Thursday, August 21, 2014

BOOK OF REVELATION; THE SEVEN CHURCHES


We remain knee deep in the early chapters of Revelation. I am purposely going slowly, so that both of us can savor the words of Jesus to the seven early churches. Each church is being held up to the light, and our Lord and Savior is evaluating their performance. Each one has their list of positives, and their list of negatives. These words are POWERFUL, deserving extra time and commitment to fully understand. All scripture has a level of difficulty, because we will never understand the nuances of Hebrew or Greek. Most of us have a hard enough time understanding the nuances of each mother tongue that we represent, making it easy for charlatans to manipulate the meaning and application of translation. Every time a man tries to interject "new" meaning or change the pillars of our faith, beware! Even if you are a new convert,  God has special, individual plans for your life. Here are just a few to stimulate divine enthusiasm:
  1. God Almighty has selected you by having Jesus and the Holy Spirit work a miracle inside of you. Your soul that was black and destined to be controlled by Satan has forever been made white and pure. Our reaction to that event was like winning a lottery, but over time it begins to fade and needs to be stimulated by the Word of God and prayer.
  2. Since you won the lottery, because of your belief and acceptance of Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are forever special. 
  3. The words that John of Patmos wrote in Revelation are direct, hard-hitting and individualized by church. God even sent an angel to oversee the process, so that is was done exactly correct. When I proof-read my posts, I read them out loud, then I double check with spell check and triple check with grammar check. Even then my lovely wife finds my errors, usually after I have published it.
  4. When Jesus is quoted in other parts of the Bible like the Gospels, it is the inspired Word of God for sure; however, in the Book of Revelation God sends an angel to do all the checking. For some reason, maybe the complexity and intricacy of the vision this passage is made from  incredibly precious words. 
We already discussed the Church in Ephesus two posts ago, so we are now ready for Smyrna. To find this on a map, you need to know that this city is present day Izmir, located in Turkey. Smyrna was a port city and was prosperous for the time, and yet the Christian community was extremely poor. Jesus said they had endured suffering, slandering and were subjected to Jews that were pretenders. Jesus even says that these Jews belonged to "The Synagogue of Satan." If that wasn't enough Jesus says that there is much more suffering ahead for them. Specifically he says that some of them will be put in prison for 10 days by the "devil", making this a kind of a prophecy inside a prophecy. Jesus then says that if they remain faithful, "even unto death," that each will receive a special crown of life, and with this crown all the "faithful" will not, "be hurt at all by the second death."

Ephesus was told that they lost the zeal and zest from the early days of their salvation. They were walking down the path of righteousness, but there was no spring in their step, proving that just walking and talking is not enough for our Lord. To be a complete example internally and externally, you have feel the joy, fear the Lord and openly give him the glory. When the newness of their salvation wore off, they lost their mojo. Jesus is telling them that mindless routines in our Christian walk with lead to complacency and compromise. If we religiously tread water instead of swimming with gusto, we will eventually damage ourselves and our Lord. Blind lethargy is what shakes out when Smyrna is evaluated by God. Jesus does not count your appearances in church or the number of time you pray. He is all about quality, not quantity. One prayer from the heart will always trump 10 prayers born of habit.
Ephesus lost its mojo, and Smyrna was headed for more suffering and slander. Back then Jesus was teaching and prophesying to all of the believers in the early church. My personal opinion is that all seven of these churches received distinctive exhortations by God for more than one reason. Jesus knew that they were just as apropo then as now. Every believer past, present and future needs this divine medicine. It is apparent that everything told to these 7 churches was to provide insight for the ages. John says, that he saw the "seven golden lamp-stands" surrounding our Lord, "even as he sat on his throne." What a privileged sight to behold!!

If you don't have anything in common with these early churches, you have missed the point...Believe me, God was talking to all the believers then, as well as all believers to follow over the centuries. It includes all the believers suffering in Iraq, it includes all those believers slaughtered in Nigeria, it includes all the believers in war torn Ukraine, and it includes every military believer around the globe, who must wonder when all the bloodshed will end. It includes the rich, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted, the slandered, and those being ridiculed each day for their faith. I guarantee that Jesus sees not only what you are doing on the outside, but knows the truth of every motive, feeling and emotion on the inside. He knew that that the believers of Ephesus had lost their mojo, just like he knows each of us at a level we cannot comprehend, and he promises that if you persevere and remain faithful, you will not feel the sting of death. Below is a synopsis of each of these Roman churches that date back to 300-400 AD.
  1. Ephesus – The desirable church that left its first love (Revelation 2:1-7). Ephesus was the influential capital city of Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea. Ephesus is now known for its huge metropolis of ancient streets, arches and ruins.
  2. Smyrna – The persecuted church that suffered poverty and martyrdom (Revelation 2:8-11). Smyrna was located north of Ephesus in a powerful trading position on the Aegean Sea known for its harbors, commerce, and marketplaces. The primary ruins of Smyrna are located in the modern Turkish city of Izmir.
  3. Pergamum – The worldly church that mixed doctrines and needed to repent (Rev 2:12-17). Pergamum is located on the plains and foothills along the Caicus River in Western Turkey. It was considered a major city in Asia Minor since the 3rd century BC, and became a Greek and Roman hub for temple worship.
  4. Thyatira – The false church that followed a seductive prophetess (Rev 2:18-29). Thyatira is located in western Asia Minor about 42 miles inland from the Aegean Sea. The ancient city was known for its textiles and dyeing trade, and is now known as the Turkish city of Akhisar.
  5. Sardis – The "dead" church that fell asleep (Revelation 3:1-6). Sardis is located on the banks of the Pactolus River in western Asia Minor, 60 miles inland from Ephesus and Smyrna. Popular ruins include the decadent temples and bath house complexes.
  6. Philadelphia – The church of brotherly love that endures patiently (Revelation 3:7-13). Philadelphia is located on the Cogamis River in western Asia Minor, about 80 miles east of Smyrna. Philadelphia was known for its variety of temples and worship centers.
  7. Laodicea – The "lukewarm" church with a faith that’s neither hot nor cold (Rev 3:14-22). Laodicea is located in the Lycus River Valley of western Asia Minor, a primary trade route between the cultures of the West and East. Laodicea was known as a primary hub for the Roman aqueduct system.

Next up will be the church at Pergamum. This is the church that accepted the "Nicolaitans" and allowed them to infiltrate their congregation of believers. You might call this the first unitarian or universal church, because they shared the beliefs of all religions.

May we learn that our walk on God's path not only needs discipline, strength and endurance for all of the challenges ahead, but that it must remain fresh with plenty of enthusiasm, joy and happiness. You know if you are on the path he has laid out for you, but only God and you know what really going on inside. The world will know if in addition to what you say, you remain enthusiastic when you are persecuted, full of joy because you are never alone, and happy knowing that you will pass from this world to the next in the blink of an eye.


The Digital Disciple




  1. 1. Ephesus – The desirable church that left its first love (Revelation 2:1-7). Ephesus was the influential capital city of Asia Minor on the Aegean Sea. Ephesus is now known for its huge metropolis of ancient streets, arches and ruins.
  2. 2. Smyrna – The persecuted church that suffered poverty and martyrdom (Revelation 2:8-11). Smyrna was located north of Ephesus in a powerful trading position on the Aegean Sea known for its harbors, commerce, and marketplaces. The primary ruins of Smyrna are located in the modern Turkish city of Izmir.
  3. 3. Pergamum – The worldly church that mixed doctrines and needed to repent (Rev 2:12-17). Pergamum is located on the plains and foothills along the Caicus River in Western Turkey. It was considered a major city in Asia Minor since the 3rd century BC, and became a Greek and Roman hub for temple worship.
  4. 4. Thyatira – The false church that followed a seductive prophetess (Rev 2:18-29). Thyatira is located in western Asia Minor about 42 miles inland from the Aegean Sea. The ancient city was known for its textiles and dyeing trade, and is now known as the Turkish city of Akhisar.
  5. 5. Sardis – The "dead" church that fell asleep (Revelation 3:1-6). Sardis is located on the banks of the Pactolus River in western Asia Minor, 60 miles inland from Ephesus and Smyrna. Popular ruins include the decadent temples and bath house complexes.
  6. 6. Philadelphia – The church of brotherly love that endures patiently (Revelation 3:7-13). Philadelphia is located on the Cogamis River in western Asia Minor, about 80 miles east of Smyrna. Philadelphia was known for its variety of temples and worship centers.
  7. 7. Laodicea – The "lukewarm" church with a faith that’s neither hot nor cold (Rev 3:14-22). Laodicea is located in the Lycus River Valley of western Asia Minor, a primary trade route between the cultures of the West and East. Laodicea was known as a primary hub for the Roman aqueduct system.





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