*This title, some phrases in quotes, and some of the content of my teaching are based on a CD series on the book of Revelation by Chip Ingram – Living on the Edge
"Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." (Rev. 3:3) We see Jesus warning us and commending us so we will be ready for His return. Like a good teacher or professor He wants us to know what we need to learn so we will do well on the final exam (1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-11). And since we don't know when we are going to die or when the church (all believers) will be raptured (1 Thess 4:13-18) we would be wise to learn it now. Some people confuse the rapture with Christ's second coming. In the rapture we meet Christ "in the air" whereas Christ's second coming is when He comes to earth. (Rev. 3:3; 19:11-21 vs. Matt. 24:30) Nothing has to happen prophetically for the rapture to occur, so be ready; it could happen any day. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (and to each of us as believers)."
Ephesus (2:1-7) This church had deeds, hard work, perseverance, did not tolerate wicked men, endured hardship, and hated the practice of Nicolaitans (probably idolatry/sexual immorality). Jesus sees and is blessed by our every act of obedience in big or little things. He affirms endurance and will reward us for it. He applauds us when we hate evil and speak out against it and the lies of this world. "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love."
(They had forsaken their first love – Jesus (not lost their salvation). Our Lord is a Jealous God and will not take second place to anyone or anything. He commands us to love Him with all our heart and to seek Him first. (Matt. 22:37-39; 6:33) Jesus exhorts them to remember, repent and do the things you did at first and, "If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." No love (for Jesus) means no light (witness) for Jesus. Paul had established this church some 40 years earlier and prayed for it to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. (Eph 3:17-19) Knowing God's love experientially is the fountainhead of our love for Him, our love for others and even our love for self (self-acceptance). Paul through the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 13 says that agape love for God is greater than preaching, prophesying and even martyrdom, and without love nothing we do for God really has any spiritual or eternal value for us or others. "Do the things you did at first." When we first get saved we feel in love with Jesus and want to know Him and share Him with others. Knowing Him takes spending time with Him and this is what our Lord wants most from us. Young children spell love -T I M E (spent with them) and our Lord does as well. In Luke 10:38-42 Martha let duty come before intimacy with Jesus and He rebuked her.
Smyrna (2:8-11). The name Smyrna comes from "myrrh," which is a sweet smelling perfume that was used for anointing oil in the Tabernacle worship (Ex. 30:23) and also for embalming the dead – a picture of suffering. This was a suitable name for a church facing persecution. "I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich!" The comforting news is that Jesus knew about this, meaning He felt their pain and sympathized with them in their struggles. (Heb. 4:15-16). I will never forget how my Dad comforted me in the loss of my first wife to suicide. He and mother called to check on me a month or so after the funeral when all the calls and cards had stopped coming. I told them this and he simply said: "I'm sorry son"- and I still tear up every time I remember this. It greatly encouraged me even though my circumstances/suffering didn't change. Knowing Jesus understands and cares likewise should greatly encourage us. "I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich!" "Listen my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor." (James 2:5-6) ("God has made those heirs of a kingdom whom you make of no reputation, and has given very great and glorious promises to those to whom you can hardly give a good word or a respectful look. Take notice that many of the poor of this world are the chosen of God. Their being God's chosen does not prevent their being poor; their being poor does not at all prejudice the evidences of their being chosen. (Mt. 11:5) God designed to recommend his holy religion to men's esteem and affection, not by the external advantages of gaiety and pomp, but by its intrinsic worth and excellency; and therefore chose the poor of this world. Again, take notice that many poor of the world are rich in faith; thus the poorest may become rich; and this is what they ought to be especially ambitious of. It is expected from those who have wealth and estates that they be rich in good works, because the more they have the more they have to do good with; but it is expected from the poor in the world that they be rich in faith, for the less they have here the more they may, and should, live in the believing expectation of better things in a better world. What is laid out upon them is but little; what is laid up for them is unspeakably rich and great." Matt. Henry) He offers no words of rebuke to this church (or the church at Philadelphia) but encourages them to not be fearful but to be faithful (obedient) even to death and He would reward them (in heaven – the crown of life). Paul reminds us that our suffering always has a limit (e.g., ten days in this case) and can always work to our eternal good if we trust the Lord in the midst of it. (2 Cor. 4:16-18) And if we do, we can give off the fragrance of Christ as we suffer for His glory. "I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him." (See 2 Cor. 2:13-14) Suffering with hope in the overarching goodness of God makes us a good witness to others versus being bitter towards God and therefore others. And this makes us like our Lord: "THEREFORE BE imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance."(Eph. 5:1-2) Pearls are made by certain oysters by coating an irritating particle such as a grain of sand with a substance called nacre (mother-of-pearl) to make it less irritating. And we can "cover" our irritating trials with the substance of faith (Heb. 11:1) by affirming the truth that God is always working out His purposes in our life for our eternal good and His glory and honor. (Rom. 8:28
Pergamum (2:12-17). "I know where you live-where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city-where Satan lives." These believers were faithful even when it might have cost them their lives and we are called to do the same. (Rev. 12:11) But sometimes it may feel harder to live for Jesus than to die for him. Death to self (flesh) is the daily call to all believers (Gal. 5:24) and can only be done by the Spirit. (Rom. 8:13) "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. "Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." These believers were too tolerant of false doctrine, compromise with the world and sexual immorality. An old country preacher once explained the danger of compromising our faith by saying: "Remember, rat poison is 90% good corn." Even a "little sin" hurts our fellowship with God and others. "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" (1 Corinthians 5:6) Balaam, a Gentile hireling prophet, had tried to defeat Israel by cursing them. But God caused him to bless them instead. Since he couldn't conquer them through cursing he conquered them through compromise and corruption by seducing the Israelite men to fornication and intermarriage with pagan Moabite women which led to worshiping their gods. (See Numbers 22-25; 31:16) If Satan can't conquer us as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) he will disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:3) and deceive us into sin with a "good thing" that compromises our walk with God. The most obvious application for us in this is that Christians are not to marry non-Christians (including nominal Christians – 2 Corinthians 6:14,15b,17) Another application from this is the laxity of sexual standards among Christians. God's Word gives clear instructions regarding sexual purity. "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. The Lord will punish men for all such sins as we have already told you and warned you." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; 6b) The words "sanctified" and "holy" both mean "separated from." The description of Jesus is "The One who has the sharp two-edged sword." (v.12) This is a picture of the separating and dividing power of the gospel and of God's Word. (Hebrews 4:12-13) We as Christians are to be separated from sin and set apart for God's purposes in our lives. "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them."(Eph 5:3-7) "Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." There are hurtful consequences to sexual sin: for our bodies (Rom 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:15-20); for our souls and the souls of others (1 Cor. 6:15-20); and for the gospel. It makes our witness powerless.
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
What did the Lord say to you through this message?
Ephesus – Evaluate your love for Jesus Christ on a scale of 1-5, with 1 meaning you are just going through the routines and trying to do the "shoulds and oughts" whereas a 5 is the love of a grateful son and passionate lover of Christ. Be ready: What will you do to change this if needed and when will you do it? Discuss this at your table.
Smyrna– Evaluate your response to trials and suffering on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being an angry bitterness and 5 being a trustful obedience and hope in the goodness of God. Be ready: What will you do to change this if needed and when will you do it? Discuss this at your table.
Pergamum– Evaluate your sexual purity on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being in line with the standards of the world (everybody's doing it so God understands and approves) or 5 – being in line with God's Word. Be ready: What will you do to change this if needed and when will you do it? Discuss this at your table.
Scripture memory verse: "Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." (Rev. 3:3)