Have you ever had an experience like Ralphie in this clip? You save up for something you have wanted so badly only to be let down when you actually get it. Maybe you bought a car that you were certain was going to be the best car you’ve ever owned just to find out it’s in the shop more than it is on the road. Possibly you bought a new electronic item and it doesn’t do all that you hoped and expected it would and it is going to cost you more money to do all the things you thought it would. You may have landed the new job that sounded so great when you signed on only to find that it is a dead end job that you hate.
I remember one Christmas as a child getting an electric race car track. I was so excited when I got it. I tore open the package and put the track together only to find out that when I started playing with it the cars wouldn’t stay on the track and even one of the cars engines burned out after a couple of uses. I was so disappointed.
As an adult I still get frustrated when I think something is going to bring me joy only to find out it does not. I also see the frustration and sadness in my kids when they get a toy which they think will bring joy and ends up breaking within five minutes of playing with it. No matter what age we may be, we all get frustrated and disappointed when things don’t turn out as we expected.
Well, you can imagine the frustration and anger of the Israelites religious leaders when they found that their Messiah had come and He winds up being nothing more than a Jewish carpenter who lived a life of humility, who said many offensive things that ticked off all of the religious leaders of the time, and He rebuked those who considered themselves religious. Certainly this Jesus, the Messiah was not what they were expecting!
Read Revelation 3:14 - 22
City of Laodicea
Laodicea was a prosperous city; probably the wealthiest in the area due in part to the banking industry which was one of the features of the city. Their wealth was so great that it has been recorded that after an earthquake in 607 AD the city rebuilt without any financial assistance from Rome. Another contributing factor to the cities wealth was that the country side was perfect for raising sheep and the area gained great wealth from the soft black wool of their sheep.
It was also well known for its medical school. The school of physicians followed the teachings of Herophilos who believed compound diseases require compound medicines. He would create mixtures of medicines including ointment for ears, and an eye salve made from a mixture of power and oil.
The city was located in an area where there were not many natural resources so they had to bring water to the city from springs about six miles away through a system of stone pipes. During dry seasons it was not uncommon for the city to be left in a vulnerable and dangerous state.
The Letter to the Church in Laodicea
The Church in Laodicea, like the Church of Sardis, receives no word of praise or commendation from Jesus. If you recall in the previous devotional I mentioned that most churches (if not all) either think they are or want to be like the Church of Philadelphia. Who wouldn’t want to receive the wonderful praises of Jesus? Well just the opposite is true of Laodicea. I have found just as many churches refuse to believe or want to be likened to the Church of Laodicea and for good reason.
Verse 14: “The words of the Amen…” – This is a reference to Jesus.
Amen – So be it, trustworthy, firm. It is an expression of absolute confidence and trust. When used at the beginning of a discourse it means “truly, truly or of truth”. At the end means, “So be it, so it is, may it be fulfilled.” When we use this word (generally at the conclusion) in our prayers we are declaring that we put absolute trust and confidence in the one we are praying to. The word is almost identical to Hebrew word that means “believe” or “faithful”.
“the faithful and true witness” – This is a reference to Revelation 1:5 where it declares Jesus as the faithful witness.
“the beginning of God’s creation” – (The Alpha) – This is a reference to Colossians 1:15, 18 where Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and He is the Beginning. We also see in Revelation 22:13 where Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, beginning and the end.” Jesus is beginning and He is end and he is the absolute trustworthy, faithful and true witness. Nothing exists before him and nothing can exist after him and nothing is more trustworthy or deserving of trust than Jesus. He is all… He is eternal.
Verse 15: “I know your works…” Once again Jesus declares (as with the letters to all the churches) that he is familiar with their works. He is actively watching their deeds. Unfortunately in Laodicea’s case their works are not pleasing to Jesus. In fact they are repulsive as we will soon see.
“you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!” The Church in Laodicea is an ineffective church at best. They are neither cold nor hot.
“The adjectives “hot”, “cold” and “lukewarm” are not necessarily to be taken as describing spiritual fervor (or lack of it) of people.” The contrast is between the hot medicinal waters of Heiropolis and the cold, pure waters of Colosse. Thus the church in Laodicea was ‘providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick.’”
Because they were lukewarm Jesus’ response is much like ours when we partake of something that is lukewarm (especially when you are expecting a hot or cold item).
“I will spit you out of my mouth” - Spew, vomit or throw up. Their sluggish and ineffective faith made Jesus want to vomit. These are very graphic words (and a very vivid visual). Because they were spiritually ineffective this was repulsive to Jesus and it made him sick.
Verse 17: (Their perception) “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” – Since the Church was in a prosperous city it is believed that the church was probably a wealthy church. Unfortunately the people thought that since they were experiencing prosperity that God was ok with them (a common fallacy even today). They believed he was blessing them or probably more likely they weren’t even seeking the counsel of God at all. This seems all to true of people and churches of great financial wealth. They begin believe that all is good and God is ok with them or maybe even blessing them. They all but forget about God in their and their attitude becomes more like this, “He doesn’t need to be active here because there are so many other churches that are struggling and need his assistance. Don’t bother with us Jesus we got everything under control.”
The reality is that Jesus was telling them different. “not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” In their prosperity they failed to see the truth… “We are not all we thought we were. We may be rich financially but Jesus isn’t pleased with us at all. In fact we are making him sick.”
Verse 18: (What the Church needs to do) “buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.” Because of their spiritual depravity Jesus counsels them to take their eyes off of their physical wealth and invest in Spiritual wealth. The purchase, so to speak, is to be made from Jesus himself because only he can provide the true wealth and health they need. If they do this then they will become truly rich.
“and white garments so you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.” Certainly the individuals were well dressed because of their wealth. This may have given the illusion that they had everything together spiritually. However Jesus says they are naked and pitiful. The white robes symbolize righteousness and the covering of their nakedness is symbolic of judgment. Jesus tells them to invest in these garments of white so they will be clothed in righteousness and escape judgment.
“and salve to anoint your eyes.” Certainly this is in reference to the school of medicine and Herophilos. The Laodicean church is spiritually blind. They cannot see the spiritual state they are in. Jesus counsels them to get eye salve from him and anoint their eyes. Quit trusting in the remedies of man and trust Jesus. When this happens then you will truly see.
Verse 19: Jesus is not turning his back on this church. He loves the Church of Laodicea; certainly he is not pleased with them but he tells them, “I am telling you to do this because I love you. You may think I am being a harsh and mean God but I am telling you this for your own good.” Overall Jesus is admonishing the Church of Laodicea to wake up from their spiritually dead and ineffective state and seek him so they may be a church that is pleasing to Him and share in his glory. He tells them to be zealous (desire earnestly or strive after) for Him and repent.
Verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus is addressing the believers in this congregation. The text suggests that Jesus has been at the door for some time. It also implies that he is continually knocking, patiently, waiting to be invited in. He is at the threshold of their lives and church calling for them to open the door of repentance so that he may come in and have true fellowship with them once again.
“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me.” If the believers at Laodicea will heed to his knocking he will then enter once again and sit at the table of fellowship. It seems as though Jesus will be the guest and not the host. In the Middle Eastern culture eating a meal together is a sign of intimacy and trust. I believe the main idea behind this particular passage is Jesus’ desires to restore fellowship with the Laodicean believers and him. This can only happen through repentance, heeding to the call and responding to the knocking of Jesus that would ultimately lead to them being effective followers of Jesus Christ and of his Kingdom.
Verse 21,22: The continued promise to those who conquer or are victorious as they participate with Jesus in his sovereign rule. This is the promise given to all the churches (and individuals) who heed the words of Jesus in the letters to these churches.
The Church of Laodicea for us Today
The one thing a church does not want to be known for is their ineffectiveness. The Church has a glorious calling to be the light of the world, to represent Jesus to the nations and to be the hands and feet of Christ. To be considered tepid or ineffective by Jesus should be cause for concern for not only the Church in Laodicea but for us today. As a pastor I feel it has been necessary to evaluate where my church stands in the eyes of Jesus according to this letter. Are we cool waters that bring refreshment to the spiritually weary? Are we hot medicinal waters that bring about spiritual healing? Are we warm tepid water that is essentially useless and ineffective and infected with germs that cause harmful results?
How about you personally? How would you evaluate your personal relationship with Jesus in comparison to his words to the Church in Laodicea? Are you under the false impression that you have everything you need when in fact you are blind, poor, wretched and naked? Are you spiritually bankrupt? Is Jesus standing at the threshold of your life calling you back to fellowship with him? Bring your spiritual destitution to Jesus be zealous and repent. Personally I believe Jesus stands at the threshold of all of our lives and desires to come and dine and fellowship with him. He wants intimacy with you. He desires for you to commune and converse with him. The fact is Jesus loves you and wants to restore or resume fellowship with you once again. He desires to sit and sup with you at the table of fellowship. As a follower of Jesus, how will you respond to his knocking?
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 125
Read Revelation 3: 7 - 13
The City Philadelphia
This in not the US city that prides itself on cheese steak hoagies, Rocky Balboa and the Liberty bell. The Philadelphia in Revelation is a small town located in Asia Minor. Today it is known as Alaşehir located in Turkey. To this day it remains a relatively small town and there is still actually a small Christian community in this area. One of the main reasons it was a small town was because it was located near a fault line. It was an unstable area and people were afraid to live there because earthquakes were somewhat common. In 17 A.D. one leveled the city (and 11 surrounding citys) and it faced a long series of tremors that followed. This was also the same quake that destroyed Sardis. The city was named after Attalus II because of his strong affection and devotion to his brother (Philadelphus means lover of his brother). Mounce p.115
Philadelphia was a prosperous city due mostly to agriculture and industry (dyeing). Grapes were one of the main resources in the area so it is not surprising that the worship of Dionysus (the god of wine) was prevalent. (Slide) Around the 6th Century it was known as “Little Athens” as it had many pagan temples and religious festivals. The earthquakes have destroyed much of the historical artifacts of the area but there are still some remains from the later centuries standing today.
Letter to The Church in Philadelphia
I have heard literally dozens of sermons on the letter to the church in Philadelphia and I have come to a conclusion… Every church either wants to be or thinks they are the Church of Philadelphia for today. Jesus has nothing but good things to say and many comforting promises as well. It is believed that this church was probably a small church in a small town (not unlike ours) that didn’t really have a huge impact on society and the city, yet it was significant enough to Jesus to speak to them and commend them for their works.
Verse 7: This is the first letter that does not have a description of Jesus taken from John’s vision of chapter one. The whole letter is dominated by the sure and certain prospect of life in the kingdom of God. Jesus declares himself the one who is “The holy one, the true one and the one who holds the key of David.” It is his way of declaring his authority, his trustworthiness and power over life and death.
The key of David: Is a reference to Isaiah 22:22 and indicates ownership over the house of David (this points to the Messiah). Jesus is the only one who has the authority to posses the key to both life and death (Rev. 1:18). He is the one who allows or forbids admittance into the eternal Kingdom of God. It is only through Jesus Christ that one can enter into life eternal.
The door which no one opens or shuts: (The door has two possible meanings… 1) The opportunity for effective evangelism [1 Cor. 16:9 & 2 Cor. 2:12] and 2) the door represents the admittance to the Kingdom of God). It is most commonly held that the door represents the entrance to the Kingdom due to the fact of the promises Jesus makes later in the letter. This door can only be opened and closed by Jesus and no one else.
Verse 8: I know your works… You have but little power. I noted earlier that this was probably a Small church in a small town that had little impact on the city. However this was not a deterrent instead they hold fast to the Word of God and remained faithful to Jesus’ name.
Verse 9: We are introduced to the terms synagogue of Satan in the letter to Smyrna. This term is believed to represent the Jews who were persecuting Christians. The Jews still believed they were God’s chosen people; but had since forfeited that right because of their disbelief. The Church of Jesus Christ has now become the chosen avenue of God’s grace to the nations. In their persecution of the Church they thus became known as the synagogue of Satan. These Jews thought they were true Jews doing God’s work but they were in fact a synagogue to Satan. They were not working for the God Israel; in fact they were doing the work of the devil.
Bow down before your feet: Why will these people bow to the feet of the church? According to Isaiah 60:14, the Jews believed that the Gentile nations (their enemies) would one day bow or bend the knee before them and thus humbly acknowledge them as God’s chosen people. Now Jesus is declaring that there will in fact be a day when even the Jews humble themselves as they acknowledge that Jesus is the true Messiah and his Church is His chosen people. They will bow not in worship but in respect to the fact that the Church is the people Jesus loves.
Verse 10: The hour of trial: Since the Church of Philadelphia has patiently endured during their trials and tribulations Jesus is promising them protection from judgment. This promise is certainly consistent with Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Many hold this hour of trial to be a reference to the Great Tribulation spoken of later in Revelation that is believed to occur before or after the rapture of the Church or even before the second coming of Jesus Christ. The major question is whether Christ is promising deliverance from the period of trial or safekeeping through the trial? This is an argument that has been debated for years and I am not going to settle it today. However if we use the high priestly prayer of Jesus as our guide then we can note that Jesus prays that believers would not be taken out of the world (physically taken away) but that we would be protected (preserved through judgment). One could deduce that Jesus actually prays for preservation and protection for believers during the time of great judgment.
The early church is expecting trials which precede the return of Jesus Christ. “The idea of this ‘ordeal’ (trial) was inherited and transposed from early Judaism, in which it was anticipated that a period of intense distress and suffering would immediately precede the eschatological victory of God (his return and judgment)… The fact that God’s people will be ‘kept safe from the time of ordeal’ cannot mean they will escape it physically. The ‘testing’ process will affect the whole living world, but the faithful will not be hurt by it spiritually.”
Verse 11: I am coming soon… There is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words here (Jesus mentions this three other times in Revelation). He is coming back. When? Nobody knows. So what is the Church of Philadelphia to do? Hold fast to what they have in the coming days of trials and judgment. They have the Word of God; the truth of the Gospel. They are called to remain faithful so that no one can seize or snatch away their crown (N.T. describes three kinds of crowns life, glory and righteousness). The believer can have assurance that their salvation is secure if they remain faithful to Jesus Christ and obedient to His Word.
Verse 12: The one who conquers Jesus will make him a pillar in the temple. A pillar would be symbolic of stability or immovability. Because of faith in Jesus Christ the believer will remain sturdy and immovable. This was probably comforting to the people who lived in an unstable town. He will remain in this eternal city forever. Jesus will also write on the believer the name of God, the name of the city of my God and my own new name. What does this mean? Ultimately the one who overcomes will overcome and will become a citizen of the eternal city (the New Jerusalem) not because of his/her deeds but because He is a son of God and belongs to Jesus.
The Church of Philadelphia For Us Today
It’s no wonder every Church either claims or wants to be the modern day version of Philadelphia. There are some wonderful promises and commendations in this letter. I take comfort in knowing this great letter was written to a small congregation that seemingly had little impact in their earthy dwelling… However God was pleased with them and acknowledged the good works (remaining faithful to Jesus and His word). This is one of the greatest commendations a small church can receive and pursue. I have stated before that we live in an ever changing culture where truth is relative. We certainly live in a society that has mixed up its priorities and even the Church (i.e. larger denominations) seem to be following suit of mixed up priorites. Now, more than ever it is important for the TRUE Church of Jesus Christ to hold to the truths of God’s Word and remain faithful to the name and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the promise of entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God when we remain faithful to him and his word.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 3:7–13). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Smalley, Stephen S. (2005). The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.
Read Revelation 3:1 - 6
Sardis - The City
The city of Sardis was one of the wealthiest and powerful cities in the ancient world around the sixth century B.C. It is believed that gold and silver coins were first pressed there. It also claimed to be the first city that discovered the art of wool dyeing.
The city is located on top of a high mountain. It was a fortified city with nearly perpendicular walls reaching 1500 feet above the lower valley which provided a natural fortress. Over time as the city grew they developed a lower city at the bottom of the mountain it was located on. Archaeology has discovered that the lower city had a theater, a stadium and a large temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis (which was destroyed but some pillars remain today). The patron god of Sardis was Cybele (who is identified with Greek goddess Artemis). Cybele was believed to possess the power over life and death.
In 546 B.C. Cyrus defeated the city and thus becoming the seat to the Persian governor. In A.D. 17 an earthquake destroyed the city. It was rebuilt with the help of Emperor Tiberius who gave the city about $1 million and five years of tax reduction. In A.D. 26 the city put in a bid for the privilege of building an imperial temple but lost out to Smyrna. Naturally it was a very pagan city and this culture had some major influence on the church as we will see Jesus has some harsh words to the city.
Sardis – The Letter
This is the fifth letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. Sardis is the first of two churches that receives only criticism and no commendation.
Verse 1: Having a reputation can be a good thing or bad. The church in Sardis had a reputation; however it was not a good one. This church had the appearance of being alive but were actually spiritually dead. From the outside looking in everyone would think this church was doing fine and seemed healthy but Jesus saw through this façade and brought to light the true nature of this church… Jesus saw that they represented spiritual death and decay. Their works were anything but pleasing to Him.
Verse 2: Jesus tells the church to wake up. This is significant because Jesus is speaking a language the people of Sardis understood. Twice in Sardis’ history the city was defeated (546 B.C. & 218 B.C.) due to inadequate watches. As I mentioned earlier it was a city that was nearly impregnable but due to slumber the city was overtaken. Both times the enemy struck while the city watch was not paying attention or possibly sleeping. Because of their unwatchful eye they were overthrown by the enemy unexpectedly. Jesus is calling the church in Sardis to awake from their spiritual slumber. They are called to strengthen the areas that seem to be salvageable (there must have been some) for if they do not they are about to die along with the church. As I have noted already the church may seem like they are alive to everyone around them but Jesus sees their works and they are not favorable in his sight.
Verse 3: The call to remember… Jesus tells the church in Sardis to do the same as Ephesus and remember. They are to remember what they have heard and what they have received. This was most likely the message of salvation through faith. We are not told what works are unfavorable to Jesus but He certainly calls them to return to the message of hope and faith in Jesus Christ. They seemed to have lost sight of the message that was given to them and that was once received with open arms. He tells them to keep it and repent. One would think that all is lost with the church of Sardis but Jesus is not finished with her. He exhorts them to not only wake up from their spiritual slumber but also to repent of their evil works. Repentance is always one of the first steps to returning to a right relationship with Jesus. The warning… If they do not wake up then Jesus is going to execute imminent judgment that will come swiftly and unexpectedly (Like a thief).
Verse 4: The majority of the church was not walking with God, but there are some who actually did remain faithful. They did not soil their garments. In Asia Minor soiled clothing would disqualify one from worshiping their god and was also a sign of dishonor to their god. Robert Mounce sees this as a reference “to the danger of contaminating the Christian witness by accommodation to the prevailing standards of a pagan city mind.” The church was in a wide state of compromise and most of the individuals in this church were living double lives. They wanted the best of both worlds. Those who do remain faithful in this pagan filled church are promised garments of white because they remain faithful and ultimately will walk with Jesus. They are considered worthy because of Jesus and his grace. The garments of white are symbolic of victory, justification and walking with Jesus equates communion and fellowship with Jesus. It is very important to note that those who are “worthy” are not considered worthy because of anything they have done it is only by the grace of God that some did not compromise their faith.
Verse 5: The promise to the one who remains faithful and obedient; he will have his name written in the book of life. Jesus assures them that they are secure because they belong to him. He will confess them before God the Father and they will receive eternal life.
Church of Sardis for Today
So what does all of this have to do with us today?
In this letter of rebuke to the Church in Sardis we can apply a lot of what is said to our own lives personally and as a Church. In this I believe there are warnings and promises that we should heed today. If the Word of God truly is sharper than a two edged sword we should see that what Jesus says cuts to the heart of the believer and the Church today.
Alive but dead… We may be able to fool some into believing we are right with God by our outer appearance and right speech but it is God who truly sees us for who we are. There are many individuals and churches who seem alive on the outside but are dead and rotten on the inside. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees harshly about this very thing. He referred to them as hypocrites, he equated them to white washed tombs. The religious leaders of his time may have given the appearance of being holy men who are walking with God on the outside but their hearts were wicked and they were on the inside dead and decaying. He was very specific in stating that it is not the outer person that matters so much, it is the inner heart of the person and his relationship with God that matters. When the heart is right with God then the outer appearance becomes a mirror of who we are on the inside.
This is one of the most subtle ways that we can be distanced from God. So often we fall into a slumber for one reason or another without us fully realizing we do. When we neglect our relationship with Jesus Christ and allow compromise to settle into our lives spiritual slumber quickly sets in. Spiritual slumber leads to compromise and eventually tolerance of full blown sin in our lives. May we remain watchful and on guard for our faith so we do not allow our faith to fall asleep.
This is one key component to having a restored or right relationship with Jesus Christ. The word repent means “To think/act differently. To change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” Repentance doesn’t mean being sorry. It means being sorry enough to change. This is a painfully freeing process. Repentance can hurt, it can cause tears, it can break your heart but it always leads to freedom and forgiveness. Jesus calls us to repentance. May we never neglect this call on our lives?
Obedience = Victory
The obedient follower of Jesus will have fellowship with Jesus and is victorious because he has the promise of eternal life to those who overcome or conquer. For those of us who are walking in a right relationship with Jesus can be assured that we are justified, we are triumphant and we have fellowship with him.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 108 - 109
 Ibid p. 112
Read Revelation 2:18 - 29
Thyatira - The City
We know very little about the city of Thyatira. What we do know is that it was not very large and it was a city of little importance. Thyatira had no natural defenses so they were subject to repeated invasions over time. Despite these invasions it was a resilient city that kept rebuilding and became a thriving commercial and business center. The city was known for its trade guilds (Fraternal associations of artisans in a particular town). There were more trade guilds in Thyatira than any other Roman province. It was common that if you were to sell your product that you would have to belong to a guild. Guilds had patron gods and Apollos was Thyatira’s. Guilds would hold feasts in pagan temples and eat food sacrificed to gods and it would not be uncommon for the meals to end in sexual debauchery. Some of the trades this city was most known for were its dyeing, indigo and bronze. One of Paul’s first converts in Europe was Lydia who was a seller of purple. She was from Thyatira and it is believed she was a very successful and wealthy businesswoman (Acts 16:14).
Thyatira – The Letter
This is the fourth letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. It is believed to be the most difficult passage to interpret and it is also the longest letter of the seven churches. Thyatira has both a commendation and rebuke from Jesus.
Verse 18: Eyes of Flame & Feet of Bronze – Both point to impending judgment. His eyes pierce through the exterior of our person and see the heart of the individuals in the Church.
Eyes of fire – Eyes that penetrate and burn to the heart and Jesus is the one who judges our hearts and actions. In his earthly ministry Jesus spoke about how sin was not just an outward physical act of rebellion. Sin is a matter of the heart. His penetrating eyes see the true nature of who we are and is able to judge our hearts as well as our actions. He says that committing sin is not just in the physical act but also in harboring evil in our hearts.
The feet of bronze – Represent strength and stability. Jesus is our fortress and our solid foundation that will not be moved. This would also indicate strength of Jesus in his judgment which will be swift and He will tread upon the wicked with God’s wrath.
Verse 19: Commendation – “I know your works…” Jesus acknowledges how the Thyatiran church practices love, faithfulness, service to one another and patiently enduring trials. Unlike the church of Ephesus they were not lacking in love; in fact their love was great and growing in strength.
Verse 20: However unlike the Ephesians, the church of Thyatira did tolerate false teachings and teachers. There is one false teacher in particular who was leading people astray and causing others to commit spiritual adultery with her.
Jezebel – There was a prophetess in the midst of this church who was practicing and teaching dangerous blasphemous deeds. She was encouraging people to partake in immoral practices that were specifically forbidden by Jesus and the Church. She is represented by the name Jezebel.
O.T. background: In order to fully understand the spirit of this false prophetess we need to first go back and look at the person Jezebel. For the full story of Jezebel you can read about her in I Kings 16:31 – 19:18 and 2 Kings 9:30. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who was the wife of the King of Israel Ahab. She was a very influential woman over her husband as she convinced him to his heart from the true God of Israel to Baal worship. She was a wicked woman who practiced pagan idolatry and welcomed and protected pagan priests. At one point she persecuted the prophets of Israel (her nemesis was Elijah) and had 150 them killed at one time. Scholars speculate that her name means “Baal exalts” or “Baal is husband to” or “unchaste”. She has become the symbol of false teachers and ones who seduce and entice people sexually to turn from God.
It is generally agreed that the person spoken of in Thyatira was probably not a woman named Jezebel but she instead was a type of Jezebel. The name symbolized a woman who was a false prophetess who taught antinomianism (The rejection of the authority of the Mosaic Law on the grounds that it has been superseded by Christian grace and freedom, based partially on Romans 3:8. Some Gnostic sects, such as the Carpocratians, interpreted this freedom as a license to sin because only the spirit, and not the body, mattered. ). According to Stephen Smalley, “In early Christianity women prophesied freely; in contemporary Roman and Oriental cults in Asia Minor women often played the major roles as priestesses.” So it was not uncommon for such a person to rise up in the church. She apparently taught that idolatry was ok, sexual immorality was permissible and she openly engaged in these activities with some of the members of this church. It was probably taught that since individuals were saved by grace that Jesus was ok with his people following the ways of the world because the moral Law of Moses was no longer valid. We can deduce that she was probably instructing people to commit acts of immorality. It was even speculated that she was falsely teaching that these acts were acts that led to deeper insights and that they were actually practicing the deeper things of God.
Verse 21 - 23: Jesus mentions through John that He gave this woman time to repent of her evil ways her time was up. Her refusal to repent had some major consequences.
Church of Thyatira Today
So what does all of this have to do with us today?
The spirit of Jezebel is alive and well in the Church today. There are men and women who are leading God’s people astray by teaching false doctrines and hereies. It has been said that we are living in a biblically and theologically illiterate culture today. Christians do not have a firm grasp on the teachings of the Bible and many have little concern or care over true theological doctrines and teachings. It seems that anyone who parades around as a spiritual person is automatically welcomed as a true teacher of Jesus. The reality is that we have just as many false teachers in the world/church (if not more) today as we did in the first century. There are men and women falsely teaching from the pulpits a prosperity Gospel (If you are rich you are blessed; if you are poor you are in sin), a consumerist Gospel (God is at your beckon call. He is here to serve all your needs. McJEsus over 100 Billions served). A works Gospel (saved by grace; kept by works). A moralistic Gospel (Just say no to sin and live an upright life and keep the rules). A Universalist Gospel (Jesus is cool with whatever religion you want to hold on to. He wants to be your friend and hang out with you; he would never ever send someone to hell). A Gospel of toleration (Sin is a four letter word. Jesus understands you have struggles and he is ok with your sin. In fact don’t worry about your sin because times are changing and God understands that the Church needs to be relevant and appeal to the masses. Thus if you are unhappy in life then by golly you need to pursue happiness regardless of who you hurt and regardless of pursuit of holiness).
In this letter to the Church in Thyatira we see that Jesus does not tolerate false teachers and false teachings. He calls his people to hold fast until the day He comes and to keep the Gospel of Jesus before us and let the word of God and His Spirit be our guide for living our lives for His glory. Contrary to what many are teaching today He does require his people to pursue lives of holiness… not because it is our ticket to heaven but because it is an outward sign of the inner change that has happened in us. When we are truly devoted to Jesus we will pursue holiness because this is his desire for his people. He desires that we know and stay true to the Gospel and protect this message because it is his great news given for all to hear.
As a body of Christ may we be diligent in pursuing God and his Word? This church must remain grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to expose false teaching and not allow dissenters to come in and cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus and take us down a road that leads to straying and tolerating open sin and rebellion. May we hold fast to the Gospel until Jesus does in fact come back for his bride?
 Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson’s new Christian dictionary: The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Smalley, Stephen S. (2005). The Revelation To John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. P. 73
Read Revelation 2:12 - 17
Pergamum – The City
If Ephesus was the “New York City” of Asia, Pergamos (Pergamum) was its “Washington, D.C.” According to the Roman writer Pliny, Pergamum was “the most distinguished city in Asia.”  It was a city that sat high on a hill about 1,000 feet above sea level. The name Pergamon means “fortified” and is taken from the word pyrgos (“burgh”) which means a tower, castle tower or citadel. In the third century B.C. it became the capital of the Attalid territory.
Pergamum was noted for many things primarily having the second largest library (next to the library of Alexandria) in the Greek world with over 200,000 volumes. Marc Antony, as a wedding present to Cleopatra gave her the 200,000 volumes and eventually had them moved to Alexandria. Legend has it that parchment was invented there as a result Egypt cutting off its supply of papyrus.
It was also the location for four major cults of the day with temples and altars built to Zeus, Athene, Dionysus and Asklepios. The latter was considered the god of healing and was represented by a serpent. People would travel from all over in hopes of receiving healing. It is noted that Galen, one of the most famous physicians in the ancient world, was a native of Pergamum.
The city was also the primary location dedicated to the Imperial Cult of Roman worship. There was a temple dedicated to “the divine Augustus and goddess Roma” but that was destroyed.
Pergamum – The Letter
This is the third letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. Pergamum has both a commendation and rebuke from Jesus.
Verse 12: It is believed that the reason Jesus is represented as “He who has the sharp two edged sword” was a response to the power of the proconsul. Pergamum was the only city where the proconsul was given the “right of the sword” – which meant he had the power to execute anyone at anytime for any reason. The Proconsul seemingly had the power of life and death by sword. Jesus reminds the church that it is actually who truly wields power over life and death not the proconsul or even Rome. It is he who is the one who should be feared because man cannot kill the soul.
Verse 13: “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” This is believed to be a reference to the city of Pergamum and not so much the church. Pergamum was an extremely pagan city and as I have already noted it was fiercely loyal to Rome. The city was extremely welcoming to many forms of pagan worship; in particular Roman Emperor worship. This, like the city of Smyrna, would make it very difficult to be a true Christian and live in the city without facing persecution. The “Throne of Satan” is probably a reference to the Imperial Cult of Roman Emperor worship OR some believe it was a reference to the large altar dedicated to Zeus which stood atop the citadel and overlooked the city of Pergamum. Others have even noted that the throne may refer to the cult of Asklepios (the god of healing and who is often called the savior.
Jesus commends the Church for their faithfulness in staying faithful to Him. Even in the midst of great persecution (the martyr of Antipas) the Church remained faithful. We know little to nothing about Antipas except what is written in this letter and a couple of other references His name is mentioned in an inscription of Pergamum and Tertullian mentions him as well. There is a legend that he was slowly roasted to death in a brazen bull during the reign of Domitian.
Verse 14: “But this I have against you…” Even though they were faithful in persecution they did allow compromise to creep into the church. Jesus has a couple of things against the church of Pergamum; they hold to the teachings of Balaam and they hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. The two are probably closely related if not the same.
Verse 16: “Therefore repent” – Since this sin is being tolerated in the church it is time for the church and its leadership to go before God and repent of their sins. There is no indication that the whole church is involved in the practices of Balaam and the Nicolaitans BUT Jesus declares the whole church guilty of the sin because they have not taken action against this sin. They knew what has going on but they were turning a blind eye to sin and figuring they would be found guiltless because they weren’t actually involved in the sin but they were guilty by association. Indifference to sin is a sin.
If they refuse to repent then Jesus will “come soon” and this should be read as a judgment. Jesus will send judgment if things don’t change.
Verse 17: The promise of receiving “the hidden manna” and “a white stone with a new name written on it.” “The Pergamos overcomers are promised that they will commune with Him at His feast in the kingdom, since they refuse to commune with demons at the idolatrous meals.” Some have suggested the white stone is an invitation or pass if you will to the Messianic feast. It was a practice in ancient days when an individual on trial would be given by the jurors a stone, a black one indicating guilt, a white one acquittal.  So the white stone with a new name could be symbolic of our acquittal from sin and declaration of innocence because of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Church of Pergamum For Us Today
So what does all of this have to do with us today? Here are three suggestions.
Stay faithful to God. We, like the people of Pergamum, continue to live in a culture that is hostile towards Jesus and the Word of God. Nominal Christians and even large denominations are willingly compromising their views on social and religious issues in order to be more “user friendly” and match with worldly views. The world will continually tell us what we should and should not tolerate. Unfortunately many churches at large are more concerned with being politically correct or viewed in a positive and non-judgmental manner than they are about compromising the truth of God’s Word for the lie of a godless world. The world has no measuring stick for truth and righteousness. For believers, God’s word is our measuring stick and his Word is what helps us determine what is truth and what is not. We are called to love one another and our enemies but we are also commanded to weed out sin when it is in the camp.
Keep the MAIN THING the main thing - We need to remember our calling as followers of Jesus is to worship God, point others to Jesus, and live our lives fully through the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot get caught up in majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is our foundation and we must keep the Great News first and foremost.
Indifference to sin is basically the same as sinning – Many who claim to be followers of Jesus refuse to call sin sin because they do not want to come across as judgmental or narrow-minded, so they turn a blind eye to sin. The Church cannot and should not tolerate open and blatant sin. The Bible tells us that when we see someone involved in a sinful activity we are to gently rebuke them and lovingly lead them to repentance. This can be a very fine line because there is always the chance of self righteousness kicking in and then the call to repentance can turn into condemnation. As fellow brothers and sisters in Christ may we lovingly edify one another in Jesus but also lovingly point out sin when it is in the camp. If we choose to do nothing then essentially we are sinning.
May the promises of Jesus ring in our ears as overcomers; to feast on the everlasting manna of God and when God does call us home we will receive with joy the white stone with our new names written on it and declaring us innocent because of the blood of Jesus Christ.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 2:12–17). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 95
 Ibid p. 97
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 2:12–17). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 2:12–17). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Read Revelation 2: 8 - 11
Smyrna – The City
The city of Smyrna was the second largest city in the Roman province of Asia Minor. It is the only city of of the seven churches still in existence today. It is now modern day Izmir. There about 200,000 people living in this city. In John’s day it was a city that had been “resurrected from the dead,” in that it had been destroyed 700 years earlier and had lain in ruins for 300 years. Jesus may have alluded to this in reference to His own resurrection (died but alive) in his greeting to the church. 
It was a proud, prosperous and beautiful city that boasted a famous stadium, library, and public theater (the largest in Asia). It is believed Smyrna may have been the birth place of the poet Homer (The Odyssey & The Iliad) but it is not certain.
The city was friends to Rome; which means they heartily welcomed Roman rule. In 195 B.C. the city erected a Temple to Dea Roma (goddess Roma) which is the earliest recorded establishment to the Roman Cult. In 23 BC they were granted permission by Rome to build a temple to the emperor Tiberius. Caesar worship was common and enforced in Smyrna, so it was very difficult to be a Christian and live in this city.
Smyrna – The Church
Not much is known about the origins of the Church in Smyrna. It was probably formed around the time Paul was in Ephesus on his third Missionary Journey. Ignatius an Apostolic Father wrote in the early 2nd century that the Church of Smyrna was well organized, with elders, deacons and a Bishop (Polycarp: who was ordained as bishop by the Apostle John). He wrote a letter to Polycarp and to the church in Smyrna.
Ploycarp is believed to have been a disciple of the Apostle John. At the age of 86 he was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. The story goes that when the fires would not consume him he was stabbed and killed. His account is one of the first well documented non-biblical martyr stories. This was fitting because the Apostle John wrote to the church concerning persecution that was impending.
Smyrna – The Letter
This is the second letter of the Apocalypse written by John and spoken by Jesus. Smyrna is the first of two churches who does not receive a rebuke from Jesus. The letter opens with the traditional greeting “To the Angel of the Church in Smyrna” and then identification of the one who is speaking (and in all these cases it is Jesus). Jesus proclaims that he was dead and is now alive and this could be in reference to the fact as I mentioned earlier that Smyrna was once a city that ceased to exist but then was rebuilt and brought to life.
Verse 9: Jesus acknowledges the hardships or “tribulations” (anguish, burden, affliction) this church is facing. Smyrna was a persecuted and poor church in a wealthy city. It is without doubt the two (persecution and poverty) go hand in hand. The church was persecuted because they refused to bow the knee to Rome. They did not recognize the Caesar as a deity and refused to offer worship to him and refused to renounce their Christian faith. In this kind of violent environment it is no wonder that the people who were part of this church were poor. Most likely they were unable to get jobs because of their faith so they probably were destitute and had very little material possessions. The people of the church of Smyrna gave up everything to follow Jesus; they did not compromise their loyalty to him by bending the knee to Rome in exchange for a life of comfort which I am sure was a temptation at times.
Jesus reminds them that though they are poor, they are very rich spiritually speaking. James 2:5 reminds us, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” These are words of comfort and encouragement to the church. Jesus reminds them in these few words that the things of this world do not make you wealthy. Salvation, redemption and future glory may have contributed to the individuals of this church being materially poor individuals however they were the richest people on the planet.
In contrast, Jesus speaks about the Jews who are a "synagogue to Satan". What we know is that the persecution of Smyrna does not just come from pagan Rome; it also comes heavily from the Jews. The Jews were still hostile against those who followed Jesus. The Jews believed Jesus was a blasphemer and when they saw the success of Christian evangelism, they wanted to stop what was happening. Jews would physically harm Christians and they would also inform Roman rulers of these Christians and their worship practices and in a city like Smyrna this was very common. These Jews thought they were true Jews but they were in fact a synagogue to Satan. They were not working for the God Israel; in fact they were doing the work of the devil.
Verse 10: Jesus tells them “Do not fear” because hardships are coming. Take a moment and let that sink in. “DO --- NOT --- Fear”. Tough times were ahead for the church and Jesus is telling them not to allow fear to overtake them. They are about to face some pretty heavy persecution. He informs them who is behind this scheme. Jesus says, “The Devil is going to throw some of you into prison.” Some have speculated that “the Devil” is Rome (and they certainly were the ones who were going to instigate the persecution) but it is the devil himself who will be the one behind the scenes influencing this persecution. Certainly the people must remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear the one who can kill the body but not the soul.”
Prison was not a welcome place. The ancient world prison wasn’t a place like it is today. Restoration and rehabilitation was not the purpose of a prison. It was where you were sent to die. The accused were sent there to await execution. Jesus wasn’t telling them they were spending a night in jail; he was telling them that this will end in death for many in this church.
Ten Days – Could suggest a literal ten days, could be a short time, while others suggest it is a long but limited period of time. Regardless persecution was coming.
Be faithful – Jesus tells them to remain faithful to him even unto the point of death. The faithful ones will receive a crown of life. The word for crown here refers to the wreath of garland which was given as the prize for victors in competition (the reward of righteousness).
Verse 11: "He who has an ear to hear… The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death." In John 16 Jesus tells his disciples that he has overcome the world. Since he has overcome they are overcomers. He essentially says, “The world will cause great persecution and trials but have courage and know I have overcome the world. The world has no power over me.” John also reminds us in his Epistles that those who are born of God through Jesus have overcome the world. The second death has no power over those who are in Jesus.
Church of Smyrna For Us Today
So what does all of this have to do with us today? I have three suggestions.
Compromise is not an option
There is no doubt we live in a hostile world that has little love for Jesus and embraces compromise. People (even those who once claimed to be a follower of Jesus) have compromised their faith in exchange for comfort, wealth and status. Following Jesus is costly but worth every penny; spiritually speaking. The world is pulling the strings of your heart. It wants your worship and your affection. There are so many things out there that are demanding your heart and entice you to bow the knee to them. The truth is only Jesus satisfies. We cannot compromise our loyalty, love and life to Jesus for something that is ungodly, empty and cannot deliver.
No Matter How Poor You May Be You are extremely wealthy
You may or may not have material wealth. God is not concerned with your material wealth as he is with your Spiritual health. Material wealth means little in the Kingdom of God. No matter what your financial status is if you are a child of Jesus Christ then you are the richest person in the world. You have what many who have everything materially but nothing Spiritually cannot have… salvation, redemption, hope and future glory. It is Jesus who makes us the riches people on the planet.
We have overcome because Jesus has overcome
As believers we need continual reminding about the fact that we are overcomers… We are victorious in this life because Jesus was victorious on the cross. The world has no hold on us and we are not slaves to it. The words Jesus speaks to us shows that there is nothing the world can do to take away our joy; and it certainly will try. May we know that in turmoil, pain, suffering, and persecution joy can be found. Let this truth be our foundation. We live in a time of uncertainty, violence, godlessness, amoralism and turmoil and this should not affect our lives in the least because Jesus is still on the throne. We have overcome the world because we belong to Jesus and He is the victor thus we are victorious as well.
Do not fear my friends we have overcome. Be faithful because Satan will strike and in Jesus we are victorious in this life and we shall receive the crown of life in the life to come.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 2:8–11). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 91
Read Revelation 2:1 – 7
For the next several days we will look at the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation. We will look at them first from the historical point of view (What Jesus said to this historical church) and a modern point of view (What does this letter say to the Church today).
The structure of the seven letters is very similar. They follow a consistent pattern, beginning with the address, which is always “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” This is invariably followed by the identification of Christ as the sender of the letter, usually (though not in every case) describing him in terms drawn from the vision of chapter one.
Jesus’ first message to each church is: “I know your works.” The churches’ works are sometimes commendable, sometimes requiring chastising and sometimes both
Three of the churches have commendation and criticism. Two churches have only praise and two have only criticism.
The Church of Ephesus
Ephesus – The City
The city of Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the Roman province of Asia. It was a main import and export center for Asia. There were believed to have been about 250,000 people living in this area. The temple of Artemis (Diana) one of the Seven Wonders of the World was located in Ephesus. She was originally an Anatolian fertility goddess, but under the influence of Greek culture had become the focus of an extensive religious cult. It is also a city of great political importance. It had been granted by Rome the right to self-government. 
Ephesus – The Church
It is believed the Christian faith came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla about AD 52. A church was planted in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul and he ministered there for two years. Some amazing things happened in Ephesus during his time one of which was a riot that Paul unintentionally instigated as a result of his preaching (Acts 19:21 – 41). Timothy (the one Paul wrote both 1 and 2 Timothy) was a resident and tradition states that he may have either been an elder or the Pastor of the church of Ephesus when Paul wrote his letters to him. According to some traditions the Apostle John and Mary the mother of Jesus resided in Ephesus. Mary may have actually died in Ephesus and it is believed John lived in Ephesus up to the point where he was banished to Patmos.
Ephesus – The Letter
Verse 2: Jesus acknowledges that he is familiar with the works of the church of Ephesus. He commends the church first because they have been faith in enduring hardships, they have not tolerated people who have an evil agenda and they have exposed false teachers and Apostles. The false teachers Jesus speaks of are probably the Nicolaitans. Jesus commends the Church in verse 6 for hating the works of the Nicolaitans just as God hates their works.
Verses 4 – 5: Jesus did have something against the Church of Ephesus. They had abandoned their first love. Jesus is not specific in detailing what that first love was but it was probably their lack of loving one another and/or their lack of loving God. Ultimately the two are directly related. Lacking love for God eventually leads to lacking love for others. The command of Jesus was very specific “Love God and love others” and apparently the Ephesians had forgotten this and they had abandoned their first love.
All is not lost though… Jesus instructs gives them a remedy to fix this problem…they are to remember, repent and return. I will speak on what this looks like in a few moments. Jesus tells the Ephesians to heed his warning. If they do not do as he instructs then He will come and remove his lamp stand from their midst. This means that if things don’t change soon the church will die; which unfortunately it did. Unfortunately the Church of Ephesus no longer exists. This should remind us that a loveless Church is a Christless church and a Christless church is a dead church.
Verse 7: The promise – To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. To those who endure persecution and remain faithful they will be given permission to eat of the tree of life which means eternal life and victory over death.
Church of Ephesus Applied Today
There is no Church of Ephesus today but this does not mean the letter is no longer valid or has no relevance for today. This letter does speak to us today just as it did to the Ephesians.
Good works cannot save us. The Gospel explicitly states that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth of the Gospel. Jesus accomplished our salvation for us. However since our good works do not save us does not mean our good works here on earth do not matter. What we do individually AND collectively matters greatly to God. God has called the Body of Christ to be the Light of the world. I think it is important for us to use this passage as a score card of sorts for whatever church you may be part of today. You should be asking…
If you are feeling hopeless, conflicted or convicted at this moment that is good because God is at work in your heart. As I was preparing for this message I felt all three. However I am encouraged because verse 4 doesn’t end with the problem. Jesus has given us a solution…
REMEMBER where you have fallen. Allow God to work on you today. If you have failed in any of the areas mentioned above then you are exhorted to find out where it is you have failed. This can be and often is a painful process and should lead to the next step.
REPENT – The word repent means “To think/act differently. To change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” Repentance doesn’t mean being sorry. It means being sorry enough to change. This is a painfully freeing process. Repentance can hurt, it can cause tears, it can break your heart but it always leads to freedom and forgiveness.
RETURN – Do the works you did at first. This simply means to allow the Spirit to do his work in your heart. Allow the Spirit to fan into flame the passion and fire you once had for God. It’s synonymous to the words of King David, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me.”
The key here is you cannot return if you skip steps 1 and 2. Remembering and repentance is necessary in order for you to return to the place where God desires for you to be. You have ears and you must hear what the Spirit is saying. May God have mercy on you and may you be faithful in responding.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 1:20). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 86
Preview or buy my books
I live in Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with 20 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.