This doctrine states that each of the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3 are seven different church eras successively lasting until the return of Christ. Each church that holds this doctrine believes they are the Philadelphian Church because they believe *that* church is “more loved” and receives a better reward than the others. In addition, they believe anyone “not of their church” will suffer, while they are protected — so you are utterly foolish if you aren’t part of their church.
Might this prophetic theory be true? It could be true … BUT the Word of God does not declare that it is true. Meaning that you could never come to the concept of church eras from the Word of God you must read that theory INTO the Word of God.
When Jesus finished the Book of Revelation, he left John with the following words:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19
It would seem that Jesus didn’t want us to add or read our theories INTO His Words.
What meaning did Jesus intend?
Revelation 1:4 John, to the seven churches which are in Asia:
Revelation 1:10-11 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day(day when God acts and not a day of the week), and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11saying,“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churcheswhich are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
It seems if we let Jesus words explain the meaning, then the seven churches were existing churches in Asia in the first century. Those seven existing churches needed to hear this message – not just the church that represented the first era.
Lets provide an example to better understand how simple Jesus words were, and how appropriate they were to all the churches he mentions. Laodicea is the last church mentioned, and was an existing city on a trade route that had become rich along the way. We know this from history. The problem with Laodicea is that they had no water, so they had culverts cut in the rocks to bring water to them. Their water was known to be neither hot (as in a healing hot spring), or cold (as in a good cold spring) for drinking. When you tasted the water you just wanted to spew it out. Now lets see what Jesus said about them.
Revelation 3:14-22 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
Jesus uses their existing physical situation to describe their spiritual condition but He also states that He loves them because He is rebuking them. The promise at the end He leaves with them is that they will be in God’s kingdom with Him. It is the same promise that is made to all of the seven churches but stated in a different way each time. Just as the promise to Philadelphia (that they will be kept from the hour of testing) is not just to the Philadelphia church it is to ALL of God’s elect.
The ending sentence to each church is that anyone who can hear should hear the message to ALL seven churches. It is a wonderful message of hope and love from Jesus.
Everyone should easily be able to understand that this Revelation did apply 100% to seven existing churches in Asia in the first century. That is a simple fact.
Some will say though that Revelation is “prophetic” and writes also about the future, so what is wrong with acknowledging this as “eras”? You are right in that it does talk also about the last times. What is wrong with the “era theory” is that you are “reading your theory” INTO God’s word. You don’t get that theory from God’s word.
What is the result of adhering fanatically to a “church era” teaching? What you will always find, is that people become focused on being part of a church organization and being around a so-called “Apostle” or “leader”, a man … and they look down on all others because “they are special”. This attitude is against many Biblical injunctions like:
2Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Did Jesus want us to compare each church against another? or is the instruction, and the picture provided, a whole lot different?
Revelation 1:12-20 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, sayingto me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstandswhich you saw are the seven churches.
Who is the central character of this story? Jesus – He is the central figure that all else revolves around. He is the one that puts out a lamp, or accepts the church. He is the Saviour, High Priest and King, and He is the central figure that one needs to be accepted by, to inherit the promises to the churches. No one else matters. This is a different picture than the one most receive in a “church era” church, where they are scared about if they are “around the right people” or not, rather than if they are “personally right with God” or not.
There is another way to read Revelation, that does incorporate its prophetic value. Revelation *did* make a lot of sense to the church in the first century with respect to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the world power — but like many things in scripture, God often does things in patterns that fulfill a more final purpose in His plan. Many things about the return of Jesus (until the setting up of New Jerusalem) have not occurred. Therefore, we can assume that many things apply to the end time as well. This is seen as obvious, by most biblical fundamentalists, from a simple reading of the scripture.
“Church era” people also believe this, as they use the “Era theory” in describing what will happen with them, at the end of the age – their trip to a “place of safety”, or in wider Christianity, the “secret rapture”.
With this in mind, all the messages, for each of the churches, are valuable still to this day to ALL those who “have an ear to hear what the Spirit says to the seven churches“.
What about if Church Eras is something that God wanted to reveal in these last days to His church? In that case, he would have done it through a prophet, and it would have been absolutely true. It wouldn’t have needed to be “adapted” and “changed” along the way. The prophet would also be able to be tested. HWA, by the Biblical tests of a prophet, would be considered a false prophet. He was wrong dozens of times, and quite spectacularly in 1972. A true prophet is always correct, because he doesn’t “guess” and theorize.
If you have an “ear to hear”, you will focus on Jesus in the messages to the seven churches, and not on the salvation of a “church organization”.
Additional Booklet: Seven Churches of the Apocalypse
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