Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Revelation 3:7-22 - The Churches in Philadelphia and Laodicea

Revelation 3:7-13 – Philadelphia, The Faithful Church

Philadelphia was located at the east end of the broad valley.  Its soil was rich and good for agriculture.  It was on the main road from Sardis.  They had a lot of trade and was famous for its temples.  Its name means “love of a brother”.

John wrote to the church at Philadelphia telling them that these are the words of Him who is holy and true and holds the keys of David.  What He opens no one can shut and what He shuts no one can open.  The door of heaven is opened only by Jesus.  He Himself is the door.  I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved…”John 10:9.  Jesus has great power and is in control of all that happens. 

Jesus knows their deeds.  He knows they have little strength, but they have kept His Word and haven’t denied His name.  They remained faithful.  Jesus will make those of the “synagogue of Satan” fall down at Philadelphia’s feet.  One day our enemies and the enemies of God will be forced to bow down before Him.  They will know that Christians were right in following Jesus.

The church at Philadelphia kept His commands and endured patiently so Jesus said He would keep them from the trials to come.  Jesus promised to protect His church from the time of trouble.  Some believe this implies pre-tribulation rapture.  This is what I believe.  Christians will be removed from the earth before this real trouble starts.  This trouble is also known as the Great Tribulation.  We will learn more about this later in our study of Revelation.  This removing of the church is what is called the rapture.  But remember, Jesus does not promise that Christians won’t suffer in this world and we should not assume that we will be removed before this great trouble takes place.  We don’t know when this will happen or when Jesus will return.  Until then, Christians must continue to believe in Him and not be deceived.  Revelation 4-22 tells us the things which will happen to those who dwell on the earth during the Great Tribulation.

Jesus said He is coming soon and they are to hold on to what they have and let no one take their crown.  He will never leave them.  He will write on them His name.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”Rev. 3:13.

How faithful are you?
How do you demonstrate your faith?
If Jesus returned today, would you be ready?

Revelation 3:14-22 – Laodicea, The Lukewarm Church

Laodicea was about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia.  It was riches of the cities.  It was the major commercial and financial center.  They were famous for their medicines and medical school.  They had indoor plumbing, but they had no water supply so they brought water in from about 6 miles away. 

John wrote to the church at Laodicea telling them that these are the words of the Amen who is faithful and a true witness, the ruler of Gods’ creation.  The Amen acknowledges that Jesus is valid, binding, true, and trustworthy.  Jesus was there when God created all things.  Here again, Jesus knows all and sees all things.  He knows their deeds and He knows ours.  They are neither hot nor cold.  He wishes they would be one or the other, but they are lukewarm.  Because they are lukewarm, Jesus is about to spit them out of His mouth.  In other words, He is about to vomit them out. -  It sounds much worse when you say it like that.  They are rich and are proud of their wealth and think they don’t need anything.  Jesus told them they didn’t realize they are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

This describes some churches today.  Does this describe you?  They are prideful, complacent, and indifferent.  They have become preoccupied with what they have or even the work they do.  They work for sake of working.  They just go through the motions.  They, like the Laodiceans are self-sufficient, have material comfort, and think everything is OK.  Remember if this is you, Jesus is about to vomit you out of His mouth.

Are you lukewarm for Jesus?
Do you realize you need Jesus or are you like the Laodiceans?
Of what do you need to repent?
If you are a church member, are you a true child of God?

Those Jesus loves He rebukes and disciplines.  Jesus told them to be earnest and repent.  “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and with me.”Rev. 3:20.  Discipline is always hard but it benefits the person.  He loves them and wants them to be free from all kinds of evil things and wrong attitudes.  Jesus will come in to our hearts, if we invite Him.  But we have to ask.

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcome and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”Rev. 3:21-22.

The 7 letters in Revelation close with a promise to those who overcome.  Who are overcomers?  Overcomers are followers of Christ who successfully resist the power and temptation of the world.  They have complete dependence on God for direction, purpose, fulfillment and strength.   They are those who overcome the world, the anti-Christ, and Satan. 

God promises rewards to those who overcomer:
Rev. 2:7 – He will give the right to eat from the Tree of Life
Rev 2:11 – He will not be hurt by the second death.
Rev 2:17 – He will give hidden manna, a white stone with a new name
Rev 2:26-28 – He will give authority over nations
Rev. 3:5 – He will not blot name in book of life
Rev. 3:12 – He will make a pillar in the temple and never will leave it, will write on him the name of God
Rev. 3:21 – He will grant right to sit on His throne

Are you an overcomer?
Your name may be on a bottle of coke, but is it in the book of life?

These letters to the churches are very clear and we should carefully evaluate ourselves to see if we are in true faith.  Getting away from God’s Word can become gradual and we can drift away without realizing it.  We should be on guard and alert to false doctrines and teachings.  Times are changing.  The world asks us to be tolerant, but where do we draw the line?  We kill unborn babies, live together before marriage, men marry men and women marry women, and the list goes on.  Just because our culture is changing doesn’t mean God’s laws are.  So be careful and if in doubt about something, go to God and His Word for the right answers.

Do you have any characteristics like that of the 7 churches?
Are you faithful?    
How are you true to His Name?
In what ways do you tolerate false teaching?
Are you lukewarm?
Do you need to repent?

Join me for next week's study.  Hope to see you here.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Revelation 2:12-29 - 3:6

Revelation 2:12-17 – Pergamum, Holds to False Teachings

Pergamum is about 55 miles north of Smyrna.  It was built on a high mountain with walls around it.  It was the political capitol.  It was famous for its education with schools, colleges, and a large library.  There were around 100,000 people living there.  There were 3500 theatres in Pergamum.  Pergamum was the center of the government in Asia.  Satan lived there. (Rev. 2:13)  The people worshiped many gods.  There was an altar to the Greek god Zeus.  Caesar was the emperor and called himself a god and was worshiped by some of the people. (Note:  there are no churches in Pergamum today.)

John wrote to the church at Pergamum and identified Himself as one who has a sharp double-edged sword.  Jesus knows where they live – where Satan has his throne.  Yet they were faithful.

The church was divided and He had some things against them.  There were false teachings in the church.  Some of the people practiced the teachings of Balaam who enticed the Israelites to eat food sacrificed to idols and commit sexual immorality.  They also obeyed the teachings of the Nicolaitans like in Ephesus. 

Jesus told them they needed to repent or He would come and fight against them with the double edged sword of His mouth.  The sword is His judgment.  Jesus will not tolerate rebellion forever.  There will be consequences.  Jesus words are important and true.  They needed to change the direction of their lives.  Jesus tells us we can fight against wrong teaching by putting on the armor of God in Eph 610-18.

Repentance begins in the mind.  If you repent and change your mind, Jesus will change your heart.  Repentance is a wonderful gift of God – to stop believing wrong and start believing what is right.

Do you need to change the direction of your life?
Do you profess a faith you do not practice?

Jesus says “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To Him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”Rev. 2:17.  Don’t stop listening to the Holy Spirit.

In Exodus when the Israelites were in the desert, God gave them manna to eat.  When they no longer needed manna, they put in a jar and then into the ark.  The manna was a picture of Jesus.  He is the bread of life and the true bread from heaven.  This manna is food from heaven.  This probably means food for the spirit while we are on earth.  This is a promise that we will dine with the Lord in heaven.  If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever (John 6:48-51).

The white stone declares a person innocent.  The new name represents a new person you become when you receive Christ as your Savior.  You are born again.  You are not defined by who you were or what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, but what Jesus has done for you.  You are clean.  You are loved.  You are forgiven.  Your old nature is gone.  The Holy Spirit will begin to empower your life.  You will have a change of mind.  You are a changed version of yourself.  You will get new desires.  You will want to read and study your Bible.  You will want to meet with God’s people.  You will want to stop sinning.  You will want to learn and grow. 

Has God given you a new name?
How are you a new person in Christ? 

Revelation 2:18-29 – Thyatira, Holds to False Teachings of Jezebel

Thyatira was a small city and the least important.  It was about 35 miles from Pergamum.  It was busy and wealthy and many trades were there.

Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and His feet are like burnished bronze.  This shows Jesus is powerful, strong and holy.  Jesus is aware of all that his people do and He knew all the things the Christians in Thyatira did.  They believed and trusted God completely.  They had love, faith, service, perseverance, and they were doing more than they did at first.  Their faith had grown.  He is pleased for the most part.

But there was a problem with this church, too.  They tolerated a woman He called Jezebel.  Jezebel in the Old Testament she called herself a prophetess.  A prophetess brings a message from God, but her message was a false one.  She was the wife of King Ahab.  She was wicked and taught sexual immorality and eating of food sacrificed to idols making Israel turn from God.  You can learn more about Jezebel in 1 Kings 16, 19 and 2 Kings 9. 

Jesus said He had given her time to repent, but she was unwilling.  He said He would soon punish her.  He would cause her suffering and strike her children dead.  These children could be her children or her followers.  God is patient, but He will not tolerate sin forever.  Jesus knows the hearts and minds and will repay each according to their deeds. 

For the rest of them who were true believers, He will not put any others burdens on them.  They are to hold on to what they have until He comes.  This will be His second coming.  That will be a great and wonderful day.  There will be a great reward for all believers.  Believers will have authority over the nations and will share in His power when He returns.  True Christians will share the rule and authority with Christ.  They will share His glory. (Ps. 2:8-9)

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev. 2:29.  Not only does the church at Thyatira need to listen to the Spirit, but we do as well.

Revelation 3:1-6 – Sardis, The Dead Church

Sardis was about 30 miles south of Thyatira.  It was on a mountain side and in a good position to defend itself.  It was not as strong a city at it once was.

John wrote to the church at Sardis telling them that these are the words of Jesus who holds the   7 spirits of God and the 7 stars.  What are these 7 spirits?   “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah. 11:2.  The 7 spirits of God are the work of the Spirit in the churches.  The stars are the angels over the churches.  This all means that Jesus looks after the 7 churches. 

Jesus knows their deeds and they have a reputation of being alive, but they are dead.  They once had strong faith, but over time their faith had become weak.  This is like some churches today.  Faith became weak over time.  It was a slow process and no one saw it coming.  The church seemed to be full of life, but Jesus knew it was dead.

Deeds are your actions or your works.  What do deeds have to do with our relationship with the Lord? 
“For it is by grace your have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”Eph. 2:8-10.  James 2:14-26 tells us “… faith without deeds is dead.”  The Sardis church heard the Word of God, but didn’t do anything with it.

When you hear the Word of God, what are you doing about it?

Jesus told them to “wake up” and strengthen what remains and was about to die.  They needed to be aware of what was happening.  They needed to be ready for His return.  He commanded them to remember what they have been taught and heard.  They must come back to the Lord and obey His Word.  They must repent.  If they don’t wake up, He will come and not announce His coming.  He will deal with them and they will be judged.

Most of the people didn’t live like Christians should.   They were only playing church.  Their beliefs made no difference to their lives.  There were a few people who walked with Jesus, dressed in white, and were worthy.  These white clothes represent acts of righteousness.  These are clothes of the faithful.  Jesus gave promises to those who stand firm and who are victorious in Him:  They would walk with Jesus dressed in white; God would never blot their names out of the book of life; Jesus would acknowledge their names before God the Father and His angels.

What is the book of life?  God has a book of life.  In it are the names of every person written before the foundation of the world.  If your name remains in the book, you will all go to heaven.  If you don’t accept Jesus as your Savior, you name will be blotted out of the book.  If your name is blotted out of this book, you cannot go to heaven.  We will see more about this book in Revelation 13, 17, and 20. 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”Rev. 3:6.

What will Jesus say about you – are you dead or alive for Him?
Do you need to wake up?
Are your clothes soiled or are they white?
Does your name remain in the book of life?
What can you do to be faithful?

Next week we will study Revelation 3:7-22 – the church in Philadelphia and Laodicea.  Hope to see you here.


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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Revelation 2:1-11

Churches are not perfect.  There are some good and some bad.  As imperfect as it is Jesus loves the church.  He wants us to love it, too.  Who is the church?  All Christians make up the church and we are to love the church universal.  Wherever your local church is, you need to be committed to it and serve there.

How are you committed to your church?
Where do you serve in your church?

At the end of the first century Christians in Asia were being persecuted because of their belief in Jesus Christ.  There were lots of other dangers during that time, including earthquakes and wars.  Rome had destroyed the temple, which affected the churches.  These 7 churches in Revelation are in modern day Turkey were not without problems.  There were false teachers and prophets and even sexual sins in these churches.  Some people had given up and turned away from Jesus. 

John wrote letters to theses churches as directed by God as we saw in chapter 1.  To each of the 7 churches God praised them for their good deeds and rebuked them for their bad ones.  He always started with praise, then gave a warning and ended with a promise.

Revelation 2:1-7 – Ephesus, The Church That Left Their First Love

Ephesus was the most important of the 7.  It was large, nearest to Patmos, and a center of worship of the goddess Artemis (Diana).  There was a lot of false religion and a lot of idol worship there.  Ephesus was a rich business center.  When people came from Asia to Rome, they would travel through Ephesus. 

John wrote to the angel of the church in Ephesus as God instructed telling them that his words were the words of Jesus who holds 7 stars in His right hand and walks among the 7 golden lampstands.  Remember in Revelation 1 we learned the 7 stars are to 7 angels and the 7 lampstands are the 7 churches.  His right hand represents Jesus’ position of power, authority, and safety.

Jesus told them He knows about the things they do.  He knows their deeds, their hard work, their perseverance, and that they cannot tolerate wicked men (Rev.2:2).  He praised them for their hard work and perseverance.  Rome opposed them and even the non-Christian Jews opposed them so life was hard.  He knows they cannot tolerate wickedness.  They tested evil men and proved they were false prophets.  The real followers of Jesus had passed the test and lived faithful lives.

Then Jesus rebukes them telling them they have forsaken their first love.  They had stopped loving one another.  They had stopped loving Jesus as they once did.  They were not as eager and excited about Jesus as they once were.  He wanted them to remember the things they did at first.  If they don’t repent, their lampstand will be removed.  Jesus was in the middle of the churches and by removing their lampstand, He would leave them and not protect them anymore and there would suffer God’s judgment.  They did however hate the practices of the Nicholaitans who followed the teaching of Balaam (Rev. 2:4-6).

To repent is to admit that you are wrong and change your ways and live differently.  You should turn to God, admit your sin, and ask for forgiveness. 

Are you doing all the right things spiritually and yet something seems missing?
Have you left your first love?
Where do you need to repent and rededicate yourself to God?

There will always be people who oppose the Bible and its teaching.  They think they know how to do things better and try to influence Christians today.  If it doesn’t stand up to Bible standards, it is false teaching.  The Bible is the source of all truth.  It will never be outdated.  It is always relevant.  It never changes.  Some people accuse Christians of being intolerant.  Our culture is changing, but the Bible does not.  Anything that contradicts the Bible is false teaching.  We are to know what it teaches so we can discern if any teaching is true or false.

There are many things that draw us away from God:
Serving 2 masters – Matt. 6:26
Love of position – Matt. 23:6-6
Not loving our enemies – Luke 6:27, 35
Getting caught up in the letter of the Law and missing its intent – Luke 11:40
Our profession – John 21
Our convenience and pleasure – Rom. 14:15
A love of self – 1 John 3:16-18, 2 Cor. 5:14-15
Dishonesty, hurt, unwillingness to forgive – Eph 4:30; 5:2, Col. 3:12-14, 1 Thess. 4:9-10
Hatred of others – 1 John 4:20
Failing to witness – 2 Cor. 5
Sin – 1 John 2:5
The world – 1 John 2:15

Do you know your Bible?
Can your knowledge of the Bible discern truth from lies?
What would your instructions be to someone who has left their first love?

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To Him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”Rev. 2:7.  This phrase “he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says” appears in each of the letters to the 7 churches.  It means everyone should always listen to the Holy Spirit.  Jesus speaks to Christians in His churches through the Holy Spirit.  If you want to stand on truth, let the Holy Spirit lead you.  We need to have truth, but show it with love.

What is an overcomer?  An overcomer is a faithful believer who has overcome the world.  A born-again believer is an overcomer.  Live in the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit and you will be able to be an overcomer.  Then as overcomers you will sit with Jesus on the day of the Great White Throne Judgment and escape God’s punishment, the second death in the Lake of Fire. 

Are you an overcomer?
How are you living in the power of the Holy Spirit?

What is this tree of life mentioned in Rev. 2:7?  We learned about the tree of life in Genesis.  God allowed Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of life in the garden except the tree of good and evil.  Once they sinned they were banned from the garden and didn’t have the right to eat from the tree of life.  Now through Jesus we have access to the tree of life – a life with God.

Revelation 2:8-11 – Smyrna, The Suffering Church

Smyrna was about 35 miles away from Ephesus.  It was a beautiful city and competed with Ephesus as the best city.  It was a pagan city.  It was the home of the temple of the Emperor Tiberius, the temple of Cybele, and the temple of Zeus.  The Jewish people joined with Rome to persecute Christians.  Smyrna was known as the suffering church.

John wrote to the church at Smyrna telling them these words are of Him who is First and Last and who died and came to life again.  This is a picture of the gospel.  Jesus knows their afflictions and poverty, yet He told them they were rich.  He knows the slander told about them.  He called the slanders “a synagogue of Satan”.  The Devil will put some of them in prison for 10 days, which will be a test.  This is the period of Daniel’s testing (Dan. 1:12-15).  They are not to be afraid.  They are to be faithful and God will give them the crown of life (Rev. 2:8-10).  Christians are imprisoned today for their faith, which is the work of Satan.  God will give them the crown of life, which means victory over death

How can they be rich?  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” - 2 Cor. 8:9.  They are rich because they were in Christ.  They have all the wealth of the heavenly Father.  They are blessed because of their being persecuted.   The Bible tells us when you are a follower of Jesus, expect persecution.

How faithful are you?  There is a crown of life waiting for you.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”Rev. 2:11.  Jesus is encouraging them.  When going through hard time, we all need encouragement.  We are to continue to be faithful.  God will take care of us.

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”-  1 Tim. 3:12.

Christians are being persecuted all over the world.  We are seeing a new wave of persecution in our world today.  Many countries are being affected by persecution.  The leader of the persecution is Isis.  There is imprisonment, rape, and murder.  It is everywhere.  How can we think America will be spared?  We will wake up some morning and it will be here.  It is starting to happen within our country.  Christians are losing their rights.  We can believe what we want, but we can’t act on it.  There are battles to come.  We are too passive and don’t want to fight.  This is not a fight.  It is a stand on the truth.  We are to stand up for what we believe and be faithful.  God will take care of us.

What do you need to do when and remember when you are going through a hard situation?

You can find the answer in Scriptures like - “I can do everything through hi who give me strength.”Phil. 4:13.  Also see 1 Thess. 3:2-5 and 2 Tim. 1:7-8.

Next week we will study Revelation 2:12-29; 3:1-6 – the church in Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis.  Hope to see you here.


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