Much has been said and written about the seven churches which feature in what is known as the Revelation of Yeshua. Much too much, possibly. It is all part of an over-complication of the gospel which the church has been pursuing since the time of the Reformation. From whichever denominational persuasion you find yourself, you will have heard a preacher (or two) use the examples of The Seven to either reprimand or to encourage you. And, in that respect, The Seven are a very powerful resource in the hands of certain preachers.
I’m not intending to look at the symbolic side of what Yeshua had John write to The Seven – if you want to read about the symbolism on that particular subject, then you can read the series on Revelation by clicking here. But, I do want to look at the practical implications of what Yeshua said to them, and especially in the context of what we have been talking about so far in this series. What Christ had John write to The Seven can be seen as a snapshot of all other contemporary churches of the 1st century AD. But, the lessons which can be drawn from them, are certainly not exclusive to that era. Today’s church should really be taking very careful note of what is contained in the Revelation. Why? Because Yeshua’s instruction to John reveals the entire purpose for the book we call Revelation – and it wasn’t just a progress report on seven churches in Asia Minor. Here’s John’s commission:
“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” [Revelation 1:19 NKJV]
What does this mean? Yeshua was instructing John to write to The Seven and record, not only the state of things as they were back then, but what is to come. In other words, if The Seven are representative of the church throughout the ages, then the ‘things which will take place after this‘ refer directly to the end of days, and the role of the church in those last days.
Of course, there are many who don’t consider us to be at that sticky end of time just yet. They may be right. Until fairly recently, I had a tendency to believe that the forthcoming tribulation was a way off. Now that God has allowed the true identity of the anti-Christ and the counterfeit religion which will draw so many away from the true faith to be revealed, I am certain that we are much closer than any of us will dare to believe. I will leave you to do your own research on what I am talking about, but if you want to be pointed in the right direction, I suggest you Google an author named ‘Joel Richardson‘ or ‘Armageddon News‘ and take a look at some of the videos on their YouTube channels. Ask the Holy Spirit to grant you wisdom and discernment when you see what I am talking about. You might well be very surprised at what has been revealed.
In a way, it matters not how close we are to the end of days. The message which John records for The Seven in Revelation is deeply pertinent to today’s church. It is vital we understand the warnings and that we should be taking very close note of what Yeshua is still saying to the church. To His church. You will already know that of The Seven, there are only two churches which escape a telling rebuke from the Head of the church. They are there to be the model to which we must all aspire to. However, the other five show that a large percentage of today’s church needs to reform before it can aspire. Reform first. Then revival. The modern church has some kind of idea that if they keep asking God nicely, or they find some formula that works, then God will fill their pews with people. There is nothing in the entire Bible which would support such a notion. In fact, as the apostle Peter alludes to in his first letter, it will be the house of God which will face judgement before the rest of the world, so always having our house in order sounds like very prudent advice.
“For the time has come for judgement to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God.” [1st Peter 4:17]
You see, we who confess to being believers will be judged not on our sins – for we are forgiven those, but instead upon our response to the gospel of God. If we hear His word and fail to act upon it, will we be any different from the foolish man whom Yeshua describes in Matthew’s gospel?
“…whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock.
But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” [Matthew 7:24-27]
I am certain Yeshua is talking to the church when He said this – to those whom hear the gospel but fail to actually do the things it says. It doesn’t take much to realise just how self-assured today’s church is. There is a genuine lack of humility. And because we lack humility, we tend not to think that what Yeshua says actually applies to us. Why take the chance? Let’s do what Yeshua tells us – we know His words will bring us life. Let us look to what Yeshua said to The Seven and allow the Holy Spirit to challenge our hearts to reform.
I wrote in Part Twenty One that the whole region of Asia Minor was heavily influenced by pagan religion. It might be opportune to expand on that notion here because it goes a long way to explaining some of the language used by Yeshua when addressing The Seven. The background to paganism in the region will help for us all to understand the references Yeshua makes to subjects like the Synagogue of Satan and the Throne of Satan.
You may be surprised to learn that we need to go back some way, to ancient Babylon, in fact, to find the root of the kind of paganism found in Asia Minor. Although we can find different branches of pagan worship throughout the world, the true root of this false religion is to be found in ancient Babylonian, and can be traced back, usually by legend, to the person of Nimrod and his wife (who was also his mother), Semiramis. Under the influence of Satan, they deified themselves into the sun god and moon goddess. Over the centuries they have gone by many different names, but the names all point to the very same sun god of Ba’al, and the moon goddess of Ashtoreth. Nimrod and Semiramis had a child called Tammutz, which completed this counterfeit, unholy trinity. And, it was from this origin that all paganism was spawned.
All counterfeit religions have some kind of worship of Ba’al and Semiramis in one form or another. Here’s a list of some of the names by which they have been, and are still known (there are many others):
Ba’al – Solar Deity:
Ashtoreth – Lunar Deity:
Queen of Heaven
All these names are just different disguises of the same two demonic entities who are both ruled by their own king of gods, Zeus. Zeus is Satan to you and me.
Up until the fall of Babylon, as detailed in Daniel chapter five, Satan’s throne was firmly established at the headquarters of the mystery religion in the city of Babylon, and had been since before the Tower of Babel.
When God raised up Cyrus the Great of Persia to bring Babylon down and free the Hebrew people from captivity there, the priests of the mystery Babylonian religion fled and established themselves elsewhere. The place where they re-established their religion was the small town of Pergamon (or Pergamos) in what was then Asia Minor, and is now near the modern day Turkish town of Bergama, in the Izmir province. All of this is very well documented and you should have no problem finding any evidence you might need on the subject.
At Pergamon there was built a giant altar dedicated to Zeus, who is also Satan, and the town was known as the Throne of Zeus. Today this altar still stands but now it resides in Berlin in a museum commissioned by Hitler to house artefacts from ancient mystery religions. It is also the home of the Ishtar Gate recreated from the ruins of Babylon itself. Hitler, unsurprisingly, was obsessed with the mystery Babylonian religion.
The headquarters of the mystery religion of Babylon moved to Pergamon in 536 BC and remained there until the title of the King of Pergamon, or Pontiff Maximus, was bequeathed to the Roman Empire in 133 BC. Julius Caesar took up the title as part of his plan to introduce emperor worship when he made himself into a god. The title continues to be held today by none other than the Bishop of Rome. That’s the Pope to you and me. That, by the way, doesn’t make the pope the anti-Christ. We will cover such matters in a later instalment.
Besides Satan having his throne in this region, we also have the home of the moon goddess Diana. She was said to have fallen to earth at Ephesus in the form of a black stone. The stone in question is actually a meteorite. This meteorite is exactly the same type of black stone as worshipped at the Kabba, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In fact, throughout Asia Minor, that is modern day Turkey, you will still find the ancient sites of mystery Babylonian worship in a great many places. Just about every false god imaginable has been worshipped there. Today, the modern Turkish still worship the lunar deity, Diana, but it now is called Allah. Even the call of her worshippers which Paul was confronted with when a riot broke out in Ephesus (Great is Diana – see Acts 19:28) is today mirrored by those who proclaim ‘allahu akbar‘ – great is Allah. It is interesting to note that many of the kings of old who have borne the title ‘the Great‘ have been rulers of the kingdoms which you find mentioned in both Daniel and Revelation, such as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great.
You might note also that the flags of all Islamic nations bear the symbol of the crescent moon and the star to show their allegiance to Ba’al and Ashtoreth; the star representing the sun god Ba’al, and the crescent, the moon goddess, Ashtoreth. It may be of interest to you that before Mohammed declared Allah to be the one god, the Arabs worshipped at the Kabba Stone a total of 360 pagan idols – one for each day of the lunar year. Mohammed destroyed them all, apart from one – the black meteorite, today called the Kabba Stone. It is towards this stone which every Muslim in the world bows down and worships five times a day. However, back in the first century AD, the false or rather, counterfeit religion of Islam was still half a millennium away from conception.
Make no mistake, whichever false religion or doctrine you consider today, its roots are deeply imbedded in mystery Babylon. And this is why when Yeshua addressed The Seven we need to have the background to the culture in which He was speaking. It is prudent to note that He chose to speak to seven churches situated in Asia Minor and not those in Isra’el. The churches of Asia Minor stood against the very gates of hell itself, and were surrounded on all sides by pagan culture. Whilst we might not have much of the same pagan culture in today’s world, we certainly have the offspring of those mystery Babylon religions. And many of them are currently thriving in today’s churches. The modern church is not only surrounded by the present forms of the mystery Babylon religion, like some of the churches mentioned in Revelation, but it has managed to allow it to penetrate within the church.
Let’s take a look at what Yeshua said to each of the churches in order to identify His warnings about the mixing of the seed. Remember, if it was happening back then in AD 95, you can be sure that it is a whole lot worse today.
We see that even Ephesus, where Paul spent three years cultivating the good seeds of God’s word to the believers had, by the time the Revelation was given, fallen somewhat from its state of grace. Although commended for being able to test and expose false teaching, the Ephesians had somehow neglected that first love. I think Yeshua was referring to that child-like adoration which all new believers have for Him. But note, even here in AD 95, they are having to contend with self-proclaimed apostles and Gnostics (the Nicolatians) who were sowing the bad seeds of lies amongst them. The kind of lies to which I am sure Yeshua is referring, are those almost truths that sound plausible to believers. They sound as if God Himself might have said them. Just like it was in the garden when the serpent made Eve question what God had already said. That the believers of Ephesus were able to discern in this way is to their credit.
The group known as the Nicolatians is believed (various 1st century sources confirm) to have been founded by the Nicolas who was chosen by the disciples in Acts chapter 6. This group believed and taught that a higher spiritual consciousness could be achieved by indulgence in fleshy pleasures, such as sexual immorality and drunkenness. Paul’s earlier letter to the church at Ephesus, dated from around AD 60-61, warned the believers to walk in the light of God, and to not get drunk on wine but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you take a close look at the passage in question (Ephesians 5:1-21), it is clear that even back then he was concerned that the influence of the Nicolatians would take hold.
The Ephesians, despite the shortcomings which Yeshua clearly makes reference to, were still able to be a discerning church in that they knew what was God’s word and when false teachers tried to sow Satan’s pagan seeds amongst them, they were able to combat it.
Yeshua once more has good reason to commend His church for discernment when it came to false teaching. Here they were clearly being persecuted, and the likely source for that persecution would have been from the Hebrews who didn’t accept Yeshua as being sent by Yehovah. I suspect that the synagogue in Smyrna had a strong influence over the guilds of the town and encouraged them also to persecute the Christians. Satan was clearly able to influence the people from the synagogue. The blasphemy to which Yeshua refers could well have been against the Holy Spirit, just as described in Matthew 12:22-32, where the Pharisees accused Yeshua of driving out demons in the name of Beelzebub (another name for Satan). Yeshua points out that not only was it a nonsense to think that was the case, but also to call the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of Beelzebub, was a blasphemy that would never be forgiven.
There doesn’t appear to be any evidence of the synagogues persecuting any of the pagan temples, but there is plenty of evidence that they were involved in intense persecution of the church.
Whilst there was no real evidence of Satan’s pagan influence at Smyrna, it is clear that this church was able to discern and therefore, attempts at such infiltration were rendered pointless. When it comes to the tactics which Satan employs against the church, there are two main approaches. The first (which many refer to as Plan A) is the attempt to influence and beguile the church into wrong teaching and the practice of false religion. If that fails, Plan B is employed which isn’t subtle in anyway and is often revealed in violent persecution. That the church at Smyrna was suffering such intense persecution tells us that they were not prepared to allow any mixing of the seed.
Here, in the town where the Altar of Zeus stood, where rituals were performed daily in tribute to not only to Zeus, but to all the other false gods, stood the church of Yeshua. But they were failing to stand on God’s word, and were allowing the good seed of God to be mixed. I suspect that the reference to the martyr Antipas may have had a major influence over the believers and persuaded them to allow in false doctrine. The mention of Balaam may not have resonated with Gentiles unless they were well-versed in Torah, however, they would have known to which Yeshua was referring. He accuses them of knowingly consuming meat which has been offered to false gods and to sexual immorality. Much of pagan worship centred around these two practices. It is likely that they had allowed people from within their number to partake in such rituals, probably again relating to the work guilds. But there were clearly people among their number who actually held with the practices of Balaam.
Balaam was a hired prophet, employed by a pagan king to curse the nation of Isra’el. When he discovered that he was unable to curse the Hebrews, he showed the king how to bring about their downfall. Balak, the king, took Balaam’s advice and encouraged the Hebrews to intermarry with the Moabite women, which was expressly against God’s commands. Again, this is another example of the seed being mixed – God had said not to marry, and Satan had managed to influence them enough to disobey.
There is also another mention of the Nicolatians who advocated an extremely hedonistic approach, which today we would call Gnosticism. Unlike the church at Ephesus, who managed to reject this false teaching, it appears that the church at Pergamos actually embraced it, and were teaching its doctrine to others.
This church had not only failed to discern against false teachers, but they had actually welcomed them into the church. Once the seed has been mixed, a church of this nature is no threat whatsoever to Satan.
The reference to Jezebel is unmistakeable. You will find her account in the 1st book of Kings. She was the daughter of a noted pagan king who married Ahab, the king of Isra’el and killed God’s prophets before introducing pagan worship across the land. We learn from the record in 1st Kings that Ahab built a temple to Ba’al in the city of Samaria and that he also set up an Asherah pole on a high place in tribute to Ashtoreth. Once more Yeshua is warning against allowing the mixing of the seed within the church. It was clearly being tolerated at Thyatira. The mystery Babylon religion was actually allowed to profligate within the church there.
This church was divided between those who followed Jezebel, and her false teaching, and those who managed to withstand it and stand upon what God had already said.
This church had a clear faction within it. This fifth column tactic has Satan’s fingerprints all over it. It is clear that some didn’t hold to the teaching of Jezebel. Yeshua said that when it came to His church not even the very gates of Hell could prevail against it. This means that all churches have no excuse for letting in Satan’s false doctrines. None whatsoever.
Here’s another church with a mixed congregation – those who have not soiled their garments (presumably by not accepting false doctrine as being God’s word), and those who have. Yeshua reminds them to recall what they ‘received and heard‘. This is the gospel He is referring to. This means that we can always repent and return to what we had heard at first.
This church is dead. It might appear to be alive, but the word has already been mixed. It is the Church of the Tares. Only humility and repentance will see them saved.
Like Smyrna, the church at Philadelphia receives no rebuke from its Head. There is no reference to allowing a mixed seed to prosper. The reference to the Synagogue of Satan shows that both Plan A and Plan B had failed. The church had stood under both the subtle influence and the aggression which Satan had directed against them. James, in his letter, tells us that if we resist then the devil will flee. Here is the evidence of that in the church at Philadelphia.
This is the model for today’s church to aspire to. Full of love and faithful to God’s word. No amount of subtle influence could sway them. They were anchored in Yeshua, the immovable object. Notice that Yeshua says that even those of the synagogue will worship at their feet. That was Him saying that their stance will cause even the fiercest unbelievers or enemies to come and worship Yeshua alongside them.
Yeshua had warned His disciples that they couldn’t serve two masters. This church had taken this advice but chosen the wrong master. Riches and material items had blinded them. They had taken their wealth as a sign of divine favour and only true repentance could possibly save them. The gold to which Yeshua refers is humility and poverty. Unless they were prepared to humble themselves before Him, then they would be lost.
All of these churches can be found in today’s world. Whilst the influence of paganism would be said to have long passed by many, it is clear that it hasn’t passed at all. In fact, it has merely changed its disguise once more.
Satan continues to influence the church by sowing his seed amongst the good seed of God’s word. If a church is facing persecution, it is likely because they are standing on God’s word and rejecting false teaching. If a church is experiencing no persecution or trouble, then it is likely to be because it is causing Satan no trouble. The seed has probably already been mixed in.
Satan’s purpose has never changed. From the very beginning, he has always sought to undermine God’s word – first by subtle persuasion, and if that doesn’t work, then by a confrontational approach. Since the crucifixion, his attention has been entirely upon the church and trying to ensure that it doesn’t propagate in the way in which Yeshua designed it to do so.
Today’s church may try and convince itself that it is untouched by Satan’s influence, but when you hold up what is being taught to the light of Yeshua, it is very clear that much of it is not the gospel of Yeshua.
This was going on two thousand years ago and it is now even worse. Those preachers who are preaching an end-times revival have it completely wrong. Far from being a revival, there will be a great falling away from the faith. This apostasy has already started. Satan is making preparation for his coming counterfeit religion which is already propagating widely.
After his showdown with Ahab and Jezebel, Elijah ran for his life and was convinced that he alone remained faithful and true to God. Yehovah put him right on that subject by revealing to Elijah that He had 7,000 who hadn’t bowed the knee and kissed Ba’al. God was referring to the practice that Ba’al worshippers had back then – to bow in front of a statue dedicated to Ba’al and kiss its feet. The church might not realise it, but it has been bowing the knee for a long time kissing the feet of Ba’al. Just because it doesn’t look like paganism doesn’t mean it isn’t the very same influence.
God will always have a remnant, Today His remnant are those who reject any false teaching and stick only to what God has already said. Today’s false teaching appears to be close to the real thing, just as paganism may well have appeared to the nation of Isra’el when they first came across it in Canaan. They lacked discernment back then, just as the church does today. We need to get back to only accepting that which we know to be from God. Nothing else is acceptable to Him, and it shouldn’t be to us either.