The Seven Churches Of Asia
Chapters 2 & 3 are descriptions of the condition and state in each of the seven local churches. In each letter, Christ is introduced and certain aspects of His person germane to the local assembly is revealed. The condition of the local assembly is stated. The church is commended or condemned. A recommendation is made and an invitation is extended to the local assembly to overcome with respect to the soon coming of the Lord. “He that has ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” In relation to the coming of the Lord, any local assembly will fall into one of these seven categories. It also refers to individual Christians. Local assemblies as well as individual Christians could fall into one of these seven categories. The seven churches could be further broken down into three categories: faithful and uncompromising as exemplified by the church of Philadelphia and perhaps the church Of Smyrna, the dead church or Christian as exemplified by the church of Sardis, and the unfaithful and compromising church or Christian exemplified by the church of Thyatira. Five of the churches are unfaithful and compromising. The majority of believers are unfaithful and compromising. Few are spiritually dead though they exhibit all the paraphernalia of religion. Few are faithful and uncompromising. The Church of Philadelphia and perhaps the Churchof Smyrna depending on one’s view, are the only one or two local assemblies which received unqualified commendations. Such will be the conditions in the churches and the state of individual Christians prior to and into the 70th week of Daniel. In the light of these, it behoves us to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith, and to upgrade accordingly.
Revelation is a book of sevens. There are seven churches, seven benedictions, seven heads, seven mountains, seven horns and seven eyes, seven thunders, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven kings, etc. Seven is the number of perfection and completeness. God is about to bring history to a consummate end. There are some that interpret the seven churches to represent seven church ages. This cannot be biblically substantiated. Who determines when one age ends and the other begins? What are the criteria? There are others that teach that each of the seven church correspond to the seven years of the 70th week. This view too, like the first cannot be biblically substantiated. It will turn the chronology of the End Times on its head, as it would mean that the last church, the church of Laodecia shall be here till the last year of the 70th week which perhaps would be the sixth trumpet judgment. Why the lukewarm Church instead of the dead Church, the Church of Sardis. This kind of interpretation does violence to the Scriptures. It is biblically unjustified.
The fact that five of the seven churches are unfaithful and compromising, one is spiritually dead, means that the churches must be purified in order to make them raptureable. The faithful and uncompromising Church, the Church of philadelphia and perhaps the Church of Smirna are offered protection within the sphere of the Great Tribulation. The unfaithful and compromising churches will suffer the full brunt of the reign of terror by the antiChrist in order to be purged, purified, and cleansed for Rapture. Protection is not automatic, but rather based on one’s understanding of the times and obedience to God’s instructions concerning perseverance. God promised the faithful Church, the Church of Philadelphia, “Because you have kept the word of my patience ( my instructions concerning perseverance ), I ( God ) shall keep ( protect not exempt ) you from the hour of peirasmos ( trial, test, temptation ) which will come upon all the world ( Rev.3:10 ). The hour of temptation, test or trial is the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist. It is egregious for any minister of the gospel to teach the believers that they will not have to face the antiChrist. That will be setting up for destruction by the robotic images ( beasts of the Earth ) of the antiChrist.
The Faithful And Uncompromising Believers
The faithful and uncompromising believers are exemplified by the Church of Philadelphia. The Church Of Philadelphia is the only one that received unqualified commendations and no condemnations. They have obeyed God’s instructions concerning perseverance. They know the times and epochs. They have an eye on the word as well as what is going in the world. They travel light. They are not burdened with the cares and pleasures of this world. They know they are pilgrims in this world on their passage to heaven. They know when to drop out of society. They have built safe havens. They have procured food, medicine, and other supplies. This is how God will protect them from the hour of temptation, the Great Tribulation which shall come upon the whole world.
A segment of them, after they have put their families in safe havens would elect to go out to preach to others not to take the mark of the Beast. It is not only that they have refused the mark of the Beast, they persuade others not to accept to be branded with the mark of the Beast. The antiChrist shall be very angry and offended with them. He shall give them a special kind of punishment, death by beheading. The Greek word is cephalizo. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” ( Revelation 20:4 ). They shall be raised from the dead on the first day of the Millennium. The Greek scholar Robert Gundry tells us the the tense of the verbs living and reigning occur at the same time.
The rest of the faithful and uncompromising believers shall be delivered out of the hour of temptation ( test, trial ) by being taken out of it in the Rapture. The Greek is tereo ek which connotes being taken out of the midst of trial or tribulation. “And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” ( Revelation 7:13-17 ).
The Unfaithful And Compromising Belivers
The unfaithful and compromising believers are those believers who have not been careful to obey and follow God’s instruction concerning perseverance. The majority of the seven churches, 5-6, if one views the Church Of Smyrna as unfaithful and compromising. Their only error was that they allowed into the local assembly those who claim to be Jews but in actual fact were of the synagogue of Satan. If one views these Jews as members of Jewish Synagogue in the city of Smyrna who opposed the Church in Smyrna, then this Church like the Church Of Philadelphia have unqualified commendation. The areas of compromises in the churches are: the lost of first love ( 2:4 ), fear of suffering and persecution ( 2:19), doctrinal defection ( 2:14,15 ), moral compromise and departure ( 2:20), spiritual deadness ( 3:1,2 ), inability to persevere ( 3:11 ), and lukewarmness ( 3:15,16 ). These believers do not know the times and epochs. They comprise in one area or the other. They are not prepared. They are not faithful, and they are not watchful ( Matt.24:42-52 ). They are fruitful but to a limited extent ( Matt.13:8 ).
These believers have no protection from the persecution by the antiChrist because they have not observed God’s instructions concerning perseverance. However, most ofthem will not take the mark of the Beast. The majority of the believers that shall be killed, the fifth seal martyrs ( Rev.6:9-11 ) will come from this group. Some of these believers will turn out to be giants of the faith. They will stand for the word of God and their testimony in Jesus and die for it. We must not forget that there is a complement of believers to be killed. It is a secret number known only to the Lord. The secret things belong to God (Deut.29:29 ). When that number is complete, God will cut short the Great Tribulation by the antiChrist with cosmic and celestial disturbances in order to save some saints allow for rapture. If those days were not cut short, no flesh shall be saved, but for the elects sake, they shall be cut short ( Matt.24:22 ).
Interestingly, those to be killed have been chosen in eternity past, so also those to be taken into captivity. “ If anyone is destined to be killed with the sword, with the sword, the one shall be killed: if anyone is destined into captivity, intocaptivity the one goes. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” ( Rev.13:10 ). This however does not preclude human responsibility. We are in partnership with God. Divine sovereignty does not invalidate human responsibility, but rather coöperates with it in order to accomplish divine goals.
The Dead Christians
The dead Christiansas exemplified by the Church Of Sardis are those who outwardly profess Christ but are spiritually dead. They have all the paraphernalia of Christianity but not the life of the Son Of God. They call Jesus Lord, Lord, but they do not obey. They know nothing about God’s will for their lives and are not careful to walk in the light of his word. Majority of them will take the mark of the Beast without bathing an eye. They are so much into the world and the world into them. However there is a segment of them that will repent and accept Jesus as their Lord and die for their faith in Him. This will be an uphill task. We must begin to examine ourselves now, make necessary adjustments, so that we may not be caught off guard.