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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Studies in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God ( the letters )


Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation

I think that one of the most important keys to gaining a proper understanding of Jesus' Revelation is the grammatico/historical context; the idea, or fact, that this book, in actuality, the whole of Scripture, is written in an Eastern language, and not only that, but to an ancient Near Eastern people. According to II Timothy 3:16; "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction", so it should be fairly clear that the Scriptures were written for us, "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction"; but they were not written to us, in a relative sense. Yes, God, in His omniscience and omnipotence, gave these words to us for our profit, but I think that the prophets and apostles who recorded them had a more urgent, pressing need in mind, and by the way that the apostles wrote; "It seemed good to me..........O Theophilus", "Paul..........to all who are in Rome", "Paul........to the church of God which is at Corinth", "Paul.........to the churches of Galatia", "Paul..............to all the saints in Christ Jesus......in Philippi", "Paul............to all the saints........in Colosse", "James...........to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad ( Diaspora )", "Peter.........to the pilgrims of the Dispersion ( Diaspora )..........in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythinia", "John, to the seven churches which are in Asia"; do you get the idea? These books, or epistles ( letters ), were written *for* us, but not *to* us!

As we get into the book, it must be understood that there is some disagreement among Christians as to when this Revelation of Jesus Christ was recorded. Some ascribe a later date to it, mainly I think, because of the testimony of one man, Irenaeus, who was the Bishop of Lyons, and lived from 120-202 AD. He is recorded as saying ""We therefore do not run the risk of pronouncing positively concerning the name of the Antichrist [hidden in the number 666 in Rev.13:18], for if it were necessary to have his name distinctly announced at the present time, it would doubtless have been announced by him who saw the apocalypse; for it is not a great while ago that it [or he] was seen, but almost in our own generation, toward the end of Domitian's reign."
This, coupled with verse 9 of the first chapter, has led many to set the later date as the date for the Revelation, but in fact, Irenaeus made another statement in another chronicle, that seems to point to an earlier date. He wrote; "As these things are so, and his number [666] is found in all the approved and ancient copies."


I personally, mainly because of the internal ( Scriptural ) evidence, believe that John received and recorded the Revelation at an earlier date, and it will become clearer why ( I hope ) as we go through the book.


Let's get right into the text;

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants - things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His Angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the Word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.".

"Blessed is he who reads, and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it, for the time is near"

Okay, let's back up and review these first three VERY important verses;
First of all, this is *The* Revelation of Jesus Christ, not *a* revelation, or revelations! This is one book, "to" one group of people, the *seven* churches of Asia, in the first century!
The Greek word for revelation here, is 'ἀποκάλυψις', meaning 'disclosure,ie., appearing, coming, lighten ( ing ), manifestation, be revealed', according to my Strong's Exhaustive concordance.
Next; this is God's revelation, *to* His Son, for His servants ( us )! In Matthew 24 verse 36, Jesus tells His disciples ( 1st century ) that "of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, ( some texts add "nor the Son" here ), but my Father only". I think that part of this "Revelation" was to tell those same disciples that now He knew and could tell them!
Thirdly, and this pretty much speaks for itself; "things which must shortly come to pass". The Greek words here, translated shortly, 'ἐν' and 'τάχος', mean simply ( primarily ) "instrumentality" and "a brief space of time". That sounds pretty cut and dried to me!
Lastly, Jesus tells John ( and those same first-century disciples ) "Blessed is he who reads ( who was Revelation written "to" , but the "seven churches of Asia" ( which, to my knowledge, don't exist anymore ) and those who hear ( again, who were the original recipients of this letter? ) the words of this prophecy, and keep those things ( "all" of them? ) which are written in it; for the time is near". What time would that be? Well, dear reader, I would venture to say that this 'time' is the time of His 'disclosure', or 'appearing', His so-called 'second coming'; His Revelation of Who He actually was and is; God Himself!
Back to the text now,

"John, to the seven churches which are in Asia; Grace to you, and peace; from Him Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, and from the seven Spirits Who are before His Throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him Who loved us and washed us from our sins in His Own Blood, and has made us kings and priests ( * ) to His God and Father, to Him be Glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen."

To review these introductory verses, like I said before; John wrote *to* the seven ( a symbol of perfection, or completeness, in Scripture ) churches in Asia - most, if not all, of which don't exist anymore, to say nothing of the towns ! "Him Who is, and Who was,and Who is to come", should immediately bring to mind, not only His words to Moses in Exodus 3:14, "I AM Who I AM", but also places like Isaiah 48:16, "From the time that it was, I was there", and verse 5 of Psalm 104, where David says "You who laid the foundations of the earth", all the way back to Genesis 1:1; "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". John 1:1-3 helps us to see that this Jesus WAS and IS part of the Godhead!
"The seven Spirits Who are before His Throne", I believe, speaks not only of the Omni-presence of the Spirit of God, indeed, God Himself, but also of the perfect completeness of His Spirit!
"The faithful witness, and the firstborn from the dead". Jesus told His disciples, in John 15:15, "All things that I heard from My Father, I have made known to you", and, in John 8:14, Jesus told the Pharisees "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true". When Jesus rose from the dead, you may say, He was NOT the first, because there are several examples in the Old Testament of people being raised from the dead; even in the New Testament, Jesus Himself, and Peter, raised people from the dead! Those people, Old and New, were raised back to physical life, and eventually; died again. When Jesus rose from the dead, He rose to eternal, everlasting life, never to die again!
( * Other texts say, rather than "kings and priests", "a kingdom and priests".)

"Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth shall mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen."

Let us go back to the book of Acts 1. Starting in verse 9, Luke records that, "when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said "Men of Galilee, Why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, Who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven". Going further back, to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26, verse 64, Jesus told the high priest Caiaphas, "I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven!" Sound familiar? The angels told the disciples that He would return "in like manner". Jesus later told the high priest that He would return, "on the clouds". You may well say that all throughout the Old Testament, upon which the book of Revelation relies heavily, by the way, clouds are often signatory of judgment, and you would be right, but Christ told His disciples in Matthew 24:30, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with Power and great Glory!" By the way, before we go any farther here, may I mention that "earth", in all of these New Testament references, is the Greek word "ge", which means 'soil, by extension, region, or, the inhabited earth' ( at that time). The Greek word for 'heaven' used in these references, is 'οὐρανός', which simply means 'sky,or by extension, the abode of God'.

In verse 8, Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come; the Almighty!"

Jesus here is re-affirming the fact that, as He told the Pharisees in John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I AM", therefore equating Himself with God the Father, who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt-their Savior! "The Alpha and the Omega" refer to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

Getting to the body of his letter, John says;

"I John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

John here reminds his readers that they are not alone in this "tribulation", but that he also has suffered imprisonment for the sake of his "testimony" The "patience" of Jesus, I think, would refer, not only to his patience during the crucifixion, but also to His great Patience, as part of the Godhead, in waiting "till their cup of wrath was filled".

"I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying,"

Let me make a quick comment here; some people interpret this text as "the Day of the Lord", or His promised judgment of Old Covenant Israel, rather than Sunday, or the chosen Sabbath, as is the 'traditional' explanation.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last", and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

Back to my assertion that this is THE one, THE only, revelation of Jesus Christ; Jesus told John, "What you SEE, write.................... and send to the seven churches.....in Asia"! What did John see, but EVERYTHING that God, through Jesus, showed him! And what John saw, he was to record and send to seven particular churches IN ASIA!

"Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to His Feet, and girded about the chest with a golden band",

We"ll stop here for a few comments. This is starting to sound/look familiar! '*Seven* golden lampstands'? Where in the Bible have we seen a mention of lampstands in connection with Jesus Christ? Why, in the Old Covenant temple in physical Jerusalem, of course! That, together with the fact that the number seven, in the Scriptures, often refers to "perfection, completeness, a.k.a.-the heavenly number", might we surmise that John is looking into the Heavenly, spiritual Temple, the great spiritual anti-type of the earthly??! And who does this Son of Man remind us of, but the High Priest! ( He is our High Priest, is He not? )

"His Head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right Hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in it's strength."

Immediately, this should tell us that John is looking at the "Lamb that was slain".

"And when I saw him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right Hand on me, saying to me; "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last"!

Here, He reminds John that he need not be afraid, for He is God Himself; "Be still and know that I am God...." ( Psalm 46:10 )

"I am He who lives and was dead; and behold; I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hell and of Death."

Here, I think, Jesus alludes not only to His resurrection, but again strengthens John with the fact that He is God Almighty!

"Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this."

I would like to bring to your attention again, dear reader, to the fact that this is but one Revelation. If Jesus had stopped in verse 19, telling John to "Write the things which you have seen......................and send it to the seven churches", I could almost see where some people get the idea that this is two or more separate revelations, but He doesn't; He adds "and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.....................write in a book". He now explains the vision of Himself that John saw at the first:

"The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches".

The word 'angel', translated from the Greek "aggelos", simply means "to bring tidings, ( a messenger ).

Chapters 2 and 3 comprise the "bodies" of those separate letters of instruction that John was to write to each of those "seven churches in Asia". As we study these chapters, let us remember that these letters, all of John's visions, were written *to* those seven churches in Asia. Yes, this book was also written, especially these letters, *for* our instruction, but not *to* us in that sense.

"To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand; who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary."


Without going into a lengthy history of the ancient city of Ephesus; let's take a short look at Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus. In chapter 1; Paul applauds the Ephesian Christians for their 'love of the brethren', but in the next chapter, he reminds them of 'the great love with which He ( God ) loved us', in the third, he prayed ( again ) that they might be able 'to know the love of Christ', again in the fourth chapter, beseeching them to 'walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.......bearing with one another in love', in the fifth, he must reminded them ( and reminds us ) to 'be imitators of God, as dear children, walking in love', and finally, in the sixth 'to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might ( love )'.

'Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.'

After confirming and praising them, as did Paul, for their 'works, labor, and patience', and that they had not 'become weary' in their labors for His sake; our Lord then reprimands them for having 'lost sight of' the Author and finisher of their faith ( Hebrews 12:2 ). We can only speculate as to why God would say that these Ephesians had 'left their first love'; but I think that we might have a clue in the passages above, from Paul's letter to the same. Maybe, as the Galatians, they had 'started well', but for one reason or another, had steered, or were being steered, off track?

'Remember then, from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from it's place-unless you repent.'

Our Lord uses language here that is reminiscent of those of the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 6, verses 4-6. One might be reminded also, of a somewhat obscure passage from Mathew 24; 'And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.' and later in the same chapter, 'and false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.' As we move on into the book of Revelation, we will notice another personage, or group,that shows 'great signs and wonders'.

'But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.'

In researching the Nicolaitans; I ran across this most interesting article by J.H. Allen. I would like to quote just shortly from this article:

'The "blind guides" would say, but not do. The Divinely anointed elder will both say and do, and thus be an example to the flock, whom the people will love and esteem very highly for his work's sake, and who in his heart will never desire to be lord over the heritage of his Master. It is this aspiration on the part of men to become lords over God's heritage that God hates. "The doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Nicolaitanes)" is just what the word Nicolaitan itself declares.'

Going back to Paul's letter to the Ephesians ( chapter 5 ); we might notice that the only 'problem' that they had with any 'hierarchy' was that they didn't quite understand that 'the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church' and 'just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything'. Obviously, they had a little 'problem' ( especially the women? ) understanding that, marriage between a man and a woman was a physical picture of a greater spiritual reality. ( Coming largely, if not wholly from a 'Gentile' background; they wouldn't have understood this. )

This was the only 'hierarchy' that Paul taught. Although he spoke to his 'sons' Timothy ( I Timothy 3:1-13 ) and Titus about the qualifications for 'eldership'; he never spoke of them as somehow having more authority than 'lay' people.

'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'

Jesus directly references His Fathers words in Genesis 3:22; 'And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life'. In Christ, those who overcame would now be granted to partake of the 'Tree of Life', that which the first Adam had not been allowed, and would thus enjoy forever the Presence of God in His true 'Garden', His covenant people!

I have often wondered about the significance of the anointing of the priest's ear, in Leviticus 14:14-28; the prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 5:21 ( Isaiah 6:9, Deuteronomy 29:4 ) proclaimed to apostate Old Covenant Israel 'Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not'. They had 'ears to hear', but unless their ears were anointed by the Holy Spirit of God; they would not 'hear'! We will learn later on in this book what exactly the 'second death' was; but for now, we'll just suffice to say that we can say for sure that if we overcome, as did they ( although I think it had more immediate and 'real' import for those in the first-century-Philippians 2:17 ) ; we will 'never die' ( John 11:25&26 )!

'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: '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.'

Jesus here reminds the overseer of the 'persecuted church' in Smyrna that He is God Himself, that He is not only the One 'who was dead, and came to life', but that His is, with His Father, the 'First and the Last', as the writer to the Hebrews, in chapter 12, said, 'the author and finisher of our faith'. Jesus almost seems to commiserate with the church in Smyrna, reminding them again that though they may be poor in regards to monetary wealth, they are rich toward Him! Paul wrote, in II Corinthians 8:2, 'that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.' He seems, almost, to be writing of the church in Smyrna! God then comforts the church, telling them that He has not been blind to their persecution at the hands of 'those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan'. German historian W. Bauer wrote, concerning the church of Smyrna, 'Asian Jewish Christianity received in turn the knowledge that henceforth the "church" would be open without hesitation to the Jewish influence mediated by Christians, coming not only from the apocalyptic traditions, but also from the synagogue with its practices concerning worship, which led to the appropriation of the Jewish passover observance. Even the observance of the sabbath by Christians appears to have found some favor in Asia...we find that in postapostolic times, in the period of the formation of ecclesiastical structure, the Jewish Christians in these regions come into prominence.' From this, we can see that while Christianity had indeed gained a foothold in Smyrna, it was largely reliant upon the 'traditions of the fathers', and thus stifled true Christianity. Jesus' words might also have reference to the Hellenistic and Roman influence upon the early church, and by the Judaizers, most notably. Remember that earlier on, during His earthly ministry, Jesus told the un-believing Jews that they were of their 'father the devil' ( John 8:44 ), and Paul said that theirs was a 'ministry of death' ( II Corinthians 3:7 ).

'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. 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.'

I have often wondered about the significance of the anointing of the priest's ear, in Leviticus 14:14-28; the prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 5:21 ( Isaiah 6:9, Deuteronomy 29:4 ) proclaimed to apostate Old Covenant Israel 'Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not'. They had 'ears to hear', but unless their ears were anointed by the Holy Spirit of God; they would not 'hear'! Jesus reminds these persecuted ones that, even though their tribulations will be hard to bear; if they persevere in their good works, they would receive the promised 'crown' ( I Thessalonians 2:19, Isaiah 28:5 ) of everlasting life! We will learn later on in this book what exactly the 'second death' was; but for now, we'll just suffice to say that we can say for sure that if we overcome, as did they ( although I think it had more immediate and 'real' import for those in the first-century-Philippians 2:17 ) ; we will 'never die' ( John 11:25 & 26 )!

'And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “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.'

Whether because of the wickedness of this great city, as some hold, or because it was a leading center for Caesar-worship, as I believe that most tradition has it: Pergamos was called by God 'Satan's throne', the city where 'Satan dwells'. The name of the city literally means 'elevation', and indeed, it was situated on a hill overlooking the Caicus river, among others. One can't help but think, in relation to this city, of Jesus' metaphorical words in Matthew 5:14. According to tradition, this Antipas was the bishop of Pergamos, made so by the apostle John, and martyred by the secular governor of that city for refusing to sacrifice to idols.

'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.'

As with the church in Ephesus, so God now reveals a few 'problems' that He has with the church in Pergamos. Speaking against the false prophets who would come in the last days; Peter, in II Peter 2:15, said, 'They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness'. After the children of Israel had fought the Midianites, in Numbers 31:16, Moses reminded his people, 'Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD'. ( Numbers 25 ) While God commended them for their works and for holding fast; He also reprimands them for even allowing men like this in the church. The church in Pergamos is known by some as the 'compromising church' because they seemingly wanted it both ways, theirs and God's. We can see from Scriptures like Matthew 6:24, and Luke 16:13 that we can't have it both ways. It's either God's way or man's way: 'no man can serve two masters'!

'Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.'[a]

Because God interjects the Greek adverb οὕτω(ς) translated 'thus', or 'so, in this manner', it would seem that He equates the iniquities of the Nicolaitans with that of those who held 'the doctrine of Balaam'. This is a prime example of what I like to call a 'biblical parallelism', or saying the same thing twice, in two different ways. Scripture often does this to relay a sense of urgency and surety; 'truly, truly, I say to you'!

Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

As He does to Ephesus; God warns this 'compromising church' to 'repent', or He would come in judgment against, not the entire church, but against those who held these 'doctrines of demons'. He uses the same Greek adverb ταχύ, as in Matthew 5:25, to relay a sense of urgency, even of immanency; 'no man knows the hour'.

'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.'

Here again, we are reminded that unless we are given the power, through Christ ( Matthew 13:10-16 ) to understand, or to heed, we will not, indeed cannot hear ( John 10:26-30 ), or understand and put to good use what we have heard! To the church in Pergamos though, the Spirit of God says something a little different, though of the same basic import, than what He said to the church in Ephesus; 'To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat'. First of all; we, of course, think of the 'bread from heaven' that God poured out upon the unworthy and complaining Israelites, in Exodus 16 and Numbers 11:1-15. My readers might recall also Jesus' words to the multitudes in John 6:22-40; 'Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' Speaking of Himself; Jesus revealed that He was the spiritual reality of which the manna in the wilderness served merely as a picture. Paul spoke, in I Corinthians 2:7, of 'the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory', and in Ephesians 3:9, said that 'all see what is the fellowship[a] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ'. In Colossians 1:26, he prophesied of 'the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints', and Isaiah wrote of the Messiah, in Isaiah 49, 'And He has made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver He has hidden Me'. Speaking of the 'white stone' that He would give to those who overcame, or persevered, you might remember that the 'manna in the wilderness' was white, and that when the children of Israel had crossed over into the Promised Land'-significant of the rest that we have in Christ-, in Deuteronomy 27:1-4, they were commanded to set up a pillar of stones, and whitewash the pillar, signifying the cleansing work of Christ! When reading of stones with names written on them; I am also reminded of the garments prepared for the high priest, in Exodus 28:9-25, 'And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.' Who could forget God's promise to His servants, in Isaiah 62:2, 'The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name.'?! Jesus said that no man except him who received it would know this name: although this is a very hard sentence to understand, I can at least leave you with this thought: 'might it have something to do with the reason that the Man with Whom Jacob wrestled, in Genesis 32:22-32, refused to give His name?

'
And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 'I know your works, love, service, faith,[b] and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.'

Jesus' greeting to the church in Thyatira, traditionally known as 'the corrupt church', very nearly echoes His greeting to the church in Ephesus. He almost seems to commend this church because their '
last works are more than the first'. Jesus' problem with the Ephesian church was that they had left their first love: as we go further into this letter, we'll see that even though the church in Thyatira is to be commended for their 'works' increasing; they are also reprimanded for a similar problem, they had forgotten what it was all about, in their zeal to increase their works, they had forgotten the basis of those works! It sounds like the 'Christians' in Thyatira had 'started well', but had almost, if not altogether, forgotten that it is not our works which justify us in the sight of God, but rather the work that Christ did in His life and death.
'Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow[c] that woman[d] Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce[e] My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.'
Ray Stedman, a former pastor of Peninsula Bible Church, writes, 'Evidently there was in the church at Thyatira a woman who was a very dominant leader. Jesus names her "Jezebel." That was not her name, of course, but our Lord always names people according to their character. That is why he often renames people in the Gospels. Here he chooses the name of the most evil woman in the Old Testament.' Referring back to the letters to Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos, and particularly the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos; we can see a pattern forming; these churches seem to have the same main problem; they all seemed to have forgotten their 'first love' and were allowing contrary influences to lead them from the true Path, under the guise of love, false though it was! Notice that in the letter to the church in Pergamos, we see that they were reprimanded for exactly the same reason: they were being induced to 'eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.' In Matthew 24:24, if you'll remember, Jesus had warned His disciples that things like this would happen. Jude also wrote that 'Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.' In II Peter 2:1, we see much the same kind of warning; 'But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.'

'And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.[f] Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their[g] deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.'

God commanded, in Leviticus 20:10 that ‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.' ( see also Exodus 20:3 & 14 ). The Old Covenant Scriptures are full of references condemning the act of physical adultery, most notably maybe, the book of Proverbs, chapters 5 & 6:20-35; but often they have a deeper meaning, pointing to spiritual adultery, or the act of worshiping other gods besides, or even rather than God. This 'Jezebel' ( Hebrew איזבל ) was undoubtedly committing physical adultery, as is a problem in many churches today, but I think that the primary focus here is spiritual adultery, as was the case with Old Covenant apostate Judaism. I have often said that, God's covenant people, whether in type ( Old Covenant ) or in true ( New Covenant ), are the focus of all Scripture; and the Old Covenant type were one of the major 'problems' that the apostles and the early church faced ( Acts 18:12-28, 21, II Corinthians 11:12-15, 22-29, Galatians 3, Philippians 3 ). I don't think that it's too much of a 'stretch' to allege that this 'problem' was also faced by the church in Thyatira. Notice too, that this church has somewhat the same problem ( with sexual and spiritual immorality ) as the church in Pergamos. In chapter 3 of the book ascribed to him; the prophet Jeremiah records God 'complaint' against His typical covenant 'bride': God says, in verse 8, 'Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.' Verse 21 ( Revelation 3 ) above could almost come straight from passages like Jeremiah 3! We can see in Ezekiel 23:36-40 that Israel was committing spiritual harlotry against the Husband of her youth, along with the physical adultery to which it was compared.
The LORD also said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them. Moreover they have done this to Me: They have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and profaned My Sabbaths. For after they had slain their children for their idols, on the same day they came into My sanctuary to profane it; and indeed thus they have done in the midst of My house.
After Jesus finishes warning them, in verse 23; He reminds them, in words reminiscent of passages like Jeremiah 25:14, Ezekiel 36:19, Matthew 16:27 ( see Daniel 12:2 ),and Romans 2:6 & 16 ( see Psalm 98:9 ), that He is the same God the knows the hearts and minds ( thoughts ) of men, and then judges accordingly, with just judgment!

'Now to you I say, and[h] to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will[i] put on you no other burden.'

After Paul had confronted the problem of the Judaizers in the church at Antioch, it is recorded in Acts 15 how Paul and some other brethren were appointed, as a delegation, to go up to Jerusalem and bring this problem to the attention of the elders there. James, as the leader of the Jerusalem church, wrote, in verses 28 & 29, ' For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.[g] If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.' Jesus said as much to the church in Thyatira; He told them that if they did not follow this doctrine, and had not known the depths of 'Satan, that they did well: He would lay no greater burden on them, or give them further instruction. We cannot say for certain that these Judaizers were the problem that the church was faced with, and for which they were being reprimanded, but it all fits. We have noticed that this was one of the major hurdles facing the early church, even as widespread as 'the seven churches of Asia'.

'But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘ He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’[j] as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.'

We have seen, and taken note already of the many passages, in this book and other that clearly are meant to relay a sense of urgency and immanency; words like 'shortly' (Greek τάχος ), 'quickly' ( Greek ταχύ ), and 'ready' ( Greek ἑτοίμως-I Peter 4:5 ( compare with I Peter 3:15 ( Greek ἕτοιμος ), along with short phrases such as 'about to ( be )' ( Greek μέλλω ), and 'at hand' ( Greek ἐγγίζω ); here Jesus again affirms this sense of urgency when He tells them to 'hold fast what you have till I come.' He also reminded them, as did Paul his readers that 'the ends of the ages' ( I Corinthians 10:11 ), and 'the end of all things' ( I Peter 4:7 ) had come upon them ( Greek ἐγγίζω ). Interesting too, is the fact that John borrows from one of David's Psalms ( 2:9 ), telling them ( us too ) that they will be the ones ruling ( over ) the nations 'with a rod of iron', metaphorically dashing them to pieces 'like the potter’s vessels’'.

'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

As we've seen above; Jesus again reminds them ( and us ) that it is only if we have ears that have been given the ability to hear ( metaphorically ), that we can hear, and use that knowledge to cultivate a saving relationship with God. Speaking of the foolishness of those who reject the saving knowledge of God and turn to 'idols'; Isaiah 44:18 records that 'They do not know nor understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see', and again speaking of the foolishness of His typical Old Covenant children; God said, in Jeremiah 6:10, 'To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it.' In John 10:26; Jesus spoke these words, 'hard to stomach', to the unbelieving Jews, 'But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.', and again, in Romans 11:7 & 8, speaking of the covenant-breaking Old Covenant children of Israel, Paul wrote, quoting from Isaiah 29:10 and Deuteronomy 29:4, 'What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: 'God has given them a spirit of stupor,eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.'

'And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.'

It would seem that the church in Sardis had a bit of a problem with 'nominal' Christianity. In an article on Wikipedia; I read that 'the discovery of the Sardis synagogue has reversed previous assumptions about Judaism in the later Roman empire.' Apparently; before the discovery of 'The Sardis Synagogue', the assumption had been made that Christianity had more of an influence in that area than did Judaism, but with this discovery, it now looks like Old Covenant Judaism, to whatever extent, was influential as well. I have mentioned before ( quite often ) that when reading Scripture, we must remember to use the grammatico/historical hermeneutic and take into account, not only when and to whom these Scriptures were originally written, but also that the writers were addressing ( especially in the epistles, including the first three chapters of Revelation ) certain specific situations in the early church. I have also mentioned to that one of the major adversaries of the early church was Old Covenant Judaism, the typical children of God! I believe, as we've observed in several other letters, that this is the 'problem' that Jesus is addressing above. The 'Christians' of Sardis were claiming the name of Christ, but still, it would seem, clinging to the error of the Judaizers who said that 'You must be circumcised and keep the law' ( Genesis 17:3, Acts 15:24 ), to dead works ( Hebrews 6:1, 9:14 ) rather than to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which taught that salvation was ' by grace............. through faith' ( Ephesians 2:8 & 9 ), through belief that 'Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God' ( John 20:31 ).

'Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.'

Jesus uses the Greek γρηγορέω to tell this 'dead' church to 'pay strict attention to' what He is saying, in a very imminent sense, to take vigilant action to change their course in order to escape the judgment that is 'about to be' ( Matthew 16:27, Acts 24:15 ); as to the church at Ephesus, to 'do the first works'! The church at Sardis had forgotten that it is only through Christ that our works are acceptable before God. The writer to the Hebrews wrote, 'without faith it is impossible to please Him' ( Hebrews 11:6 ); but it seems like they were trying to please God without faith ( in Christ ), just by doing the works! Another interesting thing that we might notice is that the writer above uses similar language in the 8th chapter of the book of Hebrews, speaking of the Old Covenant law, 'Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away ' ( Hebrews 8:13 ) .

'Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.'

In Galatians 1:9; the apostle Paul told the church, 'As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.' Paul had good reason to be concerned for the church in Galatia, for as we go further into the letter, we see that the Judaizers had infiltrated the church and were trying to persuade them to obey a different gospel. I believe that this is also what had happened in the church at Sardis; they were being induced, as the Galatians, to endeavor to be 'made perfect by the flesh' ( Galatians 3:3 ). As Paul told the Galatians; 'Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free'; so Jesus tells the church at Sardis, as He also told the Ephesian church, 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works', or else, if they would not heed His warning, He would, again with a very imminent sense, come upon them as a thief ( John 10:10 -Greek κλέπτης, same as Revelation 16:15 ) 'to kill, and to destroy'.

'You[b] have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.'

I Kings 19:18 records God telling Elijah, 'Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.' II Kings 19:30 & 31, II Chronicles 30:6, Ezra 9:8, Isaiah 1:9, 10:20-22, 28:5, 37:32, 46:3, Jeremiah 15:11, 23:3, 31:1-7, Ezekiel 6:8, 14:22, Joel 2:32, Micah 5:8, Zephaniah 3:13, Zechariah 14:2, and Romans 11:5 are some examples of God's enduring promise to His people that there would always be a remnant. We see that theme repeated here: as much of the church had become almost dead ( useless ), so there remained a remnant that had kept and cherished the Word of God. As you might recall from my study on Genesis 3; Adam & Eve, prior to their 'fall from grace, had been used to walking with God; so now those who had not 'bowed to Baal' would again 'walk' with God, enjoying His Presence forever. The white robes, mentioned twice in a row for surety, were typified by the white linen robes of the high priest in the Old Covenant Scriptures. ( Exodus 28 ( Genesis 49:11 & 12 ) Notice also, that according to Leviticus 13:3-17; 'white' was a sign of cleanness. In Ecclesiastes 9:8, Solomon wrote, 'Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil'; God promises in Isaiah 1:18 that 'though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' Daniel prophesied in chapter seven, verses 9 and 10, that 'I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool.', and in Daniel 11:35 and 12:10, that His people shall be 'made white', 'in the blood of the Lamb.' ( Revelation 7:14 ) Of course, who can forget the men in Acts 1:10 & 11? 'And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.'

In the context of instructing His disciples before He sent them out out among 'the cities of Israel' ( Matthew 10:23 ), in Matthew 10:32, He said 'Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.'

'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

Jesus again reminds the church ( He says this in all the letters, again relaying a sense of urgency and importance! ) that they should heed ( act upon ) His dire warnings!

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”:[c] “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;[d] for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

When I read 'He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens', I am reminded of the door on the ark that Noah built, about which it was said 'So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.' ( Genesis 7:16 ) Notice that, while he door on Noah's ark was 'shut' by the Lord, thus remanding the 'world' of Noah's day to complete and utter destruction, so now the 'door' which He set before those 1st-century Christians was now open, and inclusive of all those ( Jew or Gentile ) who would heed His Word! The church in Philadelphia, known as 'the faithful church' ( the name itself means 'brotherly love' ) had apparently remained true to the apostolic doctrine that they had been taught, even though, as we see in the next passage, they had been under 'fire' from the Judaizers, and were not afraid to confess the name of Christ, even though it meant being 'excommunicated'. ( John 9:22 )

Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

Jesus had written previously, to the church at Smyrna, of this 'synagogue of Satan'; while 'synagogue' may itself be a code word for the idolatry that went on in many parts of Asia Minor at that time, the cult, or cults, of emperor worship and the worship of the various gods and goddesses of that region and of the Roman Empire itself; it is just as likely, or maybe even more likely that Jesus was referring to actual Jews, practicing their Judaism in synagogues. In Romans 14:11; Paul quotes from Isaiah 45:23, where God said that 'I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.' ( Isaiah 55:11 ) Paul wrote later, toward the end of the same letter, in chapter 16 verse 20; 'the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.' In Genesis 37:9, Joseph, a type of the Christ, prophesied to his family 'Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me'. His father knew exactly what this meant; 'Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?'I think that most of my readers are pretty familiar with how this story turned out; in Genesis 42:6, we see that his brothers did indeed bow to him, his father came later. In Genesis 49:8, Jacob prophesied that 'Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s children shall bow down before you.' When Israel was plagued by God after David sinned by numbering them; and he wanted to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing-floor of one of his Jebusite neighbors, I Chronicles 21:21 records that 'Ornan looked and saw David. And he went out from the threshing floor, and bowed before David with his face to the ground.', typical of the nations bowing before the Christ, and though Him, his people! In Proverbs 14:19, God promises that 'The evil will bow before the good': in Psalm 8:6, David, echoing Genesis 1 & 2, wrote 'You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet'. As we have seen in previous studies of the Scriptures; God and His people are often synonified ( John 17:22 , Genesis 3:15 ( Romans 16:20, Isaiah 40:10 ), Isaiah 41:2, Jeremiah 51:23, Daniel 5:21 ( 4:17 ), 8:27 ) telling us, as does the name 'Israel' ( Genesis 32:28 ) itself, and as we'll see as we continue further into the book, that we were 'formed' ( Genesis 1:26, Revelation 4:4 ) to be rulers with God, to 'sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28 )!

'Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.'

In Luke's account of the 'Olivet Discourse', in Luke 21:5-36; he records Jesus as saying 'Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.' Earlier, he had recorded that Jesus told them that this 'Day of the Lord' would 'come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.' This language is to similar to be coincidental, and thus is yet another indicator that the book ( yes, even chapters 4-22 ) was written concerning, among other things, the destruction of the Jewish Temple and Jerusalem, the end of the Old Covenant economy, and the full and final defeat of death ( and 'he' who had the power of death ), through the consummation of the New Covenant in Christ!

'Behold,[e]I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 I will write on him My new name. '

Jesus again uses the Greek ταχύ to give His original audience a sense of urgency, of immanency! In words reminiscent of Paul's, in I Corinthians 9:24 & 25; Jesus reminds them, as did Paul, that they must 'stand fast in the Lord, beloved' ( Philippians 4:1 ) According to the Wikipedia article which I linked to above, 'The city's history of earthquakes may lie behind the reference to making her church a temple pillar (Revelation 3:12). Permanency would have been important to the city's residents.' Whatever the case may be; remember that Paul wrote to the Corinthians ( I Corinthians 3:16, 6:19 ) that 'you are the temple of God', and 'do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?': he wrote to the church at Ephesus ( Ephesians 2:22 ) that 'you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.' In John 2:19; Jesus told the Jews, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up': a little later, John clarifies this statement by writing 'He was speaking of the temple of His body.' The prophet Hosea, in Hosea 6:2, pleading with his people to repent, prophesied of the Resurrection ( Christ's and ours ) saying 'After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.' God promised, in Isaiah 62:2, 'You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name'; and earlier, in Isaiah 56:5, speaking of the inclusion of the Gentiles ( that believed ), 'Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them[a] an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.' In chapter 65, speaking to His typical Old Covenant ( disobedient ) children; God promised 'You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name' ( this, interestingly enough, just prior to His promise of a 'new heaven and a new earth' ) I find it interesting here too, that Jesus promise to write on him ( who overcomes ) 'the name of my God' ( ownership ) and 'the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem'. Why would Jesus promise to 'write on him My new name'? I think that this new name of Jesus is the same 'new name' of which Isaiah prophesied back in chapters 56 & 65, the name of 'Christian', of which 'Holiness to the Lord' ( Exodus 28:36, Jeremiah 2:3, Zechariah 14:21 ) was but a type!

'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

As always; Jesus reminds His readers ( and listeners ) that they have a responsibility to respond to the warning that they have been given. Although this warning was given to the first century church, and was meant primarily for them, because of the situation that they were facing; we today would do well to heed this warning, as well, for though I believe Christ came as and when He said He would, it behooves us, as Christians, to 'hear what the Spirit says to the churches'!

'And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans[f] write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 'I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.' So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[g] I will vomit you out of My mouth.'


Jesus addresses the church at Laodicea now, the last of 'the seven churches', known traditionally as 'the lukewarm church'. From the sounds of it; the church at Laodicea was having a bit of trouble being a good witness for God, and for His Kingdom, as is the case with much of the church today! Jesus seems to subtly remind them of their need by saying that He is 'the faithful and true witness'. The next phrase that Jesus uses is often, by some, used to 'prove' that Jesus was created, rather than being God Himself, but we can easily see, from passages such as John 1:1-3, Ephesians 3:9, and Colossians 1:16, that Jesus, as the Son of God, yet being one with the Father ( John 10:30 ), is the Creator of all things, and thus, by saying that He is 'the beginning of creation'; He asserts, as always, that He is 'the beginning and the end', the Author ( Hebrews 12:2 ) of all!

Quoting from an article on Wikipedia; 'some scholars have suggested that this metaphor has been drawn from the water supply of the city, which was lukewarm, in contrast to the hot springs at nearby Hierapolis and the pure water of Colossae (Barclay). The archaeology shows Laodicea had an aqueduct that probably carried water from hot mineral springs some five miles south, which would have become tepid before entering the city (see main Laodicea article).' As God declared 'the beginning from the end' ( Isaiah 46 :9 & 10 ), Jesus reminds them that 'I know your works'. As He goes on to explain, their works were 'neither cold nor hot', but 'lukewarm', or useless ( the article goes on to say 'The imagery of the Laodicean aqueduct suggests not that "hot" is good and "cold" is bad, but that both hot and cold water are useful, whereas lukewarm water is useless.' ) , He uses very graphic language to tell them that He would purge, or rid His Body of them, the opposite of what He had told the church at Sardis; 'I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life'!

'Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.'

Apparently, Laodicea was a very wealthy city, and this physical wealth could be what Jesus was referring to, but I believe that He referred primarily to the fact that ( most likely because of the effects of Judaism ) these 'Christians' at Laodicea thought that they had built up riches toward God, when in reality all they were building up was 'treasures on earth' ( Matthew 6:19, Luke 12:16-21 ). Paul, when he wrote his letter to the church at Colosse, in Colossians 4:16 adjured them that 'when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.' It would seem that the Colossians had problems similar to those of Laodicea and vice-versa. We have no epistle ( except for the short letter in the Revelation ) to tell us for sure, exactly what their problem was; but we can see, from Paul's letter to the Colossians, that they were having problems with 'vain philosophy', with 'legalism', and with 'carnality'. As we have read, the city of Laodicea was a very wealthy city, being one of the major trade centers for the Roman Empire; so when Jesus counseled them to 'buy from Me gold refined in the fire', I think that He referenced, among other things, passages like this one, in Zechariah 13:9, ' I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.' As Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.' I think that the church to whom this letter was written had been influenced by Judaism to the point that they thought that their righteousness was enough, but remember what Jesus had told the Pharisees that thought that they had no need of His righteousness, in Matthew 9:12, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.' Paul wrote, in Romans 10:3, speaking of these unbelieving Jews who trusted in their physical descent and physical keeping of the law, 'For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.' When Jesus spoke to these Jews of the need to abide in His word, rather than the Mosaic laws that they had been brought up with, in John 8:33, they told Him, 'We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?' ( they seemed to have forgotten their long history of bondage, beginning with Egypt, all the way through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, and that they presently were in bondage, of sorts, to the Romans ), just as the Laodiceans had forgotten where the true wealth comes from: God alone! We've already mentioned the white garments, which are indicative of the righteousness of Christ; but when Jesus told them to buy 'white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed'; I am reminded of Adam & Eve's vain attempt to cover themselves in Genesis 3:7, and when He mentions the eye-salve, of passages like John 9:1-22 and Isaiah 29:18 ( Isaiah 42:7 ), according to tradition, Jesus alluded to one of the main sources of the city's great wealth, which statement was metaphorized by Jesus to say basically the same that He had been telling them all along; 'You may think that you have it all ( wealth, etc. ), but I have the real thing!'

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

First, and most importantly, Jesus reminded His people of His love for them ( Hebrews 12:6, Proverbs 3:11 & 12 ), and that they must needs repent ( remember how He told the Ephesians to 'repent and do the first works'? ), and open the door ( John 10:1-9 ) and He would commune with him ( Exodus 24:11, John 6:22-40 ) as He did in the beginning, in a type. As Jesus promised to 'the corrupt church' of Thyatira; He told the church at Laodicea that if they persevered and overcame their adversaries, they would reign and rule with Him, on His throne forever ( Daniel 7:14 & 27, Isaiah 9:7 )!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

As above, in all His letters to the churches; Jesus reminded them ( and reminds us ) that one must hear this 'good news' ( Romans 10:14-18 ) with 'open' ears ( Isaiah 35:5, Mark 7:35 ) before they can accept it, which they must. We have seen, in these letters to the churches, which were representative of Christ's Body on earth, that one must first be given ( Ezekiel 36:25-27 ) the ability to hear before he will heed the Word of God. Man has the responsibility to open the door, to overcome, etc., but we have seen in many Scriptures that man, left to his own devices, will do as he pleases, even acting the part of the thief in John 10:7-10 ( Joel 2:9 ). I believe that the church today can and must apply the instruction in these letters ( 'to the seven churches' ), because we find ourselves facing much the same situations as they faced, although these instructions, as I have often said, had more immediate import for them, the original recipients of these letters. Many, I realize, those of the dispensationalist camp, have seen these letters as representative of different ages in the history of the church, saying that we are presently in the 'Laodicean age' of the church, and while they may seem to have somewhat of a point, they seem to forget, or ignore the unmistakable language of immanency and immediacy that Jesus used, all throughout this book, His final Revelation. Although I do disagree, as I believe Scripture does as well, with these brethren, particularly in the area of eschatology, I do not believe that this makes them any less, or me any more, a child of God!

I had meant to present this study ( of the Revelation ) in whole, but I will end this part with Jesus' letters to the churches, not because I believe that they form a separate revelation from the vision of John, but for the sake of time. I pray that this study will open some doors for those who have been taught their whole lives, for instance, that these letters form a separate part of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. One more disclaimer that I wish to make is that, by indicating that the Old Covenant Jews were one of the greatest adversaries, or Satans, to the early church; I am not trying to 'demonize' the Jewish people as a whole, but I wish to remind my readers of what the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, in Romans 2: 28 & 29: 'For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.'

May God bless you with understanding through His Holy Spirit as you continually study His written Word and learn to know Him and serve Him better,
in His Kingdom and glory,
Charles Shank








2 comments:

QuantumGreg said...

Very enjoyable, Charles. A couple of things:
(1) There is a paragraph that you repeat (on accident?) regarding the anointing of the priests' ears. The paragraph is in there 2 times and starts with: [i]"I have often wondered about the significance..."[/i]
(2) Regarding Jezebel, when I read your article, I thought about what Jezebel actually did because it parallels the betrayal in Jesus' life. Remember? She found out that her husband wanted Naboth's vineyard. Naboth wouldn't give it to Ahab because it was "his inheritance". But Ahab wanted it still. So Jezebel had Naboth falsely accused, brought to "justice" (i.e. murdered), and Ahab got the inheritance!

Just thought you'd enjoy that.

Charles Shank said...

Greg; reading back through my article, I couldn't find exactly the same words( but maybe that wasn't quite your meaning ), but I did find a place, further on down ( quite a bit ) that was based on the same proposition. Yes, that was purposeful, and I'm glad you're enjoying my study. Please pray for me as I continue it! That bit about Jezebel, I must admit, is a very astute observation, and one I had not thought of: kudos to you, and praises be to God!