Johns Vision Of Christ
If you have ever wondered what Jesus of Nazareth looked like, youre not alone. Biblically speaking, we do not know. The book of Isaiah contains the only reference to His appearancemore than seven hundred years before the Nativity. Isaiah described His appearance as average, not conspicuous in any way .
The resurrected Christ appeared much different to John. He had striking white hair that suggested the age, wisdom, and dignity befitting a judge. His eyes were like a flame of fireeyes from whom nothing is hidden, eyes that will judge all mankind . His feet were like fine brass, another symbol of judgment in Scripture.
John described two features of Christs mouth: the sound and the sword. Drowning out all other voices, His voice evoked thoughts of roaring waterfalls. Piercing soul and spirit, the sword represented the Word of God . When Christ returns, He will slay His enemies by His Word .
In His right hand, Christ held seven stars, representing His authority . I believe the stars stand for the pastors of the seven churches who received authority from Christ to lead their churchesnot their authority, but Christs authority.
This vision of Christ was so awe-inspiring that John fell at feet as dead . He was not the first person to respond to Gods presence in this way. Abraham , Moses , Balaam , Joshua , Gideon , and others all demonstrated terror in the presence of pure holiness and righteousness.
Be Sorry And Repent Of Sin
If you are wondering how to get back on track with God, the answer is always the same: repent. Turn back to the truth of Gods Word and turn away from sin. Churches die because of the sinfulness of their members. Buildings cannot repent, but churches atone through the repentance of their members.
For all its shortcomings, Christ offered hope to Sardis: The church could experience eternal life if it returned to obeying His commands . There are no Christians in the area today, but archeology offers hope that Sardis repented. A Byzantine church, which now lies in ruins, was built in the city hundreds of years after Johns death.2
Thyatira The Corrupt Church
Thyatira the church that had a Jezebel spirit who convinced them that it was OKAY to commit acts of immorality.
Revelation 2: 18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:
19 I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that yourdeeds of late are greater than at first.20 BUT I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bondservants astray so that they commit acts of immoralityand eat things sacrificed to idols.
21 I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. 22 Behold,I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and
you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments and I will NOT erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Fatherand before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
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Speak The Truth In Love
Wherever corruption or compromise seeks a foothold, we need to be vigilant, sober, on guard, and to speak the truth in love . Our goal in confronting sin is not condemnation but reconciliation. A day is coming when Christ will judge every soul. Until then, we have a responsibility to lead people to the cross. Paul called this the ministry of reconciliation .
Seven Churches Of Revelation
Seven Churches in the book of RevelationEphesus,Smyrna,Pergamon,Thyatira,Sardis,Philadelphia and Laodicea
The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants,the things which must shortly take placeHe made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,who testifies to everything he saw, that is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation which is the last book in the Bible, was written around AD 95 by the apostle John, a disciple of Jesus.
John begins his letters by coding Jesis Christ who said I am the Alpha and the Omega which meant he was the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the one who is, the one who was and the one who is yet to come. I am the Almighty he said. That was the statement that the suffering Christians desperately needed to hear. John was told to respond to the distressing,hopeless and unbearable circumstances that had befallen the Christian comminities at the end of the first century.
The letters written by John the apostle end with these words: He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. And all these seven churches of the Revelation are in the western part of modern Turkey today.
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Seven Churches Of Revelation Bible Study
Rome and the surrounding territories became increasingly hostile to Jesus followers after His death. According to tradition, every disciple, except one, was martyred for his faith, and that disciples fate wasnt much betterJohn was exiled to a rocky, inhospitable island called Patmos. During this exile, Jesus Christ spoke to John in a vision. He revealed far-off future events, and He gave John messages for each of the seven churches in Asia Minor. Dotted with words of encouragement and correction, the Lords letters offer a promise to him who overcomes. Even today, they identify the kinds of struggles Christians face, and they teach us how to overcome trials.
Well study the context of the messages, what they meant for the original churches, and what they mean for us today.
Characteristics Of The Seven Churches Of Revelation
In closer examination of these messages, it is interesting to note that God clearly understood the circumstances, difficulties and influences that the members of the congregation in each city had to endure and resist. For example:
- God knew that the members at Ephesus had lost their first love and that they were resisting the negative influence of the Nicolaitans .
- God also knew the tribulation, and poverty those in Smyrna were facing .
- God was aware of the martyrdom of Antipas in Pergamos and the severe persecution the members in that city were enduring .
- God knew that some in Thyatira had been deceived by a woman called Jezebel to commit sexual immorality and eat food sacrificed to idols .
- The fact that many in Sardis were dead in the sense that they had lost their zeal was known by God .
- God knew that the Church members in Philadelphia had a little strength and that they had not denied His name .
- God saw the lukewarm spiritual attitude of the Laodiceans .
An important overall lesson from Revelation 2 and 3 is that God knew the issues facing the churches and members of the first century.
Similar to Pauls letters to various congregations in other cities, these short messages to the seven congregations were intended to encourage the members in these cities to overcome their shortcomings and to hold fast to Gods way of life so they could be rewarded in the future.
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False Teachers In Pergamos
The city of Pergamos, located near the Aegean Sea, served as the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor for hundreds of years. It was also a hotbed for pagan cults. It was the first city to build a temple to worship Caesar and a medical school that practiced healings based on superstition .
Like the church of Ephesus, the church in Pergamos struggled against false teachers.
Individual members of the church believed in Balaams false teachings. Balaam was a man in the Old Testament who had prophetic gifts and faked his faith in God. You might remember how he got a stern talking-to from a certain donkey . He commonly promoted sexual immorality and idol worship. He also practiced magic and divination and worked to put a curse on Israel .
Other members held beliefs in another false teacher named Nicolas. The twelve apostles ordained him as a deacon in Acts 6, but he eventually led the church astray into idol worship, sexual immorality, and self-indulgence, much like Balaam. Revelation 2:6 and 2:15 both mention Nicolaitans, and both times God says He hates them. So, He warns the church in Pergamos to repent, or else He would bring His judgment on them.
Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
What Do The Letters Tell Us About The Seven Churches In Revelation
That the letters to the seven churches often betray characteristics of the cities in which these churches flourished reminds us how easily churches can reflect the values of their culture if we do not remain vigilant against those values.
Such parallels are noted at relevant points in the commentary, but one of Ramsays other observations should be summarized here:
- The two cities that are now completely uninhabited belong to two of the churches most severely rebuked .
- The two cities that held out longest before the Turkish conquest are the only two churches fully praised .
- The city of Ephesus was later literally moved to a site about three kilometers from where it was in Johns day, just as the church was threatened with removal from its place .25
Such parallels may be coincidence, but they might also illustrate a pattern in history: The church, no matter how powerless in a given society, is a guardian of its culture.
Given the high degree of assimilation of North American Christians to our cultures valuesmore time spent on entertainment than on witness, more money spent on our comfort than on human needthe prognosis for the society as a whole is not good.
Learn more about the seven churchesincluding an in-depth look at the historical context of each cityby signing up for Craig Keeners online course on the book of Revelation.
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This post is adapted from material found in Craig Keeners online course on the book of Revelation.
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Philadelphia The Faithful Church
Philadelphia the faithful church that had endured patiently and the ONLY church that received the promise of escaping the time of trial that comes upon the whole earth .
Revelation 3: 7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
11 I am coming quickly hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 He who overcomes,I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore and 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 My new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Order Of The Churches
The seven churches are always mentioned in the same order: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Usually, when a group of seven things is mentioned, the order has some relevance. However, I doubt that the order of the churches has any particular theological importance.
Thats not to say that the order is random either. If a courier, starting at the island of Patmos, were to visit these seven churches in order to deliver the epistles from John, he would sail from Patmos to Ephesus, which is the closest. From there, the closest remaining church is Smyrna to the north. Continuing this simple strategy of visiting the closest remaining church, he would continue north to Pergamum, then east to Thyatira, and back south to Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally ending in Laodicea .
One can see the logic of this itinerary in the map below:
The Seven Churches of Revelation and Patmos
So then, the order of the churches seems to be simply the most sensible order for delivering the messages from Patmos. This is possibly the order in which the seven churches actually received their respective messages.
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Next Piece Of The Puzzle
Visitation at Patmos John begins his extraordinary book in the customary manner of greeting the seven churches which will receive these letters. He also gives honor and praise to their common Lord. Finally, he introduces himself briefly . Then, he drops the hammer: Jesus visited Him! There he was on the Isle of Patmos filling the empty days of exile with worship, when totally out of the blue the very one he was worshipping appeared right in front of him. This wasand wasntthe same gentle Teacher he walked beside over sixty years earlier. This was the awe-inspiring, fear-invoking Lord of the Universeand He said He had messages for His Church. We have been unpacking those messages ever since.
Pergamum The Pagan Church
Pergamum the church that needed to repentfrom following the pagan and occult teaching of the Nicolaitans. Pergamum was located at the location of satans throne.
Pergamum was the home of the Altar of Zeus. It was built from 197-156 BC. And that is where the altar remained until the Germans came. A German engineer discovered the ruins in 1864. His name was Carl Humann. The Germans moved the Altar of Zeus piece by piece to Germany. The Pergamon Museum was opened in 1930. To this day, the altar is housed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The altar was used as a pattern by Hitlers architect Albert Speer. This was used as a backdrop for one of Hitlers speeches to the Nazis in Nuremburg. It was known as the Zeppelintribüne.
In 2008, Barack Obama was nominated by the Democratic Party as their nominee for president. The setting was Denver, Colorado. Curiously, many believe that the stage where he announced his candidacy for President was a dead ringer for the Altar of Zeus, aka as the seat of satan.
Pergamum was satans capital. The grammar of the verse in Revelation suggests this is STILL satans capital. This is not to say the people of Pergamum or modern day Bergama are satanic.
The Nicolatians believed that if a person was saved by Grace, then it didnt matter how they lived. They misused the Grace of God and the Liberty that is in Christ to satisfy their carnal lustful desires.
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Where Were The Seven Churches And What Do They Symbolize
1. The Church of Ephesus: The Church that Has Abandoned Its Love for Christ and His Teachings
Summary and Explanation: Ephesus was the prominent commercial and cultural center of Asia. Christs letter to the church of Ephesus praises the congregation for its deeds…hard work…and perseverance, and for its rejection of false apostles .
Despite its hard work and doctrinal integrity, Christ faults the community for having forsaken the love had at first . This forsaken love can mean that the Ephesians had become less devoted to Christ or that the work they did was no longer motivated by love for one another. The letter to the church of Ephesus does offer the community hope if they repent and rekindle their love for Christian living .
Significance Today: The lesson in the letter to Ephesus teaches that truth and love must go hand-in-hand. A church that upholds doctrinal purity at the expense of showing love is just as flawed as a church that upholds congregational harmony at the expense of truthful teachings. Instead, Jesus reveals that a church fashioned in His image must teach Gods Truth in love.
2. The Church of Smyrna: The Church that Remains Faithful Amidst Persecution
Summary and Explanation: Smyrna was home to a large Jewish community hostile to Christians. The Bible notes that slanderous accusations by Jews against Christians had led to Christian persecution by Roman authorities .
3. The Church of Pergamum: The Church that Compromises Its Beliefs
Purpose Of The Messages
While the messages to the seven churches given in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 should be understood individually, it is also important to understand them collectively.
I believe there are two main reasons for these messages:
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Ephesus The Loveless Church
Ephesus : the church that had forsaken their first love . They were hard working, but they no longer had the same passion for Christ as when they first believed. Their work was no longer motivated by love.
Revelation 2 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
I know your DEEDS and your TOIL and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My names sake, and have not grown weary. 4 BUT have this against you,that you have LEFT YOUR FIRST LOVE. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and REPENT and do the deeds you did at first or else I am coming to you and will REMOVE your lampstand out of its placeunless you repent.6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.