Two whole chapters are given us by the Apostle John in order to prepare the reader for the awesome events that are to follow, when in chapter 6 a scroll is opened which sets in motion a series of cataclysmic events known as the Tribulation period which culminate in the closing out of this present age and the bringing in of the Messianic Age. Chapter 4 prepared us for what we have now come to in chapter 5, and chapter 5 will prepare us for the opening of the seals in chapter 6. Chapter 4 was a chapter of magnificent worship around the throne of God and in the chapter before us, this scene of heavenly worship is set to intensify as One is found worthy to open the book and to loose the seals.
We move on in this eleventh teaching to survey an awesome sight. John hears the voice like a trumpet, calling him to come up hither, where he beholds the throne of God surrounded by a company of celestial beings, worshipping the One who sits upon the throne whose appearance is like unto a jasper and sardine stone!
O how feeble are our praises by comparison! How little worth we ascribe to God by our praise! How conditional is it dependent upon our feelings and emotions. Brethren, the LORD is worthy to be praised!!!!
When one thinks of the Seven Churches of Revelation, the Church perhaps that comes more readily to mind than any other is the Church in Laodicea. History records that where Laodicea was situated geographically, it lay along a great river and in the centre of where three great roads converged. This commercial advantage made Laodicea a city of tremendous wealth and prosperity, so much so that in the early 1st century AD when a devastating earthquake hit, when offer was made by the Roman Emperor to help build back the wasted city, the Laodiceans refused, saying that they preferred to rebuild their ruined city by their own means. It was the affluent condition of the Church in that locale which proved to be its great downfall, as it measured its spiritual prosperity by its physical prosperity. Thinking themselves, rich, increased with goods and need of nothing; our Lord said on the contrary, they were poor, wretched, blind and miserable!
This letter is a warning to us all, not least those of us who live in the West. Moderate, indifferent, lukewarm Christianity will never do! God is calling His people back to Himself, to a fervent, all-out, fanatical, single-minded and single-hearted walk. May God grant us grace to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church!
I find it no coincidence that the only two Churches of which our Lord had nothing indicting to say, both found themselves in the midst of the purging fires of persecution! Twenty-eight miles south-east of Sardis lay the city of Philadelphia. Its natural geography served well to illustrate the robustness of the Church residing in this city as one of bearing up under trial. Philadelphia lay on the edge of a great plain which was nick-named the “Burnt Land” on account of the frequent volcanic activity in the area. Yet, what one would deem to be a curse, another would deem a blessing, since because of this activity, Philadelphia was one of the most fertile areas in the world bringing to it great prosperity, not least through its world-famous wines, produced from the grapes which grew on this plain. Again, this serves as an analogy to illustrate the irony of persecution, that what one would deem surely to result in the obliteration of Christianity via the volcanic fires of persecution, proves only to be conducive to the fertile ground upon which the Church flourishes, exporting its fruits the world over!!!
In this teaching, we explore the goodness and sovereignty of God, in light of persecution. Here was a Church in Philadelphia having little strength, who had kept Jesus’ word and had not denied His name!! Our Lord’s exhortation to this faithful Church was to hold fast what they had until His coming.
It’s amazing how so much can change over time! If one was to visit Sardis in Western Turkey today, one would be greeted by a vast array of ruins; the crumbling shells of what was once a magnificent and illustrious city. Seven hundred years before this letter was penned by John, Sardis stood as one of the greatest cities in the world! Sardis was THE celebrated capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and was also of great importance in the era of the Persians and also the Romans. Yet sadly, when one looks for this eminence and splendour today, one looks in vain; all is but a faded memory of a bye-gone day, Sardis’ former glory now confined to the pages of antiquity, its ruins serve as a testimony of what once was!
The sad reality of the matter is that the passing glory of this ancient city was reflected by a Church which was found in it. Once this Church excelled in spiritually and godliness; yet, by the time our Lord addressed them, they had retained the name but had lost the reality of what earned them that name in the first place. “...thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead”. There is much that we can learn from the Church in Sardis and the words that our Lord spoke to them; may God give us the grace to hear what the Spirit saith.
When one mentions the Church at Thyatira, what thoughts come readily to mind? Good thoughts or bad thoughts? If we’re honest, we’d have to concede ’bad’ thoughts’! How bad? Jezebel, false prophetess, Idolatry, fornication, foods sacrificed to idols, great tribulation, killing, sickness and death!! Yet, in keeping with the usual custom of our Lord, before He brings rebuke, He first brings commendation. Can anything good come out of Thyatira you ask? Absolutely!! “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first”.
That said, the Lord had a few things against His people which though few in number, was by no means a small matter! “I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols”. We’ve much to learn from this Church and in this teaching we touch on many practical points that serve to forewarn and arm us.
The ancient city of Pergamos had been for three hundred years, a capital city in that locale. Like that of Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamos was a famous centre of religious worship and among the Greek deities worshipped by the Pergamenes was the revered Asklepios.
There were some in Pergamos who had remained faithful under trial, suffering much at the hand of the wicked one and yet had not denied their Lord. Others however had turned aside to the false doctrine of Balaam, eating things sacrificed to idols and committing fornication. There’s a lot to be learned from this Church, both from their commendation and their rebuke. By God’s grace we shall explore practically and theologically these precious lessons.
Of all seven epistles addressed to the Churches in Asia, the letter to the Church in Smyrna is by far the shortest. In just four verses, all that the Lord had to say was said! Smyrna was a Church that found itself amidst much tribulation and upon seeing their plight, Jesus sought to encourage them to hold fast and to prepare for an even greater period of persecution that was to follow.
There is much that can be learned from this epistle that we would do well to take heed. May God give us much grace in the days ahead so as to not only prepare for persecution but also to endure it.
Ephesus was a city of tremendous importance and was by far the greatest city in Asia. Commercially it was unrivalled and was the wealthiest being surpassed by very few cities of that day. Being situated at the mouth of an important river, Ephesus commanded the trade of that region and was dubbed “The Vanity Fair of the Ancient World”. Politically, it too was a city of great importance earning for itself the name “Supreme Metropolis of Asia”, and of course religiously, it held a place of incredible prominence being the centre of the worship of Artemis aka Diana and the temple situated in that city was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. To this city dared to come the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!
Around the year AD 52, a Church in Ephesus was founded and a decade later, around the year AD 62, Paul wrote his epistle to this same Church. In the passing of some three plus decades Jesus Christ now addresses this Church and though He had much good to commend them for; their labour and patience in exposing false doctrine and rooting out false teachers, He nonetheless had something against them, namely that they had left their first love!!
The four Gospel accounts record for us the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Mention is made of His birth and great detail is given to his ministry of some 3½ years, culminating in His death, burial and resurrection. Following His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself alive for 40 days by many infallible proofs being seen of the Apostles and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom until the time in which He was taken up to heaven.
We have very little recorded in the New Testament of the words of Jesus Christ following His ascension. However, it’s not until we come to the final book in the Bible that we have a detailed description of the risen ascended Son of God and the words spoken by Him to His Churches. This therefore if for no other reason, makes the Book of Revelation a very unique book in the Bible. In this teaching, we examine this first vision of John who beholds the risen, ascended Christ!