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Letters of Jesus to the 7 Churches of Asia

Rev Mar’s Aug 23, 2020 sermon in text and slides can be downloaded from here:

Sumainyo ang kapayapaan at biyaya na kaligtasan at buhay na walang hanggan na matatanggap lamang, wala nang iba, kundi mula sa Panginoong Jesucristo, ang Dios Anak na nagkatawang tao, upang akuin Niya ang ating kasalanan at tubusin tayo mula sa ating pagkakasala sa pamamagitan ng pagaalay NIya ng buhay ng Kaniyang katawang tao hanggang kamatayan, at sa Kaniyang pagkabuhay mula sa mga patay, ang sinomang sumampalataya sa Panginoong Jesucristo nang tuloy, tuwiran agad, tapat at walang pasubali, at tanggapin si Jesus na kaniyang lahat sa lahat, itong Panginoong Jesucristo na ito ang maging kaniyang kaligtasan, buhay na walang hanggan at kaluwalhatian magpakailanman.

Message of Jesus to the 7 Churches of Asia Minor

Revelation chapter 2-3

Revelation 2 begins a series of brief letters to seven churches that existed during the apostle John’s time in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Each of these messages includes information apropos to each church and from these messages we can draw lessons applicable to our churches as well as our own personal lives today. Each letter ends with an exhortation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

I have broken down each of the letters into five sections:

  1. Identification of the Author
  2. Commendation
  3. Admonition/Rebuke/Correction
  4. Appeal/Warning
  5. Promise

Message of Jesus to the Church of Ephesus

(famous for its temple of Diana [or Artemis, Acts 19:27])

Author. Message is from the Lord Jesus Christ: “To the angel [or messenger, bishop or pastor] of the church in Ephesus…” (Revelation 2:1). This is not John’s message to the Ephesian believers; it is a message from the Lord, the One “who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” The lampstands are the churches themselves, set as lights in this dark world; the stars are the pastors of the churches, held in God’s hand.

Commendation

  1. Jesus affirms the Ephesians’ positive actions: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. (  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.[Matthew 7:15-16] ). You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2-3). The Ephesian church was a 1) hard-working group of believers full of determination. Also to their credit, they were 2) gate-keepers of the truth and did not compromise with evildoers, and they showed 3) patient endurance in bearing up under hardship.
  2. Jesus adds another commendation concerning 4) doctrinal purity: “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6). We don’t know much about the Nicolaitans and their doctrine, except that it was heretical. Irenaeus, an early church father in Lyons (modern-day France), wrote that the Nicolaitans promoted fornication and a compromising position on eating food sacrificed to idols, leading many into an unrestrained, carnal lifestyle.

Admonition/Rebuke. However, Jesus also notes their shortcoming: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). They were hard-working, but they no longer had the same passion for Christ as when they first believed. Their work was no longer motivated by love.

Warning/Appeal. Jesus warns His church of 1) impending judgment if they did not 2) repent: “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:5b). In other words, their punishment would be the disbanding or destruction of the Ephesian church. The light in Ephesus would go out. When a church has become one with the world it has lost its brightness and ceased to be the light of the world

Promise. Jesus then promises a blessing to those who heed the word: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). The “tree of life” and the “paradise of God” refer to the new heavens and new earth, discussed in Revelation 21–22. Those who conquer, or the “overcomers,” are simply believers (For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? [1 John 5:4-5] ). The Ephesian believers could look forward to the future eternal glory with the Lord.

Lesson. Like the Ephesian church, we can easily fall prey to a cold, mechanical observance of religion. Like the Ephesians, many tend to focus solely on doctrinal purity and hard work, to the exclusion of true love for Christ. As this letter shows, no amount of zeal for the truth or moral rectitude can replace a heart full of love for Jesus. (John 14:21, 23  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth to him… If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him; 1 Corinthians 16:22  If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.)

Message of Jesus to the Church of Smyrna

(famed for its schools of medicine and science)

Author. “These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, which was dead and is alive” (Revelation 2:8). The identity of “the first and the last” and the only One who “was dead” and is “alive for evermore” could only be Jesus Christ (cf. Revelation 1:17-18).

Commendation. 

  1. Jesus starts by acknowledging their trials: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). In their physical poverty, however, the church of Smyrna was “rich”; that is, they had spiritual wealth that no one could take away (Matthew 6:20  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.).
  2. They withstood the slander of those of the “synagogue of Satan”. This was a group of physical Jews who followed tradition and the Mosaic Law yet in reality did not know the Lord. They were “not” Jews in the sense that they did not have the faith of their father Abraham (John 8:40-41, 44  “but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did… Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.”), and they were “of Satan” in that they had rejected Jesus Christ (John 5:43  I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.)  Jesus dealt with many such religious leaders. In Romans 2:28-29, Paul differentiates “true” (spiritual) Jews from those who can only claim a physical connection to Abraham,  “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code”. 

Admonition/Rebuke. (None)

Warning/Appeal. Jesus warned them of a coming persecution: “You are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days” (Revelation 2:10). Some of the church members would be imprisoned, and this wave of persecution would last for ten days. However, Jesus gives hope to His church: “Do not be afraid,” He says. The believers in Smyrna would have the courage to face trial (Matthew 5:11-12).

The writing of the Early Fathers about Polycarp, though beyond the time of this specific persecution of the believers in Smyrna, gives us an idea how severe were the persecution going against believers in Smyrna. Polycarp, a bishop of this church, was martyred in Smyrna around A.D. 155. At Polycarp’s trial, these unbelieving Jews of Smyrna joined with the pagans in condemning him to death. Eusebius writing about The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 4th century, when Polycarp was demanded by the emperor to renounce his faith in Jesus said, “86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” Eusebius wrote that “the Jews, being especially zealous…ran to procure fuel” for the burning of Polycarp. (The Ecclesiastical History 4:15).

Promise

  1. Jesus calls them to remain faithful in their suffering: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Here, a specific crown is mentioned for those who die as a result of suffering and martyrdom for Christ. This same “martyr’s crown” is also mentioned in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
  2. “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11).
  1. The second death is when people who rebel against the Lord Jesus are thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone. The second death is a reference to the final judgment of the wicked 21:8). This is the final state of all unrepentant wicked souls after the final judgment when they are forever separated from the Lord and they are tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20:6, 14) In Revelation 21:8, the Lord has identified those who will die this second death: Nguni’t sa mga duwag, at sa mga hindi mananampalataya, at sa mga kasuklamsuklam, at sa mga mamamatay-tao, at sa mga nakikiapid, at sa mga mangkukulam, at sa mga sumasamba sa diosdiosan, at sa lahat na mga sinungaling, ang kanilang bahagi ay sa dagatdagatang nagniningas na apoy at asupre; na siyang ikalawang kamatayan.
  2. The overcomers are those who according to the apostle John in his 1John 4:4, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Earlier the apostle John identified them in 1John 5:4-4 as those who have faith and believe that Jesus is the Son of God. They have faith that overcomes the world. These are the resurrected saints who died before the tribulation period and those who are alive at the time of the rapture who will both receive glorified bodies. These will be joined later by the tribulation saints who did not pledge allegiance to the antichrist nor receive the mark of the beast and they overcame the antichrist “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). These believers in Jesus will no longer be judged of their sins because they trusted the Lord Jesus as the propitiation (handog sa ikapapatawad ng kasalanan) of their sins. So the Bible says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)

Lesson. Like the church in Smyrna, Christians are persecuted worldwide in obvious and insidious ways. This letter warns all Christians that although we may suffer greatly, the length of tribulation will be short compared to the promise of eternal life.

Message of Jesus to the Church of Pergamum

(center for the worship of Dionysus, Zeus, and other pagan gods)

Author. “These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword” (Revelation 1:16; 2:12). Jesus is being depicted as the Righteous Judge, who has His word, coming out of His mouth, sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).  Jesus said, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”( John 12:48)  Jesus accurately judge, no detail is missed out. because His word is “quick, and powerful, 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” so that “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13) This would be analogous to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) where the image of the body or a body part like brain, chest, abdomen, etc. is produced as thin cross sections of the body or organ and the doctors can see very detailed information to diagnose or monitor treatment for a variety of conditions.

Commendation. Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “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, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives” (Revelation 2:13). The Pergamene believers lived in a difficult place, surrounded by pagan influences, yet they held fast to Christ’s name and did not deny Him during difficult times. One Christian in Pergamum named Antipas is mentioned as a “faithful witness.” Church tradition says that Antipas was a physician suspected of secretly propagating Christianity.

Admonition/Rebuke. The church was not perfect, however, and Jesus took note of their sin: “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:14-15). The “teaching of Balaam” is explained in the context, as Christians were eating food that had been sacrificed to idols (religious compromise) and committing sexual immorality (moral compromise). The original Balaam’s deceitful work is described in Numbers 25:1-3 and Numbers 31:15-16. The Nicolaitans are mentioned only in this letter and in the letter to the Ephesian church (Revelation 2:6). They were likely a group similar to those who held the teachings of Balaam, though the exact nature of their doctrine and practice is unknown.

Warning/Appeal. Jesus then issues a clarion call to repent of their sin: “Repent therefore!” (Revelation 2:16). Our Lord hates religious and moral compromise. He calls His people to live differently. Jesus notes the judgment that would take place if the church of Pergamum did not repent: “I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16b). The Nicolaitans and those who were teaching Balaam’s error would be destroyed, along with their followers, from the congregation at Pergamum. Jesus desires purity among His people, and we have a responsibility to remove false teachers from the church.

Promise. Jesus makes a final promise to the believers in Pergamum: “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). The three blessings are hidden manna, a white stone, and a new name. The precise explanation of these three items is disputed; however, all three blessings must concern the believer’s victorious reign with Christ, consistent with the blessings bestowed on the other six churches of Revelation 2–3. The “hidden manna” is likely an allusion to the manna hidden in the Ark of the Covenant, representative of God’s faithful presence and sustenance. The “white stone” could be a reference to the stones used for entrance into temple events in ancient times or to one of the stones on the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:21), although the exact meaning of the stone is uncertain.

Lesson. Like the Christians in Pergamum, if we drop our guard, it is easy for non-Christian behavior of those around us to influence and permeate our behavior and pollute our values (1Corinthians 15:33  Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”). But the Bible urges us to “not conform to the pattern of this world” but be transformed by the renewal of our mind in accordance with God’s Word (Romans 12:2).

Message of Jesus to the Church of Thyatira

(a wealthy town, a highly commercialized center of trade)

Author. The message was from the Lord Jesus Christ through an angel (or “messenger”). Verse 18 verifies that the author of this message is Jesus Christ, “The words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” This description is similar to the description of the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:14-15) It removes any doubt that Jesus is the author.

Commendation. Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first” (Revelation 2:19). Five qualities are listed: 1) love, 2) faith, 3) service, 4), patient endurance, and 5) greater works.

Admonition/Rebuke

  1.  Jesus notes their sin: “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). Apparently, a false prophetess was leading believers into compromise. The church was engaging in sexual immorality and experimenting in idolatry. It is possible that “Jezebel” was her real name, but it is more likely the name was a metaphorical reference to the Jezebel of the Old Testament, Phoenician wife of Ahab who according to the account in I and II Kings pressed the cult of Baal on the Israelite kingdom, most of the prophets of Yahweh were killed at her command. She is an idolatrous woman who an rude, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman. Opposing God’s ways. Rather than rebuke this false teacher and send her out of the church, the believers in Thyatira were allowing her to continue her deception.
  2. Jesus pronounces judgment on this “Jezebel” and calls the church of Thyatira to repent of their sin: “I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead” (Revelation 2:22-23).
  1. The Jezebel of the Old Testament was the wife of Ahab, king of Israel. She was an evil, idolatrous and impudent queen whose name today is synonymous with a shameless woman bereft of morals. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31).
  2. In Revelation 2 Jesus Christ rebukes the church of Thyatira saying, “You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20).
  3. If this New Testament Jezebel was a real person, Jezebel was probably not her actual name. Jezebel worshiped the pagan god Baal, and she corrupted her husband, the king, and thereby all Israel to do the same. She may represent the spiritual idolatry practiced by Church members. Christ describes her as persuasive in the Church, using her self-appointed position to lead Church members into sin. This was like the Jezebel of the Old Testament who influenced the people of Israel to corrupt themselves.  
  4. This woman was, in effect, teaching the Church members to be friends of the world. Friendship with the world is like spiritual adultery to Jesus Christ. James the apostle is quite to the point about this: “Adulterers and adulteresses!” he says. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
  5. Jesus Christ rebukes the church of Thyatira saying, “You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20).
  6. Christ also says of this Jezebel, “I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent” (Revelation 2:21). This is like the insolent Jezebel of the Old Testament who remained defiant of God until her horrific death.

Warning/Appeal. Then Jesus encourages those who had remained faithful: “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): I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. Again, just lie with the Church of Pergamum, Jesus is the righteous judge who searcheth the reins and hearts (discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart and gives rewards according to our works.  Jesus is saying, “Only hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:24-25). The apostle John wrote in 2John 1:8, “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” They only needed to “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1Timothy 6:12)  until the day when Jesus returns when they can say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2Timothy 4:7)  

Promise. “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star” (Revelation 2:26-28). These blessings would include 1) authority over the nations, 2) victory over all enemies, and 3) the morning star. This morning star is Jesus Himself, as Revelation 22:16 reveals. Jesus is the beginning of a new hope from being without hope; start of a new man after the old man passed away; shining of truth out of dark falsehood; shining righteousness from a dark sinful and cursed world; opening of light from darkness.

Lesson. If the Jezebel of Revelation 2:20 is not a real person, she may represent the spiritual idolatry practiced by church members influenced by the worldly customs of Thyatira. Whatever the case, the intent of Christ’s message is that she is not to be tolerated. The Lord tells the church, “I will kill her children with death” (Revelation 2:23). 

  1. If it is to be taken literally, it is in accordance with what is often threatened in the Scriptures, that children shall be visited with calamity for the sins of parents, and with what often occurs in fact, that they do thus suffer. For it is no uncommon thing that whole families are made desolate on account of the sin and folly of the parent. (Eodus20:5-6; cf. Romans 5:12).
  2. If it is to be taken figuratively, then it refers to those who had imbibed her doctrines, and who would suffer in the punishment which would follow from the propagation of such doctrines. 

The reference in the word “death” here would seem to be to some heavy judgment, by plague, famine, or sword, by which they would be cut off.This Jezebel meets a violent end like the Old Testament Jezebel, a lesson for the Christian not to allow the seductive influence sin in the Church to remain.

Lesson. Just as some in Thyatira’s church were led astray by a false prophet, Christians today fall prey to cult leaders, occult practices, and other false teachings. To share in Christ’s victory, we are to reject these “so-called deep secrets” of Satan (Revelation 2:24) and hold firm to Christ’s teachings.

Message of Jesus to the Church of Sardis

(the oldest and best defended cities in the region and the wealthy capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia)

Author. The description at the end of verse 3:1 verifies that Jesus is the author, “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” Only Jesus has the seven spirits (or “seven-fold Spirit,” meaning the complete or perfect Spirit of God which according to Isaiah 11:2, “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.). Also, only Jesus holds the seven stars, i.e., the seven angels (or pastors) of the seven churches (Revelation 1:20).

Commendation. (NONE)

Admonition/Rebuke. Jesus quickly and clearly condemns the lifeless state of the Church of Sardis: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:2). This church may have had a good reputation, but they were spiritually lifeless. In other words, the church was filled with unsaved people going through the motions of religion. There were many tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). We are living in a day where wheat and tares are growing together. Wheat and tares look exactly the same, they have the same color, grow in the same way and have the same seeds; the only difference is that one is always unfruitful, the Tares, which are sometimes referred to as bastard wheat. The tares are not only personally religious, but they actively participate in religious organizations very regularly. We see leaders inside denominations and churches who pretend to be servants of God yet who deliberately deny the clear word of truth found in Scripture. Yet millions of people remain in those churches. The parable of the wheat and the tares teaches that it will be difficult to distinguish between the saved and the unsaved throughout professing Christendom and a separation between them will not transpire until the age’s conclusion (13:24-30, 36-43). T

Warning/Appeal

  1. Jesus then calls them to repent of their sin: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you received and heard; obey it, and repent” (Revelation 3:2-3a). To “wake up” means to start paying attention to their need of salvation, to stop being careless about their heart’s condition before God.
  2. Jesus notes the judgment that would take place if they did not repent: “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:3b). A dead church, and one unrepentant in its deadness, will be disciplined by Jesus Himself.

Promise

  1. After the warning, Jesus encourages those in Sardis who had remained faithful: “Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). The faithful remnant had not soiled their garments (participated in sin). They are “worthy.” The idea of walking worthily is also found in Paul’s teaching in:
  1. Ephesians 4:1 – I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 
  2. Colossians 1:10 – so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; and,
  3. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 – we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

To be “worthy” is to “match up” your profession of faith in the mouth with the reality of faith in the heart as shown in your lifestyle. The faithful ones are promised to walk with Jesus in white (see Matthew 22:11-12; Revelation 19:8).

  1. Jesus makes a final promise to the believers in Sardis: “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:5). The overcomer will 1) receive a white garment (Revelation 19:8  “…arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints), he will 2) never have his name removed from the book of life (Lord’s promise to the faithful overcomer), and he will 3) be confessed by Jesus in heaven (cf. Luke 12:8).

Lesson. Just as some in Thyatira’s church were led astray by a false prophet, Christians today fall prey to cult leaders, occult practices, and other false teachings. To share in Christ’s victory, we are to reject these “so-called deep secrets” of Satan (Revelation 2:24) and hold firm to Christ’s teachings.

Message of Jesus to the Church of Philadelphia

(a city in Asia Minor on the Imperial Post Road, an important trade route)

Author. This was a letter from the Lord, who identifies Himself as “him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” This description of Jesus emphasizes His holiness, His sovereignty, and His authority. The reference to the key of David is an allusion to the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 22:22  “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Jesus, the root and the offspring of David, is the one who opens and shuts, and no one can deny Him of His authority.

Commendation. Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). The church of Philadelphia was weak not spiritually but in terms of the power and authority of the world, yet they had remained faithful in the face of trial. Because of this, the Lord promises them an “open door” of opportunities. This “open door” may be the opportunity of preaching the Gospel on a wider horizon and on a higher plane of service for the Lord. The open door could also mean open hearts to receive the word of salvation and open ears to words of Jesus Christ that they may follow Him and obey Him. It may also mean the founding and opening of new churches. The open doors mean that the gospel is preached with great success because no one will be able to close the door and hinder the saving work of the Lord. 

Admonition/Rebuke/Correction. (NONE)

Warning/Appeal. (NONE)

Promise

  1. The promise to the Philadelphian believers is in regard to the Lord’s coing to rapture the church: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth (this is the 7-yr tribulation period or Jacob’s trouble when the Lord will pour out his 3-tiered 7 judgments upon an unbelieving world). I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:10-11). The church’s faithful endurance would serve as a blessing. They will be caught up in the air to meet Jesus coming to take them out of this world to be with Him before the beginning of the tribulation period (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). He also exhorts them to remain faithful, because this would lead to rewards in the afterlife (Bema Judgment seat of Christ, 2Corinthians 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.). The rapture is an event distinct from the second coming of Christ. The fact that the Philadelphians are promised to be preserved from the time of the tribulation corresponds with the pretribulation view of the rapture.
  2. “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down from out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name” (Revelation 3:12). Professor Thomas Constable notes, “the Lord promised that He will not just honor overcomers by erecting a pillar in their name in heaven, as was the custom in Philadelphia. He will make them pillars in the spiritual temple of God, the New Jerusalem. (Source: Thomas Constable, Notes on Revelation at http://soniclight.org/constable/notes/pdf/revelation.pdf)
  3. What is the spiritual temple of God made of?
  1. Revelation 21:22  And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
  2. 1Corinthian 3:16-17  Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
  3. 2Corinthian 6:16  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  4. Ephesians 2:19-22  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Message of Jesus to the Church of Laodicea

(a wealthy, industrial city in the province of Phrygia)

Author. Jesus identifies Himself as “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” These titles emphasize the Lord’s faithfulness, sovereignty, and power to bring all things to their proper completion (the “Amen”).

Commendation. (NONE, just like the church of Sardis)

Admonition/Rebuke. Jesus begins the message with condemnation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17). Jesus emphasizes their “lukewarm,” indifferent nature three times. In the church of Laodicea, there is a terrible sin which makes the Lord nauseous. What is that? LUKEWARMNESS. Some churches ake the Lord angry. Other churches ake the Lord sad. But the church of Laodicea akes the Lord sick. He would “spit them out”. Sila ay kasukasuka sa Panginoong Jesus. 

Lukewarmness is being neither hot nor cold. It is being hot enough to be not cold and it is being cold enough to be not hot. It is so precisely in-between that you do not know if you are cold or you are hot. This is a very dangerous situation for a Christian. The lukewarm professing Christians say, “Jesus, I believe you but you do not excite me. I visit you in church every Sunday, I attend Bible studies, I give my tithes, I love you enough not to be called an unbeliever.”Many church-going people, professing Christians are so lukewarm that they think they are saved but they are the last to know that they are lost. This is the reason why lukewarmness is a deadly sin that they make the Lord sick, the Lord vomits them out. (Isusuka dahil nagiging kasuka-suka)

Jesus is saying, I know your works. I know your work as an elder of this church; I know about how you never miss Sunday worship service; I know how you sing in the youth music ministry; I know how you set up microphones for each service; I know how you greet people as they come into worship; I know your Sunday school teaching to 4 and 5 year olds; I know about your missionary work; I know all about your ushering work; I know about what each of you pastors do with your time. The Lord is talking about the ministry things we do-our deeds. But all of these are done perfunctorily, mechanically, routinely, without interest, superficial. (cf. smiles of stewardesses) ANG KASUKA-SUKA AY SINABI MONG MAHAL MO SI JESUS PERO PANG-IBABAW LAMANG: IT IS NOT COMING FROM THE HEART!  (Mar 7:6  He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8)

Is it possible for a man to keep on providing for his family, going home everyday from work, staying at home with the family during weekends, going to church on Sundays, taking the family out for dinner and doing this without love? Many parents believe that they love their children when they can provide them with all their material and social needs. That is why many homes are broken, many children run away from the family because love has been replaced with mechanical deeds and material things.

You see, the Laodecians (rich, self-assured, self-confident, experienced, and self-sufficient people) thought that they did not need the Lord even in their service. They have their own agenda for Him. They were so busy with the business of the Lord, busy in ministry, doing all their duties that they do not have time for personal devotions. We also believe that we cannot do it without Jesus but our actions says that we are self-sufficient, we do not need Jesus even in our service to Him. How does self-sufficiency start? How does complacency begin? How does lukewarmness start? People cool down by degrees. The 7 churches, starting with Ephesus and Laodicea last, and all the other churches of different conditions in between, the Lord started saying to the first church in Ephesus despite its works of patience and how they were against evil and liars for the Lord’s name’s sake, how they have labored and not fainted. Nevertheless, Jesus had something against them, “they have left their first love.” They are admonished to return to repent and return to their first love.

QUESTION: Was there a time when you loved Jesus more than you do right now? If so, you have started to cool down and before long you will be lukewarm. How do you become lukewarm? You just assume that you are alright? You are just like the average, nominal Christian. CHECK-UP: When was the last time you were down on your knees in personal devotion, not begging of the Lord Jesus for something you need, not pleading for a favor, but down on your knees to worship Him, praise Him, and enjoy the fellowship with Him? Try the joy of bowing your knees beside the bed when you get up and say, “I love you Jesus.” (Psa 143:8  Lord, cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust.)

The problem of the lukewarm church is summed up in Rev 3:17, “Thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and poor and blind and naked.” Sa Tagalog, hindi mo alam ang iyong sinasabi-thou sayest and knoweth not. The indifference is caused by their ignorance. They did not know what their need was. Their greatest need was to see their need. The lukewarm professing Christian would be the last to know that he is lukewarm and the Lord is saying, “You have pushed me out. I am no longer the love of your life, please let me in.” That is why the Lord is saying, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” There is no one as deaf to hear as the one who refuse to hear. There is no one so blind to see as those who refuse to see. (cf. 3 Stooges)

Warning/Appeal

  1. Revelation 3:19  “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Jesus calls the Laodicean church to repent of their sin. Counsel of the Lord for cure of lukewarmness:
  2. Buy of me gold tried in fire that thou mayest be rich. Pure gold is symbolic of a purified Christian life through confession of our sins to the Lord, and asking His forgiveness! Their material wealth had no eternal benefit, so Jesus commands them to come to Him for true, spiritual riches. (Isaiah 55:1-2  Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.) Only Christ can supply an everlasting inheritance, clothe us in righteousness, and heal our spiritual blindness. CHECK UP: When was the last time you spent some serious time with God in confession of your sins? When was the last time you asked God to forgive your un-Christ-like attitudes and thoughts.

You want to know how rich you are? Add up everything that death cannot take away from you and you will know how rich you are. (Illustration: Mary pouring and spilling all the expensive ointment of spikenard on Jesus. Jesus said, wherever this gospel shall be preached, Mary’s outpouring of herself for Jesus will be told as a memorial for her. Saan man ipangaral ang ebanghelyo, Isasalaysay din ang pagkakabuhos ni Maria ng lahat na mahalaga kay Jesus bilang paggunita sa mabuting ginawa ni Maria kay Jesus. Bakit nagawa ni Maria? Dahil iniibig niya ang Panginoong Jesucristo.)

  1. Get white raiment to clothe you of your nakedness. (Illustration: Adam and Eve sawed fig leaves to clothe themselves of their shame. It was not good enough. Jesus had to cover them with the skin of the sacrificed animal. We think that we can hide our sins by the good deeds we do? But Jesus searches the heart, try our thoughts. We need the white garment of righteousness (the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ sewn and prepared for us) which the saints will wear in the marriage supper of the lamb.
  2. Anoint thine eye with salve, that you may see. Spiritual things are not discerned by the natural man because they are spiritually discerned. For John to see and write what the Lord Jesus was showing and is going to show him, he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day. (Rev. 1:9) One of th ministry of the Holy Spirit is to show us what the Lord Jesus Christ wants us to hear and see. (I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. Jn. 16:12-15) that is why the Lord Jesus is saying to us, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” Let us ask the Lord Jesus for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our ears. 

SONG: OPEN MY EYES LORD

Open my eyes, Lord

We(I) want to see Jesus.

To reach out and touch him.

To show him we(I) love him.

Open my(our) ears, Lord

And help me(us)to listen.

Open my(our) eyes, Lord

I(we) want to see Jesus

With their indifference came a spiritual blindness; they claimed to be rich, blessed, and self-sufficient. Perhaps they were rich in material things. But, spiritually, the Laodiceans were in a wretched, pitiful condition, made all the worse in that they could not see their need. This was a church filled with self-deceived hypocrites. Jesus said about them, “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”

  1. Revelation 3:20 is often used as an evangelistic appeal, yet its original context communicates Christ’s desire for fellowship with His lukewarm church in Laodicea. The church is nominally Christian, but Christ Himself has been locked out. Rather than turn His back on them, He knocks, seeking someone to acknowledge the church’s need and open the door. If they would repent, Jesus would come in and take His rightful place in the church. He would share a meal with them, a Middle Eastern word picture speaking of closeness of relationship.
  2. In summary, the church at Laodicea had become apathetic in their love for Christ. They were allowing “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things [to] come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22  He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.) Christ called them to repent and live zealously for Him, to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). The Lord Jesus issues the same call to those who say they follow Him today.

Promise

  1. Jesus then makes a promise to the believers in Laodicea: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21). The “overcomer” refers to any believer, and the promise is that he will share Christ’s future kingdom.
  2. To enjoy fellowship with Jesus in His kingdom throughout eternity is already a blessing beyond comprehension. But Jesus offers more promise, i.e., to sit with Jesus on His throne he shares with the Father. That symbolizes the truth that we will reign with Him. (Revelation 5:10; 20:6)

Lesson: Lukewarmness is a great sin. It is not weakness. It is a horrible sin. It is so great that it makes the Lord nauseous. If the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of our heart with all of our soul and with all of our strength, the greatest sin is to be lukewarm, i.e., to love him with half of your heart, half of your soul, and half of your strength. CHECK UP: Ask yourself now, do I love the Lord Jesus with all of my heart? If not, am I willing to repent. If you don’t, the Lord will chasten you. Am I scaring you? Yes, if it would scare you out of hell. Let us ask ourselves:

  1. Have you become lukewarm? Have we become lukewarm that we have shoved Jesus out of our church? Has Jesus has been left out of our hearts? Is Jesus outside your heart? Where is your heart? For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Who or what is occupying your heart? Who or what has taken the place of your first love?
  2. Remember, lukewarmness is a deadly sin. A lukewarm person is the last person to know that the Lord Jesus is outside his heart. If Jesus is out of your heart, you need to be saved. So in Rev. 3:20-the Lord Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart, wanting to come in because you have a church but Jesus is not in your heart. He is knocking to come in to your lukewarm heart. Is the Lord Jesus knocking at our hearts today? Let us pray: Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psa 139:23-24)

Closing. Our study on the 7 Churches should guide us in our self-examination and prepare us for the soon rapture of the church. Have we left our first love; are we persevering under persecution?; Have we allowed foreign and non-biblical doctrines in our church and lives?; are we just goin through the motions of a formal religious exercise?; have we overcome our weakness with spiritual strength in our hearts that we can go where the Lord opens doors for preaching the gospel? Have we been lukewarm, perfunctory, superficial, mechanical in our religious exercise? Let Jesus in your hearts. He is knocking at the door of your church because Jesus has been shoved out and not part of your worship and prayer. He is knocking at the door of your heart. He is coming soon to rapture His church. Are you ready to meet the Lord in the air to b with Him forever?

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