Tag Archives: Revelation

Wake Up! On Revelation

The Church at Sardis

Think of things that didn’t live up to their reputation.

  • The Ford Edsel in the 1950’s was to be an innovation in cars- sucked…
  • New Coke in the 80s was to build on Coke’s reputation- it didn’t…
  • PS3 was great! -unless you got the three rings of death…
    There’s a difference between reputation & reality-

Jesus, dictating the letter to the church at Sardis to John says:

“You have a reputation that you live, but you are D E A D.”

They were living on reputation, they were living on past accomplishments, they were living in the glory days but had fallen asleep to living the life and doing the stuff of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

WAKE UP!

Jesus says “WAKE UP!!!”…living on past accomplishments just isn’t enough-

Any time we live in the past it is not a good thing, it robs us of today – good or bad. If you live in the past of the bad things that happen in life then you’ll never go forward, never heal, never explore and discover life now. But the same is true for the good things: starting a business, being a star athlete in school, whatever the accomplishment, to live in the past is DEATH.

Paul speaks clearly words that the church at Sardis needed to hear, and words relevant for us today, in Philippians 3:13 “This ONE thing I do- forget what is past & move forward”. Sardis needed to do this to live.

Let us begin again!

Saint Francis said something as he gathered the brothers around not long before his death- “let us begin again, for up to now we have done nothing!”. For Sardis, For the American church, and for us individually, these words ring true. It is a time for us to begin again. Jesus said “repent & return to what you have received and heard.”

In ancient culture, cities kept a book with the names of all it’s citizens, when someone moved or died they would scratch the persons name out. Look at the promise Jesus gave to Sardis:

“He who overcomes will be dressed in white…& I will never erase or blot out his name from the book of life…” -Rev 3:5

Let’s not live in the past, let us not fall asleep, but be awake! & let us begin again; letting go of the past & moving forward!

The Church at Thyatira: Hold on!

The message to the church in Thyatira-

“Hold on!… & get rid of Jezebel”

Working Man Town: Thyatira was a working man’s town, like Pittsburgh’s steel industry, or Chattanooga with textiles in the 60’s. There were unions called “guilds” which had a patron Roman god or goddess, along with the guilds came regular “dinners” and rites as a part of membership. One of the main temples was to the Emperor, who was considered a “son of Apollo” ie. A son of the god, Apollo.

Jesus opens this letter addressing himself as “The Son of God” – as in the one and only. He commends them for love, faith, service, perseverance, and making progress, as well as their good deeds.

Slippery Slope

The followers in this city faced some difficult decisions, if you were not a part of the guild then you could not function in your trade, meaning economically you were at a huge disadvantage. To participate meant to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to participate in the “rites” of the guild which often included sexual rites or prostitution. Beyond getting a disease, the follower participating would compromise the lifestyle he had chosen as a disciple of Jesus.

Put your hand on the TV, say “Amen”, and pick up the phone now $$$

Jesus refers to a particular self proclaimed “prophet” as Jezebel, probably not her real name, but He’s making a point; she was leading the people astray by preaching it was OK to participate in functions of idol worship and the sexual rites that went along with it. WHY? Not for sure, but money and power probably had a lot to do with it, and human nature excuses many things by saying “So & so said it was OK…”

A Hard Rains a-Gonna Fall

Jesus speaks hard judgement to those in Thyatira who are unrepentant in their sin. No matter how we look at the harsh words given to some of the churches, at the core is a real desire that no one would die in sin but rather be reconciled to God and live! Here He says “I gave her a time to repent but she did not” therefore it’s a hard rain that’s going to fall. (quoting Bob Dylan)

Hold On, I’m Coming!!!

To everyone else who did not buy in to the lies and sin Jesus gave these words “I will put no other burden upon you, just hold on to what you have till I return.”

And return He will. When He does, He and His followers will break nations like clay pots with an iron rod. What does that mean?

Not sure entirely, let me just throw out one thought. If there were no government, nations, rivalry, competing for power, dominance, and fighting over resources then there would be no bloodshed, abuse, domination, war, or death. WHEN HE RETURNS He will put an end to all these things. That is good news! We say “Come! Lord Jesus!”

Faith Fears No Evil

Often we read the Book of Revelation with either stoic intellectualism or mystical symbolism (literally so steeped in “what does it all mean?”) that we miss an important element in reading the Bible, in that we are often emotionally disconnected with the narrative. This is a story, a narrative of the church, the actual people, flesh, blood, spirit. They were very much like us.

A Hard Rain Falling on the Early Church:

In the letters to Smyrna & Pergamus, both churches were enduring and surviving in hard circumstances. The believers in Pergamus had just seen a dear friend, Antipas, suffer and die for his religious beliefs. The King of the Universe had seen it, knew it, and made note of it while dictating this letter to the apostle John.

Likewise Smyrna lived in similar dynamics. There was a lot of pressure on these churches, the Roman state didn’t care who you worshipped as long as you were obedient to the state and the emperor as your ultimate master. Roman citizens were required at this time to burn incense in honor of the emperor and receive a “certificate” of having done so. The Christians had to chose between compromising their principals- being syncretistic in their beliefs, or they chose to live by their convictions “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Called Out:

Jesus called Pergamus out on this. Even though they’d continued in The Way even after seeing a friend brutally killed, they’d held fast, they’d not denied Jesus… yet they’d also eaten meat sacrificed to idols and participated in the sexual sins of the culture. For this Jesus calle them out.

No Rebuke:

Smyrna is one of two churches not to receive a rebuke. Times were harsh and persecution was coming. Jesus encourages them “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…fear non of those things you are about to suffer: prison, suffering, even death…”

Emotionally Connected to the Scripture:

I once read a story how gunmen and terrorists had stormed a church in Iraq resulting in over 30 people killed… Later that same day this the story had already been taken off the front page and filed somewhere way back. As I read the letter to Smyrna the emotion of what was going on there 2000 years ago hit me hard. If you’ve ever lost someone then you know how quickly it can happen, and you understand the emotional pain accompanied by the loss. I’d become emotionally attached to the story unfolding, the Bible had come to life.

Jesus Promises:

But Jesus made promises to Smyrna & Pergamus. To Pergamus he promised “hidden manna” and a “white stone with a secret new name written thereon”- They were called not to participate in the big banquets dedicated to the gods, but here Jesus uses a term of the day. In these times, when you were invited to a party, servants would deliver to you an invitation; it was a stone with your name written on it, and manna was food provided from heaven, as well as a symbol of Jesus body as food for the church.

Smyrna was promised a crown of life, not a kingly crown but a victors garland like in the ancient Olympics. The most prized crown of all, eternal life.

These two churches no doubt had Psalm 23 written in their hearts “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…”

Faith fears no evil.

Revelation: The Church at Ephesus

Rekindle the Love

Back in Acts chapter 20 we see the Apostle Paul instructing the church at Ephesus and teaching them to look out for those who would creep in to make the church their own little power trip. He encouraged them to keep the flock of God safe from wolves, to keep the teachings of the apostles straight, and to remain true.

The Ephesian church was planted in one of the Empire’s premiere cities, it was greatly self-ruled and on main trade routes.(One of the reasons Paul had chosen to stay and teach there as the Roman highways were the internet of the day, carrying information and new ideas,etc) Ephesus was also quite a religious town with many temples to the Roman gods.

In Revelation Ephesus is applauded for their hard work, perseverance, and for “testing those who call themselves apostles and are not”. They knew people looking for a power trip would try to come in and gather a following by teaching controversies, twisting scripture a little to make it say something else, and draw people away from the purity of scripture and the apostle’s doctrine-Years later we see that they had heeded Paul’s warnings to keep it right, and they had done so.

So much was good… conduct, teaching, holiness… yet there is no stronger a rebuke than the one the church at Ephesus received “You have forsaken your first love…repent, and do those first things again …if you do not then I will come and remove your lampstand…”

Without love all you are left with is religion:

They needed to both live holy with sound teaching, and to be an example of love. Without God’s love all they were left with in Ephesus was religion. And religion without love is an ugly thing that is apathetic to the lost, criticizes those who eat and drink with “the wrong group”, stones sinners in the street, or cuts off the hand of one who steals. The Ephesian church had fallen from such an example to something Christ would have to do away with because they’d lost the one thing that made them the church- LOVE.

“Love God…love others…”, “They will know you are my followers by your love…”, “For God so loved the world…”

In verse 6 Jesus returns to encouraging Ephesus, they are a good church who have not compromised their faith in a culture that was promiscuous in many ways. Jesus closes with a promise to “eat from the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God.” The last book of the Bible connecting here with the first. A promise of restoration and relationship with Father-God.

How do we find the love of God again?

“The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which God has given to us” -Romans 5:5

  • So pray to be filled with God’s love and God’s Spirit (you can’t have one without the other & if you truly have one -you have both)
  • Seek ways to love others in real and genuine ways-“they will know we are his followers by our love…”

When He Returns

Though not exhaustive- here’s some straightforward thoughts on Revelation Chapter 1:

Christ Victorious

Even in the first chapter you see this “strength” come out in the picture of Jesus. Even as he came humble, as the suffering servant, our substitution and atonement, being born to a virgin in His first coming- at His second coming we see “Christ Victorious” the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the king of all kings on earth (v 5)

C. Missler says of Revelation “It’s the only book in the bible that has the audacity to say ‘Read me-I’m special’ “. And indeed, as John opens the writing he says ” Blessed is he who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are they who hear and keep these words, because the time is near.

John salutes Jesus in verses 5-7, again showing this strong vision of Christ Victorious as he says:

“Look- He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be.” In addition to the celestial “coming in the clouds” you also have the image of warriors and chariots from the Roman world. when a commander and his army would ride into battle they would kick up the dust so they literally would come “in the clouds” of dust as they rode into battle.

Another allusion to the Roman world was the two-edged sword. In addition to Paul’s reference of the word of God being sharper than a two-edged sword, and John in verse 16 describing Christ as having a “double-edged sword coming out of his mouth”- the double edged blade was a Roman invention. Beforehand people only had a one-edged blade with which they hacked their enemies to death with like chopping firewood, the double edged sword cut both ways and was a much more lethal weapon, hence the dominance of Rome.

John, seeing this vision of Christ, fell down before the one walking among the lamp stands. The one with snow white hair, in stately robes, eyes like blazing fire, and a voice like a waterfall, it all overwhelmed John and he fell down…

Then the one revealed in all this power and glory, the one the kings of this earth fear, gently places His right hand on John & says “Do not be afraid”. Why? Because this was Jesus speaking to John the beloved…

John who’d stood at the foot of the cross with Mary and the other women (all the other disciples had run off)-John had stood there unable to help his friend, only able to watch as he died- now encounters the risen Christ powerful and victorious and overwhelming yet Jesus, his dear friend says to John “Do not be afraid…”.

“I am the First and the Last…I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades…” There is nothing more powerful than this.

Not to jest, but thoughts of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood riding into town come to mind. Look out!

When He returns-

Nothing can stand before Christ Victorious. As the Christmas carol O Holy Night says “All oppression shall cease”. Those who have the most to fear are those who wrongly wield their authority over others, who abuse their position or power on this earth for they will be answerable to This Christ- the one coming in clouds.

The Book of Revelation is very much an unveiling of the battle between good and evil, and as Bob Dylan says in his song When He Returns “The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a Mighty God”.