The Beginning

The book is split into three sections: the first few chapters have good news, the middle one’s bad news and the last have good news again.

This first good-news section is covered in this section from chapters one to five. There are then three sub-sections across these chapters:

1. Introduction – chapter one
2. The seven Churches – chapters two & three
3. God’s throne – chapters four & five

#1 Introduction – chapter one

This is a general introduction and what the purpose of God is through this book.

The best way I have appreciated this is by looking at the seven characters involved in this:

1. God the Father

Verse one clearly states that this whole revelation is from God the Father (via Christ):

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servant's things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:” – Revelation 1:1

Reference is made to His supremacy from the start and end of time:

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8

As a quick jump to the last sub-section in chapters four and five, we have a picture of God on His throne in heaven as End Time events unfold leading to the Second Coming of Christ.

2. Jesus Christ

This revelation is specifically from Christ (given to Him by God):

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servant's things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:” – Revelation 1:1

This was a literal vision of Jesus, which caused John to fall in worship in this first chapter and other times in the book.

Christ is in His glorified heavenly position and body now, not limited by his human body on earth (also glimpsed on earth at the Transfiguration):

“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:” – Revelation 1:17

Therefore, John describes the person He sees in this first vision as being Christ Himself, the ‘Son of Man’:

“And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle” – Revelation 1:13

He then describes an awesome picture of Christ which matches others in Scripture, such as what Daniel also saw in vision (Chapter Ten) and Ezekiel (Chapter One).

Although he at first hears Christ’s voice, he then sees Him in a Vision:

“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;” – Revelation 1:12

We then have a reference to Salvation through Christ:

“And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:6

There is also a reminder about the central theme of Christ’s Second Coming to the earth as promised by Christ and in the Old Testament:

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” – Revelation 1:7

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” – John 14:1-3

A sharp double-edged sword coming from Christ’s mouth is also mentioned, similar to His Second Coming described later in Revelation chapter nineteen; also, the importance of His Word being communicated and actioned:

“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 shineth in his strength.” – Revelation 1:16

An interesting side note is His reference to who will see Him when He comes, Not only those who are alive, but those who pierced Him at His death on earth (suggesting an early resurrection for them):

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” – Revelation 1:7

3. The Holy Spirit

This is the third part of the total Godhead and is specifically referred to as the means of God communicating to the eventual seven churches.

Seven spirits are specifically seen around God’s throne, with the number seven being God’s perfect number with only one Holy Spirit, but as we will see, expressing different messengers to the seven churches.

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;” – Revelation 1:4

John is stated as being in the power of the Spirit as this revelation comes:

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” – Revelation 1:10

He also clearly states a graceful greeting from the Spirit of God as well as himself:

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;” – Revelation 1:4

4. Angels

The first verse of the book explains how angels are the messengers bringing this revelation of Christ to earth:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:” – Revelation 1:1

The stars in Christ’s hand in this vision are specifically angels who are delivering His message to the churches on earth:

“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” – Revelation 1:20

The original word Angelos means ‘messenger’ or 'minister', and because this was a literally written message that John wrote down, some believe these angels represent pastors or leaders of these churches rather than spiritual angels.

5. John

John is the person that Christ reveals these spiritual End Times matters to, and instructs him several times to write these down:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:” – Revelation 1:1

“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” – Revelation 1:11

“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;” – Revelation 1:19

This was specifically on the ‘Lord’s Day’ which would have been on the Saturday Sabbath. However, some assume a Sunday or an alternative reference to a day of the Roman Emperor:

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” – Revelation 1:10

Most Christian Scholars believe this is John the Disciple, not another John. Although he used a different style of writing in his Gospel and Epistle in the Bible, it is probably because of the raw content here for him to write down as Christ showed him quickly.

He was in prison on the small Island of Patmos from around 95-96 AD when the Roman Emperor Domitian sent him as a prisoner. He was an elder in the new Christian HQ in Ephesus after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, both before and after his time on Patmos.

He would be about ninety years old and the last surviving disciple of Jesus, and specifically in prison because of spreading the Word of the Gospel as He explains:

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” – Revelation 1:9

6. Seven Churches

This letter is specially addressed to seven church congregations in the Asia Minor area, and all in the same order as the postal route of the ‘letter’ being delivered to them with this revelation transcribed on.

The focus of this vision of Christ is these seven churches where the message is going to. He is located amongst them, symbolising His closeness to them as the representation of His body on earth.

These churches are symbolised by golden candlesticks, which help symbolise how Christ Himself is the actual light showing through this earthly body on earth like with a candlestick:

“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” – Revelation 1:20

These churches faced two problems at this time.

Firstly, the original generation of disciples and apostles had died, and a new second generation of believers and leaders who hadn’t been eyewitnesses of Christ on earth were emerging.

Secondly, there was increasing external pressure on Christians and the church. The secular Greek way and philosophy of life and the now harsh Roman attack on Christians caused war and persecution.

7. Future Christians

Most Scholars agree the logical purpose of this book in the bible is for it to be relevant to future Christians and us, not just the original seven churches that the letter was sent to.

The number of churches is also key, with seven being the complete number of God and, therefore, symbolically the church of God as a whole.

Verse one highlights the purpose of this revelation to ‘show his servants’:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:” – Revelation 1:1

There is a specific blessing as well to everyone who reads, hears, and remembers this revelation:

“Blessed is he that readeth, 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

#2 The seven churches – chapters two & three

The next two chapters detail the specific message to each of these seven churches.

These have a double meaning to both future Christians and the original churches; therefore, it is essential to understand how we interpret these letters.

I believe in the Historicist method of interpretation of this through consecutive periods, i.e. the first church as the early Church after Christ’s Ascension, and the last seventh one being the church phase at the very end of time before His Second Coming.

The Preterist stance believes these were for just the first century's seven churches. 

Idealists say these are good general principles for any time a church faces any of these issues.

Although Futurists believe a lot of prophecy in Revelation is still to happen way in the future, some do accept these letters covering 'dispensations' of time throughout history. 

There is some disagreement with specific dates for each phase. However, they're still in the same ballpark periods as the assumed Historicist one here on the understanding that there have been gradual transitions and even overlapped between them (the periods and kingdoms in, say the Book of Daniel are more specific or often instigated by a specific battle or change rather than gradual development). 

Therefore, the reasons for seeing these letters as also prophesying periods in the future are below:

1. It fits history

These phases match seven different times in history when the Christian church as a whole was expressed in a different way.

2. The same postal route

The named seven churches are in the same order as they would have literally had the letter delivered to them on the same postal route.

This matches how they are consecutive periods when comparing them to future church phases.

3. Logically addressing future believers

The fact that these are detailed in the Bible suggests that they are applicable lessons to Christians in the future, not just a historic account of these original churches.

This is like other letters in the New Testament to Ephesus, Corinth, Philippa, and Thessalonica – originally addressed to churches in those cities, but also in the bible to help future Christians.

4. The same biblical pattern

The Historicist way of interpreting Biblical prophecy looks at how the symbols in dreams and visions identify earthly kingdoms and powers consecutively over time that God is warning people about (Daniel being a good example in the study here).

It is, therefore, logical to assume the same format in Revelation – God symbolises things that map out one after the other over time.

5. From John to the end 

Similar historical prophecies in the Old Testament, like in Daniel, match history from the point of that particular prophet to Christ's Second Coming.

Therefore, logically this matches time here from the first century and John until the Second Coming and effectively covers the New Testament era of God's people. 

6. Open transparency

Every church would have heard the message for all the other churches, as they are all in the same letter.

Rather than these being private messages just for that literal church, it suggests wider transparency for all churches to be considered by others in future to piece together.

7. Increased urgency

Christ is declared as coming in the fifth letter, but then more urgently in number six, and then knocking on the door in the seventh.

This last seventh church also is the natural end. No candlestick is passed on from here, and believers are actually spewed out.

The interpreted meaning

Chapters two and three go consecutively through the message for each of the seven churches. This is a continuation of the vision in chapter one with Christ in the middle of the seven churches as symbolised through candlesticks.

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;” – Revelation 2:1

Christ is prophesying how His body of believers will be shaped into seven key phases right from His first time on earth to His Second Coming.

It focuses on how God’s church has been His truth-bearer over time and warns individual believers within these as to what they need to watch out for to ensure they keep right with God and be overcomers to receive their eventual heavenly rewards:

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” – Revelation 2:7

They all follow a similar pattern, which has triggered multiple ways and ‘templates’ to help outline these.

The one I find most helpful is from David Pawson (although with a different conclusion from him about what these represent). He concludes the following seven similar points in each one, all beginning with the letter A:

1) Address – the letter and message being addressed to a specific church of believers.

2) Attribute – clarity on Christ who is bringing this message, and although His name is not actually stated, there is a different title of His to each church. This often reflects the aspect of His character which that church has forgotten about.

3) Approval – something that Christ approves of in what this church has been doing, with an emphasis on “I” now rather than “He”. This is regarding their works/actions/deeds, which Christ eventually judges as a reflection of accepting faith is His Grace. However, two of these churches don’t receive this.

4) Accusation – something that Christ disapproves of with their conduct, and coming only after He has first commended them in the previous point (although a different two of the seven don’t have this).

5) Advice – further details of what will happen because of their actions so far, which is more encouragement for the two churches with no accusation, and challenge for the other five.

6) Assurance – a promise from Christ of how he will reward and bless those who stay loyal to Him and overcome, and aimed at individuals within each church.

7) Appeal – an appeal to believers to repent of wrong ways and truly trust in Christ going forwards, to seriously take note of His message, and not just hear these words.

The only difference between the seven churches is in the last four letters, where the final two items are reversed in order.

Here is the application of these seven core factors to each of these seven churches and how I believe they match consecutive church ages over time, along with comments of any notable variation with other interpretations.

1. Ephesus

“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” – Revelation 2: 1-7

1) Address – this one is addressed to the first church on the postal route, Ephesus, which is the leading and wealthiest capital city and harbour in the Asia Minor region. The Christian church's Headquarters moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus just before the temple's destruction in 70 AD, with over fifty thousand members at one point.

The corresponding phase in general church history is the early church from Christ throughout the first century (100 AD). Ephesus as a name means ‘all that is desirable' and matches this attractive early church era with the rapid growth of the gospel.

2) Attribute – the description of Christ in the vision is of holding the seven stars amid all seven churches, emphasising His centrality to everything over time.

3) Approval – they are commended for effort, patience, persistence, and discernment by rejecting false prophets like the Nicolaitans in particular. This stemmed from Gnosticism and involved the deacon Nicholas of Antioch, who taught that Christians were free from the law and could do what they wanted because the flesh didn't matter as only the spirit did, which was eternal.

4) Accusation – Christ raises the issue of them losing their first love for Him. This matches the first generation of Biblical leaders and Apostles as they died, and the original love of God and His Word grew dimmer.

5) Advice – they are cautioned to remember what they once were and could still be, to repent, and turn fully to Christ. Failing this, He will come and deal with them.

6) Assurance – overcomers are promised to eat from the Tree of life with God in paradise.

7) Appeal – God appeals for them to hear what the Spirit is saying here to the churches and to be overcomers.

2. Smyrna

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” – Revelation 2:8-11

1) Address – this is addressed to the second church on the route, Smyrna, an important and beautiful business area. It was loyal to Rome, and the only one of the seven cities still in existence today (called Izmir).

This corresponds with church history from the end of the first century to around 323 AD, when the church experienced persecution (although some earlier/later dates than 323 sometimes applied). Constantine then took power in Rome to stop this direct attack against Christians.

2) Attribute – Christ refers to Himself being the first and the last (and therefore everlasting), who was dead but is now alive.

3) Approval – their commendation is for their courage in the face of opposition and poverty, particularly against Satanic forces through those claiming to be Jews but are not.

4) Accusation – this is one of two churches where Christ has no criticism of them and their works, with being weaker than others but still remaining faithful under their suffering.

5) Advice – they are exhorted not to fear suffering and continue with their good works and faith until the end.

Also, some will be cast into prison by the devil for ten days of tribulation, which could symbolise the ten periods of persecution under various Roman Caesars during this time, with the last and worst one under Emporer Diocletian also lasting ten years from 303 AD to 313 AD when applying the day-year principle of interpreting time spans in Biblical prophecy.

6) Assurance – they will receive a crown of life if faithful to death.

7) Appeal – for people to hear what the Spirit says to the churches and to be overcomers, not to be hurt by the second death (leading to Hell).

3. Pergamos

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” – Revelation 2:12-17

1) Address – the third church Pergamum is then addressed, a prominent capital city of Mysia in the Roman province of Asia Minor (and headquarters of religion). It was elevated up with a strong defence, was where parchment paper was formed and had the highest court of law.

This matches the church period from the early fourth to the early sixth century between 323 AD and 538 AD when the church was elevated through the Papacy and promoted by people like Emperor Constantine. Paganism influenced the church, and Christianity became accepted by the world. 

2) Attribute – Christ is described as having a sharp sword with two edges.

3) Approval – they are praised for not denying the faith and His name under pressure, even when one person was martyred. There’s also a specific reference to the place where Satan is to symbolise the pagan practices and Emporer worship, including where a martyr Antipas was killed.

4) Accusation – they are accused of idolatry (idol sacrificing) and immorality (fornication), with influence from the related doctrine of Balaam in the Old Testament, who taught Baloc and caused a hindrance. This symbolises believers fornicating with pagans, which then leads to idol worship.

The Nicolaitans have also mentioned again, who taught a separate spiritual and physical realm like the Gnostics.

5) Advice – they are cautioned to repent and turn fully to Christ. Failing this, He will come and deal with them by the sword in His mouth, which represents His Word, as mentioned earlier.

6) Assurance – as overcomes, they will get to eat hidden manna and have a white stone with a new unknown name. At the time, when slaves were given back their freedom, they would receive such stones and hidden manna symbolising access to the Tree of life and what the Israelites ate in the wilderness to survive (a sample hidden in the Ark of the Covenant as well).

7) Appeal – again, they must hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches and repent, to become overcomers.

4. Thyatira

“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” – Revelation 2:18-28

1) Address – the next church on the postal route is Thyatira. It was built by a General of Alexander the Great and showed weakness, with the only successful industry being dyeing.

This corresponds to the Dark Middle Ages from the early sixth century to the early sixteenth century and the Protestant Reformation (538 AD to 1517 AD). However, some see this ending earlier after the Protestant Reformation.

2) Attribute – the Son of God is described as having eyes like a flame of fire (representing a strong look at this church) and feet like fine brass (signifying His stability).

3) Approval – commendation is given for their love, faith, patience, service, and work. This will refer to the Reformation and those immediately leading to and following this.

4) Accusation – they are also accused of idolatry and immorality, in particular, listening to a false prophetess called Jezebel. She had still not repented, and those who symbolically became adulterers with her after God cast her in a bed and then did not repent will go into great tribulation (and her children will also die).

This symbolises the false man-made religious ceremonies and beliefs that crept into the mainstream Catholic church during this time (a woman being a symbol of a church as per the Symbols Checklist). The symbolism of Jezebel marrying the Israel king Ahab in the Old Testament highlights the influence of paganism in Christianity and restricting God's true Word and ways.

God gave Israel and Judah three and a half years to repent in this original Old Testament story, compared to the same prophetic time during this period of 1,260 years as prophecised in the Book of Daniel through the Historicist method of interpretation.

5) Advice – they are cautioned to remember what they once were and could still be, repent, and turn fully to Christ. People and churches will know that God searches everything; failing this, He will come and deal with them. However, those not affected by this Satanic doctrine have no further instruction.

6) Assurance – those successful will have power over nations and rule them with an iron rod. They will also have the morning star, a symbol of the hope of the true gospel coming from the Protestant Reformation.

7) Appeal – he encourages them to hold onto what they have until He comes, and to be overcomers and keep His works to the end.

5. Sardis

"And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” – Revelation 3:1-6

1) Address – the fifth church on the route is Sardis. Although this used to be the famous and strong city of Lydia, where the use of money originated, it was now broken up. This matches the different eras from the early sixteenth century to the mid-eighteenth century (approximately 1517 to 1750 AD).

There are differences in when this period begins and ends around the end of the eighteenth century.

2) Attribute – Christ is identified as having the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.

3) Approval – this is one of the two churches where Christ does not have anything to approve of.

4) Accusation – He begins by stating that they are actually dead, as highlighted by their name. Their works are not perfect before God; they are criticised for starting new things but not seeing them through to fruition, relating to the dwindling effect of the Protestant Reformation at the start of this period and the development of the Counter-Reformation from the Papacy.

5) Advice – they are cautioned to be watchful, hold onto and strengthen the things that remain, and repent and turn fully to Christ. Failing this, He will come to them at an unknown hour as a thief.

6) Assurance – Some who are not defiled will walk with Christ in new white garments. He won’t blot their names out of the Book of Life but confess it before His Father and angels.

7) Appeal – to be overcomers who will be clothed in white garments; to listen to what the Spirit says to the church.

6. Philadelphia

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 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 thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” – Revelation 3:7-13

1) Address – the sixth church on the postal route is Philadelphia, a city with loyal people but subject to frequent earthquakes. This corresponds from the mid-eighteenth century to the start of the twentieth century (1750 - 1900 AD).

2) Attribute – Christ is described as Holy and true, with the key of David to open and shut what man cannot do.

3) Approval – they are commended for keeping His Word and not denying His name. There is an open door that no one can shut, which will link to the Revolutions in America and France and the birth of the Bible and missionary societies as God's Word spreads across the world.

4) Accusation – this is the second church where Christ has no criticism of them and their works; even though weaker than others, they still remain faithful under their suffering.

5) Advice – they are exhorted to continue and hold fast so no one takes their crown, as Christ will come quickly.

6) Assurance – alleged Jews are the synagogue of Satan, who He will make come to their feet and know His love for them. Because they have been patient, they will not need to face the hour of temptation which will try the world.

7) Appeal – overcomers will be made a pillar in the temple of God, having the new name of God and the city Jerusalem.

7. Laodicea

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” – Revelation 3:14-22

1) Address – Laodicea is the seventh and last church, a wealthy city on a major Roman road. This matches the time period from the early twentieth century onwards from approximately 1900 AD, and with being the last church, will logically remain the one right up to Christ’s Second Coming.

2) Attribute – Christ is described as the faithful and true witness, the beginning of everything as the Amen. Christ is also seen by some as standing outside this church, not within it, by the fact of knocking on a door and inviting fellowship with individuals.

3) Approval – this is the second church where Christ does not have anything to approve of.

4) Accusation – they are criticised for being sick and poor without realising it, which causes them to be lukewarm in their faith of Christ rather than hot or cold. This is an appropriate analogy of the salty hot springs on the hills outside the city, which became lukewarm when they entered the city and caused drinkers to vomit as Christ refers to here.

5) Advice – to buy off Christ true valuable ‘gold’ tested in the fire, be clothed in white clothes in order to hide nakedness (a famous city for unique sheep's wool used in clothes), and have eyes to truly see. To repent and open the door that Christ knocks on for each believer to fellowship with.

6) Assurance – that Christ only disciplines those He loves and that they can sit with Him on His throne.

7) Appeal – to be overcomers and listen to what the Spirit says to the church.

#3 - God’s throne – chapters four & five

The next two chapters have a glimpse of what is happening in heaven during these End Times events.

This is not just Christ revealing Himself to John on earth; John is invited to follow a voice through a door into heaven to see these things from a heavenly perspective:

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” – Revelation 4:1

There is a clear picture of God being in ultimate control and of worship and adoration of Him.

This scene then ends with seven trigger points (or seals) which will happen to bring about the end of the world, Christ’s Second Coming, and the new heaven and earth.

There are seven aspects of this vision to note:

1. God the Father

God is pictured as the “One” on a throne, a sign of ultimate power and focus of worship:

“And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.” – Revelation 4:2-3

No one has ever directly seen God (John 1:8), although Jesus said people had seen God when they saw Him (John 14:9).

References to a throne is a central theme in these chapters, mentioned sixteen times, symbolising God’s authority and the control room for the whole universe.

His greatness is symbolised through bright and valuable stones and a rainbow of colours.

Daniel in the Old Testament also had a vision of God as the 'Ancient of Days' in Daniel chapter seven.

2. Twenty-four elders

These specific number of elders are pictured surrounding God on His throne and sat on seats dressed in white with gold crowns:

“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.” – Revelation 4:4

They must be people, as they are described later as being ‘redeemed’ from the earth and being made Kings and Priests. Also, as per the previous verse, they are wearing crowns which is something that humans have:

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:9 & 10

Scholars have differing views of who these might be, including a representation of the twelve original Jewish tribes and twelve New Testament Apostles. Based upon being double the popular number of twelve used over 180 times in the Bible.

As this is already happening in heaven after John’s Revelation before Christ’s Return, one explanation is the resurrection of other people described with Christ’s resurrection, who may have also ascended into heaven as a form of the first fruits of souls:

“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” – Matthew 27:52-53

Others suggest they include earlier believers and Prophets who were transported straight to heaven from the earth, for example, Enoch, Elijah and Moses, as recorded in Scripture.

3. Seven lampstands

These lampstands around God’s throne symbolise God’s Spirit:

“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.” – Revelation 4:5

These are always shining and watchful and a complete number seven.

4. Sea of glass

A large sea of glass is briefly described before God, probably symbolising His vast and pure reign:

“And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal:” – Revelation 4:6a

As per the Symbols Checklist, a sea in Biblical prophecy often identifies many people.

5. Four beasts

These beasts are then seen around (and close) to God’s throne:

“and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.” – Revelation 4:6b

In the Old Testament, when the Israelites camped around the Tabernacle, there was also a picture of a different animal on each of the four sides of the three tribes.

There are three aspects of them worth noting:

Firstly, each one is identified as a different animal/person – a lion, calf, man’s face, and flying eagle. These may represent the respective characteristics of God – strength, endurance, intelligence, and speed.

“And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” – Revelation 4:7

Secondly, their physical features include six wings and many eyes on each one:

“And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within:” – Revelation 4:8a
Wings may signify the speed of angels fulfilling God’s commands, with Cherubim in Ezekiel’s vision having four wings (Ezekiel 1:6,10), and Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision also having six wings (Isaiah 6:2).

Eyes may signify God’s watchfulness which never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).

Interestingly, the six wings on each of these four beasts total twenty-four - the number of the previous elders.

Thirdly, they are worshipping God, which also causes the twenty-four elders to follow suit:

“and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” – Revelation 1:8b

6. The book

Chapter five focuses on a book God has with seven seals.

“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.” – Revelation 5:1

Such a book/scroll can signify an inheritance someone will receive, as per the Symbols Checklist.

Chapter six then goes on to reveal how important it is for someone to open these seals to trigger End Times events:

“And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals,” – Revelation 6:1a

This focuses on the judgement of the earth through these opening seals and blowing seven trumpets afterwards, whereas the judgement scene described in Daniel Chapter seven focuses on Christ’s judgement and vindication of believers/saints.

Although there are previously recorded judgements of God against people and sin, these now bring about the end of sin’s control of the earth and its final destruction.

7. Christ the Lamb

Someone is sought to open these seals, with John becoming upset when no one can be found to do so:

“And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.” – Revelation 5:2-4

However, the twenty-four elders explain that Christ can do this, described as the ‘Lion of Judah’ and then a lamb, symbolising both His Kingship and earthly sacrifice:

“And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” – Revelation 5:5

This lamb then has the Spirit of God symbolised through seven horns and eyes, God’s perfect number:

“And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” – Revelation 5:6

It’s important to note what happens when the lamb then does take the book from God before the actual openings of the seals in chapter six – the twenty-four elders, four beasts, and angels then worship Him (with a new song and prayer of the saints) as the one deserving to open the book:

“ I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith 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 in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet ” – Revelation 1:8-10

This leads to all creatures in heaven and earth doing likewise:

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” – Revelation 5:13

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