07/10/2016 – Revelation 2-3 – Awaiting the Bridegroom: “Known by the Beloved”

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 2-3                                                                                                                                                 07/10/2016

Awaiting the Bridegroom: “Known by the Beloved”

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

Last Sunday we had special guest speakers from Bungoma, Kenya (and I know we went long, thank you for your hospitality and grace with them), and when they pulled into the parking lot I went out and greeted them with a very poor version of “Hamjambo bwana” (“hello sir”) – and Bishop Francis Bushebi hugged me and said, in perfect English, “Oh, you know Swahili!”

This was my attempt to make them feel welcome – to show them that we cared enough to try to learn something of their culture. I also looked their ministry up on-line and studied enough about Gospel Believers Fellowship to prove that we “knew them”.

Really, it was all a sham. I do not know Swahili. I only know their ministry by seeing what they posted about themselves on their website. But even just being “known” that much meant something to them!

Imagine being truly known by the One who loves you more than all the words in the world could say!

 

This Summer, among several other one-Sunday messages, we will be taking an overview look at the Book of Revelation – to see what it promises and how those promises effect our lives and faith today.

 

Look at your Bulletin cover for a minute. That’s a map of Asia Minor, Turkey, (the inset shows you this is toward the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, up by the Aegean Sea). The bottom left corner shows you the Island of Patmos – a barren, desolate island that the Roman government used as a place of banishment for criminals – where the Apostle John was imprisoned for being a Christian. While on this island Jesus reveals Himself (that’s why this book is called Revelation).

Today we take a run at two short chapters that contain seven very short letters to the churches of the seven cities marked in the main part of the map. I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 2 & 3, and to listen for the ways Jesus commends these different churches, what He warns them about and how He blesses them.…. —-

“To the angel[a] of the church in Ephesus(A) write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand(B) and walks among the seven golden lampstands.(C) I know your deeds,(D) your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested(E) those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.(F)You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name,(G)and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.(H) Consider how far you have fallen! Repent(I) and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand(J) from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans,(K) which I also hate.

Whoever has ears, let them hear(L) what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious,(M) I will give the right to eat from the tree of life,(N) which is in the paradise(O) of God.

We know EphesusPaul was there and wrote a letter to this same church. A major city with the second largest library of antiquity!

Jesus tells them – I know you – those might be scary words, but He reassures them with the very next words: I Commend your hard work, your perseverance, your intolerance of evil, your concern for truth being taught.

But here’s His warning: Repent from how far you have fallen from your first love – make sure your motives are right – cuz if you don’t repent your church will be snuffed out like a candle after the dinner is over.

Jesus’ blessing? The right to eat from the Tree of Life – that means to enter into eternity with GodParadise!

 

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna(P) write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last,(Q) who died and came to life again.(R) I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!(S) I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not,(T) but are a synagogue of Satan.(U) 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you,(V) and you will suffer persecution for ten days.(W) Be faithful,(X)even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.(Y)

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear(Z) what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

We know a little less about Smyrna. A coastal city, 35 miles north of Ephesus, with lots of amazing political and commercial clout. Its main export was Myrrh (maybe that’s how it got its name?)

Jesus reminds them that He is the First and the Last, and the One who conquered death. And He tells them – I know your sufferings (afflictions, poverty, slander – powerful words of compassion and comprehension; Jesus says: I Commend your rich Spirit, your longsuffering, your perseverance through hardships.

His only warning: Be ready for more, even to the point of death.

Jesus’ blessing? The Life as your victor’s crown – that means to enter into eternity with GodNo second, eternal, spiritual death for you!

 

12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum(AB) write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.(AC) 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me,(AD) not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness,(AE) who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.(AF)

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you:(AG)There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam,(AH) who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols(AI) and committed sexual immorality.(AJ) 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.(AK) 16 Repent(AL) therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.(AM)

17 Whoever has ears, let them hear(AN) what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious,(AO) I will give some of the hidden manna.(AP) I will also give that person a white stone with a new name(AQ) written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

We know even less about Pergamum – notice these letters are going clockwise from the lower left, now to the upper left corner of Asia Minor. Pergamum was a major city with a major international highway going through it – and a theater that sat 10,000 people (on a nearly 12/12 pitch seating area!) – Home to several Greek and even Egyptian gods and pagan temples.

Jesus reminds them of His authority – the “sharp double-edged sword” is prophet-speak for the Word of God. And Jesus tells this ChurchI know where you live, the danger of that place – words of comfort and encouragement, followed by: I Commend how you remain true to Me even in this place, how you’ve never renounced your faith in Me even when your lives were threatened!

But Jesus also offers His warning: Some in your Church believe false teachings, and because of that live lives of sexual immorality – therefore you, plural, the whole church, must repent! That Word of God in Jesus’ mouth – the weapon of ultimate truth!

Jesus’ blessing? The mannaBread of Life; and a new name – with heavenly power!

 

18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira(AS) write:

These are the words of the Son of God,(AT) whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.(AU) 19 I know your deeds,(AV) your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel,(AW) who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.(AX)21 I have given her time(AY) to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.(AZ) 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery(BA)with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds,(BB) and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.(BC)

24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you,(BD) 25 except to hold on to what you have(BE) until I come.’(BF)

26 To the one who is victorious(BG) and does my will to the end,(BH) I will give authority over the nations(BI) 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter(BJ) and will dash them to pieces like pottery’[b](BK)—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star.(BL) 29 Whoever has ears, let them hear(BM)what the Spirit says to the churches.

We don’t know a lot about Thyatira –but this is the longest letter!

Jesus reminds them that He is the very Son of God! – the “blazing eyes” and “bronze feet” is prophet-speak for all knowing and everywhereomniscient and omnipresent. And Jesus tells this ChurchI know you what you’ve done and how your actions have gotten even more courageous! That sounds like the opening to a suspense movie – “I know what you did last Summer”; but listen to what Jesus knows: I Commend how you love and how you live like you believe what you say you believe, how you serve others and how you keep on serving, even more now than when you first started! That’s true praise! Most of us are much more enthusiastic, God-filled (that’s what “enthusiastic” literally means), when we first become Christian – and we settle into more comfortable Christian ethics as we grow more mature. Jesus says – “Good job keeping your faith enthused, God-filled. I wish that were true for everyone!!

But Jesus also offers His most severe warning: Again, He says, some in your Church believe false teachings, and because of that live lives of even deeper sexual immorality – therefore unless there is repentance, eternal suffering, eternal death, will be the result! And Jesus reminds them of His omniscience and omnipresence again!

But Jesus also gives His most thorough blessing: If you remain faithful to the end, my authority becomes your authority! In Matthew 28 Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth is mine, Go, therefore, making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” – this authority is yours! You are given the blessing to be a blessing to the nations!

 

“To the angel[c] of the church in Sardis(BN) write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits[d](BO) of God and the seven stars.(BP) I know your deeds;(BQ)you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.(BR) Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.(BS) But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief,(BT) and you will not know at what time(BU) I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes.(BV) They will walk with me, dressed in white,(BW) for they are worthy. The one who is victorious(BX) will, like them, be dressed in white.(BY) I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life,(BZ) but will acknowledge that name before my Father(CA) and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear(CB) what the Spirit says to the churches.

We don’t know a lot about Sardis!

Jesus reminds them that He is the completely divine!– “holding the seven spirits of God” is prophet-speak for the entirety of the Holy Spirit – some of you know that the number seven carries with it the sense of completion and perfection – the “seven spirits of God and the seven stars” suggest the entirety of God’s divine presence and power. And Jesus tells this ChurchI know everything about you – your reputation and the truth of your reality!

Did you notice? This letter jumps straight from the greeting to the warning. There is no commendation!

And, this is what Pastor Robert Bushebi was telling us last week! “Wake up, Church! God calls us to be soldiers! Not pew sitters!” The One who is the Perfect Divine Manifestation says that what this church has started is UN-finished! We cannot hide the fact that we are dead. We cannot playWeekend at Bernie’s” with Jesus! He sees through our lies and our wrong-reputation! Repent of that false sense of security! Repent from being too comfortable and asleep in our faith!

But Jesus also gives an amazing blessing to this church he had no commendation for: Those who have remained faithful will wear My robes and will have My name in heaven! God’s blessing for His faithful outshines every dark corner!

 

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia(CC) write:

These are the words of him who is holy(CD) and true,(CE)who holds the key of David.(CF) What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds.(CG) See, I have placed before you an open door(CH) that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.(CI) I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan,(CJ) who claim to be Jews though they are not,(CK) but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet(CL) and acknowledge that I have loved you.(CM) 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you(CN) from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world(CO) to test(CP) the inhabitants of the earth.(CQ)

11 I am coming soon.(CR) Hold on to what you have,(CS) so that no one will take your crown.(CT) 12 The one who is victorious(CU) I will make a pillar(CV) in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God(CW) and the name of the city of my God,(CX) the new Jerusalem,(CY) which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear(CZ)what the Spirit says to the churches.

We know even less about Philadelphia.

Jesus reminds the city of Brotherly love of His true divinity and Kingly Authority – that’s what “holy, true, keys of David” all suggest. And Jesus tells this ChurchI know your deeds, and I know health, and I know your faithfulness! I Commend your endurance and faith!

And with no warning, Jesus jumps straight to His blessing! I will save you from the ultimate trial, and I am coming soon! – God’s name will be theirs, My name will be theirs! What could be sweeter!

 

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea(DA) write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness,(DB) the ruler of God’s creation.(DC) 15 I know your deeds,(DD) that you are neither cold nor hot.(DE) I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’(DF) But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.(DG) 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire,(DH) so you can become rich; and white clothes(DI)to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness;(DJ)and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.(DK) So be earnest and repent.(DL) 20 Here I am! I stand at the door(DM) and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,(DN) I will come in(DO) and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious,(DP) I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,(DQ) just as I was victorious(DR)and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear(DS) what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Laodicea, we know of, as the place from which Timothy wrote one of his letters; and one that Paul referred to several times in his letter to the Colossians. We know this last letter, to Laodicea, probably better than all the others! And there is nothing good to say about Laodicea! Jesus commends them for nothing!

Jesus tells them – I know you, neither hot nor cold – The nearby city of Colossae was known for it’s pure, cold, and delicious water from its river, and in the other direction was the city of Hierapolis which was known for its hot springs. Laodicea’s water came from a mixed runoff of bothlukewarm!

His warning? I spit you out of My mouth! You disgust Me! You think you’re “all that”, but you are nothing!

But He does not leave this Church without a blessing. Listen to Jesus’ blessing: I love you, even though you are filled with deceit and hate. “While we were yet sinners,” Paul wrote, “Christ died for us!Behold, I stand at the door and knock. Remember who this letter is written to? It is not just to you or me, it is to a whole Church. Yes, it’s fine to use this image as Jesus knocking on the door of your heart, waiting for you to let Him into your heart. But that’s not what this is really about! He’s outside the Churchknocking on the Church door! “You’ve locked me out of your Church! Will you let Me in? If you let Me in, I’ll eat with you and even give your My Throne!” It would be funny if it weren’t so sad!

This blessing says, we cannot deserve it, but if we let Jesus in, He will make us victorious over the throws of death and eternal damnation – the Gates of Hades will not prevail!

 

Remember that I said this series was going to be an “overview” of the book of Revelation. There is so much more that could be said. But I will stop here for now… Please stay and ask questions afterward if you’d like. Also, immediately following our last worship song this morning, we will celebrate July Birthdays together, and there will be a corner up here for a little extended discussion and prayer for anyone who wants or needs that time together.

 

The last question on your Sermon Notes Page asks what Jesus might say to us, at LPC, today. What might be His commendations, His warnings, His blessings for us?

 

One of our opening songs this morning was called “Remind Me Who I Am to You”, and in this song we prayed to be known by our Beloved Savior. May that prayer be real. Unlike the way I greeted our guests from Kenya last Sunday, Jesus really does know us, completely, inside and out. And that is Good News!

 

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Resources:

Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 14-26.

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