THE SEVEN CHURCHES
By Dan Luehrs
The seven churches of The Revelation have always interested me ever since I became a Christian. The Spirit of God has spoken much to me through the years about my relationship with Him through these seven churches. Many scholars believe that these churches represent seven church ages. They also believe that we are in the last of the church age, we being the lukewarm Laodicea church. This could be true, but I also believe that these churches represent the seven different types of relationships that we as individual Christians are now having with Jesus. What these churches did correctly before the Lord we must do and what they did wrong we must not do. These churches represent for us the progressive way to the throne of God. This was the last thing Jesus promised to the Laodicean church (which was the most backsliden of all); if we overcome all that these churches faced we will receive the greatest reward of all, His likeness. My writings of these churches may not be inviting to the lukewarm church of today, but if we truly desire to be as close to Jesus as possible we must take heed to every word that He has spoken to us through these churches.
All seven of these churches existed in the first century, located in Asia Minor, the present-day western Turkey area. Not one of them today is in operation. It is important to note that before these churches were one hundred years old, five out of seven of them went into apostasy. The Lord had to use strong corrective words of discipline with them to bring them back in line with His will and purposes.
THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS
Ephesus was known in its day for its many sacred shrines, notably a famous temple, (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), to the goddess Artemis, or Diana. It was also a major departure point for trade routes into Asia Minor. Clearly we can see that Ephesus was a city of idolatry. Not only were statues and icons worshipped; money was also one of it greatest idols, just as it is today.
"I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false" (Revelation 2:2 NAS).
Jesus not only commends the Ephesians in their tribulations as to their willingness to suffer for the truth. But how they will not put up with evil men calling themselves apostles. Because these believers wanted to know the truth, (all truth is in Jesus) they were very protective of who they allowed to teach them; this was good. They knew that even satan transforms himself into a messenger of truth in order to bring destructive heresies into the church.
We must take these verses and hold them up as a mirror to examine ourselves. Are we willing to suffer to know truth or are we like babies that put everything into their mouths? For certainly satan is working, as he did then through his evil men, to mislead God's people. One of the ways satan does this is through the spirit of idolatry in religion and money.
"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (Revelation 2:4 NAS).
Doctrinally these Christians at Ephesus had everything in order, but they missed the main ingredient of Christianity, "To love the Lord your God with all your heart." That's like making a cake without putting it in the oven to be baked! If Jesus is not our first love in our life we are an un-done Christian. This love seems to wan so quickly if we do not maintain it with a study diet of intimacy with Him. We get so caught up in the mundane things of life and Christianity that we somehow begin to think that working for Jesus is more important than being with Him or becoming like Him. How foolish we can be! Busyness is the way of the world, "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become foolish that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness" (1 Corinthians 3:18-19 NAS). If we want to be wise in God's sight we must spend time with Him daily.
People get married because they love each other and don't want to be a part any more. They spend so much time together enjoying each other's company that they want to be one in matrimony. When they get married their sexual intimacy only strengthens their relationship. But one day they do not make time for each other and they grow apart with other things and people more important than their spouse. It is for the same reason people lose their first love for Jesus, they do not keep making time to know Him
When someone gets saved they are so happy and joyous in knowing Jesus. Then the church tells them to come to church services every time the doors are opened, get a ministry inside the church, and stay busy for God or He won't be pleased with them. They even have a saying: "Look busy, Jesus is coming!" Soon their busyness burns them out in religious activity. They fall away from any type of close relationship they might have had with God having had no true intimacy with Jesus to receive His strength. Why is this? It is tragic to say, but many in church leadership don't have daily fellowship with Jesus themselves, so they do not teach others to know Him more. Oh yes, they may say you need to pray and read your Bible, but what good is that if people are not taught that they can have vibrant life of intimacy with Jesus in the secret place of His presence daily? Jesus wants us to stay pure doctrinally and have a close relationship with Him by spending time in His presence. If we do not do this, we too will quickly lose our first love.
"Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place-- unless you repent" (Revelation 2:5 NAS).
Jesus gives them strong correction, not to be harsh with them, but to shake them, trying to get them on the right path of intimacy with Him. If we are going to eat of the tree of life (which is Jesus) we must take heed to these words in our own life and repent. If not, He will come and remove His life-giving presence from our lives. David cries out to God after his sin, "Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psalms 51:11 NAS). God took the Holy Spirit from Saul because He was living a life of rebellion. After David sinned he feared that God would do the same to him. We are no better then either one of these men and must not think that God would not take away His Holy Spirit from us either, for if we do not repent He will!
Many Christians are looking for the second coming of the Lord, although the Bible never uses such terms as second, third, or fourth coming. After Jesus' resurrection He came to the disciples several times; so was that His second, third, or fourth coming? Yes! He has come many times. I have seen Him on several occasions. In fact, He is on the earth right now, living in us! He has spoken to us very clearly that if we will not repent He will take from us that which He has given to us. I don't want Him to take anything from me that He has given me, not one thing! In fact, I want all that He has for me!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7 NAS).
We must now hear what the Spirit of the Lord is saying to us if we want to eat of the tree of life. Jesus is this tree! I do not believe that this tree is something to be experienced after death, but is something we must experience here and now to go higher into the realms of His Spirit. This tree of life is the very food that will sustain us as we travel forward on the path of life to His throne. We must stay in love with Jesus by spending time in His presence and having intimacy with Him. This is the tree of life that will sustain us on our journey. When we have true intimacy with Him words are not needed; in fact, they can detract from our experience with Him. In order for us to love Him more, we must die more to self.
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
"I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10 NAS).
Smyrna is known as the "sufferings" church and was one of the two churches that pleased the Lord. Smyrna means "myrrh." Myrrh was offered to Jesus on the cross because it was given to those who suffered to help kill the pain. This church should speak volumes to us on the fact of biblical suffering, which much of the church today wants to run from rather than embrace. To suffer for the will of God is to choose to sacrifice all for the cause of Christ. People will gladly sacrifice for the riches of the world that they can see, but very few will sacrifice for the will of God because they see no benefits or immediate results in it.
Jesus knew of their trials, tribulations, and poverty. But notice He does not tell them, "I want you to be the head and not the tail. I want you to have the prosperity of the world!" Oh no, He tells them the truth, "You are rich!" He didn't say they were going to be rich, but that they were already. Their on-going relationship with Jesus made them prosperous, while their tribulations and poverty made them spiritually rich for eternity. Many in the church today would fight Jesus tooth and nail on this because they are so in love with the things of the world. They believe God wants them to be rich in earthly things, but they are only blind and spiritually very poor. Jesus tells this church not to fear their sufferings because He has a crown of life waiting for them, if they are faithful unto death. Jesus promises this as an incentive for them to keep going and to never, never give up hope of obtaining it. Paul tells us many times to rejoice in our trials because these are the things that will make us more like Jesus.
Jesus said that those who say they are Jews and are not are of the synagogue of Satan that blasphemes them. But who were the Jews that Jesus was speaking about? Paul very clearly told us in Romans 2:28-29 that we Christians are the true Jews, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." In other words, when other Christians who are the true Jews persecute us because of our suffering for the will of God, they are of the synagogue (congregation) of satan! They are being used of the devil to do his works because their minds are set on the ways of man. They cannot fathom why God is allowing us to suffer such things. "But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's" (Mark 8:33 NAS). Peter's mind was set on the flesh and became an adversary to Jesus just as people who say to us that we do not have to suffer tribulations. These trials are the fires of God that are preparing us to receive His glory. "… All the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering" (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 NIV).
Jesus told them, "The devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days." Whether this was a real or spiritual prison I do not know, but for us this devil is our mind set on the ways of the flesh. Our minds cannot understand the ways of God and why He allows us to suffer so. This puts us in a prison or "isolation" from other believers that think we are off the wall or in sin. But He said, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." We must be faithful in this suffering that we have been entrusted to and die to the self-life. While we are in this isolation with Him we are greatly tested. The meaning of "ten days" is symbolic of being cleansed from the works of the flesh. Leviticus 23:27 says, "On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement (cleansing); it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD."
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death" (Revelation 2:11 NAS).
The Lord makes one of His greatest promises and blessing to those who overcome by death to self. They, "Shall not be hurt by the second death." These are those who have been beheaded of their self-life and now Jesus is their only head; they are His body. "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6 NAS). To reign with Jesus and be a part of the first resurrection is one of the greatest blessings in all of scripture. In addition they will not have to face the second death.
Now the question is: "What is the second death?" If being faithful unto death is dying to self, then the second death is likewise. Revelation chapter two is the first time we hear anything of a second death. This is the law of first use in scripture and everything else must pattern after it. In other words, if we do not die to self in this life, we may have to face it again in the second death! As I see it, life is like a timed test that students take in school; once the time allotted is gone, it's gone. The time given to us by God to live our lives out is so that we will come into the full likeness of Jesus. If we waste it, we do not get another life to do it over again. Many teach that the great white throne judgment of God is just for the unbelievers. This is not so because only the overcomers are those who have been beheaded and take part in the reign of Christ. "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection" (Revelation 20:5 NAS). NOT ALL CHRISTIANS ARE OVERCOMERS. In fact, very few are!
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death" (Revelation 20:14 KJV). Death is the last enemy to be defeated; it too must be destroyed in the lake of fire, which is the second death. The second death is the death of death; after the lake of fire there will be no death of any kind! "…and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away (this includes the first and second death)" (Revelation 21:4 NAS). Those who did not die to self in this life will need to die to the man of sin in them at this judgment so that it might be destroyed; then they will never want to live in sin again. Sin is death and death is sin, so at this judgment seat sin must be totally annihilated from God's creation in the lake of fire. In fact, all that is not like Him will be destroyed in the lake of fire.
The following words by Ray Prinzing give fresh insight into this wonderful truth: "The offence of the first Adam brought all men under the sentence of death for sin. Hence presently our mortal bodies are in a state of dying, while our minds need to be freed from minding the things of the flesh, to mind the things of the Spirit. The act of disobedience of Adam brought forth death. Now, the obedience and work of righteousness of the last Adam also brings forth a death for every man. The question arises, Is the SECOND DEATH the same kind of death as the first? Many people think that it is a repetition of the first, and that the results are the same, while its action is more severe and cruel, and destructive, being by fire. And some Christians add very sorrowfully, 'and from this second death there is no resurrection, it is an endless torment in agony,' BUT NOT SO! For God's seconds are never duplicates of the first, they are always better, higher, and more powerful than the firsts, and used to counter-balance all the action of the firsts, and MUCH MORE - He always saves the best until last.
"All Bible statements prove that the two deaths are absolutely UNLIKE, and that the two are opposite and antagonistic. The second death undoes all the work of the first death in the same manner that the last Adam undid all the work of the first Adam. Not to nullify the purpose being wrought out by the plan of God in the firsts, but to bring a release from the firsts in a MUCH MORE manner of majesty and glory and power and scope of coverage, into the greater and glorious things of God. Creation was made subject to vanity for a purpose! Sin was allowed for wise ends, but when those ends have been secured it will have to cease to exist. The purpose is not nullified, but the means whereby the purpose has been executed shall be done away. Discipline is a means to an end, but not an end in itself, it leads up to the 'AFTERWARDS YIELDING THE PEACEABLE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.'
"The first Adam died to God and righteousness, and became alive unto sin. The last Adam died unto sin (Rom. 6:10), and lives unto God, and so fulfills all righteousness. The first made all men sinners, the last makes all men righteous. The lives and the deaths of the two Adams are thus greatly contrasting the one to the other. The FIRST DEATH was a transition from life to death, the SECOND DEATH is a transition from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality. Transformed from the carnal mind to the spiritual mind, which is life and peace, which transformation is wrought by a dying out to the one realm, to come alive to the higher realm. Because - the second death is prepared to purge out and burn away sin and its results, and so doing cleanse all of God's universe.
"Death came as an enemy, the fruitage of an act of disobedience that turned man away from God and into the realm of carnality, minding self and flesh. Now God makes death overcome itself. It is by death that death is rendered powerless, and there arises an upspringing, a new life. It takes death to destroy death, and thus Christ 'did taste death for every man' - 'that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage' (Heb. 2:9,14-15). Since we are all under the effects of the first death, it is appointed unto us to die once more - not physical death, we are already in a state of mortality - but now a dying out to this present death state. We conquer this death of the carnal mind by dying to it - only God could use such a process bringing victory, but praise God, He is destroying the first death with the second death!
"All the Crucifixion, our identification with the cross of Christ, must first be accepted by faith as a fact, and then the working of it in and through us is a process. If it is done now, through our yieldedness to the call and the claims of Christ upon us, we won't have to face it later, in what is called 'the lake of fire,' which is the second death. The passing through that lake of divine purification will thoroughly purge out the last remaining fragments of the rebellion and waywardness of man, till the mystery of iniquity is no more, and then the carnal mind being abolished, death is no more." - (End of quote).
But what is the lake of fire? One word, "God!" "For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29 NAS). We must forget what the traditional churches have taught us about the lake of fire and see it for what it really is; God's love! God's judgments are not His wrath towards mankind, but to sin. His judgments will free man into the greatest liberty that man has ever known. The fire of His judgment will cleanse people from everything that is not of Him. In Daniel 7:10-11 a "river of fire" flows from Him, "A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened. Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire."
That "beast" is the man of sin in all of us; the flesh is being judged and must be destroyed in God's lake of fire! A river flows and forms into a lake is a body of liquid that no longer flows but contains all foreign matter that flows into it. So it is with God. All that is not like Him must be destroyed in this lake of fire so that it will do no more harm in all His creation. "And the beast (nature) was seized, and with him the false prophet (lying nature) who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast (his nature) and those who worshiped his image (likeness); these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20 NAS).
The word "brimstone" comes from the word "Theios" meaning, "divinity, divine, and Godhead." Yes, believe what the Bible is saying. God is the lake of fire that consumes the beast nature of man, the man of sin! There are two people living in us. One will be destroyed, while the other one will be left to inherit the earth as Noah and his family did. "Then there shall be two men (the two natures in man) in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. "Two women (the two natures in man) will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left" (Matthew 24:40-41 NAS). Jesus said this just after He told His disciples about Noah's flood and how the wicked were taken away, while Noah and his family stayed to inherit the earth. "And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; (took the sinners away) so shall the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:39 NAS). The man of sin will be taken away! Hallelujah!
If we will allow God to destroy this man of sin in us now by the fire of His presence and the trials that He allows in our life, we will not have to face the judgment later when He comes in fullness. We can now let this man of sin in us burn in the fires of hell (God's presence) by obeying God and letting the fires of the Holy Spirit destroy him in us. "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff (the man of sin) with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:11-12 NAS). When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, He comes in us not only to empower us, but to also cleanse us with His fiery trials until we are made into the likeness Jesus. The fires can only burn us as long as there is fuel to be burned (that fuel being in us anything that's not like Jesus). God is a God of restoration. We see this in all of nature. God wastes nothing, but renews it. Like a forest when it has a fire, cleansed to bring forth new growth later. We may not see all that God is doing in our life now, but later we will see His handiwork in our life, and rejoice! Now is the time for us to lay down our self-life. God has given us the power to lay it down or take it up, just as Jesus did. "That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit" (Ephesians 4:22 NAS).
THE CHURCH AT PERGAMUM
"I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells" (Revelation 2:13 NAS).
Pergamum means, "to be fortified as a tower or castle." It was a stronghold for hiding and protection. Notice how Jesus says, "I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is!" He knows exactly where we are spiritually and what we are going through in our daily battles. He also knows what is in us. "He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man" (John 2:25 NIV). The truth of the matter is, if we have Jesus in our heart, then God has His throne in man. But satan also has a throne, and it is in man also. It is called the man of sin! "In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working "in" the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2 NAS). Our flesh is a fortified castle for the enemy's nature to hide in us, strengthening him by our disobedience to God. The name satan means, "accuser or one who speaks against us." He shoots his arrows of accusation against us when our mind is set on the flesh instead of God's ways. He does this to destroy the growing Son of God in us. We must firmly resist him by our faith to overcome him. Jesus must break down every stronghold of the enemy in us, being totally conquered by Him, if we hope to win this battle over the death.
You "Did not deny My faith." Jesus commends them on their faith and how it has stood up in their daily battles against the accuser of the brethren. "Even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells." Antipas means, "father" or one who was mature in the faith and helped raise others to maturity. The only way for us to die to self is for us to become mature (through our suffering and trials) and then help raise others to maturity by strengthening them with our "test-imony," then we too will be found faithful!
"But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans" (Revelation 2:14-15 NAS).
Jesus had a few things against this church because they held to the teachings of Balaam and Nicolaitans Balaam means, "conqueror of the people" and Nicolaitans means, "conqueror of the common people." Because their meanings of their names are almost identical, this should speak volumes to our generation as to what God hates. Jesus told the church at Ephesus, "Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" (Revelation 2:6 NAS).
Why should Jesus hate their teachings so much? Because their teaching put one man above the other, rather than the priesthood of all believers. Most churches and denominations still hold to this today with their hierarchy of ministers. They conqueror the people through their titles, power, and prestige, rather than serving them in humility. Balaam taught Balak to put women as stumbling blocks of in Israel's way so that they might commit immorality with his people. Balaam did this because he did not want to lose the reward of money and influence of a higher position for himself. In the same way ministers today are causing God's people to commit spiritual immorality by teaching false doctrines to them and exalting ministers to a higher position in God than those who are in the church. "Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." In essence Jesus is saying the same thing about the Nicolaitans teachings; they were conquering people through their titles of ministry and controlling people through their prestige of the hierarchy in the church. The Lord hates this! There are no big "I's" and little "you's" in the body of Christ. We are all important in His body; not one is more important than the other. "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness" (1 Corinthians 12:22-23 NAS).
"Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth" (Revelation 2:16 NAS). Jesus commands them to change their false teachings and practices or He would be coming quickly to make war with the words/sword of His mouth. Jesus is also warning us of false teachings because they are the opposite of Him, for He is all truth. If we are digesting falsehood we spiritually cannot digest the truth. In fact, we will even war against true because our minds have been blinded to it. As we reject truth, we reject the Lord because He is all truth. Thus, we fall from grace. This will be our judgment of His sword.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it" (Revelation 2:17 NAS). To him who overcomes these false doctrines and practices will be given the "hidden manna," or the truth of God that He has hidden away for only those who will leave the traditions of man. "He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9 NAS). This hidden manna is not for us in heaven, but for us now on earth so that we might grow into His likeness.
THE CHURCH OF THYATIRA
"And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first" (Revelation 2:18-19 NAS).
When the scriptures speak about Jesus having "eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze," this is telling us that He is coming with great strides to judge severely that which is not like Him. Judgment must begin at the household of God. Jesus told this church ahead of time what their judgment will be if they do not repent, "Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds" (Revelation 2:22-23). The church today would rather have us forget about these verses because they really do not believe that Jesus would do such things to His children. But they're wrong! Not only will He judge like this, but He already has done this many more times than we will ever know while on earth.
This church had the same problem that the church at Pergamum had; its teachings and doctrines were getting off and the Lord had to correct them before too many people were lead astray. Both of these churches speak to us about the importance of having true doctrine in our lives because it dictates what we think and do today and in the future. We must continually discern if what we are being taught is leading us to know Jesus better. Are we forsaking the ways of world to become more like Him? If not, we must do so! The teachings of the church at Thyatira were far more sinister then those at Pergamum. They were causing people to turn from their love relationship with Jesus to commit spiritual adultery with idols (similar to today's teachings and emphasis on being rich with money, which is idolatry). "But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols" (Revelation 2:20 NAS). The woman Jezebel (whom I believe refers to the spirit that was controlling the church) calls herself a prophetess. We must be careful not to give ourselves titles and labels so that we are not proven false. The church at Ephesus did not put up with those who gave themselves titles and found them false. We must do likewise.
Jesus did commend this church on a few things that they were doing right because this church did have a few who were following the Lord in their everyday walk. "But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them-- I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come" (Revelation 2:24-25 NAS). The problem with this church then and almost all churches now is that there is a mixture of both the flesh (the mind/satan) and the Spirit of God. God hates this, for He wants to lead our lives and our church services without any interference of our flesh getting in His way. They were told, "what you have hold fast until I come." We too must hold fast if we plan to be changed by His power when He is revealed.
For those who overcome these false doctrines and false teachers by the Spirit of the Lord, the Lord again promises a great and almost unfathomable blessing. "And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star" (Revelation 2:26-28 NAS). As we overcome He has promised us that we will rule the nations and be given the morning star. This is His likeness and authority that He will give us for our dedication to Him in this life. Why would anyone turn this down?
HOPE FOR A NEW DAY ARISES
God has not left us without a witness of this new day of truth and righteousness arising in the earth, both spiritually and physically. He has given us the hope of the morning star. The morning star is a star of hope, hope for a new day. Years ago when there were no clocks or ways of telling time, at night there was the morning star that gave hope to people that were sitting in the darkness. The morning star really is the planet Venus, coming up every morning about one and one-half hour before sunrise. It was a way of telling the people of the earth that a new day was about to begin and the long night is about over. Jesus said that He Himself was the Morning Star, "… I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star" (Revelation 22:16 NASB). In other words, He is the hope of a new day of righteousness and truth arising in the earth for those who are sitting in spiritual darkness. "Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the sunrise from on high shall visit us, TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78-79 NAS). Our God is the God hope and peace!
Jesus said, "And I will give him (the overcomer) the morning star" (Revelation 2:28 NAS).
Not only is Jesus the bright Morning Star that breaks through the darkness of night, He also promises to give us the morning star in our heart if we will overcome all He has allowed in our lives to test our faithfulness to Him. "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19 NIV). Yes, the scriptures are a light in spiritual darkness, but the light of Jesus (the morning star) must be in our heart to give us hope for a new day! "Until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." The rising of the morning star in our heart is the beginning light and sign of hope for a new day. Does the hope of the morning star shine within your heart today? Or does the darkness of the night still overshadow you with fears, worries, and the problems of the earth? If you can see the light of this new day arising within you, you have been given the morning star! Hallelujah!
Soon after the morning star rises, it fades way with the brightness of the sunrise of the new day. The lesser light gives way to the greater light. So will it be with us, as we have been given truth (which is the morning star) to give us hope for a new day in the earth. Then the full brightness and revelation of truth that is Jesus will come within our hearts to be manifested through our lives, and we will be like Him! "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 13:43 NASB). We not only are called to bear the truth of the morning star now, but we will shine as the sun in its full strength with all its glory and power in truth and righteousness! "But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day" (Proverbs 4:18 NAS). We are now awaiting our full transformation and manifestation, which will begin the morning sunrise of the "Day" of the Lord through His chosen ones. This will be the complete fullness of the Christ-body shining as the sun to bring forth the unadulterated truth of God to the earth! The sons of God then will set mankind free from the lies and deceptions of the devil and carnal mind (see Rom 8:21).
"And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars (sun) forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3 NAS).
In the morning the sun does not come up all at once, but comes up gradually until there is “the full day" of sunlight upon the earth. Just as the natural sunlight grows brighter and brighter, His glory becomes brighter and brighter in His people until "the full day." "His radiance is like the sunlight..." (Habakkuk 3:4). His glory will be seen by all nations as His glorious truth comes through His people. "But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD" (Numbers 14:21 NAS). We are living in such a day!
THE CHURCH OF SARDIS
"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you" (Revelation 3:1-3 NAS).
Notice how Jesus never tells one of these churches to do more work for Him, but that He knows their deeds; their godly character. He does not say, "I know your heart," but that He sees our actions. He is looking for a people that walk the walk; not just talk the talk. Our lives must bring forth His good fruit to show that we are saved from the power of sin and not just use lip service. There must be a time in our life where we are changed from the sin nature to the Christ nature. This church boasted about the new life in Jesus and about their new name being written down in heaven, but they did not live it in reality. They had heard and received that which was right and good but they did not properly hold on to or grow in what had been given them, becoming dead in the very forms of the new life. Those having escaped the other pitfalls fell into dead works, suffering their white garments being dragged into defilements.
Jesus tells them that, "He who has the seven Spirits of God." These seven Spirits are the all-knowing and understanding power of God. "And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD" (Isaiah 11:2 NAS). With His omniscience He tells them to wake up spiritually to their dead condition and move forward on the path of life. Many Christians are asleep on the path of life and they seem to think that just being born again is good enough. They quit pressing into the maturity of God and end up dying on the way to the fullness of life. Their Christian life started as a spiritually newborn baby, having heard and received the true life of Jesus. But soon their faith was just words than vitality and more boastfulness than purity or fruit. Jesus tells them to, "Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you." This is where I believe much of the church is today, asleep! To spiritually sleep will be very costly, for if we do not use what He has given us spiritually, He will come like a thief, take what we have and give it to another. "For whoever has, to him shall more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him" (Mark 4:25 NAS). We must keep and protect the truths that have been entrusted to us if we desire God to give us more.
"But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels" (Revelation 3:4-5 NAS). There were some exceptions with this church concerning whom Christ pronounces as worthy. They were the ones who will walk with Him in white and whose names He will confess before the Father and His angels. These few were found worthy and not ashamed to confess Him, and live for Him and stand for truth.
Again He promises the overcomers a great prize for their faithfulness: They will be clothed in white garments which are none other than their wedding garments for the marriage of the Lamb! "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." And it was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19:7-8 NAS).
THE CHURCH AT PHILADELPHIA
"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: "I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you" (Revelation 3:7-9 NAS).
The name Philadelphia means, "brotherly love." This is the second and only other church that pleased the Lord. Smyrna was the other church because of its willingness to suffer until death. The name Philadelphia prophetically tells us that their love of the brethren was pleasing to the Lord, He said, "I know your deeds." Because of their great love the Lord put "An opened door" before them that He did not open for others; a door no one was able to shut. Some people think that this door was the door of ministry or jobs and businesses. This could be, but I believe that it was something far greater than mere natural blessings because all the other blessings Jesus had spoken over the other churches were spiritual in nature. This open door was the blessings of having the heavens opened; a greater revelation of Jesus was given to these believers than others because they were willing to pay the price in following Him. "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things" (Revelation 4:1 NAS). God's hidden spiritual treasures of truth were now opened to them and they could feast on the delicacies of God word! "And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name" (Isaiah 45:3 NAS). They were faithful to His word and now He could entrust them with the greater spiritual treasures of the hidden wealth.
Notice how Jesus talks about the synagogue of satan again. They must have been persecuting this faithful church (as they did the church at Smyrna) for their faithfulness and the revelation of Jesus that they were getting from God. "But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings" (Hebrews 10:32 NAS). Just like a student is tested after the teacher has taught them a lesson, we are tested when enlightened on any subject from God. Jesus only spoke about the synagogue of satan to these two faithful churches. As I stated before about the synagogue of satan which blasphemed the church of Smyrna, these are Christians backslidden attacking those pressing on beyond what they presently know to be truth and to understand God's word. So rather than embracing truth these attackers react with hostility toward it. This has always been the case in church history: the Catholics attacked the Lutherans; the Lutherans attacked the Anabaptists; the Anabaptists attacked the Methodists; the Methodists attacked the Pentecostals; and the Pentecostals attack those who go beyond them. This has always been the pattern in the church and will not end until Jesus comes to reform the whole church into His likeness. At that time Jesus will, "Make them to come and bow down at your feet." People that have progressed in the ways of God have always paid a great price of rejection. We must do the same if we desire to go on with God unto His fullness and glory.
"Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, 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" (Revelation 3:10-12 NAS).
Because these believers have followed Jesus faithfully and were willing to suffer His will for their lives, He gave them astounding promises with eternal ramifications. These promises were not just given to them, but to all who would overcome throughout the church age. He promised to keep them from the hour (season) of testing (trial by fire) that will cleanse every person. "For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch" (Malachi 4:1 NAS). I believe this season of fire could be the second death that He promised to spare the church of Smyrna and all those who have overcome, because they died to self through all their testings.
Jesus promised them, "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown." According to Jesus we already have our crowns of glory and must protect them by staying obedient to Him. To unbelievers it seems like Jesus is a liar because He has not yet come. Or could it be that He has come, but in a way that we might not think He would? There are many comings of the Lord in scripture as we have already seen. Jesus told the other churches that if they did not repent He would quickly come to them in judgment. I believe He did this. Now if He can come in judgment, why can't He come quickly to bless His people also in a way we know not of?
He promised to make them a "Pillar in the temple of My God." A pillar is a column of support that holds the weight of the building. This was no small promise He makes to them. On top of that promise, He is going to, "Write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem. These people that have learned to truly love others will be given the name of God (which is His character and nature). They will be called the city of our God (see Is. 60:14).
THE CHURCH AT LAODICEA
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" (Revelation 3:15-17 NAS).
Laodicea means, "a people of judgment, or justice." The church at Laodicea was very different from the others, in that Jesus had nothing to commend them; He had only rebuke and correction. This was a people that wanted to straddle the fence and live in both worlds at the same time. One side was their spiritual life and on the other was their worldly mentality. While there believers did not want to give up either, Jesus was very forthright with them about His judgment, "I will spit you out of My mouth!" In order for Him to spit someone out of His mouth they would have to have been in it! They were a part of the body of Christ, but if they did not repent they were in danger of losing their part in the kingdom of God. We must take this very seriously!
"Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." What have they become rich in? Earthly treasures! Jacob Boehme said, "The covetous man is the greatest fool upon the earth; he gathers that which he must leave to others, and gains only and evil conscience and treasures in hell." Since what Jesus said is true, the American church is truly the poorest in the earth! The Laodicean church described itself as the perfection of churches. It said in its heart, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." But never was a body of people so woefully self-deluded. With all this boastfulness Jesus found nothing which He could abide in and pronounces them wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked, and about to be vomited up and cast out. How tragic!
"I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see" (Revelation 3:18 NAS).
How can we buy gold from Jesus? By paying the price of following Him wherever He goes. It takes great faith to follow Jesus and to pay the price of obedience in all things. Sometimes you may wonder if it is really all worth it; but it is! Peter said: "That the proof (trial) of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7). When Jesus returns in great glory to appear in His people, He is going to appear in those who are prepared and have paid the price through their fires of testing and suffering. Your trials by fire are the gold or the God-nature that Jesus is referring to. Is your faith being greatly tested? Don't waste your trials, but submit willingly, joyfully, and gratefully to the Lord every area of your life.
Jesus desires to give us wedding garments (Christ-likeness) so that our nakedness (unChrist-likeness) might be clothed. In order to know Him more we must die to the self-life to have our eyes opened to our spiritual condition. This is the only way to have the life of Christ manifested through us. Self does not want to die; it wants to be exalted above God and others. The man of sin wants to be the center of all the attention. This is why most Christians will not push into knowing God more deeply, because it is such a high price to pay with seeming little earthly rewards. People are so earth-bound they cannot see the greater reward of Christ. I must emphasize that God will not let us into the deeper things of the Spirit unless we show the willingness to pay the price in getting them. Why would He reveal spiritual truths (the true riches) to anyone that will just cast them to the ground and allow satan to steal them?
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:19-21 NAS).
We do not like to be reproved or disciplined in any way, but Jesus said, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent." If we are wise we will repent of our worldliness as was told the Laodicean church. If we do this, Jesus will give us the greatest blessing anyone could ever have daily on earth. What is this great blessing? "I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." This verse is not about us getting saved; it's about having daily communion with Jesus in the garden of our heart! This is where we are filled afresh with His love and power everyday. All we have to do is open the door and invite Him in!
God is not going to just grant anyone the privilege and honor to sit on His throne with Him; but only to those who have passed the tests He has given them and have come into the likeness of His Son, Jesus! Let me ask you, would you allow your three-year-old child to run your household? Of course not, for he has not matured yet. Most people die without ever becoming spiritually mature. Ephesians 4:13 says we can become mature sons while on this earth. "Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." -- "Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect (mature), but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12 NAS). We will never in our own power become fully like Jesus while in this body on earth until He changes us. That is why Jesus is coming forth from us, to make us likened unto His glorious body. We like Paul, must press on to the high calling in Christ Jesus. For if the high calling was just to go to heaven, why did Paul not leave when he had the chance? "But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better" (Philippians 1:23 NAS). Our high calling is to become like Jesus in our character and actions, through suffering.
AN OVERVIEW OF THESE CHURCHES
The main theme to each of these churches is the exhortation for each individual to be an overcomer and that "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:22 NAS). The most important thing we can do right now is to hear and do. If we will hear and do, God's grace will carry us to where we need to be in Him. As I stated in the beginning of this chapter I believe the good in the characteristics of these seven churches is what Jesus is looking for in us. These seven churches were told to do seven things. These we also must hear and do:
1. Love Jesus first and foremost.
2. Suffer death to the self-life daily on our cross.
3. Don't exalt people in "ministry" as better than anyone else.
4. Hate false doctrine and spiritual adultery.
5. Walk the walk, not just talk about it.
6. Be a faithful overcomer.
7. Have intimate fellowship with Jesus daily.
If we will practice these seven fundamentals we are given seven promises:
1. Eat of the tree of life.
2. Escape the second death.
3. Eat of the hidden manna.
4. Rule and reign with Christ.
5. Clothed in the marriage garments.
6. Made pillars in God's temple.
7. Sit on the throne with Him in glory.
We have seven orders of rewards to seven orders of Christians succeeding in their triumph through seven orders of their environment. We have seven steps or degrees in the rewards of the saints, unto which each person attains. They raise in degree from the first to the last, as do the hardships and the adversities over which the victories are achieved. The number seven is significant to the fullness or completeness of the Spirit of God in us.