Jonathan Welton – Understanding the Seven Churches of Revelation

7 ChurchesBook Review:
Warning the 7 Churches

I don’t mind reading books that challenge my world view. Often, seeing the subject through another believers eyes helps clarify the strength and weakness of my own understanding.

As a futurist, I have read quite few books written by historicist who have proposed a framework by which they see the events of 70 AD as the fulfillment of the Bible’s prophetic message concerning Israel and the Jewish people as a distinctive covenant people of YHWH.

In this book Understanding the Seven Churches of Revelation, the author Dr. Jonathan Welton looks at the subject through the lens of the 7 churches of Revelation taking his reader on a historical journey through 7 churches of Revelation in an effort to show these messages, given by Yeshua to the apostle John, were written before 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem. His thesis proposes that the letters to the 7 church’s were a warning to the Jewish people and the early church that destruction was coming and with that destruction came a pivotal shift in the covenantal relationships of the Old Testament.

In an effort to illustrate Dr. Welton’s perspective I’ve quoted several passages from his book. I find myself in serious disagreement with many of the quotes below.

* Concerning these events Dr. Welton writes:
“…Revelation and the events of AD 70 are about the removal of the old covenant and the full revelation or unveiling of the new covenant Kingdom of Jesus (not the end of the world).”

“This may seem harsh, but the whole purpose of these letters was to warn the believers of the coming Roman armies and destruction connected to AD 70.” (Loc. 1360)

* Concerning the Resurrection Dr. Welton writes:
“This means, the first resurrection does not refer to the resurrection at the end of the world but to the spiritual resurrection we experience when Christ makes us spiritually alive in Him…”

* Concerning the Kingdom Dr. Welton writes:
“To His followers who had stood by Him in persecution, Jesus promises authority to rule and judge the nations (see also 1 Cor. 6:2). He commissions them to help usher in His new covenant reign of peace and love on earth.” (loc. 1422)

“But Christ has entered upon His Kingdom already (Col. 1:13); He has disarmed Satan and the demons already (Col 2:15): and we are kings and priests with Him already…”

* Concerning the Suffering of the Church
“Their suffering would end after the judgement, because the Jews would no longer have the strength to persecute them. And in the midst of the destruction [destruction of Jerusalem], Jesus would keep the believers at Philadelphia safe.” (Loc. 1800)

* Concerning the Churches influence on culture:
“Some people look back at history and think Christians adopted or compromised with paganism, but the opposite happened. The idea of the paganization of Christianity is a Protestant myth that is unsubstantiated by history Instead paganism was overwhelmed and defeated by the growing Church.” (Loc 2165)

“They [early church] took the pagan holidays, which were celebrated throughout the Roman Empire, and they changed them to be about Jesus. This was a good thing.” (Loc. 2169)

“Really, the Christians stole the position and influence of the pagan religious system of their day, and they took what was once pagan and made it the Kingdom of God.” (Loc. 2174

“In Laodicea, for example, when the true ruler of creation, Jesus, set up His throne, He began to take the place of the various pagan deities who claimed to be gods or goddesses of various natural elements.”

*Concerning the importance of the Destruction of Jerusalem
“That one event, which is the focus of Revelation, was a turning point in the history of the Church. It is second only to the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.” (Loc. 2250)

*Concerning our worship of Yeshua
“Unlike the twenty-four elders, we are not required to cast our crowns at the feet of Jesus. Instead, He invites us to sit on His throne and to rule the nations with Him.”

*Concerning nature of the Christ’s Coming
“On the other side of AD 70, we are not looking forward to Christ’s coming and the end of the age. We are not hoping in expectation for the victor promises. Instead, we get to live in the current reality of His promises and the fullness of the new covenant.” (Loc. 2304)

In summary, I did find some of Dr. Welton’s historical information related the 7 churches of Revelation to be interesting and valuable. Having said that, I cannot find any common ground with him concerning his position of covenantal divestment as it relates to the Jewish people. Nor can I fathom his belief that the growth of the church over the past two thousand years is a victorious realization of the kingdom of God. In my personal opinion this kingdom view seems to be but a water-downed version of “Christian” secular humanism. If the past two thousand years have proven anything it is that this point of view is at its best truly naïve.

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Author: Jonathan Welton
Book Title: Understanding the Seven Churches of Revelation
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse

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