The secret things and the revealed things
Today God wants His people to have a basic understanding of Biblical Prophecy. The apostle Peter said that prophecy was, “a light shining in a dark place.” Today the world is a dark place and getting darker and the day is coming when the only hope for anyone will be a sound understanding of what the Bible teaches about Prophecy and the end times. Now the Lord has secret things and revealed things and reveals His plans according to His will. There are things we are not permitted to understand and other things that God permits us to understand. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
God Himself has reserved the right to seal these things up until the appropriate time comes to reveal them. When Daniel wanted to understand the things he had been shown the Lord said to him, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” (Daniel 12:9-10) In these last days God is unsealing what He has sealed up for centuries and if we have a genuine desire to understand what the Bible teaches about Prophecy then the Holy Spirit will give us understanding in these matters.
In our previous study we saw that there is four ways to understand Biblical prophecy. The first of these terms is “Preterism,” that says Biblical prophecy only applies to the First Century. The Second term is “Historicism” says that Biblical prophecy only applies to Church history. The third term used is “Futurism” which says Biblical Prophecy only applies to the Last Days. The fourth term used is “Poemecism”
Virtually all of the Western Prophecy teachers today and in the past history of the Western Christian Church have held to one of the four Eschatological positions to the exclusion of the other three. However, those who wrote the Bible were Jewish and were able to hold these four views of prophecy simultaneously. In this study we will look at the seven churches to which John wrote.
The Seven Churches
When you consider the seven churches in Revelation that John wrote his letter to you can see four things. Firstly, they were seven literal churches that existed in John’s time. Then they represent seven types of churches that can exist at any time in Church history. They also represent seven types of Churches that will exist in the last days. Then they can also represent seven somewhat overlapping periods of Church history. This application to Church history is suggested by the meaning in the titles of these seven churches.
1.The Church in Ephesus
The first church mentioned is “Ephesus.” This means, “Not lasting,” and represents the apostolic age of the first century. The testing of false apostles is mentioned. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” (Revelation 2:2)
2.The Church in Smyrna
The second church mentioned is “Smyrna.” This means “Myrrh” or “anointed for burial.” Myrrh was a substance used in embalming bodies and is always connected to suffering and death. Smyrna represents the persecuted Church of the first and second centuries. There were ten major historical imperial persecutions by the Roman emperors. The “10 days” of testing mentioned could well apply to these specific Imperial persecutions. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)
3.The Church in Pergamum
The third church is “Pergamum.” This means, “Divorced” and specifically applies to the time when the Church committed “spiritual adultery.” When Constantine became the emperor of Rome in the fourth century he professed to be a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. This affected both the Western and Eastern Church. At that time many pagan practices, idols and ceremonies were introduced into the Church and “Christianised.” Christmas and Easter are themselves pagan festivals re-packaged in Christianity but were never celebrated by the first century believers.
One of the many things is the statue of the Madonna and child seen in almost every Roman Catholic Church. They were originally derived from the pagan worship of a mother with the baby god in her lap. The mother from ancient Babylon was known as Aphrodite or Ceres to the Greeks; Nana, to the Sumerians; and as Venus or Fortuna to her devotees in the days of the Roman Empire. In fact the Israelites in the Old Testament actually worshipped “the queen of heaven” a pagan female goddess. (Jeremiah 44:17-19) In ancient Egypt, the Babylonian mother was known as Isis and her child as Horus. Then in the New Testament at Ephesus in the time of the apostle Paul there was the great mother known as Diana. The temple dedicated to her was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Also the doctrine of the Mass was introduced into the Church. The Lord’s Table was paganised and became a form of ‘spiritual Cannibalism.’ The “eating of food sacrificed to idols” is specifically mentioned. The bread and the wine were taken to be symbolic of the broken body and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. This spread through both the Western and Eastern Church. Satan could not stop the spread of Christianity by persecution so he paganised the Church and to this day by enlarge most of the main line denominations are still in varying degrees under the ‘Constantine form’ of Church government and practice.
Also the idea of a “clergy class” became widespread. The deeds of the Nicolaitans were a conspicuous feature of this period of Church history. Nicolaitanism means, “The suppression of the laity.” Both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox churches have a form of Nicolaitanism which the Lord Jesus said He hates. Emperor worship was also started at Pergamum with Caesar Augustus. John writes about Pergamum as being “The city where Satan lives and the city where Satan has his throne.” The Holy Spirit may have already told us where the Antichrist will come from. Why did the Holy Spirit write to the seven Churches in Turkey? This is no accident! Turkey has a major role in end-time Biblical Prophecy.
4.The Church in Thyatira
The fourth church was “Thyatira.” This means, “continuing sacrifice.” At this time in Church history the Roman Catholic Church immerged with its major emphasis on the doctrine of transubstantiation. “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20) Jezebel is mentioned and when you see a reference to her it always implies the spirit of false religion and witchcraft. Jezebel in the Old Testament was a witch who seduced God’s leader Ahab and hypnotised the people with her sorceries. The mass itself is a miss application of the Lord’s Supper. Of course there is always sexual immorality associated with this kind of thing. Today the Roman Catholic Church is in damage control over its many paedophile priests. In fact the doctrine of enforced celibacy is considered a doctrine of demons in the New Testament. (1Timothy 4:1-2) The Eastern Orthodox Church allows their clergy to marry. God’s norm is marriage between a man and a woman. Some are made Eunuchs by men while others choose to remain single for the sake of giving their full attention to the LORD. However, for most marriage is the norm and ordained by the LORD from creation.
5.The Church in Sardis
The fifth church was “Sardis.” Sardis means, “Incomplete.” This represents the reformation period where the emphasis was once again placed on the authority of scripture over the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church doctrines. One of the things where the reformers failed was to separate the Church from the State. The main ones like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli could not succeed in separating the two. There was still a clergy class and to some degree an over emphasis on the sacraments and ceremonies of the Church. During this time period the non-conformist churches also immerged in the western democracies. They emphasized the sovereignty of scripture and taught that God’s Kingdom was not of this world and was totally separate from the State. They also taught the priesthood of all believers and that every believer was a minister. They believed and taught that baptism was by immersion upon repentance and faith in Christ. They also practiced the gifts of the Spirit. The mainstream Protestants as well as the Roman Catholics persecuted them. The reformers were “secessionists” and did not believe in or practice the gifts of the spirit because of the superstitious practices of the Roman Catholic Church.
6.The Church in Philadelphia
The sixth church was “Philadelphia.” Philadelphia means, “Brotherly love.” This represents the great evangelistic and missionary movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when men like John Wesley, George Whitfield, Charles Finney, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, William Booth, William Wilberforce and many others changed their society radically through the faithful and practical proclamation of the Gospel. The mention of an “open door” suggests this time of great evangelism and mission. “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:7-8)
7.The Church in Laodicea
The last church mentioned is “Laodicea.” This means, “People’s opinions.” This refers to the time period in which we are living now. This is the age of the lukewarm, materialistic Church. Today there is an emphasis on worldly prosperity and riches and people’s opinions replacing the plain teaching of God’s Word. This is specifically conspicuous in the western Church. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of My mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:15-17)
Today the trend continues
This lukewarm trend is predicted elsewhere in the Word of God and has become a conspicuous feature in these last days. Today we have an apostasy on a scale never before seen in history especially with false teachers and prophets appearing on our TV screens and trying to get money out of people. The apostle Paul clearly predicted these times. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1Timothy 4:1) And again he wrote, “But mark this: There will be terrible times (times of stress) in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Furthermore he wrote, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2Timothy 4:3-4)
Philadelphian or Laodicean?
Watchman Nee in the book he wrote about the seven churches in Revelation clearly says that the Church of Philadelphia was the normal standard of living for believers and that to live any other way was to backslide into the Laodicean way of life. Every local church is either a Philadelphian Church or a Laodicean Church. Furthermore we must ask ourselves the question, are we a Philadelphian type of Christian or a Laodicean type of Christian? We cannot be both!