What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 2:8-11 – Faithful Under Fire

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our study through the book of Revelation, verse-by-verse, and we find ourselves this today in chapter 2, verses 8-11.  We are studying the second church of the seven churches in Asia Minor.  This is the church in Smyrna.  Our exalted Lord Jesus Christ has appeared to John in a vision, and He is commanding John to write down this message for the church, but not just for the church of Smyrna.  This message is for every church throughout history, including the ones you and I are a part of.

As a minister of the Gospel, one truth I find necessary to stress again and again is that . . .

Becoming a Christian does not necessarily ensure

That one will always be healthy or wealthy or

Become a huge success by the set standards of society.

There are ministers who preach that.  It is called the “prosperity gospel,” or the “health and wealth prosperity movement,” or by some other name.  They teach that if you just trust God, He will bless you with good health and financial success.  They give you the idea that if you send in your money to their ministry, often called “a seed of faith” that God will bless you in return with more money.  They also teach that it is not God’s will for you to be sick.  Becoming sick is a sign of lack of faith in God.  When you listen to their teaching on television and you see their smiling faces and listen to them carry on you may get the idea that God wants all of His children to always have a smile on their faces and to just “be happy” and be blessed with lots of money and no problems.

Then we come to what the Bible teaches.  Financial success, good health, happiness – all these things come from God, but they are not necessarily the automatic by-products of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ.  There are biblical principles we may follow, for example, that will keep us out of financial debt, we can avoid certain health risks by having a good diet; but to teach that it is God’s will for everyone to be wealthy, healthy, and happy – without suffering problems or persecutions – is to teach a false gospel.

Here was a church that probably would look like a failure if measured by the standards of the “health, wealth, prosperity” teachers.  In fact, this church in Smyrna would probably have been considered a failure if measured the way many Christian measure churches.  We tend to think that churches are only successful if they have huge budgets, building programs, and burgeoning church rolls with additions every single week.  Here was a church with probably no budget at all.  They were not involved in a building program and if you united with this church the likelihood of your becoming a popular and successful businessman in the city of Smyrna was nil.  If anything . . .

Becoming a Christian in the city of Smyrna

Ensured you would face unending days

Of persecution, trials, tribulation, arrest,

Imprisonment, and ultimately death.

We know little of this kind of persecution in America today.  The hard times we face seem pretty small when set against the backdrop of what was going on in the Smyrna church 2,000 years ago.  Nevertheless, this kind of persecution could one day face every single one of us here in America and therefore we should be ready for it at all times.

But . . .

We can also learn

How to live through

Whatever difficulties and trials

We face from the principles

We read here in the text.

The church in Smyrna is commended by our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is one of only two of the seven churches that contain no “bad news” from the X-ray report of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The church is commended for being a “successful” church in His sight.  God defines “successful” as “faithful.”  He never calls us to be successful.  He never calls us to be powerful.  He calls us to be faithful.

This passage can teach us how to get through the hard times and that is what I want to see as we study the church in Smyrna, getting through hard times, staying faithful under fire.  There are three main things to remember when you go through hard times. 

Number one . . .

I. Remember The Power of our Lord.

Verse 8 says, “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.”  Remember that these words are the words of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.  Look how He is identified here, “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.”  That statement stresses the powerful sovereignty of the Lord Jesus.  He is sovereign.  He is in control.   He is in control of two things: 1) He is in control of history.  We see that in the phrase, “These things says the First and the Last.”  That is, Jesus Christ is before all things and He outlasts all things.  He is in control all time.  He is in control of history.  This no doubt was an encouragement to the church in Smyrna.  They were undergoing fierce persecution, and this was our Lord’s way of reminding them of His power, that nothing escaped His notice.  He is in control of all the events that they will face in this world.  And, 2) He is also in control of eternity.  Specifically, what happens after this world, what happens after death.  Jesus is identified as the One “Who was dead, and came to life.”  Jesus reminds the faithful Christians in Smyrna that He does indeed “hold the keys to Hades and Death” just as He had said previously in 1:18.

Interestingly the word “Smyrna” is the Greek word for “myrrh.”  Myrrh was a sweet perfume used in the days of Christ.  It came from a shrubby tree whose leaves were crushed and when they were crushed they gave off this sweet perfume. 

  • You will remember that when the wise men from the east came to worship the newborn baby Jesus that they brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, perhaps a prophetic sign of His death. 
  • A mixture of vinegar and myrrh was offered to Jesus on the cross. 
  • Myrrh was also used in the embalming of dead bodies.  We read in the Gospel of John that when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus wrapped the body of Jesus they used myrrh in His burial. 
  • Myrrh had a connection with the suffering and tribulation of Jesus and now this church is going through similar suffering and tribulation and it is in this context that Jesus reminds them of His power, His power over history, and his power over eternity.

We must remember this today.  Whatever afflictions we face as Christians, whatever persecutions, whatever difficulties we encounter, we must remember the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the first and the last, who was dead and came to life.  He is in complete sovereign control of our lives, exerting power over history and eternity.  When you go through hard times remember the power of our Lord. 

Secondly, when you go through hard times . . .

II. Remember The Peace Of Our Lord.

When you go through hard times, the Lord Jesus Christ offers His peace.  Look at verse 9, where Jesus says, “I know your works.”  That is, “I know the hard times you’re going through.”  What a great reality!  Jesus sees us in our trials.  He knows what we are going through.  There are three kinds of trials these Smyrna Christians were going through.  They are identified in verse three as “tribulation, poverty, and blasphemy.”

“Tribulation” is a picturesque word describing the pressure of a thing bearing down upon another.  We often describe our afflictions this way, we talk of pressure, of things “coming down on us,” and so forth.  Jesus knows what we’re going through.  He sees us.

Then he says in verse 9, I know your “poverty.”  We spoke earlier of the “Prosperity Movement.”  How many folks do you think I could get to sign up if I started a “Poverty Movement?”  Truth is, some Christians do not have much money, much stuff.  Poverty does not make one less spiritual any more than riches make a person more spiritual.   Money is no indicator of spiritual maturity.   

The church in Smyrna did not have much material blessing.  They were poor.  And their poverty must have looked pretty funny to the average citizen of Smyrna.  Smyrna was a very prosperous and proud city.  Like Ephesus, Smyrna was a harbor city with a thriving export business.  Its coins were inscribed with the words, “First in Asia.”  They were first in beauty and first in size.  Smyrna was a prosperous, growing city.  That may be why the city continues to thrive even 2,000 years later.  The city is still with us today, known today as the city of Izmir in modern Turkey.

The city of Smyrna was rich, but the church of Smyrna was poor.  They had no big budget, padded pews, beautiful organ, piano, heating, or air conditioning.  They had none of those things.  Persecution has a way of stripping away the non-essentials and making us more grateful for what it means to know the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yes, the church in Smyrna was poor.  Jesus says “I know your poverty.”  But then, did you notice what the Lord Jesus added right after that?  Did you notice the small parenthetical statement that follows?  He adds, “But you are rich.”  Yes, poor by the world’s standards, rich by the Lord’s standards.  Poor in the sight of man, rich in the sight of the Master.  Poor with respect to material things, rich with respect to spiritual things.  You are rich.  It is the Greek word “plutocrat,” which means “a wealthy person.”  Christian, regardless of your money and material goods, you are rich.  You know the Lord Jesus Christ and you have eternal rewards awaiting you in the next life.  You are rich.  Do no’t you forget it.

But Jesus does not stop at their experience of tribulation and poverty.  He goes on to say, I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”  The “blasphemy” Jesus is talking about are the slanderous words that some of the Jews in Smyrna were saying about them.  These Jews in Smyrna did not share the church’s Christian beliefs and they were blaspheming God by spreading slanderous things about the Christians, attacking their character, and so forth.

These people doing the slandering are identified as “those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”  That is, these are people who “say” they follow the One True God, but actually they are the devil’s crowd.  The same can be said of many today who profess to be Christians.  There are some today who “say” they are Christians but are not.  1 John 2:4 states, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  Our merely saying a thing does not make it true.  It is what we believe and how we live that determines whether it is true.

When you go through hard times, remember the peace of our Lord.  He sees us in our trials and He strengthens us in our trials.  This strengthening is underscored by what Jesus says in verse 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.”  Jesus says, “Do not fear.”  That is, be encouraged, be strengthened in the midst of your afflictions.  Stop being afraid.  Do not worry or fret.  Jesus sees us in our struggles, He strengthens us in our trials, and He sustains us through those times.

Here again we see that we can anticipate suffering as a Christian.  Suffering is not necessarily the result of our failure to follow Christ faithfully.  This church is following Christ faithfully and yet, they are suffering.  Jesus says they are not to fear any of those things “which you are about to suffer.”  There is more suffering and persecution coming.   But specifically, says Jesus, “the devil is about to throw some of you into prison.”  Jesus allows that.  Remember, He is in control.  He sees what is happening.  They will be thrown into prison and have tribulation for a period of ten days.  The 10 days is probably a way of indicating that the time period of this church’s terrible persecution will be brief.  There will be a definite limit to it.  The Christians in the Smyrna church will suffer an intense time of persecution that will not last a long time, but a brief time, something on the order of ten days rather than ten thousand days.  In and through it all, they will experience the peace and presence of our Lord.  He sees us in our trials and He strengthens us in our trials. 

What is the purpose of this tribulation that the Lord Jesus Christ permits?  Jesus allows the devil to work through people that the Smyrna Christians would go through some really tough times.  For what purpose?  Did you notice it there in verse 10?  Jesus says this is going to happen to you, “that you may be tested.”  The word “tested” refers to a “refining” process.  As a precious metal is refined, it is made stronger and purer through fire; so the Christian is made stronger through the refining fire of persecution.  That is why we are drawn to those Christians who have really been through hard times but have remained faithful and true to the Lord Jesus Christ.

And that is the key to it all.  Jesus says in the latter part of verse 10, “Be faithful until death.”  When you go through hard times, be faithful.  Stick with it.  Persevere. 

Remember the power of our Lord, remember the peace of our Lord.  

Thirdly . . .

III. Remember The Promises Of Our Lord.

Do not miss what our Lord is saying in verses 10b-11, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Jesus gives them two promises in these verses:  (1) The Lord rewards our suffering in the end.  He says, “You be faithful until death,” that is, “stick with it, keep on keepin’ on, and I will reward your suffering in the end.  I will give you the crown of life.”  The crown of life is a symbol of the Christian’s rewards in the afterlife for his faithfulness in this life.  The Bible says in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  Jesus says in Matthew 6:19, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures in this life . . . but treasures in heaven.”  You be faithful, Christian, and one day you will receive your eternal rewards in heaven. 

God blesses us there


Our faithfulness here.

Think how grateful you will be for having been faithful under fire, for sticking with the stuff, for continuing to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember the promise of our Lord. 

(2) Our preserves our soul in the end.  Verse 11 says, “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.”  The second death refers to what the unbeliever faces in Revelation, chapter 20.  There we read that the unbeliever, the non-Christian, will die not once, but twice.  Because his sins are unforgiven in Christ, his name is not written in the Book of Life and his soul will be cast into the burning lake of fire.  That is the second death.  See if we die before the Lord Jesus Christ comes again, we all will face the first death.  Every one of us will face the first death.  But not every one of us will face the second death.  Those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will only die once, because we have been born twice.  That is what Jesus meant when He said to Nicodemus in John, chapter 3, “You must be born again.”  You must be born twice.  As someone has well said, “If you are born twice, you just die once.  But if you are just born once, you will die twice.”  Your soul will face the second death in the end.  You will be cast into a burning lake of fire that burns and burns for eternity.  Jesus says to you and me, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” – the word there is in the plural, churches – “He who overcomes,” that is, He who truly believes in Christ Jesus, “shall not be hurt by the second death.”

If I did not know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, if I were not saved, I would be sure and get saved as soon as possible before I did anything else!  Adrian Rogers said, “It’d be a wonderful thing if in America we had people who feared the second death as much as they feared the first death.”  There is nothing more important.  I thank God that I need not fear death, because I know I am dying just one time.  Jesus Christ is preserving my soul in the end.  I will not be hurt by the second death, not because of my goodness, but because of Christ’s goodness on my behalf.  I am not saved by living a good life.  I am saved by living for the One who was good for me.  We are saved by grace through faith.  Not of works.

 There are no promises of the “easy life” in Scripture.  Becoming a Christian is no guarantee that we will never suffer persecution, hard times, or difficulties.  Leaonard Ravenhill said, “When God opens the windows of heaven to bless you, the devil will open the doors of hell to blast you.”  What we do know, however, is that when the devil opens the doors of hell to blast the Christian, our Lord is with us.  Remember the power of our Lord, the peace of our Lord, and the promise of our Lord.

Many of these Smyrna Christians died for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  During these days, all people during the Roman Empire were forced to say, “Caesar is Lord.”  That is what they had to profess publicly at least one day of the year in a very ritualistic way.  They were to say, “Caesar is Lord.”  If they refused, they were arrested and forced to utter those words or else face a terrible death.

From the second century comes a writing entitled, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.”  It is the oldest account of a Christian dying for Jesus outside of the New Testament.  Polycarp was a disciple of John.  Polycarp was one of the first pastors of the church in Smyrna.  This account, this writing of “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” is, no doubt, a bit embellished due to the love of the early followers of Christ and their love for this great man who died as an elderly man, a man in his late 80s, he died as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  I want to read this account of his death which occurred in AD 155 when the Roman authorities came to arrest him.

“Now the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard the news, was not disturbed. In fact, he wanted to remain in town, but the majority persuaded him to withdraw. So he withdrew to a farm not far distant from the city.  And as those who were searching for him persisted, he moved to another farm.  Mounted police and horsemen, closing in on him late in the evening, found him in bed in an upstairs room in a small cottage; and though he still could have escaped from there to another place, he refused, saying, ‘May God’s will be done.’ After transferring him to their carriage and sitting down at his side, they tried to persuade him, saying, ‘Why, what harm is there in saying, ‘Caesar is Lord,’ and offering incense’ (and other words to this effect) ‘and thereby saving yourself?’  Now at first he gave them no answer.  But when they persisted, he said, ‘I am not about to do what you are suggesting to me.’  He was led to the stadium.  There was such a tumult in the stadium that no one could even be heard.  But as Polycarp entered the stadium, there came a voice from heaven: ‘Be strong, Polycarp, and act like a man.’  And no one saw the speaker, but those of our people who were present heard the voice.  The proconsul tried to persuade him to recant, saying, ‘Have respect for your age,” and other such things as they are accustomed to say.  When the magistrate persisted and said, ‘Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile Christ,’ Polycarp replied, ‘For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’  So the proconsul said: ‘I have wild beasts; I will throw you to them, unless you change your mind.’ But he said: ‘Call for them!” Then he said to him again: ‘I will have you consumed by fire, since you despise the wild beasts, unless you change your mind.’ But Polycarp said: ‘You threaten with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you wish.’”

The proconsul was astonished, and sent his own herald into the midst of the stadium to proclaim three times: ‘Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.’  When this was proclaimed by the herald, the entire crowd, Gentiles as well as Jews living in Smyrna, cried out with uncontrollable anger and with a loud shout: ‘This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teaches many not to sacrifice or worship.’  The crowd swiftly collected wood and kindling from the workshops and baths, the Jews being especially eager to assist in this, as is their custom.  Then the materials prepared for the pyre were placed around him; and as they were also about to nail him, he said: ‘Leave me as I am; for he who enables me to endure the fire will also enable me to remain on the pyre without moving, even without the sense of security which you get from the nails.’  So they did not nail him, but tied him instead. Then he, having placed his hands behind him and having been bound, looked up to heaven and said: ‘O Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, the God of angels and powers and of all creation, and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your presence, I bless you because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of the martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit.  May I be received among them in your presence today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you have prepared and revealed beforehand, and have now accomplished, you who are the undeceiving and true God.  For this reason, indeed for all things, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom to you with him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now and for the ages to come.  Amen.’  When he had offered up the ‘Amen’ and finished his prayer, the men in charge of the fire lit the fire.”

Some accounts say that when the flames burned the body of Polycarp, that you could hear him singing praises to the Lord God.  Polycarp was a man who was literally faithful under fire.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 2:1-7 – When A Church Grows Cold

Grace For The Journey

We are moving on to the second division of the book of Revelation.  Remember that verse 19 of chapter one gives us our outline.  Our Lord Jesus instructs John to write about the things that he had seen (ch.1), the things that are (chapters. 2-3) and the things that will happen after this (chapter 4 and following).  We are looking at the things that are, beginning here in chapter 2.  It is here in chapter 2 and 3 that we learn about these seven churches.  We will look at them one at a time, learning how the circumstances of each church apply to us and the churches we belong to.

As a minister, I have frequently heard stories about folks who went to the doctor to have something done, to get something checked out and the doctor will order certain tests, including X-rays, Cat Scans, or MRIs to make sure all is well.  Sometimes when the tests are done the doctors see something in that X-ray or Cat Scan that they did not previously know was there.  The test revealed a problem that they are now able to correct, to treat.

It helps us to think of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Great Physician who looks at the condition of these seven churches with spiritual X-ray vision.  With His penetrating eyes “like a flame of fire” (1:14), Jesus can see right into these seven churches and see what needs correction.  What we read in chapters 2 and 3 are the X-ray reports of these seven churches.  We are seeing what our Lord sees and, seeing in black and white, what looks good and what looks bad.  You will note as we read each of these churches, there is a general pattern here with each of the churches.  Jesus says, “Here is the good you are doing and here is the bad stuff you’re doing.”  It is as though Jesus is going over the results of the X-rays with us and showing us what looks good and what looks bad.  But then, like a good doctor that Jesus is, He does not just diagnose the problem; He also tells us what we need to do to treat the problem, to correct the problem.  And, just as it is with our physical bodies, an early diagnosis leads to a good prognosis.

Let’s note that as we look at the X-ray of the church of Ephesus.  Jesus says there is some good news and then there’s some bad news.   The bad news is the first thing that shows up glaringly on the X-ray and it is found in verse 4, “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  That is Jesus’ way of saying, “You don’t love me like you used to.  You are a church that has grown cold.”  With that in mind I want us to learn from the church of Ephesus, and we will learn the good and the bad, and we will apply it to our personal lives and the life of the church we belong to.  We are going to look at five ways to keep a church from growing cold.

Before we look at these five things, let’s remember that Jesus is doing the talking here.  He is telling John to write down what He is saying and to address what He is saying to the angel of each church, “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.”  What is important to remember about this is where Jesus is.  He is the One “who holds the seven stars in His right hand” and the One “who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”  It is a reminder of the protection of Jesus and the presence of Jesus.  He is in control of the churches and He is there in the midst of the churches.

The first church addressed is the church at Ephesus.  It is appropriate that Jesus begins with the church at Ephesus.  Ephesus was an important city in the New Testament days.  It was the super city, the capital city of Asia, more than a quarter of a million people in population, four great trade routes converged at Ephesus.  Those of you who have been attending our Wednesday evening services know we have been studying First Corinthians.  Ephesus reminds me of Corinth.  Like Corinth, Ephesus was a harbor city and, therefore, a party city.  If Corinth was the “The Vanity Fair of Europe,” then Ephesus was “The Vanity Fair of Asia.” 

Ephesus was known for its bizarre religious worship of the fertility goddess “Diana,” or, in the Greek, “Artemis.”  There was a huge temple built and dedicated to the worshipof theses gods.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens, 450 feet long, 220 feet wide, with 127 pillars 60 feet high.  You will read about the worship of Diana when you read the book of Acts, chapters 18-20.  You’ll read in Ephesians 19:34 that, in response to the preaching of Paul, that for about two hours the pagan citizens there cried out, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”  But Paul started a church there and he ministered to the Ephesians for about 2 ½ years.  You can read all of that later on for background.

Let’s read what Jesus says to the church at Ephesus and, as we do, we’ll note these five ways to keep a church from growing cold.  Number one:

1. We Should Have Scriptural Orthodoxy For Christ.

Verse 2 says, “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 this verse we read about this church’s love for orthodoxy.  The word “orthodoxy,” just means “the truth.”  When we speak of “orthodoxy,” we are talking about things that are Scripturally true.  Christian orthodoxy includes, for example, the truth that there is one God.  Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.  There is only one way to be saved, et cetera.

As Jesus goes over the X-ray report with the church at Ephesus, He says, “Here’s the good news.  You have a love for the truth.  You are Scripturally sound.  You are orthodox in your beliefs.”  That is what He means when He says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.”  The last part of that first sentence of verse 2 ought to get our attention.  Who are those who are evil, and what does this mean?”  The church at Ephesus was visited by certain teachers who claimed to be apostles who were not.  Rather, they were found to be liars.  Jesus commends the church for having spiritual discernment and a love for Christian truth. They were able to discern that these teachers who visited their church were false teachers teaching a false gospel.

We, too, should labor for Scriptural orthodoxy.  We should likewise have a love for the truth and should protect ourselves from error.  I take very seriously my role as the pastor-teacher of our church family.  I do not invite just anyone to stand behind this pulpit and preach.  I want to be sure that the person who stands to preach God’s Word is someone who will expound the Scriptures with integrity.  We should be equally concerned in our Sunday School classes.  We must be sure that people are teaching the truth and not leading folks astray.

Now the best way to recognize false teaching is to know the truth.  You and I cannot recognize error unless we know the truth.  This means we must be individuals and a church that takes seriously the study of Scripture.  We must be reading it regularly in our individual devotion time as well as expounding the Scriptures in corporate worship.  The pastor’s role is to teach the Bible more than anything else.

Here is a good mark of the church. 

Number two, here’s something else that looks good on the X-ray . . .

2. We Should Have Steadfast Loyalty To Christ.

The church at Ephesus was loyal to Christ.  They were steadfast in their faith.  Look at verse 3, “And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”  They have endured through difficult times.  They have not given up.  They stuck with the stuff.  There are a lot of folks who make decisions for Christ, but when the going gets tough, they leave Him.  They turn their backs upon the Lord Jesus Christ.  By turning away from Him, by giving up, they are demonstrating their disloyalty to Christ.

One thing good about the church at Ephesus is their steadfast loyalty to Christ.  They persevered, they endured, during the most difficult times.  They stuck with Christ.  We should learn from their example.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Jesus guarantees that you and I will have difficult days as we follow Christ, but do not give up.  Remember that He is with us, and He has overcome this world of tribulation.

Those are a couple of good things we see on the X-ray.  Those are a couple things we can apply to our situation here.  We should have Scriptural orthodoxy for Christ and steadfast loyalty to Christ. 

AS we continue our study in verse 4 and five, we read a problem spot on the X-ray.  Jesus says, number three . . .

3. We Should Have Sustained Intimacy With Christ.

Sustained intimacy – That is, we should continually desire with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our love for Jesus should be constant.  See how Jesus puts it in verse 4, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  That is Jesus’ way of saying, “You don’t love me like you used to.”  I find this an amazing indictment, given all the good that the church at Ephesus was doing . . .

  • They were Scripturally orthodox.  They had a love for truth. 
  • They labored hard for the Lord Jesus.  They had a strong determination to stay with the mission in spite of all the opposition!

That should cause us some serious pause and reflection.  You can labor hard for the Lord Jesus Christ, you can be busy serving Him in a church, you can have a love for Biblical truth . . . and not love the Lord Jesus Christ.  Think of it!  I mean Ephesus is a busy church.  Man, they are involved in every program the denomination offers.  They have got classes for everything.  They have got Bible Study; they have got discipleship training; they have got prayer meetings; they have missions training and involvement; and they have a strong music ministry. 

They are even doing FAITH! 

That is all good.  But Jesus says, “As good as all that is, I have something against you.  You have left your first love.”

We should have

Sustained, ongoing,

Intimacy with Christ.

I have known Christians like this.  They claim to love truth.  They claim to love the church.  But their heart, and zeal, for the things of God you is missing.  If they really loved the Lord Jesus, the love of Christ would just spill over.  This is evidence that you have left your first love.  That is the diagnosis. 

Jesus, the Great Physician, gives the cure, verse 5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen.”  Remember . . . Remember from where you have fallen.  Remember your first love.  Remember when you first came to know Jesus?  Remember when you fell in love with Him?  It is much like a human relationship.  We need to cultivate the love for our spouses.  Our love should grow over the years.  The honeymoon should not be the only time of infatuation. 

Somebody said, “The honeymoon is that period of time between ‘I do’ and ‘You’d better!’”  The honeymoon is a blissful time.  It is a time of incredible intimacy with the one we love.  We need to remember that time.  I heard about a woman whose husband was neglecting her and he just never seemed to be romantic anymore, never seemed to be tender anymore, and a young couple moved-in next door and they were so much in love, still on the honeymoon and she watched this young lady and her husband.  And she was watching one day out the window and she watched the man going off to work and how he hugged her and then kissed her and then off he went.  One morning she watched them and she called her husband over to the window to look and she said, “You see what he’s doing?  Why don’t you do that?”  He said, “Well, I hardly know the woman.”  During the honeymoon time, we are getting to know this one we love.  And the intimacy is exciting, electric, and powerful.  And that love relationship should grow. 

It is the same with Jesus.  Remember when you were first saved?  Remember the time you spent reading the Bible, you could not wait for the church doors to open?  You wanted to be at the church for everything.  But all of that has been missing lately.  Jesus says to some of us, “You’ve left your first love.  You don’t love me like you used to.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen.”  Remember.  Then, He says in the next part of verse 5, “ … repent and do the first works” . . . Repent and Return.  Repent – that means, turn back to the Lord.  Turn back to Jesus and then Return, that is, “Do” the first works.  Return to the things you used to do naturally out of love for Me.  Get back into the word.  Get back into faithful attendance of the worship services and Bible studies.  Do the first works, Repeat the things you used to do, naturally out of love for Jesus  alone.  This involves learning and applying biblical principles to our lives which leads to us naturally wanting to sing because of the presence and goodness of God, telling others of God’s inexhaustible love and power, teaching a Bible Study class and personally sharing the truths we are learning so they can know God as we do, sharing your faith in the workplace, and leading your family in the things of God.

Then, Jesus gives a warning if the church does not do as He asks, “… or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.”  If the church does not remember, repent, and return, Jesus says, “I will remove you – you will lose you influence, your testimony, and your mission.”  Ephesus failed to fully apply the Lord’s teachings and that is why it is in ruins today.

We should have spiritual orthodoxy for Christ, steadfast loyalty to Christ, sustained intimacy with Christ, and fourthly . . .

4. We Should Have Sanctified Purity Before Christ.

This is another good sign on the X-ray report.  Jesus some more good things about them in verse 6, “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”  Nobody really knows exactly who “the Nicolaitans” were.  One thing we do know from the context.  Later in chapter 2, we read of the church at Pergamos.  We read in verses 14-15 that the sins of the Nicolaitans included idolatry and sexual immorality.   

A church should be sanctified and pure before the Lord Jesus Christ.  We should hate anything that is remotely connected with idolatry and sexual immorality.  Idolatry and sexual immorality was rampant in Ephesus.  That great temple I mentioned earlier, the Temple of Diana, contained thousands of priests and priestesses who served in the temple as religious prostitutes.  The idea was that by engaging in sexual relations with these priests and prostitutes that one would be blessed by the false goddess, Diana.

We may not have the same kind of thing going on where we live, but we are just as tempted by idolatry and immorality.  With all of the temptations before our eyes, we must remain sexual pure, being a people of sanctified purity before Christ.

Finally . . .

5. We Should Have Spiritual Victory In Christ.

In verse seven, Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  If you are listening, really listening, Jesus has a word for you.  He says, “Hear what the Spirit says to the church at Ephesus;” is that what He says? No.  Hear what the Spirit says to “the churches,” plural.  Jesus has a word for every member of every church.  Remember we said before that the seven churches are literal, historical churches, but the number seven, being a symbol of completion and wholeness, reminds us that these seven churches are also symbolic of every church throughout history.  That truth is re-affirmed here by the words of Jesus, “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

And what does He say?  He speaks of our victory in Christ, “To him who overcomes” –  that is, to the Christian – “I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”  The Christian partakes of the tree of life.  When Adam and Eve sinned, the tree of life was banished from the Garden of Eden.  It is now situated in “the Paradise of God,” a synonym for heaven.  And the Christian partakes of the tree of life through the work of Jesus Christ.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  And He is the only way we may have victory, victory over death.  Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes unto the Father, except by Me.”  

This is why we love Jesus.  As John writes elsewhere, in 1 John 4:10, “Here is love.  Not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Recently, I read about Henry W. Grady.  He was once the famous editor of the newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution.  After he gave a great speech on “The New South” he was hailed as a national hero.  But Henry Grady knew that deep down something was desperately wrong in his life.  One day he told the members of his staff to look out for the paper for a few days, that he just needed to get away for some rest and reflection.  He started back to his old boyhood home in the mountains.  He arrived there late in the evening.  His mother was sitting on the front porch reading her Bible.  She heard the front gate open, she looked up and said, “Why Henry.  What a surprise!  What brings you home?  I didn’t expect you.”  He said, “Mother, something is desperately wrong.  I have lost something, and I need you to help me find it.”

His mother fixed supper for him that night and they washed the dishes together.  Then they went out on the front porch, and she sat down in the rocker, and he sat at her feet with his head in her lap, just as he did in the days when he was just a boy.  He began to listen to his mother talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and how wonderful it was to be saved, and just talking to him about the things of God, like she did when he was growing up.  He began to feel something in his heart grow warm once again.  Finally, it was time to retire, and he and his mother went up to his bedroom and they knelt, just as they used to kneel by the bed to pray.  His mother even kissed him goodnight and tucked in the covers around him.

Henry Grady did not sleep very much that night.  He spent those hours in recollection, in remembering, in repenting, and in repeating.  The next morning, when he kissed his mother goodbye to go back to his office at the Constitution, his heart was full of joy, a burden had been lifted.  He was a different man and he knew it.  When his mother said to him, “Why, Henry, you look so different than you did yesterday.”  He said, “Mother, thank you for helping me find what I lost.  I am ready to go back to work now, mother, for I have fallen in love with Jesus all over again.” 

If you are a Christian . . .

I want to tell you,

Whatever our problem,

That is the answer:

To fall in love with

Jesus all over again.

Has your Christian walk become a dead routine, work, work, work for the church but no warmth of the fire, no joy, and no enthusiasm for the Lord?  Fall in love with Jesus all over again.  Do you feel as though your church life is disconnected from your work and social life?  Fall in love with Jesus all over again.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 1:9-20 – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Grace For The Journey

  This passage is known as John’s “Inaugural Vision.”  It is his first vision that gets us started in the Book of Revelation.  One of my favorite hymns is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”  It is a hymn that reminds us that when we focus on the Lord Jesus Christ everything else works out.  The chorus contains these phrases . . .Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace.As we “turn our eyes upon Jesus” how do we see Him?  We really do not know exactly what Jesus looked like.  I have never been too pleased with many of the artist’s renderings of Jesus.  I do not like the idea of an effeminate Jesus, and that is usually how He is portrayed.  He is always portrayed as a skinny, womanly kind of figure, kind of wimpy looking.  Jesus was a man, and a man’s man at that.  He was a carpenter.  He knew how to drive nails and cut wood.  He could haul big nets of fish in a boat and overturned a table or two.However Jesus looked in His earthly ministry, John catches a glimpse of Jesus as He is today.  He has a vision of the glorified Christ in heaven.  In today’s Bible Study, we will turn our eyes upon Jesus and see Him just as He is.Remember, John is on the island of Patmos.  Verse 9 says, “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.”  This verse tells us that John has been banished to the island of Patmos for preaching the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  He has been banished there because of his stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and his refusal to compromise God’s Word.  Eusebius (4th Century Historian) claimed that John’s banishment to Patmos occurred in the 14th year of Domitian’s Reign (AD 95).  Domitian liked to refer to himself as “Lord and God.”  Literally, that is the way he loved to be addressed.  John did not address him that way.  And so, Christians like John were often charged with treason and exiled to places like Patmos.John identifies himself with the churches as a “brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.”  That word “patience” is better translated as “perseverance” or “endurance.”  It is a reference to the Christian’s perseverance under fire.  John is able to say, “I am a brother with you in this time of tribulation.  I am with you in this.”  John closely identifies with the plight of the wider Christian Church.  The terms “brother” and “companion” speak of a deep fellowship and partnership.  The basis of all Christian partnership: we are “in Jesus”

 Just as John identified with the afflictions of the wider Church, so should we be aware of how our brethren around the world are being persecuted and lift them up both prayerfully and practically.   We should also be prepared to face persecution here in North America.

Then John gives us specifically the account of his vision.  As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, first we . . . 1. Hear The Sound Of His Authority – Verses 9-11.John first describes for us what he heard in his vision.  He heard the sound of Christ’s authority.  Verse10 tells us, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”  Even though John was a prisoner of Rome he worshipped the Lord on a regular basis.  In the early Church, Christians had a designated day for corporate worship which they called “the Lord’s Day” – the day of Christ’s resurrection (cf. John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).  The phrase “in the Spirit” indicates God’s special preparation of John to receive this revelatory vision.  Peter and Paul both had similar experiences in which God revealed truth through a vision – Acts 10:10-11, Acts 22:17, 2 Cor 12:2-4.  John heard a loud voice behind him, “as of a trumpet.”  Note when this vision took place.  John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.”  The “Lord’s Day” is a reference to the first day of the week, Sunday.  This vision took place on the Lord’s Day when John was “in the Spirit.”  The text does not suggest John drummed this up himself.  Rather, he was seized by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit seized him and our Lord Jesus appeared to him.  John hears the sound of Christ’s authority.  He hears behind him a loud voice, as of a trumpet.  The trumpet is the loudest instrument of a band.  When it is played this instrument will be heard.  The instrument carried a kind of authority all its own.   It is appropriate, then, that John describes the voice of our Lord as of a trumpet.  The voice of the glorified, risen Christ is a strong, loud voice of authority.   No mealy-mouthed mumbling of the Lord Jesus Christ, but “a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”Look what Jesus says to John in verse 11, “… 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.”  Christ speaks with authority.  He tells John to “write.”  The verb is an imperative.  Jesus is not asking John to write, nor suggesting that he write, He is commanding him to write.  John is told to write this all down.  He is to write in a Book what he see and then “send” (another imperative) it to the seven churches which are in Asia.”Jesus specifies the seven churches.  I have mentioned these churches before.  There are seven of them and they are listed in the order that a letter carrier would deliver them if he were delivering mail.  If you look at a map, you will see a circular route a letter carrier might take as he went from Ephesus to Smyrna to Pergamos to Thyatira to Sardis to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.  The number seven signifies, or as one person says, “sign-i-fies” perfection and completion.  These seven churches are real churches that also represent churches of all ages and locations.  We will note, especially in the coming weeks as we study these churches, how their problems do mirror problems in the churches today.Keep in mind that John is writing as pastor of the seven churches under his care; as a pastor of people who are being tortured, persecuted, and killed. That is why he identifies himself as their brother and companion in difficulty. This identification suggests that John views himself as one who participates (i.e., as companion) with his Christian audience (i.e., as brother) in their various experiences of suffering, to which they respond with patient endurance, because they share equally in the same kingdom as priests (1:6).  We still live in a mostly Christian-friendly environment in this country, although it is becoming more hostile.  As we get closer to the Second Coming of Christ, we should look at this Book and its application from the standpoint of a government who is in opposition to the church.  Jesus is showing John “a new hope” which Jesus intends to use to help His people succeed.  John shows us a trio of opportunities: Tribulation, kingdom, and endurance – All found in Jesus Christ.John was exiled on the island of Patmos because of God’s Word and his testimony about Jesus Christ.  This is the same weapons used against Satan and the Antichrist (Revelation 12:10-11).  This means that being a Christian and sharing the message of Jesus in a godless culture will get you persecuted and even imprisoned.John was brought into a spiritual vision by the Holy Spirit.  He heard a voice, and the voice told him to write what he saw to the seven churches (Revelation 1:10-11).  John turned to see who spoke to him.  He saw seven gold lampstands, and then a person like the “Son of Man.”  In this vision, John sees Jesus in a certain way.  He sees Jesus differently than he has ever seen Him before.John heard a voice from behind.  It as a like a trumpet, which is similar to the description of God’s voice in Exodus 20 when He gives out the Ten Commandments from the mountain (Exodus 20:18).  This voice reminds us of the power and majesty of God.  Just as the Ten Commandments were given to help the people live as they entered the Promised Land, this vision and what follows is given to help encourage the Christians to live today.What is most significant is that Jesus appears among the lampstands (1:12–13; 2:1), which represent the seven churches (1:20; cf. John 20:19).  Because priests needed light to function in the sanctuary concealed from the light of the external world, the temple included a golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31–35; 37:18–21; 2 Chronicles 4:7, 20), which was never extinguished by night or day.John hears the voice of Jesus.  All of this happens before John turns around.  Do you see that in verse 12?  He says, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.”  All what we read in verses 10-11 happened before John actually faced Jesus.  He hears the sound of Christ’s authority.John will later write in verse 15 that Christ’s voice is “as the sound of many waters.”  If you have ever been next to a waterfall, you know what he is talking about.  I remember our trip to Niagara Falls.  Standing nearby the Falls causes one to have to shout to be heard.  You can take a boat up close to the Falls.  It is loud and echoes everywhere.   The roar of the waters is practically deafening.  This speaks especially to us in our day.  In the midst of all the voices telling us who we are and what we are to be doing we need to drown those voices out with the authority of His Word.As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, we hear the sound of His authority.  Secondly, as you turn your eyes upon Jesus . . .2. Look At The Splendor Of His Majesty – Verses 12-16.John will present seven descriptions of Christ in these verses.  But first, note in verses 12 to 13 where John sees Christ, “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man.”  John saw Jesus in the midst of “seven golden lampstands.”  The imagery of lampstands is rooted in the Old Testament Temple (Exodus 25).   The light symbolized God’s presence in the Temple.  Zechariah’s vision of a Golden Lampstand (Zechariah 4:1-14) symbolized the Spirit’s presence and power for the rebuilding of the Temple during the post-exilic period.   Jesus describes the Church as the “light of the world” and a “city on a hill.”  God’s people are to shine the light of God’s truth and presence into all of the world.  There are times in the book of Revelation where we have to interpret the signs and symbols.  Then there are other times when John just tells us exactly what the signs and symbols “sign-i-fy.”  In verse 20 he tells us that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches.  Then John says that “in the midst of the seven lampstands” he sees “One like the Son of Man.”  Of course, this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Remember that the term “Son of Man” is Christ’s favorite designation of Himself.  He referred to Himself over 80 times in the Gospels with the self-designated title “Son of Man.”  That phrase draws upon the Old Testament prophetic literature.  The imagery of the ‘Son of Man’ is from Daniel 7 and 10 – a Messianic figure in Daniel’s visions who will have dominion over all earthly kingdoms.  The Bible says in Daniel chapter 7, verses 13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.”  Daniel is prophesying about the coming Messiah, a prophecy specifically about the Lord’s Second Coming.  He refers to the Messiah as “One like the Son of Man.”  John is using this same language as he describes His vision of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ as He was then, as He is today, and as He will be when He comes again.1. His clothing.John describes Jesus in verse 13 as, “Clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”  This is a description of a robe.  Christ’s wearing of a robe pictures His priestly office.  Jesus Christ is our High Priest.  He is our go-between.  The New Testament nowhere teaches that man is to go to an earthly priest to get forgiveness from God.  Jesus is our High Priest.  The Bible says in Hebrews 7:25 that Christ, “ever lives to make intercession for us.”  He is always there as our go-between.  He is our bridge to the Heavenly Father.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).The garment described here is the apparel of a Priest or King (cf. Exodus 28:4).  It speaks of Jesus power and authority over all the kingdoms of the world and of the priestly ministry of Jesus as He tends the lamps; and inhabits and builds His Temple (His Church).This picture of Jesus Christ is a picture of authority and power.  This language is a powerful mythic hero language. This language’s purpose is to display the power of Jesus Christ. The language shows Jesus in His glory.  Daniel saw Jesus in the same way in Daniel 10:5-6. “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!  His body was like the appearance of lightening, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.”The picture of Jesus here in Daniel is in relationship to Israel.  When we look at Daniel 10:1-9, we see that a man (not an angel) is dressed in a powerful fashion.  These visions are all about the authority and power of Jesus.  John saw this before.  When Peter, James, and John were with Jesus on a high mountain, Matthew 17:2 describes how they saw Jesus, “And He was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.”John’s vision is clearly meant to portray Christ as the Divine Priestly Warrior, and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of the “Son of Man.”  The vision displays Christ’s presence with and His concern for His Church on earth.  Just as the Priests tended the Lamps in the Temple, so Christ tends His Church and builds His true Temple on earth.2. His head.Verse 14 says, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.  This is the imagery from Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7:9 of the “Ancient of Days.”  It is a symbol of wisdom.  John’s vision attributes the attributes of God (Ancient of Days) to Jesus (Son of Man). Jesus is divine!  The picture of His hair being white as snow reminds us of the pure clean nature of Jesus.  It also reminds us of His power to forgive sins.  The prophet Isaiah declares a powerful truth from the Lord in chapter 1 and verse 18, “Come, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.”  Verse 14 goes on to say, “… And His eyes like a flame of fire.”  His “eyes of fire” remind us of His piercing nature into our souls.  It is the imagery from Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10:6 – It is a symbol of Judgment – John refers to Christ’s eyes like the work of a penetrating fire.  This is a reference to the judgment of Christ Jesus.  Christ sees exactly what is happening here on earth and will judge accordingly.  He looks at us with eyes that penetrate our hearts.  He looks right into our soul.  I think Peter saw something of this in the earthly Jesus when he looked up at Jesus and felt the penetrating gaze of Christ and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  He saw something of this again later when he denied Christ in the courtyard and the Bible says in Luke 22:61 that when the rooster crowed, Jesus “looked at him” and Peter wept. 3. His feet.Verse 15 goes on to say, “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace …”  This is imagery from Daniel’s vision in chapter 10, verse 6.  It is a symbol of purity, holiness, strength, and stability of Jesus Christ.  He is pure and holy, and His strength is permanent.  4. His voice.John continues to describe the Lord Jesus in the latter part of verse 15, “… And His voice as the sound of many waters.”   It is the imagery from Ezekiel 1:24, 43:2.   5. His right hand.Verse 15 declares, “He had seven stars in His right hand; a sharp double-edged sword came from His mouth, and His face was shining like the sun at midday.” (Revelation 1:16, HCSB).  The seven stars are identified in verse 20 as the ‘angels of the seven churches’  What are the seven stars?  John is given the answer in verse 20, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.”  The word “angels” literally means “messengers”. Although it can mean angel and does throughout the book (The word “angel” occurs over 60 times in the book of Revelation), it cannot refer to angels here because angels are never leaders in the church.  Most likely, these messengers are the seven key pastors representing each of those churches.  Whoever they are, they spread the Light.  Jesus is the source of this Light. He is holding and protecting these stars in His right hand.  If these are ministers of God, they have no power in themselves. The Light that they give out comes from Him.This is one of the reasons that I believe preachers should be moved upon by the Holy Spirit of God, and receive their message for the church through the Spirit from God.  I do not believe that ministers should buy, or be sent, messages from other people to be used to give to the church.  Jesus’ Spirit is in each church, if we are His.  He knows the problem of each specific church on a given day, and He alone knows what message needs to be brought. These seven candlesticks, we are told here, are the seven churches symbolic of all churches for then until now.  A candlestick is not a light. vIt is the holder for the Light. These candlesticks lift the Light up for all to see. That is the exact purpose of the church,To elevate and lift up the Light, Jesus Christ.These candlesticks have to be cared for and fueled to be able to burn.The minister and the church are difficult to separate.  We know this is speaking of the church and the ministry of the church.  I believe that the stars are ministers held in Jesus’ hand.  I believe these letters were written to these particular churches describing conditions that were going on then.  But a more important message for us to see, is the message in each of them dealing with the problems in our churches right now.6. His mouth.The imagery is from Isaiah 11:4, 49:2.  A symbol of Christ’s authority to proclaim judgment: ·         It speaks of judgment against apostate Churches – cf. Revelation 2:16-17·         It speaks of judgment against wicked nations – cf. Revelation 19:15.Verse 16 continues, “… Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword …”  Here again is a reference to the judgment of Christ.  His judgment is like a double-edged sword.  When He renders judgments, the King of the Universe speaks like a double-edged sword.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of the Word of God this way in Hebrews 4:12, “The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”7. His Countenance. Verse 16 concludes with, “…  and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”   Again, a reference to the unveiled splendor of Christ’s glory, the glory that was veiled in earth and is now unveiled for eternity.  His face shines like the sun shining in its strength.The vision shocked John to death. But Jesus laid His hand on John and spoke to him the same words He had spoken before, “Do not be afraid!”  This is the message that Jesus says to us when we encounter difficulties. Jesus has overcome death (Revelation 1:18) and He will help you overcome whatever you are going through right now. He holds the keys of death.  The phrase “do not be afraid” appears over 350 times in the Bible!  While Christ’s enemies certainly do have something to fear, Christ’s redeemed people have nothing to fear from the Lord!Turn your eyes upon Jesus and hear the sound of His authority . . . see the splendor of His majesty and . . .3. Rest in the Strength of His Sovereignty (17-20)We have examined . . .What John heard And What John saw, Now watch What John does.Verse 17 tells us, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.”  It is remarkable that even the Apostle John who knew the Lord as a friend fell down before Him in fear and trembling.  In the Bible falling forward in fear and awe is often the response to an encounter with the Lord – cf. Joshua 5:14, Isaiah 6:5, Ezekiel 1:28, Daniel 8:17-18, Exodus 33:20.  Someone said, “Better to be dead at the feet of Jesus than alive anywhere else!”   But of course, John did not die, but fell at Christ’s feet “as dead.”  This reaction is a reminder of what happens when we encounter the holiness of God.  Like Isaiah in Isaiah 6.  He encountered the holiness of God and he said, “Woe is me.  For I am undone.”  Job, argued with God for 37 chapters.  God responds in chapter 38, “Who is this who darkens my counsel?  Brace yourself like a man, Job, because I’m going to ask you some questions now.  Where were you, Job, when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Where were you when I flung the stars in space?”  From chapters 38-41, God asks no less than 71 questions.  Job finally responds in chapter 42: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand.  I repent in dust and ashes!”  John “fell at Christ’s feet as though dead.”   The rest of verse 17 shows us the response of Jesus to John’s feelings, “But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.”  We see the strength of Christ’s sovereignty here.  He rests His right hand upon John, the right hand is a symbol of authority.  He rests it there to convey rest to John.  Then He tells John to stop being afraid, because He is, “the First and the Last.”  Those words convey sovereign rule and reign.  We saw this last time from verse 16 where we are told Christ is “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”  Christ alone is God.  He is the Lord over everything.  He is before all things and He outlasts all things.  He starts and He finishes.In verse 18, Jesus states, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.”  The sense of the last part of the first declaration is, “became dead.”  The Son of God “became dead.”  He says in John 10:17, “No man takes My life from Me.  I willingly lay down of My own accord.”  He “became dead” for us.  He died for us.  Then He says, “I am alive forevermore.”  The crucifix does not tell the end of the story.  The grave is the rest of His story!  He “became dead” and is “alive forevermore.”Verse 18 concludes with, “And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”  Jesus holds the keys to Hades and Death.  “Hades” is a term that refers to the grave.  It refers to the place of all dead, “Sheol” in the Old Testament.  It is like our saying of one who dies, “He has passed on.”  We are not saying where that person has gone.  We are saying he is no longer here.  He has passed on to another realm, could be heaven, could be hell.Death claims the body.  Hades claims the soul.  And Christ has the keys Of Hades and death.  He is the One who holds Our fate in His hands!If we have been saved, He unlocks Hades and death, and we enter into the presence of heaven.  If we are not saved, death claims our body and hell claims our soul.  He is the only way in.  He holds the keys in His hand.  He is the sovereign One.In verse 19 Jesus commands John to, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.”  Here again is our outline for understanding the book.  Then in verse 20 Jesus states, “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”The seven lampstands are the seven churches and the seven stars messengers to the churches.  And where is Christ?  He is in the midst of the seven lampstands (verse13) and He holds the seven angels in His “right hand.”  This speaks of the presence and the protection of Christ.  He is with us.  You need fear nothing.  Rest in the strength of His sovereignty.In verse 19, Jesus then tells John, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which care, and the things which will take place after this.”  Jesus tells John to write the visions he “has seen” (which are in chapters 1), “what is” (which are the letters to the seven churches in chapters two and three), and then “what will take place” which covers chapters 4 through 22.Then in verse 20, Jesus interprets the vision for John. In the book of Revelation, every vision is interpreted.  In this case, Jesus says that this vision was about the churches John would write to.  In this verse, Jesus tells John what the lampstands represents. These lampstands are reminiscent of the vision given to Zechariah.  In Zechariah 4:2, the Bible tells us, “And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’  So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lampstands with seven pipes to the seven lamps.”  In Zechariah 4:10, the angel wraps his conversation with Zechariah with these words, “For who has despised the day of small things?  For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubabel.  That are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”  The “seven lampstands” represent the church.  In Zechariah 4:2–6 the lampstand with its seven lamps is a figurative of speech by which part of the temple furniture stands for the whole temple. This by extension also represents faithful Israel (cf. Zechariah 4:6–9), which is required to live “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). Who are the messengers to the churches? Are they pastors, or angels?Revelation 1:20 informs us that the seven messengers, which is used in Luke 7:24 to speak of John’s followers, of the seven churches. God holds His servants and places them where He wants them to “shine” for Him.  In Daniel 12:3, wise soul winners are compared to shining stars.  These messengers also are designed to encourage the church.  Jesus had told John to write the vision on the scroll to seven specific churches. This section reminds us that Jesus has a word of exhortation and encouragement for His church!Through death into life everlastingHe passed, and we follow Him there;Over us sin no more hath dominion—For more than conquerors we are! Turn your eyes upon Jesus,Look full in His wonderful face,And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,In the light of His glory and grace. This is God’s Word …This is Grace for your Journey …Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”.”