Thursday, May 22, 2014

SCENES FROM THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD

SCENES FROM THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD
Revelation 4:1-11 
1 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.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits[a] of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
    
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

This chapter begins a new phase in the book of Revelation.  The church plays a prominent role in the first three chapters, mentioned over 18 times. After chapter 3, the church is not referred to again until chapter 22 verse16. This chapter can be divided into four sections: I A Scene of God’s throne in Heaven (4:1) II God on his throne (2-3) III Twenty four elders and four Living Creatures (4-7) IV Worship in heaven (8-11)

I.          A SCENE OF GOD’S THRONE IN HEAVEN ( 4:1)
“After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things."

We fall short of words to adequately articulate the glorious scenes of heaven. However let’s make a feeble attempt to capture the scenes.  In Rev 2-3 we see Christ working on earth in His church. In the fourth chapter however we are transferred to the heavenly or spiritual realm. But how is it that the church is now found in heaven?

Something must have intervened, thus bringing about this transfer of the earthly residence of the church to the heavenly one. This transfer is not mentioned in the book of revelation but it is mentioned elsewhere. The event which describes this transfer is called “The rapture of the Church. This is a huge topic and we will deal with it as we go further. The last mention of John was in 1:10 where he speaks of being, “in the Spirit” and seeing the vision of the Risen Christ. Then follows the message to the seven churches.

Whether John was still in the s “Spirit” This chapter begins introducing a new vision. In this vision John saw three apocalyptic images, the door, the open heaven and voice like a trumpet. The door to heaven is an occasional apocalyptic symbol (3 Macc. 6:18; 1Enoch 14.10-11; 15.14; Gen 28:17; Ps 78:23).  The door to heaven occurs on here in NT, but a parallel concept occurs in the “narrow gate” (Luke 13:24-25) to salvation in Jesus’ teaching. At Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:16) the heavens were split open. We see heavens open at the persecution of Stephen (Acts 7:56) and in Peter’s vision (Acts 10:11).

In Revelation the open heaven continues as a message of hope for the troubled believers (8:1ff; 11:19; 12:10; 15:5; 19:11).  John sees a door already standing open in heaven. This is not a door that was opened as John enters. The throne room of God has been accessible to the believer ever since Jesus cried, “It is finished.” From the cross and the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  (Matthew 27:51, Hebrew 10:19-22) The voice like a trumpet is probably the voice of Christ as it was in the first vision (1:10).
John was given the invitation, “Come up here I will show you what must take place after this: In the seven letters the end time promise was preceded by “I will give you.” Here it is preceded by “I will show you.” Refers to a visual “Revelation or unveiling of divine reality. Note the emphatic “must” refers to divine necessity. God once more is seen as in sovereign control of history, determining the progress of events according to His divine plan.

In Rev 1:19, John is commanded to write “what is now” and what will take place later.”  What is now,” is covered by the letters to seven churches; the will take place later,” is now about to be revealed to John and through John to us. Some see this invitation to come up as an indication of the rapture. However John is not transported into heaven. He is simply caught up in the Spirit. He was still on earth in his human form, but through the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit He was also present in the throne room of God.

II God on His throne (2-3)
Vs 2-3, “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.”

The first thing that John sees is not St. Peter and the pearly gates instead when the door to heaven was open he saw a The door in heaven opens up and reveals a vast throne room. Throne is a major emphasis in this book, contrasting the “throne of God” with the “throne of Satan (12:5 contra 13:2; cf 2:13; 16:10) and probably in this chapter with the throne of Caesar. The background to the throne of God can be found in (Isaiah 6:1-4; Ezek 1:26-28).

God is described often in the book as the one who seated on the throne (4:2, 3, 9, 10; 5:1, 7, 13; 6:16; 7:10, 15; 19:4).  The phrase “sitting on the throne speaks of God’s sovereignty. He is the One who is in charge. Thus John tells us that God is reigning during this present time from His throne in heaven and that He is the eternal One, so we will not see a change in authority for He holds the events of the future in His hands.
While Ezekiel describes God as having “a figure like that of a man” (1:26), John avoids human language. The Bible often describes God as light. 

Three transparent stones were used here to describe God(Jasper and Ruby) Jasper was an opaque Jewel often reddish in color but at times green, brown, blue, yellow or white. It is especially associated with the glory of God (21:11). Secondly, Ruby a fiery red stone very popular in the ancient world. Some think that it speaks of the redemptive nature of God, others relating to the “fiery” aspect I think that it speaks of judgment and wrath. Perhaps John intends for us to see both aspects of God’s nature as corresponding to each other. Thirdly, (rainbow encircled the throne, like an emerald). The imagery combines the rainbow as typifying the radiant light surrounding God in Ezekiel 1:28

In this vision John encounters indescribable picture of God. As if it is in a motion picture John begins to see all that is happening in and around the throne. Here our focus must be on the one who is seated on the throne more than the throne itself. Gaebelein notes, “The throne symbolizes God’s majesty and power. Yet his majestic transcendence is fully safeguarded.”  In a roundabout way John described the presence of God by explaining the things that surrounded the throne. When we encounter God face to face we fall short of words to describe his splendor and majesty because he is beyond all human description. What else did John see? He saw around the throne there were 24 thrones; upon the thrones 24 elders sitting wearing white garments and golden crowns on their heads. Who are these 24 elders?

III Twenty-four elders (Vs 4)
The identity of the elders is not disclosed. There is a great debate as to the identification of the twenty-four elders, are they human or heavenly figures? Several scholars argue that they are humans and they could be (1) the twelve patriarchs (OT) and twelve apostles (NT), thus the whole people of God. (2) The great saints of the OT seen as preceding the NT saints; (3) The whole community built on the twenty-four orders of the priesthood in I Chro. 24:4-5; (4) The church as the true Israel; (5) a heavenly court sitting on thrones of judgment. 

However there are others who believe these are angelic figures. Scholars are divided in regards to who these elders really are. The debate regarding who the twenty-four elders are could go on endless perhaps this can only be solved in heaven. As Gaebelein suggests, “It would be helpful if we could ask an interpreting angel, 
Who are the elders? There are at least thirteen different views of their identity.”  In the midst of conflicting explanations it is hard to ascertain one way or the other. In my opinion out of twenty-four elders at least twelve of them could be the twelve disciples according to Matt 19:28, but then again when Jesus said “You also shall sit upon twelve thrones Judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Judas Iscariot was part of that twelve, does that mean Judas will also sit on the throne? Regardless of who these elders are it is fascinating to observe their response to the saying of the four living creatures. 


Whatever it may be the case the key here is the function of the elders in the book more than who they are. Their primary role was that of worship (5:14; 11:16; 19:4) and praise (4:11; 5:9-10; 11:17-18; 14:3). As with the living creatures (vs. 8), we do not know what type of the heavenly beings they are. Only one thing we know i.e. they form a part of the heavenly council.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

GOD'S HEART FOR THE FAMILY


          There is a little volume called, “The All Better Book” in which elementary school children try to solve some of the world’s knottiest problems.: what to do about the ozone layer, and how to help people stop smoking.  Here is the toughest:  “With billions of people in the world, someone should be able to figure out a system where no one is lonely. What do you suggest? 

Kalani, Age 8, “People should find lonely people and ask their name and address. Then ask people who aren’t lonely their name and address. When you have an even amount of each, assign lonely and not lonely people together in the newspaper. (Obviously this is a girl with the gift of administration.) Make food that talks to you when you eat. For instance it would say, “How are you doing?” and “What happened to you today? (Max, Age 9) We could get people a pet or a husband or a wife and take them places.”(Matt Age 8, this makes you wonder Matt’s understanding of Marriage.)  But the most touching response, the one that can break your heart comes last: “Sing a song. Stomp your feet. Read a book (Sometimes I think no one loves me, so I do one of these) Brian Age 8.

There is no pain like the pain of loneliness.  Less Stroble wrote about the time Chicago Tribune columnist Marla Paul confessed in print a few years ago: I am lonely. This loneliness saddens me,” she wrote. “How did it happen I could be forty-two years old and not have enough friends?” This column elicited seven times her usual amount of mail, and the letters all had the same theme: Why do I feel so lonely? Why is it so hard to make good friends? If loneliness is common for women, it is epidemic among men. One survey indicated that 90 percent of the male population in America lack a true friend. But we prefer not to talk about it.”

Loneliness, said Mother Teresa, is the leprosy of modern society. And no one wants anybody to know they’re a leper. The same problem again the children were asked to solve: “With billions of people in the world, someone should figure out a system where no one is lonely.”[1] Well, at the very beginning of the creation God had figured out that one day; billion’s people on earth would be lonely; so he developed a workable system to address loneliness and He called it “The Family.”

On Mother’s day; at least once a year our thoughts turn to our families especially to our mothers. We honor our mothers for their love and sacrifice in our early upbringing and over all development.  I thank God for my mother and father who made our family a loving home where we learned several skills and principles of right relationships.

After God, if there is one thing I am passionate about, is my marriage and my family. I am a family man. I love my family. My family means the world to me.  But my passion doesn’t end there, I want to see other marriages and families thrive too. Why is it such a big deal you may ask? Sadly, the fabric and the morals of the family in this country and the world over have been eroding in the past few decades. This affects all of the society including the Church. In the midst of these devastating trends let’s look at God’s heart for families in general and more specifically His family which is called the Church.

I.                   GOD’S HEART FOR FAMILIES.
God has always lived in a joyful, loving relationship of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. After creating everything, when it comes to creating man God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature. (Gen 1:26)
According to this scripture we were designed in God’s image and to reflect His nature. God thought of a best place where his nature would be reflected so he made the family. God’s highest model of human relationship is marriage. These days several people are trying to redefine or rather reinvent a new definition of marriage. Can a few individuals or the Supreme Court really change what God has ordained since the ages past?
As the Biblical story unfolded; from one family all the families in the world came into existence. The Family in the first place was God’s idea. The word family occurs 205 times in the Bible in comparison to the word community which occurs only 85 times. The term family is much more personal and intimate than community. Several scriptures explain that God wants people to live in families not as lone rangers. Psalm 22:27, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him.”  Psalm 96:7, “Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord Glory and strength.” These two scriptures indicate God’s intentions for all the families of the earth.
Does that mean that there is no place for singles in the overall plan of God?  No!   Singles too can find their satisfaction, fulfillment and purpose in God. I do believe that some remain single and celibate due to a special call of God on their lives, others become single due to divorce or death of their spouse, many are single not out of choice while others do stay single out of choice. The Bible gives us superb examples of such singles. 
I think of the apostle Paul and the widow Anna, in fact the apostle Paul throws out a challenge for single-hood in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, he states that an unmarried man or woman is concerned about the Lord’s affairs –how he can please the Lord- But a married man or woman is concerned about the affairs of the world, how he or she can please his wife or her husband.”
Whatever the cause for singleness may be, God’s design and intention is that people don’t remain lonely and isolated.  It was never good for a man to be alone then and it is never good for man to be alone now. God’s general intention is that men and women will make a family and create a loving, and nurturing environment for the overall well-being of each other and the children they may receive. In return, they will go out and build their own families where love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace and harmony are hallmarks.

If that is what God’s design is for families on the earth, it is sad to know that many families are not functioning at all as God intended them to function. Selfishness, pride, anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness have disrupted families and caused us to be alienated from God and each other.  The bitter conflicts and broken relationships we see, all too often reveal how far we've strayed from his original design.  God’s desire is that we cultivate healthy relationships that would breed healthy families. So far we have seen God’s heart for families in general and now we briefly look at his heart for the family of God called the Church.

II.                GOD’S HEART FOR HIS FAMILY: THE CHURCH
In Acts 2 we read how the early Church was involved in the ministry of compassion and of service. It was like one big family. They had everything in common, they voluntarily sold their possessions and goods, and they gave to anyone. They genuinely cared for one another’s needs. They worked together for the common good of the rest of the family.
 Ephesians 2:19, “So you are no longer outsiders or aliens, but fellow-citizens with every other Christian—you belong now to the household of God. Firmly beneath you in the foundation, God’s messengers and prophets, the actual foundation-stone being Jesus Christ himself. In him each separate piece of building, properly fitting into its neighbor, grows together into a temple consecrated to God. You are all part of this building in which God himself lives by his spirit. This scripture reminds us that no matter how we came to know Christ as our savior, and regardless of our racial, ethnic, gender, economic and educational backgrounds now we all belong to one BIG family of God, the worldwide church family.

Remember, what goes with families in general goes with the family of God too. Just as families are flawed; the church, the family of God is also made up of people who are not yet made perfect. Yet we all are put together here by God so that we might help each other to grow and become matured so that Christ can live in us and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The longer I am in ministry the more I realize how much brokenness there is in this world.  So many families are unhealthy and dysfunctional. I believe it grieves God’s heart to see how the devil has been destroying his perfect design for marriages and families.  Some of you may have grown up in homes there was abuse or conflicts were not well handled. As a child you may have been traumatized and abused by parents, other adults, leaders, teachers including spiritual ministers. Unless God heals you may carry those hurts and unhealed wounds into your marriage, family, work place, and society.

Unfortunately some of us carry out their hurts even into the family of God the Church. Then who do we have end up in Church? We have people who are defiant, unaccountable, un-submissive, arrogant, and independent. Some even act out their child hood trauma in the church especially when things don’t go according to their expectation.
Church is also full of people who do not know how to resolve conflicts in a mature, and healthy way. Only a few of us come from families where conflicts are handled properly. Most of us resort to the following ungodly ways to handle conflicts, such as: We say one thing to people’s faces and then another behind their backs.  We blame others and attack or give people the silent treatment through our passive aggressiveness. When we are hurt we either attack or withdraw. This is not how God intended His family to function. There is a better way.
Paul encourages the believers to “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone...” (Hebrews) Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” In closing, God’s way of dealing with loneliness is his design of a healthy family. We all have the need to attach and connect, to love and be loved. That is why we look for a family, a church or community.  Dietrich Boenhoeffer wrote, “Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.”

The devil from the beginning has attacked this plan of God for families. God’s desire is to restore health to families, and to the churches. However, the only way we can experience health is to the extent we are obedient, and intentionally make right choices to walk in the path of peace. As we embark on this journey to regain health to our marriages, families and our church community, may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen



[1][1][1] John Ortberg, “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them,” Page 27-29

Sunday, May 4, 2014

BEWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS (LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM) REV: 2:12-17


          In the last few months there has been a focused emphasis on the end times. How do we know that we are living in the last days; close to the return of Christ? One way to know is by reading the signs, one of such signs is the increase of false prophets and their teachings. Hasn’t Christ warned the disciples when they asked, “Tell us,”  “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:3-5).

Isn’t this happening right in front of our eyes? A.J Miller leader of ‘The Devine Truth’ claims to be Jesus Christ re-incarnated. He also claims, his partner, Mary Suzanne Luck, is Mary Magdeline re-incarnated. ‘I am Jesus deal with it’ claims A.J. Miller.

Literally hundreds of people are being deceived by this false messiah. Families are being torn apart; marriages are in a mess because simply these people do not read their Bibles to understand what it says about false messiahs. I do not want any of us to be in ignorance, that’s why I started to talk about the seven letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. Today we will read about the letter written to the church in Pergamum. When it comes to letters; we all receive letters of all kinds. Some are depressing, threatening; and some are simply a nuisance. We don’t even open such letters. But some are very special; especially if they come from someone who loves you the most.

In 1994 I received several love letters from my very special friend Wilma and would be bride at that time. I read it over and over again. Similarly; though the whole Bible is God’s love letter to us, more specifically Christ wrote seven letters to his would be bride the Church; I wonder how many of us read them? Here is one of those letters Rev 2:12-17

Background of Pergamum:
About seventy miles north of Smyrna and fifteen miles inland lay the magnificent city of Pergamum. This became an important city in the third century B.C when the successors of Alexander the Great turned into a major military force. The city also became the leading religious center of Asia. The city was filled with temples, altars and shrines that were dedicated to Zeus (savior-god), Athena (goddess of victory and patron of the city)Dionysus (another patron god of the dynasty) and Asklepios (god of healing, symbolized by a serpent)
          The emperor worship was prominent in this city, a temple was dedicated to the divine Augustus and the goddess of Roma which later on posed a great threat to Christianity. Once a year all citizens had to burn incense and repeat the phrase, “Caesar is Lord.” Refusal to do so was considered treason and was punishable by death. Let’s get into the letter.

I.                   THE SHARP DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Vs 12 “These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.”

         In those days the sharp double edged sword was a symbol of Roman justice and power. This symbol was drawn from Isaiah 11:4 “He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.” Christ being portrayed as the one who has the sharp, double edged sword early in the message is to encourage the persecuted believers.

        In the end it is not the Romans who will prevail but Christ, who will judge the world in righteousness and with authority. It is the exalted Christ not the Roman officials, who is the true judge. Paul writing to Hebrews brings out this concept that the word of God is indeed sharper than the double edged sword. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” There are several scriptures that emphasize the power of the written and spoken word of God: Here are a few:

         Jesus overcame temptation in the wilderness by simply quoting the written word in all its accuracy. Matthew 4 “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Eph 6:17. We have a classical scripture on how the believers in the end times will become victorious and triumph over their arch enemy Satan, Rev 12:11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”  

       So dear friends in the end times God gave us a much sharper and most powerful weapon the “Word of God” to stay committed during persecution, expose and deal with false prophets; and to stand against every man made philosophies and Godless ideologies. Let’s believe it, know it; study it; meditate on it, apply it; practice it and even more so wield it against the evil one. In times of trouble and testing it is God’s written and spoken word comes to our rescue. Jesus not only has the sharp double edged sword but He also knows everything about us.

II.                ALL KNOWING GOD (Vs13)

            Vs 13, “I know where you live, where Satan has his throne…”this phrase “I know” is mentioned in all seven letters. Ch 2:2, “I know your deeds, 2:9, “I know your tribulation” 2:13, I know where you dwell 2:19, I know your deeds; 3: 1, I Know your deeds; 3:18 I know your deeds; 3:15, “I know your deeds.” One of the natural attributes of God is that he is “All Knowing.”

            What did Christ know about these seven Churches? Three things: the pagan world in which they were living, their faithful witness and their endurance under persecution. In the same way God knows who we are; what we are going through; where we live and how we are bearing witness for Christ’s sake. This revelation of God knowing everything about us must give us confidence knowing that God knows and understands our situation as well as give us the fear of God. Therefore I can’t hide anything from him; I can’t pretend or fake it because he knows all my secrets; sins; failures as well as victories.
            
             Jesus commended them for a few things that were going right for the believers in Pergamum. Though they were living in a city where “Satan has his throne” Satan’s throne has possible reference to the various temples in the city. Some think that Jesus was making a particular reference to imperial worship. The idol worship and the emperor worship did not deter the commitment of the believers they remained firm in their resolve to worship God alone. They remained true to God’s name. In spite of severe persecution they did not renounce their faith in Christ. They were faithful in their witness even unto death. One such examples we see in “Antipas” who was martyred for his faith and Christ calls him  “my faithful witness.”

Could Christ count on us that we too would stand up for His name’s sake and be a faithful witness even it means that we become martyrs for our faith? Though several good things were going in their direction Christ found a few things against them that they harbored people who were holding to false teachings and they never took action against them

III.             BE AWARE OF FALSE PROPHETS: Vs 14-15

       Vs 14 “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”

      While the Ephesian church was commended for identifying and opposing the Nicolaitans heresy, the church at Pergamum tolerated it and so had to be confronted for their weakness. What is the Nicolaitans heresy? Though nothing was explicitly mentioned being the heresy of Nicolaitans they were equaled with the false prophet “Balaam” in the OT. 

        Who was Balaam? We read about him in Numbers 22-24 chapters. Balaam though he was a diviner recognized the LORD as real, perhaps as only one of a number of gods. At first Balaam obeyed God’s refusal to let him come but later, in light of the abundance of gifts offered by Moab and Midian, decided to come. He continually refused to curse Israel because of his fear of the Lord, but instead pronounced blessings upon them. However in the end he gave evil counsel to Balak, pointing out how he could lead them into sexual immorality and Idolatry.  As a result Balaam suffered a most dishonorable death as a warning to future generations. In fact two N.T writers inform us that Balaam was an example of one who would do wrong for personal gain.( II Peter 2:15, Jude 11) John said that Balaam was an example of one who taught others how to sin (Rev 2:14)

      What does this have to do with us in the 21st century? Let’s beware of Balaams among us. When we do come across anyone who for their personal gain teach others to sin; we must not tolerate such people. They drag everyone else down through their false teachings if we let them. Christ warned the believers against false teachers and also announced rewards to the repentant.

WHAT IS THE MESSAGE FOR US TODAY?

      The church at Pergamum can be compared to the church today in the midst of the pressures of the secular world, though we have nothing in the western world comparable to the imperial cult or idolatry like many other nations in the world. We do however have a secular society that places a great deal of pressure on Christians to compromise and to conform (I Pet 4:3-4), Romans 12: 1-2. And a syncretism similar to that faced by the Christians in Pergamum is taking over Christianity with its rampant materialism. 

       Polls have shown that while evangelicalism is at an all-time high in popularity, it has seldom had less effect on society, and on the whole it is hard to tell the Christians from the non-Christians by their lifestyle and attitudes. Moreover we have even more false teachers in the church today (Most of the cults have originated in church settings) and this is a worldwide problem.

Therefore, like Pergamum, most of us live in Satan’s realm and face great pressure that weakens our faith and our walk with Christ.  All too often we are guilty of watering down our Christian theology in the name of tolerance and political correctness. We are not only to beware of false prophets and when we do find them we need to deal with them appropriately. And also must develop teachers and preachers who make theological truth exciting and relevant. Amen

Thursday, May 1, 2014

MESSAGE TO PHILADELPHIA: Revelation 3:7-13


Rev 3:7-13 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

BACKGROUND: Ala┼čehir began as perhaps one of the first ancient cities with the name Philadelphia. It was established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon (197-160 BC). Eumenes II named the city for the love of his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159-138 BC), whose loyalty earned him the nickname, "Philadelphos", literally meaning "one who loves his brother".
The city is perhaps best known as the site of one of the seven churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation. Philadelphia was thirty miles southeast of Sardis on the main trade route from Smyrna on the coast to the east. As it also lay on the major Roman postal road it was ideal for commerce and was called “the gateway to the east.” The religion of Philadelphia was similar to that of several of the cities, a syncretistic blend of Anatolian and Hellenistic practices. Its patron deity appropriately was Dionysus, god of wine. 
In the 5th century it was called “Little Athens” due to the many temples and cults. The city probably was evangelized by disciples of Paul. Philadelphia and Smyrna are the only two churches with no rebuke and it is interesting that both were under severe threat from a powerful Jewish presence in the city. This letter to the church in Philadelphia is all about who Christ is and what he does to his faithful children who gather in a church to worship and honor him.  
The church in Philadelphia sets forth the characteristics of the missionary church, beginning with the rise of modern missions under William Carey. It was built in a dangerous volcanic area located about 28 miles south east of Sardis. It was completely destroyed by an earthquake in A.D.17 and was completely rebuilt.
Christ revealed himself as “Holy, Who is true and who has the key of David.” What does this mean? In 2 Kings 19:22, “Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!” Here we see God referred as “the Holy One of Israel.” He was also referred as “the true God” unlike the nations around that were worshipping idols “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.” Jeremiah 10:10.
In the NT Jesus refers to the father as the “only true God” I John 5:20, we read about God being the Father and true and His son Jesus came into the world and has given us understanding so that we might know God the father through His son. When Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father he said if you had seen me you have seen the father. (John 14:9) On other occasions Jesus made it clear that He and the Father are one. In other words the attributes that apply to God apply to Jesus as well. In that sense this title “Holy and true refers to the deity of Christ.
The key of David has a reference to the messianic kingdom. God had promised to build a “house” or kingdom for David and establish his son, a reference to Jesus on the throne forever ( 2 Sam 7:11-16) As we know whoever has a key they can open and close the doors; likewise Christ is holding the key to his kingdom; so he can open and close  it whenever or to whoever  and to whoever He wants to.
The church in Philadelphia is the second church against whom no accusation is made.  The church in Smyrna was afflicted and poor but rich in spiritual things. In vs 8 , “I  know your deeds. See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength; yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”
It is interesting to note how many times we read the letter “I” I know your deeds; I have placed; I know your strength; I will make those; I will make them come;  I have loved you; I will keep; I am coming; I will make you a pillar; I will write on them the name of God; I will also write on them my new name.(11 times) This letter emphatically declares the true nature of Christ and what He is going to do to the followers of Satan and how he is going to reward to his faithful remnant of enduring saints in tribulation.
God knows our strength against opposition, temptation. Both the church in Smyrna and Philadelphia were in the midst of fierce Jewish opposition and they seemed to be receiving complements for their perseverance and endurance. On the other hand the church in Sardis had no persecution, no affliction and no heresy but was dead. In this light should we pray for opposition to the Church to arise so that the Church would strengthen spiritually? I don’t think so. What we need is to repent and fall in love with Jesus again; to love him as he loves us with a steadfast love and to express that love not through singing and shouting, but obedience to his word. What does require of is made simple in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Vs 9, “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.’
The synagogue of Satan was first mentioned in the letter to Smyrna. This is not say that there was actually a synagogue of Satan in Smyrna but it does mean that certain Jews in the synagogue have joined the ranks of Satan and following His ways as they were influenced by him.. Remember what Jesus told certain Pharisees; “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44. Well Christ has not changed his stand against those carry out murderous acts and those who becomes compulsive liars. He won’t hesitate to say to them the same thing he told the Pharisees.
“who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars” According to the New Testament who is the real Jew? The one who has accepted Jesus as the Messiah right?  Apparently in this church there were some Jews appear not only to have rejected the claims of Jesus but also fiercely oppose those who proclaim Jesus is the Messiah.
I will make them acknowledge that I have loved you…See how much God values His love toward us. He will cause even our enemies to acknowledge that He loves us! This was what King Daniel must have meant when he said, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5)
What is the reward to the faithful and obedient servants? Vs 10, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” God honors our faithfulness by saving us in the end. Jesus twice affirms that those who stand firm to the end will be saved, once in reference to expressed hatred from others because of our loyalty to Him(Matt 10:22) and the second time regarding the increase in wickedness and the decrease in love (Matt 24:13)
“I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.” First to keep you from does not necessarily mean removal. Think of the three friends of Daniel were thrown into the fiery furnace. Daniel was thrown into lion’s den. They went through the time of testing but did not experience it as other did. The guards who threw the three into fiery furnace were killed by the fire; the three were not. The men and their families who had accused Daniel were eaten by the lions, Daniel was not. 
“To keep from” can involve participation in the trial but deliverance from its effects. In many places around the world today Christians are experiencing persecution, and in some cases even death. While others, in the providence of God, are kept from such. Secondly, “To keep from” can mean removal. Elijah was kept from the three year drought that came on Israel through God’s provisions of a brook and a raven, and later by going to Sidon, outside Israel to be fed by a widow. As to the “hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world how do we interpret “kept from”? There are two views that of a rapture and that of no rapture. 1. Some believe that the Church will go through the tribulation according to (Matt 24:21)
2.  Some others believe in pre-tribulation view. As far as the Philadelphian church was concerned the rapture of the church was presented to them as an imminent hope. This implies that rapture of the church before the time of trouble referred to as the great tribulation… This passage therefore provides some support for the hope that Christ will come for His Church before the time of trial and trouble described in Revelation 6-to 19. This time of tribulation will overtake the entire world, as God inflicts His wrath upon unbelieving Gentiles as well as upon Christ-rejecting Jews. The Philadelphian church is therefore promised deliverance from the time of trouble which will overtake the world but will not overtake them. (Walvoord, 1966:87)