Behold! Philadelphia by Allen Stump

Behold! Philadelphia, Part 2

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 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 worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 3:7–13) 

A Message about Jesus and His People 

The message to the angel of the church of Philadelphia is especially pertinent to God’s people who face conflict over spiritual matters. Under inspiration Ellen White tells us that for “those who in the midst of conflict [who] should maintain their faith in God, the prophet was given the words of commendation and promise: ‘I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name.’ ‘Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth’” (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 588). If you are facing conflict and seem to have only a little strength in the battle, be patient and maintain your faith in God. God will keep you through the conflict, for Jesus has told us: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give (Greek: divdwmi, didomi) you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). 

The message of Jesus to Philadelphia also contains a particularly beautiful description of himself—the most comprehensive to be found in all the messages sent to the seven churches. Jesus states that he is holy and true, that he has the key of David, and that what he opens no man can shut and what he shuts no man can open. He also declares that he knows the hearts of those who claim to be Jews and that he knows the future, revealing that an hour of temptation is coming, that he is returning soon, and that the overcomers will be pillars in the temple of God, with the name of his God, the name of the city of his God, and his own new name written upon them. And Jesus portrays himself as powerful by making the false-hearted Jews worship at the feet of the saints and by protecting his people during the overwhelming hour of temptation. This is the body of the message for Philadelphia, save for one importantadmonition given to the leader—to hold fast that which he had. Why? So that no man would take his crown! 

One of Authority Speaks 

The importance of the messages given to the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 is seen in the following quotation, condensed from a letter written by Ellen White on September 22, 1903, to the teachers at Emmanuel Missionary College (known today as Andrews University), in response to the new book The Living Temple

In the visions of the night this matter [of teachers sustaining the sentiments of the book regarding the personality of God] was clearly presented to me, before a large number.One of authority was speaking, and He said, “If the suppositions and statements found in this book were essential, if these statements were pure provender, thoroughly winnowed from the chaff, there would be some decided mention of them in the revelation given by Christ to John to give to the churches. To John the Lord Jesus opened the subjects that he saw would be needed by his people in the last days. The instruction that he gave is found in the book of Revelation. Those who would be co-workers with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will show a deep interest in the truths found in the book of Revelation. With pen and voice they will strive to make plain the wonderful things that Christ came from heaven to reveal.” 

The first chapter of the book of Revelation was then read, with great solemnity. . . .  

Our Instructor presented the solemn messages [the context is the messages to the churches] that have been given in their order in Revelation, and that are to occupy the first place in the minds of God’s people. . . .  

The testimony of Christ, a testimony of the most solemn character, is to be borne to the world. All through the book of Revelation there are the most precious, elevating promises, and there are also warnings of most fearfully solemn import. Will not those who profess to have a knowledge of the truth read the testimony given to John by Christ? Here is no guesswork, no scientific deception. Here are the truths that concern our present and future welfare. What is the chaff to the wheat? 

Our Instructor passed on to the third chapter of Revelation, and read the following:— 

“Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” 

These words were spoken with such strength and force that those present seemed to be afraid, and hid their faces in their hands, as if they were arraigned before the Judge of all the earth. Some seemed about to faint

Then the subject changed. The Speaker read:— 

“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; 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 hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works; behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 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 worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” 

In these words there is no soothsaying. . . .

Then was repeated the message to the Laodicean church. The whole of the third chapter of Revelation, from first to last, was read. (The Spalding and Magan Collection, pp. 320–323; also published in The Review & Herald, October 22, 1903; all emphasis in this article supplied unless otherwise stated) 

The letter closed with an appeal for the watchmen on the walls of Zion to awaken, but the words of the one of authority are revealing. He (not Ellen White) stated that if the statements inThe Living Temple were essential, were pure provender, and were thoroughly winnowed from chaff, “there would be some decided mention of them in the revelation given by Christ to John to give to the churches.” It certainly behooves us to understand these messages. Not only did they come from our heavenly Father and Jesus, but in 1903 they were re-affirmed, in statement and quotation, by the one of authority who came to Ellen White in vision. In her vision the only messages the one of authority quotes are portions of the messages given to the seven churches and not the messages in Revelation 14, for example, as important as they are. This should give us a greater appreciation for how essential, pure, and thoroughly winnowed they are to meet the great need of God’s people at the end of time. So, let us turn our attention to some of the important aspects of the message to the church in Philadelphia. 

The Key of David 

The word key is used only twice in the Old Testament (Judges 3:25 and Isaiah 22:22) and comes from the Hebrew word maphteach and means just what the English word connotes—an instrument that locks or unlocks something. In the New Testament the word key is used only six times (four of which are found in the book of Revelation—Revelation 1:18; 3:7; 9:1; 20:1), but each of the six times the Greek word kleis is used, it simply means something that controls the opening or the closing, the binding or the loosening, of something else. It represents power. What, then, is the key of David? 

The only biblical reference to the key of David, other than that found in Revelation 3:7, is found in Isaiah 22:22: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” The latter part of Isaiah 22 is speaking about Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, but Isaiah is speaking symbolically of Christ in this passage, especially in verse 22, which is repeated by Jesus in Revelation 3:7: “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” Other parts of Isaiah 22:20–25 speak of the government being committed into his (Eliakim’s) hand, of him being a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah, and of him being a glorious throne to his father’s house. James White states that “the term, ‘key of David,’ in this text [Revelation 3:7], has direct reference to Christ’s reception of the throne of David, which is his rightful throne, the throne of the immortal kingdom” (The Second Coming of Christ, p. 79). 

Names 

Three names are mentioned in this promise to the Philadelphian church—the name of Jesus’ God, the name of the city of Jesus’ God, and the new name of Jesus himself. E. J. Waggoner explains the use of the word name in Revelation 3:12 in this way: 

God puts his name upon his people, that all may know to whom they belong. Men put their names upon their places of business for a sign. Christ says, “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders.” Wherever the men of the world come into contact with the people of God, they are to see the name of God, and recognize at a glance that God dwells within, and does business there. (General Conference Bulletin, April 9, 1901) 

Behold! An Open Door 

“Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Revelation 3:8). The use of the word behold means notice what comes next. Something important follows, and Jesus wants us to pay attention to it. The Greek word for have set is didomi and means to give. Jesus has given us an open door. (Didomi is also used in John 3:16, for example.) Now, why would any man want to shut a door that Christ has opened for him, knowing that Christ only gives good gifts to his children? It does not make sense, and it probably made no sense to the little flock in 1844, either, but for us, living at a time when we can look back 167 years to 1844, we can see that what Jesus implied in his message has been, and continues to be, attempted. The ministration of Jesus in the most holy place has been diminished and well-nigh obliterated in the eyes of most people today, but Jesus cautions us to let no man take our crowns! Let us read Ellen White’s explanation of the open door: 

The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment . . .  

After the passing of the time of expectation, in 1844, Adventists still believed the Saviour’s coming to be very near; they held that they had reached an important crisis, and that the work of Christ as man’s intercessor before God, had ceased. . . .  

But clearer light came with the investigation of the sanctuary question. Now was seen the application of those words of Christ in the Revelation, addressed to the church at this very time [1844]: “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth; I know thy works; behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” [Revelation 3:7, 8.] Here an open as well as a shut door is brought to view. At the termination of the 2300 prophetic days in 1844, Christ changed his ministration from the holy to the most holy place. When, in the ministration of the earthly sanctuary, the high priest on the day of atonement entered the most holy place, the door of the holy place was closed, and the door of the most holy was opened. So, when Christ passed from the holy to the most holy of the heavenly sanctuary, the door, or ministration, of the former apartment was closed, and the door, or ministration, of the latter was opened. Christ had ended one part of his work as our intercessor, to enter upon another portion of the work; and he still presented his blood before the Father in behalf of sinners. “Behold,” he declares, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” 

Those who by faith follow Jesus in the great work of the atonement, receive the benefits of his mediation in their behalf; but those who reject the light that brings to view this work of ministration, are not benefited thereby. The Jews who rejected the light given at Christ’s first advent, and refused to believe in him as the Saviour of the world, could not receive pardon through him. When Jesus at his ascension entered by his own blood into the heavenly sanctuary to shed upon his disciples the blessings of his mediation, the Jews were left in total darkness, to continue their useless sacrifices and offerings. The ministration of types and shadows had ceased [feast days, for example]. That door by which men had formerly found access to God, was no longer open. The Jews had refused to seek him in the only way whereby he could then be found, through the ministration in the sanctuary in Heaven. Therefore they found no communion with God. To them the door was shut. They had no knowledge of Christ as the true sacrifice and the only mediator before God; hence they could not receive the benefits of his mediation. (The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, pp. 268, 269) 

Ellen White was shown that her husband’s “relation to the people of God was similar, in some respects, to that of Moses to Israel” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 85), so his understanding of the open and shut doors is of value: 

“These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth.” That Christ is here described, no one will deny. He is the rightful heir to David’s throne, hence has the key of David, which may represent power. The throne of David, or Christ, on which he is to reign, is in the capital of his kingdom, the New Jerusalem now above. The opening and shutting can refer only to the change of ministration from the Holy to the most Holy of the heavenly Sanctuary, at the end of the 2300 days, in 1844. It was then that the ministration in the Holy Place closed, and the ministration in the most Holy for the forgiveness of sins, and to cleanse the Sanctuary, was opened by him that hath the key of David. “Behold, I set before thee an open door.” “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.” Rev.xi,19. We can apply texts of this class to no other events than Christ’s entering the most Holy, in 1844, and opening his ministration there, where the ark of ten commandments is, hence, since that time the Sabbath, with the whole law of God, has been present truth in a special sense. (James White, The  Review & Herald, October 16, 1856) 

As Seventh-day Adventists we know that the Sabbath commandment has been shining more fully since 1844, but, I am sorry to say, Seventh-day Adventism today completely denies the cleansing ministry of Jesus in the most holy place. Fundamental Belief #24, “Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary,” only affirms a ministry of investigation and not one, also, of cleansing; and Fundamental Belief #9, “Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ,” only proclaims an atonement of forgiveness (justification) and not one of forgiveness and cleansing (sanctification). An investigative process is occurring in the most holy place, but a cleansing ministry is also occurring: 

Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification [final atonement]of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth. This work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14. 

When this work shall have been accomplished, the followers of Christ will be ready for His appearing. “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.” Malachi 3:4. Then the church which our Lord at His coming is to receive to Himself will be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Ephesians 5:27. Then she will look “forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” Song of Solomon 6:10. (The Great Controversy, p. 425) 

Let us hold fast to our knowledge of the open door set before us and to the complete ministry of Jesus in the most holy place, so that no doctrine of man will take our crowns! 

The Hour of Temptation 

“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” In this scripture is brought to view the hour of temptation that is to try them that dwell upon the earth. We are now living in this trying hour. There is no escape for any from this conflict. If in your life there are defective traits of character that you are not striving to overcome, you may be assured that the enemy will endeavor to take advantage of them; for he is watching vigilantly, seeking to spoil the faith of every one. In order to gain the victory over every besetment of the enemy, we must lay hold on a power that is out of and beyond ourselves. We must maintain a constant, living connection with Christ, who has power to give victory to every soul that will maintain an attitude of faith and humility. If we are self-sufficient, and think that we may go on just as we please, and yet hope to come out on the right side finally, we shall find that we have made a terrible mistake. As those who hope to receive the overcomer’s reward, we must press forward in the Christian warfare, though at every advance we meet with opposition. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, July 9, 1908) 

What do we know about this hour of temptation? When Jesus spoke these words, they referred to a future event, but in 1908, when the above words were recorded, it had become a current event, so this hour of temptation cannot refer to the Christian struggle that all of God’s people have faced since the fall of Adam and Eve. It has to be something else. The context of the above quotation is the conflict we have with our defective traits of character—all God’s people have dealt with this issue—but there is more. It involves overcoming and “victory over every besetment of the enemy.” It is a work of purification, a work of perfection. Don’t let anyone tell you that those who are translated will be sinning until Jesus comes. It just can’t be.  

False Christians 

A battle is continually going on between the forces for good and the forces for evil, between the angels of God and the fallen angels. We are beset before and behind, on the right hand and on the left. The conflict that we are passing through is the last we shall have in this world. We are now in the midst of it. Two parties are striving for the supremacy. In this conflict we cannot be neutral. We must stand either on one side or on the other. If we take our position on the side of Christ, if we acknowledge him before the world in word and work, we are bearing a living testimony as to whom we have chosen to serve and honor. In this important period of earth’s history, we cannot afford to leave any one in uncertainty as to whose side we are on. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, July 9, 1908) 

There is no natural enmity between fallen men and fallen angels; both are partakers of the same spirit through indulgence in evil. It is according to the law of the synagogue of Satan that in the controversy of the evil against the good, fallen men and fallen angels shall unite in a desperate companionship. From the beginning Satan has worked continually to dethrone the Creator, and whatever may be the divisions among evil men and evil angels, there is no division in their opposition to God. They are banded together as with iron cords to oppose the Creator and Redeemer of man. Satan is determined to utterly deprave human nature through making of none effect the commandments of God. He originates traditions, and through his maxims he succeeds in assimilating to his own nature the nature of those who do not yield allegiance to the law of God. (Ellen White, The Signs of the Times, June 11, 1894) 

The church of God, despised and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. They walk in narrow paths on earth; they are purified in the furnace of afflictions. For Jesus’ sake they endure opposition, hatred, calumny. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self-denial, and experience bitter disappointments; but their painful experience teaches them the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they are destined to be partakers of his glory. (Ellen White, The Signs of the Times, June 18, 1894) 

We have discussed the synagogue of Satan in earlier articles, but one thing to note in this message is that the worship that occurs here has to be at the end of all time—it will never happen before then. It cannot, for we have just read that “evil men and evil angels” are “banded together as with iron cords to oppose the Creator and Redeemer of man,” and we know this opposition will never end until Jesus comes and delivers his people.  

Another important comment Jesus makes is that the synagogue of Satan will know that Jesus has loved the church of Philadelphia. Why would he say that? Because just before Jesus comes, his people will be appear destitute, ragged, and worn; threadbare, lean, and homeless, and the SS (synagogue of Satan) will hurl epithets and derogatory comments at them, such as “You think you are God’s people; you think he loves you and that you are the apple of his eye?! Just look at yourselves!” Satan tried to get Jesus to doubt in the wilderness, and he will try the same with us, but we must “keep the word” of his patience and take heart. Behold! Jesus is coming soon! 

We also must be prepared that some of our closest friends in the faith may eventually become part of the synogogue of Satan, for Ellen White tells us that this synagogue is composed of “professed Seventh-day Adventists.” Speaking to Eli Curtis, she stated: 

You think, that those who worship before the saint’s feet, (Revelation 3:9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and “crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (A Word to the Little Flock, p. 12) 

Let No Man Take Thy Crown 

“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Here again we are admonished to faithfulness, in view of the conflict. We must not yield any point that we have already gained [such as the final atonement]. From now on till Jesus comes, the battle will wax fiercer and still fiercer. We shall have to meet and resist men who are regarded as very wise and learned, but who are not spiritually wise unto salvation. Our only hope of saving our own souls and of helping others to be saved, is to receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are seeking for a crown, a crown of glory that fadeth not away. As overcomers we are to reign with Christ in the heavenly courts; and we are to overcome through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, July 9, 1908) 

Conclusion 

In this article we have covered a few of the main points of the message to the leader of the church at Philadelphia—the key of David, the synagogue of Satan, the open and shut door, etc.—but if you just understand the concepts following the four beholds in this message, you will be blessed:  “Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan . . . behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee,” and “Behold, I come quickly.” Yes, Jesus is coming quickly, and he is calling us to take our stand—“We cannot afford to leave any one in uncertainty as to whose side we are on.” Beloved, we need to enter into the work of Christ now—that “special work of purification [and] of putting away of sin”—and to “be found written in the book.” Then, on that glorious day, we shall be delivered (Daniel 12:1)! 

Onycha Holt 


Is There an Eighth Church?

This is the last of a four-part series we have prepared on the subject of the church. We acknowledge that this study is not exhaustive, but it has been the goal to give a basic biblical understanding of the concept of the church, as well as to help believers have an understanding of how to relate to an organization that falsely claims to be the remnant. 

Since this study has spanned more than a season, we would like to begin this final segment with a review of some of the vital points that were introduced in the first three studies, with additional material presented to expand the subject matter. 

The Greek word translated church is ekklesia, which means the called-out ones. They are called out from the world to serve Christ. 

The church is founded upon Jesus and upon him being the Son of God. (See Matthew 16:13–18 and The Desire of Ages, pages 412, 413.) The church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and as such, it must teach truth to remain the church of God. 

The church belongs to God and Christ (Romans 16:16; Acts 20:28); therefore, the church never belongs to any man, state, or group; and it can never be run, controlled, or directed by any man, state, or group. 

We have seen that “all society is ranging into two great classes, the obedient and the disobedient” (Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 296). Despite many denominations, religions, and factions upon the earth, in reality, there are just two churches upon earth, and everyone belongs to one church or the other, even if one does not realize it. 

As we studied the issue of the church within the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy, we learned that she spoke of a principle whereby we are to take time and place into consideration. While nothing is to be ignored, we are to understand the background and circumstances to the testimonies and realize that they have a determining factor in the testimonies’ origins. (SeeSelected Messages, book 1, page 57.) 

This principle is vital to understand if the voice of the General Conference is to be considered the voice of God today, as well as if the church, meaning the denomination, can become a part of Babylon. 

In part 3 of our study, we examined the Jewish economy. While God called the children of Israel to be his people, they were not given a straight ticket into the kingdom of God. Profession meant nothing if their lives did not live up to the standard to which he had called them. Writing in Romans and Galatians, Paul makes it clear that one’s spiritual birthright and one’s physical birthright are not the same thing. (Romans 9:6–8; Romans 2:28, 29; Galatians 3:6, 29; 6:16; see also Christ’s Object Lessons, page 294; and The Desire of Ages, pages 107, 466, 467) 

 The book of Revelation depicts two women who represent the obedient and the disobedient. God’s people are represented by the pure woman (Revelation 12:1), while Satan’s hosts are marshaled under the banner of a harlot (Revelation 17:1, 2). A more striking contrast could hardly  be made. Within his last-day people, God has a special group called the 144,000. Some of the characteristics of this group include: 

  • Connection with the giving of the three angels’ messages 
  • No guile; pure doctrine (Revelation 14:5) 
  • Father’s name in their forehead (Revelation 14:1) 
  • Sealed in the forehead (Revelation 7:3, 4) 
  • Serve God in his temple (Revelation 7:15; Early Writings, page 18) 

The 144,000 have many of the same characteristics of the Philadelphian church. This group is contrasted with another group, the synagogue of Satan, who worship at the feet of the saints (Revelation 3:9; A Word to the Little Flock, pages 12, 14, 15). This happens for “a number of days” before Jesus comes (Maranatha, p. 287). 

In connection with last-day events, we have studied the shaking. The Spirit of Prophecy declares that it began soon after the 1844 disappointment, long before any denomination was formed. Furthermore, this shaking was caused by the straight testimony and would shake people out of the truth, or message. 

The Eighth Church?

We need to now consider a question that has arisen: Is there an eighth church, and what does that expression mean? 

Since the seven churches have, for the most part, been interpreted by Adventists as representing seven consecutive time periods of the Christian church, the conclusion is that the seventh (the perfect number) is the last and final church. Therefore, if Laodicea is the last church, it must be the translation church, since there is no eighth church mentioned in Revelation. But is the assumption that the churches form a linear time line valid? Are there other principles of interpretation that should be considered? 

Let us consider the way that Christians have interpreted the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. There are at least four main schemes of interpretation that have been used to try to unlock the meaning in Revelation. 

One method, or system, of interpretation is the preterist view. Preterism teaches that Revelation is a prophecy of events that were fulfilled in the first century. The Roman emperors represent the beast, etc. Preterism was first expounded by the Jesuit, Luis De Alcasar, during the counter reformation to attack the prevailing view among Protestants that Rome was the beast of Revelation 13.  If the prophecies of Revelation find their fulfillment in the first century and since the papacy did not arise until after the first century, then, according to this logic, the papacy cannot be the beast power. 

Another system of interpretation that is very popular today is known as futurism. Futurism also began during the counter reformation to attack the prevailing view that Rome was the beast power. Futurism interprets the first three chapters of Revelation as dealing with events during the time of the writing of the book and then the rest of the book with events that will happen in the future, usually taught today as being after a secret rapture. The prophecies are considered to be literal descriptions of events yet to happen. This scheme was molded by the Spanish Jesuit, Francisco Ribera, the logic being that since the papacy is in existence now and has been formed for centuries and since, according to this scheme, the anitchrist is not to arise until after a secret rapture, then the papacy cannot be the antichrist or the beast of Revelation 13. This scheme did not find much footing until the beginning of the last century, but today is the standard scheme of interpretation by most evangelical churches. 

A third view of Revelation comes from the spiritual scheme wherein the book is more designed to teach spiritual lessons than to reveal the future. This scheme “illustrates, in the struggles of the early church, abiding spiritual principles that are applicable to all of human experience throughout history. The symbols can refer to specific people or events in that time, for example, the emperor Nero, but they also become symbols for a larger reality tied to common human experience.  The beast symbolizes Nero, while Nero symbolizes the lack of control we experience in our lives, as well as those who exercise power over us in destructive ways” (http://www.crivoice.org/therevelation.html). This view also prevents the papacy from being the beast of Revelation 13. 

Finally, we come to the historist scheme. This was the method of interpretation used by the early Protestants. It represents Revelation as an unrolling scroll of church history and, in some cases, world history. This has been the scheme of understanding that has been used by Seventh-day Adventists since their inception. It was this principle that guided Uriah Smith in writing his book Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation. Using this principle the papacy can be identified as the beast of Revelation 13 and the great whore of Revelation 17. 

This scheme has also been used to understand the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. These churches have been considered to represent the church in seven different states that run consecutively from the time of the apostles to the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, is this model for the churches endorsed by inspiration? Let us examine a few statements to find out what we can learn. 

The names of the seven churches are symbolic of the church in different periods of the Christian Era. The number 7 indicates completeness, and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, while the symbols used reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world. (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 585; written 1911) 

This statement seems to have been based, at least partly, upon the following manuscript, but notice especially the first sentence that is not included in The Acts of the Apostles

The messages given to the churches in Asia, portray the state of things existing in the churches of the religious world today. The names of the churches are symbolic of the Christian church in different periods of the Christian era; the number of the churches—seven—indicates completeness and is symbolic of the fact that the messages extend to the end of time, and are enforced today; while the figures used are symbolic of the state of God’s professed people,—the wheat developing among the tares; truth standing on its own eternal basis in contrast with error. 

I wish to emphasize the fact, that the churches to which John was told to send the instruction given him represent all the churches in our world, and that this revelation to him is to be studied and believed and preached by the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 372; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted) 

These statements remind me of the famous puzzle, the Rubik’s Cube, originally designed by Erno Rubik of Hungary, to solve a problem of internal structural design. After creating the cube Rubik realized that he had also a puzzle which, according to mathematics, has over forty-six quintillion (that’s 46,000 trillion!) possible positions to be wrong, but only one to be correct. 

As we combine the various parts of the statements from Ellen White, we achieve different looks, but while some arrangement seem nice, just as certain unsolved arrangements of the cube look pretty, it is not the solution that fits all the requirements. 

Within these statements we find clear evidence of an endorsement of the historist principle, yet the instruction of these messages was not restricted to a specific time element. To help clarify the matter, let us look at how Adventism has historically interpreted these churches in a linear time sequence.

Seven Church in Linear StructureThere may be some difference of opinion on the dating, but within a few years, this is an accurate representation of the standard Adventist view. Now let us notice some of the specific points from the statements of Ellen White we quoted earlier. 

She does not say that just the last message extends to the end of time, but the messages, plural. Furthermore, she says that “the symbols reveal the condition of the church at different periods in the history of the world.” This, of course, could be interpreted in two ways: The different symbols of each church represent the church during a specific time for just that church or all the symbols of the churches are relevant at any given time. The former would seem to be the better choice here. Furthermore, as we carefully read what Ellen G. White wrote in Manuscript Releases, we also see more. There she is very focused on the fact that all the churches have a message for “today.” 

The messages given to the churches  in Asia [plural, not just the last one], portray the state of things existing in the churches of the religious world today. . . . 

I wish to emphasize the fact, that the churches to which John was told to send the instruction given him represent all the churches in our world [present tense during the time of the writing], and that this revelation to him is to be studied and believed and preached by the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. (Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 372) 

Perhaps these statements open more questions than they answer. She speaks of the “churches” of today. There seems to be no reason we should restrict this to just different Seventh-day Adventist churches; however, she also says in The Acts of the Apostles’ statement that “the names of the churches are symbolic of the Christian church in different periods of the Christian era.” Here she seems to be speaking of the true church—singular—not simply a professed church or churches. Specifically Ellen White mentions five categories in these statements. Charting the categories with their applications, we have the following three charts: 

Categories 

Application 

All the Messages 

Show the state of things existing in the churches of the religious world today 

Names of the Churches 

Symbol of the Christian church in different periods 

The Number of Churches—7 

Represents completeness and is symbolic of the fact that the messages [plural] extend to the end of time and are enforced today 

The Figures Used 

Are symbols of the state of God’s professed people and not necessarily God’s people 

The Churches 

Represent all the churches in our  world [present tense in 1900] 

 

Categories 

Time of Application 

All the Messages 

“Today”–—the present 

Names of the Churches 

“different periods,” though when the periods occur is not defined 

The Number of Churches—7 

“extend to the end of time, and are enforcedtoday”—all the Christian era, especially now 

The Figures Used 

Present, but not limited to the present 

The Churches 

“churches in our world” [present tense in 1900

 

Categories 

Direction of Application 

All the Messages 

“The churches of the religious world” 

Names of the Churches 

“The Christian Church” 

The Number of Churches—7 

undefined 

The Figures Used 

God’s professed people 

The Churches 

“all the churches in our world” [present tense in 1900] 

The first observation we might make is that the messages and the churches themselves seem to be representative of a broad range of professed churches, while the names of the churches and the figures used represent at least those who profess to be God’s people. These would appear to be two different groups. 

Please note that when Ellen White speaks of the churches as a whole, she makes reference to her time, using the expression “our world.” Since the time of 1844, the world has been in the antitypical day of atonement. There seems to be no reason to restrict this, from an eschatological standpoint, to the last part of the 19th century through the early part of the 20th century, since we are still living in the day of atonement and this could, and should, also include our time of the early 21st century. Furthermore, Ellen White states, quoting Revelation 3:10:  “‘Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.’ In this scripture is brought to view the hour of temptation that is to try them that dwell upon the earth. We are now living in this trying hour” (The Review and Herald, July 9, 1908). 

Another element that should be considered into the factor of the time of the existence of these churches and their messages is the fact that three of the last four churches have direct references to the second coming of Jesus Christ: 

Thyatira: “… hold fast until I come” (Revelation 2:25). 

Sardis: “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Revelation 3:3; see Matthew 24:43, 44; Revelation 16:15). 

Philadelphia: “… I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation … Behold I come quickly” (Revelation 3:10, 11). 

Of interest, there is no mention of the second coming of Jesus Christ to the church of Laodicea. The indications that Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia all extend to the second coming of Jesus have caused some to see at least these churches running concurrently, or parallel, until  the  of the coming of Jesus. This would be charted out in the following fashion: 

Seven Church in Linear Parallel StructureIn part three of this study, we learned that Philadelphia is the translation church and Laodicea, as a corpus, is spued out (Revelation 3:16). This is not a conditional prophecy, for Revelation 1:1 says that the prophecies in the book “must come to pass.” Not only is Laodicea spewed out, but it becomes the synagogue of Satan; therefore, God does not recognize Laodicea as a professed Christian church when Jesus comes. Why do we say that Laodicea becomes the synagogue of Satan? Notice the following testimony: 

You think, that those who worship before the saint’s feet, (Revelation 3:9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and “crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” And in the “hour of temptation,” which is yet to come, to show out every one’s true character, they will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint’s feet. (A Word to the Little Flock, p. 12; response to Eli Curtis) 

Here Ellen White says that it will be professed Adventists who worship at the feet of the saints, and she is specifically making reference to Revelation 3:9, where the ones who worship at the saints’ feet are called “the synagogue of Satan.” These Adventists in profession also acknowledge that God has loved the Philadelphians. This group, some of whom may have been sued by a corporation for daring to use the name Seventh-day Adventist, will be acknowledged by the professed Adventists as the true Adventists whom God loves. 

Laodecia, whose name means “a people adjudged,” has been weighed in the balances of the heavenly sanctuary and has been found wanting (Testimonies for the Church, volume 8, page 247). The call of Jesus moves from the angel of the church in Revelation 3:14 to the individual in 3:21. All who will receive the eyesalve of the Holy Spirit will not be spued out, but will, rather, be counted with Philadelphia, and not with Laodicea. 

While there certainly is no eighth church, neither is there a need for an eighth church for Laodicea to fail, but the message of Revelation is not one of only doom. While corporate Laodicea is spewed out, there will be those who overcome and come out of her and who will sit with Christ in his throne. These saints will become a part of the Philadelphian fellowship and will “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:4). 

Allen Stump


“But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” (Daniel 11:44, 45)

We have been warned: “The signs of the times are ominous. Coming events cast their shadows before” (The Desire of Ages, p. 636). God has told his people through Amos, “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Certainly the last great events are even now casting their shadows, and God’s prophets have given warning that the last events are upon us. 

Daniel 11:44, 45 has been a focal point of discussion among Adventist prophetic expositors for many years. The king of the north, with “great fury,” makes a last stand and part of this stand is to plant his tabernacles in the glorious holy mountain. The timing of this prophecy is vital, as the very next words in Daniel are: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy 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 thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.” (Daniel 12:1). That time is just after the king of the north places his tabernacles in the glorious holy mountain. Adventists know that Michael is none other than Jesus Christ, and his standing up signals the close of probation, for after Michael stands up, there is the time of trouble such as the world has never seen. 

[Daniel 12:1 quoted] When this time of trouble comes, every case is decided; there is no longer probation, no longer mercy for the impenitent. The seal of the living God is upon His people. (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 212, 213) 

All the way through Daniel 11, the king of the north is Rome, in pagan and professed Christian form. There is no good reason to change good hermeneutics and arrive at a different interpretation of the king of the north at the end of the chapter. The text says that the papacy will plant its tabernacles in the glorious holy mountain. A tabernacle is not a permanent dwelling place, or structure, but rather a temporary place of abode. But what is the glorious holy mountain? Some postulate that it is the United States of America. This cannot be for two reasons. Firstly, if there was ever a time when the United States could have been a “glorious holy” place, it would have been in the early part of its ascendency to power when it had horns like a lamb; not today, when Daniel’s prophecy is being fulfilled, for now the United States is speaking as a beast. Secondly, there is no verse in the Bible that defines the United States as the “glorious holy mountain.” 

However, there is a biblical definition for the holy mountain found within the book of Daniel. Daniel 9:16 states: “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.” Isaiah 66:20 also calls Jerusalem God’s holy mountain. It might be said that Jerusalem is no longer God’s holy city and that New Jerusalem is the true holy city of God. This is true, but it does not mean that the literal city of Jerusalem cannot still be a focal point of biblical prophecy. According to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, literal Jerusalem was a focus of biblical prophecy and a sign to the early Christians of impending doom. This was nearly four decades after the time of the cross. 

Furthermore, Jerusalem lies between the two great seas that border the area of Jerusalem—the Dead Sea to the south and the Sea of Galilee to the north. Thus the city of Jerusalem meets all the requirements of the prophecy, and there is no doubt that the papacy has it eyes set upon Jerusalem. This was recently highlighted in a news report from israelnationalnews.com. In an article entitled “The Vatican Wants to Lay its Hands on Jerusalem,” we read of the pressure that the papacy is putting upon Israel to turn over the authority to the Vatican of selected holy sites known as the “Holy Basin,” which include the tomb of King David, the Western Wall, the garden of Gethsemane, and the Temple Mount. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican’s Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said, referring to these areas: 

There will not be peace if the question of the holy sites is not adequately resolved. The part of Jerusalem within the walls—with the holy sites of the three religions—is humanity’s heritage. The sacred and unique character of the area must be safeguarded and it can only be done with a special, internationally-guaranteed statute. (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/150757#.Tw2CtZiPWgE) 

The article from israelnationalnews.com revealed that the Vatican and Israeli governments “are deadlocked in discussions over the status of the religious sites. Vatican officials are now reiterating their demand for control over the religious sites in the ancient and holy city founded by King David as the capital of ancient Israel and now the capital of the reestablished Jewish state” (emphasis supplied). The article then stated that “Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, declared that Israel might consider giving the Vatican ‘a greater role’ in operating the sites.” 

The rational for such non-Israeli control of Jerusalem is that its unique position as an international city which hosts sacred areas to three of the world’s greatest religions must be safeguarded. When Bill Clinton was president of the United States, he began recommending that the areas known as the “Holy Basin” be administered under a “special regime.” According to the Obama administration, Jerusalem would be designated an “international zone.” 

Negotiations have been carried on between the Vatican and Israel since at least 2006, when “then Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, negotiated to give away the ‘holy basin’ to the Vatican.” However, due to public pressure, the plan was scrapped, and denials were made that they had planned to give away the control of these areas to the Vatican. 

With each passing year, though, public sway is being softened to the idea of the Vatican having a major hand in the administration of Jerusalem. It should not come as a surprise to Adventists that the late Pope John Paul II, as well as Pope Benedict XVI, have looked at Jerusalem as the vital piece missing from the Vatican’s control. The Vatican last had its hands upon part of Jerusalem four hundred fifty years ago, when the Ottoman Empire wrestled away the papacy’s last hold upon the city. They have been plotting for half a millennium as to the means by which Jerusalem can be taken back into the papal fold. 

Therefore, with the prophecy of Daniel 11:45 before us, we should not be surprised if very soon the Vatican sets up some type of see in Jerusalem. If you were Satan coming to personate Christ, where you begin? How about the city most known for religion in the world? How about the city that was the place where Christ was put to death? How about the place where the pope would be temporarily lodging? If the pope moved to Jerusalem, he could bow to Satan and hand him the papal scepter, and Satan would speak in a soft musical voice, just like Jesus did, saying: “This is my man; hear ye him.” While we cannot say with surety where Satan will first appear, there is no more logical choice than Jerusalem, and today, shadows are casting long upon Jerusalem, indicating that the day is almost done.

Allen Stump

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