Friday, November 28, 2008

The Letter to Laodicea – Revelation 3

Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Jesus identifies Himself to the church at Laodicea as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” This church needs to recognize that God’s word is just as sure now as it was when He first created the world. In fact, they needed to realize that they were being spoken to by “the CREATOR.”

Isn’t it interesting that evolution has exploded into popularity during the time when the Laodicean church seems to be the most prevalent. No matter how stubbornly people choose to cling to this preposterous theory, it will not change the truth. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Revelation 3:15-16 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Again, Jesus is aware of their works/deeds/actions/behavior. They serve, but not with zeal; they just seem to be going through the motions. They are keeping up appearances and maintaining social connections.

This comparison was perfect for the people of this church since their town was furnished water through a system that caused it to arrive for their use “lukewarm.” It was neither cold and refreshing or hot for use in healing/cleanliness etc. God is comparing this church to lukewarm water that doesn’t taste good; a lukewarm church does not put a good taste in the Lord’s mouth. He’d rather spit it out. In fact, the word for spue is “emeo,” which means to vomit; it’s where we get our word emetic. (This reminds me of His action in withering the fig tree in Matthew 21. A church is supposed to be producing fruit.)

David Guzik uses a quote from Donald Barnhouse that gives a little different perspective. “So the Lord is saying, ‘If instead of being lukewarm, you were so cold that you should feel that coldness, then the very feeling of your need might drive you to the true warmth, but now in your lukewarmness, you have just enough to protect yourselves against a feeling of need.’”

Rev. 3:17-18 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

This church considered itself to be blessed because it was rich in material wealth; they really didn’t have need of anything that they could identify. Jesus, on the other hand, sees them as wretched (distressed, miserable), miserable (pitiable), poor (spiritual paupers), blind (mentally—they don’t recognize their condition) and naked (without clothing—the garments of salvation). This was a church in name only.

2 Corinthians 10:18 is applicable here--For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.

Good thought from my friend Dixie—“’I counsel thee.’ Why does He bother? Because He loves them (v19).”

Jesus advises the church to buy from Him “gold tried in the fire” (1Peter 1:7) and submit to His will and testing to earn treasures in heaven; spiritual riches are the true riches of eternity. I think He is using the language of money to get the attention of this materially oriented church.

1Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Another good note from Dixie—“Good things can come out of fiery trials if we desire the outcome of purity and refinement more than we dislike the circumstances of the trials.”

The white raiment represents the garment of salvation, which only Jesus can provide to those who come to Him in faith believing on His finished work on the cross. Jesus covers the shame caused by our sin. He advises them to anoint themselves with eyesalve so that they can see; that seems to be referring to accepting Jesus as the Savior and appropriating the power and teaching of the Spirit to open their spiritual eyes.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Jesus tempers His rebuke by telling them that He only rebukes and chastens those He loves.

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

So take this message as a love letter. Recognize the truth about yourself; turn your apathy into energy and desire—repent (change your heart/mind/direction).

Revelation 3:20 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.

God is so merciful!! This time He pictures Himself standing at the door wanting fellowship with them; He is trying to get their attention. He is not going to force His way in though. It’s up to each individual to open the door and invite Him inside for fellowship.

Revelation 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Those who overcome are promised a seat with Him in His throne (the throne of David), just as the Father gave Him/Jesus a seat in His throne for overcoming.

Luke 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

He is always assuring His children that He will be just as good a Father as God is to Him.

Revelation 3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Again, the believers are encouraged to listen to and heed the message to the churches.

“he that hath an ear, let him hear” – Joseph Seiss made a good observation on this text: “Let us see to it, then, that we hear as the text commands, and learn to view the church’s errors, corruptions, mistakes, and sins as Christ views them; to love what He loves, to hate what He hates, and to hope only as He has given us authority to hope.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Letter to Philadelphia – Revelation 3

Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in 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;

Jesus identifies Himself to the church at Philadelphia as “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. (This is a quote from Isaiah 22:22--And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.) Again, this is a statement of His righteousness, truth, power and authority.

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Again, Jesus knows their works/deeds/actions/behavior. The next statement seems to be in direct connection to His knowledge of their works. He has set before them an open door; it is a door that no man can shut. Jesus also identified Himself as the door (John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.) I think He is assuring this church that has very little strength left, but has been faithful to keep His word and has never denied His name, that He will provide their salvation; He will give them the nourishment they need; no man has the power to deprive them of the protection and provision of the Savior.

2Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Those who are weak in faith due to the prevalence of evil around them need assurance of the truth of God’s word. Sometimes it seems like Satan is winning, but God is assuring His people that they can count on Him and He will prevail.

Rev. 3:9 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.

Evidently, these believers had also been persecuted by those who were pretending to be followers of God, Jews, but were really followers of Satan. Jesus promises that these unbelievers will be made to come and worship “before thy feet.” I think this is making reference to the fact that the believer will be at the feet of Jesus for eternity, and that “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow” (Romans 14:11) and “unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isaiah 45:23). The believer will get to witness the humbling of those that have persecuted them. They will be presented as loved by the Father before these unbelievers.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Because the believers in Philadelphia have held fast to and guarded the truth of the words of Jesus with steadfastness and cheerful endurance, Jesus will keep them from (“ek”—out of) the hour of temptation (putting to proof) which shall (future tense from John’s perspective) come upon ALL the world, to try (put to the test) them that dwell on earth. Obviously, this time of testing will be appointed for a specific time, of specific duration, to a specific generation.

Many refuse to accept that this affirms the teaching of the rapture on the grounds that there is no reason this generation of believers should escape the coming hard times any more than any other generation. Henry Morris made a good point. “The fact is, however, that Christians in every other generation have escaped the great tribulation, so there is no reason why the last should be singled out for participation in it.”

Revelation 3:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

When Jesus returns, it will be quickly (suddenly). He is encouraging them to hold on to their faith and not let any man deprive them of their reward/crown. This is not a reference to losing your salvation—just your reward. (cf 2:10—“ be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”)

Revelation 3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

Those who overcome will be “a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” I think this is indicative of the position of security the believer has for eternity in the presence of God. The word pillar in Galatians 2:9 is used to represent leaders, but we can’t all be leaders; and everyone in heaven will be an overcomer.

Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

The overcomer will also be publicly identified as belonging to God by being stamped/marked with “the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem.” He will also be proudly identified by being stamped with the new name of Jesus.

Revelation 3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Again, the believers are encouraged to listen to and heed the message to the churches.

This church, along with Smyrna, was given no words of rebuke. Again, if they had been deserving, they would have been rebuked.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Letter to Sardis, The Dead Church – Revelation 3

Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of 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.

Jesus identifies Himself to the church at Sardis as “he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.” I think this is significant since the Spirit is the source of life, power and security for the believer, and this church is really a dead church.

Again, Jesus states that He is aware of their works/deeds/actions/behavior. These actions imply to others that they are vibrant and alive; but God knows that they are spiritually dead. This reminds me of the verse in Samuel: 1Samuel 16:7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

The same truth is supported in Matthew: Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Those in Sardis are warned to be watchful/vigilant/alert. They are also to work to strengthen (set fast, turn resolutely in specific direction) the “things which remain” (the few purely motivated things they were doing in service to God). Even those were in jeopardy of dying. Their works before the Lord are lacking, they are not being performed to completion or fulfillment of His purpose for them.

Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

The Lord reminds them to remember “how” they had received and heard the truth that resulted in their faith—remember, and hold onto that memory. I think He is referring here to the purity of heart of a new believer in his/her desire to serve the Lord. As they remembered, they would recognize their need to repent. Obviously, if they did not see the need to repent; they never possessed the truth to begin with. They had come to the point that they needed to do a 180 with their hearts. They are serving in a way to impress others and serve their own pride rather than serving the Lord with an humble, obedient, loving and thankful heart.

Then comes the warning—If they aren’t vigilant/keeping watch, He will come upon them as a thief—they won’t even recognize the signs of the times to know that He is about to return. It causes one to pause and think of what we might be doing if He came at a time when our focus was not on Him. Would we be ashamed?

Revelation 3:4 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.

Jesus recognizes the fact that there are still a few true believers in Sardis which are clothed in the garments of righteousness; they will walk with the Lord in white (represents holiness and purity) because they have been found worthy due to their faith in the Savior. 1John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

I think this is another reason to be careful to be discerning, but not judgmental. It seems that even a “dead church” can have true believers serving as lights in the darkness according to God’s will and purpose. This letter includes no directive for true believers to leave the church. Instead, they are declared worthy or valuable to God’s purposes.

Revelation 3:5 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.

All those who overcome will be clothed in white raiment. Neither will He have his name blotted out of the book of life. This indicates to me that all names are written in the book of life until they have chosen once and for all to reject Jesus. (See topical study re “Book of Life” on my website ) There are so many verses that speak to God’s desire that ALL should be saved, i.e.:

2Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

1Timothy 2:3-4 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Those who overcome will find their name in the book of life and be recognized as part of the family by the Son to the Father and His angels.

Revelation 3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Again, the believers are warned to listen to and heed the message to the churches.

Interesting note: “Being dead, the church in Sardis presented no significant threat to Satan’s domain, so it wasn’t worth attacking.” D. Guzik

Continuing from my thoughts at the end of the previous chapter, it is interesting to note that again the implication is that this church is very active doing “Christian” things, which make them appear to be spiritually alive, but that is a false impression. Their works are not “perfect” or satisfactory before God; they are evidently following their own will—not God’s. They are self-motivated, not God-motivated. They cannot, however, claim ignorance as an excuse for their choices. They are encouraged to “remember” the truth they had “received and heard” and repent.

It truly is amazing that most people seem to prefer investing time in their own works rather than investing time in fellowship with and worship of God and resting in the work of His Son. Our works should be an outworking of our fellowship with and worship of the Lord. It is through fellowship and worship that we are attuned to the leading of the Spirit to serve others according to God’s will and not our own. That leading assures us God’s empowerment and provision through the Holy Spirit and will always glorify the Savior—not the servant.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Letter to Thyatira (cont.) – Revelation 2

Revelation 2:26-28 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star.

Those who stand fast and keep on putting forth their best effort to emulate the works of Jesus will eventually be given power over the nations (just as God empowered His Son). I believe this is a reference to service in the millennial kingdom. They will rule with the Lord with a rod of iron.

Psalm 2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

No false teachers will be dealt with lightly at that time. They will be broken and rendered useless as represented by the shards of a broken piece of pottery. The overcomer will also be given the morning star (identified as Jesus in Revelation 22:16). I think this indicates the thrill of intimate fellowship with the Savior for eternity.

The sad thing is that the people were to blame for the terrible warfare they were experiencing because they weren’t diligent in guarding their hearts and exercising discernment regarding who they allowed in their fellowship. I think that is true of many churches today. Very few exercise discipline regarding those who choose to participate in the body.

God is so merciful. He doesn’t keep throwing this up in their face. He identifies the problem, and then goes on to encourage them to hold on fast and fight the good fight of faith. He doesn’t try to punish them by making their burden heavier; they’ve pretty much brought harsh punishment upon themselves. God opens His message in a spirit of judgment and closes the message with encouragement to be an overcomer.

Revelation 2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Again, the believers are warned to listen to and take heed of the message being sent to the churches.

It really hit me this time through that this church is really active in doing good deeds, showing love to others, exhibiting strong moral convictions, and demonstrating commitment and dependability. This church gives the appearance of having members that are mature Christians in love with their Lord. Truth is that they are lacking in spiritual discernment to the point that a false prophetess is openly operating in the church and has generated quite a following. She is evidently arrogant and full of pride as she is intent on ignoring the truth of God’s word and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in pursuit of her own purposes. She is in league with Satan.

Since I first completed this journal, the “church” in America has made great headway in transforming itself into just such a church. I want to be careful not to be judgmental, but discerning. In my opinion, there seem to be more and more pastors of very large churches with national influence who are more interested in leading their congregations into “Christian” service than in teaching of the whole word of God and investing in the spiritual growth of their members. Their stated motives are identified as reaching the unsaved, while their own members are spiritually malnourished. I believe God’s word teaches that the church is supposed to strengthen and edify believers first and foremost. Scripture is clear that the teaching of the word is the primary source of providing the spiritual food necessary for that growth. Christians who are nourished through the word and edified through the Spirit working through the body of the believers to minister to one another will naturally produce Christians who will then go out and win others to Christ through sharing the gospel and showing the love of Christ in service to those in need.

It struck me that the Ephesian church had gotten so busy in ministry that it had become focused on what it was accomplishing and was investing no time in fellowship with and worship of the God in whose name they were serving. They were not, however, spiritually malnourished; they were still showing spiritual discernment and evidencing an understanding of God’s word since they were able to identify false apostles and hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. The church at Thyatira is a mirror of the Ephesian church in their focus on serving others, but they evidence no spiritual discernment or understanding of God’s word. The Ephesians are called to repent from leaving their first love; in other words, they had given definite evidence of their salvation. In Thyatira, however, most of the church is caught up in the false teaching and adulterous ways of the prophetess. They too are called to repent, but that repentance is from a way of life that is leading to death. The amazing thing is that there are evidently some true believers in the church who are encouraged to hold fast to their faith in spite of the false teaching surrounding them. This makes me think of those today who have probably grown up in the church or just have so many friends and/or family in the church that they hang in there hoping they can make a difference. In that regard they are similar to the true believers in the church at Pergamos.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Letter to Thyatira (cont.) – Revelation 2

In context, we are still referencing those who are following the false prophetess Jezebel in spiritual adultery.

Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

“kill her children with death” – I believe this refers to both spiritual and physical death to those who choose to follow her. Those who made that choice were obviously rejecting Jesus and the truth. He will personally see to their judgment—they will die physically as a result of their sin (from venereal disease, Aids, ?), and they will die spiritually (to experience eternity out of the presence of God in the lake of fire).

I found an interesting quote from John Schultz in connection with this verse: “Every sin has its own built-in punishment. The same bed on which Jezebel commits her adultery will become her sickbed. The sin man commits will turn against him. All things only work for good for those who love God.”

My friend and bible study partner, Dixie, made a good observation concerning “all churches shall know.” “God’s judgment on one church brings a righteous fear (Psalm 64:9) and understanding to those who hear of it, similar to the reaction of Rahab, hearing of God’s judgment in behalf of the children of Israel (Joshua 2:9-11).”

Psalm 64:9 And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing.

Joshua 2:9-11 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

Scripture is very clear in teaching that each person will be held accountable for his/her own actions.

Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Those in the church at Thyatira who have not followed Jezebel, who have stood firm and avoided involvement in her false doctrines and intimate contact with the things of Satan, are admonished to continue holding fast the faith until Jesus returns. This seems to indicate that this body of believers was up against serious spiritual warfare from the “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Revelation 2:24-25 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

The fight to hold onto their faith would not leave the true believers in Thyatira with the energy to accomplish much else. God was not going to burden them with any other demands. God knows our human limits. He will never expect more from us than we are able to do/give.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Letter to Thyatira – Revelation 2

Revelation 2:18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;

Jesus identifies Himself to the church in Thyatira as “the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass.” This seems to emphasize His power and authority in judgment.

Revelation 2:19 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.

Again, God knows their works/deeds/actions/behavior, their charity (agape—love/goodwill), service/ministry, faith (moral conviction, fidelity to the truth), and patience (steadfastness, endurance). Then He repeats that He knows their works, to the point that He sees that they are doing much more now than in the beginning.

The above are all good things. But the Lord still has words of rebuke for them. Why?

Revelation 2:20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

They (the church as a whole) suffer (don’t bother, allow, permit) that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce the believers to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed unto idols. Jezebel is a generic term for a false prophet/teacher; she claims to have special enlightenment.

This reminds me of the warning in Matthew 13:33—“Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

False teachers in the church tend to emerge gradually. They introduce their false teachings in increments and before you know it, they have a group of followers in the church that have been deceived by their false teachings.

Eating things sacrificed to idols seems to be indicative of a willingness to compromise with the world instead of coming out from among them and being separate (cf 2Corinthians 6:17).

Revelation 2:21-22 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

According to the wording given, it appears to me that there was a specific person, false teacher, at that point in time that was being permitted to operate in this church. God even states specifically that He had given her time to repent of her spiritual adultery, but she chose not to.

God warns that those who had chosen to consort with her in her immoral activity would experience great tribulation unless they repented (change of heart/mind/purpose).

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Letter to Pergamos – Revelation 2

Revelation 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;

Jesus identifies Himself to the church in Pergamos as the one who “hath the sharp sword with two edges.” This is significant since this represents God’s authority and ability to judge and convict as necessary in this body of believers.

Revelation 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Again, He knows their works/deeds/actions/behaviors. He is aware that they are living in the middle of one of Satan’s strongholds, where Satan was choosing to dwell at that time. The great altar of Zeus, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was in Pergamos. In spite of this, they have not denied His truth, His gospel, even at point of death—as proven by the death of Antipas, God’s faithful witness.

Again I will quote from The Revelation Record: “According to Alexander Hislop’s book, Two Babylons, the evidence indicates ‘that Pergamos had inherited the religious mantle of ancient Babylon…. The priests who had kept the secrets of the ancient mystery religions centered at Babylon ever since the days of Nimrod, were forced to migrate, transferring what amounted to the headquarters of Satan’s religious system away from Babylon north and west to Pergamos where it endured for several centuries in that great center of evolutionary pantheistic paganism.”

My pastor, Bob Coy, had an interesting thought on this church. The fact that they had chosen to stay as “lights” in a wicked (dark) place was part of their commendation.

Revelation 2:14-15 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Still, God has words of chastisement for them:

1. They are tolerating those who hold the doctrine of Balaam (who because of his greed encouraged the followers of Balac to lure the children of Israel into eating things sacrificed to idols and committing fornication). Cf Numbers 22-24 and Jude 11.
2. They are also tolerating those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. We already learned in the letter to Ephesus that God hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans.

I found an interesting statement from Arthur Pink regarding this section: “….in Ephesus it was the deeds of the Nicolaitanes that were mentioned, here it is the ‘doctrine of the Nicolaitanes’ – false practices had now become articles of faith. Observe that at first the church ‘hated’ their deeds, here their evil beliefs were tolerated and cherished.”

This appears to be a church that is trying to compromise with the world and not offend anyone. That seems to be an apt description of many churches today. They are afraid to speak out strongly on issues in the Word that would meddle in the way people are choosing to live their lives. They are not diligent in guarding against the intrusion of those in the body who would pervert the Word of God.

Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

The church is warned to repent—have a change of heart/mind/purpose. If they don’t, the Lord says He will come unto “thee” (the church) and fight against “them” (perverters of the truth—false teachers) with the sword of His Word. I think this is indicative of God’s willingness to apply whatever judgment/punishment/discipline necessary to preserve His church.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Those who are willing to listen to and heed the message to this church--the overcomers--will:

1. be allowed to eat the hidden manna--Manna represents bread from heaven, sustenance, God’s provision. I’m not quite sure what hidden manna is unless it is referring to the truth from the Word that can only be discerned through “spiritual” eyes and ears. Only those who have accepted the Savior and have the Spirit dwelling in them can see through spiritual eyes and hear with spiritual ears.

2. be given a white stone with a new name that will be known only to the recipient of the stone--The white stone represents a verdict of acquittal or ticket of admission—acquittal regarding their sin that is covered by the blood of the Lamb and admission to the presence of God forever. It is not clear in the wording, but I believe the new name is for the overcoming believer since God often gave His followers new names to reflect their relationship to Him (i.e., Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon Peter to Cephas, etc.).

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Letter to Smyrna (cont.) – Revelation 2

“Ye shall have tribulation ten days” – I am not sure what this means. I have read that it refers to being tested for a specified period of time. (cf 2Cor. 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.) I’ve wondered if there couldn’t be some connection to the ten days of awe between Rosh Hoshanah and Yom Kippur that are representative of a time of repentance.

Considering that possibility, I found a section in The End, a book by George Madray, which was thought provoking. It stated:

Tribulation = 7 years – so 1 day = 1 year
“But more definitely, these chapters provide ongoing instruction throughout the tribulation….This author believes that instructions about what to do during the tribulation have already been provided in the book of Revelation, chapters 2-3. These special chapters in Revelation offer many details to the churches about how to proceed through the tribulation. The solution to the enigma is that the churches described in chapters 2-3 are believers who are receiving instructions during the time that evil is no longer being restrained. This body of believers is clearly very Jewish in nature and is not the Mystery Church….Rather, this is the body of believers who begin to profess Christ after the Mystery Church is raptured….If we assume that great evil and suffering will break out when God no longer restrains evil; that God will begin to deal with the Kingdom Church right after the rapture of the Mystery Church; that the ten days in Revelation 2:10 and ten years; then the Mystery Church is taken to heaven ten years before the end.”

In The Revelation Record Henry Morris equates the ten days to the ten days of testing that Daniel and his friends underwent at the beginning of their captivity. “Ten days of testing in Daniel’s case then yielded over 70 years of uniquely effective service for God. Just so, Christ assures Christians in Smyrna and all other suffering churches that a brief ‘ten days’ of testing will, if accepted with a resolve to be ‘faithful unto death,’ yield a crown of life and glory that will be ten times greater when Jesus comes.”

Those who are faithful unto death, willing to die for their faith in Jesus, will be given a crown of life. (Father, please humble me, convict me, love me to a place and spirit that will honor you as the body of believers at Smyrna. Strengthen me to the point that if I am ever in a position to die for my faith, I will do so willingly and joyfully and victoriously.)

Special note—This church receives no words of rebuke. If they had been deserving of rebuke, they would have received it.

Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Again, this message is for all the churches; and those who are willing to listen to and heed the message being given will not be hurt by the second death (eternal separation from God forever).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Smyrna – The Persecuted Church – Revelation 2

Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Jesus identifies Himself to the church in Smyrna as “the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.” I think this is a special address of encouragement to this body of believers who need to be reminded that they will have victory over death and eternal life with Jesus because of Jesus’ victory over death through His resurrection.

Revelation 2:9 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 Satan.

Again, God knows their works/deeds/actions/behavior. He knows about the persecution they have suffered. He recognizes that they are materially poor, but spiritually rich. He is aware of the slander and vicious verbal abuse they have taken from those who claim to be Jews, followers of God, but they are really followers of Satan, the adversary of God.

Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Obviously, these believers have no heart problem; they are serving and enduring out of deep gratitude, love and devotion to the Lord. They probably don’t even realize the treasures and rewards they have accumulated for themselves in heaven.

Rev. 2:10 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 a crown of life.

He encourages the believers not to be afraid of the things they will suffer. He doesn’t tell them they won’t suffer—just not to be afraid of it. Other verses in the scripture support this thought.

Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

2Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

1Peter 1:6-7 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

The Greek for the word suffer states “to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful), passion.” The Greek for persecution in 2Timothy 3:12 states, “to pursue, to persecute, follow (after), press forward.” It’s natural to think of this suffering in context of physical abuse and harassment. It would seem that context would only give partial understanding. You can experience pain and pressure from being surrounded by wickedness. You can experience pain, pressure and suffering from your own struggle with the flesh and the attacks of the enemy. I think that suffering in heart is probably the most common form of suffering in the believer’s life and that persecution as represented by the pressures of wickedness surrounding us is much more common than physical persecution in the life of a believer. It reminds me of the verses in Peter regarding Lot.

2Peter 2:7-8 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.)

Back to the believers in Smyrna--In fact, some of them will be put in prison as a test of their faith. Who puts them in prison? The devil—We often forget that he is the ruler in power at this time on planet earth.

2Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

In light of the persecution this church suffers, the meaning of the word Smyrna is significant. It comes from the word for myrrh, which is a plant that only yields its fragrance when it is crushed. Our faith is most on display when we are going through times of testing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Letter to Ephesus (cont.) – Revelation 2

Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

The Lord urges them to remember “from whence thou are fallen.” This indicates that they have gone on a downward spiral in their spiritual life; they are not living in victory. The only way to get back on the right track is to repent--have a change of heart/mind/purpose. The evidence of their repentance is to “do the first works.” The word for “first” not only references time, but also importance. What are the first works?

Mark 12:30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

I couldn’t help but think of the account of Martha and Mary in connection with God’s view of our priorities. Martha was so focused on serving that she was missing out on the benefits of fellowship with the Lord. I liked the wording from the Complete Jewish Bible in relating Jesus’ words to Martha.

Luke 10:41-42 However, the Lord answered her, “Marta, Marta, you are fretting and worrying about so many things! But there is only one thing that is essential. Miryam has chosen the right thing, and it won’t be taken away from her.”

The Lord is declaring that investing in our personal relationship with Him is more important than service. This is not the same as saying that service is not important. It is a statement that says to me that He desires service that results as an outflow of our love for Him in response to His love for us. Our love for Him will grow as we learn to know Him better, and we learn to know Him better as we sit at His feet and allow the Holy Spirit to minister the Word to our hearts and minds.

The church is warned that if they don’t repent, the Lord will remove their candlestick out of “his place.” This indicates that each body of believers has “a place” of service, a purpose in the plan of God. It’s up to that body to serve effectively by guarding their sensitivity to the leading/conviction of the Spirit.

Revelation 2:6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

After these words of rebuke, there is a compliment given to the church. They hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans; God also hates their deeds. I’ve read that these were people who were placing themselves in a special position of honor over the laity—the body of believers (i.e., priests in the Catholic church). Another thought was that they tried to adjust Christianity to the level of the world rather than lifting the world to the level of Christianity. I am sure that the original recipients of these letters knew exactly what was meant.

In my studies I ran across a statement by Vernard Eller (with whom I can find little in agreement regarding this book) that was very interesting regarding the Nicolaitans: “Logically, a "Nicolaitan" would be a follower of "Nicolas"--whoever he might be. But the name "Nicolas" is itself built upon the Greek root found in the very next verse, nikontes, "him who is victorious," or "the victor." And this concept of "victor" is one that is central not only to these letters but also to Revelation as a whole. So whoever the Nicolaitans may have been, and whatever the line they were peddling, the Revealer classifies them with the thousands upon thousands of deceivers who, throughout the history of the church, have claimed to possess the key to personal success and victory. Nicolaitans (victory-promisers) are still very active among us; you can give specific name to those who would tempt you.”

Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

The churches are encouraged to pay attention to what the Spirit is saying in these letters. Even though there are specific words for each church, the letters are meant for all the churches. Jesus is the one dictating these letters and yet He identifies Himself as the Spirit--yet another proof of the oneness of the triune God.

Those who choose to walk in victory in Jesus will be allowed to eat from the tree of life in the place of happiness prepared by God.

This letter is really quite disconcerting. It seems that the people were doing many commendable things. The problem seems to be with the attitude of heart with which they are serving. They are even serving for the right reason (for my name’s sake), but it seems they are serving out of duty rather than love. (This puts me in mind of the Pharisees, etc.) God only wants us to give and serve out of a cheerful heart with love and devotion to Him. As I think on my own service to the Lord, I often fear that I sometimes fall into the trap of serving from duty and expectation rather than from love. It just emphasizes the importance of staying connected to the Lord through prayer and His word so that we are sensitive to the leading/conviction of the Spirit.

Since these letters are written to bodies of believers, I do not believe the Lord is saying that they will lose their salvation. We must also recognize that all “churches” are composed of true believers as well as those who profess faith for whatever reason, but haven’t really placed their faith in Jesus as Lord of their life. I think He is saying that as a body, they will no longer be useful to Him and will therefore lose their identity as a body. Ray Stedman states it this way, “They will lose their ability to shed light.” The church is made up of individuals. Encouragement is given to those who choose to listen to and heed the message being delivered. They are the ones whose fruit prove their position in Jesus. They are the ones who will be rewarded with everlasting life in the presence of the Father.