Happy Fourth of July greetings to all of you, I pray that you have plans involving charcoal, meat, and fellowship guided by the Spirit today. Please do not skip this read. Save it, if you’re too busy today. But please do read it. There is a reason things are happening the way they are in our world. The book of Revelation has the answer for those of us who are concerned about all of the problems and issues of today, problems and issues that no one seems to be addressing. Therefore, we will continue our look into the Book of Revelation. To help guide us today I will use scripture and some gleanings from M. R. DeHaan’s book Revelation, 35 Simple Studies in the Major Themes In Revelation. Just for general info, I am not using Dr. DeHaan’s book to guide our study. I allow the Holy Spirit to do that. I like to use some of Dr. DeHaan’s descriptions along with my thoughts as well. My prayer is that these combined make sense and are understandable. Today we are going to look at church history. But before we do this, I would like to make an observation. But first, let’s go to John 8:44, where Jesus is responding directly to the Pharisees that are present. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Now I referenced this scripture to set up the basis for my observation. Which is this: One of the greatest delusions that Satan has ever perpetrated on mankind and Christendom is the unscriptural theory that as we progress through world history conditions will continue to improve, getting better and better, and that through the efforts of human beings in education, religion, morality, invention, technology, and reformation, the world will culminate in a millennium, where everyone will love everybody else, the world will be converted, and the golden age of man will be ushered in. There is no evidence in the Bible to support this Utopian theory. I am not sure how this lie began. My guess would be the enlightenment period, using a paraphrase of the book of Revelation to mix in a small amount of scripture with the worldly lies of the father of lies. This lie has become canon to many who like to assume that they are Christians, pretend they are Christians, or in fact, are deceived Christians. This is a lie from the pit of hell and a really good lie of Satan’s. Really good, because sadly, many will go to hell believing this lie. Remember this, the book of Revelation is not just about our future, it is also about Satan’s future as well. Satan does not like to think about his future in Revelation. Let’s go to 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “But mark this, There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying the power.” I defy anyone to make a case against this statement by Paul. Sure good things are happening with revivals in China and Africa. But people are being martyred in both locations. Sure, I keep saying it is harvest time because it is. I don’t just think that Jesus is coming back, I know it. I just can’t tell you when. No man or woman can. But we cannot go to heaven believing in the lies of Satan. The Bible teaches us that as history progresses, conditions will worsen, and then the Lord will come and judge the nations, punish the wicked, and join with his church, the true body of Christ, establishing a wonderful age of peace and righteousness. Sadly, it will be worse before it gets better. I think that we all know things are getting worse. I just looked at the group picture from the G7 leaders that are meeting in Europe. Not a single individual leader I saw in that picture inspires me to think that they have any idea that they know what they're doing. Remember that bad things do happen to believers. But, when these bad things happen, God is right there with us, through all the bad times. The Jewish people survived bad leadership, and so shall we. By the grace of God. Not only do we grow closer to God in these times, but we become better and stronger believers in Christ. There are 7 churches listed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Each church represents seven literal assemblies that existed in the lifetime of John. Chapters 2 and 3 in Revelation contain descriptions of these historic assemblies. In addition, the Bible also uses these seven churches to reference historical and important time frames and details of the church as it has aged over these last 2000 years or so. For example, there are churches today which are warm and on fire like the Church of Ephesus, and there are others that are cold and dead like the Church of Laodicea. Since Revelation is a prophetic book, we can look at these seven churches and see a progressive picture of the history of the professing church from the First Coming of Christ to just before his Second Coming. Each of them describes in great detail a certain period of Church history. Since this book was written by John sometime between A.D. 54-96, then this again, is the Bible being incredibly accurate on details over the last 2000 years of church events and characteristics that had not occurred yet. In other words, the Bible is predicting (accurately) church history that has yet to take place. Revelation 1:10-16, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.’ I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” John is in the Spirit and is seeing a vision. This is not unlike many of the Old Testament prophets who had visions or were led by the Spirit to prophecy. However, the son of man that he is describing, which is Jesus, does not sound like the Jesus that we know of from the gospels. He looks different. This is Jesus glorified. The glorified Jesus is an intimidating figure. Revelation 1:17-20, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” I am going to briefly cover the 7 churches and we will focus on the seventh and final church, the Church of Laodicea next week.
Ephesus - This church is the first named and represents the Church of the first century.
It includes the Church in the book of Acts and is often referred to as the Apostolic Church.
Smyrna - The Church of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This is the persecuted Church, when the ancient Roman Empire sought to eradicate the faith of Jesus from the earth.
Pergamos - The Church for the period beginning with the conversion of Constantine and lasting to 500 A.D. It was the Church that saw the rise of the hierarchy of the clergy and the dominion of the special class of so-called clergy over laity. This is a gloomy period spiritually.
Thyatira - The Church during the Dark Ages where the finished works of Christ were denied, and worse, to it was added works, ceremonies, rituals, and sacrifices.
Sardis - This is the Church of the Reformation. Here, with the help of the printing press, a new study of the Bible began. Lost truths were rediscovered, and unbiblical errors were exposed, setting the stage for Reformation. While this protest and reaction against the rigid ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Church of Thyatira, it went to the other extreme and became divided by the abuse of its own liberty and freedom, becoming divided into numerous sects and denominations.
Philadelphia - As a result of the carnality, division, and worldliness of the Church of Sardis, God rebukes its dead orthodoxy and deals with this remnant, and presents the next Church of Philadelphia, the missionary Church of the revival of the nineteenth century. Here the names of Wesley, Whitfield, and Edwards, and, later, Moody, Darby, and Spurgeon lead revivals throughout the world. With the coming of the Church of Philadelphia as a protest against the deadness of denominations of the Church of Sardis, the missionary fire broke out and the revival spread.
Laodicea - This is the end-time Church of apostasy (heresy). If you look up the definition of apostasy it says this: it is the abandonment of religious belief. This is just what is happening across the denominational spectrum over the last ten years, including our own United Methodist Church. We’ll dig into all of this next week.
We have covered a great deal today. One point that I want to emphasize is this: As prophecy in the Old Testament has been proven true over thousands of years, so will the prophecy in the book of Revelation ultimately be proven true. Revelation is a book of Truth. Just the accuracy alone in the historical description of the seven churches helps to dissipate any doubt that one would have. Next, I started with my disagreement with the widely held worldly idea that things will continue to get better the longer that man is in charge, leading to a Utopian kind of godly ending. I honestly do not see this happening. History does not teach us this. In fact, if history was still being taught in our schools it would suggest the exact opposite. It would agree with what is in the book of Revelation. The world is an even more dangerous place today. Look at the City of Chicago, New York, L.A., Buffalo, and Charlotte is becoming an ever increasingly violent city. Putin and Russia are acting like Hitler and the Nazis, only they have nuclear weapons. We not only have to pray for and protect the unborn babies from being murdered, but now, we have to pray and protect our newborn babies from being starved. This list can go on and on. My point is simply this: We need Jesus. We live in a world that can only be fixed by Jesus. And the book of Revelation is God telling us that he has our back. Because God is going to send Jesus back to earth when the time is right, at the perfect time. So, don’t dread, do not fear, but do put your faith and trust in God and his Son Jesus. God is with us through all of this and he has sent us his Holy Spirit to guide us as we wait for Jesus’ Return. The Old Testament looks forward to the cross of Christ. The New Testament looks back to the cross of Christ. The book of Revelation looks forward to the Return of our King, Jesus Christ. Revelation 22:7, “Behold I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” Are you looking for Jesus? Check the sky, look to the east! Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Look for Jesus, you will find him. Blessings, Thad Brown Opportunity House And Harmony UMC