The Seven Churches of Revelation Today
By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., December 1994
Edited by David Sielaff, September 2007
The most mysterious book of the Bible is the Book of Revelation. It is a book made up primarily of symbols, but those symbols can be understood, and they are important for us at this end of the age, to recognize and understand. As explained in my book Restoring the Original Bible, the Book of Revelation was written in two stages: the first before 60 C.E., and then it was edited and finalized about the year 96 C.E., and placed as the final volume in the New Testament canon. It is the final version of the Book of Revelation that is important for us to understand. This because its message is almost totally intended for the generation that is just before the Second Advent of Christ. The exact time period is given in Revelation chapter 17 by the apostle John.
Although the apostle John wrote this book (and it is proper to say that John says this or that), still at the very beginning it says that it is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” John was nothing more than a secretary to put down the words that Jesus Christ wanted these people to whom He was writing to understand. In the first chapter we are told the group of people, or groups of people, to whom this book was intended.
I will show, however, that the Book of Revelation has ramifications for all people living in the last generation before the Second Coming of Christ back to this earth, though there are particular people that are involved in this. And yet, since it will have worldwide circumstances associated with it, we all ought to pay attention to what this final book of the New Testament has to say to us.
John was taken forward into the day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10). And in the King James Version it says “into the Lord’s Day,” but it means into a particular time period in the future that would be associated with the Second Advent of Christ to this earth, and the establishment of the kingdom of God on this earth.
We are given that time period more precisely in Revelation 17. The apostle John was taken into a vision to see a woman sitting upon this beast, and there were seven heads and ten horns associated with it.
In chapter 17 it says that these seven heads were seven kings, and it says that five are fallen, one is (which would be the sixth), one is yet to come for a short time, and then the eighth king is to come (Revelation 17:10–11). The eighth would be considered as the beast, the antichrist, that one who is the evil individual, 1 with others, associated primarily with Satan the devil, who will exist at the end of the age just prior to Christ’s Second Coming. This eighth king will be associated with ten other kings, mentioned here, in the Book of Daniel, and also in Psalm 83. These ten kings are associated with this beast, known as the eighth king in the scenario here given by John in Revelation chapter 17.
But the time to which John was taken in vision was the period of the sixth king of the eight altogether (the eighth is the beast). He says five are fallen, one is, one is to come for a short time. Then emerges the eighth king who is the beast. That is the antichrist who, with ten kings, will fight Christ at His coming.
So, we are taken forward into the future from the time that John wrote this, speaking for Jesus Christ, into the generation just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. That second coming, of course, has not yet occurred. It occurs at a time when the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem splits in two. And I assure you the Mount of Olives has not split in two yet, and so Jesus Christ has not yet come back to this earth. But when He comes, we find Zechariah, chapter 14 being fulfilled at that time.
The Book of Revelation is a book of revealing. It is revealing to a group of people introduced in the first chapter, and in particular to seven beings whom I will mention in just a moment as being very important. These seven beings are seven spirits who are seven angels who control the seven churches to whom Jesus is writing, and John is, as a secretary, writing down the account. Now the whole Book of Revelation is found in four major divisions.
- The vision that was given concerning the messages to the seven churches, beginning with Ephesus and going to Laodicea. You will find the message to those seven churches given in chapters 2 and 3.
- Another visionary section begins in chapter 4 when John was taken forward (in time) in vision, and that goes all the way to the end of chapter 16.
- Look very carefully at the beginning of chapter 17, you have a third section that goes to the great white throne judgment.
- After the great white throne judgment we have the kingdom of God on Earth, in another vision. That is the fourth vision written of the Book of Revelation.
Revelation has an introduction to all of these four divisions, and a conclusion, a summing up that is chapter 22. These are not visions per se.
These four visions all impinge upon one another. They describe different time periods as far as months and a few years are concerned, about a seven year period total, or a little less. They really concentrate upon this last generation of history for mankind, just prior to the Second Coming of Christ back to this earth. That is when the Book of Revelation is to have its meaning and its prophecies fulfilled.
Throughout the Book of Revelation, you will notice there is a theme of Christ coming very quickly. John wrote back in the 1st century. If Christ was coming in the 1st century, then all of those Scriptures about coming quickly would have referred to that period of time. But if you look at it carefully, John was taken forward into this last generation prior to the Second Coming of Christ, the end-time generation, and the message is that He is coming quickly. He is coming soon. He is at the doors. And then He does come, and arrives here on Earth in the 19th chapter of the Book of Revelation.
So this whole book is for that end time generation, and it has been in the Bible for almost 1900 years. We are now approaching that end-time generation. We are still coming to that period of time when it will become quite evident that we are entering that time discussed in the Book of Revelation.
It is a time when John was taken in spirit to that sixth king — five were fallen, six is, one is yet to come for a short time, and then emerges the eighth who is the beast, the antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition, who will, with ten kings, fight Christ at His coming. Then Christ will subdue him and those ten kings, and then the millennium will occur with Christ introducing the kingdom of God here on Earth. At that occasion the resurrection from the dead takes place, according to the apostle Paul, Peter, and others.
We can get the story flow if we go to the beginning. This entire book really is to these seven ekklesias. The messages God gives to these seven ekklesias have meaning for those living at that time, the time period just in advance of us. Look at the general introduction to the Book:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.”
So, though Jesus Christ reveals this, it actually comes from God the Father, and John the apostle writes it. It was given to John by an angel, by a messenger from God. God does use messengers to show His truth to mankind. This angel “… bare record of the Word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear” (Revelation 1:2).
Notice, it is the person singular “that reads, and they [plural] that hear.” This shows that at the time when the words were first written, it was uncommon for people to have their own copy of the Book of Revelation in his or her hands. Books were expensive to produce in those times. So one book was produced, but then a reader would read to the group. He says: “... blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3).
Again, it is shortly to come to pass. The time is near. If we take that as having a relevance only to the 1st century, then we would say that this prophecy has failed miserably, because none of these events took place in the 1st century.
Go on and find the time period when these prophecies are intended to occur. It is just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The very events Christ gave in the Olivet Prophecy (Matthew chapter 24) about two days before His crucifixion are given greater detail, symbolic though they may be, here in the Book of Revelation. Jesus said that the generation that sees these events (leading to the end, and then the abomination of desolation set up) that generation is the one the prophecies refer to in the first place.
Understand that cardinal principle or you will get mistaken ideas on what the prophecies here are all about. This is a prophecy for the end time generation, and seven particular individuals are talked of here, these seven beings, as perhaps I should put it, because they are angels, or spirits. They are in charge of seven ekklesias (those geographical designations are given to these seven ekklesias), starting with Ephesus. They represent towns that existed at the middle and the end of the 1st century C.E. Most of these towns no longer exist today. That does not make any difference. The angels or spirit beings in charge back in the 1st century very much exist today. These seven spirits have a very important job to do for God. 2
The first three verses explain who the authorities are giving this revelation and the means by which it is presented to the readers, or hearers. Then we get to the salutation itself: “John to the seven churches (ekklesias) which are in Asia [the province of Asia Minor, and western Turkey today]: Grace be unto you, and peace from him which is, and which was, and which is to come ...” (Revelation 1:4). That underlined phrase denotes Yahweh in the Old Testament, the one who was, the one who is, the one who will be. In essence, it means the Eternal, the one who has ever-living existence. That refers to the Father. 3
There is a group of beings called the seven spirits. They are mentioned in the Book of Zechariah in the Old Testament. They are the eyes and the ears of the Lord throughout the entirety of this earth. They are special representatives of God the Father and of Christ Jesus. Here they are introduced as “the seven spirits which are before his throne” (verse 1:4). They are directly in front of the throne of God.
The Temple and Tabernacle that were here on Earth, in the time of Jesus, going back to Solomon, and then to Moses for the tabernacle itself, were all patterns of God’s palace in heaven. In the Holy of Holies, there was the mercy seat, on top of the Ark of the Covenant. This was represented as the throne of God. Towering over that throne of God were two cherubim, with their wings stretched out over. But in front of this throne in heaven are these seven spirits. Notice seven. The seven is a number of perfection.
So, we have God the Father here and we have also the seven spirits, before the throne, and verse 5: “And from Jesus Christ ...” So, you see, we have Christ being separate. Now they are all united as far as purpose is concerned, but from Jesus Christ, who is “the faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5 and 3:14), the first begotten, or first born of the dead. The first born to spiritual life is Jesus Christ who was resurrected from the dead.
The next event, when the next group of people will assume that type of resurrection will be at the Second Coming of Christ Jesus when we are either changed if we are living, or resurrected from the dead, and then changed to become like God Himself is, and Christ is. He is the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.
“Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. And has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
It says: “Behold, he comes with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him” Now they who “pierced him,” refers to the representatives of the Jewish people. It is speaking nationally here. It means those who were responsible for piercing Him, the Jewish people in the 1st century. They were the ones who did it. But it means also those who are descended from them that pierced Him also. It goes on to say: “... and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” 4 The authority for this is:
“[I am] the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was [or actually it meant “became”] in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Verse 10: “I was (or became) in the Spirit in (or into) the Lord’s day.” It means that he was taken forward into a time, by spiritual means, in vision. It does not necessarily mean, at all that he was actually in Patmos. He may have been, but if so, he was taken there as a spiritual experience. Now that is what is meant. 5
So, he was taken in the spirit into the Lord’s day, into the Day of the Lord. That gives you the time period that these messages given are really intended for. When he got in this Day of the Lord he heard:
“... behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what you see [in vision] write in a scroll [a book or a scroll], and send it unto the seven churches [ekklesias] which are in Asia [that is Asia Minor]; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.’”
All of these seven areas were contemporaneous to one another in the 1st century, and the beings in charge of these seven ekklesias (and we will see who they are in just a moment), will also be contemporary with one another at the time that these prophecies have their fulfillment. Remember that. 6 That is when the messages to these seven ekklesias are intended to occur. When we look at the information inside the seven churches, you will see that they are anticipating the Second Advent of Christ back to this earth, all seven of them. They are all in existence at the same time.
And at this time, when he is taken forward into this Day of the Lord, John hears this voice like a trumpet: “... And [I] turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks [as in the King James Version]” (Revelation 1:12). 7
Now here is this menorah that John was looking at, and notice who was standing in the midst of this menorah, of seven lamps. It was Jesus Christ, that is who it was. In glory. He says: “... one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot...” Now when it says “like a son of man,” it says he looked like a human, but extraordinary in one sense because notice he had:
“a garment down to the foot, girt about the paps [that is the breast area] with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool.” 8
Now people can have long hair if they want. But it is not an insignia of rank of the Godhead. In fact, Paul said it is a shame for a man to have long hair in the midst of God. But His head, and His hair:
“were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars.”
In His right hand He had the seven stars. If you place Jesus on the throne in the Holy of Holies, on the right, just outside the curtain, on the right side would have been the menorah, with its seven lamps burning and so you see a connection here on the right side. He had in His right hand seven stars. These are symbols, but these seven stars are important. “... and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.” That again is symbolic. He does not actually have that kind of an instrument, a weapon, but what He says by the mouth is sharp, penetrating like a two-edged sword. He means business. That is what it means as a symbol. “and his countenance was as the sun shining in his strength,” at noonday, on the height of the summer period.
“And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore [eon, to the age].”
It means going on for a long time in the future. In fact it means He now has inherent immortality. He gave up the immortality He had before, to die for our sakes. And you know, Jesus was actually dead for three days? That is right. It says: “I … was dead.” And believe me, when it says He was dead, He was dead. He was not alive somewhere. He was dead. But He is alive now, and He will continue being alive, He says.
“I am alive for evermore, Amen; and [I] have the keys of hades and of death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.”
This verse is most important for the understanding of these messages to the seven ekklesias, because he will write to every single one of them something that was past, something that will be present at the time the vision is fulfilled, and something for the future from that time.
Let me give verse 19 to you again: “Write the things which you have seen [past tense], and the things which are [present tense], and the things which shall be hereafter [future tense].” Verse 19 is most important, as I said before, for the interpretation and understanding of the messages to the seven ekklesias. Go to verse 20. He wants you to understand something else.
“The mystery [or the secret, as it actually means] of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven candlesticks [the seven lamps]. The seven stars are the [seven] angels of the seven ekklesias.”
There you have it coming from Jesus Himself. He is showing that there are seven stars, which were symbolically in His right hand. It means under His control. But they are the seven angels of these seven ekklesias mentioned in chapters two and three. You find out something else here.
I will reveal something you probably never realized, and it will be very significant. Do you know that most, not all, but most of the messages that God gives here in chapter two and three to these seven ekklesias, are not to the people. In some cases, yes. But in most cases, to those angels, those spirits, in charge of these seven ekklesias. That is a fact, and I will show it to you.
So there are angelic creatures under the control of God, in His hierarchy. They are not members of the God family, but they are His agents. He expects them to perform certain actions for Him. Sometimes they do them properly, and sometimes they do not do them quite properly. That is a fact:
“The seven stars are the seven angels of the seven ekklesias: and the seven candlesticks [or lamps] which you saw are the seven ekklesias.”
So this is symbolic. These seven angels are the seven spirits before the throne in Revelation 1:4. When you look carefully, in the Greek it shows that these seven angels to the ekklesias, and these seven spirits, are one and the same. They have a history going back into the Old Testament. Let us look at these seven spirits who are the seven angels. Look at Revelation 8:2 and see that these seven spirits are the same ones in verse 1:20.
“He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.”
These seven trumpets are blown by these seven angels, and each represents one of the seven ekklesias. They are all intertwined. God expects them to perform certain things at the end of the age. These ekklesias, which will be in existence, contemporaneous with one another at the end of the age, will experience these things told of in the Book of Revelation.
So, who are these seven angels, these seven spirits? We have more information about them in Revelation 3:1. This is about the church of Sardis, or the ekklesias:
“And unto the angel of the ekklesia in Sardis write; These things says he that has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars ...”
And you see that word “and” there? “… and the seven stars”? That word is “kai” in Greek. Look at John 3:5, where it is used there (and you find this in Greek grammars) it actually is an equal sign. It means that the seven spirits of God and the seven stars are exactly the same.
So, the seven spirits, the seven stars, and the seven angels are one and the same. Going on:
“And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. [But not only that:] And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
There you are again. The exact location of this event is before the throne of God on the right side, just outside of the Holy of Holies in the Holy Place. There you find, in the Temple, the menorah or the seven lamps. These represent the seven spirits of God, and the seven angels.
“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders [the 24 elders], stood a Lamb as it had been slain [that is Jesus Christ, in symbol], having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.”
These seven pairs of eyes that Jesus has (obviously, a symbol), are these seven angels that belong to Him that He sends throughout the earth to find out what is going on in the earth. In a sense, they have control from God through Christ — from God’s point of view, from Christ’s point of view, of all the earth.
Now Satan the devil has control over all the earth, that is true; but Satan is not one of these angels. These seven relate particularly to the Godhead, to God the Father, and most particularly to Jesus Christ. They represent the seven eyes of Christ (Revelation 5:6). They report back what is going on in this earth. They represent the seven angels that blow the seven trumpets and they represent the angels in charge of the seven ekklesias mentioned here. Jesus sometimes commends them, and sometimes He does not. 9 These spirits, those angels, are under the charge of Jesus Christ and they represent His eyes on the whole world.
Once put all together, the visions of the Book of Revelation are all encompassing. They involve not just the seven areas in Western Asia Minor in existence at the 1st century, but they have relevance throughout the entirety of the earth. The old ekklesias of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 have gone by the wayside long ago, but this is about the end time here. This is about a time when these seven spirits will be in charge of these seven ekklesias at this end-time scenario. 10 These same seven spirits, however, who have the seven trumpets, who finally release the seven plagues, are very much in existence, and they are about ready to do the job that Jesus Christ has given them to do. This whole scene has to do with this end time. These seven spirits, these seven angels, and these seven ekklesias of peoples, exist contemporaneously in that period just prior to the return of Christ.
The messages themselves (given to these angels, in most cases, but also to the people involved underneath them) have to do with the environment of the Second Coming, where He is standing at the door, just getting ready to come. It is up to you and me to properly interpret these Scriptures so that you and I might be able to understand them. 11
Remember that John, in the prologue in Revelation 1:9, was taken forward in time, in vision, to the Day of the Lord. He was first taken to the isle of Patmos in spirit, and then further on, taken in the spirit to the Lord’s Day. He was told to send these messages to the seven spirits, to the seven angels, of the seven ekklesias in Asia Minor, as they existed in the 1st century.
Those church areas disappeared geographically centuries ago. But these messages were and are to the spirits, the seven angels, who were at that time in charge of these areas of the earth. These seven spirits (in the 4th and 5th chapters of Revelation and in the 4th chapter of the Book of Zechariah in the Old Testament) have a responsibility to be the eyes and the ears of Jesus Christ for the entirety of this earth. The emphasis for this end time, when you really understand it, is a worldwide affair. It is not just localized in Western Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey. They have far greater relevance, and far more expansiveness to them.
Those are the seven angels who have the seven trumpets. They have assignments God gives them. He directs His message primarily to those spirits and only secondarily to the people who make up those ekklesias at the time. He gives the responsibility primarily to the angels and not to the people (though the people who follow the angels will suffer the retribution Jesus metes out to those angelic powers).
Not even in the heavens do we find perfection among the angels. Angels are God’s agents and they should be respected. As long as Jesus Christ Himself shows clearly and plainly through God the Father that the teachings from these angels happen to be correct, we should pay heed to them. Our mediatorialship is not to go through angels. It says in 1 Timothy 2:5 that God is one, and there is one mediator between God and the man Christ Jesus. We can go directly to God. We should have no other mediators.
We have to understand how God deals with His own angelic group of beings. This will be highly instructive to us if we can realize how God deals with His own spirits close to Him in heaven. John was ordered by God the Father, through Christ to write this, and to direct it primarily to those angels in charge of these seven ekklesias.
Stars are mentioned several times in Revelation. You should have a basic astronomical knowledge to understand the time periods, and their significance throughout. Remember, the Book of Revelation was written to these angels back in the 1st century, but it was to be read to ordinary people back at that time. They did not have the modern world with electric lights, and watches. We can find out the time of day or year almost instantaneously by looking at a calendar or watch. In those days they looked into the heavens. They were quite knowledgeable in most cases for ordinary purposes, and farming, and things like that, of the motions of the heavens.
John in the Book of Revelation uses a considerable amount of astronomical knowledge and the symbols associated with those astronomical details, to make clear what will happen at the end of the age with these seven spirits, these seven stars that represent the seven lamps that Josephus, the Jewish historian and a priest, said represented the seven wandering stars, planets including the sun and the moon. All these things have relevance to them that you must know.
Look at the first ekklesia, the Ephesus church. Those who adopt the historical method of interpretation, as they call it, say the Ephesus church represented the first age of the church, which most say extended from the time of the apostles to the time of Constantine. The next phase was the Smyrna phase, from the time of Constantine to another 200 years, and then another, and so forth, coming to the Philadelphia church era next to the very end church, Laodicea, which would be a church of lukewarmness. Such people thought this was a history of Christianity over the last 2,000 years. That is complete and utter nonsense and should be jettisoned from anyone’s mind, if he or she looks at the plain teaching of the Scripture.
Not only does it say John was taken forward to the Day of the Lord to see these things and record them, but even in the texts of these epistles themselves it shows they are shortly waiting for the Second Advent.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
The environment here, chronologically speaking for these seven churches, is the end time just at the door, just waiting for the Second Coming of Christ. These are not historical. These teachings have nothing to do with history whatsoever except that they are all contemporaneous ekklesias that will exist at the same time (as they did back in the 1st century), in that period in advance of the Second Coming.
If you have any doubts about that, look at this. Though these churches speak about the imminence (“I stand at the door, and knock”) note the last thing he says to each of these ekklesias: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” All ekklesias are meant, not just the one in Ephesus in the 1st century or the Laodicean ekklesia in the 21st century. The spirit speaks to all ekklesias together.
If you still doubt, turn to the last chapter of Revelation which sums up all that has been written before:
“God … sent his angel to show unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”
You see? Whoever reads the whole book from the first verse: “I come quickly.” It is to that generation,
“Behold, he that keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then says he unto me, See you do not do that, for I am your fellowservant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he [the angel] said unto me, ‘Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.’”
It is right near the door. In verse 22:12: “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” And then verse 16: “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches.” The ekklesias, all seven of them, are in an environment of “I come quickly,” “I am at the door,” repent, or else. It is very near. He closes the Book of Revelation by saying:
“He that testifies these things says, ‘Surely I come quickly. Amen.’ Even so [says John], come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
“I come quickly.” He is not talking to people of the 1st century. He is talking to people of the last generation just prior to the Second Advent of Christ. These seven ekklesias, and the messages to them, have to do with that generation. The messages are not so much to the people in these ekklesias, as to those seven spirits, or seven angels in charge of these ekklesias. They are the agents who see what is going on in the entirety of the earth, the ears and eyes of Jesus Christ for the entire earth (Zechariah 4:10, and Revelation chapter 5).
Realize that they are for the period just on the horizon to us, when Jesus is about ready to come to earth. That is when this Book of Revelation has relevance, and not before. We are coming closer to that time every day. Christ said in the beginning that He would write three types of things to each ekklesia:
“Write the things which you have seen [past tense], and the things which are [right now in this generation before], and the things which shall be hereafter.”
You have past, present, future. A systematic study of these seven churches shows that John follows that pattern precisely. In the first chapter Christ, identifying Himself as the Son of Man, gives His qualifications:
“I turned to see the voice that spoke behind me, and being turned I saw seven golden lampstands. In the midst of the seven lampstandsone like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, … and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.”
In speaking to each of these seven ekklesias, He takes one or sometimes two of those attributes, to indicate His authorship. He does it with the Ephesian church right at first: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus ...” It does not say to the people of the ekklesia, but to the angel. Most of the teaching goes to that angel.
“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things says he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks [the lampstands].”
That identifies Jesus in His glorified state. Now here is the past tense that he gives to the Ephesians:
“I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you cannot bear them which are evil [now that is all past]: you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: you have borne, you have patience, and for my name’s sake you’ve labored and you have not fainted.”
That is all past tense. He liked what He saw and commended that angel. In the Greek it is all singular. It is not referring to “they,” plural, but “you,” singular. It refers to that angel leading the people receiving the message. The people did these things, of course, but the message went primarily to the angelic leader.
In most of the Old and New Testaments, when God wanted to intervene nationally or internationally, He goes to the leaders first in most cases. Joseph went to Pharaoh and interpreted his dreams and visions for him. Daniel went to the kings and interpreted their dreams and visions for them. The apostle Paul went before King Agrippa ruling the Jews under Roman control. He later went before the Imperial household in Rome. When God wants to get to people a message which has national or international scope, He goes directly to the leaders. So God went to this angel in charge of the Ephesian church.
Revelation 2:2–3 is the past tense section. First He says tell them the past; now tell them the present:
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love [its present position, lost their first love]. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or [here comes the future] else I will come unto you quickly [He is right there at the door], and will remove your lampstand out of his place, except you repent.”
It means if you do not repent, I will come soon and you will be punished for what you do. He closes by saying: “But you have this, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). 12 You find in this first church here, that one section is in the past tense, one little section in the present, and then one small section is in the future.
What do you find with Smyrna, the second church?:
“I know [past] your words, and tribulation, and poverty, but you are rich [present] and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.”
Some, in the future, will say “we are Jews,” acting like Jews, keeping Jewish things, and all of that. But he says they are not Jews, they are of the synagogue of Satan. That has to do with the generation just in advance of us. This has to do with the antichrist coming on the earth in the future. It goes on:
“Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days [that is future]: be you faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches [plural].”
In other words, every one of these seven churches should read what the others are being told, because some of these things reflect on all. But many churches have things that are wrong, some have things that are right, and some things that will happen to them. Nonetheless, all are ekklesias of God. If you look at it in Greek, the message to Smyrna is mostly to “you,” not to “they.” It is directed to the angel of Smyrna.
Go on with Pergamus here, the third ekklesia beginning in verse 12. Again he starts by showing who is giving this information. It is the person who has the sharp sword with two edges coming from his mouth. Again, that goes back to the first chapter, identifying this individual as none other than our Lord Himself, with His message for Pergamus. The past tense is first, then the present tense; then finally the future tense:
“I know your works, and where you dwelled, even where Satan’s seat is: and you hold fast my name [present tense], and have not denied my faith [present here] ... I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication [or promiscuity].”
This is spiritual promiscuity, going after other gods. Even idols are mentioned, and eating things to idols. Most do not realize it, but when you keep holy days called “Christian” today, with Christian names, they are nothing more than idolatrous acts coming from the teachings of Babylon.
At this end-time generation the people of Pergamus (where Satan has his headquarters at that time) have gone over to doing things with the world. They mix in an idolatrous relationship with the world. They are going back to Babylon. They are saying “you know, we ought to join up with the rest of the churches of this world, have the nice things they have. Learn their good truths.” I am adding a bit to it, but that is exactly what He means. You see, no one goes to Balak and Balaam unless they think they gain a benefit from it. They like to go to idolatry. They like to go in the ways of this world. They look around, especially at certain seasons of the year, and they see beautiful lights and pretty things. They see old and wonderful traditions. They want to participate. At the end of the age idolatry will be there in front of us. 13
Go to Thyatira. At the beginning in verse 2:18, here is a personage with “eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass.” Going back to the first chapter, that detail shows it is Jesus Christ. This is a teaching directed to the angel again. Some of it, at the very end, does go to the people generally, but most is to “you,” “you,” “you,” meaning the angel. He praises the angel, and then He criticizes the angel, just as He does with the others. He also praises the people who follow the angel. They do not think they are following an angel, but you now know what the truth is. 14
Though these messages are to the angels of these ekklesias here, you and I who are directly in contact with God the Father through Christ Jesus can learn from them. These things do not pertain to us if we correctly understand matters. We are in a different situation. But the future people that these seven angels will be in charge of, they will find these things among people calling themselves “Christians” on earth.
Many of them may be into Baal worship, with Balaam and Balak, with others following the Nicolaitans, and still others following a woman who is called Jezebel. That is a symbol, of course. Have you ever heard of a church denomination headed by a woman? Well, at the end time that could very well occur, “to teach, and to seduce my servants to commit fornication” (Revelation 2:20). That means promiscuity but not between humans. It means fornication or promiscuity with false gods and goddesses. The apostle Paul says that we should not have promiscuity between humans, of course. But in this context the fornication or promiscuity is having the teachings of other gods in your midst, and keeping those teachings, because it says “eat things sacrificed unto idols” (Revelation 2:20).
This Jezebel, or this church, Thyatira is given some commendations, but at the same time, they still have these false teachings, and Jesus does not like them. He says I gave her time to repent of her promiscuity, and she repented not, she keeps right on going with the world. It is bringing in pagan teachings of gods of this world into the bosom of Christianity, into Thyatira.
“But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine [that comes to the “they,” the plural], and have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.”
There are two groups within this one ekklesia. This angel is chastised for allowing these things to go on, and he is one of the angels who have the eyes to see what is going on in this world for Jesus Christ. Believe it or not. Now some would say, “Oh, I never have heard it that way before, Doctor Martin.” That is right; you have not heard it correctly. You ought to hear it right for the first time.
Read these Scriptures, they are very important. Even the heavens are not cleansed in God’s eyes (Job 15:15). Satan is still in heaven at this very hour. He will come from heaven one of these days with his angels, and be mistaken as none other than Jesus Christ coming back the second time.
We need to understand what these Scriptures are all about. He tells the rest of the people of Thyatira, in verse 25: “But that which you have already hold fast till I come.” Hold on to it because I am coming soon. You see the time period Thyatira is in? It is not during the middle ages or during the time of the Albigensians or the Waldensians in Italy before the Protestant Reformation.
“And he that overcomes, and keeps my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star.”
The morning star is the planet of Venus in the morning. That star in symbol means it introduces a new age to this world, the new age of the millennium. That star, the bright and morning star, formerly was Satan the devil, who wants to take over rulership of this world. But the real bright and morning star is Jesus Christ, who will introduce at His Second Advent, the kingdom of God on this earth. Verse 29: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” See the plural? All of these messages are given to all the ekklesias. Just not to the one, to all of them. But there are specifics that deal with each individually.
The next one is Sardis. Here again you have the past, the present, and the future. In verse 3, at the end, he says: If you do not watch he says to these people of Sardis living at that time, just on the horizon to us:
“I will come unto you as a thief [you will not even know the time], and you shall not know what hour I will come upon you.”
The people of Sardis and this angel will exist at Christ’s Second Advent. He is addressing that angel. Angels do not know when Jesus is coming back. Not precisely. He is instructing this angel in charge of this ekklesia to straighten up, or else there will be problems. That is what Christ is teaching to the Philadelphia church:
“These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts and no man opens ...”
He has some things in the past about them, he has things in the present, and then he has things in the future. In this particular case right here he says if you continue to do well, in verse 10: “I [also] will keep you from [or out of] the hour of trial [temptation] which shall come upon” the earth. In verse 11: “Behold, I come quickly:” He has mostly good comments for this angel in charge of the Philadelphia ekklesia.
“Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”
Some people will say “I’m Jewish because I keep the Jewish Holy Days, the Jewish Sabbath; I do all these things,” and Christ says they are liars. Have you heard of people that do those things, and at the same time do not live up to the truth of God as God wants in these seven epistles to these ekklesias? If you know anybody like that, have them read this here, because it is most important they do so. To the Laodiceans:
“[That] these things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot [one or the other].”
He has the past, present, and then the future. The seventh church is the Laodicean church, but he ends in verse 22 by saying: “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] says unto the churches.” You see the point again? All the ekklesias — all seven, should hear the messages to each.
In Revelation chapter 4 we have the second vision that is given, and that goes all the way through and including chapter 16. These same seven spirits, seven angels, are given certain jobs to do at the end of the age, and seven trumpets are to be given to them. In other sections of the Book of Revelation you find a comprehensive treatment of what will happen at the end of the age. Much of it has to do with astronomy.
Chapter 12 of Revelation speaks of a great wonder or sign in heaven, the sun mid-bodied to a woman, a virgin, with the moon under her feet. That is an astronomical indication, a calendar, a chronological indication, about the birth of a man child into the world, who will rule all nations with a rod of iron. You can date that period of time that this man child was introduced into the world astronomically by looking at those stars. It said 12 stars were around the head of this woman with the sun going through her as a sign that identifies the zodiacal sign of Virgo, the only woman in the heavens. It is a large constellation, about 50 degrees long, and the head of it starting in Leo the Lion.
Read my book Restoring the Original Bible. In Psalm 19 the heavens give forth the story of the Messiah coming to the earth and dying on the tree of crucifixion, being resurrected, and coming back as King of Kings. All of that starts with head of this woman here in Leo. The 12 stars coming together is where you should start with the 12 constellations with this woman called Virgo. The precise date of that time comes to a new moon date, Rosh Ha-Shannah, the Day of Trumpets, which is in the late summer, in the year that Jesus was born: 3 B.C.E. It was on September 11th, in the evening. All kinds of chronological indications in the Book of Revelation, if you take chronology and astronomy into account. 15
We should look to the heavens. More importantly, look to the Bible. Compare Scripture with what God has in the astronomy for the future, and we shall see things that will be most interesting for this world. Keep your eyes on that Holy Scripture, and upon God, because exciting times are on the horizon to us today.
Ernest L. Martin, 1994
Edited by David Sielaff, September 2007
1 This is also discussed in chapters 12 and 13 of the Book of Revelation. ELM
2 These are not ordinary angels. They are angels that look out on the totality of the earth. They are the eyes, shall we say, and the ears of the Lord for the entirety of the earth. The 4th chapter of the Book of Zechariah refers to those seven angels, as does the 4th chapter of Revelation. ELM
3 Jesus assumes that title on occasion when He is an agent of the Father. Even angels assume that designation in the Old Testament when they are agents of the Father. There is even a particular “Angel of Yahweh”, and He acts as an agent of the Father. When He does that, He bears the name Yahweh in the first person. In fact, it designates God the Father, the one who is, the one who was, and the one which is to come, or will be. ELM
4 This is a direct reference to the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10, fulfilled in John 19:37. Read all these verses. DWS
5 The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was given a vision and it seemed to him that he was actually taken to the temple in Jerusalem from Babylon. That could be the case here. But understand that this was a visionary experience John had. He was taken to Patmos, a very strategic island in the Aegean Sea. While there, he noted the time period into which he was taken. It was the Lord’s day, or the Day of the Lord. That future event (not a Sunday, not a Sabbath, not a weekday, but a future event) in which quite a number of things would begin to occur in that generation prior to the time Christ would come, and that time which would succeed that coming, in other words, the time for the introduction of the kingdom of God on Earth, with the Second Advent of Christ, and the events that are associated with that strategic and important circumstance. ELM
6 Some people imagine that these seven ekklesias describe the history of the church from the 1st century to the Second Coming of Christ, in a stage by stage development. In no way is that the case, and I will prove it conclusively as we go on. ELM
7 It means that he saw seven “lamps” all pinched together in one. We call it today the “menorah,” which is a Hebrew term. It is a Hebrew symbol because in the Temple in the Holy Place, just to the south of the altar of golden incense, there were the seven lamps in the Tabernacle and Temple. Josephus described the menorah, the seven lampstands, and he said those seven lamps represented, among other things, the seven wandering stars, the seven planets. That portion of the Temple in which these seven lights were housed, represented the external heavens to us, not the heavens where the birds fly, and the clouds are, but the heavens where the sun, the moon, and the planets, and the stars are. The next compartment of the Temple was the Holy of Holies. That is the farthest to the west. There was a curtain separating that from this area, and that is the third heaven, that is God’s throne, beyond the physical heaven. Josephus said that these seven lamps in the Temple represented, amongst other things, the seven planets, including the moon, the sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, and Saturn. Now the Earth is not included in here, because the Earth is the vantage point that you see these seven. More planets than these were discovered later, but only those could be seen by the naked eye back at John’s time, and they were known as wandering stars. ELM
8 Now “like wool,” it does not say they were long, does it? Remember that. They were not. Christ does not have long hair. Neither does God the Father. It is an insignia of rank amongst the God family to have short hair. ELM
9 They are His agents to see what is going on in the entirety of this world. This is not something new because in Zechariah chapter 4 you find that they are actually mentioned there also. They are described back in the time of Zerubbabel, who was of Davidic blood. This was after the Babylonian captivity and there were no kings of Israel or Judah at that time. It says: “The angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep” (Zechariah 4:1). Then he sees this bowl of seven lamps, and seven pipes going to the seven lamps, and there were two olives trees on one side and the other. Later are identified with the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation chapter 11. Then it speaks about these seven lamps: “they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:10). ELM
10 At present, those ekklesias do not exist geographically or literally. ELM
11 At this point Dr. Martin included information regarding an astronomical occurrence in the constellation of Taurus of May 2000 that he thought may have relevance to the subject of the 7 churches. This was to occur almost 5½ years after he gave this taped presentation. He stated “I am not sure, I am not a prophet” but he felt the matter was to be noted. At the time of this writing in 2007 there is nothing to indicate any particular significance to astronomical events in the year 2000. DWS
12 The Nicolaitans were named after a person named Nicholas. People have wondered exactly who that Nicholas was. (A Nicholas is mentioned as a deacon in Acts 6:5, but there is no way of identifying that Nicholas with these Nicolaitans here.) Nicholas was a common Greek name. Nike or Nicholas means victory, people who claimed victory, or were conquerors. But there was no doubt that some individual named Nicholas claimed to be a Christian. The normal term for a Christian is “saint.” You and I are all, if we have the Holy Spirit, saints of God. The apostle Paul used the term consistently. So did Peter, John, and the rest. We are saints. There must have been a “saint” Nicholas back there that brought these false teachings into the world. Yet this has an end-time relevance. Do we have a Nicholas today? Or Nicolaitans? Do we have a Saint Nicholas today bringing in heathenism throughout most of the Western world? This is mentioned twice to the seven churches. You will find in the third Pergamus ekklesia, verse 2:15: “and you have those that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” You must find out who these Nicolaitans are. They claim to be saints led by a Saint Nicholas. You read of other things in these other churches about the doctrines of Balaam, the doctrines of Balak of Moab? Balaam was the priest, or the Pontificus Maximus of the Babylonian system in the time of Moses, introducing Babylonianism which was astrology, magic, and things like the winter solstice, the spring equinox into religious beliefs, and mixing them together with the truth of the Scripture. God hates those things. It is up to us to find out who these Nicolaitans are. They have a modern relevance. All you have to ask is, what type of “Nicholas people” do we have today? I leave that for you as a question. ELM
13 People have wondered why have I been speaking harshly against idolatrous acts over the years. I will tell you. Really none of the things on the earth affect you and me today, as far as Christians are concerned. The middle wall of partition in the Temple is broken down for us. We do not even need the school days that God gave to the ancient Israelites. Paul even said that he would go into a pagan temple to get out of the rain. And so could you. But if you participate in those things, with a heart of “just joining in with the rest,” why, what you are doing is becoming just like they are, and you make no protest to it. These things do not affect you one way or another in your relationship to God, but we should not want to learn the ways of the heathen. That is what Jeremiah chapter 10 says, and it gives a principle. We should be examples to them. Here in Revelation we find Scriptures how God is angry with certain groups of people who go into paganism. We should show we love God by obeying Him. ELM
14 Among the various organizations of Christians, you can go into one particular church or organization where you know that God is working with them, and you sense one sort of a spirit there. It might be a spirit of freedom, or a spirit of servitude, or a spirit of paganism being done all the time, or a spirit of not doing that. These are various spirits. We should want the true spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. Learn some lessons from these examples here in the messages to the ekklesias of Revelation. ELM
15 In May 5, 2000 C.E., about five and a half years from now, the sun, the moon, and the other planets come together like on a menorah, in the middle of Aries and Taurus, together in a massing of the planets, next to Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, which anciently could be connected with these seven churches here. These planets come together as in the 1st century on the menorah that Josephus said represented the planets. Could that be — and I put it as a question — the beginning of the end for this period of time? ELM Note: See footnote 10 above. As of September 2007 there is nothing to indicate any significance to astronomical events in the year 2000. Dr. Martin’s point about watching future astronomical events is still future to us today. DWS
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