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Bible verses about Church Eras
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 16:18

Jesus is prophesying here. Clearly, He intends His church to continue until His return, but He does not say it will always express the same personality. Is not a purpose of prophecy to provide the church with signs along the way to prepare for His coming? The letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 provide some of these signs.

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


 

Matthew 16:18

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?


 

Revelation 1:12-20

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 2:25

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

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

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

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 3:7-8

Jesus Christ tells the Philadelphians that they have only a little strength, a little power (dunamis). They have a small, effective capability for wonderful works and mighty deeds, a limited ability to get things done. If they are dynamic, it is only on a small scale. This has some implications about the letter to Philadelphia that we may not have considered before.

There are at least four applications or audiences to the Letters to the Seven Churches: They are written to 1) seven literal, first-century churches in Asia Minor; 2) seven end-time churches; 3) seven historical church eras; and/or 4) individuals Christians. In each letter, Christ gives the admonition, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The seven letters can represent attitudes or conditions as well as organizational units and periods. Looking through the lens of the fourth application gives the letter to Philadelphia meaning regardless of the era or corporate organization one may be part of.

Christ's statement that the Philadelphian has only a little strength is not necessarily a criticism. The overall tenor of the letter is extremely positive. However, He is giving a statement of fact: Philadelphians have only a small effective capability for miraculous work, a little physical or spiritual aptitude, a small measure of effectiveness. Dunamis is not entirely lacking, but it is present in only a small amount.

The Philadelphian, by this accounting, will probably not be the one healing people when his shadow passes by, or the one moving mountains. Nor will He be prophesying of future events or speaking in unfamiliar languages. He may not have great speaking ability or a dynamic personality. This is not to say that power and effectiveness are entirely lacking, just that the Philadelphian will probably not have the same dramatic outworking we observe in other biblical figures.

Why is this dunamis lacking? From the rest of the letter to Philadelphia, it does not appear that the lack of dunamis is because of a great failing or negligence in duties to God. On the contrary, the letter is a commendation because of faithfulness. Perhaps part of the reason, seen in one of Jesus' parables, is that not much natural ability is there for God to enhance. Perhaps also, mighty deeds are lacking because there is no need for such works to be done. Remember, if God has ordained that something be done, He will give the power for it to be accomplished. If He has not given that power, it is because it is His will that a thing not be accomplished.

The Parable of the Talents adds to the picture:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14-15)

The word ability in verse 15 is also dunamis. These verses affirm that 1) talents are given by God, and 2) apparently the bestowing of talents depends somewhat on the effective capability the person already possesses. Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Christ Himself was limited in the works—dunamis—He could perform because of the unbelief in some areas (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6)!

The two faithful servants double what is given to them. The amounts are not as important as the growth. Both give Christ a 100% increase on what He bestowed on them. The unfaithful servant produces nothing at all.

In this example, we can see the Philadelphian as the servant who receives only two talents rather than five. He does not have the same natural ability. However, even though he may have fewer responsibilities, or the scope of what he controls is much smaller, he is just as faithful as the servant who receives more. The Philadelphian may have only a little ability, but with that ability he is able to keep God's word and not deny His name (Revelation 3:8). His power enables him to keep God's command to persevere (verse 10).

We have been given a measure of dunamis. If we have God's Spirit, we have ability, talent, effectiveness, and strength in some measure, in some area. It does not matter how much is given, or in what area our strength resides, but that we remain faithful in what God has given to us and that we make use of the power we have to further God's purpose.

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

Revelation 3:8

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 3:8

We tend to think of the Philadelphians as being without fault because Christ does not make a pointed and detailed listing of their sins. Notice, however, that they have "a little strength"—they are weak. This is not a put-down but an honest appraisal. He is in fact commending them for doing as well as they have.

We need to consider this in terms of our recent lives in the church. The evidence shows that the Philadelphia group lacks the spiritual strength of the beginning of the Ephesian group. We have not seen many mountains moving out of their places.

We are among the generation addressed by Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). A careful scrutiny of these verses shows something is missing that almost all assume is there: They do not say the church at Philadelphia is full of brotherly love. Philadelphia is the name of the city, and we draw an assumption that Christ calls them "Philadelphians" because they exhibit remarkable love for one another. To be honest, we would have to make the same assumption for each of the groups, and no one has been able to make a significant conclusion in this vein for the Ephesian group in regard to the name "Ephesus," or for the Thyatiran group with "Thyatira," or for the others. Perhaps only one name does fit somewhat: Laodicea, which means "judgment of the people."

The Philadelphians have one fine quality—they are faithful. This is what He compliments them for being, meaning they have a commendable measure of obedience. Nevertheless, the Philadelphians, though faithful, are somewhat weak. The Laodiceans are largely derived from a base that came from the Philadelphians, making them weaker still, due to their lackadaisical inattention to their relationships with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 3:8

In Revelation 3:8, the phrase "open door" is being used, not so much as an opportunity, but as a reward. Young's Literal Translation shows this emphasis: "I have known thy works; lo, I have set before thee a door—opened, and no one is able to shut it, because thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name" (emphasis ours). Christ sets before the Philadelphian an "open door" because he has only a little capacity for mighty works, and yet he still keeps God's Word and does not deny God's name by the way he lives his life. He still is able to overcome.

The door Christ opens to the Philadelphian, the door no man can shut, may well be the door to the Kingdom itself! In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the door is open to some of the virgins and closed to others (Matthew 25:10-12). In the description of New Jerusalem, the gate is open only to those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27; 22:14). Christ opens the door to the Kingdom because of the Philadelphian's faithfulness, just as He promises to keep him from the hour of trial because of his perseverance (Revelation 3:10).

God may have given him only two talents, but He knows that if he is faithful with a small amount of power, in the Kingdom he will faithfully administer all of the responsibility and effectiveness that God bestows upon him. Individually, we may only have a little "power," but if we are faithful with what we have been given, God is pleased, knowing we will also be faithful with great power. As Christ says in Luke 16:10, ". . . faithful also in much. . . ."

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

Revelation 3:10-11

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

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


 

 




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