Ancient Letters, Current Messages

Times of Fire: The 7 Churches of Revelation Asks, “Are You Ready?”

In the opening chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation, Jesus’s aged disciple John writes that Jesus appeared to him sometime in the latter half of the first century, while he was exiled on the island of Patmos, and dictated seven letters to be sent to seven churches across Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Most people know that Revelation contains fantastical and mysterious imagery, but how many people pay attention to the letters that precede the visions?

French filmmaker Christophe Hanauer of Millenuim Productions did. As a novice filmmaker, he became so intrigued about these churches and the messages in the letters, he contacted Tim Mahoney of Thinking Man Films, who’s made several excellent documentaries about the evidence for the Exodus. Would Tim partner with him to make a film about the seven churches of Revelation? The answer was, yes, and the result is Times of Fire: The 7 Churches of Revelation. As it turned out, Christophe’s investigative quest turned up so much information and spectacular footage, the original project has turned into a planned three-film trilogy. Times of Fire, now complete, is the first installment.

In Times of Fire, Christophe begins on the island of Patmos, where he visits the eleventh century Monastery of St. John, which sits atop a high mountain peak, and a cave, now also a place of worship, believed to be the apostle’s “home” during his time on the island. After that, he moves on to the locales of the first three churches: Ephesus (which is mostly abandoned ruins now), Smyrna (modern day Izmir), and Pergamon (modern day Bergama). At each stop, he speaks with local scholars and historians to conceptually reconstruct the situations and challenges faced by the early Christians there. Stops include the remains of such sites as the temple of Artemis, where local silversmiths started a riot that resulted in Paul’s expulsion from Ephesus, and the altar of Zeus, where at one time sacrifices were made nearly round the clock,

To certain emperors and practitioners of pagan worship, the Christians were seen as disruptors of the current order, and that was not going to be tolerated. Jesus’s messages encouraged them to remain faithful “even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

It all comes together into a combination travelogue, history lesson, and culture study shedding light on such questions as, What kinds of spiritual and cultural challenges did the early Christians face? What might Jesus’s messages have meant to each congregation at the time? and, What messages might we be able to take from them today?

“In 73 countries around the world today,” said Michel Varton, former director of Open Doors France, “Christians are persecuted for their faith. … The persecution is always a choice. If you don’t want to be persecuted, it is very easy. Don’t tell anyone you’re a Christian. Don’t live your faith in front of your neighbors. Keep everything to yourself. Don’t go to church on Sunday morning. And you’ll be left alone.” Perhaps you will be left alone. Perhaps there will come a time when you won’t. Either way, Varton continued, “Every Christian must make this choice.”

Indeed. Times of Fire is a first-rate, living color Bible expository for us today. It offers, without the least hint of preachiness, lessons in faithfulness under pressure. It also invites us to ponder the question, If the pressures build, will we be faithful?

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from this history. Time of Fire will be in theaters as a Fathom Event for two nights only on October 11th and 12th and then as a virtual cinema event from October 26th through November 30th. Here is the Trailer:

Click here for tickets for the theater or virtual cinema events.

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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