“But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6)
In Revelation chapters two through three our Lord identifies seven churches of Asia. These were real churches during the days of the apostle John, each with its own characteristics. These churches also characterize the Church from the time of the apostles to today.
Ephesus – (Apostles) the church of the apostolic age; legalistic
Ephesus was doctrinally sound, but had lost their first love. The era ranged from about 30-100 AD and the church had become legalistic.
Smyrna – (Martyrs) the church under severe persecution; persecuted
Smyrna was faithful unto death, and Jesus pronounced nothing against them. They suffered mightily for the Lord. The era ranged from about 100-313 AD.
Pergamum – (Constantine) the church settled in the world; liberal
Pergamum stayed true to the Lord, but allowed the way of Balaam and the Nicolaitans to enter their midst. The church began with Constantine and the era ranged from about 313-590 AD.
Thyatira – (Popes) the church in idolatry; pagan & cultic
Thyatira’s strength was service, but they allowed the spirit of Jezebel to corrupt them. This church began with the popes and ran from about 590-1517 AD.
Sardis – (Reformation) the church that is dead, yet with a believing remnant; dead
Sardis had no strengths. They were a dead church. The era was the Reformation from about 1517-1790 AD.
Philadelphia – (Missionaries) the church in revival; alive
Philadelphia was strong in mission work, and Jesus offered no negative comments against them. The era was about 1790-1900 AD.
Laodicea – (Apostate) the church in the final stage of apostasy; worldly
Laodicea had nothing good said about it by Jesus. Its weaknesses are that it is lukewarm, pompous, apathetic and worldly. It began with the time of German criticism from about 1900 AD to present.
Even though remnants of some of the churches can still be seen today, we are now in the final stage; i.e. the Laodicean church.
When studying the book of Acts isn’t it exhilarating to see the power of God that was in the beginning of that Ephesian church age? In Acts 2:41 we are told that about 3,000 souls were added to the Church. In Acts 4:4 we are told that 5,000 men heard and believed. (Obviously, there were women and children that were also saved.) Keep in mind, these numbers are from Scripture and are real, true numbers. I strongly doubt that that many have been saved at one time since then.
God has not changed. The Gospel has not changed. The power of God has not changed and is still readily available. So what happened from then until now?
The church was growing in leaps and bounds during the apostolic era (Ephesus) since the power of God was unleashed.
Satan hated this of course, so persecution became extreme (Smyrna). Much to Satan’s surprise, the church grew even stronger. The blood of the saints just increased the roll call of Heaven.
Satan decided that if persecuting the Church made it grow, maybe it would be better to co-mingle it with the world (Pergamum). This was accomplished through a Roman emperor named Constantine who embraced the Church and welcomed it into the empire of Rome. Sure enough, the fire quickly began to fade.
But that’s not enough, says Satan. So popes and cardinals were installed to be over all the commoners in the Church (Thyatira). The emphasis of the Church is taken from Christ and put upon men and sacraments. One earthly man now determines what all will and will not believe and follow.
Thankfully there was a rebellion called the Reformation begun by Martin Luther who finally realized that it is grace that saves, not works (Sardis). Splinter churches came from this movement, but many of the practices of the Catholic Church were kept and continued. Not much had changed but the actors on the scene. The church was dead.
Only God can bring the dead to life, and that He did on the mission fields (Philadelphia). Men gave their lives to print the Holy Scriptures and put them in the hands of the commoner. Many others gave their lives to carry the message of the true Gospel to their own countries and others far away. Thousands upon thousands began coming to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, but Satan wasn’t finished.
This would never do, so Satan got men to thinking about higher criticism, and from German criticism we learned that “God is dead.” We have now become so much smarter than God; we don’t need Him (Laodicea).
Dr. J. Vernon McGee related an incident that sums up what has happened to the Church down through the ages.
“An incident is told of one of the early saints of the church in Rome who walked in on the pope as he was counting money. Realizing that he had walked in on something which was private, he started to walk out. The pope said to him, “No longer can the church say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” As the saintly man continued walking out, he said, “Neither can the church say to the impotent man, ‘Rise up and walk.’”
Look around you at our churches today. What do we have? We have plenty of silver and gold. There are millions of dollars in cash and assets owned by the churches of the 21st century. How much of these ‘riches’ are being hoarded and used for selfish gains? How much is being freely and gladly provided to further the Gospel of Christ? Yes, we have the silver and gold, but we do not have the power.
Now before some get their tail-feathers ruffled, some of our churches can be identified with Philadelphia, for example, but by and large, we are neck deep in the Laodicean age. We think we are rich, but we are poor. Now how can that be?
As Jesus said we are neither hot nor cold. We think we’re rich and need nothing, but we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
Then He goes on to say, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
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.
To him that overcometh 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.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:18-22)
There were three critical components of the Gospel the apostles always preached that we rarely hear today.
Sin – We are sinners in need of a Savior.
Blood – Jesus shed His blood on the cross for us.
Resurrection – Jesus rose from the grave.
We have no power because we have forsaken what the Gospel is all about. It isn’t about buildings, bank accounts, beautiful stages, comfortable pews, opinionated sermonettes, the good life, no worries, no problems, health and wealth, and comfort. It is about:
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Pre-Rapture Commentary: http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com
Rapture Ready: http://www.raptureready.com/featured/phillips/phillips.html