Revelation: Thyatira & Sardis.

Continued from previous post…

Now we are ready to read what John was shown.

          “Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it.  Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.”  Rev. 11:1, 2

Since 70 CE, when Titus and his army destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, no other temple has been built to replace it, and the New Jerusalem does not have a temple (Rev. 21:22), so we can eliminate both of these as the holy city that will be trod on for forty-two months (1260 years, see Appendix 2).

 In the previous chapter of this book we saw that a woman stands for a city, which stands for a group of people that have something in common.  In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul says that Christians are the temple of God.  So what we learn here is that true believers will be safe spiritually even though they may be harmed physically (trod under foot). Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matt. 10:28

          “And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”  These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth.”  Rev. 11:3, 4

          We saw in Revelation Chapter 1 that the seven churches are represented by the seven lamp stands surrounding Jesus– one lamp stand for each successive church.  So why are only two lamp stands mentioned in Rev. 11?  What happened to the other five?  There are only two lamp stands in this vision because the events that are being described apply to only two of the churches – Thyatira and Sardis.  These two churches existed during the 42 months, the 1260 years, mentioned above in Rev. 11.  This time span lasted from the time the Bishop of Rome achieved undisputed authority in 538 CE until the Pope was put in prison in 1798 CE.

jezebel                                                                     monk11

chart3The two olive trees are the Holy Spirit and Jesus (see Appendix 2) and they are with the churches throughout their experiences.  Even though they have the power to “…devour their enemies…to shut up the sky…and to strike the earth with every plague…” (Rev. 11: 5. 6) they do not do so during this time.  Why?  Because whenever true believers were brought to trial and forced to defend themselves, they became powerful “witnesses” for God’s truth.  Some who saw their bravery and heard the truth in their words became believers themselves.

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Revelation: Sweet and Bitter Words.

I know you are probably ready to read about the seventh church and the seventh seal; ready to find out what is going to happen at the end of the world.  We could do that, but we would only understand part of what we are reading about if we did that right now. 

You see, what has happened in the past has brought us to where we are now; and what has happened in the past is going to happen again.  Therefore, it is important to spend some more time learning what happened to a couple of churches in the past so we will know what to expect when it is our turn to go through times of trouble.

          Did you ever have to give someone bad news?  If you loved that person and cared about his or her feelings, you probably tried to soften the blow by giving some good news first, or at least tried to find something positive to ease the pain of what was to follow. 

men  “The good news is…”

Our God is a merciful God, and when Jesus was giving John visions of what was to come, he made sure to give John hope before giving the bad news, which would give hope to those believers who would read Revelation and go through the troubles described.  Jesus followed the pattern established with Daniel and the visions about world empires – successive visions with each vision adding more detail than the last. 

So what we have in the remaining chapters of Revelation are words and visions of hope followed by more and more detail regarding the times of the churches – including the seventh and last church.  But we are going to follow the story chronologically, so as we discuss each topic you will find we are jumping from vision to vision, collecting the pieces and putting them together into one continuous story line.  At first we will be skipping parts of the good news, or the words of hope, because they refer to the end of the story.  We will address them in their proper time.

          In Ezekiel 3:1 we find that Ezekiel, a prophet for God, was told to, “…eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.”  In Revelation Chapter 10, before John is given more information as to what will happen to two of the churches we looked at in the last chapter of this book, an angel holds a book and John, also a prophet of God, is told to take the book and eat it.  He is also told that, “…it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” (verse 9)  This confirms what we discussed in the previous paragraph where our merciful God mixes good news with the bad news that John must relate. 

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Revelation: The Church of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia:  Evangelism           Sixth Seal:  Stirring Up       1798 CE – ? CE

          Spirituality

          “I know your deeds.  Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.  Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”  Rev. 2: 8, 10-12

          The Protestant movement withstood the assault from the false church and it began to grow exponentially.  On top of that, in 1798 CE  General Berthier of the French army removed Pope Pius VI from his papal throne, religiously weakening and politically crippling the Catholic Church.  The Protestants had persevered, had kept God’s truth, and now that the Catholic church was in a weakened state, a door had opened and it was time for them to reach the whole world with their message.  (see 1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:3)

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But what is this hour of God’s testing?  It is a two-week (see Appendix 2) period of time that ends the Philadelphia church era when the people of the world will be shaken up and tested.  (see Jam. 5:9)  You see, when you test something, you are trying to determine if it passes a certain criteria; you are making a judgment as to something’s worthiness.  For instance, in school we wrote exams so the teacher could judge whether or not we knew the subject matter well enough to pass and move on in our studies.  In this passage Jesus is telling his followers during this era that the testing is not for them, it is meant for the world.  They are told to simply hang on to the truth.  Jesus promised his messengers that they would be with him in the temple of the New Jerusalem when it was set up and that they would be called by His name.

            Experience

          “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth…The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.  Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”  Rev. 6: 12-17

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This picture is of the Alpha-Monocerotid meteor outburst in 1995. blood_moon_14240857645  first_st-_from_mission_6348603062

Denali National Park and Preserve                      Earthquake: San Francisco.

          As the Philadelphia church era ends, the sixth seal will be opened and, within the two-week period time of testing, these signs are going to be given.  As they occur, great fear will grip people and test their beliefs – or lack thereof.  Jesus, in Luke 21: 25, 26, said the same thing as here in Revelation when he said, “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars…men fainting from fear….” Jesus also said in verse 31 that, “…when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”

These signs will frighten even the bravest, but we see in Revelation 7:1, the verse that immediately follows the sixth seal and precedes the seventh seal, that John says, “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth or on the sea or on any tree.”   Angels are sent to delay the final calamities that will occur under the seventh seal and fall upon the earth during the era of the seventh church.  This is so that the gospel can be preached to the entire world and those shaken up by the hour of testing will have a chance to turn to God and be saved.  This is a probation period for Christians living in the end times, similar to the 70-week probation period given to the Jews that ended in 34 CE when Stephan was stoned.  (see chapter three)  We do not know how long our probation period is going to be, but Jesus’ warning in Luke 21: 31 that says these signs mean that the kingdom of God is near, so we can assume it will be a short time span.

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Revelation: The Church of Sardis.

Sardis: Truth            Fifth Seal: Reformation             1517 CE – 1797 CE

          Spirituality

          “…I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.  So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent…But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”  Rev. 2: 1-5

          Jezebel had almost completely wiped out those who remained faithful to the pure teachings of Jesus, but the truth was not yet dead even though it looked like it.  A spark remained and it was about to be kindled into a full-blown fire.  Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, was a man in search of truth.  As he dug into the Bible he found that much of what he had believed in his previous religious life was untrue.  In 1517 CE he bravely wrote out the truths he had discovered and then posted them (his 95 theses, see Appendix 3) so everyone who could read would see the truth.  Some others, both in religious and political offices, saw the truth in what Martin Luther had discovered and together they started what became known as the Protestant Reformation (“protest”ing the false teachings of the Jezebel church).  Jesus promised those who fought against the false church that they would be clothed in white and have their names written in the book of life.

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            Experience

          “When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.”  Rev. 6: 9-11

          The Jezebel church was not going to give up its power easily and the persecutions continued, but this time it was aimed at the visible and vocal Protestant movement.  Some European political powers stood up to the church for the first time, refusing to turn over their citizens to be killed, and Jezebel found herself losing power.

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Anonymous engraver from the 17th century, “Way to burn those who were condemned by the inquisition.”

Revelation: The Church of Thyatira.

Thyatira: Faithfulness               Fourth Seal: Religious Persecution            538 CE – 1516 CE

Spirituality

“I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads my bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality…But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them – I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps my deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.”  Revelation 2:19, 20, 24-26

Jezebel was a wicked queen who led the people of her nation to abandon God and worship idols and she killed those who refused to submit.

(1 Kin. 16: 31; 21:25; 2 Kin. 9: 7, 22)  In prophetic language, a woman represents a city and a group of people that have something in common (i.e. citizens of a city [“city”zens] have their place of residence in common). (see Appendix 2)  Here, Jezebel calls herself a prophetess, so Jezebel is a city and a group of people (“city”zens) who have a religion in common since they believe they speak for God. 

jezebel                   jez

In the year 533 CE the Roman Emperor Justinian declared that the Bishop of Rome was to be head of all Christian Churches. By the year 538 CE all opposition, both religious and civil, to this appointment was crushed. The Bishop of Rome (city) was firmly established in his authority over religious and civil matters. Those church members with the traits of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (city-zens) had finally attained all the power and riches they had so (commonality) desired. They had set up a powerful church and were designing doctrines that would lead the masses astray. But there were still believers who remained faithful to the teachings and the spirit of Jesus, although they did not fight hard enough in the beginning against this false church with its false doctrines. However, what was done was done and Jesus told them to hang on and as a reward they would rule with him.

Experience  

 “When the Lamb broke the fourth seal…I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Rev. 6:7,8

Hades is the Greek word for hell, and the experience of many of those who refused to follow Jezebel, the teachings of this false church, went through hell on earth, dying for their faithful adherence to the pure teachings of Jesus. The Inquisitions and persecutions, the torturous and agonizing deaths of the faithful were unrivaled by anything in history. Truly the ashen horse of Death followed by Hades, fell on these faithful people.

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Revelation: The Church of Pergamum.

Pergamum:  Spiritual Corruption     Third Seal: Church/State      313 CE – 537 CE

          Spirituality

          “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast my Name,  and did not deny My faith…But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam…So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth…To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”    Rev. 2: 13-17

          In 313 CE, the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which stopped the persecution of Christians and made all religions legal within the Roman Empire.

800px-sylvester_i_and_constantine

For the most part the church remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus.  However, some who had the traits of Balaam and the Nicolaitans had infiltrated the church.  Balaam was supposed to be a prophet for God way back when the Hebrews were leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land, but he was really in business for himself and eventually led the Hebrews astray (Num. 31: 16; 2 Pet. 2: 15; Jude 11).  The Nicolaitans were “Christians” who compromised their beliefs so they could justify taking advantage of sinful practices.  Jesus promised that those who did not get trapped by the teachings of these false believers would attain heavenly rewards.

Experience

“When He broke the third seal…I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.  And I heard a voice…saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”  Rev. 6: 5, 6

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During this time the church was growing rapidly as Christianity was replacing paganism.  But those who had infiltrated the church and who had the traits of Balaam and the Nicolaitans were intent on having the best of both worlds.  They believed in God and wanted eternal life, but they also wanted all the power and pleasures the world had to offer…even if it meant compromising their faith.  So here we see, in the history of God’s church, the beginning of the unifying of church and state, of religious and political (secular) powers.  The black color of the horse represents the spiritual darkness in which the church found itself, and the scales denote shared weight given to both the church (religion) and the state (politics).  Even though much of the Christian purity was being bartered away, the oil and the wine (see Appendix 2) was not damaged because there were still many faithful followers of Jesus who refused to go along with the corruption entering the church.

 

 

Revelation: The First Two Churches.

 

Ephesus:  Apostolic Age           First Seal:  Purity        31 CE – c. 100 CE             

Spirituality          

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.  But I have this against you; that you have left your first love.  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first…To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”  Rev. 2: 2-7

          The early church, from Jesus’ ascension into heaven until the death of those who knew Jesus personally, is often called the Apostolic Age.  Here they are commended for their work and tenacity that was motivated by love for Jesus.  But as time went on their motivation changed and was replaced by something else, perhaps a sense of duty.  Jesus’ promise to them is that they will be in paradise. 

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Experience 

…the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and…I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.”  Rev. 6: 1, 2  (see Appendix 2 for an explanation of horses in prophecy and in visions)

          The white color of the horse denotes the purity of the early church, and the rider represents the apostles spreading the word and conquering paganism.

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Smyrna:  Martyrdom      Second Seal:  Roman Persecution       c. 100 CE – 312 CE

          Spirituality

“I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life…He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.”  Rev. 2: 9-11

          The church during this time may have been poor when it came to money and power to protect itself, but it was rich spiritually.  There was fear in the church due to the persecutions but Jesus says they will have eternal life.

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            Experience

          “…He broke the second seal…And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another;  and a great sword was given to him.”  Rev. 6: 3, 4

          The red color of this horse denotes the spilling of the blood of the saints.  Beginning with Nero, the Roman Emperors often persecuted Christians for one reason or another.  But late in the first century CE, the emperor Domitian demanded everyone within his empire to worship him as divine, but Jews and Christians refused.  This began a full-scale persecution and makes it easy to identify the rider of the red horse as the office of Emperor. 

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