–From Part 1 of this Series–
Maybe it’s just my naivety, but it never occurred to me that anyone might see these Churches as anything but, well.. Christian Churches. However, I have recently become aware that there is indeed an alternate view; held by the minority to be sure, but one that deserves to be studied and reconciled nonetheless.
Some might wonder, why is this important? The book says what it says either way, right? Yes.. and no. The book says what it says, to be sure. But to whom? The book of Revelation is addressed to the Seven Churches; not just Chapters 2 and 3, but the entire book. Therefore it is of utmost importance that we understand to whom this book is addressed, so that we may also understand what will befall whom.
An Overview of Supporting Arguments Contending for Non-Christian Jewish Assemblies
The supporting arguments presented by those contending that these entities are non-Christian, Jewish assemblies rather than Christian churches, are as follows:
- The word translated as church in actuality means assembly; specifically, a non-Christian Jewish assembly.
- The verbiage used when addressing each assembly indicates that these are not Christians, but Jewish unbelievers, mainly due to the absence of salvation indicators.
- The book of Revelation concerns Israel and non-believers, and not the Church.
In Parts 1 & 2 of this series, we addressed the First and Second Arguments above and established that the seven assemblies are indeed Christian Churches. Today we will be discussing the Third and final Argument. Before going any further, let’s take a look again at the purpose and intended audience for which the Book of Revelation was written.
What is the purpose of the book of Revelation and to whom was it written?
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” Revelation 1:1-2
In the passage above, we find the answer to both of our questions. The Revelation of Jesus Christ was given to His bond-servant in order that they may know the things which must soon take place. We see that John identifies himself with the intended recipients of the Revelation by calling both himself and them, bond-servants. And in verse 9, he goes a step further by referring to himself as their “brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus”.
Now let’s move on to what is known as Daniel’s 70th Week, in the Book of Daniel
“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Daniel 9:24-27
Note: If you are not familiar with this prophecy, please visit this short video for a ‘cliff notes’ synopsis.
It is not my intention to make this study an in-depth exegesis, but I want to point out one very important statement that Daniel makes in this passage, that pertains to our study today. He says: “Seventy weeks (or seventy sevens of years – 490 years) have been decreed for your people and your holy city”
Who are Daniel’s people and what is the holy city? Israel and Jerusalem. This is especially important because we see that this entire period of 490 years is specifically decreed for Israel and Jerusalem. If you are familiar with this prophecy (or if you watched the video clip above) you know that there are only 7 years remaining of these 490 years. These 7 years are what is commonly referred to as the 7 Year Tribulation; though I believe it is more accurate to refer to it as the 70th Week of Daniel. It’s these 7 years that we are concerned with today.
Let’s look at one more aspect of this study before we draw our conclusion.
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they *said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Revelation 6:12-17
For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, but the idols will completely vanish. Men will go into caves of the rocks and into holes of the ground before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. In that day men will cast away to the moles and the bats their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, in order to go into the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs before the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty, when He arises to make the earth tremble. Isaiah 2:12, 17-21
In the scriptures above, we see two separate accounts of what is called God’s day of reckoning, or the wrath of Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb. In each of these passages those mentioned are generalized as ‘men’, though the word used here refers to mankind in general. It quickly becomes obvious that these people are those who happen to be present on the earth when this day of reckoning and wrath begins; and in their terror they try to hide from the presence of God.
As we review the scripture presented, one thing becomes clear to me:
“The book of Revelation does concern Israel and non-believers. And ALSO the Church (i.e. believers, bond-servants).”
I know, some of you are saying right now in your mind; that’s ridiculous! The Church isn’t even mentioned after the 3rd Chapter of Revelation. But hear me out.
- Why go to the trouble of giving John all of these visions, writing them all down, and having them delivered to His bond-servants, if they won’t be here to see even one of these days?
- If the 70th Week of Daniel is reserved only for the purpose of restoring Israel to Himself, and punishing the unbeliever, why address the Book of Revelation to His bond-servants, and not to Israel and the unbeliever?
- If Israel, unbelievers, and believers, will all be here for at least part of the events recorded, doesn’t it make sense for God to warn those who will listen and need to know (i.e. His bond-servants)? After all, isn’t that why Jesus said it was given to Him – to make known to His bond-servants the things that will soon take place?
We could probably come up with some answers that would satisfy the seeming discrepancy behind these questions, but I would suggest to you the most fitting answer is that unbelieving Israel, unbelievers in general, and believers (at least for part of the time) will all be here during the events recorded in the Book of Revelation.
As for the word Church/Ekklesia not being mentioned after the third chapter of Revelation, consider this: God is not mentioned at all in the books of Esther and Song of Solomon. And the word Church/Ekklesia isn’t mentioned even once in 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 & 2 John, and Jude. The absence of a word does not negate the presence of someone or something.
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:32-37 ESV
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation