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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 10


Letter #7
To the Church in Laodicea  
Revelation 3:14-22
Laodicea-creative commons image

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:7-13
 Jesus begins this letter by introducing himself as
 "...the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation."
I've never heard Jesus referred to as the Amen before so,  of course, I went running to the internet to find a good definition of the word amen to see the significance of Him using the term.  This is what I found...

The term “Amen” is common to both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and it has a variety of uses, depending upon the context in which it is found.

The Hebrew word, amen, means “surely, indeed, truly.” It derives from a root form, aman, which signifies “to be firm, steady, trustworthy, faithful” (again, the context can suggest which of these shades of meaning is most appropriate in a particular setting).  Dig a little deeper into the meaning of the word.
Jesus is saying that you can rely on him - on his testimony to be solid, trustworthy and faithful...Amen!

 Then comes the scary part! Notice that for the first time, the Lord has good to say about this church, nothing to commend them for...how sad!

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Jesus chastises them for their lukewarm apathy.

Apathy


lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
indifference, lack of interest, lack of enthusiasm, lack of concern,

This sickens Jesus so much that he says he's about to spit them out of his mouth. (Ever take a drink of water you expected to be ice cold or a sip of coffee you expected to be steamy hot?)

This is the passage that should make us sit right down and do a thorough examination of the state of our faith and relationship with Him!  Are you on fire for Jesus or have you let your relationship with him grow cold.  Worse yet, are you one of those people who travel the middle road, just coasting along?  Are you surprised that God says he would rather you be speeding down the highway or come to a dead stop, rather than just coast?

This reminds me of a great song by Steve Camp from back in the 80's. Take a minute and listen to this soul-challenging song and pay attention to the lyrics...

Living in Laodicea - Steve Camp



Well, what did you think? (leave a comment)

Let's go on...
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Not only were they in pitiful spiritual shape - they were too dumb to know it. Ok, it's not nice to say dumb, but really - they thought they were rich (whether financially or spiritually, I don't know), that they had gained all the wealth there was to be had (again I'm not sure they are referring to material wealth or spiritual knowledge) and that they did not need another thing. No reason to look to God, to depend on Him for anything.  They were so blinded by self-satisfaction and complacency that they didn't didn't realize they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Jesus calls them to repentance. To come to him to have the fires rekindled, to become spiritually rich and washed clean, to have their sins covered and healing salve put on their eyes so that they could clearly see the truth about their spiritual state of being.

His next words are very reassuring - there is hope...
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Don't be distressed when you find that you are being rebuked and disciplined by the Lord. If he didn't love you, he wouldn't discipline you. He encourages the folks in Laodicea to sincerely repent - in earnest, not half-heartedly.

He promises that he is at the door, waiting to be invited in. He will not barge into your life, but if you will open the door, he will come in, and just look at this promise...
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 
 What an encouragement to stir up our faith fires, to remain red-hot in our pursuit of a deeper, ever-growing relationship with God, to be busy doing His will and fulfilling His purposes for our lives...to be V-I-C-T-O-R-I-O-U-S to the very end!
22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
So, how's your spiritual life?
Are you satisfied with the status quo or are you pushing forward in your journey?
Have you been "living in Laodicea?"

Introduction to Laodicea
(video starts at the 12 second mark)
 

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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 9


Letter #6
To the Church in Philadelphia
Revelation 3:7-13

Ancient Philadelphia
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  Revelation 3:7-13
 I don't know about you, but this is the first letter that really gets me excited. Did you notice that it's the first letter were Jesus has nothing to say against the church? Instead, he is filled with words of encouragement and hope for the people in the church of Philadelphia.  

He begins this letter differently. In the other letters we've read, he begins by referring to himself in terms of the vision John had -  
  • Letter to Ephesus: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
  • Letter to Smyrna: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
  • Letter to Pergamum: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
  • Letter to Thyatira: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
  • Letter to Sardis: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
 All of these refer back to the vision John had of Jesus in Revelation 1:9-17, but in this letter to the church of Philadelphia, he begins by stating who he is...
 These are the words of him who is holy and true who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
He is the Holy One - He is the True One. He is the only one who is morally perfect, without spot or blemish. There is no one holy besides Him and no truth other than His truth.  He is the One who "holds the key of David," which is a reference to and event in the Old Testament.

In Isaiah 22,  God speaks a prophecy against Shebna, King Hezekiah's top man in charge of the palace, who was working underhandedly to make his own life comfortable, with no regard for God or others.  God says through Isaiah that Shebna will be banished to another country and die there and that He will appoint a godly man named Eliakim...

20 “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. 21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Isaiah 22:20-22
 Jesus refers back to that passage and applies it to himself, saying...
What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Here, Jesus commends the church at Philadelphia for their steadfast faith, even in times of trial, where their strength was nearly gone.  Their patient endurance of trials and sure trust in Him elicited a promise from Jesus - that he setting an open door before them that no one could shut.


What door would that have been?  If we look back at the Apostle Paul, he speaks of open and shut doors in reference to being able to enter a city to preach the gospel and encourage the saints. In Acts 16:6, the Holy Spirit shut the door to ministry in Asia. When he tried to enter Bithynia, again the Holy Spirit shut the door. (Acts 16:7). It was a different story when he came to Troas. There he found that the Lord had opened a door for him. (2 Corinthians 2:12) Even more exciting is a statement in 1 Corinthians 16:9 that the door to Asia, which had previously been shut to him was later opened by the Lord, allowing Paul to enter the city of Ephesus, the capital of Asia.


See why I'm excited about this letter? When we are steadfast in our faith, when keep our faith strong in the face of trial, God is pleased and will open doors of opportunity for us and shut doors that he knows would not be beneficial for us. This tells me that God knows us intimately. He knows when we struggle, he knows the path he has for us, he is able to lead and guide if we remain faithful to him and to his word. I don't know about you, but that makes me want to do a little shouting!

But wait - there's more...
10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.
Because they obeyed His command to endure patiently, because we endure patiently and remain faithful, there's amazing reward in store for us.

First, he promises that He will keep us from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of earth. Here, Jesus is making reference to an event that we call The Rapture. Though the Bible does not put a name on this event, it describes precisely what is going to happen...
The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV)
This is not symbolism, it's a real event. It will happen, just as is stated here. When? Now, that's a question that has been debated long and hard in the Christian faith, but as I read this passage of scripture it's clear that it will be before "the great tribulation," that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24, because  He clearly says that he will keep us from (orginal Greek for this phrase means he will "take us out of, away from, not just shield us through) the unspeakable distress which is coming on the whole world. A horror such as we've never known in human history. Click the either of the two links in this paragraph to find a graphic description of the things to come, then thank God that if you are a Christian who is faithful to the end, you will be spared from going through this and pray earnestly for those who don't know Jesus as their Savior, for they will have to face all these things.

As we finish up this letter to the Church at Philadelphia, we are encouraged even more, because He promises that he is coming soon and if we hold on to what we have - that patient endurance - no one will be able to take our crown (of victory), we will be victorious and he will make us a pillar (a supporting, integral, or upstanding member)  in the temple of God (Heaven) and we will never leave that place.  He will write on us the name of God and the name of the city of God. He urges us to hold on because as time progresses it will become more and more difficult to stand strong in our faith.

Notice that in verse 11 he writes again,
"I am coming soon."
Some would argue that this letter was written over 2000 years ago, so how could He say that He was coming soon. In fact, the church has been saying for generation after generation that Jesus is coming soon and yet he has not come. How can we continue to hope?  First we must look at this statement in the context of what he's just been speaking about - the great tribulation.

We read about the sun being darkened, the moon not shining, stars falling from the heavens and men's hearts failing them for fear at the terrible things that are happening all around them. He says, we will  hear of wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.There will be famines and earthquakes in various places and many other things that we hear on the evening news and read in our newspapers. 

In Luke 21:28, He says...
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

It's in reference to those events that Jesus declares, "I am coming soon." (We will learn much more about the Great Tribulation as we continue to study the book of Revelation.)

Again he ends his letter to the church at Philadelphia with...
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Do you have ears to hear what he's saying?
Are standing strong in your faith?
Are you rejoicing that you will be taken to Heaven before the Great Tribulation?

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An Introduction to the City of Philadelphia
(video starts at the 12 second mark)


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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 8


Letter #5
To the Church in Sardis
Revelation 2:18-29

Sardis Synagague Ruins - creative commons image
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:1-6
Did you notice that the tone of this letter is a little different than the others? Jesus cuts straight to the chase with...
I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 
I'm afraid that statement could be made about many churches in America today. I don't know about churches outside America, because I've never traveled abroad, but here in America I've sat through many services that thought the mighty power of God, of prayer and of living a powerful Christian life, yet the service was flat. No undercurrent of excitement, no life, just going through the motions.

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not condemning these churches. I'm sure the Pastors are overwhelmed with the burden of stirring the people to action. Pastors so their best, week after week to inspire their congregations to bring the word of God, to inspire listeners to greater worship, spiritual growth, service and sharing the gospel.  I imagine sometimes that's like trying to stir thickening concrete.

Jesus says to His church...
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
This is our wake up call, folks, because he's not just talking to the church at Sardis, he's talking to all churches everywhere. It's time to wake up, get up and do something! Breathe in the life-giving Word of God, exercise our atrophied spiritual muscles, actively pursue a vibrant relationship with Christ, be on the lookout for opportunities to serve and step forward, not waiting to be asked.  It's time to anticipate opportunities to share the gospel and be prepared to do so with wisdom and love. And lest we think, "Yeah, it's time the church comes to life," look how quickly Jesus brings it right down to the individuals in the church...

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. 
Jesus looks at his church and sees individuals, for that's who makes up the church. Individual believers, each responsible and answerable for the depth of their own walk with Him - their own spiritual growth - their own deeds. We can't wait for the Pastor to tell us what we should be doing. We can't make him responsible for stirring us into action. That's something we must do for ourselves...and when we do - when we are actively living out the name and ministry of Jesus Christ, he promises that we will walk with Him, worthy, dressed in white, victorious. He promises that he...
I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
What a wonderful promise! What incentive! What motivation to shake ourselves awake, stir ourselves up and launch ourselves into action!
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Have you let yourself grow lax in your relationship with Jesus?
Do you depend on others to stir you up?
What can you do today to breathe life back into your stale relationship with Him?

Introduction to the City of Sardis


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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 7

Letter #4
To the Church in Thyatira
Revelation 2:18-29

Ruins of Thyratira - creative commons image

18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, 25 except to hold on to what you have until I come.’
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’[a]—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star. 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:18-29
Jesus begins the letter to the church Thyatira by identifying himself as the Son of God and describes his eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze. What a powerful and almost frightening image of Jesus. Most often he is depicted as a sweet, gentle, loving person...and he was, but there is a mighty and powerful side to the Savior as well. The part that hates sin and those who lead others into sin. His judgement will be swift and horrifying toward those who reject God's grace.

First Jesus commends those who make up this church...


I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Revelation 2:19
 He complements them for their deeds (good works), their love, faith, service and perseverance, then he points out that they were doing more than they did at first, which means they were growing. God is pleased when we accept Jesus as our Savior, but that's not enough. While there is nothing more we can do to receive salvation, we are instructed thoughout the Word to continue on a path of spiritual growth.


Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:1-3

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16

Are you continuing to grow in your knowledge of the Word and God's will for your life?

 Next, Jesus points out something that disturbs him greatly about the church in Thyatira. They...

tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

This is not a specific woman named Jezebel, but as we can tell by the description of what she does - spreading a teaching that misleads Christian believers (my servants) into sexual immorality and idol worship. This is the same condemnation that Jesus raised toward previous letters we've read.

It's interesting that Jesus puts a label on this practice, calling it Jezebel. The only real person we read about in scripture named Jezebel was the pagan wife of King Ahab in 1st & 2nd Kings. This is what we know about Queen Jezebel...
  • She was a self-proclaimed prophetess, a devout worshiper of Baal, which involved idol worship, sexual idolatry and witchcraft.
  • She influenced King Ahab to begin worshiping and serving Baal, to set up an altar for Baael and build a temple to Baal
  • She was busy killing off the true prophets of God
  • When Elijah challenged her 450 prophets to prove the power of Baal and failed, Jezebel swore to spend the rest of her life hunting down Elijah to kill him.
  • She schemed, lied, had a man falsely accused and put to death by stoning just so Ahab could have the man's vineyard that he wanted.
  • Jezebel was thrown from a window, trampled by horses and eaten by dogs until only her skull, feet and hands were left - as Elijah had predicted.
Does this leave any doubt in your mind as to how much God hates idolatry and sexual immorality and those who lead God's people into these things?

 When Jesus mentions Jezebel here in this letter, he is not referring specifically to that Jezebel, but the spirit of Jezebel - anyone who spreads false teachings and entices people to sin against God and promises that they have been enlightened by God and will show you the "deep secrets" of God.

The gripe he has against this church is that they tolerate Jezebel - the spirit of Jezebel. They tolerated people among them who lured people into false teaching and gross sin. It was their tolerance that Jesus admonished them for.

Have you become too tolerant?

I'm NOT talking about hating people who sin. We all sin. I'm talking about being tolerant about false teachings and being tolerant of a culture that lures people into sin - especially leading Believers into sin. The relaxed (to put it mildly) standards of today's culture says it's okay to indulge in ungodly behavior as long as you don't go too far. Many Christians have bought into that philosophy. The problem is if Jesus condemned the tolerance of this kind of behavior, imagine how he feels about the practice of this behavior.

Jesus concludes this letter by encouraging the Believer who have not been led astray to hold on, to be victorious and do His will until the end. To those Believers he promises to give them authority to  rule over nations and to give them "the morning star."

I was a little stumped on just what the morning star meant, so I dug around and found a great explanation from Barnes' Notes on the Bible...

"The idea seems to be, that the Saviour would give him something that would resemble that morning planet in beauty and splendor - perhaps meaning that it would be placed as a gem in his *diadem, and would sparkle on his brow - bearing some such relation to him who is called "the Sun of Righteousness," as the morning star does to the glorious sun on his rising. If so, the meaning would be that he would receive a beautiful ornament, bearing a near relation to the Redeemer himself as a bright sun - a pledge that the darkness was past - but one whose beams would melt away into the superior light of the Redeemer himself, as the beams of the morning star are lost in the superior glory of the sun"
*diadem - a jeweled crown or headband worn as a symbol of sovereignty.
 I'm up for that!

 Watch a video about the Church at Thyatira



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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 6


Letter#3
To the Church in Pergamum
Revelation 2:12-17


12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
Pergamum - creative commons image
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

This letter goes out to the church in Pergamum, referred to here by Jesus as where Satan has his throne and  where Satan lives. Wow, that's a pretty strong indictment  against this city. How would you like to tell someone where you're from and have them say, "Oh, that's where Satan lives and sits on his throne...ruling throne." Yikes! I'd be packing up and moving, pronto!

So, why did Jesus use such harsh words about this city? First of all, they were killing Christian believers (Antipas was martyred there, among many others.). It was home to many idol temples and worship of false gods. History tells us that there was a large worship center built in Pergamum to
Asclepium, who was considered a god of healing. Add to that the mention here of the teachings of Balaam, who encouraged eating food sacrificed to idols (taking part in idolatrous rites) and committing sexual immorality. 

He also mentions the teachings of the Nicolaitans...
It seems that the "doctrine" of the Nicolaitans was that it was alright to have one foot in both worlds and that one needn't be so strict about separation from the world in order to be a Christian. This, in fact, was the "doctrine" of the Nicolaitans that Jesus "hated." It led to a weak version of Christianity that was without power and without conviction - a defeated, worldly type of Christianity. (Taken from Who Were the Nicolaitans, and What Was Their Doctrine and Deeds?)
 Jesus exhorts those who practice these things to...

Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Revelation 2:16
 Look back at verse 12, where Jesus says who is writing this letter...

To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. Revelation 2:12
 And remember the description John gave of his vision of Jesus back in chapter 1...


In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Revelation 1:16
In Hebrews, it references a double-edged sword...

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The sword represents His justice and his judgement.

 Whew! Now that we got all that bad stuff out of the way, I want to focus in on what Jesus commended the church (believers) at Pergamum for...

I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. Revelation 2:13
 In the midst of all this pagan worship of false gods, in the face of people who were trying to influence them to include false teachings and evil practices in their beliefs, in spite of the fact that followers of Jesus Christ were being killed for their faith, these Believers remained faithful to the teachings of Jesus. Faithful to Him.

We live in a fallen world where people worship every kind of god imaginable. Sexual immorality is rampant and encouraged. Christians are being persecuted and even murdered for their faith. We must be strong and faithful, just as the Believers in Pergamum were. Satan and his evil schemes against mankind lives. We need not live in fear, for God tells us over and over again in His word "fear not,"
but he also tells us to be aware of the schemes of the enemy. Stand strong in your faith. Remain faithful to God, no matter what, because He always remains faithful to us.


Do you allow things of the world to creep into your life?
Are you grounded enough in the Word of God that you can recognize false teaching?
Are you as faithful to God as you want to be?

Prayer:
Father, thank you for your faithfulness toward us. You never give up on us and you're always willing to forgive, even when we fall for temptation, even when we allow the culture we live in to creep into our hearts and behavior. We pray that you will help us to recognize false teaching and be strong in the face of temptation and persecution. We are grateful for your steadfast love. Amen

An Introduction to the Church at Pergamum

 


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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 5

Letter#2
To the Church in Smyrna
Revelation 2:8-11

Smyrna
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.  Revelation 2:8-11
 Jesus starts this letter to the church in Smyrna by proclaiming Himself the First and the Last, the one who died and came to life again. As we go on and read this letter, I think it will become clear why He wanted the readers to remember that Jesus, Himself had tasted death and yet lives.

Again, He begins with commendations for the church. He said...
I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!
 Seems like a real contradiction, doesn't it?  The people of Smyrna were under severe persecution by the large population of religious Jews in the area. They suffered both physically and financially because of their faith, yet Jesus declares them rich.  They were rich in the spiritual sense of the word. Their faith was strong in the face of opposition and they had a rich reward waiting for them as a result of their unwavering faith.


I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
 Part of the persecution they suffered was slander by the Jews, who were Jewish in name only, not in the practice of living according to God's will, for if they were, they would not have been persecuting people. It's interesting to note that in the book of Corinthians, God says this about believers in Jesus Christ...

Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 NASB
and in this letter to the church of Smyrna, He says that the religious Jews are...

a synagogue of Satan.
Persecution was coming from the Jews, but as with all acts of cruelty, the driving force behind the act is the evil one - Satan - forever trying to destroy God's people.

10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Jesus knew what was ahead for this faithful band of Believers. Both the Jewish leaders and the Roman government were bent on wiping out the church (people) of Jesus Christ. They threw them in prison, tortured and usually put them to death. Jesus is telling the people not to be afraid. That seems humanly impossible. How can you not be afraid of being thrown in jail, tortured and put to death?  I believe what Jesus is saying is "don't be afraid for you future," because he goes on to say that He will give them life as a victor's crown. A victor is one who overcomes - in this case, those who do not deny their faith even in the face of affliction, poverty, persecution and even death.

Finally, he ends this letter with...

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
That "second death" part was confusing to me. We are born once (physically) and born a second time (spiritually). We die once (physically), but is there another death?  I went hunting for an answer and found this explanation...

The promise to the overcomer is that he shall not be hurt by the second death. The second death is eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1, 14). Believers may face physical death, but because they have had a second birth (John 3:3-7), no believer will ever face the second death (Eph. 2:1, 5; John 5:24; 11:25).
(Taken from The Message To Smyrna at Bible.com. You can read the whole article by clicking CLICKING HERE.)
How does this message to the Church of Smyrna apply to us today?
Have you ever faced persecution because of your faith?
Do you think persecution of Christians is increasing?

If you live in America, you have probably faced the only mildest form of persecution for your faith. Want to know how the rest of the world is treating Christians?

"In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million."  ~persecution.org
Learn more about what is happening to Believers around the world. Check out this link to

Persecution.org  

 Be forewarned - you will be moved to tears and moved to pray - and that is as it should be.

Watch a video about the ancient town of Smyrna - An Introduction to the Letter to the Church of Smyrna. (It takes a few seconds to start.)


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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 4

Ruins of Ephesus (creative commons image)

Letter #1
To the Church in Ephesus - Revelation 2:1-7

1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
In this, the first of 7 letters to the churches, Jesus tells John to write a letter to "the angel of the church of Ephesus."  The word angel here means messenger.  First, Jesus commends the Church in Ephesus for several things... 
  • Their deeds, hard work and perseverance
  • That they cannot tolerate wicked people
  • They carefully test those who claim to be apostles, but are not - exposing their deceipt
  • They have endured hardships for their faith and have not grown weary
These things still please God today - are they a part of your life?

Next, Jesus tels them one thing that he is disappointed in them for...
  • They have lost their first love
Remember when you first heard the gospel - that God love you so much that He sent His only Son to die on a cross in punishment for your sin, so that through forgiveness, you could be restored to a right relationship with God and live forever in Heaven with Him for eternity?

Remember how you felt - the love and gratitude that flowed in your heart? The joy? The clean feeling of a newly washed sinner? The excitement of telling others? The deep intimacy you felt when talking to God in prayer?

What about now? Do you still love God every bit as much as you did the day you were saved? Or have you let your love grow dim...even cold? What can you do to stir it up again...or to see that it never grows dim? (Read verse 5)  What happens if you don't return to your first love? (again the answer is in verse 5)What do you think it means to have your "lampstand" removed from its place?

After admonishing the church in Ephesus, Jesus again commends them because they "hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."  Doesn't hate seem like an awfully strong word for Jesus to use. Notice that He didn't say He hated the Nicolaitans, but that He hated their practices. It's the same today. God loves everyone, but He hates the sinful practices of mankind. Want to know more about the Nicolaitans and what they were doing that Jesus hated so much?  Click here to dig a little deeper.


Jesus closes this letter with the following...

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
What do you think the phrase "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the spirit says to the churches"? 
What do you think it means to be victorious as Jesus meant it?

Jesus said that if we are victorious, He will give us the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Heaven). The Tree of Life was first mentioned in Genesis 3:22-24...


22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

What happens when someone eats from the tree of life? Why would God not want man to eat of the tree of life after having eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? (You can read the whole story in Genesis 3.)  

For believers who are victorious in maintaining their first love for Jesus/God, we see that He gives us the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is now in paradise (Heaven). What do you think will happen when we eat from this tree?


Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit say... 

Prayer:
Father, thank you for showing us some things that please you. We understand that doing these things do not assure us a place in Heaven, for it was the life, death and resurrection that purchased our salvation. Doing these things are a result of our love and devotion to you. Help us to be busy doing those things, which you would have your children doing until we are with you in Heaven. God, help us to keep the fire of our love burning bright for you. Make us aware of sin so that when we fall, we will repent and return to the things we did at first. We look forward to the time when we can be with you forever in paradise. Thank you for making that possible! Amen

Want to know more about Ephesus?
Read the book of Ephesians - CLICK HERE
Ancient Ephesus - CLICK HERE
Watch a video about Ephesus...


What did you think about this study?
What was your "take-away" thought?
What do you plan to do as a result of studying this letter to the Ephesian church?

Please post your thoughts in a comment below.
 
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A Walk Through Revelation - Part 3


John’s Vision of Christ

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 1:9
John states again who he is - a brother and companion there different areas...
  • In suffering. There was great persecution of Christ followers in that day.  John, himself was a prisoner and exiled to the island of Patmos to live out the rest of his days for, as he puts it - the word of God and the testimony of Jesus, for he spent his day doing just that - preaching the word and his testimony - what he saw Jesus do and heard Jesus say.
  • In kingdom. John had worked along side other believers to further the kingdom of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • In patient endurance - this is the one that trips me up. I am not very patient when it comes to enduring hardship, so I admire John's ability to be patient and consistent in his work for God under great duress.
10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” Revelation 1:10-11 NIV
Interesting that even though John was in exile, he kept the Sabbath. I love how he says he was "in the Spirit" on the Lord's Day. I wonder how many of us are "in the Spirit" on the Lord's Day...or is it pretty much like every other day with the exception of church in the morning? Anyway, John was so in tune with the Lord that He heard Jesus' voice speaking directly to him.
Creative Commons Image


12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,[a] dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Revelation 1:12-16 NIV
What a sight that must have been! Is that how you picture Jesus? Quite a transformation from what he must have looked like when he walked the earth with John and the other disciples. Read that description again slowly and picture exactly what Jesus looked like. Amazing!

Notice the phrase "like the son of man."   This is a cross reference to a passage of prophecy in the book of Daniel. It was part of a vision Daniel had of heaven. 
Here's that passage from Daniel ...
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14
Notice again the reference to "one like a son of man" in referring to Jesus. A footnote to this passages states...
*The Aramaic phrase bar enash means human being. The phrase son of man is retained here because of its use in the New Testament as a title of Jesus, probably based largely on this verse.
Isn't it amazing that the book of Daniel was written 605 years before the birth of Christ and yet Daniel and John both have similar visions of heaven?
 
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.  Revelation 1:17-18
I'm sure I would have had the same reaction as John did - falling at Jesus' feet as dead - dropped, flattened - terrified. I love how Jesus reaches out and touches him, then reassures him, telling him not to be afraid. He then goes on to reassure John of his identity. How stunned John must have been to see Jesus again. Thrilled, but humbled to the core to be standing in the presence of the Savior.  Notice that Jesus holds the keys of death and Hades. For followers of Christ, that means we need never fear death or Hades, for death ushers us into the presence of God in Heaven and Hades will never be our destination!
19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. Revelation 1:9-20 NIV
Jesus gives John instructions. He is about to dictate letters to the seven churches. We'll begin to look at those letters next, with the first to the Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) As we read through these letters, let's glean from them what pleases the Lord and what he does not like.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for this book. For this incredible glimpse of what Jesus looks like in Heaven and for what we are about to read. Help us to see in the letters things that we can incorporate into our lives that please you and point out things in our lives that we should change with your help. Amen 

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