An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages

From BelieveTheSign
THE TRIAL OF THE MESSAGE
On November 23, 2020, Rev. John T. (Tim) Humes, pastor of Living Word Tabernacle in Bessemer City, North Carolina, presented the opening arguments for a jury trial related to the message of William Branham.

Click here to watch "The Jury Trial: Opening Statements"

William Branham's only book, "An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages", was released after his death at the end of 1965. The book is referred to in this article as the Church Age book or CAB.

The concept of "church ages"

Someone in the message recently asked this question - "How can you deny that In His hands were 7 stars, one star for each age? You are in Laodicea and you are refusing to find the star. Remember the wise men? They followed the star and the star always points to the Word. How can you read the Bible, preach the bible and plainly refuse that there are 7 stars?"

William Branham did not come up with the idea that there were "seven church ages."

Some early dispensationalists (such as Clarence Larkin from whom William Branham copied the idea, including the dates of the ages) interpreted the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:4) symbolically as seven “church ages,” or stages of church history, though few hold this view today outside of the message. For the following reasons, this line of interpretation is no more feasible than allegorizing the churches addressed in Paul’s letters:

  1. There is no reference in the book of Revelation that would suggest that the seven church are seven church ages. The Bible does not use the word "age" or "ages." This is a construct of early dispensationalists which William Branham copied.
  2. Abundant evidence suggests that Revelation addresses seven literal church communities, including items of local color that fit each of the seven letters (see Seven Churches In Asia).
  3. A map shows that Revelation addresses the seven churches in the very sequence that a messenger from John, arriving first in Ephesus near the sea, would travel to each of the cities listed, presumably along the main roads of Asia. The average distance between each city was about thirty to forty-five miles.
  4. Only a forced reading of church history (regularly revised with the passing of time) has allowed this interpretation.
  5. Finally, if Revelation requires the completion of seven church ages before Jesus’ return, then, in most centuries of church history, Christians had no right to expect the imminent return of the Lord! This would be a curious conclusion for advocates of the seven church ages view, most of whom vehemently emphasize the imminence of Christ’s return.[1]

The burden of proof is clearly upon William Branham to show that these local letters are successive "ages" or "eras".

Proof that the "church age" concept is incorrect

Notice the following from the first chapter of the Book of Revelation (emphasis added):

John to the seven churches that are in Asia...
...“Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Write therefore the things that you have seen, those THAT ARE and those THAT ARE TO TAKE PLACE AFTER THIS.[2]

In Revelation Chapters 2 & 3, John writes all of the things he was commissioned to say to each of the seven churches, with Laodecia wrapping up the end of chapter 3.

Now, read carefully the first verse of Chapter 4 (emphasis added):

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place AFTER THIS.”[3]

Notice carefully that in Revelation 1:19 John is to write about two things: "those things that are" AND "those that are to take place after this."

We see that Revelation 2 & 3 were "those things that are" as the messages to the seven churches refer to things, people and places that existed at the time John had his vision. Revelation 4 and the following chapters deal with those things "that are to take place after this." The text clearly tells us that itself.

As a result, we can state with certainty that Revelation chapters 2 & 3 were never meant to be prophetic of "church ages" that were to occur in the future.

Critique on specific comments in Branham's book

Quote from the CAB Comments
"...this volume will concern itself with various major doctrines (such as the Godhead, Water Baptism, etc.) found in Revelation, chapters One through Three..."[4] Outside of William Branham's statement, Revelation 1-3 says nothing about the doctrine of Baptism, or any direct reference to the Godhead.
"...for out of the Ages come the Seals, and out of the Seals come the Trumpets, and out of the Trumpets come the Vials."[5] To say "out of the ages, out of the vials", is to imply that these passages in the Book of Revelation are sequential. Again, this is yet to be proven. The seals follow the letters to the churches, and the trumpets follow the seals sequentially in the Book of Revelation. But to say that a sequential event comes out of a prior sequential event instead of saying "follows" is concerning.
"But once the brilliance of the Seven Church Ages is given by Divine revelation..."[6] This is the entire key to the authority of the CAB in the message. Once William Branham states that his speculation is a Divine Revelation, there can be no further discussion at this point. This no longer becomes an exposition but a revelation and that of the seventh church age messenger, William Branham.
"...even our Lord and Saviour, the One True God, Jesus Christ."[7] Notice how William Branham's phraseology doesn't sound the same as the phraseology of the New Testament's references to Christ? There is an uncomfortable feeling that Message believers have when saying, "Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father..."[8] This is common amongst Oneness believers who speak of Christ's deity, but are not able to flow with the text of scripture to prove it, or shy away from biblical phrases used to address the Godhead.
This composition is set forth in the first person as it is a message from my heart to the hearts of the people.[9] This was written by Lee Vayle, yet approved by William Branham. This book will show a slightly amended version of the Message doctrines contained in William Branham recorded sermons. However, this book has evolved into the standard textbook for beginning Message believers. Regardless of who wrote the CAB, its doctrines and teachings appear to have been approved by William Branham and are taken as his teachings by many message believers.


Footnotes

  1. Craig S. Keener, Revelation, The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999), 74–75.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 1:4–19.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 4:1.
  4. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Introduction, para. 9-1
  5. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Introduction, para. 9-1
  6. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Introduction, para. 9-1
  7. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Introduction, para. 9-1
  8. The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 2 John 3.
  9. William Branham, An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Introduction, para. 9-1


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