The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 16

Spots and Wrinkles and Such Things

(Revelation 2)

The Sevenfold Message to the Sevenfold Church

      When Christ first promised to build His Church, He also promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).  When He returned from the dead, He Himself had the keys of hell (Revelation 1:18), the gates had been opened, and those of its captives who had died in faith had been set free to ascend with Him to Paradise.  He still retains the keys, and the gates of hell can never close again on those who die in faith, as members of His Church.  When they become absent from the body they are immediately present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

      While still in the flesh, those who are a part of His Church are by no means yet made perfect.  But they have been placed into His Body by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) and can no longer be imprisoned behind the gates of hell.  “Christ is the head of the church…. Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:23, 25-27).

    Someday, the “spirits of just men” will be “made perfect,” as we all gather “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).  For the time now present, however, we are yet imperfect, and the individual churches in which we now assemble are therefore likewise full of spots and wrinkles.  Nevertheless, we belong to Christ, and He is “in our midst,” through the Holy Spirit (John 16:7), comforting and leading, convicting and chastening, building His Church.

     The picture we see in Revelation 2 and 3 is amazing.  Seven churches – the perfect number representing all churches – and all are most unpromising churches.  The churches, outwardly strong, are full of compromise and moral decay.  The spiritually strong churches are physically weak.  All are highly fallible, persecuted, subject to imminent disintegration and scattering, and none are destined to survive very long.  Yet Christ is in their midst, and the Holy Spirit is speaking to them, promising great blessings to those who overcome.

     These seven churches were real churches, and visitors by the thousands today include a visit to the ruins of the seven churches of Asia on their chartered tours to the Bible lands.  They were real churches, but they are also chosen as representative churches and they still represent our churches today.  There is some of Ephesus and Smyrna and all of the others in each of our own churches today.  Their problems are our problems, and Christ’s exhortations to them apply with equal force to us.

     Although it is by no means the dominant theme, there is a sense also in which the seven churches seem to depict the respective stages of development and change of Christ’s churches during the ensuing centuries.  History has, indeed, shown such a general development through the years, and it is reasonable that the sequential development of the respective exhortations in these messages should be arranged by the Lord in the same sequence.  He is not capricious in His selection.  There is bound to be some significance in the sequence of the seven, as well as in the total.  The Book of Revelation – all of it – is said to be a prophecy, and if there is any prophecy in it concerning the Church Age, it must be here in these two chapters.  Further, in one way or another, the last four of the churches are to survive until the return of Christ (note verses 2:25; 3:3, 11, 20), and this can only now be fulfilled if these four churches specifically represent stages of church development which persist until the end of the age.

     The same format describes each of the seven messages, a fact which further confirms the all-encompassing theme of the messages.  Each letter is composed of seven parts, as follows:

      1.  Salutation.  “Unto the angel of the church at … write: …” As shown in the previous chapter, the “angel” can only have been the angel – not a pastor or other human messenger.  No church epistle in the New Testament is ever addressed to the pastor, or bishop, or elders of the church.  They are always addressed to the church, to the people.  The context in these indicates the same, with the angel merely representing the church and guarding the transmission of its epistle.

      2.  Identification of Christ as Sender.  “These things saith He that …” In each case, He is identified by some characteristic of His appearance that was appropriate to the individual message to the particular church.

      3.  Assertion of Knowledge.  “I know thy works …” Christ is in their midst, and so has intimate knowledge of all the works and circumstances and attitudes of each church.

    4.  Comment and Exhortation.  Here is the core of the message to each assembly, sometimes commendatory, sometimes critical, adapted perfectly to the particular situation in each.  Always there is an exhortation.  None can simply relax as having attained all that Christ desires of them.

      5.  Promised (or Threatened) Coming.  To some, He threatens a coming in judgment for faithlessness, to others, a coming to receive them in death, and to others, His coming at the end of the age.  In each case there is a promise or warning that He will come personally to terminate their present circumstances.

      6.  Admonition to Heed.  “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”  Though each church has its own particular message, it is vital that each church hear and heed what Christ, through the Spirit, says to all the churches.

      7.  Promised Blessing.  “To him that overcometh …”  A special blessing is promised to all those faithful ones in every church who, through their faith (note 1 John 5:4, 5), overcome the world and all its temptations and persecutions. 

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