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A Prophetic History of the Church


The Message of Revelation


What title is given the last book of the Bible?


The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.” Revelation 1:1.


To whom do those things which are revealed belong?


“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29.


For what purpose was the Revelation given?


‘Which God gave to show his servants what must soon take place.” Revelation 1:1.


What great event, according to this book, is imminent?


“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.”

Verse 7.


Note – This book not only opens and closes with the subject of Christ’s Second Coming, but its various prophecies 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 the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Verse 3.


The Seven Churches


To whom was the book dedicated?


“To the seven churches in the province of Asia.” Verse 4.


What were the names of these seven churches?


“Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  Verse 11.  


Note – John’s letters to ‘the seven churches which are in Asia” were addressed to actual groups of Christian believers in the Roman province of Asia. These messages describe conditions existing in these churches in John’s day and provide counsel appropriate to their particular needs.  But because there were actually more churches in “Asia” than the seven named, and because the number seven recurs repeatedly in the Revelation in what is evidently a symbolic sense, these seven particular churches are to be understood as representatives of the church as a whole and the messages addressed to them as applicable also the seven time periods or states of the church reaching from the first advent of Christ to the second. Throughout Scripture the number seven, when used symbolically, is generally understood to indicate completeness. A study of history reveals that these messages are indeed applicable in a special way to seven successful periods that cover the entire history of the Christian church. The good qualities and defeats of these churches 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?


“To the angel of the church in 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 message may be thought of as applicable to the first century, or approximately the lifetime of the apostles.


After commending this church for their good works, what charge did the Lord bring against them?


“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  Verses 4,5.   


Note – The “first love” is the love for 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?


“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write.” Verse 8.  


Note – The name Smyrna is thought by some to mean “myrrh” or sweet-smelling incense.” The message addressed to Smyrna may be thought of as applicable 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?


“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Verse 10.


Note – The most severe of the persecutions under pagan Rome was under the emperor Diocletian, from A.D. 303 to 313.


What name is given to the third state of the church?


“To the angel of the church in Pergamum.” Verse 12.  


Note – Pergamum, which was built on a lofty hill, fitly represents the 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 papal priesthood, grows rich and powerful.”  But at the same time, “received in her bosom vast deposits of foreign material from the world and from heathenism.” – Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3 (Scribners, 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 established by law, resulting in the first day of the week taking the place of the Seventh day Sabbath of the Bible.


How was the faithfulness of the church commended?


“I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.” Verse 13. 


Note – There is a good reason to believe that “Antipas” refers to a class of persons rather as an individual; for no reliable information concerning such a person is now to be found in any authentic early church histories.


What title is given to the fourth state of the church?


“To the angel of the church in Thyatira write.” Verse 18.


Note – Thyatira symbolizes the conditions of God’s people during the long, dark period of the papal supremacy and persecution connected with the 1,260-year prophecy. During that time millions of saints of God were put to death in the cruelest 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 there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” The tribulation of the 1,260 years was cut short through the influence of the Reformation.


What promise did God leave for those persecuted ones?


“Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end. I will give authority over the nations - He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery – just as I have received authority from my Father.” Revelation 2:25-27.  


By what name is the fifth state of the church addressed?


“To 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. The Sardis church may be thought of as representing the reformed churches during the time of the Reformation and onward.


What endearing title is given the sixth church?


“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write.” Revelation 3:7.


Note – Philadelphia means ‘brotherly love.” The message addressed to it may be thought of as applying to the church during the Advent awakening, from the late eighteenth century to the opening of “the hour of his judgment” in 1844.


What words to this church show the Second Advent near?


I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so no one will take your crown.”

Verse 11.


What is the message to the last church?


“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am going to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and slave to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” Verses 14-19.


Note – Some think that the word Laodicea signifies “the judging of the people,” or, according to Cruden, “a just people.” This church exists in the time of judgment and the proclamation of the final warning messages during the seven trumpets and preceding Christ’s Second Coming.

The Savior’s Invitation 


What encouragement is given to heed this message?


“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3;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 over comer 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 inspiring as any recorded in the Scriptures.   


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