[Here is another little “taster” extract from my upcoming 650-page book on the Book of Revelation, “The Essential Apocalypse”, which I hope to publish as an eBook for free download before the middle of June]
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“On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, saying, ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea’”.Book of Revelation, chapter 1, verses 10-11
In the verses that follow this, John is shown a vision in which we are assured that wherever His disciples are, there Christ will be right in the midst of them through His Spirit. John says that he saw “seven golden lampstands” and that Christ held in His right hand “seven stars”. Christ then describes each of these — the seven lampstands and seven stars — as being a ‘mystery’ (Book of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 20).
An interesting thing about a mystery, as far as the disciples of Christ are concerned, is that it represents something which formerly had been hidden but yet is now revealed through Jesus the Christ and His revelations. As we are in the actual Book of Revelation, which is a mass of revelations, any mystery therein is that which is being revealed to us. Four times (including the present citation) the word ‘mystery’ is mentioned in the Book of Revelation, and each time it is explained (See chapter 10, verse 7; chapter 17, verse 5; and chapter 17, verse 7). And it is explained here. For Christ says: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Book of Revelation, chapter 1, verse 20). In §9 of the present chapter, I will discuss the likely identity of these seven angels, which is really quite wonderful (and maybe not what you think they are).
Although the traditional translation of ekklesia has been the word ‘church’, one must not think of disciples of Christ in the time of the Book of Revelation (last decade of the first century AD) as having fancy church buildings, dressing up in their ‘Sunday best’, virtue-signalling to God and their neighbours about their piety, strutting along the road proudly with their leather-backed Bibles (as there weren’t any then, leather-backed or otherwise), or having ‘Sunday schools’ with fancy cartoon booklets or being swanned in front of by some Gucci-suited pastor. At that time such gatherings were quite simple, meeting in people’s homes, breaking bread, sharing wine, singing a psalm plus some simple instruction or exhortation. Having a common purse was popular and a local ekklesia would also function as a helper of the poor and needy (no social security from the state in those days). To get an idea of what life was like then for disciples, here is an extract from a letter about the Christians of the time to a certain Diognetus from an unknown source, written just a few decades after the Book of Revelation had been written:
“They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified… The soul is imprisoned in the body yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world”.
That is a very beautiful and poetic description in which we see that the disciples of Christ are in this world but not of it. They experience themselves as “strangers and pilgrims” imprisoned temporarily in this ‘castle of evil’. But their comportment and language are love. When he writes, “they are preservers of the world”, he means that their very presence — despite causing such disconcertment to those around them — is the sole reason that the world continues. For we are now living in an age when the truth about the Christ is being disseminated. So long as there are people who would be willing to hear that truth, then the world will continue — though there will come a time when that testimony ends (Book of Revelation, chapter 11, verse 7a; Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, verse 14). In that sense, disciples of Christ are the preservers of the world. It will not always be so. One day, the ‘restraining force’ will be taken out of the way and all hell will be let loose on this planet for a time. But until then, be thankful that the presence of the Ekklesia in the world is having a preservative effect.
The Ekklesia is Made up of Cosmic Warriors for Christ
What is more, those early disciples of the Christ were not obsessed with intellectual theology or the need to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ or to set themselves up as Grand Inquisitors like so many today. They simply knew that the Divine being who Diognetus called ‘the Logos’ had ‘intruded’ into the creation as the long-awaited Christos in order to transform it through overcoming the forces of darkness through His death, resurrection and ascension. Obviously, there was (and still is) a need for each ekklesia — each gathering of the disciples of Christ — to maintain a certain level of purity with healthy teaching and untainted behaviour for, as Peter put it: “Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking who to devour” (First Letter of Peter, chapter 5, verse 8). This sums up the essence of the spiritual battle into which every disciple is flung for the whole of their lives. And, as the apostle Paul emphasised:
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the demonic powers, against the cosmic forces of darkness, and against the spiritual dominion of evil in the heavenly realms”.Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 12
What a mighty verse that is in defining the essence of the spiritual battle in which the disciples of Christ and followers of His Light are engaged! That two-fronted battle against “the cosmic forces of darkness” and “the spiritual dominion of evil in the heavenly realms” takes in both the dark power-elite who imagine they run this world and the demonic realm from outside this world which controls that power-elite in a bid to build Satan’s empire on earth. Thus, being a disciple of the Christ is no small matter but a role which hurls one into the forefront of an intense war as a ‘cosmic warrior for Christ’ so long as one remains alive in this fallen world.
If you spend your life entertaining yourself with mindless or corrupted activities and interests, which are of no benefit to body or soul, then “the cosmic forces of darkness” and “the spiritual dominion of evil in the heavenly realms” will not give a fig about you and will leave you to your own devices, because you are already theirs, lock, stock and barrel. But if, as a disciple of the Christ and a follower of His Light, you do battle as you should, revealing the works of darkness for what they are, as commended by Paul the apostle when he writes, “Have no part with fruitless deeds of darkness but, instead, expose them” (Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 11), then you will become a sure target for the forces of darkness. However, if you are a true disciple, you will not be alone for you will have not only Christ by His Spirit at your side but a vast legion of angels too!
Disciples of Christ Need Have no Fear
This presence of Christ with His disciples is emphasised in chapter 1 of the Book of Revelation when we are told in our text that “among the seven golden lampstands” (which are representative of gatherings of disciples), “was One like the Son of Man” (verse 13). So, there He is, right there in the midst of His people. That is an assurance. Just to emphasise that there is no need for fear in the heart of the disciple of Christ, the text there concludes with John saying: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, ‘Do not be afraid’” (Book of Revelation, chapter 1, verses 17-18).
Thus, if you are a genuine disciple of Christ, there is nothing at all scary about having a contract taken out on you by a horde of demons. In fact, it is a joy and a privilege! Firstly, it confirms that you are damaging their cause, or they would never bother trying to damage you. Secondly, it confirms that you really are a genuine disciple, because they wouldn’t bother with you if you were a false one but would leave you alone to go on your merry, deluded way. Thirdly, there is joy in working hand-in-hand with a vast company of angels against the forces of darkness. It is exciting and adventurous and makes life and living worthwhile. Fourthly, every experience you have in this battle increases your knowledge and ability to take part in the warfare. Just as a physical soldier in a theatre of war develops strategies and tactical prowess, so does a spiritual warrior in supernatural terms. In fact, you develop a taste for action and can no longer enjoy lounging around in ‘civvy street’!
An Ekklesia is Not a Social Club
Therefore, in view of this clear knowledge of there being a mighty, unceasing spiritual battle in which the disciples of Christ are at the forefront, an ekklesia is not about joining a mere social club called ‘church’, attending what amounts to a fashion parade (dressing up in so-called ‘Sunday best’), taking part in a pompous, rote, ritualistic circus (as so many churches have become), forming a so-called ‘evangelical right’ or a ‘liberation theology left’, or maintaining an uptight, screwed-up, heresy-hunting, inquisitional bastion of prim and prudish bible-thumping conformist zealots totally lacking in self-awareness and personal development and always looking for the faults in others. Instead, an ekklesia of disciples is to be a gathering of love-smitten, truth-telling, darkness-exposing, Light-proclaiming, always-growing, forever learning, Christ-centred, counterculture humans who, through their very existence, are joyfully defying the satanic zeitgeist of the age by standing millennia of corrupt social engineering, educational conditioning, religious bondage, media manipulation, official indoctrination, and philosophical brainwashing on their head in a supreme act of supernatural disobedience (which is infinitely more powerful than any kind of civil disobedience). The Greek word Ekklesia, which is commonly translated as ‘church’, is a compound of two words which literally mean ‘the called-out ones’. Called by Christ out of the empire of Satan, ‘Babylon’, into the kingdom of God. That is massive in spiritual terms and should fill us with awe. Although disciples of the Christ, who is the eternal Logos, are merely ‘sojourners’ passing briefly through this world, they are to do so as a spiritually revolutionary whirlwind bearing witness to their transformation so that it can become a contagion across the globe. Mediocrity is not an option.
That is the Ekklesia!