Revelation Episode 2

Beth's Notes

Matthew 16:18 (NIV) states:
18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  

1 Corinthians 3:10-11 (NIV) adds:
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.  I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. 8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live--where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. 18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.  20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations --27 ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’ -- just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  

Pray again for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom to discern God’s Word properly.

Just as Paul’s epistles, though addressed to individual churches, were also intended for the church throughout all generations, so too, these seven messages given by Jesus to John. Not only did they apply to those seven churches specifically mentioned but they also apply to the church in every generation who walk in similar situations – both the commendations and the condemnations. There were many other churches at the time of John’s writing such as those at Colosse, Magnesia, and Tralles, some larger than the seven churches mentioned in Asia Minor, but these were not specifically addressed. Yet, we can be certain that Jesus’ commendations and condemnations to these seven churches listed are just as applicable to us today.  He desires for His saints to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.  Saints are to be a people who let God’s light shine through them pointing others to our Lord. Remember, God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Malachi 3:6 tells us:
 6 “I the LORD do not change.”

We must remember as well that the church is not simply a building. The church is made us of individual believers in Christ Jesus who meet in a building or a home. Our jars of clay are the temples which carry His priceless Treasure. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7:
“7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 

A deepening sense of his own unworthiness, compared with the grandeur of his message, characterized Paul’s life as it should ours. We too are to go forth in humility - in the power of the Spirit - bringing glory to the One Who is the Giver of the power, Amen? It is simply not about us but about Him. Further, we are all infinitely unique, each adding our part to the whole body of Christ. Every heart a part. And if we are not doing our part the body will suffer.

Our salvation was not simply given to us to get us out of hell and into heaven rather to get God out of heaven into us – this is the gift of the Holy Spirit Who equips us on our sojourn through this dusty earth.  Heaven is our home – not earth.  When Christ is in our hearts, through our faith in Him, God is made manifest again – just as He was when Jesus was in the world.  We are to walk as He walked through His power for His glory.  John writes in 1 John 2:3-6:
3 “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

God’s plan for each of His children is to be conformed into the image of His Son so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.  His life indwelling in us is exactly what God had in mind when He sent His Son to redeem and reconcile us. Jesus reinvades our humanity so that He serves with our hands, He speaks with our words, He sees with our eyes, He walks with our feet, He loves with our hearts. For believers, to live is Christ and to die is gain. It is not about Beth Yoe anymore – she has been crucified with Christ as Paul writes in Galatians 2:20:
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

In Chapters Two and Three of Revelation, the second major division begins – “what is now” – things that are presently happening. The order of Scriptural presentation of these seven churches was geographic. A messenger would naturally travel the route from the seaport of Ephesus thirty-five miles north to another seaport Smyrna and proceed still further north and to the east, to Pergamos, and then would swing further to the east and south to visit the other four cities. Remember, our God is a God of order and He is the Sender - we are simply those that are sent.   Obviously, these churches were specially selected and providentially arranged to provide characteristic situations which the church has faced throughout all of its history. Further, it is also no doubt significant that the number was limited to seven as this is the number of completeness in Scripture.

There is strong evidence in Scripture that the early church preached the gospel around the world. Romans 10:16-18 tells us:
16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

Paul writes in Colossians 1:6:
“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.” 

And again in Colossians 1:21-23:
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 

Before the canon of Scripture had been completed, the early church accomplished more widespread preaching of the gospel through the ministry of Jewish Christians than has ever been done since the church has become predominately led by Gentiles. We have not been able to equal their success even with all our modern day “helps”. The only other time the Gospel will be proclaimed around the world will again be under Jewish leadership when the 144,000 Jewish Christian witnesses go forth teaching and preaching the gospel to reach a “great multitude that no one can count.”    

Though the messages to the seven churches differ, the letters have some similarities. In each letter there is a particular description of Christ that related to the message that would follow. Also, in each letter He declared that He knew their works. Every letter includes a promise to those who overcome. Each one also gives an exhortation to those hearing. And each letter includes a commendation (except the letter to Laodicea), a rebuke (except the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia), an exhortation, and an encouraging promise to those hearing and heeding its message. In general these letters to the seven churches address the problems inherent in churches throughout all church history and are an incisive and comprehensive revelation of how Christ evaluates local churches.  Remember, He desires wholehearted devotion.
The four churches represented in Chapter Two which we will be discussing today are:  Ephesus – commended for their hard works, perseverance, continued orthodoxy, but also, sadly, condemnation as a lost-love, legalistic works oriented church; Smyrna – was the suffering church – commended for their good works, tribulation, and poverty; Pergamum – also commended for good works, held fast God’s name and did not deny the faith, but condemnation for allowing false teachers of Balaam and the Nicolaitans making them a compromising church; Thyatira – commended for their love, faith, service and perseverance but condemnation for being tolerant and permissive allowing idolatry and compromise.

Since these seven letters to the seven churches were written basically for all churches at all times and in all places it seems prudent for us to be good students, and carefully and prayerfully take to heart what God has written here for the time is nearer now than it has ever been. This is especially true since the message is coming from Christ Himself.      

The Letter To Ephesus
The letter was written to the angel at the Church of Ephesus (which parallels the Apostolic Church A.D. 30-100). The Greek word “angelos” which has been transliterated in the English word “angel”, is frequently used in the Bible for angels. However, in several instances this word refers to human messengers. It is best understood here as referring to human messengers to those seven churches. These would be the preachers or those leading the churches. The Apostle Paul started the Church of Ephesus and when his ministry came to a close, evidence indicates Timothy, his son in the faith, led the work there. Evidence further supports the Apostle John succeeded Timothy as the pastor at large in Ephesus. It was now some thirty years after Paul, at the close of the first century, that the first of seven messages is addressed.  

Christ’s description - as He was introduced in the message - was One “who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” The message is a symbolic presentation of the fact that Christ holds the messengers in His right hand  a place of sovereign protection and divine authority. To hold means “to hold authoritatively”.  The messengers, therefore, are held in divine protection and under divine control, echoing what John had written earlier about the security of the believer in John 10:28-30:  
28 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Ephesus was the most prominent city in the Roman province of Asia Minor at this time and it had a long history of Christian witness. The name Ephesus means “desired one”. This was the most desirable of all the churches of the church ages. It was characterized by fervent evangelism.  They believed Jesus was coming back in their lifetime.

To this Church, Christ states He knows their deeds, hard work and perseverance – so far so good, Amen?? They were commended for their faithful works of Christian service – nothing goes by Him unawares – He sees all.  It is a joyful labor of those abiding in Christ but it is nonetheless labor. And Christ knows and records all. We will find that we can never outgive God. No act of service is too small for Him to notice – even a cup of cold water given in His name (meaning He is the One that gets the glory). Dr. DeHaan, a great prophetic Bible teacher once stated:
“To come to Christ costs nothing, to follow Christ costs something, but to serve Christ costs everything.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:39:
39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

We are not saved by our works but our works demonstrate that we are saved.  

The Ephesian Church was a separated church meaning that they were not of this world. They watched out for those who would cause divisions and who placed obstacles in their path that went contrary to the teachings they had received. They tested the apostles to see if they were true or not.  Much akin to the Bereans who made sure that what Paul was telling them was true before making it a core value. The Church of Ephesus was commended by Christ for turning from both moral corruption and theological error. They did not grow weary in doing good even in enduring hardships for His Name. Indeed, the Church of Ephesus had served Christ well. Yet, we discover that their passion for service became more of a duty than a desire.  

The Church of Ephesus’ love for the Savior had grown cold and rote.  They did not have a lack of faith or defect in theology rather their failure was a matter of the heart. Faith is not a matter of following rote rules and regulations rather it is a wholehearted love and devotion for the Savior and a willingness to obey knowing He has our best interest at heart. The Ephesian’s passion they once had had for the Lord was now cold and obvious to the Savior. He desires for us to love Him with an undying love – not one that waxes and wanes nor one that is motivated by duty.  Our motivation behind the action is to be love and it is “protos” (first) that this is true. Why we do what we do matters greatly. Puritan Richard Sibbes writes:
“And because knowledge and affection mutually help one another, it is good to keep up our affections of love and delight by all sweet inducements and divine encouragements; for what the heart liketh best, the mind studieth most. Those that can bring their hearts to delight in Christ know most of His ways.”

And what we treasure, there our hearts will be also. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21:
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

We grow in Truth when we spend time at His feet in the Word – covering it in prayer – and applying It’s Truth to our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Craig Troxel writes in his wonderful book With All Your Heart – speaking of his own journey:
“All that I am and all that I have is a gift from Him. And as grateful as I am for what I perceive are signs of grace in my heart, I have not found its ‘sweetest frame’ to provide reliable footing. My confidence continues to be grounded in the incomparable grace that was ordained, accomplished, and applied by God the Father, Son, and Spirit. Such certainty comes from His faithful Word. Thus, to Him for whom no word is too wonderful to speak or to fulfill, to Him who sees what I am yet loves me, to Him I offer my heart sincerely – as meager as it is…..Christ is the only sure road for one’s heart.” 
Christ tells the Church at Ephesus to repent by remembering the height from which they had fallen – go back to the place of your departure – that is exactly what true repentance means.  This is always the first step. For the Ephesian Christians, this meant remembering the love for Christ which once burned in their hearts. So very often spiritual defection comes from forgetting what was once known. That is why God is constantly telling us to remember, remember, remember. If they did not repent, Christ states He would remove their lampstand – they would no longer be a testimony for Christ which we have seen has ultimately happened. It matters how we live our lives – both now and eternally. The city presently remains uninhabited.

Lastly, Christ commends this church for hating what He hates – the enemies of the Truth. The Nicolaitans apparently were a sect and some have interpreted their name as meaning “conquering of the people” – basically man over man rather than God over man. They were perhaps the forerunners of the clerical hierarchy superimposed upon the laity and robbing them of spiritual freedom. Other have considered them as a licentious sect advocating complete freedom in Christian conduct including participation in heathen feasts and free love. Whatever the identity and practices of the Nicolaitans, the fact that Christ said He also hated their works speaks very strongly about the terrible nature of what they believed and/or did. Christ’s hatred is that of a holy God against whatever counterfeits and distorts the purity of Biblical Truth. We hate the evil because it goes against all God is and it robs those that do it of His best for their lives. It is not wrong for Christians to hate what is evil – it is the enemy of God. Paul tells us in Romans 12:9:  
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 

Also Psalms 97:10 states:
10 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

John ends the section on the church at Ephesus with an invitation and a promise to those who conquer: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers is granted to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. It is important to note that this promise and those that follow to the other six churches, are not only for a special group of Christians called “conquerors”. Rather, this is a description of what should be the normal Christian life for every true believer in Jesus. This tree first mentioned in Garden of Eden is later found in the midst of the street of the new Jerusalem bearing its fruit for the healing of the nations – for its abundant health and life. It is especially appropriate that those who hate the world’s evil deeds and idolatrous worship are given the reward of abiding in the abundant life that is in Christ in the eternity to come. The gracious nature of this promise is designed to restore and rekindle that love of Christ known in the early days of the church. The letter to the Ephesus church reminds us how easily the church’s early days of passionate love for Christ can grow cold as time goes by. Yet Christ never meant for our duty for Him – even faithful duty - to replace our love for Him, which is to be continually nurtured. We nurture this love through prayer, feeding on God’s Word and applying it to our hearts.  

The Letter To Smyrna
Smyrna, the suffering church. This letter was written to the angel at the Church of Smyrna (which parallels the Persecuted Church A.D. 100-313).  The name of the city, Smyrna, means “myrrh,” an ordinary perfume.  It was also used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle, and in embalming dead bodies. While the Christians of the church at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, their faithful testimony was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God. Faithful suffering sans complaining is a pleasant aroma, a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice to our Lord Jesus.  
Smyrna was about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It was a wealthy city, second only to Ephesus in the entire area and, like Ephesus, a seaport.  But unlike Ephesus, Smyrna is presently still a large city (modern-day Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city). It was one of the finest cities of Asia – the glory of Asia – because of its planned development, its beautiful temples and its ideal harbor.  In this large and flourishing city was the little church to which this message was sent. It is mentioned only here in Scripture, but from other literature it is evident that this city was noted for its wickedness and opposition to the Gospel in the first century.
Christ depicts Himself as the Eternal One – the first and the last – relating Himself to time and eternity.  He was dead and now lives, referring to His death and resurrection. The church is reminded that even the eternal Son of God willingly became subject to rejection and persecution of evil people – just as they were presently suffering.  I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:5-11:
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

But like Christ, whom even death could not hold, the church should also anticipate ultimate victory. These words were chosen to encourage the church at Smyrna in its sufferings.  

Christ gives them a commendation for their faithfulness in trials and persecutions. He assures the believers at Smyrna that He knows of their oppression by their enemies and its resulting affliction and poverty. Yet, He reminds them that they are rich, bringing to mind those who are the poor of this world yet rich in faith. James 2:5 states:
5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

Smyrna’s persecutors included pagan’s as well as hostile Jews and Satan himself. The Jews hostility against Paul was well known. Also, when the bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp, was martyred in A.D. 155, these Jews eagerly assisted by gathering on the Sabbath wood and fagots for the fire in which he was burned. It has always been this way in the church; false religion has been most zealous in opposing that which is true. Their present suffering would only be a taste of what was going to come. Christ predicted that the devil would do everything in his power to stamp out their loyalty to Christ, seeking to mar their testimony. Christ indicated they would be thrown into prison and suffer persecution for ten days (a limited time period). It is clear that the church at Smyrna could expect further persecutions, including imprisonment for some of their number. The length of their trial would be short in comparison of the eternal blessings that would be theirs when their days of trial were over. One never outgives God. Never.   

The experience of the church at Smyrna, though certainly not desired, was designed by an infinitely wise and loving God for their good and His glory (never one greater than the other) as well as for the better testimony and furtherance of the gospel.

This suffering church received two exhortations from Christ that are His watchword to all believers in similar circumstances. First, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer”, which literally translates to “Stop being afraid”. They had really nothing to fear in this persecution in that it could not rob them of their priceless eternal blessing in Christ. They were in the Hands of God. It is He Who is in control. No one could snatch them out of His Hands.  Whatever was permitted was by His wise design. We would do well to remember this when we walk through our Valleys of Baca (tears). It is His desire to take us from “strength to strength”.  

The second exhortation is “Be faithful unto death”, which translated literally is “Become faithful even unto death”. Their real riches could not be touched because they are kept in heaven for them. Their faithfulness (as well as ours) results in eternal life – “the crown which is life”. This promise had to be encouraging to the Apostle John as he wrote from his own bleak circumstances on Patmos. The martyred Polycarp wrote:
“Eighty and six years have I served the Lord, and He has never wronged me. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”

The faithfulness of Polycarp to the end seems to have characterized this church in Smyrna in its entire testimony. The concluding promise to the church at Smyrna is “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death”, the judgment at the great white throne. Those who die in Christ are not subject to the second death, eternal suffering in hell – the sad end of all who die apart from Christ.
It is noteworthy that Christ’s message to the church of Smyrna contains no rebuke. The very trial that afflicted them assured them of deliverance from any lack of fervency for the Lord, which plagued the church at Ephesus, and kept them from any impurity or compromise with evil. It is true in every age that the purifying fires of affliction cause the church’s testimony to burn all the more brilliantly. Read Nightbirde - Jane Marczweski 

I don’t remember most of Autumn, because I lost my mind late in the summer and for a long time after that, I wasn’t in my body. I was a lightbulb buzzing somewhere far. After the doctor told me I was dying, and after the man I married said he didn’t love me anymore, I chased a miracle in California and sixteen weeks later, I got it. The cancer was gone. But when my brain caught up with it all, something broke. I later found out that all the tragedy at once had caused a physical head trauma, and my brain was sending false signals of excruciating pain and panic. I spent three months propped against the wall. On nights that I could not sleep, I laid in the tub like an insect, staring at my reflection in the shower knob. I vomited until I was hollow. I rolled up under my robe on the tile. The bathroom floor became my place to hide, where I could scream and be ugly; where I could sob and spit and eventually doze off, happy to be asleep, even with my head on the toilet. I have had cancer three times now, and I have barely passed thirty. There are times when I wonder what I must have done to deserve such a story. I fear sometimes that when I die and meet with God, that He will say I disappointed Him, or offended Him, or failed Him. Maybe He’ll say I just never learned the lesson, or that I wasn’t grateful enough. But one thing I know for sure is this: He can never say that He did not know me. I am God’s downstairs neighbor, banging on the ceiling with a broomstick. I show up at His door every day. Sometimes with songs, sometimes with curses. Sometimes apologies, gifts, questions, demands. Sometimes I use my key under the mat to let myself in. Other times, I sulk outside until He opens the door to me Himself. I have called Him a cheat and a liar, and I meant it. I have told Him I wanted to die, and I meant it. Tears have become the only prayer I know. Prayers roll over my nostrils and drip down my forearms. They fall to the ground as I reach for Him. These are the prayers I repeat night and day; sunrise, sunset.  Call me bitter if you want to—that’s fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God. For I have seen Him in rare form. I have felt His exhale, laid in His shadow, squinted to read the message He wrote for me in the grout: “I’m sad too.” If an explanation would help, He would write me one—I know it. But maybe an explanation would only start an argument between us—and I don’t want to argue with God. I want to lay in a hammock with Him and trace the veins in His arms. I remind myself that I’m praying to the God who let the Israelites stay lost for decades. They begged to arrive in the Promised Land, but instead He let them wander, answering prayers they didn’t pray. For forty years, their shoes didn’t wear out. Fire lit their path each night. Every morning, He sent them mercy-bread from heaven. I look hard for the answers to the prayers that I didn’t pray. I look for the mercy-bread that He promised to bake fresh for me each morning. The Israelites called it manna, which means “what is it?” That’s the same question I’m asking—again, and again. There’s mercy here somewhere—but what is it? What is it? What is it? I see mercy in the dusty sunlight that outlines the trees, in my mother’s crooked hands, in the blanket my friend left for me, in the harmony of the wind chimes. It’s not the mercy that I asked for, but it is mercy nonetheless. And I learn a new prayer: thank you. It’s a prayer I don’t mean yet, but will repeat until I do. Call me cursed, call me lost, call me scorned. But that’s not all. Call me chosen, blessed, sought-after. Call me the one who God whispers his secrets to. I am the one whose belly is filled with loaves of mercy that were hidden for me.  Even on days when I’m not so sick, sometimes I go lay on the mat in the afternoon light to listen for Him. I know it sounds crazy, and I can’t really explain it, but God is in there—even now. I have heard it said that some people can’t see God because they won’t look low enough, and it’s true. If you can’t see him, look lower. God is on the bathroom floor.

The Letter To Pergamum
Pergamum, the Compromising/Indulged/Lax Church. This letter was written to the angel at the Church of Pergamum (which parallels the State Church A.D. 313-590). Like Ephesus and Smyrna, Pergamum was a wealthy, prominent city located in the western part of Asia Minor about twenty miles from the Mediterranean Sea. It had many temples devoted to idol worship full of statues, altars and sacred groves making it an important religious center where the pagan cults of Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus worshipped. It was in this atmosphere completely adverse to Christian testimony where the little church of Pergamum was located and to whom Christ addressed His letter.  
Christ’s description – as He was introduced in this message – As “Him Who has the sharp, double-edged sword”. The sword is the symbolic representation of the Word of God.  John described Him in this way anticipating Christ’s rebuke for their being tolerant of the rampant evil and immorality.  It has the twofold ability to separate believers from the world – cutting loose the chains of sin and to condemn the world for its sin for those who refuse His message of grace. It was the sword of salvation as well as the sword of death.  We are judged by His Word – not only for our actions but also including our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations of our hearts. He is El Roi – The God Who Sees, Amen?
Following the same order as in the two preceding letters, Christ’s commendation is given first. He sweetly recognizes the difficulty of their situation. They resided where Satan has his throne. This may refer to the great temple of Asclepius, a pagan god of healing represented in the form of a serpent. Further recognition of Satan is indicated at the close of the verse. Scripture states Pergamum was where Satan lives. The saints there were commended for being true, even when Antipas – one of the church’s number - (which means “against all”) was martyred – paid for his faithfulness with his life.  Nothing is known of this incident yet leave it to God to keep this saint’s name alive in Holy Writ. He is ever faithful to His own. The Christians at Pergamum had been true to God under severe testing. They stand as a challenge to Christians today to stand true when engulfed by the evil of this present world, the apostasy within the ranks of religion, and the temptation to compromise their stand for the Truth. If we want to make an impact for Christ, we cannot blend with the world. We are His lights that are to stand out and shine pointing other to Him. Unfortunately, some  there had compromised their testimony.
We must remember, that devotion to God’s Word makes for a dynamic force. We are to be Scripture saturated saints that bleed the Bible when poked. Filled with humility and inclining our ears to His Word, His will and His ways. Our hearts are to be on fire for the Master sending forth sparks to set others  aflame for His Word as well. This protects us and keeps us from falling for the ways of the world. 
Jesus’ condemnation was His rebuke for their compromise. The Lord indicated all was not well in Pergamum. There were two issues labeling them as the compromising church:  the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. The doctrine of Balaam found in Numbers 22-25 was a teaching that the people of God should intermarry with the heathen and compromise in the matter of idolatrous worship, participating in pagan feasts with their immorality that was so much a part of idolatrous worship.  Apparently there were some in the Pergamum church who felt that Christians had liberty in this matter. Yet, Christ calls His followers to reman pure and separate from defilement with the world, its religion, and its moral standards at all costs. In a similar manner, the Church in Pergamum were also rebuked for embracing the doctrine of the Nicolaitans just as the Church at Ephesus was.  
What God hates Christians are to hate as well. The modern tendency to compromise on issues of morality and theology and to downplay their importance to tickle our fancies had its counterpart in the early church of Pergamum. The Word of God is a stern warning to modern Christians to examine their morality and faith and to follow God’s Word. It never changes. This is all too common in church history. With the “so called” conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine the persecution that the church had previously endured was replaced by a period in which the church was favored by the government allowing Christians to worship according to the dictates of their conscience. It became increasingly difficult to maintain a clear distinction between the church and world and to preserve the purity of Biblical doctrine. The three centuries that followed is a record of increasing corruption of the church, departure from biblical doctrine, and an attempt to combine Christian theology with pagan philosophy. Their guilt mirrored the Old Testament with the worship of idols and the union with the unbelieving world. There is no alternative to continued impurity and compromise with the Truth but divine judgment. 

As stated, God seeks our whole hearts – not just a part. Proverbs 25:28 tells us:
28 Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.

The city wall was its defense. If there was a breach in the wall the enemy would attack and get in. Therefore they were always checking for weaknesses, cracks and breaches. Self-control is our “city wall” around us and we too are to be checking for our breaches as our enemy is a good shot. He sees our weakest points and goes for them luring us and then calling us losers when we fall. Compromise is insidious – a little here, a little there and pretty soon it becomes a way of life and we wonder how we got there. As believers, sold out for Jesus, we need to remind ourselves of our greatest love. I received this many years ago and I think it fits perfectly here. It is called The Fellowship Of The Unashamed – Anonymous:   
“I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power.  The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I’m finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, applause, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer and labor by power. My pace is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road is narrow. My way rough. My companions few. My guide is reliable and my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I’ve stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give ’til I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He’ll have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear.”
Amen! May it be so in my life and yours.  
Lastly, Jesus gives a promise and an invitation for the overcoming conqueror. First, the believer is assured that he will eat from the hidden manna. There is hidden manna for the true believer in Jesus – bread from heaven that the world does not know or see – patches of God-light for His faithful ones. This seems to refer to the benefits of fellowship with Christ and the spiritual strength that accompanies this fellowship. The second is the promise of a white stone. There has been a lot of speculation regarding the identity and purpose of this stone – whatever the exact nature of it, at the very least, it is  indicative of being accepted or favored by Jesus – a wonderful assurance especially for those who have been rejected by the world. The third promise is the new name which is unknown until the time it is given to the believer – symbolizing the personal heritage of the glories of heaven and the assurance of eternal salvation. We are reminded by this passage that God’s purpose is to separate believers from all evil and compromise and to have them as His inheritance throughout eternity.    

The Letter To Thyatira
The letter was written to the angel at the Church of Thyatira (which parallels the Papal Church A.D. 500-1517). Thyatira was 40 miles southeast of Pergamum, and was a much smaller city. Thyatira was situated in an area noted for its abundant crops and the manufacture of purple dye. Lydia, one of the Apostle Paul’s converts hailed from there.  The church was small, but it was singled out for this penetrating letter of rebuke by our Lord Jesus.
Jesus’ description included His title as “The Son of God” and the “eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished bronze” denote that Christ is looking with piercing judgment on the Church because she has permitted false teaching to creep in her midst and mislead His servants. The situation required reaffirmation of His deity and His righteous indignation at their sins. Our God is holy and He demands holiness from His Church. He never winks at sin as sin cost Him the life of His Son. The nature of divine holiness is freedom from all evil.  God is separate from every shade of evil and He acts according to the likeness of His own excellence and hates everything contrary to it because it brings death not life. There is no darkness in His understanding, and no spot in His will. He knows what is right and must do what is just. Holiness is His very nature.     
Christ’s commendation: Though much was wrong in the church at Thyatira, believers there were commended for their deeds, love, faith, service, and perseverance. And the Thyatira Christians were doing more as time went on - in contrast to the Church at Ephesus which was doing less. Yet, despite these evidences of Christian life and testimony, the church at Thyatira had major problems and these Christ here addresses.
Christ’s condemnation: They tolerated that woman Jezebel whose name connotes idolatry and sexual immorality in all its various forms. She claimed to be a prophetess and taught believers to take part in the sexual immorality that accompanied pagan religion and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  What was acceptable to that local society was abhorred by Christ. Their departure from morality had gone on for some time because He had given her time to repent yet she was unwilling.
The church in Thyatira may have first heard the gospel from Lydia, who, as mentioned, was converted through Paul’s ministry.  Interestingly, now a woman, a self-claimed “prophetess,” was influencing the church. Her name “Jezebel” suggests that she was corrupting the Thyatira church much like Ahab’s wife Jezebel corrupted Israel. Christ promised sudden and immediate judgment, called her sin adultery and promised that all who followed her would suffer intensely. He also promised, I will strike her children dead, meaning that suffering would extend also to her followers. The judgment would be so dramatic that all the churches would know that Christ is the One who searches hearts and minds. Paul writes in Romans 2:4-11:
4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism. 
After His condemnation, Christ extended a word of exhortation to the godly remnant who existed in the church in Thyatira, implying that the rest of the church was apostate. The remnant He called the rest of you in Thyatira... you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets. Interestingly, on this godly remnant He imposed one simple instruction: only hold on to what you have until I come. Perhaps because the church was small, Christ did not command them to leave it but to remain as a godly testimony. 
The parallels between Thyatira and other apostate churches throughout all church history are clear. Some compare Thyatira to believers in the Middle Ages when Protestantism separated from Roman Catholicism and attempted to return to purity in doctrine and life. The prominence of Jezebel as a woman prophetess is sometimes compared to the unscriptural exaltation of Mary. The participation in idolatrous feasts can illustrate the false teaching that the Lord’s Supper is another sacrifice of Christ. In spite of the apostasy of churches in the Middle Ages, there were churches then which, like the church of Thyatira, had some believers who were bright lights of faithfulness in doctrine and life. Our Lord always has a remnant – always.
Christ promises believers who are faithful that they will join Him in His millennial rule. The word in verse 27 translated “rule” means “to shepherd,” indicating that they will not simply be administering justice but will also, like a shepherd using his rod, be dealing with his sheep and protecting them as well. Believers in Christ will have authority just as Christ does. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:2-3:
2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 

Christ received this authority from His Father. Jesus tells us in John 5:22-23:
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. 

As well as Matthew 28:18: 
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” 

In addition, the faithful will receive the morning star, which appears just before the dawn. The Scriptures do not explain this expression, but it may refer to participation in the Rapture of the church before the dark hours preceding the dawn of the millennial kingdom.
The letter to Thyatira closes with the familiar exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Unlike the earlier letters, this exhortation follows rather than precedes the promise to overcomers, and this order is followed in the letters to the last three churches.

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

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