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The Seven Churches Of The Book Of Revelation Religion Essay

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

This prophecy was given to the apostle John around 90A.D, which was long after the early church had powerfully proclaimed the gospel. Most of what the apostle John saw in his vision was prophetic and for this present age. Although some of the information concerning the seven churches in Asia was meant for John's lifetime, it was prophetic and meant for future generations of Christians as well.

Those who first proclaimed the gospel as instructed by Jesus went throughout the world, but they made a point to go to wherever the tribes of Israel were scattered among the nations. These people did a great work and established many congregations of God who practiced the faith with varying degrees of zeal. When the work of the early church was complete, the church vanished from the world's scene as a powerful entity. From the context of what is recorded in the scriptures and secular history about the demise of the early church and what is written about the elect of God and these seven churches in the Book of Revelation, it is clear that these churches represent congregations of God and/or groups of individuals who exist as real entities during the time just before Christ's return.

Although all seven of these prophetic churches participate in the proclaiming of the gospel at the end of this age, all expect one have major spiritual problems that, if not corrected, will bring the wrath of Jesus Christ upon them. In an attempt to cause these individuals to wake up to their sins and spiritual lethargy so that they will repent and be saved from eternal death, Jesus Christ will severely test them.

Seven churches in the book of Revelation can be understood in four ways:-

Seven literal churches in Asia minor

Seven types of churches that can exist in anytime in church history

Seen types of churches that will exist when God's plan nears completion

Seven overlapping periods of church history from the birth of the church to the rapture [1] 

2.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS (not lasting)

This describes the church that has lost its focus; the backsliding church. Jesus describes Himself as the ever-present help in their midst. Jesus approved believers in this church for: hard work, perseverance, intolerance of wickedness, testing of false claims and hatred of Nicolaitans' practices. Nicolaitans referred to a group of people who claimed one could be a Christian and practice all kind of immorality. Jesus rebuked them for forsaking the first love. Possible reasons for this are work of God being central rather than the person of Christ. They started by defending the gospel and then lived for the argument.

Problem

Although the Ephesians do not tolerate wickedness, are solidly against evil and hate idolatry and immorality they lose their first love, which is the love of the Father, his Son, his truth, and their fellow man. They become rigid to the point of self-righteousness and impose their own standards over God's righteous standards. They forget their awesome calling and the importance of the Father's royal law of love.

The Ephesians seems to forget that a major part of their calling and mission is to grow in grace, knowledge and love for the things of God. They lose their intense love and zeal for God and have fallen into apathy at the final call to battle.

2.2 Warning and counsel

"Repent!! Identify where you went wrong and put it right or else you will suffer the consequences." (Rev 2:5)

Jesus warns them to rekindle their love and zeal for God and his ways or he will remove their candlestick. This is an extremely serious warning. Because the candlestick symbolizes the entire Ephesians group, Jesus is saying that he will remove them from among His followers and because a candlestick also represents the truth, he will remove the truth of God from their hearts and minds; thereby, he will take away their eternal reward and position in the Family and Kingdom of God. Without spiritual light a person dies spiritually and will be thrown into the Lake of fire. Therefore, anyone who has accepted the Father's call to salvation had better take their calling very seriously. Although the Ephesians do many positive things, they do not maintain their first love. As far as Jesus is concerned, they are not fit for his Family and Kingdom. Ephesians who let their love die as a result of becoming rigid in their belief systems and their own way of doing things must repent or they will die spiritually and eternally.

2.3 Apostolic Age in Church History

Christ was the centre at the beginning legalism but Ebionitism (denying the Deity of Christ, salvation by keeping the Jewish law), Gnosticism (closely tied to pagan philosophies and "mystery" religions) were added. [2] 

3.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA

Smyrna was described in day as the "Most beautiful city in the world" [3] 

The city of Smyrna was rich in architecture and culture. Smyrna comes from the word used for the spice "myrrh" which was used to embalm the dead. The wise men brought myrrh to Jesus at His birth, perhaps as a prophecy of His death for all mankind.

This period is associated with the persecution in the Roman Empire that become wide spread and at times intense from the end of the first century until about A.D 313

Things happening in and to the church which the Lord knows about (Rev2:9) are

Tribulation and poverty in worldly terms (but the Lord sees spiritual richness)

3.1 Counsel (v10)

Not to be afraid even though you see the circumstances are getting worse.

Promise.

Some of spiritual Smyrna will suffer imprisonment for ten days, during a time of intense persecution that will come to an end. However, in the ancient world, imprisonment was just a prelude to being executed.

Christ is telling those of Smyrna that he and His Father demand absolute loyalty even in the face of death. Christ warns those of Smyrna not to give up but to remain steadfast in the faith and become overcomers through their persecution, imprisonment, and physical death on order to obtain the crown of eternal life.

3.3 Early Church Age in Church History

Under imperial Rome, particularly under Emperor Decius, persecution which had been localized became empire wide. 10 such periods are recorded in secular history.

Martyrs were first admired and then venerated Polycarp was martyred at Smyrna and each year the church gathered at his grave for a celebration of his death, led to special "saint's day" and praying to saints for help. [4] 

4.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF PERGAMOS (Divorced)

Pergamos was the political and religious center of Asia Minor. Pergamos had dedicated a high altar to Zeus and a temple to Athena. It was the first city of Asia to support the imperial cult. The Roman Imperial cult flourished in Pergamos. Citizens were required to worship the emperor; to refuse was to invite a charge of treason.

Pergamos had a large library containing 200,000 volumes. It was a place of pagan religion, immorality, philosophy and education. [5] The Lord who addressed this church is characterized as having a sharp, double-edged sword (v12). The sword here is a symbol of the Word of God, which is used to denounce how false teaching are to be measured, those teachings, which don't measure up to this standard are to be rejected.

Jesus commended this church of Pergamos on their stand on who Jesus is even though they live in a place where Satan rules.

4.1 Complain Lodged

The sheltered things which the Lord hates are specifically mentioned. They are mainly two:-

Doctrine of Balaam - materialism, compromise, idolatry and fornication

Doctrine of Nicolaitanes - elite group within which licentious and self indulgent lifestyle

Both physical appetite and spiritual discernment appear to be undisciplined in this church, which exist in a time of spiritual laxity.

Because of this, Christ says that he will fight against those of Pergamos who do such abominable things. This is an extremely serious warning; Jesus Christ does not play games with a person's salvation. Therefore, any to whom this warning applies should take it very seriously and act appropriately. [6] 

Warning and Counsel

Repent! Or the Lord will deal with you according to the Word. Over comers in the church of Pergamos are promised "hidden manna and white stone". These indicate spiritual nourishment and the believers' acceptance before God's throne. (Rev 2:16) [7] 

Early Medieval Age in Church History

Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, but compromised by incorporating into its things from other religions i.e.

Emperor worship - kneeling before the pope and kissing the ring

Pagan Greco/Roman - bowing to idols, worship of saints, angels and relics

Judaism - priesthood, infant baptism, salvation because you belong to that group

Babylon mystery religion - special revelation overriding the scripture and mother and child worship

The pope and the church amassed great riches and power [8] 

5.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA (continuing in sacrifice)

Thyatira was an island city, which had a military history. It was located in a rich agricultural acre and it was important as an industrial center. It was famous for purple dye. Its industries were prominent. It supported trade guides. Dye and cloths were its chief products. Lydia a convert under Paul was from this city (Acts 16:14).

5.1 Jesus is the Son of God and

He was all - seeing eyes.

He has crushing feet for His enemies.

His feet of brass will trample upon all His enemies

Jesus approves some things in the church at Thyatira: - Love, faith, service and perseverance. The Lord approves these same things when He finds them in us. Jesus disapproved some things in this church. He disapproves of sexual immorality and idolatry. Jesus addresses a group which is not involved with Jezebel's doctrines and gives them a special exhortation. They are exhorted to hold on to what they have.

5.2 Problem

The spiritual problems of Thyatira against which our Lord spoke chiefly was its tolerance of wickedness. The problems within Thyatira did not come from outside the church; they came from within. They began with Thyatira's acceptance of the teachings of a woman who was thought to be a prophetess from God, but who in actuality was an evil person, as was King Ahab's wife Jezebel. This woman urged them to compromise in order to comply with the world's standards and thereby gain the acceptance of non-believers, advantage in business and prosperity in other areas of life. This false prophetess was not necessarily trying to destroy the church; she just wanted the elect to view thee truth of God in a more liberal way than Jesus Christ and the apostles had taught. However, her teachings led to compromise, especially in relation to idolatry, which led to spiritual fornication. Today, some church groups follow the foolish and dangerous teachings of a prophetess that came from within their group. These people are in trouble with Jesus Christ.

5.3 Warning and Counsel

Repent! Get it sorted or death will follow. Each individual is accountable for himself. Hold fast till He comes (Rev 2:21). [9] 

5.4 Promise

To those who do not hold that doctrine or have not allowed themselves to be infected a share in Christ's rule over the nations and will be given the morning star.

5.5 The Late Medieval Church Age in Church History

The cult of the Virgin Mary increased. Mary is considered the mediator between God and man. The theory today of the immaculate conception (Mary conceived without sin) is made official doctrine salvation by works reaffirmed sale of indulgences (people could buy merits to get forgiveness for their sins )1150 A.D. [10] 

6.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF SARDIS

The city of Sardis was situated on a hill over 1000ft above the surrounding plain. Citizens had a strong sense of security because they believed their city was too strong to be conquered by any enemy. It was situated on an important trade route. A powerful fortress, wealthy city and was known for jewelry, textiles and dye. It was a strong pagan religious center - a temple dedicated to goddess Artemis was located there. [11] 

Aspect of Jesus from this was that he used to describe Himself to the church at Sardis "He that has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars". These reveal His complete wisdom and complete control of the messengers or leaders of the church. Jesus has complete knowledge of the deeds of the church. Ministries are responsible to Him and their leadership is authoritative.

The Lord's disapproval in Rev 3:1 was aroused by their spiritual deadness. The problem with the Sardis church lay in the fact that she "appeared to be what she really was not".

In the midst of general spiritual deadness, some believers in Sardis lived in purity and devotion to Jesus Christ.

6.1 Warning and Counsel

The warning to those of Sardis is that they had better wake up to their deadly lethargy and watch out, because their Salvation is in jeopardy. Christ also warns that within the congregations of Sardis there are only a few who truly love the Father and His Son and are following the ways of God. Jesus encourages the few to continue to be watchful and they will receive their reward. However, most of their brothers and sisters in Christ who appear outwardly to be spiritually alive but are spiritually dead will die the second death in the Lake of Fire if they do not repent of their evil ways. Vigilance is really part of the price of liberty under Christ.

6.2 Promise

"Be clothed in white raiment. Name won't be blotted out of the Book of Life. Be acknowledged before the Father and the angels" (Rev 3:4-5). Few from Sardis will pass the test of persecution, because they are lazy and uninspired by the awesome opportunity that they have been given to be among the first humanity to enter the Family and Kingdom of God as immortal Sons of God the Father. The elect of Sardis still have hope of obtaining salvation, if they will only repent and endure to the end with a righteous attitude. [12] 

6.3 The Reformation in Church History

The medieval world was being replaced by a modern world - the Renaissance. [13] 

Spiritual decline and political intrigue in the church (at one stage there were three popes at the same time all claiming to be correctly elected).

Some of the groups or men who were involved in the reformation were:-

Brethren of the common life led by Thomas A. Kempis

John Wycliffe (1st translation of the Bible into English) condemned as heretic

John Huss, Prague, burned at stake

Savanarola, Italy (who turned the whole of Florence to Christ was tortured and hanged)

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli (King Henry VIII) [14] 

7.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA (brotherly love)

The city of Philadelphia was built by King of Pergamos, Attalus, Philadelphus. The city is given the builder's name, a place of earthquakes, and a center of pagan worship called "Little Athens". This indicates that the philosophy, religion and immorality of the large city of Athens were present in Philadelphia.

The Lord describes Himself as "He that is holy and true" and "He that has the Key of David"

Jesus commends in the church of Philadelphia " you have little strength you have obeyed my word and have stood for the truth (not denied my Name) so He will set before you an open door that no man can shut and make these outside of and against you see and acknowledge that the Lord is with you. You will be kept from the hour of temptation that is coming on the world."

7.1 Warning and Counsel

The Lord is coming soon, so stick to the truth and don't let anyone lead you to the point where you lose your crown. Jesus promised this church that He will make them a pillar in the temple of God (stable, not able to be moved) write them on the pillars in the temple of God, write on them the name of the city of God, write on them His new name and their future is totally secure.

7.2 Modern Age in Church History

Reform groups left the protestant state church and became committed and practical in their faith which resulted in many changes in the lives of common people socially and economically. Some of the groups and men who effected change puritans (17th), Methodists (18th), Plymouth brethren (19th), evangelism (20th), John Wesley, George Whitefield, William Booth, Dr. Barnardo, George Muller, D.L. Moody, Wesleyan revivals initiated in abolition of slavery and child labor, prison reform, literacy, mission movement, building societies etc. [15] Following a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit the Pentecostal movement took shape.

8.0 THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH OF LAODICEA (peoples rights/people opinion)

The city of Laodicea was named after the wife of King Antiochus II, Laodicea. It is a wealthy business center. It is famous for its medicines, an ear ointment and eye powder. It supplied water to serve the community adequately. The victim of a destructive earthquake - A.D 60. Its leaders speaking in one voice refused assistance from Rome, replying "I have grown rich and an in need of nothing" [16] 

Jesus describes Himself as "Amen, the faithful and true witness" and "the author of God's creation". "His sovereignty and the certainty of the fulfillment of His promises"

The word Laodicea means "popular judgment" or "popular approval" [17] 

Jesus condemns the church of Laodicea for their lack of awareness of their need of spiritual riches. This church was served by a lukewarm water supply which was piped to the city from an outside source. We can assume that Laodicean believers were self satisfied, immature and lacked vision.

8.1 Warning and Counsel

"Wake up! See yourself as you really are. Repent receive chastening and instruction. Let the Lord in to fellowship and teach. Be zealous of the Lord."(Rev3:18).

8.2 The Age we are in now in Church History

Christianity has become a cultural identity instead of a personal commitment. The "Cold War" - democracy vs. communism; the world view became the church view. The world council of churches, compromise experience over the Word. Faith movement/prosperity movement produced a formalistic, program oriented materialism church that boasts of its successes and its ability to "tap into the power of God" [18] 

9.0 CONCLUSION

The message of the seven churches are not only meant to be severe reprimands from Christ, but are also meant to give hope and encouragement. For those who do not heed these warnings, there is death and dishonor ahead. For those who heed them, there is eternal life and immortality in the Family and Kingdom of God. God the Father and Jesus Christ are in the process of molding the body of the sons of God for an awesome and dynamic spiritual work to be done at the end of age.


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