Revelation chapter 7

(S)

God’s People Will Be Preserved

7 Then I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so they did not blow on the earth or the sea, or even on any tree. And I saw another angel coming up from the east, carrying the seal of the living God. And he shouted to those four angels, who had been given power to harm land and sea, “Wait! Don’t harm the land or the sea or the trees until we have placed the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants.”

4 And I heard how many were marked with the seal of God—144,000 were sealed from all the tribes of Israel:

from Judah12,000
from Reuben12,000
from Gad12,000
from Asher12,000
from Naphtali12,000
from Manasseh12,000
from Simeon12,000
from Levi12,000
from Issachar12,000
from Zebulun12,000
from Joseph12,000
from Benjamin12,000

Praise from the Great Crowd

9 After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10 And they were shouting with a great roar,

Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
    and from the Lamb!”

1And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang,

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
    and thanksgiving and honor
and power and strength belong to our God
    forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, “Who are these who are clothed in white? Where did they come from?”

14 And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.”

Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.

15 “That is why they stand in front of God’s throne
    and serve him day and night in his Temple.
And he who sits on the throne
    will give them shelter.
16 They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
    they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
17 For the Lamb on the throne
    will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
    And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

(O)

The numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are variously interpreted in traditional Christianity. Some, taking the numbers in Revelation to be symbolic, believe it represents all of God’s people throughout history in the heavenly Church. One suggestion is that the number comes from 12, a symbol for totality, which is squared and multiplied by one thousand for more emphasis. Others insist the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are literal numbers and representing either descendants of Jacob (also called Israel in the Bible) or others to whom God has given a superior destiny with a distinct role at the time of the end of the world. One understanding is that the 144,000 are recently converted Jewish evangelists sent out to bring sinners to Jesus Christ during the seven year tribulation period.

This last view is the one I would believe to be true, or at least a variation of it. I personally don;t think there is some big, deep meaning to the numbers or the fact that there is some from each tribe. I believe it is exactly as it says. In the tribulation, God will place a seal on 144,000 Jewish believers to go out and preach the Gospel during the worst time in history.

I heard some say something like this ” If God used 12 men to literally change history and start the church, image what 144, 000 could do”. It appears from the first few verses that these people were going to be under God’s protection. Nothing was to be harmed until they were all sealed with God’s seal.

Then in the next scene we see again the throne room of God, and the multitudes of people that died during the tribulation. It doesn’t say they were the martyred ones, but it may include them. Either way, they are now in God’s presence with great jubilation!

(A)

Again, our interpretation may not be correct, but it’s not really that important to understand fully. What we do know is that when we do all eventually come before the throne of God, it is going to be an awesome, joyful time. If we sit back and just imagine the scene described in the chapter, it’s almost breath-taking. And the verses describe a sense of peace for us all. We won’t be hungry or thirsty, we won’t be scorched under the sun, we will be lead springs of life giving water, and every tear will be wiped from our eyes. Soak in that thought and that picture today.

(P)

Pray today for strength to walk through this life well, as we eagerly await the time when we, too, will be able to be in God’s incredible presence

Revelation chapter 6

(S)

The Lamb Breaks the First Six Seals

As I watched, the Lamb broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked up and saw a white horse standing there. Its rider carried a bow, and a crown was placed on his head. He rode out to win many battles and gain the victory.

When the Lamb broke the second seal, I heard the second living being say, “Come!” Then another horse appeared, a red one. Its rider was given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the earth. And there was war and slaughter everywhere.

When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay.[b] And don’t waste[c] the olive oil and wine.”

When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, and his companion was the Grave.[d] These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and disease[e] and wild animals.

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. 10 They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters[f]—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them.

12 I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13 Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places.

15 Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?”

(O)

I think we could read a thousand different commentaries on this chapter, and we’d get a thousand different interpretations of what this could all mean. If we look at the first four seals, the “four horsemen of the Apocolypse”, this all could be stuff that will yet take place, or it could be stuff that has been and still is taking place. I mean, if you think about it, God has won victories, there was and is war, there was and is poverty, and there was and is death, famine and disease. If we consider cancer and the many horrible diseases out there, could it be that it affects a quarter of the population? Maybe.

What is crystal clear is that there will be very hard things to deal with, either now or in the future. And it is through these hard times when we will see the glory of God shine. Whats interesting is in vs 15, people were hiding because they were afraid of God and His wrath. But here is what i think the point of this chapter is: since we are His children, we do not need to fear death or God’s wrath. I can very clearly still remember the fear of death I had before I was saved. Even though I claimed to not believe in God, the fear was very real. We have this incredible comfort and peace in our lives when we give our lives to Christ. Death has no power over us any longer!

(A)

Paul tells us in many of his letters that we are to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials and tribulations. I think this chapter really emphasizes that truth. We are going to see and experience many very hard things, but we need not fear, because God has overcome for us already. We merely need to trust in His plan and lean on His mercy and grace.

(P)

Today, if you are facing something that seems impossible to handle, give it to God. Pray over it, go pray with someone else about it. Give it to Him and allow His joy to fill you as He removes that burden from you.

Revelation chapter 5

(S)

The Lamb Opens the Scroll

Then I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who was sitting on the throne. There was writing on the inside and the outside of the scroll, and it was sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel, who shouted with a loud voice: “Who is worthy to break the seals on this scroll and open it?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll and read it.

4 Then I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll and read it. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which represent the sevenfold Spirit of God that is sent out into every part of the earth. He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song with these words:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
    and break its seals and open it.
For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 And you have caused them to become
    a Kingdom of priests for our God.
    And they will reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. 12 And they sang in a mighty chorus:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered—
    to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and blessing.”

1And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
    belong to the one sitting on the throne
    and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

14 And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.

(O)

We continue to see an incredible scene in the throne room of God. Often, Revelation is thought of as future events book, but I think we are seeing, a revelation, of past, present and future. I believe we are seeing God creating the scroll, sealing it long ago. They couldn’t find someone worthy, that is until Jesus came along and was crucified and defeated death. He was the one who could open the scroll. It’s a very brief overview of the history of the world in just a few sentences.

What an incredible sight and sound it must have been to see and hear the thousands and millions of angels, living beings and elders. What catches my attention is that every creature in heaven and earth and the sea sang praises to the Lord. Does that mean the cattle, the fish, the whales, the cats and dogs, and the people, all singing praises? It seems to indicate that, but whatever it is, every creature was praising God for what he has done and who He is, and anticipating what is to come. What a mind-boggling scene John was witnessing.

(A)

Regardless of what exactly it all means, everything was worshipping God. This is a big deal. Worshipping God is what we were created for. We are made for the pleasure of God; to be His friend, to glorify Him while we are here on earth, to share His might and grace with the world around us. These are the things that pleasure God. Let’s remember today the creator of the universe desires a relationship with you personally. That is His pleasure

(P)

God we bow down and worship you today. Thank you for your incredible creation and your plan of redemption for each one of us. Thank you that the lamb was found worthy and therefore we can be found worthy in your eyes.

Revelation 4

(S)

Worship in Heaven

Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit[b] of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—
    the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), 10 the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

11 “You are worthy, O Lord our God,
    to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
    and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

(O)

John gives us a glimpse into heaven as cherubim, angels, and humans worship before the Lord. The words of their praise song are simple and instructive. In God’s presence, everything becomes crystal clear. These superiorly intelligent creatures understand the most basic, fundamental, foundational truth of all eternity—that they exist to bring God pleasure. Many of us humans still on earth fail to fully grasp that we also exist, were created, to bring God pleasure. There is an important between understanding this truth and finding fulfillment here on earth, no matter what our circumstances are. When we bring God pleasure, we discover pleasure.

Every day, each of us has a choice to make, either to live to bring ourselves pleasure or live to bring God pleasure. If we live to bring ourselves pleasure, our lives will become frustrated, unhappy, unfulfilled, and empty; but the day we chose to bring God pleasure, we will suddenly find fulfillment, satisfaction, and significance. A light bulb goes off in us as we suddenly realize, “Oh yes, Lord, this is what I am created to do and be. I am made to bring You pleasure.” This is our occupation until we move into heaven and the so much more beyond that will follow there.

Most of us have probably moved at one point in our life. When we haul the furniture into the new living space, we are left with a decision; where do we place the furniture? We have a sofa, a love seat, and an arm chair, some end tables, and the television. We can flip through magazines and brows through Pinterest. There is tons of wonderful photos about centering the furniture around a fireplace or a large window or a built in bookcase. All the pictures beautiful and inspiring, but let’s be real. We end up centering our living room around the television. And if house hunting was any indication, most people arrange their living room with the television as the focal point, too. When you use your living room to watch movies or play video games together, it makes sense.

The focal point of heaven makes sense, too. In Revelation chapter 4, John describes the colorful scene of God on His throne receiving worship from His creatures. All attention is on Him. As we focus on Him and His Words and commands, it is for His pleasure and glory. Why? Because He is worthy. He created all things by His will.

(A)

Not only is God worthy of being the center of attention in heaven, but that is true now, too. In what way do we demonstrate that God is the focal point of our life? Is there any way you can order your physical space to show that God is the center of your attention? You could have Scripture displayed on your walls. You can have Bibles strategically placed around your house so you can have quiet time where ever and whenever for a moment. You can have worship music tuned in on your car radio. Or…….?

(P)

“LORD, we look to You this day to walk with us and keep us serving You faithfully in Jesus’ name.”

Revelation 3- The Church of Laodicea

The Message to the Church in Laodicea

14 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning[e] of God’s new creation:

15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.

20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

22 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

(O)

Some Background on the City of Laodicea

Laodicea lies 40 miles southeast from Philadelphia in the Lycus Valley. It was part of a long trade route that included the four previous cities to the north. Both Laodicea and Philadelphia served as gateways to the eastern region of Phrygia and as ambassadors for Greek culture. While Philadelphia was successful in this regard, Laodicea failed to do this as evidenced by the continued usage of the native language in their area instead of Greek.

Paul’s Interaction with the Church

Laodicea was the last of the seven cities to which John wrote this book. One of its sister cities included Colossae, to which Paul wrote a letter during his first Roman imprisonment. In Colossians, we discover that he also wrote a letter to Laodicea. He asked that these two cities exchange their letters and read them in their respective churches (Col 4:16). This means that the Laodicean church had the book of Colossians read to them and were familiar with its teaching. Paul’s Laodicean letter, however, is lost to history, although some speculate that this letter and the book of Ephesians are the same.

Some Unique Geography

From a military standpoint, Laodicea had an excellent advantage as a city nestled in the mountains. However, its greatest weakness was its dependence on an outsourced water supply. The city was not established with a sufficient water supply for a large city. As such, they needed water transported in through aqueducts from a spring six miles away. This presented a problem not only because of the potential for the spring to dry up but also because an enemy could discover the underground aqueducts and cut off their supply.

A Prosperous Economy

Laodicea was known in the region for its economic prosperity, especially its bustling wool industry. The sheep who grazed in the fertile Lycus Valley produced beautiful black wool that rivaled its competitors from other cities. Laodicea enjoyed an increasingly wealthy status in the area. Even after suffering from a devastating earthquake, the city picked itself back up without the help of the empire. Many of the wealthy citizens contributed their resources to rebuilding efforts, even in neighboring cities.

One of the scariest verses in the bible in my opinion, vs. 16. What does Jesus mean to be lukewarm? I believe it refers to another big issue in the North American church- apathy. We know the Lord, we understand salvation, but yet we are lazy with our faith, or maybe we have fallen into a spiritual rut. In Laodicea, we find a church that struggled to be productive for the Lord. The problem was they did not even know it. Have you ever had a problem that you did not know about until someone told you? If you have taken a public speaking class, you may have experienced this. In this class, you give speeches of various kinds to your professor and fellows students. The audience gets to critique you on your communication skills. You may find out about your nervous ticks, random hand gestures, and verbal clutter. You would not know about these tendencies until someone told you. Jesus does the same thing for the Laodicean church. Unaware of their spiritual condition, the church is about to get a shocking surprise from their Lord. 

After Christ summarizes all the spiritual challenges facing this congregation, he shows them the practical step they needed to take. Obviously, they did not need to go out and buy gold, white robes, and eye ointment. He uses these images to draw them to the real answer – be zealous and repent.

(A)

This church’s main problem was spiritual blindness; they didn’t know about their poor spiritual condition. We can avoid this problem through regular self-examination. Paul tells us to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). We should examine the state of our spiritual growth as well. We cannot assume that just because we have salvation that it will tend to itself. It needs regular sharpening and attention to maintain maximum potential. Carefully examine your prayer life, the study of Scripture, your love for the saints, and your gospel witness. These are good indicators of spiritual growth. If one of them is lacking, give attention to it by resolving to obey the Lord in that area.

Revelation 3- the Church of Philadelphia

(S)

The Message to the Church in Philadelphia

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.

This is the message from the one who is holy and true,
    the one who has the key of David.
What he opens, no one can close;
    and what he closes, no one can open:[c]

8 “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.

10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon.[d] Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

13 Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

(O)

Jesus is clearly quite happy with this church. He says they have little strength, but they remained true to Christ. He even encouraged them by telling them He was going to fight for them and protect them.

let me share a devo from Our Daily Bread.

A cowboy friend of mine who grew up on a ranch in Texas has a number of colorful sayings. One of my favorites is “It don’t take much water to make good coffee.” And when someone ropes a steer too big to handle or is in some kind of trouble, my friend will shout, “Hold everything you’ve got!” meaning “Help is on the way! Don’t let go!”

In the book of Revelation we find letters to “the seven churches in the province of Asia” (chs. 2–3). These messages from God are filled with encouragement, rebuke, and challenge, and they speak to us today just as they did to the first-century recipients.

Twice in these letters we find the phrase, “Hold on to what you have.” The Lord told the church at Thyatira, “Hold on to what you have until I come” (2:25). And to the church in Philadelphia He said, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11). In the midst of great trials and opposition, these believers clung to God’s promises and persevered in faith.

(A)

When our circumstances are harsh and sorrows outnumber joys, Jesus shouts to us, “Hold everything you’ve got! Help is on the way!” And with that promise, we can hold on in faith and rejoice.

(P)

Pray for the strength and endurance to face this day and stay focused on Jesus.

Have a great weekend!!

Revelation chapter 3 – The Church of Sardis

(S)

The Message to the Church in Sardis

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:

“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

“Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

(O)

The city of Sardis was built around B.C. 500 and was located on a narrow plateau fifteen hundred feet above sea level, about thirty-five miles southeast of Thyatira. Because the city was built in a mountainous region it was a natural citadel. It was the capital of the Lydian Empire and was still an important city during the Roman Empire. Sardis had become famous for their abilities in arts and crafts. They made lavish use of the local brightly colored and semi-precious stones such as fire opal and banded agate.

The Sardians also had a process in which they used blue chalcedony that they mined nearby. Their jewlry was reknown throughout the empire. Some historians claim that Sardis was the first city to mint coinage using the precious metals; gold and silver. The nearby mountains were dotted with gold mines thus making the city the monetary capital of the region. The patron deity, named Cybele, was believed to possess the power and ability of restoring the dead back to life. The Romans built a temple for the goddess Artemis and a large bath-gymnasium complex. An earthquake hit the city in A.D. 17, causing tremendous damage.

According to Matthew Henry, the church in Sardis was founded by the Apostle John. Other people think the church may have been started by the Apostle Paul, and another line line of thinking is it was started by one of his disciples. Unfortunately there is no recorded data as to when the church was started or by whom. What matters is that the church was real and that it had a real problem.

The church had a name, and a reputation for being alive; but that name and reputation were with the world. Their name and reputation did not come from God. They were so busy doing things and trying to entertain and please the world that they forgot what the church is all about. They had stopped doing their works and deeds for God. In all their activity they were too busy to notice that the church had died. They were too busy trying to convince each other that they were “Spiritual” to notice that they were dead.

All the outward manifestations of the Spirit meant nothing. All the works and deeds meant nothing. All the church activity was worthless. Why? It is because the church is really dead. The church is going through the motions, but they are not measuring up to God’s standard of Holiness. What looked alive and active to man was dead as far as God was concerned. They thought were very active for the Lord, but they were not intimate with the Lord. God looks at the heart and judges our motives. He watches to see why we do what we do.

This church is not what it appears to be. They probably had a form of godliness without any power. Perhaps spiritual manifestations were occurring, but they were not from God. Perhaps the ice cream social was more important than the altar call. I imagine that the preaching was no longer focused on God and repentance, but had become watered down into a social gospel. Perhaps a lot of people attended the church because the message did not offend them. Perhaps (dare I use the word) sin was never mentioned. The church may have had a good reputation in the city, but God was not impressed.

(A)

Again, another very real danger for any church. We can be so focused on “loving” everyone, we water down the truth of the Word so as to not offend or scare someone away. The fact is the truth will be tough to swallow sometimes, it will cause us to face our sins, it will cause us to make choices, hard choices. Jesus is saying to the church of Sardis “WAKE UP”!! Check your hearts and motives. Are we here to be entertained or to really worship? Tough questions only we can answer for ourselves.

(P)

Lord, check my heart and motives. Convict me where I am sleeping. In Jesus name, amen.

Revelation chapter 2- the church of Thyatira

(S)

The Message to the Church in Thyatira

18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:

19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.

20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.

22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

24 “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,

To them I will give authority over all the nations.
27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod
    and smash them like clay pots.

28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

2“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

(O)

A few things about Thyatira are very important. First, it was the headquarters for many ancient guilds: the potters, tanners, weavers, robe makers and dyers guilds. It was actually the center of the dyeing industry (no pun intended). Remember Lydia, the seller of purple, in Philippi? She became Paul’s first convert in Europe. Acts 16:14 tells us that Lydia was from Thyatira. Apollo, the sun god, was primarily worshiped here.

It sounds pretty significant, but actually, it was the smallest and most unimportant city Jesus spoke to. The elder Pliny dismissed Thyatira with the almost contemptuous phrase, “Thyatira and other unimportant cities.” It is interesting that this is seemingly the most insignificant church of all the seven churches, but Jesus had the most to say to them.

It’s very clear what issue Jesus had with this church. They were “permitting” (some versions say “tolerating”) very immoral, sinful teaching to take place within the church. This is very similar to the church of Pergamum, where they tolerated others to follow and practice false teaching, where as here they took it one step further and allowing these false teaching to be taught and letting people get led astray within the church body.

As with many of the churches there are things that the church at Thyatira is doing well, but serious issues about which it needs to repent. What’s going well is their faith, love, their service, and perseverance. That’s a pretty good list for any church! What’s more, they are now doing more than they did at first – that is, they are also growing spiritually too. All sounds pretty good, you would think. But, no, there is a major issue, and it shows how it is possible for Christians (and churches) to lead a life of good intentions, and on the other hand, to be led in a dangerous direction. There was a false teaching at Thyatira (“that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet”) and for some reason the Christians were putting up with the false teaching. What is more – as so often – the false teaching was leading to false living. Sexual immorality was rife within the church. Lest we think the combination of the two (false teaching and sexual immorality) is unimaginable in the contemporary church, you only need to look around at the wider cultural scene and observe how a false teaching about sexuality is impregnating the church and giving birth to all sorts of ungodly ideas and behavior.

(A)

The consequence of following this false teaching and false living will be terrible: you reap what you sow. For those who reject “Jezebel” – Jesus simply says to “hold on to what you have until I come.” There is no other burden laid upon the faithful other than to remain faithful until Christ returns. That is our great charge and our great responsibility. And to those who are faithful, we will inherit a portion of Christ’s authority over even the nations. Let’s keep looking up and focused on Christ!

(P)

Lord help us to stay strong and focused on you, even when the world is pressuring us all to turn in the wrong direction. amen.

Revelation chapter 2- the church of Pergamum

(S)

The Message to the Church in Pergamum

12 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:

13 “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.

14 “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. 15 In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. 16 Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

(O)

Some Background on the City of Pergamos

Smyrna was about 55 mi. north of Smyrna and 20 mi. inland from the Aegean Sea. It was a large and influential city that dominated the countryside in that region and was the capital city of the province in that area.

Statues, shrines, and altars to pagan gods were situated throughout the city. Zeus, Athena, Dionysos, and Asklepios. Zeus and Athena were Greek gods that reflected the engrained influence of the Greek Empire in that region. They believed Zeus, the god of sky and thunder, to be the chief god and he was also known for an immoral and licentious lifestyle. Athena was a female goddess associated with wisdom and military victory.

Dionysos and Asklepios were local, regional gods. They considered Dionysos the god of the royal family and associated him with a bull. They called Asklepios the god of healing and viewed him as a snake. Sick people traveled the world to visit the Asklepios Temple, where they worshiped by feeding a live snake. Then they would spend the night in the  darkened temple inhabited by nonpoisonous snakes. If a snake touched a worshiper at night, they believed that Asklepios himself had touched them and they would be healed.

The city also housed a historic temple that honored both Caesar Augustus and the goddess Roma. Shortly after this letter was written, they erected a second temple to Emperor Trajan. In other cities of this region, like at Smyrna, citizens were at risk once a year if they refused to burn incense to Caesar. At Pergamos, this risk existed daily.

The church of Pergamos was in an area of tremendous pressure to conform to the Roman way of life. Jesus praised them for not turning away from Him, even during heavy persecution. However, the issue Jesus had was that they were beginning to compromise by allowing those who wished to indulge in the worldly lifestyle, which would have consisted primarily of idol worship and sexual immorality. The believers would see these people clearly violate the very clear commands about sin, and say nothing so as to not cause a stir. This creates quite a dangerous situation for those in the church. It is very easy to fall into that type of mindset as well, and how easy would the next generation fall away with this type of thinking being allowed right in their own church. How could friends and fellow Christians allow such a thing to happen?

(A)

I once knew a guy that was depressed and was doing a bit of drugs, alcohol, and basically hanging with the wrong crowd. He was generally a pretty quiet person, didn’t cause alot of trouble, but you could see this was a terrible path he was headed down. His grandparents took him in, and being Christians, they eventually confronted him on this. the result was this poor guy absolutely snapping. He threatened to kill himself, the police got involved, and he was taken to a safe place to receive treatment. During this time, he gave his life to the Lord and started on a new journey. This would not have happened had someone not intervened.

The reality is, Pergamos represents probably one of the biggest issues in the North American church still today. To solve this issue would involve two things that no one likes to hear or talk about; accountability and discipline. Sadly, it is uncommon for someone to confront another in the church about their particular behavior. We don’t want to rock the boat, hurt someone’s feelings or risk losing a friendship. Or we say it’s not my job to do that. And we certainly don’t like to be confronted. What Jesus is essentially saying to this church is that it’s time to confront these people. As a church, we are expected to speak the truth into these people. And who or what is the church? That is you and I. Either they will accept it and repent, or they will be offended and leave. What we must ask ourselves is “what is more important, the person to be your friend, or to turn them from sin?”

We must be bold for Christ, and not stay quiet when someone is clearly on the wrong path. This must be done seasoned with love and mercy and grace, but yet standing firm.

(P)

Lord help us to not turn a blind eye to a brother or sister walking down the wrong path. Give me courage and love to speak truth to them. In Jesus name, amen.

Revelation chapter 2- the church of Smyrna

The Message to the Church in Smyrna

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the one who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive:

“I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan. 10 Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.

11 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.

(O)

Let’s take a quick look at the city of Smyrna

Some Background on the City of Smyrna

Smyrna was about 35-40 mi. north of Ephesus and was another prominent city in Asia Minor that stood out for remarkable reasons:

Smyrna was a commercial center.

It was situated at a crucial, northwestern junction on the road that served as the primary land route towards other inland cities. It was also situated next to a long harbor off the Aegean Sea. The harbor’s especially deep waters were an ideal landing spot for large boats needing to dock and transfer cargo. All major trade of the Hermus River Valley flowed through the markets and harbor of Smyrna, forming a bustling commercial center.

Smyrna was a cultural center.

People admired Smyrna’s beauty. A variety of famous temples to Greek and Roman gods lined a beautiful, winding roadway called the “Street of Gold” and its other streets were paved and well-maintained. A cluster of other stately buildings was called “the Crown of Smyrna” and an elevated acropolis on Mount Pagos all supported the city’s reputation as an attractive, desirable destination. Beautiful groves of trees lined the streets of outer areas in the city.

Smyrna boasted other cultural benefits, including its claim as the birthplace and childhood stomping grounds of Homer, the infamous author of the Iliad and Odyssey. Records indicate that science and medical advancements also flourished here. In fact, some believed Smyrna to be the ideal city on earth.[1]

Smyrna was a civic center.

Its origins trace back before 1000 BC as a Greek settlement, but it’s significance increased as it aligned with the rising Roman Empire. Because of this early allegiance in contrast to other Greek counterparts in the region, Rome chose Smyrna as the coveted site for a shrine commemorating that region’s eventual alliance with Tiberius Caesar. These factors encouraged civic pride among its residents, who prided themselves in their longstanding loyalty to Rome and wore their worship of Caesar as a badge of honor.

An earthquake leveled this city in AD 177, but the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius rebuilt it. Of the seven cities mentioned in Rev 2-3, only Smyrna remains today. We call it Izmir and it hosts approx. 200,000 people residents.

What was the cause for their oppression and anxiety in Smyrna? Wasn’t this a wonderful place to live? Well, it was – just not for Christians. Though Smyrna was a wealthy financial hub, those who followed Christ found it difficult to benefit from this opportunity. Rather than increase their wealth, they fell behind financially. The word poverty describes being behind financially due to a severe shortage of resources. Despite this unfortunate disadvantage, Christ reminded them that though they were poor according to material and monetary norms, they remained wealthy in an eternal and spiritual sense. Christ had already taught this principle during his earthly ministry when he said, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Their struggles were caused by slander.

What was the cause for their poverty? Christ blamed their financial struggles on the “blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not”. Historical records show that Smyrna hosted a sizable Jewish population. It seems that many of these Jews remained unsaved and valued their favorable position with Rome. As a result, they slandered the reputation of the Christians in this city (the word blasphemy means slander). Christ abhorred this activity so strongly that he described not just as unbelieving Jews, but as “the synagogue of Satan”. This reminds us of told the Pharisees, during his earthly ministry, that they were “of your father the devil”.

What did this slander entail? Though Christ doesn’t give an exact answer, history tells us that Jewish people accused Christians of various things to Roman authorities. They did this to distance themselves from Christians and secure more favorable treatment from Rome. They also did this because they rejected Christ as God and Savior and resented the believers for spreading this message. Common points of slander included:

  • Cannibalism: due to misunderstandings about the Lord’s Table
  • Immorality: due to misunderstandings about their love feasts
  • Divisiveness: due to hatred that developed when family members converted
  • Atheism: due to their rejection of pagan gods
  • Arson: due to their frequent mention of fire (i.e., the Spirit, judgment, etc.)
  • Treason: due to their rejection of Caesar as a god

So basically, the Jews who were faithful to the Lord were going to suffer. It is apparant no one quite knows what the “10 days” exactly means, however, the best explanation I saw was that there was 10 more persecuting emperors that were to follow from this time. The would persecute all Christians in all the Roman world, not just Smyrna, so it doesn’t make 100% sense. The bottom line is the 10 days would represent a long period of time.

Jesus was simply encouraging them to stay strong. They were going to suffer for following Him. He had no critique of how they worshipped and conducted themselves, just simply be ready for what is coming.

(A)

It is a good encouragement for all of us. Be ready for what’s coming. We are all going to face opposition to our faith, definitely not to the extreme that was happening under Roman rule, but we will face it in different ways. Stay strong, stay focused on Christ. The prize at the end is all worth it!!