should avoid. And these messages make it clear that some congregations and individual members of the church were developing serious spiritual deficiencies. Some even allowing the influence of Satan to lead them away from their calling. So, on the flip side, Christ compliments the members for their strengths and there are seven main promises to us, to the faithful.

First of all, we are promised that we will eat from the tree of life. The tree of life is mentioned from the very beginning in Genesis to the last chapter in Revelation.  The tree of life…it is a theme throughout the Bible.

Secondly, we are told in these messages to the churches that we will not be hurt by the second death. That is the promise of the resurrection to immortal life.

Thirdly, we will receive a new name.

And fourthly, we will be given power over the nations in the Kingdom.  We all know that we will be listed as kings and priests. Or, as I like to say, leaders and teachers, helping others to understand the truth in God’s Kingdom and given power to do that.

Fifthly, we will be clothed in white garments of righteousness. Not our own filthy rags of our sinful lives but we will be cloaked with righteousness as spirit beings in God’s kingdom.

And, we will be pillars in the temple of God. That is a promise throughout the book of Revelation…being pillars in the temple of God, helping to hold it up.

And, number seven, we will sit with Christ on His throne.

So those are some of the promises that are given to the churches, as we get into this particular topic. And these promises should be very encouraging to us as they would to those originally receiving the message in the first century. And as we go through the Bible study series, think about how the traits of these seven churches may apply today. And how they may even apply directly to you as you work hard to become more like Jesus Christ, as you work hard through the daily struggles of life.

Here are some of the warnings given to us to watch out for. Some of them are rather ominous.

Firstly, we see the active influence of Satan of drawing church members back into society and back into sin; a common warning.

Secondly, we read of false teachers and false prophets. Right there in the first century it began.  And we are certainly seeing that down through time since, haven’t we?

Thirdly, false doctrine.

Fourthly, we read about Christians in name only; those who call themselves Christians, those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ but are only doing that outwardly. It is not in their hearts.

Then we find Christians with little strength, those that are struggling.

And then we find wretched and spiritually blind members, those who don’t even realize that they are sick and unhealthy, spiritually.

And, lastly, we find a big theme of a developing corrupted form of Christianity.

You see that beginning even as early as Acts chapter 8, very early on. Jesus Christ, Himself, told His disciples this would happen. When they asked Him what would be the sign of His coming they asked Him about the end of the age. Remember in Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
American King James Version×
when Christ stated that religious imposters would come in His name. And this prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled not just in the first century as religious leaders have come in the name of Jesus Christ but done away with His teachings. They have come up with a different version of the gospel, different version of Christianity, claiming to be His spiritual representatives but teaching contrary to His instructions and leading people astray. And we see this today. Christians faithful to God’s word were prophesied to become a distinct minority. And, at the time of the end, being intensely persecuted by a much larger and far more powerful church, a false religion claiming to worship Jesus Christ. Throughout the book of Revelation this theme, this false religion posing as the true religion is presented as wielding incredible influence at the time of the end. And the almost unbelievable power that will be displayed by the false prophet and the beast behind him, will be one of the major signs that the end of the age is eminent. Christ reveals to us that during the lifetime of even John Satan was already developing a corrupted version of Christianity. He was already recruiting followers from within the church of God. And we see these pointed out to the seven churches. This counterfeit even now dominates the world’s religious scene but to nowhere the extent it will at the end time.

And so this is all spelled out to the churches in Revelation that we are going to study about in this series. Let’s go to the map now. Note the seven churches in the order that they appear in the book of Revelation.

First of all, Ephesus, and it is interesting that these all go in order around the road.

Ephesus, which we are going to call, in this study, the loveless church.

Smyrna, which we are calling the persecuted church.

Pergamus, or Pergamum the compromising church.

And Thyatira, the corrupt church.

Sardis, the dead church.

Philadephia, the faithful church.

Then Laodicea, the lukewarm church. 

Now, note this little island down here of Patmos, southwest of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea. This is where the apostle John was exiled when he wrote the book of Revelation, when it was revealed to him in a vision. It was a prison island. Some of you may have seen the movie Papillon years ago. It was about Devil’s Island, which was a prison island that the French had. But John was on a prison island out there in the Aegean Sea on the island of Patmos. 

I am going to read to you some of the verses out of Revelation chapter 1 if you want to follow along. This one is not on the screen. I am going to read this to you and we will just leave the map up on the screen right now.

Revelation 1:1 Revelation 1:1The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John:
American King James Version×
as we set the stage for this study . “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” Some Bibles say the Revelation of Saint John, right? In the opening the book of Revelation. But, no, it is the revelation of Jesus Christ “which God gave to him to show things to His servants which must shortly take place and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant , John .” Verse 2 “Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.”   Then down in Verse 8 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord, who is and was and is to come, the Almighty .” Verses 9-10 “I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet.” When he says he was in the spirit he means that he was receiving a vision, something supernatural. And on the Lords day he is talking about a day of the week. He is talking about the day of the Lord, an end time event. So, in vision he was taken to the end of time in many respects. Verse 11 “Saying, I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia;” So , this whole book of Revelation was sent to the seven churches in Asia, not just the first three chapters. “unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea .” Verses 12-16 “And I turned to see the voice that spoke to me and being turned I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of man ,” Notice the capital “s” there. It is like Jesus Christ the resurrected Son of God. “ clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. And His head and hair were like white wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.” So, this is a supernatural representation of Almighty God, the Son of man with a capital “s”.  “And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shining in its strength .”  Extremely bright. Verse 17 and when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” The vision was so powerful and so strong that the apostle John basically fainted. “ And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, do not be afraid; I am the first and the last:” In other words, the Alpha and Omega, this is God speaking. It is the resurrected Jesus Christ. Verse 18 ; “I am he that liveth, and was dead ;” got crucified “ and, hehold, I am alive for evermore,” This was the resurrected Jesus Christ. “Amen: and have the keys of heal and of death .” I have the keys to the grave and death. Verse 19 he says “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are , and the things which will take place after this .” So we have got the present and the future mentioned. “ The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven candlesticks which though saw are the seven churches.”

So, now as we consider the seven churches representing totality of the church of God, let’s look at some geographical and historical highlights of each city. And this will give us a deeper appreciation and understanding of the messages conveyed like I said, for the future series here as we continue in the next few months. Gary petty, Steve Myers, and Daris McNeely, as you have probably seen on the schedule and on our blogs, will each be taking a church one right after the other. Tonight I am not planning to cover the spiritual principles of each church as we look at the historical and geographic points you may start to remember some. But I am going to leave the spiritual lessons of each of them for the actual studies of each church by Mr. Myers, Mr. McNeely, and Mr. Petty. You can get a lot of additional help, more than I can give you tonight, about the history of these churches in many online resources and books. One of them is even used at ABC here, William Barkley’s book, simply called Revelation. Barkley has some interesting historical pieces to add, as well.

So, let’s start with Ephesus. Ephesus. In Revelation 2:1-7 Revelation 2:1-7 1 To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the middle of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you can not bear them which are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: 3 And have borne, and have patience, and for my name’s sake have labored, and have not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. 7 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
American King James Version×
. We are calling it the loveless church here in our series. When we know something of the history of Ephesus and learn something of its condition at the time it is easy to see why it comes first in the list of the seven churches. Pergamus was the official capital of the province of Asia. But Ephesus was, by far, its greatest city. Even today the ruins at Ephesus are quite large and easy to find and see and visit. And it claimed as its proud title, the first and the greatest metropolis of Asia. Ephesus became known as Lumen Asiae-“The light of Asia”.  It was well known. In the time of John, Ephesus was the greatest harbor in Asia. It was in Ephesus that the road from the far off Euphrates River and Mesopotamia reached the Mediterranean having come through Collasea and Laodicea. It was a major port. It was at Ephesus that the road from Galatia reached the sea. And, once again as you look at your map, I think it is at the wider version, you will see Galatia way over here. So, this is all Turkey today, right? But you will see these regions or what we would call counties today or major states. Galatia is over here on the right side.  But, it was the gateway of Asia. And people came through Sardis to Ephesus through the Mediterranean. Years later, when Christians were brought from Asia to be sacrificed to the lions in Rome, Ignatius calls Ephesus the gateway of Asia, or the “highway of the martyrs”. Ephesus was a main spot where they were taken from to get to Rome and be sacrificed to the lions. And so its position made Ephesus the wealthiest city in all of Asia.

And then we come to Smyrna, which we read about in Revelation 2:8-11 Revelation 2:8-11 8 And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things said the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9 I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life. 11 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.
American King James Version×
. Just four verses. And, for the study of this series, we are calling it the persecuted church. It is expected the Ephesus would come first in the list of the seven churches and that really Smyrna would come second because Smyrna was a big rival to Ephesus. Of all the cities of Asia it is said that Smyrna was the prettiest. Men called it the ornament of Asia, the crown of Asia, and the flower of Asia. Smyra was magnificently situated. It stood at the end of the road which crossed Lydia and Phyrgia and traveled out to the Far East. Once again, you can see those regions on the wider side of the map. IT commanded the trade of the rich Hermus valley, along the Hermus River and also became a trading city. So, you see the Hermus River on you map. This was a big valley right here where Smyrna was. The city itself stood at the end of a long inlet. The inlet went right into the city of Smyrna from the ocean. And, so, it ended in a small land locked harbor in the city. And, they say this made it the safest harbor of all in the area and the most convenient, easy to unload supplies. And Smyrna’s great advantage was that, at a time of war a chain could be put across the inlet to stop any other ships or warships from entering into the city. So, it was very convenient and easy to defend by putting a chain across its mouth. On the coins of Smyrna there was an inscription of a merchant ship ready for sea.  And the next slide shows a couple of the coins. See the merchant ship on the back of the coin? So, it was known for this. William Barkley notes in his book Revelation. He says “The setting of the city was very beautiful. It began at the harbor; it traversed the narrow foothills; and then behind the city there rose the Pagos, a hill covered with temples and noble buildings which were spoken of as “the Crown of Smyrna”. 

So, then, that brings us to Pergamus. Revelation 2:12-17 Revelation 2:12-17 12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things said he which has the sharp sword with two edges; 13 I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan’s seat is: and you hold fast my name, and have not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. 16 Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.
American King James Version×
. And we are calling it the compromising church. Pergamus, or Pergamum, as it is called depending on your translation, had its own recognition in Asia. It was not on any of the great road as Ephasus and Smyra were. But, historically it was a great city in Asia and here is why. By the time John was writing this, Pergamos had been a capital city for almost 400 years. Back in 282 BC, it was made the capital of the salucid kingdom, one of the sections to which the empires of Alexander were broken up.

When Alexander died his empire was split into four. Pergamos was the capital of one of those quarters, one of those four, and remained a capital from 282BC to 133BC, quite a few hundred years. Its geographic position made it very impressive. It was built on a tall canonical hill which dominated the valley of the River Cakus. So, this is the river Cakus here, it is not actually labeled on the map here for you. And from the top of this hill the Mediterranian could be seen 15 miles away. A great view, a wonderful place to have a hilltop home, right? And so, it was the capital of the whole region. Perrgamon, though, did not achieve the commercial greatness of Ephasus or of Smyrna. It was inland, not directly on the sea, 15 miles away. But it became a center of culture instead. And the culture there in Pergamos exceded the culture of Ephesus and of Smyrna. Now, Barkley writes that it was famous for its library, which contained no fewer than 200,000 parchment rolls. He says it was second only to the library of Alexandria. They say the library at Pergamus or Pergamum was the second biggest of that day. It is interesting to note that the word parchment was derived from the word pergama where there was a big library. In the ancient world parchment was the pergamene charta, the Pergamene sheet.  So that is where we get the word parchment from, from Pergamus, because of its library, because of the literature that was there.

The next one in the series is Thyatira. Right here, as we come right around the road to Thyatira. Thyatira lies in the long valley connecting the valleys and the Hermus and the Cakus Rivers. Here is the Hermus River, here is the Cakus River, and here is Thyatira in the valley between the 2 rivers. And actually today there is a major highway that goes between the very same valley, and a railway. It is a major route even today. And so, it was a geographic position that gave Thyatira its importance. IT was a major route coming back this way that it was situated on. Thyatira was positioned on the road that connected Pergamum to Sardis, that went on to  Philidelphia and Laodicea. Then it linked up with both Smyrna, over here and Byzantium, which is at the top of this wider map over here. From Thyatira there is a main road going up to Byzantium.  So, Thyatira was a travel hub. It was the delta hub of the day. It was like American Airlines of the Dallas Ft Worth Airport. A lot of roads left out of Thyatira to go around the area. The road through Thyatira was also a major route of the postal system, for sending letters and communications throughout the Roman Empire.  So, it was crowded with commerce from all around Asia and the east and the Far East and therefore, first and foremost, Thyatira was a great commercial town.  It wasn’t a sea port. It was a commercial town first and foremost.  Strategically the importance of Thyatira was that it was the gateway to Pergamum, once again, the capital area of the province. A difficulty that Thyatira had was that it was not capable of any prolonged defense.  It lay in an open valley. And, as William Barkley notes in his book, there was no height that could be fortified. And that Thyatira could do was fight a delaying action until Pergmum could prepare to meet the invaders. They relied on the capital city, Pergamum, to defend them whenever there was any trouble from invading armies. So Thyatira was a great commercial center, especially of the dying industry, you know, colors and dying and of the trade of woolen goods. It was from Thyatira that Lydia, the seller of purple, came. We read about Lydia in Acts 16:14 Acts 16:14And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul.
American King James Version×
. She was from Thyatira and guess what she was? She was the seller of purple. Because Thyatira did a lot of fabric dying and coloring.

Let’s look at Sardis. Sardis is mentioned at the beginning of Revelation 3, the first 6 verses. And it is commonly called, and we will call it the same in our study, the dead church. Sardis was a city of degeneration and decay.  700 years before John wrote this letter to the churches Sardis had been one of the greatest cities in the known world, but no longer. It had lost that prominence by the time John wrote this. The king of Lydia ruled over his empire with oriental splendor 700 years beforehand…the king of Lydia. You can see the area of Lydia on your map right off to the east of Sardis. At that time Sardis was a city of the east. They say it was hostile to the Greek world. It related more to the eastern part of Asia. They say it was an eastern city, not a Greek city, at that time but that happened to change.  Here is what Barkley adds in his book Revelation; He says Sardis stood in the midst of the plain of the valley of the River Hermus. Once again, the Hermus River, Sardis is right in the middle of this plain right here. To the north of that plain, rose a long ridge Mount Molas. And from that ridge a series of hills went out like spurs each forming a narrow plateau. On one of these spurs, 1500 feet up, stood the original Sardis. And I really like this graphic here that Tom pulled up for us. You can see how steep Mt. Molus is. And Sardis was built on that. Clearly such a position would have made it almost impregnable, says Barkley. The sides of the ridge were smoothly precipitous. The only where the spur met the ridge of Mt Molus was  there any approach into Sardis and even that was hard and steep. It has been said that Sardis stood like a gigantic watch-tower, guarding the Hermus valley. So, it was quite strategically located. But it fell into ruin from what it was 700 years before John wrote this letter. It was guarding the Hermus valley there. The time came when the narrow space at the top of the plateau was too small for the expanding city and Sardis grew on the foot of the spur on which the citadel stood. Sardis then had to develop around the mountain. It spread out into the valley because it was becoming too big. And they say that Sardis is actually a plural noun, like Sardi. You know? It means more than one because there were two towns. Sardis 1 and Sardis 2, the towns of Sardi. One in the plateau and one in the valley beneath.  I was trying to think of something similar today but I couldn’t. When you have the same city with kind of two locations. But the wealth of Sardis was legendary. They were rich people. And through the lower town flowed the river Pactilus, which would be this one over here, just north of Sardis, which was said in the old days to have had gold bearing waters from which much of the wealth of Sardis came. So, it was a wealthy town until it fell into ruin after it lost its splendor.

Then Revelation 3:7-13 Revelation 3:7-13 7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things said he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; 8 I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown. 12 Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name. 13 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
American King James Version×
brings us to Philadelphia. We are calling it the faithful church. Some will call it the church of love, maybe. Philidelphia was the youngest of all seven cities and it was founded by colonists from Pergamus, or Pergamum. And it was founded from these people spreading out from Pergamum under the reign of Attilus the second, who ruled in Pergamum from 159BC to 138BC. So, about 150 years before Christ is when Philadelphia was founded, it was the youngest of these seven.

Now, Philadelphia, or Philadelphos is Greek for “one who loves his brother.” And it was the love that Attilus had for his brother, Eumenese, that he called his brother , Eimenese, Phildelphos. Kind of like a nickname, I guess. So he called his brother Philidelphos because he was his favorite brother. It was after him that Philadelphia was then named. Attilus called it Philadelphos or Philadelphia. It was situated where the borders of Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia met. Those were the counties or smaller parts of the region. And it was founded with the deliberate intention that it might be a missionary of Greek culture and language to Lydia and Phrygia. To the east of Lydia and Phrygia, up in here, had a very Eastern influence, like Sardis used to, very much an eastern influence. So, Philadelphia was established to try to bring more Greek influence of the time. Philadelphia had a great characteristic that has left its mark to these days in the verses of Revelation, as we will see. It was on the edge on a great plain called the Katakekaumene, which means the burned land. The Katakekaumene was a great volcanic plain bearing the marks of the lava and the ash of extinct volcanos. Such land from volcanic explosions and ash is very fertile. And so it was the center of a great grape-growing area and a famous producer of wines.  It was because of the volcanic soil around the area of Philadelphia. But, having a town near volcanos can be a problem. And it was in AD17, which is when Christ was a teen or so, there came a great earthquake that destroyed Sardis and ten other cities. And in Philadelphia they felt those tremors for years. It didn’t destroy Philadelphia, but the buildings shook for many years to come. Sardis and a number of other cities were destroyed by it. Here is what Barkley says about it. He says “shocks were an everyday occurrence. Gaping cracks appeared in the walls of the houses in Philadelphia.” Now one part of the city was in ruins and then another. Most of the population lived outside the city in huts and feared to even go into the city streets lest they be killed by failing masonry. And he said “those who dared still live in the city were reckoned mad. They spent their time shoring up the shaking buildings and every now and then fleeing to the open spaces for safety.” And Barkley says “People in Philadelphia well knew what security  lay in the promise that they would go out no more.” That is in Revelation 3:12 Revelation 3:12Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name.
American King James Version×
Talking of Philadelphia we are told that we won’t have to go out anymore. We won’t have to scurry out from danger any longer. It was actually a reference to the continual tremors that they were facing every day in Philadelphia from that volcanic field. And, promise was, you won’t go out anymore. Many of them lived in tents and temporary dwellings because they feared buildings falling on them for many many years.

Then we come to Laodicea. That is Revelation 3:14-22 Revelation 3:14-22 14 And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot. 16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. 17 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness do not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 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. 21 To him that overcomes 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. 22 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.
American King James Version×
, eight verses donated to Laodicea. The lukewarm church, I think that was a fairly easy one for us to name for the series. The lukewarm church. Laodicea has the grim distinction being the only church for which Christ had nothing good to say. All of the others had a complement of one kind or another. And, of course, that is a warning for us, too, today. We must be very careful of having a Laodicean attitude. In the ancient word there are at least 6 cities that are called Laodicea, a very common name. This one was called Laodicea on the Lycus. So, this river over here is the Lycus River. Laodicea on the Lycus. So that distinguished it from the other Laodicean cities. It was founded about 250BC by Antiocus of Syria. IT was named after his wife, Laodice. I don’t think you pronounce it LA-O-Dice. IT is LA-O-Dis-See or LA-O-Dis-Say. Its importance was due entirely to its position. The road from Ephesus in the west over here, the road from Ephesus going east was extremely important for Laodicea, and that is why it was put in this position. It made it very important in Asia. It began at the coast of Ephesus and then this road had to find a way to climb up to the central plateau which is 8500 feet up. So, as you climb up the road here, you  get up to a very high altitude up here.  8500 feet. Barlkey says the road set out upon the river Mianda, until it reached the gates of Phrygia. So this is the Mianda River here and it reached the gates of Phrygia. This is Phrygia up here. Reached that gate into that area of the world.  He says, “beyond this point lay a broad valley where Phrygia and Caria met. The Mianda River entered that valley by a precipitous gorge through which no road could pass. The road, therefore, detoured through the Lycus valley and in that valley Laodicea stood. So, there was an impossible mountain here and Laodicea lied in the valley to get around that impossible mountain. So, Laodicea was astride this great road to the east, which went straight through Laodicea entering by the Ephesian gate, they called it, and leaving by the Syrian gate. From the west side was the Syrian gate leading into Ephesus and on the east side was the Syrian gate leading to the rest of Turkey, the rest of Asia and Asia Minor. And then, that road actually went all the way down to Perga. Originally, Laodicea had been a fortress. But it had the serious handicap that all of its water supply had to come by underground aqueduct from springs more than 6 miles away. So, that is a perilous situation for a town during a time of war, having to have your water come 6 miles underground. That could be sabotaged, you see. Two other roads passed through the gates of Laodicea, the one from Pergamum to the north, so not only from Ephesus, but also in and out to Syria, Pergamum to the north and then through the Hermus valley to Pisidia and Pamphylia from the coast at Perga. So, on the wide map you will see Perga way down on the bottom. So Laodicea was an important route to Perga and then on down into what was the holy land through Syria. The great road to the east ran straight through the city, making Laodicea one of the great commercial and strategic centers of the ancient world.

So, we have an overview of this area. That it was of much scrutiny in the first three chapters in the book of Revelation. And in the following studies we are going to dig deeply into the spiritual messages. We are going to delve more into the spiritual messages that were given to each church. And along the way, keep in mind that in representing the totality of the church, the whole personality of the church that we find in these seven, there are nuggets of truth and also nuggets of warning for us to take note of. The angels’ messages have great implications for the end time. And in many respects, it is to us that these prophecies and warnings have been delivered, because it is only in this time, in the last couple hundred years, that the messages have been so widely spread around the earth because of the printing press. And now because of the internet. So this is a prophecy and a warning to each of us today. And that is what we need to think about, remember, and concentrate on as we move through this series. At the end of each church account there is a message that basically says, he who has an ear to hear listen to what is being said to these churches. Let’s read Revelation 2:7 Revelation 2:7He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
American King James Version×
because this one has a little more emphasis.

Revelation 2:7 Revelation 2:7He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.
American King James Version×
He who has an ear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches .” That is how all the others read, except maybe one other. But this one says “ To him that overcomes  will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

So, if we listen, if we follow these messages, if we take to heart what we are studying these next three months, if we truly overcome, if we truly put sin out of our lives, if we truly live a life in honor to Jesus Christ we will eat from the tree of life which, of course, began back in Genesis. IT was banished from most of humanity, but now the church of God has access to the tree of life. And it is in the midst of the paradise of God. Of course, that is referenced back to the Garden of Eden, a paradise in its time. The Garden of Eden has long been forsaken and gone. You can’t even find it if you tried today, right? It has disappeared but the paradise of God will return and it will be a paradise on this whole earth and Jesus Christ will return and the New Jerusalem will later be set up.

So, pray for wisdom, discernment, and strength, yourself to oppose the evil forces of this world that we are going to read about here in the next three months. And then, yourself be prepared and adorned as part of the bride of Christ. That is our goal. And the bride of Christ is actually also one of the churches of Revelation. And there is also another church, the great false church. So we called this series not the seven churches of Revelation. We called it the churches of Revelation. Because there are these seven but then there is God’s church, the bride of Christ the totality of the church, as well. Then there is the great false church. So we called this the churches of Revelation because as we weave through these in these studies all these churches will be mentioned.

So, I pray this has been a helpful introduction, hopefully the map helps you see where things are on the globe. And I pray that you have a nice evening and look forward to seeing you at the next study. And thank you for those who tuned in to watch on the web, as well. So, have a pleasant evening. Good night.

Comments

  • Phillip van Niekerk
    Thank you very well presented and informative
  • Franc
    While I agree with your statement that the 7 churches encompass the totality of the church of God, your comment: “We will be pillars in the temple of God” and “we will be given power over the nations in the kingdom… listed as kings and priests” left me with the question: Who are those “we” you refer to? Especially since the promise to become pillars in God’s temple was given only to repentant Philadelphians who overcome (3:10) and the promise to rule with Christ during the millennium was given only to repentant Thyatirans who overcome (2:24-27). Each church received a specific promise based on its particular works; the different works and different promises are not common to all. Your paraphrase of Walvoord’s book seems to follow the teaching that the churches represent eras of the only church; a teaching which had originated with Ellen White in the late 1800’s. Such teaching has never been proven biblically nor historically and leads me to believe that the “we” in your comments refers only to UCG or the offspring of WCG. I find that the 7 messages represent the condition of all Christianity today, not any particular denomination.
  • Peter Eddington
    Hello Franc, Thank you for your comments. The "we" in my presentation is referring to all the sons and daughters of God who have become converted and are filled with the Holy Spirit—no matter which particular organization they may associate with. Those who keep the commandments of God and are filled with His Holy Spirit will comprise the temple of God. My personal feeling is that the promise to the Philadelphians represents a wider promise to all those considered first fruits in God's plan of salvation.
  • jcnewell49
    Very interesting and enlightening. I am looking forward to the rest of this series. Very well done and presented.
  • jmparkhill
    Do Hope that this and all the rest will be transcribed!
  • Jennifer T
    Very good study and well presented. Thank you for the maps. They really help to get a picture of that world at that time.
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