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    CHAPTER 19. The Seven Churches

    IN Revelation 2 and 3 are seven short epistles addressed to seven churches. These, like other lines of prophecy in this book, are doubtless to be taken as prophetic, covering the whole gospel dispensation. A few of the reasons for this view are as follows:-SYNPT 190.1

    There were more churches in Asia then seven. Even if we confine ourselves to that western division of Asia known as Asia Minor, or even that small fraction of Asia Minor where seven churches were situated which are addressed, there were other important churches in the same territory. Collosse was but a short distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision. And Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, was not far from Pergamos.SYNPT 190.2

    1. How are these churches to be regarded?
    2. Among the reasons for considering them prophetic, what is the first one?
    3. Where was Collosse situated?
    4. What was the situation of Miletus?
    5. Where was Troas?
    6. How much was dedicated to these seven churches?
    7. Did the prophecy concern them particularly and personally?

    Why, then, were just seven churches selected out of this number and not all of them addressed, if what is said pertained only to the Christians of those times? The entire book of the Revelation was dedicated to the seven churches. But the prophecy of this book was no more applicable to the seven literal churches named, than to other Christians in Asia Minor, those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia. Only a small portion of the book of the Revelation could have personally concerned the churches named, or any of the Christians of John’s day; for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the future as to be beyond the life-time of the generation then living.SYNPT 190.3

    Again, the seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. The angels of the churches doubtless symbolize the ministers of the churches. The fact that the Son of man holds them in his right hand must denote the upholding power, guidance, and protection which he bestows upon these ministers. But are there only seven thus cared for by the Master? Rather, are not all the true ministers of the whole gospel age thus upheld and supported by him?SYNPT 191.1

    8. In what other countries were these Christians equally concerned in the prophecies of the book of the Revelation?
    9. When were these events mostly to take place?
    10. What do the seven stars denote?
    11. Where were these seven stars seen?
    12. What did this signify?
    13. What does this prove in reference to the seven churches?
    14. How many candlesticks did John see?
    15. What is signified by Christ’s position in the midst of these?

    Still further, John, looking into the Christian dispensation, saw only seven candlesticks representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. His position in their midst must denote his presence with them, his watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their works. But does he thus regard only seven individual churches in this dispensation? Does not this rather represent his position in reference to all the churches in this age?SYNPT 191.2

    Why, then, were these particular churches chosen that are mentioned? Doubtless for the reason that the names of these churches are significant, indicating the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they respectively represent. If, for these reasons and others which might be adduced, these epistles are prophetic, they naturally apply to seven distinct periods of the gospel age, from the days of John to the end of time.SYNPT 192.1

    Let us then see if we can find an application of these epistles, which is both Scriptural and consistent, to seven different portions of the gospel dispensation.SYNPT 192.2

    16. What does this prove in reference to the churches?
    17. Why, then, were these seven particular churches taken as the ones to whom to address the Revelation?
    18. If these epistles are prophetic, what do they represent?
    19. What is the meaning of Ephesus?
    20. How does this apply to the first church?
    21. What is said about apostles in this message?
    22. What does that prove?

    1. The church of Ephesus. This word “ephesus” signifies desirable, chief; and it may well be taken as expressive of the character and condition of the church in its first state. Christ tells the members of this church that they have tried them which say they are apostles and are not. This could appropriately be addressed to a church covering the apostolic age. But even before this period ended, the church had begun to lose her first love, and was admonished to repent. The promise to the overcomer (verse 7) reveals the important fact that the tree of life once here upon the earth is now in the paradise of God. We understand this period to cover the age of the apostles and their immediate successors, say, to A.D. 100.SYNPT 192.3

    2. The next address is to the church of Smyrna. The word “smyrna” signifies myrrh. It seems, therefore, to be a fit appellation for the church of God when it was about to pass through the fiery furnace of persecution, and prove itself a “sweet smelling savor” unto God. This church was to have tribulation ten days; and if the message addressed to it was prophetic, those days were prophetic, and signified ten years. We have then a notable persecution of ten years’ duration here brought to view. And it is an indisputable fact that the last and most bloody of the ten persecutions under Diocletian continued just ten years, from A.D. 302 to A.D. 312. - “Buck’s Theological Dictionary,” pp. 332,333.SYNPT 193.1

    23. What important fact is here revealed in regard to the tree of life?
    24. What church is next addressed?
    25. What is the meaning of the word Smyrna?
    26. What took place to make this applicable to the church of this period?
    27. What additional reason do we here find for calling these churches prophetic?

    It would be difficult to make an application of this language on the ground that these messages are not prophetic; for in that case only ten literal days could be meant, and we can hardly suppose that a persecution of only ten days on a single church would be a matter of prophecy. But more than this, all the churches suffered in those persecutions; and where, then, would be the propriety of singling out one to the exclusion of the others, as alone involved in such a calamity?SYNPT 193.2

    The direction to them in verse 10 is to be faithful unto death, not until, as some understand it. They were to hold fast even at the expense of life itself, and then they had the promise of a crown of life in the future. The period covered by this church extends from the apostolic age A.D. 100 to the time when the church entered another period in the early part of the fourth century.SYNPT 194.1

    28. How far does the period covered by this church extend?
    29. What is the signification of the term Pergamos?
    30. When did this period commence?
    31. What is meant by the doctrines of Balaam which they held?
    32. What by the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes?
    33. What is the promise to the overcomer?

    3. The church of Pergamos. The word “pergamos” signifies hight, elevation. The church entered into this period when Christianity had secured the throne of the Roman empire, and Constantine had become a nominal convert to the gospel, in A.D. 323, and extended to the setting up of the papacy in A.D. 538. The spirit of the world worked mightily in this period; hence the church is addressed as being where Satan’s seat is. Christ takes cognizance of the unfavorable situation of his people during this period. But disadvantages in situation are no excuse for wrongs in the church, and this church maintained some features for which they were severely censured. They had those in their midst that held the doctrine of Balaam, referring to their falling into spiritual idolatry. They had also those that held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. This was a form of heresy said to have originated with one Nicholas, who taught a plurality of wives, etc. The promise to the overcomer in this church is that he shall eat of the hidden manna, and receive a white stone, with a new name written thereon. What that is, it would perhaps be unnecessary, as well as useless, to inquire. Wesley says: “Wouldst thou know what the new name will be? The way to this is plain - overcome. Till then, all thy inquiries are vain.”SYNPT 194.2

    4. The church of Thyatira. This name signifies sweet savor of labor, or sacrifice of contrition, and is an appropriate description of the church during a period of oppression and persecution. If the church of Pergamos reached down to the setting up of the papacy in 538, the period of the church of Thyatira would naturally extend to the time when the persecuting power of the papal church was restrained by the great Reformation of the 16th century. This was that period of tribulation upon the church mentioned by our Lord in Matthew 24:21, such as it was never to experience again.SYNPT 195.1

    34. What is meant by the white stone and new name?
    35. What church is next addressed?
    36. What is the signification of this word?
    37. To what period does this naturally apply?
    38. What passage in Matthew applies to this time?
    39. What is meant by the women Jezebel?
    40. What does Christ mean by saying, “I will put upon you none other burden?”

    The woman Jezebel. This name is here used figuratively, denoting, probably, false teachers from Rome, some of whom Christians did suffer to preach and teach among them. See History of the Waldenses. “I will put upon you none other burden.” Verse 24. This, doubtless, refers to their relief from tribulation, the days of which were shortened by the great Reformation, for the elect’s sake. Matthew 24:22.SYNPT 195.2

    “Hold fast till I come.” This language shows that this period reaches so near the end that some who were numbered with the church of Thyatira, would live to behold the coming of Christ.SYNPT 196.1

    5. The church of Sardis. The word “sardis” signifies prince or song of joy, or that which remains. For the period covered by this church, we come down this side of the Reformation, and of papal supremacy. By the Sardis church is undoubtedly meant the churches brought out by the great Reformation; and the definition of the name answers well to the condition of the church during this period. What high position has it held! What favor has it had with the world! But how has pride and popularity grown apace, until spirituality is almost entirely destroyed! This church is to hear the proclamation of the second coming of Christ in all its power; for the True Witness says, “If thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” The coming here brought to view is unconditional. By watching they would be prepared for it; and by not watching they would be overtaken as by a thief by this event. This proclamation they have heard in the great Advent movement of the present generation.SYNPT 196.2

    41. What is shown by the injunction, “Hold fast till I come?”
    42. What is the definition of Sardis?
    43. To what period does this apply?
    44. What proclamation was this church to hear?
    45. Has it heard it, and when?
    46. What is re-sealed in the fifth verse of Revelation 3?
    47. When is this work to be accomplished?

    In the 5th verse we have some solemn facts stated in regard to the book of life. He that overcometh will not have his name blotted out; and this implies that all those who do not overcome will have their names blotted out from the book of life. This work of blotting out, as we have seen in our investigation of the sanctuary, takes place at the close of Christ’s priestly work in heaven. There will be at the conclusion of that work but two classes: one class having their names retained in the Lamb’s book of life, and their sins blotted out of the book of God’s remembrance; the other having their names blotted from the book of life, and their sins retained to appear against them in the Judgment.SYNPT 196.3

    48. To what did the great proclamation given in this period lead?
    49. What is the meaning of the word Philadelphia?
    50. What was the great characteristic of the church brought out by the preaching of the soon coming of Christ?
    51. What is referred to by the open door set before this church?
    52. What promise is given to this church?

    6. The church of Philadelphia. The proclamation of the Advent doctrine to this church results in the introduction of another state of the church, called Philadelphia. This word signifies brotherly love; and this was the great characteristic of that church brought out by the preaching of the Advent doctrine. To this church, Christ says, “I have set before thee an open door.” The great work of the first message brought us to the cleansing of the sanctuary, when the door into the most holy was opened, and there was seen the ark of God’s testament. Revelation 11:19. This church has the promise of being kept from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them. This hour of temptation is, doubtless, that brought to view in Revelation 13:14, and in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10, which will be produced by a still further development of spiritualism, which is already working so mightily in the land. Now, says Christ, “Behold I come quickly.” This period brings us down very near to the time of the second coming of Christ.SYNPT 197.1

    7. The church of Laodicea. The last message is to the church of Laodicea. The word “laodicea” signifies, the judging of the people; or, according to Cruden, a just people. And either of these definitions would apply to the time and people between the close of the first message, in 1844, and the end of time; for in this period of the cleansing of the sanctuary the judgment of the people is going forward, and the result will finally be “a just people,” - a people freed from all their sins.SYNPT 198.1

    53. What will produce this hour of temptation?
    54. What does Christ then say respecting his coming?
    55. What does the word “laodicea” signify?
    56. Where, therefore, must this apply?
    57. What is the condition of this church?
    58. What is meant by the gold, white raiment, and eyesalve which they are counseled to procure?

    This applies to the last generation of the church; and there is in this testimony that which should startle and arouse us. This church, with the light respecting the soon coming of Christ shining clearly forth, and that great event even at the door, is found in a lukewarm, half-hearted, indifferent condition; and at the same time, the members deceived with the idea that they are rich, and have need of nothing. In this condition they are very offensive to God. Not because in themselves they are worse than other people have been, or are, but because, having greater light, they should occupy a very advanced position. “Therefore,” says the True Witness, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” That is, love and faith working together, hand in hand, to make them rich in good works, and rich toward God. They are counseled to buy white raiment; that is, to put on a robe of righteousness, or have their characters conform wholly to the law of God. They are counseled, also, to anoint their eyes with eyesalve, that they may see. This eyesalve is the unction from on high, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which gives us true discernment in spiritual things. And God’s people, during this time, will be rebuked and chastened by him until they become zealous, and manifest true repentance.SYNPT 198.2

    59. What is embraced in the promise to those who open the door of their hearts?
    60. What parable probably has its application here?

    Christ stands at the door, and knocks; and the promise to him who will open the door is that Christ will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Christ. This denotes a union such as no church has ever before enjoyed; and an outpouring of the Spirit, and an exercising of the heavenly graces beyond anything in the previous experience of the church. This is, without doubt, the arising of the “day star in the hearts” of believers, spoken of in 2 Peter 1:19, and the time of refreshing spoken of by Peter in Acts 3:19, which the church is to experience just before the coming of Christ. And they need this work wrought for them to enable them to stand during the fearful scenes with which the world’s history shall close.SYNPT 199.1

    Here it is, undoubtedly, that the parable of the wedding garment (Matthew 22:11-13) applies. The king comes in to see the guests, which is an examination of our characters in the sanctuary above. A man is found there not having on the wedding garment, or not prepared to stand the test of the Judgment; he is cast out into outer darkness. And right in this critical time, when our cases in the sanctuary are pending, and we are unprepared for that searching test, the True Witness comes to us with an earnest entreaty to buy of him the white raiment, or to secure, while we may, the wedding garment, to be prepared for the King when he shall come in to see the guests, and to bid those who are ready, to the marriage supper of the Lamb. If we fail to heed this testimony, and so do not provide ourselves with gold, white raiment, and eyesalve, Christ here says, “I will spew thee out of my mouth.” The parable says, which is the same thing, that if we are not clothed with the wedding garment, we shall be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness. Both expressions denote an utter and final rejection.SYNPT 200.1

    61. State the points of comparison between the parable and this prophecy.
    62. What is the promise to the overcomer?
    63. What does this prove respecting Christ?

    To the overcomer is here given a promise of sitting with Christ on his throne, as he has overcome and is now sitting with his Father in his throne. This shows that Christ occupies two thrones; first, the throne of his Father, which he has occupied in conjunction with the Father (Hebrews 8:1; Zechariah 6:12, 13) ever since his ascension to heaven; and secondly, the throne of his own kingdom, the throne of his father David, which he will take when he begins his own individual reign, at the close of his priestly work.SYNPT 200.2

    These messages to the churches are both interesting and important, as showing the internal history of the church from the days of the apostles to the end of time, and especially important on account of the solemn warning and the practical duties enjoined upon the last church. In this prophecy we are able to trace the history of the church step by step through this dispensation, finding the most accurate agreement between the testimony of God and the time and condition of the different periods of the church. It can thus be shown unmistakably that we have reached the last period, the Laodicean state of the church. And now, under the tremendous pressure of the spirit of the world and of the apostasy that prevails in these last days, even that people who have the truth for this time, and should feel its searching power, and be animated with its life-giving spirit, are lukewarm, - neither cold nor hot. But Christ is at the door; the Judgment is impending; the King is soon coming in to see the guests; how important, then, that some message be given us adapted to our condition and our dangers. Such a message we have in this last address to the church. To give heed to this will be our salvation; to reject it will be our eternal ruin.SYNPT 201.1

    64. What gives these messages interest and importance?
    65. How is this message calculated to meet our present wants?

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