This book is written to tell the story of the times of the church on earth. It is a history from beginning to end of the public witness and testimony of the body of professing Christianity. It is a story told from God’s perspective, directly from the testimony of His infallible and incorruptible Word. It is a spiritual analysis of what has gone before and of what has already been done, but then to make the story complete, also what its end will be. It is really God’s account from His Word of the moral history of Christendom, as opposed to man’s record of it.
The professing church’s responsibility was to be a public witness in the earth to the present glory of Christ. She was to be a testimony to the same world that rejected Christ in the flesh and cast Him out. The church’s responsibility while in the world is to show to the world the Christ that was in her. The professing church was to be the epistle of Christ, known and read by all men. She has the candlestick representing her work in responsibility, the light that God intended for her to shine into the darkness of the unbelieving world.
This book deals with the history of the church’s testimony and witness for Christ while it remains on the earth. It deals with the moral quality of that testimony through time, but with this one stipulation – it is as God sees and testifies of it, not man. Jesus is walking among the candlesticks of the churches, and He is there as a Judge (Rev. 1, 2, 3). He sees the works of Christendom. In Revelation 2, 3, His dealings with the church world are not in the character of giving inward grace through the Holy Spirit. These messages are not His affections for His beloved saints, His body, His bride. There is no promise or supply of strength as is commonly found in the epistles. He speaks of works and motives, future promises of Christian hopes in glory, encouragements, warnings, threatenings, and judgments. But it is never, “My grace is sufficient for you…” He is dealing with the responsibility of Christendom and its testimony to the world, and judging whether its position can and is being maintained.
The object being judged is not the true church, although the body of Christ is certainly hidden in this object of His attention. We will discover that the seven churches represent all of Christendom – all that has a profession of the name of Christ – as one public corporate body. Its responsibility was to maintain the light of its candlestick. In the end we will find the utter rejection by God of Christendom as a public witness on the earth. In the last of the seven messages to the churches, the character of Christ presented is as the Faithful and True Witness. This is because the public body of Christendom couldn’t maintain a suitable witness for God and preserve this role in its time of responsibility.
Jesus, the Son of God, is judging and speaking to the church world. In every message it is, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” These messages should be treated with the greatest importance. They speak of Christendom’s history. They reveal Christianity’s responsibilities, as these existed before God in that history. But the professing church isn’t listening and isn’t learning. Its interests are found elsewhere. Christendom has been occupied with the world and has been corrupted. She is no longer guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, but embraces the wisdom of the world (I Cor. 1:17-28). Her testimony has been a failure. Her candlestick is to be removed.
Many will object saying, “Christ will build His church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. What you are saying cannot be right!” But professing Christianity is not His body, the church. It is a mistake if you think it is. And Christendom on the earth can fail and has failed; the testimony of the Holy Spirit in Scripture proves this. It is another mistake if you think it cannot. In the beginning of the book of Revelation (Rev. 2, 3) we see the public testimony of the church world judged as a failure. Toward the end of the book we see the public manifestation of His bride, the true church (Rev. 19). This is not failure. There she is the sovereign grace, power, and work of God. There God displays her, as His workmanship, in His glory. There she is what Christ is saying, “I will build My church…” And the gates of hell will not prevail against her because she is the sovereign work of God.
This book will be difficult for many Christians to read. There is no reason to sugar-coat the truth and authority of the testimony of God’s Word. There is no doubt that God has a different opinion of the church world from the exaggerated ones of ministers and men. We are always guilty of thinking more highly of ourselves and our own work than we ought to think. We do not think soberly. We are hesitant to call evil as evil, and become content to live and function as believers in the midst of it. We attach the label of God’s work and the name of Christ to many things. And we become comfortable in and with the present state and conditions.
We will not allow ourselves to admit that Christendom will never return to Pentecost. We think and teach that this is her right and privilege to do so. We think that God will pour out His power and His Spirit on the mess we’ve created, while all along we are failing to recognize it as the mess it is. I speak of the external body of Christendom as a corporate entity. We will discover just how much Scripture directly refers to this corporate structure. I am not speaking of individual believers, however spiritual or faithful they may be, and God’s willingness to give grace and bless them. I am not referring to local assemblies, and whether they may or may not receive blessings from the Lord, however more difficult this may be than individual blessing. But I speak of how God views Christendom as one single body before Him in testimony, and how every professing Christian is connected to the corporate responsibility of that public entity. Individually we are all part of its testimony and its light.
We plead with God in prayer to bless it. But we can’t even define what the ‘it’ is we want God to bless. “It is the church, the body of Christ!” But how and where do you really see the true body of Christ? If we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we can’t know this. The body of Christ is scattered everywhere and today there remains no discernible bond of unity. When a minister calls out to the body of Christ to rise up and do anything, how is this actually done? Who are they speaking of? Who are they including? Who are they excluding? How do you see the body of Christ today, to be able to actually speak to it? Isn’t it the Baptists, the Church of God, the Independents, maybe Presbyterians or Pentecostals that you are asking for? What do you think of the Roman Catholics? I know one thing we must admit about all the groups – they all name the name of Christ and every last individual is part and member of the professing church. And this is the same corporate body you and I are part of, for good or bad, better or worse. This is Christendom, and man has made a mess of it.
God is a holy God and He will not bless the unholy mess. He will not compromise His own nature and character. God looks at Christendom and He sees what man has done. Nothing can be hidden from Him. If God knows the thoughts and intentions of the human heart, and He knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, then I believe He sees and fully understands what man has done in the corporate history of Christianity. Our thoughts and reasoning rarely turn out to be the thoughts and reasoning of God. Today man charges ahead to do his thing, having received a feeling in prayer, a confirmation from somewhere, without ever seriously consulting the one authority we have been left with – the Word of God.
This book is filled with passages from the Scriptures that are intended to serve to impress upon the reader the validity of the points being made. This book is my attempt to allow God’s Word to bring in its own testimony concerning the state and condition of the professing church. It is my effort to pull out from God’s Word His account of the times of the church on earth. My source is not the history books of men, but the testimony of the Son of God walking among the candlesticks. I pray that the eyes of your understanding will be opened by the teaching of the Spirit of God. I pray that you will understand and know the truth of God, as it can only be found in His Word. I sincerely pray that when the Lord comes for His church, that you and I will be found in the character of Philadelphia. May you learn how to keep the patience of Christ (Rev. 3:10). May God bless you in your reading and efforts.
Personal note: Paul said in Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…” As I said in the previous book, the seal of the Spirit in the individual believer is not something Paul could see or we can see, being in this physical world (Eph. 1:13). I do believe, and the Scriptures teach this, that every individual sealed with the Spirit knows he is a son of God because the Spirit of sonship given to him cries out in his heart, “Abba, Father.” The presence of the Holy Spirit in the individual believer is witnessed to that individual and made apparent by the Spirit. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom. 8:15-16) The individual believer may not fully understand his redemption and justification in Jesus Christ, but he will know if he belongs to God. God sees the seal and knows those who are His (II Tim. 2:19). But again, the seal of the Spirit in others is not obvious to us.
There is a similar thought that involves the teaching of the Scriptures and Christian doctrine. God’s ways are simply not man’s ways or the world’s ways. His ways of teaching His truth do not involve human wisdom or worldly wisdom. God’s wisdom is foolishness to man and the world. Man’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom is foolishness to God. There is a portion of Scripture in first Corinthians that attempts to make these differences clear (I Cor. 1:17 – 2:16). God’s wisdom and God’s ways in teaching His truth are expressed here:
1 Corinthians 2:9-12
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
(10) But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (11) For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
What does it mean to be taught the things of God only as they can be taught, that is, by the Spirit of God? Do we even know what this is, what it looks like? The underlying nagging problem is that we can’t really put our physical fingers on this. We can’t measure it and bottle it up, and so, we often have a dullness of ability to recognize it if ever we do experience it. What does the teaching of the things of God by the Spirit look like or sound like? Just as we cannot see the seal of the Spirit in other believers, the teaching of the Word by the Spirit becomes difficult to see and recognize. Yet it is essential that we have this. We must have this and this alone, for teaching Christian doctrine and knowing God’s truth.
For the most part the masses of Christendom sit back and assume that this is automatically accomplished by God on their behalf in the ministers that are set before them. Then by association, the same assumptions are made of the institutions and seminaries that teach and prepare the ministers. And the assumptions go on and on. The theologians and professors in the schools of higher learning in Christendom assume that their brand of theology represents the truth of God ascertained by their great efforts in Biblical scholarship.
Is that what God intended in the above passage? I am convinced that man’s ideas about Biblical scholarship are not God’s thoughts or ways, or anywhere close to being so. Man loves his intelligence and he loves his efforts and accomplishments. So we emphasize these things in the learning of the Hebrew and Greek languages, to examine sentence constructs and derivations of words, breaking it down so we can discover our hidden meanings and interpretations of passages. How is this not the use of worldly wisdom, which God says is foolishness to Him? If an unbeliever can and does accomplish the same type of scholarship, given the opportunity, how is this unique to the believer as stated in the above passage? “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” Many unbelieving Jews have far more understanding of the use of the Hebrew and Greek languages, even in a Biblical setting, than we do. How can this be Christian scholarship if the world can accomplish the very same thing?
We speak of orthodoxy of Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology and bring in hermeneutical systems of exegesis – literal, classical, prophetic, apocalyptic, or spiritualized – in order to form our sense of theological order. We have covenant structure theologians arguing and debating with the supposedly less than scholarly dispensationalists about abstract logic, historical progress, retrospective interpretation, and the process of differentiation. How is this not human wisdom? Is this really the Spirit of God teaching the things of God? Does this sound like Paul? He says in the broader passage referred to above, “And I brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God…I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom…”
I know the world cannot receive the Spirit of God (John 14:17). Therefore the world cannot know the things of God, and cannot possibly have the ability to teach those things by the Spirit (I Cor. 2:12-14). But I also know the world can easily do many of the things mentioned above; things that Christendom has become dependent on; things its leaders put forth as Christian or Biblical scholarship. How does that make sense? Why do we depend, as it appears we do, on worldly wisdom or the means and ways of the world? We must have the truth of the Word taught by the Spirit; that which is not available or possible for the world to experience or accomplish for the reason they do not have the Spirit of God. Why do we depend so much in mimicking worldly scholarship and assume this is what God has provided for us?
There is always a sense of infiniteness about God’s Word. It has a living source from which it flows – it is from God Himself. There is a living power at work that permeates its connections and composition. All its principles and truths, so instrumental in understanding the details of passages, center on Christ and refer to Him. The purpose and plan of God, who works all things by the counsel of His will, will have in the dispensation of the fullness of times all the glory of God – both heavenly and earthly – centered on Christ as its Head (Eph. 1:9-11). It is the workings of the Spirit of God alone, through the Word, which serve to reveal these things and give us understanding of them. Even that which we learn, and learn well, is only knowing in part and seeing through a glass dimly, demonstrating our human feebleness in apprehension. That is why in this day we desperately need divine teaching – only God’s Word – taught through a divine agent – the Spirit of truth (John 15:26, 16:13-15).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…” This time is today in the church world (II Tim. 4:3). Either we are taught the things of God by God’s Spirit, or we may as well not learn at all. We should always go to Scripture not to explain Scripture, but to receive from it only what God is saying. In teaching and doctrine we should only say what is in the Scriptures without adding human thoughts. This may seem much to do about nothing, but without this discipline we soon have the creation of systems of doctrine and hermeneutical schemes instead of actually benefiting from divine teaching. This is what is desperately needed today. It only comes out of the Word by the Holy Spirit. It is my hope that this book will motivate you to study God’s Word on your own, for your own benefit.
This is the third book in a series of seven. I use the NKJV translation for all quoted scriptures in the book. There are many more passages listed in the text of the chapters and endnotes. These books are written is such a way that in reading them you have to continually refer to your own bible. It is how you determine for yourself that the things I’m saying are not just made up, the makings of a cynical mind. Your prayerful efforts to do this are part of the Spirit of God teaching you the things of God for yourself. It is your efforts to be in a position to have ‘ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches’. It is work. But you are becoming a workman, approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). I hope that in all I write, I am always pointing you to the only source of truth, the Word of God.
I am not trying to sound arrogant. I do not think I have great knowledge. I apologize if that is the impression you have of me already from this preface. I simply believe that God has taught me these things by His Spirit. I am confident that He has. I have a desire to share these things as a teacher with any believer who ‘has an ear to hear’. I believe these things are so important and that the time is short.
Jezebel in Thyatira is corruption
Sardis is spiritually dead
God gathers His faithful remnant – Philadelphia
The corporate body is spewed out of His mouth. The candlestick is removed.