Our New Website on Amillennialism

imagesThe posting on this blog has been limited over the last few weeks due to working on another project over the summer. It has been much work and lots of research however today we are tremendously happy to introduce to you this project in the form of a new website that we have created that is solely focused on the topic of eschatology. The Website is simply titled Amillennialism.

While there are large websites on other eschatological positions, there are very few that offer resources on this biblical understanding of prophetic scriptures. The new website will offer many of the resources including articles, books, audio and video from the best authors and speakers on the eschatological position known as Amillennialism. We had previously suggested several resources on this website but the organization of the materials was left desired. We decided to move our materials for the study of eschatology to this new website and add much more.

We are still adding new materials and we are in search of good materials that reflect this eschatological position. We welcome any suggestions you might have of resources that promote Amillennialism.

Enjoy!

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The Seven Churches of Asia: The Church of Laodicea

laodiceaTo the angel of the church inLaodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Laodicea was situated between Colossae and Hirapolis at a crossroad of a very busy highway. It was well known for its banking institution which at that time was bar none the best and most admired in Asia Minor. It was such a wealthy city that the citizens of that city used their own funds to rebuild the city after a devastating earthquake which meant refusing funds from other neighbouring cities.  It also had a very well-known medical college which produced an eye-salve that was exported throughout the Roman world and was famous for its textile trade especially woolen tunics.

The church itself should be noted as being the only church among the seven to which the Lord Jesus has nothing positive to say.

The title given to Christ in this portion of the letter is quite fascinating. He is referred to as “The Amen, the faithful witness and the beginning of the creation of God”. This should probably be taken, as Beale explains, as a development of the text in 1:5. The phrase “firstborn from the dead” relates to His resurrection and so should “the beginning of the creation of God” be taken . Christ is the beginning (arche) in the sense of a creator or the source of the creation but not in the sense of every creature but what was brought by His resurrection mainly “the new creation” (2 Cor. 5:15-17)

The conclusion that the title “beginning of the creation of God” in 3:14 is an interpretative development of “firstborn of the dead” from 1:5 is confirmed by the observation that αρχη (beginning) and πρωτοτοχος (firstborn) are generally related in meaning especially and especially are used together almost synonymously in Col. 1:18b (αρχη, πρωτότοχος εχ των νεχρων)of Christ’s sovereign position in the new age , as a result of the resurrection.[i]

The seriousness of this title would have caught their attention. Christ is speaking as One who is faithful which they would have realized they weren’t. Also, being the “beginning of the creation of God” would have demonstrated the power of the One who was speaking whom brought forth the worlds by the word of His power.

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The Seven Churches of Asia: The Church of Philadelphia

wvAnd to the angel of the church inPhiladelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this  ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

The church of Philadelphia was situation approximately 25 miles from Sardis. The city was said to have derived its name from Attalus II, 159-138 BC, whose loyalty to his brother Eumenes won him the epithet “brother-lover”.[i] Philadelphia has rich soil due to being near a volcano and it became famous for growing vineyards and exporting wine. The trade guilds were well established in this city also and the god of this trade guild was none other than Dionysus, the god of wine. An earthquake and multiple aftershocks had levelled the city in 17 A.D. which hurt the city tremendously and Philadelphia became economically depend on Rome due to difficulties in recuperating from the earthquakes devastation.

The opening description of the Lord Jesus with respects to this particular church begins with the words “holy and true”. This is speaking of the very character of the Lord Jesus who is set apart in holiness and the very essence of truth itself. Christ was referred to in several different accounts as the Holy One of God and even demons recognized this (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69) The Lord of the Church also addresses Himself as “true”. What we should remark is that He is true in opposite to those who professed to be Jews but who lied (v.9). The Lord Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and it is only through the power of Christ that we may know Him who is true (1 John 5:20) The Lord Jesus is the very essence of truth itself. This title will be repeated in a later chapter (6:10) by the martyrs!

The 2nd description, “who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens” is a quotation of Isaiah 22:22. The authority and responsibility of the city of David was taken away from Shebna and given to Eliakim. The identification of the authority of Eliakim was that God will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. The one who possessed the key of David was the one who possessed the keys to the Kingdom of God. This text is brought in to establish the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ in that He holds the key to the kingdom. Entrance into the kingdom is found solely through Him. Those of Jewish descent who had converted to Christ would have been excommunicated from the synagogues which, in their minds, meant that they had been expelled from the covenant promises and the Messianic Kingdom. The synagogues were closed to these Philadelphian believers period however they had no authority over the kingdom which the Son of David[ii] had the sovereign authority and power to open up to them and no one could shut it. There is a parallel to this in 1:18 to which Christ is said to have the keys of death and hades hence the Lord Jesus also exhibits authority over salvation  and judgment.

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The Seven Churches of Asia: The Church of Sardis

empty_tomb“To the angel of the church inSardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Sardis was, even in the days of the writing of the letter,  a very old city on a hill overlooking the Hermis valley that, at one time, was seen by the majority of the cities in Asia Minor as one of the most glorious cities in the area. It was majestically situated approximately 1500 high and was virtually almost impenetrable.  The city however had been attacked on several occasions and, at the time that the Revelation was being written, was suffering from extreme decay. The city had a very large Jewish population as well as a lively pagan culture which saw the goddess “Cybele” as their prominent deity.

V.1

The Lord Jesus refers to Himself to this church as the one who “has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. We had spent some time on the seven spirits earlier in v.1:4 which is probably speaking of the fullness of the Holy Spirit within the church as a whole. Without the Spirit, the church would die as He is the one who gives life to the churches. (Acts 2) The seven stars is a reference to 1:16 which has already been exegeted in our opening chapter.

The phrase “you have a name that you are alive” is referencing the manner in which they were viewed. In other words the church in Sardis had a very good reputation as being “alive” but the reality was that they were dead. The church was a spiritual morgue which earned one of the most serious rebukes out of all the seven churches. The question is: who was it that presumed they were alive as an assembly? One thing that is fascinating is that the letter to Sardis has no mention of any oppressors, persecutors or false teachers listed. Johnson writes:

No Nicolaitans were luring Christ’s servants in Sardis into immorality and idolatry. No Balaam-like prophet or Jezebel-like prophetess misled the unwary. Although Sardis is known to have had a strong Jewish community and vibrant paganism…, the letter mentions no external sources on intimidation, social rejection, or persecution, such as other churches encountered from Satan’s throne or Satan’s synagogue.[i]

It seems the church was quite friendly with “the world” and concerned with social acceptance to such a degree that it had almost totally abandoned its witness to Christ. It seemed like a church that was alive (perhaps referring to numbers) but in all reality is had no life in it. This is the epidemy of the churches found in North America which are “seeker sensitive” and compromising. It seems that many churches are so deparate to become large and relevant that they are willing to compromise in order to achieve this. The churches, much like Sardis, seem to be filled with spiritual life due to their numbers however they are an ecclesiastical corpse decaying from the inside.

V.2

The text in verse two begins with an imperative which in which they were commanded to “wake up” (NASB) or “be watchful” (NKJV). They are demanded by the Lord of the churches to “strengthen the things that remain”. The urgency of their situation is expressed in “which is about to die”. This church is on life support and needing to vitalize what it had. These were things that remained from a time when they had been a faithful church. Most commentators are agreed that this is probably referring to their lack of witnessing Christ before the pagan culture and being a bit too “seeker-sensitive”. There was probably a serious lack of offense in their society. The reaction in any culture to the exclusive message that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth and the only means of life (John 14:6) generally brings tremendous offense. They were not being faithful witnesses of Christ and probably mingling quite comfortably with the pagan culture in Sardis. We get this from the phrase I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of my God. This probably refers to their works not having God’s approval even though it seems they received it from men.

V.3

The means by which they could prevent their church from collapsing was to wake up and strengthen the things that remained. From what we can gather in the language, there probably wasn’t much remaining for them to work with yet the Lord still commands these things of them. This is further explained in v.3 where we read “remember what you have received and heard; keep it and repent”. So many today abandon ship when they have a small disagreement with the congregation yet this text supplies us with an exhortation to continue on. I am not convinced however that this is stating that we should stay in a church that is teaching false doctrine but that we must continue to persevere even in the most dire of situations. The Lord states that “IF” they do not wake up and heed these things that He would come like a thief. The “thief” language is used throughout scripture and especially in reference to the “parousia” of Christ however, in this context, it is probably referring to “a historical visitation of Christ before His final appearance”.[ii]

V.4

With the church on the brink of death, the Lord Jesus states that there were still some believers in Sardis who had walked faithfully with the Lord. John writes that they had not “soiled their garments”. The term “soiled” or “stained” (molunw) is also used in Rev. 14:4 “These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste” which I feel in this context and in 3:4 is referring to idolatry. Those who had not been lax in their witness and watered down their testimony by being overly “friendly” to the local pagan customs and even participating in them will (future) walk with Him in white garments. White garments are generally associated with vindication and purity.[iii] The reason why they are worthy to walk with Him in all purity was because they had not stained their garments. They were faithful to Him!

V.5

This passage further explains the statement made in v.4. It was promised that their past faithfulness would lead to them walking with the Lord in white garments in the future. The passage in v.5 is an exhortation to “overcome” and speaks of the requirement for a continuing witness. This may seem to some to seem almost contradictory since there is the promise of walking in white garments in v.4 yet an exhortation, if accomplished, will lead to them being clothed in white garments. The point that needs to be stressed is that the fact that a v.4 state that they will walk in white garments guarantees that they will overcome! The believer in sure to be clothed hence his conquering is implicitly assured.[iv]

Not only will these believers be clothed in white garments but their names will not be taken away from the book of life. There have been many interpretations offered as to the identity of this book which I feel deviates from the whole of the book of Revelation. The book of life is consistently used in the book of Revelation for “salvific destiny” (Beale).[v] Quite obviously this wouldn’t have been anything new since the expression is one that was close in its phraseology to Daniel 12:1-2. The “erasing” the name from the book of life is certainly not an easy expression to deal with seeing there is a consistent testimony throughout scripture that one cannot lose His salvation.[vi] I still am fully a believer that what God commands He gives hence those who are truly His people will overcome and hence never be erased from the book of life.

The third promise for the overcomers is that Christ will confess their names to His Father and the angels. This really gives us insight into the whole situation in Sardis as it is clear from this text that the majority of the church had not confessed Christ’s name before men but to those who had, He would confess theirs before the Father and His angels. The parallel statement in Matthew 10:32 & Luke 12:8 are references spoken in light of persecution that would follow for those who confess His name.


[i] Triumph of the Lamb, D. Johnson, Page 83

[ii] The Book of Revelation, New International Greek New Testament Commentary, G.K. Beale, Page 275

[iii] See the imagery used in 6:9-11; 7:13-14 for the usage of “white robes”

[iv] There are those who attempt to differentiate between the people mentioned in v.4 with the people mentioned in v.5. I see no warrant in separating these texts in two groups especially when we examine the usage of outwV

[v] See 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15 and 21:27 (also see Philippians 4:3; Luke 10:20 & Hebrews 12:23)

[vi] The expression seems to be used in the OT as well (see Exodus 32:32-33 & Psalm 69:28)

The Seven Church of Asia: The Church of Thyatira

thyatira-home-of-lydiaThe city of Thyatira was not known as a political or military centre due to its location in a valley. While many felt that it couldn’t be breached, time demonstrated that it was vulnerable to attacks and it eventually suffered military defeats in several instances throughout its history. The city was well known for its diverse occupations and strong economy which meant, much like Pergamos, it was subject to trade guilds however unlike the other cities mentioned it was the least known, least important, and least remarkable of the cities.[i] If you wanted a place to find work, Thyratira was the place to go! It was a city of incredible wealth and prosperity. We are told that Lydia was from Thyratira  and a seller of purple fabrics (Acts 16:14) which, along with metal manufacturing, were the two main trades in this city.The situation with the trade guilds wasn’t a lighter burden in Thyratira:

If you wish to get ahead in this world, you must belong to a trade guild; if you belong to a guild, you r very membership implies that you worship its god. You will be expected to attend the guild festivals and to eat food part of which is offered to the tutelary deity and which you receive on your table as a gift from a god. And then, when the feast ends, and the real- grossly immoral- fun begins, you must not walk out unless you desire to become the object of ridicule and persecution.[ii]

There was an incredible dilemma placed before these Christians living in this city. If they didn’t follow the rules of the trade guild, they would be cast out without any chance of earning a living which led to eventual hunger and persecution for yourself and your family. The other side was to continue participating in the trade guild which led to idolatry and a denial of the Lord. Christians were faced with unquestionable decisions which would affect all those they held dear.

This letter to the church in Thyratira is the longest of the seven individual messages. The Lord has much to say to them in regards to commendations and rebuke.

The term “Son of God” is not found in the first chapter of the letter which is unlike most other descriptive statements of the Lord Jesus Christ. There certainly could be a parallel in mind here with the title Son of Man and it would fit quite well with the themes presented to us of judgment and protection found in Daniel. (10:6; 3:24-25) The Lord Jesus is also referred to as the one whose eyes are as a flaming fire and also whose feet are as burnished bronze. The “feet” in scripture generally refer to trampling down one’s enemy in judgment. These folks in Thyatira would have known too well the significance of heavy bronze feet trampling over the church as a symbol of great judgment. These symbols would have communicated the seriousness of the words of the One speaking to them.

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The Seven Churches of Asia: The Church of Pergamum

Epidaurus18And to the angel of the church inPergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: 13 ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15 So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Pergamum was situated approximately 55 miles from Smyrna that was known for its academic and intellectual sophistication. Many of the greatest minds of the day resided in Pergamum and debate was a way of life. It was also for a long time the capital of the province of Asia.

The Lord Jesus begins His address to the church in Pergamum (V.12) in His customary manner by offering them how He perceived them. The two-edged sword proceeding out of the mouth of the Lord was a theme found in the Old Testament seen by Isaiah in 11:4; 49:2 which represents a conquering judge who executes judgment upon His enemies. (See. 1:16; 19:15)The significance of these words issued out of the mouth of the Lord Jesus should not be taken lightly. When Christ Jesus speaks He expects His people to listen and listen well.

It should be noticed in v.13 that He doesn’t say “I know your deeds” for this particular church but uses “I know where you live”.  There is a focus on locality rather than action. This is an important change in that the Lord understood that they were in an incredibly difficult area to bare a testimony to Christ and probably one of the most difficult areas of all seven churches. The KJV has “I know your deeds” however there is a very small amount of textual support for this reading.

The mention of the throne of Satan would be fitting since, as mentioned above, this was the capital of Asia Minor. This was the place where the Roman government and pagan worship was the most prominent in all of Asia Minor. It was a central locality as to the spread of the Devil’s kingdom. Pergamum was renowned for paying homage to Caesar as Lord. It is also where Asklepios, the serpent god of healing, was a primary deity worshipped in this city. The serpent became a prevalent symbol for Pergamum. Pergamum had also erected several temples to pagan gods including Zeus to which the altar looked like a throne. Sexual immorality mixed with religious worship and political power was prominent and the idea way of life. There was really no separation of church and state in this city.

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The Seven Churches of Asia: The Church of Smyrna

polycarpAnd to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: 9‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days Befaithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’

Smyrna was a church approximately 30 miles from Ephesus. It was well known as a city of tremendous beauty which had as its center an enormous culture with the best artists, Greek poets and thinkers. It was well established in its faithfulness to Rome having built many temples to the Roman religions. The people of Smyrna were to demonstrate their allegiance to the imperial cult by sprinkling incense and proclaiming Ceasar as lord. At certain times of year it was required by law to offer a sacrifice to the emperor (Domitian 81-96 A.D.) The Church was under a great dilemma in its struggles to stay faithful in the light of such tremendous pressures to succumb to the demands of this law. The church was also one of the two churches with whom the Lord Jesus placed no blame upon.

The Lord Jesus reveals Himself once again to His church by repeating a description that had been revealed to the apostle John.  He makes Himself known to them as the First and the Last referring back to Isaiah 44:6 & 48:12 and a title taken by Jehovah Himself. (See notes on 1:17). The purpose of the next title, “who was dead and has come to life” (v.8) is to demonstrate that through all that they are experiencing, whether poverty, suffering or death, their Lord had overcome these things and raised from the dead. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is foundational to the Christian message since our perseverance and hope is based upon what the Lord has accomplished. We live only because He lives!

The Lord begins the letter much in the same way he did with Ephesus by expressing to them that He is fully aware of what is happening in their lives. This alone would serve as a comfort for them. He “knows” what the suffering and the death they are experiencing.  There are three things that the Lord has revealed to the Smyrnians that He knew about them:

  1. Their tribulations: In other words the Lord Jesus recognizes that they are going through tremendous suffering for His name sake.
  2. Their poverty:  It is well established that the Romans would sometimes impose bans as to prevent certain people they deemed as “law breakers” from entering or continuing in the trade guild. (Hebrews 10:34) The faithful would have their work “permits” stripped from them for their loyalty to the Lord of the Church.
  3. The blasphemies of those who say they are Jew…:  Right up until the latter part of the first century, Christians could find themselves living semi-peaceful lives in certain areas because they were categorized as a Jewish sect.  The Jews in Smyrna were well-known for separating themselves from the Christian sect and such led to their persuading the Roman government that Christianity was an outlaw religion who refused to pay homage to Caesar.  They saw Christianity as a distortion of their traditional beliefs and saw it blasphemous to think that this Jesus of Nazareth that the Christians proclaimed as the promised Messiah to be the promised one of Jehovah.  This was really nothing new as throughout the NT the Jews are seen as instigating violence and persecution against Christians. (Acts 13:45,50; 14:2-7; 17:5-9; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16) Notice that these blasphemies (βλασφημια) here are used of the means by which the beast persecutes the people of God later on in the book. (13:1, 5­-6; 17:3-6) One may read only the Martyrdom of Polycarp to see the struggles that these early Christians faced at the expense of the government and the Jews.[i]

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The Seven Churches of Asia: The Church of Ephesus

ephesus_celsus_library2_tb_n010500To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves postles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

The city of Ephesus was sixty miles away from the Island of Patmos where John would have been writing.[i] It was a very wealthy city and very popular for its temple of Artemis (shrine of Diana) where many gathered in worship of pagan deities. The city boasted of an extraordinary harbour able to dock many large ships. Ephesus also connected many highways which made it a very important commercial town hence wealth was prevalent among its society. It had one of the most desired libraries in all the land and was renowned for the centrality of its pagan culture.

Paul had visited the city (Acts. 18:19-21) during his second missionary journey between 50-55 A.D. on his third missionary journey he spent approximately 3 years there (Acts. 20:31) and cared deeply for the church there. (Acts. 20:17-38) His love for the church was so great that he wrote one of the most beautiful of his epistles to the church there from prison. It had been firmly laid in the labors of Paul, assisted by Apollos, and also by Aquilla and Priscilla.[ii]

V1.

The Lord Jesus is presented to this church as “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands”. He is referring to the description found in v.16 to which both these images denote the sovereignty of the Lord over His churches.  He is fully involved and in control of them to the extent that they completely belong to Him. There are many in our churches today who treat the church as if it were their own not contemplating that they are mere caretakers of something that belongs to another. It is important to view the church as belonging to Christ and that we should care for it in such a way as to please the owner.

V2-3.

The idea of “knowing” their deeds, toils and perseverance should not be taken as merely knowledge but also as a full understanding of their situation. He is “intimately connected” with them in their afflictions for His name. This church had been through much turmoil seemingly due to some meddling from false teachers and there were repercussions to standing firm for the truth. They had acted in the spirit of the bereans in that they had “put to the text those who call themselves apostles and they are not”. The strength of the assembly was found in their ability to discern probably an outflow of the teaching they received from the apostle Paul. (Acts 20:28-32; Ephesians) and also a specific warning against false teachers. (1 Timothy 1:3-11; 4:1-8). Churches have long lost their desire to filter out false teaching. The apostle John exhorts us to test the spirits to see if they truly are of God (1 John 2:1-6). Strong churches have a good understanding of what these doctrines are which gives them also the ability to correct and rebuke those who are teaching falsehoods in the church. The church is responsible for doctrinal purity especially in light of their teachings on the person of the Lord Jesus and the glorious gospel of grace.

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The Seven Churches of Asia: Introduction- Revelation 1 Pt.4

key generationWhen I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. 19 Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (V.17-20)

After seeing this glorious vision of the Son of Man, John’s reaction was to succumb to the overwhelming presence of the glorified Lord by falling “at His feel like a dead man”. This would not have been far removed from Daniel’s reaction when living the same experience. (Daniel 10:5-20) We truly see the full definition of “the fear of the Lord” in these passages[i] and the beauty of the glory of Christ. What is most incredible in regards to this verse is that the fear that had overcome him was soon lifted by the glorious one whom he fell down before. The Lord places His hand upon John and comforts His servant with the words “Do not be afraid”. We can only envision with our human minds what exactly John saw and the feeling he experience before the Lord of the Church. This feeling of comfort granted to Him by these words would have been a sweet sound indeed.

In the preceding verses, John had explained to us in this revelation what exactly he had seen when gazing at the Son of Man. Now, the one whom he saw is going to offer a description of Himself. The very first words to John were “I am the first and the last”. There is no question that this is a reference to the Son’s identification as YHWH if we examine the parallels in the Old Testament. (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12)Could the Lord Jesus have been more explicit in this equivalence?[ii] We will see this expression used throughout the book as the one who is the Divine king who has authority over all of History.

In v.18, the Lord begins by stressing that the one whom John identifies is the one whom he had known as His Lord previously. He is “the living one…who was dead but is alive forevermore”[iii]. John had been a part of this historical event and these words would certainly have comforted him tremendously. The Lord with whom he had walked for all those years and whom he saw resurrected was with him. The one who was dead but now is living speaks of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It was the demonstration of His conquering over death and Hades.[iv] It is because He raised from the dead that He is sovereign over life and death holding the power of both.

Continue reading “The Seven Churches of Asia: Introduction- Revelation 1 Pt.4”

The Seven Churches of Asia: Introduction- Revelation 1 Pt.3

7stars_csThen I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. (Vs.12-16)

The very first thing that John saw is given to us in vs. 12-16. His commission was to “write in a book what you see”. The first vision was one of breathtaking beauty and overwhelmed him to the extent of John falling at His feet as though dead. What he saw was Jesus! The very first thing he observed was a golden lampstand. This item is identified with the churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 1:20) but what is the significance of comparing the church with these lampstands? The lampstands were really nothing new to John as he surely would have known that they are found in Exodus 25:31-40; 37:17-24 and in Numbers 8:1-4 but the more focused text in comparing this vision would probably have taken John back to Zechariah 4:1-10 where we read:

Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.” Then I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, “What are these, my lord?” So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”‘” Also the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. “For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel–these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.”

The text of Zechariah 4 speaks not of furniture found in the temple but seems to present the rebuilding of the temple itself but not by any human effort but “by my Spirit”. I believe that the usage of the lampstand is speaking of the church (the body) being built by the Spirit of God. Without the Spirit the church has no power or light hence it becomes a dead. The chief cornerstone was laid through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus (1:5-6) and by sending the Spirit is what gave light to the gatherings. (John 14:16-17; 16:5-16)

The second vision of John has as its focus the Son of man. In the middle of those seven lampstands was the one who ruled over the churches. The son of man is a reference back to Daniel’s visions in Daniel 7 and 10 where the son of man is presented as the king. The clothing referred to however seems to be presenting the Lord Jesus as the great high priest who was responsible for the care of the lampstands. (see Exodus 25:7; 28:4; 29:5; 35:9; Zech. 3:5)

What is fascinating in the next section is the usage of the term “like”. John was attempting to explain a loveliness that was undeniably inexplicable. We, as humans, learn through comparison but what is expressed in John’s vision can only be left wondering what it was that he truly saw. There will be a day where “we shall see Him as He is…” (1 John 3:2) and gaze at that lovely face for all eternity!

Continue reading “The Seven Churches of Asia: Introduction- Revelation 1 Pt.3”