The Church Militant

The Church Militant

Scripture: Revelation 3:20, Hosea 2:13, Isaiah 60:14
Date: 03/19/2016  Lesson: 12
"What happens to us, either individually or as a church, that could make our love for God grow cold? How do we keep a passion for God and his truth burning within us year after year?"

Patriarchs and Prophets Audio CD Set by Ellen White

Patriarchs and Prophets Audio CD Set by Ellen White
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Welcome to Sabbath School Study Hour. It is by no accident that you have tuned in and that you are joining us to study God's Word together and we are thrilled that you are here. We are going to sing together before we get started and pastor derose brings us our study. We have picked a couple of hymns today that are majestic and glorious. We're going to start with hymn #506 - a mighty fortress is our God - we're going to sing the first, the third, and the last verses of hymn #506.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great; and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure, one little word shall fell him. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth; let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God's truth abideth still, his kingdom is forever.

You know, we just sang a line in this hymn and it said, 'God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.' What a privilege it is for each one of us to know that the God of the universe wants to work through each one of us to wrap up this planet that we can go home with him to live forever. And I just pray that as you go through this next week, that you will find that he is working through you and that you will be just amazed and send your adoration back to him. Our next hymn we're going to sing is #230 - hymn #230 - all glory, laud, and honor - we're going to sing all three verses. All glory, laud, and honor to thee, redeemer, king, to whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring. Thou art the King of Israel, thou, David's royal son, who in the Lord's name comest, the King and blessed one.

The company of angels are praising thee on high, and mortal men and all things created make reply. The people of the Hebrews with palms before thee went; our praise and prayer and anthems before thee we present. To thee, before thy passion, they sang their hymns of praise; to thee, now high exalted, our melody we raise. Thou didst accept their praises; accept the praise we bring, who in all good delightest, thou good and gracious king. Let's pray.

Our Father in Heaven, what a privilege it is to come before you, the King of the universe - all majesty - that we can praise you and we can honor you as our creator and our Savior and our Lord. We thank you, Lord, for emptying out heaven and giving us Jesus, that we can be saved and that we can be restored to what you first had planned for us. And so now, as pastor derose brings us our study, Lord, please just open our ears and open our hearts that we can learn more about you and how to be like you and how you want to work through us. Please just work through us to the end. Lord, keep us faithful until you come.

I pray these things in the precious name of Jesus, amen. Well, it's good to be with you again and we're continuing our journey in the topic of rebellion and restoration. This is the Great Controversy theme and you say, 'well, dr. Derose, you can't even read the title, it's rebellion and redemption.' It's really the same thing, isn't it? Restoration and redemption - that's what God is interested in and that's what we've been studying about. So through this quarter - we began in the book of Genesis and we're working our way, right now, to the book of Revelation.

So we are actually - if you're following along in the lesson - we are looking at lesson #12 today - lesson #12 dealing with the church militant. And, as always, we have a special offer that's available to our viewers in North America - the special offer this week - the church: is it Babylon? Dennis priebe has put together this helpful little book. It's free offer #712, so if you want this offer - #712 - and you can get it simply by calling 866-study-more - that's -788-3966. Have you ever been unjustly persecuted? Have you ever found yourself in the crosshairs of someone's sights because you were doing something that was right? Can you relate to that scenario? That is how the early church found itself as the book of Revelation was being given. Turn with me in your Bibles to Revelation.

Revelation actually means 'a revealing'. It was interesting, I just had a patient in my office this last week and I was making mention of the book of Revelation and they said, 'well, we don't talk about that much in our church. It seems so confusing.' Well, it was never designed to be a confusing book; the name of the book means what? Revelation. Revelation - an opening or a revealing - and so, as Revelation opens, it opens with perhaps one of the most amazing verses in the Bible. Now, we could get into a great discussion over some of the great verses in the Bible, but as far as an introductory verse to a book of the Bible, Revelation chapter 1, verse 1 is truly remarkable.

Look, with me, at it because it really lays the foundation for all that we're going to look at as we speak about this topic, the church militant. So look at how the book opens up - it says, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ." And so from the very beginning we're told that this is a book - and, in fact, there's a little play on words there. Whether it's in the english or in the Greek, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, it is both something that Jesus reveals - that he shows forth - and it is also something that reveals Jesus to us. So the book of Revelation at its heart is an opening up and it's an opening that is going to show us our Lord and Savior. But then it goes on and it says it's a Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants things which must shortly take place.

Now we're not going to take a lot of time looking at background because the lesson wants us to focus on a very appropriate topic on this theme of rebellion and restoration or redemption. It's wanting us to focus on the seven churches. But if we don't catch the context - if we don't remind ourselves of the context of this important book, we'll miss what is so especially foundational to the seven churches. In this first verse, it says these are "things which must shortly take place." The Greek in this first verse is actually almost identical to the Greek phrase in Daniel chapter 2. In Daniel chapter 2, you might remember that God gives Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, a vision and it is told, in that context, that it is a vision of things that must take place in the future.

It's the very same in the Greek. If you look at the Greek version of the old testament - we call it the septuagint, it's the very same language. So from the very first book of Revelation - the very first verse - it's pointing us back to the book of Daniel and it's saying that we're going to get a Revelation of things that will need - must - take place. And it's all in the context of a revealing of Jesus Christ himself. Now, what's also interesting about the book of Revelation and so important for our study today, is the book of Revelation, although it is written to the entire church, was especially addressed to seven churches.

Look, with me, at verse 11. In Revelation chapter 1, verse 11, there is a specific seven churches to which the book - at least when John is being given it - is addressed to. It says, in verse 11, as Jesus is speaking, "'I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last,' and, 'what you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in asia: to ephesus, to smyrna, to pergAmos, to thyatira, to sardis, to philadelphia, and to laodicea.'" So the book is addressed to seven specific historical churches but, on a broader sense, the book is given to all Christians to the end of time. I want to point out one other thing, and I alluded to this as I was introducing the book, about whether you have ever unjustly been persecuted. Look at the context in which John is writing.

Look at how he describes his situation. I'm in verse 9 of Revelation chapter 1. He says, "i, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and the patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." So do you catch John's predicament? John, actually, at this point in his life, is an old man. John was, of course, one of those twelve who were intimately associated with Jesus during his earthly ministry. And, as John's life is playing out, he has seen the destruction of Jerusalem.

In 70 a.d. Jerusalem was destroyed and history tells us that when Jerusalem was destroyed, John, who had been based in Jerusalem, moved his ministry - his focus of ministry - to the city of ephesus. Now ephesus, like all the seven churches to which the book of Revelation is addressed, would be in what would be modern-day turkey. So that part of the world today - if you can think of turkey - that's where those seven churches are. And so, John - let's just put ourselves in his position.

John is an old man - I know some of you can relate to that. Others of you can't. You notice I was looking at the camera right then so no one would think I was singling them out. The point is simply this: John is an old man. He's been faithful to Jesus and his ministry has shifted from Jerusalem to ephesus.

He is persecuted in ephesus. The church is under persecution at this time. And John, like every single one of the other eleven who reMained faithful - of course, Judas hung himself - but all the other of the eleven - the other ten - have been martyred and John, history tells us, was destined for the same fate. He was cast into a vat of boiling oil but, miraculously, God preserved his life. And so now it is John finds himself on patmos, an island - a small rocky island - he is exiled.

The roman empire is saying, in so many words, 'you've done nothing wrong' - at least morally - he wasn't accused of any moral impropriety. There's no evidence of that. He is being persecuted, as John puts it in verse 9, for what? "For the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." And we come back to one of the great themes of this lesson because what is it? What is it that causes rebellion and redemption? What is the rebellion over? The rebellion is over God and God's Word and God's authority. And what is it that brings redemption? What brings redemption is the word - Jesus himself. John, in his Gospel, said Jesus was what? He was the word.

He was the Godhead's thought made manifest, just like our words display what's happening in our minds. If we want to understand what's in the mindset of the Godhead - of The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit - we see it in their word. Yes, that word is the Bible, but the most full manifestation, if you want to say, in human form, of God's Word, was Jesus himself. And so John is testifying to that. He's an old man.

He's being faithful. And what the roman empire says we're going to do is we are going to silence your testimony. You were in the - the heart. By the way, ephesus was the leading city in asia minor. And so John is in this hub.

By the way, so important was ephesus, it was the site of Paul's ministry for some three years. Ephesus was one of the cities - one of the places - one of the churches where Paul wrote a letter. We have it to this day, right? The book of Ephesians was written to the church at ephesus. So this prominent church where John is ministering - he's pulled away from ministry and he's sent to an island where his testimony seems to be silenced. Now let's just pause right there, because this is a practical illustration for every one of us, isn't it? Because I don't know where you're at today, but you may feel that your witness is being minimized by circumstances.

Maybe you were following God faithfully to your place of business - your place of employment. And things are not just the way they were when you started there. Maybe you're being marginalized. Maybe the opportunities for witness that you thought would be there haven't materialized. Maybe you've lost your job - maybe unjustly.

Are you following along with me? Maybe some of you, like John, are in your retirement years and you feel like, 'well, I lost most of the best opportunities for ministry.' But John is an old man. He's in a place where, we would say from a human perspective, he doesn't have anything to offer the church. Well, yeah, you can pray. And some of you viewing today, maybe that's all you think you can do is just pray - cut off from God's people. But what happens to John on the isle of patmos? That's right! Jesus comes to him and he gives John this powerful vision that has transformed the Christian church from its inception.

So here's the first message, as we're talking about the church militant: regardless of your situation, God will use you if you open your heart to his will. Amen. God will use you. It doesn't matter what's happened. It doesn't matter if the world tells you, 'it's over.

Just forget about it. You have nothing more to offer.' But Revelation 1 doesn't stop with that picture. Remember, John is a member of a persecuted church and so it's relevant that as Revelation opens John is given a vision of the risen Jesus. We won't look at it in detail, but we'll pick up - well, maybe we should because it's so fundamental to what follows in chapters 2 and 3. In verse 12 John looks and he sees Jesus.

Beginning with verse 12 of Revelation 1, "...i saw seven golden lamptstands, and in the midst of the seven lamptstands one like The Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes like a flame of fire; his feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters; he had in his right hand seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance" - his face - "was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. But he laid his right hand on me saying, 'do not be afraid; I am the first and the last. I am he who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.

Amen. And I have the keys of hades and of death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.'" Catch the significance of this vision: John is writing to a persecuted church and, as he's writing this letter he, the victim of persecution, actually sees Jesus revealed where? Where is Jesus? In the midst. That's right, he's in the midst of his churches.

So when it looks like God has forgotten you, when it looks like God has forgotten your church, when it looks like God has forgotten your family, Jesus gives us a picture in the book of Revelation that he is close at hand. Amen. That he's close at hand. And so, this morning, it doesn't matter how we feel. Well, I'm not saying it doesn't matter, but it doesn't matter, as far as the eternal realities, how we feel.

Amen. You see, God is close by. He's right here at hand and so we have this picture. And remember, I want you to see something very important, because it's easy to miss it. When we look, very shortly, at this special message - seven special messages crafted to seven individual churches, I don't want you to miss that these churches have already been addressed in chapter 1.

And Jesus has already shown himself as being in the midst of all seven of these churches. So the first message that these churches are hearing is of a God who is ever-present. Now realize something else. If you haven't a map in your Bible, if you were to find one - and my Bible does have one - and I'm actually looking at where patmos is - a rocky little spot off the coast of modern-day turkey - you see that if a messenger were to be able to come to patmos and take a letter - a parchment - from John, which obviously happened, and bring it to the mainland, the first of the seven churches, the closest one, the sea port town of ephesus would be the closest of those seven churches. And if you actually follow the pattern of those seven churches, it goes along the path that a courier would take carrying this letter, written by the apostle, from one church to the next.

So did you catch something there in Revelation? When - I know many of you are students of the book of Revelation and, in fact, I know there's a class going on right now, in this very sanctuary, on Tuesday evenings, where the book of Revelation is being looked at in great detail. So some of you might say, 'well, this is all review for me.' But did you notice what the subject of the book of Revelation is? In verse 1, yes, it is referring to things that must take place in the future. It's connecting us with the book of Daniel. But also we see in verse 9, John was told to write the things which he had seen, and the things which are, and the things which - what? Will take place after this. So the book of Revelation had direct temporal contemporary relevance to the seven churches to whom it was addressed.

But it also takes us through to the end of time. The seven churches have rightly been looked at as eras in church history. These seven churches, if we were to take the time, and I know many of you have studied it, actually do represent eras in church history - all the churches being addressed - and one element of that futuristic aspect to the book of Revelation is that it does speak to the end of time to every church period. But remember, these were seven literal churches as well. And that's what we want to focus now in on, as our lesson draws - drew our attention to.

We want to look at these seven individual churches. And I think it's especially important because today we're living in a culture that is not a culture that is used to censoring its lips very effectively. Are you following along with me? Some of you come from a generation and I could even class myself among you, where we were much more careful what we said about things that were sacred, things that referred to leaders - leaders of nations as well as leaders of churches. We're much freer with what we say today and I think it's interesting, as we look at these seven churches in that light. Let's do that.

Let's jump into the first of these seven churches now, the church of ephesus. So remember, the book of Revelation addressed the seven literal churches - real churches in John's day, but they have application to the end of time. And so, each of these messages - let's just point out something: at the end of each of the seven messages there is a common element. And that common element, we see it in the letter to the church of ephesus that's found in Revelation 2, verses 1 through 7 - one of the common elements is found in verse 7, "he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." How many of you have ears? All of us, right? Because we all have ears, the implication is that what should each one of us do with the message to the church of ephesus? We should all hear. And, in fact, if you read the closing words of the book of Revelation, it invites anyone who hears to extend the message to come.

The book of Revelation is written to the whole church, but there are distinct special messages written to each of the seven churches, but we, today, are to listen and to apply. Let's look at how the church of ephesus is addressed. And what's so interesting about each of these letters is it starts with an introduction, an aspect of the character of Jesus because, after all, it's a Revelation of who? This book? Jesus. It's a Revelation of Jesus Christ. And so when the letter to ephesus is being written down by John, he says, "'these things says he who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:'" and then it goes on.

So first we have this picture of Jesus and then Jesus says, "'I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for my name's sake and have not become weary.'" So, as you're listening to this letter, you see Jesus. He's picturing himself in the midst of the seven churches and in his hand are what? The angels of the seven churches. Did you catch that? By the way, this term 'angel' occurs over 70 times in the book of Revelation and, almost without exception, it refers to heavenly beings. But to each of these churches, the letter is addressed - do you see it there in Revelation 2, verse 1 - to the angel of the church of ephesus.

The Greek word 'angelos' actually refers to messenger. And so, sometimes in the Bible, this term angelos can actually refer to a human messenger. If you want to see an example of it, turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 1 and you'll see the reference is made to God's messenger. That word is 'angelos' but it's referring to John the baptist who is God's messenger. So although that term is usually, in the book of Revelation, used to refer to angelic beings, it seems here that each letter is being addressed to a messenger of the church - perhaps the minister or the main elder of that congregation.

And so, as this letter is given to ephesus, they're given a picture of Jesus, in the midst of his church, and then they're commended for what? If you were to put it in one word, what were the Ephesians - the church of ephesus - commended for in this first letter? Works. They were commended for their works. Now, sometimes in Christian circles, that makes certain people feel a little uncomfortable to be commended for works. But let me point something out: who is doing the commending here? Jesus. Jesus.

Jesus is doing the commending. And, by the way, not only is there a common pattern when you look at each message to each church - that everyone should listen - but there is also a common encouragement given to each church: "to him who overcomes" - and that word 'overcome' comes from that Greek word, which was so inspiring to those in contemporary culture, that they named a brand of shoes for it. Are you aware of that? I know some of you are looking very perplexed. Have you heard of nike shoes? It comes from the Greek for victory or overcomer. It's from that same Greek root.

And so, the point is, it is a call to overcome. What is that dealing with? As we read through these letters, God is very concerned about two things. And it is really the two things that we've been studying about the whole quarter. Rebellion occurs when a relationship is broken. Jesus is intimately concerned about relationship with every one of his children on this planet.

But he's also concerned about something else, because rebellion doesn't just happen in the mind, it happens what? Works. In the works. The mind plays out in the behavior. And so ephesus is commended for its works. In fact, you might say this looks like a model church, right? They're standing up for all the right doctrines.

But then we read on: in verse 4, "nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Now it may seem that Christ is being very gentle - and he is. Now I don't know how it is for you, but as I look back on my life, God has always been very gentle with me, even when bad things were happening. You know, however you want to label them bad, because when I deal with people, whether in my years as a physician or whether in a pastoral setting or whether it's been even in a college setting, teaching students and counseling with them in their young life turmoils, it always seems that God is so gentle. Have you noticed this? Now it may not seem that way at the time.

It may seem that God is just bearing down on you. Actually, I was looking with another patient this week, in the exam room, at the book of Philippians, and one of my favorite prescriptions - and the reason we turned to it is because she was going through a lot of turmoil in her life. But I reminded her she was able to walk into the exam room. And I reminded her of Paul's counsel to the Philippian church, that when we're tempted to be worried, he said 'don't be anxious about anything' - don't worry about anything, but do what? Pray. That's right, 'but come to God with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving' and so we we're saying, 'well, what are you thankful for right now?' And she started to think of things that she was thankful for.

Do you know that, actually, secular researchers today are saying there is special power in having a gratitude journal? Have you heard about this? These are - these aren't Christian researchers. They're telling their patients that they need to keep a journal and write down what they're thankful for. Now, I've got to tell you something even more remarkable. Now, I'm not an expert in the positive psychology movement - that's what they call it - so, you know, there's a danger because I read some of these things quickly and look through some of these studies fairly rapidly, but in one set of studies they were comparing what was more powerful, a daily gratitude journal or one that you kept once a week. You know what they found? They actually found it was the weekly journal.

I know, some of you are looking very perplexed, but I find it remarkable that in the very beginning of the Bible God set apart a weekly gratitude journaling process. Are you following along with me? He called it what? Sabbath. The Sabbath. And what's so remarkable about the Sabbath is all week long we're bombarded with all kinds of problems, aren't we? Amen. I know some of you are saying 'amen' - others of you are looking like, 'well what planet did you come from, dr.

Derose?' But I am. I've got all kinds of things going on. And then the Sabbath comes and we're told to do what? Rest. That's right, to rest in Jesus. And so, by the way, now there is something - the Bible does definitely endorse a daily gratitude journal.

You remember Jesus when he taught us how to pray he said we should begin our prayers in what way? That's right, 'our father' - which art in heaven. 'Which art in heaven' - hallowed praise be to your name. 'Hallowed be your name. I'm so thankful for you, father.' You know, sometimes we don't start our prayers the way Jesus told us to. We get the 'our father' part right but we forget that part about reflecting on who God is and thanking him.

You say, 'well, okay, we're talking about God - his gentleness, his power, his coming to us - but God loves us so much that he's like a good physician. And you all would not want to go see a physician who would gloss over the truth, would you? You wouldn't want to see a physician that, if you had cancer, said, 'don't worry about it, it's just a little bump.' Right? You wouldn't like that. So Jesus speaks very plainly to the church of ephesus, "...i have this against you, that you have left your first love." It sounds like a minor issue until you read on: "remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place - unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the nicolaitans, which I also hate." And then there's that encouragement for all of us to hear, and then a promise: to those who overcome he will give of the Tree of Life to eat from it, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. So what's going on here? Whether we illustrate it as Luke did - chapter 10 - as Luke is closing chapter 10 he tells us that famous story about two sisters.

You remember, right? Martha and mary. And Martha was so busy with what? Works. With works - and they were good works - so she was kind of like the church of ephesus, if you'll allow me to make that comparison. She was doing those good works and she was bothered because her sister mary was not concerned, it seemed, with those good works. So she appeals to Jesus and what does Jesus say? That's right, 'mary has chosen the good part - the best thing - the most essential.

What was she doing? Sitting - she was sitting at Jesus' feet. And so we have this picture - the church of ephesus - they were doing all those good Martha things and Jesus commended them for it, but he said 'the most important thing you've forgotten - that is the vital essence of your relationship is to love me.' Right? So if we're just doing all the right things, they're not the right things because they're not coming from the right motivation. And so, Jesus, in the book of Revelation, calls to the church of ephesus and, as we walk through the lesson, the question is for us, right? Because the Bible is not a history book. The Bible is not an interesting spiritual document. The Bible is a book that speaks to us personally, right? So what is the message for us today? Because we're all supposed to hear it.

What are we called to do as a result of the letter to the church of ephesus? Yes, we are called to stand fast for what's right, but we're called to prioritize a loving relationship with Jesus. Have you ever had this challenge, though? You know what the Bible says, the Bible says we should even love our enemies. So what happens if you don't feel you have enough love for Jesus? Or love for your enemies - how do you get it? Pray for it. Okay, pray for it. Where does love come from? God.

The Bible reveals it, right? God is love. And as we draw close to Jesus, what happens? Love springs up in our hearts as we see what he's done for us. And so, that is the call to the church of ephesus. We've got to hasten on because there are six more churches and there are lessons in every single one of them for us. So the next two churches, following along that, if you will, postal or courier route - so first you have ephesus and then, as you're following along, you come to the church of smyrna.

Remember, we're focusing not on the historical significance of these churches, we're being asked to focus on their contemporary significance. So if ephesus was a prominent church in Christendom - if you came from the ephesus church and you met someone - you were traveling and they say, 'what church do you go to?' 'Well, I go to the Granite Bay church.' 'Granite Bay church? I watch that church on television. Isn't that where Doug Batchelor is the pastor? Wow, you go to a famous church.' But if you were from the smyrna church, what would they say to you? Where's that? Yeah, that's right, 'where is this smyrna?' This smyrna is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible beside here in Revelation. So smyrna now, at least in the Christian Revelation of the Bible, is an insignificant church. Now, none of these cities were insignificant, historically, but the point is - smyrna, there's no letter written to smyrna.

Paul never spent three years in smyrna, but as you read through the letter to smyrna, it is remarkable because it is one of only two churches that there is no condemnation level. Let's look at it - verse 8 - Revelation chapter 2, "to the angel" - or to the messenger - "of the church in smyrna write, 'these things says the first and the last, who was dead, and came to life: 'I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are jews and are not, but are a synagogue of satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.'" No condemnation. This small church that looked - how? They looked like they were poor. Now, do you know the significance of poverty? Some of you might be nodding your heads a little too knowingly, but the point of poverty throughout history - and even today - in today's Christian world - there are many Christian preachers who would lead you to believe that if you have financial adversity, the problem is not with God, it's with who? You. It's with you.

It's your problem. It was that way in Jesus' day. If you had material riches, this was a sign of what in the eyes of the secular "Jewish" world? God was favoring you. That's right, God was favoring you - that you were blessed. You were obviously following God.

And if you had nothing or very little you were what? Not favored by God. You were not favored - you were cursed. But Jesus pulled back that curtain, didn't he? You remember the story, don't you? There, when Jesus was in the temple, the wealthy were putting those lavish offerings - I'm sure many of them with great ostentation - dropping those coins into the temple treasury, right? And then someone slips up, not wanting to be noticed. Who was it? A widow - this is a cursed person in the Jewish mindset. I mean, I hate to mention in a mixed audience, but if you were a woman you were not blessed, really.

But not only was she a woman, she had nothing. She had no husband and she was what? She was poor. She just had two of the smallest coins. But what did she do with them? She gave it all. She was like that church of smyrna, right? The world would label the church as cursed.

Again, I mean it speaks to us, doesn't it? The very things that people point to you and say, 'you can't - what? What are you trying to do? You can't give a Bible study. You can't even speak right. You - you stutter. You can't tell anyone about Jesus.' I don't know what it is that people have used to try to disqualify your witness but, by the way, did you notice - the enemy of the church of smyrna - did you notice who they were? They were jews who were not. Now, you know, in the new testament - you can read this in Galatians and in other places, that the term 'jew' as God's people - after the ministry of Jesus, when the literal Jewish nation did not accept him, as Paul wrote in Romans chapters 9 through 11, the gentiles were grafted into this tree of promise.

By the way, if you have Jewish heritage, I think that's a wonderful heritage, okay? And I've been thankful that some people have mistaken me for having Jewish heritage. Others have insisted I have Jewish heritage whether I know it or not. But the point is simply this: that's a wonderful heritage. God has blessed that people throughout history, but the jew in the new testament, the Spiritual blessings of the jew, given to Abraham, the seed of Abraham today is the Christian church. And so, the enemies of the church of smyrna are those who say they are true followers of Abraham - the true children of Abraham.

They are the true jews, but they're really a synagogue of satan. By the way, satan is the accuser - that's what his name indicates - he is the accuser. So how many times do we play satan's role? Do we, in the church, or in dealing with another church - another congregation - do we - are we ever tempted to point our fingers? This is what was happening in smyrna, but they were a blessed church. As we go on in these letters to the churches, we come to the church of pergamon, and the church of pergamon is an interesting church. One of the great museums in the world is found in berlin, and not all that long ago I was actually there - picked up a book there from, actually, the pergamon museum.

And the centerpiece - as you walk into this museum in the heart of berlin - you will actually see the altar - the reconstructed altar - often referred to as the altar of zeus - there as you walk in the museum - huge - takes up an entire room - and as you look at that altar, you see the reconstructed hollywood imagery. Now, I use that somewhat guardedly, but it's really true. It was covered with the hollywood imagery of the time. Why would I say that? It's showing a battle between the Gods and there are Gods like hercules - I think he's even crept into hollywood of late. Is that true? Some of you are nodding your heads.

Others of you are like me, you know, we don't keep us as well with some of these things as others. But the point is these superheroes are being depicted on this relief - this giant relief - this was the focus of the theatrics of the time, right? They were illustrating the Gods and these great dramas. So this is what is there in pergamon. And as you read about this church in chapter 2, you actually see that blood was shed there and it was a place where satan dwelt. But what's so interesting, as you look at each of these letters to the churches, Jesus is revealed at the beginning of each letter and, as the lesson draws out, the relevance of Jesus' Revelation is specific to the needs of that church.

Did you catch it with smyrna? With smyrna, Jesus is revealed as the one who was dead and came to life. So it's a church who's being persecuted, who seems like their life is being snuffed out. As you look at the church of pergamon, they're dwelling where satan's seat is. It looks like satan is bearing sway. It's looking like the ways of the world bear sway in the community and Jesus shows himself as the one with that sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth.

What does that sharp two-edged sword refer to in the Scriptures? The word. That's right, it refers to the Word of God itself. You can find that in Hebrews chapter 4. And so God's Word is actually the standard of judgment. It's the standard of comparison - it's not the world's values.

You know, there's a contrast with the last church - I want to look there for a minute and we'll touch on, hopefully, a few of the other churches, because we looked at a church that seemed to have nothing - the church of smyrna - they were poor but really rich. The last church of these seven churches is the church of laodicea. The laodicean church was a very wealthy and prosperous church. In fact, a letter was written to laodicea - we don't have it - but a letter - Paul wrote a letter to the laodicean church. You can study that out, but it has not stood the test of time.

But the laodiceans had their own medical school and they were a wealthy and prosperous city. Philadelphia, the sixth of the churches, was destroyed somewhere around 15 or 20 ad by an earthquake and the roman empire reconstructed their city. Some decades later laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake. And when rome offered to rebuild their city, you know what they said? 'No, thank you, we don't need any help. We've got it all together.

' They were rich in the eyes of the world. They were increased with goods. And, as Jesus speaks to them spiritually, that is their state: rich and increased with goods. But what did Jesus say to the laodicean church? Let's look - Revelation 3, beginning with verse 14, "and to the angel of the church of the laodiceans write, 'these things says the amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God: 'I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.

So then, because you are Lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.''" And he goes on and he speaks about their attitude, thinking they have everything. And he says, 'where you really need to go to find what you think you already have is with me.' Verse , "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and" - it's implied, 'buy from me' - "white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see." And then we have these words, in verse 19, "as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." This is what Jesus has been doing to each of these seven churches. And, although we've only touched on some of the high points of some of them, I want to suggest to you that each one of those churches has a message for us today. Whether we look at the church of thyatira or sardis - two churches we really didn't touch on in our study - or whether we talk about ephesus or laodicea, Jesus, to each one says, 'I am present. I know your works.

I'm looking at your relationship with me, but I'm also looking at how you live your life.' And so, as we end on a fairly sobering note, with this letter to the laodiceans, the letter does not end with a dismal judgment message. It ends this way: "therefore be zealous and repent." Verse 20 of Revelation , "behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my father on his throne." How hard is it to open a door? Well, it just depends who's on the other side of the door, right? But Jesus is knocking on the door and that message to the laodiceans were said that every one of us should listen. He calls us to what? Listen.

He calls us to repent, but he says, 'I want to be intimate with you. I want to be more intimate with you. Open the door of your heart.' Well, one thing that gets in the way with that is what our free lesson - our free offer - addresses. The church: is it Babylon? Labeling, pointing fingers, pulling people down, playing the work of satan - do you have questions about it? Free offer #712 - the church: is it Babylon? You can request it at 866-study-more - that's -866-788-3966. Hello friends, I have a big announcement.

I want to tell you about an exciting evangelistic opportunity that will be coming to your church this spring. Beginning March 21 Amazing Facts, in partnership with 3abn and the carolina conference, will be presenting a fresh new -part tv series called the last day of prophecy. This unique prophecy program will present the Sabbath truth and the three angels' messages in a winsome way that your friends and family will really appreciate. It's the ideal occasion to invite your community and introduce them to the beauty of the Sabbath. This is also the perfect time in history for a net evangelistic program like this.

It's not too late. Plan now to get your church or home group involved in this soul-winning program. For more information, go to lastdayofprophecy.com and, of course, please remember to pray for the success of this program. The last day of prophecy March 21, 7:00 pm eastern time. Can't get enough Amazing Facts Bible study? You don't have to wait until next week to enjoy more truth-filled programming, visit the Amazing Facts media library at 'aftv.org'. At 'aftv.org' you can enjoy video and audio presentations as well as printed material all free of charge, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, right from your computer or mobile device. Visit 'aftv.org'. Did you know that Noah was present at the birth of Abraham?

Okay, maybe he wasn't in the room, but he was alive and probably telling stories about his floating zoo. From the creation of the world to the last-day events of Revelation, 'Biblehistory.com' is a free resource where you can explore major Bible events and characters. Enhance your knowledge of the Bible and draw closer to God's word. Go deeper. Visit the amazing Bible time line at 'Biblehistory.com'.

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