Revelation 2 – 3
- Ephesus: The Church in the Wake of the Apostles (67 A.D. – 167 A.D.)
- Smyrna: The Church under Persecution from Rome (167 A.D. – 313 A.D.)
- Pergamos: The Church Settles Down in the World (313 A.D. – 580 A.D.)
- Thyatira: The Church Rules the World – Dark Ages (580 A.D. – mid week)
- Sardis: Dead Protestantism (1529 A.D. – Appearing)
- Philadelphia: The Recovery of the Truth (1827 A.D. – Rapture)
- Laodicea: The Church in a Lukewarm State (1848 A.D. – Rapture)
- Historically: as seven literal churches in Asia Minor with their respective vices and virtues.
- Allegorically: as moral principles from each letter that can be applied to us at any time.
- Prophetically: as a concise yet complete history of the Church on earth from God’s viewpoint.
- Ephesus = Christianity
- Smyrna = Christianity + Judaism
- Pergamos = Christianity + Judaism + Paganism = Christendom
Ephesus: The Church in the Wake of the Apostles (67 A.D. – 167 A.D.)
Smyrna: The Church under Persecution from Rome (167 A.D. – 313 A.D.)
Pergamos: The Church Settles Down in the World (313 A.D. – 580 A.D.)
Arius said, "If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing"... thus denying the eternal existence of the Son of God, and the Trinity. It was based on a human, experiential view of the Father-Son relationship, rather than a scriptural view. Arius taught that the Father "begat" or gave being to another god, called God's Son, who in turn created everything else, including the Holy Spirit. Arianism spread quickly, and soon Christendom was divided.The Emperor Constantine called the first ecumenical council in Nicaea in A.D. 325 to sort the matter out. The Emperor personally subscribed to Arianism, but really wanted to see the empire united. Athanasius was seen running from room to room over the month-long council, defending the eternal deity of Christ. After much bickering and long deliberations, the council produced the Nicene Creed which, for all its flaws, affirmed that Jesus Christ was homoousios (same substance) as the Father, and affirmed the Trinity as one God, with three co-eternal, co-equal Persons. It also anathematized Arius and his followers. Athanasius spent the rest of his life combating Arianism, and was exiled five times for his faithfulness. He is probably not the same person as Antipas who was martyred, but it is significant that Athanasius became known to history as Athanasius Contra Mundum, which is Latin for ‘Athanasius Against the World’.
Thyatira: The Church Rules the World – Dark Ages (580 A.D. – mid week)
- Jezebel herself, who represents the false system.
- Her lovers, who represent the businesses and organizations which profit from relations with the false church.
- Her children, who represent the souls that are ‘born’ of her false principles.
Sardis: Dead Protestantism (1529 A.D. – Appearing)
- White garments. A public reward for walking through this earth in separation from evil.
- A name not blotted out. Many of their names have been blotted out of church registers on account of their faithfulness. But they would never be blotted out of God’s book of life. Mere professors will be blotted out.
- A name confessed. Although their names might be despised name before men in their own lifetime (Luke 12:8), their names would be honored by the Father in heaven, before the whole heavenly host.
Philadelphia: The Recovery of the Truth (1827 A.D. – Rapture)
- “The holy, the true”. Their hearts were engaged with Christ, and they got a sense of who He is as the Holy one and true. This led them to separate from anything inconsistent with Christ (2 Tim 2:21). This was very painful (see reward, v.12).
- “He that has the key of David”. He gave them to see that the government of the world will be given to Christ in the Millennium (see Eph. 1:10)
- “He who opens, etc.” Understanding this key, God threw open the door (v.8) of the treasure house of the Scriptures to enjoy and keep: first prophecy, then the identity and hopes of the Church, the rapture, the activity of the Spirit, the individual standing of the believer, assembly order, etc.
- A little power. Philadelphia was marked by having power, but only in small proportion. It is actually the same word as “power” in Acts 4:33 at the beginning of the Church period. It is the same power, just a smaller scale (little vs. great). This is consistent with God’s ways. It is not His way to produce great power in a time of general ruin (Ezra 4:11-13). Likewise, it is not the Churches place to seek greatness in light of the collective failure that has come in. Nevertheless, they did have “a little strength”, and that strength was a result of communion (John 15:4-5).
- Kept His Word. The second thing that marked this assembly was that they “kept” the Word of Christ. The idea of keeping the Word is to treasure it (Luke 2:19). They were not merely hearers of the Word, they were doers (Jam. 1:22, John 14:21-23). Notice that it is the ‘logos’ (word) here, as opposed to the ‘rhema’ (words). Read more… They kept the Word holistically. They did not pick and chose which parts to treasure and practice.
- Did not Deny His Name. A name has the thought of character. They practically reflected the character of Christ to the world. It means honoring his name: in thought, in doctrine, in practice, in gathering, in discipline, etc.
- “The name of my God”. A special enjoyment of fellowship with God.
- “The name of the city of God”. A special enjoyment of being part of the Church of God as the Bride of Christ (see the later definition of the city in Rev. 21:9-10). It is a similar thought to the “latter glory of this house” (see Hag. 2:9).
- “My new name”. A special enjoyment of relationship with Christ as a glorified man in the new creation (2 Cor. 5:16-17).
Laodicea: The Church in a Lukewarm State (1848 A.D. – Rapture)
- “The Amen”. The one who will fulfill all the promises of God (2 Cor. 1:20).
- “The faithful and true witness”. The One whos faithfully said all God gave Him to speak, in contrast to the church’s utter failure as a candlestick.
- “The beginning of the creation of God”. Everything connected with the first man has failed, including the church which ends in Laodicea, but Christ in resurrection began a new creation, and it can never fail!
- “Gold purified by fire”. It speaks of Divine righteousness in Christ; the purest kind, for their eternal salvation.
- “White garments”. Practical righteousness displayed in the life (Rev. 19:8), which is produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5).
- “Eye-salve to anoint thine eyes”. It speaks of the anointing of the Holy Ghost which gives us discernment in spiritual things, and causes us to value things as God does.
- There are, however, among the Gnostics diversities of opinion; but we have decided that it would not be worth while to enumerate the silly doctrines of these (heretics), inasmuch as they are (too) numerous and devoid of reason, and full of blasphemy. Now, even those (of the heretics) who are of a more serious turn in regard of the Divinity, and have derived their systems of speculation from the Greeks, must stand convicted (of these charges). But Nicolaus has been a cause of the wide-spread combination of these wicked men. He, as one of the seven (that were chosen) for the diaconate, was appointed by the Apostles. (But Nicolaus) departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifferency of both life and food. And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols. – Hippolytus on Heresies, Book 7, Chapter 24