The Book of Revelation (part 7:) The Seven Churches (Part 2)
September 11, 2019
The Book of Revelation (part 7)
The Seven Churches (part 2)
Ephesians 1:9-10 – J. B. Phillips
For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan and it is this, He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that all human history should be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven and earth should find its perfection and fulfillment in Him.
Gk – apokolypsis (our English word apocalypse is transliterated from this Greek word) – an unveiling.
March 13 (part 1) – 3 classifications of people that God deals with in the Bible:
The Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church
March 27 (part 2) – Four Covenants:
April 10 (part 3) – Daniel’s revelation
There are yet 7 years of Jewish time that God revealed to Daniel that must be fulfilled.
The Jewish time clock will begin to tick again when Israel makes or confirms a covenant with its enemies. Seven years from that time the second coming will occur.
July 10 (part 4) – Revelation 1:1-8
July 17 (part 5) – Revelation 1:8-17
August 21 (part 6) – Introduction to The Seven Churches
Tonight – The Seven Churches (pt 2)
We covered the church in Ephesus last time.
Ephesus was a STRONG church founded by Paul on his first missionary journey. He was there for three years.
Ephesus was a WORD church. They had discernment. But they had gotten so busy working for God that their deep yearning for Him that they had at the beginning started to wane and grow a bit colder.
He told them that they had lost their first love. Then he showed them what to do to get it back. REPENT! That is, go back and do the things you did when you first knew the Lord.
Revelation 2:4-5 – NKJV
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (5) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.
The next church Jesus talks to is:
The Smyrna Church
Revelation 2:8-11 – NKJV
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, “These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: (9) ‘I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (10) Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (11) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”‘
The Smyrna church is the persecuted church. It was about 40 miles from Ephesus. It was a large and wealthy city, a seaport town. While Ephesus is in ruins today, Smyrna still exists as a city of about 200,000. The name Smyrna means myrrh, a perfume. The believers were suffering terrible persecution, but their life was a fragrant perfume to God!
Historically, it refers to the church from 64 A.D. to 312 A.D.
This period of time began with the Emperor Nero and ended with the Roman Emperor Diocletian. This was a time of tremendous persecution of the church. This time period saw ten Roman Emperors issue ten proclamations to persecute Christians. Rome did not like Christianity. To be a committed believer was a real challenge during these days!
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life …’”
Jesus reminds these believers that He is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega. He reminds them that He also was persecuted (who was dead), but He overcame.
The worst thing they could do to you was to kill you, He intimated.
He came to life. Persecution may be strong, but it ends with the bliss of heaven!
“I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
There was a large number of Jews in a local synagogue who slandered the Christians in Smyrna, hence the term ‘synagogue of Satan.’ Their slander had many of the Christians imprisoned. They were being used by Satan to persecute believers.
True circumcision is of the heart! These people were blood-related Jews, but did not believe that Jesus was Messiah! (Romans 2:28)
Often, the people who persecute us the most are the religious … in name only!
Keep in mind that when people criticize and persecute you, they are often being used by Satan.
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Jesus tells these believers that some will be imprisoned for 10 days, but that they would earn a crown.
We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood! When we are persecuted, Satan is behind it. (Ephesians 6:10).
The crown of life is for those who endure temptation and overcome.
James 1:12 – NKJV
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
Every test, every trial will be worth it when we see Jesus at the Judgment seat of Christ.
He reminds them that there is a reward for enduring. The Muslims are promised 72 virgins, but they end up in hell. We are promised a crown of life if we suffer for Jesus!
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”
You can have ears, but not really pay attention to what Jesus is saying.
Hebrews 5 mentions those who are dull of hearing. They hear, but fail to practice what is heard.
Hebrews 5:9-14 – NKJV
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, (10) called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,” (11) of whom we have much to say, and hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. (13) For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. (14) But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The second death here is the lake of fire where Satan, the antiChrist, and all unbelievers will spend their eternal destiny.
The Pergamos Church
Revelation 2:12-17 – NKJV
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, “These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: (13) ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
(14) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. (15) Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. (17) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.’”
Pergamos is the compromising church.
Historically, this church refers to the church from 312 A.D. until 600 A.D.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian died early in the 4th Century, and there was a battle to determine who would be the next Emperor.
Constantine and Maxentius fought. Before the battle, Constantine had a dream and saw the shape of a cross in the sky with a Latin Inscription – in noc sigo vinces – by this sign conquer.
Constantine won the ensuing battle, declared himself a Christian, and set Christianity as the official religion of Rome.
Immediately Rome went from a couple of hundred years of persecution to Christianity being the religion of the State!
This was not good. Constantine was Christian in name only. Many joined Christianity along with their pagan rituals and gods. They were immoral and steeped in wrong beliefs. Christianity was compromised!
Pergamos was a major religious center, and was known for its large libraries (over 200,000 copies of documents; only Alexandria, Egypt had more). Pergamos is also where scrolls of parchment were developed.
Some believe that Pergamos was the greatest city in Asia Minor.
There were many temples in Pergamos dedicated to heathen worship. The gods Zeus, Aphrodite, and Aesculapis (who was the god of medicine and worshipped with the form of a serpent).
But worse than the false gods was the emperor worship that was conducted there. Caesar worship was enforced in Pergamos. Other gods were easily worshipped, but only after the people bowed to the Roman emperor as supreme.
Once every year each Roman citizen had to appear before the Caesar and burn incense and bow down. Many Christians were killed. Persecution was great.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, “These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: (13) ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.’”
Pergamos was 50 miles north of Smyrna, and was also known as a center of emperor worship. Christians were harshly persecuted for refusing to bow to the emperor. They were disloyal and unpatriotic to Rome by refusing to worship the emperor.
The reference to “where Satan’s throne is” is because of this emperor worship. A faithful believer named Antipas had been killed for refusing to bow. Emperor worship was enforced in Pergamos.
The two-edged sword refers to the ability of God and His word to judge both the living and the dead. God will right every wrong on that day!
(14) “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. (15) Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”
What was popular in the culture in Pergamos infiltrated the church there. Balaam was pressured by Balak to curse Israel. This speaks of the influence and the pressure of the world seeking to compromise our walk with God.
One way was to say ‘Jesus is Lord’ in church, then on the street to yield to ‘Caesar is Lord’ so as to escape persecution or death.
Jesus said if they did not stop that, He would deal with those in the church who were telling them it was okay to compromise their faith.
Later on in the third century, Christianity became largely corrupted by the influence of “in name only” Christians who adopted the ways of the world and compromised their walk with God.
(17) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
That is, don’t just hear, but change your life as a result of what you have heard.
It’s too easy to come to church or hear a good Bible message, then go our way and do nothing with it. James says it’s like seeing yourself in a mirror and forgetting what you look like when you hear and don’t practice the word!
The phrase ‘to him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat’ may be to remind us that Israel ate food sacrificed to idols in Numbers 25 while they were still receiving manna from God. God was still watching over the church in Pergamos, even though they had great tests and persecution.
The ‘white stone with a new name written on it’ may refer to the Greek athletic games that allowed the winner to retire for life after winning.
To sum up:
To Ephesus to come back to their first love is an appeal to keep our heart affection close to Jesus as His second coming approaches.
To Smyrna is that persecution is part of the normal Christian life, and that we should not let up in our convictions when the pressure to compromise comes.
To Pergamos is that we should not compromise our Christian values due to cultural pressures of our day. As lawlessness increases, we must in private devote our hearts to Jesus and ask for His grace to shine in the dark place!