Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Catechism of Revelation 2 and 3 (The Seven Churches)

Q: What are the seven churches in Revelation?
A: In the literal sense they are seven churches, which were located in seven cities in Asia Minor in the first century.  The real meaning of the seven churches, however, is in the typological sense.  They represent churches throughout the church age (from the time of Jesus' first coming to His second), given to us in chronological order.  Together they represent the entire Church of Christ.
Q: How do we know that the true meaning is typological?
A: A number of details in Revelation 2 and 3 do not make sense within the literal meaning.  A literal ten day persecution would be pretty insignificant, especially if some are to be thrown in prison for ten days.  Jezebel cannot be literal, since she was long dead at the time it was written.  Jesus would not have warned the church in Sardis of His return in vain, given that the literal church in Sardis no longer exists and Jesus has not returned.  A literal open door is meaningless.  Jesus would not have falsely promised the church in Philadelphia that the Jews would worship before their feet, since the literal church in Philadelphia no longer exists and the Jews never worshiped before them.
A2: Jesus repeatedly tells us, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."  This phrase means that there is a deeper meaning to the text, which only "he who has an ear" can hear.
Q: What is the church in Ephesus?
A: The church in Ephesus is the first century church.
Q: What does it mean that they have lost their first love?
A: They began from a great height.  The apostles were performing miracles, there was much excitement, and their love for Jesus was hot.  As the century wore on, the miracles were fewer, the excitement was less, and consequently their love grew cold.
Q: What does Jesus commend them for?
A: They hate everything that is evil and false.  They test those who claim to be apostles but are not, and found them to be false.  Only at the time, when there were apostles, was there widespread claims of apostleship, and many of them false.
Q: What is the church in Smyrna?
A: The church in Smyrna is the persecuted church in the first few centuries.
Q: What is the synagogue of Satan?
A: It is those who insulted and falsely accused early Christians.  They were Jews outwardly but not inwardly; and for that reason were not Jews though they claimed to be Jews (Romans 2:28-29).
Q: What is the ten days of persecution?
A: The ten days of persecution represent ten major persecutions in early church history.  Church tradition holds that there were ten major persecutions, with each being named by the ruling emperor of the time.  The first was Nero, and the last was Diocletian.
Q: What is the church in Pergamum?
A: The church in Pergamum is the mixed church that came after the Edict of Milan.
Q: Why is it called the mixed church?
A: They mixed Christian religion with pagan religion, and allowed a number false teachings to find a place in the church.
Q: What are the days of Antipas?
A: Even after the Edict of Milan there was persecution against Christians, especially in Persia.  Jesus commends them for their faithful witness, at a time of transition from persecution to peace.
Q: Where is Satan's throne, where they live?
A: Rome.  After the Edict of Milan the Roman Empire increasingly became a safe place for the church, so Rome became the home, in a manner of speaking, of the church.
Q: What is the church in Thyatira?
A: The church in Thyatira is the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox churches.
Q: When did this church begin?
A: Over a period of time around the seventh and eighth centuries, alongside the emergence of the papacy.
Q: Who or what is Jezebel?
A: Jezebel is the Vatican.  It claims to be a prophetess by claiming to speak on Jesus' behalf.  It leads many Christians into the sins of idolatry and sexual immorality by its false teachings.
Q: Who are Jezebel's offspring?
A: Those who call the Vatican "Mother Church".  The true Church of Christ cannot be called mother, because the Bible only speaks of it as a virgin pledged to Christ, and because the Church is not the mother of the saints, rather the Church is the saints.
Q: Is there a mother of the saints?
A: Yes.  To find out who or what that is, a person ought to read Revelation 12.
Q: What does Jesus commend the church in Thyatira for?
A: Their faithfulness, hard work and perseverance.  For many long years Catholics and Orthodox have built cathedrals, set up hospitals and schools, defended the faith with apologetics, established monasteries and many other things.
Q: What is the church in Sardis?
A: The church in Sardis is the Reformers and Protestants.
Q: Why does He say that they have a reputation for being alive, but are dead?
A: Reformed and Protestant history gives them this reputation, but a closer look and the reality is much different.
Q: Why does He tell them to wake up and strengthen what remains?
A: The awakening part deals with their spiritual sleep.  The Great Awakening may be a hint to this command.  But it was an awakening that didn't last; this is why the word 'revival' is popular amongst Protestants.  He tells them to strengthen what remains because they have allowed their churches to become weakened and compromising, and because their deeds are lacking.  The lack of good deeds is likely a result of Sola Gratia and Sola Fide doctrines.
Q: What does Jesus commend them for?
A: Jesus acknowledges that there are some in Sardis who are righteous.
Q: What is the time frame for the church in Sardis?
A: From the beginning of the Protestant Reformation to the present day.
Q: What is the church in Philadelphia?
A: The church in Philadelphia is emerging.  Its hard to identify because it has no name or designation like past churches.  It is still too early to know what it will ultimately be know as, other than Philadelphia.
Q: What is the open door that no one can shut?
A: The open door that no one can shut is the internet.
Q: How does the internet serve the church in Philadelphia as an open door?
A: The church in Philadelphia does not have the strength to grow or accomplish God's purpose by conventional means.  The internet makes communication easy, and communication is the primary mission of a Christian.  The internet is a door through which we meet other people, listen and speak, and communicate pertinent messages.  A portal, you might say, between one keyboard and the rest of the world.
Q: Why does Jesus give them this gift?
A: Because they have kept His word and not denied His name.  No one can make better use of the internet than the person who has kept the word of God.
Q: What is the synagogue of Satan?
A: Those who claim to be children of the promise, in a figurative sense, "Jews".  They are the Muslims; the Islamic world.
Q: When will Jesus make them worship before the feet of the church in Philadelphia?
A: In relative terms, soon.
Q: What is the church in Laodicea?
A: A church that has not yet come.
Q: What is the time frame for this church?
A: About a century prior to Jesus' return, up until His return.
Q: Why do they say they are rich?
A: Because the world at that time will have enjoyed a number of years of peace and prosperity, and they will have grown very wealthy in a physical sense.
Q: Why does Jesus call them wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked?
A: Because their spiritual condition is impoverished.  As it often happens, the physical wealth will have corrupted them.  They will no longer trust in God or seek Him.  And they will become distanced from Him, which ultimately results in the great apostasy that Paul speaks of (2Thessalonians 2:1-12), which happens right before the return of Christ and the end of the age.
Q: Why does Jesus say that He is about to spit them out of His mouth?
A: Jesus is alluding to the great apostasy and the coming of the lawless one (antichrist).  The tribulation period, in which Christians are threatened with death unless they deny Christ, will cause the vast majority of those in the church of Laodicea, who are lukewarm, to deny Christ.  So they will have been cast out (spit out) of the kingdom of God.
Q: Is there any significance to the time frame of these churches?
A: There does seem to be a symmetrical order to the chronology of these churches.  The first (Ephesus) and the last (Laodicea) are only about a century in duration.  The one in the middle (Thyatira) has the longest duration, which is a millennium or more.  Smyrna and Philadelphia, which are symmetrically opposite, both seem to be about two or three centuries.  And Pergamum and Sardis, which are symmetrically opposite, both are about four centuries.  Perhaps there is a reason for the apparent symmetry of the time frame.

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About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.