THE LETTERS TO THE 7 CHURCHES (July, 2004)
In looking at the letters to the 7 Churches, we see the Lord speaking directly to the 7 Churches that existed in the Holy land at the time John lived. We also see the Lord's opinion of those Churches, and what they were doing at the time...
Revelation 2:1-7 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 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. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that over comes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Ephesus - We see a church distracted, or strayed from its original calling, and the Lord's admonition to return to that call. I speculate that the Church in Ephesus was expanding quickly, and probably getting caught up in the details of becoming a large church, rather than attending to its evangelistic ministry that it started out with.
Revelation 2:8-11 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that over comes shall not be hurt of the second death.
Smyrna - Probably a persecuted Church, as mention is clearly made of being thrown in prison, and tribulation, and because they were encouraged to be faithful "even unto death". Clearly, this Church wasn't distracted from its evangelistic nature, as persecution accompanies sharing the Gospel.
Revelation 2:12-17 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13 I know thy works, and where thou dwell, even where Satan's seat is: and thou hold fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that over comes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.
Pergamos - Here is a church the Lord seems to indicate is inundated with things of the world, and false doctrines, perhaps some that they are not speaking out against. He clearly mentions the same old stuff that existed all along, such as the Nicolaitans. ( people who wished to install a pompous, worldly hierarchal system of "priesthood") which thing the Lord says he hates. This was the same type of system the Jews had, and clearly, Jesus was not happy with this type of "order".
unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the
Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like
fine brass; 19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and
thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. 20 Notwithstanding
I have a few things against thee, because thou suffer that woman Jezebel, which
calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit
fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Thyatira - Here, the situation in Pergamos seems to be even more progressed, mention is made of "things sacrificed to Idols" The warnings are stern, the promises for overcoming are true. Balaamism, (worldliness) and Nicolaitanism much more prevalent here, along with the presence of false prophets and such.
unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that
hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou
hast a name that thou live, and art dead.
Sardis - The church here seems to be just about dead as the Lord encourages them to keep what little they have left alive. I see this as a church that was trying to emerge from a state of fallen ness trying to get back to the "straight and narrow path".
to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he
that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that opens, and
no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;
Philadelphia - This church seems to be in a good place, speaking the Word in truth boldly even in the face of death. The Lord mentions an "open door" which no man can shut. I see this as the Lord telling this Church that they could ask what they needed in prayer and it would be granted, meaning that the open door was to him in prayer.
unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith
the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert
cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor
hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou say, I am rich, and
increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that thou art
wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee
to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou may be rich; and white raiment,
that thou may be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and
anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou may see. 19 As many as I love,
I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand
at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come
in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Laodicea - Here we see a church deceived about what godliness is, in that they believed that their money was in some way a sign of God's approval. This Church obviously had great wealth, and considered themselves a Christian elite, if you will, and were probably just existing in their faith, enjoying their wealth, and neglecting the call of God.
HERE IS A RE-WRITE OF THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE...
There are some who believe that the letters to the seven Churches represent seven "ages" of Church life that will exist from the departure of the Lord, through to his second coming. This teaching is fairly widely accepted, and I previously didn't place a whole lot of real spiritual "weight" behind the observations. As has occurred on many occasions in my Life, I have been shown that there is a TREMENDOUS significance to this! Let's take a look at these observations...
Ephesus Period...In order to examine this belief, we need only to read the letters and take a look at church history. If the letter to the Ephesians is the first age of Church life, it would be descriptive of a time when the Church was growing in great leaps and bounds, and the people were probably getting caught up in all of the things associated with becoming a large Church, such as attending to each other's needs, developing ministries to the church and such, and were putting less emphasis on the evangelical nature of the Church of Jesus Christ. This could probably be rightly assigned to the life of the Church in the years after the Lord's departure, and the establishment of the Church world wide.
Smyrna Period... Smyrna as a Church was apparently a persecuted Church, and thus we would be compelled to assign this to the period of great persecution that Christians endured at the hands of the Romans, and the world. So Smyrna as an age would be exactly that, the period of great persecution. It would also fall in line with this "Church age" theory in that if the first church followed the direction of the Holy Spirit, and returned to its evangelical roots, that persecutions would have been the foretold result, since Jesus said that the Church would suffer this when obeying his word and following the great commission.
Pergamos Period... As a Church period, the letter to this Church indicates that the Church was established, and "dwelling in the world", the dangers of which are apparent in the letter. Since the Lord said that he knew they dwelled "where the throne of Satan is" it seems clear that he was indicating that they were now among the world. (which of course the Church will be until his return) But in the letter we see, as mentioned above, that the Church was becoming infiltrated by the things of the world. It was indeed as a body holding fast to the word, but there were people among them that were delving into the things Jesus had mentioned to previous Churches. This period is placed by most holders of this theory after Constantine, which was in the 300s AD, through the founding of the Papacy. I don't think people who hold this theory would dispute that these "ages" would overlap to some degree. Could it be said that this age is still in existence?
Thyatira Period... This Church "period" is widely believed to be the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, and would certainly be the longest and most encompassing period in Church history. The Papacy was founded in the early church, and as discussed earlier, in assigning the letters to Church ages, one has no choice but to say that these periods overlap. But the Papacy emerged as the primary form of the Church all the way through the dark ages, and on to the Protestant reformation. But since the Papacy clearly still exists, we have to say that this period is still alive, or has morphed into something more modern.
Sardis Period... The Sardis Period is labeled by those who hold this theory as the Protestant reform, which occurred in 1517, when Luther issued his challenge to the Church's involvement in worldly affairs. This depiction puts the Thyatira age, and the Sardis age from then to the present day, but both periods clearly still exist.
Philadelphian Period... The Philadelphian period, is labeled by those who hold to this belief, in the Scofeild notes for instance. as "whatever bears clear testimony to the Word and the Name in the time of self-satisfied profession represented by the Laodiceans." So again, we see multiple periods co-existing. It seems that they are saying that the Philadelphian period was meant to exist during the Laodicean period, when there would be a remnant of believers still holding the truth, in spite of apostasy. Seems to have more than a shred of possibility.
Laodicean Period... According to the Letter, we have a Church period in which most believers were under the false assumption that their wealth was a symbol of God's approval and Love. A period when wealth is seen as godliness, and rightness with the Lord. Frankly, this one gives me chills. As discussed in three or four of the other Articles on this site, we see this as the exact state of the Christian Church in the world today. The Chills are brought on by what the Lord says in that letter to this church: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: This is worrisome in light of the exact description that the Laodicean church gives of the Church in America today.
The theory is interesting, and seems to have some very creative thinking in the way of observation and hindsight, as I said, I used to pass this theory off as unimportant, but now see that there is a tremendous significance to this interpretation of the 7 letters. One could say that there are inherent "problems" with the theory. If we look at it, we could say that the following "church ages" are actually still in existence in the world today...
Pergamos - Dwelling in the world. Thyatira - The Roman Catholic church. Sardis - The Protestant reform. Philadelphia - The remnant bearing true witness during Laodicean period. Laodicean - The church that predominantly believes that their wealth is the blessing and favor of God.
One could probably argue that the Pergamos age ended when the Roman Catholic church emerged as the primary form of Christian religion, but the last four ages are indisputably still in existence in the world today, when the letters are interpreted this way. I could say that if the Protestant Church were to "return" to the Catholic Church in some form of new reformation, that the Thyatira and Sardis periods would end and emerge as the Laodicean period, and that the last two periods (Philadelphia and Laodiceans) would be the remaining ages. I am now saying that this HAS COME TO PASS, embodied in the "Religious Right" in America, as both the protestant, and catholic churches throw their allegiances, and support behind the conquest of the American Government in the world, known as "The War on Terror", which with its "pre-emptive" strike philosophy, is morphing into an impetus to enter, overthrow, and rebuild the governments of the middle east, and soon the entire world.
I did not previously understand the veracity of this view of the letters, and can now see, not only that it is true and correct, but that it also explains a question that has always haunted me as a Christian: Why has it been 2000 years since his departure? Why hasn't he come? Could it possibly have been the plan to be over 2000 years? In looking at this information, it spells out clearly that the plan is and always has been on schedule! I didn't really have a lot of faith in this theory before, and I said so unequivocally, but in recent months I have found the startling realities, that make the theory an exciting reality!
A RENEWED EXCITEMENT FOR REVELATION!
As discussed, I don't think it can be ignored that the seven letters can in fact be attributed this way. It is quite amazing, and sparks some wondrous thought about what the book of Revelation represents. ALL previous doubts I have had about this theory have been placed in the waste basket! It brings home so many things that were plaguing me on the times and the coming of the Lord. All claims that the Bible has passed its relevancy are dispelled by this reality. The church has entered the final stage of its experience, and the full maturity of time is approaching! The Mystery of God will soon be manifest to all men throughout history. And the long denied, despised, rebutted, doubted, hated, re-crucified Christ will, as he promised, return to this world and take his rightful place as its ruler! I know there are many who don't like or agree with the theory, but the realization of the fact that every single second of time since Christ's departure is ticking away exactly as he said it would, and that the reality of God is more real to me now than ever causes me to praise him for the knowledge and understanding of the information in this article!
I will tell you this though, if you believe this theory, as a 21st century American Christian, you had better take a good hard look at what the letter to the Laodiceans says, because it supports the articles we have written on this site clearly, concerning the belief that Money is somehow the "Blessing of God". Our Lord had some very pointed and sharp things to say about that belief, and it needs to be weighed into people's minds when considering these things.
In Christ, F.E.Reilly
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