UNTO the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works … (Revelation 2:1-2).
Angel is apostolo in the Greek and means messenger. Some would say these messages are written to the apostle of that church but it could be translated to angel of that church. In this case, God is going to build up each church he speaks to and he is also going to criticize them. His words are extremely important and people need to hear what he said–good and bad.
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil; and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles (“messengers” is the same word), and are not, and hast found them liars (Revelation 2:2).
The church of Ephesus fits a timeline of the first century because it started developing bishops very early, including bishops over cities. These bishops are what God is talking about that has tried those who are apostles but are not.
A move was made to set up people over churches, and this continued right on through today’s church history until it finally ended up with the Roman Catholic Church. The movement began by making bishops over several churches, then bishops over cities and, ultimately, the bishop of Rome, who became the papacy (Pope).
In addition, the church of Ephesus represents the church of religion and it was not long after religion surfaced that the church began losing its power. Study the early Church Fathers (those who wrote early in church history) and see that the gifts of the Spirit, as well as other things that are often talked about, began to disappear. This all happened at the same time that the prominence of the bishops increased. Ecclesiastical authority, also known as religion, developed. When the church got involved in having religion instead of Jesus guiding the church, then the miracles started decreasing. They remained prevalent up to AD 450 yet they diminished.
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love (Revelation 2:3-4).
See, this would make perfect sense if they had gotten involved in religion, religiosity.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:5-6).
Who were the Nicolaitans? They were a group of people that took the name from a man by the name of Nicholas and started what is known today as the clergyman.
The early church did not have the pulpit and the pews; those were foreign to the early church. Every epistle (which are the small books in the New Testament) was written to the elders, not to a pastor, preacher, and apostle but to the elders in the church. Basically, the church functioned as a big living room with everyone contributing to the service while they were there but a rise of the Nicolaitans (people who want to be in charge) ensued.
Nicolaitans want to run the show and are the ones who started the movement of the bishops. In their churches, someone takes charge of the group and calls himself a bishop followed by somebody managing two churches and naming himself a bishop. Before long there is a bishop over the town that rules everybody else. Those towns then get together and have a bishop of Alexander, one of Carpathia, along with this one and that one. Eventually, they all have a bishop over them called the Bishop of Rome who later becomes the Pope of Rome. This is what happened in church history and where the power of the church declined. A form of Godliness existed but the power was denied.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (remember, none of these cities exist today; thus, they failed). And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:7-9).
A lot has been said about that and what it is referring to is the movement in early Christianity of the Judaizers–those who were trying to force Jewish Christians back under the law. They were called Judaizers and this was all happening around AD 70 within the first century or so of Christianity. As for the Synagogue of Satan, God is referring to the Judaizers–Judaism. He is not referring to Israel the Nation.
Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer (he said this because Jewish persecution started taking place at that time): behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. And to the angel of the church at Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (Revelation 2:10-17).
A spirit of intimidation and persecution seemed to be within the church at Pergamos beginning around AD 150 and lasting until approximately AD 300. Another doctrine that also developed was the doctrine of Balaam, which is money. The church began to get involved in money and that is the way it went until about 325, or maybe longer. They became more involved with money-building. Due to the accumulation of this during the medieval times, they built cathedrals. Remember the Nicolaitans were the rise of the clergy.
I recently had a conversation online with a man and we were discussing deliverance. I believe that Mark, the sixteenth chapter, says the Believer shall cast out demons but that man’s argument was, “No they cannot, they have to be descendants of the apostles.” Realistically, this is something the Catholic Church believes and they try to claim the heritage all the way back to the apostles for their priests. Unfortunately, that is somewhat of a made up idea because it is impossible for them to be such descendants. In Protestantism, Believers trust there is no direct succession to the apostles. If anything, there is a succession in teaching, not in authority from the apostles to today. Authority comes from the Word of God.
Now, look at the church of Thyatira.
And unto the angel of the church of Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and the hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star (that could be an allusion to Lucifer). He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 2:18-29).
The church at Thyatira seems to be one where a spirit of compromise and control dwells. Jezebel, in the context of Scripture, is known as a harlot and a person who controls everything. She controlled her husband and the kingdom in addition to being a harlot. Perhaps this was written somewhere of the church around 325 when Constantine came to power. Church Christianity was legalized in 325 and Constantine became ruler in approximately 313. Christianity was legalized in 313 but it was not until Theodosius I, in the light fourth century, that Christianity actually became the official religion of the empire. Of course, this gave rise to the papacy which was known during the Reformation.
Next is the discussion and evaluation of Sardis. They represent the church from the time of Constantine during the reformation.
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars (those are the seven churches that were discussed earlier in this book); I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God (Revelation 3:1-2).
This speaks of traditionalism that takes place in the age of the Reformation with John Calvin, Martin Luther, and so forth. Many know of the works of Calvin as well as of the Reformation. However, they are not aware that John Calvin, the Great Reformist, burned his enemies at the stake. He was not much different than the Roman Catholics who preceded him.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not block out his name out of the book of life … (Revelation 3:3-5).
This is an interesting statement and supports the twenty-second chapter of Revelation, which says that those who get to Heaven are they who have their names written in “the book of life.” Many people wonder what it means to have one’s name blotted out of the book of life. The explanation is that somebody previously had his (or her) name placed into the book of life but then it was removed. With this information, the “once saved always saved” argument becomes invalid.
“… but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:5-6).
Another one of churches was that of Philadelphia, which means brotherly love. However, it seems to be an age of inferiority and spirit of evangelism.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 3:7-13).
This sounds like the Reformation or the age right after the Reformation, which was an era of evangelism. Here again, the same theme of “he that overcometh” is repeated. The book of Revelation contrasts it later on in other chapters.
An integral part of church history is also that of the Laodicean church. The Laodiceans became consumed with the spirit of pride and had some inclinations to Mystery Babylon. Today’s churches are also filled with it. Remember, these churches are seven literal churches. Furthermore, they are allegorical, plus represent futuristic literature. The whole Book of Revelation is written in this manner.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches (Revelation 3:14-22).
Laodicea was the banking center of Asia Minor. Even though they thought they were increased with goods and had need of nothing, Jesus knew that was a lie and told them the truth about it.