John is then given an insight as to what would happen to the Jewish-Christian people until Christ’s second coming and the congregation’s biggest challenges along the way. Again He uses code language which is very familiar for those who know the scripture and are acquainted with Gods value system in the past. He calls them the seven churches and we learn something about each one of them. The names of the churches is Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. These seven churches existed in the time of John, not far from the island Patmos where he was at the time. Notice that God is not mentioning all the other churches that we know from the new testament excised. If these churches’ names aren’t symbolic it means these were the only churches Christ ministered to in the sanctuary, considering that all these physical cities along with its churches have been in ruins for a long time it leaves Christ without any church for over a thousand years. For this is the churches we see Christ ministering to from the temple. They are a complete number, there are no other candlesticks than these seven. It is clear that the expressions used to the churches are symbolic. This is why the names also are symbolic. We see God uses this pattern many times in the Bible. God took the characteristics of these seven churches to explain seven different time periods that God’s people would go through up until Christ’s second coming. A continuous lineage of His people. This doesn’t mean we will see other converts and churches, but it means they are supposed to receive an in-depth understanding from this lineage and not the other way around. These churches are the ones carrying the torch or light from age to age. So other converts must be grafted alongside them. This lineage, as previously explained, was the continuation of the remnant. And because God keeps His promises and His people and so His chosen light-bearers has to be a remnant of the remnant of this people. Jesus also uses names and characteristics from the challenges of God’s people in the past to explain these churches’ situations. The number seven in the Bible is a continuous time cycle. It was used at creation where each day came after the other. It was also used in the feast days where they came in sequence over seven months. It was also used in the rituals of cleansing where the priest was to count seven days. And we will see the number seven repeating in Revelation. Seven churches, seven stars, seven seals, seven trumpets, and even seven plagues. So to summaries: The churches, like the pattern in the rest of Revelation, start with the time of John and continue till Christ second coming. God uses characteristics from existing churches to forewarn the future of the church as a whole
The seven churches represented the seven churches in time. God uses seven churches in Asia as a parable.
The first pruning of God’s Christian followers is seen already in the first church. It says:
“and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them
This shows that the first church has managed to keep their doctrines clean and that they themselves have separated from those who were preaching falsehood. But it also shows another lineage emerging, a lineage of false apostles. But this church is keeping separate from them. An apostle was a name for the followers of Christ. Jesus shows with this message that He does not recognize the ones who have an outward profession to be Christ followers, but isn’t lead by God, as part of His church. Just as Jesus had warned, people would do mighty works in His name but He doesn’t know them, they are not of Him. False Christianity would exist from the very beginning. Christ also commends them for not accepting the teachings of the Nicolaitans. This was most likely tied to the Christians who added Roman feasts and practices into the congregation. It was
not uncommon in Roman times to add gods and mythologies to the Roman religion, many religions from the Roman districts were added to Roman religion. Recognizing their gods helped bring the smaller districts of the empire together under loyalty to the emperor. However, the first Christian church taught there was no salvation apart from Christ. That there was no room for other gods, and that they would not accept the Romans in return for them accepting Christ. And so their religion, as well as the Jewish, was considered obstinate and disturbance to peace and the unity of the empire. Some wanted to be bridge builders and convince the first church to be united with them in return for acceptance, however, they refused and was therefore considered an enemy of the State. The first congregation is faithful but God warns them that they have started to lose their first love. This is tied to their focus and eagerness which characterizes anyone in their beginning of a love phase. This is interesting because this is just what Paul warned them against when he said that those who do not have the love for the truth will be deceived. (2.Thess.2:10) He said that if they followed this path then someone would end up sitting as a deceptive god or judge among them. (2.Tess. 2:4) Christ warning to this congregation is therefore of uttermost importance. And we already know what happens to a people that go astray and are not faithful, they are cut off from His people and God will only continue with a faithful remnant of them. This is exactly Christ warning to this church:
«Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.» (Rev.2:5)
So not even this people who are called His new priests will keep their position and title no matter what.
In the church that comes next, we see another division emerging. God has, as He always has done, pruning His people and Church. Some claim to serve God but doesn’t really and the church has exposed them, and God awards them for it. God calls them the synagogue of Satan.
“I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and Are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.»
Jesus had already explained this to us. He said:
«they answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye Would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. …Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a
liar,and the father of it.» (Joh.8:39-40 & 44)
And so these words were uttered by Jesus to those who claimed they were of the chosen lineage but didn’t have the right behavior. They are not chosen. Also, Jesus spoke this way about those who claimed to serve His Father while they were ready to kill the one who told them the truth. And this is just what the church will have to face from now on, that those claiming to be followers of Christ are prepared to kill the other followers just because they preached the importance to be true to the truth. Those who do this, lineage or not, are not considered Christ’s true church. The same with the Jews. The second church has again separated itself from the false believers. But this church also has to suffer a lot of persecution and martyrdom. We read:
“ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto
death, and I will give thee a crown of life.»
In Bible prophecy, a prophetical day is a physical year. Although the Christian church suffered greatly during the Roman empire, they had 10 years of, especially terrible persecution. The last and most bloody of the persecutions lasted ten years beginning under Diocletian from A.D.303 to A.D.313. This helps us understand what time period we are in and what time period the next church exist. For we know historically a lot of several dramatic changes that happen to the church in the next years. Although many of the second church lose their lives, they are considered spiritually victorious. Christ has no bad things to say about this church. Only two churches out of the seven do not receive reproof. The second and the sixth.
In the third church, the persecuted church has gotten new challenges. They live in the midst of a lot of evil but stand fast on God’s side. It speaks of Antipas, a martyr. However, we already know from the symbolic language in the message to this same church and the others, that a name can represent an ideology or a group of people. The word Antipas consists of two Greek words, the first meaning “anti” or against, and the second “pas” means father. The name, therefore, refers to a faithful group who is against a father figure to rule over them. Since they are God’s faithful this is the rejection of an earthly father, not God the Father. Jesus had warned against this too:
“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.» (Mat 23:9)
We know from history that this is a time in the Churches’ history where they start getting powerful leaders among them. Laodicea is also the city where they first started to worship the Roman leaders. We learn from the message to this church that deceptive teachings had started to enter the church. God says they have to repent or turn from their ways. He calls the false teachings that of Balaam. Balaam was a prophet in the Old Testament that tried to bring a curse over God’s people but was unsuccessful as long as God’s people were faithful. Balaam had been a prophet of the Lord but when a king offered him money and status he was willing to give up on godly principles and help bring a curse over those that remained true.
“Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls:
an heartthey have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of Unrighteousness» (2Pe 2:14-15)
Peter here explains that those who follow the way of Balaam have gone away from Christ path of righteousness. Christ righteousness was that he
remained loyal to God’s commandments, had He not He would not have been righteous.
“Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and
thy law is the truth.” (Psa 119:142)
“My tongue shall speak of thy word
:forall thy commandments are righteousness.” (Psa 119:172)
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (Joh 15:10)
John also explains that sin is the breaking of the law.
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.” (1Jn 3:4-5)
Balaam literally was disobedient to God’s word. (Num 22:12) «And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me people.» (Num.22:15-17)
In the same way the christian union with the emperor of Rome were to be a curse to God’s people. Only those who remain obedient to God wasn’t swept away by the deceptions that followed. We learn that a part of the church has forsaken God’s way, Christ righteousness, that they chose sin over obedience and that they are selling obedience to God for the sake of a position and influence from a pagan king.
Judas also mention Balaam:
«Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.» (Jud 1:11)
Cain also abandoned God’s truth for the sake of his own invented righteousness. Instead of bringing a blood sacrifice to the altar, he brought something he had come up with himself. A religion based on own ideas rather the word of God. Cain wanted to worship God but by his own rules. God did not accept this kind of worship and so he got angry with both God and his brother who was obedient, and he persecuted his brother. In the beginning the heathen had been instructed by the chosen Jewish line, however now pagans were only converting halfheartedly and dragging the church in their direction rather turning from their ways. This is just what happened to the church according to historical records. From heavy persecution in the Roman empire, they now had to face flattery and seduction from Roman leaders and this is when the church is seduced to make a compromise and a new pagan-Christian religion surface. The Roman emperor brought the two religions into one. He turned pagan temples to Christians, but many of the practices and traditions remained. Many Roman gods were now called Christian saints, and they prayed to them. Again God warns them in this message to the church that if they don’t repent they will be separated from His true people. This mixture of religion actually removed Christianity from its Jewish roots and to the Roman understanding of worship and spirituality. Many Christian fought all they could for the truth, but the pagan-influenced line of Christians got power and honor from the Roman emperor and their influence grew. The church was now at a breaking point.
In the fourth church, Jesus brings up the name Jezebel. Another character from the Old Testament. The king of Israel marries a pagan royal and she brings corrupted idol worship into the land. Remember Jesus started calling His people kings in Revelation 1? Now God is asking His church why they are letting her rule over them. At this time in history, the pagan Roman religion emerging with Christianity has gotten its leader, the Pope. The word Pope means Papa or Father. And he has been given, by the Roman emperor, the right to be the leader of the Christian church and judge what is true and what isn’t and to judge heretics. The pope can now punish heretics and any Christian who won’t subdue under the Christian roman appointed leader and his doctrines. Jezebel enters into the history after God has split the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Israel had rejected God’s laws and now they were married into paganism by their union with Jezebel. And Judah was not uninfected by the unfaithfulness of the other tribes. God explains in his message to the
third church that he will separate or cut away those who follow her. Meaning God’s chosen line doesn’t let her control them. If they do, they are no longer God’s chosen people. Those who remain faithful in this time are the ones God will continue with. He tells them to ’hold fast’.
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against
thee,because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.» (Rev.2:20)
Again, as before, we notice the symbolic language. To eat something other places in the Bible is a symbol of taking part in it’s meaning. For instance, eating bread was a symbol of taking part
“And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not.» (Rev 2:21)
This time prophecy is given to the corrupted Jezebel, the people who had mixed paganism and Christianity, to the Christian movement that had united with the Roman state and now sat as a ruler there. Although she wasn’t part of God’s chosen lineage and truthbearer, God did try and reach her to cause her to repent, however without success. We know God still has his faithful who won’t let Jezebel deceive them. To them, He says:
«But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:» (Rev 2:25-26)
Jesus here clearly says that He will continue with the remnant that «keepeth my works», that is staying true to God’s truth and obedience to His laws. It’s clear that neither Jezebel or anyone that follows her is regarded as God’s children:
«Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. ..And I will kill her children with death
; andall the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.»
Again we are instructed that it’s not about the name professed, is someone calling themselves a follower of Christ, it’s not about powerful positions and range of influence. it’s about the works. Same as it has always been. God says to His faithful «the rest in Thyatira», meaning a large part of God’s church is cut off at this point. The Greek word means the «remaining ones» or the «remnant». A large part of God’s church has at this point been seduced by the other so-called Christians who are in power. The power and influence of the corrupted Church have affected God’s true Church, Thyatira, and God is only left with a remnant who stays true to His teachings and commandments. All the others have for the sake of peace and prosperity abandoned the truth. Historically we know this is the next phase the Christian church experienced. During the middle ages the Roman Catholicism was the ruling power in the former Roman empire. They replaced God’s truth and commandments with their own truth and their own version of God’s commandments. The co-operated with Kings and Queens all over Europe and usually got what they wanted. And what they wanted was to be the only known Church. All those Christians that would not subdue the Papal authority were hunted down and fined, prisoned, persecuted and murdered. Large groups of Christians trying to follow the uncorrupted word his in deserted areas in Italy, France, Ireland and many other places. They had to spread the gospel and Bibles in hiding, while the Catholic Church could do their work in the open. This resulted of course in the worldwide growth of Catholicism and the decline in other biblical founded churches. Because of the sometimes grotesque murders done on those who would not follow Roman Catholicism many started to give up on principles to stay alive and have a chance at a life. Many made compromises to make the church happy. The Church argued that they were the chosen lineage and truth-bearers, because of their great power many were also deceived to believe that God had given them the power. But the Book of Revelation will later reveal who gave them the power. We are also told in both Daniel and Revelation that God’s true people would be subdued for a long time period and not be the ruling people. However those who gave in to the corrupted church was cut off from God’s chosen linage. Only repenting could craft them back.
In the message to the fifth church, Jesus tells us His people are about to give up. He tells them to wake up.
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect Before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.»
Only love for the truth will keep them going. Jesus tells them to stay true to the true teachings they once received. But the church struggled heavenly during the dark middle ages. Many give up on the principles and can’t hold fast. True biblical principles and truths are given up one by one. Jesus tells them to wake up. In the gospel, Jesus had explained that when God’s people sleep the devil will plant weeds among them. The true church had now lost many of its important doctrines and many had also given up obedience to God’s law. God’s church in this time is dependent on waking up and finding their way back to the truth and the true doctrines. This is just what we see taking place looking at our history. More and more are woke up and received this calling, and they started to copy and spread the Bible and reforming away from false teachings. But the weed had already been planted and they didn’t realize all of the corruption that was still in their practice. They didn’t know they were now holding on to several pagan origin practices instituted by the pagan-Christian church. There had been churches that had been faithful and always resisted the papal authority, but when the Protestant movement became strong they found spiritual shelter among them. Unfortunately, the reformers still were deeply rooted in Catholic dogmas that had nothing to do with the biblical religion. Many of those who had resisted papacy the whole time started compromising and leaning on the Protestant movement. In the message to Sardis are several re-proof. The new movement or awakening that together with those who had resisted papal authority was in great want. Many were arrogant in their belief failing to see the many faults in their teachings. Some even persecuted other reformers because they feared it was “going too far”. However the more the Bible was spread the more knowledge people got of its content and more chose to go all the way back to the pure teachings of the Bible. Especially in the areas that for a long time had held firm until they were completely subdued by the men of the Church. Now they started to reject the doctrines of the pagan-Christian church and go all the way back to Gods commandments and ordinances.
was still in their practice. They didn’t know they were now holding on to several pagan origin practices instituted by the pagan-Christian church. There had been churches that had been faithful and always resisted the papal authority, but when the Protestant movement became strong they found spiritual shelter among them. Unfortunately, the reformers still were deeply rooted in Catholic dogmas that had nothing to do with the biblical religion. Many of those who had resisted the papacy the whole time started compromising and leaning on the Protestant movement. In the message to Sardis are several re-proof. The new movement or awakening that together with those who had resisted papal authority was in great want. Many were arrogant in their belief failing to see the many faults in their teachings. Some even persecuted other reformers because they feared it was “going too far”. However the more the Bible was spread the more knowledge people got of its content and more chose to go all the way back to the pure teachings of the Bible. Especially in the areas that for a long time had held firm until they were completely subdued by the men of the Church. Now they started to reject the doctrines of the pagan-Christian church and go all the way back to Gods commandments and ordinances. God’s church that had fallen asleep, are now waking up. And Jesus continues with those who hear His calling for reform and cuts off those who do not heed his call. As we see in the past, God doesn’t reject His chosen people even when they fail as long as they allow themselves to be instructed by Him when He confronts them. And so God’s people are never instantly cut off the moment they fail, God warns them and if they still fail, He then calls for them to turn back to Him. If they reject this calling they are cut off. Jesus explains that He still has some faithful:
“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.»
But to those within this reform movement that won’t listen to His reproof, He will cut off and continue with those who are obedient. Those who
stop midway in the reformation back to God’s ways are pruned. Only a remnant of also this Church or movement continues being His church
or light-bearers. Those who do not receive the light can’t be responsible
In the sixth church, we see the effect of the awakening. Jesus commends them, spite them having little strength, they have received the word of
God and again made it its’ guideline. Bear in mind the reform movement had become great and influential in many places. But this remnant that has continued the Reformation all the way back to God’s ordinances and laws have little strength.
Again we see that this church has gone through a division and He commends them for having separated from the unclean congregations.
Both the second and the sixth church has separated themselves from the corrupted congregations in their time. Both cases God rejects those
who have not taken heed of His call to reform and call them the synagogue of Satan as they follow his belief system before God’s. The name
Satan literally means “opponent”. What was Satan an opponent of? God’s govern God’s rules, God’s law. It was the rebellion against these institutions that inspired God’s new name for him. He wanted to Himself be God and to be God means to be the one who sets the rules. Satan wants
to replace God’s rule with his own. This is what made him a rebellion. In the Church of Philadelphia, we see that they have separated themselves from the synagogue of Satan. This is a group claiming to be Christ’s followers but like Satan, they have continued to replace God’s law and order with their own traditions. To believe yourself in a position to do this is the mindset of Satan. The fifth church had received full knowledge of the truth:
God says that this sixth church will be spared the great tribulation that is going to come on the earth. God has nothing to warn this church
about other than to encourage them to stay firm. Just as it was with the second church, neither does the sixth receive any reproof. And so this is
the evidence that this church has in fact already reformed back to God’s pure truth and commandments. In Deuteronomy, we learn that if His
people keep His commandments and are true to them, He will protect them. But if they don’t, he will allow them to enter a tribulation:
“Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding …When thou art in tribulation and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.» (Deu 4:5-6 & 30-31)
When we hear God saying he will spare the sixth church from the tribulation that will come upon the earth it’s a clear sign that they have not
just received Christ as their High Priest, Christ as their savior, but also that they have reformed all the way back to God’s commandments. But
it’s worth questioning what has happened between this church and the last.
The last church before Christ second coming is also the seventh. Jesus has nothing positive to say about them like he did many of the other
churches. Some were told where they were doing good and where they were doing bad. But this last church receives no praise. They are in a
terrible state. They are neither cold or worm. They think they have the truth, that they are spiritually rich, but they don’t live out the truth. They
lack a saving relationship with God. Jesus has even ended up outside his own congregation knocking on their door. He is hoping they are going to realize they have shut out their own savior so that He cannot do His works within them. This church is in a critical state. They are God’s chosen people, His people, but they are fallen. And as we see in the past and in God’s lineage, God’s people aren’t rejected the moment they fall away, they are still regarded His people until His call for repentance has been rejected. Now they are given instruction and a call to repent. How they respond to this call will determine if they will be lost or enter into God’s kingdom as His faithful. This is the last church, there will be no other chosen church. This is the end of the lineage of truth-bearers going all the way back to Abraham. Only the part that will receive God’s warning will be saved and the rest will be rejected when Christ returns. After them, there is no remnant, no more church. This is it. The last
of God’s chosen line. Notice that the church has a history behind it. In God’s system, you cannot suddenly remove Gods truth-bearers from His chosen line and give the title to a group who hasn’t this history. The history is part of the instruction, part of God’s people’s experience, and it belongs together with God’s present truth. Other groups of believers will be grafted unto this line, not this group on the others line. A newly converted Jew, for instance, have to take part in Gods chosen line’s experience. It cannot ignore 2000 years of leading to start a new. Then they will miss out on a lot of truth that God has given along the way. And so they will benefit to listen to the other group in order to understand everything completely and the enlightenment gave them to understand prophecy and scripture and not make the other group convert to them. This is the last church, God will not start a new with a new movement. No matter how petty they are, they are the last of the seven candlesticks, their star is the last church leader in Christ’s hand. If the church does not repent and follow Christ instructions, only a remnant of them will be saved. But still, God continues with the remnant. Not to make them into an eight church but to give them to sit with Him on His throne:
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (3:21)
Christ advice to this church is to repent and:
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.» (3,18)
Gold tried in
taken part in pagan customs with Christian names, they take part in the ways of the world while they think of themselves as spiritual. They follow their lusts just as they do in the world. Paul described Christians in our time perfectly:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous,
boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2Ti 3:1-5)
You would not think of this as a description of Christians before you see it in the last words: “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” A “form of
godliness but denying the power”. This is exactly what we see in the last church. Christ on the outside knocking. As we will soon see, God will make a final separation before His second coming. All men and women on earth will receive one last warning and chance to choose salvation.