7 Churches – Sardis & Philadelphia

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We are now six weeks into this series about the end of the world as we know it, and we haven’t even started talking about the end yet…but don’t worry, we will.
So far, we have been taking our time looking at the first two chapters of Revelation. Today we will get into chapter 3 – yay!
Chapters two and three, as you may know by now, contain seven letters that King Jesus dictated to John to send to the seven churches then located in Asia Minor, but as we have been learning – these letters were not only to those specific churches, but to all of Christ’s Church throughout the church age until he comes again. And not only that, but it is believed by many that each letter is even addressed to a specific phase of the church, or historical period of the church.
So far we have looked at the letters to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. If you missed any of the messages so far, be sure to catch up online or with the podcast. You don’t want to be left behind.
This week we are going to look at the letters to Sardis and Philadelphia.
Next week we will look at the last letter to Laodicea (if you thought Thyatira was bad, wait until you hear that one!).
Then on November 6th, the day of our Chili Cookoff, I will be covering all the details concerning the rapture of the church.  You definitely don’t want to miss that one, and be sure to bring a friend or two or ten because they won’t want to miss that message…or the chili, pie, and cornbread we are having afterward…either.
Now let’s talk about Sardis – but let’s pray before we get into it…

SARDIS
Revelation 3
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 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.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
THE CITY
For that, watch this short video… (2:17)
THE AUTHOR
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
The seven spirits are really the one Holy Spirit – remember that seven is the number of completion, or wholeness, and we talked in week 3 about how there is reference in Isaiah to seven spirits/aspects of the one Holy Spirit – much like the Three persons of the one God.  And the Holy Spirit indeed is part of or as he says, held by Christ – that happened when he was baptized and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove.
And the seven stars are the seven angels or leaders of the seven churches, seven again indicating the whole church or all leaders of all the churches. 
Jesus is telling this church that He alone has complete control and purview over his churches and even the Holy Spirit that indwells the members of His church. He is aware of and has knowledge of all and all.
THE CONDEMNATION
I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
Jesus, with his complete oversight and knowledge says to this church that looks good on the outside that he knows what is in their hearts and they are spiritually dead.
There was a lot of action and the people around and in the church thought things were going well because of all the activity, but it was all a show, all a shell.
On the inside they were decaying corpses.
What would cause this to happen?
There’s really only one thing that causes death in this world, spiritual and physical: SIN.
And the only thing that can bring the dead to life is the risen Jesus Christ.
As Paul explains to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
What is that saying? It’s saying that Christ calling this church dead means he’s saying they are full of lost people who think they are found.
It’s full of dead people who think they are alive.
It’s full of people whose Christianity is only skin deep.
How does it come to this? How does a church die?
John MacArthur
What are the danger signs that a church is dying?
A church is in danger when it is
content to rest on its past laurels,
 
when it is more concerned with liturgical forms than spiritual reality,
 
when it focuses on curing social ills rather than changing people’s hearts through preaching the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ,
 
when it is more concerned with material than spiritual things,
 
when it is more concerned with what men think than what God said,
 
when it is more enamored with doctrinal creeds and systems of theology than with the Word of God,
 
or when it loses its conviction that every word of the Bible is the word of God Himself.
 
No matter what its attendance, no matter how impressive its buildings, no matter what its status in the community, such a church, having denied the only source of spiritual life, is dead.

Jesus is calling Sardis a dead church despite their great activity.
As for the “deeds unfinished in the sight of my God” this would seem to be a clear reference to something else Paul talks about in the same chapter of Ephesians:
Ephesians 2
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are not saved by grace only for our own benefit. We are saved by grace in order to fulfill the purpose God has prepared for us since before the creation of the world. 
Again it all comes down to obedience.
 
Faith without obedience is dead.
Notice I didn’t say “faith without works is dead” as James puts it. That’s because if you quote it out of context it may mislead you into thinking that as long as you are doing a lot “for God” then you faith will not be dead. But, the context of James makes it clear he’s not talking just any works – but works of obedience.
You can be doing a lot of stuff, but still disobeying.  Jesus makes this double clear in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 7
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
These people were doing a lot “for God” and “in His name” but it was their own will they were following, not the Father’s. They were living “for God,” but on their own terms, and Jesus calls them evil doers.
Basically he’s not interested in what we do so much as why we do it. We can do a lot of church stuff and be dead like the church in Sardis because what we’re doing is not out of obedience to the one we love.
That is what the church of Sardis was guilty of and Jesus is telling them to WAKE UP!

THE WARNING
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.
Another church he is calling to repent. To change their mind and their ways. In this case, he is calling them to change their mind about thinking they are ok and alive and remember the true gospel they had received at first. A gospel that was not about the visible things that men can see, but a gospel that is about your heart being yielded to Jesus as your Lord and King. 
And he says to them that if they do not wake up, then he is going to come to them like a thief when they least expect it.
This is a frequent reference to the Rapture. The rapture is going to be a great thing for some and a terrible thing for others, but mostly it will come when you least expect it – like a thief.
We will be talking more about that in a couple weeks. It’s not an event you want to be caught spiritually sleeping for.
THE ENCOURAGEMENT
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
Soiled clothes are opposed to clean clothes which are a clear symbol of purity and being cleansed from sins – saved. This use of stained clothing as an illustration would have been familiar to the people of Sardis as they had a large wool-dying industry there.
 
Walking in white, we learn definitively later in Revelation, is a symbol of purity and righteousness.
Jesus is saying that within this overall dead church there are still a few true believers, and they will be rewarded.
THE REWARD
The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
The victorious one is the saved one and will have a white garment of righteousness.
Then Jesus says something that has caused much consternation and debate among scholars – and I must admit it as given me a few headaches.
He says that he will never blot their name from the book of life. 
The book of life is the book that contains all the names of the people who will be allowed into heaven at the end.
Revelation 21:27
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
The headaches and debates center around the question of whether salvation is a result of predestination or choice, and whether it’s possible, once saved to lose your salvation – thus having your name in the book but then having it blotted out.
I’m not going to get into all of the theology involved here as I could do a whole series on it, but the short answer is that we just don’t fully know how it works. And ultimately, it’s not important because regardless of how it works – we are responsible for our own choices. If you reject the Son of God, your name will not be in there. If you make him your Lord and Savior, then it will. 
I believe, the likely reason why Jesus used this language is related to a cultural aspect of the time. In the Jewish culture, they would have list of all the people in good standing and thus allowed in the synagogue. Roman cities would also have registers of people, and some had more rights than others. And for the Jews who converted to Christianity, they would have their names erased from the Synagogue list. And for the Gentiles, they might have their names tarnished or removed for their rejection of the Roman gods. Similar to how, today, a convicted felon can lose voting rights for a time. 
Being on those lists was important for your social, physical, financial, and religious wellbeing. Well, for the Christians who were now outcasts from the Jews and disdained by the Romans, they would no longer be able to participate in much of the social happenings of their day. In effect, they were officially outcast for standing up for Christ.
And here in this letter, Jesus is assuring them that it is worth it because if they stand for Him amidst the opposition, unlike their human counterparts, He will never blot their name from His list and will proudly acknowledge them before the one who matters most and the host of heavens angels.
That’s a pretty awesome promise. So, for those of you who face opposition, ridicule, or even are outcast because of your faith in Christ. Stand firm because your name is in the only book that matters, and the one who wrote you in there will stand by you so long as you stand by him.

So, the church at Sardis was a dead church that thought it was alive and Jesus is telling them to wake up and repent or he will surprise them and catch them with their pants down just like Cyrus and Antiochus had done to their supposedly impregnable fortress of a city.
Let us take note, and examine our own selves to ensure we are not also sleeping.

Let’s talk quickly about the church of history that Sardis represents.
If you recall, the church before Sardis was Thyatira and represents the Catholic church of the middle ages. One thing to note about the latter four churches of the seven, they are all still in existence. The first three are not. So, the time periods of the latter four churches are not so much start and stop as a bunch of starts and one final stop.  I will get into more detail about that next week when I wrap up our look at the seven churches.
So, the Roman Catholic (Thyatira) church began around 600 AD and still continues.  The Sardis church began with the Protestant Reformation that began in 1517 with Martin Luther and his 95 Theses and continues still.
The name Sardis has a meaning like “remnant” or “those escaping”.  And indeed, the protestants were escaping the increasingly idolatrous catholic church of the time. The tipping point was the selling of indulgences – a practice that said you could buy forgiveness and salvation with money. In fact, it was the selling of indulgences that financed the building of St. Peter’s Basilica. Just think of it – selling what is a gift from God in order to build a giant statue of a human being that people can pray to and kiss.
Martin Luther was a priest at this time and as he read his bible, he noticed a lot of the things taught by his faith were not in there – especially all the focus on works necessary for salvation (confession, penance, purgatory). His bible said that we are saved by the free gift of grace through faith, not works.
Interestingly, when Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg – his intention was not to break from the catholic church and start a movement.  He was aiming for reform – to bring to light the many errors that were present in the church.
In fact, his first attempt was a private letter he sent to his superior containing a list of serious questions he was seeking guidance on. His superior basically condemned him for even asking such things.
So, when his boss would not listen, Luther put it out on the earliest form of Facebook – the door to the church, hoping someone would take him seriously and have an open discussion.
But instead of the church listening to him, he was excommunicated – kicked out of the church. That’s when the protest actually began.
After this, a storm of protests erupted all over Europe and the church split into multiple denominations.
One thing that made this possible was that the bible was finally being translated into local languages instead of only in Latin, which had been the practice up until this point – making it impossible for most common people to read or even understand it. Now it was being translated into local languages, with Martin Luther being one of the first, translating it into German from the original Greek and Hebrew. Now people could actually read the words of God for themselves rather than only being able to take the church leadership’s word for it. 
 
This turned out to be both a good and bad thing.
While this allowed clergy and laity alike to see that a lot of what the church had taught them was not in the Bible, now they spent almost all of their time reforming their theology and beliefs, but little time actually spreading the gospel or doing the things the Bible tells them to do.
From 1517 until the Peace of Westphalia in 1650 and a little while later the Great Awakening, there was very little spread of the faith. There was a lot of activity as new leaders emerged and many different congregations formed. There was a lot of study and talk, but not a lot of doing the true works of faith. A lot of talk without a lot of action. A reputation for being alive, but really being dead.
Obviously, not everyone in every church was like this. There were still many that were true believers, just as Christ commended Sardis for.
But one thing that happened to all these protestors was that they were excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
Because of their so-called heresy and rejection of the self-styled “one true church” – the powers-that-be, who thought they had the power to open or close heaven’s door, would in-effect erase these protesters’ names from the roles of THE CHURCH, the body and bride of Christ.
But Jesus says to them not to worry about the actions of men. There is only one book that matters, and your name will never be erased from it – because you have kept your faith and my word.
Don’t these promises and rewards of Christ taste so much sweeter when you realize just how specifically targeted they were to the people he was writing to? He was addressing their real needs, both in AD 95, in the 16th century, and today. What an amazing God we serve!

Now, moving on to the next church. It’s no coincidence that Jesus told this dead church to wake up and the beginning of the next phase of church history began with the Great Awakening.  And to that church that finally woke up, Jesus has nothing but good things to say to them.
PHILADELPHIA
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 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. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Philadelphia, like Smyrna, has nothing but praise and encouragement from Jesus.
THE CITY
Short Video
The video mentioned an earthquake. Actually Philadelphia was constantly hit by earthquakes such that most of the residents of the city lived outside the city proper for fear of the constant threat of being crushed by a falling pillar or something.
The video also mentioned their feelings of betrayal. Well, it is to the church in this city that Jesus calls himself…
THE AUTHOR
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
In this introduction, Jesus breaks from the pattern of the previous letters and gives himself a title that is not from the vision John had in chapter 1.
He is holy – which literally means set-apart. Holy describes the uniqueness of God. He is like no other.
He is true – He can be trusted. His words are right and good. He will not betray them.
He holds the key of David – the key symbolizes authority, and it was promised that the Messiah would come from King David, which Jesus did. Having the key of David means Jesus has the authority of Kingship over Israel, just as King David had.
And his authority and power are illustrated in the fact that what he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open. He has all authority and all power. What he wills will happen. Period.
He’s saying these things to a church and a city that had been mistreated and their future was uncertain and literally shaky. Jesus is their rock, their sure foundation.
THE COMMENDATION
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Just as he tells every church – He knows their deeds. That is good news to some and bad news to others. For Philadelphia, it’s good news.
He commends them for the two things that are ultimately the most important thing a church can do: They have kept His word and not denied his name. And that, despite having little strength. They were not big and powerful or made up of the elite. They were likely of the lower class and like the others, were outcast for their rejection of the Roman gods. They were physically weak, but they were strong in their dedication to their Lord and King. They kept his word, meaning they knew his word and obeyed it. And they refused to deny His name.
And for that, Jesus placed an open door in front of them. A door for ministry, to spread the gospel, to succeed in the heavenly economy, and that door can not be shut.
Perhaps it was similar to the situation in Acts 2, when they were “devoted to the Apostles’ teaching (God’s Word), to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer…and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
THE PROMISE PART 1
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.
Again we see Jesus pointing out the distinction between the Heart Jews and the Heritage Jews. I explained the distinction a few weeks ago when I spoke about Smyrna, so I won’t repeat it here. Again, it’s imperative if you want to keep up that you watch or listen to each talk in this series.  But in short, Jesus does not consider Jews of physical heritage to be real Jews. Only the people who have their faith in him as the Messiah are true Jews for it is the spiritual that matters, not the physical. And he calls them a synagogue of Satan because they are operating on a foundation of lies, and all lies come from Satan.
Jesus is saying that for these Philadelphia Christians, there would come a day when the Heritage Jews who had been persecuting them all this time will actually fall at their feet in humiliation when they realize they have been wrong all this time. Perhaps it will happen on the day John references in chapter 1:
Revelation 1
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
Isn’t it a comforting feeling to know that some day all the people who have been mocking you for your faith will realize their error and actually acknowledge it to you. Don’t you think knowing that would make standing strong that much more worth it? It’s not necessarily vindictive to feel this way. It’s inherent within us that true justice is served, and that includes the assurance that those who reject the savior we have personally sacrificed so much for will not just get a free pass. Our God is a God of mercy AND justice, and that is a good thing.
THE PROMISE PART 2
10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
Now this is the promise that we are all anxiously waiting to be fulfilled. Jesus says that because they have kept his command – again obedience – He will keep them from the worst seven years this earth will ever see.  And yes, he’s taking about the Tribulation we’re going to read about in a few chapters, and yes he’s telling this church that he will keep them from going through it.
This is another clue from the letters that indicates these are not just letters to the churches that existed in 95 AD. Why would Jesus say something like this to a group of people he knew would be long dead before the “hour of trial” ever happened? Just dying of natural causes thousands of years before said trial is not really Jesus keeping them from it.
And also, for some who like to suggest he is not talking about the tribulation at the end of time as described in this very book, what other trial is going to come or has come on the WHOLE world to test the earth’s inhabitants?  Not even the black plague we talked about last week was over the whole world. Not even our so-called “world” wars were truly global. No, there is only one event in earth’s history that will qualify.
Jesus himself describes it in the Olivet Discourse, which we will be covering in detail in a few weeks:
Matthew 24
21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.
Whatever he’s speaking about, it certainly hasn’t happened yet and based on all the descriptions of it in this book, the tribulation at the end of time is the only thing he could be talking about.
And so, Jesus is definitely telling this Philadelphia church that he will rescue them before this “great distress” happens. An event we call the Rapture and I will be talking about in a two weeks on November 6th. Don’t miss it. Invite a friend or three.
And why will he rescue this church? Because they have kept his word and not denied his name. 
This is important and is everywhere in God’s word. This is salvation – to claim his name and keep his word. It’s a both-and. Claiming his name is actually claiming his kingship and rule over your life. And you can’t claim his kingship if you don’t obey him. That’s the definition of a king or a lord – someone you obey, a master.
It is only to those that have him as their king that he will rescue from the trial. Not the many who will say “Lord Lord” but do not do the will of the Father. Don’t be deceived and think it’s enough to give mental and verbal assent. This is so important because…
THE ENCOURAGEMENT
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
The faith that saves must be an enduring faith. Notice all the “endure” language: “hold fast”, “hold on”, “persevere”, “endure”. We see it in almost every letter and all throughout the New Testament.
One place in particular that stands out is in Hebrews 10, one chapter before the famous Hall of Faith. There is “enduring” and “persevering” language all through that book.
Hebrews 10
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The writer of Hebrews urges us to hold tightly, without wavering to the hope we profess. And to help in that aim we should not try to go it alone. This is why fellowship is so important. Especially, as he says, as we see the Day approaching. And indeed we do.
Here’s another from the same chapter. This one speaks to not giving up.
Hebrews 10
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,
“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”
38 And,
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
I don’t know what that sounds like to you. But to me it sounds like true faith is an enduring faith that does not shrink back when the going gets tough, but perseveres, holds on, endures.
Some like to suggest this implies you can lose your salvation. I don’t believe you can lose your salvation, but I do believe that many think they have saving faith but they do not. That when the pressure is on, they will shrink back, give up, drop out. Which ultimately means they never had full faith to begin with.
I think a good illustration of this can be seen in a short clip from the movie Bambi. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a baby deer that grows up and he has lots of other animal friends. It’s cute and classic. Anyway, in this scene there are hunters in the woods and all the animals are scared.
Show Video
Why did the quail get shot? Because it trusted it’s own assessment of the problem and solution rather than her friend’s. And when it came down to it, her true belief came out – because ultimately, and especially when the pressure is on – our true loyalties come out in our behavior.
If the quail had fully trusted her friend more than herself, then she would have stayed and lived.
But since she instead trusted her own assessment, she fled and died.
I think it works the same with our faith in Christ.
Ultimately our faith boils down to believing the Word of God over and above our own thoughts and feelings – especially when our thoughts and feelings are telling you one thing and God is telling you another.
No matter what you tell yourself or others – the truth and depth of your belief will be known by what you do. By which voice you obey.
Because, just like the quail – you can say you trust God all you want, but when He tells you His way and you fly off and do your own way instead, it only shows that your true trust is in yourself.
This is such an important concept my friends.
And my prayer for each one of you and for myself is that…we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
True faith endures.
False faith does not.
That is the test.
And to those who pass the test, this is one of the rewards.
THE REWARD
12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 
This would have been a welcome reward for a group of people who were used to a city that experienced regular seismic activity and would often have to flee the temple and the city for fear of being crushed by falling debris. Jesus says you will be able to stay in my temple and never have to leave.
And not only that, instead of a government and a religious system that rejects you and mocks you, I will write my name, my Father’s name, and my city’s name on you for you are mine – I claim you – I welcome you, I accept you and embrace you. You have kept my word and not denied my name. You have endured for me, now you will join me in paradise never to leave.
What beautiful promises Christ gives this church.  And it is to be like this church that we strive for, that we MUST strive for! If we hope to receive the same promise. We must strive to keep his word, to obey him, to claim his name without wavering. And I believe that as we have that enduring and resilient faith, we will be raptured just as he promised.

I will finish today with a look at this church in history.
When you get to this point in the historical-prophetical theory there are differences in opinion on dates and durations, but I believe this church had it’s beginnings between 1650 and 1750.
Looking back to the previous period of the protestant reformation. The reformation not only effected the church, it actually sent all of Europe into on and off war for the next hundred years.
Basically, while the church was not married to the Roman Empire anymore, it was still connected to the political systems of the various nation-states. Nations like England, Germany, France, Spain, Italy – not exactly all the countries we have now, but getting close. And during that time, religion still played an important role in government and in popular society. And when everyone started jumping the catholic ship, it actually led to a lot of physical fighting between nations and within nations as a king or prince would choose one version of Christianity while the people chose another, and on and on it went. Perhaps another reason Jesus calls that church a dead church. They were very active…fighting each other instead of winning people for Christ.
But the fighting finally came to an end with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. It was basically all of the nations and new denominations agreeing to disagree. Out of it came three official Christian flavors – Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist. All of the modern denominations and even non-denominations stem from these three.
If you ever want to learn more about church history, there is a great podcast that goes through it in bite size chunks. Ask me and I’ll point you to it.
With the end of infighting and sibling rivalry, the church was able to start focusing on more important things like all the people outside of Europe that didn’t know about the Gospel. And over the next 100 years, the church spread far and wide – including across the Atlantic to a place they were calling the New World that eventually became the United States of America.
But shortly before our Declaration of Independence from Britain, something amazing happened. The church stopped hitting the snooze button and woke up all the way in a movement now known as the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening swept through Europe and the American colonies in the 1730’s and 1740’s. The powerful preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Samuel Davies created a revival in the churches that caused a spiritual awakening and lead to the second Great Awakening in the 1800’s which was far more evangelistic in nature – meaning the second great awakening was about reaching the lost, where as the first one was about waking up a sleeping church.
Can you see how this is obviously a parallel to the Philadelphia church? The Sardis church woke up and became the Philadelphia church and Jesus gave them an open door to spread the gospel. In the span of the next 300 years, the church spread farther than it had during the first 1600 years of it’s existence. And there was even great success in converting Jews to the faith – thus the promise that the Jews would acknowledge the truth has come true as well.
And while the Great Awakenings are over, this church is still alive and just as awake as ever today – but the bulk of it has moved out of America and Europe where it started. Now the door is open in India, and China, and Africa and all over the world where the underground churches are exploding. Jesus is still adding to His kingdom, and he will continue until the appointed time.
Then, in the twinkling of an eye, he will snatch up his true church and we will be saved from the hour of testing that is still to come on the whole earth.
But I will tell you one church of these seven that will not be joining us in the sky. That is the the church we will be talking about next week. The final church of the church age that has been slowly taking over America and Europe since the beginning of the 20th century.
Laodicea – the Apostate Church.
You definitely don’t want to miss that one.