There are seven churches listed in Revelation chapters two and three. I believe that every church, in any place or time, can point at one of the seven churches and say, “There we are.” In other words, every church holds the characteristics of one of the seven churches.
If we look back at church history, we can also see that these churches are prophetic of the condition of the church through the centuries. To explain, the general state of Christendom follows the general shape of the churches.
The condition of Christianity, in general, was the same as the church of Ephesus from Pentecost till around the year 100. The characteristics of the second church, Smyrna, held for the majority of churches from the years 100 to around 300. This prophetic correlation rings true with all seven churches. Pergamos roughly 300-600, Thyatira 600-1500, Sardis 1500-1700, Philadelphia 1700-1900, and Laodicea 1900 until now and beyond until the rapture.
Remember, this speaks of the general condition of Christianity. There can be Philadelphia churches in the Laodicean age. Ephesus-type churches existed in the time of Pergamos. There were Laodicean churches when a Sardis-type church was most prevalent. But, most churches will fit the mold of the age to which they belonged.
Of the seven churches, four of them, God talks of things they were doing right and things they were doing wrong. Two of the churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, God had no complaints. One church, Laodicea, God did not mention anything they were doing right. The condition of the church was so bad; He told them they made Him sick to His stomach (Revelation 3:16). We are currently in the Laodicean age; therefore, most churches make God’s tummy roll.
Preacher, is it that bad?
Apathy is the first of God’s complaints. The church is lukewarm.
“Preacher, we are not lukewarm. The music is lively, and the preaching dynamic. Everyone leaves uplifted. The last thing we are is lukewarm.”
Having a good time at church is good, but God does not judge our Christianity on our feelings. Jesus tells us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). The church is lukewarm in doing the basics of the Christian life. Do you awaken each day with an anticipation of studying the Scripture? Is there an eagerness in your soul to spend time in prayer? Do you see people as lost souls and are gung ho about telling people the gospel? Is there an earnest desire to get sin out of your life? The more you answer “no” to these questions, and many more that I could ask, you are one giant leap closer to lukewarmness.
In addition to apathy, the church lacks faith because they can fend for themselves. They have what they need, so God is, at best, an afterthought in our everyday lives. Jesus describes the church’s spiritual condition as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
God does not leave us hanging. He tells us how to fix the spiritual mess we are in. In Revelation 3:18, He counsels us “to buy of me gold tried in the fire…and white raiment.”
If we are to “buy” something from God, we must pay the price. It also means that we must desire the item purchased. Do you want to live a godly life? Are you willing to pay the cost?
Gold tried by fire implies a purification, the elimination of unwanted materials. Jesus purchased you when He died on the cross (Acts 20:28). However, we are responsible for living a life pleasing to Him, setting aside the sin we hang on to (Hebrews 12:1). Do not forget that sins are more than things we do, like telling a lie, stealing, or sex outside of marriage. Sin also consists of things of the heart; pride, hatred, greed, jealousy, apathy toward the things of God, and many more conditions of the heart that lay deep within us. Some of these things may only surface occasionally, but they are sins and need dealing with.
The process of refining spiritual gold is a long and challenging process. Apathy toward the things of God needs immediate elimination because if you do not have the desire, you will never accomplish the goal.
The process takes prayer. If you have a problem with pride, for example, ask God to take your pride away; and continue asking until the pride is gone.
The study of the Scripture is vital in curing spiritual illness. Fixing spiritual problems cannot happen without Bible study. How can you please God if you do not know what pleases Him? How do we know what pleases God? God tells us about His likes and dislikes in the Bible. The more you study the Word of God, the more you will understand the personality of God.
Most Christians have no idea that God’s church can make Him sick to His stomach, let alone what causes God’s tummy ache. Why do we not know? It is because we do not know what makes Him tick – we do not study the book He gave us to learn about Him.
How are you doing, Christian? Are you part of Jesus’ tummy roll, or are you an exception to today’s church age?
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com