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I am reading a book that is a part of a series entitled  “Left Behind” . I’ve heard of it, but I have never read it. I have recently had the opportunity to read almost the entire series. When I say “almost” the entire series, there are some books that I have not read yet. Because of this, I consider myself missing some of the most important parts of the story.  One of the books that I am aware of that is missing is called  “The Tribulation Force.” The book called “Left Behind” mentions this group . This story line is developed later in its own book. There are also other books that deal with the Antichrist and the rise of him who introduces the one world religion and the one world currency.

What I want to discuss in this post is the thoughts that arise from my reading the book entitled “Left Behind.” Even though I have not finished reading it, it makes me stop and think about certain spiritual conditions in my life as a believer.  One of the thought- provoking scenes is when a flight attendant notices that some of the passengers are missing. All that is left is their clothes, shoes, glasses, etc. Some mothers are holding an empty baby blanket because their infant has disappeared. An elderly woman screams because her husband has disappeared before her eyes.  All over the world people are missing, and accidents have happened because people have vanished. One of the things that made me think was when people disappeared from a church leaving some members behind including one of the assistant pastors. He realizes, too late, what has happened. He compiles information from the Bible about what has happened. He begins to teach from the book of Revelation about what has happened to those who come to church on Sunday. People begin to listen and follow along and believe the scriptures. They begin to repent  and give their lives to Christ. They read their Bibles and hope for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. When I thought about all the people who were raptured leaving families behind, I begin to consider whether I am truly ready to leave when the trumpet sounds. Would everybody who I know would they make it too? If some of my family were left behind, would they seek the opportunity to know about the truth of the Bible? How would they survive?  Would they choose to kill themselves because they saw no hope?  Or would some hear the Word of God and reject it, and remain lost? Would they search for answers and ignore God altogether? 

It brought up so many questions that I was always stopping and remembering what the Bible taught. Sometimes I think we should read some novels that cause us to stop and remember what the Bible teaches. It should make us question ourselves and where we are in our faith and relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This particular book is a good read. Sometimes a book should not be just  good reading, but something that stirs our spiritual mind as well.

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Church at Thyatira

Thyatira

Rev. 2:18-29

Introduction

It has the features of the firmly established church in that it is not only a church, but also a state. It was the least important church. It received the longest letter. Its location was about halfway between Pergamos and Sardis. It was commercially wise.

Description of Jesus

Eyes were as a flame of fire. Rev. 1:14b. His feet were like brass. Rev. 1:15a. The Lord is not pleased with what He sees in Thyatira. He stands in judgment against it

Verse 19

Jesus speaks of their works, love and service. They are active in the ministry of the church. Some things need to be handled. Their works shall be greater than the beginning. We will see what is wrong in the next verse.

Verse 20

In this church, we see a false prophetess named Jezebel working in the midst. It is the spirit of false teaching. It is seductive: to tempt to wrongdoing. It is a spirit that entices an individual into having illicit sexual intercourse.  In this case, it is spiritual intercourse.

This is mentioned, to some degree, in the previous church. It has to do with Baal worship I Kings 21:25. Ahab sold himself to this idol worship. This church made the choice to sell themselves into spiritual slavery of idol worship. They were at one spirit with the idols, which meant desecration.

Desecrate—to violate the sacredness of themselves for false gods.

An idol

False deity, image Lev. 19:4; 26:1 Deut. 27:15

Idolatry

Worship of idols

Acts 17:16; I Cor. 10:14; Gal. 5:20; I Peter 4:3

To eat things sacrificed to idols—I Cor. 8:4-6 Deut. 4:39, which says there is no other god.

Jezebel

She calls herself a prophetess. Some members of this church were under the influence of this woman. They refused to separate themselves from the local guilds.

Guild

It is an association, which is set up for mutual aid and the promotion of common interests.

These individuals were a part of an association where moral interests were serious compromised. The lax principles or tendencies made for a connection made for foreign and compromising associations. It was a dangerous influence on those weaker in the faith. These individuals prided themselves in their liberty. The Bible says to come out from among them, and to be separate unto the Lord. 2 Cor. 6:17 and Jude 19 They considered themselves to be “enlightened.” They were “enlightened” to the things of the flesh.

Verse 21

In His mercy, God gave this prophetess room to repent, but she did not.

Verses 22-23

Those who had committed spiritual fornication with her shall go through tribulation. They are encouraged to repent. God searches the hearts and reins of humanity. Ps. 7:9, 26:2; Jer. 11:20; 17:10

 

 

 

Pergamos

Pergamos

Rev. 2:12-17

Note: It was a place of emperor worship. A little compromise is dangerous.

Introduction

This church represents the state church. This may be the reason for some of its problems. It was 55 miles north of Smyrna. There was an immense altar built to Zeus. He was the chief of the Greek mythological gods.

Scriptural Analysis

Verse 12

Here is the description found in Rev. 1:16. It is a two-edged sword, which means judgment. The words “Satan’s seat” means the Roman government. Antipas was slain there.

Verses 13-15

Although they are praised, there are some inside problems that they must deal with. The leadership is Nicolaitane  in nature. The doctrine of Balaam is being taught. Note the following  scriptures for an understanding: Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 14-16 and Jude 11

In reference to idols: Exodus 20:3-5, Deut. 6:14; 13:4-7 Jer. 25:6 I Cor. 8:4-9

It should be noted that Balaam suffered a  dishonorable death, which served as a warning to future generations. Numbers 31:8. He did wrong for personal gain. 2 Cor. 6:16-18—separate from them.

Verse 16

This church needed to repent of their wrongdoing. If they would not repent, judgment would fall. They needed to repent quickly.

Verse 17

This church would eat of the hidden manna. This is spiritual food for the faithful.

They would receive a white stone with their new name written on it. Nobody would know what that new name would be. Is. 56:5 A new body with a new name!

 

 

Smyrna

Verse 8

The description of this church is found in Rev. 1:11a and 8. This church manifests the Father as the all-encompassing God. Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary, and He rose on

Verse 9

Their  natural poverty is mentioned. Yet they are rich in what is important—rich in the things of God. They were in the favor of God. They were living the life of true believers who depended upon the Lord. Luke 12:22-31; I Tim. 6:17. See vv. 6-12.

There are those who profess to be Jews, but their lives do not testify of them! They are instruments of unrighteousness. Romans 6:11-13, 16. Rather than being the habitation of God’s glory, their bodies are the habitation of Satan. They chose to dwell in the thorn bush of Satan instead of the true vine of Jesus. John 15:1-6

They are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead of praising the Father, they speak evil against Him. They blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, which means no forgiveness. Mark 3:29 They have chosen darkness over light because their deeds are evil.

Verse 10

A crown is an emblem of royalty. There are different kinds of crowns in the Bible.

I Cor. 9:25 eternal     Phil. 4:1          crown of joy

1 Thess. 2:19                                      crown of rejoicing

2 Tim. 4:8                                          crown of righteousness

James 1:12                                         crown of life

1 Peter 5:4                                          crown of glory

This church is told not to fear. Jesus tells them what they shall go through as believers. These are satanic attacks against them. They shall have tribulation for a season.

Verse 11

This speaks of a spiritual ear that is obtained through prayer, communion, reading God’s Word and fasting. Rev 20:14—They shall not experience the second death.

 

 

Introduction to Smyrna

Smyrna

The Persecuted Church

Revelation 2:8-11

This is the shortest of the letters to the seven churches. It is filled with praise, and no condemnation. There other church that escaped the Lord’s rebuke was Philadelphia.

The Audience

Smyrna was known for her trade. It was located about 35 miles north from Ephesus. It had a harbor that could be totally enclosed during wartime. Alexander the Great rebuilt the city, and he was determined to make it a model Greek city. It was a city of wealth and commercial greatness. It was referred to as “The Beautiful.” It received its name from one of its main products—myrrh. It also saw profit in wine. Today it is called Izmir, which is located in Turkey. Its population is over 300,000 with two thirds of its people professing Christianity.

Myrrh

The Greek word for Smyrna means “suffering,” and it comes from the word myrrh. Myrrh was a perfect symbol of suffering, and the blessing that can come from suffering. The believers here suffered much. Myrrh was used for several purposes. Rom. 8:17; I Peter 2:20-23; I Peter 3:12-15

-used in perfumes

-an ingredient in the holy anointing oil for the priest

-for the purification of women

-for embalming

It was brought to Jesus at His birth. It is associated with Christ in His first coming. It is a sign of Christ’s suffering humanity. Matthew 2:11 When Christ was on the Cross, He was offered wine mingled with myrrh. In this case, it acted like a painkiller. Matt. 27:34 and Ps. 69:21.

In order for this spice to release its full fragrance, it had to be crushed and beaten. Smyrna was beaten, crushed and persecuted. At that time, it was in the midst of bitter sorrow and suffering. It was the most afflicted and persecuted of all seven churches. It gave off the fragrance of Christ.

Firsts

It was a beautiful city. It claimed to be the “Glory of Asia.”

The temples in this city were:

-the Temple of Zeus

-The Temple of Cybele (the goddess of nature)

All the temples of this area were located on Golden Street. This area also had a stadium and library. It was the birthplace of the poet Homer.

It was first in beauty, and first in Caesar worship.

Its loyalty was to Rome. In 196 B.C., it built a temple to Dea Roma, the goddess of Rome. They eventually began to worship the city of Rome.

 

 

 

Verse 5

Remember

An individual must acknowledge their spiritual need. It is important to keep remembering where they have fallen. When we forget what God has done for us, and the decisions we have made for the Lord, we can slide back spiritually. The individual can fall flat on their face. Ephesus needed to remember where they came from. The memory is precious and haunting.

An individual must remember, but not turn back. Lot’s wife remembered and looked back. She died because of this action. Whatever an individual does, they must not give up. Paul could have been destroyed by his past memories. Instead he pressed forward.

A person’s memory can be a great blessing as they dwell on the victories of the past, which bring joy, peace, and precious moments with the people we love. These memories can make the individual grateful to the Lord.

Repent

No one is exempt from repenting. There must be a change of mind that leads to a change in character and behavior. Sacrificial repentant worship attracts the Father, and it allows Him to move close to the worshipper.

Repeat

This church had to do their first works over or else face judgment. They needed to return to the place where they started. They needed to have that passionate love for the Lord.

Vance Havner put it this way:

A revival is the Church remembering,

The Church repenting,

The Church repeating.

Failure to do this would lead to disaster. Otherwise, God would remove the candlestick. The light of His Word would move to another place.

The lights went out in Ephesus. They lost their effectiveness, and the result was Islam sweeping the land. It is only a memory now. The immediate area of Ephesus has been uninhabited since the 14th century.

Verse 7

An overcomer is an individual who has trusted Jesus as their personal savior. I John 5:4-5. Those who know Christ will eat of the tree of life in Heaven. As believers, we will enjoy eating in our glorified bodies. Rev. 22:2, 14

 

 

 

 

The Believer’s Checklist

It is vital that we develop and maintain our relationship with Christ lest we become burned out in our service to Him. We must maintain our connection to Him. We must spend time with Him. We must understand that He wants fellowship and company with us. If this is not done, then we will drift away from Him spiritually. Our dedication and service will die. This is what happened at Ephesus.

Truth: Consistency in dedication to Christ is maintained by intimacy with Him.

If the relationship crumbles, our service for the Lord crashes. We must study God’s Word and pray.

Question: How do you know if you have lost your first love for the Lord?

What causes the Word to be scarce or rare in our lives? Why can’t we seem to stay revived all the time? What extinguishes one’s enthusiasm for God? These are questions we must ask ourselves. There is not one answer for all individuals.

Problem: Delighting more in someone or something other than the Lord.

We tend to crowd the Lord out of our lives. We can get sidetracked or distracted. We can get our priorities out of order. Mark 12:30

Problem: Losing the desire and longing in our soul for times of close fellowship with the Lord in the Word and prayer. Notice the word “soul” in Mark 12:30.

Problem: Giving in to those things which we know displeases the Lord. John 15:10.

Problem: When we are not willingly and cheerfully giving to God’s work or to the needs of others. This will cause us to lose our first love. 1 John 3:17

Problem: When we cease to treat every Christian as I would the Lord. John 13:34

Problem: I will lose my first love if I inwardly strive for fame, popularity, and the acclaim of this world rather than the approval of Jesus Christ.

Who is more important—the crowd or Christ? Who do we seek to please? I John 2:15 some will say they will be mocked if they live for Christ. John 15:19-20.

Problem: Becoming complacent and apathetic to sinful conditions around us or in our lives.

When a person gets use to his/her sin, they don’t care anymore about the consequences, they get harder in their heart. Matt. 24:12  

Ephesus Characteristics Two

He approved them for their Spiritual Discernment

 They tried those who claimed to be apostles. They were liars. They knew what they believed and why they believed.

Jesus approved them for their stand against the deeds of the Nicolaitaines. (Rev. 2:6) Nikao means to conquer and Lsaos means the people.

This word is applied to the system which divides the church into two divisions. The clergy and the laity. Pergamos and Thyatira had this problem with its bishops, archbishops and other domineering people. God’s Word says that our High Priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 2:5) When it comes to the gifts of the Spirit, the church is one body. None of the gifts can function alone. They are a part of the whole. There are leaders or elders in the church, but we function as a whole and not a separate entity.

We are to confess our sins to the Lord Jesus Christ and not to man. We should be held accountable to one another. We should bear one another’s burdens, but we are responsible to do what we must to maintain an ongoing relationship with the Lord. Nobody can do with for us. It is a personal matter between us and our Savior.  When it comes to sin, we must realize that Jesus is the only one who can forgive sin. Note I John 1:9.

Revelation 2:4

Although they seemed to be a church on target, there was a problem pointed out by Jesus. There was the admonition or accounting.

They were maintaining a spirit of sacrifice, steadfastness, separation and keenness for detecting heresy.  They had lost their first love for the Lord. Jesus had said that in the last days, the love of many would wax cold. (Matthew 24:12)

The spiritual furnace was still there, but the coals no longer had a bright, red luster. The honeymoon was over. The same can happen between a husband and wife. They remain faithful to each other, yet they lose their first love for one another. A church member can be regular in attendance and tithing. They can be active yet lose their first love for Jesus. Like Martha, we can become occupied with doing for Christ and miss becoming like Christ.

They remain faithful to each other. Yet they lose their first love for one another.  A church member can be regular in attendance and tithing. They can be active yet lose their first love for Jesus. Like Martha, we can be occupied with doing for Christ and miss becoming like Christ.

Ephesus Characteristics

The worship of Diana was vile and perverse. The idol was a many-breasted woman, which was believed to have fallen from heaven. (Acts 19:35) In her temple priests, slaves and thousands of women ministered in it. The women served as ritual prostitutes. Sex was a part of their worship. The worshipers were also dancers and musicians. The sounds were that of wailing, shouting and hysterically frenzied individuals. Ephesus’ reputation was one of being fickle, superstitious and very immoral.

Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31 and Acts 19). It eventually became a very strong spiritual church. This church received its letter forty years after it started.

1.      Approved for their service

The Greek word for “labor” means toil or diligent labor, even to the point of weariness and exhaustion. It is Holy Spirit activated. It just wasn’t attendance, but working to further the kingdom of God.

There are three groups of people in the church:

-The Shirkers—they do nothing. Others have to take up the slack.

-The Jerkers—they start out fine. They jerk a little while, and then they run out of gas. They become indifferent and unreliable.

-The Workers—these are what a church needs the most. Ephesus was a working church.

5.         Approved Their Steadfastness

They had patience, and they had not fainted. Patience from the Greek means durability, triumph and fortitude. It changes suffering into glory. It is a courageous acceptance of: (1) hardship; (2) suffering and (3) loss. 

They were: fixed, firm and not fickle.

Every time they did something, they were persecuted. They were not easily disappointed or discouraged. They faced strong fierce opposition and hatred. Trade unions tried to make them leave the city. They were not deterred. (I Cor. 15:58)

2.      Approved them for their suppression of evil.

They could not bear them which were evil. They were concerned about the quantity of persons rather than the quality of persons needed.

The Church of Ephesus

REVELATION 2

When it comes to the Greek language, the word “angel” comes from the word aggelos, which probably describes bishops or pastors of the seven churches. In the singular form it means messenger, one sent to announce or proclaim.

This section of scripture deals with things which are. These messages have a threefold meaning:

-Primary Association—A local or direct bearing upon the church to which it was written.

-Personal Application—This applies to every Christian.

-Prophetic Anticipation—Each church individually and the seven churches combined set forth this meaning.

In the Prophetic Anticipation, as believers look forward to the Rapture. The word “rapture” is not found in scripture. It simply means the “catching away of the church.” The problems that these seven churches are what we also face today.

Ephesus

This church was the most prominent church of the seven. This was the mother church of Asia. (Acts 19:1-10) The content concerning this portion of scripture serves as a pattern for the remaining six letters to the churches.

Four decades have passed since this church was established. Paul is dead along with many of the converts of that time. With this church there is a new atmosphere. These problems cause the Lord to address these issues through John.

The Audience

Ephesus was in a strategic city of that time. It was the seacoast capital of Asia. It was one of the greatest religious, political and commercial centers of the region.

1.      Commercially

Ephesus lay at the mouth of a river called the Cayster River, which is located in present-day Turkey. This was a fast moving river. It built up sand on the shore of Ephesus. The ruins of Ephesus are now located some six miles inland from the sea. When people disembarked at the harbor, they traveled to the center of the city. The road was filled with columns, and it was known as the Arcadian Way. The active business climate had a population of approximately one quarter to a half million people.

2.      Politically

It was a free self-governing city in the Roman Empire. Important cases were tried here. It involved much pomp and circumstance.

3.      Religious Stance

The last important part is the religious atmosphere. The Temple of Diana or Artemis was located there. Women offered their jewelry for its construction. Its measurements were:

425 ft. long

220 ft. wide

60 ft. high

There were 127 pillars given by 127 kings. Thirty-six of the pillars were overlaid with gold, jewels and carvings.