Revelation: Letters to Seven Churches

The book of Revelation is something of a mystery, and minds greater and more scholarly than my own have written extensively trying to solve it. This book fuels the imagination and its imagery calls to mind both the horrific and the wonderful. But my intent here is to look only at the first three chapters and to glean what can be gleaned from the letters John writes at the behest of Jesus (or is it the Holy Spirit?) to seven existing churches in Asia. What can we learn from these brief letters of exhortation and warning? Is there a message in these letters for us?

Chapter One
I. Revelation 1:1-3 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bondservant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. a. Here John gives the title of this book, which is his letter to the seven churches. He presents it as a revelation of Jesus, so that God’s children could know of the things that must be. b. God gave this revelation to Jesus Christ who then gave it to John who then testified to the words of the revelation and to the visions he experienced receiving it. John was faithful in affirming all that he received in his letter to the churches of the world. i. Word study: Testified 1. 3140 μαρτυρέω [martureo /mar·too·reh·o/] 1 to be a witness, to bear witness, i.e. to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration. 1A to give (not to keep back) testimony. 1B to utter honourable testimony, give a good report. 1C conjure, implore. ii. It is interesting that Jesus Himself was on the receiving end of this revelation. He did not know these things through His own divinity but was told them by His Father. I wonder what that does to the idea that Jesus was omnipotent just as His Father was or that He returned to omnipotence after His resurrection and ascension. If Jesus truly became man then Jesus must have given up His divinity in favor of limiting Himself for the benefit of mankind. His limitation may only have been voluntary- meaning that He retained the ability to call upon His power at any time- but I suggest that our Lord truly and wholly became man, forever limiting Himself in order that His sacrifice be complete. That would mean that in heaven right now stands a truly human (albeit glorified) Jesus Christ who waits for us and readies a place for us and continually intercedes for us but who does not act on our behalf ‘miraculously’. Upon Him the Father has placed all authority and power over the kingdom of God. Jesus is the firstborn of his Father, the One after Whom we must follow. Jesus is the Son of God and He has been made King of kings and Lord of lords. In return for the sacrifice of His life on behalf of creation the Father has placed upon Jesus a crown greater than His own. Jesus’ sacrifice of His own deity would make His sacrifice on the cross an even greater one. His love for us compelled Him to give His very nature entirely. 1. Jesus did not know this revelation and did not know the plans of the Father for the end of the world and for the world’s salvation and re-creation. a. Mark 13:32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. c. Jesus sent this revelation to John through an intermediary, an angel, the passage says. The word angel signifies ‘one who is sent’. This angel was sent to give the revelation, its words and visions, to John. Why did Jesus not appear to John Himself? And why does the description of the one who was sent bear such a close resemblance to the description of God (the Son?) in the Old

Testament if it is indeed not Him? The vision of Daniel (Daniel 10:5) is awfully similar to John’s vision here in Revelation- the two are too close to be merely coincidental. i. In Revelation 1:9 when John begins to recount this revelation he says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. It is possible then that this angel, this messenger, the one sent by Jesus to give John this revelation is responsible for giving John the vision of the Son of Man; that it was not the Son of Man John saw but a vision of the Son of Man. Is it also possible that it was Jesus that John saw and that the ‘angelos’ was the Spirit of God sent to John to form the bridge by which John could transcend into the realm where such a vision of Jesus were possible? ii. In the two commentaries in which I looked I could not find a reference to the angel and the vision as being contradictory. But if the revelation came by an angelos then what was the vision? d. Word study: Bondservants i. 1401 δοῦλοσ1, δοῦλοσ2 [doulos /doo·los/] 1 a slave, bondman, man of servile condition. 1A a slave. 1B metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men. 1C devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. 2 a servant, attendant. 1. The bondservants of Christ are those who have given up themselves in order to serve His needs. It is to Jesus Christ’s bondservants that this revelation was given. The Father’s plan was revealed first to His Son Who then gave it to the last of His apostles who was then charged to deliver it to the church universal. It is to those men and women of John’s century that the words of Revelation were given and through them they have been preserved for us in our time. As bondservants we long to understand these things of the last times and of the things that are to be coming soon. As the bondservants of Jesus it is only to us that these things could possibly make sense and only to us that the hope that underlies these strong and sometimes terrible words can shine through. 2. I wonder what the early church made of the book of Revelation. Did they have as much trouble as we have in comprehending these words? Or has the church lost too much in the millennia since John sent this book to his beloved? Can we in our time hope to understand this book fully? e. Word study: Blessed i. 3107 μακάριος [makarios /mak·ar·ee·os/] A prolonged form of the poetical makar (meaning the same); 1 blessed, happy. ii. Merriam-Webster’s defines this as: of or enjoying happiness specif : enjoying the bliss of heaven — used as a title for a beatified person 1. To be blessed is to feel the happiness of heaven while here in the body. Since we occupy this realm and not the other we live out our days in a haze; we glimpse heaven, but infrequently; we sense the presence of God, but never feel Him fully. In scripture we are told that we will be blessed if… If we are poor in spirit, if we are merciful, even if we are persecuted we are to consider ourselves blessed. This blessedness breaks through the haze of this world and shines upon us. Even in the pain of persecution we are to realize the blessing that we receive and the taste of the heavenly that we are given. To feel this happiness I think must require us to change our definition of happiness to perhaps God’s definition. We may no longer feel happy only when the cake is in front of us and we are celebrating but rather feel it also when we read of the future reward that awaits us, of the promised salvation our God has affected for us, of the incredible plan for the recreation of the heavens and the earth that infuse this book of Revelation. ‘Happy’ now includes, has always included, the deep truths and realities of the Lord. Happiness is not superficial and temporal but completely penetrating and everlasting.

f. That this is a prophecy should, of course, not be overlooked. Prophecy is the utterance of God’s messengers declaring His holy will. Prophecy is for the correction of God’s people, for their instruction, or for their edification of future things. In this book prophecy is used for all three. This book begins with warnings to seven churches and instructs these seven how they ought to be. The book then quickly moves into the mysterious realm of future things where words themselves seem to be woefully inadequate in describing the plan of our Father. We are told of visions and we are painted pictures of heaven and darkness, of victory for God and of ultimate defeat for God’s enemies. This book is prophecy in its most understood form. It is a bold statement of what must surely come to pass. The question that is asked today is, have these things already come to pass or are they yet future? g. The instruction John gives the bondservants of Christ is that the words he has recorded for us ought to be heeded for “the time is near.” Obedience to the Words of Christ is always the priority. This command to obedience is the first of many that we find in this book. God does not speak so that nothing will occur; rather God speaks so that things occur. At His command the world was created and every word of our bible has come to pass or yet will. His word is truth and it must be heeded. The implied ‘or else’ is very much in evidence. h. For the time is near i. Romans 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 1. Paul writes this in an exhortation to his readers to love others as themselves, for that is the summation of all of God’s commandments. We must love by sacrificing the desires of our flesh for the needs of our brothers. We must do this because the time of our salvation is near; it is closer than it was at the time when we first believed. ii. In at least three other instances the warning that the time is near is found in Revelation. John is commanded not to seal up these words but to spread them because the time is near. The time, Jesus says, is His own coming; and He is coming quickly, so we must be careful to ‘keep the sayings’ of this book. Obedience to God’s command is not the new thing, for scripture is that command itself- we are to read the words of God, remember these words, and then we must apply these words to our lives so that we become more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that He can then present us to His Father as a church worthy of the name of God. The new thing, at least in the New Testament is the idea that the time is coming quickly when this presentation will be made. It seems that from day one of Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the call of the apostles to the ministry of the gospel to the world that they were expecting to be delivered from their ministry and their persecution because of it at any time. Their letters read as if they expected to see the return of the Lord in their lifetimes. But that did not happen, so my big question has been, why not? iii. The idea is that if the time is near we should be ever more vigilant about keeping the commands of scripture. The argument says that because He is coming, and coming soon, we should be on our toes to be doing that which He left us to do so that when He comes He will find us ready and waiting for Him. There is an urgency inspired by the ‘coming quickly’ that must have had effect on the early church but which I think must have worn thin in the millennia since. He has not come, at least not in the glorified way in which He left, so these words of warning and hope for His people have not come to pass as we would have liked. How awesome it would have been for this first generation church to have suffered through the hell and torment of their persecution at the hands of so many evil men to have been vindicated in their lifetimes by the heavenly worldwide arrival of the grand and glorious Ruler of all men, Jesus. How awesome that would have been for these men and women to have been lifted up as Jesus was and taken out of this world in the body and made witness to the retribution that scripture promises all men who refuse to believe. But then if that would have happened, no matter how good it would have been

for those Christians, it would have meant something entirely different for us. If Christ had come before our generation would we be a part of His Kingdom? If Christ were to come today would tomorrow’s believers be allowed in? This coming quickly then must mean something different than it seems to have meant for the apostles. They may have thought and hoped for a quick arrival but their hopes may have been misinformed. The quickness of Christ seems to be the speed in which He came to the world and converted it. He has given all nations of all times the opportunity to join Him in His kingdom and on that scale He has come to a lot of people very quickly. The double meaning here does not take away the truth that one day He will fulfill the second heaven and the second earth part of this prophecy; it just may be in a way that we have not imagined. Truth can remain truth even if it is misunderstood for two thousand years; but our vigilance must remain. We must live and move as if He were watching and waiting for the moment to come. He will come, not only to the individual hearts of those who will receive Him, but to the eyes and ears of the entire created world, and that time will be too quick for some, even if it takes another two thousand years. II. Revelation 1:4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father— to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. a. This is the salutation of the letter of John to the churches. He greets them and blesses them and then pronounces a doxology in praise of Jesus Christ. b. There must have been more than these seven churches, as the area that the gospel had spread to was indeed quite large by the time of John’s writing. Matthew Henry conjectures that these may have been the closest to the island of Patmos where John was or maybe he had a “peculiar superintendency” over them. The seven churches are named in verse 11. c. John offers these churches grace and peace from God Almighty. By grace John extends to the believers the favor of God, His love for them, and His mercy upon them. Grace is the love of God that turns a man’s heart to Christ and brings the seed of repentance within him to fruition. John extends that grace as a reminder to these men and women that God indeed loves them. By peace John extends his hand of friendship and harmony and encourages them to extend that hand to each other. The believer in Christ, although he may live in turmoil and persecution can experience a harmony among his brothers and sisters. i. Grace and peace are offered us from God and extend from Him into our lives. Grace from the One “who is and who was and who is to come.” Grace and peace from the eternal God and the infinite presence in the heavens and on the earth. ii. Grace and peace are also offered us from the seven Spirits who are before the throne of the Infinite God. The word Spirits is capitalized here in the NASB which makes me wonder if maybe my conjecture above about the angelos being the Spirit of God may be correct after all. The construction of this preamble to the doxology can be construed to look a lot like the Trinity in that we seem to have Father, Spirit, and Son. Instead of angels carrying the lampstands and the stars we have the Spirit of God spread out over all of these churches and watching over them and protecting them. He, the Spirit of God also offers us His peace and grace. He too, loves us and wishes us to remember that love and the harmony we share with Him. iii. Finally, grace and peace are offered us from Jesus Christ who is given many names and titles by His bondservant John. Christ is called: 1. The faithful witness a. In the message to the Laodiceans Jesus is called the Amen and faithful and true. He is One who is trustworthy and who has demonstrated His

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trustworthiness by doing exactly that which He had said He would do and dying a violent death in order to maintain the veracity of His word. The firstborn of the dead a. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, b. 1 Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. c. Jesus Christ submitted to life in the body so that He might save our bodies from an ultimate death. His body He sacrificed so that from His death all men might be saved. He was not the first to die as a man, for all men do indeed die, but He was the first to die and rise again based on the fruits of His incredible self-sacrifice. Because He did it first, and for us, all men now have the hope of rising again. The ruler of the kings of the earth a. In two other places Jesus is called the Lord of lords and King of kings. In 1 Timothy 6:15 Jesus is called “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” In the Old Testament God is frequently referred to as the God of gods and the Lord of lords. The comparison to Jesus here is unmistakable. Jesus is being equated to God and as such He is to be considered at the top of whatever hierarchical chain we might devise among men. On the earth Jesus is supreme. He is our King, above every other king; He is God above every other god; and He is our Lord above every other lord that ‘rules’ the earth. Jesus condescended to become man in order to do the will of His Father and save humanity from sin. In return His Father bestowed on Him the titles and crowns that He Himself had worn from the beginning. God made His Son ruler over all that He had created. And when Jesus returns He will pick up that crown and the world will see and honor Him as King. The one who loves us and who has released us from our sins by His own blood a. Jesus loves us. That simple truth is more than we deserve and yet it remains true. Why else would God have done this for us? Why else would God have become man, spent time among us teaching us the Way, ensured our success through the gifts of the bible and the Spirit, and then sacrificed Himself in order to seal the deal? He loves us and has done everything that we may know of that love and be saved by it. Yes, we are saved by His love! This Jesus has made us to be a kingdom and priests to His God and Father a. We are now what we once were not. The people of Israel were a kingdom. They had a ruler. They had the tabernacle with God as their King. But they wanted something else; they wanted what their neighbors had. They wanted a king who sat on a throne and lived in a house made by hands. So God let them go the way of the other peoples of the earth and the result was a dramatic and total failure. But God knew better than they and He had a plan to bring not only Israel back but to bring back the people that had scattered and had devolved into idolatry and paganism. Through Jesus all men now can live under the protection of the only King that has ever been, God Almighty. Through Jesus we are now reunited with our lost brothers and sisters and can live as one in harmony and hope. We have a

future and we have a purpose. We are now priests, each and every one of us who are given the chance to serve in the Tabernacle of our King and our God. No more are we outside the Holy Place but now we are invited into the Sanctuary of God Himself. Jesus is our High Priest and we His servants. Together we serve and worship the Father. Amen! d. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. i. Glory and Dominion are ascribed to this King; He is to receive all of the kingly majesty and power that are reserved for God. For He is God and to God ought to go all of the honor and recognition of majesty and power from His subjects, His creation. e. Amen i. Word Study: Amen 1. 281 ἀμήν [amen /am·ane/] particle indeclinable. Of Hebrew origin 543; 1 firm. 1A metaph. faithful. 2 verily, amen. 2A at the beginning of a discourse—surely, truly, of a truth. 2B at the end—so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled. It was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he, who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own. Additional Information: The word “amen” is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related—in fact, almost identical—to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly”, an expression of absolute trust and confidence.—HMM. ii. Amen; the most recognized and best known word in human speech. At the beginning of a thought it means that truth will follow; at the end of a thought it means that you are aligning yourself with the uttered words. Amen- this is truth and Amen- this is my truth. 1. To God be the glory and the dominion, not for this generation but forever and ever. Amen; this is my truth, and this is the ultimate truth. III. Revelation 1:7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. a. On the Day when Jesus returns to take control of what has been allowed to degenerate there will be no doubt as to Whom He is and what He will do. All of the argument and rationalizing away of His existence will be over because He will be in front of every eye and every heart. He will return both for the believer and the skeptic. He will return for those who have loved Him and those who have hated Him. He will return for those who actively worked for His kingdom and those who resisted with every fiber of their being. The scripture says that ALL men will see this coming and ALL the tribes of the earth will mourn Him. i. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then all who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. ii. Acts 1:11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” b. Even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him i. On that Day men will mourn over Jesus as “one mourneth for his only son” (KJV Zechariah 12:10). It would seem that the anger and divisiveness over the name of Jesus will be forgotten and all men will come to see the error of their ways. All men will realize that it was Jesus all along who held their lives in their hands and that it was He that allowed them to live in such arrogance and selfishness. Man will see his own wickedness

and will mourn for the One whose only actions were of love. Man killed the Son of God and on the Day that the Son returns mankind will recognize their great evil and will mourn over the crimes they have committed against Him. ii. But let’s not forget that while they mourn they will also be held accountable. They may see the error of their ways but that error will be their great undoing. As clear as scripture is about the great salvation that awaits those who diligently and with perseverance work toward the day of their own salvation it speaks just as clearly about the dire consequences of those who stubbornly and with arrogance neglect their duty to God. To the one this second coming will be one of joy and thanksgiving; the tears that will be shed for Jesus on that day will be motivated by gratefulness for His mercy and awe at His glory. To the other this second coming will be one of terror and great remorse, for their actions will have finally found them out; their tears will be motivated first by the realization that they have wounded One who truly loved them and second by the realization that it is too late to do anything about it. 1. So it is to be. Amen a. Succinct and to the point. This will happen, it is truth, and it will come sooner than you think. For what is a life but a breath of air that is drawn in and then exhaled. It comes and then goes, and with it the power to decide right from wrong vanishes. When this Day comes you ought to be standing with the sheep on the right side of the Lord; or you will be weeping for yourself, and not for the love of Jesus. Amen. IV. Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” a. I love the power that these words convey. He is the beginning of things and He is the end of things. He is the One and He is the Last. He has been, He is, and He will always be God Almighty. These words are attributed to Jesus and in red letter bibles they are bright and bold. Scripture would seem to back up this idea as it records Jesus telling His listeners that He was with the Father even before Abraham and that He came from the Father and that He would return even after they inflicted the best of their evil upon Him. Jesus equates Himself with the Father in the gospels and here He calls Himself the Almighty. Revelation 1:9-11 I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” a. Here John identifies himself to his readers and gives the motivation for writing this letter. He places himself on the island of Patmos because of the word of God. We are told that John was exiled to this island because of his outspokenness, so in a very real sense it was the word of God that had placed him there. On the Lord’s day during his exile John says he was ‘in the Spirit’ and the visions began. He was told to write the visions down and send the resulting book to seven churches in Asia. John does not identify himself as the beloved of the Lord or the greatest of the apostles but merely a brother and fellow partaker in Christ along with those who will receive this letter. John calls himself our brother in the process and the brother of every believer who will read these words. We, John included, are fellow partakers of the joy and the tribulation that believers in Christ must understand and endure. There are three things Christians partake in together: tribulation, kingdom, and perseverance. i. Tribulation 1. This word signifies that a pressure is put upon Christians because of the name of Jesus. Possibly that the very same oppression that drove John to Patmos or which

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forcibly exiled him there is the same oppression that the believers in the rest of the churches were undergoing, namely the pressure to succumb to pagan culture and to deny the blood sacrifice and salvation that only comes through Jesus. ii. Kingdom 1. To those who withstand the pressure from without to cave and to deny or marginalize the Word of God in regards to Jesus their remains a glorious kingdom that is being built to house the new body of believers, the Church of Christ. This kingdom will house all of God’s elect and will be an everlasting kingdom that will know neither end nor pain. iii. Perseverance 1. But while that kingdom is being prepared and while it exists only supernaturally and spiritually the body of Christ must continue to endure the pressure from without and the evil forms that it takes during periods of persecution. While John wrote this the church was undergoing severe persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. To be a Christian during these times in certain places in the world was no easy task. But through this evil and this terrible tribulation the Church of Christ actually grew as believers fled from death and in so doing spread their faith even further. Because of the kingdom of God and our hope of a secure place within it at the side of our Lord Jesus we must persevere and help spread the church and the kingdom of God into the darkness that remains. iv. These things, John says, are what it means to be in Jesus. These things are part of a life in Christ. From this truth scripture does not depart. To be a Christian is to suffer tribulation and persecution either from the hands of other men, from the forces of evil running rampant in the world, or from the very sin nature that still struggles to survive within every man. b. John and the island of Patmos i. Harper’s Bible Dictionary (Logos electronic version): the island of Patmos is a small island (10 miles long and six miles wide) in the Aegean Sea among a group of islands known as the Sporades. Tradition holds that John was banished here for his adherence to the Word of God and his writing of prophecy with political undercurrents, both of which would have been seen as blasphemous and dangerous. Three of the islands in the Sporades were used for just such banishment purposes. ii. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary: During exile prisoners were most likely forced to work in the stone quarries. John is believed to have been exiled here for eighteen months. c. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day i. This phrase ‘in the Spirit’ can apparently be translated simply ‘in spirit,’ at least according to the NASB. I suppose that the two phrases really amount to the same thing although in the former we get the picture of a startled John being carried away bodily by the Holy Spirit to some place between the real and the super-real and in the latter phrase the picture is a bit more subdued with John’s spirit being whisked away to this place of visions, albeit probably by the power of the same Holy Spirit. ii. John’s experience took place on the Lord’s day, which we can assume is the first day of the week. The Sabbath was always on the seventh day of the week which on our calendar would be a Saturday. To differentiate from that day the Christians began to celebrate the first day of the week, being the day that Jesus rose from the grave. I like the reading of the verse better the way that the NASB decided to word it. John was ‘in the Spirit’ on this day. John was meditating, he was prayerful, he was somehow beyond this world due to his deep relationship and prayer with God that he was easily taken by God to a ‘higher’ place where he was able to see the visions of Revelation. d. I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a loud trumpet i. Revelation is such a descriptive book; it is here that the trumpet gets its due. God’s voice is described as the sound of a trumpet. It is loud, it is unexpected, and it is ringing. Hear

the words of the Lord as they echo across the plains and mountains and valleys of creation. Hear these words you churches of the new Church of Christ. The Lord your God speaks! ii. Red letter bibles highlight the Alpha and Omega verse above as if Jesus spoke those words to John on Patmos but when I read those first verses it seems to me that John is adding these words of Jesus to his introduction rather than Jesus breaking in and speaking. After John’s doxology is the perfect place to quote the power of Jesus’ own words (assuming of course that Jesus spoke them to John at some point) as to His glorious and eternal nature. But here, Jesus’ voice rings out with the power of the heavenly trumpets and commands John to get a pen and begin to record the words of God which were to be delivered to the seven churches of Asia that John apparently had oversight of. e. “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” i. The command of Jesus: Write this down, this is going to be important! And then send it out to the churches of the world; these things that they must know, for the end is near! ii. So where were these churches? From Easton’s Bible Dictionary comes the following: 1. Ephesus a. “During his third missionary journey Paul reached Ephesus from the “upper coasts” (Acts 19:1), i.e., from the inland parts of Asia Minor, and tarried here for about three years; and so successful and abundant were his labours that “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Probably during this period the seven churches of the Apocalypse were founded, not by Paul’s personal labours, but by missionaries whom he may have sent out from Ephesus, and by the influence of converts returning to their homes.” b. “The apostle John, according to tradition, spent many years in Ephesus, where he died and was buried. A part of the site of this once famous city is now occupied by a small Turkish village, Ayasaluk, which is regarded as a corruption of the two Greek words, hagios theologos; i.e., “the holy divine.” 2. Smyrna a. “myrrh, an ancient city of Ionia, on the western coast of Asia Minor, about 40 miles to the north of Ephesus. It is now the chief city of Anatolia, having a mixed population of about 200,000, of whom about one-third are professed Christians. The church founded here was one of the seven addressed by our Lord (Rev. 2:8–11). The celebrated Polycarp, a pupil of the apostle John, was in the second century a prominent leader in the church of Smyrna. Here he suffered martyrdom.” 3. Pergamum a. From Harper’s Bible Dictionary: an ancient city in the region of Mysia in western Asia Minor. The modern village of Bergama, Turkey, now covers part of the ancient site. b. “In Rev. 2:13 Pergamum is described as the place where Satan’s throne is. Revelation 12-13 suggests that Satan is linked with Rome. Even though Pergamum was no longer the governor’s residence when the Revelation to John was written sometime late in the first century A.D., it was one of the cities in which he regularly held court. The governor alone held the right of capital punishment. The sharp two-edged sword of Christ mentioned in the greeting (2:12) and in the threat (2:16) is contrasted implicitly with the ‘sword’ of the governor. Another connotation of ‘Satan’s throne’ may be that Pergamum was one of the oldest and most prominent centers of the

imperial cult, i.e., the worship of the Roman emperor as a divine being, in the province.” 4. Thyatira a. “a city of Asia Minor, on the borders of Lydia and Mysia. Its modern name is Ak-hissar, i.e., “white castle.” Here was one of the seven churches (Rev. 1:11; 2:18–28). Lydia, the seller of purple, or rather of cloth dyed with this colour, was from this city (Acts 16:14). It was and still is famous for its dyeing. Among the ruins, inscriptions have been found relating to the guild of dyers in that city in ancient times.” 5. Sardis a. “the metropolis of Lydia in Asia Minor. It stood on the river Pactolus, at the foot of mount Timolus. Here was one of the seven Asiatic churches (Rev. 3:1–6). It is now a ruin called Sert-Kalessi.” 6. Philadelphia a. “brotherly love, a city of Lydia in Asia Minor, about 25 miles south-east of Sardis. It was the seat of one of the “seven churches” (Rev. 3:7–12). It came into the possession of the Turks in A.D. 1392. It has several times been nearly destroyed by earthquakes. It is still a town of considerable size, called Allahshehr, “the city of God.” 7. Laodicea a. The city of this name mentioned in Scripture lay on the confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about 40 miles east of Ephesus (Rev. 3:14), on the banks of the Lycus. It was originally called Diospolis and then Rhoas, but afterwards Laodicea, from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II., king of Syria, who rebuilt it. It was one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor. At a very early period it became one of the chief seats of Christianity (Col. 2:1; 4:15; Rev. 1:11, etc.). It is now a deserted place, called by the Turks Eski-hissar or “old castle.” iii. These seven churches are located in what is now modern day Turkey. The island of Patmos is located off the coast of this part of Asia Minor. These seven churches are considered to be the major centers of Christianity at the time that John was writing. VI. Revelation 1:12-19 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. a. This is the glorified Christ! And by that I mean that this is the Christ who underwent the terror and horror of death by crucifixion and who condescended to become man in order to serve His Father and who faithfully believed to the end that His Father would save Him and who has been rewarded with all power and authority in heaven and on the earth and who stands forever as the Son of God with the crown above all other crowns fixed firmly upon His head. It is this Christ that was spoken of by the prophets of old who also saw visions of Him. The difference between that Christ and this one is that John had seen the real thing and the prophets of old saw a mere glimpse of future things. i. Ezekiel 1:26-28 Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw

something like fire; and there was radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. ii. Daniel 10:5-9 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz. His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning; his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult. Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground. iii. Both prophets saw the glorious Son of Man and both prophets responded to their sight with fear and falling to the ground as if by fainting. The wonders of heaven are almost too much for the language of man to capture but even so the imagination is sparked by the lavish description and the wonderful mix of elements that make up the appearance of our Lord. John, like these two others saw Jesus, our Lord, in His glory and lived to tell about it and though Him we taste, if only slightly, that same glory. b. Seven golden lampstands i. The great thing about this verse is that Jesus Himself interprets its symbolism. He tells us when He again speaks that the lampstands are the seven churches of Asia. John turns toward the trumpeting voice and sees a vision of Jesus (if not the real Jesus) standing in front of seven lampstands which we are to see as representative of the seven churches to which Jesus’ next words are to be addressed. The seven churches are before the Lord always and the stars that protect them are found to be in Jesus’ hands, for He also tells us that the stars represent the angels that he has placed over each individual church. 1. Exodus 25: 31-32, 37 Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. Six branches shall go out from its sides; three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other side… Then you shall make its lamps seven in number; and they shall mount its lamps so as to shed light on the space in front of it. 2. Zechariah 4:1-2, 10 Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep. He said to me, what do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; …For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.” 3. The lampstand has been a fixture in God’s lexicon since the beginning. A golden lampstand stood in the very first tabernacle to give light to the holy place and to represent the light of the Lord to the worshippers. The number of lamps upon it, seven, is representative of perfection; it symbolizes the perfection of God and the perfection that His worshippers are to attain to. Here in Revelation we see again the lampstand as it was shown to Zechariah in chapter 4 of his book. It is a symbol of the whole of God’s tabernacle, i.e. the world, and its lights are the angels, or spirits that God sends out into the world, roving to and fro, and keeping an eye on things.

a. I like the idea that these seven are really the Holy Spirit sent out by the hand of Jesus (i.e. the stars resting in His hand in the vision of John) and that it is the Holy Spirit that watches over our churches and the Church universal and teaches and protects us from harm. c. One like a son of man i. Daniel and Ezekiel both saw in their visions one like a son of man or one who was similar to a son of man; they saw a figure of God who had taken the form of man. John, in his vision saw the same vision of God only John recognized that God as the Lord Jesus who had indeed taken that form on the earth, in all of its inherent humility, but had raised that form up and now shows us its inherent worth and glory. Jesus is indeed one like a son of man but He is ever so much more. He is the Son of Man and the Son of God! Jesus is the realization of the Old Testament prophet’s visions- they saw what Jesus had become. They were looking into the future reality that John Himself was witnessing in this book! ii. This description of Jesus is fantastic. It is very similar to the visions seen of Him in the Old Testament. The Son of God is described from the top of His head down to His feet and each element illustrates the excellence of His Person and the power that He exudes. Our understanding of the symbolism here, of the intended representation, may well be flawed; my interpretation especially. But that should not stop us from trying to glean from this letter what we might. It is not a wrong idea that condemns one to hell rather it is a lack of effort to understand that will condemn a man. iii. He is wearing a robe, presumably white, and is girded with a golden sash (with gold from Uphaz, according to Daniel). He is arraigned in the dress of a King and the golden sash is His insignia of rank. He has come dressed in the regalia of a King and a conqueror. He has come dressed formally to take His rightful place at the Head of creation. His hair and head are white like wool which must have been the whitest natural substance known to the apostle (unless the wool signifies something else entirely) and whiteness must represent purity and holiness. Whiteness unblemished from stain and therefore perfect. That Jesus’ hair is white could show us that He is extremely powerful; that His head is white could tell us that His thoughts are pure (as the driven snow). The one like a son of man has eyes like a flame of fire which jumps off the page at me in its descriptiveness. You can see this vision along with John; you can see the gleaming Lord Jesus and His eyes flashing to and fro about the earth as He brings His final judgment upon it. We see the flash of anger and passion in men’s eyes when they are stirred to action. The strength of will and the intention to act is evident when we see this movement behind the eyes of another. In the vision Jesus has come and He is ready to do that which He has been sent to do. Daniel describes His arms and His feet as gleaming bronze and John does the same here. Outside of His face, His feet and lower arms would be the only visible parts of His body due to the robe He wore. John focuses on His feet possibly because it is with these feet that the Son of Man will begin to move upon the earth taking back that which is His own. His feet are described as bronze possibly because that was the strongest metal at the time of this writing and it was used for weaponry, making this analogy a powerful one. Jesus has come as King, He has the strength to make that claim, He has the intent and the passion to do so, and He is more than equipped to do exactly that. In His hands He holds the stars of the churches which He explains are the angels or spirits sent to watch over them and out of His mouth comes a flaming two edged sword. This sword is a fantastic element because it signifies the might of the words of our King and the forceful way that they will be inflicted upon a sinful earth. Jesus will come slashing that sword of Truth to the right and to the left, both cutting out and killing off the darkness and evil growth that has infected His creation. The last line of this description shows us the face of Jesus shining like the sun. This ends on a hopeful note; this King who comes in might and glory does so for the purpose of giving life to the world. Like the sun, without which we

VII.

could not survive, so with Jesus. Without His Light, and His strength, and His Word of truth we would all be lost. But thanks to Him and to His power, some of us will live indeed. Revelation 1:17-20 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. a. When John turned to the sound of the heavenly voice and saw the vision of the power of the Lord He fainted dead away. This is not the faint of the lightheaded or the infirm but a physical reaction to the awe inspiring presence of God. Throughout the Old Testament men have fallen on their faces when in the presence of the holy messengers of God. How much more so here in the presence of God Himself? God is awe incarnate and John fell forward as if dead until God reached out and restored him to life. It is this way for us as well. We walk in the presence of God daily for He is creator and sustainer of our world but we are as if dead to His influence. Men conduct their business as if they were masters and commanders of all they survey instead of God. It is only when God steps in and touches a man that He realizes just how perilous his station really was and the fear of that condition overtakes Him and he trembles. But Jesus in His mercy reaches out His very capable right hand and touches such a man and restores him to life; but not a life as it was before but a new life, such as has never been. That is the gift of God and the gift of our Lord Jesus. i. Daniel 10:10-12 Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. b. Jesus tells John not to be afraid. Those are often the first words out of the mouth of the heavenly messenger when speaking to man. Man faints dead away at the sight and sound of heaven and must be comforted and reassured that heaven is not going to destroy him. Contact of that sort must make a man see in incredibly uncomfortable detail the sinfulness that resides within him. I often thank God that I am not able to see myself in that kind of completeness because I think that knowledge of myself might destroy me. God only shows me that which I am able to recognize, understand, and accept. He gives me a piece of my sin to chew over and work on and that is enough; even that sometimes feels like too much. But we are told not to fear for God is not the enemy and God is not out to destroy us, no matter what our own guilt may tell us. God has only the best in mind for us and he reassures us of that fact before He does anything else. i. I also wonder sometimes whether or not it might be good for God to scare the heck out of the world sometimes by visiting more often. It is terrible that God has become so commonplace that the inspiration of awe is not the first thing that thought of Him induces. Even in the church God has been relegated to a position of Helper and Caregiver rather than Lord and Master. There are some who seem to think that God has become servant and we the ones who rub the bottle. That cannot be the case and we must not let that happen. God is our master and we are His servant, even His slaves. He must remain supreme in our Church, or else one day we might receive notice as these seven churches did. And in a very real sense we have received notice through these seven letters, haven’t we? c. I am the first and the last.

i. Jesus lists His credentials for commanding John’s obedience, as if His raiment and gleaming features were not proof enough. He is the One who was with God in the beginning and who will be with God in the end. He is the One who sacrificed everything in order to fulfill the desires of the Father and who was raised from that sacrifice by His Father who in turn gave to Jesus all power and authority over the entire created order. Even death and hell have no power over the King of kings. Against Jesus there is no power that can stand. Because of this fact Jesus demands the obedience of John and the entire Church that bears His name. d. Therefore write the things which you have seen. i. Jesus has a message for the seven churches that are under John’s oversight. Several of the other apostles wrote to various churches instructing them and exhorting them to lives of obedience to the One whose words are a two edged sword. John’s letters are written in the preface to a book filled with mystery and prophecy but his words are there for us to heed nonetheless. Jesus’ message is to us as well as to those of John’s time. The churches may be different and our angels may have different designation and duties but the call to obedience remains the same. We must heed that call.

Chapter Two
The seven letters that follow adhere to a similar structure. Each is addressed to a particular church from Jesus who identifies Himself in a specific way to each. Each description of Him stems from the description that John gave of his vision, the exception being the letters to the churches in Laodicea and Philadelphia. He tells each church that He knows them; He knows their deeds and He knows their troubles; He knows where they live. He tells each church what they have been doing right, if anything, and He tells them what it is that they have done wrong. He promises each church a reward if they overcome their troubles and their sinfulness and conquer in the name of God. And at the end of each letter he says, ‘He who has an ear let him hear.’ The words of the Lord go out into the world but thy will not return to Him without achieving their intended purpose. The world would do well to recognize that fact and act accordingly. Each letter is addressed to “the angel” of the church. This is an odd construction if we are going to continue to hold that these angels are really the Spirit of God hovering over each church throughout history, protecting and edifying them. However, Jesus would not send a letter from Himself, through John, to another member of the Trinity. At least I don’t think that He would; so there must be another meaning at play here. Matthew Henry and other commentators presume that the word angel in these passages refers either to a specific angel or, more likely, the human head of each congregation. If it is the latter then these letters are written to the ministers/ bishops of these seven Asian churches. They were written to the men who had direct oversight of these congregations and who were to be held responsible for their success or failure in upholding the word of God. Each of these letters can be read by any church in any age and that church can benefit. We are not immune to the same problems that afflicted these first churches and the churches that come after us will not be immune either. We all stand or fall on the word of God and it is His word here that we must use to measure ourselves and determine our worth and standing. I. Revelation 2:1-7 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’” a. The One who holds the seven stars/ and walks among the seven lampstands.

i. Thank you Matthew Henry for your eloquent summation of this verse. 1. He writes, “This title consists of two parts:—(1.) He that holds the stars in his right hand. The ministers of Christ are under his special care and protection. It is the honour of God that he knows the number of the stars, calls them by their names, binds the sweet influences of Pleiades and looses the bands of Orion; and it is the honour of the Lord Jesus Christ that the ministers of the gospel, who are greater blessings to the church than the stars are to the world, are in his hand. He directs all their motions; he disposes of them into their several orbs; he fills them with light and influence; he supports them, or else they would soon be falling stars; they are instruments in his hand, and all the good they do is done by his hand with them. (2.) He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks. This intimates his relation to his churches, as the other his relation to his ministers. Christ is in an intimate manner present and conversant with his churches; he knows and observes their state; he takes pleasure in them, as a man does to walk in his garden. Though Christ is in heaven, he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is amiss in them and what it is that they want. This is a great encouragement to those who have the care of the churches, that the Lord Jesus has graven them upon the palms of his hands.” b. I know your deeds i. As Henry wrote, it is a great encouragement to know that Jesus has us in the palms of His hands and that He is present in our churches and ‘conversant’ in our lives. We ‘know’ this from our reading of scripture and from our teachers but to know this truly would transform our lives. It must be a characteristic of humankind to be so divided in our minds that we can know something and at the same time live our lives as if we were in ignorance of it. At the time of this writing the churches were being established on the blood of martyrs and under the watchful eyes of the men and women who saw the Lord Jesus suffer and die. These people above all others should have known the Truth, in a way that we, two thousand years later will only know when we can see Jesus for ourselves. With their knowledge the next words of the Lord should never have been addressed to them; but they were. ii. Jesus acknowledges their ‘toil and perseverance’ for His name. The men and women of this church were obviously hard workers for the kingdom and had started down the right path. Jesus adds specific acknowledgment for their labors against the false apostles and ‘evil men.’ This church did not take kindly to those who would use the church and its gospel for their own personal gain. In this regard they were following closely after their Lord in His great displeasure at the teachers of Israel who had turned the worship of God into a great tool for financial gain and a means to gain political power and status within their communities. Falsehood under any guise turns the Lord’s eyes to fire. The church at Ephesus once had that fire but had appeared to have lost it, for Jesus’ next words command them to repent. The church had ‘forgotten’ its first love, which we must assume is the love of Jesus, and had lost the fire of their convictions and had allowed the false brethren to regain a foothold. Diligence and discipline are the keys to walking alongside the Lord Jesus. Without a constant eye on the sinfulness that resides within each of us and an eye for the collective laziness and self-satisfaction that is possible in even the holiest of congregations a church will quickly be lost. And when we lose that edge we become inert and incapable of working any form of good for the kingdom. The threat that overhangs each of us as believers and each of our churches is that our lampstand will be taken from us due to our losing our individual and collective fire. How many churches have thus been extinguished? How many of those even realize it? c. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent i. This is the magic potion, if we believed in magic. With the Lord repentance is always an option; in fact it is the only option. The marvel of the sacrifice of Jesus is that it works for

us an everlasting promise of salvation. We are promised, from a God who cannot lie, an eternity with Him. Because of that sacrifice and Jesus’ resurrection we are now free to live our lives without the fear of death and hell. We live instead in the hope of heaven and life. But we must live as if we have received the gift. We are partakers of a heavenly feast and as such we must conduct ourselves as if living in the sight of our Master at the head of the table. At first we try our hardest to reshape ourselves into the kind of people worthy to sit with a king. In our joy at being given such a chance, a second chance at life, we hurry to discipline ourselves, we pray fervently, we change our sins into holy habits; in short we overcome ourselves and our world in order to be who God wants us to be and to live in His world. But slowly, possibly because life is so dreary at times and because it never lets up with its demands and its dirt, we allow our elbows to rest on the table and we drop our napkins and do not bother to pick them up. We use our salad fork for the main course and we dribble our wine onto the pristine table cloth of God’s table. We lose the discipline that marked us as clearly as members of His house. In this letter to the Ephesians Jesus is reminding the believers of their first habits and their first victories. He commends them for that labor and is encouraging them to return to it, for it was the right behavior. He reminds them of the greatness of His sacrifice when He commands them to repent. You see the gift of God is that we can always return to him when our laziness and lack of discipline have begun to overwhelm our lives as Christians. There is always a reset button and a way back to proper manners at the table. There is a return for each of us, always. The question is will we take it when we remember it, or will we continue to be blight at His table until He decides we have outlived His graciousness and sends us to our rooms for our disrespectfulness and disobedience? d. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. i. Even with His call to repentance Jesus offers them praise for their refusal to slide so far that they have fallen in with what we might assume were the most outrageous of the false apostles, the Nicolaitans. Even in our darkest moments when we have slid as far as we ever have there might still be something with which we can hold onto for hope. We are never completely gone in His eyes. We can know that He still retains hope for us and still sees some good in us. ii. It appears as if this sect, the Nicolaitans, were the worst of the worst. If so then the commendation of Jesus to the Ephesians is that they have not sunk as far as they might have. There is good left in them for they have not fallen into the wickedness of this sect. They still hold out against bringing idolatry and sexual immorality into the church and into the lives of the body. iii. The church fathers held that this sect was following the teaching of Nicolas who was one of the seven chosen to lead the church in the book of Acts. This belief is not backed up by any scriptural evidence and another church father, Clement, held that the Nicolaitans falsely claimed him as their teacher (Tyndale Bible Dictionary). This sect is also linked to the Old Testament character, Balaam. Later in chapter two in the letter to Pergamum the Nicolaitans are equated with the immoral and idolatrous practices of Balaam. The followers of Balaam are an especially evil bunch as they partook in orgies and idol worship not as a matter of mere sinful pleasure but as an act of worship according to their own perverted ‘Christian’ doctrine. To refuse these evils was to delineate markedly the line between Christian and not. The Ephesians had fallen on the right side of this line; the church at Pergamum had not (Smith’s Bible Dictionary). e. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. i. Matthew 11:15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. 1. Jesus speaks these words to His followers after explaining to them about who John the Baptist was. Jesus is recorded as using this phrase at least four other times in the gospels. It is a metaphor for listening and understanding. Jesus does not want His followers to merely hear Him with the ears that He had created for

them, but to listen and understand with the hearts and minds that He had given them. It was a common phrase of Jesus’- a concluding kind of phrase. With it Jesus was telling His hearers that what He said was the truth, no matter how hard it was to believe or how much the hearer did not want to believe it. It was a ‘take it or leave it’ kind of statement from the One who had all the power and did not need to compromise with His listeners. 2. It is the same here; if the church in Ephesus had any hope of continuing its mission to spread the gospel and to enjoy the fruits of Christianity while on the earth it had better heed the warnings found in this brief letter. f. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. i. According to Strong’s the word overcome when it pertains to a Christian means that one will hold onto his faith even in the face of death, persecution, and temptation. If the Christian can maintain his discipline and vigilance against the evil doers that infiltrate the church and his life then Jesus will grant him an everlasting victory, that of eternal life in the kingdom. ii. Once again we face the troubling specter of a seeming contradiction in these words. How is it that we are saved when we believe but then if we fail in our faith we chance losing that salvation? It would seem, from these words, that Jesus is threatening not only to take the lampstand from the church for failure to repent but will also take the lamp from the heart of the believer who does not mend his ways. Is it possible that we can lose the gift that was so freely given if we turn back to a life that is not right before God and we begin to do evil? As much as I hate to say it I think that is a very real possibility. As much as the contemporary church speaks of ‘once saved always saved’ these words seem to speak a stronger word. What a sobering thought that would be if we were to believe it! He who has ears, indeed! iii. Others have struggled to ‘hear’ this passage as well. To some the overcomer is merely a believer who has heard the call and accepted- his salvation is the tree of life. That doesn’t seem to fit here as the tree of life seems to be offered as something that one does not yet have and scripture tells us that salvation comes upon belief so these churches would already have had their eternal salvation squared away. To others these words indicate, as I have speculated, that you can lose your salvation if you do not hold to the love of Jesus fervently. And to others still this tree of life is one of several rewards spoken of in these seven letters that will be granted to the ‘overcomer’ (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary). What is the truth? Sad to say, but we may have to wait until the judgment to find out for sure. It is kind of arrogant to categorically state that we know it, when only Jesus knows for certain. What we can know for certain is that Jesus was not just hinting that loving Him was a prerequisite for eating of the tree of life. We can know that if we fail to hold fast against the false apostles and the lust of the eyes and flesh then we will lose something that ought to be very dear to us. Those things in themselves ought to be enough to sober us into repentance. II. Revelation 2:8-11 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. a. Smyrna was a city roughly forty miles from Ephesus (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) and it is not a great leap to imagine that the church was founded by emissaries from that city. Smyrna had offered allegiance to Rome while Rome was yet a rising power and that move made it a favored city among the emperors. This meant that the Roman religion had a stronghold in Smyrna and

that believers there were in a constant struggle between Jesus as Lord and Caesar as Lord (Tyndale Bible Dictionary). b. The Jews in Smyrna were also a force against the Christian believers. They faced much persecution at the hands of the Jews as well. Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was martyred there, possibly due to false accusations levied against him by the Jewish leaders in that city (Harper’s Bible Dictionary). c. The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: i. This appears to be a reference to the description John gave of the Lord, although in some of the reference material it is thought to be an allusion to Smyrna’s resurgence as an important city after hundreds of years of relative obscurity (New Bible Dictionary). I will stick with the former because it would be more in keeping with the other letters of John to the seven churches that seem to hold to this pattern. ii. Jesus was dead upon His crucifixion. So dead, and so quickly dead, that they removed Him from the cross that very day and placed Him into a tomb and sealed it shut. But, thanks to the great power of God, Jesus was raised to life once more and is no longer dead. He has come to life and now lives forever once again. What this means for us, and why this is such a great encouragement and reminder, is that we too no longer have to fear death for we too, like our Lord, will be raised to life and forever stand alongside Jesus in worship of the Father. He has overcome death, and in so doing He has shared that victory with us. Death has no power; for life is now ruler. 1. Romans 6:8-9 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. iii. Jesus is the first and the last. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the beginning and the end. These are such familiar words, and such simple words to learn and to remember. But what do they mean? What is it to be the beginning and the end of something; of everything? 1. The statement is an all-inclusive one; Jesus is everything, there is nothing that is left out and nothing that He is not. He is all that we need to know and all that we need to worship. If our attention is firmly riveted upon Him then we are in no danger of falling away and losing anything. 2. Jesus was in the beginning with the Father (John 1) and because of His Father’s resurrecting power He will now be standing as King until the end. And since there is no beginning and no end to God Jesus is calling Himself God. a. 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, and there is no God besides Me. d. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. i. Once again, Jesus knows the troubles that plague His churches. He holds their church in the palm of His hand and His angels are watching and reporting and the Spirit is hovering and teaching and comforting. But troubles exist and they always will exist. It is not for the believer or the body of believers to try to escape the tribulation that will come in life. For trouble is in the world and the world itself seeks to destroy that which was made by God to share in His glory. The world itself is ruled by the evil one and many of its people are his servants and not the Lord’s, whether they are aware of it or not. In Smyrna though there were the worst of the worst followers of the evil one. There were Jews in Smyrna, who, in the name of God, persecuted the Christians and greatly upset their peace. These Jews Jesus calls a synagogue of Satan. No punches held back here, our Lord calls it as He sees it- these men were not followers of the Father in heaven but rather followers of the father of lies who is doomed to spend a long time not in heaven but chained in hell. While spreading His gospel and teaching men the way to the Father through repentance

and belief in the Son, Jesus once called the Jews children of satan. He was met with outrage, but was undeterred. A man is the sum of his deeds. A good word and a good rationale will only get a man so far, at some point a man has to stand up and look at the fruit of his works and ask himself, “Is it possible that I am wrong here?” One wonders if any of those Jews felt that tug in their heart to rethink Jesus. One wonders if any in Smyrna did the same. One wonders how many in our time will ask themselves the tough questions. Nevertheless, Jesus is Lord and His word is true; it cuts through a man like a sword and gets to the root of the issue. ii. Even through the persecution, which probably led to great poverty in a Roman controlled and Jewish influenced community where the believer was the outcast, this church is called rich. It may seem to be a poor attempt at making oneself feel better to say that the riches and comforts of the world pale in comparison to the peace of God and the promise of eternal life, but it is the point that is made here. The opinion of the world about this logic is of little importance; the Truth is that the believer is rich beyond any standard of wealth devised by men. This church in Smyrna, which appears to have done everything correctly and had followed the teaching of the apostles, was rewarded with great earthly pain and great earthly discomfort and sorrow. But Jesus calls them rich. They are the inheritors of an everlasting life; they will reside forever in a kingdom that has no end; and they are promised a crown that will surpass the crowns of the emperors and the kings of man. It is hard for a worldly man to understand the trade-off that a Christian makes but once that trade-off is made the Christian has no doubt as to the right-ness of his faith. e. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. i. The believer gets no promise of safety from God when he or she chooses to follow after Him. The purpose of Christianity ought not to be to make a person feel better about earthly troubles or to offer a way to avoid the turmoil of life. A church that teaches that prayer and sacrifice will lead the way to a life of prosperity and peace is a synagogue of satan as much as a church that actively teaches against the Lordship of Christ as the Jews did. The purpose of Christianity is to offer a hope for a future without the trouble of this life and to negate the fear of death that every man has felt when faced with his own mortality and the unknown beyond the grave. Christianity lights the way past the grave and shows the believer that there is no fear in death due the very real life in Christ. Life after salvation may continue on just as miserably as it did before salvation. Salvation is not a ticket to safety, it is a help through trouble. The world is a fallen place and it is in the hands of a fallen angel that seeks to hurt and destroy as many followers of God as he can. We must expect there to be trouble as we live our lives. We must adhere best that we can to the dictates of scripture in order to give us the best possible shot at a life without personal negative consequences; but beyond that we cannot do anything to avoid the trouble that comes at us from the world and from the evil one. It is during troubling times that we turn to our faith and our hope in God to give us the strength to endure and to persevere until the end of it. God is our help in times of trouble and that is one of His greatest gifts. To the unbeliever, living in the same world, with the same consequences and destructive agents working toward evil, where is their help? They have no one to turn to and no way to understand the pain they face. I would not trade that for any earthly benefit or pleasure. ii. Jesus warns the believers in Smyrna that there is coming yet more tribulation. He identifies the source of it and the length of it. Whether this is a literal experience they will face or it is symbolic is secondary to the main point that Jesus makes. Trial is coming, prepare for it, strengthen yourselves and endure. Jesus promises them a crown of life, just as He promised the tree of life to the Ephesians, if they endured to the end. What this

reward is exactly is unclear. However, can one read this passage and not wonder, will I get to eat from that tree or wear this crown of life? f. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’ i. A man is destined to die- but once. Man only gets one shot in this life and his only real guarantee is that there will be an end to that life one day. For all men must die and face the judgment. 1. Hebrews 9:27-28 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. 2. And Jesus Christ is integral to that man’s death. He waits for each man and each man’s life is awaiting His judgment. To the man who eagerly is waiting for that reunion Jesus will embrace him with open arms ‘without reference’ to that man’s sin. What needs not be said is that to the one who has avoided or ignored the Christ that very same Jesus waits in order to execute judgment upon Him. There is a second time coming, after the first, when men must face ‘death’. The second death must then be this judgment. Men who ‘overcome’ need not to fear this death; they will not be hurt by it. What of those who do not? a. From Matthew Henry: With a gracious promise to the conquering Christian: He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death, v. 11. Observe, (1.) There is not only a first, but a second death, a death after the body is dead. (2.) This second death is unspeakably worse than the first death, both in the dying pangs and agonies of it (which are the agonies of the soul, without any mixture of support) and in the duration; it is eternal death, dying the death, to die and to be always dying. This is hurtful indeed, fatally hurtful, to all who fall under it. (3.) From this hurtful, this destructive death, Christ will save all his faithful servants; the second death shall have no power over those who are partakers of the first resurrection: the first death shall not hurt them, and the second death shall have no power over them. III. Revelation 2: 12-17 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’” a. New Bible Dictionary: Pergamum became a great kingdom boasting a library rivaling that of Alexandria and was ‘bequeathed’ to the Roman Empire upon the death of its king. The kingdom became the Roman province of Asia and consequently added emperor worship to its list of cultic practices. b. The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. i. The two edged sword is one that cuts to the marrow, deep and clean, slicing on its way in and then cleanly on its way out. The two edged sword is a symbol for the Word of Truth

that is thrust from the mouth of the One who was in the beginning and the end; it is the Word of God itself, objectified. 1. Isaiah 49:1-2 “The Lord called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me. He has made My mouth like a sharp sword” 2. Hebrews 4:11-13 “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” ii. I know where you dwell 1. Jesus empathizes with these believers for they are deep in the land of the lost, where the idolatry of Rome and the surrounding peoples is entrenched. The city itself was built around the temples of these gods and later the worship of the new gods of Rome. Jesus knew this and He knew as well the struggle that these Christians faced in staying true to the true God in the face of pressure from all sides. Their very lives were sometimes in danger from the heretical followers of the cults. 2. Jesus refers to this city as the place where the throne of satan is. Some commentators have taken this to be a referral to throne of the emperor which was located here for a time. On another level satan has his throne wherever the lust of the flesh and the eyes and the pride of life are allowed to reign unchecked. In a city such as Smyrna satan has authority to do whatever he chooses because the people gave themselves over to him and they probably did not even know it. iii. These Christians are praised for standing fast even when members of their own church were being martyred for refusing to give in to the mandates of culture. They held fast to the name of Jesus and kept their eyes fixed firmly upon Him. They did not deny Him even when the sword of Rome came up against the sword of Christ. A man named Antipas is named forever in scripture as being faithful unto death. His name stands in heaven as a true one, for he kept hold of what was good and kept his sights on the afterlife fearing not for the life of his body. 1. Hebrews 12:2 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 2. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary Antipas was Bishop of Pergamum. According to the New Bible Dictionary Antipas was ‘roasted in a brazen bowl during the reign of Domitian.’ The Catholic Encyclopedia simply lists him as a martyr of Pergamum 3. All tradition aside, these early Christians, both men and women, faced many dangers and fearful deaths were they to do what the Lord commanded them to do. These brothers and sisters of ours were taken by one of the cruelest empires ever to control the world and forced to suffer horrible and unspeakable deaths. They were martyred willingly in order to hold fast to the name of Jesus. All of our words of theology and our doctrines of the faith pale in comparison to the very real act of allowing oneself to be roasted alive because you refuse to deny God. We live in such comfort and security, there are probably a greater percentage of people living in more luxury than at any other time in the history of the world, and we sit behind our computers and in our pews (cushioned) and we talk about

God and what He wants. These early Christians lived in the midst of satan himself and were able to stop speaking in order to act on behalf of their faith. I on the other hand have a difficult time resisting sin from the comfort of my own couch, let alone face a fire victoriously. I almost wish that we might be faced with more in order to strengthen the little faith that we have. If we saw what these men and women saw would we not grow in faith as they so obviously did? Are we not indeed becoming fat and lazy as God so often criticized the Israelites about becoming? And are we not suffering the consequences of our apathy? c. Balaam, Balak, and the Nicolaitans i. Here is the rub- although they have in the past stood as firm as Antipas they have now in their midst a contingent that holds fast to something other than Jesus. Allowing sin to remain in the body of believers without confronting it and commanding that it be sent away is sin itself. Jesus is telling these believers that they must choose between the worship that is right and the worship that is idolatry. There can be only one!  ii. 2 Peter 2:13-16 They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 1. In Numbers 22-24 we read the account of Balaam and the famous talking donkey. Balak the king of Moab saw the camp of the Israelites in the plain on the borders of his kingdom and was fearful for the security of his country. He sent for Balaam the prophet to ask him to curse the people coming up from Egypt and to protect his land. Balaam, in this account, is true to God and speaks only the word that he is given from God to Moab. Balaam actually blesses the Israelites and gives Balak a taste of what future conquest awaits him at the Israelite’s hands. In this account Balaam is seen as obedient to God, although we see that God is not too pleased with his speaking to Balak in the first place. It would seem that Balaam was entertaining the ides of actually cursing Israel in order to gain the ‘honor’ that Balak kept promising (Deuteronomy 23:1). a. Jude 11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. b. In the 2 Peter passage as well as in Jude we see the actions of Balaam as suspect. It was greed that motivated Balaam and not the task of representing God to man faithfully. From the start God said that He did not want Balaam to go to the Moabites for God knew what would eventually become of them. Balaak must have persisted and God allowed him to go but did not permit him to speak the words that Balak wanted to pay him for. Instead Balaam was only able to utter the blessing upon Israel and the curse upon Moab. We would not be able to see this if we only had the Old Testament scripture. It is a great benefit to have the New writings as well. iii. In Numbers 31 we read of the fall of Midian at the hands of Israel and included among the slain is one Balaam son of Peor. Balaam met his end at the hands of the very people he was sent to curse. He was slain by the sword of the chosen of God, the God he professed to serve. It is apparent that Balaam was not the obedient servant he appears to be at first glance in Numbers 22. He was motivated by greed and then fell into some awful kind of sin that eventually earned him his earthly destruction. Was he fighting against Israel? Was he leading a cultic practice in the region of Midian? Did he allow

himself to turn away from God completely in order to serve his own desires for lust and power? The rest of scripture seems to paint that picture. iv. Harper’s Bible Dictionary- Balaam was a renowned seer in the Transjordan region and he had fame as one who could either bless or curse provided there was enough money changing hands. v. We don’t have a scriptural account of the wickedness of Balaam to rival that of his obedience to God in the donkey account but we can glean from the other mentions of his name that he was not a true and true prophet of the True God. Balaam was in the seer business for the money, it was his greed that sent him to Balak and it was only the power of God that convinced him to speak only curses to that king. In these other references Balaam is equated with immorality and the teaching of ways contrary to the will of God. It is for these reasons that Balaam was destroyed and it is these very same reasons that Jesus is threatening destruction to us if we do not change our ways and root out this kind of evil from our churches. d. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. i. Therefore repent- I love the simplicity of that command. I place all of my hope on the truth of that command. Therefore- since what you are doing is so obviously not in accord with the will of God, repent! Repent is to change one’s direction when one finds oneself heading in the wrong direction. Therefore, since you are so obviously heading the wrong way, turn around and make it right! I continually find myself heading in the wrong direction and I see the glaring inconsistencies between my actions and my profession of faith. Therefore, I must turn myself around whenever I see that sin rearing its head. I feel the weight and shame of sin and I almost succumb to its grasp but I have to remember that our God is living and active and that He always promises a hand up to anyone who seeks Him. I have to believe that includes me, even when I give in to temptation and fall repeatedly into the same mire. I have to believe that these believers in Pergamum were being offered a second, third, and even a fourth chance to return to their first love, the love that had saved them in the first place. The synagogue of satan tries to teach us that once we turn and have messed up our spotless robes that we may never be clean again. But that is a lie from the father of lies. My robe, as soiled as it may be, has still come from the King of kings and it is He that has saved me from the world that I inhabit and it is He who has placed me in the battle that I wage. My robe may be spotty and stained but I wear it proudly in the name of the One who gave it to me. And one day it will be made new and never be stained again. e. Manna and a new white stone i. Manna was the ‘wonder bread’ of the wilderness. It was the food substance that God delivered each day, always enough sustenance for one day, to the people of Israel as they wandered their way through the land outside of the Promised Land. ii. A stone was often used to commemorate an event of great importance. To remember a stone would be set up or an altar made and the words of the event written upon them for all future generations to see. God would command the people that when a child asked about the stone or the altar that the story of that event would be told so that future generations would never forget God’s mercy and kindness to His people. Remembering is our key to holding fast to the promises of God. If we allow ourselves to forget from where we came and through what we were delivered we run the risk of forgetting the promise of where we are going and who it is that has the power to get us there. Israel is famous in scripture for forgetting from one generation to the next who they were and from where they came. They were continuously guilty of forgetting God and turning instead to the powerful gods of the cultures that they kept getting themselves entangled with. We too are probably going to be famous as a people and as a church for forgetting our beginnings. Those who grow up in the church run the greatest risk for they do not

carry the scars of sin that so many of the rest of us do. We can look over our scars and remember where they came from and what they did to us. Our children have no such scars so we must remind them of ours and always point to them and tell them the stories so that they develop a generational memory of the church and its saving God. iii. Jesus promises to feed us in this verse with some of the hidden manna and to give us a new stone. We can’t know for certain what the hidden manna is; possibly it is the same as before, simply sustenance from heaven. If we overcome our sins and we keep our church clean of the sin of others then God will provide for us exactly what we need for each day of our lives. The stone on the other hand is ripe with possible meanings. It is a new stone, given to us for the remembrance of a new thing, one that has not yet happened. It will carry the name of that event and whenever we look at it and read its inscription we will know that it is for us, for it will carry our special name. Therefore, repent! There is more to come, and it will be glorious! We must continue to stand fast, to remember, to struggle against the sin that so easily entangles us, and to repent of our sin and that of our brothers. When we do this, if we do this, then there will be future things, marvelous things, which we will enjoy forever with Jesus. And the stone will remind us of all that led us to Him. iv. And from Matthew Henry: “The white stone, with a new name engraven upon it. This white stone is absolution from the guilt of sin, alluding to the ancient custom of giving a white stone to those acquitted on trial and a black stone to those condemned. The new name is the name of adoption: adopted persons took the name of the family into which they were adopted. None can read the evidence of a man’s adoption but himself; he cannot always read it, but if he persevere he shall have both the evidence of sonship and the inheritance.” v. Isaiah 62:2-4 The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, Desolate”; but you will be called, “My delight is in her,” and your land, married”; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. IV. Revelation 2: 18-29 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ a. Thyatira was a city on the road between Pergamum and Sardis. In Acts we read that Paul’s first convert in Philippi was Lydia from Thyatira (Harper’s Bible Dictionary). Thyatira was known for its dyeing and other commercial ventures. With these ventures came membership in the guild associated with them. With the financial benefits that came with membership there was often the practice of idolatry and immoral sexual and pagan practices (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible

Dictionary). Commentators write that the opening of this letter to Thyatira referencing the flames of fire and feet of burnished bronze may allude to the metal working guilds found in the city. In each of the letters to the churches this same kind of allusion might be made making the dual meaning of these passages all the more intriguing. b. The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze i. Jesus was proclaimed to be God’s Son by the Father at the moment of His baptism. In the wilderness when satan was attempting to turn Jesus away from His Father he questioned the fact that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus’ defeat of satan in the wilderness and in His resurrection and all of the gospel accounts in between prove that Jesus is the Son of God. ii. Here we see the Son of God differently than we saw Him in the gospels. In these letters the Son of God is written of as God Himself was written of in the Old Testament. In the first letters Jesus holds the stars and has the two-edged sword, both of which are New Testament allusions and/or symbols. In this letter Jesus is described exactly as His Father was described in the Old Testament. Just as in the beginning verses of this book, this allusion to the Old Testament writing shows the nature of the Godhead, the mystery of the Trinity, and it shows the power of the glorified Christ over creation. In this letter to Thyatiran Christians the Son of God is manifesting Himself not only as master of their particular guilds and commerce but as the Lord of their very lives and eternity. c. I know your deeds i. Love, Faith, Service, and Perseverance 1. This church is commended for having love of others foremost in their congregation; for having belief in God and in the Son; for serving each other and their community, and for persevering in the midst of the turmoil from Rome that was sweeping these churches. These four qualities are inextricably linked in the life of a believer; or ought to be. One cannot love if one does not know faith in Christ. One’s faith is of little value if it is not backed up with service, as James so wonderfully said. And these three are tested constantly as the believer struggles to persevere against his own sinful tendencies, the meddling attacks of the demons, and the constant mess that the fallen world throws at us. ii. The church in Thyatira is commended for their work for the kingdom. They are commended for doing more at the time of this writing than they had done in the past. This is unusual praise because believers and groups of believers tend to slide into inactivity and slip in their vigilance over their purity. This body of believers however gets that unusual praise, except for one glaring detail: Jesus knows about the Jezebel. For some reason this church has allowed a member of their communion to not only behave in a manner inconsistent with their beliefs but to actually draw others to herself and her practices. iii. The rebuke Jesus gives comes in two parts, a list of the offences which include proclaiming herself a prophetess and teaching and leading others into sexual immorality and idolatry, and the warning which is very severe as are the consequences for not heeding it. iv. Jezebel 1. There was another Jezebel written of in scripture, one by whose name all future immoral women were to be called. This first Jezebel left such a mark on history that it is inconceivable that a church would ‘tolerate’ a woman calling herself by that name and claiming at the same time to be a Christian. But it happened; the church in Thyatira let this woman become who she became during their watch. They did not help her into repentance and they did not discipline her lack of repentance. Thus, God held them accountable in addition to her and her followers. 2. One of the kings of Israel, Ahab, himself another whose name has come through history as synonymous with immorality and evil, did the unthinkable and married a woman of a foreign kingdom and began to follow her god, baal. That woman

was the first Jezebel. This woman built around her a religion that worshiped all that was evil in the sight of the God of Israel. It was Jezebel’s 450 priests of baal that went against the great prophet Elijah. It was Jezebel’s influence that brought idolatry and the sexual immorality that is often associated with it into the nation of God. But this woman was not tolerated for long, for in the end she met a gruesome and particularly unpleasant end. We read in the book of 2 Kings that she was finally dealt with by being thrown to her death from her window and trampled under by horses and subsequently eaten by dogs. They found very little to bury except her skull and the bones of her feet and hands. v. Perhaps the biggest sin of this woman Jezebel, both the one in this letter and the one in the past, was that she led the bond-servants of Christ astray. She not only went astray herself from the desires and teachings of God but attempted and succeeded in leading others to that place with her. We must not only remain ever-vigilant for our own purity and adherence to the Way of God but we must also remain diligent lest we lead others to sin when we ourselves fall. We are the guardians of the kingdom of God and we bear the responsibility of keeping the Church pure from sin. We must not bring our sin into the church and we must not let our sin affect those within her either. And beyond this personal duty there is the duty of the church itself to ensure the purity of the body of believers so that the church of Christ would not appear blemished to an unbelieving world. The believers in Thyatira allowed Jezebel to make a place for herself and her pagan ways within the body of believers. She was allowed, and therefore condoned, to live in her sin and to teach others to live in it as well. This is the rebuke of Christ to this particular church, that they let this take place under their watch. This sin makes their previous work and their present endeavors lose their luster because they are offset by such an evil; an evil that resides within them and will soon take them over should they fail to cleanse themselves of it. vi. The judgment had already fallen on this woman at the time of this letter’s writing. Jesus says that He gave her an opportunity to repent and she did not take it. Jezebel was offered forgiveness and a way back into the grace of God but she turned Him down. She chose instead to gratify her flesh in immorality and to gratify her lust for power by leading a fledgling flock of idolaters. The sobering thought here is that God will allow a believer to destroy him or herself if that believer chooses wrongly. It is sobering to think that God will not always reach out a hand and stop the believer from continuing down a road that leads only to death. We sometimes, in our day, think of Jesus as our Great Friend and Savior and that has come to mean that He accepts us in our infirmity and in so doing accepts our failure to change. We like to think that Jesus and His Father do not expect us to be perfect but only that we admit our imperfection. But scripture seems to say something entirely different. Here in this passage, and earlier in the gospels, the mandate is most definitely for change. And the amount of change is limitless for we are commanded to be as perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. Can we do this? Of course we cannot- not perfectly anyway. But we sure can try- and that is what this Jezebel refused to do and that is what the believers in Thyatira were refusing to do by allowing her sin to fester within their community. Jesus judged her and found her guilty and He informs the Thyratirans that she will certainly face a horrible judgment just as her namesake did in the Old Testament. The question that He asks the church in Thyatira is, “What about you? Will you repent so that I can heal you and your church?” d. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. i. To repent is to change one’s mind about a particular sin or course of action. Jesus gave this woman an opportunity to change her mind about what she was engaged in. He gave her a chance to turn herself around and to begin again in a right and proper direction. It is important to note here that Jesus does not require us to perform absolution for the sins we have committed or even for the ones that we are currently committing. Jesus only

requires that we change our minds about them and be willing to turn away from them and pursue a different course. He is not commanding that this woman do anything other than to turn from her sin in order to get herself back on the proper path. But she did not want to. Her personal desire was of such strength that her love for God and for His Son diminished in the presence of it. She would rather continue in the life of immorality that she had created for herself, with all of its perverse pleasures than to turn back to God and follow His desires for her. We can learn something from this simple fact. We can learn from this, and we ought to be very wary of it, that our own desire for pleasure, success, or control can drive us more powerfully than our desire for being led by the hand of God. That, I think must be the power of sin in our lives. That must be the very fact that keeps men from God; that we simply do not want to follow Him. We can probably discount all of the rhetoric and the convincing apologetics for and against the idea of faith. What it really comes down to is a simple matter of desire. Men do not want to follow the Lord because men would rather continue in their sins. The lust of the flesh and the pride of life outweighs the thirst for living water and the hope of eternity. What a commentary that makes of the human condition! e. I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. i. The nature of this Jezebel’s idolatry reeks of sexual immorality. The word translated immorality can be used to illustrate the kind of sexual sin that comes with idol worship. Consider a practice that not only involves worshiping false gods and goddesses, but the setting oneself up as that goddess, and performing ritual sacrifice to the idol and committing acts of sexual intercourse for and about that idol. That is what Jezebel was accused of doing within the confines of the church in Thyatira. That is what she was teaching other believers in that church was a proper practice of Christianity. Jesus tells the believers in that church that He is going to cast her upon her own bed and let any who choose her to come forward and have intercourse with her. Those that so choose will find themselves in great turmoil, unless they decide to choose differently than their teacher had chosen. The die was already cast for the woman. What remained to be seen was whether or not the disciples of the woman were going to follow their teacher or turn back to follow their first love, Jesus. f. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. i. In this verse the word pestilence is the Greek word for death. According to Strong’s it implies everything from the death of the body to the separation of the body and soul at death, to the miserable condition of that soul in hell and torment after death. This is a spooky word; translating it ‘pestilence’ conjures up images of plague and insects and rot and decay. The followers of Jezebel were going to be judged next, and if they too were found wanting even after being given a chance to repent just as she was, that judgment was not going to be in their favor. Jesus says that He will kill her and her followers for their sin. He will cast them into hell. They will suffer. These are not words to be taken lightly, either by these first century believers or our twenty-first century believers. ii. Jesus explains why He will do this; or more accurately, what will happen when He does this. The churches will know that He is God. They will know that He is the One who knows the innermost thoughts of man and is able to cut through those thoughts to get to the real condition of a man. Jesus says this, I think, to strike fear into the hearts of His church so that they will not take these kinds of gross sins lightly. He seems to want His church to understand that they are being watched and evaluated. The church does not operate in the absence of Christ but in His very presence. For this church in Thyatira Jesus was their shepherd and He wanted them and their fellow churches to understand that He was jealous for them and would not tolerate any taint or blemish among His flock.

iii. I am He who searches the minds and hearts 1. This is a common understanding of God in both the Old and New Testament. God repeatedly declares His omnipotence over both the ways of men and the hearts of men. God is in the details of a man’s life and He knows the inner workings and motivations of a man. Jesus wants the church to understand that God is the same now and forever and just as the Israelites had to learn that He knows them inside and out so the churches in Asia Minor have to learn this. As David wrote in Psalm 139 there is no escaping from God for He is ever present. There is no escaping His notice for He is omniscient. This woman in Thyatira was not going to get away with her grievous disregard for the church and neither were her followers. The church in Thyatira had to understand this as did the rest of the churches in the kingdom of God. 2. Psalm 139:1 O Lord, You have searched me and known You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. iv. I will give each one of you according to your deeds 1. The simple truth is that there is a judgment. Men are tried and judged according to the deeds done while in the body. Throughout scripture there is a one to one equivalence between what you do with your life and what will be done to you in the next life. The rich man who would not take care of the poor man at his gates is seen lamenting his fate as he watches that poor man being cared for by Abraham while he himself suffers the heat and thirst of hell. Time after time when Israel or her people turned from the way of the Lord they met a grim and terrible punishment. If she entered into idolatry the neighboring nations would be allowed to enter her borders and slaughter her people. When Achan took forbidden plunder he and his whole family paid the terrible price of being swallowed alive into the earth. When Judas turned away from Christ in His final hours he himself died alone outside of Jerusalem and was split open and eaten by carrion. We cannot deceive ourselves as Jezebel apparently did, that God will overlook our sinful transgressions and allow us to carry on in our own ways within His body. We are His now, we have been bought with a price just as the Israelites were when God redeemed them out of Egypt. We no longer have our own say to live or die as we please (as if we ever did). We now must live as He says or He will take us out as He promised to do with the sinners in Thyatira and as He did with the sinners throughout the accounts in scripture. g. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. i. There are always going to be those who do not follow along with the rest. There will always be a remnant in the church that does not lose faith, just as in Israel there was always a remnant, no matter how severe the transgression or the discipline. To those who have not followed after the teaching of Jezebel Jesus places no additional burden. God will not load us up with task after task and duty after duty. It is enough that we strive to follow after Him. It is enough that we turn away from false teachers and idols. To follow Him is the task that God places on us- it is enough that we do this with all of our hearts and minds and strength. ii. ‘The deep things of satan’ must have been the phrase that Jezebel used to lure her followers in. There is something compelling to the human psyche about the dark-side. Men are intrigued by the unknown; and the unknown power of evil is somehow attractive

to us because we mistakenly think that it holds the power to satisfy our lusts and desires for control and gratification. Men seek this power over the power of God because he thinks that it is power he is able to control. To follow after Jezebel placed the reins of fate in the hands of the follower and not God. It gave personal control over one’s satisfaction and destiny. But it was a lie. It is a lie. The father of lies is satan; to use his name as a lure toward autonomy is the height of irony. His desire is to control his own fate and to be independent of the Lord. His method of attaining this is to misdirect and to mislead as many of the children of God as he can in order to disrupt and possibly destroy the kingdom of God and take it over for himself. But he will not be able to do this because he himself is operating under a delusion. He is not master of his own destiny for he too is merely a creature, created with a purpose that must be fulfilled. The rest of the book of Revelation illustrates that purpose and his final destiny. He is lost. To the followers of Jezebel, who are the followers of satan, God says, ‘You are to be destroyed for you have forsaken my ways and have chosen another.’ That is what is written and we can be sure that for as many who did not repent that is exactly what happened to them. To the rest God says that He will not forsake them nor add to their already difficult burden which was the resisting of the evil in the world and the evil which had crept into their church. God simply says to them, ‘Hold fast.’ Hold on church of Christ for He is coming. Continue to resist the evil day and to continue in the path that you have chosen. Do not weary and do not give up. Jesus is coming and He is going to take us with Him. Amen! h. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. i. The NASB places some of this verse in small capital letters to indicate that they believe it to be a quote or a reference to a prophecy of the Old Testament. This reference is to Psalm 2 where God delivers all authority to His begotten Son, giving Him the nations and the power to lift them up or destroy them. God says this in response to the people ‘devising a vain thing’ and turning away from Him as King and turning to the ‘deep’ things of the surrounding nations. Why do men always look elsewhere for their salvation and hope rather than to the Lord who promises to save and can deliver? ii. The last three verses of this psalm foretell exactly the kind of dealing that men can expect if they choose to turn from him and choose instead to follow the likes of Jezebel. 1. Psalm 2:10-12 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, or His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! iii. In this passage in Revelation, however, the power and authority are given to mankind. The reference to the psalm is to point to the kind of power that God wants to bestow upon His children, the children of man. Jesus is the first among men and the only begotten of the Father. Jesus is our elder brother and our example of life without sin. God has already given Him the throne and the crown over creation. But to us our new king gives us the promise of authority among men. This verse seems to promise that to the men who overcome this kind of sin in their lives and in their churches Jesus will grant the power to judge the ‘nations’- which I take to mean the surrounding nations of unbelievers. What this means in truth I cannot say and I really don’t want to hazard a guess for my vanity might kick in and I would be lost. But those nations are to be shattered by the rod of iron, by the authority that these men in the church will wield on judgment day. Jesus grants this power based on the authority that He Himself was granted on the day He became the Son of God. iv. The morning star

1. Matthew Henry: Knowledge and wisdom, suitable to such power and dominion: I will give him the morning-star. Christ is the morning-star. He brings day with him into the soul, the light of grace and of glory; and he will give his people that perfection of light and wisdom which is requisite to the state of dignity and dominion that they shall have in the morning of the resurrection. 2. Daniel 12:3 “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” 3. Jesus is inextricably linked to light throughout scripture. He is the Light of the world. He is the Sunrise from on high (Luke 1:78). He is the bright morning star (Revelation 22:16). Commentators take this passage to mean that to the overcomer Jesus will bring into his soul the Light of the world; that in some way these overcomers will gain a share of Jesus that the rest of the believing church will not gain. This makes sense in that all men will not be able to wield the power of authority at the same time and in the same way so this gift must indeed be exclusive to the ones who can ‘overcome.’ To overcome then must be something very special, for all men might not be able to achieve it. In this passage to overcome means to resist the sin of compromise in the church and to stand firm in the knowledge and faith in Jesus. It is to obey no matter the cost and no matter the pain. All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved in the end on the last day but only to some will the morning star be given. a. The problem with this approach is that if only some get the promise of this verse than it would make sense that only some get the promises of the other verses in these letters to the churches. That would be an unfortunate interpretation because those other promises sound a lot like the salvation that all believers will enjoy. What is clear is that in order to enjoy any of the promises of God it is of the utmost importance that one work diligently to refrain from sin and to abolish it from one’s presence when it appears.

Chapter Three
I. Revelation 3:1-6 1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” a. From Harper’s Bible Dictionary: Sardis was one of those cities that had in its past achieved great glory and wealth among the nations. It was an extremely affluent city gaining influence under King Croesus but a city which could not hold on to its independence. It was successively defeated by the Persians, Greeks, and Romans and was robbed of its wealth over and over again. It once had prominence as a center of textile production and it is said that the dyeing of wool was invented there. The reference in the letter to Sardis to white robes and a “name that you are alive” may partially refer to Sardis’ former glory and commerce. b. He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars i. Jesus tells us in Revelation 1:20 that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches addressed in this Revelation. He tells us in that same verse that the seven lampstands are

the churches themselves. So then what are the seven Spirits of God He speaks of here? Are they, as I conjectured above, a reference to the Holy Spirit who watches over each church in the Kingdom of God omnipresent-ly? The NASB capitalizes the word ‘Spirit’ here as if it were a proper name for the Holy Spirit. Each church may have its own attendant angel that is tasked with watching over and reporting on progress made and the activities of the evil ones in thwarting such progress. But aside from the business of heaven and the battle between good and evil there is the fact we also know that the Holy Spirit Himself has a hand and a presence in each believer’s life. He is our great Counselor and Teacher. He is with us whenever two or more are present in prayer. And we believe that He indwells our hearts when we believe in the Son of God. He may be these seven Spirits that are present with Jesus in heaven and that are with not only the seven churches of this letter but with each church in and throughout history. ii. Matthew Henry aptly makes the point that Jesus is reminding this church, which is ‘languishing,’ that He has the resources they need if they want to recover. Jesus holds the powers of the Holy Spirit in His hands and He offers it to the churches of God if they would only apply themselves to it. What is it about man that refuses to take and eat what is offered for sustenance but will wholeheartedly partake in that which will only bring about destruction? c. I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. i. Jesus knows. He is omniscient as His Father is omniscient. There is nothing that we can hide from Him. He has the Spirit(s) in His hand and He knows that the church at Sardis has not asked for help in turning itself around. He knows what the people of this region once were and how that pride has carried them through many disappointing defeats at the hands of new and ever more-powerful empires. He knows that they still live in the past and view themselves as great and noble when in fact they are weak and dying as a people. But their political and financial health is not what Jesus is concerned about. He is concerned primarily for the church in Sardis which is not behaving as a church ought but rather as the people in Sardis as a whole behave. Jesus wants for the church in Sardis, as He wants for all of His churches, that they forsake the world and its aspirations and turn instead to the Kingdom of God and its aspirations. Jesus wants this church to seek only Him and to remember that they were saved out of the world and into everlasting life where worldly wealth does not exist and where political boundaries are demolished. d. Revelation 3:2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. i. Sleeping and waking are pretty common analogies for death and life in scripture. This church is dying Christ says. It is not awake for it is not doing the things that an awake and vibrant church would be doing. What is more it is losing the things that it once had and it is letting its work go unfinished. If Jesus had not stepped in He says that this church would have died; but He did step in, as He always will, to give a warning and to remind the believing church of their first love, their first calling and their work for the Kingdom which must continue. In Luke 18 Jesus tells the parable of the widow who continuously bothers a judge to hear her case. At the end of the parable Jesus asks the question, “When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)” The parable illustrates that God will answer the call of His children when they cry out to Him for help. Jesus’ question asks whether or not God’s children will continue to cry out to Him or if one day they will forget and lose the faith in Him that they once had. That was the danger this church in Sardis faced- that they would lose their grounding in the first things and return to the apathy of their former lives lived in aspirations of a glory gone forever. e. Revelation 3:3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.

i. Here is the call to change. Very simply and directly Jesus tells this church to repent. They must wake up and begin again to do the things that are required of them. That is a good lesson and reminder for us as well. We cannot call ourselves Christians and not do the things that Christians are supposed to do. We counted the cost of faith when we first believed and we signed on when we called on the name of Jesus to be saved. He has done what He promised to do and we must in return do that which we have promised to do. We must live for Him and remember Him and His great gift for us in our love for Him and our love for our brothers and sisters. We might fall from that golden path from time to time but God will redirect us with a warning and a reminder as He does here for those in Sardis. Our response is what is important. Will we respond as we should and redirect our steps back onto the Way or will we stubbornly continue forward as those such as Jezebel have and still do today? The consequences for not obeying God’s command to repent are startlingly severe. Jesus said that He will come in the night like a thief and take away that which we do have. He threatens to take our churches away if we who call ourselves the church do not act in accord with His desires for us. Jesus told the believers in Thyatira that He would kill them if they did not repent. Believers face the judgment of God if they refuse to follow His commands. We must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that we follow a God who is soft and whose love His not supported by a strong right hand. Our God is first and foremost a jealous God who will not tolerate any of His children to turn from Him to give attention to another, be it an idol or be it self. He wants us to be His alone and He and His Son have worked and sacrificed greatly to give us the chance to be just that, His alone. ii. This ‘killing’ of believers for their acts of disobedience and idolatry is a tough one for many I would think. How could a loving God kill off His children? What does that do to their salvation? I believe that God allows us to make mistakes because of the blood of His Son which washed clean those mistakes in our hearts before we even speak to God. I believe that we are born again each time that we sin and repent and begin again. The blood of Jesus makes this process continual and eternal so that our salvation must be assured. But I also believe that if we do not make sure to check ourselves in our sin and continue our part of that cycle, if we do not repent but instead harden our hearts and stay turned away from His clear direction to change, then He will take us out. I believe that He will remove us from our families if our behavior is hurting them. He will remove us from our ministries if our behavior does not pass muster with the calling that He gave us. And I believe that He will remove us from the earth if we simply will not or cannot change our behavior and turn back to the right way of things. He does this in order to protect His own holiness and the holiness of His church. What becomes of that ‘killed off’ believer? I believe that believer is sent home to face a God who is at once severely disappointed in him and who at the next will begin to teach that child the error of his ways. There must be some degree of hierarchy among those who will join the ranks of heaven for scripture speaks often of rewards and crowns and those gaining power and authority. The believer who overcomes is the one who joins those ranks victoriously and reaps the benefits of his labors on earth. The one who is called home prematurely must go there with his head hung down in shame. 1. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. f. Revelation 3:4-5 ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in

white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. i. We may not appreciate the gift that our cleansed souls are to us. We were once stained by our sin, inheritors of that original blemish from our first parents and then we made our sin increasingly worse by our own lust and pride. We were once spotted and unclean. And then Jesus came to us and taught us how to live and then died in our stead. And then Jesus rose alive from the grave and ensured our eternal rising from our graves. And now we are clean in the eyes of God and of His Son, Jesus. There was nothing else that could have accomplished this cleansing. There was no power on the earth or in God’s created order that could have done for us what Jesus did for us. We who were once darkened by our transgressions were made light by Jesus. ii. In Sardis, like in Thyatira in the previous letter, the believers were turning from that gift by following after another gift, one that could not save but was in itself just another blemish. Once given cleansing how can one so readily turn from the giver and soil His gift? How easy it is for man to dis-remember from where it is that we came and spurn the One who loves us truly. How easy it is for us to forget that we were made clean at a great cost to God and His Son and that our lives were purchased back for us. iii. The frightening thought that keeps arising out of these letters to the churches is that if we were made clean and then we go and stain our souls, soiling the fresh garment that God gave us, how can we be made clean a second time? The only hope we have is in the idea of a continual renewing of our souls. The answer must lie in our repentance for our transgressions and our turning back to God in faith and love. Jesus asks these believers to stay true to Him and to not follow after the ones who had seemingly forsaken Him. If we stay true then He promises to give us a new white robe at the end of things and in addition to the new name we will be given we are promised an eternal place in the book of life. Jesus promises to stand by our side on judgment day and to speak on our behalf. He will speak our name to the Father who will accept the word of His Son and allow us to live with Him forever. What more could we ask for? What better possible motivation could there be for us to continue to discipline ourselves into obedience? II. Revelation 3:7-13 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; 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 out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” a. Besides Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only church that was written to who did not receive a rebuke for their backsliding or outright evil practices. Smyrna received an encouraging letter that contained some very startling news of a future time of trial. Philadelphia receives a word that reassures them of the time when those who are causing them trouble at present will be made to see the error of their ways. The church is told that it will be passed over during the coming time of testing and that if they continue to hold on to what they have been holding onto a great reward is in store for them.

b. Revelation 3:7 He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. i. Another brief biography of Jesus; this time He is the one who holds the keys, a reminder perhaps of how He was described in the beginning of this book as holding the keys of death and Hades. Jesus is master over fate and He is the One to whom the entire population of the world will look when the time comes to find out the judgment. Here Jesus says that He holds the ‘key of David’ which is able to open and to shut and once that decision is made there is no one who can alter it. Matthew Henry describes this as a reference to doors of opportunity for this church in Philadelphia. The reference to David must be a reference to authority and that of divine right. David, the great king of Israel, is the epitome of a monarch and Jesus as man came from that direct line. While David was the earthly king who reigned above all others, Jesus is our heavenly king. Jesus is the King of kings and holds in his hands the power to determine the future course of the lives of the church and its body. In those hands is the door of opportunity for His church. Jesus chooses to open it for the Philadelphian believers and for us. Through that door we can conjecture lays a chance to grow in Him spiritually, to work for His kingdom by spreading the love and faith of Christianity, to care for those in prison, the orphan, the widow and the stranger in the land. We have a chance to do the work of God, even in the midst of the trouble of life. The church in Philadelphia had a chance as well to continue to be the church of God even in the middle of great persecution and suffering. Jesus is encouraging them here to continue to walk through the door that He opens for them and to be a source of light in their otherwise darkened and lost city. ii. That Jesus is holy and true is an encouragement to the church. He is faithful to us and will not change that demeanor for as God Jesus Himself cannot change. His holiness was protected at the cost of His very own blood and His faithfulness to us was demonstrated by that very same act. He is our Lord and Savior and He deserves our reverence for that very great truth. iii. Jesus gives them the open door because of their diligence to do those things that they were left to do, even though it was difficult for them. He promises that their church will be left intact in order to continue to do those things, for His open door may not be closed by any other than Himself. Their great compliment is that they did not deny the name of Jesus to those in their city that foolishly demanded it of them. Though the walls may fall and the temple of the flesh be assaulted by evil doers who seek only to destroy that which God has established man must refuse to consider their demands. The man who stands in the face of evil and simply says ‘No’ will stand forever in the face of Jesus and hear Him say, “Yes.” c. Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. i. The synagogue of satan was referred to previously in the letter to the Smyrnans. Presumably these were Jews who were giving the churches great trouble in this region. They were as the Jews at the time of Christ were, seeking primarily to hold onto the power and influence that they held over the people of their city and to enforce their religion on their followers. The church came into their city as an upstart that preached an entirely different way to God, one that left off their importance and the need for their ‘services.’ The church of Christ preached a way to heaven through Jesus, whom they claimed was actually the Son of the Almighty and who rose from the dead after He had been killed by these Jews’ forebears in Jerusalem. To this synagogue of Jews the church was a thorn in the side that could not be born. And so they reverted to the wiles of the evil one to rid themselves of it. They conveniently forgot all that the God of the Jews had

taught them about love and charity and instead focused on hate and selfishness. In this way they earned the name of satan as their very own. ii. One commentator calls these Jews Hellenized Jews meaning that they were Jews of the Diaspora (the dispersion of Jews from the various times Jerusalem was overtaken by her enemies). These were Jews who were themselves somewhat persecuted for not retaining their true Judaism but were slowly influenced by the Greek culture that they found themselves living in. But persecution tends to roll downhill with the strongest delivering the first blow and then each subsequent turn passes it on to the next. The church was the lowest rung in this persecution chain and the Hellenized Jews would not be diminished yet again by what they considered an upstart perversion of their own faith. d. Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. i. This is the result of the work of the Philadelphians. Because they have endured the trials they have faced, because they have continued to stand against the attacks of evil, because they have persevered they will be kept safe from what appears to be a reference to an even greater future time of trial and tribulation. The ‘hour of testing’ that Jesus refers to is a world-wide event for each and every inhabitant of the earth. But those who have stood with Jesus up to this point will be spared this new trial. ii. But what exactly did these believers endure? What is the “word of My perseverance” or steadfastness as it might also have been translated? 1. Word study: Perseverance a. 5281 ὑπομονή [hupomone /hoop·om·on·ay/] From 5278; 1 steadfastness, constancy, endurance. 1A in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. 1B patiently, and steadfastly. 2 a patient, steadfast waiting for. 3 a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance. b. It sounds as if the word of perseverance is the encouragement of Jesus to His followers to keep on the Way by obeying His desire to love Him and love each other. It is more than an encouragement it is a command given to all of us to stand firm in the faith in Jesus Christ. That they had done this even in a time of great persecution from the reigning empire is an enormous feat. It is this steadfastness, this constancy of faith that Jesus commends now. Because of this faith the believers are given a pass on the coming persecution. Is this coming time of trial to be even worse? Has the world seen this time yet? c. This time will come quickly for we can assume that Jesus means that when He comes this time will come with him. The believers in Philadelphia have been awarded a crown for their courage and faith. They are to be rewarded in the next age, the age when God rolls up this creation and brings down a new one from heaven. If they continue in this path they will not lose their reward. This is another unsettling passage because it again implies that what we have been given might somehow be lost. We love the idea of forever saved and ‘once saved always saved.’ What if our future state depends greatly on how we live our lives in this state? What if our rewards and crowns are able to be taken away? What if all believers will not share the same joy in heaven? One thing is clear from this passage- if one wants to follow Jesus then one must expect pain in some form. If one wants to receive the rewards of Christ then one must work

hard and diligently toward receiving them. And one last thing is also clearthe gifts of God, although coming to us freely and without cost to anyone but Himself, are held by the believer at great cost. e. Revelation 3:12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; 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 out of heaven from My God, and My new name. i. A new name- just as in 2:17 where Jesus promises a white stone and a new name to the overcomer here He promises a new name with which the believer will enter the temple of God and be known by God. The one who overcomes will stand in that holy place; Jesus calls him a pillar, and he will never have to leave. Once in heaven we do not have to fear leaving or being asked to leave. Our residency there is as assured as the pillars that hold up the dome of God’s house. If God’s house stands then Jesus promises that we will be found standing there with it and with him. ii. The new name we will find emblazoned across our foreheads and upon our breast is the name of God Himself. We will carry his name forever after. No longer will we have to try and stand with the power of our own names and no longer will we have to live upon the earth with the name of Christ amidst all of the trouble and turmoil that we encounter daily. In that day, in the day when Jesus returns to take His place as the ruler of a new creation, we will be removed from this place and watch it be destroyed. Out of heaven will come a new place and a new name by which we will be known. We will enter the new heaven wearing the name of Jesus’ God and our God and we will be known forever as His precious children. Nothing will ever change that or take it from us. It is as assured as heaven itself is assured. iii. And we will be given the name of Jesus. But it will be a new name. It will not be the name Christian because that denotes the crucifixion and resurrection that we align ourselves with in order to be saved. To be named a Christian is a this-world name that will not have as important a meaning in the new order that will come when Jesus returns with His rewards. In that day Jesus will take up the mantle of Lord of lords and King of kings. He will be Judge over all of creation and He will bring to their knees those who have defied Him. His new name will identify the full revelation of His nature as the Son of God who has been given all power and authority over the world. It is this name that we will be given- if we overcome and continue to remain steadfast to the end. This means that we will share an intimacy with Jesus in the new order. We will be close to Him and He to us. We will share in the new heaven and the new earth and we will share in the intimacy of God and the Son as we share their names. III. Revelation 3:14-22 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” a. What a great way to end this section of scripture. This letter sums up all that has gone before and hints strongly once again that in order to enter heaven one must conduct oneself zealously in the

path of righteousness. Jesus is the true One whose Word speaks to all men of the condition of their souls and the condition of their fates. He is the Witness to the things of heaven and He was sent by His Father to the world of men in order to save them and to tell them of their coming judgment. He saved by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice that met the demands of justice for men’s sinfulness. He offers to apply that salvation to all men if they would but come to Him, walk with Him, stay with Him and love Him until the end. b. Colossians 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. i. Jesus was in the creation at the beginning and it was through his Word that the heavens opened up and the fruit of His Word was made manifest upon a formless and void world. Jesus spoke into being the sky and the land, the bird and the beast, and the fish and the insect. With His command and by His command the world came into being and it maintains its course. At His command the world that He created will be rolled up and disposed of in favor of a new one that He has prepared for us. In that new creation Jesus will stand as Ruler over all the nations and men will either be welcomed by Him or cast aside and doomed to live outside of that order. The choice, says the Amen, is ours. ii. 2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. c. Revelation 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. i. Ray Vander Laan visited the site of Laodicea and spoke of the cold water that can be found there in contrast to the hot springs that are also found in this area. He makes the point that both of these sources of water can bring refreshment and rejuvenation to a body and both are much appreciated. But water that is simply lukewarm does not have these same qualities. It does not refresh the overheated laborer who splashes it on his face on his way home and it does not soothe that laborer’s muscles in the evening when he settles into it to relax for the coming day. To be lukewarm has come to mean that you are neither passionate about something nor dead set against it. You are not going to fight for it or against it. In this passage Jesus seems to be saying the same type of thing only it appears that He means that this church neither had the fire of the zealot nor the steadfast determination of a mature church. These believers were neither fired up nor rock solid. They were somewhere in the middle and Jesus tells them that He wishes they could be found as either one or the other. d. Revelation 3:17-18 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. i. Jesus identifies the source of their problem as money. These believers were rich in material possessions and they had let that blessing turn to complacency in their hearts. They settled for the pleasure that their worldly belongings provided them and rested in the security that they felt their money gave them. They began to forget that their greatest treasure was the salvation that Jesus had provided them. They forgot that their true riches lie not in the bag of silver they hid under their mattress but in the streets of gold that

awaited them in the new world. Because of this Jesus calls them wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. There is no getting around the fact that Jesus was not happy with these believers. He does not like it when He is forgotten in favor of things of the world that will not last in the end. He advises them to return to him and to trade in their riches for a form that that will truly last and will provide true security and everlasting peace. He offers them gold refined by fire, the fire that He Himself underwent in order to purchase their freedom, and white robes that He Himself washed clean in the blood of His own sacrifice. He offers them a salve as He did the blind man in the gospel account so that they may lose the blindness caused by lust for the world and begin to see again as they did at the moment of their first belief. Jesus admits that His tone is severe but He is rebuking them out of love for them. The lesson for us is two-fold. We realize that at any point we may turn ourselves around and get back on the path that Jesus has made for us. And we realize that the harshness of the words of Scripture are there for our own protection and well-being. If we only would listen to His words and obey then our future will remain secure and everlasting. e. Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. i. And then one of the greatest verses in all of Scripture, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Can it get any plainer than that? Jesus is as close as the front door. He has come to each and every member of the family of man. He has done the work. He has walked up the steps. He has come to me and to you. And what is more He has knocked to let us know that He is there. What more could one ask for? He has purchased the present of our salvation, wrapped it up, and delivered it to our door and let us know that it is there. All we must do is open that door and receive our gift. We have only to open that door and ask Him in to dinner. He promises to dine with us. And then we can follow Jesus through that very same door and into a life that begins with repentance and ends in every tear and sadness forever being wiped away. Will man do it? Will he decide to be ice cold and rock solid? Will He decide to be on fire and burning for Jesus? Or will He remain somewhere in between and aloof living his life as if the present were unimportant and the things of the world much more interesting. The time for that man to decide is today while the knocking of Jesus can still be heard. The work of getting the present to your door has been done, scripture tells that tale. Now Jesus is standing outside and waiting. Will you open your door and follow after Him? f. Revelation 3:21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. i. And to the one who does this, who returns to the Lord and continues steadfastly by His side Jesus promises again that he will sit with Jesus on the throne in the new order. Jesus compares this to the way He Himself was welcomed into heaven by His Father and sat on His Father’s throne. We will share the intimacy and that exceedingly great feeling of power and importance that comes from sitting next to God on His throne. Compared to this and to all the other rewards promised in these letters, how can one continue to look after money and possessions instead of at Jesus? Amen?

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