Why Go To A Chuch That Jesus Refuses To Attend? (Rev. 2-3 and 20-22) Sermon Notes

Posted: March 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

The Roman Emperor Domitian demanded to be worshipped as a God and even that Jews, who had always been exempt from emperor worship would now pay their Temple tax to him, which they viewed as a form of worship. 

 Some scholars have argued that, in order to enforce emperor worship, they set up booths around the marketplace so that one could not buy or sell without worshipping the one the Jews called “the Beast.”  The Romans may have set up booths where a person could not enter the marketplace without worshipping Caesar and, to prove it, taking upon themselves an ink blot on the hand and/or the forehead. 

Christians knew this was idolatry (i.e., the worship of false gods), which God hates but they also risked being accused of treason and also going without food or any other necessities from the marketplace if they refused. So, the dilemma they were faced with was, “do I risk my life or do I worship and take the mark of the ‘Beast'”?

 Some Christians apparently tried to get away with worshipping both and encouraged others to do the same.   This is where we pick up Revelation 2-3.

Let’s dig in:

2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

9 “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, 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. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. 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.’

7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

What is this all about?

Let’s go back and look at 2:1-7 again.

 Who are the the Nicolaitans? They were those claiming to be teachers with authority who try to talk the church into compromising with the local cults including the worship of Caesar as Lord.

 Note that it says God “hates.”   The Greek word is Μισέω or hate.  It can be a truly harsh term such as Absalom’s hatred of Amnon for raping his sister (2 Sam. 13:22).  But as to God normally the word applies to idolatry.  “The prophets put the cultus without heart obedience on the same level as idolatry; Yahweh hates it too, Am. 5:21; Hos. 9:15; Is. 1:14; 61:8; Zech. 8:17; Mal. 2:13. Idolatry and false worship are thus specifically hated by God.”

 It is important to understand that God will not tolerate anything taking his rightful place as first in our lives.

 Let’s review 2:8-11

 This is one of only two churches (the other being Philadelphia) with no weaknesses. It is telling that these two were also the least significant of the seven churches in terms of numbers and influence. The current preoccupation of the modern church with numbers and influence must be reexamined. It is more important to be faithful than to be “powerful.”

 The “synagogue of Satan” was probably a group of Jewish leaders who complained to the local Roman officials that Christians were not to be granted exemption from emperor worship.  In the first century, many Romans considered Christians Jews so that they would not expect them to take the mark but just to offer the temple tax to Domitian.  Some Jewish leaders apparently complained that Christians did not deserve such an exemption.

 Look at 2:12-17

 “The sharp double-edged sword” was apparently symbol of Roman justice.   Jesus is claiming to be the true dispenser of justice!

 Note that Pergamum was the center of emperor worship for the whole area.

 Here, again, God calls for radical faithfulness and obedience no matter what the pressure!

 What’s the deal with the “secret manna”? Manna was contained in the lost ark of the covenant (seen Raiders of the Lost Ark?).  Jewish tradition said that at the time of the destruction of Solomon’s temple, Jeremiah was told by God to take the ark and hide it underground at Mount Sinai when the Messiah would place the ark in the new temple. Therefore it is connected to the messianic feast of the end times and refers to the eternal bliss of heaven.

 The white stone may refer to a type of invitation to a private party but it may also refer to the memorials of God’s great deeds in the Old Testament.  We know that when God did something incredible with or through his people that they would mark the occasion with a stone.  They may have even covered it with plaster, hence, a “white stone.”

 Look over 2:18-29

 Jezebel was another symbol of false teaching that Jesus commands to be stricken from his church.

 The morning star was a symbol of Roman power.

 Go back and read over 3:1-6

 Note that there is nothing good to say about this church but still has the reputation of being “alive.” Know any churches like that?

 Remember that white symbols purity but it was also what Romans wore while celebrating a victory.

 Look again at 3:7-13:

 The Jews had probably excommunicated the Christians in Philadelphia from the synagogue (as throughout the Jewish world), but this declares unequivocally that only Christ, not they, has that authority. He alone can “open” and “shut” the gates to heaven. Moreover, the Jews excluded the believers from the synagogue, but Christ will exclude these Jews from God’s eternal kingdom. His decision will be final. When he “opens” the New Jerusalem (to the Gentiles), no one can change that decision. When he “closes” the door (to these Jews), this decision also cannot be altered

 3:10 is not about rapture but about final judgment.  They will be spared the wrath of God not of Satan.

 Look again at 3:14-22

 Six miles to the north lay Hierapolis, famed for its hot springs. Ten miles to the east lay Colosse, known for its cold, pure drinking water.  The Laodiceans should have been known for their spiritual healing (like Hierapolis) or their refreshing, life-giving ministry (like Colosse). Instead, as Jesus’ next statement reads, they were “lukewarm.” They were devoid of works and useless to the Lord. As a result

 Thus, all of the churches were called to radical obedience even if it meant suffering torture and death at the hands of the Romans rather than proclaim anyone other than Jesus as Lord.

When I worked in Congress, we were trying to balance the budget (remember those days?) and our staff poured over the budget to try to find something to cut.  We found a government operation in Texas that cost tens of millions of dollars to maintain and it’s sole purpose was to store helium to use in case of blimp attack!  This was 1995 folks!  It was created in the early 20th century when a mass German blimp attack was feared and had been maintained ever since. 

We moved to cut it but encountered stiff opposition from certain representatives in Texas who wanted to save the jobs of those men and women who we were paying to save us from blimp attack! 

You can’t make this stuff up.

Yet, here in Revelation 2-3 we have churches that, according to Jesus himself, are as useful as a cave full of gas in 1995. 

How many churches today fit that bill?  How many churches waste money on retreats, dinners and Bible studies with no effort at discipling the people God has given them so that they are so radically obedient that they would charge the gates of hell with water guns if so asked? If Jesus has judged that church and has taken away their lampstand then why do people still attend? Do you go to one of these churches? Why?

Jesus truly expects his people to grow in their faith and be loyal even at the point of death.  Many within in the 1st century church did just that. They refused to bend their knee to Caesar and some were thrown to the animals or beheaded. 

 How could anyone have the strength to endure torture or even death? For that, Jesus grants them a stunning vision of the future.

20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia.  Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Okay, now let’s go back and review these chapters section by section and clarify them.

20:1-6 

 Multiples of tens were commonly used in Jewish writings symbolically, and it is likely that this refers to an indefinite but perfect period of time, obviously much longer than the period the Antichrist “reigns” (forty-two months) but still a symbolic period.

 Let’s look at 20:7-10

 Gog & Magog were the names of the enemy of the people of God in Ezekiel.  They symbolize the same here.

 Let’s review 20:11-15

 The idea of “fleeing from the face of God” pictures judgment and goes back to the tradition behind 2 Pet. 3. Moses could not look on the face of God and live (Exod. 33:20), and creation likewise must flee his presence.

 In Jewish writings these were the books recording the deeds of both the righteous and the unrighteous (Esth. 6:1-3; Isa. 4:3; Mal. 3:16; 1 Enoch 90.20; 2 Esdr. [4 Ezra] 6:20). Yet, here, if the premillennial chronology is correct (i.e., Jesus returns and reigns on earth for 1000 years), then such a belief would make little sense since those reigning with Christ would already be judged as righteous.

Look at 21:1-14 again,

 The Greek word καινός, translated as “new” can mean “new” or “renew.”  I think the latter is in mind here.

Review 21:15-27

 The large  number is obviously symbolic (like the 12,000 of 7:4-8). It signifies not only perfection but a city large enough to hold all the saints down through the ages, the saints from “every tribe, language, people, and nation” (5:9; 7:9; cf. 21:24, 26).

 Finally, 22:1-5

 The picture painted within these verses is of a new Eden and eternal life with God.  That is our true hope.

But why is it that it takes something tragic like September 11th or a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a loved one to see that?

For many years, W.A. Criswell served as senior pastor of a huge Southern Baptist congregation in Dallas, Texas. He was extremely conservative. For a long period of time in his life, he had a running feud with a theologian who was very liberal. Through books, articles, sermons, and presentations they’d gone after one another repeatedly.

One day, Criswell was booked on a flight for London and who should he find himself sitting next to but that theologian. Criswell said both of them probably would have loved it at that moment if they could have been doped up for the entire flight. But after some uncomfortable time, Criswell finally asked this theologian a rather innocuous question: How was he doing?

The theologian explained that he and his wife had just buried their five year old son. He’d had a fever which grew progressively worse. Finally, they took him to their doctor and after the boy had gone to a hospital for testing, they learned that he had meningitis. There was nothing that could be done for him.

That liberal theologian had stayed up night after night with his little boy in the hospital. On the night before the boy died, he said, “Daddy, it’s getting late, isn’t it?” “Yes, son, it’s getting late.” “I’ll be going to sleep soon, won’t I, Daddy?” “Yes, son.” “I’ll see you in the morning, Daddy.”

After telling Criswell about this conversation, the theologian looked at him with tears in his eyes and said: “I can’t wait for the morning!”

Why does it take something like that to get us to see that it is a future with God and our loved ones in the new heavens and new earth that is truly worth hoping for?

 Our hope does not lie here with any idol or situation but solely in a perfect future with God.  This is a future worth suffering for, and, if need be, dying for.

 Are we that faithful? Or will Jesus come and take away our lamp stand? If he does, then we are as useless as a gas cave in the 21st century.  Our time is short and our mission is too important to waste on dead churches that Jesus has judged.  Let’s roll, so that he doesn’t judge us.

 

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Comments
  1. tom bennington says:

    A lot to think about here. For those who have chose not to believe there is a hell, as if your opinion changes the fact, or think it is a place where you and your buds will sit around playing cards and drinking beer, try to meditate on what is said in chapter 20. OK, if you did not believe Jesus when he spoke of hell in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, look at verses 13 -15 above. Jesus will judge the dead and those who are not in the book of Life are thrown into hell. Even Death is thrown in. The picture here is one of a person being lead up to the abyss and once they look into hell and see what it is like they say, “I’m NOT going in there!” So at that point they must be thrown in.
    I’m not one to look on the negatives of life issues but this is more like a consequence of a life wasted in human pride and arrogance. This will not be a happy time for many but there is one way to avoid being a part of this scene–Jesus. Worship-Grow-Serve.

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