Monday, October 20, 2008
Crazy long post re: Revelation 2:8-17 notes
As a Church, we are studying Revelation and being blessed for just reading it. We are approaching this book as a tool for growing in our discipleship, for learning more about Jesus and who he is, who we are, and who the church is called to be. Revelation is about REVEALING who Jesus is. Listen to my talk here: and if you like check out my scrapbook of notes below.
Sunday I did a quick recap:
John, last listing disciple of Jesus, wrote it. He was in his 80's.
Imprisoned/exiled on the Island of Patmos
96AD (Remember some say the Disciples were teens at the time of Jesus)
This revelation came to him AS HE WAS WORSHIPPING. Jesus revealed himself and spoke to him about the churches, his kingdom, himself, and his future reign. During a time when there was much persecution of the church under the reign of a king named Domitian. I suggest listening to the previous talks by PCC's lead pastor here.
THE BOOK OF REVELATION IN GENERAL IS MORE THAN JUST PROPHECY AND APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE-in fact theologian N.T. Wright says that Revelation was more about inspiring 1st Century Christians in the truth then forecasting dates and times. IT WAS AND IS MEANT TO BE A DISCIPLESHIP TOOL both for early Christians and for us today!
In the beginning of John’s Revelation-Jesus spoke a word to seven churches. These seven churches really existed at the time (see Map above), and had real teaching, warning, praise, and correction. But in totality all 7 letters summarized are a complete word to the whole universal church. Symbolically in the Bible 7 is complete number! In Revelation 2: 8:17 Chapter 2 focused on two letters-the one to Smyrna and to Pergamum.
Quick letter recap: Each of the seven letters has the same pattern.
1-Jesus introduces/identifies himself—and in a different way each time
2-Jesus encourages the church
3-Jesus rebukes the church (if they needed it)
4-Jesus corrects the church
5-Jesus promises to the church
Is the modern Izmir, in Turkey. A port city. A beautiful city. Smyrna claimed -on its coins-- to being the "first city of Asia in size and beauty.” Perhaps this is why Jesus presented himself as the 1st and the last to this city took pride in it’s being “1st.” They had lots of wealth (and gold) in which to glorify themselves, but the Christians there remained separate.
Smyrna was one of the only two churches in which Jesus does not rebuke for sinful behavior. Jesus commended his church for not worshipping the glitz of the city or bowing down to the emperor and pagan idol worship. In fact, Jesus commends them for being rich (in faith, integrity—eternal treasure) which was reflected in their perseverance through tribulation. It was said that these Christians were rejected and boycotted by the city because they wouldn’t conform to the culture (of idol worship,etc) and their businesses and livelihood were affected—literally impoverishing them. But what was more important was their heart and posture of worship and God-honoring living. Jesus blesses them—and doesn’t say he’ll take the persecution away—in fact-- the message to Smyrna promises that the congregation will soon face a more persecution, linked to a synagogue of Satan (v. 9) ---composed of those who say they are Jews and are not. Like the "false apostles" who had come to Ephesus, these “said” Jews are liars claiming to be something other than what they are. Most commentators identify this group as actual ethnic Jews in Smyrna who refused to accept Jesus as Messiah (See Paul's distinction between "outwardly" and "inwardly) –And history says these Jews were even responsible for reporting their refusal to worship to Rome and it’s said that these Jews could even have participated in the martyring of faithful Christians.
What stands out here in the commendation is connected to what James 1 says.
Jesus closes his 2nd letter with a promise to those who “overcome.” This is again reference to the affliction in vs. 9, and the testing in 10. Both of these refer strictly to persecution (Greek word thlipsis means "being pressed upon from an outside source." Although God wants us to cast our “other” cares on him and overcome our personal struggles such as debt issues, relational woes, health issues, etc—this particular passage strictly deals with overcoming the persecution of our faith. So how does this apply to us here in America? Much like we talked about when we studied Daniel chapter 3 during the summer, a majority of our persecution in the US here won’t be like that of 1st century Christians-or that 21st century war stricken/extreme Muslim controlled territory. But we do have "idol worship" here (comfort, culture, money, sex, things, etc) and we will face possible rejection from our friends/families, co-workers, teachers/professors, neighbors etc., when we don't bow down to it. —we may be labeled intolerant, stereotyped and misunderstood for taking particular stands. Now remember this does not give us license to be rude, condemning, cold, argumentative, condescending, or snobbish.
The Christians in Smyrna were being rejected for the bold stands-so much that their businesses were going under—losing homes, etc. Today, the stands that we might take for God i.e.-for integrity in your business practices, you might not be in a relationship because of your purity standards, you definitely won't be POPULAR on your high school an college campuses. You might not be the most sought after story-teller in the locker room, but what you will have is God's affirmation on you as you stand firm. Jesus says to his disciples in Mark, 13:13 that people will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm until will be saved. So what do we do with real life issues and conversations around the water cooler, coffee shop, cafeteria, park, and neighborhood or wherever you find yourself.
Two topics currently come to mind that might bring a "persecution." For example totally relevant right now is current political issues in the election like life and propositions on definition of marriage. Or even Halloween (Purchase an E-book here). Glorifying murder and evil acts, entertainment by fear. We need to be informed. If the Bible is our authority we will take stands that make us different from the world.
How do we handle these things?
With grace and patience. We must not argue, we must not fight or condescend .
Are we willing to be labeled? Intolerant, misunderstood, prude, and unpopular? Are we as Christians in business with honest practices, willing to "become poor" in order to honor God?
1 peter 3 But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1
Jesus was commending the church in Smyrna for holding their faith and integrity—and weren’t willing to give it up for financial security, popularity, nothing..
The heart of Jesus’ message was to continue be faithful to the end—to be free from the 2nd death (hell/lake of fire, eternal separation from God. -rev 13 & 14 foreshadow the need for the saints to be patient and have endurance.
To Pergamum,16 miles inland, Jesus presented himself as the one who hold the
Double-edged sword: which represents the word of God (Hebrews 4:12). Jesus presents himself in this way because 1st—the church met in city that had huge thrones for idol worship-Zeus being one of them (So much that Jesus calls it the place where Satan lives.—some say Satan actually could have been dwelling there at the time, since he is not omnipresent or that this reference was to one of temple gods Asklepius.
thought to be a healer who healed with snakes-hence the parallel Satan. Interesting though, that the AMA uses the symbol for this Greco-Roman medicine god, today. (I am not saying that modern medicine is evil, no, just interesting that it's a part of our culture today and not many of us know that).
Do you recognize this symbol? It is used today. Does this mean that all medicine is evil? No, I am not saying that, just goes to show that there are many influences in our culture that come from the Greco-Roman pagan culture.
Some Christians in Pergamum were lost in waves of theological confusion because of the Nicolatians—who believed that there was a separation between what we did with our body and our Spirit—encouraged people to do whatever they wanted with their bodies-which brought Sexual immorality from within the church. IT wasn’t about their being influenced from without, but from within-they might not have been worshipping pagan Gods—but they were just a little off in their theology which affected how they acted.
We as the church have a responsibility to uphold God’s standards of holiness. Have you taken the spiritual life survey? This is for PCC members, —EXPECTATIONS ON LEAD PASTOR) We all share in the privilege of teaching the ways of Jesus Christ---What was happening in Pergamum happens today. 2 things standout. Within the Church I think there are two groups of people--Somehow some people just miss the complete story—the story of God’s love through Christ, and his plan for our life how it entails right doctrine, right behavior—so we need to teach people, we need to disciple, young believers on the truth. That's why Jesus introduced himself as the double edged swoard! 2nd is simply there are some within the church in outright disobedience. There are Christians who know God’s design but secretly reject it and givein to temptation,. It can come through poor boundaries, weak faith, immature convictions, and lack of self-control. Much like some teachings Paul countered in Corinth. “Everything is permissible.” Do whatever you want with your body, God forgives, and you are separate physical and spiritual. But God wants us body, mind, soul, consecrated for holiness. This was plain truth from Acts 15, 1 Cor 10:7-8. Jesus is giving them time to repent, before he himself comes against them—and FIGHTS THEM (whoa) with the sword of his mouth. Paul calls us as the church to “judge”-meaning call out right and wrong—within the body of believers .
John Macarthur says this is done poorly by the church at large. I think it’s done poorly because we expect the paid pastors to do it (hence the spiritual life survey expectations for lead pastors), or like me sometimes, I'm fearful of confrontation. It’s all of our responsibility to speak the truth in love.
Grand/Parents, are we approving and condoning sexual immorality with TV shows, magazines, books, or movies we allow in our children to watch? Are we engaging in deep, authentic conversations with our friends, brothers, and sisters in Christ? Could our children see any of our habits as characteristics as those that Jesus might be rebuking and addressing here in Revelation 2?
Singles—are you keeping your friends accountable to God-honoring living, and asking your dating friends about their purity? What's your view on couples living together? So you have scripture references to share with your friends about purity?
Lauren Winner in her book, “Real Sex,” says that within the church community—sex is everyone’s business.” That when we correctly handle the beauty of God’s design for sex—only between one man and woman in marriage—we don’t keep those conversations “private/personal”--we celebrate it and discuss it in healthy ways as means care about it for each of the church’s members. Jesus loves us too much not to point this out and hold his church to a high and holy standard. Hebrews 12:14-15. Galatians 6:1-6
Inadvertently, or unintentionally we may allow ungodly behavior to exist within our church family. How does this play out with things like: what we wear, PDA (public display of affection) joking, entertainment choices, magazines we read, facebook status updates and picture postings?
MY ENTOURAGE ISSUE, ya know I LOVE entertainment, films, etc. I was into watching DVDS of HBO's entourage because it was about this actor living in LA and all the behind the scenes stuff with agents, casting directors, etc. But what the show did was glorify one night stands and hook-ups.
I really began to feel uncomfortable watching it. I wondered, what if my wife was in the room? How would she would? I was convicted that I didn't condone this type of behavior and didn't want to spend half of each episode fast forwarding through sex scenes. Overall, this show perpetuated the idea that women were just objects to be used. I didn't need those lies swirling around in my head. I have enough battle to do with out adding to my mind's images! I stopped my viewing of this show to honor God, keep pure, and honor my wife. These are the things that God wants us to compare with his word. Are we truly purified in all that we do?
If we justify little things, we slowly erode. Little things can become big things very quickly.
I’d love to see us be a safe, trusting, grace-filled church that we can say, “Hey I noticed that your updated your facebook status yesterday-and it said you were hanging out with so and so at 11:54pm, how was that? Or I noticed the pics you posted from your Halloween party—had a lot of people holding a lot of plastic red cups. What was in those cups? Or, "Because I care about you and your relationship with God so much, I want to ask you a couple questions about what I'm observing between you and so and so!
Galatians 5, we must care 1-about God and his kingdom values 2-and care about each other enough to address these issues.
When I was in college I did some extra work as a fundraiser/telephone recruiter. It was for a Christian organization and it was really just an easy job and a lot of my friends did it, we could make our own schedules and eventually I because a student director, which meant I got a set of keys and had a few extra responsibilities. One night I went in after hours,because I had left something at the desks— all the lights were off and I took the elevator up to the third floor and walked down the hall way toward the caller cubes—when I saw a light toward the end of the hallway. That's when I saw one of my supervisors looking at pornography.
The flickering computer light and bodily images sucked him so much that he was in a trance. He didn't even see me—I backed out, frozen, and didn't say anything. Ever. More than a decade later, I wonder (with grief and sorrow in my heart for not confronting the issues)
What has happened to him? Did he have an addiction? Did he ever get help? Is he married now? Divorced? Did he ever damage anyone else in the wake of sin? I felt a tremendous sorrow for not taking action for what I might have helped prevent. I was too scared of the reaction. I didn't rely on God's Spirit for courage. I didn't care about him, God, or the community at large. I cared more about myself and how I might feel if the confrontation didn't go well.
It reminded me how Uncle Ben, PeterParker/Spiderman's adopted father, lost his life because Peter didn't stop a burglar when he had the chance.
He was too self focused to take a stand and therefore the consequence was the murder of his Uncle by this very same burglar later in the day.
Doesn't the same thing happen in the church when we aren't willing to confront sin from within?
Will you be willing to step up and help other beleivers in our church with their walk with God? Jesus is looking that his whole church be pure and holy and this means that we all have the priveledge of helping each other do so!
If you or someone you know has pornography issues, visit NOV 6th's event by PornNation in San Jose. Pass this info on.
Are you aware of anything—any attitudes or behaviors that don’t obey God’s standards--or are you waiting for someone else to deal with it?
I ask those of you who are mature Christians to step into mentoring roles and leadership roles. We have many young men and women—and new Christians who need your guidance. (PCC Student Ministries is currently lacking leaders for their small groups).
PARENTS—this is a givein—but let me remind you what PCC has been teaching for years—YOU ARE THE PRIMARY PASTOR..we get the great priveledge to raise up godly men and women that live lives that hoor God—to be a part of his bride the church..
Do you need some affirmation in your faith? Who knows you to be able to see where you are growing?
Are you fearful of stepping out in boldness for fear of persecution?
Are you aware of anything in your life, or in the life of another that needs to be gracefully pointed for repentance?
Have you overlooked something that has caused damage?
Are you running the race as if to win?
There are many interpreations to this white rock reference in Revelation 2: 17. The one I thought was especially meaningful was this the white rocks given as special invitations to victorious atheletes. In ancient times white rocks symbolized entrance to the victory celebration. Just like those of us who are invited into the celebration of enternity with a new name-a new identity given to us by Jesus in our newness after we die!
So today, celebrate someone for standing firm. Pray with and for someone who lives out their faith authentically and with perseverance.