Pastor Aaron Preaching
Summit in General
Big Shanty Festival
Curtis, Bobbi, and Amanda
Bethany's Friend's Dad's Arm
Dave and Brooke in Virginia
Text - Revelation 2:1-7
So, New Testament Letters, lets take a look, how many were written and to who?
33 – Warrants for Arrest – Against Christians
45 – James – General / Israel
47 – Jerusalem Council – Christians about OT Laws
48 – Galatians – Lystra
– Matthew, AD 50…not an Epistle – Semites
51 – 1 Thessalonians – Thessalonica
52 – 2 Thessalonians – Thessalonica
55 – 1 Corinthians – Corinth
57 – 2 Corinthians – Corinth
58 – Romans – Rome
– Mark, AD 58…not an Epistle – Hamites
– Luke, AD 60…not an Epistle – Japhethites
60 – Ephesians – General
61 – Colossians – Colossae / Laodicea
61 – Philippians – Philippi
62 – Philemon – Colossae
63 – 1 Timothy – Ephesus
63 – Titus – Crete
64 – 1 Peter – General
65 – Jude – General
65 – Felix – Paul’s warrant
– Acts, AD 65…not an Epistle
66 – 2 Timothy – Ephesus
66 – Hebrews – General / Israel
66 – 2 Peter – More General than 1 Peter
81-94 – 1 John – Ephesus
81-94 – 2 John – Ephesus
81-94 – 3 John – Ephesus
81-94 – John – not really an Epistle, but pointed at Ephesus
95 – Revelation
Notice some themes, most of these are very personal letters, written to friends and acquaintances with the goal being reconciliation. We’re going to look specifically at the last seven epistles.
Revelation 1:1-5 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Who is it written to? The seven churches that are in Asia. Where is Asia? Asia today is a massively big land-mass, but when John was writing it was just the Easternmost tip of Turkey.
John was a member of the church at Ephesus. John’s pastor was Timothy. As we’re going to see, Ephesus had a love problem, they knew the Bible but weren’t acting on it. John wrote his Gospel to the whole church, but it is very heavy on the love side, trying to motivate Ephesus to love in deed and truth instead of just word and talk. His First Epistle does the same thing.
Ephesus made the Roman Emperor Caesar Domitian mad, so much so that Timothy lost his life, and John was exiled to Patmos. There is a legend that John was boiled in oil but survived, I don’t know if that is true or not, it would certainly be a miracle, but we’ll have to wait ‘till Heaven to find out if it’s true, because it’s not recorded in the Bible.
Revelation 1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Here are your seven churches, these churches were real places with real people, real pastors, and real problems, but they are also representative of every church that has ever been. Every church will fit into a majority of one of these, sometimes you can see traits of other churches intermingled.
Revelation 1:10-11 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."
So John is hanging out on Patmos, which at the time was pretty much a deserted island. Today it is sort of a resort town where a lot of Catholic Pilgrims go to try to work their way into Heaven. Can you work your way into Heaven by visiting John’s cave? No, you can’t work your way to Heaven; Jesus paid it all. John hears behind him a voice which tells him to write this book and send it to these seven churches.
Now we get a picture of our King and Saviour,
Revelation 1:12-16 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
His voice is described as two things, as a trumpet and as roaring waters. Have any of you visited big waterfalls? I can’t wait to hear the voice of God. His words are a sword, his face is radiant like the sun, he is clothed as a High Priest. His hair is white, we’ll probably have to ask him what the reason for this is, some think it is in keeping with him being the Lamb of God. His eyes are red, most agree that this means his eyes are able to burn into the soul and judge all things, and showing his furiousness over sin. His feet are like burnished bronze, this represents strength in his standing.
This is the glorified Christ, he humbled himself during his earthly life, but once he died and then defeated death, he has been glorified. He first came to save, when he comes back he will come in his full glory to judge. Beloved, I don’t know if you see the implications of this description of Christ, I wish I could show him to you, I wish we could see him, but our pictures and paintings fall so miserably short of his radiance, anger, voice, and other attributes. Our only response is what John did, which was to fall on his face, but look at how Christ responds:
Revelation 1:17-18 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Beloved, Christ is TERRIFYING, I hope that you see that. He has the authority to kill both the body and the soul, he is the perfect judge of righteousness, he commands all men everywhere to repent. He holds the universe together with his word, he created everything you see without lifting a finger, he took on and defeated death, he is a big and frightening God. He is a consuming fire who cannot tolerate sin. Paul Washer puts it this way: God created all of the planets and stars, and he told them to form into galaxies and spin in such a way, and to keep doing so until he gives them another word, and they obey. He said to the mountains, be lifted up, and they obeyed, he said to the valleys, be cast down, and they obeyed, he said to the ocean, you may come this far and no farther and it obeys, and then he looks at you and me and says “come,” and we say, “NO!” It is only a miracle of his patience and love that we have not already been cast into Hell for eternity.
The right response is just as Isaiah did, just as John did, to immediately prostrate yourself at his feet. But remember, this great God, the only Holy Being in the universe, who can kill with a word and commands absolute purity in thought, word, and deed, is also the Saviour of the world. Jesus Christ laid his hand on John and told him not to fear. The reason he was able to tell John not to fear comes in his description of himself, he died, and yet he is alive forevermore. What happened in his death? He reconciled us to himself. What happened in his resurrection? Death has lost its sting; death is dead.
Aren’t we supposed to fear God? Why did Christ tell John to fear not? We are to fear God, but we find our rest, our solace, our salvation, our perseverance in Christ. Imagine we’re in a space ship in outer space; inside of the ship we are perfectly safe, we have everything we need to live; air, food, water…but outside of the ship we would have none of those things. If you stepped outside of the ship you would be exposed to extreme temperatures, no air, you would be instantly killed. We fear God, but because we are in the saving graces of Jesus Christ, his perfect love has driven out our fear. For those who are outside of Christ, and for us to think about stepping out of his salvation, we should be terrified. The concept of being “In” Christ is huge, for the most part it can be summed up in having his righteousness attributed to our sake, protecting us from his wrath, keeping us from sin, and granting us his inheritance.
Romans 13:14 Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Now, when John saw Jesus, what was Jesus doing? He was in the midst of the seven lampstands holding seven stars. What are the lampstands? What are the stars?
Revelation 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
When it says angels, this word can mean two things, it can either refer to seraphim and cherubim, or it can refer to a messenger. Usually it refers to seraphim or cherubim who are delivering a message; context will tell which it means. Here we are pretty sure its referring to the messengers of these churches, aka their pastors. Christ, the King of the universe, is personally holding his messengers in his hands and is dwelling in the midst of his church. It shows where his affection is, and there also ought we set our affection, first on the Bridegroom, then on his bride, which is made up of all of us.
Alright, lets hit one church before we go. Where was John from? Ephesus. Which is the first church Christ addresses? Ephesus. No coincidence there, Christ is about to prove he knows exactly what is going on in Ephesus and that he shares John’s pain over Ephesus’ lack of love.
Revelation 2:1-7 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'
v. 1 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
These are the exact words of Christ, just as is the rest of the Bible, but when someone tells you Christ didn’t write any of the books of the Bible, you can tell them he wrote Revelation with John as has amanuensis, or secretary. Before, we saw Christ in the midst of the lampstands, or churches; now we see him walking among them. Walking in the Bible a lot of time refers to working. Christ is constantly tending and working on his churches.
v. 2-3 'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
Christ, just like Paul, starts out by saying something nice about the church before yelling at them. Here he is pretty much saying, “Your discernment rocks, you know the truth and avoid the false teachers.” They aren’t following a made-up god, Christ commends them for enduring for his name’s sake, but that isn’t all he wants his church to do.
v. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.
This he has against them, they have abandoned love. Let’s see what the Bible says happens if you abandon love:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
This was a major charge against Ephesus. Christ is saying to them that they are set to gain nothing for their works, that they are annoying noises, that they are nothing.
v. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
He says remember how to love, then do it. Then Christ threatens them, if they don’t repent, he will come and remove their lampstand, meaning they will no longer be a church. Interestingly, today, 1900 years later, if you go to Ephesus, I am told you can’t find a Christian church anywhere; their skyline is completely devoid of steeples.
v. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
We don’t know who the Nicolaitans are, some think they are the Catholic Church, but that doesn’t really make sense for a lot of reasons. Really the Nicolaitans represent pretty much every works-righteous cult ever, which includes the Catholic Church.
It is our job to hate the works of cults and false religions. I’ve had several people, just in the last week, tell me I shouldn’t stand against such bad teachings as some of them like, but beloved, that is one of our jobs, to know the truth, to point people at the truth, and to oppose lies. Through it all we need to be loving.
v. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.'
We’re going to talk about these promises more in depth after we look at the 7 churches; a very basic summary of what they mean is that if you are a true believer caught in one of these terrible churches (4 are broken, 2 are wonderful, and 1 is totally wrecked) there is still opportunity to be saved and your fate is not married to the fate of your church-assembly.
So, to conclude, Ephesus is the loveless church. It’s not enough to know the truth, the demons know who Christ is and they tremble about it; we must act on the truth.
Remember what the word Agape means? Most people just think it means love, but it means love in action, love demonstrated, sacrificial love. So, lets know the truth, and act on the truth.
Let’s not be Ephesus.