Category: Revelation Study

The Books of Life (Scripture References)

The Books of Life (Scripture References)

Our continuing study of Revelation brings us to the topic of the Books of Life. The following Scriptures provide a bit of a quick reference on the subject and there will be an in depth sermon to follow.

 

Revelation 20:15

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Luke 10:20

“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

Hebrews 12:22-23

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

 

Daniel 12:1

“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.

Philippians 4:3

Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Revelation 3:5

‘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.

Revelation 21:27

and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Exodus 32:31-33

Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. “But now, if You will, forgive their sin–and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” The LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Psalm 69:27-28

Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.

Revelation 13:8

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

Revelation 17:8

“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.

 

 

Psalm 56:8

You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle Are they not in Your book?

Psalm 139:16

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

Malachi 3:16

Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.

 

The Presence of White in Revelation Revelation 3:3–13 (H.H. Halley)

The Presence of White in Revelation Revelation 3:3–13 (H.H. Halley)

• Jesus’ head was “white like wool, as white as snow” (1:14).
• “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it” (2:17).
• “They will walk with me, dressed in white” (3:4).
• He who is victorious will “be dressed in white” (3:5).
• Heaven’s citizens will be clothed in white (3:18).
• The twenty-four elders “were dressed in white” (4:4).
• Each martyr “was given a white robe” (6:11).
• Redeemed multitudes were arrayed in white robes (7:9).
• Robes made white in the blood of the Lamb (7:14).
• The Lord will come on a white horse (19:11).
• His armies, clothed in white, will be on white horses (19:14).
White is the color of dazzling light, in opposition to darkness and night. It may reflect purity and innocence, but more often joy and triumph. God dwells in light unapproachable (1Ti 6:16). Jesus’ garments in the transfiguration were white (Mk 9:3)

 

 

The materal here is excerpted from the Halley’s Study Bible

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Pergamos- Warning to the Compromising Church

Pergamos- Warning to the Compromising Church

Pergamos is one of the 2 compromising Churches in Revelation, the other is Thyatira.

1st: What compromising with the world is not…

  • Taking steps to protect your congregation during times of major illness.
  • Being subject to the Civil Authority when they ask you to do something that is not outright sin.

Before we discuss compromise with the world, let’s remember the words of Jesus. (re read text)

He who has the sharp two-edged sword: In Revelation 1:16, John observed of Jesus out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword. Now, Jesus “showed” this two-edged sword to the Christians in Pergamos.

The description of the sword in Revelation 1:18 helps us to associate it with the mouth of Jesus. Jesus will confront this church with His word, and they will feel the sharp edges.

Sharp two-edged sword: This reminds us of the passage in Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Jesus would use this sharp two-edged sword to make some separation among the Christians in Pergamos.

If you recall earlier lessons, we said that at any time of judgment, the Word of God is the standard against which we are judged and this includes both the Person and the Book.

“I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

I know your works: Jesus said this to each church. It is true of each one of us. He knows our works, even if there isn’t much to know.

Hebrews 4: 13, Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Think back to the description of Jesus in chapter one and recall the eyes as a flame of fire. This spoke of penetrating judgment from which there is no escape. We also saw that being Alpha and Omega references the omniscience of Jesus so all the works of all the Church are known to Jesus.

And where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is: In many ways, Pergamos was a stronghold of Satanic power.

There are many different opinions as to why Pergamos was such a stronghold of Satanic power. Some believe it is because Pergamos was a center of pagan religion, especially of “Asclepios Soter” or “Asclepios Savior.” Some believe it was because Pergamos had a huge throne-like altar dedicated to the Roman god Zeus. Some believe it was because Pergamos was a center for the ancient Babylonian priesthood, but this is tough to prove conclusively. Others believe it was because Pergamos was the political center of the worship-demanding Roman government.

If there was a modern parallel to Pergamos it would probably Las Vegas, albeit the parallels are not really strong. However, there is no question that it is a stronghold of satanic power but there is still a thriving church in the city.

And you hold fast to My name: Despite the fact they lived in such a difficult city, the Christians of Pergamos held fast to their faith in Jesus (hold fast to My name… did not deny My faith).

 

Did not deny My faith: Jesus praised the Christians of Pergamos because they did not deny His faith. It is always important to make sure that the faith we hold on to is the faith that belongs to Jesus.

I have a few things against you: The Christians in Pergamos were rightly praised for holding fast to the name of Jesus and keeping his faith. At the same time, their difficult environment did not excuse the few things Jesus had against them.

You have, there, those who hold the doctrine of Balaam: Balaam was a prototype of all corrupt teachers. According to Numbers 22-24 and 31, Balaam combined the sins of immorality and idolatry to please Balak, the king of Moab, because he could not curse Israel directly.

Idolatry runs rampant in the church today. The most well known of our churches are not, in fact churches, but are in reality temples to Mammon. Don’t believe me? Listen to the message they preach- your best life now, riches and prosperity, success, renown. These are what Satan offered Jesus during His temptation in the Galilean wilderness.

Self has become god. What is passed off as church is a show followed by a talk from a life coach not a pastor.  Now it is not wrong to have cushioned chairs and air conditioning but when a chocolate cake has better theology than the morning music, we have a major issue.  Further, you hear people talking about what “they got out of worship” this morning or what they did or did not like in the sermon. Frankly, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what a person thinks they got out of the service- you aren’t here to get, you are here to give God what is His, unqualified worship and praise.

On the immorality front, there have been dozens of pedophiles occupying the office of the “priest,” homosexuals trying to be ordained into church leadership, unmarried worship leaders living together but still putting on the morning show, women trying to fill the role of the Elder. It’s enough to make you vomit. Often times you will hear the justification that “I was born this way.” Or you will have someone say, “I know what the Bible says but that was for a different age or I know what the Bible says but I feel God called me to ________”

First, God never calls anyone to do anything that He has already prohibited in His word. The text was not for a different age; God stands outside time and so does His word. As for, “I was born this way” what’s your point? Every one was born with a predilection to sin. I was born with a tendency to over indulge in food and a propensity for my eye to look at things it should not see. That does not mean you throw up your hands and say God made me this way and that is who I am.

Jude warns us to contend for the faith and uses the word agonizomai, from which we get agonize. It is an agonizing struggle to be holy. That it why Jesus said to take up your cross instead of put on your backpack.

The Nicolaitans

We don’t have a ton of information in church history about this sect but we can deduce two things. 1. These were most probably an oppressive sect. Nikao means to conquer and laos refers to the people. It has been suggested that the Nicolaitas were precursors to the Catholic Priesthood but I cannot concur. The pattern of Elders and Bishops in both the Old and New Testaments.  2. That they had a doctrine suggests that they were spreading a false teaching and persecuting those who did not cooperate.

What to do?

Repent. There’s that word again. It will keep coming up, too. The message of Revelation is Repent. Turn to Christ and forsake your unholiness. Then you will be with Him forever.

The Bittersweetness of Suffering (Sermon Notes)

The Bittersweetness of Suffering (Sermon Notes)

“Tribulation” This is not the Great Tribulation; it means simply trouble. Since the awful persecution of the church by the Roman emperors is not called the Great Tribulation, surely our small sufferings are not the Great Tribulation. But the church in Smyrna endured much tribulation, and they suffered for the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Suffering is assured to the believers

         It was promised to us by Jesus

John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation”

Suffering perfects our faith

James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;  Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

 

We sometimes walk through the dark valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

There are different types of suffering for the Lord: Persecution, sickness, loss. Any type of suffering is permitted by our Lord Jesus for His glory.

 

“Poverty” denotes the lack of material possessions. The early church was made up largely of the poorer classes. When the wealthy believed in Christ, their property was confiscated because of their faith. “But thou art rich” denotes the spiritual wealth of the church—they were blessed with all spiritual blessings. Notice the contrast to the rich church in Laodicea. To that church He said, “You think you are rich, but you are really poor and don’t know it.”

 

Let me drive this home for you. Neither physical riches nor physical poverty is a measure of God’s favor on your life. It is no sin to be wealthy but it is a sin to lust after money and riches. Any finances that God puts into your hands are for you to use to bless others. (James 1:27)

 

The Christians of Smyrna knew poverty because they were robbed and fired from jobs in persecution for the gospel. Early Christians joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven (Hebrews 10:34). This kind of economic persecution was one important reason why Christians were poor in Smyrna. Even today, this is a common form of persecution against Christians. Think of the bakers who are dragged into the courts or the photographers and florists, all because of their faith and unwillingness to celebrate unrighteousenss.

 

 

“The blasphemy of them which say they are Jews … but are the synagogue of Satan.”  Insofar as we can tell, the synagogue in Smyrna was aiding the Roman persecution of the Jews. These are not Gentiles who call themselves Jews but are not. History tells us they were very hostile to the Church in Smyrna and, consequently, hey are a synagogue of Satan. Perhaps they were like the Members of the Circumcision faction in Galatia, who sought to force non-Jews into receiving circumcision in order to have a relationship with God, thus subjecting themselves and their followers to a legalistic perversion of the Torah. To be clear, this was not all of the Jews in Smyrna and probably not even the Jewish laity. It was most certainly the leaders of the synagogue and, possibly, the more civically prominent members of the congregation.

 

Do not fear: Literally, this is better translated “stop being afraid.” The Christians in Smyrna suffered under persecution, and they were afraid. Sometimes we think that Christians who endure persecution are almost super-human, and we sometimes don’t appreciate the depths of fear they struggle with. There were things which they were about to suffer, and Jesus wanted them ready to stand against those things.

 

“Fear none of those things” is the encouragement of the Lord to His own in the midst of persecutions. This is the second time in this book that the Lord has offered this encouragement. Throughout Church History, especially during the time of the Reformation, we see that multitudes went to their death singing praises to God.

 

 

“The devil [Satan] shall cast some of you into prison.” Christ labels Satan as being responsible for the suffering of the saints in Smyrna. You and I tend to blame the immediate person or circumstance which serves as Satan’s tool, but the Lord Jesus goes back to the root trouble.

 

Remember the story of Job. Satan was given permission to test Job, but within defined limits. No persecution, no suffering comes without the permission of God.

 

“Ye shall have tribulation ten days.”  There are two important points in view here. First, the “10 Days” symbolize 10 periods of persecution under Rome’s emperors.

 

  • Nero—64–68 (Paul was beheaded under his reign)
  • Domitian—95–96 (John was exiled during that period)
  • Trajan—104–117 (Ignatius was burned at the stake)
  • Marcus Aurelius—161–180 (Polycarp was martyred)
  • Severus—200–211
  • Maximinius—235–237
  • Decius—250–253
  • Valerian—257–260
  • Aurelian—270–275
  • Diocletian—303–313 (the worst emperor of all).

 

This is certainly a valid idea but it is hardly the point. When we have ALL of Revelation in view, it is clear that the “10 Days” is indicative of a short period of time.

 

That you may be tested: If this attack came from the devil, then why couldn’t these Christians in Smyrna just rebuke Satan, and stop the attack? Because God had a purpose in their suffering, and so He allowed it. God uses suffering to purify (1 Peter 1:6-7), to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:17), and to makes us truly witnesses of Him. In all ages, the blood of the martyrs has been seed for the church.

“The saints at Smyrna had not been given a pep-talk on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ They had no testimony on ‘How Faith Made Me Mayor of Smyrna.’ They were not promised deliverance from tribulation, poverty and reviling. In fact, the worst was yet to come.” (Havner)

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

 

The Christians in Smyrna would be tested, but they passed the test. This church, compared to the other six, has no evil spoken against it. Only this church among the seven survives today, and it has survived through centuries of Roman and Muslim persecution.

 

That you may be tested: God is also interested in testing us. We may not have the same opportunity to suffer for Jesus that the Christians in Smyrna had, but we can have their same heart. We may never be in a place to die a martyr’s death, but we can all live a martyr’s life. Sadly, many Christians avoid persecution of any kind by conforming so much to the world that they are no longer distinctively Christians. This wasn’t the case with the Christians in Smyrna. They were tested and they passed the test.

 

 

“Be thou faithful unto death”—and they were. They were martyrs for Him. He promises them “a crown of life.” Remember that He is addressing the believers who lived in Smyrna, the crown city. It is interesting that to them He is saying that He will give crowns—not crowns of flowers—or of anything else perishable—but crowns that will be eternal.

 

The Crown of Life is life itself: everlasting, undiminished, incapable of loss. So often we think of Life Everlasting in terms of time and it is true that Everlasting Life will not end but it is so much more than unending life. Everlasting Life, because it is IN Jesus, who IS life, is quality of life. Everlasting Life is perfect; it does not diminish because it cannot. Everlasting Life can no longer be shortened by sickness or dimmed by death. In the instant we put off this pitiful rag and take up the dazzling majestic robe of life that Christ gives, we will have total and complete quality of life unto the age of the ages. Christ, Himself, is our life; He is our crowning glory.

The Rule of Interpreting Symbols (Guest Post from James Quiggle)

The Rule of Interpreting Symbols (Guest Post from James Quiggle)

This article from James Quiggle, ThM will prove most helpful in our study of Revelation…

Here is the rule concerning figures of speech, symbols, idioms, and slang terms: they are based in something real and literal and they are intended to communicate something real and literal.

The corollary is: a figure of speech, symbol, idiom, or slang term is not intended to communicate the literal thing on which it is based.

First, a worldly example. “It is raining cats and dogs.” This figure of speech is thought to have come from one of five historical circumstances. Of those possibilities, here are two that illustrate the point figures of speech are based in something literal. One, in the days before modern sanitation a heavy rain would wash the carcasses of dogs and cats down the streets. Two, a heavy rain would wash out cats and dogs hiding in thatched roofs or cause them to jump out of the thatch, thus giving the appearance of raining cats and dogs. Whichever is correct, the figurative meaning is a heavy rain. The figure of speech, “raining cats and dogs” is not intended to communicate literal cats and dogs are falling from the sky

An biblical example. Marriage is used as an Old Testament symbol. The marriage symbol communicates the spiritual fidelity and loyalty expected in marriage teaches the spiritual fidelity and loyalty expected in the believers’ relationship with God—no idolatry. Israel the “wife” of YHWH, does not teach YHWH is married to Israel.

(And the NT corollary: the figure “bride” is not intended to communicate a literal betrothal or marriage to Christ. The NT church is not the “bride of Christ,” but the marriage figure is intended to communicate certain spiritual realities of the church’s relationship with Christ by using certain aspects of a literal betrothal and marriage.)

Another biblical example, literal fire used as a symbol communicates literal destruction (Isaiah 5:24), judgment (Isaiah 66:16; Revelation 20:15), or cleansing (Isaiah 6:6–7). Fire used as a symbol does not communicate a literal fire.

Another biblical example. At Revelation 1:16, a sharp two-edged sword comes out of Christ’s mouth. Are John and the Holy Spirit teaching Christology? No. Does that description mean Christ walks around with a sword coming out of his mouth? No. Does it mean Christ’s tongue is metaphorically razor sharp like a sword and metaphorically cuts the listener? No. The two edged sword is a figure of speech used as an illustration of the Word of God at work in the believer and the world, Hebrews 4:12, revealing and convicting. This figure of speech as used in Revelation represents the Word of God in the mouth of God accomplishing the will of God.

Jesus said if your eye offends you, pluck it out, Matthew 5:29. A woodenly literal interpretation requires the believer to physically remove the offending eye. Is Jesus recommending blindness to avoid moral defilement? Or is there a meaning which recognizes a figure of speech in the passage? The answer will be found by understanding “pluck it out” as a figure of speech. The figure means the believer should remove him or herself from those avenues by which improper sexual thoughts enter into the soul and grow into immoral lust. In the same passage, Jesus said to cut off your right hand if it offends you. Again, this is a figure of speech, not a command to cut off one’s hand. The figure communicated something literal to those listening. The right hand was viewed as the dominant hand, therefore symbolically it indicates the action of one’s will; more simply, one should not make the choices that lead to lust and sin.

One must exercise discernment. One context may require a literal fire, Exodus 12:8, roasting the Passover lamb in the fire. Other contexts may use fire as a symbol of something literal, e.g., Jude 23, “some save with fear, snatching them out of the fire.” The use of “fire” in Jude 23 is a symbol meant by the author to communicate the literal punishment due the unsaved sinner. The word “snatching” in Jude 23 is also a figure of speech in this context, a metaphor for the passionate proclamation of the evangelizing gospel message that when believed saves the soul from endless punishment.

At Revelation 1:14 Jesus’ eyes are “as a flame of fire.” The grammatical value of “as” signifies a simile, which in turn indicates the use of “fire” has a symbolic value, which in turn is meant to communicate something literal. The eyes “speak of penetrating discernment; nothing in the inmost depths of our being can escape the scrutiny of those eyes” [Coates, Revelation, 11]. The meaning is intensified by the descriptive “flame.” Fire is associated with cleansing and with judgment. Believers are cleansed by judgment (e.g., Revelation 2:18), but unbelievers are punished (e.g., Revelation 19:11–12).

The issue with interpreting language is how to recognize the non-literal use of a word. When is fire, or a sword, or some other word, being used symbolically and when is its use literal? The identification of a person, event, or thing as a symbol is critical. For example, if Moses had not understood the rock in the wilderness as a literal and nearby rock (Exodus 17:6), Israel would have died of dehydration. On the other hand, for Paul the literal rock in the wilderness was a symbol of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:4.

Virkler (“Hermeneutics,” 172) gives six indicators that will help identify when an author does not intend his words to be taken literally:

— The author makes an explicit statement to that end.

— A literal interpretation is impossible.

— A low degree of correspondence exists.

— The imagery is highly developed.

— The author piles up multiple images.

— The author uses original imagery.

To this list I add two other indicators. One, the immediate context will help establish the author’s intent. Two, the use of certain words throughout Scripture establishes a pattern of use, e.g., the use of “fire” in both literal and symbolic contexts. These eight indicators are the best general guides in making decisions concerning use within a specific passage.

So, when interpreting figures of speech, symbols, idioms, or slang terms, keep in mind these two rules.

1. Figures of speech, symbols, idioms, and slang terms used in the Bible are based in something real and literal and are intended to communicate something real and literal.

2. Figures of speech, symbols, idioms, or slang terms are not intended to communicate the literal thing on which it is based.

(This essay is from my work, “The Literal Hermeneutic, Explained and Illustrated.”)

Love’s Grown Cold: The Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

Love’s Grown Cold: The Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

Introductory Remarks

The letters to the seven churches share a similar structure. They each feature:

  • An address to a particular congregation.
  • An introduction of Jesus.
  • A statement regarding the condition of the church.
  • A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church.
  • A command from Jesus to the church.
  • A general exhortation to all Christians.
  • A promise of reward.

As we go along, keep in mind, we can see the state of each of these seven churches – and the state of our own walk with Jesus – by looking at what Jesus has to say to each church in each section.

 

 

  1. The Ephesian Church’s Pedigree
  • Ministry endeavors were begun by Aquila and Priscilla. (Acts 18:18-19)
  • Apollos came along to preach (Acts 18:24-26)
  • Paul’s Second Missionary Trip saw him briefly engage in the city (Acts 18:19-21)
  • On Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey, we see Paul begin to formally organize the Church in Ephesus. (Acts 19:1-7, 20:31) Paul spent three years with the church.
  • Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) and, later, Tychicus (2 Timothy and Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18) served as leaders of the Church in Ephesus.
  • At the time of his arrest, John the Apostle (son of Zebedee) was the pastor.

 

If there was ever a church that was the place to be, Ephesus was it.

 

 Jesus describes Himself to the church at Ephesus.

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

We look back to the vision in Chapter 1 and see that Jesus is here, emphasizing His Lordship over the whole Church. The statement that He is holding the seven stars in his right hand is a statement of absolute sovereign authority. Christ is not merely Sovereign Lord (Kurios), He is Absolute Lord (Despotes), unrivalled, unchallengeable and in total control of the Churches

 

 What Jesus knows about the Christians of Ephesus.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.

 

I know your works: Jesus looked at His church, and He knew its condition. It was no mystery to Him. There may be sin or corruption hidden in a congregation, but it isn’t hidden to Jesus. He would say the same thing to us today, both as individuals and as a congregation: I know your works.

 

Your works, your labor, your patience: Jesus knew what this church did right. They worked hard for the Lord and they had godly endurance. Patience is the great ancient Greek word hupomone, which means “steadfast endurance.” In this sense, the church in Ephesus was rock-solid.

 

You cannot bear those who are evil: The Ephesian church pursued doctrinal purity. Paul warned the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. From this commendation of Jesus, we know that the Ephesians took Paul’s warning seriously.

 

Most of what passes for Christianity, today, would not pass muster with the Church in Ephesus. Much like the Church in Antioch of Berea, they knew the Scripture and they tested these alleged pastors and apostles against Scripture.

 

I said in one of my lessons on 2nd John, I believe that the “Elect Lady” is both a real person and a metaphor for the Church and that metaphor seems to fit Ephesus. While there are some false converts in the church, her children (the congregation) are largely walking in the truth.

Spurgeon on Ephesus:

“This was grand of them: it showed a backbone of truth. I wish some of the churches of this age had a little of this holy decision about them; for nowadays, if a man be clever; he may preach the vilest lie that was ever vomited from the mouth of hell, and it will go down with some.”

You have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary: Also, the Ephesian church continued doing these things without becoming weary. They showed a godly perseverance that we should imitate while guarding against passivity.
To the untrained eye, everything you could want in a church was to be found here. If you were pastoring, Ephesus was where you wanted to get your start. Passing muster with the Ephesian church would make you in that world. That was your credential so to speak. Unfortunately for the Church in Ephesus, Jesus did not have an untrained eye. If you remember, the Lord is described as having eyes like a flame of fire. This is immovable, penetrating discernment from which there is no escape. This really is terrifying if you think about it. All of your motives, thoughts, etc. are laid before Christ in utter nakedness- nothing is hidden.

 

 

What Jesus has against the church at Ephesus.

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

 

Nevertheless I have this against you: Jesus used a sobering word – nevertheless, which means “despite all that.” Jesus took into full account all the good in the Ephesian church, yet despite all that, He had something against them. All the good in the Ephesian church did not cancel out the bad Jesus is about to describe.

 

You have left your first love: Despite all the good in the Ephesian church, there is something seriously wrong. I suppose that is an understatement. What is wrong is so terrible, so egregious that disaster is at the door.  They have left – not lost – their first love.

 

It’s a tragedy, really. The language Jesus employs indicates that this was a conscious choice. The distinction between leaving and losing is important. Something can be lost quite by accident, but leaving is a deliberate act, though it may not happen suddenly. As well, when we lose something we don’t know where to find it; but when we leave something, we know where to find it

 

Let’s consider for a moment how this can happen. Believe it or not, one of Jesus’ most familiar parables actually gives us a clue. Remember, if you will, the parable of the sower. Thorns, a symbol of the cares of the world, come and choke out the seed. We can reasonably conclude that this is what happened to Ephesus. It is also possible that this resulted from being neglectful of the Gospel. This rebuke from Jesus came about 40-45 years after Paul’s departure, about one generation.

 

  1. Left your first love: What lovedid they leave? As Christians, we are told to love God and to love one another. Did they leave their love for God? Did they leave their love for one another? Probably both are in mind, because the two loves go together. You can’t say you love God and not love His family, and you can’t really love His family without loving Him first.

 

The Ephesian church was a working church. Sometimes a focus on working for Jesus will eclipse a love relationship with Him. Sadly, an overemphasis on works can kill your love.

 

The Ephesian church was a doctrinally pure church. Sometimes a focus on doctrinal purity will make a congregation cold, suspicious, and intolerant.  “When love dies orthodox doctrine becomes a corpse, a powerless formalism. Adhesion to the truth sours into bigotry when the sweetness and light of love to Jesus depart.” (Spurgeon)

When Jesus says that the church has left its first love, we are talking about priority not chronology, the key is in the Great Commandment. The Great Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Jesus tells us that this is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:38).  I cannot help but be overcome with sorrow when I read the rebuke to the Church in Ephesus. There is a lot that you can get wrong in the Scripture and still be saved. You can misunderstand baptism, eschatology, ecclesiology and others but if you miss that Jesus, who is, Himself, God is your first love, your main priority, the only satisfaction your soul will ever feel, and your only respite from sin, then you will miss it. Hell is full of people who never wanted to be there but they did not love the Lord Jesus. Heaven is filled with those who never expected to be there, but they did love the Lord Jesus. Before anyone objects, let us consider this logically for a moment: if a person does not love Jesus now and want to spend time in His presence, what possesses them to think they will be in His Heaven where every single solitary object and being is designed for His glory and His delight. That is the real message to the Church in Ephesus, “ You have left Me and in so doing, you jeopardize your soul.”

 

What Jesus wants the church at Ephesus to do.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its placeunless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

 

Repent: We don’t really get the importance of this, yet. As we go through Revelation we will see that all of the judgments, except two, are designed to elicit repentance. Bowl Judgment number five is the last time that we see repentance mentioned.  In the final two bowl judgments, there is nothing but unfettered retribution.

 

I have given you this thought before but I want to give it to you again: Repentance is turning to Christ so that you can forsake your sin, not the other way around.

 

I do not want you to take the picture of a jilted lover here. Jesus is not jilted; He is a father who is being forced to discipline the children. The warning to repent is a mercy. To paraphrase “If you do not stop your bad behavior, I will be forced to discipline you.”

 

 

Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place: Jesus gave them a stern warning. Unless they repent, He will remove their light and His presence. If their lampstand was removed, they could continue as an organization, but no longer as a true church of Jesus Christ. It would be the church of Ichabod, where the glory had departed (1 Samuel 4:21).

 

When we see Jesus removing His presence, this does not mean that the Godhead has moved; God is omnipresent. Rather, Jesus is removing the relationship. Even in hell, the Godhead will be present inflicting judgment. Hell is not the absence of God, it is separation. Those who have not repented and find themselves in hell will be forever cut off from the benefits of a love relationship with Christ. Every person will have a relationship with Jesus for all eternity. In Heaven it will be a love relationship. Conversely, in hell it will be a relationship of unrelenting punishment. The choice is afforded to all. Repent and be saved, do not repent and be damned.

 

This is important: while you still draw breath, you still have hope of Heaven. Whoever wants to come, may come. The key is wanting to come.

 

Angels in the Book of Revelation

Angels in the Book of Revelation

Angels play a large part in directing the panorama and scenery of the visions, and in the writing of the book. Altogether we find 27 references to the activities of angels in Revelation.

  • An angel dictated the book to John (1:2; 22:16). Each of the seven churches had an angel (1:20; 2:1, etc.).
  • An angel called out about the sealed book (5:2).
  • 100 million angels sang praise to the Lamb (5:11).
  • Four angels were given power to hurt the earth. An angel sealed the elect (7:1– 4).
  • The angels fell down on their faces before God (7:11).
  • An angel was used in answering prayers of the saints (8:3–5).
  • Seven angels sounded the seven trumpets (8:6–7, etc.).
  • An angel of the abyss was king of the locust army (9:1 – 11).
  • Four angels loosed 200 million Euphratean horsemen (9:15–16).
  • An angel had the open book, announcing the end (10:1–2, 6).
  • Michael and his angels warred with the dragon and his angels (12:7).
  • A flying angel proclaimed the Gospel to the nations (14:6).
  • Another flying angel proclaimed the fall of Babylon (14:8).
  • An angel pronounced doom on the beast’s followers (14:9–10).
  • An angel announced the harvest of the earth (14:15).
  • An angel announced the vintage of the earth (14:18–19).
  • Seven angels had the seven last plagues (15:1).
  • An angel announced judgment on Babylon (17:1, 5).
  • An angel again announced the fall of Babylon (18:2).
  • An angel had a part in dealing Babylon its death-blow (18:21).
  • An angel presided over the destruction of the beast (19:17).
  • An angel bound Satan (20:12). An angel showed John the new Jerusalem (21:9).
  • 12 angels guarded the 12 gates of the new Jerusalem (21:19).
  • An angel told John not to worship him (22:9).

 

Excerpted from Halley’s Bible Handbook. Halley’s Bible Handbook, Deluxe EditionCompletely revised and expanded 25th edition of Halley’s Bible Handbook
Copyright © 2000, 2007 by Halley’s Bible Handbook, Inc.
Previously titled Halley’s Bible Handbook with the New International Version—Deluxe Edition

Love’s Grown Cold: The Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

Love’s Grown Cold: The Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)

Introductory Remarks

The letters to the seven churches share a similar structure. They each feature:

  • An address to a particular congregation.
  • An introduction of Jesus.
  • A statement regarding the condition of the church.
  • A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church.
  • A command from Jesus to the church.
  • A general exhortation to all Christians.
  • A promise of reward.

As we go along, keep in mind, we can see the state of each of these seven churches – and the state of our own walk with Jesus – by looking at what Jesus has to say to each church in each section.

 

 

  1. The Ephesian Church’s Pedigree
  • Ministry endeavors were begun by Aquila and Priscilla. (Acts 18:18-19)
  • Apollos came along to preach (Acts 18:24-26)
  • Paul’s Second Missionary Trip saw him briefly engage in the city (Acts 18:19-21)
  • On Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey, we see Paul begin to formally organize the Church in Ephesus. (Acts 19:1-7, 20:31) Paul spent three years with the church.
  • Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) and, later, Tychicus (2 Timothy and Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18) served as leaders of the Church in Ephesus.
  • At the time of his arrest, John the Apostle (son of Zebedee) was the pastor.

 

If there was ever a church that was the place to be, Ephesus was it.

 

 Jesus describes Himself to the church at Ephesus.

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

We look back to the vision in Chapter 1 and see that Jesus is here, emphasizing His Lordship over the whole Church. The statement that He is holding the seven stars in his right hand is a statement of absolute sovereign authority. Christ is not merely Sovereign Lord (Kurios), He is Absolute Lord (Despotes), unrivalled, unchallengeable and in total control of the Churches

 

 What Jesus knows about the Christians of Ephesus.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.

 

I know your works: Jesus looked at His church, and He knew its condition. It was no mystery to Him. There may be sin or corruption hidden in a congregation, but it isn’t hidden to Jesus. He would say the same thing to us today, both as individuals and as a congregation: I know your works.

 

Your works, your labor, your patience: Jesus knew what this church did right. They worked hard for the Lord and they had godly endurance. Patience is the great ancient Greek word hupomone, which means “steadfast endurance.” In this sense, the church in Ephesus was rock-solid.

 

You cannot bear those who are evil: The Ephesian church pursued doctrinal purity. Paul warned the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. From this commendation of Jesus, we know that the Ephesians took Paul’s warning seriously.

 

Most of what passes for Christianity, today, would not pass muster with the Church in Ephesus. Much like the Church in Antioch of Berea, they knew the Scripture and they tested these alleged pastors and apostles against Scripture.

 

I said in one of my lessons on 2nd John, I believe that the “Elect Lady” is both a real person and a metaphor for the Church and that metaphor seems to fit Ephesus. While there are some false converts in the church, her children (the congregation) are largely walking in the truth.

Spurgeon on Ephesus:

“This was grand of them: it showed a backbone of truth. I wish some of the churches of this age had a little of this holy decision about them; for nowadays, if a man be clever; he may preach the vilest lie that was ever vomited from the mouth of hell, and it will go down with some.”

You have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary: Also, the Ephesian church continued doing these things without becoming weary. They showed a godly perseverance that we should imitate while guarding against passivity.
To the untrained eye, everything you could want in a church was to be found here. If you were pastoring, Ephesus was where you wanted to get your start. Passing muster with the Ephesian church would make you in that world. That was your credential so to speak. Unfortunately for the Church in Ephesus, Jesus did not have an untrained eye. If you remember, the Lord is described as having eyes like a flame of fire. This is immovable, penetrating discernment from which there is no escape. This really is terrifying if you think about it. All of your motives, thoughts, etc. are laid before Christ in utter nakedness- nothing is hidden.

 

 

What Jesus has against the church at Ephesus.

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

 

Nevertheless I have this against you: Jesus used a sobering word – nevertheless, which means “despite all that.” Jesus took into full account all the good in the Ephesian church, yet despite all that, He had something against them. All the good in the Ephesian church did not cancel out the bad Jesus is about to describe.

 

You have left your first love: Despite all the good in the Ephesian church, there is something seriously wrong. I suppose that is an understatement. What is wrong is so terrible, so egregious that disaster is at the door.  They have left – not lost – their first love.

 

It’s a tragedy, really. The language Jesus employs indicates that this was a conscious choice. The distinction between leaving and losing is important. Something can be lost quite by accident, but leaving is a deliberate act, though it may not happen suddenly. As well, when we lose something we don’t know where to find it; but when we leave something, we know where to find it

 

Let’s consider for a moment how this can happen. Believe it or not, one of Jesus’ most familiar parables actually gives us a clue. Remember, if you will, the parable of the sower. Thorns, a symbol of the cares of the world, come and choke out the seed. We can reasonably conclude that this is what happened to Ephesus. It is also possible that this resulted from being neglectful of the Gospel. This rebuke from Jesus came about 40-45 years after Paul’s departure, about one generation.

 

  1. Left your first love: What lovedid they leave? As Christians, we are told to love God and to love one another. Did they leave their love for God? Did they leave their love for one another? Probably both are in mind, because the two loves go together. You can’t say you love God and not love His family, and you can’t really love His family without loving Him first.

 

The Ephesian church was a working church. Sometimes a focus on working for Jesus will eclipse a love relationship with Him. Sadly, an overemphasis on works can kill your love.

 

The Ephesian church was a doctrinally pure church. Sometimes a focus on doctrinal purity will make a congregation cold, suspicious, and intolerant.  “When love dies orthodox doctrine becomes a corpse, a powerless formalism. Adhesion to the truth sours into bigotry when the sweetness and light of love to Jesus depart.” (Spurgeon)

When Jesus says that the church has left its first love, we are talking about priority not chronology, the key is in the Great Commandment. The Great Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Jesus tells us that this is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:38).  I cannot help but be overcome with sorrow when I read the rebuke to the Church in Ephesus. There is a lot that you can get wrong in the Scripture and still be saved. You can misunderstand baptism, eschatology, ecclesiology and others but if you miss that Jesus, who is, Himself, God is your first love, your main priority, the only satisfaction your soul will ever feel, and your only respite from sin, then you will miss it. Hell is full of people who never wanted to be there but they did not love the Lord Jesus. Heaven is filled with those who never expected to be there, but they did love the Lord Jesus. Before anyone objects, let us consider this logically for a moment: if a person does not love Jesus now and want to spend time in His presence, what possesses them to think they will be in His Heaven where every single solitary object and being is designed for His glory and His delight. That is the real message to the Church in Ephesus, “ You have left Me and in so doing, you jeopardize your soul.”

 

What Jesus wants the church at Ephesus to do.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its placeunless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

 

Repent: We don’t really get the importance of this, yet. As we go through Revelation we will see that all of the judgments, except two, are designed to elicit repentance. Bowl Judgment number five is the last time that we see repentance mentioned.  In the final two bowl judgments, there is nothing but unfettered retribution.

 

I have given you this thought before but I want to give it to you again: Repentance is turning to Christ so that you can forsake your sin, not the other way around.

 

I do not want you to take the picture of a jilted lover here. Jesus is not jilted; He is a father who is being forced to discipline the children. The warning to repent is a mercy. To paraphrase “If you do not stop your bad behavior, I will be forced to discipline you.”

 

 

Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place: Jesus gave them a stern warning. Unless they repent, He will remove their light and His presence. If their lampstand was removed, they could continue as an organization, but no longer as a true church of Jesus Christ. It would be the church of Ichabod, where the glory had departed (1 Samuel 4:21).

 

When we see Jesus removing His presence, this does not mean that the Godhead has moved; God is omnipresent. Rather, Jesus is removing the relationship. Even in hell, the Godhead will be present inflicting judgment. Hell is not the absence of God, it is separation. Those who have not repented and find themselves in hell will be forever cut off from the benefits of a love relationship with Christ. Every person will have a relationship with Jesus for all eternity. In Heaven it will be a love relationship. Conversely, in hell it will be a relationship of unrelenting punishment. The choice is afforded to all. Repent and be saved, do not repent and be damned.

 

This is important: while you still draw breath, you still have hope of Heaven. Whoever wants to come, may come. The key is wanting to come.

 

Revealing the Majesty on High (sermon notes)

Revealing the Majesty on High (sermon notes)

John gives us a sevenfold description of Jesus, a description unique as there is no similar description is found nowhere else in the Bible

In the middle of the seven golden lampstands…Matthew 28:20- Jesus promises His continual presence in His church. The lampstands being symbolic of the church (ye are the light of the world Matthew  5:14) Jesus is shown in glory as the Lord of the Church who is ever present with us

clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. (1:13b)

The first thing John noted was that Christ was clothed in a robe reaching to the feet (Isa. 6:1). Such robes were worn by royalty (e. g., the kings of Midian, Judg. 8:26; Jonathan, 1 Sam. 18:4; Saul, 1 Sam. 24:4; Ahab and Jehoshaphat, 1 Kings 22:10; and Esther, Est. 5:1;) and prophets (cf. 1 Sam. 28:14). But the word translated robe was used most frequently (in six of its seven occurrences) in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to describe the robe worn by the high priest. While Christ is biblically presented as prophet and king, and His majesty and dignity emphasized, the robe here pictures Christ in His role as the Great High Priest of His people. That He was girded across His chest with a golden sash reinforces that interpretation, since the high priest in the Old Testament wore such a sash (cf. Ex. 28:4; Lev. 16:4).

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, (1:14-15a)

John’s description of Christ’s head and hair as white like white wool, like snow is an obvious reference to Daniel 7:9, where similar language describes the Ancient of Days (God the Father). These parallel descriptions affirm Christ’s deity; He possesses the same attribute of holy knowledge and wisdom as the Father. White translates leukos, which has the connotation of “bright,” “blazing” or “brilliant.” It symbolizes Christ’s eternal, glorious, holiness. On an interesting side note: the body’s first line of defense is the leukocyte, a type of white blood cell. When the leukocyte is faced with an invading microorganism, it surrounds the foreign micro-organism and consumes it.  This, at the cellular level, is a picture of the blazing white hot holiness of Jesus. This holiness surrounds sin and consumes it.

Christ appears to John in blazing glory and that appearance reflects absolute power and holiness.

Eyes like a flame of fire…His searching, revealing, infallible gaze penetrates to the very depths of His church, revealing to Him with piercing clarity the reality of everything there is to know. Jesus declared, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known”(Matt. 10:26). In the words of the author of Hebrews, “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” (Heb. 4:13). The omniscient Lord of the church will not fail to recognize and deal with sin in His church.

Fire, you remember, speaks both of judgment and of purification.

  • A flaming sword kept Adam and Eve from Returning to the Garden (Genesis 3:24)
  • Fire from the Lord consumed Nadab and Abihu when they offered strange fire before the altar (Leviticus 10:1-2)
  • Jesus referred to Hell as the fire which will never be quenched (Mark 9:43)
  • God promised to bring a remnant of Israel through the testing of fire (Zechariah 13:9)
  • Our faith is refined by times of testing making it more precious than gold which has been refined in a fire. (1 Peter 3:7)
  • Isaiah 48:10 tells us that God will test us in the furnace
  • All the deeds we have done after being saved are tested by fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ and what remains will be the basis of our reward (1 Corinthians 3:10-13)

To summarize, the eyes which are blazing with fire are seeing and evaluating all things. Unholiness will be consumed in the fire of judgment, righteousness will be refined in the fire of testing. In both cases, Jesus sees everything and evaluates based on our relationship with Himself, either from imputed righteousness or being separated from Him. There is no escape.

Before we go further let’s turn our attention to Isaiah 6 for a moment…

Verses 1-4

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

May we also consider Ezekiel 1

Verses 26-28

26 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. 27 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 a radiance around Him. 28 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.

Both Isaiah and Ezekiel say they saw the Lord. John 1:18, however, says that no one has seen God. Is John contradicting Isaiah and Ezekiel? Not in the slightest. Isaiah and Ezekiel saw the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ. Here in Revelation, John sees the resurrected Christ, restored to His glory. Jesus who came in humiliation to save sinners has now been restored. John is looking into the face of Majesty on High.

  • “voice as the sound of many waters” (1:15)— This is the voice of absolute authority. Ezekiel 43:2 speaks of the voice of God in a similar manner. This is the voice will call forth the dead for judgment. (John 5:28-29). Think all the way back to Genesis 1 “And God said…), it is the same voice, the voice of majesty, of power, the voice so compelling that it calls into nothingness and brings out a world.

Being the voice of absolute and final authority, the church is compelled to listen. Consider the command of the God the Father at the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my Beloved Son… hear ye Him”

Hebrews 1:1-2 “ God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”

Word for word the Greek says “God spoke in Son.” The Word of John 1 now has His voice and it roars like the sea raging in a storm. The Son, upon whom John is gazing, is the final expression of God.

  • “right hand [holding] seven stars” (1:16)—these 7 stars are identified in verse 20 as the 7 Churches of Asia Minor, which churches represent the totality of the church and NOT seven eras of church history. Jesus Christ has full control over His church and upholds them and sustains them in His power.

The sharp two-edged sword that came … out of His mouth is used, in some cases, to defend the church against external threats (cf. 19:15, 21). But here it speaks primarily of judgment against enemies from within the church (cf. 2:12, 16; Acts 20:30). Those who attack Christ’s church, those who would sow lies, create discord, or otherwise harm His people, will be personally dealt with by the Lord of the church. His word is potent (cf. Heb. 4:12-13), and will be used against the enemies of His people (cf. 2 Thess. 2:8), so that all the power of the forces of darkness, including death itself (the “gates of Hades”; Matt. 16:18), will be unable to prevent the Lord Jesus Christ from building His church.

There are those who purport themselves to be Christians and “pastors” who will one day wish that this sword had been deployed against them. They will wish it had been used to excise the false from their lives, as a pruning, on the day they face that sword as a destroyer.

Let me make it crystal clear, at the Last Day the standard of judgment is a single book. Yes there are many, but they give evidence. We will be measured against the Bible. If we have lived a life in imputed righteousness and obeyed the Scripture in the power of the Holy Spirit, our 1st piece of evidence will be our name in the Book of Life. All our good works, done for Christ’s glory, will prove the case that we are the People of the Book and we will be rewarded with the presence of Christ forever. The converse is also true, a life lived in rebellion to the Scripture will have its appointment at the Great White Throne where the Bible will prove, fully and finally, that the sinner is not “basically a good person.”

A face shining like the sun at midday…at the risk of being repetitive, this is a dazzling white light reflecting the Shekinah of God. Some of you have never experienced snow so you might not get this, but I still recall it 20 years after it last happened. There is a phenomenon, a white out, where the sun is reflecting of the layer of snow on the ground. It is such a powerful reflection that it not only hurts to look at but will completely blind you if you stare long enough. THAT is but a shadow compared to the blazing glory of Jesus. We will see at the end of Revelation- The Son of Man’s glory will illuminate the entire universe which had gone dark in the judgment. It is utterly impossible for man’s feeble imagination to fully grasp this.

In verse 17 John says he fell down at his feet like a dead man…What an understatement! John, who was instantly made aware of his own sinfulness in the presence of indescribable holiness, is so struck with fear that he finds his heart failing him. I would go so far as to say that this was most likely a heart attack of some kind, though it could be a type of vasovagal syncopy.

What other response could you possibly have? When exposed to the traumatic experience of seeing a Holy God, how do you not come face to face with your own sinfulness. Isaiah called himself ruined when he saw the Lord Jesus. I see that statement and I always wonder why they opted for the softer translation. The Hebrew says “I am destroyed being a man of unclean lips.” And is not that exactly what holiness does, obliterate sin?

Now we go from amazing to stunning, so stunning in fact that it slaps the taste out of your mouth…

The God of the Universe touches John and says do not be afraid.

Jesus’ nail pierced hand reaches out to John in comfort and assurance. The do not be afraid was totally familiar to John. Doubtlessly, John’s mind flashed back to the night of that terrible storm when Jesus walked on the water. In the midst of their terror, Jesus calls out to the disciples. “I AM. Do not be afraid.” John’s cousin and old friend was back. At the touch of Jesus, he was comforted and assured that his Lord was not about to destroy him.

I AM He that liveth and was dead and am alive forevermore.

I just love the Bible’s use of understatement. This is one of the greatest showstoppers of all time. So many people read this statement and just move on. Every single time I see it, the experience is like running face first into a brick wall. YHWH, who defines existence, became dead, but it once again alive and will be alive forevermore.

This sentence is overflowing with theology. The doctrines of  incarnation, vicarious and substitutionary atoning death, and the resurrection are all alluded to in this verse.

Notice, if you will, that this is the third time Jesus claims a title of Deity and this third title of deity Jesus claimed is that of the Living One (cf. John 1:4; 14:6). The Living one is a reference used throughout Scripture to describe God (e. g., Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26; Ps. 84:2; Hos. 1:10; Matt. 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; 2 Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:10; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; Rev. 7:2). God is the eternal, uncaused, self-existent One. In John 5:26 Jesus said to His Jewish opponents, “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself, “thus claiming full equality with God the Father.

I am alive forevermore. Christ lives forever in a union of glorified humanity and deity,” according to the power of an indestructible life” (Heb. 7:16). “Christ, having been raised from the dead,” wrote Paul, “is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him”(Rom. 6:9). That truth provides comfort and assurance, because Jesus “is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). In spite of his sinfulness in the presence of the glorious Lord of heaven, John had nothing to fear because that same Lord had paid by His death the penalty for John’s sins (and those of all who believe in Him) and risen to be his eternal advocate.

I have to wonder if Charles Wesley had this text in mind when he penned these immortal words:

Hear Him ye deaf, His praise ye dumb
Your loosened tongues employ
Ye blind behold your Savior come and leap ye lame for joy.

What a response to the text. Indeed no day can be better than when blind eyes see Christ or when deaf ears finally hear His praise. How amazing when muted lips thunder forth in praise of the Lamb better still (and the one I await) when crippled legs leap for joy and dance around the Throne celebrating the Son who is Redeemer and God!

And have the keys of death and Hades

Jesus is the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). As part of His Godhood, Jesus has the power to give life and to take life. It is He who has made the appointment for man once to die and once to face the judgment.

More importantly, Jesus is the first-fruits of the Resurrection. (Colossians 1:8). His resurrection from the dead ensures that the grave has no power over us. In John 10:28 Jesus says that He gives eternal (everlasting is a better word) and none can take them from His hand. He is Lord over death.

In the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, we see Jesus not only declare that He is in charge of resurrection but He is, Himself, the source of that resurrection.

In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

Justin Holcomb: “As “firstborn of the dead,” Jesus is both first in time and first in preeminence. As the first to be raised from the dead, Christ is the founder and initiator of the new era God is bringing about through Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Jesus’ resurrection from death opens the way for all who trust in him to follow him in a resurrection like his when he returns. This is important because it shows that our ultimate hope is not just for our souls to go to heaven, but for our physical bodies to be raised to new life like Jesus’ was. He is the firstborn of the resurrection.”

This, then, is the inheritance that we await, that we shall be with this Lord forever and ever. The Greek phrase captures it so well: eis tous aionas ton aionon (literally, unto the age of the ages). That is how long Christ will be our inheritance, our treasure, the source of all our delight, unto the age of the ages. Does it get better than that?

 

Evaluating the 7 Churches

Evaluating the 7 Churches

There will be a full lesson on the 7 Churches of Revelation but it is helpful to condense some of the material for easy reference.

In this lesson we are learning from Drs. Richards, Criswell, and Jeremiah…

 

Church

Characteristic

Description of Jesus

Desired Response

Ephesus, the Steadfast (2:1–7)

Works hard, perseveres, rejects the wicked, endures, but left its first love

He walks among the seven lamps (is in heaven)

Return to first love

Smyrna, the Persecuted (2:8–11)

Suffers, is in poverty, endures persecution

He who died, is alive again

Remain faithful

Pergamum, the Morally Compromising (2:12–17)

Remains true, is faithful to death, but tolerates immorality

He holds a sharp, double-edged sword

Repent of evil ways

Thyatira, the Doctrinally Compromising (2:18–29)

Does more than at first, but tolerates immorality, false doctrine

Eyes of fire, feet of bronze

Hold to the truth

Sardis, the Counterfeit (3:1–6)

Does more than at first, but tolerates immorality, false doctrine

Eyes of fire, feet of bronze

Hold to the truth

Philadelphia, the Obedient (3:7–13)

Has little strength yet has kept the Word, patiently endures

Holds the key of David (messianic authority)

Hold tight to what they have

Laodicea, the Materialistic (3:14–22)

Neither cold nor hot, wealthy, but poor spiritually

Ruler of creation

Be earnest, repent under discipline

 

 

 

 

Richards, L. O. (1991). The Bible reader’s companion (electronic ed., p. 909). Wheaton: Victor Books.