"FOR THE EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING"
Volume 1 - THE BEGINNING - A Foreshadow of the Christian's Birth
Volume 2 - NEW BEGINNING AND NEW WORLD ENVIRONMENT
Volume 3 - JOSEPH, EPHRAIM AND MANASSEH - A Foreshadow of God's Agenda for Jew and Gentile
Volume 4 - CROSSING THE JORDAN RIVER - A Foreshadow of Salvation for Jew and Gentile
Volume 5 - THE BOOK OF REVELATION - God's Agenda for the End Time
Volume 6 - THE SEVEN LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
Volume 7 - CHRIST IN THE TABERNACLE - A Foreshadow of Redemption
All donations - through PayPal.
Zola Levitt - Messianic Jew - Zola Levitt is the most beloved and well known Messianic Jewish Bible teacher and Middle East commentator of his day.
The Hal Lindsey Report - Today's watchman.
Prophecy Central - Topics with relevant Scripture References, Current Events and Links, and an excerpt from The Prophecy Puzzle.
© Copyright - 1999
SEVEN LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
By Donald P. Moss
Revelation 1:10-13 (KJV) - I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (11) Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. (12) And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; (13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
"In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man" - This phrase is a picture of the candlestick designed by God and made by Moses' according to God's instructions for construction of the tabernacle articles of worship.
(See candlestick picture below. Also, a study of the candlestick is part of Volume 7 - Christ in the Tabernacle, Go to bookmark "Candlestick")
Revelation 1:17-20 (KJV) - And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:(18) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (19) Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; (20) The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Christ identifies in the book of Revelation as the one who holds the seven stars. He is speaking as the one who oversees and works in the midst of the corporate church via ministering angels, which minister to each Christian layman and the clergy of the corporate church.
The Word states there is only one Spirit, one body (church), one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and one Father of all - Ephesians 4:3-6 (NIV) - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (4) There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
If there is only one Spirit, then the seven Spirits represent a seven faceted work of the Holy Spirit in the corporate church to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, so that God is Father of all, over all, through all and in all? Then when the fulness of time arrives, He will gather all the churches together as one, in Him - Ephesians 1:10 (KJV) - That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
So, Christ is among the candlesticks (corporate church) accomplishing His work of gathering together the things of heaven and earth, in Him. This has always been the objective of God since He created the world in the beginning - Ephesians 1:4 (KJV) - According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Therefore, it is prudent to keep this in mind when the book of Revelation is studied.
"Us in Him" is accomplished by the church's teaching and preaching of the gospel, working under the power of the Holy Spirit and through the overseeing angles of the churches to unite the seven churches into one body (the body of Christ) with one objective in the earthly realm - sending the gospel forth into all the earth. This is the only way to expand the body of Christ. Therefore, the candlestick is symbolic of the ministry of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit.
The seven spirits should be seen as one Spirit with seven facets or a seven fold work in ministry. I believe the seven letters are the seven faceted work of the Holy Spirit within the corporate church, including all denominations. The letters are sent to the corporate protestant and catholic church. This is evidenced by Christ closing out each letter with this statement, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (plural)." Each letter is a work of the Spirit and each message is directed to all the other churches. Therefore, the seven letters are an single message of Christ to the corporate church, but divided into seven topics. The single message is Christ's call to the corporate church to cast aside the unacceptable things outlined in the letters and come together in unity, into one body and one Spirit for the purpose of growing in power for ministry. An undivided church is the church in existence at the time of Pentecost, when Peter preached and three thousand were saved.
Acts 4:32-33 (NIV) - All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. (33) With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
1 Corinthians 12:13 (KJV) - For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
The seven letters also represent the seven things that divide the corporate church, preventing unity in the body of Christ. A divided corporate church is less effective in ministry than a united single church.
The letters are Christ's call to repentance. Studying each letter reveals different topics, of which Christ calls for repentance or change. Although each letter identifies problems Christ finds in each church, each letter also reveals good things Christ finds in each church and encourages each church to grow spiritually. The letters do not condemn, but provide guidance by identifying certain spiritual obstacles. Overcoming these obstacles will unite the corporate church into one body once again, which I believe is the central focus of the letters, based on Ephesians 4: 3-6. Those who overcome these obstacles will receive the greatest reward - "Well done thy good and faithful servant". Amen!
Revelation is a book about the end time. The end time is not only concerned with the tribulation period which begins with the opening of the first seal in chapter 6, it is also concerned with the letters to the end time corporate church. So, there is a blessing for those who hear this message of prophecy to the corporate church and take it to heart -
Revelation 1:1-8 (NIV) - The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, (2) who testifies to everything he saw - that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (3) Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
The next verse of scripture following the declaration of the blessing for those who take the message to heart, is a revelation of Christ as Lord of the church.
(4) John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, (6) and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father - to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Look, he is coming with the clouds,
(8) "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
John's statement in verses 1-3 ends with the words "blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it." Obviously, the book of Revelation contains insight and instructions for the corporate church to be blessed. The clergy of the corporate church should take the revelation of this prophetic message to heart so the end time blessing of God can be received by each Christian in each congregation.
If each letter is a part of a single message to the corporate church, then each letter is also directed to each Christian as a topic for spiritual growth. Each Christian is a member of the corporate church.
In verse 6 John states that God has made Christians to be "priests to serve his God and Father". Therefore, the message of the letters will emphasize repentance, so Christians can center on their priestly responsibility of serving God the Father. John speaks with the mindset of a servant, the mindset of Christ. The letters will most assuredly address obstacles each Christian (clergy and lay people) faces as he grows spiritually and becomes a faithful servant of God the Father.
Each Christian needs to hear the message of each letter and take the message to heart. There will be a great blessing for those who respond to the seven messages.
The author's objective is to provide a condensed perspective of the letters' inclusion in God's end time agenda. As the church approaches the end time, the letters give a sense of urgency for the corporate church and each Christian to be watchful (alert) and ready (prepared) for Christ's judgment of the House of God and for His return.
All seven of the churches discussed in the book of Revelation were in existence in 90 AD when the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation. Of course the letters were directed to those churches at that time, but why are they included in the book of Revelation? What do they have to do with the end time, more importantly the church today?
NIV Study Bible excerpt - Interpreters of Revelation normally fall into four groups:
Preterists understand the book exclusively in terms of its first-century setting, claiming that most of its events have already taken place.
Historians take it as describing the long chain of events from Patmos (90 AD) to the end of history.
Futurists place the book primarily in the end times.
Idealists view it as symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.
The fundamental truths of the book of Revelation do not depend of adopting a particular point of view, unless the point of view causes the Christian and/or the church to miss the blessing that is available for those who hear the message of the book of Revelation. The blessing is available to any one who will read the book for its overall message. However, the multi-faceted presentation of the book of Revelation can be difficult to comprehend apart from the Holy Spirit's affirmation of each interpretation. No interpretation should oppose or conflict with any other interpretation in the book of Revelation, else something is amiss. Understanding the end time agenda of God provides harmony of end time scriptures with no contradictions or confusion.
Before anyone accepts a eschatological point-of-view concerning the seven letters, this one thing should be first considered - Each letter is addressed to all the other churches, meaning the letters are topical subjects of a single overall message to the corporate church.
The view point of the Preterists is good because the letters were written to churches which existed in 90 AD. The View point of the Futurists is good because the book of Revelation is concerned with end time events and speaks a message to those churches. The Idealists view point is good because the timeless message spoken to the churches in 90 AD is the same message spoken to the corporate church (all denominations) from 90 AD to the end time. The view point of the Historians is good because from 90 AD the history of the church is established and throughout that history the corporate church has grown into a group of many denominations, all of which can be seen in the letters. But, historians need to view each letter as pertinent to today's corporate church, as well as, the end time corporate church. Else, their view point is mostly historical and unrelated to end time revelation.
Today's corporate church should be concerned with the message spoken for today's time, as well as to the end-time Body of Christ. Why? Because the letters' encouragements will guide today's body of Christ in preparing for the return of Christ, by topically emphasizing problem areas in the corporate church when Christ closes out "the times of the Gentiles". Proper application of the messages of the letters will prepare the church and will lead to alertness and holiness. So that, when Christ comes for His church He will not find those who are guided by the letters in a state of spiritual slumber (carnal indifference to spiritual matters). This is the blessing contained in the book of Revelation, preparing the body of Christ for the return of Christ.
The seven letters are not a part of the great tribulation, but they speak a profound specific message concerning the end-time.
The great tribulation time period begins in Revelation chapter 6 with the opening of the first seal. Therefore everything discussed in the first five chapters is concerned with pre-tribulation data. Since the letters are addressed to Gentile churches, isn't it prudent to see the letters as a part of closing out the times of the Gentiles? - Romans 11:25 (NIV) - I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come. After the full number of Gentiles has come in, then Christ turns to the Jews with the gospel under the agenda of the seals during the great tribulation period.
Since the church is currently in the "times of the Gentiles", then it's important to understand the will of God for the church during these times. With this understanding it will help Christians form a clear perception or picture for closing out this time. The will of God for the corporate church is revealed in the prayer Christ prayed just prior to His arrest outside the Garden of Gethsemane - John 17.
See Jesus' Prayer Over the Church for comments on the ministry of the gospel.
What is God's agenda for closing out the "times of the Gentiles"? First there's judgment and then there's reward. Jeremiah 17:10 (NIV) - "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." When God searches the heart and examines the mind, He judges the character of man's soul. Then He rewards accordingly.
1 Peter 4:17-19 (KJV) - For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (18) And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (19) Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.
This scripture reveals judgment of the House of God (corporate church) concerns those who (1) do well according to the will of God; (2) those who hear the Word but do not obey it; (3) those who are ungodly (sinners) and the difficulty of working out the salvation of some in the church.
"Obey not the gospel" - This phrase relates to those who have heard the gospel, but do not obey nor commit themselves to following Christ.
Author's personal opinion - Errant doctrines or teachings concerning salvation lead many to stumble in their growth of faith. As an example; the precept "once saved always saved" can be taken as a fire insurance policy, so to speak, by carnal minded Christians. A limited perspective of this statement can lead one to believe his salvation trumps his intentional life of sin. He believes he is covered and will enter the kingdom of God with all other Christians. But, he fails to engage Christ relationally. His failure to repent and give his life wholeheartedly to God will be stored up in his heart, of which he will be judged. Is he under the blood? Yes! Will God work with him to bring him to repentance? Yes! Does the end time agenda of God include working with the ungodly and sinners? Yes! Does God have an established way to bring unrepentant to repentance during the end time? Yes!
"Scarcely be saved" (Strong's Concordance / Greek) - #3433 molis (mol'-is); with difficulty.
in KJV - hardly, scarce (-ly), + with much work.
"Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" - This phrase reveals the ungodly and sinner will appear somewhere other than the pre-tribulation judgment of the House of God. They will appear in the flames of the seven year tribulation.
"Suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing" - These are those in the church that are in the will of God, guarding their hearts and souls -
1. "Well doing" - Faithful obedience to the gospel
2. "Suffer" - Persecution that comes because of the Word - application of gospel truths in daily life and witness of the gospel in ministry.
3. "Commit the keeping of their souls to him " - While Christians suffer, as they live by the gospel for the sake of Christ, they entrust God with the keeping of their souls while standing steadfastly by faith. They wait patiently for His favor and deliverance from obstacles to personal spiritual growth and obstacles to ministering to others. Their faith passes through the fires of refinement and testing. At the end of this particular ministry of the gospel, judgment occurs and reward is granted to those whose "well doing" (works of faith) is found pleasing to the Lord.
It is not often that a sermon or lesson is presented concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ. At the pre-tribulation Judgment Seat of Christ, God is separating the corporate church from the rest of the earth's inhabitants. This judgment occurs just prior to the beginning of the seven year tribulation - Matthew 25:31-32 (NIV) - "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. (32) All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Christ will sit on His throne (Judgment Seat) in heavenly glory and separate the people of all the nations.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is two phased -
First, Christ separates the corporate church (Protestants and Catholics whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life) from the rest of the world.
Secondly, He judges the corporate church and rewards each Christian according to what his deeds deserve. Pre-trib judgment of the church is not concerned with whether one is saved or lost. It is concerned with serving God; not forsaking first passion for Christ; doing the will of God during times of persecution which come because of personal application of the gospel; teaching and preaching the uncompromised truth; following true doctrines; proclaiming a true and faithful witness to others; and long suffering during trials of faith without forsaking the name of the Lord, etc. During life's difficulties Christians are instructed to guard their hearts in Christ and do well in difficult times according to His will. Serving God in truth and Spirit will determine the reward Christians receive at the pre-trib judgment.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is concerned with far more than just serving God. For those whose salvation process is difficult and requires more work by the Holy Spirit, I personally believe they will be moved into the flames of tribulation for additional refinement. I believe the Judgment Seat of Christ is part of the sanctification process, which is active until the gospel era closes in Revelation 10:7. During God's agenda time for the gospel; salvation, sanctification and glorification are integral processes in the transformation of the Christian. During the seven year tribulation, until the time of closing the era of the gospel; many will saved, many will be sanctified, and many will be glorified. While the era of the gospel (dispensation of grace) is in effect, carnal Christians will be given additional opportunities to repent, even past the pre-trib judgment of the church. This is "where they will appear" - 1 Peter 4:18. God is a God of second + chances. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds!
The Judgment Seat of Christ separates righteousness from unrighteousness and moves the unrighteous into the fires of refinement.
For an indepth discussion on End Time Judgment Precepts (click here)
Review Pre-Tribulation Judgment -
1. First judgment begins with separating the corporate church from the nations of the earth.
2. Then Christ judges the House of God. God rewards those whose "well doing" glorifies Him.
3. Judgment is concerned with additional refinement of Christians.
4. Judgment is concerned with the Christian's relationship with Christ.
5. Judgment is concerned with the Christian's readiness for His return.
6. Judgment is concerned with servanthood.
7. Judgment is concerned with making a distinction (between those who serve God and those who do not serve).
Since the seven year tribulation period does not begin until the first seal is opened in Revelation 6:1, the letters to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are concerned with pre-tribulation matters. Christ is closing out the "time of the Gentiles" and revealing to the corporate church the criterion used to close out this particular phase of the gospel. This criterion is seen as six of the letters are written to churches of which Christ rebukes. Only one of the letters is seen as totally acceptable or spotless.
The letters reveal Christ seeing the tremendous doctrinal differences which infiltrated the original church, establishing many different denominations over the past two thousand years. Doctrines which created divisions in the body of Christ rather than unity. He will see Christians with no passion when ministering to those in need. He will see the church's compromising truth of the gospel to find favor with society in order to promote growth. He will find doctrines that do not condemn sensual indulgence. He will see the deceitfulness of wealth (Christians relying on the provision of wealth rather than the provision of God). He will see defeated impoverished Christians who do not realize they are rich with spiritual strengths and powers. He will see hypocrites, heretics, false teachers, etc. The list can go on and on concerning the things wrong with the church, all of which can be classified under one or more of the letters. Judgment of the church is not a judgment that condemns, but rather rewards the church for godliness and purges the church of ungodly things.
If the letters represent the judgment criteria for the pre-tribulation judgment of the House of God, then shouldn't these letters should be the format used for the end time revival of the House of God because they call for repentance and change which is necessary for revival and transformational growth?
The Letter to the Church of Ephesus
Because the chronological format of the Book of Revelation emphasizes first things come first, I believe the greatest fault of the church is found in the first letter to the church of Ephesus: Revelation 2:1-7 (KJV) - Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; (2) I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: (3) And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. (4) Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (5) Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (6) But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (7) He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
A. "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience" - This church is one of great faith and hard work in the ministry of the gospel to those in need. Their enduring commitment and submission to the great commission is at the core of this church's operation. Their obedience to Christ's commands is unquestionable.
B. "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars - This church does not readily accept the words of someone claiming to have the anointing of apostleship. They test their words with time and patience, waiting to see the fruit of their apostleship. Where there is no fruit, there are only words. God does not give the anointing and call one into a place of operating in the office of an apostle, a preacher or teacher of God's words (ministry of grace and truth) and have the Christian produce no fruit. The test of the false apostles, prophets, preachers and teachers is time and patience, looking for fruit.
C. "Hast borne" - This church bears the burdens of ministry:
D. "Hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted" - This church has great faith and does not wavier in ministry of the gospel. When rejection or persecution comes because of the name of Christ, the ministry goes on. When the sick need visiting, they are visited. When the hungry need feeding, they are fed. When the prisoner needs visiting this church is there. When the sick needs a prayer of faith, this church is there. When the church or clergy is under attack, they do not retreat from God's commission to reach the lost.
E. "That thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate" - Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary - The Nicolaitans were a sect of people who -
"By false spiritualism, these led their victims into gross carnality, as though things done in the flesh were outside the man, and therefore indifferent. The deeper the Church penetrated into paganism, the more she became paganish".
"Nicolaitans" (Strong's Concordance - Greek) - #:3532 - Nikolaos (nik-ol'-ah-os); victorious over the people; Nicolaus, a heretic.
It is heresy to teach or establish doctrines that lead one to believe that things done in the flesh are outside the man and therefore indifferent to his spiritual growth and spiritual consciousness.
The Ephesus church is orthodox in its doctrines and approach to ministry of the gospel. Their orthodox precepts withstood attempts by the Nicolaitans to induce doctrines which seduce Christians into false belief that the body is separate from the spirit and has no impact on spiritual growth. They found the Nicolaitans to be heretics and prevented their foothold in the church. Orthodox Christians are powerful ministers of the gospel. All other churches should esteem this body of believers. But, there is something wrong!
F. "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" - This church has fallen from the place of agape passion, which they experienced when they first accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel. This falling away was not done intentionally. It happened unwittingly.
Again, I am reminded of the scriptures - Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV) - "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' (23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' These were serving others with the right mindset, but the heart was absent and it affected their relationship with Christ (Matthew 15:8 - "They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me"). Serving must be motivated by heart felt love and not by a desire for personal gain - spiritual or otherwise.
G. "Candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" - This phrase indicates a loss for the Ephesus Christian if repentance is lacking. His candlestick represents his works of service in the ministry of the gospel. If he does not return to doing his first works, he will have no reward for the works done while in his loveless passionless state.
H. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life" - Encouragement and reward for the overcomer. Ever since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden to keep them from the Tree of Life, this is the day God desired; to open the way to the Tree of Life once again.
I believe one of the most powerful carnal influences on Christianity is self sufficiency and works righteousness, based in self-centeredness. Self-centeredness closes the door to God's love and passion for Christ will be lost. Passion is experienced by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit when first saved. First works is an energized passionate desire of the heart while loving and serving God under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Without passionate agape love many are still serving God. All intentions are good and there's a desire to please God, to submit and be obedient. Ephesus Christians sacrificially give themselves to the ministry and eliminate any thing that compromises the Word of God. Their perceptions of the gospel are uncompromising, forming orthodox viewpoints. They prioritize their lives to allot time to handle the responsibility of ministry. They take up their cross daily and follow Jesus, forsaking all other things. They have done what they know to do in order to carry forth the ministry of the gospel. However, along the way they unconsciously got wrapped up in the work of ministry and forsook the ever present agape love of God. How does this happen?
The Ephesus Christian has ebbed away from a passionate relationship with God. He operates in ministry because he has willed himself to do so out of obedience and a sense of duty. Apart from a vibrant presence of agape love His works of service ebbs into a form of self sacrifice. Without the presence of God's love in the heart, our ministerial efforts will become sacrificial deeds opening the way to works righteousness.
Apart from a passionate relationship with Christ, many will end up in a form of legalistic servanthood. I am convinced that legalism is active in the body of Christ because of self sufficiency thrives in the absence of agape love. I don't believe legalism can exist when the love of God is vibrant in the heart of the Christian. The love of God is a powerful life force that will be sufficient in all things. Self melts into the past when one rests in the love of God. When one serves God he submits to the will of God and becomes obedient to the Holy Spirit when working in ministry. Else, self sufficiency will quench the Holy Spirit and the Christian will become insensitive to His guidance. The end result is orthodox legalism.
It is therefore paramount that all Christians become sensitive to the nature of God's love and wise in nurturing the kind of heart that only He can occupy. Tender heartedness is spiritual sensitivity. Apart from a tender heart, there will be no burden for the lost!
In the book of Revelation the Lord says he will take the Ephesus candlestick (figuratively represents the ministry of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit) from its place if we do not repent and return to the love that we knew at first. In other words, the Church of Ephesus is operating with the right kind of vision, but with the wrong motive. The motive for ministry should be based in love for God and others. It is not based in self-sacrifice or obedience.
Psalms 51:16-17 (KJV) - You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
A commitment and labor for ministry is a good place, but only love will give it power to bear fruit and survive Jesus' judgment of the church. In love we will return to our first love and our candlestick will keep its place.
Guard Your Heart: It is imperative each Christian learn about the obstacles to experiencing God's agape love. Such things as unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, conditional love, self serving motives for giving, etc. Any expression of grace that is motivated by what one will receive in return is carnal. Grace and love must be freely given to others in order to open the heart to receive the anointing of grace from God. Failure to express love when love is required is carnally based and quenches passion for Christ. We can have knowledge and an intellectual understanding of love, but to receive God's love in our hearts we must express God's love to others. Selfless expression of love keeps our vessels open and free to receive God's love. Christians must love their fellowmen to avoid obstacles to expressing love freely. The Bible states if anyone does not love his brother, he cannot love God.
1 John 4:19-21 (NIV) - We love because he first loved us. (20) If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. (21) And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
This principle of love is most important in our relationship with Christ and God the Father. Christians must learn to love those whom God loves.
Before moving to the next letter, take a moment and picture in your mind the face of the person you love the least. Ouch! Can we love God more than the person we love the least? Ask God to help you forgive and learn to love the person you love the least. He will set you free from this obstacle to agape love and you will move closer to doing the works you did at first. (Pardon me for meddling).
To Letter to the Church of Smyrna
Revelation 2:8-11 (KJV) - And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; (9) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (10) Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (11) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Verse 8 (Con't) - "Which was dead, and is alive" - At the beginning of each letter Christ identifies Himself with a description that parallels the spiritual condition of each respective church He is addressing. For instance, to the church of Ephesus He identifies Himself as "he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" - Revelation 2:1 (KJV). In the letter to Ephesus, He is seen as Overseer of the seven angels of the seven churches because He holds the stars (angels) in His right hand, a place of ruling authority and omnipotent power. He is also seen in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks representing the churches and the ministry of the gospel under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the midst of each church's work of ministering the gospel, to it's own congregation and those outside the congregation. Revelation 1:16 (KJV) - And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.... Christ speaks to the church's congregation through study of the Word. Pastors and teachers who are called for this service are a very valuable assistance in the growth of knowledge. But, even apart from the clergy Christ will teach you through the Holy Spirit when you sincerely seek to know more about Him. So, Christians should not depend on the clergy to teach them everything Christ desires them to know.
Having studied the letter to Smyrna, we will see this church as occupying a place of being dead, but Christ encourages this Christian, he can be alive as He was "once dead and is now alive". Some will say this phrase points to the death and resurrection of Christ and rightfully so. But, the great gift of God is through His death we might live! We do not have to die in order to live! His death set us free from death!
The following Greek words directly reveal His words with literal meanings. There is no metaphorical interpretation available here. This church needs to be brought to life.
"Dead" - (Strong's Concordance Greek Dictionary) #:3498 - nekros (nek-ros'); from an apparently primary nekus (a corpse); dead (literally or figuratively; also as noun).
"Alive" - (Strong's Concordance Greek Dictionary) #:2198 - zao (dzah'-o); a primary verb; to live (literally or figuratively).
The church is called by Christ to follow Him and follow the example He set for the church. This letter calls for the Smyrna Christian to be reborn from among that which is dead and be brought into life. Of course, all teachings in the Bible have this objective in mind. But, to the Church of Smyrna Christ specifically directs His words to poverty and tribulation of the Christian.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, the Bible states He was the firstborn from among the dead - Colossians 1:18 (KJV) - And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. It was for church's benefit that Jesus became the firstborn from among the dead, so that He would have preeminence in all things (all things are put under His feet - Ephesians 1: 22-23).
When He addresses the church of Smyrna, He desires this church to see Him in a superior place above poverty because for the sake of the Christian "He became poor that through His poverty we might become rich" - 2 Corinthians 8:9. The key word in this scripture is "through", implying dealing with poverty is through Christ's poverty. If so, then by faith the Smyrna Christian must envision the day when he no longer will be impoverished. Overcoming his poverty will be done through the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling him to do all things required to overcome this issue in his life. The Bible states that we are "in Him" (Ephesians 1:4) by faith and He is "in us" (John 17:23) by the Holy Spirit. If we are in Him then we are in His preeminence, in His provision, in His fullness (everything).
Colossians 2:9-11 (NIV) - For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (10) and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
This place of preeminence over poverty was given Christ because He "was dead and then was alive". When the church follows after Christ, they too must be born again from among the dead through faith in Jesus. Through faith, the church also has the preeminence in all things, including poverty. The Smyrna Christian must put poverty beneath his feet. In other words, his place of poverty must not rob him of his hope and joy in the Lord. A Christian can choose to be in a place of poverty and still have a vibrant spiritual life. But, he cannot allow poverty to rule his perception of who he is "in Christ". He must see himself as Christ sees him. He must see poverty as just a human experience through which Christ will provide the way out of his impoverished state. But, he must be willing to work and take advantage of opportunities God brings his way.
Verse 8 (Con't) - "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty" - There are three areas where this church resides - works, tribulation and poverty. These three words - works, tribulation and poverty paint a picture of the circumstantial place of this church.
Which of these areas sets this church apart of the rest of the other six churches?
"Works" - It can be said of each church, "they serve the Lord". This is the common thread of ministry as each church strives to fulfill the great commission.
"Tribulation" - It can be said of each church, "they have tribulation". This is the common thread of Christianity. John 16:33 (NIV) - "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 1:6-8 (NIV) - In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (7) These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (8) Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
"Poverty" - This area of poverty is noted as significantly different from other topics of rebuke contained in the letters to the other churches. The word poverty literally and figuratively means a lack of wealth; to be indigent, to be a beggar.
"Poverty" - (Strong's Concordance Greek Dictionary) #4432 - ptocheia (pto-khi'-ah); from #4433; beggary, i.e. indigence (literally or figuratively).
Ptocheia is taken from #4433 - ptocheuo (pto-khyoo'-o); from #4434; to be a beggar, i.e. (by implication) to become indigent (figuratively).
Ptocheia literally represents Christians who are indigent, beggars.
How did Christ literally become poor? He laid aside His heavenly glory and descended to earth as the incarnate Son of God. He was fully human, a man made a little lower than the angels. Comparing His heavenly glory to His earthly raiment, one can see His place of being poor.
God's will for the Smyrna Christian
Look at the scripture verses prior to 2 Corinthians 8:9. These verses reveal God's will for the impoverished church. 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 (NIV) - And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. (2) Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (3) For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, (4) they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (5) And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. (6) So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. (7) But just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving.(8) I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
Having read these verses, verse 9 is illuminated - (9) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. So, what is God's will for the Smyrna Christian's trial of poverty? Look at verses 2 thru 5 - Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (3) For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, (4) they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (5) And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. Even Paul the apostle did not expect these impoverished people to attain to such a high level of generosity. But, Paul was looking at their circumstance of extreme poverty. These Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit and their overflowing joy welled up in rich generosity. Rich because they gave beyond their ability to give.
What a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit! They were literally in a state of extreme poverty but gave themselves to the Lord and then to the ministry of God's grace. This was the will of God for them! If for them, then also for the Church of Smyrna.
Through Christ's poverty the Christian should have a heart of generosity. Generosity is victory over poverty. Generosity is doing warfare with the god of Mammon.
Out of love for God and others the Smyrna Christian should give as much as he is able and consider it a privilege to serve other saints. First, he should give himself to God and then to the support of the ministry of the gospel.
The mind and heart of Jesus is clear revealed in His statement to the Apostle John - Revelation 2: 8-9 (NIV) -These things saith the first and the last which was dead, and is alive;(9) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)…
Poverty's Risk of a Waning Faith
"Poverty" - Continuing a look of the formation of the word Ptocheia - It is taken from #4434 - ptochos (pto-khos'); from ptosso (to crouch; akin to #4422 and the alternate of #4098); a beggar (as cringing), i.e. pauper (strictly denoting absolute or public mendicancy, although also used in a qualified or relative sense; whereas #3993 properly means only straitened circumstances in private), literally (often as noun) or figuratively (distressed).
#4422 - ptoeo (pto-eh'-o); probably akin to the alternate of #4098 (through the idea of causing to fall).
#3993 - penes (pen'-ace); from a primary peno (to toil for daily subsistence); starving, i.e. indigent.
It can be seen that prolonged poverty can lead to a distressful life of mendicancy (begging). In a natural perspective this can be a condition that is adverse to faith and hope for a life of substance and sustenance.
When a man falls from material prosperity into poverty, he is most of the time humbled by the fall. Humbleness can be a blessing from God because his heart is contrite. Humbleness opens the heart and many will turn to God when impoverished.
Psalms 51:17 (KJV) - The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
The trouble we have in this life can fill many of our days, as we strive to find victory over life's circumstances. Each of us fights to some extent to overcome lack and to gain security. In our battles we can become consumed with the anxieties of life, leading to omission of spiritual attentiveness and assertiveness. We can easily fall into the place of being ruled by our circumstances, rather than ruling over our circumstances.
Christ set aside His heavenly glory and descended to the earth through the virgin incarnate birth. He was born of a woman under the law. In this act of descending Christ was in the earthly realm with man. He came to the place where man was living. He was fully a man, and as a man, made a little lower than the angels. As a man in the earth, it was no different for Jesus than for any other man. He had to toil for daily subsistence. He was a carpenter or, might we say, a laborer.
However, Jesus was not ruled by His circumstances. Jesus did not in any way give Himself over to the difficulties He would face in providing for His family as a carpenter, preaching the gospel or dying for the redemption of man. He remained focused on God's will for His time on the earth. To this vision, as a man, He gave Himself to God by speaking only what God told Him to speak and only do God's will, not His own.
Matthew 8:19-20 (KJV) - And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. (20) And Jesus saith unto him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head".
Metaphorically, Jesus was saying He was not of this world and He did have an established place in this world to call His own.
Jesus was ruled by the mission the Father gave Him, to redeem the nation of Israel - to pay the price for their sins and teach the way that leads to the Father. Sure, He could have been attentive to His circumstance in the world, "no place to lay his head". But, Jesus simply worked as a carpenter to provide for His family and remained focused on His mission to mentor the apostles and then die for the sins of man at the opportune time. This was a place of totally trusting God to provide what was needed to fulfill what He was called to do.
We, too, must have faith to keep from falling, waning in our faith. We must toil for our living, but we must keep our focus on what God has called us to do (ministry of grace and truth in love to others). It's a Jesus thing to do! It's a matter of following Jesus!
However, the Smyrna Christian responds to his state of poverty with an attitude of bitterness. Rather than see the richness of his relationship with Christ, he is ruled by poverty and becomes bitter.
An Attitude of Poverty
"Smyrna" (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #4666 smurna (smoor'-nah); apparently strengthened for #3464; myrrh.
#3464 muron (moo'-ron); probably of foreign origin [compare #4753]; "myrrh", i.e. (by implication) perfumed oil:
#4753 more (mor); or mowr (more); from #4843; myrrh (as distilling in drops, and also as bitter):
#4843 marar (maw-rar'); a primitive root; properly, to trickle; to be (causatively, make) bitter (literally or figuratively).
Use in KJV - (be, be in, deal, have, make) bitter (-ly, -ness), be moved with choler, (be, have sorely, it) grieved (-eth), provoke, vex.
Smurna is derived from the Hebrew root word "marar" which means to be or to make bitter. This root also means to be grieved or vexed.
When studying the letter to the Smyrna Christians, we need to see their bitter attitude because they were vexed by their circumstance of poverty. So we can fully understand the translator's insertion of the words "But thou art rich". Remember, God's will for the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 was to first give themselves to Him, rather than to their circumstance of poverty. Like the Macedonian church, the Smyrna church should count it a privilege to be involved in the ministry of the gospel.
Verse 9 (Con't) - "But thou art rich" - Although these words were inserted into the text by the translator of the original Aramaic or Greek text, the meaning of the word Smyrna directs us in understanding the true perspective of this letter.
Jesus does not want these Christians to be ruled by their circumstance of poverty. He desires for them to see their poverty in the proper light. Regardless whether a man is rich or poor, his situation is temporal and will pass. What value is there in worldly things if they can only be used for a short time? What power is there in poverty if poverty is only a season that will pass? Christ's statement to this church "But thou are rich" is a call to be content in the situation and focused on the richness of their relationship with Christ.
Contentment does not mean to settle for poverty, just don't allow poverty to rule your spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to be your Comforter and your joy even when in poverty. This is possible because whether wealthy or poor, being ruled by either is "chasing after the wind". Man cannot possess anything that he can't take with him. Enjoy the relationship you have with the Lord, then you will be rich and true joy becomes a reality. Imagine being poor and filled with the joy of the Lord. Then imagine giving and witnessing to others in poverty the reason you are so joyous. This is the will of God!
Christ in this letter is encouraging the Smyrna Christian to remain faithful and do not doubt the richness of their relationship with God.
Evidently, the Smyrna Christian must answer the question concerning his circumstance - Am I poor or am I rich? Satan is seeking to bring doubt into the Christian's life concerning the provisional promises of God, as revealed in Verse 9 - I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Obviously, others who proclaim to be Christians are confessing or teaching things that are adversarial to the truth of God.
Christ instructs these Christians to be faithful even to the point of death, regardless of what satan brings their way, and they will receive the crown of life - verse 10. Christ is seeking to deliver His church from an errant attitude concerning poverty so they can be rich in every way, including prosperity. God's promises of provisional care must be the foundation for provisional security that each Christian needs.
Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV) - Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
God knows our needs, but we must seek Christ with unwavering faith in His spoken Word and it will be credited to us as having the right standing before God. Remember Abraham's right standing before God was granted through his faith in God's promise (as he sacrificed his promised son Isaac to God) . It is no different for each Christian. The promise of provisional care is given to each Christian based on his full persuasion of faith - a faith that does not yield to what appears in his life (poverty or any other obstacles used by satan to get us to doubt God).
Remember, each man must sow efforts to overcome his place of poverty by working. Through his work, God will bless the work of his hands and he will overcome. However, working to survive is not the central focus of life. Working to overcome poverty through faith in God s the central focus of life. "Seek ye first the kingdom and then these things will be added". He must work while seeking God. On the other hand, if one chooses to not work he should still seek the kingdom so he can relationally know the joy and hope of the Lord. He should not become bitter because of his poverty. I Timothy 6:6-7 (NIV) - Godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (8) But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
Verse 10 - "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" - Words of encouragement.
Verse 11 - "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" - Words of encouragement.
From an unknown author concerning the seasons of life -
LEARNING TO BE CONTENT
It was spring, but it was summer I wanted
The warm days, the great outdoors. It was summer, but it was fall I wanted
The colorful leaves, the cool dry air. It was fall, but it was winter I wanted
The beautiful snow, the joy of the holiday season. It was winter, but it was spring I wanted
The warmth and blossoming in nature. I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted
Freedom and respect. I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted
To be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-age, but it was 20 I wanted
The youth, the free spirit. I was retired, but it was middle-age I wanted
The presence of mind without limitations. My life was then over and I never got what I wanted.
I encourage each person suffering lack in his life to learn to enjoy his relationship with God and know the joy and praise that comes from Him. Be content and enjoy the life you live.
But, some of these Christians are not enjoying their time spent in poverty because they see no hope for their situation. They have listened to those in the church who give counsel which is contrary to the Word of God concerning poverty. Their counsel causes Christians in poverty to stumble in their faith (doubt). Like the Israelites, this church could well have been in the desert and used by Moses to spy out the promise land. And like the Israelites, had they gone into the promise land and saw the giants, they too would have doubted the promise of God. The Israelites were ruled by what they saw in their circumstance of taking possession of the promise of God. God wants each Christian to trust in the Word of God which promises possession. Each of the letters encourage believers to be overcomers.
Like the Israelites who believed the bad report, there will be consequences for failing to believe God and trust in His words or promises. The penalty - Christians cannot advance beyond their circumstances, because they are ruled by what they see rather than by the Word of God. Like the Israelites, they too will remain in the wilderness. They will be imprisoned by their failure to trust God. God does not get the glory when Christians are ruled by poverty rather than by faith.
If a Christian in poverty doubts the promises of God, he leans on his own understanding and his own strength. Then where's the incentive to work his way out of poverty? However, if he believes the promises of God and seeks to overcome his poverty, he will operate under the joy of the Lord, which is his strength. Faith in God is good incentive because he knows he is not alone in his poverty.
Psalms 34:17-19 (NIV) - The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (18) The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (19) A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.
Each righteous man will have trouble. In his trouble and through faith in the promises of God, faith will manifest in his heart as a steadfast foundation for life. A faith that is greater than his troubles. It is a simple, but difficult lesson to learn.
Revelation 2:9 (Con't) - "Blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan" - There are other Christians in this church who speak words that are blasphemous against God's truth.
"Blasphemy" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek Dictionary) #988 - blasphemia (blas-fay-me'-ah); from #989; vilification (especially against God).
#989 - blasphemos (blas'-fay-mos); from a derivative of #984 and #5345; scurrilious, i.e. calumnious (against men), or (specially) impious (against God).
#984 - blapto (blap'-to); a primary verb; properly, to hinder, i.e. (by implication) to injure.
#5345 - pheme (fay'-may); from #5346; a saying, i.e. rumor ("fame").
The advice and consultations of certain members of the Smyrna church are speaking words in the form of generally accepted sayings. Words created by carnal misunderstandings of scriptures which result in hindering the truth of God. Words that hinder faith and cause injury to the Smyrna Christian. These false teachers could well have been Job's friends, who gave him advice that was contrary to God's truth. I believe some of these Christians espouse poverty as a holy thing that God has purposed for their life, but results in a life spent in an impoverished desert. Then there are others that espouse poverty is a result of residing sin. Then there are others that teach godliness is a means to financial gain.
1 Timothy 6:3-9 (NIV) - If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, (4) he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions (5) and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
The Smyrna church needs to find ways to help those in the congregation, who are stuck in poverty….to find jobs, teach new work skills and encourage them with teaching of God's truths.
Revelation 2:10 (Con't) - "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death" - The purpose of additional tribulation is to bring separation between false truths and real truth. As result of following the advice or sayings of these blasphemers who call themselves Christians and who believe they have the answer to their circumstance of poverty, those who follow their advice will suffer. Meaning, suffering additional tribulation is needed to break the bondage of doubt and unbelief in God's promises. Christ states that even if their tribulation places them face to face with death, be faithful and He will honor their faith with the crown of life. Death will not overcome them, they will overcome death. Again, this was the same testing Job experienced with satan. Satan was allowed to take anything Job possessed, placing him in deep poverty. Job was face to face with death. But, satan was not allowed to take Job's life. Through it all, Job did not turn away from God. Satan was unable to destroy Job's relationship with God by the loss of material possessions; destruction of the family Job loved; loss of wealth or striking Job's own flesh.
Neither is Satan allowed to take the life of the Smyrna Christian, but he will be allowed to test the Smyrna Christian by placing him in trials using things which are temporal - material things, other people and/or the physical body.
I believe these Christians are unwittingly building on the foundation of Christ using wood, hay and straw. When Christ judges the church, the Smyrna type of Christian will be moved into the tribulation period for further sanctification and additional opportunity to exercise his faith in the promise of God.
Verse 10 (Con't) - "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer" - Christ's objective for each Christian during the time of suffering is to learn to not fear. Only love and faith in God will expel the fear that comes.
Verse 10 (Con't) - "Cast some of you into prison" - Some of the Smyrna Christians will be cast into a metaphorical prison. I believe this prison will be used to shake the life of the Smyrna Christian to remove what can be shaken, so that what can't be shaken will remain (faith) - Hebrews 12:26-27 (NIV) - At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." (27) The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken - that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Poverty is a created thing by man. Poverty is a result of man's socioeconomic structures and man's own lack of motivation. So God will shake poverty, so that faith in Him will remain. Each Christian's life endures shaking from time to time, to facilitate spiritual growth.
I am reminded of the homeless people. Some desire to be delivered from their poverty and seek the Lord's help and guidance toward overcoming their circumstance. Others do not seek help; rather they have accepted their poverty and consider it their place in life. These most likely are not seeking God's intervention in their lives.
Not all Smyrna Christians will be cast into this prison. I believe those that are not cast into prison are those who overcame their poverty through faith and hard work. Additionally, there are those who have accepted their poverty and live by their love and joy in Christ. They realize, in Christ they are rich because Christ is forever the lover and keeper of their souls. Even though they lack in material things they are rich in spiritual things. They are overcomers! When the Smyrna Christian becomes an overcomer he will be moved out of this church and into the church of Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Christian is instructed to hold on his crown (Revelation 3:12). The Smyrna Christian is instructed to overcome and "I will give thee a crown of life."
Verse 10 (Con't) - "Prison" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek Dictionary) #5438 phulake (foo-lak-ay'); from #5442; a guarding, the act, the person; figuratively, the place, the condition, or (specifically) the time (as a division of day or night), literally or figuratively.
#5442 phulasso (foo-las'-so); the idea of isolation; to watch, i.e. be on guard (literally of figuratively); by implication, to preserve, obey, void.
Use in KJV - keep (self), observe, save. Compare #5083.
#5083 tereo (tay-reh'-o); from teros (a watch; perhaps akin to #2334); to guard (from loss or injury, properly, by keeping the eye upon; by implication, to detain (in custody; figuratively, to maintain); by extension, to withhold (for personal ends; figuratively, to keep unmarried); by extension, to withhold (for personal ends; figuratively, to keep unmarried).
The prison for some of the Smyrna Christians is a condition (phulake) that isolates (phyulasso) the Christian. In this isolation the Christian is watched (phulasso) and overseen by Christ. I believe it is like the place of Job, in which, God oversaw all that took place. Job was cast into a place of poverty. Remember, satan's accusation that Job served God only because of the blessings God granted him. Satan was saying Job served God not because he loved God, but because of what he received from God. Satan accused Job of having self-serving motives, not God serving motives. In order to prove Job's genuine motive, things were taken from Job to keep him from becoming spiritually bonded (tereo) or married to the things he lost. Job was separated from any reliance he had on the temporal things he possessed. In the end Job's relationship with God was proven genuine. Even though Job had no idea that God would bless him after testing him, all his possessions were returned doubled what he had at the beginning. So, Job's faith in God was not influenced by a promise of a blessing from God. Job believed God because he loved God! Amen!
During Job's time of testing (a prison of sorts), he dealt with his poverty by attempting to gain understanding, asking God to show him why he had to suffer the things brought upon him. During this time he listened to the advice and teachings of his friends which failed to see the truth of God, but he did not heed their advice. Afterward he answered God and repented. But, throughout all the experiences Job never lost his faith. He held tightly to God. He suffered separation from worldly things, but he gain a renewed relationship with God. God never desired Job to remain in poverty. God never saw Job give up on life or his faith because he had to suffer a descent into poverty.
I believe this letter to the church of Smyrna is an indictment against doubt and unbelief in the promises of God and against becoming dependent upon worldly possessions for a sense of well-being. Things of this world cannot be possessed by anyone, but they are tools given by God for use in service to Him; including material things, family members and the physical body.
I also believe this letter is an indictment against those in the church who unwittingly teach poverty as something that is holy or some sort of sacrificial offering that is acceptable to God. This kind of teaching is "wood, hay and straw". On the contrary, poverty is of the devil and is an opportunity to overcome through active faith.
Revelation 2:10 (Con't) - "Be thou faithful unto death" - This is the advice the scriptures give to Smyrna Christians. It's the same advice God would have given Job, had He "tuned in" Job to what was about to take place. Unlike Job, the Smyrna Christian has been "tuned in" (through the Word) to God's agenda for restoring Christians.
I encourage each Christian to take a stand against poverty and pray to God for opportunities that will lead to victory and sufficient provisional care. I encourage each Christian to first seek God wholeheartedly and trust Him for the things you need in life. He is our Provider. He will give you opportunity to work your way through your poverty and trials. This is a lesson that all Christians must learn. We must never be ruled by our circumstances; else we will reside in a prison of poverty. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor and provides courage and overcoming faith to those who love God. When one follows after Christ wholeheartedly, Father God will always provide ways to make it through life's circumstances.
2 Chronicles 16:9 (KJV) - For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
The Smyrna Christian should look for opportunities God brings his way and take advantage of them. Then do the very best you can for those through whom the opportunity comes. Trust God for the outcome and all things needed in the journey of faith. Amen!!
To the Church of Pergamos
Revelation 2:12-17 (KJV) - And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; (13) I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. (14) But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. (15) So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (17) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
"He which hath the sharp sword with two edges" - Christ identifies Himself to this church as the sharp sword with two edges. He wants this Christian to focus on the sword with two edges. The message of this letter is concerned with interpretation of the Word of God, as it relates to the specific subject of this letter - doctrines (foods sacrificed unto idols). The sharp, two edged sword is used often in scripture to emphasize the power of the Word of truth. Of course, the Word of God applies to every letter in the Book of Revelation. But, the letter to Pergamos is concerned with Christ's judgment of the church and errant interpretation of the Word of truth resulting in errant doctrine. If the Word is interpreted errantly, then the sword becomes dull and has little to do with "dividing asunder", resulting in improper application of truth, hindering spiritual growth of the church. The Christian stumbles in his growth of faith.
Revelation 19:15 (KJV) - And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) - For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
To the Pergamos church, Christ is the Word of God that pierces the church, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit Even to Mary, the mother of Jesus, a sword also pierced her soul in Luke 2:34-35 (KJV) - And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (35) (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Mary was blessed as the mother of Jesus, but she was a woman born under the Law, but there was a work that God needed to do in her heart and soul. This was a work performed by her faith in the Word of God under the power of the Holy Spirit, dividing her asunder, separating her unto God. Mary's "dividing asunder" was needed because she was an earthly being with a foundation of knowledge of the Old Testament (Torah) which called for the atonement of sin under the sacrificial blood of animals. Remember Mary knew that God was the Father of Jesus, so her faith in Jesus as the Son of God was unshakable. But, she would have to be in agreement with the Father concerning the sacrificial death of Jesus for the sins of the Jews, including herself. As all others born on the earth, she too would need to be covered by the sacrificial blood of Jesus, her son. Surely Mary's faith was equal to or even greater than the faith of Abraham. None the less, every person born on the earth needs to be delivered from the realm of death under the sacrificial blood of Jesus. Thus, "dividing asunder" is required by the sharp two-edged sword of God's Word. Had Mary been a part of the deity of God, as some doctrines claim, the sword would not need to pierce her soul, as inserted by the translators of the ancient manuscripts.
Even as Mary learned from God through her Son, Christ wants the corporate church to realize the Word of God reveals the way of redemption and salvation. But, the edge of the sword must remain sharp by not compromising God's truth.
If the Word of God is compromised, skewed by misinterpretation; then the Christian will stumble in his faith. His progressive growth in truth and power (application of the Word) will fall short. Errant doctrines have a great affect on the growth and unity of the corporate church. Errant doctrines are divisive. How then can Christians grow into the fulness of God that is in Christ?
Ephesians 4:11-13 (KJV) - And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Colossians 1:18-19 (KJV) - And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (19) For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.
Colossians 2:9-10 (NIV) - For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (10) and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.
If Christians stumble in their faith, they will fall short of the fullness of God in the stature of Christ. The church should be walking in the power and authority of Christ. However, as stated in Hebrews, today's church does not walk in full authority. Hebrews 2:6-8 (NIV) - "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (7) You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor (8) and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.
When did the church begin to follow ideas that inhibit Christians from attaining to the fulness of the stature of Christ? False doctrines and teaching?
Remember when Jesus died on the cross, there was only one church in one accord.
Acts 2:44-47 (KJV) - And all that believed were together, and had all things common; (45) And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (46) And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (47) Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
In the beginning of the church age, there existed no doctrines which robbed the disciples / church of the authority which was theirs through faith. They were obediently carrying out the great commission - Matthew 10:7-8 (KJV) - And as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
The first church was filled with power for carrying on the work of Christ. What they saw Jesus do while he was with them, they believed they were given power to do on His behalf, whether healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, or casting out devils.
Since the day of the first church, periodically, doubting Christians have decided that there are some things in the bible not meant for the Christian church of a particular time. Instead, some of the scriptures were meant for the first church only. Such as doctrines that do not accept Christ's instructions for healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, or casting out devils as being pertinent for today's gospel ministry of grace and love. So doctrines were formed and introduced to the congregations which gave birth to errant beliefs, resulting in dividing the church and forming other denominations.
Perceiving the Bible as being the absolute inerrant Word of God shuts the door to casting aside scriptures for any reason. It's up to each Christian to seek for the full message of the Bible.
Most congregations depend on the clergy to teach and preach God's truth, rather than seek truth by studying the Bible. It's just more convenient. Therefore, many will not rise above doctrines that are taught and preached. Many are trapped by doctrines of their church. This results in many stumbling in their spiritual growth due to doctrinal guidelines that limit the growth of faith by establishing a level of faith for that particular denomination of believers.
The first church had no doctrinal statements other than what Jesus gave them in James 1:27 (NIV) - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. If Jesus' statement is the only legitimate doctrine for the church, how did all the denominations find justification for creating other doctrines without compromising the Word of truth? All doctrines that exist today which do not follow Jesus' definition of faultless religion are a stumbling block in attaining to the fulness of the stature of Christ.
When Christ died on the cross and ascended to the right hand of the Father, He left the church with two things, through which He would perfect the body of Christ and raise them up in the end times - the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. If any man forms a doctrine or teaches a precept that compromises the Word or denies the Holy Spirit, as taught in the bible, he is a false prophet and robs the Christian of the fulness of God. Christ wants the Church to walk in the full power of the Word and the full power of the Holy Spirit. Then the Christian's ministry of the gospel and grace to the lost will be followed by signs and wonders, confirming the Word to unbelievers.
Mark 16:19-20(NIV) - After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. (20) Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
The many denominations that exist today are evidence of the many doctrines created by men which divide the original Word of truth. All these doctrines are not pleasing to God. Not all churches teach the preeminence of God that is in Christ Jesus, and if in Christ then in His body (church). Is it any wonder the author of Hebrews does not see everything under the feet of Christ, such as, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, casting out devils, loving their enemies, tithing, gifts of the Spirit, having a faith that can move mountains (overcoming all obstacles in ministry), denying self, etc., etc.
Doctrines form spiritual windows through which Christians perceive the Triune Godhead - Christ the Son, the Holy Spirit and God the Father. What one believes about their relationship with Christ and God the Father is greatly affected by the doctrines of their denominations. How one perceives his relationship with Christ is the crux of the gospel. God wants the Christian to be filled with His fulness through Christ, to be one with Christ and the Father. God wants the body of Christ to be in complete unity and sensitive to His indwelling Holy Spirit. This should be the Christian's personal perception of his relationship with Christ. The end result of false doctrines robs Christians of a full persuasion of faith and a full relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. All precepts of truth in the full gospel of Christ are beneficial, but yet, many Christians will not believe the full gospel.
It's no wonder this is one of the six major things Christ finds wrong with the body of Christ when he conducts the pre-trib judgment of the church. Through the letter to the church of Pergamos, Christ is calling the Christian to return to a belief in the full message of the Gospel.
Revelation 2:12-17 (Con't) - "But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." - Christ is addressing false doctrines (food sacrificed to idols) established through false prophets in the church. Doctrines are used by the church to establish creeds for the church. If the doctrine is good, then the good news will become manna from heaven. If the doctrine is based on compromising the scriptures, then the doctrine is a word (food) that is sacrificed to idols (compromising the gospel to make it more acceptable by society). Anyone who believes in a compromised word is consuming that word as manna (food) for the soul. "Food sacrificed to idols" means the compromised Word of God has become man's manna, not God's manna. God's manna is Christ's testimony of truth.
John 6:31-35 (KJV) - Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (32) Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. (33) For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (34) Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. (35) And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
The Word of God is true spiritual bread (manna from heaven) - Matthew 4:4 (KJV) - But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
John 1:1 (KJV) - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
During satan's temptation of Christ, Christ did not tell satan that man should live on some of the words that proceedeth from the mouth of God, but on every word. Every Christian must perceive the Bible as being the inerrant Word of God before he can begin to learn the full message from God. Then his focus seeks to discover God's truth as it is written, based on every Word. Else he will seek to form a more suitable perception of truth to justify his carnality by picking and choosing which scriptures to believe. Or, in his quest to to know God he may encounter doctrines devised by the vain imaginations of men that choose and pick which words in the Bible are believable or applicable for today's church.
The Word of God is the language of God and the voice of God. See Origin of the Hebrew Language (click here)
Faith in the Word, obedience to the Word (only because you love God) will nourish the spiritual growth of the Christian until he attains to the fulness of the stature of Christ. Compromising or denying the Word is at the base of creating false doctrines. These are doctrines of Balaam because the end result causes Christians to stumble in their growth in Christ.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (NIV) - But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2) Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (3) In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
2 Peter 3:13-18 (NIV) - But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (14) So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (15) Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. (16) He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (17) Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. (18) But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Believing and following doctrines created by man that differ with the full truth of the gospel, is "to eat things sacrificed unto idols". Even if done unwittingly.
Remember satan's temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:6-7 (KJV) - And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (7) Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Satan tempted Jesus with a false interpretation of the Word. His interpretation was based in self-serving motives to get Jesus to use the Word for personal gain and to test God, to see if He would uphold His written Word. But, Jesus saw satan's deceptive effort to get Him to misinterpret the written Word. Jesus then replied with a true interpretation of the truth.
Even today there still exists a deceptive voice in the garden of life which says "Surely God did not say.....", "Surely, your will not die if......." Satan desires the Christian to compromise the Word of Truth for selfish reasons. All Christians will from time to time need to decide between the full gospel version of truth or a compromised version of truth. When decisions are made by faith, these decisions will etch what he believes in his soul. It is imperative that every Christian study the Bible and ask God for wisdom so his decisions will be beneficial for his spiritual growth, attaining to the full stature of Christ. Remember Jesus' reply to satan's temptations, "every word of God" (uncompromised) and "it is written" (documented word). Studying every documented word of God in the Bible will show one's self approved by God - 2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV) - Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Revelation 2:12-17 (Con't) - "Will fight against them with the sword of my mouth" - When Christ conducts the pre-trib judgment of the church, He will test the doctrines of men ("building upon the foundation of Christ") against what is written in the gospel. If the doctrine does not pass the test of truth, Christians who believe and follow these doctrines will suffer loss of the pre-trib reward. They will then be moved into the great tribulation for additional refinement (sanctification). Their work upon the foundation of Christ is wood, hay and stubble and will not pass through the fire which tests each Christian's foundational work - I Corinthians 3:12-15 (KJV).
John 12:48 (NIV) - There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
It should be said that the foundation of Christ is the gospel. Because the foundation of the wall surrounding the New Jerusalem is built upon the work of the twelve apostles, which is preaching, teaching and documenting God's Word. The Word gives birth to faith, upon which righteousness is based. The work of the believer is to "believe on him whom he hath sent" - John 6:2 (KJV). All that God wants to do in the life of every believer is made possible through two things, faith in His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit ministering that Word into our hearts and minds.
Beware of doctrines that remove things from scriptures, creating disbelief and doubt in the inerrancy of the Bible. Believe in the entire gospel, all the scriptures, the whole Bible. Be a full gospel believer and seek to apply the full truth into your life, so you can receive the fulness of God that is in Christ. Amen!
It is the goal of satan to pervert the whole truth of God, so that a stumbling block (snare) will cause the Christian to doubt and cause him to fall short of the fulness of God given to him at Calvary.
If the Bible says "by His stripes we were healed" - Isaiah 53:5 (KJV), then we were healed.
If the Bible says "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings" - Malachi 3:8 (KJV), then we rob God when we withhold tithes and offerings. It wouldn't be robbery if the tithe did not belong to God.
If Jesus said He was the Son of God, then He is the Son of God. - "But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God. `Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied." - Matthew 26:63-64 (NIV).
Revelation 2:12-17 (Con't) - " To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." - Words of encouragement.
If you belong to a denominational faith, learn the doctrines of your denomination. Make sure faith is one based on orthodox Christian precepts, based on a full gospel interpretation of the Bible. You will be judged at pre-trib based on the full truth of the gospel. If denominational doctrines are not based on orthodox Biblical interpretations of scriptures, then find a full gospel church.
I encourage each of you to hunt down anything that compromises Jesus' statement of faultless religion and cast it out of your mind and replace it with the better version of full truth.
Get out of this church and into a full gospel church that seeks to draw closer to God!
To the Church in Thyatira
Revelation 2:18-3:1 (KJV) - And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; (19) I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. (20) Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (21) And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. (22) Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (23) And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (24) But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. (25) But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. (26) And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (27) And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. (28) And I will give him the morning star. (29) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Revelation 2:18-3:1 (Con't) - "Saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass".
This same description was used the book of Daniel to describe Christ when He appeared to Daniel in a vision - Daniel 10:4-6 (KJV) - And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; (5) Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz: (6) His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
Verse 3 (Con't) - "Eyes" (Strong's Expanded Greek Dictionary) #3788 ophthalmos (of-thal-mos'); from #3700; the eye (literally); by implication, vision; figuratively, envy (from the jealous side-glance).
#3700 optanomai (op-tan'-om-ahee); a prolonged form of the primary optomai (op'-tom-ahee); to gaze with wide-open eyes, voluntary observation; mechanical, passive or casual vision; intensive earnest continued inspection; and a watching from a distance.
The eyes of Christ are upon this church, watching and overseeing each Christian's spiritual growth continually. The eyes of the Lord is the omnipresent Holy Spirit - 2 Chronicles 16:9 (KJV) - For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
Verse 3 (Con't) - "Flame of fire" - Simply stated, these are the eyes of Christ as He is Judge and Lord over the Church.
Verse 3 (Con't) - "Fine brass" - (Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament) - chalkolibanoo (#5474). The English Revised Version (1885): "burnished brass." Used only here and in Revelation 2:18. Compare Daniel 10:6.
(Strong's Concordance / Expanded Greek) #5474 chalkolibanon (khal-kol-ib'-an-on); neuter of a compound of #5475 and #3030 (in the implied mean of whiteness or brilliancy); burnished copper, an alloy of copper (or gold) and silver having a brilliant lustre.
I believe the feet of Jesus was fine or polished brass because He was born of a woman under the Law and fully a man (brass), but without sin (fine brass - NT or polished brass - OT) Hebrews 4:15 (KJV). Jesus was fully a man in full glory.
I believe the words "polished brass" describes Christ in the letter to Thyatira Christians, meaning He was tempted as a human in all points, yet was without sin. He suffered as the author of our salvation because He overcame all temptations of satan and endured the cross. He was numbered with transgressors because He bore the sins of mankind in His death. He was bruised for our iniquities and punished for our transgressions. Yet, He never once sinned against man or God.
Because of His sufferings, He was made perfect as the Author of our salvation and He is able to relate to the Thyatira church in the predicament of sexual sin, because as a man He too was tempted. Additionally, in justice He will judge those Christians who follow after false teachings concerning acceptance of sexual permissiveness in a Christian's life.
Revelation 2:20 (Con't) - "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols." - Jezebel was also the Old Testament woman that was the wife of Ahab, King of Israel - I King 16:30-31 (KJV) - And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. (31) And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.
"As if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam" - Ahab walked in the sins of Jeroboam who brought idol worship to Israel during his reign. Ahab thought this idol worship was a light matter without serious consequences.
So, King Ahab worked wickedness in Israel during his reign. Wickedness that was initiated by Jezebel and carried out by the Ahab - I King 21:25 (KJV) - But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.
The spirit of Jezebel is a spirit of manipulation intent on seducing one to sin against God. In the Thyatira church this Jezebel spirit seduces Christians to commit fornication by introducing doctrines and precepts that teach acceptance of sensual indulgence.
"Fornication" - (Strong's - Greek Dictionary) #4203 porneuo (porn-yoo'-o); from #4204; to act the harlot, i.e. (literally) indulge unlawful lust (of either sex), or (figuratively) practice idolatry.
#4205 pornos (por'-nos); from pernemi (to sell; akin to the base of #4097); a (male) prostitute (as venal), i.e. (by analogy) a debauchee (libertine).
Fornication as used in this scripture is indulgence in the senses leading to idolatry (placing sensual indulgence on the throne of your heart). Sensual indulgence (debauchery) also includes sensual things other than fornication that lead to idolatry; drunkenness, unlawful drug consumption, unlawful lust of the flesh ("pornos" is the base word of pornography), etc. The Thyatira church has a problem of indulgence with cravings of the flesh and appetites of the body, problems stirred up by the spirit of Jezebel and doctrines established by Gnostics.
The senses were given to man by God. The senses are not sinful, but indulgence (beyond what God allows) debauches the Christian and he becomes a slave to sensual idolatry.
"Eat things sacrificed unto idols" - The things that are eaten by the Thyatira Christian in this letter are the doctrines established by compromising or perverting the truth of the gospel, which leads to idolatry. Following a doctrine that establishes a belief that indulging things done in the flesh have no affect upon one's spiritual being is "eating things sacrificed unto idols".
Revelation 2:23 (Con't) - "I will give unto every one of you according to your works" - The work of this Christian, as he builds on the foundation of Christ (gospel); is wood, hay and stubble. His work will be revealed by fire. If his work does not survive the fire of the pre-trib judgment of the church, he will lose his reward - 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (KJV) - Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; (13) Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (14) If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. (15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
Revelation 2:22 (Con't) - "Commit adultery with her into great tribulation" - The Thyatira Christian who believes and follows these adulterous precepts will be moved into the fires of the great tribulation. He is not cast into hell, but rather is moved into the great tribulation along with the other five churches that build upon the gospel foundation of Christ using wood, hay and stubble.
This letter will touch most every Christian in some way or another. Each Christian needs to examine his own self to evaluate his indulgence in sensual matters and whether or not his or her actions are in the will of God. I can only encourage each believer to make sure he or she is not in a state of debauchery or bound by sensual indulgence when Christ comes to judge the House of God. Christ's rebukes are calls to repentance, so that the repentant Christian will be a part of the pre-tribulation harvest of the church.
Revelation 2:26 & 27 (Con't) - "He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (27) And he shall rule them with a rod of iron" - The Christian that overcomes temptations to commit acts of sensual indulgence will be given power to rule the nations in the millennium period. These are the pre-tribulation Philadelphia Christians that will rule over the tribes of Israel and all others that are harvested with the Jews later during the tribulation period .
Gnostics are in the Thyatira church and establish doctrines and Biblical precepts that justify sexual and other sensual indulgences (debauchery). These are doctrines based on the separation between the physical and the spiritual. Meaning, deeds done in the flesh will not affect the spiritual stature of the Christian. This is a seducing spirit and very much alive in the corporate church today, affecting both leaders in the church and Christians in their congregations.
To the Church in Sardis
Revelation 3:1-6 (KJV) - And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (2) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. (3) Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (4) Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (6) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Verse 1 (Con't) - "Saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars? -
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary on Revelation 3:1 - He that hath the seven Spirits of God - i.e., the fullness of the Spirit (John 3:34; Revelation 1:4; 4:5; 5:6: cf. Zechariah 3:9; 4:10), proving His Godhead. Implying His infinite power by the Spirit to convict of sin and of a hollow profession.
And the seven stars - (Revelation 1:16,20.) His having the seven stars, or presiding ministers, flows from His having the seven Spirits, or the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The human ministry is the fruit of Christ's sending the gifts of the Spirit. Stars imply brilliancy; the fullness of the Spirit, and of brilliant light in Him, form a contrast to the formality which He reproves.
As the One who holds the seven stars, He is the one who oversees the church and each Christian via ministering angels and the sevenfold work of the Holy Spirit, seeking to communicate to each Christian the message of truth.
Let us look at a few scriptures that link the seven spirits and seven lamps (OT - candlesticks).
Revelation 1:20 (KJV) - The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
In this scripture Christ is linking the seven stars to the seven angels of the seven churches. He is also linking the seven candlesticks to the seven churches discussed in the book of Revelation. Where is the Holy Spirit in this metaphor? He is the flame burning on each branch of the candlestick! This is revealed in the following scripture - Revelation 4:5 (KJV) - And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Revelation 1:4; 3:1; 4:5 and 5:6 refers to the seven Spirits of God. The seven candlesticks are not referred to as seven Spirits in verse 20 because the candlestick represents the church. There are seven candlesticks because there are seven letters to seven churches. "Candlestick" in Greek is #3087 luchnia (lookh-nee'-ah) which means lampstand. However, on the candlestick (lampstand) are seven lamps. So, lampstand in verse 4:5 and candlestick in verse 1:20 have he same meaning. (See photo at right).
In Revelation 5:6 the seven Spirits of God are seen as the seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb who had been slain - Christ. Revelation 5:6 (KJV) - And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.
For additional insight to the metaphorical meanings of horns and eyes, go to Horns and Eyes (click here)
The candlestick and lampstand is a biblical precept which reveals the multifaceted work of the Holy Spirit; ministering the Word of truth, perfecting Christians, uniting the divided church into one body, sending forth the gospel into all the earth through the church and empowering faith.
The seven candlesticks are the seven churches and the seven lamps of fire on each candlestick is the sevenfold work of the Holy Spirit, revealed in the seven letters to the seven churches. To better understand the Holy Spirit's seven fold work, we should become familiar with the teachings of the seven letters. The seven letters are included in the book of Revelation because they give insight to the will of God for the growth and maturity of the Christian in attaining the pre-tribulation crown reward. God desires that all Christians become Philadelphia servants.
Verse 1 (Con't) - "Works" - The problem within the Sardis church is a lack of awareness concerning watchfulness due to spiritual complacency and slumber that has crept into the ministry of truth and grace through the church - "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief". Complacency and slumber has affected their works in ministry and Christ will judge their deeds. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states the Holy Spirit has infinite power to reveal dead works as a hollow profession. His judgment will suddenly come upon these Christians as a thief in the night because complacency (spiritual slumber) overshadows alertness and watchfulness. If the Christian is not alert and watchful Christ he will not be ready for Christ's return for faithful servants.
I believe this is the perspective Christ wants the Christian to use when responding to the message of the letter to the church of Sardis. It is a perspective of Him working through the Holy Spirit and through the angels presiding over the ministry of the church. The work of the Holy Spirit is to awaken Christians from spiritual slumber and empowering the Christians with spiritual fullness (fruits of the spirit) needed for continuous effective ministry.
Revelation 3:1-6 - Con't - "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" - This church was once alive and vibrant with spiritual power, but has since ebbed into a state of slumber. This scripture brings to mind the scripture Jesus spoke to the disciples, having prayed to the Father concerning the cup of suffering - Matthew 26:40-41 (KJV) - And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? (41) Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
The spirit is willing to watch (remain alert and ready for the return of Christ), but the human nature of man (flesh) is weak. Christians will have to watchful and be aware that the flesh is weak. Else they will ebb into a state of spiritual slumber.
Revelation 3:1-6 (Con't) - "Strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect"
"Strengthen" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #4741 sterizo (stay-rid'-zo); from a presumed derivative of #:2476; to set fast.
Use in KJV - fix, (e-) stablish, steadfastly set, strengthen.
Christ calls the Sardis Christian to establish and set firm the things that remain and are about to die. Once we have tasted the divine gift of God, the Holy Spirit, it is an experience that cannot be forgotten. Once we have responded to the call to be active in the ministry of grace, it cannot be forgotten. Once we have heard the Word of truth, it cannot be forgotten. However, we can put everything on the back burner, so to speak, and become more attentive to worldly matters. But, we cannot forget the experiences we had with God. I believe these are the things that remain, faith manifested in our souls by experiences with God. Even in ministry, we can be active, but our works will not be perfect if we do not keep our relationship with God through Christ at the forefront of all that we do. The only proper motivation for serving God is because we love God and we love those whom He loves. We do not serve God because we believe serving Him profits us. A mindset of love will keep us watchful and effective in ministry. Love for Him will also quicken our worship experiences.
If we are caught up in worldliness (working, playing, striving to reach our goals, preparing for one thing, dreaming about another, life pleasures, etc.) we can drift into spiritual slumber and fail to watch and pray.
I am reminded by another scripture parable concerning watchfulness of the church at the time of the arrival or coming of the bridegroom -
Matthew 25:1-13 (KJV) - Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (2) And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. (3) They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: (4) But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (5) While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. (6) And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (7) Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. (8) And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. (9) But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. (10) And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. (11) Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. (12) But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not (13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
"Ready to die" - Eventually, prolonged slumber (carnal indifference to spiritual things) can lead to an ineffective walk of faith.
Revelation 3:1-6 (Con't) - "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent" - Christ calls the Sardis Christian to recall what was heard and what was received at the time he was saved when he received the Holy Spirit. To recall the zeal, passion and desire to give his life to the Lord and the boldness to share (ministry) their salvation experience with others through personal testimony. This is a call to remember what was heard from the Word and believed to be true. To restore the message of truth in the heart and repent of from hollow professions of faith. The Sardis Christian needs to remain alive and zealous for the opportunity to share the good news with others. Otherwise, slumberness or complacency will extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 3:1-6 (Con't) - "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." - Christ spoke this same warning in another scripture when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to His arrest.
Mark 13:35-37 (KJV) - Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: (36) Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. (37) And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
"Watch" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #1127 gregoreuo (gray-gor-yoo'-o); from #1453; to keep awake, i.e. watch (literally or figuratively).
Use in KJV-- be vigilant, wake, (be) watch (-ful).
#1453 egeiro (eg-i'-ro); collect one's faculties; to waken, i.e. rouse (literally, from sleep, from sitting or lying, from disease, from death; or figuratively, from obscurity, inactivity, ruins, nonexistence).
The Greek word "gregoreuo" reveals this Christian to be in a state of spiritual drowsiness. Christ command for the Christian to watch is a call to be aware of the tendency of the human nature to ebb into a state of spiritual slumber. Gregoreuo is derived from the root word "egeiro" which means to collect one's faculties. The Sardis Christian is caught in a state of focusing his attention on created things, multi-faceted matters of the world, rather than on spiritual things. Faculties mean your acquired abilities and powers of the mind (knowledge, wisdom, reason, speech, concentration, focus, etc.) to serve Christ in the ministry of grace to others. These faculties need to be collected and put in action; to be ready and watching for His return.
One of the most effective perceptions which aids us in keeping our minds on spiritual matters is to see ourselves as God sees us. We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. When we embed this perception in our minds, we will become conscience of who we are at all times. Our human nature is less able to divert our attention to spiritual matters because of who we are in Christ - spiritually conscious.
I believe Christ is calling the body of Christ to spend more time in prayer, keeping and maintaining a daily relational experience with Him and the Holy Spirit. He so stated this objective when He returned to the disciples in the Garden, having prayed to the Father concerning the cup of suffering.
Matthew 26:41 (KJV) - Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Luke 21:34-36 (NIV) - "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. (35) For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. (36) Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
The spiritual nature has to be disciplined to devote time to spiritual matters. In the natural we are more involved with matters that we can tangibly sense (things seen, touch, tasted, heard and felt) on a continual basis. None of these have much to do with an ability to be spiritually conscious. We must take the initiative by first seeing ourselves as God sees us, as His children given the commission to serve others in the ministry of the gospel. Then include in our lives time devoted to matters of prayer, which inhibits a slow and unconscious descent into slumberness.
There are three important aspects of keeping a vibrant communion with God; reading of scriptures, prayer and solitude.
Note of encouragement:
I encourage each Christian to see yourself as a spiritual being having human experiences. Additionally, evaluate your own lives to see if your are awake and if your works are perfect. Are you serving God for personal benefit? Set your hearts to serve Christ only because you love Him. Include in your daily life time to pray. Not just a generic prayer to cover all things, but prayer time for each specific thing you desire to bring before God. It will require more time to pray in a non-ritual type of format, but that's what is needed. Pray spontaneously. Spend more time in worship and communion with God. This will awaken you from slumber and help you collect your faculties for being watchful and attentive to spiritual matters. Continually seek a deeper revelation of God's Word. Seek out the hidden manna. It will rejuvenate and increase your perception of God's multi-faceted wisdom, especially what the future holds for those who serve Him in love.
For a discussion on changing spiritual focus (click here) Door to Transformation
To the Church in Laodicea
Revelation 3:14-22 (KJV) - And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.(16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.(17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:(18) I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.(19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.(20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.(21) To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.(22) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Verse 14 (Con't) - "Laodiceans" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #2993 Laodikeia (lah-od-ik'-i-ah); from a compound of #2992 and #1349; Laodicia, a place in Asia Minor.
#2992 laos (lah-os'); apparently a primary word; a people.
#1349 dike (dee'-kay); right (as self-evident), i.e. justice (the principle, a decision, or its execution).
Use in KJV-- judgment, punish, vengeance.
The Laodiceans are a people who will be judged for their lukewarm condition concerning their errant attitude towards personal wealth. It is self-evident to this Christian that his needs are met through his wealth and accumulated personal possessions. In a society of wealth and prosperity this letter is significantly important to the corporate church of today. Many who are wealthy unwittingly depend on their wealth as the source of their security and provisional solutions to life's issues. God desires to be the source for all that is needed.
Verse 1 (Con't) - "True" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #228 alethinos (al-ay-thee-nos'); from #227; truthful.
#227 alethes (al-ay-thace'); true (as not concealing).
Jesus identifies Himself to these Christians as the true witness. The truth of God is the bread (provision) by which Christians live. He is the true witness who did not conceal the reality of Himself as the true representation of God - John 14:9 (NIV) - Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. He is sovereign and above all things and noted as such with the statement, "saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God."
Christ states that He is beginning of eternal life for the Christian. From the beginning of creation God determined that natural man will take on immortality "in Him", providing Him with power and authority (preeminence) to provide what is needed in life.
Verse 1 (Con't) - "Creation" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #2937 ktisis (ktis'-is) from #2936; original formation.
#2936 ktizo (ktid'-zo); probably akin to #2932 to fabricate.
#2932 ktaomai (ktah'-om-ahee); a primary verb; to get, i.e. acquire (by any means; own).
Use in KJV-- obtain, possess, provide, purchase.
The Greek word ktisis means original formation. God created the heavens and the earth because "He chose us in Him before the creation of the world" - Ephesians 1:4. Many years later, God spiritually formed His creation (family) from Christ's death. A new creation was fabricated and acquired (purchased) by His blood through the death of Jesus, His Son. The Christian, a new creation, is now owned and possessed by Christ.
However, the Laodicean Christian has lost this focus of being a possession of Christ. Being such a possession, each Christian needs to have a fervent need for provisional care from his new owner and Lord, Christ Jesus. He should not be focused on money as his provider, resulting in idolatry, or relying on wealth as the source of meeting his needs. God would not give birth to the Christian and then fail to be the source for all his needs.
Revelation 3:14-22 Con't - (17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
Verse 17 (Con't) - "Increased with goods" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #4147 plouteo (ploo-teh'-o); to be (or become) wealthy (literally or figuratively).
Use in KJV-- be increased with goods, (be made, wax) rich.
Verse 17 (Con't) - "Have need of nothing" - This Christian's wealth is having a profound effect upon his relationship with God in a negative way. He becomes neither hot nor cold, he is lukewarm concerning his relationship with the Lord. Having no need of anything takes his focus off realizing he needs God. If he were to think for a moment about his need for God, he would of course say he needs God. But, in his daily routine he does not sense that he needs anything, even God. Why? How can anyone who is a Christian ever be in a place of not needing God? Realistically, he surely can never be in a place of not needing God. But, he can be a place where he unwittingly does not realize he needs God - "knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked". For as long as we live in this world according to worldly precepts, money will always have a profound impact on our sense of well being. We must come to a place where we live in this world according to spiritual precepts where our sense of well being is based on our personal relationship with God. The god of mammon seeks to cause Christians to stumble in their walk of faith by luring them into relying on money as their provisional source and power for living in this world.
I am reminded of the time Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt with wealth. Immediately, God led them into the desert. God placed them in the wilderness, a place where they could not make it without His divine daily intervention. Daily provision and protection from the scorching sun could only come from God. Their acquired wealth had no value in the wilderness. I believe God wanted them to understand that He is their Provider. Their wealth could not provide for their daily provisions in the desert. The Israelites had to see God as the source of their supply. Their wealth could not supply their daily water, daily food or shade from the sun. Knowing God experientially is paramount in the transformation process. Knowing God as Provider is a key element for having faith in God.
Deceitfulness of Wealth
Luke 18:17-24 (NIV) - (17) I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (18) A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"(19) "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good-- except God alone.(20) You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"(21) "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.(22) When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."(23) When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. (24) Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
Luke 16:13 (KJV) - No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
"Mammon" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #3126 mamonas (mam-o-nas') or mammonas (mam-mo-nas'); of Aramaic origin (confidence, i.e. wealth, personified); mammonas, i.e. avarice (deified).
1 Timothy 6:10 (KJV) - For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
"Love of money" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #5365 philarguria phil-ar-goo-ree'-ah); from #5366; avarice.
#5366 philarguros (fil-ar'-goo-ros); from #5384; fond of silver (money), i.e. avaricious.
Use in KJV-- covetous.
#5384 philos (fee'-los); properly, dear, i.e. a friend; actively, fond, i.e. friendly.
Avaricious (Random House College Dictionary) - Characterized by avarice; An inordinate desire (covetous) to gain and hoard wealth.
The rich man in Luke 18:17-24 had a philarguros relationship with his wealth. He is in bondage to his wealth because he relies on his wealth as his provisional source. He has a significant emotional investment in the idea of wealth. Wealth more often than not, in a world that operates on the exchange of a dollar between consumer and supplier, is seen as the ultimate provision. In this world, what ever the need, most of the time can be met with enough money. The root #5384 "philos" or the "love of money" is like a friend. Meaning, it is easy to covet money because it is a perfect fit in an economy of prosperity. With enough money we can be in sync with the economic enterprise (no anxieties or lacking of any material thing). It is difficult for any person to not covet money as the ultimate provider. However, viewing wealth as the ultimate provider, rather than God, is a sin because his faith is in mammon, rather than in God. If one relies on his wealth for determining his state of well being (security), he opens the door for mammon to rule his life. If one views life as being good or bad, based on whether or not he has enough money or material possessions, he lives in idolatry (avarice). Even the poor can operate in idolatry and serve the god of mammon by coveting money as the solution to their circumstance. This is the problem with the Smyrna Church. Although there is an element of truth to this precept, it is wrong to believe money is the means to an end of lack. God is the means! He will bring money into the situation (in due season) when the Christian's eyes are full of the light of God. Spiritual eyes need to see and souls need to experience the provision of God in all things.
Deuteronomy 8:16-18 (NIV) - He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. (17) You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." (18) But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
The rich young man in Luke 18:17-24, when he had to choose between serving God or holding onto his wealth, he chose wealth. He chose to serve the god of mammon. He rejected following Christ due to bondage (emotional investment) to his wealth. Many Christians today would be extremely sad if Christ required them to give their wealth to the poor in order to be free from the stronghold of mammon. Servants of God need to be free from the love of money. Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV) - Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (18) Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (19) In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
How many Christians in the church today look to wealth for a sense of security and well being? How many Christians would give up their wealth to do the will of God in ministry if called to do so? I encourage Christians to establish their hope in God and be generous and willing to share because generosity lays up treasure in heaven as a firm foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is truly life.
Christ wants His servants to rely on Him for provisional care while in ministry. All field missionaries will attest to this virtue of faith.
Luke 10:2-7 (KJV) - Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.(3) Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.(4) Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.(5) And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.(6) And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.(7) And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
Few Christians are willing to sell all their goods and possessions to be in the ministry of the gospel wherever God sends them. When God sends out the minister, He will always provide for his needs and the needs of his gospel mission. Does God intend each Christian to overcome the god of mammon? Overcoming the god of mammon is one of the seven facets of the work of the Holy Spirit. God must be the source for the needs of each Christian.
Matthew 6:31-33 (KJV) - Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?(32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Malcolm Smith, a noted biblical scholar says, "Generosity is doing warfare with the god of mammon". I believe that wholeheartedly. Generosity can be a great support factor in setting life precedents for a person seeking to follow Jesus rather than mammon.
I believe one of the major reasons God set the tithe and offering decree in place is sanctification from the god of mammon. Through tithe and offerings the Christian is choosing between God and mammon.
Mark 12:41-44 (NIV) - Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. (42) But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. (43) Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. (44) They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on."
Tithes and offerings that are given out of abundant wealth (more wealth than what is needed to live on) is a lesser offering than a window that puts in all the money which she needed for her livelihood. So, how do we measure our freewill offerings to God? When does our offering become our best offering? Give until we sense we are giving beyond our limit, until it hurts! Then we must trust God to meet our needs!
It seems as there is a continuing weighing on the trial balance between faith in God as our Provider and faith in our own strength, wit and resources to provide what is needed in life. On what do you rely?
2 Chronicles 16:8 (KJV) - Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand.
I John 4:16 (NIV) - And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
When we reach our weakest times in life, what do we rely on? Do we tend to rely on our own efforts to control situations? If so, mammon is easily viewed as the power to maintain control. Do we rely on God's love for us? If so, the eyes of the Lord (Holy Spirit) will show Himself "strong in behalf of the heart" that loves Him and relies on Him. Paul said it this way - 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) - That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The rich man must live his life relying on God for his provision, in order to be perfect. To do this the wealthy man must have a mindset that does not possess his wealth. This is done by placing his wealth at the foot of the cross by faith. Allow God to possess his wealth. Then the rich man can be free of mammon. The rich man must take the place of stewardship over the wealth he placed in God's hands. As a steward, the rich man then must take responsibility for managing God's wealth. This mindset will keep a proper attitude concerning wealth under his stewardship.
How do we maintain a proper perspective over our stewardship over God's money? The Bible says in I John 2:6 (NIV) - Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. Therefore, the steward must spend wealth under his stewardship as Christ would spend it. This precept applies to all Christians. Imagine this, how would we manage money if Jesus was visibly standing at our side watching? Realizing Jesus is standing by our side, what are we buying that we would not buy and what are we not giving that we would give. With this perception, we will learn to be good stewards of God's money.
I encourage each Christian to not possess his goods or his money. Give them to God and become a steward over all His possessions. When you give something to God you are free! Know in your heart that all your possessions belong to Him and accept the awesome responsibility of managing His possessions for Him. How does one measure himself to see if he is being a good manager? Know that the Holy Spirit is in you and is a part of your spending and buying decisions. Therefore, do not buy what Jesus would not buy and do not fail to give what Jesus would give. Then you will grow to be free from mammon's stronghold. It will be good for your faith and your close relationship with Christ.
Revelation 3:14-22 Con't - (17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.
Revelation 3:14-22 Con't - "Wretched" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #5005 talaiporos (tal-ah'-ee-po-ros); from the base of #5007 and a derivative of the base of #3984; enduring trial, i.e. miserable.
#5007 talanton (tal'-an-ton); a balance (as supporting weights), i.e. (by implication) a certain weight (and thence a coin or rather sum of money) or "talent".
#3984 peira (pi'-rah); from the base of #4008 (through the idea of piercing); a test, i.e. attempt, experience.
Use in KJV-- assaying, trial.
Wretched in the Greek means enduring a miserable trial. Talaiporos is a word derived from two other words "talanton" which denotes a balance of weights and "peira" which denotes testing and assaying (testing the purity of his faith). Both words together denotes a trial balance with the weight of mammon on one side and God's promises on the other. It is a life experience, an enduring trial that continually judges between the Christian's need for God and his love of money. Christians cannot rest in God until the Christian overcomes mammon. If a man says he has no need of anything because of his wealth, he does not realize he is wretched. He does not realize he is enduring a trial that will lead to miserable circumstances if he allows mammon to have a stronghold on his life.
God's work of separating Christians and Jews from mammon's stronghold can be seen as the last act of sanctification performed in the end time tribulation. Under the events of the trumpets (last half of the seven year tribulation), those Christians and Jews who used their wealth as a means to endure pre-tribulation trials and trials of the first half of the tribulation period will have to make the decision to stand up for Jesus or accept the mark of the beast. The mark of the beast is a program of forcing all who live on the earth to accept the international religious system representing one god; one religious system meant to eliminate all religious differences for the sake of peace. The leverage used to entice Christians and Jews is mammon. If a Christian wants to participate in the economy by working for a wage and spending that wage on life's necessities (prosperity), he must accept the mark and worship the one god, as defined by the anti-christ. Failure to do so will label the Christian or Jew as an outsider and he or she will become expendable for the sake of world peace and unity. Likely, he will be martyred for the sake of Christ.
Revelation 3:14-22 Con't - (18) I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich..........and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Previously, the study of the word "wretched" reveals a continual trial of each Christian choosing between trusting in God or trusting in wealth. The image of a trial balance (scales) is used to give an image for perceiving this work of the Holy Spirit.
In this verse Christ counsels Christians to acquire spiritual gold from Him. Gold that is tried in the fire. Both spiritual gold and earthly gold are refined in the fire.
Verse 18 (Con't) - "Tried in the fire" (Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament) - pepuroomenon (#4448) ek (#1537) purrs (#4442). The verb means "to burn, to be on fire:" in the perfect passive, as here, "kindled, made to glow;" thence, "melted by fire," and so "refined". The English Revised Version (1885): "refined by fire." "By fire" is, literally, "out of" the fire eke (#1537).
Christ does not offer gold without being tried by fire. The only way to acquire gold is in the fire. Experience gained from making the decision to trust in God while in the fire of the trial of faith, rather than in wealth or money. I am reminded of Daniel and his two friends that were cast into the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar when they refused to denounce God. God did not show up until they were in the fire. God wasn't early, but He surely was not late!
How is wealth tried in the fire? The steward of God's money will always have his faith in God tested when he is making a decision to allocate funds as prompted by the Holy Spirit or hold onto the money. Did you really give all your wealth to God?
Matthew 19:24 (KJV) - And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
I wonder at the thought of how many times God required wealthy Christians to forfeit their wealth in order to break the bondage to mammon.
Verse 1 (Con't) - "Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve"- (Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament) Kollourion (#2854), of which the Latin collyrium is a transcript, is a diminutive of [kollura], "a roll of coarse bread." See 1 Kings 14:3, Septuagint; the King James Version, "cracknels." Here applied to a roll or stick of ointment for the eyes. Horace, describing his Brundisian journey, relates how, at one point, he was troubled with inflamed eyes, and anointed them with black eye-salve (nigra collyria. Sat., i., v., 30). Juvenal, describing a superstitious woman, says: "If the corner of her eye itches when rubbed, she consults her horoscope before calling for salve" (collyria; vi., 577). The figurement sets forth the use of eyesalve as a spiritual anointing by which the spiritual vision is purged.
"Eyesalve" (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #2853 kollao (kol-lah'-o); from kolla ("glue"); to glue, i.e. (passively or reflexively) to stick (figuratively):
Use in KJV - cleave, join (self), keep company.
Kollao means to stick, cleave or fix our eyes (perception) on the real truth of God's Word. Do not look to the right or left and be swayed by man's vain imaginations of truth which fixes on worldly matters and circumstances, especially money. Faith in the Bible is God's eyesalve applied by the Holy Spirit to hearts that are seeking Him.
"Eyes" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) # #3788 ophthalmos (of-thal-mos'); from #3700; the eye (literally or figuratively); by implication, vision; figuratively, envy (from the jealous side-glance).
#3700 optanomai (op-tan'-om-ahee); a (middle voice) prolonged form of the primary (middle voice) optomai (op'-tom-ahee); which is used for it in certain tenses; and both as alternate of #3708; to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable; and thus differing from #991, which denotes simply voluntary observation; and from #1492, which expresses merely mechanical, passive or casual vision; while #2300, and still more emphatically its intensive #2334, signifies an earnest but more continued inspection; and #4648 a watching from a distance).
As can be seen, there are varied uses of the Greek word optanomai. Literally, to gaze can mean casual observation or intense inspection. The word "eyes" in this verse is an instruction from Christ to keep watch over this matter of mammon. Give earnest and continual efforts to inspection or examine ourselves to see where we stand in the faith, concerning trusting in God or trusting in mammon. How are we handling the responsibility God has given us over His money? Are we buying anything Jesus would not buy? Are we not giving anything that Jesus would give?
God will give the Christian the anointing needed to purge spiritual eyes, as one measures himself against the Word of God. Luke 11:34 (NIV) - Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light.
I am reminded of Job, who did not waver in his faith or his reverence for God after all had been taken from him. Even though Job had wealth, his trust was in God - Job 13:15 (KJV) - Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
Revelation 3:14-22 Con't - (19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
After all is studied concerning the problem with the Laodicea Christian, the gospel has just a simple verse to reveal the work that lies ahead in this struggle between God and mammon. First, He wants the Laodicea Christian to know that he is loved by the Lord. Secondly, because He loves him He is faithful to complete the work He began when he was first saved.
Philippians 1:4-6 (NIV) - In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, (6) being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
We must be in agreement with the work to be done, as revealed by the gospel. When we are given a light of illumination concerning an area of our lives, the Holy Spirit calls for repentance or edifies our place of standing. In repentance, we seek this change in our lives with a zealous attitude. Then we move nearer to the Lord. Our work upon the foundation of Christ is turning from wood, hay and stubble (works of dishonor) to gold, precious stones and silver (works of honor). Even as precious stones are refined and created by fire, vessels of dishonor with works of wood, hay and stubble are purged by fire.
2 Timothy 2:19-21 (KJV) - Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (20) But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. (21) If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
Timothy states that the foundation of God in the great House of God (corporate church) there are vessels of gold and silver, as well as, vessels of wood and earth. Vessels of gold and silver are vessels of honor. Vessels of wood and earth are vessels of dishonor. This scripture concerning the foundation of God parallels the scripture in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 (NIV) - For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, (13) his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. At the pre-tribulation judgment Christ will reward vessels of gold and silver with works of gold, silver and costly stones. Vessels of wood and earth with works of wood, hay and stubble are encouraged to purge themselves so that they will be fit for the Master's use and prepared for every good work. Otherwise, they will remain vessels of dishonor and their works of wood, hay and stubble will not pass the pre-tribulation judgment of Christ. Christ will move vessels of wood and earth into the flames of the great tribulation and continue their sanctification and purging.
This is the objective of the seven letters to Christians, to open the eyes of our understanding to the greater truth and direction of the gospel - salvation, sanctification and glorification. This is a direction that leads us to be more like Him. The Laodicea Christian needs to become a vessel of gold and silver.
Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NIV) - Be joyful always; (17) pray continually; (18) give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (19) Do not put out the Spirit's fire; (20) do not treat prophecies with contempt. (21) Test everything. Hold on to the good. (22) Avoid every kind of evil. (23) May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
I encourage each Christian to be firm in your faith, trusting God as your Provider of all things needed while serving Him. Give thanks in each situation because He is faithful to deliver you and keep you in His rest. Be faithful!! Wealth is to be used in service to God, not worshipped, adored or hoarded. Ask for the Lord's help so you won't be like a camel trying to pass thru the eye of a needle. Amen.
To The Church of Philadelphia
Revelation 3:7-13 (KJV) - And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; (8) I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. (9) Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (10) Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (11) Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. (12) Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (13) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Verse 7 (Con't) - "He that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" - Christ identifies himself to this church as holy and true and as the only preeminent Way to God the Father. As in the other letters, the way Christ introduces Himself to the churches provides insight to the character of Christ and for understanding the spiritual condition or need of each respective church. Appropriately, one should view these Philadelphia Christians as holy and true, representing the preeminent Lord, Christ Jesus. Apart from the other churches, this church has not been rebuked nor called to repentance. This church has been totally accepted and accredited with the crown reward, even before the Judgment of the House of God.
Verse 8 (Con't) - "Open door, and no man can shut it" - This is the door to the kingdom of God. It is open because it was opened by faith, holiness and submission to Christ as servants in the Great Commission. No one can shut this door because only Christ judges the church and the Philadelphia church is not shut out by the pre-tribulation judgment of Christ. This open door is a sign this church is in a place different that the other churches. None of the other six churches is noted as having an open door to the kingdom at the time of this judgment. Why was this door open to Philadelphia Christians and not to other Christians at this time? Does it indicate the Philadelphia Christian has passed the pre-tribulation judgment?
For instance, in the Sardis letter some of the Sardis Christians are worthy and will walk with Christ - Revelation 3:4 (NIV) - Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. Some Christians in the Sardis church are worthy and others are not. Although some of these Christians are worthy the door is not open for them at this judgment.
So why isn't the door open to these Sardis Christians at this time? Because pre-tribulation judgment will make a distinction between those who serve God and those who do not. Christ is bringing together those Christians who serve Him and they will be a pillar in the government of Christ in the millennium reign. A few Sardis Christians are worthy of walking with Christ but are different from the Philadelphia Christian in this respect - they are not involved with the Great Commission to take the good news of mercy and grace (gospel) to the world and they are not watchful. Their hearts are good, but they will not be prepared or ready for the return of Christ - Revelation 3:3 (KJV) - Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Verse 8 (Con't) - "Thou hast a little strength" - The way of the faithful zealous servant is one that requires strength and courage in taking the gospel to the lost and ministering to those in need. Perseverance in the ministry of grace and truth to those who sit in darkness will cause one to tire because persecution comes because of the Word. Only through the joy of serving Christ can one acquire strength to persevere through obstacles encountered in ministry.
Verse 8 (Con't) - "Kept my word and have not denied my name" - During the trials of life, these Christians did not waver in their faith. They held onto the promises of God and kept the faith. They did not deny the name of Christ when facing persecution for the ministry of the gospel. Christ to them was the true Son of God, Messiah, Savior and Lord of all.
Verse 9 (Con't) - "Say they are Jews, and are not" - To whom is Christ referring when he states that some in the synagogue claim to be Jews but are not? Romans 2:28-29 (NIV) - "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. (29) No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God."
A Jew in the eyes of Christ is one who does not rely on his observance of the law or other acts of obedience (legalism) for his righteousness before God. He realizes his righteousness is a gift of God through his faith in Christ as the one sent by God to pay the debt for his sin. His heart is circumcised by the Holy Spirit. He has offered himself up for the good of others in love, even as Christ offered himself up for the good of others in love. This is the very reason that Christ brought another commandment that we should love our neighbors even as he has loved us. We should love our neighbors even as we love ourselves. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. When the Christian learns to love as Christ loved, his faith will be full of power to access grace without hindrance.
Galatians 5:6 (KJV) - Faith worketh by love.
Verse 9 (Con't) - "Worship before thy feet" - "Worship" - (Strong's Concordance - Greek) #4352 proskuneo (pros-koo-neh'-o); meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand; to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore).
This is a most interesting scriptural phrase. Those who claim to be Christians and Jews, but are not, will at one time in the future, bow and acknowledge Christ loved the holy and true Philadelphia Christian. This will take place in the millennium because the church of Philadelphia has a special position of ruling authority wearing crowns in the government of Christ, to which all others will bow. I believe this position is the pre-trib distinction made between those who serve God; building on the foundation of Christ using gold, silver and precious stones.
This special place is revealed in the scripture in Matthew 19:28 - "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The Philadelphia Church is given responsibility in the government of Christ in the millennium reign to oversee and represent Christ to the inhabitants of the earth.
Note: This event fulfills the Old Testament foreshadow of Joseph's brothers' sheaves bowing to his sheaf at the time of harvest in Genesis 37:6-8 (NIV) - He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: (7) We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it." (8) His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Joseph is an Old Testament type of Christ. When the end time salvation and harvest of the Jews arrive, all Jesus' Jewish brothers' sheaves bow to his sheaf because he will rule over the Jews as their King in the millennium, even as Joseph was their ruler in Egypt. Likewise, Christians and Jews who do not receive the crown reward will bow to those Philadelphia Christians (who were given crowns and have the name of Christ, the name of God and the name of the New Jerusalem written on them) and serve as judges over all others who are not a part of the pre-tribulation harvest. The crown reward establishes Philadelphia Christians as kings and will bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem - Revelation 21:24 (KJV) - And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. The rest of those who are saved will walk in the light emitting from it. Remember, "And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" - Revelation 19:16 (KJV). Who are these kings and lords, if not the Philadelphia Christian?
See "For the Eyes of Your Understanding" - Volume III for a study on Joseph's life as a metaphorical foreshadow of God's plan for Jews and Gentiles.
Verse 10 (Con't) - "Keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth" - Philadelphia Christians will not be required to endure the tribulation of the end times, because they have already endured tribulations of the current times and have overcome through Christ. Additional refinement of the holy and true church is not necessary. "Keep thee" is a phrase that reveals the pre-tribulation harvest will not endure the seven year tribulation (hour of temptation).
Some scholars believe "keep thee from the hour of temptation" means Christ will protect them through (not from) the time of tribulation. They believe the phrase does not reveal the pre-tribulation harvest or rapture of Christians. The problem with this interpretation - if the Philadelphia Christian is on the earth during the time of tribulation they will be performing spiritual warfare with the anti-christ and his efforts to deceive those on the earth into believing he is the Messiah of God. How could he be revealed or be successful if he is bound by the spiritual preeminent authority of Philadelphia Christians?
For an indepth discussion on the spiritual power of the holy people, see Volume 5 - God's Agenda for the End Time Go to Table of Contents, and click on Chapter 2 bookmark entitled "Last Half of Tribulation - Rule of the Anti-Christ".
One can consider this pre-tribulation harvest as the first union of the holy and true Christians and the holy and true Messianic Jews into one body - Ephesians 3:6.
Verse 11 (Con't) - "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." - The reward for these Christians is a crown. It is a reward based on servanthood and stewardship prior to the pre-tribulation judgment.
This harvest of Christians received their crowns based on their time in ministry of the gospel. This is a "gold, precious stones and silver" reward, deeds based on merits of wholeheartedness - faith, patience, servanthood and their relationship with Christ.
Verse 8 (Con't) - "I know thy works" - This is at the forefront of Christ's comments concerning the level of Christianity in the Philadelphia Church. Christ is looking at the Christian's deeds of servanthood.
Matthew 25:31-36 (KJV) - When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (35) For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (36) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. This scripture speaks of the end time judgment and harvest of the church. The sheep are separated from the goats and sit at the right of Christ on his throne. Those who sit on his right sit there because their deeds were acceptable. After the judgment the sheep received their reward, inheritance of the kingdom. Matthew 25:40 (NIV) - "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Verse 31 - "When the Son of Man comes..." - This is the end time.
Note: The coming of Christ occurs when He comes on the clouds of heaven and gathers the nations before Him for judgment and harvesting. He will not set foot on earth until the bowls of wrath have been poured out at the end of the tribulation period. Prior to that time all harvesting by angels is finished and the ministry of the gospel is closed.
Verse 31 -"He will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." - Christ is not arriving on a white horse as He does under the seventh bowl of wrath. Christ, in this scripture, sits on His throne to judge the nations and the church. This is the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Verse 33 - "He will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." This is the end time separation between devoted the righteous and unrighteous.
Verse 34 - "King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." This is the harvest of the devoted Christians. From the time God created the world, these places for the pre-trib harvest of Christians and Messianic Jews were prepared.
Verse 40 - The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
When judges the church He will look on the heart of each Christian to see the fruit of the Word He seeded in his heart at the time of his salvation. Will He find a full persuasion of faith and will He find fruit? The Christian's ministry of faith and love to others is his ministry to Christ. He belongs to the royal priesthood of believers who are called according to His purpose.
When it comes time to harvesting each appointed ministry of the gospel, the harvest will be based on the heart of the Christian and the fruit of his ministry. If the Christian needs additional time for maturity and growth, then he / she will not be harvested in that particular ministry. They will be moved into the next ministry for additional refinement.
Note: The precept of more than one harvest of the corporate church will be difficult to accept for those who have for many years believed in a single harvest. But, to properly understand God's end time agenda the whole of the book of Revelation must be clearly understood. See For The Eyes of Your Understanding - Volume V for an indepth study of the book of Revelation - God's End Time Agenda. This study will include the three ministries of the gospel. Each ministry has a specific time, specific ministers and a specific harvest with specific rewards. The book of Revelation is simple to understand and precisely presented to the believer so he can gain wisdom concerning the end time harvests.
Before Christ comes to the earth in the seventh bowl of wrath, the work of sanctification must be complete. When the ministry of the gospel is complete just prior to sounding of the seventh trumpet then sanctification is complete - Revelation 10:7. Then the seventh trumpet is sounded beginning the time of God's wrath.
To complete the work of sanctification in each person's heart will require varying levels of tribulation fires. Some will be more difficult to reach than others -1 Peter 4:18 (KJV) - And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
"Scarcely" (Strong's Concordance / Greek) #3433 molis (mol'-is); with difficulty.
Use in KJV - hardly, scarce (-ly), + with much work.
"Where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?" - They will appear in the seven year tribulation. Some Christians will be moved from one ministry into the next ministry where tribulation intensity is increased. God is shaking created things, so that what can't be shaken (faith) will remain. The great tribulation is a time of great repentance and deliverance.
Isaiah 2:17-19 (NIV) The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day, (18) and the idols will totally disappear. (19) Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth.
Hebrews 12:26-27 (NIV) - At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." (27) The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken-that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
All Christians are taken from the earth! No one is left behind. But, not all are taken at the same time.
After the plagues of the first six trumpets, no one repented of their sin - Revelation 9:20-21 (NIV) - The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-idols that cannot see or hear or walk. (21) Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Additionally, In Revelation 16: 9, 11 the Bible says that after the fourth and fifth bowls of wrath "they refused to repent". This means that during the time of the wrath of God, no one repented. Why? Because all that could be saved are saved before the time of the bowls of wrath. Not one Christian is left behind! Amen!
EACH HARVESTED GROUP RECEIVES DIFFERENT REWARDS
The end time rewards are different because the hearts of Christian's are different in spiritual maturity and servanthood. Rewards, based on servanthood, have a prophetic Old Testament origin and are a vital part of New Testament life in Christ.
Malachi 3: 17-18 (NIV) - "They will be mine," says the Lord Almighty, "In the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spare his son who serves him. (18) And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not".
Discipleship and servanthood are the work of God through Christ's words spoken in - John 15: 7-8 (NIV) -"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (8) This is to my father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
"My words remain in you" - This is the gospel abiding in the Christian, by which he lives his life.
"Disciples" - Disciplined servants of Christ in the ministry of the gospel.
"Bear much fruit" - Fruit of the disciple's servanthood and stewardship under the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Father's glory" - God's ultimate plan for the Christian is to serve in the ministry of the gospel to those who do not know Jesus that He may be glorified in the earth.
The crown reward is given to the Philadelphia Christian is partially based on his service or ministry given without personal thought of merit or reward. This Christian serves because of compassion for those whom he serves and his love for Christ. He is not motivated to serve by what he receives in return. The Philadelphia Christian will sit on thrones under Christ because they are like Him. They have the mindset and heart of Christ.
The Philadelphia Christian's crown is for judging authority during the Millennium Reign when the holy and true Christians watch over the twelve tribes of Israel.
Revelation 3:12 (NIV) - Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
"Pillar" - #4769 stulos (stoo'-los); from stuo (to stiffen; properly akin to the base of #2476); a post, a column; pillars of fire, (figuratively) support
#2476 histemi (his'-tay-mee); to cause or make to stand, to place, to put, to set to bid to stand in the presence of others, in the midst, to fix, to establish, be kept intact (of family, a kingdom), to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything, to stand immovable, to stand firm, used of the foundation of a building, to stand ready or prepared, to be of a steadfast mind, who does not waiver.
The root word "histemi" reveals the meaning of pillar, as used by Christ in this passage of scripture. How rich is the imagery in the description of the Philadelphia pillars in the temple of God. Christian pillars wearing crowns in the government of Christ. Christians who stand in the presence of others in love, in the midst of the kingdom of God to uphold and to sustain the authority of God, serving as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel. Judges who have steadfast minds.....not wavering in love and their duties as judges. They are priests, who are a part of the foundation of the House of God (gold, silver and precious stones) - precious stones are used to build foundation of the New Jerusalem City of God (House of God) - Revelation 21:19-20 (NIV) - The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.
The foundation of Christ is works of gold, silver and precious stones. The millennium foundation of the government of Christ will be ruled by servants with deeds of gold, silver and precious stones.
There is no doubt that the Philadelphia Christian is found to be in total favor with God and Christ. This Christian will represent Christ to all others in the kingdom.
The following was written by a young pastor in Zimbabwe, Africa before his martyrdom for his faith in Jesus Christ.
"I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit's power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made - I'm a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.
I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and labor with power.
My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.
I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go 'til He comes, give 'til I drop, preach all I know, and work 'til He stops me. And, when He comes for His own, HE WILL HAVE NO PROBLEM RECOGNIZING ME!!...my banner will be clear!"
Having studied each letter to the church, it is apparent the letters represent criteria for the pre-tribulation judgment of the church. Thus, the letters become a most important teaching and preaching format for every church today. It is most important for each Christian to acquire knowledge concerning the judgment of the church. Why? Without this knowledge, the church may well continue in its present day slumber.
Today's eschatology concerning the end time agenda of God consists of varying opinions of the church's involvement in the end time and what God has planned for the church's harvest into the kingdom. Will the church be taken at pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation? Due to the many varying teachings concerning this subject, the church has become rather apathetic about the book of Revelation assuming it to be a difficult and complex book to understand. Apathetic because they are taught so many varying opinions about the end time. Diverse opinions as a result of believing all of the corporate church will be harvested / raptured in a single event. If the single harvest perception is accepted as truth, then each Christian is faced with accepting either the pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib harvest. Either precept accepted will be controversial with others who believe in a different time of harvest. When a single harvest precept is accepted by scholars, preachers and teachers of the Word, interpretation of scriptures are formed to support their accepted precept. Pre-trib believers interpret scriptures differently than post-trib believers. Thus, controversy exists within most congregations. To avoid controversy in the congregation, teaching about the rapture of the church is passed over by most teachers and preachers.
All controversy concerning the book of Revelation begins to fade as one realizes that all three harvest times are correct. The differences between the three harvests are made clear, sensible and opens illumination to the book of Revelation. Then scripture interpretation will be non-controversial.
As a result of the study presented, I believe it is apparent that the Christian needs to be alert and pro-active in the ministry of the gospel, wholeheartedly serving those in need of a greater light and understanding of Christ in their lives. The Philadelphia Christians are singled out by Christ and a distinction is made between them and other Christians who are not a part of God's command to be involved in the ministry of grace and truth, not only to the lost but to those in the church as well. Every Christian needs to have an opportunity to gain knowledge of this distinction God makes. This revelation of distinction will encourage repentance and change the lives of those who desire to draw closer to God through Christ. The letters indicate is the desire of Christ, prior to His arrival.
I am sure Christ desires every Christian touched by one of more of the letters will repent and change so he can sit in the Philadelphia Church. I believe the letters should be used to revive today's church to a higher plateau of serving Christ through the ministry of the gospel. Imagine teaching, preaching and overseeing God's flock and having some under your watch miss the pre-tribulation harvest because of confusion concerning the book of Revelation. Imagine how many will not be prepared, ready or watchful for His return. Imagine the flock missing out on the blessing Christ puts forth in Revelation 1:3 (NIV) - Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.
The expected arrival of the great end time revival which most scholars, theologians, prophets, preachers and teachers are expecting, can only come when the corporate church is revived. There will be no revival if there is no illumination of truth and repentance by slumbering Christians! The seven letters should be considered God's format for the end time revival!
When Christ returns for judgment of the House of God, will He find proactive faith? Surely He will find an abundance of proactive faith and fruit for His kingdom!!
Lord God, bless the reader and student of this Bible study and provide a vision for the road he / she travels. Empower them to be your disciple, give them wisdom for ministry to others in need and fill them with the joy of the Holy Spirit so they may enjoy the work of their hands, feet and heart. May their servanthood bring honor and glory to Christ. Amen!! Amen!! Amen!!