Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Letter to the congregation at Sardis

The town of Sardis, founded in 2000 BC was one of the greatest and wealthiest cities.  Gold coins were first made there in 600 BC.  The legendary King Midas (everything he touched was gold) was from Sardis.  His mother was the goddess Cybele – who is none other than the Babylonian goddess Semiramis. 

 It sat on a cliff 1000 feet high and was considered unconquerable, so they didn’t guard it.  Cyrus the Persian finally conquered the city, and then it was conquered again 300 years later by Antiochus IV, again, because they didn’t guard it.  The city was great and then became dead.

 I have been trying to figure out what Sardis means, and I just can't seem to find any information on it.

 Here is the letter:
 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.   “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Sardis represents the era of the Reformation, which brought the church out of the dark ages.  The Reformation was a major necessary step to correct the corrupt church of the previous age, but the letter says that the work was not perfect (meaning not complete). 

So why is there no good report in Sardis?  The Reformation was a good thing, was it not?  The letter says they had a name - a reputation - that they are alive, but they were dead.  Could it be that the church of Sardis, representing the Reformation church, had to be like a seed that was dropped to the ground to die, before it could be born again?

In a nutshell – what the Reformation started out to do, it stopped way too soon.  To whom much is given, much is required.  Justification by faith was taught, but the Holy Spirit was not.    The church became filled witth people trusting in a name, but were never born again.  The Spirit gives life, and they were dead.

They also did not correct the anti-semitism or the Replacement Theology (the idea that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan) that had been prevalent in the previous church ages.  Too much false doctrine from the Catholic church remained and was not corrected.  Reformationists even began persecuting Anabaptists because they didn’t baptize infants. 

Additionally, they too became state-run churches – Lutheran in Germany – Calvinism in Switzerland, Anglican in England, etc.

Reformation churches in general were trusting in their name and reputation.  I think of the time my children spent in a Lutheran school.  Reformation Sunday was a huge celebration in late October.  I remember being bothered by how much they focused on Martin Luther. It was all about being Lutheran!  Other mainline protestant denominations are similar.  We joined a Methodist church many years ago, before we were even believers, and we were asked to promise to be loyal to the United Methodist Church.  Really?  Even as an unbeliever, that didn't sit well with me.

The city of Sardis was conquered twice by the spirit of false trust, while they were sleeping.  The Lord will come like a thief, lest they watch, similar to how Sardis was conquered.  Today, the Lord may say to the church, "Wake up!"  But we know that the Lord will not come as a thief to the believers - hallelujah! 

And there is hope offered to those few in the dead church, who have not defiled their garments.  They will be clothed in white and walk with Yeshua, who will confess their names before His Father and the angels - and their names will remain in the Book of Life!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sound the Trumpet!

We interrupt my posts on the letters to the seven churches to bring you this fantastic Biblical holiday, which begins tonight, September 28, at sundown.  I really wanted to have the seven churches posts done by now, but there have been so many good things to learn and it has been a slow and studious road.

So anyway, Happy Yom Teruah everyone!  Yom Teruah means the Day of Trumpets in scripture.  It is the fifth of the seven Feasts of the Lord.

Leviticus 23:23-25 introduces us to this feast (mo'ed in Hebrew, which actually means "appointed time.")
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.  You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.

Numbers 29:1 repeats the description of the feast:
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.

There isn't much more in scripture regarding this feast.  But the trumpet!  It is blasted throughout scripture for many purposes. It was a call to gather, and it was a call to repent.  The Hebrew word (transliterated into English) is shofar.  It was and is made from the horn of an animal.  I have one that is long and spiraled (like the one in the picture above), and it was a gift from some dear friends. 

So, if Yeshua fulfilled the first four feasts during His first coming  (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Shavuot were fulfilled by His death, burial, resurrection, and sending of the Holy Spirit), it stands to reason that He will someday fulfill the Fall Feasts at His return.  God sent us these beautiful prophetic pictures of what is to come, so that we can study them, learn from them, and CELEBRATE them!

Joel 2:1 says, Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the LORD is coming,
For it is at hand

Matthew 24:31 says:  And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

And look at 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

And also, 1 Thessalonians 4:6 says:  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

Are you getting a picture of the Lord's return, and His gathering of His believers?  Yom Teruah is the only Biblical Feast that falls on the first day of the month - the new moon.  The priests had to see the thin crescent of moon and declare the start of the new month.  For no man knows the day or the hour... until it is seen and declared!

Today, the holiday is called Rosh Hashanah among the Jewish people, which means "Head of the Year."  The term is not found in scripture but comes from rabbinic Judaism, which is the Judaism that was developed and has existed since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD - in accordance with the Mishnah and the Talmud.   According to rabbinic tradition, the creation of the world was completed on 1 Tishrei.  This year's Rosh Hashanah welcomes the year 5772.

The next ten days are called the Days of Awe.  Jewish people reflect on the holidays and ask forgiveness from anyone they may have wronged.  Rosh Hashanah is a joyous holiday.  Symbolic foods are eaten that signify sweetness; for example, apples and honey.  L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!  (This is Hebrew transliterated into English and means "May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year.")


Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation at Thyratira

The letter to the church at Thyratira is the longest, with the longest rebuke.  Another long post.

What has happened in Pergamos is now full-blown.  It represents the dark and middle ages (approx 600 to 1500), and is what happened when Catholicism became the government.

Thyratira means daughter or it can also mean continual sacrifice.  The previous name of the city was Semiramis – the queen of heaven – the original pagan goddess. 

Here is the letter:

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,
‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—
27 ‘ He shall rule them with a rod of iron;
They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—

as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.
29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

This letter begins with a description of the Son of God:  Eyes – like fire.  Feet – fine brass (which doesn’t melt in fire).  This letter is about judgement.  One thing to note:  this church did have some good things said about it, unlike the one to follow.  The church at Thyratira was credited for their love, service, faith patience, and works, which were increasing. 

Thyratira was known for its dyes – purple and scarlet. Tuck that piece of information away for now.

This was a terrible time in church history.  It happened because someone tolerated Jezebel.  There is a spirit of Jezebel which was operating in Thyratira, and they were allowing it to happen. 

Here's the first part of the story:

1 Kings 16
Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

It is Jezebel behind the scene who was running the show.  She came from Phoenicia, which means land of purple – the dye that made it famous. . In Revelation 17, we read about a harlot who is also dressed in purple and scarlet.  Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Phoenicia, and a Baal worshipper  (Baal represents the head honcho of many little gods).  The mother of Baal is Asherah (or Ishtar, or Oestre, or Semiramis – same thing).  This marriage between Ahab and Jezebel was to produce a trade alliance between Israel (Northern kingdom) and Phonecia.

Israel was mixing its holy calling with paganism by forming an alliance with the northern country.   The time of Jezebel was the darkest in Israel, and this letter represents darkest in church history.  Jezzy also killed the prophets (1 Kings 18:13)  She was stopping the Word of God.  And she was murdering, and Ahab allowed it, just as the church in the middle ages was allowing it.

The next part of the story is the account of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, the challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  He made fun of them, they cut themselves and bleed on the altar.  Then Elijah threw water on it.  Verse 21 – And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.  Just like in Thyratira, there was a mixture going on between worship of God and paganism, and they were not choosing.   Elijah called on the Lord, who sent down fire and burned up everything.  He killed all the false prophets and there was revival in Israel. 

Jezebel’s other great sin was in 1 Kings 21 – the vineyard sin.  Ahab wanted to buy Naboth’s vineyard and was told no.  Jezebel plotted to get it for him and usurps the king’s leadership.  She hires two witnesses to testify against him falsely and had him murdered.   In verse 23, God told Ahab that Jezebel was going to get eaten by dogs.  She did.  Read 2 Kings 9 - it's pretty gross.  She was trampled and then eaten by dogs – destroyed like dung, so that none can make a shrine for her. 

Ahab was rotten because he was urged on by his wife.  Believe it or not, Ahab actually repented – so God relented and said that He would visit the judgement on Ahab’s son instead of Ahab.

The vineyard account tells of Jezebel murdering to get land and possessions.   The church of 500 – 1500 murdered and murdered to get land, possessions, and power.

In the late 300s, Emperor Theodosius made church membership mandatory.  The church was made into the image of the Roman Empire and took a nosedive into 1000 years of papal abominations.  It featured outward ceremony and splendor, just like the heathen temples.  In 395, the empire was split into East and West.  Pope Leo I in 440 proclaimed himself Lord of the whole church and exclusive papal authority.  Resistance to his authority meant a "road to hell" and the death penalty for those who disagreed. 

In 742, Charlemagne helped the popes to become world powers.

The “midnight of the dark ages” was full of bribery, simony (the purchase of church office or pardons with money), corruption, fornication, murder, etc.  Here is a sad and horrible list of examples - by no means exhaustive - from 900 to 1500: 
  • Pope Innocent declared the doctrine of transubstantiation, ordered two crusades, papal infallibility, condemned the Magna Carta, forbade reading of the bible, and instituted the Inquisition, among other things.
  • John the 23rd was a fornicator, he bought the papal office, and openly denied life after death. 
  • Paul II sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition, and he also made the declaration that money would deliver souls from purgatory. 
  • Leo X regarded the papal office purely as a source of money.  Under him, Rome massacred multitudes during the Reformation.
  • Overall, the church killed more people than the Holocaust did.

Hitler justified his Final Solution by pointing out that the church had oppressed the Jews for centuries.  More than 100 anti-semitic documents were published by the Catholic church.  Hitler was a Catholic in good standing and had hoped at one time to become a priest.  As a child, he attended a Benedictine monastary for a year.  The abbott was involved in the occult and Hitler first encountered the ancient Hindu swastika there. 

The “ratlines’ of the catholic church helped WW2 war criminals - like the SS - escape. 

There exist today many false teachings.  You may not agree with me on this, especially if you are a Catholic, and it is not my purpose to offend.  (I was one until about age 21).  If you believe some of these things, I hope you will prayerfully consider why.
  • Infant baptism wipes original sin away and now one can earn one’s way to heaven,
  • ,Grace is not available directly by God but through sacraments, Jesus, and finally through Mary, and the worship of images. 
  • Rome says there is power in statues and relics to work miracles, and as such they are devoutly worshipped from the pope on down
  • Mandatory celibacy of priests
  • Mary remaining a virgin her entire life in spite of the scriptures that speak about the siblings of Jesus,
  • confession to a priest instead of directly to Jesus,
  • Existence of purgatory prior to heaven so that the priest can control the people and make money through indulgences. 
  • Transubstantiation - the literal eating of the body and blood of Christ through the daily repeating of the sacrifice, and worshipping the wafer -  the idea that every time they have communion, they are crucifying the Lord all over again.  Remember the second meaning of Thyratira – continual sacrifice? But Jesus was crucified once and for all. 
  • Mariolatry – salvation depends on favor from and intercession by Mary – goddess worship.  Modern popes call her “the queen of heaven.”  Where have we heard that before?  Go check out the words of Jeremiah 7 and Jeremiah 44.

In Revelation, there are tough warnings of intense suffering for those of mixed religion, unless they repent.  God is not happy and he will destroy those responsible and strike dead their offspring (future generations). 

Verse 28 offers the overcomers the gift of the morning star – contrasting sun worship.  It comes up before the sun.  Jesus is the Morning Star.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation of Pergamos

This one is a tough one.  And it will probably be long.

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:  “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.  But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.  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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’

Pergamos/Pergamum means “Mixed Marriage” and also “Harlot.”  This letter represents the time period from Constantine (beginning in the year 312) to about 900.  Satan is switching tactics – persecution was making the church stronger.  He is going to interject paganism.  

The two-edged sword is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. 

Regarding satan’s throne – When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he formed the new city of Pergamos – a Babylon worship center, which was eventually transferred to Rome.  Babylon the Great is also in Revelation.  Babylon is the source of all paganism, starting in Genesis 10:8 with Nimrod – a mighty hunter before the Lord.  He built Ninevah and the Tower of Babel, which was going to be for astrology.  They wanted a unified empire, just as Antichrist will try to unify the world in the end. 

So who was this Nimrod?  Ancient Jewish writings call him the mightiest rebel in the earth.  He was a hunter of the souls of men. His wife was Semiramis – she was called the Queen of Heaven. When Nimrod died, he was elevated to the status of Sun god. Legend says that Semiramis becomes miraculously pregnant, and gave birth to the son of the Sun god and named him Tammuz. Tammuz is killed by a boar while hunting, and she weeps for him 40 days (this is the origin of Lent). Then he rises and declares that he and his father Nimrod are one. 

The death of Tammuz was celebrated on winter solstice, and his resurrection was celebrated on December 25. To celebrate, they trimmed a tree (See Jeremiah 10) and burned a yule log. Mistletoe represents the fertility of Semaramis to get pregnant by the sun ray.  When the nations were scattered when the Tower of Babel was destroyed, the goddess Semiramis and her risen son were taken all over the world.  In Egypt, they were Isis and Osiris.  In Greece, they were Aphrodite and Eros.  In Babylonia, they were Ishtar and Tammuz.  In Rome, they were Venus and Cupid.  Similar deities were found in every culture on the globe, all of them featuring a mother goddess of fertility, along with her child.

The following came from a pagan website, describing the Babylonian goddess:
Babylonian scriptures called her the "Light of the World, Leader of Hosts,
Opener of the Womb, Righteous Judge, Lawgiver,
Goddess of Goddesses, Bestower of Strength,
Framer of All decress, Lady of Victory (Yikes! I went to a Catholic grade school by the name Our Lady of Victory)
Forgiver of Sins, Torch of Heaven and Earth.

Can you see the counterfeit religion that the devil has created? 

Anyway, I digress. 

What is this about the doctrine of Balaam?    Balaam tried to curse Israel but couldn’t.  So he came up with another plan that worked –  we read in Numbers 31:16 that he counseled Balak how to get Israel cursed - basically he said, Put your prettiest girls on the border to entice them, and they will marry with them, fall into idol worship, and then God will curse them. 

In Numbers 25:6, right after the first part of the Balak and Balaam story, we have the account of the Israelite and the Midianite woman.  Her name was Cozbi, which means falsehood, and his name was Zimri, which means truth.  The result of this mixing of truth and falsehood was death - they were thrust through with a spear by the priest Phinehas.  Did God rebuke him for this action?  No, he blessed him!  God hates mixture of truth and falsehood.

Look at Jeremiah 7:16-19 and see God's reaction to idolatry in Judah:  "Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.  Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?  The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.  Do they provoke Me to anger?” says the LORD. “Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?” 

Now visit Ezekiel 8.  Read the whole thing, but see what the Israelites were doing in verses 13 and 16.  In 13, the women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.   In  verse 16, they were worshiping the sun toward the east.    Here is part of God's reaction in verses 17 and 18:  ... Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? ...Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.”

Ok, so having said all that about paganism, what in the world is represented in the church at Pergamos?

In the year 312, the Emperor Constantine had a vision of a chi rho - a type of cross, before an important battle, which he then won. He declared Christianity the new legal religion of the Roman Empire, repealed the persecution of Diocletian, and made himself head of the church. Heathen religion was “Christianized” – heathen temples became Christian churches, heathen festivals became Christian holidays, and pagan priests became Christian ones. A change in name only. Eventually it became a law NOT to be a Christian.

Teachers in Pergamos taught that it was ok to mix paganism into the church.

There is also an admonitian regarding the doctrine of the Nicolaitans – the ruling over the people by the church leadership, which God hates.  Yeshua washing the disciples’ feet was the example for the church leaders to follow.  The clergy was just getting warmed up during this time period - it will become full-blown in the next letter.  (You'll see more on my next post). 

To the overcomers, then, is promised hidden manna, white stone, and a new name.

What is the hidden manna?  It represents communion with Him.  The white stone with the new name that only you and God know  is a picture of intimacy with God.  Names are important and you will get a very special one – something that He loves about you, a special treasure with you.  This is something to be greatly desired!  The manna, which was white, and the white stone symbolize purity (un-mixed faith).  They are hidden – holy – set apart!

There was a black stone in Pergamos, thought to be a meteorite, worshipped by the pagans.  There was also the custom of voting with a white stone or a black stone in their juries – guilty or not guilty.   What a beautiful picture - to be given a white stone by Yeshua and declared Not Guilty!

In 204 B.C., the great mother goddess of Pergamos moved to the city of Rome, along with the black stone.  Sometime between 610 and the death of Muhammad, the black stone was moved from Rome to Mecca. Muhammad had all the 360 idols thrown out of the Kaaba, and replaced them with the black stone, which is worshipped and kissed by millions of Muslims today.  They believe it came from the moon. To this day, a crescent moon can be found at the front of every mosque, acknowledging that Allah was and is still their moon-god.  The next time a well-meaning Christian tells you that we worship the same god as Islam, please correct them. 

Worshippers at the Kaaba in Mecca, with the black stone at its center.

The bottom line is this:  God's word says that He hates mixing.  So what do we do with such things as the holidays of Christmas and Easter?   I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I'll tell you what I have done.   Our family has gotten rid of the mixed things.  To me, God's Word is way more important than tradition.  The Feasts of the Lord that are outlined in scripture are way more fun, anyway.  And they paint a complete mural of God's dealings with mankind through His Son, Yeshua.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Letter to the Congregation of Smyrna

This is a continuation of a study on the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation.  Today, I am taking a look at the letter to the congregation of Smyrna.

Some Background Information About Smyrna
Today Smyrna is a city of about 300,000 and is called Izmir.  Along with Philadelphia, they were the only two churches without rebuke in the letters, and they are the only two cities that still exist today.  Smyrna was a very rich city, and was fully paganized – there were gods all over the place.

The name Smyrna means embalming.  The name stems from myrrh – a spice that releases the scent when crushed.  Myrrh was used by priesthood for making anointing oil, and for embalming the dead.  This letter is about death.

Remeber the gifts to Jesus by the magi?  Frankincense represents the priesthood, gold represents kingship/diety, and myrrh represents death.  It is interesting to note that in Isaiah 60:6, only gold and frankincense are brought to the Messiah in the future kingdom, but no myrrh.  He has overcome death!

The Good:
Revelation 2:8-11 says,

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.  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.  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.  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.

In Smyrna, the emperor had to be worshiped by a pinch of incense once a year; then you could go on to worship your own gods.  The believers wouldn’t bow down, and they were persecuted and martyred - about 5 million of them during the time period, which was from about 100 AD to the time of Constantine.  Christianity had become illegal due to outbreaks of disease and floods being blamed on them. 

“Be faithful, even to death”  Yeshua never promised escape. It is not clear what the ten days represented, but one possibility is that during the 200+ years represented by this letter, there were many emperors; but only ten of them persecuted Christians, beginning with Nero.

In spite of persecution, Yeshua says “Do not be afraid.”How is this possible? I believe that it is because He will be there with them, and will give them the supernatural ability to endure the persecution. Read Foxe's Book of Martyrs and see for yourself.

Crowns in scripture represent rewards.  These believers who overcome are given the Crown of Life (to counteract death)  from Yeshua Himself - they will avoid the second death.  Coins in Smyrna had crowns on them.

The Bad:
There was no bad - Yeshua had no words of admonition for them.  The church at Smyrna is a picture of the church today in places such as China., Sudan, and India; where persecution abounds, yet the church thrives in those places.

Satan figured out that he was losing the battle by persecuting the believers - it just made the church stronger!  So he began plotting to work in a much more sinister way.  Watch for my next post on the letter to Pergamum, coming soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Letter to The Congregation of Ephesus

Some Background Information About Ephesus
Ephesus was the largest city in the times of the New Testament.  It was known as the Queen of Asia:  it was a wealthy city located on a beautiful harbor, which was the center of life in Ephesus.  The city was centrally located, with roads going all over Asia.  Ephesus was home to a beautiful theater that seated 25,000.

One of the ancient wonders of the world was the Temple of Diana (aka Artemis - daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo).  Worship at this temple was full of orgies.  Artisans made a lot of money selling idols of Artemis, and Paul got in trouble for taking business away from them in Acts 19.  Goddess worship was a cornerstone of Ephesus. 

Ephesus was also a center for the study of magic.  The scrolls that were burned in Acts 19 were scrolls of sorcery!  Scripture records that they were valued at 50,000 drachma.  The value of a day's wages was about a drachma.  So you can see that the value of the scrolls was equivalent to millions of dollars.

The Good:
Revelation 2:2-3 says, 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. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 

The Ephesians in Revelation were praised for their hard work, perserverence, and discernment of false teachers. They had a strong church, probably with great messages and lots of programs from all their hard work.  Regarding the false teachers, look at Paul's warning to the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31:  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.  The Ephesians took this to heart and were diligent in discerning the false teachers, thus earning the praise for it in Revelation.

Then in verse 6: But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.  The Nicolaitans were clergy that ruled over/controlled the people, and the Ephesians were commended for not allowing it.

The Bad:
Revelation 2:4 tells us, Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.  They were so busy working hard and building a strong church that they had forgotten their intimacy with the Lord.  This was a very strong warning!

I believe that this letter is first because it is the most important thing.  Love!  It is the first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians.  It is the first command in the Shema, and the basis for the greatest commandment:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.  One of the main themes of Paul's letter to the Ephesians was about love and marriage.  The very name Ephesus means darling, as in spousal love. 

The Warning and the Outcome
The Ephesians are told, If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  So what happened to Ephesus?  The Romans eventually cut down all the trees which caused erosion and destroyed the harbor.  Ephesus eventually became a deserted swamp. 

The Promise
But to him who overcomes (this is to the individual) will be given the right to eat from the Tree of Life.  The Tree of Life represents a love relationship with the Messiah.  Don't lose your First Love!  Don't get so caught up in churchianity that you lose focus on the Most Important Thing. An acronym for BUSY is Being Under Satan's Yoke!  Spend intimate time with your Savior, first and foremost.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Overview of the letters to the Seven Churches

The letters to the congregations are contained in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.  Within this short section of scripture, we find many nuggets of truth!  These are the last quoted words of Yeshua in scripture.  The letters were sent to the visible congregations - all seven of them were physical congregations in Asia Minor that existed at the time (proven by archaeology).  Within each congregation is the spiritual church - the congregations include both believers and unbelievers, just like today.  These letters had application then, and they have application today.  They are written both to congregations and to individuals.

The seven letters actually line up with church history, following the book of Acts and continuing on through today.  I also find it fascinating that the very name of each congregation actually relates to what is going on with them.

Let's take a look at what each letter contains:
  • Destination (which congregation) and who it is from (the Messiah)
  • The good reports
  • The bad reports
  • The exhortation - telling them what to do
  • The warnings to those with ears to hear (addressing individuals instead of congregations)
  • A promise (again addressing individuals)
Revelation 1:19 tells us that the churches are the seven lampstands - they are bearers of the light.    In 2:1, we see that Yeshua (who IS the light) walks among the congregations. The oil in the lampstands represents the presence of the Holy Spirit. What an encouragement, to know that He walks among us!

My next post will be up close and personal with the congregation at Ephesus.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Coming Up: The Seven Churches

You don't hear too much teaching these days on the seven churches of Revelation. Usually when there is teaching from the book of Revelation going on, the focus is on subsequent chapters.

However, I have been doing an absolutely fascinating study on the Seven Churches in Revelation, and I am anxious to share some of the things that I have learned from that study. They are there for a good reason, as you will see.

Stay tuned!