The Seven Churches - good and bad qualities The Seven Churches (Revelation 2-3) (Past and Present Church Prophecy) Introduction     Although the ‘seven churches’ are not used for proving ‘pre-tribulation’, they are extremely important nonetheless.  (Note: the Seals prove pre-tribulation naturally, because they were in the past, making Revelation’s timeline straight-forward and logical.)    Nevertheless, the letters to the seven churches are important because, in addition to being real churches in John’s day (see map), they also form a complete prophecy of the Church, as a whole (through the last 2000-years), revealing some interesting prophecies about end times today.     One thing, the seven churches illustrate to me, is ‘why’ there’s such a strong difference of opinions, when it comes to interpreting end times from the Bible.  I doubt if I can bridge the gap, completely, but individuals are free to examine the facts and make up their own minds.  In other words, a person doesn’t have to believe exactly like their church on every topic and in some cases; it’s best not to.  Regardless, it helps to know the source of the differences and why some people feel so strongly, on both sides, so a person can make an informed decision. Map of Seven Churches click to enlarge Map of the seven churches in Revelation (from NIV notes) Commentary on the Seven Churches Ephesus and Smyrna – the early church     As I said, the seven churches sound like a progression of the Church, as a whole, through the last 2000-years.  I can show that the first two were already happening in other churches, during Paul’s time, using scripture.  Revelation 2:2 & 6 (#1 Ephesus) 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.   Acts 15:1-2 1 “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.”  Acts 15:27-29 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.   Farewell.    False apostles infiltrated the Corinthian Church and forced Paul to take the offensive, even though he preferred humility.  2 Cor 12:11  I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it.  I ought  to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least  inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing.    Yet, he was determined to expose the frauds as “Satan’s servants”.  It goes to show that any teaching, contrary to God, is a serious matter. 2 Cor 11:12-15 12 And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground  from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.       The name, Nicolaitans, would imply that they were followers of Nicolas.  Well, it just so happens there was a Nicolas who was one of the first seven deacons of the Jerusalem Church. I have a feeling that he’s the same one because he’s listed with a unique quality from the rest, a convert to Judaism. (Acts 6:5)  The reason I think it was his  followers is that ‘converting to Judaism’, as a requirement for Christianity, was the first dispute settled by the disciples.      In fact, it inspired the first official letter, in which they purposely omitted any requirements for following Jewish traditions.  Perhaps the Nicolaitans were the first Christian splinter group that disagreed with simplicity and started their own unnecessary traditions.  Naturally, Paul saw it as a travesty because the Jews had been doing that very thing, ever since they built the second Temple. (Malachi 1:10+    Perhaps that’s why Jesus hated their practices too. Rev 2:9   (#2 Smyrna) 9  “I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who  say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Mark 7: 3, 4, 7 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) ... 7 [Jesus said] They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'  Galatians 3: 1-3, 5 1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before    your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive    the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit,    are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because     you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?   Smyrna – the early church - con’t     In general, Christians were persecuted more severely after they were blamed for the fire in Rome, in 64 AD.  That continued until Christianity was legalized by the Emperor Constantine, in 313 AD. (see next church)  The Jews may have received some backlash from the Roman fire because the 1st Jewish revolt coincidently started two years later, in 66 AD, which resulted in the destruction of the second Temple, in 70 AD.  Perhaps the Christians in Judea, following Jewish traditions, somehow blamed the other Christians for the unfortunate turn of events.  However, it was never their fault in the first place.     Why would Jesus refer to Christians claiming to be Jews as a “synagogue of Satan”?  I have a feeling they were similar to the Nicolaitans (above), perhaps without the full conversion of circumcision, but following all the ritualistic traditions that Jesus despised, nonetheless. Mark 7:6-8 6 [Jesus] replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied     about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people    honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'   8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."       Paul confronted the problem head-on when some Christians from Galatia were letting the Jews interject their laws into Christianity.  Of course, Paul agreed with Jesus and condemned the practice.    Personally, I had one messianic Jew ask me, “What does it hurt to follow the traditions?”  Well, if Jesus was against it, and Paul was against it, “why would you still want to do it?” (common sense     In general, those who followed Jewish law in the NT were wrong because Christianity is about obeying God, not petty rules and traditions.  Obviously, Paul wasn’t successful in stamping out the practice because it was still around in Smyrna and the Nicolaitans are mentioned again in the 3rd church.      The Christians made a more permanent split from the Jews, when the 3rd Jewish revolt was led by a false messiah, Bar Kochba, in which the Christians refused to support.  The Jews were subsequently exiled from Judea in 136 AD.  (Note: A similar issue arises in the 6th church (below), concerning end times.)       Rev 2: 14-15  (#3 Pergamum) 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:       You have people there who hold to the teaching      of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the     Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to     idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold      to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.     That being said, the Romans were known for their sexual promiscuity, (seen in paintings of the time).  Paul gave a stern summary to the Romans about the origin of sexual deviance and the sinful nature of such in his introduction to them. (Romans 1: 20-31)  Nevertheless, the practices obviously continued and crept into the Church. (still exists to some degree)     As the Church grew, naturally questions arose so bishops were assigned, in each city, to settle disputes.  Over time, the Church became organized, like the empire, and the bishops of certain cities, such as Antioch, Rome, and Alexandria, became more powerful.  Eventually, the Bishop of Rome became the ultimate authority, in appeals, and was named Pope.      As I said, Constantine became the first Christian Roman Emperor and legalized Christianity in 313 AD.  After that, he supervised the selection of the canonical books of the Bible.  He also built Constantinople, as the Byzantine capital (in the east), and it became the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which remains separate from Rome today.    For more, see God’s “Timeline of 37’s”, which includes churches 3 & 4.    Now, I’m not blaming any particular group but given the time period and nature of these descriptions; I think there’s a chance that verses 22 & 23 are referring to the black plague, which killed over 75 million people from 1346-1353. (about seven years)      Rev 2: 20-23  (#4 Thyatira) 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you:      You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls       herself a prophetess. By her teaching she       misleads my servants into sexual immorality       and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent      of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and      I will make those who commit adultery with her      suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.  23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the      churches will know that I am he who searches      hearts and minds, and I will repay each of     you according to your deeds.   #3 Pergamum and #4 Thyatira – embracing the world – into the dark ages     I’m not saying that the Catholic Church matches these verses exactly but the ‘time period’ is the same and the Catholic Church was the primary ‘Christian’ Church for many centuries (although not the only one).      Rev 3:1-4   (#5 Sardis) 1 “I know your deeds; you have a reputation   of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up!    Strengthen what remains and is about to die,   for I have not found your deeds complete    in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you    have received and heard; obey it, and repent.   But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief,   and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”  4 “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have   not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me,      dressed in white, for they are worthy. #5 Sardis - The Protestant Reformation Church     The Protestant Reformation was undoubtedly aided by the Gutenberg press, which printed copies of the Bible in the 1450’s.  Even though it was printed in Latin, it made the Bible more accessible and many other translations followed by the 1530’s.  One of those translators, Martin Luther (German), also wrote a list of grievances against the Catholic Church, in 1517, and is credited for the start of the Protestant Reformation.      I guess they had the reputation for being alive, compared to the Catholic Church, but they apparently grew complacent, in their understanding of the Bible, and stopped receiving any new knowledge from God.  I’m speaking of many churches that split from the Catholic Church but stopped short of accepting the ‘rapture’ concept in Revelation.  Granted, the old pre-trib theory had a few flaws but all a person has to notice is the similarities between the ‘signs in the stars’ in Matt. 24 and the 6th Seal to know that the gathering of the ‘multitude’ in Rev. 7 happens before the main wrath.      There are definite references to end times here but notice that they will only be caught like a thief if they don’t wake up. That’s consistent with Paul’s statement, “But you brothers are not in darkness that this day should surprise you like a thief.” (1 Thess 5:4)  That’s because God provided signs in Daniel 11, leading to the abomination, just like Jesus said. The signs are obviously happening but some post-tribs reject everything.     Nevertheless, all is not hopeless because some in this category are found ‘worthy’ and will be dressed in white.  I’m not saying that a person has to believe in the rapture, to go in the rapture, but a person needs to be open-minded and check the scriptures, honestly, rather than rejecting everything new, before they even check. #6 Philadelphia - the ‘Pre-Tribulaion’ Church - Spiritual Awakening Begins     Now, I’m no expert in Church history but the next major split was due to the ‘Pre-tribulation’ theory, which was proposed in the 1830’s.  Granted, their theory had flaws, because they didn’t interpret the Seals correctly, but in hindsight; the Seals would have been difficult to interpret at that time.  At least they were trying to make sense of Revelation, with minimal amounts of manipulation.  As I’ve said, the correct interpretation of the Seals eliminates all contradictions and manipulations (discovered recently). Rev 3:8-10 (#6 Philadelphia) 8 I know your deeds. See, I have   placed before you an open door   that no one can shut. I know   that you have little strength,   yet you have kept my word and   have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are   of the synagogue of Satan,   who claim to be Jews though   they are not, but are liars-I will   make them come and fall down   at your feet and acknowledge   that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my   command to endure patiently,   I will also keep you from the   hour of trial that is going to   come upon the whole world to   test those who live on the earth.      Rev 3: 15-20 (#7 Laodicea) 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.     I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because      you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to       spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and     do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that     you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,      so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear,     so you can cover your shameful nakedness;     and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.     So be earnest, and repent.  20 Here I am!      I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears     my voice and opens the door, I will come in     and eat with him, and he with me.     Basically, I think Jesus is saying that the ‘pre-tribs’ have had little strength because they have been verbally abused by post-tribs, for many years.  Yet, they did relatively little in return.  One reason might be the fact that they couldn’t dispute the post-tribs for manipulating Revelation when they had slight manipulations of their own.  Nevertheless, no one could ‘shut the door’ on them and they grew, along with the ‘spiritual awakening’, until now, when the correct meaning of the Seals actually proves them correct (in a way).    Who is the synagogue of Satan?     Verse 9 is very interesting because it shows a re-emergence of Jewish influence in the Christian Church, which is similar to the ‘early church’ in Paul’s day. (see #2 above)  However, Jesus says that the ones in the ‘synagogue of Satan’ claim to be Jews but are not.  I admit that I used to think it was the Messianic Jews because they follow the customs and laws such as Jews but also claim to be Christians.  Paul was adamantly against following the Jewish laws and considered it a step backwards from the spiritual freedom that Jesus provided to Christians. (Galatians 5: 1-10)  Therefore, I’m still against the practices of the Messianic Jews but further study into the Reform Jews and non-orthodox sects leads me to believe that they could be the synagogue of Satan.  I mean, they claim to be Jews but the ultra-orthodox, who try meticulously hard to follow every rule, don’t accept that they are.  I’m no expert on Jewish customs, but it seems that the deciding factor would be God’s word, so the ultra-orthodox could be right.  In any event, it casts ‘reasonable doubt’ on the Messianic Jews being the synagogue of Satan so even though I disagree with mixing Jewish customs with Christianity, I apologize for making that accusation before.     The ‘hour of trial’ is a period of time before the rapture, meant to test people on earth, so God will know exactly where they stand on their relationship with Jesus.  In other words, the rapture will decide where gentiles spend eternity so there’s no middle ground where people can ride the fence.  God must ‘test’ some people to see what side of the fence they choose, such as the Parable of the Banquet suggest, when God tells them that the banquet is ready. (Luke 14: 15-24)  The ‘hour of trial’ also coincides with the “devil’s fury, because he knows his time is short.” (Rev. 12:12)  That ‘fury’ is bringing increased violence, from terrorists, around the world.  [See more on the context of Rev. 12] #7 Laodicea - Last Days - ‘Lukewarm’     Many people are under the false assumption that just ‘being nice’ will get them to heaven but that’s never been the case.  As Paul pointed out, if a person could get to heaven without need of Jesus, then that would render Jesus’ accomplishment unnecessary, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.      Elements of this ‘church’ are reflected in the Parable of the Great Banquet, where God sends a servant to tell everyone that the time has arrived, but some are too busy with material items and relationships to find the time to attend.  To make a long story short, they don’t get to go to the banquet at all, which is very bad. (Luke 14:16-24     I think the ‘lukewarm’ are similar to the parable because it takes wealth to buy material things and not going to the banquet is the same as being ‘spit out’.  Granted, it’s not a sin to have money and material things but they can’t be allowed to become more important than God and going to heaven.     As you can see, Jesus is almost pleading with them, to save themselves, but it has to be their choice.      In some cases, a person may need ‘discipline’ to get back on the right path, but as I said; I think God will know exactly where everyone stands when the time comes.  Church #6 revised 7-22-2016 Summary and Conclusion         As you can tell, each of the various ‘churches’ did not cease to exist, just because the next one started.  Thus, there are examples of each church in the world today, such as the Yazidis in Iraq, which remind me a lot of church #2, whenever I hear about them on the news.  It’s ironic that Jesus calls them ‘rich’ (v. 2:9), while calling the wealthy in church #7 wretched and poor (v. 3:17).  It goes to show that God does not think like man does.  Jesus said, “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” [referring to money] (Luke 16:15)     I hope no one thinks I’m trying to stereotype them into a category because I wouldn’t be qualified to judge, even if I wanted to.  Besides, everyone will be judged, individually, according to their hearts, not their church.  If any of the above descriptions offend you, then you’re probably thinking like the wrong church.  Yet, all is not lost because people can change their thinking.  In fact, they should when a better explanation comes along that agrees with the Bible and has no contradictions.  Like I’ve said, the various churches are effectively ‘stuck in time’, according to when they decided to reject the next ‘knowledge’ from God.  In other words, God never stopped advancing Biblical knowledge; the various churches stopped accepting it.  Graphical representation of the seven churches:    Notice that Churches 3 & 4 are faulted for violating these same issues ... so they knew.  2 Timothy 3:1-5  But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.      Paul warned to steer clear of these people in the end times.  That’s because modern post-tribulationists over-lap  and manipulate Revelation, God’s prophecy, in an attempt to prove pre-tribs wrong.  However, in doing so, they violate God’s warning (Rev. 22:19) and entice others to do the same.  Jesus said, “Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14)  Therefore, don’t listen to the doom and gloom scenarios of post-tribulationists; I’m not sure what their motives are but God knows. (1 Cor. 4:5)  Some may even think they are doing right (v.4), by preserving tradition (having a form of godliness), but God’s word is ‘living and active’. (Heb. 4:12)  Thus, blindly refusing any advancement in Biblical knowledge is not a good tradition. (Matt. 5:20)    Paul warned that there would be increased wickedness in the last days but he also warned of a religious group  that would seem godly but deny its full power    That would be consistent with the Sardis Church because they only had the reputation for being alive but their ‘deeds were incomplete’, perhaps because they rejected the ‘spiritual awakening’ in the next church. The Divine Origin of ‘Pre-Tribulation’     Post-tribs try to use the origin of ‘pre-tribulation’ as a negative against it but that’s not a valid argument either.  Basically, the story goes that a Scottish preacher named Edward Irving began teaching that the spiritual gifts, including prophecy and speaking in tongues, were meant for the present-day church.  After the gifts began to manifest themselves, Irving was dismissed by the Church of Scotland, in 1832.  Prior to his dismissal, in 1830, a young Scottish girl named Margaret MacDonald fell into a trance, for several hours during a meeting, and prophesied that Christ’s return would be in two phases, rather than one.  She revealed that Christ would return first for the righteous and then a second time to execute wrath on the unrighteous (or something similar to that).      Anyway, after that, an Englishman named John Darby met with Irving and it’s believed that he was the first one to develop the ‘old’ pre-tribulation theory that placed the rapture at Revelation 4.  The theory was further popularized by Cyrus Scofield in his reference Bible.  I don’t fault them for trying to adapt the vision to Revelation but they just had the Seals wrong.  Like I’ve said, it would have been difficult to interpret the Seals, back then, because Seal 3 is very vague.  Nevertheless, my interpretation of the Seals proves Margaret MacDonald correct, just not the human interpretation, by Darby, that followed.   Conclusion     As you could probably tell, I’ve presented my interpretation of the Seals and pre-tribulation rapture as if it were already the ‘new’ pre-tribulation theory.  That’s because I think it will be, whenever some well-known and bold preachers, such as Irving, Darby, or Scofield realize that this interpretation is correct and begin telling people.  After all, if modern pre-tribs can support a vision from a Scottish girl, in the 19th century, why can’t they support my interpretation of the Seals, which is based on real history, and proves the Scottish girl correct?  After all, I’m not changing any vision that came from the Spirit; I’m just changing how man interpreted it.      Believe it or not, I was called to provide “food” to the “servants in the household” (Matt. 24:45), which I’ve come to believe are ‘pre-tribs’ in general.  After all, food provides strength, which is needed by church #6, especially going into the “hour of trial” (v. 3:10), which I think we’re in now.  Strength, in the form of Truth, is needed to counter post-tribs, who lead people astray, either by accident or on purpose, by giving false signs  that breed complacency.  The true signs, which lead to the abomination (like Jesus said) are clearly outlined in Daniel 11, which was ‘sealed until the time of the end’.  Now that it has been ‘unsealed’, people can actually see the signs that God intended as they reveal themselves in the Middle East.  In that respect, somebody had to reveal the correct signs, sometime, because pre-tribs couldn’t watch the signs if there were no specific signs to watch. (below)  Thus, the meaning of the Seals, from Revelation, and the ‘signs’, from Daniel 11, are meant as “food” for Church #6 (pre-tribs), or anyone who wants to accept them.    Luke 12:37   “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.    I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table   and will come and wait on them.”      I don’t know why this is seen as a negative, by some, because Peter reiterated Joel’s prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out in the last days and people would prophesy, including young women.     Yet, post-tribs act like nothing ‘new’ can ever be discovered from the Bible, no matter what.  Although Peter never got to read Revelation, I think he would be in favor of keeping an open-mind to new ideas on how to understand it. (without changing it)      After all, everyone has the same access to God’s Spirit, who teaches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:10)     Acts 2: 17-18  (Peter quoted Joel ...) 17 “In the last days, God says, ‘I will pour     out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and      daughters will prophesy, your young men     will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  18 Even on my servants, both men and women,      I will pour out my Spirit in those days,      and they will prophesy.’”  more in summary Printable PDFs available here Related page: “John-the-Baptist” (a personal tribute) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. © Copyright 2010 - 2019   All rights reserved. Daniel 11 Explained (condensed ‘one page’ commentary) ‘Matthew 24’ Explained (must match Revelation) The ‘Seals’ Explained (Revelation timeline revealed) Seven Churches Explained (Past & Present Church Prophecy) Note: ‘Sitemap’ shows a complete list of all pages (by category). ‘Homepage’ gives 3 simple steps + timelines + summary. Current Events from Daniel 11 (matching the Middle East) The Abomination (Daniel 11:31) done Recent Events ISIS - Saudi - Turkey (Daniel 11: 24-27) Final Events to the Abomination (Daniel 11: 28-30) Shiites re-take Persia + America’s Role Begins (Daniel 11: 21-23) soon done done 0 2000 500 1000 1500 #1 Early Church Hard Work / Good Teachings Lost First Love #2 Early Church Poor, Slandered, & Suffering #3 Catholic Church  /  #4 Eastern Orthodox Some followed false teachers and accepted sin      black plague Rev 2:21-23 printing press #5 Protestant Reformation (post-tribs) some ‘dead’ -need to ‘wake up’ some ‘worthy’ #6 Spiritual Awakening (pre-tribs) Little strength but kept His Name #7 New church -   wealthy but not   focused on Jesus ? 1517 1830’s 1350 1454 Plague of Justinian (Rev 2:21-23) 541 750 324   Note: I have created a new page for the 7th Church, which includes discussions on Materialism, Homosexuality, and Interfaith Ministries, as fitting the description of being ‘lukewarm’.