THE SEVEN CHURCHES
By Laura Thomas
When one reads chapter two and three in
the last book of the Bible (Revelation), many questions may arise as to why God
chose these particular seven churches, and why He instructed John to write to
them in the order that he did. Young Christians normally attempt to spiritualize
the letters to the seven churches as they retrace history with total confusion.
Many young and even mature Christians are unaware that the seven churches were
literal historical churches in Asia.
The churches commanded for John to write to were actual well known churches in his day. Their unique selection show us as Believers many things. For starters, these churches represent types and conditions of all church generations to come. This fact can be supported based on several conditions. First, there were numerous churches in the area in which were not selected and written to. The fact the Spirit was speeking to these churches is another factor of the panoramic view that these seven churches shows us today of Church History and the existing periods. There is much debate over the theological importance of the seven churches but the fact remains, God divinely selected this seven distinctively over all of the vase churches in the area.
In this paper I plan to show the comparison of each church letter, of each church listed, to match into the church vision for which it was named. All throughout scripture names are of much importance. In God's plan if one's name no longer fitted his journey, God renamed him as in Abram to Abraham. Abram means "exalted father" but Abraham means "father of a multitude". God knew Abraham would represent more than just an exalted father of history but that he would become the Father of History. The purpose of this illustration is to show what is in a name is of utmost importance when it comes to scripture. There are numerous accounts of what the people of the bible's names were and what their names meant, and they always fit the purpose of God's calling.
For starters the first addressed letter is to the Church of Esphesus. The word Esphesus means First Love the Early Church. The Esphesus Church Represents the time period from Pentecost to about 100 AD. This was the major developing period of Church History in which we have come to know today.
Before looking at the period in which it represents I feel first one should look at the Church itself. Esphesus was the fourth largest city in the empire when Paul visited the city and taught the people of Christ. It was connected by highways to all the important trade routes. Even The Roman Governor resided in this city as it was ideally located for a sea harbor. The city's temple served Asia as a Bank. The wealth of this city showed in the number of tourists visiting the legendary temple. The problem however in this city was even though it met the needs in both profit and pride of the people, it failed in the deliverance of the deepest needs of the population. The city was filled with both sorcery and witchcraft. Paul journeyed and visited the city and taught the people the true meaning of church as a living organism. This was a major start and beginning of the Early Church being looked at as a real and living Church Body. Their love grew for God and so did the Church.
When looking into Early Church History the people were corrupt in their ways and thinking, before knowledge was given unto them in Esphesus. Once the church in this city began to grow it grew out of their love for Christ. They were faithful to the Lord and they no longer tolerated wickedness. Even when they underwent much hardship they did not grow weary. However a problem began to arise within this church. They began setting up "instintutionalism" as they felt the need for it in order to keep faith and serve God. The institutionalism over time became the love of their hearts, rather then the love of God. This church was doing everything right, everything they possibly could to make sure the Church remained faithful and that wickedness was not tolerated, with one exception. The people forgot was one once in their hearts and why they were keeping the rules and their faith. The church was religious but it lacked in spiritualism. They forgot their first love.
When a person first excepts Christ as their Savior, they become very excited and want to share it with the world. As time moves on in many peoples hearts they sometimes move into the institutional category and forget their first love, Christ. The early church not only represent the early history of the Church but also the early life of a New Christian.
John's second letter to the Church of Smyrna represents the persecution that Christians undergo. The name Smyrna means myrrh. The people of Smyrna were humble and quite poor. This was not an area of wealth as in the Esphesus Church. Even though Smyrna was a large and important port city, the people living within it were heavily taxed by the Roman Government. The new believers underwent much persecution and suffered many trails, yet they never lost their faith in the promise given to them from the Lord. There were satanic attacks on the people and yet they never gave up on the Lord.
During the second and third century of Church Development the Christians were attacked just as the Asian Smyrna Church was. During this period of History many rulers rose and literally killed many Christians in an attempt to wipe out the Christian Church. But the believers held firm to their faith over this 200 year period and honored the Lord Jesus Christ. Many were jailed and killed just for the pure mention of the word and name of Jesus.
Today, many Christians holding strong to their faith are persecuted. For those Christians overcoming the attacks and standing firm in their faith, a crown will be rewarded to them. When Christ is the focal point, hell's gates can not break ones faith, just as with the Smyrna Church.
The third letter written was to the Church of Pergamum. The Pergamum church represents the corrupt period in the history of the Church. Pergamum was actually a very religious city in Asia. The city raised a temple to Zeus, the healing god who was worshipped in the form of a serpent. Pergamum was well known for its Medical University and Library housing over two hundred thousand volumes of notes .
The City was filled with pagan worship and many of the church members allowed untruthfulness to infiltrate the church. The people saw and knew what was wrong yet they allowed it into the church. Slowly the church itself grew farther away from the truth. Starting with Constantine in 312 AD the church became very worldly but far from the truth. It suddenly was politically correct to be a Christian. Believers were no longer persecuted and killed based on their faith. The Roman Catholic Faith grew from this church period.
Many False teachers were invading the church of Pergamum. The false doctrine was becoming the accepted doctrine and the Lord commanded them not to follow the Doctrine of Balaam, but to repent. Many times in a Christian's life he may find himself being taught false doctrine and without the help of the Lord he may stray. That is why "being of the world" is dangerous and why faith in the Lord to reveal his truth is so important.
Fourthly, to the Church of Thyatira an awful lot is said considering this was a very small town and church. Thyatira was a city in the Lycus River Valley. Although not a magnificent city it has numerous trade guilds. The city was a very profitable city because of its natural resources. The Jewish New Testament church of Thyatira was praised for its charitable works, service and faith. It was also criticized for following the works of Jezebel. Jezebel lived during the Old Testament and had worshipped the false god Baal. Her role against the prophet Elijah and of raising the people up against Israel's God, showed her wickedness. She is considered today as the most wicked woman within the Bible. Old Testaments writers blame her for the idolatry practice she bought into Israel. This church had really gone bad, yet it continued to think it was righteous.
The people of Thyatira were in error thinking they were following the Lords will. The period the church represents is the dark ages in church history. During this one thousand years the Roman Church grew. Many doctrines were added to the church such as Mary worship and wearing the collar of the priest backwards as a sign of being closer to God. Neither of these two items are biblical doctrine yet became common practice.
Adding false doctrine to the Word of God became a practice during the dark age period and repentance was becoming less and less important. Sin not only effects a person but it spreads like a disease, and within a church it can only bring the church undone. But for the Christian who truly follows God, they will endure even unto the end.
The fifth letter was written to Sardis, the church of much wealth. This church on the outside looked incredibly spiritually rich while on the inside it was dying. The Lord told them to get their eyes off wealth and off the world, and to get their eyes on Him. This church represents the reformation period within Church History. Around the sixteenth century the people of the Roman Catholic era began to awake and see the impurities within the church. Luther nailed his thesis to the door and a reformation of the church began. He actually had no intentions to leave the church, just to wake it up. However the church hated the wake up call, and Luther and a few others were on their own. The Methodist, Lutherans and a few others developed from this period in history.
The sixth, Philadelphia, was a most revered church and the most talked about in the religious community. This church was loyal to God and viewed things the way God wanted them to. This church kept God's word and was faithful to Jesus Christ. This church era represents brotherly love, evangelism and a return to the basic truths as taught by the disciples of Jesus, and an abandonment of many false doctrines and ceremonies that had crept in.
Some believe this church also shows how the Bride will be protected from the tribulation period and taken into Heaven.
The seventh letter is to the church of Laodicea. This city was well known for its wealth. They earned their wealth from black wool, textiles and banking. This church was the most despicable of them all. They were indecisive on their beliefs, neither happy, excited or sad about knowing Christ. This church looked good and rich yet it was spirituality cold. They had no real spiritual usefulness. Christ said they were spiritually naked and blind.
This church also represents the end
time church of apostasy and began in Church History around the early 1900's.
Many cults began in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Many people began
believing in works once again for salvation. Without the actual relationship of
the Lord, one can not develop a warmth for Him. Without Christ as your armor,
Satan can attack and come in and out. Jesus stood on the outside of this church
rather than within it. They sang about Him, talked and taught about Him, yet
they knew Him not.
Today, many people get up on Sunday morning, get all dressed up, go to church, sing, praise and pray, yet never really know Jesus Christ. They go through the motions but that's about all. They are not close to God yet claim to be. As time progresses, people are getting farther from the truth and farther from God.
To those who have an ear let him hear what the Spirit of the
Churches are saying to the people of today's world. They offer us as believers
hope just as Christ offered each church in Asia hope if they obeyed and followed
Him, the hope of life everlasting with Him. Each Church was offered a reward. As
Christians if we follow and keep to the truth we shall be rewarded and will
reign with Christ during the Millennium.
Each church letter has a message to each Believer and he who hears shall be blessed.
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