INTRODUCTION - The Church of Thyatira (Rome) held sway in the world for 1000 years, A.D.500 to 1517. During those Dark Ages, Thyatira so corruped itself with false doctrine that the truth of the Gospel was largely hidden from the world.
What Jesus said of the leaders of Israel in His day (Mt.23:13) became true of Rome, and it is still true of Rome today. You can't believe what Rome teaches and be saved - Rome teaches Salvation by Works.
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 protests to the door of the Wittenburg Church, it was the beginning of the end of the absolute domination of Rome over all of Christendom.
The church of Sardis was born in the Reformation that followed. The Great Biblical Truth was rediscovered, "The Just Shall Live By Faith." Rome had taught, and still does, that you earn salvation by good works plus Faith or you buy it through indulgences. God's Word which had been hidden by Rome was opened again to the people. The Church of Sardis emerged out of Thyatira. SARDIS = The Escaping Ones". Multitudes escaped from the darkness and tyrany of Rome.
However, we learned that Sardis did not go far enough! "For I have not found thy works perfect before God." (Rev. 3:2) PERFECT = FINISHED OR COMPLETE. Sardis did not finish what they had begun, they turned away from much false doctrine, but thy still held on to some wrong doctrine.
They still held to Infant Baptism, as a result unsaved people eventally took over the church.
They still held to State Churches, they replaced the Universal Church of Rome with National State Churches. This gave the State an opportunity to influence these churches.
Now in approximately 1750, out of Sardis came a little remnant of believers who returned to God's Word as their only rule of Faith and Life. that was Philadelphia. Philadelphia finished what Sardis had only begun, a complete return to God's Word.
As Sardis came out of Thyatira as a protest against it, Philadelphia came out of Sardis as a protest against it. So Philadelphia was born, a church that returned to the fundamentals of the faith.
Two facts about Philadelphia. FIRST - they are a small group, they have been called the Church of the Feeble Few. "Thou hast a little strength" (vs. 8) "Strength" = the greek word "Dunamin" = Dynamite, You are a little Dynamo."
They were weak in the eyes of the world, but mighty with God. They were few in number compared to the Monolithic Structure of Christendom, compared to Rome and Sardis and today Laodicea. Thyatira (Rome) which is still in the world and numbers about one billion, makes Philadelphia look small. Sardis is still in the world in the form of the MAINLINE CHURCHES, which also dwarfs Philadelphia, Laodicea (modern day evangelicalism) also dwarfs the little Philadelphian churches of our day.
The Philadelpian church was and still is weak and despised in the eyes of the world. Little assemblies scattered over the countryside. They began in storefronts and rented halls in basement churches, and in homes. they had no ecclesiastical hierarchy, just a humble pastor and deacons. They did not have many wealthy members. they had, and still have, little influence or social standing in the world.
From the call of Abraham, to the present hour, God's true people have always been a remnant, a feeble appearing few in the world. small, but mighty with with God, little dynamos. Jesus described His own beautifully in Luke 12:32, "Fear Not Little Flock; for it is your Father's good purpose to give you the Kingdom." After three years of Christ's Ministry there were only 120 in that little flock. As the end of the Apostolic era, though the church had grown, yet they were still an insignificant minority in the world.
Today in this Laodicean Age, if an Evangelical Church doesn't have numbers and programs and beautiful buildings, it is sometimes even depised by Christians. Watch Out! When the church is popular and acclaimed by the world. We can err in evaluating a church. Let us evaluate our church according to the pattern of the Philadelphian Church.
The Philadelphian church, along with Smyrna, the suffering church, were the only churches to receive only commendations and no condemnation from the Lord.
FACT NUMBER TWO, Philadelphia would continue in the world until the Lord comes for them in the Rapture. (see Rev. 3:10) "THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION, WHICH SHALL COME UPON ALL THE WORLD," that is clearly the Tribulation Period. the Lord made a promise to Philadelphia, He said: "I, ALSO WILL KEEP THEE FROM THE HOUR." They will not be kept in the hour, but "from" the hour, they won't be present. As Noah was lifted up above the judgment that came upon the men of this world, so the church will be caught up above, as the judgment falls upon the nations and upon the apostate church. Christ's promise to the true church is that it will not go through the Tribulation Period. If the rapture occurs after the tribulation period, then the Promise of Christ will be unfulfilled.
Some say, it is not fair that some should go through tribulation in this life and others should escape the tribulation period. Some say it is not right to desire to escape the Tribulation Period, why should some suffer tribulation and others escape. The answer is that it has nothing to do with fairness, it has only to do with the Sovereign Program and purpose of God.
Let me give you an illustration from the lives of two committed christian men. The first man's name is Robert McClintock. This man came out from Ireland in the 1930's, he worked hard as a home builder and became a millionaire. He was one of the most committed christians I have ever known. He taught a Sunday School class of boys, he was a faithful witness, He gave much of his income to the Lord's Work. Because of his great material blessings, he lived in the best of homes, he drove the best of cars, ate in the finest restaurant and wore the finest clothes.
I want you to see a contrast between Robert McClintock and the second man in my illustration. This second man was a believer in Communist Russia. Because of his commitment to Christ, he was sent to the salt mines of Siberia. He was abused for his faith in Christ, he suffered hunger and privation and ultimately froze to death in that desparately cold place.
Both of these men were examples of commitment and faithfulness to Christ and yet there was a tremendous contrast in their lives. Let me ask you about fairness in the lives of these two men. You may say there was no fairness. The issue in their lives had nothing to do with fairness, but everything to do with purposes of God in each of their lives. For a biblical example you could compare the life experiences of Daniel with that of Jeremiah, was it fair, it has nothing to do with fairness, but everything to do with the purposes of God.
You cannot argue it is not fair that one generation of believers should not escape the Tribulation Period, while so many others have endured great tribulation. It has solely to do with the Plan and Purposes of God.
And so this little remnant of Philadelphian believers will continue until Christ comes for his True Church. They will continue along side the Monolithic Structures of Rome and Mainline Protestants (Thyatira and Sardis).They will continue as a faithful few as Laodicea (evangelicalism) continues to grow and expand all around them. They will continue as Laodicea goes on to develop into a lifeless, dead evangelical monolithic structure.
And so even in this Laodicean Age there is little Piladelphia, despised and rejected even by some evangelicals.
NEXT WEEK WE WILL LOOK AT AT FIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PHILADELPHIAN CHURCH.