Jesus Speaking to the 7 Churches
1) “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2) “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3) and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4) But, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6) But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’ 8) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9) “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10) Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’ 12) “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13) “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15) Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16) Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
17) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’
18) “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19) “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20) Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21) And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22) Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23) I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
24) “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25) But hold fast what you have till I come. 26) And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. 27) ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’ — as I also have received from My Father; 28) and I will give him the morning star. 29) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
3:1) “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3) Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore 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. 4) 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. 5) 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.
6) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
7) “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” 8) “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9) Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10) Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11) Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12) He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 I will write on him My new name. 13) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ 14) “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15) “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16) So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17) Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked 18) 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; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20) 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. 21) To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
These conditions truly paint a sad picture of the status of certain churches that say they represent the truth but in fact pervert it. When there is the mistaken belief that there is more than one way to the truth - that the Gospel takes a back seat, redemption is but a buzz -word, integration is denied, and that man is his own authority - let me assure you that Jesus is standing at the door of that church and warning them as He did the early churches given in Revelation. It is evident that the majority of the churches featured in the article in “A Time to Seek” are vain attempts at man’s efforts to establish a belief system (i.e. religion) that fits around his desires, and not that of God, the Son and Holy Spirit. To those who desire to have a church fit them, Jesus would say this…..
And to the ones who are being sold a false bill of religious goods Jesus would say:
Today, as never before, we are seeing a separation of those who are part of the Lord’s Church and those who are not. Denominational lines can no longer be used exclusively as a barometer for judging the basis and heart of a particular church to Jesus Christ. We often find that what were once “alive” churches in Christ, denominationally speaking, may in fact be “dead” churches today. To the same end, churches that were once “dead” may well be alive in Christ today. Jesus came to tell Israel and then the world about the Good News of the kingdom of God identified as the Gospel. We need all the good news that we can receive today. This is especially true with the Gospel, for half the Gospel is only half the truth. Yet, the one standard that needs to be applied to every church is whether it teaches and believes in the full counsel and truth of Jesus Christ. For the church that proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior who was, still is and is to come has the full Gospel. On the other hand, the church that perverts the Godhead is the “harlot” church that will usher in the Antichrist as the final and ultimate “savior” for mankind. Sadly, the majority of mankind will be led to believe this individual to be the Christ when in fact he will be the Antichrist.
As Israel had fallen to incredible periods of apostasy, wickedness and licentiousness, so have many in this country. Outside the pockets of incredible revival that we see occurring around the world, the western world - especially America and Europe, are quickly falling away from both Christ and Christian principles. I am not one to claim piety over others based on my Christianity. The only one to compare to, if you are willing to believe it, is Christ Himself. And comparing myself to Him, I am but like dung. Although I know Jesus does not see any of His children as dung, He does not view God’s creation who do not believe in Him as dung either. Truly, His love is so great and beyond our comprehension or understanding, that when one receives just a small glimpse of His love, you will never be the same. It truly is a matter of just believing and then receiving all that the love that Christ desires to impart to all. Having tasted the awesome love of Christ, I also agree with Paul the Apostle in this assessment of Christ.
Yet, Jesus tells both His disciples on Mt. Olivet and us in Matt 24: 6, “See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet.” All these events are the beginning of birth pangs”, as He stated in Matt. 24: 7,8….
The Olivet Discourse
The most important chapters in the New Testament explaining the conditions on earth immediately before the return of Jesus is found in the chapters of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, commonly referred to as the Olivet Discourse. It received this name because it was on the Mt. of Olives that the disciples asked Jesus specific questions about the time He was planning on ushering the Messianic Kingdom, which we now identify as the Millennial reign of Christ. As the disciples were pointing to the beautiful Temple and its associated buildings, Jesus began to tell them that “not one stone would be left upon another”, prophesying that the Temple site would be destroyed at some point in the future. The disciples must have been shocked! This statement by Jesus was a real curve ball to their hopes and aspirations, which caused them to ask Jesus separately when all this was going to happen. This discussion progressed to the point where they asked Him about the time of His coming to set up the Messianic Kingdom and the end of the age that would usher this period in.
There has been a fair amount of confusion surrounding these chapters in terms of which generation Jesus refers to and which group of people it applies to. Again, all the original disciples thought Jesus was going to set up His earthly kingdom upon His first advent (i.e. arrival). It was believed and expected that Jesus was going to set the government on His shoulders at that time as prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6). Let us pointedly look at the questions the disciples ask and the answers Jesus gives regarding His second return, known as the 2nd advent.
When Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the Sabbath (which was actually on Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath) known to us as Palm Sunday, the disciples and multitudes proclaimed Him as Hosanna, which in Hebrew means “save”. Later that day He went into the Temple and cast out all those who were buying, selling and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. He knew the hearts of men and their evil intents. He knew that five days following His entry into Jerusalem, the religious leaders of the Jews (Pharisees and Sadducees) would condemn Him to death by crucifixion. As Jesus was teaching in the Temple, which He often did, He was “inspected” by the religious leaders for flaws as an intimation of the “Passover” lamb that is inspected for defects before its sacrifice as part of the Passover. The evening of his triumphant entry, Jesus left Jerusalem and lodged in Bethany for the night. The following morning, He returned to Jerusalem and went into the Temple, as He would the next five days until the day of His crucifixion. Upon passing a lone fig tree on the road to Jerusalem that morning (the day after His triumphal entry), He wanted to eat from it but saw that there were no figs on it, only leaves. He said to the fig tree, “No longer shall there be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered. As the fig tree is a representation of Israel (relating to the lesson of the fig tree expressed in Matt: 24:32-35), this was a representation that the “Chosen” of God, the Jews, would no longer be a people that God would use to deliver the message of salvation and eternal life to the whole world. Instead, God, through the disciples of Jesus and His followers, would have the predominantly Gentile Church become torch-bearers of His life saving message as specifically given in Matthew 21: 43. Not only this, but the withering of the fig tree also corresponded with Jesus’ parable about good and bad fruit where Jesus states the bad fruit is "good for nothing" and will be thrown into the fire (referring to the domain of hell).
Later that evening, as Jesus departed from the Temple area to the Mount of Olives, the disciples pointed out the Temple Mount buildings to Him saying,
The disciples were pointing this out in hope of generating a response from Jesus as to when He would begin His earthly rule as King of Israel in the Temple complex. Since the disciples believed He was the Messiah, they had no notion of the Church Age or Age of Grace that would be inserted in between Daniel’s completed 69 Weeks and remaining last 70th week (this will be explained in greater detail in the following chapters). Then the disciples heard Jesus say,
How shocked the disciples must have been to hear Jesus describing that the Temple was going to be torn down! Then Peter, James, John and Andrew came to Jesus privately asking Him…….
Upon inspection of these very questions, we find that they are not asked in chronological order. First they asked Jesus "when will these things be", undoubtedly referring to the destruction of the buildings on the Temple Mount. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew does not even answer the disciples question about what or when the Temple Mount buildings are destroyed. Actually, only the Gospel of Luke records the destruction of the Temple most succinctly.
What is very important to understand is the first verse of Luke 21 where Jesus says, “But before all these things, they will…”, refers specifically to that which would occur to the Jews and early church before His second advent. This involves the persecution of the early church (remember, most of the early believers were Jewish) for the name of Jesus and the eventual destruction of Jerusalem within 37 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The trampling under foot of Jerusalem was accomplished by the Roman army of General Titus in 70 A.D. and was climaxed by the Temple being torn down and burned. Archeological investigations conducted in the late 1980’s underneath the Temple Mount bore this fact out as evidence of soot, ash and burned items were discovered, proving to all historians and the world that this event actually took place just as Jesus prophesied it would. Following this most tragic event, almost all Jews were dispersed throughout the world known as the Diaspora until Israel was reborn on May 14, 1948. Finally, Jerusalem legally became the domain of the nation of Israel on June 6, 1967 at the conclusion of the Six Day War. I believe this date is also a very important one as it could also mark the time when the start of “this generation” begins besides the date Israel was reborn as a nation. We can believe this to be true because Luke 21: 24 states within the same verse that when Jerusalem is again brought back into the realm of Israel when, “the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. Nonetheless, both of these events, Israel being reborn and Jerusalem being brought back into Israel, do fall within the time frame of "a generation".
Secondly, the disciples asked Jesus about the sign of His coming and thirdly, the signs of the end of the age. It is logical that Jesus’ physical coming to earth follows the signs that point to the end of the age. In all three Gospels, Jesus answers the disciples third or last question first, ‘What will be signs of the end of the age?” In logial progression, Jesus states……
Therefore, Luke 21:10,11, Mark 13:6-8 and Matthew 24:4-8 records the very signs we see happening today that are pointing to the end of the age which were broadly covered in the chapter “Signs of the Times” identified as "birth pangs". Then Matthew records the time frame that specifically refers to the Jews being led into the time of Great Tribulation with the advent of the Antichrist (who is identified as the abomination of desolation) entering the rebuilt Temple (standing in the holy place) 3-1/2 years after the beginning of Tribulation.
Israel has not yet been hated by all nations on account of the name of Jesus. This is proven by the Crusades, as despicable as they were in their intentions to liberate Israel in the early Church days, or today as America has helped to defend Israel in previous conflicts such as the Six Day War, Yom Kippor War, and Desert Storm. However, this day we are beginning to see the isolation of Israel as more and more nations come against her. However, during the Tribulation there will be total isolation for Israel as every nation will array itself against her. Also, during Tribulation one must believe and endure as never before to survive. How true this will be when the entire world, including Israel, will see the abomination of desolation, as an image of the beast is placed into the Holy of Holies of the Temple, by the Antichrist to desecrate it. For then will come Great Tribulation and the full measure of God’s wrath will be poured out onto the world as never before.
Lastly, we come to the disciples inquiry regarding the signs of the Lord’s coming. Let us investigate the scriptures to find the answer(s) to this question. In so doing, we find the answers are found in all three Gospels. We should note that the Gospel of John does not cover these last day concerns. Matthew 24: 30, 31 states,
Tribes as given in this scripture refers to ethnic or people groups. This would mean that all people groups that are alive at the literal 2nd coming of Jesus to earth will mourn at the appearance when He arrives. Yet, 2 Peter 3:10-14 states,
First, there appears to be a hypocritical position established as Peter states that those in Christ will be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” and not mourning as given in Matthew. This helps to distinguish the fact that the Church shall not be present at the literal second coming of Christ, which will have been Raptured earlier. Secondly, Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5: 5,
which contradicts Peter saying the day of the Lord will come as a thief, which again helps to further distinguish the Rapture of the Church prior Christ’s 2nd coming. Lastly, I Thessalonians 5:9 states that God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is borne out as the church is not mentioned once during the entire period of Tribulation as described in Revelation 4-19.
Lastly, let us compare Matthew 24:31 which describes Jesus’ 2nd coming to earth and 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17, considered the foundational scripture concerning the Rapture.
Although this concept has been addressed previously in the Rapture chapter, it needs to be compared to the Olivet Discourse as many believers hold to the position that the Rapture occurs when Christ comes to set up His Millennial Kingdom (the Post-Tribulation position). First, in the Rapture of the body of Christ, Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout similar to that of an archangel and with the trump of God. Jesus shouts to His elect because they hear His voice, a strangers they will not follow as given in John 10:4,5. Not only this, but the body of Christ will rise in the air to meet Jesus in the cloud(s). This is not mentioned whatsovever in Matthew 24:30 or other associated Gospel accounts as it relates to the Olivet Discourse. In fact, at the end of the age Jesus will sound the great shofar (trumpet) and summon the angels to gather His elect, the few remaining souls who were able to survive the Tribulation. The Greek word used in Matthew for gathering His elect at His second earthly coming is “episungo”, which means to collect upon the same place. However, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 refers to us being caught up together in the air with those who died before in Christ. The Greek word used to denote a snatching or catching away is “harpazo”, distinctively different from “episungo”. Moreover, Matthew does not mention the dead in Christ being brought out before those who remain as Paul does. Lastly, in the Rapture, both the dead and those remaining will rise to meet the Lord in the air. This is not the case at the Lord’s 2nd coming where again we emphasis, He will send His angels to gather the believers who were able to survive the Tribulation. And what happens to the wicked who are remaining?
The parable of the wheat and the tares as told by Jesus in Matthew 13: 24-30 (given the right) elaborates what happens to unbelieving - evil individuals at the end of the Tribulation. Since the disciples couldn't understand the meaning of this parable, Jesus explained it to them in Matthew 13: 37-42, well worth reading. "And His disciples came to Him saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." He answered and sad to them: "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man (Jesus). The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire (i.e. hell). There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He how has ears to hear, let him hear."
Therefore, this scripture confirms the significant difference between the Rapture, which will most definitely occur before the removal of the wicked ones remaining on earth at the end of the age, which comes at the conclustion of the Tribulation known as Daniel's 70th Week, both being encompassed within the Age of the Law (or Mosiac Age). When Jesus comes, he will dispatch His angels to translate both believers and non-believers (the tares). Believers will go to Jerusalem to celebrate the coronation of Jesus as King of kings and unbelievers to hell where Satan and his demons reside along with the wicked dead (this is an oxymoron since the souls in hell are very much alive).
Another very common error that is either misunderstood and/or is being taught by the church today is the failure to distinguish the between God’s plan for Israel and His plan for the Church. Many sincere believers, including this author, have been swept away by the incessant belief and teaching that both Israel and the Church will go through the entire period of Tribulation. They believe this because they interpret the Rapture event to occur when Jesus comes and dispatches His angels to gather the elect, which are the remaining believers who have been able to survive the Tribulation. We have shown scripturally that this is not the case. Secondly, Jesus did not teach about the dispensation of the Church Age, which would come after His death. We know very well from scripture that this mystery was first revealed to Paul the Apostle as given in Eph. 3: 1-7 (see scripture reference to the right). Besides, the Jewish disciples of Jesus before His death had no notion of the Church because it was not revealed to them, nor spoken of. Even less then a week before Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples asked Him on the Mount of Olives when He was going to restore the kingdom of Israel, not the Church. If Jesus told them that a worldwide group of disciples would eventually follow Him and through the New Covenant eventually depart from the Jewish Law so they would no longer partake in Jewish festivals such as the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Rosh haShanah, etc., even they may have deserted Him! However, Jesus came as a Jew and practiced the law, customs and festivals as a devout Jewish believer. In fact, scripture specifically states He fulfilled both the Law and the Prophets (fulfilling prophecy as spoken by the Old Testament prophets). Further proof that Jesus came to fulfill His role in the Dispensation of Law is given in Matt. 15: 21 where He was being called on by a Syro-Phonecian woman (a Gentile) to heal her daughter of a demon. His answer to her initially was “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Here is direct scriptural proof that Jesus came for the Jews to fulfill His role in bringing forth the Messianic kingdom, which are comprised of Jews, not Gentiles. However, Jesus, always being moved by compassion and touched by faith for all His creation relented and retorted, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done to you as you desire.” We also need to understand that the Old Testament Jew, be he a priest, prophet or simply a son of men was looking towards the coming of Messiah who would usher in the Messianic Age. It was in the heart and mind of the disciples that they were hoping Jesus would do exactly that.
It’s difficult for us to conceive that if the Church Age had not been created by Almighty God, then the Tribulation would have begun immediately following Jesus’ ascension from Mt. Olives. If this were to have occurred, all the Gentiles living on the earth at the time would not have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, thereby placing them directly in God’s wrath and judgment. This is significant as we consider the amazing grace God has provided us by bringing forth the Church Age so we too can become heirs of the Kingdom! How thankful we Gentiles should be of this.
It is understandable why most Jews were hoping that the Messiah would have come in their time. When Jesus referred to “this generation”, many thought it referred to their generation, the time during Jesus’ first advent. In summarily reading the Gospels, it is very easy for us to believe that Jesus would have meant His generation, as many in the Church today interpret it as well. But hindsight provides us valuable understanding to realize that the Church was to go and preach the Gospel to all the nations of the earth for nearly 2,000 years, as identified as day five and six in the Great Sabbath Week of the Lord.
As the sixth day reaches 11:59 PM, we approach a very significant time frame which Jesus speaks of in regard to His second coming, referring to that generation that will see the branches of the fig tree beginning to sprout leaves (Israel coming alive again) and see all the things that Jesus spoke of in His discourse with His disciples, yesterday and today. At some particular point in time, a time marker will occur which gives us an absolute indication to the time of Messiah’s arrival much like the breaking of water that heralds the true birth of a child. This absolute indication is an event that will usher in the seven year period of time called the Tribulation. This length of time is known because it is detailed in both the book of Daniel and confirmed in the prophetic book of Revelation. Let us investigate proof of this absolute indication in the next secton.