Monday, 30 April 2012
Last week we looked at the "The Scroll and the Lamb"; a call was made for anyone to take up the scroll and break its seals but there was no one but the Lamb of God! We also saw the amazing continuous worship in heaven by an innumerable host of angels along with the elders and the living creatures. Today we will continue from the Lamb taking the scroll. (It is worthy to note at this point that we have arrived at a stage in the study of the book of Revelations where there is controversy in the interpretation of the strange mysteries in John's vision.) The preceding chapters were somewhat clearer concerning the era involved and "who was who"; but not these next few verses. The interpretation of these few verses have created a divergence amongst scholars of the Bible; however our study of this chapter will mostly be away (though not completely) from this divergence (especially as it relates to whether these visions have already been fulfilled or not and who the visions referred to) but instead we will consider the events as John saw them. In each of these verses, after Jesus breaks a seal, a different horseman appears. In each of these instances, we will consider, first, the horseman himself; secondly, what he was empowered to do and thirdly, what the consequences of his actions were.
Seal #1 - The White Horse (Verses 1 & 2)
"And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, come and see. And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer"
There are three symbols in verse 2
(a) The white horse that represents conquest;
(b) A bow is carried by a warrior into battle, and is a symbol of military power and victory. Any time in the old testament that a military power is destroyed, it is said that their bows were destroyed (see Jer. 51:56, Hos. 1:5, Ps. 46:9). But because there are no arrows for the bow, it is therefore indicative that he will conquer by diplomacy and not violence.
(c) The crown indicates victory.
Seal #2 - The Red Horse (Verses 3 & 4)
"And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword."
The second seal revealed a red horse; the rider of this horse had power to take peace from the earth by the great sword given to him which will then lead to people killing one another indiscriminately.
Seal #3 - The Black Horse (Verses 5 & 6)
"And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine."
The third seal revealed a black horse, whose rider carried a pair of scales in his hand, and a voice was heard saying "A measure of wheat for a penny, three measures of barley for a penny, and see that you don't hurt the oil and the wine."
This black horse represents famine, a natural result of war; the scales indicate that food will be doled out measure by measure.
A penny (the Roman denarius) was considered to be the usual day's wages (see Matt. 20:2); and a measure was one person's daily portion. Ordinarily, a man could purchase 15-20 measures for a penny. However, during this time of famine, a working man could feed only himself, not his family. "and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" seems to indicate that luxuries for the privileged few would not be affected by this famine, while the price of wheat and barley for the poor would be inflated to ten times its usual cost.
Seal #4 - The Pale Horse (Verses 7 & 8)
"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
The fourth seal revealed a pale horse, whose rider was plainly identified as Death, (the natural result of war and famine). Hades (hell, or the grave) travelled behind this horseman, and he was given power to kill by the sword (violence and war), and by famine, disease, and wild animals, a fourth of the world, leading many to believe this is a reference to the Roman emperors who threw Christians to wild animals for entertainment. However, the population of wild animals would increase greatly following any prolonged war, famine, and disease, when people would be dying in much larger numbers than usual. It appears that each of these seals is a natural result of the seal before it, indicating a continual progress, not events all occurring at once.
There a different schools of thought regarding the first four seals and the horses and their riders
1. School of thought #1: Some believe this represents Jesus Christ himself as in Rev 19:11
∑ But we can very easily dispute that because the Greek word used in verse 2 of this chapter for "crown" is "stephanos" which means a victor's crown, while the word used in Chapter 19 is "diadema", which is a crown of royalty
2. School of thought #2: There are also some that believe that this conqueror on the white horse represents the Roman Empire, the world power under which Jesus began His earthly ministry; the next three horses would then represent things that occurred under their reign. If the first horse and its rider indicates the conquest of the Roman empire, then the others must refer to events during that time, also, such as the empire's 100 year long civil war, (200-300 A.D.), when it lost more than half of its total population, and the persecution of Christians under the Roman emperors, from Nero in 64 A.D. to Diocletian in 305 A.D.
∑ I will however dispute this belief because the horseman did not have arrows; indicative that he will conquer by diplomacy but the Roman Empire conquered by the violence of war and bloodshed.
3. School of thought #3: Others believe that the first horse and its rider represent the Antichrist. If the first horse and its rider symbolize the Antichrist, then the others must refer to his destructive capabilities and the tribulation that will occur. The antichrist was described in Rev 13:1-10 "And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name ... and the dragon gave him his power, his throne and great authority . . ."
∑ This is no way matches the description of the rider of the first horse. The antichrist was also empowered by the Dragon and not by God as the rider in verse 2 was.
4. School of thought #4: Yet another theory is that this horse represents the Gospel, its spread and eventual conquest, and the next three horses represent the dire consequences of rejecting the Gospel. If the first horse and its rider represent the conquest of the Gospel, then the next three, (war, famine, and death) represent the bitter consequences of rejecting the Gospel.
∑ This theory however does not particularly have any scriptural or historical backing. The Gospel of our Lord is a Gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)
My own thoughts: The horses and riders are Instruments of God's Avenging Judgment. See verse 16: "They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!" The scroll was in God's custody and is also indicative that He was the One who sealed it. I also believe that this judgment will be mete after the rapture; after the saints would have been taken away with Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9), Emphasis on verse 9: "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."
It will not be of any benefit to us to attempt to prove whether the events that occurred at the breaking of the seals are in the past or in the future or it is ongoing. But we can undoubtedly say that the picture revealed by the breaking of the four seals is a picture similar to that of the tribulation period of the last days the Bible refers to in Matt 24-7, ""For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom [that's happening today]. And there will be famines [happening right now], pestilences, and earthquakes in various places".
There is war, famine, and death in various parts of the world today, as well as Christians suffering persecution. The truth is that this vision speaks to each generation with events they can relate to, either from their own time frame or from a historical perspective, it should therefore serve as a reminder to every believer that we should be ready to make the first flight and avoid the terrible events that will occur during the great tribulation. "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36)
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Thursday, 19 April 2012
Last week, we saw what goes on in heaven at the throne room of the Almighty God; Worship. The four living
creatures ceaselessly saying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was and is to come. The 24 elders,
representing us, responded by falling down on their faces in worship by casting down their crowns saying, You are
worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they
are and were created." Today, our study will focus on the Lamb of God and His eternal place concerning things to come.
- God is in complete control of the future; (Rev.5:1-4).
"And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon"
Chapter 4 began by focusing our attention upon a throne; chapter 5 begins by drawing our attention to a scroll. In God the Father's right hand John saw a book (a "scroll"). What more profound way of picturing God's ultimate sovereignty over all history could be found than this picture of the scroll resting in His hand? However strong evil becomes, however fierce be the satanic evils that assail God's people on earth, final history still rests in God's hand.
God's "right hand" refers to His authority to translate the contents of this scroll into action. This scroll is the focus of John's attention in this chapter, and it contains the detailed plans and purposes of God for subduing the enemies of Christ and establishing His reign upon the earth. This scroll is so full of words that John could see writing on the inside as well as the outside of the scroll (Ezek 2:10). Writing on both sides indicates the detailed and important nature of the judgments. It also emphasizes their ability to accomplish the purposes of God. The seven seals are suggesting the profound nature of the revelation it contained. It may represent the book of prophecies God instructed Daniel to seal until the end times (Dan 12:4, 9). The perfect number of seals ("seven") may also hint at the absolute sacredness of the scroll. The seals inform us that while this plan has been settled in the eternal counsels of God, it has been concealed and only one, who is duly authorized, may open it to read and execute it. The period of grace and God's long-suffering has now come to an end.
John is mesmerized by God the Father and the scroll in His right hand, and an unnamed, strong angel asks the question of the ages: "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" One with sufficient authority and worthiness was necessary to open the scroll and by breaking its seals to unleash the judgments on the world that it contained. Any prophet could have revealed this information but it took someone with adequate power to execute the events foretold, as well as to reveal and bring them to pass. This strong angel goes on a universal search and discovers that no angel, no created being (Phil 2:10), no human being, no creature, no spirit, and no one could open the scroll. This indicated that everyone one of us have documented history with God.
- Jesus Christ will carry out God's final purposes on earth (5:5-7).
"And one of the elders said to me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, see, in the middle of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the middle of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne"
One of the 24 elders comforted John with the news that Jesus Christ would open the scroll (Luke 7:13; 8:52). He had achieved victory over all God's enemies and therefore had the authority to open the scroll and to release its contents. This is an encouragement to all that are mourning that our King worn the battle over death, Hell and Satan. Our weeping should turn to joy.
The "Lion that is from the tribe of Judah" and the "Root of David" are Old Testament titles of the Messiah who would fulfill the promises of salvation and would rule. The tribe of Judah was the tribe of David from which the kingly line proceeded (Gen 49:9-10). It was this tribe that the promise was given of a Son whose throne and kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam 7:13, 16). The title "the Root of David" means the Messiah would come through the lineage of David as a greater son of David (Luke 1:32-33). He who came after David as the offspring of David was also before him as the root (Rev 22:16). As God's ultimate Anointed One, Jesus alone possessed the authority necessary for this task. He overcame Satan, sin, and death so He could implement God's purposes for the future that this scroll revealed. Only Christ can carry out God's final purposes on earth.
Eagerly, John turns his head to see this "Lion-King". But the apostle is not prepared for what he sees. Expecting to see a kingly Lion, the apostle sees something totally different: John saw "between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth" (5:6). Notice four things in 5:6.
a) First, John sees the Messiah as a "Lamb." The "Lamb" is a symbol of Jesus Christ at His first advent, meek and submissive to a sacrificial death as our substitute (Isa 53:7; John 1:36; 21:15). The Lion is a symbol of Jesus at His second coming, powerful and aggressively judging the world in righteousness (Ps 2). John saw the Lamb, now in the center of all the creatures and elders gathered around the throne, as the central character and most important personage in the entire heavenly scene (Rev 3:21; 4:6; 7:17).
b) Second, the Lamb had been slain. The word "slain" means to cut up and mutilate an animal sacrifice. It speaks of a violent, bloody sacrifice. It describes the gory crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thorns pierced His skull. A whip lacerated His back. Fists bruised His face. Nails gouged His hands. A spear tore His side. Blood and water came gushing out. Christ paid the ultimate price for the salvation of mankind.
c) Third, the Lamb is "standing." This slain Lamb, who was violently slaughtered and put to death, is now actually standing! Having been killed, He is alive again, and He is standing in the innermost circle next to the throne.
d) Fourth, the Lamb is awesome with His seven horns and seven eyes. The number seven represents the fullness of Christ's power in defeating His foes. The horn is a biblical symbol for power and authority.
The seven eyes represent the fullness of Christ's divine wisdom and discernment (Zech 4:10). His eyes are the seven Spirits of God (i.e., the seven manifestations of the Spirit) that communicate to Christ all that transpires (Isa 11:2-4). The Lamb is all-knowing as well as all-powerful. This is one Lamb who can't have the wool pulled over His eyes! There is no more dreadful thought than to have to face the "Lion" in judgment because you have rejected the "Lamb." The purpose of the Lord's first coming was gracious. He came to "seek and to save those who are lost" (Luke 19:10). But the purpose of His second coming is different. Then He comes to deal with His enemies and to fulfill His promises of blessing to His own. We must not reject the grace of God. There comes a time when all men must deal with the "Lion," either as the One for whom we have watched and worked and prayed or the One whom we have rejected.
What we have in Revelation 5 is a vision of Christ (5:1-7) and the expanding, concentric circles of His worship in heaven. First, we see the worship of Jesus Christ in heaven by those immediately around the throne (5:8-10); then we see worship throughout all heaven (5:11-12); finally, we see worship throughout the entire universe (5:13-14). Like a "wave" at a football game, it spreads to all creation.
- Jesus Christ is worthy of overwhelming praise (5:8-14).
"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And have made us to our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be to him that sits on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that lives for ever and ever."
This transfer of the scroll resulted in an outpouring of praise for the Lamb because it signaled that Christ would begin judging (Rev 6-18). While the four living creatures and 24 elders prostrated themselves in worship, they had harps and golden vials. They used the harps to praise God in song (Ps 33:2; 98:5).Throughout the Bible, the harp is an instrument of joy and gladness. In fact, the harp is used in Scripture more than any other instrument to praise God (Ps 71:22). All types of instruments will be used in heaven to worship God. Here on earth, we must do the same (Ps 150:3-6).
John explained that the golden vials contained the prayers of God's people that are as the fragrant aroma of burning incense to Him (Ps 141:2; Luke 1:10). In the Old Testament the offering of incense was a priestly duty (Num 16:6-7) so they were functioning in a priestly capacity.
In 5:9-10, As a result of the Lamb's authority from God to advance God's plan of the ages, the living creatures and elders sang a "new song" (Rev 14:3). This song represents new praise for deliverance about to take place. In this song the Lamb receives honor as being worthy in view of four things. The first is His death. He was "slain."
The second reason the Lamb is worthy is because He "purchased" (redemption) for God, by His death, people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. This represents divisions of humanity based on lineage, language, race, and political orientation. Together these terms describe the universal nature of Christ's people. It is important to note that this, however, does not teach universalism. Every person will not ultimately be saved. But people "from" every people group will be in heaven. How will people from groups that never heard the Gospel be in heaven? First, Jesus said that the Gospel will be preached to the entire world by the end of the age (Matt 24:14). This includes all people groups who will eventually be reached for Christ (Rev 14:2-3; 15:2-4). This assurance should motivate us as a church and as individuals to fulfill our responsibility for world evangelization.
Third, the death of Christ not only saved men, it also made them priests and kings so that they would share in His kingdom (1 Pet 2:5, 9). Priesthood involves immediate access into God's presence for praise and worship as well as the privilege of priestly service.
The fourth is the blessing of His people by allowing them to rule on the earth (during the millennium). This is man's ultimate end; he will worship God by fulfilling God's ordained responsibilities on a new earth, for all eternity.
The company of worshippers expands to include all the angels of heaven. A second choir of worshippers joins now with the first choir and all heaven breaks loose! In 5:11-12. An innumerable host of angels now joins the four creatures and 24 elders in ascribing worth to the Lamb (Dan 7:10; Ps 68:17-18; Matt 2:13). The Greek word for "myriad" (miros) means 10,000."Myriad of myriad" would mean 10,000 times 10,000. That's 100 million! But this is in the plural?"myriads of myriads"?meaning hundreds of millions times hundreds of millions. The number is easily in the billions. But then John records that there are still "thousands of thousands" in addition to the billions. One thousand times one thousand is one million. But again, this is in the plural ("thousands of thousands"). So there are multiplied millions spilling over the billions of worshippers already counted. This staggering number exceeds the limits of human language and our ability to comprehend. Multiplied billions are in this heavenly choir worshipping in heaven. We should all look forward to joining this heavenly choir.
In 5:12, the angels use seven expressions (the perfect number is probably significant) to indicate the wonder of the Lamb.
(1) He is worthy to "receive power." Power (dunamis) is mentioned first perhaps because the immediate situation calls for the need of great power to accomplish His purposes in the earth. He alone, as the perfect God-man Savior, is worthy of such power for He alone will and can use it with perfect justice and equity (Isa 11).
(2) "And riches" (ploutos) refers to the wealth of the universe. All this is His by creation and now by redemption and reclamation.
(3) "And wisdom" (sophia) refers to the Lord's omniscience and its wise use in carrying out the purposes of God in the world.
(4) "And might" (ischuos) refers to working might or power in action and stresses His omnipotence to carry out God's will.
(5) "And honor" (time) refers to the esteem, the value and respect which is due to Christ because of who He is and what He has and will accomplish to the glory of God, and the benefit of the world. He deserves public distinction.
(6) "And glory" (doxa) refers to the tribute and public display of adoration that should accrue to Christ, and again this stems from His person and work, both past, present, and future.
(7) "And blessing" (eulogia) refers to the praise that should be given to the Lord because of His wonderful acts of redemption and reclamation.
Our passage closes with universal praise to the Father and the Son (5:13-14). John writes,
"And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ?To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.' And the four living creatures kept saying, ?Amen.' And the elders fell down and worshiped."
In this vision John "heard" "every created thing" giving praise to God and to the Lamb. The crescendo to this symphony of praise is all creation, everywhere and everything worships the Father and the Son. The stones, the birds, the animals, and the fish finally cry out?all creation had been groaning under the futility of the curse, now they know that they are about to be set free (Rom 8:18-23).
In Revelation 4 and 5, the sequence of praise shows that the first two are addressed to God, the next two, to the Lamb, and the last one to both. It is God who is praised as the Creator, in Revelation 4 (4:11). It is the Son who is praised in Revelation 5, as the Reconciler of creation (Col 1:20). Thus, every living creature praises both Father and Son. God the Father and God the Son are both equally to be worshipped forever and ever. One of the weaknesses today is that many people want to worship "God" but they don't want to worship Jesus. Yet, the Father has said that there is no life apart from Jesus (John 3:35-36).
My prayer today is that all of us will be at the throne room to be with the Father and His Son forever and ever.
Contributor: Alex Alajiki
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
We have been studying the book of Revelation, and today we will look at chapter 4.
As we go further in our study to understand and know how the chapter before us today fits into the whole book.
Rev 1:19 provides us with a simple outline of Revelation: "Therefore, write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things."
In 1:12-18. You will find "The things you have seen" gives us an insight to the vision of the glorified Jesus "The things that are" refers to the seven letters that are found in Rev Chapters 2 and 3.
". . . The things which shall take place after these things"
Refers to the visions of the rest of the book of revelation
In other words, Revelations Chapters 4-22 is a prophecy of future events, yet unseen, things that are to come etc.
It will also help us to determine the following:
∑ The One sitting on the throne.
∑ What surrounded the throne?
∑ The twenty-four elders attired
∑ What was before the throne?
∑ Who are the Four Living Creatures?
∑ What were the four living creatures doing and what happened when they did it?
John writes in
"Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne."
As soon as John heard this invitation he experienced a spiritual transference. His body remained on the earth, but he caught a glimpse of glory. He saw a throne "standing in heaven." The throne symbolizes the sovereign authority to rule. The word "throne" is mentioned 14 times in this one chapter. Yet, it is only used a total of 14 times in the other 26 books of the New Testament. That is why this chapter is usually referred to as; "the throne chapter of the Bible."
Looking into heaven, John records what he saw "One sitting on the throne". The person on the throne was God the Father. John actually saw God sitting upon His throne! Can you imagine anything more glorious? The word "sitting" describes the position of a king who is actively reigning. For example, if a politician is "seated," he is said to be in office. If an unelected official is put out of office, he is said to be "unseated." John sees God "seated," meaning He is actively exercising the duties of His executive office, administering over the affairs of His creation.
So these stones are used to portray something of God's eternal glory, awesome holiness, and majesty. "Jasper" was a clear, crystal-like gem, a translucent rock. The jasper gem that John saw was evidently a diamond, not what we identify as jasper today. It portrays the purity and brilliance of God's holiness.
Since such a stone picks up and reflects light, it calls our attention to the fact that God is light, a holy God who reveals and unmasks darkness. A "sardius" stone was blood red, undoubtedly portraying God's wrath and justice, but it would also look at His redemptive work of love and grace in the person of the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world through His death on the cross
The 24 elders don't appear anywhere else in the Scriptures. The identity of the 24 elders (presbuteros) is difficult to determine. Yet I believe these elders are men. Jesus told the church at Laodicea, in chapters 2 and 3, that whoever will overcome will sit down with Me in glory. Here are some people sitting. He told the church in Thyatira, whoever was faithful would rule with Him, with a rod of iron. Here are some people with crowns who are sitting on thrones. He told the church at Sardis that if they would be faithful He would clothe them in white. Here are some people clothed in white. He told the church at Smyrna, he who overcomes, I will grant to him a crown (stephanos), and here are some people wearing crowns.
In Mark Gospel chapter 10:35-45, John and his brother James were struggling who would be on the throne with Jesus. But in this scripture we see 24. These thrones referred to here are arranged in a circular form, around the throne. There is no mention of "first or second chair" as James and John were hoping if Jesus allowed them or grant them their wishes.
My Probable interpretation is the 24 thrones as 24 seats of authority given to the faithful.
These thrones are seated "elders" representing Gentile believers. The point here is not who these "elders" are by name, but what they are doing?falling on their faces before God in worship (4:10-11)
The "seven lamps of fire" are said to be the "seven spirits of God." These spirits symbolizes the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit reference In Isa 11:2-3
The "lamps" signify the unique role of the Holy Spirit in executing judgment. The Spirit will carry out this judgment.
John describes these four living creatures:
"The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle."
These four characterizations are the same as those in Ezekiel 1:10 but it is difficult to decipher their meaning. Again, the word "like" expresses similarity. The four creatures likely represent four classes of created beings: wild beasts, domesticated animals, human beings, and flying creatures.
John then writes in that these four living creatures have "six wings are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ?HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.' "
These creatures seem similar to the seraphim (lit burning ones) of Isaiah 6:2-3, in that they each have six wings. Their many eyes suggest alertness, comprehensive knowledge, and constant vigilance "Around and within" probably mean that they had eyes even on the undersides of their wings so they could move their wings without interrupting their vision. Their movements did not detract their constant vigilance. They ascribe holiness to God day and night, constantly without stopping. There will be no need for rest in heaven!
This verse reveals several aspects of God's character that are adored. First, He is worshipped as the Holy One.
God is holy in two ways:
∑ He is separated from all that He created and is not to be identified with the physical and material universe;
∑ He is also separate from sin. The holiness of God emphasizes both His transcendence as well as His moral purity.
Holiness, in this verse, refers to God's attribute of absolute moral purity, but it also seems to mean more. The phrase ("Holy, Holy, Holy") in verse 8, is reminiscent of the words of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3, thereby suggesting the same God whom Isaiah envisioned as the holy One
John brings his vision to a climax as he writes
"And when the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, and the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ?Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.'"
The four living creatures give praise to eternal God. The focus of their worship is on God's purity, His power, and His pre-eminence. Giving "glory and honour" calls attention to the perfections of God. While giving "thanks" calls attention to the manifold gifts of God in creation and redemption
From Suffering to Glory
Paul was writing In Romans 8: 18 not as a novice but as someone who has seen God in suffering and in His Glory;
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."
Knowing angels worship God should prompt our worship also. Do we have any cause not to praise Him or thank Him? Like these four living creatures, we give God honour and reverence, not for His sake (because He is of Himself full of glory to which no creature can add anything), but for our own sake.
Contributor: Clem Roberts
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Not only have we made substantial inroad into the Book of Revelation but we have also by the help of the Spirit deciphered not only the physical or geographical location that these churches once occupied; but how sometimes these locations weighed negatively on the spiritual exploration of these churches, (Pergamum located where Satan's seat is). We have also looked at how their inclination or disinclination to their location has helped us in gauging their spiritual temperature through the spiritual appraisal of each church's performance by Jesus Christ Himself.
We see firsthand beyond the facade that each church portrays either in its acclamation of what she believes in or in the name by which it is called or whatever paraphernalia exists within the precinct of its existence; that there are serious underground spiritual meanings of each and every church under heaven.
What do the churches represent and their relevance to us?
These churches are a representation of the spiritual state of a church, a people, an individual or a nation. The letters to the churches could arguably be described as not just being addressed to the leaders of the churches but to every single person who carries the appellation "Christian".
These letters represent a compilation of every act, the measurement of such acts in the scale of God's judgment and the commensurate reward that follows every act, thought, motive and intention.
These churches remind us of the antagonism and contention that every Christian must confront and contend with so as to end triumphantly. 2Cor:10: 3-5, Ephesians: 6: 10-18, 1Peter: 5: 8-10,
Through these churches we are guaranteed of Jesus' help and protection in the face of these battles; Matt: 28: 20, Heb. 13: 5,
We understand through Jesus' appraisal of the churches that our trials in life are determined by our capacity to bear them. Rev: 2: 24, 1Cor: 10: 13.
We also understand that there are rewards for every single act we undertake for the name of our Saviour. Rev: 2: 19, 23, Romans: 2:13, 16.
We also see that the physical state of a church does not necessarily connote her spiritual state. A physically vibrant church might be seriously spiritually anaemic, whereas a physically struggling church might be a spiritually dynamic church Rev: 2: 9, 16
Jesus emboldens His church to stay true to the high calling and maintaining constant vigilance over satanic infiltration into the fold. Rev: 2: 9, 2 Pet: 2:9-15, 2: 14.
Jesus emphasises the operation of a parallel group operating right within the church; those who are of the synagogue of Satan and those who bear true allegiance to Christ. The church in the Book of Revelation epitomises the reality of a collection of people with different agenda. Jebezel in the church in Thyatira, those with the doctrine of Balaam in Pergamos, to those that follow the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
Jesus accentuates the various dimensions of rewards accessible to every believer that runs the race to completion; access to the hidden manna, access to the tree of life, salvation from second death.
These churches reveal the many sided and multifaceted nature of Jesus Christ and His operation to the church- He that holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, the First and the Last, which was dead and is alive, He which hath the sharp sword with two edges, etc.
Synopsis of the account on the church in Philadelphia
The last facilitator inferred that the church in Philadelphia had all positive feedback from Jesus; he opined that the church must have occupied a very strategic place in the heart of Jesus. He stresses his argument further by alluding to the promises Jesus made to the church; he divided these promises into two parts the earthly blessings and the eternal blessings.
He accentuated the weakness of the church and that despite their weaknesses they strove to please the master. "Their weakness was no excuse for them to do nothing" he reasoned.
He concluded by praying that "we would, in all we do make Jesus proud (by holding on to the truth and not deny him when times are rough) to the point where He will treat us like the church in Philadelphia and even better!"
Jesus graciously assesses the Laodicea church with the intention of bringing them up-to-date with their performance on the scale of spiritual measurement. One very formidable attribute of an effective leader is the ability to accurately diagnose the problem and skilfully proffer solution or emplace remedial steps towards lasting success.
Jesus assesses the Laodicea church purely on the level of their performance vis-a-vis His expectation for the church; He did not measure their performance against those of other churches; albeit all of the churches operated within the same geographical location. He measures each individual against their alignment with His will for their lives and not in accordance to the expectation or opinion of others. 2 Cor: 10: 12-15
Jesus addresses the state of each church at a time when lapses can be identified and remedial action put in place so as to ensure a realignment of the original mandate. Jesus chastens us, rebukes and chides us because He takes pleasure in our prosperity. We are not left to our own devices and afterwards punished for failing without prior warnings and checks.
Geographical location of Laodicea
An ancient city of western Asia Minor in present-day western Turkey. Built by the Seleucids in the third century bc, it was a prosperous Roman market town on the trade route from the East and an early centre of Christianity.
The location of this church and the enormity of her wealth which came as a result of trade were perhaps responsible for the assumptions asserted by the Laodicea church. They must have concluded that their physical prosperity could not have been possible without a progressive and dynamic spiritual life. 3John: 2, Psalm: 35: 27, 1Tim: 6: 5. Sometimes we assume just as did the Laodicea church that our physical prosperity is a plausible yardstick for our spiritual wellbeing; this might not always be so. Sometimes our material acquisition might not have a farthing to do with our spiritual mileage. As a matter of fact they might be poles apart. Luke: 16: 19-31. Brethren, I believe that we need constant spiritual check-ups to avoid the trap of spiritual slumber.
Lobotomy of Revelation: 3: 14-21
Verse 14: Jesus tells John to write to the angel of the church; whether John writes to an angel or to the leadership; one incontrovertible reality is that the message is to the church in Laodicea and if it is to the church it is for everybody. The message is intended for an ecclesia (church).
The Amen: the literal meaning is "so shall it be": a spiritual acknowledgement of the finished work of Christ. Each time Amen is uttered we affirm Christ completion of all things that pertains to life and godliness. Amen, is an utterance of faith denoting the accomplishment of our desires.
The Faithful: a dependable ally in the midst of life's challenges; a very present help in time of trouble. The Faithful-the One who promises and never fails the reliable provider, protector and the blessed assurance; Isaiah: 43: 1-4, 2Tim: 2:13, 1Cor:1:9, 2Thess 3:3
True witness: the umpire in every of life's situation, the One who is witness to all things and records accurately every man's act, deed or motive. Never biased, never partial, never one sided. Isaiah: 3: 13. No man may see you but he witnesses every act of man and will stand as a faithful witness to everyone unjustly accused for He sees all things. Jesus is a witness to all that is godly and possible; a witness to the triumphant life in God; a witness to God's power in earthen vessels.
Verse 15: A state of constant fluctuation instability and fugacity (always at a temporal state of faith) Our fervour is determined by our mood, emotions and state of activity. God is faithful when we have a new job and where is God when there is no job? One day God is the only source and the next seek alternative means of help. One day our believe system is steadfast the next it is shaky. James: 1: 6-8, Matt: 14: 28-30. Jesus attested to Elijah's assertion on Carmel: 1Kings: 18: 21. 1Timothy:1: 19-20.
Verse 16: Lukewarm refers to a state of mediocrity; a place where one does not want to rock the boat. A blasť state of mind and attitude; a place of no disparate line of decision or action; idiomatically expressed as sitting on the fence. The ultimate consequence of instability is complete loss. When you go about chasing many things there is a possibility of losing everything. Luke: 10: 42. Psalm: 48: 14, John: 6: 68-69.
Verse 17: they not only display their affluence but they also flaunt it by their proclamation. they weighed their material prosperity and concluded that their spiritual life was okay or perhaps they assumed that their wealth substituted for any spiritual deficiency they might lack; after all why exercise faith for healing when you can pay the physician to make you well. Why fast when you have material wealth at your disposal. They adjudged themselves as a physically buoyant church and as such not in need of any spiritual pep talk to ginger them into spiritual fervidity. The Laodicean church reminds one of a termite infested tree, whose trunk appears healthy but on a closer look it is a hollow, weak, termite infested and internally dead tree.
This church is in need of an urgent spiritual surgery before it collapses and dies. It is hanging on by the skin of its teeth and yet assumes that all is well. This church is in dire need of spiritual resuscitation, because its appraisal of itself is far from the actual state when juxtaposed with the master's appraisal.
Verse 18: Jesus admonishes them to take His instruction; He appeals to their sense of judgment rather than compelling them to obey Him. God realises are liberty to make choices and so never imposes His will upon us. Deut 30:19-20. In the kingdom of God, our choices play a very prominent role in deciding what route to travel. Everything in the kingdom is a choice. Jesus pleads with the Laodicean church to allow themselves go through the process of spiritual purification: Mal: 3: 2-4.
To buy Gold tried in fire is to buy that which can never perish, for when everyman's work is tried by fire only that which is pure will survive. Jesus admonishes them to buy readymade gold that has gone through the process of trial and affliction; whose impurities and filth has been purged. 1Cor3: 13-15, 2Tim: 2: 19-21. Anointing the eye with salve requires clarity of inner spiritual sight so as to properly decipher your spiritual state per time and see as you ought to see.
Verse 19: Jesus' admonition cascades into a more generic assertion: Jesus calms the Laodicean church by assuaging His initial critical analyses of their state; to this end by making them see that His criticism of them was not because He did not love them but that His love was the reason for His chastening and rebuke. Prov. 3: 11-12, Heb: 12: 5-11, Titus: 2: 14. Be proactive for God and repent.
Verse 20: Jesus further ensconces the power of our will in determining and channelling our destiny. The almighty did not barge into our lives but He stands at the door and knocks and His knock can be ignored and He still will not usurp our space or authority to choose. All of the provisions of salvation always carry the preposition "if" Deut 28: 1, John: 7: 37-39. He stands and knocks and if we open He comes in, if not He stands still always knocking. In whatever way He's knocking I pray you will open unto Him. If we open He sups with us and we sup with Him. Adrian Rogers said "if He sups with us (our resources, we will also sup with Him, His resources).
Verse 21: Jesus concludes His pedantically laced charge with a promise of a far greater prospect than all of the present wealth that the Laodicean church exhibits. He promises a throne next to Him if we give heed to what He says. Moses saw a better prospect with God than staying as a prince in Egypt; he chose to suffer affliction than enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season. Heb: 11: 25-26. Thrones, crowns, domains, kingdoms, territories and wealth all come when we have overcome the obstacles and temptations that come our way.
Jesus implores them to stay the course and maintain the verve of spiritual jingoism so as to overcome the in the same way that He also overcame. He leaves them with the message of hope by telling them that He overcame because He stayed the course and kept the faith. Jesus alludes to His positional achievement to His steadfastness and commitment to what matters beyond this realm.
All of the churches got some sort of kudos for some level of achievement but not the church in Laodicea. There was not a single acknowledgment to any work that could be credited to their account; yet this same church in Laodicea that Paul oversaw was a spiritually vibrant church at the outset. Mighty things and great brethren emerged from that church; at the start it was a spiritually dynamic church with all her embers burning for the Lord, her love for the Spirit was so intense that Apostle Paul had to pray a for deeper spiritual understanding; Col: 1: 8-10. Perhaps their unbridled access to materialism with the incursion of mixed multitude the church in Laodicea began to shift her gaze from the spiritual to the material which ultimately led to their spiritual dearth. I pray that our zeal for that which matters will not be extirpated.
Contributor: Paul Thomas
Tuesday, 03 April 2012
Last week we looked at the Church in Sardis - a sad story it was indeed; a church referred to as a living dead church. Although Jesus addressed the church in Sardis as a dead church, all hope was not lost; Jesus saw the glow of embers among the ashes and exhorted the believers in Sardis to fan the flame with renewed commitment to Him. " . . a smoking flax shall he not quench" Matthew 12:20b.
Today we will look at the sixth of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation, Philadelphia. Like the Smyrna church it received absolute praise. Reading through these verses, you could just sense the admiration Jesus had for this church; the love that surged from Him would just "knot" your stomach and His promises would certainly warm your heart.
Philadelphia - The City and the goings on [Verse 7]
7 "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."
The city of Philadelphia was geographically placed directly over a seismic fault and was shaken by repeated Earthquakes for 20 years following the 17 AD Earthquake. Also, by virtue of its location Philadelphia guarded an important pass through the mountains between the Hermus and Meander River valleys. It held the key to the door through which all east-west trade and commerce passed. (It was a gateway city). It was also the claim by the Jews of Philadelphia that they were the "true" people of God who held the key to the Kingdom of God.
So Jesus introduces Himself as the One who is holy and true to the church in a city sitting on a seismic fault and those who believed they were the "true" people of God and then introduces Himself to those who thought they held the key to the Kingdom of God as the One "who holds the key of David" and what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open"
The church in Philadelphia in comparison with the other churches would in my opinion be in first place among the seven churches. Why? Only two churches received commendation without rebuke; Smyrna and Philadelphia but while the Smyrna church was told to prepare for more hardship (Rev 2:10), the Philadelphia church was offered shielding by Jesus Himself as well as rewards as we will see in the next few verses. They certainly must have won His admiration. The reasons are listed below:
1. The Reward #1 [Here On Earth] - The Open Door [Verse 8a]
8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
Jews were exempt from participation in the emperor worship cult, but the Jewish Christians, had been denounced by some Jews in Philadelphia before Roman officials that they were not "true" Jews and were excluded from the Jewish community and synagogues, so they did not enjoy the same legal protection and therefore were persecuted to indulge in participation in the emperor worship cult .
John 9:22 says: "For already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue"
So, in the midst of all these, Jesus sends words of encouragement to this church: "I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut"
In effect He was saying: "Forget about the doors that have been shut against you. They have shut you out of their communities and synagogues; but . . "See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut!".
A door that due to the location of the city gave the church the wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel message throughout the country and beyond.
∑ The Reason For The Reward - Keeping the Word even when times were rough [Verse 8b]
"I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." [Emphasis mine]
O that we will hold on and make Jesus proud. He was as proud of the church as God was of Him! [Matthew 22:44, Psalm 110:1]. "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."] NIV. So He tells them in verse 9.
2. The Reward #2 [Here On Earth] - Divine Vindication [Verse 9]
" I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars?I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."
I will make them pay for what they have done to you! He was saying. Jesus was aware of how the Jews capitalized on the weakness of the Philadelphia church. "I know that you have little strength . . " Jesus said. He was touched by the fact that although they were weak, they held on! We truly have a High Priest who is touched by the feelings of our infirmity. Heb.4:15 In this case, He was not only touched, He reacted.
Have we observed that we warm up towards the fragile? Especially the fragile that are making an attempt?
We should therefore be encouraged that no matter how weak we are, how despised or oppressed; if we will hold on, He will stand up for us! But we should be warned not to take advantage of the weak among us because He will fight on their behalf.
3. The Reward #3 [Here On Earth] - Divine Protection [Verse 10]
10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
∑ The Reason For The Reward - Keeping the Word patiently
At this point you could almost sense Jesus continuing His open show of love and admiration for this church; He pronounces another reward for the same reason; two rewards for the same reason! So they will " . . . acknowledge that I have loved you." In verse 10b He says: " I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth."
In Chapter 2:10 He told the Smyrna church to prepare for persecution but here He was going to protect the Philadelphia church from persecution! Obviously Jesus had a soft spot for this church. His heart warmed towards them. Why? Although they were weak (fragile) they held on! They kept His commandments.
4. The Reward #4 [Heaven] - Divine Exposition; a heavenly assurance [Verse 11]
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
And from nowhere He reveals this; "I am coming soon"; there is a crown for you but here is what you need to do to no one will take your crown. "Hold on to what you have"
Jesus was, in effect saying: "I will not let you lose your crown after all you have done here on earth so I will reveal to you how to ensure you get your crown"
5. The Reward #5 [Heaven] - Eternal Life and Eternal Rewards [Verse 12-13]
12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
You could just almost say "how sweet" in a cute way. The one who is victorious Jesus says He will make them pillars in the temple of God (a physical pillar is a permanent and prominent part of a physical temple). Jesus once again relates this promise to the situations around the church in Philadelphia. They lived in this atmosphere of insecurity, instability and uncertainty so Jesus promised them the reverse of their situations. They were disregarded, secluded and unknown; so He promises "The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God", "Never again will they leave it,", I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem"
The church in Philadelphia no doubt won the admiration of Jesus; we have seen how He stood up for them because they did not create an excuse for compromise. They held on although their strength was small. Jesus did not only commend them but He rewarded them; first on earth and then the promises of eternity. I pray that we would, in all we do make Jesus proud (by holding on to the truth and not deny him when times are rough) to the point where He will treat us like the church in Philadelphia and even better!
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
Tuesday, 03 April 2012
Last week, the Church in Thyatira was the focus of the Lord in Rev 2:18-29. This was a Church with much commendation from the Lord because of their love, Faith, Service and Perseverance. Despite these, Jezebel' one of the leaders in this Church misled many into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols and by her teaching. The Lord pronounced judgment against her and encouraged the remnant to hold on to the end.
Today, we shall look at the message of the Lord to the Church in Sardis. The situation of this Church is really sad.
Sardis - A city of wealth
This city is about 40 miles east of Smyrna, the ancient capital of Lydia. Seven hundred years before this letter was written, Sardis was one of the greatest cities in the world. It was wealthy with a river full of gold. The king, Cresus was the richest King around that time. The wealth of this city made the inhabitants lazy so, they preferred to enjoy themselves. The Church in this city was strong but a time came when they became like the people around them. They became Lazy, prayerless and eventualy, a living dead Church.
Many of our churches are dead! Their sanctuary is a morgue with a steeple. They are congregations of corpses. They have undertakers for ushers, embalmers for elders, morticians for ministers, and the pastor graduated from the cemetery. Such churches lost vital signs years ago. Can anything be done about a dead church? How can a dead church be revived? How can we prevent our churches from dying? Jesus will answer these questions and more.
- The Character (3:1a). "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things said he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;"
Jesus describes Himself as the One who "has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars." The word "has" (echon) conveys both ownership and control. Jesus holds or possesses the seven spirits and stars. The number "seven" is the number for perfection or fullness. This does not mean that there are seven Holy Spirits. There is only one Spirit of God. "The seven spirits of God" represent the fullness of the Holy Spirit in His seven manifestations to the seven churches (Rev 1:7, Isa 11:2-5; Zech 4:2, 10). It is through the Spirit that God brings revival to His church. This means that revival comes only by God's choosing, not by man's doing. This principle is recorded for us in Zechariah 4:6, "?Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts."
Jesus also has "the seven stars." This speaks of His sovereign control of the angelic realm (Rev 1:20). Through the angel responsible for each church, Jesus protects and controls His churches. The church in Sardis needs to be reminded of their spiritual resources. Not only do they have the full measure of the Holy Spirit; they have angels watching over each church. These angels are held in the palm of Jesus' hand.
- The Condemnation (3:1b). "I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead"
With each of the previous four churches, Jesus begins with a word of commendation. But when Jesus speaks to the church in Sardis, He starts with a word of condemnation. He does so because a dead church is deadly to the cause of Christ. Ironically, Jesus' condemnation focused upon that which the church felt was their strength?her name. Jesus' knowledge about the church in Sardis pertained to their deeds, which were woefully inadequate. They had a name (might be very popular in the community), but that was it. From God's perspective, they were as good as "dead." It is important to recognize that the church in Sardis doesn't appear dead. This church has a reputation for being alive. People are impressed. This church's deadness is not man's evaluation but God's.
So why did Jesus consider this church dead. "Dead" could be equated with lacking spiritual life. Apparently, the church had probably begun not only to read but to believe their own press clippings. Such acclaim could have deadened their sensitivity to the spiritual warfare in which they were engaged. The result would have been to sense little need for prayer, little reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, and great confidence in human wisdom, human effort, and human programs. While their doctrine had not changed, their dependence upon God had greatly diminished.
This is a warning. A church is in danger of death: when it begins to worship its own past or history, its reputation or name, or the names in the church, when it is more concerned with forms than with function and life, when it is more concerned with numbers than with the spiritual quality of life it is producing in its people, when it is more involved with management than with ministry or with the physical over the spiritual. Interestingly, most churches do not die in one fell swoop. They die gradually. Almost all liberal churches today started as evangelical churches. Churches die by degree. This truth is also relevant to every individual Christian.
- The Correction (3:2-3). "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you."
In life, identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it. The problem with the church in Sardis was that she was dead. But as hopeless as that sounds, all was not lost. Jesus saw the glow of embers among the ashes and exhorted the believers in Sardis to fan the flame with renewed commitment to Him. How could they do this? What steps were they to take? Christ gave them five directives that, if obeyed, would burn new life into their church.
- Wake up. Every time the phrase "wake up" is used in the New Testament, it conveys the notion that God's people are spiritually asleep when they should be awake. Jesus uses a very effective metaphor. In the physical realm, when we are asleep we are unconcerned, apathetic, and indifferent. Unfortunately, the same can be true in the spiritual realm. Many Christians have dozed off and they don't even know it. They are in need of an abrupt wake-up call. Rom 13:11.
"Wake up" can also be translated to mean "keep being watchful." Jesus wants His church to be vigilant. Christians can decline into spiritual lethargy if they do not stay alert. Whenever we do not watch our spiritual condition, we begin to decline.1 Pet.5:8 "be sober, be vigilant .
I would encourage you to memorize Psalm 139:23-24. There is very little difference between living in either a sinful condition or an apathetic condition.
- Strengthen. The word "strengthen" means "to establish or stabilize something." Jesus commands this church to "strengthen the things that remain which were about to die." This is likely a reference to various opportunities remaining for this church. Sardis is living on borrowed time. Yet, as long as a church remains, God still has a purpose for it.
Once the church loses its life God's purpose for it is over (Matt.5:13). No matter how a church may have failed God still has a purpose for it, if it can get back on a right relationship with the Lord.
- Remember. Jesus says, "Remember, what you have received and heard." The word "remember" means "to constantly call to mind." The church at Sardis is to remember how they responded to the good news of the Gospel at the first. The "what" (the doctrines of the faith) had not been forgotten or forsaken, but the "how" (their response, prompted by the power of the Holy Spirit) had been. The cure for this nearly dead church was to keep in mind the way that they had first responded to the truth of God and to once again respond in the same way, prompted and empowered by God's Spirit. The key to the Christian life begins in the mind.
There is a reason ("for") that Sardis is almost out of time. Jesus' explains, "I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God." Could they be good deeds done for the wrong reasons? Giving applause and recognition, serving out of guilt or obligation, loving in order to be loved?these are all incomplete deeds.
I'd like you to notice that Jesus knows what God has called us to do and if we fail, the deeds are not "finished." Finishing works is very high on God's value system (John 17:4; 19:30; Rev 21:6). God is after our perseverance. I can't emphasize that enough. That theme dominates these seven letters.
- Retain. Jesus says, "Keep it" (1 John 2:3). God has called us to apply the truth of His Word. He's not after information overload but transformation overload. Are you a different kind of spouse, parent, employee, or friend because of your faith? Do others see the difference in your life without being told that you're a Christian? God wants your unswerving loyalty to Him. He wants you to keep His commandments over the course of your lifetime.
- Repent. This last exhortation sets the previous four in motion. The New Testament uses of "repent" (metanoeo) always mean a change of thinking for the better (except in Luke 17:3-4). Repentance implies a change of life because of a complete change of thought and attitude. The Greek word carries the idea of a total change in thinking and behavior with respect to both how we think and act. Whether the focus is on attitude or behavior depends on the context. Jesus wants the Christians at Sardis to completely change their thinking and orientation about their sin.
If the church in Sardis ignores these five commands, Jesus will deal with them. "Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." Our Lord Jesus is patient with our apathy and indifference. Yet even the Lord has limits. If they refused to repent, Jesus promised to come to the church as a thief. Jesus will come unexpectedly and that means judgment.
- The Call (3:4-6). "You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches."
Jesus gives a commendation after the condemnation in this letter. He commends a few spiritual giants that did not soil their garments. The worthiness here is linked to the fact that these were believers "who have not soiled [defiled] their garments." This is a figurative way of saying that there were a few who had not walked in disobedience (Rev 22:14; Jas 1:27; Jude 23). Walking with Christ in white garments refers to a practical righteousness not a positional righteousness. This must be seen as a reward.
Salvation is a gift given through faith in the finished work of Christ. It is based on His worthiness and record, not ours (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7). We are only worthy to enter God's kingdom because we have trusted in the worthy One. Nevertheless, Jesus still exhorts us to, "walk in a manner worthy of our calling" (Eph 4:1).
Contributor: Alex Alajiki