Revelation Chapter Two contains the first four of Jesus’ letters to the seven churches.
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The Seven Churches part a
1 Chapter two and three of the Book of Revelation are taken up with seven letters that were written to seven existing churches of that time but their truths can easily be applied to any present-day church. They also contain prophetic warnings and advice for the future.
2 Each letter begins with a description of Jesus taken from chapter one. This undoubtedly teaches us that we must place our faith in the strength of the Lord.
3 Each letter then continues with a brotherly encouragement. God does not wish to break us but rather he delights when we spiritually prosper.
4 But then he brings honest admonishment to five of the churches. He sees clearly the damage we cause ourselves by tolerating false teachings, both from within and from outside the church. He is frank and honest with us. He reminds us that he rebukes and disciplines those he loves. In turn, he asks us to be earnest and repent.
5 Two of the churches seem to suffer from self-deception. We may have convinced ourselves that we are spiritually rich or alive but Jesus knows the hearts of men. He looks behind our masks and illusions and shows us what we are really like.
6 But then he brings a promise if we overcome. The promise of the paradise of God, safety from the second death, the hidden manna, authority over the nations, robes of righteousness, the pillar of the temple and access to the throne with Christ.
7 For any church that was suffering troubled times these promises and assurances would have been a welcome and soothing balm.
1 John 5:5 ‘Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God’.
The Church in Ephesus
Ephesus was located at the mouth of a beautiful harbour where the Cayster river flowed into the Aegean Sea. It was an important religious and commercial centre with the cult of Artemis at its centre. The temple dedicated to Artemis was known as one of the wonders of the world. It is widely believed that John was for many years a bishop in this church. Paul planted the church and John nourished it.
Revelation 2:1 ‘These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand’.
We discussed earlier the possibility of these stars representing the spirit or essence of the churches. Therefore the churches are nestled in the palm of his hand, protected and governed by his loving care.
Matthew Henry gives the churches an astronomical perspective when he comments: ‘He directs all the churches motions; he disposes of them into their several orbs; he fills them with light and influence; he supports them, or else they would soon be falling stars; they are instruments in his hands and all the good they do is done in his hands for them’. (1)
Revelation 2:1 ‘and walks among the seven golden lamp-stands’.
One cannot help but remember the delight of God to walk in the cool of the evening with Adam and Eve in the garden. How reassuring it is for those who labour within the churches, to know that their Saviour walks in their midst, tending the light of the church.
Revelation 2:2 ‘I know your deeds, your hard work and perseverance’.
The Christian life often includes hard work. It is encouraging that the Lord sees our labours, especially when our work goes unnoticed by others. In every church there is the trustworthy soul who stacks away the chairs and locks the doors when everyone else has gone home.
There is something rather special about the aged Christian who has faithfully walked the walk, over the years, through thick and thin, and is still dedicated to the Lord.
Paul writes encouragingly: ‘Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1Corinthians 15:58
All our labours will be worthwhile.
Revelation 2:2 ‘I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men’...
The church of Ephesus had clearly developed sound leadership and theology. They were not misled by wrong teaching. We will explore these wrong teachings later on. The Ephesian Church needed to have sound doctrine and teaching for their city was awash with magic societies and the like.
The point has to be made that false apostles and prophets are not a thing of the past. Jesus makes it crystal clear in his Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 that the end-times will be characterised by false teachings and deceptions.
Matthew 24:11 ‘…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.’
Matthew 7:15 ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.’
We will need to have the balance and vigilance of the Bereans. They were not cynical and they did not reject Paul’s teachings out of hand but they were also not overwhelmed by his reputation. They insisted on measuring his teachings alongside scripture.
Acts 17:11 ‘Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.’
We will need this spirit of balanced discernment in the days to come.
It has been suggested that this, the first letter to the churches, is specifically preparing us for the first year of the tribulation when the deception of the antichrist will emerge. Our strength will be in remaining close to Christ Jesus and the teachings we have absorbed over the years and sound biblical exposition in the days ahead.
Revelation 13:14 ‘Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth.’
Revelation 2:4 ‘Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’
The Lord had a grievance with this church. Many suggestions have been put forward as to what this first love could be, for instance, intimate worship, the study of scripture, the evangelism of the lost, and caring for the poor.
I would tend to go for the former, the intimate worship. Certainly in my own life I have experienced times where I have been so preoccupied in serving the Lord that I have forgotten to actually fellowship with him! We sometimes need to take time out from our labours and get back to the beginning, simply resting at the Lord’s feet, simply resting in his presence.
Jeremiah 2:2 declares: ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me, and followed me through the desert through a land not sown’.
Matt Redman wrote an inspiring song entitled ‘When the music fades‘ which describes how he became lost in the professionalism of music production and had to go back to the beginning, to the simplicity of worship.
We will also need to love each other in the body of Christ. We can so easily begin to consider that we are more learned, anointed, or blessed than others, especially if they do not fully agree with our own brand of end-time theology!
There is a divine balance to be found here. Some Christians know their bibles inside out and have developed the purest of doctrines but yet are spiritually as dry as old prunes. On the other hand, there are some Christians who are full to the brim with the ecstatic love of Christ but yet they lack the bed-rock of sound doctrine and will fall away when the storms come. There is a balance to be found.
God requires devotion as well as sound doctrine.
Paul writes poignantly: ‘If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have faith that can move mountains but have not love I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.’ 1Corinthians 13:2.
Nurturing our love for Christ Jesus, when everything is dark around us, is essential. As the world becomes colder and more wicked, we will need to be filled with an intense inner love, that comes from a simple devotion to the presence of the Lord. Then we will be able to stand strong ourselves and able to help and inspire and encourage others around us who are floundering in the darkness.
Matthew 24:12 ‘Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.’
Hebrews 10:25 ‘…but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’
By contrast, Beale suggests that the ‘seven golden lampstands’ mentioned at the beginning of this letter points towards ‘this forsaken first love’ as being the loss of passion towards the gospel and the negligence of the church to witness the gospel to the nations, or indeed, to the neighbourhood around.
Beale adds: ‘Therefore it is possible that the Ephesians’ losing their first love refers to their lack of dependence in the Spirit which was necessary for an effective witness.’2
Our first love will draw us deeper into an ever-lasting communion with our Lord that will bring us to worship and glorify God and to reach out to a fallen world with the message of redemption and reconciliation.
Revelation 2:5 ‘If you do not repent I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place’.
The Lord always gives us the chance to repent. Presumably this church did not change and the church has since passed away.
Revelation 2:6 ‘But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans which I also hate’.
The practice of the Nicolaitans is rather shrouded in mystery. Some suggest this describes church leadership dominating and controlling the congregation. They were possibly exercising some form of strict church authority, similar to the ‘heavy shepherding’ of previous decades. Regardless of who they were, clearly Christ Jesus did not approve.
Revelation 2:7 ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.‘
This is a reminder that each church needs to be prophetically waiting on the Lord for direction rather than marching ahead following its own agendas.
Revelation 2:7 ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the garden of paradise.’
The Garden of Eden held the tree of life at its centre. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden for their disobedience but through our relationship with Christ Jesus we are invited in to partake of the very life of God for all eternity. Hallelujah!
Revelation 22:2a ‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.’
Ezekiel 47:12 ‘Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river…Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.’
The Church in Smyrna
Seven hundred years before this letter was written, Smyrna had been destroyed by an earthquake and lay desolate for three hundred years, before being rebuilt by Lysimachus. The city was renowned for its resurrected beauty. It was the birthplace of the epic poet Homer.
Smyrna means ‘myrrh’ which symbolises death and the way of the cross. John noted, in John 19:39, that Jesus’ body was wrapped in myrrh and aloes and strips of linen.
Myrrh is a bitter gum which is crushed to release its aroma. It has often been the case that when the Church is crushed by persecution, then it releases an aroma of sweet holiness.
Izmir, the third largest city in modern-day Turkey was built upon the ruins of ancient Smyrna.
Revelation 2:9 ‘I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich!
We can often fall into the trap of measuring the wealth of a church by the size of its building or the value of the cars in the car-park outside! Jesus measures the very heart of the church, the very heart of its members.
Matthew Henry writes poignantly: ‘Many who are rich in temporals are poor in spirituals’. (3)
Throughout the world, persecuted churches struggle with sharing one or two bibles among the congregation, if that, but yet the truth of the scriptures sings out. Persecution may prevent the holding of public meetings but yet the gospel is shared everywhere. They may be poor in wealth yet rich in spirit.
The persecution of Christians today in North Korea is intense. One moving account coming out from that country is that Christians in prison labour camps hold secret church meetings in the out-door latrines. The smell of the toilet pits is so stomach-churning that the guards refuse to enter. The Christians meet in silence in groups of two or three to avoid detection but you just know that their clandestine worship and prayer is the aroma of sweet incense to God the Father.
Revelation 2:9 ‘I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan.
The Christians of Smyrna were certainly pressed in from all sides. They faced the pressure of not submitting to Caesar worship which was so prevalent. At the same time they faced discrimination from the Jewish quarter. They had originally been accepted as a sub-Jewish sect, more curious perhaps than harmful. However, as the church grew and family relationships were stretched by conversions to Christ, inevitably hostility and misunderstandings grew.
The Christian teaching of the flesh and blood of Christ in the Eucharist was often misconstrued, sometimes deliberately, as the practice of cannibalism and used slanderously to ruin reputations.
The most famous of martyrs was Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna who had been a student of Apostle John. This venerated old saint was arrested and commanded to deny Christ on pain of death. He chose death instead, saying: “86 years have I served Christ and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?“
When threatened by death by fire he replied: “You threaten me with fire that burns for an hour, and is then extinguished but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgement and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”
It is alleged that when the fire was lit under him, the flames arched like the sail of a ship when filled with wind, and formed a circle around Polycarp. His body did not look like burnt flesh but rather like bread baked golden or like gold in the furnace and there was the sweet smell of frankincense.
Revelation 2:10 ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.’
The enemy uses fear to discourage and inhibit Christians.
Peter, who understood and experienced persecution, wrote: ‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.’ 1Peter 5:8
We are strengthened in persecution by knowing beforehand the tactics of the enemy, knowing that we are not alone in our sufferings; that our sufferings are only transient and that Christ Jesus has conquered the enemy. The Book of Revelation teaches us to look beyond our sufferings to see the victorious glory of God.
Revelation 2:10 ‘I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you and you will suffer persecution for ten days.’
The period of ten days denotes that this will be a short time of persecution, and that a time limit had been set upon it by God. The enemy can only do what God allows him to. The enemy can still inflict pain and suffering; the Christian life is not immune from his ravages, but yet persecution is only transient and God is ultimately in control.
It is possible that the expression ‘ten days’ is a Hebrew idiom for a short period of time. However, some suggest, rather speculatively, that it could refer to the reign of the ten Caesars under which Christians faced persecution. One rather grimmer understanding is that Christians were imprisoned for ten days before being forced to fight in gladiatorial combat and face certain death.
‘The Book of Revelation teaches us
to look beyond our sufferings
to see the victorious glory of God.‘
Note carefully that the source or cause of this imprisonment will be the schemes of the devil working through the authorities. Our struggle is not against flesh or blood.
If we are ever imprisoned for our faith, we must not blame our jailers but we must pray for them, knowing it is the enemy who works behind them who is to blame.
Paul was often beaten up and cast into jail but yet he never lost his sense of the presence of his Lord and his ability to praise the Lord and pray for his captors.
Matthew Henry writes clearly when he comments: ‘It is the devil that stirs up his instruments, wicked men, to persecute the people of God; tyrants and persecutors are the devil’s tools, though they gratify their own sinful malignity and know not that they are actuated by a diabolical malice’. (3)
Peter writes in 1Peter 1:7 ‘These trials come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.’
No-one cherishes, seeks or glamorises persecution. However, there is absolutely no doubt that those who are steadfast will gain praise, glory and honour.
Blessed are those who keep their vision firmly focused upon our eternal fellowship with Christ Jesus and the rewards awaiting us when he returns.
More Than Conquerors
Revelation 2:10b ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.’
Countless Christians have tragically lost their lives to persecution. But yet Jesus comforts them with these words. They may suffer the first death but yet they will receive the crown of life and will not be hurt at all by the second death of Revelation 20:14.
Rather, they will be the great multitude of Revelation 7:9. They will be dressed in white robes, serve God day and night and He will wipe every tear from their eyes. We may suffer the death of the body but never the death of the soul.
Paul had earned the right to speak of persecution. In Romans 8:35 he writes: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ. Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors.’
Satan will unleash a flood of persecution against Israel and the Christian Church in the end-times. However, this letter to Smyrna reminds us that this time of persecution will only be for a short time that is measured by God.
Revelation 12:17 ‘ Then the dragon (Satan) was enraged at the woman (Israel) and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring (Christ’s disciples) – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. ‘(brackets and inclusions by author).
In Matthew 24:22 Jesus reminds us that for the sake of the elect the days of great tribulation will be shortened.
Matthew 24:22 ‘If those days had not been cut short, no-one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.’
The suggestion has been made that this letter relates to Revelation 6 and the emergence of the second horse-man of the Apocalypse. Whereas the first horseman on the white horse brings religious deception, the second horse-man on the fiery red horse brings persecution.
Revelation 6:4 ‘Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.’
Revelation 2:11 ‘He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death’.
The ‘second death’ will be explored in chapter twenty. It is the fate awaiting those who die without having received Christ Jesus as their Lord.
Revelation 20:14a ‘The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’
We can live a life of assurance that whatever difficulties and tribulations may come our way, our eternal life with Christ Jesus is guaranteed by way of our faith in him.
Romans 8:38 ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
If we remain true to our faith in Christ Jesus then we will certainly not face the second death of the lake of fire. That is God’s promise!
We may understandably fear and shun the idea of martyrdom, but yet for many in this world it is an unavoidable fact of the Christian walk. Persecution will test our faith to the very core but yet the Lord will strengthen us with every step and all of eternity awaits those who endure and persevere until the end.
The letter to Smyrna began with a mention of ‘the synagogue of Satan.’ We must be careful here. There is no doubt that the Jewish communities of that time were less than perfect in their attitude towards the growing churches. They were as susceptible to Hellenistic pagan influence as any-one else.
However, the expression ‘the synagogue of Satan’ has been blown out of proportion and taken as promoting anti-Semitic thought which is far from its intention.
The whole thrust of Scripture, the whole thrust of Revelation, is to express God’s love for the Jewish people and to assure them of His unswerving love for them despite all their faults and failings.
The Church in Pergamum
The Roman imperial power had its seat of government in Pergamum. It held a great library of more than 200,000 scrolls. The word ‘parchment’ is derived from the name Pergamum. The city held a multitude of heathen temples and it was the principal centre of the imperial cult in this region.
Revelation 2:13 ‘I know where you live, where Satan has his throne’.
The city’s acropolis was crowned by a temple dedicated to Zeus. Much research has been done into this infamous temple which is worth exploring.
Revelation 2:13 ‘Yet you remain true to my name’.
This was a difficult place for any Christian to live. The pressures to conform to the ungodly customs of the society would have been intense. They had clearly suffered a period of persecution resulting in the martyrdom of Antipas.
The name ‘Antipas’ means ‘like a father’ and the authorities no doubt felt that killing the father figure of the church would crush them forever, but although the church may have been devastated by his death, still they remained true to their faith.
However, the Christians were being attacked from two directions. Not only was there pressure on Christians from the society in which they lived but also danger from within the church. Some had joined the church and begun to teach the seductive teachings of Balaam.
Hellenistic Gnostic teaching was prevalent in the culture of that time. It divides the spirit from the body in an unnatural way. Put simply, it states that from a heavenly perspective we are holy and justified, seated in Christ Jesus in heavenly places and therefore it does not really matter what we get up to in our bodies down here on earth. Our conduct on this earth is irrelevant if we are spiritual enough to focus upon our heavenly existence.
I hasten to add that this thought goes completely against scripture!
Wilcock comments sharply: ‘Seduction, or persecution – a choice of evils which the world offers the church. For a soft-centred permissive society can be curiously hard on those who refuse to go along with it’. (4)
The latter part of the name of this city, ‘gamum’ comes from ‘gamos’ which means ‘marriage’. The idea here is that some of the church were being unfaithful and having ‘affairs’ or even ‘marrying’ false religious practices. The thrust of this letter is that we should not have affairs with foreign religions but rather that we should keep pure our marriage to Christ.
Seduction or persecution – a choice of evils!
I have to admit that I live a rather solitary life in the midst of the backwaters of nowhere. My heart goes out to those who live and work in the midst of society with all the modern-day pressures to conform to ungodly lifestyles. My heart goes out especially to school-children who face immense peer pressure in the playground.
Revelation 2:16 ‘Repent therefore! Otherwise I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth’.
This verse highlights the absolute need for sound doctrine to be taught in the church. When a church abandons its theology classes then trouble is just around the corner.
Revelation 2:17 ‘I will give some of the hidden manna’.
The ‘hidden manna’ refers back to the Exodus when manna fell from heaven to physically feed the Israelites. However, in John 6:51 Jesus declares himself to be ‘the living bread that came down from heaven.’ If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever’. And so ‘hidden manna’ could also refer to the on-going revelation of Christ Jesus as the way to eternal life.
Paige Patterson comments sweetly that: ‘Just as the Egyptians and other surrounding people had no idea how the children of Israel sustained themselves in the wilderness, so the whole world will be amazed at the sustaining providence of God for the churches and for those who overcome’. (5)
Keener helps by commenting: ‘the manna probably symbolises especially the new exodus and God’s provision of eternal sustenance without labour’. (6)
There is a legend that Jeremiah hid the ‘tent of meeting’ with the Ark of the Covenant and its contents before the fall of Jerusalem. When the Messiah returns, the legend tells us, he will reveal the whereabouts of this hidden treasure; the temple will be restored; and the manna, contained in the ark will be distributed.
The mention here of ‘hidden manna’ may relate to the period when the third horse-man of the Apocalypse, described in Revelation 6:5, brings a time of food shortage to the world to persuade believers to abandon their faith. Many Jews and Christians will be forced to take refuge but will receive miraculous provision by unknown and unexpected sources and also, quite simply, by manna falling from heaven to nourish them, both physically and spiritually.
Whilst writing these notes I have come across an article regarding a Christian in Eritrea imprisoned for three years for his faith. He describes how, despite the dreadful conditions, he was able to read pages of the Bible that were smuggled into the prison. ‘Those Bible pages were better than gold’ he said. ‘It became like food that kept our souls alive and our minds steady’. He was also able to listen secretly to Christian radio which he described as ‘like manna from Heaven.’
Revelation 2:17 ‘...and a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it’.
There is uncertainty among commentators, which is not necessarily a bad thing sometimes, as to the true meaning of this verse but white stones were used as a form of admission ticket to theatre shows and therefore it is probably referring to our admission into the Kingdom through the grace of Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 62:2 states: ‘The nations will see your righteousness and all the kings your glory, you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow’.
Certainly the ‘new name, known only to him who receives it’ speaks of a deep sense of intimacy and belonging. I firmly believe that the coming tribulations will be dreadful to face but that nevertheless our refined faith will usher us into a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus, deeper than we have ever known. Only those who have received Christ Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will know this new name.
The Church in Thyatira
Thyatira means ‘the aroma of persecution or of tribulation’. Little is known of this city except that it was a small commercial centre and a frontier fortress. The modern city of Akhisar covers the remains of ancient Thyatira.
Revelation 2:18 ‘These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire’.
This verse speaks of the omniscience of Christ Jesus. He knows the hearts of men.
Matthew Henry comments: ‘His eyes were as a flame of fire, piercing and penetrating into the very hearts and reins of men, scattering terrors among his adversaries’. (7)
The blazing eyes of Jesus are also able to see through the deceptive teaching of Jezebel as we will see shortly.
Revelation 2:18 ‘and whose feet are like burnished bronze’.
This verse reminds us of the strength and justice of God.
Matthew Henry, again, comments: ‘His feet were like unto fine burning brass, strong and steadfast, supporting his own interest, subduing his enemies, treading them to powder’. (8)
The all-seeing eyes of Jesus are always searching for justice in this world. The Lord also looks for faithfulness. We will often be taken through the fires of testing to prove our faith that is worth more than gold.
1Peter 1:7 ‘These trials have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.’
Revelation 2:18 ‘I know your deeds’.
The church of Thyatira receives a good endorsement from Jesus. Their love, faith, service and perseverance are great values for any church to have.
Revelation 2:18 ‘And you are now doing more than you did at first’.
How often churches that start off well can so easily slide into complacency and begin to tread waters. Every church goes through its seasons but every church should be growing deeper in their relationship with God. Of course, this applies to us as individuals as well!
Revelation 2:20 ‘Nevertheless I have this against you’.
Once again this church finds itself battling with false teachings and pressures from society.’
Revelation 2:20b ‘You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.’
Jezebel became a byword for wickedness. She enticed, or seduced, her husband King Ahab, and hence the nation, to abandon the worship of Yahweh and to worship Baal and Asherah instead.
The seductive nature of false teachings is common among all heresies. They pander to the carnal appetite and exploit the inner weakness of man. I doubt if there was an actual Jezebel in the church of Thyatira but rather the principle of Jezebel was active there.
Just to return for a moment to the subject of living within a society, there is a balance for each one of us to find. Not many of us are called to live as hermits. Indeed, many of us are called to live at the very heart of our community, and play a vital and invaluable role in putting forward a Godly perspective of matters in this world.
But it is how we react when we face ungodly practices that count. Due to the nature of my work I am often in the company of those whose language is rather colourful, to say the least! So what do I do? I could react by storming off in a huff when someone starts swearing but this would just alienate me from my workmates. On the other hand, I could join in the swearing just to be part of the crowd. Over the years I have chosen to turn a graciously blind ear to their swearing but have endeavoured to keep my own conversation oath-free and uplifting. It seems to work and I have a good relationship with my workmates without compromising. I have also noticed that some of them swear less when I am around and one or two actually apologise when they do swear. They know I am ‘different’ but they still accept me.
We are all called to accept others around us in their failings and be acutely aware of our own shortcomings. Nevertheless, we must never compromise our faith but always be prepared to make a stand in society. We must, though, avoid becoming stuck-up and objectionable moaners! I know it is not easy. May the grace of Jesus strengthen us.
‘The seductive nature of false teachings is common
among all heresies. They pander to the carnal appetite
and exploit the inner weakness of man.’
Peter was well aware of the challenges facing Christians living in society. He writes: ‘They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation and they heap abuse on you’. 1Peter 4:4
The bottom line is that we must be as gracious as possible with others but we must never compromise our faith.
Revelation 2:21 ‘I have given her time to repent of her immorality but she is unwilling’.
The Lord always holds out forgiveness to those who are willing to repent.
Revelation 2:22 ‘So I will cast her on a bed of suffering and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways’.
Morris comments sharply that ‘she who profaned the bed of love is pinned to the bed of sickness’. Those who commit adultery with her would be those who embrace or are caught up in her teachings. It is worth noting that one bad apple can drag many into corruption.
Revelation 2:23 ‘I will strike her children dead’.
Her ‘children’ would be those who promoted her teachings and led others astray. There is always a price to be paid for immorality. Sin has its dreadful consequences.
Revelation 2:23 ‘Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds and I will repay each of you according to your deeds’.
We may deceive ourselves but our Lord knows what is on our heart. One day we will stand before Him and answer for our actions.
Psalm 139:23 ‘Search me O God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’.
Revelation 2:24 ‘Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching …’
Mercifully there was a remnant within the church who were leading the way.’
Revelation 2:24 ‘and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets. (I will not impose any other burden on you).
There will always be the temptation and enticement of joining a ‘special group’ who learn truths and secrets that others do not know. It makes us feel important and superior. The enemy uses this to entice us away from the body of Christ or form a secret group within the body of the Church. Inevitably it leads us astray and into error. There is a vital need for sound theological teaching in every church that is able to withstand the corruptions of false teachings.
Revelation 2:26 ‘I will give authority over the nations’
This verse is adapted from Psalm 2. An iron sceptre is a staff tipped with iron to give it strength. Possibly the best understanding here is that this small church will have the authority to preach the gospel to the nations. Whoever receives the gospel will be saved but whoever rejects it will perish.
Mounce comments helpfully that the verb ‘to rule’ means ‘to shepherd’. The idea is to wield a staff or club (the ‘iron sceptre’ may have been an oak club capped with iron) to ward off the attacks of marauding beasts. (9)
Revelation 2:28 ‘I will also give him the morning star’.
Jesus is called the bright Morning Star in Revelation 22:16 and so this verse is best understood as meaning the very presence of Christ. Not only will the church have the authority to preach the gospel but also the presence of Christ will be with them.
As we face the challenges of living in a fallen world and indeed face persecution for following our Saviour, nevertheless Christ Jesus, the bright morning star is watching over us and guiding us on our path. Hallelujah!
1 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 1197
2 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 281
3 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 305
4 Michael Wilcock Message of Commentary on Revelation location 786
5 Paige Patterson New American Commentary location 256
6 Keener NIV Application Commentary location 538
7&8 Matthew Henry Commentary on Revelation location 394
9 Robert Mounce Revelation 2395
The Temple of Zeus has been well-researched and is a macabre but fascinating history and I include a short potted version here.
The Temple featured a hollow bronze bull where martyrs would be enclosed. A fire would be started underneath and the victim would be cruelly roasted. The smoke and the screams would create an obscene offering to Zeus.
The Temple fell into disuse but was eventually dismantled, stone by stone, in 1864 and rebuilt in the Pergamon museum in Berlin.
The design of the temple was used by the Third Reich. The infamous Nurembourg night-time rallies featured a grandstand from which The Fuhrer would deliver his demonic rantings. His podium was placed where the bronze bull would have stood. From this spot he announced the Final Solution, that is, the extermination of the Jewish people.
‘The Holocaust’ is the term used for the persecution and and death of the Jewish people. The origins of this word lie in the Greek language where it means ‘a whole burnt offering’ and this obviously refers back to the gruesome sacrifice of martyrs in the original temple.
The death of Antipas in Pergamum would foreshadow the death of six million Jews in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. The same demonic spirit would drive both the martyrdom of Antipas and the Jewish people.
The Altar of Zeus in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin has been closed for restoration for a number of years now. Speculation has it that the present government of Turkey would like the monument to be returned to Pergamon once more.
We may not have heard the last of this Temple.