One More Church – Philadelphia

Photo by Michelle Pearson

One More Church – Philadelphia

In this letter in Revelation 3:7-13, Christ is writing to the Church in Philadelphia. And, though He isn’t writing to the Church in Philadelphia, PA…He is. These letters weren’t just to the churches they were addressed to, they were written to us all…the Church. As we all know, Philadelphia means “brotherly love” and this Philadelphia was set up as a missionary outpost for Hellenism. Its purpose was to spread the Greek language and culture across Asia. Philadelphia was called “Little Athens” and was a prosperous city known for beautiful buildings, and earthquakes…reminds me of LA.

In this letter, Christ introduces Himself in verse 7 this way, “This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:” Notice, He first introduces Himself as “the one who is holy and true.” He is holy, which means that He is set apart, but he is also true…He is truth in physical form. After this, when He says, “the one who has the key of David”, He is referring to Isaiah 22:22 where it says, “I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them.” So, in this passage, Christ is showing that Eliakim, talked about in Isaiah 22 as well as 1 Kings 18 and Isaiah 36, was a prophecy of Christ.

He starts out verse 8 by saying, “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close.” Again, He says he knows all the things they do, but this time He tells them that He has opened a door for them that no one can close. This is one of those things that we have made somewhat cliché. We’ve all seen the mems that say, “If God closes a door, He’ll open a window.” The truth is that if God closes a door, no one can open it. Yes, He always has a purpose for our lives, and He will open another door somewhere else. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to bash Christian mems, or say they are wrong in any way. The problem is when they become cliché and lose their meaning.

He finishes verse 8 by saying, “You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.” This is a beautiful thing. He says that they had little strength. You see, they didn’t trust in their own strength, they just trusted in God. We can all learn from the church at Philadelphia. So often we think we are strong, so we don’t rely on God. We believe we can handle it, so we trust in our own strength. Here’s a news flash, our own strength will always fail us. This church trusted in God’s strength, so they were strong.

In verse 9 He says, “Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.” It appears that this church was being persecuted by the people of the Jewish synagogue. In fact, Jesus calls them “Satan’s synagogue” and says they claim to be Jews, but they are not. Then He reassures the church that these people will one day bow down at their feet and admit that they are the ones that Christ loves.

There are a lot of churches out there that claim the name of Christ but are really Satan’s synagogue, and some of them might surprise you. You see, this synagogue in Revelation was persecuting Christ’s Church because the church at Philadelphia didn’t believe what they believed. They were trying to undermine what this Church was doing because they didn’t believe it was right. But, what did Jesus say? One day, these people would bow down at their feet and admit that this Church is the ones that Christ loves. As I’ve mentioned before, most of the things that divide us are the doctrines that aren’t even scriptural. Believe me, I’ve been on the judging end of this before, until Christ got ahold of me and showed me where I was wrong.

In verses 10-12a, Jesus tells them, 10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it.” Again, He is letting them know what will happen if they are victorious. He says that because they have persevered, He will protect them from the great tribulation, and He clarifies that this great tribulation is a test for those who belong to the world, and clearly this church did not. He goes on to ensure us that He is coming soon. I know that many people say, “but, He said this two thousand years ago,” but we must remember that time is not the same to Jesus. 2 Peter 3:8, “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” So, when He says that He is coming soon, what He is really saying is that we need to be ready because it could be today. Matthew 24:36, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

After He tells them that He is coming soon, He says to be careful that no one takes away your crown. So, what crown is He talking about? There are five crowns talked about in the Bible that we can receive in Heaven:

  • The Crown of Righteousness 2 Timothy 4:8
  • The Crown of Victory 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
  • The Crown of Life James 1:12; Revelation 2:10
  • The Crown of Glory 1 Peter 5:2-4; Matthew 5:19
  • The Crown of Rejoicing 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Daniel 12:3; Proverbs 11:30

He ends verse 12 by telling them that everyone who is victorious will become pillars in God’s temple, meaning they will become permanent fixtures, they will be secure.

Christ ends this letter, in verse 13, the same way He ended all the other letters, by telling them, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Again, He wants us to listen to this warning. He wants us to hear it and examine our own lives. We need to look at the Church at Philadelphia as an example. We can’t trust in our own strength, and we must be victorious!

More Churches – Sardis

Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Sardi

Wow, only two more to go. I started out only planning on doing two of them, but the more I studied, the more I wanted to write about all of them. So, today we are looking at the letter to the church at Sardis, found in Revelation 3:1-6.

Sardis, as with many of the cities of that day, was very wicked. They were known for being very soft. They were a very wealthy city, and very luxurious. It was the home of the Greek “mother goddess”, Cybele, and had a very large and elaborate temple to her where they worshipped with all kinds of sexual immorality. So, Sardis was a city of easy money and loose morals, sound familiar? He could have written this to the church in Las Vegas, right?

This time, in His introduction, He wrote in Revelation 3:1, “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:”. Here, He identifies Himself as the one with the sevenfold Spirit and the seven stars. Well, we know, from Revelation 1:20, that the seven stars are the messengers of the seven churches, it says, “This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” But what does He mean by the sevenfold Spirit, and why did He pick seven churches. In the Bible, the number seven always represents completeness, or fullness, as seen in the seven days of creation. So, what He is identifying Himself as, is the one who has the completeness of the Spirit, and the Church. In Colossians 2:9 Paul said this, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” He is God, don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.

He ends verse 1 by saying, “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” If you remember back, this is the same thing He told the churches at Ephesus, Thyatira, and Laodicea. He says, “I know all the things you do.” He wants to drive this home to all of us. He knows all the things we do, not just some of them. He knows what we do in secret, He knows the things we do that no one else knows. Then He goes on to say, “you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” Have you ever seen a church like this? From the outside, it seems alive. It is constantly growing, it may even be a megachurch, and the people seem so excited. But, when you look closely when you start listening to the preaching and what the people are talking about, you realize that there is no life there, they are shallow, empty, dead people. Please don’t think I’m saying that big churches are bad, or that they must be watering down the gospel to get people in. There are many large churches, even mega churches, that are doing a great work. They are preaching the Bible, sending out missionaries, and reaching their own communities. But there are many churches, even smaller ones, that look alive, and maybe even have a reputation for being alive, but are spiritually dead.

So, what does Jesus tell this dead church? He says in verse 2, “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.” You see, there are a lot of churches today that just need to WAKE UP! They need to strengthen what little remains and search out their hearts. When they do this, they will realize that they are not doing the things that God requires of them. He goes on in verse 3 to say, “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again.” Again, doesn’t this sound a little familiar? In Revelation 2:4-5 Jesus told the church at Ephesus, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” We must go back to what we believed at first, go back to our first love, and hold it tightly! He finishes verse 3 by saying, “Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” Again, He is telling us to repent, to turn the opposite direction, then He repeats Himself and says, “Wake Up!” Are we getting the point here…I think He wants us to wake up, and if we don’t He says He will come down on us suddenly, like a thief in the night.

But, of course, He doesn’t leave it like that. He goes on to say in verse 4, “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” So, He recognizes that some are worthy, and He says they will walk with Him in white. So first, He says that the worthy ones will walk with Him, illustrating an intimate relationship, then He says we will be in white, which represents purity, but to the Romans of that day, it also was the color of victory. He said He will clothe us in the victor’s clothes.

In verse 5 He repeats Himself, “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” He tells us that ALL victors will be clothed in white. Then He says that He will write our names in the book of life in permanent marker and announce before the Father and His angels that we are His! Wow! As always, He ends in verse 6 by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” So, Listen!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any higher honor than to walk with Jesus and have Him announce before the Father and His angels that I am His. That must be our goal!

More Churches – Thyatira

Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Thyatira

Thyatira was an interesting choice for Jesus to send a letter to in the Revelation. You see, Thyatira was a very insignificant city, in fact, according to Barclay, “The elder Pliny dismissed Thyatira with the almost contemptuous phrase ‘Thyatira and other unimportant cities.’” The only thing Thyatira had going for it was its trade guilds, it had more trade guilds than any two cities of its size, and it was known for making purple dye and purple fabric…the fabric of royalty.

This time, when Christ describes Himself, He comes right out and says, “This is the message from the Son of God” in Revelation 2:18. Then He goes on to describe Himself even further when he says, “whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze.” Again, He takes this from John’s description of Him in Revelation 1:14-15. So, what did He mean by eyes like flames? Fire often represents the Holy Spirit, as we see in Acts 2:2-4, another sign pointing to the triune nature of God. Fire can also represent refinement, as with metals, or judgment. The feet like polished bronze is referring to His steadfastness. Bronze was the hardest metal known at that time and the bronze feet represent that Christ is immovable. So, this description of Him is demonstrating His steadfast, immovable judgment on the people.

He goes on in verse 19 to say, “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” So, as with the church at Ephesus, He starts out by complimenting them on what they are doing right. But, notice that He begins by saying, “I know all the things you do.” He’s about to compliment them, but lets them know up front that He knows it all…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then He goes on to talk about their love, their faith, their service, and their patience. Do you recognize these? You should, because they are some of the fruits of the Spirit seen in Galatians 5:22-23, 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

It’s looking pretty good for the church at Thyatira, but then He hits them with, “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols”, in verse 20. So, there was a woman in the church leading them astray. She was obviously a woman of authority, some believe she could have been the pastor’s wife, but she was a self-proclaimed prophet. Now, this is where many churches are divided, and is where we need to take the Bible literally and in context. The Bible never says that a woman can’t be a prophet. In fact, if you look at the accounts of the birth of Christ, it talks about Anna who was a prophet, and there were many other examples. But, the problem here is that they didn’t do what they were taught. John says in 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” So, the problem wasn’t that she was a woman, the problem was that she was a false prophet and the church didn’t test what she said against scripture, they just believed her. Jesus goes on to call her Jezebel. It is possible that her name was actually Jezebel, but it is more likely that Christ is using that name to describe what she was. So, let’s think about who Jezebel was in the Old Testament. She was found in 1 Kings 16-21, and in 2 Kings 9:30-37, and she was one of the evilest people mentioned in the Old Testament. She was the wife of King Ahab and tried to use her place of power to combine Israel’s worship with the worship of Baal, which included sexual sin and pagan practices.

In verse 21 Christ says, “I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” Even this horrible, evil woman who was trying to lead the Christ followers astray, Christ gave time to repent. You see that? He didn’t just give her a chance, He gave her time, but she wouldn’t turn from her immorality.

In verses 22 and 23, Jesus tells them what He will do to her, and them, if they don’t repent and turn from their evil ways, He says, 22Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” There are those who say that a loving God wouldn’t punish us. The problems with that school of thought are that, as we just saw, He always gives us a choice. He won’t make us do right, He wants us to choose Him, to choose to do right. And, secondly, He is a loving Father, and a truly loving father will discipline his children. First, to try to correct them and turn them back to the right path, and second to demonstrate to His other children that there are consequences to doing wrong, Proverbs 13:24.

He goes on, in verses 24 through 27, commending those who are victorious, and tells them that He will give them the authority to rule nations. Then in verse 28 He repeats that promise and tells them that He will give them the same authority His Father gave to Him. He ends verse 28 by saying, “and I will also give them the morning star!” So, what does He mean by this? If we look at the end of the book of the Revelation, we see in Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” This is truly awesome! What Jesus is saying here is that if we are victorious, He will give us the greatest gift of all…He will give us Himself!

Of course, like in all the other letters, Christ ended this one in verse 29 by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” He wants us to hear the warning to this church, and He wants us to be victorious and claim the ultimate prize…Him!

More Churches – Pergamum

Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Pergamum

I love how, in each of these seven letters, Christ gives His credentials in a different way. He tailors His introductions to His audience. In His letter to the Church at Pergamum, in Revelation 2:12-17, He introduces Himself this way: verse 12, “This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:” Here, He is referring to John’s description of Him in Revelation 1:12-16, where in verse 16 he says, “He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” And, Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” So, this two-edged sword that comes out of His mouth will expose our innermost thoughts and desires.

And, what does He say next? Revelation 2:13, “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.” So, why does Jesus call Pergamum the city where Satan has his throne? There were several temples to many Greek and Roman gods in Pergamum, but the main one was the temple of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods. And, in that temple was the throne of Zeus, which is believed to be what Christ is referring to in this book. Pergamum was a very wicked city, full of pagan gods and rituals. He also mentions Antipas in this verse. Antipas was faithful to Christ and the leader of the Christian church there. He was being so effective for Christ there, casting out demons and leading people to a relationship with Christ that the pagan priests went to the Rome governor to complain that Antipas’ prayers were driving their spirits out of the city and hindering the worship of their gods. He was martyred by being roasted alive in a bronze bull. This is the type of city these believers were in.

Verse 14 starts out by saying, “But I have a few complaints against you.” Even though they were enduring all of this, Christ still had to set them straight in a few areas. He goes on to say, “You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.” Do you remember the story of Balaam? You know, the guy whose donkey had to set him straight. Balaam tried to sell his gift of prophecy for financial gain, but when he realized that he couldn’t prophesy against God’s people, he helped Balak by selling out Israel. He told Balak that all he had to do to weaken Israel was to seduce the men into sexual sin and pagan rituals. This brought the judgment of God on the men who participated. 2 Peter 2:15 talks about Balaam when he says, “They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong.” So, Peter is saying that the way of Balaam is to choose to do wrong for personal gain. We also hear about Balaam in the book of Jude verse 11 where he says, “What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.” Jude’s account of Balaam is that he deceived people for money. So, the first thing Christ has against the church at Pergamum is that some of them were following in the footsteps of Balaam.

The next thing He says in verse 15 is, “In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching.” Remember in Christ’s letter to the church at Ephesus, in Revelation 2:6, He said, “But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.” So, He praised the church at Ephesus for hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans and warned the church at Pergamum about some of them who were following their deeds. I know you are probably wondering what these Nicolaitans were doing. David Guzik says this about the Nicolaitans, “The title Nico-laitans has the idea of a proud authority and a hierarchical separatism. The name Nikao-laos literally means “to conquer the people.” According to ancient commentators, the Nicolaitans also approved of immorality.” So, these were immoral people trying to conquer everyone around them. But here’s the thing, God wasn’t just condemning the ones who were following the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, He was condemning the ones who were allowing it to go on among their church.

So, what does Christ tell them to do? In verse 16 He says, “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” He tells them that they must repent. The word repent literally means to turn around, go the other direction, do a 180. He is telling them to turn away from those beliefs, and from allowing those beliefs in their church, and turn back to Him. If they don’t do this, He says that He will fight against them with the sword of His mouth. As we saw at the beginning of this passage, that sword is the word of God, and it cuts to the joints and marrow and exposes their innermost thoughts and desires. So, if they don’t repent, God will strike them down with His word.

He ends in verse 17, as with all the others, by telling them, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” But, He goes further with this one. He goes on to say, “To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone, will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” He’s not just telling them what he will do if they don’t repent, He also tells them what He will do if they do repent. He will give them some of the manna that is hidden in heaven. So, He won’t just feed them, He’ll give them the best. Then He goes on to tell thPergamum-inscription-on-white-stone-tb010901781-bibleplacesem about these white stones.  We’re not sure what the white stones were for, but the people of Pergamum knew what Christ was talking about. Throughout the ruins of ancient Pergamum there are white stones with names inscribed on them, so they understood whatever significance they had. But, look at what He says. He tells them that he will engrave a new name on the stone that’s just between you and God. It demonstrated the intimate relationship that Christ wants to have with us.

I love how, in the end of this passage, after Christ has warned the church about following these false doctrines, after He has told them what He will do if they don’t obey, He tells them that, if they repent, he will forgive them and restore that intimate relationship that He wants to have with us. Isn’t it awesome to have a God that is so forgiving? But, never forget that He loves us so much that He will punish us if we are doing wrong, so let’s live to please the one we love…the one who first loved us.

More Churches – Smyrna

Photo by Michelle Pearson

More Churches – Smyrna

I realize I said we were only going to look at two of these churches, but there is so much here, I believe we need to look at more of them.

In Revelation 2:8-11, Jesus is talking to the Church at Smyrna. We know that it is Christ who is talking, because He starts out in verse 8 by saying, “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:” Notice that all of these warnings are written to the angel of the church. The word angel means messenger, envoy, one who is sent, a messenger from God. So, what He is saying is that He is giving this letter to the messenger for that church at Smyrna. Then He goes on with His credentials. He says, “The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:” So, who is writing this? The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last…I have had some say that this must be talking about Jehovah, God the Father, because He is the first and the last, but you must finish the verse. He goes on to say, “who was dead, and has come to life.” That can only be talking about Jesus! The fact that He begins by saying that He is the first and the last only confirms the Trinity, they are one and the same.

The next thing He says, in verse 9 is, “I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich!” Think back to the church at Laodicea in chapter 3, verse 17 where He told them, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Do you see the contrast? The church at Laodicea thought they were rich, monetarily, but they were spiritually destitute. On the other hand, the church at Smyrna is poor monetarily, but He says they are truly rich spiritually. We get so caught up in the things of this world that we often forget what we are here for. Don’t let anyone tell you that you will be wealthy if you are in God’s will, that is simply unscriptural. I’ve had people give me reasons why they think Christ was wealthy, but if He was wealthy, why did He not have a home? Jesus said Himself in Luke 9:58, “But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” Also, if Christ and His disciples were wealthy, then why did He have to perform a miracle, in order to pay their taxes? We see this in Matthew 17:27, “However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” So, Christ and His disciples weren’t wealthy as this world sees wealth because that stuff didn’t matter to them.

Jesus goes on at the end of verse 9 saying, “I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan.” You see, there are a lot of people and churches and pastors out there that don’t preach the truth. Christ said that He knows who they are and that they are really serving Satan. This is why it is so important to study the Bible literally and in context, and never try to put our own interpretation on it. These people who were opposing the church at Smyrna thought they were serving God, because of the way they had interpreted the scripture, but Christ said that they were serving Satan.

He starts out verse 10 by saying, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.” I love that He had to tell them that. So often we look at people who have suffered or even been martyred for Christ as somewhat superhuman. But, they are just like you and me. They are afraid of the unknown just like we are. So, Christ needed to tell them not to be afraid. He goes on in verse 10 to say, “The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days.” Okay, He tells us not to be afraid, but it’s going to be bad, and He even says that some of them will be thrown into prison, but then He limits it. He says that He will let Satan persecute them, but only for a little while as a test. I love that when Christ allows us to be tested, He gives us the answers to the test first. In fact, He even tells us the reward for passing the test up front. At the end of verse 10 He says, “But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.” So, we will be persecuted, we may even face death, but if we remain faithful, He will give us a crown of life. In the Greek language, there are two words for crown. One of those words means a crown, like a king would wear, but the other word, stephanos, which is the one used here, means a victor’s crown. Winners of athletic events and even the original Olympics would be presented with a crown, a stephanos. Christ is saying that if we endure, we will be given a trophy, a reward, for our perseverance, and that reward is life…eternal life. But, here’s the thing, we can all endure, we can all be the victor because we have the secret weapon…Jesus. Christ told us in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” You see, we truly have nothing to fear! Yes, we will face trials, and we will face sorrows, but we will never face them alone! We can take heart…because Christ has already overcome the world! It doesn’t get any better than that!

Two Bad Examples – The Second

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Two Bad Examples – The Second

Last time we looked at the first example from Revelation chapter 2. This time I would like to take a look at another, the church at Laodicea which is talked about in chapter 3, verses 14-22. He starts out in verse 14 by saying, “This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation.” Notice it says that the message is “from the one who is the Amen”. The word “Amen”, has several meanings, but they are all related. For instance, when your pastor is preaching, and someone says “Amen”, they are saying “Surely, truly, of a truth”. When you end your prayer by saying, “in Jesus name, amen”, you are saying, “so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled”. But, in this case, where it is referring to a person, it is a metaphor for faithful. So, what this is saying is, “This is the message from the one who is the faithful one.” And, we all know there is only one truly faithful one…Jesus.

Now, once He is finished identifying Himself, He get’s right into it. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, He doesn’t even make a compliment sandwich this time. He simply says in verse 15, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!” If you remember, when He spoke to the church at Ephesus, he started out by talking about all the good things they were doing, but not with this one. From the looks of it, they weren’t doing anything right. Notice what He says here. The problem He had with them is that they were not hot nor cold. So, in our human thinking, not being cold should be a good thing, right? But what does verse 16 say? “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” Okay, so because they were lukewarm, or tepid, it says He wants to spit them out of His mouth. Some translations say spew them out, but the Greek word used here is emeo, which means “to vomit, vomit forth, throw up”. So, what God is telling the church at Laodicea is, “you make me want to puke!”

He goes on to say in verse 17, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” I think we all know this person. They are wealthy, so they are very condescending and think that people without a lot of money are not as wise as them. They think that because they have all this money and have traveled the world, that they have a handle on life. But, the truth is, that these people are often lonely. Don’t get me wrong, they probably have a lot of “friends”, but no one who is loyal and trustworthy. They are empty inside. These people are miserable, they are wretched, they are poor, blind and naked, and they don’t even realize it.

Jesus tells us in verse 18 how to remedy those problems, He says, “So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.” You see, we could have all the money of Bill Gates, but we would still be empty spiritually. The Bible tells us in Mark 8:36-37, 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul?” The answer is, nothing!  Watch this video by Francis Chan that describes our life here on earth as compared to eternity (insert video). Mark 8:38 goes on to say, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” So many people today want to believe that any religion is good when the truth is that NO religion is good. Jesus and His disciples fought against religion constantly, and the New Testament has nothing good to say about religion except in James 1:27 where James tells us what God sees as true religion. This type of person is ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and in the end, Christ will be ashamed of them. But, God always gives the answer to the problem. Verse 18 is telling us that we must come to Him for our gold, gold purified by the fire. This reminds me of when, in John 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, that if she drank from His well she would never thirst again. In this verse, Jesus wasn’t talking about a literal well or physical thirst, He was talking about spiritual thirst. And, when He is talking about gold in Revelation 3, He isn’t talking about the precious metal, He is talking about spiritual riches. You see, if we trust in God, we may never be rich, but He will take care of all our needs…He promises, Philippians 4:19. God loves us and wants to take care of us, the problem is that we want to be self-sufficient when we need to rest in Him. God not only tells us to seek His gold, He also tells us to go to him for clothing, He wants us to be clothed in righteousness, Job 29:14, “Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban.” He also tells us that He will give us ointment for our eyes so we can see. In Ephesians 1:18 Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

But, He doesn’t end there. In verse 19 Jesus lets us know that He corrects us because He loves us. Then, verse 20 is that well-known verse, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” He pleads with us to fix the problem, so we can have the friendship that He wants. In verse 21 He lets us know that if we have victory over our sin, we will sit with Him on His throne. And, of course, He ends it by saying, verse 22, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

We need to have an ear to hear. We need to take heed of what He is saying to these churches and get victory over our sin. We have all become very complacent to sin and need to turn back to our first love.

Two bad Examples

Photo by Michelle Pearson

Two Bad Examples

In the book of the Revelation, in chapters 2 and 3, God talks about seven different churches. For each one He either gives praises or warnings or both. After each one of them, He says, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” Does this sound familiar? It should, because Christ used those same words when He was talking to the crowd about who John the Baptist was, and He used them again at the end of the Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed. In the case of the parable, Christ told the parable and ended it by saying, Matthew 13:9 “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” We learn in Mark’s account of this, that after He said that, He walked away, kind of a drop the mic moment. When His disciples came to Him later and asked Him the meaning of the parable, He explained it to them. You see? The disciples were the ones with an ear to hear. They wanted to understand what he was saying. They wanted a deeper relationship with Christ. All those other people just wanted to hear Him speak. They were either just curious or were following the crowd. Either way, they didn’t want to be changed, they just wanted to be entertained. Our churches today are full of people like that. These people are just filling some religious checklist, but have no desire to be transformed.

So, going back to the churches mentioned in the book of the Revelation, He gives these warnings, as well as what they were doing right, and wants us who have an ear, those of us who want a deeper relationship with Him, to seek out what He was saying. I’m not going to have time to focus on all seven churches, this is a blog after all, not a book. So, I would like to focus on just two of them. Then I encourage you to go back and study the other five if you have an ear to hear.

The first one I would like to take a look at is the first one mentioned in this passage, the church at Ephesus. You can find this one in Revelation 2:1-7. He starts out by praising this church for all the things they are doing right. In verses 2 and 3 He lists those things, 2I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.” So, they were hard working patient people, they didn’t put up with evil people, they study out everything they hear, and they Patiently suffered without quitting. This all sounds pretty good. If we were to look at the church at Ephesus from the outside, we would think they were a pretty good church group.

But, then in verse 4, He tells them that He has something against them. He says, “that you have left your first love.” This is interesting, because judging by those first things, it appears that they truly love God, but the problem He has with them is that they have left their first love. This wasn’t just their love for God, it was their love in general…their love for God, for each other, and for the world. They were complacent. Notice it doesn’t say that they lost their first love, it says they left it. It was a conscious decision. They had walked away from their first love. Charles Spurgeon said this, “A church has no reason for being a church when she has no love within her heart, or when that love grows cold. Lose love, lose all.” God is much more emphatic about love, He says in 1 John 4:7-8, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” So, if you don’t love others, you don’t truly know God, because God IS Love!

He goes on in verse 5 to say, “Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.” So, He starts out by saying, “Look how far you have fallen.” He wants them to see where they went wrong because until they see that, they will not be able to fix the problem. This is good advice for any church. We need to step back and see if and where we have fallen. I used to manage restaurants. I would regularly remind my employees to stop and look around as they were walking into the store, and look as if it were their first time there. This helps us see what we are missing. When you do something over and over for years, you stop noticing things that would have bugged you in the beginning.

Once we see where we are going wrong, He says to turn back to Him and the things we did in the beginning. Stop and think about what it was like when you first came to Christ. Sadly, this is a normal process with us humans. We grow calloused over time. It happens to us in everything, our marriage, our job, even that new boat or car we had to have. So, we need to regularly step back and think about what it was like in the beginning. We need to return to our first love.

Well, is it that important that we do this? He tells us at the end of verse 5, “or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” I’ve heard pastors say for years now that there is no mention of a country that even resembles America in the book of Revelation. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean we will be wiped out…removed from the lampstand…it means we need to repent. Repenting means that we need to do a one-hundred and eighty-degree turn. We need to do the opposite of what we are doing now. We need to stop chasing religion and focus on a relationship with God.

Okay, so that’s a lot to think about for now, so we’ll talk about the second church next time. Until then, let’s all determine to step back and see what our church looks like. Are we making disciples or just congregations? Are we fostering strong relationships with Christ, or are we playing church? Is glorifying God our main goal, or have we become a religious institution? Just a little food for thought.

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