JESUS’ PROMISES TO OVERCOMERS

Those who overcome this world by way of Jesus Christ, who overcame the world, have great promises from Him!

[SW134] 03/28/2014 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Promises to Overcomers”

First, the definition of “overcome” —

3528. nikao, nik-ah´-o; from 3529; to subdue, conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory.

3529. nike, nee´-kay; conquest, i.e. (figuratively) the means of success, victory.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Overcomers —

— Repent from leaving their first love

— Stand steadfast in Christ amidst persecution even to death, thus gaining the crown of life

— Repent from eating things sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality

— Repent from tolerating/compromising false teachers in the church who teach the above (i.e., it’s OK to sin) and from following such teaching

— Repent from their deadness and wake up, remembering and keeping what they have heard

— Remain steadfast in their faith in Christ, so as not to lose their crown

— Repent from their pride and from trusting in their riches, and seek
the purification of heart that only the Lord, our Refiner can give

To Ephesus:

Revelation 2:7 ‘ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

This is a promise to those who repent from leaving their first love, Jesus Christ . . .
and is also a promise to all overcomers.

The tree of life in the Paradise of God

Genesis 2:9 Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This is the tree of life from which God prohibited Adam to eat, after he sinned against the Lord (see Genesis 3:22). And this is a word of restoration . . . He who overcomes eats of it, in heaven. 

For those who overcome, eternal life starts here and now, in that His eternal life is in us, but we will also eat its fruit with God in heaven! Hallelujah!

To Smyrna:

Revelation 2:11 ‘ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’

This is a promise to those who remain steadfast in Christ, despite persecution even to death . . . and is also a promise to all overcomers.

No harm from the second death,

Defined at the end of the sequence of events in Revelation 20:4-11:
The first resurrection — His saints come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years.

[NOTE: remember Paul’s words — absent from the body, our spirits go to the Lord (see 2 Corinthians 5:6-8). When we die, our spirits go to the Lord, but there is a later resurrection of our bodies.]

Then Satan is released for a period of time.

Then there is great battle on the broad plain, with enemy armies surrounding Jerusalem — instantly defeated by the Lord who rains down fire on them.

Then the devil joins the beast and the false prophet (see Revelation 19:20) in the lake of fire where they are tormented day and night forever and ever.

And then the second death is defined:

Revelation 20:11  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

So that we may understand:

Revelation 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Remember —Revelation 3:5 “‘ He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

It is possible for a name to be erased from the book of life.

To Pergamum:

Revelation 2:17 ‘ He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

This is the promise to those who repent from eating things sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality, who repent from the things of this world, and is also a promise to all overcomers.
Hidden manna

Reflects a Jewish tradition that the pot of manna that was placed in the ark for a memorial to future generations (Exodus 16:32–34; cf. Hebrews 9:4) was taken by Jeremiah at the time of the destruction of Solomon’s temple (sixth century B.C.) in the Babylonian overthrow of Jerusalem, and hidden underground in Mt. Nebo (2 Maccabees 2:4–7). There it was to remain until the coming of the Messiah when Jeremiah would reappear and return the ark and its contents to the new messianic temple in Jerusalem. [Source: New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT)]

White stone

Again from the NICNT, I believe the white stone refers to a tessera (small block of stone like a mosaic tile) that served as a token for admission to a banquet. They were distributed to the poor in Rome by the emperors to insure a regular supply of corn, and to victors at games.

But I believe these two uses of the tessera fit best:

— A token for admission to a banquet. We are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we will be bride to our Bridegroom, united in a way not possible here on the earth! Read Isaiah 25:6 to hear what will be served!

— Given to gladiators who had won the admiration of the public and had been allowed to retire from further combat. We will have fought the fight and been victorious, and in a sense, we will retire! Read 1Timothy 1:18 and 6:12, and 2Timothy 4:7!

As for the stone’s color, white indicates purity.

Our new name

The new name written on the stone, I think, is as the Lord did with Simon Peter, saying:

Matthew 16:18 “I also say to you that you are Peter (4074 petros, a piece of rock), and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

To Thyatira:

Revelation 2:26 ‘ He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; 27 AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.”

This is the promise to those who repent from compromise and tolerance of false prophets and prophetesses who say it’s OK to sin, because our spirits are saved anyway, a version of Gnostic teaching. It is also a promise to all overcomers.
Psalms 2:7   “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

Authority over the Enemy, and authority to rule with Christ, having become co-heirs with Him (see Luke 10:19, for we have authority now, but more so when we stand before Him at the end of things:

Romans 8:17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

If we will suffer persecution, and spiritually, death to our sin nature and become filled with His nature, by His Holy Spirit, we are indeed heirs.

Morning star

Morning star (5459 phosphoros) light-bearing, morning star, daystar.

2Peter 1:19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Revelation 22:16   “ I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

I believe this is in reference to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Right now, the Holy Spirit is an earnest, a pledge:

Ephesians 1:13b-14 . . . the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

I believe the morning star is a greater portion of the Holy Spirit than we can contain in physical bodies.

To Sardis:

Revelation 3:5 ‘ He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

This promise is for those who wake up and repent from their deadness, and remember and keep what they have heard, and is also a promise to all overcomers.

Mark 9:2    Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.

White garments — exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. Heavenly clothing!
The book of life

Psalms 69:28 May they [the wicked] be blotted out of the book of life
And may they not be recorded with the righteous.

Luke 10:19 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

Philippians 4:3b . . . and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him (the beast), everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

Again, so that we are sure:

Revelation 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Confessing them before God

Matthew 10:32  “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.”

To Philadelphia:

Revelation 3:12 ‘ He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.

This is a promise to all who remain steadfast, and thus do not lose their crowns, and and is also a promise to all overcomers.

Pillars

I believe He speaks of the two bronze pillars made by Hiram for Solomon’s Temple —

1Kings 7:21 Thus he set up the pillars at the porch of the nave; and he set up the right pillar and named it Jachin, and he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz.

Jaquin (3199) He will establish AND Boaz (1162) quickness (life, strength). He will establish us, in His strength! Thus, we are pillars in the temple of God that is in heaven.

And the overcomers will not go out from it anymore!

What will He write on us?

— the name of My God, YHWH

— the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem

Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

— My new name, the one He did not have until He was sent by the Father, crucified, dead, buried, risen, ascended, and glorified, Yeshua haMashiach.

To Laodicea:

Revelation 3:21 ‘ He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

Hebrews 1:3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high . . .

Hebrews 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Again, these are the promises, to all who:

— Repent from leaving their first love

— Stand steadfast in Christ amidst persecution even to death, thus gaining the crown of life

— Repent from eating things sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality

— Repent from tolerating/compromising false teachers in the church who teach the above (i.e., it’s OK to sin) and following such teaching

— Repent from their deadness and wake up

— Remain steadfast in their faith in Christ, so as not to lose their crown

— Repent from their pride and from trusting in their riches, and seek
the purification of heart that only the Lord, our Refiner can give

Beloved, it is not too late to turn. If the Holy Spirit has shown you that you are like Ephesus, or Pergamum, or Thyatira, or Sardis, or Laodicea, it is because of His love that He rebukes you. Turn now, for His grace is here to change your heart!

Those who are like Smyrna and Philadelphia, ask Him to continue to establish you in His strength, that you may remain steadfast and faithful, pillars in His temple! Hallelujah!

 

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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?

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.