The seven messages from the Son of God to the churches found in Revelation 2 and 3 form a historical picture of the progression of Christendom during the time of the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven. The chapters contain moral judgments depicting the state and condition of the church world at different periods of time during the dispensation. The messages involve the use of allegories which is common to prophetic language. It is far more than seven messages to seven different churches in Asia in the first century. Those specific churches no longer exist, their time has passed.
There is no reason to doubt that the seven messages were literally true, and that these conditions existed in these specific locations at the close of the first century. At face value there are two things that are simple to see and understand concerning the seven churches:
- It is a historical fact that these churches existed in these described conditions at the time of John’s writing.
- The moral instruction provided by the seven messages is available for every believer who has an ear to hear, by which he may profit. This is true regardless of living in the first century or the twenty-first century.
To take the messages literally would be to deny any use of the allegories in them, to deny any prophetic character in their language, and to do so in a book that is overwhelmingly prophetic. God’s intention in giving the messages was to provide a successional impression of the general history of the professing church in the two chapters. This goes well beyond a simple literal reading. In the introduction of the book its character is established. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy…” (Rev. 1:3)
The Book of Revelation is a Book of Prophecy
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”
Things that must shortly take place are things that are prophetic. Everything in the book will take place after John is gone. He is the last living apostle in the ministry of the church. For God’s purpose for the book he stands in the role of an Old Testament prophet, receiving visions and prophecies. And further there is a biblical characteristic descriptive of a prophet and his prophecies – that which is communicated to him is never about him or for his time and contemporaries. The prophecy is always for others in a future time.
1 Peter 1:10-12
(10)“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, (11) searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (12) To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”
This is the proper character of prophecy. The things revealed to the prophet were not for the prophet. The prophet’s contemporaries, even if they may have had ears to hear, were not the recipients of these things. Prophecy is addressed to one, but intended for another. It is not a present blessing for the prophet or the ones actually hearing the prophecy. The passages in II Peter 1:19-21 and Matthew 13:16-17 imply a similar thought about prophetic scriptures.
The messages to the seven churches are, in this sense, prophetic – they are the announcement of outcomes and consequences for those to whom the particular message applies in the future. This is why a literal view is a short-sighted view and with limited benefit. The messages are ‘not to themselves’ – they are not directly intended for the people or the churches in Asia that existed in the time of the prophet. They are purposed by God to explain the progression of Christendom on the earth after John was gone.
Although prophecy has a character that is far more than just what is future in time, it is, nevertheless, about those things that will take place in the future. Except for the beginning greeting and the ending salutation, both of which have portions where the church responds to Jesus Christ, the subject of the entire Revelation is biblical prophecy. That is why, apart from the church speaking at the beginning and at the end (Rev. 1:5-6, 22:16-20), the book has a decidedly Jewish character and flavor.
The Divisions of the Book of Revelation
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”
This verse from chapter one shows us there are three divisions of the book.
1.) The vision of the Son of Man in the midst of the candlesticks is the first division. It is what John ‘had seen.’
2.) ‘The things which are’ involve Christendom on the earth. This second division is the seven messages for the seven churches found in Revelation 2, 3. Although this division tells a successional history of the professing body as it progresses through the age, it is not properly part of the prophecy of the book. The churches are the present things – the things that are – and this cannot be prophecy. Prophecy is about the things that will be – the things which will take place after this. Again I remind the reader that the true church is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy. This is the reason why the professing church is found and judged in the second division of the book, and not in the third.
3.) ‘The things which will take place after this’ involve God’s throne of government and His dealings and judgments of the world. This includes Israel as part of the world (John 8:23-24). This excludes the true church as being apart from the world (John 15:19, 17:14, 16). This final division begins in chapter 4 and continues on to the ending salutation (Rev. 4:1-21:8). It forms the main part of the book. This is properly the prophetic part. It involves ‘the things which will take place after this’, or will be after ‘the things which are’. The third division is the prophecy. It contains the prophetic details (Rev. 4:1).
The Importance of Understanding Biblical Principles
Responsibility attaches itself to every creature that is placed in a conscious and intelligent relationship with God. Where there is consciousness of this, there is obligation to God. Whether it is the judgment of the world or professing Christianity, it is still the responsibility of man on the earth being judged by God. He will always do this, because it is man’s works accomplished while he is in the flesh.
In this sense the judgment of the professing church is indirectly related to the principle and character of prophecy. Prophecy is about the earth and God’s government of the earth, and judgment is an essential characteristic of that government (Rom. 1:18, 2:5, 3:5-6, 9:22, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6, Matt. 13:40-42). But I also remind the reader in speaking of these things, that the professing church and the body of Christ are not the same thing (Matt. 13:37-38). The body of Christ, the true church, is the sovereign workmanship of God (Matt. 13:37, 16:18, Eph. 2:4-10). As His own work it will not and cannot be judged by Him (John 5:24). However, the professing church is a spoiled crop in the world and corporately represents the workmanship of man and the devil mixed up with the wheat of God. This corporate entity has its own responsibility, and while it is on the earth it can and will be judged by God.
Men upon the earth are responsible for that which is committed to their trust. The entire book of Revelation is a book of judgment. God is revealed in the introduction and the early chapters as the One about to execute judgment. But let us remember that God has given all judgment into the hands of His Son, as the Son of Man (John 5:22, 27). Regardless of what we see in the book – the slain Lamb opening seals, the King of kings and Lord of lords with the white horse and sword out of His mouth, or even the One who sits upon the great white throne to judge the wicked dead – it is always Jesus, the Son, as the Son of Man (see also Matt. 25:31-46).
The only exception to this judicial character of the book is the viewing of the true church as the heavenly Jerusalem at the end (Rev. 21:9). Here it is the tabernacle of God in high places over the millennial earth, and her character is in grace and blessing. Before this the church appears on white horses in a judicial role towards the earth in chapter 19. For the greatest part the Revelation is God’s dealings with the responsibility of man on the earth and what those outcomes in judgment will be. Until we are clear in our minds regarding this understanding, the intent of the book will never be appreciated. Comprehending these principles in relation to the book keeps one from many errors and false conclusions. Therefore, if Jesus is walking in the midst of the candlesticks, He is God’s Son as the Son of Man, and He is beginning to judge Christendom (Rev. 2:1).
When we look at the detail of the seven messages to the churches we must remember the above mentioned biblical principle. It will give us a certain understanding concerning the messages. God never judges His own sovereign work. When God created the heavens and earth, He said ‘it was very good.’ He is not a workman that has to judge and criticize Himself. You might be thinking, why is He judging the church in chapter two and three if the church is the sovereign work of God? He really isn’t judging the body of Christ. He judges professing Christianity – the spoiled crop in the field. It contains the true church, but it is so much more than this. What He judges is the corporate entity, the outward body of Christendom. It is on the earth and under responsibility for its communal testimony and witness. This is what Jesus, the glorified Son of Man, judges.
The House of God on the Earth
2 Timothy 2:19-20
“Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.”
The house of God on the earth was started by the sovereign work of God. In this great house of professing Christendom, God knows all that are His – the wheat planted in the field by the Son of Man (Matt. 13:24, 37-38). But the tares in the field did come in and they are not His work. They are the work of the enemy (Matt. 13:25, 28, 38-39). It remains that God knows His own work and He will not judge the wheat. There will be a final separation of the mixture. God will separate His work from that of the enemy, and then judgment will come on the tares (Matt. 13:40-42). At this present time the great house of God is on the earth. It is the same thought as the great tree grown up in the field (Matt. 13:31-32). Both symbols show a mixture of good and evil being contained within.
“…in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 3:9
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”
At first, the house of God on the earth was the pure work of God, the habitation of God corporately, and this by His Spirit (I Cor. 3:16, Eph. 2:22). After the laying of the foundation through the grace of God in the apostle Paul (I Cor. 3:10), the responsibility and care for the constructing of the building was given to men (I Cor. 3:12-13). This is when the enemy was allowed to come in and do his work of corruption. The great house of God on the earth is this:
- God’s sovereign work in grace
- Man’s failed work in responsibility
- The enemy’s work of evil and corruption
It is a mixture of God’s work, the devil’s work, and man’s work. The first of these is never the object of God’s judgment, while the last two are always the subject of it. What the house of God has become on the earth is of importance. Judgment must begin there, before God judges the world (I Pet. 4:17). Hence, chapter two and three in the book of Revelation precede chapter four – the start of the judgment of the world.
Certain events occurred in the history of the church on earth which can only be described as the sovereign work of God. We know that Pentecost and the Reformation were examples of the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. Because God does not judge His own work you do not see evidence of these two events included in the messages to the churches. What you see is the judgment of Christendom after man was given responsibility to care for these particular works of God.
Ephesus represents the state of the church world after Pentecost and after the end of apostolic authority and power. Sardis represents Protestantism after the sovereign energy of the Spirit in the Reformation. God is looking to see how far Christendom had fallen from its original state of blessing in the sovereign grace of God.
The Divisions of the Seven Churches
- The first three churches – God’s judgment of these is with His consideration of Pentecost and the original state of blessing in which the church was established. God deals with how far they had morally strayed from the original position. In these three we are always looking back to Pentecost with the possibility of returning to the original state of blessing. It is in these that the Son of Man acknowledges the outward corporate body of Christendom, and encourages it to repent and return to the place from where it had fallen. The saints are looked at as part of and in this external society at large.
- The final four churches – God’s judgment of these is with His consideration of the ending state of blessing of the true church, after its rapture and glorification. God deals with how far their moral state is from compatibility with this future glory. There is no longer any thought of return to the original position. There are no thoughts of returning back to Pentecost and apostolic order and power. In these final four there is only a looking forward to the hope of the true church and future glory. The coming of the Lord for the body of Christ is held out by the Son of Man as the earnest expectation of the distinctive remnant. Although the remnant is contained in the external body of professing Christianity, in these last churches it is distinguished by Him. In the final four churches the remnant is properly acknowledged by the Son of Man (Rev. 2:24, 3:4).
- The first four churches – These four as a group represent a straight-line prophetic progression of the state of Christendom. What this means is the first is replaced by the second, the second by the third, and the third by the fourth. The progression continues until Christendom is utterly corrupt and set aside in its Jezebel state. This final state continues on unaltered and unrepentant to the end. Even today it still represents the overwhelming majority of the corporate body of Christendom.
- The last three churches – These represent a divergent path resulting from a new sovereign work of God’s grace in the time of the Reformation. These may be seen as distinctly separated and subsisting away from the general Jezebel state.
The seven churches and seven messages represent the complete circle of God’s thoughts concerning the progression of Christendom from after the time of John on Patmos. There were many other churches that existed at the time: Corinth, Rome, Antioch, Philippi, etc. These, as well as many others, were left out of the addresses. The wisdom of God is shown by the Holy Spirit’s use of these particular seven churches. They provided the moral elements needed in order to present the complete successional picture.
The Two Prophetic Elements Involved
The seven messages present the real and varied state of the church world. All the messages together cannot apply to the whole at the same point in time because the messages themselves are very different from each other. As we mentioned above, one of the elements we see is that of prophetic progression. This raises the question: Do the messages represent a simple successional picture of one through seven? Does the new one that comes forth end the existence of the one that preceded it?
Besides the use of progression, there is another element found in the messages for us to be aware of. This element involves the particular and differing parts existing at the same time, being brought together to form the complete whole. We will find that both prophetic elements are involved in the ‘complete’ picture of the seven churches given to us by the Son of Man.
The first three churches are a fluid progression through time – church one is succeeded by the second, which is then succeeded by the third. The fourth church does, in fact, succeed the third and is a part of this original progression. This is where the element in use is changed from simple succession to that of parts subsisting at the same time making up the whole of the professing church. The fifth church eventually emerges out of and away from the fourth, but does not end the existence of the fourth. Thyatira continues on, and Jezebel is cast into the tribulation (Rev. 2:22). The last two churches emerge out of the fifth at relatively the same time, but again, do not necessarily replace the fifth. What is presented in the last four church characters is a co-existence of four until the end. The four parts together form the whole of professing Christianity which presently exists in the world. In summation, the prophetic picture presented by the seven churches is one of succession in the first four. This is followed by four distinct and final parts emerging and co-existing at the end. Together the final four churches make up the whole of Christendom.
“…so it will be at the end of this age.”
The end of Christendom on the earth has already been revealed in the parable of the tares and wheat (Matt. 13:24-30). Close to the end the tares are bundled together and left in the world. The wheat is removed from the world. The tares are judged and destroyed in the world, and the impression is that their judgment takes place before or with the judgment of the world. When we consider the seven messages and the seven churches, we do not have to look for a different outcome. There isn’t going to be a different ending for Christendom than this. The surety of this ending is repeated for us in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50).
How then does this relate to the seven messages? The conclusion of the messages cannot give us a different ending. Revelation 2 and 3 are speaking of the same subject matter as Matthew 13 and both are found in God’s Word. The two parables mentioned above are given literal interpretations by the Lord Himself (Matt. 13:37-43, 49-50). I believe we can have confidence in knowing how things occur, and this according to God’s mind and thoughts. The wheat will be removed. Of this we are certain. But the vessel God is using to bear His name before the world, having failed and in ruin, must be judged and broken. Of the existing churches at the end, three of the four are left in the world for judgment.
God had previously cast off Israel as the visible witness to bear His name before the world. When their failure was complete, their dispensation was ended and their house made desolate (Matt.13:10-15, 23:37-39). In the same way He will cast off the church world, which has failed in its responsibility on the earth.
“For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”
Israel as a people and a nation were set aside by God (Rom. 11:7-10). Now the Gentiles enjoyed the blessing and goodness of God (Rom. 11:11-13). But Christendom, as a Gentile dispensation, will not continue in the goodness of God. The Gentiles will be cut off. This is in agreement with what the Lord says in the two parables in Matthew 13, “…so it will be at the end of this age.” We also find it agrees with Revelation 2 and 3 as well.
I mentioned above that the wisdom of God is displayed in the Holy Spirit’s selection of the seven churches. The Spirit uses their literal condition to paint a specific and accurate overall picture of the church world progressing through time in the dispensation. It is a prophetic view but we must remember it is the infallible Word of God. If we are taught by the Spirit and understand the messages properly, we have God’s history of the times of the church on the earth.
The wisdom of God is also shown in all seven messages having a certain arrangement in their structure to indicate certain truths concerning the corporate entity. The configuration of the first three messages indicates that God still acknowledges Christendom as vital, with a chance of repenting and returning. In the first three the corporate entity is recognized, addressed, and even encouraged by Christ. In the last four the arrangement of the messages indicates that God no longer acknowledges the corporate entity. By this time God views the corporate body as entirely corrupt, and a decidedly individual message is given. As the professing church world grows in size and earthly power, the true church is seen, more so, as a small remnant in it.
Is it possible that God would stop acknowledging the corporate entity of Christendom? Allow me to answer this with another question. Did God ever see fit to set His chosen people Israel aside? Did He ever say to Israel, “…you are not my people, and I am not your God?” (Hos. 1:9) In their history God twice destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, each time signifying a setting aside and disregarding of this privileged people (Heb. 8:9). The first destruction by Babylon concerned the separating of Israel from the principle of God’s government of the earth. The second destruction by the Romans served to separate the Jews from the principle of God’s calling. If you can see these biblical principles in relation to Israel, then it isn’t hard to understand that at this time God is not pleased with the public testimony of the crop of wheat and tares in the world. He judges the crop as corrupt.
God’s Ways of Judgment of a Corporate Body
In the messages to the seven churches we see God’s two ways of judging a corporate body under responsibility to Him.
- The first is in relation to the original blessing given in grace and how far the corporate society has departed from that first condition of blessing. God wants to see if the church world is benefiting by the blessings previously given. There is a return in grace expected by God according to the privileges bestowed. In Israel’s case, they were the vineyard planted by Jehovah when Joshua first brought them into the land (Is. 5:1-7). Yet God says concerning them,“What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it?” When first planted by God they enjoyed tremendous privileges. Yet Israel produced no fruit to God’s liking, and so judgment is pronounced (Is. 5:5-7). So also the church was planted in original blessings. She enjoyed sovereign grace at Pentecost and a time of apostolic order and power. This was her first position. We will see that Christ will not accept anything but this original position that God Himself had established.
- The second way that God will judge is by seeing how unfit we presently are in light of the blessing to which He is calling us. Is the corporate entity suitable for future blessings that are promised? For Israel this was the glory of Jehovah’s throne in their midst and a Messianic kingdom in Israel. This future glory for Israel was seen by Isaiah (Is. 6:1-5). It is one chapter after God’s discussion about the vineyard, Israel’s first position of blessing. When Isaiah sees the glory his immediate thought is, “woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Israel is judged unfit for this future glory, even though God had patience with them for some eight hundred years beyond this declaration. The church also has future blessings. She is called to heavenly glory. Is she walking in a manner suitable to this promised glory? Does her heart answer to the glory God is calling her to?
It is by our past blessing and future blessing that God judges our responsibility. This is the main difference between the two divisions of the seven churches – in the messages to the first three churches there is no mention of the Lord’s future coming in any fashion or form. The first three are looking back to Pentecost, being asked to repent, turn around, and return to the original position. The possibility of this is held out to the church world and Christ is still acknowledging the outward public body of Christendom. The entire professing body would have to repent for it to return. They are being judged in reference to the original blessing.
In the second division (the final four churches) the outward society is found utterly corrupt, with no corporate pureness. The professing body of Christendom is not acknowledged by the Lord. He knows that a return to Pentecost would require repentance of the entire corporate entity, and cannot be accomplished on an individual basis. In the final four churches the Lord’s return is mentioned in each message. When failure of the corporate body had completely set in, it is the blessed hope of the church that is held out to the faithful remnant for their strengthening (Rev. 2:24-25). This is the thought presented specifically for this time of ruin. His coming for us is our joy and our hope to sustain us when all else fails (Rev. 3:11). In these final four messages, individual faithfulness is encouraged, and instruction is given to look for the Lord’s return and glory. The character of the final four churches is judged as to whether they are fit for this calling and future blessing.
The Character of Jesus, the Glorified Son of Man
Another interesting feature we find at the beginning of each of the seven messages is how the character of Jesus Christ is adapted to the state of the church world during that period of time. For Ephesus, Christ is revealed in the general character of judgment, walking among the candlesticks (Rev. 2:1). This period begins the decay and decline of Christendom. For Smyrna, the eternal One is also the Son of Man who suffered and died, and is alive (Rev. 2:8). This period saw much persecution and martyrdom.
The ecclesiastical character of Christ, as applied to the churches, comes directly from John’s vision of Christ in the midst of the candlesticks (the churches – Rev. 1:12-18). This church character is applied to the first three states of the professing church because they are acknowledged by Christ as the church in general (Rev. 2:1, 2:8, and 2:12). The fourth and fifth churches involve a transition. We find that the fourth church is no longer acknowledged. The fifth church is the result of a new work of God. Therefore these two have one ecclesiastical character paired with a character of Christ that is more revealing of His person (Rev. 2:18, 3:1). The last two churches have only the personal character of Christ applied and no general church recognition (Rev. 3:7, 3:14).
The Seven Divided into three and four
There are four separate clues found in the messages that point to the dividing of the seven churches into the two groups.
- The structural arrangement of the language in the messages is what mostly creates the division into three and four. This will be explained shortly.
- There is a slight difference in the descriptions of the character of Christ as applied to the first three churches that is in contrast to what is applied to the final four. As we said above, the first three have strictly ecclesiastical characteristics applied. The last two have no ecclesiastical character at all.
- In the message to Thyatira it is implied that the fourth church will continue on in its character until the end, being thrown into great tribulation (Rev. 2:22). We could assume that the three churches that follow after Thyatira – Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea – would continue on in their existence to the end as well. In this view the last four parts make up the whole of Christendom.
- The first three churches are instructed to return to the original state established by God, with the possibility of return. This possibility doesn’t exist for the fourth church, nor does it for the three that follow it. To these the return of the Lord is presented, either in hope for the faithful in the rapture, or in threat of judgment for the tares. This threat shows a similarity to the judgment of the world.
The Seven Divided into four and three
The seven churches are divided by use of the two different prophetic elements. The straight progression of the professing church reaches its end with Thyatira and the Jezebel state. The last three are the divergent path of Protestantism, separate from Romanism.
The Structuring of the Seven Messages
Let us look at the general structural arrangement of the individual messages and see the differences I referred to above. The first three messages have this form:
1) The message begins with a description of an aspect of the character of Christ, as it would have special application to that particular church in its described condition. This is true except for the first church addressed. For Ephesus Christ is seen in a general character as a judge, walking in the midst of all seven candlesticks. He is the Judge of Christendom during its entire time on the earth.
2) The main body of the messages continues with the Son of Man’s observations, judgments, warnings, and encouragements to the ‘corporate body’ of Christendom. When He uses the words ‘you’ and ‘your’, He is speaking to the corporate entity of professing Christianity. This is His general testimony to the church world, the corporate assembly. One thing is noticeable in every message – they all begin with, “I know your works…” God takes notice of all that is done in the professing body.
3) The phrase “He who has an ear, let him hear…” is spoken to the individual believer and not the corporate assembly. It always comes at some point following the message spoken to the corporate entity of Christendom. However, that does not mean all of Christendom has the ability to hear. The placement of this phrase immediately following the general address is only found in the first three churches. Its positioning shows Christ’s acknowledgment of the corporate body as still remaining vital in these three. Remember that Christendom is the great house of God on the earth, built by men under responsibility. In its early times it was the habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22, I Cor. 3:9, 16), being set on the earth for the manifestation of God’s glory. This is the thought process concerning whether the corporate body is acknowledged by God or not. In the first three churches the corporate structure is still being recognized by Christ as such.
It is important to realize the significance of the use of this last phrase mentioned above. It comes from the prophecies of Isaiah to Israel concerning the future judgment of that nation. In the midst of Isaiah’s condemning words you see God distinctly separating a believing remnant (Isa. 6:12-13). Isaiah receives the cleansing coal but he dwells in the midst of a people with unclean lips (Isa. 6). So Jehovah says of them, “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” It was similar with Elijah when he felt he was left all alone against an apostate nation. God had preserved for Himself a remnant of seven thousand (I Kings 19:10, 18, Rom. 11:2-4). Yet this remnant is small in size in the midst of the unbelieving nation.
When Jesus came to the Jews He told them the prophecies of Isaiah were fulfilled in them at that time (Matt. 13:13-15). By the Spirit John confirms in his gospel the same prophecies as spoken against Israel (John 12:35-41). Jesus speaks of the multitudes of Israel in this way, “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” In John’s gospel Jesus says to Israel, “But you do not believe, because you are not My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice and I know them…” (John 10:26-27) The multitudes are not acknowledged by Him as His sheep, and He says of them they have no ability to spiritually see and hear from God. “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47)
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear…”
Who does have ears to hear, eyes to see? Or as it is said by Isaiah, “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” If the masses cannot hear the word of God, who is it that has the ability to hear? Well, you know the answer to this – it is the remnant. God always chooses and preserves a remnant in the midst of the mass of unbelief. In the days Jesus walk on this earth His disciples were this small chosen group (Matt. 13:11). He says, “…it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Yet the realization is more than just the mere discovery of the existence of this small believing group. Any remnant that comes into existence does not result from an accidental occurrence or some fortunate human endeavor. No! It is God, in His sovereignty, who does this work. It is God, by His choice, who gives the remnant the ability to see and hear (Matt. 11:25-27). It is always God.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” is a phrase that is only spoken by Jesus (Matt. 11:15, 13:9, 43, Luke 14:35). We know that God alone gives the remnant the potential to hear. He speaks this phrase always to the believing remnant in order to distinguish them from the unbelieving nation. To the nation His words are a testimony to their state of unbelief and only serve to advance their condition (John 12:39-40, Matt. 13:12). To the remnant however, it is His grace in giving understanding that only have God as their source (Matt. 13:51-52, 11:25-26).
Therefore, when Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” it is a similar phrase used in a similar manner (Rev. 2:7, 11, etc.). There is again a small remnant chosen and preserved by God in the midst of a much larger corporate entity. His words are testimony and judgment for the external body while they are wisdom and instruction for the true believer. God allows only certain ones to have the ability to hear what the Spirit is saying. The major difference is that now He is speaking to the corporate entity of Christendom instead of national Israel. It is the spoiled crop in the field, mixed together as wheat and tares.
In the first three of the seven messages this phrase shows that the corporate body of Christendom is still recognized by the Lord. He gives it the opportunity to repent and return to its original position. Yet His continued acknowledgment of the corporate body through the first three states of Christendom does not mean that the entire body is made up of wheat. The work of Satan was allowed to be mixed in early in the history of the church. It took time before the evil grew and the tares dominated the works and corporate responsibility of the crop. It is one thing to say that Christ acknowledges the corporate structure and encourages Christendom to repent. This is different from Christ knowing all those that are given to Him by the Father and that none of them will be lost (John 6:36-39, 17:2, 6, 9-12).
In the messages to the last four church states, the corporate body is no longer acknowledged by Christ. In these the ‘hearing ear’ phrase is moved by the Lord to the absolute end of the entire message. From that point on God sees Christendom as either corrupt or spiritually dead, with no chance of returning to Pentecostal and apostolic blessings. Jesus never gives the last four churches the opportunity to look back and return. There is only looking ahead. This is equally true even for Philadelphia.
The phrase, “He who has ears…” is found in all seven messages. It is an appeal to the individual believer to hear and act accordingly, when the corporate body is judged as failing and fallen. When the corporate responsibility has been corrupted, God’s principle is to point the individual back to the Word of God for himself. This is why it is said each time,“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Individually it is our solemn responsibility to hear and understand the judgment of Christendom. Then we must act in accordance to the wisdom of the Word for the given circumstances.
4) The phrase “To him who overcomes…” is also spoken to the individual believer and never to the corporate body. This phrase is also found in all seven messages. All true believers will overcome and are overcomers by the grace of God and the measure of faith given to them. All believers are the branches that abide in the vine (Christ) and produce fruit (John 15:1-6). It is the life of the vine flowing into the branches by which the fruit is produced. The branches are simply the location where the fruit appears. His grace is sufficient for the true believer to overcome in every trial. The overcoming phrase in the seven messages identifies the wheat among the tares. It distinguishes branches bearing fruit from those that are cut off and burnt.
The failure of man in responsibility, even what we see in Christendom, does not affect the source of divine grace. From Adam on down, everything placed in the care of man has failed. Yet this failure and evil of man has led to the occasion of God showing us greater riches in grace (Rom. 5:20-21). He judges the failure, and then presents an object of hope. When Adam sinned there was the ‘seed of the woman’ promised (Gen. 3:15). When the law was broken and Israel had failed in many ways, God brought out the prophetic testimony of Messiah as Jehovah’s Anointed One, and all associated promises to Israel through Him. ‘Promise’ is that on which faith can rest and be sustained, when everything else has failed.
The things said directly to the ‘overcomers’ in the seven messages are all in the form of promises made to true believers. The promises are the Christian’s true hope. All these promises remain beyond the rapture of the church, and can only be ascertained in glory with Christ. The believer’s promises are in hope, and serve to sustain the individual believer in his present walk of faith.
Every true believer is an overcomer, because we have already overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:10-11). In chapter twelve of the Revelation, the true church is celebrating in the heavens because she is physically present there. This celebration is after the rapture and physical removal of the church from this world. The glorifying of the true church and taking her to the heavens is the reason why Satan will be removed from there. He is cast down to the earth (Rev. 12:7-9). Any further accusations by Satan are meaningless after the church has been removed from the earth. We will be glorified to the heavens and will be there with Christ as perfectly holy and blameless before our God and Father in love (Eph. 1:3-4).  We will have overcome the devil and the world through the sovereign work of God, in a very physical and final way.
The seven messages are for the church world while the true church is still on the earth. The overcoming spoken of in the messages is less of the world and Satan outside, and more of overcoming the evil discovered within Christendom. Each one of the messages contains a section of promises in hope spoken to ‘him who overcomes’. The promises all refer to when the individual believer is in glory, and after Christ has taken the true church to Himself in the heavens. Nevertheless, the true believer is addressed as an ‘overcomer’ of the world and Satan while he is still on the earth. Revelation 12 shows it as a physical reality after the rapture, while Revelation 2, 3 shows it more so as associated with positional truth in Christ before the rapture. The true believer is the ‘overcomer’ spoken to in the messages (I John 5:5).
The Difference in the Final Four Messages
In the messages to the final four churches the ‘hearing ear’ phrase is placed at the end, instead of being after the general testimony addressed to the corporate body. This modification in the pattern indicates a change in how Christ now views the professing church.
· The corporate body of Christendom has grown utterly corrupt and is no longer acknowledged by Christ. Starting with Thyatira, the church world as a whole is proved hopeless as to its testimony as a visible body in the world.
· The true church is viewed as a remnant in the external body and something that only God can see, as in ‘The Lord knows those that are His.’ In the last four churches any encouragement given is individual. The ‘hearing ear’ phrase is now after the phrase that signifies the individual believer/true church – the ‘overcomer’ phrase. In the first three churches the ‘hearing ear’ phrase was directed to the corporate body. The change of position of this phrase in the last four churches directs it to the individual believer. The Lord’s positive emphasis now is no longer with the professing church but on the individual believer or small remnant.
· Revelation 2:24 identifies the true church as a remnant in the greater body that is Thyatira. Revelation 3:4 identifies the remnant in Sardis. Philadelphia is a remnant church in the midst of the other three, yet truly distinct from them. Christ knocks on the door at Laodicea to see if any of the remnant still remains within (Rev. 3:20). In the final four messages the remnant is more distinctively seen as the true church and those that are His.
· Instead of entertaining the thought of repentance and return to the original Pentecostal position, for the last four churches Revelation 2:25 starts their looking forward in time to the return of Christ. There will be no recovery of apostolic power in the professing church. Here the true believer/remnant is addressed with the blessed hope of the church held out before them. In the final four churches the end is in view, whether it is His coming for the body of Christ (I Cor. 15:23, II Thess. 2:1, Rev. 3:11), or His appearing to the world (Col. 3:4, I Thess. 5:2-5, Rev. 3:3). His return for us is now the remnant’s hope to strengthen and sustain them in the midst of the evil.
There are other features we should be able to see in the messages:
- In each church we see the special nature and character of the trials of the faithful.
- A special promise is given to sustain the faith of those under trial.
- Each message has rewards given to those that overcome. This will be after Christ has taken the saints unto Himself (John 14:1-3). The overcomers are the wheat.
God’s Account of the History of Christianity on Earth
If these chapters paint a prophetic picture of the spoiled crop of Christianity in the world from the first century on, then we realize that most of what is said in the messages is history already. There are few true Christians today that do not believe we are in the last days. The simple passage of time brings us closer to the end. If we look at the prophetic character in each of the seven churches, we can see that the first three had come and gone by the latter part of the fifth century. The last four churches seem to exist in their distinct characters all the way to the end of the age, although each of the four emerged at different times. Already all seven have either been present or are present and accounted for in the history of professing Christianity. We are very near the end of the age when the separation and judgments of Christendom will occur (Matt. 13:40-42, 49-50).
If we want to know the history of professing Christianity we could consult the books and accounts written by men. Or we could study and understand that which is written by the Holy Spirit. This is what Revelation 2 and 3 is – God’s account of the spoiled crop in the field of the world and man’s responsibility concerning it. I prefer to understand these things by the teaching of the Spirit of God. As a believer you should also. It is odd to me that men prefer to understand these things by consulting their own works, and the works of other men. I would think we would recognize a bias exists. Men are prone to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think (Rom. 12:3). In the history of Christendom, men have always done this. They do not think soberly, especially of their own work. They do this rather than consulting the work and Word of God.
Chapter 5: Endnotes
 Even though John is the last living apostle to the church, he does not stand and function in that capacity for the purpose of the book. The book is given to the church to know, but it does not have the form and framework of an epistle written to the church. The word ‘church’ and the phrase ‘body of Christ’ are nowhere to be found in the entire writing of the book. Neither are there any subtle references made concerning the church in the body of the book. If the book was an epistle then we should find these observations an oddity. Any reference to the church we find is never direct, but in the form of an allegory, suitable for the prophetic language of the book. The term ‘the bride of the Lamb’ is an example of this symbolism. When the first three chapters use the term ‘to the churches’ or ‘to the seven churches,’ it is an allegory referring to all of Christendom (Rev. 1:4, 2:7, 17, etc.). When the term ‘church of Ephesus’ or ‘church of Smyrna’ is used, this again is referring to the entire outward society of professing Christianity in that particular period of time. If the church as the mystery of God is hidden from the book, and all Christ’s present relationships with the church are hidden (Head of the body and High Priest), then John’s apostleship relating to the church will be hidden as well.
The book is about biblical prophecy (Rev. 1:3). It has a definite Jewish character that is common to all prophecy. John stands in the role of an Old Testament prophet. The book parallels the prophecies of Daniel. In the first chapter John has a vision that is strikingly similar to the one Daniel has in Dan. 10:4-7 (Rev. 1:13-16). The physical effect of the visions was the same for both (compare Dan. 10:8-9 and Rev. 1:17).
Standing in the character of an Old Testament prophet, John would be looking at the world and the things that involve God’s government of the world. That is why at the beginning of his vision he is looking in the wrong direction, and is made to turn around to see the judgment of Christendom (Rev. 1:12). It is interesting how the verse emphasizes his turning by mentioning it two different times. The church is the mystery of God hidden from the Old Testament prophets and prophecy. In the book John is not functioning in his role as an apostle to the church.
All the above does not negate the fact that this prophetic book was given to the church. The reason for this is because of her position and relationship with the Father and Son. The church is privileged of God to know all that God is doing (John 15:15). God will not hide anything from His friends. This was the same privilege afforded to Abraham as a friend of God (Gen. 18:17). He observed how God judged Sodom and Gomorrah from a high and distant position. In this example Abraham prefigures the privilege of the church. We will observe the judgment of the world from a high and distant place. In the same way the judgments never touched Abraham and he was not in the midst of them, so also God’s coming judgments of the world will not touch the true church.
 The book of Revelation is about biblical prophecy (Rev. 1:3), and this alone gives the book a decidedly Jewish flavor. The subject of prophecy is about the earth, the nation of Israel, and God’s government of the earth through Israel. Prophecy is about earthly things and Israel is the earthly calling of God. Knowing the principle and character of prophecy explains the Jewish flavor of the book. We should be able to see these characteristics of prophetic writings in many examples in the book.
From the outset of the book God is viewed as Jehovah (Rev. 1:4). When Jesus is not viewed as the glorified Son of Man (Rev. 1:12-16), He also is viewed as Jehovah (Rev. 1:8, 11, 17). This is the name by which God made Himself known to Israel (Ex. 6:2-3). The prophet Isaiah saw Jehovah on His throne (Is. 6:1), and the Spirit of God through John identifies Isaiah’s vision as that of Jesus (John 12:41). This is definitely Jewish in character.
The revelation of God to the believer/church is that of Father. All the epistles preceding this book were written to the church or individual believers. The character of the epistles is communication from the Father and Son, through the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Most all the epistles have a greeting of grace from God our Father. Also in the epistles you find the Holy Spirit using the word ‘us’. It is how the Holy Spirit is united with the church as one in all communications to the church. “He hath loved us and washed us…” “…to the glory of God by us.” “…who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing…” “…just as He chose us in Him…” “…having predestined us…” “…He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” “In Him we have redemption through His blood…” “He made to abound toward us…” “He delivered us…” “…and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” “…His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” The Holy Spirit includes all the saints in all the blessings. All the Father has given us ‘in Christ’ is appropriated to all saints through the Holy Spirit’s use of the words ‘us’ and ‘we’ in the epistles. This use is not found in the Old Testament writings, or in the Revelation.
However this is the proper character of the Holy Spirit to the church. He joins in with the believer in the ‘us’ and ‘we’ because He is our seal, our earnest, our deposit and guarantee, the assurance of the blessings and the glory in Christ that is to come. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11). The Spirit will dwell in us forever (John 14:16-17). We see then that prophecy – that which will happen on the earth and concerns others, judgment, etc. – is not the proper character of the Spirit to the church. Prophecy does not involve the church. The church, of which believers are all individual members of the one body, is the mystery of God hidden from the prophets and prophecy. If the book of Revelation is prophecy then I would expect the body of Christ to be hidden from its content. Guess what? It is hidden throughout. Not one mention of ‘the church’ or ‘the body of Christ’. That is why the communication and character of the book of Revelation is so different from the communication and character of the epistles.
The book of Revelation does not fit the mold of the epistles, but is similar to the Old Testament writings. The introduction of the book is not an address of personal relationship. Rather it shows God as Jehovah and El Shaddi – a character of supremacy over all things, over all creation. The introduction shows the Holy Spirit as the providential power and working of Jehovah’s throne of government in the earth, not as the Comforter to the church (Rev. 1:4). In the book, whenever the name of Father is used in reference to God, it is only attached to the name of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:6) or the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 14:1). It is never directly attached to the believer/church as in the epistles (Rom. 1:7, I Cor. 1:3, II Cor. 1:2, etc.). The relationship of the wife with the Lamb isn’t even mentioned until the marriage of the Lamb in chapter 19. The system and relationships found in the book of Revelation are those commonly found in prophetic writings. They do not adhere to the character or relationship in which the epistles were written.
The book of Revelation is a Jewish book of prophecy. It is a book given to the church for the knowledge of the church. It is not given because these things will directly involve the church, but given because of our position and relationship in Christ and with Christ. “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) Israelites are always servants in the house of God, but the believer is a son (John 8:34-36). It is the church’s privilege to know and understand all that the Father has given to the Son (John 16:13-15), to know the very counsels of God (Eph. 1:9-11).
Abraham and Lot serve as a figure in depicting this relationship. God said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…” What God showed Abraham did not directly involve him. He watched the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from a distant height. The same is true with the book of Revelation given to the church. This book of God’s dealings in judgment with the world does not directly involve the church. Nevertheless it is given to the church to know. The true church is like Abraham – far removed from the judgments. The Jewish remnant in the end is like Lot – in the midst of all the trouble.
The book has an emphasis relating to the throne and the One who sits on the throne (Rev. 1:4, 4:1-3). But this is not a throne of grace for the church age. It is a throne of government of the earth, and what proceeds forth from it are judgments (Rev. 4:5). A throne of grace is related to the church. A throne of God’s government is related to the earth, and to Israel as the earthly calling and as the center of God’s government of the world. This is not depicting the loving relationship the church enjoys with the Father, as His children and sons.
The last point of Jewish character associated with the book is the use of the administration of angels. The book is given to John from Jesus Christ through His angel (Rev. 1:1). Many things in the book are delivered to John by and through angels, and they play a prominent role throughout. This should bring to mind the use of angels in the giving of the law to Israel at Mt. Sinai (Gal. 3:19), or the administration of angels with the prophet Daniel. This only adds to the Jewish flavor of the book.
 All the characters in which Jesus is viewed in the book of Revelation are related to judgments in the book. All judgment has been given by the Father to the Son, and this in the title of the Son of Man (John 5:22, 27). All the characters for Jesus in the book are related to the title, Son of Man. The Son of God took up this title when God prepared a body for Him and He came from heaven to die as a sacrifice for man’s sins (Heb. 10:1-14). He was the Son of Man in heaven, who came down from heaven, and having been lifted up on the cross and gone down under death, is the Son of Man that God raised from the dead to go back to heaven from whence He came (John 3:13-14, Matt. 17:9, John 6:62). It is the Son of Man who sits now at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69), waiting until His enemies will be made His footstool. For the understanding of the believer’s redemption it is of great importance that we comprehend that there is a Man who has gone into the glory of God. It is the Son of Man who returns with clouds, with power and great glory, to sit on His throne of glory and set up His kingdom (Matt. 16:28, 24:30, 26:64, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27). When we see the Lamb as though it had been slain (Rev. 5:6), it is Jesus in the title of the Son of Man and how the redemptive work is always associated with that title (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33, Matt. 12:39-40, 20:18, Luke 9:44, 11:29-30). When we see the King of kings coming in warring judgment we know it is the Son of Man coming with clouds and great glory (Rev. 1:7, 19:11-16, Matt. 24:30). It is Jesus, the Son, as the Son of Man, sitting on the great white throne.
Messiah is a title as well, but as to its own character and as a subject of prophecy, it is a title set aside. As long as Israel is set aside and not acknowledged by God, the Messiah title and all associated promises and prophecies are set aside as well. Messiah is a Jewish promise. This title involves the throne of David, the Promised Land, the houses of Judah and Israel joined back together as one people and one nation, twelve tribes restored and prospering in the land, and Jerusalem as the earthly capital of the government of God in the millennium – all Jewish and earthly blessings. This title has little to do with the true church.
It should be easy to see the Son of Man title associated with the redemptive work. And it should be easy to see all judgment associated with this title as well. It is the Son of God as the Son of Man who is Head of the body, the church. After all she is His body, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:29-30). And it can only be seen as the Son of Man raised up out of the grave by the power of God, and His body with Him exalted (Eph. 1:17-23). We remember that it was Jesus as the Son of Man and not Jesus as the Messiah to Israel who planted the wheat, the true sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13:37-38). The church only exists because the Son of Man is now at the right hand of God, glorified. Until He was glorified, the Spirit couldn’t be sent down to gather the church (John 7:39, I Cor. 12:12-13).
All the promises and blessings to Israel related to the Messiah title (those promises and covenants made to both David and Abraham on behalf of Israel) were promises secured by the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Acts 13:30-34, Rom. 15:8). All Israel’s promises and their having their Messiah, although they rejected these when He came to them in the flesh, are secured in a Christ in resurrection power and glory. The redemptive work of Christ is the foundation of all that God will bring to pass in the ages to come.
 The tares are different than the unbelieving world. In the parable the field is the world. It is made up of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. The tares have a profession of Jesus Christ and are part of the crop. This is different from the field. I believe the scriptures make a basic difference relating to the tares. If the ‘unworthy servant’ did not do his master’s will, he was judged and punished still as a servant. He was judged as a hypocrite, according to the position in which he was responsible. It is not said to him, ‘you are not a servant’ or ‘you were never my servant’. All of Christendom has this position on the earth, as servants to the Master. We all have this position by profession. What is said of the unworthy servant is, “the master of that servant will come…and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 24:50-51) It is hypocrisy. The tares have a profession of faith in Christ without having any genuine faith or actual relationship. The tares are judged and condemned on the basis of their profession. We are all servants by our simple profession of faith in Christ. Everyone in Christendom is a servant of the Master, whether they are wheat or tares. Therefore the evil servant is judged as a servant. He is never viewed as a son. Only true faith in Christ, and this as the gift of God, makes one a son of God and a true believer (Gal. 3:26, Eph. 2:8-10).
The great error of doctrine is in thinking and teaching that the evil servant is a believer and a Christian. It is the evil leaven we have spoken of that creates this dangerous assumption. In the parable we see that the evil servant is judged as a hypocrite and the wrath of God comes on him. The leaven would then have us assume this poor believer has lost the salvation that he once possessed as a Christian. The leaven creates the understanding that eternal life is not really that eternal. We are forced to make the false assumption that a true believer can forfeit his salvation and that this is dependent on some measure or level of human behavior. So much for Jesus saying, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” (John 10:27-30) The leaven will always lead us to circumvent the truth of Scripture, yes, even the very words of Christ. Then the implications of its teachings begin to branch out – there can be no peace with God or a perfect conscience where this leaven is embraced (Rom. 5:1, Heb. 9:9).
 Another important point can be made regarding the fact that these seven churches actually existed at the time of the messages. Even though the literal view is not the proper prophetic view of the two chapters and is not God’s intention for giving the seven messages, the wisdom of God uses the messages to impress upon Christendom, even in the first century, what is the proper hope and constant expectation of the church (Rev. 2:25, 3:11). Christians are to be looking for and expecting the Lord’s return for them, regardless of what century they find themselves in. (The removal of the true church from the earth is the subject of the second book of the Son of Man series, titled ‘The Blessed Hope of the Church.’)
 Seven is a prophetic number representing spiritual completeness, wholeness, or perfection. Yet with some prophetic subjects this number is divided into two divisions of three and four or four and three. This is the case with the seven churches. The first three are looking back and the corporate entity is being acknowledged by God. The last four are looking forward and the corporate entity is not acknowledged by God, being viewed by Him as corrupt. Also the first three have come and gone, while the last four exist in their distinct characters until the end.
In the book, the seven seals are divided into four and three (Rev. 6). The first four seals are providential in character, while the remaining three are quite distinct. If we look closely the trumpet and bowl judgments have a similar division. The seven parables that tell the prophetic story of the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13 are also divided into four and three. The first four were spoken to the multitudes with the disciples present. The last three were spoken in private to the disciples only. Those spoken to the multitudes have a more worldly perspective. Those spoken to the disciples in private carry more of a divine perspective.
 The principle of God’s government of the earth was with Israel all the time that Jehovah’s presence was with the nation. This presence was directly related to the Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God between the cherubim (II Sam. 6:2, Ps. 99:1), where Jehovah dwelt. When the presence of God leaves the earth (Ez. 10), the Ark of the Covenant was lost forever. This was God’s throne on the earth. The principle of the government of God was taken from Israel and given to the Gentiles.
We must see the connection and relationship between these three things: the shekinah glory of God, the Ark of the Covenant as the throne of God, and the principle of God’s government of the earth. They all go together and they will not be separated. That is why the glory of God leaves the earth in Ezekiel 10. It is why the glory does not return back to the earth until Ezekiel 43. This is in the millennial temple in Jerusalem, which the Prince of Israel will build, and the glory of the Lord will come and fill (Zech. 6:12-13, Ez. 43:1-7). It is the Son of Man sitting on the throne of God’s government over the entire earth.
The glory of the presence of the Lord is connected to the principle of God’s direct government of the earth. I know that many believers pray and ask God to send down His glory, and many others testify of seeing His glory. Yet the Biblical principle is that the glory does not return until after the times of the Gentiles are completed. I do not believe that our prayers and desires will bring the glory down before the building of the millennial temple. There is a biblical principle involved with the glory.
 The principle of calling begins with Abram. He was called by God and separated from the world (Gen. 12:1-3). This principle of calling continues in the flesh and by natural descent through the patriarchs, until God calls and delivers an entire nation out of bondage in Egypt. He brought them on eagles’ wings to Him at Mt. Sinai, there to be the people of the Lord Jehovah by calling (Ex. 19:4-5). This earthly calling continued in Israel until the time of their rejection of Messiah. At that time many things relating to Israel were set aside by God, one of which was their calling as the people of God. This setting aside the principle of calling in Israel was sealed by the Romans destroying the city and temple in 70 AD. Israel’s calling is according to the flesh and by natural descent, with circumcision in the flesh as a sign of that calling. Their religion is a walk in the flesh and a walk by sight. The law is not of faith, and therefore could not be a walk of faith (Gal. 3:12). Israel’s calling has always been earthly, in the flesh, and involved the promised land. At this time the principle of calling is with the body of Christ. The church is being gathered by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. The church has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1).
 Again, when we see the phrase, “To him who overcomes…” we automatically think an Arminian thought of human effort and struggle and accomplishment. ‘Try more, do more, build more’ should be the mantra. The believer is not labeled an ‘overcomer’ because he has accomplished a series of tasks assigned to him. If we would look at the Scriptures, without the bias of this corrupting doctrine, we will find a very different meaning to the term ‘overcomer,’ and this without the thought of human effort anywhere in sight:
1 John 4:4
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
1 John 5:1-5
(1) “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. (2) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (3) For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (4) For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (5) Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Those that are born of God are the overcomers. It is our faith that makes us overcomers, not our works or deeds. It is our position ‘in Christ’. It is a position that is lifted up above the world, and is in the grace of God. In Christ we are apart from the world and thus have overcome it. The one who overcomes the world is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the Christian position. The overcoming has already been accomplished by Jesus when you are found to be ‘of God, little children’. This is not an Arminian thought of human achievement. We are to be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world.
 The true Christian’s hope is another Biblical teaching that is drastically altered by the Arminian leaven. Most Christian teachings today concentrate on life here on the earth and have all kinds of hopes and promises from God for this life that are ascertained by ‘exercising’ faith, praying harder, fasting longer, or waiting patiently on the Lord. However the Scriptures teach that the Christian’s true hope is ‘unseen’ and hope that ‘is seen’ is not hope at all (Rom. 8:23-25). We hope for what we do not see. Doing this now, then we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. It is not by faith we make it happen now, or by much prayer and fasting we shorten the waiting time. True biblical faith is the means by which you eagerly wait ‘in perseverance’. How is that? Now or presently, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).
Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Can’t we see that our hopes are not of this world, are not to be found in this world? All the believer’s proper hopes are in glory, and realized when we are physically present with Christ. We have learned that this isn’t what people want to hear in the church world. You cannot build numbers by telling people they have to suffer with Christ now, so that they may be glorified with Him later (Rom. 8:18). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” People in professing Christianity don’t want to hear this stuff about suffering at this present time with Christ. It is not a popular message, and they will certainly go somewhere else. The leaven of human achievement simply doesn’t jive with ‘the sufferings of this present time’. But why do you think all the promises to the overcomers in the seven messages refer to blessings in glory? It is true concerning every one of them! It is because this is what God promises, and glory is the time for which He promises it.[I do not here speak of Christian virtues resulting from the new creation in Christ we have become, such as the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, patience, etc. We may develop these now because we possess the seal of the Spirit as sons and we have the life of Christ. We have the firstfruits of the Spirit, but we still groan within ourselves and wait (Rom. 8:23). These virtues or fruit of the Spirit are not Christian hopes unseen, but are to be seen and developed in the walk of faith of every believer presently]
One more reference: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises…” (Heb. 11:13) Even though this specifically references Old Testament saints, it is true concerning every New Testament believer that has passed. Every Christian that dies, dies in faith, having not received the promises. The promises are in glory. And even at death they did not receive them, because their bodies went to the grave and were not glorified. The rest of this verse has a remarkable parallel to the walk of faith, which every true New Testament believer has in the wilderness of this world: “…but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” We really do not have Christian hopes on the earth and in this world (II Cor. 4:17-18, Rom. 8:23-25). We are strangers to this world.[Again, the present fruits and virtues of our redemption are ours to possess and develop in our walk of faith on this earth. The true believer is the new creation of God in Christ Jesus and we possess Christ as our life. Yet all our hopes are in glory. We walk by faith presently, with affliction and sufferings and persecutions as our current portion (II Cor. 4:17, Rom. 8:18, John 16:33, 15:20). The difference between the Old Testament saint and the New Testament believer is that our redemption is already accomplished and our sins are borne away, and we possess eternal life. We are similar to them in that they did not receive the promises, but walking in faith in God who promised, they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. We also must wait for glory to receive the promises, and therefore walk by faith now.]
 When Satan is cast out of the heavens and down to the earth, all he will be able to do in retaliation against the heavens are the words he puts in the mouth of the Roman beast – “Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.” (Rev. 13:5-6) This has no effect on God or those that dwell in the heavens (the church), but it is woe to the inhabitants of the earth and sea (Rev. 12:12).
 We may think of the last two churches in a way that follows the parable of the wheat and tares, and the results in that parable at the time of harvest (Matt. 13:30 and 13:37-43). In this view the corporate body in Thyatira is Jezebel, which is Romanism. It is completely corrupt. The corporate body of Sardis, which is distinct from Jezebel, is Protestantism, and is spiritually dead. There is a distinct small remnant existing in both. Jezebel came into influence by the sixth century, while Sardis comes about in the seventeenth century. This is approximately 1100 years of separation in which Jezebel is what the world views as Christianity. Now we come to the last two churches – Philadelphia and Laodicea – and all becomes simple. At the end of the age there are wheat and tares. The remnants of both Thyatira and Sardis exit their corporate entities and form the remnant church Philadelphia. This is the wheat removed from the world and placed into the barn (Matt. 13:30). Laodicea is the entire corporate structure of Christianity together at the end, as God views it. It is not together in any unity between Romanism, Protestantism, and Evangelical Christianity, but as God views the entire organized outer body as corrupt, dead, highly arrogant, and full of itself in pride as to what it thinks it has accomplished. Laodicea then is the tares bundled together and left in the field to be burned. Laodicea represents Christ removing the candlestick from Christendom and His spewing Laodicea out of His mouth.
Now I realize that I’ve gotten ahead of myself as far as the teaching goes in the chapters of the book, as it relates to specific messages to these churches. But I wanted to show how the parable of the wheat and tares fits in and is understood in view of the seven messages by Christ to the churches. It has to fit because the two are generally speaking about the same thing – Christendom on the earth in responsibility until the end of the age. The parable speaks of a spoiled crop in the world with evil growing and ripening in it. The seven messages have the same general theme. The parable has a separation of the tares from the wheat at the end. In the seven messages I believe Philadelphia and Laodicea represent this separation.