[The first division of the Revelation,
“. . . the things which thou
hast seen . . .” (Rev 1.19) is completed at the end of
revelation Chapter one. With the opening words of Chapter two the second division of the
text begins to unfold, “. . .
The things which are . . .” (vs 19).
In this second division the apostle writes seven letters to
the seven churches to whom he was commanded to write in chapter one
[These seven churches were actual congregations that existed in the
day that the letters were sent.
However, they clearly represent more than just their separate
churches; they must in some way account for the Church body as a
whole. This is
indicated by the fact that our Lord is seen standing in the midst of
seven golden candlesticks which are the seven churches.
The number seven is the number of completion, as noted
earlier, therefore the seven candlesticks and churches in some way
represent the Church as a whole.]
The THREEFOLD meaning of the
messages [ - As we consider the letters to these seven Churches
it will be important recognize the Primary Association of the
letters, the Personal Application of the letters, and the Prophetic
Anticipation of the letters.]
Primary Association [- The letters had a local and
direct bearing upon the local church to which it was written.
As in many prophetical utterances there is an immediate
meaning for those to whom the letter is written, but for the Church
of our Lord Jesus Christ there is a far more reaching and
prophetical meaning within each letter.
As we consider the primary association of each letter to its
intended congregation we should carefully understand the Condition
recognized within the Church,
the Caution to be heard by the Church, and the Challenge
given to each congregation and its members.]
Condition of the Congregation [– In each of these
letters the condition of each congregation is described.
These various conditions tell us much about the spiritual
well-being of these Churches.
Since these churches actually existed when the letters were
addressed and sent we know that the conditions described were
present and working within each congregation.
Each Church is described differently indicating the
distinctive struggles within each congregation and the breadth of
the struggles encompassing the universal Church of our Lord.
Each Church had its own unique spiritual struggles, just as
various congregations have their distinct struggles in our day.
The differing struggles seen in the various individual
congregations come together in the universal Church to show a
multiplicity of problems that need to be overcome.]
[It is often pointed out by disenfranchised Church members that they
left their varying congregations because of the hypocrisies and
problems within their congregation.
Trials and trouble should have been expected, after all
congregations are composed of human beings tormented by a sinful
condition and nature. However, the troubles in a congregation should never be allowed to
drive the people of God away from the Church our Lord so dearly
loves. Trials should be
expected and the people of God should work through their trials by
cleaving whole heartedly to the enduring Word of God.]
Caution Given the Congregation [– In most cases, when
the condition of the congregation warrants one, a caution is given
to the congregation. The caution expresses that our Lord is concerned enough about His
Church and its members to warn them away from situations that will
harm them spiritually or drive them away from our Lord.
As our Heavenly Father, God loves us, all of us, and as any
loving father would He will corrects us for our Good.
The correcting or chastening hand of our Heavenly Father is
never a comfortable thought, but it is always a necessity for our
growth (cf. Heb 12.4-11).]
Challenge proclaimed [– Near the end of each of these
letters to the Churches there is a challenge proclaimed in the form
of a statement to the overcomers.
It appears that in each of these overcomer challenges that
our Lord calls for each member within the congregation to be greater
than the condition found within the congregation.
In other words, individuals may not always be able to shape
or control everything that might happen within their Church, but
they can control what is happening within themselves personally and
their homes. Each
Christian should be a functioning part of their local Church body,
but they should not be adversely affected by the challenges and
struggles found within their congregation.
This calls each and every Christian to be a selfless agent of
the Word of God within the body of Christ, while keeping himself
unspotted from the world and the world’s wickedness around them.]
Personal Application. – [To each Church Christ says,
"He that hath an ear, let him
hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev 2.7,11,17,29;
3.6,13, 22). As already
mentioned, the message to “overcome” is addressed to each individual
within the Churches (2.7,11,17,26;3.5,12,21).
Hence, the condition of the Church is representative of the
body politic, but the individuals within the Church are capable of
being far more than the Church as a whole, and should be.
The failures of the professing Church should not be the
failures of each individual Christian.
In respect to the individuals comprising these Churches we
again consider the Condition, Caution, and Challenge given.]
Condition [– It is again noted that each congregation
has problems within them.
Some of these problems seem more grave than others.
But the problems are real and present.
The problems not only concern the congregation and its
ability to serve in God’s kingdom but they also have an undeniable
bearing upon each member of the Church.
That Christians grow spiritually is of the utmost importance
for each and every child of God.
Dissention in the Church body can stifle the spiritual growth
of its members. It is
each member’s responsibility to recognize the struggles within their
respective Church and to carefully nurture and tend to their own
spiritual well-being. The condition of a believer should be more than the condition of
their Church and the condition of their Church is no excuse for
spiritual weakness in the individual.]
Caution [– The caution given to each congregation is
a reminder to each individual within the Church that they must
carefully consider how they might be contributing to the problems
within their Church. Churches are composed of individual members.
The problems within a congregation are the result of problems
between the individuals who compose the Church.
In order for a congregation to respond to the cautions given
to it the individual members must respond first.
Christians must carefully consider their part in the
struggles found within their Church.
Those who are the most likely to say they have no part may be
the ones who need to hear the caution the loudest.]
Challenge [– Again the challenge to overcome is given
to each individual. If
each and every member of a congregation were to personally and
carefully respond to the challenge given then there would be no one
left to carry on the disputes described within these Churches.]
Prophetic Anticipation [-
Many have suggested that within the description of these
seven Churches there can be seen seven ages or stages in the life of
the Church on earth, commencing with Pentecost and concluding with
the Rapture. Some might
call this view the Dispensations of the Church Age.]
Dispensations of the Church Age [-
M.R. DeHaan once wrote,]
[Chapters 2 and 3 give us the history of the Church pre-written from
Pentecost to the Rapture of the Church.
This history is in seven periods, represented by the seven
churches of chapters 2 and 3:
These seven churches represent the successive chronological history
of professing Christendom.
It is a history of declension, apostasy and progressive
decline. The history of
the professing Church closes with chapter 3 where Jesus is pushed
outside the door. In
the first period of history under the figure of the
see the Lord in the Church walking in the midst of the seven golden
candlesticks, which are the seven churches.
In the last days of the Church we see Him pushed outside
professing Christendom, typified by the
Laodicea, knocking at the door from the
outside. He is now
outside, having been turned out by the mass of professing
Christendom. The door
is shut to Him, and the place He should occupy has been taken by
social services, the social gospel, banqueting and feasting,
bloodless preaching and denial of His deity, atonement, resurrection
and coming again. When
Christendom shuts the door on earth to Him, something happens in
[Concerning this Church Age point of view it has been suggested that
the Ephesus Church Age covered A.D. 33 to 100, the early Church.
The Smyrna Church Age covered A.D. 100 to 312, the persecuted
Church. The Pergamos
Church Age covered A.D. 312 to 590, the political Church.
The Thyatira Church Age covered A.D. 590 to 1517, the dark
ages or the idolatrous Church.
The Sardis Church Age covered A.D. 1517 to 1750, the
reformation Church. The
Philadelphia Church Age covered A.D. 1750 to 1925, the missionary
Church. The Laodicean Church
Age covers A.D. 1925 to present, the apostate Church.
When the historical record concerning these various time
periods are compared to the descriptions given in Revelation
chapters two an three there is an astounding correlation that
strongly supports this teaching.]
Kingdom Parables [- Also
supporting this point of view are the kingdom parables of Matthew
chapter thirteen. G.
Campbell Morgan, in studying these parables notes,]
[In our general survey of these parables in this chapter, the
Kingdom is viewed in its progress in this age among men.
Those spoken to the multitude present the Kingdom process
from the human viewpoint.
In the second group of parables spoken to the disciples, the
same age is in view, but the Kingdom is seen from the divine aspect.]
[When the kingdom parables are carefully studied and compared to the
dispensational (historical) theory of the Church Age another
astounding correlation is found.]
[Clearly a prophetic revelation for the history and condition of the
professing Christendom was given by our Lord.
Understanding what our Lord revealed about the Things Which
Are, the historical progression of the Church provides great
enlightenment for those who are striving to be good stewards in our
Lord’s kingdom. This
enlightenment empowers the people of our Lord to know what to expect
from those who claim to belong to our Lord, and how to continue in
ministry and service in the midst of perilous times.]
Church Age Chart (Fig. 1)
[- A Church Age Chart has been prepared to help one see how
these various passages appear to support the same prophetic theme.
When pictured in a chart the correlation between the various
descriptions offered by the various passages of scripture come into
Church Age Chart in
[The importance of this point of view becomes clear and
problems clearly evident within professing Christendom in our
contemporary culture have not caught our Lord by surprise, He not
only expected them, but He also prophesied that they would occur.
Our Lord is still sovereign and in absolute control.
Many in our culture try to use the hypocrisy and treachery of
organized religion to claim that either God is dead or that He at
least has lost all influence, but the scriptural evidence is just
the opposite. Our Lord
knew what would be and revealed the historical condition of the
Church from the very beginning of the Church.
These revelations should give every born again Christian and
stronger and more certain sense of the power and authority of our