JESUS’ LETTER TO THYATIRA

Where has your heart been lately, O church? He wants your heart. Have you gone after other lovers?

[SW130] 2/28/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Thyatira”

Text: Revelation 2:12-17a

Background:

While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.

Background on Thyatira:

Lydia, from Acts 16:14ff, was a native of Thyatira, a place of shrines to Apollo, Artemis, Helius (sun god), and the Roman emperor who was worshiped there as Apollo incarnate. It was the center for many trade guilds. Drunken guild-feasts and orgies were part of the pagan worship in Thyatira.

Jesus’ words to the church at Thyatira:

Jesus Christ identifies Himself as the Son of God, the only true God incarnate. His self-description is that of Judge — eyes like a flame of fire, feet like burnished bronze. Bronze and fire frequently connote judgment in God’s Word. He stands as Judge before them, for something is very wrong, amidst all the right that is being done by this church.

He fully knows their love and faith and the service and perseverance (steadfastness in faith). Even now, they do more in service and are more steadfast than ever . . . but He has something against them.

They tolerate (that is, they permit) someone named Jezebel to be in their midst.
In a word, they compromise.

Jezebel calls herself a prophetess. She calls herself —  she was not called to prophesy by God and is not God’s prophetess, or she would not teach what she is teaching! She claims she hears from God, but what she says is from her own imagination, as in Judah at the time of Jeremiah’s preaching (Jeremiah 2:8, 23:16). She is a false teacher.

What is the difference between Pergamum and Thyatira? In Pergamum, some went OUTSIDE the church to eat food sacrificed to idols and commit acts of immorality.  In Thyatira, Jezebel teaches these things to His bond-servants WITHIN the church. And no one speaks against her!

This is the Lord’s great warning to today’s church! The worship of the world has entered the church at Thyatira, and it is being taught within her walls by a false teacher. It is the same today, and in many churches, no one speaks against the false teachers.

In 1Kings 21:25-26, King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, who worshiped Baal, the god of fertility (worshiped via cult prostitution, orgies and feasts), is described:

1Kings 21:25 Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD,  because Jezebel his wife incited him.  26  He acted very abominably in following idols,  according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the sons of Israel.

Just as surely, the Jezebel of the church at Thyatira incites the church to sell themselves to do evil in the Lord’s sight, following idols.

And she refuses to repent, just as with Jezebel in 1Kings, though the Lord gave her a space of time to do so. The Lord warned her through those who remained true to Him  at Thyatira, just as Jeremiah warned Judah.

She commits — and teaches others to commit — literal adultery. And by listening to and doing what she teaches, some in the church commit spiritual adultery against Jesus Christ, their Bridegroom, and share in demons:

1Corinthians 10:19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or  that an idol is anything?  20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they  sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.  21  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and  the table of demons.

And again, as with the church at Pergamum, THEY WILL BECOME WHAT THEY WORSHIP (Psalm 115) unless they turn back to Him and away from her false teaching.

Unless she and her followers repent upon reading this letter of correction and rebuke, the Lord will cast them onto a bed (2825) — it is where she and they have committed adultery. The Greek word for “bed” here means a couch used for those who are sick.

Unless they repent, they will undergo great tribulation. I believe this refers to the great tribulation at the end of things, which is described in Revelation Chapters 6 and forward. Unlike the church at Philadelphia, they will not escape the hour of testing that is coming (see Revelation 3:10).

And the Lord Jesus Christ will destroy, put to death, slay (615) Jezebel and her followers by pestilence (literally, death), just as with those who reject God in those later chapters of Revelation, during the Great Tribulation.

All of this, as with all judgments of God, are so all the churches will know that He is the one who searches hearts and minds, and they will be repaid in accordance with what they have done (Jeremiah 17:10, Romans 2:6).

Remember, they will live if they will repent (turn from their sin, and truly mourn and cry, “Against You only, O God, I have sinned!”).

There are some in Thyatira that do not cling to Jezebel’s teaching. To them, He asks nothing but that they continue to cling to Him, until He comes.

They have not known the deep things of Satan. Ahh! We see the source of Jezebel’s false teaching. Just as only the Spirit of God knows the deep things of God (1Corinthians 2:10), only the spirit of Satan knows the deep things of Satan. Jezebel and those who follow her are following Satan.

Gnosticism boasted that it was precisely by entering into the stronghold of Satan that believers could learn the limits of his power and emerge victorious. On the basis that a believer’s spirituality is unaffected by what is done with the body, Jezebel could argue that the Thyatiran Christians ought to take part in the pagan guild-feasts (even if they were connected with the deep secrets of Satan) and thus prove how powerless is evil to alter the nature of grace. (Source: New International Commentary on the New Testament.)

He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches of that day, and to today’s church!

I repeat:

This is the Lord’s great warning to today’s church! The worship of the world has entered the church at Thyatira, and it is being taught within her walls by a false teacher. It is the same today, and in many churches, no one speaks against the false teachers.

Are there Jezebels among us?

Are there false teachers who tell you it’s OK to sin because you’re saved and so you can sin and sin and sin the same sin and keep saying, “Sorry, Lord. Please forgive me . . .” ?

Are we compromising, allowing them to teach what is clearly in opposition to Jesus Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and through the letters from the Apostles throughout the New Testament?

What teaching are you listening to and thereby “eating”?

I have heard the words of a pastor who said it was God’s will for him to commit adultery with the church’s children’s director. They ran off together, confident they are still safe in the palm of the Father’s hand.

I have heard the words of a man who has fornicated (sex outside marriage) for over 30 years, and he says the Holy Spirit says it’s alright and that the Holy Spirit will show him when he should escape his situation.

Do you know the voice of the Good Shepherd and run from the voice of strangers? Or are you in bed with them? Christ asks this of you.

Where has your heart been lately, O church? He wants your heart. Have you gone after other lovers?

Where has your body been lately? Is your body a temple of the Holy Spirit? Or has another spirit entered your body through sexual immorality?

Where have your eyes been lately? Do you see what He sees, or would you not want Him to see what you look at?

Repent, turn from your sin because you know that it is against the Lord only that you have sinned. Ask Him to purify your heart so you have no desire for anything but Him and more of Him!

And for you who do not listen to the instruction of false teachers, the Lord places no other burden on you. Stand. You will see the salvation of the Lord!

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JESUS’ LETTER TO PERGAMUM

Above all things, Jesus’ great concern and reason for rebuke is that if they continue, they will become what they worship . . . and it is just as true for today’s church.

[SW129] 2/21/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Pergamum”

Text: Revelation 2:12-17a

Background:

While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.

Background on Pergamum:

The Christians there were persecuted by both Romans and Jews, as with Smyrna.

A great throne-like altar to Zeus was located in Pergamum, and the city-hill itself was shaped like a throne. He was worshiped at the time of this letter, and he is still worshiped today.

Jesus’ words to the church at Pergamum:

He begins by saying he has the sharp two-edged sword. What is that sword? The Word of God:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and  active and sharper than any two-edged  sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Why does He identify Himself this way, in His first words to this church? I see it as a preview of His call for them to repent. He is about to reprove this church.

He says He knows they dwell where Satan’s throne is. As I noted above, the altar to Zeus, king of the Greek gods, is large and prominent there.

Just as Paul referred to Satan as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), Zeus’ kingdom was the sky and air. So indeed, it is Satan’s throne, for he is the one behind Zeus and other false gods. It is an indication that Jesus’ letter will warn this church about idol worship.

Jesus encourages the church at Pergamum in some things:

In spite of persecution, they hold fast (2902 retain, take hold of, cling to) the name of Jesus (3686 His authority, His character), and do not deny their faith in Him, despite the martyrdom of their leader, Antipas.

According to church history, Antipas was burned to death in a bronze bull-shaped altar. Again, it is a reference to Zeus, who often appeared in Grecian art astride a white bull. And again, Jesus Christ repeats that Pergamum is where Satan dwells.

Jesus had one thing against Ephesus: they had left their first love. But is it all that different for some at Pergamum?

Jesus has not just one, but a few things against some at Pergamum:

First, some hold to the teaching of Balaam. Second, some hold to the the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

The teaching of Balaam:

Balak, the king of Moab, wanted to destroy Israel, which had encamped in Moab. He called on Balaam, a diviner, to pronounce curses on Israel, but all that would come out of his mouth were blessings. God spoke to Baalam, and God made it so.

Since Balaam couldn’t curse them, he advised Balak to tempt the men of Israel with Midianite women, daughters of Moab, who were very sensual and beautiful (see Numbers 31:16).

The men took the bait (Numbers 25:1ff), and sinned against the Lord, eating things sacrificed to Baal of Peor and committing sexual immorality. The Lord struck them with a plague, stopped by the intercession of Phineas, a priest of the Lord.

In Pergamum, the false gods were the Roman emperor and Zeus, and orgies and feasts were part of emperor worship. Some of the church at Pergamum had taken the bait just as Israel did, committing adultery and eating food sacrificed to idols.

Even today, sexual immorality is part and parcel of the worship of false Gods. Cult prostitutes are used to “worship,” and orgies and feasts using food offered at the altars of these false gods are part of the “worship service.”

We become what we worship! This is the Lord’s warning to us today, from Psalm 115, and I will speak from that scripture later in this message.

The teaching of the Nicolaitans:

Jesus rebukes the church at Pergamum because some have followed the teachings of the Nicolaitans. He describes that teaching as being “the same way,” as the teaching of Balaam, meaning there is encouragement of sexual immorality and idol worship.

Why does Jesus rebuke Pergamum regarding idolatry and sexual immorality?

In all ages, God says idolatry and sexual immorality are the same as committing adultery against Him. We are worshiping something other than Him, and it is really ourselves that we worship! Moses says this of Israel:

Deuteronomy 32:16 “ They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 “ They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.
18 “You neglected  the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.

In their selfishness, they satisfied their sexual and material lusts, becoming their own gods, and the Lord was dethroned.

It is the same at Pergamum, and the same today. We spurn the One who bought us with a price and join ourselves to another (1Corinthians 6:20). And in doing so, something happens to us spiritually. We become one with what we worship. Go to Psalm 115, and see that you lose your spiritual senses when you participate in idol worship and sexual immorality. What do you become? Unable to speak the things of God, unable to see or here or smell or feel Him, unable to walk with Jesus Christ. That is His great warning to you, and to the church at Pergamum!

We spurn the One who loved us and stretched out His arms for us so sin is put to death in us.

Lust is still alive and well in some of the church in Pergamum. But Jesus Christ came so they could be set free from slavery to sin, which includes lust — not just sexual lust, but “gotta have it right now,” lust, whatever “it” is.

Some at Pergamum have not asked for the Refiner to cleanse their hearts (Acts 15:9) so their hearts are totally, completely His. So they remain infants in Christ, like some in the church at Corinth.

Can God really take away lust? In 2Peter 1:3, Peter says God grants us divine power in order to live godly lives, if we truly and intimately know Jesus Christ. The result?

2Peter 1:4  For by these [His divine power and intimately knowing Him] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent  promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having  escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Paul exhorts the church at Corinth about participating in idol worship, for some of them did the same as at Pergamum:

1Corinthians 10:19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?  20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles [unbelievers] sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.  21  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and  the table of demons.

It is spiritual adultery to worship false gods, and you will lose the spiritual senses the Lord gave you when you do it.

Jesus is the Bridegroom of the church at Pergamum. Some of them have left Him and gone after orgies at the Roman feasts.

This is really important: Even though the church at Pergamum does not renounce Christ and acknowledge the emperor as god, some commit adultery against Jesus Christ by participating in emperor worship, even while they say Christ is Lord.

When some at Pergamum offer themselves to cult prostitutes at these pagan feasts, a physical oneness is created that binds them spiritually to the prostitute. They cannot be “one” with a prostitute, part of her or him, and still be “one” with Christ. That’s why Paul warns the Corinthians of the same sin (1Corinthians 6:15ff). He did not want the Corinthians to become like that which they were worshiping.

Jesus warns that He is coming quickly (5035 tachu), unless the “some” who do these things repent. The Greek word can mean “in a short time,” but it also means a sudden and unexpected appearance. I believe Jesus means the latter!

When He suddenly and unexpectedly comes, He will make war, He will battle with those who follow the ways of Baalam and the Nicolaitans.

His weapon? The sword of His mouth — the Word of God! He now sits as Judge and will judge them through His word (John 12:48, Hebrews 4:12).

Look to the description of Jesus in Revelation 19:15 —

Revelation 19:15  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that  with it He may strike down the nations, and He will   rule them with a rod of iron; and  He treads the  wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

How does this apply to the church of today?

Are we selfish? Do we put our sexual and material desires before our desire to know God intimately? We become what we worship!

We may not literally partake of food sacrificed to idols, but what do we “eat” with our eyes, in magazines, on the Internet, and on television? Again, Satan is the prince of the power of the air, and he controls what comes into your living room every night. What is on television is a product of Hollywood, where worship of self is very visible. You will become like that which you are allowing to enter into your spirit via television and the internet and movies and magazines. It will become one with you, and you will become like it.

And what wisdom do we look to, in order to grow bigger churches?

What are we lusting after?

Certainly we lust sexually, because the divorce rate is the same in the church as in those who do not know Jesus Christ. Many hearts remain unchanged from the way they were before they confessed Christ. They have not asked the Refiner to cleanse their hearts of lust.

Many have decided that Jesus Christ cannot cleanse their hearts, or they do not want Him to do so. They like what they are doing, regardless of the consequences. The wages of sin, beloved, is death and hell, where their worm never dies and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-46).

Some say, “I will visit You on Sunday, Jesus, and then dally with the world the rest of the week.” They thus make themselves their own god and worship themselves and their lusts, committing adultery against Jesus Christ, regardless of our confession at an altar.

Today’s church brings the world into her midst, offering the world’s idea of entertainment instead of worship, selling trinkets and coffee in the church’s shops (Jesus called the Jews who did the same at the temple “robbers” who had made the temple their den), and demanding that pastors avoid powerful truths of God that might empty a pew or two.

Today’s church says, “Let us the world’s business practices to attract people to us. Since Jesus is not among us but is outside our doors, knocking, let us continue to do it our way.”

Oh, he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! Repent, or else Jesus Christ will come to you suddenly and unexpectedly, and use the sword of His mouth, the word of God, to slay you.

It was not too late for Pergamum, and it is not too late for us. If you will turn back to Him, if  you will ask Him to cleanse your heart so it is pure, without mixture, and totally His, He will do it. But you must act now, because He will suddenly and unexpectedly come to judge.

This is a love letter from the Lord. Those whom He loves, He disciplines:

Hebrews 12:5  You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;  5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “ MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR  FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6  FOR THOSE  WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
7 It is for discipline that you endure;  God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  8 But if you are without discipline,  of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

He loved His church at Pergamum, and He loves you. Do you have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to you today?

THE PURE IN HEART SEE GOD

Matthew 5:8   “Blessed are  the pure in heart, for  they shall see God.

Illustration:

Before modern refining techniques, pure gold was refined in a crucible or pot.
The impure gold was heated.

As the gold reached a particular temperature, impurities rose to the top and were carefully skimmed off by the refiner. He continued heating the gold until it reached a higher temperature, and more impurities would rise to the top and be carefully skimmed off.

The process continued until suddenly, he looked at the gold and it was like a mirror — he could see his image in it! No more fire was needed — it was pure!

But when the gold was pure, it took on another wonderful characteristic, besides reflecting the image of the refiner. Pure gold is so soft, so malleable that it can be molded and shaped and pressed without breaking or cracking. It was too soft and pliable to be made into jewelry like my wedding ring. But it was perfect for being molded and shaped. It was used to cover wooden objects used for worship in the Tabernacle of God, and in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As we come to today’s scripture (Matthew 5:8), three questions come to mind:

#1 – What is a pure heart?

#2 – How do I get one?

#3 – What does it mean to “see God?” Why am I supremely blessed when I do?

What is a pure heart?

A pure heart is one that has no other elements in it, like the pure gold. There is no admixture.

It is a heart that is completely and entirely God’s. Jesus doesn’t have to compete with anything for your attention. Your eyes are on Him, and His love is always in your line of vision.

It is a heart in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell, for they will not dwell where there is impurity.

It is one in which the Refiner, the Lord Jesus, can see His own image!

It is a heart filled with the actual love of God — not love for God, but His actual love in that heart!

It is a heart made perfect (complete) as He is perfect (Mt. 5:48, made holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16)!

It is a heart that is malleable, moldable, shapable, as His Spirit takes us from image to image and glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18)!

It is a heart that does not intentionally rebel against God (sin).

How do I get one?

Praise the Lord — we can’t do it!

Psalm 51:10

David knows, from the Psalm he wrote after he sinned with Bathsheba and sent her husband to his death. Only God can do it!

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.” The Hebrew word for “create” here is bara’, and it is used only of God.

“And renew a right spirit within me.” Renew really means to make new. He needs a spirit that is right, that is steadfast, and only God can do that.

An important truth: It is only when David’s heart is made pure by God and a new spirit is in Him that David (and we) can teach transgressors the Lord’s ways, resulting in their conversion and salvation.

Beloved, if we are not living what we are teaching and proclaiming, our words mean nothing. No one will believe us.

In Ezekiel 36, the Lord declares that He will take out our stony heart and replace it with a heart that responds to His every whisper. He will give us His Spirit so we are careful to obey Him, out of love.

Malachi 3:2-4 —

Jesus Christ is your Refiner. He cleans you up inside (refining) and out (strong soap used by a fuller/launder), O royal priesthood, holy nation!

Is that “for everyone?” It was certainly for the Apostles and also for the house of Cornelius, as Peter testifies in Acts 15:9. Just like the Apostles, Cornelius and his house suddenly had cleansed (2511, katharidzo, cleansed, purged, purified) hearts!

What is it to “see God” and why am I supremely blessed when I do so?

This is one of those “here and now” and “there and then” promises.

The word  “see” is horao (3708) —  to stare at, to discern clearly (physically or mentally); to experience; to behold, to perceive, to take heed.

We will certainly see Him when we worship at His throne in heaven. Look to Revelation 4 and 5 to get a picture of the scene!

But how can we “see God” here and now?

As David writes in Psalm 24:3-4, only those with clean hands and a pure heart can ascend into the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place.

It is good when we see Him working around us, and to see Him providing for us, as He did for Israel, but that’s not the kind of seeing this verse refers to. It is experiencing Him.

I tell you, if you have been argued into believing in Jesus, someone can come along with a better argument. But if you have experienced Him, if He has filled your heart with God’s actual love, no argument will ever sway you!

Beloved, the Father’s promise is that He will fill us with His Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire — His refining fire!

He will purify our hearts, and the Father and Son and Spirit will literally dwell inside of us (John 14:23). That is a supreme blessing, beloved!

So we shall certainly have the holy intimacy that “seeing” connotes, the nearness, and we shall see Him in a spiritual way! That is a supreme blessing! We will fellowship with Them, just as the Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:3. Those who have impure hearts cannot fellowship with God . . . sin separates them from Him (Isaiah 59).

This purification and molding and shaping makes you a witness of Him here, and that is the whole purpose of the church — not simply to get them saved, which is essential and great, but to purify. Jesus came so you would be able to be forgiven of your past sins, which comes first. But He came to give you a pure heart.

God was not surprised that Adam sinned; He had already prepared a Lamb, His Son., before the earth was formed, before time began. It did not surprise God that though Israel sincerely said, “We will serve You alone, O God,” they turned from Him and served other gods. He knew the condition of the hearts of His creatures. And He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to purify our hearts so we would love Him only.

ALTAR CALL:

Without this pure heart, you will not see God.

Here and now, His presence will not come into you, so you can spiritually see Him. There and then, you will stand before Him, fall down and worship Him.

And the writer of Hebrews warns the Hebrew Christians:

Hebrews 12:14    Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [purification] without which no one will see the Lord.

The good news is that Jesus Christ came not only to forgive but to purify, so we may make offerings to Him rightly.

Beloved, if you see that your heart is not pure, come to the Purifier today. He will heat you up, and skim off all that is not God.

He will see His reflection in you, and You will see God!

You will stare at Him, you will clearly discern Him (physically or mentally); you will experience Him; you will behold Him and perceive Him!

JESUS’ LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA

[SW128] 2/14/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Smyrna”

Smyrna is persecuted by Romans and Jews, and some will soon die for their faith. Even more so today, true Christians are persecuted and martyred around the world.
Jesus encourages all who are His!

Background:

While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.
Background on the church at Smyrna:

The church at Smyrna is one of the two who are not commanded by Jesus to repent. His letter is entirely for their encouragement.

Smyrna is “smurnah (4666), which means myrrh, an ointment used for embalming. This was a church whose members were persecuted even to death.

It is located in what is now Turkey. The city was headquarters for the Roman empire’s cult of emperor worship. Christians were persecuted there by Romans and Jews. Both claimed Christians blasphemed:

— Romans, because the Christians refused to renounce Jesus and worship the emperor as god

—Those who call themselves Jews, but because they do not believe in their Messiah, Jesus Christ, they are sons of their father, the devil (John 8:44). So they are a synagogue of Satan.

They accuse the church at Smyrna of blasphemy because Christians believe Jesus Christ is deity, God the Son, and they call God their Father, just as Jesus did (see John 20:17 — “My Father and your Father, and My God and your God”).

Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John and the leader of the church at Smyrna, was martyred when he was very old . . . 86 years, or 106, depending on how you read the historical account. After he openly confessed Jesus while standing before them, the Romans and the Jews were furious, seized him, and church history records that he was bound to a stake and the fire lit, but micaculously, it did not touch him. He was then stabbed to death by his persecutors.

The content and portent of Jesus’ letter to the church at Smyrna:

Jesus identifies Himself differently to this church, compared with Ephesus. To Ephesus, He said he held the seven stars (messengers/pastors) and walked among the lamp stands (the churches). His titles to them indicated of His concerns about  that church.

But to this church, He speaks of His deity and resurrection. He is the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who knows the end from the beginning. He existed prior to creation, and lives eternally.

He is the one who was dead and rose again. So they serve a living Savior and Lord, God the Son, and because He was resurrected, they will be, too.

And He fully knows what they are going through — tribulation (anguish, trouble, persecution) and poverty (because they were shunned and therefore could not find work). This word means extreme poverty, downright destitution!

But they are spiritually rich, in Him! They have the riches Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:20 — treasures in heaven. And they have the riches Jesus spoke of in Acts 1:5 and 1:8 — baptized with the Holy Spirit and power, they are His witnesses even to the ends of the earth.

In Verse 10, Jesus warns them that they are about to suffer (3958, experience the sensation of pain).

Their tribulation/persecution is about to go beyond shunning and poverty and accusation and interrogation. But He says, “Do not fear!”

Some of them are about to be thrown into prison, to await torture and then death by a myriad of horrible means — burned at the stake, torn to pieces by lions, to name but two.

They will be tested (3985 enticed, tempted). They must remain steadfast in their faith in Jesus Christ, even though some will be captured, threatened with death and will indeed die.

But, “Be faithful until death,” He commands, “and I will give you the crown [victor’s wreath or garland] of life” — eternal life in Him, because they refuse to renounce Jesus Christ.

[NOTE: I will speak of the “overcomers” for all seven churches after I have spoken on Laodicea.]

How does all of this apply today?

In other countries — including Indonesia, India, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq — Christians are literally persecuted and killed in the same way as some of those at Smyrna.

More Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than in all of the previous years the church has existed.

Here in the U.S., we may say there is no persecution, but there ought to be.

Jesus warns His disciples to expect it in John 15:18-25. Why?

Because the world hates us. If we are like the world, they will love us. If we are not like the world, we will be persecuted, just as Christ was persecuted.

They will persecute us if we claim the name of Jesus (for His name’s sake) and live as He did.

The world sins, but no longer has an excuse because He has come. If they see and hate Jesus who is in us, they also see and hate the Father. They will hate us without a cause.

But today’s church in America seems to want the world to love them.
They want to be admired and respected in the community as a benevolent organization that feeds and clothes the poor, and that helps people meet their own “felt needs.” A humanistic (God is here to serve humans) gospel!

God help us! The world loves us! We must repent!

If not, we will continue to look like the world and act like the world (the human-centered gospel), and therefore make it evident that we love the world.

We will blend in quite nicely.

But we will make it evident that, despite our confession of faith, we do not love God.

We will speak of the church at Laodicea last, but the American church bears an eerie resemblance to it. And those, unless they repent, He will vomit from His mouth. They will no longer be “in Christ.”

If you are His and live as He did in the world, prepare for greater persecution in this country.

His name is defamed on everything from the morning shows to the evening news to The Weather Channel.

Expect the same and greater, but rejoice, because even if you are shunned, tortured and martyred for your faith, you will be given the crown of eternal life! Take courage in Peter’s words:

1Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the  fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you  share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

JESUS’ LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS

[SW127] 2/7/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Ephesus”

The church at Ephesus was doing many good things. But there was a huge problem, and Jesus addresses it in a love letter to them. He is speaking to today’s church as well.

While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He calls five of the seven churches to repent. The first church is Ephesus.

The good news for Ephesus:

HE walks in the midst of the church at Ephesus. That is God’s grace to them (and in the present, His grace to us). He is there to say, “This is the way, walk in it” (see Isaiah 30:21). Because He is there, nothing is hidden from His eyes.
He sees everything so He can commend them for what they are doing well, and correct them for what they have neglected.

What they are doing well:

The are working, acting. They labor even to the point of exhaustion, and they remain constant and steadfast in the midst of trials (verse 2).

They are unable to tolerate evil men. They test apostles to see if they are false (verse 2).

In verse 3, He repeats that they remain constant and steadfast. This is to encourage them to continue to be so.  They have not grown weary in their labor.

What they have neglected:

They have left (836, departed from, sent away, left, forsaken, laid aside, omitted) their first love. This “left” is used of divorce in 1 Corinthians 7:11-13! What is the opposite of leaving? Loving.

They have left their first (4413 chief, leading man) love (26 agape, the actual love of God). As I spoke last week from John 15:16, we are to go at the Lord’s leading; He thus is our “leading man.” We do it when our hearts are filled with His agape.

Yahveh speaks of how Judah left Him, in Jeremiah 2:1-8. Let’s go there. (Please watch the video to hear this section. Look for the link on the right of my blog page.)

Do you see it?

Like Judah, the church at Ephesus has left the love of her betrothals (3618 bride-to-be). The bride-to-be left the One to whom she was engaged to be married, the leading Man, Jesus Christ. She has forsaken Him! She was devoted (2617 hesed) to Him in the beginning, doing deeds of devotion. The NT equivalent of hesed is agape.

She did deeds that indicated she loved Him, in the beginning. But how could she? She left Him. She was treacherous, Yahveh says many times through Isaiah and Jeremiah (i.e., Isaiah 24:16, Jeremiah 3 — four times in five verses). She acted deceitfully.

Because the church at Ephesus does not have God’s actual love in her, all the deeds she does are like sounding gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Corinthians 13). They are doing right things, but have forsaken their leading Man. They have lost what is essential in Jesus’ eyes, and what He commands of His followers throughout the New Testament.

Is there a cure for the church at Ephesus? If they will repent, the Lord Jesus Christ will baptize them in the Holy Spirit, so their hearts will be filled with His love, to pour it back to Him in an endless exchange, to have it flow from their bellies like torrential, rushing, flood-stage rivers!

Then they will never, ever leave their first love again. They will unite with Him in holy intimacy, loving Him with His actual agape!

It is why Jesus Christ came. God’s people cannot, in themselves, love Him as He loves them. So they cannot, in themselves, obey Him. He must pour His actual love into their hearts until it overflows (Romans 5:5). He has made the Way for us, through Jesus Christ, to be obedient ones who love Him with His love and are full of that love!

Paul prayed for the Ephesians to have God’s actual love in Ephesians 3:14-19, to be filled full of it. He would not have exhorted them if they had all been filled with God’s love. Some — I believe even some of their teachers and leaders — had not.

Why do I believe that? They had left Jesus at the altar, so to speak. They were working and acting without it, on their own lead instead of at the leading of their Chief, their leading Man! They did not ask, “Where is the Lord?” (see Jeremiah 2:6, 8), to ask Him to lead them.

They had fallen!

They had fallen from God’s grace, but there was time for them to repent.

“Remember,” He said! Call to mind what Paul warned, and what I Myself warned in Matthew 24:12 — the love of many would grow cold, because of lawlessness (sin).

He exhorts and commands them to do the works they did at first — to love their leading Man, to go out at His lead, to answer the command to be filled with His love, to stop disobeying. To go from being a fickle bride-to-be to total commitment and holy intimacy with Him!

Their works were good, but because they were not done because their hearts were not filled with the actual love of God and they did not follow the lead of Jesus Christ, they were not His works.

His works are done, beloved, when we minister to Him by loving Him with His love, and obeying Him. His works are done when we do what He calls us to do, not whatever looks like a good work to us. 

Doctrine is important, and it was good that they tested the apostles to see if they were false, and were unable to endure evil men. But they were not loving Jesus with His love, and that is His only command to us.

Everything else will flow out of loving Him with His love that has filled our hearts. If the work is not from that love because we do not yet have His actual love in our hearts, all that we do is meaningless (again, 1 Corinthians 13).

Repent (turn from what you are doing) and love Me with My love, Jesus says. If you don’t, I will remove you as part of My church — unless you repent.

Removal? Yes! They would no longer be a part of Him; they would no longer have Him walking in the midst of them; they would no longer be in His presence. Loving God with His love and all else flowing from that is THAT ESSENTIAL. It is a matter of life and death for the church.

But they were doing good things! Why should they repent? They lacked God’s love in the doing of them. They did not follow the Lord’s lead, but rather, their own. So they were disobedient. That is sin.

He closes with encouragement — He always does!

He hates the works and actions of the Nicolaitans, a sect that believed immorality was not a sin against God — they were free to sin because they said they believed in Jesus Christ. Thus, they participated in feasts and orgies, and encouraged others do to the same.
The church at Ephesus refused to believe their teaching. That was good.

If they repent from leaving the love of their betrothal, their leading Man, if they have an ear to hear (that is, heed) what the Spirit says to the churches, they will overcome (3528 conquer, prevail, get the victory).

And to those who overcome, the Lord will grant to eat from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God. They will be with Him. If they do not heed His words, they will not.

The church at Ephesus did indeed disappear. They lost their lampstand.

There are people in today’s churches to whom Jesus would speak the same words. In every church, there is someone who is an Ephesus, someone who is a Smyrna, someone who is a Pergamum, and someone who is a Thyatira, and someone who is a Sardis, and someone who is a Philadelphia, and someone who is a Laodicea.

Are you an Ephesus? Have you forsaken the love of your betrothal? Have you left your leading Man to follow your own path? Good as your deeds may seem to you, they are disobedience. We go at His lead, not ours. You must turn back to Him, and ask the Father to give you the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

Leaders of denominations, have you turned your denomination into an Ephesus?
Have you led others to forsake the love of their betrothal? Have you all left your leading Man to follow your own path? Good as your deeds may seem to you, they are disobedience. We go at His lead, not ours. You must turn back to Him, and ask the Father to give you all the gift of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

Do not delay. Time is short. We must work God’s works in these last days!