Chapter 03 what the spirit says to the churches (part 1)
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Chapter 03 what the spirit says to the churches (part 1) Document Transcript

  • 1. Amen! Hallelujah! - A study of the Book of Revelation Lesson 3 What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) Text: Revelation 1:9-2:29 Date: March 18, 2007 Authored By: Dale Wells Palm Desert Church of Christ
  • 2. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST VISION Rev 1:9-11 WEB I John, your brother and partner with you in • oppression, kingdom, and perseverance in Christ Jesus, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of God's Word and the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a trumpet saying, "What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." John begins by stating his right to speak. • First, he is their brother in Christ. They share three areas of fellowship. THE FIRST IS "OPPRESSION" He uses the Greek thlipsei. • The word described the pressure exerted on a kernel of wheat to break the hull, so the inside of the grain could be made into flour for use in bread. It was also used to describe the trampling of grapes in order to extract their juice. The idea of this pressure is not that it is just "oppression", "tribulation" or "suffering" for the sake of itself – but that it is the suffering that brings its objects closer to their intended use. DIFFICULTIES CAN BE BENEFICIAL • James insists that in order to develop perseverance, we must have difficulties that require us to persevere. Jam 1:2-4 WEB Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith Page 2
  • 3. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) produces patience. Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Perseverance doesn't develop in a vacuum. So, we ought to give thanks for the difficulties that enable us to develop perseverance. • Paul makes a similar point about hope. Rom 5:1-5 WEB … we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering works perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope: … Hope doesn't develop in a vacuum, either. Hope is the outgrowth of character, which is the result of perseverance, which is the response to suffering. So, we should rejoice in suffering, because it makes us better people and it gives us hope for the future! THE SECOND AREA OF FELLOWSHIP WAS THE “KINGDOM” • This translates the Greek basileia. The kingdom refers to the spiritual realm in which God rules and in which Christians live. Don’t forget – even for a moment - that we are the kingdom of God! John told his readers as much just a few verses earlier: Rev 1:6 WEB... [H]e made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. THE THIRD AREA OF FELLOWSHIP WAS "PERSEVERANCE" This is the Greek word hypomone. It is one of two words for • “patience” in the Greek New Testament. The other is makrothymia, sometimes translated “long-suffering”. Makrothymia is the patience that puts up with difficult people or circumstances – when it doesn’t have to! We’ve all had people who have “tried our patience”. Page 3
  • 4. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) Hypomone is "perseverance". It is “stick-to-it-iveness”. It is an active • patience, not a passive folding of the hands.. FOR EXAMPLE, JAMES REMINDS US OF THE “PATIENCE” OF JOB Jam 5:10-11 WEB Behold, we call them blessed who endured. You • have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the Lord in the outcome, and how the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. In the OT Job defends his own righteousness and challenges God’s • sense of “fair play”. He does this with such vehemence that the Lord finally tells him that he’s had enough! That’s hardly our concept of patience – but it is a good description of the tenacity at the heart of hypomone. JOHN HAS MORE IN COMMON WITH THOSE FIRST READERS THAN THEY CAN IMAGINE He has suffered more than most of them could imagine. He is a • prisoner on the island of Patmos – and he is there because of his preaching. Patmos is an island 10 miles long, 5 miles wide & 40 miles off the coast. Our generation called Alcatraz “The Rock”. But a person could escape from Alcatraz before he could ever think of escaping from Patmos. It was really “The Rock” of the First Century. He is worshipping, as best he can, on the Lord's Day when he • receives his first vision. THE HIGH PRIEST AMONG THE LAMPSTANDS (1:12-20) REV 1:12-20 WEB I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw • seven golden lampstands. And among the lampstands was one like a son of man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of Page 4
  • 5. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) fire. His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters. He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest. When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me, saying, "Don't be afraid. I am the first and the last, and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Hades. Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter; 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 assemblies. The seven lampstands are seven assemblies. JOHN LOOKS TO SEE WHO’S TALKING, AND THEN HE TELLS US WHAT HE SEES The things John sees and hears in this first vision tell a great deal • about the one whom he sees. In order to get a good understanding of the visions in the Book of • Revelation, it is important that you get the overall picture before you focus on the details. If you look too closely at the details, without getting the picture first, you could easily be like the person who “can’t see the forest for the trees”. THE OVERALL PICTURE IS OF GOD'S MESSENGER, FROM THE BOOK OF DANIEL Daniel was visited by a messenger from God. • Dan 10:5-6 WEB I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and, behold, a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as flaming torches, and his arms and his feet like burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. Page 5
  • 6. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) Daniel is given a glimpse of future events from the Persian Empire, through the death of Alexander the Great and the infighting among his generals and their descendants. The vision focuses on one particularly sinister character, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried to destroy the Jews, and on the revolt against him by Judas Maccabaeus, and his followers. JOHN'S DESCRIPTION IS ALMOST IDENTICAL TO THE DIVINE MESSENGER IN DANIEL 10 Both are girded with gold; both have blazing eyes; both have brass • feet. The voices are described similarly, as a multitude, or many waters. A comparison of the passages leads us to see that the vision in Revelation 1 is rooted in the vision in Daniel 10. So, it is clear that this is a messenger from God, not unlike the • messenger God sent to Daniel. But some of the details are different, and it is those details that help us sort out who this individual actually is. FIRST, THERE IS THE LOCATION AND ATTIRE OF THE INDIVIDUAL John sees an individual, in a robe, reaching down to his feet and • with a gold sash, walking among lampstands. To anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the Old Testament, this suggests that it is a vision of the High Priest in the Holy Place within the tabernacle or temple, tending to the lamps, as a part of his responsibilities. Exo 27:20-21 WEB "You shall command the children of Israel, that they bring to you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before Yahweh: it shall be a statute forever throughout their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel. WHO IS THIS PRIEST? Page 6
  • 7. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) He is "one like a son of man". • Dan 7:13-14 WEB I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7 depicts God on the throne ready to judge. • Into his presence comes "one like a son of man", who is given authority, glory, power, and an everlasting dominion. The Jews saw this as the coming Messiah. We know it is Jesus. DANIEL 7:13 IS THE MOST OFTEN QUOTED VERSE FROM DANIEL IN THE NT • In Daniel's vision, the "one like a son of man" appears before God in the form of a human being, but he is clearly of heavenly origin. He comes to his coronation accompanied by the clouds of the sky. In the gospels, Jesus repeatedly referred to himself as "the Son of Man" and emphasized his return to earth accompanied by "clouds". JESUS USED DANIEL 7:13 AS THE TEXT FOR HIS COMING IN JUDGMENT • Mat 24:29-30 WEB But immediately after the oppression of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. HIS HEARERS UNDERSTOOD THAT HE WAS CLAIMING TO BE DANIEL'S Page 7
  • 8. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) "SON OF MAN" Mat 26:63b-65 WEB The high priest answered him, "I adjure you by • the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you, henceforth you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky." Then the high priest tore his clothing, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Behold, now you have heard his blasphemy. THE NT PICKS UP THE THEME OF JESUS COMING IN THE CLOUDS Act 1:9-11 WEB When he had said these things, as they were • looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, who also said, "You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky." Rev 1:7 WEB Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye • will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen. OTHER PARTS OF THE DESCRIPTION SHOW THAT JOHN IS IN THE PRESENCE OF DEITY For example, he says of the "one like a son of man" that "his head • and his hair were white as white wool, like snow." This is a part of Daniel's description of God, himself, on the throne: Dan 7:9 WEB I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was • ancient of days sat: his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels of it burning fire. HIS VOICE IS "LIKE THE VOICE OF MANY WATERS" - A DESCRIPTION FROM Page 8
  • 9. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) EZEKIEL • Eze 1:24 WEB When they went, I heard the noise of their wings like the noise of great waters, like the voice of the Almighty, a noise of tumult like the noise of a host: when they stood, they let down their wings. • Eze 43:2 WEB Behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shined with his glory. HE HAS "A SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD" COMING OUT OF HIS MOUTH This is from the Messiah's introduction in Isaiah 49. • Isa 49:1-3 WEB Listen, isles, to me; and listen, you peoples, from • far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name: and he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand has he hid me: and he has made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he kept me close: and he said to me, You are my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified. HERE, HE IS THE HIGH PRIEST; LATER HE WILL BE THE DIVINE WARRIOR Rev 19:11-16 WEB I saw the heaven opened, and behold, a white • horse, and he who sat on it is called Faithful and True. In righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has names written and a name written which no one knows but he himself. He is clothed in a garment sprinkled with blood. His name is called "The Word of God." … Out of his mouth proceeds a sharp, double-edged sword, that with it he should strike the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron. He treads the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. He has on his garment and on his thigh a name written, "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." IT IS CLEAR THAT GOD HAS SENT A HERALD TO JOHN AS HE DID TO Page 9
  • 10. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) DANIEL Unlike the unidentified messenger to Daniel, there are enough • details for us to identify John's messenger. It is our high priest! Heb 4:14 WEB Having then a great high priest, who has passed • through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our confession. When John saw him he fell at his feet as dead. • That was the way Moses, Isaiah & Ezekiel reacted when they found themselves in the presence of God! "THE FIRST AND THE LAST" IS ANOTHER CLEAR CLAIM TO BE GOD It comes right out of the mouth of Yahweh in the Old Testament. • Isa 44:6 WEB Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel, and his • Redeemer, Yahweh of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God. Isa 48:12 WEB Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am • he; I am the first, I also am the last. THIS IS NONE OTHER THAN JESUS, OUR HIGH PRIEST, AND HE CLAIMS TO BE GOD! The high priest is walking among lampstands, holding stars in his • hand. Think of the stars as flames. Imagine he is lighting the lamps by placing a flame on each lamp as he comes to it. That’s not far-fetched, because the lamps are the churches and the stars are the angels (messengers) of the churches. So, when the High Priest places a star on each lampstand, he is passing his message to the church through the messenger of that particular church. WHAT CHRIST THINKS OF THE CHURCHES The high priest is on an inspection tour within the tabernacle. • Page 10
  • 11. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) Specifically, he is tending the lampstands, which represent the churches. As he progresses from lampstand to lampstand and lights them, he reports on what he finds. Then, as now, each congregation existed in its own peculiar • community, and each community presented its own different culture & specific challenges. In that respect, the churches in the First Century were not unlike churches today. EPHESUS REV 2:1-7 WEB • To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write: "He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks among of the seven golden lampstands says these things: "I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can't tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. You have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God. THE CITY Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and a great • commercial center. It was three miles from the sea, on the banks of the navigable river Cayster. There is no modern city on the ancient site, but it is located not too far from the modern city of Kusadasi, Turkey. At the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation, though, the city • Page 11
  • 12. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) had a population of close to 500,000. It was the leading seaport on the continent, and was the beginning of all the major trade routes through Asia Minor. It was for that reason that Christianity spread rapidly through the area, once the church had been planted in Ephesus. LUKE TELLS ABOUT PAUL'S WORK IN EPHESUS AND THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL Act 19:8-10 WEB He entered into the synagogue, and spoke boldly • for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. EPHESUS HAD BEEN MADE A FREE CITY BY THE ROMAN GOVERNMENT IN 98 BC That was almost two centuries before the Book of Revelation was • written. Thus, anyone born in the city of Ephesus was a Roman citizen, • simply by virtue of his birthplace. This was an important thing in the First Century • You may remember the exchange between Paul and the • commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem, in which the commander boasted that he had purchased his citizenship, while Paul maintained that he was born a citizen. Act 22:28 WEB The commanding officer answered, "I bought my citizenship for a great price." Paul said, "But I was born a Roman." Page 12
  • 13. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) PAUL WAS A CITIZEN OF ROME BECAUSE HE WAS BORN IN ANOTHER FREE CITY • That is why Luke records: Act 21:39 WEB But Paul said, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city. I beg you, allow me to speak to the people." • Like Tarsus, Ephesus was a free city. Anyone born there was automatically a Roman citizen. EPHESUS WAS AS IMPORTANT TO RELIGION AS IT WAS TO COMMERCE It was the center of worship of Artemis (Diana). Her temple was one • of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Alexander the Great wanted to have his name carved on one of the 127 pillars, but the Ephesians refused. He offered them all the plunder of his eastern campaign, but they told him, "If we put the name of another god on her temple, it will upset her." The most powerful man in the world couldn't buy the privilege of having his name carved on a pillar of the idol's temple. YOU MAY REMEMBER THE RIOT IN EPHESUS Act 19:23-41 WEB … Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver • shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen, whom he gathered together, … and said, "Sirs, you know that by this business we have our wealth. You see and hear, that not at Ephesus alone, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul has persuaded … many people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands. Not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be counted as nothing, and her majesty destroyed …." When they heard this they were filled with anger, and cried out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" THE RIOT INVOLVED THE ENTIRE POPULACE AND TOOK PLACE IN THE Page 13
  • 14. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) LARGEST VENUE The whole city was filled with confusion, and they rushed with one • accord into the theater, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus ... When Paul wanted to enter in to the people, the disciples didn't allow him ... Some therefore cried one thing, and some another, for the assembly was in confusion. Most of them didn't know why they had come together. They brought Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. Alexander beckoned with his hand, and would have made a defense to the people. But when they perceived that he was a Jew, all with one voice for a time of about two hours cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" THE RIOT WAS ONLY QUELLED WHEN THE MAYOR INTERVENED When the town clerk had quieted the multitude, he said, "You men • of Ephesus, what man is there who doesn't know that the city of the Ephesians is temple-keeper of the great goddess Artemis, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? Seeing then that these things can't be denied, you ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rash. … If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a matter against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them press charges against one another. But if you seek anything about other matters, it will be settled in the regular assembly. For … we are in danger of being accused concerning this day's riot, there being no cause .... THE RIOT TURNED ON CONFLICT BETWEEN MONOTHEISM AND POLYTHEISM • The real problem, if you read the text closely, was that Paul's preaching was cutting into the sales of Artemis paraphernalia, and the folks who manufactured and sold Artemis souvenirs were losing money. Then, as now, many of the conflicts that appear to be cloaked in "principle" are merely matters of economics. THE MESSENGER Page 14
  • 15. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) The messenger is the one John saw in Rev 1:9-20. In nearly every • letter, the messenger singles out one or two aspects of John’s description. Here, he identifies the messenger as the one who “holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands”. We’ve surmised that the messenger is the high priest, and the high priest is Jesus. The lampstands are the churches and the stars are their messengers. The one who trims the lamps now reports on their condition. THE MESSAGE We know more about the church in Ephesus than any of the other • six. In some respects, we know more about the Ephesian church than any other church in the New Testament. The church began with the work of Priscilla & Aquila in Acts 18. The church had heard the preaching of Apollos, Paul & Timothy. It had received one letter from Paul & two letters to Timothy, while he was preaching there. When Paul was en route to Jerusalem, he made a special stop, so he could spend a little time with the elders from the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17- 38). According to tradition, John, himself, spent his last years in Ephesus, toward the end of the First Century. THE CHURCH BEGAN WITH UNSURPASSED ZEAL The Christians set a bonfire in the city and burned the books and • relics of their former practices. Act 19:19 WEB Many of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. They counted the price of them, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. By Revelation 2, the church has lost its fervor. • It is working hard and persevering. Its teaching is healthy and it Page 15
  • 16. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) does not put up with doctrinal error. It even hates the practice of compromise, as we'll see later, when we come across the Nicolaitans, again. Psa 139:21 WEB Yahweh, don't I hate those who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? THE CHURCH IS DOCTRINALLY CORRECT, BUT SPIRITUALLY DESTITUTE • They are straight as a gun barrel, doctrinally, but just as empty, spiritually! The honeymoon is over & its very existence is in danger. It needs to recapture the zeal it once had – OR ELSE! If it doesn't repent, Jesus threatens to eliminate it, entirely! • Today there is no church in Ephesus. Even the city lies in ruins. THE PROMISE • As in each of the letters, there is a promise to the overcomers – those who are faithful to the end. In this letter, the overcomers are promised “I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.” THE BIBLE BEGINS WITH MAN IN FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD AT THE TREE OF LIFE • Gen 2:8-9 WEB Yahweh God planted a garden eastward, in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground Yahweh God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. WHEN MAN SINNED, GOD BANISHED HIM FROM ACCESS TO THE TREE OF LIFE Gen 3:22-24 WEB Yahweh God said, "Behold, the man has become • like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he put forth his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever..." Therefore Yahweh God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to Page 16
  • 17. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed Cherubs at the east of the garden of Eden, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. HERE, JESUS PROMISES THE OVERCOMERS A BITE OF THE TREE OF LIFE Rev 22:1-5 WEB He showed me a river of water of life, clear as • crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. HE WHO HAS AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAYS TO THE ASSEMBLIES • This is a reminder that the letter, though directed to a specific congregation, is something that carries a message to other churches, and other Christians, who might be in similar circumstances. It also is a reminder that the Book of Revelation was intended, from the first, to be understood – and acted upon – by its first readers, just as Jesus said in Revelation 1:3. SMYRNA REV 2:8-11 WEB • "To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: "The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things: "I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the Page 17
  • 18. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won't be harmed by the second death. THE CITY Smyrna – modern Izmir, Turkey – was 35 miles north of Ephesus. It • was also a harbor city of about 200,000, with a wealthy academic community. Smyrna built the second Asian temple to Tiberius. It had worshipped • the deity of Rome since 195 BC. Smyrna was famous for the majesty of its buildings. • Apollonius referred to her "crown of porticoes," beautiful buildings that ringed the summit of Mt. Pagos like a diadem. This may have been the image behind Jesus' promise of a "crown of life". It had a “street of gold” with temples at each end. • That is likely the image Jesus used later when he described "streets of gold" in the New Jerusalem. THE MESSENGER The messenger identifies himself as “The first and the last, who was • dead, and has come to life.” Those words, "the first and the last" are an expression of deity that comes directly out of the OT. Isa 44:6 WEB Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel, and his • Redeemer, Yahweh of Hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God. Isa 48:12 WEB Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am • he; I am the first, I also am the last. IT IS ALSO HE "WHO WAS DEAD, AND HAS COME TO LIFE" Page 18
  • 19. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) These words will be particularly meaningful to the readers in • Smyrna. They are about to face persecution, and that persecution may lead to death, at the hands of the Jewish community. The messenger is one who has faced the same experience from the Jews in Jerusalem. They killed him, but he came to life again. These Christians will be encouraged to “be faithful to death,” because the one who is speaking to them has himself gone through death, and come out alive! THE MESSAGE • The city of Smyrna had a large Jewish community. The church was about to undergo intense persecution from Jews. The good news was that the persecution would only last a short time - ten days. The bad news was that the persecution would end in death! TEN IS THE NUMBER THAT SIGNIFIES WHEN SOMEONE SAYS "ENOUGH!" For example, it after Laban changed his wages ten times that Jacob • said "Enough!" and left his employ. Gen 31:7 WEB Your father has deceived me, and changed my • wages ten times, but God didn't allow him to hurt me. Also, Job complained that his friends had accused him ten times • when he said "Enough!" and began his self-defense. Job 19:3 WEB You have reproached me ten times. You aren't • ashamed that you attack me. WE SAY "THREE STRIKES AND YOU'RE OUT!" WITH GOD, PEOPLE GET TEN STRIKES • In the book of Exodus, God gave Pharaoh ten chances to do the right thing, by freeing the Israelites. Plague after plague turned up the heat on Egypt until, with the tenth plague, God finally said "Enough!" It is the tenth plague that results in the final and decisive judgment on the nation of Egypt. Page 19
  • 20. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) TEN PLAGUES AND THE RED SEA SHOULD HAVE CONVINCED ISRAEL TO TRUST GOD! Not so! Israel rebelled 10 times before God barred that generation • from Canaan. Num 14:20-24 WEB Yahweh said, I have pardoned according to • your word: but in very deed, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh; because all those men who have seen my glory, and my signs, which I worked in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have tempted me these ten times, and have not listened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I swore to their fathers... GOD GAVE ISRAEL TEN OPPORTUNITIES TO CHANGE ITS HEART AND OBEY HIM • Interestingly, though twelve spies were sent into the land, it was the unfavorable report of ten that brought about Israel's disobedience at Kadesh Barnea. That was "the straw that broke the camel's back" as far as God was concerned, causing him to say: "Enough!" "TEN DAYS" IS THE PROMISE THAT GOD WILL SAY "ENOUGH!" AND WILL INTERVENE • It is like Paul saying: • 1Co 10:13 WEB No temptation has taken you but such as man can bear. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. THE FORCE OF THE TEXT IS "BE FAITHFUL, EVEN IF IT COSTS YOU YOUR LIFE" Eighty years after this letter, one of their own would be martyred. On • Saturday, February 23, 155 AD, Polycarp, a disciple of John, and Page 20
  • 21. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) an elder of the church, was tried & burned in the theater because he refused to renounce Jesus. When the Romans decided not to execute him, the Jews set the fire themselves, in violation of the Sabbath laws. The good news is that those who are faithful to death will receive • the crown of life! THE PROMISE • As in all the letters, there is a promise particularly suited to the readers. In this case, Christians are facing persecution, and even death. But they are encouraged by the one who “was dead and is alive”, and, before he closes the letter to them, he assures them that the overcomers “will not be hurt at all by the second death”. We’ll see that second death later. THIS REMINDS US OF JESUS' WORDS Luk 12:4-5 WEB "I tell you, my friends, don't be afraid of those who • kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear him, who after he has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him. As with all the letters, it ends with the reminder that it has something • to be understood and taken to heart by Christians in other times and places: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” PERGAMUM REV 2:12-17 WEB • "To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write: "He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things: "I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. You hold firmly to my name, and didn't deny my faith in the days of Antipas my Page 21
  • 22. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise. Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it. THE CITY Pergamum was the capital of Asia Minor. It was inland, about 65 • miles north of Smyrna, along the Caicus River. It had the second largest library in the world, with 200,000 volumes, • second only to Alexandria, Egypt. The king of Pergamum once tried to hire Aristophanes, Alexandria's • librarian. Ptolemy II, Philadelphus, the ruler of Egypt, imprisoned Aristophanes and cut off the supply of papyrus to Pergamum. UNTIL THEN, PAPYRUS HAD BEEN THE MAIN WRITING MATERIAL IN THE WORLD They say that necessity is the mother of invention. When Pergamum • couldn't acquire papyrus any more, they set about developing a new material, specially treated animal skins, which they called "vellum", but which the world came to know by the Greek word pergamene (lit. "from Pergamum"), in honor of the city. Pergamene, later became our "parchment". It was a much more durable writing material than papyrus ever was. Above is a page from Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th Century parchment • manuscript of most of the Bible. Page 22
  • 23. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) RELIGION • The two main religions of Pergamum were the worship of Dionysus, the god of the kings - represented by the bull, and of Asclepius, the god of healing - symolized by the serpent spiraling around a staff (still the emblem of the medical profession). THE CITY WAS THE OFFICIAL CENTER IN ASIA FOR THE IMPERIAL CULT • It had three temples to the Roman emperors, including the first temple on the continent of Asia Minor dedicated to Augustus. • On the crag above Pergamum was a throne-like altar to Zeus. No wonder Jesus describes Pergamum as the place where Satan has his throne. THE MESSENGER Jesus describes himself with yet another part of the description from • Revelation 1:16. The "sharp, double-edged sword” (Greek rhomphaia) is the long, heavy broad sword with which the barbarous nations were armed. It symbolizes the irresistible power of divine judgment. Here, again, as in most of the letters, the description of the messenger portends his judgment which is coming on that church. THE MESSAGE • The Message: The church, by and large, is faithful. They’ve already seen one of their own martyred, a brother named Antipas. But they have some people in the congregation who are practicing compromise, and it is they who may face the double-edged sword of divine judgment. WHAT IS THE TEACHING OF BAALAM AND OF THE NICOLAITANS? “If you can’t beat them, join them.” • In order to see the background of the "teaching of Baalam", you • Page 23
  • 24. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) need to spend some serious study time in Numbers 22-24; 25:1-4; 31:16. When Israel was en route to the Promised Land, a king named • Balak wanted to stop them. He tried to hire a prophet named Baalam to curse Israel. Baalam asked the Lord for permission, but the Lord refused. When Balak "upped the ante" by offering money and power, Baalam asked the Lord, again. Parents know what that's about - your kids ask once and if you say "No" they interpret that as permission to ask again, later. GOD ALLOWED BAALAM TO GO, BUT HE COULD ONLY SAY WHAT THE LORD ALLOWED Then, there's the part of the story we all know - how the angel of the • Lord was in the way, waiting to kill Baalam. Baalam couldn't see the angel, but his donkey could. Three times the donkey saved his life, and Baalam beat the donkey. Finally, the donkey started talking to him. Baalam was carrying on a conversation with a donkey, and it didn't even occur to him that something was wrong! Baalam arrived on the scene. • Three times, tried to curse Israel. Every time out came a blessing! Finally, Balak decided he didn't need Baalam's "help" and sent him on his way. The next event involved sins of idolatry & immorality • THE INCIDENT AT BAAL PEOR • Numbers 25:1-9 tells the story. The Israelite men got involved in sexual immorality with the Moabite women and started participating in idol worship. As a result, a plague broke out - the result of the Lord's anger. The plague wasn't stopped until Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, the priest, took matters in his own hands and killed one of the Page 24
  • 25. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) perpetrators, along with his Midianite mistress. By the time the plague had ended 24,000 Israelites were dead. This incident came to be known as Baal-Peor. Several chapters later, in Numbers 31, we learn the rest of the story. • The Israelites defeat their enemies, but they keep some of the women and children alive. Moses is aghast! Num 31:15-16 WEB Moses said to them, Have you saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh. NOW , IT MAKES SENSE! Every time Balaam opened his mouth, God turned his curse into a • blessing. So he gave Balak a way to get God to curse Israel! All it takes is to draw the people of God into the world. Get them dabbling in sin & God will curse them! So, Balak's people enticed the Israelites into immorality & idolatry until the Lord started to destroy them! But for Phinehas, he might have finished the job! Baalam was the mastermind behind Baal-Peor! The words "Baalam" and "Nicolaitan" have something in common • "Baalam" is from two Hebrew words: Baal ("destroyer") and ammon ("people"). "Nicolaitan" is from two Greek words: Nikon ("destroyer") and laos ("people"). Why use two words with the same meaning? Possibly there are Jewish and Gentile Christians encouraging compromise. The idea, "If you can't beat them, join them" would thrive in a city where politics and paganism were so intertwined and where pressure to compromise must have been heavy. Page 25
  • 26. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) THE PROMISE The message is not just for Pergamum. It includes two promises to • overcomers. First, they are promised "some of the hidden manna." This recalls when God provided manna in the desert. Deu 8:3 WEB He humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed • you with manna, which you didn't know, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh does man live. TO THE CHRISTIAN, IT IS A REMINDER OF JESUS, HIMSELF • Joh 6:48-51 WEB I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." THE SECOND PROMISE IS "A WHITE STONE WITH A NEW NAME WRITTEN ON IT" There were various usages of white stones with names inscribed on • them in the ancient world. One use is an inscription honoring people by listing their names on • white stone pillars, such as those found in the ruins of Pergamum. Another was as an invitation to a banquet. It may be that Jesus • intends the reader to think of the "white stone" as his invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb. Rev 19:9 WEB He said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" He said to me, "These are true words of God." THE "NEW NAME" WOULD BE A REMINDER OF GOD'S PROMISE/THREAT TO Page 26
  • 27. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) ISRAEL Isa 62:2 WEB The nations shall see your righteousness, and all • kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of Yahweh shall name. Isa 65:15 WEB You shall leave your name for a curse to my chosen; • and the Lord Yahweh will kill you; and he will call his servants by another name: The new name would be the name of Christ; the promised name of • God's servants would be Christian. THYATIRA REV 2:18-29 WEB "To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write: "The Son of God, • who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things: I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works. I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don't have this teaching, who don't know what some call 'the deep things of Satan,' to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you. Nevertheless, hold firmly that which you have, until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father: and I will give him Page 27
  • 28. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. THYATIRA - MODERN AKHISAR - WAS ABOUT 45 MILES EAST OF PERGAMUM It was a working-class city, with an economy that depended on the • production and sale of wool, linen, apparel, dyed stuffs, leatherwork, tanning, and bronze-work. It had more trade guilds (similar to our labor unions) than any other city in Asia Minor. Each guild had its patron deity and festivities that included sexual • revelries. The dilemma for Christians was that in order to work, they had to maintain membership in the guilds, but, as members of the guilds, they might be expected to compromise their Christian principles by engaging in the guilds' activities, including idolatry and sexual immorality. PAUL'S FIRST CONVERT IN PHILIPPI WAS A THYATIRAN MERCHANT NAMED LYDIA Act 16:14 WEB A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of • the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. Excavations reveal that "a guild of dyers" existed in Thyatira. • Lydia's trade may have been associated with this guild. They • brewed a red dye, the modern turkey red, from the madder root, which grows abundantly in the area. Lydia's presence in Macedonia, 500 miles away, suggests that the commodity was an important export. IN SPITE OF REASON TO COMPROMISE THE CHURCH IS BASICALLY FAITHFUL • There is a problem, though. It is tolerating sin. Page 28
  • 29. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) • Jesus says there is a woman, whom he identifies as Jezebel, in the congregation. That woman is encouraging people to get involved in sexual immorality and idolatry, the very two things the trade guilds promoted. • The problem with tolerating sin is that it leads to more sin. THE MESSENGER • If there is any doubt who the messenger is, that doubt is removed, because he identifies himself as "the Son of God". Jesus identifies himself as the one with the "eyes … like blazing fire" and the "feet … like burnished bronze". • The picture would be familiar enough to Thyatira, reminding the readers of the furnaces of the metalworkers, whose guilds were a key part of the economy. But the descriptions, at the same time, emphasize the divine judgment that is coming. IT IS A REMINDER OF THE DIVINE MESSENGER SENT TO DANIEL • Dan 10:5-6 WEB I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and, behold, a man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with pure gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as flaming torches, and his arms and his feet like burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude. THE MESSAGE The church is basically faithful. But there’s a problem with a woman • called “Jezebel”. We can be sure that she wasn't actually named Jezebel • Some names are "damaged goods" after the wrong person wears • them. When was the last time you heard of a parent naming a child "Adolph Hitler" or "Benedict Arnold"? Some names are "damaged goods" after the wrong person wears them. Page 29
  • 30. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) Jezebel was one of those names. • Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, a 9th Century, BC, king of Israel. Ahab owes his prominence in the OT to the religious apostasy that occurred during his reign. JEZEBEL WAS THE QUEEN TO ONE OF ISRAEL'S MOST DECADENT KINGS • 1Ki 16:30-31 WEB Ahab the son of Omri did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh above all that were before him. It happened, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. • The power behind Ahab was his wife, Jezebel. 1Ki 21:25-26 WEB (But there was none like Ahab, who did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. He did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom Yahweh cast out before the children of Israel.) • She introduced the idolatry of Baal & the orgies of Ashtoreth What a fitting name to give a woman in Thyatira who encourages people to participate in the idolatry and immorality in the trade guilds! She's like Jezebel, convincing God's people that they can dabble in sin and still be saints! BUT THE ONE WITH PIERCING EYES SEES THROUGH THIS WOMAN & HER FOLLOWERS They had better repent, OR ELSE! They can run from God, but they • cannot hide! Psa 7:9 WEB Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, • But establish the righteous; Their minds and hearts are searched by the righteous God. Page 30
  • 31. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) Jer 17:10 WEB I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to • give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. FOR THE REST, THE LORD ONLY SAYS "HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU HAVE" (I.E. BE FAITHFUL) In the late 2nd Century, Tertullian challenged Christians involved in • the trade guilds "head-on". He was a lawyer & son of a Roman officer. He was something of a "conscience" to the church of his day. Among other things, he wrote essays on idolatry, including a piece on compromise. The basic idea was this: A Christian might confess Caesar as Lord, • or engage in some pagan ritual, involving idolatry or immorality, so that he might be able to continue in his trade, then justify himself by saying, "I must live". Tertullian insisted that Christ does not require that we live; he requires that we be faithful! THE PROMISE The first part of the promise reminds us of the first of the royal • psalms, in which God promises the king - and by extension the Messiah - that he will be given authority by God to rule. Psa 2:8-9 WEB Ask of me, and I will give the nations for your • inheritance, The uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." THE SECOND PART OF THE PROMISE IS "I WILL GIVE HIM THE MORNING STAR" • The “morning star” in nature is the planet Venus that appears in the east as the harbinger of the coming day. It appears as the darkness passes away and it seems to be a herald to announce the coming of the Sun. In the ancient world, the morning star signified the dawning of a new day, or of a new era. Page 31
  • 32. Lesson 3—What the Spirit Says to the Churches (Part 1) THE SYMBOLISM OF THE STAR WAS SOMETIMES USED TO SIGNIFY DOMINION • For example, the Babylonian kingdom that started with so much promise was brought low. God made this observation about its king: • Isa 14:12 WEB How you are fallen from heaven, day-star, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low! LOOKING TO THE DISTANT FUTURE, BALAAM SAW THE RISE OF THE MESSIAH'S STAR Num 24:17 WEB I see him, but not now; I see him, but not near: • There shall come forth a star out of Jacob, A scepter shall rise out of Israel, Shall strike through the corners of Moab, Break down all the sons of tumult. When Jesus was born, the thing that tipped the wise men off that a • king had been born was the appearance of his star. Mat 2:2 WEB "Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we • saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him." IN SIMPLE TERMS, JESUS PROMISES HIMSELF TO THE OVERCOMERS He is the morning star, whose coming signifies a new day. • Rev 22:16 WEB I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify these things • to you for the assemblies. I am the root and the offspring of David; the Bright and Morning Star." Jesus promises overcomers nothing less than himself! • 2Pe 1:19 WEB We have the more sure word of prophecy; • whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the day star arises in your hearts. Page 32