McGowan searched history and gained insight from other authors in order to understand the meaning of Revelation. In The Revelation and the History of Christendom, he examines the following symbols:
• The messages of the seven churches
• The scroll with the seven seals
• The seventh seal of the seven trumpets
• The seventh trumpet of seven vials
The Revelation and the History of Christendom matches the sequential order of great events affecting Christianity with the sequential order of the prophecy. This explanation of Revelation challenges the skeptical mind with the historic events anticipated by the metaphors and symbols of the prophecy.
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The Revelation and the History of ChristendomProphecy Fulfilled to the End of Our Time
By Victor McGowan
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Victor McGowan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMessages to the Seven Churches – Rev. 2 & 3
The heavenly figure of Christ appeared to John the Apostle ca 96 A.D., when he was an old man and imprisoned by the Romans. Christ commanded John to write seven letters to seven churches in what is now western Turkey. Although the letters refer to the circumstances of these ancient churches, after 1900 years of Christian history, it is now clear that they also reveal the spiritual conditions of the major eras of Christianity:
1. the early era;
2. two centuries of martyrdom;
3. the triumphant imperial church;
4. ten centuries of Roman Catholic power;
5. the Protestant churches of the Reformation;
6. an era of evangelical enthusiasm, and
7. the modern age of indifference.
1. Ephesus (to let go), 33 A.D. to ca. 116 A.D.
The first church included both Jewish and gentile believers. The letters of the New Testament describe the expectation of Christ's promised return in the near future. Disappointment certainly followed after the Roman army destroyed the Temple and killed tens of thousands of Jews in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It is probable that many Christians fled from the approaching Roman army. This letter describes these Christians as loyal but disheartened.
Chapter 2, verse 1 Unto the church of Ephesus write Verse 2 I know thy works, and thy labor and thy patience, and how thou canst bear them which are evil ... Verse 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left they first love. Verse 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come onto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. Verse 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
The early Jewish Christian church disappeared from the historic records after the 1st century. Their candlestick was removed, unlike all the remaining types of churches, which continued through Christian history. This disappearance of the early church was a predicted event.
The meaning of "Nicolaitans" in its Greek roots is "power over people". Paul the apostle sent a letter to the elders of the church of Ephesus ca. 60 A.D. which warns that evil people would attempt to be leaders in the church:
Acts 20, verse 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Verse 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
The validity of this letter as a predictive prophecy for this era also rests on the cumulative accuracy of the remaining letters.
2. Smyrna (bitter anointing oil) ca. 117 to 313 A.D.
At the beginning of the 2nd century Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was condemned to execution in Rome. He wrote about his willingness to die and the need to separate Jewish traditions from Christian churches. His letter is an appropriate indicator of the end of the first church era and the beginning of the second church era of martyrdom. At various times and places throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christians were arrested and executed, often in arenas by wild animals. In 303 A.D. the emperor gave an edict that resulted in ten years of the worst suffering, ending in 313 A.D., when Constantine became the first Christian emperor.
Revelation 2, verse 8 And unto the angel of the Church of Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive. Verse 9 I know thy works and tribulation, and poverty. (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satin.
As indicated by Bishop Ignatius' letter, Christians were urged to resist those who wanted to impose Jewish laws unto what had become a largely gentile church.
Verse 10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.
In Biblical prophecy "days" are understood to mean "years". In both Isaiah (34:8) and Ezekiel (4:6) these prophets are told to count days as years. The ruthless application of this Roman edict from 303 A.D. to 313 A.D. is widely recognized as the culmination of the age of martyrdom in Roman history. Christ finds no fault with Christians of this era, in contrast with other church eras.
3. Pergamos (married to power) 313 A.D.
With the popularity of Christianity that followed Emperor Constantine's recognition and support of Christianity in 313 A. D., it became necessary to define the deity of Christ at a council of bishops in 326 A. D. During this council the key statement of what is known as the Trinity, or threefold expression of God as Father, Son and Spirit, was formalized as the Nicene Creed. Many former pagans preferred to understand Jesus as a less than God, and the controversy was the subject of heated debates. Leading the supporters for the deity of Christ was a bishop named Athanasius of Alexandria. He insisted that one who was not fully God could neither reveal God nor give immortal life. He was banished by emperors five times, dying in 373 A.D., five years before the cause was won in 378 A.D. Without his heroic efforts Christianity would have failed. It seems reasonable to connect Athanasius to the name "Antipas" of the Revelation. This connection is supported by the Greek meaning of the name itself, "against all".
Chapter 2, verse 12 And to the angel in Pergamos write: These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges. Verse 13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and has not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
Though these verses obviously describe a situation and person in 96 A.D., they are symbolically appropriate to the third era: "Satan's seat" being the new Roman imperial city of Constantinople; and "Antipas" being Athanasius. The following verses also clarify the symbolic and historic identity of this church age.
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Balaam and Balak refer to an Old Testament incident in which Israelites were seduced into idolatry, which is commonly referred to as "fornication" in the Bible. With the great influx of recent pagans into Christianity following Constantine's conversion, the practice of honoring martyrs with special days, feasts, depictions and amulets proved to be both popular and lucrative. These closely followed pagan rites and festivals. By the 6th century, there were celebrations for Mary that made no reference to Jesus, and he was frequently shown as an infant with Mary. The result of these practices was to distance many Christians from their God, even today.
Verse 15 So hast thou them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
The 4th century saw the full development of the priest as one who stands between layperson and God, and who claims to be indispensable to the practice of Christianity. This is the belief of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. It is worthwhile at this point to remember the words of Jesus: "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ."
4. Thyatira (continual incense), ca. 529 A.D.
The political realities of the Roman Empire, with its government relocated to Constantinople in 330 A.D., resulted in the gradual separation of the church into the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Western Roman Catholic Church. In 529 A.D. the Emperor Justinian confirmed papal supremacy in the Roman code of law. During the next thousand years, the Roman Catholic Church rose to great power and wealth throughout Europe, while the Eastern Orthodox churches lost much of their territory to the Muslim religion.
Verse 18 And unto the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God ... Verse 19 I know thy works, and charity and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
The most admirable activities of Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages were the charitable works of monks, nuns, and inspired lay people. These works continue today, greater than in the past, as the wealth of societies has developed.
Verse 20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, [one who speaks for God] to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication [idolatry] and to eat things sacrificed to idols [to make prayers to the dead].
The Popes and their hierarchy of priests encouraged and taught a form of Christianity laden with pagan practices. Like the Old Testament Jezebel who led Israelites to worship false gods, Roman Catholics were told to pray to saints, worship before relics, make pilgrimages to places declared holy, and believe that Popes were the representatives of Christ. During the thousand years of this era at its worst, the Popes conducted themselves disgracefully with every kind of crime. A full explanation of the history of Roman Catholicism is far beyond the scope of this brief commentary on the Revelation. Readers should be warned that many publications avoid a graphic portrayal of the papacy for the sake of acceptance by Roman Catholics.
Verse 21 And I gave her space [time] to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Verse 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, [a bed of suffering] and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent their deeds.
History bears witness to the loss of economic, political, and spiritual influence of the papacy in the last 500 years.
Verse 24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine ... I will put on you none other burden.
The average European of the Middle Ages lived a life with much solitude and suffering. They were formed in their personal prayers by their fears, pain, and hope in a Savior God felt rather than taught by priests.
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
The believers today are encouraged in this verse to endure in their faith in Christ, and they are distinguished here from those who continue to worship and follow the traditions sponsored by the Roman papacy.
5. Sardis (a semi-precious stone), ca. 1523 A.D.
At various times during the Middle Ages, brave people attempted to purify Christianity to no avail. Many were burned at the stake. Finally, Martin Luther nailed his famous complaints on a church door in 1517 A.D. Five years later, the Protestant movement gained momentum with the publication of the forbidden translations of the Bible. The churches that arose rejected the papacy and many of the practices of Roman Catholicism. Lutherans, Anabaptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and others returned to the authority of the Bible to reform their beliefs toward simplicity and personal responsibility for a Christ-centered life. Unfortunately, these churches chose to disagree over rather minor matters of doctrine. Most became attached to government control, and many lapsed into formulas of worship that lacked spiritual energy.
Chapter 3, verse 1 And unto the church in Sardis write; these things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Verse 2 Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Verse 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
The mainline Reformation churches of today have good reputations, but are often rather lifeless and "ready to die". They do not understand the Revelation, and they do not watch for the return of Christ with the urgency of belief.
Verse 4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy. Verse 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my father, and before his angels.
That there are only "a few names" in the Sardis-era churches worthy of white garments is probably the result of believing that faith alone is sufficient for a Christian life. Recognition of Christ must be combined with a purified life.
6. Philadelphia (brotherly love), ca. 1739 A.D.
It comes as a welcome surprise that the church age following the deadly warfare and theological disagreements of the 16th and 17th centuries was an enthusiastic return to the original Christian experience of personal sinlessness and spiritual insight. This period, extending as a general movement into the 20th century, came to be called "the great awakening" by historians. It appealed especially to the poor and disenfranchised. It began with John Wesley who preached to Britain's working poor in a way that eventually resulted in the Methodist denomination.
Other denominations, such as Moravian, Baptist, and others also expanded the movement, often with large outdoor meetings. People attending these meetings felt themselves forgiven, healed, and blessed by the Spirit of God. The Biblical word was their authority, and all were told of their personal responsibility to seek God. These people upheld Jesus Christ through missionary societies, entering through an "open door", so to speak, to evangelize the world. This church age receives no criticism from Christ.
Chapter 3, verse 7 And to the angel of the church of 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. Verse 8 I know thy works: behold I have set before thee an open door, no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Verse 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
A grave assault on Christianity began in 1820 when the Mormon religion was fabricated by Joseph Smith with a book of fantasy based on the belief that ancient Jews migrated to America. Recent DNA evidence exposes this as a lie. Their theology is rejected by all Christian churches. For example, they believe that Satan is the brother of Jesus, and that their god is one of countless other gods, each with a wife and a family, which is their destiny as Mormon believers.
Excerpted from The Revelation and the History of Christendom by Victor McGowan Copyright © 2011 by Victor McGowan. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Messages to the Seven Churches....................6
1 Ephesus – the early church....................7
2 Smyrna – the martyr church....................8
3 Pergamos – the triumphant church....................9
4 Thyatira – the Roman Catholic Church....................12
5 Sardis – the Protestant churches....................14
6 Philadelphia – Evangelical churches....................15
7 Laodecia – modern churches....................17
The Scroll With Seven Seals....................20
First Seal – Roman conquests....................21
Second Seal – Roman civil wars....................21
Third Seal – Roman taxation....................22
Fourth Seal – Deaths....................23
Fifth Seal – Martyrs....................23
Sixth Seal – Rome becomes Christian....................24
Seventh Seal of Seven Trumpets....................28
First Trumpet – Visigoths....................28
Second Trumpet – Vandals....................29
Third Trumpet – Huns....................30
Fourth Trumpet – Sun darkens....................30
Fifth Trumpet – Muhammed's conquests....................32
Sixth Trumpet – Turkish horsemen....................35
The Seven Vials....................40
First Vial – Syphilus....................40
Second Vial – Muslims control the Mediterranean Sea....................42
Third Vial – Thirty Years War....................43
Fourth Vial – Sun King, Louis XIV to Napoleon....................44
Fifth Vial – Papal darkness....................45
Sixth Vial – Three frogs of Nietzsche, Marx and Darwin....................46
Seventh Vial – World War II....................49
The Little Book – the New Testament....................52
Two Witnesses of God – the living Bible....................53
A Woman Gives Birth to a Son....................56
The Wild Animal – the Holy Roman Empire....................57
The Harvest of the Earth – the Gospel preached....................61
The Great Whore – Papal Rome....................62
Babylon And Baghdad....................65
The Near Future....................69
The Final Jewish War....................69