Overview of Churches | Ephesus | Smyrna | Pergamos | Thyatira | Sardis | Philadelphia | Laodicea | Last Church
OVERVIEW OF THE 7 CHURCHES OF REVELATION CHAPTERS 2 - 3
“I WAS in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 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." "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, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and 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 hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father: to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:10-11, 2:4-6.
Alonso T. Jones, The Great Nations of Today, p 8-9
The book of Daniel and the book of Revelation are, therefore, companion books with respect to the history of the nations, ancient and modern: with this difference, however, that, whereas in the book of Daniel National History is the principal subject, with Church History incidental: in the book of Revelation the great subject is Church History, with National History incidental.
The key to modern history, to the great nations of to-day -- their origin, course, and destiny -- as contemplated in the book of Revelation, is found in the line of prophecy of the Seven Trumpets. Yet the Seven Trumpets themselves have a basis. The line of prophecy of the Seven Trumpets is a consequence. The events foretold therein occur because of certain things that have been done. These certain things are shown in the first three steps in each of the two preceding lines of prophecy in the book of Revelation: the Seven Churches and the Seven Seals. Therefore, to find the basis of the Seven Trumpets, we must glance at these things which are their cause.
The line of prophecy of the Seven Churches is composed of seven letters addressed by the Lord to His Church in the seven phases of her experience, from the first advent of Christ unto His second. In each of these seven letters, not only is counsel given in the way of right, but there are pointed out the dangers and evils that beset the Church, against which she must be especially guarded, and which, in order to remain pure, she must escape.
Alonso T. Jones, Lessons from the Reformation, p 161-163
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches:" said the Lord Jesus seven times in the second and third chapters of Revelation.
It is not accident, it is not inadvertence, it is of design, and the design of Inspiration, that all the congregations or assemblies of Christians in the world are invariably spoken of collectively as "the churches."
And it being the invariable use, even in places where, if there were any such thing, it would be fitting to use the expression "the church," this proves beyond all valid question that in truth there is no such thing as all Christians and congregations in the world forming The Church. The Church goes far beyond all that.
Therefore, in the truth of the Bible all Christians and all assemblies and congregations of Christians in the world do not compose The Church of the Scriptures, and cannot be correctly spoken of as The Church; but only as "the churches."
This establishes the integrity and individuality of the single assembly, whether of "two or three" or more, as being of the divine order. And this single assembly, the local congregation, in the divine order has no earthly ecclesiastical organization above it.
And any person or any thing that ever in any way or under any plea or pretext comes in between "the churches" and "The Church which is His Body the fulness of Him" and is passed off as "the church" or the "administration" or "organization" is an iniquitous interloper, a fraud and an imposture.
It breaks up the divine order. It severs "the churches" and Christians from their Head and from The Church. It puts man between Christ and His churches, and between Him and His own members. It puts man in the place of Christ and of God. It is of Satan, not of Christ whom God gave to be The Head over all things to The Church.
In the divine order, the next step beyond the single assemblies which are the churches is --
"The Church which is His Body.
"The Church of the Firstborn which are written in heaven."
"The Church of the living God."
The Church of which Christ is The Head, The Foundation, the all in all, of which each individual is a member -- being set in the Body by the Lord Himself as it hath pleased Him.
And just as the single assemblies of Christians are invariably spoken of by the Spirit of Inspiration as "the churches," so the expression "the church" as relating to The Church in general, is invariably used with sole reference to "The Church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."
Accordingly the divine order of God's building of The Church is this:
1. The Foundation-Stone -- Christ.
2. Individual believers who come to that Foundation and "as lively stones" are built upon Him.
3. The church in a private house.
4. The church in a city or other place.
5. The churches of God.
6. The Church which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.
7. The Head-Stone -- Christ.
Christ is the Foundation; Christ is the Head; the whole Building is built upon Him and in Him; and so "groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord."
The natural body of man is the divinely chosen illustration of the structure of the spiritual Body of Christ, which is The Church.
The natural body of man is "fearfully and wonderfully made." It is a mystery of God. Ps. 139: 13-16.
The spiritual Body of Christ is more fearfully and wonderfully made. It is "the Mystery of God."
Only God through Christ by the Holy Spirit built the natural body of man. Only He could possibly do it. Gen. 1: 26; Job 33:4.
Only God through Christ by the Holy Spirit builds the spiritual Body of Christ, which is The Church. Only He could possibly do it. Eph. 4: 12-16.
Not all the ecclesiasticism of bishops, presidents, Popes, boards, committees, Councils, in all the ages could ever have taken the first true thought toward building the natural body of man.
Infinitely less could they ever have taken the first true thought toward building the spiritual Body of Christ, which is The Church. Isa. 55:8, 9.
The natural body of man is the crown of God's natural creation.
The spiritual Body of Christ, which is The Church, is the crown of God's spiritual creation.
Review and Herald, vol 1, November, 1850, #1, p 8
...let us examine a few things concerning the seven states of the churches. The first, second and third chapters of Revelation present to our view seven distinct and different states of the church under the gospel. Some have supposed that these churches described in the second and third chapters of Revelation were literal, because there were seven literal churches in Asia Minor, bearing the same names. - But we think the bible definitions of these names describe the spirit and qualities of the seven states of the churches. They cannot be literal, for several reasons. First, this is a revelation, or prophecy of the future. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants, things that must SHORTLY COME TO PASS, Rev.i,1. John had his vision, A. D. 96, but the literal churches existed A. D. 60, 36 years before. Second: "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches," &c. Ch.xxii,16. This brings us down to the close of time. Nothing has been known of those literal churches for hundreds of years. More may be said on this point, if necessary; let this suffice now.
Review and Herald, vol 8, October 16, 1856, #24, p 188
"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 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." Rev.i,10,11.
Commentators generally suppose that the testimony to the seven churches was given for the benefit of only seven literal churches in Asia. But we must agree with some modern expositors, that these seven churches should be understood as representing seven conditions of the Christian church, in seven periods of time, covering the ground of the entire Christian age; and here are some of our reasons:
1. The great design of the book of Revelation, it will be admitted, was to foretell the great events of the Christian age, (with which the people of God were to be connected,) which have occurred since the book was written, which are occurring, and which are yet to take place. It is true that in a very few instances, past and present events are mentioned in this book, as in the case of the woman with the crown of twelve stars, and the man-child which was caught up to God and his throne, [Rev.xii,1-5,] but in all such cases the past and present are alluded to only to introduce future events, which are the burden of the prophecy in all cases. The book commences thus: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." Rev.i,1. If seven literal churches of Asia only are described in the prophecy, as they then existed, John was shown what had come to pass.
2. The book of Revelation is a prophecy, and not a description of what was then past, neither of what then existed. "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." Rev.i.3. Who will pretend that the first three chapters of Revelation are a prophecy, if they understand them as relating the character of seven literal churches in Asia? No one.
3. The book of Revelation is dedicated to the seven churches in Asia. Said the angel to John, "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." Rev.i,11. Are any disposed to say that this entire book was dedicated to only seven of the then existing churches? We would inquire of them, first, Why dedicated to them only? Why not to the churches in Corinth, Cappadocia, Galatia, Thessalonica, Philippi, Colosse, Rome, Jerusalem, Bithynia, &c., as well as to the seven churches in Asia? And, second, Why is the Revelation dedicated to those churches which lived before the fulfillment of nearly all of the prophecy of the book? Of what use to the seven literal churches in Asia could the prophecy of the Papal beast be? or the woe trumpets, the two-horned beast, the three angels' messages, the last plagues, or any portion of that prophecy that has been fulfilling the past fifteen centuries? We answer, Of no use. But when we apply the seven churches to seven distinct periods of the Christian age, in which the book of Revelation has been fulfilling, and understand the prophecy as describing seven distinct conditions of the Christian church, all is plain and forcible. Many other reasons might be given for applying the prophecy to the seven churches in Asia to the whole church of Christ in seven periods of the entire Christian age; but these affording sufficient proof, must suffice for the present.
We will now take up the churches in their order, as given in the Revelation. And here we would suggest, that the reason why these seven churches in Asia are used to represent the Christian church in her several states down to the end of this age, is because the significations of the names of those churches describe the spirit and character of the several periods of the Christian church.
Review and Herald, vol 17, March 28, 1861, p 148
...the revelation given to John on the isle of Patmos, was not given at one and the same time, but is composed of different visions given at different times. Is this a correct position? We are inclined to think it is. None will doubt that the revelation was given to John in vision. This state is implied in the expression "in the Spirit." He says in Chap.i,10, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet &c., meaning by the expression, in the Spirit, that he was then in vision. The vision which composes the first part of this book appears to be well defined; and the second vision is introduced by an expression similar to the one which introduces the first. In the first verse of Chap.iv John says, After this, I looked and behold a door was opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard was, as it were the voice of a trumpet talking with me which said, Come up hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter; and immediately I was in the Spirit, &c. If the same expression in chap. i,10, denotes that he was then in vision, this expression in chap. iv,2, would denote the same; but if the vision of chap. i, was continued, embracing the whole book, the fourth chapter with the rest, there would have been no occasion for his saying that he was again in the Spirit, or again in vision, and certainly there would be no propriety in using such language.
We conclude then, that the first vision is contained in the first three chapters of the book, and that chap. iv, by the repetition of the declaration that he was in the Spirit, introduces another and a subsequent vision; and that the expression "after these things," which introduces the chapter, does not denote that what he saw, as related in chapter iv, and onward, took place after what he had previously related was fulfilled, but only that he saw these things after he had seen the former. It may here be asked, if John was in vision only when he says he was in the Spirit, how he could say in the first verse of the chapter that he looked and a door was opened in heaven, &c.? Answer. He could behold it just as Stephen [Acts vii,54-56] filled with the Holy Ghost, looked up and saw the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. There are doubtless such ecstasies independent of vision. If there are not, the question still remains to be settled, what John meant in chap. iv,2, by being in the Spirit, a state into which he entered, after he had seen heaven opened and heard the voice telling him to come up thither.
If then the first three chapters contain in themselves a complete vision, as seems to be evident, we inquire, How much is embraced in that vision? One principal feature of the book of Revelation, which every one recognizes and allows, is that events are not introduced throughout the book in chronological order. One train of events is introduced and we are carried down through that to the end. We are then taken back and placed upon another track of prophecy, and carried down through that to the end in the same manner. And so on. By the seven seals [chaps. iv-vii], events are introduced commencing far back in the past, and reaching down to the great day of the wrath of the Lamb; or rather, seven great periods are introduced, each distinguished by certain great events to the end of time. The same may be said of the seven trumpets. Chaps. viii,ix. In the first three chapters, as the subject of the first vision, seven churches are brought to view. Do these partake of the same nature of the seals and trumpets, and denote seven periods to be especially marked by the condition and experience of God's people, during the times to which they apply? We think they do. It would be extremely natural that with the history of the course of empire, and the transactions of the powers and kings of earth, the history of God's people, the journeyings and circumstances of the church, till her final triumph, should also be presented. And if what is said of the seven churches is a view complete in itself, the probabilities in favor of this position are greatly increased. "Write the things which thou hast seen," were the directions given to John [chap. i,19], "and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." This vision then contains events which were future in the days of John. But this idea alone is incompatible with that view which would make the messages to the seven churches descriptions merely of seven literal churches existing in the days of the apostle.
The words, "which are in Asia," in verse 11, which speaks of the seven churches, are not found, according to Dr. Clarke, in ancient and reliable manuscripts. Understanding the seven churches in whatever way we may, those words seem to be unnecessary. As denoting seven periods, they certainly are so, and as denoting seven literal churches in Asia they are equally so; for where would be the propriety of singling out seven churches in Asia with the definite article the - the seven churches in Asia, when there were many more than that all about in that region? Even in that portion of Asia minor, where the seven which are mentioned were situated, and right in their very midst, were other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians, was but a slight distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos where John had his vision. It was an important station for the church, as we may judge from the fact that Paul during one of his stays there sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at that place. Acts xx,17-38. At the same place he also once left, in good Christian hands no doubt, Trophimus, his disciple, sick. 2Tim.iv,20. And Troas was not far removed from Pergamos. We must hence conclude that there is a significance in the seven churches far beyond anything that could be derived from the application of the language to seven literal churches, which among many others existed in Asia in the days of John.
This conclusion is further strengthened by the description of the mystery of the seven golden candlesticks, and the seven stars. When John turned to see the voice that spake with him [verse 12], he saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like the Son of man, who had in his right hand seven stars. These were thus explained to John: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Verse 20. The angels of the churches are the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man, denotes the upholding power, guidance, and protection vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in his right hand. And are there only seven thus cared for by the great Master of assemblies? May not rather, all the ministers of the gospel dispensation learn from this that they are held in the right hand of the great head of the church? Such looks to us to be the only consistent conclusion. Again, John looking into the Christian dispensation, saw only seven candlesticks in the presence of the Son of man, symbolizing only seven churches. Why only seven? Seven as used in scripture is a number denoting fullness and completeness; and like the seven stars, the seven candlesticks can denote nothing less than the whole of the things which they represent. The whole gospel church in seven periods must be symbolized by them. No other conclusion seems admissible.
With the application of these churches to the periods of time which they occupy, the readers of the REVIEW are already familiar. We have only designed here to present a few general reasons for the position that the seven churches denote seven periods or states of the Christian church, and reach down to the end of time. In conclusion let us express the hope that the fearful warning to the Laodiceans, that which now concerns the church, will not by frequent repetition in reading and writing, lose its power to stir our hearts to their inmost depths. We are too apt to go to sleep over the most alarming warnings, if they are oft repeated. May the true Witness help us to be keenly sensitive to his counsel, repent of our backslidings, avail ourselves of his gracious offers, and be prepared at last to have a seat with him upon his throne.
Review and Herald, vol 20, June 3, 1862, #1, p 4
The entire book of Revelation (see ch.i,3,11,19; xxii,18,19) is dedicated to the seven churches, verse 11, at places situated in western Asia Minor, scattered over a territory about two hundred miles in length, by one hundred in width. There were many Christians in other portions of Asia Minor, such as Pontus Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, addressed in 1Pet.i,1. In fact, Troas, where Paul held meeting with the brethren all night, and Colosse, where he addressed his epistle to the brethren, were in the territory of the seven churches. Colosse was only about twenty-five miles from Laodicea. Miletum, where Paul left his brother Trophimus sick, 2Tim.iv,20, and to which place he called the elders of the church, Acts xxi,11, was also in the same territory.
Why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected, to whom the Revelation was dedicated, may be a matter of interesting study. The book was no more applicable to them, than to other Christian churches in Asia Minor. And it is a fact of importance that but a very small portion of the book could be applicable to the Christians of John's day, as most of it prophesied of events then in the future, with which they would have no connection. Neither were the special addresses to the Christians in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, more appropriate to them than to the Christians of Colosse, Troas, Galatia, and Corinth. The best reason we have to offer why these seven were chosen is, because the significations of the names illustrate the character of the seven periods of the Christian church.
Seven seems to be a number in the Scriptures denoting perfection, completeness, and is probably a kind of memorial of the great facts of the first seven days, which divide all time into cycles of weeks.
The book of Revelation is really dedicated to the Christians of the entire Christian age, with seven special messages to the believers in its seven periods, with grace and peace from the Father, and from the Holy Spirit, and from the Son....
Verse 19: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.
Here John is more definitely commanded to write the entire Revelation. The things which he had seen and the things which were then before him, were the vision of the Son of man, and that of the churches, occupying the first three chapters of the book. The things which should be hereafter shown him, commence with another vision at chap.iv.
Verse 20: 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.
The seven stars which the Son of man holds in his right hand represent the angels, or messengers, or ministers of the churches. Christ's ministers of every clime, and every age, are in his hands; hence the prophecy of the seven churches contemplates a vastly wider field than seven of the churches of western Asia Minor of John's day. The seven candlesticks, in the midst of which John saw one like the Son of man - verse 13 - represent the seven churches. Christ is in the midst of all his people. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." The position taken, that the seven churches illustrate the seven periods of the Christian age, gives an exalted importance to the Revelation. But to suppose that the prophecy relative to the seven churches reaches no farther than seven of the Christian congregations in western Asia Minor, dwindles sublime declarations and illustrations into comparative insignificance.
Review and Herald, vol 20, June 10, 1862, #2, p 12
WE take the position that the messages to the seven churches of chapters ii and iii are prophetic, and are addressed to the Christians of the seven periods of the Christian age. The following are some of our reasons for taking this position, and dissenting from the popular view that these addresses are a simple narrative of facts as they existed in seven of the churches of Asia, in John's day.
1. The entire book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches. "I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify these things in the churches." "What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches." Chaps.i,3,11,19; xxii,16,18,19.
2. Most of the book prophesied of events then in the future, with which the Christians of John's day had no connection whatever.
3. The seven addresses in chapters ii and iii were no more applicable to the Christians in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, than to the other churches in Asia Minor, or those of any other country.
4. The book of Revelation is called a prophecy, chap.i,3, hence chapters ii and iii are not a history of facts existing in John's day. Prophecy relates to the future; it is history in advance. History is the record of events which have transpired.
5. The grand design of the book of Revelation is to foretell future events, with which the church should be connected in the Christian age. "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." Chap.i,1. In a few instances past and present events are mentioned in this book, as in chap.xii,1-5, but in all such cases the past and present are alluded to only to introduce future events, which in every case are the burden of the prophecy.
6. The seven addresses to the churches of chapters ii and iii, do have a fitness to seven periods of the Christian age, while the harmony of revelation and reason forbid the application of some portions of the seven addresses to the Christians of John's day.
The view that the seven messages are prophetic, has prevailed extensively among biblical expositors of the past, but has evidently been crowded out by the modern doctrine of the temporal millennium, which makes the last state of the church the most glorious, and not properly described by the address to the church of the Laodiceans. We would, however, suggest that the message to the last church is in harmony with Paul's description of the last days. 2Tim.iii,1-9.
Benson quotes bishop Newton as saying:
"Many contend, and among them such learned men as More and Vitringa, that the seven epistles are prophetical of so many successive periods and states of the church, from the beginning to the conclusion of all. But there are in these epistles several innate characters, which are peculiar to the church of that age, and cannot be so well applied to the church of any other age. Besides other arguments, there is also this plain reason: the last state of the church is described in this very book as the most glorious of all, but in the last state in these epistles, that of Laodicea, the church is represented as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
The Comprehensive Commentary says:
"Many expositors have imagined that these epistles to the seven churches, were mystical prophecies of seven distinct periods, into which the whole term, from the apostles' days to the end of the world, would be divided. . . . . It cannot be conceived, if the concluding part of this book itself be recollected, that the last period of the church will be worse than any that has gone before, as the Laodicean church was far more corrupt than any of the rest." - Scott.
"An opinion has been held by some commentators of note, which may be given in the words of Vitringa: `That under this emblematical representation of the seven churches of Asia, the Holy Spirit has delineated seven different states of the Christian church, which would appear in succession, extending to the coming of our Lord, and the consummation of all things. That this is given in descriptions taken from the names, states, and conditions of these churches, so that they might behold themselves, and learn both their good qualities and their defects, and what admonitions and exhortations were suitable for them.' Vitringa has given a summary of the arguments which may be alleged in favor of this interpretation. Some of them are ingenious, but they are not now considered sufficient to support such a theory. Gill is one of the principal of the English commentators who adopt this view, that `they are prophetical of the churches of Christ, in the several periods of time, until he appears again.'" - Henry....
Ephesus signifies desirable, which well represents the first state of the church. Those first Christians had received the doctrine of Christ in its purity. They enjoyed the benefits and blessings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were noted for works, labor, and patience. In faithfulness to those pure principles taught by Jesus Christ, they could not bear those who were evil, and they tried false apostles, and searched out their true character. If the work of trying false apostles belonged to any one congregation of Christians, that at Jerusalem was the very one. Acts xv. Paul also writes to the Corinthians respecting false apostles. 2Cor.xi,13. We would here suggest that the angels, or messengers, of the churches, may represent Christ's true ministers, through which he speaks to his people during the several periods of the Christian age.
It should be noticed that in each one of the seven messages it is stated - "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Each of these addresses seems important for the general benefit of the churches, instead of being applicable to only one church.
Uriah Smith, Biblical Institute, p 243-245, 252-253
IN Rev.2 and 3 are seven short epistles addressed to seven churches. We regard these, like other lines of prophecy in this book, as prophetic, covering the whole gospel dispensation. A few of the reasons why we regard these as prophetic are as follows:-
There were more churches in Asia the seven. Even if we confine ourselves to that western division of Asia known as Asia Minor, or even that small fraction of Asia Minor where the seven churches were situated which are addressed, there were other important churches in the same territory. Collosse was but a short distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision. And Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, was not far from Pergamos.
Why, then, were just seven churches selected out of this number and not all of them addressed, if what is said pertained only to the Christians of those times? The entire book of Revelation was dedicated to the seven churches. But the prophecy of this book was no more applicable to the seven literal churches named, than to other Christians in Asia Minor, those for instance who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia. Only a small portion of the book of Revelation could have personally concerned the churches named, or any of the Christians of John's day; for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the future as to be beyond the life-time of the generation then living.
Again, the seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. The angels of the churches, doubtless, denote the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man must denote his upholding power, guidance and protection. But are there only seven thus cared for by the Master? Rather, are not all the true ministers of the whole gospel age thus upheld and supported by him?
Still further, John, looking into the Christian dispensation, saw only seven candlesticks representing seven churches, in the midst of which sat the Son of man. His position in their midst must denote his presence with them, his watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their works. But does he thus regard only seven individual churches in this dispensation? Does not this rather represent his position in reference to all the churches in this age?
Why then were these particular churches chosen that are mentioned? Doubtless for the reason that the names of these churches are significant, indicating the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they respectively represent. If for these reasons and others which might be adduced, these epistles are prophetic, we understand them to apply to seven distinct periods of the gospel age, from the days of John to the end of time....
These messages to the churches are both interesting and important, as showing the internal history of the church from the days of the apostles down, and especially important on account of the solemn warning, and the practical duties enjoined upon the last church. In this prophecy we are able to trace the history of the church step by step through this dispensation, finding the most accurate agreement between the testimony of God and the time and condition of the different periods of the church. It can thus be shown unmistakably that we have reached the last period, the Laodicean state of the church. And now under the tremendous pressure of the spirit of the world and of apostasy that prevails in these last days, even that people who have the truth for this time, and should feel its searching power and be animated with its life giving spirit, are lukewarm; neither cold nor hot. But Christ is at the door; the Judgment is impending; the King is soon coming in to see the guests; how important then that some message be given us, adapted to our condition and our dangers. We have it in this last message to the church, and if we faithfully heed it, it will be our salvation; if we reject it, that rejection will be our eternal ruin.
Uriah Smith, Daniel and Revelation, p 356-357, 373, 770.
The Churches in Asia. - There were more churches in Asia than seven. We may confine ourselves to that western fraction of Asia known as Asia Minor, or we may include still less territory than that; for in even that small portion of Asia Minor where were situated the seven churches which are mentioned, and right in their very midst, there were other important churches. Colosse, to the Christians of which place Paul addressed his epistle to the Colossians, was but a slight distance from Laodicea. Miletus was nearer than any of the seven to Patmos, where John had his vision; and it was an important station for the church, as we may judge from the fact that Paul, during one of his stays there, sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to meet him at that place. Acts20:17-38. At the same place he also left, in good Christian hands no doubt, Trophimus, his disciple, sick. 2Tim.4:20. And Troas, where Paul spent a season with the disciples, and whence, having waited till the Sabbath was past, he started off upon his journey, was not far removed from Pergamos, named among the seven. It becomes, therefore, an interesting question to determine why seven of the churches of Asia Minor were selected as the ones to which the Revelation should be dedicated. Does what is said of the seven churches in chapter 1, and to them in chapters 2 and 3, have reference solely to the seven literal churches named, describing things only as they then and there existed, and portraying what was before them alone? We cannot so conclude, for the following reasons:-
1. The entire book of Revelation (see chapter 1:3,11,19; 22:18,19) was dedicated to the seven churches. Verse 11. But the book was no more applicable to them than to other Christians in Asia Minor, - those, for instance, who dwelt in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia, addressed in 1Peter1:1; or the Christians of Colosse, Troas, and Miletus, in the very midst of the churches named.
2. Only a small portion of the book could have personally concerned the seven churches, or any of the Christians of John's day; for the events it brings to view were mostly so far in the future as to lie beyond the lifetime of the generation then living, or even the time during which those churches would continue; and consequently they could have no personal connection with them.
3. The seven stars which the Son of man held in his right hand (verse 20), are declared to be the angels of the seven churches. The angels of the churches, doubtless all will agree are the ministers of the churches. Their being held in the right hand of the Son of man denotes the upholding power, guidance, and protection vouchsafed to them. But there were only seven of them in his right hand. And are there only seven thus cared for by the great Master of assemblies? May not, rather, all the true ministers of the whole gospel age derive from this representation the consolation of knowing that they are upheld and guided by the right hand of the great Head of the church: Such would seem to be the only consistent conclusion.
4. Again, John, looking into the Christian dispensation saw only seven candlesticks, representing seven churches, in the midst of which stood the Son of man. The position of the Son of man in their midst must denote his presence with them, his watchcare over them, and his searching scrutiny of all their works. But does he thus take cognizance of only seven individual churches in this dispensation? May we not rather conclude that this scene represents his position in reference to all his churches during the gospel age? Then why were only seven mentioned? Seven, as used in the Scriptures, is a number denoting fulness and completeness, being, doubtless a kind of memorial of the great facts of the first seven days of time, which gave the world the still used weekly cycle. Like the seven stars, the seven candlesticks must denote the whole of the things which they represent. The whole gospel church in seven divisions, or periods, must be symbolized by them; and hence the seven churches must be applied in the same manner.
5. Why, then, were the seven particular churches chosen that are mentioned? For the reason, doubtless, that in the names of these churches, according to the definitions of the words, are brought out the religious features of those periods of the gospel age which they respectively were to represent.
For these reasons, "the seven churches" are doubtless to be understood to mean not merely the seven literal churches of Asia which went by the names mentioned, but seven periods of the Christian church, from the days of the apostles to the close of probation. (See on chapter 2, verse 1.)...
Having, in the first chapter, mapped out the subject by a general reference to the seven churches, represented by the seven candlesticks, and to the ministry of the churches, represented by the seven stars, John now takes up each church particularly, and writes the message designed for it, addressing the epistle in every case to the angel, or pastors, of the church....
"VERSE 16. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star." (Revelation 22:16)
Jesus testifies these things in the churches, showing that the whole book of Revelation is given to the seven churches, which is another incidental proof that the seven churches are representatives of the church through the entire gospel dispensation. Christ is the offspring of David, in that he appeared on earth in the line of David's descendants. He is the root of David, inasmuch as he is the great prototype of David, and the maker and upholder of all things.
J.N. Loughborough, Review and Herald, vol 9, March 19, 1857, #20, p 153-155
You ask me in your letter for "the evidence from the Bible that the seven churches of Rev.ii, and iii, succeed one another." Or, "in other words, Where is one candlestick removed, and another put in its place?" I will try, by the help of the Lord, to look at these questions, hoping to be guided in the investigation, by the Spirit which seems to accompany this message wherever it is advocated.
Seven is a number used many times in the book of Revelation. Inspiration has seemingly selected it as a number which signifies the whole of that to which it is applied. That whole being divided into seven parts, either applying to seven different periods, and a work accomplished in those periods; or to seven different manifestations of the one thing spoken of. "The seven Spirits of God" are spoken of, [Rev.i,4; iii,1; iv,5; v,6,] and yet "the Spirit of God" is definitely spoken of in other portions of scripture as one Spirit. Paul says, [1Cor.xii,11,] "All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." "The seven Spirits of God" probably refer to seven different manifestations of that Spirit. In several instances where the number seven is used, it applies to a series of events to transpire in consecutive order during seven different periods. The seven angels with their seven trumpets, and the seven seals, are instances where it occurs in that manner.
How do we ascertain that the seven seals and seven trumpets are consecutive? You may reply, Because they are numbered. But I understand the best evidence we now have that the seven seals and seven trumpets are consecutive, is, that they are prophetic, and have been fulfilled in consecutive order. Now to look at the testimony concerning the seven seals, (without an understanding of the facts brought out by them,) we see nothing very definite in the first four seals to give their chronology; but when we come to the sixth seal, events are there introduced as transpiring under that seal, which we learn by other scriptures, are signs immediately to precede the second coming of Christ. In noticing the seven trumpets, (aside from their fulfillment,) we see in the seventh that we are carried to the setting up of Christ's kingdom. So we might infer (before tracing out the events under each trumpet, or each seal,) that they cover the whole gospel age.
The strongest evidence I had that the seven churches in Asia signify simply seven literal churches was that there were seven such churches in Asia, and John was commanded to send his testimony to them. The testimony to John, [chap.i,11,] "What thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia," I now understand applies to the whole book of Revelation. Those seven churches in Asia could get some information and help from the book; although most of its teaching might have its definite application to other ages of the world.
It would seem singular indeed if seven churches in Asia only are designated by this testimony, [chap.ii, and iii,] that those churches all living (as we claimed) within a territory one hundred miles in length, and fifty miles in breadth, having enjoyed the labors of the same Apostle, holding like faith, and fellowshiping each other, should be so widely different in their character. This is not generally the case; but those churches situated in such a manner rise or fall together. We as a church of Sabbath-keepers have shared alike in going into a lukewarm state, and a general move is now being made to arise.
A strong argument I now rely upon as proof that the seven churches apply to seven states, or seven different periods of the church, is that events are introduced in the testimony to some of those churches, which could not have their fulfillment in Asia; but have their fulfillment in the close of time; and therefore some of the members of those churches exist down to the close of time. Christ's second coming is one event. The time of trouble is another. Christ says to the Thyatirans, "Hold fast till I come;" to the members of the Sardis church, "If therefore thou shalt not watch I will come on thee as a thief;" to the Philadelphians, "I will keep thee from the hour of temptation, (time of trouble,) which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
You perhaps will say, if those churches in Asia had continued faithful, they would have existed till Christ's second advent. But, we answer, the Lord who "knoweth the end from the beginning," must have known that they would fall away. This testimony to the Philadelphia church, "I will keep thee from the hour of temptation," is a fallacy, if the view is correct that the testimony to the seven churches have their definite application in Asia. Where (with that view) is the hour of temptation? Just before us, in the future. Where are the members of the Philadelphia church? In their graves. "They hear not the voice of the oppressor." Job iii,18. Then they are not kept in the hour of temptation. We cannot claim that this promise to keep the faithful ones in the Philadelphia church was on condition that the church existed till the time of trouble; but the testimony shows that when the time of trouble and hour of temptation come, some who were members of the Philadelphia church will still exist and be kept by the power of the Lord. The sum of this reasoning is this: Some members of the Philadelphia church are to be kept in the time of trouble; but those who are kept in the time of trouble are those who have been faithful up to that time; therefore the Philadelphia church has its application just prior to the time of trouble.
Perhaps you will still contend that those churches apply in Asia, and are ready to refer to the testimony of Paul to the Corinthians and Thessalonians concerning the coming of Christ, as a parallel to the above. If this testimony applies to the seven literal churches in Asia only, and those who find themselves in similar circumstances are to heed the testimony given to them, then it is not similar to the testimony referred to in Corinthians or Thessalonians; for the events there spoken of have their definite application at the coming of Christ, and yet the Thessalonians and Corinthians could get some information from the testimony. The testimonies (spoken of) in the epistle to the churches of Corinth and Thessalonica, have their definite application to those who will live just prior to the coming of Christ. I understand that these churches have their definite application where the events specified in the testimony to those churches were to have their fulfillment. Let those who read the testimonies given to those churches, prior to the time of their definite application, heed the exhortation given to them. I understand that there are prophecies in the Bible that have a two-fold application. So I understand the seven churches. The exhortation in such prophecies should be heeded by any who find themselves in similar circumstances; but the definite application of such prophecies must be on that people where the events introduced by those prophecies are about to be accomplished. Peter says, [1Pet.iv,7,] "But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer." It was a duty to be sober and watch unto prayer in the days of Peter, but was the end of all things then at hand? No. The end of all things is now at hand, and the testimony of Peter now has its definite application.
The Philadelphia church has an open door set before it, by him who hath the key, (power, or throne,) of David. This refers to the open door of the Sanctuary in heaven, which (in vain) many have tried to prove was not open, but they cannot shut the door. According to the type, that door can be open for no other purpose than to cleanse the Sanctuary, which we firmly believe is a work that commenced in 1844.
In my remarks thus far I have assigned some reasons why I consider that the seven churches cannot apply definitely to seven literal churches in Asia.
Before passing to give the chronology of the seven churches, or as you inquire, "show where one candlestick is removed and another takes its place," it may be proper to notice some things which we formerly considered objections to the view that the seven churches apply to seven states of the gospel church.
The first position we took was, that the testimony of Rev.i,19, divided the book of Revelation into three parts. I cannot now see how that verse divides the book into three parts. Whiting says, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place hereafter." The Rheims' Testament, published by the English College, translates it, "Write therefore the things which thou hast seen, and which are, and which must be done hereafter." I understand from this testimony that John was to write what he had seen, a portion of which was then before him, and a portion should afterward take place. We cannot claim that what was shown him after chap.ii and iii, was then all in the future, for in having those views, he runs back many times into the past. Neither can we claim that what he had seen related to the past; because in what he had seen, [chap.i,] he had a view of the second coming of Christ. This testimony, instead of dividing the book into three parts, shows that three classes of events are given in the book. Events of the past, events then fulfilling, and events of the future. We cannot claim that all the events of the past were in the first chapter, or that all the events then transpiring were in chapters ii and iii, or all which occurs after those chapters, refer to the future. But we find that in nearly every chain of prophecy in the book events are introduced which occurred prior to A. D. 96.
I now understand the whole of the book of Revelation as prophetic. With the view I had before of the seven churches, applying them only to the time that John wrote the Revelation, I did not look on chapters ii and iii as prophetic, but merely a description of things as they then existed. But in the three verses at the commencement of the book we have a preface to the whole book, followed by John's introduction.
"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, who 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 readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand."
This third verse certainly calls the whole book a prophecy. We read, [chap.xxii,10,] "Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book." Verse 18. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book." Verse 19. "If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy." This last expression certainly marks the whole book as prophecy. What was in the book? Rev.i,11: "What thou seest write in a book." Verse 19: "Write the things which thou hast seen, and things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." If this expression, "The things which are," (as we claimed,) applies to the seven churches, then the seven churches are a part of the book, and therefore are called in chap.xxii,19, prophecy.
Another objection which was urged against the testimony to the seven churches' being prophetic of the whole gospel church, was based on the seven angels of the seven churches. We claimed that the angel must be the chief messenger in each period of the church, and therefore each age of the church must acknowledge a head, which we thought favored the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, and a head of the church in every age. But let us look at it on the ground that it applies to the churches in Asia only. With that view it makes the testimonies to those seven angels apply to seven men. Then one man had tried the apostles. Another should have tribulation ten days, and the Devil should cast some of him into prison. And with this view when we come to the Philadelphia church, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee, (one man, the bishop of the Philadelphia church,) from the hour of temptation."
If the angel of the church in Philadelphia signifies only the bishop of that church, then there is but one man that has the promise of being kept in the time of trouble, for the testimony is to the angel of that church. But you will probably say that those bishops stood as representatives of their churches, and this testimony to the seven angels applies to those churches which were under them, and not simply to seven men. If this would be a just principle of interpretation, respecting the seven angels, when applying them as the bishop of seven churches in Asia, it is as just to make the angels representatives of those churches when applied to seven states of the church. If the testimony given to the seven angels applies to the church, it virtually makes those angels representatives of the churches.
An objection was urged against the seven churches' applying to seven periods of the church, from the testimony concerning the woman Jezebel. It was claimed that the true church during the Thyatiran period must have been those who had seceded from the Catholic church, or her children. Christ says, [Rev.ii,23,] "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."
It was claimed, if the children of Jezebel were killed, the true church would be killed, and the expression, "all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts," seemed to be absurd; for if the children of Jezebel were all the churches, and they were all killed, there would be no church to know it.
I think when we get a proper understanding of this matter, there is after all no objection in it to the view I am here advocating of the seven churches. There is a plain distinction made between Jezebel's children, and Christ's servants. Who are the children of Jezebel, the mother of harlots, chap.xvii? The harlot daughters of the Catholic church. But is every church that might dissent from that church necessarily a daughter of the old mother? Not if they maintain pure principles; but if they engage in the sins of the mother church, and begin to hold an unlawful connection with the kings of the earth, they are then fully incorporated into the family of Jezebel. Now there were those in the days of the Papal reign (the Waldenses and others) that kept themselves free from the mass of Papal corruptions; yet some of them even submitted to be taught by the ministers of the Papacy; and thus some were drawn away into the corruptions of that church and fell from their steadfastness, and were caused to engage in the spiritual fornication of the Papal church. This idea is expressed in Dan.xi,34,35: "But many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end."
But how shall we understand this testimony concerning the killing of Jezebel's children? When were they to be killed? This testimony concerning the killing of Jezebel's children, we understand refers to the punishment of Jezebel. Were they to be killed in the Thyatiran period? We answer, No; for when Jezebel's children are killed with death, Christ gives to every one of that church according to their works. We understand that the time when Jezebel's children are killed with death, is when God commences to inflict his punishments on Babylon, both mother and daughters. But this takes place under the seventh seal. Rev.xvi,17. Then the mighty earthquake comes that opens the dusty beds of the saints, the islands will flee away, &c. In chap.xviii, we have a description of the judgment of God upon Babylon; and in chap.xix,1,2, we read what the church knows about it at that time. "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand." Here we see Jezebel's children are killed and the whole family of the redeemed, (all the churches, patriarchs, prophets, and gospel church,) know that God searcheth the reins and hearts; and as they see this demonstration of it upon Babylon they raise the mighty shout of, "Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."
But we will suppose, (to further elicit light on the objection,) that this testimony concerning Jezebel has its application, (as we claimed,) to the wife of the bishop of a church in Asia. Then her children (literally) were to be killed with death. What had her children done? Nothing. Why kill the children then? For the sins of the mother. But the days of that proverb are ceased. Jer.xxxi,29,30: "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge."
There is a promise made to some of the members of the Thyatiran church of the same nature as the one we noticed in the testimony to the Philadelphia church - a promise, the conditions of which relate to the closing up scene. Rev.ii,26. "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations." What does the expression, "the end," refer to in this testimony? I suppose it to refer to the end of the world. That is, that those members of the Thyatiran church that should continue faithful to the end of time, should participate with Christ in the work of subduing the nations. We say of this church as we did of the testimony to the Philadelphia church. The promise made to this church is proof positive that some of its members will continue to the end.
Suppose this testimony has its application only in Thyatira in Asia; that church has long since passed away with its members; but the end has not yet come.
In case we applied this testimony to a literal church in Asia, the end could only refer to the end of that church; but the end of that church could not come while any of its members were keeping God's works. Allowing that this church is to stand a little prior to the end, and some of its members prove faithful and continue to the end, then there is a promise made that they can receive. But if it is applied exclusively to a church that ceased hundreds of years ago, it amounts to nothing. Some one is to have power over the nations with Christ, and some of the members of the Thyatiran church are to receive that blessing; viz., those of them that would keep his works to the end.
Another objection which we considered of considerable importance against the view that the seven churches applied to seven states of the gospel church, was this: We claimed that the book given by the Father to the Son, [Rev.v,] was the book of the future, and as that book was sealed up when given by the Father to the Son, we concluded that till John saw those seals broken off, (in the vision of chap.vi,) the events of the future were closed up. And if the future was closed up till John had this vision of the breaking off of the seals, then the seven churches, as described in chapters ii and iii, could not relate to the future, but must apply to things that existed prior to the opening of that book. The whole force of that objection rests on the point, that the events of the future were closed up till John had the view recorded in chap.vi. But, we inquire, Was the future closed up till that time? Paul in nearly all his epistles had introduced events that reached into the future, even down to the coming of Christ and the resurrection. So had Peter, and described the course of those who would oppose the truth, even so minutely as to tell us their language. 2Pet.iii,3,4.
Now admitting that the book given by the Father to the Son was the book of the future, and that those events contained in that book were kept secret till the book was opened, the next question would be, Where and when began the breaking off of those seals? You will probably answer, Where John had the vision, recorded in chap.vi. But if that was the case, the events of the first seal were still closed up after they commenced to have their fulfillment. The events of the first seal are applied by most commentators as having their commencement with the commencement of the gospel church, when that church went forth in power, their mission being attended by "signs, divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost," and they, as represented by the rider on the white horse, "went forth conquering and to conquer."
But what happened at the time of the giving of this vision that should prevail with the Father, to then and there open the book? That which prevailed with the Father and gave power to open the book, was that the lion of the tribe of Juda (Christ) appeared in the midst of the four beasts, and four and twenty elders, as a lamb slain. We will admit that John had a view of the opening of the first seal as well as the others. The events of that seal were then transpiring and were among "the things that are," which we understand John was commanded to write. I understand that John's mind was carried back to the commencement of this chain of events, as his mind was carried back in other chains of prophecy; for the purpose of shedding light on the prophecy, and to give the commencement of those events. It does not necessarily follow, because John had a vision of the opening of those seals, that none of them were opened till he had had a view of their opening.
Daniel had a view in chap.7, of the lion with the other three beasts coming up out the sea. But we do not conclude from the fact that Daniel had a view of the coming up of the lion, that Babylon did not rise till Daniel had that vision; but we understand that his attention was carried back to the rise of that kingdom, in order that the student of prophecy may have the whole chain before his mind. So we understand in the testimony concerning the seven seals, John's attention was carried back to the first link in the chain of consecutive events in order that the chain may be complete. We understand the time when the events of the future were given into the hands of Christ to be made known to his people, was when he appeared before the throne as a lamb slain. He then shed forth the Holy Ghost upon his people which was to reveal to them the future. John xvi,13: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come."
By reading Acts ii,33, we find this promise of the Holy Ghost commenced to have its accomplishment on the day of Pentecost. "Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear." Here commenced the manifestations of the Spirit which were to show them things to come. John under the influence of that Spirit, through one of its manifestations was permitted to behold a portion of the events then future.
But we have already shown that some of the testimonies to those churches do apply in the future, and are given in such a manner as to show us that they have their fulfillment near the end of the world; therefore we have concluded that the seven churches cannot apply simply in Asia, but to seven states of the gospel church.
Having noticed thus far the objections to this subject, it may be proper to examine for a short time the chronology of the churches, or as you ask, see where one candlestick is removed and another takes its place. I understand that prophecies which are given without a definite time specified for their accomplishment, must be located by the fulfillment of the specifications introduced. This is the way we shall endeavor to locate the seven churches. The transition from one church to another is not the work of a day, or of a year; so it cannot be expected that we should show the definite day when one church runs out and another comes in. We should conclude that the new candlestick, in nearly every instance comes in by reform, which would make the transition occupy a short space. We understand that each church, or candlestick, when it comes in, is the true church of God; but when they apostatize from the grace of God, the light passes from them to another. The course of the truth is onward, and the Lord will have a people who will strive to obey him. If one class will not serve him, they are set aside and another raised up.
In each instance where a church is introduced, a work is laid upon them different from that in which they have been engaged. In some instances we understand the old candlestick is set aside when a new work is brought before the true church, and the mass reject that work and thus fall. But some might claim that this made two candlesticks stand at the same time. Well, while the light of one lamp is dying, that of the new one is increasing, and that has been the course in which the true church has progressed.
An objection was urged by us on the moving of the candlesticks. We supposed if the view was correct that the seven churches applied to seven states of the church, instead of there being seven candlesticks, there was but one candlestick in seven different positions. But I think this position is not involved in the view of the seven states of the church. There is a propriety in having seven candlesticks, instead of one candlestick in seven different places. Each of the seven churches are different, and are called out by different means, and have a different work to accomplish; therefore seven different candlesticks fitly represent them. We might claim with the same propriety, that one trumpet blown seven times, would answer the same purpose as seven trumpets; as we could claim that one candlestick in seven places would answer the same purpose as seven candlesticks.
Another query arose in regard to the removing of one candlestick and the placing of another, based on the testimony to the church of Ephesus: "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Allowing this view here advanced of the churches, to be correct, the Ephesus candlestick is removed when the Smyrna church was developed. But the Smyrna church is better than the Ephesus was in its decline. How did they become so? By repenting. But, (we said,) if they repented, the candlestick would remain. "I will remove thy candlestick . . . except thou repent." How is this? I think this matter is plain with a few moments' reflection. The fallen Ephesus church, we understand, were addressed by the appeal to repent. The mass did not heed, and the Lord brought in another candlestick. Doubtless a few in that fallen church were striving to serve the Lord, they heeded the testimony, left the fallen mass, came out in a reform, and constituted a new church, and one too started in a different manner from the apostolic. Therefore the propriety of a new candlestick, instead of the Ephesus.
The Lord says, "I will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent." Their place where they stood while they were a pure church was high; they enjoyed much of the favor of God. But after they had backslidden, except they repented they would be cast out of his favor, or in other words, cease to be his covenant people.