The Lake of Fire - PART VII
THE SEVEN SYMBOLIC CHURCHES OF REVELATION
FIRST: A SPIRITUAL SIDEBAR
Maybe by now some of my readers are beginning to say to themselves, "Hold on a minute, Ray, time out! All this stuff about symbols, and figurative language, and allegories, and parables, and metaphors, and devils and serpents, and monsters from the sea having seven heads and ten horns, and fires in a lake which is not really a lake, but is a spiritual lake and not literal fire, and heads that are not heads, but mountains, and the mountains are not mountains, but rather kings, etc., etc., etc., is beginning to wear on me. It all sounds like some endless scavenger hunt or some ancient version of 'Dungeons and Dragons,' or maybe God's version of 'Who Done It?'"
Yet others of you are saying to yourselves: "Wow, this is MARVELOUS stuff! It is amazing how God has hid the truths of His plan of salvation for the world, from the world, and yet when one follows His instructions in unlocking these mysteries, IT ALL MAKES PERFECT SENSE AND ALL THE SCRIPTURES HARMONIZE BEAUTIFULLY!"
Or maybe you are somewhere in between these two examples. WHY DOES GOD WORK THIS WAY? Why doesn't He JUST SPEAK CLEARLY AND WITHOUT PARABLES AND METAPHORS AND SYMBOLS AND EVERYBODY WOULD UNDERSTAND HIM? There wouldn't be a thousand religions and five hundred Christian denominations! We would ALL KNOW THE TRUTH and WE WOULD ALL BE SAVED WITHOUT ANY LAKE OF FIRE!
NOT MANY WISE ARE CALLED
Maybe if you or I created the human race, we would have done it that way. But we didn't; God did; and He didn't do it our way. God never intended for everyone to understand His Word or His Plan except for the few that He calls in every generation. He is not even trying to save the whole world in this lifetime or even in this age. The prophet Habakkuk tells us this,
Oh it "shall" shall it? WHY NOT NOW? Wouldn't it be better NOW if the earth were FILLLED with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord? Why later? Because it is God's way. Let me quote Hab. 2:3 from the Revised Standard Version:
God's ways take time and He does everything according to His schedule, trust me, EVERYTHING IS RIGHT ON SCHEDULE.
Why God hasn't even called whole categories of people during the past two thousand years:
And of those called, only a "few are chosen." And those few are admonished to search, and hunt, and dig for the truth. None of this is an accident nor is it God's plan gone amuck. God's plan is on schedule to the millionth of a millisecond. God knows how many hairs were lost on your head today because He had already planned how many you would lose, a long time ago.
God is considerably smarter and more powerful than most people could ever conceive (including myself). Who but God would have designed and created the Hebrew and Greek languages. (People the world over are still saying, "It's GREEK to me")! God caused these languages to die out. Later God revived these two 'dead languages' in Italy, France, and England during the period of time God preordained to be called the Renaissance. Before this, no one spoke Hebrew or Greek in Europe, and very few scholars understood these languages. God planned that this alone would be a major barrier to understanding His Word. And when God finally put it within the hearts of men to translate His word out of the Greek, it was found to be jam packed with metaphors, parables, figurative language, and ancient idioms, difficult to translate.
NO ERROR-FREE BIBLE TRANSLATIONS
By the way, the idea of an "inerrant" or flawless translation is not even possible. It just isn't possible to translate one language into another language PERFECTLY. It cannot humanly be done! There are many words, idioms, and colloquial sayings in many languages that simply HAVE NO EXACT EQUIVALENT in other languages. But that's okay. It is possible to understand God's Word even with these difficulties, differences, and imperfect translations. That is because the real understanding is in the SPIRIT and not in the LETTER. Certainly God uses both, but the emphasis is on the former and not the latter.
The strange languages we find on earth today are the inventions of God Himself. Yes, they are. God confounded the languages of mankind at the Tower of Babel. He really did a number on the Chinese, didn't He?
God knows that understanding His Word is not a casual task that can be accomplished without great effort. Paul told Timothy to "STUDY," rather than just casually read the Scriptures. Even with the aid of God Spirit, we must study, God does not miraculously cause His saints to memorize and understand all Scripture.
When I was young and ignorant (okay, more ignorant than I am now), I wondered why so many translations. Why not just one perfect one? Why don't those who understand Hebrew and Greek just get together and whatever the word in Hebrew is, translate it into an English word that means the same thing, and we will have a perfect translation with no errors? There is no such thing, my friend. There is no such thing as a "perfect" word for word translation from one language to another. If you doubt my statement, just ask a few experts, and they will enlighten you.
Every nation and every culture has its own ways and customs. Add to this problem, the fact that the languages of Scripture were dead for centuries and had to be rediscovered. Add to this, customs that no longer exist. Add to this, words that have gone out of use, etc., etc., etc, and you will see the colossal task of translating 3500 year old Hebrew into modern English or 2000 year old Greek into English. Let me give you a simple example of how the very same thought or idea is expressed in two modern and very similar languages.
A TRANSLATION ILLUSTRATION
My wife Manuela, is German. I asked her if they have a saying in Germany that is the same as one that I gave to her in English. She said, "Yes, but we don't say it that way." Well, I asked her how they do say it, and she replied:
Okay. What is that in English? First she informed me the Germans choose these specific words to express this old colloquial saying, because it rhymes so nicely. Here is an exact word for word translation into English:
That's a word for word translation, but as you can plainly hear, in English the rhyme is gone. And we don't normally speak that way in English either, so the second line of word order must be changed:
Now we might contend that this is an accurate translation, but certainly not a good translation. A few of you might not as yet even know what the English counterpart of this saying is. And that is because translating also involves INTERPRETING.
We do, in deed, have a similar saying in America, to this saying in Germany. But in the American version, many would not understand it unless we change a word or two. Now we do have a similar saying in America with the same general thought and wording, and so we would properly translate this old Germany saying as follows:
It sounds just as strange to Germans when they hear our version: "won't hurt you" as it sounds strange to us when we hear "doesn't make you hot." Actually the German version of this colloquial saying is more precise to the truth than is our American version. There are many things that you might not know or be aware of that can hurt you. One could have cancer and not know it, but it sure could be hurtful to your body. But in Germany they are more precise in that what one doesn't know doesn't make one "hot." Or as we might say in English: "hot under the collar." Or make us flush or blush by raising our blood pressure. The emotional reaction of getting "hot" comes from knowing something, not from not knowing something.
Anyway, I hope that everyone reading this paper can see, from this simple example, that a perfect error-free translation of Hebrew and Greek into English is NOT POSSIBLE! There will always be minor or major changes in the interpretation when translating. This is one reason why Peter tells us that no Scripture is its OWN INTERPRETATION. We must compare Scripture with Scripture. Likewise, we must have TWO witnesses of Scripture before a binding truth is established.
IS THE KING JAMES BIBLE INERRANT?
Many feel that the King James Bible is "inerrant" (incapable of error). It is, in fact, a doctrine of some denominations. There have been over ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND changes in the King James Bible. Most of them are relatively minor changes such as spelling, grammar, etc. Nonetheless, I think all should agree that any translation requiring a hundred thousand corrections hardly could be called perfect and inerrant. In the front of my 1611 Edition of the King James there is an eleven-page dissertation entitled: "THE TRANSLATORS To The Reader." And in it the translators freely confess their inability to translate the Scriptures flawlessly.
This 1611 KJV also has notes in the margins. Unfortunately, these have all been removed from most modern printings. Hundreds of times you will find in the margin, notes stating what the Hebrew or Greek literally said even though they saw fit to translate it otherwise. I am not criticizing this practice. Often it is necessary because it is not possible to translate word for word and have it make sense in English. Most of the corrections made over the centuries have been positive, however, there still remains a few major errors that desperately need correction. Example: the words "hell" and "eternal" have no equivalent in either the Hebrew or Greek manuscripts! (Read the first ten pages of my Letter to John Hagee on this site).
THERE AIN'T NO HELL IN THE MANUSCRIPTS
Let's consider the use of the word "hell" in Scripture. The Jewish Publications avoid the word "hell" in their translating. And just maybe Jewish scholars understand their own language better than others. In the KJV we regretfully still read "hell" in a number of Old Testament Scriptures:
Next from the most popular selling Bible today, The New International Version:
Many modern English translations are dropping the word "hell," more and more from their translations. Why? Because it should have never been used in the first place, and honest scholars are beginning to see that clearly.
This is one area where the KJV translators are really inconsistent. The translators of the KJV translate the Hebrew word sheol, 31 times as, "hell." But ... BUT, did you know that they also translate this same word sheol, 31 times as, "grave?" Oh really? Yes, really! And 3 times, "pit." That looks like a toss of the coin, doesn't it? Thirty-one, "hell" and thirty-one, "grave." Do you think that maybe that is how they determined which it should be-"heads for hell" and "tails for grave?" And maybe three times "pit" when they dropped the coin?
Now let me show you how you all can have greater wisdom than even the modern translators. The same New International Version that I quoted above has this in Luke 16:32:
But by the word hell there is a superior letter "c" indicating a marginal notation which says: "23 Greek Hades" I thank these translators for their partial honesty. Why "partial honesty?" Because hades is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word sheol, which these same translators translated into the English word "grave" in Psalm 9:17 (and other places), but in Luke 16:23 they revert back to the unscriptural word "hell." By the way, the Holy Spirit inspired the Hebrew word sheol to be translated into the Greek word hades, so we know for sure that they are equivalents:
That, my friends, is a quotation from the Old Testament Hebrew Psalm 16:10. Therefore, hades and sheol are synonymous and should never be translated "hell."
ERRORS IN THE KING JAMES
Those who claim that the KJV is inerrant are not aware of the fact that one edition of the King James left out the word "not" in the seventh commandment. There were, in fact, three different corrections and revisions of the KJV in its very first year of publication.
FIRST KILL THE CHILDREN
There have been countless mistakes in all the editions of the KJV. I will give you just a few. The 1716 Edition had Jesus commanding the adulteress to, "sin on more" instead of "sin no more" In a 1795 Edition Jesus is reported to have said to the Syro-Phoenician woman, "Let the children first be killed" instead of "Let the children first be filled." They called that Edition "The Murderer's Bible." In the 1792 Edition of the King James Bible has Phillip denying Jesus instead of Peter denying Him.
STRAINING "AT" A GNAT?
And there are still obvious errors remaining in the KJV after four hundred years of corrections, revisions, and editing. In Matt. 23:24 we read this in the KJV, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." So what's wrong with that? It's incoherent! It's "apples and oranges." Christ is speaking of "swallowing," as in "swallowing a camel." But "straining at a gnat" has nothing to do with swallowing a gnat. In four hundred years, the revisers of the KJV have not caught that slip. Most other translators have caught it and translate it properly:
JESUS OR JOSHUA?
One more: Two obvious mistakes that were made in the 1611 Edition of KJV also have not been corrected to this very day. In both Acts 7:45 and Heb. 4:8, the name "Jesus" appears where "Joshua" is actually meant. Actually Jesus and Joshua are spelled the same in Greek, but, nonetheless, the translators were inattentive or they would have caught this error.
THE KING JAMES AND WILLIAM TYNDALE
I do not point out these errors to disparage the KJV. Not at all, but to merely show that those who claim "inerrancy" in translations are just plain ignorant of the facts.
The truth be known, if the words sheol/hades, and olam/aion, were properly translated the King James would be maybe the finest translation of all time. To me the rhyme and meter of the King James is unparalleled. And this has been accomplished without sacrificing accuracy. It is a masterful work of translating.
Of course, the 1611 Translators shouldn't get the lion's share of the credit for this accomplishment. Perhaps as much as 90% of the KJV is the work of Translator William Tyndale, irrespective of the fact that the KJV translators do not even acknowledge his contribution to their work.
And so it was Tyndale who accomplished this magical rhyme of Scriptures and yet stayed very precisely to the original Hebrew and Greek wording besides properly interpreting the meaning of thought. Of course, we all know, it was really God Himself Who intended the most popular version of His Word on earth, to have that special quality about it. Sadly, Tyndale translated only about twelve books in the Old Testament before the Church thought it necessary to strangle him and burn his body for his sin of making the Word of God available to the common people. We will learn more nasty little habits of the Church in the pages that follow.
If translators attempt to translate thought for thought rather than word for word, then the translators become, of necessity, interpreters. In those cases where a word, thought or idiom cannot be translated perfectly, the translators attempt to do the best they can. This is the reason that I use many translations and I find them all helpful. Although the translators of The Living Bible may have gone a little far when they translated Job 41:30 thus: "His belly is covered with scales as sharp as shards; he drags across the ground like a steamroller!"
I am sure by now, that you have noticed how I go to great pains to explain one statement in Scripture by one or more other statements in Scripture, so that the meaning can be understood even if the translations are less than perfect. But this takes a great deal of work. If we had to read popular novels this way, there would be very few novels purchased. I have spent hours and days on one verse. And then, don't you know, God would reveal the truth of the verse to me days later while driving down the Interstate.
THE DISCIPLES STRUGGLED WITH CHRIST'S WORDS
I just love the subtle humor that God gives us in His Word. If the apostles had trouble understanding the words of our Lord, when they were right there with him, and no language translator was needed, seeing that they all spoke the same language, is it little wonder that we have trouble 2000 years later, speaking totally different languages?
On the evening of the Lord's Supper, Jesus was teaching His disciples many things. At one point in the evening the disciples said:
Jesus then explains His statement more thoroughly in verses 29-31,
To avoid open embarrassment, the disciples said in effect: "Oh, okay, now we get it ... now You're talking Lord, now it's all plain. Now that you aren't speaking in parables and proverbs and symbols, we see now what You're talking about. NOW we understand." Oh really? Jesus let them know that they didn't understand at all!
UNDERSTANDING COMES ONLY FROM THE SPIRIT
In John 16:4 we read this,
So why didn't the disciples understand these things when Jesus first taught them? Because they weren't converted as yet. They did not have the Spirit of God as yet. That is the ONLY way we can ever understand these deep symbolic mysteries of God:
I believe we need to beware of those who claim to know God's Spiritual Truths, but know preciously little about God's Word, the Scriptures. God's Spirit never contradicts His Word, but the Church's teaching contradicts God's Word in hundreds of places.
God has hid these mysteries from the world and even from the Church, I am sad to say. Not that I am the only one to begin understanding these things. There have always been some in every generation that God gave this understanding to. And there are now people scattered around the world that understand these deep mysteries of God and His prophecies for the future, but they are relatively few in number.
Notice Revelation 5:10,
Now Proverbs 25:2,
And so if we are to be kings, it is our honour to "search out" these things. You must want it more than anything in the world; more than anything in life, more than life itself! If you want life, you must SACRIFICE your life.
WEALTHY YOUNG MAN TURNS DOWN APOSTLESHIP
A young man came running to Jesus and fell down before Him intently desiring to inherit the kingdom with Jesus. He was a commandment keeper, but he was also rich. Then we read this:
Many have failed to see in this verse that Jesus offered this young man the opportunity to not only inherit the kingdom of God, and to have eternal life, and to have treasure in heaven, but to be Christ's apostle right then and there! Would you have taken Jesus up on such an unbelievable opportunity-to be His very apostle? They wouldn't have needed to cast lots to replace Judas with Mathias-Jesus would have already had the 'twelfth man.' But the young man sadly turned Jesus down. Oh yes, it was 'sadly,' but he did turn Jesus down. He said, "Thanks ... but no thanks ... the cost is too great!"
Say, did you forget that phrase already, "Jesus LOVED him?" Yes, and Jesus loves him still, and He will always love him, even if this young man will probably have to go through the lake of fire to be purged of his wicked "idol of the heart."
COUNTING THE COST
Would you have taken up Christ's invitation to become an apostle with Him? Oh really? And just what idol of your heart are you willing to give up? You say, "I am not rich, or I would give it up to be an apostle of Jesus Christ." Well then, I guess we can eliminate "wealth" as one of the idols of your heart. But what is still left in your heart that you idolize? I believe that I have the mind of Christ when I say that there are many readers of this paper on the lake of fire that have as their idol their own false religious doctrines. And they are not willing to give them up, not even for Christ. And, many will not even go away "sadly" after reading this paper because they are so spiritually blind that they do not recognize their idols as idols.
Many spiritually blind believers think that they truly are disciples of Christ, but they go out telling the world that Jesus Christ will not take away the sin (singular 'SIN'-ALL SIN) of the world, as John the Baptist plainly said under inspiration of God, that He would (John 1:29). And that Jesus Christ is NOT the SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD, even though His Father plainly said that He is (I John 4:14). And that God will not have all mankind to be saved, though God inspired Paul to say that He WILL save all mankind (I Tim. 2:4, & 4:10). Are such deceivers worthy to be called disciples and apostles of our Lord? I speak as a fool!
IDOLS OF THE HEART
These evil and unscriptural doctrines are idols in the hearts of millions! And until they repent and get rid of these "idols of the heart" (Ezek. 14:4), they cannot be Christ's disciples or apostles. They may say that they are "apostles," but they are not. The very church of God where Jesus Christ "walks" in their midst and "holds the seven angels of the seven churches in His hand," nonetheless, has in its midst, "...them which say they are apostles, and ARE NOT ... but LIARS." They say that they are circumcised in heart Jews, but they are NOT,
Is that strong enough for you? While I'm at it, let me give you a little more, seeing how paramount this knowledge is to our understanding of God's plan.
It is God Who has created this universe as we see it. God has determined the best path in bringing about His purpose. Sharks, weeds, spiders, and poison mushrooms are all part of God's master plan. As are hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, earthquakes, and disease. We may not always understand it, but we cannot deny its existence.
My only son died of encephalitis when he was only seven and a half years old. Doctors believe that he was bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. I don't like mosquitoes! But God also made sunsets, star-lit nights, white clouds on blue sky, trees, delicious foods, cool water, kind-hearted people, puppy dogs, and kittens. I love puppy dogs and kittens. I see a kind and gentle loving God in the face of a kitten.
SELDOM A SERMON ON THE 7 CHURCHES OF GOD
Have you ever heard a sermon on the seven churches of God described in Revelation 2 & 3? Probably not. Especially if your pastor has even the slightest understanding that these seven (God's number of completeness) churches represent the WHOLE CHURCH OF GOD down through centuries to our very day. I don't believe there are very many clergymen that would want you to know just what evil lurks in their hallowed halls of heinous heresy. Let's find out.
God is about to show you some mysteries and secrets that have been withheld from most Christians for centuries. The understanding and overcoming of these mysteries is also a huge part of God's master plan for those whom He is enlightening in this dark, dark world. God is calling out (for that is what the word church means) a people that are desirous of knowing His will at all cost.
Locked within the symbolic language of the seven churches of Revelation is one of the most intriguing revelations of the spiritual weaknesses of mankind that we could ever discover. Out of these spiritual weaknesses, God is calling a people that will have great strength. Much of the strength and character and godliness are acquired by the very act of coming out of this corrupted system. It is akin to the pains of childbirth. You women are asking how I would know anything about that, seeing I never gave birth to a child. Okay, then, the pain can be horrific like an abscessed tooth (I have experienced that). The tooth must come out. And if the infant does not come out, it will die and the mother as well.
THE 7 CHURCHES ARE GOD'S CHURCHES
Make no mistake, the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are the churches of the Living God! They are not pagan churches, neither are they Satan's churches, but they are GOD'S churches! It is none other than Jesus Christ Himself Who
We must understand what the Spirit says, which Christ interprets to mean having an ear (an spiritual ear) that can understand. This is not some game of Dungeons and Dragons. This is real life. This is the way God has designed it. God has shrouded the mysteries of life in parables and metaphors and symbols.
When Adam and Eve could lazily pick their fruit and food with little effort, they had little appreciation for them. God wants us to desire His way above life itself. He wants us to sell all that we have so that we can purchase the pearl of great price. He wants us to buy a field that has hidden treasure in it. God wants us to use our body, mind, and spirit-everything we have, to acquire the HIGH CALLING.
Paul said, forgetting the things that are past, he pressed onward and upward. I am not trying to sound melodramatic, but that's just the way it is. We really do wrestle with "spiritual forces of wickedness" (Eph. 6:12).
"THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING"
"Oh, sure, the Creator God is using jerks like L. Ray Smith to unlock and mysteries of the universe and show us how we should live by interpreting ancient symbols in a book written in ancient Hebrew and Greek." I know, it sounds foolish to the carnal mind. That God should die on a wooden cross might also sound foolish, but nonetheless:
It's just God's way. And it is a grand way.
Back to the churches: Jesus Christ offers both, commendation and condemnation to His Churches. But notice what Jesus Christ says to John:
This is not L.Ray Smith speaking here, but Jesus Christ to the seven churches (seven-the complete church of God from the time of Christ's departure until the time He judges the world).
IS THE BOOK OF REVELATION A HISTORY OR A PROPHECY?
Has everything in the book of Revelation been already fulfilled as taught by the Preterist theory? Or is there much to yet be fulfilled in this prophecy?
Here is some wisdom concerning the prophecies of Revelation. John wrote in a book what he saw at the time of the vision. The seven churches of Asia Minor already existed at the time of his vision. But the vision is not all history to those who read it down through the centuries, not at all. The things written in this book are both present and future to the reader:
Now then, if this book has already been completely fulfilled, how would it be possible for me or anyone else who reads this book down through the centuries, to "add to" or "take away from" the prophecy of this book? Such an admonition would be meaningless if everything in this book were already completely fulfilled by the end of the first century.
The contents of this prophecy started with the vision of John on Patmos two thousand years ago and will continue until the return of Christ and the judgment of the world, and continues even beyond that until the end of the ages spoken of in this prophecy!
DEFINING: "COME QUICKLY"
What does Christ mean when He says, "I come QUICKLY?" By the way, the word "shortly" in Rev. 1:1 is the same Greek translated "quickly" everywhere else in Revelation.
From the first verse in Revelation to the last verse, we are told of things that must com to pass "quickly." But all this was written two thousand years ago and it has not as yet all come to pass. If two thousand years is "quickly," I would hate to know how long it would take if it came about "slowly." A contradiction in the Scriptures? Hardly. But is rather a contradiction in men's interpretation of this prophecy.
I have had Preterists write me and ask if I couldn't see that all of Revelation was already fulfilled in the first century AD? Oh really? Has "EVERY man's work" been judged already in the lake of fire? And is it a fulfilled reality today that,
Have you seen the world news in the past two-four hours? Am I missing something? I see tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain, everywhere, every day!
All scholars agree that Revelation was written late in the first century AD. Are we to believe that God caused the most profound book in the entirety of the Bible to be written and fulfilled BEFORE virtually a single person had an opportunity to even read it? That's absurd.
WHEN IS THE TIME AT HAND THAT JESUS COMES QUICKLY?
What and how then, does anything in this book come about "quickly?" Good question. Obviously not everything in the whole book has come about "quickly," because there is much yet to come about and be fulfilled. Just what then does come about "quickly?"
When Jesus tells John that He wants His servants to see what must "quickly" (or shortly, if anyone insists on using that word), He does not say that everything in this book must quickly or shortly, come to pass. Notice it: One time we are told that the third woe comes "quickly." And all of the other six times it is Jesus Christ Himself that comes "quickly."
That is, it comes quickly behind the second woe. We have the first woe, then the second woe, and right on the heels of the second woe comes quickly the third and final woe. And so this use of the word "quickly" proves nothing concerning how long it takes to fulfill the whole book of Revelation.
So really then, the only use of the word quickly that we need to understand is how it is used with reference to Jesus Christ "coming quickly." Six times we are told, "I will come... I will come... I come... I come... I come... I come..." So it is JESUS CHRIST that "comes quickly," rather than all of the prophecies of the book being fulfilled quickly in any ONE generation.
Nowhere in Revelation does it say that every prophecy in the book will be fulfilled, quickly in any one generation-either past, present, or future. It is not just in one end-time generation that Revelation is fulfilled quickly! NO! It is fulfilled "quickly" in each and every person who "READS AND UNDERSTANDS" this prophecy, through all generations, even though there is an eventual culmination at the lake of fire and final white throne judgment.
SEVEN MEANS COMPLETE
The Sabbath or "seventh day" COMPLETES the week. Daniel's famous prophecy was
Seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven plagues complete God's wrath on mankind. Seven is used over six hundred times in Scriptures. Check if your wish, to see how many times seven shows completeness.
Therefore, how many churches complete THE WHOLE CHURCH OF GOD?
Were there not churches (congregations) also in Judea as well? Even in Rome? Why only the seven churches "in ASIA?" Because these seven congregations completed all that Jesus had to say to all congregations, everywhere. This is a COMPLETE revelation for ALL CHURCHES. These seven congregations had within them all of the sins, weaknesses, and shortcomings of all congregations everywhere during ALL TIME. I will make this abundantly and Scripturally clear. But on the positive side, all of the churches had at least a "few names" that were not spiritually defiled, and who will be in the first resurrection as Sons and Daughters of God to bring the rest of the harvest, the great fall harvest into the Kingdom.
These churches that personify in symbol all of God's church for the past two thousand years, are in fact, the training ground and the proving ground for the elect. Coming out of this carnal system puts one among the called and the chosen and the VERY elect. Paul called it "the HIGH CALLING."
When you go through the messages to the seven churches, you will see a reiteration of the same problems in all the congregations.
It would take me twenty pages to reiterate all the similarities of both sins and rewards found in all seven church congregations, which represent the whole church of God throughout all generations. Here are just a few things that absolutely prove that these seven churches represent God's complete church though all generations. This is not a dissected church divided up into particular or separate dispensations, ages, or eras.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES ARE ONE CHURCH
Is any so foolish as to think Jesus tells all seven churches to "...hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (all the other plural churches), so that they can compare themselves among themselves and see which one Jesus thinks is the holiest of them all? That is nonsense!
ALL seven churches individually, have ALL the problems and ALL the strengths of all the churches combined. It is ONE prophecy, of ONE church, in ONE hand of Jesus, which combine the characteristics of seven churches in Asia that shared all of the good qualities and all of the shortcomings. Some think that Smyrna and Philadelphia did not have any shortcomings. They did. The Scriptures prove it. We will cover that in Part VIII.
All seven churches were spiritually "lukewarm," which is like being spiritually "dead," because they all "left their first love," and they all had a members who "say they are Jews [spiritually circumcised and converted], and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan," and all the congregations of the churches of God down through the generations have been ruled over by the "Nicolaitanes."
ALL SEVEN CHURCHES HAD ALL OF THE PROBLEMS THAT EACH OTHER HAD, AND ALL OF THE CHURCHES OF GOD DOWN THROUGH THE GENERATIONS HAD ALL OF THE PROBLEMS THAT THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION HAD. IT IS A PROPHECY OF THIS VERY CHURCH THAT EXISTS AROUND THE WORLD TODAY!
And that my dear readers is how these churches in Asia are all SYMBOLS for what the Church of God would be like from the time John saw this vision, down through two thousand years of Church history, and out into the future when Jesus purges all evil from His Church and brings them all into the Family and Kingdom of His Father!
For centuries theologians have written books on such unscriptural prophecy theories as, "Preterism," (all has been fulfilled in the past), and "Futurism, (all is yet to be fulfilled in the future). I get emails all the time asking if I am a Preterist or a Futurist? I tell them, "No, I am a Jesus-ist" (just kidding-I think I coined a new word).
Why, oh why, don't they just listen to Jesus? Can you not all see from what I presented above, that the book of Revelation is neither "Preterist" nor "Futurist?"
THE BOOK OF REVELATION IS TO ALL CHURCHES, IN ALL GENERATIONS, FOR ALL WHO READ THIS PROPHECY, WHEN JESUS OPENS IT TO THEM, IN THEIR OWN LIFETIME (which comes quickly and is over shortly)!
I ask, "Why?" But, of course, I know the reason:
JESUS OFTEN REPEATED HIS SELF
So why did I repeat the very same sentence SEVEN TIMES? I can't take credit for that; it wasn't my idea. Why would JESUS tell us the same thing SEVEN TIMES in just two chapters (I submit to you that they is only ONE chapter-only 'men' would see the wisdom in breaking up the seven churches into two chapters).
When Jesus repeats something, it is because it is VERY important. When Jesus wanted to emphasize something, He prefaced His statements by repetition: "Martha, Martha..." "Simon, Simon..." "Verily, verily..."
And when Jesus says something three times, you have got to know that it is something EXTREMELY important:
Again the second time
What might it imply that Jesus has said seven times, "He that has an ear, let him HEAR ..." This has got to be MOST important for Him to repeat it to all seven churches. Not only are the individual churches to hear what Jesus points out to them, but everything pointed out to the individual churches to be heard by ALL THE OTHER CHURCHES AS WELL.
Doesn't everyone have ears? Then why can't they "hear" what Christ has to say to the seven churches? Because I already showed you very clearly in previous installments why people can't understand Jesus. Why they can't understand His parables such as Lazarus and the Rich man. Why they don't believe MANY of the plain statements of God's Word, such as I Tim. 3:4 and 4:10. It is because you can't hear the real meaning of God's words with physical and carnal ears! And many of the leaders are among themost carnal in the church.
THE DEVIL MAKES MAN MINDFUL OF PHYSICAL THINGS
The devil has always been mindful of physical, literal, material things. That's what Satan "dines" on-
Yes, the Adversary eats "dust" and we, mankind, ARE "dust" of the ground. Satan does not feast on spiritual food-it would choke him! Satan dines on the carnal [flesh/meat] mind of men. While Jesus was physically starving for forty days, He was feasting on spiritual food from heaven! Satan thought he could trick Jesus into satisfying His need for physical FOOD before He was finished dining on spiritual food with His Father!
Satan should have realized that one doesn't tempt a Spiritual Giant with a loaf of physical bread.
IT TAKES SPIRITUAL EARS TO HEAR SPIRITUAL WORDS
Listen to Jesus (with your SPIRIT):
Practically the whole Church believes and teaches that Jesus spoke literal little stories about physical people, places, and things, so that everyone could understand Him. One cannot hear words of spirit with physical ears.
All they heard were the physical vibrations in the air against their physical eardrums. Their heart and mind and spirit didn't hear a thing! We just read the Scriptures above, where the greatest theologians and thinkers in the law could not "hear" and understand Jesus. Little has changed in two thousand years!
As long as people think what Jesus taught was physical, and material, and literal, then they will never understand. Were the parables given to enhance understanding? I speak as fool (read Matt. 13). Were the teachings of Jesus, temporary, physical, literal? Let Him answer:
Parables have a SPIRITUAL meaning, and all of Christ's teachings are SPIRITUAL. And that is because His very "words" ARE SPIRIT! Remember that Revelation is the "revelation OF Jesus Christ," it is HIS testimony. The "words" of His testimony are therefore, also, "SPIRIT."
So once again: "He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
says..." What "who" says? Just "who" is doing the speaking here in
Revelation? "...hear what THE SPIRIT says..." It is "the
SPIRIT" speaking to the churches, and the words being spoken are those of
Jesus, which "words are SPIRIT," and "the LORD [Jesus Christ]
is that SPIRIT..."
BEHOLD I COME QUICKLY
But just how is it that Jesus Christ "comes quickly?" Ah, now we are getting into the marvelous revelation of this grand book. The key is found in the very first use of this word "quickly."
Does Jesus come "quickly" to rule for a thousand years, or to set up the white throne judgment? Notice in what way Jesus comes "quickly."
Here is the first verse in which Jesus says He will come "quickly":
Who is this, "thee?" It is the CHURCH! But more specifically it is the members that make up the Church.
It is, of course, the members of the church that have "left their first love." Here is absolute proof that the churches of Revelation personify the whole Church of God down through the centuries until the great white throne judgment.
Whatever is found in the seven (the complete) churches of Revelation is also found in the Churches from the time of John's vision until the judgment of the world. This vision shows not only the conditions in God's Church at the time of John's vision, but of the condition of the Church right down till the judgment of the world.
Revelation is "The Revelation OF Jesus Christ." It is not just a revelation from Jesus Christ. It is a Revelation OF Jesus Christ HIMSELF! If we can only believe what Jesus says of Himself:
Therefore the book of Revelation also contains what WAS, IS, AND IS TO COME!
Read and understand:
John to the seven churches which are in Asia
There it is. Can you see it? The "time is at hand." For what? For, "he that reads and they that hear the words of this prophecy..." When would that be? Whenever the "he that reads and they that hear" are alive and reading this prophecy.
Here then is how Jesus comes quickly to "THEE." People have lived, read this prophecy in Revelation, and then at some time thereafter, died. They have lived, read, and died. Millions upon millions have already, lived, read this prophecy, and later died. When does Jesus Christ come to the readers of this prophecy? When they are alive. How long is that?
If Jesus is to "come to thee," dear reader, He must come "quickly," because I don't care how many years you may live; your life will be over "SHORTLY!"
ALL OVERCOMERS RECEIVE ALL REWARDS
The whole book of Revelation is a book about the LIFE OF JESUS written for:
Is this the sole reward of "HIM that overcomes?" NO!
There's more; there's MUCH MORE:
No, the overcomers in one congregation, in one generation, don't get one reward, while the overcomers in a different congregation, in a different generation, gets a different reward. No, a thousand times, "NO"-the overcomers in ALL congregations, in ALL generations, get ALL these rewards. Therefore the prophecies to these churches are written for all the churches of God through all generations.
Perhaps ALL can rejoice over the good news concerning our grand rewards. However, there is a dark side to the Churches of God-darker than Darth Vader-darker than midnight! "What's good for the goose is good for the gander" (I wonder how easily that translates into other languages).
Just as all the rewards are promised to all the overcomers in all generations of the Church, so likewise, do all the sins and shortcomings apply to all the churches throughout all generations. And the sins and shortcomings of God's Church are monstrous!
Yes, God is talking about His people, who are in His church, but ... BUT, who must nonetheless, "REPENT" (Rev. 2:5 & 5, 16, 21, 22, 3:3, 19-seven times, COMPLETE REPENTANCE), and "COME OUT OF HER." Coming out of her is no small part of this "repentance."
A LITTLE HISTORY OF GOD'S CHURCH
There is great debate over when the Church of God really started. I don't see the problem myself, because the first mention of "the Church" is in Acts 7:38 where we read: "This is He [Christ, I Cor. 10:4] that was in the church in the wilderness..." (Acts 7:38). That is the first historical identification of a "church" in the Bible.
As you are all aware, the church came from the wilderness and finally had a permanent home headquartered in the Temple in Jerusalem. But, was as it a holy, righteous, God fearing church? No, contraire.' It was utterly corrupt. Let's see what our Lord had to say about the Church of God in His day. Remember that the Scribes and the Pharisees were among the most zealous for the Law of Moses and they were the leading, ruling class of the day, along with the Chief Priests. They did indeed "sit in Moses' seat." Here then is what Jesus had to say regarding the religious leaders of Israel:
THE SCRIBES, PHARISEES, SADDUCEES, AND CHIEF PRIESTS
First John the Baptist:
Me thinks that maybe more than just a few modern day 'Pharisees' will also be offended after reading these accounts of their past, present, and future evil shenanigans.
"And when the chief priests [oh yes, the very chiefest of the clergy was included with the evil Pharisees] and the Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of THEM" (Matt. 21:45).
In verse 43 Jesus said that,
I believe I have the mind of Christ when I say that the kingdom of God shall be taken from the chief priests and Pharisees of our day as well. They will not escape the lake of fire, although it will be the best thing that has ever happened to them.
WOE, WOE, WOE
And hundreds have criticized my paper "Exposing Those Who Contradict" as being too harsh on our modern Pharisees. So you think maybe this is just "history," do you?
And just when we think it couldn't possibly get any worse than this:
ENTER THE CHIEF PRIESTS-THE HOLIEST OF THE HOLIES
Imagine that? The CHIEF priests, and elders, and ALL the council sought FALSE WITNESS to put their own Saviour TO DEATH! That's pretty low, don't you think? You reckon such a thing would ever happen today?
Even many of the Pharisees that "believed" on Jesus, because nothing but trouble-makers in the congregations of Judea. Look at what we have just read! This is the very CHURCH OF GOD we have read about-the Council, the Elders, the Scribes, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Priests, and the very High Priests! And we just saw what Jesus Christ had to say about them. You didn't see anything quoted above from I Ray 1:1. Those Scriptures are in your Bibles just as surely as they are in mine.
The church leadership in the day of our Lord's ministry was corrupt! Utterly corrupt and evil!
What about AFTER our Lord's ministry? Were there still Pharisees and church leaders doing the abominable things that our Lord accused them of in Matt. 23? Even WORSE!
Shortly thereafter, there arose the GREATEST PERSECUTOR in the history of the church. You will recognize him quickly-we already discussed his evil deeds in a previous installment:
PAUL THE PHARISEE
And An American Translation by Goodspeed translates this verse,
Probably not one person reading this verse in Phil. 3:5 has spotted one of the most unbelievable statements in all Scripture! It is almost beyond comprehension! It will blow your mind when you see it. You will think about it for days and won't be able to fully comprehend what you have read in this verse. Talk about the "deep" things of God-Hold on to your hats, because we are about to make a quantum leap into one of the deep things of God.
Paul was not bragging or exaggerating when he said that concerning the keeping of the Law of Moses with its Ten Commandments, that he was nearing TOTAL PERFECTION!
You must believe that that statement is true. Now then, what was one of the ways that Paul PROVED his "zeal" for God? Not just his duty. Not just what was required of him as a keeper of the law of Moses. But what did Paul do to go WAY ABOVE AND BEYOND the call of duty and service to God? What did he do to show his "ZEAL" The American Heritage Dictionary: zeal n Enthusiastic DEVOTION to a cause, ideal, or goal, p. 1592. What did Paul do, not to just be obedient, but to absolutely PROVE his devotion for God? What did he do to demonstrate this? Let Paul tells us,
Paul showed his zeal for God by "persecuting the church." But wait, there's more.
HIGH PRIEST ENDORSES SLAUGHTER OF CHRIST'S CHURCH
Did Paul act on his own, or did he have CHURCH AUTHORITY to persecute the church? He had authority:
So Paul had church authority to carry out these persecutions from the High Priest, himself!
Here are a few of things that Paul did with regards to persecuting the church:
PAUL HATED THE CHURCH OF GOD
But wait a minute. How could Paul be blameless in the law of Moses if he "hated" the church of God? Because the Law of Moses permitted (even COMMANDED) hating one's enemies, even Jesus said so, that's how! How can killing something be showing "zeal" to God? It's IN THE LAW OF MOSES! Notice how Jahu showed his zeal for the Lord:
IS THE NEW COVENANT THE OLD COVENANT IN YOU HEART?
Now we are coming down to it. The church today teaches that the NEW Covenant or testament is keeping the OLD Covenant better. That's right. They say that the New Covenant is keeping the OLD Covenant in your heart. That is clearly NOT what the Scriptures say. The New Covenant is decidedly,
And many more such Scriptures.
Now we already have clearly seen that Paul kept this Old Covenant Law of Moses contained in Ten Commandments (Deut.4:13), and he kept it BLAMELESSLY! And so Paul may be the only person who has ever came close to keeping the law "blamelessly" or perfectly. Most of Christendom would love to say that they keep the law of Moses "blamelessly!" They would be sooooo proud.
THE CHIEF OF SINNERS WAS THE PERFECT LAW KEEPER
Now then for the shocker! In I Tim. 1:15 we read this:
I covered these verses in great detail in a previous installment. Paul REALLY WAS the WORST, PREEMINENT SINNER THAT HAS EVER LIVED. Paul was truly "CHIEF of sinners"!! And we read where Paul was once "BLAMELESS in the keeping of the law of Moses."
Now then, WHEN was Paul (1) "BLAMELESS IN LAW KEEPING"? And WHEN was Paul (2) "the CHIEF OF SINNERS"? The answer: AT THE SAME TIME!!!
NO WONDER PAUL WROTE:
The Old Covenant written in Ten Commandments on stone tablets was an "ADMINISTRATION OF DEATH" (Ver. 7). And the letter will ALWAYS KILL:
To prove to God his GREATEST ZEAL, Paul persecuted and slaughtered the church, which was legal for him to do under the authority of the High Priest, Chief Priests, Elders and Council at the Temple in Jerusalem, of whom Jesus Himself said, "They SIT IN MOSES SEAT." And it was this very ZEAL FOR GOD that also made him the world's WORST SINNER! Unbelievable! UNBELIEVABLE!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!
But we must believe it-it is the Word of God!
PHARISEES ALWAYS COMMAND
Did the church and the elders and disciples now under the Apostles' care agree with these Pharisees that the Gentles must "keep the law of Moses?" No, they absolutely did not. Read chapter 15 of Acts for yourself.
Paul came OUT of the religion of the Jews COMPLETELY.
The Christian world is teaching and striving to KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF MOSES IN THEIR HEARTS-The Apostle Paul already accomplished that feat and he called that great accomplishment of perfect commandment keeping-"DUNG"!
It was at this stage of Paul's spiritual development and accomplishment that God labeled Paul "THE CHIEF OF SINNERS." Need I say more? Does anyone reading this "have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches?"
And so the Pharisees today are still commanding everyone, everywhere to "KEEP THE LAW OF MOSES?" The Church does not understand that Jesus Christ is the REALITY of what the Old Covenant Laws of Moses were but the shadow.
In a previous installment I showed you how that God converted Saul into Paul in a giant flash of light. God took Paul from the world's greatest law-keeper and the world's greatest sinner into the reality of Jesus Christ in a matter of SECONDS! Paul was shaken to his very foundation on that glorious day on the road to Demascus.
Paul had to COME OUT of the mother church of which he was totally dedicated all the days of his life. Paul was a good Jew, but he was a bad Christian.
Many things that the Church today aspires to are the very things that Paul repented of and called "dung."
The "Jew's religion" as Paul called it was the true Church of God that settled in Jerusalem after coming out of Egypt and out of the Wilderness. But within a short generation after our Lord's crucifixion and resurrection, the Church of God, at the temple in Jerusalem, came to an end. And to this day, there is no more sacrificing, there is no more a temple and there is no more a Levitic Priesthood.
Ironically, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, "church" is mentioned in but two Scriptures. In Matt. 18:17 Jesus refers to "the church" and in Matt. 16:18 He refers to "My church" which He said HE would build. And the seven churches in Rev. 2 & 3 are representative of and the personification of the church that Jesus Christ built. It was THAT church that Jesus built, that Paul the Judaic Pharisee, persecuted. Jesus prophesied that the church would be persecuted and scattered:
The church multiplied in numbers very quickly after the Resurrection, but persecution multiplied also:
GOD'S PEOPLE ARE STILL SCATTERED AND PERSECUTED
Well don't think that the persecution of the Church stopped just because God converted Saul/Paul, the chief persecutor. It did not. Following Christ is synonymous with persecution:
Don't be deceived into thinking that this persecution will come from the world of godless atheism.
God is creating Sons that bear His Name, have His Spirit, have the Mind of Christ, and are the express image of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. It is the highest calling in the universe! Although the sacrifices are great, the rewards are FAR GREATER!
If God is calling you to be a Son, you must come out of "Mystery Babylon the Great, mother of harlots, and the abominations of the earth."
When you see the truth of the seven churches of Revelation in our next installment, it may be the most troublesome truth you will ever encounter. There are few things in this world more bizarre or shocking than the truth of the Seven Churches of Revelation!