While the Lord Jesus most assuredly initially speaks to the seven messengers and the corporate assemblies of Asia they lead, He concludes every message speaking to the individuals that make them up. The proof of this beyond His repeated use of the phrase “He who has an ear...” in Revelation 2-3 I have already referenced is another like it: “To him” or “He who overcomes.” The Lord unmistakably addresses Himself to any individual within the particular church He is speaking to that will give heed to His words. This is not unusual since His Church is made up of individuals that have believed on Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matthew 16:13-18, NKJV)!
Nevertheless, an elementary truth Christ knows, but many religionists especially fail to grasp is that not everyone assembled together in a local church is truly a born again believer in Him (John 3:1-8). There are “false brethren,” “impostors” and de facto apostates in many ostensibly “Christian” churches that even hold titles of authority (Galatians 2:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:13; Titus 1:10-16, NKJV). This is due to a number of reasons to include the lowered, unbiblical standards of membership many have tied to the practice of Christianity as a religious invention of men and the purposeful infiltration of Satan’s emissaries (2 Corinthians 11:10-15; Jude 3-4). Thus, a local church anywhere on the planet is not necessarily the Church in miniature!5
As a consequence, membership in a local church is not tantamount to membership in the Church of Jesus Christ either. So-called “opening the doors of the church” to invite non-members “to join” without ascertaining their actual spiritual status or presenting the biblical Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) with the requirement to repent and believe it is traditional in many religion bound Protestant churches desperate to fill empty pews.6 However, it is not membership with benefits as in a worldly social club affiliation that the writer of Hebrews advocates in his exhortation, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NKJV).7
His advocacy is for the regular gathering together of the Lord’s faithful as individuals to Him in any number and kind of settings to include jails and homes (Acts 1:12-14, 2:40-47, 12:1-12, 16:23-25; Romans 16:5). The well intended and wicked religionists that have made membership, regular attendance and participation in local, corporate brick and mortar churches alone the standard and core of the Christian experience rather than relationship with Christ and the New Testament understanding of assembling together as His Church have set the unknowing, biblically illiterate and weak among them up for spiritual disaster in these latter days. Truly, what will these folk do when they can’t “go to church” anymore as is the case for our persecuted brethren in many places?
The Lord Jesus also speaks to the individuals that make up the seven churches of Asia because His standards of Church membership and discipleship are high. This is the second part of His prophetic warning. Contrary to popular manmade Christianity, people are not just going to get into Heaven and receive immortal glory “any old how.” Repeatedly the Lord declares it is “him” or “he that overcomes.” The two churches of Asia He commends in full are composed of saints that have endured persecution driven “tribulation,” “poverty,” “prison” and testing; persevering as our Lord “Faithful and True” to the death in faithfulness (Revelation 2:8-11, 3:7-14, NKJV). These faithful saints keep His “works until the end,” (Revelation 2:26, NKJV).8
That the end for persevering faithful saints on earth includes going through “the great tribulation” is bound up in the unfolding prophetic content the apostle John is to write concerning “the things which will take place after this;” that is, prophetic reality contemporary with the seven churches of Asia, but also beyond them (Revelation 1:19, NKJV). Revelation 5:1-10 shows Christ as the “Root of David” and “the Lamb” along with “the saints” and His Church to that moment already in Heaven (NKJV). In the overview prophetic sweep of earth activity up to Christ’s Second Coming embodied in the seals of Revelation 6, the fifth seal (vs. 9-11) makes clear martyrdom in suffering among His saints on earth will be God’s permitted norm--something they are prepared for (Romans 8:31-39).
Revelation 7:9-17 indisputably shows individual saints from “all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues” “come out of the great tribulation” which along with what God does in the heavens and upon the earth, involves all manner of suffering and martyrdom in the all out war finally prosecuted against us by the Antichrist (think Hitler’s “final solution”) as other parts of Bible prophecy and Revelation corroborates (Daniel 7:15-25, 8:15-25; Matthew 24:9-22; Revelation 12:7-13:18, 14:6-13, NKJV). God will also permit the Antichrist to destroy brick and mortar church buildings as is already occurring in many places amidst all of his destructive acts; eliciting a cry from Heaven for God’s people to exit she that is “The Mother Of Harlots” and owns treasured property (Revelation 17:1-18:8, NKJV).
Nevertheless, at the end of the three and a half years of the great tribulation and before the full outpour of God’s wrath, as He promised, the Lord will suddenly appear in clouds of glory. With His thunderous shout, the commanding voice of an archangel and blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord will gather all of His saints to Himself in the sky. The dead in Christ will be raised first and take flight to Him, while the remnant of faithful saints still alive will bypass death, be translated and follow after them (Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12; Revelation 14:14-16, 16:15, 19:6-16)! The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
5 It is the universal Church made up of His faithful followers that Christ builds “and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, NKJV) not every
single local church calling itself Christian (2 Timothy 2:19-21).
6 When unbelievers “join” they are by default impostors, false brethren, devils and tools of Satan as are willful or de facto apostates whether they realize it or not. Is
it any wonder the inevitable historic real life carnal church drama created is making for great film and television drama in these latter days while simultaneously
bringing shame to Christ?
7 Temporal membership in a local brick and mortar church certainly does have its benefits, but they do not exceed the greater benefits of membership in the univer-
sal Church of Jesus Christ! As a result, the value of membership in a local church apart from authentic relationship with Christ and membership in His Church is
exalted well beyond its value and over sold. Moreover, churches that use joining as a test of loyalty to them especially when they are unfaithfully sinning against
Christ are hypocritical and wicked (Matthew 23:15)! Even so, a local brick and mortar church that faithfully preaches the biblical Gospel for salvation, teaches and
diligently strives to model obedience to God’s Word as it is written, equips the saints for and facilitates them in biblical ministry and mission as a priority is well
pleasing to the Lord and useful in His Kingdom causes during the time that is left to operate openly. See the July 23, 2017 post, Churchmen In The Two Minute
Drill, under the category, The Cause. Also read the timely essay, What Hath The Church Fathers To Do With Your Local Church by Stephen Presley, in the Fall
2019 edition of Southwestern News, P. 54-57, to see that even in scholarly circles there is an appreciation of the consequential increase in hostility of Western cul-
tures including our own toward Christianity and discussion of the right response among the churches.
8 Such is every aspiring strong man and great woman of God I write and instruct about from God’s Word in my book, The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics. If
you want to learn the foundational biblical expectations of Christ for His followers and be equipped to faithfully live them out to the end, get a print copy or digital
download of my book at major internet booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBooks.com and Apple (digital only). You can also get a print copy
of the book in the Strong Man Store. If you would like a foretaste of what is taught in the book, read my two-part 2019 post that begins August 18, Lined Up Be-
hind Jesus, under the category, Instruction.
As the Lord leads, I launch the New Year with a word of sober prophetic warning to the churches and individuals making them up that claim connection to Jesus Christ of the Bible (Ezekiel 33:1-9). The warning is rooted in the last book of the Bible declared to be His “Revelation” in which He participates in the delivery and oversees the composition of its prophetic content that pronounces the reader and obedient hearer “blessed” (Revelation 1:1-3, NKJV). The Lord’s participation includes His own recorded words in glorious appearance to His chosen vessel and prophet, the apostle John, who is to write down and deliver the prophecy to seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4-20).
Before going any further, let me give the first part of the Lord’s warning to all of the churches that have entered this third decade of the 21st century and at breakneck speed, approach the second millennia anniversary of His death, burial, resurrection and ascension: He has not changed (Hebrews 13:8)! What He said to the churches in Asia at the end of the 1st century A.D., He stands by and says to all that exist at this hour and until the end. Those who by deceitful corruption of the Bible insist otherwise are deluding themselves and deceiving you that believe them! The Lord’s prophecy to the seven churches in Asia was for them, all others of the time and all that would exist after them.
The latter statement is consistent with the commentary of many biblically conservative interpreters that understand the apostle John in obedience to the Lord’s command was to deliver the entire “Revelation” to the literal seven named churches of Asia (Revelation 1:9-11, 19).1 Again, very importantly in the process the Lord’s specific messages to each one of those seven churches was to also speak to their contemporary sister churches and those of similar circumstance in the future. Some believe each church of the seven represented a season of the long epoch of Church history on earth thus far. However, this conclusion is not borne out by actual history.
Absolutely consistent with actual history though, the Bible and Revelation’s use of the number seven to indicate completeness (Genesis 2:1-3; Joshua 6:1-5; Luke 8:1-2), each of the seven churches in their conduct represent the continuing state of churches existing then together and at all times after until they are no more at an end prophetically and repeatedly alluded to by the Lord in His messages to them. As the Lord has had me declare in many previous posts, the approaching global end of local churches as open, corporate displays of Christianity regardless of form or authenticity comes from the world’s persecutions and His judgment.2
The foregoing is the reason I break here with the popular teaching that churches are not mentioned from Revelation 4 onward because Christians have been removed from the earth by “the rapture.” Actually, “the churches” are again mentioned in Revelation 22:16. Individual believers as “His servants” and “saints” on earth and in Heaven are spoken of throughout the prophecy while “the angels (messengers) of the seven churches” are uniquely addressed (Revelation 1:1, 20, 5:8-10, NKJV). Indeed, among the many common characteristics of the Lord’s messages to the churches in Revelation 2-3 are His repeated words, “He who has an ear...” spoken to individuals within them!
I will return to individuals as the ultimate target audience of the Lord even as He initially speaks to them in local churches momentarily. First though, the Lord would have me briefly speak more to the common characteristics of His messages to the seven churches of Asia. In what should certainly be the most alarming common characteristic of the Lord’s messages to the seven churches is the reality that He walked among them. This is how He knew their works as another commonality and knows ours too! An additional common characteristic is the Lord held the messengers of these churches in His right hand which suggests not only honor and responsibility, but also control.3
The Lord commended the good, but voiced what He had against the messengers and the seven churches they led as still another commonality; calling the guilty to repentance to avoid temporal punishment and eternal loss. Yet, this did not seem to have long alarmed guilty leaders and congregants or deter them from brazen disobedience to His Word and committing all manner of evil to this hour!4 In spite of the Lord’s command for all to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” their history is replete with the corrupt conduct He condemned. The seven churches of Asia passed from the scene as have countless others since and all are shortly about to. Even so, a remnant of Christians from among the two churches Christ commended has stood and will stand to the end!
1 See for example, Revelation by George Ladd, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1972, p 36.
2 Read the August 23, 2015 post, Babylon Is Falling, under the category, Bible Prophecy and Praise For The Lord God Almighty!, posted September 13, 2015 under the
category, Glory To God as samples. So much for “thriving religious enterprises of human pride, achievement and enduring legacy” I wrote is all the rage during these
latter days in the introduction of my December 8, 2019 repost, Restoring Men, under the category, The Cause!
3 Messengers clearly refer to the men called by Christ to shepherd and feed His sheep with His messages (John 21:15-17; Acts 20:26-28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Therefore, no
pastor/teacher is to understand himself as the sovereign head over a local church and free to teach whatever is right in his own eyes. The Lord Jesus is and remains
forever, Lord, under whom a pastor and any elders serve and are held accountable by Him. The Lord has mercifully chosen for His purposes and our testing to be
longsuffering in the main during this mortal Church era (Luke 13:6-9; 2 Peter 3:9). It is because of this that guilty pastors doing what is right in their own eyes as if
there is no King or Chief Shepherd (Judges 17:6; Acts 20:29-30) have enjoyed extended stays and on their account such resulting ungodly confusion exists among
the churches (2 Peter 2:18-19). But there is a King and Christ is He! Without repentance, His eventual judgment is assured (Matthew 18:6-9) as He made clear to the
guilty messengers and churches of Asia. See my February 9, 2014 post, Is There No King Among Us?, under the category, Call To Repent.
4 As a contemporary example, since the 1960s many male pastors have followed the lead of Thyatira’s messenger to “allow” the rise of guilty women as Jezebels to
teach and take authority over His "servants" in His house in defiance of plain apostolic doctrine (1 Timothy 2:11-14; Revelation 2:20, NKJV). Read my May 27 and
June 3, 2018 two-part post, Feminism’s Entry Into The Churches, under the categories Call To Repent and God’s Creatures. At this hour too, United Methodists are
splitting over the issue of whether same sex relationships biblically condemned are to be tolerated among its members and leaders.
Strong Man Of God Resources
Get Your Copy Of The Strong Man Of God: Back To Basics
Your purchase supports restoring men, families and communities through Strong Man Ministries!
Purchase It Now