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(IV. Dispensation of Promise - Continued )

God's retribution.

 

Read Exodus 1 to 19

We are not prepared to say, as some do, that Israel's bondage in Egypt was a
judgment or punishment from God upon them because they were there (out of
the land of Canaan). Jacob was definitely told to go, with his family, down into
Egypt (Genesis 46:3: And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go
down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: Genesis 46:4: I will
go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and
Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.).

As we understand the matter, God's dealings with Israel in Egypt were
providential and disciplinary but not penal. While in Egypt, they were oppressed
by Pharaoh but were preserved by Jehovah. During their sojourn there, they
increased numerically, intellectually, and spiritually, and became a nation. The
"plagues" were a judgment from God upon the Egyptians for their sins (Genesis
15:14: And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward
shall they come out with great substance.), but through them Israel must have
been instructed, encouraged, and edified.

Following a long list of providential deliverances and miraculous provisions, the
Law was temporarily given them at Sinai. It was to be operative until Calvary. The
Law "was added – till the seed (Christ) should come": (Galatians 3:19: Wherefore
then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed
should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in
the hand of a mediator.)

God’s retribution—Exodus 1 to 19.

We are not prepared to say, as some do, that Israel’s bondage in Egypt was a
judgment or punishment from God upon them because they were there (out of
the land of Canaan). Jacob was definitely told to go, with his family, down into
Egypt (Genesis 46:3-4).

As we understand the matter, God’s dealings with Israel in Egypt were
providential and disciplinary but not penal. While in Egypt, they were oppressed
by Pharaoh but were preserved by Jehovah. During their sojourn there, they
increased numerically, intellectually, and spiritually and became a nation. The
“plagues” were a judgment from God upon the Egyptians for their sins (Genesis
15:14), but through them Israel must have been instructed, encouraged and
edified. Following a long list of providential deliverances and miraculous
provisions, the Law was temporarily given them at Sinai. It was to be operative
until Calvary. The Law “was added—till the seed of the woman [Christ] should
come” (Galatians 3:19).

The Abrahamic Covenant marks the beginning of promise for the People of God.
Shem, Ham & Japheth, Noah’s’ sons through biological, historical links over the
past 5000 years of human history since Noah’s flood and the interaction of
diverse cultures and Isms are ultimately responsible as the blood line is retraced
for thousands of years in the past to the present philosophical condition of the
world in dominion to false religions and Isms of the day.  Keep in mind also, that
our first parents: Adam & Eve through their direct disobedience of God are the
initial cause for sin in the human race through their tainted blood line because of
the fall, the curse and their offspring.

From Shem comes Abraham. From Abraham; Isaac. From Isaac; Jacob. From
Jacob (ISRAEL) and eventually through this line Moses, The Prophets, Jesus
Christ, and the CHURCH.  Ham is responsible for the line of Nimrod (Babylon)
through to the Chaldean Mysteries, Egyptian Mysteries, Greek Mysteries,
(Gnosticism), Roman Mysteries, to Theosophy which will later blend and splinter
with his brother Japheths’ offspring of the Eastern Religions combined with the
Mystical Religions that we know today like: Freemasonry and other religious
occult secret societies. More will be said about this blend of esoteric mix and
today’s New Age Movement in Chapter 5, which has its roots in the Mystery
Religions and ancient Babylon.

Genesis 12: 1-3 is the unconditional Covenant given to Abraham in the
dispensation of promise and to his descendents that God makes which will
ultimately bring about the nation ISRAEL through him.

The promise of blessings and cursings follow this unequaled of all promises to
this great man of Faith. These words of the Lord came to Abraham while he was
still in Ur of the Caldees: (KJV) Now The LORD had said unto Abram, “Get thee
out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land
that I will show thee:  And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee,
and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that
bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the
earth be blessed.”

Now lets reflect for a moment upon the ground rules for interpreting what God is
doing differently with Abraham than what He did with Noah and what is going to
be brought upon the scene of world history in this dispensation that differs from
the previous.

In the post flood era, the world fell under a deep, spiritual darkness. As the years
passed, multitudes turned to astrology and occultism. Fewer and fewer of Noah’s
descendents clung to the worship of Jehovah, the one true God. Finally, the
populace erected a towering ziggurat on the plains of Shinar (Babel). It was a
pyramid-shaped temple dedicated to stargazing and pagan worship.

The tower-builders in the ancient plain obviously purposed to bless their own
generation with the work of their own hands. Their bright idea was to ascend to
wonderful new heights of planetary unity through human self-effort. We can
imagine how completely plausible the excellent plan must have appeared, and
with what alacrity the populace must have rushed to support the new movement.
The appeal of a drive to penetrate the heavenly realm and secure the unity of the
race must have been electrifying.

The Tower of Babel represented a turning point in human history. Before that
time, there were no “Jews” or “Gentiles”, because humanity existed collectively
as a single race. It was God’s plan to use one of Noah’s descendants—from the
line of Shem, Noah’s firstborn son to form a separated people and nation.
Through this chosen nation, He would redeem the creation from the death grip of
the Evil One (Col 1:19-20). Of course the man God chose for this mission was
Abram (later re-named Abraham), from Ur of the Chaldees, near the Persian Gulf.
It is Abram’s unflinching, immediate obedience to the divine call that reveals what
a committed follower of Jehovah he was. (Gen 12:1) “By faith Abraham, when he
was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance,
obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went,” the writer of Hebrews
declares in Hebrews (11:8).

In it’s original form the Abrahamic Covenant recorded in Genesis, Chapter 12,
contained seven distinct provisions: First, the Lord said, “I will make of thee a
great nation. How would this come about? Isaac was the prophesied seed of
Abraham (see Genesis 15: 1-6). He was the one through whom God’s promises
would be fulfilled. (Gen 21:1). The promise was later confirmed to Jacob, Isaac’s
son (Gen 35:10-12). Therefore, this first aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant finds
its fulfillment in the nation Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I believe it’s important to interject here that much like the promise of being filled
with the Holy Spirit is a command for the Believer in the dispensation of Grace it
is based upon certain conditions, Abraham had to meet certain conditions with
God in order to obtain the promise.

First he has to have dedicated his life to God, secondly he had to put away sin,
(Obey God and do as He commanded) and thirdly he had to depend upon God for
the power to do his will. Now then we know with all of this done we will shortly
see the test of Abram’s faith come to pass. But how could he endure the test and
not fail? How can any man stand up to so great a call as Abram has had placed
upon himself by God?

Abram was 75 years old at this time. He sets out from Haran with his wife Sarai,
his nephew Lot, and all of their possessions, and the people with them to travel
to the land of Canaan. Abram was to become the progenitor of the Messianic line
through which (Yeshua Hamashiach) would be born. Do you think he had any
thought of the importance of his obedience? He was given the encouragement
from God that he would be a blessing to the entire world.

At this point in Abram’s travels it looks as though he is beginning to succumb to
the same malaise, as did Jonah in his reluctant trip to Nineveh. Getting through a
few rough spots and again receiving the assurance from God that all the land that
was in sight would become the possession of his offspring, he starts waffling
because there is famine in the land he decides to go to Egypt to live for awhile,
and gets a funny idea in his head about the Egyptians wanting his wife Sarai, so
he tells her to act like she is his sister, so they will treat him well. And so they do,
at least before the charade is found out. What happens to all the blessings he’s
supposed to be to the world all of a sudden? It actually turns out to be a curse
instead...God inflicts serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because
Sarai played along. Abram is caught in the lie and sent out immediately to the
Negev with barely the shirt on his back although the Bible says it was with
everything he had I doubt Pharaoh would have left him have all the sheep, cattle,
donkeys, men and maidservants and camels he was previously given. One thing
about travel in those days it was slow, and slow travel with flocks and herds does
produce more of the same. Lot also had his cattle and flocks and herds and all of
his possessions as well. As things usually happen it became burdensome with
all of these possessions, arguments sprang up and quarrels over the landscape
erupted between the herdsmen of Abram and the herdsmen of Lot.

A parting of the ways was unavoidable. Abram was amenable he gave Lot first
choice of which way he wanted to go and he would go the other. Lot chooses the
whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. Abram lived then for a time
in the land of Canaan.

After awhile God spoke to Abram and said, “lift up your gaze to the north and
south and east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your
offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, then so
many that if anyone could count them they would be counted. Go, walk through
the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

So what did the behavior of Abram in Egypt have to do with this blessing of land?
Did God renege on His promise because Abram failed and defrauded Pharaoh?
No, not at all, but Abram did learn a principle in all of this. God who alone has the
ownership and control of all things in His power also has the authority to give it
or withhold it to whomsoever He chooses. Lot didn’t fare well at all in Sodom, as
you know, yet in the beginning of the decision to split the ways, his choice was
externally probably the better of the two, a well-watered garden-like setting. Yet
who could know how it would turn out?

A principle of faith seems to be at work in Abram’s heart to have brought about
the turn of events from broken trust to a place of blessing. He knew that what he
did in posing his wife as his sister was wrong. Yet God did not directly punish
him, he brought sickness upon the Pharaoh and family. He let Abram go! The
testing had only begun. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t give up when we fail on the
first trial, and the second, or maybe on all! How can He who knows all things be
discouraged when we fail? We do not fail God. We gain his trust to start again,
yes and if we fail again, he will by faith give us still another start. (How many times
shall I forgive my brother if he sins against me)? How many times shall God who
made my brother forgive me who has sinned against him? Abram like you and I
would have done, gets up, shakes off the dust, and moves ahead with God for
another journey into the unknown. (Going on with God under Grace…)

But wait. We are not living in the dispensation that Abram lived in. He knew
nothing of the filling of the Holy Spirit, nothing of the shed blood of Christ on
Calvary’s tree. He knew not of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit or the
fellowship and forgiveness of the risen Christ. But what he did know was that the
God of all flesh was a righteous God, and that He was faithful and true. That
whatever He promised He would do. That’s why Abram has his place in the Hall
of Faith in Hebrews 11. Lets take a look. Beginning at Verse 8: By faith Abraham,
when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for
an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he
lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with
Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city,
which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah
herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she
considered Him faithful who had promised; therefore, also, there was born of one
man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of
heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.

And consider the faith of these many as well as Abraham, without receiving the
promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and
having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those
who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out,
they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better
country that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their
God; for He has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had
received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom
it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called”. He considered that God
is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as
a type. Had the covenant with Abram been conditional God would have had to
withdraw it upon Abram’s first slip up. But the covenant was not conditional.
What Abram had to do to enter in to the full promise with God was to simply leave
Ur of the Chaldees for the Covenant to take effect.

The Abrahamic Covenant may be reduced to three basic provisions regarding:
(1) The land, (2) the seed, and (3) the blessing. 
The land promised would be clearly identified in the Palestinian Covenant:
(Deuteronomy 30:1-10) a land for the Kingdom.
The seed identified in the Davidic Covenant: (II Samuel 7:4-17) the promise of a
King for the Kingdom.
The blessing, exactly what it was to be, is identified in the New Covenant:
(Jeremiah 31:31-37 & Hebrews 8:7-13) a new heart, a new nation.


V. The Dispensation of the Mosaic Law.  (Given to Israel)
(Moses-Israel-Commandments-To the death of Christ at the Cross of Calvary)

This dispensation opens with Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from
God at Mount Sinai. Descending from the slopes of the Mount with two stone
slabs was Moses bringing the commandments of God for the Hebrew refugees
from Egypt. The purpose of the law is clear from Galatians 3:24, so the law was
put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

The reason for the law in God’s plan and purpose was to bring Israel to a spiritual
position whereby the nation would fulfill its mission of becoming priests to the
whole world and blessing to all people. The law encompassed the coming of a
Messiah from the lineage of King David to take away sin and assume the
responsibility of government upon himself.

Besides keeping the commandments and ordinances of the law, the law also
entailed a specific order of worship and sacrifice, first in the Tabernacle and later
in the Temple. It also encompassed certain food restrictions, dietary rules, and
the observance of holy days and feast days. The law in and of itself provided no
plan of redemption or salvation (Romans 3:19-20).

To the children of Israel through Moses was given the great code that we call the
Mosaic Law. It consisted of 613 commandments covering all phases of life and
activity. It revealed in specific detail God’s will in that economy.  The period
covered was from Moses until the death of Christ, or from Exodus 19:1 to Acts 1:
26.
The people were responsible to do all the law (Jas. 2:10), but they failed (Rom.10:
1-3). As a result, there were many judgments throughout this long period. The ten
tribes were carried into Assyrian captivity; the two tribes were carried into
Babylonian captivity; and later, because of their rejection of Jesus of Nazareth,
the people were dispersed into all the world (Matt. 23:37-39).

During their many periods of declension and backsliding, God dealt with Israel
graciously from the very first apostasy with the golden calf when the law was
being delivered to Moses, to the gracious promises of final re-gathering and
restoration in the millennial age to come. These promises of a glorious future are
guaranteed secure by the Abrahamic promises, which the law in no way
abrogated (Gal. 3:3-25). We are also told very clearly in the New Testament (Rom.
3:20) that the law was not a means of justification but of condemnation.

At Sinai, the Lord offered to enter into a legal agreement with His people. Under
the new arrangement, the nation’s standing with Him would be based strictly on
its ability to satisfy His righteous requirements. Notice the word “if” in the
following verse, signifying the conditional nature of the contract: “Now therefore,
if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar
treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto
me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation . . .” (Ex. 19:5,6)

Man’s (Israel’s) condition—Exodus 2:23, 25; 19:4

As heirs of the promises, Israel could look back to God’s miraculous, gracious,
and wonderful dealings with them and on their behalf. Their preservation in
Egypt, their exodus from Egypt, and their sojourn from Egypt to Sinai were all
0ne continuous series of Divine interventions. They had been oppressed and
abused, but, like the burning bush, they were not consumed (Exodus 3:2). They
had been providentially preserved, delivered, sustained, and directed by
Sovereign grace. Their history could be recorded by the Plagues (Exodus 7 to 9),
the Passover (Exodus 12), the Red Sea (Exodus 14:22), the Pillar of Fire and
Cloud (Exodus 13:21-22), the Bread from Heaven (Exodus 16:4) and the Water
from the Rock (Exodus 17:6).
They should have appreciated their favored position and heritage and cast
themselves unconditionally upon God’s grace and mercy and His Lordship.

God's requirements—Exodus 19:5-8; 20:1-17, 22-26; 24:1-8; 25:8-9;
Deuteronomy 6: 16-25; 27:26.

The Law might be thought of as being in two parts: (1) the moral ordinances
regulating personal conduct and business and social relationships; (2) the
ceremonial ordinances directing the ritual of the tabernacle in the worship of
Jehovah. Israel was to observe the Law in its entirety. The only alternative to
obedience was condemnation (see Galatians 3:10).

Man's (Israel's) conduct—Exodus 32:1-4; 2 Kings 17:7-17, 19; Matthew 21-33-40;
Acts 2:22-23; 7:51-52.

Israel's transgressions commenced with the molding of a golden calf and
culminated with the murder of the Son of God. From Sinai to Calvary, their history
is a story of disobedience, transgression, and apostasy. From time to time the
masses would heed the call of the prophets to repentance, and revivals were
experienced. But alas, the people would soon drift into carelessness and
carnality, and again rebellion, apostasy, and idolatry would sway. But for a small
remnant, they forsook the Lord their God, presumed upon His grace, ignored His
Word, persecuted His prophets, committed spiritual adultery with idols and finally
crucified the Messiah.

God's retribution—(for Israel): 2 Kings 17: 1-6, 18; (for Judah): 2 Kings 24:11-16;
25:1-21.

Because of the nation's persistent and continued violations of the Law, the
judgments of God fell upon them. After repeated pleadings and warnings, Israel
(the Northern Kingdom) was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Then, a little
over a century later, Judah (the Southern Kingdom) fell under the cruel hand of
Nebuchadnezzar and was taken into the Babylonian captivity.

From the Babylonian captivity a remnant returned to "the land" under Ezra and
Nehemiah but were under Gentile domination. Then, "in fullness of time" and
under these subservient conditions, the virgin mother Mary bore Jesus into the
world (Galatians 4:4). The remnant of the nation finally filled up the cup of iniquity
by rejecting and crucifying Jesus Christ, the Son of God, their Messiah. Then
followed their final dispersion, which continues, to the present hour (Luke 21:20-
24; Matthew 23:37-39).

Note: The present rejection and scattering of the nation of Israel is, however, only
temporary. At the time of Christ's Second Coming they will be re-gathered and
restored.

Note: It is quite important that the purpose of the giving of the Law be
understood, especially so because of the ignorance and error that is current
regarding the subject.

1. The Law was given to Israel exclusively and temporarily.
(a) To Israel only (Romans 2:12, l4)-the Gentiles were never subject to the Law of
Sinai or under its authority.
(b) To Israel until Calvary (2 Corinthians 3:6-11; Galatians 3:19, 24- 25)-the death
of Christ put an end to the Law of Sinai economy.

2. The Law was to give the knowledge of sin—to make sin sinful, to manifest to
them their need (Romans 3:20).

3. The Law was never given as a means of salvation. The purpose of the Law was
to judge and not to justify, but to administer condemnation and not salvation, to
reveal sin and not to remove it (Romans 3:20).

In way of summary: The Mosaic Covenant was offered to Israel as a mandatory,
legalistic system. This is the only covenant that was conditional, and it terminated
with the death of Christ. However, much of the ceremonial law will be re-instituted
during the Millennium.

What is the Millennium?

The word means “thousand years”. The Millennium is the coming one thousand
year reign of Christ and His saints. Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of this reign as
being a literal, physical, and visible reign on earth. The kingdoms of this world
will become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ, and He will rule the world in
righteousness. Those who choose to suffer with Christ today (The Members of
His Body-The Church) will reign with Him in the coming Millennial Kingdom (II
Tim. 2:11-13; Lk. 19:12-19). Also see Isaiah 2:2-4, 9:6, 11:1-6, Psalm 2:1-8, Luke 1:
32, and Zechariah 14:16-19.

Before leaving this dispensation of Law, lets reflect for a moment upon the
working of God even in the midst of disaster. Man was given a turn at determining
his own destiny. We know that life is made or broken by the degree of conformity
on the part of any individual or society to that knowable, divine direction, the will
of God. A most profound statement is given to us in the Bible in this regard, a
statement that is rarely quoted from the pew or pulpit. The apostle Paul said it
well to the Corinthians: “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the
truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8).

Nothing of significance, nothing of consequence, nothing of importance, nothing
that is lasting, nothing that matters can truly be accomplished which is “against
the truth”. All efforts in that direction are nugatory. All energy, expended in any
activity whatsoever, which is at variance to the will of God, is lost, never to be
seen again.

By contrast, life, happiness, accomplishment, and eternal destiny are implicit in
those thoughts and activities that are “for the truth”. It is in that direction and for
that cause anything that is done is truly done in an intelligent sense. The key to
all reality in life, to every good work that matters, is the intelligent human will
responding affirmatively to the will of God. (Going on with God under Grace).

That simple principle, if followed, will bring a thousand blessings to the
perceptive soul and will save that soul from a thousand problems. It is a great
mistake to reduce the motivations of life to libido or to make the wellsprings of life
merely the life instinct or the death instinct. Such a conception of the potentially
magnificent personality of the human individual is the grossest sort of
reductionism.

So how then can man possibly act right and do that which is right with a free will
to choose God’s will if sin is the ruler of his destiny. Is man a victim of a cosmic
joke adrift in a universe void of absolutes? With no hope and no God? He is if it
were not for God having taken the initiative even before creation to bring man a
redeemer who alone could save him from himself...Thus the dispensation of the
Grace of God, at Christ’s expense is born out of necessity in the mind of our
loving eternal heavenly Father for the benefit of the human race; dead in
trespasses and sins, under the just condemnation of a Holy God in whom there is
no shadow of turning...

Redemption

“Redemption” means to deliver by paying a price. The work of Christ fulfilling the
Old. Testament types and prophecies of redemption are set forth in three
principal Greek words;
(1) Agorazo, to buy in the market (from agora, market). Man is viewed as a slave
“sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14) and under sentence of death (Ezek. 18:4; Jn. 3:18-
19, Rom.6: 23) but subject to redemption by the purchase price of the blood of
the Redeemer (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 2 Pet.2: 1; Rev.5: 9; 14:3-4).

(2) Exagorazo, to buy out of the market, i.e. to purchase and remove from further
sale (Gal. 3:13, 4:5; Eph.5: 16; Col.4-5), speaking of the finality of the work of
redemption. and

(3) lutroo, to loose or set free (Lk. 24:21; Ti.2: 14; 1 Pet.1: 18), noun form, lutrosis
(Lk.2: 38; Heb.9: 12). Compare also “redeemed” (lit. to make redemption, Gk.
epoiesen, lutrosin, Lk.1: 68), and “deliverance” (intensive form, apolutrosis) used
commonly to indicate release of a slave (Lk. 21:28; Rom.3: 24; 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30;
Eph.1: 7, 14: 4:30; Col.1: 14; Heb.9: 15; 11:35). Redemption is by sacrifice and by
power (Ex.14: 30, note); Christ paid the price, the Holy Spirit makes deliverance
actual in experience (Rom. 8:2).

VI.  The Dispensation of Grace. (The Church Age - View Image)
(From Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection to the Rapture of the Church)

Note: We are now living in this, the sixth, Dispensation. As we have said before,
in our judgment, we are nearing the end of the Age. Christ's appearing is
imminent.

Our Lord Jesus Christ in Mt.12, a new age announced this sixth dispensation, 47-
13:52. The Church was clearly prophesied by Him in Mt. 16:18 (cp Mt.18: 15-19),
purchased by the shedding of His blood on Calvary (Rom.3: 24-25; 1 Cor.6: 20; 1
Pet.1: 18-19), and constituted as the Church after His resurrection and ascension
at Pentecost when, in accordance with His promise (Acts 1:5), individual
believers were for the first time baptized with the Holy Spirit into a unified spiritual
organism, likened to a body of which Christ is Head (1 Cor. 12:12 -13; Col. 2:19).
Because of the emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, this age has also been called “the
dispensation of the Spirit”.

The point of testing in this dispensation is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the message of good news about His death and resurrection (Jn.19: 30; Acts 4:
12; 1 Cor.15: 3-5; 2 Cor.5: 21; etc.). The continuing, cumulative revelation of the
previous dispensations combines with this fuller revelation to emphasize the
utter sinfulness and lost ness of man and the adequacy of the historically
completed work of Christ to save by grace through faith all who come unto God
by Him  (Jn.14; 6; Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; Rom. 3-21-26; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 4:10;
Heb.10: 12-14; 11:6). As those saved individuals who compose Christ’s true
Church fulfill their Lord’s command to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth
(Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:46-48; Acts 1:8), God during this age is taking out from Jews
and Gentiles “a people for his name” (Acts 15:14), called “the Church” and
henceforth carefully distinguished from both Jews and Gentiles as such (1 Cor.
10:32; Gal. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:11-18; 3:5-6).

The Lord Jesus warned that during the period, while the Holy Spirit is forming the
Church, many will reject His Gospel, and many others will pretend to believe in
Him and will become a source of spiritual corruption and hindrance to His
purpose in this age, in the professing church. These will bring apostasy,
particularly in the last days (Mt.13: 24-30,36-40, 47-49; 2 Th.2: 5-8; 1 Tim.4: 1-2; 2
Tim. 3:1; 4:3-4; 2 Pet.2: 1-2; 1 Jn.2: 18-20).

Man's condition—Romans 3:9-19,23; John 3:16,18; 5:24; Matthew 18:11.

No distinction is now made between Jew and Gentile. All have sinned, and all are
guilty before God. Red and yellow, black and white, educated and ignorant, crude
and cultured, civilized and uncivilized are alike in that all are spiritually dead, all
are perishing, and all are lost apart from Christ.

God's requirement—John 1:12; 3:16,18,36; 5:24; 6:29; Acts 16:31; 10:43;
Romans 4:5; 10:9-10.

Christ died for all; He came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. His death
was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Jesus Christ, God's Son,
settled the "sin" question in behalf of every man at Calvary. Now men must settle
the "SON" question. "What will you do with Jesus?" is the paramount and all-
important question for everyone. To receive Christ means a glorious salvation.
Belief in Christ is the divine command and the supreme requirement of the
present age.

The following quote by James Denney is truth well put and truth that needs to be
proclaimed by Christians everywhere: "As there is only one God so there can be
only one Gospel. If God has really done something in Christ on which the
salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is a
Christian's duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies or explains it
away." Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh
unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6).

Man's conduct—Matthew 7: 13-14; Luke 19: 12-14,26-27; 18:8; John 3:19; 1
Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

While many have been saved all during the Christian era, and while many of the
present generation are true children of God, yet it remains true that the righteous
have always been in the minority. Despite much faithful Gospel preaching, the
great masses of humanity continue on in sin and in rejection of Christ as Saviour.
Many have been evangelized, but few are truly born again (Matthew 20:16).
The masses are, in reality, saying, "We will not have this man (Jesus Christ) to
reign over us”. Unbelief dominates the world, and apostasy holds sway in much
of Christendom. The outlook is not very encouraging, but the "up-look" is
encouraging and inviting, grand and glorious.

God's retribution (prophetic)—Matthew 24:37-41; 25:31-46; Luke 17:26-37; 2
Thessalonians 1:7-8; 2:3-11; Jude 14-15; Revelation 6: 17; Revelation 4-19.

The return of Christ in the air, for the church at the rapture, (1 Thessalonians 4:
16,17) will close this present dispensation. The Bema seat of rewards for
Believers commences as the wedding supper of the Lamb begins in heaven. The
Tribulation period commences and at the end of the 7-year period the Lord and
the Church return to earth to usher in the next, or "Kingdom Age”. (For the Lord
himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we
which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds,
to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord).

For the saved, His appearing will mean the completion of their salvation; but for
the great masses of humanity, it will mean a time of judgment and condemnation.
Into a world filled with confusion and conflict, war and wreckage, chaos and
Christ-less living, the tribulation will come upon the sin-loving, God-hating, Christ-
rejecting multitudes. (Matt. 24:29-30) For then shall be great tribulation, such as
was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And
except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for
the elects sake those days shall be shortened.

We will see a great reshaping of Christianity in this dispensation. Beginning with
the Cross at about AD 33 and the New Testament birth of the Church (Acts 2:1-4)
at Pentecost, (50 days after the feast of Passover) on the 5th of Sivan or 5th of
May-June in that year until the present day, the influence of religion, culture and
time has produced startling statistics relating to “denominations” their origins,
influence and the multiplicities of beliefs that have produced more than 22,300
separate autonomous denominations or churches.

From an article by David Barrett on the origins of denominations (AD 33-2000)  
we’ve learned that “Christians” have been divided into 7 major blocks or streams
of Christianity: Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Catholics (non-Roman), Protestants,
Anglicans, non-white indigenous Christians, and Marginals, to form 160
ecclesiastical traditions, by which are meant the various confessions, families, or
types of Christianity. * Please reserve comment about the true nature of Catholics
and Evangelicals and the heretical teachings of the church today that we are all
to be considered “Christians” until after you have finished reading chapter three
of this book.

We need to be careful in our broad use of the term Christianity and Christians
here as it has come a long way from the definition that was given to the early
church at Antioch where “they” known as “followers of the way”, were first called
Christians. The term today has in my estimation become synonymous with
religious people or ethics rather than the distinct designation of a people who
have a “personal relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”, and not
some nebulas loose association with a church or religious group. The mere fact
that we have over 23 thousand denominations in the world that call themselves
“Christian” doesn’t make them “Christian” unless they meet the criteria set forth
in the word of God for redemption through Christ’s blood and having full
assurance of life eternal and permanent citizenship in Heaven, (positionally) now,
in this present dispensation and (actually) after this life for time and eternity.

Let’s trace the advance if we can call it that, of the “true Church” that actually
began on that first Pentecost and down through the period of the seven
churches that are described in Revelation 1:12-20. As you may recall in the
introduction to this book, the Seven Churches are also treated as seven church
periods of history, beginning with the Ephesus Period at AD 70 and following
through to the present church age; the Laodicean Church, or the apostate
church of today. Remember, however, that the church left behind when the
Rapture occurs is the apostate Laodicean church, completely void of any true
born again believers.

Since the Bride of Christ is still here, and the rapture hasn’t come at this writing,
the Lord alone knows who are His own. You and I can only account for
ourselves, we do not know for certain who the true brethren are. (Many will come
in my name...(Matthew 24: 4,5).

The period after Pentecost until the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 is a
mixture of blessings and persecution as well as a transition period that many are
still confused about today. From the closing moments of Peter’s declaration of
the Gospel to all those gathered in Jerusalem in bewilderment and amazement
that they could hear every one what he was saying in their own language, to the
prophecy of the Kingdom yet to come, the long awaited “gift of The Holy Spirit”,
(the Comforter) had finally come. It had been (50) days since Jesus ascended into
Heaven, and the reality of what his comforting words would mean had been
realized: “When the comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you
also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26,27)

The Jews were still the focus of this period known as the apostolic age until
approximately AD100, about the midpoint of the Ephesus Period. A period where
we find the “Backslidden state of the early church, which had lost its first love,
but yet were commended by the Lord for their discernment to abhor the works of
the Nicolaitans. (Rev. 2:15). The doctrines introduced into the church at Ephesus
were similar to what would later creep into the Pergamos Church; the doctrine of
Balaam, through whose influence the Israelites ate things sacrificed to idols and
committed fornication (Rev. 2:14,15). A striking resemblance to what some
churches today are allowing to creep in through Psychology and the Human
Potential Movement, like offerings that appeal to the pride of life, the lust of the
eye, and the lusts of the flesh...things offered on the altar of success for the sake
of favor with the “world”.

True Christianity, however did not die in this period. It was in fact the result of
great persecution both within and without that molded the character of the early
saints and gave the Gentile the opportunity for salvation upon the rejection of the
Kingdom offered by the true Messiah. The Damascus road lay just ahead. And for
the man known as Saul of Tarsus...great and fantastic things were in store.
Where the message of Peter and the disciples was the pre-cross kingdom
teachings of our Lord...this Gospel as delivered to Saul, later his name changed
to Paul, was for the (Church) the Gentile, the Jew, and all the world. A gospel of
reconciliation, a gospel of grace. A free gift, to all those who would only “believe”.

The body of Christ is now (in this present age) a spiritual reality through the
directed teachings and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul from the ascended and
glorified Lord. Israel had rejected the kingdom for the second time, although God
did not give up on them as a nation, He does put the kingdom on “hold” and
brings the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to the “individual” Jew &
Gentile alike. It is necessary to interject here that all those who trusted Christ
before the cross were responding to a Kingdom message of  “repent, believe,
escape the coming judgment gospel”, and they did not know of or have any idea
of the new covenant in His blood that would be offered to the Gentiles through
Paul.
It is at this juncture that all traditional dispensationalist agree...The new covenant
is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a new gospel but it is the same
redemption, through the pre council of the will of the Father, but is now being
directed to mankind from the heavenly position of the risen and glorified Christ...
not from the earthly, suffering servant position of Jesus of Nazareth.

The effect of repenting and believing in the pre-cross Gospel is set forth in the
prayer which our Lord taught his disciples, who, as the faithful of that day, had
accepted this Gospel. It was good tidings that God was offering men, His
kingdom and His Son, the heir of all. The disciples believed this, and hence our
Lord teaches them a prayer expressive of the state of soul, which they as
believing in this Gospel should have,: (THE DISCIPLE’S PRAYER)-WHAT WE
COMMONLY REFER TO AS THE LORDS’ PRAYER, OR THE ‘OUR’ FATHER
TODAY. (Luke 11:1-4).  If this prayer was suitable for the Disciples at that time,
before the Saviour’s death, and before the gift of the Holy Spirit that came at
Pentecost, it must be evident that it could not be suitable after they had known
the blessings of redemption and their union with the risen Lord.

In this prayer there is knowledge of the Father, because Christ was declaring Him
on earth, but His will had not yet been done. Christ came to do His will, and now
He has done it; so that we could not now pray for it to be done, though it was
right for the Disciples to pray that it might be done. Besides, there is no
knowledge of the forgiveness of sins; it is looking for forgiveness on the ground
of work rather than rejoicing in it through grace. The “Our Father” is a prayer
regarding man in the flesh rather than man in the Spirit.

Christ and the Spirit are in no way referred to in this prayer, and this is consistent,
for Christ had not yet finished His work; and therefore He does not lead their
souls into it; and as the Holy Spirit had not yet come He finds no place in it. The
prayer is suited for the Disciples, and shows us where they were. If a soul now (in
this present dispensation of grace) goes back to their state, then the prayer will
suit them; but the soul using it intelligently must feel that he has neither
forgiveness of sins nor the life of Christ, in which through the Spirit he is free
from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).

Instead of growing up in Christ and reaching unto “perfection,” this prayer is to
get daily bread, to escape from temptation, and for deliverance from evil—all
necessary in their place, but not occupying the individual with the higher realities
of Christianity. If Christianity had a place in their prayer, it would manifestly have
been suited to the Disciples; and inasmuch as Christianity is left out, it cannot be
a suitable prayer for members of the Body of Christ. These Disciples as yet
“knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Now these were
believers in the Gospel of the Kingdom, and in the spirit of their minds they
believed according to this prayer found in Luke 11, the so-called Lord’s Prayer.

Hence, when saints nowadays limit their standing to that prayer, they cannot
practically rise above the apostles at that hour of prayer, hope, or intelligence,
and, sad as it is to say it, they literally do not!

Remembering that this period of Grace, or the Church age ends in the Rapture
lets take a quick look at the realities that are still set before us...the members of
the Body of Christ that are ‘heavenly positioned’ in Him now: We will receive a
renewed body, like unto His glorious body. Then—and not until then—our bodies
of mortal flesh will be instantly transformed into a spiritual, glorified body. The old
Adamic man will finally be eradicated, and we will be in an eternal condition
which has been our position ever since our death and resurrection in Him at
Calvary—yes, ever since our Father formed us in His heart in eternity past.

Are you being taught these wonderful “positional” truths in your local Bible
church or elsewhere? Many would say that your chances of actually hearing the
“gospel of reconciliation” of the risen and ascended Lord are just about one in a
thousand today. If the leadership in the doctrinally sound church realized who
and where they are in the glorified Lord Jesus, would they stop at Romans 5:11,
having received reconciliation, through the Life of Christ, overturning the death
sentence through Adam, and not go on into Romans 5:12 and beyond?  Would
they be Old Testament and Synoptic-oriented, holding the Church to the earthly
level of Israel and her Law? Would they substitute the synoptic “Gospel of the
Kingdom” for Paul’s exclusive “glorious heavenly Gospel”? Would they subject
members of the heavenly Body of the glorified Lord to Israel’s earthly New
Covenant, her legal Sermon on the Mount, and her Mosaic and Kingdom law
systems—that to which the Christian has died? “For I, through the law, died to
the law, that I might live unto God”   (Gal. 2:19).

In concluding the thoughts that summarize the glorious gospel of our risen Lord
a more apropos verse of scripture could not be selected to settle in the readers
mind the reality of the Cross and the exchanged life that we receive in Him than
Romans 3:21-26 which declares: “But now the righteousness of God without the
law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the
righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them
that believe; for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the
glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in
Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his
blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past,
through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness:
that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

One of the finest tributes to the beneficial effect of dispensationalism on
American Christianity was paid by one whose own theology is
nondispensational. George E. Ladd has said:
“It is doubtful if there has been any other circle of men who have done more by
their influence in preaching, teaching and writing to promote a love for Bible
study, a hunger for the deeper Christian life, a passion for evangelism and zeal
for missions in the history of American Christianity.”

As alluded to before we have stressed that the plain or normal interpretation of
scripture is the only valid hermeneutical principle, and if it is consistently applied,
it will cause one to be a dispensationalist. As basic as one believes normal
interpretation to be, to that extent he will of necessity become a dispensationalist.

The Church Age will be brought to a close by a series of prophesied events, the
chief of which are:
(1)        The translation of the true Church from the earth to meet her Lord in the air
at a point of time known to God but unrevealed to men, and ever held before
believers as an imminent and blessed hope, encouraging them in loving service
and holiness of life. This event is often referred to as “the rapture”.

(2)        The judgments of the seventieth week of Daniel (Chapter 9:20-27), called
“the tribulation” (See Rev. 7:14 note which will fall upon mankind in general but
will include the unsaved portion of the professing church, which will have gone
into apostasy, and thus be left behind  when the true Church is translated to
heaven. This final form of the apostate church is described in Rev. 17 as “the
harlot” which will first “ride” the political power (“beast”), only to be overthrown
and absorbed by that power.

(3)        The return from heaven to earth of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and
glory, bringing with Him His Church to set up His millennial kingdom of
righteousness and peace. 36a

Without question this age cannot be understated as being the most exciting era
of all time. My reasons for saying this are varied. First of all I’m alive as are you
who are reading this book in the most fantastic time known to man yet. The
period from the death of Christ at Calvary and His resurrection (roughly 2000
years) to His glorious return for the Church, identified as the rapture in (1
Thessalonians 4:16,17). 
A period of unprecedented Grace. And as many Dispensationalist have said
before; this age is not Grace without Law nor have we not previously been the
recipients of God’s Grace before now. It has been said that the coming of Christ
in this dispensation is such a display of the Grace of God in such brightness that
all previous displays before it could be considered as nothing.  As we said earlier
in this chapter about each dispensation, there is a steward and a stewardship
response to God often beginning with one individual and ending with another as
God chose to complete His plan. However in this dispensation of Grace, or as it is
also referred to as (The Church Age), Christ is both the steward and the
stewardship. The total fulfillment of the period begins with the words “It is
finished”, and ends with the “Trumpet like call of God” for the Bride to be taken
out of this world to be His own at the Rapture.

This dispensation was actually a mystery in the ages of the Old Testament. It had
to be, or there simply could not have been a bona fide offer of the promised
Messianic Kingdom to the Israelites.   This period was a divinely kept secret
(Ephesians 3:9). No Israelite would have taken Jesus’ offer of an imminent
kingdom seriously if an alternate plan had already been revealed and understood
in the Old Testament. This would have already concluded their failure to receive
the kingdom if an alternative had been presented.

This is the dispensation of man under grace; the sacrificial death of the Lord
Jesus Christ introduced the dispensation of pure grace, which means
undeserved favor, or God giving righteousness, instead of God requiring
righteousness, as under law.
Salvation, perfect and eternal, is now freely offered to Jew and Gentile upon the
acknowledgment of sin, or repentance, with faith in Jesus Christ.

Following is a selection of salvation verses and the certainty of the Believer of his
future and destiny from the Word of God. (John 6:29) Jesus answered and said
unto them, this is the work of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

(John 6:47) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting
life.

(John 5:24) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth
on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation;
but is passed from death unto life.

(John 10:27-28) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish; neither shall any
man pluck them out of my hand.

(Eph. 2:8-9) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

The predicted result of this testing of man under grace is judgment upon an
unbelieving world and an apostate church:

(Luke 17:26-30)  And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days
of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given
in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and
destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they
drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that
Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed
them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

(There is however a different expectation for the redeemed member of the body
of Christ during this dispensation: The Rapture of the church comes before the
“time of Jacobs’ trouble begins”.

(Luke 18:8) I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the
Son of man cometh, shall he find (the) faith on the earth? (the faith in parenthesis
added)

(2 Th. 2:7-12) For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now
letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be
revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall
destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the
working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all
deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received
not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall
send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be
damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
(Rev. 3:15-16) I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou
were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I
will spew thee out of my mouth.

The first event in the closing of this dispensation will be the descent of the Lord
from Heaven, when sleeping (those who died in the Lord) saints will be raised
with believers then living, caught up “to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we
ever be with the Lord” (1 Th. 4:16-17). Then follows the brief (7 year period) called
“the Tribulation” (Jer. 30:5-7), “the great Tribulation”, being the latter part or the
last 3 and 1/2 years. For thus saith the Lord; we have heard a voice of trembling,
of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with
child? Wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in
travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas for that day is great, so that
none is like it: it is even the time of Jacobs’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of
it.

(Matt. 25:31-46) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy
angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him
shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a
shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his
right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his
right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I
was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked,
and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came
unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee
an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a
stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee
sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto
them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on
the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the
devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was
thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked,
and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they
also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a
stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then
shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to
one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into
everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

(Dan. 12:1) 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, every one that shall be found written in the book.
(Zeph. 1:15-18) That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of
waste ness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds
and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and
against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk
like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall
be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their
gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lords wrath; but the whole
land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy: for he shall make even a
speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.

(Matt. 24:21-22.) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the
beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And except those days
should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elects sake
those days shall be shortened.
After this the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the earth in power and
great glory occurs, and the judgments, which introduce the seventh and last
dispensation, are fulfilled.

Church History and the Seven Churches, (Church Periods)

It should be mentioned here that all do not agree on the date chronology of the
seven churches and the historical records as to their existence. Gary Cohen in
his book “Understanding Revelation” introduces a caution for taking only one
view for each of the church periods. He places the prophetical view along side of
history to determine whether there exists a correlation between the churches of
Revelation 2-3 and actual historical events. Since no human eye has beheld the
course of the past two millennia and can be certain it is seeing what God sees,
this examination and its conclusions, whatever they might be, carry with them an
unavoidable amount of subjectivism.

1st. Period of Church History…Ephesus –A Backslidden Church

Ephesus is the first church taken to represent the apostolic church of the first
century, AD 30-100 according to the prophetical view. This period of time
coincides with Schaff’s first period, “the life of Christ, and the apostolic church,”
AD 1-100.

Revelation 2:1-7 pictures the Ephesians’ congregation as one credited with
works, toil and patience, one that has rejected false apostles, and one that hated
the work of the Nicolaitans. However its fault was that it had lost its first love, its
original zealousness for the Lord and His coming.

This seems to harmonize well with the history of the first century church whose
original zeal and ardor is the model for all succeeding time, (Acts 1-28). The loss
of this original fire by the time that John wrote AD 95-96 can hardly be disputed.
The “Nicolaitans” (Nikolaiton, vs.6)-derived from Nikao, to conquer, and laos,
people-refers to “laity-conquerors,” the hating of these sees the early church’s
resistance to an Episcopal hierarchy and priestly caste as long as the apostles
survived. The rejection of false apostles would correspond to the fact that
generally the early Gnostic and anti-Trinitarian heresies, although started often in
the first century, did not gain sweeping footholds across the land until the
second and third centuries (2 Cor 11:13). The Judaizing heresy was resisted in
the first century, and then, as the face of Christendom turned more Gentile, it
vanished   (Acts 15; Gal 1-6).

If we are keeping with the overview designed by Clarence Larkin, Foxchase,
Philadelphia, PA “The messages to the Seven Churches compared with Church
History”, we seem to have a conflict with the dates and have only covered
general details of the church at Ephesus which Larkin believed spanned the
period from AD 70 until AD 170, but was listed as AD 30-AD -100 by Schaff.

Ephesus was one of the urban centers in the Roman Empire. It was a
cosmopolitan city of rich and poor, cultured and ignorant, a gathering place for
false religious cults and superstitions. The temple of Diana, one of the Seven
Wonders of the World, was there. This shrine served as the bank of Asia, an art
gallery, and a sanctuary for criminals; the city derived much of its wealth from the
manufacture and sale of images of the goddess.

Ephesian congregation was dynamic and it persevered through times of trouble.
Church discipline was prevalent in the Ephesian church. If someone falsely
claimed to be an apostle, he was called a liar. Today there are churches where
the leaders claim to be apostles. The Ephesians would not have accepted those
men; they were careful to examine visiting ministers to see if they were genuine.
They also despised the Nicolaitans, a sect which led a life of self-indulgence and
immorality. A true love for God involves a fervent aversion to those who
counterfeit and distort the purity of biblical truth.

Sounds like a great church, doesn't it? It was dynamic, dedicated, patient,
disciplined, and discerning. But Jesus saw past the entire pious facade; the
church of Ephesus had heart trouble!

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love" (Revelation 3:4).
What a shock to be told that you don't love Christ as you once did. Love should
grow, not wither. One commentator wrote: "To have something against friend or
brother may be very human . . . But when it is the Lord who has something
against the church, it is time to tremble; and when that thing is loss of love, the
church should not only tremble, it should fall on its knees.

Jesus warned the church at Ephesus that it would lose its light and its testimony
in the community, if the first love was not revived (Revelation 2:5). This actually
happened many years later when Ephesus declined as a city. It is now
uninhabited and one of the major ruins of the area. What a warning this is to
churches that have lost their first love. Looking at the outside, the church at
Ephesus appeared to be a model church. However, inside the love was growing
cold, the people were involved in their "good works" out of a sense of duty. The
historical era of this church was A.D. 33-100.

Christ ends every one of His letters to the churches with the same conclusion:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches"
(Revelation 2:7).

2nd. Period of Church History—Smyrna –A Persecuted Church

Now we journey on to the Church at Smyrna and the period from AD 170 until AD
312 as Larkin dates it, AD 100-313 as Philip Schaff’s Outline of the periods of
Church History dates it.

From Rev. 2:8-11 we see that Smyrna was a persecuted Church. Persecution
came from Judiazers and the Teachers and rulers who were persuaded to return
to the former customs and practices of Judaism. The church at Smyrna was a
suffering church, enduring hardship for its faith.

Revelation 2:8-11 also tells of this group’s poverty in worldly things, but is seen
as rich in God. Blasphemy from Jewish sources seems to be leveled against it.
The lot of this group is tribulation and imprisonment, but Scripture specifically
prophesied, “Ye shall have tribulation ten days”. These ten days of tribulation
(Rev. 2:10) seems to correspond to the ten primitive persecutions of Nero,
Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimus, Severus, Maximinus, Decius,
Valerian, Aurelian, and Diocletian. Whether the number of persecutions is exactly
ten or include persecutions from the Arian emperors and Julian the Apostate (AD
361-363) are not clear. .

The church at Pergamum AD 312 - AD 606 was guilty of the licentiousness of
uniting the Church and State under Constantine, which was called The “Doctrine
of Balaamism”. It had succumbed to the influence of the pagan culture in which it
lived. This period also marked the rise of the Papacy.

If we had entered Pergamum, the capitol of Asia, we might have been caught
breathless by it’s beauty. It was built on a rocky hill, where the Mediterranean
could be seen on a clear day. Pergamum was a cultural center, famous for it’s
library that was said to house 200,000 rolls of parchment. The city probably
attracted some of the finest minds in the academic world. Yet this city was called
by our Lord “Satan’s City”, which may not have pleased the professors and
bibliophiles.

The city was deeply entrenched in the worship of the god of healing, and the
temples of Asclepius were like the hospitals in the ancient world. The emblem of
Asclepius was the coiled snake that appeared on many of the coins of the city.
Much like the coiled snake on a staff that is the insignia of the medical profession
in our day.

Believers in that city may have been like Christians today who sit in classrooms
and listen to learned teachers scoff at Christian beliefs or undercut their values.
Yet they were commended because” . . . you remain true to my name. You did not
renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness . . .”
(Rev 2:12).  (Antipas was slowly roasted to death in a bronze kettle.)  
However, Christ said, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you” (Rev. 2:14).
The Pergamum believers may have looked at each other and said, “What have we
done?” They had become compromisers. Satan did not make a frontal attack by
coming in as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He slithered in the back door and led
them astray as a deceiving serpent.

Jesus told them that there were certain members of the congregation who were
following weird teachings. Some were listening to doctrines of Balaam, and
others to the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14,15).

Smyrna was the proudest and most beautiful city of Asia. It is considered by
historians as the most exquisite city the Greeks ever built. The city sloped to the
sea, and along the sides of the hill was a large amphitheater, where over 20,000
people could sit. It was there that the worship of Caesar was centered.
By the time the book of Revelation was written, emperor worship was
compulsory. The churches were persecuted because they wouldn't bow down to
Caesar and burn incense in the temple dedicated to Kaiser Kurios, Caesar is
Lord!

The Christians who refused to obey the emperor's decree were marked men,  
traitors against the government. To be a Christian in the Roman Empire during
that bloody era was to live in jeopardy every day; the tortures inflicted on these
men of faith were despicable. Some Christians were strapped on the rack (a
wheel about two feet wide and eight feet tall), their ankles chained to the floor,
and wrists tied to the wheel. Every time the believer was asked to deny the Lord
and refused, the rack was tightened until he was ripped limb for limb. Other
Christians were thrown into boiling oil, or mangled by hungry lions in the
coliseum.

The church at Smyrna was pulled apart by pressure, poverty, and persecution.
Most of us cannot comprehend what it would be like to have our fingernails torn
out or to see our children slaughtered before our eyes. Jesus gave two
commands to this suffering family. He told them to be fearless, just as David
wrote in those famous words, "Even though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23). He told the believers in Smyrna to
be faithful, even to the point of death. Are we, at the human level, capable of such
sacrifice?

The Christians at Smyrna lived in a world where they were despised for their
faith. Christ encouraged them by telling them that through every trial they would
ever have, He understood. The one who was slandered, falsely accused,
whipped, brutally beaten, and hung upon a Roman cross said, "I know your
afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich!" (Revelation 2:9).

Christ knew their persecution and poverty, and yet He reminded them that they
were rich! The Lord's values are different from those of the world.
He said, "you will suffer persecution for ten days" (Revelation 2: 10). I believe the
intent of His words was to prepare the church for the suffering that would be brief
in contrast to eternity. The pastor of the church in Smyrna was a student and
disciple of John. His name was Polycarp, and he was the messenger (angel) of
whom Christ spoke when John wrote this second letter. Polycarp's ministry
ended in A.D.156 when persecution of Christians increased and they were
tortured and thrown to the wild beasts. Polycarp was marched into the
amphitheater where a mob was waiting to see what form of ghoulish pleasure
they could get from his violent death. As he stood before the proconsul, he was
commanded to deny Christ, but he replied, "Eighty-six years have I served Him
and He never did me any harm; how then can I blaspheme my King and my
Saviour?"

As the old man stood before the crowd in the stadium, the governor shouted, "I'll
have you destroyed by fire, unless you change your attitude." Polycarp
answered: "You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour and after a little is
extinguished. But you are ignorant of the fires of the coming judgment and of
eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Bring on
what you will." The crowd gathered wood and threw torches on the pyre. Their
hatred was bitter and they cheered as the godly man was brought to the stake.
As the flames began to curl around his body, Polycarp prayed:
"I thank you that you have graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this
hour, that I may be a part of the number of martyrs to die for Christ."

In each of the churches discussed so far and in the time periods when they
existed, Satan had used a different strategy. The Ephesian church had lost its
first love. In Smyrna, the cruelty of Satan came from outside forces. In Pergamum,
Satan used the approach Balaam used against Israel. See (Numbers 22-25).
If we had entered Pergamum, the capitol of Asia, we might have been caught
breathless by its beauty. It was built on a rocky hill, where the Mediterranean
could be seen on a clear day. Pergamum was a cultural center, famous for its
library that was said to house 200,000 rolls of parchment. I imagine the city
attracted the finest minds in the academic world. However, Jesus didn't write to
the professors in their ivory towers, but to Christians, struggling to keep their
faith amidst the critics of higher learning. He called Pergamum "Satan's city"
which may not have pleased the professors and bibliophiles.

The city was deeply entrenched in the worship of the god of healing, and the
temples of Asclepius were like the hospitals in the ancient world. The emblem of
Asclepius was the coiled snake that appeared on many of the coins of the city.
Today, the coiled snake on a staff is the insignia of the medical profession.
Perhaps our doctors might not want to know that the symbol originated in
Satan's city! However, Christ said, "Nevertheless, I have a few things against
you" (Revelation 2:14). The Pergamum believers may have looked at each other
and said, "What have we done?" They had become compromisers. Satan did not
make a frontal attack by coming in as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He slithered in
the back door and led them astray as a deceiving serpent.

Jesus told them there were certain members of the Pergamum congregation who
were following weird teaching. Some were listening to doctrines of Balaam, and
others to the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2: 14, 15).

In each of the churches so far, Satan has had a different strategy. The Ephesian
church had lost its first love. In Smyrna, the cruelty of Satan came from outside
forces. In Pergamum, Satan used the approach Balaam used against Israel.
Balaam was a prophet who said he could influence the gods for or against men
by his incantations and offerings. He ran a wholesale business in divine favors,
so Balak, king of Moab, offered Balaam a nice profit if he could bring down a
curse on the king's despised enemies in Israel.

Balaam tried to command God, but instead of a curse, Israel was blessed.
Balaam's plan backfired. Frustrated by his failure to get what he wanted, he
showed Balak how he could corrupt Israel by having the adulterous Moabite
women seduce the Israelite men. This plan worked, and Balaam was the prime
mover in the fall of Israel. His tactic was, "If you can't curse them, corrupt them"
(Numbers 22-25). The sin of Pergamum, just as that of Balaam, was the toleration
of evil. Worldly standards had crept into their fellowship.

Today doesn’t seem much different in some churches. We’ve succumbed to
using Psychology with the Scriptures, give counseling instead of exhortation
and bring the lifestyles and music of unbelievers into our worship services. When
those who call themselves Christians commit adultery, cheat in business, or
lower their moral standards to suit the situation, they fit into the Pergamum
mentality. As in Numbers 22-24 those who would “hold to the teachings of
Balaam” like the Pergamum believers who tolerated the false teachers like the
original Balaam, led others to defile themselves with the sins of their pagan
surroundings.

The compromising Christians in Pergamum heard the same command that is
heard today: "Repent therefore!" God gives His rewards for turning our lives
from compromise to commitment. He loves us enough to forgive us, but He will
not force that love upon us.

After the call for repentance, there are two promises from the Lord: "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" (Revelation 2: 17).
"Hidden manna" from heaven is the nourishment needed for spiritual health. It is
the Word of God. In ancient courts, white and black stones signified the verdicts
of juries. A black stone meant guilty; a white stone meant acquittal. The Christian
is acquitted in the sight of God because of the work of Jesus Christ. The verdict
is not guilty.

Modern counterparts to members of the church in Pergamum have muddied their
Christian commitment with compromise. So much of the world is in the church
and so many of the church are in the world that there is no difference between
the two.

The Pergamum period of history evolved into an era when Christianity was
introduced by force.

It was during this period in AD 313 that Constantine made Christianity the state
religion, the sacred corridors of the church began to be trampled by the defiling
feet of the world with its moral corruption, and the ones who pushed to make the
church more worldly were those who held the teaching of Balaam (Rev 2:14). The
holders of the Nicolaitan doctrine were the men who during this time pressed for
an Episcopal priestly system which already by the fifth century saw Leo I (AD 440-
461) claim that the Bishop of Rome was the successor to Saint Peter and Pope of
the church catholic.

Constantine came into power on the heals of Diocletian, the last persecuting
emperor of that era who failed to stamp out the church. Tradition has it that
Constantine looked up one night to the sky and saw a vision in the shape of a
cross which said, in hoc signo vinces: “By this sign conquer.” That night,
Constantine bargained with Satan to join the church and declare himself a
Christian. Christianity, said Emperor Constantine, was to be the religion of the
state.

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