TOC Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33

Chapter 17 – The Seven Churches

          There is a definite correlation between the seven parables of the Church-kingdom, and the seven churches of Revelation. A study of the seven churches is vital if we are to understand both what Jesus and His people, and Satan and his people, have done in the Church from Pentecost to the present.

Chapters 2-3 of Revelation have various interpretations:

1.     The messages are to seven actual churches

2.     The messages were written on an “if the shoe fits” basis to all the churches of that time, and those continuing down to the present day.

3.     The seven churches are seven consecutive periods of Church history

 

All three are valid to some degree, but try as I may to see other viewpoints, I keep coming back to number three as the correct view. We must bear in mind that Revelation is a book of prophecy. We should expect, then, that the material contained therein in primarily prophetic, not merely exhortative, which would be the case with the first two views. That is not to say the messages to the churches do not contain exhortation, for they do; but their value consists of being useful in understanding the Church age, together with what Jesus expects our response to be to conditions arising in the churches: to resist and overcome evil. Let us look at these churches one by one.

Ephesus

          Jesus commended this church for their intolerance of evil men and for exposing false apostles. They patiently bore the trials they suffered for the Name of Jesus. They hated the works of the heretical Nicolaitan sect (which Jesus also hated) which, some Bible historians say, advocated carnal pleasure under the guise of Christian liberty. But Jesus had to reprove this church for losing the ardor they had for Him at first. Perhaps they had settled into routine. He tells them to repent and regain their fervor or they would lose their place.

          This is the church of the first century—the apostolic church. They had so much good, but the tendency to settle into a routine of church services, good works, even prayer and Bible study, cannot be substituted for the intense, personal relationship Jesus desires of each believer. Their failure to retain the love of Jesus as the foundation of their church was enough to gain them the threat of losing their standing.

          Of the seven parables of the kingdom in Mt 13, the first, the parable of the sower corresponds to Ephesus. The seed of the Gospel first began to be sowed in the apostolic church.

Smyrna

          This church was under persecution: thus, materially poor, though spiritually rich. They suffered slander from those who said they were Jews but were, in reality, of the church of Satan. These true believers were undergoing persecution not only from without, but also within from false brethren. Jesus tells them Satan is about to unleash severe persecution and some would be thrown into prison. They were not to fear when that happened since God would allow it in order to test them. They were to remain faithful even if it meant death.

          This is the church of the first three centuries which had to endure the worst of the cruel persecutions under the Roman emperors. This church and Philadelphia are the only two about which the Lord said nothing negative. The word “Jews” is symbolic. (as already noted, Judaism and Christianity were still closely intertwined when the Revelation was written.) What is meant is Christians: those who say they are Christians but are not; who are, in reality, of the congregation of Satan. We should note how Jesus always mentions Satan as the prime operator in everything evil.

          The parable of the tares and wheat corresponds to Smyrna. False believers were already being sowed among the true. Cf. Rev 2:9

 

Pergamum

          Jesus says Satan has a throne in Pergamum. He commended them because they held fast to their faith in His Name, not even denying His teaching when their faithful pastor Antipas was killed where Satan has his residence. Jesus did have a few things against them, however. There were some who held the teaching of the Nicolaitans. He told them to repent or He would fight against them with the sword of His mouth. He presents Himself to Pergamum as the One having the sharp two-edged sword. Heb 4:12

          Pergamum is the church from the time of Constantine (AD 316) to the beginning of the 6th century. As already mentioned, under Constantine, pagans with their pagan practices flooded the Church. This ties in with the teaching of Balaam. Through Balaam a stumbling block was placed before Israel. They, the pure people of God, committed immorality with heathen women, began to worship their idols, and participated in their sacrifices. The Nicolaitans likewise advocated carnal pleasure under the aspect of religion. This is exactly what happened. True Christians were compromised by pagan practices entering the Church. Apparently they did not oppose this but tolerated it. Jesus told them to repent and straighten the situation out: but history shows they did not, except for a small, faithful remnant that withdrew from Constantine’s super church and went into hiding. That Jesus presents Himself as having the sharp, two-edged sword means they needed to consult and obey the Word of God. Unscriptural practices had taken over and it would be more than a thousand years before they were corrected.

          The corresponding parable is that of the mustard seed. The birds of compromise, concession, worldliness, and heathenism had begun to nest in the branches of the Church.

TOC Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33