AGCC Sun. a.m. 1/14/2001
#2 (Book of Revelation Series)

TEXTS:     Rev. 2:1-3:22


Revelation starts off with a vision of Christ, we cannot see the future if we don't first see Christ clearly. Next it stops at the Churches before moving to the future, the Church cannot hope for a future if it doesn't live right in the present! There is yet no unfolding of the future in the book, no revelation of tomorrow until the Churches have a clear understanding of what it means to be the Church TODAY! These 7 Churches which represent all Churches everywhere needed some guidance about how they lived NOW before being given promises of what tomorrow would hold. How often we love prophecies about the future and avoid the need of living for God in the present … this won't do in the book of Revelation, God addresses the needs of the Church now before moving on to tomorrow … so should we! ILLUS:If I had put in the paper for this week an announcement that I would unveil what the future holds there would not have been one empty seat in this Church today! But promising to address the needs of the Church today would hardly make a difference in the attendance! PROP. SENT:     The Scriptures teach us that the secret to tomorrow is wrapped up in how we live today! The key to the future is what we do today … we cannot ignore the present for prophecy!

I. "I KNOW YOU"       2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8,15

A. Seven Churches!     2:1-3:22 1. Each Church is addressed similarly, "I know … " a. God is very much aware of each Church situation and health. b. We may wonder sometimes if God cares about us or our Church, but be assured that He does! c. Nothing had escaped His notice, concern, or praise. 2. These 7 Churches each were unique, and each had strengths and weaknesses, and each needed direction from God. a. God always has something to say to His Church. b. God is anxious for his Church to be all that it can be. 3. Each Church and each believer had to face both good and bad times, it would be how they handled both that would determine their future … and often wealth and success was more dangerous than failure and poverty! ILLUS:Everett Koop, former surgeon general of the United States and a vocal opponent of abortion on demand, tells of a family whose severely handicapped child he delivered and helped to keep alive after birth. He writes, "I asked the child's mother, 'What's the worst thing that ever happened to you?'" "She said, 'Having our son Paul Born with defects that required thirty-seven operation to correct.' "Then I asked, 'What's the best thing that ever happened to you?' "She said, 'Having our son Paul born with defects that required thirty-seven operations to correct.'" Koop goes on to explain: "I know what she means. It's been terribly hard on them, but, through the experience, they've grown enormously as a family. They've had a remarkable spiritual reawakening. One of their sons is now in law school planning to defend the rights of the handicapped. Paul has now had fifty-five operations, with one more scheduled. Despite the hardships, it's been an overwhelmingly positive experience for them." -- Ben Patterson, "A Faith Like Mary's," Preaching Today, Tape No. 87. a. Their individual situations were quite diverse, but their responsibilities were the same, no matter in good or bad times they were to remain faithful to God. b. Ironically, it was the few Churches in poverty that had the best things said about them, and the wealthiest of the 7 Churches that had the harshest things said about them. c. God is not nearly as concerned about the Church's material wealth as He is about it's spiritual wealth! 4. God has some important things to share with each of these Churches and the believers that were a part of them, messages we still need to hear! B. Spiritual Conflicts     2:1-3:22 1. EPHESUS - This was a second generation Church, its founders had been hard working, had established a thriving growing Church … but now a new generation had grown up in the Church that did not have the same passion as their pioneers! a. Ephesus was the city of LOVE! One of the 7 wonders of the ancient world was in this city, the temple of LOVE to Artemis or Diana. b. Ironically the very name "EPHESUS" means "Desirable" -- yet the desire to serve the Lord in this Church had waned! c. In the CITY OF LOVE the Church had lost its FIRST LOVE! d. The city was steeped in LUST while the Church didn't even have LOVE anymore! e. They needed to do 3 things: (1. "Remember the height from which you have fallen." (2. "Repent" (3. "Redo the things you did at first" f. Restoration was the idea here, restoration to the same first passion that caused their testimony to exist in the first place! g. It is too easy for any Church to lose it's passion for Christ and ministry … God help us that it doesn't happen here! 2. SMYRNA - This was one of the poorest of the 7 Churches. a. It was a large city, and trade guilds were important, but to be a part of one you had to worship idols in the pagan temples. b. Because Christians would not compromise their standards they were kicked out of the trade guilds and were thus left largely to poverty. c. BUT, Jesus says here that He knows their "poverty, that they are rich!" d. Nothing negative about this Church … only praise and encouragement not to give in, even to the point of death … and a real crown awaits them! e. This would have been the Church to complain, but they passionately lived for Christ in spite of the cost personally to them … can you say the same? f. Christ promises them that they "would suffer for 10 days" - simply meaning that God would limit the time of their suffering, He is in control. 3. PERGAMUM - This was the Washington D.C. of Asia at the time. a. It was a political capital, and a large healing cult existed there, worship of Asclepius the healing god was big here, symbolized by a serpent wound around a staff (still the symbol of the healing profession in our country today!!). b. There was a huge library here with over 200,000 volumes! c. A huge altar over 40 feet high was in this city, today it has been moved to Berlin, Germany after being excavated! d. Emperor worship was common here, and the pressures to compromise with the world were strong. The governor or Asia resided in this city, and he had a sword which symbolized his power of IUS GLADII which meant the "right of the sword" -- he had the power to execute anyone at his will! e. Jesus however says He has a DOUBLE EDGED SWORD -- better and more powerful than the governor's! This was tantamount to saying "My authority is greater!" and thus the Church should not be afraid! f. The Church was doing well for the most part, but a few people were promoting the teachings of Balaam, the prophet in the Old Testament that encouraged Israel to compromise their commitment to God by breaking God's laws. (1. The seeds of compromise with the world were beginning to take root in this Church. (2. They needed to remember whose "sword" was greater, the governor's or God's! 4. THYATIRA - This was a blue collar town, a very small town! Ironically, the smallest of the 7 cities has the biggest message! God's value of a place is not determined by its size! a. Textiles and small trade guilds were important in this town. b. Unlike Ephesus which had good doctrine and teaching but lacked passion this blue collar Church had lots of passion but too little doctrine and teaching! c. They were too easily led astray. In fact, their passions had driven them to live undisciplined lives, so much so that sexual immorality was too often the results of unbridled passions, hence the comments in the passage about this. d. This was a Church that needed discipline for its desires. e. We live in a culture of passions that often ignores discipline - the Church cannot afford this mistake! 5. SARDIS - This was a horribly ungodly and immoral city. It boasted of its worship of Cybele, a mother goddess that included some very debased and perverted worship practices of a sexual nature. a. The city was on top of a steep hill, and so the city felt so secure thinking no one could capture them … the steep rocky hills would keep the enemy away! (1. because of this they often failed to post guards and were several times overrun by the enemy! (2. thieves often hid in the rocky cliffs and invaded the town at times. (3. This fact sets the stage for God's comment to this Church that if they didn't get their act together "He would come as a thief!" b. This Church was not almost dead, IT WAS DEAD! This was the worst of the 7 Churches … its reputation was that it was alive, but they had already died! c. God calls them to "WAKE UP" (3:2) d. Their false sense of security left them open to destruction, much like the city they lived in! A church can have God in it's name, but not in it's midst! e. God has almost nothing good to say about this Church, they are warned to turn around quickly before they are lost. f. You could only worship at the local temple if you had clean clothes on, so God says to them, "Yet, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, they will walk with me dressed in white…" 6. PHILADELPHIA - The city of earthquakes! So many that there were ruins everywhere where only the pillars of buildings were still standing! … notice Jesus' promises this Church that those who overcome He will make a pillar in His temple! a. God promises "standing in the midst of shaking" to those who stay true to Him. b. This Church has nothing bad said about it, they were unshaken in a city that often was! c. This was a small Church … the meaning of the phrase "little strength" in the text. Their size however meant nothing, they were giants in the faith! d. God promises this Church that they will be kept from the trial that is going to come upon the whole world … perhaps the tribulation period, although the term translated "FROM" can also be "THROUGH" so it cannot be certain here what is meant except that God will supernaturally protect them from some great trial to face the world. 7. LAODICEA - One of the largest and wealthiest cities … so wealthy that when it was destroyed completely by an earthquake in 60 A.D. (about 30 years before Revelation was written) it rebuilt itself without any financial help from outsiders!! a. This was the self-reliant wealthy Church. b. It was lukewarm! The city had hot water coming from Hieropolis 6 miles away through a huge aqueduct, and cold water from 6 miles in the other direction from the mountains nearby, ducted into the city because it had no natural water sources locally. HOWEVER, by the time the hot water and cold water reached the city they were both lukewarm! It was not uncommon for local visitors going to one of the many fountains in the center of town expecting a cold drink of cool mountain water to gag on the lukewarm water and spit it out disappointed … Jesus picks up on this image to tell this Church that is how He feels with their lukewarmness! (note: the word "SPIT" here literally is "VOMIT" in Greek) c. Laodicea was also famous for an eye salve called Cellyrium, it was world famous for its eye healing properties … yet God says this Church was "BLIND" that they needed to buy from Him eye salve! d. Jesus also says that they are naked, the city was famous for its black cloth industry … but they needed white clothing from Him! e. Though wealthy, they were really poor and needed to buy from Christ true gold refined in fire! f. There was a way out, get hot again! II. "I'LL KEEP YOU"     2:1-3:22 A. Specific Challenges     2:1-3:22 1. Each Church had been given a specific challenge, often related to things that their city was famous for … what would God challenge us about? a. It was too easy for these 2nd generation Churches to lose their fervency, what about us? b. Too often we are passionate about the wrongs things! ILLUS:The core problem is not that we are too passionate about bad things, but that we are not passionate enough about good things. -- Larry Crabb. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2. 2. How could God tell His Church about the future until they had mastered the present? a. The first challenge isn't the future, it's the present! b. Can we identify what our challenges are today? 3. What about our temperature, are we lukewarm? Do we have too little passion, too much, are we self reliant and self righteous? Do we compromise with the world's standards, are we a 2nd generation Church with less commitment than the first? What specific challenge is God making of us in our present as we anticipate and wait for the future? B. Supernatural Commitment     2:7,11,17,26-28; 3:5,12,21 1. Each message ends similarly, "To him who overcomes … I will …" a. God makes promises to the overcomers, promises of power, of good! b. There is also a similar challenge, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches." c. Are we listening? 2. God does not ask us to respond without also promising supernatural help, that is the good news! 3. Each of the Churches had a supernatural commitment from God for help, they only had to have their present condition ready for tomorrow's action! 4. Jesus IS coming again … that's the future, but it is a future that depends on the present condition of our lives … are you ready for His coming again? 5. He will not leave us to our own resources, He has promised His own strength and help … have you turned to Him for it? 6. It is never too late to keep pressing on, there is more growing to do no matter how old we get! ILLUS:Follow with me a 90-year-old man bent with the weight of his years; slow of step, with stooped and rounded shoulders. It is early morning, and he's in his home. We note that he sits down and picks up a cello. The man and the instrument merge. He plays for four or five hours. When he plays, the years seem to fall off this special man who's 90 years old and still practicing. Why on earth would Pablo Casals, at age 90, continue to practice? Somebody asked him, and he said, "I practice because I have the impression I'm making a little progress." -- W. Frank Harrington, "When You Really Want to Quit," Preaching Today, Tape No. 138. CONCLUSION:    God knew each pastor and each Church -- their strengths and weaknesses. The strengths He praised and encouraged them to continue, their weaknesses were addressed and challenged for change. IF they changed and accepted the challenge God promised power, placement, and privilege; punishment was reserved only for the hardest of hearts. God will keep those who try -- they will triumphantly reign with Christ. Do you have ears and eyes to hear and see?