My last post was about the first four of the seven churches discussed in Revelation chapters two and three. Today, I am writing about three more churches: what more can we learn? Just like with the first four churches, we see several positive and several negative traits in each that we learned about already from the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna Pergamum and Thyatira. Hopefully we can apply these lessons learned and more today to Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Learning More From Sardis
People in the church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive physically yet are dead! Wake up, strengthen what remains!
“To the angel[a] of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[b] of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”Revelation 3:1-3
Some people look alive, all excited, looking spiritual on the outside, but internally, there is nothing really there. They are “dead” as verse one states. So, what does it mean to be “dead” spiritually? What I have noticed in people who are not alive, but are dead spiritually, is that they may go to church, they may claim Christianity as their faith or “religion” but inside, there is absolutely no day-to-day walk with the Lord. They do not follow what they learned perhaps years ago. It’s a facade with nothing below the surface.
An example that you may have seen: When they were young, they learned verses, they went to Vacation Bible School and church with their family. Then they went to youth group as a teenager. Now that they are adults, they no longer serve Christ or follow what they know to be right. They do what culture dictates as acceptable. They learned just enough to know how to look good on the outside, but they are filled with “dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). That is not alive in Christ, but rather dead.
Please Wake Up Now, Strengthen Yourself For Your Work Is Not Finished!
So the Lord, the one who holds the seven spirits and the seven stars, then tells them to “Wake Up” and strengthen what still remains in you. In other words, they still have something inside them from years ago, but they are not finishing what God has assigned them to do. He tells them to remember what they already were given and heard. Hold on to it strong and turn back and go in the right direction again!
The consequence if they don’t “wake up” and get their life back together again, is that the Lord is coming like a thief and they won’t know when He will come. This means that they will have lost opportunity to do what they were taught and what the Lord expects from them. It is hard for us to know sometimes when we see members of our family not walking with Christ. We start wondering if they truly accepted Christ at one time.
This passage demonstrates to me, that there are people who were once alive and now are not. The Lord really gets after them and tells them to wake up and repent; or else there are consequences for you and for other people they know but may not know Christ because they were “sleeping” and dead in Christ.
Revelation 3:4-6 states that some people in Sardis have not soiled their clothes, or in other words, ruined their lives, gotten dirty. They are going to walk with God in heaven in white clothes. They have shown themselves to be pure and have shown that they are worthy. Those who are victorious will also be wearing white. Do you remember in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18)? He purifies those who believe even if they have strayed. Remember the prodigal who ran away to live like the world, but repented and came back? He was forgiven and welcomed back. The color white, has special meaning in several verses throughout Scripture.
The Lord says that He will never take that person’s name out of the book of life. He will in fact acknowledge these people who are in white, or pure, to God the Father in heaven and His angels. Listen again to what He says to His seven churches!
Learn From The Church In Philadelphia
God doesn’t say a lot in these chapters about the church at Philadelphia. But by not saying much, He communicates something very important! The positive trait is that Philadelphia was open to share the gospel with the world. They did not have much strength but they continued following the Lord and did not deny Him. They were patient and persevered. But what God didn’t say is anything negative about the church at Philadelphia. To all the other churches, He said, you have … to work on. He didn’t say that to the church at Philadelphia because they were busy doing what he called them to with a complete single-mindedness. They weren’t drawn to or distracted by the world because they were focused on God and service to Him.
The Lord Looked After Those In Philadelphia
Some people in that culture lied and claimed to be Jews but really were not. “I will make them fall down and admit that I have loved you!,” they were told. The Lord kept them from going through so many trials that were brought on to those on earth. Scripture isn’t 100% clear, but the author is likely referring to the Great Tribulation.
They Will Be Rewarded
The church at Philadelphia is told to hold on to what they have for they will be rewarded. God wants to give them a crown and a new name for their faithfulness and endurance when He comes out of the heavens.
Listen now to what the Spirit says to the churches!
The Church In Laodicea: What Can We Learn From Them?
I heard of Laodicea many years ago, in fact Steve Camp wrote a song once about Laodicea.
We have turned from Your law to try and find a better way
Each man does today what is right in his own eyes
We will pay the price for our sinning
We can never know true living, we’ve exchanged His truth for lies
For I’ve been living in Laodicea
And the fire that once burned bright, I’ve let it grow dim
And the very one I swore that I would die for all has been forgotten
As the world’s become my friendLiving in Laodicea by Steve Camp
The Problem God Has With Laodicea
The Lord God really had a problem with this church! He wished that they would be either one way or another (hot or cold), not in between. As a result, He says, He will spit them out of His mouth. Can you think of a church or churches that are this way today? God actually preferred a church that was cold rather than one that is neither hot nor cold.
They do look so good on the outside, like steaming hot, on fire; but are really shallow and mediocre. There is no depth, probably many who don’t even know the Lord there. They go to church so that they can claim that they go to church and look good doing it or so that they can claim to worship God and hear His Word. Honestly though, they are hardly taught much spiritual or they hold to the world and marry it with the things of God.
Who Is Laodicea Listening To?
They can hear the same information from a motivational speaker who just tells them to be around good people and you will have a better life. But this is not reading, studying, knowing and living God’s Word. Many people today have no idea what the Bible really says about certain moral issues. When they look at any verse that they are pointed to, they twist it and turn it to mean what they agree with and believe or what their social circles say. They don’t treat the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, but they relegate it to another reference to prove their belief system.
People Who Are Now Mediocre
I know believers who once were in full-time ministry, serving the Lord, really sacrificing their lives to see people come to Christ. Now, they totally distort the Word of God on certain moral issues. It is hard to see this happen. Do they go to church? Oh, yes! Do they still work in Christian organizations, yes they do. But what does their life say to those who are around them?
They aren’t following what God says! They condone sin and God would rather that they not claim to be part of what He is doing in the world if they don’t truly follow Him. I don’t think He is proud of them stating that they are believers if they don’t stay strong, following Him.
Riches In The Driver’s Seat
God says “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.”Revelation 3:17
God also tells them they believe they are wealthy and that they don’t need anything. Does that sound familiar to you from any other passage in the Bible? 1 Peter 1:7 says “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God is saying that the thing that they believe makes them rich is something that perishes. God wants them to seek their riches in and from Him. He wants their faithfulness, not the riches they can generate themselves in the world. He wants them to seek what He values, not what the world values like temporary riches that can be lost, destroyed and even fade.
God Wants Our Faith
Our faith becomes more sincere and of greater value, worth more than gold, when we are tested by hard times(by fire). The value of gold that comes from Gold is genuine! We will worship and give Him praise, honor and glory when He is revealed to us someday in heaven. He also challenges them to have white clothes to wear (purity) and salve for their eyes, so that they can see.
Those who I love, I rebuke and discipline, He says in verse 19. In Hebrews 12, Paul states that the Lord chastens those He loves. Again, here we see how much He loves us. He wants to see change in our lives. He stands at the door and knocks. If we hear His voice and let Him come in, He will come in and will eat with us. He will spend time with us. His desire is to have an eternal relationship with Him.
Choose To Apply
What did you learn from these three churches today? How about all seven of the churches? Did any of them remind you of believers that you know? Are you convicted personally of anything written about these churches? Do you see ways that you can change to become more like Christ and followers of Him? I hope that this part of Revelation has “revealed” to you what God is saying and wants you to learn. If you have anything that you would like to share or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments after I post.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.Galatians 2:20