Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Four Churches of Revelation in Prophecy!
Many churches -- especially those of the Church of God ilk -- claim that they are the only true church on the face of the earth today! So, also, does the Catholic Church in a more ulterior fashion today. Are these claims true or just pompous posturing? How can ALL of these churches be THE "only true church"? The Book of Revelation clearly shows that at least four of the seven churches of Revelation exist side-by-side -- at the end-time! What does "the hour of trial" have in common with "gold refined in the fire"; and who was "SHEBNA" in the Worldwide Church of God?
by John D. Keyser
In a conversation I once had (albeit rather one-sided), with a minister of one of the Churches of God, I was told that there is only one true Church of YEHOVAH God present on the face of the earth today. The implication being that, if this is the case, the ONLY true Christian authority comes from this church alone, which holds the key to the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
This is tantamount to saying YEHOVAH God calls no one to salvation outside of that particular church!
What utter nonsense!
Unfortunately, this is one of many errors some of these Churches have fallen into. It is, perhaps, one of the most dangerous because it creates a certain mind-set that will not allow new truth or corrections in understanding -- unless it comes by way of the "authorized" hierarchy of the church. It also allows for unprecedented control over the membership by ministers or evangelists who claim SOLE AUTHORITY from YEHOVAH God. This engenders a situation where church members are encouraged to FOLLOW CHURCH AUTHORITY rather than the sure WORD OF YEHOVAH GOD.
This mind-set is highly dangerous, and CONTRARY to the teachings of the Messiah himself. It needs to be REPENTED OF!
How did these Churches come to this understanding about the churches of Revelation 2 and 3 when scripture PROVES OTHERWISE? It has been an assiduous change that has taken place over time, fueled by the mind-set we have just been talking about. Many other doctrines have gradually been changed in the same fashion.
We should, therefore, examine these churches of Revelation and see if we can disprove the pompous posturing of Churches sliding inexorably towards destruction!
In the Book of Revelation the apostle John, under the guidance of the Messiah, wrote about seven churches that are types of seven churches which have existed from 31 A.D. down to the present -- and on out to the return of the Messiah. The letters John wrote were directed to the angels (messengers, leaders) of seven literal churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time.
A careful study of these letters will indicate that Yeshua said something to the LAST FOUR of these seven churches that easily shows the angels ( messengers, leaders) of these four churches to be EXISTING IN THE END TIME RIGHT UP TO THE RETURN OF THE MESSIAH!
The Church at Thyatira
In Revelation 2:18-29 we read the following:
"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: "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.
"Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman JEZEBEL, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into GREAT TRIBULATION, unless they repent of their deeds. And 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. But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they call them, I will put on you no other burden. BUT HOLD FAST WHAT YOU HAVE TILL I COME.
There are a number of verses in this passage that show the Church of Thyatira to be in existence at the return of the Messiah. Verse 18 says: "These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like FLAMES OF FIRE and his feet like FINE BRASS."
Robert H. Mounce, in his book The Book of Revelation, states the following:
He [the messenger] is described as having eyes like FLAMES OF FIRE and feet like BURNISHED BRASS. Both descriptions are taken from the initial vision of chapter 1. In Daniel's great vision of THE LAST DAYS (chaps.10-12) the celestial being appearing to him has "EYES LIKE FLAMING TORCHES" and "LEGS LIKE THE GLEAM OF BURNISHED BRONZE" (Dan. 10:6).
In verse 14 of Daniel 10 the messenger explains to Daniel WHY he is there in vision: "Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people IN THE LATTER DAYS, for the vision refers to MANY DAYS YET TO COME."
We see in the above verses that a messenger or angel is appearing to Daniel with eyes like "pools of fire" and feet like "polished brass" to reveal to him prophesies concerning the END TIMES just prior to the return of the Messiah! Since the Messiah appeared to the apostle John in a similar manner it is, therefore, readily apparent that the letter to the leader of the Church at Thyatira is a prophecy that also pertains to the END TIMES!
If we move down to verse 22 of Revelation 2 we will discover the following: "So I am throwing her into a sickbed; and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great trouble, unless they turn from the sins connected with what she does" (Jewish New Testament). In the original Greek the words for "great trouble" are the same as those found in Rev. 7:14, which refer to the TIME OF TRIAL that is going to befall the earth and its peoples just prior to the Messiah's return.
Verse 25 states: "But hold fast what you have TILL I COME." Here we plainly see this Church to be extant at the return of the Messiah.
We find the phrase "until the end" mentioned in the following verse (26). A study of its meaning in the original Greek reveals that this phrase is related to time. The preposition until means literally "until (of time)," indicating that the phrase could be translated "until the end of time" or "the TIME OF THE END"! This further establishes the time-frame of the Thyatiran Church.
Now, if we go to verse 23 we find still further proof of the end time existence of the Church of Thyatira: "And ALL THE CHURCHES shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts." This verse right here implies MORE THAN ONE CHURCH OF YEHOVAH GOD operating at this time!
The Messiah's warning to the Thyatiran Church tells of a future "Jezebel" who leads YEHOVAH's people into spiritual and sexual immorality. Is it more than coincidence that the "Elijah to come" will be carrying out his ministry at this SAME TIME? Will he have to combat a "Jezebel," just as the original Elijah did in his day?
Think about it!
All the verses we have just examined plainly show the Church of YEHOVAH God at Thyatira to be a viable and visible church that will be in existence at the Messiah's return. We have also seen that there are other Churches of YEHOVAH God CONTEMPORARY with it!
Having proven this, let us move on to the next church -- the Church at Sardis.
The Church at Sardis
To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I KNOW YOUR DEEDS; YOU HAVE A REPUTATION OF BEING ALIVE, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. REMEMBER, THEREFORE, WHAT YOU HAVE RECEIVED AND HEARD; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I WILL COME LIKE A THIEF, AND YOU WILL NOT KNOW AT WHAT TIME I WILL COME TO YOU.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.
Very little is said about this dying Church. However, the KEY sentence is in verse three: "But if you do not wake up, I will come LIKE A THIEF, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." The phrase "like a thief" occurs three times in the New Testament, and in every case relates to the SECOND COMING OF THE MESSIAH!
I THESS. 5:13: Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
II PETER 3:10: But the DAY OF THE LORD WILL COME LIKE A THIEF. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will disappear by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
REVELATION 16:15: Behold, I COME LIKE A THIEF! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.
If this is not plain enough, there are two other places in the New Testament that show the same relationship:
MATTHEW 24:42-44: Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night THE THIEF WAS COMING, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because THE SON OF MAN WILL COME AT AN HOUR WHEN YOU DO NOT EXPECT HIM.
LUKE 12:39-40: But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour THE THIEF WAS COMING, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because THE SON OF MAN WILL COME AT AN HOUR WHEN YOU DO NOT EXPECT HIM.
It is beyond argument that verse 3 of Revelation 3 refers to the RETURN OF THE MESSIAH and, therefore, the Sardis Church will BE IN EXISTENCE AT THIS TIME!
This is one area where almost all the commentaries are in agreement. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, by R.H. Charles, has this to say: "It is to be unexpected, whereas in the clause 'I shall come like a thief' there is a definite menace, in which it is implied that the Church of Sardis will be caught off guard by the SUDDENNESS OF CHRIST'S ADVENT."
G. B. Caird's book A commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, backs this up:
The threat of judgment -- I shall come upon you like a thief -- is couched in imagery traditionally associated with THE DAY OF THE LORD (cf. Matt. xxiv.43; Luke xii.39; I Thess. v.2; 2 Pet. iii:10)...Charles, for example, comments: 'it is implied that the Church of Sardis will be caught off their guard by the suddenness of Christ's Advent' -- p. 48-49.
The commentator Robert H. Mounce makes this observation:
If the church [Sardis] does not wake up to its perilous position, Christ will unexpectedly (i.e.., as a thief) visit them in judgment. In other NT passages where the COMING OF CHRIST (OR THE DAY OF THE LORD) IS SAID TO BE LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT (Mt. 24:42-44; I Thess. 5:2; II Pet. 3:10), THE SECOND ADVENT IS IN VIEW. -- The Book of Revelation, p. 111.
I could go on and on -- the examples are numerous! Like The Jerome Biblical Commentary says, "This image [like a thief] was in widespread use, designating the unexpected coming of Christ at the last day."
Need I say more?
Now that we have reviewed the Church at Sardis, let us take a look at the church most pleasing to YEHOVAH God.
The Church at Philadelphia
There are two verses in the letter to the Philadelphian Church that clearly show this church to be extant at the same time as the Churches in Thyatira and Sardis.
To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens, no one can shut; and what he shuts, no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but liars -- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the HOUR OF TRIAL that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
I AM COMING SOON. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The first verse -- verse 10 -- states: "Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from THE HOUR OF TRIAL that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth." The term "the hour of trial," can also be translated "TIME OF TROUBLE" from the original Greek. This phrase points to a definite period of time that will afflict this earth and its peoples. We find this mentioned in Revelation 7:14 and many other places.
This same time is mentioned in Isaiah 26:20 --
Come, my people, enter you chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until THE INDIGNATION IS PAST.
When does this "indignation" occur? Just before the return of the Messiah! The next verse (2) concurs: "For behold, the Lord COMES OUT OF HIS PLACE to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquities."
Most commentators agree with this understanding, and Robert H. Mounce, in his book The Book of Revelation, has this to say:
The HOUR OF TRIAL is that period of testing and TRIBULATION that precedes the establishment of the eternal kingdom. It is mentioned in such passages as Daniel 12:2, Mark 13:14, and II Thessalonians 2:1-12...
In fact, all the judgments from 6:1 onward relate to this final hour of trial. It is during this period that Christ will reward the faithfulness of the Philadelphian church by standing by to ward off all the demonic assaults of Satan. The test indicates that the HOUR OF TRIAL comes upon the "whole world" to try "them that dwell upon the earth." In the other places in Revelation where the latter phrase occurs (6:10; 8:13; 11:10 [twice]; 13:8,14); Since the end is NOT FAR OFF, they are to hold fast what they have (faith in Christ and obedience to his word; cf. vs. 8) so that no one will take their crown.
The Expositor's Bible Commentary (Vol.12 -- Zondervan Publishing House) comments: "Here the words of Christ 'I am coming soon' (cf. 22:7, 12:20) are not a threat of judgment but a PROMISE OF CHRIST'S SECOND COMING, such as the promise the faithful Christians IN THYATIRA received (2:25)."
G.B. Caird's A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine agrees: "Even in the present letter [to the Philadelphian Church] the promise 'I am coming soon' is best taken with what precedes: the Christians will be kept safe through the ordeal, because this is the moment at which Christ WILL MAKE GOOD TO THEM HIS PROMISE TO COME AGAIN."
The Church at Laodicea
This Church, in the affluent society of Laodicea, received a scathing rebuke from the Messiah for its compromising and accommodating attitude toward the world around it:
Write this letter to the leader of the church in Laodicea:
This message is from the One who stands firm, the faithful and true Witness (off all that is or was or evermore shall be), the primeval source of God's creation: I KNOW YOU WELL [KNOW YOUR DEEDS] -- you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were one or the other! But since you are merely lukewarm, I will spit you out of My mouth! You say, 'I AM RICH, WITH EVERYTHING I WANT: I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that spiritually you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. My advice to you is to buy gold from Me, GOLD PURIFIED BY FIRE -- only then will you be truly rich. And to PURCHASE FROM ME WHITE GARMENTS, CLEAN AND PURE, so you wont be naked and ashamed; and to get medicine from me to heal your eyes and give you back your sight.
I continually discipline and punish everyone I love; so I must punish you, unless you turn from your indifference and become enthusiastic about the things of God. Look! I HAVE BEEN STANDING AT THE DOOR AND I AM CONSTANTLY KNOCKING. If anyone hears Me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me.
I will let everyone who conquers sit beside Me on My throne, just as I took My place with My Father on His throne when I had conquered. Let those who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
The KEY to this letter lies in verse 18, which reads: "My advice to you is to buy pure gold from Me, GOLD PURIFIED BY FIRE -- only then will you truly be rich." In Malachi 3:13 we find the "messenger of the covenant" is compared to a refiner's fire, a fire used in purifying gold and silver. Consequently, YEHOVAH God's fiery testing of "the sons of Levi" by the messenger of the covenant brings about THEIR CLEANSING.
This "cleansing by fire" is referred to in Revelation 7:13-14, and is that period of time leading up to the return of the Messiah: "Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in WHITE ROBES -- who are they, and where did they come from?' I answered, 'Sir, you know.' And he said, 'These are they who have come out of great tribulation; they have WASHED [CLEANSED] their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Clearly, then, those who buy "gold purified by fire" are those who go through the time of trouble leading up to the return of the Messiah and YEHOVAH God!
The last half of verse 18 (Rev. 3) -- "And to purchase from Me WHITE GARMENTS, CLEAN AND PURE" -- is picturing those above in Rev. 7 who have just come out of this Time of Trial.
Going back to Malachi 3 we can see the link in verse 2: "For He is like a blazing fire REFINING PRECIOUS METAL AND HE CAN BLEACH THE DIRTIEST GARMENTS!" So the "refining of precious metal" and the "bleaching of dirty garments" go hand in glove, and occur at the SAME TIME.
The apostle Peter refers to trials or sufferings as a "FIRE" that proves the quality of the Christian's faith -- see I Peter 1:6-7. Later, he likens persecution to a "burning" when he tells his fellow Christians: "Do not be puzzled at the BURNING among you, which is happening to you for a TRIAL...."(I Peter 4:12).
In verse 18 of Revelation 3 we find the statement: "And to purchase from Me white garments, clean and pure, so you won't be NAKED and ashamed...." It is interesting to note that in the Bible nakedness is a symbol of JUDGMENT and humiliation. Isaiah walked naked for three and a half years as a sign that Assyria would lead captive the Egyptian and Ethiopian exiles -- "naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt" (Isaiah 20:1-4).
Since some Churches of God claim that the Laodicean Church doesn't come into existence UNTIL the Philadelphian Church goes to a place of safety, let us closely examine this letter to the Laodicean Church and see if John reveals anymore clues about the time-frame of this Church:
The first clue comes in verse 15 of Revelation 3: "I know you WELL" or, as other translations render it, "I know your DEEDS." Since getting to know someone well, or getting to know their deeds TAKES TIME, this indicates a PERIOD OF TIME prior to the time of trouble for this to occur.
Does that make sense?
Would YEHOVAH God plunge a church right into a time of trial without first giving it a chance to prove itself one way or the other? I think not!
The next clue occurs in verse 17: "You say, 'I am rich, with everything I want; I don't need a thing!'" A better rendition of this verse -- one which follows the Greek more closely -- is as follows: "You say, 'I am rich; I have ACQUIRED WEALTH and do not need a thing."' It TAKES TIME to acquire wealth, whether real or illusionary, so this verse also points to the Laodicean Church being in existence PRIOR TO THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE MESSIA'S RETURN.
Jumping a verse we come to these statements: "Look! HAVE BEEN STANDING at the door and I AM CONSTANTLY KNOCKING. If anyone hears Me calling and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me." In the Greek, the phrase "I have been standing" is in the perfect tense and implies a long period of time. Consequently, we can see that the Messiah has been working with this Church for some time, hoping that someone will answer his call and open the door. Once again, this implies that the Laodicean Church will be in existence some time BEFORE THE TIME OF TRIAL PRIOR TO YESHUA'S COMING!
An outstanding clue to the relationship between the Laodicean Church and the Church of Philadelphia, is to be found in the prophecy of Shebna -- located in the 22nd chapter of Isaiah. Here we read about a change of leadership in the Philadelphian Church. In the letter to the Philadelphian Church (Rev. 3:7) we find the Messiah described as having "the key of David," a metaphorical expression indicating complete control over the royal household.
The background to this is the oracle against Shebna, Hezekiah's steward (Isaiah 22:15-25), who was REMOVED FROM OFFICE and replaced with Eliakim. Concerning the new chief steward (leader) the text says, "I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; he shall shut, and none shall open" (Isaiah 22:22).
As the commentator Farrer describes it, "In Isaiah's text an UNFAITHFUL KEYBEARER is deposed and a WORTHY MINISTER put in his place..."
IT IS AT THIS POINT THAT THE LAODICEAN CHURCH COMES INTO BEING -- NOT WHEN THE PHILADELPHIAN CHURCH SUPPOSEDLY GOES TO A PLACE(S) OF SAFETY!
The deposed leader of the Philadelphian Church now becomes the leader of the Laodicean Church; and a new leader is put over the Philadelphian Church, which now gets part of its membership from those called out of the now backsliding Laodicean Church!
I think you will agree with me that the proofs we have just uncovered show, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Laodicean Church will be in existence SOME TIME BEFORE THE TIME OF TRIAL LEADING UP TO THE MESSIAH'S RETURN! To say otherwise is to ignore the PLAIN TRUTH revealed in the pages of the Bible!
Now that we have firmly established the fact that the last four Churches of Revelation COEXIST DURING THE END TIME -- before, during, and after the time of trial -- let us determine their individual characteristics, and see if we can identify these traits in the churches around us.
The Trade Guilds of Thyatira
The Thyatiran Church was characterized as having many good works, and was increasing in those good works. It was also characterized as having allowed members of the Church to commit spiritual and sexual fornication, and partake of feasts to idols.
Thyatira was never a great metropolis, or a center of special political significance or importance; but was a wealthy industrial center known for its dye business, brass working, and pottery making. Reference to these trades is made by John in his letter (see verses 18 and 27).
Thyatira was very near Pergamum, where Chaldean priests had emigrated bringing the ancient Babylonian cult or religion with them. Here they established a religious center which, in time, influenced the surrounding areas -- including Thyatira.
Just outside the city of Thyatira there was a famous Chaldean sanctuary where a sibyl or prophetess presided, and some of the Churches of God have claimed this woman to be the "Jezebel" mentioned by John in his letter. A careful study of the economic climate in Thyatira, however, will PROVE THIS PREMISE TO BE FALSE.
The population of the city was divided into TRADE GUILDS, many of which are mentioned in inscriptions unearthed by archaeologists. Each of these guilds had its PATRON GOD, its FEASTS, and its SOCIAL OCCASIONS which at times could become immoral parties. Economic survival in the city of Thyatira was dependent upon membership in a guild, and anyone who was not a member had a difficult time indeed.
According to A Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hastings, these guilds were not at all conducive to true Christianity:
The objection to the guilds from the Christian point of view was twofold. In the first place, the bond which held a guild together lay always in the common religion in which all united, and in the common SACRIFICIAL MEAL of which all partook; the members ate and drank fellowship and brotherhood in virtue of the PAGAN DEITY whom they served. In the existing state of society it was IMPOSSIBLE TO DISSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP OF A GUILD FROM IDOLATRY, and the idolatry was a kind that by its symbolism and its efficacy exerted great influence on its adherents, making them members of a unity which was essentially NON-CHRISTIAN AND ANTI-CHRISTIAN. In the second place, the common banquets were celebrated amid circumstances of revelry and enjoyment that were FAR FROM CONDUCIVE TO STRICT MORALITY....
We can see here that "things sacrificed to idols" in verse 20 of Rev. 2, refers to the common sacrificial meals that were eaten by members of the guilds -- NOT to the things sacrificed to idols in the Chaldean sanctuary outside of Thyatira! "Jezebel," therefore, was NOT the sibyl or prophetess of this sanctuary as the old Worldwide Church of God would have it (see Lesson 51 of the old Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course).
R. H. Charles, in his book A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, has this to say about "Jezebel":
There is no question here of the Chaldean Sibyl at Thyatira with whom Schurer (Theol. Abhandl. Weizsacker gewidmet, p.37 sq., 1892) sought to identify her [Jezebel]. Such a personage COULD NOT have been admitted to membership of the Church in Thyatira, whereas the Jezebel in our text stands admittedly WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE CHURCH.
The fact that "Jezebel" was given the opportunity for repentance in verse 21 of Rev. 2, suggests someone FROM WITHIN THE CHURCH who had gone astray, RATHER than a female fortune teller or prophetess from the pagan world.
Who could this "Jezebel" be?
Both the modern eclectic or "critical" text of the New Testament -- which depends heavily upon the Alexandrian type of text -- and the Majority Text render Revelation 2:20 as follows: "Nevertheless I have a few things against you that you put up with YOUR WIFE JEZEBEL, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and beguiles My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols."
The original Greek certainly allows for this rendition. In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, number 1135, we find the following: "Gune, goo-nay; probably from the base of 1096; a 'woman'; SPECIALLY A 'WIFE': -- wife, woman."
The Book of Revelation, by Robert H. Mounce, has this observation:
The Thyatiran Jezebel is probably some PROMINENT WOMAN within the church who, like her OT counterpart, was influencing the people of God to forsake loyalty to God by promoting a tolerance toward and involvement in pagan practices. This extended to fornication and participation in the religious feasts connected with MEMBERSHIP IN TRADE GUILDS.
According to R.H. Charles, "Zahn (see Bousset, 1906, p. 217 sq.) accepts the reading and takes her [Jezebel], to be the WIFE OF THE BISHOP OF THE CHURCH...."
It appears without doubt that this "Jezebel" was a MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF YEHOVAH GOD at Thyatira and, also, the WIFE OF THE LEADER!
R. H. Charles, in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, continues: "'The woman Jezebel.' Jezebel is here used symbolically of some influential woman in the Church at Thyatira, and chosen in reference to the WIFE OF AHAB, who was guilty of whoredom and witchcraft (I Kings xvi. 31; II Kings ix. 22), and sought to displace the worship of the God of Israel by idolatrous cults introduced from other lands."
The Expositor's Bible Commentary, published by the Zondervan Publishing House, describes well the scenario as revealed in John's letter:
This supposedly Christian woman at Thyatira had claimed to be a "prophetess," gifted as such by the Holy Spirit. She must have been elevated to prominence in the church because of her unusual gifts. But only a small minority saw through her pious deception (v.24); the rest either followed her or ignored her views without objecting to her presence in the church...As this wicked and deceptive woman in the OT [Jezebel] led Israel astray and persecuted the true prophets of God, SO THIS WOMAN was enticing the servants of God to abandon their exclusive loyalty to Christ.
If we go to verse 22 of Rev. 2 we read that the Messiah will cast "Jezebel" into a "sickbed," and all those who follow her into great trouble.
The original Greek for sickbed can also mean "couch," and this can be an indication of one of the customs at the guild-feasts:
The punishment denounced is illustrated by the nature of such guild-feasts, as shown in ancient reliefs. The members and worshippers reclined ON COUCHES at the banquet; and it is probable that the sickbed of Rev. 2:22 should be understood, not as a bed (AV and RV), but as a COUCH.... (A Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hastings. Vol. iv.)
The next verse (23) in Revelation 2 states: "And I will kill her children with death [plague]...." The "children" referred to here are the followers of "Jezebel" who have been seduced by her pernicious doctrines:
The word "fornication" [sexual immorality] here [verse 20] as in the previous letter, means RELIGIOUS INFIDELITY, and the woman's lovers and children are the DEVOTEES AND DISCIPLES OF HER TEACHING. This interpretation gains support from the name "Jezebel," by which John attempts to undermine her influence. For the original Jezebel earned the hatred of ELIJAH solely for attempting to seduce Israel from the worship of Yahweh to that of Baal (or more probably for attempting to COMBINE THE TWO RELIGIONS...), and it was for this alone that she was accused of harlotry. (2 Kings ix.22). -- A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, by G. B. Caird. Harper & Row. 1966.
It is very evident that the members of YEHOVAH's Church in Thyatira were under a lot of pressure to compromise with the society of the day in order to EARN A LIVING. Members of the Church who were weak in the faith and not trusting in YEHOVAH God to take care of their everyday needs, were easy prey for this "Jezebel."
Since this woman was indeed the wife of the leader of the Thyatira Church, he must have been a weak and ineffective individual -- JUST LIKE KING AHAB OF ANCIENT ISRAEL!
It seems certain that this "prophetess" was promoting a sophisticated tolerance toward the many guilds of the city, and she probably argued that these patron deities of the guilds need not be taken seriously. The guild parties or "feasts" need not be condemned, since every workman, TO MAKE A LIVING, had to join one of the guilds and, she probably argued, he could take its religious rites lightly.
Little did those weak in the faith realize that in so partaking in the rites of these guilds they were actually learning the "DEEP THINGS OF SATAN"! (See Rev. 2:24).
A church fulfilling this type in the end time would be ONE OF THE SATURDAY-KEEPING CHURCHES which is active in many good works, and growing in some areas; but allowing a woman -- THE WIFE OF ITS LEADER -- to seduce some of the membership into compromising with the society and religion of the day, UNDER THE GUISE OF ECONOMIC NECESSITY. To allow this to happen, the leader of the Church must be WEAK AND POWERLESS, and unable to stop his wife's influence within the Church.
Can we identify this Church from among all the Saturday-keeping churches around us?
Indeed we can!
In 1846 Joseph Bates, a retired sea captain and onetime follower of William Miller's Adventist movement, introduced the Saturday Sabbath to one Ellen G. Harmon and her husband to be, James White. Later on in the year -- about the time of their marriage -- Ellen and James began keeping a Saturday Sabbath instead of Sunday.
In 1847, some seven months after they commenced observing Saturday, Ellen received a "vision" approving, and stressing the importance of, the fourth commandment. Combining this new understanding with the Adventist belief in the Second Coming the Whites, along with Joseph Bates, came up with the name "Seventh-day Adventist"; and the new Church became formally organized in 1863.
Ellen G. White soon became the most influential figure in the newly formed Church, and she was considered by many to have possessed the GIFT OF PROPHECY. Acceptance of her SPIRITUAL PRIMACY became so widespread among the Seventh-Day Adventist Church that she eventually wielded enormous influence in matters involving both doctrine and policy.
Although Ellen G. White preferred to consider herself as "the Lord's messenger" rather than a PROPHETESS, she classed herself with the biblical writers. "In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles," she wrote in 1876. "In these days he speaks to them by the Testimonies of his Spirit" -- a clear reference to HER OWN WORK (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 148).
Many early Adventists, INCLUDING HER OWN HUSBAND, tried to PREVENT her writings from being equated with the Bible, but to no avail. By the early twentieth century Adventist Churches were "disfellowshipping" members who questioned her "gift," and were relying on her views to determine the correct interpretation of scripture.
In the course of Ellen G. White's lifetime she claimed over 2,000 "visions," and used them to strengthen belief in the tenets of her Church. In one vision (her first) she saw the tiny band of Adventists described as the REMNANT OF TRUE BELIEVERS. The Seventh-Day Adventists do not regard themselves as just another sect, but as the continuation of the arrested Reformation and in the SPIRITUAL LINE OF THE APOSTOLIC FAITH.
And they are correct!
Everything fits so well there can be no doubt that the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is the Church of Thyatira pictured in Revelation 2. They have a lot of understanding concerning YEHOVAH's truth, but still partake of the "deep things of Satan."
Note that the Thyatiran Church as a whole is not promised protection. The present-day Thyatiran Church will have to go through the time of trouble leading up to the Messiah's return; and each individual will be judged according to how he holds fast that which he has, and how he overcomes -- keeping his works UNTO THE END.
As an aside, an interesting example of the trade guild scenario came to my attention recently in the March, 1989 issue of Ambassador Report. On pages 9 and 10 I found this incredible report:
The church's [Worldwide Church of God] prohibition against membership in "worldly" clubs seems to have been quietly dropped also. A number of WCG executives are members of Pasadena-area men's clubs. For instance, a friend of the Report met one WCG executive last year at a Lion's Club Christmas party and was told, "We're getting the best of both worlds! We're keeping the church's holy days and the world's holidays too!"
This doesn't mean that the Worldwide Church of God is the Thyatiran Church -- some of the characteristics of ALL the churches may be found in each -- it is the OVERALL thrust and makeup of each Church that determines its identity. I did think, however, that this report was very illuminating!
IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE THYATIRAN CHURCH, COME OUT OF HER AND AVOID GOING THROUGH TIMES OF GREAT TRIALS!
A City in Decline
Sardis was a city in decline. From its heyday during the reign of Croesus, king of Lydia, it gradually lost its wealth and prominence during successive conquests by first the Persians, then the Macedonians and Greeks under Alexander and, finally, the legions of Rome. In 17 A.D. a tremendous earthquake almost leveled Sardis, and the help of Rome was required in rebuilding the city.
Like the city itself, the Church of YEHOVAH God at Sardis had belied its early promise. Its vigor and strength belonged to the past and was GRADUALLY FADING AWAY. The inhabitants of Sardis had long been notorious for their licentious lifestyle, and the Church of YEHOVAH God had a difficult task in resisting the evil atmosphere that surrounded it.
This Church had a reputation among the people of Sardis as a living church, but the Messiah made it plain he knew their works and THEY WERE READY TO DIE. (Rev. 3:1) The deeds and works that they had been performing were "dead works" -- works not contributing to spiritual life and works -- that might appeal to the citizens of Sardis -- but were not the special works that a Christian should perform as a follower of the Messiah. The Messiah was born and came into the world that he "should bear witness to the truth" (Hebrews 9:14; John 18:37). The Church at Sardis had almost forgotten what the truth was!
The book, Then is Finished the Mystery of God, by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, has this comment on page 157:
Except for a "few names" in the Sardis congregation it would really be dead spiritually, not shining like a lighted golden lampstand. Those "few names" may have been "the things remaining that were ready to die." They could be mortally affected by the dead spiritual condition of the majority of the congregation. From that standpoint, they were "ready to die."
The overseer or "angel" who represented the congregation was asleep, as far as Christian responsibilities are concerned. HE NEEDED TO WAKE UP, to see the actual state of things, and to "BECOME WATCHFUL" and to WAKE UP THE SLEEPING ONES OF THE CONGREGATION and help them to "become watchful."
A present-day Church of YEHOVAH God fulfilling this type is one that is spiritually dead, with its members thinking of themselves as being alive; but in reality their works show their spiritual zeal is dying. There are only a FEW MEMBERS in this Church who have not defiled themselves, and even these will BARELY ESCAPE WITH THEIR LIVES.
Yeshua exhorted this Church to remember how they had originally heard the message and received blessings from the Eternal. If they would not, Yeshua said that he would come when they were least expecting him. It seems obvious this Church of YEHOVAH God has NO REAL UNDERSTANDING OF PROPHECY, and is spiritually unprepared for the events of the future.
The Churches of God (Seventh-Day) fit the description perfectly! DO NOT BECOME ASSOCIATED WITH THESE DYING CHURCHES!
The Mission City
The city of Philadelphia -- now modern Alashehir -- lies at the eastern end of a broad valley which, passing through Sardis, leads down to the Aegean Sea near Smyrna. It is strategically located on a high plateau on the southern side of the river Cogamis -- a tributary of the Hermus.
Philadelphia sat astride trade routes leading to Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia, and became known as the "gateway to the East." Also, the imperial post road of the first century A.D., which came from Rome via Troas, Adramyttium, Pergamum, and Sardis, passed through this valley and the city on its way to the interior.
Because of its strategic location Philadelphia became a STRONG FORTRESS CITY; and a vast grape-growing region to the northeast, along with local textile and leather industries, made the city commercially prosperous.
Philadelphia received its name from the Pergamenian king Attalus II who had been given the epithet "Philadelphus" ("brother lover") because of his love for his brother.
The city was founded to be a MISSION CITY for disseminating Greco-Asiatic culture and language to the recently annexed areas of Lydia and Phrygia. It was so successful in its appointed role that the Lydian language ceased to be spoken in Lydia by A.D.19 -- some 160 years after the city's founding -- and Greek took over as the only language of the country.
Since every Church of YEHOVAH God would like to think of itself as being the Philadelphian Church, due to the fact that the Messiah promises this group protection during the time of trial at the end, let us examine the character of this Church more closely.
The Church in Philadelphia was characterized by the good deeds they did in Yeshua's Name; they had some spiritual strength; they kept Yeshua's word, obeying him; they did not deny his Name and they were steadfast. A Church of YEHOVAH God having this same spiritual character today would be one whose members have this same SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND OBEDIENCE. These people are DOERS of YEHOVAH's Word; they AVIDLY study the Bible daily, and then actually make the instruction they discover a part of their lives -- regardless of any preconceived notions or ideas.
An investigation of the other Churches will inevitably show that they have selected certain portions of scripture to observe, and other portions they willfully ignore or modify to suit their own purposes.
The first thing that the Messiah mentions in his letter to this Church is the "key of David" (Rev. 3:7). As we discovered earlier, the background to this phrase is found in Isaiah 22, where an UNFAITHFUL KEYBEARER is deposed and a WORTHY MINISTER put in his place.
If we examine recent events we can see when this happened. In January of 1986, Mr. Herbert Armstrong died and the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God passed into the hands of one Joseph Tkach. It soon became apparent that this man is quite different to Mr. Armstrong in many respects.
Upon assuming leadership, Joseph Tkach made many changes in the management structure of the Church. Many longtime faithful ministers were stripped of their authority and placed in unimportant posts, while those loyal to Joseph Tkach were placed in positions of leadership and power. Almost immediately doctrinal reviews took place, and changes were instituted that plunged the Worldwide Church of God into a roller coaster ride AWAY FROM THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS!
It soon became apparent that the new leadership had no interest in the truth of YEHOVAH God, and would continue down the track of error and deepening apostasy.
In rejecting YEHOVAH's truth, THE NEW LEADERSHIP WAS REJECTED BY YEHOVAH GOD -- and the prophecy of Isaiah 22 came to pass! The UNFAITHFUL SHEBNA was deposed, stripped of leadership in the Philadelphian Church, and the "keys of David" were passed on to a new leader -- THE FAITHFUL ELIAKIM.
What a tremendous privilege it is to be a part of this work! If we remain faithful to the Messiah, he promises to protect us during the HOUR OF TRIAL that will soon engulf this world! May YEHOVAH God help us to be worthy!
Shebna was not stripped of all privileges, however, and continued on as the LEADER OF THE LAODICEAN CHURCH (See 2 Kings 18:18-19:7).
In the next breath the Messiah states, in Rev. 3:7, that "what he opens, no one can shut; and what he shuts, no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an OPEN DOOR that no one can shut." This statement has two meanings. Yeshua the Messiah himself is the DOOR.
In John 10:7-9 we read:
So Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth: I am the DOOR for the sheep. All others who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not listen to them. I AM THE DOOR. Whoever comes in by me will be saved; he will come in and go out, and find pasture.
He is the DOOR through which we must enter. If he opens it to us, nothing on the face of the earth, or in the vast universe, can shut us out; and if he shuts the DOOR to us, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY we can enter through it.
This is the situation described in Matthew 7:21 where he said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who DOES THE WILL of my father who is in heaven."
The Messiah shuts himself to people and will tell them he never knew them because they worked iniquity. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF YEHOVAH GOD EXCEPT THROUGH THE LIVING MESSIAH!
In John 14:6 Yeshua stated, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father EXCEPT THROUGH ME." He is the DOOR through which all must enter.
The Philadelphian Church has an OPEN DOOR because we are keeping his word -- we are studying his word and actually OBEYING and putting into practice what we learn!
The reference to an "OPEN DOOR" can also denote a great opportunity for missionary activity. The apostle Paul uses the metaphor in this way when he writes to the Corinthians of his plans to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, "because a great DOOR for effective work has opened to me" (1 Cor. 16:9).
Paul repeats this thought in 2 Cor. 2:12 and Colossians 4:3:
Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had OPENED A DOOR for me...
And pray for us, too, that God may OPEN A DOOR for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.
In The Book of Revelation, by Robert H. Mounce, we find the following: "Ramsay explains the expression in terms of Philadelphia's geographic position at the eastern end of the valley leading up onto the great central plain. As the 'keeper of the gateway to the plateau' it had been given a unique opportunity to carry the gospel to the cities of Phrygia." Because of this, the witness of the Church in Philadelphia will be effective -- DESPITE ITS SMALL STRENGTH!
This Church has an "open door" because we have NOT DENIED HIS NAME. (Latter part of Rev. 3:8) Faith and belief in the Name of Yeshua the Messiah is the DOOR through which all must enter (Rom. 10:13).
The statement that the Church of Philadelphia has not denied his Name implies that the other Churches of YEHOVAH God HAVE denied his name. These Churches deny his Name by their manner of prayer (or lack of it) and their teaching of how to gain entrance into the kingdom of YEHOVAH God. They deny it by their teaching on prophecy, and by keeping YEHOVAH's holy days at the WRONG TIME -- or maybe not at all in some cases.
Denying of his Name may also be connected to the Name YEHOVAH God mentioned to Moses at the burning bush. YEHOVAH told Moses that His Name and memorial forever was to be that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (See Exodus 3:15) YEHOVAH God's Name has also been denied. The lie of proclaiming Yeshua the Messiah to be the "ONE" who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the "ONE" who led the children of Israel in the wilderness, the "ONE" who was the God of the Old Testament, the "ONE" who was "pre-existent" -- was simply to DENY the authority and Name of YEHOVAH God the Father! As a result, the Headship of YEHOVAH God the Father was taken away and a FALSE SAVIOR was raised up to replace Him!
Yeshua the Messiah's principal task, a task started by the ELIJAH TO COME -- pictured by the WHITE HORSE of Rev. 6:2 -- is to re-gather the "Lost Tribes" of Israel and fulfill the promises made to the fathers. Most of the Churches of YEHOVAH God DIRECTLY DENY this role by denying everything that memorializes and foreshadows YEHOVAH's dealings with the descendants of Abraham, Israel, and Jacob.
The Philadelphia Church, under its new leader, will run into opposition and persecution from the "synagogue of Satan." This "synagogue of Satan" -- mentioned in Rev. 3:9 -- has its type back in Ezra 4, where we read:
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers' houses, and said to them, "Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here." But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers' houses of Israel said to them, "You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us."
Then the people of the land TRIED TO DISCOURAGE the people of Judah. They TROUBLED THEM in building, and hired counselors against them TO FRUSTRATE their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. -- Ezra 4:1-5.
When Zerubbabel and Joshua started REBUILDING the Temple (church) in Jerusalem, they were approached by these Samaritans -- CLAIMING TO BE JEWS -- who wanted a part in the work.
The Aid to Bible Understanding, by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, has this to say on page 1690:
...in the second month the actual construction of the temple began. (Ezra 3:8) Recognizing THE BAD MOTIVE OF THE NON-JEWS WHO ASKED TO HAVE A SHARE IN THE REBUILDING WORK, Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the heads of the paternal houses stated: "You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God, for we ourselves shall together build to Jehovah the God of Israel, just as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us." -- Ezra 4:1-3.
THESE NON-JEWS, HOWEVER, CONTINUED TO DISHEARTEN THE TEMPLE REBUILDERS AND FINALLY SUCCEEDED IN HAVING AN OFFICIAL BAN PLACED ON THE WORK. Later, stirred up by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Joshua) courageously resumed the construction of the temple despite the ban.
Here we see the people of Samaria -- "THOSE WHO ARE OF THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN, WHO CLAIM TO BE JEWS though they are not" -- obstructing and persecuting Zerubbabel and Joshua as they go about rebuilding the temple of YEHOVAH God. The SAME THING is going to occur to the leaders of the Philadelphian Church, as they go about BUILDING THE CHURCH and proclaiming the TRUE GOSPEL to the nations of modern Israel!
The "synagogue of Satan," mentioned in Rev. 3:9, cannot refer to the Catholic Church because that organization has NEVER claimed to be "Jewish." In fact, over the centuries, this church has gone to GREAT LENGTHS to discourage ANYTHING "Jewish" within its congregations! This "synagogue of Satan," in the letter to the Philadelphian Church, can only refer to a CHURCH OF YEHOVAH GOD!
What Church claims to be "Jewish" -- to have and be keeping all the laws and commandments and holy days of YEHOVAH God, yet at the same time dabbling with pagan Christianity -- and WILL NOT ACKNOWLEDGE new understanding and new truth? The ONLY Church that fits this description is the WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD -- and some of its offshoots!
If the experience of Zerubbabel and Joshua hold true, then the expanding Philadelphian Church can expect continual persecution from this LAODICEAN CHURCH!
Yeshua the Messiah concludes his letter to the leader of the Philadelphian Church by saying, starting in Rev. 3:12, the following: "Him who overcomes I will make a PILLAR IN THE TEMPLE OF MY GOD. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name."
To the overcomer is given the PROMISE of being made a PILLAR IN THE TEMPLE OF YEHOVAH GOD. The metaphor is found elsewhere in the New Testament (Gal. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:15) and conveys the idea of STABILITY AND PERMANENCE. This stability and strength is emphasized in the following clause, "Never again will he leave it." To a city that had experienced devastating earthquakes, and especially the one in 17 A.D., which caused people to flee into the surrounding countryside and establish temporary dwellings there, the promise of permanence within the New Jerusalem would have a special meaning.
In the world of the time a faithful municipal servant, or a distinguished priest, was sometimes honored by having a SPECIAL PILLAR added to one of the temples and INSCRIBED WITH HIS NAME. In 1 Kings 7:21we learn that the two pillars on the porch of Solomon's temple bore personal names -- Jachim and Boaz -- and is indicative of this practice. This may well be the sense of the second promise, "I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem,...and...my new name." The inscribed name signifies identification and ownership.
To those who have "little strength" (little influence) because of being persecuted, the Messiah promises recognition in his kingdom worthy of the most noble hero of any society in any age!
STRIVE TO BE A PART OF THE PHILADELPHIAN CHURCH! STUDY YEHOVAH'S WORD INCESSANTLY, AND BEND YOUR KNEES BEFORE YOUR GOD DAY IN AND DAY OUT! DO NOT COMPROMISE AND LET THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN SWAY YOU FROM THE ETERNAL TRUTH OF YEHOVAH GOD!
The City of Aesculapius
Laodicea was located about forty-five miles southeast of Philadelphia and some one hundred miles due east of Ephesus. Along with Colosse and Hierapolis, it was one of the cities in the fertile Lycus valley; and it sat at the junction of two important imperial trade routes. One of these led east from Ephesus and the Aegean coast, and followed the Maeander river and then the gentle ascent of the Lycus valley to the Anatolian plateau. The other road originated in the provincial capital at Pergamum, and traveled south to the Mediterranean at Attaleia. Five of the seven cities of Revelation lay in order along this latter road -- Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Being at the junction of these trade routes made Laodicea an important center of trade and communication. It was also a manufacturing and banking center, and its bankers did business with the entire Roman Empire. The city's banking assets were so great that Cicero cashed huge bank drafts in Laodicea; and after the great earthquake of 17 A.D. (which destroyed it), the people refused help from Rome in rebuilding the city -- choosing rather to do it entirely by themselves. Laodicea's prosperity was also due to a soft, glossy black wool produced from sheep grazed in the fertile Lycus valley.
The city was noted for the worship of the god of medicine, Aesculapius, and appropriately had a medical school there that was famous throughout the Roman Empire. The local medical profession produced a well-known eye medicine known as Phrygian powder, and also an ear ointment made from spikenard.
Laodicea's major weakness was its lack of an adequate and convenient source for water. Its location had been determined by the road system rather than natural resources, and water had to be brought in from springs near Denizli, six miles to the south. A stone aqueduct carried the water to the city, and by the time it reached there it was lukewarm and insipid. Such an aqueduct could easily be cut off leaving Laodicea helpless -- especially in the dry season when the Lycus could dry up.
According to The Book of Revelation, by Robert H. Mounce, "Such vulnerable communities must learn the arts of appeasement and conciliation." This is exactly what Laodicea did. Historians have noted that it is difficult to describe this city because no one thing really stands out. There were no excesses or notable achievements to distinguish it. IT WAS A CITY WITH A PEOPLE WHO HAD LEARNED TO COMPROMISE AND ACCOMMODATE THEMSELVES TO THE NEEDS AND WISHES OF OTHERS! They did not zealously stand for anything.
The Church at Laodicea was likewise characterized by LUKEWARMNESS AND EXTREME PRIDE. They thought of themselves as being wealthy in spiritual knowledge; and yet they were spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. A Church of YEHOVAH God having this same spiritual character today is one that has as its principal characteristics, EXTREME SPIRITUAL PRIDE AND ARROGANCE coupled with LUKEWARMNESS to the Messiah.
Do you know such a Church as this?
I certainly do -- I used to belong to it! The ONLY Church of YEHOVAH God that fits this description is the WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD!
Rev. 3:17 states: "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing'" The Worldwide Church of God considers itself the ONLY CHURCH WITH THE TRUTH, thereby claiming itself to be rich and in need of nothing! This is the same logic that was forcefully explained to me by the minister I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Because of its vanity and arrogance the Worldwide Church of God cannot see its doctrinal errors and, therefore, will not correct them or be open to new truth. The leadership cannot perceive that they are BLIND to an important part of YEHOVAH's truth. This Church has some basis for thinking itself rich -- it has some truth that other churches in the world do not have -- but its vanity and lukewarmness to the Messiah has lead it into other errors that are worse.
This LUKEWARMNESS TO THE MESSIAH AND HIS MESSAGE can be seen in the pages of the Plain Truth magazine and other publications. There is no PUNCH, no URGENCY, no ZEAL, no ZIP in getting out the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God to this dying world. Everything has become watered down and apologetic -- as though they are afraid of offending someone.
If this Church is the Philadelphian Church as some claim, then the Good News will be going out with POWER AND URGENCY and with a FIERY ZEAL! The Philadelphian Church -- along with the ELIJAH TO COME -- is meant to PREPARE THE WAY for the return of the Messiah and YEHOVAH God Himself; and if we study the life of the prophet Elijah we quickly see that his ministry was a FIERY ONE with no compromising or complacency.
Another reason for thinking itself rich are the physical blessings the Worldwide Church of God possesses. The proceeds from two beautiful campuses with all the accouterments of wealth and good taste, along with a large annual Church income, has produced an environment of security and permanence, with the result that this Church has become just like the Laodicean Church of old -- LUKEWARM, COMPLACENT, SELF-SATISFIED AND INDIFFERENT to the real issues of FAITH AND DISCIPLESHIP.
Secure in its affluence, it is unaware that in reality it is WRETCHED, MISERABLE, POOR, BLIND and naked. Don't rock the boat, don't compromise the cushy salary and, above all, don't correct the ministry! These are all the earmarks of the Worldwide Church of God and some offshoots.
As the book Then is Finished the Mystery of God puts it:
...the Laodicean congregation was materially rich but spiritually poor. Instead of the literal gold handled by the Laodicean banks, instead of the garments of glossy black wool produced by the local clothiers, instead of the medicinal tablets or powder for the literal eyes as produced by the local medical profession, instead of the boiling hot medicinal waters from the hot springs at nearby Hierapolis, the Laodicean congregation needed things like these in a SPIRITUAL SENSE...It needed a spiritual eye salve to be applied to take away its BLINDNESS to Bible truth and Christian responsibilities. It could buy these things from the One knocking at the door, if it let him in hospitably to entertain him.-- Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York
Unfortunately, the inevitable result of spiritual complacency and self-satisfaction is the LOSS OF ALL TRUE SELF-KNOWLEDGE.
It is incredible to realize that one of the doctrines changed by "Shebna" almost immediately after Mr. Armstrong's death, was that of healing. Going from the ditch on one side of the road, this leader adroitly crossed the road and plunged into the ditch on the other side! Now anything goes when it comes to medical care. The Worldwide Church of God is now SERVING THE GOD AESCULAPIUS -- just like the people of ancient Laodicea.
The Messiah continues in Rev. 3:18: "I council you to buy from me gold REFINED IN THE FIRE, so you can become rich; and WHITE CLOTHES to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, SO YOU CAN SEE." Here Yeshua warns the Laodicean Church to buy of him gold REFINED BY FIRE. This means it will have to go through the time of trouble, and many in this Church will be martyred to prove their steadfastness. They will have to buy gold tried in fire when he spews them out. The Messiah also tells them to anoint their eyes that they might see.
The Worldwide Church of God badly needs to REEXAMINE AND CORRECT ITS DOCTRINES. If not, it will be disciplined and purged in the "hour of trial" ahead.
The Messiah finishes his letter to the Laodicean Church by saying: "Look! I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me." As we discussed earlier, this indicates that our Savior has NOT GIVEN UP on this Church -- he is patiently waiting for someone to answer his knock and let him in.
But in their BLIND SELF-SUFFICIENCY it almost seems as if they have EXCOMMUNICATED the risen Lord from the Church, and in an act of unbelievable condescension he requests permission to enter and reestablish fellowship. With an attitude like this it is no wonder this Church of YEHOVAH God will have to purchase "gold refined in the fire."
DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS CHURCH! IF YOU ARE ALREADY A MEMBER OF ITS APOSTATIZING CONGREGATIONS, COME OUT OF HER IMMEDIATELY! YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE DRAGGED INTO THE TIME OF TRIAL ALONG WITH HER! OPEN UP YOUR EYES AND EARS, AND LISTEN TO WHAT THE SPIRIT SAYS TO THIS CHURCH.
All Are Contemporary!
Not only are these four churches contemporary with each other, but the other three of the seven are as well. All seven of the churches of Revelation are in existence when the Messiah returns to this earth to set up the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God! The so-called church eras do not follow or succeed each other as some would think, but have been in existence together -- side-by-side -- from New Testament times down to the very present!
The seven churches of Revelation, and the personalities involved with each church, are TYPES of a later fulfillment in the history of these churches -- and help us to identify these churches in the present age.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
Hope of Israel Ministries
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