This week, we will continue studying the book of Revelation also known as the Apocalypse. Chapters 2 and 3 or Revelation contain seven letters to the seven literal, local churches mentioned in chapter 1, verse 11. These letters have a number of applications. First, they are seven actual letters to seven actual churches situated in seven different cities. Second, they are letters to seven individuals within the seven churches. Third, they are messages applicable to all churches in all ages, for the seven churches picture seven periods, or stages, of church history. In each period, the Lord speaks to the churches in a judgmental way, portraying their failures, then He calls them to repentance and zealousness.
In this newsletter, we will be discussing the churches
of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos:
Verse 1: Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks [or the seven churches rep-resented throughout history];
The first church addressed is the church of Ephesus, covering the time period from approximately 33 A.D. (the birth of the church at Pentecost) until 100 A.D. when John, who wrote the Book of Revelation, died. The letter is to the angel or, literally, the ďmessengerĒ of the church of Ephesus, and is from the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who [walks] in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. This, of course, is the glorified Christ, as we learned in chapter 1, verse 20. How thrilling to note that the Lord both holds the churches (all believers) in His hand and walks in the midst of them, as well! This is the Christianís security. The Saviourís walk among us is to bring us closer to himself. Next, Christ speaks...
Verse 2: I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
Notice that, in each of the seven letters, the Lord begins by commending the local assembly for what-ever He can find in them that is good before scolding them for their sins. The Ephesus church began in all purity, as can be observed from a study of the Book of Acts. Then false prophets entered in. This is exactly the warning Paul had sounded during his last gathering in Ephesus: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember (Acts 20:29-31). The leaders of the church judged these false prophets in earlier days, but became lax as they lost their first love.
Today many think it is wrong to judge heresy or wickedness. Not so! The same Christ who said, Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1) also declared, Judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). A believer is never to judge a person as far as character and motives are concerned. However, he should definitely judge one when that individualís doctrine is heretical or his life is filled with wickedness. This is why John said, Try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1), and why Paul stated in 1 Timothy 5:19 and 20: Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. The church at Ephesus had slipped from its original moorings and was on the way down. Is it any wonder that Mohammedanism swept through the land and destroyed the compromising church that once was mighty under Paul?
Verse 3: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my nameís sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Part of the reason this church (who had borne, and had patience, and for His nameís sake had laboured, and had not fainted) failed may have been that they were too busy serving and not taking time for sweet fellowship at the feet of Jesus. When one is so active that he has no time for the Bible and prayer, he is too busy. Many have fallen to the indictment of...
Verse 4: Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
How true of multitudes today! When they were first saved they loved Jesus, loved to pray, loved to read the Word, loved to attend the services at Godís house and loved to witness. Ah, but they have lost that first love!
Verse 5: Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick (or your local church) out of his place, except thou repent.
It happened! After the conquest of Mohammedanism [Islam], the church of Ephesus became nonexistent. Do not let this happen to your church or to you! Before God finishes His pronouncement of commendations and condemnations upon the church of Ephesus, he adds...
Verse 6: But this thou host, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Who were the Nicolaitans and what was it about them that so angered Almighty God? The term comes from two Greek words which mean ďvictory over the laityĒ - a religious dictatorship that allowed little or no freedom to its members. This is precisely what the Holy Spirit had in mind when He told the church elders not to be lords over Godís heritage, but...en-samples [examples] to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). How this message needs to be emphasized in our day as religious leaders try to impose their man-made rules on each and every member! After presenting this series of commendations and warnings, the Spirit of God adds...
Verse 7: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that over-cometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
How can one be an overcomer? By trusting in the merits of the shed blood of Jesus Christ: Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5).
Verse 8: And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
We saw in chapter 1, verse 11, that this first and the last, or Alpha and Omega, is the Lord Jesus Christ. He now begins His message to the church of Smyrna.
Verse 9: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
The Smyrna period of church history takes us from 100 A.D. to 312 A.D. These people probably suffered the greatest persecution in all Christianity. Their works, faithfully performed in the name of Jesus, brought great tribulation and accompanying poverty, materially. However, great riches were laid up for them in heaven. In addition, their relentless, dedicated efforts brought the Word of God to the entire Roman Empire. During the second and third centuries, the Smyrna church members were fed to the lions at Rome while multitudes cheered. Church history informs us that five million may have been martyred during this era. Every Christian ought to read http://www.ccel.org/f/foxe/martyrs/ Foxís Christian Martyrs of the World He will quickly discover the foolishness of complaining in this day of luxury and ease.
Believe it or not, the church flourished and grew during the Smyrna period! Perhaps a little persecution would do us some good today. We might learn to love other brothers in Christ who have a different religious label than ours. God forgive us for our sectarianism!
Much of Smyrnaís heartache came through false professors of religion - those who said they were Jews as defined in Romans 2:29 (circumcised of the heart and the spirit rather than the letter) but who, in reality, were not! They did not really believe and were actually members of the synagogue of Satan! Beware of those who claim to be Christians but deny the deity of Christ. They, too, are of the synagogue of Satan: [For] every Spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God (1 John 4:3). The same is true of those who mix law and grace. Paul said, I marvel that ye are so soon re-moved from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be ac-cursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).
Because of the false brethren propagating false doctrine and despising the true believers, persecution came from within and from without. In the face of such satanic opposition, Christís message was...
Verse 10: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
When the hour of trial arrived, the believers were not to fear. They were to keep their eyes on eternal rewards as mentioned in James 1:12: Blessed is the man that endureth [testing]: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Many Bible scholars believe that the ten days of persecution consisted of ten literal periods of suffering. I agree, since church history emphatically supports this assertion. Still, the church of Smyrna was guaranteed final victory through the Lordís promises, power, and provision...
11: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches; He that over-cometh shall not be hurt of the second
Verse 12: And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
Again, chapter 1, verse 16, proves that the speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 13: I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where satanís seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and host not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where satan dwelleth.
The letters to the first three churches begin with a commendation. To each Christ says, I know thy works. God sees what we do for Him. How sad when backsliding destroys the many good deeds performed in His name! We see this strange twist at Pergamos. Here the bad works outweigh the good ones.
This church period, extending from 312 A.D. to 606 A.D., was one of materialism, self indulgence, and worldliness. Wickedness spread like a brush fire. The name Pergamos has in it the same root from which we get our English words bigamy and polygamy. Pergamos signifies a mixed marriage of the church and the world. This happened because the Babylonian religion established its headquarters at Pergamos and infiltrated Christianity. No wonder this local church is charged with dwelling in the area of satanís seat or literally, ďthrone.Ē They were perched on the doorstep of the devilís headquarters!
Of necessity, the believer in Christ is in the world. However, he must constantly guard against becoming involved in its ungodliness. The church of Pergamos became part and parcel of satanís worldly establishment. They called themselves by Christís name (Christians) and made verbal and written assent to the faith, even though they saw the danger of martyrdom in the example of Antipas. Nevertheless, they backslid.
Verse 14: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
The first grievance against the church of Pergamos was the fact that they had embraced the pleasure of the world or become a worldly church. Secondly, they had given heed to false doctrine - the theology of Balaam. Remember Balaam? He had a smart donkey! How sad to be famous because of oneís donkey. The animal was so smart it could outtalk Balaam. What was the doctrine of Balaam taught to Balac? First, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and second, to commit fornication. Balac had hired Balaam to curse Israel, and Balaam, the false prophet, was unable to get the anointing of satan upon his spirit for the task. So he figured out a plan of destruction for the Jews. He said, ďLet the choice of the women of Balacís kingdom display themselves before the eyes of Godís people.Ē As expected, the Jewish men became enamored with the beauty of the daughters of Balacís kingdom, committed fornication with them, married them, and were eventually drawn into idolatry. How wrong! Those who name the name of Jesus are not to become involved with the world in any manner, [for] ye cannot drink the cup of the...Lordís table, and of the table of devils (1 Corinthians 10:21).
Verse 15: So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Not only were the people of the first church of Pergamos worldly, sinful, and idolatrous, but they also shared in the wicked practice of Nicolaitanism as did the church at Ephesus. This, again, is ecclesiastical Hitlerism. It is when the minister or leader says, ďI am the head, and you have no choice in the matter,Ē allowing laymen no voice in the affairs of the church. Concerning the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, the condemnatory statement, which thing I hate, is uttered by the Lord God himself. The solution?
Verse 16: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
This is serious business. The Christian is not to close his mind, heart, and ears to Godís warning.
Verse 17: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
As previously noted, the overcomer is the true believer in Jesus (see 1 John 5:4). He is given the hidden manna (the Word of God) and is presented a white stone. During ancient court trials, the jurors would lay down white stones to signify a decision of acquittal.
Praise the Lord, through the blood of Jesus, the white stones of acquittal have been presented and every Christian has a new name written down in glory!
Beloved, time is running out. The return of Christ is near - Donít miss it for the world!
This week I will continue our study from last week of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3. We will pick-up with the church at Thyatira:
In Revelation 2:18, we read: And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
Once again we see that the speaker is the Son of God. The description of His eyes and feet were discussed in chapter 1, verses 14 and 15.
Up to verse 19, all four churches have been complimented for their works. Thyatira, however, was loaded with meritorious service and unusual deeds. She was known for her good works, love, service, faith, patience, and last works. The term ďlast worksĒ means that this church outdid herself. Her works became greater toward the end of her lifetime than they were at the beginning.
Historically, Thyatira covers the years 606 A.D. to 1520 A.D. However, many scholars believe that this church is found in the world until she is destroyed by the revived Roman Empire in chapters 17 and 18. Although Thyatira had many admirable qualities, she nevertheless had some deep-rooted problems as well.
But verse 20 says: Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
Who was Jezebel? In the Old Testament she was perhaps the most wicked woman of her day. She became so hated that she was thrown from a window and the dogs ate her flesh. The sin of this self-appointed prophetess was to bring Baalism into Israel as a new religion. She is accused of seducing Godís servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. This constituted the breaking of two of Godís commandments to His people Israel:
(1) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them andGod called upon Thyatira to turn from her wicked ways.
(2) Thou shalt not commit adultery (Exodus 20:4,5,14).
Verse 21: I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
The long-suffering and loving God gave Thyatira approximately 1,000 years to do what was right, but she resisted. How like many twentieth-century Christians, constantly rejecting the wooings of the blessed Holy Spirit. The result...
Verse 22: Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Judgment always comes: Be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23). The Lord promises to cast this church and her bed partners - those who have partaken of her abominable iniquity, including idolatry and unfaithfulness to the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ - into the Great Tribulation. At that point, the church which sits upon seven hills (chapter 17, verse 9) will be destroyed. The details concerning this event are discussed in chapters 17 and 18.
The obvious lesson here is that God hates sin. Sentimentalists say, ďOh, the blessed, loving Jesus would never condemn anyone.Ē Really? We know that God is love (1 John 4:8) and God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world (John 3:17). Nevertheless, when His love is repeatedly spurned and one deliberately follows a course of sin, Godís holiness demands that the sinner be punished. Remember Christ himself is speaking the following verse:
Verse 23: And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
How sad that the church of Thyatira, so highly praised for good works in the opening passages, must be horribly judged because of having undone every good thing that had been originally performed in the name of the Saviour. Likewise, today it is possible for the Christian to lose every reward he has earned, so look to yourselves, that [you] lose not those things which [you] have wrought [or earned] (2 John 8).
The only good news concerning Thyatira was that a remnant remained faithful in spite of the deterioration of this local church.
Verse 24: But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
The Lord Jesus informed John that those who did not succumb to Jezebelís theological follies or fall into the fornication and idolatry propagated by this false Babylonian religion, would not have any other burden. They had experienced enough heartache.
Verse 25: But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
Here the faithful remnant was admonished to continue in the truth of Godís Word until Jesus re-turned.
Verse 26: And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
Verse 27: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
Verse 28: And I will give him the morning star.
Christ has promised faithful believers three rewards upon His return to the earth:
(1) rulership over the nations during the Millennium: For they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years (chapter 20, verse 4);
(2) sharing in this glorious time of perfect righteousness resulting from Christís personal enforcement and order (see Psalm 2:8,9); and
(3) the abiding presence of the blessed Saviour throughout time and eternity as Christ himself, the bright and morning star, is given (chapter 22, verses 14 and 16).
If your life is not what it once was for Christ, donít be a loser when rewards are distributed. In-stead, about-face! Live for Him! Heed the warning of the next verse.
29: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
saith unto the churches.