Sunday, January 24, 2016

Christ's Vision: The Seven Churches

This study will look at the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation as a picture of Jesus' Vision for His church. Jesus was speaking to all of us through His words to the churches

Overview:

This week we’re going to begin a new Bible Study.  I have been inspired recently about VISION.  The vision we have for the church.  You know there is a vision.  We sing that chorus:

We have a vision, for this nation
We share a dream, for this land
We join with angels in celebration
By faith we speak revival to this land

These aren’t just words that we sing.  It’s not just something to fill up the song service.  There is a vision for this church.  And we are endeavoring to bring all of you into that vision.

So I got inspired for this Bible study because our vision is based on the vision that Christ has for His church.  We see that Vision in the letters to the to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.

Have you noticed a pattern in our Bible Studies?  They are all seven.

Seven sayings of Jesus on the cross
Seven things God hates
Seven Miracles in the Book of John
And this one:  Seven Pictures of Jesus’ Vision for is Church

Why is seven important in the Bible?  What ids the significance of seven?  It is the number of completion or PERFECTION.  So this is a study of God’s Perfect vision for His church.

So let’s begin.  Here is the verse that best speaks to my vision for this particular church:

Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV) 
10:14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!"


Chapters two and three of the Book of Revelations speak most clearly the vision of Jesus for His church.  It’s interesting because Jesus pinpoints seven churches.  And in those discussions he praises some actions and brings correction for others.  So by looking at all of them we can gather His desire for how His church should function.

Before we get into that though lets’ catch up on the back story.  We see that in the first chapter of Revelation:

In the beginning of Revelation we find John in exile on the island of Patmos – Why was he there?  He was there because of his convictions.  He was there because he was involved in the vision of Christ.  He was sent there because he wouldn’t stop preaching the Gospel.

I don’t pretend to read Jesus’ mind but it seems to me that of you want to speak of your vision through someone else it’s best to pick the person who understands that vision to be your messenger.  So John is on the island when Jesus comes to him.  He wants John to bring this message to those churches, so here is his greeting:

Revelation 1:9 (NKJV) 
1:9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called 
Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

John alludes to persecution that’s talking place in in Jerusalem and throughout Asia Minor.  He’s telling them of his exile on Patmos and he gives them the reason for his exile.  Looking at the above scripture who can tell me why he was there?  What does he mean by the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ?  He is preaching the Gospel.  Testimony is a legal word that means – What he’s seen and heard.  Basically, he’s there for preaching Jesus.

Then he describes the direction he was given in the vision:

Revelation 1:10-11 (NKJV) 
1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

So this is what God wants to say to those seven churches.  Where are the churches?  ASIA.  Where are we?  ASIA.  I wonder if maybe these things can be for us as well.  Think about this for a moment – The vision of the Book of Revelation is what will happen in the last days.

Revelation 1:3 (NKJV) 
1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

This is a prophecy for the LAST Days:  The time when God will wind up the age.  It takes place in the very early days of the CHURCH AGE.  But it is a vision for the end of the church age.  I believe this time is very near.  I read just this morning that ISIS has declared that their purpose is to bring about the end of the World.  That is what THIS prophecy is about.  

So what is happening here is that Jesus is bringing correction to the churches.  He’s commending them for what they’re doing right but He’s also bringing direction for what needs to be changed to fit into his goals for the church.

He’s like a CEO right here.  The CEO of a company defines the purpose and direction of the company.  Then he begins to correct where the divisions of the company are currently.  His direction is based on where he wants the company to be in the future.  He’s defining where they are going.  These are the parameters of the vision.  I believe that this is the purpose of the letters to the seven churches.  So let’s quickly look at what He’s saying to each church:  (We’ll go into detail for each church through the next seven weeks.)

Ephesus

Revelation 2:2-3 (NKJV) 
2:2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.

What they’re doing right:  laboring, being patient, using discernment, persevering, not becoming weary.

Revelation 2:4 (NKJV) 
2:4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

What they’re not doing right:  They are going through the motions, only.  They’re not motivated by love for others.

Smyrna:

Revelation 2:9 (NKJV) 
2:9 I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

What they’re doing right:  They’re enduring persecution.

What they’re doing wrong:  Nothing.  He has nothing against this church

Pergamos:

Revelation 2:13 (NKJV) 
2:13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

What they’re doing right:  Holding Fast to their faith in the midst of evil.

Revelation 2:14 (NKJV) 
2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

What they’re doing wrong:  Chasing profit, eatimg things sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality.  We’ll really define all of this in the week we discuss Pergamos.

Thyatira:

Revelation 2:19 (NKJV) 
2:19 I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.

What they’re doing right: Love, service, faith, and patience in the promises.

Revelation 2:20 (NKJV) 
2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

What they’re doing wrong:  Not judging the teaching of the false prophetess.

Sardis:  (This is the only church that is only rebuked)

Revelation 3:1-2 (NKJV) 
3:1 "And to the angel of the church in 
Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.

What they’re doing right:  Nothing

What they’re doing wrong:  Everything

Philadelphia:

Revelation 3:8 (NKJV) 
3:8 I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

What they’re doing right:  Kept the Word and not denied Jesus

What they’re doing wrong:  Nothing

Laodicea:

What they’re doing right:  Nothing

Revelation 3:15-16 (NKJV) 
3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.


What they’re doing wrong:  Half-hearted

So that’s an overview of the vision for the church.  Next week we will start to dissect what Jesus is talking about and apply it to our church.  Do WE fit the vision of Jesus for the church?  The thing to remember is that the church is made up of individuals – so the real question for each of us is:  “Do I fit the vision?”  We’ll begin to find out next week.

Vision 1:  Ephesus

In the last class, we had an overview of this new study.  We’re looking at Christ’s vision for His church.  Jesus has a vision for Christian behavior.  In the Book of Revelation Jesus commends and rebukes the churches, we’re going to use His comments to outline His vision for the church.

The Book of Revelation is the written description of John’s vision on the Island of Patmos.  John was exiled to Patmos for preaching Jesus: 

Revelation 1:9 (NKJV) 
1:9 I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called 
Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

That word translated from the Greek as Tribulation is the word thlipsis

thlip'-sis
From G2346pressure (literally or figuratively): - afflicted, (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.

It literally means PRESSURE – Like being put under pressure – stressed!

For living up to our commission, given to us by Jesus himself:

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV) 
28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

So let’s begin by looking at John on the island on Patmos.  He makes a very interesting statement:

Revelation 1:10 (NKJV) 
1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” What does that mean?  First, it means that he’s filled with the Holy Spirit.  I think that this is a prerequisite for hearing from God.  We need the Holy Spirit to give voice to God.  Look at Acts chapter 2 for a minute:

Acts 2:2-4 (NKJV) 
2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


This is the moment that the Holy Spirit fell on the early church.  Before this moment the disciples did nothing.  They sat in the upper room with the door locked for “fear of the jews.”  Thet had no direction they didn’t do anything.  When Jesus ascebded into Heaven he told them to wait in Jerusalem:

Acts 1:4-5 (NKJV) 
1:4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

It was after being filled with the Holy Spirit that they stood up and preached for the first time.  The Holy Spirit brought boldness, but also direction.  We need the Holy Spirit to speak the Word of God in a hostile environment.  Jesus had told them to go into all nations but it wasn’t until they were filled with the Holy Spirit that they did. 

I believe that being filled with the Holy Spirit brings revelation:

John 16:13-15 (NKJV) 
16:13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

The Holy Spirit will DECLARE the mind of Jesus.  This is what Revelation is.  Do you remember how many times Jesus said something to the disciples and they didn’t understand.  He would tell them something and they didn’t get it.  They weren’t FILLED with the Holy Spirit until the day of Pentecost.  50 days after Jesus was crucified.

So, John was in the Spirit as this revelation and message to the churches is revealed to him.  Let’s focus on the message to the first church; the church in Ephesus:

Revelation 2:1-5 (NKJV) 
2:1 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.

First of all, This is addressed to the “angel of the church of Ephesus.”  Who is that?  Is this a spiritual being that Jesus is telling John to write to?  No, that word translated as angel literally means Pastor.  This section of the letter is written to the pastor of the Ephesian church.  Why do you think that he would send this message to the pastor?  The pastor is the leader of the church.  The pastor sets the tone and direction of the church

If the church is heading in the wrong direction then it is the pastor that is leading them in the wrong direction.  So if Jesus wants to move the church in a certain direction he gives that direction to the leader.  How many of you look at the Pastor as the leader?  It’s not just the job of the pastor to give sermons and teach bible study.  He leads the church.  He sets the direction.  Some people have been teaching that we are all equal.  That God speaks to all of us.  But this passage seems to indicate that there is a clear leader of the church.  This is a part of Jesus’ vision for His church:  That there will be a clear leader in the local church. 

The pastor is the leader.  That doesn’t make him the one who does everything.  He imparts the vision of the church.  So I’m going to take a brief moment and impart the vision.

  1. Evangelism
  2. Discipleship
  3. Church planting
  4. Revival

In understanding the vision for the church and being a part of that vision, we should all be trying to move that vision forward.  All of us should be involved in those things, not waiting for me to do it all.  We’ll do our next Bible Study on OUR church’s vision.

But, let’s get back to today’s study:

Ephesus:  Ephesus is famous at that time for the temple of Diana.  This is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Paul spent a number of years here and became engaged in a battle with those who sold sculptures of Diana.  Diana was a goddess of fertility in Ephesus at the time of the book of Acts.  The worship of Diana made use of temple prostitutes and sexual immorality.  The citizens of Ephesians were wealthy, the temple being the largest bank in the ancient world (Ray Vander Laan).  With this background in mind let’s break down what Jesus spoke to the “angel” of Ephesus.

Revelation 2:2 (NKJV) 
2:2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;

In the beginning of this letter to the Ephesians Jesus commends them for what they’re doing right.  Remember what we said last time about Jesus being like a CEO who is giving direction to the churches to bring them into line with His vision?  So first he commends them:  I know your works, your labor and your patience.
  1. Their works:  They were involved in doing the things of God:  Acting in faith, bearing fruit:

James 2:17-18 (NKJV) 
2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.


  1. Their labor:  They are involved with the calling on their lives.  They are moving forward to preach the Gospel and make disciples.  Right this is Jesus’ commission to the churches.  Matt 28:19

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV) 
28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

  1. Their Patience:  there was great persecution in Ephesus.  This is the vplace where there was a great dispute between Paul and the artisans of Ephesus

Acts 19:24-28 (NKJV) 
19:24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship." 28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

The disciples of Ephesus endured this persecution.

They also tested the teachings of falsae apostles against what they have been taught by Paul and others.  They understood and knew the doctrine that they had been taught.  Because of that they were able to judge false doctrine.

But then comes the rebuke:

Revelation 2:4-5 (NKJV) 
2:4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.

You have left your first love:  Look at this:

Ephesians 1:15 (NKJV) 
1:15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

Paul wrote the Book of Ephesus 30 years before this was spoken to them.  Jesus admonishes them that they have lost their first love:  The love for all the saints.  I understand this because I have seen this many times. We lose sight of our first works.   When we are young in Jeus we are devoted to the things of God.  We’re excited about seeing others saved.  We’re involved in pressing the Gospel forward.  But often something happens when we get older.  We become somewhat jaded and we move a bit away from our zeal.  The church begins to break down in the things they do.  Aof G – has eliminated speaking in tongues.  Calvary has backed away as well.  They say by the third generation this happens to churches, unless we repent and move back to that first love. 

If we lose that first love we run the risk of becoming dead religion:  Ritual and orthodoxy.  Jesus reminds us that he will remove our “lampstand.”  We will no longer be His light in darkness.  We’ll lose our “position” with Him in eternity.

So here is His Vision for us from this letter to the church in Ephesus:

  1. Works of faith, labor in the commission and patience in tribulation.
  2. Understanding the doctrines of the Gospels and being able to DISCERN error.
  3. Continue in the zeal of our FIRST WORKS

This is the first part of His vision.  That we stay attached to the things of God and continue in those things never losing sight of His desire to draw EVERYONE to Him.


Vision 2:  Smyrna

We’re looking at Christ’s vision for His church.  In the last class, we studied the church in Ephesus.  Jesus commended certain behavior and he rebuked certain behavior.  What did Jesus commend the church in Ephesus for?  What things did he think was good in the church?  He commended them on their works, their labor and their patience.   What did he rebuke them for?  They had left their “first love”.  What did He mean by that phrase “first love”?  They lose their to see the vision of Christ for the church…the main part of that vision is zeal for winning of souls.  

So, Jesus has a vision for Christian behavior.  In the Book of Revelation Jesus commends and rebukes the churches, we’re going to use His comments to outline His vision for the church.

This week we will examine the church in Smyrna:

Revelation 2:8-11 (NKJV) 
2:8 "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death." '

Let’s first take a look at the city of Smyrna.  The name Smyrna is derived from the word Myrrh.  Myrrh of course was a fragrant spice used in incense.  But the word myrrh actually means bitter.  Smyrna was a difficult place for Christians to live at that time because it was an important Roman City in the Middle East.  It was a place where Caesar was worshipped as a god.  Since Christians wouldn’t use the phrase “Caesar is lord! Thay were no doubt persecuted and refused entry into the artisan guilds and would have not be able to find employment.  There was a thriving Jewish community, but they wouldn’t cooperate with Christians either.  So the Christians in Smyrna faced great persecution and poverty.

Jesus has a message for them:

Revelation 2:8 (NKJV) 
2:8 "And to the angel of the church in 
Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:

So again He addresses His letter to the angel of the church; to the pastor.  Jesus uses pastors to preach His word to the people.  The Pastor is His messenger.  So when you get mad at the Pastor for his message…it’s really not the pastor who you should be angry at.  The pastor is just saying what he was given to say, whether in Bible Study or preaching. 

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NKJV) 
4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

This is the VISION for the pastor.  This is what we are supposed to do; equip you for the work of the ministry.  This goes back to what we were saying last week about works.  We are supposed to DO works worthy of our faith.  Remember this in James 2:8?

James 2:17-18 (NKJV) 
2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

But you need to be equipped or prepared for the works of ministry.  Ministry literally means attendance, in the sense of a servant – A servant attends to the needs of another person.  Jesus is the example for us.

Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) 
20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Equipping you to be servants on the same level as Jesus means that all aspects of our lives must be examined and worked out, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; in other words to be as much like Jesus as we can.  Take some time and examine your own life.  Where are you like Christ and where are you not like Him?  Would anyone like to share?

Until we’ve rooted out all of the things in us that are NOT like Christ, there is more equipping to be done.  Sometimes change is painful, sometimes it’s not fun, but it is always PROFITABLE

Revelation 2:8 (NKJV) 
2:8 "And to the angel of the church in 
Smyrna write, 'These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:

Jesus says that this letter comes from The first and the last, who was dead and is now alive.  I think it’s interesting that He used those words to describe himself.  We will see why later but his message to the church in Smyrna is about overcoming; being an over comer.  He is actually encouraging them with this greeting because He overcame EVEN death.  You can be encouraged because you can overcome what you suffer. 

John 16:33 (NKJV) 
16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Let’s see what Jesus commended them for:

Revelation 2:9 (NKJV) 
2:9 I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

He says, “I know your tribulation and poverty...” He knows that they are persecuted for their belief that He is lord and not Caesar.  This persecution has led to great poverty. That word translated as poverty is an interesting word that means beggary: Or, to be a beggar.  Have you ever looked at the life of a beggar?  Beggars have NOTHING.  So this is not about being poor…it’s about having nothing.  In English, we say ABJECT poverty.  Abject means, cringing (to shrink in fear).  They have no hope of escaping that poverty.  There’s no hope to OVERCOME

Jesus understands their situation.  He sees the persecution.  He sees the poverty.  But he makes the statement “but you are rich.”  How can they be rich and in abject poverty as well?  Look at this:

Matthew 6:19-20 (NKJV) 
6:19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

So, this how we can be rich and poor at the same time.  There hope isn’t in worldly riches.  They have no hope of that they are abject in their poverty.  This is why his greeting was an encouragement.  There is HOPE in Jesus.  The people of Smyrna may be poor but they have riches in Heaven because they continue to live for Jesus, refusing to succumb to the pressure of the tribulation.  I chose that word carefully because the word translated as tribulation, LITERALLY means pressure:  Pressure to walk away from your faith.  But the Christians of Smyrna haven’t done that; they’ve endured great tribulation and CRUSHING poverty and remain in the faith.

Jesus’ vision for the church includes enduring struggle and tribulation.  There’s one other thought that I have here.  Jesus knows we struggle.  Struggle is a part of the Christian walk.  But, is it interesting that He allowed them to struggle?  That he didn’t intervene to take that persecution and poverty away.  In fact, He calls them rich.  Here’s why:

Romans 5:3-5 (NKJV) 
5:3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Tribulation; struggle builds us.  It creates a richness of Spirit in our lives.  When we’re struggling it’s usually God doing a work in us.  He’s trying to do something in us.  We can fight against God or we can endure and allow God to do something in our lives.  That’s the richness of our salvation.

We see that Jesus didn’t rebuke the church in Smyrna.  He didn’t tell them that he had something against them.  But he did something else.  He warned them.  Let’s look at the warning:

Revelation 2:10 (NKJV) 
2:10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

He’s warning that other things will happen.  It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Remember this is a prophetic revelation.  The futures is being spoken through all of this.  The devil will do some things.  People will go to prison for a short time.  He’s telling them I Am still in control.  Jesus is still on the throne.  He knows that they’ll face tribulation and trouble.  He knows the devil will test them.  But he says remain faithful.

They have been faithful through what they’ve already endured.  If they remain faithful they will receive the Crown of life.

Matthew 24:13 (NKJV) 
24:13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

The crown of life is, of course eternal life.  There’s one final thing.  Remember, I told you this is about overcoming? Look at the last verse of the letter:

Revelation 2:11 (NKJV) 
2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death." '

This is for us.  He who has an ear to hear let him hear.  Who is speaking this to us?  The Spirit.  Who is the That?  The Holy Spirit.  Jesus is speaking this to all believers that we will be overcomers.

So lets add to our list of Christ’s vision for this part:

  1. The Pastor’s role is to equip us for the ministry.
  2. We are to minister to (serve) others.
  3. We are to overcome persecution.
  4. We’re to understand that Christ works in us through tribulation.

Next week we’ll look at the church in Pergamos.


Vision 3:  Pergamos

Tonight we continue with our study on Jesus’ vision for the church.  And we’re looking at it through His letters to the seven churches.  We have already studied Ephesus and Smyrna and we are moving on to the third church, Pergamos.  But before we go there lets look back at Smyrna for a moment:

  1. What was it about Smyrna that made it difficult for Christians there?  There was great persecution.  Why?  Because of the temple of Diana
  2. The word poverty is translated from the Greek Word that literally means what?  Beggary – So Poverty was deep, people had NOTHING.

Jesus has a vision for Christian behavior.  In the Book of Revelation Jesus commends and rebukes the churches, we’re going to use His comments to outline His vision for the church.

This week we will examine the church in Pergamos:


Revelation 2:12-17 (NKJV) 
2:12 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it." '

Jesus writes this letter to the angel of the church of Pergamos.  But what’s interesting is the way Jesus identifies Himself in this:  “He who has the sharp two-edged sword:”

Ephesians 6:17 (NKJV) 
6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

So the two-edged sword is the Word of God.  We’re going to look later at why he used this particular identifier.  There is a reason that He identifies Himself that way.  So, we’ll go into that in more depth in a little while.  Let’s first look at Pergamos and see if we can see what kind of environment there was for Christians in that place at that time:

Pergamos was a very wealthy city, and another center of Emperor worship, but there is something else about this place in Rev 2:12 it is referred to as: 1) “here Satan’s throne is” and 2) “where Satan dwells.”  This is because it was where the temple of Asclepius was.  Asclepius was portrayed as a serpent.  But that wasn’t the only pagan temple in that place.  There were also temples to Zeus, Athena, and Dionysis.  As a result of all of this there was a good deal of persecution including Antipas’ martyrdom in the first century.  Pergamos had a library of more than 200,000 books that were given as a gift to Cleopatra from Anthony. So it was also an important city of the Roman Empire.

Jesus commended the Pergamon Christians:

Revelation 2:13 (NKJV) 
2:13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

So here is their commendation that they remained faithful, even in the face of persecution and martyrdom.  They’re surrounded by false religions.  There is a lot of PAGAN temples and beliefs in Pergamos.  But they remained faithful to Jesus in all of that.

  1. You HOLD FAST to my name.  That phrase hold fast is translated from the Greek word that means “to use strength.”  It was an effort to remain faithful.  There were thing, circumstances, enticements to move them away from from Jesus, but they made an effort, (it was work) to remain faithful
  2. You did not DENY MY FAITH.  Deny is translated from the Greek word that means to contradict.  That word contradict means to deny the truth, it is also translated as reject the truth.  Contra in latin means against; dict is the root of say.  So it would imply that you speak against.  Faith is translated from the Greek word meaning persuasion.  You are persuaded, you believe, have faith.  So you could read this verse this way:

You have used effort to remain faithful and did not contradict that of which you had been persuaded.

Jesus is commending them for their faithfulness even in the face of their pastor’s (Antipas’) martyrdom.  Antipas, at one time, was the pastor of the church in Pergamos.  So, one point of vision of Christ is faithfulness.

We’ve seen Jesus speak of faithfulness before.  In fact, faith is used 230 times in the Bible and faithful or faithfulness is used 129 times.  This is an important concept.

This is what Jesus says about Faithfulness:

Matthew 24:45 (NKJV) 
24:45 "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

A faithful servant is a wise servant.

Matthew 25:23 (NKJV) 
25:23 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

A person who is faithful in small things will be given more authority.

Luke 16:12 (NKJV) 
16:12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own? 

We must be faithful under authority to be given authority.  If you can’t be faithful in the ministry you are given BY someone else, you will not be given authority. 

An example of this point is the Centurion who comes to Jesus for healing of his servant.  Look at what he says to Jesus:

Matthew 8:9 (NKJV) 
8:9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

 He is a man under authority but he is also a man of authority commanding troops.  If you can’t do what your boss has given you to do, do you think he will promote to have authority over other people?

We can see through this commendation that Christ values faithfulness and that it is a part of His vision that we would remain faithful. 

So now let’s look at His rebuke:

Revelation 2:14 (NKJV) 
2:14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

The Doctrine of Balaam:

In order to understand what the “Doctrine of Balaam” means we have to look at who Balaam was and what he did:

Balaam was a prophet of God.  He was “hired” by Balak (the king of Moab) to curse Israel.  Balaam was the “go to guy” for blessing and cursing:

Numbers 22:6 (NKJV) 
22:6 Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed."

Balak offers Balaam a lot of money to curse the Israelites.  But Balaam says to Balak that he can only say what God gives him to say.  So Balaam goes to curse Israel and God only gives him blessing to speak.  But look at what Rev 2:14 says:

the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

We see what that means in Numbers 25:1-5:

Numbers 25:1-5 (NKJV) 
25:1 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of 
MoabThey invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against IsraelThen the Lord said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the Lord, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel." So Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor."

So the people of Israel sinned with the women in Moab.  The practices of Baal woeship are rooted in sexual immorality.  The people of Israel worshipped Baal, ate food offered to idols and slipped into immorality.  This was part of Balaam’s plan to curse Israel:

Numbers 31:16 (NKJV) 
31:16 Look, these women caused the children of 
Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.

So here’s the doctrine of Balaam.  For the love of money he sold out the people of God to Balak and caused them to commit sexual immorality.  The Bible says that this is what happened in Pergamos.

In pergamos, Jesus has commended them for holding fast to their faith.  So they haven’t gone over to worship false gods.  But think about this.  In the same way that in Smyrna in order to work you had to participate in Caesar worship.  In Smyrna they suffered crushing poverty because they refused.  But that isn’t mentioned here.

According to some commentators there was a faction within the church that said it is okay to put a pinch of incense in the fire and say, “Caesar is lord.”  It kept them working and feeding their families.  But it is worshipping another god.  Caesar was worshipped as a god in this way.  So they “Sold” out.  For money the put aside God:  JUST LIKE BALAAM.

1 Timothy 6:10 (NKJV) 
6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

And they committed adultery with God.  Adultery is a way of saying that you have another god:

Ezekiel 23:37 (NKJV) 
23:37 For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.

This scripture is a reference to committing adiultery with idols.  Cheating on God with idols.  This is what happened in pergamos.

Finally, the Nicolaitans:

Revelation 2:15 (NKJV) 
2:15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Let’s break down the Greak Word Nico laitus  That word laitus means people.  It is where we get our word laity ot lay people.   The word Nico means subdue or conquer.  So these are people who subdue and conquer others.  Apparently this is a part of the doctrine of Balaam.  In Rev 2:6 it says this:

Revelation 2:6 (NKJV) 
2:6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

God hates what they do look at this reference:

Matthew 20:25-27 (NKJV) 
20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--

The Vision:

  1. Remain Faithful
  2. Avoid the love of money
  3. Do not LORD it over others.

Vision 4:  Thyatira

Tonight, we will continue on in our study of Christ’s vision for His church that we see in His letters to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3.  Let’s review the last lesson on the church in Pergamos:

  1. Why did Jesus introduce himself as, “He who has the sharp two-edged sword?”  He said that because some of them had gotten away from the word of God and followed the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.  The Word of God is the “Sword of the Spirit.”
  2. What did Balaam do, that is referred to as the doctrine of Balaam?  He taught Balak to use the women of Moab to cause Israel to fornicate and eat food offered to idols, by participating in the worship of Baal.  He did it for money.

Today, we’re going to look at the church in Thyatira. 

Revelation 2:18-29 (NKJV) 
2:18 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, 'These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:

Thyatira was a military town.  It was a business city.  There were a lot of the trade guilds.  (A guild is like an organization of craftsmen.)  But the guilds were built on the local religion (remember last week we talked about the worship of Caesar in the guilds). All of the worship of pagan gods included immorality and, of course, idolatry.

Thyatira worshipped the “Sun God” Apollo.  Apollo was the Sun God but he also was the god of music and the arts.  So Thyatira was a cultural hub.  Apolloa was the sun of Zeus, the main god of Greek mythology, which explains why the Lord introduced Himself as "the Son of God" (the only time in Revelation this title is used). John had to deliver a message of severe warning and judgment to this congregation, which explains the description of the Lord's eyes and feet.

Thyatira was also the smallest of the churches in Revelation, interestingly it received the longest letter and fiercest warning.

Let’s look at Jesus’ commendation of the church:

Revelation 2:19-29 (NKJV) 
2:19 I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.

This is an interesting commendation. They are being commended like the others for their works.  They’re doing what they’ve been called to do. 

I want to break this down a little bit.  I want to look at what these people were doing and why they were commended.  First, in most translations the words faith and service are transposed.  That means it would be worded this way:  I know your works, love, faith, service and patience.  

Revelation 2:19 (NIV) 
2:19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Look at Gal 5:6 for a moment:

Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) 
5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

In the early church there was a fierce argument about the need for circumcision:

Acts 15:1 (NKJV) 
15:1 And certain men came down from 
Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

So here are men that are saying that in order to be saved you must be circumcised according to the law.  But that is justification by the law.  Christians believe that we are saved by Grace and not by the law.  So here’s what happened:

Acts 15:5-6 (NKJV) 
15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

So the elders came together to figure it out.  The problem was that the Gospel had spread beyond Israel.  The church wasn’t made up of just Jews any longer.  The Gentiles that were getting saved had never had a custom like that.  So the whole argument was that these non-Jewish believers had to be circumcised.  The Bible says there was much dispute about it.

Look at the resolution:

Acts 15:7-11 (NKJV) 
15:7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."

So the resolution was that God knows the heart.  When Peter was in Cornelius’ house the received the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews.  There hearts were purified by FAITH.  Faith is the key to salvation.  So I Galatians 5:6 Paul is bringing home this DOCTRINE, that it isn’t circumcision that determines salvation.  It is faith working through love.  Faith and love are linked.  We do works of love because of our faith:

James 2:17-18 (NKJV) 
2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

What are works of love?  Reaching out to the lost is a work of love.  Ministering to brothers and sisters in the church is a work of love.  Helping the poor, lifting up the downtrodden, ministering to the elderly…All of those things are works of love.  It is how we show the love of Jesus, who we want to be like to the world.  This is the service that the Thyatiran Christians were commended for. 

Jesus finishes the commendation with the words:  and as for your works, the last are more than the first.  They are doing more now than they had done at the beginning.  They are showing more faith and love through works now than they sued to.  They’re living as Christians.  It isn’t that they were carefully living out the law but that they were demonstrating faith in Jesus through their service to others.  This is a part of the visiuon that we will demonstrate our FAITH through service.  Let others see Jesus’ love through us.

The Warning

There were some things that had gone very wrong in Thyatira, though.  While they lived their faith out through acts of service, there was great sin there as well.

Revelation 2:20 (NKJV) 
2:20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Jesus refers to a woman in the church named Jezebel the name is symbolic.  But this woman probably wasn’t actually named Jezebel.  Jezebel was Ahab’s wife.  She had brought Baal worship into Israel:

1 Kings 16:30-31 (NKJV) 
16:30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.

So, now in Thyatira this woman has come into the church and is introducing the same things into the Thyatiran church.  There is a division in the church:  Look at what Elijah said in Israel when he confronted the Prophets of Baal:

1 Kings 18:21 (NKJV) 
18:21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word.

Baal worship is marked by idolatry and sexual immorality and this woman “Jezebel” is teaching that in Thyatira.  She even calls herself the prophetess.  The worship of God is being made into idolatry.  People are sacrificing to idols.  People are engaging in sexual immorality.  It’s similar to the doctrine of Baal but there’s not the love of money.  It is perverting grace.  That word perversion means the act of corruption.  They are corrupting God’s grace to accept these great sins in the church.  It isn’t being judged.  The sin is being tolerated and that is Jesus’ complaint. 

Jesus who is a righteous judge gives this woman time to repent, but she won’t:

Revelation 2:21 (NKJV) 
2:21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.

So look at His judgment:

Revelation 2:22-23 (NKJV) 
2:22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

She will be stricken with disease.  Those who have turned to this “adultery” with pagan gods or even those who tolerate it in the church will suffer great troubles unless they repent.  In other words there will be a judgment on them for not standing against this in the church.  Only repentance will save them.  We must be careful what doctrines we allow into the church.  We must be careful to judge sin and fornication, casting it out of the church.

Finally He says this: 

Revelation 2:23 (NKJV) 
2:23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

He is going to use that church as an example to the other churches not to tolerate evil in the church. 

Idolatry and compromise are, in the Bible, pictured as fornication and unfaithfulness to the marriage vows. Jezebel's bed of sin would become a bed of sickness! To kill with death means "to kill with pestilence" (see NASB). God would judge the false prophetess and her followers once and for all.

BUT!:

Revelation 2:24-25 (NKJV) 
2:24 Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come.

To those who have not followed Jezebel into sin, He merely says hold fast.  Hang in there!  Keep the Faith, baby!  Until I come.  And there will be a reward:

Revelation 2:26-29 (NKJV) 
2:26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- 27 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'-- as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.

He says this in another way in Luke 16:

Luke 19:17 (NKJV) 
19:17 And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.'

So we will be given authority. Then iut says this.

Revelation 2:28 (NKJV)
28 and I will give him the morning star.

Morning Star is one of the names for Jesus.  The idea is and he gives to every faithful believer the gift to be like him in royal splendor” The idea would be that the Lord’s people will partake of his victory in the heavenly realm.

Revelation 2:29 (NKJV)
29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." '

Vision: 

  1. Demonstrate our faith through works of love (service).
  2. Judge false doctrine and sin in the church


Vision 5:  Sardis

Here we go!  We’re going to continue tonight on our study of Christ’s vision for the church.  We examined Thyatira last week; this week we’ll look at Sardis.  This is the fifth church in the series.

First I want to review a little bit:

  1. What are the two elements of His vision that we saw in Thyatira?  Demonstrate our faith through works of love (service); and to Judge false doctrine and sin in the church
  2. What are the things Jesus commended the church for?  Love and faith, service and patience.
  3. Who was Jezebel?  She taught the saints to fornicate and eat food offered to idols.

Tonight we’ll look at Sardis.  So, let’s start by looking at what it was like to live in Sardis in that time:

In the past Sardis had been a very important city.  But at the time of the book of Revelation Sardis had past its prime.  There was an earthquake there in 17AD that pretty much destroyed the city, but the city was rebuilt on the wealth of the people, not the Roman Empire.  Sardis at the time of the Sardis church was well known for the wool industry, especially weaving, dying and carpet making.  It is said that the wool industry was started in Sardis

Let’s look at what Jesus says to the church in Sardis.  The first thing to note is that He did NOT commend the Sardis church for anything.  So let’s look at what He did say:

Revelation 3:1 (NKJV) 
3:1 "And to the angel of the church in 
Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

So this is an interesting way for Jesus to begin this letter.  “He who has the seven Spirits of God.”  That word seven in the Bible is symbolic for completion.  In this sense the seven Spirits of God doesn’t mean that God has seven spirits.  What He is saying is that He has the complete spirit of God   Of course that makes sense, since Jesus IS God. 

This phrase was chosen specifically for this church.  It indicates that Jesus is Alive with the spirit of God.  That He has the whole revelation and spirit of God.  He comments that the church in Sardis is not alive with the Spirit of God.  “You have a name that you are alive, but you are DEAD.”  This is a dead church.

In other words nothing is happening.  The church isn’t moving forward.  Peope are apathetic about reaching others.  The church has stalled out – Just like the city of Sardis.  The church in Sardis has a reputation among the other churches as a vital, moving church.  But Jesus doesn’t see men as we do – He searches the heart:

1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV) 
16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

So, outwardly to others the church seemed to be moving forward, but Jesus who sees the hearts of the people sees them as dead.  The have no life or vitality for the Gospel.

Ephesians 2:1 (NKJV) 
2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,

The wages of sin are death.  So these people seem to be dead to Jesus.  The good news is that with repentance you can be made alive, again. 

We as a church need to be careful here, because there are people in our church who are not moving forward.  They’re not alive in the Joy of the Lord or with the concern for the unsaved.  We do NOT want to have Jesus say this about our church.  Jesus judges this as sin in Sardis.  You’re dead he tells them:  Dead in trespasses.

So since Jesus fins them to be dead He immediately begins to explain what Sardis needs to do:

Revelation 3:3 (NKJV) 
3:3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Remember how you have received – This is an interesting phrase.  Let me ask a question:  How did you first get to know enough about Jesus to receive Him?  Somebody told you, right?  Why would He want them to remember that and hold fast to it?  Maybe, it’s because they’re not applying that to other people.  Somebody cared enough about each of us – and them – to tell us about Jesus.  But they’re not doing that for others.  He is calling that sin.

Whoa.  Wait a minute…not witnessing and telling others about Jesus is a sin?  Jesus says you need to repent if you’re not doing that.  You repent sin, right?  Look at this:

Mark 16:14-15 (NKJV) 
16:14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart.  This is what Sardis is doing.  Refusing to witness and move the Gospel forward is 2 things – Unbelief – You don’t have faith to do it.  And Hardness of heart – you don’t care about other people enough to do it.  Either way it’s sin look at verse 15 again:

Mark 16:15 (NKJV) 
16:15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Which part of that is not a commandment?  He isn’t saying, “If you have time or you feel like it, or you think it will be accepted, I suggest you think about preaching the Gospel.”  This is a declarative – Go and do it.  If you’re not willing to do that…you need to repent.  The searcher of hearts sees it.

Secondly in verse 2 – read it again, please, “If you will not watch…”  That word translated from the Greek a watch literally means, “to keep AWAKE.”  Like a guard.  A guard is on watch.  He is watching to see that nothing attacks what he is guarding.  Jesus tells them they need to wake up.  They need to pay attention to what they’re doing.  If they don’t He says, “I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 

He has said that He will return.  We need to watch and do what is right because He will come back when we are not expecting:

Matthew 24:42 (NKJV) 
24:42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

If we are not expecting Him it will be surprise, we will be unprepared and will be judged for the sin we’re living in.  This is a warning.  He’s telling them wake up and get ready for my return.

It’s not all bad news foe everyone though:

Revelation 3:4 (NKJV) 
3:4 You have a few names even in 
Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

So he says there are some people who haven‘t sinned in this way.  He uses an interesting way to say this.  “They haven’t defiled their garments and shall walk with me in white…”  These were people who made their living by dying wool.  Once you have dyed something it cannot be made white again.  Because you can’t dye a darker color white.

Isaiah 1:18 (NKJV) 
1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

The stain of sin cannot be removed except when you have Jesus

Revelation 3:5-6 (NKJV) 
3:5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." '

Again this is interesting.  He will clothe them in white if they will overcome their sin, if they will repent and then live out the will of God by preaching the Gospel.  Witnessing is a way of confessing our belief in Jesus.  Look at this verse:

Matthew 10:32-33 (NKJV) 
10:32 "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

If we will overcome and confess Him before other men He will confess us before Angels.  He Brag about us.

Vision:

  1. We must stay alive by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  2. We must remain awake and watchful doing what we’re supposed to do


Vision 6:  Philadelphia

Tonight we’re continuing our study of Jesus’ vision for His church; to do that we’ll continue to look at the churches in the second and third chapter of the Book of Revelation.  Before we go on, let’s take a few moments to review last week’s lesson.

1.        For what thing did Jesus commend the church in Philadelphia?  Nothing
2.        What was meant by the “Seven Spirits of God.?”  The full revelation and Spirit of God
3.        In Revelation 3:3 Jesus said, “Remember, therefore HOW you have received,” what did he mean by that.  We received the Gospel because someone TOLD us.

Okay, so let’s move on and look at the next church – The Church in Philadelphia:

Let’s begin by looking at what the Philadelphia of Revelation was like:

Philadelphia was located in a strategic place on the main road from Rome to the East.  So it was a location through which people from all over the world at that time traveled.  It was a major trade city because of that.  Philadelphia was called “The Gateway to the East.”  It was also called “Little Athens” because there many temples. 

The city was built by the king of Pergamos in about 128 B.C. to show his love for his brother.  That’s why it is called Philadelphia which translates as “Brotherly love.”  It was destroyed a number of times by earthquakes, to the point that some people refused to live within the city, choosing to remain in what they called, ‘the burnt lands.”

Let’s start by looking at what Jesus commended this church for:

Revelation 3:7 (NKJV) 
3:7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens":

So here again is an interesting introduction:

These things says He who is Holy, He who is true… First this is a declaration that Jesus is God.  He is holy in His words, His actions and His purposes.  Thses are attributes of God.  That word holy means to be set apart for God’s use.  Jesus was set apart to be used for the redemption and for the reconciliation of mankind with God.  He was unlike any other person on the face of the earth because He was fully God and fully man. But he also says He is true or genuine; authentic.  There were hundreds of gods at that time.  People have an amazing capacity for creating idols.  One book calls people “idol factories, because we so easily create idols out of parts of our lives.  So Jesus says He is the one that is uniquely and genuinely God.  Look at this scripture:

1 Corinthians 8:4-6 (NKJV) 
8:4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.

Then he says this:  "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens"

This is a quote from the book of Isaiah.  Assyria has attacked Israel.  Israel has turned to Egypt and put their faith in Egypt’s strength, instead of trusting in God.  One of the very treacherous men in political office at that time was a man called Shebna.  God is using Isaiah to warn Shebna of his fate.  God ends up removing Him from office:

Isaiah 22:15-19 (NKJV) 
22:15 Thus says the Lord God of hosts: "Go, proceed to this steward, To Shebna, who is over the house, and say: 16 'What have you here, and whom have you here, That you have hewn a sepulcher here, As he who hews himself a sepulcher on high, Who carves a tomb for himself in a rock? 17 Indeed, the Lord will throw you away violently, O mighty man, And will surely seize you. 18 He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball Into a large country; There you shall die, and there your glorious chariots Shall be the shame of your master's house. 19 So I will drive you out of your office, And from your position he will pull you down.

Isaiah 22:20-22 (NKJV) 
20 'Then it shall be in that day, That I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe And strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of 
Jerusalem And to the house of Judah22 The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open.

So he says he will take out the corrupt man and replace him with a faithful.  In the New Testament the open door refers to opportunities to preach the Gospel. 

Acts 14:27 (NKJV) 
14:27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

2 Corinthians 2:12 (NKJV) 
2:12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,

Jesus is saying that He’s the one who opens doors.  He’s the one who gives us opportunities to reach people. I believe our Free Talk on Thursdays will give us an open door to reach this community:  Same with the Family Fun Night.  Jesus is telling them He’s the one who will give THEM open doors.

The Commendation:

Revelation 3:8-9 (NKJV) 
3:8 I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

This is interesting because this commendation is very subtle.  He says I know your works, but unlike other letters he doesn’t mention what they were.  Apparently, they suffered some persecution and remained steadfast. “…have kept My word and have not denied my name.”  So, there was some kind of persecution or test that these people had to face. 

This is an important one, I think for us.  Look at what he says here – “for you have little strength.  This is a small church.  It’s a church with few members pioneering the Gospel in this place.  Even though they’re small they stood steadfast in the face of persecution from “the synagogue of Satan.’  Because of that He will open doors.  This is a lesson for us, if we will be steadfast he will open doors for us.  People have left the church and some people are so worried what’s happened to them that they are not focused on moving forward.  They’re not looking for open doors…they’re looking at what the devil has done in opposition.  They’ve become discouraged.  They’ve become apathetic.   I’m sure that the Philadelphia church had these same things to over come.  And they did and God has promised opened doors for them in this commendation.  There are open doors for us as well, but some people have to get back on board and begin to support the church by being at services, events, and outreaches.  People will come to Free Talk and Family Fun Night and it is an open door for us to reach out to them.  But we need people to start reaching out and BEFRIENDING and folloing up on people so they won’t slip away.

There is also promise in this letter:

Revelation 3:10 (NKJV) 
3:10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

This is the promise of rapture.  Who knows what RAPTURE is?  It is when Jesus returns and takes His church from the earth. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NKJV) 
4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

This is rapture.  That word rapture means to be caught up.  As if you’re snatched away into Heaven.  There is a lot of debate as to when the rapture will happen.  Before or after the tribulation period, but this scripture seems to suggest that we will be taken away before the tribulation period.  What we need to understand about rapture is that not everyone will be taken up:

Matthew 24:36-42 (NKJV) 
24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

One will stay and one will go.  So we need to be prepared for His coming. We need to be sure that we will be those that are taken.  The promise to this church is that they will be taken in the rapture if they will be steadfast and continue to look for open doors and walk through those doors as they open.

Revelation 3:12 (NKJV) 
3:12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

He will make them pillars – Supports of the House of God.  The faithful the overcomers will be the mainstay of the house of God.  It is what the church is built on.  It is the support for God’s purposes.  It is a way of honoring them.

Three promises:

1.        He would take care of their enemies.  The enemies will coe to know the Christians were right.  (Worship before their feet.)
2.        He would protect from the tribulation.
3.        The third is that He would honor them.

Vision: 
1.        Remain steadfast and faithful.
2.        Be obedient – with no regard to the “strength” of the church

Vision 7:  Laodicea

Tonight, we’ll finish up our study of Jesus’ Vision for His Church, using the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation.  But before we move on, I want to take some time to review last week’s study:

1.        What is meant by the reference, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”?  There is a specific incident in the Old Testament to which He is referring.  He will open doors to faithful man and will close doors to the corrupt.  Shebna and Syria
2.         What does that same reference mean for us?  He will close doors to false religion and open doors for us to reach people.
3.        What does He mean when he says, “You have little strength” in his commendation?  They are a small pioneer work.  What does It mean for us.  We are a small pioneer work that He can open doors for, as well.

Okay so let’s begin to look at the Last church in the study, The church in Laodicea.  First, a look at the city of Laodicea, in that time:

Laodicea was bult in 260 BC by King Antiochus II – A Greek King and named for his wife Laodice.  By the first century, the time of this letter it sat at a crossroads of two major travel routes.  One route went from Egypt north to Cilicia an then turned West and led eventually to Rome.  The other branched off and went through Laodicea East toward to Babylon.  The city had a monopoly on textiles, a world-renowned medical industry (They made medicine; eye salve specifically) and wealthy banks.

Their one weakness was the water supply. Water had to be piped in to Laodicea. Cold water could come from the abundant supply at Colossae, but by the time it traveled the ten or so miles from the cold springs, it was lukewarm. About six miles away in Hierapolis were hot springs, but that water, too, was lukewarm when it reached Laodicea. Whether they piped in the cold or the hot water, it arrived at Laodicea lukewarm.

Let’s look at the letter that was written to the Laodicean Church:

Revelation 3:14 (NKJV) 
3:14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:

This is an interesting way for Jesus to introduce Himself.  That word Amen is an Old Testament name for God.  It comes from Isaiah 65:16:

Isaiah 65:16 (NKJV) 
65:16 So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes.

Isaiah uses the phrase “bless himself in the God of truth.”  That word truth is the Hebrew word A-men.  So, off the subject a little but when you’re listening to preaching and someone say, Amen,” they’re saying True! True dat!  In this introduction Jesus is saying that He’s God, specifically the God of truth.  Then He calls himself “the Faithful and True Witness.”  In other words He’s saying I am truth and I’m going to be telling you the truth.  Finally, he tells them He is "the Beginning of Creation.”  He’s not saying that He is the first thing created, but that He is the SOURCE of creation:

John 1:1-3 (NKJV) 
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Then He begins to address them, but He doesn’t speak a commendation.  He doesn’t commend them for anything…He begins to rebuke them:

Revelation 3:15-16 (NKJV) 
3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

So, he uses a word picture here to rebuke them.  Since Laodicea was built in a place where there was no water supply, the water was brought in from other cities via aqueduct.  The Cold water of Colassae (which was 10 miles away) would travel through the sun to Laodicea and be warmed up to lukewarm.  The hot water of Hierapolis would cool down on the way and also become lukewarm. 

The Cold Church:

This is a church that has gotten away from the “power of God.”  They’re not stirred by what God has done for them any more.  They’ve fallen into ritual and ceremony.  When I was a kid my parents took me to the Catholic Church.  There was so much ritual, but it was all tradition.  There was nothing happening…I came out of church the same way I went in; unchanged; and unimpressed.  The entire mass was in Latin…I had no idea what was being said or what any of it meant. (They didn’t have translation)  God was a distant, unknowable God.  That was a cold church.

The Hot Church:

The Hot church is a church that’s alive with people thankful for their salvation:  People who are actively pursuing the call and will of God for their lives.  This is a church where people are engaged In bringing others, in preaching, witnessing and testifying.  It’s a praying church, with demonstrations of the power and spirit of God.  The church I got saved in is a church like this.  People are WON to Jesus.  People will tell others about Christ.  They do dramas and music groups, door to door outreach.  They engage others about Jesus.  It’s exciting.  Its not just the pastor involved, the entire church is “On Fire for Jesus.”

But Laodicea was neither of these things.  It was lukewarm.  They weren’t completely turned away from God, but they weren’t enthusiastically involved in Jesus’ mission either.  They had no fervor.  They had no energy.  The Gospel seemed to have no power.  They weren’t hot or cold…they were lukewarm.

So how does a church become like that.  How does a church lose its energy and fervor for Jesus?  What do you think can stop the excitement?  (look for answers)  The Bible gives us a clue in Rev 3:17:

Revelation 3:17 (NKJV) 
3:17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked--

 I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing.  I think when the blessing of God is always on us, that we forget to be thankful.  I think that the key to fervor and enthusiasm is GRATITUDE.  When you have suffered and struggled when that changes you’re excited.  You’re bubbling over with excitement for God.  It’s the new converts that are excited and eager to talk about what Jesus has done for them.  It’s those who have been delivered, that want others to know about Jesus ability to change circumstances in our lives. 
It’s those who are GRATEFUL for what God has done that are willing to commit their lives to His service; to his will.  We forget what we came from.  We forget what it was like to be wretched and miserable.  We allow ourselves to be distracted and we lose the enthusiasm for reaching other people.  We also lose our enthusiasm for prayer (meeting with and worshipping God), for Bible study (Learning more about our Lord and how he wants us to live) and for Church (being in His presence).

I remember when some of you have gone through real difficulties and hardships and saw God move on your behalf.  You were involved in outreach; you were excited to read your Bible; you looked forward to being in church and FELLOWSHIPPING.  But over time that fire in you turned to coals and then cooled…now you’re lukewarm.  You love Jesus but you lack fervor.

The church becomes lukewarm when the people do.  It starts with a few and spreads to others.  When you talk a container of hot water and begin to fill it with cold, the hot water cools and the cold water warms and you end up with a container of lukewarm water.  The church cools and eventually becomes cold.  Things are put in the Bible for a reason.  Some things are to encourage us and ignite faith.  Others are a warning.  Every church is in danger of becoming lukewarm.  Heat comes from effort.  Jesus advises us on the remedy:

Revelation 3:18 (NKJV) 
3:18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

He advises us to take advantage of three things:

Gold Refined in the Fire

This is a reference to Jesus.  He was REFINED in the fire.  He went through great hardship for us.  That word refined means that it came through great heat.  Jesus suffered and died in the most agonizing form of execution ever.  We become rich in Him:

Ephesians 3:8 (NKJV) 
3:8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
Pauls says he preaches “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” We are rich in Jesus, He is like refined Gold.  Some of us have lost our love for Jesus and our gratitude for whatr He has done in our lives.

White Garments

This is a reference to the righteousness that we receive through our salvation:

Isaiah 61:10 (NKJV) 
61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Some of us have lost the Joy of our Salvation.  Isaiah says, “My souls shall be joyful; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation.”  The robe of righteousness is a garment of salvation.  Because we are made righteous throu Him, when we couldn’t be righteous on our own (None is righteous, no, not one.) Our nakedness represents our shame – our sin.  We should rejoice.

Eye Salve:

We have lost our vision.  The laodiceans made Eye salve that was the medicine that made them rich.  They knew that it had healing properties.  The eye salve we need is the Holy Spirit he gives us vision for the things of God. 

John 16:13 (NKJV) 
16:13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

Remember earlier we said that the word translated from the Hebrew as truth was Amen.  The Holy Spirit will guide us to God.  He will clarify the way we see ourselves which instead of being rich is really, “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” That’s the vision that’s needed.  It will bring us back to gratitude and desire for God. 

These are things that we need to ignite us and bring us back to that place of fervor, so that we can be Hot once again.

Revelation 3:19-22 (NKJV) 
3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' "

Jesus chastens us because He loves us.  He rebukes us so that we will respond and repent.  There are some of us who have grown lukewarm we need to repent and we need to look for these things He has recommended so that we can be reignited. 

One thing I see happening is that people hear a sermon or Bible study and they recognize that God is speaking to them.  They will pray and repent, but they forget to apply it to their lives.  He stands at the door and knocks.  He’s looking for us.  Are you willing to open that door to your heart and let Him in:  Let His words be written on your heart:  To apply these things to your life.

Vision:

1.        Serve Him with fervor and excitement