Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Putrid Church-Revelation 3:14-22

Over the last seven weeks we’ve taken a fascinating journey around Asia Minor and visited some fairly interested churches along the way. Some have been healthy while others were on life-support. Some have been inspiring, while others have proven frightening. However, the fact that Christ provides a message to all of these churches means that Jesus saw potential for each of these body of believers in their respective contexts. With this in mind, our journey in Asia minor ends today as we look at Revelation 3:14-22. Although I wish I could say that we are ending on a high note, the truth is, the message to the church at Laodicea contains the sharpest rebuke of the whole bunch. That said, after examining the seven components of Jesus’ final message in Revelation 3, we will learn how important it is to welcome Jesus into every aspect of church life.

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1. Commission-3:14a-“…To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:..”

Laodicea was founded around 260 B.C. by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus II. He named the city after his wife Laodice (aw…how romantic) 😊, whom he divorced ten years later (aw…what a shame) .  Its location along a road leading westward to Ephesus and eastward to Syrian Antioch caused the city to thrive as both a commercial and banking center (Wilson, ZIBBC, 277). In A.D. 60 an earthquake devastated several Asian cities, including Laodicea, and although this city had accepted aid from Rome after an earlier earthquake, following this later geological event, Laodicea was among the Asian cities that refused to accept Roman financial assistance and rebuilt using its own resources. This background highlights the wealth and independence of this prominent and proud city. These attitudes are reiterated by the way in which this city was used and the people who populated this region. Edward Meyers notes, “Laodicea was popular place for wealthy people to retire…” (Meyers, Letters from the Lord of Heaven, 76). No doubt the hot springs health resort and medical center in town were also selling points for the older affluent citizens of the Roman empire. Rich, prosperous, self-sufficient—think the Villages of Florida on steroids.

2. Character-3:14b

Jesus makes his self-introduction to the church in Laodicea by referring to his character first as “the Amen”—that is the affirmation of God’s truth (Keener, IVPBBC, 736). This unique title and its meaning is supported by what Paul says in places like 2 Corinthians 1:20.

2 Corinthians 1:20-“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.”

The idea that Jesus is the affirmation of God’s truth is reiterated by what follows—“the faithful and true Witness,…” (4:14c). Truly all that Jesus said and did testified to the glory of God the Father.

John 5:19-“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

John 5:30-32-“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the testimony which He bears of Me is true

Jesus is the most faithful and greatest witness of the Father and his work because he, unlike anyone else, is able to represent the Lord so perfectly.

Colossians 1:15-“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”

Not only does Jesus confirm that he is the affirmation of the truth of God and that he is the greatest witness to both the person and work of God, he also continues by establishing that he is “the Beginning of the creation of God…” (3:14). This divine title argues that Jesus was the agent behind creation—he is the Beginning that brought everything into existence. Interestingly, the Roman emperor’s primary title during this period was princeps—"the first.” Here Jesus says even before these emperors came to power, he was—highlighting his superiority over these so-called inferior “first-place holders” of the world. These same divine attributes (firstness) and activities (creating) are ascribed to Jesus in the beginning of John’s gospel.

John 1:1-3-“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

Jesus introduces himself to this church by drawing attention to his ability to affirm the truth of God (the AMEN), testify to the things of Father (both faithfully and truthfully), and bring things into existence, demonstrating his rulership over creation like the Almighty Lord (the Beginning). After this kind of introduction, the church could not easily disregard or delegitimize the message to be shared (no matter how much they may have wanted to). Instead, it could only trust that whatever message Jesus brought for them came from on high and faithfully and truthfully corresponded with God and his will. (making the coming comments all the more difficult to hear).

3. Commendation-NONE

4. Condemnation-3:15-17

Tragically, there is NO word of commendation granted to this church. This is especially ominous given that even to the church of Sardis—the petrified church—Jesus was able to find at least something remotely nice to say. However, to this beautiful, affluent, prosperous, independent, and picturesque church and city, the character introduction is followed by the sharpest of condemnations. First, Jesus calls them useless—“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I with that you were cold or hot” (3:15). This is the first of two popular verses that have been horribly misinterpreted over the years.  Many assume “hot” means “on fire” for God and “cold” represents being completely cut off from him.  These interpreters will conclude something to the tune of “God would rather you be totally one way (a solid believer) of the other (a willful and aware unbeliever) than on the fence.” However, this could not be further from the truth, especially given the context of this church in Laodicea.

White travertine cliffs at Hierapolis (in view six miles north of Laodicea), were formed because of the nearby mineral hot springs. Colossae, about eleven miles to the east, was known for its cold pure waters. Laodicea, on the other hand, received its water supply through an aqueduct built by the Romans. Its water source was an abundant spring five miles to the south. Because of the distance this water had to travel, by the time it reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm and undoubtedly a standard complaint of local residents, most of whom had a comfortable life otherwise (Keener, IVPBBC, 737; Wilson, ZIBBC, 276). Hot water was useful for cleaning, bathing, and medicinal/therapeutic purposes. Cold water was refreshing to drink. Lukewarm water was…well…useless. Therefore, Jesus says of this church that they, like the water running through their pipes, are useless and an offense to him.  

Jesus’ adverse reaction to this lukewarm church is described in verse 16—“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth…”. More than just useless, this church was putrid—inducing Jesus’ gag-reflex. It is an image that is equal parts shocking and convicting. This church was putrid to the Lord.  

What is worse is that in addition to being useless (and subsequently vomit-inducing), this church was also oblivious—“Because you say ‘I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’…” (3:17). The veritable disdain this church brought to the mind of Christ was something for which this church was largely unaware. After all, things were comfortable in Laodicea. The church believed itself to be (like the city in which it ministered) self-sufficient and without any tangible needs. The socioeconomic status of Laodicea was a microcosm of Rome’s excessive materialism and unfortunately these worldly sentiments had infiltrated the people of God in this region.

Blinded by their unusually high opinion of themselves and their capabilities, the church failed to realize how much in need they were for Christ’s influence. Never fear! Jesus reminds them of their reality in the latter part of verse 17 and holds no punches—“and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” The polysyndeton (repetition of “and”) implemented here accentuates the indictment made. Though this church had it all in the world’s eyes, they were desperate and destitute in the Lord’s eyes.

This putrid church in Laodicea had some real issues lurking, like faulty plumbing, beneath the surface of its impressive edifice. They were disgustingly useless and woefully oblivious.

5. Correction-3:18-19

However, out of his grace, Jesus provides a compelling word of correction. First, rather than embrace what the world would sell them and measure their value in ways similar to their self-sufficient and largely independent context, Jesus identifies what this church really ought to buy into. First, instead of worldly abundance, they ought to focus on abundance from God—“I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you have become rich” (3:18a). Though this church had all kinds of resources and its town was known for its big banks, Jesus reminds this church of what is really valuable—Christ and His gospel (“buy from Me gold refined by fire”). Those who follow this correction are promised spiritual riches.

In addition to reminding them of the real source of riches—Christ and His gospel—Jesus advises them to buy “white garments so that you may clothe yourself and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed” (3:18b). The city was noted in antiquity for a breed of sheep that produced soft, raven-black wool. This local product galvanized a prominent textile industry, rendering this correction dripping with irony. “Jesus finds his people naked despite the local looms that produced their own version of ‘designer’ clothing” (Wilson, ZIBBC, 277). Though clothed with the best brands, God saw shameful nudity and advises them to put on the only clothing that matters –righteousness—sourced exclusively from house of God. White clothing will prove to be a prolific symbol in Revelation for righteousness. In Revelation 19:8, for instance, the Bride of Christ is arrayed in “fine linen bright and clean: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Hindson, Revelation, 49).

In addition to buying into the gold that is the gospel and adorning the raiment of righteousness, Jesus calls them to buy into God’s vision of the world around them—“and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see” (3:18c). Laodicea housed one of the Roman medical schools of its day. One of its graduates was Demosthenes Philalethes, a renowned ophthalmologist. Also, no doubt in connection with his research and prominence, the city of Laodicea was known for its Phrygian powder that was put into an eye salve marketed and sold in the region. Therefore, again, the irony is seething:  the Laodiceans lived in a place noted for its treatment of the eye, yet they were spiritually blind. “In contrast to the famous Phrygian eye salve for which Laodicea was so well known, the Lord urges them to anoint their eyes with the eye salve of the truth so that they might see things as God sees them” (Hindson, Revelation, 49).

Everything in which Laodicea could have confidence outwardly (its commerce [gold], industry [textiles], and expertise [eye treatments], etc.) its church, which reflected its culture, lacked spiritually. Altogether, Jesus advises the church in Laodicea to buy into God’s abundance as found in the gospel, God’s adorning righteousness as granted through Jesus Christ, and God’s vision of the world—divine gold, white garments, and spiritual eye salve.

To make these corrections, the church needed to take advantage of the grace of God’s present discipline—“Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (3:19a). As displeasing as this church was, these were still God’s kids and according to Hebrews 12:6, “for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and he scourges every son whom He receives.” Therefore, the church needed to use this difficult and yet necessary episode of “tough-love” discipline to make needed changes.

This begins with repentance—“therefore be zealous and repent” (3:19c). Turn away from your self-sufficiency and depend on the Lord in all things. Quit being impressed with what you can see and grow more fascinated by what is unseen. Stop being impressed with the things you can hold and remember who it is that holds it all.

6. Call-3:20, 22

This leads to the call that Jesus cries out to the church in Laodicea—“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” (3:20). This is yet another verse that is proof-texted and misused. The door mentioned here does not lead to a lost individual’s heart, but to a church full of saints (albeit useless and oblivious saints at present). This is the great tragedy of this message—Jesus is uninvolved in the goings on in Laodicea because the church has, either subconsciously or consciously, showed him the door. Jesus is on the outside looking into this local body of believers and they would do well to turn down the celebration of their independence and superficial prosperity enough to hear the knocking and answer the door so that the only source of true transformation can come in and use them for the kind of works that are pleasing to his palette.

The same goes for any other church who has become enamored with their worldly success to the point that they have forgotten their need for Jesus’ involvement—“He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:22).

7. Challenge-3:21

As with all the letters, Jesus closes with a challenge—“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” (3:21a). In this context, overcomers are those who overcome their high view of self and learn how to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. These will enjoy a place to sit on the throne in heaven.  

Laodicea was known as a “throne city” because one of its citizens (Zeno) was awarded a seat of power after resisting a powerful invader in 39 B.C. Zeno’s family continued to rule over the next century and they all figured prominently on the city’s coinage. The throne was for Laodicea and the majority of the known world the most visible symbol of power. The same powerful symbolism was true in ancient Israel. 2 Kings 21:1 and 1 Kings 2:19 also betray that the king could share his throne with his son or other members of his family. Jesus thus promises to share his reign in a superior and eternal kingdom with those who overcome. This is fulfilled later in Revelation 20:4.

Revelation 20:4-“Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

So What?

This promise rings true for those of us who fight against the tendency to ever believe our own press, marvel unnecessarily at worldly trappings, and/or grow self-sufficient to the point that we fail to remember how much we need the Lord Jesus Christ to be actively engaged in all that we are and do. When Jesus stands on the outside looking into a church that behaves as though they have no need of him, they become useless and oblivious and, subsequently, trigger God’s gag reflex. May this never be the case for us! As we grow and develop our ministry, may we never become more impressed with our success than we are of the one who is responsible for it!  May there never be a barrier between us and what Jesus wants to do in and through us! May we prove useful and aware in the hands of the Lord as we are about his mission in the context to which he has called us! And may these all be so until we rule with him in his coming kingdom!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Persevering Church-Revelation 3:7-13

So far in our journey through Asia Minor we’ve passed through some fairly interesting churches--churches with inferior preoccupations, churches under the threat of persecution, churches willing to compromise their doctrine to fit in to the surrounding context, churches poisoned with terrible influences, and churches knocking on death’s door. As I was preparing for this message this week, I asked myself, “Would I join any of these churches?” or “Would I return for a second visit?” You might be wondering quietly to yourself “Where are all the good churches at?” Though no church is perfect (as each is filled with imperfect people), we have yet to see a congregation without major issues. Thankfully, the next letter to the next church might prove a bit refreshing. In Revelation 3:7-13, Jesus sends word to the church in Philadelphia and encourages an already persevering church to remain strong and make the most of the opportunities given them. Let’s listen in and be encouraged by this encouraging body of believers.

1.  COMMISSION-3:7a-“…And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:…”

Moving from one extreme (Sardis—a city and church out of its prime) to the other, Jesus’ next message is given to perhaps the strongest of the seven churches in the newest of the seven cities. On this acute juxtaposition between Sardis and Philadelphia Bruce Metzger writes “The letter to Sardis contains almost unmitigated censure; the letter to Philadelphia is one of almost unqualified commendation” (Metzger, Breaking the Code, 41). The city in which this church was ministering—Philadelphia—was founded by the king of Pergamum Eumenes II, or, some argue, his brother Attalus II. When the Romans attempted to turn Attalus against his brother, he remained loyal and earned the nickname “Philadelphus” (literally meaning brotherly-love). Small in stature, the city, as it stood close to Sardis, was also devastated by the earthquake and aftershocks of AD 17. However, this city was rebuilt and flourished. It sat in a lush valley in the heart of Asia Minor and was strategically located at the intersection of several major roads and pointed eastward toward the rest of Asia. Attalus (the city’s founder) intended the new city to serve as a dissemination point for Hellenism into Asia. However, what Attalus hoped would be a launchpad for the Greek way of life, Christ hoped to turn into a epicenter for the spread of the gospel message (Hindson, Revelation , 45-46; Wilson, ZIBBC, 274).


Jesus introduces himself (his character) by saying “He who is holy, who is true” (3:7b). This comment on his nature assumes that not only can Jesus’ message be embraced for its purity, it can also be trusted for its veracity as its source possesses these same sublime qualities. This phrase also reiterates Jesus as the sole superior deity against all the typical Greek deities known to have been worshipped in this region. Though the city had few religious traditions (as it was relatively young), at least ten cultic altars have been excavated from this ancient locality. Pagan trends and a hostile Jewish population (that is, hostile toward Christians), meant that while the ministry in Philadelphia enjoyed a lot of opportunities, it also met a lot of opposition.

Next Jesus refers back to Revelation 1:18 and recalls his possession of a certain key—“who has the key of David who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens,” (3:7c). These verses allude to Isaiah 22:22.

Isaiah 22:22-“Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no on will shut, when he shuts no one will open”

In this Old Testament passage, the key of David (a type of Christ) is shown to possess incredible power to open and shut, indicating full authority to rule the house. Jesus applies this OT type (David’s authority as king) to himself (Jesus’ authority over a forever kingdom) and suggests that he is the master Keyholder, carrying the government on his shoulders. Keys in those days were often very large and carried over the shoulder (Wilson, ZIBBC, 274). This idea is present in another Christological prediction found in Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:6-“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders;”

Jesus therefore introduces himself to this church as the supremely sovereign and holy and true Lord of all (that same One that Isaiah predicted would come and overwhelm all false deities).


Next, Jesus provides a lengthy commendation/compliment to the body of believers in this region.  Unlike the message to the church in Sardis, Jesus is very verbose and specific when it comes to his commendation of the church in this city. He begins by highlighting the opportunity set before them in verse 8—“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,…”. The greatest sovereign and cosmic doorman has placed before this church a golden opportunity which none can shut. The church has “a little power” but they have “kept” Jesus’ Word and had “not denied” his name in spite of pagan pressure and Jewish persecution. Jesus is thus rewarding the faithfulness and deeds of this little church with a grand opportunity that he hoped they would take full advantage of.

As Jesus continues his commendation of this church he draws their attention to the victory promised them—“ 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,…” (3:9). This “synagogue of Satan” was mentioned in the message to the church in Sardis and again refers to hateful and oppressive first century Jews who were actively persecuting early Christians. These were not real/spiritual Jews, but Jews in name only (“who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie”). The context and background of this church reveals that the Jews in Philadelphia had excommunicated Christians from fellowship with them. This is supported also by the Twelfth Benediction issued by the Jews at the Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90. This benediction formalized the earlier practice of many local synagogues which excommunicated those who professed Jesus (Wilson, Revelation, 274). Here, Jesus encourages the church in Philadelphia by saying, though the Jews may have closed the door of fellowship found in the synagogue, he would be opening a new door of opportunity that none could shut!

Jesus continues by predicting that the Jews would bow down at their feet and he will make them know that I have loved you (the church!). This prediction describes a reversal of what is prophesied in Isaiah 49:23; 60:14. There the prophet predicts that the Gentiles would worship at the feet of Israel (come to the OT people of God for the revelation of God). However, in an ironic twist, the unbelieving Jews will worship at the feet of the true Israel (Gal. 6:16) the NT people of God—saved Jew and Gentile—the church.

Given their commendable perseverance, Jesus also promises coming provision—"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” (3:10). The perseverance of this church demonstrated their faith in Jesus and their relationship with God. Because they are saved now, as indicated by their good deeds and faithfulness, they will be saved in the future and spared the tribulation described later in Revelation (chapters 4-19) during which God’s wrath will be spilled out over an unbelieving earth. This helps serve the pri-tribulation eschatological view—that view which holds that the church will not endure the coming tribulation described in John’s Apocalypse.

This church was faithful in their deeds, poised for a great opportunity, and committed to the Word. It was the persevering church and because if persevered so well, it would not have to endure the coming wrath and judgment of God.



6. CALL-3:11, 13

The message Jesus extends to this church does not have a condemnation nor does it possess a word of correction. It is the most positive message of the collection of seven letters recorded in Revelation 2-3. That said, Jesus does issue a call to this church—“I am coming quickly; hold fast to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (3:11). The church is instructed here to hold fast or persevere in all that they have going for them—i.e. “keeping the Word, not denying his name, persevering in faithfulness, etc.” In other words, Jesus tells this church to keep on keeping on. This they are encouraged to do because Jesus is “coming quickly.” The imminence of Christ’s return acts as a motivator for present faithfulness.

Matthew 24:44-“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

The idea is that a believer doesn’t want to be caught off guard or off-mission when Jesus returns. Those who persevere in this way, living as though Jesus could return at any moment, will not be deprived the victor’s crown—“so that no one will take your crown” (3:11).

James 1:12-“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Interestingly, the city of Philadelphia was known for its games and festivals in which crowns were handed out to winners. Jesus suggests that the ultimate winners are those who persevere in him until his glorious return. Persevering Christians need not fear anything that could potentially take them out as they finish their divinely-commissioned marathon (something that God alone decides when it is complete). These should then expect the victor's crown of heaven!

As with all of the other calls in the messages to these churches, a generalization is made—“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:13). Churches ministering in Asia Minor during the first century and those who are on mission today need to heed the call to persevere to the end by faithfully upholding the word of God as God grants opportunity. These are promised the ultimate victor’s crown.


The final component of this mostly positive message to the churches is introduced by the familiar phrase—“he who overcomes” (3:12a). In this case “overcomers” are those who persevere in faithfulness –i.e. hold fast to the word of God and take advantage of divinely-appointed opportunities. One might say that overcomers in this context are those who keep on keeping on for Jesus.
To these Jesus promises two things. First—“I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore” (3:12b).  This language is clearly metaphorical and refers to the future residence of God’s presence in a highly figurative way. In Revelation 21:22, John acknowledges that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem. In fact, the Jerusalem that comes down from heaven is all temple and Christ’s victorious ones are it’s living stones and pillars (Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 292). Therefore, the Philadelphian Christians (and all other saints) are promised to serve as a permanent fixtures in God’s future heaven when all else has fallen.  

This kind of language is not without New Testament precedent. Christians are called a “temple” of the Holy Spirit and “living stones” in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 1 Peter 2:15 respectively.

1 Corinthians 6:19-“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

1 Peter 2:15-“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus predicts that those who persevere will endure in these spiritual ways, much as skillfully constructed temples and their pillars endured in western Asia in the first century. Asian temples were, for instance, build to withstand earthquake damage. “Their foundations were laid on beds of charcoal covered with fleeces, which caused the structure to “float” on the soil like a raft…the temples would be among the most secure structures in the city” (Wilson, ZIBBC, 275). As powerful and prominent as these temples and their pillars were during the first century, Jesus promises that his persevering believers will prove even stronger and stand forever as a testimony of their faithfulness to Him.

Jesus adds to this promise the following comment: “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,…” (3:12c). Ancient pillars were often inscribed with important figures’ names and other impressive notes to commemorate builders or benefactors or those who managed their properties and/or the activities that took place therein. Here, Jesus says that the pillars (his church) in heaven will bear the name of God, and the name of the New Jerusalem which will come down out of the sky.

The promise issued to those who overcome is a permanent place in the eternal city of God that is to come—what a glorious hope!

So What?

Are you a persevering believer? Is this a persevering church? Are we upholding the word of God in all situations and making the most of the opportunities God has given us? The church of Philadelphia stood at a prominent intersection in the ancient world, giving it a unique position to stand for Jesus and leverage influence in a powerful region. It was doing all it could to this end and Jesus himself commends them and encourages them with promises of glory. Our church—Crystal Spring Baptist Church—stands in prominent neighborhood in Roanoke—a place teaming with potential and resources that could be used mightily for God’s kingdom-building work. Are we doing all that we can to reach our context, and, in so doing, reach this city?

Like the church in Philadelphia, we have been given opportunities to uphold the Word of God in special ways. Our perseverance is witnessed in faithfully walking through the doors our sovereign Lord opens for us no matter what. This week, a door God has opened for us comes in the form of our church’s threshold that will be opened to the community at our Halloween event. Maybe a step you can take toward faithfulness involves helping get the word out, inviting a friend, praying for our event, and attending to serve. Perhaps God has opened or is opening a door for you in your workplace, family, among your friends, etc. Whatever intersection God has led you to in your life, whatever gate of opportunity that you find unlocked before you, the encouragement we glean from this passage is make the most of it for the glory of God! What have we to fear? God has a place for us in his forever kingdom!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Petrified Church-Revelation 3:1-6

In each of the letters we’ve looked at over the last several weeks we have heard a challenge issued to would-be overcomers—overcomers of inferior preoccupations, overcomers of political correctness, overcomers of persecution, overcomers of poisonous influences. In the letter we are going to read today, those who overcome are encouraged to rise above a new kind of threat—a threat that is, in most cases, personally inflicted and grows slowly over time. The fifth letter issued by Christ in Revelation is penned to the church in Sardis in chapter 3:1-6. Therein, Jesus writes to what might be referred to as a largely powerless and/or petrified congregation and calls them to wake up and make the most of the opportunity they have to make a difference. Let’s examine the seven components of this letter and learn how we can remain vigilant in our walk with Christ and committed to his mission.

1. COMMISSION-3:1a-“…To the angel of the church in Sardis write:,…”

The message sent at the beginning of chapter 3 is addressed to the church in Sardis—“to the angel of the church in Sardis write” (3:1a). This particular city, unlike the successful seaport of Ephesus, the seat of power in Pergamum, and the economic juggernaut of Thyatira was a town whose best and most prosperous days were behind it. Though at one point, Sardis served as the capital of the Lydian empire (680-547 BC), was known for its gold reserves found in the Pactolus River that runs through the city, and was made into the capital of the Seleucid empire (281-190BC), once the Romans assumed control of this locality, things took a turn for the worse. In AD 17 it was devastated by an earthquake and required a bailout from the empire to rebuild. 9 years later it lost a bid to become the home of the second imperial cult temple in Asia. A large temple to Artemis was to be constructed in Sardis and yet, it was never finished. By the end of the first century (when this was written) the glory days for the people of Sardis were behind them and, unfortunately, the same might have been said of its church.

An unfortunate contemporary parallel situation to Sardis might be Detroit. Once a huge and bustling city where the car industry was booming and people were thriving, this city now boasts vacant neighborhoods and an entirely different attitude.

2. CHARACTER-3:1b-“He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this,…”

Next, Jesus introduces two elements of his character as he opens his message to this church—“He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this…” (3:1b). It is interesting that (based on what we learned in Revelation 1), Jesus describes himself by means of the Holy Spirit—“seven spirits of God.” The Spirit brings life and power to those he indwells. This will become an apropos description given what we will learn about this church later. Also, Jesus is said to possess “the seven stars” which we learned in Revelation 1 represented the seven angels to the seven churches (see Revelation 1:20). Jesus’ possession of the angels in these passages illustrates his sovereign power over them and the spiritual realm they inhabit. Certainly if he is in control of the spiritual realm, he also holds power over the realm of the earth below—another important attribute to identify given what is needed in the congregation at Sardis. To the church of Sardis, Jesus introduces himself as the sovereign spiritual power-broker and life-giver.


The commendations/compliments that Jesus gives this church are slim and curious. First, of this church Jesus says “I know your deeds” (3:1c). Given that Christ doesn’t expound on the nature, character, or quality of these deeds, one should assume that the work of this church, although present, was really nothing special. For instance, in the letter to the poisoned church of Thyatira we heard Jesus identify their faithfulness in multiple areas (“I know your deeds and your love and faith and service and perseverance and that your deeds of late are greater than at first”-2:19). To the church that lost their first love (Ephesus) Jesus commends several specific activities—“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 apostles,…” (2:2ff). To the church he now addresses at Sardis Jesus simply says “I know your deeds” (3:1c).

This ominous commendation grows even more curious when verse 1 continues and says “that you have a name that you are alive” (3:1d). Other translations read “you have a reputation of being alive.” What a reputation to pride oneself on! Do you see that church over there in Sardis? They are alive! 😊 Many churches are and were known for different things (missions, outreach, preaching, etc.). On some occasions (see 1 Corinthians and some of these letters to the seven churches), churches were known for the wrong reasons (notoriously bad members, false doctrines, etc.). However, I cannot think of a more manila, mediocre, or mundane thing to be known for than having a pulse.
So far the church has two things (maybe) going for it—they do stuff and they have maintained a pulse.

A final commendation is made in verse 4 when Jesus reveals “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” (3:4). Slightly better than the first two compliments already given, Jesus identifies a faithful few who, have kept themselves from getting dirty (compromising spiritually). Jesus promises that these will walk with him in white for they are worthy (highlighting a forever communion with God that they will enjoy in heaven).

4. CONDEMNATION-3:1e-“…but you are dead,…”

However, in spite of all that this church was doing (insignificant though it was) and the pulse they maintained (though it might be hovering barely above total flatline), Jesus gives them a short but severe indictment—“but you are dead” (3:1e). Like the city around them, their best days (at least so far) were behind them. Though a pulse is there, there is no brain activity and if a doctor were to describe the spiritual state of this congregation she couldn’t be more generous than saying that they were comatose.

The severity of this indictment is made more poignant when one recognizes that the presumed fate of this church is the exact reverse of what should be the case for any believer or congregation. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus is described as alive from the dead (I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore,…). Later in his letter to the church in Ephesus he repeats this idea—“who was dead and has come to life” (2:8). When the Spirit of God transforms a life, he brings them to renewed life when before they were dead in their sin. This phenomenon is illustrated in Jesus resurrection from the dead (as symbolized in baptism). Unfortunately, this church has somehow seen the reverse of this –once alive, this place had found itself on life support. The imagery of from death to life has somehow reversed itself in this congregation (Keener, IVPBBC, 735). YIKES!


Perhaps this is why the correction begins with “Wake up!” (3:2). Typically when Jesus said something akin to “wake up,” amazing things happened. Lazarus rose from the dead (John 11), a girl who recently passed away was restored to life (Mark 5). Here, Jesus is hoping a similar miracle would transpire in the life of this church. However,  unlike Lazarus and the little girls who were risen at the sound of Jesus’ word, Jesus places the responsibility of vitality squarely on the church when he provides them with instructions on how to get out of the hospice bed they found themselves in—“and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die,…” (3:2). It is here where we learn that although this church was near death, it had not completely died. However, it was at risk of dying totally if it wasn’t going to put what it had to good use.

The old adage of “If you don’t use it you’ll lose it” couldn’t be more appropriate here. Sure the church wasn’t in the best context (Sardis,…whoopie right?). Sure it may not have had all of the aids that other churches like Thyatira, or Ephesus enjoyed. But it did have something and whatever that something was needed to be put to as much use as possible. Here is a ray of hope for this church—“ I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God,…” (3:2). God still had a plan for this church and her people. Things still needed to be accomplished and God’s sustaining grace had kept this church alive to be the ones to do it. To this church he says “Wake Up!” and “get to work with what you have!”

But he also says “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent” (3:3a). To wake up and get to work the church needed to remember all of the many blessings it had been given. What might these have included? Sardis wasn’t exactly the best context? This church certainly didn’t seem to have a lot going for it? THAT IS NOT WHERE TO LOOK! The Bible instructs believers to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen since what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). This church had been given the salvation of Jesus Christ and His Spirit of power dwelling within them! What is that worth? A LOT! “greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4). The reality of their salvation and the presence of the holy Spirit was enough to expect “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,…” (Ephesians 3:20). It is easy to stagnate and suffer subsequent sepsis either as an individual believer or as a church body when these truths are forgotten. This is why Jesus instructs them to remember what they have in Christ, keep it (hold fast to it), and change their ways (which, in their case may have been as simple as getting out of the hospital bed and active again for God’s glory).

If this call and reminder wasn’t enough to motivate change, Jesus follows up in verse 3 with a threat—“Therefore, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will now know at what hour I will come to you” (3:3b). Jesus doesn’t spell out exactly what he would do to this church upon arriving, but it doesn’t sound good. One might assume that swift discipline or even judgment would come upon this church if they didn’t change their ways by waking up, getting to work, and remembering what God had given them in salvation. Jesus might just be tempted to take this church off life support and end their ministry altogether! 


As with his other letters, Jesus issues a challenge. The challenge is always issued to “he who overcomes” (nikaow) (3:5a). In this case, he is directly speaking to those who overcome stagnation and death (that is of one’s ministry). To those who make the most of what they have in Christ and the time that God has provided, Jesus offers three promises.

First, these overcomers “will thus be clothed in white garments” (3:5b). White clothes are a prolific symbol throughout the Scriptures. Almost always they symbolize moral and ritual purity. God is clad in white seated on his throne (Daniel 7:9), angels wear white clothing (Daniel 10:5; Acts 1:10), even Jesus himself appears in white garments at his transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). Earlier in verse 4 Jesus mentioned those who had not soiled their garments. These are those same who, having their attire washed by the blood of the lamb and having proven their transformation by overcoming death are given white garments to match their Lord and Savior.

Special clothes are often used to mark distinction (jerseys, letter jackets, etc.). I cannot tell you how excited I was to receive my graduation regalia after having completed my doctorate degree. The PhD in Theology and Apologetics graduates at Liberty University get to wear a bright red robe with navy stripes along the front and on the sleeves.  A dark hood is worn around the neck that flows behind with red, white and blue inlay. This is all topped off by an octagonal hat with silver tassel. It is a pretty striking look awarded to those who overcome all the hurdles necessary to complete this particular degree.  The garb promised the people of God is far more glorious and profound. Those who overcome will all be wearing the same bleach white vestiges that signify a relationship with God and life after death.

Not only are these clothes promised to the people of God, so too is a permanent name etched in the book of life—“and I will  not erase his name from the book of life” (3:5).  In the Old Testament the book of life represented a register of God’s covenant people (Exod. 32:32-33; Isa. 4:3; Daniel 12:1). Though this primarily concerned the Jewish people, Paul tells the Philippians church to rejoice always because their names are also written in the book of life (Phil. 4:3). Therefore this book is a register of all God’s people—spiritual Jew and saved Gentile. Special registers like the one envisioned in this message were used in the ancient world as a public account of citizens in a particular area. Interestingly, when someone committed a criminal act and was condemned for an especially egregious offense, he lost his citizenship and his name was then erased from the register.  Jesus tells the people of the church in Sardis that those who overcome never have to fear expulsion from God’s kingdom nor their name being removed from his most important register.

Finally, Jesus promises that not only will the overcomers' names be forever printed in his book, but they will be confessed before God the Father—“and I  will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (3:5d).  This promises is complimentary to the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 10:32—“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”

I’m sure we’ve all seen the movies where a hopeful young man or woman approaches an entrance to some occasion, party, or club and the guard or bouncer stops them at the door. A celebrity or powerful person walks right on by through the heavily guarded threshold and then sees the young person and says “He’s/She’s with me” and they are allowed in. This proves that it always helps to know somebody. A similar phenomenon is pictured here, only on a far greater and more glorious scale. Jesus knows my name, and says before God the Father: “Jeff’s with me.” ! What a promise extended to this struggling church and its members who overcome in Christ.

7. CALL-3:6-“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,…”

Finally (and somewhat out of order from the previous verses), Jesus provides the call—“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (3:6). If anyone can stand to learn from the principles in this message in John’s day or in our day then listen up and apply this correctly. 

So What?

Are you a Christian in name only (CHRINO)? Maybe, as the letter puts it “you have a name that you are alive/a believer” but you are dead. No works are going forth, no passion for Christ and his mission is exhibited, no excitement toward what the Spirit is able to do. Perhaps you have counted yourself out and have grown stagnant in your faith and have said to yourself “I’m too old; I can’t really do anything anyway” or even “my best days are behind me” or “my time to work is over.” Those who live with this attitude and subsequent inactivity have, spiritually speaking, relegated themselves to the hospice bed and are at very real risk of allowing inactivity to paralyze their joints, appendages, or organ systems (prayer lives, participation, service, demonstration of love, etc.). Folks, the church can’t afford to become a spiritual palliative/hospice care unit (quietly ushering saints into glory).

Wake up! 

Wake up to what pastor Jeff? Roanoke is too far gone. The city is changed now. South Roanoke is hard to reach. Our church is too small. The fellowship hall smells weird.

That is not where to look! Look not at the things which are seen but unseen and remember what we have been given. We have been made alive in Christ Jesus, have become sons or daughters of the King, have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God, are spiritually gifted, and have been left of this earth. Once more we have been called out as ambassadors, workers, witnesses, and citizens of the coming Kingdom of God! What more motivation do we to be about the business to which God has called us?

We must overcome any spiritual paralysis and stagnation by actively and urgently engaging in the mission of God with all that we have—looking ahead to when we will receive the glorious regalia of heaven, when we will see our name written in the book of life, and hear Jesus call for us before the throne of God the Father. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Prosperous Church- Revelation 2:18-29

Often prosperity can blind individuals and groups from very real issues. Many in relatively cozy situations might have the attitude that asks “How could things possibly be wrong? Look how good we are doing?” However, the Bible teaches that prosperity in the world’s eyes is not necessarily a gauge for godliness or faithfulness to the Lord and his Word (just look at the life and destiny of the disciples). I’m afraid that the next church Jesus’ addresses a message to was unaware of this phenomenon and mistook worldly comfort for God’s blessings. After his letter to a preoccupied church, a persecuted church, and a political church, Jesus pens a letter to the congregation of Thyatira—a prosperous church. As we read this fourth letter (found in Revelation 2:18-29), we are going to examine its 7 components and learn how not to let prosperity blind us to evil and how to overcome wicked influences that try their best to infiltrate our lives.

Image result for Thyatira

1. COMMISSION-2:18a-“…And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,…”

Thyatira was a major inland Asian city in its day. Standing halfway between Pergamum and Sardis on a broad fertile plain, its geographic position made it an ideal commercial center. In addition to its craft and other trade industries, Thyatira was noted for its local purple dye derived from the madder root. In fact, Lydia, the businesswoman Paul met in Philippi, was a seller of this dye and from this very city (see Acts 16:14) (Wilson, ZIBBC, 269; Keener, IVPBBC, 734).

As with other contexts visited so far in these letters, a chief concern among the church in Thyatira was syncretism. Many of the trade guilds in this region were religious in nature and many were not able to make good deals with buyers if they didn’t also endorse membership into these often idolatrous institutions. In fact, these trade groups would often hold lavish parties (not unlike some secular business parties to this day with potential buyers). At these parties, excessive drinking and sexual immorality was rampant. Failure to participate in such could amount to losing your job (Hindson, Revelation, 40). This is the context in which the church of Thyatira was ministering.

2. CHARACTER-2:18b

As with the other letters, Jesus is precise in the way that he introduces himself to the congregation. Three elements of his character are highlighted in the later part of verse 18. First, he identifies himself as “the Son of God” (2:18b). This is the only time that this important title is used of Christ in the entire book of Revelation. The Christological message inherent within this title involves Jesus’ unique relationship with God as his divine Son. Though many New Testament authors make use of this title, no where is it more pronounced that in John’s gospel and his first letter.

John 20:31-“but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

1 John 5:20-“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

Because Jesus is God’s Son, he is like God in every essential way and therefore equal in power and authority. I remember hearing my mother say (often in moments of frustration) “you are just like your Father.” Applied to Jesus and his Father, this truly is the case (although in a positive way 😊)!

Second, Jesus describes himself by means of what was already said of him in Revelation 1:14—“who has eyes like a flame of fire” (2:18c). This identifies Jesus’ capacity to see everything—even things that are kept secret. Remember, when John uses “like” before something, we probably want to assume that symbolism is being employed to speak of something greater. In this case, the fiery-eyed symbolism implies that nothing escapes Christ’s omniscient gaze.

I have once heard it said that you can tell a man’s place in the world by looking at his footwear (or lack thereof). If this is true, what are we to make of the third descriptive phrase of verse 18 in which Jesus points out his bare feet—“and His feet are like burnished bronze,” (2:18d). This portrayal of Jesus acts as a polemic (comparison) against those whom the people of this region worshipped. Roman statuary occasionally depicted emperors and their families as barefoot, indicating that they had entered the divine realm. Jesus, the One True God’s Son, highlights his feet here almost as if to indicate his divine status. He then improves upon that already lofty imagery by making them burnished (purified by fire) bronze. The symbolism suggests that Christ is strong, pure, immovable. Bronze work was also a staple of Thyatira and therefore would have made for a very familiar and easily-registered image. 

Jesus’ unique relationship with God, his divine abilities, and even his lack of footwear betray important insights into Christ’s personhood. In this message Christ is portrayed as the strong, all-knowing, Son of God. It is this character who addresses the church in Thyatira who was ministering in a syncretistic, idolatrous, and licentious context of Asia Minor.


Following this impressive introduction of his own character is a two-pronged commendation of this church in verse 19. First, Jesus commends this church’s faithfulness—“I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance” (2:19a). (Special note, while you are counting triads, also take time to marvel at the polysyndeton endorsed by John throughout this book—the pervasive use of “and.” The repetition of “and” throughout the book is used to exaggerate what is envisioned and move things along in an urgent way). Here, Jesus commends the faithfulness this church has who to what they do, what they love, the faith they hold, the service they give, and the perseverance they demonstrate. There is, in other words, a great deal of faithfulness to many good things exhibited in this body of believers.

Not only had the church proven their faithfulness to a great many things, they had also demonstrated measurable spiritual growth—“and that your deeds of late are greater than at first” (2:19b). Perhaps having been weened off the milk and given the solid food of the word, this church, like the church of Corinth (see the marked difference between Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians and his second letter) had proven that they were growing in Christ-likeness as evidenced by their good deeds. As James seems to express, people aren’t saved by works, but saving faith also does work (that is do good works). This church, as evidenced in their good deeds, proved their strong faith.


However, after these pleasantries, Jesus identifies a very serious problem within this prosperous church—“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess” (2:20a). Whoever this individual was, she is not identified by her real name, but by her Old Testament spiritual counterpart. Jezebel is a direct reference to the ancient queen of Israel whose idolatrous worship of Baal was condemned by the prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 16:31-21:25). As far as nicknames go, calling a first-century woman Jezebel was about as bad as it gets. To this day Jezebel remains a paragon of wickedness and debauchery. Such a person was being tolerated in the church a t Thyatira! But what was the big deal? Look how prosperous they were! It obviously was a big deal to Christ who calls this woman out.

What is worse is that this terribly bad apple was spoiling the bunch of them—“and she teaches and leads My bondservants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (2:20b). Like Jezebel of old and others around her (Nicolaitans), this terrible influence sought to compromise with pagans around her (probably, at least initially, out of economic expediency) by eating foods sacrificed to idols and engaging in multiple sexual relations. Sharing a table and a bed with many wicked suitors may have been good for business, but it certainly did the mission of the church no good. By tolerating this woman called Jezebel, the church of Thyatira allowed their prosperity to distract them from their call to purity and this, according to Jesus, was a real problem.

5. CORRECTION-2:21-23

Preceding the word of correction, even in the face of such wickedness, Jesus says “I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality” (2:21). It is nothing short of amazing that God’s lovingkindness would even extend to a wicked wretch like this woman, providing her ample opportunity to change her ways or, at the very least, for the church to exercise some discipline (see Matt. 18). However, Jesus makes its clear that time is up, and his patience with her and her influence has run out.

“Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds,…” (2:22). If she won’t fix her problem and the church won’t discipline her accordingly, Jesus will take her out. Literally the text reads “throw someone on a sickbed.” This is a Hebrew idiomatic phrase referring to punishing someone with illness. Sickbed can also be translated “couch” thereby eliciting a subtle irony here. Jezebel (Old Testament Jezebel) and her followers were often seen reclining on couches and such while dining in the banqueting hall of the pagan temples. Such couches were also used for sexual immorality. Her bed of pleasure would become a bed of death! Jesus might be using a double entendre to subtly hint at a cause-effect relationship between this woman’s behavior and her sentence. If she is going to lie down with a bunch of men, she is going to suffer some of the likely consequences of that behavior—STDs for instance. In other words, God is going to hand to over to her sin and no longer spare her the natural consequences of her actions.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He continues “and I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds” (2:23). The fiery and all seeing eyes of Jesus described earlier had seen what was this woman had done (often in secret) is going to extend his judgment not only on the woman, but on her offspring so as to completely eradicate this specific strain of idolatrous and licentious infection. You can imagine that this swift and total judgment would stand as a stark reminder of the One who sees all things and ultimately judges all things accordingly.

6. CALL-2:24-25, 29

When Jesus provides the call upon this church he almost suggests that dealing with this Jezebel woman and her influence is enough to be concerned with for now—“But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not know the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you” (2:24). In other words, if you aren’t having relations with (either sexually or spiritually) with Jezebel or running with those who do, there are no other immediate things with which to be troubled.

The only real call that Jesus makes to this church is to “hold fast until I come” (2:25). In other words, if you are clean, remain clean, until the end. If you are walking right, keep walking as you are. It is interesting here that Jesus’ call for perseverance involves the idea of holding fast. To what? To all that the church had going for it! Remember what was commended of them earlier—“I know  your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, -“…and that your  deeds of late are greater than at first,…” (2:19). They were faithfully doing, loving, trusting, serving persevering and growing. This are the kinds of activities that I imagine Jesus wanted them to be holding fast to going forward.
It has often been said that boredom is the devil’s playground and that idle hand and minds are the tools of Satan. Here, Jesus appears to be offering a preventative prescriptive for evil influences. By being preoccupied (“holding fast”) to the right things, Jesus was hoping that this church would avoid the wrong things—like Jezebel and the wickedness she both endorsed and represented.

The same word of caution is extended to any church who could stand to learn from this example—“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:29). Any church (first century or twenty-first century) that is not preoccupied with the right things will soon entertain the wrong things—including, but not limited to, idolatry, immorality, and all kinds of wickedness. So ask yourself, are you, is this church, busying itself with faithfully doing, trusting, loving, serving, persevering, and growing in Christ?

7. CHALLENGE-2:26-28

This theme of doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things continues into Jesus’ challenge in verses 26-28. In verse 26, Jesus identifies those whom he is challenging—“He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end” (2:26a). We’ve witnessed Jesus’ message to those who would overcome inferior preoccupations (in the message to Ephesus), to those who would overcome persecution (in the message to Smyrna), to those who would overcome political correctness (in the message to Pergamum). Here, Jesus calls upon the prosperous church of Thyatira to overcome wickedness through the good works until the end.

To these (who overcome) Jesus promises two blessings (in fact, this is the only letter to have a double promise to the victors). First he says, “I will give authority over the nations and he shall rule them with a rod of iron as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father,…” (2:267b-27). The nature of the received rule is quoted form Psalm 2:9 (the only certain quotation from the Old Testament in Revelation). There, it says of the Messiah “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” This rule will come about when the rider on the white horse strike down the nations with his iron scepter (Revelation 19:15) and along with his army of horsemen clad in white (the church) inaugurates the millennial kingdom (see Revelation 20:4). What a promise! Those who live righteously and uphold God’s standards in this world, will rule alongside him in the next!  

Jesus also promises these overcomers “the morning star” (2:28). This striking symbol is probably an allusion to Numbers 24:17—“a star will come out of Jacob” (the next line of this oracle reads, “a scepter will rise out of Israel,” and repeats the scepter imagery found in Psalm 2:9 and already mentioned in connection with Revelation 2:27). The image of a star from Jacob became a major messianic theme in ancient Judaism. Jesus reintroduces it here to say that those who overcome with faithfulness to the right things (and thwart off the wrong things) will not only enjoy rule with the coming Messiah, but a relationship with the coming Messiah. Now that is something to look forward to!

So What?

Though I’m not aware of a “Jezebel” lurking around our church, one thing is for certain, Jesus (fiery eyed) is aware of all that goes on and all that takes place (both obvious and hidden). This letter to the church should cause us who have ear to hear to examine our lives to see whether or not we are entertaining wickedness of any kind in our own lives of this the life of this church. Are we compromising in an ungodly way, succumbing to unholy habits, and/or giving in for the sake of getting ahead like the one identified in this letter to the church at Thyatira? Regardless of whether or not those around you know, this passage reminds us that the Lord knows all and will judge all accordingly.

A couple of proactive things we can do so that we don’t find ourselves on the sickbed of God’s judgment like this Jezebel woman include the following:

1. Busy yourself with the business of faithfulness (faithfulness to the things of God)
2. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7)
3. Remain in constant communication with the Lord (1 Thess. 5:17)
4. Absorb, meditate upon, and memorize the word of God (Psalm 119:11)

Those who seek to overcome the forces of evil by these and other appropriate practices will rule in righteousness alongside the great judge and bask in the his glory beneath the morning star. As, Lord willing, this church grows and prospers, may we never be distracted from God’s calling in our lives to be pure.