Monday, January 30, 2012

Revelation Bible Study Lesson 11 - Revelation 2:18-29

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them — I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; 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; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (NASB)

Thyatira – Description of Jesus

Eyes


When Jesus or God refers to His eyes what comes to your mind, especially with regard to the church at Thyatira?





But the land that you are going over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. (Deut 11:11-12 ESV)
Take care  lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and  serve other gods and worship them; then  the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he  will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and  you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you. (Deut 11:16-17 ESV)

The eyes of the Lord are upon the land reveals His providential care for us. Since Israel is also a symbol of the church, we can conclude that His eyes are on us to see if we are obedient. If we are faithful to obey the Lord, then His (our) Church will also prosper as He feeds and waters us. We will become what He wants us to be. While the promises to Israel were physical prosperity, the promise to the Church is spiritual prosperity. Israel has forsaken the Lord. Today much of the land is arid and has to be irrigated (man’s attempt to do on his own that which God does for those who obey Him.) Many churches are arid because they are not obedient and try to imitate the working of the Holy Spirit by their own methods.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war. (2 Chron 16:9 NIV)

One of the reasons His eyes are upon us is to strengthen us. Like a blazing fire, His eyes can either warm us or burn us, depending upon what He sees us doing. King Saul’s actions showed that he was not fully committed to the Lord. The consequence was a lifetime of war against his enemies. We may have strayed from our walk with the Lord, but He forgives and restores us to fellowship with Himself when we repent (1 John 1:6-9). However, we may have to suffer the consequences of our actions when we are disobedient.

My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Ps 139:15-16 NASU)

When God says that He sees us, it is much more than detecting photons and turning them into a recognizable pattern. These verses show that He is in complete control of our destinies from before our conception to the end of our lives, as well as eternity beyond. He is not just looking at us, but His looking is active and causes things to happen, physically and spiritually in our souls. We may never know what His exact purpose in our life is. He can use us every day of our lives as we yield to Him; however there may be some very special purpose that He has that may seem insignificant to us. He has ordained each day for us.

Why does the Lord tolerate all this evil in the world if He is too pure even to look upon evil?




You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he? (Hab 1:13 NKJV) 

Habakkuk asked the Lord the same question. Fortunately, God provides the answer in Scripture.

For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry. (Hab 2:3 NKJV)

When He sees evil, His judgment will come. As He looked at the church at Thyatira, He saw evil and He will judge it. It’s not going to be pretty either. Fortunately, His grace overcomes the need for immediate punishment because He is patient with us. He tells the church at Thyatira that He has already given Jezebel time to repent. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but for all of us to repent. (2 Peter 3:9) A significant portion of the book of Revelation is a description of what will happen when His patience runs out.

When you see these things, your heart will rejoice. You will flourish like the grass! Everyone will see the Lord's hand of blessing on his servants—and his anger against his enemies.
The Lord will punish the world by fire and by his sword. He will judge the earth, and many will be killed by him. (Isa 66:14, 16 NLT)

We will rejoice when His judgment comes, but to those who see the flame in His eyes, it will be the end. The flame is a symbol of judgment, which matches His coming as described in Rev 19:12-15.

Feet of Burnished Bronze

We briefly touched on Jesus feet of bronze before. Now, we want to look into this symbol again. Bronze represented strength and beauty. Messengers’ feet were symbols of good news or bad. Wine grapes was crushed by treading on them with bare feet.

Expand on these symbols as you think about Jesus’ feet of burnished bronze.





What is my strength, that I should wait? And what is my end, that I should be patient? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? In truth I have no help in me, and any resource is driven from me. (Job 6:11-13 RSV)

Job used bronze as a symbol for strength and recognized that he didn’t have any. Perhaps Job had been putting some of his hope in the power that was attributed to him by his wealth and success even though he knew that it really came from the Lord. Jesus lets us know that there is strength in Him regardless of our circumstances.

How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isa 52:7 NASB)
And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume. (Luke 7:37-38 NASB)
And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. (Luke 24:40 NASB)
And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord's word, seated at His feet. (Luke 10:39 NASB)

His feet are like burnished bronze, i.e. a costly alloy that was used for beautiful artifacts. Jesus’ feet are beautiful because He has brought us the good news of salvation. Isn’t it marvelous that those wonderful, beautiful feet were kissed by the sinful woman, wept upon by Mary, and pierced by a nail? He brings the news of salvation and turns none away that come to Him in repentance. He is worthy of worship and adoration because He has paid the price for our salvation. We come to His feet in humility as a place to learn more of God.

He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Rev 19:15c ESV)

With His feet He will also tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God. This is judgment executed, the part that we don’t want to hear. This is the message to some of those at Thyatira who have wandered too far.

In His feet we can see a mini presentation of the Gospel. We hear the word that He has brought; we must turn to Him in humility and repentance, showing Him to be Lord. He paid the price for our sins as exhibited by the scars in His feet. We also grow at His feet, but those that do not come to His feet will suffer under them.

Commendation

 

What is the commendation that Jesus has for the church at Thyatira?





The church at Thyatira seemed to have it all in order. They were doing the right things motivated by love and guided by faith. This leads to a stick-to-itiveness that produces even more service. In verse 23 Jesus says He searches hearts and minds and rewards our deeds. From this and the warnings that precede it, I would venture to say that deeds done from a wrong motive, even though “good,” would not be rewarded. Heb 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Rom 14:23 says that everything that does not come from faith is sin. In our families we encourage and expect obedience to God’s Law even when there isn’t a proper attitude. While this may produce an orderly and peaceful family, there is a danger in that some may think that they are in a proper relationship with God. This may have been the case with those in the church at Thyatira who were rebuked.

In verse 24, Jesus commends those who haven’t been associated with the rebuke we are about to discuss. It is a comfort to know that in this church there were people who had not compromised. They were keeping away from false teachings. He encourages them to continue. Sometimes that is exactly what He wants us to do. Continue where we are.

Rebuke

 

Read 1 Kings 16:29-33, 19:1-3 and 21:5-16. Describe the evil things that Jezebel did.




How might this woman in Thyatira be like Jezebel?





Jezebel was not a Jew, yet King Ahab married her in direct defiance of God’s law. To please her, he worshiped Baal, and set up shrines and an altar to Baal. Her evil temple was turned into the primary place of worship in Israel. She was a murderess and used trickery, deceit, and her position to kill Naboth just so her Ahab could take his vineyard.

Jesus calls a woman in Thyatira Jezebel to emphasize her evil. Sambethe was name of an occult priestess in Thyatira who has been identified by some as this woman. The leaders in Thyatira somehow accepted her and allowed her to teach her deep secrets of Satan. It could very well be that she professed Christ and she was accepted as a Christian. Since she was a “professional” in her own practice, she may have convinced them that the things she knew and practiced could be combined with Christianity.

What are some things that Christians have allowed or accepted from professionals that run contrary to Christian principles?





There are many things that Christians find acceptable, such as psychiatrists who use what they learned in school rather than the Bible in counseling. Some Christian psychiatrists apply their education to their practice but use Bible verses to support their theories of therapy. They do this rather than use the Bible as the foundation for their theories. They usually end up using worldly methods with a “Christian” look and feel. These people are seldom questioned by Christians because they are the “professionals” and after all, they are Christians, aren’t they? We flock to the bookstores buying their books and accepting their teaching without the least hesitancy. As a result, hypnotism was accepted for a while among some Christian psychiatrists until even the secular ones discovered that it was bogus. There are still some therapists that walk their clients through abusive pasts in order to “heal” them. It may help some, but I also know of marriages that have been destroyed by the process. 

What are the deep secrets of Satan and how do they manifest themselves in society?






Another danger is for those who are curious about the occult. They don’t want to learn more to combat it; rather they have a fascination for it. They are attracted to horror movies and essentially have a desire to learn the deep secrets of Satan. As people are drawn into the occult, they find that it is much like Masonry in which a person can’t learn more about the organization and its beliefs until he advances from one degree to another. You are not allowed to know the deeper secrets until you have proven yourself worthy. By the time they are “knowledgeable,” they have been either indoctrinated or entrapped so that they don’t recognize the truth anymore. In the Christian faith there are no secrets. Our doctrines are openly published in the Bible.

What does God say about the occult and witchcraft?






When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God. (Deut 18:9-13 NIV)

This prohibition starts with something that we would never think of doing, sacrificing our children. God condemns all kinds of occultic practices because they are rebellion against Him and lead to other sins.

For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king. (1 Sam 15:23 NASU)

Finally, Paul lumps them all together.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21 NKJV) 

These sins are simply the inevitable result of rebellion against God. As the spiritual basis in the United States has drifted away from God, there are more and more people blatantly rejecting Him. There are horoscopes in every newspaper and columns that spout politically correct advice. While some say horoscopes are harmless, it is a marker of how far we have strayed from the Lord. People freely admit that they follow the horoscopes. What scares me even more is the number of people who agree with the advice columnists. The result is that we have more people living together than ever before and divorce seems to be the first option provided when two people have “made a mistake” by marrying each other. The inevitable result is that we now sacrifice millions of unborn babies a year on the altar of personal choice and rights. Satan’s deepest secrets are not in the occult, but in the way he gets Christians to accept worldly wisdom and behavior. In this area we must be blameless. Sometimes it can start with things that we believe are harmless, like having souvenirs from Hawaii that are gods.

What other “little” things should we be careful about that are providing a foothold for the devil?





Counsel and Warning

 

Why does Jesus give Jezebel time to repent? Why does He give any of us time to repent?





The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 RSV)

Lest I get too judgmental, the Lord always gives people time to repent. Even this woman (Jezebel) has been given time. But because the time is given, it doesn’t mean that judgment won’t come. Note that she will suffer, perhaps she won’t die so that she can continue to draw away people whose real desire is not to serve the Lord. But those who are drawn to her will also suffer and some will die. God may allow this temptation as a means of purifying the church.

Do you think it is possible that Jesus would take the life of a Christian who has been exceedingly sinful? Do you know of any examples?



In Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira died because of their deliberate sin. Jesus is making it clear that any true believer who becomes this woman’s spiritual child will also die.

If you see a Christian brother or sister sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. All wicked actions are sin, but not every sin leads to death. (1 John 5:16-17 NLT)

There is the possibility of a Christian sinning in such a way that the Lord determines that He must intervene and take him/her from this world. Shocking as it may seem, if we see someone doing something like this, we are not even to pray for that person. This may be the case for those that Jesus says He will strike dead. They have been judged and He has determined that their sin is worthy of death. These “children” may be those who have so actively accepted the teaching and they are now spreading this harmful doctrine. I would like to explain what a sin is that leads to death; however that isn’t clear. Perhaps it is best left unsaid so that we don’t presume we can sin without severe consequences.

Promise


What are the conditions to Jesus’ promise? Are they any different from the promises to the other churches?



What is the implication for a believer who is disobedient and dies as a result?




Jesus promises that anyone who overcomes and does His will to the end will become rulers with Him over the nations. This is the only time that He adds a condition to the promise other than overcoming. Jezebel misled those in the church in Thyatira who were believers resulting in their disobedience at the end. They strayed in the end and some of them died because of their sin. This doesn’t mean they have lost their salvation, but it sounds like Jesus won’t reward them by allowing them to participate in His rule. Those who hold on until He comes and are obedient will reign with Jesus.

And he said to him, “Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.” (Luke 19:17 NASB)

In this parable of the kingdom, Jesus indicates that He will reward His faithful servants by ruling over cities. The interesting thing is that they only had to be faithful in relatively small things that were assigned to them. They didn’t have to be super spiritual giants. Later in the parable, the servant who wasn’t faithful lost what had been entrusted to him as well as the privileged to rule with his master. On the other side of eternity our lives now will seem insignificant compared to what He has in store for us. On the other hand, the small things we do now will be very significant in determining our eternal assignments.

Considering this, what kinds of goals should we have in this life?




Motivational speakers and multilevel marketing businesses stress the importance of setting goals in order to make the most of your life. These goals usually take the form of material wealth. I remember a meeting I went to where the group was encouraged to dream what they would do if they had all the money they wanted. What would you buy, where would you travel, and to what charity would you give? They threw the charity thing in just to ease the guilt. I’m glad I wasn’t sucked into this deception that material accumulation should be our goal in life. As I reflect on my future, my goals should be to achieve those things that will prepare me for eternity with my Lord. This means that how I go about meeting earthly goals is just as important as reaching the goals. With monetary goals, for example, if I meet my goal of acquiring a certain net worth by a specified time in life but at the cost of family relationships, I’m sure I won’t hear Jesus tell me “well done.”

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matt 23:23 KJV)

Would Jesus say “woe” to any of us today? Do we tithe but neglect law and justice by the way we get our money or even by not being involved in our communities? Do we neglect mercy because we are too busy making money and justify it because we give a tenth? Do we neglect faithfulness because we are too busy to serve in our churches? Do we neglect faithfulness because we are too busy to love our spouses or raise our families in the fear of the Lord? Make no mistake about it; if you want to rule with Christ, you had better watch your goals and how you meet them.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Mic 6:8 NIV)

Perhaps we should simply set these three goals and let the Holy Spirit lead us in our career, business, and other ambitions. Who knows? He may lead some into politics and others into clerical work. He may lead us into places we never would have entered if we had set worldly goals for ourselves.

What is the source of the authority that we will have and what will it look like?





Jesus says He has received His authority from the Father (Psalm 2:7-12) and He passes it along to us. This is not the idea that we will be like Him and have our own little universes; instead we will be in subject directly to Him.

For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:27-28 ESV)

God has established an order and in this order Jesus, even though He is God, is in subjection to the Father. We are in subjection to Him and always will be. As we live our lives here, we need to remember this because many of our problems occur when we step outside of that authority structure. When we keep within God’s authority structure, we are demonstrating that we will be worthy of ruling with Him.

It is hard for us to imagine how we might rule over nations. When we read Psalm 2, we can see that it will be a very strict rule. It will be a time when sin is held back and restrained so that righteousness will prevail. What society will look like and what our parts will be is not detailed anywhere in the Bible. We find only glimpse of it. That’s why I let my imagination wander and wrote a novel about this time in the future. Its title is 999 Years After Armageddon, The End of the Millennium and can be found at http://www.after-armageddon.com/. Kindle and Nook versions are also available.

What is the meaning of Jesus’ promise of the Morning Star?




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. (2 Peter 1:19 NASU)

The morning star, or day star, appears just before the sun is coming up. It is like a light at the end of the tunnel. It is all the prophets could see in the Old Testament - a hope for the Messiah to come. In Rev 22:16, Jesus calls Himself the Morning Star. Perhaps He promised to give the Morning Star to the believers in the church at Thyatira because they saw the hypocrisy of the church around them, yet stuck to their belief and deeds. He is giving them a glimmer of what is to come when He returns.

Church History - Churches Today


What period of Church history allowed witchcraft and pagan practices to be incorporated?



The Catholic church of the middle ages was a very evangelical church. It took the gospel around the world. Yet every place they went, the local customs of witchcraft and idolatry were allowed to creep in to the church. The root problem was that they had already corrupted the gospel in several ways. They formed the Catholic priesthood instead of teaching the priesthood of all believers. (1 Peter 2:9) They established the mass where magically the wafer and wine become Jesus so that He must be sacrificed daily to atone for sins, instead of the once for all sacrifice of Jesus to take away our sins. (Romans 6:9-10; Heb 9:12, 25-28; Heb 10:10-12 1 Peter 3:18) They kept the Scripture in Latin so that the gospel remained a secret available only to the elite. 

Today, this problem can still be seen in the Catholic Church in Central America. During the latter part of the 20th century Marxism was also integrated. Other churches in North America have so corrupted the gospel that they proclaim that Christianity is only one of many ways to God.

With such a wonderful description of Jesus to strengthen and guide us, let’s set goals to please Him so that we won’t fall into any sin that could cause our premature death or loss of our reward of ruling with Him. Let’s live in such a manner that we will reign with Him.

What have you personally learned from the church in Thyatira?





Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 10 - Revelation 2:12-17

And to the angel of the church in Per'gamum write: “The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; you hold fast my name and you did not deny my faith even in the days of An'tipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicola'itans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.” (RSV)

Pergamos – Description of Jesus

What is Jesus trying to emphasize in His description of Himself?


How do you think the church in Pergamum was using God’s Word?


How do people today neglect God’s Word?




Jesus emphasizes that He is the Word of God when He tells the church in Pergamum that He has the two edged sword. It is by the sword of the Spirit that we are able to discern correct teaching.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Heb 5:14 NASB)

The food that is being referred to is the Word. Notice that it is by constant use that we train ourselves. We can’t distinguish between good doctrines and false doctrines when we are on a starvation diet. The church in Pergamum probably didn’t do as the Bereans did in Acts 17:11. The Bereans examined the Scriptures every day to see if Paul’s teaching was true. The Pergamumians probably got used to saying amen to whatever their pastor or visiting preacher said. The Pergamum church probably watched TV and agreed with whatever the preacher was saying. One TV preacher I watched said that if a “man of God” came to his church and told the congregation to do something, then he wouldn’t hesitate. When one came to his church and said to give $2,000, he was the first one there with a check. You guessed it, the guy then asked for money and there were still 67 open phone lines out of 100. At least 33 people immediately took this man’s doctrine of “don’t question God’s anointed and without hesitation” and acted on it. It’s really scary to think that Jesus will use the weapon He has given us to fight Satan against those who don’t use it the way they should (Vs. 16). But, you know, they deserve it.

How will God’s Word be used against those who don’t believe?




The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me. (John 12:48-50 ESV) 

The very words that Jesus spoke will condemn anyone who rejects them. Believers need to understand and obey as a demonstration of faith. Notice that the Word came from the Father and then the Son spoke it. No wonder John called Jesus the Word in John 1:1. We shouldn’t distort His Word to fit our own uses and we should know it well enough to keep those who do from hoodwinking us.

Commendation


How does Jesus’ mention of Antipas bring comfort to the church and to us?





Jesus has sympathy for this church because they are surrounded by satanic religions, which were so blatant in their society that He says Satan had his throne there. Under these conditions there was persecution in which their bishop, Antipas, was killed. (Antipas was said to have been one of Jesus’ first disciples.) The good thing about this church is that they remained true to the name of Jesus even though it could cost their lives. Jesus knew Antipas’ name and commended him as a faithful witness. Nothing escapes the attention of the Lord. He knew and understood what had happened. Jesus said that the Father knows when a sparrow drops from the sky; how much more valuable are we than birds? Whatever we may be going through, He knows, and that should be a great comfort.

How does Stephen’s death in Acts 7:55-59 encourage those facing persecution?




Acts 7:55-59 is the only detailed description of a New Testament martyr’s death. It is an example in that we can look forward to the grace of the Lord so completely surrounding us so that we, too, may be at peace in the event we face martyrdom. “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60) His peace extended to the point that he forgave his persecutors when he died. If the Lord can give us this kind of peace in the face of martyrdom, why can’t we seem to acquire it when we are not dying, just being bothered. When someone wrongs us, shouldn’t this be our prayer? Shouldn’t we practice leaving no room for anger, resentment or revenge for another’s actions? These people were not Stephen’s friends or family. He probably only knew some of them as acquaintances. How much more should we behave without anger toward members of our own family, church and friends? I think I would like to hear Jesus’ commendation even for that.

Rebuke


Who does Jesus rebuke and why?





Jesus is very clear; He rebukes the Pergamumians for allowing people to be part of their church who hold to evil teachings. He is not addressing the people who have the wrong teachings and commanding them to repent, but rather He is rebuking the church for allowing those with these heresies to be among them.

What should a church do when it finds any of its members teaching false doctrines?



If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 John 10-11 NIV)

In Pergamum, they had obviously welcomed people who had brought teachings contrary to moral behavior. These people probably called themselves “Christians.” Like Balaam, they didn’t want to convert pagans, but were more interested in converting true Christians to their thinking and ways. Think what would happen if your church let people become members simply because they called themselves Christians. There are many people who make up their own definition of “Christian.” I was meeting with a Bible study group at work when a person wanted to join the group. He brought his Bible and joined the conversations with some “creative” ways of looking at Scripture. Privately, he admitted that he was a devotee to a group that had a better scripture given to them by some guys in a flying saucer back in the 1930s. (I kid you not!) His goal was to spread his word, not The Word and his targets were Christians who didn’t have a good grip on their own understanding of the Bible. What should we do? John was not talking about those who were flaunting evil practices, only deceptive teachings. This is one of the things that the Nicolaitans did.
The church in Ephesus had not tolerated evil. They had learned to shun those who call themselves Christians and practice immorality. Apparently, the church at Pergamum hadn’t listened to Paul’s words in 1 Cor 5:9-11. From these verses it is clear that immoral behavior is not to be part of the Christian church. Yet we can look at churches and cults that want to participate in adulterous affairs and cover them up with the idea that this is something God wants or that it is all covered by grace.

Counsel and Warning


Who is Jesus commanding to repent and from what?




Jesus says He will come to the church (organization) and fight against the ones that hold the false teachings (unbelievers?) unless the church repents. His command to repent is twofold. First, if the church repents of its tolerance, then these wicked people will be ejected from the congregation and Jesus will not need to come to the church and fight. Second, if the sinners repent, renounce their false teaching, and change their lives in keeping with repentance, then Jesus will not have anything against them.

What are the consequences for those who tolerate false teaching and immorality?




Those who allow false teachers and immoral behavior will probably suffer loss unless they repent and start leading the church the way they are supposed to. The picture seems to become clear that in each of the churches there are unbelievers. He is addressing not only His Body at each location but the organization of people. This passage should make it abundantly clear that there are unbelievers in churches because Jesus does not war against His own people. The wrath of God is not against His children. He will be fighting against those in the church that are unbelievers.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thess 5:9 NASU)

In Ex 32:25-29, when the Israelites ran amok in immoral behavior, the Levites killed whoever was next to them. In verse 35, the Lord also caused a plague to come upon the people. Allowing sinful practices in the church hurts more than just the people who are participating in the sin. When God brings retribution for sin, there may be many bystanders who suffer physical and spiritual loss, not just those who have been involved. This points out the seriousness with which God views sin.
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor 12:26 NKJV) 
Whether we allow unbelievers in our church as members and tolerate their ungodly actions or whether we allow Christians to behave immorally, the result is a church that will suffer.
We need to be willing to judge one another inside the church (1 Cor 5:12). This will prevent the suffering that is bound to happen if it is left unchecked.

Promise


What is the hidden manna that Jesus promises to overcomers?



"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isa 55:1-2 NKJV)
One of the promises for an overcomer is hidden manna. It is the spiritual food that keeps us going. One reason it is hidden is that unbelievers don’t know what it means to delight their souls in the richest of fares. They can’t partake because they won’t come to Jesus to receive it. If they do come, they insist on trying to pay for it with their own merits instead of accepting it as a free gift of God and turning to Jesus in faith and repentance. We have already seen how the Word of God is also called food. A mark of where a person is in their spiritual walk is shown by what they get from the Word. Is it a delight or a chore to read and study? Jesus gives this promise to anyone who has an ear to hear (a willingness to listen and obey) His advice and follow through by becoming an overcomer. It is very important to listen and obey the Word.
But Jesus replied, "I have a kind of food you know nothing about." "Did someone bring him food while we were gone?" the disciples asked each other. Then Jesus explained: "My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. (John 4:32-34 NLT)
As we overcome and obey, we too, experience the refreshing that comes because of doing His will. Have you ever experienced a time when you were so dog-tired that you couldn’t do one more thing, but God brought some ministry opportunity in which He used you greatly? How did you feel afterwards? You may have still been physically drained, as was Jesus while waiting at the well. But did you feel the spiritual refreshment that came from doing His will by His power and not your own?
What is the significance of an overcomer receiving a white stone with a new name on it?




Saul’s name was changed to Paul. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. These are only a couple of examples of name changes in Scripture when God chose to use someone. Saul means, “asked for” and Paul means, “little.” Paul went from a persecutor of the Church to a person who was humble before God and who considered himself the least among the apostles (1 Cor 15:9). He had little strength in himself, but he was used mightily by God, who shows His power in our weakness. Abram means “high father.” Abraham means “father of a multitude.” It was through Abraham’s family line that the Messiah came to earth. Think about how significant it is to be renamed by God. It would signify that we were not just willing to let Him use us as He wills, but that we yielded to His plan. Perhaps the reason it is a name that no one knows is to keep us humble.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off.” (Isa 56:3-5 RSV)
How does this prophecy from Isaiah relate to being named as a Christian?




Outside of Israel there was no salvation. Even though a Gentile converted, or an Israelite became a eunuch, they were never afforded the same status as a Jew born and raised in their normal position. The significance of God’s promise to them in this prophecy is that they are no longer going to be called a foreigner or eunuch, but by a new name, which includes the promise of eternal life. This is also an Old Testament glimpse into the future when all prejudice, racism, etc. will be put away. In some non-Christian cultures and cults, the handicapped have no place. They are killed at birth. Since all cults have a works salvation, often there is no place for the handicapped because they are unable to complete the work required for salvation. All this is gone when we accept our new name.
And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:26b KJV)
One new name that we are all given is “Christian.” Just as when a person is adopted into a family and takes on their surname, we are identified with the family of God and we belong to Jesus. A biblical name communicated the essence, character, and reputation of the person named. Our character is changed when we become a Christian. An implication that no one knows the new name is that a non-Christian cannot know or understand the makeup and workings of a Christian. The change that takes place is a mystery for which sociologists and psychologists have dreamed up thousands of theories. It also communicates the intimacy that we have with the Lord. There is a very personal aspect of being a Christian since we are part of the family.
Some law courts used to give a white stone to a person when he was acquitted or a black one to someone who was found guilty. In Jesus, we are a new creation and receive a new name and acquittal before our Lord because we receive His righteousness.

Church History - Churches Today

This is the church in history that turned away from the Word of God as its standard. They allowed other teachings to come in without testing them. There is also a degree of compromise with the world. The whole idea of eating meat sacrificed to idols and allowing sexual immorality is caving in to the world’s standards for right and wrong.
What are some of the things in today’s churches that are going on as a result of accepting the world’s standards?




In today’s churches there is a lack of understanding among “Christian” teens and young adults who engage in sex before marriage and living together without marriage. It can also be seen in the way that abhorrent lyrics and philosophy of rock music has been accepted by Christian teenagers. I won’t even talk about movies because too many Christians say they are OK, giving the excuse that the language isn’t any different from what you hear on the street. I wouldn’t want to say this is wrong because I would be seen as out-of-step with the times. Ouch, it hurts to bite my tongue! Today, we would call this a “tolerant” church.
In Church history, this would be the age of conversion of the Roman Empire. The martyrdom of the early church still occurred to some extent; it is still fresh in the mind of the church; yet, allowing itself to become the official church of the Roman Empire compromised itself. The customs and practices of the pagans who joined without true conversion eventually corrupted the church. Later in history, when the pre-reformers objected to these practices, they were hurt, killed or thrown out. The cost of fixing the problem later is much higher than taking care of it now.

We certainly live where Satan has his throne. Let’s be careful, though, to continue to be entrenched in the Word of God so that we don’t compromise our church. We will certainly reap the blessing and promises of Jesus if we do.
What have you personally learned from the church in Pergamum?




Friday, January 20, 2012

Revelation Bible Study - Lesson 9 - Revelation 2:8-11

To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty — yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of 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 will not be hurt at all by the second death. (NIV)

Smyrna – Description of Jesus


Why do you think Jesus repeats to this church what He said in Revelation 1:17-18 about being dead and alive again?




Jesus repeats the fact that He is the first and the last, was dead and is now alive, so that He can give hope to the church that is going to face the worst persecution of all the churches. Ephesus had hardships, but this is the only church for which persecution is predicted. If we ever face death for our faith, we should remember this church’s letter and this message of who Jesus is. He has the keys to death and Hades; others may destroy the body but through Him, we, too, will live. 

Commendation


What is Smyrna’s commendation?



Jesus knows their affliction and they must be counting it all joy because He says they are rich. I wish He would have elaborated more on this church, but we can go to the epistles and see what Paul and the other writers said about perseverance and joy. The church at Smyrna must have been applying these letters to their lives in order to be so rich.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:3-5 NASB)

Why does suffering produce that we should welcome it with joy?




Suffering produces the character that God wants to build in us. Character provides us hope in the midst of even the most trying circumstances. When there is nothing left in this life to live for, we can still live and have hope because we know that we have God’s love in our lives. We know our future and that far surpasses anything that we have now. The Holy Spirit accomplishes this; it isn’t something that we can do by our own will power.

You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, For I believe Your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.
You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
The proud have forged a lie against me, But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.
Their heart is as fat as grease, But I delight in Your law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.
 (Ps 119:65-72 NKJV)

From these verses, what fundamental things can we find that are required to have joy in affliction?






There are a few fundamental things that are required to have joy in the middle of affliction. The first is an uncompromising belief in the goodness of our Lord. Included in this is a desire to know and obey His commands regardless of opposition and pressure to do otherwise. Lastly is a knowledge that all afflictions come to benefit our lives. They may come because we have strayed as David did, or they may come because we are right where God wants us, like Job. When we are afflicted, it gives us the opportunity either to learn His decrees or to put them into practice.

Can you say, along with David, “It was good for me to be afflicted"? Why or why not?



“Two-thirds of the people in the land will be cut off and die," says the Lord. "But one-third will be left in the land. I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'These are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'" (Zech 13:8-9 NLT)

Does God promise that everyone will physically survive persecution?

What is His promise for those who survive?


Is this promise to everyone who survives physically or only spiritual survivors?



Not all survive affliction either physically or spiritually. Only a few will, but those who do will be able to say Jesus is Lord under any circumstances. If persecution came to “Christians” in the U. S., I think that only a third would survive spiritually. As we look more into the book of Revelation, we will see times when one third or one quarter of the people will be struck down physically. God uses these harsh means to get through to a few about their need to turn their attention to Him.

Those who keep their faith, whether they die or remain alive, will be purified and walk closely with the Lord. However, we must recognize that throughout history, many people have been persecuted and gone through horrific times. Many turn to the Lord and are purified, but many do not. After Jerusalem was destroyed, the remnant came to Jeremiah and asked him to pray for them. They said they would do whatever the Lord wanted (Jer 42:1-6). When the Lord told them not to go to Egypt, they disobeyed and forced Jeremiah to go to Egypt with them (Jer 43:1-7). Even worse, after they arrived they continued to commit blatant idolatry with an in-your-face attitude toward God (Jer 44:15-19). Physical survival doesn’t guarantee spiritual revival. Only those who keep their faith can claim these promises.

What are the riches that the church in Smyrna had?




In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9 RSV)

Jesus said that the church of Smyrna was rich. Their riches and ours is our faith, which is better than gold and gives us our most valuable possession, our salvation. It is faith in Jesus that keeps us going. If we are tempted, sin, or are afflicted, it takes only a couple of minutes to refocus our thoughts on Him and we are comforted with inexpressible joy.

Rebuke


What rebuke does Jesus have for the church in Smyrna?



Jesus does not rebuke this church. It is most likely because a church under persecution is purified. When the going gets tough, the fakes and the flakes get out.

Counsel and Warning


Is Jesus categorizing Jews as Satan worshipers? How do you explain His description of those who were slandering the church?





They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham.”( John 8:39NASU)
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. …” (John 8:42-44 NASU)

This isn’t the first time Jesus has accused people of being Satan worshipers. In doing this, He established the fact that true children of Abraham (Jews and Gentiles see Eph 2:11-22) behave as Abraham did. They have true faith. That faith will result in loving Jesus and accepting Him as Messiah. People, whether of the Jewish race or not, who do not accept Jesus are in essence Satan worshipers by default (Eph 2:1-3).

Jesus assures the church that He knows what they are going through. They have opposition from Jews who are so vicious that He calls them a synagogue of Satan. At this time in history, I’m told that Jews were turning in Christians to the Roman government to take the heat off themselves.

Where would we find synagogues of Satan today?




I believe that if people are truly religious (they want to know and obey God), then they will welcome the good news when they hear it. If they don’t truly want to obey God, it will become apparent in their actions. Their desires and motivation are from Satan and nowhere else. Today there are these “synagogues” all over. They don’t necessarily bring physical opposition to the Christian message, but instead distort the message. They are Christian churches where the pastor preaches against the virgin birth and other fundamental doctrines of Christianity. In the name of protecting religious freedom, the brotherhood of man, or ecumenicalism, they are watering down the gospel and convincing the lost that any way to God is OK as long as you are sincere, etc. You could also include cults that want to look like Christians but are not. Lately, groups have also risen up that label fundamental Christians as dangerous. I would classify them as synagogues of Satan as well.

What is the source of trials and tribulation for the church in Smyrna? How is this different from the problems other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 face?



What is the source of our difficulties?




Jesus also warns the church that it is going to get worse. When we are going through a time of suffering, many well-meaning Christians will tell you exactly why it has come about. Some will tell you Satan is out to get you. Others will say that God is disciplining you because you have sinned. Most are speculating and don’t really have a clue why the problems have come. This time it is different; Jesus specifically says that these tests are from Satan. What a contrast to the other churches in these two chapters! Other than the church at Philadelphia, Jesus warns them about what He is going to do to them, not what Satan has in store.

When we face trials, we should pay attention to our lives and what we have been doing. If we are living sloppy Christian lives Satan can easily trip us up and cause problems. On the other hand, if we are living strong obedient lives, Satan may be so irritated that he will try to compromise our lives. Hebrews 12:1-11 explains that we may also have disciple in our lives because we have not yet attained the holy life God desires. Then of course, there are times when problems come simply because we live in a fallen world. It is always appropriate to consider them all joy (James 1:2-4) and to always follow these instructions:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18 NKJV)

Read Matt 10:24-39. What theme is repeated here and to the church in Smyrna?

What should we fear and why, what should we not fear and why?




In these verses you will find that Jesus tells us three times not to be afraid and once to be afraid. We are not to fear men or Satan, but to fear only Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. The only way to escape the fear of men and Satan is to acknowledge Jesus before men and not to disown Him. If we want to save our lives on this earth by denying Jesus so that we can escape persecution, we will forfeit eternal life. It will prove that our confession of Him as Lord was not sincere. The church at Smyrna may have even read these words in Matthew. They know to fear God’s chastising, not Satan’s attacks. Persecution comes even through family members as Jesus says in Matt 10:35, 36. But note that Jesus didn’t say He would turn husband against wife; Satan does that.

When is it appropriate to rebuke Satan for his attacks on us?




Job 1:9-12, 20 and 2:10 clearly show that it is Satan’s action that causes misery. But it is only by God’s permission and He sets the limits to which Satan can harm us. Job’s response to trouble was to worship God! He also recognized that he had to accept all that comes from God. Is it possible that when we rebuke Satan for causing us problems we are telling our Sovereign Lord that we don’t want to have our faith tested, that we don’t want his correction? We should be careful about our response to difficulties. Like Paul in 2 Cor 12:9, we should pray, but be prepared to accept no as an answer.

Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. "Get away from me, Satan!" he said. "You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." (Mark 8:33NLT)

When we are tempted to do something that is clearly against God’s will and we know it is not coming from our own selfish desires, we can follow Jesus’ example and rebuke Satan. Those temptations may come from others just as Peter tried to convince Jesus not to go to the cross. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus addressed Satan and not Peter?

If you have ever had thoughts pop into your mind that are clearly wrong – rebuke Satan. Don’t dwell on the thoughts. If those thoughts are coming from the evil that you are letting into your minds through different forms of media, rebuking Satan isn’t going to do any good because he isn’t the source. James 1:13-15 clearly states that it is our own evil desires that cause these temptations.

Explain when and how we should or should not rebuke Satan in order to heal people with diseases.





As we look at Scripture, there are many places where demons were cast out of people. Most of these were done by Jesus. Luke 4:31-36 is a good example. The first thing that needs to be done is to establish that this is really a demon possession and not an illness. I know there are many who teach that there is always a demon behind every illness. This isn’t scriptural as the Lord sends disease throughout the Old Testament and even in the New Testament (Acts 12:23).

Of course, Jesus could always tell that there was a demon behind the problem, but we can’t. We can require the demon, in the name of Jesus, to tell its name. If we have faith, then the demon must answer. My bet is that you will never hear it say its name is Satan. If it does, you have just been introduced to the Antichrist. If a name is provided, then it would be appropriate to cast it out in Jesus’ name.
We also have to remember what Jesus said in Matt 12:43-45. Casting out a demon doesn’t guarantee that the problem will be solved forever. If there is no change in the person’s heart, he is still vulnerable to future possession. God hasn’t finished His work in the person yet.

One last thing about casting out demons, when you read the verses about disease and demons, there are only a few maladies that are associated with them. You don’t see cancer, leprosy, fever, flow of blood, plague, blindness, and most common illness associated with them. If the demon doesn’t answer, “Cancer is my name,” then it is not appropriate to cast out the demon of cancer and never appropriate to rebuke Satan for it.

I think Jude had the right answer. Those who revile demons for every disease or difficulty are dreamers (Jude 8-10). They don’t really understand what the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms are doing.

How should we battle Satan’s schemes?






Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:11-12 RSV)

Satan is our enemy yet we can take a stand against his schemes. There is a big difference between schemes and overt attacks. Schemes are the things that are hidden and hard to discern. I think that Satan’s primary purpose is not to destroy our health or prosperity, especially since he can’t do it without the Lord’s consent. His primary purpose is to prevent us from being a good witness and spreading the Word. We can stand against that scheme by being a good witness whatever our circumstances, whether in ill health or good, whether in riches or poverty.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 NASB)

Satan’s motives are clear; he uses suffering to try to destroy our witness, yet we are to resist, not lie down passively and take it. The resistance should be directed toward what Satan wants stopped or weakened (our faith), not necessarily the suffering. With self-control, we are able to do this.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that  through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb 2:14-15 ESV)

By faith, we know that Jesus has destroyed the devil’s hold on us, the fear of death. We can make it through sufferings and anything else knowing this.

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:18 NIV)

We need to remember that Jesus suffered and was tempted. Suffering and being tempted is not a result of a lack of faith but more likely a proof that we have a faith that Satan wants to destroy.

What is the meaning of the ten days during which the Smyrna church will be tested?





The devil is going to put some of the church in prison for ten days. There are three ways to look at the ten days of persecution, literal, symbolic, and prophetic.

Since Jesus tells them to be faithful even to the point of death, it could mean that it was a literal ten days, which was the customary time that someone was kept in jail before their execution. Acts 12:1 does not specify the time Peter or James was kept in jail; we only know it was short. We also know that James was killed but the Lord miraculously got Peter out. Because of these examples, the ten days could also be understood as a sign that many would die and some would be rescued.

The ten days can also be symbolic of a “complete” time of suffering.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. (Col 1:24 NASU)

Paul speaks of suffering in his body to complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. The Church will suffer until His return and Paul is completing his portion of it. We are all expected to complete some suffering if we are part of Christ’s Church.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Rom 8:17 NIV)

If we expect to participate in His glory, we should be prepared to participate in His suffering as well.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10 NKJV)

Our suffering will not continue forever. There will be an end to it and when it is finished or completed we will be made strong and steadfast.
The ten days could have been prophetic for the early church. There were ten eras of persecution of the early church. They started with Nero in 64 AD and the last was from Diocletian and ended in 312 AD.

How does each of these three viewpoints equip us for Christian living?




Each of these three viewpoints appears to fit and prepare us for Christian life. We know that we are expected to suffer, and regardless of the length of time we are to be faithful. We know that suffering completes our faith by testing it. Knowing the history of what the early church went through encourages us by example. If they went through that and didn’t deny Jesus, then He will also give us the strength to do likewise.
We also know that some suffering will result in death. We need to be prepared for that.

We also can see that until Jesus comes back, there will always be suffering. We should not be surprised.

Promise


What is Jesus’ promise and what is the condition on the promise?




The promise is that we will receive the crown of life. The condition is to stay faithful until death. This is a tough passage for people who believe that once saved, always saved. It makes it sound like I have to make sure I’m faithful until I die or I will lose my salvation. This is not what this verse is saying. The book of Hebrews is loaded with verses that seem to indicate people could fall away or somehow lose their salvation by not remaining faithful to the end (Heb 2:1-4, 6:4-6, 10:26-38). However, a thorough study doesn’t support this. In addition, faith isn’t something that I conjure up inside of me. It is something God has given me. When I take the focus off myself and realize that faith begins and continues in Jesus, it makes sense that I will be able to remain faithful to the end. This verse tells me that some who claim faith will fail the test and their faith will prove false. When that happens, it shows that they never had eternal life through faith.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phil 1:6 NLT)

What are some of the crowns that are promised in the Bible and their meanings?






Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. (Ps 103:4 NIV)

He crowns us with love and compassion in the context of forgiveness and redemption. The crown of life is available to us because of His love and compassion.

For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. (Ps 149:4 NIV)

Those who are working for salvation do not get the crown of salvation because then they are not humble; they believe that they have earned something and have a right to boast in what they have done. It is simply and purely His delight to extend salvation to us when we humble ourselves before Him.

Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. (Prov 10:6 NIV)

This is appropriate for the study of Revelation. It points out the contrast between the judgment of the righteous and the wicked. The wicked can only look forward to violence.

And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isa 35:10a NIV)

After Jesus comes back and restores the world to the way it should be, all pain, sorrow and uncleanness will be gone. We will have everlasting joy as a crown.

And provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Isa 61:3 NIV) 

A crown of beauty is given in the context of the gospel being preached by Jesus and God’s day of vengeance. This demonstrates the comfort that comes from the Good News. No matter how bad things will get or what heartaches come, He will bind them up and give us freedom in Him to overcome.

And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (1 Cor 9:25 NKJV)

The crowns we will receive are everlasting; they won’t fade or perish. We need to remember this when we establish our goals in life. We need to keep in perspective our eternal goals and treasures that will be laid up for us. Jesus has called us to a race. If our worldly goals become more important to us than achieving eternal crowns, then we need to examine our priorities for the race.

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thess 2:19-20 NASB)

People are our crown. Anyone who has helped others grow in the Lord will receive the reward of seeing how that assistance has helped others when they meet in heaven.

The crowns of salvation and righteousness are given to us based on what Jesus has done for us, but the joy, glory, and splendor are the rewards that we receive for doing His work after we are saved. Crowns also refer to the fact that there will be something over which we will rule. There are many references to reigning with Christ, which we will discuss later in the Book of Revelation.

Read Matt 27:27-31 and contrast the crown that Jesus took upon Himself to make it possible for us to have all these crowns.





All the crowns we are promised include blessings, love, compassion, salvation, righteousness, and much more. What Jesus suffered when they put the crown of thorns on Him was the opposite. It was hate, cruelty, and all the sinful intentions of mankind. There is nothing cheap about the crowns we have or will receive. Likewise we should not fear, but expect suffering before receiving the greater crowns.

What is the second death and why will overcomers not be hurt by it?






The second death will not hurt us. The second death is referred to three more times in the Book of Revelation where it will be fully explained. Briefly, it is the eternal lake of burning fire. Those who are dead spiritually will die physically, but they will be resurrected only to be thrown into the lake of burning fire. Aren’t you glad that it will not affect you? It won’t hurt you if you are an overcomer.

But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. (Matt 8:22 KJV)

Jesus uses symbolic terms, but the message is clear. Those who do not follow him are dead.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. (Col 2:13 NLT)

Paul made it much clearer. This is another way of looking at it; we have all been dead once. If we die again without being made alive in Christ, then spiritually we will have a second death. The overcomers have no fear of a spiritual death.

Church History - Churches Today.


I haven’t seen any churches like this in the United States. They can be found in communist countries and in third world countries where the church is in combat with witchcraft and other satanic religions. The Islamic faith is particularly aggressive about persecuting Christians in many of these countries. In the United States, we are not persecuted in this way, but the time certainly could come.

In church history, this was the era when the books of the Bible were formally recognized as God-inspired Scripture. In this era, many people had to give up their lives for their faith. It was a time when the Lord used the church to grow in number and purity. Since people often died for their faith, they were not going to include anything in the Bible for which they wouldn’t die. They were not willing to include anything in the Bible that was questionable. Only a church without rebuke could be chosen for this task.
In the middle of difficulties we need to persevere and consider our riches. When we do that we will be making a difference in the world and will become dangerous to Satan but receive the crown of life. Any persecution that results will purify us and makes the message clearer.

What have you personally learned from the church in Smyrna?