Panorama of the Christian Church - 1
Lesson 30

From beginning to end the Bible is a revelation of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the book of Genesis we read the story of creation, of the fall of man, and of Paradise lost. But within the story of failure and loss is the promise of One who would come to restore all that was lost. See Genesis 3:15. Continuing through the Old Testament we find Christ revealed in prophecy as the One to come. In the Gospels He is revealed as the One who was promised, and they bear a record of His life and ministry, from the manger in Bethlehem to His ascension. The book of Acts, as well as the Epistles, reveal the early triumphs of the church that bears His name, under the ministry of His Holy Spirit. In the Revelation Christ is pictured in glory as the High Priest and Minister of the heavenly sanctuary, and as the Supreme Judge, the final arbiter of all destinies before whom all must appear. The final scenes depict Him as King of kings and Lord of lords reigning forever over the earth restored. In all it is but a panorama of the glory of Christ.

The book of Daniel, as we have seen, is a history of nations in prophecy. The Revelation is different in that it is a church history; nations are introduced only as they affect the Christian church.

1. What is said regarding those who read and seek to understand the things written in the book of Revelation?

Revelation 1:3
Revelation 1:3

Note: Many have felt that the book of Revelation is a book of mystery that cannot be understood, but the very opening words of the book indicate otherwise.

2. What is stated regarding the time for the fulfillment of the things written in the book?

Revelation 1:3
Revelation 1:3

Note: Unlike Daniel, who wrote regarding events, many of which were centuries in the future, John is told that the things to be related to him concern events that will soon take place. A little later in this same introductory chapter, he is told that some of the events he is to be shown relate to things already taking place. See Verse 19

3. To whom was John directed to send the message about to be given Him?

Revelation 1:11
Revelation 1:11

Note: In the Bible wherever the number seven is used it signifies wholeness, or completeness. Beginning with the record of creation in Genesis, we have God’s work of creation being completed in seven days. In Revelation we have the seven churches, the seven seals, and the seven trumpets. As the messages contained in Revelation 2–3 are to the seven churches, they apply not only to the seven Christian churches to which they were addressed, but to the Christian church through the centuries from its inception to the end of time. The conditions of the various churches addressed also characterize the general condition of the church in successive ages. In addition, the counsel given to each church also finds application in the lives of different people in all ages of the church.

4. Who is the One addressing the churches?

Revelation 1:11–13
Revelation 1:11–13

5. Where was Christ standing?

Revelation 1:13
Revelation 1:13

6. What did the candlesticks represent?

Revelation 1:20
Revelation 1:20

Note: The candlesticks fitly represent the churches, the light in the world (see Matthew 5:14), giving to the world the gospel of Jesus Christ. See 2 Corinthians 4:4. Here Christ is pictured as walking among the seven candlesticks, a symbol of His relationship to His churches.

7. What was Jesus holding in His right hand?

Revelation 1:16
Revelation 1:16

8. What did the stars represent?

Revelation 1:20
Revelation 1:20

Note: Here are represented those who are entrusted with the responsibility of giving the knowledge of the saving truth of the gospel. To those who are faithful in fulfilling this commission, this is of great comfort, for nothing can pluck them out of the hand which holds them. See John 10:28–29.

Before looking at each church in detail, we notice that in the messages to these seven churches several interesting points become apparent. Each of the letters to the various churches can generally be divided into seven parts. We have the introduction, in which a reference is made to Christ as the Author, or the One speaking. In these introductions are various appellations, or titles, particularly significant to the church being addressed. This introduction is followed by a statement of the church’s condition; the reproof, or rebuke; a command to remedy the situation; a prophecy to its members; an invitation; and a promise to those who overcome.

9. What was the name of the first church addressed?

Revelation 2:1
Revelation 2:1

10. What problem did the True Witness find with the church of Ephesus?

Revelation 2:4
Revelation 2:4

Note: Ephesus was a beautiful city. Here was the seat of the worship of Diana. She was known as the–great mother, or great mother of the gods. It is an interesting note that it was at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 that the title—Mother of God—was applied to the Virgin Mary.

Historically this period of time represents approximately the first seventy years of church history. During this period of time the apostles were able to guide and counsel, making this a very desirable period. Under their leadership the church went to the world filled with zeal for Christ and a love for souls. In the passage of time, however, this zeal began to fade and Christ presents this lack of love and devotion as a spiritual fall—a fall it appears, of which the members were unaware. In viewing the condition of this church, Christ acknowledges the fact that they despise false doctrines, but this will not make up for the lack of love.

11. How did Christ refer to Himself, in addressing the church at Smyrna?

Revelation 2:8
Revelation 2:8

Note: Though the church of Smyrna is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, history tells us that the Christians at Smyrna saw more suffering than those of any other city of the region. Sometimes by earthquakes, but more often by invading armies, the city was repeatedly destroyed. Smyrna represents the second phase through which the Christian church passed. As the pagan world began to feel the effects of Christianity sweeping the empire, it roused itself to meet the challenge, and under Nero a persecution began, which claimed the life of the apostle Paul and continued with greater or lesser vigor for the next two and a half centuries. Christians, though stripped of their possessions and poor in this world’s goods, were rich in faith. The statement of their condition which follows speaks of their faithfulness even under the trying circumstances in which they found themselves. Jesus then gives the command: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.

12. What were the members of this church to suffer?

Revelation 2:10
Revelation 2:10

Note: The last and most intense persecution was that carried on under Diocletian during a ten year period of time from A.D. 303–313, at which time Constantine came to the throne.

In addressing Smyrna, Jesus is referred to as the First and Last, the One who was dead and is alive. How appropriate to a church that was suffering persecution. To those who would suffer for His sake, Christ comes as the One who has also experienced death and lives again. He holds out the promise that while they may lose this life, they will not have to face the experience of eternal death. See Revelation 2:10. For this church Christ had only commendation.

There is then the command: Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Verse 10. Following the invitation to hear His words to the churches is the comforting promise for those facing death and suffering persecution for their faith: He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. “ Verse 11

13. Which was the third church Christ addressed?

Revelation 2:12
Revelation 2:12

14. Whose doctrine were the believers said to allow to go unrebuked?

Revelation 2:14
Revelation 2:14

Note: What Balaam had been unable to accomplish in trying to curse Israel, he sought to accomplish in leading them to violate God’s law through immorality and idolatry. So successful was he that Israel was led to national apostasy. See Numbers 25:3. This idolatry weakened the forces of ancient Israel so that their armies, previously invincible, could not stand before their enemies. Satan recognized in the Christian church a force that could not be overcome. He therefore presented the idea that an accommodation in some areas, by an acceptance of some of the less objectionable features of the pagan religion, would lead to its wider acceptance.

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