Philadelphia, the Authentic Church

Vol. 4, No. 34 – August 25, 2019,

Countdown to the end . . . Philadelphia -#20

Philadelphia, the Authentic Church

And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 3:7, 13

Philadelphia, a smaller city, also suffers from the dramatic earthquake of 17 A.D. Returning to the city, survivors live in the hills and countryside. They also live in less than adequate housing, family roots damaged, pagan cults flourishing, and trouble with the Jews.

The Jews taunt the Christians, saying Christians have no part in the Messiah and his kingdom. The letter to the Church in Philadelphia is one of encouragement and assurance.

Philadelphia is almost one giant vineyard – producing the finest wines available. It is a strong city, militarily. It is highly susceptible to earthquakes. That area of the world has large numbers of earthquakes recorded. The area of the world that has the highest number of earthquakes today is Alaska (not a fact that is well-known in our present world).

There is, however, significant encounters for the Church in Philadelphia; not unlike the troubling earthquakes. It is the opposition to the church because of her principles of standing strong with Christ.

Most are familiar with the placard of Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love. In the Greek, the word means “lover of a brother.”

The Church of Philadelphia is unique; there is not a pronouncement of complaint drawn from Christ. Thus, the way the church is addressed is different. He does not use symbols from the vision of John, and He does not describe Himself with other titles. Christ does portray Himself straightforward as holy (one of character unflawed), true (genuine, one who is behind all that exists), and a holder of the key of David (Isaiah 22).

He opens the door of the kingdom; no one can shut out those He invites to come in; He has the power to open and shut (Isaiah 22:22).

Sometimes we come across a church or a religion that attempts to suppress the Word of God. Christ died for all; all may not come, however, it is not because there was an intent to exclude.

William Carey (1850-1890) insisted that if God intends to save the heathen out of their sin, He would do it Himself. Carey did not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ’s open door. One must go to the Scriptures to gain right understanding. Right understanding is not derived from one’s opinion, but from the truth of the Word.

Reasons for an open door:

  1. Authority – since Christ is holy and true, He tasks and expects the believer to complete His commands (e.g. Matthew 28:18-20)
  2. Position – because Christ is the keeper of the house of God, He has the power to open doors before His own (e.g. John 25-30)
  3. Activity – because Christ possesses the plan, He expects the Church to take every opportunity before it; the Church is given a portion of Christ’s power, sufficient to act in every case and cause before her (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:17f)

The faithfulness of the believers of the Church in Philadelphia respects Christ and acknowledges His nature:

  1. The Church operates well-prepared for effective witness and testimony (truth and holiness go together; neither survive well without the other)
  2. Sound doctrine generates godly living and practice (evil practice and evil living corrupt the body – 1 Corinthians 15:33)
  3. Christ alone can open and shut doors of witness and service (no one crosses our path by accident)
  4. Christ alone has the keys of death and hell (1:18)
  5. Christ alone also has the keys to the kingdoms of the earth and heaven

Three thoughts regarding the open door:

  1. The open door of service has adversaries: Satan and other gods of the world, traps, devices, and demons
  2. The open door can have these adversaries standing in the way: worry (2 Corinthians 2:11-13), wrong attitudes, wrong practices, wrong mental concepts, wrong associations (1 Corinthians 15:33-34); in addition, greed and/or pride (James 4:6)
  3. The open door is accessible first through prayer (Colossians 4:3). The reason for this is that true prayer is non-meritorious. True prayer regarding service intends to glorify God – not to focus upon self (not my will, but Yours be done)

Doors are opened:

  1. Because the Church fulfills expectations and conditions
  2. Because the Church has little power in herself
  3. Because the Church keeps His Word
  4. Because the Church does not deny His Name

The Church in Philadelphia is a commendable church for it functioned in obedience to the Holy Spirit, the equal other Christ promised to the Church as He prepared to ascend to the Father.

Remember how you received and heard; obey it, and repent (3:3) – a pointed rendition. Urgent!

He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! Revelation 2:7

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true  Revelation 22:6

Life Application

Being acquainted with the Word of God enables us: (1) to know the character of Jesus, (2) to have fellowship with Him, and (3) to build His character into our lives. Thus, we can be a church that fulfills His expectations. How are we doing?

Sardis, the Dead Church

Vol. 4, No. 33 – August 18, 2019, Countdown to the end . . . Sardis -#19

And to the angel of the Church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive; but you are dead . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 3:1, 6

Sardis, a city of past glory; wealth and wickedness thrive in this former capital of the ancient Lydian kingdom. This city is under the Persian government authority. In 17A.D. there is a devastating earthquake; the city, although rebuilt, went into decline.

The city even pictures the Church – it is also in decline. The church lacks vigilance; it is asleep, ripe for judgment.

Sardis, a city known for its wool, was the first to discover how to dye wool. The city was also home to the wealthiest man in the ancient world. Metal coins were first minted here. A major temple was much like the temple of Venus, a place of great evil and licentious living.

The city reached its demise following the conquering by the three greats – Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, and Anticus the Great.

The Lord does not have much good to say about the Church of Sardis – it is dead. Notice seven things about a dead church:

  1. A dead church is like a dead tree – it may look alive, but in time it topples because of its inner disease
  2. A dead church will not do that which God expects – then it dies of inner weakness and topples
  3. A dead church, while it ought to be a fragrant flower in the world; it is nothing but appearance of life and color; its roots are dead
  4. A dead church was once strong; a Christ-honoring church; now its death permeates the whole body
  5. A dead church, with the name of Christ on its sign, has little to share that will make a difference in the life of one who comes to be a part of it
  6. A dead church, of many professors of belief, does not make for the many regenerated people God would expect – only numbers
  7. A dead church only goes through the motions, despite its programs and entertainment

The seven spirits references the absolute attributes of holy God, also present with the Lord Jesus Christ, and present with the Holy Spirit. Think of the “omni” descriptions (not biblical words, but descriptive) and other descriptives of His attributes. The essence of God displays in His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, ever-present, all-wisdom, infinitude, immutability, immensity, impassibility, perfection, and so much more. More importantly, this essence is pervasive throughout the God-head (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The Scripture pictures the Holy Spirit as “another of the same kind,” when speaking of the Holy Spirit’s essence.

The way a church presents the Lord to adherents and the community is the clue to what that particular church believes, often exposing what the church desperately needs. This section of Scripture is an exhortation: wake up, be alert, strengthen the work, complete the work that is expected (Hebrews 12:15). The evidence of the believer is, once again, “what you think of God determines how you live out your life.”

Calvin Coolidge, our 13th president, often described as stiff and emotionless, caused this observation by Alice Roosevelt Longworth: He looks as if he had been weaned on a pickle. When it was announced Coolidge died, columnist Dorothy Parker, at the New Yorker, remarked: How can they tell?

Too many churches are weaned on pickles and no one can tell if they are alive or dead

Just a few dangers for the church:

  • In a pickle when it worships its past
  • In a pickle when it is more concerned with forms/rituals/traditions; more so than life
  • In a pickle when it is more concerned with the material than the spiritual
  • In a pickle when it focuses more on the latest fads rather than caring for their guests deepest needs
  • In a pickle when it wastes time to reach out to the community of unbelievers – it is urgent

Ephesus lacked love; Sardis lacks life. It was not that Sardis flows with false apostles/teachers, there is not a plethora of struggle, there is not a great level of contending for truth – there is only dying and death. It was time to wake up.

Remember how you received and heard; obey it, and repent (3:3) – a pointed rendition. Urgent!

He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! Revelation 2:7

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true  Revelation 22:6

Life Application

How is your church doing? Is there some sleeping going on? Perhaps God is calling us (you and I) to wake up the dead. God places us where He does with expectations – for such a time as this!

Corruption and Infiltration

Countdown to the end . . . #17

Vol. 4, No. 31 – August 4, 2019

And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: “The words of Him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith . . . BUT . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 2:12-17

The Church at Ephesus left its first love; the Church at Smyrna suffered with both internal and external attack, yet remained true in practice of doctrine. The Church at Pergamum allows evil to gain a foothold, deserving rebuke.

Pergamon (Pergamum). The great religious and political center, famous for its library (until Mark Anthony gave it all (200,000 volumes) to Cleopatra. She moved it to Alexandria. Pergamon was famous for its paper, large universities, and medical centers. She was filled with cults and temples. She was a city of leisure; known for tapestries and pottery.

Pergamon had a hill, 800-feet high, clustered with temples. One, Aesculapius, housed the god of healing (we get our English word scalpel from its name. Worship was conducted under the sign of a coiled snake (gives thought to snake handling in our own country during worship services).

This was a center of pagan worship, emperor cult worship, and the place where Nicolaitanism and Balaamism came into the church. The temple of Athena was noted to hold the throne of Satan himself.

The sharp two-edged sword speaks of judgment.

The Church at Pergamum did not just flirt with corruption and immorality; it allowed Satan to court the church. Intimidation, enticement, and tolerance was rampant in the church. Satan was pleased because he planned for the Church to destroy itself.

Today’s Church is hemmed in on one side by the violence of a roaring lion (a war of culture), and the fallen angel of light bringing into the Church false teaching and false teachers. Pergamum is also undermined through corrupt practices, corrupt teaching, and corrupt culture.

In the church!

Yet there are those in the church that remain faithful – but not all. There are those who bought into the religious fad of the day, bought into the pagan styles of worship, bought into the changes needed to attract others that though in the same way. The evil ones got control and brought into the church those they liked without opposition.

Jesus says to the faithful ones in the church, “Do not be seduced by the error of the pagans.” Today’s churches are under attack of the Balaamism operative at the churches in Pergamum. Balaamism brought into the culture its own set of “morals.”

  • Their style of pornography
  • Their lifestyle of adultery
  • Their looseness of cohabitation
  • Their allowance of church leaders and teachers tolerating immorality and homosexuality

There was further damage:

  • They allowed the Nicolatian philosophy to creep into the Church
  • They allowed the Nicolatian doctrines to be taught in the Church
  • Doctrines taught and deeds acted out go hand-in-hand
  • Christ says He hates their deeds and their doctrines

Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. Revelation 2:16

He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! Revelation 2:7

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true  Revelation 22:6

Life Application

Who is responsible to make sure false doctrine and practices do not enter the church? Is it just the leadership . . . or does it include those who should be in the Word of God daily to hear the God of truth speak His truth to the heart of the believer. I vote for both.

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