Our study centers on the seven Churches in Revelation in order to understand the message to each. Why are there seven Churches and what do the messages or letters to these Churches mean?
First, it should be noted that there is never a reference to "One Church" in the Bible. Some Churches teach that there is only one Church or "One True Church". Since there is never a reference to such a church they must conclude that the Bible teaches this. And wouldn't you just know, after their analysis and interpretation of scripture... it just so happens that "they" comprise the "One True Church" !!! In their thinking since they comprise the "One True Church", that means that all other churches must therefore be "Not True Churches" or "False Churches". As a result it is imperative that all Christians abandon their Church and become members of "their" church. This type of teaching negates the truth of scripture and nullifies the message to each of the 7 Churches
The Bible does teach that there is "One Body" and that this one body is the Church and the Church is the body of Christ manifested on earth. The Bible also teaches that there is "One Faith" which is manifested by "Sound Doctrine". So where then do we arrive at seven churches?
We begin by noting that the Word of God was manifested in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God and after His ascension was revealed to the Apostles of Jesus and also the Holy Prophets. (Note, the Holy Prophets described in the book of Ephesians are New Testament prophets and not Old Testament Prophets. By definition they were Jews and not Gentiles.) We can quickly and accurately determine that there was then "One Revelation" of God proclaimed by several men of God through the Spirit of God, that is the Holy Spirit who Is God.
The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit of promise was sent from Heaven to indwell all believers in Jesus Christ and equip them for service. As time progressed after 30AD the Word of God was revealed, became written, and assimilated among the Churches. We see this progression with notable details in the book of Acts.
However, we notice something else as well... As the Word of God was received, distributed, and taught in the Churches, something quite interesting was happening. As the Word of God was generally received with joy and served to edify and strengthen the Churches in "The Faith", there was a tendency for the Churches to deviate from sound Bible teaching.
This departure from sound teaching is a natural phenomenon that we notice every day in our own lives and those around us. There is a natural tendency for:
In a similar fashion the early Church tended to deviate from sound doctrine. In order to combat that tendency, the Apostles were give the responsibility, power, and authority to correct Churches in their teaching as needed and force them to return to sound doctrine (teaching). We see this clearly in the book of Galations where these Churches begin teaching "The Other Gospel". The Church at Corinth began teaching "Doctrinal Fornication" (not to be confused with physical fornication).
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD ended the Apostolic era of the Church whereby Church doctrine was subject to the oversight of the Apostles of Jesus and the Holy Prophets. After AD70 the oversight of the Churches and their doctrine would be the responsibility of the Elders in each Church. The book of Revelation and the letters to the seven Churches was written after 70AD to reveal to us what would happen to the Churches while under the directiona and authority of the elders.
What happens to the Churches after 70AD is significant and profound. In order to understand what is happening let's look at this hypothetical scenario...
Suppose you are a medical researcher and have identified all of the essential vitamins and minerals that a person needs to promote and maintain good heath. So being the business entrepreneur that you are, you have formulated these essentials into 7 vitamin pills. You name these 7 pills V1, V2,...V7. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that an athlete in top physical condition take these 7 pills daily in order to maximize their performance.
But now in the name of research, you are going to conduct an experiment on 7 selected athletes. These 7 are ideal specimens of what good nutrition and exercise is all about. These 7 are at the top of their game so to speak. By experiment, you are going to have each player take only 6 pills daily instead of the required seven.
You will have each player take 6 pills daily instead of the required 7 such that you have...
At the end of 180 days, you examine the health of each of these 7 players and what do you find? Just as you expected, each player has developed a health problem and each problem has a unique symptom. You publish the results of your findings and document the 7 symptoms in a circulated medical journal.
You publish your results and now any medical professional can determine which athlete is deficient which vitamin pill.
Will you be able to determine which player is deficient which vitamin pill? If you can then by analogy, you should be able to determine what the condition of each of the 7 Churches is and what they are missing. Jesus has given you the required information and the unique symptoms of each... Good luck...
1 Timothy 4:6
6) If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.
You are now ready to turn your attention to Revelation Chapter 1 and the introduction to the seven Churches. There you will find the 7 essentials for a healthy Church to use in your analysis of the seven churches.------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The book of Revelation is the most mysterious and misunderstood book in the Bible. This problem reflects our deficiency in our understanding and teaching of the Bible, particularly, the New Testament. Any good preacher worth his salt, can grab any chapter out of the New Testament epistles and preach on it until the sun goes down. And his expositional teaching of that chapter may be quite good and accurate. However, this does not mean that he has grasped the overall context, meaning, and purpose of the entire book. To be specific, there are six books in the New Testament which are completely foreign to even the best Bible teachers of today and they are:
From the Apostle Paul - (a Gentile perspective)
From Jewish writers (a Jewish perspective)
The meaning of these books in particular is lost in the Churches today. Even if they were taught and taught accurately, we would see a great thinning out of the membership in the Churches. Your Church would not be exempt as well..
Our study of the first three chapters will reveal why this is so and the character of the Church that we live in for these closing days of the Church age.
We will look at these books in detail at another time, but these six books provide the basis for our misunderstanding of the messages to the seven churches.
The Old Testament focused on "The Law" and the practice of righteousness. Although the Law couldn't save anyone, it served to reveal the knowledge of sin, indicate the relationship that Israel had with God, and ultimately bring them to a faith in their coming Messiah. As we look at their history, there were times when they strived to keep the law, the ordinances, the sacrifices, the temple worship, the feasts, the holy days, etc. This reflected their close relationship with God, their practice of righteousness, keeping the law and the commandments. Under that covenant God's hand of blessing was exhibited upon Israel in a physical sense. On the other hand, there were times when they were not diligent to keep the Law. This resulted in their worship of idols, Israel's practice of unrighteousness, and the judgment of God rather than blessings (via curses) upon Israel in accordance with the terms of the Mosaic covenant.
The correlation that we notice between Israel keeping the law versus not keeping the law paves the way for "False Prophets". These prophets were in business of teaching the Word of God largely for position, for recognition, and most always - for profit. In the New Testament we have the same thing however, it is performed by False Teachers and the teaching is called "false teaching" or "unsound doctrine".
So we can rightly conclude that a close relationship with God and the practice of righteousness and every aspect of it hinges on "Sound Bible Teaching" or "Sound Doctrine" whether observed under the Law or under the New Covenant in which we live. Therefore, we note:
Sound Doctrine =>Righteousness=>Good Works
Under the Law we see:
True Prophets => True Teaching => True Worship =>True God => Righteous Living
False Prophets => False Teaching => False Worship =>False god => Unrighteous Living
Under the New Covenant we see:
True Teachers=>Sound doctrine=>Worship in Truth=>Conform to the image of Christ=>Good Works=>Practice of Righteousness
Therefore, the seven Churches of Revelation are all about "Doctrine". From doctrine proceed all of the attributes of the Christian life whether good or bad. So what Jesus is teaching us in these seven letters is all about doctrine.
One of the best ways to learn something the right way is to observe a practice in the wrong way. This is exactly what Jesus is showing us in these seven letters. Seven examples of wrong doctrine.
Chapter one of the Book of Revelation is an introductory view of our Lord Jesus Christ in his current role with respect to the Church. He approaches the Apostle John who is exiled on the Island of Patmos to present to him his final message to the seven churches. The Apostle John is immediately transferred into the spirit and falls prostrate before Jesus. Jesus strengthens him and begins a narration which describes himself. John is told to write the things that he has seen and send it to the seven churches which are located to the north of Israel, the Roman province of asia minor which is now the modern-day country of Turkey.
Jesus is portrayed in Chapter one as officiating High-Priest arrayed in priestly apparel and head of the Church. Although vastly different in appearance from his earthly ministry because of His Glory, He is the same Jesus who walked the earth with his apostles throughout the land of Judea, taught the multitudes, and healed the sick. He ultimately finished his work on earth by proclaiming himself Savior and Redeemer of all mankind by the sacrifice of Himself to atone for our sins and redeem us to Himself
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
However, this Salvation can ONLY be obtained by Faith in the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"For by GRACE you have been saved through FAITH, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,"
For the Saved, He is the mediator between God and man.
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
In our study of Revelation Chapter 1 we will look closely at the revealed Lord Jesus Christ and his role as Head of His Church.
At this point, we must say that His comments to the seven Churches are in accordance with HIS divine nature which He displays by extending mercy and grace to all who call upon Him. However, He is also the Judge who stands at the door ready to Judge His people when necessary . . .
Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!
Therefore, some of His critical statements regarding members of the Church (His children) can only come from His lips. You and I are not in a position to criticize and condemn our fellow brothers in Christ regardless of which of the Seven churches they are affiliated.
We are indeed privileged to be standing next to Christ, in type, by the words of the Apostle John as HE issues statements of both criticism and encouragement to His people. As the Holy Spirit grants to us realization and understanding of His words, we must recall that He says through the Apostle Paul that,
"There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
The situation we are in as we witness the pictures and words between the Apostle John and Jesus Christ may be compared to a time when as a young child, you witnessed your parent scolding your brother or sister for some misdeed. Although they may have adequately deserved such, you would be ill advised to join your parent in such scolding. Such is the case here.
What this means to us is that it is our gain is to avoid that form of doctrine and works which displeases Him and remain steadfast in the Faith and to His Word. Our responsibility to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is to explain the meaning of His Words and echo Christ's warning which comes from Him, but not with an attitude of condemnation. It will be that many will not heed His warnings and criticisms.
2 Tim 4:3
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
As this WILL be the case for many in the Church, it is our responsibility to simply avoid them . . .
"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the DOCTRINE which you learned, and AVOID them."
A problem can arise when our knowledge of the scriptures in the matter of sound doctrine yields to our flesh and we begin to boast within ourselves. The result of this boasting is a critical and condemning attitude toward our brothers and sisters in Christ who are disobedient to His Word and the Doctrine.
1 Cor 8:1
. . . Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but LOVE edifies.
Then we become guilty before Christ in the following:
" . . . Who are YOU to judge another"s servant? To his own MASTER he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand."
Our attitude must remain one of Love and compassion to those in each of the Seven Churches who do not hold to sound doctrine . . .
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have LOVE for one another."
Revelation chapters 1-3 is important because it reveals unto us the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sound doctrine is the goal of Scripture study by which we come to know the Lord. By knowledge and correct understanding of this particular portion of His Word we are able to alert ourselves to issues of unsound doctrine which do not accurately reflect the true nature of Jesus Christ. That is why sound doctrine is so important. It is DOCTRINE which divides the visible church into seven separate and discrete church entities and are defined by our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him
Secondly, correct understanding of the messages to the seven churches will reveal to us those obstacles which inhibit an unsaved person from becoming a member of Christ's body, the church. For within each of the seven churches there resides both Believers and Unbelievers. That both groups can exist within the framework of the visible church is one of the great mysteries of the church. We will readily observe that Jesus has a message to both groups as He addresses each church.
Before we begin an exposition of each verse in these chapters, a brief overview of The Seven Churches of Revelation is in order to set the stage and prepare a foundation by which we may grasp the meaning of Christ's messages to the Churches. First, the seven churches are listed in numerical order as they appear in Revelation chapters two and three as follows - -
It is important to keep the Churches in numerical order to simplify the correlation between each Church and the Kingdom of Heaven parables found in Matthew chapter 13. We will later identify each Church by number and develop a comparison table by which each Church can be compared to each other for similarities and contrasts.
After reading the first three chapters of Revelation, the following questions generally arise - -
We will attempt to answer these and other questions by beginning with our first observation:
1) Is there any significance to the geographic Church locations?
These seven Churches were located in what was then known as Asia Minor, a Roman province, at the time the Book of Revelation was written. The writing of the book was most likely around A.D. 90, but the exact year is unknown. Today, we know the location of these seven churches as being in the Aegean Region of Western Turkey. These places provided a relatively safe haven for the early Christians and were Roman cities.
While reference is always made to the Seven Churches by name, the actual churches referred to were places of worship, rather than actual church buildings.
The significance of their physical location is not so much where they were located, but where they were NOT located. These churches were not in the land of Israel nor were they associated with the twelve tribes of Israel although there were certainly Jewish Christians who were members. This fact is important, because at the time of the writing of Revelation, the city of Jerusalem had been wiped out, the temple destroyed, Israel is no longer reckoned among the nations, and the Jews are being scattered to the four corners of the earth. Just how many years have passed since this catastrophic event and the writing of the Book of Revelation is open to speculation and debate, but it is certain that it was afterward. This is important, because we can conclude that at the time of this writing, God is not dealing with Israel as a nation anymore, but is dealing with the church.
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
For forty years from approximately 30AD to 70AD God is dealing with both the nation of Israel and His Church. But now at the writing of this Book and continuing up until 1948 and the formation of Israel as a nation, God is dealing solely and exclusively with His people in the Church. These seven Churches do not have property lines which extend into the land of Israel. His church, the mystery kingdom, is not unique to Israel, but is comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. )
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This is not to say that there are not some corresponding similarities which exist between the physical and geographical location of each church and the associated message to that specific church. However, it is beyond the scope of this study to determine if such correlations exist, but I guess that such correlations would only verify and enhance our understanding of the purpose and message to each church. Before such similarities can be observed, it is imperative that we know exactly and accurately what the meaning of the messages mean before such parallels can be drawn. I will leave such a study to others who have the tools, knowledge, and interest to do so.
2) Why are there Seven churches?
The fact that there are seven churches is significant and dates back to the time that Jesus gave the seven Kingdom of Heaven parables in Matthew chapter 13. Those parables gave a pictorial overview of the characteristic nature of each church. These seven parables were given as verbal pictures if you will and served to provide a physical representation of the nature of the seven churches.
The "Physical Nature" of these seven churches would give way to the "Doctrine" of the seven churches as described in Revelation. For in Revelation chapters two and three, Jesus is dealing with the "Doctrine" of the seven churches. He yet includes other verbal pictures to describe the nature of their Doctrine. However, after reading the epistles of the New Testament, we easily determine that Jesus is actually confronting the "Doctrine" and not their physical, appearance, characteristics, or "Nature". However, of a truth - - -
Character is shaped by Doctrine
As an example, consider those Christians who surmise that they must go through, endure, and survive that terrible condition to come upon the earth in the last days called the "Tribulation" period. Such doctrine affects their "Nature" if you will, for we see them gathering and storing food, ammunition, and other survival supplies for such an occurrence.
Perhaps not quite as severe, but any bible doctrine contrary to "Sound Doctrine" causes a corresponding change in the character of a Christian contrary to the nature of Jesus Christ.
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be CONFORMED to the IMAGE of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
"A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained WILL BE LIKE HIS TEACHER.
It is for this reason that Jesus comments and condemns the "Unsound Doctrine" found in these churches. But please note, he condemns their Doctrine, -- not His Children...
There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
So we see the breakup of the church into seven churches parallels that of Israel... For God called the descendants of Abraham to become ONE NATION before him...
2 Samuel 7:23
"And who is like Your people, like Israel, the ONE NATION on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name--and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land--before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods?
But, later that ONE nation became divided (broken) under the reign of the Son of Solomon and became TWO separate nations if you will. There was Israel to the north (ten tribes) and Judah to the south (two tribes). Although God dealt with them individually, He still regarded them as one nation in His sight however - - -.
35 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name):
36 "If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being A NATION before Me forever."
In like manner the ONE FAITH that was given to the church became corrupted and fractured into Seven faiths or seven doctrines if you please. One of the doctrines maintained the One Faith and so six additional doctrines came into existence. This fracture or departure from the "one doctrine" occurred during the ministry of the Apostles and Prophets after the Church was formed after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles confronted and combatted each of these six false or "Unsound Doctrines" throughout the letters (epistles) to the churches.
Not only were the apostles given the authority and commandment by Jesus to teach, encourage, and admonish the Saints in sound doctrine, they also had the POWER to eradicate false or unsound doctrine. We find this in several passages of scripture - - -
1 Corinthians 5
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1 Timothy 1
18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,
20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Although our Lord Jesus deals with each of the seven churches individually, they are still considered as ONE BODY in his sight. He must deal with each to reprove and rebuke the unsound doctrines which exist within the church, but He still considers them as His Church, His body - - -
That is why we see the seven stars being held and being held together in the powerful right hand of our Lord Jesus - - -
He had in His right hand SEVEN STARS, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My (RIGHT) hand.
The fracture of the doctrine into seven unsound doctrines also reveals IDENTIFIABLE OBSTRUCTIONS to "The Faith". These obstructions are of the flesh and not of the spirit. Therefore, on the one hand, these obstructions prevent the "Completeness" of the Christian to conform to the image of Christ. On the other hand, they serve as a roadblock to potential believers in Christ and thus oppose "The Gospel" of salvation which enhances rejection to the ONE gospel of Jesus Christ.
Each church therefore, is actively promoting a fleshly doctrine which appeals to the fleshly nature of man. Therefore, to each of the seven churches, Jesus has a message to the believers in that church and also to the unbelievers in that particular church. This is why our Lord has condemning statements to make to each of the seven churches. It can be noted at this point that the condemning Word to The Church at Philadelphia is implied rather than spoken outright as we shall see.
Therefore, the study of the seven churches is important in knowing how to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers and the specific characteristics of Jesus Christ which can overcome these doubts by producing the necessary conviction. From our "earthly" perspective, how each unbeliever responds to this conviction will determine if that person will be saved or not. From a "heavenly" perspective - - -
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
You will notice in the book of Acts how the Apostles present the Gospel to various groups of Jews and Gentiles in order that the Holy Spirit acting by and through the Word of God brings about conviction of their lost state. Some of course accept the gospel while others oppose the gospel.
2 Cor 2
15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
16 To the one (unbelievers) we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other (believers) the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.
The seven Churches are unique in that they present by example those unique and glorious attributes of Jesus Christ which counter the infiltration, presentation, and effect of false doctrine. Although we know there is one Savior, Jesus Christ, His glorious attributes are personified and presented in scripture as The Bread of Life, The Resurrection, The Way, etc. His glorious attributes must be presented in such a way as to provide the necessary "conviction" required before an unbeliever can come to a conclusion that they "need" a Saviour.
These seven churches are encouraged to reflect the seven major and fundamental attributes of our Lord Jesus Christ which leads to salvation. In contrast, these seven churches expose the seven base and fundamental false doctrines that can infiltrate a Church. Needless to say, any given church throughout history may promote more than one fundamental false doctrine. On the positive, each church should be presenting all the glorious attributes of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ.
By knowing the unique false doctrine that each church is engaged in, we are better equipped to determine the situation of any unbeliever. By this knowledge we can determine which form of false doctrine they are bound and therefore present the ONE gospel of Jesus Christ and highlight His particular attributes which counter that particular false doctrine. You will notice in the Book of Acts how Peter and Paul present the gospel depending on their listeners situation. The ONE gospel message of faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ remains constantly the same, but the presentation of Jesus Christ is tailored so that his Glorious Attribute(s) confront an convict the unbelievers. Compare Peter's gospel presentation to the house of Cornelius compared to Paul's gospel presentation to the people of Athens in Acts 17.
3) Is there a correlation between the Kingdom of Heaven Parables and the Seven Churches?
There is definitely a correlation between the two as we shall see. The seven kingdom of heaven parables as relates to the seven churches are found in Matthew Chapter 13 and include the parables of:
The seven kingdom of heaven parables in Matthew Chapter 13 were told to the Jews in response to their rejection of him by the pharisees, sadducees, scribes and other Jewish rulers from Jerusalem. These people had rejected his teaching dating back to John the Baptist when John was baptizing unto repentance as the story unfolds from the book of Matthew.
The seven kingdom of heaven parables are a prophetic view of the the "nature" of the "Mystery" Kingdom in absence of the King. Our Lord told these parables to hide the fact that the coming Kingdom described in the Old Testament would be postponed. This "Mystery" kingdom would be known to us as the "Church Age" or "Dispensation of Grace". The kingdom that the Jews were looking for is known as the "Age of Righteousness".
During the interlude prior to the setting up of this Kingdom of Righteousness and Jesus begins His rule over the nations from Jerusalem, Jesus will be Lord and Master (King) over a people called out of the world unto himself. He will rule in the Hearts and minds of His people and therefore will not come with observation. Salvation or "new birth" experience comes without any visible observation - -
5 Jesus answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again."
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but CANNOT TELL WHERE IT COMES FROM AND WHERE IT GOES. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
This is what our Lord Jesus was referring to when he said that the Kingdom would come without observation.
12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the KINGDOM of the SON of His love,
14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
The seven kingdom of heaven parables in Matthew Chapter 13 describe in overview the nature of the seven Churches of Revelation. That is to say that there is a direct correlation between these seven parables and the seven churches. Even more astonishing is the fact that the seven parables are a one-for-one match to the seven churches and are presented in the same exact numerical order. That is if we number each sequentially, we have the following:
There are more Kingdom of heaven parables in addition to the ones above, but the seven told in Matthew give an overview of its corresponding church. The other Kingdom of heaven parables found in the remainder of Matthew and the other gospels are applicable to all seven churches and reveal important truths applicable to all the churches.
4) Are these Seven Churches in Existence today?
The Seven Churches described in Revelation chapters two and three are very much alive and well today in type, nature, and characteristics. If we were to take a picture snapshot of each of these seven church "types" throughout history beginning from the time the Book of Revelation was written until this time, we would find that successive snapshots of each Church would be identical for five of the seven churches. Five of the seven churches are the same and have not changed since Apostle John's revelation of them. These churches are:
The reason the snapshots would be the same at any given time is from that the fact that they are in a STATIC state and therefore have not changed from their founding. We know this from their associated parables.
We can see from the above that the situation in the The Church at Pergamos and The Church at Thyatira is NOT in a STATIC state. If we take a picture snapshot at intervals from the first century until now, we notice that the Church is constantly changing due to doctrinal effect and is therefore in a DYNAMIC state of change. The false doctrine and practice of these churches is increasing and therefore these two churches are taking on a new look. That is to say that the respective church characteristics are changing. Each is changing from its original nature to a new and final nature at the completion of the process. False doctrine and practice is the catalyst that is producing an undesirable effect.
As a result, the visible change in characteristic of these two churches will be visible with each successive snapshot. We know this from their corresponding parables.
3) Mustard Seed - The transition from seed to large tree is a continuing and visible process
4) Leaven - The transition from unleavened to leavened is a continuing and visible process
We will confirm through our study that the seven churches do indeed exist today and that the two transition churches are most likely nearing their completion.
The seven churches were prophetic at the time the seven kingdom of heaven parables were told by Jesus. These parables give an overview of the Church the "Mystery Kingdom".
And He said, "To you it has been given to know the MYSTERIES of the KINGDOM of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that "Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.."
These parables were a brand new source of information to the Jews and had no apparent comparison from any Old Testament teaching regarding the Kingdom they were looking for. We now know that this "Mystery Kingdom", the Church was birthed at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit just as our Lord had promised. This "Mystery" kingdom was not what the Jews had in mind - -
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation;
The Jews were looking for a highly visible and impossible to ignore earthly kingdom - -
1 The LORD reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad!
2 Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
3 A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about.
4 His lightnings light the world; The EARTH SEES and trembles.
5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare His righteousness, AND ALL THE PEOPLES SEE HIS GLORY..
However, when John was given the revelation of the seven churches, the churches in those cities were in existence at that time. The fact that one or more of these literal geographic churches may be in existence today may be of historical importance. But this fact has only a minor significance as far as understanding the messages to these seven churches are concerned.
The churches described in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 continue to be in existence IN TYPE until this day. From our perspective, these church descriptions constitute the things which are.
Write the things which you have seen, and THE THINGS WHICH ARE, and the things which will take place after this.
The Historicist view of the Churches of Revelation attempts to map the churches into seven consecutive time segments with associated history dates. Therefore, this timeline is to provide a panorama of the history of the Church from the days of John to the end of the church age. These seven churches define the history of the church from their founding to the end of the church age. This view is entirely incorrect even when tempered with the assumption that all seven churches are and were in existence at all times and the seven time segments represent the PREDOMINATE characteristic of that particular church age. This view too is also incorrect.
5) Who are the Nicolaitans?
The question of the Nicolaitans has been wrestled with for a long time. Actually, the answer is not found by trying to find a historical link to these people. That is not to say that a link cannot be found from which the name originates, but that will only serve to prove who they are within the context of the related passages themselves. We can find out who they are and why our Lord has such a disdain for these folk by looking to the related passages.
If you are a bible student, you have read about the Nicolaitans many times but were unable to make a connection between the corresponding text and the the Nicolaitans. We will examine the nature and work of these folk when we get to our study of the church at Ephesus and the church at Pergamos.
The answer to these questions will be forthcoming as we look at each message in a verse-by-verse study of the passages.
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6) What is the reference to Adultery and Fornication about?
The church at Pergamos and the church at Thyatira are involved in acts of fornication and adultery. Therefore, it is important that we know what the words mean before we get into the detail study of these churches. Up until perhaps twenty or thirty years ago, any bible student would be quick to point out that such activities in the Church are of a Spiritual nature and not a Physical nature. As we approach the completion of this church age, one cannot be quite so sure as these types of activities not only occur within the church, but are promoted including homosexuality.
At this point, I would direct your attention to the topic studies which are available on this website on fornication and adultery before proceeding to the study of the two referenced churches.
7) What is the meaning and significance of each message?
This is where we will begin our study of Revelation to investigate and come to a conclusion as to what the messages to the seven churches mean.
But first, it should be noted that the above discussion serves to orient ourselves in preparation of our study of the seven churches of Revelation. We must ask the Lord to open our hearts and minds to the great truths in these passages as we study His WORD.
I wish I could say that this section of Revelation study is complete, but this study serves only as an entry point into correctly understanding and viewing this particular section of God's Holy Word. It is hoped that Spirit filled and discerning Bible Teachers and Preachers can expound on these passages and present them in a more clear and understanding way than my attempt has accomplished.
Please continue in succession to the remainder of this Topical Bible study series as we begin our journey into God's wonderful WORD.
. . . "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psalms 119:105)
. . . "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalms 119:11)