There are some in the COG circles that are teaching that 3 of the churches John wrote about in Rev 2 – 3 will still be in existence when Christ returns. I think it is a compelling argument. However, by using the same criteria, I actually come up with 4! Look this over and tell me what you think.
I have always disliked the idea that these churches represent “eras”. An era comes to an end, and then the new one begins. If there is any transitional period, it should be a short-lived one. However, if our identification of the church at Sardis is any indication, then that organization still exists today. It did not end, even after all these years. I have always been intrigued by the German word “Zeitgeist”, and I believe it is closer to the real intent of what these churches represent. “Zeitgeist” literally means “spirit of the times”. It is a general overall mood felt by the people in a particular time. It allows for a particular mood or organization arising but not necessarily completely dying out at the end. Since the letters are addressed to the “Angel at” such-and-such a church location, I think it is even more appropriate. I think this also fits in better than “eras” as to why there would be three churches in existence at Christ’s return.
As I understand it, the reasons given for stating that the last 3 churches of Asia that John wrote about would be in existence at Jesus’ return follows.
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.
~ Rev 3:3
He will come upon them suddenly “like a thief”. They will not know the hour, just as we do not know the hour of His return.
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 above indicates a time of protection during the Great Tribulation.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
~ v20 (Cf. Jas 5:7-9)
“Stand at the door” indicates an imminent return.
So, it would appear that all 3 are warned that He will come to them suddenly or protect them during the hour of temptation.
But, what of Thyatira? Shouldn’t the same principles be applied to them?
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto 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 which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, 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.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto 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 shivers: even as I received of my Father.
And I will give him the morning star.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
~ Rev 2:18-29
We see at least 3 things in this passage that give me a hint that this church will also last until Christ’s return:
1. “Great tribulation.” It has been stated by some that this does not necessarily mean “The Great Tribulation”. However, there are only two other places this designation is used, and it definitely means the tribulation of the entire world in those passages, so it seems unlikely that it would mean something different here.
2. “But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” This statement is the clearest that this church will be in existence at Christ’s second coming. It also hints that this organization will not hold the entire truth, so they must hold to what truth they do have up until the very end. I don’t think the level of understanding should be discounted, either. Just as the church we normally associated with Sardis rejected a truth that led Mr Armstrong to leave that organization does not mean they were not nor still aren’t part of the body of the Church of God.
3. “Unto the end.” I suppose you could argue “to the end of what?” However, from the context, it would appear to me to be the end of this present age.
I think everything happens for a reason, but I honestly cannot say that all reasons will be evident in this life. I am reminded of a sermon I heard when I was young, and it has been on my mind ever since thinking about this. The sermon was about judging those in other organizations. It seems that even back then, some ministers had the conviction that the Church of God is a spiritual body, and it is not necessarily limited to one physical organization.
The minister brought up the subject of people in another Sabbatarian organization. His point was that the Sabbath was a sign that points to God’s people, and so we must be very careful in judging other organizations. I have since learned that there are some in that same organization that don’t keep Christmas, and there even may be some that keep the Holy Days (although this was years ago). I believe that there still may be true Christians in that organization, and if so they are part of the body of Christ. Are they of the Church of Thyatira? If they are, then it wouldn’t hurt for all of us to examine our individual and collective attitudes towards them.
So, I look at the description of the Church at Thyatira, and it strikes me that the leaders of that particular organization that John wrote about are the ones leading it into idolatry, but that there are definitely some within it that are holding to whatever level of truth they do have. I see a church in existence at Christ’s return. I wouldn’t call this a salvation issue (and even probably falls under “disputable items”), but I believe there is Scriptural support that this church will be in existence at Christ’s return.