Tested . . . and Tried

Countdown to the end . . . #16

Vol. 4, No. 30 – July 28, 2019

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna Write: “The words of the first and the last, “who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 2:8-12

Do not forget who is speaking; it is Jesus Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Smyrna is north of Ephesus in the Gulf of Smyrna. A city of great wealth, she thrives in a great economic climate. Smyrna was destroyed in 627 B.C., in ruins for 400 years. In the time of The Revelation it is rebuilt.

Alexander the Great refused to destroy the city on his way to conquer the world. The city became a famed site for Emperor Worship. In 195 B.C., the temple to the goddess of Rome rose; in 26 A.D. a temple rose to Tiberius, Libya, and the Senate. Temples came to exist for every Roman Emperor and for every Roman god. Polycarp pastored in Smyrna (martyred in 166A.D.).

There is not great accusation raised against the church at Smyrna.

The church at Smyrna existed from a church plant through Paul’s ministry at Ephesus. In the midst of utter evil, ungodliness, heathenism of gods, and false gods, the Church remained true and faithful to God’s Word. (However, as is true today in many churches, there are individuals not remaining true and faithful.)

Smyrna means myrrh, a fragrant spice of perfume obtained when the tender bark of the flowering myrrh tree is pierced and crushed (myrrh was a gift brought to the babe of Bethlehem, the One who was pierced and crushed for our salvation).

There is great attempt in Smyrna to pierce and crush the church. It is not an uncommon experience of churches today in our ungodly world.

Historically, the church modeled Christ’s love: (1) the rich nurtured and loved the church family, and (2) they did so in the midst of a cruel and hostile environment.

Jesus addresses the church in the extremes:

  • He is the First and the Last
  • He is the One who died and came to life again
  • He was present at the beginning of Creation
  • He will be present at the end of history
  • He encompasses all the forces and events of the world, including life and death
  • He is the Lord of all heavenly and earthly forces; all extremes; everything in between
  • He is the strong encourager in the midst of the evil onslaught

Picture the Jews in Nazi Germany:

  • Restricted travel and housing restrictions
  • Shops closed, vandalized, and looted
  • Property seized illegally
  • Humiliated and stigmatized for their beliefs
  • Slandered, harassed, and falsely charged
  • Physically assaulted – both children and adults (many murdered)

The church at Smyrna experienced the same kinds of unrelenting pressure and affliction that Christianity receives today.

Paul taught that Christians can experience sorrow, yet, always be rejoicing. They can be poor, yet rich; have nothing, yet possess everything through Christ (2 Corinthians 6:10).

Christ makes three announcements to the church at Smyrna:

  • He announces Himself as God
  • He announces Himself as all-knowing (nothing escapes Him)
  • He announces Himself as coming in judgment

Do not forget that the churches in the Revelation are real; they existed. They are churches that are typical down through the ages; churches today may be just like them or they may have some characteristics of several. Churches have impacts; every church models what it wants to be in their era.

He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! (Revelation 2:7)

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true

 (Revelation 22:6).

Life Application

Should not every church minister and serve in such a way that no accusation should come against it? If your church strives to model itself in their era – what do people see and hear? What does Christ see and hear?

The church in Ephesus

Countdown to the end . . . #15

Vol. 4, No. 29 – July 21, 2019

To the angel of the Church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands says this. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 2:1, 7

If you read last week’s blog, you are probably thinking about your church. Perhaps beginning to compare it with the Scriptures. That is good, for Scripture is the true guide of what Christ expects of His church.

The Church at Ephesus is the Church of Orthodoxy; yet it is also the Church of Abandoned Love.

From every point of view (travel, politics, and religion), Ephesus (the Pride of Asia) was of the greatest cities of the world. It was famous for its seaport, its temple of Artemis (or also known as the Temple of Diana, the Greek female deity). Worship in the temple represents a syncretism of the mother-goddess religion of the Middle East. Kings donated 120 pillars for the building of the temple, adorned with precious stones. With false goddess worship, the city spiraled down into syncretism, superstition, magic, and the occult.

Diana, the goddess of fertility, received worship; a large statue of her stood behind the pillars of the temple. Like many false churches/temples, the temple of Artemis focused on wealth, riches, and calling upon the people to give until they were bled dry. The temple represented a wonder in architecture. Shrines created in Ephesus intended that worship to the false goddess prevail.

The religion was one of syncretism, superstition, magic, and the occult. The temple was not unusual in its practice; Roman Emperors also sought their worship amongst the gods and goddesses.

Too many churches today practice a religion, including a host of relics and statues; a drive of people to support the whims and practices of the religions, instead of helping its people to develop a relationship with the One True God.

The Church at Ephesus, founded by Paul (Acts 19:10; 20:31) was solid in her beginning. Paul ascertained the Holy Spirit’s presence, explained Jesus in depth, brought believers to baptism (by immersion) to show publically their allegiance. Paul followed the church closely for a considerable time. Luke wrote of the city, Timothy ministered in the city, and Mary, the Lord’s mother was buried in the city. John pastored in the city for a number of years.

Ephesus was a strong church, starting six other churches in the region. Yet it lost its first love. Their love and remembrance faded. That love was replaced with a self-centered love.

The church at Ephesus set aside their leader, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul speaks about the church as the body with Christ as the Head (Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:18). The Head, Christ, is depicted as holding His church in His hand, walking in the midst of the church, and being a reminder to the church of His position and power.

The Church at Ephesus paints a picture: A church that Christ expects to follow Him pictures godly (1) works, labor, and patience; (2) faith, a labor of love, a place of hope (if these three do not abide in the church, it wifeill die, regardless of zeal), and (3) strength of truth (rejecting false teaching and leaders. The Church of Ephesus pictures the downward trend a church experiences when it becomes self-focused; designing a church that draws people away from sharing the Gospel; instead, entertaining themselves by becoming like the culture of the lost.

Too many read of the Seven Churches of the Revelation, thinking and speaking of how awful the end times will be; yet the depictions are an embarrassment to many churches today, for the descriptions are deadly accurate of how many have toyed with what Christ has brought us to take into our world.

He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! (Revelation 2:7)

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true (Revelation 22:6).

Life Application

God’s Word lays out what Christ expects of His church. When churches do not follow the “manual” (the Bible), what we get is simply man’s institution. Christ is head of the church; none other needs to apply for the “job.” Look around to churches that portray themselves as the “true” church and pick up your Bible – peruse the texts and ask yourself the questions that the text brings to your heart.

Who . . .

Countdown to the end . . . #14

Vol. 4, No. 28 – July 14, 2019

John, to the seven churches that 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. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  –Revelation 1:4; 3:22

Have you ever taken the time to compare your church with the Scriptures? John sees, hears, and experiences the conditions of the seven churches. Christ has expectations for the church; unfortunately, too many churches are bound up in their programs, entertainment, and buildings for self, they forget or ignore what they are to be as the body of Christ.

John is not the only NT author to write to seven churches. Paul did as well; Paul writes to seven churches via epistles (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. Paul begins his epistles with a common expression of grace and peace, as from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. John invokes the entire Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

It is interesting that John chooses the plural word for church, churches; the general layout for the NT is to address an individual church. In addition, the word grace does appear early in the form of a salutation. Grace is the principle through which God saves, keeps, gives, and forgives—and delivers us at the time of death from the defeat of the grave.

Peace (irena/irene) is the result of God’s grace, the result of being on the receiving end of God’s grace in the present and throughout eternity. Peace here is offered as a continuous present, activity given by God (Romans 5:1-2).

Grace and peace are terms Paul frequently uses (1 Corinthians to Philemon); he also uses grace mercy, and peace (1, 2 Timothy and Titus). Paul and John particularly knew what grace and peace are, and experienced the reality of the gifts of God.

“From Him” clearly references Jesus Christ. Jesus is the unique person of the universe. He is the One who is head of all things.

Who is” captures the I am” descriptive of Jesus. God gives Revelation to His Son, Jesus Christ, who is seated at His right hand on the throne (1 Peter 3:22).

“Who was” captures the eternity past nature of Jesus Christ; referring to His person, deity, position, and completeness. Satan knew this before the birth of Christ on earth; therefore, Satan devised devious plans to attempt to thwart the plan of God for man’s redemption (Genesis 6:1-7).

“Who is to come” refers to the Second Coming (advent). Christ did not come at the time of John’s writing John receives a vision that details His coming.

The “seven spirits” are a descriptive of the Holy Spirit and His character (from Isaiah 11:2):

  1. The Spirit of the Lord
  2. The Spirit of wisdom
  3. The Spirit of understanding
  4. The Spirit of counsel
  5. The Spirit of power
  6. The Spirit of knowledge
  7. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord

Evidences of the deity of Christ:

  1. His deity – 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 28:19
  2. His purpose – John 1:1-3; 8:58; Micah 5:2; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8-10; 1 John 5:20
  3. Pre-incarnate Word of Deity; He ruled the universe – John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-18; Hebrews 1:10
  4. Divine decrees proving His deity – Psalm 2:7-9; 22:1-6; 40; 111 – includes His sovereignty, absolute justice, love, and eternal life
  5. His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Characters of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Through Christ’s sovereignty, He provides the only way of salvation – 1 John 2:25; 5:1; Matthew 9:4; 24:30; 28:13, 30; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 15:28; Philippians 3:21; Hebrews 1:3; Revelation 1:4; 2:23; Colossians 1:27; 2:3; Ephesians 1:23;
  6. Eternal life belongs to Jesus Christ – Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; Colossians 1:16-17; Ephesians 1:4; 1 John 4-5
  7. Creator of the World – Hebrews 1:2

Next week we will begin a closer look at the seven churches.

Behold, Jesus is coming soon to take you home to Heaven; His words are faithful and true (Revelation 22:6).

Life Application

Did you notice the “Who” references in the passages? Too often, we are focused on the who, that we see in the mirror . . . well when we look later in the day because the first morning glance is not too comforting. The Who of Scripture is speaking of Christ our authority, our Lord, the One who gives eternal life. That’s Who.

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