Church at Smyrna: Re.2:8-11

Introduction

These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and which is life (2:8)
Here the risen Christ places stress on the immortal aspect of Godhead. He is first and the last of which the Alpha and Omega aspect is a symbol of his immutability.”For I am the Lord, I change not;….(Mal.3:6)”. It reveals two qualities which has to do with Life (in capitals against life that signifies all created life forms). Secondly it denotes Intent, his Will “”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Is.55:8-NIV). When God has chosen to give abundant Life or Life it reveals His constancy or immutability of which the world know nothing.
Against this constancy the world is given to changes. Persecution of the godly is how the world will use its power as a persuasive weapon. Reason is simple: the world and its blandishments come from a different source than from God.

When Christ reveals himself to the church he has a definite purpose. The church at Smyrna need take comfort that the wave of persecutions that were breaking about them would spend itself and it shall not prevail. For this reason St Paul asserts confidently “… Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:….in that he liveth, he liveth unto God (Ro.6:7-10). It is a high calling that no one who is worldly,- though he were revered as benefactor of the people and were to carry names anything from Caesar to President, can ever hope to equal. and you may ask why? All these are changeable and at the snap of fingers their glory and honor can change to dust.
Crown of glory is reserved for the overcomers. This is the prize of anyone whosoever is adopted in God through his Son. It is calling, a high calling since it transcends death. For this St Paul suffered and did not faint. In his own admission we have a resume:”Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;2 Co.11:25-NIV. “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Ac.20:24).He despaired at times of a thorn on his side that constantly caused concern. He prayed thrice for its removal but what did our Redeemer Lord say? “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me(2 Co.12:9)”. Considering the weight of glory that God has promised for his saints, and among them martyrs throughout the ages willingly suffered,-and death was not their end but what the world cannot see,- their hope which was secure in the eternal promises of God. Recall the manner St Stephen faced death? Ac.7:56-60. What could instill such courage or beatific expression in the face of death? It is a crown that never fades or dulls with changes. It is the crown of righteousness. Faithfulness of the One who promised St Paul,-for whom sufferings were very familiar, having tasted death for all lives forever. “The crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing(2 Ti.4:8,7).
We are not of this world. We revere the blood of the Son too precious for any changeable circumstance of this world to dissuade us to treat it lightly. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.(Jn.15:18-20). If we had been foreordained for glory before the worlds began we need set before us that it is a high calling and we shall attain it with grace from high. If we have been set apart for glory it may be necessary to withstand every obstacle that stands in way, so we may reign with him for eternity. “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.(Phil.3:14)
(To be continued)

Notice:
I am taking a rest so I shall resume this series probably from Oct.10,2018.
Benny

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Church at Ephesus-3

The risen Christ in the midst of seven golden candlesticks reveals his majesty and sovereignty over the Church, the Bride. In particular he is certain as to how she would meet his exacting standard. His grace in the Church Age is shed aboard for the purpose and this testimony is intended to warn John of the age of grace was about to be closed. It is signified by the oil for the lamp which was freely given and for asking. The Parable of the Five foolish virgins( Matt.25:1-13) illustrates a sudden cut off point where ‘buying for yourselves’ is an exercise in futility.
(Typical of the Spirit an abstract idea like grace is given a concrete form in the narrative. Consider the verse:”wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.(Ps.104:15-NIV) Oil is generally used in the working of the spirit. ‘In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the spirit(Lk.10:21)’. The idea of grace for oil is used in a restricted sense and only valid in the specific context).
“For ye neither know the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh(v.13).”
So there shall be churches which also ran and they have only themselves to blame. In his message to the church at Ephesus Christ presents himself how and what he reveals has specific significance. He is shown as ‘ he that holdeth seven stars in his right hand’ it is to remind the church at Ephesus his pre-eminence over it in eternity. When he presents himself to Thyatira he says, “These things saith he who is the Son of God he is warning his role as the Judge of all things living and dead.'” It is thus for all the seven churches. In all these He reiterates the blessings that shall come over the overcoming Church. So the question is what they shall do to be counted as part of his Body?
Heresy arising out of ‘the deeds of Nicolaitans, which I also hate (2:6): according to some scholars could refer to their self indulgence. In the age of consumerism it does not stretch our credulity to equate it with lifestyle of the world outside finding home in the church as well.”Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand (Phil.4:5-7)”. Temperance is a virtue and a sign of maturity.
“He that hath ear…(v.7)” It is inserted in these messages by the Spirit to remind the reader that it applies to all churches anywhere in the world.
Each message also ends (as with the beginning) of the reward He is holding for the overcomer.
“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (v.7). Compare this with the Garden of Eden(Ge.3:24) and with the holy city of God (Re.22:1-2). We shall discuss further on this topic while we discuss the Parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. We may well understand there are ‘many mansions (Jn.14:2)’ Its use is same as many members “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (1 Co.12:12-13-ESV)”. Law of gradation can be applied to the dictum,So the last will be first, and the first will be last(Matt.20:16-NIV).”The gains the believer wrongly applies as blessing on earth is inversely proportional to what they lose out in heaven. The votaries of prosperity theology have already amassed their wealth and earned envy and awe of the world. But Lazaruses of this world were set as a sign before their line of vision. Do they care? They are justifying all and sundry how God blessed them. But the kingdom of God and his word rules over all. “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation(Lk.6:24)”. Paradise must be as a private preserve as the tree of life which was in the Garden of Eden. It is not for us to settle matters that are solely left to the discretion of God to whom be all honor and glory. Amen.
Benny

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Church at Ephesus-2 (Re.2:1-7)

“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience….(v.2)
While we study the messages to each church we need focus where He stands in the vision. He is in his majesty and as the Righteous Judge walking in the midst of seven golden candlesticks. “Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his. (2 Ti.2:19-NIV)” Besides before his searching eyes nothing shall remain hidden. Of this we get an idea from Prophet Malachi,”And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver:…. (Mal.3:3).”
Patience is a virtue and in a secular context when a good commander does not commit his soldiers at the first sound of alarum it is not out of any timidity or of weakness. From the lives of great many military commanders the right time to strike is not always at the sight of the enemy but to fight him at the place he has already chosen and at his terms. We are familiar with the expression ‘Patience of Job’. Satan the great Deceiver was certain it was because of his great wealth and circumstance. He was wrong. Job’s patience was in the Lord God who allowed him pomp and circumstance and not because of material goods. So patience for it have perfect working must be set on an unshakeable anchor. Blessedness of a child of God is his hope. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;(He.6:19). Let us look at the saying of Jesus “In your patience possess ye your souls(Lk.21:19).He said it in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem in the offing. None of his followers had any inkling of it. But God had already set a certain course of action and who shall be preserved from harm or who shall be taken and for slaughter was only known to him. Patience for a child of God works with certainty, -and which is foreknowledge, and the indwelling Spirit has a way of keeping it no matter what. “I know.” God has already seen it coming beforehand and has done what is needful. So our only concern should be to rest assured about our soul’s safety from all harm.”Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt.10:28-NIV)”.The risen Christ encourages the church,”And hast borne, and hast patience….and hast not fainted.”
The early church was assailed by heresies brought in by Greek and Jewish converts to which Jesus Christ refers, and heresies are still among us and all these ideas are like flotsam getting in the way. Any church that has ceased to be ever vigilant stands in danger of these being passed about among the congregation. So the elder or the pastor must prefer a direct confrontation and rebut them according to the word than hoping it shall simply go away. In the epistle to Galatia we read of false brethren whose false teaching were calculated to do opposite of what they professed(Gal.2:4-5).If we have given up former walks of lives and the lust why get entangled again with the world?
In our present times such false brethren may present a case for ethnic diversity as an ideal but in result it shall merely end up fragmenting the congregation on ethnic lines. In the Nazi Germany the German Lutheran churches would go along with the Nazi ideology only to end up placing Mein Kampf along with the Bible. “How thou canst not bear them which are evil.(v.2)” These messages to churches are valid even in our times.
Benny

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Church at Ephesus

Intoduction
Ephesus, at the time of John writing the book, was a bustling commercial city noted for its amphitheater and the Temple of Diana or Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. Be that as it may our concern is not the historicity of the place and the manner of worship that the early Christians conducted on the Lord’s Day. It is for us a cross-section of churches of today. Its spiritual level must show also the attitudes, needs as well responses of its members. In a manner of speaking that the word of God preached and brotherly love practiced there in circumstances similar to the present assembly of believers drawn from different social backgrounds. There were pagans, slaves and freed men, Jews and Christians in the first century AD. Slavery no longer exists by name but the world of economically indigent is so bound to be considered as though slavery existed. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal.3:28-29)”.
The message of the risen Christ.”Write the things which thou hast seen, and….(Re.1:19)” is valid in our times as well. Task of John was to ‘send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia…(1:11)”. Also note that the presiding minister over a church is designated as an angel. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write”, for instance. Angels in this context is different from the angel of his presence who is entrusted with giving the testimony of Christ to the apostle. “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak (He.2:5)” so it is churches of men we are concerned with. There were Judaic influence in the early churches. Apostles who were sent by Sanhedrin to collect the temple tribute we find mentioned in the Acts of apostles(Ac.9:1-12). When the Spirit set apart Paul his apostleship was in true sense(ac.13:2) setting him according to the principle of Association as though sent from God direct. The point is to understand the church as a body of men where the Spirit sets an order and how conventions of traditions of Jewry or any other also impose order which can become blurred. The problems were to be addressed and settled by the Word and the indwelling Spirit in a spirit of humility. The church was to conduct their worship and the daily business of attending to spiritual and physical needs of the flock in fear as though they served God rather than some empty form of tradition. In our present day we have cultural baggages to contend with. White evangelicalism and ethnic minorities are forces thrust from outside and the problem is solely man made. In this context grace to overcome such divide in a spirit of humility is from the throne of grace. On the other hand we have the seat of Satan where a local church enforces any rule that vitiates ‘ye are all one in Christ’.
In the following post we shall consider each church one after the other.
Benny

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The Seven Churches in Asia: Ch.2-3

Overview:

The Spirit while placing the two narrative accounts from God the Father and the Son respectively, gives the Bible coherence by bringing them about the basic attributes of godhead, so events carry people, nations, also heaven and earth along,- whether seen in part or as whole, shall hold true. Narrative mode of the Spirit makes it clear. Moses leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land is like a kangaroo word, holding an incipient idea of Christ leading the redeemed of the earth to throne of God. It has a symbol as often the case is with the Spirit which we shall see in the vision of woman clothed with the sun. The man child is an example. The Spirit melds Love and Righteousness of God so neither the narrative flow nor the symbols contradict one another.
When God the Father sent his only begotten Son to the world He demonstrated his Love(Jn.3:16). “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;..(He.5:8-9).”Being made perfect his sacrifice fulfilled the requirements of God to accept all who would be obey the Son. Love paid the penalty for transgressions of man so Righteousness was appeased. The Church is the reality where heaven and earth are reconciled in the Son and in the Father. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love(Ep.1:4).” (Col.1:22;Ep.5:27)
The church was bought with his own blood so the church has to be holy as he is.

The Holy Spirit introduces this reconciliation of Love and Righteousness at the outset where the woman was formed out of the bone of man (Ge.2:21-25). The church was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. ‘They shall be one flesh.’ Marriage of man and woman is an emblem of the mystical union of Christ with Church. This being the case should we not apply the same Pauline dictum to the church as well? “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body(1 Co.6:18)”. None of the seven churches in Asia were perfect and the purpose of the vision was to make everyone of them shape up.
Christ is the Head so naturally the body should be as holy as he is. While the risen Christ addresses the church at Thyatira he faults them for allowing ‘that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication…(Re.2:20)” Are modern churches any better than those churches signified by the seven golden candlesticks? When Christ warns,”…Will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent (2:5)” do we need seek another meaning than the churches shall not be saved by the simple reason that they accepted Jesus as their Savior? Are they overcomers or worshiping God and mammon? Overcoming life is not compromising life with serial adulterers and child molesters in high places whose political clout may keep their megachurches floating and garner prestige and wealth. Of Sardis we have this rebuke,”Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead (3:1).” The Spirit reveals on a need-to know basis and earlier the Apostolic Age began with establishing the word of God to redeem the believers from the world. “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Ac.2:47)”. Now what God seeks are not numbers but fruits worthy and for His eternal glory. So every child of God is enjoined to personal sanctification for which no other substitute we have than the word. We did not receive it to be merely as hearers. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls (Jas.1:21)”.Testimony of Jesus Christ is now revealing the true significance of a double-edged sword “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart(He.4:12)”. Ever child of promise need to examine in the light of word and also the church so the Body of Christ is as holy as He is.
Benny

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Testimony of Christ: future perfect

Re.1:9-20
John was exiled to the isle of ‘Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Christ’.

Word of God is eternal. So here we speak of the gospel of God which has been validated as Gospel of Christ. The latter is the gospel unto salvation and it is to which the testimony mentioned in the key verse refers. Before the great tribulation “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations (Mk.13:10)”. So by future perfect it is meant that testimony that the risen Christ exhorts to seven churches is for all churches anywhere to take heed. “Watch therefore.”

‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.’ So the vision of Christ must be seen as the aspect Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church where the seven golden candlesticks, seven stars in his right hand are all telltale clues for us. He has founded it heaven for which the outpouring of the Spirit accompanied with sound, and speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost were signs. As promised by Jesus ‘who washed us from our sins by his own blood’ is now revealing himself as one whose Marriage had come. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (Jn.14:3-NIV)”. So the vision is forward looking than reminding John about his first advent.
What Jesus of Nazareth imparted to those who believed he came from God, was part of the testimony of Christ. John’s present exile owed to the testimony of Christ who entrusted his disciples to hold and keep.
As the faithful witness the Risen Christ now points the Apostle to the remaining part of the Testimony. No longer Jerusalem but the new Jerusalem, the holy city of God is what the church should yearn for. It is not the throne of God but the throne of God and of the Lamb (Re.22:1) It is for this reason Christ promises, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God… I will write upon him my new name (Re.3:12).”
In this context what do the seven churches signify?
The number seven when repeated makes it clear. Let us consider the Christ in glory who is in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, and in his right hand he has seven stars which signify seven angels of the seven churches. (These are not to be confused with seven spirits before the throne of God are different (Re.4:5)). Another curious feature of the vision is the form of Christ as though fragmented. For example ‘his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow’. It reminds us of the Ancient of Days (Dan.7:9-10) and while we read the line ‘out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword, it reminds us of The Word of God (Re.19:12-16) It is a composite picture of God and of the Lamb who shall reign forever from the holy city of New Jerusalem.
The seven churches are only representation of the Church in which the Jews also redeemed of the earth shall be included.

Another interesting feature is that while addressing each church the risen Christ reveals an aspect of the majesty now revealed by his angel. Angel of his presence denoted by seven in his hand are ever vigilant and Christ in his glory knows the true state of the church whether it is in South Carolina or in Seoul. When he addresses Thyatira , for instances, he says, “all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts (Re.2:23).”
Benny

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Annotated Book of Revelation: Re.1:9-20

I John who also am your brother and companion in tribulation….”(vs.9)
The vision, which John is about to see was presented at a time he was on the isle of Patmos. There was a wave of persecution going on under Domitian. So the vision was for a reason. Angel of his presence is as real as the Word of God and eternal. The vision is as glorious as any other whether it be from Isaiah (Ch.6) or from Ezekiel(Ch.1). In each case the purpose of God is same and in this case also the vision of Christ in glory is intended to comfort the church in tribulation. What image brings to us for comparison is the fourth presence in the midst of the fiery furnace. “And the form of the fourth is like the Son of God (Dan.4:25)” .”Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires….(Is.24:14)” We have in him an example. When Isaiah writes”In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them…(Is.69:9)” we need see the angel of his presence as the key to the present vision as well. It makes the word of God inerrant. The Spiritual Rock that slaked the thirst of the children of Israel in the wilderness was the angel of his presence. In the Book of Revelation we read “…And he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John (Re.1:1).

When Jesus assured his disciples “…Lo. I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matt.28:20)” it meant what he said. It may be a word of comfort which takes the stings out of your present difficulties, or a passage from the Bible and even a sudden insight out of the blue, dream, vision the angel of his presence can make each of us pass through the day. Since we all have had certain experience of being pulled out of great many trying days,- and in some cases more bitter than other days, we are all brothers and companions in tribulation. We are called to enters the kingdom of God through much tribulation “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Ti.3:12)”. But our Savior Lord shall send the angel of his presence and deliver us from all. Hallelujah!
(To be continued)
Benny

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