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Laodicea - The 21st Century American Church - Part 2

Updated on May 16, 2017

The Church at Smyrna

Enter – The church at Smyrna. The Lord had nothing but commendation for this church. They lived out their faith on a daily basis, but we need to see that the church of Smyrna was a much-persecuted church. What would it take to have you turn your back on Jesus? I’m afraid in many cases it would take very little. The backbone of the American church is weak. We want the glitter and the gold. We want to feel good. We want our ears tickled.

The fuzzy, feely church of today is not representative of the church at Smyrna. The church endured persecution and poverty, probably far beyond what you and I can imagine. Not only was the church at Smyrna persecuted, but it also represented the time period between100 A.D. – 313 A.D. Much persecution was brought to the church at large during this time. The prophecy of that time period was seen as a type through the Smyrna church.

Let me mention a couple of thoughts about persecution. We read in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.“

The temptations spoken of in verse 2 do not refer to temptations to commit sin, but rather it refers to adversity; to hardships in life; to persecution. James is saying that through these severe trials of life we are made perfect, that is, complete. One of the blessings of persecution is Christian maturity – the blessing of strength.

Persecution brings purity. The church that has been purged is a pure church. They have come to rely on the Lord Jesus in a way we know not of in America. The persecuted church is both mature, complete, and pure. Although the flesh says, “I do not want to face hard trials and testing,” I believe what America needs is a strong dose of persecution. Will the real Christian please stand up?

Poverty also was a part of the life of the Christians at Smyrna, yet these followers of Christ drew their line in the sand. They would trust the risen Lord even if it meant death – and it did.

Where do you stand, fellow servant? Is it not fitting that the resurrected Savior would present Himself to this church by saying, " . . . These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;” Many of the members of the body at Smyrna were dead, were martyred. Oh, but they were alive in Christ. They had the blessing of Heaven. Their earthly death gave them real life, never to suffer again. Their rewards were great as well. So I ask you again. Where do you stand, fellow servant?

The Church at Pergamos

Next, Jesus visits the church at Pergamos, or Pergamum. Pergamum held the distinction of being the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor.

Our Lord commends His Bride to be at Pergamos in Revelation 2:13 – “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” He immediately goes on to tell them their faults in verses 14-16.

The city was home to a variety of pagan cults. It was the first city in Asia Minor to officially recognize Caesar worship by building a temple to Caesar. Some have the opinion that this city was more idolatrous than all of Asia Minor combined.

The church was largely made up of Gentiles who were once pagan. They became very worldly in their approach to worship. It was during the time period of 313-500 A.D. that the description of this literal church can be seen.

Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great

The Church at Thyatira

It was during this time that Emperor Constantine brought the church and the world together. Heathen priests became “Christian” priests. The heathen temples became “Christian” churches. Heathen feast days were kept and pulled into “Christianity” like Christmas and Easter – forms of Ishtar worship. “Christianity” became the state religion.

Christianity grew in name, but not in purity. The church grew in numbers, but not in maturity. The church at Pergamum was divided, but not complete.

Next, Jesus addresses the church at Thyatira. The city of Thyatira could be found seated on the Lycus River, a tributary of the Maeander, located in Phrygia. Its location was roughly 40 miles east of Pergamos. Largely, this was a city of trade.

Thyatira was known for its production of wool and purple cloth. We see in Acts 16:14 that a woman by the name f Lydia sold some of this purple cloth in Thyatira. Thyatira also was the home of many trade guilds which paid allegiance to the patron gods, Tyrimnos and Caesar. These were considered the sons of Zeus – the god of gods. It is no wonder that this letter from Jesus Himself begins by saying, “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God . . . “ This was the Son of the living and true God who was speaking His heart. This is the only letter of the seven that uses the term “Son of God”. Perhaps Jesus chooses this term for this church to point to the false worship of the city.

Among the church’s strong points, Christ mentions their works, charity, service, faith, and patience. But what about the evil lurking inside the church? One word describes the problem with the church at Thyatira – Jezebel.

Some see the use of the word Jezebel, as symbolic. It is possible that she was a real person leading the church into idolatry. Whether she is symbolic or not, the point is, the church had fallen into spiritual adultery as well as physical adultery. The guilds were known for their worship of fertility and had a negative effect on Christian growth during this time period. In the matter of the secondary prophecy, this time period took place between 500 A.D. to the early 1300s AD.

The Church at Sardis

Moving on to church number five, the risen Lord addresses the church at Sardis. Matthew Henry credits the Apostle John with establishing this church. If that was the case, it must have pained the Apostle greatly to hear Jesus’ condemnation of the church.

In Revelation 3:2, the Saviour speaks the words, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” This was the church of the living dead. G. R. Beasley-Murray says this of the church at Sardis – “The appearance [of the Sardis church] is that of a beautifully adorned corpse in a funeral parlour, and the Lord is not deceived.” (Revelation, p. 95). G.B. Caird calls Sardis “the perfect model of inoffensive Christianity” (A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, p. 48).

Christ comes to this church with this statement, “These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God . . . .” This church was in great need of revival. It needed to fall in worship before the Seven Spirits of God (Revelation 3:1) who was the Lord Himself. The church had lost the pure testimony it was meant to have and traded it in for an empty shell. Death was at the door of the church.

Paul Kroll says this about the church at Sardis, “The church needed to stir up the living Spirit of God in order to salvage what was left. What was dead about the church and what needed reviving? First, there was no indication of persecution or trouble from outside forces. Neither was there any heresy within, in contrast to some of the other churches. Things seemed to be peaceful and religiously correct. Perhaps it was a church that was too good to be true. Its religiously proper appearance may have only meant that it had fully and silently compromised with the truth and the pagan society around it.” (Sardis: The "Dead" Church) The closing of the church door was not far off.

We will continue with Part 3 shortly.

© 2017 William Kovacic


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    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Hi Michael,

      Glad to see you stop by, and thanks for the added comments. You make some very good points, and I see you get it. HalleluYAH!

    • profile image

      Michael Milec 

      2 years ago

      Wasn't that predicted by the living Christ?! A persecution is just a part of many other fulfillments of " Christ in us the hope of glory." Those of us who belong to Him not only are encouraged by His presence within us, but we are strengthened to grow stronger and endure, thus witnessing to the powerful love of the Father that He never leaves us nor forsake us. By being " persecuted " we know, we are living in the hostile environment, but being of good cheer, since HE already has provided the victory, the ultimate eternal glory. HalleluYAH.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thanks for adding your interesting thoughts, Jurgen, and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I think that's a good thought, Dora - and probably does somewhat apply to the American Church. peter tells us that we are to follow the steps of Christ, and His steps were steps of suffering. I tell our people often that if they're not experiencing conflict, they better check themselves, and see how close they're walking with the Lord. America is in bad shape, I'm afraid, but prayer can go a long way. Thanks for stopping by.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Bill, I was once read that if we do not come in conflict with the devil, it may be that we are traveling in the same direction as he is. Could that be relevant to the church in the Western world? What about in our personal lives?

      You raise some very pertinent questions for consideration by those of us who profess godliness. Thanks for reviewing God's messages to the churches.

    • Jurgen Ras profile image

      Jurgen Ras 

      2 years ago

      I am looking out for your third installment - thanks. I am a theologian and have been studying the seven churches in Revelation for many years. I believe Thyatira represents the Catholic Church, although I am not anti-Catholic in principle. And I am quite sure that Sardis represents the 44,000 Protestant churches of today, and also those of the past. “I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead. Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. For I have not found your works being fulfilled before God. Remember then how you have received and heard....” Rev 3:2-3.

      Most Protestant churches are actually quite dead today. Most have also become totally apostate (liberals), in the USA and elsewhere. The Protestant churches are to “Remember then how you have received and heard” - Protestant Europe is actually totally post-Christian at the moment, especially France. The problem with the Protestant churches are that they have never gone back to the beginning, to apostolic orthodoxy, they only have Protestant orthodoxy, at least some still. Even Luther himself said that the Reformation should continue, but it had actually stopped a long time ago. The Protestant churches have come and gone. And I am not anti-Protestant, just post-Protestant. Philadelphia lies elsewhere.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Glad it's been worthwhile for you, Tammy. I enjoyed the videos as well. Always happy to see you stop by.

    • Tamarajo profile image


      2 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      I learned a lot from this fabulous presentation. The background history of these places adds so much to understanding the letters. This information is also very useful in seeing these trouble spots of living in faith both personally and corporately.

      The Day of Discovery videos with Joe Stowell are an excellent addition to this lesson.

      Looking forward to the next installment!

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      You said it well, Lori. Our brothers and sisters in other lands need our prayers. They suffer so much more than anyone in America has. We've become too soft and a good shot of persecution would move us back to where we need although it's something I'm not looking forward to. As always, thanks for stopping by, and adding to the conversation.

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Actually, Bill, I'm told there is more persecution for Christians today than ever before, mostly in China and the Middle East, but it's coming our way here in America. I do know of a couple pastors who have been jailed in America. I believe the persecution will get stronger as time moves on. Glad you were able to stop by!

    • lifegate profile imageAUTHOR

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      I'm opposed to it as well, but it happens. Thank you for your input, Jay.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Fascinating indeed. In America, some Christian's will say they suffer persecution often - like nasty remarks or unkind treatment or mocking from family, co-workers etc. Then there are the corporations like Hobbie Lobbie and Chick fil-a who have been malighned and sued and protested. Then there are the libs who accuse Christians as intolerant, hateful, homophonbes (and many other types of phobes) etc. Small businesses have been sued and gone out of business because of standing on their biblical beliefs about gay marriage etc. These are forms of persecution, but the kind the new testament church experienced was like what ISIS is doing today in other countries - barbaric torture and death. Our persecution in America tends to drive us to protesting, anger, demanding our rights right back, seeking political answers, and standing for what we are against more that who and what we are for. I think we should stand against bad things but we are first and foremost are here to love and spread the Gospel. There is a time for each as the author of Ecclesiastes says. We can easily be deterred by fighting against.

      I look at Eph.6 about the armor of God. It mentions standing against the wiles of the devil and deflecting the firey darts of Satan. But it also talks about putting on faith, truth, righteousness, salvation, peace, the Word of God, and all prayer. It also says we are not fighting flesh and blood but against evil powers and principalities .

      You have done well in this series, I think every Christian should read this and the actual verses themselves in their Bible. I need to take heed myself. We are just too complacent and seeking feelings and experiences more that worshiping God. I need revival as we all do here in America.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      A fascinating read. Are churches and followers of Christ persecuted today? I'm not sure I see that in the U.S. today...I don't have a sense of it. I do believe we have become much too soft these is easy to give lip-service to faith when there is nothing threatening your way of life and your comfort level is high.

    • Jay C OBrien profile image

      Jay C OBrien 

      2 years ago from Houston, TX USA

      From article, "Persecution brings purity. The church that has been purged is a pure church. They have come to rely on the Lord Jesus in a way we know not of in America. The persecuted church is both mature, complete, and pure. Although the flesh says, “I do not want to face hard trials and testing,” I believe what America needs is a strong dose of persecution."

      I am opposed to persecution and martyrdom. Purity is found by following Jesus: be accepting, loving, forgiving, etc. Do Not harm yourself or another. Move away from people who persecute.


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