(as revealed in Revelation chapters 2 & 3)

by Eric C. Wheeler (7/17/21) – eric@sharingtheway.com

Before he died the Apostle Paul told the elders and leaders of Ephesus that some of them would “rise up and begin speaking perverse things in order to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). He also warned young Timothy that the Holy Spirit showed him that after his death “some would depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, and speaking lies in hypocrisy” (I Tim. 4:1-2); and the days were coming in which the people of God would “turn from the truth and turn aside to fables”. They would no longer endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will appoint teachers and pastors telling them what they wanted to hear instead of the true words of God (II Tim. 4:3-4).

After Paul died, everything he predicted came true. For the next thirty years, the Apostle John – the last-surviving apostle of the original Twelve – along with Jude, the brother of Jesus, were constantly warning and admonishing the people of God “to earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed and have turned the grace of God into licentiousness [anything goes]” (Jude 3-4). The Apostle John clearly stated, “I write these things to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you!” (I John 2:26). Obviously, “the mystery of iniquity” and the “man of sin [the spirit of antichrist]” were already at work in their day, just as Paul and John said it would be (II Thess. 2:7; I John 2:18).

While John was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos around 95AD, Jesus revealed to him, by way of His angel, what would “shortly take place” in Christendom among His people (His Church) through the ages to come. Most Bible scholars refer to these as the “Seven Eras of Church History.” I believe chapters 2 and 3 accurately predict and describe Church History, beginning with the reign of Nero (54-68 AD) and continuing to our present day; foretelling events of Christianity and revealing its spiritual conditions and attitudes down through the centuries, culminating into the actual return of Jesus Christ in the not-so-distant future. Below is what I believe Jesus prophetically revealed and foretold regarding the seven different Eras of the Church. (Please understand as you read this that the timeline offered is approximate and some Eras overlap as they evolve and/or devolve into the next succeeding Church Era. It is also recommended that before you proceed in reading this article, first read Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, so you can familiarize yourself with the text.)

 

EPHESUS ERA (circa 60AD – 313AD):

Jesus commends His followers during this first Church Era because they had been patiently persevering, and working through persecutions. They were also laboring patiently without becoming spiritually weary (Rev. 2:2-3). He praises them for successfully staving off “the deeds of the Nicolaitans” which deeds Jesus said He also hated (2:6). These “deeds of the Nicolaitans” had been deceitfully trying to infiltrate the Church since the days of the original Apostles, and Jesus commends them for successfully testing “those who say they are [legit] apostles [ones sent from Christ]; yet found them to be liars [imposters]” (2:2).

The Greek word “Nicolaitans” is created from two Greek words: Nico meaning “conqueror or rulers over,” and laitans which means “the laity” (the lay people or the common people). The “deeds and doctrine of the Nicolaitans” (2:6, 15) means “ruling over the laity”. It refers to the “clergy/laity caste system” which sadly now permeates Christianity. It falsely teaches that there is “a clergy class” and “a laity class” within the Body of Christ.  This doctrine and teaching is clearly against the words of Christ and forbidden by Him in Scripture. Jesus told His followers that they were NOT to be like the gentiles (the unbelieving world) who have social classes within themselves and hold authoritative positions exercising control over one another (Matt. 20:25-28). He told His followers that “it shall not be so among you!” (Matt. 20:26). We are not allowed to have spiritual hierarchies within the Church or to call one another by spiritual titles thus indicating spiritual preeminence over one another (Matt. 23:8-12). Instead, Jesus said, “You are all brethren [equals]” (Matt. 23:8). Jesus hates this clergy/laity caste system in His Church (Rev. 2:6).

The false apostles who were trying to bring in this doctrine of the Nicolaitans (the clergy/laity caste system) were rejected by the brethren of the Ephesus and Smyrna Eras. However, as we shall see, the succeeding Pergamos Era will come to fully embrace this wicked doctrine (2:15), thereby allowing false teachers and leaders to come into power who will eventually lead them all into great apostasy.

The only thing Jesus rebukes those of the Ephesus Era for is leaving their “first love” (2:4). This is a direct reference to Paul’s prophecy that they would begin to leave the Word of God in favor of fables and messages that pleased and tickled their ears (II Tim. 4:4). He wrote that the days were coming when the people of God would leave the Truth, God’s Word (John 17:17).

 

SMYRNA ERA (circa 60AD – 313AD):

Jesus was pleased with the people who were faithful to their calling and to their Lord during the Smyrna Era.  Even though many would have to suffer intense persecution and martyrdom, they would prove faithful through their testing. Jesus said they “would have tribulation ten days” (2:10). This is a direct reference to the ten times Roman emperors would unsuccessfully try to stamp out Christianity by outlawing it and mercilessly arresting and executing any and all who were found to be Christians.  Below is a list of these ten Roman emperors who outlawed Christianity (as mentioned in Fox’s Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe):

Emperor Nero (54-68AD)

Emperor Domitian (81-96AD)

Emperor Trajan (98-117AD)

Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (162-180AD)

Emperor Lucius Septimus Severus (193-211AD)

Emperor Maximinus (235-238AD)

Emperor Decius (249-251AD)

Emperor Valerian (253-260AD)

Emperor Aurelian (270-275AD)

Emperor Diocletian (284-305AD)

Jesus tells us He was aware of His people’s poverty during the Smyrna Era (2:9), but He called them spiritually rich. They were physically poor because most of their material goods were confiscated by the Roman authorities, as mentioned in the Book of Hebrews (see Heb. 10:32-34); yet they were commended by Jesus for being spiritually rich as a result of having their faith tested and refined by the fires of persecution and martyrdom (3:18). Jesus also let them know that He was aware of the people who were claiming to be “real Christians” (prophetically referred to in verse 2:9 as “Jews”) but were not; they were of the “synagogue [church] of Satan.” This refers to the false brethren who were persecuting the true Christians during this time, thinking they were doing God’s service (see John 16:2; I Thess. 2:14-16; Acts 15:1-5, 24; Acts 21:20-28; Gal. 2:4; Titus 1:10-11; II Pet. 2:1-3; Jude 4, 8-19). Many of these false brethren had the true brethren put to death – just as Jesus said they would (Matt. 10:17-22; Luke 21:12-17).

 

PERGAMOS ERA (circa 313AD – 1517AD):

After more than two-hundred and fifty years of trying to completely stamp out Christianity, Satan changed his tactics. Instead of trying to destroy Christianity from without (as he unsuccessfully tried to do using the ten Roman emperors) he decided instead to try and destroy the Church from within. As the sayings go, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” and “If you can’t beat them out, then breed them out!”  This is the same tactic Satan used against Israel during the days of King Balak and Balaam the prophet.  When the Israelites came out of Egypt, no army could defeat them because God was with them and He was leading and protecting them.  Because of this, the wicked and greedy prophet Balaam was hired by Balak, king of the Moabites, to curse the Israelites so they could be defeated. However, Balaam told Balak that it was impossible to defeat the Israelites from the outside. The only way the people of God could be defeated was to infiltrate and corrupt them, thus destroying them from within. He advised Balak to use the beautiful women of Moab and Midian to seduce the men of Israel into fornicating and committing adultery with them. This would cause the Israelites to subtly begin serving the women’s pagan gods, thus angering God who would then turn and punish them (see Num. chapters 22, 23, 24, and 25). Sadly, this is exactly what happened. Through the wicked counsel of Balaam, Satan deceitfully caused Israel to corrupt themselves by intermingling with the pagan women of the world. As a result, they began worshipping and serving these false gods – many of them doing so unknowingly, even unintentionally – nevertheless, they were “seduced” into idolatry.

Jesus said this same “spiritual seduction” would begin during the Pergamos Era, and indeed it did! After Satan tried unsuccessfully to eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth using the Roman empire, the Emperor Constantine suddenly stopped the persecution of Christians in 313AD with the Edict of Milan. Instead of the Imperial Seat and throne of Rome continuing as the chief persecutor of Christianity, it was now going to become its greatest worldwide “promoter” – but with a new figurehead in place. Instead of Jesus Christ remaining the Head of His Church – as Scripture demands – the emperor of Rome, and later, the “Pope”, would now serve as both its spiritual and civil figurehead and leader. (The title “Pope” comes from the Latin/Greek word pater which means “papa/father”.) And, as history would later prove, anyone who would NOT recognize and/or submit to this imposter “father’s” authority would be put to death as a dissenter and/or heretic. This is why Jesus said of those who resisted this imposter’s authority and blasphemy, and were consequently put to death as a heretic: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (2:13). The name Antipas is a conjunction of two Latin/Greek words: anti (which means “against”) and pas (which is the shortened version of pater which means “father”). It literally means “the one who opposes the father/Pope”.  Jesus called the one who opposes this father/Pope His “faithful martyr”. He commends them for faithfully resisting this blasphemous imposter, and divinely praises them because they were willing to suffer martyrdom at his hands (2:13).

Jesus mentions the Pergamos Era of His Church would have in it those who use the methodology and advice of Balaam –leaders who craftily teach others how to bewitch and seduce the people of God into committing spiritual fornication and adultery (“unfaithfulness”). As a result of listening to these false teachers and pastors, lay people would unwittingly participate in and partake of things which were and are historically pagan and idolatrous (2:14). Clear historical examples of this blending of idolatrous paganism into Christianity are the celebrations of Christmas and Easter; Sunday worship services; the concept of “going to church” instead of “being the Church”; the use of altars, pulpits and pews; professionally-paid clergy and ecclesiastical licensing; cathedrals and church buildings; etc. [For a more thorough and complete understanding of how these pagan practices subtly evolved into accepted Christianity during the Pergamos Era of the Church read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna.]

Jesus again condemns “the doctrine and practice of the Nicolaitans” (that is, the “clergy/laity” caste system mentioned earlier) now being fully accepted and embraced by the Pergamos Era (2:15). Regrettably, this wicked doctrine is being widely-practiced throughout modern Christendom today. Jesus ends His evaluation of the Pergamos Era with this admonition: “Repent! Or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them [the false teachers] with the sword of My mouth” – which means to discredit and to kill them (to spiritually put them to death) using the Word of God (2:16).  Because of the crafty infiltration of these false teachings and doctrines during the Pergamos Era, many churches today have been beguiled by Satan and don’t realize that they are actually participating in and partaking of ancient pagan idolatrous practices (“eating things offered and sacrificed to idols” – 2:14). Because of this, they are ignorantly being unfaithful to God and His Word (“committing spiritual fornication and adultery” – 2:14). Unfortunately, those who don’t know the Word of God (the Bible), but have relied solely on what their pastors and priests have erroneously taught them, have been unwittingly induced into idolatry. Much like their spiritual forefathers, the Israelites, they too have been craftily and sadly seduced into idolatry by “those who hold to the teaching of Balaam” (2:14). As God said of them: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [for lack of knowing]” (Hos. 4:6). And “My people have gone into captivity because they have no knowledge; their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore, hell has enlarged itself and opened its mouth beyond measure.” (Isa. 5:13-14). For Jesus warned: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:13-15). The false leaders and teachers of the Pergamos Era initiated Christendom’s long slide into great apostacy and idolatry. Unfortunately, today’s Christianity is the inheritor of these false teachings and pagan traditions handed down to us by those of the Pergamos Era who “held to the teaching of Balaam, and who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat [to partake of] things offered to idols, and to commit sexual immorality [unfaithfulness]” (2:14) from which the worldwide Church and Body of Christ has yet to recover or even recognize.

 

THYATIRA ERA (circa 1517AD – present):

The next prophetic Church Era discussed in the Book of Revelation is Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29).  This Era of Church history describes the time period which births “children churches”, a result of the illicit spiritual union between the Church and its worldly lover whom the Bible prophetically calls “the beast” (the Roman Empire).  Speaking prophetically, the Bible refers to this corrupt spiritually-ruling administration or “mother harlot” within Christendom as being a type of “Jezebel” (Rev. 2:20). She was the wicked queen who Ahab, King of Israel, illegitimately married during the days of Elijah the prophet. Jezebel took over control of the religious administration and ministry in Israel. She taught the people of God to commit idolatry and spiritual fornication/adultery (“sexual immorality” = unfaithfulness), embracing and serving other gods by mixing-in paganism with the true worship of God.  She set up false teachers and prophets who led the people of God away from the truth of God’s Word, and had them observing vain and idolatrous pagan traditions and practices (see I Kings 16:31-33; 18:4,19; 21:25-26).  God likens what happened in Christianity – beginning with the Pergamos Era when the Church first “married up” with the ruler(s) of the Roman Empire culminating into the illicit strong union and corruption of the Thyatira Era of Church history – the same as when Jezebel married King Ahab and took over the religious and priestly administration of Israel (the Old Testament Church) during the days of Elijah. This illicit marriage and union would lead the vast majority of God’s people (Israel) astray and into great apostasy (a falling away from the Truth – the Word of God.) The English word apostasy comes from the Greek word apostasia which means “a departure from” and/or “a falling away from” which is exactly what the Apostle Paul predicted would happen to the people of God (II Tim. 4:2-4).

Just as Jezebel’s marriage to King Ahab resulted in setting-up false teachers and pastors, as well as idolatrous practices, within the Old Testament Church of Israel, this illicit union between God’s people and the world (the Roman Empire) created a fraudulent and corrupt religious system and administration within New Testament Christendom. This has resulted in a falling away from the Truth – the actual Word of God – which has continued down through the ages. Because of this great apostasy, God said He would give this New Testament “Jezebel” (later also biblically referred to as “the Great Harlot” and “the Mother of Harlots”, see Rev. 17:1-5) time to repent; but if she would not, He would prophetically “cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds” (2:21-22).  This refers to the time of the Protestant Reformation continuing to our present day. This “sickbed” (or “bed of defilement”) refers to the bloody Protestant Reformation and speaks of the resulting “offspring churches” that were birthed and brought forth as a result of this affiliation and separation from their original “mother” – the Roman Catholic Church.  Notice the next verse: “And I will kill her children [her offspring] with death. And all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” (2:23).

History shows after Constantine “legitimized” and legalized Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church later emerged as the one universal “Christian” Church which would administer sole governing authority over all of Christendom.  (The word “catholic” literally means universal). This was the direct result of later Roman emperors and Popes declaring their compromised version of Christianity as the official state-sanctioned and state-sponsored religion of the quickly-emerging “Holy Roman Empire”.  The religious ruling-class and ecclesiastical governing body soon became known to the world as the Catholic (“universal”) Church, and it would eventually exercise supreme authority and control over all Christians for the next 1260 years (from the time of the decrees of Constantine to the Protestant Reformation) just as Jesus had prophesied that it would (Rev. 13:5) *.

The bloody Protestant Reformation which began in the mid-1500s was a backlash and revolt against the sovereignty and absolute power that Catholicism held over all of Christendom for 1260 years.  This is the “sickbed” and the “great tribulation” that Jesus refers to in 2:22 that He was going to cast Jezebel [the Mother of Harlots] “and those who commit adultery with her into”.  What we see emerge from this “sickbed” (or “bed of defilement”) are many Protestant churches that are slightly different from their Catholic “mother”, but virtually identical in overall doctrines, practices, and teachings.  These “children churches” which arose out of the Protestant Reformation can all trace their maternal roots back to their Catholic origins.  The church names may be different, but their teachings and doctrines are more or less the same: Sunday worship services; church buildings; clergy/laity caste systems; hierarchical governments; pagan holiday observances and celebrations; tithing expectations; required church attendance; sacraments; praise and worship liturgies; prepared sermons; paid professional clergy; doctrines of the afterlife and eternal punishment; etc.  These “offspring churches” – which we loosely refer to as “Protestant churches” – were all created and “conceived” from this Mother of Harlots whom the Bible describes as “sitting upon many waters” (Rev. 17:1).  The Bible reveals that the phrase “many waters” symbolically means this Great Mother Harlot “sits upon” – that is, rules over – “many peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (Rev. 17:15).

God says He is going to kill these “offspring churches” with death, and He is going to judge this great whore “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication” (Rev. 2:23; 17:1-2, 16-17).  The Bible even goes further to identify this woman as that “great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” – meaning, Rome, home of the Vatican.  During the Apostle John’s Day, Rome controlled the entire known world and ruled over kings of the earth, both militarily and secularly speaking.  In Jesus’ prophecies (which John records in the Book of Revelation), Rome is portrayed as spiritually ruling in the form of this Great Mother Harlot – the “Jezebel” who calls herself a prophetess (a spiritual teacher and leader) and the one who deceitfully teaches and beguiles the Lord’s people into committing spiritual fornication and idolatry (2:20).  God says He will cast those who have fornicated with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds (2:22).  He also says He will eventually “kill” any subsequent children that were born of her as a result of this spiritual adultery (2:23).

It is interesting to note that this is exactly what happened to the real Jezebel’s lineage.  Her history is given in the Bible as a spiritual type. God completely destroyed her household and all of her children.  He judged that her corrupt and apostate descendants were not to be legitimate heirs or rulers of Israel – the people of God.  Hers was an illegitimate and illegal marriage; a reign that was not to be found among the congregation of the Lord or qualified to rule in His House.  She and her children were killed; her priests and false prophets were slain; her teachings and doctrines were discredited and destroyed. God is going to once again clean-up “Israel” – His Church!  He will do away with Jezebel, and her corrupt administration and teachings which still poison Christianity. He is going to destroy and “kill” all of her offspring churches and cut-off her descendants. Then “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” (2:23).

The reference to “killing all of Jezebel’s offspring churches” certainly demands biblical explanation, lest people discouragingly misunderstand the judgements and mercies of God. In the Bible, although Jezebel had wickedly bewitched the people of God (Israel), and seduced them into gross apostasy and idolatry, God still did not abandon them. He sent Elijah the prophet to openly oppose and expose Jezebel’s influence, as well as her false teachers and prophets (today more commonly referred to as “pastors”). He is going to do the same thing in our day! For it is written: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers [the biblical patriarchs] to the children; and turn the hearts of the children [back] to their fathers” (Mal. 4:5-6). Jesus re-affirmed this by saying, “Elijah truly is coming, and he will restore all things!” (Matt. 17:11). When the first Elijah came and confronted Jezebel’s false administration during the reign of King Ahab, he exposed them for the frauds they were. He revealed God by fire and put to death the false prophets by the sword (I Kin. 18:36-40; 19:1). This will be done again! The Bible says that “first comes the physical [fulfillment] and then comes the spiritual [fulfillment]” (I Cor. 15:46).

It also says the Word of God is a fire, a hammer and a sword (Jer. 5:14; 23:29; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12). The Word burns, crushes, and cuts in half everything it comes in contact with. In today’s vernacular, it convicts, discredits, and cuts down everything in its path that opposes it. This is going to happen to the false ministries, the deceiving and deceived ministers, and to all the corrupt doctrines and teachings that have infected Christianity through Jezebel and her false teachers and pastors. They will be exposed and discredited (“consumed”) by the Spirit of the Lord’s mouth; and later destroyed by the brightness of His physical coming (II Thess. 2:8). This is how God is going to “kill” the “offspring churches of this Great Mother Whore. These “offspring churches” are going to be exposed and discredited by the servants of God (latter-day “Elijah-types”) who will proclaim the true words of God and reveal God’s Holy Presence and power to the people – thus turning their hearts back to the One true God (I Kin. 18:36-37; Mal. 4:5-6; Luke 1:16-17). The Great Mother Whore herself is going to be judged and made desolate by the beast who is going to turn on her in the last days (see Rev. 17:1-18). Because it is going to be so difficult to come out of these centuries-old pagan traditions and idolatrous false teachings that have plagued Christianity for so long, God is going to have mercy on those of the Thyatira Era. He said He would put on them “no other burden” (2:24). In other words, if they will repent and become faithful to Him and to His Word – overcoming the false teachings and traditions of the corrupt Jezebel administrations – then He will put on them no further burden (test) and will subsequently grant them a position of authority and rulership with Him in His Kingdom and governing Administration that is coming to take over the whole earth (Rev. 2:24-27; Dan. 7:27).

 

SARDIS ERA (present):

As a result of the previous Church Eras, with all of their compounded false teachings and idolatrous spiritual baggage they have sadly bequeathed to us, I believe that we are currently in the Sardis Era of Church history. We collectively have a name – “Christianity” – yet we are, for the most part, spiritually dead (3:1). Just as the Apostle Paul accurately predicted so long ago regarding the Church’s state in these last days, we now have “a form of godliness, but deny its power” (II Tim. 3:5). Throughout Christendom, many are “always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7). Many sit in “church” year after year, but don’t know their Bible (the Word of God). They don’t have or exercise any spiritual gifts described in I Corinthians chapters 12 and 14. They don’t do the same miraculous works of Jesus and the apostles – and even greater works – Jesus said His true followers and believers would do (John 14:12). Many don’t live a daily, self-denying, sacrificial, crucified life (Luke 9:23-24). Unfortunately, most people in Christendom look to their pastors and/or their clergy to lead and guide them each week, instead of looking to the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and teach them each and every day. They forget that Scripture says that we “don’t need any man to teach us because the anointing of the Holy Spirit will teach us all things” (I John 2:27); and that the Holy Spirit will be our Counselor (Isa. 30:21); and lead and guide us into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13); so the New Covenant might be fulfilled which says: “They shall all be taught by God” (John 6:45); and “This is the covenant that I will make with them: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts, and none of them shall teach his brother or his neighbor, saying, ‘Do you know the Lord?,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Heb. 8:10-11). Instead, because of the false doctrine of the Nicolaitans, most church members currently look to their pastors and/or church officials to lead and guide them, instead of looking directly to God and relying on Him who will literally teach them and lead them daily by Jesus through His Holy Spirit. Tragically, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have become more real to them as past figures of history than as present realities. Therefore, because they don’t know Jesus or His Word (the Bible), they rely on their pastors instead of God. It has become just as Jesus said, literally “the blind leading the blind” (Matt. 15:14); and as the Apostle Paul warned: that when the churches began to leave the Word of God (the Bible) and fall away from the Truth, imposters would come in “deceiving, and being deceived” (II Tim. 3:13). This is why Paul told us to continue to look to the Holy Scriptures (II Tim. 3:13-17) not to man, and to continually preach the Word (II Tim. 4:2-4); so we wouldn’t be deceived, as Jesus warned: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying that I [Jesus] am indeed the Christ, but will deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5).

Jesus told those of the Sardis Era, if we aren’t spiritually vigilant and awake, He would come upon us “as a thief, and [we] will not know what hour [He] will come upon [us]” (3:3). I believe this speaks of Jesus coming in ways and at times in which we don’t know or recognize Him. He did this to the apostles and His followers after the Resurrection, appearing to them in ways and at times they didn’t at first recognize (see Luke 24:13-32; John 20:14-18; 21:4-12). It’s interesting to note that Jesus said in the last days it would be like it was during Lot’s time: “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30). Jesus and the two angels with Him came to Abraham and Lot “as men” – that is, they appeared as men clothed in human flesh (Gen. 18:2-3; 19:1-8). The wicked and spiritually blind men of Sodom didn’t recognize them as coming from God, therefore, they sought to “know them according to the flesh” and they quickly perished. Likewise, if we aren’t spiritually awake, vigilant and discerning, we tragically aren’t going to recognize our “time of visitation” either (see Luke 19:41-44). I believe that Jesus – who is the Word – is now coming to His people in the churches to see whether or not they truly KNOW Him.  Do His people really KNOW Him?  Or do they only know their pastor’s teachings and their church’s doctrines? Remember what Jesus said: “In vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments and traditions of men…Depart from Me, I don’t know you!” (Mark 7:7; Luke 13:25-27). Right now, Jesus is sending forth His servants with the Spirit of Christ in them to speak His Word boldly and unapologetically. Do you recognize Him coming in them? For it is written: “Jesus is the One who is testifying [speaking] in those who have the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Jesus plainly said to His servants whom He sends: “He who hears you hears Me; he who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16). And to those of His own people who were religious but had rejected Him He declared: “You will see Me no more until you say, ‘Blessed is he [or she] who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:37-39). Remember, Jesus is the Lord – and to reject those whom He sends is to reject Him because He is literally IN them! Just as He declared to Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul) traveling on the road to Damascus intending to harass, arrest and kill Jesus’ followers in whom He was dwelling: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?… I am Jesus whom you are persecuting!” (Acts 9:4-5). Saul did not realize that by persecuting Jesus’ servants, he was literally persecuting Jesus Himself!  Unfortunately, many today in the Sardis Era do not recognize Jesus – because they don’t know Him as the Living Word in His servants – therefore they are literally rejecting Him when they reject those whom He sends! Many today only want to know God and Jesus “according to the flesh” by not properly discerning His coming to them in the Spirit – not recognizing their “time of visitation” – just like the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t recognize Him. They mistakenly thought His messengers [angels] were only “mere men.” This is how Jesus describes His coming to the members of the Sardis Era if they aren’t spiritually discerning and vigilant – He is going to come “as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” – just like He did to the people of Sodom. Unfortunately, there are only a few in Sardis who haven’t defiled their garments and who are willing to walk with Christ [the Word] (3:4). This is why Jesus tells them all to “hold fast [to the Word of God] and to repent” (3:3), so they will be able to overcome (the false teachings and traditions of the previous Eras and administrations) and thereby be counted worthy to walk with Him (3:3-5).

 

PHILADELPHIA ERA (present):

Other than Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only era of Christianity to receive no rebuke from Jesus for errant works or false teachings. It was only commendations from Him regarding their continual perseverance and enduring faithfulness to Him and to His name – that is, to “true Christianity” – being “a true follower of Christ” (who is the Word). This is why Jesus said, “You have kept My Word, and have not denied My name. Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue [church] of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test [try] those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (3:8-11). These verses say much; but if we break them down and let the Bible interpret itself, we can easily see the profound truths that are revealed here. First, notice that there are “true Jews” spoken of along with false ones. These “false Jews” are liars, pretenders, and mis-representers claiming to be followers of Jesus. He refers to them as being “the church of Satan”. They are persecuting and hindering the true believers while masquerading as believers and followers. The Bible defines a “true Jew” as “one whose circumcision is of the heart, inward, and of the Spirit and not of the flesh”; and also, one who has and knows “the oracles [the sayings and words] of God” (see Rom. 2:28-29 thru 3:1-2). Here is the contention and conflict being relayed in these passages. The “pretending Jews (Christians)” are denying the words of God, and thereby blaspheming His name by which they are called – “Christian” – which means “to be a follower of Christ”. Jesus is saying that He is going to expose the false Christians during the days of the Philadelphia Era – by revealing His Word (which incidentally is referred to as a “sword” and “the sword of the Spirit” –, as was discussed earlier, cuts (convicts) people and kills (discredits) them (see Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 19:15,21). These false Christians and teachers are first going to be exposed and discredited “by the spirit of His mouth” (II Thess. 2:8) during the days of the Philadelphia Era, and later destroyed by the brightness of His actual coming (II Thess. 2:8).

The opportunity to expose and discredit false Christians and their leadership by preaching and teaching the true Gospel (the Word of God) is “the open door” which Jesus is giving to His faithful people in the Philadelphia Era, saying they “have a little strength” (3:8). Just like the little shepherd boy David, who courageously confronted and rebuked the spiritually-impotent and faithless “armies of God” (Israel) under the weak command and administration of the disbelieving, misguided, flesh-affirming, and-man-pleasing leadership of King Saul, these faithful servants of the Philadelphia Era will also confront and expose the great lack of genuine faith, boldness and spiritual power missing in Christendom today. This is why the direct reference is given regarding David and “the open door” opportunity that Christ is going to present to His faithful and courageous servants during these days: “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, ‘He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens’; I know your works. See I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it” (3:7-8).

The phrase “key of David” refers to the promotion and success of a person originating from a place of humble social status and insignificance – like young David – but through Christ rose to an astonishingly high level and position of influence and leadership to fulfill God’s divine purposes. It is the “open door of advancement” God gives to those who faithfully and fearlessly serve Him. This is identified and defined in the book of the prophet Isaiah regarding the demise of Shebna, and the godly advancement of Eliakim the son of Hilkiah (see Isa. 22:15-24). Just as David had to endure the cruel and grievous hostility and persecution from Saul’s administration, so too will these “young David types” have to suffer continual persecution and resistance from Christendom’s various church leaderships and administrations until the fullness of Christ’s Kingdom and Administration is firmly established and ushered in. As it is written: “Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker… So David went on and became great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him… So David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for His people Israel’s sake” (II Sam. 3:1; 5:10-12). When this finally occurred, God prophetically gave David the city of Jebus as his capital which would become Jerusalem. God made David and his posterity a permanent fixture and authority in Jerusalem where God’s House – His Temple – would later be established (I Chron. 11:4-9). This is why it says to those who overcome and are faithful during the Philadelphia Era that now has begun: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar [a mainstay] in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more [he will be firmly established]. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (3:12).

Incidentally, Jebus in Hebrew means “to be trampled underfoot”; and in Canaanite (the original language of the Jebusites who had previously inhabited the city), it means “the waterless hill”. Most students of the Bible will readily identify the spiritual connections to these two meanings: in Malachi, the righteous are told: “’You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this’, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 4:3). Throughout Scripture, water clearly symbolizes the anointing and abundant flowing of the Holy Spirit which was (and is) obviously deficient during Saul’s administration. Yet, prophetically, during the time of David, the Canaanite city of Jebus was conquered and given a new name – Jerusalem, which means “City of Peace” – and futuristically it will be established as the capital of God’s Kingdom on earth – with Jesus Christ (the son of David) permanently sitting on His father David’s throne (Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 21:2-7).

It is also very important to note that Jesus warns those of us who are of the Philadelphia Era to “hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (3:11). The Holy Spirit showed me what this means:  Jonathan, Saul’s son, was (and is) a prophetic type. Although he was a very close friend and brother (brother-in-law) to David, he nevertheless allowed his close alliance with King Saul (his fleshly father), and his strong allegiance and heart-ties to his father’s administration, to be his undoing. He didn’t know how to sever his human emotions and fleshly allegiance to his father and family (his fleshly brethren) and their out-going administration, from his spiritual knowledge and love of David and his new in-coming administration, and it cost him his life. He knew that David – a forerunner and spiritual type of Christ – was destined to rule in Israel, and that David’s administration was going to depose and replace his father’s administration. Still, he unwisely allowed his heartstrings and loyalties to his earthly father to ultimately take his crown and his life. This should serve as a divine warning to “let no man take our crown” (3:11). This crown is “the eternal crown of righteousness and life” that God will bestow on every one who overcomes and is faithful to Him regardless of human costs (see II Tim. 4:8; Rev. 2:10; 2:25-27; 3:11-12). A son of Saul and royal heir, prince Jonathan willingly and humbly gave up his earthly crown to David – knowing that it was God’s will that David should and would succeed Saul as king (see I Sam. 20:12-17). He did right by this. But he did NOT have to die with Saul’s out-going administration (I Chron. 10:2-7)! For Jonathan had a covenant with the house of David for life and for perpetuity! Notice this in Scripture: “And you [David] shall not only show me [Jonathan] the kindness of the Lord while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my family forever, no, not when the Lord has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.’ So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David…” (I Sam. 20:14-16). Jonathan would have certainly been given a highly-trusted and royal position in the government and godly administration of King David (a type of Christ). He would have eaten perpetually at David’s table, just like Jonathan’s son would later do (see II Sam. 9:1-13).

This “bleeding heart syndrome” of Jonathan’s – his emotional attachment to his father and his father’s regime –ultimately cost him his life. He died defending what he KNEW deep down in his heart was being done away with by God. His allegiances were therefore divided – and he died defending that which was destined to die! As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). You cannot have allegiances to two inherently-opposing parties. Eventually, you will HAVE to make a choice. You may fool yourself for a time, and believe you can serve both sides faithfully, but eventually you HAVE to make a choice – for Jesus said so! Jonathan died in vain. His death did not ultimately profit anything. He allowed “another” (his corrupt dad) to take his crown. This is why Jesus warns us: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26). The Bible gives only one reason why the Levites were chosen by God to serve Him as His priests – that is, those closest to Him faithfully serving in His administration. They were willing to sever family ties and emotional bonds with their brethren in order to serve God (see Exod. 32:26-29). Later on, Phineas, Aaron’s grandson would show this same uncompromising commitment to God. He too would be rewarded and consecrated by God for his unwavering allegiance by not putting his brethren ahead of God (see Num. 25:7-13). As true Christians, nothing and nobody can be first in our lives but God! In Scripture, God says the current Church administrations ruling in Christendom have “corrupted the covenant of Levi” and “have caused many to stumble at the Law” [at the Word of God, the Bible] (Mal. 2:8). “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the Law from his mouth. For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the Law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi’, says the Lord of hosts. Therefore, I also will make you contemptible and base before all the people because you have not kept My ways, but have shown partiality in the Law” (Mal. 2:7-9). This is why God is going to bring a new administration to all of Christendom during the days of the Philadelphia Era, as He did during the days of King Saul with David and his mighty men: “I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding… Then it shall come to pass… at that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:15-17).

Saul’s fleshly administration is on its way out; and David’s anointed administration is going to be ushered in and firmly established in Israel [in Christendom]. In today’s vernacular, the fleshly administration that now rules Christianity is going to be done away with, and Christ’s anointed administration is going to be brought in and established. Just as it was written: “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord, therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (I Chron. 10:13-14). It is also prophetically written: “’After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. And I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name’, says the Lord who does all these things” (Acts 15:16-17). This will be done again during the Philadelphia Era which we are currently at the cusp of. Those who are willing to come out of the Sardis Era (“who have the name of Christian, but who are spiritually dead”) and are willing to overcome and renounce the deeply engrained and compounded false teachings and traditions of the past Church Eras of Pergamos and Thyatira, and who are able to detach from and sever the emotional bonds and allegiances of the past and present corrupt church administrations will be made a “king and a priest” (Rev. 5:10) to serve with Christ in the soon-coming and the soon-to-be-established Kingdom of God on earth which will be headquartered at Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2-7; Zech. 14:3-11; Isa. 11:1-10; Micah 4:1-8).

 

LAODICEA ERA (present):

The last Era that Jesus prophetically speaks of is Laodicea. Laodicea runs concurrently with Philadelphia, and its roots are deeply embedded in Sardis, the inheritor of the previously deceived Eras with their compounded erroneous teachings and traditions passed down through the ages. The spiritually dead Sardis Era is being confronted – and told to wake up! They must realize that because of the lifeless gospel they inherited and have been taught (void of any real truth and Word of God) – they have come to a spiritual crossroad: either wake up, repent and become part of the Philadelphia Era, or they can harden their hearts even further and falsely believe they are spiritually fine just as they are – which will make them part of the Laodicea Era. Remember, it says to those in Sardis that there are only a few who are righteous in Sardis (3:4); and the rest – the majority – are told to repent and overcome! And the one who overcomes will NOT be blotted out of the Book of Life (3:5). Implying that those who don’t repent and overcome will have their names blotted out of the Book of Life. Those who don’t feel the need to repent and overcome will – by default – become Laodiceans. Let me explain.

Whenever a person is confronted with the truth that they are wrong, deficient, and/or negligent, and are further instructed to repent, one of two reactions occur: They will either suddenly, or eventually, realize they are deficient and/or guilty, and will repent – become remorseful and seek to change. Or, they will harden their stubborn heart even further in their complacency, thinking and believing they are righteous and sufficient as they are, and will resolve to do nothing, except to aggressively attempt to discredit the one bringing the repentance message. They are spiritually “rich” (already enlightened) in their own mind and don’t realize their desperate need for change and/or repentance.  This is the attitude and spiritual mindset of Laodicea– they don’t see or recognize their spiritual poverty (3:17). They don’t realize their spiritual deficiency. They simply trust what their prosperity pastors are wrongfully teaching them – that they are already “right with God” and that Jesus has “done everything for them”. Their job, they erroneously believe and have been taught, is to faithfully attend church every week (“just pay and pray”, as some would say) and then wait for “the rapture train” to whisk them away into heavenly bliss! They wrongfully look to and believe what their false pastors and teachers have taught them instead of relying on what God’s Word (the Bible) says. They depend on pastors and church leaders to teach and lead them instead of looking to God’s Holy Word working in conjunction with the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, teach and daily instruct them (I John 2:27). They aren’t hot for God or His Word and teaching, but neither are they spiritually cold (3:15).  They are lukewarm (3:16) – comfortable – COMPLACENT WHERE THEY ARE and AS THEY ARE! The Laodicean Era pictures and represents any and all who are “sitting in church” and who are spiritually complacent in Christendom.

To be complacent, one has to feel comfortable, content, and unburdened – with no afflictions, trials, tribulations, or challenges. In other words, NO CROSS or BURDENS to carry! The Laodiceans forget Christ’s commands to endure, persevere, pick up THEIR crosses, strive, become a slave, lay down their lives, serve, overcome, be proven, be tested, obey, sacrifice, give all their goods to the poor, and to die daily. Theirs is a comfortable religion, with cushy seats, little-to-no spiritual warfare, and a come-and-stay-as-you-are gospel. They believe that Jesus Christ “already did everything” for their salvation and life, so now all they have to do is sit back and occasionally “go to church” and hear a “feel good” message from a professionally-paid clergyman. The New Testament command “to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) and to “take up your own cross daily” (Luke 9:23) is lost on them and their leaders. This is why Christ mercifully advised His people who are of the Laodicea Era and mindset: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich… and anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see” (3:18). “Gold refined in the fire” is biblically defined as “faith that is tried and tested by tribulation and hardship” (see I Pet. 1:6-7; Job 23:10; Zech. 13:9; Jam. 1:12). The character of God and His holiness is created and developed in us by suffering and by His chastening through trials and hardships (I Pet. 4:1-2; 4:12-13; Heb. 12:5-11; Jam. 1:2-3).

Those who are of the Laodicean mindset are “enemies of the CROSS of Christ” (Phil. 3:18-19). Notice that this verse does NOT say that they are enemies of Christ; but rather, that they are enemies of the CROSS of Christ. They don’t like that part of the Gospel message. They “love” Jesus. They love that He died on the cross for them. They love what Jesus did for us – giving us all access to God the Father through Himself and reconciling us to God – by dying in our place and making atonement for us. Yet they can’t stand the fact that we each now have to take up OUR OWN INDIVIUAL CROSSES daily (known in the Bible as “taking up the reproach of Christ” – see Heb. 11:26, I Peter 4:14) in order to follow Him and to BE with Him and to be IN Him (Luke 14:27). They like the fact that He died on the cross, and that He died in order to make it possible for us to have a relationship with God. But they don’t like the part of the Gospel package that says that WE have to take up OUR CROSS in order to follow Him. And that Scripture also says that we MUST ALSO WALK AS HE WALKED if we say that we abide in Him and He in us (I John 2:6).

Unfortunately, many today believe that “sitting in church” makes a person a Christian. Nowhere in Scripture are we called to GO to church. We are called to BE the Church. The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It literally means “called-out ones” – that is, “called out of this world to follow (be like) Christ”. Church is therefore NOT something you DO, but rather something you ARE. We are followers – IMITATORS – of Christ. This is the problem with the Laodiceans. Christ is not IN them. He is on the outside “knocking on the door of their heart to get inside of them” (3:20). They aren’t abiding in Him and He is not abiding in them. To be abiding in Christ means to be obeying His Word and doing what He says (see John 8:31; 14:21-23; 15:3-10). That is why Jesus tells them to “be zealous and repent” (3:19). If they don’t repent and become hot for Him and His ways and His words, He is going to “spit them out of His mouth” (3:16) which clearly shows a disdain and contempt for them. Just as He warned us all, saying: “If you are ashamed of Me and My words, I will be ashamed of you. And if you deny Me, I will deny you!” (Mark 8:38; Matt. 10:33).

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches!”

 

*For the purposes of this article, a dating calculation from the early imperial decrees of Constantine are being used from 313AD to the middle of the Protestant Reformation (circa 1573AD) to correspond to the 1260-year prophecy (“42 prophetic months”) that Jesus gave (Rev. 13:5). However, an alternate dating calculation can certainly be used as well. Some scholars believe this prophecy refers to the 1260 years that the Office of the Papacy (the Pope) was in ecclesiastical power over the Roman Empire, beginning with its official recognition and appointment by the Roman Emperor Justinian in 538AD until Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s removal and imprisonment of the Papacy in 1798AD. The author recognizes that both of these interpretations and dating calculations appropriately fit, and that both certainly support the conclusions of this article.

 

 

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