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Revelation: A Short Summary of the Church Age

Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 provide a new section in this book that focuses on the church age, which is identified with the statement "the things that are", Revelation 1:19.  Utilizing the timeline introduced in the Revelation 1 timeline, the view moves to the right, and zooms in on the church age that occurs before the beginning of the seven years of tribulation.  

The seven churches in the book of Revelation

The book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches in Asia, and greetings from the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are extended to the seven churches. Even though other churches were in existence in the area the Lordís address to these seven churches was not only a direct address to them, but also to provide spiritual principles for living in relationship to Him as shown in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3. In these chapters, the Apostle John shares the word and the things that were revealed to him with the seven churches. There is a nearly consistent pattern in the messages to each church, which were:

  • An emphasis on some part of the description of Christ among the seven candles in Revelation 1:12, is directed to each church
  • In general a commendation is given to each church, except one, and possibly another
  • In general a condemnation is given to each church, except two
  • Council is given to each church
  • A message is given to the saints in each church

The following table summarizes the words of the Lord to each of the churches, following the aforementioned template.

Churches
Ephesus
Smyrna
Pergamum
Thyatira
Sardis
Philadelphia
Laodicea
Christís description
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lamp stands
The first and the last, who was dead and has come to life
The One who has the sharp two- edged sword
The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like burnished bronze
He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens
The Amen,the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God   
Commendation
Good works, labor, patience, hated Nicolaitans
Works, tribulation, poverty
Works, held fast my name, has not denied my faith
Good works, love, service, faith, patience
 Works, a name that you are alive?
Works, missions, little strength, kept my word, not denied my name

 

Condemnation
You have left your first love

 

You have false teachers of Balaam and the Nicolaitans
You allow Jezebel to teach idolatry and compromise
You are dead.  Works not complete

 

You are lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked
Counsel
Remember from where you are fallen and repent
Fear not, be faithful
Repent
Hold fast what you have until I come
Watch, strengthen the things that remain.  Remember, hold fast and repent
Hold fast what you love
Buy gold tried by fire and white raiment.  Anoint your eyes.  Be zealous and repent
He who
overcomes
Ö I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Ö Ö shall not be hurt by the second death
Ö to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.
Ö and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My  Father; and I will give him the morning star.
Ö shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels
Ö I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God and he will not go out from it any more; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name
Ö I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

The Church first revealed

It is instructive to see what the church is prior to delving into these two chapters, and understand how these letters to the seven churches relate to Christians today, and to the tribulation saints of tomorrow.  The Lord first revealed the coming church while he spoke with His disciples during His earthly ministry. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked His disciples what people said regarding the identity of the Son of Man, and who the disciples thought He was, Matthew 16:13-15. Peterís response and the Lordís elaboration of his response shows the role of the church, which is to profess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Matthew 16:16, Romans 10:6-13, 1Timothy 3:16. The Lord Jesus Christ is building His church on the rock, demonstrated by Peter, which is the belief and profession of Jesus Christ to the world, Matthew 16:18 and Luke 24:44-49. The revelation of Jesus Christ is given by the Father, and not by any manís effort or self-discovery, Matthew 16:17. As a result, Satan cannot impede the delivery of the word of God, and the gates of hell will not be able to withstand the church, Matthew 16:18b. The Lord, who has authority over the churches, as seen in Revelation 1, has given Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 16:19. As a result, the parables that the Lord used to teach on His kingdom, Matthew 13:10-17, are relevant to the church today since the keys of the kingdom were given to her through Peter. However, that is not to say that the church assumed the role of Israel and thereby receive the blessings promised her.  The Lord has given many promises to Israel through the patriarchs and to David, which have not been fulfilled yet, but they will be with the establishment of the Lord's millennial kingdom.

The mystery of the Church

After the Apostle Paul believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, the mystery of the church, which was hidden from the Old Testament saints, was revealed to him by the Lord. What had been hidden to the Old Testament saints is now manifest based on the prophets and Godís commandment, Romans 16:25-26. The mystery of Godís will is to bring all things under the headship of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:9-10. This will occur at the return of Christ with His saints, Revelation 19, and during His millennial rule, Revelation 20. The role of the church is also identified as the bride of Christ, Ephesians 5:21-32 and Revelation 19:7-10. This is wonderfully illustrated through parallels in the Jewish wedding customs during the days of Christís earthly ministry by how the church is presented in the New Testament and her relationship with Christ. And as the Lord Himself stated, it was He that choose us, not us seeking after the Lord, John 15:14-17.  There are eight mysteries that were identified by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle Paul:

  1. The mystery of His will, Ephesians 1:9
  2. The mystery of Christ, Ephesians 3:4
  3. The mystery of the indwelling of Christ, Colossians 1:25-27
  4. The mystery of God, Colossians 2:2
  5. The mystery of Godliness, 1Timothy 3:16
  6. The mystery of Israelís blindness, Romans 11:25
  7. The mystery of the rapture of the church, 1Corinthians 15:51, 1Thessalonians 4:13
  8. The mystery of iniquity, 2Thessalonians 2:7

To understand the mystery of the rapture of the church, it is important to understand the resurrection.  It is a critical doctrine to understand for in it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Apostle Paul.  That gospel is found in 1Corinthians 15:1-11.  We are to hold firmly to this gospel, for by it we are save, and we know we are saved if we continue in His word.  This gospel, put simply is that:

  • Christ died according to scripture
  • He was buried
  • He was raised on the 3rd day according to scripture, Psalm 16:9-11

The resurrection is what separates the Gospel of Christ from all other forms of manís religious beliefs in that none of them have a resurrection.  As the Apostle Paul states, the strength of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, 1Corinthians 15:3-4, is the Lordís resurrection, 1Corinthians 15:12-20.  Christ, as the first fruits of the resurrection, also resurrected others after His resurrection, Matthew 27:51-53.  After Christís resurrection, he appeared too many for 40 days, giving proofs of his being alive, Acts 1:3-5.  The ascension of Christ occurred after He told the disciples that it was not for them to know the times or dates set by the Father when asked when the His kingdom would come.  They were not told that it would not come, just that the question of when was not for them to know and then He was taken up and a cloud hid Him from their sight, Acts 1:6-9.   The promise given to the disciples by two angels was that Jesus will return in the same way, Acts 1:10-11:

  • He left in the clouds
  • He will return in the clouds

The Lord also spoke of returning for them after He prepared a place for them (the church), John 14:1-4.  This means that when He returns in the clouds He will catch up all His saints, which is the rapture.  

This discriminates two phases of the Lordís return.  First He will return in the clouds to catch up His church to Himself, which is the rapture.  Second, He will appear with the doors of heaven open with all His saints in judgment at Armageddon, Revelation 19:11-16.

So, what is the mystery Paul is writing about concerning the rapture?  It is not the resurrection since he spent many verses already on this subject, it is the rapture of the church that is both the resurrection of the dead in Christ, as well as the catching away those in Christ who are still alive, 1Corinthians 15:50-57.  The Old Testament saints knew of the resurrection, as spoken by Daniel, Daniel 12:1-3, and many other passages.  They did not know of the rapture since Christ had not appeared the first time to be resurrected as the first fruits.   Therefore, the Old Testament promise was the resurrection, but for the church it is the eminent return of Christ to rapture the church and translate those yet living in the twinkling of an eye, which is the mystery spoken of here.  Flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God, so as the Lord promised to the churches, Revelation 3:10, we will be kept from that hour of the trial that is coming upon the whole earth.  There will be a sound of the trumpet (the end of an era, not the 7th trumpet which introduced the bowl judgments, Revelation 11:15-19) when the dead in Christ will be raised imperishable and those that are alive will be changed, we will all be clothed with the imperishable and with immortality, and death will be swallowed up in victory

The work of the Holy Spirit in the Church

The birth of the church occurred when Pentecost was celebrated  The Holy Spirit came upon all the disciples who were gathered together in the upper room, as the Lord commanded them, Acts 1:1-5 and Acts 2.  Throughout the book of Acts, the works of the Holy Spirit through the Church are chronicled by Luke.  Much is written about the Holy Spirit in the New Testament by the apostles. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that no one knows the thoughts of God, but the Spirit of God, 1Corinthians 2:6-16. The Lord told Nicodemus that to see the kingdom of God, a person must be born again, and that of water and the Spirit, John 3:5-8. All who are in Christ are therefore Godís children, which the Holy Spirit testifies of, Romans 8:9-16. We therefore have the Spirit of truth within us and He continues to work through the church today, John 14:15-21. It is the Holy Spirit who makes known the things of Christ, John 16:12-15. It is also the Holy Spirit who is calling out a bride for Christ. This is wonderfully illustrated in the life of Abraham as he sent out his servant seeking a bride for Isaac, his only son, Genesis 24.

  • In Genesis 24:3-4, Abraham (Father) sends his servant (Holy Spirit) to find a bride for his son (Jesus), from those of his people, and not from the Canaanites who were cursed, Genesis 9:25
  • In Genesis 24:6-7, the son is not to leave the promised land, but the wife is to be brought from her kin to the son (Christ) in the land of promise (the new Jerusalem)
  • In Genesis 24:12-14, 26-27, 44, the prayer of the servant (Holy Spirit) that the woman would be revealed (chosen!)
  • In Genesis 24:57-58, 61, Rebecca (bride) accepts and is led by the servant (Holy Spirit) to the groom (Christ)

Order within the Church

There is an order to the activities within the church, and responsibilities assigned to those working as servants within the congregation. Paul had written to Timothy and Titus concerning the order and structure within the church. Those who are assigned positions of responsibility within the congregation are to be upright, as well as their families. Those who are assigned as elders, bishops, and deacons within the church were evaluated for an irreproachable behavior, which applied to both husbands and wives, 1Timothy 3:1-12, Titus 1:4-8. Paul outlined the role of the church leaders. They were to hold firmly to the trustworthy message he was taught, Titus 1:9. They were to encourage others by sound doctrine, Titus 1:9. They were also to refute those who oppose sound doctrine, Titus 1:9, 1John 4:1-3. These roles and responsibilities were not just for the early church, but are very relevant to todayís churches. This is evident in the Lordís words directed to the seven churches. Peter also addressed these issues. He wrote that they were to be shepherds to Godís flock that were under their care, 1Peter 5:2:

  • Not serving out of duty but willingly as God wants them
  • Not to be greedy for money, but eager to serve
  • Not lording over the flock, but to be examples
  • A reward is prepared for them who willingly pursue this calling

Summary of Events Concerning the Church

The following provides a preview of five future events that await the church and the verses to back up the statements:


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

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