AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Now I would like to present an overview of the twenty-two chapters of the book of Revelation.
Christ as the High Priest
Walking among the Golden Lampstands
The first chapter reveals seven golden, shining, pure lampstands. Christ our Savior as the High Priest in His long priestly robe is walking among the lampstands to trim them in order to make them shine brighter (vv. 9-20).
The Practical Condition
of the Seven Churches on the Earth
Chapters two and three portray the practical condition of the seven churches on the earth. The lampstands were bright, shining, of pure gold, and in the heavens, but on the earth their practical situation as the local churches was full of degradation.
The first church, Ephesus, left her first love for the Lord (2:4). The enjoyment of the Lord as the tree of life seemingly stopped, and the lampstand was close to being removed (vv. 5, 7).
The second church, Smyrna, was very good, but the persecution the saints suffered under the earthly empire was severe. Many of them were martyred. The Lord told them that they would have tribulation for "ten days" under the Roman Empire’s persecution (v. 10). The number ten signifies fullness. Ten days indicates prophetically the ten periods of persecution that the church suffered under the Roman emperors, beginning with Caesar Nero in the second half of the first century and ending with Constantine the Great in the first part of the fourth century. The Lord had no rebuke for the suffering church. He encouraged them to be faithful unto death so that He could give them the crown of life. With the second church, there was not chaos from within but from without. The earthly government persecuted the second church to the uttermost.
The third church, Pergamos, became a worldly church, a church married to a husband whose name is the world. This was fulfilled at Constantine’s time. Satan failed to destroy the church through the persecution of the Roman Empire in the first three centuries, so he changed his strategy. He sought instead to corrupt the church through Constantine’s welcoming of Christianity as the state religion in the first part of the fourth century. Through Constantine’s encouragement and political influence the church was married to the Roman Empire, that is, to the world. Since the church entered into union with the world, she dwelt where Satan’s throne is (v. 13). Satan as the ruler of this world (John 12:31) has his throne in the world, and the church became one with the world. With the worldly church, different teachings came in such as the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14-15). The worldly church lost the enjoyment of Christ in a hidden way as the hidden manna (v. 17). Thus, this church was filled with the satanic chaos and was under the rebuking of Christ.
The church eventually degraded further from being worldly to being Roman, as shown by the church in Thyatira (v. 18). The Roman Catholic Church with the teaching of Jezebel (v. 20) was fully formed as the apostate church by the establishment of the universal papal system in the latter part of the sixth century. The Roman Catholic Church is typified by the woman Jezebel, a self-appointed prophetess who presumed to be authorized by God to speak for God. The Bible, however, forbids any woman to teach with authority. The entire Roman Catholic Church as a female claims that it has the authority to teach. Those in Roman Catholicism follow what the pope says, what the church says, not what the Bible says, what the Lord says. The pope representing the church, not the holy Word and not God Himself, is the highest authority. Not only is the corruption of the devil present in the Catholic Church, but also the deep things of Satan, the satanic deep mysteries, are being taught (v. 24). What chaos there is in this church in apostasy!
The fifth church is the church in Sardis. The Lord told those in the church in Sardis that they had a name that they were living, yet they were dead (3:1). Everything related to this church was either dead or dying, and their works were not completed before God (v. 2). This describes the church in the Reformation. The reformed Protestant churches were very good as a reaction to the degradation of Catholicism, but eventually in the eyes of God, they were dead. Death implies weakness to the uttermost. The Protestant denominations are either dying or dead. According to Revelation 2 and 3, the Catholic Church is devilish, satanic, and heretical, and the Protestant churches are dying and dead. It is a statistical fact that many of the main line denominations are having very little increase and are even losing their members.
The sixth church is the church in Philadelphia (v. 7). Those in Philadelphia kept the word of the Lord, which is the word of His endurance (vv. 8, 10). The word of the Lord’s endurance is the word of the Lord’s suffering. To keep the word of His endurance, we must bear His rejection and persecution. Those in Philadelphia knew the Bible, the Word of God, and they kept it with all endurance. Furthermore, they did not deny the name of Christ (v. 8). The reformed Protestant Church denied the Lord’s name by denominating herself, taking many other names, such as Lutheran, Wesleyan, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc. The recovered church takes no name other than her Husband’s. Christ appreciated and highly appraised the church in Philadelphia. There was no chaos with this church.
However, yesterday’s Philadelphia has become today’s Laodicea. The main characteristic of Laodicea is lukewarmness (v. 16). Those in Laodicea may love the Lord, but not absolutely. The Lord told them that because they were lukewarm, He was about to spew them out of His mouth. They boasted that they were rich in knowing the truth, but they did not know their real situation. They did not realize that they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. The Lord also told them that He was standing outside the degraded church, knocking at her door (v. 20). Whoever would open the door, the Lord would go in to feast with him, and this one will eventually sit with the Lord on His throne in the kingdom age.
By looking at the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, we can see the chaos in the practical situation of today’s church. Thus, we see the heavenly vision of Christ in the midst of the golden lampstands in Revelation 1 and the earthly practicality of the local churches in chapters two and three.
(The Satanic Chaos in the Old Creation and the Divine Economy for the New Creation, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)