The Christian Church Exposed!
Revelation Chapters Two and Three
Revelation Chapter Two
The second and third chapters of Revelation are among the most important of all the Scriptures. Those who have been called to oversee the church must be diligent in hearing and receiving those principles that the Spirit is conveying to God’s people, and be bold in proclaiming its truth to His church.
These messages to the church were designed to speak to the spiritual condition of the Lord’s church through every age. The errors that infected those first century believers are infecting the church of this present age and as we descend into the prophesied apostasy we can learn from them how to avoid falling into our own personal apostasy. Only then will we reap the rewards Jesus has promised to His “overcomers.”
There were more churches than these seven at that time, and I believe that these were chosen because all but two harbored elements that can lead to apostasy and it is vital that we understand what these keys are.
Some view each of these churches representing a particular church age cumulating with lukewarm Laodicea. If we behold these churches from a distance as if we are examining a painting, we can see an impressionistic portrait of the church from its inception to its spiritual decline through the ages. This interpretation can apply in general. For as we come closer, and we begin to study this painting in more detail, we come to observe that the spiritual conditions portrayed for us are also operating simultaneously throughout the church age and can also be present in individual believers today before the Lord returns. Laodicea’s lukewarmness and complacency will be accompanied into tribulation with Jezebel and her followers with liberal Sardis and the imbalanced Ephesian’s tagging along behind.
In other words, as a pastor steps up to his pulpit, he is viewing a collective embodiment of the spiritual conditions described in Revelation’s portrait of the church. He is beholding God’s Ephesians, Philadelphians, Laodiceans and the others sitting before him in his congregation. Thus the portrait of the church described in Revelation’s pages becomes a mirror of our own souls. I am going to be lifting up this mirror so we can see ourselves in this looking glass of words. I’m only going to ask you to do one thing – if you see yourself anywhere in this reflection – then be honest, don’t look away, be willing to allow the Lord to adjust the spiritual appearance of your heart. How we respond to being convicted is an indication of spiritual maturity. If we wince at the light of a candle, then how shall we stand before the Son? Conviction itself is like a grain of sand in an oyster shell; it is the necessary irritant that grows the pearl.
To those in leadership; our goal should be to learn how to minister to the spiritual errors the Lord is showing us and correct them, in ourselves and those that have been entrusted to our care, which is the purpose of the admonishments in these chapters. It is the responsibility of the church leadership to heed them and respond.
We see the faces of Jesus’ bride in all these churches, and collectively they are the ten virgins waiting for their Bridegroom. The Lord shows us in Matthew 25:1-13, that when He returns only half of the church will be received, the rest will be rejected because they had allowed the oil of the truth to dwindle from their theology. Sound doctrine is important. Jesus declared that He is the only way to the Father and whenever this truth is denied, the church has denied her Savior and her salvation. And that is the danger the church faces in these latter days.
The apostle John starts to take Holy Spirit dictation from Jesus who begins by repeating the description of His glory found in Chapter One. –
Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; ‘These things says He that holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks…
Jesus is declaring His authority and dominion over His church. All things have been given to Him from the Father, who made Jesus to be head of the church (Colossians 1:18).
The church at Ephesus is the first church to be addressed. This church’s error as we shall see, begins the slide into apostasy. To help us understand why, we need to comprehend what I call the “Three Pillar Principle.”
We begin by recognizing with the apostle Paul, that John, Peter and James were “Pillars” in the early church (Galatians 2:9). Each of these three apostles represent pillars of doctrine that must be retained in the proper balance or the church will no longer be functioning properly.
The first pillar represented by John is the pure, simple Gospel. –
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
The second pillar illustrated by Peter, stands for holiness, the divine nature,-
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (11 Peter 1:4).
The goal God has ordained for every believer is to be conformed into the image of His Son. This means that those qualities that are in Jesus are to be developed in the believer over time by the Holy Spirit. This is what it means to be discipled and that is what this second pillar represents.
The third pillar is represented by James who shows us the result of abiding in the first two pillars which is Christian service. Faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:17). We are saved by faith alone and if we are saved then that grace works in the believer, resulting in a changed life and service to our Lord.
So we see that the first foundational pillar is the Gospel. The foundation of the first pillar is the atonement. When there is no atonement, we are standing upon a counterfeit gospel and an artificial pillar.
The foundation of the second pillar is John Chapter Fifteen concering Jesus' command to "abide" in Him. -
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me (verse 4).
We must abide in the true vine of Messiah Jesus in order to be discipled correctly and to bear the fruit of a holy character that only His Spirit can provide.
The foundation of the third pillar is the first two pillars and their foundations. Fruitful service can only arise properly from these first two pillars.
All of these pillars must be maintained in balance or the church will ultimately wobble off on her own and be in danger of removal. This is the error of the Ephesians as we shall see.
Jesus begins His instructions to the believers at Ephesus with encouragement, which is the best pattern to follow when we have to administer correction to someone. Praise them for the good they are doing first.
I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how you cannot bear them which are evil; and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and has found them liars; (verse 2).
They were very zealous in their commission to guard the holy gates of the Lord’s house. Their zeal was well pleasing to the Lord.
He continues praising them for what they have done for Him. –
And has born, and has patience, and for My name’s sake has labored, and has not fainted (verse 3).
This church has grasped the fact that every believer has been called to serve the Lord in some capacity. However, their zeal had become imbalanced. –
Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love (verse 4).
What was the first love of the church? In order to understand we must continue to verse five. –
Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come to you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of this place, unless you repent (verse 5).
The church is being commanded to “do the first works.” The first works, or the first love of the church were the first two pillars. The early church zealously preached the Gospel; Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead. We are saved by grace alone. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, all need repentance. Believers were discipled according to the words of our Lord and His apostles. Many years had passed since the Holy Spirit ignited the church at Pentecost. The Ephesians had become zealous spiritual policemen. They were neglecting the first two pillars to rid the church of apostates, not realizing that when the first two pillars are not balanced with service, the church has deviated from her purpose. When a church is no longer making the Gospel and dicipling her priority, then she will ultimately be removed, because unless the church is producing reproducers, adding new believers and discipling them, then the church will die out.
The evidence of this is apparent as churches today close their doors because their congregations have dwindled. Too late they realize that going to church every Sunday isn’t what it’s all about. Every church has been called to do the first works, and return to their first love, the works of the early church, sharing the Gospel and discipling new believers.
The Ephesians had read Paul’s letter to them and had zealously held onto his instructions to –
Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them (Ephesians 5:11).
They were great reprovers, but they needed to “remember from where they had fallen.” They had to be reminded that they too were at one time sinners in need of the Lord’s grace, to remember how it felt when they knew they were forgiven and to impart that same message of forgiveness to everyone, including those they thought needed to be reproved. An imbalanced message will produce condemnation and not converts, empty pews, closed doors, and a self-righteous religious spirit in those who are doing the reproving.
For by grace are you saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember…(Ephesians 2: 8-11).
Apparently the church at Ephesus was so steeped in her own approach to management, her doors were eventually closed as the Lord had said and the church at Ephesus was removed.
I can picture Jesus mourning over the Ephesian’s grave and I hear Him say sadly; -
But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (verse 6).
The Ephesian church was zealous in maintaining sound doctrine, which is extremely important. As the prophet David has said, “If the foundations be destroyed, then what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). Unless we are standing on the “Faith which was once delivered to the saints” (apostles) (Jude 1:3), we will end up preaching a counterfeit Jesus and a fake gospel that can’t save anyone.
The Ephesians had tried or tested the spirits of the false apostles (I John 4:1) and kept their church free of falsehood.
According to the historian Mosheim, the Nicolaitans were the Gnostics. Gnostics claimed a higher spiritual knowledge, and to them salvation was obtained when one managed to achieve a specific level of spiritual development. In other words, they disdained the atonement and totally rejected the basic Christian doctrine of salvation by grace alone. They had deviated from the apostle’s doctrine and constructed their own likeness of Jesus, who was enthroned as the figurehead of their apostate belief system. They had no moral standard and abhorred absolutes.
It is said that the name Nicolaitans was derived from one of their pastors who was named Nicolas. He was accused of being a jealous person and to prove he was not, he offered his wife to members of his congregation.
Note in verse six that Jesus hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. His hatred is directed toward their sin and not the people. His love continually seeks to woo the straying one back to His embrace and away from the things in God’s Word He has told us He hates.
Gnosticism was a major opponent of the early church and has evolved in many forms through the ages. It exists today and walks arm in arm with its counterpart in the occult mysticism of New Age religion. It is camouflaged in various disguises and seeks entrance into the unguarded doors of the Christian church.
As we look back at the Ephesian model, we can see a church that was zealous for sound doctrine, but had failed to maintain sharing the gospel and discipling in an equal balance with her other service. In our classroom with the Lord, we can hear Him exhort us as we strive to retain what we have learned from the Ephesians. –
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; to him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (verse 7).
Those who can hear and understand will hold fast to the Gospel, making evangelism and discipling their priority and maintain sound doctrine as it was first delivered, by following Jesus and His apostles. Their service will spill out beyond the walls of their sanctuaries to serve others fulfilling the three pillar principle of a healthy church. Those who cleave to this pattern will indeed “eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
We follow Jesus’ gaze as He turns His attention to address His followers in the church at Smyrna.
And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things says the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; (verse 8).
Jesus begins by reminding His church that they are following the One who has risen from the dead and this same promise of eternal life belongs to them. Knowing that Jesus has overcome, enables us to overcome the hard times as well.
The church at Smyrna along with the Philadelphians (3:7), are the only two churches that receive no corrective admonishments from the Lord. They stand out among these seven churches as exemplary examples to follow. These are heroes of the faith.
Jesus assures His saints at Smyrna that He knows their works and who they are in Him.
I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but you are rich)…
Those who understand that their true wealth is in heaven, seek for the things of God, and not the temporal riches of this life. Apparently the Christians in Smyrna had embraced this principle of Christian living.
Jesus continues. –
…and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan (verse 9).
These same “Jews who say they are Jews and are not” are also mentioned as apparent adversaries of the Philadelphians (3:9). It is important to understand who these “Jews” are so we can avoid duplicating their ‘blasphemy.’
We must begin by understanding that the early church viewed themselves as Jews. They knew that they had been “grafted” into the Hebrew spiritual lineage by faith in their Messiah, as the apostle Paul taught. The natural Jewish branches had been cut off because of their rejection of their Messiah, but God is able to graft them in again (Romans 11: 17- 23).
So the reference to the Jews in verse nine would have a double meaning. The church was persecuted by the Jewish religious leadership who stirred up other Jews to persecute their brethren who had become Christians and the church in general. These Jews were the “uncircumcised in heart;” that is they were not born again. The circumcised heart is one that has been spiritually circumcised by faith in the atonement and has received the new covenant instigated by Jesus, prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (31:33) and foreshadowed by over two hundred Old Testament prophecies. What makes a Jew a true Jew is their separation to God, and that separation is achieved under the new covenant only by faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection; the plan of salvation that God has foreordained from the foundation of the world, and exemplified in the fifty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah. The Jews who lived under the law and not by faith easily fulfill the description of Jews who say they are Jews and are not. Likewise the phrase can apply to compromised Christians who are Christians in name only. Jesus prophesied that there would be tares among the wheat and goats among the sheep (Matthew 13:24-30; 25: 31-46).
True Christians like the Smyrnans and the Philadelphians who are following Jesus with all of their hearts, will be objects of persecution and criticism from others in the church who become convicted by their zeal, separation from the world, their faithfulness and their intimacy with Jesus. We have a model for this through Scripture’s foreshadow of the antichrist seen in Antiochus Epiphanes. He persecuted the orthodox Jews in his day and tried to separate them from their allegiance to the Word of God. He was helped by the Hellenized Jews who had preferred their pagan culture and resented orthodoxies’ intrusion into their secular lifestyles. This pattern will and is being repeated today and persecution will increase. As Jesus has said, His followers would be persecuted by members of their own house (Matthew 10:36) which includes the church family as well as relatives.
So all these Jews who say they are Jews and are not, whether they be apostate Christians or literal Jews who reject Jesus, are viewed by our Lord as blasphemers and of the synagogue of Satan. I appreciate Jesus’ honesty, don’t you? He loves us all enough to tell it like it is so the straying soul can be given the opportunity to repent.
Jesus continues His encouragement to this church He knows loves Him so.
Fear none of those things which you shall suffer:…
Every Christian is the enemy of the powers that be in this world. Persecution is inevitable in one form or another and we are not to be afraid of it, for our hope goes far beyond the realm of what we can see.
…behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried…
Like Job, God allows the righteous to be tested for our benefit and refining. While our trials may seem to last forever, the whole time our God is counting the seconds of our suffering with His gaze fixed on our victorious eternity with Him, where no pain, nor trial of this life is ever remembered.
…and you shall have tribulation ten days. …
This time frame is symbolic, and most likely represents the entire church age. While some view the church at Smyrna as a representative of the early church age that endured great persecution, there are more martyrs today than at any other time in history. The Smyrnan’s here represent the persecuted church in every generation. They will experience tribulation, as Jesus forewarned all of us. –
“In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
…you be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life (verse 10).
If we deny Jesus, He will deny us. –
But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 10:33).
Faithfulness has great, everlasting reward. One of those rewards is protection from the second death. …
He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death (verse 11).
I can imagine someone reading this for the first time, their eyes suddenly widening with fearful concern saying, “What is the second death?” I think it is vitally important for everyone to know what the second death is and how to avoid it.
The Bible says that it is appointed for men to die once and then face the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Christians must stand before the judgement seat of their savior, Jesus. This is a judgment for the rewards of their faithfulness and not condemnation.
When Jesus returns after the great tribulation (Matthew 24:29, 30), the dead in Christ are raised (I Thessalonians 4:16). Jesus then sends His angels to gather His elect from the four corners of the earth (Matthew 24:31) and these believers are caught up to meet their Lord (I Thessalonians 4:17. This is the first resurrection. Those who partake in this resurrection are the saved, both the dead and the living at Jesus’ second coming. Upon these the second death has no power (Rev. 20:6).
After Jesus reigns with all His saints for one thousand years (this time frame may be symbolic, Rev. 20:4), the rest of the dead are raised and must stand before God to be judged by their works. Anyone who is not found written in the book of life receives the same punishment that God has reserved for the devil and his angels (Rev. 20: 11-15). This is the second death. Our God has set before us all life and death. It’s important we make the right choices in this life and receive His plan of salvation that He has foreordained through His Son, and avoid the horrors of the second death.
As the writer of Hebrews has warned, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31), and our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
God loves us, but He is a just God and the wicked who refuse to repent have basically chosen their own death sentence.
We continue on to Jesus’ instructions to the church at Pergamos.
And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things says He who has the sharp sword with two edges;…(verse 12).
Jesus has been including portions of His description in Chapter One in His introductions to His churches. Here He is overshadowing Pergamos with the imagery of His sharp, two-edged sword of love and correction.
I know your works, and where you live, even where Satan’s seat is…
The believers in Pergamos were living in a particularly dark area, a satanic stronghold. I can imagine that the spiritual warfare these believers had to face was very intense. Jesus is aware of the struggles that are unique to dwelling in areas where demonic powers have clustered and have been given permission to operate through individuals who have submitted themselves to these evil entities.
Satan’s seat was an altar to Zeus and the Lord is telling us that it is inhabited not by any ordinary demonic entity, but Satan himself. In spite of the occultism operating around them, the faith of the believers in Pergamos was very strong. –
…and you hold fast My name, and have not denied My faith, even in the days when Antipas was My faithful Martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells (verse 13).
This church remained faithful during great persecution. It is said that Antipas was ordained as a bishop of the church in Pergamos by the apostle, John. Antipas was martyred during the reign of Domitian who instigated a violent persecution against the Christians. Antipas died in 92 AD, several years before John was imprisoned on Patmos. The tradition surrounding Antipas’ death records that he was burned alive for casting out demons that apparently the local population wanted to keep.
There are many in the Christian church today who are duplicating the pagan's response to Antipas' deliverance ministry. When I was explaining the need for the church to practice deliverance, I had a pastor literally shut a door in my face. As a result of the church's negligence in this area, multitudes are left in spiritual bondage that no Christian counselor can help - unless they have been taught to recognize demon control and cast it out in the name of Jesus.
Refusal to acknowledge spiritual warfare is another symptom of apostasy in the church.
Jesus has praised this church for their faithfulness to Him, and their zeal in proclaiming His name in that dark place, but within their congregation were people who were allowing their doctrines to deviate from the apostolic model. –
But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication (verse 14).
Balac was king of the Moabites (Numbers 22:4) who were descendants of Lot (Genesis 19:37). The Lord had commanded Moses not to destroy them for this reason as they were related to Abraham (Deuteronomy 2:9). However, Balac had become fearful of the Hebrew multitude in his neighborhood and saw them as a threat. He wanted to eliminate Israel, so he enlisted the aid of Balaam, a prophet in the region. Balaam was told by God not to go with Balac’s men unless they came to him (Numbers 22:20). Balaam did not follow the Lord’s command, and went with them without waiting for them to come to him. His disobedience brought him to Balac who continued to pressure Balaam to curse Israel, which he refused to do. He was continually being tempted by the king’s offer to promote him and maybe returning to his shack in the desert after seeing what he could have by the king’s hand was enough to make him begin thinking in another direction. While he would not disobey God by cursing Israel, he counseled the king to send Moabite women to the Israelites, knowing that God would have to deal with Israel Himself when they violated His commandment not to intermingle with pagan nations;…. and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1). Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD (Numbers 31:16).
Because of Israel’s sin, God sent a plague among the people and it was stayed when the sin was eliminated from within their camp (Numbers 25:4-8). Then because of Balac’s sin against Israel, God gave Moses permission to destroy them (Numbers 31:2). Apparently Balaam had accepted the king’s promotion and was among the elite that were killed (Numbers 31:8).
Today it may be difficult for some to understand why God permitted His people to deal so brutally with the pagan nations surrounding them. We need to understand that God had chosen the descendants of Abraham through Isaac to be the womb through which He would birth the Messiah Jesus. In turn, the salvation Jesus brings blesses the entire world with the gift of salvation for anyone who believes. For this reason, the Hebrew lineage had to remain totally pure and unpolluted by the idolatry of the surrounding pagan nations. The salvation of multitudes was at stake, thus Israel’s chastity had to be guarded by the Lord so fiercely.
Relating Balaam back to the context of Revelation, Balaam represents a prophet in the Christian camp whose prophecy and walk with God is marred by a carnal, compromised spirit, who can be lured into apostasy by preferring the things of the world. The characteristics of this spiritual condition is further detailed for us by Peter in his discourse about false prophets in 11 Peter Chapter Two, and reiterated by Jude (1:3-16).
A true prophet from God will minister correction and repentance in love and will seek to disciple people out of their carnality, not entice them with it in order to build a following.
Balaam also operated by combining the occult with his faith. Christians who dabble in things that God has forbidden like astrology, consult mediums, etc., would also be viewed as “Balaamites.”
These are also professed Christians who have become bored with God and His Word and cannot give themselves fully to serve His church. These ones who are in search for something more and possibly the status of being exalted to a higher level in the world like Balaam, join themselves to secret societies like the Masons and others, whose foundations are in the occult and deny that Jesus is the only way to the Father by asserting that all religions are valid. Oaths of loyalty are required to join these secret unions and the Christians who take these vows also agree to allow themselves to be killed if they violate the secrets of the social cults they are joining. These secret societies are among the foreign wives that God has forbidden His people to “marry.”
Nominal Christians can also be seduced to marry foreign wives symbolically when the Bible is not their only source of doctrine and other books and philosophies are accepted along with God’s Word, polluting the original apostolic theology. This would be the equivalent of “eating things sacrificed to idols,” and digesting false doctrine.
We know that the Balaamites would be among those that the Ephesians would have been astute enough to boot out of their midst.
We thought that harboring Balaamites was bad enough, but this church also was tolerating Gnostic doctrine as well. –
So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate (verse 15).
There are Christians today who also embrace Gnostic doctrine. This subtle ego stroking philosophy encourages those who are deceived by this falsehood to believe that their distorted version of Christianity is somehow superior to those who cleave to the Biblical form. These ones would do well to heed Jesus’ admonishments to His church in Pergamos and…
Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth (verse 16).
The apostle Paul reiterates. – But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that you should have fellowship with devils. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils (I Corinthians 10:20,21).
When the church loses her separation from the world and indulges herself in the things that the Word of God tells her to avoid, she is opening the door in her soul to apostasy and may end up enduring the great tribulation and facing the sword of Jesus’ mouth when He returns. -
And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God (Rev. 19:15).
But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4).
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches;…
We will be rewarded for hearing…
…To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna…
Those who have been eating those things sacrificed to idols will not taste of this secret delight. All those who are not content with God or His Word, and have sought “hidden knowledge,” which is the bait that lures naïve Christians into the lairs of secret societies and false doctrine, will never receive the secret name reserved for the faithful. –
And will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it (verse 17).
It’s ironic that those who are chasing after secret knowledge in the Masonic lodge for example, are baited by seeking a hidden name given to the founder of that cult. Mormons also receive a secret name in their marriage ceremony into their version of Christianity. There is only one secret name worth seeking after and it is a gift to only those who remain faithful to Jesus of the Bible.
We proceed on to Jesus’ instructions to His church in Thyatira. Here the error He addresses is far more subtle than that of Pergamos. He begins His introduction to this church by again including portions of His description in Chapter One.
And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; these things says the Son of God, who has His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass; (verse 18).
The passionate, loving fire in His eyes is combined with the brass of His feet, which is symbolic of His judgment. There can be no genuine love without correction. This balance of love and correction has not been maintained in this church as we shall see.
I know your works, and charity, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first (verse 19).
Here again we have a very good church whose fruits will increase over time. Yet, she is not perfect. –
Notwithstanding I have a few things against you, because you suffer (allow, permit) that woman Jezebel,…
Jezebel was probably not her real name, but here this individual is called by a name that is designed to illustrate the character of the woman. God is associating her with the Jezebel of the Old Testament as a means of identifying her and the spirit she is harboring with a biblical villainess. In the Scriptures the name Jezebel is associated with “whoredoms and witchcrafts” (II Kings 9:22).
…who calls herself a prophetess,…
“She calls herself a prophetess.” She’s got this thing for the status of titles. She is a self-appointed prophetess, claiming an intimacy with God that is a façade. This is a carnal, religious spirit operating with a veneer of spirituality. Again, because so many Christians do not consult the Word for themselves, and don’t have a concept of what true Biblical Christianity is supposed to be as it was taught by the original apostles of our Lord, they can quickly succumb to this spirit’s deceptions.
Her job description is…
….to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols (verse 20).
These are the same errors that are perpetrated in the church by the more obvious Balaamites. Jezebel’s tactics, however are more refined and more difficult to discern.
The Jezebel spirit is a spirit of compromise. She subtly blurs the contrast between God’s brilliant white absolutes and the devil’s obvious darkness with an easy gray road in-between.
It has always been a characteristic of God’s true priests to put a difference between what is clean and unclean. God has never changed this requirement for the leaders of His church. God’s judgments were vented upon ancient Israel because her leadership came under the influence of this same “spirit of whoredoms” mentioned in Hosea 4:12, and 5:4, and reaped the violent consequences of their disobedience.
One of Jezebel’s tactics is to remove fear of God and to teach that He does not punish for sin, or that we will not reap the consequences of continuous, blatant sin. As a result her followers are prone to sexual sin, certain sexual sins become accepted in the church and we find ourselves “eating things sacrificed to idols,” that is, we are indulging in that which God’s Word tells us to avoid for our good.
This same spirit had polluted ancient Israel and God’s warnings of their coming judgment were dismissed. –
They have belied the LORD, and said, “It is not He; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword not famine” (Jeremiah 5:12).
They (false prophets) say still to them that despise Me, (people who walk contrary to the Word of God, yet profess their love for Him, are actually despising Him in their hearts) The Lord has said, You shall have peace; and they say to every one that walks after the imagination of his own heart, ‘No evil shall come upon you’ (Jeremiah 23:17).
The Jezebel spirit promotes an imbalanced doctrine deliberately avoiding Scriptures that contradict her teachings.
I was visiting a Bible study at a church in Virginia. The teacher was using Luke Chapter Thirteen, verse four, to show that when bad things happen it is not the result of sin. - Or those eighteen, upon the tower of Siloam fell, and killed them, do you think that they were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem?
He deliberately did not include the following verse where Jesus says, No, but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish (verse 5).
If a doctrine is correct, then every Scripture must be in harmony with it, with no contradictions. The entire counsel of God’s Word also must be taken into consideration.
I also visiting a church in California years ago. The young Jezebel influenced pastor was making fun of a book someone had given him called “What God Hates.” This pastor’s take on it was that God doesn’t hate anything. God’s Word tells us plainly that there are many things He hates, among them are the deeds of the Nicolaitans, as we have previously mentioned.
The Jezebel spirit will twist the Word of God to accommodate her agenda. I have heard her pastors take God’s own Word and use it to justify sin that He has labeled as abomination. Any Scriptures that described God’s judgment on sin are always excluded from her theology. God does not punish is her mantra and she exudes a counterfeit agape love that is designed to be a cloak for her licentiousness.
The Jezebel spirit is of the world and loves the world. She seeks to conform her followers into her image and not the image of Christ who walks above the waters of this world. This spirit deliberately feeds the carnal nature and her goal is to keep her followers earth-bound. A true prophet from God will help you to rid yourself of your carnality and guide you into seeking Jesus’ divine nature and that which is above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20).
Our God is a merciful God and in His mercy He gives us all space to repent, including evil Jezebel. –
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not (verse 21).
God has warned her to repent. This word repent does not exist in Jezebel’s theology. She does not want to repent, therefore she does not teach it. Biblical repentance as it was taught by our founding apostles requires a turning from sin. Any true apostle, prophet or anyone else claiming authority from the Lord will teach and preach repentance. –
I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings (Jeremiah 23:21,22).
She refuses to repent and God says this: –
Behold I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am He which searches the reigns and the hearts: and I will give to every one of you according to your works (verse 22).
In other words, God is going to make them reap what they have sown and their own backslidings will eventually come upon them for their correction.
This is exactly what the Jezebel spirit does not want you to know. She teaches that are no consequences for sin and God does not punish or chasten, so when God’s chastening arrives, her followers become disillusioned with the version of God she has taught them and they fall away from the faith just as the devil has engineered it.
God corrects His children as a loving Father, but He does correct. Hebrews twelve verses four through ten reminds us and Jezebel’s followers that -
You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as unto children, My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if you are without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then you are bastards, (illegitimate) and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.
Not every bad thing that happens to us is the result of personal sin, but everything that happens to us works for the benefit of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose, as we are assured in Romans 8:28.-
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
I can picture Jesus standing before this zealous congregation as He concludes,
But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you no other burden (verse 24).
This church was doing well, but the “depths of Satan” was being permitted to operate in their midst and they were unaware of the deception operating in their church.
If God’s people do not know the Word of God for themselves, or check what they are being taught by church leadership with the Word, then they are candidates for deception. Unfortunately, many Christians do not study the Word for themselves and therefore they can be pre-programmed by Jezebel influenced leadership. Apparently this was the case with Thyatira and why the teachings of this Jezebelian teacher were being tolerated. The people were being deceived and they did not know it, because they had allowed themselves to drift from wholly following the Word of God to be influenced by the teachings of men.
I had a prophetic dream over twenty years ago and I still recall it as vividly today as when I first received it. In this dream I saw two men sitting at a table. Then one of the men produced a large pizza out of his mouth and handed it to the other man to eat. That was the dream. Now would you eat that pizza knowing where it came from? Yuck, no; yet that is what we are eating, when we take all of our teachings that are manufactured from the mouth of men and do not consult the word of God for ourselves. We are eating spiritual fast food and we will eventually pay for the lack of nutrients found in that man inspired substance.
The Jezebel spirit operates in the church today to subtly erode allegiance to a pure, Biblical Christianity and seeks to replace it with a counterfeit version. The goal of this spirit is to eventually remove the Cross, dependence upon the atonement of Jesus with “another gospel.”
The Jezebel spirit gains entrance through the unguarded doors of the church through apostate leadership; a leadership that does not regard God’s Word as the final authority. Just as Ahab disobeyed God and married Jezebel, a Phoenician, a foreign wife who led him into Baal worship I Kings 16:31, so today God’s people are being led astray when the doctrines, interpretations or opinions of men are considered equal to or regarded above the Word of God.
The church in Thyatira is given no other burden than to eliminate the Jezebel spirit from within her walls. Just like a cancer in a human body, if the seeds of this spirit are not removed, then it will overtake and consume an entire church with devastating error. Therefore this church is told,-
But that which you have already hold fast till I come (verse 25).
They are being told to discern their doctrine, eliminate the bad from the good, discern the clean from the unclean and hold on until the Lord comes, which tells us that this church will be operating in the latter days prior to the Lord’s arrival.
The Jezebel spirit promises her followers power. This is not the power of the Lord, but a carnal power, similar to that which is promised to witches. Those who are truly seeking the Lord, are not concerned with gaining power, but being obedient to His Word and faithful. Therefore the Lord offers to these ones, the true power that is bestowed from the Lord alone.
And he that overcomes, and keeps My works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (verse 26).
Those who are Christ’s will rule and reign with Him. –
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father (verse 27).
Yes, there is discipline in the Lord’s kingdom when He comes to rule with His saints, a discipline that Jezebel overlooks in her quest to subvert Biblical Christianity. - "she calls herself a prophetess" (verse 20). Those who are faithful to God’s Word and are humbly serving Him without seeking fame and Christian “stardom,” are given status and a title from the Lord. –
And I will give him the morning star (verse 28).
Morning star is a title that designates a son of God. Jesus is the morning star (Revelation 22:16), the only begotten Son. Those who are His children, receive this title designating them as one with their Lord and children of the Most High God. There is no other status or title higher than that.
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (verse 29).
Revelation Chapter Three
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write…
The third chapter of Revelation begins with Jesus’ instructions to His church in Sardis. I can picture our Lord standing before this congregation as His expression changes to a solemnity that is bordering on intense displeasure.
Sardis, along with Laodecea are the only churches among the seven that Jesus does not begin His instructions to them with any form of encouragement. The only good thing that Sardis has going for it that sets it apart from Laodecea is, that among its apostates there is a surviving remnant of faithful believers.
Each of the errors that are infecting the five churches exist as the result of the believer’s attitudes toward the Word of God.As we have been shown, the Ephesians have an unbalanced view of God’s Word, which distorts their ministry. Pergamos is bored with the Word, needs more that what God provides and marries foreign wives to satisfy a carnal nature that it does not want to submit at the foot of the Cross. Thyatira embraces God’s Word, but twists it to suit Satan’s agenda. Jesus shows us that Sardis has become “dead” to His Word,…
These things says He that has the Seven Spirits of God (the Holy Spirit), and the seven stars (angels); I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead (verse 1).
To the observer, this church would appear to be alive and thriving, but God appraises His people quite differently than man. He sees this church as spiritually dead. This is a religious church upon which the Word of God has no influence. Sardis is the home of the “cut and paste” Christian.
Have you ever heard of the Jefferson Bible? Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe in Jesus’ miracles, viewing Him only as a great teacher. So Jefferson devised a Bible according to his own preferences and eliminated everything that he did not chose to believe. He was totally dead to the truth that the Word of God is designed by its Author to convey.
Likewise, Sardis’ clan practices the same form of apostasy and scorns those who hold the fundamental view that the Bible is the inspired Word of God in its entirety, and is the absolute guide to human conduct. Therefore Sardis is viewed as dead because she is dead to the Word and the Gospel it proclaims. Because of this she cannot discern her errors and I can imagine that the Lord’s rebuke to her is coming as a big surprise.
He admonishes her to…
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect (Greek approximate -measuring up) before God (verse 2).
This church is functioning under the Christian label, but she is about to lose that connection all together and she is warned to strengthen it. In the next verse Jesus tells her how. –
Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent…
The Christian church was birthed at the foot of the Cross and at the door of an empty tomb. Jesus declared that He is the only way to the Father. Repentance and a willingness to turn from sin is a necessity of the true Christian life and not an option. No one who claims to be a follower of Jesus can invent their own path to eternity apart from God’s Word. Sardis is being instructed to return to her roots and follow the apostolic example.
That which is ready to die in her midst is the truth of the Gospel which is her only lifeline. If she does not repent, Jesus says…
…If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come upon you (verse 3).
Jesus reference to Himself as a thief has two applications. He comes to take your soul at an unexpected death, or at His second coming. He is warning Sardis, along with all of His church to be prepared to meet your Lord at any moment.
We see the portrait of His church described in Matthew 25:1-13 as ten virgins. Five were prepared and brought extra oil for their lamps. The remaining five allowed their oil to burn out. Oil in the Scriptures is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, our Lord’s Spirit of Truth. The liberal, apostate church that no longer believes that Jesus is the only way to God, and thus has rejected the soul saving truth of the atonement, is not recognized by our Lord when He comes. Like the remaining virgins in Jesus’ parable, the Sardines will be among those whom Jesus does not recognize as His own. He declares to them, “I never knew you.” These are the most terrifying words in the Bible. We are given a choice and our faithfulness will determine which words we will hear Him say to us when we finally see Him face to face. Will it be “I never knew you” or “Well done, you good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21)?”
Among the apostates in the congregation in Sardis, is a remnant that is cleaving to the truth of the Gospel as it was first delivered to the apostles. These ones are promised to be among those whom the Lord will accept as His own.
You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments;...
We see here the remnant bride of Christ washing her robes white in the atoning blood of their Savior. –
…and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy (verse 4).
We can see these faithful ones remaining in a dead, apostate spiritual environment as witnesses to God’s truth. In my opinion, this is another form of martyrdom. They are evangelists of another sort; operating to save those who think they are accepted by the Lord just because they show up at church every Sunday.
Some of these martyrs who are clothed in shining white in the midst of great spiritual darkness, are faithful pastors who struggle to share the truth of God’s Word with people who refuse to receive it and disdain correction. These pastors are the recipients of constant criticism and condemnation from the congregations they are trying to serve. Although the arrows they receive cannot be seen, the wounds they make in the hearts of these faithful ones are never unnoticed by God’s caring eyes.
The bride that walks by her Husband’s side as He escorts her to the marriage supper of the Lamb, is truly worthy for her faithfulness, and her reward is proclaimed in verse five. -
He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment…
This white garment is the righteousness of the saints (Revelation 19:8) that can only be obtained by faithfulness to God’s plan of salvation as He has recorded in the Holy Scriptures.;
…and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess His name before My Father, and before His angels.
Our bride who walks in white is being assured of her salvation.
According to the Word of God, there are only two things that can cost a believer their place of safety in God and they are unforgiveness (Matthew 6:15) and denying Jesus; that is the Jesus of the Bible and not a distorted, counterfeit man- inspired, cut and paste version of Him.
Jesus said that those who would deny Him, He would deny before the Father (Matthew 10:33).
Faith in the atonement and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead must be maintained in order to receive the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9). Sardis is being shown here that if she does not strengthen those things that are ready to die, the basic elements of her faith that can save her, she is standing in danger of having her name blotted out of the book of life and of hearing Jesus say to her those dreaded words, “I never knew you.”
The Sardines are about to be canned by the Lord and all those who partake of her liberal example. But because Sardis only believes what she wants to believe, she probably won’t take anything I’ve written seriously.
I can picture Jesus standing in a pulpit facing the congregation in Sardis, calling to those among them He knows are listening –
“He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (verse 6).
We leave Sardis as she is adjusting her hearing aid, and we turn our attention to the Lord’s church in Philadelphia.
We watch Jesus’ solemn expression ignite into a beaming smile as He gazes into the Philadelphian’s blazing flame. The tone of His voice rings with triumph as He begins to address the believers in Philadelphia.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things says He that is holy, He that is true, He that has the key of David, He that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; (verse 7).
To this church Jesus declares His absolute power that has been bestowed upon Him by the Father. –
All things are delivered unto Me of My Father – Matthew 11:27.
And the glory which You gave to Me – John 17:22.
Wherefore God also has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: - Philippians 2:9.
God put all things under Him – I Corinthians 15:28.
Jesus has been given the key of David. What is that sacred key? As we look at David’s life, we see a man who had an intimate relationship with God. Jesus promises His disciples that God’s ear is open to their prayers when they are abiding in their Lord. –
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7).
(Those who are abiding in Jesus are submitting their self-will to God, are seeking His kingdom first and thus are naturally asking for things that are in accordance with the will of God, thus they will receive the answers to their prayers in God’s way and in His perfect timing.)
Jesus is indicating that the Philadelphians have this same favor. They have not quenched His Holy Spirit, are cleaving to God’s Word and they are partakers of that same intimacy with the Lord that David enjoyed.
Philadelphia, along with Smyrna, are the only two churches among the seven that receive no words of correction. Apparently in the Lord’s eyes these churches are doing everything right. They are not harboring the sins apparent in the other churches; therefore it is extremely important that we learn from their example.
Jesus says to them;…
I know your works…
Their obedience to God’s Word is very important. These good works are blessed by the Lord and as a result …
…behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it:…
This church has favor with God, and no man can hinder her God-appointed mission. This favor is the direct result of her obedience and reverence to God’s Word. –
…for you have a little strength (His strength is made perfect in weakness - 11 Corinthians 12:9). This is a Christ-dependent church)…and has kept My Word and has not denied My name (verse 8).
…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My Word (Isaiah 66:2).
The Philadelphian remnant is a church that has not lost her reverent fear of God. She is humbly dependent upon Him and values God’s Word as His Word and absolute truth and the only guide to be followed. She is faithful to Jesus and will not deny Him, affirming that He is the only way to the Father no matter what pressures are put upon her to renounce Him.
Like her brethren in Smyrna, she is a martyr, but of a different sort. Her suffering is the internal struggle of a sincere believer who denies the pull of the flesh on a daily basis and chooses to take her place with Jesus in Gethsemane, travailing in prayer to overcome her sin nature. She is allowing the Holy Spirit to make her into the person God wants her to be; conformed into the image of His Son. Thus she refuses to deny Jesus in word or in her works. She is a true disciple, seeking God’s will above her own. The devotion of this church makes her a true Jew in the eyes of the Lord. –
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie: Behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet and to know that I have loved you (verse 9).
Like Smyrna, Philadelphia shares her status of being of the truly circumcised in heart, fully separated to her God.
Because you have kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (verse 10).
Holding fast to the Word of God has many rewards, among them protection in the latter days. Here we see that this church will be functioning in the generation prior to the Lord’s return. As the world and a worldly church descend into the prophesied apostasy, Philadelphia will remain faithful. This church is and will be a glowing reflection of the zeal and devotion of those first century believers. They will be protected from the influences of apostasy, and in turn that protection will keep them from “the hour of His judgment” (Revelation 14:7) the great tribulation that is to come upon the entire world.
Enoch walked with God and he was not (Genesis 5:24).” Enoch was “raptured” and the bride that is walking with Jesus before the great tribulation can expect the same deliverance.
There are some in the Christian camp who do not believe in a “rapture.” It is prophesied in the Apocrypha. Esdras, (Ezra of the Old Testament), is told by the Lord through an angel that “They shall see those who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death... and the heart of the earth’s inhabitant’s shall be changed” (11 Esdras 6:26).
We note that the two witnesses in Chapter Eleven are called “candlesticks.” Candlesticks, as we have been shown in Rev 1:20, are churches, therefore those two witnesses have to be churches. The two candlesticks of Revelation Chapter Two and Three, Smyrna and Philadelphia, are seen here joined hand in hand, their faithfulness and endurance are about to be rewarded. Those who have not quenched the Holy Spirit will be able to hear His voice say “Come up here” (Rev. 11:12).
(The great tribulation begins in Chapter Fourteen, the previous chapters eight through eleven is the warning period symbolized by the trumpets that precedes the tribulation.)
The spiritual climate of the church in general from which these faithful candlesticks emerge is the same spiritual condition that enveloped ancient Israel before her captivity. There was also a remnant that God preserved through that ordeal and they are likened to Noah, Daniel and Job. –
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD (Ezekiel 14:14).
Noah was delivered from the flood by his obedience to the commands of God. Today, we believe the Gospel that has been delivered to us by Jesus and His original apostles, and we are carried above the stormy waters of this life in Jesus, our Ark of safety, saved by His grace.
Daniel separated himself from a pagan society and did not emulate its ways. We value holiness and guard our eye gates and ear gates from the world’s intrusions.
Job remained faithful to God through his trials and sufferings. Likewise we will endure what comes our way with our eyes fastened upon our Savior because we know our Redeemer lives and we will not deny Him, no matter what the cost.
This is a portrait of the remnant that is living in the generation before Jesus returns. –
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown (verse 11).
The remnant church understands that the spiritual treasure she has received from the Lord is of far more value than anything the world has to offer. She is pursued by enticements, and part of her suffering for her Savior is to deny those enticements. She guards her treasure with her life with her eyes upon her heavenly home (Hebrews 11:16). She knows what she can see is only temporal, what she cannot see is eternal (11 Corinthians 4:18). She knows the spiritual warfare she must endure to keep her riches is worth the fight.
To these overcomers there is another promise. –
Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out:…
The faithful are promised a place of safety and intimacy with God that is the fruit of their desire to be with Him that they have maintained in their earthly life.
…and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name (verse 12).
The name of God is YAHWEH as He declared to Moses (Exodus 3:13, 14). The word Jehovah is a man-engineered derivative that originated in the middle ages. Man has been given the authority to name everything, but it is God who has designated to man what He is to be called. Yet, we are shown in Jeremiah 3:19, that it is God’s desire that He be addressed as “Father.”
We will also bear the name of the city that represents the faithful believers that is the collective dwelling place of God and Jesus will also write upon us His new name, showing us that we are one with Him as He is one with the Father.
Philadelphia values the spiritual treasure found in God’s Word, and unlike the apostates that surround her, needs no hearing aid to enable her to hear the voice of her Beloved as He calls –
He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Jesus now turns His attention to His church at Laodicea. We watch the beaming smile on His face that accompanied His gaze upon His Philadelphian bride, dissolve back into a solemn stare. He knows the Laodiceans have been too preoccupied with other things to have been paying any close attention to what has transpired so far in His discourse to His churches. We listen as He tries to get her attention.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (verse 14).
In the beginning, the Spirit of God moved upon the waters and everything was created (Genesis 1:2). The ancient Jews recognized that the Spirit of God revealed in Genesis is the Spirit of the Messiah. Therefore Jesus is the beginning of all creation. God created everything through Him (Ephesians 3:9), and they are the same Spirit; "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30).
Jesus is affirming His divinity to this church. She is being addressed by her Creator. This should make her and all of us snap to attention.
I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot (verse 15).
Laodicea, along with Sardis has also earned the dubious distinction of not having any merits the Lord can praise. At least Sardis has a zealous remnant in her midst, Laodicea has nothing to offer but her complacency.
Jesus tells her that He would prefer her spiritual condition to be either cold or zealously hot rather than what He sees her spiritual thermometer is registering at the moment. Her lack of concern for her spiritual condition is going to cause her to reap what she is too complacent to sow.
So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew (vomit) you out of My mouth (verse 16).
In other words, the Laodiceans' spiritual condition is not offering Him anything He desires to ingest, -
Because you say, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing'…
The source of their security is not the Lord, they are instead relying on their wealth and other material resources, preferring these things above the treasures of the Spirit. Because of this, they are seen as spiritually ignorant….among other things…
And you know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind, and naked (verse 17).
We are reminded again by this example, that God sees things from a different perspective than man. While we evaluate success by a person’s ability to acquire wealth, those who value the spiritual treasure above what they can see and touch, are the truly wealthy in the eyes of the Lord.
Note the contrast between Smyrna, whom God sees as rich even though they are poor in this life (Revelation 2:9), and the Laodiceans who have traded the riches of a true spirituality for a temporal materialism. It is a very dangerous place to be. God beholds them in their wretched state and because God loves us all too much to leave us where we want to be, their spiritual condition must be corrected.
I counsel you to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich…
Gold has become a source of security for many in uncertain financial times. If your trust is in your collection of bullion and not the Lord, you need to be reminded that the gold you own is not your Savior and it can’t deliver your soul.
God allows the storm winds of tribulation to remove those idols of gold in the furnace of affliction where true trust is formed, and where God demolishes the idol and replaces it with the wealth of a true dependence upon Him.
Because of the Jezebelian influence in the church today, the concept of God allowing hardship to work His purpose in our characters is almost non-existent and what is being taught here will almost sound like heresy to some, even though it is the Word of God. This again is evidence of the churches’ apostasy.
This author has gone through some of those refining fires and it is worth it all to see how God arrives just when you think all is lost. Our faith is built in our trials and this is why the Word of God encourages us to endure them for the sake of our spiritual development.
We have been counseled to replace materialism with spiritual treasure, now we are told to desire the clothing that only trust in Jesus’ blood can provide. …
…and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear…
The danger of trusting in your own resources as we are shown here, can also subtly erode a believer’s trust in the Lord for our salvation.
These Laodicean believers are seen as naked in the Lord’s appraisal. The white clothing represents the righteousness of the saints that is only imparted through faith in the blood atonement. It appears that the apostasy that is the result of the Laodicean’s distortion of Christianity has stripped them of the covering needed to save their souls. Has the deception of riches and prosperity doctrines undermined their need for atonement? Have they, through the onslaught of an abundance of false teaching in these latter days, been deceived into believing that wealth is a token of salvation and a sign of God’s favor?
We see this example from the Old Testament in Jeremiah 44:15-18. When God’s people had been serving pagan idols and then returned to God, they complained that they were more prosperous when they were following their “queen of heaven.” Likewise, the pagan idol of Laodicea’s wealth is not an accurate gage of the Lord’s favor by any means.
Laodicea’s inability to discern her pathetic spiritual condition is spiritual blindness and she is told to …
Anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see (versed 18).
Jesus healed a blind man by putting earth in his eyes, then counseled him to go wash it away. Symbolically we are being shown by this example that when the earth is in our eyes; that is, when the things of earth are predominant, this condition can cause spiritual blindness and must be washed away by the water of God’s Word and His spirit.
The eye slave of repentance is the substance needed to restore the Laodicean’s ability to discern what is truly valuable in God’s eyes.
While the Laodiceans are writhing under the Lord’s correction, He assures them and all of us that we are loved,
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent (verse 19).
Laodicea’s materialism had eroded her zeal for God and His work. She is being restored through her trials, but the seemingly bad things God is allowing to come her way are actually blessings in disguise, for they are designed to bring her back into a right relationship with her God. Like ancient Israel, she will endure her designated time of captivity and eventually come through the furnace of her afflictions shining like gold.
In the end she recognizes God’s love for her as He walks with her through the flames and she understands that her zeal for Him is all she really needs. But right now, at this moment, in this stage of her spiritual development, Jesus is still waiting patiently at the door of her heart. –
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears My voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me (verse 20).
“Behold,” – Jesus is saying, look at this, children of Laodicea, and raise your heads away from the ground surrounding you that is now engulfed in flames. There is great hope for your restoration.
Your Bridegroom is standing at the door of your heart. He’s been trying to get your attention for a long time now. Can you hear Him knocking? Slow down and listen for a while. He’s been sending things your way to try and detach you from your preoccupation with the things of this life. Can you hear His Still Small Voice whispering to you through the storm winds that are churning around you?
You’ve come to the place where you realize you need much more than what your eyes can see. You are hungry for something deeper than a once a week Sunday only relationship with God. You finally open the door all the way, willing to let Him come in and take His rightful place on the throne of your heart. He makes a triumphant entrance and your relationship with Him is all that matters now.
Together you feast upon His Word. He delights in treating you with His knowledge as you willingly ingest His Spirit and His instructions. The Word of God becomes a feast. You rejoice in the intimate communion with the God in Christ who rules the universe, inhabits eternity and who desires to reside in your soul. What more do you need, children of Laodicea?
For those who overcome the snares of this life, we are promised an intimacy with God that unites us with a grand heavenly kingdom. Jesus says, -
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne (verse 21).
It’s a lovely, warm, safe place to be nestled in God’s lap. All the power and majesty those thrones of God and Christ represent are reserved to share with those who overcome.
Our final destination is assured through our faith and perseverance. We are promised an intimacy with the Almighty that will only be attractive to the true Bride of Christ, who is genuinely in love with her Bridegroom.
Jesus walks among the candlesticks, passionately in love with every one of them. He calls with a lover’s desire -
He that has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (verse 22).
Jesus is calling His bride. Are you listening?
copyright 2013 by H.D. Shively
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