The Seven Churches of Revelation
Rightly dividing the Word is the goal of this article, and it is an indispensable key to proper understanding of the Bible. The abundance of scriptural evidence detailed in Section III of this article makes it very clear that the book of Revelation is doctrine for the nation of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. Revelation was written to those in Israel who believed in Jesus Christ, by an apostle of the circumcision, for direct application in the "kingdom" dispensation which was prophesied in the Old Testament. This article is divided into three major sections:
Introduction A summary of the findings in this document
Section I: Historical Evidence for Dating the Book of Revelation
Section II: A Theory to Consider: Jews were Scattered into Asia during the 60's
Section III: Scriptural Evidence that Revelation was written to Assemblies of Jews
Appendix: The KJV Text of Revelation Chapters 1-3
From the time that God made His covenant with Abraham and throughout the Old Testament and Jesus Christ's earthly ministry, God gave prophecies to the nation of Israel about their future kingdom to be ruled by the Messiah (Christ). After Christ's ascension into heaven, the twelve apostles, with the Apostle Matthias having taken the place of Judas Iscariot, continued their appointed ministry of the Messianic kingdom to the nation of Israel. A few years later, the Apostle Paul received revelations from our Lord Jesus Christ of the mysteries for his unique ministry to the predominantly Gentile church for this present dispensation of grace. This article is primarily directed toward those readers who are well versed in or at least familiar with differences between these two programs. In addition to this article, readers may find it helpful to study the other articles under the "Rightly Dividing the Word" heading of this web site.
The primary focus of this article is to convey who comprised the membership of the seven churches of Asia, to whom the book of Revelation was written, and to which dispensation they belong. Uncovering evidence that the book of Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD is only of secondary concern. None-the-less, it is necessary for me to begin by stating that I believe in the pre-millennial second coming of Jesus Christ and the pre-tribulational rapture of all true Christians. The events of the war between the Jews and the Romans and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD were not the fulfillment of the events described in Revelation. The seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowls of wrath, and the abomination of desolation are all yet to take place in the future tribulation, which will be the fulfillment of Daniel's 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27). I say this up front because so many of those who believe that the book of Revelation was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, also subscribe to the errors of allegorical or figurative interpretation of scripture, such as amillennial or post-millennial beliefs. I believe that the Bible must be interpreted literally to be properly understood, except in passages which clearly state that they are symbolic or that they are parables. I want to make these things clear from the beginning so that the reader will not be wondering about them. I do not want those questions to be a distraction from the subject at hand.
In this article, several ancient written works are quoted. References are provided so that the reader may study them further if desired. Most of them can be easily found and freely read on the internet. Also, the King James Version (KJV) text of Revelation chapters 1-3 have been attached at the end of this article.
The Subject at Hand: Traditionally, the Apostle John's writing of the book of Revelation has been dated around 96 AD, 26 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. Thus, the doctrine given to the seven churches in chapters 2-3 of Revelation has been taught as though it was written to believers in this present dispensation of grace, rather than being properly understood to have been written to Israel as doctrine for the kingdom dispensation, which God put into abeyance in 70 AD when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. This has resulted in some misapplications of that doctrine to the church in this present grace dispensation. It has served to mislead some Christians into thinking that they may be forced to go through the great tribulation, robbing them of the comfort of their blessed hope.
Some Christians have noticed the differences between the doctrine presented to these seven churches and the doctrine in the epistles of Romans-Philemon written by the Apostle Paul to the partly Jew but mostly Gentile churches. They may have noticed that the Revelation passages contain far more Old Testament references and are more focused on works than Paul's writings. Thus, some believe that the seven churches of Asia were assemblies of Jews in the early church period and also represent believers during the future tribulation. But being unable to reconcile this understanding with the late 96 AD date of Revelation, many feel unsure in this belief. They may wonder why churches would still be receiving prophecies and kingdom oriented doctrine in 96 AD, long after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. They may even question the soundness of a dispensational approach to Bible study.
Outline: This paper is divided into three main sections:
Section I: Historical Evidence for Dating the Book of Revelation - First we will examine the evidence which is external to the scriptures for dating when the book of Revelation was written. In my research for this paper, I have found very little evidence to support the traditional date of 96 AD for the book of Revelation or the late date for the Apostle John's other writings which are supposed by many to have been written after 70 AD. In fact, there seems to be no conclusive historical support for any particular date. We will look at the accounts of Irenaeus (140-202 AD), Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), and Papias (60-130 AD) dealing with the dating of Revelation. We will see that the external evidence for dating the book of Revelation around 96 AD is far too weak to allow it to influence, much less dominate, one's theological perspective on the book of Revelation.
Section II: A Theory to Consider: Jews were Scattered into Asia during the 60's - Next we will discuss the theory that the seven churches, to which the book of Revelation is addressed, were composed of Jews who believed in Jesus Christ who were scattered into Asia from Judea during the 60's. These Jews were not natives of Asia who had received the mystery doctrines which the Apostle Paul had presented to the predominantly Gentile assemblies for this present dispensation. Rather, under great persecution and hardship, they had been scattered into Asia and the surrounding areas from the land of Israel between 60 and 70 AD. Thus the doctrinal background of these churches came, not from Paul, but from the twelve apostles of the circumcision, from their headquarters in Jerusalem. We will examine scriptural evidence of this in Hebrews and First Peter and the historical evidence of Flavius Josephus.
Section III: Scriptural Evidence that Revelation was written to Assemblies
of Jews - Finally, in this largest section we will examine the scriptural
evidence which identifies the people to whom Revelation was written and to which dispensation they
belong. We will be looking at some of the scriptural evidence for dating the
book of Revelation prior to Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD. But, primarily
we will be looking at how the doctrine given to the seven churches of
Revelation is the same doctrine that was given to Israel in the Old Testament,
and the same as that given in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Hebrews and the
epistles of Peter, James, Jude, and John. We will see that these ties to
Revelation are not merely similarities in language or terminology, but of
ideas, basic doctrine, and prophecy. In addition, we will examine several
contrasts between the doctrine of the seven churches and the doctrine of
Paul's epistles to the Gentiles (Romans-Philemon). Through Revelation's
numerous similarities with the books written to the Jews combined with several key
differences with Paul's epistles to the Gentiles, we will see that Revelation
was written to assemblies of Jews, rather than to the mainly Gentile churches
who had been taught by Paul. The seven churches were composed of Jews who
believed in Jesus Christ, and they received doctrine for the nation of Israel from an apostle to
Israel about the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament.
Historical Evidence for Dating the Book of Revelation
The great many Bible students assume, as I once did, that there must be ample external evidence that the book of Revelation was written around 96 AD. After all, the late date is hardly ever questioned. Many highly respected Bible teachers have stated it as though it were proven fact, offering no evidence in defense. However, as far as I can conclude from my research into this topic, very little external evidence exists that would warrant any bold statement as to the date of the writing. The late date (96 AD) theory seems to rest almost entirely on the statement of one man, Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons. This statement, which Irenaeus wrote between 180 and 190 AD, was apparently believed by the majority of the writers of the fourth and fifth centuries, even though it was made more than a century after destruction of Jerusalem, and nearly a century after the alleged late date of the writing of Revelation. For the first two centuries after Jerusalem's destruction, very little was written that would provide clues as to when the book of Revelation was written, and during all of that time, Irenaeus appears to be the lone voice for the late date of 96 AD.
The Statement of Irenaeus: Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, was born in Asia and lived from approximately 140 to 202 AD. He wrote Against Heresies in about 180 AD. He provides by far the single most important bit of evidence for the late dating (96 AD) of the book of Revelation. Most of the other evidence for the late date comes from those who wrote much later and probably relied on Irenaeus as their source. For this reason, we will study the following statement of Irenaeus and its credibility.
"We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of AntiChrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2:22:4). Domitian reigned as the emperor of the Roman Empire from 81-96 AD.
Lack of Written Records: As we examine the credibility of this statement, some key background information should be considered. Irenaeus explains that he was only a child when he learned the history regarding the Apostle John from Polycarp. Irenaeus also revealed that he had kept no written record of what he had learned from Polycarp. By the time Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies, as much as 30 to 40 years had passed. Could he have forgotten or misunderstood some of the details? In a letter to Florinus, he says, "... For, while I was yet a boy, I saw thee in Lower Asia with Polycarp ... For I have a more vivid recollection of what occurred at that time than of recent events ... so that I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse ... also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance ... I then listened to attentively, and treasured them up not on paper, but in my heart; and I am continually, by God's grace, revolving these things accurately in my mind" (Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus, II).
Emperors with similar names: It is possible that the Irenaeus, who heard the story when he was only a child, could have misunderstood the name of the Emperor to which Polycarp was referring. Nero, who reigned as the Roman Emperor from 54 AD until his suicide on June 11, 68 AD, was "... originally named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus ..." (Microsoft Encarta). In various historical documents, he is sometimes referred to as Nero Lucius Domitius or as Domitius Nero. For instance, Pliny the Elder referred to him as "Domitius Nero" in his first century encyclopedia (Pliny, Natural History 7:45). Could this be as simple as someone today confusing Theodore Roosevelt with Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
Second-Hand Hearsay: If the apostle John were to have written us a letter stating that he received the Revelation in 96 AD, that would be first hand information. If he told someone (Polycarp for example), and they told us, it becomes hearsay. But what we have here is Irenaeus writing that 30 to 40 years earlier, Polycarp had told him (Irenaeus) that John told him (Polycarp) about 50 years earlier that he received the Revelation in 96 AD. The message then becomes second-hand hearsay, with great stretches of time over which details could have been forgotten by either Polycarp or Irenaeus.
Was Irenaeus an Accurate Historian? Irenaeus wrote that Jesus Christ was around 50 years old during His earthly ministry, thereby demonstrating that he was vulnerable to major errors in his historical accounts. Apparently there were some teachers late in the second century who were incorrectly teaching that Jesus Christ's earthly ministry only lasted for one year, at the end of which He was crucified. This was largely based upon Luke 4:19, "To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Since John mentions three distinct passovers, we know that Christ's earthly ministry was at least two years, perhaps three. But Irenaeus greatly over-corrected their error, saying that Jesus Christ was around 50 years old during his ministry. He claimed that Jesus Christ advanced through all stages of human life so as to be an example for people of any age. "... He was an old man for old men ..." (Against Heresies 2:22:4).
Pointing out their error, Irenaeus said, "... they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying His whole work, and robbing Him of that age which is both more necessary and more honourable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher He excelled all others. For how could He have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed His thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: "Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old," when He came to receive baptism); and, [according to these men,] He preached only one year reckoning from His baptism. On completing His thirtieth year He suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify ..." (Against Heresies 2:22:5). Did Irenaeus learn this error from the teaching of Polycarp? We do not know. But in any case, this obvious error could have easily been avoided by careful reading of the scriptures.
Clement of Alexandria: Clement of Alexandria lived from approximately 150-215 AD. His writings are often used to corroborate the statement of Irenaeus that John wrote Revelation near the end of Domitian's reign, around 96 AD. But does Clement really say this?
"And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale, which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant's death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit" (Clement of Alexandria - Who is the Rich Man that Shall be Saved, Chapter 42). Certainly Clement believed the Apostle John was the one on Patmos who wrote the book of Revelation. But he does not write the name Domitian, but rather "the tyrant." Who was "the tyrant"?
In another of Clement of Alexandria's writings, we have the following: "For the teaching of our Lord at His advent, beginning with Augustus and Tiberius, was completed in the middle of the times of Tiberius. And that of the apostles, embracing the ministry of Paul, ends with Nero" (Clement of Alexandria -The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book 7, Chapter 17). If Clement was correct, then the Revelation to the Apostle John occurred no later than 68 AD, the year that Nero's reign as Emperor of Rome ended. Since Clement believed that the teaching of the apostles ended during the time of Nero's reign, and he also believed that the Apostle John wrote the Revelation prior to the end of "the tyrant's" reign, it seems that Nero was the tyrant to which Clement was referring. Nero is accused by many historians of burning the city of Rome in 64 AD and blaming it on the Christians. He also murdered his wives, his half brother, and even his own mother. Certainly Nero would more than qualify for being referred to as "the tyrant." Not only that, but Clement believed that the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15), was committed by Nero. He believed that Daniel's 70th week began during Nero's reign. "The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he was taken away ..." (Clement of Alexandria -The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book 1, Chapter 21). Later in this same chapter, Clement wrote, "... and the result is three years and six months, which is "the half of the week," as Daniel the prophet said. For he said that there were two thousand three hundred days from the time that the abomination of Nero stood in the holy city, till its destruction." Of course, I disagree with Clement's view. The abomination of desolation is still a future event. However, this does support the fact that Nero is who Clement was referring to as "the tyrant."
Right after Clement's account of the Apostle John returning from Patmos in the above passage (Who is the Rich Man that Shall be Saved, Chapter 42), Clement proceeds to tell a story of how after John had returned to the mainland, he found a young man and began discipling him. But, after a while the young man began to gradually slip into a very sinful lifestyle, eventually becoming the captain of a band of highway robbers. The story progresses until John chases the young man down on horseback. "But when he recognized John as he advanced, he turned, ashamed, to flight. The other followed with all his might, forgetting his age, crying, "Why, my son, dost thou flee from me, thy father, unarmed, old? Son, pity me." The young man then returns with John to the church and abandons his former lifestyle.
John's actions here, if this story is true, require considerable physical ability, causing much stress upon an older man. However, let us consider the plausibility of such a story in light of the early and late dates for the writing of the book of Revelation. It is doubtful that John was any younger than 20 years old at the time Christ's earthly ministry began in 29 AD. So let us assume for the moment that John was born in 9 AD. Now let us suppose that the discipleship and relapse of the young man must have taken considerable time. Let's say 2 years. If the book of Revelation were written in 96 AD, then John would have performed this horseback chase in 98 AD at the age of 89, at the youngest. Very few men even live to be 89. A man even being able to get on a horse at this age is amazing. However, if the book of Revelation was written in 67 AD, then the chase would have occurred in 69 AD, when John was 60 years old. This is certainly old enough for such physical activity to be very stressful, while still being young enough for the feat to be reasonably performed. If this story is actually true, then the early date seems far more plausible.
In the passages above, it is noteworthy that both Irenaeus and Clement make similar statements about information not being written down. Phrases like "not on paper, but in my heart" and "committed to the custody of memory" may partly explain why so few writings remain from those early years of the church.
Papias: Well before Irenaeus or Clement of Alexandria, there was a Christian named Papias (approx. 60-130 AD). He was a Bishop at Hierapolis, in Phrygia, very near Colosse and Laodicea. He was the author of five books called "Expositions of the Oracles of the Lord" which are now lost. Only fragments remain, mostly in the excerpts quoted in the writings of other authors. In one such fragment, Papias states that John and James, the brother of Christ, were both put to death by the Jews. The Greek text of this fragment appears in Commentary on Revelation by Henry Barclay Swete. We know from Flavius Josephus that James, the brother of Christ, was stoned by the Jews in 62 AD (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.9.1). Most scholars who have studied the fragment believe that it affirms that John was killed before 70 AD, even though the fragment does not explicitly say when John's martyrdom occurred. If one understands the fragment to mean that the two men were martyred at the same time, then this would fix the date at 62 AD, when we know James was put to death. Another possibility is that the scholars realize that since Israel's last remains of national autonomy were obliterated in 70 AD by the Romans, executions were much more likely to have occurred before 70 AD than after. Although this fragment is largely accepted, there still remains some doubt as to whether this fragment is genuinely from Papias. If genuine, this statement is support for dating all of John's writings, including Revelation, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Summary of the External Evidence: External evidence for dating the book
of Revelation is quite scarce. The weak external evidence that does exist is
often based upon hearsay, sometimes of questionable origin, and usually written
one hundred or even hundreds of years after the book of Revelation was written.
Thus, it would be unwise to allow the traditional dating to stand as a barrier
to one's scriptural understanding. The external evidence is far too weak for
one to let it to influence, much less dominate, one's theological perspective
on the book of Revelation.
A Theory to Consider: Jews were Scattered into Asia during the 60's
We should note that the "Asia" referred to in scripture is not the entire continent that we call Asia today. Rather, this "Asia" was a Roman province, only about the size of Iowa, located in what is now the western part of Turkey. The book of Revelation contains doctrine for the kingdom dispensation and was written to the early Jews who believed in Christ rather than to the partly Jew but mostly Gentile churches to which Paul preached the revealed mysteries of this grace dispensation. We will see this most conclusively when we study it in detail in Section III of this article. But assuming for now that Revelation was written to Jews in the kingdom dispensation, the traditional dating of 96 AD seems out of place, since the fading away of Israel's kingdom dispensation culminated in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. That old program was set aside until this present dispensation of grace is completed (Romans 11:11, 15, and 25).
Israel's kingdom dispensation was put on hold when Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. This would indicate that Revelation and John's other books were written prior to 70 AD. And, as we have shown in the previous section, this very well may be the case.
But when before 70 AD could they have been written? As we investigate this question, we will be calling upon the information that the New Testament provides about the chronology of the apostles activities. Although this discussion is pretty short, it does require careful reading and consideration in order to fully understand the logic presented.
According to Galatians 2:9, John was present at the council in Jerusalem which Paul and Barnabas attended. This meeting is recorded in Acts 15 and in Galatians 2 and took place in about 50 AD. (For a detailed "Chronology of Paul's Journeys and Epistles," see the article on this web site.) John's presence at this meeting strongly indicates that he had not yet received the Revelation. He would have had to have gone out on a missionary journey, been arrested and exiled to the Isle of Patmos, received the Revelation, been released, and returned to Jerusalem. But we have no scriptural evidence that John ever left the Isle of Patmos, and no evidence, scriptural or otherwise, that he ever returned to Jerusalem from Patmos.
In addition, John's knowledge of the mystery of the redemptive nature of Jesus Christ's death on the cross (Revelation 1:5 and 1 John 1:7) indicates that his writings could not have occurred prior to 52 AD. That is because this mystery was first revealed to Paul. No apostle was recorded as teaching it until Paul wrote First Thessalonians, his first epistle (1 Thes 5:9-10). This epistle was written around 52 AD, about the time of the events recorded in Acts 17.
So this dates the writing of Revelation between 52 AD and 70 AD. But, remember that at the council in Jerusalem in about 50 AD, the apostles agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to the predominantly Gentile churches, and that Peter, James, John, and the others would continue their ministry to only to Israel (the circumcision). "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me (Paul), as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision" (Galatians 2:7-9).
In 62 AD, Paul sent his epistle to the Ephesians. However, Paul had already spent much time ministering to the Ephesians and the whole region of Asia. We know that Paul briefly visited the Ephesians in Asia, probably during the fall of 53 AD, near the end of his second journey (Acts 18:19-20). Then on his third journey, Paul's teaching spread throughout Asia during the 3 years that he spent in Ephesus from about the fall of 54 AD to the fall of 57 AD (Acts 19:10 and 20:31). In the spring of 58 AD, toward the end of his third journey, Paul met with the Ephesian elders once more, as recorded in Acts 20:17-38. So we can see that Paul was very active in Asia during the 53-58 AD time period.
With this in mind, it would have been very strange indeed for John to have broken his agreement with Paul and begun teaching the Jews that were in Paul's mostly Gentile churches. This would have resulted in two distinct doctrines being taught to the same Jews in the same region at the same time, and in the case of Ephesus, even in the same city. John, being an apostle to the circumcision, would have been teaching the doctrine of the prophesied earthly kingdom to Jews only, while Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, would have been teaching the doctrine of grace to Jews and Gentiles alike. The Jews in Ephesus would have been confused as to whether to follow the grace doctrine of Paul or the kingdom doctrine of John. This would have been chaotic, and I trust we can safely assume that this is not what happened. Consequently, John's writing of Revelation could have been no earlier than 58 AD, after Paul departed from Asia on his third journey. So the window of time in which Revelation could have been written is now narrowed to 58-70 AD.
The next logical question is: With Paul having covered the region of Asia, teaching Jews and Gentiles alike, what other Jews would have been left in Asia to have received the book of Revelation? Consider the possibility that the seven churches of Asia were not even present in Asia during the 53-58 AD time period mentioned above. Perhaps these churches were formed by Jews who believed in Jesus Christ who were scattered from Judea during the early to mid-60's. This would certainly answer the question. But is there any scriptural evidence for this?
The Apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to "... strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia ..." (1 Peter 1:1). We know that the recipients were most certainly Jews who believed in Christ as evidenced by First Peter 1:1, 1:18, 2:9, 2:11, 2:12, and 4:3. Peter's second epistle was also written to them. "This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you ..." (2 Peter 3:1). When Paul wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, he was writing to this same group as well. This is evidenced by 2 Peter 3:15, "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you ...." It should not be surprising that Paul would send a special letter ministering to a group of assemblies of Jews. After all, early in his ministry, Paul had ministered strictly to Jews for three years (Acts 9:20-25). So we know that Hebrews and Peter's two epistles were probably all written to the same assemblies of Jews. We also know that the churches founded by Paul included many Jews, but were mainly Gentile. Certainly Peter was not separating the Jews from Paul's assemblies and writing to them, excluding the Gentiles that were in their assemblies. Rather, Peter was writing to assemblies that were composed entirely of Jews, and not to those churches founded by Paul.
Paul wrote regarding the great hardship suffered by these believing Jews in Hebrews 10:32-34, "... ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. For ye...took joyfully the spoiling of your goods ..." (Hebrews 10:32-34). First Peter 1:1 refers to these Jews as "... strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia ...." These areas cover a large region of what is now the land of Turkey. Also First Peter 2:11-12 calls them "strangers and pilgrims" who were "among the Gentiles." Like the description in Hebrews, suffering is a prevailing theme in First Peter, mentioned 16 times.
The seven churches of Asia were a subset of the assemblies to which Hebrews, and First and Second Peter were written. As the following verses show, the entire book of Revelation was written to the seven churches that were in Asia, not just chapters two and three. "John to the seven churches which are in Asia ..." (Revelation 1:4). "... What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea" (Revelation 1:11). Then in the final chapter we have, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches ..." (Revelation 22:16).
Beyond the scriptures listed above, there is also external historical evidence of such a scattering of Jews. There are at least three major events from 62-66 AD that may have triggered the flight of the Jews who believed in Jesus Christ from Judea.
62 AD: There may have been a scattering of believing Jews in 62 AD when James (brother of Jesus Christ) and "some of his companions" were stoned. This stoning was documented by the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.9.1). The "companions," as Josephus calls them, may have included some of the other apostles, but even if not, they were almost certainly prominent Jews who were believers and teachers of Jesus Christ. A similar incident had caused a scattering of believers about 25 years earlier when Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:54-60). Acts 8:1 says "... And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles." We know that by 58 AD, there were once again thousands of Jews who believed in Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. In 58 AD, when Paul came to Jerusalem, James told him, "... Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law ..." (Acts 21:20). Perhaps the stoning of the assembly leaders in 62 AD resulted in a scattering of believing Jews similar to that which occurred following of the stoning of Stephen.
64 AD: There was also a massive scattering of Jews from Judea shortly before the war with the Romans which began in 66 AD. In 64 AD, Gessius Florus became procurator of Judea. Flavius Josephus writes that Florus "... did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils. Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation; and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces" (Wars of the Jews, 2.14.2). [The word "toparchy" is not in some dictionaries. So I thought it best to explain that several dictionaries define a "toparchy" as "a small state, consisting of a few cities or towns; a petty country governed by a toparch; as, Judea was formerly divided into ten toparchies."] Josephus also wrote "... the unhappy Jews, when they were not able to bear the devastations which the robbers made among them, were all under a necessity of leaving their own habitations, and of flying away, as hoping to dwell more easily anywhere else in the world among foreigners [than in their own country]" (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.11.1). Perhaps these events account for the "spoiling of your goods" that Paul mentioned in Hebrews 10:34 above.
66 AD: The war began between the Jews and the Romans. Continuing from the same passage quoted above, Josephus points to these vile actions of Florus as the trigger for the war which resulted in Jerusalem's destruction. "... this Florus who necessitated us to take up arms against the Romans, while we thought it better to be destroyed at once, than by little and little. Now this war began in the second year of the government of Florus, and the twelfth year of the reign of Nero" (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.11.1). This war led to the Roman siege on Jerusalem in which 1.1 million Jews were killed. "Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation [with the citizens of Jerusalem], but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread ..." (Wars of the Jews, 6.9.3).
Given the scriptural evidence from First Peter and Hebrews and the historical
accounts of Josephus, it seems quite plausible that the thousands of Jews who
believed in Jesus Christ took flight from Judea and the persecutions and
hardships there. But they were not without direction in the provinces to which
they were scattered. They received guidance in letters from the Apostles
Peter, Jude, John, and even a special letter from Paul.
Scriptural Evidence that Revelation was written to Assemblies of Jews
Silence Regarding the Destruction of Jerusalem: There is another strong indication that the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. That is, that in all of the writings of John, which are supposed by tradition to have been written later, there is not the slightest hint that Jerusalem had been destroyed. John's contemporaries recorded many negative events in the scriptures, such as the famine in Judea, the banishment of Jews from Rome, and the martyrdom of John the Baptist, Stephen, and James, the son of Zebedee. Peter and Paul each even provide a preview of their own deaths. It is strange that this most catastrophic event of that generation would not have been mentioned even once, in which, as we have seen from Josephus, over one million Jews were killed and tens of thousands were taken captive. After all, when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, all of the prophets of that day (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) made references back to it, as shown below.
Jeremiah looked back on the fall of Jerusalem in Lamentations chapter one 1:8 "Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed ..." (Lamentations 1:8). Further detail is provided in Lamentations 2:6-9, where Jeremiah writes that the Lord "... hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly ... The Lord hath cast off his altar, he hath abhorred his sanctuary, he hath given up into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces ... The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying ... Her gates are sunk into the ground; he hath destroyed and broken her bars: her king and her princes are among the Gentiles: the law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD."
Ezekiel also refers to Jerusalem's destruction after the fact. "And it came to pass in the twelfth year of our captivity, in the tenth month, in the fifth day of the month, that one that had escaped out of Jerusalem came unto me, saying, The city is smitten" (Ezekiel 33:21).
In Daniel 9:25, Gabriel refers to the rebuilding of Jerusalem which had been destroyed. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times."
Likewise, all of those Old Testament books which were written after the destruction of Jerusalem, but still prior to the walls of Jerusalem being rebuilt, also refer back to its destruction and the captivity. These include Ezra 4:15, Nehemiah 1:3, Esther 2:6, Haggai 1:9 and 2:3, and Zechariah 1:12-17.
Not only does John not refer back to Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD, but the temple is even spoken of in Revelation 11:1 as though the destruction had not yet happened. Of course, this is by no means proof that the temple was standing. The temple is mentioned in Daniel 9:26 during the Babylonian captivity, when no temple was standing. However, the temple in Daniel was spoken of in future tense, whereas the temple in Revelation is spoken of in present tense, albeit in a portion of scripture prefaced seven chapters earlier by the phrase "... things which must be hereafter" (Revelation 4:1).
The silence of the scriptures on the subject of a previous destruction in 70 AD is a strong indication that the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
The Apostle John: First we must remember that unlike the Apostle Paul, the Apostle John, who wrote Revelation, was an Apostle to the circumcision (Israel). I realize we looked at this passage once earlier, but it bears repeating. In Galatians 2:7-9, Paul wrote, "... when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision." Most Bible teachers will readily apply the doctrines of John directly to the Christians in this dispensation of grace (both Jew and Gentile), without regard for any dispensational differences. Yet it should be incumbent upon those teachers to produce evidence that supersedes Galatians 2:7-9.
Even though we have just seen that John was an Apostle to Israel, let's not stop there. Now let's examine the doctrine given to the seven churches and see if it looks more like Paul's doctrine for this dispensation or more like the doctrine of the twelve apostles to Israel. At this point, it would be best if you read Revelation chapters 1-3. If you do not have your Bible handy, you can use this link to the text of Revelation chapters 1-3 which are attached to the bottom of this document, and just click on "Back" to return to this point when you are finished.
Priests: Revelation 1:6 says that Jesus Christ, "... hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father ...." There are similar statements in Revelation 5:10 and 20:6. Where have we heard this before?
This is what God told Moses to tell Israel. "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel" (Exodus 19:6). Isaiah 61:6 echoes this verse, "But ye shall be named the priests of the LORD: men shall call you the ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves."
Israel's role as priests to the world is explained further in Zechariah 8:22-23 which says, "Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you."
The Apostle Peter also wrote of Israel's priesthood. "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). Also, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ..." (1 Peter 2:9). As we have already seen, First Peter was most certainly written to Jews who believed in Christ as evidenced by 1 Peter 1:1, 1:18, 2:9, 2:11, 2:12, and 4:3.
By contrast, the words "priest," "priests," "priesthood," and "priestly" never occur from Romans to Philemon, Paul's letters to the Gentiles. I see no reason to think believers in this present grace dispensation are to be priests. Therefore, Revelation 1:6 would indicate that the book was written to Jews.
Introductory note on Revelation chapters 2 and 3: In the following pages, we will examine the seven churches of Revelation chapters two and three. Organizing these verses was rather difficult. For the most part, the discussion of the verses follows the order of their appearance in the text. However, some of the churches have commonalities that make it more logical to discuss them together. So you may see some aspect of Thyatira being discussed in the Pergamos section, or an aspect of Smyrna being discussed in the Philadelphia section, and so forth. Although we will be going into the details, this is not intended to be a general, all-inclusive study of these chapters. The focus of our discussion will be limited to the subject matter of this article.
When studying these chapters this closely, it may be easy to become distracted with the details and lose track of the original question that we are considering. So just as a reminder, the question is: Who comprised the membership of the seven churches of Asia, to whom the book of Revelation was written, and to which dispensation do they belong? We will examine Revelation's numerous prophetic and doctrinal similarities with the books that were written to Israel, including the Old Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Hebrews, and the epistles of Peter, James, Jude, and John. We will also see some of the contrasts between the doctrine given to the seven churches and the doctrine of Paul's epistles to the Gentiles. Thus, we will see how Revelation was written to assemblies of Jews, rather than to the mostly Gentile churches who had been taught by our Apostle Paul.
As we make our way through Revelation 2:1-7, now and then we will examine the contrasts between Paul's epistle to the Ephesians and this Revelation message to the Ephesus assembly.
In verse 2:2, the Ephesus assembly is said to have "... tried them which say they are Apostles, and are not ...." This would be much more plausible if Revelation were written prior to 70 AD. By 96 AD, only a very old man could possibly hope to pass himself off as an apostle. This would be especially difficult, since most of the apostles were known to have been martyred many years earlier.
The assembly at Ephesus is told in Revelation 2:4-5, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."
There is much emphasis on "works" in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, where the Greek word "ergon" is used 14 times. It is usually translated "works" as in verse 5 above, but is sometimes translated "deeds".
Apparently, doing "the first works" is directly associated with returning to "thy first love." But what is the "first love" and what are the "first works" the Ephesians are being told to do in Revelation 2:5?
This passage has been very widely interpreted. But by looking in John's other writings, we can let the scriptures interpret themselves. John says in 2 John 1:5-6, "And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it." So the first love is to love one another and follow God's commandments. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments ..." (1 John 5:3).
The commandment to love God and your neighbor occurs in other New Testament books as well. For instance, James 2:8 which calls this "... the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself ...." In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus Christ said, "... Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
So the first works are to "love the Lord" and to "love thy neighbor." With this in mind, look at the message of "... repent and do the first works ..." in Revelation 2:5 and "... I will give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God ...." in verse Revelation 2:7. Compare these two verses with Jeremiah 7:5-7. "For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever." Do you see how the message is the same?
Notice also in Revelation 2:5 that Christ's coming is not presented as Paul presents the catching away (the rapture), the blessed hope of the church in which we are to comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Instead, Christ's coming is presented as a stern warning, "... do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick ...."
In Revelation 2:6, we see mention of a heretical group called the Nicolaitanes. However, in Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, he makes no mention of this group.
Continuing on to Revelation 2:7, "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." How could this be the same church as the one to which Paul wrote? Those Ephesians were told, "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus ..." (Ephesians 2:5-6). All of these events are referred to in past tense. But the Ephesus assembly in Revelation is being told something totally different. Revelation 2:7, above, is clarified later by Revelation 22:14. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (new Jerusalem)." So they are being told that if they "do his commandments" they can obtain the right to eternal life. This is vastly different from what our Apostle Paul tells believers in this dispensation of grace, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). We will examine the statements about the overcomers in more detail later in this article.
Remember that Paul's letter to the Ephesians was to faithful, mature believers and was rich with the knowledge of several mysteries (Ephesians 3:1-11, 5:32, 6:19) and filled with the teaching of the deeper things of Christ (Ephesians 3:18-19). But the doctrine of Revelation 2:1-7 is primarily just to love one another and keep God's commandments. When we compare Paul's letter to the Ephesians and message to the Ephesus assembly found in Revelation, we see little resemblance in either the spiritual conditions of the churches or the doctrines presented to them.
Some may argue that Revelation was written many years after Paul's epistle and that the Ephesians had backslidden away from their previous standing. But if that were true, they would not have been sent a kingdom message. Rather, they would have been given a First Corinthians type of message, the type of message that our Apostle Paul sent to carnal believers.
I should note that the word "church" does not always imply a group of Christian believers when it is used in the Bible. The Greek word that is translated "church" in the King James Version is "ekklesia," which just means a called out gathering of people in an assembly. The word "ekklesia" was translated "assembly" when it referred to a group that was obviously composed predominantly of pagans in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41. Another example occurs in Acts 7:38, when Stephen refers to the church in the wilderness during the 40 years of the children of Israel's wandering. Certainly these people were not Christians. For the most part, they were not even believing Israelites. In Hebrews 3:16-19, they are characterized largely by unbelief. Now as far as I am aware, every time that Paul uses the word "ekklesia," he is referring to an assembly of Christian believers. This usage is so common in the New Testament that some people may be confused in those few cases when the word is referring to a group that is not all believers. So we must be careful not to assume too much when we see the word "church."
Revelation 2:9 says, "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." The true richness of those in poverty is also addressed in James 2:5 which says, "... Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith ...."
The phrase, "Synagogue of Satan" occurs in the messages to both Smyrna and Philadelphia. "... I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan" (Revelation 2:9). Writing to Philadelphia, "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee" (Revelation 3:9). In the Philadelphia section in the pages that follow, we will see a striking parallel between this passage and one in chapter 60 of Isaiah. But for now let us notice the similarity between Revelation 3:9 and Isaiah 49:23 which says, "... kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD ...." Non-Christian Jews today commonly believe that a Jew who begins believing that Jesus is the Messiah is no longer a Jew. Sometimes they even hold a funeral for them as if they had died. Perhaps the Jews in these early assemblies are being comforted for the persecution they faced from the Jews who did not believe in Jesus Christ. This reminds one of what Paul said in Romans 9:6, "... they are not all Israel, which are of Israel." Yet these Jews of the synagogue of Satan looked down on the Jews which believed on Jesus Christ just as Isaiah 65:3-5 describes those steeped in idol worship "... that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon alters of brick ... which eat swine's flesh ..." yet they have the nerve to say "... Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou ...."
To the church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:10 says, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." A very similar description is found in the Olivet discourse in Luke and Matthew: "But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony" (Luke 21:12-13). "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. ... But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matthew 24:9 and 13). A crown of glory is mentioned in Isaiah 28:5, "In that day shall the LORD of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue (remnant) of his people ...." Also see how Revelation 2:10 parallels James 1:12, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
Earlier in that same chapter, James 1:2-4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (testings); Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." By contrast, Apostle Paul says that we are complete in Christ. "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power ..." (Colossians 2:10).
Those that hold to the doctrine of Balaam are mentioned in reference to Pergamos in Revelation 2:14. "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." Those that hold to the doctrine of Balaam are also addressed in 2 Peter 2:15 and in Jude 11. Ironically, these are the only three times Balaam is named in the New Testament, all in the space of only about 14 pages in my Bible. It should be noted that although the name Balaam is not used in reference to the church of Thyatira, examination of Revelation 2:14 to 2:20 shows that they have many of the same heretical characteristics (fornication and eating things sacrificed to idols) as Pergamos.
The story of Balaam is told in Numbers chapters 22-24 and 31. When Balaam was unable to curse the nation Israel whom God had not cursed, he devised a plan for Balac to corrupt Israel, so that God would punish them.
It should be noted that Paul taught the mostly Gentile church that eating things sacrificed to idols was not a sin in itself, for we know that an idol is nothing. However, we are to be careful not to cause our weaker brother to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). After Peter's discussion of Balaam, Peter said, "... the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-16). Perhaps some Jews were twisting Paul's doctrine about meats into saying that eating things sacrificed to idols was always okay for anyone. Perhaps they were then misapplying it to the assemblies that were composed only of Jews.
It is very easy to see the similarities between 2 Peter and Jude. Careful study reveals that 2 Peter 2:1 - 3:3 very closely follows Jude 4-19. It seems that Peter, Jude, and Revelation were all addressing the same heresy which was creeping into the assemblies of Jews. This is another indication that perhaps all three of these books were written around the same time, during the mid to late 60's.
Back in chapter one, Revelation 1:7 said, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." This certainly refers to the second coming at the end of the tribulation, not to the rapture. Later, Revelation 2:16 says to Pergamos, "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." This is not a reference to the rapture either, but rather to the second coming described in Revelation 19:15, "And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." Further details of Christ's second coming are provided in Revelation 19:21, "And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." This is not the first time the word of God has been likened to a sword. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword ..." (Hebrews 4:12). "And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword ..." (Isaiah 49:2). The dreadful sword of God is described in Ezekiel 21:1-17 and Ezekiel chapter 9. My main point is that these passages of wrath (Revelation 2:16 and 19:15) are not associated with the catching away of the church, but to the second coming at the end of the tribulation.
Notice again the emphasis on Jesus "coming quickly" in Revelation 2:5, 2:16, 3:3, 3:11. It is most frequently used as a stern warning, as in Revelation 2:16, "Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth."
This statement would make little sense if it were written in 96 AD when there was no temple standing. Many diligent Bible students know that the abomination of desolation in Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15 will occur in the temple three and one half years before the Lord will fight against His enemies with the sword of His mouth at the end of the great tribulation as described above in Revelation 19:15. Therefore, if there was no temple standing, they would know that the Lord would not be coming quickly to fight against them with the sword of His mouth. Now of course the Lord may catch us away in the rapture at any moment, but the rapture is not the subject of Revelation 2:16. This must be written to those Jews living prior to 70 AD and to those who will be living in the tribulation once the temple is rebuilt. Otherwise, how could Revelation 2:16 be taken as a serious warning?
In contrast to Revelation 2:16, Paul's message to the church of this present dispensation is, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
In Revelation 2:14-16, death by the sword is promised to those eating things sacrificed unto idols. This is also foretold in Isaiah 66:16-17, "For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens (idolatry) behind one tree in the midst, eating swine's flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD." This slaying is also prophesied in Amos 9:9-10, "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us." This prophecy has Israel returning from the nations to which they were scattered, so we know that this prophecy is of the end times and is consistent with Revelation 2:14-16.
In Revelation 2:17, Christ says, "... To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna ...." Now we know from Exodus that the children of Israel ate the manna that God sent from heaven, while they were in the wilderness for 40 years, and that if kept for more than a day, the manna would spoil. So all the manna was either eaten or spoiled, such that there would be none left today, right? No, not exactly. There is one exception to this given in Exodus 16:32-34, "And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony (the ark of the covenant), to be kept." Now this one omer of manna was to be kept and seen, not to be hidden. It was placed in the ark of the covenant as Hebrews 9:4 says, "... the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant ...." Now we know that since the Babylonian invasion of Israel around 600 BC, the ark of the covenant has been hidden, and at the time this article is being written, no one is certain of the holy ark's true whereabouts. Though many have searched for the ark for thousands of years, no one has been able to produce it. So the manna within the hidden ark is also hidden.
In Revelation 2:17, the Spirit says I, "... will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Compare this to Isaiah 62:2, "And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name." The unrepentant of Pergamos are to be slain in Revelation 2:16-17 whereas the overcomers will receive a new name. Likewise, Isaiah 65:15 says, "And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen: for the Lord God shall slay thee and call his servants by another name."
Regarding the meaning of the "white stone" in verse 17, the Greek word translated "stone" is "psephos". In ancient days, it was common for people accused of crimes to be judged by voting using stones that were either white for acquittal or black for conviction, hence the expression "black-balled". The giving of a "white stone" in verse 17 represents forgiveness of sins.
The word "psephos" was also sometimes used to mean "vote", because the stone, "psephos", was used when voting. The only other place "psephos" is used in the scriptures is in Acts 26:10 where Paul said, "... many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them." Here, the word "psephos", is translated "my voice", and could have been translated "my vote".
Now when reading through this much detail, we must not let all of the trees cause us to lose sight of the forest. Remember that we are looking at how the doctrine given to the seven churches in Revelation is consistent with that given to Israel in the Old Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Hebrews, and the epistles of Peter, James, Jude, and John. We are also pointing out some of the contrasts between the doctrine given to the seven churches and the doctrine of Paul's epistles to the Gentiles. Through Revelation's numerous prophetic and doctrinal similarities with the books to Israel and several key differences with Paul's epistles to the Gentiles, we are seeing how Revelation was written to assemblies of Jews, rather than to the mostly Gentile churches who had been taught by our Apostle Paul.
The section to the assembly at Thyatira begins with some unique aspects of Jesus Christ's appearance. So we will take some time to examine some of them here. "... the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass ..." (Revelation 2:18). This sounds very much like Daniel 10:6, when Daniel had the vision of a man with "... his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass ...". Remember that back in Revelation chapter one, a more detailed description of Christ's appearance was given which included, "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow ..." (Revelation 1:14). This identifies Jesus Christ as "the Ancient of days" whose "... hair of his head was like the pure wool ..." in Daniel 7:9, 13, and 22. Daniel 7:22 verifies that Jesus Christ is "the Ancient of days" by saying that the "little horn" (the AntiChrist) prevailed against the saints, "Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given unto the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." The meaning of all of this imagery and unusual appearance would have been wasted on first century Gentiles who would have been unfamiliar with the Old Testament teachings. Jesus Christ appeared to John in a form like the one in which He appeared to the Old Testament prophets, so that Israel would know just who He was. Jesus Christ is making the proclamation that "I am He," the Almighty God who spoke to the Old Testament prophets. We will look at this identification further as we continue.
The voice of Jesus Christ is most unique as well. Back in Revelation 1:15 it is described this way: "... and his voice as the sound of many waters." Compare this to Ezekiel 43:2 which says, "And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory." Ezekiel 1:24 says, "... I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty ...." Who has the voice like the sound of many waters? The God of Israel, the Almighty, who is Jesus Christ.
In several places in Revelation, Jesus Christ is called "the first and the last". "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive ..." (Revelation 2:8). Back in chapter one, He said, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8). Then in the final chapter, He says, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last" (Revelation 22:13).
This is consistent with the Old Testament prophets. He says in Isaiah 48:12, "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last." Also in Isaiah 44:6, "Thus saith the LORD (Jehovah) the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." When you see "the LORD" in all capital letters in the KJV, it is almost always "Jehovah," God's proper name. The KJV translators did not spell out the name Jehovah, but replaced it with "the LORD" 99.86% of the time. Isaiah 41:4 says, "Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he." So, when Jesus Christ keeps proclaiming "I am He," he wants all to know that He is the God of the Old Testament, the Alpha and Omega, the one who spoke the heaven and earth into being, one who searches hearts and minds. As we continue this study, we will see more proclamations by Jesus Christ of "I am He."
In Revelation 2:20-22 we find, "... thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols ... I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." There has been much speculation as to why the name "Jezebel" is used here. But whatever the precise meaning, the name carries a heavy Old Testament connotation. Back in about 900 BC, Jezebel was the pagan queen who was the wife of Ahab, King of Israel. She lead almost all of Israel into Baal worship. The prophet Elijah killed 400 of her prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:25-40.
Idol worship is quite frequently spoken of as adultery or harlotry, and Israel has often heeded the words of false prophets, playing the role of the harlot and falling into idolatry. "A wonderful (appalling) and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so ..." (Jeremiah 5:30-31). "... I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go whoring after idols ..." (Ezekiel 6:9). There are many other verses which link idolatry and harlotry including Jeremiah 2:20, 3:1-9, and 13:27, and Psalms 106:39. Throughout the Old Testament prophets, God frequently referred to Israel as a harlot, but is there any place in Paul's letters where the church is compared to a harlot? Not even the carnal Corinthians or the legalistic Galatians were spoken to in such a manner.
Revelation 2:22 says, "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." The word "repent" occurs quite frequently in chapters 2 and 3. Now there may be some readers that have always thought that repentance is a uniquely New Testament concept. But this is not the case. The call to repentance is very prevalent in the Old Testament as well. To "repent" means to "turn from transgression." Isaiah 59:20 provides an Old Testament example. "And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD." Another is found in Ezekiel 18:30-31, "... Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
The concept of being repaid according to one's deeds (Revelation 2:23 and 22:12) is not a uniquely New Testament concept either. It too is very prevalent in the Old Testament. Isaiah 59:18 says, "According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence." Ezekiel 7:3 says, "Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations."
In Revelation 2:23, Jesus Christ makes another of the proclamations of "I am He" that we spoke of earlier, "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the reins and the hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." Of course, Christians in this present dispensation, to whom Paul wrote, already know this, and would not have to have thousands of people killed before believing it. But Zechariah 13:6, speaking of Christ after his return says, "And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thy hands? And he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." No Christian today would ever ask this question. We all know that Jesus Christ was crucified. But look at the reaction of the people of Israel after the second coming when they realize that the Messiah they waited for is actually Jesus Christ who was crucified. "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem ..." (Zechariah 12:10-11).
Revelation 2:23 is almost identical to Jeremiah 17:10 which says, "I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Who does this? "The LORD." Remember that the King James translators wrote "the LORD" in all capitals instead of "Jehovah." So we see then that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, the Almighty God, the one speaking in the Old Testament. Similarly, Psalms 44:21 says, "Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart." Jeremiah 16:21 says, "... I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD."
Even when we go all the way back to Moses, we still see God telling the nation of Israel who He is. Exodus 10:1-2, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD."
The Old Testament book of Ezekiel is filled with prophecy, much of which is of the end times. In it, God repeatedly emphasizes the phrase "... know that I am the LORD ...." In this single book of Ezekiel, this phrase is repeated 58 times in 24 different chapters. Now that's emphasis! Now remember in Revelation 2:23 that Jesus Christ said, "... all of the churches shall know that I am he ..." when He "... will kill her (Jezebel's) children with death ...." This is consistent with Ezekiel 20:34-38 which says, "And I will ... gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered ... And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. ... And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me ... and ye shall know that I am the LORD." Some readers may like to go back later and examine the rest of these verses in Ezekiel that contain the phrase "... know that I am the LORD." The verses are: Ezekiel 6:7, 10, 13, 14, 7:4, 9, 27, 11:10, 12, 12:15, 16, 20, 13:14, 21, 23, 14:8, 15:7, 16:62, 20:12, 20, 26, 38, 42, 44, 22:16, 24:27, 25:5, 7, 11, 17, 26:6, 28:22, 23, 26, 29:6, 9, 21, 30:8, 19, 25, 26, 32:15, 33:29, 34:27, 35:4, 9, 12, 15, 36:11, 23, 38, 37:6, 13, 38:23, 39:6, 7, 22, 28.
Remember that in the Olivet discourse Jesus Christ warned his disciples of others who would come deceiving, saying "I am he." In Luke 21:8 "And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them." Likewise Matthew 24:5 says, "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." In Revelation 2:23, Jesus Christ is making it clear that none of these impostors are the Christ. Pay no heed to them, because "... I am He ...."
Revelation 2:28 says, "And I will give him the morning star." Now we know from Revelation 22:16 that Jesus Christ is the morning star. Peter alluded to this in 2 Peter 1:19, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:" It is noteworthy that in both cases, receiving the morning (day) star is referred to as a future event. However, our Apostle Paul taught that we already have received Christ and he already dwells in our hearts (Colossians 2:6, 2 Corinthians 4:6, and Galatians 4:6).
The section on Sardis begins in the first verse of chapter three with Jesus Christ saying that this church is "dead." There is another reference to the physically living being dead in Matthew 23:27 when Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees were "... like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." Later we will see that in chapter 3 of Revelation, the church of Laodicea is described as lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. This brings up a question as to whether such negative words as "dead," "blind," and "naked" are appropriate for a group of true believing Christians, cleansed by the blood of Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
The word "dead" implies, lacking eternal life, something that all true Christians have and cannot lose. Paul often wrote of the believers being dead in that we died with Christ and are resurrected with him (Colossians 2:12-13). But he never spoke of a church being dead in the negative context of Revelation 3:1. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:3-4, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." In First Corinthians 5:5, Paul did not even say that the man who had sexual relations with his father's wife was "dead." But rather, he should be delivered to "... Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved ...." When writing back to the Corinthians, Paul says that they should "... forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such an one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him" (2 Corinthians 2:7-8).
The term "blind" implies unbelief. "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world (Satan) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them ... For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:3-6).
In the context in which it is spoken to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17-18, "naked" implies one who is not clothed in righteousness. But Paul says in Colossians 3:9-10 that "... ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him ...." In Colossians 4:13-16, Paul said that he had also written a letter to the nearby church at Laodicea and that they should exchange and read one another's epistles. Would Paul really want Colossians 3:9-10 to be read to a church described as "... wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked ..." (Revelation 3:17)? No, I do not believe that the church of Laodicea mentioned in Colossians is the same church as the one described in Revelation. Paul was writing to a grace dispensation church, composed predominantly of Gentiles, but having some members who were Jews. However, John was writing to a different assembly that was composed of Jews only. The two separate doctrines are for two separate groups and should never be mixed. We will examine Laodicea further in the Laodicea section later in this article.
None of these words: "dead," "blind," or "naked" can be used in the same context as used in Revelation chapter 3 to properly apply to those who have been given eternal life and citizenship in heaven, and who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.
In Revelation 3:3, we see another difference between the two dispensations. Jesus Christ warned the church in Sardis, "... If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." The disciples learned in the Garden of Gethsemene in Mark 13:24-37 and Luke 12:35-47, to "watch" is to keep awake and alert. In contrast however, Paul told the Thessalonians, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Then a few verses below this he adds, "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
We should always be so thankful for our position in Christ. As good as the promises to the seven churches in Revelation are, the promises given to us through Paul are so much more comforting. By God's grace, "... whether we wake or sleep ..." we will live forever with Christ.
This passage begins with a tie to the Old Testament by describing Jesus Christ as "... he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth ..." (Revelation 3:7). This same terminology is found in Isaiah 22:21-22, when the LORD said of Eliakim, "... I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house." Certainly all of these things are true of Jesus Christ. He has the "key of David," "And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David ..." (Isaiah 16:5).
In the verses that follow, we see another very powerful tie between Revelation and Isaiah. In Revelation 3:9, the church of Philadelphia was told "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." Then in verse 12, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." The statements made in these two verses are strikingly similar to Isaiah 60:14 which says, "The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel." (See also Isaiah 66:5.) Now the name "Zion" is another name for Jerusalem. This prophecy of Isaiah 60:14, was certainly speaking to Israel and says the same thing that Revelation 3 says to the church of Philadelphia. In both cases, their enemies will bow at their feet, and in both cases they will receive the name of the city of Jerusalem (Zion).
We are told more about this city of Jerusalem in Revelation 21:12-14. Note how its description emphasizes Israel. "And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." But where is Paul's name? He was not one of the twelve, even though some try to say he is the apostle that replaced Judas Iscariot. Many believe the eleven apostles were out of line when they named Matthias as the twelfth apostle in Acts 1:20-26. But God validated Matthias with the same signs and wonders as the other eleven apostles (Acts 2:43). If God had worked the miracles through the other eleven but not through Matthias, then Matthias would surely have been exposed as a fake. Paul even refers to the twelve in third person in 1 Corinthians 15:5, showing that he (Paul) was not one of them. We know that the twelve of whom Paul spoke included Matthias, since Judas Iscariot was already dead. Clearly, Paul had a separate and distinct ministry to which the twelve were not called (Acts 9:15 and Romans 11:13). He was "the apostle of the Gentiles." Yet Paul's name does not appear on the foundations of this city described in Revelation 21:12-14, as do the names of the twelve apostles of the circumcision (Galatians 2:8).
In Revelation 3:10-11, the church of Philadelphia is also told, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly ..." This same idea is expressed in Zephaniah 2:3 which says, "Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD'S anger." It also occurs in Isaiah 26:20-21, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity ...." Similarly, Psalms 50:15 says, "And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Some think that Revelation 3:10-11 refers to the rapture. Perhaps they are simply unable to find an answer to the question: "What else could it be?" This is largely due to the fact that many are unaware of the great escape that God will provide for Israel in the tribulation. Israel will come under a massive attack at the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation. However, God's chosen will be miraculously rescued out into the wilderness, where God will keep them safe during the last three and a half years, the great tribulation. Since some may be unfamiliar with this prophecy, let's take a moment to look at a few of the many passages that speak of it.
The "hour of temptation" from which Philadelphia will be kept is the great tribulation. Remember back in Revelation 2:22, it said many of those in the church of Thyatira would be cast into it. "Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." This time is also called the time of Jacob's trouble. Jeremiah 7:7 says, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it."
How shall Jacob be saved out of this great tribulation? In a prophecy about the latter days (Jeremiah 1:24 and 31:1) Jeremiah 31:2 says, "Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest." So many will not be saved, but God will help a remnant escape to safety in the wilderness. Zechariah 13:8-9 even tells us the odds, "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD (Jehovah) is my God."
The ones that escape will not do so by their own strength, but by God's power. Isaiah 40:31 says, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." There is a strong parallel between this future rescue of Israel, and of their rescue from Egypt. In both cases, God carries them on eagles' wings. "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself" (Exodus 19:4). God tells Israel in Deuteronomy 32:11-12, "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him (Israel) ...."
This prophecy of Isaiah 40:31 comes up again in Revelation chapter 12. At the midpoint of the future seven-year tribulation, Revelation 12:1 describes "... a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." After reading chapter 12 and comparing this vision to Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9-10, it should be apparent that the woman represents the nation of Israel. At the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation, she has to flee into the wilderness with "... two wings of a great eagle ..." where God will take care of her for three and a half years (Revelation 12:6, 14). This is just as Jesus explained to the apostles on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24:15-22. When the abomination of desolation occurs in the middle of the seven-year tribulation (Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15), all who are in Judea are to flee into the mountains to escape the great tribulation. "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:20-21). In the same discourse, Jesus told the apostles, "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36).
Let's look at one more, and then we will move on. Psalms 41:1-2 says, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies."
Now continuing on to Revelation 3:12 we have, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out ...." Likewise, the book of Psalms contains many passages about dwelling in the holy temple forever. Here are some examples: Psalms 65:4 says, "Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even thy holy temple." Also, Psalms 15:1-2, "LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart." Psalms 23:6 reads, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." Finally we have Psalms 27:4-6 which says, "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD." This also appears in a song of Moses, Exodus 15:17, "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established."
Do you still have the forest in view? We must not allow the details to distract us from the purpose of this study. Remember that through Revelation's numerous prophetic and doctrinal similarities with the books of the Bible written to Israel and several key differences with Paul's epistles to the Gentiles, we are seeing how Revelation was written to assemblies of Jews, rather than to the mostly Gentile churches who had been taught by our Apostle Paul.
In Revelation 3:15-16, our Lord Jesus Christ says to the church of Laodicea, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Continuing on to verses 17-18, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
These words to Laodicea bear a striking resemblance to Zephaniah 1:7-18 which says, "Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice (the flesh of mighty men, see Ezekiel 39:17), he hath bid his guests. ... I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. ... all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off. And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil. ... That day is a day of wrath ... And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land."
Now let us examine the similarities between these two passages of Revelation 3:15-18 and Zephaniah 1:7-18. Note that the Laodiceans are told that they need to buy "white raiment," whereas those in Zephaniah are said to be "clothed with strange apparel." This sounds very much like the parable of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 22:1-14 where a man was cast into outer darkness because he was not clothed with a proper "wedding garment".
The LORD says in Zephaniah 1:12 that he will "... punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil ...." This may be those who Jesus Christ calls "... lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot ..." in Revelation 3:16.
The Laodiceans are also told in Revelation 3:17-18 that they are blind and need to anoint their eyes with eyesalve. Similarly, those spoken to in Zephaniah "... shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD ...."
The Laodiceans say, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing ...", but Jesus Christ tells them that they are poor and need to buy gold from Him tried in fire that they may be rich. Similarly, those spoken to in Zephaniah 1:18 are also told that "Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but ... the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them ...." This latter part of this verse may be that which Revelation 3:16 refers when Jesus Christ says "... I will spue thee out of my mouth." Consider this in light of Leviticus 20:22, "Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out." Leviticus 18:26-28 is a very similar passage.
Revelation 3:17-18 sounds like those who trust in their own beauty and riches rather than God, as Ezekiel 16:35-39 says, "Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD: Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations ... I will gather all thy lovers ... round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness ... I will also give thee into their hand, and ... they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare." On the other end of the scale, Isaiah 61:10 says, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." Recall how that under the Sardis section above, we discussed how improper it would be to refer to believers as "blind" or "naked."
The theme of the foolish rich trusting in their wealth is found in the Psalms. "The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him: Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. But I am a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever" (Psalms 52:6-8).
It is also found in James 5:1-3 which says, "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days."
We see a most interesting link in Revelation 3:20 which says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Likewise, James also mentioned Jesus Christ standing at the door. James 5:8-9 "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door." But Luke 12:35-38 really sounds like Revelation 3:20 when Jesus Christ said, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding (wedding feast); that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants." Notice that in both cases, Christ knocks on the door, and the servants open to him. And in both cases, they have supper after He enters.
Not everyone is pleased at the Lord's arrival. Notice the contrast between those who are "condemned" in James 5:9 with those who are "blessed" in Luke 12:38.
Revelation chapter 3 is not the first time the name "Laodicea" appears in scripture. Just to the Southeast of the city of Laodicea, probably within ten miles, was the church of Colosse, to whom Paul wrote the epistle of Colossians in about 63 AD. In that letter Paul makes mention of a church in Laodicea. "For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:1-3).
Also in Colossians 4:13-16 Paul says, "For I bear him (Epaphras) record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."
Paul seems to be referring to Colosse and Laodicea on equal footing. That is, they seem to be at the same level of knowledge and in a similar spiritual condition. It is important to remember that Paul would not feed meat to those not yet able to bear it (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). But these two churches are each told to read the epistle of the other. The epistle of the Colossians is very rich in mystery, knowledge, and the deep things of God, as in Colossians 1:9-10 and 1:25-27 which are listed below. So the Laodiceans were not baby Christians who were carnal, needing to be fed with milk, but rather, they were mature, spiritual believers. This letter to the Colossians, which was to be read to the Laodiceans, is a dramatic contrast to the letter to the church in Laodicea that is in the book of Revelation.
Paul wrote, "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God ..." (Colossians 1:9-10). Then in Colossians 1:25-27 he said, "Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory ...." This is definitely not baby food, and certainly not something you give a "blind" church to read.
Look at some of the other things that Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, which he said to also read to the Laodiceans. We see that Paul is overjoyed by the steadfastness of their faith in Christ (Colossians 2:5). He tells them they "... are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands ..." (Colossians 2:11). He tells them, you "... hath he (God) quickened together with him (Christ), having forgiven you all trespasses ..." (Colossians 2:13). Would anybody have this letter read to an assembly who Jesus Christ was about to spew out of his mouth? Or conversely, would anybody read Revelation 3:14-22 to a faithful and spiritual mature group of Christians like the Colossians? Of course not. The Laodiceans of Revelation are not the same assembly as the predominately Gentile church to whom Paul wrote. But rather, John, an apostle of the circumcision, was writing to seven assemblies of Jews.
To Him That Overcometh
Seven times in chapters 2 and 3 we see statements regarding "Him that overcometh." Let us look at them now.
To the church in Ephesus He says, "... To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).
The tree of life is first mentioned in Genesis 2:9, and was in the middle of the garden of Eden. After Adam sinned, Genesis 3:22-24 says, "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." So we know that being allowed to eat from the tree of life is the same thing as being given eternal life.
In Revelation 22:2 we have this description of the tree of life: "In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
Then in Revelation 22:14, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (new Jerusalem)." This is in contrast to Pauline doctrine. Those who know the gospel of grace, that was revealed to our Apostle Paul, know that in this present dispensation of grace, salvation is by faith alone. Works play no part in salvation. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Side Note: The phrase "do his commandments" in Revelation 22:14 is the proper translation from both the 1550 Stephanus Greek text and the 1991 Byzantine Majority Greek text. Some modern Bible versions taken from the 1881 Westcott Hort Greek text translate this phrase as "wash their robes."
Continuing with the overcomers, Jesus Christ says to the church in Smyrna, "... He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" (Revelation 2:11). The first death is only the death of one's corruptible, physical body. To be unhurt by the second death means to have eternal life.
Then to the church in Pergamos He says, "... To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it" (Revelation 2:17).
To the church in Thyatira He says, "... he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star" (Revelation 2:26-28).
To the church in Sardis He says, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Revelation 3:5).
To the church in Philadelphia He says, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name" (Revelation 3:12).
To the church in Laodicea He says, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).
Clearly, those who overcome will have eternal life. Now I am sure this would seem like a good deal to those who were under the law of Moses, and it might seem like a good deal to those who do not understand their position in Christ. But are we supposed to be happy about being told that we must do the first works in order to be able to eat from the tree of life? Certainly not. What a disappointment that would be! After all, we have already been told that we have been resurrected (quickened): "And you ... hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses ..." (Colossians 2:13). God also "... hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son ..." (Colossians 1:13), and "... hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ ..." (Ephesians 1:3). Our salvation is by faith alone, and our works earn heavenly rewards but have no part in our salvation.
Also, why would our Lord Jesus Christ tell us that if we overcome, we can sit with Him in His throne? We are already seated with Him, as Ephesians 2:6 says, "And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus ...."
We must not forget that the entire book of Revelation is written to the seven churches, not just chapters 2 and 3. For we see in the very last chapter, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches ..." (Revelation 22:16).
We also see the overcomers spoken of collectively in Revelation 21:1-7 which begins this way. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea" (Revelation 21:1). The fact that God would make a new heaven and new earth was foretold in the Old Testament when God told Israel in Isaiah 66:22, "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain." Also see 2 Peter 3:10 and 13.
Continuing on, we see that Revelation 21:2-7 says, "And I John saw the holy
city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven ... And God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the
former things are passed away ... I will give unto him that is athirst of the
fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all
In my research for this article, I examined the arguments of many advocates of the 96 AD date. Yet, aside from the lone statement of Irenaeus, I have found no evidence for the late date worthy of mention, nor any other voice to corroborate the account of Irenaeus within the first 200 years after Jerusalem's destruction. Centuries after the destruction, there were some writers in the fourth and fifth centuries who repeated the account of Irenaeus without questioning it. But these men are certainly not independent sources, and their acceptance of the account of Irenaeus cannot rightfully be regarded as evidence. Referring to those to whom Paul reasoned at Berea, Acts 17:11 says, "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Likewise, we should trust in the word of no man without proper evidence, especially when that one man, Irenaeus, admits that his information is second-hand hearsay. The external evidence for dating the book of Revelation around 96 AD is far too weak for one to allow it to influence, much less dominate, one's theological perspective on the book of Revelation.
We have seen scriptural evidence from Hebrews and First Peter and historical evidence from Josephus which support the theory that the seven churches of Revelation were composed of Jews who believed in Jesus Christ who were scattered into Asia from Judea during the early to mid-60's. These Jews were not natives of Asia who had received the mystery doctrines which the Apostle Paul had presented to the mostly Gentile assemblies for this present dispensation. Rather, under great persecution and hardship, they had been scattered into Asia and the surrounding areas from the land of Israel between 60 AD and 70 AD. Thus, the doctrinal background for these assemblies came, not from Paul, but from the twelve apostles of the circumcision, from their headquarters in Jerusalem.
Rightly dividing the Word is the goal of this article, and it is an indispensable key to proper understanding of the Bible. The abundance of scriptural evidence detailed in the third section makes it very clear that Revelation is doctrine for Israel, which was written to Jews who believed in Jesus Christ, by an apostle of the circumcision, for direct application in the prophetic "kingdom" dispensation. At the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, God placed that dispensation in abeyance in 70 AD, to be resumed in the future tribulation. The entire book of Revelation, including chapters 1-3, is deeply rooted in Old Testament prophecy. It is doctrinally aligned with the epistles of Peter, James, John, and Jude, all of whom were apostles of the circumcision, as well as to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Hebrews, and the Old Testament. The dispensation of grace in which we now live is revealed in Romans through Philemon, our Apostle Paul's letters to the Gentiles, with Acts being the book of transition between the two dispensations.
Contents Page for "Wielding the Sword of the Spirit"
Copyright © 1998 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.
Appendix: The KJV Text of Revelation Chapters 1-3
Rev 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Rev 1:2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
Rev 1:3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Rev 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
Rev 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
Rev 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Rev 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Rev 1:9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Rev 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Rev 1:11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
Rev 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
Rev 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
Rev 1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
Rev 1:15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
Rev 1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Rev 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
Rev 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
Rev 1:19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
Rev 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)
Rev 2:1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
Rev 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
Rev 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Rev 2:4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Rev 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Rev 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11)
Rev 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
Rev 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Rev 2:10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
Rev 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17)
Rev 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
Rev 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
Rev 2:14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Rev 2:15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
Rev 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Rev 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)
Rev 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
Rev 2:19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Rev 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Rev 2:21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
Rev 2:22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Rev 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
Rev 2:24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
Rev 2:25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
Rev 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
Rev 2:27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
Rev 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.
Rev 2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)
Rev 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Rev 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Rev 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Rev 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
Rev 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Rev 3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)
Rev 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
Rev 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Rev 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Rev 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Rev 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Rev 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
Rev 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)
Rev 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
Rev 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Rev 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Rev 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Rev 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
Rev 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. ________________________________________________
Copyright © 1998 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.