boyradd

Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Archive for the tag “Revelation”

Churches of Revelation: Part 5 – Thyatira

The last few weeks we have looked at 3 of the 7 churches in the book of Revelation. The first 3 churches that we examined were on the coast. As we move into the next 4 cities, we’ll start looking at those cities that are inland. The first of these inland cities is Thyatira.

Until around 300 BC, Thyatira was a small and insignificant town. It wasn’t on any major trade routes at the time. It was on one of the lesser roads between Sardis and Pergamum. It eventually became a commercial center, but never a really large city like the previous 3 we looked at.

In this city were two major temples to pagan gods. The first was Tyrimnos. They held games in his honor and his likeness was upon their money. The other deity worshiped there was Sambethe, who some regard as the idol of the Jezebel in Revelation 2:20.

This city was well known for their trade guilds. If you have ever played one of those fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons then you know about trade guilds. As a matter of fact, I believe that the guilds of Thyatira are what many of these games base their view of guilds. And Thyatira did guilds right! They were more organized than in any other ancient city. Every artisan belonged to a guild and every guild owned its own property and wrote its own contracts. The guilds in Thyatira had more influence than all other guilds in the ancient world.

The two guilds that were the most powerful in this city were the coppersmiths and the dyers. The dyers created a new type of dye that was known only to this city and was highly sought after.  The dyers created a new of that dye is called Turkish Red. In Acts 16:14 we hear of Lydia of Thyatira who sold her dyes in Philippi.

Many of the guilds were associated with Asiatic pagan religions, and therefore, opposed to Christianity. That didn’t stop people like Paul from preaching in Thyatira. Acts 19:10 tells us that inhabitants all over Asia heard the Gospel message associated with Paul. It was taught very early in Christianity that guilds were off limits to Christians because of the pagan practices. Remember this as we analyze the verses around this tiny church in a pagan city.

Revelation 2:18-19 – “Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira: “The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze, says:  I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first.

To begin, Jesus immediately calls Himself the Son of God. Many claim Jesus never said He was the Son of God, but here is just one of many places where this is clear. He makes it very clear that His eyes are like “blazing fire.” These are eyes that can burn the false appearance of people. His feet are like “burnished bronze” which can trample evil. Both of these qualities are going to be needed here as this is the most corrupt of the 7 churches in Revelation.

But, Fred, if you read the first few verses about this church, they are doing a lot of great things! How can you tell me they are the most corrupt?

You would be right in saying that there is a lot in this church that is good. Love, faith, service, and perseverance are all good deeds that they are doing. And God even says they are doing more than they first were! Love produces service. Faith produces perseverance. And they are growing in all of it. This church had faith in God and they helped people significantly.

If we were there at Thyatira we would have seen a church that is busy about doing God’s business. They were helping people in the community. They were loving each other. They were persevering in a pagan society. And they had a strong faith.

But there is something below the surface; something that many people aren’t seeing. So God needs to point this out to them. This church, on the outside, looks like the most Christian church of the ones we have studied. But deep down they are the most corrupt of the churches!

Revelation 2:20-23 –  But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I will throw her into a sickbed and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices.  I will kill her children with the plague.  Then all the churches will know that I am the One who examines minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works.

It is about “Jezebel.”

Now Jezebel is most likely not her real name. Jesus is calling this person Jezebel because she was the most evil woman in the Old Testament. The Revelation Jezebel is a leader in the church in Thyatira. She is someone the people are listening to.

In the Old Testament, Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab of Israel and daughter of the king of Sidon, a town in modern day Lebanon. Jezebel was the reason Israel worshiped Baal. As the fertility god, worship of Baal involved many immoral sexual practices. She spread the worship of Baal among the 10 tribes of Israel with her 800 prophets. She is responsible for trying to kill Elijah after his Mt. Carmel encounter with over half of the Baal prophets. Elijah faced over 400 prophets of Baal with strong courage, but when Jezebel got involved, he ran away. Jezebel in the Old Testament had a neighbor murdered because of coveting his vineyard.

She was immoral.

She was ruthless.

Her life ended when she was thrown from the palace window. After she landed, the dogs came and ate her body and licked up the blood.

The Jezebel in Thyatira was known as a prophetess. She was a leader in the church. Many women were Christian prophetesses. In the book of Acts, for example, Philip’s 4 daughters were all prophetesses. Unfortunately, Jezebel was not spirit-filled. She was a false prophet. She was teaching that it was ok to engage in sexual immorality.

Looking back at the guilds for a moment, these guilds ran almost all of the business throughout the city. In order for Christians to find jobs, they had to join a union, which was forbidden because of their sexual orgies, immorality, and pagan worship.

The Christians had to make a choice.

Jezebel was teaching that it was ok to indulge in the same practices that these guilds were engaging in. She was telling Christians that they should go along with what the world was teaching, God would understand.

This is something Christians today deal with a lot. Many businesses, and I have been affected by this myself, require people to conform to their practices in order to stay employed. I can imagine this same argument happening in Thyatira.

I can just hear Jezebel now, “You need to work. God will understand. You should just do what you need to do in order to join the guilds.”

What about today’s churches?

Many tell us to just accept what the world is teaching in order for us to live at peace with the world. Have you heard the arguments? “The church should change its views on homosexuality.” “The church should be more open to people who have different sexual views.”

If the church begins to compromise biblical standards, then that church’s testimony goes away. There is nothing to set it apart from the rest of the world. So when someone realizes that their life needs a change and they go to a church that has compromised, the only thing that church can provide is more of the same which that person is coming from. That person will not find healing or the truth or the love of God. They will find the same “love” the world has provided. They will find a “truth” not found in the gospel, which is a lie. They will find only death of the spirit, not life.

How does God respond?

He holds the CHURCH accountable.

Yes, it was Jezebel that was leading them astray, but it was the CHURCH that allowed it!

In the previous church, Pergamum, and Thyatira, there is a definite link between both sexual immorality and idolatry. Sexual immorality is clearly spoken against in the Bible. When we engage in it, we go against the authority of God. This leads to God not being the God of their life. This means that the person needs to find another god to fill the void, something else to live for. That is what a god is. It is something that we live for. In this case, it is the god of sexual immorality. But it could very easily be the god of wealth or the god of power or ambition. These gods don’t come in immediately and make themselves known. They take over as time goes on.

Dr. Earl Palmer says it best, “the most subtle challenge to faith does not usually originate in the public amphitheaters but in the daily places where we earn the money we need to live.”

This is what was happening in Thyatira.

And look at the punishment Jesus will give. It happens to three different groups. The first is to Jezebel. Jesus, in some ways sarcastically says, “I will cast her on a bed of suffering.” If Jezebel likes her beds, God is going to give her that. But this bed will be filled with suffering. The next group affected is those who commit adultery with her. He says that they will suffer with great affliction. With sexual immorality there are plenty of ways to suffer with great affliction. Sexually transmitted diseases are just one way, but even beyond that, sexual immorality leads to broken hearts, and those are even a greater affliction than a mere disease. The final group that is affected is those are Jezebel’s children. Those are the ones who not only practice Jezebel’s teaching, but teach it as well. The verse says “I will strike her children dead.” The death that Jesus is talking about spiritual death, the death listed in chapters 20-21 in Revelation. This is the commitment to evil that makes it difficult to repent of sin.

But there is good news. Jesus gives them the opportunity to repent! But if they don’t repent, then those groups will be affected and Jesus says the churches will “know that I am the One who examines hearts and minds….”

Revelation 2:24 –  I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan—as they say—I do not put any other burden on you.

Jesus says some pretty awesome things in Revelation 2:24. For the first time in the letters to the churches, Jesus mentions his coming. But also in this, we see that he mentions that there are those who are seeking the “Satan’s so-called deep secrets.” When a church begins to move away from Scripture, we find that pagan ritual begins to enter in. People love to feel that they know some deep seeded secret that others do not.

And there are many churches today that have interwoven new age practices or even worldly movements into the church. These are movements that say if you don’t understand their version of the gospel, even when it doesn’t fully line up to Scripture, then you cannot be a member of the Christian community.

Revelation 2:26-27 – The one who is victorious and keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations— and he will shepherd them with an iron scepter; he will shatter them like pottery—just as I have received this from My Father.

But God knows there are those who have not listened to Jezebel and to them He tells them to simply hold on until He comes. To add to this, He quotes Psalm 2. This reference is to the millennial kingdom. This quote of Psalm 2 talks about Jesus ruling with an iron scepter and dashing them to pieces like pottery. It cannot be the new heavens and new earth because nothing evil can get in there. The millennial kingdom is the time when the saints share reign with Christ. Righteousness will reign. But in the new heaven and new earth, righteousness will dwell. Evil cannot be present with righteousness.

Revelation 2:28 – I will also give him the morning star.

Ending this section about Thyatira, Jesus tells us those who persevere without compromising will be given the morning star. In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi says that the “Sun of Righteousness will arise.” He will be like the sun rising. Then in Revelation 22:16 Jesus calls Himself “I am the bright and morning star.”

So what this is telling us is that Jesus is going to present Himself to those who love Him before He comes in power and glory. This is a promise of the rapture of the church. He will appear for the true Christ-followers. Now don’t get me wrong, these Christ-followers still fall from time to time. But they repent and get back up. Those who have a true faith will repent.

In closing, Jesus tells us to hear what He has to say about the all the churches. So far we have the following:

  • Ephesus – Don’t lose your first love
  • Smyrna – Don’t fear persecution
  • Pergamum – Trust the Word and stay faithful
  • Thyatira – Avoid sexual immorality and idolatry

All of these messages are just as important today as they were in the first century.

And…

This is a message that the church drastically needs.

The Churches of Revelation: Part 4 – Pergamum

Hebrews 6:1 – Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God

Pergamum has a pretty amazing history. First, it is perched atop a mountain along the coast of Turkey. It was a city that rivaled Alexandria, Ephesus, and Smyrna for size, commerce, and beauty. In the mid-second century AD it became known as the top center for ancient medicine.

The famous Roman physician Galen was born in Pergamum. He was the most accomplished medical researcher of his time. Many of his procedures have survived even to this day. He was very successful in cataract surgeries where he would lift the cataract from the eye by inserting a needle behind the lens of the eye. He was also the one who invented the way to properly clean and sanitize an operating room.

As for leadership, Pergamum had very few countries holding it over time. The defensibility and the immense resource value of the city meant that those who controlled Pergamum wanted to maintain control. in 323 BC it left Alexander the Great’s hands when he died and left it to General Lysimachus. It maintained in Attalid control until 133 BC when Rome took it over. From that point it would rise and fall with Rome.

It sits almost directly north of Smyrna and is the last of the 3 coastal cities listed in Revelation 2 and 3.

The most beautiful area of Pergamum is the acropolis. It overlooks the Temple of Zeus and the Great Altar of Pergamum, known to many as Satan’s Throne. Going north from there is the Temple of Athena and the Great Library, which rivaled Alexandria’s library. It is estimated that over 200,000 documents were contained in it. The library is also the home to one of the most amazing wedding gifts of all time: Marc Antony presented Cleopatra with a significant portion of the library’s collection in order to restore what had been destroyed by fire during Julius Caesar’s occupation of Alexandria.

Do NOT tell my wife about this wedding gift or I will be buying entire libraries for gifts for the rest of my life.

From Athena’s temple and the library, you then come to the Temple of Trajan, dedicated by Emperor Hadrian around 125 AD and dedicated to the city’s defiled predecessor. It made Pergamum the first imperial cult center in Asia Minor.

This city represented the epitome of Hellenistic culture. Because of that, Christians viewed Pergamum as a city that stood against Christian beliefs. The fact that Pergamum shows up in the book of Revelation is reflective of the tension between Christians and the pagan communities around the end of the first century AD.

Christ’s message to Pergamum praises the community for maintaining their faith while living “where Satan dwells.” Antipas, a Christian bishop in Pergamum, was martyred at the end of the first century AD. This would have, for sure, caused grief and fear among the Christian community.

2 Corinthians 11:14 – And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

Christ’s message is that this church has compromised.

The Pergamum church is starting to see the difficulty in being Christian and is starting to change their ways to be more palatable to the culture around them.

This section of Scripture opens by showing the church that Jesus is the “One who has the sharp double-edged sword.” Jesus is showing that He alone has authority to judge and execute as needed. This church is not in a good place with God right now in this message.

In the first 2 churches we see that He is the One who hold the churches (Ephesus) and the first and the last who was dead come to life (Smyrna). Now we see the Judge! This church is in danger of being judged by the One who has a sharp double-edged sword.

The church in Pergamum consisted primarily of Gentiles who left their pagan lives to choose a Christian call. Even though they had converted, they started to change back to their pagan beliefs as times got harder for Christians.

We have seen this happen over and over in history. Between 300-600 AD, during the reign of Constantine, the church and world became one. Christianity got lost in the translation of heathen holidays and infant dedication. It became a mass state religion and not a life-transforming encounter with the risen Christ.

1Corinthians 3:11 – For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

We see that today as well. There are many churches that have taken the stance of the world. They have, and are trying, to fit God in the culture’s definition. Not defining culture by God. This has made a confused and impure testimony for the modern church. Those churches that try to blend culture and Christianity are dead churches. The church has been judged by Christ and lost its power or spiritual influence.

Next, the name Pergamum literally means “parchment.” Parchment was invented in Pergamum. That, coupled with the amazing medical research going on, made Pergamum a very rich city that was the capital of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor for around 250 years. The city has temples to every Roman God and even to Caesar. In that time, as long as you agreed to worship Caesar as God, you could worship anyone else you wanted.

In most cities, one day a year, everyone would have to declare worship for Caesar. Being a capital city, Pergamum would have had more than one of those days. Christians would have minimally lost their citizenship, and many their lives, for not worshiping Caesar. There are myths and legends and stories about how the city was founded and how it had grown over the years. It is a very well-documented city in Roman history.

But if we look at the Christian church in Pergamum, we know very little. We don’t know who planted the church there. Acts 16 gives us a little information that Paul passed through the area, but that is it. Probably our best look at Scripture is in Acts 19:10 where the ministry in Ephesus was so successful that the gospel went through Asia Minor.

Acts 19:10 – And this went on for two years, so that all the inhabitants of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message about the Lord.

So during that gospel movement, the church in Pergamum was planted where Satan’s throne is.

This is what I find interesting. Satan’s throne is not in hell, as I would have expected. Satan’s throne is in this world. Hell is the place of his incarceration; the earth is the headquarters for his operations. So what we learn right now, especially with Smyrna and Pergamum both in the mix, is that if you want to destroy the church in the world, it is not persecution that will cause the church’s downfall, it is compromising the faith.

Revelation 2:13 – I know where you live—where Satan’s throne is!

This church was planted where Satan has his headquarters. If we look, Smyrna was planted in a city that had a synagogue to Satan. But Pergamum was planted where he leads his operations from. The synagogue in Smyrna was the perverted form of Judaism that was present. In Pergamum, the the throne of Satan is a Gentile base for false religions. This church was right in the middle of it, and was beginning to compromise.

But something else comes out of Pergamum. Jesus commends this church for living among Satan’s throne and having a remnant that maintains pure faith. Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church and Pergamum is a great example. Yes, they have issues. They have compromised. But I am confident that in every compromising denomination or church, there is a remnant that God is raising up.

This remnant is working in faith, even during very trying times. One of those times is when Antipas, one of their leaders, was martyred. Tradition has it that he was burned to death inside of a brass idol of a bull. They watched this death, and the supposed victory of the pagans, and they still did not waver. Not those of the true faith.

But they did have something against them. The allowed those who would compromise the faith, to comfortably be a part of their community. They were not dealing with sin in their own church. They didn’t deny the Lord’s Name or the faith. But they were soft and tolerant of compromise with the world.

The ones they have been too tolerant of are listed in the verses. One is an Old Testament reference and the other is a New Testament one.

Revelation 2:14-15 – But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

The Old Testament reference to Balaam and Balak is that of sexual impurity. Without going into exhaustive detail of Numbers 22-25, Balaam created a plan to get God’s people away from worshiping Him. He used sexual immorality and intermarrying Israelites with heathen cultures. This intermarrying led to pagan belief systems being introduced into families.

This has led to people eating things sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality. Referring back to the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, this was something that was forbidden to Christian communities.

Then there is the New Testament reference of what God has against this church. The Nicolatians are mentioned as something people are holding onto. Nicolatians were the New Testament  example of Balaam and Balak. This reference goes back to Nicholas in Acts 6 who was a deacon and then left the faith and became apostate.

And churches today have people who are following the ways of Balaam and Nicholas.

So what is the answer? How do we correct this problem?

Revelation 2:16 – Therefore repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

Verse 16 lays it out perfectly, “Repent!”

Repentance is more than just breaking down into tears and coming to grips with your evil tendencies. Repentance is completely turning around away from the sin.

And note that God is not going to hurt those who are following the faith, even if they are tolerant of evil. No. Jesus says that if the church doesn’t repent and start taking care of business, then Jesus, Himself, would come back and fight them directly.

1 Corinthians 5 tells us that a little leaven does what? It leavens the entire thing. We cannot tolerate evil in any form. We cannot compromise on that. The church is not designed for unbelievers. It is designed for the saints of God to hold the truth and worship God. Then, as Romans 10 tells us, unbelievers will hear the Word and by hearing it will be saved.

The church cannot be a place where unbelievers feel safe or secure. Unbelievers need to feel uncomfortable coming into our churches. Yes, we need to make the church a place that reaches out to unbelievers in love, but we cannot give them a false security that they belong in the church until they know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The leaders of the church of Christ need to judge sin.

So if the church in Pergamum overcomes, what will happen? According to verse 17, they will receive manna and a white stone.

The manna is a reference to Christ, the bread of life.

The stone is more of a mystery. But there are some hints that we can follow. Whenever someone was victorious in the games at that time in history the victor would receive a white stone. This stone allowed them entrance into the after party for those who were victorious. Could this stone be the entrance ticket to heaven?

So our churches are not made to compromise. We are made to purely follow Christ and His Word. We need to maintain the spiritual purity that God has called the church to have.

Revelation 2:17 – Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.

The Churches of Revelation: Part 3 – Smyrna

Revelation 1:20 – The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Smyrna was a large city on the coast that reached 30 miles inland. Originally, the Lelages lived there until, in 1100 BC it was taken by the Aeolian Greeks. In 688 BC it passed to the Ionian Greeks. It was again taken in 627 BC by the Lydians.

In around 300 BC, the city was abandoned and rebuilt by Alexander the Great. It was moved southwest of the previous city and surrounded by a wall. It became one of the main roads to the interior of the area and a top-notch trading center. It also became the top port for exporting. During the Roman rule, Smyrna was considered the most beautiful city in Asia Minor, rilvaling Pergamos and Ephesus. The streets were all paved and the schools of science and medicine were the best around. They had a theatre that could seat 20,000.

In 23 AD a temple was built to Tiberius and his mother, Julia. It was connected to the temples to Zeus and Cybele. It was one of the most ornate temples in all of Asia Minor.

Smyrna became a Christian city very early in the first century. The bishop of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp, one of the original church fathers. He was also the first post-New Testament martyring. He was discipled by John and appointed as bishop by some of the original apostles. He was uneducated and direct. He took on the Gnostic leader, Marcion, calling him the “first born of Satan.”  His only existing writing is a pastoral letter to the church in Philippi. Polycarp fled to an estate outside the city when he was 86 and when the Roman soldiers came knocking on his door, he knew what they were there for. He simply said to them, “God’s will be done.” At that, he let the soldiers in and they took him without a struggle.

When he was placed onto the pyre to be burned, the Roman soldiers would typically nail the person to the wood to prevent him from jumping out of the fire. He simply said, “Leave me as I am. For he who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails.” The fire was lit and consumed his flesh and he never flinched. The Roman who chronicled the burning said of the moment that his flesh was “not as burning flesh but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace.”

Revelation 2:9a –  I know your affliction

As we begin to dig into Revelation 2:8-11, Jesus lays out another quality of a church that we will come to know. The first quality was shown in Ephesus, love for one another. This second quality is suffering. The Bible is very clear that we will suffer for our faith. Some will be persecuted unto death and others will see a more mental or emotional suffering instead of physical.

James tells us that tribulation has a perfecting work. Peter says that after you have suffered for a while, the Lord will make you perfect. Paul told the Thessalonians that their suffering has produced endurance, perseverance, and hope.

The church in Smyrna was a church that suffered.

James 1:2-4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The letters in Revelation are to actual churches, but they also show examples of churches through history, because churches will encounter suffering. This means that these 3 verses give us instruction, as the church, on how to deal with persecution.

Smyrna is about 40 miles north of Ephesus. This is one of 2 churches that do not get condemnation. Jesus does not discuss the sin in the church of Smyrna. There is no mention of punishment.

Based on what we read throughout the New Testament in James, Peter, and Thessalonians, we see what suffering brings. It brings perfection. One can only assume that the sin in this church has been purged through the suffering which they have gone or will go through.

During this writing, Domitian was the Caesar. He was a murderous dictator who launched a massive persecution against the church of Christ. And because of the persecution that Smyrna undergoes, they have become pure.

Hypocrites do not hang around when persecution occurs. False Christians won’t sacrifice and go through the pain. Persecution destroys false faith but strengthens true faith.

According to the book of Acts, the ministry that was happening in Ephesus during the first few years after Jesus’ resurrection led to a Great Awakening of sorts to the cities surrounding Ephesus but we don’t know who planted the church in Smyrna.

Acts 19:10 – And this went on for two years, so that all the inhabitants of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message about the Lord.

Smyrna had a very close relationship with Caesar. Since Caesar was to be worshiped as a god, being a Christian in a city with a close relationship with Caesar was a dangerous act. Some historians says that there were mass executions of Christians in Smyrna.

Another interesting note is that the name “Smyrna” means “myrrh” in Greek and we know what the importance of myrrh is. It started as a perfume in the New Testament which then became associated with Jesus’ death.  It becomes the picture of suffering for this church. In order for myrrh to create its beautiful smell, it needed to be crushed. God allowed Satan to crush this church in order for them to yield the sweet faith that comes from suffering.

But one interesting thing about this city is that, even though it was seen as the most beautiful city in Asia Minor, the architects forgot drains. So when rains came, the streets would literally flood with raw sewage. So the beautiful smell of myrrh was not the daily smell in Smyrna.  It goes to show the underlying problems of a sinful city, it can look beautiful on the outside but be ugly on the inside. Whereas the church was ugly to look at, crushed from persecution, but was pure on the inside.

As we look at those who were persecuting, verse 9 says that it was those who “say they are Jews but are not.”  So these are physical, or cultural Jews, but not practicing Jews. Romans 2:28 says that “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, he is Jew who is one inwardly.” The Christians in Smyrna were being persecuted by those who claimed to be Jews. They would run to the Roman proconsul and have them arrested, jailed, beaten, and killed.

Revelation 2:9 – I know your affliction and poverty, yet you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Next, in verse 9, this was a poor church. There are 2 Greek words for poor. The first is penea, which means you are not wealthy. You have only enough to satisfy your basic needs. Jesus didn’t use this word. He used ptochos. This word means you have nothing at all. Complete destitution. Because of their poverty, many of them must have been slaves.

But Jesus doesn’t end there. He says that this church is rich spiritually. When you look at the churches in the world that are growing at fast rates, they are not the American or European churches. They are the churches in Syria, Iraq, and other countries that have persecution among Christians.

When we get to verse 10, Jesus tells this church that things are only going to get worse for them. Satan is going to jail some of them. And then it gets worse. He says that some will even be put to death.

But what do they receive for going through all of this?

The crown of life.

This is not a physical crown like you would get in a Miss America contest. This is life. This is eternal life in Christ Jesus. But it is even more. It is a full life filled with spiritual satisfaction in this life.

So we see that a persecuted church is one which shows a purity that Jesus commends. I pray we in the Western church get the opportunity to experience that kind of purity. It would mean our churches would shrink and our lives would not be much to the world, but to see a faith grow as Smyrna’s did would fulfill my bucket list.

Revelation 2:10 – Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have affliction for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Next week we will look at the next city, Pergamum.

The Churches of Revelation: Part 2 – Ephesus

Out of the seven churches in the Revelation, Ephesus makes the most sense. Prior to Christ’s birth, Ephesus went back and forth between being controlled by the Romans and the Bergamian kings. By 4 AD, Ephesus was known for its wealth and luxury. During Augustus’ rule, the population reached 225,000 and the city became the capital of the region. The city continued to thrive after becoming a port city on the Caystros river.

It was a major city in early Christianity. While John planted the church in Ephesus, it was Paul who put it on the map.  When Paul chose this city on his missionary journeys, the city gained in prestige to Christians. Paul worked to evangelize the Ephesians who were worshiping Artemis. The elderly of the city did not accept him, but, over time, Christianity took roots with the youth, who turned it into a major religion in the city. There are also some experts that place the Virgin Mary in Ephesus around 42 AD to settle down for the rest of her life. There is currently a shared Catholic/Muslim holy site that points out her house at the top of Bulbul mountain.

By 1307 Ephesus lost its significance as their port closed and other port cities rose.

The people of Ephesus had both Greek and Roman influence. Ephesians used both sundials and water clocks to be able to tell time. Owning one of those showed a person’s wealth. Typically people woke at sunrise, although the Roman influence with the festivals added a little more color. The Greek population had boys going to school and women most likely not while the Romans sent both boys and girls to school.

Ephesus had a temple dedicated to their goddess, Artemis. Every day there would be animal sacrifices to Artemis. In most Greek cities, Artemis was worshiped as a secondary deity, but in Asia Minor, she was a primary deity. In most Greek cities she is worshiped for her hunting abilities, but in Ephesus, she was worshiped solely for her fertility. This could be a sign of the Roman influence.

John planted the Ephesian church. The disciples believed the larger cities like Ephesus, Smyrna, and Laodicea would help Christianity spread. It is believed that John and Mary traveled together to Ephesus after Jesus entrusted her to John. Around 42 AD, John established the Ephesian church. When Paul came during his missionary journey, he took over the church until he was beheaded outside Rome in 64 AD. At that point, John took the church over again. John died in Ephesus.

During Paul’s journey to Ephesus, he stayed in the city for about three and half years. Under Paul’s leadership, the church in Ephesus became the head church in Asia Minor. The city was filled with magicians, pagans, and a government that was not friendly to Christians. Even with all of that, Ephesus became the third most important city in all of Christendom behind Jerusalem and Antioch. After three and half years, the statue makers, led by Demetrius, who made a living selling silver statues of Artemis, were upset and performed acts of civil disobedience. The city ran Paul out of Ephesus where he went to Macedonia.

So what does Revelation tell us about Ephesus?

The first chapter of Revelation explains that the book was written BY Him FOR Him. This entire book is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Each of the seven churches has unique strengths and weaknesses and there is a distinct message to each. The problems addressed in each of the churches are problems that have happened in the church throughout history. This is shown that it is the case when the Lord wants us to make sure we hear what He has to say.

Revelation 2:7 – “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.

There are multiple ways to analyze Revelation. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Preterist – The book was fulfilled in the early church. This would mean that the events have already occurred. The thing that is positive about this approach is that it is interpreted in relation to the historical significance in which it was written. Unfortunately, this view diminishes the prophetic nature of the book and turns it simply into a history book.
  • Futurist – This means that the book only deals with end times. If we look at this as an extreme dispensationalist, we would say that these churches are not the churches of the historical day they were in, but only of a future church and can only be applied to churches today. This makes all of chapters 4-22 of Revelation only prophecy and does not include history into it.
  • Continuous Historical – This is the view that says that Revelation is history of the world from the apostolic age until the end of times. While this does see the book as part of history, it opens the interpretation up to subjective views. Most people who fall into this group will view the book of Revelation in light of current events.
  • Idealist – The idealist sees no historical value in the book, but only a symbolic triumph of good over evil.

I am going to try and look at the historical context of the churches and then analyze them in light of future prophecy.

This means that it is appropriate that Ephesus is addressed first. As seen above, it was an amazing city!

Paul’s first visit was short (Acts 18:19-21) and then Apollos also ministered there (Acts 18:24-28). Paul returned and Christianity flourished throughout the city. Because of the passion that the church had to the gospel, the message spread to the region. To this, Demetrius took offense and had Paul removed from the city.

Paul did pass by Ephesus later because he wanted to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost. He called for the Ephesian leaders to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:16). He explained to them the danger about him returning to Jerusalem.  Paul warned the elders that wolves would come among them and drive people away from the church.

Later, when Paul was writing Timothy, he asked him to stay in Ephesus to deal with those who were teaching false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-7).  He focused on the qualities of church leadership with Timothy as those who were leading were driving people away from the church.

1 Timothy 1:3-7 –  As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith. Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.

As we know John lived in Ephesus in his later years of life, John was instructed to write to the angel of the church in Ephesus. There are a lot of different theories about who the “angel” is that is being admonished, but regardless, the topic is the church at Ephesus.

In opening with the verse that explains Jesus as the One who holds the 7 stars and walks among the 7 lampstands, He shows that He walks among His churches. He is in fellowship with them. He is involved in them.

Jesus points out the good and the bad to the church in Ephesus. He points out that the church in Ephesus cannot tolerate wicked people and that they have persevered. They work hard and have good deeds. They have found the false prophets. They have endured and have not gotten tired of persevering.

BUT…

Jesus tells us that they have forgotten their first love; the love of God and the love of people.

Revelation 2:4 – But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.

How many times have you gone to your church, sat there, and pointed out all the things that are good and bad in your church? Many times we allow our feelings to guide us in what we like and don’t like. Do you like the music? Then it must be a good church. Do you dislike the lack of small groups? It must be a bad church. But that isn’t the case.

I believe God is telling us, by pointing out so many positive points in this, and the other churches, and only a limited number of negative points, that there is really only a few critical things when it comes to being a church community.

In Ephesus, one of those points is remembering your love of God and people.

What does Jesus mean by “your first love?”

It must mean that they had previously had a love that they have left behind. It is easy to say that the primary love they had left behind was for both God and people. And that is partially right.

But I believe that the love Jesus is referring to in this passage is primarily for the people of the church and community.

Why?

First, In Ephesians 4:15-5:2, Paul tells the Ephesians to love one another. The context is an emphasis on the relationship between the community of believers.  Second, in Ephesians 1:15-16, Paul praised the church for their love of one another. Third, in Scripture, we are told that in the last days the love that will be lost is the love for one another (Matthew 24:9-12).

Matthew 24:9-12 – “Then they will hand you over for persecution,and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.

The Ephesian church worked very hard to maintain their doctrinal purity but in doing so, they have passively neglected the love for one another. I could do a word study here that would show the passive nature of the neglect the Ephesians had for brotherly love, but I will leave that for more others who are more well versed with original language.

The consequence for the church continuing to neglect their love of one another would be for the Lord to remove their lampstand. The lampstand is the church’s ability to function as a testimony to the world. Just as Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), the church is a lampstand.  Removing the lampstand could mean that the church’s ability to witness is lost. Please note that this Scripture has absolutely nothing to do with losing your salvation. It is simply the testimony of the church in the world that would be lost.

This is shown in John 13:34-35 when Jesus says:

John 13:34-35 – “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The Christian’s love for one another is a very powerful witness to the presence and power of Christ. If that is taken away, then our power to witness and evangelize is hurt.

The way the church in Ephesus, and consequently the church today, can fix this issue is through the 3 R’s:

  • Remember

Through passive neglect they had forgotten to love one another.  They are called to remember when they had that love.

  • Repent

This goes beyond just grieving. This is a genuine change of heart and mind that results in a change in behavior and overall lifestyle.

  • Renewed Response

Begin to put love into practice once again.

The Ephesian church shows a problem that is common for every church and every Christian. We allow Satan to take advantage of our strengths thereby turning them into weaknesses. The truth of doctrine is important, but doctrine can never be the end in itself. Truth and love should never be separated. Truth needs to be proclaimed in love.

Ephesians 4:15 – But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.

And love must be proclaimed with truth.

Philippians 1:9-10 – And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ,

We need to remember the church in Ephesus and maintain doctrinal purity, but not at the expense of love.

The Churches of Revelation Part 1 – Introduction

Revelation 1:19-20 – “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angel of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

I’ve been reading through the Bible one chapter a day. I started with Matthew and then I will read the OT I find out how the story ends. Just kidding, I know how it ends. I read the Cliff’s Notes. We win.

But seriously, it has been a few years since I read through the Bible and applied a chapter a day. My prayers surround the chapter of the day, etc…

Well, I have recently been reading through Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and trying to understand the reason for the churches listed in the Book and it got me thinking.

Why these churches?

Some of these churches you would not know very well even from reading and re-reading the Bible. It only comes from a historical understanding of these churches that things begin to make sense, but still, not completely.

Colossians 1:2 – To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters[a] in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

You see, some of these churches were very small. Thyatira and Philadelphia were small Christian communities, and, if you base Ephesus as the primary starting point of the churches, others such as Tralles, Magnesia, or Hierapolis or Colossae would have been much larger. Some of those larger churches are also mentioned in Scripture. Troas is mentioned in Acts 20:5-12. Colossae is mentioned in Colossians 1:2. Hierapolis is mentioned in Colossians 4:13.

Colossians 4:13 – I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Now one reason for these churches could be for their geographic distribution. All these cities lay in a circular route around Ephesus. The first 3 churches were in direct communication using the Roman Road. From there, the message diverts away from the Roman Road to the great circular road that bound together the majority of the population.

So that must mean there is a spiritual reason for using these churches.

We know that Jesus has a message for each church.

  • Ephesus – They have forsaken their First Love.
  • Smyrna – They would suffer persecution.
  • Pergamum – They need to repent.
  • Thyatira – They have a false prophetess.
  • Sardis – They have fallen asleep.
  • Philadelphia – They have endured with patience.
  • Laodicea – They are lukewarm.

Over the next 7 weeks I am going to discuss each of the churches. We’ll look at the history of the church, any Scriptural references, and the spiritual importance of why the church is listed in Revelation.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read and study Biblical and church history. So this will be no different. I look forward to learning about these churches and their significance.

Next week we’ll start with the church of Ephesus.

Revelation 2:7 – Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Post Navigation

boyradd

Forgiven...Loved.....Transformed!

EXPOSED

"Sometimes the story we're telling the world isn't half as endearing as the one that lives inside us." -Donald Miller

The Minstrel's Wife

A worship leader's missus and her views from the pew

Praises & Grace

My life, My walk, My missions

Godinterest Christian Magazine

The leading Christian magazine in the United Kingdom, helping you connect with God, culture and other Christians.

Sillyloquies

We write to remember. To see our thoughts in sentences. So we can hopefully one day figure out what all those words really mean.

this is... The Neighborhood

the Story within the Story

Cristian Mihai

writes a short story every week

The Awakening

An Ordinary Man Being Awakened By An Extraordinary God

Limbiley's Blog

Life&Love Trials&Tribulations Faith&Fortitude Redemption&Restoration.

Mind's Seat

Set your mind on the things above

J.S. Park: Hospital Chaplain, Skeptical Christian

From Devout Atheist to Skeptical Pastor: A Blog For Busted-Up, Beat-Down People (Like Me)

116 Boyz

Born Again Christian Male Gamers

Jayne Surrena

Fictional Memoirs

juleseddy1

A topnotch WordPress.com site

THE RIVER WALK

Daily Thoughts and Meditations as we journey together with our Lord.

missjordanlee

twentysomething thoughts on grace, life, and health

soma

positive thinking

One Salty Dawg

Recent College Grad's Quest For Meaning

Blonde and Fabulous

some girls were born with glitter in their veins.

Book Hub, Inc.

The Total Book Experience

Morgan Mitchell

• Dreamer, Thinker, Blogger • |Loves Jesus| • College Student • |Living proof of a loving God to a watching World.| • #fivecollective

valeriu dg barbu

©valeriu barbu

Moving at the Speed of God

Sharing the Thoughts and Adventures of David Jackson, Church Multiplication Missionary with the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware

philliphowell

Tasting and seeing that the Lord is very good!

My Blog

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

Morning Story and Dilbert

Inspiring, Encouraging, Healthy / Why waste the best stories of the World, pour a cup of your favorite beverage and let your worries drift away…

Tea Cups and Grace

Life, faith and cups of tea.

True Warriors of God

Put on the full armour of God ~ Ephesians 6:13

Write For A Cause

The Spiritually Inclined Deductions by Jenine Silos

newlifer1

http://newlifer1.wordpress.com/

By His Spirit

Reflections of a Female Seminary Graduate

Threshing Floor

Forgiven...Loved.....Transformed!

Forgiven...Loved.....Transformed!

Forgiven...Loved.....Transformed!

Woven by Words

Forgiven...Loved.....Transformed!

%d bloggers like this: