About 99.5% of the time when COG pundits write about the seven churches of Revelation, all you ever really hear about is two of them. Usually, one group asserts it is the “Philadelphian” church and all the others are “Laodicean”.
That’s one reason I don’t care much for the unprovable theory of church eras. In this pet theory of many, including HWA, the seven churches represent a chain of churches down through time that exhibit different characteristics of that “era” or time period.
In the COGWriter blog Church of God News, Dr Robert Thiel wrote something in “UCG President Asks ‘What’s Ahead for the Church of God’?” that was somewhat surprising in that he did not just concentrate on the last two churches.
The Book of Revelation shows that there will be remnant parts of four Churches of God at the time of the end. These are Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. It would biblically seem that those that are actually part of the Church of God, but are not actually Philadelphian, are almost all in the Thyatira, Sardis, and/or Laodicea churches. Those Laodiceans are essentially the offspring that came out of the Philadelphia Church.
I have said for some time that almost all of the churches in Revelation will be existent at the end-time. There are one or two where that is arguable.
However, I will state that the idea of the Laodiceans coming “out of the Philadelphia Church” is not what Revelation says. Have their never been Christians who were materialistic and lacking in zeal? Did none of the churches practice brotherly love nor spread the Gospel until the Philadelphians came on the scene?
Another thing that has always annoyed me is whenever people read into Scripture that the Philadelphians will flee to Petra (or some other place of safety) and everyone else will not. Oh, and let’s not forget that whoever is telling you this is always a Philadelphian!
Just prior to the actual start of the Great Tribulation, when its time to flee, the Christians that are not Philadelphian will not go to a place of safety for various reasons. Yet, the Philadelphians will, as they will be kept from the hour of trial (Revelation 3:10).
Well, let’s look at it just to get grounded in God’s words and not someone else’s.
10Because 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. (Revelation 3:10, King James Version)
All this says is that the Philadelphians will be kept “from the hour of temptation”. “Temptation”, of course, is the wrong word. Most translations use either “trial” or “testing” in its place. There is no doubt that this is talking about the Great Tribulation. However, it does not say how, and it does not say where.
Could it be that the Philadelphians will be kept from the Great Tribulation because they are no longer around?
Notice what Jesus says to each church:
- Ephesus – "I will come unto thee quickly" (2:5)
- Smyrna – "ye shall have tribulation ten days" (v 10; could be a reference to Rev 6:9-11)
- Pergamos – "I will come unto thee quickly" (v 16)
- Thyatira – "hold fast till I come" not hold fast to death (v 25)
- Sardis – "thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (3:3)
- Philadelphia – "Behold, I come quickly" (v 11)
- Laodicea – "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock" (v 20; cf. Mt 24:33)
At very least, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea must be in existence at His return, or the messages make no sense.
Ephesus was threatened with the removal of its candlestick, so it may or may not be around at Christ’s second coming. However, ponder what it means that its candlestick is going to be removed. That means it would no longer exist. However, what if Jesus did not remove it? Does that mean that the church eras stop?
All of the candlesticks were lit, all were existing at the same time, Jesus over and over again said that the Spirit was speaking to the churches (plural) and to remove one means that it doesn’t exist going forward in time but that the others, which would even include Laodicea, would!
To Pergamos, Jesus not only affirms He would “come … quickly” but that He would fight against those who do not repent. Sounds to me like they will also exist at His return.
However, to Philadelphia, He only says He will come quickly. He tells them to hold fast so that no one takes their crown. Is this an indication that they will all be dead before the Great Tribulation?
I don’t know that it has to occur this way. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean Philadelphia has to flee to Petra, either.