The Book of Revelation is the last Book of the Bible and deals primarily with Eschatology. Eschatology means “the Doctrine of Last Things. So, from this great book, the Book of Revelation, or, the Apocalypse, we learn what is going to happen in the future. Apocalypse means “the Unveiling.” It is not a hidden book. We are now in Chapters Two and Three where the main subject is the Seven Churches.
We will point out, again, the natural outline of the Book of Revelation. We do this so you can keep it in mind, and mentally divide the book as you go through it. It is found in Revelation 1:19:
1. First Division: Chapter One.
“Write the things which thou hast seen,...” (1:19a).
The Past. John saw the vision of the Risen and Glorified Christ. He is the Lord of the Church. He is the Founder of the Church. It is not anyone else. It is none of the Apostles and it is not Peter. It is not the Baptist, the Lutheran, nor the Catholic organization. It is no one but Jesus Christ, who is the Chief Cornerstone. He is the Founder of His Church.
2. Second Division: Chapters Two and Three.
“...and the things which are,...” (1:19b).
The Present. The “things which are” are covered by Chapters Two and Three, and those are the letters to the Seven Churches existing at the time of the Book’s writing.
3. Third Division: Chapters Four to Twenty-Two.
"...and the things which shall be hereafter;” (1:19c).
The Future. The “things which shall be hereafter,” are covered by Chapter Four on to Chapter Twenty-Two. In “the things which shall be hereafter” you’ll never find a mention of the Church from Chapter Four on, because it is raptured before that seven-year Tribulation Period begins.
- Seven churches that actually existed at the time of John.
- Seven local churches that, also, represent seven types of local churches that we have today.
- Seven types of Christians. They represent either the spiritual vitality of the Christian, or the spiritual adultery of a Christian.
- Seven periods of Church History.
- Seven churches in these cities of Asia, which will be existing just before the Rapture.
We are seeing them now. You find that we are seeing the same type of churches today, that hold the same type of doctrines. You will find some like the Church of Philadelphia, that exhibit “brotherly love,” and are really concerned about winning people to Christ. You will, also, find churches like the Laodicean Church, the last of the Seven Churches mentioned, that are neither hot nor cold. They’re just lukewarm.
There will be other churches like the one at Thyatira. The name “Thyatira” means “never tiring of sacrifices.” These are churches just saturated with all kinds of superficial rituals, and traditions, not found in the Bible. They have a religious veneer; but, inside, they are dead as a door nail! If you went into that church, you would never hear about how to go to Heaven. You would be lighting candles, coming for communion, baptism, or confirmation. But you are not going to hear “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” and by Him alone.
In Revelation 1:11, the Savior tells John “what thou seest, write in a book” (from the Greek word, Biblion meaning scroll), and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.” He then lists the seven churches by name. As we find out in Revelation 2:1, these scrolls are to be sent to the “angelos,” or those responsible for bringing God’s Word to the churches. In other words, they are to be sent to “the messengers,” or the pastors of the churches.
“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book [Greek, ‘biblion,’ a scroll], and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia, unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
The serious faults of each of these churches are brought to their attention. Christ exposes them, and the faults that are exposed in each case are crucial. They are never petty. Only Smyrna, the suffering church, and Philadelphia, the weak church, have no deficiency named. Surprisingly enough, in these two locations today, out of the seven, Christian churches actually still exist. The other five locations do not have any.
We find that the congregations to whom these letters are addressed are historical churches, actually existing in Asia at the time of John’s writing, in about 95 or 96 A.D. These seven churches, as the numbers in this book indicates, are typical of the strengths, problems, and weaknesses, of all of the early churches, but also, of churches today.
The one thing upon which there seems to be general agreement is, that “seven” here speaks of the totality of characteristics. In these seven churches, we have every kind of church, and every kind of member which, not only existed on Earth in John’s generation; but will, also, exist throughout all ecclesiastical history. In other words, we have in the seven selected local churches, a composite picture of all local churches on Earth, at any particular time.
- Ephesus. The major characteristic of this church was that it had “lost its first love.”
- Smyrna, is the second church, and was the persecuted church.This church suffered tremendously in the great persecution under Rome at that time.
- Pergamos. That was the faithful church, yet, it had tolerated false teachers.
It is the same today. There used to be seminaries that would teach you the wonderful “meat” of the Word of God. They would teach those that wanted to advance their studies in the Greek and Hebrew. Now some of these have allowed false teachers to come in and they have perverted the Word of God. Instead of being a seminary for higher learning, they have become a “cemetery for dead beat Christians.” Consequently, you learn nothing.
- Thyatira.This church was dominated by a powerful false prophet. Its name means “never tiring of sacrifices.” This church brought in many of the sacrifices that are found in church tradition today, but are found nowhere in the Bible. We will give you many of these when we get to the section on the Church of Thyatira, and the date when they were incorporated by some of the leaders of the Roman Church. None are found in the Bible, yet they are still practiced today, leading people to be religious, but lost.
- Sardis. A spiritually dying church.
- Philadelphia. A faithful, witnessing church.
- Laodicea. The lukewarm church.
We often see church members and even pastors that, when it comes to serving the Lord, they can just “take it or leave it.” You would say they were “lukewarm” as serving the Lord does not have top priority in their lives.
Churches have now become social clubs. All I ever hear one lady in town talk about is, “Well, they’ve asked me to do this for the supper, or they are going to do something else, and they need my help.” I never hear anything about Jesus Christ. I wonder if they even talk about Christ? But I will tell you one thing, if you want to have a feed, you can go there. Why? They have misnamed the church. It is the social club of town. It is not a church of the town. How they ever got the name “church” on the building, I don’t know, as more social events go on there, than anything else.
But there was a renowned, fiery preacher, whose name was Sam Jones. He was a Methodist preacher. He was in a revival in a southern city, preaching his usual hard-hitting messages that were digging into hearts, and tearing up sin. He preached against smoking, and drinking, and dancing, and cursing. He named them by name. He was definitely not a lukewarm preacher. In fact, he had become a very hot potato to the Ministerial Association of that town.
All over town church folks were getting stirred up. Their mousy ministers didn’t meddle in their lives this way, because they were afraid they were going to lose some members. Finally the Ministerial Association got involved. Hey, we’ve got something here, and they called a meeting. “Something’s got to be done!” the President declared. “Let’s call an early morning prayer meeting and we’ll pray for Sam. He’s tearing up our churches! He’s offending our members. He’s ruffling the fur of our people! We’ve got to do something about old Sam. We’ve got to get rid of that old boy.”
At the early morning prayer meeting, one dignified minister prayed, “Dear Lord, we pray that you will help old Sam calm down.” Another petitioned, “Dear Lord, we pray that Sam will not offend our members.” The next one continues, “Dear Lord, we pray that old Sam will ease up. He’s stirring up a hornet’s nest, and our folks are going to fire us, if Sam doesn’t ease up a little bit.”
One after another prayed, unaware that old Sam had walked in. When they got through praying, and stood up to leave, Sam said, “Hold it! Hold it! It’s my turn. Let me pray.”
And, pray, he did! “Dear Lord, don’t make me like these lazy Devils! Don’t make me like that. Dear Lord, if you dry me up, I won’t have any more folks to preach to than they do. Dear Lord, if I don’t preach against sin any more than that first fella’ who prayed, I’ll have a smaller crowd than he had last Sunday. Oh, Lord, send a revival to this town!”
It had one!
What made Sam Jones different? When he was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher, he went into a Methodist conference one day, and he heard one preacher testify. That preacher said, “Brethren, the preacher is a king, and the pulpit is a throne.”
As this insignificant nobody, a circuit-riding country preacher, walked away that day, he turned to a friend and he said, “Did you hear what that preacher said? I learned something today.” The friend said, “What?” Sam said, “I learned that my pulpit is a throne and I’m the king. Next Sunday morning I am ascending to the royal staircase, and the king is taking over his kingdom!”
Sam Jones shook the whole nation up for God. Up and down America, he preached in great city-wide meetings. He was one man, but he realized he could do something for God.
It’s sad to say, we don’t have those kind of Methodist preachers today. We have them all joining in and throwing in with the ecumenical movement. If you don’t believe it, ask your Pastor.
We don’t have the fiery backbones anymore, we have the missy-mousy lack of backbone that’s going to preach what the people want to hear, just to draw acclaim to himself. “Oh, he’s a wonderful man of God.” Did he ever tell you how to be saved? Did you ever hear about the Tribulation Period? Did you ever hear that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven? That preacher can’t preach that, if he’s joined the ecumenical crowd, because they don’t believe it. What’s he going to do? Be a hypocrite and preach one thing in his church, and then tell the boys at the meeting something else?
When I came to town, I had people tell me, “Man, they had a good Methodist preacher down at that church! They had a good one, but they didn’t want him. He didn’t last long. He preached the Bible. Man, he preached the Bible! And, they got rid of him. He told them they were sinners. They didn’t want to hear that at all.”
You have the same thing in every denomination. There are some Baptists that are beginning to get infected with liberalism, too. They are saying, “We’re not going to preach against adultery. You just come on into our church. We’re not going to denounce that. That’s all right.”
We’ll even take in homosexuals that are practicing homosexuals, now. That’s against the Bible. We’re going to have women preachers. That’s against the Bible. You don’t find that in the Bible anywhere. And, we’re going to ordain anyone we want to.
What you have now in the majority of your liberal churches, not your fundamental, Bible-teaching churches is, the people have no discernment, and are, actually, being taught to disobey God. They have no way of picking that out, because they never read their Bible. They never challenge their minister.
Do you know what they say? “Teach us those things that tickle our ears and will not upset us, and we’ll give you a little bit of money, but don’t make us uncomfortable!” If Sam Jones, the Methodist preacher would have preached in some of those churches today, they would either run him out, or he would run them out! One of the two.
We are living in the end time when the right things are called wrong, and the wrong things are called right. As we continue, you will see that it was no different in the day of the Seven Churches of the Book of Revelation.
As we cover the Seven Churches, may we remind you that each of these churches pictures a particular period of time in church history.
Seven Types of Christians: They also picture seven types of Christians found in the world today. Some are serving the Lord, and some have compromised. Some are in a backslidden condition. Some about which Christ says, as with the church of Smyrna, “I have nothing against you.” Some Christians, there, were really on fire for the Lord, witnessing for Christ, and doing a tremendous job.
Seven Types of Local Churches. They represent seven types of churches that you can see today. Some are soul winning churches. Others, like the church of Laodicea, will do anything to get a crowd of people, bypassing preaching messages from the Bible that bring conviction to the heart of the Christian and the lost. Consequently, they become an entertainment center, instead of a Christian church. Churches that are on fire for the Lord are characterized by expository preaching. They preach the “whole counsel of God,” regardless of whose toes they step on, including what God has said in His Bible about the last days. They are the only hope for a lost and dying world. 2 Timothy 4:3,4 tells us that the time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine,
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;(3)
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (4).
“When we come to church, just tell us we’re good. Don’t tell us that God says,“You’re a sinner and you need to be saved.” In Luke 19:10 the Lord said,
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
You’re not even a candidate for salvation, unless you realize that you’re lost and you need a Savior. Unfortunately, we find a lot of churches that are just nothing more than a social club with all their parties, pancake feeds, and everything else that they have. A social club where you never hear, “Believe on the Lord and thou shalt be saved.”
“Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars (pastors) in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks (the churches)”
- “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand,” becomes a truth, previously hidden, now revealed at the proper time. Revelation 1:20a gives the answer,
“The seven stars are the angels [Gr. angelos, ‘messengers’] of the seven churches…”
They are the “angelos,” meaning the “messengers” of the seven churches. These are the pastors who bring Christ’s message to their congregations.
- “The seven candlesticks which thou sawest...” Once again, a truth revealed at the proper time.
“…and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Rev. 1:20b)
- Christ is the Speaker who walks in the midst of the Churches,
“…who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 2:1a).
Then He goes on to say in Verse Two,
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:”
You will always find those trying to sneak into the church under false pretenses, never declaring what they really believe, or do not believe. That’s why it is so important to have a pastor that preaches the fundamentals of the Bible, the fact of the eternal security of the believer, the fact of the God Head, and of the Trinity. All of the cults will deny these things. He must be able to say, as the great Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:26,27,
“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. (26). For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (27).
Thank God for your pastor that takes this seriously. Thank God for your pastor who is on top of things and preaches these great doctrines of the Bible. That is how you…
“…grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus” (2 Peter 3:18).
- Ephesus was the largest city in Asia Minor, and the capital of the province.
- Paul started the church here, and it became the Christian capital of Asia. Paul’s visits to Ephesus are recorded. If you take time to cross-reference them, you can read about them in Acts 18, 19, 20. Here he called the Ephesian elders to him, during a sailing layover at Miletus, about 30 miles south of Ephesus. He told them in Acts 20:22,
“And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:”
Paul had spent over two years in Ephesus, during his third missionary journey; and, no doubt, this is the reason for the strong church which grew in that city. A careful reading of Verses 23 to 38 of Acts 22, gives his last words to the beloved congregation there, and reveals the wisdom and dedication of the great Apostle to the churches that he founded. That was about A.D. 55 to 57 A.D. It was a sad farewell,
“And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him,” (Acts 20:37).
- Paul, also, wrote the two Corinthian Epistles while he was at Ephesus.
- It was here, also, that John spent the latter part of his life, and from here wrote the Gospel of John and the Epistles of 1,2,3 John.
- The magnificence of Ephesus can be seen in Acts, Chapter 19, by the importance assigned to its religious and political life. Ruins, and a small village, are now the only remains that exist there.
- It is interesting for you to see what God can do, because “out of his mouth,” we are told in Revelation 1:16, “goeth a sharp two-edged sword.” We are told in Hebrews 4:12 that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is the Word of God.
- In the city of Ephesus, they had the Greek goddess, Artemis, known to the Romans as the great goddess, Diana. The cult of Diana encouraged a lot of trade, and the silversmiths had a prosperous business selling shrines and images of Diana. You will find that in Acts, Chapter 19. The image of Artemis, or Diana, was one of the most sacred images in the ancient world, but it was not beautiful. The image depicted her as a lewd goddess with four rows of breasts. Legalized prostitution dominated the city.
- One of the Seven Wonders of the World was considered to be in Ephesus. Here stood the largest, most important and magnificent Temple of Artemis, built to the goddess Diana.
In 1 Corinthians 5, you have the same type of incident. A man was having an affair with his mother-in-law, and the church did not mourn; but was “puffed up” about it. Paul, writing to those in Corinth, after having reviewed that case and having been given the particular circumstances, said, “Here’s what you are supposed to do. Get this man out of the church!”
“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).
Paul knew that this man was probably a great “psychologist.” He, in all probability, had his own damnable philosophy that would influence a lot people that what he was doing was right! Yet, the church had tolerated this in Corinth. Paul wrote and said: “…Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). Don’t let this “prima donna” come into your church and commit adultery, then sit around and take communion. And, you approve it?”
Paul advised the leaders of the Corinthian Church in Chapter Five, “You leaders...
“To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).
We find out that this particular man did repent, that is, he “changed his mind.” Later in 2 Corinthians, he was “sorrowing” for what he had. He no longer was “glorying,” but Paul was concerned that he would “drown” with overmuch sorrow, and in the Second Letter of Corinthians, he said, “Receive that man back into fellowship.” (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).
“Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. (6)
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. (7)
Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him” (8).
We continue concerning the goddess Diana. We find this cult encouraged a lot of trade. As we’ve said, silversmiths had a prosperous business selling silver shrines and images of Diana. The images, as we’ve said, were one of the most sacred images in the ancient world. We find that Ephesus was taken over by legalized prostitution, which had totally dominated the city.
- As in anything else, sin has its day of judgment. The place where the original Temple of Artemis stood is a swamp, and the ruins of the temple have sunk into the ground and vanished. There is nothing left but a column. Isn’t that amazing! (Picture on Page 67a.)
- Paul stayed longer in Ephesus than in any other city. (Acts 20:31) In His farewell speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul warned them of “the grievous wolves that would invade the flock.” (Acts 20:9) Do you know why wolves invaded the flock? The church did not have a strong leader, after Paul’s departure, and that’s what will happen in any church.
“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (6). He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (7).
- “Thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans,...” (2:6). People wonder, “What is this?” Another word of praise comes forward now, lest they be crushed and despair that the Savior cannot be pleased. They hate the Nicolaitans! Who were these? Some teach that these were those who first wished to establish a hierarchy in the church. You find that “nikao” in the Greek means “to conquer,” and “laos” means “the people,” therefore they were “conquerors of the people, “the laity.” The Greek speaks loud and clear here.
- Ignatius and Ireneus, who were Second Century church fathers, however said that these comprised a group who lived immorally. Christ hated them. We should do likewise. The problem in some churches is that, those whom Christ hates are honored. Those whom Christ loves are despised. How sad that really is.
- As I have said many times, the hearts of unregenerate men have not changed in 2,000 years. Of those who have “conquered the people” in the modern denominations that have a priesthood and a laity, a high percentage of those in the priesthood are immoral. It is an accepted fact that down through the centuries, many, from the lowly neighborhood priest to the mighty pope, have been guilty of all the acts of immorality, fornication, homosexuality, and pedophilia.
Go with me to the Book of Third John where we read about a man named, Diotrephes. You have people like this in churches today, you really do. 3 John 1:9 said,
“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
In other words, there was a big shot in the church, a big “prima donna” parading around whatever town it was. He “loveth to have the preeminence among them.” He wants everybody to look at him. He’s in competition with the pastor. He causes a power struggle in the church. He wants everybody in the congregation to come to him, and he will be their representative to the pastor. You have that in every church. How sad it is when you see churches that are split.
Through the years, I’ve seen many of these men. I’ve had them in my church. I’ve had friends that have had them in their church. You’ll find out that they want the “honor and glory,” but they don’t want the responsibility. When it comes to shoveling the sidewalks, cleaning the church, visiting the sick, they don’t want anything to do with that. They just want to get up Sunday morning, come to church, and have everybody think they are the “big shots” of the church. As one man said, “They are in love with the pulpit.”
Notice what John said in Verse 10,
“Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds…”
John says, “I may come anyway. Diotrephes may not want me to, but I may come anyway, and I am not going to forget what he has said about me.”
“… which he doeth, prating against us…”
“Prating” means “bringing false charges.” In other words, they lied about John!
“…with malicious words: (9) and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church” (3 John 1:10).
This man was acting as a tyrant. He was even casting members out of the church. Unbelievable! Wherever you have the elders or the deacons running the church, you’ll find out you have nothing but pride-filled men. You’ll have dissension within the church. There’s a power struggle there.
What did John do about that? He informs the church that, in spite of what Diotrephes was saying, John was on his way and when he arrived; he was going to handle the problem. He tells the church in 3 John 1:10,
“Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth,”
Although it says, “If I come” in this verse, it is clear from Verse 14 that he plans to be there “shortly.”
“But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face. Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name” (3 John 1:14).
So, John intends to come and, though he may be up in years, this is the one that Christ nicknamed a “Son of Thunder,” and who has apostolic authority in the church. In Verse 11, he advises the congregation to “follow that which is good,” and in Verse 12, refers them to Demetrius until he arrives. He ends with a promise that Diotrephes should definitely pay attention to. “But I trust I shall shortly see thee, and we shall speak face to face.” Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there during that meeting?
That church in Ephesus ran up to about 110 A.D.
The church in Smyrna covered a time in Church History from about 110 to 315 A.D. There’s no criticism with this church. Let’s look at a few things:
- Smyrna was the safest and most convenient of all of the harbors.
- Smyrna was one of the very few planned cities of the ancient world.
- The most famous street was the “Street of Gold,” which began with the Temple of Zeus, the Supreme Deity of ancient Greece, and ended with the Temple of Cybele, the goddess of Nature.[i] (Picture on Page 71.)
- Smyrna was well-known for her loyalty and fidelity. When the soldiers of Rome were suffering from hunger and cold, the people of Smyrna had stripped off their clothes and sent them to the Roman Soldiers in trouble.They were very friendly.
- “The synagogue of Satan” reminds us of the early persecution inflicted against the Christians by some of the Jews. Some such persecutions occurred at Antioch. You read that in Acts 13:50,
“But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts.”
And in Iconium, in Acts 14:2, 5:
“But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren” (2 ):
“And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers, to use them despitefully, and to stone them,” (5).
There was another persecution against the Christians at Lystra in Acts 14:19.
“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.”
When you go through all of Acts covering the first, second, and third missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, you come to Thessalonica in Acts 17:5.
“But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.”
There were great persecutions in these cities, here, against Christians who preached the death, burial, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, let us not feel sorry for ourselves when someone rejects our witness, and speaks badly to us. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in Hebrews 12:4,
“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.”
“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive (Christ); (8) I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (9)
These were counterfeit Christians. They are pretenders. We have those today. They come to church to put on a front, and to build a lucrative business. Their motive is not to serve Jesus Christ; but to profit their own pocketbook by belonging to the biggest church in town. There are a lot of counterfeit Christians in some of those churches, because they are using the church.
- There was a large Jewish population in wealthy, flourishing Smyrna. Some of them sought to blot out the infant Christian church. Their error, of course, in no way justifies persecution against the Jews, or, any other people. The Bible’s desire is to weep for their conversion as we see in Romans 10:1.
“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (10) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (11).
You see, if you are born once, which is your physical birth, then you die twice. You die, physically, and we go to your funeral; but you’re dead, spiritually, too. The “second death,” we find out from Revelation 20:14, is when you are cast into the Lake of Fire. You are lost! (Also, see p. 359, par. b. to end of p.360).
“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
But if you’re born twice, that is, you have a physical birth and you have a spiritual birth, you only die once. In John 3:7, Christ told Nicodemus:
“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again [Gr. anōthen].”
“Born again” is translated from the Greek word, “anōthen,” and literally means, “born from above.” You are trusting the One God gave from “above,” and sent to this Earth to die on the Cross. That is the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, if you have two births, you only die once. You only die, physically, and then you are passed from death unto life—spiritual life. You’re going to rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years; and, then, go into the New Heavens and the New Earth. “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”
“Death” in the Bible is “separation.” Physical death is separation of the soul and the spirit from the body. “Spiritual death” is separation from God. Therefore, the final separation from God is when the wicked are cast into the Lake of Fire. As we’ve said, this is called the “Second Death,” and that is found in Revelation 20:11-15.
Then, the penalty of sin is death. God gave that in Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23. Yet, Christ paid the penalty for everyone who will trust Him. And He said so in 1 Peter 3:18,
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”
Christ bought you with a price. You that are reading this book, I hope you are saved, and not just a church member! My Uncle Chet went to the large Methodist Church in our town all his life, and was certain he was headed for Heaven. He had been a member there for thirty years, but no one had ever talked with him about his soul. In fact, he was a happy-go-lucky person, and he never worried about what would happen after his death, either. It just never crossed his mind, and off to church he went—every Sunday.
At the request of relatives, the pastor that led me to Christ years ago went, with members of his church, to visit my uncle. They asked him, “Do you know if you’re going to Heaven?” And he said, “Well, I go to church.” They said, “We didn’t ask you that? We asked you if you know for sure you’re going to Heaven?” “Well,” he said, “I can’t really say that I do.” They said, “The Bible promises that you can know that. May we take a few minutes and show you what the Bible says about how to go to Heaven?” And they led my uncle to Christ.
He later left that modernistic church. They should have called that church the Social Club of the Community, because that’s what they were. However, I realize that not all Methodist Churches are that way. He went on to become a deacon in our Bible-teaching church, and served the Lord. It was wonderful to see the change in his life. He would witness to people. He’s since gone on to be the Lord, but I remember him witnessing to me. That is how it is supposed to work. Someone tells you what Jesus Christ has done for them, and you trust Him as your Savior. Then you tell others. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” (Psalm 107:2).
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17)
We, Christians, hope we are not going to suffer as did the church of Smyrna from 110 A.D. to 315 A.D. Nevertheless, we are seeing on the nightly news casts the horrific images of people being beheaded, simply because they are not Muslim.
Yes, at the time of this writing, there are Christians being persecuted all over the world, by an evil organization called ISIS, or, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. They are attempting to establish a government called a Caliphate, ruled over by a Caliph.
A Short History and Explanation of the Caliphate.
The Caliph Abu Bakr as-Siddiq [who] was a friend and companion of the Prophet Muhammad, though Shi'ite Muslims dispute the legitimacy of his leadership and believe that Ali, his son-in-law, should have been chosen instead. The first four Caliphs are known as the Rashidun in Sunni Islam, which means "The Rightly Guided" or "Righteous" Caliphs. The Islamic Empire expanded greatly during this time, from Arabia to Persia, Syria, Armenia, Egypt, and Cyprus.
The caliphate came to an end in the 20th century, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk declared Turkey to be a secular state in 1924, and abolished the Ottoman Empire. By announcing the "restoration of the caliphate," ISIS hopes to place itself as a successor in the line of Islamic rulers of empire.
The militant group Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant [Israel] (ISIL), has declared that it is restoring the Islamic Caliphate, renaming itself as simply the Islamic State (IS), and naming leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph.
The original Caliphate was established in the year 632 in the Arabian peninsula, and the title of Caliph, or Khalif, was given to Abu Bakr as-Siddiq who became the first leader, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The word 'Caliph' means successor, and designates the political leader of the Islamic community, or ummah. By using the language of Caliph and Caliphate, ISIS is attempting to establish itself as the leader of a worldwide Muslim movement and mobilize a broad coalition of support by erasing national boundaries. (Huffington Post Online, July 2014 Article).
So we see, even in our time, that Christians are being beheaded and persecuted. Churches are being destroyed. Just think what it is going to be when the leader of the most evil army of all time, the Antichrist, indwelt by Satan, himself, turns his murderers loose on Jews, and Christians, in the Tribulation Period. We begin to see, here, where the Devil cast some of them in Smyrna into prison. We find this as we go on in Revelation 2:10,11,
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (10) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (11).
As you recall, the Church of Smyrna was the persecuted church. If you are a Christian, let me just say this. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. This applies to Christians individually. If you are a Christian, and you are witnessing for Christ, you are not going to be a friend of the world. If you say, “No, don’t bring your beer into my house,” you will find out that so-called “friends” will separate from you. They, actually, want to make fun of you for your Christian testimony. They will do anything they possibly can to tempt, or ridicule you. “Oh, come on down and have a drink with me. It doesn’t hurt anything. Are you so “goody-goody” that you don’t want to do that?”
No, God doesn’t want Christians hanging out in the bars. God doesn’t want you sipping the Devil’s booze. When you take a stand and you lead a Christian life, they will say, “Well, are you some religious fanatic now? Look out! Here comes the preacher!” This especially happens to new Christians right after they get saved. Mark it down! If you try to live a godly life before the world, you are going to be persecuted.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 3:10).
When the Devil cast some of them into prison, human eyes only saw his followers doing the deeds. It was Satan who was behind Herod in his attempts to slay the Christ Child. (Rev. 12:4). But men could only see Herod, Satan’s servant. Ironically enough, they may even believe themselves to be serving God and humanity.
The reward for faithfulness unto death is, fittingly, a “Crown of Life.” Here, the word for crown is not “diadema,” as we find in Revelation 12:3 and 13:1, also in 19:12, which refers to the regal crown worn by a king. It is “stephanus,” as we find many other places in the Book of Revelation. For example, we find it in Revelation 3:11; 4:4, 10; 12:1; and 14:14. This is the victor’s crown. This crown, a wreath of leaves, was awarded to a champion in the games, or to a Roman commander who had won a triumph—a great victory.
Recall here the name of the church’s first martyr in Acts 7:59. Was not his name “Stephanus” in the Greek? Why, it sure was!
“And they stoned Stephen (Greek –“Stephanus”), calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59)
The significance of Christ’s promise to Smyrna, is further enlarged when we realize that the Hill Pagus, with its magnificent buildings, was called the “Crown of Smyrna.” No fault is mentioned to this poor, but faithful church. As “Smyrna” means bitter and is related to the aromatic myrrh, so, too, as in the case of myrrh, its fragrance comes from being crushed. Sometimes, God puts the Christian to the test to see if you’re going to be sold out to the world. Is your popularity with the world more important to you, or your popularity with Jesus Christ? The Christians of Smyrna were poor and severely persecuted. Poor, because they were plundered, and deprived of their right to work. For the most part, they possessed little of the Earth’s goods.
So many, today, put an evaluation on a church by its size. If this church is a big church, it’s got to be a good church! I remember one lady saying, “Stay with the big names. Go with the mainline denominations!” You will find out, the mainline denominations are going to be part of the Antichrist’s One-World Religious System that we will see in Revelation 17. This whole ecumenical movement is nothing more than a diabolical brainwashing of the people to not stand on the Word of God. “Everybody just get together, but don’t talk about the Bible, now.” You start talking about the Bible, and you’re going to find out there really is no ecumenical spirit. “Whatever you do, don’t talk about what the Bible says,” they say, “That is too divisive!? Isn’t that ironic, when Romans 16:17,18 tells us to,
”..mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (17). For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (18).
It all comes down to this. Do you want to be brainwashed and follow religion, or do you want Christianity? “It is better to put your trust in the Lord,” God says, “Than to put confidence in men” (Psalm 118:8). If a person doesn’t want to take what the Bible says, there is nothing you can do with them. They’ll die and go to Hell, and there’s nothing you can do about that. They are responsible for the decisions that they make.
To add to their misery, some at Smyrna were cast into prison. In the ancient world, imprisonment was merely a prelude to death. A man was only a prisoner, until he was led out to die. A famous minister of Smyrna, in that day, was a man by the name of Polycarp. It was a custom once a year for all to give allegiance to Caesar by saying, “Caesar is Lord.” You had to confess that, or you were going to die. This, Polycarp refused to do.
It was the season for the Olympic games in Smyrna, and the year was about 155 A.D. Suddenly, the howling crowds cried for Polycarp, and, when he entered the arena, the Proconsul gave him the choice of cursing the name of Christ and making sacrifice to Caesar, or death. Polycarp’s reply was: “Eighty and six years have I served Him and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” And, with that, Polycarp was burned at the stake by the Romans, with the help of the Jews. Even though it was the Jewish Sabbath, and Sabbath laws prohibited carrying such burdens, they helped bring wood for the fire.
- Polycarp was not the only one to suffer.
- Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch and the Emperor ordered his arrest. “Throw him to the wild beasts!” they said. “May the wild beasts be eager to rush upon me. If they be unwilling,” said Ignatius, “I’ll compel them. Come crowds of wild beasts. Come tearing, mangling, wracking of bones, hacking of the limbs. Come cruel tortures of the Devil.” Ignatius said, “Only let me attain unto Christ.”
- Justyn Martyr and six others were beheaded at Rome. Their statement was, “It is a privilege to die for our Savior.”
- Another great persecution was by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, from about 161 to 188 A.D. He decreed that the property of Christians should be given to their accusers. He inflicted all types of tortures to make them deny their faith. Roman citizens, that were Christians, were beheaded. Others were thrown to the wild beasts. You need to read up on your History, and see what Christians went through for the name of Christ. Yet, we have Christians today that are so “missy-mousy,” that they are afraid to even witness to their neighbor.
The Romans staked down many by their hands and feet. They would, then, cut their insides with a knife, throw corn on their intestines, turn the hogs loose, and allow the hogs to root out their intestines. I know that sounds gross, but you need to get the book, Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, and read some of the things that your Christian forefathers have suffered for the name of Jesus Christ. It will challenge you to witness to your friends and relatives that do not know Christ. Maybe you know they are caught up into a cult religion, but you’re sort of ashamed, and you don’t want any problems; so, you don’t witness to them. Yet, God has entrusted you with the Gospel, because that’s how Christ leads people to Himself. You see:
“… faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
- Ireneus, was a Church Father along with Ignatius. He died a martyr’s death, and before his death, he had written a brilliant defense of the Bible called “Against Heresies.” He really took a stand.
As we follow church history, we find the Emperor Diocletian started a persecution about 303 A.D., and it was continued by his successor, Galerius, which lasted until about 311 A.D. The church buildings were demolished. The Bibles were burned. The tortures were gruesome and unbelievable. The catacombs in Rome, altogether about 500 miles of tunnels, and about 30 feet underground, were a place of refuge. The Emperor Galerius became ill and suffered unspeakable torture. He was incurable, and his sickbed became his deathbed. Then, he granted Christians permission for their assemblies, and asked their prayers for himself and the empire. He may have become a Christian right before he died.
In the last part of this chapter, before we go on to the Church of Pergamos, Peter knew about persecution. And by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter was directed to write concerning the Christian who is serving the Lord, and is suffering for his testimony. 1 Peter 4:12-16 covers this. This is just one of many places where God warns the Christian about impending persecution. Christ also warns against it in John, Chapter Fifteen.
“Beloved,” and Peter is speaking of a born again Christian, now, in 1 Peter 4:12,
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:”
I remember hearing the testimonies of some Christians about what happened when they first got saved. They would go home and tell their parents and relatives, thinking they would be so glad to hear about it. They thought: “Man, I know I’m going to Heaven. I’m excited!” They would tell their folks, and their folks thought they were nuts! “What in the world has happened to you? What have you got into? Are you some religious fanatic now?” they asked. No. They just got saved. They had realized that going to Heaven is the easiest thing in the world! Christ did all the work; so, He could give it to them for nothing. He says,
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (8) Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Here’s what the great Apostle said by inspiration in 1 Peter 4:13,14:
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy (at His Return).” (13) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (14).
Don’t get upset if you are reproached for doing something for the Lord. When we first came to Walnut Grove, we were here quite awhile before a few people finally began to speak to us. They would pass you on the street, and throw their nose up in the air, or even cross over, and walk on the other side. You almost could not keep from laughing. You think, “Is this the way they’re raised?” I suppose it is that way in every small town. I said to one person, who made a point of ignoring my presence in the Post Office, “Are you speaking today?” “Oh, Yes! Yes! We’re speaking! Yes,” looking sort of hurt that she had to speak. It took everything she could manage.
Whether you’re living today, or back in the time of the church at Smyrna; if you’re a Christian, and witness for Christ, you will find people that are going to hate you. You are here to win them to Christ, Amen? You’re here to tell them that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. Some of them are going to love you. Some of them are going to listen. But there will be some of them, too, that are not going to have anything to do with you because of their lives—they are self-righteous. Notice what the verse says, the…
“… spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1 Peter 4:14b).
Let us go on the Verse 16,
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16).
The first thing you learn when you become a Christian is, frequently, people are going to think you are some kind of nut. You may be a nut in the world’s eyes, but you are screwed onto the right bolt, Amen? And that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are three things to keep in remembrance:
First of all, remember 2 Corinthians 4:4,
“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them”
Second, always remember never to get discouraged over those who reject your message.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
Third, remember the ratio of the saved to the lost.
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).
Pergamos covers a period of time from about 315 A.D. to about 500 A.D. The word “pergamos” means “tower, or marriage.” Notice Revelation 2:12-14:
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges (12 );
I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth (13).
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (14).
Pergamos is a city about 60 miles north of Smyrna. It was the capital of Asia before this was moved to Ephesus. Here stood a 200,000 volume library, second only to that of Alexandria, Egypt. Therefore, it is not strange that the word “parchment” is derived from the name of that city.
Here among the gods, one god, the deity of medicine, was honored often with the sign of a snake. We find a reference to that in Numbers 21:8,9. Upon the city’s Acropolis stood the Temple of Athena, and the great altar to Zeus, which had a base over one-hundred feet square. These stood 800 feet above the plain, and fittingly could be described as “Satan’s Seat,” as spoken of in Verse 13. Others, however, feel that Pergamos was Satan’s seat,” because, here in its three imperial temples, Roman Emperor worship was a cult that flourished. (Picture on Page 73.)
But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication”
In Verse 14, we have the “doctrine of Balaam.” You can read about this in Numbers, Chapters 22 to 25. It was the encouraging of the Israelites to marry pagan wives. Therefore, here in Pergamos, it no doubt refers to those who teach that it is permissible to mix Christianity and Paganism. The Savior comes with a “sharp sword,” in Verse 12, to cut these apart; and any, today, who favor the mixing of believers with modernism, or the “ism” cults. These perpetrate the same sin that took place here in Pergamos.
How do you apply this personally? This is my particular stand as a pastor. I will not perform a wedding; unless the bride and the groom are both saved. God says in 2 Corinthians 6:14,
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
Sometime back in Southern Indiana, a young lady came and said, “I would like for you to marry us.” I asked my usual question. “Is your fiancé a Christian?” She said: “Well, he’s a good man and he drinks a little, but he’s a good, good man.” I said, “I didn’t ask you that. I asked you, Does he know Christ as his Savior?” Well, in talking with her, I found out she was a Christian, but the husband-to-be probably was not. They hadn’t been going to church anywhere, and they hadn’t been coming to our church. Later, after we married them, they began to come and were faithful almost every Sunday.
Anyway, I said: “Why don’t you bring your fiancé,” whose name was Mark, “and let me talk to him. I am not going to marry you to this man, Valerie, unless I find out if he has received Jesus Christ as his Savior, or not.” To make a long story short, he hadn’t. He told me what church he went to and that was the Catholic Church. I asked, “Are you a Christian?” It turned out that he had never received Jesus Christ. That church had told him: “Oh, just be a good person, keep the commandments, and come to church on Sunday, you’re all right.” And, of course, that denomination endorsed drinking. It’s all right. Their pastors drank.
Mark never knew that eternal life was free. To make a long story short, we led him to Christ and married them. They became a wonderful family and began to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will not marry someone who is a Christian to a non-Christian. “Pergamos” means “tower or marriage,” and this church was married to the world, it surely was.
“So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (15)
Sin can multiply--and divide! Concerning Verse 15, where one sin is allowed to thrive, as it was with Balaanism, a second sin is not far behind, which was Nicolaitanism. We found it the first time in 2:6.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
“To him that overcometh…” Remember this in 1 John 5:4,5.
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (4). Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (5).
An “overcomer” is not someone who speaks in tongues, or gets a “second working” of grace. An overcomer is someone who simply believes that Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for his sin, and has accepted that payment, plus nothing.” As the old hymn says, “Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to thy Cross I cling.” I sincerely hope you are an overcomer and have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (8):
Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Repent (metanoeo, “change your mind”); or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (16)
Christ speaks, and it is done. His word is, therefore, a swift sword of judgment. The command to repent, as we’ve said, is “metanoeo.” It comes from “meta,” meaning “change,” and “noieo,” “referring to the mind,” so, it means “to change your mind.”
When this refers to the actions of a Christian who has been sinning willfully, disregarding the fact that our Heavenly Father has the right to discipline His children, that Christian needs to change his mind about being disobedient, and become obedient to what God wants in his life. The believer knows when he has sinned, and he can go immediately to the Lord for forgiveness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Making it a little stronger, a Christian’s repentance means not only a change of mind, it is the taking of one’s stand against himself, and the placing of himself on the side of God. Thus, this repentance, is self-judgment. You have judged yourself as is explained in 1 Corinthians 11:31,32:
“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (31). But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (32).
“The word in the New Testament usually translated “repent” is the Greek word “metanoeo,” and the word translated “repentance” is “metanoia.” Both of these Greek words have the same basic meaning: “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.”
Granted, if a person changes his mind (repents) toward certain sins in his life, he may become very sorrowful and may even stop those particular outward sins, but the sorrow and the ceasing from certain sins would be the RESULT of repenting, not repentance itself.
When God tells an unsaved man to repent, He means for that man to change his mind about how to reach God and accept GOD'S way of salvation. The person must CHANGE HIS MIND from any idea of religion he may have to save him, and trust Christ's payment for everything he has done wrong.” (Personal Evangelism Handbook, Dr. A. Ray Stanford.)
Both the imperial temples devoted to the emperor, and those dedicated to the gods, prided themselves in holding secrets. The health resorts of Pergamos also had their mysteries. Now, the Christian was shut out of the temples and their secrets; however, in Pergamos, some evil ones were advocating a permissive mixture. Christ is holding the sword of separation in Verse 16.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.”
We find out, in the promises to the ones who follow Christ in Verse 17, they have better “secrets” than any of the pagan mystery cults are able to offer. They have “hidden manna” and a “new name.” Which will they choose? The mystery cults have hidden secrets. Believers in Christ have “the Truth Revealed.” Let me ask you? Which will you choose?
If you are a Christian, you are always going to be tempted. God may have a tremendous plan for your life, but even in the little town that you live in, or wherever you reside, whether it’s a small town—a medium sized town—or large town, you’re going to be tried. Are you going to seek popularity with the world, or are you going to witness for Jesus Christ? Are people going to respect you because you tell the truth? Can you be counted upon, because you don’t run with the bar crowd?
Where do you stand?
As a Christian, there could be many things in your life that Christ wants to use, but can He trust you? When the ungodly crowd comes around, do you give in and go with them? God says,
“Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Or, as in Romans 16:17,18, he says:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (17).For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (18).
“The Doctrine”—the doctrine we are supposed to mark is the Bible.
Who are you going to trust? The Lord Jesus Christ, or are you going to run with the ungodly crowd, and lose respect? As one man told me in later years, “Not everyone that laughs when you laugh, is laughing with you. Sometimes, they’re laughing at you.” You may feel that you have now gained acceptance, but behind your back, they are laughing about how easily they persuaded you to lose your testimony. No matter how difficult it is, people will respect you if you keep your Christian testimony, and don’t run with the crowd.
The word “pergamos” itself seems to be derived from “pyrgas,” meaning “tower,” and “gamos,” meaning “marriage.” This makes us think of the city’s tower to Athena and Zeus, and of its marriage of Christianity with Paganism. Was not this the ailment of the state church of A.D. 313 to about 500 A.D.? It surely was! It mixed Christianity with its non-Christian emperors. It has been said that since Satan could not drive the church out of the world by persecution during the Smyrna period, that he attempted to drive the world into the church in the Pergamos Era. And he surely succeeded.
As we conclude our study of the church of Pergamos, I think it would help to understand a little bit of History of how this happened that the church became married to the world.
- In 306 A.D., the Roman Army in Britain acclaimed Constantine to be the emperor of Rome. He ruled over Britain, and he ruled over Gaul and Spain. But another man, by the name of Maxentius, ruled over Italy and North Africa. Maxentius wanted to be emperor over the entire western part of the Roman Empire. This led to a showdown!
Maxentius’ army was about three times larger than that of Constantine. Constantine went to Italy with about 40,000 men to a place called “Saxa Rubra,” about ten miles from Rome. Constantine had worshiped Mithra, the Persian Sun God, who was honored by the sacrificing of a bull. To the Romans, he represented loyalty to the king. His army was greatly outnumbered by Maxentius’s army. Maxentius also had thePraetorian Guard, composed of nine cohorts of a thousand men each. One cohort was always required to be near the emperor, so, they had quite an army. It was an honor to serve in the Praetorian Guard. The pay was better and the service was shorter. It was voluntary service, against compulsory service for the Legion. A Legion was composed of about six thousand men.
|20. Mithra - Persian Sun God|
Constantine, knowing that he was greatly outnumbered, looked up one day and described what he saw in the sky. He said that he saw a cross above the sun, and the words “In this sign, conquer.” He saw this on the evening before the battle. Whether he did, or whether he didn’t, who knows? But that’s what he said. “The next day, October 28 in the year 312, the battle was joined. It was a furious battle. The Praetorian Guards fought like lions. They never gave ground, but their ranks were cut down where they stood. The army of Maxentius was completely defeated. Maxentius, himself, attempting to escape over the Milvian Bridge across the Tiber River, was drowned.” (The Church in History, by B.K. Kuiper, p. 69).
The Roman Emperor accredited it all to God. In the city of Milan, Constantine issued an Edict in the Year 313 A.D. concerning religion. The good thing about Constantine was that he now embraced Christianity. He took it that when he saw the cross over the sun and the words,“In this sign, conquer,” it meant he should embrace Christianity. He put a stop to all the persecutions, which was good. He proclaimed absolute freedom of conscience. His reign marked the victory of the church over heathenism. Then, Constantine, himself was baptized by Sylvester I. Sunday work was now forbidden. You were not allowed to work on Sunday any more. He gave large sums of money to the churches. In Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem he erected magnificent church buildings.
|21. Emperor Constantine - Statue at York, Minster Cathedral, UK|
But the result was this. Since the man on the throne was now a confessed Christian, it was no longer a shame, but an honor to be called a Christian. The name “Christian” now secured many great material advantages. The name “Christian” had now become a passport to political, military, and social promotion. The result: thousands upon thousands joined the church, mostly heathen. They were “Christian” in name only. What the church gained in quantity, it lost in quality. The Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. opened the flood gates through which a mighty stream of corruption poured into the church.
The conclusion was, Constantine had granted the church freedom of religion and many favors, but, in turn, he demanded that the church should allow him to have a great deal to say about its affairs. This opened the door to the church of Pergamos, which became married to the world.
The result was—many professed, but few possessed!
Photograph: The bronze statue by Philip Jackson is by the South Transept of the Cathedral of Minster in York, England. The sculptor portrays him thoughtfully contemplating his broken sword, which also resembles a Cross. No one knows with certainty whether Constantine will be in Heaven, but one thing is certain. When he stopped the bloody persecutions of Christians and Jews, it was a turning point for Christianity.
The sculpture is placed above the spot where Constantine was acclaimed Emperor in about 306 A.D. Eboracum was a fort and a city in the Roman province of Britannia. In its prime, it was the largest town in northern Britain and a provincial capital. The site remained occupied after the decline of the Roman Empire, and ultimately evolved into the present-day city, York, occupying the same site in North Yorkshire, England. (Many antiquities have been found throughout Britain, dating from the time of the Roman Empire.)
“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass (Revelation 2:18);
- Forty miles southeast of Pergamos lies Thyatira, now occupied by a small village called Akhisar. It was named by its founder, Seleucus Nicor, a Third Century B.C. ruler of Greek origin. Thyatira was famous for its commerce, and it had a main road passing through it. It is believed that this city had in it more trade guilds than any other city in Asia.
- Lydia, the seller of purple, was from Thyatira and, most likely, the representative of that guild in the city of Philippi. We find that in Acts 16:14.
- The city was known for its cloth production and for its bronze. No evidence has yet been found of an imperial temple here.
- Did Paul in Acts 19:20; or, Lydia, in Acts 16:14, start the church in Thyatira? No one really knows for sure.
- Christ comes here as the Judge who sees with omniscient eyes what is going on in the church of this particular city. It may be that, even here, we have allusion which exactly fits this city. The “eyes like unto a flame of fire,” being the color of the turkey-red Thyatira cloth.
- He comes ready to judge it with His brazen feet. Bronze is a related metal alloy to brass, therefore “feet like fine brass.” Boots were one of the city’s glorious products.
“I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first” (Revelation 2:19)
- Her latter works, her accomplishments were greater than, even, her earlier ones. The Greek construction shows this to be the meaning more clearly than does the English. “And the works of you, the last ones, more than the first ones.”
- The longest of the seven letters is written to, perhaps, the least important of the seven cities, and that is Thyatira.
- The problems which faced this city are problems which actually face us today. We find that since there was no height, nor hill that could be fortified, Thyatira was not capable of any prolonged defense.
- Thyatira had a fortune-telling shrine presided over by a female oracle called the Sambathe.
- The importance of guilds was great in Thyatira. It was impossible to thrive in business without being a member of one, but such membership meant compromise for the Christian. This compromise became the sin of the Thyatiran Christians.
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”
- We find when we look at the word “fornication” in the Greek, it is “porneuo,” from which we get our word “pornography.” This word refers to any serious breach of sexual morality; and, therefore, is also used to picture those who forsake the one true God for heathenistic worship.
- In 1 Corinthians 5:1, the word is used to depict incest, which is immorality within one’s own family. In this case, it is adultery—one with his father’s wife. In Revelation 17:1, the great harlot, that’s “porne” in the Greek, is guilty of fornication, according to Revelation 17:2.
- “Porniea,” here is mass sexual sin and adultery. It here denotes spiritual harlotry. Care should be taken not to limit this word to the English meaning “fornication,” which has, in certain states, the meaning of sin between the unmarried.
- Comparing Revelation 2:22 with Revelation 2:20 shows that the Greek word for fornication encompasses adultery also.
This was a great case of the adultery of the church, bringing in extra-biblical things that God had never given. When God has given us all of the things that we need in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, we are not to follow tradition. The bringing in of traditional things Christ condemned. All the way through His ministry, He condemned traditional things that men made up in their counsels that have no fidelity from the Word of God, whatsoever. In fact, many of those things contradict the Word of God.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Satan loves it and Christ hates it!
“And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”
This verse talks about a Jezebel. Whether this Jezebel is an actual woman who is spreading the error, or, whether this is some type of movement is not known. We do know that the original Jezebel led her husband, King Ahab of Israel, into Baal worship and murder in 1 Kings, Chapter 16. You ought to read that in conjunction with our study here. It’s a very interesting account.
Just as that Jezebel led Ahab into spiritual fornication; some woman, or a group, was leading this church into a similar sin. “To eat things sacrificed unto idols,” would indicate that the church was being led into participating in some part of the surrounding pagan worship. All this, the Christians allowed her to teach. It is strange, isn’t it, how many born-again believers today allow the modernists to teach false doctrine because of a “big name?”
I’m amazed at some of the great Bible teachers that I respected twenty or so years ago, that I now see coming out and endorsing certain so-called translations, such as the New International Version (NIV), and the National American Standard Bible (NASB). It amazes me how they have “sold” their name as an endorsement for a lucrative sum of money. They have literally sold themselves right down the drain because of endorsing something that is diabolical.
Let me just say this while we are here. If your church uses the NIV, or the New American Standard Bible, you have an absolutely polluted counterfeit of the Word of God. You ought to get our DVDs on that, which show you where you can look for it yourself. You need to get some information on these translations. We have written information, and you can sit down and put it in front of you. This is the compromise that has come in to dilute the Word of God, to water it down so it doesn’t mean what it says.They bring these in to get your trust away from the Word of God, because, now, there are many verses missing in the NIV, as well as the NASB. That is another sign of the last days. How will you know what God really has to say?
The source of trouble in Thyatira was centered around a woman called Jezebel. This woman, Jezebel, is accused of teaching two things:
- First of all, she was teaching the Christian people to “commit fornication” and…
- Two, “to eat meat offered unto idols.”
In other words, it doesn’t make any difference what you do, we’re just going to act religious. Often, the best meat was that which had been offered to idols. With the meat, here in Thyatira, came in idolatrous customs and ceremonies. Here is where the Jezebel cult came in. It was insisted that there was no harm in accepting the world’s customs and the world’s ways. In effect, if the standards of the Word of God clashed with business interests, then the standards of the Word of God, in those instances, must be abandoned. That’s compromise. The Jezebel cult would argue that there was no harm in conforming to the outward rituals and ceremonies of the world. They held that by being “sensible” in these things, we will be able to win the heathen much more easily. That was their philosophy, but that is not what God says, you see. How easy it is to compromise. However, Proverbs tells us this,
“There is a way that seemeth right unto man; but the ways thereof are death.”
I want to give you an instance of compromise from the New Testament. We find this in Galatians, Chapter Two. As much as Paul loved Peter and Peter loved Paul, yet when Paul ran into Peter in Antioch and observed Peter compromising, he rebuked him to his face. Peter was living a double life. He would be one way, depending on the Jews he was around, and he would be another way, depending on the Gentiles he was around. Paul recorded this in Galatians 2:11, 14:
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11).
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? (Galatians 2:14).
Then, Paul goes on to tell us why. You’ve got to admire Paul for his stand on the Gospel. It didn’t matter if it was a much admired Christian brother, or who it was, Paul stood for Christ! Let me ask you something. Where do you stand? Do you stand for the Lord Jesus Christ, or, if it’s going to clash with one of your relatives, do you compromise? Do you just water it down and don’t say anything, because you’re really ashamed of Christ? We see an example here from the great Apostle Paul. No wonder God used him to write fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed (11). For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision” (Galatians 2:11,12).
When Proverbs 29:25 says: “The fear of man bringeth a snare,” it surely does.
“And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation (or their hypocrisy)” (Galatians 2:13).
Peter, you’re an old hypocrite!
“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, (Peter), livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? ((Galatians 2:14)
He put old Peter right on the spot, didn’t he? You and I ought to be a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere we go, we most assuredly should. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. We should testify for Christ and not compromise.
Since this church, Thyatira, is known as the one that is “never tiring of sacrifices,” I want to give you some things that have been brought in by the church of Rome. We were relating these to a person the other day who had been a member of the Church of Rome for years, but absolutely, knew nothing about these whatsoever. Usually, the pastor will not tell the people. “Whatever you do,” they say, “Do not question what we do! You just take what we say.” I said to this person, “You don’t really know what you believe, do you?” The response was, “I never heard that before!”
These non-biblical practices were brought into the church during this particular period of time which runs from 500 to 1500 A.D.
- The Act of Purgatory. I have since found out, from a priest, that they do not teach Limbo anymore. They did away with that, I understand. Purgatory was brought in the Year 593 A.D. by Gregory, the Great. Prior to 593 A.D., it never existed. No one ever taught this. This was made up by men who decided we’re going to include this now.
- Prayers to Mary. Prayers to Mary came in about 600 A.D. A lot of people don’t know this. You should know what your church teaches. You should absolutely know that! If I have to tell you, something’s wrong. Your pastor should tell you. You should know that before you ever join.You don’t take a trip somewhere, if it’s any distance at all, unless you get a road map out to find the road you are going to take. If you’re joining a church, you ought to ask for a doctrinal statement and say, “I want to know what we believe here.” Usually, people will join a church because Grandmother, Mother, or Great-Aunt Susie joined; and if it’s good enough for Great-Aunt Susie, it’s good enough for me! This is like following the blind into a ditch, God says.
“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).
- Worship of the Cross, Images, and Relics. Worship of the Cross, images, and relics never existed before 788 A.D. It was brought in after 788 years by a group of men.
- Holy Water was sought and blessed by the Priest. That was brought in about 850 A.D. It never existed for 850 years after Christ.
- Canonization of the Dead Saints. This was brought in by Pope John XV about 995 A.D.
- Fasting and Eating of Fish on Friday and for Lent. This never existed for the first 1,000 years in Christianity. In about 998 A.D., they decided they were going to do this.
- Celibacy of the Priesthood. That meant the priests could not be married. This came in about 1079 A.D. The first 1079 years, they could marry like anyone else, but then, they decided to have a decree that they cannot marry.
- The Rosary. Instituted in about 1090 A.D. For almost 1100 years after Christ there was no Rosary.
- The Dogma of Transubstantiation. That was decided and brought in by a group of men. You must remember—none of these things are in the Bible. This was brought in about 1215 A.D.
If you do not know what Transubstantiation is, and you belong to the Church of Rome, let me tell you what Transubstantiation is. When the priest gives you that little wafer which represents the Body of Christ, the church dogma is, it turns into the literal Body of Christ. I have talked to many that belong to the Church of Rome, and they never knew that. When the priest said, “This is His Body, they just took it to represent the Body of Christ.”
I have asked many who have belonged to this church, “Does it taste any different?” If it doesn’t taste any different, then it cannot be the literal Body of Christ. They believe that Transubstantiation is, when by the power of the minister, it becomes the literal flesh that Christ had when He was on the Earth. That would be cannibalism! But nevertheless, that is what is taught.
It is not the point of this section to discuss these things now, other than to show the facts of when they came in. For the first 1215 years after Christ, it never existed. It was brought in by one church, because a group of men got together and said, “This is what it is going to be.”
- The Doctrine of Purgatory. The Doctrine of Purgatory came in at the Council of Florence in 1439 A.D. You ought to go to your pastor and ask him about these things. Have him substantiate them. There’s no way they can get out of it. You should know this before you join the church.
- The Seven Sacraments are another extra-biblical teaching that came into existence during this period of time of 500 A.D. to 1500 A.D. You’ve got to remember that, prior to 500 A.D., none of these things ever existed. They were all brought in by the ideologies of men. The Seven Sacraments, as doctrine, were not brought in until the year 1439 also. It was almost 1500 years before anybody even heard about the Sacraments, then they were brought in by a group of men.
- Tradition Equal With the Bible. Tradition is the same as the authority of the Bible came in about 1545 A.D.
- The Apocryphal Books were added about 1546 A.D. Almost all were written in Greek, not Hebrew. We are not discussing whether these books were right or wrong. We’re just showing you there were no Apocryphal Books for about 1500 years. These books never claimed inspiration, and contained lies and errors concerning the doctrinal teaching of the Scriptures. The Jews, along with many scholars, rejected them from being part of the Inspired Word of God.
None of these things, in this section, ever existed until about 600 years after Jesus Christ. They were brought in by the ideologies of men. The middle verse of the Bible tells us this,
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)
I have many friends that go to the church of Rome. They were absolutely shocked, as they thought these things were in the Bible. When they went through the various ceremonies, they just thought they were in the Bible. They would say, “Come to think about it. They never told any of us to open our Bibles to show us where it is.” They thought they were in there when God had the Bible written, and not put in by men at a later date. That you need to know.
For myself, I want to know what God has to say. I don’t really care what some organization is going to make up; whether it be Rome, the Baptists, or, the Lutherans. I could care less if that’s what Martin Luther believed. Martin Luther was “balled up” on so many things. He did come out of Roman Catholicism at that particular time. He did nail the Ninety-Six Theses on the Castle Church Door there at Wurttemberg, Germany. But when you study the life of Martin Luther, this man had many “hang-ups” that he never came out of, when he was excommunicated out of the Roman Church. Actually, when he “packed his bags” to leave, he brought most of them with him. Therefore, I am not going to follow a Martin Luther, but I will do what the Word of God says.
If somebody tells you something, have them show you Verse and Chapter. If they can not do that, discard it as the ideologies of men which absolutely mean nothing.
“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (26)
"I give power over the nations" was explained by Paul when he wrote to the Corinthian believers in 1 Corinthians 6:2:
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?”
The works of Christ are in contrast to the works of Jezebel. We will be privileged to serve in the Kingdom in the same measure as we serve the Lord during our lives.
“And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.” (27)
“And he shall rule them with a rod of iron;”
This is a reference to the Millennial Reign of Christ in which believers are to share.
“And I will give him the morning star.”
Christ is the Bright and Morning Star. Christ's coming for His own at the Rapture is the hope of the church.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13);
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
The children of Jezebel will not hear, but the true children of the Lord Jesus will hear, for the Holy Spirit opens our ears.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).