THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION
THE THREE MEANINGS THEY TEACH TO CHRISTIANS
SARDIS - Dead
Sardis was the metropolis of Lydia in Asia Minor. Some 50
miles due east of Ephesus is Mt.Tmolus, which dominates the
fertile plain of the Hermes River. The natural acropolis has
almost perpendicular walls rising to a height of 1,500 feet.
Sardis had once been the capital of the great kingdom of Lydia
and the home of Croessus, the rich king. Croessus, the
"billionaire" of the ancient past, deposited his fortune here for
The population was known for their luxury and ease - not the
attributes that build solid character. Jewelry found in ancient
graves is witness to the great wealth of the people. The city
residents were Sardis stones as amulets to ward off evil spirits.
The only good words that Jesus had for the Church in Sardis
were directed towards a small remainder of the church. They were
true followers, and had not "defiled their garments." "Thou host
a few names even in Saris which have not defiled their garments;
and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy."
Sardis is one of the two churches to which the Lord gave
almost no commendation. His message is full of condemnation. They
revelled in a name, or reputation, but they no longer deserved
"I know thy works, that thou bast a name that thou livest,
and art dead." (Revelation 3:1). Everyone said they were
wide awake, very much alive, while the Lord considered them dead.
They were followers of what we call today the 'capitalist's
dream' (material wealth). The church at Sardis unfortunately
bowed to the pressures of the secular world and joined them in
attempting to attain this same dream. Though they boasted of
their sundry accomplishments they had lost their spiritual
GOD'S SOLUTION AND PROMISE
The church was almost dead! God's solution was a five-part
program. "Remember therefore how thou host received and heard,
and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I
will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I
will come upon thee." (Revelation 3:3). A church at the point of
death has little reserve and needs a slow and deliberate program
of rehabilitation to regain full health. The problem is the
Church in Sardis did not realize it was almost dead. The first
directive God made was to be watchful. These words held real
significance for Sardis and is the beginning of rehabilitation.
Next the Lord said it should strengthen what it had. There
is no other practical course of action. A moment of reflection on
how the church used to be, its joys and strengths, is strong
motivation for regaining its strength again. It is not enough to
remember and then forget. During the struggle back to life, this
memory will need to be kept constantly in mind. And finally, true
repentance is called for. Wrongs must be made right before
restoration can take place.
The challenging promise is offered that those who overcome
will enjoy the privilege of wearing the white robes of the Lord's
spotless perfection and righteousness. Second is the promise that
their names will be retained in the Book of Life. Finally, there
is the assurance of the presentation of each name before the
Father and the angels.
PHILADELPHIA - Faithful
Philadelphia was a city of Lydia in Asia Minor, about 25
miles southeast of Sardis. The cities mentioned in Revelation 2
and 3 tended to be on trade routes and one of the reasons for
their size and commercial strength lay in their strategic
location. Philadelphia was no exception. It bore the title
"Gateway to the East." Searching the annals of history reveals
very little of this town, it was a bit of a nonentity, much like
the church there, at least from the human perspective. The
Philadelphian church was a poor church, but rich in the eyes
of God. Under Pergamene rule, Philadelphia became a "missionary
city" for the spread of Greek culture. By 19 A.D. the population
of the entire area spoke nothing but Greek.
Philadelphia is one of the two churches that received no
condemnation and therefore no correction. There are two main
comments about this church. As a missionary city for the Greek
culture, Philadelphia needed to sense the necessity of sharing a
far better culture, that of the root of Jesse. "And to the angel
of the church in Philadelphia write: these things saith he that
is holy he that is true, he that bath the key of David, he that
openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;"
(Revelation 3:7). Philadelphia is here reassured that they are
the true Israel of God from the lineage of David. This is in
contrast to "the synagogue of Satan" who are obviously
antagonizing Jews (not really so, but those who belonged to the
world of Satan, yet claimed they were spiritual Jews - hence Jews
or Gentiles - Keith Hunt). "Behold, I will make them of the
synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do
lie;" (Revelation 3:9). It appears as if these were persecutors
of the believers in Jesus as the promised messiah from King
David's line (or persecutors of the faith once delivered to the
saints, false ministers and their followers that were already
springing up all over the area where the apostles of Jesus taught
- Keith Hunt).
GOD'S SOLUTION AND PROMISE
The angel warns Philadelphia to take the message seriously,
and then adds that the overcomer will become a pillar in the
Temple. "Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple
of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him
the name of my God, and the name of the city of my, which is new
Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I
will write upon him my new name." (Revelation 3:12).
To receive or bear a name is an indication of character.
Those who bear the name of Satan will have Satan's character of
rebellion. Those who love God as Creator and Redeemer will have
His name or character (and the faithful will have the name of
"God" upon them - they will be in the family of God and hence
bear His name. There will be Abraham God, Joseph God, Moses God,
Paul God, Peter God etc. just as there is Jesus God, and the
Father God, with the Father and Jesus always being of course in
the highest "authority" position, the Father ever being the
supreme ONE, over all His family - Keith Hunt).
LAODICEA - Lukewarm
The city of this name, mentioned in Scripture, lay on the
confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about 40 miles southeast of
Ephesus, on the banks of the Lycus. It was originally called
Diospolis and then Rhoas, but afterwards Laodicea, from Laodice,
the wife of Antiocus II, king of Syria, who rebuilt it. It was
one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor.
The surrounding area was predominantly that of rich farming
which produced abundant supplies for the city. More importantly
Laodicea was situated on the crossroads of the most important
Ionian cities. Because of its location, Laodicea became a rather
vigorous trade center, and of course wherever there is money,
money handlers(banks) gather, making the Laodiceans very wealthy.
A famous feature that the town prided itself on was that it
had suffered an earthquake and when offered help to rebuild it,
respectfully declined as it had the resources to do the
rebuilding itself. Not only did it rebuild itself but helped the
surrounding cities rebuild. Laodicea, being situated on the
mountainside of a volcano, had a number of hot, cold, and
lukewarm springs. These were well known for their medicinal
properties, and many sick people pilgrimage there to take
advantage of the physicians, the eye salve, and the springs.
While the waters were extremely pleasing to the body, to drink it
was rather nauseating.
Laodicea, like Sardis, has no commendation. Jesus passes
directly to its problems. To elaborate any positive
characteristics of a church so self-satisfied might prohibit the
possibility of fanning back to life the dying ember of its faith.
As a stark contrast to Philadelphia, Laodicea was not a
church that Jesus had anything good to say about. "I know thy
works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou were cold
or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor
hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15,16).
Lukewarm! The springs from Hierapolis supply a torrent of
hot water. It descends through scores of natural pools built up
with the white encrustation of calcium carbonate, and then
tumbles some 300 feet to the valley below. By the time the water
reaches the distant valleys, it is cold. As it passes by
Laodicea, it is lukewarm. With both health and wealth. Laodicea
had lost the burning heat of evangelistic vision. If the
Laodiceans had been cold, there would have been a chance of
reviving them. Being lukewarm offered little hope or help.
The criticism that they were poor, blind, and naked is an
interesting play on their chief claims to fame. "Because thou
sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of
nothing: and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable,
and poor, and blind, and naked:" (Revelation 3:17). Their real
condition was: poor, despite their rich banks; blind, despite the
famous eye treatment of their medical school; naked, despite the
fine black woolen cloth they manufactured with such pride.
Laodiceans were invited to take advantage of the only
spiritual cures which could overcome their earthly
preoccupations. "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 eye-salve, that thou mayest
see." (Revelation 3:18).
First, the church must trust in the gold tried in the fire,
not a healthy bank account.
Second, the church must trust in the white raiment of
Christ's righteousness, not the black clothes of pride or the
nakedness of self-righteousness.
Third, the church must trust in the eye-salve of God's
Spirit to open our spiritual eyes to enlighten us, not in the
blindness of selfabsorption and spiritual myopia.
GOD'S SOLUTION AND PROMISE
What could be more intimate and personal than Jesus'
announcement that He stands at the door of each heart seeking our
company, asking for our time and conversation? "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." (Revelation 3:20). The gospel is always based upon the
assumption that God seeks us first. We do not seek Him. He is the
initiator. We simply respond. If any one of us is lost, it will
be because we failed to respond, not because God failed to
invite. Eternal life is yours now, at this moment. The Lord
offers it. He asks you to respond (if He is calling you and
inviting you that is - Keith Hunt).
To the church in Laodicea, Jesus makes a challenging
promise. "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." (Revelation 3:21). What a promise!
THE PROGRESSIVE INTERPRETATION OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES
We have learned a lot from the letters to the "Actual" seven
churches. Six of the seven churches carry warnings and things to
avoid in both our daily walk and the church's walk through the
ages. There is among many scholars, a progressive interpretation
of the seven churches using the historicism prophetic model. The
application is that the seven churches represent different ages
in Church history and that they are progressive.
This interpretation holds that at the end of days,
Christendom is either going to be very alive or very dead
(apostate) in their teachings. This is a very black and white
approach to the Lord's warnings. Almost all church history
scholars agree that as they study the church from 31 A.D.
(actually 30 A.D. is the correct date of the start of the
Christian church age - Keith Hunt) to the modern church of today,
they see definite trends that have defined boundaries from one
epoch to another.
The progressive interpretation is not wrong, but merely
incomplete and does not allow for the multiplicity of
characteristics of the today's church. We will give a short over
view of the progressive interpretation.
EPHESUS - The Apostles' Church-31-100 A.D.
Ephesus represents the church of the first century, from the
time of Christ to the death of the last apostle. John, about the
end of the first century. What happened in the church of Ephesus
overtook most churches in the Roman Empire during the transition
from first-generation Christians to second-generation Christians.
SMYRNA - The Persecuted Church-100-313 A.D.
The local church of Smyrna suffered much persecution but
faithfully endured. Smyrna represents the period of history when
the Roman Empire used every possible method to eradicate
PERGAMOS - The Compromise Church-313-538
Pergamos lived with the continual pressure to yield to
government and science rather than to God; to trust in the
security of its mountaintop, fortress-like city; to trust in
material protection and not in God. Pergamos represents the
period of history when a whole catalog of false doctrines entered
THYATIRA - The Dark Ages-538-1517
To Thyatira, constantly tempted to become part of the
paganism that surrounded her, God says keep yourself pure. This
church represents the Dark Ages when a spiritual Jezebel ruled
the world and disseminated her iniquitous apostasies.
SARDIS - The Reformation Church-1517-1755
Sardis was at ease and self-confident, living in the past,
believing itself secure but in reality was vulnerable. The Lord
came to warn that the better times of the past could be relived
and enjoyed again. Sardis represents the fifth period of history,
the final years of the Dark Ages and the first years of the
At the beginning of this period, it seemed as if the church
had died. Signs of life were rare. Leaders who would stand for
the truth, no matter what the cost, were almost unknown. But soon
some did remember, and strengthened what remained of the truth,
and they began to turn the world around.
PHILADELPHIA - The Missionary Church-1755-1850
Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, was often stricken
with earthquake and volcanic action, but had a history of
evangelical fervor for its Greek culture. The church is invited
to walk through the new door of opportunity spreading the gospel
of the Lord Jesus. In its historical setting. Philadelphia
represents the period when eager missionaries went to the ends of
the earth telling the good news of the gospel.
LAODICEA - Today's Church-1850-the end
The Laodicea church is the final church of history, the
church that will shortly see Jesus break the through the clouds.
The last invitations are being made, the last appeals to put
aside anything that might blind our eyes to spiritual realities.
This the moment to make a full commitment of our lives to the
Lord Jesus. To do so brings peace and power and it prepares us to
stand securely through earth's last desperate battle with Satan.
COMMENTS ON CHURCH AGES by Keith Hunt
What most fail to see in understanding this prophetic part
of the book of Revelation and the seven churches is:
There was an OVERLAPPING period from one church age to the
next, sometimes it may have overlapped by a few hundred years,
from one church age to the next.
The first church age probably went to about 200 A.D. not 100
A.D. For it was during the second century that Polycarp and
Polycrates went to debate with the Roman bishop about
Passover/Easter observance. The true apostles and people of God
were still "trying" those who claimed to be "apostles" of Jesus
and were finding them to be liars and false apostles.
The second church age certainly included the "ten day" -
"ten years" persecution of 303 to 313 A.D. which was the most
horrific persecution of any time in the last 2,000 years upon
The third church age led up to the Dark Ages.
The fourth church age was certainly the time period when the
great woman Whore rode the Holy Roman Empire Beast, and when she
gave birth to many daughters - the Protestant churches.
The fifth church age was sometime after the Protestant
churches came into being. The true Church of God was weak in
numbers and was not very zealous in moving into spiritual light
and "growing in grace and knowledge" of the word of the Lord.
This Sadris church and it's lack of moving forward into more
light and truth is still with us today - some have found more
light and have moved forward into more knowledge, but the
majority have not.
The sixth church age probably began in the middle 1800s when
some moved forward into more light and truth - when some did
"grow in grace and knowledge."
Those people of this age will be on the earth unto the
coming of Jesus in glory.
The last and seventh church age began in the middle of the
20th century. A great richness in general with the physical life
came among the people of the sixth church age, especially in the
Western world. Then a mighty deception came over most of them,
and they have fallen away into spiritual blindness and deception
and false doctrines, together with their easy physical rich life
style. It has all deceived them into believing they are
spiritually sound and still God's children. And to a point they
are, until the Lord's patience runs out, and until the time He
has given them to REPENT runs out, then their candle stick will
be removed, and they will be on the outside of the Kingdom
looking in, and saying, "But Lord, did we not do this and do that
in your name" and Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you,
depart from me you who work LAWLESSNESS."
The people of the seventh church age will also be on earth
until the Lord Jesus Christ returns. Truly from among the Sardis
and Laodicea church people there will be weeping and gnashing of
teeth, when they find themselves outside the Kingdom of God.
TO BE CONTINUED