WARNING MESSAGE TO GOD'S ELECTBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
The opportunity that is presented to those who are called to the first resurrection is almost beyond comprehension. God the Father not only offers eternal life to those he calls to salvation in this age but also immortal life and great rewards and positions of service in his Family and Kingdom.
The quality of life promised by the Father is comparable to that which he has himself . The Father is a spirit being who inherently possesses the highest form of life: immortality on a divine plane of existence. Immortality is life that springs forth from itself and it is not dependent on any other source to sustain it because it is self-sustaining. The acquisition of immortality allows a person to pass beyond this physical existence into the Family of God. See 1.Cor.15:51-54; Rom.2:7; 2.Tim.1:9-10; 1.Pet.4:6; Rev.20:6.
Although immortality represents the highest reward that is granted for faithfulness to God, there is much more to immortality than floating around heaven playing harp music for eternity. God the Father has something far more spectacular in store for those who are found worthy to take part in the first resurrection. Some of the things that he has reserved for his first-born sons of his new creation include becoming joint-heirs and co-rulers with Christ, becoming Kings and Priests, and inheriting the Kingdom of God. These are only a few of the enormous and awesome rewards that the Father has promised to those he calls to salvation today:
"But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for his Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God" (1.Cor.2:9-10 KJV).
Commitment and Loyalty
Because the magnitude of the opportunity for eternal rewards in the Family and Kingdom of God during the Gospel age is so great, the Father and Jesus Christ require total commitment and loyalty from those who will become the first of the Father's new creation. No one who is unwilling to be obedient to his way of life will be allowed to enter his Family and Kingdom.
The Call to Salvation
The call to salvation and immortality during this age is a unique opportunity that has been carefully planned and directed by God the Father. Those called to enter the Father's Family and Kingdom at the first resurrection have an opportunity for glory, honor, and unimaginable benefits as the Father's first-born sons. However, those who are called and refuse to grow toward spiritual maturity and treat this great and awesome calling in a casual manner are in danger of losing the rewards that are promised for faithful service and their opportunity to live forever.
Although there are many scriptures that speak of the opportunities that the Father offers to those he has specifically called to salvation from the foundation of the world, there are also many that give serious warnings to those who forsake their calling. There are also many scriptures that give encouragement to those who are willing to make a diligent effort to secure eternal and immortal life.
Three of the major prophecies that contain both serious warnings and great encouragement are found in the books of Matthew, Luke, and Revelation. These three books speak of the opportunities that the Father offers to those he has specifically called to salvation from the foundation of the world, and they warn of the terror that awaits those who forsake their calling. Within these prophecies are the keys to overcoming the greatest obstacles that confront the elect of God. They are keys to obtaining spiritual knowledge, understanding, and strength to overcome one's self and the world in order to secure the eternal and immortal life that has been offered by God the Father.
A WARNING AND AN OPPORTUNITY
Although some of the information contained in these prophecies is shocking, painful, terrifying, and, in some ways, even discouraging, they contain a bigger picture of hope and encouragement to those who read and heed these serious warnings.
All the elect face trials, persecution, and correction by Jesus Christ in varying degrees, yet God the Father and Jesus Christ give tremendous support in order for us to successfully obtain salvation and participate in the first resurrection.
Notice what the Father and Jesus want for those called to salvation:
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise—,but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2.Pet.3:9 Para.).
Below are a few of the many encouraging promises that God the Father and Jesus Christ have made to the elect of God who take the time and make the effort to diligently and faithfully pursue a life of righteousness, service to God, and spiritual growth.
Trials of Life
"God is faithful, who will not try you above what you are able to endure, but will, with the trial, make a way to escape, so that you may be able to endure it" (1.Cor.10:13 Para.).
"Who comforts us in all our trials, that we may be able to comfort them who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God" (2.Cor.1:4 Para.).
No Fear in Love
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. . ." (1.Jn.4:18 Para.).
"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2.Tim.1:7 KJV).
Do all Through Jesus
"For I have learned, in whatever state I am, in this to be content. I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound;—I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13 Para.).
We Shall Reign with Jesus
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us" (2.Tim 2:12 KJV).
Press for the Prize
"If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. . ..I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil.3:11,13-14 KJV).
The Father and Jesus will Never Forsake Us
"For he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Heb.13:5-6 Para.).
"Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb.4:16 KJV).
Though severe trials and persecution may be required, God the Father and Jesus Christ will provide the strength one needs to come through them victoriously. It is their love that makes this possible. Claim that love and take action! As you study these prophetic warnings to the elect of God, remember the following scripture:
"All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works" (2.Tim.3:16-17 KJV).
THE SEVEN CHURCHESBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
In the Book of Revelation are many messages that contain vital information concerning life and death matters for the elect of God. If the Father has called you to salvation during this gospel age of salvation, these messages are for your benefit. They should be taken to heart, if you are serious about your salvation and eternal existence. How you grow spiritually and perform your responsibilities before God the Father and Jesus Christ in the times just ahead is in your hands. You can take the warnings in these two chapters to heart and be blessed or ignore them and suffer the consequences.
God the Father and Jesus Christ have designed a plan for the salvation of all mankind and within this plan, some people are offered an awesome opportunity to participate in the first resurrection, which is a better resurrection. All those who participate in the first resurrection are called to be kings and priests, and will be given immortality in the same way that God the Father and Jesus Christ have immortality.
Because the opportunity to participate in the first resurrection brings with it such tremendous rewards and responsibilities in the Family and Kingdom of God, it is extremely important to understand that God the Father will not give eternal life nor immorality to anyone who is unwilling to remain faithful, steadfast, and do the things that he requires.
A Warning to the Elect of God
The messages recorded in chapters two and three of Revelation are about the characteristics of the seven churches of God that will exist in the end of the age. These messages contain serious reprimands and dire warnings of severe correction of the elect of God by Jesus Christ. Each of the seven messages ends with the following admonition:
"He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches."
Unfortunately, during this age of God's church, the majority of those who have been called to the body of the elect are forgetting or have already forgotten the awesome meaning of their calling and responsibilities to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Most of them are in a sad state of spiritual decay and in need of a dramatic change in attitude and behavior before the arrival of Jesus Christ.
The messages of Revelation two and three clearly shows the severity of correction that will be needed to awaken many of God's people to their extremely dangerous situation. It is clear from these reprimands and warnings to the seven churches that Jesus will take whatever measures are necessary in order to stir God's people into action, so that they will not lose their salvation.
Therefore, if we are indeed living in the times just before Christ returns, it is imperative to recognize that nearly all the prophecies of the Book of Revelation are written in the context of the time of the end. Even if we are not in these times, these warning messages to God's people still apply and directly impact all whom the Father has called to be his elect children.
A Book of Revealing
The first thing we need to realize is that the Book of Revelation is a book of revealing, and most of it is written to the elect of God who live just before Christ's return. When Jesus gave this vision of revealing to the apostle John, he said:
"The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants [the elect] what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John" (Rev.1:1 Para.). He told John to, "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later" (Rev.1:19 NIV).
The prophecies in chapters two and three of Revelation show that all but about one seventh of the entire elect of God who live during this age will receive severe persecution, because God the Father and Jesus Christ find their attitudes, behaviors, and/or spiritual works unrighteous and unworthy of being rewarded with eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
In order to awaken errant individuals whom the Father has called to salvation to their serious problems so they can be saved from eternal death and enter into the Family and Kingdom of God, Jesus will bring a reprimand upon them in the form of severe persecution.
The warnings to the seven ancient churches of Asia are unmistakably meant for Christians of today and should be viewed as an extremely serious matter, because how you view these warnings will determine your eternal destiny.
TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
"I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forever, Amen; and have the keys of death and the grave. Write the things that you have seen, and the things which are, and the things that are about to occur. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw on my right, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks that you saw are the seven churches" (Rev.1:18-20 Para.).
This prophecy was given to the apostle John around 90 A.D., which was long after the early church had powerfully proclaimed the gospel. Most of what the apostle John saw in his vision was prophetic and for this present age. Although some of the information concerning the seven churches in Asia was meant for John's lifetime, it was prophetic and meant for future generations of Christians as well.
Those who first proclaimed the gospel as instructed by Jesus went throughout the world, but they made a point to go to wherever the tribes of Israel were scattered among the nations. These people did a great work and established many congregations of God who practiced the faith with varying degrees of zeal.
When the work of the early church was complete, the church vanished from the world scene as a powerful entity. From the context of what is recorded in the scriptures and secular history about the demise of the early church and what is written about the elect of God and these seven churches in the Book of Revelation, it is clear that these seven churches represent congregations of God and/or groups and individuals who exist as real entities during the time just before Christ's return.
Although all seven of these prophetic churches participate in the proclaiming of the gospel at the end of this age, all except one have major spiritual problems that, if not corrected, will bring the wrath of Jesus Christ upon them. In an attempt to cause these individuals to wake up to their sins and spiritual lethargy so that they will repent and be saved from eternal death, Jesus Christ will severely persecute them.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF EPHESUS
Notice that this message to the Ephesians is directly from Jesus Christ who walks among the seven churches and is the head of the church:
"To the angel [messenger] of the church of Ephesus write; These things says he [Jesus Christ] that holds the seven stars in his right hand,. . .. I know your works, and labor, and your patience, and how you cannot not bear them that are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars: and have borne, and have patience, and for my name's sake have labored, and have not fainted" (Rev.2:1-3 Para.).
Those who have the attitudes and behaviors of a spiritual Ephesian persevere, work hard, and try to keep false teachers out of the church. However, the Ephesians have a major problem that needs to be corrected:
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of its place except you repent" (Rev.2:4-5 Para.).
Although the Ephesians do not tolerate wickedness, are solidly against evil, and hate idolatry and immorality, they lose their first love, which is the love of the Father, his Son, his truth, and their fellow man. They become rigid to the point of self-righteousness and impose their own standards over God's righteous standards. They forget their awesome calling and the importance of the Father's royal law of love.
The Ephesians seem to forget that a major part of their calling and mission is to grow in grace, knowledge, and love for the things of God. They lose their intense love and zeal for God and have fallen into apathy at the final call to battle. Jesus warns them to rekindle their love and zeal for God and his ways or he will remove their candlestick. This is an extremely serious warning. Because the candlestick symbolizes the entire Ephesian group, Jesus is saying that he will remove them from among his followers. And because the candlestick also represents spiritual truth, he will also remove the truth of God from their hearts and minds; thereby, he will take away their eternal reward and position in the Family and Kingdom of God.
Today, Jesus Christ is saying that, if you do not repent and have a change of attitude toward your calling and return back to your first love, he will remove the spiritual light from your life. Without spiritual light a person dies spiritually and will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. Therefore, anyone who has accepted the Father's call to salvation had better take their calling very seriously.
Although the Ephesians do many positive things (Rev.2:6), they do not maintain their first love. As far as Jesus is concerned, they are not fit for his Family and Kingdom. Ephesians who let their love die as a result of becoming rigid in their belief system and their own way of doing things must repent or they will die spiritually and eternally:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Rev.2:7 NIV).
Those who overcome the trials and tests of this life, remain in a repentant attitude, and maintain their love and zeal for the Father and Jesus Christ, will have eternal life and immortality as portrayed in the eating from the Tree of Life.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF SMYRNA
"And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Smyrna write; These things says the first and the last [Jesus Christ], which was dead, and is alive; I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried; and you shall have tribulation ten days: be you faithful to death, and I will give you a crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches; He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev.2:8-11 Para.).
Once again, we see the positive aspects of these elect as they try to do things right. Yet some will suffer imprisonment and even martyrdom to test their faithfulness. This is a group of the elect that will face severe trials and persecution in the time just before Christ's return.
The English word tribulation is from the Greek 'thilipsis', which means crushing beneath a weight. The word poverty is from the Greek 'ptocheia', which means real destitution. Those of Smyrna are under much personal pressure and have virtually no material goods.
One reason for this poverty is the natural order of things, which can be seen in economically disadvantaged countries and the lower economic class of society as a whole. In the early church, the elect were impoverished as a result of persecution that caused them to flee to other areas. And sometimes their goods were stolen while they were being beaten in their own homes for their beliefs. The prophecies indicate that these conditions will also exist during the time just before Christ returns.
Some of spiritual Smyrna will suffer imprisonment for ten days (i.e., a limited length of time) during a time of intense persecution that will come to an end. However, in the ancient world, imprisonment was just a prelude to being executed. Thus, many of this group of elect may end up being persecuted and some will be imprisoned before being executed.
Christ is telling those of Smyrna that he and his Father demand absolute loyalty even in the face of death. Christ warns those of Smyrna not to give up but to remain steadfast in the faith and become overcomers through their persecution, imprisonment, and physical death in order to obtain the crown of eternal life.
In addition, Smyrna is filled with internal strife and persecution caused by those who are not truly converted. Instead of removing the cause of their trouble or removing themselves from the problem in accordance to clear scriptural instructions, many of those of Smyrna will suffer persecution from within and outside of the church.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF PERGAMOS
Historically, Pergamos was the administrative center of Asia, which meant that in the first century it was a center of Caesar worship for the whole province. This is why it is referred to as Satan's seat. Pergamos was a city where people were required to worship Caesar or die. Also referred to as Pergamos is a group of God’s people who live right in the center of Satan’s religious system:
"And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Pergamos write: These things says he [Jesus Christ] which has the sharp sword with two edges; I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan's seat is: and you hold fast my name, and have not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells" (Rev.2:12-13 Para.).
Jesus praises those of Pergamos for not being afraid to be called Christians and for holding onto the faith, even after one of their group was martyred for being faithful. However, notice in verses 14-16 what Christ has against some of them. Some held the teaching of Balaam who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating things sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality:
"But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So you also have them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come quickly to you, and will make war with them with the sword of my mouth" (Rev.2:14-16 Para.).
What is said about some of the elect of Pergamos can also be said about some of the elect today. Today's society is extremely promiscuous with many sexual perversions being accepted and practiced. And some of the elect of God, including their spiritual leaders, suffer from the same attitudes and behaviors found in ancient Pergamos. Because of this, Christ says that he will fight against those of Pergamos who do such abominable things. This is an extremely serious warning; Jesus Christ does not play games with a person's salvation. Therefore, any to whom this warning applies should take it very seriously and act appropriately.
Those of ancient Pergamos lived in an environment where Satan's influence, through false religions, was exceptionally strong and some of the elect had compromised God's standards in order to avoid problems with the society around them. Rather than having an attitude of coming out of this society and being separate as God requires of his elect children (2.Cor.6:17), they became a part of the evil society around them.
Christ warns that any of the elect who have an attitude of compromise concerning the truth of God during the time just prior to his return will find themselves at war with him. Remember that the word of God cuts as a two edged sword and causes division between those who truly believe and those who do not. Therefore, we can assume that division over what is right and wrong will cause great turmoil among those with the attitude of Pergamos. They will be persecuted by the world and warned by Jesus Christ of his intent to kill those of his church who refuse to behave righteously and avoid partaking of the evils of this society:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it" (Rev.2:17 Para.).
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF THYATIRA
"And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God [Jesus Christ], who has his eyes like to a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know your works, and charity, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first" (Rev.2:18-19 Para.).
Once again, Jesus offers much praise for the good done by this group of the elect; however, there is a very serious problem that needs to be corrected if they are to be successful in gaining eternal and immortal life.
"Not withstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searches the mind and heart: and I will give to every one of you according to your works" (Rev.2:20-23 Para.).
The problems within Thyatira did not come from outside the church; they came from within. They began with Thyatira's acceptance of the teachings of a woman who was thought to be a prophetess from God, but who in actuality was an evil person, as was king Ahab's wife Jezebel. This woman urged them to compromise in order to comply with the world's standards and thereby gain the acceptance of non-believers, advantage in business, and prosperity in other areas of life.
This false prophetess was not necessarily trying to destroy the church; she just wanted the elect to view the truth of God in a more liberal way than Jesus Christ and the apostles had taught. However, her teachings led to compromise, especially in relation to idolatry, which led to spiritual fornication.
Today, there is a very large Sabbath-keeping group that follows the foolish and dangerous teachings of a prophetess that came from within their group. Although these people carry on a dynamic, outgoing, and powerful ministry to the world around them, they are in deep trouble with Jesus Christ.
On the surface this church looks very productive by having good people with good works. Yet, they have compromised the truth of God. They are self-seeking and deceived because they have been following the false teaching of a false prophetess for many generations. Therefore, this is a serious warning to them from Jesus that their salvation is in jeopardy.
Many of Thyatira will receive the trial of fire because of their lack of zeal for the truth of God. Jesus will put them through great persecution and even martyrdom in an attempt to awaken them to their sinful condition and give them a final opportunity to repent. Jesus warns that he will kill the unrepentant in order to purge and purify his Father's sons:
"But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyratira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden (Rev.2:24 Para.).
Some of God's people have deliberately sought to do evil. But why? The teachings of the ancient Jezebel seemed to encourage sin, because one could repent and accept God's graciousness and make God look good. Many today have actually built this case by corrupting the scriptures and thereby turning God’s grace into a license to sin.
Although these people show service, faith, love, and perseverance, it is apparent that they desire to be entertained rather than instructed, to be soothed rather than corrected, and to be more of a social club than an educated congregation. If you went into this congregation, on the surface you would think this is a dynamic group with great works, yet they do not really want to be educated in the truth of God nor follow his spiritual ways.
At the center of Thyatira's problems is the acceptance of the teachings of a false prophetess and, perhaps, in some cases, a false prophet. Many of these people appear to be righteous but they will not easily give up their false teachings. This group has a problem of worshiping the Sabbath, which is idolatry. Moreover, they worship a person and their false teachings, which is idolatry and compromising the truth of God. To those of Thyatira who are carefully and zealously following the teachings of God, Christ says:
"But that which you have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that has an ear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches" (Rev.2:25-29 Para.).
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF SARDIS
"And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Sardis write: These things says he [Jesus Christ] that has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember, therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If you will not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis that have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy" (Rev.3:1-4 Para.).
Within the Sardis grouping of the elect, there are only a few who have not defiled themselves spiritually. The implication is that unless there is a major change in their attitude and behavior, most who have the attitude of the Sardis church will end up in the Lake of Fire.
The first time a person makes a serious mistake after their conversion, they may recognize this as a sin due to a weakness in their life. If a person deals with it at the time and resolves to change, the problem will be overcome. But, if one compromises themselves again and again, each subsequent compromise becomes easier and easier until self-delusion sets in and sin becomes an acceptable way of conducting oneself before God the Father and Jesus Christ. A person with the Sardis attitude does not truly believe that the wages of sin brings eternal death. See Rom.6:23.
The congregations pictured as Sardis do not appear to be troubled by heresy, because they do not have anyone among them who is thinking enough to come up with a heresy. They are so spiritually dead and so lazy that they just accept whatever doctrines seem pleasant and easy to comply with. They are just drifting along in ignorance to their plight and the serious danger that confronts them. This church is not likely to be troubled by an attack by Satan or any other outside source, because the truth is that they are so spiritually dead already that they are not worth attacking.
The warning to those of Sardis is that they had better quickly wake up to their deadly lethargy and watch out, because their salvation is in jeopardy. Christ also warns that within the congregations of Sardis there are only a few who truly love the Father and his Son and are following the ways of God. Jesus encourages these few to continue to be watchful and they will receive their reward. However, most of their brothers and sisters in Christ who appear outwardly to be spiritually alive but are spiritually dead, will die the second death in the Lake of Fire if they do not repent of their evil ways. Vigilance is really part of the price of liberty under Christ.
Christ is telling the lethargic elect of Sardis to think back to when they first heard the truth of God and the Father's good news about his Son and salvation and to remember the time of their spiritual awakening and their repentance and conversion to a son of God.
Most of Sardis are in great danger. They have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as their own and have known the Father; therefore, they are having their opportunity for salvation. But, because of their sins, they are on the pathway that leads to eternal death. That is why this warning is so severe. They have little or no will to prayerfully study God's word or to use it on a continuing basis to help them overcome their spiritual flaws. They are so self-deceived that they do not even realize that the little truth they have is slipping away and that they are in danger of losing their salvation.
Christ says in order to be among the overcomers whom he will accept, any with the Sardis attitude must awaken from the deadly lethargy and show some signs of repentance and change:
"He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white garments; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches" (Rev.3:5-6 Para.).
Those of Sardis are not fulfilling their responsibilities to grow in grace and knowledge nor are they fulfilling their commission properly. Most in Sardis are complacent and are not trying to live a righteous life. They have allowed the truth of God to slip away, and Jesus considers them spiritually dead.
Because they have stopped trying to overcome, Jesus sees no benefit in pursuing their salvation any further and will allow them to die if they do not make an effort to repent and live righteously.
Make no mistake, only the overcomer will keep their name from being blotted out of the book of life. Jesus says that any with the attitude of Sardis are on the verge of losing their eternal life because of a compromising, complacent, and lazy attitude toward the things of God and their calling. What a terrible accusation from our Lord and Savior. Those of Sardis have a reputation for being alive; however, they are in fact already spiritually dead.
Few from Sardis will pass the test of persecution, because they are lazy and uninspired by the awesome opportunity that they have been given to be among the first of humanity to enter the Family and Kingdom of God as immortal sons of God the Father. The elect of Sardis still have hope of obtaining salvation, if they will only repent and endure to the end with a righteous attitude.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF PHILADELPHIA
Only one of the seven groupings of God's elect children is used by Jesus to carry out the final dynamic preaching of the gospel. Although others of the elect may be given awesome gifts from God to work great miracles and perform a great witness, those of Philadelphia seem to be the only ones who are empowered with the gifts shown in 1.Corinthians 12:4-11, and Romans 12:6-8, in order to reach out to the world as a whole, both within the body of the elect and through world-wide evangelism:
"And to the angel [messenger] of the church in Philadelphia write: These things says he [Jesus Christ] that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name" (Rev.3:7-8 Para.).
Notice the emphasis upon having kept Christ's word and not denying Christ's name. In the Greek language, the verbs are in the aorist tense, which describes a definite, specific act in the past. The implication is that there has been some particular spiritual trial out of which those of Philadelphia have emerged victorious. It is for this reason that God uses and empowers them to perform a great work for him in the end of the age.
Part of the reward for having the Philadelphia attitude and behavior is to be given an extremely prominent position in the Family and Kingdom of God: a position worthy of great respect and honor:
"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and bow before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
Because you have kept the word of my patience, I will also keep you from the hour of trial, which shall come upon all the inhabitable earth, in order to try those dwelling on earth. Behold, I come quickly. Hold what you have so that no one takes your crown" (Rev.3:9-11 Para.).
Only those with the Philadelphia attitude and behavior are given a significant measure of protection by God. This does not mean that they are totally free from persecution or even martyrdom, but of all God’s children, they are the only ones who have major protection promised to them in order for them to proclaim the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God, whereas the rest of God's elect children will be severely reprimanded by Jesus Christ through the word of God and the persecution by Satan and the world at large in order to try, purify, perfect, and save them from eternal death.
"The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall not go out any more. And I will write the name of my God on him, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God; and my new name. He who has an ear, hear what the spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 3:12-13 Para.).
Those of Philadelphia may only have a little strength, their resources and numbers may be small, but they are faithful to God and his plan for the salvation of humanity. Notice, Jesus also said that they have kept his commandments; therefore, he will keep them. They are keeping God's word, the word of endurance. Those of Philadelphia try hard to practice the kind of endurance that Jesus Christ displayed. They are people who do not compromise; they endure and firmly keep in mind the goal that God has for them and humanity.
Those of the Philadelphia attitude and behavior are the only ones who have a completely positive description. They are faithfully keeping the word of God, they are not denying Jesus' name, and they are enduring patiently with persistence. Because of this, they are promised special protection against Satan in order to do a mighty work for God, yet there is a serious warning within the message to them.
Jesus Christ warns them to hold on to what they have, so that no one takes their crown. This is not an issue of theft; it is an issue of becoming unworthy to wear the crown. Jesus gives responsibilities, opportunities, and physical and spiritual gifts to each of the elect of his Father. If a person performs their responsibility, seizes the opportunity, and properly uses the gifts they have been given, they will be rewarded accordingly; they have a crown reserved for them to wear in the Family and Kingdom of God. But, if they prove themselves unfit, Jesus will give their task to someone else and they will lose their reward and perhaps their eternal life.
Seize the Moment
It is very clear that God wants all the elect to serve him in various ways. The point is that God watches for individuals and even groups of individuals who will take hold of a particular opportunity to serve him. If they act, God uses them in that responsibility. God the Father and Jesus look at each of those who have been called to salvation as individuals and, if they as individuals will seize the moment and take action, God will use them in his great and awesome plan for the salvation of humanity.
From what is written about the church of Philadelphia, it seems that this group of people are in the forefront of proclaiming the gospel message. Because they have a correct attitude toward God and are actively performing the task that they have been given, they receive no correction from Christ. In fact, they are spared from the hour of trial that comes upon the whole earth and will receive an incredibly awesome reward for their diligence.
THE MESSAGE TO THOSE OF LAODICEA
"To the angel [messenger] of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things says the Amen [Jesus Christ], the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I wished that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth" (Rev.3:14-16 Para.).
Of all the seven congregational groupings of God's elect directly spoken to by Jesus Christ, this group is the most pointedly condemned. They are neither faithful nor unbelieving; rather, they are completely indifferent. Their indifference to God's truth is sickening to Jesus. The Laodiceans are so self-satisfied that they think everything is fine and that they are doing great works. They view themselves as the recipients of great spiritual understanding, but they have practically none.
"Because you say, 'I am rich; and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold having been refined in the fire by me, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and your shame and nakedness may not be revealed. And anoint your eyes with eye-salve, that you may see" (Rev.3:17-18 Para.).
Here, we see a people who are so apathetic and lazy because of their perceived knowledge and spirituality that they are in danger of being cast away from God. They are self-deceived into thinking that they are spiritually rich; however, they are not. Christ is giving them their last opportunity to repent and become zealous for God. If these people will hear and heed what he is saying, he will again establish fellowship with them. If not, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the unrepentant wicked.
Christ is searching for people that want him and his Father to be a major part of their life. He says he is at the door knocking, hoping the wayward elect will let him back into their hearts and minds. But he will not force his way into their lives. These individuals have to make a decision to repent of their nauseating quality of being spiritually lukewarm, self-satisfied, complacent, and in need of nothing.
Their indifference has left them self-deluded and they do not realize they are spiritually poor, miserable, wretched, blind, and naked. Those who lead such a people and do not themselves repent are in deep trouble. Those individuals have an attitude of having it made, but have no real commitment for spiritual growth. They feel secure as long as they associate with a particular group (i.e., success by association). That kind of attitude leads to indifference and complacency, which Christ severely rebukes. He will bring fiery trials in order to bring those with such an attitude to genuine repentance:
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous then, and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock; If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in to him, and I will dine with him and he with me" (Rev.3:19-20 Para.).
The Greek word 'elegchein', which is used in connection with the rebuke of those with the Laodicean attitude, means a severe rebuke that compels a person to see the error of their ways. Christ is showing, in an extremely strong way, that some of the elect who are in this decadent condition can expect extremely severe trials that come directly from him.
Because of their self-righteous attitudes, Jesus says they will be tried in fire. A Laodicean needs a major attitude adjustment in order for him to be used by God, and allowed to enter the Father's Family and Kingdom. This is why Jesus has to deal so severely with them. God the Father and his son are extremely merciful. If a Laodicean repents, he will be forgiven and welcomed into the Family and Kingdom of God:
"To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I 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" (Rev.3:21-22 NIV).
The messages to the seven churches are not only meant to be a severe reprimand from Christ, but are also meant to give hope and encouragement. For those who do not heed these warnings, there is death and dishonor ahead. For those who heed them, there is eternal life and immortality in the Family and Kingdom of God.
God the Father and Jesus Christ are in the process of molding the body of the sons of God for an awesome and dynamic spiritual work to be done at the end of this age. But not everyone that is called to this dynamic work will be in one united congregation. There are seven distinct groupings of the elect shown to exist during the times just prior to Christ's return.
Because each of us stands or falls to a certain degree based on our association with other people, each of us needs to recognize if we have any of the unrighteous attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics that Jesus warns the seven churches about. We also need to recognize if we are associating with individuals or congregations of God that exhibit these unrighteous traits. Because, if we do not recognize these things in time and take the appropriate action to repent and remove ourselves from sinful people who refuse to change their ways, we will find ourselves in jeopardy of losing our own salvation and we will be the recipients of strong correction from Christ in the form of severe persecution.
A Time of Great Trouble
Any of the elect of God who are alive during the time of the end and who think that they will live out their lives in peaceful co-existence with non-believers while Jesus Christ pours out the wrath of God upon a wicked and rebellious world are not in touch with reality.
The battle lines have already been drawn, the hour of conflict is set, and the warning messages to the seven churches shows that unrighteous attitudes and behavior have rendered all but one-seventh of the elect of God ill-equipped and unfit for spiritual battle.
It seems that only a few of the elect understand the seriousness of the times that we live in and the things that God the Father and Jesus Christ require of them. Most of the elect think everything is just fine. But things are not just fine; this is why Jesus will pour out his wrath on all but one- seventh of those of his church. Make no mistake, Jesus would much rather see those who need to repent do so without having to be corrected through trial and persecution. However, because Jesus loves us deeply, he will attempt to shake the lazy, the lethargic, and the sinful out of their sleep of death with strong persecution and trials of fire, in the hope that they will awaken to their terminal condition and repent.
The Core Issue
In today's world, the elect are continually bombarded with evil from the world around them. Many have allowed themselves to become influenced by wrong values and have compromised themselves and become blind to their sins.
It is easy to see how wrong attitudes, behaviors, and characteristics of the seven ancient churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation exist within various individuals and congregations of God scattered throughout the earth today. We can almost say, in a sense, that the die is already cast and that birds of a feather have flocked together. It is also easy to see why these attitudes and behaviors bring severe correction upon God's people from Jesus Christ who is the head of the church.
Separate from the World
Although all seven churches suffer great persecution for the truth that they believe and practice, the general admonition to all of God's people is to come out of and remain separate from the things of the world that can pollute one spiritually:
"For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues" (Rev.18:3-4 Para.).
Because of the increased activity of evil spirits during the time of the end, there will be great religious confusion (especially concerning the teachings of the Bible). As people become more and more confused as to what is right and wrong, God's people who are not diligent in their pursuit of righteousness will be drawn into evil behavior and compromising attitudes; thereby, they will lose the love and zeal that they once had for God.
Jesus often spoke to the disciples about the need to perform the task that they had been given concerning the gospel and the persecution and rewards associated with its proclamation:
"And when he had called the people to him along with his disciples, he said, Whoever desires to follow me let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever will save his life shall lose it; but whoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whoever shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mk.8:34-38 Para.). See also 1.Pet.3:14-17.
It is sad to say that of the seven church groups noted in the Book of Revelation that exists today, only one is found to be totally committed to the Father and Jesus Christ and their ways. The other six are in varying degrees of rebellion and disobedience to the Father and Jesus Christ and the truth of God. Make no mistake, the Father and Jesus Christ are solidly against the tolerance of evil. They want the elect to either repent and remove the evil from among them or remove themselves from the evil.
During these times before Christ's return, there are two primary questions that each of us who is a son of God needs to answer in reference to the messages in chapters two and three of Revelation:
1. Is God the Father's calling to be part of his family and the kingdom of priests truly my first priority?
2. Am I going to be responsible for my life and my conduct and consistently strive to overcome my faults through the spiritual power that God has made available for me to draw upon?
"Truly I say to you, There is no man that has left his house, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wife, children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel's, But that he shall receive an hundredfold now and in this time houses, brothers, sisters, mother, children, and lands, and with them persecution; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mk.10:29-30 Para.).
Terrifying and dynamic things are going to occur in the world during the proclaiming of the Father's good news to humanity just before Jesus Christ's return as the conquering King of kings. The elect need to heed the warning: "He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit (Jesus Christ) says to the churches". The eternal destiny of each individual whom the Father has called to salvation and that is alive at this time hangs in the balance. Be a person who has an ear to hear what Jesus Christ is saying to all the Father's elect children. If your heart is right with God, you do not need to fear a severe reprimand from Christ, nor should you be anxious about your salvation.
May our God help each of us to contemplate the seriousness of the messages to the seven churches and heed the reprimands and warnings that have been given to us in them, so that we may be overcomers and inherit the awesome rewards and promises made to us by God the Father and Jesus Christ.
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINSBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
The parable of the ten virgins in the 25th chapter of Matthew contains lessons for all of God's elect children regardless of when they are called to salvation. This parable is easily understood as a prophecy for the end of the age, because it is set within a group of parables in which the only subject matter discussed is Christ's return and those who will be allowed to enter the Family and Kingdom of God at that time.
MATTHEW 25:1-13 NIV
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep" (vs.1-5).
"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 'No, 'they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut" (vs.6-10).
"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' But he replied, ' I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour wherein the Son of man comes" (vs.11-13).
Because the fulfillment of this prophetic parable will clearly be in the end of the age when the elect of God are anticipating the return of Jesus as King of kings, it seems to be very much a part of the warning message that is given to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. Therefore, it is important to examine this parable in detail along with other parables concerning the same topic in order to discover an extremely valuable lesson for the elect of God today.
"At that time [the time of the end] the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins [the Father's elect children] who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom" (v1).
It is very clear that the ten virgins represent a significant part of the entire body of elect. Because of the warning messages in Revelation 2 and 3 to the seven churches of God, which will exist just before Christ's return, it appears likely that the ten virgins represent all the elect that exist during the end of the age, except for those of the Philadelphia church.
Perhaps the reason that there are ten virgins divided into two groups is the numerical meaning of the numbers 10 and 5 as they apply to biblical symbolism. The number 10 is symbolic of the law of God and the number 5 is symbolic of God's grace. It is also a biblical fact that no one will enter the Family and Kingdom of God who is unwilling to practice the law of God, and even then, entry is only granted to those whom the Father calls to salvation through his grace.
The parable indicates that all of these people knew that the banquet would occur very soon and they were looking forward to the arrival of the bridegroom (Jesus Christ at the first resurrection) and participating in the celebration after his arrival.
The Wise and the Foolish
"Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps" (vs.2-4).
Jesus immediately separates those who are awaiting his return into two types of individuals: the wise and the foolish. Notice that all the virgins began their wait with full lamps, which seems to indicate that they all had anticipated that they were going to have to wait in the darkness for some time before the bridegroom came to bring them into the wedding banquet. Also notice that the wise anticipated that they might have to wait far into the night before the bridegroom came; therefore, they brought extra oil in order to keep their lights burning as long as necessary.
Because being wise or foolish is clearly associated with the necessity of keeping the lamps burning, we need to understand the symbolism of the lamps:
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psa.119:105 Para.).
Here, we see that a lamp symbolizes the words of God (i.e., the truth of God) which lights one's pathway through life.
"My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching [allegorically referring to God the Father and Jesus Christ]. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life" (Pro.6:20-23 Para.).
Here, we see the lamp as the laws, precepts, and principles of God that are to guide a person in the righteous way of life.
The primary emphasis in verses 2-4 is upon keeping one's lamp lit (i.e., making sure one has enough of God's truth to light one's spiritual pathway), because, if one's lamp runs out of oil, one is left in spiritual darkness and will be unable to find one's spiritual way. Jesus considers anyone who lets their light run out of fuel foolish and undeserving of entrance into the Kingdom of God.
"The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep" (v5).
Notice that each of these who are considered to be one of the ten virgins falls asleep. This is very important because it tells us who is considered one of the ten virgins within the body of Christ. When one reads the warning messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, it is very clear that only one of the seven churches that will exist in the end of the age does not go to sleep (the Philadelphia church).
Nowhere in the message to the elect of Philadelphia do we find them pictured as being asleep. On the contrary, they are shown as being the zealous elect who are commended for faithfully keeping the truth of God and upholding the name of Jesus. Thus, it is clear that the parable of the 10 virgins is talking about the rest of the elect who are all spiritually asleep just before Christ's return and the first resurrection.
What happened during the first age of the church is an example of what we see today among most of the elect of God. As time went on and Christ did not return to establish his Father's Kingdom on earth, many became apathetic and went to sleep spiritually. History shows us that because of spiritual lethargy the early church disappeared as a united powerful entity. However, throughout the centuries, there have been a few among the elect of God who have kept awake while the great majority have gone to sleep.
Although it is not stated in this parable, it is clear from Revelation 2 and 3 and other prophecies in the Bible that the Father actively calls many people to participate in the first resurrection in preparation for the return of Christ. It is these elect who are spoken of as the ten virgins who fell asleep. They are the ones who once looked for Jesus Christ's return with great excitement, zeal, and anticipation, but have fallen asleep spiritually
The Twentieth Century Christian
If this is truly the end of the age, this parable clearly fits the circumstances today among individuals who have been called to salvation among the various congregations of the true God. Since the middle of the twentieth century, the vast majority of the body of the elect have thought that Christ's return was very near and would happen before the end of the century. Many people thought that he would return no later than 1975. When it became apparent that this was not going to happen, many of the elect, except those of the Philadelphia church, went to sleep. In other words, they believed that "The Lord delays his coming" (Lk.12:45).
The foolish became apathetic and went back into the ways of the society around them. Many of the elect ceased to associate with an organized congregation, believing that they would worship God by themselves. But, what many were really doing was abandoning their calling. Many of these people stopped observing the Passover, the annual festivals, and the Sabbath and they even began observing pagan holidays again.
Others held on to the basic truth they had learned and they continued to be nominal Christians who still attend Sabbath services and fellowship with one another. But, in reality, most have stopped growing in grace and knowledge.
During that same period, the Philadelphia group maintained their faithfulness, diligence, study, and prayer relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. And they continued to be overcomers. The Philadelphians never went to sleep. These individuals based their faith on the Father and their Savior Jesus Christ, not on men or organizations. These individuals are rooted in the calling that comes from the Father and in the salvation that comes through his Son, Jesus Christ. They recognize that their calling transcends human beings and organizations.
Those that God considers the Philadelphia elect continue to maintain a positive relationship with the Father and his Son. This is why Jesus Christ is going to use them in a major way to proclaim his Father's good news message as a warning and a witness to the world in the end of the age.
The Midnight Cry
"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him" (v6).
This midnight cry will happen very close to Christ's return (perhaps only 3½ to 6 years prior to his return). It is a warning message to the elect of God throughout the earth to awake out of their spiritual slumber and repent of their wrong attitudes and behaviors and pursue their calling to salvation with zeal, because Jesus Christ is about to return as Conquering King.
Who Gives the Midnight Cry?
But who will give the alarm to the elect of God? There is a high likelihood that the ones who give this warning are the elect who are of the spiritual church of Philadelphia, because they are the only ones who have not gone to sleep and have been promised an open door to preach the gospel.
This cry of warning follows the pattern of all the warnings given by prophets to God's people throughout history. God never lets his people go into severe trials without a resounding warning and an opportunity to repent. The issue here is a very serious one. It is an issue of salvation or the Lake of Fire. This is not a minor reprimand or chastisement. This is an issue of whether one will respond to the warning, repent, and return to the faith once delivered and return to God the Father and Jesus Christ in a proper attitude. The window of opportunity for true repentance seems very short. It appears likely that there will be little time to get one's spiritual house in order before the door to salvation is shut forever.
All of the Elect Hear the Cry
In verse seven, when the cry went out to warn that the bridegroom is coming, "All the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps" (v7). Notice that they all woke up; they all truly realize the seriousness of the situation and begin to prepare to meet Jesus Christ. This is encouraging because it shows that Jesus Christ will make sure that all who have been called by God the Father to salvation will get a wake up call.
The Wise and the Foolish
This parable clearly shows that when the midnight cry goes out, there will be a very quick separation made between the wise and the foolish, based on attitude and behavior. This parable also clearly shows that as many as half of the elect who compose six of the churches noted in Revelation 2 and 3 are not going to make it into the Family of God.
It appears likely that when the cry rings out, the wise who have hung on to enough of the basic truths of God will see the seriousness of their situation and respond correctly by repenting of their poor attitude and behavior toward God the Father and Jesus Christ. Although they repent, they will still experience severe persecution and trials at the hands of the evil Beast System and Jesus Christ in order to help them revitalize their relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ.
"The foolish ones said to the wise, Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out. No, they replied, there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourself" (vs.8-9).
These foolish Christians have allowed themselves to become spiritually weak and lethargic. They have not kept the truth of God alive in their hearts through diligent study and meditation on God's word and constant communication with the Father. They have not done the things that are required in order to keep the light of God burning brightly in their lives. They have no reserve of spiritual strength to rely upon in this time of stress. In desperation, they hope that an association with those who are in a better spiritual condition will get them into the Kingdom. These people have forgotten the admonition by the apostle Paul to the Philippians to "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil.2:12).
The five foolish have allowed their calling and their understanding to erode and they have gone so far back into the world that they cannot make the transition from unrighteousness to righteousness. They have ignored God's truth and ways too long and have become cold toward God. What they have done is reject an opportunity to repent because they have become so self-willed that they have quenched the spirit of God within them, they have adopted the standards of the world, and they have, in fact, sentenced themselves to the Lake of Fire:
"But while they [the foolish Christians] were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom [Christ] arrived. The virgins who were ready [the wise Christians] went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut" (v10).
When Jesus Christ arrives at the time of the first resurrection to gather the Father's elect children and returns to heaven with them, the opportunity of salvation will have come to those who have been called during the gospel age. It is to late for anyone who has ignored the Father's call to enter his family and kingdom as a first-born son of his new creation.
Too Little, Too Late
"And the door was shut. Later the others also came. Sir! Sir! they said. Open the door for us! But he replied, I tell you the truth, I don't know you. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour wherein the Son of man comes" (vs.10-13).
This is clearly speaking of Jesus Christ's return to gather the elect of God at the first resurrection. Those who are wise will heed the midnight warning cry and become overcomers in the faith through trials and persecution. Thereby, they will become worthy to participate in the first resurrection and partake of the heavenly banquet with Jesus Christ.
The door being shut implies that the other virgins are excluded from the Kingdom of God and are no longer considered the elect of God. Once the elect are gathered from the earth, there will no longer be a person alive on earth who has the spirit of God within them. This is why Jesus says to the foolish virgins, "I don't know you." They no longer have the spirit of God available to them and they have lost their opportunity for salvation, which means that their fate is the Lake of Fire, because they were called of God but they did not remain faithful.
The sad truth is that, if one allows themselves to get into the condition pictured by the five foolish virgins, there is no hope of salvation. In other words, one needs to take positive action today, because when the midnight cry goes out, it is too late to start over again. Today is your opportunity to repent and return to the truth of God and to reestablish your relationship with both God the Father and Jesus Christ. Tomorrow may be too late.
There are many parables similar to the parable of the ten virgins in which Jesus puts forth the same dire warning message to the Father's elect children during the time just before his return. Because of the seriousness of this subject we will explore some of these other parables as well in order to show that it is far better to heed the warning now, accept the truth contained in these parables, repent of wrong attitudes and behaviors, and start to grow in grace and knowledge, while there is still time.
READINESS AND WATCHFULNESS
Luke 12:35-40 seems to be a part of the parable of the 10 virgins that was recorded by Matthew. Even if it is not, it still expands on what Jesus said about being ready to participate in the first resurrection:
"Let your loins be girded [active and faithful readiness] and your lamps [the truth of God] burning [be living in truth]. Be as men [zealous elect of God] who wait [be ready] for their lord [Jesus Christ] to return from the wedding [wedding feast] so that when he comes and knocks they will open to him" (vs.35-36 KJV).
The English words 'to return' and 'from' in this text are from the Greek words 'analuo' and 'ex'. They can be translated to mean 'to leave' or 'to return' and 'out, of, by, from, or away from' and may also indicate a 'source, cause, separation, or direction'.
The translators' difficulty in translating the last part of this text is due to their lack of understanding the plan of God in relation to the events that surround the first resurrection and Jesus Christ's marriage to the church.
He is saying that a person should always be ready to respond quickly to the truth of God (have your lamps burning) when Jesus knocks at the door of one's heart and mind.When one understands that this parable speaks of being ready to participate in the first resurrection and the attending celebration, and that the ancient Jewish custom extended the marriage celebration over several days (a whole week in the case of a virgin), and the celebrating sometimes went far into the night, it becomes apparent what Jesus is saying by using the analogy of a wedding and its attending celebration.
Just as with any invitation to a wedding banquet, not all of the guests receive the invitation at the same time, nor do all of them arrive at the wedding banquet at the same time. This is the situation of those who have been called to salvation during the gospel age. However, when a wedding and its attending banquet is finished, it is finished, and those who do not get there in time will not have another opportunity to participate.
In this parable we see that the invited guests (the elect of God) should be ready to participate in the first resurrection and its attending celebration. We also see the bridegroom (Jesus Christ) actively encouraging those who have been invited to come and participate in the banquet.
At the end of his warning messages to the seven churches Jesus says:
"Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and I will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes I will grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev.3:20-21 Para.).
The key to securing salvation is to immediately respond in a positive manner when one comes to the understanding that one is out of alignment with the word of God and in need of repentance and forgiveness. This is exactly what the wise virgins do when they are awakened from their spiritual slumber; they hear the warning and immediately refill their lamps (they make sure that the light of God's word will continue to light their pathway). The filling of the lamps also indicates that a wise Christian will use the light they have to grow in grace and knowledge, whereas the foolish will not.
Blessings Come From Watching
"Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes shall find watching He will have them sit down and eat as he serves them" (Lk.12:37 Para.).
Active watching involves responsiveness, faithfulness and effort. Why is a Christian blessed for watching? The reason is that if one actively watches (i.e., attends to the business of growing spiritually) one will be blessed with all of the things that are promised to those who participate in the first resurrection. Verse 37 is also a clear reference to the righteous being given rewards in the Family of God by Jesus Christ after the first resurrection and the wedding supper of the Lamb.
"If he [Jesus Christ] comes in the second watch or the third watch [delays his coming] and still finds them watching, blessed are those servants" (Lk.12:38 Para.).
Who is watching? The Philadelphia grouping of God's people appear to be the only ones who have been consistently and faithfully watching. When the rewards of the Philadelphia grouping are examined, one can easily see how blessed these particular servants will be at the return of Christ. See Rev.3:12.
In a broader sense, this blessing also applies to the wise Christians (the five wise virgins) who are among the other six groupings of elect described in Revelation 2 and 3 who receive severe correction from Christ. Even though Christ's return appears to be delayed to the second or third watch, he does come and finds the wise watching, because they have heeded the midnight warning cry. Because the wise were actively watching and had a reserve of oil to keep their lamps burning, they are also blessed. When the rewards of those who heed the warnings to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are reviewed, we see that they are also given substantial rewards along with eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
"Be therefore, ready, for the Son of man [Jesus Christ] comes in an hour when you are not expecting him" (v40 Para.).
One must be consistent in one's faithfulness and dedication to the Father and Jesus Christ, because none of us knows the hour when Jesus Christ will come. And we are each but a breath away from death. And when we die, our fate is sealed. If we have been faithful to the very end of our life, we will be in the first resurrection and will be rewarded accordingly. However, if we have been unfaithful in our walk with God, we will be punished for our wickedness in the Lake of Fire, which is the second death.
The point is that it is necessary for anyone who is called to salvation to be ready, consistent, and faithful at all times. Remember, it is the person who overcomes to the end that is saved. Whenever that end comes for us, whether we die tomorrow, are martyred for our belief in the Father and his Son, or live until the return of Jesus Christ, it is the consistent overcomer who secures eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
THE FAITHFUL AND UNFAITHFUL STEWARDS
Luke 12:42-48 Paraphrased
Just as the parable of the ten virgins in Luke 12:35-40 speaks about being a watchful servant, the context of the parable of the faithful and unfaithful stewards is also set in the time of the end of the age just before Christ's return at the first resurrection.
Jesus says, "Who is that faithful and wise steward [a servant of God] whom his Lord [Jesus Christ] shall make ruler over his household?. . . Blessed is that servant who his Lord [Jesus Christ] when he comes shall find so doing. The Lord [Jesus Christ] shall make him [the elect] ruler over all he has" (vs.42-44).
Here, Jesus gives the keys to understanding what is required in order to be one of those who are blessed at his coming. The keys that will help to secure one's place in the first resurrection are faithfulness, wisdom, and perseverance in one's walk with God.
"But if the servant [the elect] says in his heart, the Lord delays his coming [which all ten of the virgins did] and they begin to beat their fellow servants, and they eat and drink and get drunk. The Lord will come in the day when he is not looking for him, . . . and the Lord will cut him apart and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers" (vs.45-46).
A person who becomes lazy in his walk with God, goes back into the world, or becomes abusive to others within the body of the elect will be cut off from God. This happened during the first age of the church and even some of those in leadership roles fell prey to this kind of attitude and behavior and began to abuse their brothers and sisters in Christ and to eat and drink with the drunken. This pictures sinful conduct that is associated with going back into the ways of the world. It is sad, but true, that this type of sinful behavior can easily be found among the elect of God today.
Being cut asunder and being seen as an unbeliever alludes to the punishment in the Day of The Lord, when Christ will punish the unbelievers with severe trials of correction, which will often result in their death:
"That servant [one of the elect] who knew his lord's [the Father and Christ] will, and did not prepare, neither did his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But if he did not know [understand or was ignorant], and did things worthy of stripes he shall be beaten with few. For to whom much is given much is required. . ." (vs.47-48).
The context of verses 47 and 48 concerns the difference between knowing and not knowing what one's responsibilities are before God the Father and Jesus Christ. Those who know what the will of God is for their lives and do not faithfully practice what they know to do will be severely punished by Jesus Christ. However, those who are ignorant of what is required will receive a lighter punishment because they have not set their will against God. Nevertheless, the ignorant servant does not receive a lighter punishment because he is guiltless of sin, but because he is not guilty of blatant and willful sin. Instead, he is guilty of being lazy and faithless in pursuit of the will of God in his life.
The point in verses 47-48 is that as a called-out-one, the more a person knows about the will of God for their life, the greater the requirement is to do the will of God in a righteous and diligent manner before the Father and Jesus Christ. Whether people have a great or a small amount of spiritual knowledge, they are expected to diligently pursue the Father's will in their lives.
Things Which Cannot be Borrowed
Concerning the parable of the faithful and unfaithful stewards in Luke 12:35-48, William Barclay states that a Christian must live their life as if Christ is coming at any moment, and that a Christian must never feel that there is plenty of time to start being a Christian:
"No man can tell the day or hour when eternity will invade time and the summons will come. We would like him to find us with our work completed. If we really know what Christianity means we will know that there is no part of life when the master is away. We are working and living forever in our great task master's eyes. There is nothing so fatal as to feel that we have plenty of time.
The parable has two universal meanings, it warns us that there are certain things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. It is far too late for a student to be preparing when the day of the examination is come. It is too late for a man to acquire a skill or character if he does not already possess it. It warns us there are certain things which cannot be borrowed. A man cannot borrow a relationship with God, he must possess it for himself. We cannot always be living on a spiritual capital which others have amassed" (The Daily Bible Study Series).
William Barclay's comments can easily be applied to the condition in which many people find themselves today. Many people think that they have spiritual capital that they do not have. Many others think that their association with those who seem to be righteous assures them of being in right-standing with God. However, they do not realize that they are bankrupt and are only playing church as are the five foolish virgins.
The wise virgins wake up when they hear the midnight warning cry and quickly fill their lamps (the truth of God) with their reserve oil (they repent and begin to earnestly seek God). But the foolish virgins only bring with them what is in their lamp (i.e., their initial understanding of God's truth). They have not grown enough spiritually to have any reserve oil with which to keep their lamps burning. When the foolish virgins realize that Christ is about to come, they seek to make themselves ready by attempting to borrow from the five who had brought enough oil. Because they are foolish, they think that they can get into the kingdom of God through the effort of someone else. The implication is that these people have a wrong attitude and want to do things their own way, instead of seeking God’s ways in a repentant attitude.
THE WEDDING BANQUET
Matthew 22:1-14 Paraphrased
"Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come, . . . and insulted and killed the messenger" (vs.1-3, 6).
This parable was primarily aimed at the Jews of Jesus' day. But there is no doubt that it also applies to the end of the age when the Father will send an invitation to participate in the first resurrection and the wedding feast of his Son through his elect children. We also know that some of these messengers will be killed for delivering the Father's invitation.
"Then he said to his servants, The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited [the Jews of Jesus' day] did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find" (vs.8-9).
Many people have been called to salvation throughout the centuries, since the Jews of Jesus' day rejected the Father's good news message. The scriptures indicate that before Christ's return, vast numbers of people will be called to salvation (many will be invited to the wedding banquet).
"But when the king [Jesus Christ] came in to see the guests [those called to the first resurrection], he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend', he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless" (vs.11-12).
This scripture is an extremely important warning for all who have been called to participate in the first resurrection and the wedding banquet of Christ to be spiritually prepared for the return of Christ.
During the time of Christ, when a person was invited to a prestigious wedding banquet and did not have fine enough clothing to attend, the person to be honored would provide the fine clothing. This is exactly what is done for those who are invited to participate in the first resurrection and the banquet that follows. God the Father removes our sinful clothing (Isa.64:6) and clothes us through the sacrifice of Christ with righteousness (Rev.3:5; 7:9-14) after which it is our responsibility to maintain this clothing of righteousness in a pure and sinless condition (1.Cor.1:1-8; 2.Pet.3:13-14) until we are allowed to enter the wedding banquet of Christ.
The man who tried to attend the wedding without proper clothing is symbolic of many who are called to salvation and are very excited at the prospect of being saved from eternal death and being given eternal and immortal life in the Kingdom of God. However, after accepting the invitation (they repent and are baptized), they do not prepare themselves through continued spiritual growth in grace and knowledge to be worthy to enter the Family and Kingdom of God. Because they have done very little with the opportunity that they have been given, they will have no excuse when Christ tells them that they have disqualified themselves to receive eternal life:
"Then the king told the attendants, Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen" (vs.13-14).
Many have the attitude that they can enter the Family and Kingdom of God under their own terms and conditions and they disregard the clear instructions that are set forth in the Bible. These individuals try to get into the wedding banquet without meeting the standards for righteous attitudes and behaviors that must be maintained throughout one's life.
God the Father has invited many to the awesome calling of the first resurrection, but few ultimately are chosen to receive the reward, because so many reject his rule in their lives and are unwilling to put forth the time and effort to secure salvation.
THE GIVING OF TALENTS
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. . ." (vs.14-15).
The master goes on the journey and comes back asking each of his servants to account for what they were given. The faithful servants show that they have in varying degrees increased the value of what they were given. However, one servant did not increase the value of what he was given:
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. Master, he said, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you" (vs.24-25).
Notice what happens to the one who does nothing with the opportunity of salvation and the spiritual blessings and gifts that he has been given:
"His master [Jesus] replied, You wicked, lazy servant! You knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed [You understood what I was doing and yet you did nothing]. . . Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents . . .. And throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (vs.26, 28-30).
When the Father calls an individual to salvation, that person has enough personal attributes to successfully secure salvation and a high position in his Family and Kingdom with the help of the holy spirit; otherwise the Father would have never called that person. Therefore, the Father and Jesus Christ expect a person to grow in grace and knowledge and to produce spiritual fruit in their life. They also expect their servants to accomplish a work for them. If a person becomes too fearful and lazy to do this, they are not worthy to enter the Family and Kingdom of God.
The reward that the unworthy servant should have received for faithful service was given to someone else who had seized the opportunity and was willing to produce for their master. This is a serious warning that a person called to salvation must make a personal effort to do the things necessary in order to enter the Father's Family and Kingdom.
AS IN THE DAYS OF NOAH
When Jesus was asked what the sign of his coming would be he says:
"For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt.24:38-39 KJV).
The apostle Paul says much the same thing that Jesus does concerning the times that would exist just before Christ's return:
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it" (2.Tim.3:1-5, RSV).
On the surface, human behavior today seems to be much as it has been for centuries; however, this is not so. What Matthew and Paul record as great wickedness will be the behavior of people just before the return of Christ and evil behavior today is increasing exponentially. Extremely evil behavior is the norm and not the exception in today's world. The behavior of people today is the same as it was right before the great flood when God destroyed humanity for their wicked behavior. However, the conditions that exist in the world today are no excuse for the elect of God to forsake their calling.
One Taken, One Left
When the conditions of the world reach those of the times of Noah, Christ will return and collect the faithful. This is the context in which we see the two types of people who have been called to salvation:
"Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left" (Matt.24:40-41 NIV).
The ones who are taken from this world at Christ's coming are symbolic of the righteous elect who are faithful to God's calling. The ones who are left are symbolic of those who are unfaithful and unworthy of eternal and immortal life in the Father's Family and Kingdom.
Being left on earth after the return of Christ and the first resurrection should be an extremely terrifying thing for the elect of God to contemplate, because they are called to salvation during the gospel age. If they are not in the first resurrection, their fate is to be cast into the Lake of Fire, which is the second death:
"Therefore keep watch [ action, vigilance, consistency], because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (Matt.24:42-44 NIV).
Who are the Faithful?
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, My master is staying away a long time, and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt.24: 45-51 NIV).
There are two groups of the elect being spoken of in the above scriptures. The first group seems to be those of the Philadelphia attitude that are likely the ones who are charged with proclaiming the gospel message—giving the midnight cry of warning—and are in charge of God's household under Christ during the end of the age. The second group seems to be those classified as the foolish and the wise virgins who are among the other six churches noted in chapters two and three of Revelation. Some of them will heed the midnight cry to repent and zealously secure their salvation, and some will not.
THE NARROW DOOR
"Someone asked him, Lord, are only a few people going to be saved? He said to them, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, saying Sir, open the door for us. But he will answer, I don't know you or where you come from. Then you will say, We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets. But he will reply, I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers! There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out" (Lk.13:23-28 NIV).
This is another example of the rejection of spiritually lazy people who were personally called to salvation by the Father to become his immortal sons in his Family and Kingdom. In the final judgment, these foolish servants will be cast into the Lake of Fire for their sinful attitudes and behaviors.
God the Father and Jesus Christ are extremely fair and equitable in their treatment of the elect and they give each individual tremendous latitude and opportunity to be diligent and faithful. God the Father has never called a single person to be one of his elect children who was not equipped to meet the challenge and enter into his family. This is why the consequences for failure are so severe. The Father is not going to give the reward of eternal and immortal life to a person that rejects and disdains his call and refuses to be faithful to him and his son.
Individually, we need to be diligent servants who are energetic, dedicated, and faithful to this awesome and wonderful calling. There are only two choices for those who have been called to salvation during the gospel age: An individual can be lazy, unfaithful, and suffer the second death in the Lake of Fire, or one can take the better path and be zealous and faithful, and be rewarded with eternal and immortal life in the Father's Family and Kingdom. If you have been called to salvation or are being called now, the choice of whether to live or die is yours!
REVELATION 12 AND THE ELECT OF GODBack to Alphabetical Index | Back to Top | Back to Chapter Index
It is clear that the woman of Revelation 12 is symbolic of the church of God and that this chapter is written from the perspective of the end of the age. What is not so clear is who the man-child is to whom the woman gives birth and who those spoken of as the rest of her seed are. Almost all commentaries on this subject say that these represent two different major events that are separated by an enormous amount of time. However, as we will see, the things spoken of in chapter 12 are concerned with two different groupings of the church of God that will exist during the last few years before Christ's return.
This prophecy deals primarily with the elect of God who are called the Philadelphia church, Satan's attempt to destroy them, and their rescue and protection from Satan and his religious and governmental system. Therefore, before explaining this prophecy in detail, it is necessary to first read the entire chapter in order to see that these verses probably present the chronological order of events that will take place during the last 3½ years before Christ's return.
Revelation 12:1-17 KJV
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (v1)
"And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered" (v2).
"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads" (v3).
"And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born" (v4).
"And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne" (v5).
"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (v6).
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angles" (v7).
"And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven" (v8).
"And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (v9).
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (v10).
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (v11).
"Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitors of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time" (v12).
"And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child" (v13).
"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent" (v14).
"And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood" (v15).
"And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth" (v16).
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (v17).
THE WOMAN AND THE CHILD
Revelation 12:1-6 KJV
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (v1).
The woman is symbolic of the church as a collective figure. She is clothed with the sun, which is a symbol of strength; thus, the church as a whole possesses enormous strength. The Hebrew word for 'moon' literally means 'the wanderer'. Therefore, the church in the end of the age has great strength, yet it wanders around the world. Collectively, this symbolism seems to reflect the way the church carries out its task as seen in Jesus' prophecy concerning the church and its mission:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (Jn.14:12-14 KJV).
Because it is the collective body of the church that carries out the plan of God for the salvation of humanity, the crown with twelve stars upon the head of the woman (the church) may refer to the twelve tribes of Israel (both physically and spiritually) and/or the twelve symbols in the Zodiac in the heavens that picture the sequence of God's entire plan for the salvation of humanity.
The Woman Gives Birth
"And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered" (v2).
The collective church symbolized as the church in the wilderness (ancient Israel) and the church of the gospel age of salvation (the body of Christ) has travailed for centuries waiting for the time of the end when it would be empowered by God to help close the final chapters of God's plan for the salvation of humanity.
When this prophecy is viewed in the context of the end of the age, it is clear that the child to be born of the woman (Gal.4:26) is the empowered portion of the church that will go forth to proclaim the Father's message of good news to the world. The only people who seem to be empowered in a major way to proclaim the gospel just before Christ's return are those symbolized as the Philadelphia Church in Revelation 3:7-12.
The Red Dragon
"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth . . ." (vs.3-4).
Many scriptures show that, after the dragon (Satan the Devil) comes to earth with the evil spirits who serve him, he will establish an alliance of nations called the Beast. Because the seven heads, ten horns, and seven crowns symbolize Satan's spiritual and physical empire, we can safely assume that verses three and four take place either during Satan's effort to establish the Beast alliance of nations or very shortly after it has been established. See Dan.7:7,19, 23-24 and Rev.13:1-2.
"And his tail [Satan] drew the third part of the stars of heaven, . . ." (v4).
Stars are often symbolic of the angels. In this verse, the stars refer to the evil spirits who are under the authority of Satan. Notice that Satan forces a third of all the angels to leave their heavenly habitation and forces them to the earth.
This event occurs before the woman (the church) gives birth and before the war in heaven that is spoken of in verse 7, which results in the evil spirits losing their ability to access the dimension of time and space called heaven.
"And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born" (v4).
There are two possible explanations to verse 4 and either or both may be valid:
1. Satan is poised to destroy the child of the church (the leader of the Philadelphians) as soon as he comes forth from the womb (protective care and spiritual growth) where he has been made ready to proclaim the gospel.
2. Satan is poised to destroy the child of the church (the Philadelphians) as soon as they come forth from the womb (protective care and spiritual growth) where they have been made ready to proclaim the gospel.
Satan clearly wants to stop this child before it can start to grow and perform its great work for God. Why does he want to stop the proclaiming of the gospel? He wants to stop it, because when the true Gospel has been proclaimed to the world, he will be removed as the ruler of this earth and lose his freedom for a thousand years prior to being destroyed by fire. See Rev.20:7-10; Ezk.28:18-19.
According to the Book of Revelation, the major persecution upon the elect of God begins to occur shortly after they and the Two Witnesses begin to proclaim the true gospel message accompanied by great signs and wonders.
The Man Child
"And she brought forth a man child [the Philadelphians and/or its spiritual leader], who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God, and to his throne" (v5).
Most have been taught that the birth of the man child in verse 5 is speaking of the birth of Jesus Christ; however, this cannot be so, because this prophecy is clearly meant for the time just a few years prior to his return as conquering King. Verse 5 has nothing to do with the personage of Jesus Christ, but it has everything to do with the key individuals whom Christ will use to proclaim his Father's message of the good news just before his return.
The man child is symbolic of a special grouping of elect or its spiritual leader who will be empowered to proclaim the gospel and is promised rulership of the earth along with Christ (Rev.2:26-27). If this premise is correct, it is likely that this event pictures the leadership of the church being either literally or symbolically brought before the throne of God.
In 2. Corinthians 12:2-4, there is an example of the apostle Paul being caught up to paradise—to God’s throne—where he heard some remarkable things that he was not allowed to repeat:
"I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knows;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter" (KJV).
The 24 Elders
Revelation 4:4-11; 5:1-1 pictures an event that may be similar to Paul's experience in heaven. One thing that makes this event especially interesting from the perspective of the church during the end of the age is the fact that the 24 who are before the throne of God are called elders, have crowns, and are dressed in white. The English word 'elder' is translated from the Greek word 'presbuteros', which is never used to describe a spirit being, but is always used in the Bible to describe men who are in positions of leadership. These men in white (symbolic of righteousness) have crowns (symbolic of authority) and are redeemed (purchased and saved) from among men by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ).
Perhaps Revelation chapters 4 and 5 picture 24 spiritual leaders of God's people at the throne of God in the same manner as the apostle Paul. Although the 24 elders are spoken of before the first four seals are shown to be opened, this event concerning the 24 elders fits well into the chronological order of the end of the age, because it seems to occur just before the sealing of the elect of God for their protection from the events that will follow the opening of the seventh seal.
One must remember that the things that are shown in the Book of Revelation are in a vision and without a consistent chronological flow of events as they progress toward Christ's return. Therefore, it is likely that the first four seals and their riders have been open and active since the demise of the early church. And the events that their opening caused will intensify as Christ opens other seals. See the section concerning the Four Horsemen for a detailed explanation of the first four seals.
It is also possible that the 24 Elders have something to do with the structure of the church in the end of the age, and if this is so, the vision of them being before God the Father and Jesus Christ seems to have something to do with their being given spiritual insight and knowledge. This was done with the apostle Paul to help him carry out his responsibilities in preaching the gospel and ministering to the elect of God. If Revelation chapters 4 and 5 give information about events surrounding the future church leadership, these 24 elders may also be very instrumental in doing the greater work that Jesus said will be done just before his return (Jn.14:12).
The 1,260 Days
"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days [3½ years]" (v6).
Because the woman is symbolic of the collective church, it seems that those who personify the church are the ones whom Christ will protect from Satan (Rev.3:10-11). Remember it is the woman's male child (the Philadelphian church or its spiritual leader(s)) that Christ empowers and opens a door for them to proclaim his Father's good news message to the world (See Isa.22:22). At this point in time it seems that the Philadelphians are symbolic of both the woman and the male child.
From the warning to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three, it is safe to assume that the woman's male child is in the one seventh of the church that escapes to the wilderness. The wilderness is symbolic of a place or a condition of refuge where these elect of God are to be cared for during the last 3½ years before Jesus returns. This empowered grouping of the elect will be protected (given refuge) during this 3½ years while they carry out their task of proclaiming the gospel. While the child is being protected, the other six sevenths of the church will be persecuted by Jesus Christ and the Antichrist in order to bring them to true repentance and salvation.
War in Heaven
Revelation 12:7-17 KJV
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels [his demons] were cast out with him" (vs.7-9).
Verses seven through nine seem to be tied to the events in verses three and four and show a war between the forces of good and evil that will occur in the dimension of time and space known as heaven. During this war, the great red dragon (Satan the Devil) is defeated and cast out of heaven along with all the millions of angels under his control.
"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them . . ." (vs.10-12).
Here, we see an announcement made that clearly indicates that human rule on earth is about to come to an end, and that the Kingdom of God is about to be established in Jerusalem (Psa.72:8-11). The voice also states that it is the blood of Christ that empowers one to overcome Satan.
"Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child" (vs.12-13).
Satan is angry because he no longer has access to God the Father's realm of existence, which means that he has but a short time before he will be punished for his rebellion against God. Because he has been denied what he wants and is about to be punished for his disobedience, he comes to earth in a rage to take out his anger on God's physical creation and the church that gave birth to the man child (the Philadelphians).
How does Satan persecute the Church? He persecutes the Church through those whom he influences and controls as part of his religions and political systems.
"And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time [3½ years], from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth" (vs.14-16).
Here, we see the collective church who are faithful to God and worthy to come under his protection taken to a place where they are protected and cared for. We are not told where this part of the church is taken or how she is protected, we are just told that it will be done.
The flood may symbolize the civil, the religious authorities, and/or the military arm of the Beast alliance of nations. Satan sends forth this flood (a great number of people) to destroy the elect of God; however, the earth (probably other people) help the elect who are symbolized by the male child to escape those sent to destroy them. It is at this point in history that Satan will have lost his power to harm these particular people who symbolize the purity and righteousness of the collective church.
"And the dragon was angry with the woman [the church], and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (v17).
There is a clear distinction between the woman, her male child, and the rest of her children. This is yet another proof that the woman represents the collective church (the physical source from which the elect spring). It is also clear that the male child is the most prominent of the woman's children and is the only one worthy of her protective care, but her other children are worthy of punishment at the hands of Satan.
Because Satan will have been frustrated in his attempt to destroy those who speak out against him and his religions and governmental systems as they proclaim God the Father's good news message with great power, he will turn his attention toward those of the church who are left unprotected.
There are some who are considered to be children of the church (the elect of God) who are not found worthy of being protected by Christ and they will suffer great persecution at the hands of Satan and his servants for 3½ years before Christ's return. These are the six prophetic groupings of the elect of God who are symbolized by the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 as needing to repent of their sinful attitudes and behaviors. These will be tried by the fire of persecution in order to bring them to repentance and save them from the second death.
Important Things to Note
There are a number of very important things spoken of in Revelation 12:7-17 that dramatically affect the whole church of God during the last 3½ years before Christ's return:
1. The events described in Revelation 12:1-17 are speaking of the collective church that will exist in the last 3½ years prior to Christ's return. The focal point of both accounts is the Philadelphia grouping of the elect of God and how Satan attacks it, but is not allowed to overpower it. Both accounts show the ultimate protection by God of the Philadelphia grouping of elect so that it can accomplish a great work for God.
The primary mission of the Philadelphia grouping is to proclaim the Father's good news of salvation through Jesus Christ and to help usher in a time of enormous conversions all over the world particularly among the Abramic peoples of the earth.
2. Satan comes to earth in great anger and will take out this anger upon humanity because he knows that he is about to lose his freedom and be punished for his great wickedness and rebellion against God.
3. When Satan becomes aware that he is no longer allowed to enter God's dimension of existence, he begins to take out his anger on the elect of God who have God's spirit residing within them and refuse to worship Satan as a god.
PERSECUTION FOR 3½ YEARS
In the books of Daniel and Revelation there are some very specific things said about the last 3½ years of persecution that will come upon the elect of God as they proclaim the gospel message.
War With the Elect of God
Daniel 7:20-25 KJV
"And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (vs.20-22).
Daniel shows a great religious/governmental system, which is guided and empowered by evil spirits that comes into existence during the time of the end. Notice that this great religious/governmental system seems to win its war against the elect of God; however, this apparent victory is only temporary because the elect of God will return with Jesus Christ and the heavenly host and conquer the beast:
"And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given to him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Rev.13:5-7 KJV).
The point to note here concerns the persecution of the elect of God. During the time of the end, the elect of God are engaged in an ongoing battle with this beast power, because they are proclaiming the gospel message that is in opposition to the beast's spiritual/political system of government and announcing that the Kingdom of the true God is coming to destroy and replace their system of religion and government.
"This he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time" (vs.23-25).
This religious/governmental system is different from all others that have come before it and it has more influence and power than any religious, political, or governmental system that has ever existed on earth. Moreover, it exerts its tremendous influence and power over the whole earth as it seeks to eliminate all worship of the true God during its last 3½ years before the return of Christ.
Daniel 11:31-35 KJV
"And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that makes desolate. And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be helped with a little help: 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 [righteous], even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed."
Here, we see a time when a temple for the worship of the true God exists in Jerusalem along with the sacrificial system which is performed in accordance with God's first covenant with national Israel. It is important to understand that these events take place in the end of the age when the gospel message is being proclaimed with great power. It is during this 3½ years that great persecution will come upon the elect of God.
Daniel 12:1-7 KJV
"And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (v1).
Daniel is told that during this period of time there will be trouble the likes of which has never nor will ever be seen again. This is a time of unimaginable mental distress upon people and tremendous physical destruction upon the earth.
Those who are righteous like Daniel will be saved. However, being saved does not necessarily mean that one will be spared from all persecution or the effects of the physical devastation that is to come upon the earth during this time. What is clear from the scriptures is that those who are faithful to God's calling will be spared from the second death and enter into the divine Family and Kingdom of God as his dear children:
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (v2).
Verse 2, speaks of two distinct types of resurrections. One that is to eternal/immortal life and one that is to the second death (i.e., eternal death). See our study papers concerning the various resurrections.
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (vs.3-4).
Daniel is told that the wise (the righteous) will receive an everlasting reward in the Kingdom of God and that what he has been told will take place during the time of the end of human rule when there is a tremendous increase in physical and spiritual knowledge.
"Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river. And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?" (vs.5-6).
Notice that the being standing in the midst of the river is asked how long these events will last. The answer is that this time of trouble will last 3½ years (see Rev.12:7), because it will take this long for the following things to be accomplished:
"And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by him that lives for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished" (v7). See also Rev.13:5-7.
At the end of the 3½ years of persecution, Jesus Christ will come with his holy angels and collect those who have remained faithful to God's calling throughout their lives. He will then return to heaven with the elect of all ages to make preparation for his return to conquer the earth and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.