There are some of our brethren of the pretribulation persuasion who urge us to believe that the Church will not be present here on Earth in the last week of this age. One of the reasons they adduce is the fact that the word church is not used in the Scroll of Revelation after Rev.3:22. They also persuade us to believe that the Rapture took place in Rev.4:1. This interpretation is at best tenuous and has no textual support. On the other hand, evidence abound of the presence of the Church in the 70th week of Daniel. The Church is designated in some other ways in the Scroll of Revelation. Admittedly, the word Church is not used in the Scroll of Revelation after the third chapter, evidence abound in the Scroll of Revelation of the presence of the Church in the 70th week of Daniel. The reason why the word Church is not used in the Scroll of Revelation after the third chapter is because God is no longer concerned about nor deals with organized Christendom. God is now concerned about and deals with individual believers. There is no such case of so perfect a local assembly in which every member is born again, where there are no agents of darkness. Every local assembly has its bad eggs. A local assembly is perfect to the extent that its leadership is born again, loves the Lord and the congregants, and strives in the word and doctrine, and prayers to ensure doctrinal purity, the spiritual soundness and the wellbeing of the members, instills discipline in the leadership as well as in the congregation.
On three separate occasions, the revelator John is invited to see a revelatory vision(Rev.4:1; 17:1; 21:9). Does it mean therefore that the Rapture occurred three times? There is no textual or exegetical basis for the claim that the Rapture took place in Rev.4:1. Robert L. Thomas claims the prophesies of Rev.4-19 describe what will happen after the period of the Church Age has run its course. To attempt a divorcement between the Church Age and the events of Rev.4-19, as the pretribulationists do is without biblical justification. This claim is clearly based on bias. There is no textual nor exegetical bases to claim that the Church Age ended in Rev.3:22. There is no passage of Scriptures that makes such explicit claim. The argument that Rev.4-19 does not involve the Church is based on silence. This is called argument from silence.
We have pointed out that evidence abound in the Scroll of Revelation of the presence of the Church in the 70th week of Daniel. The reference to wife in Rev.19:7 designates the Church. Besides, the Church is designated in some other ways in Rev.4-19. These are every tribe and tongue and people and nation(5:8); a kingdom of priests(5:10); fifth seal martyrs(6:9); a multitude which no man could number(7:9;19:5,6); bond servants(11:18; 19:2,5); our brethren(12:10); the remnant of her children who have the testimony of Jesus Christ(12:17); and saints(13:7,10; 14:12).
The Seven Churches Of Asia
Our Lord Jesus is the author of the Scroll of Revelation. John was His amanuensis. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ(Rev.1:1). It is not a letter by John, but a direct communication from the Lord Jesus to the Church. The Apostle John was just the scribe. The Greek word translated “apocalypse” means unveiling. It is the unveiling of Jesus the Christ, not the Revelation of John the Divine as in KJV. Do we presume as some also do that the title is inspired?
The Scroll of Revelation is a book of eschatology. The English word eschatology is a compound word derived from two Greek words “eschaton”(last things) and “logi”(study of) which mean the study of last things. Therefore the letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor have prophetic significance. Were it not so, it would be out of synchrony with the expressed purpose of the Scroll of Revelation which is to unveil our Lord Jesus the Christ in His coming glory.
The seven churches were actual churches that existed at that, in the First Century in Asia Minor. Seven of these churches were chosen out of many other local assemblies in existence at that time in Asia Minor. That the problems addressed in these churches applied to these churches at that time is very obvious. That these same problems may also relate to every local assembly at any point in time during the Church Age is equally valid. Although some biblical scholars demur, this is the position of Charles Caldwell Ryrie.
” The seven churches addressed in chapters 2 and 3 were actual churches of John’s day. But they also represent types of churches in all generations. This idea is supported by the fact that only seven were selected out of many that existed and flourished in John’s time and by the statement at the close of each letter that the Spirit was speaking to the churches.”(vv. 7-11, etc)
Would it be proper to tell the churches in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, China, North Korea, Northern Nigeria, and Indonesia which are persecuted in the present time that these letters have no relevance to them? I trow not. My submission therefore is that although these were actual local assemblies in existence in John’s day, the doctrinal issues and practical problems addressed in these churches may be applied to any local assembly at any point in time during the Church Age.
There are some biblical scholars that relate these churches to different eras in the Church Age. Gary Cohen gave an overview of these eras. The seven eras are generally given approximately as follows:
Ephesus: The Apostolic Church(30-100 AD)
Smyrna: The Persecuted Church(100-313 AD)
Pergamum: The State Church(313-590 AD)
Thyatira: The Papal Church (590-1517 AD)
Sardis: The Reformed Church(1517-1790 AD)
Philadelphia: The Missionary Church(1730-1900 AD)
Laodicea: The Apostate Church( 1900-)
This view, although held by many competent scholars is fraught with some problems. There is nothing in the biblical text that indicates these churches represent seven different eras or stages in church history. It is an assumption, and therefore subjective. Besides, who is to determine the beginning and end of an era inasmuch as church history is not that clear-cut. Which church historian is the authority in these eras, and what dates are we to accept. The designations, Apostolic Church, Persecuted Church, etc are lobe-sided, stilted, subjective and tangential, and at best incomplete designations that do not totally conform to the content of these letters to the seven churches.
The proper understanding of the letters to the seven churches is that they have both near and far view applications. The issues raised in those letters referred to the churches in question. They also have a far view application in that they are a projection into the end times. This is a very common phenomenon amongst the prophets of Israel of whom our Lord Jesus The Christ is a perfect example. For example, when Daniel spoke of Antiochus Epiphanes who persecuted the Jews and desecrated the temple in 168 BC(Dan.11:21-35), he also projected into the 70th week of Daniel, speaking of the antiChrist who shall be the ultimate persecutor of the Jews and the defiler of the rebuilt Third Jewish Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem(Dan.11:36-45). Our Lord Jesus did the same thing in His Premission Address to His disciples in Matt.10. He told them what to preach, the provisions to take, and the kind of response they would get from the people(Matt.10:1-15). Then He projected without any noted intervention into the 70th week of Daniel to tell them what to preach, and that He will be with them, and the results to expect(Matt.10:16-42).
In like manner, our Lord Jesus who is the author of the Scroll of Revelation chose the seven churches in Rev.2,3, from amongst many others in existence in Asia Minor at that time to speak of the conditions in these local assemblies. As we well know, seven is the divine number of perfection and completeness. God knows the end from the beginning. In Revelation, divine revelation and programme for mankind is coming to a consummate end. These seven local assemblies are perfect illustrations also of the full-orbed strength and weaknesses of the Church(organized Christendom) in the 70th week of Daniel. The commonality evidenced by these seven local assemblies presented a platform and springboard to give warnings and admonitions to organized Christendom in the 70th week of Daniel right up to the end of the Ages which is the point of transition from the present age to the age to come. These seven churches exhibited the same characteristics as organized Christendom in the 70th week of Daniel. Therefore the Apostle John the revelator was called upon to write the things which thou hast seen, the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter(Rev.1:19). Were these letters to be given normative authority in the context of the 70th week, pretribulation rapturism will collapse. Therefore to preserve their pet doctrine, these letters must be denied normative reading in the context of the 70th week. Likewise also, the Olivet Discourse(Matt.24:42-25:30) is denied normative reading and authority in the context of the 70th week of Daniel, thereby denying the Church the critical warnings and admonitions given to her by the Lord in this most difficult period of her history.
When we consider the status of these churches, certain important facts will emerge. Firstly, there is a promise given in common to all seven churches. If they are overcomers, they will be rewarded. To the church at Ephesus, it is promised, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God”(Rev.2:7). To the church of Smyrna it is promised, “He that overcometh will not be hurt of the second death”(Rev.2:11). To the church at Pergamum it is promised, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone”(Rev.2:17). In the ancient Near East as well as in the Roman world, a white stone was used in voting for the acquittal of one on trial. This implies that the overcomers will be given acquittal before God at Christ’s Second Advent.
To the church at Thyatira it is promised, “And he that overcometh, and keepeth his works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations”(Rev.2:26). The word end here is an abbreviation of the phrase “end of the ages.” It is the point of transition from the present age, “olam haze,” to the new age, the age to come, “olam haba.” This point of transition begins at the breaking of the seventh seal way into the second half of the 70th week, not at the commencement of it. It marks the starting point of the Day Of The LORD. It is concurrent with the appearance of the Son Of Man in the heavens, and the Rapture of the Church. It is the consummation of this age. Here also, overcomers are promised power over the nations. It is evident that the saints shall reign with Christ for a thousand years. To have power over the nations implies that the saints shall reign over the nations with Christ in the Millennium. This shall occur at the expiry of the present age after God Almighty reclaims His rule over the Earth. This is an allusion to the promise made to the Son by God the Father in psalm 2:8,9 which shall be consummated at Christ’s second coming.
To the church at Sardis it is promised, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment”(Rev.3:5). White raiment signals righteousness. This is an unmistakable reference to the Church, the bride of Christ. John wrote, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has mad herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints”(Rev.19:7-8).
To the church at Philadelphia it is promised, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God”(Rev.3:12). In the Roman world, a magistrate is honored by erecting a pillar in his name in a temple. The reference here is to the saints who overcome the horrors of the Great Tribulation by erecting pillars in their names in the Millennial Temple to be built by Christ Himself on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem(Ezek.40-43). To the church at Laodicea it is promised, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and Am set with My Father in His throne”(Rev.3:21). To sit with the Father on His throne is to reign with Him. Christ as the Father’s representative in the earthly domain of His Universal Kingdom shall sit upon the throne in the Throne Room in the Fourth and Millennial Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem(Zech.6:13). The resurrected saints shall reign with Him; for it is written: “if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him”(2 Tim.2:12a).
To overcome is to defeat the enemy, to vanquish the foe. It also means to be triumphant in difficulties, trials, and temptations, persecutions, distresses, troubles, tribulations, and, afflictions. The context of the seven Churches is set in concrete; it is in the arena of the 70th week of Daniel, and the activities of Satan, his hordes of fallen evil angels, and the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist. Concerning those who are triumphant, it is written: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lies unto the death”(Rev.12:11). They did not shrink from death. In other words, they were willing to die for what and in Him whom they believe. They were willing to be martyrs. After all the events of the 70th week, John wrote, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son”(Rev.21:7).
Secondly, the churches were told clearly that Christ’s coming is at the door. To the church of Ephesus it is written: “I will come unto thee quickly”(Rev.2:5). To the church at Pergamos it is written: “Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly”(Rev.2:16). To the church at Thyatira it is written: “hold fast till I come”(Rev.2:25). To the church at Sardis it is written: “If therefore thou shall not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee”(Rev.3:3). This is the same exact warning given in the Olivet Discourse(Matt.24:42-44). Admittedly, the context as in the case of the seven churches of Asia is the 70th week of Daniel. To the church of Philadelphia it is written: “Behold, I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thou crown”(Rev.3:11). To the church at Laodicea it is written: “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”(Rev.3:20). We can see here that if the various churches represent different periods of Church history, the Lord was misleading His Church about His Second Advent. Impossible one would say, and rightly so. A clear and uncluttered normative reading and understanding of these statements to the churches imply they occur in the context of the 70th week when they shall confront the antiMessiah and face the horrors of the Great Tribulation.
Thirdly, Christ said to the church of Ephesus, “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience”(Rev.2:2). The Greek word translated patience here is “huopomone” which means endurance under affliction, trouble, persecution or tribulation. The affliction is certainly the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist. To the church at Thyatira it is written: “I know thy works, and love, and service, and faith, and thy patience”(Rev.2:19). Once again patience is endurance under affliction which is the Great Tribulation. To the church at Philadelphia it is written: “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”(Rev.3:10). Here Christ promised the church of Philadelphia that because they have kept His instructions concerning perseverance in the face of the Great Tribulation, the hour of temptation(tes peirasmou tes hora), He shall protect them in the midst of the hour of temptation which shall try all those who dwell on the earth. Without doubt, this hour of temptation is the Great Tribulation by the antiMessiah.
Clearly in the context of the Great Tribulation, Apostle John the revelator wrote: “If any man is to go into captivity, into captivity he goes: if any man is to be killed with sword, with the sword the one shall be killed. Here is the patience and faith of the saints”(Rev.13:10). As revealed in the fifth seal of Rev.6:9-11, there is a complement of believers to be martyred. This number is a divine secret. It is not revealed to us in the Scriptures. Besides, those to be martyred or led into captivity were chosen in eternity past. The believer in the 70th week of Daniel who understands this concept will resign himself to his fate, after he has exhaustively observed Christ’s instructions concerning perseverance. Here is the patience and faith of the saints. Once again patience here is endurance under persecution or affliction which in the context of Rev.13 is the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist.
Fourthly, to the church of Pergamos it is written, “I know thy works where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s throne is”(Rev.2:13). Pergamos was the Centre of Roman emperor worship as well as the Centre of the worship of the Roman god Zeus Olympus. Roman citizens and inhabitants of the city were required to offer a pinch of incense to the statue of the emperor in the city square. Those who failed to comply were arrested. The image of the Olympian Zeus was in the likeness of a man. It was this same image that the Greek Syrian King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who was the prefigure of the antiMessiah brought into the Second Jewish temple built by the returning exiles on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The image of Zeus was the bust of Antiochus himself. The phrase where Satan dwellest would indicate the worship of the image of the Beast, the antiChrist, who shall be indwelt and empowered by Satan(Rev.13:2) which shall be imported into the rebuilt third Jewish temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem(1 Thess.2:3,4).
Fifthly, to the church of Thyatira it is written: “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation”(Rev.2:22). There is only one and only one Great Tribulaion referred to in the entire Scriptures. Reference to the Great Tribulation is found in five NT texts: Matt.24:21,29; Mk.13:19,24; Rev.7:14. Luke refers to it as “Great Distress in the land and wrath upon this people”(Luk.21:23). In all these references, it is always used to describe the Great Tribulation that begins in the middle of the 70th week of Daniel associated with the breaking of the covenant of apostasy. In Daniel 12:1, it is described as “Great Distress.” The word distress and tribulation mean the same thing; in fact, the Greek word “thlipsis” which is usually translated tribulation can be translated as distress, persecution, or affliction or trouble. There is no doubt that the Great Tribulation referred to here is the Great Tribulation by the antiMessiah which begins with the breaking of the agreement with death at the midpoint of the 70th week of Daniel(Is.28:15-19; Dan.9:27).
Sixtly, to the church of Sardis it is written: “And 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, and that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Remember, therefore, how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come to thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee”(Rev.3:1,3).
The church of Sardis has a reputation for being alive but was spiritually dead. It had all the paraphernalia of Christianity but did not have the life of Christ. For this church to stand before Christ justified, it has to wake up from its spiritual slumber, lest the Day of the Lord come upon it unawares, like a thief in the night. This is the same warning given to believers in Thessalonica to be prepared, who were expecting the coming of the Lord, For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night”(1 Thess.5:2). It is obvious from the urgent atmosphere prevalent in the letters to the seven churches that the context is the 70th week. An event as important as the coming of the Lord should have clear explicit biblical substantiation.
The Classification Of The Seven Churches Of Asia Minor
We have already pointed out that although the letters to the seven churches were addressed to the seven local assemblies in existence in Asia Minor in the First Century AD, they have normative authority to the churches in the 70th week of Daniel. Their near view application pertains to the immediate relevance of these letters to the seven churches. They also had immediate relevance and application to other churches in existence in Asia Minor at that time as well as other churches in existence in other places at that time. These churches were representative of other churches in existence at that time. Therefore their messages had normative authority and immediate relevance and applications to these other churches.
We have also noted that the messages to these churches have normative authority and applicability to any local assembly at any point in time in the church age. However, based on their location in the Scroll of Revelation which is entirely prophetic, and the emphasis on the second Advent of our Lord, the far view application of these letters would pertain to the Church in the 70th week of Daniel. Each of these seven letters appealed to ” He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches,” and contain certain promises made to the overcomers. The overcomers are evidently believers, bond-servants of Christ who refuse to bow to the image of the antiChrist in the face of the horrors of the Great Tribulation.
Believers are admonished to read and hear the words of this prophecy, and heed all that are written therein(Rev.1:3). The entire setting of the Scroll of Revelation is the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus the Christ. “Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen”(Rev.1:7). The Scroll of Revelation also closes with a reference to His Second Advent: “He who testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen”(Rev.22:20,21). From the beginning to the end, the entire Scroll of Revelation is prophetic, and is all about the return of the Lord. It is written: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star”(Rev.22:16).
The implication of this statement is that the messages were not restricted to the seven local assemblies addressed in the letters but also others churches in existence at that time both in Asia Minor and elsewhere in the world, and anywhere else at any time right up to the end of the ages because any generation of believers could be called upon to enter the 70th week of Daniel there to experience the horrors of the Great Tribulation. It is obvious that the Scroll of Revelation is addressed to the bond-servants of Christ in the Church, the faithful believers throughout the world who have ears to hear what the spirit of God is saying, more so those believers who will enter the 70th week of Daniel, encounter the antiChrist and face the satanically inspired persection and afflictions of the Great Tribulation.
Characteristically therefore, through the mediation of specially appointed angels of God, these letters were addressed to the local assemblies that bore their names(Rev.2:1-3:22). Each message included a call to all faithful bond-servants of Christ who profess the name of the Lord from that time forward, more so those who enter the 70th week of Daniel to encounter the antiMessiah and experience his satanically inspired opposition to the saints of the Most High in the end times. All seven letters exhibit and perfectly exemplify the near and far views type of prophecy common in both OT and NT. The seven churches do not represent eras or stages in Church history, but rather exemplify various characteristics, doctrinal and ethical compromises prevalent in all periods of Church history, and will particularly characterize the condition of the churches in the 70th week of Daniel.
The seven Churches addressed in these two chapters of the Scroll of Revelation were in existence in Asia Minor- which is in modern Turkey- in the late 1st century AD. The seven churches addressed here were not the only local assemblies in existence in Asia Minor at that time. They were selected by Christ as representatives of seven types of local churches in existence not only at that time and in Asia minor but at all times and anywhere else throughout the Church Age. Therefore any local assembly at that time and all times in Asia Minor and anywhere else at that time and at all times will fall into one of these seven categories. Geographically these churches linked together formed a circle in Asia Minor. Does that tell us anything? Maybe these types of churches linked up together form a circle around the globe in the end times. None of these churches exist today. Some of the cities mentioned have survived till the present day. Some did not.
The scroll of Revelation is entirely prophetic. Whilst these messages to the seven churches had relevance to these local assemblies as well as other churches in other places in those days, they have normative authority at all times, and more so in the end times. In other words, there was a near view application in those days and there is a far view application in the end times.
The classification of the seven churches could be further simplified by classifying them in three groups, the faithful and uncompromising church as exemplified by the church of Philadelphia, the unfaithful and compromising church as exemplified by the church of Thyatira, and the dead church as exemplified by the church of Sardis. The faithful church is not promised exemption from the great tribulation but offered protection within the sphere of persecution, and finally eventual removal and evacuation from the sphere of the great tribulation. The compromising church will go through the great tribulation in order to be purified. Majority of the churches, 4-5, fall into this category. It would however not face the wrath of God. The dead church will not suffer the great tribulation, having taken the mark of the beast, but would face the wrath of God.
If we view the three basic types of churches as a three-part continuum, the faithful church, the church of Philadelphia will be at one end, and the dead church, the church of Sardis will be at the other end. In between will be the compromising churches, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, and Laodicea, representing various degrees of compromise.
It is not every scholar that will put the church of Smyrna in the compromising category. Of all the seven churches, the least information is given about this church. Like the church of Philadelphia, it received no condemnation or rebuke. It was poor materially(though rich spiritually), and persecuted. The naughty issue with this church was the “blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan”(Rev.2:9). Were these Jews within the church, or did they belong to a synagogue in the city that blasphemed the Name Of The Lord? If they belonged to a Jewish synagogue in the city that blasphemed the Name Of The Lord, then this church like the church of Philadelphia was faithful and uncompromising. If they were members of this church, then it tolerated blasphemers, and was therefore unfaithful and compromising. This writer is inclined to go with the first view. However, unlike the church of Philadelphia, the church of Smyrna received no unqualified commendation, and was not promised protection from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all those who dwell on the earth(Rev.3:10).
These churches also represent individual Christians. The faithful christian will be protected by God during the great tribulation because he or she hearkened to Christ’s instructions concerning perseverance in the end times. The compromising christian will be purified through the great tribulation but exempted from the wrath of God. Majority of christians fall within this category. A lot of us believers compromise in various areas. The dead christian shall be beast-marked. He or she shall escape the wrath of Satan, the great tribulation, but will face the wrath of God in the Day Of His Wrath. Although the messages are prophetic and refer to Christ’s coming in the end times, the parousia, the deeds of churches and individual Christians also demand immediate discipline despite far reaching consequences.
The Faithful And Uncompromising Churches
Of the seven churches, the church of Philadelphia is a spiritual jewel. The letter to the church of Philadelphia contained no condemnations or rebukes but unqualified commendations. The preciousness of this church stemmed from the fact that though it had little strength, it kept God’s word and did not deny the name of the Lord despite persecution from those in the city who claim they were Jews, and were not, but do lie, who belonged to the synagogue of Satan(Rev.3:8,9). Because of its faithfulness, Jesus promised this church victory over its persecutors, those who claim they were Jews, and were not, but rather belonged to the synagogue of Satan: “they will come and worship before thy feet and to know that I have loved thee.” Because of its evangelistic efforts, the church of Philadelphia was known as the church of the open door. This church is promised protection within the sphere of danger during the hour of temptation which shall come upon the world to test them that dwell upon the Earth. “Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth”(Rev.3:10). We can learn what this patience is all about from the third angelic announcement.
“And the third angle followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the Beast and his image, or receive his mark in his forehead, or his hand, the same shall drink of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascended up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”(Rev.14:9-12).
We can see that patience here relates to perseverance in the face of persecution by the antiChrist. The context is the second half of the 70th week of Daniel. The English word “keep” translates the Greek word “tereso” which has the basic idea of protection while within the sphere of danger, and “from” a bad translation of the Greek word “ek” which has the basic meaning of deliverance “out of” or “out from” within the sphere of danger. Taking the original Greek at its face value, God promised the faithful churches that because of their perseverance, He will guard and keep them while they are within the “hour of testing,” promising them eventual removal and safe deliverance “out from within” the sphere of great danger. Most biblical scholars are agreed that the hour of testing from which the faithful saints are promised protection refers to the Great Tribulation. The deliverance will come when the Great Tribulation is cut short or better still, amputated by the cosmic disturbances and eventual removal of the saints from the earthly sphere of danger and persecution at His appearance in the heavens(Matt.24:22, 29-31). Then shall the Lord wreak relentless retaliation on the living wicked earth-dwellers who remain. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished”(2 Pet.2:9). It is a righteous thin with God to repay tribulation to those who trouble us. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;”(2 Thess.1:6 KJV).
Because the faithful bond-servants of Christ have heard and heeded Christ’s instruction concerning perseverance, Christ will offer them protection within the sphere of danger during the Great Tribulation, and eventually remove them from the sphere of danger at His Second Advent. These faithful believers have heeded Christ’s instruction concerning perseverance. They have prepared hideouts and safe havens. They have made adequate provisions for food and other supplies. They do not need to go out to forage for food, and thereby be in danger of being caught and faced with choice of either receiving the Mark of the Beast or being coerced or coaxed into it. Because the Philadelphians have been faithful, Christ admonished them: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown”(Rev.3:11). The reference to His coming can only be to His Second Advent inasmuch as the Scroll of Revelation was written more than half a century after His First Advent. Admittedly this message was addressed to the local assembly at Philadelphia, it has a far view application to the believers who enter the 70th week of Daniel to face the horrors of the Great Tribulation by the antiMessiah. The near view dealt with the historical church that existed when the Scroll of Revelation was written, which subsequently disappeared not long afterwards. The far view deals with the faithful churches or better still believers who will enter the second half of the 70th week, encounter the antiChrist and his killing machine and face the horrors of the Great Tribulation.
The faithful church or better still faithful Christians are those who have heard and heeded Christ’s instruction concerning perseverance. They have kept Christ’s word and did not deny His name. They have also gone ahead and prepared ahead of time for the tough times that will come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the Earth. They have prepared safe haven, and provided adequate supplies for themselves and their loved ones. They are children of the day. They are not of the night or darkness(1 Thess.5:4-8). They are prepared(Matt.25:1-13), watchful(Matt.24:42-44;25:13), faithful(Matt.24:45-47), and fruitful(Matt.25:14-30). They cannot be taken unawares by the Great Tribulation. They are not enamored with surfeiting and drinking(Luk.21:34). They are sober and vigilant. Therefore, that day cannot come upon them unawares like a thief in the night. Therefore God will protect them from within the sphere of danger by their obedience to His instructions concerning perseverance in the end times, and finally by taking them out from within the sphere of danger in the Rapture on the day of the Lord(Matt.24:29-31). Christ will give them a crown and great honor, and bring them to intimate fellowship with Him in His eternal kingdom(Rev.3:11,12).
This writer is inclined to believe that the church of Smyrna is in the category of the faithful and uncompromising. This church faced severe persecution. A number of its members were martyred. Christ had to introduce Himself to them as the first and the last, and He that was dead and is alive for evermore, to reassure them that those of them who were martyred He will raise from the dead in that He was dead and is alive again. He has conquered death. As the first and the last, He has the final authority to the decide the fate of everyone. Though they die for His name’s sake, yet shall they live again in the resurrection. He that believeth in Me, even though he were dead, yet shall he live. He is the resurrection and the life(Jon.11:24,25). The blasphemy of those who claimed to be Jews and were not, but belonged to the synagogue of Satan, did not come from within the church. This church did not tolerate blasphemers. These Jews belonged to the local synagogue in the city of Smyrna that blasphemed the name of the Lord Jesus the Christ and induced and spearheaded the severe persecution faced by the Smyrnians from the civil authorities in the city. A number of them were martyred, imprisoned, and others blackballed out of business.
During the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist, a segment of believers from among the faithful and uncompromising shall arise, at the cost of great danger to their lives and property, not only to refuse the mark of the beast, but shall go about openly persuading others, believers and unbelievers alike, not to take the mark of the beast. These men and women shall chorus the proclamation made by the third horizontal flying angel: ” And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the Beast and his image, and receiveth his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which poured without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and the same shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascended up for ever and ever: and they no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name(Rev.14:9-11).
Some of these believers shall be imprisoned for their testimony, and others executed for their witness for Christ. Christ encouraged them to be faithful unto death, “and I will give thee a crown of life”(Rev.2:10). These believers who shall be beheaded for their witness for Christ shall be raised from the dead to reign with Christ a thousand years in the Millennium. “And I saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands: and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years(Rev.20:4).
The Dead Church
The church of Sardis had no commendation from the Lord, only rebuke or condemnation. This church consists mostly of spiritually dead Christians. They have heard the gospel but have no saving relationship with the Lord. The church had a reputation for being alive but was spiritually dead(Rev.3:1). They had all the paraphernalia of religion. They used the right phrases and said the right things but they had not the life of Christ. They had the form of godliness but denied the power thereof(2 Tim.3:5). They constitute the tares that grow amongs the wheat which in the early stages are indistinguishable from the real wheat. They are those who hear the word, “and anon with joy receiveth it. Yet hath no root in themselves, but endureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth on account of the word, by and by they are offended”(Matt.13:21). Some of them also are those who receive the seed among the thorns. They are those who hear the word: and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, enter in and choke the word, and they become unfruitful(Matt.13:22).
This sort of believers will not hear Christ instruction concerning perseverance. They see no danger in the world. They will go along with the rest of the world and take the Mark Of The Beast(Rev.14:9). They are not prepared. They are not watching and waiting. They have not the life of God in them, so how can they be faithful and fruitful? They will be oblivious to the consequences of worshipping the beast or his image, or being branded with the mark of the beast. Many of them will do so without hesitation, without bathing an eye, while at the same time passing themselves off as good Christians. They will quickly conform to the world for the sake of survival. They cannot trust the Lord because they have not the life of God in them in the first place. They are not children of the day. They are of the night and darkness. Therefore when the wrath of God is poured out on the Satanic kingdom and its living wicked citizens, it will come upon them unawares, like a thief in the night. “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”(Rev.16:15 KJV).
Christ admonished them, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy work perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received, and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shall not watch, I will come to thee as a thief, and thou shall not know what hour I will come upon thee(Rev.3:2,3).
Well, if they can repent, watch, and practise what they have heard, then they could be faithful and fruitful. And this is the very reason for teachings of this kind, in order that the spiritually dead can wake up.
In local assemblies of this sort, there are a few that are truly born again, who have the life of God in them. These few names in Sardis who had not defiled their garment, shall work with Christ in white: for they are worthy( Rev.3:4). These ones shall not accept to be branded with the mark of allegiance to the beast. They shall face the wrath of Satan, but they shall be exempt from the wrath of God(1 Thess.5:9).
The Unfaithful And Compromising Churches
By our classification, there are four churches in the compromising category. These are Ephesus, Thyatira, Pergamos, and Laodicea. We have also pointed out that some theologians may include the Church of Smyrna in the category of compromising and unfaithful churches. These are also representative of individual Christians with various areas of compromise, both doctrinal and ethical. Unlike the church of Sardis, these are not spiritually dead Christians. They are born again spirit filled believers. They are alive in Christ, but have not taken heed to live in His perfect will for their lives. The majority of professing Christian today fall into this category. These at best characterize the decaying church at large in the end times. These churches and individuals compromise in various areas. The various areas of compromise are loss of first love(2:4), fear of suffering and persecution(2:19), doctrinal defection(2:14,15), moral compromise and departure(2:20), spiritual deadness(3:1,2), inability to persevere(3:11), and lukewarness(3:15,16). These spiritual defects are prevalent today as in the first century churches more so in the churches that shall enter the 70th week of Daniel to encounter the antiChrist. These messages are God’s final exhortation to the Church, more so to individual Christians down through the first century to the end of the ages. This is God’s final appeal to all who will hear. Believers will do well to listen. He that has ears let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. Amen.
The church of Ephesus was a labouring church. They exhibited a lot of patience in bearing with those who were evil. They tried and tested those who claimed to be apostles but were not. They found them liars. Christ commended them:
“I know thy works, and labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and how thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted”(Rev.2:2,3).
They had a lot of good deeds: missions to the poor and needy, the underprivileged, those who were imprisoned, the sick, the maimed, and those who were mentally challenged etc. For the sake of the name of the Lord, they had patience with evil men, false apostles and liars in the body of Christ. They never fainted. That was quite commendable. But they became too busy in the business of the Lord, and neglected their love towards Christ, the warm intimacy and fellowship they had with Him from the beginning. Being bombarded by the Devil with a torrent of evil men, false apostles and liars who had to be vetted, and numerous outreaches to the poor and needy, they grew cold in their fellowship with the Lord. They became extremely busy in the works and labours for the kingdom, testing and proving those who were evil, the false apostles and liars. Their personal fellowship with God suffered, grew cold and became insipid and tasteless.
Christ rebuked them, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent”(Rev.2:4).
Our first deed is our love, fellowship and intimacy with Jesus. We are to be ” in love” with Him all the time. Our “affairs” with Him ought to get hotter and stronger with each day that passeth by. This is the baseline. Every other thing should be added unto it. It should also inform all other activities we engage in, whether secular, mundane or spiritual. We should not engage in activities just because they are good, and needful, or simply because we have the talent or resources. Our choices in every areas of our lives must by guided by His Spirit. We must be wise enough to get out of activities He has not commanded us. We should be involved only where He is involved with us, where He wants us to be involved. We cannot engage in every needful mission. We must remember we are human, and bedeviled with human limitations. We are not omnipotent, but we can do all the things God wants to do through Christ who strengthens us(Phil.4:13). Through our intimacy with Him, our weaknesses are exchanged with His strength.
We are not omnipotent. We must not stretch ourselves thin. Our mortal bodies have elastic limit beyond which they undergo grain flow, beyond which they cannot spring back. Besides, there are only 24 hours in a day. We must let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof(Matt.6:34). Our workload and activities must be such as permits us to have reasonable personal fellowship with Jesus; feeding our spirit with His word, meditating in the word, and listening to His silent voice. We must not allow our legitimate activities to crowd out His voice. Our first love for and first works with Him carry the utmost weight in the scale of Heaven. All other activities and deeds may be needful, but they cannot give us the strength to go on. This strength comes from our intimacy with Jesus. Here the church of Ephesus erred greatly.
There were no gross sins in the church like abhorrent sexual immoralities as in the church at Corinth(1 Cor.5:1). There was no bickering over church leadership, over who is the greatest(Matt.20:20-27). Probably they were servants one to another. There were no egomaniacs and megalomaniacs like Diotrephes who love the place of preeminence amongst the church leadership(3 Jon.1:9). There was no power tussle. There was no embezzlement of church fund. There was no diversion of funds or materials meant for the poor and needy for personal use and self-aggrandizement. Their activities were not mundane or frivolously secular. They simply were not up to par in their personal fellowship with Jesus. This is a deep fault line at the basement. If left unattended, it could lead to other gross misconducts.
If we are not doing well as Christians, we must examine our foundation. When a crack appears at the tenth or one hundredth floor, or any floor of skyscraper for that matter, architects do not look for the faults at those floors but at the basements. That is how it is with the Christian walk. Whenever there is a defect in our walk with God, we must look for the aetiology in our personal fellowship with God. That is our heart. And out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh(Luk.6:45). From the heart proceeds evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these things come from within, and defile the man(Mk.7:21-23). And we must guard our hearts with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life(Prov.4:23).
The church of Ephesus must rekindle their warn fellowship with Jesus or else the light will peter out and die. To rekindle this fire of intimacy and fellowship with God, their activities must be curtailed. They must have more time to fellowship with God. What else could do this other than the fires of the Great Tribulation? Christ is coming for a glorious Church, without spot, wrinkle or blemish. All impurities must be purged out. Believers who fail to do this for themselves must go through the fires of the Great to be purged. If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged. When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord in order that we may not be condemned with world(1 Cor.11:31,32).
Christ further commended them for their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaittians. Nicolaittians comes from two Greek words, “nike” meaning victor and “Laos,” meaning people. The Nicolaittians taught believers to compromise with the religious culture around them. This is similar to antinomianism. Antinomianism means there are no norms to which believers must conform. Antinomians teach that believers can compromise as long as they remain believers at heart. The heart and lifestyle of the believer must be in synchrony, otherwise one becomes a hypocrite and a false witness. The Ephesians soundly hated the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitians.
The Church must be distinct from the world around her. We must not conform to the world around us. We must not fit into the mold of the world. We may not go to the world, but the world would like to come to us in the Church. This we must resist with all vehemence. Today we can see that the world is in the Church. A church in this state is not rapturable. She must be purified. She must be purged, and cleansed in the fires of the furnace of the Great Tribulation.
To show that this message is intended for all believers, Christ said, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh, will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God”(Rev.2:7). To teach therefore that this message has no relevance to the Church in the end time is absolutely false. Those who so teach are denying believers a useful resource for strength in the 70th week when they shall encounter the antiMessiah and face the horrors of the Great Tribulation.
Pergamos was a very wealthy city, but it was given to wickedness. There were several pagan cults in the city which worshipped Athena, Aesclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus. Because the city was given to idolatry and wickedness, the spiritual atmosphere was adverse to effective Christian witness. Christ commended their works. He recognized that their work was difficult in a city that was given to idolatry and wickedness, a city that was the seat of Satan. “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is”(Rev.2:13a).
Pergamum was the seat of Satan. The city boasted of the great temple of Aesclepius, a pagan god of healing worshipped in the form of a serpent, the symbol of Satan. In spite of the city being the seat of Satanism, the church in Pergamum held fast to the name of our Lord Jesus the Christ. They did not deny His name. This church faced persecution even to the point of martyrdom of some of its members. “And thou holiest 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 dwellest”(Rev.2:13b, 13c). Despite the martyrdom of some of its members, this church held fast to the name of Christ. One of them named Antipas, a faithful believer was martyred. Antipas means “against all.” There are some biblical scholars that believe that Antipas is not the name of a person, but a representation of those faithful saints who were martyred in this city. Whether Antipas is the name of a person or not, one thing is obvious, the church of Pergamos faced persecution to the point of martyrdom.
Despite its faithfulness in the face of persecution and martyrdom, the church of Pergamos was one of the compromising churches in Asia Minor. The compromise was due to the work of false teachers. “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, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Niclaitanes, which thing I hate”(Rev.2:14,15). There were some in the local assembly that held the doctrine of Balaam(Jud.1:11; 2 Pet.2:5). There are some biblical scholars that hold Balaam a false prophet. I demur. Balaam was a true prophet of God, but he was greedy. Balaam should not have answered the summons of Balak, but he went anyway, in spite of the fact that God did not approve. As ministers of God, we have no business going to preach where He did not send us, though there is promise of huge offerings.
While there, God did not suffer him to curse the children of Israel according to the wishes of Balak. But he counseled Balak to hold sacrifices of the gods of Moab, invite the children of Israel to these sacrifices, let them eat and drink and be drunken, and relate sexually freely with their women, then their God would destroy them. This was an evil counsel, and it worked. There is no free lunch; someone foots the bill. And it was so(Num.31:16). He gave this counsel in order to curry favor from Balak. He was covetous. He wanted the promotion that came from man. He could not patiently wait for God. He got his wishes but he paid with his dear life(Num.31:8). True promotion cometh neither from the east nor the west, but God is the judge. He lifts one man up, and bringeth down another(Ps.75:6,7).
The doctrine of Balaam therefore teaches that it does not matter to eat the sacrifice of idols and to commit sexual immoralities. But it does matter very much as we saw in the case of Israel(Num.25:1,2). Twenty and three thousand Israelites perished in one day as a result of the counsel of Balaam, as a result of eating what is sacrificed to idols, and as a consequence of sexual immoralities. It is idolatry to eat what is sacrificed to idols. We cannot drink of the Lord’s cup and the cup of demons: we cannot partake of the Lord’s table and the table of demons(1 Cor.10:21). It is idolatry to commit sexual immoralities(1 Cor.10:8). We should not be idolaters as were some Israelites in the wilderness. They joined themselves to Baal, and ate the sacrifice of the gods. Neither should we be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play”(1 Cor.10:7). Excessive eating and drinking will lead to sexual orgies which are the trademark of Canaanite pagan worship. Surfeiting and debauchery as most young men do on Valentine’s Day is nothing other than the worship of Bacchus, the god of wine and sex orgies.
There were some in that local assembly who held to the doctrine of the Nicolaittians. It is compromise with the religious culture in one’s environment. The Church should not acculturate. It specifically breaks the first commandment. That is why God hated it. Contextualisation is acceptable in missiology and missions but not in ecclesiology. Contextualisation and acculturation in the church will lead to the incorporation of pagan practices into the church.
“Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and I will fight against the with the sword of My mouth”(Rev.2:16). The church of Pergamos was commanded by Christ to repent or I come against thee quickly, and fight against thee with the sword of my mouth. Coming quickly occurs five times in the scroll of Revelation(2:16, 3:11; 22:7,12, 20). Rev.22:7, 12, 20 refer to the parousia. Rev.2:16 and 3:11 refer both to immediate judgment before the Lord’s parousia as well as the parousia. Fight against thee quickly with the sword of my mouth is a metonymy of cause and effect. It meant the church would be taken away if repentance did not occur. The only way the Church can be purged of these doctrines is passage through the furnace of affliction. This affliction is nothing other than the Great Tribulation.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth it”(Rev.2:17).
The promise of blessing has near and far view applications. He that overcometh shall be given the hidden manna. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead. Moses gave you not that true manna from heaven. I am the true bread that came down from heaven(Jon.6: 32,48,49). The true manna is Jesus, the word of God who is our spiritual nourishment. He that overcometh shall be given a white stone with a new name written. Overcomers shall receive new names in Heaven. Besides, white stones were used in voting for acquittal of the accused. He that overcometh shall never be condemned. Gem stones on which were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were worn in pouches on the breastplate of the high priest of Israel. He presented them to God when He appeared before Him in the Holy of Holies. In like manner, Jesus, our great High Priest shall wear our names on His breastplate for eternity.
The church at Thyatira was commended by Christ for its work, love, service, faith and patience or perseverance, and the last to be more than the first. In other words the church at Thyatira was doing more as time went on unlike the church of Ephesus which did less. The believers in this church were growing spiritually, but they were also compromising.
The church at Thyatira was condemned for her tolerance of the teachings of a woman who called herself a prophetess. The Lord called this woman Jezebel. Jezebel was probably not her real name. Jezebel was a historical figure in the life of the nation of Israel. She was a Phoenician woman, the daughter of Ethbaal, priest and King of the Sidonians. The Sidonians like other Canaanites were idol worsippers. They worshiped Baal, the abomination of the Sidonians. She was married to Ahab the son of Omri, who later became king of the ten northern tribes. Omri was in league with Ethbaal, king of Sidon, who gave his daughter Jezebel to his son Ahab. In the ancient world, this kind of marriage between royals was usually contracted to cement political alliance. Marriage is a blood covenant. Am part of your family, and you are part of my family. So, we cannot harm each other. I cannot harm you without hurting myself, and you cannot harm me without hurting yourself.
Jezebel imported Baal worship into Israel. Baal worship was characterized by bouts of sexual orgies and debauchery. It was a fertility cult. There were temple prostitutes. She corrupted Israel(1 Kin.16:31-33). They killed the prophets of God, and hunted and hounded Elijah to kill him. The church of Thyatira was vehemently rebuked by Christ for her tolerance of the teachings of this wicked woman. She taught them to eat meat scarified to idols as a form of worship to these idols and to engage in sexual immoralities. The immoralities were both physical and spiritual. Sexual immorality is idolatry. Both ways these believers were worshipping idols either through eating what is offered in sacrifice to these idols or sexual immoralities associated with the worship of these idols. This is the work of false teachers who are corrupting true believers to err from the path of doctrine and practice. They undermined the work of God by corrupting the people of God.
Like many local churches throughout the history of the Church, compromising churches nowadays are not careful about what is being taught, rather they prefer teachers who allegorize, rationalize, spiritualize, culturalize, and manipulate the word of God to suit their purpose. They do anything with the Scriptures other than taking it at its face value. The lesson believers in every age must learn, more so in the end times, is that true salvation is not in itself a protection against false doctrine. We must regularly be in the word of God, and seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. Believers who do not practice these virtues fall easy prey to false teachers. Satan is a master deceiver and counterfeiter. He deceives with half-truths, and often using Scriptures out of context. In the temptation in the wilderness, he tried this on Jesus(Matt.4:1-11). If he believed this strategy would work with Jesus while not believers especially in the end times who would face great danger, and therefore more vulnerable to deception, confusion, skullduggery, gimmickry, and manipulation.
Believers who think that biblical prophecies concerning the end times are in any way less than factual, or can only be understood allegorically, are more likely to fall easy prey to the machinations of Satan. Satan in his craftiness has already led some believers astray by hoodwinking them into believing that although biblical prophecies concerning the end times are factual, they do not in anyway apply to them. They trust they shall be raptured away several years before the antiChrist hangs out his shingles. Once these believers discover their error, it may be too late to avoid the full brunt of the Great Tribulation.
The Lord gave her space to repent of her immoralities, but she did not. She had a reasonable followership in the church of Thyatira. Because of her refusal to repent, Christ was going to judge her and her followers and converts. She and those that commit immoralities with her shall be cast into great tribulation. The judgment was both immediate and eschatological. Her offspring were going to be judged with pestilence, in order that all the churches shall know that Christ trieth and searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, and rewards every one according to one’s work.
True believers in compromising churches will not lose their salvation, but because of inadequate preparation ahead of time, they will endure immeasurable persecution and suffering. These believers will enter into the 70th week of Daniel unprepared. Therefore they will endure the full brunt of the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist.
There are biblical scholars who urge us to believe that Christ’s warning to the church of Thyatira has no normative authority in the context of the 70th week of Daniel. But it is within the context of the Great Tribulation that Christ warned the compromising church of Thyatira. “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into Great Tribulation, except they repent of their deeds”(Rev.2:22). These false teachers will be cast into a bed of sickness because of their corruption of the children of God. The true children who have committed sexual immoralities through the teachings of these false teachers shall suffer Great Tribulation except they repent. Although they will not lose their salvation, they shall face the horrors of the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist in order to purify them from the corruption of these false teachers.
The Great Tribulation is referred to three times in the whole of the Scriptures. All three of them by Christ Himself. The first is in the Olivet Discourse(Matt.24:21). The second is in the letter to the Church at Thyatira that unless they get their doctrine and ethics straightened out, they will face the Great Tribulation(Rev.2:22). The third is in relation to the multitude which no man could number, which came out of the Great Tribulation(Rev.7:14). Every reference to the Great Tribulation is to the Great Tribulation that begins at the midpoint of the 70th week of Daniel. It is preposterous for anyone to teach that the Church will be raptured before the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel.
Christ continued His recommendation, “And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that am He that searcheth the reins and the hearts”(Rev.2:23). The phrase “kill with death” is used once more in the Scroll of Revelation. It is in relation to the fourth seal of Revelation 6. “And when He had broken the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto him over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth”(Rev.6:7,8). At the breaking of the fourth seal, the Great Tribulation begins. Death is one of the means by which the antiChrist shall kill those who refuse to be branded with his mark of allegiance. So killing with death occurs in the context of the Great Tribulation. “And all the churches shall know that am He that searcheth the reins and the hearts.” “All the churches shall know” indicates that the churches will be present here at the time the church of Thyatira shall be punished with death for her compromise. And we have shown that this occurs at the time of the Great Tribulation by the antiMessiah. The word churches refers to local assemblies of believers. After the Rapture has taken place, they will be no more local assemblies of believers here on earth.
Wonderfully, there were some in the church of Thyatira who were not infected with this virulent virus. Christ referred to them as the rest who have not this doctrine, who have not seen the depths of Satan as they speak. Sexual immoralities have depths. Unless one repents quickly, the victim would slide deeper and deeper into it’s ramifications. It has branches: incest, bestiality, homosexualism, lesbianism, pedophilia, rape, extreme jealousy, murder etc. I will put no other burden upon you. Those in this church who had not received these evil practices were not condemned. They had nothing of which to repent. They were encouraged by Christ to hold unto what they have. They were admonished to “hold fast until I come.” This is a promise that refers to the second coming of Christ. It corresponds perfectly to the second coming promises in His letters to the churches of Sardis(Rev.3:3), and Philadelphia(Rev.3:11). All three types of churches were cautioned about the coming of Christ. It therefore follows that all the messages to the three types of churches, the faithful and uncompromising churches, the dead church, and the compromising and the unfaithful church, are relevant to the believers entering into the 70th week of Daniel.
He that overcometh is promised shared rulership of the Earth with Christ in the New Millennium. He shall be given authority over the nations in the millennium, to rule them with a rod of iron, and to break them in pieces like a potters vessels, even as I received of my Father(Ps 2:6-12). These overcomers like Christ shall be in their glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies. The Jerusalem that descended from heaven shall be their abode from where they shall rule the nations with Christ for a 1000 years(Rev.20:4). And I will give him the morning star. Jesus is the bright and morning star(Rev.22:16). Those who win souls shall shine as the stars for ever(Dan.12:3). The stars speak of glory. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another in glory(1 Cir.15:31). The stars exhibit the excellencies of the Almighty. The exaltation of the overcomer to the status of glory is unimaginable. They will be spiritual luminaries. And that this message is for the audience of all the churches, once again implies near and far view applications.
The church of Laodicea received no commendation from the Lord, only condemnation. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot”(Rev.3:15). This message of Christ was very meaningful to the recipients for two reasons. In the Roman world, the cultural practice of the people was that at social events- feasts and religious sacrifices- their drinks were served either hot or cold, never lukewarm. Whatever was lukewarm was abhorrent to the people. Besides, water was piped to Laodicea via an aqueduct from Hierapolis, a few miles north of the city. By the time it reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm. To drink it, they either allowed to it get cold or they warmed it. The idiomatic expression employed by Christ was very much understandable to the church of Laodicea. They know what it means to be lukewarm to Christ. They were utterly abhorrent to Him. Because the church was lukewarm, Christ would spew them out of His mouth. It is believed by some that Archippus was the pastor of this church(Col.4:16,17). It is debatable whether he was alive at the time this letter was sent to the church of Laodicea.
One other problem the church had was complacency arising from material wealth. Because the city was rich, the church in it was also rich. Their attitude was, we are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing. They did not know that spiritually, they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. This was a very horrible situation. There are many materially rich churches in the world today that are a carbon copy of the church of Laodicea. Excessive material wealth breeds spiritual complacency. We ought to depend on Christ for all our daily needs. Our dependency on Him keeps us warm in our love for Him and for one another, and our faith in Him.
Christ counseled the church to buy refined gold from Him in order that they might be rich. This city was rich materially through wool trade and banking business. The members of the church were involved in both. But they were spiritually poor, bankrupt. If they were poor and wretched as Christ has proffered, it means the refined gold from Christ was offered free of charge. The city produced a famous black wool, the people were physically gorgeously dressed. But they were naked spiritually. They were dressed in black, but spiritually what they needed was a white garment in order that they might be clothed and their nakedness would not appear. The white garment is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
The city of Laodicea boasted of a medical school affiliated to the temple of Aesclepius. This medical school had the best oculists of their day who treated common eye ailments through the use of an eye salve produced by the medical school. So, this church had no problems with their physical eyes. All their physical eye problems were taken care of, but they were spiritually blind and undiscerning. They lacked the gift of discerning of spirits(1 Cor.12:10). If they could see into the realm of the spirit, they would have observed their nakedness and spiritual bankruptcy, wretchedness and misery. Christ admonished them to buy of Him eye salve in order that they might anoint their eyes so that they could see. These were all offered free of charge, for they were bankrupt and had not the spiritual currency and liquidity with which to purchase them. Because Jesus loved them, He rebuked and chastened them, in order that they might become zealous and repent.
Verse 20 could be looked at both ways, either as a command and exhortation or as a promise of blessing. “I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him, and sup with him, and he with me.” This is an appeal to the individual christian to open the door of his heart to Christ, not only of the Laodiceans but also of every local assembly. The heart of the individual has no external lock. The lock is on the inside. Therefore, it must be opened from the inside. When Christ comes in and sits at the head of the table, the Shulhan Aruch, there will be supernatural banquet of love, joy, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, true and lasting wealth and riches, fellowship with God, men and angels, divine guidance and direction, open doors and opportunities etc.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and am set with my Father in His throne. Jesus is co-regent with the Fatter. He is sitting at the Father’s right hand. Even so shall the overcomer reign with Christ here in the New Millennium. As always the message is not directed only to the Laodiceans but all believers at all times. We shall live and reign with Him a thousand years. The scriptures make it clear true believers, the overcomers shall share the rulership of the Earth with Christ in the Millennium. They shall be co-regents with Christ. Even so, Amen.
The true believer who compromises the truth shall be spared the wrath of God(1 Thess.1:10;5:9), but shall face the wrath of Satan through the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist. The faithful and uncompromising believer is promised protection from within the sphere of the Great tribulation by the antiChrist, and eventual removal out from the sphere of persecution before God pours out His wrath on the living wicked earth-dwellers who worship and adore the Dragon-Beast. God as the sovereign Lord will lovingly use the the Great Affliction to cleanse, purge and purify the Church in order to make them stand blameless in His presence(Jude 24). Believers who are looking for new heaven and new Earth wherein dwelleth righteousness must stand before Him blameless. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless”(2 Pet.3:14). The Church at this present hour is neither spotless nor blameless. Because God loves us, He disciplines us. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son when He receieveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealers with you as with sons; for what son is he whom his father chasteneth not? But if ye are without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”(Heb.12:6,7).
God’s demand is that Christ’s bride be made worthy by being absolutely pure and holy. For this same purpose Paul instilled discipline in the Corinthian church by chastising them. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ”(2 Cor,11:2). Believers are to await eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus the Christ, who shall confirm us to the end, blameless in the Day Of Our Lord Jesus the Christ. The end here is an abbreviation of the end of the ages at which point of transition, the wrath of God is poured out on the wicked who remain after the Rapture of the Church. This admonition is most applicable to compromising believers who shall enter the 70th week of Daniel.
The dead church or more appropriately the dead believers shall receive the mark of the beast. They shall be spared the horrors of the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist. But when they shall say peace and safety, thinking that it is all over, then sudden destruction shall come upon them like travail upon a woman in labour, and they shall not escape(1 Thess.5:3). They shall be spared the horrors of the Great Tribulation only to face the fires of the wrath of God, not only during the Day Of The Lord, but also in eternity in the lake of fire and brimstone.
Let us summarize the facts presented about the seven churches in Rev. 2 & 3. The seven churches are classified into three groups. These groups are, the dead church, the faithful and uncompromising churches, and the unfaithful and compromising churches.
(1) The faithful churches which are exemplified by the church of Philadelphia will heed Christ’s instruction concerning perseverance. They will adequately prepare ahead of time for the difficult time of the Great Tribulation. Therefore God shall offer them protection within the sphere of the Great Tribulaion, and eventual removal out of the sphere of the Great Tribulation when they are taken away from the scene of the Great Persecution in the Rapture. Thereafter Christ shall destroy the wicked who remain in the Day Of The Lord.
(2) Believers who are spiritually dead who do not repent shall be branded with the mark of the beast as faithful citizens of the Satanic kingdom of the antiChrist. They shall be spared the horrors of the Great Tribulation. But they shall face the wrath of God in the Day Of The Lord, and in the hereafter eternal fire in the lake of fire and brimstone.
(3) The compromising believers who do not repent will be less than adequately prepared because they have not heeded Christ’s instruction concerning perseverance. Therefore they shall pass through the horrors of the Great Tribulation without God’s protection in order to cleanse, purge, and purify them, and present them blameless and spotless before the Lamb of God. They shall not take the mark of the beast, the symbol of loyalty to the Satanic kingdom of the antiMessiah. Some of them shall be killed, some imprisoned, and others publically humiliated. But they shall be raptured prior to the outpouring of the wrath of God before the Day Of The Lord; for God hath not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus the Christ(1 Thess.1:10, 5:9).
The Olivet Discourse
It will be impossible to place the warnings of danger given to the Church in the Olivet Discourse(Matt.24:42-25:30) before the Rapture if the Rapture is pretribulational. The chronology of Matt.24 does not permit such a position. On the other hand, it does not make sense were it to be positioned immediately before the physical return of Christ at the expiry of the 70th week of Daniel. The admonition, “Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come”(Matt.24:41,42), does not make sense if attributed to Christ’s Second Advent at the end of the 70th week. Likewise the warning, “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son Of Man cometh”(Matt24:44).
“But if the evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth His coming; And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looked not for Him, and in an hour he is not aware of”(Matt.24:48-50).
It is obvious that in this parable, Jesus is the Lord, and the evil servant is the irresponsible and slothful leader in the Church. This parable cannot refer to the expiration of the 70th week of Daniel, for the simple reason that Christ’s physical return occurs at the end of the 70th week of Daniel. Men will know Christ is about to return. The Olivet Discourse contains warnings inside the 70th week of Daniel prior to the Rapture of the Church and the commencement of the Day Of His Wrath. The admonitions are both logical and sequential. “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the milk; the one shall be taken, and the other left”(Matt.24:40,41). The ones taken were taken in the Rapture. The ones left are to face the wrath of God. The Greek word translated taken here is “paralambano.” It means to take near to oneself. It cannot connote the idea of been taken in Armageddon as pretribulationists would like us to believe. Nor is the one left only to enter the Millennium. Rather, the one left behind is left to face the wrath of God during the Day Of The Lord judgment of the living wicked earth-dwellers.
The warnings and admonitions urge us to be watchful(Matt.24:42-44), faithful(Matt.24:45-51), prepared(Matt.25:1-13), and fruitful(Matt.25:14-30); all in anticipation of the Rpapture of the Church prior to the commencement of the wrath of God at the last trump, at the breaking of the 7th seal which occurs inside the second half of the 70th seven of Daniel. We are to “Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that he may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son Of Man”(Luk.21:36).
The Premission Admonition
In Matt.10 before Jesus sent out His disciples on evangelistic mission throughout all the land of Israel, He addressed them. He instructed them on what to do, and how they were to conduct themselves(vv.1-15). Scholars of biblical prophecy are agreed that Jesus looked beyond the immediate period to the 70th week of Daniel. Verses 16-42 parallel Christ’s instruction to His disciples in the Olivert Discourse concerning the Great Tribulation.
In spite of the severity and the horrors of the Great Tribulation, some Jewish believers anointed of God shall go about persuading their Jewish countrymen as well as others in the land of Israel to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and saviour, and not to consent to be branded with the Mark of loyalty to the antiMessiah. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be therefore as wise as serpent and as harmless as doves”(v.16). This will be a very dangerous mission that will cause most of them their lives. Therefore they must be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. They must beware of men who will no doubt deliver them up to the councils and tribunals horridly set up to try nonconformists and antigovernmental subversives. Some will be forcibly taken over by the security apparatus of the antiMessiah. Others shall willing acquiesce in the decree and wishes of the antiMessiah. These evangelists in the land of Isreal and elsewhere in the world shall be publically humiliated in order to deter others from opposing the antiMessiah. They shall be scourged in synagogues and churches as public enemies and public examples. They shall be brought before governors and kings for the sake of the name of the Lord. It shall be for a testimony against these Jewish agents of the antiMessiah and the Gentiles(v.18).
The same counsel that was given to the disciples in the Olivet Discourse was also given them in this pre-mission address. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given you in the same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you”(vv.19,20). Their answers when questioned at the tribunals shall not be premeditated. It shall at the spur of the moment, inspired by the Holy Spirit.