The Seven Churches, Part I

We are living in the last days of earth’s history. We can see the signs all around us. Everywhere we look there is an increase of knowledge, men running to and fro, and distress of nations. (Daniel 12:4; Luke 21:25.)

In the Bible, special books have been given for these last days—the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel. I like to preach from the Gospels more than from any other place, but when I preach to people who do not know the Lord, I usually preach from Daniel and Revelation about the prophecies of the end. Jesus specifically said we are to read and understand Daniel, the only book He mentions by name. (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14.) Revelation is the only book in the Bible that begins with a special blessing upon those who hear and understand. Certainly there is a message in these books for those who do not know the Lord, but there is also a special message in them for God’s people. We need to better understand them. We are told that if we understand these books, a revival will come.

As one who had a deep knowledge of the Scriptures wrote, “Those who eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God will bring from the books of Daniel and Revelation truth that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. They will start into action forces that cannot be repressed.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 116.

Before Jesus comes, there is going to go forth a message that will cut through prejudice, break through barriers, and reach the hearts and ears of all the people of the world.

We are told, in Revelation 14, that the Gospel will go to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. Of course, not all will respond. Not all will surrender, because it requires a humbling of self and an infilling of Jesus and His Spirit. Not all are willing for that to happen. The Gospel, though, will go forth.

Child Preachers

Ellen White wrote that the “lips of children will be opened to proclaim the mysteries that have been hidden from the minds of men.” Ibid. In some countries, during the Protestant Reformation, when all the preachers were put in jail, 5- and 6-year-old children at times were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach from the Bible things that were beyond their understanding. I believe that the children the Holy Spirit used were children who loved the Lord, even though they did not understand all the things that they were preaching.

Some day God is going to use children in that way again, children who love the Lord. They may not understand everything in Revelation or Daniel or in the entire Bible, but God will be looking into their hearts. Young children can give their hearts to the Lord just as adults do. They can choose to serve the Lord. Jesus, when He was 12 years old, taught the priests and Pharisees in the temple for three days, until His mother found Him. He loved God and the Scriptures. This is the character we need to be developing today.

Quick Fulfillments

“We are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Many of the prophecies are about to be fulfilled in quick succession.” Ibid. Jesus said, in Matthew 24, that the time—referring to the last days—will be cut short, and we will see prophecies fulfilled. Many of these prophecies will be fulfilled in quick succession. We are going to see one event after another taking place rapidly.

Life is in a faster mode today than it was 20 years ago. If you were to look at the time span of 1869 to 1889, you would not see much change there. People thought there was a lot of change because many small inventions had resulted, but from 20 years ago until today there has been a revolution in technology. There has also been a revolution in the morality and the thinking of the people. In America, people are different today than they were 20 years ago. Some obvious differences are drugs, abortions, homosexuality and same-sex marriages, business fraud, and the programs dominating television.

In the last days, we are going to see not only things in the world speeding up but things in prophecy as well. Every element of power is about to be set to work. Past history will be repeated; old controversies will arouse to new life, and peril will beset God’s people.

Intensity Building

On every side, intensity is taking hold of the human family; it is permeating everything upon the earth. Intensity is taking hold of humanity, of country, of people, of family, and of industry. We are living in the last inning of the seventh game of the World Series, you might say. When you get to the last inning of the last game of the World Series, you do not hold anything back for another day. You do not rest a pitcher for tomorrow, for there is no tomorrow. You do not save someone who may have a sore shoulder so that they can be better for tomorrow’s game. You use whatever you have.

As we look back in history, we find that Satan has held certain forces in reserve. He does not want to show all of his cards at one time. He has some game plans, and he is willing to wait years and years in order to fulfill them. For instance, consider the French Revolution and the Communist Manifesto—the groundwork was laid but results were not immediate. The French Revolution in the 1700s was not successful, so the game plan went underground, and for over 100 years people labored at developing the communist system. Finally, in 1917, there was the Bolshevik Revolution, and communism was born. Satan waited and waited, but there is no waiting in the last days. The wait-ing is over. There is nothing to hold in reserve for tomorrow. As we get closer and closer to Jesus’ Second Coming, Satan is going to put everything he has on the line. God is going to do the same.

The great controversy between Christ and Satan will become more acute, both in the world and in God’s church. We will see the old controversy reviving, because there is no tomorrow. We are told the reason in Daniel 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.” I praise God that His people are going to be delivered.

Intensity is taking hold of the human family. Every temptation that has ever been wrought to cause people to be lost is being repeated today—whether it is in the area of drugs or sensuality or music or activity of any kind. Every temptation will surround us in the last days. Whatever happened in Jesus’ day is going to be repeated again—the same prejudices. Whatever happened during the Dark Ages that worked for Satan, he will try again; the same controversies will be repeated.

Heathenism Increases

“As we near the close of time, there will be greater and still greater external parade of heathen power; heathen deities will manifest their signal power, and will exhibit themselves before the cities of the world.” Ibid., 117, 118.

Today, we are finding heathenism taking control of even Christian countries. The heathen system of astrology was used in the time of Daniel. (Daniel 2:10.) Today, over 60 million people in America read their horoscope every day. Do you suppose that over 60 million people read their Bibles every day?

We see today a movement that began developing in the 1960s. We may think it began slowly, but it was something that had been well planned—the Age of Aquarius. A song was even written about it. The New Age movement sprang upon the world. It is simply Buddhism and Hinduism. It is nothing else but heathenism.

Part and parcel of the New Age is reincarnation. When Satan has gained enough converts, he will also display his power. He is taking captive the people of the world. Many people of the world say that Christianity has not brought desired results; Westernism has been ineffective; and they will turn to India or Tibet or Burma thinking that these heathen beliefs have worked there. I do not know why they would think that is so. My dad was a missionary in Burma and in India. Conditions are desperate there. Go and see how they live! Oh, it has left its mark, because they teach people not to worry about the sufferings of others, to just get into some kind of trance and you will not worry about being hungry or anything anymore—you can live with your suffering.

A Real Foe

In the last days, we are going to see Satan. Ministers do not like to preach about Satan. You do not hear much about Satan anymore, but Jesus spoke of Satan often in the Gospels. Satan was and is a real foe, and we need to know whom it is we are fighting.

Satan is going to pull out all the stops. Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusions that will take the world captive. By the Bible testimonies, these will detect the deceiver in his disguises. To all, the testing time will come. By resisting deceptive temptations, the genuine Christian will be revealed. Are the people of God so firmly established upon His Word that they will not yield to their carnal senses? Will they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible and the Bible only? Satan will, if possible, prevent them from obtaining a preparation to stand in that day. He will so arrange affairs as to hedge up their way and tangle them with earthly treasure, causing them to carry a heavy, wearisome burden.

Daily Study

Are we allowing anything to keep us from the study of God’s Word? Do we know the Bible, or is it gathering dust? Seventh-day Adventists have been known as the people of the Book. The Seventh-day Adventist Church was started through the diligent study of the Bible. All of its beliefs are based upon the Bible. Protestants used to be known as people of the Book, but until about the 1920s, members of the Catholic Church were taught not to study the Bible, that it was a sin. Now they are allowed to study the Bible, and I am so thankful for that.

It is easy to become involved in too many things or to allow one thing or another to occupy our time so that we do not find time for God’s Word. Have there not been times when you fully intended on spending time with the Bible and the phone rang and then something else happened and then the kids needed something and pretty soon the day was gone, and the Bible had never been opened? We need a greater determination than we have ever had before to make time spent studying the Bible our highest priority. Most of us, no matter how many interruptions come, find time to eat our breakfast or our dinner during the day. Even with phone calls and everything else, we find some time to eat.

If we have to choose between spiritual food and physical food, we would be better off to choose spiritual food, would we not? Every temptation, every trick, every deception that has ever been used is going to be tried again. Making and taking time to partake of spiritual food is the only way we are going to survive in the last days and be found among those whom the Bible calls the remnant—those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus.

Daily study of God’s Word is the only way we are going to keep from being among those who think they are saved when they are not saved, as it says in Matthew 7:21–23—those who, when Jesus comes, are found to be followers of the beast when they think they are followers of the Lord. You see, Satan is a deceiver. People are not going to believe that they are followers of the beast. The Bible says that in the last days, all of the world will follow the beast, but no one is going to believe that it applies to him or her; they are all going to be deceived. (Revelation 13:3.) The only way we are going to keep from being deceived is by being students of the Bible, by studying it with humility and prayer, asking the Lord to lead us and guide us in our studies.

When the shaking comes, when the introduction of false theories is given, surface readers, anchored nowhere, will be as sifting sand. Daniel and Revelation must be studied, as well as the other prophecies of the Old and New Testaments.

“Let us give more time to the study of the Bible. We do not understand the word as we should. The Book of Revelation opens with an injunction to us to understand the instruction that it contains. . . . When we as a people understand what this book means to us, there will be seen among us a great revival.” Ibid., 113. What will the study of Daniel and Revelation do for us? It will cause a great revival.

I want to see a revival, do you? I want to see a revival in my heart, in my family, in my church. I want to see a revival, because if we do not have a revival, souls will be lost. Satan has a revival going, I guarantee you. He has all of his pegs lined up. We are too often sleeping, but he is not sleeping.

I have one great goal; being saved is not my greatest goal. That is a great goal, but that is probably my second goal. My great goal is to be saved with a few other people. I want to see all my family in heaven. I want to see everyone with whom I work in heaven. I want to see every member of my church in heaven. I do not want to see anyone deceived or lost. I know the only way that can happen is by revival. We are told revival will happen by the study of Revelation. At the very beginning of Revelation, God pronounced a blessing upon its study.

Seven Churches

John heard a voice behind him “saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send [it] to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’ ” Revelation 1:11. These were seven churches that were in existence in John’s day. They were located in what we call Turkey, then known as Asia Minor.

These seven churches bore characteristics of various churches that would exist in all ages. We can find churches similar to each of these churches today. These seven churches characterize various periods of earth’s history.

What is a Church

As we think of these seven churches and the message that God has given to the church, perhaps we should first ask and answer the question, What is a church? To whom is God speaking? Sometimes God has a message for what the Bible calls the world—that is not my terminology; that is what the Bible calls it. The Bible talks about the world and the church, and sometimes it talks about the world getting into the church. The church is to be in the world, but the world is not to be in the church.

At times, the Bible talks about the world coming into the church, but the Bible uses the term world to be the carnal—the world that is under the carnal influence of fallen humanity that has not been regenerated or converted by the Word of God.

What does a church mean? The word church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which means “called out.”

In Revelation 18:1 and 2, we read, “After these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen . . . .” Sometimes the Bible calls the world Babylon.

What does God say to His people in verse 4? “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people . . . .” The words come out are actually the word church, ekklesia, come out, called out. The church is simply those people who have been called out of Babylon and who are united in the family of Jesus Christ. The church is those who have heeded the invitation. We think of a church as an organized group of people, and certainly God wants His people to be organized. They were in the New Testament, and they were in the Old Testament. They will be when Jesus comes again, but the organization is not the church.

The church is those people who spiritually come out of the world. Jesus does not ask that they should be taken out of the world but that they be saved from the sins that are in the world. The church is those people that have come out of the world emotionally and spiritually.

Paul defines the church in 1 Corinthians 1:2: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called [to be] saints . . . .” He addresses the church as those who are living in Corinth who have been sanctified.

So, we have to ask ourselves, are we part of the church? Are we a part of the real church, the church of God that has been called out, that has been sanctified or called saints?

In Colossians 1:18, Paul said: “And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” The church is that group of people who uplift Jesus before the world, who make Jesus first. It is His hands and feet on earth that do good to others, that heal the sick, and that preach the Gospel; it is His mouthpiece on earth. The church is simply the body of Jesus to do His work. It is the tool in the hand of Jesus, but Jesus is to always remain preeminent.

In the Jewish day, the church became preeminent and God became secondary. The church became more important than God. When Jesus, Who was sent from God, came, He was God, too. He was from God and He was God, the Bible says. (See John 17:21.) When Jesus came, the church decided to preserve the church and to crucify Him. The church was more important than God.

When Jesus comes, God’s church is not going to be uplifting the church. They are going to be uplifting God. Jesus is to be preeminent.

To be continued November 2004 . . .

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.