Feb 7 2013

Setting the Stage

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 1 of 39 in the series Revelation

When we studied the book of 2 Timothy last year which was written by the apostle Paul to his beloved disciple Timothy, we learned it was written in approx. 67.A.D. under the persecution of the Christians by Nero. In this book, we heard about how a great fire broke out in 64 AD and Nero was suspected to having started to just to see what it would look like. Yet Nero  blamed it on the Christians who were already hated to incite even more hatred against them. He also did several other evil activities against the Christians including tying them to poles and lighting them on fire to be torches at his festival events.  Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, which is now known as II Timothy during this time period before he himself was put to death by Nero shortly before Nero’s own death when he committed suicide.

Nero had ruled from 37 to 68 AD and afterwards there were several rulers who came and went during a time of extreme civil disorder and wars until Domitian was named emperor by the  Praetorian Guard in 81 A.D. Domitian ruled for 15 years until 96 A.D.  when he was assassinated by court officials. Like Nero, and many other emperors who had came and went, Domitian was also known for his extreme cruelty and hatred towards Christians.  During Domitian’s reign, he ordered all descendents of David to be put to death and made it a law that “That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion.” Continue reading


Feb 8 2013

The Time is Near Revelation 1:1-8

Penny Frantz
This entry is part 2 of 39 in the series Revelation

Verse 1:

The word “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalypsis which means

revealing, unveiling, an uncovering.

 It is a book that shows the glory and majesty of God and the depths of depravity of man. It will show the final outpouring of God’s devastating wrath and judgment as well as the glorious Son and His beloved bride joined forever.

The book which was originally a letter was written in approximately AD 95 by John (the apostle) while banished to the Isle of Patmos. What was happening to Christians during that particular time in history? They were being severely persecuted. Continue reading


Feb 14 2013

A Portrait of Jesus Revelation 1:9-20

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 3 of 39 in the series Revelation

Last week we kicked off the Book of Revelation, “Revelation” not “Revelations” as it is often mispronounced. There is only one “Revelation” not multiple “Revelations” in the Book of Revelation.

 In our kickoff meeting last week we learned that the Greek word for “Revelation” is “apokalupsis” which means, laying bear, making naked, a disclosure of truth. It is an unveiling. A revealing or revelation of truth by God to man by insight, vision, dream, ecstasy that man would have no ability of otherwise knowing or understanding.

 This is quite a different meaning then our English word “apocalypse” which is defined be Webster as “A cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil.” Because of this and many of today’s books and movies we often associate the word “apocalypse” and the Book of Revelation with future calamity, catastrophe and danger more then it’s true intended meaning of an unveiling look at the behind the scenes view of heaven and spiritual things and the future revelation of the person Jesus Christ as King of Kings, Lord of Lords to the entire world, his person, his power and his plan for the future.

 This is the true intention of the book of Revelation as stated in Revelation 1:1 “To show unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass.”  This in itself shows the favor we have with God that he would show us and reveal to us his plans to us as he would a friend.  It brings to mind John’s own gospel in John 15:14-15 where Jesus tells the disciples, “ No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Continue reading


Feb 23 2013

Ephesus: The Too Busy to Love Church Revelation 2:1-7

Penny Frantz
This entry is part 4 of 39 in the series Revelation

Chapters 2 and 3 are letters from Christ to His churches. He is going to inspect His churches. Before He judges the world He must judge His own people. 1 Peter 4:17 “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and it if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

Historically: the actual churches named in these two chapters

Personally: for each believer

Prophetically: the church periods from the first century until the final church period

Each begins with a salutation: “To the angel of the church…”

Each begins with His knowing: “I know your….”

Each offers a promise: “to him who overcomes…”

Each concludes: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Six receive a commendation

Four receive a rebuke

Ephesus: Rev 2:1-7

2:1 “To the angel” – the leader of the church of Ephesus

“of the church in Ephesus write:” – Ephesus was the mother church of Asia Minor. All of the other churches addresses came after the church in Ephesus was started by Paul and had the wonderful opportunity to have Timothy and the apostle John himself lead them. Love was a word that occurred often in the book of Ephesians. Paul encouraged them to love the Lord, to love each other, and to love the lost. It is now four decades later that this letter is sent to them from the Lord Himself.

Read Ephesians 1:15, 3:14-19, 4:2, 4:16, 5:1, 5:25,

It was a city estimated at between 250,000 and 500,000 people. It was a self-governing city and prosperous. The city hosted athletic events rivaling the Olympic games. It also had many gods and goddesses.

“These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:” remember that seven is symbolic of fullness or completeness. The seven stars are the leaders of the churches and the seven lampstands are the churches. Because he uses the number seven we can see that He holds all church leaders in his hand and He walks among all the churches. He walks in the midst of your church, my church, this church. Gold represents preciousness and the church is precious to Him. He is very interested in the church. It bears His name.

2:2 “I know”: this word for know is oida which means to have complete and full knowledge. Not know as by experience but know as intimately aware – remember His gazing stare from chapter 1.

your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance” The word hard work or toil comes from the word kopis which beans to labor to the point of sweat and exhaustion. He knows the hard work you do in the church (both within the walls and out). He sees. This was a serving church, a sacrificing church, and a steadfast church.

“I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and you have found then false.” They were a separated church who was discerning and not easily swayed.

2:3 “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” They were a suffering church. This is a wonderful commendation from the Lord Jesus Christ. Who wouldn’t want to hear these words?

2:4 “Yet I hold this against you:” Can you imagine Jesus saying this to you? “I have something against you.” These are Christians, believers. This is His church and it was a busy serving Church and He has something against them.

“You have forsaken your first love.” The church which started out so fervently in love with Jesus had cooled. What is first love? It is that wonderful, joyful, forsaking all love that you have when you first fall in love. Think back to your first love in a man. Now think back to your first love in Jesus. When did you first know Him? What was it like? He tells us in Deut 6:4-5 “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Labor is no substitute for love. The church that loses it love will soon lose its light.

2:5 “Remember the height from which you have fallen!” Think back to where you were the last time you were in love with Him. The word remember really means keep on remembering.

Repent and do the things you did at first.” Remember, repent, return. Think back, repent – agree with God that it is sin, return – go back and do the things you did at first. What things? Prayer, bible study, worship.

If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” You can obey or not obey. To disobey has consequences. He will personally visit you and remove your lampstand from its place. You cannot lose your salvation but you can lose your place of service. The glory can depart (Ichabod).

2:6 “But you have this in your favor: you hate the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” There is encouragement that they are doing some things right. The Nicolatitans were followers of Nicolas. Nicolas which means “to conquer the people” , started a sect of followers who lorded it over the church and robbed the people of their liberty in Christ. Nicolas was made a deacon in Acts 6. He was a false believer who became apostate but because of his credentials he was able to lead the church astray. The deeds of the Nicolaitans involved sensual temptations leading to immorality and eating things sacrificed to idols.

2:7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The Holy Spirit must indwell you in order to hear. You can only hear the Spirit if you belong to Him. Pay attention to what He says.

“To him who overcomes” Overcomers are the believers. You are saved and you overcome this world. 1 John 5:4-5 “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this the the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

“I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” The tree of life was in Eden and Adam and Eve were driven from it. See Genesis 2:9 and Revelations 223:2. Now in Revelation we see the tree is still there and it is eternal life. The paradise of God is heaven.


Feb 28 2013

Smyrna: The Suffering Church Revelation 2:8-11

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 5 of 39 in the series Revelation

File:Laodicea (2).JPGIf you had an opportunity to open God’s book of life and peak inside it and see what it said about you personally, would you do it? Would you want to know what was written? Would you want to know what Christ sees in your life? What he says about your life? Would you take advantage of the opportunity to maybe perhaps change the outcome? It would be great counsel would it not? It would be great caution to see what you would face if you did not obey his word and would you could gain and enjoy for eternity if you did.

Such is the opportunity that God gives us by reading this book, the bible. If we would not be found in this book of life now, we will not be found in God’s book of life in eternity. Are you there? Do you have a bible that has your name written in that you are always to be found in? Are it’s pages as torn and as battered as you are by putting it into practice? You know what they say, “A bible that is falling apart is usually owned by someone who isn’t.”

In Revelation 2:23 Christ describes himself to the Church of Thyatira as “I am he who searches mind and heart and I will give to each of you according to your works.” And in Revelation 3:19 to the Church of Laodicea Christ says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” It is because Christ loves us so greatly that in this time of grace he gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves, to examine our lives, to examine our works, to examine our hearts in his light and in his presence while we are under this time of grace.

We have been praying for Christ to examine our hearts and evaluate our lives since the beginning of this bible study as we have been praying over Psalms 139:23-24, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

How much do you really believe he actually is? If you knew he was going to come by your house tomorrow to examine you personally, how would you prepare personally before he gets there? Would you prepare? We know our righteousness is in Christ, but have we grown too lax in keeping a clean house, a clean temple a pure heart?

Before the Israelites would meet with God, they would take time to prepare themselves. In Exodus 19:10 we see them taking three days to prepare to be in God’s presence when God would descend upon Mt. Sinai. If we would have God’s spirit descend upon us, we too need to prepare our hearts in faith that he is going to answer our prayer and examine our hearts with us to help us purify them for his presence now and for his coming later for we will all one day stand before him and give an account, according to our works..

These letters are indeed Christ’s review of his churches and as we talked about in Revelations 1:9-20 now is the time for a review. A review can be a very frightening thing. We just went through our review at work as many companies do at the beginning of the year. It’s a time to evaluate our past performance, our present performance and objectives and set new goals and objectives for the upcoming year and realign ourselves with them and pursue them. It’s a time of accountability as we objectively review our problems, our pursuits and our successes over a given time period. It gives us an opportunity to further succeed at work and is a necessary evil, much like going to a dentist’s office. Reviews often feel like judgment time and so they have a tendency to make us squirm and feel uncomfortable as we come under the microscope and into the light and as our weaknesses and strengths our examined objectively by another’s eye.

There are several things that we are going to look at and examine as we read each of these letters that Christ wrote to these seven churches of Asia. In particular we are going to look at the Church itself, we will look at Christ Himself and how he has revealed himself to that particular church in a very personal manner and ask ourselves why it was important to that particular church for them to see Christ in this particular way and how it relates to the reward he promises to those who overcome. We will also look at their local circumstances as Christ did and what they were enduring at the time the letters were written. Then we will examine both the compliments and the criticism Christ gave them as he examined their work. Christ is not one to give constructive criticism without giving counsel on plans of action and setting goals and objectives to correct their behavior. So we will examine how Christ counsels each church and also how he cautions and warns each church what will happen if they do not listen and take heed to his warning. Finally we look at the rewards Christ promises to each church if they overcome and conquer. He holds these rewards out before the church as one would hold out a carrot on a stick for them to set their eyes on pursue. As we look at each of these rewards, we want to ask why would this particular reward appeal to this particular church in this particular state and time? And finally we want to ask, “How is this letter to this church applicable to us today? What truths and promises here still hold?”

I was wondering as I was studying last weeks passage on the church of Ephesus and this weeks passage on Symrna, what was Christ looking at as he walked among the seven golden lamp stands? What qualities was he looking for? If Christ had a review form for his churches what might it look like? After examining each of the seven letters to the churches, I found seven common areas that I found him looking at specifically with each church and addressing and this is what I came up with. If they had an Evaluation form, I imagine it might look something like this:

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Ephesus Review

Last week Penny covered the letter to the church in Ephesus and we learned how important an ingredient love is to our Christian faith. It really brought home 1 Cor. 13:1-3 which says:

If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 

Without love, we are nothing and all our works and labor we do for the Lord is nothing. The Ephesus church was a busy church, they had some of the great pastors, Paul, Timothy and even John himself. They knew the Apostles and could spot a false one. They were alert and intolerant of false doctrine. When it came to effort, they were hard working, toiling in their labor for Christ, in endurance they were consistent and steadfast, they did not allow themselves to grow tired or lax. Everything on the outside looked great. If I were looking for a church, this would be definitely one that I probably would have chosen. They were intelligent, active and for all outward appearance they appeared as a faithful church.

But we found out last week they were faithful, not in their heart because when it came to love, Christ found them to be loveless, loveless for him. This is what made them an unfaithful church. When it comes to our covenant union with Christ, love is everything. We can be doing everything right and not miss church, not miss a prayer meeting, not a miss a bible study, not miss our devotional time, not miss an opportunity to serve, not miss an opportunity to give generously and on and on and still be doing everything wrong and gain nothing, simply because we have missed love our one and only primary calling to love God and one another.

Luke 10:27 “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Andrew Murray once said, “Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays.”

Do you want to measure your love for God? You only need to measure your own love for people to see how much you love God. You see many “religious” people, who profess to love God and yet show no love for people. It’s easy for them to maintain a right relationship with an invisible God, who is usually silent and only exists in their imagination but their relationships are a mess.

The apostle John records Jesus instructing them in John 13:35, By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

How do people know you are a Christian? Not by the cross you wear, the church you attend or by all the good work you do, but by the way you love others. Love is the mark of a Christian.

John further teachers in his letter,

1 John 4:20-21 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

1 John has a lot to say about love. The Apostle John was big on teaching on the importance of love. You can read the emphasis in his Gospel and in his Epistle. Perhaps this is why he is known as the dearly loved disciple because he grasped that without love we are nothing.

Christ cautioned the church of Ephesus to return to it’s first love, to remember and to do the things it had done at first or else he would remove their lamp stand because without love, they too were nothing. Beloved Ephesus no longer exists. Their lamp stand was snuffed out and Ephesus went dark. For years not a single Christian could be found within it.

In 1 Cor. 16:22 Paul ends his letter to the Church of Corinth, If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!’

Love for God is not an option.

8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

Angel of the church

 

From our previous lessons we understand the Angels of the church to be those who are messengers of the church, ministers of the church, to those who are positioned as lights in this world, represented previously as stars, stars intended to guide people to Christ.

Daniel 12:3And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Smyrna

clip_image004If the church of Ephesus was a church I would have liked to attend, the city of Smyrna would have been a city I would have liked to live in. It was and still is a beautiful port city on the coast of the Mediterrean Sea of what is now known as Izmir, Turkey. Back in John’s day it about 200,000 people living in it, today it is about 2,000,00.

It was famous for not only being wealthy and beautiful but also for being culturally sophisticated in its day. It was the home of the arts and many temples and statues of various Greek Gods and idols of the day. Smyrna was the birthplace of Homer the poet who wrote the famous Iliad and the Odyssey. It was also a city famous for it’s great Olympic games and contributions to science and medicine.

Aristides once described Smyrna as “a flower of beauty, such as earth and sun had never showed to mankind.” Part of it’s beauty came not only from being located on such a beautiful coast but also from being built around the foot of a mountain called Pagos when it was rebuilt. In about 600BC the city had been entirely destroyed, and was nothing but villages. 300 centuries later Alexander the Great planned to rebuilt it but was unable to, but his successor did. They built the city at the bottom of Mount Pagos with a road of gold wrapped around the bottom of it ending at two temples on either side. One to Zeus and the other to the goddess Cybele, ‘the mother of the gods. The gold road was made to look like a necklace at the foot of the mountain. And at the top, the beautiful arrangement of ornament buildings was made to look like a crown, and so called “The Crown of Smyrna.” Because the city was dead and came back to life, it was identified with the Phoenix rising, the bird symbolizing resurrection from the dead.

Smyrna was about 30 miles away from Ephesus, a two days journey back then. Smyrna was a very competitive city, especially with it’s neighboring towns of Ephesus and Pergamum who were its biggest rivals for the imperial’s favor which they all sought. Smyrna was famous for it’s political loyalty to the Roman Empire. In AD29 all the cities of Asia competed for the favor of erecting a temple in honor of Emperor Tiberius and Smyrna won. It Smyrna would to the aggravation of Ephesus and Pergamum boast and call itself the “Pride of Asia” and wrote on its coins, “First of Asia in beauty and size”

The name Smyrna means “myrrh” in Greek. Myrrh is an expensive spice referred to often in the Old Testament. It was often used for making perfume, incense, medicine because of its aromatic and healing qualities. Matthew 2:11 tells us that the three wise men brought Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was a baby. It was myrrh that was also mixed with the wine that was offered to Jesus as Gall when he was on the cross as a stupefying potion but he refused to drink it. (Mark 15:23)

Both frankincense and myrrh are aromatic gum resins taken from various Arabic trees. A long cut is made into the trees breaking through the bark of the tree to the resin and it drips out like tears and slowly hardens after a few days. Once it is hardened it is ready to be gathered to be prepared for their various uses in perfumes, incenses, medicines and embalming the dead. While the burning of Frankincense often represented prayers going up to heaven, a sweet fragrance offering; myrrh often represented death and was often used for embalming the dead because of its ability to preserve the dead from putrefaction or decaying. John 19:39 tells us the story of Nicodemus buying 100 lbs of myrrh to anoint the body of Jesus for burial.

I find it interesting that both spices flow like tears only from deep cuts that pierce the tree and so our own fervent prayers and sacrifice offerings to God also only come from the deep cuts in our own lives as we are pierced with troubles and turmoil but remain faithful and true to him despite our bitter condition. How sad it is when we are pierced that instead of a fragrant offering to God from our bitter state as we yet trust him and remain loving and faithful in our conditions, a foul smell rises up instead to his nostrils as our cuts reveal what is really in our hearts as bitter circumstances often do.

In Geek myrrh means bitter. Like the barren, fruitless Isle of Patmos meaning “My Killing” was a fitting name for such desolate place that John was exhiled to, so Smyrna meaning “myrrh” bitternessness is a fitting name for the Church of Smyrna because their state was indeed a bitter one. Much like the bitter state of Naomi in Ruth when she wished to be called “Mara” meaning “Bitter” instead of Naomi which meant “Pleasant.” We learned much about living in bitter conditions in the book of Ruth which we just finished and we will learn much more as we look at the Church of Smyrna and their very bitter conditions and how their very bitter conditions probably were the means that kept them from spiritual decay and putrefaction.

 

I Know Your Tribulation

Syrmna was facing great persecution. They were in very bitter circumstances and Christ says I know your tribulation. I know your anguish and the burden you are bearing. I know it is heavy. As Penny said last week, this “I know”, is an “I know”. Christ sees their tribulation and knows it as if it was his own tribulation and suffering, which it was and still is, for Christ is known as a man of suffering (Isa. 53:3-4)

Isa. 53:3-4 “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”

It is for the name of Jesus that the early church suffered and it was Christ’s own suffering that they were sharing in.

Phillipians 3:10“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”

1 Peter 4:13 – “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Romans 8:17-18 – “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Revelation 1:9 – “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.”

The early church was a suffering church but they took Christ’s words literally and counted it pure joy to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ on his behalf, to be so identified with him that they suffered for him in his place as Christ did for them. They counted it as the highest honor.

The bishop of Smyrna was a man named Polycarp. Some of you may be familiar with him. For those of you who are not let me share with you his story. Polycarp was an apprentice of John the Apostle as was Ignatius who was the Bishop of Antioch. These men and several others, are important in church history because they were of the generation that knew and had personal contact with the twelve Apostles themselves. They are often called Apostolic Fathers of the church and their writings preserved much of the early Christian theology. They are not part of the canon but as with many of the great men used by God and now known as the Church Fathers, their writings are quite edifying and have helped build up the early church through their leadership and writings.

PolycarpPolycarp lived from AD 69-155. He would often share with others bits of his and the Apostle John’s conversations together and the stories that Apostle John would share with him. There is one letter preserved by him, it is the Letter to the Philippians. His greatest contribution to Christianity is said by some to be his martyred death which is well documented. During this time there was great persecution of Christians by the Jews and by the Emperors of Roman. Polycarp was arrested simply for being a Christian. At this time he was an old man at 86 years old and it is said the Roman proconsul took pity on him because of his age and said if he would just say “Caesar is Lord” and burn incense to Caesar, he would be released. But Polycarp refused and his response is still being repeated today. Polycarp replied, “”Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? Bring forth what thou wilt”’ To this the proconsul replied, “I have wild beasts I will throw you to.” And still Polycarp remained faithful to Christ and would not curse him responding, “Call them. For repentance from better to worse is not permitted to us. But it is noble to change from what is evil to what is righteous.” The proconsul continued to threaten him saying, “Since you make light of the beasts, I will have you destroyed by fire unless you change your mind. Polycarp replied, “The fire you threaten burns but only an hour and is quenched after a little. You do not know the fire of coming judgment and everlasting punishment who is laid up for all the impious. Why do you delay? Come! Do what you will.” Polycarp was then sentenced to be bound and burned alive on a stake. As he stood by the stake, he asked not to be bound to it and said, “He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pier unmoved without the security you desire from the nails.”

Ignatius the Bishop of Antioch another apprentice of John and a close friend of Polycarps that I mentioned earlier lived from AD30 to AD117. He was put to death under the Roman Emperor Trajan who ruled after Nero. It is said that before putting him to death he was interrogated by Trajan and Trajan asked him. “Dost thou then carry within thee Him that was crucified by Pontius Pilot?” To which Ignatius replied, “Truly so; for it is written, ‘I will dwell with them, and walk in them.” Then Trajan pronounced his death sentence. “We command that Ignatius, who affirms that he carries about within him ‘ Him that was crucified.’ be bound by soldiers, and carried to Rome, and there be devoured by the beasts for the gratification of the people.” When Ignatius heard this sentence, he cried out but it was not with sorrow he cried out but joy. “I thank thee, O Lord, that Thou has vouchsafed to honor me with a perfect love towards Thee, and hast made me to be bound with iron chains (which he referred to as spiritual pearls), like thy Apostle Paul.” After saying this, he clasped his chains to his heart with delight and prayed for the Church, commending it with tears to the Lord. The soldiers then carried him to the amphitheater in Rome and on the way, he wrote a letter to his dear friend Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna. In his letter he writes, “…nearness to the sword is nearness to God; to be among the wild beasts is to be in the arms of God; only let it be in the name of Jesus Christ. I endure all things that I may suffer together with Him, since He who became a perfect man strengthens me.”

It is with an understanding of these stories and with the knowledge that there were many more unpublished and unrecorded stories of Christian laymen like them that we move forward in this letter, for it is said in these days that martyrdom was as common as conversion.

The pain that the church in Smyrna faced daily is unimaginable as they would watch their members, their family members, their spouses, their children, their grandchildren drug off by Roman soldiers to face torturous deaths for their Christian faith. It is said that the Heathens believed it was not possible for a genuine Christian to deny Christ. And so the fires of affliction that the Smyrna Christians faced during these days truly proved the genuine Christian who remained faithful unto death and who “conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

It is with this in mind that I would like you to now to read and look at the letter that Christ wrote specifically to the church of Smyrna in her bitter state.

‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

Christ knew the bitter sufferings that the Church of Smyrna was facing and because of this he opens his letter by identifying himself as, “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.”

What impact do you imagine these words had on the hearts on the Church of Smyrna?

????????Isaiah 44:6 – Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel ???????and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ???????“I am the first and I am the last; ???????besides me there is no god. ???

Christ is reminding them not only of his own deity, for this is how God identified himself in the Old Testament several times. They would have instantly recognized its reference, and seen the connection that Christ was drawing that he is God. And they would also be reminded of Christ’s own resurrection from death, he is the one who died and yet lives.

This would have spoken to the Smyrnaean Christians very personally on many levels. It would have reminded them of Christ’s own promise to give them life, that even though they die they would live.

Matt. 10:39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

 

Christians are a people who are called to die daily for Christ, to live for Christ at the expense of their own lives as the Smyrnaeans were but in doing so they found as we do we gained a life, a joy that we couldn’t have imagined existed and its only a shadow and a small taste of the one we are to have. Like Christ, we die and yet live.

This idea would even have a deeper connection and illustration in the hearts of the Smyrnaeans. There was a time period the Smyrnaeans had undergone when their own ancient city had been destroyed by the Ldyians and for four hundred years their city had ceased to exist. They had been spread out through villages and on hillsides for four centuries before becoming reformed again and becoming self governing again. In a sense, they had came back from the dead. When they read these words in this letter, “I am he who died and yet lives” it would have risen up some patriotic feelings and understanding coming back to life and full vitality after death because of their national experience and they would have identified much more closely with Christ much like someone who may read them after going through a horrific accident that took away their life as they knew it and experienced a horrible time of recovering but in the end after it all gained a new life as if they were back from the dead.

Christ was literally back from the dead, and these experiences are but shadows of the living reality that we will experience in also being resurrected to life with him, but our experiences help us have some shadow of a context and understand its meaning on a personal level and transfers head knowledge to heart knowledge. These words of resurrection would have spoke on a deeper level to the Smyrnaeans heart even as they do now in various ways to those who are hearing this or reading this and ever had such an experience.

At the same time, Christ was also reminding the Smyrnaeans that just as he had authority over their beginning, he also has authority over their end. They had no need to fear death, or people because he alone was their end.

There are many circumstances that we face in life that would taunt us by saying if we obey God in this, it would be our end. It would be the end of our job. It would be the end of our joy. It would be the end of our comfort. It would be the end of our life. But Christ is our end. Christ determines the point in time at which something ends. He determines our final state. Not our circumstances. Not these Roman Emperors who would be their end. Christ is the true “The End”.

What a peaceful thought knowing that our end is Christ! What a fearsome thought knowing their end is Christ! The same lion that protects those who confess him, will devour those who deny him. We can either stand before Him as our Judge or behind Him as our Savior and Protector.

9 “‘I know your tribulation

I know your burden and your anguish….see above.

and your poverty (but you are rich)

Here Christ looks at the economic condition of the Church of Smyrna. They are poor, poverty stricken going without having their physical needs met because of their love for Christ.

Smyrna was a city that was very devoted to Rome and to the worship of the Roman Emperors as gods. It had started with the deceased Roman Emperors but when Domitian and other Roman Emperors claimed to be Lord and God they went along with it easy enough. Once a year the Smyrneans had to offer incense to the Roman Emperor “gods” in order to receive a token which allowed them to work and so on. Since the Christian Smyrnaeans refused such idol worship they often could not find work, they were forced to live in poverty and endured additional persecution.

Hebrews 10:34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

Our worldview and God’s worldview are often upside down from one another. The Smyrnaeans seen themselves as poor, but Christ saw them as rich. The Church of Laodicea who we will come to in Revelation 3:17 saw themselves as rich, but Christ saw them as poor and poverty stricken. Things are not always as they appear.

Many times its easy for us to think even today that a churches material wealth is a sign of its favor by God and a small church is a sign that they are doing something wrong otherwise God would have blessed them. We must be careful, both churches that avoided rebukes in these letters were either poverty stricken or weak in power.

1 Cor. 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

Riches can and often are a blessing from God, but they have a tendency to make us more self- confident, independent, prideful, boastful, instead of dependent on God, humble and meek. Instead of expanding the kingdom of God, we expand our own kingdom in this world. It takes great strength and great wisdom to handle riches appropriately so that they do not become an obstacle to our ending the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 18:25 “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”.

and the slanderof those who say that they are Jews and are not,

 

It was not the Romans who persecuted the early Christians so much as it was the Jews. Starting with Jesus and continuing with Paul and the rest of the Apostles and earl church fathers, the Jews would continually stir up the people against the Christians and have them arrested for various reasons and try to get the Roman officials to use their power and authority to persecute the Christians in ways the Jewish law forbid.

The Jews could not stand the idea that the Messiah was a man accused of blasphemy. They could not stand the idea of being saved apart from the law or the idea of dirty Gentiles becoming part of the church. Their hatred blinded them as hatred does to make exceptions for themselves as needed to break their own laws to slander and persecute the Christians and bring the death penalty upon them as they did with Christ and they did with Polycarp bring the sticks to make the fire that would burn him on the stake on a Saturday.

Romans 2:28 – For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God.

The Jews have always been known as God’s people. But here we see that a true Jew is one who follows Jesus. These are God’s people. Abrahams seed are children of the promise of Abraham. These people who were slandering the Christians, though they claimed ethnic heritage of Judaism, Christ says here they are NOT true Jews, they are not God’s people. Instead God sees them as…

 

but are a synagogue of Satan.

The unsaved Jews were doing the work of Satan in persecuting Christ and the Christians and in doing so had become a gathering of Satan.

We often think of Satan worship as dark witchcraft, Wicca and such. Here we see that it is a gathering of people who hinder the work of God and it often comes in a religious cloak

2 Cor. 11:14 “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”.

 

10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer.

Here is the counsel that the church of Smyrna receives from Christ. He knows what they have been through and have faced in the past, here he tells them not to fear or to stop being afraid not because they won’t suffer but because of the reward he promises them at the end.

I am sure they were praying to be rescued, for Christ to intervene and stop the persecutions. Yet here Christ informs them this is not the end of their suffering. Their suffering is not over yet and there is more to come but they are to continue to be courageous in the face of their suffering as they have been.

Matt 10:28 – And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”

More than anything, this reminds us that this is a spiritual war that we are engaged in. Yes, Christ could put an end to all our suffering, but that comes only at the end of the war when the battle is won and we are not done yet. Through our testimonies, through our faithfulness, battles are being won in the spiritual realms. Because of Polycarp’s and Ignatius’s faithfulness unto death, along with many others including Paul’s, Peter’s John’s, and let’s not forget Christ’s spiritual battles were worn. The gospel has spread. What would have happened to Christianity if these men had loved their lives more than Christ? If they choose to “pretend” to bow to Caesar? If they had just went along with it? Surely more could have been done for Christ if they had another ten years? What would have happened to Christianity if it was not suffered for?

What we are willing or not willing to suffer for, shows how much or how little we value it.

Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,

This is a reminder to the Smyrnaeans and to us that we have an enemy and just who our enemy really is. It wasn’t the Jews for them, although they were acting as Satan’s obedient demons carrying out his wishes and work. It’s not the false teachers today or others that hinder the work of God. It is Satan.

 

Eph. 6:12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The “prison” into which the devil would throw the Smyrnaean Christians must be understood as they understood it. This was not they were going to prison for a few days and then be released. This was they were going to prison for a brief time and then they would be executed and the readers would have understood it that way because back then, they didn’t hold people in prison for long periods of time and release them like they do today. Going to prison meant you were going to be held there until you saw the magistrate and then you would be released or executed.

This is confirmed by the next verse, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” Christ was asking them to remain steadfast and endure all the way to the end, whatever it may be and he himself would reward them.

that you may be tested, tried, examined, proven

 

What is being tried?

Your faith, love, patience, obedience, may be tried. – Poole

 

 

1 Peter 1:7 – so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

ii. Most specifically in this case, God allowed this attack so that they may be tested, in the sense of being proven. Through their suffering, God would display the true riches of the church in Smyrna to everyone, including themselves – even though He knew they were rich already. – Guzik

A large part of the purpose of being examined, is so that we might be found proven, shown to be faithful and established beyond doubt. To be examined is to studied, probed and to be put to the test, as for its quality, or give experimental use to.

Psa. 17:3Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”

Psa. 26:2 – Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

Jeremiah 17:10 – “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

 

 

This is what we have been praying for so that sin and any unholiness that is revealed can be dealt with and removed.

How do you feel about the Lord testing your faith? Testing your love for him?

James 1:2-4 –Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

and for ten days you will have tribulation.

The “ten days” means simply a period which can be measured, there is an end in sight. It will not last forever and the church will overcome.

What do the ten days mean? – Guzik states:

i. Some think that John really means ten years of persecution. “As the days in this book are what is commonly called prophetic days, each answering to a year, the ten years of tribulation may denote ten years of persecution; and this was precisely the duration of the persecution under Diocletian, during which all the Asiatic Churches were grievously afflicted.” (Clarke)

ii. Others think that John really means persecution over the reign of ten Roman Emperors. “The first under Nero, a.d. 54; the second under Domitian, a.d. 81; the third under Trajan, a.d. 98; the fourth under Adrian [Hadrian], a.d. 117; the fifth under Septimus Severus, a.d. 193; the sixth under Maximin, a.d. 235; the seventh under Decius, a.d. 249; the eighth under Valerian, a.d. 254; the ninth under Aurelian, a.d. 270; the tenth under Diocletian, a.d. 284.” (White, cited in Walvoord)

iii. Still others have taken stranger approaches: “Others observe, that in ten days are two hundred and forty hours, which make up the number of years from 85, when the second persecution began, (under which John at this time was) to 325, when all the persecutions ceased.” (Poole)

iv. Others say that ten days is simply an expression of speech: “The expression ten days is not to be taken literally; it is the normal Greek expression for a short time.” (Barclay)

v. However, there is no compelling reason to believe it means anything other than ten days of severe persecution, with an emphasis on the idea that it is a limited time.

Be faithful unto death,

Be faithful would have been another personal word to the Smyrnaean readers of their history. As a nation they were known for faithfulness. They had been faithful friend and ally to Rome for centuries and were proud of their historic claim and reputation of loyalty. Rome referred to them as pro singulari fide or “the most faithful of our allies.” Faithfulness was regarded as the chief glory of Smyrna by the entire city.

and I will give you the crown of life.

2 Timothy 4:8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

A symbol of honor and recognition. Here is another personal message for the Smyrneans. The crown would have had great significant meaning to them. As we discussed their entire city was built around a crown centerpiece on Mt. Pagos. They were extremely competitive for first place. They were very much into Olympic games. Their athletes and good citizens received crowns. Those who worshipped pagan gods often wore crowns of flowers around their head.

Christ says you want a crown? Your crowns though beautiful are temporary. Your flowers wilt and die. I have a special crown. A crown of life, that I am offering to you and that you can win. A stephanos, a crown of victory to be given to those would overcome and be conquerors of this world for the kingdom of God.

The Church of Smyrna was a victorious church. From the eyes of the world it was a weak church, overcome with poverty and persecution and was anything but victorious. But in God’s eyes they were victorious because they had overcome their love for the world by their love for God and would not sacrifice their love for God for their love and life in this world. They were victorious.

11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

This reminds us that this letter is for anyone who would listen, anyone who would pay attention t what the Spirit has to say to the churches for it has something personal to say not just to the Smyrnaeans but to all of us.

The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

 

This crown will only be given to those who overcome, those who finish this race, not those who only begin. We have nothing to boast about if we began a race but did not finish it. If we did not run for it with all our heart, all our mind, our strength and all soul. It is going to take everything in us to finish this race well.

We do not conquer not for our own glory but for the glory of Christ. We do not conquer not to win more of this world but more of the next.

As Jesus said, In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (Joh. 16:33)

Because Christ has overcome the world, we too must overcome the world and do overcome the world as pursue living and abiding in Christ by abiding in love. Remember 1 John 5:2-5…

1 John 5:2-5By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Second Death

There is a death to be feared and it is not so much the first death as it is the second death as Polycarp pointed out. Our first death is the death of the body and it is a temporary death. The second one is the death of the soul.

Matthew 10:28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Lake of Fire

Romans 20:14-15 – “14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Revelation 21:8 – But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Second death is not a temporary death but an eternal death, a death that never ends. It is an eternal separation from God, an eternal separation from light, mercy, love, compassion, goodness, hope and fellowship. It is a state of darkness, loneliness and hopeless without end.

If we do not want God in our life now, God will give us what we want; a life without him. Is this your idea of heaven because this will be the heaven of those who prefer to live without God now. It will be the heaven of those who cannot be found in this book of life. Whose names are written in. Are you in it? Do you want to be in it?

All you have to do is turn around from doing things your own way and turn to God now. You will find that what for all appearances appears to be a death sentence to your life now will bring you greater life and greater joy then you have ever known both now and in the world to come. You too will know the meaning of a resurrected life that no amount of bitterness in this world can keep you from rising up through for the glory of God. If you asked Paul, John, Polycarp, Peter and all the martyrs of old and of today, was it worth it? Were you sacrifices worth it? There would be ten thousands upon ten thousand of responses repeating what Paul told the Romans in Romans 8:18…

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”


Mar 7 2013

Pergamum: A Snake Loose in the Church Revelation 2:12-17

Penny Frantz
This entry is part 6 of 39 in the series Revelation

12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.”

Angel – messenger – spiritual leader or pastor

Church in Pergamum – no mention of Paul starting a church there but it was most likely a daughter church of Ephesus Continue reading


Mar 15 2013

Thyatira: The Infected Church Revelation 2:18-29

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 7 of 39 in the series Revelation

Part One Audio

Part Two Audio

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

Thyatira is the name of the modern day city of Akhisar, Turkey. It was the smallest of the seven churches mentioned and yet it has the longest letter. It reminds us that even small churches can have a great impact on church history, both good and bad. In this case, it was bad and it reminds us that it only takes a little leaven to leaven the whole lump. (Gal. 5:9, 1 Cor. 5:6) It takes only one man or woman to begin a heresy in the church, to divert thousands and tens of thousands astray from the gospel of Christ, the true universal church of Christ and cause the death of her children.  Just think of the damage false teachers have done and are still doing under the name of Christianity in the Christian church. Unlike the church of Ephesus, they were not able to identify a false prophet when one rose up among them. Continue reading


Apr 3 2013

Sardis: The Asleep Church Revelation 3:1-6

Penny Frantz
This entry is part 8 of 39 in the series Revelation

Located 50 miles east of Ephesus and almost directly south of Thyatira.  It was at the junction of 5 main roads making it a center for trade.  It was known for its manufacture of woolen garments and the dyeing of wool. Much of Sardis’ wealth came from gold taken from the nearby Pactolus River.  Gold and silver coins were first minted in Sardis.  It was once the proud capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (later the western capital of the Persian Empire).  Was also a military center for it was located on an almost inaccessible plateau.  The acropolis was about 1500 feet above the main roads and made a natural fortress.  The city became overconfident which led to its downfall.  Sitting on the high point, three sides were almost perpendicular rock walls.  Only from the south could entrance be made so the city fortified the south leaving the three sides unguarded.  Cyrus king of Persia led an attack and his men scaled the unguarded rock walls and gain entrance to the city.  The city never regained its independence and came under Roman control in 133 BC.  By the time of John’s day the city had rebuilt from a massive earthquake but it was never the splendor it once was.  The same was to be said for its church.

 The main religion was the worship of Artemis, one of the nature cults.  They had an impressive temple to Artemis and archaeologists have discovered that it had the largest synagogue found in the ancient world suggesting a large Jewish population.

 The problem of the congregation of the Sardis church was not with the Jews, the Romans, or false prophesy; the problem was solely itself.

 The church had become like the city – it was alive in name only.

The message to Sardis is a warning to all churches who are living on past glory.  Dr. Vance Havner states that there are often four stages to a ministry:

a man

a movement

a machine

a monument.

Sardis was in the monument stage.

  In Christ Jesus, the Head of the Church, there should never be a ‘has been’ church.  His Spirit gives the very life to a church.  When His Spirit is grieved, as through sin,  the church begins to lose life and power.

 There are no words of commendation for the church of Sardis.  The Lord does not point out doctrinal problems nor was there any mention of persecution.  This was a church that had become comfortable in the world and the world was comfortable with it.  It was living on a great name and reputation but it was dead.    The believers had gone to sleep spiritually.

 There was no persecution because there was no witness.  No friction means no motion.  The unsaved in Sardis saw the church as a respectable group of people who were neither dangerous nor desirable.  They were decent people with a dying witness.

 The message to Sardis contains no specific enemies, internal or external.  There was no Nicolaitans, no Balaams, no liars, no Jezebel’s, no deep secrets of Satan, no throne or synagogue of Satan.  Of all the churches, we know the least about Sardis.  However, the message to this church is urgent and serious.  Walt Kelly, a comic strip writer, wrote “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Often when we encounter no spiritual adversaries, it is because we are the enemy.  Why would Satan need to attack a church that is ineffective.

Vs 1  To the angel of the church of Sardis write:  message was to the pastor or leader of the church at Sardis

 These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God – refers to the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2)

            The Spirit of the Lord

            Wisdom

            Understanding

            Counsel

            Strength

            Knowledge

            Fear of the Lord

And the seven stars.  The imagery shows Jesus the sovereign Lord of the church mediating His rule through godly leaders and pastors

 I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, – the church might fool the citizens of Sardis but it could not fool the Omniscient Lord Jesus.  It had a great reputation but that is all.  It was a building full of lost people going about the motions of ‘doing church.’  We were created as human beings – not human doings.  We are to ‘be’ the church – not ‘do’ the church.

 But you are dead – Jesus said the church was dead.  It was populated by unredeemed people playing church.  Spiritual death is always related to sin.  What are some dangers signs of a dying church?  See the below from John MacArthur:

             When it is content to rest on past laurels

            When it is more concerned with the liturgical forms than spiritual reality

When it focuses on current social ills rather than changing people’s hearts through preaching the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ

            When it is more concerned with what men think than what God said

When it is more enamored with doctrinal creeds and systems of theology than with the word of God

            When it loses its conviction that every word of the Bible is the word of God

 The Lord tells them to “wake up!”  The first step to revival is to acknowledge the lack of it.

                                    **dead dog picture**

 Life = growth, repair, reproduction, power

Death = initial swelling followed by decaying, stench, no reproduction, no power

Method for revival:

 Vs 2  Wake up! – don’t slowly roll out of your spiritual bed.  Wake up! Action, attention.  Don’t crawl under the covers of yesterday’s work – see a fresh vision of His glory.

             “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”  Hebrews 2:1

  Strengthen what remains and is about to die – Fan into flame the dying embers.  Wake up, get up, shore up.  Look for what has fallen, what is weak, where you are vulnerable.  Feed your soul from His Word.

 For I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God – they were living a lie.

*Read Judges 16:20.

Samson “did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”

 Vs 3  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard – Go back to the truths of God.  Get back into His Word, the bible.  Put down the how-to books and go to the One who wrote the Book.

 Obey it – just do it.  Obedience is putting action to words.  To delay is to disobey.

 And repent – confess and turn around.  Stop the direction you are going in.

 If you wake up, get up, shore up, read up, do up, repent up, then you will go up in revival.

 But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief – judgment of the church when they least expect it.

 And you will not know at what time I will come to you – surprised by His presence

 If they did not heed the Lord’s warning He would come like a thief in the night.  He would judge the church in Sardis.

 To those who were the true believers, He admonished them to strengthen what remained because the church was weak.  This small group of believers held the future of the church.

Vs 4  Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes – soiled is from the word muluno which means to stain, to defile, to smear, or to pollute.  Garments in scripture refer to character.  These are the true believers.  Although they were few in number, Jesus had not forgotten them.  They were encouraged to remain and would be rewarded for their faithfulness.

 Soiled, disheveled clothing or no clothing at all represents impurity and shame.

 It is likely that the problem at Sardis was a strong tendency to compromise Christian faith for the sake of conformity to social and cultural standards set by Asian society and the Roman Empire.  That was the majority.  The ones who had not soiled their clothes had become marginalized.  They were a small faction.

 Weirsbe said “It is good to guard our spiritual heritage but we must not embalm it.”

 They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy – they will walk with Jesus.  The white robes signify a celebration or festival.  The white of purity.  We will be dressed for the party, the wedding – without stain or wrinkle.  How do you remove stains (washing), how do you remove wrinkles (iron).  So if you are underwater or under the heat, cheer up!   He is getting you ready for your wedding day.

             “…to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  Ephesians 5:27

Vs 5  He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.  – all believers will be white with purity and holiness at His coming.

 I will never blot out his name from the book of life – He will not erase a believer’s name no matter how tangled they may get in this life.  He cannot go back on His word and this is comforting to us as believers.

 The Roman Empire recorded citizenship of everyone.  When someone died or became a criminal their name was blotted out.

 God’s Book of Life contained the names of all the living, the wicked as well as the righteous.  As unbelievers die their names are removed from the book, therefore at the final judgment the book contains only the names of believers.

 It then becomes the Lamb’s Book of Life – names of the saved are written in the book from the foundation of the world.  It is a book of life and lost sinners are dead.

             **Revelation 20:11-14**

            **Revelation 21:27**

 But will acknowledge his name before my Father and His angels – there will come a day when Jesus will publicly call your name before the Father and in the presence of the angels.  If you have ever felt insignificant, feel that way no more.  The Lord of the Universe will call you by name, personally, lovingly, to the Father and present you faultless as His bride.

Vs 6  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches – this message is to all believers.  It was written to the church at Sardis, it is written to the present day church, it is written to you personally.  Do not fall asleep at the wheel, don’t get comfortable and let down your guard, don’t try to just slide into heaven.  He sees, He knows, He judges, and He rewards.

 Wake up!  Strengthen what remains, remember, obey, repent!

 There is a gorgeous white gown just your size with your name on the tag waiting for you and that glorious day when we shall behold Him face to face.


Apr 3 2013

To The Church of Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 9 of 39 in the series Revelation

 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

On our journey through Turkey, this week we have come to the little Church of Philadelphia. It is much like the Church of Smyrna in several ways. First both churches are commended. Neither church receives a rebuke from Jesus. In the eyes of the world they appeared to be losing the battle, but in the eyes of Jesus, they were doing well.   Both churches were facing persecution by the ‘Synagogue of Satan’, those who say they are Jews but are not.  The Jewish influence must have been great in both cities and we can recall from our study of the church of Smyrna that the Jews were behind much of the persecution of the early Christians. They would instigate and incite the Romans against them. They were the ones who would constantly stir up the crowds against the Apostles when they spoke and turn them against them. They would have the Apostles arrested and thrown in prison by the Romans. Because the Jews were large and influential the Romans catered to them as much as the Jews catered to them.

Also like the Church of Smyrna and Thyatira they were a weak church. The church in Smyrna was poor, I know your poverty (but you are rich) Jesus told the Smyrnaeans.  Here in verse eight of chapter 3 Jesus will tell the Church of Philadelphia, “I know that you have but little power.”  This appears to be a common condition of those churches who follow Christ, tribulation and weakness in poverty and power.

Also both churches were offered a crown as a reward. Smyrna was offered the crown of life and for a church that was facing the constant threat of death, they were promised they would be protected and not hurt from the second death, the death of deaths. The Church of Philadelphia appears to have a crown already, like the church of Thyatira; Jesus tells them to Hold on to what they have, so that no one can seize their crown. The crown is already theirs they just have to hold on for the awards ceremony where it will be placed upon them. And for a church that is facing constant tribulation, they are promised they will be protected from the future tribulation that is coming on to try the world. It is called the hour of trial. All of these things we will look at in more detail as we go through the verses. For now I just want you to see the common attributes of the two churches that Jesus commended.

Philadelphia, whose modern name is Ala?ehir, Turkey. It was the youngest of the seven cities being founded in 189 A.D. by King Eumenes II of Pergamon.  Because of his love and loyalty for his brother Attalus II, Eumenes won the nickname Philadelphos which is made up of two Greek words.  Phileo which means love which is a lower type of love then the word Agape word for love. And the word adelphos which means “brother.” “Brotherly love” or “he who loves his brother.” As a result, the city name became Philadelphia meaning “(city of) brotherly love.”

Philadelphia also like Smyrna was situated on an important much traveled road, the Imperial Post-Road of the first century. Those traveling from Rome, Pergamum and Sardis would take this road to go to the east. Like Smyrna it was also tasked with guarding the road and was also a military town but not to the same extent that Smyrna was. Unlike Smyrna which was located in a valley and was without natural borders to protect it, Philadelphia was located on the side of a broad hill. It was not nearly as defenseless as Smyrna was.  If they defended the lower parts of the hill, then it became a very strong fortress and they were able to win the attacks.

Philadephia’s chief purpose was actually as a missionary city to spread the Greek language and culture to its surrounding cities because it was a border city being located where the borders of three cities met, Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia. It did such a good job that it is said that before AD 19 the Lydian tongue was no longer spoken and Greek became the chief language of the country.

Now the broad hill that Philadelphia was situated on the side of, was actually volcanic at that time and would spew rivers of black lava. Because of this they experienced frequent severe earthquakes. In AD 17 they experienced an unusually severe earthquake which destroyed 12 cities including Sardis and Philadelphia. The citizens of Philadelphia often lived in fear and terror of the earthquakes. It is said that the aftershocks of the earthquakes often raised more fear in the people than the actual earthquakes did. Because of this constant danger and fear many of the citizens of Philadelphia would live outside the city in booths and huts and those who stayed in the city were always strengthening their walls against the reoccurring aftershocks. Like us in Texas they had huge crack issues in their walls.

It is said that the Roman Emperor showed great kindness to Philadelphia and the other cities that were destroyed by the earthquake and because of his favor the city of Philadelphia voluntarily changed their name from Philadelphia to Neokaisareia to show their appreciation. For a few years this was the only name they went by and then in later years they would use their old name alongside their new name and by AD 42-50 they had dropped their new name altogether. The other cities were much too proud of their names and their ancient fame to sacrifice their names as Philadelphia did for the Roman Emperor. In AD 70-79, Philadelphia changed their name again from Philadelphia to Flavia, yet another name it took from the Imperial god.

As the Roman Empire was slowly falling apart and the power of the Turks was slowly growing, Philadelphia showed their heroic nature.  All the surrounding country had finally come under the Turkish reign and yet Philadelphia steadfastly held up the banner of Christendom. In the fourteenth century it faced the Turkish power alone, asserting itself as a free Christian city in the middle of the Turkish land. Twice the Turks attempted to lay siege to, bringing the Philadelphians close to starvation but the Philadelphians held up their defense and overcame the Turks. They stood fast that they would have no earthly king or government.  In 1379-1390 it finally succumbed to Turkish rule. The Turks never could defeat the Philadelphians outwardly, but when they attacked them inwardly by taking advantage of the division and jealously among the Christians, they were able to divide and conquer. Philadelphia fell to Turkish power, no longer able to stand united.

‘The words of the holy one, the true one,

The letter to the Philadelphians begins with a new description of Jesus that is not found in Revelation Chapter One as the other descriptions were. Here we are given additional information to add to our Portrait of Jesus from chapter one. Here Jesus refers to himself as “The Holy One” and “The True One.”

The description the Holy One is often used in the Old Testament to describe God. For example:

Psalm 89:19 – For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Isaiah 12:6 – Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Yahweh is the Holy One. To be Holy means to be separate, consecrated and pure.  R.C. Sproul describes it well when he says, “When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be ‘other,’ to be different in a special way.”

In his book Knowing God, R.C. Sproul also points out:

Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy that the whole earth is full of His glory. – R.C. Sproul, Knowing God

When we say God is Holy, we are saying that he is entirely different from us.  Holy is a great adjective for God that describes his character and his way of doing everything. Everything God dos and everything God is, is Holy. His love is a holy love. His patience is a holy patience. His mercy is a holy mercy.  It may help you understand it more if you were to spell it w-h-o-l-l-y instead of h-o-l-y.  God is wholly love.  God is wholly pure. Holy is an expression of his perfection and identity his absoluteness. This idea brings home the meaning of 1 John 1:5 which says:

1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”

Here in Revelation 3:7, Jesus is taking on the description Himself which is not new. He too was described as the Holy One in the Gospels.

The demons recognize him as the Holy One:

Luke 4:34 – Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

The disciples confess him as the Holy One:

John 6:69 – “and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.””

Not only is Jesus the Holy One, he is also described here as the True One.  This is stating that He is truthful. He is genuine and real. There is nothing false about Jesus. He is Truth with a capital “T”. He is the manifestation of Truth. Jesus does not lie. That is an important characteristic about God the Father and Jesus Christ to understand.  As God cannot lie, neither can Jesus. Jesus is Holy True and all his words that He says are true or are going to happen are as good as done already.

Psalms 119:160 – All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

who has the key of David,

What is a key a symbol of? It’s a symbol of authority, access and possession. When I give someone a key to my house, I am giving them the right to enter my house. They gain access to all my possessions. They can come and go as they please.  When you buy or rent a new house or car, after all the paperwork you are finally given a key, which is a symbol of your ownership. Usually when we own something, we make multiple keys but here there is only one key. It is referred to as the key.

This is not any key, this is the key of David. This is the key to David’s house. To fully unfold this we need to turn to Isaiah 22:22 and read the story of the changing out of the Chief of Staff or palace administrator in King Hezekiah’s courts. King Hezekiah had a palace administrator named Shebna who had a key to the palace so to speak because of his position. However, he was arrogant and thought too highly of himself, making plans to be buried in the royal graveyard. God became angry at him and said he was going to hurl him like a ball to a far off land and appoint a man named Eliakim to be palace administrator. In verse 22, God says:

Isaiah 22:22 – “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.”

This is the key of authority to the house of David. Here it says this key will be placed on his shoulder. Some commentators speak of a garb they wear and say they actually do and are able to wear the key on their shoulders with this garb. They believe it to be a large key. Large or small the symbol is the same. It’s a symbol of authority and responsibility much like Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This Chief of Staff named Eliakim is a picture or a type of Jesus.

 who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

Once again when you have a key, you are able to grant access to whomever you please. When you shut the door to your house you are able to lock it and no one but you can open it, especially if you have the only key.  This brings fresh meaning to the following verses.

Luke 11:9-10 – So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

But also a fearful understanding of a closed door:

Luke 13:35 – Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

Matthew 25:10-12 –  “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.  “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you”

Here in Revelation 3 Jesus is reminding us of his authority to give people access to the King. This is pictured not only of him having the key but in him being the door.

John 10:1-2, 7-9 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.   So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Just like the Chief of Staff was able to grant or deny others access to the King by the authority given to him, so Jesus is able to grant others access to God the Father and there is no access to God apart from going through Jesus

The Jews missed this. It is a great possibility that those who belonged to the church of Philadelphia were excommunicated by the Jews because the Jews believed that because of their nationality they were the ones you had to go through to gain access to God.

Matthew 23:13 – Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

“‘I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.

To the church of Philadelphia Jesus is setting before them an open door. This is an open door for them themselves to enter into God’s presence, reminding them that He is the one who grants access, not the Jews and also giving them an open door for mission work, to bring others to God. A description of an open door in the New Testament was often used to show that God was granting them access to a city or a people to spread the gospel.

Colossians 4:3 – And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

1Cor. 16:9 – because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

2 Cor. 2:12 – “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,”

As a missionary city, Philadelphia was being given an open door to spread the gospel.  A door which no one can shut. This is the power of the church.

Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Here Jesus looks at what they have to work with. He sees their condition. Their numbers are probably few because they held firmly to his word.  They struggled with maintaining the purity of the doctrine of the gospel just like we do. People don’t want to hear it. Instead they turn to the larger seek sensitive churches that preach a softer gospel which is no gospel at all.

The Philadelphian’s stood strong against the false teachers. Unlike those in Thyatira, they put up a good defense and kept the heart of their church pure from false teaching by keeping Jesus’s word even when it hurt. It probably cost their church dearly but they did not deny Jesus’ name.

To deny Jesus name is to deny Jesus himself. They did not contradict him or disown him for their own profit or pleasure. They knew him to be the “True One.”.

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—

Here we go again with the synagogue of Satan at work. For some reason this reminds me of Westboro Baptist Church. That is nothing but a synagogue of Satan right there, full of spewing hatred people. A brood of vipers looking for a place to strike, literally as they picket funerals.

This text is referring to the Jews just like it was in the Church of Smyrna. The Jews were acting as the instruments of Satan aiding him against the early Christians seeking to destroy them.

John 8:44 –  You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Here the text says they are not Jews, they may be of Jewish nationality, those who descended physically from Abraham but the true Jew is one who is one inwardly and who is a child of the promise.

Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Romans 4:13, 16  – “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith….That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,”

Galatians 3:14, 29 – “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith…. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.

God will make the Jews bow down before their feet. Those who are raised up in pride, claiming they are the only ones God loves and if you want God’s love you must become like them, who were hateful, God would cause to lower themselves in humility acknowledging that they were wrong and vindicate the Christians knowing that those who put their trust in the promise of Jesus, are those who are dearly loved by God and called God’s children.

This could also mean that the Jews who were persecuting them, would they themselves be saved.  Either way, the main idea is that those who persecute them will acknowledge one day the great love of God for these Christians. God will vindicate them and make their enemies who rose up against them bow down before them.

Isaiah 60:14 – “The sons of those who afflicted you
shall come bending low to you,
and all who despised you
shall bow down at your feet;
they shall call you the City of the Lord,
the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 23:5-6 “You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surelygoodness and mercyshall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwellin the house of the Lord
forever.

10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

Here is the promise of reward to the Faithful found in the church of Philadelphia. Since they have kept Christ’s word, enduring patiently, in return he will keep them from the coming tribulation. This is much like since they have passed the trials and tests that came at them and have done so well that Jesus is going to let them clip out of the Final Exam.

This Final Exam is called the Hour of Trial. Much like telling the church of Smyrna that they are going to suffer persecution for 10 days, a limited amount of time, we see here that this tribulation is also limited to a short time, a season. The hour is a figure of speech for time.

Matt 14:35 – And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

John 12:27 – “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Is this the Great Tribulation? Most Christian scholars believe this is a prophecy about the Great Tribulation because it is an Hour that comes upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. But as with most prophecies in the bible they are two-fold. They have an immediate fulfillment and also a long term future fulfillment. This text would have to have an immediate fulfillment to the Church of Philadelphia.  They would be kept from some kind of widespread tribulation that would affect their entire world. Their known world would have been a smaller context then the whole world as we know the whole world now. The world is a much bigger place now and when we read this text in our century we read “the whole world” much broader.

This text is also used to show by many the pre-tribulation rapture because the Greek words for “keep out” are threw ek which means “out of” or I will keep you out of”. There are several different ways Jesus could have said this but did not. He could have said ‘threw en’ which means ‘keep in’. Jesus could have promised to keep them and guard them in the tribulation.  Jesus could have said threw dia which means to ‘to keep through which would be another way of watching over us in the tribulation. Or he could have said airew ek which means to take out to show that he would save them out of the midst of the tribulation or in the same line airew apo which means to take from which would also mean being taken out of the tribulation. However, none of these are used. Instead Jesus promises to keep them out altogether.  In combination with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and other precepts, we are given hope for a pre-tribulation rapture.

2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the Day of Judgment,

As Christians, we know that we are not exempt from suffering or going through tribulations which we must in order to show our faith as genuine. John himself says in chapter one of revelation that he is their partner in tribulation. These early Christians and even martyrs today know tribulation. But we are exempt from experiencing the wrath of God, because of Christ experiencing it for us. The time of the Great Tribulation is a time when the wrath of God is being poured out upon the world. It is also an opportunity as all trials and tribulations are to repent. There will be some who do repent and come to salvation during the Tribulation for it says it will be shortened for the sake of the saints, but the majority of humanity of those who dwell on the earth will not repent but their hearts will only grow harder and harder against God.

Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth

Romans 2:5 – But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Col. 3:6 – On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Romans 5:9 – Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

1 Thess. 5:9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

It is the wrath of God that we are saved from.

The earth dweller is a figure of speech for the lost. It is those who dwell on the earth or those who house permanently on the earth.  It is those whose entire life is tied and wrapped up in the world and in earthly things and all that the earth has to offer in contrast to those who dwell in Christ and are sojourners looking forward to a heavenly kingdom and the promises it offers. We know the earth is not our home.

Revelation 6:10 – They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Revelation 8:13 – Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

Revelation 11:10 – and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

Revelation 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Revelation 17:2 – with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

Revelation 17:8 – The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come

In his book The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer states, “Every man must choose his world.” We must choose which world we are living for and which world we live in. We can set our hearts and minds on the earth or in heaven where Christ is. This is difficult unless we are constantly placing ourselves in God’s word. The influence of the world is always upon us because we must live and walk in it temporarily. But we can turn down the influence of the world and turn up the influence of God by taking specific measures to hold tight to what we have.  If you would imagine a sink with two facets, one is full of cold water and turned on full blast. The other is full of hot water and is dribbling. What will be the temperature of the water? It will be cold. If you want it to be hot then you must turn down the cold water and turn up the hot water so that it is over powered. In the same way we must turn down the influence of the world in our daily lives and turn up the influence of Christ. We cannot turn off the world completely since we live in it, but we can turn it down and turn God up so that his word is pouring into our lives more than just a dribble on Sundays. We need to saturate ourselves as much as possible with his word. By being in it every day. By surrounding ourselves with Christian friends and influences. By being careful of the television shows we watch and the music we listen to and the books we read. By listening to sermons, lectures, audio books, bible studies as much as possible and always meditating on something and being in prayer.

 

11 I am coming soon.

Some texts say, I am coming quickly. This means that the return of Jesus is imminent; it’s close in time and about to occur.

Matthew 24:33 – Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.

We do not know the day or the hour the Son of God will return but we know that it could be at any moment. This was the point of the parable of the ten virgins we read about in Matthew 25. The last verse and the point Jesus was making was found in Matthew “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Over and over again he warns us that the Master of the House will return at time we are not expecting if we are not watching for him. Over and over again Jesus told parables of what happened to the wicked servants who thought their master was delayed and would not be returning and went about their own business instead of their Master’s business and were declared wicked and slothful servants.

Mark 13:32-37 – “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Jesus is the Master of the House. He holds the key. This should cause us to ask ourselves, is there any work that I should be about doing but am leaving undone? We do not want to be found like the church in Sardis where Jesus tells them in Revelation 3:2-3, “for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” And “Wake Up!…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.”

Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

Here again they are told to “hold fast what they have.” This is the same exhortation that Jesus gave to the faithful in Thyatira, “I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’” Revelation 2:24-225

This is a warning that someone is going to try and snatch their faith away. This is what Satan Himself does, he snatches the word of God away from us any opportunity he has.

Matthew 13:19 – When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

We are exhorted to hold fast to God’s word, to keep it; which takes strength to intentionally grip it and retain it because we have an enemy who wishes to snatch it away from us through distractions, business, cares and concerns of this world and forgetfulness. We must take measures to remember and retain God’s word. This is by reading and re-reading, writing things down, reviewing, praying, meditating, memorizing, applying…all of these go a long way to preventing the word of God from being snatched from us.

The crown here is the same word use for the crown of Smyrna. It is the word “Stephanos”.  It is a victors crown and here we are warned that someone is trying to seize it or take it away from us. This would be lost rewards that we could have enjoyed eternally but forfeited when we “fell sleep” and our work is labeled as “incomplete in the sight of God”.

12 The one who conquers,

To the one who conquers, overcomes, and prevails there is a reward.

I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it,

A pillar is a prominent, ornament structure that is a mainstay in the temple. It holds the temple up like a support beam. It’s a permanent fixture. In the same way we will be a permanent fixture in the house of God.

For those who lived in Philadelphia this would have held special meaning since they often had to dwell outside of the city because of the great earthquakes. Here is a promise to be an unshaken, unmovable, stable pillar in God’s temple.

And I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

Jesus promises to write on them three new names. The city of Philadelphia was all about new names. They were anxious to name themselves after the imperial gods to gain their favor. So this promise of writing on them a new name spoke to this city personally.

The first name Jesus promises to write on them is the name of God. This would show God’s ownership of them as we often write our names on that which we own. The second is the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is to show their citizenship in the new heavenly city that they belong to. And the third is Jesus’ own new name. What that name is remains a mystery. My best guess is that I would say that it would be a new way of knowing Jesus; they would know him in a new way. Because all of God’s names are significant to his character and describes who he is and how we relate to him. Shepherd. Father. Messiah, Savior. The Holy One. Lord of Lords, King of Kings, all of these describes a person’s role and character. In the Old Testament every time they would have an encounter with God, they would often gain a new name for God, The God Who Sees., because they would know him in a new way. I think this is similar. It will be a glorious name whatever it is.

It also coincides with the beginning of this letter, where Jesus introduces himself by a new description, a new name. I am the Holy One, The True One for this particular church.

 13 He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Once again we are reminded this message is not just for the church of Philadelphia but for all those who have ears to hear and are willing to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches in plural. This is a letter to us, reminding us to hold on to the word of God and not to deny his name.  The time is short. The wrath of God is coming and we still have lots of opportunity to do work and especially pray! Pray! Pray! Pray! It is also a warning to us not to be an earth dweller. To think of God much. To seek him. To know our lives our temporary here and we are to be saving up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. We live on a sinking ship, to spend all our time decorating it and making our lives comfortable on it instead of preparing to abandon and warning others is foolish. It’s insane. We need to wake up! And by faith believe that Jesus is the Truthful One. When he says is going to come true, is coming to come true and we need to be prepared when he returns lest we find ourselves outside the door, knocking after it has already been closed for eternity. Let us not be shut out, not when the door stands open for us now. Why do you delay entering? Why do you delay surrendering your life to God and following Jesus at the sacrifice of the world? Why are you holding on to a sinking ship instead of God’s word? What work is God calling you to complete before Christ returns? What is still incomplete in your life?


Apr 16 2013

Laodicea – The Church that Wasn’t Revelation 3:14-22

Penny Frantz
This entry is part 10 of 39 in the series Revelation

The last of the letters to the churches from Christ.  It is a scathing letter with no commendation.

 The city: Laodicea was well known for its wealth and was a banking center.  They were also known for the manufacture soft black wool which was made into cloth and rugs that further added to their wealth.  There was also a school of medicine that specialized in the making of a salve for the eyes.  This salve was marketed all over the Roman world.  The people of the city were living a life of relative ease.  They had so much money that once when an earthquake hit they were able to rebuild on their own although Rome offered to assist with financial aid.  Laodicea was situated in the Lycus valley about 100 miles east of Ephesus.  It was the southernmost of the 7 churches of Revelation.  It was located between Hierapolis which was known for its hot springs and Colossae, known for its pure cold water.   The interesting thing about Laodicea is that water from Hierapolis and Colossae were piped into the city by aqueducts.  The hot water from Hierapolis was lukewarm by the time it reached Laodicea and the cold water from Colossae was lukewarm by the time it reached Laodicea.

 The church: They were blind to their own needs.  The Lord is about to give them a true picture of where they stood in His sight.  They were so wrapped up into building their own kingdom that they did not realize they were not part of His kingdom.  This church was a total unregenerate, false church.  They had religion down pat but they were far from the truth.  It represents so many of the churches right here in America today.  Churches busy doing but not being.  People religious to the core but lost and headed straight to hell.

 Ezekiel 6:9 says “I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols.”  God’s heart was hurt over Laodicea.

 Vs 14:  To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  

These are the words of the Amen,  –  Amen is an OT title for God (Isaiah 65:16).  It means ‘truth’ in Hebrew.  Jesus is called the Amen:

           “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.  And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God.”  2 Corinthians 1:20

 He confirmed all of God’s promises.  He is truth.  When we say amen at the end of a prayer we are basically saying “truth – I believe truth (Jesus)”

 The faithful and true witness this title further expresses the first title.  He is always faithful and always true – He can never be less than He is.   He is as John 14:6 states “the way, the truth, and the life.”

 The ruler of God’s creation. – some versions have “beginning of creation’.  Beginning in the Greek means ‘origin or source’.  Jesus is the origin or source of creation not the first one created because He is not a created being – He is God.  In Colossians He is referred to as the ‘firstborn of all creation’ that does not mean the first one born but rather the supreme person which comes from the word prototokos where we get the word prototype.

 We must have our theology right or we end up as so many other churches – a dead religion or cult.  Remember Jesus asked Peter who He was and Peter said “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  Jesus is not a created being – He is God.  He is not just a good man, or prophet, or teacher, or religious figure we think about at Christmas or Easter.  He is the Creator of all things and sustainer of all life!

 Vs 15:  I know your deeds, – deeds represent the true spiritual state of someone (Jesus said ‘you will know them by their fruits’ – Matt 7:16).  Deeds confirm or deny one’s salvation.  The Laodicean deeds represented they were dead.

 That you are neither cold” nor hot.  The lukewarm water that reached Laodicea from its two neighboring cities was foul and dirty – an incubator for germs.  Hot water kills germs and cold water does not provide a place for it to thrive.

 I wish you were either one or the other!  Jesus is telling them that they are hard to reach.  A sure enough known unsaved person is easier to reach than someone who thinks they are saved and living a lie.

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!”  Matthew 7:21-23

 Vs 16:  So, because you are lukewarm –  complacent, comfortable, don’t realize their need

 Neither hot nor cold – hot means to be fervently devoted to Christ and cold is a non-believer who knows they are non-believers.

 I am about to spit you out of my mouth He is telling them that they make Him sick!  Some churches make Him weep, some make Him angry, and some like this one just makes Him sick.  Their self-righteousness nauseated Him.

  Vs 17:  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  – they were self-satisfied and independent.  They were so smug in their wealth and knowledge, they most likely looked down their noses on those who truly did believe the gospel of Christ.

But you do not realize that you are wretched; pitiful, poor, blind and naked. – Nakedness represents defeat and humiliation.

 

John R. W. Scott in his book “What Christ Thinks of the Church” notes:

“Perhaps none of the seven letters is more appropriate to the twentieth century church than this.  It describes vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so widespread among us today.  Our Christianity is flabby and anemic.  We appear to have taken a lukewarm bath of religion.”

Vs 18:  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich;  – Salvation is free.  Isaiah  55:1 says “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you who have no money come, buy and eat.  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”  This is metaphorically speaking.  They needed faith – more precious than gold.

And white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; – they needed to trade their black wool symbolizing their filthy sinful garments for the white garments that represent righteousness.

And salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. – He was about to poke His holy finger into their eyes so that that they might truly see.   They were blind with lack of understanding and knowledge of spiritual truth.

Vs 19:  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. – He will permit a church to go through times of trial so that they might become what He wants them to become.  He wants all to believe and come to Him.  To rebuke means to expose and convict.  To discipline means to punish in love.

So be earnest and repent. – Mourn over the sin, and hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Vs 20:  Here I am!  He is present.  He is there if you don’t want Him to be and He is present if you want Him to be.

I stand at the door and knock. – The Lord is on the outside of the church!  While they were busying doing activities and entertaining themselves on the inside, He was on the outside knocking to come in and they did not notice.  He knocks through circumstances and He calls through His word.

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, – He will speak to anyone who is willing to listen.  He said if anyone – singular.  He is looking for that one who is willing to open the door.

I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. – a supper table becomes a throne as we fellowship with Him.  The word dine refers to the evening meal.  The last meal of the day.  He is willing to come in and fellowship with you as the day of mankind draws to a close.  It is the last hour, the meal is prepared, open the door and invite Him in.

Vs 21:  To him who overcomes, – the believers are the overcomers

I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, – one of several rights He has promised those who overcome.  Heaven will be His throne and we will be with Him there.

Just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.  We are going where He is!

Judgment is going to come to this world but it first begins at God’s house.

 “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”    1 Peter 4:17

  Vs 22:  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

– listen to Him.  Pay attention to what He is saying, that gentle nudge He gives, that knowing that He puts in your heart.  Do not ignore Him.