Paul taught Timothy how to present the Truth. We aim to present this study with that same attitude.
2 Timothy 2:24
And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient
William Branham did not plagiarize Clarence Larkin’s Seven Church Ages doctrine.
Plagiarism is pretending that Clarence Larkin’s original ideas were William Branham’s own ideas.
But very few of the ideas in Clarence Larkin’s book were his own. Take away two dates, 170 AD and 1750 AD, and the meanings of three church names (Ephesus, Pergamos and Sardis) and virtually everything else that Larkin taught on the church ages had been said by previous writers.
[ Information received from Brother Ken O’Dwyer, where he points out that Larkin even got the 170 AD date from a previous writer —
Actually, Larkin borrowed the date 170 AD from William Mitchell Ramsay’s book “The Church in the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170” which was published in 1892. Larkin no doubt was familiar with this book which was published 27 years before his own “The Book of Revelation” in 1919.
Ramsay chose 170 AD because, as he says, all the main elements of church organisation were completed by AD 170 especially as to how each church was “ruled by a gradation of officials at whose head was the bishop” and “councils determined and expressed the common views of a number of communities” (p363). ]
If you copied everything that was Larkin’s original thinking on the church ages topic , you would struggle to make one paragraph.
Yet Larkin happily copied down what others wrote before him. Different people had already discovered certain bits of the truth and Larkin, a fine scholar in his own right, combined many of these bits and pieces into one logical structure, and then added his own extra portion.
This is a standard procedure on how to develop knowledge.
As an example, let us look at the opening paragraphs by Larkin
(1920) and by C. I. Scofield (1907):
“Chapters two and three, must be a description or prophetic outline of the “Spiritual History” of the Church from the time when John wrote the Book in A. D. 96, down to the taking out of the Church, or else we have no “prophetic view” of the Church during that period, for she disappears from the earth at the close of chapter three, and is not seen again until she reappears with her Lord in chapter nineteen.”
“ The messages to the seven churches have a fourfold application: … the fourth is prophetic, as disclosing the seven phases of the spiritual history of the church, from, say, A.D. 96 to the end. It is incredible that in a prophecy covering the church period there should be no such foreview. These messages must contain that foreview if it is in the book at all, for the church does not appear after Chapter 3:22”.
Larkin summarized an outline and a fuller structure of the different fragments that others had said before him, which is good scholarship, but his main weakness was all the gaps that he left in his record.
Larkin knew a lot and did a great job but he was baffled on certain points and thus could not complete or “finish the mystery” that others had started.
Filling in these gaps would give a completely different thrust to the history of the churches. It would reveal fundamental errors in our church doctrines that indicate how far our churches are still off the mark despite some good work being done during the Reformation centuries to partly get us back to the original truths of the New Testament. Larkin could see certain errors but was unable to see the more subtle and far more dangerous mistakes.
Larkin did his best with what he knew.
William Branham started with what Clarence Larkin knew and then, most importantly, went on to fill in all the gaps that were unknown to Larkin and the earlier writers. Thus, thanks to William Branham, the “mystery should be finished” as far as our understanding of the church ages are concerned.
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
William Branham made enough knowledge available for us to understand the theme of the church ages if we are prepared to do enough homework in search of the truth.
So the main issue is not the points that Larkin made, most of which had already been made by others, but rather all the points that neither he nor the earlier writers had been able to understand. That is where the real secrets of the church ages are to be found that baffled the earlier writers.
A quick test of your knowledge :
Archbishop R C Trench (1807 – 1886) said that ” the church names mean something. So why does Pergamos have a Greek ending –os instead of its usual name Pergamum? None of the other church names have a Greek ending.”
This is a brilliant question. He admitted that he did not know the answer. But he would have loved to know, because it puzzled him.
If you can’t answer the Archbishop’s question then you need the seventh angel or messenger to finish up the mystery for you.
God would not send the seventh angel to finish the mystery if we were able to puzzle everything out for ourselves.
The seventh angel does not come to tell us everything on this topic because part of the mystery has already been revealed. He comes to finish the mystery. So he starts with what is already known, which is Larkin’s excellent summary up to that date, and then he fills in the missing pieces and corrects any errors, so that we end up with a finished product.
The seventh angel’s ministry is to clear up all the tricky problems that Larkin and those who came before him were unable to grasp. This was not Larkin’s fault as God had not unfolded sufficient Truth in Larkin’s day. Larkin lived at the start of the Laodicean age so obviously knew next to nothing about the Laodicean age.
Larkin did a great job with what he knew. But we are expected to know more.
Larkin failed to explain many points like “Satan’s seat” and the “hour of temptation” and missed most of what the last two church ages were all about.
He had no idea what the stars or messengers represented.
He had no idea of the restoration of Truth through the Justification of Luther, the Sanctification of Wesley, the Holy Ghost Baptism of Pentecost and the end-time Elijah who would restore believers back to the beliefs of the New Testament first church age.
He also failed to point out the fundamental error of the pagan Trinity doctrine which was forced onto the third church age of Pergamos (the mystery age with the Greek ending -os) at the Nicaean Council in 325 AD and the disasterous effects of this unscriptural concept which opened the door to more and more unscriptural pagan philosophical beliefs and rituals (like the Roman Catholic mass, purgatory, Christmas, indulgences whereby you could buy forgiveness for your sins etc) which successfully drove the church into the devastating winter of the Dark Ages.
Larkin made two technical errors that needed correction :
Pope Boniface III was not crowned in 606 AD.
(Pope Nicholas I, around 860 AD, seems to be the first Pope to wear a crown.)
Attalus III was not the pagan priest-king that fled from Babylon in 538 BC.
Attalus III was the priest-king who gave his Pergamos kingdom to Rome in 133 AD.
These are minor errors that do not detract from his excellent scholarship.
If you read through the documents dealing with the seven church ages written by the earlier writers you will find that Larkin contributed very few original ideas of his own.
Larkin summarized the viewpoints of earlier writers who gave a rough outline, but provided no realistic theme for what was driving the seven church ages and left huge gaps as to the actual doctrinal deception that occurred in the different ages and influenced the history of the church.
Larkin plots the path of the church into the Dark Ages and the great turn-around that occurred under Luther who preached Justification. Then he simply loses the thread during the last two church ages. There he basically out of his depth, especially in the Laodicean age as he lived at the beginning of the age and could obviously not guess what was going to happen as the age unfolded.
One of the biggest problems that faces us all and which Larkin is unable to fully explain, is why the churches went into the Dark Ages that were so terrible. What had made the church get so far away from the written Word?
Larkin’s problem is that he was a Trinitarian and as such he could not see the ongoing damage that the Trinity doctrine did to the church.
Trinity is a God who has three Persons but only two Names, Jehovah the Father and Jesus the Son.
The Bible does not give a Name to the Holy Spirit. So when asked to give one Name for the Trinity, Christians are unable to do so.
You can’t find one Name for three Persons.
Christians then hide behind the “ fuzzy” logic of using three titles, Father , Son and Holy Spirit instead of one Name.
Thus the Christian God effectively has no Name.
Christians are scared to admit that the Name of Almighty God is Jesus Christ.
If they admit this, then they contradict their picture of God as three Persons.
That is the main reason that they do not get baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ according to Acts 2 :38.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This Scripture is rejected as a mistake. We do not believe what Peter said, we rather believe what Jesus said in Matthew 28 : 19.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Notice this philosophical logic. One Scripture contradicts another Scripture. Thus one of the Scriptures is wrong.
Christians thus believe that there is a mistake in the Bible. Thus the Bible is no longer their absolute.
Thus they are unable to be restored back to the teachings and doctrines of the first apostolic age because the apostles got it wrong at the beginning.
We cannot develop faith if we reject any Scripture as a mistake.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
If we believe that the Bible contradicts itself and has mistakes, then we obviously lack a deeper vision which would reveal that both Scriptures are telling us different aspects of the same truth.
Earlier writers had identified Nicolaitanism as priests being in charge of the church. The elevation of a holy man above the people. A man who stands between the people, the laity, and God.
They had also identified Balaamism as worldliness and loose living as well as the introduction of pagan ideas into the church. This was all true, but Larkin could not take Balaamism beyond pagan festivals like Christmas and pagan rites such as the Catholic mass.
Larkin could not admit to the pagan origins of the Triune God. Triune gods were already known in Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. He thus could not identify what made Protestants the daughters of the mother harlot since the Protestants believed in the same Trinity that the Catholics had developed from Greek classical philosophy during the two centuries that followed the Nicene council of 325 AD under the leadership and domination of Constantine.
Earlier writers had already picked out that Jezebel, that awful woman who led Israel astray, referred to the Roman Catholic church.
But all of them, including Larkin, were unable to see the devastation to the Truth that the Trinity doctrine did.
Another omission in Larkin’s treatment of the Pergamos age is that he does not explain the mystery of “Satan’s seat” .
This subtle but crucial Babylonian error was going to derail the church until the end of time.
Being a Trinitarian Larkin could not see that the Nicean Council of 325 AD was totally wrong when it had imposed the unscriptural word Trinity or “one God in three Persons” on the church.
Having believed this doctrine without a Scripture which actually says “Trinity”, the people would then be forced to accept other unscriptural beliefs until the church got used to being run by traditions and opinions and quotes, not Scripture.
Man’s words were regarded as being equal to, if not superior to, the written Word of God. The Light of God’s Word was going out. The Dark Ages were pulling in.
And the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary states, “The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.” — (Paul Achtemeier, editor, 1996, “Trinity”)
The fourth and fifth centuries were from 300-500 AD.
Greek philosophy used words like “essence” and “substance” when describing their gods as well as Plato’s Triad concept which allowed the use of mental gymnastics like “one-in-three or three-in-one” (whatever that means). Try drawing a picture of it. Is it 3 Persons sitting on one throne as in the Egyptian Trinity of Osiris, Horus and Isis or one Person with three heads as in the Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva ? Greek philosophy which had been used to describe their many pagan gods was now introduced to develop a Triune Christian God.
Notice how this took the church away from what was actually written in the New Testament.
“What we think it means” replaces “It is written”.
This is the sad habit that leads the church into darkness.
Martin Luther who was the German priest who initiated the Protestant Reformation said, “It is indeed true that the name ‘Trinity’ is nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures, but has been conceived and invented by man.” — (reproduced in The Sermons of Martin Luther, John Lenker, editor, Vol. 3, 1988, p. 406)
Historian and science fiction writer H.G. Wells in his noted work The Outline of History stated, “There is no evidence that the apostles of Jesus ever heard of the trinity—at any rate from
Him.” — (1920, Vol. 2, p. 499)
If Jesus never taught the Trinity, who did?
So the church was now teaching doctrines that never came from the Bible but had been invented by man.
This was the reason that the world went into the Dark Ages. The Bible Light was going out.
Professor Charles Ryrie wrote, “Many doctrines are accepted by evangelicals as being clearly taught in the Scripture for which there are no proof texts. The doctrine of the Trinity furnishes the best example of this. It is fair to say that the Bible does not clearly teach the doctrine of the Trinity . . . In fact, there is not even one proof text, if by proof text we mean a verse or passage that ‘clearly’ states that there is one God who exists in three persons.” — (Basic Theology, p. 89)
He goes on to say, “The above illustrations prove the fallacy of concluding that if something is not proof texted in the Bible we cannot clearly teach the results . . . If that were so, I could never teach the doctrine of the Trinity.” — (lbid, p. 90)
So, having taught the Trinity without Biblical proof, they feel that they are now free to also teach other doctrines without Biblical proof too. This philosophy simply compounds the errors and forces Christians to believe ever more doctrines that are not written in the Bible.
Thus the philosophy of believing what is not actually written in the Bible took over the minds of the people.
Message believers have developed exactly the same attitude towards the quotes of William Branham.
Brother Branham never said, “The seven Thunders have uttered”.
But the thunders-believers all take this non-quote as their starting point and claim that he did say it.
Having fooled the people on that first step by getting them to get away from an actual quote, their minds are then open to any other opinion that William Branham never specifically said.
Hence we have a multitude of different Thunders doctrines that are all quite ingenious since John never wrote a single word about what the seven Thunders uttered. Message preachers thus mislead people because they preach what they think William Branham meant.
But we are not saved from the Tribulation by being ingenious. We are saved by being Scriptural.
Nothing was written in the Bible about what the Thunders said. Thus the early church knew nothing about what they said. And if Elijah is to restore us back to the early church, then we should also not know what the seven Thunders said.
What did William Branham say about the seven Thunders?
63-0324E THE.SEVENTH.SEAL_ JEFFERSONVILLE.IN SUNDAY_
« 335 … One of the mystery of that Seal, the reason it wasn’t revealed, it was seven thunders that uttered their voices, and there it is perfectly, because nothing knows anything about it; wasn’t even written. So we’re at the end time; we are here.
Shirley Guthrie, professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary wrote, “The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Neither the word ‘trinity’ itself nor such language as ‘one-in-three,’ ‘three-in-one,’ one ‘essence’ (or ‘substance’), and three ‘persons,’ is biblical language. The language of the doctrine is the language of the ancient church taken from classical Greek philosophy.” — (Christian Doctrine, 1994, pp. 76, 77)
Pagan Greek philosophy which developed the idea of the many gods of Greece was cleverly used to develop a Triune God for the Christians.
A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge states regarding the trinity, “Precisely what that doctrine is, or rather precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitarians are not agreed among themselves.” — (Lyman Abbott, editor, 1885, “Trinitarians”)
So the Trinity doctrine gave learned men an excuse to indulge in endless debate about an issue which they themselves did not understand because it was unscriptural. After a while most people, who are the laity, gave up arguing about the words that they could not understand and just accepted the doctrine.
They were simply dominated by Greek speaking learned scholars who, although they themselves did not understand the Trinity, claimed that they did understand it. By creating a fog of unscriptural words they could conjure up a flickering shadow that could not be grasped but sometimes it looked like one and sometimes it looked like three.
Having been clubbed into submission and forced to accept what was neither understandable nor clearly written in Scripture, the people (the laity) were so conquered that it was easy for them to accept other unscriptural doctrines. Now our brains are so battered by human church leaders’ opinions that we somehow even think that an Easter egg or a Christmas tree have something to do with the Gospel.
Another mistake by Larkin :
“The hour of temptation” that the Philadelphian church is spared cannot be the great Tribulation, which is what Larkin claims. The Tribulation comes at the end of the Laodicean age. All six of the previous ages would be spared the Tribulation if this were true, because the six ages are past tense when the seventh age starts. Only the Bride which is caught up to meet the Lord in the air will escape the Tribulation.
The “hour of temptation” is the uniting of the churches, money and politics in the ecumenical movement which occurs in the Laodicean age as the three horses of Revelation Chapter 6 unite (the white horse of religious deception, the red horse of political power and the black horse of demonology that starves the people spiritually by providing man’s opinions and quotes rather than Scripture and then charging the people for this daylight robbery). There is only one mystery rider. There is only one Devil (fortunately. Imagine the damage that two could do.)
When the three horses unite to form the pale corpse-colored horse that is ridden into the Tribulation, then the antichrist rider (the driving force behind the Laodicean churches) is revealed as being Death.
Death is the absence of Life. Death only enters the church in Laodicea because Jesus, the Life, is outside the church.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write…..
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
The ecumenical move effectively started when it received a big boost during World War 2 (1939 – 1945) when men from different denominations were locked up together in prisoner-of-war camps and learned to co-operate by not stressing doctrinal or Scriptural accuracy. Their motto soon became “Fellowship is important so do not worry about doctrine”.
By this time, the missionary age of Philadelphia was over and those Christians had been spared the subtle errors that arise from the uniting of all the evil trends in Laodicea that will fool almost everyone until hardly anyone states Scripture to justify their beliefs.
Another mistake is that Larkin has the sixth age running together with the seventh age, at the same time.
The good guys then claim that they are Philadelphians and it is only the bad guys who are the Laodiceans. Notice this lack of logic. The first 5 ages followed each other in order but suddenly age 6 and age 7 run together in parallel.
Larkin and the earlier writers did not understand the Philadelphian and Laodicean ages.
His treatment of the Philadelphian missionary age is very superficial.
Larkin did not understand that the churches were to lose the New Testament truths until they ended up in the superstitious Dark Ages. The Nicene Council in 325 AD that enforced the unscriptural Trinity doctrine, drove the church into a morass of unscriptural ideas which caused a blackout of Truth and all the unscriptural Papal errors of the Dark Ages when the Bible was actually banned as it contradicted most of the church’s beliefs.
Then from this dark pit the Truth would re-emerge in four stages:
The Reformation of Sardis would restore Justification under that bravest of reformers, Martin Luther.
The Reformation of Philadelphia would restore holiness and outreach under the tireless dedication of John Wesley (who served God in a way that we can only dream of, because of his phenomenal self-discipline and energy). That was the golden age of Christianity which developed into the missionary age.
Laodicea would then add a further restoration in the form of the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Spirit with the restoration of the gifts of the Spirit that started in 1906 with the Asuza Street revival. Initially this movement had a freedom that was not subject to human leadership. Sadly, by 1917 they had denominated and humans dominated and led the movement.
Then Elijah would come on the scene and restore the New Testament truths of the early church as laid down by St Paul and the writers of the New Testament.
The denominational churches would ignore Elijah and thus never get the Light of the revealed Word. So they stay in their darkness of Trinity and water baptism in the name of three titles instead of the Name of Jesus Christ.
As an analogy : The Jews followed Moses (a name) through the waters of the Red Sea which symbolised water baptism. The Egyptians followed Pharaoh (a title) through the same waters of baptism and drowned. So baptism needs the Name of Jesus Christ, not the titles of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
What is the Name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost?
Trinitarians cannot answer this question. They do not have three Names as the Bible does not give a Name for the Holy Ghost. Thus they end up with two Names, Jehovah and Jesus, for the Father and the Son. Two Names for three People? Not so good.
But what is the one Name for Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Here the Trinitarians are at a complete loss.
The correct answer is Jesus Christ. But that contradicts their picture of three Persons. So they just stay with the three titles.
Thus there is not one Name for the Triune God of the Christians.
God winked at the ignorance of the churches during the 5th and 6th ages because no-one knew any better. He complimented them on what they had correctly restored.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Repentance is what God advocates for the Laodicean age.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
But today the churches will have to explain to God why they ignored the revealed Word in their day because they refused to listen to Elijah.
Then the followers of Elijah would denominate around his quotes and their interpretations of his quotes and they too would remain in ignorance of the written Word because their focus would be on quotes.
The “deification” of this man is a result of Elijah’s followers calling his preaching the “voice of God” and insisting that he does not make mistakes. Thus you cannot argue about anything he says. You are only free to “parrot” his quotes. They uplift his quotes to the level of Scripture (and sometimes even above Scripture) and this is like a pendulum that has been pulled too far to the one side. Then they shun or even condemn those critics who claim that Elijah did make mistakes (the Catholics call it excommunication).
This unhealthy doctrine of “infallibility” (only a Pope is infallible) produces a sad reaction where the pendulum then swings too far to the other side and the critics focus on Elijah’s mistakes (both real and imagined) until they believe that Elijah was a false prophet and that his teachings are thus wrong.
So fewer and fewer people prove what they believe from Scripture or have any deeper insight into Scripture.
Ask any Christian why Jesus wrote in the sand when questioned about a woman who was taken in adultery and they shrug it off as unimportant. Ask why He then wrote a second time in the sand and their lack of understanding of Scripture becomes evident.
Ask why David was allowed to eat the shew bread that only the priests could eat and again the answer is usually a blank stare. Why is animal blood the atonement for sin in the Old Testament?
We know God demanded this but why?
Christians do not take the Bible that seriously anymore and do not even look for answers to deeper questions. Any question that we do not know we just shrug off as not being important.
Yet Christians happily believe that the wise men went into the stable to give presents to the baby Jesus. The truth is that they never went into the stable. They went into a house. Jesus was not a baby but a young child. Joseph was not present.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Thus the full Truth from the Bible is not really taught in the churches of the Laodicean age anymore. We are so in love with our pagan traditions.
It was human leadership that invented the Trinity and led the church into the Dark Ages.
The word “pastor” is mentioned once in the New Testament but despite this, each pastor has somehow become the head of his church. There is no written Scripture that a pastor is a shepherd. Because the pastor claims to be the head of the church, thus the true Head, Jesus, has to stand outside the church. Two heads on one body would start looking something like the Hindu trinity.
Elijah’s followers will only study his quotes without needing to prove them from the Bible.
So when any mistakes are pointed out, these are simply ignored.
Consequently we will not learn from the critics and we will continue in these mistakes. Thus the critics perform an essential function in helping us to eliminate the errors from our beliefs. Those errors that we were too blind to see for ourselves.
But, human beings do make mistakes. Prophets made mistakes in the Bible days. We live in a messy real world. Only Jesus is perfect. But the Bible is our Light.
If the Laodicean age is blind it is because Truth is no longer proven in the churches by following a doctrinal belief through the different verses of the Bible, as this is the only way to get true Light.
If the Laodicean age is blind, then the Light has gone out from all our churches. That is why Jesus, the “Light of the world, has gone out” of the church and stands outside all our churches.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
He only knocks for individuals, not for the whole church.
The quotes of a man are interesting and may be instructive. But only what is written in the Bible can command my faith.
Another problem is that when Larkin writes about Laodicea he uses a lot of words but actually says very little. Not surprising as the age was only starting in his day so he would just be guessing.
Larkin cannot explain why Christ is outside the church and thus why Christ condemns all the churches . None of those earlier writers wanted to admit that Laodicea ends up in failure.
Modern writers don’t want to admit this either.
Message churches also deny this blanket condemnation. After all, Laodicea is an age of self-satisfied delusions with every church saying “The others are all wrong but we are right”.
Each of us is content to dwell self-righteously in our own doctrinal cocoon that we have spun to suit ourselves. Self-absorbed and self-assured, we have need of nothing so we obviously need no correction.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;
Larkin supplied a meaning for 3 church names (Ephesus means relaxed. Pergamos means married. Sardis means escaping ones). This was original.
But Larkin provided no meaning for the names Thyatira and Laodicea.
Larkin also used the names Philadelphia – brotherly love and Smyrna – myrrh, a bitter herb for embalming the dead, which other writers had already used.
So using names that others had thought of first, was no crime as far as he was concerned. He was happy to use the basic ideas of the church ages that others had already thought of. Then he added his contribution. That is how knowledge grows. We add our bit to the knowledge that has already been developed by others before us.
The internet is incredible but it was built on two previous inventions : the computer and the telephone.
As that great genius Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants”.
Larkin was original when he provided 170 AD as the end of the Ephesian age and 1750 AD as the end of the Reformation or Sardis age. Neither of these ages ended in a specific event so we may as well accept these rather vague dates. Methodism was getting strong in 1750 but we could move this date around a few years without changing anything.
But Larkin started the Ephesus age in 70 AD when St Paul actually started it around 53-55 AD.
John wrote the Revelation in two installments. The first was written before the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 as God told John to measure the dimensions of the Temple.
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
:2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Thus Revelation Chapter 1 to Revelation Chapter 11 were written before the Temple got destroyed in AD 70.
Let us look at what the Roman historians Pliny and Tacitus wrote :
Early tradition says that John was banished to Patmos by the Roman authorities. This tradition is credible because banishment was a common punishment used during the Imperial period for a number of offenses. Among such offenses were the practices of magic and astrology. Prophecy was viewed by the Romans as belonging to the same category.
(Pliny Natural History 4.69–70; Tacitus Annals 4.30)
And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
Here emperor Claudius, number five in the line of supreme Roman rulers, banishes the Jews from Rome.
Banishing and exiling were common ways with which Roman authorities (not necessarily just emperors) dealt with people who were considered problematic.
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
This tells of Julius Caesar who became supreme dictator of Rome and the six emperors who followed him. Five were family members and finally a general who usurped the position of emperor
The mysteries of Babylon took root in Rome when Julius Caesar bribed his way to become Pontifex Maximus (Pontiff) in 63 BC and then finally conquered Pompey the Great in 48 BC to become supreme dictator of Rome as well. He was the first Roman to be worshiped as god when a temple was built to him after his death.
Caesar’s fame now produced a lineage of Roman emperors who would rule the empire and would maintain their position as the pagan Pontiff. Effectively they were priest-kings.
Caesar was followed as the sole ruler of the Roman empire by his grand nephew Augustus who claimed the title of emperor. Then came Tiberius, then Caligula and finally Caligula’s uncle Claudius (41 – 54 AD). These were all family members either by birth or adoption. When the fifth member of the family (Claudius) died in 54 AD then John could say “five have fallen” .
Then the adopted son of Claudius, who was Nero, took over as emperor, and John could write “and one is“.
Nero ruled from 54 – 68 AD.
So John was banished to Patmos either before Nero became emperor or while Nero was emperor. History is silent on this point. But when Nero was emperor, John was on Patmos and saw the first part of his Revelation visions. That could be any time after 54 AD.
And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
Galba, a Roman general from Spain, usurped the position of emperor when Nero committed suicide. He managed to persuade his army to declare him emperor.
But he only lasted seven months before he was killed. That is a certainly a short space of time.
So Paul’s entire ministry to Ephesus happened during Nero’s reign. John wrote the first part of Revelation during Nero’s reign. Thus Paul was alive and could read the first part of John’s Revelation which included the letter to the Ephesian church. Paul was the star or messenger-angel to the Ephesian church.
Then the emperor Domitian ruled from 81 – 96 AD. He launched a persecution against Christians and John was again banished to Patmos where he wrote the second half of his Revelation. Upon the death of the emperor in 96 AD John would be able to obtain his release.
The Book of Revelation is heavily involved with the Tribulation period. So John was on Patmos to write this Book during the reign of Nero who unleashed the first persecution on the Christians by a Roman emperor and during the reign of Domitian who unleashed the second persecution on the Christians by a Roman emperor. The horror of these mass slaughters was a preview to the ghastly mass killings of the sleeping virgin and Jews in the Tribulation at the end of the Laodicean age.
John thus witnessed two massive persecutions and this was also a preview that there would be two waves of persecutions that would roll over the church. The first wave of persecutions would come from the pagan Roman emperors that would kill about 3 million Christians. This stopped in 312 AD. Then another second wave of persecutions would come from the Roman Catholic Popes and kill about 68 million people who were not Roman Catholics. This dragged on for about 1200 years, starting around 450 AD when Pope Leo the Great claimed that Augustine of Hippo had said that it was permissible to kill heretics.
Larkin wrote that the Laodicean age started in 1900 AD when nothing specific happened, instead of beginning in 1906 with the Azusa Street Pentecostal revival because he simply ignored the Pentecostal movement.
Larkin copied three dates that earlier writers had already used for the church ages. Larkin ended the Smyrna second church age in 312 AD (Constantine’s victory) and ended the Pergamos third church age in 606 AD (when the Pope claimed he was Universal Bishop) and ended the Thyatira fourth church age in 1520 when Luther burnt the Pope’s Bull that condemned him and started the Reformation “war” against Rome. All of these dates were already well known to the earlier writers . Some earlier writers had used other dates.
A fundamental error with Larkin and the earlier writers was that they ignored the stars or messengers that influenced each age.
They had no revelation in their day as to what a messenger was, so Larkin wisely kept quiet on this topic.
The seven church ages identified by Clarence Larkin were known long before him and as such he collected a very useful summary of this previous knowledge that the earlier writers had slowly built up. There were points that they explained well but there were also serious gaps in their knowledge.
Let us now look at what earlier writers had said.
“Numerous interpreters through the centuries have adopted the viewpoint that the seven churches of Revelation two and three represent seven distinct periods of church history. It is possible that the first one to endorse a version of this theory was Victorinus, Bishop of Pettau, who died in A. D. 303.
Andrew Miller’s (1810 – 1883) Church History actually uses Revelation Chapters two and three as an outline for his book on church history.
The early anti-Trinitarian Seventh Day Adventists, such as Uriah Smith in his Daniel and the Revelation, endorsed this prophetic view of the chapters.
Saved commentators from before the current so-called “Laodicean age,” such as John Gill, have approved of this view; more modern unopposed commentators include :
It is consequently apparent that the viewpoint in question has a historical legacy and a large number of exponents.”
“Some historians typically interpret the seven churches as representing seven different periods in the history of the Western Church from the time of Paul until the return of Jesus Christ.
Scofield, writing between 1909 – 1917, states that “these messages by their very terms go beyond the local assemblies mentioned. He is of the opinion that the letters have a prophetic purpose disclosing the seven phases of the spiritual history of the Church.
Other writers, such as Clarence Larkin (1920,) Henry Hampton Halley (1924),
Merrill Unger,(1909 – 1980) and William M. Branham also have posited the view that the seven churches preview the history of the global Church.”
[ Larkin finalized his views on the seven church ages between 1918 and 1920.] These square brackets and the use of italics indicate that it is my comment.
Referring to Wikipedia Encyclopedia:
Clarence Larkin “studied the Scriptures, with the help of some books that fell into his hands”.
“Larkin, a kind and gentle man, disliked and deplored the tendency of writers who had different viewpoints on church history to say uncharitable things about each other.”
“His books have been prepared after years of study, not only of the Scriptures themselves, but of the writings of men along prophetic lines.
“Like C. I. Scofield, Larkin postulated seven separate dispensations”…. “that draws on the major themes found in the works of figures like C.I. Scofield, William Eugene Blackstone, and John Nelson Darby.”
“Darby believed in the division of history into eras or dispensations. …. most agreed with Darby that there were seven.”
RC Trench 1807 – 1886
“The … extreme Franciscans, (around 1200 AD) are the first among whom this scheme of interpretation assumed any prominence. It is well known to those who are at all familiar with this wonderful body of men, what an important part the distribution of the Church’s history into seven ages played in their theology, and what weapons they found in this armoury for their assault on the dominant Church and hierarchy of Rome”.
RC Trench 1807 – 1886
“After the Reformation, the first historian in whom I meet this interpretation of the seven Churches, as predictive of the seven ages of the Church and foreshadowing their condition, is an English divine, Thomas Brightman (1557 – 1607).”
Henry More 1614 – 1687
“But this can be no argument with them that hold the Seven Churches to be seven successive Conditions of the Church to the world’s end.”
1. “Doubtless the seven churches are strictly historical, and this fact must be allowed its full weight in studying their prophetic character… to bear a prophetic meaning, as well as a historical application. They were selected from amongst many, and so arranged and described as to foreshadow what was to come.
2. Only in chapters 2 & 3 is the church seen as responsible on the earth, and the object of divine government. From chapter 4-19 she is seen in heaven.”
[ Both Scofield and Larkin were drawing on ideas that had already been expressed by earlier writers. ]
[ This site refers to Campegius Vitringa Sr., or Kempe Vitringa who was a Dutch Protestant theologian 1669 – 1722 ]
“Seven churches.—It has been maintained by some (notably by Vitringa) that the epistles to the seven churches are prophetic, and set forth the condition of the Church in the successive epochs of its after-history. “
Ephesus represents the condition of the Church starting from the day of Pentecost …
Smyrna, …ended with the persecution … of Diocletian, (302 -312).
Pergamum, from the time of Constantine (312) until the close of the seventh century ”
[ Vitringa got Ages 1, 2 and 3 reasonably correct ]
“In Holland Cocceius (1603-1669) argued for a divinely-intended division into seven periods of the whole history of the Church” :
“Smyrna represents the last and most terrible struggles with heathen Rome;Protestant expositors see the Papacy in the scarlet woman of Babylon. The Jezebel of Thyatira appears exactly at the right time, coinciding with the Papacy at its height”
“to claim, as Brightman (1557-1607)does, …. and, as must necessarily follow, to contemplate Sardis as representing the Church of the actual Reformation.”
[ Cocceius got Ages 2, 4 and 5 correct ]
[ Jezebel was identified as the Roman Catholic church ]
LARKIN “Jezebel …typified a “System” and that “System” was the “Papal Church.”
James S White 1880
(1.) Ephesus signifies ” desirable,” which well represents the first Christians who had received the doctrine of Christ in its purity.(2.) Smyrna signifies “myrrh,” denoting that the church in this age would be a sweet-smelling savor to God, while passing through the fiery ordeal of persecution … This state reached down to Constantine covering much of the period called the ten persecutions.(3.) Pergamos signifies ” height, elevation.” This period reached from Constantine …. down to the rise of antichrist(4) Thyatira signifies ” sweet savor of labor,” or “sacrifice and contrition,” which seems descriptive of the church of Jesus Christ during the years of papal persecution. This age of dreadful cruelty, and martyrdom of the true church.
LARKIN : Smyrna means bitterness…myrrh is an ointment associated with death.
[ White had the same meaning for Smyrna as Larkin had ]
[ White laid out the framework of the first four church ages ]
John Gill (1697 – 1771)
Age 2 : “Smyrna… and ye shall have tribulation ten days:
The Dioclesian persecution lasted ten years (302 – 312) almost throughout: and some think that this last persecution, which held ten years, is here particularly meant, and not without some good reason; since it is usual in prophetic writings, and in this book of the Revelation, to put days for years; so that these ten days may be the ten years the last persecution held, and at which time the period of this church state ended, and that of Pergamos took place.”
LARKIN : “or it may refer to the 10 years of the last and fiercest persecution under Diocletion.”
[ Thus 312 AD establishes the end of the Smyrna Age. LARKIN also chose this date ]
John Gill Age 3 : “ Pergamos : This church represents the church from the time of Constantine, and onward, rising up to, and enjoying great power, riches, and honour “
LARKIN : “ Constantine … gave to the Bishops of the church a number of imposing buildings called Basilicas for conversion into churches … He was lavish in the gift of money . He also supplied superb vestments (clothes) for the clergy“.
John Gill : “ Antipas the martyr got his name through opposition to the popes of Rome; for Antipas is the contraction of Antipater, and is the same with Antipapas, or Antipappas, which signifies one that is against the pope, an opposer of that holy father”
[ A brilliant insight : Anti pas means anti the Pope.
Around 450 AD, Bishop of Rome Leo 1 called himself the Pope .
John Gill Age 4 : “Thyatira: in the interval this church represents; and this period takes in the darkest and most superstitious times of Popery, until the Reformation.
Jezebel, the wife of Ahab; as she was the daughter of an Heathen, so is Rome Papal the daughter of Rome Pagan”
[ Another flash of brilliance : Jezebel is identified by Gill as the Roman Catholic church ]
LARKIN :“Jezebel …typified a “System” and that “System” was the “Papal Church.”
“ As Jezebel brought idolatry into Israel, so Romanism weds Christian doctrine to pagan ceremonies”.
Gill Age 5 : Sardis : This church represents the state of the church from the time of the Reformation by Luther and others, until a more glorious state of the church appears, or until the spiritual reign of Christ in the Philadelphian period; under the Sardian church state we now are: (this was published by John Gill in 1747, Editor.”)
LARKIN : “By the Reformation we mean that period in the history of the Christian Church when Martin Luther and a number of other reformers protested against the false teaching, tyranny and claims of the Papal Church”. (Larkin said the Sardis age ended in 1750).
[ Another brilliant flash : John Gill in 1747 wrote just before Wesley’s age and somehow sensed that there was another Philadelphian age coming. Gill claimed that 1747 was still the Sardis age. Larkin agreed with him because Larkin started the Philadelphia age in 1750 ]
Walter Scott (1796 – April 23, 1861)
Scott’s church Age 1 : “Gaining pre-eminence in the church and departure from first love characterized the close of the apostolic period―Ephesus (chap. 2:1-7).”
[ III John speaks of Diotrephes who loved to have the pre-eminence and kicked dissenters out if they agreed with the apostle John who wrote the original Scripture. One man becoming head of the assembly or church is not a good idea]
III JOHN 1:9
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
:10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
:11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.
Church Age 2 : “Next succeeded the martyr period, which brings us down to the close of the tenth and last persecution, under Diocletian (303 – 312 AD) Smyrna (chap. 2:8-11).”
[ 312 AD is now an accepted date for the end of Smyrna and the start of Pergamos ]
Church Age 3 : “Decreasing spirituality and increasing worldliness went hand in hand from the accession of Constantine and his public patronage of Christianity on to the seventh century (which started in 600 AD ) ―Pergamos (chap. 2:12-17)”
Church Age 4 : “ The Papal Church, which is Satan’s masterpiece on earth, is witnessed in the assumption of universal authority
[ this was Pope Boniface III claiming to be Universal Bishop in 606 AD ]
and cruel persecution of the saints of God. Its evil reign covers “the Middle Ages,” the moral characteristics of which have been well termed “dark.” Popery blights everything it touches―Thyatira (chap. 2:18-29). “
“Thyatira… in the interval this church represents; and this period takes in the darkest and most superstitious times of Popery, until the Reformation. “
LARKIN : “Thyatira extended from 606 AD”
[ So Larkin agrees with this date of Scott ]
Scott’s Church Age 5 : “The Reformation was God’s intervention in grace and power to cripple papal authority, and introduce into Europe the light which for 300 years has been burning with more or less brilliancy. Protestantism, with its divisions and deadness, shows clearly enough how far short it comes of God’s ideal of the Church and Christianity― Sardis (chap. 3:1-6). “
LARKIN : “Sardis … Reformation period “
Scott Age 6 : Another Reformation, equally the work of God, characterized the beginning of last century― Philadelphia (chap. 3:7-13).
[ Walter Scott was aware of another Reformation age but did not grasp the idea that Luther restored Salvation and Wesley added to this by restoring Holiness and outreach.
Scott did not know that each age had a star who was a famous reformer ]
SCOFIELD : “The doctrine of Balaam was the union of the world and the church which is spiritual unchastity… Balaamism is worldliness”.
LARKIN : “Pergamos means marriage and when the church entered into a union with the state it was guilty of spiritual fornication or Balaamism … the great pagan festivals were adopted… it was found advisable to change the birthday of the Son of God to December 25 … the birthday of the pagan sun god.”
SCOFIELD : “Pergamos was dwelling where Satan’s throne is, in the world”…. Pergamos : the church settled down in the world where Satan’s throne is”.
“When Attalus III. The priest-king of the Chaldean hierarchy fled from Babylon before the conquering Persians of Cyrus, he went to Pergamos and settled there. Satan shifted his capital from Babylon to Pergamos.”
[ Larkin misses the issue here. He gives no clue as to what is meant by Satan’s throne.
Scofield is partly right. Satan encourages worldliness but a far bigger danger is false doctrine and neither Larkin nor Scofield indicate what the key ideas of Satan’s very subtle religious deception are.
The main Babylonian error was that many gods of the pagans were united in the form of a Trinity.
Egypt : Osiris, Horus, Isis
Rome : Jupiter, Mercury, Venus
Babylon : Nimrod, Semiramas, and Tammuz]
Greece : In Plato’s philosophy it was the Unknown Father, Logos and World Soul that formed a Triad.
The Christian Trinity was thus a fiction of the school of later Greek Platonists who changed Plato’s idea of a Triad into Father, Son and Holy Spirit.]
[ It can easily be seen that Larkin has so far made no original contribution to the seven church ages doctrine. He has expertly brought together different ideas from different people and assembled them into a “church ages theme” which others had already spoken about. In places he has elaborated on some of these points but the basic ideas had already been made.
What did Larkin contribute that was original?
Two of the dates and 3 of the meanings of the church names:
Smyrna means myrrh and bitterness and Philadelphia means brotherly love. These two names were well known.
The other 5 names cause contention as they seem to have more than one meaning.
Larkin seems to have been inspired to select useful meanings for 3 of the names: Ephesus means let go or relax. Pergamos means marriage. Sardis means escaping one.
Please note that the meaning of Thyatira and Laodicea were left out by Larkin.
Dates: Larkin starts the Ephesus age in AD 70 but Paul baptized the Ephesian disciples around 53-55 AD to get that church started. Their re-baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ was an essential step to get the first church right away from any Trinity doctrine that would creep in by using the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost as if they are the Name of God.
Larkin starts the Laodicean age in 1900 AD. This is a vague and meaningless date as neither he nor any of the earlier writers had any idea what Laodicea was all about. The Pentecostal movement that broke out in the historic Azusa Street Revival of 1906 is missed by Larkin and the other writers. Hence they could not choose the 1906 date to start our Pentecostal Age of Laodicea. ]
John Gill (November 23, 1697-October 14, 1771)
This church, and its pastor, represent the state of the church under the persecutions of the Roman emperors. Smyrna signifies “myrrh”, which being bitter of taste, is expressive of the bitter afflictions, and persecutions, and deaths, the people of God in this interval endured; and yet, as myrrh is of a sweet smell, so were those saints, in their sufferings for Christ, exceeding grateful and well pleasing to him; wherefore nothing is said by way of complaint to this church; not that she was without fault, but it was proper to use her tenderly in her afflicted state: and, as Dr. More observes, as myrrh was used in the embalming of dead bodies, it may point to the many deaths and martyrdoms of the saints in this period, whereby their names and memories are perpetuated and eternized.
Philadelphia This church is an emblem of, and represents the church in that period of time, in which will be the spiritual reign of Christ. Its name signifies “brotherly love”
[ These two names were known before Larkin, but he was free to use them.
So William Branham started building on the foundation that many others had already started laying. Then he moved beyond what they had been able to understand and finished the church age doctrine by filling in the gaps that the earlier writers had left out.
This, essentially, is the ministry of the seventh angel to the Laodicean church.]
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
There is only one way in which you can judge if William Branham was the seventh angel, the messenger to the seventh church age which is Laodicea and that is to determine whether he finished up the mystery of the seven church ages by filling in the blanks that the previous writers had been unable to do.
You cannot judge him by any faults or failings that he had as a man.
(Remember your own faults and failings before you cast the first stone).
His ministry was just to finish the mystery of God’s Word by explaining the deeper issues that others had missed.
If he digressed and gave his life story and gave his opinion on other matters, then that never was what God wanted him to do. So ignore those issues as they do not help us to finish up the mystery of the church ages in a way that we can fully understand what went on.
God will judge him in terms of how effectively he fulfilled this Scripture. Other issues where he went wrong must be identified as errors and then put aside as they will never help us to finish the mystery of the church ages which is Jesus walking in the midst of His church throughout the 2 000 years of church history.
John the Baptist doubted that Jesus was Messiah. What a massive blunder. John must really have kicked himself after doing that.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
:3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
Jesus ignored this error and just referred to John fulfilling the Scripture of being the messenger before Christ’s first Coming.
He then said that John was more than a prophet. This is very complimentary because John’s critics could have claimed that he was much less than a prophet on the grounds that John the Baptist had totally messed up, big time.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Jesus never denied that John had made a mistake.
He also did not emphasize John’s mistake in order to discredit John.
Jesus actually never even mentioned John’s mistake.
He knew John was wrong and just ignored that issue.
Jesus simply focused on what John had done right according to the written Word that predicted his ministry.
John did prepare the way before Jesus. So Jesus gave him full marks for fulfilling that Scripture.
That is all that really counted. Did he fulfill the Scripture?
Did he fulfill the Scripture written about him? Yes, 100 %
The Scripture is God’s perfect will, His Big Picture.
Did John make any mistakes? This is not a relevant question in terms of God’s Big Picture. So it will not affect his score of 100 % in God’s eyes.
Personal mistakes are part of our individual small pictures. These are bad news but they do not affect God’s Big Picture.
So let us learn from how the Master handled John the Bapstist’s personal mistakes when we analyse William Branham’s ministry.
He was sent to finish the mystery of God’s Word. Make it clear to us. That is the Big Picture. That is all we must judge him by. Having studied the Bible for close on 50 years I can only testify that I have never come across anyone who can explain the Scripture with the clarity that William Branham does.
Of course he makes mistakes in places. But that is part of the teaching process.
If a student can spot a mistake in the teacher’s lesson, it means the student knows what he or she is talking about. A good teacher is thus always proud when a student points out a mistake that has been made. That simply means that the process of transferring the knowledge has been successful. The issue is not how much the teacher knows but rather how effectively the students are able to think for themselves.
Do not deny his mistakes (that is not being truthful) nor emphasize his mistakes in order to discredit or de-prophetize him. Getting tangled up in the imperfections just means you have taken your eyes off the Big Picture.
Rather focus on the brilliant reflected light in Scripture where he got it right, because that is the only real reason why God sent him.
Remember, only Jesus is Perfect.