THE SEVEN CHURCHES
In the Book of Revelation there are many messages that contain vital information concerning life and death matters for the elect of God. If the Father has called you to salvation during this gospel age of salvation, these messages are for your benefit. They should be taken to heart if you are serious about your salvation and eternal existence. How you grow spiritually and perform your responsibilities before God the Father and Jesus Christ in the times just ahead is in your hands. You can take the warnings in these two chapters to heart and be blessed, or ignore them and suffer the consequences.
God the Father and Jesus Christ have designed a plan for the salvation of all mankind and within this plan, some people are offered an awesome opportunity to participate in the first resurrection, which is a better resurrection. All those who participate in the first resurrection are called to be kings and priests, and will be given immortality in the same way that God the Father and Jesus Christ have immortality.
Because the opportunity to participate in the first resurrection brings with it such tremendous rewards and responsibilities in the Family and Kingdom of God, it is extremely important to understand that God the Father will give neither eternal life nor immorality to anyone who is unwilling to remain faithful and steadfast, and do the things that he requires.
A Warning to the Elect of God
The messages recorded in chapters two and three of Revelation are about the characteristics of the seven churches of God that will exist in the end of the age. These messages contain serious reprimands and dire warnings of severe correction of the elect of God by Jesus Christ. Each of the seven messages ends with the following admonition:
“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.“
Unfortunately, during this age of God's church, the majority of those who have been called to the body of the elect are forgetting or have already forgotten the awesome meaning of their calling and responsibilities to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Most of them are in a sad state of spiritual decay and in need of a dramatic change in attitude and behavior before the arrival of Jesus Christ.
The messages of Revelation two and three clearly show the severity of correction that will be needed to awaken many of God's people to their extremely dangerous situation. It is clear from these reprimands and warnings to the seven churches that Jesus will take whatever measures are necessary in order to stir God's people into action, so they will not lose their salvation.
Therefore, if we are indeed living in the times just before Christ returns, it is imperative to recognize that nearly all the prophecies of the Book of Revelation are written in the context of the time of the end. Even if we are not in these times, these warning messages to God's people still apply and directly impact all whom the Father has called to be his elect children.
A Book of Revealing
The first thing we need to realize is that the Book of Revelation is a book of revealing, and most of it is written to the elect of God who live just before Christ's return:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants [the elect] what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John“ (Para.). Jesus told John to, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later“ (Rev.1:19 NIV).
The prophecies in chapters two and three of Revelation show that all but about one seventh of the entire elect of God who live during this age will receive severe persecution, because God the Father and Jesus Christ find their attitudes, behaviors, and/or spiritual works unrighteous and unworthy of being rewarded with eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
In order to awaken errant individuals whom the Father has called to salvation to their serious problems so they can be saved from eternal death and enter into the Family and Kingdom of God, Jesus will bring a reprimand upon them in the form of severe persecution.
The warnings to the seven ancient churches of Asia are unmistakably meant for Christians of today and should be viewed as an extremely serious matter, because how you view these warnings will determine your eternal destiny.
TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
“I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forever, Amen; and have the keys of death and the grave. Write the things that you have seen, and the things which are, and the things that are about to occur. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw on my right, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks that you saw are the seven churches“ (Rev.1:18-20 Para.).
This prophecy was given to the apostle John around 90 A.D., which was long after the early church had powerfully proclaimed the gospel. Most of what the apostle John saw in his vision was prophetic and for this present age. Although some of the information concerning the seven churches in Asia was meant for John's lifetime, it was prophetic and meant for future generations of Christians as well.
Those who first proclaimed the gospel as instructed by Jesus went throughout the world, but they made a point to go to wherever the tribes of Israel were scattered among the nations. These people did a great work and established many congregations of God who practiced the faith with varying degrees of zeal.
When the work of the early church was complete, the church vanished from the world scene as a powerful entity. From the context of what is recorded in the scriptures and secular history about the demise of the early church and what is written about the elect of God and these seven churches in the Book of Revelation, it is clear that these seven churches represent congregations of God and/or groups and individuals who exist as real entities during the time just before Christ's return.
Although all seven of these prophetic churches participate in the proclaiming of the gospel at the end of this age, all except one have major spiritual problems that, if not corrected, will bring the wrath of Jesus Christ upon them. In an attempt to cause these individuals to wake up to their sins and spiritual lethargy, so that they can repent and be saved from eternal death, Jesus Christ will severely persecute them.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF EPHESUS
Notice that this message to the Ephesians is directly from Jesus Christ who walks among the seven churches and is the head of the church:
“To the angel [messenger] of the church of Ephesus write; These things says he [Jesus Christ] that holds the seven stars in his right hand,. . .. I know your works, and labor, and your patience, and how you cannot bear them that are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: and have borne, and have patience, and for my name's sake have labored, and have not fainted“ (Rev.2:1-3 Para.).
Those who have the attitudes and behaviors of a spiritual Ephesian persevere, work hard, and try to keep false teachers out of the church. However, the Ephesians have a major problem that needs to be corrected:
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of its place except you repent“ (Rev.2:4-5 Para.).
Although the Ephesians do not tolerate wickedness, are solidly against evil, and hate idolatry and immorality, they lose their first love, which is the love of the Father, his Son, his truth, and their fellow man. They become rigid to the point of self-righteousness and impose their own standards over God's righteous standards. They forget their awesome calling and the importance of the Father's royal law of love.
The Ephesians seem to forget that a major part of their calling and mission is to grow in grace, knowledge, and love for the things of God. They lose their intense love and zeal for God and have fallen into apathy at the final call to battle. Jesus warns them to rekindle their love and zeal for God and his ways or he will remove their candlestick. This is an extremely serious warning. Because the candlestick symbolizes the entire Ephesian group, Jesus is saying that he will remove them from among his followers. And because the candlestick also represents spiritual truth, he will also remove the truth of God from their hearts and minds; thereby, he will take away their eternal reward and position in the Family and Kingdom of God.
Today, Jesus Christ is saying that, if you do not repent and have a change of attitude toward your calling and return back to your first love, he will remove the spiritual light from your life. Without spiritual light, a person dies spiritually and will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Therefore, anyone who has accepted the Father's call to salvation better take their calling very seriously.
Although the Ephesians do many positive things (Rev.2:6), they do not maintain their first love. As far as Jesus is concerned, they are not fit for his Family and Kingdom. Ephesians who let their love die as a result of becoming rigid in their belief system and their own way of doing things must repent or they will die spiritually and eternally:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God“ (Rev.2:7 NIV).
Those who overcome the trials and tests of this life, remain in a repentant attitude, and maintain their love and zeal for the Father and Jesus Christ will have eternal life and immortality as symbolized in the eating from the Tree of Life.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF SMYRNA
“And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Smyrna write; These things says the first and the last [Jesus Christ], which was dead, and is alive; I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches; He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death“ (Rev.2:8-11 Para.).
Once again, we see the positive aspects of these elect as they try to do things right. Yet some will suffer imprisonment and even martyrdom to test their faithfulness. This is a group of the elect that will face severe trials and persecution in the time just before Christ's return.
The English word 'tribulation' is from the Greek word 'thilipsis', which means crushing beneath a weight. The word 'poverty' is from the Greek 'ptocheia', which means real destitution. Those of Smyrna are under much personal pressure and have virtually no material goods.
One reason for this poverty is the natural order of things, like that seen in economically disadvantaged countries and the lower economic class of society as a whole. In the early church, the elect were impoverished as a result of persecution that caused them to flee to other areas. And sometimes their goods were stolen while they were being beaten in their own homes for their beliefs. The prophecies indicate that these conditions will also exist during the time just before Christ returns.
Some of spiritual Smyrna will suffer imprisonment for ten days (i.e., a limited length of time) during a time of intense persecution that will come to an end. However, in the ancient world, imprisonment was just a prelude to being executed. Thus, many of this group of elect may end up being persecuted and some will be imprisoned before being executed.
Christ is telling those of Smyrna that he and his Father demand absolute loyalty even in the face of death. Christ warns those of Smyrna not to give up but to remain steadfast in the faith and become overcomers through their persecution, imprisonment, and physical death in order to obtain the crown of eternal life.
In addition, Smyrna is filled with internal strife and persecution caused by those who are not truly converted. Instead of removing the cause of their trouble or removing themselves from the problem in accordance to clear scriptural instructions, many of those of Smyrna will suffer persecution from within and outside of the church.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF PERGAMOS
Historically, Pergamos was the administrative center of Asia, and in the first century it was a center of Caesar worship. This is why it is referred to as Satan's seat. Pergamos was a city where people were required to worship Caesar or die. Also referred to as Pergamos is a group of God’s people who live right in the center of Satan’s religious system:
“And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Pergamos write: These things says he [Jesus Christ] which has the sharp sword with two edges; I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan's seat is: and you hold fast my name, and have not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells“ (Rev.2:12-13 Para.).
Jesus praises those of Pergamos for not being afraid to be called Christians and for holding onto the faith, even after one of their group was martyred for being faithful. However, notice in verses 14-16 what Christ has against some of them. Some held the teaching of Balaam who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating things sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality:
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So you also have them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come quickly to you, and will make war with them with the sword of my mouth“ (Rev.2:14-16 Para.).
What is said about some of the elect of Pergamos can also be said about some of the elect today. Today's society is extremely promiscuous with many sexual perversions being accepted and practiced. And some of the elect of God, including their spiritual leaders, suffer from the same attitudes and behaviors found in ancient Pergamos. Because of this, Christ says that he will fight against those of Pergamos who do such abominable things. This is an extremely serious warning; Jesus Christ does not play games with a person's salvation. Therefore, any to whom this warning applies should take it very seriously and act appropriately.
Those of ancient Pergamos lived in an environment where Satan's influence, through false religions, was exceptionally strong and some of the elect had compromised God's standards in order to avoid problems with the society around them. Rather than having an attitude of coming out of this society and being separate as God requires of his elect children (2.Cor.6:17), they became a part of the evil society around them.
Christ warns that any of the elect who have an attitude of compromise concerning the truth of God during the time just prior to his return will find themselves at war with him. Remember that the word of God cuts as a two edged sword and causes division between those who truly believe and those who do not. Therefore, we can assume that division over what is right and wrong will cause great turmoil among those with the attitude of Pergamos. They will be persecuted by the world and warned by Jesus Christ of his intent to kill those of his church who refuse to behave righteously and avoid partaking of the evils of this society:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it“ (Rev.2:17 Para.).
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF THYATIRA
“And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God [Jesus Christ], who has his eyes like to a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know your works, and charity, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first“ (Rev.2:18-19 Para.).
Once again, Jesus offers much praise for the good done by this group of the elect; however, there is a very serious problem that needs to be corrected if they are to be successful in gaining eternal and immortal life.
“Not withstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searches the mind and heart: and I will give to every one of you according to your works“ (Rev.2:20-23 Para.).
The problems within Thyatira did not come from outside the church; they came from within. They began with Thyatira's acceptance of the teachings of a woman who was thought to be a prophetess from God, but who in actuality was an evil person like king Ahab's wife Jezebel. This woman urged them to compromise in order to comply with the world's standards and gain the acceptance of non-believers, advantage in business, and prosperity in other areas of life.
This false prophetess was not necessarily trying to destroy the church; she just wanted the elect to view the truth of God in a more liberal way than Jesus Christ and the apostles had taught. However, her teachings led to compromise, especially in relation to idolatry, which led to spiritual fornication.
Today, there is a very large Sabbath-keeping group that follows the foolish and dangerous teachings of a prophetess that came from within their group. Although these people carry on a dynamic, outgoing, and powerful ministry to the world around them, they are in deep trouble with Jesus Christ.
On the surface this church looks very productive having people doing good works. Yet, they have compromised the truth of God. They are self-seeking and deceived because they have been following the false teaching of a false prophetess for many generations. Therefore, this is a serious warning to them from Jesus that their salvation is in jeopardy.
Many of Thyatira will receive the trial of fire because of their lack of zeal for the truth of God. Jesus will put them through great persecution and even martyrdom in an attempt to awaken them to their sinful condition and give them a final opportunity to repent. Jesus warns that he will kill the unrepentant in order to purge and purify his Father's sons:
“But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyratira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden“ (Rev.2:24 Para.).
Some of God's people have deliberately sought to do evil. But why? The teachings of the ancient Jezebel seemed to encourage sin, because one could repent and accept God's graciousness and make God look good. Many today have actually built this case by corrupting the scriptures and thereby turning God’s grace into a license to sin.
Although these people show service, faith, love, and perseverance, it is apparent that they desire to be entertained rather than instructed, to be soothed rather than corrected, and to be more of a social club than an educated congregation. On the surface this church seems like a dynamic group with great works, yet they do not really want to be educated in the truth of God nor follow his spiritual ways.
At the center of Thyatira's problems is the acceptance of the teachings of a false prophetess and, perhaps, in some cases, a false prophet. Many of these people appear to be righteous, but they will not easily give up their false beliefs. This group has a problem of compromising the truth of God by worshiping the Sabbath and worshiping a person and false teachings, which is idolatry. To those of Thyatira who are carefully and zealously following the teachings of God, Christ says:
“But that which you have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that has an ear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches“ (Rev.2:25-29 Para.).
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF SARDIS
“And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Sardis write: These things says he [Jesus Christ] that has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember, therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If you will not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis that have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy“ (Rev.3:1-4 Para.).
Within the Sardis grouping of the elect, there are only a few who have not defiled themselves spiritually. The implication is that unless there is a major change in their attitude and behavior, most who have the attitude of the Sardis church will end up in the Lake of Fire.
The first time a person makes a serious mistake after their conversion, they may recognize this as a sin due to a weakness in their life. If a person deals with it at the time and resolves to change, the problem will be overcome. But, if one compromises themselves again and again, each subsequent compromise becomes easier and easier until self-delusion sets in and sin becomes an acceptable way of conducting oneself before God the Father and Jesus Christ. A person with the Sardis attitude does not truly believe that the wages of sin brings eternal death. See Rom.6:23.
The congregations pictured as Sardis do not appear to be troubled by heresy because they do not have anyone among them who is thinking enough to come up with a heresy. They are so spiritually dead and so lazy that they just accept whatever doctrines seem pleasant and easy to comply with. They are just drifting along in ignorance to their plight and the serious danger that confronts them. This church is not likely to be troubled by an attack by Satan or any other outside source, because the truth is that they are so spiritually dead already that they are not worth attacking.
The warning to those of Sardis is that they had better quickly wake up to their deadly lethargy and watch out, because their salvation is in jeopardy. Christ also warns that within the congregations of Sardis there are only a few who truly love the Father and his Son and are following the ways of God. Jesus encourages these few to continue to be watchful and they will receive their reward. However, most of their brothers and sisters in Christ only appear to be spiritually alive but are in reality spiritually dead and will die the second death in the Lake of Fire if they do not repent of their evil ways. Vigilance is really part of the price of liberty under Christ.
Christ is telling the lethargic elect of Sardis to think back to when they first heard the truth of God and the Father's good news about his Son and salvation and to remember the time of their spiritual awakening and their repentance and conversion to a son of God.
Most of Sardis are in great danger. They have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as their own and have known the Father; therefore, they are having their opportunity for salvation. But, because of their sins, they are on the pathway that leads to eternal death. That is why this warning is so severe. They have little or no will to prayerfully study God's word or to use it on a continuing basis to help them overcome their spiritual flaws. They are so self-deceived that they do not even realize that the little truth they have is slipping away and that they are in danger of losing their salvation.
Christ says in order to be among the overcomers whom he will accept, any with the Sardis attitude must awaken from the deadly lethargy and show some signs of repentance and change:
“He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white garments; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches“ (Rev.3:5-6 Para.).
Those of Sardis are not fulfilling their responsibilities to grow in grace and knowledge nor are they fulfilling their commission properly. Most in Sardis are complacent and are not trying to live a righteous life. They have allowed the truth of God to slip away, and Jesus considers them spiritually dead.
Because they have stopped trying to overcome, Jesus sees no benefit in pursuing their salvation any further and will allow them to die if they do not make an effort to repent and live righteously.
Make no mistake, only the overcomer will keep their name from being blotted out of the book of life. Jesus says that any with the attitude of Sardis are on the verge of losing their eternal life because of a compromising, complacent, and lazy attitude toward the things of God and their calling. What a terrible accusation from our Lord and Savior. Those of Sardis have a reputation for being alive; however, they are in fact already spiritually dead.
Few from Sardis will pass the test of persecution, because they are lazy and uninspired by the awesome opportunity that they have been given to be among the first of humanity to enter the Family and Kingdom of God as immortal sons of God the Father. The elect of Sardis still have hope of obtaining salvation, if they will only repent and endure to the end with a righteous attitude.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF PHILADELPHIA
Only one of the seven groupings of God's elect children is used by Jesus to carry out the final dynamic preaching of the gospel. Although others of the elect may be given awesome gifts from God to work great miracles and perform a great witness, those of Philadelphia seem to be the only ones who are empowered with the gifts shown in 1.Corinthians 12:4-11, and Romans 12:6-8, in order to reach out to the world as a whole, both within the body of the elect and through worldwide evangelism:
“And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Philadelphia write: These things says he [Jesus Christ] that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name“ (Rev.3:7-8 Para.).
Notice the emphasis upon having kept Christ's word and not denying Christ's name. In the Greek language, the verbs are in the aorist tense, which describes a definite, specific act in the past. The implication is that there has been some particular spiritual trial out of which those of Philadelphia have emerged victorious. It is for this reason that God uses and empowers them to perform a great work for him in the end of the age.
Part of the reward for having the Philadelphia attitude and behavior is to be given an extremely prominent position in the Family and Kingdom of God: a position worthy of great respect and honor:
“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and bow before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of my patience, I will also keep you from the hour of trial, which shall come upon all the inhabitable earth, in order to try those dwelling on earth. Behold, I come quickly. Hold what you have so that no one takes your crown“ (Rev.3:9-11 Para.).
Only those with the Philadelphia attitude and behavior are given a significant measure of protection by God. This does not mean that they are totally free from persecution or even martyrdom. But of all God’s children, they are the only ones who have major protection promised to them in order for them to proclaim the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God, whereas the rest of God's elect children will be severely reprimanded by Jesus Christ through the word of God and the persecution by Satan and the world at large in order to try, purify, perfect, and save them from eternal death.
“The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall not go out any more. And I will write the name of my God on him, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God; and my new name. He who has an ear, hear what the spirit says to the churches“ (Rev. 3:12-13 Para.).
Those of Philadelphia may only have a little strength, and their resources and numbers may be small, but they are faithful to God and his plan for the salvation of humanity. Notice, Jesus also said that they have kept his commandments; therefore, he will keep them. They are keeping God's word, the word of endurance. Those of Philadelphia try hard to practice the kind of endurance that Jesus Christ displayed. They are people who do not compromise; they endure and firmly keep in mind the goal that God has for them and humanity.
Those of the Philadelphia attitude and behavior are the only ones who have a completely positive description. They are faithfully keeping the word of God, they are not denying Jesus' name, and they are enduring patiently with persistence. Because of this, they are promised special protection against Satan in order to do a mighty work for God. Yet there is a serious warning within the message to them.
Jesus Christ warns them to hold on to what they have, so that no one takes their crown. This is not an issue of theft; it is an issue of becoming unworthy to wear the crown. Jesus gives responsibilities, opportunities, and physical and spiritual gifts to each of the elect of his Father. If a person performs their responsibility, seizes the opportunity, and properly uses the gifts they have been given, they will be rewarded accordingly; they have a crown reserved for them to wear in the Family and Kingdom of God. But, if they prove themselves unfit, Jesus will give their task to someone else and they will lose their reward and perhaps their eternal life.
Seize the Moment
It is very clear that God wants all the elect to serve him in various ways. The point is that God watches for individuals and even groups of individuals who will take hold of a particular opportunity to serve him. If they act, God uses them in that responsibility. God the Father and Jesus look at each of those who have been called to salvation as individuals and if they seize the moment and take action, God will use them in his great and awesome plan for the salvation of humanity.
From what is written about the church of Philadelphia it seems that this group of people are in the forefront of proclaiming the gospel message. Because they have a correct attitude toward God and are actively performing the task that they have been given, they receive no correction from Christ. In fact, they are spared from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole earth and will receive an
incredibly awesome reward for their diligence.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF LAODICEA
“To the angel [messenger] of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things says the Amen [Jesus Christ], the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I wished that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth“ (Rev.3:14-16 Para.).
Of all the seven congregational groupings of God's elect directly spoken to by Jesus Christ, this group is the most pointedly condemned. They are neither faithful nor unbelieving; rather, they are completely indifferent. Their indifference to God's truth is sickening to Jesus. The Laodiceans are so self-satisfied that they think everything is fine and that they are doing great works. They view themselves as the recipients of great spiritual understanding, but they have practically none.
“Because you say, 'I am rich; and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold having been refined in the fire by me, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and your shame and nakedness may not be revealed. And anoint your eyes with eye-salve, that you may see“ (Rev.3:17-18 Para.).
Here, we see a people who are so apathetic and lazy because of their perceived knowledge and spirituality that they are in danger of being cast away from God. They are self-deceived into thinking that they are spiritually rich; however, they are not. Christ is giving them their last opportunity to repent and become zealous for God. If these people will hear and heed what he is saying, he will again establish fellowship with them. If not, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the unrepentant wicked.
Christ is searching for people that want him and his Father to be a major part of their life. He says he is at the door knocking, hoping the wayward elect will let him back into their hearts and minds. But he will not force his way into their lives. These individuals have to make a decision to repent of their nauseating quality of being spiritually lukewarm, self-satisfied, complacent, and in need of nothing.
Their indifference has left them self-deluded and they do not realize they are spiritually poor, miserable, wretched, blind, and naked. Those who lead such a people and do not themselves repent are in deep trouble. These individuals have an attitude of having it made, but have no real commitment for spiritual growth. They feel secure as long as they associate with a particular group (i.e., success by association). That kind of attitude leads to indifference and complacency, which Christ severely rebukes. He will bring fiery trials in order to bring those with such an attitude to genuine repentance:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous then, and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock; If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in to him, and I will dine with him and he with me“ (Rev.3:19-20 Para.).
The Greek word 'elegchein', which is used in connection with the rebuke of those with the Laodicean attitude, means a severe rebuke that compels a person to see the error of their ways. Christ is showing, in an extremely strong way, that some of the elect who are in this decadent condition can expect extremely severe trials that come directly from him.
Because of their self-righteous attitudes, Jesus says they will be tried in fire. A Laodicean needs a major attitude adjustment in order for him to be used by God and allowed to enter the Father's Family and Kingdom. This is why Jesus has to deal so severely with them. But God the Father and his son are extremely merciful. If a Laodicean repents, he will be forgiven and welcomed into the Family and Kingdom of God:
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches“ (Rev.3:21-22 NIV).
The messages to the seven churches are not only meant to be a severe reprimand from Christ but also to give hope and encouragement. For those who do not heed these warnings, there is death and dishonor ahead. For those who heed them, there is eternal life and immortality in the Family and Kingdom of God.
God the Father and Jesus Christ are in the process of molding the body of the sons of God for an awesome and dynamic spiritual work to be done at the end of this age. But not everyone that is called to this dynamic work will be in one united congregation. There are seven distinct groupings of the elect shown to exist during the times just prior to Christ's return.
Because each of us stands or falls to a certain degree based on our association with other people, each of us needs to recognize if we have any of the unrighteous attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics that Jesus warns the seven churches about. We also need to recognize if we are associating with individuals or congregations of God that exhibit these unrighteous traits. If we do not recognize these things in time and take the appropriate action to repent and remove ourselves from sinful people who refuse to change their ways, we will find ourselves in jeopardy of losing our own salvation and becoming the recipients of strong correction from Christ in the form of severe persecution.
A Time of Great Trouble
Any of the elect of God who are alive during the time of the end and think that they will live out their lives in peaceful co-existence with non-believers while Jesus Christ pours out the wrath of God upon a wicked and rebellious world are not in touch with reality.
The battle lines have already been drawn, the hour of conflict is set, and the warning messages to the seven churches shows that unrighteous attitudes and behavior have rendered all but one-seventh of the elect of God ill-equipped and unfit for spiritual battle.
It seems that only a few of the elect understand the seriousness of the times that we live in and the things that God the Father and Jesus Christ require of them. Most of the elect think everything is just fine. But things are not just fine; this is why Jesus will pour out his wrath on all but one- seventh of those of his church. Make no mistake, Jesus would much rather see those who need to repent do so without having to be corrected through trial and persecution. However, because Jesus loves us deeply, he will attempt to shake the lazy, the lethargic, and the sinful out of their sleep of death with strong persecution and trials of fire, in the hope that they will awaken to their terminal condition and repent.
The Core Issue
In today's world, the elect are continually bombarded with evil from the world around them. Many have allowed themselves to become influenced by wrong values and have compromised themselves and become blind to their sins.
It is easy to see how wrong attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics of the seven ancient churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation exist within various individuals and congregations of God scattered throughout the earth today. We can almost say, in a sense, that the die is already cast and that birds of a feather have flocked together. It is also easy to see why these attitudes and behaviors bring severe correction upon God's people from Jesus Christ who is the head of the church.
Separate from the World
Although all seven churches suffer great persecution for the truth that they believe and practice, the general admonition to all of God's people is to come out of and remain separate from the things of the world that can pollute one spiritually:
“For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues“ (Rev.18:3-4 Para.).
Because of the increased activity of evil spirits during the time of the end, there will be great religious confusion (especially concerning the teachings of the Bible). As people become more and more confused as to what is right and wrong, God's people who are not diligent in their pursuit of righteousness will be drawn into evil behavior and compromising attitudes; thereby, they will lose the love and zeal that they once had for God.
Jesus often spoke to the disciples about the need to perform the task that they had been given concerning the gospel and the persecution and rewards associated with its proclamation:
“And when he had called the people to him along with his disciples, he said, Whoever desires to follow me let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whoever shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels“ (Mk.8:34-38 Para.). See also 1.Pet.3:14-17.
It is sad to say that of the seven church groups noted in the Book of Revelation that exists today, only one is found to be totally committed to the Father and Jesus Christ and their ways. The other six are in varying degrees of rebellion and disobedience to the Father and Jesus Christ and the truth of God. Make no mistake, the Father and Jesus Christ are solidly against the tolerance of evil. They want the elect to either repent and remove the evil from among them or remove themselves from the evil.
During these times before Christ's return, there are two primary questions that each of us who is a son of God needs to answer in reference to the messages in chapters two and three of Revelation:
“Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left his house, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel's, But that he shall receive an hundredfold now and in this time houses, brothers, sisters, mother, children, and lands, and with them persecution; and in the world to come eternal life“ (Mk.10:29-30 Para.).
Terrifying and dynamic things are going to occur in the world during the proclaiming of the Father's good news to humanity just before Jesus Christ's return as the conquering King of kings. The elect need to heed the warning: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit (Jesus Christ) says to the churches“. The eternal destiny of each individual whom the Father has called to salvation and that is alive at this time hangs in the balance. Be a person who has an ear to hear what Jesus Christ is saying to all the Father's elect children. If your heart is right with God, you do not need to fear a severe reprimand from Christ, nor should you be anxious about your salvation.
May our God help each of us to contemplate the seriousness
of the messages to the seven churches and heed the reprimands and warnings that
have been given to us in them, so that we may be overcomers and inherit the
awesome rewards and promises made to us by God the Father and Jesus Christ.
By B.L. Cocherell and Charles E. Barrett
File b2w3 7/07