Emory Baptist Church
Will You Be Left Behind?

Will You Be Left Behind?

November 30, 2020

We have come to a transition point in our study of Revelation.  We have seen John’s initial vision in Revelation 1 and the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3.  We now come to Revelation 4:1, but go back to Revelation 1:19.

 

19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.

 

This verse gives us a very good outline that we have already used.  The things which John had seen are in verses 9-20 of chapter 1.

 

The thing which were at the time are found in Revelation 2-3.  Those were seven real, literal churches of the first century in what we know now as Western Turkey.

 

Verse 19 finishes with the things which will take place after this.  These are future events or things to come.

 

The next observation that I want you to see is the use of the word “church” in John’s Revelation.  The literal word is ecclesia which means the assembly of the called out ones.

 

That word is used 20 times in the book of Revelation and 19 times in chapters 1-3: 1:4, 1:11, 1:20, 2:1, 2:7, 2:8, 2:11, 2:12, 2:17, 2:18, 2:23, 2:29, 3:1, 3:6, 3:7, 3:13, 3:14, and 3:22.

 

The only other time it is used is in 22:16. Isn’t that interesting?  It is used 19 times in talking about the things that John had seen and the things that were.  However, it is only used once after that.

 

Many evangelical, conservative Bible commentators tell us that chapter 4 begins talking exclusively about future events.  I would agree.

 

Chapters 4-18 detail the great tribulation on earth.  Chapters 19-20 detail the second coming of Christ to earth.  Chapter 21 speaks of His 1000 earthly reign on earth, and chapter 22 speaks about eternity in heaven.

 

So what is going to happen between chapters 3 and 4 that would justify 19 uses of church in chapters 1-3 but only 1 in chapters 4-22.  I would say it is the rapture of the church. 

 

You will not find the word rapture in our English Bibles.  Actually, our English word has a Latin origin which means “caught up” as translated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

 

For the remainder of our time this morning, I want to show you the promise of the rapture, the plan of the rapture, and the persons who will be raptured.

 

 

  1. The Promise of the Rapture, John 14:1-3

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

 

In Jesus’ words to His disciples, He promised His return and taking them to heaven.  Verse 2 speaks of His Father’s house with many mansions or rooms, and verse 3 contains the promise.

 

The reason we know this is not Jesus’ second coming is because when He comes then, it won’t be to return to heaven.  It will be to reign on earth for 1000 years.

 

John 14 contains the promise of the rapture.

 

 

  1. The Plan of the Rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul answered a question for the Thessalonian Christians who were concerned about their brothers and sisters in Christ who had already died.  Jesus said they were sleeping in verses 13-14.

 

By the way, that description is never used of unbelievers.  It is only used of believers, and it doesn’t mean spiritual inactivity but temporary physical inactivity.

 

Verse 14 speaks of some type of return with Jesus and these who have already died. 

 

Verse 15 says their return will come become before a uniting of the living Christians and the Lord. 

 

Verses 16-17 clear up much.  The Lord will come down with a military shout.  Perhaps this summoning His troops.  There will also be the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God will sound.

 

Then, the dead in Christ will wise first.  Who are these?  They are all followers of Christ between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the time of this event who have physically died.  They will be resurrected.  This will be a reuniting of body and spirit.

 

Then, in verse 17, those who believers who are alive at the time will be caught up or raptured.  That means that will ascend to meet the Lord in the air.  They will never experience a physical death.

 

Cars will be wrecked.  Jobs will be abandoned.  Airplanes will be emptied.  Clothes will be left behind.  Will you?

 

 

  1. The Persons who will be Raptured, 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  55 “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?”  56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

In this first letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul addressed what will have to person who is to be raptured.  Our bodies as they are cannot be united with Lord because of sin.

 

Therefore, in verse 51, we shall be changed.  At a moment’s notice, the last trumpet will sound.  Does that language sound familiar?  See 1 Thessalonians 4.

 

The dead in Christ will be raised.  Does that sound familiar?  See 1 Thessalonians 4.

 

Then, those who are physically alive and followers of Christ will be changed.  Our bodies will be changed to incorruption and to immortality, and this is only possible because of the physical and bodily resurrection of Christ.

 

 

Conclusion

So you have to answer this question, “Will you be left behind?”  Some might be wondering about the timing before you answer, and that is the problem.  The rapture will be without sign or warning.

 

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

 

Earlier in Matthew 24, Jesus was speaking about the great tribulation and second coming of Christ, but in verse 36, He went back to speak of the rapture.

 

Like the flood, it will come without physical warning.  People will be carrying on as normal. 

 

In verse 40, Christians will be raptured.  Non-Christians will be left behind. 

 

Like a thief, we will not know the timing so you be ready today.  Will you be left behind?

 

 

 

 

Is Cold Toward God Ever Good?

Is Cold Toward God Ever Good?

November 22, 2020

Today, we come to the last of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, which we know to be modern-day Turkey. We have looked at churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia.  Our last church is in Laodicea. 

 

For most of these churches, it is imperative to know something about the particular city of the church because Jesus often spoke with symbolism in His messages to them, and if you don’t understand some unique realities about these communities, then you will find it very difficult to understand His messages. 

 

For the city of Laodicea, you need to remember three words: money, material, and medicine.  Because it was at a very well-traveled crossroads, Laodicea was known for its banking industry which translated into being a very wealthy city. 

 

Laodicea was also known for its shepherds raising black wool sheep that produced some amazing black wool garments.  Therefore, the city was famous for its material.  

 

Thirdly, Laodicea was known for medicine, especially medicine for the eyes.  The medical industry of Laodicea was thriving along with the banking industry and the garment industry. 

 

Remember that most of Jesus’ messages included a praise, a rebuke, and instruction.  Most included a compliment and a complaint and counsel. 

 

However, the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia were compliments only.  Unfortunately, Sardis, and we will see today, Laodicea were complaints only.

 

Beginning in verse fourteen, we once again see that Jesus was the one speaking, and He was speaking to the pastor of the church at Laodicea who would eventually share this message with the church members.  He reminded the pastor of His authority because what He was about to say was going to be very critical and heart-breaking to these church members.   

 

Jesus is the Amen.  Amen literally “so be it.”  Therefore, Jesus is saying that what is about to come is valid and sure.

 

Jesus is also a faithful and true witness.  He is going to be faithful to show up and testify.  He is also going to be truthful in everything that He says.

 

Third, He is the source of all creation.  Our English translations don’t do us any favors here in understanding the meaning of the original author.  It sounds as if Jesus said God was created. 

 

However, in the language of NT, it is clear.  He is saying that He was before God began creating.  John’s gospel affirms such as well.

 

John 1:1, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

Again, Jesus’ description of Himself is to remind the Laodicean pastor and church members that He has the authority and right to say what is about to be said.

 

 

  1. The Laodicean Church was offensive in her operation, Revelation 3:15-16.

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

 

Jesus had been watching them.  He knew their works or how they operated.  They were neither hot or cold. 

 

Upon first reading, the normal reader might assume that hot deeds were good as in on fire for Christ.  They might also assume that cold deeds were bad as in against the ways of Christ. 

 

However, that is not true here.  Laodicea was almost exactly centered between Hierapolis to the north and Colossae to the south.

 

Hierapolis was known for her hot mineral springs.  Colossae was known for her cold mountain streams that were refreshing to the taste.  In this case, both hot and cold were good.  They were positive. 

 

Unfortunately, Laodicea was known for not having either.  They had to have their water piped in because the Laodicean water was full of mineral deposits.

 

Lukewarm here means unusable, and that was the water found naturally in Laodicea.  It was neither the hot water from Hierapolis required for medicines, and it was not the cold water from Colossae that was refreshing.  It was lukewarm and unusable. 

 

Jesus said because your deeds or operations are lukewarm or unusable, I am going to spit vomit you or spit you out of my mouth.  I have heard pastors say that God would either have you completely for Him, meaning hot for God, or completely against Him, meaning cold for God, instead of having you lukewarm and in the middle. 

 

That makes no sense.  God would not rather you be completely against Him.  That is foolish, but you may have heard a preacher say such.  Therefore, it is never good to be cold for God.

 

Furthermore, this verse certainly warns against complacency.  The Laodicean Church had become complacent or stagnant and unusable to God. 

 

Please understand Jesus’ complaint.  It wasn’t that they were doing bad stuff per say.  However, they weren’t really doing any good stuff either. 

 

In their minds, they had become self-sufficient.  They had moved Jesus completely out of the picture.

 

 

  1. The Laodicean Church was oblivious to her situation, Revelation 3:17.

17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

 

Remember that Laodicea was known for money, material, and medicine.  They thought they were rich, that is financially rich.  They thought they were right where they need to be, and had no needs whatsoever. 

 

However, in reality, from Jesus’ perspective, in spiritual matters, they were wretched and miserable and poor.  They may have been financially rich, but they spiritually poor.  They were oblivious to their situation. 

 

As for their material, they loved to wear their black wool garments that were the talk of the town, but in reality, they were naked. 

 

They believed that they were dressed as fine as they could be dressed, but they weren’t wearing anything.  In the eyes of Christ, they were naked, wearing nothing.  They were oblivious to their situation. 

 

They were known for their eye medicines that could help all kinds of illnesses and conditions, but in reality, they couldn’t even see their own spiritual state.  They were blind.  They were oblivious to their situation. 

 

The Laodicean Christians had a very high and lofty view of themselves.  They were self-sufficient, but in the eyes of Christ, they were oblivious to the reality of their situation and condition.

 

 

  1. The Laodicean Church was offered an invitation, Revelation 3:18-21.

18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

Even though Jesus didn’t offer any compliments to this local body of believers, He did offer some counsel.  He invited them to repent. 

 

Because they were spiritually poor, He invited them to buy gold from Him.  Because they were naked and miserable and wretched, He invited them to buy white garments from Him as opposed to their black garments that would represent holiness and purity and not sin.  Because they couldn’t see and were blind, He invited them to buy eye salve from Him to see the things of God. 

 

He offered them this invitation to repent, to turn from their self-sufficiency to dependence on Him because He loved them.  He loved them because they were His children, and He had to discipline them for their wayward living.  

 

By the way, what would Jesus and God be saying to you and me if He didn’t discipline us?  With His lack of action, He would be saying, “Go to hell.”

 

In verse twenty, He invited them to receive Him again.  Here is a picture of Jesus standing at the door of the church wanting to come in. 

 

This church had gotten to the point where they could do everything they were doing but without Jesus.  They were self-sufficient. 

 

Jesus was outside the church and wanted to come in so He was knocking and wanting to come back and have intimate fellowship again as pictured in eating a meal together. 

 

The last invitation is in verse twenty one, and it is an invitation to be revived.  To the one who overcomes and goes to heaven, Jesus invites you to sit down with Him on His throne after your mission on this earth is done.

 

Because of their self-sufficiency, the Laodicean Church was offensive in their operation, oblivious to their situation, but offered an invitation.  They had everything you could ever possible need to do the most effective ministry ever. 

 

However, they had put Jesus out of their church.  They thought they didn’t need Him anymore.

 

 

Illustration

It sounds a lot like Israel.  They were God’s chosen people.  He had made promises to them and covenants with them to prosper them and succeed them like no other nation on the planet. 

 

However, because of their self-sufficiency, they felt like they didn’t need God. See Isaiah 5:1-2, 4 and 48:17-19.

 

1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill.  2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine.  He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.

 

4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it?  Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?

 

17 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go.  18 Oh, that you had heeded My commandments!  Then your peace would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.  19 Your descendants also would have been like the sand, And the offspring of your body like the grains of sand; His name would not have been cut off Nor destroyed from before Me.”

 

 

Conclusion

Are we at EBC guilty of also thinking we are self-sufficient?  We’re Emory Baptist Church.  We’re the downtown church.  We’ve got plenty of possessions.  We’ve got some of the finest facilities.  We own the block.  We have no debt.

 

And we’ve got the people.  We’ve got young and old and families and singles and blue collars and white collars. 

 

And we’ve got pride.  We’ve got pride in what we have and what we’ve done through the years. 

 

But what about Jesus?  Have we become so self-sufficient that we’ve put Jesus on the outside and He’s desperately trying to get back in? 

 

God doesn’t care a lick about our buildings and our budgets if we’ve decided we don’t need Jesus! 

 

EBC when will we get desperate for Jesus again?  Today, Jesus is offering us an invitation to repent.  Will you cry out for Jesus this morning? 

Keep On Keeping On!

Keep On Keeping On!

November 15, 2020

Let me invite you to take your Bibles and turn to Revelation 3:7-13.  This morning, we investigate the message to the Persevering Church, the church at Philadelphia.

 

In the recent weeks, we have seen the Church at Ephesus as the Waning Church.  We have seen the Church at Smyrna as the Suffering Church.  We have seen the Church at Pergamos as the Worldly Church.  We have seen the Church at Thyatira as the Tolerant Church, and we have seen the Church at Sardis as the Dead Church. 

 

In all seven messages to these first-century churches of modern-day Western Turkey, Jesus normally offered a commendation and a condemnation.  However, here as we saw with the Smyrna Church, He only offers commendation or compliments or praise without any complaints.

 

When thinking about Philadelphia, of course, we know this name means brotherly love.  In fact, it was named because of the love between two biological brothers, Eumenes and Attlatus. 

The city of Philadelphia was known for its earthquakes and its agriculture.  When the earthquake of AD 17 destroyed the city, many of its residents moved to the rural areas around the city and began thriving as an agricultural center fertile for grape vines and subsequently wine. 

 

In today’s text, I want to show you Jesus’ complimented their perseverance, He counseled them to persevere, and He committed because of their perseverance.

 

Notice that I said this was Jesus’ message to them.  Notice verse 7.   

 

As normal, the message was originally given to the pastor of the church.  However, Jesus described Himself differently than He did with the other churches.  With the other churches, we have been able to go back to chapter 1 and see how He described Himself to John in his vision.  However, that is not true here.

 

In verse 7, we see Jesus as a figure of authority.  Notice that His authority was based on His deity.  He is holy.  This was Jesus claiming to be God as God is the only One who is truly holy of His own accord.

 

Second, His authority was based on morality.  He is true.  Everything He does and says is right and not fake or deceptive. 

 

Third, His authority was based on prophecy.  Jesus having the key of David is a fulfillment of prophecy. 

 

This original prophecy was recorded in Isaiah 22:22 as Eliakim possessed the access and authority to King Hezekiah’s throne.  Jesus now is the later fulfillment of this prophecy as He holds the key of David, the key to the New Jerusalem which is heaven. 

 

In other words, Jesus is the only one who opens the door of heaven and the only one who can shut it.  Consequently, no one else can open the door of heaven, and no else can shut it.

 

What does that mean?  Receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior is the only way to forgiveness of sin, eternal life in heaven, and peace with God.  Morality won’t do it.  Ingenuity won’t do it.  Generosity won’t do it.  Charity won’t do it. Biology won’t do it.  See John 14:6 and Acts 4:12.

 

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

 

12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

 

 

  1. Jesus complimented their perseverance, Revelation 3:8-10.

8 “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

 

The message of Christ begins in verse eight with Jesus recognizing their works. He knew what they had done. 

 

He then said He had put before them an open door which no one can shut.  Remember, this spoke to His authority, but what was it?

 

Some have suggested this was the Philadelphia Church’s opportunity for evangelistic expansion or missionary work.  It is true that throughout the NT, door has been used to illustrate ministry opportunities, but that was primarily Paul using that language. 

 

Look at Revelation 4:1.

 

1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

 

Here, John referred to heaven or salvation as a door, and let me also direct you to verse 9.  As it was in Smyrna, first-century Jews were harassing the first-century believers in Philadelphia.  They had perhaps even kicked out or shut the door of the synagogue on the Jewish Converts.

 

I believe Jesus was saying to the believers in the Philadelphia Church that even though they had shut them out of the synagogue, He would not shut them out of heaven.  He would give them an open door to heaven because of their perseverance. 

 

Back to verse 8.  Saying their strength was little was not a criticism.  Jesus was acknowledging their small size in numbers. 

 

This was not a big church, but they had kept His word or obeyed, and they had not denied His name.  In other words, they had persevered. 

 

They had even persevered in the face of first-century Jews.  Jesus called their place of worship a synagogue of Satan and called them liars.  What was happening?

 

Jesus was clarifying Jewry.  What makes one a Jew?  Is it ethnicity?  No, for Jesus, Jewry must have meant something other than ethnicity. 

 

Consider Paul in Romans 2:28-29.

 

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

 

Jewry is not ethnicity but spirituality and the condition of one’s heart.  Here is what was happening.  Jewish converts were kicked out of the synagogue and then persecuted for going to the Christian Church at Philadelphia, and their persecutors were ethnic pagan Jews.

 

Jesus said that one day, these Jews would worship, but it would be by coercion and not confession.  Do you understand what I mean?

 

Everyone will worship Jesus at some point.  Those who have received Him as Lord and Savior will worship Him because of their confession.  Those who have rejected Him will worship Him because of coercion.  They will be forced.  See Philippians 2:10-11.  Worship Him sooner or later.

 

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

In verse ten, we again see Jesus complimenting the Philadelphia Church’s perseverance, and we also see what I believe is a reference to a major end times event.  I believe this is the rapture of the global church and the seven-year tribulation. 

 

Even though, there are other possibilities, I believe Jesus promised to the Philadelphia Church and the global church to rapture them to heaven before this hour of trial begins. 

 

Notice some other aspects of this tribulation. It is for a specific period. 

 

It is a future event.  It will happen. 

 

It is for a specific place.  It will happen on earth. 

 

It is for a specific people.  This is unique wording used to designate lost people on the earth during the time of the tribulation. 

 

Therefore, I believe the rapture of the Philadelphia Church and the global church will happen before the tribulation.  After that, the Lord is coming quickly at the beginning of verse 11.

 

 

  1. Jesus counseled their perseverance, Revelation 3:11.

11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

 

In verse 11, Jesus told the Philadelphia Church to keep on persevering so that no one would take their crown.  That’s an interesting statement. 

 

This is the stephanos crown or the victor’s crown, but can it be taken away?  It cannot for those who are truly saved. 

 

How do we know if someone is truly saved?  They persevere through the end.  See Matthew 24:13.

 

13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

 

 

  • Jesus committed to their perseverance, Revelation 3:12-13.

12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.  13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

 

This message to the Philadelphia Church ends as do the others speaking to those that overcome the evil one and are truly saved.  In eternity, the true believer will be part of the temple of God, have the name of God, in the city of God, as a part of the heaven of God. 

 

Being a pillar reminds us of our security in Christ and provided a vivid encouragement to this church who knew of their city’s devastating earthquakes.

 

We’re not sure of what this new name is.  However, it is most likely the same name as mentioned in 2:17 to the Pergamos Church.  It may be the name saint as opposed to sinner.

 

God has committed in the eternal heavens for every individual who has ever been born-again and overcome the evil one and perseveres to the end.  This is a message to the Persevering Church of Philadelphia and the Emory Baptist Church.

 

 

Conclusion

The invitation this morning is simple.  If you’ve never received Christ as Lord and Savior, I invite you to do so today.

 

If you have, persevere even when trials come your way.

To the Dead Church

To the Dead Church

November 8, 2020

If you have your Bibles this morning, I invite you to take them and turn to Revelation 3:1.  I want to share a message with you this morning entitled, “To the Sleeping Church.”

 

So far in our study of Revelation, we have seen some real, first-century churches located in what is modern-day Turkey.  The Ephesus Church has been called the Waning Church.  The Smyrna Church has been called the Suffering Church.  The Pergamos Church has been called the Worldly Church.  The Thyatira Church has been called the Tolerant Church.  This morning, we turn our attention to the Sardis Church, which has been called the Dead or Sleeping Church.

 

When talking about first-century Sardis, I want to remind you of two observations.  First, Sardis was known for its wealth because it was a trading center for dyes, jewelry, and textiles.  Second, it was known to be impregnable.  That is another way to say unconquerable because of its geography and its military citadel. Ironically, it was captured twice before the writing of this letter first by Cyrus and second by Antiochus. 

 

Now, let’s consider the Sardis Church.  In verse one, you will see that this letter or message, as they all are, was given to the pastor of the church at Sardis and is noted as the angel or messenger. 

 

It was from and written by He who had the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.  Looking back at Revelation 1:4, 1:16, and 1:20, we know this was the Lord Jesus.

 

He has the Holy Spirit with Him. To say the seven spirits is to say the complete or fullest or perfect or may have been a reference to Isaiah 11:2 and His seven-fold ministry.

 

2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

 

The seven stars were the pastors of these churches.  Therefore, Jesus knew and could see all from a spiritual perspective and an earthly perspective. 

 

Verse 1 even says, “I know your works.”  He knew all about them. 

 

As we move on in the text, join me in seeing 5 observations of the Dead or Sleeping Church.

 

 

  1. The Reputation of Life, Revelation 3:1c

1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

 

Jesus began this message differently than the previous four.  While the others began with a compliment, this one begins with an admonition or a rebuke and sets the tone for the entire message.

 

By the way, Jesus had no praise for the Sardis Church.  While this message is full of admonition, it is absent of appreciation.  Therefore, if my sermon this morning is going to follow the lead of the text, there won’t be praise for our church in today’s message.

 

The Sardis Church had a name or a reputation for being alive.  What does that mean?  It means they had a good reputation for being the going church in the area.  Maybe they were known for being the first church or the biggest church or the contemporary church or the young church or the community-minded church.  Regardless, they had a positive reputation in the area for being a good, solid, ministering church.  But…

 

Does EBC have a good or positive reputation?  Are we known as big church or the down-town church or community-minded church? 

 

 

  1. The Reality of Death, Revelation 3:1d.

1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

 

However, don’t miss this.  “But you are dead!”

 

It was a mirage.  It was a myth.  It was a show.  The Sardis Church was a legend in her own mind.  She was dead. 

 

What does that mean?  It may very well have meant that the overwhelming majority of the church was unsaved church members. 

 

They had spiritual religion, but they didn’t have a saving relationship.  They had been baptized, but they weren’t born-again.  They had walked an aisle, but they weren’t walking with Jesus.  See Matthew 23:27-28.

 

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

 

And what about EBC?  I am one hundred percent confident that we have church members today who if their heart stopped beating and they physically died, they would also die spiritually and spend an eternity separated from Christ.  Is that you?

 

Let’s do a little spiritual check-up.  Do you remember a specific time and place when you were born-again?  Do you remember when you surrendered your life to Jesus as Lord and Savior?  Can you point to a specific time when you stepped off the thrown of your heart and Jesus took over your life? 

 

If you can’t, look at your life. 

  1. Do you love God?
  2. Do you hate sin?
  • Do you desire to live a life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
  1. Do you pray?
  2. Do you read your Bible?
  3. Do you attend church?
  • Do you want to see lost people saved?
  • Are you growing spiritually?
  1. Are you living obediently?
  2. Do you give sacrificially?

 

Now, if you’re trying to convince yourself that you’re saved, I would say there is a good chance you’re not.  Would you call on the name of the Lord to save you this morning?

 

 

  1. The Remnant of Believers, Revelation 3:4.

4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

 

However, the Sardis Church was not completely dead as it included a remnant or a small number of born-again members as indicated in verse four.  Defiled their garments was Jesus’ way of saying they were not stained with sin. 

 

They had been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and in heaven, they would walk with Jesus dressed in white symbolic of holiness and purity.

 

Certainly, EBC has the same.  Even though we have plenty of unconverted church members, we also have a remnant of believers who called on the name of the Lord and have been saved!  One day, you will walk with Jesus in heaven wearing white. 

 

 

  1. The Requirements of Jesus, Revelation 3:2-3.

2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

 

What did Jesus require or request for the Sardis Church to turn things around?  If you’re dead or sleeping, be watchful or wake up or be constantly alert or recognize there is a problem.  Be honest and address the situation. 

 

Second, strengthen or reinforce what remains, what is close to dying.  You’re not fulfilling God’s calling on your life.  The lost in the church needed to get saved. 

 

I would say that as well this morning.  Swallow your pride and quit being concerned about what others might think or say.  If you’re playing the church game and even if you’ve fooled everybody else, you haven’t fooled Jesus.  You may have been a member of EBC for forty plus years, but you’re not a member of heaven.  Wake up this morning and be saved.

 

Third, remember.  Remember what you have heard from God’s word, and obey it.  Obey the Lord in your personal life and in your marriage and with your children and with your money and with your business and with your health.  Remember what you’ve been taught and obey it.

 

Fourth, hold fast or resolve.  Persevere through the end.  If you don’t you’ve never been saved from the beginning. 

 

Finally, repent.  Repent of your lostness and belief.  Make the change in your head and then in your heart.  Those are the Requirements of Jesus.

 

If the lost members of the Saris Church didn’t wake up, they would experience the judgment of Christ.  He would come like a thief, unexpected and uninvited. 

 

Certainly, this is in line with the reputation of Sardis.  They thought they were unconquerable, and yet, on more than one occasion, they were captured. 

 

 

  1. The Rewards of Heaven, Revelation 3:5-6.

5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.  6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

 

Our final observation this morning is regarding those that are saved and for those who get saved.  In heaven, the overcomers will wear garments of white symbolic of their purity and holiness because they take on the sinlessness of Christ, and their eternity is secure. 

 

In John’s day, rulers kept actual records of the city’s citizens on a membership list.  If a person died, their name was removed from the list. 

 

That will never happen to the follower of Christ.  There is no chance that their name will ever be erased from the book of life.  You see the second half of verse five is a promise not a threat. 

 

Finally, the very last part of verse five says that Jesus will confess your name before His Father and His angels.  Keep in mind that this will not happen if you don’t confess Him here on earth.  See Matthew 10:32-33. 

 

32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

 

 

 

Conclusion

I want to close this morning with this.  It doesn’t matter a hill of beans what our reputation is.  What matters is reality.  We might have a reputation for being dignified, but are we really dead?  We might have a reputation for being spiritual, but are we really stagnant?  We might have a reputation for being large, but are we really lifeless?

 

Here is the bottom line.  To the Dead Church made up of dead church members, wake up!

 

How Can I Please God on Wednesday…After Election Tuesday?

How Can I Please God on Wednesday…After Election Tuesday?

November 1, 2020

Thank you for being so kind and understanding during my family’s quarantine and also so kind and gracious in my decision to delay our return to Revelation 3 next week instead of today.

 

Today is the Sunday before Election Tuesday.  Pastors all over the country will be addressing the same issue as I am addressing today.  Others already have.  Others won’t, and that is fine.

 

Tuesday is Election Day.  I commend all of you who have already voted.  For those of you who haven’t, I implore you to make it your second priority of Tuesday after reading your bible and praying.  For those who have decided not to vote, please change your mind.  By the way, if I owned my own my home in Rains County, I would be voting to increase teacher pay for Rains ISD. 

 

How can you and I please God on Wednesday and going forward regardless of who is elected POTUS?  Regardless of who wins, my eschatology tells me that the sun will still come up on Wednesday morning, and unless you and I are with the Lord, we will be here to live in the aftermath, but what would please God?

 

If you have your Bibles, please find 1 Timothy 2.  Paul wrote a letter to Timothy as he pastored the Church in Ephesus.  Timothy probably pastored this church before John and before Polycarp as we saw in Revelation 2.

 

The occasion for 1 Timothy 2 is found in 1 Timothy 1.  There were some false teachers that were causing trouble in Ephesus and in the church, and Timothy needed counsel on how to deal with them. 

 

Verse 3-11 of chapter 1 details their actions, and in verses 19-20, Paul even named a two Fake Believers by name who had abandoned the faith.

 

19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

 

Consequently, Paul told Timothy in 2:1-6 how to please God in light of these false teachers and opposition.  Pray personally.  Live peacefully.  Evangelize passionately. 

 

I want to make sure you understand the context of today’s verses because I believe what Paul told Timothy to do and instruct the church to do has application for us this morning. 

 

Regardless of who votes for President Trump and regardless of who votes for Vice-President Biden and regardless of who wins on Tuesday, if you want to please God on Wednesday and moving forward, pray personally, live peacefully, and evangelize passionately. 

 

 

  1. I can please God after Election Tuesday by praying personally, 2:1-2a.

1 Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority,

 

I have already addressed the context and the reason for therefore.  Paul said praying is the most important act for us to do.  It’s more important than anything else.  It’s first of all.

 

Paul then used at least three, if not four, words for praying.  Essentially, there is not much difference in the three: supplications, prayers, and intercessions. 

 

I believe he is emphasizing the priority.  It would be like me saying, “I ask you, I beg you, I’m pleading with you to vote on Tuesday.”  Asking, begging, pleading have subtle differences, but the bottom line is that I am requesting of you.

 

We must pray.  It can’t be our last option or even our second option.  It, according to God, should be option number one.

 

We are to pray personally.  That means for all men…regardless if they voted like we did.  Especially, we are to pray for those in authority, and that includes our commander in chief. 

 

Don’t forget thanksgiving as you pray.  You can be thankful that you live in the greatest nation in world, and you can be thankful that you living in a country where we can vote and have more than one option. 

 

By the way, it is my opinion, that not voting is wrong and not voting for one of the two main candidates is wasteful, not sinful, but wasteful.  I know some of you will have a problem voting for Trump or Biden, but you can vote for policy and or platform.  You can find each party’s platform and read it and then read your Bible and try to understand which platform lines up most with your biblical convictions. 

 

Now allow me to be very candid.  If who wins on Tuesday will be the determining factor as to whether or not you’re going to pray, you’ve got a major problem, and it’s with God.

 

Just to remind you, when Paul wrote this letter, the Roman Emperor was Nero.  Paul probably had just gotten out of jail.  Do you know who put him there?  Nero.  Do you know who took his life?  Nero.  Do you know who took Peter’s life? Nero.  Do you know who bound Christians and sewed them up in animal skins and threw them to the lions?  Nero. Do you know who tied Christians to what we think of as wooden utility poles and set them on fire to light the night?  Nero.  So please don’t lecture me on how awful these our two options are today.

 

Yes, I can’t stand many things President Trump says and has done before he was president, and yes, I can’t stand what VP Biden said recently about transgender children and his position on same-sex marriage and abortion, but regardless of who my President is, I will pray for him as Paul prayed for Nero.

 

What will I pray?  For of all, our context is and our application is praying for our president’s salvation.  Brother Richard, you don’t think President Trump is saved?  No, and let me be clear.

 

Republican does not mean saved.  Conservative does not mean saved.  Patriotism doesn’t mean saved.  Pro-life doesn’t mean saved.  Capitalism doesn’t mean saved.  Person of faith doesn’t mean saved.  Spiritual background doesn’t mean saved.  And neither does any description that you can think of that is opposite of everything I said. 

 

Has POTUS made some decisions that a saved person would make?  Yes, but I want to hear from his mouth and Joe Biden and your mouth, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and the only way for anyone to have forgiveness of sin, heaven, and eternal life.” 

 

I will pray for his salvation.  I will pray for him to have wisdom and to be surrounded by godly wisdom, and I will pray for his protection and the protection of his family. 

 

If you want to please God on Wednesday, we must pray first.  We pray for whoever POTUS is.  We must pray personally.

 

 

  1. I can please God after election Tuesday by living peacefully, 2:2b-3.

that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.

 

I am speaking to preacher in the mirror more than anyone else.  Regardless of who wins, the body of Christ needs to be seen more and heard less. 

 

Notice what Paul said…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable and godly and reverent life. 

 

Please don’t get me wrong.  We can’t be quiet about Jesus, but we can be quiet about our opinions and preferences. 

 

To my Red brothers and sisters, what if you were excited and enthusiastic about Jesus as you President Trump and MAGA?  What is you hated the devil as much as you hate those Democrats?  You will answer to God.

 

To my Blue brothers and sisters, what if you hated abortion and same-sex marriage and the assault on religious freedom as much as you hate President Trump?  What if you hated the devil as much as you hate the Republican Party?  You will answer to God.

 

For many of us, you need to get off of social media, and just to be clear, I had to answer to some church members for some of my social media posts, and rightfully so.

 

Notice verse 3.  Praying personally and living peacefully is pleasing to the only true and living God.  However, my sermon has one more point, and it is implicit from verses 4-6 rather than explicit like the first two.

 

 

  1. I can please God after election Tuesday by evangelizing passionately, 2:4-6.

4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

 

Verse 4 says it is God’s desire for all to be saved.  There are no exceptions to all.

 

Furthermore, there is only one way to be saved, and it is through Jesus Christ.  He is the only mediator or negotiator or bridge or substitute or sacrifice.  Only He has paid the ransom for your soul through His death on the cross.

 

The time is now.  If you’re not saved, I invite you to be saved.

 

If you saved and you want to please God after Tuesday, evangelize passionately anyone who will listen that Jesus loves them and died on the cross so that if they will believe, they can have forgiveness of sins, heaven, and eternal life.

 

 

Conclusion

  1. I will pray for him sincerely. 1 Timothy 2:1
  2. On every occasion when I can, I will praise good things he does. Ephesians 4:29
  3. I will look for the opportunity to pass over criticism of bad things he does. Philippians 2:14-15
  4. Where I must criticize, I will do so with civility. James 5:9
  5. I will not tell jokes that are demeaning of him, nor will I encourage others in sharing such jokes with me.
  6. I will not slander him by listening to, sharing, tweeting, or posting conspiracy theories about him. Titus 3:1-2
  7. Whenever I can do so without disobeying God, I will obey him. Romans 13:1-2

 

 

Ephesians 4:29

New Kings James Version

29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

 

Philippians 2:14-15

New King James Version

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

 

James 5:9

New King James Version

9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!

 

Titus 3:1-2

New King James Version

Graces of the Heirs of Grace

3 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

 

Romans 13:1-2

New King James Version

13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

 

Hold What You Got!
Rip Off the Roof!
In the World but Not of the World

In the World but Not of the World

October 11, 2020

Worldliness can be defined as “relating to this world as contrasted with heaven or spiritual life.”  God’s word has a few things to say about worldliness or affection for the world.

 

John 15:19

“…you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world.”

 

Romans 12:2

“2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

 

James 1:27

“27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

 

1 John 2:15-17

“15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

 

This morning, we our study in Revelation takes us what has been called the Worldly Church.  I’m speaking of the church at Pergamos in Revelation 2:12-17.

 

We have seen the Ephesian Church who left their first love.  We have seen the Smyrna Church who was persecuted for their faith in Christ.  Today, we turn to the Pergamos Church who was in the world and seems to have become of the world.

 

Pergamos was built on a large hill raising some one thousand feet above the plain, and was famous for at least four major structures.  These structures will go a long way in helping us understand some of what Jesus said to this church. 

 

First, Pergamos was known for its pagan worship.  It was home to highly decorated alter of Zeus, the Greek God.  This was at the top of the city. 

 

Second, Pergamos was known for its emperor worship.  The city was also home to the temple built in honor of Emperor Augustus, which was the first one built in honor of a Roman emperor in Asia. 

 

Third, in a lower level of the city, you had the famous Asclepion.  This was a complex of several buildings serving as a combination hospital/temple. Patients came from all over the world to be healed by the god Asclepius.

 

You probably have seen Asclepius’ rod, even though you didn’t know it by that name.  Here is the symbol of Asclepius. 

 

Finally, you had Pergamos’ famous public library that boasted over 200,000 handwritten volumes.  This collection of works was second in size only to Alexandria, and parchments made of animal skins originated in Pergamos in order to move it ahead of Alexandria. 

 

As I told you two weeks ago, Jesus’ normal letter writing structure included a praise, a rebuke, and instruction.  That is true for this letter to the Pergamos Church, and let us as the Emory Church listen closely. 

As usual, you find in verse twelve that this message was directed to the pastor of the church in Pergamos.  Then notice who it is from.  It is from the One who has the sharp two-edged sword.  When we look back at Revelation 1:16, we know that this message is from the resurrected Christ.

 

Revelation 1:16

16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

 

Did Jesus really have a two-edged sword coming from His mouth?  No, His word came from His mouth, and His word is an instrument of judgment.  See Hebrews 4:12.

 

Hebrews 4:12

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

 

 

  1. Jesus praised the perseverance of the Pergamos Church, Revelation 2:13.

13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

 

As Jesus knew the good of the Ephesian Church and the Smyrna Church, He knew the good of the Pergamos Church.  Their good was that they persevered in the face of persecution. 

 

They held fast to His name and didn’t deny the faith.  Even in the face of death, they persevered and in a hostile environment. 

 

Jesus called this hostile environment of Pergamos a place where the throne of Satan was.  He could have been referencing the alter to Zeus or the temple built in honor of Emperor Augustus or the Asclepion.  Regardless, the city of Pergamos was a difficult place for Christians to live because of its opposition to Christ.

 

Also in verse 13, we are introduced to Antipas.  We know absolutely nothing more about this person.  He was probably a leader in this church but was martyred for his faith in Christ. 

 

However, again, that did not deter the Pergamos Christians.  They persevered, and Jesus praised them for it.   

 

And brothers and sisters, make no mistake, the Bible is clear.  Sooner or later, those who name the name of Christ and live accordingly will be persecuted in some form or fashion.

 

2 Timothy 3:12

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

 

 

  1. Jesus complained about the compromise of the Pergamos Church, Revelation 2:14-15.

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

 

In verse 14, Jesus complained or said He had a few things against the Pergamos Church.  His complaint can be summed up in one word, “compromise.”  While their belief remained solid in the midst of persecution, their behavior was compromised in the face of temptation with idolatry and immorality.     

 

Some in this church were holding to the teaching of Balaam.  Jesus clarified what He meant by saying that Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before Israel in the form of eating things sacrificed to idols and committing sexual immorality. 

 

In short, Balaam was a prophet for hire.  Balak was pagan king trying to destroy Israel.  Ultimately, what Balaam suggested to Balak came to pass. 

 

Numbers 25:1-3

1 Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. 2 They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel.

This idolatry and immorality was not only true of the doctrine or teaching of Balaam in the OT, but it was also true of the doctrine or teaching of the Nicolaitans in the NT. 

 

Notice the words in verse 15 “Thus you also.”  Those words equate Balaam and Nicolas. 

 

The Pergamos Church had allowed these individuals and these two groups to influence them to go the way of the world, to do that which God had forbade.  They allowed it, and they tolerated it. 

 

They didn’t do anything about it.  They didn’t hold them accountable or initiate church discipline.  They compromised with idolatry and immorality. 

 

The Corinthian Church was guilty of the same.  See 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6.

 

1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you…6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

 

 

  • Jesus requested repentance of the Pergamum Church, Revelation 2:17.

16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth

 

Jesus had one word for His instruction or need of the Pergamum Church.  In verse 16, it was repent.  To repent is to change your mind in such a way that changes your action.  The Pergamos Church needed to change their minds to recognize that idolatry and immorality was wrong and couldn’t be tolerated.  Then, they needed to change their action from tolerating these individuals to correcting these individuals.    

 

Otherwise, Jesus gave them a warning.  He would come to them and render judgement with His double-edged sword. 

 

It is interesting to note the change in pronouns in verse 16.  It wasn’t just the false teachers who were at fault.  The entire church was at fault for tolerating them.  Note the change from plural you to plural them.  If they didn’t repent, Jesus would come to the Pergamos Church as a whole and fight against them who held to these compromised behaviors.

 

 

Revelation 2:17

17 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’ 

 

The Pergamos Letter ends with a promise like to the other churches.  However, it isn’t as clear to understand as the others. 

 

To the overcomers or sincere Christians in Pergamos, Jesus promised hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name.

 

When it comes to identifying these three items, the options are as numerous as the opinions.  Here is what I think. 

 

I believe the hidden manna to be Jesus Christ as the Bread of life from heaven.  For the Pergamos Christian, He may not have been seen at the time, but Jesus was their complete satisfaction and motivation for persevering and repenting. 

 

As for the white stone, first century judges would sometimes render their difficult verdicts by placing a white stone and a black stone in an urn.  When shaken, if the black stone emerged, the verdict was guilty.  If the white stone, innocent. 

 

If you put your faith and trust in Christ, you are declared innocent.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. 

 

Finally, the new name, although a mystery, is only for God’s chosen people.  It might be something like the change from sinner to saint.

 

 

Conclusion

Brothers and sisters, do you need to leave your worldliness of idolatry and immorality behind?  If you’re guilty, yes, you do.

Is anyone or anything sitting on the throne of your heart other than Jesus?  You can know by looking at what takes up your time and energy and finances.  Repent of your idolatry.

 

Are you guilty of immorality in your thoughts and or actions?  Immorality is any physical intimacy outside of the parameters of marriage.  God’s plan is one man in a one flesh relationship with one woman.  Anything else is immorality. 

 

Finally, if you’ve never called on the Lord to save you, you won’t get a white stone when you die.  You’ll get a black stone, and your name will remain sinner instead of saint.  Will call on Jesus today to save you?

 

Is Jesus Better Than Life?

Is Jesus Better Than Life?

October 4, 2020

If you were to look at a modern-day map of Turkey and find her western-most largest city of more than 200,000 people, you would find the seaport city of Izmir on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  However, 2,000 years ago, that city was called Smyrna, and just as the Lord Jesus had a message for the Ephesian Church last Sunday, today, He has a message for the Smyrna Church and the Emory Church.

 

This morning, we are continuing in our verse-by-verse study of John’s Revelation.  Last week, we began looking at Jesus’ messages to the seven churches of Asia Minor that were named specifically in Revelation 1:11.  The first was the Church at Ephesus.  The second is the Church at Smyrna. 

 

Smyrna means myrrh, which was an ordinary perfume.  The Smyrna Church was known for its suffering.  Perhaps, in that suffering, she was a fragrant aroma to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

My sermon is entitled, “Is Jesus Better Than Life?”  Think about that question.  Is He?  Psalm 63:3 uses some similar language.

 

3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.

 

We’ll come back to the question in just a moment, but keep thinking, “Is Jesus better than life?”

 

In verse 8, we again see that the message was originally given to the angel or messenger or pastor of this church to be read to the entire congregation.  Some commentators have identified Polycarp as the pastor of the Smyrna Church at this time.  Again, we’ll hear more about him later.

 

The message is from Jesus Christ, and He describes Himself in a way that was revealed to John back in chapter one verses 17-18.  He is the first and the last.  He was dead, and has come to life. 

 

To describe yourself as first and last is to clarify your eternality.  Jesus always has been and always will be.  He was before all things and in the end, He will be after all things.

 

However, that should spark a question in your mind.  If Jesus is eternal, how did He die?  See 1 Peter 3:18. 

 

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.

 

The fact that He was dead and has come back to life is very significant for the Smyrna Church because some of these first-century Christians will be persecuted to the point of death.    

 

 

  1. Jesus Saw the Suffering of the Smyrna Church or complimented them, Revelation 2:9.

9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

 

In verse 9, Jesus said He saw or knew their suffering or tribulation or persecution. This was intense tribulation that meant physical harm along with loss of friends and family.

 

However, their suffering not only included physical persecution, but it also included financial poverty.  Verse 9 says that Jesus knew their persecution and their poverty.

 

First century Christians were most definitely in the lowest socio-economic class of their culture.  However, spiritually, they were rich.  See 2 Corinthians 6:10 and James 2:5.

 

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

 

5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

 

The next part of the verse says that Jesus knew of the blasphemy or slander against the Smyrna Church.  Undoubtedly, it was spoken by Unbelieving Gentiles as well as Pagan Jews. 

 

What were they saying?  First century Believers were accused of cannibalism because they talked of eating the body of Christ and drinking His blood.  They were accused of sexual immorality because they held love feasts or fellowship meals in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper. They were accused of incest because they talked about giving a holy kiss to their brothers and sisters.  They were called atheists because they didn’t accept the Greek gods.  They were accused of arson because they spoke of the fire of the Spirit and the fires of divine judgment.  Finally, they accused of being polytheists because they believed in the Trinity. 

 

Again, this slander was spoken by those who said they were Jews but were not.  What was Jesus saying? 

 

Perhaps we can understand this better by looking to Paul in his letter to the Roman Church.  See Romans 2:28-29.

 

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

 

These were ethnic Jews who were blaspheming these Smyrna Christians because in fact they were pagan Jews. 

 

In other words, your actions speak louder than your words.  You can say you are follower of Christ, but what does your life look like?  You can say you’re a Christian but when your FB is littered with profanity and racism, are you?  You can say you’re a part of the Body of Christ, but if you never gather with the Body of Christ, are you?  You can say you believe the Bible, but when you constantly make choices in opposition to it, do you?

 

The last part of verse 9 is the most astonishing to me.  Jesus called their meeting place the synagogue of Satan. 

 

For two thousand years, pagan Jews have been persecuting Christians.  It is still true today, and even though, generally speaking, I want to support the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and because the Bible tells me to do so, as a Believer, I have a greater obligation to support a Palestinian Christian in most endeavors rather than a pagan Jew.

 

I don’t think we have any church members this morning that are suffering like the Smyrna Church, but I know that some of you are in a bad situation that is not of your own doing.  I want you to know that Jesus sees your suffering.  He feels your pain.  You are not alone.

 

 

  1. Jesus Encouraged the Endurance of the Smyrna Church or instructed them, Revelation 2:10.

10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

 

Unfortunately, Jesus knew their tribulation and intense suffering was not over.  However, He encouraged them to endure because it wouldn’t last long.

 

In verse 10, Jesus told them to be fearless.  Again, He was speaking about suffering to come.  Specifically, the devil was about to put them in jail. 

 

However, why would Lord allow Christians to suffer?  First, notice that this suffering is for our testing.  I hate that, and I know that you do too, but in the providence of God, He allows the devil to test us to make us more like Jesus.  He did it with Job. He did it with Peter, and He is doing it again her in the Smyrna Church.

 

Second, we might experience suffering as punishment.  1 Corinthians 11:30-32.

 

30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

 

Third, we might experience suffering to teach us.  See 2 Corinthians 12:7.

 

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

 

Finally, we might experience suffering to further our witness for Christ.  See Acts 9:16.

 

16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

 

Regardless, this suffering would not last long.  It won’t be years or months or even weeks.  It will be ten days. 

 

Is there something more here?  It is possible, but I don’t have any reason to believe ten days means anything other than ten days.  Jesus knew the exact time, and that their suffering would be limited, and He told their pastor to encourage them. 

 

Not only did Jesus encourage their endurance by telling them to fearless, He also exhorted them to be faithful until death.  Endure through the end.  It is significant to note that Jesus didn’t promise their earthly deliverance but their spiritual deliverance. 

 

Jesus encouraged their endurance. 

 

 

  • Jesus Promised the Payment to the Smyrna Church or reminded them, Revelation 2:10c-11.

and I will give you the crown of life.  11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’

 

When I say payment, maybe a better word is reward.  Jesus reminded them of two promised rewards: the crown of life and eternal life. 

As they walk into eternity and heaven, they will receive the victor’s crown.  This is the crown for winning.  James also spoke of it in James 1:12. 

 

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

 

The end of this message is similar to that for the Ephesian Church.  Jesus promised that those who overcome will not be hurt by the second death. 

 

As for the second death, every human has been born once and will die at least once.  Unfortunately, most will be born once and die twice.  The first death is physical.  The second death is spiritual.

 

Jesus promised the payment for the Smyrna Church and reminded them of it.

 

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, first, some will be born twice, but only die once.  That is the individual who puts his or her faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.  See John 11:25-26.

 

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

 

Second, notice that there was no rebuke in this letter.  Could that be because the persecuted church is an obedient church?  The persecuted church has often been purged of all the hypocrites.

 

My last thought is back to where we began this morning, and it is for the Christians in the room.  Is Jesus better than life?  Polycarp said yes.

 

“Polycarp, who was a student of the Apostle John and the overseer of the church in Smyrna, heard that soldiers were looking for him and tried to escape but was discovered by a child.

 

After feeding the guards who captured him, he asked for an hour in prayer, which they gave him.  He prayed with such fervency that his guards said they were sorry that they were the ones who captured him.

 

Nevertheless, he was taken before the governor and condemned to be burned in the market place.  After his sentence was given, the governor said to him, ‘Reproach Christ, and I will release you.’

 

Polycarp answered, ‘Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never once wronged me. How then shall I blaspheme my King who has saved me?’

 

In the market place, he was tied to the stake rather than nailed, as was the usual custom, because he assured them he would stand immovable in the flames and not fight them.  As the dry sticks placed around him were lit, the flames rose up and circled his body without touching him. 

 

The executioner was then ordered to pierce him with a sword.  When he did, a great quantity of blood gushed out and put out the fire.  Although his Christian friends asked to be given his body as it was so they could bury him, the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, insisted that it be burned in the fire, which was done.”

 

Is Jesus better than life?  Polycarp said yes.  What about you?

Remember When?

Remember When?

September 27, 2020

This morning, we return to Revelation 2.  Beginning this morning and for the next several Sundays, we will be looking at Jesus’ words or instructions or correspondence with the seven churches of Asia Minor or modern-day Western Turkey that we have already identified.  That is chapters two and three of Revelation.  John was told to write what WAS at that time, and he did.

 

When hearing these instructions, remember that these were actual churches of the first century with real members, and Jesus was speaking to their present condition then.  However, His instructions are still applicable today and will speak to our condition.  Just as we read God’s word through Paul to the churches at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, etc., and apply them to EBC, we will do the same with these.

 

This morning, we consider Jesus’ message to the church at Ephesus.  This church was most likely the mother church of these seven churches and was extremely prominent in the first century.  After all, Luke wrote about her in Acts.  Paul wrote to her in Ephesians, and John recorded a message to her here.  

 

Acts 18-19 tells us that Paul began the church.  The first members of the church most likely included Priscilla and Aquila and Apollos. 

 

We know from 1 and 2 Timothy that Timothy pastored this church, and more than likely, John was her pastor when he was banished to Patmos and at the time of this writing.

 

This church was doing wonderful ministry in reaching Ephesus with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ, and these first seven verses of chapter two are addressed to them.

 

Look at verse 1.  The message was originally given to the pastor of the Ephesian Church.  In this case, it would have been whomever had followed John, and he would read have read it to this congregation.

 

Notice who sent the message.  It is the One who holds (present tense) the seven stars in His right hand, and the One who walks (present tense) among the seven golden lampstands.  This is none other than the Lord Jesus.  We saw this back in 1:12 and 1:16. 

 

Remember also that the seven stars are the pastors of the churches, and the golden lampstands are the churches.  That is spelled out for us in 1:20.

 

As we move to verse two, I want you to see Jesus’ appreciation for the Ephesian Church or His recognition, Jesus’ complication with the Ephesian Church or the His rebuke, and Jesus’ exhortation for the Ephesian Church or His resolution.

 

 

  1. Jesus’ Appreciation for the Ephesian Church, Revelation 2:2-3.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.

 

By the way, generally speaking, this is the way Jesus will address all seven churches.  He will praise them, correct them, and instruct them.

 

In verse 2, He told them of His appreciation for them and specifically for their works or deeds.  First, He says He knows their labor.  He appreciated their diligence.  This was a hard-working and always-working church. 

 

He also recognized their patience.  Ministry is hard and time consuming, but that didn’t stop the Ephesian Church from doing what God called them to do and trusting God for the results. 

 

Third, He appreciated their purity.  They didn’t tolerate the sins of their members. 

 

Also, not only were they pure in not tolerating sin, they also didn’t tolerate heresy.  They tested those who said they were apostles and found them to be liars. 

 

When Paul left Ephesus in Acts 20, he warned them of false teachers who would come after him.  See Acts 20:28-30.

 

28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

 

If you skip down to verse 6, you will find that the Ephesian Church again demonstrated their purity in hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans.  Allow me to make several comments here. 

 

First of all, notice they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans and not the Nicolaitans themselves.  Therefore, it does seem possible to hate the sin without hating the sinner.  I pray EBC would do the same. 

 

Second, it is imperative EBC hate the things that the Lord hates and love the things that the Lord loves.  What the Bible calls sin we must hate.  It matters not what your political affiliation is or what your hobby is or what you like.  If it is called sin by the Bible from the Lord, we must hate it, and we must love what the Lord loves. 

 

Third, we don’t know for sure who the Nicolaitans were.  It is possible that they were followers of Nicolas, one of the first deacons mentioned in Acts 6.  Regardless, we know from Revelation 2:14-15 that they were connected to the church at Pergamos and those that taught the doctrine of Balaam.

 

Finally, in verse 3, Jesus appreciated the Ephesian church’s perseverance.  They had not grown weary.  They never went into retirement mode.  They kept fighting the good fight of faith. 

 

We can transition from one life stage to another and even retire from a place of employment, but we cannot cease to do the Lord’s work.  Jesus appreciated their perseverance. 

 

 

  1. Jesus’ Complication with Ephesian Church, Revelation 2:4.

4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

 

In verse 4, Jesus said He had one thing against the Ephesian church or one rebuke.  They had one problem, one area of concern, one reason they were not excelling. 

 

They had left their first love.

 

Commentators have filled thousands of pages pontificating as to what this first love was.  Had they left their love for one another?  That’s possible. 

 

Had they left their love of ministry?  That is not likely considering what Jesus appreciated about them. 

 

I would contend this morning that the Ephesian church had left their first love of Jesus.  I’m not saying they had abandoned the faith. 

 

I’m saying they were doing the right things with a cold heart.  They were busy, but their motivation was empty.

 

They had left their first love, and that was their love for God and His Son.  Jesus tells us in the Gospels that the greatest commandment of all is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

 

However, our love can wane.  Our love can dwindle.  Our love can grow cold. 

 

We see it in marriages all the time.  Husband and wife are married for twenty and thirty and forty years, but then their love for one another begins to wane, and instead of correcting that problem, they continue out of habit or duty.  Then one day, they finally decide to end the marriage and love relationship with a divorce.

 

Brothers and sisters, have you left your first love, and again, I’m not talking about your spouse, your family, your team, your business or your candidate.  I’m talking about Jesus. 

 

 

  • Jesus’ Exhortation for the Ephesian Church, Revelation 2:5.

5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

 

In verse 5, Jesus exhorted the Ephesians or instructed them or provided them with the resolution to their problem.  He gave to them three steps in rekindling their first love. 

 

First, remember.  Remember how the relationship used to be.  Do you remember when you were first saved?  When I was first saved, I read my Bible every day without fail.  I prayed long and hard every day without fail.  I had a burning desire to witness to every one of my friends in the fourth grade. 

 

We laugh, but we must remember our initial enthusiasm and passion and love for the Lord.  Remember the good ole’ days.    

 

If you’re here this morning and your love for your spouse is waning, your marriage is in trouble.  Remember today why you married your spouse.  Remember when you were dating.  Remember when you were engaged.  Remember when you were romantic and wanted nothing more than to please and impress your partner.  We must remember.

 

Secondly, we must repent.  To repent is to confess and forsake.  Jesus called on the Ephesians to repent.  They needed to confess that they had left their first love. 

 

They needed to see it is as wrong and bad and a mistake and then forsake their cold hearts.  See your waning love as Jesus sees it.  It is a complication.  It is a problem.  It is a barrier in your relationship with the Lord. 

 

Remember.  Repent.

 

Finally, repeat.  Do the deeds you did at first.  Repeat your initial actions.  Repeat your initial enthusiasm.  Repeat your initial passion.  Repeat your initial love for the Lord. 

 

Look at the end of verse five.  If the Ephesian church didn’t repent, the Lord Jesus promised to remove their lampstand.  If they didn’t repent, the Lord was going to take away their witness. 

 

In verse 7, the message to the Ephesian church ends with a promise to him who overcomes.  This is the follower of Christ.  The follower of Christ is one who overcomes by returning to his first love, and Jesus promises eternal life, eating of the tree of life in the Paradise of God or heaven.

 

 

Conclusion

So what do we do EBC?  We remember.  We repent.  We repeat or love Jesus again with everything we are and everything we have. 

 

Brothers and sisters, if we don’t love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, we are no more than a civic organization, a community group.

 

Now, I am not speaking negatively of them.  They serve.  They provide.  They encourage our community.  We do the same, but our motivation and the driving force behind all we do must be our passionate, all-consuming, white-hot love of God and His Son Jesus Christ. 

 

What is it that we repeat?  I want to challenge you to do what those that love Jesus ought to do.  Talk to Him through prayer.  Hear from Him by reading His word, and tell others about Him in sharing your testimony, what He has done in your life. 

Play this podcast on Podbean App