Friday, October 22, 2010

The Revelation - Chapter One

The Revelation of Jesus Christ and the History of the church of God.

Lest we forget what has been taught to us by men of God who have preceded us, I am constrained to publish those things which I have been taught by the Elders and which I have learned from prayerful study. This commentary follows the Introduction to the Revelation which was posted on this Blog site in March 2010 (seven part series). To read and study the Introduction, click on the month of March and then select the Introduction series.

THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
GIVEN TO THE APOSTLE JOHN

CHAPTER ONE

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:
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
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.

This book contains the divine “Revelation of Jesus Christ” and His Bride, The Church. It is a prophetic vision of the battles and victories which the church of God must experience throughout the gospel day from Christ's first coming until His second coming. Since the church of God is the body of Christ in this world, this book is a divine disclosure of the true identity of the church of God. By reading this book, a sanctified child of God can receive divine understanding which enables the believer to distinguish the many important differences between the one true church and the many false churches.

Although the Revelation is written specifically to the children of God, who have been born again by the blood of Jesus Christ, it also contains a message to those who are unsaved. To all those who have not been born again, it sounds a loud and strong warning against false religion. It impresses upon the hearts of the unsaved that there is an eminent danger of eternal judgment upon all who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and His power to make pure and holy all those who believe Him and keep His commandments. The sinner can not gain understanding from this book except by the anointed preaching of a true minister of Jesus Christ. False prophets can not render the proper tense and meaning of this symbolic book. It is sealed and the understanding is given only to the servants of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 29:10-12, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.”

Some might ask the question: “Why then do you write an explanation of the Revelation and send it out to the whole world, if the understanding is just for the saints of God.” My answer would be: “The message of truth, which we stand for and preach today, is sent to all people just as the New Testament gospel is sent to all people. It is not for me, or any other person, to limit who hears or reads the words of this commentary. The Holy Spirit will reveal or conceal as He will. The Holy Spirit is the sole judge of who is worthy and who is not worthy.” Matthew 13:10-13, “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” Jesus went on to explain the condition of the scoffer and the unbeliever. “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” If a sinner has a rebellious heart which prevents him from understanding the word of God, he will not be enlightened though he be told of his dire condition.

Some people are reluctant and even avoid the study of the book of Revelation; however, the Apostle John wrote “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.” It has always been the will of God to give knowledge, understanding and wisdom to His children who love Him and keep His commandments. The Apostle James wrote: ”If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” And King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 1:2-6, “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.”

Frequent and abundant are the instructions to the children of God to live holy as He is holy. Consider the following statements in 1 Peter 1:12-16 “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

At the opening of the Revelation, we find that this book addresses those things which must shortly come to pass; for the time is at hand. The Revelation began to be unfolded and take place immediately. The Revelation was given during the First Seal period of time (33-270 A.D.) The time of John’s vision was during his exile to Patmos at about 95 or 96 A.D. Jesus Christ, the head of the church, had already established His church, the New Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the righteous nation which would take the New Testament gospel to the world. Contrary to some modern theologians who believe that the Revelation is yet to take place, the major portions of this vision have now passed and we who remain are looking for the final events of the Seventh Seal, the last and final period of time, to be fulfilled and our Lord Jesus Christ return to receive His Bride into eternal glory.

This book was not written and sent as an epistle; but rather, it was "sent and signified." The word "signified" means "a mark." This term implies that something is made known or verified by a sign. The proper understanding of this Revelation message is a "mark" of God's true ministers. God gave the Revelation to reveal, not confuse. Today, the true people of God have a better understanding of the Revelation message than at any other time in history. False prophets use this book as the foundation for their false doctrines. However, God still has a true ministry who have a divine revelation of the meaning of this book. It is a beautiful disclosure of Jesus Christ and His message to His church.

The Apostle John wrote from the advantage of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in the flesh and a divine disclosure or revelation of the plan of God for the church of God. John was qualified and worthy to give us this testimony and revelation of Jesus Christ. John was an eye witness to the acts and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. He bore record of all those things which were seen, heard and done. 1 John 1:1-3, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

A disclosure is the act of uncovering something that had been concealed. The understanding of the book of Revelation was unfolded one era (one Seal period) at a time. During each Seal period, the ministry and saints understood those things which pertained to the era in which they were living. They also had understanding of the Seal periods which had become history. However, they did not universally understand what the future Seal periods meant. From Adam until our present day, God has chosen to give unto a few of His prophets a glimpse into the near future. These prophetic revelations and visions are given to encourage and strengthen the faith of God’s people. For an example, let us consider the remarks of F. G. Smith who was a Sixth Seal (1880-1930 A.D.) church of God minister. God gave him a special ability to understand and communicate the truth about the church contained in the book of Revelation. He had a clear understanding of the meaning and interpretation of the symbols for the first six Seals. When he began to write about the Seventh Seal era, which was still future for him, he said, "Upon the opening of the seventh seal, "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Whether this interval of silence is intended to be symbolical of any event on earth I do not know; neither have I seen any solution of the matter that is consistent or satisfactory." [Underline and emphasis added].

His discussion of the Revelation, relative to this period of time, continues to reflect the same tone of mystery. However, In Revelation 10:7, when the Seventh Angel began to sound, we find that the mystery is finished. All Seals have been opened and a complete understanding has been given. "But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets." The Seventh Seal and Seventh Trumpet angel is declared to begin sounding at the ending of the ½ hour of silence which occurs at the beginning of the Seventh Seal time period. Therefore, the mystery is not finished nor does the Seventh Trumpet message begin to sound until the ½ hour of silence is broken. The important debate of our present day is this very question: When did or when will this ½ hour of silence end and the “mystery of God should be finished”?

Since 1930, we have been living in the Seventh Seal and last period of time for this world. The end of the Seventh Seal era will be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. No man knows when that specific hour will be, but we do know that we are in the season of the Second Coming of Christ. There is never a safe time to be a sinner. Our present day is certainly not the time to be lost and without fellowship with Jesus Christ our Savior. His second advent is nigh at hand.

However, though we may believe very strongly that the second advent is near at hand; we must also accept that perhaps not every prophecy which must needs be fulfilled before that great and final day has been fulfilled. Jesus Christ will not return until all prophecy which God has spoken has been fulfilled. Who among us has the understanding and authority to say that all prophecies have been fulfilled? It is imperative that every person live each day as if it were his last day on this earth. To presume upon God’s delay in order to walk according to the desires of the flesh, is to be sinfully rebellious and separate from Christ’s fellowship. Whether we believe that all prophecy has been fulfilled; or, whether we believe that all prophecy has not been fulfilled should not be a matter of controversy or a test of fellowship. Let’s wait upon the Lord and see what God unfolds and reveals.

Matthew chapter thirteen has seven parables about the kingdom of God in one chapter. In this “Revelation” we find seven symbolic series about the history of the church in one book. Seven is a divinely appointed symbolic number which indicates completeness. In addition to these seven symbolic chronicles, there are introductory passages which either prepare the reader for that which is to follow or to provide additional historical and spiritual information about the affairs of the church. The entire Revelation message can be outlined thusly:
The Introduction/Presentation Revelation chapter 1
The Seven Churches (series) Revelation 2:1 - Revelation 3:22
The Twenty-four Elders Revelation chapters 4 and 5
The Seven Seals (series) Revelation 6:1 - Revelation 8:2
The Seven Trumpets (series) Revelation 8:7 - Revelation 11:19
The Three Woes (series) Revelation 8:1; 9:12; 11:14; 12:12
The Two Women (series) Revelation chapters 12 and 17
The Two Beasts (series) Revelation chapters 13 and 14
The Seven Vials (series) Revelation 15:1 - Revelation 16:21
The Two Cities Revelation chapters 18 thru 22

God gave the Revelation to Jesus Christ. Jesus gave it to His angels. The angels gave it to John. John gave it to the church. This method of communication teaches us that, in addition to submitting to God, we must submit to another (a spiritual guide or teacher) in order to get an understanding of the will of God. We live in a day when people want their own private interpretation straight from God. They do not want to trust or submit to a pastor to tell them about God's requirements for their life. The understanding and interpretation which is being presented in this work is not the author’s private interpretation. This understanding and message is preached by a body of ministers to whom the Holy Spirit has witnessed the certainty of these things. God rarely works through a single man to bring about His will and His doctrines. Whenever it appears that God is or has used a single person to stand alone and proclaim His message for that present time, that minister’s testimony and message will be verily supported by infallible scriptures and the witness of the Holy Spirit. As the apostle Peter warned us, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20).

The apostle John was the man whom God chose to make a written copy of this message, but John was not the only minister to understand the message. God has always worked through a body of ministers to meet the needs of the body of believers. A body is always made up of more than one member/individual. All religious sects which have a single man as their chief founding father are by this single fact signaling their falsehood. The word “private” which is used in this text means “personal.” No man is privileged to possess a private or personal interpretation of the holy scriptures.

Why did God give the Revelation in symbolic language? There are three reasons:
1. The church is in a spiritual war. In wartime, code language is used. It is best to keep many things hidden from the enemy. God does not give sinners understanding of the hidden mysteries of God. Luke 10:22 says: "All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." Paul said of the gospel, "if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." Although there are portions of the Revelation message which may be understood by unsaved individuals, the fullness of this message is only given to the redeemed.
2. God wanted only those who seek Him with a whole heart, diligently, to know the truth. This encrypted symbolic language was not used to confuse, but rather it was used as a method of controlling to whom the understanding was given.
3. Words change meanings but symbols do not. When the King James Bible was translated the word "let" could be used to mean "hinder." The word "prevent" could be used to mean "precede." The word "charity" meant "love." Today the word charity most commonly means to give a gift. Symbols do not change. The nature of a lion and the kingly, ruling character association it implies has never changed. The nature of serpents, doves, sheep and other animals have always remained unchanged. Therefore, symbolic language is timeless.

From Matthew to Jude we teach a literal interpretation of the scriptures unless it is obvious that a parable or symbol is being used. In the book of Revelation we teach a symbolic interpretation unless it is obvious that a literal meaning is intended. There is an important safeguard which we must consider in all these interpretations. We must never teach, from the book of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel or any other symbolic book or passage of divine scripture, something that would be contrary to the plain teaching of the rest of the Bible. For example, some revelation chart artists put the year "1980" at the end of the seventh seal age. Putting this date as the end of time very nearly approaches a contradiction of the scripture which says that no man shall know the day or hour of Christ's second coming. Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

Additionally, it is unwise to take the position that there are not prophecies in the Bible which have their fulfillment in the future of our present day. This position would imply that we have perfect understanding of every prophecy which relates to the future. It would mean that there is no possibility that we may receive additional light and understanding of eschatological events being divinely foretold in the scriptures.

If the Evening Time Apostasy was past and the “silence” was broken during the decades of 1960 and 1970; and, the Seventh Trumpet began immediately to sound; and, “the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets;” then, we must conclude there can not be any possible event past that time which is prophesied in the Bible.

If it is determined that some event later than 1980 is foretold in scripture, then we may know that the position “that there are not prophecies in the Bible which have their fulfillment in the future,” (that is to say beyond 1980) is incorrect. We most surely believe that every prophecy written in the Bible must be fulfilled prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

A wise minister once told me that an interpretation of a symbol should never become a test of fellowship in the church. Our fellowship is based upon holiness and obedience, not the understanding of a symbolic passage of scripture. We must endeavor together in the “spirit of unity” until we come together in the “unity of the faith.” “Let brotherly love continue!” I make that same general appeal in regards to this present work. If any error be found herein, let it be kindly revealed with charity and mercy so that righteousness may prevail.

Every true child of God is encouraged to read and understand this book. There is a special blessing pronounced upon those who read, hear and keep the things written in this book. This promised blessing is restated again at the end of the book in Revelation 22:7. Because the Revelation is so misunderstood by so many who are not called of God, most people avoid studying this beautiful book. Let us who have full salvation believe God when He promises to bless those who read, hear and keep the sayings recorded in the Revelation. The word “keep” gives a critical dimension to this charge. It teaches us that we must “watch, to guard against loss or injury.” Satan has come to steal, kill and destroy. If we do not watch and stand guard over these precious truths, God will allow Satan to remove them from our mind, vision and understanding. The unfolding of this prophetic revelation is at hand. It had already begun in the days of John.

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;
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,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him [be] glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

This Revelation was written by John and sent to the seven churches which were in Asia, of Asia Minor. From these seven churches this message was carried to all of Christiandom throughout all ages. These seven churches are specifically identified and described in chapter two and three.

“The seven Spirits which are before his throne” is not a contradiction to Ephesians 4:4 and other scriptures which teach us about the “oneness” of the Spirit of God.
This passage teaches us that the Holy Spirit is working in each of the Seven Seal periods of time. Additionally, it symbolizes the absolute unity of the Spirit of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the faithful Christian believers who have obtained eternal life. (compare chapter 5:8-14). The number seven is used as a symbol to represent entire, complete and perfect. The use of the number seven in this context is not meant to convey a quantitative amount, but rather a perfect and complete quality of interpersonal relationships. This expression is found only in Revelation 1:4, 3:1, 4:5 and 5:6. In each place it is speaking particularly of the spiritual unity of Jesus Christ and the triune Godhead, inclusive of their relationship with the people of God. As there is a perfect unity and oneness in the body of Christ, “the seven Spirits” include the entire New Testament body of ministers as they go forth under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” We are in the Father and the Son; and, the Father and the Son are in us. With the anointing of the Holy Spirit we go forth from the throne of God to take this message to the world.

The Revelation is not written to sinners. It is not written to hypocrites, false prophets, heretics, dreamers or scoffers. It is written to those who are justified and sanctified by the blood of Jesus Christ and the effectual work of the Holy Spirit. The Revelation is to encourage the saints with an understanding of the past and present battles which they must endure. The manner in which the mysteries of the Revelation were unsealed, unfolded and made known to the saints almost exclusively precludes prior understanding of future battles and events. The only exception to this statement is found when God chooses to work through prophecy for the purpose of identifying His interventions in the affairs of men. John 13:19, “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.” Luke 21:31, “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” Prophetic insight of future events must originate with God for the purpose of edifying the whole body of the church. These divine revelations will prepare the saints for imminent battle with adversarial opposition and persecution.

New Testament salvation makes us kings and priests unto God. We have grace and knowledge to reign over all sin and circumstances. It is recorded in Luke 22:26 that Jesus said to his disciples: "...I appoint unto you a kingdom." Romans 6:14"... Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body." We are qualified to offer sacrifices unto our God. Hebrews 13:15 "...let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually." Romans 12:1 "...that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." The majority of people in our present world, who profess to be Christian, do not live sacrificial lives. They have not been taught by their pastors that it is necessary to sacrifice their will to the will of God.

The world is full of false prophets who preach a false Christ and make merchandise of people’s souls. To become a child of God and have eternal life, one must experience a conversion wherein there has been a humble confession and a complete forsaking of all sin. Sin always has and always will separate man from God. Jesus Christ came to deliver us from all our sins and to empower us with His grace to live holy. We have made ourselves a sacrifice unto God. We rejoice in the death of our self-will. We are joyful in the resurrection of our new life in Christ Jesus. This is the wonderful message which the church of God is proclaiming to the world.
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.
Jesus Christ will return. When He comes every eye shall see Him; not just the saints as is taught by many of the perpetrators of the false doctrine of "the rapture." In this verse, it does not say that "he will come in a cloud" or "on a cloud." Notice that it is worded "he cometh with clouds." The word "clouds" is used as a symbol to signify a "group of saints." When Jesus Christ returns, He will return with His holy angels and “with” a great cloud of witnesses.

The holy scriptures give us understanding of these symbols. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of God are a great cloud of witnesses. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:” (Matthew 25:31). The gospel according to Mark states: “when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38). Paul also spoke concerning this great event: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). When Jesus returns, He will be accompanied by a great company of holy angels. In the twinkling of an eye (I Corinthians 15:50-58), those who have died in the faith will be resurrected and then together with all of the saints of God they will be caught up to meet with Jesus Christ in the air and forever be with Him in heaven. (2 Peter 3:10-12). All sinners will behold this great cloud of witnesses as they are gathered together around the Lord Jesus Christ. Subsequently, yet quickly, after the resurrection of the saints, and in the same twinkling of an eye, all sinners, both those who have died and those who remain on the earth at His coming will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire which is the second death, an eternal separation from God (Rev. 21:8). (Also note that false religious people are referred to as "clouds without water" in 2 Peter 2:17 and Jude v12.)

When Jesus Christ returns the second time, he will return as the judge of all the people of the earth. Time will cease immediately and all souls will be sealed for eternity. There will be no "millennium," nor will there be any opportunity for any person to have a second chance to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, Savior and Redeemer. Today is the day of salvation. Prepare to meet thy God, the judge of all mankind who will judge every man according to the deeds done in this body. False prophets, the devil's deceivers, have convinced multitudes of people that they will have a second opportunity to repent, accept Jesus Christ and escape eternal punishment in some future period of time. These false prophets have misappropriated the term "the great tribulation" to identify this fantastic future age. This lie has sealed many self-centered sinners in the damnation of their eternal soul. The Bible says, Hebrews 9:27, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:..." In this life only, there is hope and mercy and grace extended for salvation.

“Every eye shall see him.” Every person who has ever lived and who is living at
the time will see Jesus Christ at the same hour of His second coming. No person shall be left wondering where the saints went. Those who are “left behind” will be fully aware of what is taking place. The separation of the righteous from the unrighteous shall be immediate and every person will possess complete knowledge of the reality of the end of time and the judgment of all mankind. “All kindred of the earth shall wail because of him.” The word “wail” means to be grief stricken. Every person who has denied and rebelled against the Lordship of Jesus Christ will be grief stricken. Every person who has “pierced him” will be grief stricken. To be guilty of having “pierced him” means that you are guilty of not allowing Jesus Christ to work in your life. The word “pierced” means to “transfix, to hold fixed or motionless.” Could it be that you are holding Jesus “motionless” in your life? Will you be guilty of having “pierced him”? The preaching of this gospel puts judgment on all sin. Most people do not want to hear their favorite and pet sins named out publicly across the pulpit. Many religious sinners have deceived themselves into thinking that they can continue in their sins and have fellowship with Jesus. But the Bible clearly teaches us that light and darkness can not have fellowship. When Jesus returns, the righteous and the unrighteous will be separated into two groups. Into which group will you be placed?

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.

Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our faith. See Hebrews 5:9 and Hebrews 12:2. The Greek alphabet is used to supply a symbolic message about Jesus Christ the Savior of the world. The first and last letter of the Greek alphabet is used to signify His exclusive authority over all time and creation. He is the first and the last. He is the beginning and the end. He is the author and the finisher. There was none before Him and there shall be none after Him. He is not one of many great prophets. He is Lord of lords, King of kings and the Great Bishop and Head over all things to the church. He is the fulfillment of the prophecies: Isaiah 48:12, “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.” Before the world was created Jesus was there with His Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ was part of the “us” who spoke the plan “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Gen 1:26).”

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.

As John begins to relate the vision in his letter to the seven churches, he lets the church know that he was on the prison island of Patmos because of his preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." If you run away from persecution, you will run away from your salvation and the Lord Jesus Christ. If you deny Christ before men, He will deny you before God. If you choose to stand up for Jesus Christ, you must be prepared to stand against the majority of the world’s population. Galatians 4:27, "...for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband." That is to say, the children of the Great Whore (Catholicism and Protestantism) outnumber the children of the Bride of Christ (The Church of God). These are strong words but they are the words of God. We labor under the burden to present to you the emphatic position of God against false prophets, false teachers, false religions and false doctrine.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day." He was meditating and communing with God on Sunday when he received this vision. If you desire to hear from God, you must get “in the Spirit." How does one get in the Spirit? This is accomplished by prayer and fasting, bringing your spirit into subjection to the will of God rather than the will of your flesh. The many distractions of this world and the cares of life may prevent you from enjoying sweet communion with the Holy Spirit. Matthew 6:6instructs us thusly: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Notice that the sound which John heard was not a “trumpet” but it was a voice which had characteristics of the sound of a trumpet. This is consistent with the analogous language employed throughout this book. The voice which John heard was a clear, distinct, certain sound. There was no confusion in the message which was being sounded. The notes could be distinctly understood. 1 Corinthians 14:8, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” In each instance of use, the “great voice” which John heard was the voice of God out of heaven. The true ministry of the church of God must hear the “great voice” before they can sound forth the trumpet which rallies the saints to battle.

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.

John was instructed to record and distribute the vision he was about to receive. Through the obedience of John, God has provided a copy of His Revelation of Jesus Christ to the church. If the message of true salvation from sin is to be published in our world, we must obey the call of God to share it with those individuals we meet every day. Souls are dying and going to a devil's hell. God wants you and me to give them this gospel.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Acts 15:11 ...we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.

John was instructed to send this message to seven churches which were located in Asia, of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey/Armenia). History leads us to believe that John was the Pastor of the church of God at Ephesus, having arrived there in time to check the progress of the heresies which sprang up after Paul's departure. These seven churches were all located within 100 miles distance from the Aegean Sea port of Ephesus. John may have been a circuit minister to all seven of these churches.
There is considerable evidence that these seven churches have symbolic reference to the seven periods of time which are also covered by the parallel series of the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets. If indeed the Seven Churches parallel the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets, then we would have three series covering the entire seven periods of time from Christ's first coming unto His second coming. The obvious manner in which God has chosen certain numbers (of which 3 and 7 are very prominent) to manifest His will and divine plan lend credence to this position. It seems to this writer to be inconsistent with the divine perfection implied in God’s use of the numbers three and seven to isolate and separate the Seven Churches from the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets. It may be asked, “Why are the Seven Vials separated from these three?” Let me also remind the reader that we must not become too dogmatic in the interpretation of these symbols. We may not see every detail of every symbol perfectly. For this reason, the interpretation of symbols should never be used as a test of fellowship. As the entire revelation message is unfolded by the inspired ministry of the Holy Spirit, it may appear that we separate the Seven Vials from the other series. In reality we do not. Although each series is strictly and surely related to each of the seven time periods; the Seven Vials did not begin to be preached until after the exposure and judgment of the Beast (Catholicism) and his image (Protestantism) (See Revelation 15:2). However, the principal subject upon which the judgments and wrath of God is poured out is clearly the same as that of the corresponding subject of each of the Seven Trumpet messages. For example: The First Vial is poured out on the earth; and, the First Trumpet message is against the earth. The Second Vial is poured out upon the sea; and, the Second Trumpet message is against the sea; etc. (See Revelation Matrix Chart).

Let us briefly look at these seven church names in the light of symbolic interpretation:

1. Ephesus 33 - 270 A.D.

Ephesus means "permitted," as the king permits you to come into his presence. If any person were to enter the presence of the king without permission, that trespasser's very life was endangered. To save the trespasser's life the king must "permit, choose to call, desire" the person to approach his person. This word carries with its meaning the connotation of being "desirable" as a new bride is called, chosen and desired. Considering the meaning of this city's name, it can be easily admitted that the name is appropriate to symbolize the beginning of the church of God, the bride of Christ, the called, chosen and permitted one who has God's approval and acceptance.

2. Smyrna 270 - 530 A.D.

Smyrna means "myrrh." It is a very sweet-smelling spice. It is often used to formulate incense and to prepare the body for burial. During this church age, the saints of God suffered great martyrdom. Many were the violent and heinous persecutions which took the lives of the saints of God. But the psalmist David wrote: Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the LORD [is] the death of his saints." Surely the city name "Smyrna" can symbolize this era of church history.

3. Pergamos 530 - 1530 A.D.

Pergamos means "height or elevation." During these years of spiritual darkness and political turbulence the Roman Catholic Church rose to hold supreme power over the whole political and religious world. The Pope was "elevated" to the position of "Vicarius Filii Dei", the Vicar of God. The Pope of Rome became the pretentious mediator and judge for the sins of men. He claimed to hold the power to release or bind the punishment for sins upon every person. Every person who held the office of the Pope professed to be the infallible successor of the Apostle Peter whom they present as the Rock upon whom they claim the church was established. The majority of these men who held this office were immoral and guilty of gross wickedness. This was truly a time of "spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians. 6:12).

4. Thyatira 1530 - 1730 A.D.

Thyatira means "odor of affliction." If there was ever a time for the need of godly sorrow and heart-felt contrition, now was the time. Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic priest, became very grieved by the sins of the Pope and the Roman Catholic priesthood. God revealed to Martin Luther that "the just must live by faith." This light of truth broke his bondage to the Pope and paved the way to preaching the truth which stirs Holy Ghost conviction, godly sorrow and true repentance. The odor of a soul, broken and contrite for the affliction of sin, is a pleasant odor to God.

5. Sardis 1730 - 1880 A.D.

Sardis means "red ones." During this era, God used Charles and John Wesley along with many others to preach the truth of "sanctification." The message on sanctification brought the believers in Jesus Christ back to that spiritual condition where all sin, committed and inherited, was fully covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. Question: "Could it be that God chose to symbolize these fully-saved, blood-washed saints as "red ones?" There are some Bible scholars who say that the meaning of the word "Sardis" includes the thought "that which remains." (see Revelation 3:2). If this be true, surely the blood of Jesus Christ, purging out the blackness of that carnal sinful nature, has provided the remedy for "that which remains." Sanctification, being filled with the Holy Spirit, takes care of “that which remains” and makes the believer a true "Sardis" stone.

6. Philadelphia 1880 - 1930 A.D.

Philadelphia means "brotherly love." The Apostle John wrote much in his gospel and epistles about the necessity of brotherly love. The historians tell us that his dying words to the congregation of saints were "Little children love one another." It is only by God's work of grace upon our hearts in the experience of Justification and Sanctification, that we become fully able to carry out the perfect will of God to "love one another." Visible unity among the believers of Christ is the proof and evidence to the world that we have the Spirit of God in us. The message of unity which the church of God ministry preached during this period of time raised up a people who were willing to lay aside all religious schisms and divisions and come together in unity and love.

7. Laodicea 1930 - The End; The second coming of Christ

Laodicea means "judgment of the people." In this last and final era of time, we have a great falling away from the judgments and righteous precepts of God. Judgment is back in the hands of people. Preachers are telling people only what they want to hear; tickling their ears with fair speeches. We live in a lukewarm religious society. People are neither hot nor cold, not too bad and not too good. It is just the way the people like it. But God said He would spue them out of his mouth. God will not accept the "judgment of the people." Zion shall be redeemed with the judgments of God. (Isaiah 1:27). In addition to a compromising judgment of the people, there is a fanatical judgment of the people. Satan wants the children of God to depart from the Highway of Holiness. He will work his evil deceptions to move people into the “left ditch” of compromise or the “right ditch” of fanaticism. This Laodicean spirit causes some Christians to depart from the love and mercy of God. They become so zealous of holiness that they become excessively critical of one another causing strife and division.

These Seven Cities, their names and their meanings are not derived from Jewish expressions. They are not of Jewish origin or general usage. These are names of cities located in the Gentile world of Asia Minor. Their definitions are not Jewish definitions. Consequently, the student of scriptures will not discover their meanings in the Jewish language or the Hellenistic vernacular of Palestine Israel. However, Our God knows the language of all nations and the meaning of all their words. Even the word “myrrh” (possibly a root source for Smyrna) used in Matthew 2:11, “they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” is of foreign origin. Perhaps God chose these cities to be used in His Revelation because of the meaning of their names.

12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
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.

The seven golden candlesticks and the seven churches represent the whole body of saints throughout the seven periods of time from Christ's first advent unto His second advent. The seven golden candlesticks represents the light of the world as shown forth by the Christian members of those congregations. Wherever you find the true church of God, you will always find Jesus Christ in their midst. As Jesus is, so are we in this world, clothed with a pure, white garment of righteousness and supported by the golden girdle of His Holy Word.

A candlestick (either a Menorah or a candelabrum) is an ornamental stand where many candles are gathered together to form a unified light. This is an appropriate symbol to represent the church of God where we bring our candles together to let our light shine for Jesus Christ. If we have been gathered together by Jesus Christ, He will be there in the midst of our candlestick. If we disobey and rebel, He will remove Himself from our assembly. Revelation 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.”

14 His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes [were] as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

"White" always represents the purity and holiness of Jesus Christ and His people. The power of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by fire, radiated from His countenance. The brightness of brass, fresh from the furnace of truth, is characteristic of the actions and activities of all of God's children. The voice of Christ is gently, peaceful and comforting like a flowing river or the gentle, harmonious praise of many people.

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.

The seven stars signify the true ministers of God. The sun, moon and stars are avenues of light. These literal objects represent spiritual avenues of light, (e.g. the Sun is the New Testament; the Moon is the Old Testament; and the Stars are the ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ). Jesus always has His ministry in His right hand. We need never fear that Jesus will ever loose control of His ministers. Some ministers may by willful transgression fall from grace as Judas did; but God will always have a true and holy ministry. The government of the church is upon His shoulders. He is able to take care of every situation and meet every need. His gospel is like a sharp, two-edged sword. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This spiritual sword cuts in two directions; it either cuts people in or cuts people out. If we will be willing and obedient, the Word will separate us from our sins. If we refuse and rebel, we shall be cut off and destroyed with all the unrighteous and unbelievers. “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” The Sun light of the New Testament shines pure and strong. It will show you the way you must live to be holy

Jude wrote of “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” (Jude v.13). These wandering stars are ministers who are not stable or established in the true doctrines of Christ. A star is an avenue of light in heaven. Stars are used to determine direction; therefore, they must maintain a dependable and predetermined course. They must not vary from God’s established path. Jesus has brought us together to sit in heavenly places and we are guided by His true stars. Woe to those stars which have fallen. Sadly, there have been many true ministers of God who started right and then went astray. They fell from their God ordained position in heaven. These fallen stars are noted in the Revelation in chapters 6:13; 8:12; and 12:4.

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:
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.

Jesus is the beginning and the end. We need to start with Him and end with Him. In Him we live and move and have our being. He is the center of our life. He controls and directs all of our decisions and activities. In Him we have eternal life. He is the only one who can deliver us from hell and death. He is able to open the gates of hell and let the captives go free. He is the one who lived here on earth and died on the cross and yet He was resurrected to live forever. Just as Jesus Christ is the door of the church; and the church is the gateway to heaven; likewise, the gates of hell are the false religious churches which take people into the fellowship of death and hell. As the seven seals are opened we see the church, the white horse and his rider, is faced with the red horse of unbelief, followed by the black horse of apostasy, followed by the pale horse of death and hell. Jesus Christ is the only one with the power, or the keys, to deliver a soul from the bondage of sin and false religion. Psalms 44:3, “For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them.” Except the Lord Jesus Christ lift you up with His right hand and set you in a heavenly place and cause you to understand heavenly things, you will never comprehend the mysteries of God’s relationship with the church of God.

19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

John was given perfect understanding of those things which had already taken place, those things which were presently taking place and those thing which would take place in the future. He was told to write down the events, not the understanding of those events. Later (Rev. 10:4), when John would have written down the understanding and explanation of these events, he was told not to write but rather to "seal up." God chose to give us the encrypted Revelation message first, so that later as the events came to pass we would believe that His witness is true. John 14:29 "And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe." Later, in Revelation 22:10, after the Seven Seals had been opened and the Seventh Trumpet angel had sounded, the messenger of God told John, “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand.” There was a time to “seal up” and there is a time now “not to seal.”

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.

A mystery is an event which has a hidden meaning. Mysteries are often encrypted and enclosed in symbolic language. The keys to the symbols found in the book of Revelation can be found by searching the holy scriptures which are divinely inspired to teach us all things. The mystery of the meaning of the word “angel” as used in the book of Revelation can be understood by studying its use throughout the scriptures. The words angel and messenger are used interchangeably when translating into English. In Genesis chapter nineteen, verses 1, 5 and 12 you may see an example of where angels are called men. Also in Matthew 13:41-42, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus sent forth His disciples and apostles to preach the gospel. These ministers of the New Testament gospel are referred to as angels. In 1 Corinthians 6:3, the Apostle Paul is referring to ministers of the gospel when he wrote: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?”

By preaching the true judgments of God the things which offend God are gathered out of people’s lives. If people will not let the offensive things be gathered out, then they will be gathered out. Sin must be identified, judged and purged. There is a “furnace of fire” in the church of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is there for the purging of those vessels which are called into the service of God. Where God dwells, there will be mercy, judgment and righteousness. They are the habitation of His throne. God will not dwell in an unclean vessel. Verse 20 is a very important verse to properly understand the symbolic language which God used to show John the vision recorded in this book. God used a star which is an avenue of literal light to represent a minister who is an avenue of spiritual light. God used a candlestick with seven candles to represent the church which is a group of saints gathered together in one place.

The seven stars are the pastors of the seven churches. Both words "star" and "angel" are here used to denote ministers of the gospel. You need stars at night, during that spiritual night of darkness, when Satan surrounds you with clouds of darkness. Things are always a mystery, unclear, dark and unable to be explained until the light of true understanding comes. God does not want His people to be without the light of understanding. Just as we find an explanation here of the meaning of the seven golden candlesticks and the seven stars, we will find other explanations of those symbols used in the book of Revelation somewhere in the Bible. Isaiah 34:16, “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.”

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