A tale of two churches

by Pat Franklin

The message on Sunday was a fascinating one, from the Book of Revelation.  The speaker told of two kinds of churches, one that Jesus was happy with, and a rich church which made Him vomit! 

The speaker, Graham Walker, was concentrating on two of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.  He said the churches represented four things:

  • Seven existing churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) when Revelation was written in about 95 AD
  • Seven overlapping periods of church history
  • Seven types of churches existing in any period of history
  • Seven types of churches existing in the last days (now)

He said the Jesus was aware of the state of every church.  There was  some approval for only five of the seven; accusations against five, and nothing against two.  Jesus gives advice to every church, as well as an assurance and an appeal.  He marked their cards!

Graham said the names of each church in Greek had significance:

  • Ephesus: 'not lasting, short lived' (30-100 AD)
  • Smyrna: 'anointed for burial, myrh, bitterness, mourning'. This church was persecuted by Rome (100-313AD).  Churches today which are persecuted are not only surviving, but growing, keeping the faith.
  • Pergamos: 'divorced, spiritual idolatry'.  (313-600 AD) From the time the emporer Constantine declared the Roman Empire Christian and not pagan, but adopted much of paganism into the church (including 'Christmas' or Saturnalia - note by pat f.)
  • Thyatire: 'continual sacrifice' church of the Dark Ages (600-1517 AD).  (The 'continual sacrifice' is the sacrifice of the catholic mass, when the Bible says there was only ONE sacrifice at Calvary - note by pat f). 
  • Sardis:  'those escaping, incorruptible, renewal'.  The church of the Reformation 1517-1648.  Although the reformers did tremendous things, they got NO approval because they did not go far enough!
  • Philadelphia:  'brotherly love'.  This is the great missionary movement of 1648-1900.  This was the church doing what Jesus wanted, and there is no accusation against it.
  • Laodicea: 'people's opinions, people ruling' 1900-now.  This is the lukewarm church of the apostasy and there is no approval for it at all.

 Graham said the last two have a big significance for us because we are in the Laodicean age.  He said Laodicea was a wealthy city known for its dyed fabrics.  Although there was an earthquake there before the Revelation was written, the city did not ask for Roman aid.  The people themselves paid for the rebuilding.

They had mineral springs nearby and the equivalent of an eye hospital.  Archeological work there found Roman aqueducts bringing hot spring waters down to the town fountains.  They started out hot, but were lukewarm by the time they got to the fountains.

Jesus used the things they knew.  Unfortunately they were spiritually dead, with a combination of truth and false doctrine, false prophecy.   

They said: 'I am rich.'  Graham said the more time people spend in wealth creation, working longer, harder, it could leave no time to think about spiritual things.   Our affluence could stop the Word going out.

Laodicea did not know what it had become.  It was blinded and did not face up to reality.  In self deception, the people thought they were OK, God was blessing them, and some are like that today.  'I don't believe He is blessing them,' Graham said.  'We are in a time of judgment, and have been for some years.  It is going to get worse and it is a wake up time.  The first churches to deny that anything is wrong are the first to be deceived.  Are we like that?'

Then Graham turned to the church at Philadelphia.  'What a contrast!  In this country, Great Britain, people wanted to spread the gospel.  They were doing what Jesus wanted.  In Matthew 28:19,20 He told us:  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." '

Graham made the point that they were not only going for conversions, but discipling those who were converted, teaching them after they came to faith.  He said that is what we should be doing now!

The church of Philadelphia was not a rich church.  They had 'a little power', but they operated in the power of God and that era produced men inclluding Whitfield, Wesley, Bunyan (Pilgrim's Progress), Moody, Hudson taylor, Dr Barnardo, David Baron (Mildmay Mission to the Jews).

'That is what the church should be like,' Graham said.  As for our own little church in England, he said:  'We have a lot right, but not everything.  We have to focus on what we are NOT doing.  We have very good teaching, challenging messages.  Some messages make us uncomfortable, so much so that some have left this church.  We don't want people's opinions.  If you disagree with anything we say from this pulpit, come to us and tell us, talk to us.  It is the Scriptures that are important.  We should be good Bereans, look at the Word ourselves and then bring it to the person you disagree with.' 

 He said that those the Lord loves, He reproves and disciplines.  'That is part of our growth.'

And He asked:  'Are we lukewarm?  Are we working half heartedly? Ccould we do more for the Lord as individuials and as a church?  Yes!  We could do more!  My desire is to see us progressing in our walk with the Lord.  We should be reaching out to the lost, as individuals and as a whole church.  Time is short and we have got to get moving to do things together.'

The final hymn following this message was the modern song beginning 'This is the mystery' with this as the chorus:  'Let the bride say "Come", let the bride say "Come", let the Bride of the Lamb say "Come, Lord Jesus, come!"

 *Footnote:  Graham mentioned a new book by Jacob Prasch: 'The Dilemma of Laodicea' which he said went into this matter far more deeply than he could.




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