Thursday, February 4, 2010

#Revelation 2: #Christ Wants Both #Love And Doctrinal #Purity

2. The things which are (2-3) 
     A. Letter to the church of Ephesus (v 1-7) 

In each letter to the churches, we find a pattern. The Lord begins with a statement about who He is, praises the church for what it is doing right, complains about what is wrong, corrects them, then gives a promise. 

These letters were written to literal, historical churches by the names mentioned. However, they also apply to the true church of all ages. The end of each letter states "let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches". 

The Lord begins His message to the Ephesians by stating He is the one who holds the seven stars in His hand (the word angel means "messenger", and probably refers to the pastor of the churches). He also describes Himself as the one who walks in the midst of the seven lampstands. As a lampstand gives light, so the churches are a testimony of light in the world. Christ's walking among them shows He is the minister of the lampstands, and can either set them up or take them down as a light bearing testimony. 

Christ commends the Ephesians for their good works and doctrinal purity. They would not tolerate false teaching (such as that of the Nicolaitans, whose name means "to conquer or rule the people"), and endured for the sake of Christ's name. However, the Lord complains that they have left their first love. 

In the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul praised them for love they showed toward one another. Here, Christ warns them to remember from where they have fallen, to repent, and to return to their former deeds of love. Doctrinal purity is worthy of praise, but a church should also bear the fruit of love. 

This letter concludes with the promise, for all christians (cf. "let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches..."), that the one who overcomes (which is true of all christians), Christ will grant to eat of the tree of life. 

B. Letter to the church of Smyrna (v 8-11) 

Here, Christ introduces Himself as the "first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life". As such, the Lord can relate to a church which is going through a time of suffering, and offer the hope of victory. 

Christ knows the tribulation and poverty of the church in Smyrna. Even so, He says they are "rich". Evidently, they were persecuted by "those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan". Some of them would be cast into prison, but the Lord exhorts them to remain faithful to the point of death, by promising those who do a crown of life. The letter further encourages with a general promise that Christians will not be hurt by the second death, which is eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. 

C. Letter to the church of Pergamum (v12-17) 

The Lord shows Himself as the "One who has the sharp two-edged sword". 1:16 says this sword is in His mouth. This probably represents the Word of God, which is "sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb. 4:12), and which "discerns between the thoughts and intentions of the heart". 

Christ commends the church of Pergamum for holding fast His name in such a wicked place, and for even doing this to the point of death in the case of Antipas. He complains, however, that they have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans, and likens the doctrine of this group to that of Balaam. 

Balaam (Numbers 22-25) was a true prophet who decided to work for Balak, a king who paid him to curse God's people. Although God prevented Balaam from cursing Israel, Balaam did offer some advise which injured the Jews. He counseled Balak to make friends with Israel by inviting them to intermarry, and worship and feast at pagan altars. 24,000 people died as a result of this compromise (Numbers 25:1-9). 

Thus, Christ seems to warn us to avoid committing spiritual adultery with the world in order to gain money. He corrects the church by telling them to repent of this greedy, adulterous compromise. As motivation, He warns that if they don't repent, He'll make war against them with the sword of His mouth, and promises all true Christians hidden manna (may refer to Christ as the source of spiritual nourishment, as opposed to the food gained by feasting with the compromise of idolatry-- cf. Israel with Balaak), a white stone, and a new name (cf. 3:12). 

D. Letter to the church of Thyatira (v 18-29) 

To this church, Christ declares Himself "The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire,...and feet...like burnished bronze". This seems to picture His role as a divine, righteous judge. 

The Lord commends Thyatira for their deeds, love, faith, service, perseverance, and the growth of their deeds. He complains, though, that they tolerate a false teacher who promotes immorality. 

He warns, those who commit adultery with the false teacher, that He will cast them into a bed of sickness if they do not repent. To those who have not tolerated the false teacher, He exhorts to hold fast that which they have. He concludes with the promise, to believers, of authority to rule over the nations, and of a "morning star" (a title given to Christ--Rev. 22:15). 

It is interesting to see the contrast between the church of Ephesus and Thyatira. Ephesus remained doctrinally pure, but lacked love. Thyatira had love, but lacked doctrinal purity. This shows us we need both doctrinal purity and love.

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