The Seven Churches of Revelation 2 & 3

COGwriter at site of “Church of the Apocalypse/Revelation” on Patmos in 2008


Tracing the history of the Christian church through the churches of Revelation 2 & 3 gives strong indications of who the descendants of the true church are today. This tracing provides information that demonstrates that the true Church of God (COG) is neither Protestant nor Eastern Orthodox nor Roman Catholic, but is truly the church that has continued with the same beliefs as the original apostles.

The Continuing Church of God and certain others claiming to be in the Church of God trace their history from the Book of Acts and through the churches eras of Revelation 2 & 3.

Yet, the prevailing attitude among many in the sabbatarian Churches of God (COGs) seems to be that this is not a particularly important issue, and some who used to teach it, teach against it. Is this correct or do churches of Revelation 2 & 3 matter?

Now everyone truly part of the COG would agree that the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 must to some degree matter (as do serious professing Christian people outside the COGs). But while many will point out that the term “church era” is not mentioned in the Bible, they often forget to mention that the Church will have factions (1 Corinthians 11:19), hence it will not entirely be uniform. Many now seem to teach that the messages to the seven churches were only for the time that John penned the Book of Revelation. And even more appear to act that the messages to the Churches in Revelation does not matter much.

Many who were once part of the old Worldwide Church of God (WCG) are puzzled as to why there are so many groups that split off from WCG, yet if they understood the messages to the “Church in Philadelphia” (Revelation 3:7) and the “Church of the Laodiceans” (Revelation 3:13), they would better understand–and hopefully make the appropriate changes with their life and their fellowship. Those who accept the idea of ‘church eras’ have always taught that in the end (which would now be the 21st century), that the Laodiceans would vastly outnumber the remaining Philadelphians. That is part of why there are so many claimed COG groups today.

Here is something that the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught about the churches of Revelation:

Now, here we find, while it’s pictured as seven churches, it’s really seven stages of the one True Church.., in seven successive times. Also, you’ll find every one of the seven conditions in the church at all times but, in the early years, the Ephesus condition dominated and the tail end of it the Laodicean condition is to dominate on the earth and there you are.(Armstrong HW. History of the True Church – Part 4. Radio broadcast, transcript)

And Laodicea does dominate numerically today.

As far as the Philadelphians and the fate of the Laodiceans goes, the late evangelist Leroy Neff wrote this when he was part of the old Radio Church of God:

The Church of Philadelphia Compared with Laodicea

Let’s compare this parable and the Church of Laodicea with the Church of Philadelphia. We have proved through history and through God’s Word that this work, the Radio Church of God, is the “Philadelphia Era” of the Church.

Notice now the differences. Revelation 3:7-13: “And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that OPENETH, and no man SHUTTETH; and SHUTTETH and no man openeth.” The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door and no MAN can shut it. God can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety.

“I know thy works: Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (verse 8). Notice that this Church has works. It has works of ZEAL and of REPENTANCE. This Church has only a little strength.

But, by contrast, the Church of Laodicea believes that IT is increased with goods and has a great deal of strength. Philadelphia has little strength to do this great work that God has given it to do. God has opened the door, and yet look how insignificant, how weak, how little strength we as a Church have to do that work. How much we lack in every way, and yet God has opened the door and has given us certain vital, supernatural, spiritual gifts. Very often we lack enough money to pay the radio bills and other expenses. WE ARE FEW IN NUMBER, while many other eras of the Church of God numbered in the hundreds of thousands. We indeed have little strength. And yet, look at the great power that God has placed before us.

Let’s bring it down to the individual level even though it is referring primarily to the Church as a whole. Most of us as individuals realize how little strength we really have, how we lack in some of the spiritual gifts. God has given the Church a good measure of wisdom and of knowledge and faith. He has given us many other gifts but we still lack in many things, but we also realize it. Our Church has not denied the name of God.

THIS Church is going to be protected from the hour of temptation, or of trial and tribulation which will come upon all the world (Rev. 3:16). But the Church of Laodicea must go through severe tribulation…

The Church of Laodicea is to be lukewarm, lacking in zeal and repentance.The Laodicean Church is not going to he worthy to escape to a place of safety. When it is too late, they will find that the Church of Philadelphia has gone to safety. Only two choices remain for each person left. They will be tried by the fire of men, and may lose their lives in severe tortures; or if they recant, they will lose their lives in the final gehenna fire. In either case, they will be tried in the fire. If they are tried by the fire of men and still overcome, they will be given eternal life. If they fail this, the final GEHENNA FIRE with everlasting destruction will be their doom. Judging from the parable of the ten virgins, if you are found in the Church of Laodicea, YOU PROBABLY DON’T KNOW IT. You may think you are in the Church that will go to safety. When you find out it will be too late.(Neff L. What Is the “LAODICEAN CHURCH”? Good News August 1959 Vol. VIII, Number 8.)

Many do not truly believe that today. As a result, the non-Philadelphian groups have improperly changed doctrines, so much so in the prophetic region, that most will not know that the Great Tribulation will begin, until it is too late (for a brief prophetic listing of such errors, see Is there a need for a prophet now?).

Now, one of the many unique aspects of the Book of Revelation is that it is the only book of the Bible that with this type of blessing, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (1:3). Therefore it is very important to read and try to keep what is written in it.

Yet, most once part of the COG, despite keeping the commandments and having the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17), will not truly do so (Revelation 3:14-22). What about you?

For more information, please check out the following:

The Seven Church Eras of Revelation A summary of the history of the Christian church’s history is included in chapters 2 & 3 of the Book of Revelation. Do you know what happened to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia? What are some signs of Laodicea? Who is keeping the word of God and who is holding to traditions of men above the Bible? This is a video.
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years. It also discusses the concept of church eras.
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 in the first century to the 21st century. Two related sermon links would include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. In Spanish: Marque aquí para ver el pdf folleto: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios.
Unity: Which COG for You? Why so many groups? Why is there lack of unity in the Churches of God? Has it always been this way? What can/should be done about it? Here is a related article in the Spanish language: Unidad: ¿Cuál Iglesia de Dios para usted?
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. Is telling the truth about the early church citing Catholic accepted sources anti-Catholic? This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church. There is also a YouTube sermon on the subject titled Church of God or Church of Rome: What Do Catholic Scholars Admit About Early Church History?
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Who were the Nazarene Christians? What did they believe? Should 21st century Christians be modern Nazarenes? Is there a group that exists now that traces its history through the Nazarenes and holds the same beliefs today? Here is a link to a related video sermon Nazarene Christians: Were the early Christians “Nazarenes”?
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.
The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots.  They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent.
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE?
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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