|Vol. V Number 2||January 14, 2001|
The seven churches in Asia are representations of of the church today. Some have said that they represent the seven ages of the Christian church. In our study we will look at each of the seven churches and discuss how they might fit some of the churches in the world today.
The order that the seven churches are listed is interesting. Some may think that they are listed from good to bad, or alphabetically. Looking at the map you can see that the order is based upon their geographical position.
1 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;
2 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, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 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.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
7 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.
Jesus is walking continually among the churches. He knows what we are doing, thinking, and pondering. He knows our thoughts prior to us even thinking about them. Jesus is continually in our midst! If you are living in sin, there is nothing hid from the Lord.
Ephesus is the church that is highly concerned with standards. They preach everything from dress codes to obeying certain laws and ordnances. There are many churches that follow this strict regimen today in Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities. These are the strict orthodox communities that for the most part set up closed communities with as little as possible association with the world around them. A lot of times these are called names like religious fanatics by the people of the world. Some of these groups are as follows:
These legalist groups follow the strict regimen for fear that they might be ``kicked out'' of the church. Others follow the regimen because others are doing the same. In the Christian community a large number of these denominations have lost the love of Christ and have sunk to the level of legalism. If you don't follow the precepts of God because you love him with all of your heart, your salvation is in the same jeopardy as the Ephesian Church.
There is some dissension on what the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes was. Some think that it was the self abuse and flagellation of the body, while others hold that it was open promiscuous with the practice of adultery. Either of these extremes God hates. The Ephesian church made sure that none of these were welcome to pollute their church.
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
You can follow all of the doctrines of the church but without the love of Christ it is for nought. There is a promise that corresponds with loving the Lord and that is being able to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the garden paradise of God.
This same tree was in the Garden of Eden, but both of our ancestors did not realize the value of the tree until they were denied access to the tree of life.
If you love the Lord with all of your heart, you will obey his divine precepts out of the love that you have for him. It won't be a hard or arduous task to follow the precepts of God if you love him.
8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9 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.
10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: 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.
11 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.
Smyrna was a church in a poor neighborhood. They did not have the things of the world, or any of the goodies that money can buy. This church is under constant assault by Satan. Here is a persecuted church where the members cannot even get a job. Here is a church that is on fire for the Lord and the members are being throne into prison. This church loves the Lord with all of their heart, and they have not failed him.
This church is warned to hold on unto death. With Jesus there is nothing that can harm you. The body and property may be destroyed, but in the end there is a crown of life reward.
As a side note this is the church that was pastored by Polycarp from History of the Christian Church by philip Schaff, Vol. 1, p. 452. Polycarp is written about in Fox's Book of Martyrs p. 9.
Polycarp, the venerable bishop of Smyrna, hearing that persons were seeking for him, escaped, but was discovered by a child. After feasting the guards who apprehended him, he desired an hour in prayer, which being allowed, he prayed with such fervency, that his guards repented that they had been instrumental in taking him. He was, however, carried before the proconsul, condemned, and burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him saying, ``Swear, and I will release thee; --reproach Christ.''
Polycarp answered, ``Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my king, Who hath saved me?'' At the stake,to which he was tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them that he should stand immovable, the flames on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it a Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.
Now the above story of the execution of Polycarp may or may not be true. But it shows that the people of Smyrna had to hold on even to death.
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 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.
14 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 stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 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.
Pergamos even had a seat for Satan in their midst! Most of the members of the church held fast to the name of Christ and has not denied the faith. Some members of this church held the doctrine of Balaam where the acquisition of wealth by any means is acceptable. (Numbers 22-23) This church also celebrated fornication, and ate things offered to idols misinterpreting Paul's comments on the subject. They went looking for items sacrificed to idols as something special.
As can be seen, there were members of this church that indulged in every sin imaginable, not heading the admonition of living righteously. This church seems to hold the doctrine that Paul preached against.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
This church was saying that grace covers everything, as long as you believe in Jesus Christ. Doesn't this sound like the eternal security doctrine?
Next week we will be looking at the rest of the seven churches in Asia.
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