Archive for the tag “Revelation”

Judgment, Trial, or Consequence?

Yesterday when I wrote about my thoughts, I said that I was thinking this COVID thing was judgment from God rather than a trial we are going through.

When I wrote it, I was actually surprised how easily those words came from my hands. Today, after prayer and thought, I am not so sure.  Do I still believe it could be judgment from God? Yep. Am I convinced of it? Not so much.

Here is why.

I decided to take a vacation. The clamors of the world were so loud over the past 5 months that I needed to disappear and get some alone time with God. I left Friday for vacation, heading into the mountainous areas of southwest VA. Mimi joined me for a couple of days and we tooled around the area looking at antiques and flowers and things, but she left Sunday afternoon and I stayed behind to get some alone time with God.

Yesterday, when I woke up, I started thinking on judgments in the Bible and what they looked like. I let my emotions lead my typing as I posted yesterday.

But then I spent much of the day reading, studying the Bible, and reviewing those judgments in there as well as other times people called things judgment that were not.

And now I am not so sure.

Looking at specific times in the Bible that could be used as a barometer for this being judgment, I started in the New Testament.

Acts 12:23 – Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

I know, not necessarily the use of a disease, but a judgment nonetheless and, bonus, it has worms eating a guy! But God does use death as a judgment. This one, was more personal than corporate.

Then you have this…

John 5:14 – Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Jesus is clearly telling someone to not sin anymore so that nothing else happens to him. But then I got to praying about this. Is this judgment or consequence? This guy was paralyzed 38 years prior. Who knows if it was from his sin or if he simply tripped and became paralyzed. We need more to the story to determine if it is truly judgment that Jesus is talking about here or if it consequence.

What about this one…

1 Corinthians 11:30 – That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

This one is clearly a judgment. Jesus is doing communion with His disciples and He tells them that if you take communion without discerning the body is eating and drinking judgment on themselves. Then He goes on to tell them that this is why many have died or are weak or sick.

Clearly a judgment here.

And this is a judgment specifically for people who are followers of Christ!

How about in the Old Testament?

Well, we have Job. His friends told him that he was being judged by God. God called Job’s friends wicked and stupid for saying that, though.

You would think that if this was judgment, there would be no confusion about whether it is or isn’t. God is not a God of confusion but of clarity.

One more verse to make a point is in Luke 13….

Luke 13:4-5 – Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

A tower fell in Jerusalem and the people wanted to know if it was judgment on them. Jesus specifically tells them it was not.

So now I am left wondering. Is this judgment? Is it a trial? Is it a consequence? I tend to lean more (today) on the consequence than anything. We are acting foolishly here in America, and especially in our churches, and we are not heeding the sound advice of the experts in their fields and doing what we please. There has to be a consequence that follows that course of action.

Ultimately, though, it is God who is in control. And, one day, this will all be wiped away as we enter rest with Him.

Zechariah 14: 1-11 Commentary

I am finally returning to finish what I had started so many months ago, to comment on the book of Zechariah. With all the events happening in the world today between viruses and rioting in the streets of America, God has kept me fairly quiet, at least on the social front.

This week is verses 1-11. Next week (hopefully) I will finish the rest of the chapter and thus finish the book of Zechariah.

Zechariah 14:1 – Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst.

The ESV says this is a day for the Lord. Other translations say that “the day of the Lord is coming.” This is a time when God will show wrath toward heathen. This is meant to be the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth.

Jerusalem will be overtaken and split up among its enemies. This will be the trigger for the Day of the Lord. Many think this is the time around 70 AD when Rome came against Jerusalem with a multinational army. But the deliverance that is listed by Zechariah doesn’t happen during the 70 AD event.

Zechariah 14:2 – For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

The brutality that will happen during this time will be beyond compare. The brutalities are typical hostilities that happen when hatred reigns in a person’s heart. After the brutality, half of the people will be taken into captivity and then a remnant will remain.

Zechariah 14:3 – Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.

Like throughout all of Biblical, and even modern, history, the Lord shows up gloriously when it seems all hope is lost. Think of the Israelites during the Exodus, they could not see the waters part until their had wet feet. Or I think of Paul & Silas in prison. Again, when all hope seemed lost, God showed up in a glorious way. I immediately go to the Revelation, chapter 14 verse 14 or Ezekiel 38:21.

Zechariah 14:4 – On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.

It is interesting to note that there is a fault line that runs across the Mount of Olives, fairly close to the temple mount. This earthquake is seen in Revelation 16.

This place holds so much significance in Biblical history. Ezekiel saw the glory of God departing from this mountain. The Garden of Gethsemane is here as well, where Jesus shed tears and was grieved to the point of death. And it was from this place that Jesus ascended into heaven.

Zechariah 14:5 – And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

As we notice in the book of Amos, there is an earthquake described. This mountain is split from east to west and the mountain will move north and south. It will create a valley that will reach to a place east of Jerusalem called Azal. This is a parallel quake to the book of Amos, when king Uzziah reigned in Judah.

Zechariah 14:6 – On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost.

It is interesting to note, as both verse 6 and 7 go together, that this is the Day of the Lord. The sources of light and dark that we know today won’t exist, but….

Zechariah 14:7 – And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

…it will be replaced with the Light of Christ alone. I look to Isaiah 30:26 and Malachi 4:2 as Biblical references here.

This day, only the Lord knows.

What Zechariah set up in the beginning of this chapter he describes in detail for the rest of it. Just what is going to happen on that “unique day?”

Zechariah 14:8 – On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

Jerusalem’s highest point is almost 300 feet lower than the Mount of Olives. But what will happen on that day is remarkable! The waters will flow to both the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

One other thing to note is that in the summer, most Palestinian creeks, rivers, and waterways dry up. But this tells us that it will continue year-round.

Joel 3:18 tells us that water will flow from under the temple. In Ezekiel 47 we see that trees of all kinds bear fruit year round because of the water that flows from the sanctuary.

Psalm 46:4 tells us about this river of God. It is something that can only be created by His moving, by God’s power alone.

There are MANY verses that allude to this “river of God.” It can be tied back to the original Eden from Genesis 2:10. Then, there are so many others that talk about it in the millennial sense: Isaiah 33:21 and Revelation 22:1 come to mind immediately.

Could this river of God be the essence of God Himself? I know that is a very dangerous statement to make, but if I read my Bible directly, this river proceeds directly out of the throne room of God!

This is the Living Water we so closely associate with.

Zechariah 14:9 – And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

The false religions are going to be taken away. All the covenants will be fulfilled:

Abrahamic – giving the nation of Israel and a land given to Abraham

Davidic – A king from the tribe of Judah and the line of David

New – Spiritual redemption of both Jew and Gentile

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all covenants.

Zechariah 14:10 – The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses.

The surrounding areas to Jerusalem will be leveled and become a plain and Jerusalem will be lifted above it all.

Many of the prophets said that in the latter days Jehovah’s house would be built on top of the mountains.

Zechariah 14:11 – And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.

Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city on earth. That will be no more. There will be safety and security in Jerusalem.

Again, many of the prophets spoke of the blessings of a restored Jerusalem.

Zechariah 11 Commentary

Zechariah 11:1 – Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars!

The question is whether this is showing us a past historical event (the Babylonian invasion) or a future prophecy. Based on the rest of this book, I would venture that this is a future prophecy that is predicting the Roman moves against Judea.

The area of the mountain passes between Lebanon and Israel are called the “doors of Lebanon.”

This chapter is setting up the events that will lead to God’s people rejecting the Messiah when He does come.

Zechariah 11:2 – Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled!
Lebanon’s strength was in her cedars. Throughout the Bible we see the strength of the “cedars of Lebanon.” They were a sought after commodity. This could be talking about an economic crash. If the strong cedars, which were a top trading commodity were ruined, how much more will the lesser commodities be ruined.

But I think this goes a beyond that in that the cedars show the strength of Lebanon. This is showing that strength being destroyed.

Zechariah 11:3 – The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!

This is a powerful verse that describes the leaders of God’s people being brought down. The wail of the shepherds means that the Jewish leaders will be ruined. Their glory will be ruined. Look at Mark 13:1, as the disciples are talking to Christ and they say that the stones and buildings are beautiful. Jesus tells His disciples that those stones will be destroyed.

Everyone will mourn because of the rejection of the Christ.

Zechariah 11:4 – Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter.

Zechariah moves into the explanation of how this destruction is to come about.

Different translations have different words for what the shepherd is to do to the flock. Some say to pasture them. Others say to feed them. Some say to take care of them. Others simply say to shepherd them.  Feeding, or caring for the sheep who are doomed to slaughter, is to provide them God’s Word. This means that they have no excuse of ignorance when the Messiah does come.

Acts 20:28 shows this specifically.

The more we go through this prophecy, the more we will see that Zechariah seems like he is acting this prophecy out. I don’t believe he is simply reciting it. I believe there are actions that go along with it.

Zechariah 11:5 – Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them.

Some translations of this verse say “hold themselves not guilty” instead of “go unpunished.” The adversaries of God’s people don’t feel guilt in the destruction of them. And God allowed this to happen.

As for “those who sell them,” God is talking about the rulers of Judah. Their selfishness basically sold their people to Rome. Look at verses such as John 11:48-50.

God even addresses those who sold His sheep to Rome and became rich. Look at Luke 16:14. The Pharisees missed the Messiah because they were lovers of money. The leaders have no pity on them.

Zechariah 11:6 – For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, declares the Lord. Behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.”

God is removing is pity on His people, which means he is going to deliver them into the hands of the Romans. This is a little bit of a foreshadowing of things to come when the Roman rulers, such as Vespasian.

Zechariah 11:7 – So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep.

A shepherd in ancient Israel would use two staves to lead their flock. One staff would be used to protect the sheep from danger while the other would be used to direct the flock. The names are Favor and Union (in some translations, “Beauty and Bands”). Beauty is God’s favor on His people while Bands is the reunification of Israel and Judah (see verse 14 later)

The flock doomed to be slaughtered are those whom Jesus came for (see Matthew 11:5). Some translations go so far as to say “the poor of the flock.”

Zechariah 11:8 – In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me.

This is a pretty hard passage to understand. Who are the “three shepherds?” This is definitely in a prophetic voice, so I would have to think that there is something much more than shepherds being named aside the Good Shepherd.

I tend to like Dr. James Boice’s view that the three shepherds are most likely the roles of prophet, priest and king, which were taken away after the Roman conquest. These roles have never been restored as they are now fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

Zechariah 11:9 – So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.”

In chapter 7 we saw that God would not listen to His people. This was a pretty intense form of punishment. Now, God is telling them He will not be their shepherd.

They rejected the Good Shepherd and ended up in occupation and famine.

Zechariah 11:10 – And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples.

God is setting aside His providential care for His people. The covenant that He is speaking of here is from Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This paved the way for Rome to invade and conquer.

Zechariah 11:11 – So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord.

God’s people knew the covenant had been annulled. God has defended His people, but now they were about to become food for, as the Bible calls, the “wild beasts” of the Gentile world.

Zechariah 11:12 – Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty pieces of silver is used a lot in Scripture. In the book of Exodus, it is the price given to a master whose slave was gored by oxen. A good slave was worth twice that amount. This meant that the final slap in the face would be that Jesus’ life was worth thirty pieces of silver, making Jesus worth no more than a common slave.

Zechariah 11:13 – Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.

The thirty pieces of silver was thrown into the house of the Lord. This is a prophecy that was fulfilled when Judas, filled with the guilt of condemning Jesus, threw the silver on the floor of the temple and the priests used it to purchase a field from a potter.

Zechariah 11:14 – Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

The breaking of the first staff in verse 10 symbolizes the rejection of God’s people by the Good Shepherd. The breaking of this staff is showing the breakup of Israel and Judah, most likely under Roman rule.

In reading Roman historian Josephus, he said that things got so bad after the Romans conquered that Jew fought against Jew as severely as the Romans had beaten them.

Zechariah 11:15 – Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd.

It is at this point that Zechariah is to play the role of a “foolish shepherd.” This entire chapter is filled with dramatic moments that seemed to be acted out by Zechariah.

Zechariah 11:16 – For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

These last few verses show both the first century choices and the final choice of the Antichrist. This shepherd uses his staff to beat the sheep.

God is allowing this shepherd to rise up because of the rejection by His people for the Good Shepherd. If we look at some prophetic verses, we see that this is exactly what the Antichrist will do.

Check out both Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15-22.

Another interesting thing to note is that God is raising this leader up. Many times in history we hear about a country who believes that God has sent a leader to them. He may very well have done so, but just not in the manner in which the country believes. The leader that God may be raising up could be a leader that will be a foolish shepherd instead of one who points us to the Good Shepherd.

Zechariah 11:17 – “Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!”

This verse is filled with verses from all around Scripture. From Daniel 7-8 and 24 to 2 Thessalonians 2 to Revelation 19-20, we see that the worthless shepherd will have his arm and right eye taken away from him. The arm is seen as a symbol of power while the eye is a symbol of intelligence.

Revelation 13 tells us that the Antichrist will survive a severe hit.

Revelation 13:12-14 – It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.

Zechariah 9 Commentary

Zechariah 9 through 14, the chapters that will complete the book, are a collection of two different oracles. Scholars are unsure of when this section of the book was written, but most seem to think it was when he was an old man. Most people think these oracles are fulfilled by Alexander the Great conquering the region 200 years from Zechariah’s writing.

Zechariah 9:1 – The oracle of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach and Damascus is its resting place. For the Lord has an eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel,
The ESV uses the word “oracle” here. While it makes sense, as this is an oracle, the actual word that most versions use is “burden.” An oracle is a message that includes a burden, so either can be used, but I find it more fitting to use the word “burden.”

This is predicting an event that will happen. Using the word “burden” or “oracle” means that it is a judgment event, or something that would cause turmoil.

Hadrach is an area that is not well understood. The name comes from Jewish backgrounds with “Had” meaning “sharp” and “Rach” meaning “soft.” It could also be an allusion to the city of Hatarika, which is written about in Assyrian writings about an area near Hamath.

Damascus is one of the main capitals of Syria, and one of the main areas of God’s judgment.

While there are no other mentions of Hadrach in the Bible, there are Assyrian inscriptions for both Hadrach and Damascus and that they were close to each other. During the judgment that will fall on these cities, those who believe will have their eyes on God.

Zechariah 9:2 – and on Hamath also, which borders on it, Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
Hamath was close to Damascus (Isaiah 10:9). In Amos 6:2 it is called Hamath the Great. According to one of the early church fathers, he says that Antioch was also called Hamath by some people. It is this area that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

Tyre and Sidon are two major cities in Lebanon, north of Israel. The Assyrians tried to conquer Tyre at one point and failed. Nebuchadnezzar tried to take Tyre for 13 years. It took Alexander the Great 7 months to conquer it.

Both cities were known for their wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3). But in 1 Corinthians we find that the message of the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. Regardless of wisdom, the message is foolishness if you are dead in sin.

Zechariah 9:3 – Tyre has built herself a rampart and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the mud of the streets.
What made Tyre so strong was that it was an island city. The island was about a half mile offshore and had walls as high as 150 feet in some places. Alexander built a causeway between the mainland and the island city by using the rubble from the city on the mainland.

While Alexander conquered the city physically, the Gospel conquered the city spiritually.

Tyre was a rich city of commerce who had built a wall that was seen as impregnable. That was not enough to hold off an army that God willed to be used to bring its destruction.

Zechariah 9:4 – But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire.

It is interesting to note a difference between the Septuagint and many of the versions we read today. Instead of “the Lord will strip her of her possessions….” we see that “the Lord will inherit her….” It is interesting to think that in the ESV we see Tyre being stripped of her possessions while in the Septuagint they are becoming the Lord’s possession.

Tyre was burned to the ground by Alexander the Great.

Zechariah 9:5 – Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ashkelon shall be uninhabited;
During the conquest of Alexander the Great, the surrounding cities were scared. Many of the cities listed in this verse are the cities in Philistia. After the destruction of Tyre, Alexander the Great marched to the south and destroyed the cities of Philistia.

Gaza and Ashkelon, according to Judges 1:8, are in close proximity to each other.

Something that is of interest is that Philip the Evangelist most likely first preached the Gospel here. Also, the idea of a “king” in the area of Gaza is a little confusing. Gaza was ruled by a governor, not a king. But, the idol that was worshipped in Gaza was known as the “lord of man.” When Christianity came to the region, this idol, or king, was destroyed.

Alexander the Great was to be feared. One of the governors of the cities listed in this verse was killed when the armies took leather straps and tied one end to a chariot and tied the other end through the soles of his feet and dragged him throughout the city. It is no wonder these cities feared Alexander the Great and his armies.

Zechariah 9:6 – a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.
The ESV sanitizes this verse a little. The original language actually specifies what would closer be considered a “bastard child.” This would be someone who is born unlawfully either outside of marriage or in a forbidden marriage. This can also sometimes come to mean a race of people without a moral compass. So this would be someone who is not equal by birth based on the culture at the time.

Alexander was known to destroy any culture of a region when he took it over. This would destroy the national pride a country has and replace it with pride for Alexander’s reign.

Zechariah 9:7 – I will take away its blood from its mouth, and its abominations from between its teeth;
it too shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.
This verse is showing an end to the idol worship and a turning toward God. Part of the idol worship at the time was to drink blood and eat food that was sacrificed to idols.

This verse has a dual meaning. The conquest of Alexander the Great is, of course, the primary focus of this oracle. But one cannot help but to see the future implications of this verse.

The Jebusites were conquered by David in 2 Samuel 5 and combined with Israel. This verse is saying that Philistia will have the same outcome.

And when the apostles went into that region, many converted to Christianity.

Zechariah 9:8 – Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes.

When Alexander the Great was on his march of conquest, he left Jerusalem alone. God promised the protection of His house. God has said that “no oppressor shall march over them again.” When Alexander was marching south, he went back through Palestine rather than through Israel.

This is pretty remarkable in thinking that God is using Alexander here to judge the pagan nations while protecting Israel. How much more so will God protect His people when the Messiah returns?

When we think of what happened in Israel during Alexander’s march, it really is divine intervention. Jaddua, the High Priest at the time of Alexander, was praying to God. God told Jaddua to open the gates, which he did.

You see, here is the amazing part of this story: When Alexander saw the gates open and Jaddua standing in the gate dressed in purple with “God” engraved on his mitre, Alexander changed his mind about conquering the city. God gave Alexander a vision of Jaddua while he was sleeping.

Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This is a calling out to the two different comings of Christ. This King that is being spoken of in this verse counters the glorious strength of Alexander by having the Christ ride in on a donkey. This King is also very different from any other human kings in that Christ comes with righteousness, salvation and humility.

A donkey is an animal of peace. This means that Israel’s King comes to bring peace. This was fulfilled upon triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Christ.

Zechariah 9:10 – I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

The next five verses are going to speak about Christ’s second coming. A couple of words to discuss are:

  • Ephraim – this is an Old Testament word for Israel.
  • The river that is mentioned is the Euphrates.
  • And being “cut off” in regards to the war horse and the battle bow means that there will be peace.

This is talking about the rule of Christ around the entire world.

Zechariah 9:11 – As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

This is another verse which has a lot of things that need explained. The “blood of my covenant” is the original covenant that was made with Abraham in Genesis 15.

Then there is that “waterless pit.” In that time, prisoners would have been kept in a dry well. Think of what happened to Joseph when his brothers threw him into the pit. It is the same idea here.

God is saying that he has returned the prisoners from the pit (exile) because of the covenant that has been in force since the days of Abraham.
Zechariah 9:12 – Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

These prisoners of hope, as God calls them, are to receive a double blessing. Just as in Isaiah 61:7, instead of shame, they will receive a double portion.

Just like what happened to Job, after his horrible experiences, God returned to him a double portion of blessings.
Zechariah 9:13 – For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

This could be an allusion to the Maccabean revolt. The Maccabees revolted against the successor of Alexander. The death of Antiochus Epiphanes is the main point of this verse.

But I think this has a farther meaning. I think this is saying that the apostles, all Jews, will be sent to the Gentiles to proclaim the Word of Christ.

Zechariah 9:14 – Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.

God will appear over them! They will be witness to Him. God will be leading the battle. God is bringing forth the holy war.

I think of verses like Matthew 24:27: For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Or 1 Thessalonians 4:16: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Zechariah 9:15 – The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.

God’s people will be protected by God. And their enemies will be as if they ae drunk and weak. Almost as if they are given for slaughter on the altar. The sacrificial bowls that were used to catch the blood of the victims is shown here as full.

Zechariah 9:16 – On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.

The first thing to note is that God is going to win this battle. The flock of God’s people goes back to Ezekiel 36 in which God says that He will increase with them like a flock and that they are a holy flock.

Instead of the stones being used in the slings showing the weakness of the enemies, God’s people will be like the stones in a crown, jewels.
Zechariah 9:17 – For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.

This final verse shows the times of prosperity in Jerusalem. It reminds us of chapter 8 verse 5 in which Zechariah says the streets will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.

Zechariah 5 Commentary

Zechariah 5 gives us two different visions. The first vision is about how volitional sin in our lives will not stop the work of God in this world. The next vision given is another one dealing with sin. The fact that sin is prevalent in the land should not prevent the work of rebuilding the temple.

In both visions, we see that removing the systemic sin from Israel is needed before the coming of the kingdom.

Zechariah 5:1 – Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll!

Almost immediately after seeing the vision of the lamp and the trees, Zechariah turns and immediately finds himself in another vision.

Zechariah 5:2 – And he said to me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits.”

The scroll that he saw is fully opened so that he can measure the size. An interesting note is that the size of the scroll is exactly the same size as Solomon’s Porch of the original temple in 1 Kings 6:2-3. The original temple had two porches made by Solomon. The dimensions describe the size of the second porch.

Zechariah 5:3 – Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side.

So this scroll is the curse for anyone who steals or swears falsely. In Revelation 18:5 we see that her sins have reached heaven and God has remembered her sins. This scroll is symbolizing at least part of the Law.

James 2:10 says that whoever keeps the whole law but fails to keep one point of it has become guilty of the entire Law.

The fact that there are only two points of the Law specified (the third and the eighth), holds up what James says in that failing to keep one point will violate the entire Law.

This message is both immediate and future. The future message brings us to something Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46.

It is interesting that these two Laws were chosen. The stealing violates your neighbor’s rights. Swearing a lie is like lying under oath in court. It violates God. The focus of the Law is to love God and love others. The two Laws chosen show that loving God and others is of prime importance.

It could also be that these two sins were the main sins that those returning from captivity were falling prey to.

Zechariah 5:4 – I will send it out, declares the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones.”

There is no hiding from the scroll. Isaiah 55:10-11 says that God’s Word will not return empty after it goes out from His mouth and that it will accomplish its purpose. The only way to remove the curse is to repent.

This is similar to Leviticus 14 and the house of leprosy. In Leviticus, leprosy symbolizes sin. In Leviticus there is an opportunity to repent of the sin.

Zechariah 5:5 – Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, “Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out.”

Basically this is the beginning of the next vision. It isn’t really clear where the angel is asking Zechariah to direct his eyes except to lift his eyes.

Zechariah 5:6 – And I said, “What is it?” He said, “This is the basket that is going out.” And he said, “This is their iniquity in all the land.”

Just like in previous visions, Zechariah is unsure of what he is seeing. Depending on the version you are reading, it is either a “basket” or an “ephah,” which is, in essence, a bushel. Inside this bushel is the sin of the people.

This is likened to Revelation 18:5 in which the sins of the people are heaped up high.

Again, depending on your interpretation, there is a little more depth to this verse. I don’t particularly like the ESV translation in that it simplifies it too much. In other versions, this is not just God saying that it is their sin. God is saying that this is the “resemblance” of their sin. This means it is what God sees.

God sees all their sin. He doesn’t approve, of course. He is seeing and observing it, preparing for vengeance.

Zechariah 5:7 – And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket!

Inside this ephah is a woman. In the vision, the woman is Judea and they are being seen for their sins. The lead is the cover of sin for Judea.

This woman is a representation of the church in sin and a corrupt Judea. The woman in the basket could go on to mean that she is being carried away, perhaps forced to live elsewhere, such as in a diaspora.

The lead cover is heavy. And lead is poisonous. The sin that covers the woman is heavy and poisonous.

Zechariah 5:8 – And he said, “This is Wickedness.” And he thrust her back into the basket, and thrust down the leaden weight on its opening.

This woman is not a woman, but the personification of evil. Think of mystery Babylon in Revelation. It appears the woman tries to leave the ephah but is forced back down and the heavy lead cover is placed back over her.

Think of Genesis 29:2 where the great stone was on the mouth of the well so that there wouldn’t be access.

Zechariah 5:9 – Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.

Now we move from the single woman in the basket to two other women with wings of storks. In the book of Leviticus, storks are seen as unclean. This means that these women are the protectors of evil. They are the demonic forces that are setting up the system of evil. There are several ways we can look at these women. It could be Samaria and Jerusalem. Or it could be the apostate church and mystery Babylon.

God allows this so that it can be destroyed as seen in Revelation 19:11-16.

The wind beneath their wings and the wings like storks show unclean and powerful creatures.

Zechariah 5:10 – Then I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they taking the basket?”

Zechariah is wondering where the women are taking the basket.

Zechariah 5:11 – He said to me, “To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it. And when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base.”

And the angel tells Zechariah to Shinar, which is an ancient term for Babylon (see Genesis 10:10). The fact that they will be setting this basket on a base means that this will become an idol most likely inside of a temple.

This is very easily a foreshadowing of the second coming of Christ. This is the final Babylon (Revelation 17-18) and the second coming of Christ in Malachi 4:1-3.

This could be the warning for God’s people to leave Babylon, whether the physical Babylon of their day or the spiritual Babylon of the millennial kingdom.

Zechariah 2 Commentary

I’ve been working through the book of Zechariah verse by verse. It has been a good exercise to read each verse and how it connects to the entire narrative of Scripture.  In this post, I will commentary on Zechariah 2.

Zechariah 2 starts with the third vision. This vision is similar to the one before it in that it builds upon the comfort of God’s promises. This is a messianic prophecy in that the restoration of Jerusalem is only a taste of what is to come. The language used in this vision goes well beyond the restoration of Jerusalem.

Zechariah 2:1 – And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand!

This calls to Ezekiel 40 where there is a surveyor with a measuring line. In the first vision that Zechariah had, God promised that someone with a measuring line would come. This being is definitely an angel. Many think it is directly the Angel of the Lord.

Zechariah 2:2 – Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length.”

This seems a little strange to me. God wants to make sure that Jerusalem is measured properly. This could be to make sure that it was big enough to handle the masses. But in the day of Zechariah, there would not be much of masses coming into he city. This makes me think it is also a messianic vision. This likens back to Isaiah 60:4. In that verse, the person is told to lift their eyes (just as Zechariah did) ad saw the masses coming to the city.

God has used measuring lines in several different ways in His Word. In Isaiah 34 we see a line of confusion. In Lamentations we see a line of destruction. This is a line that will divide His inheritance such as in Psalm 78.

Zechariah 2:3 – And behold, the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him

One interesting thing about this is that we start to see a hierarchy among the angels, especially when put together with the next verse. One angel is coming to meet another angel.

Zechariah 2:4 – and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it.

As mentioned earlier, this shows a hierarchy among the angels. One angel comes to meet the other and tells him what to say to Zechariah.

The other amazing thing is that this shows that Jerusalem will grow beyond the walls. There is no timeframe listed for this, so this clearly alludes to the messianic kingdom. It is interesting to think that even today there are walls around Jerusalem.

One other thing we learn in this verse is that Zechariah is definitely young.

Zechariah 2:5 – And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”

This verse is an absolute amazement! While there will be no walls around the city, God will be the wall of fire around it. This reminds us of the pillar of fire that God provided during the Exodus. This speaks to God’s protection for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

But even more than that, God will be present in the city!!! The Messiah will be in the city and His blessings will we readily seen done firsthand. Check out Revelation 21:23 if you have any question about this being a messianic text.

Zechariah 2:6 – Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the Lord. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the Lord.

God is calling His children home. God wants them inside the wall of fire and wants to be there with them.

Zechariah 2:7 – Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.

If we see this as both a text that was meant for the present time of Zechariah and a messianic text, then this verse has two different meanings. First, God’s people during the time of Zechariah were spread around the known world because of Babylon.

But then when you read Revelation 17:5 and 18:4, God calls His people out of the spiritual Babylon that is home to the perversions of the antichrist.

It is important to notice that it requires us to make a choice. God is not going to force anyone to Him. We need to make the choice to do it.

Zechariah 2:8 – For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye:

In Deuteronomy 32:10, Israel is seen as the apple of God’s eye. Those who hurt Israel, hurt God. This can also be translated to the church, seeing as this is both a then and soon text.

God will come up against those who come up against His people. God is our protection.

Zechariah 2:9 – “Behold, I will shake my hand over them, and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me.

Again, seeing this as a past and future text, there are two different meanings to this verse. In the present, we see that God is going to punish the Babylonian nation. Babylon will become servants to the Persians through Darius. This will show that God had sent Zechariah to prophecy.

In the future, the kings that gave their nations to the beast in Revelation 17 will split the spoil between them.  And then will know that Christ was sent by God the Father.

Zechariah 2:10 – Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord.

As we get into the last few verses of this chapter, we again see the messianic language appear. The entire church, Jew and Gentile, will come together in Revelation 18:20 and sing at the end of the antichrist.

This is a spiritual coming of Jesus to set up His kingdom in this world where He will live with His people. Jerusalem is repaired, Jesus is on the throne and perfect peace is throughout the world.

Zechariah 2:11 – And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Imagine the Spirit of Pentecost! I would have loved to have been present when the Spirit blew through the disciples and people from all nations came to Christ. But even today, we are now in a time when more people are coming to Christ than in any other time in history!

It will be cool to see all the nations that God is now calling His people. And He will be dwelling among them all, among His church. This is seen in Revelation 21:24 where the saved nations walk in the light.

God’s kingdom is made up of people from every area of the world.

Zechariah 2:12 – And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

While Judah will be the spiritual headquarters for the kingdom of God, this is still a worldwide phenomenon. Looking at Ezekiel 37:15-28, we see the two sticks which are physical Israel (the Jews) and spiritual Israel (the church). Jesus unifies both sticks.

Zechariah 2:13 – Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.

Look at Psalm 46:10. “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Jesus Christ came to earth and died for our sin. This is an eternal rescue mission. And this rescue mission is for the entire earth.

What Does Dying Look Like?

No. I’m not. At least no more than anyone else, a little closer to the grave each day. But, as far as I am concerned, that is my prognosis.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

But the past couple of days have given me pause to reflect on death and dying. Not just in human terms, but also in the church.

My first story starts as I was waiting for a simple medical procedure to be done. I was in the waiting room, a well-lit place with gray and cream walls and these stupid molding squares every foot or so. I was in the waiting room thinking to myself as I was about to get a biopsy done on my esophagus, what if someone comes back with a terminal illness diagnosis? The place that would be seared into my mind would be an ugly waiting room with gray and cream walls and squares on the walls.

They called me back and took me into the next waiting room, a small procedural area with hospital beds surrounded by curtains and people in those curtains recovering from their procedures. I could hear almost every word that was said between the doctor and the patients.

The majority of the people going in there were getting colonoscopies. One person was in there for her very first one. She was nervous, especially about the farting afterward. But the other 3 beds were taken up by people who have had multiple ones this year. One bed had a girl who couldn’t be much older than a junior in high school. She was on her second colonoscopy this year. Another bed had an 80+ year-old woman in it and she has had 2 this year. The man who came in and sat next to me in the chairs until a bed was open was on his third for the year!

The man next to me and I struck up a conversation. It started with small talk and platitudes. He asked me what I was in for, I did the same. He asked me my age, I did the same.

But then it took a little deeper turn.

He said to me that he never believed he would have to be getting multiple colonoscopies in a year. He said on his first one they found multiple polyps. After testing them, they were cancerous. They realized that they missed one that couldn’t be removed with the equipment there and he had to have it done at the hospital so they sent him in again. During that one it had spread a little more and they removed several others. This third time he was in to see if any more had grown.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

He stared me in the face and told me that he never expected to be staring a potential life-threatening disease in the face.

Now he was upbeat about it. He said he has no regrets for how he lived his life and he was proud of the people his children and grand-children had become. But you could tell there was a tone in his voice that said he just didn’t want this life to end.

One could easily say that this man is being overdramatic. The doctors didn’t know if he had any further issues, so why would he be getting all bent out of shape?

It is because death is final.

At least here it is.

As a Christian I know that this life is simply a small vapor in the wind and then I move on to the next life. But all of the people we have come to know and love in this lifetime, we worry about how they will react to our absence.

Ever since birth, this life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. Some come for a few moments, but others come for a lifetime. It is those lifetime people that we worry about.

I went through with my procedure and he went through with his. After that moment in chairs together we never spoke. I wish I would have gotten his phone number or email or something. I would really like to be able to check in with him from time to time. But I didn’t. #Fredfail

I will always remember this man. He was stoic but scared. Peaceful but a little anxious.

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live

There are many stories like the man I spoke to while at the surgical center. Too many to count.

A lot of them are happening in our churches as well.

That leads me to story number 2.

Over the past year I have interviewed at a couple different churches with hopes of becoming a pastor. In every single instance I made it to the final round only to get beat out by someone else.

But each time that I interviewed at a church I would sign up for their email list. I like to keep in the know about other churches, I believe it makes me a better minister as I am not the smartest person on church leadership (I could have put the period after “person”, but I decided to qualify it a little more)

Many of the churches that I interviewed at were smaller with older congregations. That isn’t a problem as long as you constantly are replacing those who are dying out of your congregation.

In the past 3 weeks I have received 6 funeral notices for one of the churches I signed up for! That doesn’t even count the other couple of churches I get emails from.

The church is not an easy organization to manage. You have several demographics to hit upon and you are expected to hit them all equally as well. You are expected to be the 7-11 of biblical knowledge. Most churches don’t do that well. They are skewed to one demographic over another. They are either an old church or a young church. A white church or a black church. An English church or a Korean church.

The churches are focusing on being niche-based rather than all-encompassing.

And this leads to some churches dying while others find the right niche for the moment.

Unfortunately, the right niche is usually fad-based. Right now, the right niche is to have a great sounding worship band followed by a charismatic message and do it all in about an hour. But that is changing. We are starting to see the death of the charismatic, evangelical church now as this fad fades.

You also have a lot of other types of venues popping up like the tattoo parlor church, the movie theatre church, the cowboy church, and child-focused church.

The one thing I have noticed time and time again is that those churches need to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

Now I am probably going to get a lot of unhappy comments when I say this, but does the church need to be relevant with the fads of the day, or do we need to learn to be relevant in how to be approachable to the unbelieving public?

Revelation 3:1 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead

Let me explain.

Relevance can be seen as adding a high-powered worship band and skinny jeans and fauxhawks on the ministry team. Those will bring in people who are searching to be entertained and don’t have to worry about making personal changes to their lives so long as they get their weekly dose of entertainment.


Relevance can look like the body of believers going to church and enjoying each other’s company before a pastor gets up in front and teaches from the Bible on how to interact with the world outside of the 4 walls of the church.

That was kind of painful for me to say. I enjoy my latte-infused, Bethel Music Group energized, skinny-jean with a fauxhawk preaching churches. Unfortunately, many times they are simply places to hide ourselves away as Christians even though we say we are being a light set on a hill, all too often, because we don’t teach people how to interact with unbelievers, when the unbelievers come to our churches they simply get burned by those who proclaim to be the light.

And that is why the church is dying. Well, that’s my take at least.

If we spent a lot more time teaching people how to interact with the unbeliever rather than being safe houses for the marginal Christians, we would find that we may have smaller congregations, but they would be a lot more fruit-bearing.

So whether you are alone in a gray and cream room with ugly squares on the walls or in the most beautiful high-tech church in America, there is something in common.


Psalm 115:17 – The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence.

And many times that death is slow and painful. And even if you do survive, whether it is a life-threatening disease or a church focused on doing church in the church, you will never be the same afterward. The light goes away. It is the equivalence of losing the lamp stand in Revelation.

I’ll end with this example that I got from Louie Giglio. The last 2 letters of the word “SIN” are “IN.” Churches who are “in sin” are “in church.” The first 2 letters of the word “GOSPEL” is “GO.” Churches that are being relevant at the individual level and going to places outside of the church are gospel churches.

And that is the church that Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against.

Churches of Revelation: Part 8 – Laodicea

This city was founded by Antiochus who named it for his wife, Laodike. The city was populated with Jews and Syrians through transplanting from Babylonia. The city did not become wealthy until the Roman empire in 190 BC. The main product from this city was black wool of the sheep. It was of the finest quality in the region. They were also well known for a special powder that would be put on peoples’ eyes for healing purposes. This will be revisited when we look at Revelation 3:18 later.

In 60 AD, the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. Because of their wealth, they told the Romans that they did not need any of their money and the wealthy citizens rebuilt the city on their own. This, too, will be revisited when we look at Revelation 3:17 later.

While there is not much known, Colossians 1:7 gives us a couple of hints as to who planted this church. It seems as if Epaphras was the primary church planter with help from Timothy and Mark.

This is the final letter to the churches of Revelation and it is a church that literally makes Jesus sick. This church, if we really look at the churches that are upsetting to Christ, would be the worst of the worst of the book of Revelation.

By the time Revelation was written, the churches listed in this book would have been about 30 years old. I find it amazing that after 30 years, many of these churches stayed small. Today we consider growth of a church the primary litmus test for a successful church. But Revelation proves that Jesus doesn’t see it that way.

Laodicea was clearly the church with the biggest issue. Many of the commentaries I have read about this church call it the “unsaved church.”  That would mean this is a church filled with unbelievers. This is the only church out of the seven that Jesus says nothing good about anyone in the church. Even Sardis, the church we looked at a few weeks ago, even though it was a dead church, still had a remnant of believers in it. There was no remnant in Laodicea.

And what is even worse is that this church is proud.

They are proud of their unbelief.

So Jesus begins this letter to them the way He has in all the others, by introducing Himself. Beginning in verse 14, Jesus explains a few things about His nature. He starts by calling Himself “the Amen.” What does that mean?

Isaiah 65:16 – Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the one true God; whoever takes an oath in the land will swear by the one true God. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.

In Isaiah 65:16, we read that God is the God of Amen. We say “amen” at the end of prayers. We sing “amen” in our songs. We yell “amen” when the pastor says something that agrees with our beliefs on Sunday morning. But what does “amen” truly mean?

“Amen” is an affirmation. The word is used in Scripture to show a statement to be true. Very similar in the New Testament, we read the word, “verily.” “Verily” is used at the beginning of a statement to affirm its truth.

Calling Jesus the “Amen” is saying that He is unchangeable, fixed, and true. he not only affirms God’s promises, but He affirms His covenants.

2 Corinthians 1:20 – For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians explains to us that Jesus validates God’s promises. Jesus is God’s “Amen.”

Next, Jesus is the “faithful and true witness.” Not only does Jesus validate the promises and covenants of God, but whatever He says is true. Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He is truth. His testimony bears to the character of God. Jesus is a faithful witness.

Third, He identifies Himself as the “Beginning of the creation of God.” While the translation is a little hard to verify, when we look at the surrounding words and go through Scripture systematically, we find that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God.”

Colossians 1:15 – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

This means that Jesus is the head of all creation. If we go further in Colossians, we find that Jesus is the creator of all in the heavens and on earth.  Christ is everything God is. He is Creator. He is the Author of life. And according to our verse in Revelation 3:14, He is the source of ALL creation.

This letter follows closely with the book of Colossians. The first chapter of Colossians speaks about the centrality of Christ. Why match up with the book of Colossians in explaining this deity of Christ?

Well, Laodicea is a short few miles from Colossae. There were 3 cities grouped in that area: Laodicea, Colossae, and Hieropolis. In the book of Colossians, Paul was writing to a church that was outwardly denying the deity of Christ. This Christological heresy had attacked the deity of Christ. And it was not only in Colossae, but also Laodicea.

Colossians 4:16 – After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

What was going on in Colossae was also happening in Laodicea. They didn’t believe Jesus was the Alpha and the Omega.  To be the Alpha meant that He is the Creator. To be the Omega meant that He is Completion. Jesus is the uncreated source of creation! But Laodicea didn’t believe that. And we have Jesus, who created all and is faithful and true witness to the Word of God and the One in whom all is brought to completion telling this church His identity.

Jesus was, for lack of a better term, offended by the lack of belief and the heresy coming from this church. They did not believe in Christ as deity. So this one verse has Christ explaining His deity to this church. And as the letter continues, having an incorrect view of Christ has significant and horrible spiritual effects.

So here we are in Laodicea, the most eastern city of the 7 in Revelation, and 45 miles from the closest Revelation church, Philadelphia. It is sister to Hieropolis, 6 miles away, and Colossae, 10 miles away. It is located in the Lycus River Valley. This area was one of the top trade routes because people didn’t travel in the mountains to do trade, they traveled in the valleys to make travel faster. And Laodicea was an intersection city. It had both an east/west and a north/south route going through it. Antiochus II founded the city in the 3rd century BC and named it for his wife. Soon after dedicating a city to her, he divorced her.

This city had a very large Jewish population, almost 4,000 males based on temple tax records. In the Talmud, the ancient Jewish commentary on the Old Testament laws, there is a line in there that explains that these Jews in Laodicea were filled with pagan views and merely cultural Jews, not practicing ones.

Some other interesting points about this city is that it had an underground aqueduct. Because the population was growing so quickly here, the streams nearby could not keep up with the water needs of the community so they built the aqueduct. They put it underground so enemies could not access it. The water was collected in a central water tower and then distributed across the city through a series of pipes.

The other interesting note about this city is its wealth. It was a banking center and so wealthy that when the earthquake hit in 60 AD and leveled the town, the people of Laodicea rebuilt the city without any help from Rome. This was a source of pride for the townspeople of Laodicea. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote, “Laodicea rose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources with no help from us.”

Colossians 1:7-8 – just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

This is a wealthy and self-sufficient city and that attitude found its way into the church along with the Christological heresy that plagued Colossae. So soon after Epaphras founded the church, the church was filled with heresy and unbelief. It is unlikely that Paul ever went to Laodicea, but he knew some of the believers there based on how he speaks in the book of Colossians. This is a church that had spiritual life but was soon corrupted. Sardis was dead, but there were still believers there. Thyatira was compromising and idolatrous, but there was still a group of believers there. Laodicea has none of that. Jesus gives no commendation to this church.

In verse 15 Jesus tells this church, “I know your deeds.” There is no commendation after it. Only rebuke. Jesus says that this church is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. And this church makes Him so sick He is going to vomit them out! VOMIT! That is a pretty strong statement to a church!

The interesting thing about the words Jesus uses here are vast. You have Hieropolis, which is known for the healing and restorative powers of the hot springs. You have Colossae which is a very cold church. And, in the middle, you have Laodicea. The aqueducts that they built brought significantly impure water into the city that was merely tepid. It wasn’t hot enough to relax. It wasn’t cool enough to quench your thirst. It was dirty and made people sick to their stomachs. It caused people to get nauseous and vomit.

Throughout the churches in Revelation, we had churches which made him angry and churches which disappointed Him but this church made Him sick!

By verse 17, Jesus is not only calling this church sickening, but also deceived.

Revelation 3:17 – You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Laodicea was a wealthy city. It was famous for banking. It was famous for its wool industry. It had wealth beyond measure. And this church was caught up in that, believing they needed nothing which meant they also believed they needed nothing from God.

This is the worst place for a church to be in. They know about Christ and they create a false Christ. They know about God and they create a false God. And not only have they done that, but they are confident in their view that they created.

Unfortunately this church is like many churches, denominations, and seminaries today. They are rich in wealth. They are rich in knowledge. They don’t understand that their condition is that of Laodicea’s.

God calls those churches “miserable, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” There is nothing saving about those words. There is no hope of salvation for them. If we were to look at groups or demographics, these would be the unsaved in a church. They think they are being Christian by playing church when all they are doing is sickening Christ.

Unfortunately, there are many churches and denominations today that fit this description. And those churches are usually the most proud churches. They are proud of the political stances they have taken while ignoring the deity of Christ. They are proud of the humanist stances they have taken or the bridges they have created with the world in general when God says they are to be pitied. They have no clue what their true condition is.

Revelation 3:18-20 – I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

This is where Jesus takes the industries that are prevalent throughout Laodicea and uses them to explain what they need to do to begin to change. The city was known for banking, then begin buying gold from Jesus. The city was known for wool, then begin clothing yourself in the garments of righteousness. The city was known for its hospitals, then begin placing God’s ointment, or Scripture, on your eyes so that you can see again.

Jesus is extending grace to the hypocrite!

Isaiah 55:1 – “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

In Isaiah we learn that we are to come without money. What should it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul? All the spiritual blessings come from God and God alone. Want to be spiritually rich? Go to Jesus. Want to be clothed in righteousness? Go to Jesus. Want to see the world how God sees it? Go to Jesus.

1 Peter 1:7 – These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

True faith is more precious than gold.

After telling them to be rich in the Spirit, he tells them to be clothed in white. The word for “white” here is “leukos.” This is a dazzling or brilliant white like staring into a light bulb. This is the same robe of righteousness that is written about is Isaiah 61:10.

And then He calls them to see with the eyes of God.

This is 3-fold salvation. The gold that makes us spiritually rich after being tested by fire, the robes that cover our sinfulness with the righteousness of God, and the eye salve that lets us see how God sees.

Revelation 3:19 – Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

In verse 19 Jesus says something very interesting. Many people think that Jesus is talking to believer in the church here. But I don’t believe He is. Jesus also comes to rebuke unbelievers. In John 16 we learn that He convicts the world through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 23 we learn that Jesus loves the world and reproves and disciplines it. 2 Timothy 2:25 is used with regard to unbelievers.

God loves unbelievers.

We would not have salvation if it weren’t for His love of the unbeliever.

God is showing His tender side in this letter. Jesus is showing them love. Not the agape love that describes relationship with the love, but phileo love which is simply a divine affection.

He is calling this church to repent.

This leads to one of the most misunderstood verses in all the Bible, Revelation 3:20.

Revelation 3:20 – 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 that person, and they with me.

Jesus is showing His compassion and mercy.

Many Christians use this verse to say that Jesus is standing at the door of our heart and knocking. But that is not it at all.

Jesus is standing at the door of this church. The church that refuses to accept the TRUE Christ in. And Jesus is knocking. If they open the door to the church and let Him in, then He will enter. If not, well, salvation has passed.

In the other problematic churches in Revelation Jesus was still in the church, in the lives of the believers still present. In Laodicea He stands outside and is knocking to get in. In compassion Jesus is knocking. He is shut out of a church that bears His name!

How many dead churches do we see that have the mane of Christ in their title? The knocking is Jesus trying to get one believer into that church. That’s all it takes is one. If just one person let’s Christ into that church, then He will go in and dine with them.

Revelation 3:21 – To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

The promise if they choose to allow Jesus in is, I believe, one of the greatest of the seven churches. He will give them the opportunity to be seated on His throne.

This is the message to the apostate church. This is the message to those who hold knowledge higher than Christ. This is the message to those who deny Christ and the Bible. This is the message not for the true church, but the one who doesn’t believe in the deity of Christ.

Churches of Revelation: Part 7 – Philadelphia

Philadelphia was an interesting city. A little above sea level, there are cliffs behind the city that the modern Turks have named “the inkwells.” In front of the city are vineyards that the poet Virgil wrote about as having the most amazing wine.

The city itself is not very old. It was founded in 189 BC on one of the trade routes. The name “Philadelphia” comes from Attalus II because of his loyalty to his older brother Eumenes II, the king of Lydia. It also went by another name, Decapolis, as it was one of the 10 cities in that area. You can also find on money throughout the area the name “Neo-kaisaria,” which is another name that it went by as well. The name “Philadelphia” is literally translated as “brother lover” and was given because of his great love and loyalty for Attalus II’s brother.

Today the city is known as Ala-shehir, which can loosely be translated as “City of God.”

It was also known as “little Athens” because of the amount of pagan temples and their amazing architecture. The Jews also had a large synagogue in the city.

Its wealth grew as other cities ran into financial problems. Even an earthquake during the reign of Tiberius couldn’t stop this city from growing.

Even today, the city is known as a Christian town. Over one fourth of the residents are Greek Orthodox and a Greek bishop still resides in this town.

So as you can see, this town shows very little exciting history. Other than the earthquake and a brief period in history when Tamerlane took the city in 1403 and built a wall of corpses around the city, the people of Philadelphia have led fairly uneventful lives throughout history.

As with all of the churches in the book of Revelation, they were actual churches but they go beyond the actual church and represent the overall, universal church body. With Philadelphia, just like in Smyrna, we see a church that needs no warning. The church in Philadelphia is a true church.

I don’t know God is giving us a percentage to think about, but in Revelation only 2 out of 7 churches were faithful. That would mean that almost one third of the churches, if this is a direct correlation to modern churches, would be considered true and faithful.

Jesus always starts His letter to the churches by declaring who He is. And He never just comes out and says, “Yo, this is Jesus.” He always starts by giving a piece of His nature as His description. Up until this point, the way He has described Himself has fit with something that was said in chapter 1 of Revelation.

Until now.

This description that is given is significantly Hebrew in origin and very Old Testament in nature.

Habakkuk 3:3 – God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.

He begins by calling Himself “holy.” In Old Testament times, God is repeatedly referred to as the One who is holy. Throughout much of the Old Testament we see Him being called the Holy One: Isaiah 40:25, Psalm 16:10, Habakkuk 3:3 are just a few examples. He is absolutely pure. No sin. No shame.

If we were to look further into Revelation in 4:8, we see the 4 living creatures repeating something similar to Isaiah 6 by saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” This portion of His character means He is separate from sin. This means He is completely pure.

As we look into the New Testament for some clues as to what this holiness means, we find in Mark 1:23 that even the demons call Him by this. The demon says that Jesus is the “holy One of God.”

In Luke 1 we see that the angel who visited Mary upon the announcement of her pregnancy called Jesus “the holy offspring.”  In John 6, Simon Peter calls Jesus “the holy One of God.” Again in Acts 3:14, Peter tells everyone there that they chose a murderer to be released over the holy One.

Jesus, in calling Himself holy, is calling Himself God. Being holy, Jesus is separate from, and can tolerate no, sin. In 1 Peter 1:15, we see that the holy One calls us to be “holy yourselves in all behavior.” And when this holy God looks at these churches in judgment and sees Philadelphia and gives no warning, no rebuke, then this church must be living a holy lifestyle.

1 Peter 1:15 – But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;

Now does this mean that Philadelphia was perfect? That no sin at all came from that city? No, of course not. But it does mean that they were faithful in dealing with any sin as it arose.

After introducing Himself as holy, He says that He is “true.”  Throughout all of the Revelation we find the combination of holy and true many times.

Jesus is the author of truth.

In John 14:6 He calls Himself “the Truth.”

And this holy and true Jesus is looking upon the simple Philadelphia church and giving no warning shows that He is true in His judgment.

But there is a second meaning to this word “true.” The word used is “alethinos” which means genuine. This is Jesus telling, through the author John, everyone that He is the true Messiah. There is no one else.

Just imagine how much of an encouragement this must have been to this church! Here you have Jesus who calls Himself by the titles “holy and true” and He finds no fault with this church.

These verses prove that a church today can be like Philadelphia. A church today can be commended by Jesus. A church today can be a holy church.

The next description God gives to this church is the One “who holds the key of David.” Being from the Davidic line shows the messianic nature of Jesus. The key that Jesus is speaking of here is the key that would open the king’s treasure. Jesus wants to pour out His riches to this church. This shows His kingship. Isaiah 22:22 is a great representation of this.

Isaiah 22:22 – I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

The other way to look at this as well would that this key unlocks the house of David, or in other words, the kingdom. Jesus, alone, is the only One who can open the door to the kingdom of heaven. In John 14 Jesus tells us that if you are going to come to the kingdom, you can only do it through Him. And then in John 10 we see that He is the door. Now He is telling us that He holds the key. Whether this means the key to salvation or the key to the messianic kingdom, either way, Jesus holds the key.

Interestingly, in this verse, there were some Jews who were trying to bring this church down. Those same Jews would have denied Christ holding the key of David. We see this in verse 9. He calls out the “synagogue of Satan.” The fact that He used the term “synagogue” shows that this is specifically Jews who were the ones who were teaching false doctrine.

In Revelation 1:18 we see that Jesus holds the keys to “hell and death.” In this chapter He holds the key to life and heaven. Jesus alone holds those keys. Jesus alone can send a person to hell or heaven. Jesus alone can destroy or give life.

John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

But Jesus doesn’t want anyone to perish. He has come to give life. Not only give life, but to give life abundantly.

The final piece of Jesus’ description is given at the end of verse 7, what He opens no one can close and what He closes no one can open. Simply put, what Jesus does, He does. That’s it. He doesn’t go back and change His mind. Here is the omnipotence of Jesus.

But going a step further, I believe this is a call to serve for this church. Jesus is telling this church that He has placed a door before them that no one can close. I believe that He is telling them He has an opportunity for them. Yes, it can easily mean that He is opening the door of the kingdom to them, but if we follow verses 7-9, I believe it can go much deeper.

And I could be overthinking this. I sometimes do that.

But in verse 7 we see that Jesus opens doors that cannot be closed again and closes doors that cannot be opened again. In verse 8, Jesus tells this church He has placed an open door before them. In verse 9, I believe He is telling this church that they will be used for evangelizing to these Jews who are spreading false doctrine.

Revelation 3:9 – I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars–I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

Regardless of how we view the doors, the bottom line is that only Jesus can do this. No one else.

Before I speak about the church itself, I want to describe this area a little better. It was in a volcanic area that was, and is, prone to earthquakes. In 17 AD, a big one destroyed both Sardis and Philadelphia. By the time John is writing this letter in the mid-90s, the city was rebuilt.

One way to look at this is that even though the ground shook constantly in Philadelphia, the church stayed strong, stood firm, in their faith.

There is no mention of the church in Philadelphia anywhere else in Scripture. This is its only mention. We don’t know who planted the church. Again we need to look at Acts 19:10 for possible clues, but it is the only clue we have.

This church was not perfect. Humanity is not perfect and churches are made up of imperfect humans following a perfect God imperfectly. But there was nothing that this church was doing that would give them a condemnation.

So there is only commendation.

He starts off by telling them that He knows their deeds. Again, omniscience.

He tells them they have “little strength.”  You can read this over and over again and see it two different ways. I see it the second way that I will explain in a minute. The first way to look at this is that you are weak. I don’t believe that is what He is saying here because God would not give a church that has no condemnation weakness. He does not want to see this church failing.

I see this another way. The term used for power is “dunamis.” It is where we get our word “dynamite” from. So I believe He is telling this church that even though they are small, they have influence and power. They just don’t have a lot of people. I believe we can see a similar tie into Luke 12:32.

Luke 12:32 – “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Jesus told His disciples that even though they are small, He would give them the kingdom.

More than likely this group was small in number, possibly even poor based on what we know about the treatment of Christians in Asia Minor. This is a good reminder of Paul’s verses in 2 Corinthians 12:9 where he says he boasts in his weakness so that the power of Christ may be in him.

This small church had the power of the Holy Spirit.

Next, Jesus tells the church they are obedient. They have “kept My Word.” This is reminiscent of John 14:23.

John 14:23 – Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

This church kept His Word. Can you imagine what it would look like if the entire congregation did what the Bible said?

Another thing Jesus tells this church that they have is loyalty. It is interesting that the name Philadelphia came about because the king was loyal to his brother the king of Lydia. And here is a church that is also obedient to their king, Jesus.

Almost in the same breath where Jesus says this church did not deny His Name, He talks about the Jewish synagogue that was most likely persecuting and/or teaching false doctrine about them. This church stuck up for Christ.

This church was small but powerful, obedient, and loyal but He also calls them out for being patient.

A lot of things happen in the day to day life of a ministry or a church. Some people handle adversity with patience and others don’t. This church endured patiently. During the times when it wasn’t easy, this church endured. During the times when the world told them they couldn’t do it, they waited on the Lord to do it.

Matthew 10:22 tell us that we will be hated because of His Name.

Matthew 10:22 – You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

So Jesus is telling this church that they have power. They have obedience. they have loyalty. They have endured. Because of all of this, Jesus is opening up the kingdom. Others may try to close the door, but Jesus is keeping it open for them. He is also giving them this open door to pour out His blessings on them as Paul talks about in Ephesians 1:3.

Ephesians 1:3 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

And, as discussed earlier, He opened the door for them to serve. Whenever Paul used the analogy of the door it was meant for service. Look at 2 Corinthians 2:12 for example.

2 Corinthians 2:12 – Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me,

Jesus isn’t just going to quiet the “synagogue of Satan,” He is going to have them bow down at the feet of this church so they know how much Jesus has loved them! Bowing down at someone’s feet was done after a battle in ancient culture. The loser would bow down in humility to the winner.

So the church of Philadelphia endured patiently, obeyed, showed power, and was loyal and because of it, Jesus is going to withhold testing from them. Jesus is saying that all future tests of faith will be withheld because they have shown themselves approved by Him. We don’t know the extent by which Jesus will spare them of the testing, but the promise itself is amazing! I believe this is an eschatological testing that He is sparing them from.

Revelation 3:10 – Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

So whatever tests, it is a future test that He is sparing them from. Next, this is a limited duration test. He calls it the “hour of testing.” Finally, this test is going to reveal character. The Greek word is “pierasmos” which is a trial. Trials are used to reveal or expose who you really are. And this is for everyone on the earth!

This is the final test that will expose all unbelievers. By this time, the true church has been spared. So this final test that Jesus is speaking of will be something that will have no believers as a part of it. Matthew 24:13 gives us insight into this as well.

Matthew 24:13 – but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

In verse 11 Jesus is telling this church to endure a little while longer. God secures us by giving us a persevering faith. And that is the encouragement He is giving to this church here. He wants them to persevere so that no one takes their “crown.”

What is this crown?

This is the crown of eternal, glorious, righteous life.

Then finally we get to verse 12 and 13. Jesus is telling this church that to those who overcome that they will become a “pillar” in the temple of God and they will have written on their spiritual skin the name of God and the holy city.

Who are the overcomers?

1 John 5:5 – Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

What does Jesus mean by “pillar?” in temples, the pillars are used to stabilize the structure. On them, in many temples, they would carve images of deities out of honor. Now, I am not sure that they would be carved into the temple structure, but it could mean that they will be given a seat of honor at the temple.

Not only that, but they will have eternal citizenship in the holy city.

For short letters to the churches they are jammed with a lot of information from throughout the entire Bible. There is one more city to go, Laodicea. And that will conclude our study on the churches of Revelation.

Churches of Revelation – Part 6: Sardis

Sardis has a very long past. Around 612 BC the Persians and Babylonians (along with other allied forces) ended the Assyrian empire. That changed the political map, making Babylon the capital of Mesopotamia and Sardis the capital of Lydia. The city was divided into two regions, a lower region, where the commoners lived, and an upper region for those with influence, power, and wealth. Herodotus, also known as the “father of history” wrote that the lower town had no wall for protection and the houses were built modestly of reeds from the river.

Sardis was a central location on the trade route between Mesopotamia and the Greek city-states. This meant that Sardis was a place with a melting pot of cultures, religions, customs, and heritages.  The relations were peaceful for quite a long time, and even the Lydian king paid for the Temple of Artemis, now one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.

In 547 BC, the Persians attacked Sardis. Without a wall surrounding the lower city, the city was split into two. The wealthy and influential retreated to the citadel at the top of the mountain while the Persians controlled the lower city. This gave the Persians time to reinforce and determine a way to infiltrate the upper city. Eventually the Persians won and they controlled Sardis for the next 200 years.

During that time, Sardis didn’t change much. But the Persians also decided to take the Ionian cities of the Greeks.  This led to the Greeks revolting against Persia in Miletus and eventually marching on Sardis and burning it to the ground.

Herodotus wrote of the conquest of Sardis in this way:

They travelled along the Cayster River, crossed over Mount Tmolus, and came to Sardis, where they captured the city without resistance from anyone whatsoever. They took control of everything except the acropolis. For Artaphernes [the brother of the Persian king, Darius I] himself defended the acropolis with a rather large force of men.

Although they had taken the city, they were unable to plunder it because most of the houses in Sardis were constructed of reeds […] and when a soldier set one of these houses on fire, the flames spread rapidly from house to house until they engulfed the entire city.

In 334 BC Sardis was surrendered to Alexander the Great. They abandoned the lower town and built a new lower town just to the north. A new theatre and stadium were built and the lower city was walled around 215 BC.

The Romans came to rule Sardis in 133 BC. It was a chief area for judicial rule. In 17 AD, it suffered a massive earthquake that affected a very large area of the region. Tactius, the Roman historian, wrote about this earthquake:

…twelve famous cities of Asia fell by an earthquake in the night, so that the destruction was all the more unforeseen and fearful. Nor were there the means of escape usual in, such a disaster, by rushing out into the open country, for there people were swallowed up by the yawning earth. Vast mountains, it is said, collapsed; what had been level ground seemed to be raised aloft, and fires blazed out amid the ruin. The calamity fell most fatally on the inhabitants of Sardis, and it attracted to them the largest share of sympathy.

Sardis was completely destroyed in 616 AD when the Persians regained control from Rome. The city was never rebuilt.

Revelation 3:1 – These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus calls this church “dead.”  Imagine the shame that the church felt when they read this letter. The end of the first verse has Jesus announcing that this church is dead. In Matthew 18:20 we are told “where 2 or 3 are gathered in My name, there am I with them.” This means that God isn’t present. The church is meant to be a celebration of life, and yet Jesus is calling this church dead.

The nature of this church is dead.

A theologian once wrote that this church was the opposite of Smyrna. “Smyrna was put to death yet lived, Sardis appeared alive yet was dead.” Think of it as a star in space. It takes many years for the light from a star very far away to get to us. That star could be completely dead already and we are still seeing the light from it as if it were alive. This is what this church was like.

While Sardis was a real city, and the angel was definitely talking to them as the subject of the letter, we need to realize that these letters go beyond the singular church to which it was addressed. This letter is written as a warning to future churches. This letter is just as relevant today as it was in the first century.

Just with the other letters, Jesus introduces Himself. In this letter He calls Himself out as the One who “has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.” If we look back at chapter 1, we find the same 7 spirits. The One who has the seven spirits is the Holy Spirit. And as we have seen before, the 7 stars are the 7 messengers.

Revelation 1:4 – Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne

It is difficult to understand that 7 spirits description unless we start systematically reading through the Bible. In Isaiah 11, there are 7 distinct descriptions on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is: The Spirit of the Lord, Spirit of wisdom, Spirit of understanding, Spirit of counsel, Spirit of strength, Spirit of knowledge, and Spirit of fear. Instead of 7 distinct spirits, the Holy Spirit has a sevenfold distinction.

The reference is to the Holy Spirit.

He also describes Himself as the “One who has the seven stars.” These seven stars are the seven messengers or leaders of the church.

So Jesus is describing Himself as the One who leads His church through the power of the Holy Spirit given to leaders who follow Him. And He is telling this to Sardis because this power of the Holy Spirit is what they had given up.

A dead church does not have power. And to become dead, it cannot have leaders who are godly. It is surprising that Jesus doesn’t introduce Himself by describing a judgment like He has done in previous churches. Here He describes Himself in the form of what the church has lost.

This church was missing the Holy Spirit and godly leadership. It was filled with unbelief. It was filled with the flesh. It was led by those who do not truly believe the Gospel of Christ and Scripture.

Sardis was a rich city. And Sardis was filled with sin. The Lydian King, Croesus, lived at one point. There is a phrase that many used to say, “as rich as Croesus.” This comes from his life in Sardis.

Another interesting point about Sardis is that there was a temple to Caesar and a temple to Livia. Caesar was seen as the “son god” and Livia was seen as the “empress-mother.” This started a mother/son cult that worked its way into Roman Catholicism by turning the mother/son cult into Mary and Jesus.

Sardis, with as rich as it was, was sinful and vile. And over time, from its creation of a city to the pax romana (Roman peace), it degenerated. It broke down in it impregnability; it broke down in its wealth; and it broke down in its power through the Holy Spirit.

This is a church that has followed the pattern of history of Sardis itself.

Acts 19:10 – This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

We don’t know anything about who planted this church. The assumption is that sometime in Paul’s 3 years in Ephesus that the church was planted. The basis for this is a single verse, Acts 19:10. But one interesting person DID come FROM Sardis. Long after Revelation was written, a man by the name of Mileto, who came from Sardis, wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. He was also one of the primaries responsible for the canon of the Old Testament as we see it today. During Mileto’s commentary, persecution is not mentioned and neither is corruption or false teachers.

But regardless of that, the church died.

The church’s reputation was strong, but it died.

One author claimed this, “The light was still shining but the star had died.”

The church was lying by claiming the life of the Holy Spirit.

Sardis was a city filled with pagan religion. As a matter of fact, just a short distance outside the city was a pagan hot springs that many believed could restore life. It is ironic that in a pagan city that is about restoring life, the church of Christ is dead. This church was well known throughout the region as being alive, but was dead.

Jesus calls out this church. He says that “you have a name that you are alive….” This means they have a reputation for being alive. Jesus tells them that He knows their deeds, which shows the omniscience of Christ. He knows all. And in knowing all, He doesn’t even commend this church on anything. He simply starts in with the condemnation!

This church was filled with people who were playing church. Their reputation was fake, superficial and a lie. Spiritually they were dead!

Ephesians 2:1 – As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins

In the New Testament, whenever we read about being spiritually dead, it is always connected with sin. Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 are great examples of that. Sin leads to deadness.

Here is a church that was thinking they were alive in Christ but actually dead in their sin! And look across America, we have countless churches that fall into that trap! There are churches like Lakewood that promote outright heresy. There are entire denominations that have accepted the world’s views and rejected Scripture. Or what about the Evangelical or Charismatic churches? How many have fallen victim to making the American flag, our soldiers or police, or a conservative political candidate the next idol? Or what about the music or order of worship? Could your focus on making a joyful noise sound beautiful actually be an idol that leads to deadness in sin? Or what about theology? Could that become your god rather than God? Orthodox, Reformed, millennial, Nisan 14, SDA and many others get caught up in their theologies that they forget the personal relationship with Christ.

I realize that the last paragraph is going to ruffle feathers, even among my own circles and even myself. But how often do we think playing church is actually the church. It isn’t. The church is the bride of Christ. Without Christ, the church is nothing but a club that is no longer alive, but dead in sin.

Revelations 3:2 – Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

At the end of verse 2, Jesus tells this church “I have not found your deeds completed.” Their deeds, their works, are not acceptable to God! These deeds are good enough to get a good reputation among people and the community they are in, but they are ugly to God. You could give all your time to doing good throughout the world or the community, but without the life from the Holy Spirit, the deeds are dead.

There is probably a good reason this church was not facing persecution. God noticed that they were already dancing with the devil. They are sinful. They are unregenerate. They are worldly. This church has found that the world, and tools of the world, are more important and helpful for building a reputation than that of Christ.

The story of Samson in the Old Testament is analogous to Sardis. Samson was loved by Israel. He was their champion. He was deceived by Delilah and lost his power when he cut his hair. The haircut is not the issue. The issue is that he refused to obey God. The Bible says that Samson “knew not that the Lord had departed him.” He didn’t even know God had left him!

That is Sardis. Once a strong church and alive, became as Samson: weak, bind, bound in sin, and dead.

Oh how many churches are like that today!


Now the first sign of a commendation comes in verse 4.

Revelation 3:4 – Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

This means that even while this church is dead, there are a few who still hold fast to the living faith! In every church there are people who are wondering how long to stay in their dead church. The way Christ says it is that they have not “soiled their garments.” Garments have a reference to character. Jude 23 tells us to have a “garment unspotted by the flesh.” So this church has a few people who have not defiled their character with sin.

At the end of verse 4, Jesus says that those who have not soiled their garments will “walk with [Him] in white for they are worthy.”  This is a church that had people who are not worthy of God throughout it. But the few in there refused to allow themselves to get caught up in their unworthiness. The “white” that Jesus speaks of in this verse is holiness and purity.

If you look through Scripture, these white robes are reserved for only a select few: Christ Himself (Matthew 17:2), unfallen angels (Matthew 28 and Revelation 15:6), the 2 angels at Christ’s ascension in Acts 1:10, and the glorified church in Revelation 19:8. These are the garments of pure holiness.

So who is Jesus telling this commendation to? He is telling it those who are still alive in that church. There is no use in talking to the dead! So He is giving these alive believers 5 commands to revive this dead church.

The first of the five commands is in verse 2: “Wake up!”

This means that those who are maintaining their holiness and purity cannot be silent. They cannot wait for things to get better. They can’t expect the church to come back to life on its own. These believers must be asleep. So Jesus wants these believers to wake up and start the revitalization of the church under the power of the Holy Spirit, not the power of their reputation.

Second, these believers are to “strengthen what remains.” Jesus is telling this group of believers that whatever spiritual values remain. This is the only church in town. These believers cannot go anywhere else. Unfortunately here in America, we have options. Too many options. But it could be that God isn’t calling us to leave those dead churches but instead to stay and strengthen what is there.

In verse 3 Jesus is telling these believers the third command, to “remember what you have received and heard.”  What have the churches received and heard? This goes back to the Gospel and the Epistles. The church has received Scripture. They have received truth. Paul tells believers to guard the treasure they have received in 1 Timothy. Jesus is calling for this church to hold on to the truth and pass it on to others in the church.

1 Timothy 1:18-19 – I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.

The fourth command is to hold on to it. Jesus is telling these believers to obey Him. Obey what is written in Scripture. He does not want them to be distracted by the world or by their flesh.

The final command is to “Repent!”  Turn away from your sin of sleeping and, with sorrow and remorse, obey what Jesus is commanding.

So what will happen if these believers do not wake up this dead church? Jesus says He will come “like a thief in the night.” In other places throughout the Bible, when Jesus talks about a thief, He is talking about the thief doing harm to someone. I believe that this means that if this church does not have a revival, then Jesus will come and do what a thief does, destroy this church.

I believe this is a warning to all churches having the same issues. Jesus will be coming back and the dead churches will be destroyed.  But what do you think will happen to the believers in those churches if there is no revival in them? Hebrews 10 is a pretty stark reminder.

Hebrews 10:29 – How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

But what happens to those who overcome? Not only will they be dressed in white, as discussed earlier, but they will never have “their name blotted out of the book of life.”

Now this can get confusing. You might be wondering if God will remove their salvation. Short answer is no. But you might be asking me if that goes against Exodus 32:33.

Exodus 32:33 – The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.

The important difference between Revelation 3 and Exodus 32 is that we are talking about very different things. Exodus 32 is not talking about the book of life. He is talking about, in Exodus, removing those who have sinned against Him from the world, ending their lives on this planet. God has taken lives, but He does not remove those who are redeemed from their salvation. You may lose your life because of your sin, but you will never lose your salvation if you are redeemed.

In the first century, the king always kept a record of those in his city. If you committed a crime or died, your name was erased. Looking at this from a Revelation 3 standpoint, it is as if God is saying to them that their sin can erase them from the local book, they could lose their life, but He will never erase them from HIS book of LIFE.

God is encouraging those who are not the corpses in this church.

To recap in as short of way possible, Sardis is dead. They are focusing on the wrong things. They lost the power of the Holy Spirit, even though their reputation among the people was one of spirituality and compassion. But there was a group in this church who has not accepted the wrong teaching. He wants this remnant to revive this dead church. If they don’t, they risk strict judgment, but they are saved, written in the Book of Life.

I know this was a long post. I apologize for that. But this segment has a message that is so important for every church today. Only 2 more churches to look at. Next week, the church of Philadelphia.

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