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The 7 Churches (Rev. 1:10-3:21)

God's Church

Overview

Bible Passage:

Read the prophecy in Revelation 1:10 - 3:21.

Theme:

The spiritual condition of God's church and His care for it.

Overview:

Daniel's prophecies cover the time from his day to the end of time, with each repeating that same time period and revealing more details of events, dates and entities. Revelation's prophecies follow the same pattern of parallelism, covering from John's day to the end.

This first prophecy begins to paint the picture by using churches of that time (John's day) to symbolize the spiritual condition of Jesus' church through 7 periods of the Christian era. It focuses on Jesus' ("Son of man" - 1:13) care for His people as He walks "in the midst" of the churches ("candlesticks" - 1:13,20), carefully tending them and upholding their messengers ("stars"/"angels" - 1:16,20). He is in priest's clothing ("golden girdle" 1:13) continuously mediating (Heb. 8:1-6). He works through the power of His Word ("twoedged sword" - 1:16, Heb.6:6) and His righteousness ("countenance...as the sun shineth" - 1:17, 12:1). The message to each church begins with listing specific characteristics of Jesus. These are tied in to what each church needs to know and will experience. The strengths and weaknesses of each church are highlighted and warnings and advice are given. It is designed to provide counsel for the church through its challenges and prepare them for what is to come.

Verse-By-Verse

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

In the Spirit = In vision.

Lord's Day = The Sabbath. In the Bible, the Lord's day refers to (a) the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, of which Jesus is Lord (Matt. 12:8, Mk. 2:28, Lk. 6:5), or (b) the day of the Lord, the second coming of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:10, 1 Thes. 5:2). John was taken in vision to many different dates throughout Revelation, not just the second coming, so this verse is likely referring to the day on which he received the vision.

Voice like a trumpet = A commanding message that is loud and heard by all.

11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

Alpha and Omega = The first and the last. Jesus is foremost or chief and goes the farthest. He has the first and last say in this Revelation.

Write in a book = The book of Revelation. John was told to write down the vision and share it with the churches. The counsel Jesus gives to each church is helpful for all Christians. A precedent for this was set when Paul advised the Colossians to read his letter to the Laodiceans and vice versa (Col. 4:16).

Seven = Successive time periods within a whole unit. The number 7 is used throughout Revelation to indicate the completion of a succession of 7 time periods within a whole unit (7 Churches, 7 Seals, 7 Spirits, 7 Horns, 7 Eyes, 7 Trumpets, 7 Thunders, 7 Last Plagues, 7 Heads). This is illustrated by the week (whole unit), which contains 7 consecutive days (successive time periods). The time periods are sequential with no gaps between. In the prophecy about the 7 Seals, each seal is removed individually, one right after the other, indicating subsequent periods of time that follow one right after another until the prophecy is completed. The 7 Trumpets and 7 Heads also use language necessitating succession.

Seven Churches = God's church at work during 7 successive time periods. The seven churches are God's one church (1 Cor. 12:12-28) through seven different time periods. The names of the churches were actual locations for Christian churches existing in Asia when John received the prophecy and are symbolic of God's church during seven consecutive periods of the Christian Era (John's day to the end of time). The number seven indicates completeness. Christianity is to spread the gospel to the world from Christ's ascension until His second coming. Each church symbolizes the character of God's church during a different era of the church's history. They tell the story of God's church, expanding on events paralleled in other prophecies. Evidence for this approach include the following:
  • The use of the number 7:

    The number 7 is widely used throughout the Bible to indicate completeness. The first use of the number 7 in the Bible is in the story of creation. The 7-day week was then established by God as He completed creation of the earth and ceased from His work on the 7th day. In another example, the Israelites were instructed to track a cycle of "seven sabbaths of years" (49 years), after which all slaves were to be set free, debts forgiven and land returned to its owner (the year of Jubilee) (Lev. 25:8-13).

    A quantity of 7 in prophecy represents the complete cycle or span of time for something to be accomplished. For example, the 7 Last Plagues represent the span of time from the pouring out of the first plague until the end of the last plague, when the wrath of God is accomplished. The 7 Seals and the 7 Trumpets both show one event happening after the another. There is the first, then the second, then the third, and so on, until they are finished. In addition, the 7 Spirits are linked to the 7 Churches (Rev. 4:5, 3:1), not symbolizing 7 different simultaneous spirits, but rather symbolizing the work of the Holy Spirit in 7 different time periods of the church. The use of the number 7 in this prophecy of the Seven Churches would also indicate a succession of time periods that cover the history of the Christian church on earth (the apostle's day to second coming).

  • The clues provided in nearby prophecies:

    In the next prophecy in Revelation about the Seven Seals, the number seven is also used. Each seal is removed individually, one right after the other, indicating subsequent periods of time that follow one right after another until the prophecy is completed.

    The 7 Trumpets prophecy also gives clues that each Trumpet is a time period that follows the previous one (Rev. 8:13), clearly saying that "The second woe [6th Trumpet] is past; and, behold, the third woe [7th Trumpet] cometh quickly" [without delay] (Rev. 11:14). It also includes two specific time prophecies, one in the 5th Trumpet for 150 years, followed by another in the 6th Trumpet for 391 years + 15 days, indicating the Trumpets represent time periods of varing lengths.

  • The precedent established in prophecy:

    In Daniel, each prophecy covered the same time period as the previous prophecy, but expanded to reveal more details, covering the time from Daniel's day down through the end of time. The prophecies in Revelation follow the same pattern, covering the time from John's day down through the end of time.

  • Mail Route:

    The order in which the churches are listed shows the same succession of stops as one would do when actually delivering the letters, indicating an order of progression.

12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Seven Golden Candelsticks = The 7 Churches, which represent God's church at work during 7 successive time periods. As already seen in the book of Daniel, the beings involved in giving a prophecy often provide helpful and straightforward interpretations to help establish us in the right direction. Jesus here clearly states that the seven candlesticks represent the seven churches (v. 19).

Son of Man = Jesus. Jesus is referred to as the son of man many times in the New Testament. In Reveleation 14:14, the "son of man" is seen on a cloud, crowned and harvesting the earth. This refers to Jesus when he returns to earth, after receiving His kingdom, at His second coming on a cloud (Luke 21:27, Acts 1:9-11). In this prophecy, Jesus is pictured as working among the churches ("candlesticks" - 1:13, 1:20, 2:1), carefully tending to their needs, trimming the wicks, filling with oil and keeping the flame burning.

Seven Stars = The Messengers of God's chruch during the 7 successive time periods. The seven stars are described as "the angels of the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20). The word translated to "angel" is "angelos", which means messenger and can refer to actual angels from heaven or to anyone who brings a message, such as Christ or a church. John the Baptist is referred to as an "angelos" (Mark 1:2, Luke 7:27). The seven stars represent the messengers sent out by the church during the 7 time periods. Jesus especially upholds these messengers ("in his right hand").

Golden Girdle = The clothes of a priest at work. Jesus' clothing is like that of an Israelite priest (Ex. 28), showing that Jesus is ministering for His people as priest in the heavenly sanctuary. He is continuously mediating (Heb. 8:1-6). Scenes from the earthly sanctuary are used throughout the book of Revelation to symbolize some aspect or phase of the reality of Jesus' ministry in the plan of salvation from the heavenly sanctuary.

Twoedged Sword = Word of God. Jesus works through the power of His Word ("twoedged sword" - 1:16, Heb.6:6).

Countenance as the sun shineth = Jesus' righteousness. Jesus' character is perfect, unblemished and righteous (1:17, 12:1).

Write the things The book of Revelation includes information that is historical or in the past, things in the present, and things still to come in the future. It is relevant for all of God's people from John's day through the second coming. The prophecies in Revelation should not be limited to an interpretation that places them only in the past or only in the future.

Time Period #1 (34 AD to 217 AD): Ephesus

Rev. 2:1-7 "1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, 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 laboured, 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 hatest 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 overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God".

Ephesus = A pure church (34 AD to 217 AD). This church was known to be very perceptive in spotting error and would not tolerate anything evil or false. It was founded by Jesus, carried on by the apostles and then continued after their death as others picked up the torch. They had correct doctrine and worked hard and long to spread the gospel. But, over time, they began to forget their previous zeal, grew less enthusiastic and were no longer whole-hearted in their experience. They left their first love. When John received the Revelation on the Island of Patmos, all of the other apostles had died. Those who were called to take the place of the apostles in proclaiming the gospel were now counseled to remember their initial loving experience with Jesus, repent of their forgetfulness, and let Jesus invigorate them to accomplish great works again. Otherwise, the church would lose its place as God's chosen instrument to spread His gospel to the world ("remove thy candlestick out of his place").

Nicolaitans = A group known for their lasciviousness and disregard for God's law. Jesus commended this church for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Though the church during this time period hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, we will see that by time of the church in the third time period, there were some who believed in the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.

Overcometh = Succeeding. The passage to Ephesus ends with the promise of access to the tree of life for those who overcome. This requirement of overcoming is told to every church and is a recurring message in Revelation. The rewards of overcoming are many.
  • Eat of the tree of life (Rev. 2:7).
  • Not be hurt by second death (Rev. 2:11).
  • Eat hidden manna and receive a new name (Rev. 2:17).
  • Rule the nations and receive the morning star (Rev. 2:26-28).
  • Vindicated by Jesus before universe (Rev. 3:5).
  • Become a pillar in temple and receive a new name (Rev. 3:12).
  • Rule with Jesus in His throne (Rev. 3:21).
Later in Revelation, the person who overcomes is promised to inherit all things as a son of God (Rev. 21:7). Given the importance of overcoming, let's take a moment to identify what it means. The word tranlsated to overcome is "nikao" and means to subdue, prevail, conquer or gain the victory. A battle is to be fought and won to overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:14), false prophets (1 John 4:4), the world (1 John 5:5) and evil (Rom. 12:21). The instruction in these verses are given in the context of loving others, obeying God's commandments, not lusting after things of the world, testing messages for truth, and exercising faith and believing in Jesus. These are all involved in overcoming.

"1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:1-5).

Overcoming is closely tied to character transformation. When a person embraces the free gifts of faith and repentance that Jesus offers, he is born again, which means that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to dwell within him and gives him the desire and power to love others, obey God's commandments, understand the truth and overcome evil. The power of evil is broken when he places his faith in Jesus and become a firsthand witness of how Jesus empowers him.

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Revelation 12:11).

Overcoming is possible because Jesus has first demonstrated how to do it and is willing and able to impart this power to us.

"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

The amazing rewards of overcoming are promised to each church. It is a recurring message in Revelation. This calls for thoughtful consideration of what it means to overcome through Jesus' power (Rev. 12:11) and as Jesus overcame (Rev. 3:21).

Time Period #2 (217 to 486 AD): Smyrna

Rev. 2:8-11 "8 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 shalt 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 overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death".

Smyrna = A church faithful in tribulation (217 to 486 AD). Official state persecution of Christians within the Roman realm intensified ("thou shalt suffer"). Beginning largely in 250 AD, persecution continued until 313 after Diocletian's bloody 10-year Great Persecution ("tribulation ten days"). This church was spiritually full ("rich"), even though a blasphemous element ("synagogue of Satan") was beginning to infiltrate Christianity ("them which say they are Jews"). In 312 AD, the conversion to Christianity of emperor Constantine led to pagan beliefs, rituals, and symbols being integrated into the church in Rome.

Thou shalt suffer = Persecution. Christians had been persecuted off and on since Christ's death. It was first sanctioned by the government under Nero in 64 AD. However, official state persecution of Christians intensified in this period, beginning largely in 250 AD. Jesus provided comfort to His people in this era, telling them to fear none of things that were coming, even death.

10 Days of Tribulation = 10 years of persecution. This 2nd time period would encompass a particular vicious period of persecution. Christians experienced the most bloody 10-year Great Persecution, under Emperor Diocletian, from 303 to 313 AD.

Synagogue of Satan = Those who are working with Satan. All who unite against God with Satan, including men and angels, are part of Satan's synagogue. The church on Smyrna was spiritually full ("rich"), even though a blasphemous element was beginning to infiltrate Christianity ("them which say they are Jews"). In 312 AD, the conversion to Christianity of emperor Constantine led to pagan beliefs, rituals, and symbols being integrated into the church in Rome. Jesus warned His people that this would happen and urged them to be faithful and He would give them eternal life.

Time Period #3 (486 to 752 AD): Pergamos

Rev. 2:12-17 "12 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 dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest 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 dwelleth. 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 stumblingblock 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 overcometh 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 knoweth saving he that receiveth it".

Pergamos = A church amidst corruption (486 to 752). The pagan beliefs developed in the church of Rome during the previous period, now spread to churches throughout the realm and became deeply rooted. This was accomplished largely through the work of the Franks who allied with the church in Rome (papacy) and integrated church offices into the fabric of government. Thus, the papacy ("Balaam" the prophet) taught the state/Franks ("Balac" the king) to cause God's people to sin through idolatry and sexual immorality ("doctrine of Balaam" - Num. 22-25).

Doctrine of Balaam = Teaching to overthrow God's people through enticement to sin. Baalam was a prophet of God who rebelled and turned traitor to his own people, in return for money. He linked up with Balak, the king of the Moabite nation, and together they enticed God's people to engage in sexual immorality with women in Moab and compromise their beliefs (mix differing belief systems like idolatry with God commands) and step outside of God's protection. This was the only way they were able to overthrow God's people, after trying various other methods. As already studied in Daniel 8 and 11, and as will also be seen later in Revelation, this same method was used when the Frankish-Papal alliance formed in 508 AD. The state power combined with an apostate church power to try to "overthrow" God's people by leading them into pagan practices, especially tempting them with idolatry and sexual immorality (Num. 22-25). This time period encompasses the setting up of the "abomination of desolation" (Daniel 8, 11). It was during this time period that image worship was especially debated, fought over and ultimately accepted into the churches of the Roman Realm. It was a time of spreading the Nicene form of Christianity (papal doctrines) throughout the Realm. This will be studied more in the Seven Trumpets prophecy.

Doctrine of Nicolaitans = Teaching to disregard God's law. During this time period, the "Doctrine of the Nicolaitans" was promoted by many. Remember in the first church that they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans, but now it is believed by some even within the church. The lasciviousness and disregard for God's law became more integrated. This also had the effect of elevating man and earthly hierarchical systems above God's instructions and Jesus's ministration. This disdain for God's law has also been mentioned in other prophecies as the papal power tried to "change times and laws" (Dan. 7:25).

"3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [lawlessness] be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Satan's Seat = Rome. Later in Revelation, the Dragon gives his power and seat (throne) to the sea beast. The Dragon is revealed to be Satan, initially working through Pagan Rome. The sea beast is revealed to be Rome during its Papal phase. The Dragon gives his seat to the beast, or in other words, pagan Rome appointed its power and its capitol to the Papacy. The roman church was "dwelling" in Rome, which was the Dragon's/Satan's seat of power.

Antipas No one with this name is known to have been martyred in this period. It may be that this individual represents God's people who were martyred during this time. The word "Antipas" is a union of two words. The first is "Anti", which means "opposed," and the second is "papas", which means "father" or "pope." This could indicate that those who were opposed to this new system of religion of the Papacy, were martyred.

Time Period #4 (752 to 1299 AD): Thyatira

Rev. 2:18-29 "18 And 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 sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. 24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. 25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches".

Thyatira = A church with a false prophet (752 to 1299 AD). The church-state union initiated during the previous centuries resulted in wide spread idolatry, corruption and spiritual darkness. God's true followers were faithful though surrounded by those heeding the false teachings of the papal system ("Jezebel" - queen of Israel and prophetess of Baal) who was in inappropriate relationships ("adultery") with state powers (Ahab) to "teach and to seduce" Christians to sin. Like Jezebel, the papacy led people to worship false gods and openly perform pagan practices in the name of Christianity. Reference is made to the end of time when the nations ("them that commit adultery with her") experience the 7 Last Plagues ("great tribulation"), and churches that follow the papacy's ways ("her children") instead of God's Word will be destroyed (see "Mystery, Babylon").

Teaching of Jezebel Jezebel became a queen in Israel when Ahab, king of Israel, married her. She was a prophetess of Baal, a pagan deity. She was responsible for leading almost the entire nation into Baal worship and apostacy. She killed God's prophets and anyone who opposed her. Many true followers of God fled to remote places to hide. Jezebel symbolizes the Papal effort to bring all Christianity under its influence. It mixed paganism with its beliefs and established a system of falsehood to which almost everyone submitted. It executed millions of Christians during this time period. Many fled to the wilderness, as prophesied in Revelation 12. The prophet Elijah announced to Ahab and Jezebel a 3.5 year period of drought (1 Kings 16-31). The church of the middle ages inflicted a 3.5 year (prophetically 1260 days) period of spiritual darkness and persecution when God's true followers fled (Rev. 12:14).

Her Children This church mirrors the events that occur to Babylon, which is described later in Revelation. In like manner to Jezebel, a woman, named Babylon, commits adultery with the kings of the earth. She, along with her daughters are destroyed during a great tribulation. The unfaithful woman, which symbolizes an unfaithful church, has apostacized. This represents the church in Rome during the middle ages. She has daughters, which represent the many denominations coming out of the protestant reformation that didn't keep reforming but held onto some erroneous teachings of their mother. These daughters, and their mother will be destroyed during the Seven Last Plagues (great tribulation).

Morning Star = Jesus. Those who overcome are promised the morning star. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus is described as the bright and morning star. This promise could indicate a special relationship with jesus will be experienced by those who wear His robe.

Depths of Satan Those who do not follow the teachings of Satan, nor know the extent and deepness of Satan's workings.

Time Period #5 (1299 to 1449 AD): Sardis

Rev. 3:1-6 "1 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, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. 4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches".

Sardis = A church barely alive (1299 to 1449). After centuries of darkness when truth was obscurred by the papal system, the real gospel was barely surviving ("ready to die"). But, there were glimmers of hope as a faithful few ("a few names"), such as John Wycliffe, the Waldenses, and Jan Hus worked to preserve God's Word.

A name that thou livest God is concerned with the heart, our inward thoughts, not the outward show. He says "I know thy works" and he can read the mind. Those who take on the name Christian should be a representative of Christ, and full of life, not motionless and spiritually lethargic. Many were as "a corpse", meaning they were not awake, watchful or alert. They were careless in their feeling of security and careless in following God's instructions (works not perfect). They were advised to remember what they had once received. When a Christian first feels the warmth of the love of God and submits their heart to Jesus, he never wants to let that go. Remembering that first love and remembering the reasons why he first wanted to be a part of God's kingdom will lead to repentance and gaining life.

The things which remain Having endured centuries of state take-over and Papal persecution, the church was barely alive. They are advised to strengthen the faithful that were left, which seemed almost ready to die (spiritually). It was around this time that the winds of reformation began to whisper. There were several important events and movements that brought new life to an almost dead church. These events helped prepare the way for the upcoming Protestant Reformation, which later swelled into a mighty wind that swept through Europe.
  • The Waldensians preserved God's word and truth for centuries during the dark ages. They were ardent in their opposition to the Papacy during this time period.
  • John Wycliffe (1324 to 1384) wrote many documents that challenged the authority of the Papacy. In 1378 He worked on a translation of the bible into English. His followers were known as the Lollards. Wycliffe is often called the "Morning Star of the Reformation".
  • Jan Hus also refused to accept papal supremacy and was excommunicated in 1410. His followers were engaged in a series of conflicts known as the Hussite Wars, which took place in Bohemia between 1419-1434.
Works not perfect The NASB version reads "for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God". This may refer to the reformation being kindled, but not completed. They were too close to death to complete the works they had begun.

As a thief Jesus comes as a thief to those not prepared for His coming (I Thess 5:4).

Time Period #6 (1449 to 1840 AD): Philadelphia

Rev. 3:7-13 "7 And 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 openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10 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. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches".

Philadelphia = A faithful church (1449 to 1840). The Protestant Reformation offered new life to the church. In 1517, Martin Luther sparked a movement focused on returning to Bible truth over papal tradition ("kept my word"). This era saw many new churches established and vast numbers of converts ("I will make them to come and worship before thy feet"). In 1798, papal ecclesiastical dominance ended during the French Revolution and the great advent awakening commenced as the Bible was distributed to the world. This was an era of hope and faith.

Key of David Jesus will reign forever (Is. 22:22, Luke 1:32-33).

Synagogue of Satan These say they are God's people, but they are really following Satan's leadership. In 1 John 2:4, those who say they know God, but they don't keep His commandments, are described as liars. This is very serious and calls forth strong language in making them of the "synagogue of Satan".

Hour of Temptation The 7th and last church encounters the end time deceptions and great temptations of the dragon's wrath against the "remnant" (Rev. 12). The church of the 6th time period would be kept from experience that end-time trial.

Time Period #7 (1840 AD to Second Coming): Laodicea

Rev. 3:14-22 "14 And 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 spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest 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 mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 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. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."

Laodicea = A church in judgment (1840 to 2nd Coming). The word Laodicea means "a people judged." Jesus is described as the faithful witness and He knows everything about you ("know thy works"), offers grace ("buy of me"), and warns of a pending verdict ("spue thee out"). This time period corresponds to the court scene depicted in Daniel 8. Truth is readily available, but people don't admit they need power outside of themselves (2 Tim. 3:5) to obtain salvation.

Jesus can help those honest in heart, but the Laodicean attitude repulses Him ("lukewarm") as the Holy Spirit is rejected by an uncaring heart. These are hard words, but given by Him to save lives: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."

I am rich The truth is freely available and known, yet it is often taken for granted and not applied to the heart. These people don't realize that they are actually poor.

Beginning of Creation Jesus caused the beginning, commencement or start of all that was created. He was the power behind it and set everything in motion. He is not a created being, but rather the creator. "12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Colossians 1:12-17).

Spue Out: The Christian church during this time period is "neither cold nor hot". This lukewarm state results from a mixture of hot and cold, indicating a mingling of truth and error. They view themselves as having everything they need, that anything is fine and you should do whatever you like. They are indifferent to God's instructions, but do mix in some truths that they see as important. Then they feel rich, as though they have everything figured out.

Jesus is concerned with the heart/mind. This attitude is repulsive to Him. The spuing out of Jesus' mouth indicates a rejection (this results only after the person has rejected Jesus by ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit). Within the framework of a court scene, this occurs after the verdict is issued. "32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).

Wretched, Miserable, blind, poor and naked The people in this church are self deceived. They have a view of themselves that is not accurate. Jesus is trying to jolt them out of their complacency with this message, for their own good. Rom. 7:24, 1 Cor. 15:19, James 2:5, 2 Pet. 1:9.

Buy Jesus offers salvation as a gift, but there is an exchange that has to occur. Self has to be given completely to Jesus. This reliance upon Christ is what enables a person to overcome. The criticalness of overcoming is told to each church. The items to purchase are:
  • Gold tried in the fire = Faith (1 Pet. 1:7, Zech 13:9, Mal. 3:3).
  • White raiment =The righteousness of Jesus in the life (Rev. 19:8).
  • Eye salve = Discernment (blind to their condition of unrighteousness and need of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:5-9, Mt. 23:26-28, Jn. 9:41).
The message to the Laodiceans is about righteousness by faith. This is also emphasized in other prophecies that foretell this same time period:
  • a) Mystery of God is finished during seventh trumpet (Rev. 10:7). The Mystery of God is Christ in you, the replication of His character in His people.
  • b) The remnant church keeps the commandments of God and has the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17).
  • c) The 144,000 keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12).
  • d) The three angels' messages revolve around keeping God's law versus following man's law (Rev. 14:7-12).
Righteousness by faith is (a) Jesus substitution of His life and character in our place in the books of heaven, and (b) Jesus' perfect character imparted to us so that His character is replicated in our lives. Successfully overcoming and keeping His law is accomplished through faith in Jesus' power to implement His grace in our lives and change us from the inside - out.

Time Line

Prophecy timeline of the 7 Churches in Revelation 1-3
(click on image to enlarge)

Continue to the next study: 7 Seals (Rev. 4 - 7)