7 Letters To 7 Churches

How Jesus Summarized 2000 Years Of Church History In Just 51 Verses

After John penned and published the book of Revelation toward the end of the first century, the biggest mystery to early readers wasn't the 7 scenes in Heaven, the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets, the 7 signs, the 7 plagues or the 7 final visions. The biggest mystery to early readers was probably the easiest portion of the book to understand, which were 7 short little messages that Jesus sent to 7 churches: the church of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

In those 7 short little messages, Jesus gave those contemporary assemblies a Spiritual progress report and pep-talk. It was the easiest and least cryptic portion of the entire book of Revelation. But why those 7 churches? There were so many other churches around besides those 7, why didn't Jesus say anything to them? Why didn't Jesus send a message to the church in Jerusalem or the church in Rome? What's the real point behind Jesus sending those 7 little text-messages to those 7 churches?

Upon further investigation, the early readers of Revelation discovered that with those 7 short messages, Jesus had managed to address every individual Christian of every individual church of every church age from the 1st century to the time of the Great Tribulation. If any individual Christian will read those 7 messages, they will discover that one of those messages is specifically for them no matter what time of history they're reading. A Christian living in the 21st century, for example, can read those 7 messages and find that one of them is Jesus specifically speaking to them, addressing their problems, offering constructive criticism and encouragement. The same applies corporately for Christian assemblies. If any Church or Christian assembly will read those 7 messages, they will also discover that one of those messages is specifically written for their group.

The final application for these 7 messages is probably the most astounding. As the centuries progressed after John published the book of Revelation, it became apparent that the history of the church with all of it's highs and lows had been prophetically anticipated and revealed by the order in which Jesus gave those 7 messages.

The letter to Ephesus anticipated the age of apostolic planting (1st Century) which started off with a serious devotion to doctrinal purity due to the overwhelming presence of demonic doctrines that were constantly in competition with the 1st Century Church. Unfortunately, the demand for doctrinal purity became a legalistic obsession that overtook the Christian's original walk of love for the One Who bought them. This can happen to any Christian if they aren't careful. But it happened to the whole assembly in Ephesus and many other 1st century churches during this time in history.

The letter to Smyrna anticipated the age of persecution (1st - 3rd Century) in which Christians were hunted down and killed by the leading governments and religious factions of the world. Being persecuted is part of the job description of being a Christian. Christians have been persecuted in all manner of ways throughout the past 2000 years. No Christian at any point in history is immune to persecution. But it was during the first three centuries that it would seem that Satan went out of his way to wipe Christians off the face of the earth.

The letter to Pergamum anticipated the age of the Imperial church (4th - 6th Century) when world governments and religious factions stopped persecuting Christians and decided to work with them instead. Church and State became one and the same. The result was a massive growth of Christianity that became so large that individual assemblies had to resort to imposing hierarchies and dignitaries within each group, which had to report back to local government officials. Because world governments did not always agree with Biblical doctrine, Christianity began to compromise with governments by allowing the doctrine of other religions into their practices and teachings to keep the peace.

The letter to Thyatira anticipated the age of the Papacy (6th Century - Present Day) which began when the massive, powerful, world empire of Rome became one with the Imperial Church. Christian devotion, Christian teaching, Christian education, Christian charities and Christian outreach programs exploded all over the world. To this day, no church group can outmatch the level of giving, love, charity and outreach efforts of the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, since the Roman Empire was the pagan capital of the world, almost all of it's idolatry and paganism had been re-packaged as Christian practices under the Catholic Church to keep the followers of all religions satisfied. Rituals and formalities that once honored Zeus, Apollo, Athena & Venus became rituals and formalities to honor Jesus Christ. Demonic rituals became Christian rituals. The Holy Scriptures, which had been the ultimate authority of Christian doctrine, was usurped and replaced by the authority of the Pope and the Priestly order of the Roman Catholic Church.

In recent centuries, all manner of outrageous occultic spiritualism and idolatry has been embraced by the Roman Catholic Church under various Christian aliases. In the 21st Century, many Christian groups (both Catholic & Protestant) began to embrace "a larger view of Christianity" which marries itself into Islam, Hinduism, the New Age and every religion on the planet. This hybrid spirituality is accepted, promoted and will be lead by the Roman Catholic Church. Islam's Queen of Heaven and the Catholic's interpretation of the Virgin Mary are one and the same. This is also where the "co-exist" movement is going, for those of you who may have seen these bumper stickers on people's cars.

Not all Catholics hold to these occultic and idolatrous strongholds of Roman Catholicism, which is why Jesus made a point to clarify in his letter who and what the targets are of his commendations and his threats. To those who do not hold to these demonic doctrines, Jesus has nothing but good things to say. To those who DO hold these demonic doctrines, Jesus made the most violent threat found in any of the 7 letters. He promised that He would personally kill the idolatrous promoters and their followers during the time of the Great Tribulation.

In other words, faithful Christians within the Roman Catholic Church will be raptured outta here before the Great Tribulation. Those left behind in the Roman Catholic Church after the rapture (who aren't true Christians) will be joined by the false Christians who were left behind within protestant and non-denominational groups. Together, they will broaden their idolatry by aligning themselves with the Antichrist and endorse the Beast of Revelation. This super-satanic religion under the banner of Christianity is prophetically called, "The Woman Who Rides The Beast" in Revelation 17.

The letter to Sardis anticipated the age of the Protestant Reformation (16th Century - Present Day) in which individual Christians rediscovered their roots in Biblical authority. The Bible was translated into English and many other languages for the first time under great protest and persecution from the Roman Catholic Church. The re-awakening of Biblical Christianity started a movement within Europe that migrated over into the United States, a land free from Catholic persecution. In the United States, a Christian could rely on the Bible to define their faith instead of the Roman Catholic Church.

As Christian groups studied the Scripture, they each segregated into different denominational groupings that complimented their interpretations. All denominations agreed to the vitals of the Christian faith while agreeing to disagree over everything else. While this age of church history was rich and vibrant in it's founding, reestablishing the Word of God as it's ultimate authority, it wasn't long before most of it's churches became dead in their formalities. Today, most denominational churches are merely churning through the motions, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

Before Jesus had anything nice to say to Sardis, he accused them of being spiritually dead and admonishes them to wake up before what little there is left among them dies also. He also warns them that if they don't wake up from their spiritual coma, they will be caught off guard by HIS RETURN when He comes! I've noticed this among most of today's denominational churches. They have no idea where we are in prophetic history because they choose not to teach Bible prophecy. Much like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, they can't interpret the signs of the times; neither are they interested.

Then after painting a broad brush, Jesus clarifies that there are a few exceptions among the members of denominational churches that are still awake and haven't soiled themselves in their coma. It is from out of the snoring of the sleeping church that two Christian groups escape and make up the following two church ages: Philadelphia and Laodicea.

The letter to Philadelphia anticipated the age of individual missionaries and Bible-based assemblies of small numbers (18th Century - Present Day) outside the traditional confines of either Catholic or Protestant Denominationalism. Personally, I would call this the "Reformation 2.0" with the same motives and objectives of the first reformation, only this time getting it right and going all the way; getting the focus away from church buildings and religious ritualism and returning the Christian assembly back to it's roots: Home-Prayer, Home-Bible-Study, living out the Christian life daily and faithfully in the power of the Holy Spirit, gaining support and giving support to other Christians along the way who are engaging in the same walk, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

No focus is made on church buildings or on which days to worship because the small Philadelphian assembly can meet in people's living rooms as often as they wish. Since the Christian walk is a constant way of life for Philadelphians and not just a religious ritual that's performed once a week, they may desire to meet as often as 7 nights a week. No one has to force a Philadelphian Christian to assemble with other Philadelphian Christians. There are no rules or regulations about where to meet or how often. They aren't necessary.

Philadelphian Christians might visit or attend a local church, but their attendance is merely an additive or a supplement to their walk, not the walk itself. Their loyalties are to Christ and His Word and to their fellow brothers and sisters in the Family of God, not to any local church group or pastor.

Jesus had nothing but good things to say to the Philadelphian assembly and encouraged them with a promise that they would be raptured outta here before the Great Tribulation. I've noticed this among most of today's Philadelphian Christians. They have a healthy anticipation for the imminent rapture. They have a healthy and progressive grasp on where we are in prophetic history because they choose to learn all of the Bible, including Bible prophecy which makes up more than a third of the entire Bible.

The letter to Laodicea anticipated the age of lukewarm Christianity (20th Century - Present Day) which Jesus found disgusting enough to induce vomiting. Much like the Philadelphian Christians, the Laodicean Christians felt an urgent and desperate need to wake up and escape the sleeping church of Sardis. But unlike Philadelphia who accomplished this by returning to the Bible, Laodicea simply took Sardis and made it contemporary.

Choirs were abolished. The same old hymns of the past 400 years were replaced with contemporary pop/Christian music. Organs and pianos were replaced with guitars and drums. Church hymnals were replaced with overhead projectors. Suits and ties were replaced with blue-jeans and t-shirts. And last but not least, the slow-moving, white-headed preacher was replaced with a young, outgoing and charismatic fellow who could double for a stand-up comedian.

While there isn't anything wrong with newer music, guitars and drums, overhead projectors, casual attire and upbeat speakers, the Laodicean reasoning behind it is what's sickening. It's as if the dead church of Sardis were a man going through his mid-life crisis grasping for relevancy in a modern culture. Instead of turning to the timeless wisdom of Scripture for relevancy, they turn to the culture.

Ladies, you know how you feel when you see a man over 50 wearing the latest teen fashions, driving a brand-new red convertible with a young 20-something leaning on his shoulder as they zoom down the main drag listening to Meghan Trainor and Selena Gomez? That's how Jesus feels when he looks at a Laodicean church.

What's worse, is that in order to remain relevant with the latest cultural trends, the Laodicean church is willing to water down, skip-over, delete and/or compromise immovable doctrines of Scripture, without even admitting it. At least Thyatira has the guts enough to be blasphemous and deny Biblical authority while standing behind demonic doctrine. Laodicea deceptively stands behind demonic doctrine while claiming they believe the Bible from cover to cover!

"There is only one God and I believe all the world prays to the same God."

"Abortion is a sin because it's murder, but I believe in a woman's right to choose."

"Gay marriage is a sin because marriage is between a man and a woman, but I'm glad the Supreme Court overturned state bans on gay marriage."

"Christians should never judge anyone for anything, unless we're judging other Christians who have a problem with abortion or gay marriage."

"Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me' and that's why I'm saved because I believe in Jesus. But I believe everyone is God's child, I don't believe in a literal Hell and I believe everyone has their own Jesus so who are we to judge?"

Sardis VS. Philadelphia VS. Laodicea
I think it's interesting how easily one can define to whom which of the last three church letters applies just by observing open reactions to various topics:

At first, willing to die for the preservation of this doctrine. Today, desensitized to this awesome gift and presumptuous about their own sin.

Ephesians 2:8-9 balanced with James 2:17 in which faith alone permanently saves, but faith that permanently saves is never alone without works.

Because the cross forgives everyone of everything... "No one can judge us, the Grace of God is a license to sin, leave me alone, I can do whatever I want."

At first, willing to die for the preservation of this doctrine. Today, desensitized to this awesome gift and no one will read the Bible. The only passion you'll get from Sardis about the Word of God is when someone dares to challenge the divine authority of the "King James Only" crowd.

Loves the Word of God and will read any part of it at any time at any place in any English translation they can get their hands on. They're devoted only to a few modern English translations for study and clarification. The original Hebrew, Greek & Aramaic is constantly in view. To them, the Bible is like water. You can't ever get enough of it. Talking about it and sharing things with others about it is a passion that never burns out.

Officially, they claim to believe 100% of the Bible. But when any Biblical doctrine is brought up, or a position of sin is addressed, they will say that only parts of the Bible are true because the Bible was written by man, our copy is a copy of a copy of a copy full of mistakes, you can't interpret everything because of it's cultural and mistaken context. It's no better or worse than the writings of any other religion. Unlike the mentality of the "KJV Only Crowd", they go too far in the opposite direction, blindly accepting any and all modern English translations. In recent years, there have cropped up many new English translations and paraphrases that are so butchered and watered down from what was originally written, that it's no wonder the Laodiceans believe as they do about the Word of God.

"Come to church and be quite!!"

"Let's get together someplace where we can pray together, talk about the Word and what the Lord's been up to in our lives."

"Come to church and make noise!!"

They have no idea where we are in prophetic history because they choose not to teach Bible prophecy. They can't interpret the signs of the times; neither are they interested because it would require being awake and alert.

Almost all of these Christians can quote 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18 by heart. The emotional characteristics of the Philadelphia Christian concerning Bible Prophecy & The Rapture is in verse 18: "we comfort and encourage each other with these words" of Bible prophecy and our coming King. While it's interpreted as doom and gloom for the Laodicean, it's the blessed hope and exciting adventure for the Philadelphian.

These open-minded, non-judgmental Christians are the most hostile and closed-minded when it comes to discussing Bible prophecy or the Rapture of the Church. They react with fear, anger and arrogant ignorance. It's the most uncomfortable topic you can bring up to a Laodicean Christian, the fact that Jesus promised to return and even gave us signs and evidences to be watchful for to determine how close we are. What's more uncomfortable is when those signs and evidences are all over the front page news and they still don't want to talk about it.

Sardis & Laodicean Offshoots:
There are exiles from Sardis and Laodicea who have been aroused by the signs of the times and are now embracing their fears by preparing for the arrival of the Antichrist. Because Sardis & Laodicea had previously placed little importance on knowing the whole counsel of Scripture, their fear has led them to believe we're destined to go through the Great Tribulation. Instead of watching for the return of Christ to pick up His Bride, they're preparing for Christ to beat-up and abuse His Bride during the wrath to come. Their fear keeps them blinded to the Biblical truth that will relieve their fears and they will slander any Christian who believes in a Pre-Tribulational Rapture.

"God is in control so let me sleep."

"God is in control so let me live for Christ. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain."

"God is not in control, I'm in control. Sometimes, God helps. God is good!."

When the Supreme Court overturned state's bans on gay marriage, legalizing it all 50 states, I noticed three main reactions from the Christian community that are parallel to the last three church ages prophetically described in Jesus' messages to 7 churches.

The official reaction from Sardis:
"zzzz... zzzz... zzzz... zzzz... zzzz... zzzz..."

The official reaction from Philadelphia:
"This is a sad day for America. Unless the church unites against this, then we are salt that has lost it's flavor and our light has truly gone out. Remember II Chronicles 7:14. Otherwise, this nation should prepare for God's judgment. Hosea 4:6 & Jeremiah 7:16."

The official reaction from Laodicea was everything from
"Love Wins!!! Yay!!!" to "I apologize to the gay community for Christian hate and bigotry because our judgment of you is destroying any potential relationship. Who are we to judge? We're all sinners! God even told us not to eat shrimp in Leviticus!"

What are Jesus' own words to the 21st Century Christians of the United States of America?

To The Sleeping Christian of Sardis: Wake Up!!!
"I know your works, that you have a name and reputation for being alive, but in reality you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain that are about to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard from the beginning; hold fast and repent. If you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (JPA Paraphrase)

To The Weak and Insignificant Christian of Philadelphia: Hang In There!!!
"I know your works and what you are doing. I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut. I know that you are weak and have very little power, and yet you have kept My Word, guarded My message and have not denied My name. Take note! I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they follow Me but lie, I will make them come and bow down to Me before your feet and so learn and acknowledge that I have loved you. Because you have guarded and kept My word of patient endurance and have held fast the lesson of My patience with the expectant endurance that I give you, I also will keep you from the hour of trial and testing which is coming upon the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one may rob you and deprive you of your crown." (JPA Paraphrase)

To The Lukewarm Christian of Laodicea: Repent!!!
"I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot. I wish you were one or the other. But because you are lukewarm and neither cold or hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, I've become wealthy and have need of nothing’ while not knowing that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed. Anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (JPA Paraphrase)

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