“Saying, I (Jesus Christ) 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.”
“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;”
When John the Apostle sat imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos in approximately 95 A.D. for his testimony of Jesus Christ, he was personally approached by the Lord and told to write what later became known as the Book of Revelation. While Revelation is positioned as the last book in the Bible, it was not the last book written (John went on to write the Book of John AFTER he was released from Patmos and went to Ephesus where he reportedly died). But what makes this book so significant is that it is by far the most prophetic book of the entire Bible (approximately 95% is prophetic) AND it is the only book in the Bible we are told we will be Blessed if we read it and keep those things written at the forefront of our lives.
“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: FOR THE TIME IS AT HAND (capitals mine).“
While I have written on this subject before, I recently had some thoughts which I found interesting and which greatly enhanced my belief that when Jesus told John to write what he had seen and what was, He also told him to write “…which shall be hereafter.” This declares it’s prophetic nature. He then next told John to write to 7 of his churches. Now, let me remind you of a couple of things to put this all into perspective. First, during John’s ministry he previously founded a number of churches in Asia Minor. Jesus specifically told him to write to SEVEN of them, not six, not eight. Seven, which Biblically is associated with the number of completion.
Secondly, Jesus told John what to write and John then proceeded to give Jesus’s praise AND warnings to each of the first six in varying ways. The last church of the Laodiceans, Jesus only had a warning for with no praise for what they were doing. To remind you of the praise and warnings Jesus gave for each, along with my interpretation, see below:
Church of Ephesus (aka the Formal Church)
Praise – “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; And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” Revelation 2:2-3
Warning – “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 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.” Revelation 2:4-5
In other words – Jesus commends the Church of Ephesus for their faith and patience and for staying within the doctrine which He taught but He also warns them because they have strayed from their beginning love and teachings of Jesus.
Church of Smyrna (aka the Fearful Church)
Praise – “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. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:9-10
Warning – NONE
In other words – The Church of Smyrna lived through persecution and many were martyred for their beliefs. Jesus never rebuked them and only told them to continue without fear and remain faithful to His teachings.
Church of Pergamos (aka the Faltering Church)
Praise – “I know they 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.” Revelation 2:13
Warning – “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.” Revelation 2:14-15
In other words – While this church saw great exponential growth, Jesus chides them for holding on to and teaching false doctrines.
Church of Thyatira (aka the False Church)
Praise – “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.” Revelation 2:19
Warning – “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. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not.” Revelation 2:20-21
In other words – This church was filled with false teachers who corrupted Christianity and while He accuses some of fornication (the followers of Jezebel), He does tell the others to hold fast until He Returns.
Church of Sardis (aka the Fruitless Church)
Praise – “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.” Revelation 3:2-3
Warning – “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.” Revelation 3:3
In other words – There appears to be a pattern of walking away from the teaching of Jesus with less faith and corruption of His teachings. He goes further to tell them that while they appear to be alive, they are dying and their works are not perfect.
Church of Philadelphia (aka the Feeble Church)
Praise – “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8
Warning – “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.” Revelation 3:9
In other words – To me, this is one of the most meaningful churches. They are committed to spreading His message to the entire world through evangelistic endeavors and missions to faraway places. Do you remember when He said His Word must be spread throughout the world, and then He would return? This church is extremely significant to Bible prophecy!
Church of Laodicea (aka the Fashionable Church)
Praise – NONE
Warning – ” I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” Revelation 3:15-17
In other words – This church is the LAST church Jesus told John to write to. They no longer are teaching the truth of His Word but instead are blinded by apostasy and their material wealth. Compare the picture below and I believe you can see the difference in this:
One of the things I discovered when researching Revelation 2 & 3 was that Jesus told the first SIX churches living in various areas what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong. But, to the church of Laodicea, He told the PEOPLE of that area what they were doing wrong. In other words, He spoke to HIS very own six churches but then told the people about THEIR church and what was wrong with it. He never described the Church of Laodicea as His Church!
Okay, remember when Jesus specifically told John to write to his 7 churches already in existence when John was in captivity on the island of Patmos and He said to “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter:”? I personally take this to mean these seven churches were to be examples of what they were prior to the time of Revelation; what they were at that exact moment; and, what they will look like at some time in the future. Only by reading it this way is there a relevancy to church history and what we recognize going on in the churches today, or in the 2,000 year “…hereafter”. Don’t forget, the Book of Revelation is 95% prophetic so there was meaning at that time but that meaning would continue on into the future to give all a view of the history of the Church.
With that said, many Biblical scholars have gone back and looked at the characteristics of each of these churches in THE Church age and have assigned a chronological order of their existence and relevance. I have assembled their overall beliefs and have listed them below:
Ephesus – Apostolic Church aka the age of the Apostles 100 A.D.
Smyrna – Persecuted Church – 100 to 316 A.D.
Pergamos – World Church beginning with Constantine the Great – 316 to 800 A.D.
Thyatira – Medieval Church – 800 to 1517 A.D.
Sardis – Rise of the state Church – 1517 to 1750 A.D.
Philadelphia – Missionary Church, i.e. the Perfect Church – 1750 to 1900 A.D.
Laodicea – Apostate Church, and reflects the coming judgement of God – 1900 A.D. to ???
Please do not misunderstand what I am attempting to say. As I was reading the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation and knowing how most Biblical scholars believe the history outlined above, I was struck with the notion there is no doubt we are currently living in the time of the Church of Laodicea. These are churches which teach bible stories, not Biblical truths. There are today many churches that DO NOT teach the Word of God. For example, they don’t teach Bible prophecy even though it comprises 35% of the entire Bible. Many believe it is too controversial, confusing and, perhaps frightening. Instead, they teach good works as a path to salvation. But Jesus told us of the things which will happen in the Last Days so we would know what to expect and to be prepared. Each and every one of us needs to evaluate our own places of worship based upon the Praise and Warnings Jesus told John to relay to his churches. And notice what He said at the end of each statement to the churches:
“He that hath am ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13 and yes, even 3:22
While I believe the Laodicean Church is the predominate church today, I also believe each of the seven churches continue to exist in some form or manner in this world. Even though we may be living during the Laodicean age, there are still a few churches in the world which perform under persecution, and others that are still out spreading the True Word of Jesus, Unfortunately, unless you base your evaluation of your church against the Praise and Warnings by Jesus, you may very well be misled by Satan. Afterall, Jesus gave NO praise to this final church.
“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.”
WOW!!! Chronologically, the Bible tells us about the “perfect” Church of Philadelphia and then tells us next that God will keep us from the “…hour of temptation” (Tribulation). Obviously, I believe this is a direct reference to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. As the first 6 churches diminish in retrospect to today’s world, and the final Church of Laodicea becomes the predominate “religion”, God will Rapture the true Believers, alive and dead, in the twinkling of an eye. At that point, the only church remaining will be the Laodicean Church and their “lukewarm” teachings. Again, interestingly after the praises and warnings to the 7 churches, the word “church” is not mentioned once again in the Book of Revelation until 22:16. While the word “church” is used 19 times in the first 3 chapters of Revelation, it is not used ONCE more until the very end of the book. How can anyone dispute this?
“After this I looked up, and behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.”
To condense what I have written above, Jesus told John to write to seven of his churches as to what was, what is and what will be afterwards. To each of them He gave notice of His pleasure and displeasure as to what they were doing. When speaking to the seventh church, He strongly condemned them for their lack of actually teaching His Word of God but teaching them instead about their material success which came without the approval of God. When this church (Laodicea) is the dominant church in the world, God then Raptures His true Believers so they won’t have to endure the coming Wrath of God.
I am personally so excited to be part of the Church of Philadelphia, knowing that the day will come when we Believers will be saved from God’s Wrath. In order to be part of this church, all we must do is accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, acknowledge He died for our sins and rose for us in order for us to defeat death. Repent and ask for forgiveness of your sins and understand when you do, the Holy Spirit will dwell within you and will help you to better understand His Word. But I can’t leave it there. We are all also charged in one way or another to “…therefore comfort one another with these words”. Until the day comes when we are called home, we must all continually share His Word with our friends and family. In that way we will gain His Words of Praise and rewards in Heaven, like He praised the Church of Philadelphia. Simply by observing all the Satanic chaos in the world today, we must all be aware we are not far away from that specific day. Prepare and be aware, and PLEASE share His Promise of Salvation!!
May God Bless you as we near Jesus’s Promise to keep us from the “…hour of tribulation”.