|The Seven Churches|
THE MESSAGE OF REVELATION
WHAT title is given the last book of the Bible?
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ." Revelation 1:1.
To whom do those things which are revealed belong?
"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever." Deuteronomy 29:29.
For what purpose was the Revelation given?
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." Revelation 1:1.
What great event, according to this book, is imminent?
"Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him." Verse 7.
NoTE.—This book not only opens and closes with the subject of Christ's second coming, but its eight lines of prophecy all reach down to this as the great culminating event to the church and the world. What encouragement is given to study this book? "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep .those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." Verse 3.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES
To whom was the book dedicated?
"John to the seven churches which are in Asia." Verse 4.
What were the names of these seven churches?
"What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea." Verse 11.
NoTE.—These seven churches, and the messages addressed to them, apply to seven periods or states of the church reaching from the first to the Second Advent of Christ.
Thomas Newton, although not himself holding that view, tells us that "many contend, and among them such learned men as More and Vitringa, that the seven epistles are prophetical of so many successive periods and states of the church from the beginning to the conclusion of all."—Dissertations on the Prophecies (1804 ed.), vol. 2, p. 167. Their good qualities and their defects are pointed out, with admonitions, exhortations, and warnings suitable for each, all of which are also applicable to individual Christian experience.
By what title is the first state of the church distinguished?
"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write." Revelation 2:1.
NOTE.—Ephesus fitly symbolizes the character and condition of the church in its first state, when its members received the doctrine of Christ in its purity, and enjoyed the benefits and blessings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This applies to the first century, or during the lifetime of the apostles. (See Uriah Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, pp. 361-368.)
After commending this church for their good works, what charge did the Lord bring against them?
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works." Verses 4, 5.
NOTE.—The "first love" is the love of the truth, and the desire of making it known to others. The "first works" are the fruit of this love. What name is given to the second state of the church? "Unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write." Verse 8. NorE.—The meaning of Smyrna is "myrrh," or sweet-smelling incense, and applies to the period of time when many of the saints of God suffered martyrdom under pagan Rome during the second, third, and early fourth centuries.
How is the closing period of tribulation of the church during this time referred to?
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Verse 10.
NOTE.—The most severe of the persecutions under pagan Rome began under the emperor Diocletian, and continued from . A.D. 303 to 313, a period of ten prophetic days. (For prophetic days see page 219.)
What name is given to the third state of the church?
"To the angel of the church in Pergamos write." Verse 12.
NOTE.—Pergamos, which was built on a lofty hill, fitly represents that period following Constantine's conversion to the setting up of the Papacy with its seat of authority in Rome. During this period the church, which formerly "had not where to lay its head, is raised to sovereign authority in the state, enters into the prerogatives of the pagan priesthood, grows rich and powerful." But at the same time, "received into her bosom vast deposits of foreign material from the world and from heathenism."—PHILIP SCHAFF, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3 (Scribner's, 1902 ed.), p. 5. Among the heathen rites and ceremonies previously introduced into the Christian religion, was the heathen festival, Sunday (sun's day), then estab- lished by law, resulting in the first day of the week taking the place of the Sabbath of the Bible. How was the faithfulness of this church commended? "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast My name, and hast not denied My faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth." Verse 13.
NOTE.—There is good reason to believe that "Antipas" refers to a class of persons rather than an individual; for no authentic information concerning such a person is now to be found.
What title was given to the fourth state of the church?
"Unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write." Verse 18.
NOTE.—Thyatira symbolizes the condition of God's people during the long, dark period of papal supremacy and persecution connected with the 1260-year prophecy. During that time millions of the saints of God were put to death in the most cruel manner that wicked men and demons could invent. Christ referred to this time in His wonderful prophecy recorded in Matthew 24, in these words: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." The tribulation of the 1260 years was cut short through the influence of the Reformation.
What promise did God leave for these persecuted ones?
"But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end; to him will I give pdwer over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father." Verses 25-27.
By what name is the fifth state of the church addressed?
"Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write." Revelation 3:1.
NOTE.—Sardis was admonished to "be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain" (verse 2). At that time the great tribulation of the people of God was at an end, but it was only as a result of the Reformation that any of God's people were left remaining. (See Matthew 24:21, 22, and note under Thyatira.) The Sardis church represents the reformed churches from the ending of the period of persecution to the Advent awakening in the early nine- teenth century.
What endearing title is given the sixth church?
"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write." Verse 7.
NoTE.—Philadelphia means brotherly love, and applies to the church during the Advent awakening and up to the opening of "the hour of His judg- ment" in 1844.
What words to this church show the Second Advent near?
"Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Verse 11.
What is Christ's message to the last church?
"Unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; ... I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. . . . Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; . . . I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed. . . . As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." Verses 14-19. NOTE.—Laodicea signifies the judging of the people, or, according to Cruden, a just people. This church exists in the time of the judgment and the proclamation of the final warning messages preceding Christ's second coming. (See Revelation 14:6-16, and reading on pages 245-248.) This is a time of great profession, with but little vital godliness and true piety.
THE SAVIOUR'S INVITATION
What encouragement is given to heed this message?
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Verse 20.
NOTE. —The pointed, searching messages to the seven churches contain most important lessons of admonition, encouragement, and warning for all Christians in all ages. The seven promises to the overcomer found in this line of prophecy (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21), with the eighth or universal promise recorded in Revelation 21:7, form a galaxy of promises as precious, as comforting, and as inspiring as any recorded in the Scriptures. (See pages Promises to the Overcomer and Overcoming )