In this study, Revelation chapter 1 is reviewed and chapter 2 is covered (Revelation 1:13-20 and Revelation 2:1-11)
[Randy Stiver] By way of introduction I am Randy Stiver, I teach here at the Ambassador Bible Center among a dozen other things, am managing editor of Vertical Thought Magazine. We haven’t covered a lot of the book of Revelation recently in Vertical Thought, which is our teen and young adult magazine, but we do touch on it periodically in some of our articles and probably will do some major section on it here before too many issues go by. With me is John McClain, one of the elders here in the Cincinnati East congregation, and he is going to begin the study with a brief recap of what was covered in the last Bible Study two weeks ago and then he’ll go into complete the rest of Chapter 1. I will be standing by to pick up when Chapter 2 starts.
[John McClain] Thank you Mr. Stiver. I am filling in for Peter Eddington this evening because of the Council meetings that are being held this week. They are actually teleconferences and they are doing that to save a lot of money. It’s a lot cheaper than bringing people here and having the travel expenses. If you have questions I hope that you will send those in. If you would like to email them, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you are here on site you can write up a hard copy and give it to Mr. Booth.
Last time on July 25th, we got through verse 13 and Chapter 1 and we had quite a bit of overview presented in addition to the first few verses. We saw that the Book is a figurative and literal unveiling or revealing of Jesus Christ. Its information that was given by the Father to the Son and it reveals information about Jesus Christ and the things that are to come. It is also about the events of the Day of the Lord, which is mentioned over 30 times directly in the Old Testament, but there are also implications of it in another 20 or so verses. The Day of the Lord is a prophetic time and it’s not the first day of the week as the Trinitarians claim. The Day of the Lord is a time of terrible events. It’s when Christ returns and begins to take over and begins to rule and it is the end of Satan’s rule. So it is described in many verses, but I picked out Zephaniah 1:14-18 as a recap. So I would like to read those if you would like to follow along.
Zephaniah 1:14-18 – “The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the Lord is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. I will bring distress among men, and they shall walk like blind men because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like refuse. Neither their silver or their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath, but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land.”
So this is not a happy time and it is a very sobering time. Also the book of Revelation reveals that salvation will be for all mankind and it also reveals the triumph of Jesus Christ. We saw last time that the mission was the Roman Emperor who exiled the Apostle John to the isle of Patmos, which is about 50 miles off of the coast Asia Minor, which is today called Turkey. He was exiled for his religious teachings. He would not worship the Emperor. They expected the Christians there and everyone to throw a pinch of incense into the fire and confess that Caesar is Lord. Of course the Christians refused to do that. So the purpose of the book is the revealing of things to the servants that shortly must take place. Although anyone in the world can read this book, only those who are doers of God’s laws will understand.
Pslams 111:10 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do his commandments. His praise endures forever.”
We see that not everybody is able to understand this and it was really not even until the time of World War II, that the Church of God began to understand it because it was sealed until the end time.
I would like to point out five references that you could all look up. If you have access to a computer you can see these. Some of these are hard copies and others are electronic references. We were all encouraged last time to read the church booklet, The Book of Revelation Unveiled. We have those here in the mail room if you would like to pick up one. It is very well written and it covers the overall themes of the book. It does not go verse by verse as we hope to do in this study. But it certainly adds a lot of information and gives a wonderful overview. So that is the first reference.
The second is that there are other UCG sources of information about Revelation on the websites. The one that gives a very detailed series of Bible studies on the entire book, you can find at www.ucgchicago.org. It is presented by the Pastor Mr. Bob Fahey. This sight has a very interesting one hour explanation about why the letters are addressed to the angel of each church. The Greek word for angelos is the explanation there and it can mean a human or a divine messenger. The punishments for not repenting seem to have fit a human messenger more than an angelic one. So you might find it interesting to listen to that presentation on UCG Chicago about the word angelos.
The third reference is a series of five sermons on the messages to the seven churches of Revelation. It covers chapters 2 and 3 only. You can find those on the www.san-antonio.ucg.org website. You will find sermons there presented by the Pastor Mr. Gary Petty. It is also contains a sermon about the seven blessings from Revelation. I think that is probably down near the bottom of the list of sermons available.
The fourth reference is another series of eight sermons of understanding the Book of Revelation presented by Mr. Mark Welch. You can go to the UCG members site to find that. Just type in members.ucg.org and hit the brown button for sermons. The series by Mr. Petty is on there and the series by Mr. Welch is also on there.
The fifth reference is the ABC classes on Revelation mainly taught by Mr. Melvin Rhodes, are available at abc.ucg.org/danielrevelation (all one word). You might find this helpful. I certainly found them very helpful and I think you might enjoy looking at them.
Last time we saw that there were warnings and blessings for reading this book. Predicting when Christ will return is a pitfall we want to avoid. We understand trends only; we don’t want to get too specific because that would be speculative. There is a blessing for those who read, and hear and keep things that are written in this book and this is just the first of seven blessings. The whole book is a pattern of seven, and the first blessing is in Chapter 1:3 and it tells us that “we are blessed for reading this book and keeping the things that are written in it.” We have to wait a long time to come to the next blessing. It doesn’t come up until Revelation 14 and there it says “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on because they rest from their labors.” I won’t go into the other seven, but you can find them in a good concordance. We will be covering those as we come to them.
The book was sent as a letter to seven churches of Asia Minor and each church had unique characteristics and unique strengths, problems, geography, and economy. They had unique strengths and weaknesses, so each church had its own situation. There were more churches in the area, but these were the ones that were chosen to be typical and ones that we should study so we can see some of the same problems yet today. These letters to the seven churches are understood in three different ways and I think that all three are true. The letters were addressed to seven churches long ago in the first century; I think that’s pretty obvious. That is the way they are written in the book. The second way is that they represent eras in the church history. The Worldwide Church of God years ago published a booklet called “A True History of the True Church,” and that book goes through in great detail to show when these eras started and when they ended and how the prophecies in them were fulfilled, along with the dates. The third way they can be understood is that they are addressed to us individually now, and at all times. This is a very sobering way to look at them because it puts personal responsibility onto you and me. Since each letter ends with the same phrase – “he who has an ear let him hear,” I think it is crystal clear that they are intended for each of us to know. The word for “he” is singular, so that means it is not for a group, it addressed to you and me. It begins addressed to a group, but it concludes with this phrase. I hope that we can hear and apply these things.
Mr. Armstrong used to say that all of the characteristics listed in these seven churches exist in all of the congregations at all times. Just that one seems to dominate at any particular time. This covers the entire spectrum from the first century until today, until the return of Jesus Christ. We also saw that there are references to things in multiples of seven. The pattern continues throughout the entire book. Even the message to each church has seven parts according to the Tyndale New Testament Commentary. There are seven parts to each letter.
The first is a greeting to the Angel of the Church (and then a city). The second one is that there is a title of the risen Jesus Christ and it is usually taken from the descriptions we see this evening in the latter part of Chapter 1. The third part is a section headed “I know.” I know something about this congregation, and that usually includes praise or some comment about the churches good record, but not in the case of Laodicea. The fourth part is the criticism of the church, but not in the case of Smyrna, nor Philadelphia who were the churches that were in the best shape spiritually. Then the fifth part is a warning. And then part number six is an excerpt (and he who has an ear). Finally part seven is a promise which begins with something like “to him who overcomes I will give” this or that, and each church is unique in what Christ will give them. He is very generous in His gifts.
In the last four letters, the order of six and seven is reversed. I don’t think that is particularly significant. Some of you here and some of you listening will remember being in spokesmen club and the pattern that we used for evaluations for the men. When the men were supposed to evaluate the speakers, was that you first gave praise and then you gave correction, and that’s the pattern that we follow here. This is the example that we are following from Jesus Christ himself to the seven churches. First He gave praise and then He gave correction.
[Randy Stiver] Don’t forget He gave hope, which the evaluations in spokesman’s club sometimes forgot.
[John McClain] I have a quote I want to put in a little bit later, but it is about the great hope that the book of Revelation brought to the congregations who were all suffering, extreme suffering in some cases. So a very good point, yes a lot of hope.
So at the end of this study we concluded with Chapter 1:13. That means that tonight we have another pattern of seven. We have seven more verses to complete in this chapter to finish it. So these verses contain a vision of the resurrected Jesus Christ who refers to Himself as the Son of Man. This seems to be His preferred title and it is used 81 times. I don’t know what significance that is; 81 times He is called the Son of Man. It is not just something that is a casual one time use, but it is used over and over. It probably emphasizes His humanity because He was the perfect man and He also by that humanity is able to relate with the problems that each of us faces and the issues we have in our lives. So He is able to relate to the sufferings that these churches had in the first century and with our problems today. I would like to note also that the first of these scriptures that we find in Chapter 1:13-18, one of these is picked out and it is used again in each of the letters. Not all lumped in all the letters, but just one descriptor about Jesus Christ is repeated in the letter to each church.
Let’s begin in Revelation 1:12-16 – “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke to me. And having turned I saw seven golden lamp-stands, and in the midst of the seven lamp-stands, One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. He had in his right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
Let’s go back to verse 12 – “then I turned to see the voice that spoke to me.” We might say I turned to see who was speaking to me, but this is the way it is worded. “And having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands.” Now even before he saw the speaker, he saw these lamp-stands. Maybe the light was so bright that he sort of blurred his vision, but we don’t really know. I would like to go back to Exodus 25:31 where we find instructions to the Israelites to build the golden lamp-stands with bowls to hold the oil to fuel the lamps for the temple. Pure oil was needed for the light. You can read for yourselves later in Exodus 25, which tells about how the lamp-stands were solid gold and had three branches on each side and a center stem. We know that the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, but God’s light survived the destruction of the temple. It was now 95 AD or so and the church became this temple. We must have oil in ourselves for God to show light. We are not the source of the light ourselves.
Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light so shine before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Now we know that oil is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit. Water is another. But God’s good works are light. God uses oil for His worship services. Only the pagans use candles, but God always uses oil. Liam Barkley wrote – “It’s not the Christian’s themselves which produce the light. The giver of the light is Jesus Christ and the churches are only the vessels within which the light shines. A Christian’s light is always a borrowed light.”
We drop on down to verse 20 Chapter 1, it explains there that the golden lamp-stands are the seven churches. We always want to let the Bible interpret the Bible. Verse 20 is probably the most clear verse in the whole chapter. It just says that the stars are the angels of the churches and the lamp-stands are the churches. Back to verse 13 now. Here we get the beginning of the description of the risen Jesus Christ and each letter contains one of these descriptors as you will see in the next chapter. He calls Himself the Son of Man and refers to Jesus Christ.
Revelation 1:13 – “In the midst of the seven lamp stands, one like the Son of Man clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”
Notice that Jesus Christ is in the midst of the lamp-stands and this is significant. It shows His active involvement with the churches. He didn’t set them up and then disappear. He is very actively involved and very concerned about how it goes. He is in total control even though things may seem sometimes like they are spinning out of control. He is in total control and what He allows is what happens. He knows what is happening in each church. Even in martyrdom He is in control and the church is His spiritual organism. I would like to look at a couple of references for the title the “Son of Man,” where that is found.
Psalm 8:4-6, you are all familiar with that one I am sure. It begins with – “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands. You have put all things under his feet.”
Another reference is in Daniel 7:13 – “I was watching in the night visions, and behold One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom, the one which shall not be destroyed.”
Now both the Father and the Son could be addressed as Ancient of Days because they are both eternally alive from eternity past and eternity in the future, which our minds can’t really grasp. I just can’t wrap my mind around it. This is addressing the Father here, I think, and is addressing Him as the Ancient of Days in this particular case. The Son emphasizes His humanity because He is the perfect human being and is one through whom all humans receive salvation. Let’s look at one more place where the Son of Man is mentioned.
Revelation 14:14 – “Then I looked and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and His hand a sharp sickle.”
The Son of Man will judge the living and the dead and the Son of Man was Himself a man for a few years. It mentions a long robe down to His feet and that is like the robe of the high priest. His appearance combines royalty and the priesthood and the golden band is a regal symbol. He is a king and He is also a high priest. He has been a high priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek. It is mentioned in Genesis 14 and also in Hebrews 7, all through the chapter off and on, verses 1-28 basically.
Revelation 1:14 – “His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, symbolizing righteous character. His eyes like a flame of fire, all searching and all penetrating.” He will not tolerate sin.
I would like to quote Proverbs 20:8 – “A King sits on the throne of judgment, scatters all evil with his eyes.”
What does that mean? The commentaries think that he examines each case, he looks at the evidence, he sorts it through and he knows evil when he sees it. So it has all of those meanings I think. He sees through criminal acts and sifts the evidence. His eyes are very penetrating.
Revelation 1:15 – “His feet are like fine brass.”
This is a symbol of stability, permanence and power; especially stability. Adam Clark says in his commentary that it is the symbol of durability. Barnes describes it as a dazzling brightness, it was so shiny. Some other commentaries say that they think it’s a special alloy, not just copper and zinc that you find in grass, but it also had gold and silver alloyed with it. We don’t really know and we don’t have samples to send to the lab.
Revelation 1:15 – “and His voice was like many waters.”
This is the same voice that the Israelites feared when they were at Mt. Sinai and they heard the Lord speak. They begged Moses “you go and listen, we are afraid.” Moses became an intermediary. But they did promise to obey His voice and they did for a short time. It is the most powerful voice. I used to live in Niagara Falls and I lived there for three years. There is a tremendous thunder that comes from the water crashing over the edge and falling on the rocks below. I picture it that way. Maybe that is not accurate, but it was certainly very penetrating and a very loud voice. It was very clear, powerful and commanding. You ignore it at your peril.
Revelation 1:16 – “He had in his right hand seven stars and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
Some of the other translations said He “holds” in his right hand, which is indicating a very strong grip. A strong grip on everything and that He has complete control. Well we saw in verse 20 a minute ago that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and that part is clear to us. Let’s look at Isaiah 62:3. It seems to fit here.
Isaiah 62:3 – “You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord and a royal diadem in the hand of your God”.
So that is what we are to be as God has control of our lives. The two-edged sword here is a heavy sword. It penetrates easier by being two-edged and by it the intents and the thoughts of the heart are revealed.
Hebrews 4:12 – “For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing even the division of soul and spirit and of joints and morrow, and it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
So He could discern then, and He can still discern today. We want to watch and guard our thoughts because they can be known to God. We should use this sword on ourselves. If we examine ourselves then we can make those corrections before God has to correct us. We should work on our own hearts.
Ephesians 6:17 – “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God.”
Good things to remember as we are thinking about this two-edged sword.
Revelation 1:17 – “And when I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead.”
How would you react? You have just seen this overwhelming glory, brightness and so forth. I think we would react the same way. Fall down like you were dead.
Revelation 1:17 – “But He laid His right hand on me saying to me, do not be afraid; I am the first and the Last.”
He says the same thing to us today, because He was dead and He came back and He is alive. He says a similar thing hear about I am the first and the last back in Chapter 1:8. He called Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I don’t know the full intent in just what way He is the first and the last. Some think that it was because He was the first that did the physical creation as well as the spiritual creation. Spiritual creation is continuing in each of the Saints. Perhaps that is one of the ways to think of it.
Revelation 1:18 – “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold I am alive forever more. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of death.”
So He is the living one and He can unlock the graves for His saints and that is a great reason to not be afraid. Maybe that is what He meant when he said to Paul, “do not be afraid,” because He has control over life and death. He can accomplish His goals because He will be alive forever. Our time runs out and we may not finish the things that we hope to do. But He can accomplish His goals by having everlasting life.
Revelation 1:19 – “Write the things which you’ve seen and the things which are and the things which will take place after this.”
There are three categories here; the things you’ve seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after. I cannot imagine if maybe John was taking notes furiously during this vision. Maybe he just had a fantastic memory or maybe it was revealed to him slowly. Maybe all of those, so that he could get all of the details. But anyway, He told him to write down these three categories of things. What you have seen – that is all he’d seen and heard. Because he heard a loud voice so it wasn’t all just what he had seen. The things which are – that is the conditions which are present in the church at that time. The third class then is the things which will take place after this. That is the prophecies that are contained in the book.
Revelation 1:20 – “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lamp-stands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lamp-stands which you saw are the seven churches.”
It just tells you straight out what each thing means. It is very self explanatory. So we have now come to the letters to the churches, but first I think that we are looking at some commonalities between the churches.
[Randy Stiver] An overview of the churches just a little bit. In the book of Revelation we have a lot of sevens. Seven churches, seven golden lamps stands and seven spirits, seven stars, seven angels , seven lamps of fire, seven horns and seven eyes on the land – in one description – the seven heads of the beast, the seven mountains, the seven kings, and the seven seals. That is a big section of Revelation. After we get past the seven churches, you have the seven seals that seal the book of Revelation. And then you get the seventh seal open and there are seven trumpets. And when you sound the seventh trumpet, then there are seven bowls which contain the seven last plagues. I don’t know how many sevens that is, but there is one more. Not only are there seven churches, but as we are going to begin now, there are seven letters to the churches. So you have got the churches and you have got the letters. They are small letters and we are going to read through one of them right here in Chapter 2.
The view of how to analyze and understand the various churches is, if you look at a map of Asia Minor – we don’t have one in the room right now – you find that they are in a basically what would be northeastern or eastern Turkey over near the entrance into the Black Sea. Ephesus, being the first one, was a sea port on what is a major inlet of a significant harbor, which we will get to in a moment. The churches were on a mail route in the Roman era and there were congregations in each of the seven cities. Chances are there was more than one congregation.
I was just reading in Romans 16 and it talks about Paul greeting Aquila and Priscilla and the church that meets in their house, and then greeting Aristobulus in the church that meets in his house. So in Rome we know that there were at least two, what we would say churches, or congregations, that they were all a part of. The true church of God and they were the Ephesian church. In Cincinnati we have here an AM and PM for Cincinnati East and then we have a Cincinnati North congregation. But they are the church and combined together in this particular geographical area. Ephesus probably had, over time, more than one. It was a fairly large city and it was the capital of Asia Minor as it was called then. We will get into all of the other things it was famous for in a minute.
The seven churches were located in the seven cities that formed the single mail route for the Roman mail system, which was a fairly reliable mail system back in the day. The churches all had unique personalities, or shall we say character – a particular feature that stood out in their existence. The church at Ephesus is found to be a loveless church. It isn’t full of love and energy. The church at Smyrna is the persecuted church. The church at Pergamum were the compromisers – compromising particularly in the area of sexual immorality. The church at Thyatira was corrupt, entertaining various false doctrines. This church at Sardis was dead – dead in the sense it was not energetic; it was not alive, but it does say that there were a few names in Sardis. There were a few outstanding faithful ones there, but not many. Philadelphia gets praise along the lines of what Smyrna got. Neither one is severely corrected. So everybody wants to be Philadelphia – that was the “in” thing – to be identified with that. The Laodicea is lukewarm, meaning that they have the name, but they don’t really have any energy or zeal. They would rather sleep in and watch services on the webcast than to get out of bed and drive 5 or 10 miles to where services are. They are just not moving and too much a part of this world. They haven’t shaken that off and captured the vision of the Kingdom of God in their minds, to get fired up and going.
Each of these congregations – at the time John was writing, which would have been about 95 AD – is typified here. John would have known them. Ephesus was the closest to the Island of Patmos, which is where John was exiled while he was writing the book of Revelation. He knew their characters. Even today, our congregations have particular characters within the group, in the sense they have a characteristic for each congregation. Over the years I have pastored a variety of congregations in many states in America and I can distinctly think back into the group dynamics and the energy and zeal, or lack thereof, that would then typify that particular congregation. We always hope for the best and we all should strive to be energetic and zealous so that we can be a Smyrna or a Philadelphia, individually. It’s not sort of a badge you can wear or an armband, if you will. So these were the seven churches that were explained here in these congregations. It’s viewed from a different variety of perspectives. On the one hand it’s a commentary on congregations that fall into this, literally as I mentioned. On the other hand there are lessons for each of us personally. We go through and find the good things that Ephesus was doing and the good things that Thyatira was doing, or whatever one of the seven, and we want to emulate those things. Then we go back and make another list – the things that they weren’t doing or the things that they were doing wrong. Then we look at that list and say, “I don’t want to be like that.” So, you see, it has a lesson to all of us now and it would have been the same lesson for our brethren in the 17th century, or the 10th century, or the 4th century. Or even back in the days of John himself. They would have drawn those same lessons.
We have tended to also look at this in a chronological historical era sense. Most commentaries will say that Ephesus clearly looked like the Apostolic Church and the commentary hear about Ephesus therefore is identified. Then they look to end and they see Laodicea being lukewarm and lacking zeal, lacking energy, lacking dedication and that’s the apostasy that has been seen probably in just about any age since then to one degree or another if you are looking for it. Certainly we see it now. There are a couple of other historical markers that give credence to the chronological understanding we draw from this. In addition to the others, the personal lessons, congregational lessons and so on.
The first one is for the Smyrnan church in Chapter 2:9 which talks about that they would experience tribulation and poverty. And then it gets more specific about the tribulation down toward the end. “The devil is about to throw some of you in prison” – in the middle of verse 10.
Revelation 2:10 - “About to throw some of you in prison that you may be tested and you will have tribulation 10 days.”
A prophecy given in a specific number of days generally, not always as Christ was three days and three nights in the grave and that was a very literal application. But where there is a prophecy that has a sense of something longer, we find a principle in Numbers 14:34. You think back how many years the children of Israel had to wander in the wilderness because of their sin and rebellion at Mount Sinai. Of course we think through what was that number, how many years did they have to wander? And the answer is 40.
Numbers 14:34 – “According to the number of days in which you spied out the land, 40 days, for each day you shall bury your guilt one year. Namely, 40 years and you shall know my rejection.
They had been about two days into the wandering and it was time to go up and take over the promise land, so God took them to a place called Kadesh Barnea which would be down in the Sinai Peninsula but sort of the north end of it. And then we had the twelve spies or scouts essentially, that went up and scouted out the land and among them were the two faithful ones. The other ten were, I don’t know, there is no explaining them. Cowards, politicians, when they found which way the wind was blowing when they got home. They seemed to be brave enough on the way, but the ten were unfaithful scouts. Joshua and Caleb were faithful and they brought back the giant cluster of grapes they had to carry it on a pole between two men. They saw the giants, they saw this, they saw that, and they came back pumped. Eager to go, and then suddenly ten of them melted. Their resolve just disappeared and Joshua and Caleb tried to rally the troops in the sense of convincing the children of Israel that we can do this. God is with us and we can inherit this land. Don’t worry about the giants. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. It didn’t help because they weren’t listening. Then the people cried out that they were going to kill Moses and Aaron, and you know, the usual thing. Moses and Aaron bowed down and asked God to forgive them, also the usual thing. Fortunately for the Israelites, Moses and Aaron would go to bat for them again and again and again. God was going to issue punishment. He was tired of that generation of rebellious people. That would be those who were at least 20 years old or older when the Exodus took place.
It goes on to explain that for 40 years (which would mean 38 more from that point) the Israelites would wander in the wilderness. In the deserts of Midian and Arabia or wherever, down in that area that he wanted to wander them around, until the older generation had died off, and the younger generation was ready to inherit the land. Then they would come back. A day in prophecy was a year in fulfillment. If you want to make a note here, the same principle is brought out in Ezekiel 4:6. Now we go back to Revelation.
Smyrna would have tribulation for ten days. Ten days, if it is a year of fulfillment for one day of prophecy, that would be ten years of severe tribulation and persecution. When was there a time of that? The answer jumps out of the text in history books right at you. It was the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. He persecuted Christianity in general, which would have meant the two varieties, the true church and the developing other church. It was a severe persecution. When he turned loose the Roman pagans on Christianity in general, many thousands were killed. The lands and buildings that belonged to Christians were taken and confiscated. It was a terrible time and it lasted from 303 AD to 313 AD What ended it were the British. The Emperor Constantine was half British. His father was a Roman. His army which would have been to a large extent British, in a Celtic sense at that time, proclaimed him to be Emperor. Diocletian was falling out of favor. The persecution in Britain ended sooner than 313, but the rest of Europe was not until the battle of Milan. Then the edict of Milan that Constantine when he vanquished the forces of Diocletian and his allies, then Constantine assumed sole Emperorship and he ended the persecution. There was a ten year period of severe persecution. So that is a historical maker. So if we look at that, then Smyrna would be during that time, before and a little bit after, the early 300 AD
Now if you go back into Chapter 3 of Revelation, and look at the other historical marker, which gives evidence of why it is valid to view this as a chronological era, this is a promise to the Philadelphia congregation, and therefore the historical era of time.
Revelation 3:10 - “Because you have kept my command to persevere I will also keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell upon the earth.”
What is the hour of trial? It is spoken of as if it is the supreme hour of trial, worse than the ten years of Diocletian’s persecution, a greater tribulation than that. In fact that phrasing is interchangeable conceptually with the great tribulation, which comes only at the end of this age, some time ahead of us today. How long? Well we see the hand writing on the wall. We don’t think it is very long. We don’t know exactly how long, but we don’t think it is very long. Things are heating up dramatically on the world scene. So that is a historical marker. Philadelphia has to be existing at the time of Christ’s return, and the time just before it leading up to it. So therefore, also does the Laodicean church as well. They will exist simultaneously. We used to think and speculate, a speculation because it is not written in the Bible, that the Philadelphia era of the church began in the 1930’s and we don’t know when it ended. Maybe the 1990’s, who knows. That’s how we use to speculate it, for particular reasons which I think are fairly obvious. One of our ministers of the past, who was a doctor of history in that sense, had a different speculation based on his larger view of studying the church history. He believed that the Philadelphia era began in the 1800’s or approximately 1800. He didn’t ever say when he thought it ended. I have a theory about when it ended if you like theories. I think it ended in 1968, but it didn’t end, but they coexist with the Laodicean. I think the Laodicean era began in 1968. That was a banner year of the sexual revolution, the drug revolution, and upheaval across the university systems around the world, but especially in America, being the world’s main super power. In January of 1968, the pride in our power was almost thoroughly broken with the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. It was turned around, but it was nip and tuck for a significant period of time. There are all kinds of historical reasons for supposing that. If that was the case though, just think, we have lived in the Philadelphia era and the Laodicean era of history all these years since. That makes sense because these two have to coexist in a period of time, and you say well which church organization is Laodicean and which is Philadelphia. It isn’t like that. It is for some, but it is not like that and when you get down to it, it doesn’t say that. We have to beware, we want to be Philadelphian in our love for others and our love for God above all things. And zeal for his Kingdom, and not lukewarm and lackadaisical and sort of “joe cool” type of person that really doesn’t put him or herself out much to zealously follow God. A mistake that we have tended to make is that we try to exclusively read the eras as the eras of church history, when in fact they are eras of history, in the sense that a church only reflects the culture around it. Because we are pulled out of that and we carry some of that baggage with us. Sometimes some of the baggage is less at some times in history than it is at others. The Laodicean era has a lot of baggage that people drag right out of society when they are converted. The ones who are zealous start wondering why it is that there arm aches and they look back there and they are dragging five suitcases of baggage from the world with them and they start sorting it out. They drop off a bag here and a bag there and they sort through the other bag. Wow there’s not much that I can’t put just in my pocket that is worthwhile and I can leave the rest of that stuff. I think that it has more to do with the history of the world as far as the ethnics go and the churches that exist at those times reflect the cultures around them in one way or another. Nobody can put on a Philadelphian badge and go around scowling at anybody because that of course circumvents what Philadelphia is all about anyway. It is to be a church that’s loving.
Now we get into the church at Ephesus. It was a loving church, was a loving church. Let’s look at it here.
Revelation 2:1 – “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp-stands”.
Who is it that does those things and obviously from Chapter 1 it’s Christ. It is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the head of the church, our Lord and Master, High Priest in Heaven, soon coming King. In each one of the messages as Mr. McClain brought out, you have the identifiers about Christ. It is a beautiful description of Him carrying a lot of weight and meaning. He works with His church throughout all time. He says I know your works. Here He has there commendation in that sense. I know your works, I know your labor, I know your patience Ephesus. I know you and that you cannot bear those that are evil. Another words, you can see evil. You see it, you can identify it and you label it for what it is. You don’t try to call evil good and good evil and bully for you. Bully is the Theodore Roosevelt way of saying “good for you, you are doing the right thing.” He goes on (there are a lot of good things about Ephesus) you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and found them liars. You tested them. Sometimes we could use a little bit more of the Ephesian spirit in our lives. Be better critical thinkers. Analyze what goes on in the church and the world more precisely. The general conference of elders president, Mr. Lueker, stressed as a theme for the coming year that we should ask God to give us His wisdom. Personally I just find the subject of wisdom talked about so very little that it is a little bit frightening. We need to study wisdom, because that is what the Ephesians had. They listened to what was said and they analyzed that and they said, “You’re wrong, you are doing the wrong thing. You are breaking God’s law here and breaking God’s law there. You are a rebel and you shouldn’t do that and I reject you as a leader of me.” That is what they were able to do.
Revelation 2:3 – “and you have persevered and you have patience, and have labored for my namesake and have not become weary.”
You think wow! I did all those things, what’s bad about them? But look at what they had done. They hadn’t become weary and they just kept right at it patiently plodding along, running along, jogging along, whichever they were able to do at the time, and have done the work and had been faithful to Christ and the Father. Nevertheless, here is your challenge - everything is a challenge and an opportunity, and you have a challenge. I have this against you; you have left your first love. You think how could they do all of those other good things and not be full of the love of God for each other and for God Himself. And for other people in general. Well, they could if you let living God’s way of life become more academic then this rule, where it is just from the inside out. You can lose your love. You can be friendly, you can be congenial, but do you really love others.
Christ said to Peter; remember this was at the fish fry before Jesus was resurrected; he hosted a fish fry for his apostles. This is in John 21. They were told to go to Galilee and wait for him, so while they were waiting they went out fishing one night and didn’t catch a thing. So He shows up standing in the fog along the shore. They didn’t recognize Him at first, and He calls to them early in the morning, “Have you caught anything?” That was how people bought fresh fish. The way we buy fresh fish is that we get fresh “frozen” fish. You haven’t seen a fresh fish since your neighbor kid went fishing and brought you a string of bluegill, and then we probably thought, “What do we do with this?” Christ called to see if they had any fish and they said no we haven’t caught a thing. He said well throw your net on the other side of the boat, you will find them there. He had a fish finder with Him and they didn’t know it. So they did and they caught their limit plus one. Their limit was 152 and they got 153 (I really don’t know what the limit was). It almost swamped their little row boats that they were in, so they started dragging the net back to the shore and suddenly John, the apostle who wrote this, recognized that it was the Lord speaking to them from the bank. So Peter jumped in and swam to shore. He was always enthusiastic plus they needed somebody there to help beach the boats and pull them up onto the bank. So they got there and Christ already had fish cooking on the fire and He had bread baking on the fire. It was a fish fry par excellence. He said bring some more of those fish up there. They cooked them and they ate and they were sitting around afterwards. I don’t know if they drank coffee or not. That would have been the perfect time for a campfire coffee pot. Jesus said to Peter, come over here and he sat down. They are in awe because obviously He has been resurrected and He is appearing to them again, talking with them and eating with them. We will be able to do that after the resurrection. We will be able to eat and talk with people and they will be able to see us when we want them to, not when we don’t. He said, “Peter do you love me.” Peter said “Yes Lord I love you.” Christ said, “Well then feed my sheep” and Peter proudly nodded o.k. Then Christ said “Peter”. Peter said, “Yes Lord.” Christ said, “Do you love me?” Peter said, “Yes I love you, didn’t I just say that.” Christ said, “Then feed my lambs” and then he paused and Peter was probably wondering what that was all about and then suddenly Christ says “Peter.” Peter says, “Yes Lord”. Christ says, “Do You Love Me?” Peter says, “Yes Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” Christ says, “O.k., then feed my sheep.”
Peter was having the love drilled into his head wasn’t he? You can get a little bit academic about God’s way of life and then you lose that fire of love for your neighbor as yourself and for love of God above all things. Ephesus had fallen into that trap. Turn back to Ephesians 1, where Paul wrote an Epistle. Bear in mind that Paul for three years pastured the church in Ephesus himself. Being the capital of the entire Asia Minor and the subprovince of Ionia, it was a major thoroughfare and crossroads. He established a large congregation there and he looked after it directly for a good bit of time.
[John McClain] I read somewhere that there may have been 300,000 people in Ephesus, so it was no backwater town.
[Randy Stiver] So undoubtedly they had more than one actual congregation because they tended to meet in the homes of wealthy members who had large enough homes for hosting. You think well why can’t they just go to one place? If you were in a town of 50,000, would you want to walk from one side of town to the other? Or even from the outskirts into the middle and back, on the Sabbath? That could be four or five miles each way. So you would have to have a number of them. It was a large area.
Ephesians 1:15 - “Therefore after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for the saints. Do not cease to give thanks for you and making mention of you in my prayers.”
When Ephesus, 35 years before which is about 60 AD when Paul wrote the epistle to the Ephesians, they were a church full of energy and full of love for each other. But by 60-95 AD, the next generation had lost the fire of that love. They had lost that personal connection with God and with each other and they needed to get regathered. They were told then:
Revelation 2:4 - “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
Now here is the solution. You just don’t give somebody correction, you give them hope. You give them a plan, here is what you need to do.
Revelation 2:5-6 – “Remember therefore from where you have fallen, repent and do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place - unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans , which I also hate.”
You think who are they? You will be introduced to them later in Chapter 2 in another one of the years of the church in another one of the congregations in Asia Minor. It was a very licentious school of thought. It was a sexual revolution on a localized scale there in Ephesus and Asia Minor – in other words, a lot of sexual immorality.
Christ concludes Revelation 2:7 – “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
If it was not in your lifetime, then think about it when it was in your parents and grandparents lifetimes and the stories that you heard when you were growing up in the faith. Go back to the beginning and do the first works. Return to God, pray longer, study God’s word and talk about it with each other. Do things together and help each other and the love will come back.
Now Paul referred to the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 13 as the Paradise of God. But bear in mind when the tree of live thrives the most is in Revelation 22 when God the Father in a sense, heaven comes to earth, the rest of heaven. Christ is coming first, and then the Father comes and the new Jerusalem is on the new earth and the tree of life will be there and that is all later in the book. You all will have to stick around for several months and we will get to that. Then this will be the Paradise of God, where the father is.
[John McClain] You talked about Love. It is not necessarily only a feeling. I think that it is a service too and that is what the story on the seashore was about. It was about feeding them. Now we go to Smyrna. The arrangement of the churches here was rather interesting. The first and the last ones were in terrible shape spiritually, Ephesus and Laodacia. The second and the sixth were in great shape spiritually even though they were suffering. Smyrna had suffered greatly. The three in the middle were sort of in the middle. They weren’t all that good and they weren’t all that bad. It is kind of interesting that it was arranged that way. Now you might think that some of these cities were just little towns, but they were major cities. Smyrna had a nice harbor, they had a lot of trade and it was a large city. It is even a large city today and is called Izmir. The name Smyrna means Myrh. It is a bitter incense of perfume and it’s mentioned several times in scripture. It was used for embalming and it was used for other things as well. You might want to look it up. It is mentioned in John 19:39, where Nicodemus brought about 100 pounds of Myrh and aloes to embalm Jesus body. It’s also mentioned back in Exodus 30:23 and it’s part of the formula for the Holy anointing oil. It is the major component actually. It is also mentioned in the Song of Solomon, where Solomon’s couch was scented with Myrh. It must have been a popular item of commerce in that area.
This town was very strong in supporting Rome and the Tendale Commentary says that they worshipped the Roman Emperor. Barkley says that they were the first ones to worship the Emperor in Rome and so it was a very strong imperial cult. It must have been very hard to serve God there because of those conditions. Each church had these civil, economic and geographical features that made them unique and so this one had this problem with the worshiping of the Emperor. Romans 2:9 says that the synagogue of Satan was there, so this was a very persecuted church. Later on their bishop was Polycarp and he was burned at the stake because he would not worship the Emperor. However, these folks were very determined, as late as 197 AD, they were the only group that still kept the Passover and resisted the Bishop of Rome. They would not compromise on this, so they were very strong spiritually.
They had a name, remember that name? They were called “cortodeson meaning 14th dayer’s”, because the Passover is kept on the 14th day of the first month of God’s calendar. I would like to quote from the UCG booklet about this persecution. The Story of Civilation, Part III, Ceasar and the Christ written by historian Will Durant. Page 20 describes the followers of Jesus Christ, who were a persecuted and discouraged body. They longed for Jesus to return in power and glory to judge their adversaries and to establish the Kingdom of God. They desperately needed encouragement and desired a better understanding of what their future held. On Page 22 he says “The influence on the Book of Revelation was immediate, enduring and profound. It’s prophecies of salvation for loyal believers and of punishment for their enemies became the sustenance of a persecuted church. Its theory on the millenniums solace of those who mourned the long delay in the second coming of Christ. Its vivid images and brilliant phrases entered both into the popular and the literally speech of Christendom.”
It was a very profound impact. I found that very encouraging the impact that this book had on the church that was so persecuted. And He told them back in Chapter 1:18 – “I am living now.” So that should be very encouraging to those that are being persecuted. In Chapter 2:8, he says “I came back.” So these were very significant things for the church to hear at Smyrna. It was not a easy place to be a Christian. They also suffered a great poverty in addition to their persecution. I am sure that they would have had trouble finding employment because of the situation there, because they would not worship the emperor. It is interesting that Jesus Christ told them that they were rich. So they had the right priorities as He saw it. Whereas the Laodicea church said were are rich and they had worldly goods, but they were lacking in spiritual strength. So they had extreme hostility against them. It talks about the synagogue of Satan and we think that was actually the group of Jews in the area that persecuted them and stirred up the others to further persecute the true Christians. So any slander is a sign of the synagogue of Satan.
I would like to look at Matthew 5:11-12 – “Blessed are you when people persecute you and say evil things against you.”
That’s what was happening to them, but they were to rejoice. That is what we are told to do, “For great is your reward in heaven .” Anyway, this blasphemy is a synonym for slander. So they were being slandered. It is very difficult to have somebody slandering you and telling lies about you, and saying evil things which are not true at all or do not reflect you. But that’s what they experienced and so they were encouraged by Jesus’ words.
Romans 2:28 – “A Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly.”
Now they stirred up a crowd against Paul when Paul was in Jerusalem and they went to other cities and stirred up trouble there. So they were doing the same thing here in Smyrna. This is one of the two churches that received no admonition, and Philadelphia is the other one. Christ was not going to lay onto them any other requirements because they were already suffering with this extreme persecution and hostility. So He told them to be faithful to the end, which might actually mean that they would be martyred. And they would be put in prison which is where you went to go to die basically. Prisons were not like the ones we have today. They were unimaginably miserable places and I don’t even know how you would have food and water that you could even ingest because of the situation. There was nothing done for the prisoner.
If you want to see another encouraging letter to another persecuted church, you can read Philippians 1:27 where Paul was encouraging the Philippians who had encouraged him by sending gifts.
Philippians 1:27 – “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ so that whether I come and see you or am absent I may hear of your affairs that you stand fast in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
So he is telling them to strive together, not to strive against each other, which is often the case. So strive together for the faith of the gospel. Even death does not stop God’s servants. There are other places in the Bible where the disciples counted it a joy to be able to suffer for Jesus Christ, for his name. Here they said they were granted to suffer for Him and they told him to have confidence. The devil does the testing they say, but God allows that so it makes us strong spiritually and it will strengthen each of us as we suffer, since suffering is part of the Christian life. Certainly we know that the tribulation comes before Christ returns so we know that that’s going to be something in the future here. It is very mild now and you make think that religious persecution won’t come again. It is not dead. I saw an article this week where a 100 Christian families were killed in a town in Egypt. It wiped out the entire Christian population in that town. It’s not maybe in our neighborhood, but it’s coming soon to a theatre near you. We want to keep our eyes on Christ so that we can be strong regardless of what happens. I don’t think we need to have a martyr mentality, but we have to realize that it’s not going to get easier.
We don’t know quite why they were persecuted. We can speculate the reasons that they were. I am sure the accusations were based on lies. They were accused of being cannibals because of the Passover service. They would eat the bread and drink the wine and so it was misconstrued that they were eating their savior. They were accused of destroying families because they would not go along with the rest of the family and worship the Emperor. They were accused of being unpatriotic because they wouldn’t worship the Emperor and throw incense into the fire. They were divisive because they wouldn’t worship the other Gods, so they were called atheists. Also, they had been accused of political rebellion and they thought that was a threat to the Empire. Maybe there were other reasons too. Some were accused of being pyromaniacs because they believed that the world would end in fire. So there’s a lot of speculation about why and how they were persecuted, but we do know that the synagogue of Satan members stirred up the population against the Christians and so there was actually another church there called the synagogue of Satan by Jesus Christ. If they were imprisoned chances were that they would die, but they were spiritually rich.
[Randy Stiver] Your comment about martyrdom - I had never heard a sermon about martyrdom until a few years ago when I gave one. It is something, especially we Americans like not to think about. When you go back and read all of the verses of the Battle Hymn of the Republic or the Star Spangled Banner, we leave out the martyr versus, we don’t usually sing those. There has to be an absolute spiritual fearlessness of someone who is dedicated to God. That we are willing to die for what we believe. We are going to live later even if we die, right? But we are willing to die for what we believe. If you are at that point, then you have in that sense no fear because you love God so much more than you love your own breath and breakfast and whatever else we think is life. We do have to have that bottom line crossed in our minds and thought through ahead of time because we have to be ready to give our lives for the sake of God, in a heartbeat. And that’s is something to mull over.
Let’s wrap up with our last question that refers to Revelation 1:6 and 5:10.
Revelation 1:6 – “And has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever, Amen.”
Revelation 5:10 – “And have made us kings and priest to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” It’s a song that the angels sing on behalf of humans and they will sing too when our resurrection comes.
The question is: Are some to be kings in the millennium and some to be priests? Has not the scenario been set in the Old Testament? Please explain.
My only point of not being entirely sure what the questioner is asking is, what was the scenario in the Old Testament? Are some of going to be kings and some of us going to be priests in the millennial rule with Jesus Christ? Remember they will rule with Christ in the millennium for a thousand years as kings and priests. He didn’t site Revelation 20:5, but stop and think. Who was the priest for Abraham’s family? It was Abraham. The patriarch (in the patriarch era), the day to day priestly functions of those who followed God, including Job (we don’t even know if Job was an Israelite, he might not have been) but he worshiped the true God and Job was the one who offered the offerings, the sacrifices of the animals and such, which was the way it was done in those days, he offered them on behalf of his family. See the patriarchs of old, the faithful ones that were the patriarchs, they were the ones who did the priest work, but they also ran the place. They were like the King. Abraham was like a small king. Isaac was and Jacob was. The patriarch era…the patriarch was the king and priest all rolled into one.
Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to me above all people, for all the earth is mine.”
Exodus 19:6 – “And you shall be kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you should speak to the children of Israel.”
A Kingdome of priests is what is said there. So the Israelites, if they had been faithful, would have been a lot more like a kingdom of priests to the rest of the world. Only rarely did they rise to their calling. The church, with God’s spirit now, has a better record.
1 Peter 2:9 – “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”
We have terms here. We know that the patriarchs served essentially as a priest and a king of their small family kingdom. We know that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests. We know that we are going to reign as kings and priests, but kings and priests could very well be a priest king. Now there is an example in Jewish history of that. After the royal line of David had been evacuated and transplanted out of Judah, there arose a dynasty around 160 b.c. called the Macaby’s. I think that is where Hanukkah comes in as a Jewish celebration, because the remnant of Alexander’s Grecian empire controlled the land of Israel. The Macaby brothers, their father first and then the brothers’ successfully formed a dynasty that fought off the Seleucid’s and all of his other little epiphanies that he had. They got rid of them all. The Macaby’s were priests of the tribe of Levi and of the line of Aaron. But they were also kings so they were priest kings. They were a royal priesthood in the sense of serving as king and priest. As we serve as kings and priests, I am not sure that the line of a king and on the other side of the line is the priest, will be so clear. Because the resurrected saints are those that teach the spiritual truth to the people who will be converted in the millennium and they have the oversight, the governance, as well. Now we’ll work through our people, we won’t do everything for them, you can count on that. They learn by doing just like we learn by doing today, but we will have that responsibility and overview serving in many respects as priests and as many respects as royalty, king or queen in that sense.
So to answer this question, the scenario of the Old Testament has to do with priest and king being folded together into a simultaneous role. It may be that some are kings and some are priests. I won’t disallow that by any means because of the phrasing in Revelation. But we are going to be involved in priest kingly type things and serving under Christ and governing the nations in the world tomorrow. I hope that answers your question and we thank you for sending it in.
Thank you all for coming to the Bible study this evening.