The Seven: The Church at Philadelphia

Philadelphia

  • Established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon.
  • Eumenes II named the city after his brother, Attalus II, who succeeded him, and whose loyalty earned him the nickname, “Philadelphos”, which meant “one who loves his brother”.
  • Philadelphia housed the imperial cult
  • Neokoron was engraved on the coins of the day(Neokorn = “temple-sweeper”–caretaker of the temple)
  • The city was plagued by earthquakes

Revelation 3:7-13

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

“ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Real Christianity

  • The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. = Jesus 
  • I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  – Jesus is in control.  He makes that clear with His introduction “who opens and no one will shut…”  Here, He lets the church know that there is an open door for ministry that they must walk through. 
  • I know that you have but little power… –This “little power” doesn’t seem to point to a sinful attitude or action.  Rather it seems to mean that the church had little influences, means, or authority.  Jesus cares about the “little” people and the “little” churches.  They are no less important to Him than influential congregations. 
  • and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  –Even though they have “little power” they have managed to succeed where many of the other churches failed.  They were faithful.  Faithfulness is of much greater value than influence.  This is an important lesson in a world that is obsessed with gaining influence.  Faithfulness without influence is infinitely better than influence without faithfulness. 
  • Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. – It seems that the Jews were persecuting the church in Philadelphia.  Again, Jesus refers to them as the synagogue of Satan.  Needless to say, He is not pleased with the Jews.  He promised the church that the Jews would come and “bow down before your feet” which is clearly a sign of submission and respect.  Jesus also told them that the Jews would know that the Christians were loved by God. 
  • Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.  –Faithfulness is the most consistently rewarded attribute in the scriptures.  This is another example of such a reward.  Jesus made it clear that their being kept from the hour of trail was a result of their patient endurance. 
  • I am coming soon.  – Jesus is coming back.  This thought should guide our lives.  The master will return.  He will gather His people.  He will win.  In this passage, he tells the church that He is coming “soon.”  1900 years have passed since the writing of this letter and from our humanly perspective of time “soon” has already passed.  But Jesus is not on our time schedule.  Nor does he evaluate time in the same way that we do.  We don’t know when He will return, but we know that it will be sudden, history changing, and final. We must live in expectation of His return. 
  • Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. –Holding fast is often the most difficult part.  Consistency is one of the most challenging aspects of life.  But we must be people who are steadfast, who never give up, and who hold on until the end.   The picture of a “crown” is often used in the scriptures to represent the rewards of believers.  Later in Revelation, we are presented with a picture of crowned elders who throw their crowns before Jesus in an act of submission.  The ultimate purpose of our crowns or rewards are that we can have something to offer the king. 
  • The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, 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 from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. –As is mentioned above, Philadelphia was a city plagued by earthquakes.  This constant instability made life in the city very difficult and not very permanent.  It is helpful to understand this fact so that you can contrast that reality to the promise of Jesus that they will be pillars in the temple of God.  Pillars are meant to be permanent.  Jesus promised the church a permanent connection with Him in His temple.  Writing the name of God, the city and the new name of Jesus is a symbol of close and permanent relationship.  We will live forever, in perfect relationship with Jesus. 
  • He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’  -This message is for us all!

The church at Philadelphia was not influential or powerful, but it was faithful.  Faithfulness is the hallmark of true Christianity.   

The Seven: The Church at Thyatira

Thyatira

  • A city of Craftsmen and Merchants.
  • Widely known for their work with brass.
  • Lydia was the first Christian convert from Thyatira (Acts 16:14)
  • The city was controlled by several different trade guilds.
  • The patron god of the guilds was a representation of Apollo.
  • Worship of this god was immoral like most other pagan gods.

Revelation 2:18-29

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

More Tolerant than God

  • The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. = Jesus 
  • I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.  – This is a great compliment!  Not only is the church faithful in their love, faith, service, and endurance.  They are continuing to get better in all these areas.  Healthy things grow.  We should always be growing in both our capacity and desire to accomplished good deeds. 
  • But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel,  – Although they start off well, Jesus quickly moves to a problem in the church. The church has an unhealthy toleration of sin.  They are abounding and increasing in love and faith but they tolerantly refuse to deal with the sin in the church.  Jezebel is most probably a representative name meant to connect the person sinning to the ancient evil queen of Israel. (Check out 1 Kings to learn more about Jezebel) 
    • who calls herself a prophetess – According to Old Testament law, being a false prophet (prophetess) was a capital offense and incurred the death penalty.  This then, is a serious statement.  Especially since it comes from Jesus. 
    • and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. – Here Jesus exposes the false teaching of the woman.  Though this is all the information that we have about her teaching, from it we can see that she advocated a high level of compromise and that she was misleading Christians.  This most likely had to do with the trade guilds in the city.  In order to be in good standing in the guilds it would have been necessary to participate in the worship of the guilds.  She may have been teaching a “it’s just business” mindset that promoted compromise. 
    • I gave her time to repent, – One of the many graces of God is that He extends opportunities for people to repent.  He is, as the scriptures say, “gracious and slow to anger abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8) 
      • but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. – Even given time, she would not turn away from her false teaching which led Christians into sexual immorality. 
      • Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. –Severe consequences will result from her lack of repentance.  Those who teach are held to a very high standard.  And those who are leading people in the wrong direction will be severely judged by God.  This is why James warns us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1) “Her children” most likely refers to the Christians who are following her.  Following a false teacher can have dire consequences. 
  • And all the churches will know that I am He who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. – Judgment not only deals with the sin of an individual, it also serves as a warning to others.  By this particular judgment, Jesus knew that the churches would know that He “searches the mind and the heart.”  This means that He knows what is really going on.  This is a sobering thought, and one that we mustn’t forget. 
  • But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. –For those who were continuing to follow well, Jesus did not add any new requirement to them. 
    • Only hold fast what you have until I come – Jesus instructed the church to keep holding on until He returned.  Jesus will return.  Until then, our responsibility is to hold fast to His teachings, His mission, and His Gospel. 
    • The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end,  -We are not saved by our works.  But what we do provides the evidence of whether or not we are truly saved.  Working “until the end” provides the greatest evidence of our heart’s condition. 
      • to him I will give authority over the nations,
      • and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces.
      •  even as I myself have received authority from my Father.– Jesus promises influence and authority to those who keep His word to the end.  This promise is most clearly fulfilled through His second coming 
    • And I will give him the morning star. – Later in Revelation (22:16), Jesus is referred to as the “bright and morning star.”  Using this verse as a guide, we can see that Jesus is promising to give the believers Himself.  There could be no greater gift.
  • He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ – The message to Thyatira is a message to all of the churches.

Jesus is serious about what is taught in His church.  Teachers who presume to stand up and lead with His authority must be sure that they are following Him well.  If not, Jesus will judge them strictly.  Churches must also be vigilant to test their teachers and to make sure that they are teaching truth.  Tolerance of bad doctrine is deadly.

The Seven: Pergamum

Pergamum

  • The capital of the Imperial Cult and many other Pagan temples.
  • The first city in Asia minor to build a Temple to Augustus.
  • They referred to themselves as the “Temple Warden.”
  • The symbol of Asclepius (the god of Healing) became one of the emblems of the city.
  • Since it was the center of the Imperial Cult, it was also the center of Christian persecution under Domitian and Trajan.

Revelation 2:12-17 

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword  13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

Good Deeds, Bad Doctrine

  • The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword = Jesus
  • I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is… Jesus sees and knows our situation.  He has not abandoned us, but instead will give us what we need to make it through the circumstances.  “Satan’s throne” most probably refers to the fact that Pergamum was the capital for Imperial worship.  This would have made it extremely difficult to faithfully follow Christ in this city.
  • Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
    • Jesus commends them for “holding fast” and not denying the faith, even in the face of persecution.
    • Antipas was a martyr in Pergamum.
    • Legend has it that he was roasted in a brazen bull.
    • Again, Jesus refers to Pergamum as the home of “Satan”
  • “But I have a few things against you” – Jesus reprimands the church for 2 things. 
    • You have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam –
      • Greg Beale writes in his commentary on Revelation, ““Balaam was a pagan prophet hired by Balak, king of Moab, to pronounce a curse upon the invading Israelites. God prevented Balaam from doings so and caused him to issue a blessing on them instead (Num. 22:5-24:25). However, Balaam subsequently devised a plan in continued disobedience to God whereby some of the Moabite woman would entice the Israelite men to ‘defect from the Lord’ (31:16) by fornicating with them and joining with them in the worship of their pagan gods (25:1-3). This plan was successful, and God punished the Israelites for their idolatrous involvement… Balaam became proverbial for the false teacher who for money influences believers to enter into relationships of compromising unfaithfulness, is warned by God to stop, and is finally punished for continuing to disobey”. (Page 145)
        • G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation (NIGTC). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
  • You have some who hold the teachings of the Nicolaitans
    • We have previously read about the teachings of the Nicolatians in the letter to Ephesus.  Nicolatians were compromisers who worshiped God and idols.
  • Therefore, repent. – Jesus demands that the church repent and turn away from their sin.
    • If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth – The consequence for not repenting is that Jesus will come and “make war” against those who are sinning.  This consequence will not be only limited to those who are sinning but will most probably spill over to those who are complacently standing by.  The purity of the church is important to Jesus.
  • He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. – Again, we are reminded that this is a message for all believers and all churches.
  • To the one who conquers I will give…
    • Some of the hidden manna – Manna is a picture of God’s provision and sufficiency.  The offer to receive this Manna is the offer of everlasting life.  There may also be a connection to the Manna that was in the Ark of the Covenant.  Tradition says that before the Ark of the Covenant was taken by the Babylonians, Jeremiah removed the Manna that was contained inside and that that Manna will be revealed again in the Messianic Kingdom. 
    • A white stone – white is the sign of purity and a stone is a sign of permanence.  The book of Revelation is filled with pure permanence.  White robes, white clouds, white horses, whites thrones, etc. 
      • with a new name written on it – “New” is also a them of this book.  New Heavens, New Earth, New Jerusalem, New Song, All things are made new, etc.  Jesus promises those who repent and follow Him a “new” name which in many ways refers to a new nature, a new identity, in a new place.
    • That no one knows except the one who receives it. – The only way to have this is by receiving it from Jesus.  Only those who receive it understand it fully.
  • The Church in Pergamum had the exact opposite problem as Ephesus.  In Ephesus, they had great doctrine but failed to love well.  While the church in Pergamum did resist external pressures from pagan and governmental authorities, they also allowed a culture of compromise to develop in the church.  Jesus cares deeply about the doctrinal purity of the church.  We should see Ephesus and Pergamum as opposite extremes and work to keep the appropriate balance between pure doctrine and pure action.

The Seven: Smyrna

  • Understanding Smyrna

    • A center of trade by both land and sea. (Second only to Ephesus)
    • Smyrna was a proud and beautiful city.  (Coins from Smyrna are inscribed with “First of Asia in beauty and size.”)
    • The only one of the seven cities still in existence. (Modern day Izmir)
    • The Gospel probably reached Smyrna very early. (Acts 19)
    • The image of the Phoenix was applied to the city. (It was destroyed in 600BC but then “rose from the ashes” to prominence.)
    • Smyrna means “myrrh” which was a perfume of the day.
    • Smyrna was the home of Polycarp, one of the best known Christians in the early church.

    Revelation 2:8-11

    “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

    “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

    Faithfulness through Suffering

    Observation: This is the only church of the seven that does not receive any chastisement.

    • The First and the Last, who died and came to life = Jesus
    • I know yourJesus sees and knows all that we go through.  It is no small wonder that the God of the universe is concerned with the details of our lives.  We can take comfort and strength through this, and we can know that “all things are being worked together for good.” Romans 8:28
      • TribulationThis tribulation was a testing.
      • PovertyThis would have been in stark contrast to the wealth that most people had in Smyrna.  This poverty most likely refers to a poverty that came about through persecution.
      • The slander that you are enduringSlander is different from blasphemy in that it is speaking against man, not God.
        • From the Jews who are not Jews (In Romans 9-11, Paul writes a great deal about Jews who are not Jews. Paul’s argument can be summed up this way: Jews who are real Jews recognize Jesus as Messiah and become Christians.)
        • Synagogue of Satan (If it is in opposition to the people and work of God, you can be assured that it has demonic origins.)
    • Do not fear what you are about to sufferJesus instructs them not to fear, but confirms that suffering is coming.  This is reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching on whom to fear.  In Matthew 10:28, Jesus teaches, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Fearing and treasuring God above all else is the only way to faithfully endure suffering.
    • The Devil is the advisory, and some of you will be… not all Christians will be called to suffer for His sake, but we must all be prepared to do so.
      • Thrown into prisonThis stay in prison was most probably awaiting execution.
      • Be testedThey would have been tempted and tortured to betray Jesus by renouncing Christ and burning incense to Caesar.
      • In tribulation for 10 daysThis temptation will not last forever.
      • Face Death – Some will die as a result.
    • Be Faithful all the way to deathWhen we follow Jesus we never know where it will lead.  Our willingness to follow him should be unconditional, even in the face of death.
    • Jesus will give those who conquer the crown of lifeThe reward of giving up our temporary life is eternal life with Jesus.
    • Let everyone who has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to Smyrna.  This message is for all believers.
    • The one who conquers (is faithful to death) will not be hurt by the second death. The “first” death lead us into eternity with Jesus and those who have treasured Him above life will never need to fear the second death.  This does not mean that martyrdom earns salvation.  Only that martyrdom is the ultimate picture of saving faith in Christ Jesus.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp – It is likely that Polycarp was in the congregation when this letter was being read to the church at Smyrna.  In many ways, his martyrdom was a clear picture of what was described in this letter. 

“Polycarp declared, ‘Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?'” – The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Read his story here.

The Seven: Intro & Ephesus


Last Wednesday, I started teaching through a series on Revelation chapter 2-3 called The Seven.  Lord willing, I will be posting the notes from each session here.

  • Introduction to the Revelation of John

    • Author: John the Apostle
    • Date: Consensus is 95AD (Some think before the destruction of the temple)
    • Where: Island of Patmos
    • To Whom: The Seven Churches in Asia Minor
    • Purpose of the Book:  To communicate a prophetic vision of Jesus and the coming kingdom.
    • Characteristics of the Book:
      • High View of JesusThroughout the book we see amazing pictures of an exalted Jesus who has accomplished great things, who will return in power, and who is worthy of our worship.
      •  Admonition to specific churches (Chapters 1-3)
      • Apocalyptic writings (Chapter 4-22)  Much of this letter includes apocalyptic teachings that concern the end times. 
        • Essentials for agreement in our understanding of the end times
          • Jesus will return
          • Jesus will defeat the worldly powers
          • Jesus will gather His people, remove the curse, and restore creation
          • Jesus will reign
      • The Seven Churches
        • Important Cities in Asia Minor & Beyond
        • In the letter, the communications to each church not only apply in that particular situation, but also represent a general reaction to Jesus found in the universal church.  (Each communication has “let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” the plural is displays that each letter is for all of us!
  • Understanding Ephesus

    • Important city and defacto capital of the area
    • Center for trade (3 trade routes converged there)
    • Center for religious worship (Temple to Artemis) (Acts 19)
    • Known for the magical arts (Acts 19)
    • Becomes a very important church
    • Letter to the Ephesians (Probably an encyclical letter)
    • Addressed First amount the Seven
    • Pricila and Aquila seem to be the planters of the church
    • Apollos taught in the church
    • Paul laid hands on the elders and they received the HS
    • Timothy pastored in Ephesus
    • John pastored in Ephesus
    • Important City, with an important church, led by important people

Revelation 2:2-7

2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

2 “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up jfor my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

All Head, No Heart

  • ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” = Jesus
  • Good
    • Work Hard
    • Patiently endure
    • Cannot bear those who are evil
    • Test their teachers
    • Remove the false teachers
    • Enduring patiently
    • Bearing up for Christ’s sake
    • Not grown weary
    • “you hate the works of the Nicolaitans”  The Nicolatians were compromisers who attempted to follow God and be an active part of the pagan culture (which included pagan worship).
  • Bad
    • Abandoned your love
  • So what must they do?
    • Remember
    • Repent = Recognize the sin and turn away from it
  • Consequence of not repenting
      • Lampstand will be removed = You will no longer have a church.  Jesus plants local churches and Jesus determines when local churches should be cut down.

Purity of Doctrine and life is important, but if our lives and our churches are not characterized by love, we are not representing Christ well.

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