SCROLL DOWN TO JANUARY 31 TO SEE THE REVELATION STUDY FROM THE BEGINNING.
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 21 - Day 38
We’ve just begun our look at Revelation 4 and Jesus has extended the amazing invitation to John to join Him in heaven and see the end time events from a heavenly perspective: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
From this point forward, the church is no longer mentioned because, in my and many far more learned Bible scholars’ opinions, the Church – all those who are truly committed to Jesus Christ and not merely names on a church roll – have been taken out of the world and won’t experience the things Jesus is about to reveal. But before we see the view from heaven to earth, we get an astounding look at the glorified Christ, seated on His throne:
“The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow” (Revelation 4:3, NLT).
Remember, John is doing his best to describe the indescribable. Any descriptions we read in Revelation are far less than what is actually seen – John simply had no better words with which to describe what he saw.
John has zero words to describe Jesus Himself, so he tells us of the brilliant light emanating from the glorified Christ – “jasper,” like a diamond. Pure white. And “carnelian,” a blood red. Here we see the purity of Jesus and the precious price He paid for all who will believe in Him.
The light around the throne formed an arc John calls “a rainbow,” but it’s a single color: green, glowing “like an emerald.” The color green signifies life. Hope. And the arc or rainbow shape reminds us of God’s promise spoken to Noah in Genesis 9:12-16 after the flood:
“I am giving you a sign of My covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed My rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of My covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember My covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.”
Jesus on His throne is the Ultimate Authority. He has All Power. And yet everything John sees lets him know that this glorified Christ is the same Promise Keeper whom John knew in His earthly body. What did Jesus say in John 10:10b? “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (KJV).
Judgment is necessary. The final destruction of all evil is necessary. But what joy awaits those who have repented of evil and live for Jesus! Want a life of real abundance? Live for Jesus.
We’ll see a bit more of heaven tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 20 - Day 37
Revelation 4 opens with John telling us of Jesus’ invitation for him to see the end time events from a heavenly perspective: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
From this point forward, there is no more mention of the church. Why? Most Bible scholars – and plain ol’ me – believe that the church has been taken out of the world at this point. In other words, the Rapture has occurred. Those who have truly committed their hearts and lives to Jesus will have been removed from Planet Earth before the things John is about to describe take place.
Remember Jesus’ words to the faithful believers of Philadelphia? “Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world” (Revelation 3:10). This is His promise to all who belong to Jesus: they will miss out on “the great time of testing,” also known as the Tribulation.
Then John does his best to describe his first glimpse of heaven. But everything he sees is beyond the scope of human imagining, far greater than mere human words can express. As Paul put it after his own experience, he “heard things that can't be expressed in words, things that humans cannot put into words” (2 Corinthians 12:4). But John tries his best to share with us what he experienced. For now, we’ll only look at the latter half of verse 2: “I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it” (Revelation 4:2b).
The first thing John sees is “a throne.” What’s significant about “a throne”? It’s the place of supreme authority, but it’s more than that: it’s the resting place of supreme authority.
Mark 16:19 tells us that after Jesus met with the disciples and gave them the Great Commission, He “was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor…” Why is it so important that Jesus “sat down”? Because His work was finished, just as He said from the cross – see John 19:30.
So our view of heaven opens with “a throne.” But not just any throne. It’s an occupied throne. The Supreme Authority has completed His work “and sat down in the place of honor…”
Which brings us to an important fact: every person has someone or something enthroned as their object of worship. For some, it’s worldly wealth. Material possessions. Prestige. Even self. For others, the most important thing in their lives may be their spouses or children or grandchildren. Whatever is most important to you sits enthroned over your life. And for every believer, that place should belong to Jesus. Nothing nor no one should ever take a higher place of importance than the Lord Jesus.
If you can’t truly say Jesus has first place in your life, it’s time to change your priorities. By putting Christ above all else – including your spouse, kids, grandkids, self, or even your parents – you’ll become a better spouse or parent or grandparent or son or daughter. You’ll become a better everything.
Tomorrow we’ll get into John’s description of the glorified Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 19 - Day 36
We’ve just completed a look at the seven letters Jesus dictated to John that were to be delivered to seven churches in Asia Minor. In addition to addressing problems and praising the positives within those churches, Jesus’ messages are intended for all churches in all ages, including today.
And now we move from an earthly viewpoint to a heavenly one. Remember, Jesus had told John to “Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19, NLT). John’s next words show us the transition:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’” (Revelation 4:1, NIV).
“After this…” After what? After writing down all seven of Jesus’ letters to the churches. Then John says “I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.” John not only saw an open doorway into heaven, he says he also heard once again “the voice I had first heard.” What voice? When? At the beginning of John’s vision: “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast” (Revelation 1:10, NLT).
Who does that voice belong to? He’s already identified Himself: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end,’ says the Lord God. ‘I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One.’” (Revelation 1:8).
Jesus Himself is speaking and Jesus Himself is extending this amazing invitation: “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” From this point forward, John sees a heavenly perspective of future events.
“And instantly I was in the Spirit…” (Revelation 4:2a). As we saw at the beginning of the Revelation, John has already said he was “worshiping in the Spirit.” John may have been “worshiping in the Spirit,” but physically, he was still on the Isle of Patmos.
But when Jesus tells John to “Come up here,” John was transported either in spirit or possibly even physically into the realms of heaven. Remember Paul’s experience? In Second Corinthians 12:2, he says “I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know – only God knows.”
However Paul’s or John’s experience took place, it was amazing! And John begins to see what takes place when he, as a member of the body of Christ – which is the church – is taken out of this world and into heaven. Yep, Revelation 4:1 marks the point at which all true believers are removed from this world in what we call the Rapture. What happens after that are end time events after the church (made up of all true believers, not everyone with their name on a church roll) is removed from Planet Earth.
Fasten your seat belts. We’re headed for an exciting journey!
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 18 - Day 35
So as we saw yesterday, the people of the church of Laodicea were phonies. While they grouped together and called themselves a church, their teachings had strayed completely away from the Gospel and Jesus was nowhere to be found within their congregation. He was outside, standing at the door and knocking – see Revelation 3:20a.
So if the professing Christians of Laodicea weren’t members of God’s family, why does He include this church among His letters? To warn them and to warn congregations in all ages, including today.
So many churches today are churches in name only. As I said a couple of days ago, Laodicea’s erroneous teachings had made it not a church, but a cult that denied the true Gospel and merely sprinkled in a little of this and that. There are a lot of Laodicean churches out there today.
What do I mean? I could give plenty of examples, but one of the biggest is the “feel-good” church. Their “gospel” is that God wants everybody to be healthy and wealthy. Folks, that’s a lie. I’ve been in legal and illegal churches in China and I’ve met some of the most dedicated Christians you’ll ever meet. Poor as can be. Under constant danger of arrest or worse. Yet their joy overflows.
What did the apostle Paul say about the churches in Macedonia? “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor” (2 Corinthians 8:2a, NLT). The Kingdom of God is not about being trouble-free, pain-free or loaded with money and material things. If you’re listening to a name-it-and-claim-it preacher, cut it out. He or she is leading you away from the teachings of the Bible.
God forbid that anyone reading this is part of a Laodicean church. Those churches will still be here when Jesus calls His people out of this world. This is the church that will lead countless numbers into hell and will survive and even thrive during the Tribulation.
Let me say it one more time before we move from these letters into the next part of the Revelation. Church membership gets no one into heaven. And there is no action any person can take on behalf of someone else that will give a person passage into heaven. And there is only one action a person can take for himself that will give him passage into heaven: personally and sincerely confessing his need for a Savior and surrendering his life wholly to Jesus Christ. That and only that will get a person into heaven.
Want to miss out on the Tribulation? Serve Jesus now.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 17 - Day 34
In His seventh and final letter to the churches, Jesus has already told the church at Laodicea that their lukewarmness made Him want to vomit. He continues to speak the truth to this bunch of phony believers:
“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17, NLT).
Laodicea was a wealthy city. They were known for the production of fancy textiles and their medical school which was associated with the temple of the healing god Asklepios. They were a proud and confident people. But the Lord let them know their material possessions meant nothing in the Kingdom of God. He saw them as they really were: “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
Which is why He tells them: “So I advise you to buy gold from Me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from Me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see” (Revelation 3:18).
Money and fancy clothes didn’t hide the fact that these professing Christians were, as my friend Gwen’s mama would have said, as naked as picked birds when it came to anything in God’s Kingdom. They, like the “blind Pharisee” Jesus referred to in Matthew 23:26, may have put on the appearance of being a church, but the fact was, they were as lost as proverbial ducks in the desert. They all needed Jesus. Which is why this is where we read:
“Look! I stand at the door and knock” (Revelation 3:20a). Jesus wasn’t in that church. Jesus wasn’t in the hearts of these professing believers. They, like the Pharisees Jesus had chastised, did not belong to the Kingdom. But He didn’t want to leave them in their lost state. He told them:
“If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with Me on My throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:20b-21).
Jesus died for all: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16a, KJV). But He loves us enough to give us freedom of choice. His Holy Spirit will knock and knock on the doors of our hearts, but He won’t force us to let Him in. We must choose to open our hearts to Him.
And when any person welcomes Jesus Christ into their heart, that person is welcomed into the Kingdom. He becomes “victorious.” He has a home in heaven.
Do you know where your eternal home will be? Are you serious about serving Jesus? Time is short. Don’t waste it.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 16 - Day 33
The city of Laodicea had no local water source. Its water was supplied through a six-mile long series of pipes or troughs that began at a hot springs in Hierapolis. This channel then depended on gravity for the water to flow into Laodicea. This system was called an aqueduct – “aque” as in “water,” and “duct” which comes from the same root word as our modern word “conduct.” In other words, the aqueduct conducted or channeled the water from the springs into the city of Laodicea.
And when it got there, boy, was it tasty! Imagine water from a hot springs that has traveled far enough to cool down, but still be pretty warm. Lukewarm. No wonder Jesus spoke as He did to the Laodiceans. They completely understood what He meant when He said, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!”
When it comes to drinking water, there are times when a nice cold drink sure hits the spot, but there are also occasions when hot water comes in handy. But lukewarm? Uh-uh. Nobody likes lukewarm. Not even Jesus. So He tells them, “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth!”
Laodicea’s water had to be tough to stomach. The behavior of the church at Laodicea was equally disgusting. This was the church who had gone so far from the teachings of the Word of God that even though His name may have been invoked on occasion, the true Lord Jesus Christ had no place whatsoever within it. Its erroneous teachings had made it not a church, but a cult that denied the true Gospel and sprinkled in a little of this and that. This was the church that made Jesus want to throw up.
“I will spit you out of My mouth!” The original language here is so descriptive. Jesus isn’t saying, “You make me want to gag.” He’s saying in modern-day language, “You make me want to spew.” The word for “spit” denotes the image of projectile vomiting. Jesus didn’t have or want any part of that lukewarm congregation.
His opinion on lukewarmness hasn’t changed. He still despises lukewarmness. Yet how many of us are best described as “lukewarm”? We’re not all excited about loving Jesus and serving Him and others. But we’re not ice cold, either. We’re just plugging along, with no thought for our own spiritual state or the condition of anyone else. Even though all seven of Jesus’ letters to the churches are directed at all churches in all ages right up to today, I think the Laodiceans sure describe the majority of Christians today. And I can’t be honest without saying I fall right in with them on many occasions.
How would Jesus describe you – hot, cold or lukewarm?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 15 - Day 32
At last we come to the seventh and final letter of Jesus’ letters to the churches, this one to the church in Laodicea. We’ll look at this entire letter and then get into the details:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:
I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from Me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from Me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with Me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with My Father on His throne. Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:14-22, NLT).
Look how Jesus identifies Himself in this letter to the church in Laodicea: “the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation.” He calls Himself “the faithful and true witness” because He intends to show the contrast between His faithfulness and the believers or professing believers of Laodicea who were anything but “faithful and true.”
And what about “the beginning of God’s new creation”? There is nothing “new” about Jesus. He is “the Lord God, the Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come” (Revelation 4:8b, NLT). He is the Great “I Am” (Exodus 3:14).
As the Berean Study Bible words Revelation 3:14, Jesus is “the Originator of God’s creation.” I think this is the best and clearest translation of all. It’s important to realize Jesus is not a created being – He is the Creator.
As John described Him in his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3).
And He has a lot to say to the church of Laodicea. And that same message is for us today. Jesus wants us to be like Him: “faithful and true.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 14 - Day 31
“All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God – the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My new name” (Revelation 3:12, NLT).
Good News! Good News! The faithful believers in the church in Philadelphia were commended by the Lord and promised deliverance “from the great time of testing” (Revelation 3:10) that would be coming on the world. As we’ve already seen, this message was not only for the Philadelphian church, but for all true believers from then until right this very minute. Jesus promises to keep us “from the great time of testing” by removing all His people from this world prior to the Great Tribulation.
But there’s more Good News for believers. We’ll have a permanent new home: “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it.” We’ll “be citizens in the city of My God – the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God.”
What else? We’ll be permanent members of the family of God: “And I will write on them the name of My God… And I will also write on them My new name.”
When the Lord takes us out of this world, we’re going to know Him as He knows us. Completely. Totally. We will come into a full understanding of “the mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16b). Talk about amazing grace!
As with the other messages to the churches, Jesus closes Philadelphia’s letter with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:13, NLT).
There is a tremendous urgency in these messages: Be prepared! Be ready! Are you? And are you helping others prepare for His coming?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 13 - Day 30
We’re looking at the sixth letter of Jesus in the Book of Revelation. He tells John to write to the church in Philadelphia. Remember, all seven of the letters John is instructed to write are to churches in Asia Minor. All of these churches are within a few days’ journey from the coastline off which the island of Patmos lies where John says he was “…exiled… for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus” (Revelation 1:9, NLT).
The believers in the church at Philadelphia, even under tough circumstances, had remained faithful, so Jesus gives them this promise: “Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world” (Revelation 3:10).
As we’ve already learned, although some Bible scholars see the seven letters to the churches as representative of different church ages, the majority of scholars believe – and I concur – that these letters encompass Jesus’ message to the entire church of the Living Christ – each and every true believer who is living now and those who have already gone on before us. From that viewpoint, it’s easy to figure out what “great time of testing” Jesus was talking about.
At a point coming up soon in Jesus’ Revelation, the entire church – every true believer – will be removed from this world and taken to be with Jesus. At that time, the Tribulation will begin and will include the most horrific persecution of God’s people. But if God’s people are taken away in the Rapture, how can God’s people be the ones being persecuted during the Tribulation? Here’s how Jesus explains it the book of Luke:
“Yes, it will be ‘business as usual’ right up to the day when the Son of Man is revealed. …two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour together at the mill; one will be taken, the other left” (Luke 17:30, 34-35).
Don’t misunderstand this passage. Jesus, “the Son of Man,” isn’t going to choose one person to take and leave another behind. At whatever point Jesus returns for His Church, those decisions will have already been made by each person’s individual choice. Those who committed their lives to Jesus will be taken in the Rapture. Those who have not will be left behind. I can’t stress it enough, y’all: church membership is not a ticket to heaven. Only a genuine sold-out commitment to Jesus Christ will get you there.
The Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, warns, “In all history there has never been such a time of terror” (Jeremiah 30:7a). This is what Jesus told the church at Philadelphia they would miss out on. This is what He tells the faithful today that they will miss out on.
So what purpose will this terrible time serve? It “will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.” Anyone who hasn’t committed their life to Jesus belongs “to this world.” And this horrible time will be those people’s last opportunity to turn to Jesus.
If He returned today, would you be ready? If He returned today, who among your family and friends would be going with Jesus? If you haven’t already committed your life to Jesus, do it now. And if you’ve already done that, talk to your friends and family about the importance and urgency to make that same commitment.
“…now is the time time seek the Lord…” (Hosea 10:12b).
Judy Woodward Bates
How does Jesus identify Himself to the church at Philadelphia? “This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open” (Revelation 3:7b, NLT).
“This is the message from the one who is holy and true...” Who is “holy”? God and God alone. Jesus is identifying Himself as God. And not just any “god.” The God. The True God. The One and Only.
“…the one who has the key of David.” Jesus is quoting from Isaiah: “I will give him the key to the house of David – the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them” (Isaiah 22:22). The Christians in Philadelphia were undoubtedly familiar with this passage and would understand the tremendous significance of this passage as Jesus’ identity. Why?
Because look at Jesus’ very next words to Philadelphia: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me” (Revelation 3:8).
Even under tough circumstances, the Philadelphian Christians had remained faithful. And because of their faithfulness, the Lord told them He had “opened a door… that no one can close.” Their opportunities to witness for the Lord and expand His Kingdom were wide open.
Ever seen one of those shows or been to one of those “locked room” adventures where a person has to find his way out of what seems to be a completely sealed room? This may be how the Philadelphians felt. Their “little strength” may not have seemed like much. They may have looked around their pagan god-filled city and failed to see the opportunities before them. But Jesus said to look more closely because He had “opened a door… that no one can close.”
I know I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating. While in the checkout line at a department store, I began to pray for an opportunity to witness to the cashier, who was clearly having a very bad day. I just hoped to cheer her up a bit. I didn’t expect the wide open door that the Lord gave me.
When I simply asked, “How are you?” she looked me straight in the face and said, “You want to know the truth? I want to die.” The condensed version of what happened after that is that she took her break and told me that her husband had left her and that she was suicidal. I told her about a Man I could prove to her in writing would “never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b, HCSB). And because of a simple “How are you?” a new member was added to the family of God and a hopeless woman came to know Real Hope.
Like the church at Philadelphia, the opportunities may not be staring you in the face, but especially in these last days, the Lord has swung wide the doors of evangelism. Through Facebook, Twitter, email, TV, radio, books, ebooks, phones and more, ways and means of telling others about Jesus are everywhere. Even face-to-face and eyeball-to-eyeball.
Look for and pray for your own opportunities to tell about Jesus. Show His love in the way you talk and act toward others. Even a “little strength” is battle-winning power when it’s entrusted to the mighty hands of Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 11 - Day 28
Philadelphia is the sixth of the seven churches to which Jesus instructed John to write. Let’s take a look at the entire letter before expounding on any of its content:
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia: This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open:
I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue- those liars who say they are Jews but are not – to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.
Because you have obeyed My command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of My God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of My God, and they will be citizens in the city of My God – the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from My God. And I will also write on them My new name.
Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:7-13, NLT).
The church at Philadelphia, like the church of Ephesus, was doing everything right. They were doing good, steering clear of evil and making sure no false doctrines crept in. But where the Ephesians failed to grow in love for Christ and others, the Philadelphians abounded in it. And because of their faithfulness, Jesus told them, “I have opened a door for you that no one can close” (Revelation 3:8b). They were a healthy congregation, feeding the flock within and reaching outside the church with the love and Good News of Jesus.
What a blessing-filled promise Jesus makes to the church of Philadelphia! He tells these faithful servants: “What He opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.”
Are you a faithful servant of Jesus Christ? If so, this promise is for you. More on this passage tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 10 - Day 27
Yesterday we waded into some very deep waters in looking at Jesus’ message to the faithful in the church at Sardis. He told most of the church members, “…you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead. Go back to what you heard and believed at first…” (Revelation 3:1b, 3a, NLT). But to the faithful few He said: “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:4b-5).
I made the statement that Jesus doesn’t “pencil” anyone’s name into the Book of Life. The names of born-again believers are permanently written in the blood of Christ. And then I used Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds as my example. In it, Jesus talks about seeds (representing the Gospel) that the farmer (representing Himself) sowed which fell on all different types of ground. Some, He said, “sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died” (Matthew 13:5b-6).
Jesus then gives this explanation: “The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away…” (Matthew 13:20-21a).
I ended yesterday’s study with Jesus’ concluding words from the Parable of the Weeds: “‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:28b-30).
So can a truly saved person be lost? Some say they can and some say they can’t. David messed up big-time, and the child produced by David and Bathsheeba’s adulterous relationship died while still an infant. Moses took credit for God’s miracle of water from the rock at Meribah, even hitting the rock twice with his rod when God had instructed him to simply speak to the rock – see Numbers 20. Moses got to see the Promised Land, but wasn’t allowed to enter it because of his disobedience. Both of these occurrences, though, were pre-grace. Pre-cross. Pre-resurrection.
Yet there are many New Testament scriptures that leave you wondering. Take for example when Jesus refers to Himself as “the Vine” (John 15:5a) and people as “the branches” (John 15:5b). He says, “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you” (John 15:4a).
This is by no means all-encompassing, but here are the three main schools of thought regarding salvation: (1) You are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Once you’re adopted into the Kingdom, Jesus will never kick you out of His family. (2) You are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and adopted into His family; however, some actions warrant being booted out of the family, thus losing your salvation. (3) You are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and adopted into His family. However, you may one day decide you just don’t believe any of that Jesus stuff any more and choose to denounce Him, thus giving up your salvation. In other words, no one can or will take away your salvation, but you can make the choice to give it up.
I’m not about to say that any of those viewpoints are right or wrong. My thought is, if you’re serious about living for Jesus, you’re not going to be looking for loopholes in your contract! The Bible makes it clear that some people come into the church “disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matthew 7:15b). These are unquestionably imposters. Fake Christians who are intent upon destroying the harmony within the church body and pulling real believers away from the truth.
I suggest we don’t waste time looking for loopholes or trying to figure out who’s real and who isn’t. That time can be much better spent doing the work of the Kingdom. As we saw yesterday, Jesus is prepared to sort everyone out at the Final Judgment: “Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:30b). Get out there and be wheat for the Bread of Life.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 9 - Day 26
We’ve seen the letters to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira, and now we’re finishing up our look at the church in Sardis. This was the church whose routine had been going on for so long that Jesus told them, “…you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead. Go back to what you heard and believed at first…” (Revelation 3:1b, 3a, NLT).
As I said yesterday, the majority of that church may have been “dead,” but there was still a remnant who were faithful. To these Jesus promised: “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:4b-5).
The members of the church in Sardis whose names weren’t in “the Book of Life” weren’t erased out of the Book because of their sinful behavior; if a name wasn’t there, it was because it’d never been written in the Book in the first place. This is so important, y’all: Jesus doesn’t “pencil in” anybody. The names of born-again believers are permanently written in the blood of Christ.
Jesus taught about this in the Parable of the Weeds. In that lesson, He talked about a farmer who planted seeds which fell on all different sorts of ground. Note what He says about some of these seeds: “Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died” (Matthew 13:5-6).
Did you get that? “…since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.” The farmer, representing Jesus, plants the seeds of the Gospel. But each person makes his own choice as to how they respond. As Jesus explained it, “The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Like the siblings of my friend I mentioned a few days ago, these folks were all excited about Jesus for a short time. But there had been no conversion. What they had was nothing but surface transformation, not heart transplants.
I can’t stress it enough, folks. God has no eraser for the Book of Life. Your name’s either in it or not. And the only way to get your name in that Book is through a complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus.
So what about all these people who say they’re saved and then wander off into evil? I’m not their judge and you aren’t, either. But I can guarantee you two things: (1) God will do whatever it takes to get His child’s attention, even if that means taking him home rather than letting him continue to embarrass the name of his Father; and (2) God doesn’t spank the devil’s children. Unless they repent and are adopted into God’s family, He will leave their punishment until the Final Judgment.
Just as there were weeds among the good seed in Sardis, there are weeds among the good seed in today’s churches. And Jesus plainly tells us what that means: “The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil” (Matthew 13:39a). The lost sit in church right alongside the saved. Be the very best example of Jesus you can possibly be. Others who may not even know Him are watching you at church and everywhere else you go.
“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn’” (Matthew 13:28b-30). Keep your own doorstep swept clean. Live for Jesus and don’t waste time judging others. God will sort us all out when the time comes.
Judy Woodward Bates
“Overconfidence and failure to watch” (quoted from John Walvoord’s statement about Sardis) had caused Sardis’ defeat two times in history and now the church in that city had developed the same foolish attitude. The church at Sardis was a dead church: “…you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1b, NLT).
As John Macarthur describes it, the church at Sardis represents the church where “someone cuts the grass, paints the walls, prints the bulletin, and stands in the pulpit. But that church isn’t alive; it’s dead.” Sardis was like the Pharisees Jesus referred to as “whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones…” (Matthew 23:27b).
And Jesus said, “I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of My God” (Revelation 3:2b). Jesus wants to see far more routine activity in a believer’s life. He wants to see the fire and passion of commitment, a burning desire to please Him and reach others with the Good News of Jesus. But that’s not what the church at Sardis was doing.
Which is why Jesus told them, “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to Me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief” (Revelation 3:3). Whether the Lord was warning of His intention to bring judgment on the church at Sardis itself or of His appearance in the Rapture, we can’t be sure. Either way, though, He was letting the church at Sardis know what they needed to do: “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to Me again.”
But as always, Jesus didn’t lump the congregants of the church of Sardis into one mold. Even though sin was rampant in that church, He still knew each person’s heart and said, “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil” (Revelation 3:4a).
The majority of that church may have been “dead,” but there was still a remnant who were faithful. To these Jesus promised: “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine” (Revelation 3:4b-5).
To those who have truly surrendered to His Lordship, Jesus says, “They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.” Believers are covered by the righteousness of Christ, making them “worthy” and “victorious” because of His atoning sacrifice.
And here’s another huge promise He makes to true believers: “I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before My Father and His angels that they are Mine.” In other words, the members of the church in Sardis whose names weren’t in “the Book of Life” weren’t erased out of the Book because of their sinful behavior; if a name wasn’t there, it was because it’d never been written in the Book in the first place. Jesus doesn’t “pencil in” anybody. The names of His saints are permanently written in blood.
How about your name? Is it written in “the Book of Life”? If it is, you can look forward to the day when you’ll hear your Savior announce to His Father, “This one’s Mine.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 7 - Day 24
We’ve seen the letters to the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira. Now we come to Sardis. As in every letter, the Lord begins by instructing John to “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger or pastor) of the church…” (Revelation 3:1a, NLT), in this case, “in Sardis.” And then in His introduction He makes a specific identifying statement for the believers of Sardis: “This is the message from the One who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars…” (Revelation 3:1b).
“…the One who has the sevenfold Spirit of God…” Jesus Christ has and is the fullness of the Holy Spirit, or “Spirit of God” – “sevenfold,” meaning seven times, which signifies perfection or completion. He is the Triune God, the three in one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“…the One who has… the seven stars…” And as we’ve already seen earlier in the Revelation, “the seven stars” are the seven churches to whom the letters in Revelation 2-3 are written, with the number seven again representing completion, meaning that these seven churches are representative of the entire body of Christ made up of all true believers of all time.
Jesus’ introduction is followed by His message to the church in Sardis: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead” (Revelation 3:1c-2a).
Jesus told the Sardis church: “I know all the things you do…” As with each of us, nothing is hidden from God. So even though the church at Sardis had “a reputation for being alive,” the Lord knew better. He said, “…you are dead.” What did He mean?
The church at Sardis wasn’t undergoing persecution. They were going along and getting along just fine. The church was active and even busy, but it was fitting into its surrounding society so well that the devil had no reason to bother it.
Which is why Jesus included the warning: Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead.”
John Walvoord served as president of Dallas Theological Seminary for over 30 years. Speaking of Sardis, he described it as a city “…ideal for defense, as it… was surrounded by deep cliffs almost impossible to scale…” Even so, Sardis had been conquered twice – once in 549BC and again in 214BC. How? Again, I quote Walvoord as the answer: “… because of overconfidence and failure to watch.”
“Overconfidence and failure to watch” had caused Sardis’ defeat two times in history and yet here was God’s people making those same foolish mistakes. When Christians begin to rely on past victories or past actions, they’re either “dead” or “almost dead.” Every day believers need a fresh anointing, a fresh word, a fresh enthusiasm for serving the Lord. Sardis had lost this, and the Lord wasn’t pleased. How fresh is your commitment to Jesus?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 6 - Day 23
The Lord had given the false prophetess within the church at Thyatira “time to repent” (Revelation 2:21a, NLT), but she had continued doing evil and pulling others along with her. And the Lord said enough was enough. She and those who’d taken up with her were about to “suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds” (Revelation 2:22b).
But look closely at what else Jesus had to say to the church at Thyatira. He wasn’t going to inflict punishment on the whole congregation: But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them – depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:24-25).
“I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.” The Lord had already told the rest of the Thyatiran congregation, “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things” (Revelation 2:19).
The Lord always knows everything going on everywhere, and apparently the majority of the believers at Thyatira were sticking to the truth and not only living by it, but growing in it. Which is why Jesus’ word to them was to simply keep on doing what they were doing.
“To all who are victorious, who obey Me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from My Father, and I will also give them the morning star!” (Revelation 2:26-28).
Jesus promises victory to all “who obey Me to the very end.” I remember witnessing to a neighbor of mine who had grown up in a church where there was enormous emphasis placed on outward emotion. All her siblings had been on fire for the Lord one minute and living like the devil the next. Over and over and over. When I tried to talk to her about my faith, she stopped me in my tracks, saying, “Don’t tell me. Show me.” It was at least 20 years before I saw her and her husband surrender their hearts and lives to the Lordship of Jesus, but when they did, they were sold-out believers.
In verses 27-28 above, Jesus is quoting from Psalm 2:8-9. No doubt the sinful behavior of the prophetess and her followers was terribly distressing to the faithful at Thyatira. But the Lord sent them a message of hope and comfort: they would one day reign and rule with Him, Christ, the Morning Star.
Jesus closes His message to the church at Thyatira with, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches.” Church, are you listening? There’s victory for all “who obey… to the very end.”
Judy Woodward Bates
Nahum 1:3a reminds us: “The Lord is powerful, yet patient” (CEV). The Lord had given the false prophetess within in the church at Thyatira “time to repent” (NLT), but she had continued doing evil and pulling others along with her. And the Lord said He’d seen and had enough. She and those who’d taken up with her were about to “suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.”
How would this so-called “Jezebel” suffer? “I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve” (Revelation 2:23).
Who were this false prophetess’ “children”? Those who followed her teaching. And “unless they (chose to) repent and turn away from her evil deeds,” they and the prophetess herself would “suffer greatly,” possibly in physical death, but also in “the second death,” as we looked at a while back: “This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14b-15).
Can a truly born-again believer be drawn into such evil? If you followed the link I posted in yesterday’s study, you see an entire church drawn into it. And whether I think all those people are hell-bound or not, I’m not their judge. God is. And He and He alone knows who’s stumbled off the right pathway and who’s never been on it in the first place.
A pastor I’ll call Wally was drawn into a relationship with a married woman at his church. This woman actually wrote sermons for him. He eventually left his wife and family and the woman left hers with plans to begin their own ministry. When I tried to talk to Wally, he told me, “I know this sounds crazy, but I know this is God’s will.”
Nope, it was never God’s will. Wally lost everything. This woman lost everything. No “ministry” transpired and the pair grew to loathe each other. After a very long time, Wally repented and was forgiven by a loving wife and family. More importantly, he was forgiven by God. That’s when Wally told me about the red flags. He said, “The Holy Spirit put up red flag after red flag in my spirit when that woman started sending me little notes and dropping by my office. I ignored every one of them.”
Nobody “gets away with” sin. As Jesus plainly warned the Thyatirans, “I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.”
I don’t know about you, but when I think of how often I have failed Him in the past and still continue to fail Him, the thoughts of getting what I deserve is terrifying. All the more reason to stay ‘fessed up and prayed up and busy for the Kingdom.
Is that what you’re doing?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 4 - Day 21
So far, we’ve looked at Jesus’ letters to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna and the Pergamum. Now we come to Thyatira. Jesus has included a specific statement in both the opening and closing of each of the seven letters. To the church at Thyatira, He identifies Himself as “the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze” (Revelation 2:18b, NLT).
This identification is significant for the Thyatirans because of what Jesus is going to speak them about. First, He declares His deity: “the Son of God.” He’s not a god. He’s The God. The One and Only.
Next, Jesus says His “eyes are like flames of fire.” This description speaks of His penetrating gaze of judgment. Nothing is hidden from Him. Everything good and evil is laid bare before Him.
And then He says His “feet are like polished bronze.” Here we see purity, strength and permanence. As Jesus identified Himself to John at the beginning of the Revelation, Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end… the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One” (Revelation 1:8). He’s always been and always will be.
Jesus then commends some of the people in the church at Thyatira: “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things” (Revelation 2:19). Not only did the church at Thyatira have “love,… faith,… service, and… patient endurance,” they were growing in these positive attributes. But there was still a big ugly problem.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman – that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet – to lead My servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols” (Revelation 2:20).
Right there in the midst of the church was a woman who had been accepted as a prophetess, someone to be looked up to and respected, and this woman was leading church members into all the things the pagan religions were promoting. Unlike Pergamum who had members dabbling in both places, this woman was apparently teaching inside the church – and some of the congregation were joining in with her immoral beliefs and behavior.
How can such a thing be allowed inside a church not merely professing to serve Jesus, but growing in “love,… faith,… service, and… patient endurance”? Where there are sheep, there are wolves. As unbelievable as it may seem, this recent article link is about a supposedly Christian church with nude worship: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2556548/And-naked-not-ashamed-Church-allows-nude-worship.html.
The Lord will not allow His people to continue in sin. Not me. Not you. Not anyone who belongs to His family. Tomorrow we’ll see how He will deal with Thyatira.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 3 - Day 20
Jesus ends His message to the church at Pergamum with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it” (Revelation 2:17, NLT).
“Anyone with ears” should heed the message and warning to the church at Pergamum. Remember, it’s not just for the people of that church or that time period.
“To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.” The Bread of Life promises heaven “To everyone who is victorious.” The sheep and the goats will be sorted – and until that time, only the Lord will know for certain which is which. The goats, those who are merely playing at being Christian, will not leave this life in victory. But the sheep, those who are truly born again through faith in Jesus Christ, will be “victorious.”
And it is those born-again believers who will be given “a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” What’s the significance of “a white stone”? Back in John’s day, public games or competitions were hugely popular. The champion in such a contest would be rewarded with a white stone, and that person’s name would be inscribed on that stone. Ownership of that stone meant that person never had to pay a dime for anything. He had free admission to anywhere he wanted to go; free food wherever he wanted to eat; free everything.
For the believer, that “white stone” represents Christ’s promise to eternally welcome and care for that member of the family of God. And the “new name”? I don’t know exactly what that means, but I do know that there won’t be two people with the same name in heaven. No one’s going to confuse John the Apostle with John the Baptist. Everyone will have a “new name” and the Lord Himself will give that “new name” to each believer.
And how will it be “a name that no one understands except the one who receives it”? I believe God’s love for each believer is so intimate that He will give each one of us a name based on something so specific and personal to our own relationship with Him that only that one person and the Lord Himself will know and understand why that name was chosen.
This “white stone” and “new name” was Jesus’ promise to the faithful in Pergamum, and it’s His promise to true believers today.
“And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth” (Isaiah 62:2b).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 2 - Day 19
As we looked at yesterday, Jesus’ third letter was a message to the church in Pergamum. Even though there were many who were sincere in their faith and walk with the Lord, others were merely using it as a social gathering place, and the church leaders were doing nothing to stop this.
Some of the believers in Pergamum were not only attending church services, but also participating in the disgusting religious practices of some the surrounding pagan temples. Compromise was killing the witness of the church in Pergamum, which is why Jesus concluded His letter with: “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16, NLT).
Note the exact wording of Jesus’ warning: “I will come to YOU suddenly and fight against THEM…” Jesus’ displeasure wasn’t with the entire church of Pergamum – after all, a church is simply a body of believers, and some of Pergamum’s believers had become filthy with sin. Jesus said He would “come… suddenly,” or unexpectedly. But He was specifically coming to deal with “them.” Who’s “them”? The churchgoers who were also joining in pagan practices. These believers were living like hell itself outside the church and then coming into church expecting the Lord to bless them for simply showing up.
But that’s not the only “them” I believe the Lord was addressing. He was also speaking of those who were in positions of authority within the church who were knowingly allowing these embarrassments to the name of Christ to continue unchecked within their fellowship.
It isn’t every believer’s job to point out the faults or sins of other believers. Even when a church member is absolutely certain of a serious problem within the church, there’s an appropriate way to handle it. The concerned church member should take their information to the pastor or another person in authority within the congregation. That person should not share that information with anyone else within the congregation and certainly not outside it. Above all, that person should pray for the involved party or parties to repent.
When any Christian is more concerned about how they look to other people than how they look to Christ, that Christian is compromising. And compromising is sin. We must keep our focus where it matters, and look to and live for Jesus.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for AUGUST 1 - Day 18
Jesus’ letters to the churches in Ephesus and Smyrna have been examined and we have five more to cover, with the church at Pergamum coming up next. Again, let me remind you that; (1) all seven of these letters were to be read before the entire congregations of all the churches; and (2) these letters are for all the True Church today just as it was for those at the time John was given the Revelation.
To review, Ephesus was a busy church, but without the initial love for the Lord and for others that had been and should be the movitation behind every ministry. Smyrna is the only one of the seven churches who is given a clean bill of health. This church was under great persecution but was standing firm.
What about Pergamum? Jesus opens His address to the church in Pergamum with a stern reminder: “This is the message from the One with the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12b, NLT). The word translated “sword” is again the word “rhomphaia,” a broad, long sword, far-reaching and capable of horrific destruction. Jesus’ message continues:
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin” (Revelation 2:13-15).
The Christians of Pergamum were surrounded by people who worshiped false gods, religions which in many instances included making use of shrine prostitutes as part of their practices. Roman culture in general was “if it feels good, do it.” Christians were considered really weird because they didn’t follow this same self-indulgent philosophy.
With all that went on around them, the majority of those within the church at Pergamum had “remained loyal,” including a believer named Antipas who was killed because of his faithful witness. But that same church also allowed people to stay in their congregation, fully aware that these people were participating in the goings-on at the other places of worship, “eating food offered to idols and… committing sexual sin.”
“Eating food offered to idols” may not sound like a big deal until you realize that these people weren’t simply buying leftover ceremonial meat in the marketplace. They were attending the functions of these pagan places of worship and taking part in the ceremonies, which included not only eating the food, but “committing sexual sin.”
Pergamum had become a country club church. Even though there were many who were sincere in their faith and walk with the Lord, others were using it as a social gathering place where they simply came to see and be seen. And the church leaders were doing nothing to stop this. How did Pergamum begin its downhill slide? Compromise. And Jesus warned He would not tolerate it: “Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16).
In other words, clean up your own church or I will come and do it for you. He has the same message for any disobedient individual who is a part of the True Church. God won’t spank the devil’s children, but He’ll flat-out tan the hide of one of His own who refuses to repent and obey Him. Stay on the right track. The Father never likes taking a child to the woodshed, but He loves each one of us too much to let us continue wrongdoing.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 31 - Day 17
Today let’s wrap up our look at the church in Smyrna. Remember, the first letter was to the church in Ephesus. It was a busy church, doing all the right things, but without their initial love for the Lord and for others.
The church of Smyrna was faithfully serving the Lord in spite of tremendous persecution. Is there persecution in the church today? In many countries, setting foot in a church is putting your life at risk. In America, look at the recent shootings that have occurred in churches.
According to a study done by the Center for Homicide Research, there were 139 shootings on church property between 1980 and 2005, resulting in the deaths of 185 people. And bear in mind these murders were long before the more recent shootings like the ones at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina which took the lives of nine people and First Baptist in Southerland Springs, Texas where 26 people died. Christians have been and still are objects of hatred to many.
As with each of the seven letters, the Lord closes with: Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:11a). This is followed by Jesus’ specific statement for the believers of Smyrna: “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b).
What is this “second death”? The Revelation leaves no doubt of its meaning: “The lake of fire is the second death” (Revelation 20:14b). And who should fear the “second death”? “…cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars – their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
I wish I had time to expound on this particular list, but suffice it to say that everything listed here along with the word “unbelievers” are lifestyles that in no way reflect faith in Jesus Christ. And as Peter states emphatically in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” The way to heaven is through a total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
And for those who’ve made that commitment? The book of Revelation has a message of assurance: “…the second death holds no power…” (Revelation 20:6b), and as we’ve already looked at in the Lord’s message to Smyrna: “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b).
The Bible leaves no doubt that Jesus truly died for all: “He died for everyone” (II Corinthians 5:15a), but not all accept His free gift of salvation. And Jesus plainly states the final destination of those who don’t: “Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons” (Matthew 25:41b).
It is not nor ever has been God’s will for a person to spend eternity in hell. Hell wasn’t created for humankind, but “for the devil and his demons.” But there is no fence to straddle. It’s Jesus or Satan, and each person must choose. Choose Jesus, and you’ve chosen eternity in heaven; reject Him, and you’ve chosen eternal damnation. We need to be busy explaining this.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 30 - Day 16
Jesus begins His instructions to John concerning each of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor with: “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger, as in pastor) of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). He follows this statement with a specific word for each church, with Smryna’s letter saying, “These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life” (Revelation 2:8b). Yesterday I said these words were very important for the Christians of Smyrna. Why?
They were under tremendous persecution. If the latter timeline for the writing of the Revelation is correct – and I personally believe it is – then Domitian would have been the ruling emperor (81-96AD). He was the ruler who demanded the title of of “dominus et deus,” meaning “lord and god.” Like many religions today, tacking on one more “god” to worship wasn’t a problem for many of the people in Smryna, but for the Christians, it was completely unacceptable, and that meant facing the wrath of Domitian.
Among Domitian’s favorite forms of torture were boiling people alive in oil, and his favorite targets were Christians. No wonder Jesus began His letter by identifying Himself as “the First and the Last, who died and returned to life.” The faithful saints of God at Smyrna may have suffered horribly, but they did so knowing Christ’s promise as Paul announced to King Agrippa: “…the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead...” (Acts 26:23a).
Many of the Smyrna believers may have lost their lives under Domitian’s reign of terror, but they did so fully confident that Jesus, “…the first to rise from the dead,” would “raise them up” (Jesus speaking, John 6:44b) into His eternal kingdom just as He promised.
Look again at Jesus’ message to the church at Smyrna: Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you… Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Remember again, every one of these letters is for the entire True Church. Christians are outcasts in many countries around the world today. They suffer untold horrors while we in America, for the most part, sit back and decide whether we want to take an hour or so out of our day for “church” or make a day of it at the lake or flea market or golf course.
The church in Smyrna is the only one of the seven churches who gets a clean bill of health. Folks, suffering changes us. It changes our focus. The person battling cancer isn’t concerned about that new car or house or trip to Hawaii. And if that person knows the end is near, their focus is one of two places: faith or fear. They’re either ready to meet their Maker, or terrified of what comes next.
The people of Smyrna met their suffering with faith. None of us will get out this world alive – unless we’re here when the Rapture takes place. Even if we are privileged to peacefully leave this world in our sleep, none of us will get to that point without enduring some form of suffering. I pray each one of us will allow whatever hardships come our way to increase our faith and love for the Lord, because “perfect love expels all fear” (I John 4:18b) and “God is love” (I John 4:16b).
Judy Woodward Bates
We’re looking at the second of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches found in Revelation 2 and 3. As we’ve already learned, each letter is preceded with the command of Jesus to John: “Write this letter to the angel (or messenger, as in pastor) of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT).
In all seven letters, the instruction to “write” is followed by a different statement. In the case of the church of Smyrna, Jesus says, “These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life” (Revelation 2:8b). How important are those words to the Christians of Smyrna in light of His message to these believers.
“I know your affliction and your poverty – though you are rich! And I am aware of the slander of those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are in fact a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful even unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:9-10).
It’s going to take a while to pick all this apart, so I hope you’ll bear with me, but first we see Jesus telling them, “I know your affliction and your poverty…” Smyrna was a wealthy city, yet the Christians lived in extreme poverty, the poorest of the poor. Why? People didn’t want to hire Christians. People didn’t want anything to do with Christians. To profess Jesus as Lord was to be shunned in society, and that included in ways to make a living.
“…though you are rich!” The strong faith it took to stand for Jesus Christ in the face of such discrimination and cruelty didn’t go unnoticed. Nor would it go unrewarded. John Trapp, a 15th century theologian, referred to Smyrna as “the poorest but purest of the seven.” Contrary to what this world teaches, what we have here on earth matters little. What’s important is to “Store your treasure in heaven” (Matthew 6:20a). Which is exactly what the Smyrna Christians were doing.
“And I am aware of the slander of those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are in fact a synagogue of Satan.” Smyrna included a large Jewish community, but those Jews were vehement opponents of anyone who professed to be a follower of Jesus. Paul had dealt with their kind many times, his life often threatened by Jews who refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. And the cold, unyielding hearts of these Jews in Smyrna prompted Jesus to call them what they’d become: “…a synagogue of Satan.”
We may not experience persecution like the believers of Smyrna, but we definitely live in frightening times. Yet the Church still stands and Jesus promises “all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18b). So stand firm, believers! God is on our side.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 28 - Day 14
Jesus’ first letter was to the church in Ephesus. His second letter begins: “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write…” (Revelation 2:8a). Just what sort of city was Smyrna?
It was a riverfront community with a burgeoning import/export trade via its harbor. And all that commercialization made Smyrna a wealthy city. It also brought in people from all sorts of cultures, plus many of its own citizens traveled and experienced other cultures. And other cultures meant other religions. These were introduced into Smyrna and received with open arms, with temples of Apollo, Cybele and Zeus worship among many others.
But all these worship centers fizzled into the background when in 196 B.C. Smryna built the first temple to “Dea Roma” – “dea” being the female form of the word “god,” signifying a goddess, and “Roma” meaning Rome. The Goddess of Rome became Smyrna’s trendiest deity and her temple the most popular place to worship.
But bear in mind the message of Revelation wasn’t written until A.D. and most Bible scholars date it somewhere between the years 70 and 96. The later date seems more feasible because historical records point to Domitian as the Emperor who sentenced John to exile on Patmos, and Domitian was Emperior from 81 to 96 A.D.
And by the time of the Revelation, the worship of the Goddess of Rome had changed to the worship of the Roman Emperor himself. Domitian was particularly cruel to Christians, considering himself a god and demanding the title of “dominus et deus,” meaning “lord and god.”
Which didn’t make it easy for Christians in Smyrna, and which came as no surprise to Jesus. After all, He’d told His disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33b).
But He also said, “But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33c). Good News for Smyrna and Good News for us living today.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 27 - Day 13
Jesus closes His message to the Ephesian church as well as the other six churches with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a, 11a, 17a, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, NLT). Just as He followed “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14) each location with a distinct statement, Jesus concludes the Ephesian letter and the other six letters with distinct statements.
To Ephesus, He says: “To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7b).
What was Jesus wanting the church at Ephesus to be “victorious” over? Their lack of love for Him and others. Love doesn’t rekindle itself. We have to consciously seek to rebuild it.
When a marriage vow is broken, it takes a heap of work to keep that marriage together and reconnect the trust and love that should be there. Easy? No. But I know couples who’ve been through major storms but refused to give up on each other – and let me say right here that I am totally aware that it takes two willing parties to save a marriage.
And speaking of marriage, every believer is a part of the Bride of Christ. No matter how unfaithful you or I have been to our Bridegroom, He still loves us. He’ll still forgive us. He won’t give up on us. He wants our love for Him to grow and mature, just as He wanted to see the church at Ephesus continue to not only do all the right things, but to get back to doing them in love. And He wanted to see that love turn from declining to increasing.
“I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.” Where was “the tree of life”? Eden, man’s original “paradise.” But “the paradise of God”? This was the dwelling place of our Creator. What did Jesus say to the repentant thief on the cross? “…today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43b).
This is such a significant promise, and remember: it wasn’t merely for the people of the church of Ephesus who heeded Jesus’ words – it’s also for every believer today who will listen and obey. Jesus’ promise is for here and the hereafter.
We can eat of the “fruit from the tree of life” not only in “the paradise of God,” but we can eat of the spiritual “fruit from the tree of life” right now IF we’re putting God first – see Matthew 6:33. Meaning what exactly? When we’re fully committed to Jesus Christ, we miss out on many of the effects of the curse – see Genesis 3.
Will our lives be worry-free? No. The Bible makes it clear we live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people. But I can promise you this: when you put God first, you position yourself for blessings. Materially? Maybe. Spiritually? Most definitely. And when you do reach “the paradise of God,” you’ll be astounded to learn all the negative things that were kept from your life because of your faithfulness.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 26 - Day 12
As I mentioned yesterday, before Jesus dictates each of the seven letters to the churches, He instructs John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). As we’ve already seen, the word translated “angel” is also translated as “messenger,” making it likely that these letters were addressed to the human “messenger,” as in the pastor of each congregation.
But after instructing John to “Write this letter…,” Jesus opens each letter with a distinct statement. In the case of the church of Ephesus, Jesus says, “This is the message from the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven gold lampstands” (Revelation 2:1b).
In Revelation 1:20b, Jesus had already explained the meaning of the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands”: “The seven stars are the angels [or messengers] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
So Jesus told John to write to the churches. How was he to get those messages to the churches? After all, he was exiled on an island. Well, there are a couple probable explanations:
(1) Boats came and went from the island, bringing supplies and other prisoners. John could have sent the messages by boat. Possible, yes, but my money’s on the second possibility.
(2) Historical records indicate John was released from prison shortly after he wrote down Jesus’ Revelation message. Ephesus was a coastal city and only a short boat trip from Patmos. John could have hand-delivered the message. The other six churches were all within a reasonable distance from Ephesus, so John may possibly have personally delivered the message to all seven churches.
According to all available information, John appears to be the only apostle who lived to a very old age and apparently died of natural causes. Being the last of the original 12 disciples who walked and talked with Jesus, we can only imagine the excitement of having John walk into the church at Ephesus or any of the other six churches. Too, this final message of Jesus Christ would be held in high regard and copies of the entire Revelation made and distributed to not only the seven churches, but to all the churches.
So even though seven specific churches were designated as recipients and the specific goings-on – both good and bad – within those churches are addressed, the message is for all churches in all ages, including today. Seven, signifying completion, encompasses the entire true Church, which may be why Jesus chose to begin the first of His letters, the one to Ephesus, identifying Himself as the One with the “seven stars” and “seven lampstands.” I pray each person reading this is a part of the One True Church.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 25 - Day 11
We’re in Revelation, chapter 2. Before we wrap up our look at the church in Ephesus, I want to touch on two different lines of thinking about what is represented by the seven churches to whom Jesus instructed John to write.
Some Bible scholars believe each church represents a church age, or time period. Most don’t agree with that viewpoint, including John Macarthur, who says of the letters to the seven churches that “when Christ speaks to those churches, He is speaking to all the churches of all time... There is tremendous prophetic importance in those churches because their messages represent the total message to the total church.”
In other words, folks, we need to listen up because all of these messages are for the church of today just as they were for the church of John’s day and every time period between then and now. And let me reiterate that the Church is not a denomination, but is composed of all true believers worldwide.
Two important things we need to note here and take a look at over the next few days:
(1) Before Jesus dictates each of the seven letters to the churches, He instructs John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church in…” (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14, NLT). As we’ve already seen, the word translated “angel” is also translated as “messenger.” An angel of God assuredly watches over the Church, but the letter was to be read aloud to the entire congregation, making it likely that these letters were addressed to the human “messenger,” as in the pastor of each congregation.
(2) Jesus closes His message to the Ephesian church as well as the other six churches with these words: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what He is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a, 11a, 17a, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). You can sit in church every Sunday and “hear” the sermon, but unless you also “understand,” it becomes very easy to leave church having gotten nothing out of the service and having put nothing into it. Just as with reading the Bible, God doesn’t want us to merely read the words; He wants us to “understand” and apply them.
Have you ever sat in church and thought, “I wish So-and-So were here because this message is sure for her!” I’ll put my hand up and admit I’ve done that. Reminds me of a humorous yet serious quote by the great theologian Henry Ward Beecher: “The churches of the land are sprinkled all over with bald-headed old sinners whose hair has been worn off by the constant friction of countless sermons that have been aimed at them and glanced off and hit the man in the pew behind.”
May all us “bald-headed sinners become “the man in the pew behind.”
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 24 - Day 10
We’re looking at Jesus’ letter to the church in Ephesus, the first of the seven letters He instructs John to write. He commends them for what they’re doing right, but then adds: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4, NLT). He saw this bunch of believers doing all the right things, but without the love for Him or others as they’d had at the beginning of their commitment to Him.
This church was busy, doing good, steering clear of all the evil that surrounded them in their goddess-worshiping city and making sure no false teachers or “apostles” sneaked into their congregation. But even with all that, Jesus said to them: “Look how far you have fallen!” (Revelation 2:5a).
A marriage with a love that isn’t nurtured can become more of an institution than a commitment. This is what Jesus was saying to the church in Ephesus. They still met regularly; they still did good deeds; they avoided all wrongdoing; but their love had dwindled rather than grown. In a marriage, a couple can get so busy going through day-to-day routines that they forget to consciously seek to grow in love for each other. This is what had happened in the church of Ephesus.
So Jesus warns them: “Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:5b).
The church who was doing everything right needed to repent. Why? Because of what they weren’t doing. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 to the Pharisees, those pious worshipers who kept every letter of the Mosaic Law: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
To break a commandment of God is to sin. And the Ephesian church was in sin because of their diminishing love for Christ and, subsequently, for others. Which is why Jesus went on to say, “If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches” (Revelation 2:5c).
Jesus didn’t and doesn’t want a band of robots going through the motions of the Christian lifestyle. After all, He doesn’t need us, period. He does, however, love us, and that alone is beyond comprehension when we look at our own lives and the priorities we put in front of Him.
How would Jesus “come and remove” the “lampstand,” representing the church at Ephesus, “from its place among the churches”? The church might keep the doors open and continue to do business as usual, but the favor of God would no longer be on that congregation.
Likewise with an individual Christian’s life. If a person wants the approval of God and the favor of God, then he or she must obey “the greatest commandment” and “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”
Judy Woodward Bates
Jesus instructed John to write “to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11b, NLT). With Ephesus first in line, what did Jesus have to say to the Ephesian Christians?
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for Me without quitting” (Revelation 2:2-3).
First, we see a statement Jesus says to each and every believer: “I know all the things you do.” The Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself, indwells every true believer and He indeeds knows everything about us.
Jesus then commends the Ephesian believers for their “hard work and… patient endurance.” The church at Ephesus was hard at it for the Kingdom of God and they didn’t put up with false “apostles” who tried to infiltrate their congregation and lead them away from the truth.
Despite all that, though, Jesus goes on to say: “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Revelation 2:4). On the surface, everything at the First Church of Ephesus looked great. But when Jesus took a peek below their carefully plastered façade, He saw a people who went through all the right motions, but without the love they’d started out with.
Newlyweds may be absolutely giddy about their new life and love together, but after a while that giddiness settles down. If that marriage is healthy, though, the love continues to grow and mature. It may not be as flamboyant as it was in the beginning, but the depth of that love assuredly increases.
Likewise a Christian’s love for the Lord and for his fellow believers. When that love is diminishing rather than growing, a Christian is simply going through the motions rather than seriously pursuing a deeper walk with the Savior. “God is love,” (I John 4:8 and 16) and no one can grow closer to Him without loving Him more and loving others more too.
How long have you been a believer? Can you honestly say you love Jesus Christ more today than you did the day you committed your heart and life to Him? If you do, how do you show it in your prayer life? Bible study? Church attendance? Financial giving? Treatment of others?
The Lord has more to say to the Ephesians and more to say to us through this letter. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 22 - Day 8
The second chapter of the Revelation opens with these instructions from the Lord Jesus Christ to the apostle John: “Write this letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus” (Revelation 2:1a, NLT).
As we’ve already looked at, the word translated “angel” in the NLT and many translations is also translated as “messenger” or “minister” in others. While an angel of the Lord certainly watches over His Church, this message was directed to the leader or pastor of the church at Ephesus who would then share the letter with the entire congregation.
Remember, the epistles, such as the book of Romans, are simply letters written to specific churches, with Romans being the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, and Ephesians being his letter to the church in Ephesus.
The New Testament contains 21 epistles, or letters, from Paul: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Eight more epistles are in the New Testament: First, Second and Third John; First and Second Peter; James; Jude; and Hebrews.
One of these days we’ll look into these epistles, or letters, but for now let’s find out about the city of Ephesus. It was a prominent city, being the capital of the province of Asia as well as the location of the temple of the Roman goddess Diana, who was known to the Greeks as Artemis.
If you read Acts 19, you’ll see that Paul spent at least two years teaching in Ephesus and many people put their faith in Jesus Christ during that time. This infuriated the silversmith tradesmen because a huge part of their income came from the making of household-sized images of Diana.
Like so many pagan religions, the worship of Diana involved sexual immorality, with temple prostitutes a part of the rites of this belief. Imagine having been a part of such a perverted form of worship, then learning about Jesus, repenting and walking away from all that! The Christians of Ephesus had come out of an empty and immoral lifestyle which continued to be a thriving part of the Ephesian culture.
We like to blame the internet and television and all sorts of modern-day media and behavior for how hard it is to live a moral lifestyle today. “There’s just so much temptation out there!” News flash: that ain’t news. Temptation has been around since the Garden of Eden.
It’s up to each and every Christian to be 100 percent genuine in their commitment to Christ. God’s Word reminds us now just as it did then: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 21 - Day 7
“And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man… And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13a, 16b, NLT).
So many Bible passages come to mind when I read this description of the glorified Jesus. Think about the shepherds to whom Jesus’ birth was announced: “Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them” (Luke 2:9a). Because that angel (and the “vast host” of angels who appeared soon after the first angel – see Luke 2:13) had been in the presence of God, he shone with “the radiance of the Lord’s glory.”
And in the Old Testament, Moses’ “face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord” (Exodus 34:29b), even though Moses had only had a glimpse of his Creator. Hebrews 1:3a declares, “The Son radiates God’s own glory…” Psalm 50:2b says, “…God shines in glorious radiance.”
Even before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, John, along with Peter and James, were allowed to see His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration: “…Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2b).
The light of the Savior reveals everything. Nothing is hidden from Him. Our darkest secrets are exposed. Anything false within us is laid bare. Understanding this truth should create in each of us a tremendous sense of urgency to live for Christ and to tell others about Him.
Jesus then instructs John to “Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19). This sentence gives us the three-part breakdown of the Revelation: (1) Chapter 1: “…what you have seen”; (2) Chapters 2-3: “…the things that are now happening”; and (3) Chapters 3-22: “…the things that will happen.”
Chapters 2 and 3 contain the letters to the seven churches, all of which were “in the province of Asia” (Revelation 1:4). As we’ve already seen, “Asia” didn’t refer to the entire continent of Asia, but to a part of what is now the country of Turkey. We’ll begin our look at the churches tomorrow. I hope you’ll go ahead and read Chapters 2 and 3.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 20 - Day 6
We’re continuing our look at the glorified Jesus: “…His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth” (Revelation 1:15b-16a, NLT).
“His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves.” Jesus spoke with His powerful voice of authority and “held seven stars in His right hand.” What were these “seven stars”? The leaders of the seven churches (seven being the number of completion) with whom John was instructed to share this message: “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11).
If we look on down to Revelation 1:20, we see the words of Jesus clearly explaining the stars and lampstands: “This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in My right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” The word written as “angels” in most translations is written as “messengers” or “ministers” in some translations. Jesus upholds His godly messengers, be they human or angelic, and Jesus upholds His Church.
“…and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth.” You may be thinking you’ve read a similar passage in Hebrews: “For the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12a). However, there’s a difference in the two words translated as “two-edged sword” in the Revelation and Hebrews passages.
In the Hebrews passage, “two-edged sword” is translated from the Greek word “machairan” while in Revelation the “two-edged sword” is a translation of the word “rhomphaia.” In the first word, we see more of a double-edged knife, something used in up-close warfare, “…cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow” (Hebrews 4:12b). The sword in Revelation is a broad, long sword, far-reaching and capable of horrific destruction.
Both swords represent “the Word of God,” which “exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Names on church rolls won’t fool Jesus when He calls out His Church. Only those who have truly received Him as Lord and Savior are a part of the One True Church. And only those have the believer’s single offensive weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
So did John actually see a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus? I don’t know. What I am sure of is that the “Word of God” came from Him. And should also come from us as His children. No earthly weapon can help us fight our battles – see Ephesians 6:12 – but the “Word of God” will always bring defeat to the enemy. Know it and use it.
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 19 - Day 5
“…standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13-16, NLT).
Yesterday we saw that “the lampstands” represented the Church. In the very midst of the Church we see “the Son of Man.” Jesus. Daniel also sees the glorified Christ and describes Him in Daniel 7:13b-14: “I saw someone like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal – it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”
Jesus is “wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest.” Here is a picture of Jesus as our High Priest. Part of the job of a priest in the temple was to tend the lamps, making sure they were clean and filled with oil. Jesus, as our Eternal High Priest, watches over His Church to encourage the Church and to inspect it. Remember: each and every believer is a part of the Church, the body of Christ.
“His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow.” White hair was a sign of old age and wisdom. Unlike the disregard for the elderly we see in our culture today, many cultures still have great respect for the aged. To see the Risen Savior with “hair… white as snow” pointed to His wisdom and His eternality. Jesus Christ is “the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come” (Revelation 4:8b) and “His kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:33b).
“…His eyes were like flames of fire.” The penetrating gaze of Jesus was as “flames of fire,” seeing into the very hearts of men and judging each one accordingly.
“His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace…” Bronze indicated strength and permanence. If you look in Exodus 27 at the description of the altar in the temple, you’ll see that the entire altar was covered in bronze. Jesus Christ became our Living Sacrifice, placing Himself on the altar of the cross as the One Perfect Sacrifice that would pay mankind’s sin-debt for all time.
And the cost to me and you? “Only believe” (Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50b, HCSB). Do you?
Judy Woodward Bates
REVELATION STUDY for JULY 18 - Day 4
John takes one look at the glorified Jesus and what happens? “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead” (Revelation 1:17a, NLT). But Jesus immediately reassured Him: “Don’t be afraid!” (Revelation 1:17b).
But it was hard not to be. Revelation 1:12-16 describe the scene that’s taking place: “When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across His chest. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And His eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and His voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in His right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. And His face was like the sun in all its brilliance.”
John sees “seven gold lampstands.” A lampstand serves one purpose: to hold a lamp. And a lamp serves one purpose: to bring light into a place that would otherwise be in darkness. Jesus said in John 9:5, “…while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
But look at Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. He said of those who would believe in Him, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14a). The Holy Spirit, Christ Himself, indwells every true believer, making each one a “Light… in the darkness” (Psalm 112:4a).
And what is the church but a body of believers? “Light… in the darkness.” Seven, being the number of perfection or completion in the Bible, points us to the Church, the body of Christ, as represented by the “seven gold lampstands.” The lampstand has no ability to produce light, but it can hold the light forth so that others can see it.
That’s the church, folks. Jesus never designated nor intended His body to be broken into factions of this and that denomination. He is the Head of the Church, regardless of what denominational name – or lack thereof – is on the sign outside.
But as I said, the Church is made up of believers. If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are the Church. I am the Church. Are we shining forth His light? In this age of darkness, we sure better be.
Judy Woodward Bates
“This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. It said, ‘Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea’” (Revelation 1:4, 10b-11, NLT).
“…the province of Asia…” At the time John received this Revelation from Jesus Christ, “Asia” was part of the Roman Empire. John wasn’t talking about the entire continent of Asia, but a part of what is now the country of Turkey, and he was instructed to write down this message and share it with a select group of “seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
Who is this “loud voice like a trumpet blast”? He has already identified Himself in the previous verses. In verse 8, He says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end… I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One.” Only the Lord Jesus Christ holds this title, so it is Jesus Himself speaking to John at this point in the Revelation. If you read a red-letter Bible, you’ll see this passage and more in red, since Jesus is speaking.
“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, ‘Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen’” (Revelation 1:17-19). Jesus is not only speaking directly to John, but John is seeing Him! Can you even imagine?
We’ll start working toward a look at the glorified Jesus tomorrow. But for now, let me ask you: do you want to see Jesus? A much younger John began his Gospel with: “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Living Word inhabits every page of the Bible. Read it and you’ll grow to know Him better and better.
Judy Woodward Bates
Yesterday we kicked off our look
at the book of Revelation, noting first and foremost that the apostle John is
only the recorder – the Revelation is “from Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1,
NLT). I also pointed out what a tough job John had ahead of him since he was
describing: (1) future earthly things he’d never seen before; and (2) heavenly
things he’d never seen before. The apostle John not only recorded this “revelation from Jesus Christ,” (Revelation
1:1), he also wrote the Gospel of John, as well as the books of First, Second
and Third John.
The Book of Revelation opens with the offer of a special blessing: “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (Revelation 1:3, HCSB).
But in order to understand Revelation, you have to know the rest of your Bible as well. It’s important to make Bible study a daily practice. Not merely reading, but using a good study Bible or reliable commentary to help you understand as you read.
Psalm 49:20 speaks of “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding…” (NASB). There is little benefit to reading the Bible unless we understand what we’re reading. James 4:2 reminds us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (BSB). As you begin this study and as you read your Bible, pray and ask the Lord for understanding.
If you’re a KJV person, consider reading a New King James Version (NKJV). As incentive, I highly recommend you compare the KJV and other translations of First Kings 16:11 and First Samuel 25:34 to see how drastically language has changed over the centuries.
All that said, where was John when he received this “revelation from Jesus Christ”? John tells us, “I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. It was the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:9b-10a, NLT).
John, now an elderly man, had been brought to this island prison “for preaching the word of God.” He’d been telling people “about Jesus.” And for that, the Romans took away his freedom. Or so they thought. But John knew the truth of Jesus’ own words as he recorded them in John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (KJV). John’s body may have been trapped on a tiny, isolated island, but his spirit was “free indeed.”
I hope you’ll go ahead and read at least the first chapter of Revelation. And please invite others to this study. “The one who reads this is blessed, and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed, because the time is near!” (Revelation 1:3, HCSB).
Judy Woodward Bates
“This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to His servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1-2, NLT).
Yep, we’re diving back into Revelation. Note it’s a single revelation, not plural as you often hear said: Revelations. The word translated as “revelation” comes from the ancient Greek word “apokalupsis,” meaning “apocalypse,” or a revealing or unveiling.
This “revelation” was given to John the apostle, not John the Baptist. If you look back at Mark 6, you’ll see that John the Baptist was beheaded long before John the apostle was given this divine revelation. And this isn’t John’s revelation – it’s a “revelation from Jesus Christ.”
About what? “…the events that must soon take place.” It’s been 2,000 years and these events still haven’t “taken place.” Is the Bible in error? Never. The word translated “soon” is another ancient Greek phrase, “en tachei,” meaning suddenly happening. It doesn’t mean these things will take place soon after the Revelation has been given, but that at whatever time they take place, they will begin suddenly. (“Tachei” refers to speed or rapidity, which is why its Greek root word is the basis for our word “tachometer.”)
And what’s the purpose of the message of Revelation? “…to show His servants…” the future. For many years, preachers and teachers steered clear of Revelation because of its confusing symbolism and its dire warning: “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book” (Revelation 22:18). But the Revelation has been given and shouldn’t be ignored.
As we begin this look, remember: (1) In many places, John is describing things of the future, things he’s never laid eyes on before. Imagine someone from 2,000 years ago trying to describe TVs and cell phones, trying to explain hearing and seeing pictures that appear seemingly right out of thin air! John’s mission is not an easy one. (2) John has a second difficult task: to describe things he is privileged to see in heaven. The apostle Paul notes one occasion when he was given a glimpse of heaven:
“I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know – only God knows. …I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2, 4).
So there’s a bit of starter under our belts. I hope you’ll hang with me for this study and invite others to join us.
Judy Woodward Bates