The Letters to The Seven Churches Summary. THE CHOICE
4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Gracebeunto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ,who isthe faithful witness,andthe first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to himbeglory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and theyalsowhich pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.REVELATION 1:4-8
It is difficult not to be struck by the value of this passage in the scriptures. Its language is high and lifted up, it speaks of is author in the highest terms imaginable and it relates its purpose as eternally valuable.
We read from the outset that this is a document intended to be read, to have as its readership a wide collection of peoples, all in fact who have ears to hear what the spirit says unto the churches.
It is an historical treatise and as such has a value that is beyond compare to any other form of instruction, those of you who do not like or appreciate the understanding of history need to repent of that thought completely, primarily because the entire Bible is a book of history and God has seen fit to design our minds to gain from the understanding of it.
It was George Santayana in his book Life of Reason who said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Many variants of this quote has been used over the years Santayana brings but one consequence of neglecting history.
The introduction of the author of these ancient letters is not one filled with flatteryas we see speakers or writers introduced on stage or in books, it is the introduction of the reality of the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings and the hope of eternal life himself.
There is no puffing up or false boasting in the introduction of the author, no unwarranted exaltation simply for the purpose of exciting the attention of those who hear.
No beloved, this is the one to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confessthat Jesus Christ is indeed, now and forever, LORD.
It’s somewhat difficult not to be in AWE of who it is that writes unto the Church, that indeed writes unto us, the letter is from him which is, and which was, and which is to come.
Yes the same IS one whom the prophet Michah writes “whose going forth have been from old, from everlasting” (Mic 5:2).
Micah writes of him “which is” but the apostle writes of him also “… which was”, that is the man whom Isaiah remembers “hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (Isa 53:4) the entire chapter written in the past tense, yes this is he “which was”.
But to know with certainty that a time yet future to John’s writing would the time when he which isand he which was would also be he which is to come, we have it here in Revelation by John, the beloved of the Lord.
He is the “faithful and true witness’, “the first begotten of the dead”, he is the “prince of all the kings of the earth”, yes, even those who today despise his reign can’t prevent his rule over them, Jesus Christ is “the prince of all the kings of the earth” and to him they owe their allegiance.
But those kings are overthrown, because the Lord that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, …hathmade uskings and priestsunto God. Who could speak of this if it was not found in scripture? And is this our achievement?
It is Christ who lived and diedthat we might have life to the glory of the father. So necessarily it is to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.
How incredible an introduction, it would be absolutely fantastic if it were not true, flattery itself would not describe it, blasphemy however would, if it were not true of Christ.
Daniel is he who had before seen the Lord come with the clouds of heaven and John sees him also as if he is even now on his way, “and every eye shall see him” yes also those “which pierced him”.
But all this you can read for yourself, what I am saying you have already heard said, you see it here written, but like me you need to be reminded who Christ is.
This is the author who stamps his authority on the letters sent to the Churches. These letters are not sealed with seven seals, they are not private, they do not need to be opened only at a certain time, they were always open letters, so He that hath an ear, mayhear what the Spirit saith unto the churches
This is THE AUTHOR
The purpose for his writing are many and varied, but he which is and he which was and he which is to comegave to John the apostle the command through which we might glean some understanding.
John was in the Isle of Patmos on the Lords day(v 9), and he was there only for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. John was exiled to this Island having survived persecution on the mainland, the Lord saw fit to have him see out his days here for his own purpose.
But, in the spirit he hears a voice from behind him, a great voice as a trumpet (v10), and as the sound of many waters(v15), and when John had seen him, he fell “at his feet as dead” (v17), lets take up the text at verse 17;
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: 18Iamhe 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;
The purpose for the writing is not given to John, only instruction is provided, and upon John is the expectation of faithfulness in the work of his labor.
Never is the work commanded of the Lord to you and I a feeble work, it has a purpose beyond our understanding, beyond comprehension, eternal in the heavens and in such we are to trust and believe.
After Peter was told by the Lord Jesus of how he should honor the Lord by his death, he asked Jesus respecting John saying “Lord, what shall this man do”
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, whatis thatto thee? follow thou me. (John 21:21-22)
Well the Lord had a purpose for lengthening the life of John, we have both is Gospel account, his epistles x 3 and his apocalypse.
If you are called to be a hand in the body of Christ then be a strong hand in the Lord, the head will not ever say of the hand it has no need of you, the body of Christ would be so much weaker without the hand.
Beloved there is no insignificant work in the Lord and he may not provide the reason for the work until the work is completed. John, the last surviving apostle did not ask the reason for such letters, the first of which is to the Church of Ephesus where he himself was understood to have pastored.
Good and strong in doctrine was this Church, but it left its first love, a sorrow to the Lord, and one which will cost it a lampstand before the Lord.
So where then do we find the purpose for the writings of the letters?
Partly in the letters themselves, partly in the historical outcomes of those churches, partly for our own knowledge and encouragements, but also as a proximity indicator of the latter days. I will explain this shortly.
EPHESUS (chp 2)
The Ephesian Church was encouraged in its works, labour and patience, in its trial of liars and its hatred of the ruling hieratical system of Church government epitomised in the way of the Nicolaitans. But it left its first love.
The purpose of its writing seems clear to be one of encouragement and of warning.
Such we see in our own lives also, beginning well in the Lord, trusting in his word and willing to stand on its truth without apology.
But striving for the purity of the word of the Lord and a focus on our labour for the Lord, we may leave the love of the Lord.
“do the first works” we are commanded, just as it was for the first Church of the seven.
Leaving our first love, the simple response by the Lord is to return, to Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works(2:5)
Smyrna has with it an acknowledgement of its suffering for the Lord, (it’s very name is translated Myrrh, a spice used for burial in the Bible) what a joy it must be that he for whom they suffered much, knows their worksand tribulation (2:9), is aware of their physical poverty and yet wonderfully reveals to them of their inestimable wealth in parenthesis (but thou art rich v9).
Interesting that it is what is parenthetical that is revealing of reality.
Do your physical trials overwhelm you? Does temporal poverty remove your eternal joy?
Tribulation and persecution is not removed by the Lord, but he says;
be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (2:10)
Though Pergamos held and did not deny the name of the Lord yet we find it a Church of compromise, with it the Lord making clear they must repent and if not he will deal with them even with the sword of his mouth (2:17).
What things do you compromise your faith in? Is this church one describing you?
Have you ever considered your entertainments and distractions, utilising them is bad enough but what type are they? Do you cringe when you hear a foul word but shrug your shoulders when blasphemy is employed?
Beloved nothing is as true an indicator of a move toward a Pergamian heart than compromise.
Does your job force you to attend or accept things contrary to your faith? If not yet, it soon certainly will, in your dissent you may find yourself subject to Re-Education, decide now how you will respond when it comes.
So too the Church at Thyatira, famous for its works and its love of the beloved, built on the compromise of the Pergamian Church, having decided to accept and adhere to the forced compromise of its culture, and turned its stumbling block into full-fledged Idolatry.
For the sake of life and liberty it justified idolatry and joined itself to Jezabel and seduced the people of the Lord to eat that sacrificed to Idols.
The working guilds, the most plentiful variety in all Asia minor being found in Thyatira, had with its working unions idolatrous feasts to which all need attendand the Church of Thyatira not only attended, but set up its own Guild.
Tell me, have you ever been given a political directive in your job? Something you either had to sign or perform that was against your own standing on a matter?
I recall the airlines constantly acknowledging the aboriginals as we landed in certain cities, the air stewards having to add political retraining statements even on their flights. I recall my sister standing firm and saying she will not do so, it was not easy.
The Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna and Pergamos cannot be identified with any specific group today, but those of the remaining four Churches addressed, beginning with Thyatira, certainly can.
Thyatira being a just representative of the seedbed of Roman Catholicism with its patent levels of idolatry and fornications, so evident in its past and present history.
The Lord purposing repentance in his letter to them
Sadly Sardis is almost beyond redemption, representing the Protestant Church and having a name that it lives, the Lord clearly stating it is dead.
Great was its rise to fame, great are the names representing it, but it was dead while it lived. A few are recognised to have not defiled themselves, but the Church that was the mother of Denominationalism is a dead Church.
Warned of the Lord that there is a book of life, and place the fear of eternal damnation for any name blotted out of it.
Have you lifted up and glorified the names of men rather than the word of God?
Have you forgotten how you have received and heard concerning your salvation?
Again the Lord charges repentance.
The second Church of commendation, representing itself historically as the small churches throughout history that did not join themselves with either the Roman Church nor the Protestant, stood apart independently and held to the word of the Lord.
The Cathari, the Waldensians, the Albigenses, the Churches of the Valleys of Piedmont in Italy, the Anabaptists, the Baptists of the past, the Hugonoughts, Hussite’s, the Moravians, Puritans, Dissenters and many small groups of independent Churches, who preached the Gospel of eternal life and made missions their mission.
These are identified by the burning hearts of the people for the Lord, willing to give up the comforts of their temporary homes, to bring the joy of an eternal home to many.
Purpose of encouragement in this letter given them, to hold fast, to be reminded of the crown that will come and their keeping from the hour or trial that will come upon the world.
Does your heart burn for the Lost, are you frightened for them? Do you love the people of the world enough to go out of your way to comfort them? To pray for them? To do what you can to encourage them to seek the Lord?
Are you willing to separate yourself from the things of the world?
If so, the Philadelphian heritage is your own.
The most pathetic of the seven, the last church of the seven, identified today as the Contemporary Church. Many are the names its seeks to have franchised for its own glory. Many are the congregants who frequent its Gold laced, termite infested halls.
The opposite of Smyrna, its physical decadence betrays its spiritual poverty,
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: (3:17)
The only hope for those within is to come out.
The purpose of the Lord in this letter is to let them know that it is he who is knocking from without. Those who this day are being stirred up, those who are this day discomfortedby the easy believism and the flattery of a pompous, self-serving Church, who demonstrates nothing of the self-sacrificing Saviourin whose name they identify themselves, are being called out by Christ himself, and he wants them to know that.
Is that where you are at today, do you think that gain is Godliness, in need of nothing. All that you do is done on a practical level and to be seen of others?
Are you jealous of the outward prosperity of the Pentecostals, its entertainments and music, its big screens and the stage fame of its leaders?
There is a PURPOSE for these letters, each as distinct as the Churches themselves, all however addressed to those who have ears to hear.
There was a natural progression of the Churches in Asia minor from the Isle of Patmoss if you were a traveller with seven letters to bring to the attention of these seven Churches.
We had included in past newsletters of their respective locations. We saw the order they are located, perfectly in line with the order they appear in the scriptures if you were to travel to them.
What is found to be equally astounding is that each of the respective churches addressed were found to timestamp the historical sequence of prominent church periods.
The Ephesiantype Church being the shortest in the first century AD, the Smyrna Churchlasting technically till the fourth centuries council of Nicea, Pergamonthence beginning and lasting to the quasi-official beginning of the Roman Catholic Papal Church (Thyatira) from the seventh to the sixteenth century, the official beginning of the Protestant era, known as the Church of Sardis.
The wonderful establishment of the Philadelphian Churchtype which was a slow burnfor many centuries, concurrently alongside the earlier periods, came to full flameafter the 16thcentury when the Word of God was translated in the greatest number of languages,from being mostly locked, against the popular world, for nigh on a thousand years.
Revivals broke out around the world as Gospel-sold missionaries dedicated their lives to the work of the Lord. Knowing with certainty the Bible’s teaching, having it in the language of the people. The confidence and witness of the Bibles everlasting value began rolling revivals from the 17thto the early 20thcenturies.
The culture bloomed, true music filled the world by the works of men never again seen, Tens of thousands of the most glorious hymns were written and sung. Art, true art by true artists coloured the landscape of the world, Science had with it a growth in understanding never before seen, men whose shoulders stand all the science of this day.
The period became known as the Renaissance Period.
But this success also brought with it a self confidence in man and the age of rationalism began. Leonardo Davinci’s Vitruvian Manset the scene for Beauty, Knowledge, science, mathematics and artistic endeavour. Confidence that man alone can work out the history of the world and his own purpose, began to cause doubt in the value and knowledge of God.
The Period known as The Enlightenment began. But contrarily, the belief in man above God began a new dark age as eyes again began to close.
In the nineteenth century, together with Darwin’s Origin of Species, Rome’s Counter Reformation began to have its effect on Christianity and with it, the Revised versionof the Bible of 1881 appeared.
After twenty years the franchise was past to the United States with the 1901 American Standard Version. Philadelphian Church was coming to the close and the Laodicean age was born, also known as the post modern period of history.
Truth was now relative and no longer absolute. If the Bible can be so changed, then where is our constant?
The Bible no longer trusted, Pastors to this day creating doubt in its parts and thereby disenabling the whole, where would the Church now find their foundation but in the opinions of the majority.
The name Laodicea means, rule or government of the laity.
Bill Hybels was the first to issue surveys to his Church to find out what THEY wanted to see and hear, it was their opinions that mattered not the Bible.
This is the journey of the Churches in history.
Is the last Church of Revelation the last Church period?
Does that Church represent the last Church type of History?
We spoke of the Laodicean Church last week, we aligned it well with that spoken of by Paul to Timothy saying in 2 Tim 3:1-7;
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We see evidence of this today
But Peter also speaks of the last days in 2 Peter 3:3-4 (Notice 2 Tim 3 and 2 Peter 3)
3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue asthey werefrom the beginning of the creation.
The coming of the Lord Jesus Christhas been the comfortof the biblical Church for thousands of years, but in the last days it would be scoffed at. The premillennial Rapture of the Churchis the most maligned doctrine of the Bible today among professing Christians.
Christians who no longer have a final authority in the Bible but in the precepts and opinions of men.
Jude speaks to the spiritualism and mockers of the last days, those who live after the flesh a picture that perfectly matches the search for a final authority apart from the Bible.
Read with me from verse 8 (we could easily have started from verse 3, so 2 Tim 3, 2 Pet 3 and Jude 3)
8 Likewise also thesefilthydreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. 10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. 12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: cloudsthey arewithout water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. 14And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hardspeecheswhich ungodly sinners have spoken against him. 16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swellingwords, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. 17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. 19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
The ever-feeling emotions of the Charismatic and Pentecostals is perfectly pictured here. “Sensual”, being driven by Music and not Mind, their consciences seared as with a hot iron as they are moved by sound into altered states of consciousness, trusting experience and emotion.
Each determining his or her own separate experience as TRUTH, These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.
The progress of the Churches is the proximity of the age of the Church coming to a close. It is the sign of the last of the last days.
How long? Till the fullness of the Gentiles be come in(Rom 11:25)
I don’t know, there is a number of gentiles to be saved that only the Lord knows, a number that will designate their ‘fullness’. Somebody here this morning might be holding us all up!!!
Pergamos, Thyatira, Philadelphia and Laodicea, ultimately these are the Churches that run concurrently to the end.
It will be one of these Churches through which each person claiming Christ will align their allegiance.
Sadly, there are elements of each of these Churches in almost all Churches today to one degree or another.
To know where you stand individually, several question need to be considered.
- Are you willing to compromise your faith for the sake of appearance and convenience?
- Are you willing to give yourself over to a system of effort to gain eternal life?
- Will you gain a burden for the lost and be willing to subject your life to the advancement of their eternal life? Will you be willing to make yourself poor yet make many rich?
- Or is life all about you? Are you the most important person in your life and are therefore willing to do all things, spiritual and material, to enjoy temporal comforts?