Revelation Part 3
The way I want to proceed this morning is quite simple:
I hope to go back and make 3 Observations on the same text we looked at last time – then add a small number of uses for the information given.
The 3 Observations are:
- Jesus’ Glorification and that of the Believer.
- Jesus as the Faithful and True Witness.
- Jesus Surveying His Church.
Let’s look at them individually.
1.0 Jesus’ Glorification and that of the Believer.
We’ve already looked at the wonder – what we’ve called the soul-shattering vision of Jesus that John received in this portion. And I hope something of the sense of what one commentator called: “the overmastering awe” of seeing the glorified Christ – remains with us all.
1.2 As we cited from A. W. Tozer last time: “The fear of God is … astonished reverence. I believe that the reverential fear of God mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and admiration and devotion is the most enjoyable state and the most satisfying emotion the human soul can know.”
1.3 This vision of the glorified Jesus is also meant to give us some sense, some shadow of what we are to expect in our own resurrection and glorification.
No, we won’t possess all of these mind-melting attributes of the glorified Jesus – but the Apostle Paul DOES note: 1 Corinthians 15:35–44 “But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
There is meant to be some sort of connection here for the Believer – that we will still be ourselves in the resurrection, nevertheless, we will also be magnificently, staggeringly different once Christ’s redemptive work has been fully wrought out. So staggering that a reasonable comparison is almost impossible to communicate.
This is part of the underlying message of this entire book: Christian! Yes, now is now with all of its cares and worries and woes, but keep your eyes on the resurrection! Unimaginable glory is just ahead! Live consciously so as to possess it in all of its available fullness!
Don’t get bogged down in TODAY. Live in light of what is to come.
That said, there is much about TODAY, that still needs to be wrestled with – we’ll see this in the 7 churches, but wrestle with today’s issues in light of the coming fulfillment of Christ’s promises in the resurrection – and the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Little is more destructive to the soul, and lends itself to sin and compromise on every plane than to live with only the present in view – failing to be striving after all that is to be ours in the resurrection.
Sin thrives in its most virulent form in the hearts and minds of those who live only for the comforts of today, without regard for the coming judgment and glory of Christ’s return.
We get a startling example of this in the Old Testament in the life of King Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was one of the “good” kings of Judah – 700 years before Jesus. He was a godly man.
We’re told in ch. 20 of 2 Kings that Hezekiah had become ill, and the prophet Isaiah was sent to tell him to get his house in order, because he was going to die.
Hezekiah pleaded with God to spare his life. And Isaiah is sent back to tell him that God heard his prayers and would add 15 more years to his life.
During those 15 years, Hezekiah was visited by some Babylonian dignitaries, who had come to see if Judah was worth conquering and plundering. Hezekiah, a bit puffed up with God’s goodness to him and the reprieve on his life decided to show off the kingdom and everything they had – not knowing this was the very recon they were after.
Isaiah comes to the king and asks what the visitors wanted and what Hezekiah had shown them. He said “I showed them everything!” in his boasting: “I’m a blessed man! God has miraculously delivered me several times before, and now supernaturally extended my life. I’m invincible!”
Isaiah then tells him what a grave error that was. The text reads: 2 Kings 20:16–19 “Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
The shocking response of Hezekiah to this gives us a window into what is often in our own hearts, even if we do not vocalize it: “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?”
As long as it is well with me now. As long as I am safe, I am comfortable, I am prosperous, I get what I want now – so what about the future.
It is this caving to the desires of, and regard for – the immediate – that will come back and play a role in the condition of the 7 churches we’ll examine in the weeks to come. It forms an important backdrop for the rest of the book.
And it calls each one of us to think about our own situations today.
How are we living?
Are we living in light of the coming judgment of God and the eternity that comes after? Or are we allowing the pleasures, the desires or even the fears of today regulate what we choose to do or not to do.
Are we living for eternity, or for now?
So Jesus cautions in Matthew 6:19–21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
One old writer I read tells the story of a godly young woman who was being relentlessly pursued by a wealthy man for sex. Once, when cornered she said “Alright, I’ll yield, on one condition.” “Name it!” her pursuer said. “Only hold your hand in the flame of this candle for 10 minutes.” “Preposterous!” he responded, “I could not endure it!” “You could not endure this small flame for a mere 10 minutes, when you would ask me to endure the flames of Hell for eternity for the sake of a few moments of physical pleasure? Preposterous indeed!”
Go to the 11th chapter of Hebrews and read over and over and over the record of those who “lived by faith” – which the writer there equates with making present day decisions in the light of God’s Word regarding eternal realities. Living with revealed eternity in view is what the Bible means by living by faith. And as the scripture records, “whatever does not proceed from faith IS sin!” (Rom. 14:23c) Whatever discounts the reality revealed by God’s Word – is to live apart from faith. And it is by definition – sin.
2.0 Jesus as the Faithful and True Witness.
Not only is this the resurrected and glorified Christ – back in v. 5 He is denominated: Revelation 1:5a “Jesus Christ the faithful witness.”
This tells us at least 2 very important things.
2.1 He remained faithful, even though He became a martyr – a witness in the fullest sense.
He lived out the purpose and plan of the Father, no matter what the opposition, or lure to do otherwise. Remember His temptations in the wilderness?
There He was tempted to gain His inheritance by some other means than the cross: “Bow down to me” Satan said, and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of this world.
And, He was tempted to act at the behest of Satan due to His immediate need after fasting 40 days: “Turn these stones into bread.”
And again, to defend His estimation in the eyes of others by acting apart from God’s directions: “IF you be the Son of God – cast yourself down.”
Variations of these will be seen in the 7 Churches as well as in every temptation you and I face.
2.2 His witness was always faithful and true. He was always accurate, and always truthful. This has great import in the passages which follow. His assessment of each Church is accurate, and He is faithful to deliver it in His goodness. He will not pull punches with them. He will be forthright and truthful even where it hurts – but not in order TO hurt, but in order to bring healing and restoration.
3.0 Jesus Surveying His Church.
Which brings us to the 3rd observation we need to make from this passage today – as a sort of overview of what we’ll be examining in individual detail in regard to each of the 7 churches in the weeks ahead.
Jesus tells John to send this revelation to the 7 churches He lists here: Revelation 1:11 “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
3.1 Note at the outset that all of the conditions of the various Churches are occurring simultaneously.
Somewhere at all times, these various conditional prevail in some churches.
To turn them into specific ages which characterize the whole church at the same time is to err.
We must hear what the Spirit says to ALL the Churches.
This, in the final analysis is where the Church’s ills always lay – and thus to call to each one: BACK TO THE WORD!
Listen to the Word.
Go back to what HAS has said, is saying, and will say. Forsake your Bibles and hope is all gone.
3.2 Each Church had and HAS it’s unique temptations due to its context: culturally, geographically, historically, politically, economically, etc. We’ll see how these various features impacted the 7 churches and then how they may impact ours and others.
Culture: China vs US vs Australia vs. France
Geographically: Upstate NY – Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnessism, Spiritualism, Intellectualism.
Japan – Shintoism, Europe – Secularism,
As we’ll see, to each Church there will be 4 elements:
- A Declaration of insight
- An Appeal to the revelation of Jesus in ch. 1
- A Call to something
- A Reminder to hear everything Jesus says, not just what He says to each particular church in its context.
3.3 Ephesus: Orthodox and active, but loveless in some way. And near to being extinguished for all its solid foundation.
3.4 Smyrna: Beat up, persecuted, hopeless in this life, but is sweetly encouraged.
3.5 Pergamum: Urban, compromised by the culture, dependent upon structure.
3.6 Thyatira: Socially active, but morally compromised by listening to un-Biblical authority.
3.7 Sardis: Outwardly vibrant but inwardly dead to the Spirit of Christ.
3.8 Philadelphia: Diminutive but alive and dependent and faithful.
3.9 Laodicea: Impactless through the deception of prosperity and loss of intimacy with Christ.
Well what do we do with all of this?
4.0 Putting these 3 Observations to Use.
4.1 Christ is in the midst of His Church, even in her weakest and most compromised state, just as He is when she is doing well and suffering persecution with patient endurance.
4.2 Christ knows His churches intimately. Indeed, He knows us better than we know ourselves.
4.3 The Church is not monolithic in its challenges, weaknesses, tendencies, victories or experiences. The Church – the true Church of Jesus Christ often looks very different when healthy or ill, pure or compromised, etc.
4.4 Christ loves His Church even when she is sorely in need. As with Laodicea, He reaffirms His love even as He announces His discipline.
4.5 His great and precious promises remain true for all who will hear and respond. He promises good things even in the face of our poorest showing.
4.6 Christ still tends His own flock. He was in the midst of the candlesticks then, and so He is even today. This has not changed.
4.7 Christ is the faithful and True Witness, who will be as brutally honest as He is immeasurably merciful and compassionate. And He will not fail to extinguish a flame if need be, while still unwilling to crush the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax.
He is faithful to give us all we need.
Faithful to call us into account when needed.
Faithful to attend His Church in all of her conditions – healthy or sick.
Faithful to all of His promises.
Faithful to judge sin.
Faithful and JUST to forgive us our sins, when we confess and repent.
And this is as true of the unbeliever today even as it is for the Believer – to whom this passage is primarily written.
Jesus is just as faithful to call you into account for your sin and unbelief.
He is just as faithful to forgive and cleanse and save you if you own your sin, confess it, and forsake it in running to Him as your Redeemer.
And He will be faithful to execute final judgment upon all who reject Him and His Gospel.
He never fails to discharge any of His offices in even the slightest degree.
Won’t you come to Him today and be saved from the penalty and the power of your sin?