Fasten your seat belts & put your seats in an upright position! You are about to come with John to the throne of the Most High!!!! Vs. 2, “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.” We see a vision of God’s throne with rainbows, thunder, lightening….we see twenty-four smaller thrones with twenty-four elders…we see four creatures with eyes all over them!!! Whew….what a sight to behold!!! Yet, even in this description we do not see a flambouyant display of grandeur, but rather a display of the Holiness of God! Don’t be confused by the details of this chapter…rather look at what all of this is trying to point out: The Greatness of God! Questions: Who are the twenty-four elders? Most scholars believe they represent the church! That would be you & me =) What about the four creatures? Some say they represent God’s creation…others say they are a picture of the Gospels, yet they show us that they are created to bring God glory!
Regarding application…Worship of God. Simply ask yourself again…what are we learning from this chapter? Worship of God. Worship is not just saying nice things about God on Sunday. Worship is recognizing who God already was, is & will always be! Theologian J.I. Packer, “We must turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God.” The more we know of God…the more it will help you to truly worship Him! But once again….you may ask…”But why do we worship?” Pastor Richard Foster, “Our God is not made of stone. His heart is the most sensitive and tender of all.” Wow…do you know what this means? God delights in the worship & attention of His creation! That we would matter to God brings a purpose in life so incredible! Guess what? One day we all will be before this very throne we just read about! Let us join with these four living creatures….join with the angels…join with our brothers & sisters awaiting our homecoming to heaven….join to raise our voices & sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty…”
Vs. 1, “…you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Sardis was a dying church. But, even in a dying church there were still a few who remained faithful. Vs. 5 has been a controversial passage in which some people like to use this verse to support the fact that a Christian can lose their salvation. However, this book of life has all the names born in it…but those who turn to the Lord have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life and those who do not have their names blotted out of the original book of life. I know it’s confusing but take a look at Revelations 13:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27.
Ahhh…the city of brotherly love. It was a smaller church and here we see Jesus doesn’t have words of rebuke, but rather words of encouragement. We see that though they were small, they were faithful! Small churches have their places in this world =) Vs. 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 upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” This is one of the strongest passages to support the fact that we will be raptured (taken to Heaven) before the 7 years of tribulation!
This was the wealthiest church of the seven. When I think of the churches today…I can’t help but see the churches in the United States represent the modern day Laodicea. In fact the word Laodicea means “The rule of the people”. Perhaps they were a church who no longer followed the spiritual leaders, but rather tried to rule on their own. Vs. 15, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other.” A well known passage to stop our complacency…but also a note to remember that “Hot” & “Cold” are both good connotations by our Lord Jesus. Jesus isn’t saying He would rather see us with cold hearts. The “cold” here would be like a refreshing cold spring or glass of water.
Regarding application…Which church do we represent? Upon completion of the seven churches….We must be open & honest before our Lord and see what diagnosis is needed for our church…for our individual lives. None of us are beyond rebuke or admonishment. Let us not forget our first love (Ephesus) and become lukewarm (Laodicea) churches. While vs. 20 is used for many evangelistic messages…this really is a message for the body of Christ. Jesus wants to fellowship with his church…are we inviting Him in? Are you inviting Him in your QT’s?
Jesus speaks directly the churches, so let’s examine a bit further into each church:
Vs. 4, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” Ephesus had become a large & proud church…they had accomplished plenty. Discerned false teachings, suffered for Christ, grew in their knowledge…yet they had lost the most important ingredient of all: Love. Without love the light of Christ could go out.
Vs. 9, “I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” Smryna had opposition from both unbelieving Gentiles & hostile Jews. Though they lived in a affluent city, they found themselves in poverty (maybe because of sanctions against Christians at the time). They were a picture of a suffering church. Small & beaten…yet Jesus reminded them that the crown of life awaits them in this temporary world we liven in.
Vs. 14, “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.” Pergamum was a city full of idolatry…and where idolatry is…Satan flourishes. This was not a easy city to live in as a Christian. Christians were compromising their faith & were peer pressured into following the crowd. They were accepting things that God had clearly laid out to his children that are wrong….Idol’s & sexual immorality.
Vs. 20, “Nevertheless, I have this against you: 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.” Thaytira would be the opposite of Ephesus…plenty of love, but no discernment. They were easily swayed by false teachers, particularly a woman prophetess by the names Jezebel (ironic…I think not). We must be careful when it comes to accepting activities in this world that contradict our Lord!
Regarding application…Good News & Bad News. Vs. 23b, “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.” Just when we think we are doing well in our churches…in our walks with the Lord…we are reminded here in Scripture that there is no time to grow complacent. I am reminded of when someone tells us, “I have good news & bad news.” We usually don’t even want to hear the bad news in the first place. Jesus came to us today with good news & bad news. Yet, the beauty of Jesus is that He made sure to praise the churches for the good things, share the bad things in truth & love, and then share the best part by sharing what happens when we overcome!!! Dearest brothers & sisters, as Jesus searches our hearts today…let him show us what it is in our lives that we need to correct! Let us not be like Jezebel from Thyatira who was given the chance to repent, but chose to harden her heart instead. Let us overcome together in prayer & petition to our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ!
The author is the Apostle John. The purpose: To reveal the full identity of Jesus and give warning & hope to all believers. Revelations is really a book of hope (to say it simply). But Revelation is also a book of warning. Things were not as they should have been in the churches, so Christ called the members to commit themselves to live in righteousness. Although Jesus gave this revelation of himself to John nearly 2,000 years ago, it still speaks to us today! Christ will return to rescue his people and settle accounts with all who defy him. From the revelation from God, to the messages to the seven churches, to the series of visions portraying the rise of evil & the Antichrist, and finally following the triumph of Jesus…journey with us to see God’s awesome plan for us! Be full of hope, knowing that God is in control, Christ’s victory is assured, and all who trust him will be saved!
Vs. 3, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Rome was now led by emporer by the name of Domitian. He was even worse than Nero and he persecuted both the Christians & the Jews. John was exiled on the Island of Patmos for this very reason. This revelation from God to John was not some thing that happened in the first century…it wasn’t just for spiritual meaning…It was for the future of all the prophecies before us! Simply look at vs. 3 again to see that this is a book with a promise of a blessing! In fact…I would encourage each of you to read each chapter out loud!!! The seven churches were literal (real) churches at the time…yet they were representative of all churches of all times (including us today). The trumpet (vs. 10) plays an important symbol. The trumpet was like the voice of Christ, it calls John to heaven, it signals the wrath of God, and the trumpet will call God’s people home! The double-edged sword is the authority & power of God’s word! And of course, the number “7–seven” plays an important symbol. For seven symbolizes perfection or more accurately “completion”.
Regarding application…World is Getting Worse. Vs. 19, “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” You know what? The world is getting worse…but Jesus already said that it would get worse. While it seems that society is losing its morals before our very eyes…don’t be too suprised. While it may seem we are losing the war (terrorism, violence, school shootings, murderers, child abuse, etc…) know that we are one day going to win the War!!!! Why do I know this? Because of the book of Revelations! Let us not shy away from such an awesome book! I pray with all my heart that you journey with me in studying & devoting our minds & hearts to God’s revelation! Remember, to read aloud God’s word as we read each chapter a day! Revelations is not meant for casul reading…so let us reverently approach the Lord as we seek his revelation for our lives!
Tucked in the back of the New Testament, we find the book of Jude. Although it’s more of a brief letter…Jude is believed to be another half-brother of Jesus and brother of James. Jude’s intention was to defend the faith against false teachings in the churches. Jude urged believers to fight for the faith that had carefully been handed down to them. Christians are to defend & stand up for what is true! We are to hold on to our faith!
Vs. 3, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” We see Jude’s humility and his desire to both shepherd and teach the church. One of the main problems of why this was happening was the lack of understanding “GRACE” – undeserved acceptance & love. These false teachers lacked a fear of God and took advantage of the fact that God’s grace covers their sins. It was reckless teaching with a selfish motive. Whether it was for financial gain, poplularity, pleasing the crowds, personal agenda…these teachers relied on their own talents rather than the strength of the Holy Spirit.
Regarding application…Build Ourselves Up. Vs. 20, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” In the midst of such falsehood and deception, we as Christians must all the more build ourselves up. Remember, the enemy here wasn’t the pagans & unchurched…it was those in the church that were endangering the truth. There is a name for this: Apostasy = The abandoning of the faith. Even today, apostasy is rampant in the churches…especially in the faith that truly saves. Question: What is building up? Simply studying & knowing His word…we do that through QT’s! Just as you cannot build a house without a foundation, we cannot build our lives without the foundation of Chirst.
The wise elderly John wrote this brief letter towards the end of the first century. John sent this letter to a man named Gaius. Gaius often showed hospitality to traveling teachers & missionaries. While John praised his genourosity, he also warned him against a man who was refusing to listen to spiritual leaders in authority. This is a very personal letter and still carries the same theme of truth from the second letter. Truth & love must be tempered with wisdom.
Vs. 5, “Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you.” Gaius was obviously a very good man who opened the doors to many travelers and Christian workers. Others were impressed by him and were encouraged by his generous heart. But we see another person in Diotrephes, whose motto seemed to be, “I must increase!”. He was a proud & arrogant man who challenged the authority of the church leaders. He was a man who did not help others and even threw some people out of the church.
Regarding application…Evil in the Church. Vs. 11, “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God…” Struggles outside the church can be harmful…struggles within the church can be devastating. Diotrephes was out of control and was losing his moral standards & biblical standards. He definitely was not loving others and hit was hurting the church. When was as Christians imitate the world’s standards, it not only affects us…it effects everyone. When I first began as a youth director, there was a young man who had already graduated from high school, but he would come periodically to church. He was (from the world’s standard)…cool. All the boys wanted to hang out with him…he was rich, drove a nice car, physically intimidating, etc. He found it very funny to make fun of the younger boys. He would poke fun at their acne, or their height…and all the boys would transform themselves to his attitude and start laughing along and poking fun. It was an interesting phenomenon because they wouldn’t do this with each other until this young man would come. No matter what age, we are all very impressionable and if a popular/worldly person comes into the church and starts to imitate the world…it’s something we must be very careful of. Let’s look out for each other and makes sure that we are not imitating the world…but rather, imitating God.
“Who is Jesus?”…The proverbial question of our time. This question still brings controversy & opinions to this day. False teachers of today come in many forms…whether false pastors, teachers…authors like Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code & Angles & Demons)…they all attempt to describe a false Jesus. Yet their preposterous claims are believed by the gullible, naive & ignorant Christians out there. The apostle John encouraged all believers to cling to the Truth of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Vs. 3, “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” Truth must be balanced by Love….and Love must be balanced by Truth. The truth is not something we simply study or believe…it should be a motivating force in our lives! It is not simple enough to know it, we must live it (Vs. 4-6). We must also protect the truth (Vs. 7-11). We must be careful and wise in discerning what is true and what is false. Once again, we see the strong emphasis on false teachings. The early church made it a practice to support traveling teachers & pastors, but John was quick to admonish them not to show hospitality to those who preached a false Gospel. While it is okay to share God’s love & truth to them, it is dangerous to have them over to your house (Vs. 10).
Regarding application…Walking with Jesus. Vs. 4, “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” Wow…isn’t that so true? Next to the joy in the Lord…I would have to agree with John when it comes to receiving joy when I see youth truly walking with our Lord Jesus! As much joy as it gives me…when can only imagine how much more that joy is amplified up in Heaven!!! As we soon approach the Lord’s Day…let us bring joy to our Lord by following Him! Let us come with hearts ready & minds ready to worship & learn the Living Word of our Lord! And perhaps by doing that we can even bring each other joy when we witness the love of the Lord displayed in each others lives! They say there is safety in numbers. When we go strange places, it is always wise to take another to walk with you. Spiritually, it is imperative to take the hand of Christ and let Him guide you through the dark streets of our lives.
Vs. 5, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” What a great rallying call! Question: Who are Christians? They are people who love & obey God’s commands (Vs. 1-5). Most people in this world do not know who Christians are. As Christians, we know who we are, because the Spirit testifies to it (vs. 6-13). We have that very testimony in our hearts (Vs. 10). How much more than should we testify who Jesus is to the world? We can pray to God and approach Him with confidence (Vs. 14-17). When we know God’s testimony, we can pray with boldness! We know how Christians should live (vs. 18) and we cannot ever deny that we don’t know the truth (Vs. 20)…for God has given it to us. We are without excuse for God has given us this wonderful knowledge!
Regarding application…Burdensome. Vs. 3, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Question: Why? From the world’s point of view…it can be a very burdensome thing to be a Christian. As Christians we shouldn’t do that and we shouldn’t do this (a big book of rules). No one likes rules. But ask a parent if working hard so their children can have a good education and wonderful opportunties…and there job is never burdensome…Why? Because they love them. God’s laws and commands should never be burdensome. Yet many Christians fall into the trap that Adam & Eve fell into from the very beginning. Satan challenges us to think that God’s laws are burdensome and too hard to handle. Therefore, we break them and not follow them because life is easier. But a Christian who looks to God’s commands as burdensome is a person who does not know the meaning of love. Love is not selfish, but it is selfless. Re-read I Cor. 13 or remember that when we follow Jesus, He gives us rest from this weary world (Matthew 11:28-30). We follow & obey God because we love Him. That is why this world is not a burdensome place to live in.
Vs. 19, “We love because he first loved us.” I mentioned this verse to the CTC Youth this past weekend. True believers will love each other…it’s that simple folks. John goes on to mention about testing spirits….remember that the New Testament had not yet been completeted…so these young Christians would know if someone was false by what they claimed regarding Jesus. But the true sheep will recoginze the loving voice of their Shepherd. John also reminds us of the fact that we should never forget…Jesus died for us (vs. 9-11). When we remember this fact, God’s Holy Spirit can reside in us and His love fills us (Vs. 12-16). And when we live this kind of love, we need to never fear the final day of judgment…because love drives out fear (Vs. 18-19).
Regarding application…Loving Others = Command. Vs. 21, “And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” This is not God pleading or hoping that we love. God is not politely asking us to love others. God is commanding us to love. It is shameful to bear the name of Christ in our lives if we are discriminately choosing who we love and who we ignore or even hate in our lives. People may say, “I tried…I just can’t love him or her because of what they did to me.” And the key word to that comment is “I”. When we try to love, it is impossible to love others. But when we surrender our lives over to the Lord, His love is so powerful and great that it will overflow in our lives. If Jesus thought the same way so many of us have…then none of us would be alive today. Question: Who do you need to show God’s love to? Go forth and love deeply in the name of Jesus!
Vs. 1, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are…” Love is indeed is one of the greatest motivations in this world! If we truly love & understand God’s love for us…then we cannot help but desire to obey. One day Jesus will return, and that is all the more reason we should live as if He will today (Vs. 2-3). As Christans we have the “new nature”, the Holy Spirit guiding us in our lives. Jesus set the perfect example and as He died for us, we ought to be willing to die for others too (Vs. 16)…what a powerful verse! But our hearts and the Holy Spirit can and does condemn us (Vs. 19-20) when we have failed to love others. We can come before God with confidence (Vs. 21), God is able to show the full extent of His love in our lives because of the Holy Spirit He gave us (Vs. 24).
Regarding application…Deliberately Sinning. Vs. 9, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” When we truly abide in Christ, we will not consciencely make an effor to deliberately sin. Of course we fall short of the glory of God…and we sometimes choose to willingly disobey the Lord. But what John is getting at is this: No true Christan will continue to repeatedly time and time again deliberately sin on and on with no remorse. This is a very serious topic and one that is not easy to discuss. Take the prodigal son…He did repeatedly sin, but in his heart of hearts…he was still a son. He realized he did not belong with the pigs…he belonged with his Father. Deep down in the deepest recesses of our hearts is the desire to please the Lord. We only have that because when the Holy Spirit came into our lives, a new nature formed in our hardened hearts.
Question: Is it possible to deliberately sin and still go to Heaven? Yes, because perhaps you are a procrastinator and in your heart of hearts, you meant to turn back to the Lord but maybe you died before you had the chance in a car wreck. For the prodigal son, if he had died before turning back to his father, he still would have been a part of that family. But, sadly…it is not and should not ever be our desire to deliberately sin. It is like saying, “God, I have no remorse about what I am doing and I don’t care if it hurts you and others.” Many times, we as children of God will disobey Him, but we do it with guilt and remorse. However, it is God’s will that we turn from the sinful nature and strive to live holy all the days of our lives.