Sunday, October 25, 2015


As Jesus prepared to give messages to the 7 churches, he explained to John the symbolism of the lamps and the stars. The golden lamp stands are the 7 churches of Asia.

Jesus walks among them. He knows them and is with them. In each letter, he will say “I know”. The 7 stars are the angels of the 7 churches. They will receive the messages on behalf of the churches.

There is some debate about the angels of the churches. Some believe they are a type of guardian angel for each church. Some believe the mean human messengers. Some believe they just symbolically represent the churches. Regardless, Jesus will address each of these churches individually. He will also tell them to hear the messages to the other churches.

The letters all follow the same format. It is the form of a royal edict or proclamation. It is the edict of the real king and lord, in contrast to that of Roman emperors.

In each letter, Jesus will identify himself differently as is appropriate for the problems of each church. But he will also tell them to heed what the Spirit says to the churches, showing that these problems occur in churches of all ages and localities. All of the letters deal with the issue of witnessing for Christ in a pagan culture.

Chapter 2

Letter to the church at Ephesus

Ephesus is probably the best known of the 7 churches, at least to the readers of the New Testament.

Acts 19 tells us of Paul coming to Ephesus and finding disciples baptized in the baptism of John the Baptist. They may have heard the gospel from Apollos before he learned the full truth from Priscilla and Aquila. Paul instructed them and they received the Holy Spirit. Paul then preached in the local synagogue for three months. When he received opposition, he moved to the hall of Tyrannous and preached every day for two years. After that, the silversmiths that made idols of Artemis rioted against Paul because he preached that man made idols were not gods. The Temple of Artemis was one of the “seven wonders of the world”.

There were also temples to the deified Roman emperors there.

Ephesus also had a big library. It was a center of occult arts.

Paul later met with the Ephesian elders as he started toward Jerusalem. Acts 20 records this. He left Timothy there to shepherd the church. Paul later wrote the church from prison in Rome (Acts 28). We call that letter “Ephesians” commonly. He also wrote letters to Timothy to deal with problems at the same church. Later, the Apostle John is thought to have lived there. This church had the best pastors imaginable.

Jesus began his word to the church in the same way God spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament. He says “the words of him”. (2:1) Remember how, in Ezekiel, we read “these things says the Lord Almighty”, or “thus says the Lord God” (Ez. 38:17) at the beginning of each prophesy. Jesus is assuming the role of God, of Yahweh, speaking a prophetic word.

Jesus identified himself to the Ephesian church as “him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walks among the seven lamp stands” because he will threaten to remove their lamp stand if they do not repent.

Jesus commended the Ephesian church for many things:
their toil;
their patient endurance for the name of Jesus;
not growing weary;
they hated to works of the Nicolaitans (6); and
they did not bear with those who are evil, but testing false apostles.

We can see the Ephesians were discerning. They tested and resisted false apostles. They resisted the Nicolaitans, whose works Jesus hated. We do not know what the Nicolaitans believed, but it was not the gospel. With all the paganism, mysticism and pluralism swirling around them, the Ephesians maintained true doctrine from the teachings of Jesus. Paul had earlier commended them for their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love toward all the saints. (Ephesians 1:15)

This was politically incorrect for the time. Had they been willing to accept these other teachings and practices, along with Christianity, they would likely have not faced opposition. But, their insistence on one true doctrine made them subject to opposition and persecution.

But Jesus did have a strong criticism. He said they had abandoned the love they had when they were first converted. This raises the question: is it love for Christ or for each other that Jesus references?

It dos not appear that the Ephesians had lost any love for Christ. They rejected every attempt to corrupt his teaching. They held true to him despite persecution.

So, it seems Jesus refers to a loss of love for others, especially non-believers. Remember that the church is represented by lamps, shining light into the darkness.If we do not shine, the darkness takes over. If we do not proclaim the gospel to our community, we are indistinguishable from nice, unsaved people.

Jesus warned of this very thing. Matthew 24:9-12 records Jesus saying:

“They they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. Ad many false prophets will arise and lead my astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

Jesus also said “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

It is easy, in face of persecution and false teaching, to withdraw from others and even to hate them. We may not hate them, but be indifferent to their eternal fate. But Jesus calls us to show love to others by proclaiming the gospel and performing acts of service. We must both hold to truth and love others by proclaiming it. Otherwise, we risk losing our very identity as Christ’s church.

Jesus commanded them to repent and to do the works they did at first. This was no light rebuke. We know this because Jesus said, if they failed to repent, he would come and remove their lamp stand. In other words, he would take their church away, or it would no longer be his church.

The last word to the Ephesian church is a wonderful promise: to the one who conquers, Jesus will grant to eat of the tree of life with is in the paradise of God. We conquer when we when we hold to the testimony of Jesus until then end. Jesus rewards us, as those in Ephesus, by letting us eat of the tree of life.

Remember the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. It’s fruit gave life. Mankind was banned from it after Adam sinned. But, in the new earth, the new Jerusalem, those whose names are written in the book of life again have access to it. They have eternal life in the paradise of God, the new earth. (Revelation 22:2)

Christians today need to follow the example of the Ephesian church in maintaining orthodox doctrine. We must know and understand our Bible. We face an onslaught of heresy blatant and subtle. Pluralism is urged on us. Immoral behavior is thrown in our face. Alternate religions and ways to salvation are proposed. We must be diligent to preserve the gospel.

But we must also be faithful to proclaim the gospel. Those who love Jesus proclaim him. That is the example of the church in the book of Acts.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Jesus promised that his followers would be with him in heaven. They had followed him on earth every day for several years. But then he told them he was going somewhere they could not follow. He was telling them he would die and go back to the Father in Heaven. They were troubled by this, because they did not want to give up their daily fellowship with him.

Jesus told them not to be troubled, but to believe in him. (John 14:1) Specifically, he wanted them to believe they would be reunited in heaven. He said "I go and prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you maybe also." (14:1-2)

The words "come again" lead some to think this is about the second coming. But the context is clearly Jesus going to join the Father in heaven and the disciples following later. That is why Jesus said "no one comes to the Father except through me". (14:6) The Father is in heaven. Jesus joined him there. If we want to be in heaven, with the Father, we must do it "through the Son". Belief in Jesus as the Son of God allows us into Heaven.

The words of Jesus are comforting. He said "I will come again and take you to myself". When we die, Jesus will come for us and bring us to heaven to dwell with him and our heavenly father. Death for the believer is not a deep sleep, or an abode in darkness or pain, but the moment we are ushered into the presence of our savior and lord. Take comfort in this. "Let not your hearts be troubled" by death.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


"Forgiveness is related to our willingness to forgive. Unless you have forgiven others you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord's prayer." C. H. Spurgeon

"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" was Jesus' instruction for prayer. (Matthew 6:12)

Paul wrote: "as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive". (Colossians 3:13)

JOHN'S VISION OF JESUS - Revelation 1:9-12

The Appearance of Jesus with Glory

In the midst of the lamp stands was one “like a son of man”. This is an allusion to Daniel 7:13. There, Daniel saw one like a son of man who appeared before the Ancient of Days, or God the Father. The Father gave Jesus the Son dominion, glory and an everlasting kingdom, and decreed that all should serve him. At the time Jesus appears to John, he has received this kingdom and dominion. Therefore, he does not appear as the humble, Jewish man John knew on earth, but as a powerful and glorious king.

Before analyzing the parts of Jesus's appearance, take in the whole. What does it show? It shows Jesus with power and glory, the hight priest of the church, ministering to the churches, purging sin and punishing those who persecute the church.

The vision is not to show us what Jesus looks like, but who he is!

John described Jesus as wearing a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. (13) His hair was very white, his eyes like flames, and his feet like bronze. His voice was like the sound of many waters.

The robe and sash show Jesus acting as a priest tending to the churches. HIs clothing and his appearance resemble that of a man in Daniel’s vision in Daniel 10. His appearance was so overwhelming that Daniel fell to the ground.

The description of his hair is the same as Daniel’s description of the Ancient of Days (God the Father) in Daniel 7:9. His voice was like a the roar of many waters. This again reflects Daniel’s description and the divine appearance to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:24.

His voice is powerful and overwhelming. The language comes from Ezekiel. Daniel also described his voice as that of a multitude.

His eyes of flame are symbols of Christ’s role as judge.

All of these attributes show us that Christ is portrayed as God. He is deity. He is our high priest, as we learned in Hebrews and he is eternal and powerful.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

I, JOHN - Revelation 1:9-11

I, John

John identified himself the 2nd time in verse 9. In verse 4, he just recites his name. But here he describes himself in several ways:
partner in the tribulation;
partner in the kingdom that is in Jesus; and
partner in the patient endurance that is in Jesus.

John identified himself as a fellow believer with his audience in Asia. He is a brother and a partner in the kingdom that is in Jesus. Again we see John speak of the kingdom of Christ as a present reality.

John is also a partner in the tribulation. This tells us that persecution and suffering had already come to the churches of Asia. More was on the way. John had suffered along with them. John remembered what Jesus told him: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) I do not think John is writing of a great tribulation at the end of time, but of the tribulation that already occurred in persecution and harassment by government and people against Christians. Paul spoke of his suffering for the gospel. He was imprisoned and finally executed. He said “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.” (2 Timothy 2:8) James spoke of suffering trials. (James 1:2)

But John is also a partner in the patient endurance that is in Jesus. The main theme of Revelation is that Christ is triumphant over all his enemies and will conquer them in due time. But a strong sub-theme is the need for patient endurance by the church. I found this stated 14 times in the book.

John also tells his readers he was on the island called Patmos when he received the vision. He was there because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Patmos is an island off the coast of Turkey. It was used to exile those who were disruptive to Roman order. Evidently, John’s preaching of the Word and this testimony as a witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus upset the locals. It could also be that John preached against Christians participating in emperor worship. That would definitely have upset things.

This brings us to the question of the date Revelation was written. This question is relevant to the idea of the tribulation to which John refers. Most scholars believe the date to be about 95 A.D. There are some who believe the date to be right before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The later date places the time of writing during the reign of Domitian as emperor of the Roman Empire. Domitian’s father, Vespasian, became emperor in 69 A.D. His son, Titus, Domitian’s older brother, because emperor in 79 when Vespasian died. Titus died in 81 A.D. Domitian became emperor and ruled for 15 years, until 96 A.D. Domitian was very interested in Roman religion and morals. He built the temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. Domitian’s favorite deity was Minerva. He kept a personal shrine to her and put her image on coins.

Domitian also revived the imperial cult. He deified his father and brother. Eusebius of Caesarea, a church historian, wrote that Domitian persecuted Christians toward the end of his reign. It is believed that Domitian exiled John to Patmos.

Exile did not prevent John from worshipping. On the Lord’s Day, on Sunday, he was “in the Spirit”. This is similar to the visions of Ezekiel, whose visions began with the Spirit taking him to a place and showing him things. It was during John”s communion with the Lord that Jesus appeared to him. Jesus appeared behind John and spoke to him with a loud voice, so loud it sounded like a trumpet. He told John to write down what he would see in the vision and send it to the 7 churches of Asia.

The loud voice of Jesus is a symbol of power. It had the sound of a trumpet, signaling an important message. This symbol was used in the Old Testament also. When God came to Mount Sinai to give the covenant, there was a very loud trumpet blast, so loud it made all the people tremble. (Exodus 19:16)

When John turned to face the voice, he saw 7 golden lamp stands. This makes us think of Zechariah 4. There, Zechariah saw a lamp stand with 7 lamps. This is the type of lamp that was in the temple. It was a symbol of the temple, as the Lord told Zechariah that the temple would be rebuilt by the returned exiles even though the rebuilding had stopped for a time. The lamps represented the Spirit. The Lord told Zechariah that the temple would not be build by might or power, but by the Spirit. Similarly, then, the seven lamp stands stand for the church. Later we are told that the seven lamp stand represent the seven churches of Asia. But the number 7 leads us to believe it stands for the church as a whole. And the Spirit is building the church into the new temple of God.