ON REVELATION - LESSON 9
Cares About You
Joe and his two
grade-school sons, Brady and Cooper, were skiing some of Colorado's
finest slopes. The snow was deep and powdery. The days were bright
and crisp; the nights were full of stars. One morning the two boys
decided to make new ski trails through a forest that paralleled the
slope. Joe told the boys he would meet them at the bottom of the
hill. Joe and Brady and one of their friends popped out of the end
of the forest. But Cooper was nowhere to be found.
patiently waited for thirty minutes, hoping to spot his son's bright
yellow ski pants. But Cooper didn't emerge from the trees. Joe called
the ski patrol for help. This group skied down through the forest searching.
Still no sign of Cooper. Lunch time came and went. Eleven-year-old Cooper
never missed a meal, no matter what was on the menu. But by 2:00 p.m.
he hadn't appeared, and tears were beginning to fill Joe's eyes. He
feared something had gone terribly wrong. By 4:30 p.m. the ski lifts
had shut down, and all the other skiers were going home. Joe was frantic.
He looked up at the almost emptied slopes, hoping against hope. As the
last few stragglers made their way down, there at the tail end was a
tiny, lone skier in bright yellow pants. Joe's tears became uncontrollable
sobs. But he quickly skied across the base of the slope to meet Cooper.
The two threw their arms around each other and hugged for five minutes,
unable to speak.
A ski patrol man
gliding by called out to Joe, "I bet you're gonna be mad at him!" He
obviously was not a dad who'd been separated from his boy. Joe couldn't
imagine being angry. He had lost a son, and now he was found!
The Bible tells
us that you and I are sons and daughters of God. He loves us. Oh
sure, we don't always please Him. In fact many of us live lives that
reveal we don't even think about Him. But God never gives up on us.
Even some of us who claim to belong to God, and to His Christian
church, sometimes live as if we are lost to His plans for us. That's
why He has given us messages in the Bible to help us. God is still
reaching out. He does that because He loves us!
the Christian church is like a body, and Jesus is its head. That means
that believers, members of Christ's church, are like His hands and feet
in the world; we are to go and share with others that God loves them
and died for their sins. One would expect, then, that Jesus would be
very concerned about the welfare of His body, the church. And guess
what? He is. The second and third chapters of Revelation contain letters
Jesus sent through John to seven churches in the province of Asia in
the area that is now modern Turkey. The
churches are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia,
and Laodicea. These cities were so located on the interconnecting Roman
highways that it was possible to visit each one of them in the order
they are listed.
and lifestyles of the members of these churches represent the journey
you take as you grow as a Christian in your relationship with Jesus.
There are times of struggle and times of joyful experiences. But
no matter where you are in the journey, God loves you and cares about
you. As you study the seven churches, relate your personal experience
to that of the members of the seven churches.
In addition many
biblical scholars believe that the seven churches are symbolic of
the whole Christian church throughout history. The experience of
each church taken in order reflects the experience of the Christian
church during seven consecutive eras. This means that each message
has three applications. The first applies to the actual church at
the time of the writing of the letter. The second application is
to an era of actual church history. The third is how the experience
and message apply to your life and mine today!
Let's study each
church and make these three applications as we seek to understand
Church at Ephesus
(The Apostolic Church, A.D. 31-100)
The name Ephesus
means "desirable." It was indeed a very desirable city, located on
a beautiful harbor in the Aegean Sea. It was known for its many commercial
and cultural interests. One of the Seven Wonders of the World was
located herethe temple dedicated to Diana, the pagan goddess
of fertility. Aquilla and Priscilla helped to start this church,
assisted by Apollos, an evangelist, and the apostle Paul (Acts 18:18-26).
For what does Jesus praise the church at Ephesus? (Revelation 2:2, 3.)
standing firm under persecution and being willing to become martyrs for
their works, labor, and patience; because they cannot bear evil; and
persevere without becoming weary..
preaching the gospel to pagans and winning many souls for the kingdom
2. What problem does Jesus point out in the Ephesian church? (Revelation
Ephesian Christians have allowed false doctrines to creep into the church.
Ephesian Christians have failed to take care of widows and orphans as
Ephesian Christians have left their first love.
What solution does Jesus offer for their problem? (Revelation 2:5.)
close attention to their pastor and do whatever he says.
the Scriptures more diligently and pray for the Holy Spirit to help them understand.
from where they have fallen, repent, and do the works they did at the beginning.
4. What does Jesus promise this church if the members follow His advice?
will eat from the tree of life.
will be taken to heaven without dying.
will become the most respected Christians of all the seven churches.
The members of
this church were zealous for God, patient with others, and were loyal
and protective of the truth of Scripture. However, in time they lost
their first-love relationship with Jesus. They lived their Christian
lives as a "to do" list rather than a "I love you and want to do
this" experience. God calls the Ephesians back to loving Him again.
Nicolaitans, mentioned in these verses, claimed to be Christians but
believed obedience to God's law was unnecessary. Jesus used strong language
about the Nicolaitans, saying He hated their "works" or lifestyle. Irenaeus,
a second-century minister, said they called themselves Christians, but
they considered it "a matter of indifference to practice adultery, and
to eat things sacrificed to idols."
Jesus used strong
language in other books of the Bible on this same topic. Jesus said, "He
who says 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar,
and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Jesus also said, "Not
everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of
heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew
7:21). You see, it is important to God that Christians are not hypocrites.
His Word should be important to them because they love Him and have
chosen to have a relationship with Him. It is like a husband and
wife. They do things for each other because they want to, not because
they have to.
you think about your own relationship with Jesus how do you feel
at this moment?
Church at Smyrna
(The Persecuted Church, A.D. 100-313)
The city of Smyrna
was about forty miles north of Ephesus on a beautiful inlet of the
Aegean Sea. Smyrna means "sweet smelling," and still exists today
under the name of Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey. The citizens
of Smyrna built a modern three-level shopping mall. This church also
passed through bitter persecution, but stood faithful to God. The
persecution finally ended when the Roman emperor Constantine became
For what does Jesus praise the church members at Smyrna? (Revelation
For their keen understanding of the prophecies.
For their willingness to care for the needs of the apostles.
their good works and for patiently enduring tribulation and poverty.
6. What problems would the church at Smyrna face? (Revelation 2:10.)
of the members at Smyrna would be thrown into prison and suffer tribulation.
teachers would deceive some of the members at Smyrna and cause them to
their way spiritually.
pagans would not listen to them when they preached the gospel.
years after this prophecy Smyrna became the death site of numerous martyrs.
It was a terrible time in the Roman Empire when Christians were thrown
to lions and burned at the stake. One of the last to die heroically
was Polycarp, the leader of the church at Smyrna. As he faced a bloodthirsty
crowd in the city stadium, the Roman governor demanded that he swear
by Caesar and curse Christ. Polycarp replied calmly, "Eighty and six
years have I served Him, and he did me no wrong. How can I blaspheme
my King, who saved me?"
What does Jesus promise the church at Smyrna if the members remain faithful?
crown of life.
people will join their church.
- Receiving the
crown of life means that one lives forever with God.
- The Bible calls
the final destruction of the world with fire
the second death. A later lesson will discuss this in depth.
are to those who are "faithful" and "overcome." They are for those
who through faith in Jesus would rather die than reject Jesus; would
rather die than be dishonest or dishonor their parents or commit
adultery or reject the Sabbath.
think about: If you were put on trial for your faith, what
Church at Pergamos
(The Exalted Church, A.D. 313-538)
Pergamos (or Pergamum)
means "citadel"; it was located on a mountain spur. This splendid
city was known for its many pagan temples and its great library of
200,000 scrolls. Pergamos created the first cult worship of a living
emperor. That's why it is referred to as the place "where Satan has
his throne." The Christian church in Pergamos was firmly established,
but believers there were bombarded with temptations from the sensual,
pagan worship that surrounded them.
For what does Jesus praise the church members at Pergamos? (Revelation
For holding fast to His name and not denying their faith in Him.
For the way they have memorized Bible texts.
For treating with kindness even those who mistreat them.
Why does Jesus rebuke the members at Pergamos? (Revelation 2:14.)
Because they let sinners continue to eat the Lord's Supper.
Because some of them hold the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.
Because they don't fast often enough.
What counsel does Jesus give to the church members at Pergamos? (Revelation
Don't let members who hold false doctrines remain in the church.
Fast more often.
11. What reward does Jesus promise to those at Pergamos who overcome?
He will give them a better understanding of the Bible.
He will give them the power to work miracles in His name.
He will give them hidden manna to eat and a white stone on which is written
their new name.
martyrdom of a believer named Antipas contrasts with "the teaching
of Balaam." Balaam was a false prophet who led Israel into immorality
and idolatry (Numbers 22-25). The Nicolaitans posed a similar threat.
The "hidden manna" promised to overcomers refers to the bread placed
in the sacred ark (box) of the Most Holy Place inside Israel's temple.
It represents Jesus as the Bread of Life. The "white stone" was an
emblem of honor.
After Emperor Constantine
made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the
church rose to a position of unchallenged popularity and power. Pergamos
itself hosted a series of church councils. The historian Theodoret
tells us that some of the participating bishops arrived without eyes
or arms from the days of persecution. But now the church faced a
different threat: pagan practices from the surrounding culture were
beginning to seep into the church.
Have you ever
felt that you were struggling to be a faithful Christian in an evil
environment? If so, what did you do?
Church at Thyatira
(The Church in the Wilderness, A.D. 538-1500s)
city of Thyatira lay between two valleys on a principal trading route.
It was distinguished by the trades and crafts that flourished there,
especially the dyeing of cloth. Its Madder Root, which produced what
was called a purple dye, was used in royal attire around the world.
It was here that Lydia, one of Paul's early converts, bought her dyes
For what does Jesus praise the church members at
For their ministry to the poor and homeless.
For their humility.
For their works, love, service, faith, and patience.
The church organized
orphanages, hospitals, and mission outreach. It was a very caring
congregation, dedicated to meeting people's needs.
For what did Jesus rebuke the church members at Thyatira? (Revelation
sexual immorality and eating food offered to idols.
overlooking the needs of the poorer members of the church.
not paying attention to the teachings of the apostles.
Jezebel was a princess
and priestess of Baal, a pagan nature god. She promoted sun worship
and helped lead Israel away from its special relationship with God.
What would be the punishment for those who continued in these sins? (Revelation
Sickness and pain.
Tribulation and death.
Guilt and anxiety.
Why do you think
God is so concerned when His truth is mixed with false teachings?
What is Jesus' promise to those in Thyatira who are faithful? (Revelation
will receive all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
will escape persecution.
will have power over the nations and receive the morning star from God.
How could a church
today be deceived by a false teaching or leader? What should you
do so you won't be deceived?
Church at Sardis
(The Church of the Reformation, A.D.1500s-1790s)
Sardis means "that
which remains." This center of textile manufacture and jewelry making
was located on a plateau 1000 feet above the valley below and seemed
impregnable. But Cyrus the Great found a way inside. One dark night
in 547 B.C. he sent an agile soldier to scale the cliffs below Sardis.
While the city slept peacefully, the man opened the huge gates from
the inside. Almost 300 years later, Antiochus conquered the city
in the same way again while everyone was sleeping.
believers in Sardis as being alive but deadsleeping "on the
job" of being Christians! What do you think it means to be asleep
as a believer?
Have you ever fallen
asleep when you should have been awake? How did you feel about it?
What advice does Jesus give to the church members at Sardis? (Revelation
being gluttons and drunkards.
special efforts to instruct their children in the gospel.
watchful, hold fast, and repent.
are complacent believers. Sardis represents the time period of
Unfortunately the Reformation's descendants split into several quarreling
factions. Believers came to experience religion only as a formal
to the right creed. They fell asleep inside the safety of their "correct
What does Jesus tell the members at Sardis to remember? (Revelation 3:3.)
The way they used to live before they became Christians.
The lessons of the Old Testament.
What they have received and heard.
In the Bible,
white symbolizes spiritual purity. Christ's perfect life is sometimes
as a spotless, white garment. God promises to give that garment to everyone
who accepts Christ as Savior. That's how we're "dressed in white." He
exchanges our imperfect life for His perfect life.
What does Jesus promise to those in Sardis who overcome? (Revelation
They will be clothed in white garments and their names will not be blotted
out of the Book of Life.
They will wear crowns in heaven that are filled with stars representing
the souls they have
won for Jesus.
will see Jesus face-to-face and follow Him wherever He goes.
of Christ's righteousness can cover our filthiest rags (Zechariah
3:1-5). Jesus provides
that white robe, His perfect life, to all who will accept it.
you accepted Jesus? If not, why not tell Him you want Him as your
friend and Savior today?
Church at Philadelphia
(The Missionary Church, A.D. 1790s-1840s)
which means "brotherly love," was built on a hill overlooking two
valleys. It was named for King Attalus II Philadelphus in honor
of his loyalty to his elder brother who had preceded him on the
throne. Today the prosperous town of Alasehir stands on the site.
This church must have been remarkable. It received only commendations
from Jesusno rebukes!
What key does Jesus hold when He speaks to the church in Philadelphia?
The key of Abraham.
The key of David.
The key of Daniel.
How does Jesus describe Himself to the members of the Philadelphia church?
As the One who is holy and true.
As the One who is all-knowing and all-seeing.
the One who is alive after being dead.
represents a time period in the nineteenth century when great evangelical
and Advent movements revitalized the church. Believers established
the British Missionary Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society,
and the Sunday School Movement. They also founded many private
church colleges. Revival propelled the church forward as never
before. The church was able to present Jesus to tens of thousandsthe
opportunity was "an open door that no one can shut." Also, the "open
and shut door" symbolizes the beginning of the investigative judgment
and Jesus' ministry in the Most High Place of the sanctuary in
heaven. (More on this in another lesson.)
For what does Jesus praise the church members at Philadelphia? (Revelation
those who have persecuted them and for treating their enemies with
their patience and their willingness to serve others.
keeping His word and not denying His name.
22. What does Jesus promise to the members at Philadelphia who overcome?
They will shine throughout eternity as examples of God's love to others.
They will be pillars in His temple and He will write on them His new name.
They will never die.
Maybe at times
you feel opposed by friends and family because you are a Christian.
If so, cling to God's promise that He will give you a new name
and a special place with Him in heaven! What would you like to
ask God to do for you in your Christian life? Pray and ask Him
right now to answer your prayer.
Church of Laodicea
(The Lukewarm End-time Church, A.D. 1840s–Second Coming of
and final church is Laodicea. This city was a wealthy center of
commerce; its citizens specialized in the production of woolen
goods. Its medical school was famous for an eye ointment. Laodicea
also boasted bubbling hot springs a few miles out of town. The
people managed to pipe this water into the city, but it was sickeningly
lukewarm by the time it got to their homes.
to Laodicea is quite sobering; it contains only warnings. This
church represents the time period in which we are living. It is
pictured as a church of compromise, neither hot nor cold.
Why would God
want a church to be cold instead of lukewarm? (vss. 15, 16)
What does the church at Laodicea think about itself? (Revelation 3:17.)
it is the least important of the seven churches.
it is rich and in need of nothing spiritually.
it is the church for which Jesus feels the most concern.
24. What prescription does Jesus give to the Laodicean church members
to correct their
problems? (Revelation 3:18.)
They should buy from Jesus refined gold, white garments, and eye salve.
They should buy from Jesus precious gems, spices, and expensive perfume.
should buy from Jesus houses, servants, and good things to eat.
25. What makes a Christian spiritually rich? (Ephesians 2:7-9.)
Obedience to God's commandments.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit.
26. What is represented by the white clothes that Jesus advises the Laodiceans to buy from
Him? (Isaiah 61:10.)
The robe of God's righteousness.
The forgiveness with which God covers our sins.
characters which we develop as we obey God.
27. What is represented by the eye salve that Jesus advises the Laodiceans to buy from
Him? (1 Corinthians 2:9-14.)
The ability to see clearly what others should do to improve their relationship
The spiritual discernment that comes when the Holy Spirit is in our lives.
cleansing of our sins through baptism.
§ § §
Loury personally discovered that God's promise is true. Glenn had reached
the pinnacle of his profession as a tenured professor at Harvard, yet
he was haunted by a sense that life had no meaning. He'd even begun
using drugs and alcohol to fend off his depression.
some time in a substance abuse program, Glenn decided maybe he
should start reading the Bible. One Easter weekend he ventured
into a church and heard a powerful sermon about redemption. This
sophisticated professor found himself weeping for two hours as
he realized his great need of forgiveness.
As Glenn began
to attend regular Bible studies, he realized that "there was something
real to this Christian business." He'd always built intellectual
detours around his need for faith. But now he saw that God really
did want to have a relationship with him. God was knocking on the
door, and Glenn opened up his heart.
things in his life began to change. Dead relationships came to
life. He found joy in a new commitment to his family. He was discovering "a
richness of meaning that I dreamed of but never believed to actually
says this about the result of welcoming Christ into his life: "Only
now do I know joy beyond my wildest expectation, even though my
time is often not my own, and I have since lost the taste for the
hedonistic delicacies which I used to savor. Life has such a sweetness.
Instead of 'Life has no meaning,' my wife, Linda, now sometimes
overhears me saying, 'Thank You, Lord.' "
At the end of
these messages to the seven churches, Jesus is standing at the
door and knocking. He is seeking to come in. He is knocking on
the door of your heart, saying, "If you want, open the door and
let Me come into your life." What will be your answer to Jesus?
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