As regular Bible readers are aware, Jesus had the Apostle John write messages to seven churches in Asia Minor. All seven were told to listen to what the Spirit said to the churches and all seven received some prophetic warnings.
And while there were complaints against 5 of the 7, there were none for two of them. The two that received no criticism were the churches of Philadelphian and Smyrna. And while most affiliated with the Church of God are familiar with at least part of the Philadelphia era of the Church (which was essentially represented by the pre-January 1986 Worldwide Church of God and now the Living Church of God), most people know very little about the Smyrna era of the Church of God–which is one of those that we in the Living Church of God trace our history through.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I were once again in Smyrna (which has been renamed Izmir by the Turks). The following is a picture of some of the ancient ruins there:
Ancient Smyrna (Taken May 11, 2008).
(Those interested in seeing more photos may wish to visit the Joyce’s Photos of Smyrna page.)
But there is an important aspect of Smyrna that I wish to emphasize today. Do you know what the Church of Smyrna really taught? And do you know why that is important?
While nearly all churches claim to get their doctrines at least partially from the Bible, might it not be helpful to realize what the church that was lead by the descendants of the apostles actually taught?
Both the Apostles John and Philip lived in Asia Minor until their deaths. And both apparently lived longer (with John clearly the longest–until the end of the 1st century) than the other apostles. Early church historians (2nd century–as well as later ones) are in agreement that the apostles appointed Polycarp to lead the churches there.
So if the Smyrna church was faithful, what did Polycarp and his Smyrnaean successors teach?
Notice the following list of teachings of early Christianity–all of which are accepted by the true Church of God and only a relatively few of which are practiced/taught/still accepted by Roman Catholics or Protestants (though early leaders considered as “saints” by the Catholics also held them):
Baptism was by immersion and did not include infants.
The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor.
A Binitarian view was held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Born-Again meant being born at the resurrection, not at the time of conversion.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings.
Deification of Christians was taught by the early leaders of the Church.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental–nor did they dress as many now do.
Easter was not observed by the apostolic church.
The Fall Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.
Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including the use of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Lent was not observed by the primitive church.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on the same day that the Jews observed it by all professing Christians.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
Salvation was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church, with others being called later, though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
God’s Six Thousand Year Plan for humankind to rule itself was believed by early professors of Christ.
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians.
The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians–and in the order that the Living Church of God claims they are in.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians, but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians.
Unclean Meats were eaten by the early allegorists, but not by true Christians.
Leavened Bread was removed from the homes of early Christians when the Jews did the same.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.
What About Today?
Almost none who profess Christianity hold to all of those beliefs.
The largest group (which happens to also be a “little flock”) that agrees with all the positions above, that were part of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) is the Living Church of God.
That is part of why I believe that the Living Church of God has the clearest ties to the apostolic church of any church on this planet.
Articles of possibly related interest may include:
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from 31 A.D. to present: information on all of the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3.
1. The Ephesus Church Era was predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D. The Church of James, Peter, Paul, and John, etc.
2. The Smyrna Church Era was predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D. The Church led by Polycarp, Melito, Polycrates, etc.
3. The Pergamos Church Era was predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D. An especially persecuted Church.
4. The Thyatira Church Era was predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D. The Church during the Inquisition.
5. The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and COG-7th Day.
6. The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now basically the Living Church of God.
7. The Laodicean Church Era was predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. Non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG.
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.