Before I go to The Seven True Churches let me tell you from the Bible which are the False churches – the ‘synagogues of Satan1 who say they are Christians, but are not.
Members of the false church believe that Christ is a great teacher, or a great prophet, but do not believe he is the Son of God come in the flesh. They also do not believe that apart from Christ there is no salvation, but consider Christianity as one of the pathways to the afterlife.
‘For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.’ 2 John 1:7
People who call themselves Christians but are not of the Body of Christ are those who believe that because the Law was done away, there is no such thing as ‘sin’ and therefore acts of sexual immorality are condoned and practiced among them. In this category are the ‘Christians’ who say they are pro-gay, and instead of condemning this abomination they take a neutral stand, or even support it openly.
‘For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all…so speak and do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.’ James 2:10,12
‘I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’ Jude 1:4 NLT
Members of the false church participate in the idolatrous practices of other religions. They have a strong ecumenical attitude towards all other religions and are ready to promote oneness of worship among people of all faiths. They have no hesitation, if invited by non-Christians, to go into the shrines of idols and offer prayers there.
‘Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.’ 2 Cor 6:14-16
The Message version says it forcefully:
‘Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives.’
If a Christian does not fall into one of the above categories, we can safely say he is a member of one of the Seven True Churches of God. That is indeed too wide a categorization of the true church of God, some may think. What about cults such as Jehovah’s Witness and the Christian Scientists, and the Mormons, and hundreds of others like them, they may ask. And what about the Catholic church itself, which bows down to carved and painted images of saints and angels and God beings, and where pedophilia among their priests is no more a rare phenomenon? Aren’t they clearly breaking the Commandments of God?
Oh, yes, they are. Even as the millions of Christians in other true churches who daily start their day by reading and believing what their horoscopes counsel them.
Acts of sin by Christians, committed in ignorance of the Word of God, or in moments of weakness but not willfully in defiance of God’s Commandments, do not unChristian them. They have to bear the consequences of breaking God’s Law. But as long as in their hearts and intent they want to follow Christ and strive to walk in God’s way to the best of their understanding, they continue to be God’s very own and special people.
What about the Church of England, where they have ordained even homosexual priests and its former head took a neutral stand on this issue and did not condemn the abomination in the strongest manner?
If individual members and even church leaders live in continual sin, or condone immorality by their beliefs, that does not make their church a false one. Only if a church’s official doctrines or public stance condone sexual immorality, or worship of other gods, or proclaim salvation by any other way except through Christ, we can confidently say it is of the synagogue of Satan.
Differences of doctrine do not falsify a church. Jehovah’s Witness believes Christ is a created angel, ordained as the Son of God. But despite their error about the origin of Christ, they believe he is the Son of God, and believe there is no name in heaven or earth by which man may be saved apart from Christ. They keep God’s commandments more earnestly and love him more fervently than many other denominations I know of. To think that the Church of England – in some dioceses, at least – acknowledge that a gay member also can enter the Kingdom of God without having to repent of his sinful lifestyle, but not a Godfearing and commandment-keeping Jehovah’s Witness, is to make a mockery of God’s justice.
Sanctioning a polygamous marriage – as the Mormons once did – does not make a church one of the synagogues of Satan. Polygamy is not a sin and nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned in the way that adultery and other sexual sins are condemned. But polygamy is certainly not the kind of marriage desired by God, and he strongly advises against it in his Word.
Several of God’s greatest servants had more than one wife; in fact, some of them had hundreds. But, without exception, in the case of every single one of them, their family life had disastrous consequences which continued on to several generations. A polygamous marriage is the surest way to throw one’s marriage and his family life into the abyss of spousal dissatisfaction and hatred between siblings.
But show me one place in the Bible where polygamy is prohibited by law among the lay people of God, and I will revise my understanding of this subject and confess my ignorance. It is prohibited among God’s people who want to be deacons and pastors in God’s church, as we can see in Paul’s instruction to Timothy. But if a person desperately wants to marry a second or even third wife, he may, provided he does not aim for a higher Christian life and provided the laws of his land will allow that.
Bowing down to an image of Mary or a saint is a tragic way to worship the true God. But having a canonized intermediary between the worshiper and God does not make the worshiper a member of Satan’s synagogue, because he is doing it in sincere ignorance of the Word of God. In his heart he is worshiping the true God of Jesus Christ, albeit through a spiritual proxy.
As for the doctrine of having someone to mediate for us in heaven, listen to these plain verses in the Bible:
‘For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus’ 1 Tim 2:5
‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.’ John 16:26-27
These verses do not mean much to a Catholic, because for him his Church is the final authority on interpreting the Bible for him, not he himself. But that does not make him a false Christian. Nowhere in the Bible is it said that God’s people must have complete understanding of the Holy Scriptures before he can become a member of the true church. What about the innumerable illiterate Christians, many who suffered martyrdom to be faithful to Christ, who could not read a single verse from God’s Word? How did they become Christians? By hearing the Word of God spoken by other Christians.
‘So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ Rom 10:17
In fact, the common way that people in Paul’s time became members of God’s flock was by hearing about or witnessing the experiences of other Christians.
Only if a church’s official doctrines or public stance condone sexual immorality, or worship of other gods, or proclaim salvation by any other way except through Christ, we can confidently say it is of the synagogue of Satan.
In Which of the True Churches Are You?
Now, presuming that you are in one of the true churches of God, let’s try to discern in which of the seven churches you are likely to belong. The following descriptions are based on Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
You are spiritually a member of the church of Ephesus if your church is doing great works – conducting crusades, sending out missions, establishing charitable institutions, and more. This church cannot put up with those who say they are Christ’s servants but turn grace into licentiousness, such as the leaders of the gay churches.
But there is something seriously wrong about the individual spiritual state of most of her members. The typical member has great zeal and perseverance in preserving the traditions of the church and is actively involved in all her activities, but they are personally not in a state of intimacy with their Savior. The fervor and closeness the church’s founding fathers each had with their Lord is now substituted by works and outward show by the present leaders (the messengers) and consequently by the congregations they pastor. The intimacy which Christ longs to have with each member is missing, so much so that the Lord cares little for the great works of the church as a whole and is ready to cast her out among the false churches if the members don’t repent and return to a close personal relationship with God. Is this your church?
If you are in the congregation of Smyrna, your church is on the very top of the seven true churches. This church is not chastised by Christ in any area of her beliefs and practices. She is so extraordinarily close to Christ and so vociferous in her condemnation of the wrong doctrines and practices in the other true churches that she receives a lot of bad publicity in Christianity. More importantly, she is so intolerant of the false gospel proclaimed by the synagogues of Satan that she opposes it more vehemently than any other church in Christ’s Body. As a result, she is more persecuted by Satan’s agents than any other church. Some of the members are cast into prison because of their faithfulness to Christ, and a few even put to death. Do you recognize this church today?
You are a member of the church that had her founding in Pergamos if you live in a land where Christ is not allowed to be preached and the citizens of that land are not allowed to convert to Christianity. If they do, they go straight to prison for years, or would even be tortured or put to death. But despite this danger, you hold fast to Christ and meet secretly with fellow believers. But even in this church, there are among the members those who have a lax attitude about sexual sins and who have close fellowship with idol worshipers.
If you are a member of the true church of Thyatira, you are very likely to be a Catholic or a member of an Orthodox church where the images of deities and saints are revered. This is the church that has charity missions all over the world, her monks and nuns do humanitarian service to the world more than any other church, and her servants endure more deprivations and hardships than most servants in other churches. Her great missionary works in fact are more in the modern era than at any time in the past.
But this great church has a very serious flaw – she has allowed a spirit masquerading as a heavenly being with a female appearance to influence her to make unGodly decrees for her members and servants, such as bowing down to idols, making alliances with idolatrous nations, and prohibiting marriage among her clergy. These decrees are causing her servants to commit sexual immorality in many places where she has her congregations. Because she refuses to repent of these evil practices even though her Lord gave her enough time to transform, he is going to correct her with ‘great tribulation’ like none of the other six churches have to suffer. But those members in her congregations who have remained faithful to their Lord will be spared the terrible things that are coming upon her.
The names of the congregations that belong to the church of Sardis are well known in the world. They have magnificent cathedrals and membership in hundreds of thousands. They have regular Sunday services, holy days and all other accouterments of a church in active service of God. But Jesus considers her as good as a dead bride. There is no real spiritual substance in any of her works. But she has ‘a few’ members who are still leading a pure life for their Lord. The mainstream Protestant denominations fall into this category of God’s true churches.
If you are a member of the church of Philadelphia (many churches have this as their official name, but that in itself does not qualify them as the spiritual church with this name), you are in a great church, equaled only by the church of Smyrna. This is a true church of God in every respect, and her Lord delights in her thoroughly. As a result, Christ opens many doors for her to proclaim Christ effectively around the world – through tv, online, magazines, crusades.
Of the five churches that receive Christ’s rebuke, I wish above all that you are not a member of the church of the Laodiceans. The members of this church are of two types. The first type of members feel that their lives have been abundantly blessed materially with all that their hearts can desire, and there is nothing more they need from God to make them happier. The second type may not have material and financial abundance, but they feel they have attained an ultimate level of spiritual growth where they feel spiritually wealthier – superior – to all other Christians. But the state of both types is so nauseating to her Lord that her very sight makes his stomach churn and he will feel relieved only if he vomits her out of his system. There doesn’t seem to even a few Christians in this church that please God.
Pray earnestly and perseveringly, and follow Christ ardently so that God will consider you as a faithful member of his true church that pleases him the most.
I will conclude this message with the promises that God has given to each of his seven churches – after the sinning ones have repented. What he has promised one church, he promises to all seven. I have used various translations of the passages in Revelation 2 and 3 to present the promises in unforgettable language:
‘I’m about to call each conqueror to dinner. I’m spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God’s orchard.’
‘I will allow the one who conquers…to eat from the tree of life found in God’s lush paradise.’
‘I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you’…’The victorious cannot suffer the slightest hurt from the second death.’
‘To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.’
‘I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.’
‘To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!’
‘You’ll rule the nations, your Shepherd-King rule as firm as an iron staff, their resistance fragile as clay pots. This was the gift my Father gave me; I pass it along to you—and with it, the Morning Star!’
‘They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.’
‘They’ll walk with me on parade! They’ve proved their worth! Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I’ll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels.’
‘Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue – those liars who say they are Jews2 but are not – to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love. Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.’
‘And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved. Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test. I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown. I’ll make each conqueror a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, a permanent position of honor. Then I’ll write names on you, the pillars: the Name of my God, the Name of God’s City—the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven—and my new Name.’
‘Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!’
2‘Jews’ here refers to true Christians. ‘For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.’ Rom 2:28-29