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Bible verses about Seven Churches of Revelation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Why not choose Corinth, Rome, Philippi, Antioch, Pella, Derbe, and Jerusalem, or any other seven churches? Is it merely coincidence that Ephesus to Laodicea is clearly established by history as seven stages on a first-century mail route? Could a postman deliver his mail to all seven at once? Also, groups of seven are characteristic of Christ's writing style. In each case, the seven are sequential, not simultaneous. Why should chapters 2 and 3 break the pattern? Christ chose those cities because the patterns suited His purpose perfectly.

The chapters themselves imply the movement of time. The last four messages mention Christ's return, the first three not at all. To Thyatira: "Hold fast till I come" (Revelation 2:25). To Sardis: "You will not know what hour I will come" (3:3). To Philadelphia: "Behold, I come quickly!" (3:11). To Laodicea: "Behold, I stand at the door . . ." (3:20). Is it not interesting that the last four churches, not the first four, receive this end-time language?

These comments show there will be either remnants of, or sizable portions of, at least four eras existing at Christ's return. What is wrong about this? Nothing! Think about this. Revelation deals with global events. The church of God is not just an American and Canadian institution raised in the last two generations. Members of the true church live all over the world.

God understands humanity to a depth we can only begin to imagine. Along with listing the stages of the church's growth until Christ's return, Revelation 2 and 3 describe the attitudes many Christians go through during their converted lives. Do we go through them all at once or in stages? The chapters also describe the personality changes most congregations experience over time. Nobody has to be any one of these attitudes simply as a random matter of calling.

Revelation 2 and 3 reflect both eras and attitudes. Christ simply asks us to use this to identify where we stand as individuals, a congregation, or a church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Letters to the Seven Churches: Attitudes, Eras or Both?


 

Notice the plural churches. Each message is to the churches. What the Revealer says to the Ephesian church is also intended to be instruction, knowledge, information, and motivation to all the other churches as well. What is said to Ephesus is also intended for Smyrna, is also intended for Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. What is said to Laodicea is also intended for Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Pergamos, and so on. Therefore, all the messages are for each church as well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Christ's warning to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea gives very strong indications that these groups will be extant at His return. He omits statements like that to Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos altogether, suggesting the progression of time from the moment the first letter begins until He is standing at the door knocking.

Are we talking about eras here, or are we talking about seven small congregations in western Asia Minor who just happened to have these attitudes? We have here eras progressing from the first century right up until the second coming of Jesus Christ. There is tremendous evidence that Revelation 2-3 is talking about church eras. Christ is revealing to His church that they will be both the major attitudes that will be present in His church at any given time, as well as the dominant attitude of the era as the church moves through these periods.

There will always be people at any time within the church who have lost their first love. There will always be people who are dead as the Sardis group is. The application is dual; there are both attitudes and eras at the same time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

We all understand that the book of Revelation is an "end-time" book, and its primary focus is on things that "shall be." As a book intended for the end time, the primary instruction in Revelation 2 and 3 concerns the end-time church.

When Revelation was written at the end of the first century, all seven churches existed at the same time, therefore the seven conditions—the messages described—also existed at the same time. They were local and personal conditions to be sure, but all of them were within the greater church at the same time. Some of those churches had some wide divergences from God's truth, yet God still considered them to be part of His church.

In the same way, why can they not all exist simultaneously at the end as well? Even as they formerly existed all at once, they will again exist all at once. In fact, we are living them right now.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

All seven messages of Revelation 2 and 3 reveal a clear, end-time connection. There are statements such as, "Behold! I come quickly," or "Hold fast till I come," showing that His return is imminent. The conclusion is inescapable—all seven will be in existence at the end.

Equally important is that they also show a consistency in that Christ exhorts them all in such ways as, "Hold fast till I come, "Hold fast what you have received," "Remember therefore from whence you are fallen," or "Be faithful." Each of these exhortations is directed toward commanding those seven churches to be steadfast to, or to turn back to, something that they had previously received. Most specifically, we find in several places—in the Revelation 2 and 3 messages, and in other places in the writings of Paul, Jude, John, and Peter—that they are to be steadfast and devoted to the doctrines "once delivered" to the saints through the apostles. With these two factors—the imminence and exhortations to hold fast—the conclusion is that all seven of these very different groups described in Revelation 2 and 3 are part of the end-time church.

Considering both what is happening in the world and the state of the church, we are living these messages right now. The general solutions to our present dilemma are given in them. We have to devote ourselves to returning to "the faith once delivered" through the apostle.

Revelation 2 and 3 give us a sense of direction and urgency. Is there a connection between the preaching of the gospel and the feeding of the flock—even beyond the healing that is so badly needed within the church today? Yes, there is, and it is very important in God's eyes. Neglecting the "feeding the flock" is in turn very badly damaging to preaching the gospel to the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 5)


 

The letters' language indicates an end-time frame of reference: To Ephesus and Pergamos, He says He will "come to [them] quickly." To Thyatira, He will "cast her into great tribulation," and her faithful should "hold fast . . . till I come" and "[keep] My works to the end." To Sardis, He will "come . . . as a thief" (see Matthew 24:43). To Philadelphia, He mentions "the hour of trial" and "I come quickly." To Laodicea, He says they will be "tried in the fire," a symbol of tribulation, and He "[stands] at the door," indicating immediacy.

Staff
The Seven Churches


 

The seven churches of Revelation may include at least three fulfillments:

1. All seven existed as church congregations in physical cities in the first century.
2. The seven successively span the church's 2,000-year history, culminating with the last three eras extant in the last hundred years.
3. All seven churches—as groups or attitudes—exist concurrently just before Christ returns.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Eras?


 

Matthew 16:18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Upon establishing His church, Christ affirms that it would not die out, but continue until His return. This means a body of true believers has continued from Pentecost AD 31 until today. Revelation 2-3 is written in such a way that any Christian in any century could examine it and conclude he had some characteristics of each era, just as we can today.

As described in Revelation 2:1-7, the record of the Ephesian church closely resembles what happened to the apostolic church. Research done in the early days of the Worldwide Church of God also showed a close parallel between Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira and the sketchy history of true believers until the modern age. This information indicates a possible succession of eras.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Eras?


 

Matthew 27:50-51   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider the general layout of the Tabernacle in the wilderness as well as the Temple in Jerusalem. Both basically were the same. As one approached its front, the first object encountered would be the altar of sacrifice, the brazen alter by which atonement was made. The Hebrew word translated as atonement means "by which we draw near." In other words, by sacrifice, represented by the brazen altar, we draw near to God, seeking Him.

After the brazen altar comes the laver. It could be described as being like a big bathtub. Here a person was to wash himself before proceeding any farther.

Once inside the sanctuary, light came from the candelabra, representing Christ as the Light of the World, as well as the light of God's truth spread from activity of the seven churches.

On the table was the shewbread, representing Christ as the Bread of Life. Directly in front of one who entered the Holy Place, past the table of shewbread, stood the altar of incense, representing the prayers of the saints. Barring one's way into the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, was the veil. Once behind it, a person would be before the Mercy Seat, in the very presence of God.

The veil being torn apart at Christ's death symbolizes that a personal relationship with God can be established. The way had been opened by the sacrificial death of our Savior. This intimate relationship with God is the key to our being transformed from glory to glory (II Corinthians 3:18).

If we cannot enter God's presence, if we are far away, there is not much hope of transformation. This is why the Bible so frequently urges us to seek God. Seeking God is part of "dressing and keeping" the relationship, helping it to grow. This close relationship is vital to increasing the Holy Spirit in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Revelation 1:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The margin says shortly means "quickly" or "swiftly." This must be understood in terms of what the book of Revelation was designed to reveal. Verse 10 tells us that the book was designed for the Day of the Lord. "Shortly" has to be seen in light of verse 10.

When was the apostle John on the island of Patmos? All indications are that he received this vision somewhere in the AD 90s—somewhere between AD 90 and 100. The Temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed by the Romans under Titus.

Think about this word "shortly" in reference to the time in which the prophecy was given. Did Jesus Christ mean shortly after He gave it? What happened historically quickly or shortly after Christ gave this prophecy to the apostle John? Nothing. Nothing happened. By and large, almost 20 centuries later, very little in Revelation has yet happened.

What does this say about the design of the book of Revelation? It says that its primary intent is for the time we are living in right now! When Christ said that these things must shortly come to pass, what He meant was that once the things in Revelation begin to occur, they will happen very quickly in historical terms. They will begin unfolding so fast, it will take our breath away!

To whom was this book written? Verse 11 says that it was written to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. If the book was written to the end-time people, then we have to conclude that the message as delivered to the actual churches in Asia Minor was only secondary. The attitudes, the conduct, the events occuring in those seven congregations were only models of what was going to happen later.

However, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea are somewhere extant on earth today. Not just in the form of attitudes, but maybe also in the form of true-church organizations. All seven churches must be in existence at the end. This only makes sense because the book is concerned primarily with the end-time.

Does it not seem reasonable and logical that, if Christ wanted to get a message to each of the churches, and He only had a moment to spend with each one, He would be extremely selective in what He had to say? He would carefully design His message to contain the nucleus of what He wanted to get across. It would be quick, concise, and hit the nail right on the head. What He said would be of the utmost importance to them in regard to their responsibilities at the end time.

If His church were to be in existence at the end—and surely it is because He says that the gates of the grave would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)—then He would give His church what it needed most of all to survive and endure that period of time. He would not waste His opportunity speaking on trivial matters!

He would get to things that are essential to His people to get them through the trouble and into the Kingdom with as much growth as possible! This is the essence of those seven messages. It is the reason why they were written.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 1:4-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 4-8 comprise an extended greeting to the seven churches in Asia (later specifically named in verse 11, as well as in chapters 2 and 3). As the human author of the book, John includes himself as a sender of the greeting, but the bulk of it reemphasizes the real authors: God the Father, shown as eternal and sovereign, and Jesus Christ, extolled as "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (verse 5).

John ensures that we understand that Jesus is the same One who exhibited His love for us by sacrificing Himself for the forgiveness of our sins and made possible our future glorification (verses 5-6). In verse 8, he carries the identification even farther by quoting Jesus' own words: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Lest we misunderstand, John makes certain that there is no doubt that Jesus is the Lord of the Old Testament, the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6; 41:4), the Almighty God, who "declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:10). This extensive greeting certifies, not only that the prophecy has its source in God, but also that it will come to pass.

The greeting also includes "from the seven Spirits who [or which] are before [the Father's] throne" (verse 4), a quite controversial phrase. Commentators are divided among four interpretations, which can be summarized as angelic, symbolic, mystical, and Trinitarian. Understandably, the Trinitarian view—that "the seven Spirits" identifies a so-called Third Person of the Trinity—has the support of most Catholics and Protestants. Their primary reason centers on the fact that this phrase appears between greetings from God the Father and the Son of God. They contend that this phrase refers to the sevenfold description of the Spirit of the Lord in Isaiah 11:2.

The book of Revelation itself identifies the seven Spirits as equivalent to the Lamb's "seven eyes, which are . . . sent out into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6). These "seven eyes" probably allude to Zechariah 3:9 and 4:10, where they are shown to be "upon the stone," a symbol of the Branch or Messiah, and directly described as "the eyes of the LORD which scan [or rove] to and fro throughout the whole earth." In addition, Revelation 3:1 states Christ "has [or possesses] the seven Spirits of God," and Revelation 4:5 calls them "seven lamps of fire . . . burning before the throne."

This may indeed be a description of the Holy Spirit, not as a "Person" somehow divided into seven parts, but as a seven-branched conduit of God's communication to the seven churches mentioned earlier in the verse. Thus, John includes "the seven Spirits" as a source of the prophecy to specify how it was imparted to the seven churches. The apostle Paul pens a similar greeting in II Corinthians 13:14, in which he writes of "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit," meaning that God's Spirit is the means by which Christians can have a relationship with God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation


 

Revelation 1:12-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

From other scriptures we know the church is one body. Why then does Christ stand among seven candlesticks? Why not just one? He could just as easily have said that one candlestick has seven attitudes. Clearly, He is showing not just attitudes, but also that He is in the midst of one church during seven stages as events progress to the end. These seven represent the entire church for the period covered by the prophecies.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Letters to the Seven Churches: Attitudes, Eras or Both?


 

Revelation 1:12-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

By far, the most important feature of Revelation 1 is its long description of the Revelator Himself, Jesus Christ. John wants to be sure that his readers—the members of God's church—realize, not only who is revealing the future to the church, but also just how special and important He is to us now. In a way, the apostle is adding a final chapter to his gospel, showing us the awesome glory, power, and eternal nature of our Savior in His present role as High Priest and Head of the church.

When John turns "to see the voice" (verse 12), he beholds "One like the Son of Man" (verse 13) standing amidst seven golden lampstands, later explicitly identified as the seven churches (verse 20). John sees a glorious Being who resembles his dear friend and Master, Jesus of Nazareth, but this Person is far beyond human. He is God, in many respects just as the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel describe Him from their visions (Daniel 10:5-6; Ezekiel 1:26-27). John sees Christ

. . . clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. (Revelation 1:13-16)

John had seen something like this in the past, and he recognized who it was immediately: "[Jesus] was transfigured before them, His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as the light" (Matthew 17:2). If anything, this vision had an even greater impact on John than the transfiguration did, causing him to fall "at His feet as dead" (Revelation 1:17), again as both Ezekiel and Daniel did (Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 10:8-9).

Laying His right hand on John (Revelation 1:17), perhaps in healing or in blessing, Jesus tells the aged apostle not to be afraid because "I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death" (verses 17-18). In less symbolic language, He says, "Relax, I am indeed the Eternal God, but I am also Jesus, your friend, whom you saw die and then rise from the dead. Look! This is what it is like to have eternal life! I now have all power over life and death." Though he remained astonished, what a comfort that must have been to John!

And he passes it on to us so that we, too, might have both comfort and faith in what Jesus commands him to write, the book of Revelation (verse 19). This final book of the canon is not the delusion of a senile old man on a sun-drenched Mediterranean isle, nor the deceptions of another, more sinister spirit whose aim is to distract and corrupt God's people. No, the book of Revelation is a direct communication from our Lord Himself, given in love for His sheep, especially for those whom He calls to face the turmoil and terror of that great day of God.

We have this confidence: that Jesus Christ has ascended to the Father, having fulfilled His every assignment and received all things; that He is "the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth" (verse 5) and more besides; and that He will soon return to earth to set things straight (verse 7). In writing the introduction to his book this way, John has endowed us with the background information and the attitude we need to understand the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it (verse 3).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The All-Important Introduction to Revelation


 

Revelation 2:1-29   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider that this is Christ's message to His church just before the end, and this is what is most important for His people as we approach the end. Doctrine is mentioned seven times. Is that interesting in light of the times in which we live? We are seeing a major part of the church going haywire on doctrine! Is there something in the letter to Thyatira that mentions things that are happening in that group?

The letters contain at least eleven warnings to these seven churches but also at least twelve promises. Christ mentions faith, patience, conduct, and doctrine. But the two greatest, related concerns for His church at the end are works (Revelation 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8, 15) and overcoming (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21).

Today, an awful lot of people are interested in church government at this time. It is not even mentioned by Christ! There are people who are interested in rituals, sacraments, and ceremonies, of which would be things like baptism or the Passover. But nothing in the seven letters alludes to these things. Nor is there anything in them about preaching the gospel around the world. These things have their place, but what we see is Christ's concern with doctrine, conduct, warnings to repent, and promises of reward.

Now these things that are not mentioned are less important than faith, repentance, and holiness, all of which directly impact on doctrine, conduct, and receiving the promises. All of these are bracketed between His statements about works and overcoming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 2:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Any saint who has sorted right from wrong doctrine, discerned good from evil leadership, and patiently continued to labor in Christ's name can identify with Ephesus! Identifying today's false apostles was not initially easy either, but many have seen how church leaders have turned true grace into lawlessness and voided God's law from their lives (Jude 4; Psalm 119:126; Romans 3:31). If we have continued in patience and good works, we can be encouraged by Christ's initial words to Ephesus, for they apply to us in principle, if not directly.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Ephesus


 

Revelation 2:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The sense is that these messages for each church—for all Christians. This means that the attitudes and conduct described dominate the group accused or complimented by Christ, but they also exist in the other groups as well. Otherwise, the advice to whoever hears would not apply.

In other words, the Ephesian attitude might also be in Smyrna, Pergamos, Laodicea, Philadelphia, etc., but it dominated the church in Ephesus. The attitude that dominated in Smyrna would also describe, though with less accuracy, one or more of the other groups. The same would be true of Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

All the messages apply to all of the churches. All the messages apply to each of us as individuals, and it is a matter of "if the shoes fits, wear it." That is God's approach here. We are to live by every word of God. It is only under this principle that we can apply these messages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can see what most concerns Christ—what is most important to Him—at the end, when the pressures will be more intense than they have ever been in the history of man, when Satan is lining up all of his forces, all of his armies, all of his weaponry. The Devil will mount a persecution against God's people to such an extent that the whole earth will be thrown into convulsions, the likes of which this world has never seen!

Christ, like any good leader who sees what is coming, will take steps to prepare His people. He will focus their attention on what is most important to survive and grow during that period. This is why He talks about what He does to the churches in the messages in Revelation 2 and 3.

The word translated as "overcomes" can just as easily and correctly be—and is perhaps better—translated "conquers." We are involved in a war against Satan and his demons, against a world he designed and built through men, and against ourselves, who carry with us the self-centered nature, habits, and attitudes of Satan and his system. Thus, Christ's concern for us as we approach the end is whether we are carrying through in the warfare, continuing in well doing, and enduring to the end, because Satan is bringing about every pressure to make us surrender.

Loyalty is not a quality that we Americans and Canadians are endowed with to any great degree. Our cultures tend to stress individuality—doing our own thing. This lack of loyalty in America and Canada perhaps shows more clearly in divorce and infidelity than anywhere else. Loyalty's synonym is "faithful." It means "faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign; to be faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due; or faithful to a cause." It means to be steadfast in affection, to adhere to the performance of duty, to be conscientious, to give firm resistance to any temptation to desert or betray. Can we see what the works are Christ is so concerned about?

This is why every message says, "I know your works!" (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). He does not say, "I know your profession" or "I know your desires." Neither does He say, "I know your sincerity" or "I know your wishes." He says, "I know your works"! Why? Because works prove what a person is doing with his knowledge, time, and energies.

Titus 1:16 says, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified." Notice that they "profess" to know God. Christ says, "I see what you are doing. I know your works." Why are works so important? They prove where our heart is! They prove our loyalty! They prove whether we are conscientious and faithful. They prove whether there is fidelity to Jesus Christ—whether we are steadfast in our affection for the One we are going to marry.

Many believe that we do not have to qualify for the Kingdom of God. It is true that works cannot justify us; they cannot wipe out our sins. However, it does not follow that, because they cannot save us, they are of no importance. Recall that James uses Abraham, the father of the faithful—the father of the loyal, the conscientious—as the illustration that faith without works is dead! Living faith works! Jesus says, "I know your works"!

Revelation 2 and 3 are an examination of our works because Christ wants to see whether we believe Him! Living faith exhibits itself in works! It is a test of our faith. If we are faithful, we will be working: overcoming Satan, the world, and our self-centeredness. That is what works accomplish.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 2:9-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Smyrna is the only one of the seven to receive no criticism whatsoever from Christ! Philadelphia does not receive harsh criticism, but Christ says it has "a little [spiritual] strength," while He mentions nothing at all negative about Smyrna.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Smyrna


 

Revelation 2:9-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Apparently, a certain number of people today fit the Smyrnan category: They have no major flaws worth mentioning. They are not self-righteous, for that would be pointed out as a major flaw, as said of Laodicea. The Laodicean church is wealthy in physical goods and assumes spiritual wealth, but this is a false self-assessment. Smyrna is apparently of little material wealth, but rich spiritually, as Christ attests (Revelation 2:9).

However, Christ commands those of Smyrna to overcome just like the others if they will be in the Kingdom of God. No one is without sin (Romans 3:23), so Smyrna must grow in faith, love, and obedience like the rest. Some in Smyrna will be tried in tribulation and persecution—jailed and tried to the point of death. Some of them may even die as martyrs! As Christ says, He will prune even a good branch that it might bear more fruit (John 15:2).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Smyrna


 

Revelation 2:13-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Pergamos means "thoroughly married," like in a binding relationship. However, the context of these verses shows that they are in a relationship with a system—the wrong one! The doctrines of Balaam are in their congregation, as well as the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. Thus, He tells them to repent because some there, unlike Smyrna, had drifted away from what they had previously learned. They had not been faithful in the relationship to Him, even though they gave lip service to the doctrines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:14-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God knows all and sees all. He can read the intents of the heart and understands our frame (Psalm 103:13-17). These people were faithful and held fast His name under trying circumstances and great temptations, but they also tolerated evil. He instructs them to repent or face "the sword of My mouth" (Hebrews 4:12-13). To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Pergamos


 

Revelation 2:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No one in today's greater church of God overtly teaches we should worship idols of wood or stone (Exodus 20:3-5) and eat meat offered to them, as occurred among the early churches Paul administered. Nor does anyone openly teach fornication as a personal or religious practice, as happened in the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. However, anything that comes between us and devotion to God, including self-worship, is an idol, and any concourse with this world that diverts our attention from Him is spiritual fornication. Paul slew the idol of self daily (I Corinthians 15:31). We too often tolerate spiritual idolatry and fornication in ourselves and others, giving Christ plenty of fodder for His criticism.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Pergamos


 

Revelation 2:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we consider that these letters are written not only to the historical churches since the first century, but also to the seven churches that exist at the end time—churches that have the attitudes described in these letters—then this verse brings Balaam and his doctrine (his error, sin, rebellion) right down to our time. It is something we should think about and be wary of.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)


 

Revelation 2:20-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The world's corrupt, godless society influences God's people beyond our realization, and spiritual fornication and idol worship in particular have long been the bane of both physical and spiritual Israel. For instance, when Judah's exile ended, only a remnant of the people (42,360) returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64); the vast majority chose to remain in pagan Babylon. How many of us today put the things of this world ahead of God? The Bible suggests only a small faithful remnant will pay the price to return to God with their whole hearts and "come out of her" in the end time (Isaiah 1:9).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Thyatira


 

Revelation 2:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ says that, by what happens to her, "all the churches shall know" He is the Judge and Head of the church. Every church must exist concurrently with her to observe her calamity—especially those that had supposedly preceded her!

Staff
The Seven Churches


 

Revelation 2:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation is written for the time just preceding and including the return of Christ, the Day of the Lord. Unless Thyatira repents, all the churches will see the fruit of her lack of repentance, thus they all must exist at the end to witness Christ's judgment. The message to Thyatira, then, may apply to the historical church, but only in type.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Thyatira


 

Revelation 2:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse indicates that some of the Thyatira church will be alive on earth in the end time, just prior to Christ's return.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 2:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no sense that they are going to die before He comes. His return is so imminent, He says, "Hold fast till I come." It is as if He is saying, "You only have a little while to hang on."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One can hold fast only to what one has previously been given. They had been given something in the past. They had drifted away into a relationship with the world. Idolatry was present in their character. But Christ says, "Hold fast to that which remains"—something that had previously been given—so that they would not drift any further.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If they were all going to die before He came, the last sentence would make no sense. They will be alive when He comes, because otherwise the threat carries no weight.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A characteristic of the dead, physically or spiritually, is that they are unaware. Perhaps those of Sardis are not aware of what is really happening in the church and world. Maybe they think Christ "is delaying His coming" and have relaxed spiritually. Whatever the reason, they are standing still and not growing, slowly losing what life they had. In this spiritual state, end-time events could catch them by surprise like a thief in the night.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Sardis


 

Revelation 3:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A few names in Sardis are still alive spiritually. One might judge himself of another group entirely if he judges himself alive, but God says some are living among the dead. Are any of us really willing to call ourselves dead? We all judge ourselves as part of any group but Sardis! Yet God says Sardis exists, maybe not "alive and well" but it exists nonetheless. We all need to examine ourselves. Would God judge our works as lively, our faith as living? Are we slowly losing what we originally received and heard?

Staff
The Seven Churches: Sardis


 

Revelation 3:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is criticism or maybe it is simply a statement of fact. They are weak. They do have good characteristics, but they are weak. They have "a little strength."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It seems that some of the Philadelphia church will be around at Christ's return. Otherwise, there would be no need to mention the hour of temptation or trial that would come upon the whole earth—this is not some minor tribulation taking place in a corner of Asia Minor but an event happening all over the world. That has not happened yet. However, the message to Philadelphia indicates that elements of the Philadelphia church will be extant when that hour of temptation is occurring.

Compare this example with the message to Pergamos, where a certain individual is named Antipas. His is not a name one would associate with the end time; Antipas is a Greek name from the time this book was written (about AD 95). It is possible that Antipas had died shortly before this was written. Little details like this suggest a movement of time within Revelation 2-3.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 3:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God promises protection to the Philadelphia brethren—and we can be sure that this is a Rock-solid promise! However, we should be careful not to be complacent about this comforting promise. We should never assume that God considers us Philadelphians. It is likely that we have been in the Laodicean era for quite some time. We have to prove to God that we deserve to be considered Philadelphians in attitude while amidst the Laodicean era.

Although God's promise to this faithful church is sure, it applies only to those who are truly Philadelphian. Jesus identifies them as having kept God's Word, not denied His name, and kept His command to persevere. Those who fail to meet these three criteria cannot count themselves as Philadelphians and cannot claim God's promise of protection through the end-time trials and persecutions. We all need to wake up, listen to, and act upon the frequent and strong warnings against Laodicean attitudes that still exist within the church today!

Staff
No Greater Love


 

Revelation 3:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Before examining this promise, it may be helpful to understand what it does not say. Note how conventional wisdom would paraphrase this verse:

Because you consider yourself to be a Philadelphian, and because you are with the church organization that is doing the most to preach the gospel to the world, I will keep you from the hour of trial and will take you to the Place of Safety where you will be protected while all those who disagree with you will go through the Tribulation.

"Conventional wisdom" is not actually wisdom! It is what is generally held to be true by many, yet it may, in fact, be fallacious. This rendering of Revelation 3:10 is the conventional wisdom in some circles, illustrating how many take narcissistic liberties with this verse. It also shows why there is such an emphasis today on which church group is the best: because we are averse to pain and tend to try to avoid it. Thus, some convince themselves that they will be safe from what lies ahead because they are with the right church—rather than being right with God. This is extremely dangerous, as it indicates that they trust in the wrong thing.

The letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are written in large part from a perspective of "if the shoe fits, wear it." In each, Jesus concludes with "he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"—plural—meaning we should glean all that we can from each letter rather than focus on our favorite one.

In this light, a way to approach Revelation 3:10 is that perseverance is part of what Christ uses to define who a Philadelphian is. Thus, an individual is a Philadelphian because he keeps His command to persevere, in addition to exemplifying the other things He says, such as keeping His Word and not denying His name (Revelation 3:8). In short, a person cannot conclude that, just because he is fellowshipping with a particularly faithful group, he will be carried along in its positive momentum and benefit from the promise of protection and other blessings. An unfaithful individual in an overall faithful group will reap what he sows, not what the rest of the group sows.

Christ says similar things in other places, as in Matthew 10:22: "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (emphasis ours throughout). He makes no mention of group membership but addresses the enduring individual. Similarly, in Matthew 24:12-13 and Luke 21:36, He emphasizes what we do as individuals—our personal faithfulness and endurance—rather than the merits of a particular group. Just as Laodiceanism can be found in each of us regardless of the church we attend, so each of us can persevere and courageously endure no matter where we fellowship.

David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?


 

Revelation 3:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation mentions patient endurance seven times. At the book's beginning, John sets the tone by introducing himself as "I, John, your brother and companion (sharer and participator) with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance [which are] in Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9, Amplified Bible). The construction here is peculiar, but John uses three words to describe one thing—namely, the tribulation that is connected with the Kingdom and which requires patient endurance (see Acts 14:22; II Timothy 2:11-12).

In the letters to the seven churches, several recurring phrases or themes appear. They all contain "I know your works" and "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Five letters contain the command to repent, and "patience" appears four times in three of them, a good indicator of the importance of patience to God's church, especially at the end time.

In addition to the mention in Revelation 3:10, Christ commends the church at Ephesus for its patience:

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. (Revelation 2:2-3)

Perseverance—patient endurance—is also a part of the praise that Christ gives to the Thyatiran church: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience" (Revelation 2:19).

As the prophecies of the end time unfold, the patience of the saints is highlighted twice more. The first is in Revelation 13:9-10: "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."

In the preceding verses, John describes the Beast, his power, and his blasphemy. God allows him to make war with the saints and overcome them. This is part of what the saints will have to endure. Some translations, like The Amplified Bible and the English Standard Version (ESV), end verse 10 with "Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints," which fits exactly with Christ's "command to persevere" (NKJV) or "[keeping] the word of [His] patience."

The first part of verse 10 can be confusing because, even though the book was written in Greek, John is actually using a Hebrew idiom that signifies the certainty of approaching judgment. This can be seen in Jeremiah 43:11; 15:2.

This Hebraism means that it is so certain that the Beast will carry out these things that none will escape being involved in some way. Thus, God calls for endurance and faith.

Revelation 14:12 contains another reference to the perseverance of the saints: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."

The saints are defined as those who keep God's law and maintain and give attention to the faith of Jesus. Again, the context is the time when the world will worship the Beast and receive his mark. As in Revelation 13:10, translations such as the ESV render the first part as "Here is a call for the endurance of the saints," meaning that, when the saints see this occurring, their endurance and perseverance will be in greatest need.

David C. Grabbe
Who Will Be Kept from the Hour of Trial?


 

Revelation 3:12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Because Christ criticizes Philadelphia very little, opens doors before her, and offers protection from the Tribulation, it is easy to think we "have it made" if we were or are part of Philadelphia. Yet Christ admonishes Philadelphia just as He does the other churches: Overcome! A Christian must never rest on his oars, no matter what his situation or era. We all must overcome the world (I John 5:4), our nature, and Satan to be granted salvation, and if we do, entrance to God's Kingdom is an absolute promise!

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 3:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Christ's grotesque use of vomit spewing from His mouth captures the violent and repulsive scattering of the church. No part of His church has escaped the scattering of God. We have all sinned and come short of His glory. None have been righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10-23)! Among the curses for following the Word of God improperly is scattering and withdrawal of blessings (Deuteronomy 28:15-47; Leviticus 26:33). Some still claim God is blessing them greatly, but these are mainly empty words and false hopes. The scattering continues and will do so until God is satisfied that repentance has been achieved. God's objective is to show us that we are still far too complacent, not having turned to Him wholeheartedly, merely feignedly.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

Revelation 3:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just as with Sardis, those in Laodicea are completely self-deceived (Jeremiah 17:9). Their view of their spiritual state is diametrically opposed to that of Jesus Christ. Laodiceans think they are okay; they generally do not know they are Laodicean. In most cases, they think they are still Philadelphian and thus in good standing with God. They believe everyone has been asleep but themselves, yet Christ says, "They all slumbered and slept" (Matthew 25:1-13)!

One of Laodiceanism's major characteristics is utter self-deception. Each of us must look carefully into the Word of God for a true test of our spiritual condition (James 1:22-27), not presuming our evaluation of ourselves is the same as our Savior's. He is the ultimate Judge.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

Revelation 3:17-19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Laodicean's problem is that he does not even grasp that he is one, nor does he seriously consider the possibility. He really believes he is Philadelphian. He is blind to his nakedness and instructed to salve his eyes so he might see. This should cause anyone who considers himself a Philadelphian to take a long, hard look at himself in the light of Scripture. Could we be deceiving ourselves about our true state? Jesus Christ says so. It is somewhat paradoxical, but in this day of scattering and chastening, if we think we are of Philadelphia, we are probably Laodicean. If we think we are Laodicean, we may be waking up and beginning to see our faults. If we do something about them, we will be donning garments of true righteousness.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

Revelation 3:21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Revelation 3:21, written directly to Laodicea, says God grants overcomers the reward of sitting with Him on His throne! Thus, they have qualified to be in the first resurrection, having been judged to be worthy now (I Peter 4:17).

Staff
The Innumerable Multitude


 

Revelation 3:22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When Christ says, "He who has an ear to hear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches," that is what the Greek literally says. But what it most closely approximates in the English is, "Now, think through what I have said."

This phrase only appears a couple of other times in the Bible—three times in Mark and once in Luke. But it appears almost twice that many times in just two chapters of the book of Revelation. If God says something once, we need to pay attention to it. If He repeats it even one or two times more, then what He has to say, He is drawing attention to, and it is very important! But, if He says it seven times in the course of two chapters, then He is intensifying what He says considerably.

Revelation 2 and 3, when combined with Christ's discourses in the Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) shows Christ's concern regarding what His people should be focusing on just prior to the end. His vision of the times we live in was clear enough to foresee that we would have more distractions to grab our attention than at any other time in the history of man. He could see that the ease and rapidity of communication would attract our senses, and it would be difficult for us to keep ourselves focused on our prime concern.

Not that it would be difficult for us to keep focused on the outworking of prophecy. The book of Revelation is devoted to prophecy, and just about every Christian seems to be concerned with it, as everybody wants to have insight into what is going to happen. We want to have advanced news because it piques our interest. Perhaps some vanity is involved because we want to know before somebody else does so that we might have the privilege of telling them what we understand about prophecy.

But this, giving us insight into the future, was probably not Christ's primary reason for inspiring the book of Revelation. Something else is exceedingly more important, and most of it is contained in chapters 2 and 3, right at the beginning of the book. The most important part of Christ's revelation is contained in the letters to the seven churches.

In this confusing world, what is difficult is keeping our personal life focused, yet it is a responsibility each one of us has before God. No one else can do it for us. Individually, we must make the choices about what we will do with our time and energies. This is what Revelation 2 and 3 is concerned with.

This phrase is a solemn warning that what is addressed in one letter may also apply to the others in other congregations not affected by the attitude dominating their congregation. In other words, a person might have an Ephesian problem while attending a Sardis congregation.

In this way, each letter is written to each member of the body of Christ. And if the description fits, then we are to make the changes Christ commands.

What does Christ say in the letters? We also need to consider what He does not say because it is relevant to this period of time we live in. For instance, there is no mention, either positive or negative, of preaching the gospel. This omission can help us see its relevant importance compared to what Christ did say. Remember, these scriptures do not stand alone. Preaching the gospel is part of the church's responsibility, and it should not be minimized. However, it is not even directly implied in these two chapters.

Instead, Revelation 2 and 3 is a ringing call for things far more important to salvation, reward, witnessing effectively for Him, and making disciples.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 10:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Seven Thunders are definitely heard before the seventh angel sounds. Even within the sequence of chapter 10 (a inset), the Seven Thunders will occur before Revelation 11:15. The Two Witnesses do not begin preaching until chapter 11, so the Seven Thunders sound before the Two Witnesses begin to preach.

The events of chapters 10 and 11 must occur absolutely before the seventh trumpet sounds—they even begin and end before the fifth seal, well before the seventh trumpet, which is the last part of the seventh seal. This helps us understand what the Seven Thunders are.

Chapter 11 begins before the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. Given that Chapter 10 is part of the same context, the Seven Thunders conclude before John, the type of the Two Witnesses "must prophesy again." What we see at the beginning of chapter 10 is God's message—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—being given to mankind in seven sequential blasts!

If the Thunders had pealed all at once, John would not have been able to count them, but he distinctly hears seven of them. The events of chapter 10 blend right into Revelation 2-3: The Seven Thunders are the messages of the Seven Churches!

John was told not to write them, not because their message was a secret, but because it is already written—in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc. To give it again would have been redundant. The giving of the message must be finished before John "must prophesy again"—that is, before the Two Witnesses preach during the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 20:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Works are very important to the book of Revelation—seven times in chapters 2 and 3, and four or five other times in the rest of the book. Christ's concern is that His people are working.

The main purpose of the book of Revelation is not merely to give us insight into what is coming. It is also to convince the Christian that his loyalty, his devotion, his steadfastness, his suffering, and perhaps even martyrdom, is not in vain—that he is assured of a wonderful future. The reason for the stress on works is that character is not formed merely by knowing something but by knowledge combined with putting it to work until it becomes a habit. Over time, habit becomes character, and character follows the person right through the grave!

If we are not working, emphasizing loyalty to the Person of God and to His way, making every effort to overcome Satan, the world, and the self-centeredness within us, resisting with all of our being the temptations to do what is natural, carnal—if we are not expending our energy, and spending our time working out our own salvation with fear and trembling—it is very likely, then, that we are not going to have the character necessary to go through the grave. The wrong works will follow us, and we will not be prepared for the Kingdom of God.

Thus, what a person has done, that is, what he has worked on in this lifetime, follows him through the grave—either into the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God.

The book is designed to focus attention on what is of greatest concern to Christ for His people. He wants to ensure that they do not give up or become weary due to the great pressure of the times, and that they instead endure, persevere, and be loyal and steadfast to the very end.

His concern at this time is not preaching the gospel as a witness, but the salvation and continued growth of those He already has. The quality of the witness is directly tied to the quality of those making the witness. What good is it to have this wonderful, awesome message—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—carried by those who are poor examples of what it says? Christ's first priority is to ensure the spiritual quality of those who make the witness, and then the quality of the witness is ensured. We cannot let the cart get ahead of the horse. The one naturally follows the other. First things first.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

 




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