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.)
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.1)
Commendation: The Lord Commends before He Reproves (vv.2-3)
Second Commendation (v.6)
A Message to the Overcomer (v.7)
Smyrna: The Church under Persecution from Rome (167 A.D. – 313 A.D.)
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.8)
Message to the Overcomer (v.11)
Pergamos: The Church Settles Down in the World (313 A.D. – 580 A.D.)
Pergamos. This third great period of Church history (313 A.D. – 580 A.D.) was characterized by increasing worldliness in the Church. Constantine became emperor of Rome in 306 A.D. partly through his popularity with the army. In 312 A.D. he united the eastern and western parts of the Roman Empire by putting down Maxentius’ rebellion, at the battle of the Milvian bridge; where he became convinced of the value of Christianity (“in this sign conquer”). One year later, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan (Feb. 313 A.D.) which was the agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire. This changed the Roman Empire’s policy toward Christians. This was the great relief Christians had earnestly desired for decades in the Smyrna period. It was around ten years later, in 324 A.D., that Constantine forced Christianity on his empire through baptism. Roman persecution stopped, the ranks of Christians shot up, and empty pagan temples and feast days were offered to the Church. Outwardly, it was a great success. But inwardly, there was a great danger in all of this worldly favor. Satan had failed to undermine the Church through persecution, but now the test of prosperity was succeeding. Sadly, the Church took the bait. For the first time in Church history, we see a union between Church and state; a union which is obnoxious to God. Furthermore, Constantine became the head of the Christian church, yet never relinquished his place as head of the pagan church. Therefore, we see in the Pergamos period, not only a union between the Church and state, but between Christianity and Paganism. This mixture is called Christendom.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.12)
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’.
- Part II: get the people identified with pagan idols through rituals.
- Part I: get the people going after the pleasures of Satan’s world (v.20).
Message to the Overcomer (v.17)
Thyatira: The Church Rules the World – Dark Ages (580 A.D. – mid week)
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.18)
- Jezebel herself; the false system.
- Her lovers; the businesses and organizations that profit from relations with her.
- He children; the souls that are ‘born’ of her false principles.
Message to the Overcomer (vv.26-29)
Sardis: Dead Protestantism (1529 A.D. – Appearing)
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.1a)
Commendation of a Remnant (v.4)
Message to the Overcomer (vv.5-6)
- A public reward for walking down here separate from evil.
- Many of their names have been blotted out of church registers… Never out of God’s (mere professors will be.)
- A despised name before men (Luke 12:8) at the present time, an elevated name before God in that day.
Philadelphia: The Recovery of the Truth (1827 A.D. – Rapture)
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.7)
- their heart engaged with Christ they got a sense of who he is as the Holy one and true. This led them to separate from anything inconsistent with himself (II tim 2:21). this was very painful, see reward, v.12
- He gave them to see that the government of the world will be given to Christ in the millennium (see eph. 1:10)
- 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.
Commendation and Encouragement (vv.8-10)
- 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.
Message to the Overcomer (vv.12-13)
- A special enjoyment of fellowship with God.
- a special enjoyment of being part of the Church of God as the Bride of Christ (rev. 21:9-10). the “latter glory of this house” – see hag. 2:9.
- A special enjoyment of relationship with Christ as a glorified man in the new creation, II Cor. 5:16-17.
Laodicea: The Church in a Lukewarm State (1848 A.D. – Rapture)
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.7)
- The one who will fulfill all the promises (II cor. 1:20).
- In contrast to the church’s utter failure as a candlestick.
- Everything connected with the first man has failed, but Christ in resurrection began a new creation – it can never fail.
Two assessments… man’s and god’s (v.17)
- divine righteousness in Christ – The purest kind, for their salvation.
- Practical righteousness displayed in the life (Rev. 19:8) produced by the Spirit (Gal. 5).
- Anointing of the Holy Ghost – to have discernment in spiritual things… To be able to perceive what it is that God values.