Jesus Commended And Condemned The Seven Churches of Asia
One of the most relevant sections of the entire New Testament for those of us who have found salvation years ago has to be Jesus' messages to the seven churches of Asia found in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. The reason for this is that the Lord Jesus Himself, after His infinite work at Calvary, is directing his truths to such church people. Again, these addressees are not new converts, but instead people who have been engaged in the Christian battle for some time—in some cases, perhaps, many years.
This is evident in that some did persevere various hardships and others were told to remember the height from which they fell, etc. The various spiritual conditions that they were in reflects, among other things, the intensity of the Christian warfare and various spiritual problems and attacks that can arise.How Many Commendable Virtues Could The Lord Say Are Alive In Your Personal Life Now?
If Jesus Himself would speak to the people in local congregations in our day, who were saved for some time, we could expect that message, for the most part, to be like his messages to these seven churches of Asia. What you are going to read in this bible study is how Jesus viewed these congregations.
Especially note the various things Jesus commended and condemned, as well as his remedies and recommendations for their problems and spiritual battles. It is also significant to notice the Lord’s absolute silence regarding many things that are exalted in modern-day congregations. This silence shows the real insignificance in God’s eyes of what many church people are futilely striving to obtain in our day.
After a close examination of these two chapters, the reader will have a much better understanding of what his own judgment before the Lord will be like to some degree. Now is the time to change every and all areas of your life that are out of kilter and need to be aligned to the Lord’s desires.
The Church At Ephesus
First on the list of seven is the church at Ephesus. (This is also the same church group to whom Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Ephesians):
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:1-7, NRSV).
Verse 1 reads from the NIV:
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:
The seven golden lampstands are amplified by a preceding passage found in Rev. 1 and identified as the seven churches:
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest (Rev. 1:10-13).
Furthermore, the seven stars of Rev. 2:1 are identified elsewhere as the angels of the seven churches:
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev. 1:20).
(Verse 20 also reinforces that the seven lampstands are the seven churches of Asia.)
To better understand what that means we should observe that the word angel in the Greek can also be rendered messenger. This has led many to understand this to be the pastor of that congregation.
Jesus' Mini-autobiography of Himself
To each of the seven churches of Asia, Jesus describes himself in a different way reflecting his vast influence and significance in God’s plan for mankind. In Rev. 2:1, he shows himself as the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
Next, the Lord usually identifies commendable features and virtues he has observed, if any exist. In the case of Ephesus, he cites eight of them. This is what the Ephesus congregation was like when Jesus described them here:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary (Rev. 2:2,3).
Who was Stephen in the Bible?
Dear reader, how many of those commendable virtues could the Lord say are alive in your personal life now? Ponder that list again and note what is cited as virtuous. Be stirred as you read over this list:
Couldn’t tolerate wicked men
Tested those claiming to be apostles
Endured hardships for Jesus’ name and
Didn’t grow weary
(Of that list perseverance was mentioned twice, but only cited once above.)
They Tested Others
Jesus commended them for testing [Greek: scrutinizing; examining] those who claimed to be apostles but were false. How could they have done that? One way is mentioned in 2 Cor. 12:12:
The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.
True apostles, besides preaching the true gospel, have signs, wonders and miracles as identifying marks. These words signs, wonders and miracles are found elsewhere in Scripture in reference to what Jesus did as he healed and performed various miracles:
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know (Acts 2:22).
They were also alive in the ministries of the Twelve:
Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles (Acts 2:43).
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 5:12).
So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders (Acts 14:3).
Though we don’t have the specifics we do know those false apostles could and were identified as counterfeits. In our day, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) also commonly known as Mormons actually claims to have twelve living apostles, but you can be assured those claims are just as false as they were for the ones the Ephesians tested. (Please see our other information on Mormonism.)
Getting back to those signs, wonders and miracles, please know that when the antichrist comes to the forefront he too will do such:
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess. 2:9,10).
They are called counterfeit because they are not from the power of God but from the power of the devil (Rev. 13:2). There will be real miracles performed by the false prophet (Rev. 13:13), who is associated with the antichrist. The point is: miracles can come from the devil as well as from God. This is vitally important to know. The sure test is examine one’s life (behavior) and doctrine with the Bible to see how close to God they really are.
"Yet I Hold This Against You"
In spite of all those outstanding qualitites, which he commended them for, Jesus held something against the Ephesians, who were saved by grace! What a surprise this must be to many. This, however, is not the Jesus that many have been taught who would not hold anything against one who was once saved. Again, such is not the real Jesus of the Bible and the one we will stand before on Judgment Day (2 Tim. 4:1):
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (Rev. 2:4).
The fact that they forsook their first love shows the Lord addressed his message to those that were not new Christians. Again, that church group, with all those virtuous traits, forsook their first love over time. Dear reader, if we have or have not forsaken our first love is very important to Jesus. Furthermore, he is very much aware of our present condition regarding this. Please note their past first love didn’t make right their present state. Regarding this: How do you rate at this moment? Have you too forsaken your first love? If so, this is very serious and needs to be remedied. There are grave consequences for not changing.
Some people wrongly think that Jesus can’t see any Christian’s sins, faults, shortcomings, etc. They sometimes teach all that God can see is the blood of Christ or Christ himself when he looks upon the Christian, but that was clearly not the case here for the Ephesians (and the other churches of Asia which needed to change). Therefore, we should not be deceived by them into thinking this is the case with us either.
Jesus' Remedy For All Who Have Forsaken Their First Love
His spiritual prescription to remedy a forsaken first love is simply described as:
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Rev. 2:5a).
They would not have to go to a Christian counselor or even talk over the clear meaning of what the Lord wrote with another who might be a friend or so-called pastor. Neither would they have to pray about it. It was apparent what he was saying and it was their choice to act on his directives or remain as they were. Those Christians could refuse, even though it was the Sovereign God’s will for them to do what was right.
The Lord then issued his own warning, if they would chose not to repent:
If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Rev. 2:5b).
An easy way to recall what Jesus taught is: Remember, Repent and Return.
Please note that Jesus told those who had been saved in the past that they now needed to repent. Repenting, therefore, is not a one-moment-forever act. Them forsaking their first love was sin, since repent means to turn from evil. Jesus could see that sin and he held it against them. The mere fact that he singled this out reflects its seriousness.
Similarly, we have Jesus’ teaching on this before he died on the cross:
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Mat. 22:37,38).
Also, comparable to that are these teachings:
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Mat. 10:37).
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).
It should be apparent that God wants us to love Him first and it is very serious to sin in this way. In fact, this is a salvation issue, as we will see shortly. We also learn elsewhere that those who love God obey God:
If you love me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15).
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me” (John 14:23,24).
After stating his displeasure and remedy, the Lord spoke in a commendatory way again:
But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Rev. 2:6).
Many would have a rough time imagining Jesus as hating anything, yet he himself stated he does! The early Christians at Ephesus also hated the practices of the Nicolaitans. It was to their credit to abhor such and not just be tolerant, as many in our day might wrongly think is being a Christian or Christ-like. Apparently, the Ephesians who judged the practices of the Nicolaitans as evil were commended for it. The truth is they weren’t very ecumenical.
Only For The Overcomers
The term overcomer is found especially in the book of Revelation and suggests a struggle. Elsewhere we read more about this struggle:
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Heb. 12:4).
How to overcome any kind of evil is concisely stated in the following:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
A struggle suggests that there must be something to overcome. In this case, it was forsaking their first love (who is God). After one gets saved a spiritual battle is raging and the goal of Lucifer is to drive a spiritual wedge between the Christian and the Lord. He often tries to do this with sin involving other people and/or circumstances. Dear reader, if you have forsaken your first love, then you must overcome this sin to make the following salvation promise yours:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).
Will all those who actually enter God’s kingdom eat food in that paradise environment? Clearly, the answer is yes. They will eat fruit from the tree of life, which was first mentioned in Genesis:
And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9).
And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22).
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen. 3:24).
Only the overcomer will have the right to eat from the tree of life and live forever, according to Rev. 2:7. The same kind of person is described elsewhere as the man who does the will of God (1 John 2:17). In Romans we read of a corresponding truth:
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom. 2:7).
Immortality in that verse refers to being in God’s presence throughout eternity future. (Please know that even the vast majority of souls who are thrown into the lake of fire will exist forever and will never be annihilated, even though they will be separated from God’s loving and holy presence.) Immortality, therefore, does not mean conscious existence forever, since even the wicked dead will exist forever.
Many wrongly put down a new Christian in his zeal for the things of God as being without wisdom and the like. However in Revelation 2, the Lord exalted their actions and stated, in part, remember and do the things you did at first as the remedy for all who have forsaken their first love. God wants all Christians to be like new converts with their first love being Him with that burning enthusiasm for spiritual things manifested in obedience, love for God’s word, love for people, witnessing, etc.
Can You Remember the Height From Which you Have Fallen?
If you are only a church goer, but have never been truly saved and, therefore, radically changed by the power of God, you would have nothing to remember regarding your changed behavior and freedom from sin’s slavery. If that be the case, you are still a slave to sin and spiritually dead and lost and need for the first time to make peace with God. This could be the case even though you have been water baptized, read the Bible, pay your tithe and regularly pray. For your own soul’s sake, turn from all of your idols now to serve God.
All, 100%, of your faith for salvation must be in Jesus. Church membership, lodge membership, mother Mary, water baptism, keeping the Saturday Sabbath, etc. has never brought about forgiveness of sins and will not for you either. Remember, to have salvation you must be willing to submit to the Lord Jesus and unashamedly follow (obey) him now in this wicked society in which we live. Are you willing to do this? There should be no hesitation regarding this. Your soul is your most valuable possession. No sin or person is worth going to the lake of fire over.
Repeated Truths To The Seven Churches of Asia
To all seven churches of Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we observe the following pattern:
Jesus describes himself, in the form of mini-autobiographies with each being different from the other six.
Jesus said: “I know (certain details)” such as: their deeds, you cannot tolerate wicked men, afflictions, where you live, you have little strength, etc.
Jesus gives his thrilling promises only to the overcomer. The word overcomer means to conquer, prevail, get the victory. Never forget: the Christian is in a life or death battle, fight, and war against sin and spiritual deception. This battle will determine where he spends eternity.
Elsewhere in the Bible, the term overcome, or a form of it, is found:
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death (Rev. 21:7,8).
(To note what the overcomer inherits, please read carefully the first several verses of Revelation chapter 21.) Some other Scriptures with overcome in it are the following:
They overcame 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 (Rev. 12:11).
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
These Scriptures prove that after the initial overcoming (1 John 2:13,14), which occurs at the point of getting born again, there are these other things which can happen over time that a Christian must also overcome, according to Jesus (and his apostles) to enter God’s paradise kingdom. One such example, as already shown, is forsaking your first love.
What Was Observed
1. Jesus was not just automatically pleased with the Ephesians (or any of the other church groups) just because they had previously come to a saving faith in the past and had gotten born again. This in itself is a vital-but-neglected truth in our day. This seems, in part, to be what certain people critically need to know who were at one time saved, but have since lost what they once had over time.
2. The Jesus of the Bible holds certain things against those who have already been born again, even though they have many commendable virtues! Besides forsaking their first love, others were tolerating false teachings that lead his servants into sin:
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love (Rev. 2:4).
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. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14,15).
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:20).
Of the first four churches Jesus held one or more things against three of them! This is the real Jesus of the Bible that you will face at the Judgment, but is not the Jesus that is commonly preached in our dark day. If you are like many who need to change, humble yourself now and do what Jesus said. By doing so you will show yourself to be spiritually wise. Tomorrow might be too late.
The Church at Smyrna
One of the two church groups that had nothing derogatory stated about them was Smyrna. This is what the Lord Jesus said to them:
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: “I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death” (Rev. 2:8-11, NRSV).
Jesus described himself here as the first and the last, who was dead and came to life. Jesus’ title of first and last is equated with Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13) and implies his deity. He also stated that he was aware of their afflictions, which can be translated: afflicted, (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.
The Smyrna Christians were also poor in the natural, but rich spiritually. This is a deathblow to some who teach if you are rich spiritually you will have financial prosperity. They didn’t. Moreover, regarding the materially poor, we read elsewhere:
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? (James 2:5)
According to these Scriptures, one can be rich in faith and love God, yet be poor in material things. Paul would be a specific example of this too:
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless (1 Cor. 4:11).
Paul wrote of himself and other Christians:
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (1 Cor. 15:19).
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).
Furthermore, the Smyrna Christians, who had been suffering, were told in advance that more suffering was coming their way:
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days (2:10).
Christian Sufferings and Persecutions
As with the Smyrna Christians, sufferings and persecutions are typical for all real Christians with no exception:
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Phil. 1:29).
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Rom. 8:17,18).
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).
Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also (John 15:20).
There is no need to worry about these things, according to the Lord:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Mt. 6:34).
Jesus’ personal message to the Smyrna Christians didn’t include repentance, like most of the other seven church groups, but did include a message to be faithful. In other words, these faithful, afflicted and poor Christians were told to continue to remain faithful, even through suffering that was in their future. This life for the Christian will never be a paradise, but its pains and sufferings can’t compare with Heaven’s joy.
Notice how Paul and his co-laborers handled persecution:
When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it (1 Cor. 4:12).
They simply had to endure that wave of persecution knowing that this goes with being a true Christian and there is a reward for such who remain faithful (Mt. 5:11,12; etc.). But in spite of any or all the trouble, persecution and afflictions that will come to Christians for being godly, the Lord Jesus’ message remains the same:
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death (Rev. 2:10,11).
Jesus promised them, and other overcomers, the crown of life, if they are faithful to the point of death.
Their Faithfulness To God
The Lord also told them what they will not get for their faithfulness to God, that is, they won’t be hurt by the second death. The second death is another name for the lake of fire:
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death. (Rev. 21:8).
The implication of Rev. 2:10,11 is if those faithful Christians didn’t remain faithful to the end of their lives they would be hurt by the second death. Such a fact decimates the heretical teaching of eternal security (sometimes called the perseverance of the saints) for it shows that those Christians could still miss the kingdom of God. Rev. 2:10,11 is a lake of fire warning to Christians, which would be irrelevant and impossible, if it couldn’t happen to them. [It is similar to the multiple hell warnings the Lord gave the disciples (Mt. 10:28; 18:8,9; Lk. 12:4,5; Mk. 9:42-47; etc.).]
Also, Jesus spoke of faithfulness, but it wasn’t God’s faithfulness to them but instead their needed faithfulness to God to enter God’s kingdom. Please know one’s spiritual condition at the end of his life is what determines his destiny. The crucial issue, therefore, is not if one was ever saved, but is he saved when he dies. Many who get saved are not saved later! If he has forsaken his first love and/or is not faithful to Jesus and doesn’t repent by the time he goes the way of all the earth, he is no longer saved. Do not be deceived by those declaring the empty teaching of eternal security:
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.5:5-7).
There was no indication that the pain and problems of the faithful Christian life would lighten for those at Smyrna. Jesus told those afflicted Christians there would be suffering in their future, but sin was not the reason for their sufferings, as some might falsely accuse, as was done in Job’s day. With no exception, all Christians are referred to in the following passage:
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said (Acts 14:22).
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Please remember, this world now for the Christian is not his home, but a spiritual war zone. In contrast, the future for the faithful beyond the grave could not be brighter—a peaceful, joyful, musical, righteous, paradise, eternal kingdom in God’s presence with no pain of any kind forever.
Jesus also told them persecution was coming.
Thus far we have observed that the Smyrna congregation was in better spiritual shape than the first of the seven—Ephesus. This truth is very important for it refutes a prevalent but false understanding of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, that is, each church group represents a particular time period in church history. Such is also known as a dispensational interpretation of Scripture. The same faulty interpreter wrote:
The church of Ephesus represents the apostolic period of the church (AD. 30-100).
The church in Smyrna finds its counterpart in the age of martyrs of the church in the second and third centuries.
Such an interpretation would suggest that the Apostolic period of the church represented by Ephesus was more sound than all others, but that is definitely refuted by the Scriptures themselves, since the church at Smyrna was a better church than the one at Ephesus! Hence, it is illogical to believe that the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 have any reference to the various church ages starting from the first to the last, as many have been taught. Such a faulty understanding about these being various church ages also tends to neutralize the relevancy of Rev. 2 and 3 for us today, and therefore, is spiritually dangerous and must be rejected. It should be apparent that Jesus told all seven church groups:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
So it wasn’t a single message to a single church but it was to all of the churches [plural]. This also shows the relevancy of the Lord’s message to them to be also for us today.
The Church at Pergamum
Jesus spoke the following to the third church group:
And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling-block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:12-17, NRSV).
Jesus has the sharp two-edged sword. He also knew where Satan’s throne was, that is, right in that same location where there was a Christian congregation.
Many people wrongly think Satan is now in hell, but that is not true. Other Scriptures show he currently prowls throughout the earth looking for Christians to devour:
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).
Jesus said to those at Pergamum:
I know where you are living, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives (Rev. 2:13, NRSV).
Where Satan was there were also false doctrine and severe Christian persecution to martyrdom. The wicked one proliferates false doctrine and is, in fact, the original false teacher:
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman (Gen. 3:4).
It is also stirring to know that demons have produced certain false doctrines:
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (1 Tim. 4:1).
These are things that we as Christians must know about and be on guard regarding.
The only time we read of Antipas is here. He is called a faithful witness just like Jesus is called (Rev. 1:5). Antipas died a martyr like other faithful servants (John the Baptist, Stephen, James, etc.). Imagine the pressure on Christians living in the city of Pergamum to renounce their faith just around the death of Antipas. Jesus said they did not, and made note of that. This too is important to the Lord, that is, that we die physically if we have to, to remain faithful to him. We might be tested to this degree before our life is over like many have been throughout the centuries. Hold on to your Christian testimony
The Lord also stated he had a few things against this church group and they were related to false doctrine! They were advised to repent of these things just like something we would recognize as a sin:
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. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! (Rev. 2:14-16)
Embracing and/or tolerating people with such false doctrine is sin, even though most would never recognize it as such. It makes no difference how rich or poor they are. If they are going to bring such grievous false doctrine with them and try to communicate that in the congregation they should not be tolerated. A church congregation is supposed to be where spiritual truth can be found:
If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15).
You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
Who Was Balaam
To better understand the teaching of Balaam we should learn something about Balaam. He was an Old Testament character, who was a sorcerer. We first read about him when Balak, the king of Moab, unsuccessfully tried to get him to come to him and put a curse on the Israelites because he was fearful he would be defeated by them. The second time Balak tried the same, Balaam refused but afterwards went. What happened, in part, is concisely summed up here:
When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand (Josh. 24:9,10).
According to Deuteronomy, Balaam did try to put a curse on Israel, but it didn’t work:
However, the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you (23:5).
Unfortunately, the scenario doesn’t end here. According to the Lord, Balaam taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality (Rev. 2:14).
Regarding the Moabite women, who were used by Balak to lead the Israelite men into sin, we read the following:
They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people (Num. 31:16).
Israel was a nation set apart and holy before God and no curse could come upon them. God was behind them and they would continue to advance forward. However, Balaam taught Balak to accomplish his evil desires by getting Israel to sin, which caused a plague sent from God to strike them.
Peter comments on Balaam and what he did for money, when he was describing false teachers in first-century Christianity:
They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness (2 Pet. 2:15).
The same false teachers that Peter referred to are mentioned by Jude and were people who changed saving grace into a license for immorality (Jude 3,4). In verse 11 we read:
They have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error. . . .
From all of this you can better understand the kind of people that were tolerated in the congregation at Pergamum and why Jesus held this tolerance against them.
The Teaching of the Nicolaitans
Pergamum also had people in it that held to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. The Bible doesn’t give details about this doctrine, but some think it originated with Nicolas, who was one of the Seven along with St Stephen and Philip the evangelist:
What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them (Acts 6:5,6, NRSV).
If what some think about Nicolas is true, then this same man, who was once filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3) became a doctrinal apostate and his poisonous teachings and practices spread throughout the churches of Asia Minor.
It is apparent that Jesus hated their practices, as did the Ephesians. Do you remember Jesus commending the Ephesians for this?
But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Rev. 2:6).
Note: The people at Pergamum were the opposite of the ones at Ephesus regarding the teachings of the Nicolaitans and the Lord wanted this corrected and repented of.
To ponder how Jesus felt about those teachings at Pergamum is devastating to the idea that doctrine is not important. This especially indicts the doctrinally tolerant ecumenical church crowd. The reason sound teachings are so important is because people behave in accordance to what they accept as truth. Jesus’ promise to the overcomers at Pergamum was unique:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it (Rev. 2:17).
We have no other information about this hidden manna in a future age and/or the white stone with a new name written on it. Everything has not been revealed regarding the future for the overcomer described in the book of Revelation, but we can all rest assured it is wonderfully exciting!
The Church at Thyatira
Next, we read about the church in Asia Minor located at Thyatira:
And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze: “I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call ‘the deep things of Satan’, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden; only hold fast to what you have until I come. To everyone who conquers and continues to do my works to the end, I will give authority over the nations; to rule them with an iron rod, as when clay pots are shattered—even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (Rev. 2:18-29, NRSV).
Notice what Jesus commended them for:
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first (2:19).
Did you notice the Lord mentioned their deeds before their love and faith? They were spiritually fruitful. Afterwards, he similarly mentioned that they were doing more at that moment than when they were first saved. In contrast, in our apostate day, good deeds and service to God have almost been preached against by those stressing the counterfeit grace associated with eternal security (or the perseverance of the saints). Also, notice what is stressed from these Scriptures:
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity (Titus 2:7).
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1, NSRV).
The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone (Titus 3:8, NRSV).
And let people learn to devote themselves to good works in order to meet urgent needs, so that they may not be unproductive (Titus 3:14, NRSV).
Doing good is a primary characteristic of a present tense Christian:
Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).
Jesus went on and said to those at Thyatira:
Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:20).
Jesus referred to a female false prophetess and prominent teacher in that congregation that he called Jezebel. The original Jezebel was the most evil woman mentioned in the Bible. She killed the true prophets of God (1 Kings 18:4,13; 2 Kings 9:7), was an idolater and witch (2 Kings 9:22), promoted false worship and influenced her husband, Ahab, to be more evil than he already was (1 Kings 21:25).
She was also a manipulating, aggressive and controlling woman (1 Kings 19:2; 21:1-16; etc.). From this description we can better understand something about that false teacher at Thyatira whom the Lord called Jezebel. There must have been some striking similarities.
In Sin Because of False Teaching
The adverse influence of her teaching was that God’s servants were led into sexual immorality. This is an important point to remember. Some wrongly think that a true Christian can never be deceived by false teaching. This is powerfully refuted here.
Also, if the Christian is solely kept, strengthened, protected, etc. by God and Him alone, then no Christian ever would be led into false doctrine or fall prey to sin. Therefore, we can be assured that man has his responsibility to not be deceived, walk pure, etc. under grace. Such can not be legalism or a work’s salvation.
To compound the problem of evil at Thyatira, that evil woman was being tolerated. Imagine that and this occurred when the Apostle John was still alive! She should have been expelled from that congregation and her teaching openly refuted with Scripture. Because this was neglected, much more spiritual harm was done by her than should have been. The sin here was a sin of omission. Tolerance (Gr.: let alone) of a false teacher misleading others into sin is very serious in the Lord’s eyes. This negligence and tolerance is very similar to what multitudes are doing with the popular eternal security teachers as they too lead God’s servants into various types of sin. Many lack the fear of God to mention and refute by name the false teachers of our day that are stumbling others into sin and evil is gushing out because of this leniency and sin. Many ministers are more concerned about their own ministry, reputation and/or pay check than they are about souls, which is reprehensible!
Two Groups Within Thyatira
There were two groups within Thyatira: (1) The group that was adversely affected by that false prophetess, who committed the sin of adultery and (2) The other group that rejected her teachings and was apparently walking pure before God. It was to that second group that Jesus spoke these words:
Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come (2:24,25).
Again, Jesus told the group not adversely affected by Jezebel to:
Hold on to what you have until I come.
It was their own Christian responsibility to hold on. This is what Jesus wanted them to know, even though they were saved by grace and justified by faith in Jesus. This simple but vital truth is not often heard in our hour, but is just as relevant now as it was back then. If you are a real Christian, hold on to what you have. Did you notice the other group within Thyatira wasn’t told to hold on? That is because they didn’t have anything left to hold on to, since they were now in sexual sin and therefore on the road to the lake of fire again:
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Rev. 21:8, NRSV).
Some take offense at Christians holding on, but it was the Lord Himself who commanded them to do this. It wasn’t some false teacher, but the Lord of lords himself. Such a teaching is as Christian as they come. Dear reader, if your Christian theology doesn’t include (or allow for) this fact about Christian living and grace, then make the vital changes now. Whoever taught you that was not speaking the truth of God, even though he may be extremely popular.
Please note who will be the beneficiaries of the promises. Again, they are the overcomers, as we saw with the other church groups in chapters 2 and 3. Notice the words—do his will to the end:
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—“He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery”—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star (2:26-28).
Names of JesusThe overcomer will be given ruling authority over the nations and also the morning star. Elsewhere in Revelation we read of the morning star and learn that it is Jesus:
I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star (22:16).
Amazingly, the Catholic church has wrongly given Mary the title Morning Star, as well as other titles/names, that uniquely belong to the Lord Jesus. Their Mary and mother of God is not the Mary of the Bible. The names of Jesus exceed 100 and imply his importance in everything!
After Jesus gave his warnings, promises, etc. to that single church group he made his teachings applicable to all the churches [plural]. But to recognize this truth you have to have a spiritual ear to hear:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (2:29).
Because some teachers don’t have spiritual ears to hear, they will misapply, deny, avoid, etc. these precious salvation truths that Jesus gave in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 to the seven churches of Asia and consequently hurt others by their teachings.
The fifth church group Jesus addressed is Sardis:
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works; you have a name for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is at the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” (3:1-6, NRSV).
Jesus told the majority, they were about to die [spiritually] and the reputation they had of being alive was bogus. They were spiritually asleep, as indicated by Jesus’ words of alarm—wake up. It was also their own responsibility to strengthen what was remaining.
The eternal security teachers love to stress it is God who will strengthen the Christian, but here we read it is God telling them to strengthen themselves. This same truth and the similar one that Christians are to strengthen each other are found throughout the New Testament:
But I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:32, NRSV).
Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers (Acts 15:32, NRSV).
And we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith (1 Thess. 3:2, NRSV).
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees (Heb. 12:12, NRSV).
The majority in the Sardis congregation was both spiritually weak and asleep. The curative to awaken from spiritual sleep was:
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent (Rev. 3:3).
That is how they would strengthen themselves and awaken from their spiritual sleep at the same time. They had apparently heard sound teachings, as implied in Jesus’ words:
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard.
This shows that just hearing the truth is not enough, as shown elsewhere in Scripture. One must put into practice the word of God to benefit and we must continue to the very end. The Apostle Judas Iscariot also heard and received the truth, and was even saved for awhile, but didn’t continue to the end.
The abc’s of the Christian life are summed up in a single word—obey, as Jesus told them. The word obey, as used there, implies they were in disobedience, which is also indicated by Jesus telling them to repent.
This is very similar to what Jesus told the Ephesians, who forsook their first love:
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first (Rev. 2:5).
If the majority at Sardis would chose not to do God’s will and just remain in their present condition, the following would apply:
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).
It was their will to wake up or not. If they would make the wrong choice, and just do nothing, the Lord said he would come like a thief to them and they would not know at what time he was coming. Let’s go to a different book of the Bible which will help explain the seriousness of this:
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security”, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation (1 Thess. 5:1-8, NRSV).
Notice: Jesus is coming like a thief in the night to those in spiritual darkness. Those who are not in spiritual darkness will not be surprised by his coming as a thief. The majority at Sardis were going to die spiritually unless they acted upon Jesus’ remedy which included repentance. This was a salvation issue for them (and for us in our day).
The Unsoiled Few
At Sardis there was another group, though, that was unsoiled and in the minority:
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:4-6).
As with Thyatira, Sardis had a second group of people within that congregation. Jesus only commended the few and that was because they didn’t soil their spiritual clothes like the rest. That is what caught Jesus’ attention about them. In other words, God wants us to be spiritually clean and he can tell when one isn’t.
Part of the promise is that the worthy will walk with Jesus dressed in white. (False teachings in our day would declare that no one is worthy, but Jesus contradicted that and said the spiritually unsoiled were worthy whereas the soiled by sin weren’t.)
This also proves that the future sins of a Christian are not automatically forgiven because the majority were soiled by their sins after getting born again. If their future sins would automatically be forgiven, that could not have happened.
Four Promises To The Unsoiled
Concisely stated, those four promises for the overcomer are:
walk with Jesus
dressed in white
never have his name blotted from the book of life
have his name acknowledged by Jesus before the Father and his angels
That fourth promise to the overcomer is very similar to a different promise Jesus made:
And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God (Luke 12:8, NASB).
The Book Of Life
One of those four promises is that the unsoiled will never have their names blotted from the book of life. I remember how strange it seemed to me, when I was first saved, to think that there was a book in heaven with names in it, but it is true. Just how important it is to have our name in that book is reflected in these Scriptures:
Nothing impure will ever enter it [New Jerusalem], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 21:27).
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).
In other words, those who have their name in the book of life: (1) Will have access to New Jerusalem and (2) Will not be thrown into the lake of fire. Hence, it is a salvation issue.
Getting back to the sleeping majority at Sardis, unless they would overcome that spiritual condition, they would not be of the overcomers and would, therefore, perish in the lake of fire.
Hence, the devil doesn’t have to lure Christians into adultery or drunkenness to get us into the lake of fire. All he has to do is get us to fall asleep spiritually and keep us that way! The teachings and lukewarm examples of many in our day (plus the cares of this life) are conducive to this very thing.
Philadelphia was the only other good church of the seven, besides Symrna. This is what Jesus said to them:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens: “I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev. 3:7-13, NRSV).
Jesus described himself here as:
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 (Rev. 3:7).
We read of the key to the house of David elsewhere:
I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (Isa. 22:22).
Paul referred to doors being opened for his message to go forth and even wanted prayer for such:
For a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (1 Cor. 16:9, NASB).
Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord (2 Cor. 2:12, NASB).
Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned (Col. 4:3, NASB).
A similar door was opened for the Philadelphians:
See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut (3:8).
Jesus opened that ministry door for a reason. It was for them to do what God had for them to do. The Jesus of the Bible wants us busy about the things of God. He wants us to work in his vineyard. See Mt. 20:1-13. Jesus can open a ministry door that no one can shut, including non-Christians.
More details about the Philadelphian Christians are stated as:
I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name (3:8).
All we need is little spiritual strength to keep God’s word and not deny Jesus’ holy name. This should be encouraging to us all. The fact that they had little strength is the closest thing to a critical comment to them that Jesus spoke. But as with the Symrna Christians, Jesus never told them to repent.
Though many in our day would say we can’t keep God’s word, Jesus said those at Philadelphia did! The significance of doing this is shown in one of the Lord’s other teachings as recorded in the Gospel of John:
I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death (8:51).
Hence, the Philadelphians would never see death, that is, spiritual death caused by sin, as long as they would continue to keep God’s word. They weren’t staying saved by their own good works, but not dying spiritually through sin because they were keeping his word (and resisting the devil).
The Lord is also interested in us not denying his name and made note of this. This is very similar to what Jesus commended the Pergamums for:
. . .Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me (2:13).
Other true Christians have renounced their faith in Jesus at different times. The best known was the Apostle Peter who disowned Jesus three times. (This fact disproves those who would say that if you are truly saved you will never disown the Lord!) The seriousness of disowning Jesus is related to salvation:
But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Mt. 10:33).
Jesus also spoke of those of the synagogue of Satan, who must have been opposing, in some unknown way, the Christians at Philadelphia:
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 (Rev. 3:9).
We don’t know the details, but perhaps something happened that made those of the synagogue of Satan say that Jesus did not love those at Philadelphia.
The Command To Endure Patiently
We then have another detail about what the Philadelphians had been going through and a very important universal command given by Jesus to Christians:
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (3:10,11).
Because they kept the Lord’s command to endure patiently, Jesus would, in turn, keep them from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole earth. Jesus keeping them was not automatic; neither did it mean they were not to hold on to what they had. They were still personally responsible to hold on to what they had at that moment. If they were negligent they could lose the crown which was the sovereign God's will for them to retain.
Also, please notice a trial is coming on the whole earth to test the people alive at that time. This is the second time Jesus mentioned tests to these seven churches of Asia. A previous time was to the Symrna Christians, who were going to be put in prison to be tested (2:10).
The Christain life is filled with tests and trials. Ponder these Scriptures:
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12, NASB).
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts (1 Thess. 2:4, NASB).
Specifically, Abraham was severely tested:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Gen. 22:1,2).
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death (Heb. 11:17-19).
Please remember this about tests:
See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (Isa. 48:10).
Oftentimes you are being tested when everything is going wrong and there are multiple problems. Remember righteous Job and his afflictions.
Hold On To What You Have
Jesus’ message to them was hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown (3:11). In other words, they had something that could be lost and he wanted them to know it and prevent it. This is just like his message to the good group at Thyatira:
Only hold on to what you have until I come (Rev. 2:25).
Again, it is our Christian responsibility, under grace, to hold on to what we already have spiritually. It is not clear what could be lost if the Christians referred to at 2:25 didn’t hold on to what they already had, but it is clearly shown to be a crown in Rev. 3:11. Please note that another person in your life can be used in a spiritually destructive way, which would result in a Christian losing his crown. Such is also shown elsewhere:
If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other (Gal. 5:15).
The Bible speaks of three different types of spiritual crowns:
The crown of righteousness which is given to all Christians who long for the Lord’s return (2 Tim. 4:8).
The crown of glory exclusively given to worthy pastors (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
The crown of life which all persevering Christians will get, who remain faithful to God until death (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10).
By the process of elimination, Jesus could only be referring to the crown of life in Rev. 3:11. Hence, the Lord is teaching in a way that only would be possible if salvation could be lost.
The Bible teaches in a number of passages that salvation can be lost through sin, accepting a false gospel and/or disowning Jesus during persecution. Another person can be used adversely in these ways which would cause us to lose our crown (and our salvation). Just to cite one such example of others being used that way is found in 2 Tim. 2:17,18:
Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
Jesus singled out a particular command that they at Philadelphia kept and that command was to endure patiently. This same spiritual truth is magnified elsewhere in Revelation along with faithfulness to Jesus:
If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints (Rev. 13:10).
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Rev. 14:12).
If you are a Christian, take this truth to heart: You need both endurance and faithfulness to Jesus to the very end of your life to get into the kingdom of God. Please know there are real spiritual dangers in this life that can stop you from getting into the Kingdom of God. You will have to face various afflictions and persecutions.
From what Jesus told the Symrna and Philadelphian Christians, the two groups he never told to repent, we know that for the faithful saint there will continue to be many non-ideal circumstances in this life as we serve God. The Lord told these two groups:
Don’t be afraid of what you will suffer
Be faithful to the point of death
Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown
This is the message faithful Christians in our day need to also hear.
It is important to note, again, that they were faithful and would have to continue to be faithful to the end to be the type of overcomer Jesus referred to.
No doubt about it, there are great and exciting days ahead, beyond the grave, for those that endure to the end. This life is very short and everything in this world will pass away. Righteously wise is the follower of Christ who does God’s will and keeps looking ahead through the eye of faith to Judgment Day and the only two destinies that exist—inheriting the kingdom of God or being thrown into the lake of fire in the end.
The Real Christian Life
Ponder this amazing truth about being a true follower of Jesus here and now.
Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions (Luke 14:26-33, NRSV).
The Christian life is a difficult one as we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Jesus (Lk. 9:23):
Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt. 7:14, NKJV).
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt. 7:13,14, NRSV).
The Church at Laodicea
The last of the seven churches was the worst one. Nothing good is mentioned about them—only bad. Clearly, we learn much about the seriousness of lukewarmness when we ponder what Jesus told this group:
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev. 3:14-22, NRSV).
Jesus describing himself said:
These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God (3:14, KJV).
The NIV reads the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. The meaning of the word Amen in the Greek is trustworthy, which fits perfectly with the Lord also being the faithful and true witness.
Unfortunately, in the KJV the rendering of 3:14 is not very clear and has actually led the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others to wrongly think that Jesus was created. The actual Greek word rendered beginning there is arche. It is the same word we get our English word architect from. The very end of v. 14 tells about Jesus being the designer of creation. The CEV, TEV, Holman’s NT and others, all translate that as either the source or originator of God’s creation. The truth is Jesus is from everlasting, (Micah 5:2; etc.)
Jesus said the Laodiceans were neither spiritually cold nor hot. Instead, they were lukewarm—somewhere in the middle. The Lord’s preference was for them to be either hot or cold as opposed to their present condition.
When we think of a spiritually cold person, an avowed atheist or the like would fit this description very well. Isn’t it amazing to think that Jesus would prefer that condition to lukewarm. It is also very important to know that the lukewarm are on the verge of being spued out the body of Christ by Jesus Himself—not the devil!
Jesus told them:
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent (Rev. 3:19).
Please note that God’s discipline was not a guarantee that they would repent and become spiritually hot. We know this because Jesus told them of the real possibility of them getting spued out of his body. This refutes those who say that God’s discipline will always work and prevent one straying from losing his salvation.
Lukewarmness is not a perpetual spiritual condition, but a temporary and very dangerous spiritual condition to be in. It is also infectious and had apparently spread through that entire congregation, just like it has through many in our day. Perhaps that in part, is why the Lord Jesus is against lukewarmness as he is. Lukewarmness (apathy, indifference) is also an insult to God and to the great salvation and price that was paid for our redemption. It says in Hebrews:
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard (2:1-3, NASB).
Heb. 2:3 is often given to those never saved, but like other Scriptures such an application is refuted by its context. The truth is the recipients of the book of Hebrews were neglecting their own salvation and were in spiritual danger of punishment because of their disobedience.
The power of example is great in either a beneficial or adverse way. At Laodicea it was destructive, but at Thessalonica, because of Paul’s godly example, it was beneficial:
You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 1:5,6).
Jesus loved the Laodiceans (3:19), but they were still in danger of losing their salvation, and would, if they persisted in their lukewarmness:
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth (Rev. 3:16).
To be discharged from the body of Christ, by being spit out from it, would mean that one is no longer part of the body of Christ or has salvation. Hence, the sin that would exclude them from God’s kingdom was not sexual immorality, bowing before images, drunkenness, greed, etc. but was lukewarmness.
They were in a very dangerous and horrible spiritual condition, yet thought they didn’t need a thing. Imagine the depth of that deception:
You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Rev. 3:17).
The whole congregation was lukewarm. There was no second group there that kept their zeal for the Lord as they had when newly saved. This is strong evidence that lukewarmness is contagious. The same might be said for zeal. Regarding this, notice how the Galatians were zealous when Paul was around them:
It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you (Gal. 4:18).
Sadly, false teachings hindered their zeal too. But when the Galatians were zealous, they were obedient to a command given to all Christians:
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11).
The word Greek word for fervor means:
to be hot (boil, of liquids; or glow, of solids), i.e. (fig.) be fervid (earnest):--be fervent.
God wants all of his children to be boiling hot as water and glowing hot as metal heated with a torch.
Laodicea was a rich banking center which also made eye salve. These were wealthy people that were lukewarm. To be more precise, their self-description seems like something a rich, successful business man of our day might possibly boast about. Their attitude about their wealth made them think they did not need a thing. Seemingly, it became a detriment to their soul. Money with many, even religious people, often holds the highest priority in life. Jesus said the following about the rich:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mat. 19:24).
Also remember this:
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death (Prov. 11:4).
To many rich people, money is their god. They live for money. They serve and trust what money can do for them as Christians serve and trust God. This, however, is not to say that all rich people are ungodly and idolaters. Abraham, Job and others were examples of financially rich and godly people. Such people, though, are very rare and are the exception.
Jesus looked beyond all their material possessions and creature comforts and commented on their heart condition. He described them in a reprehensible way:
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see (3:17,18).
Jesus never said one good thing about the Laodiceans as he did with other groups.
The real truth about the Laodiceans was the exact opposite from what they themselves thought it was. Their thought life was not in touch with reality!
They pursued and were successful in getting material riches, but it cost them much spiritually. Somehow to their loss material riches became a top priority instead of the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Mt. 6:33).
The mere fact that Jesus told the Laodiceans, as he did 5 of the 7 church groups, to repent proves their future sins were not automatically forgiven as some dangerously and heretically teach.
Jesus loved them, but was still going to terminate their spiritual life unless they would respond to his directives.
To be lukewarm is to be in sin and on the brink of becoming unsaved.
Jesus wants us to be hot about spiritual things. This isn’t just for spiritual leaders but all Christians with no exception including the very aged.
For the Laodiceans to be overcomers, they would have to repent and become hot (or zealous) about spiritual things.
Rev. 3:20 has often been misused and applied to those who never came to initial salvation and were born again. The truth is, it was at first given to Christians who became lukewarm over time and now were vitally in need of repentance and becoming hot for the things of God:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).
The greatest promise for overcoming is given to the worst of the seven churches:
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 3:21, 22).
Imagine a promise like that—to actually sit on Jesus’ throne with him! Wow. Such a place is reserved only for the servant of God, that is, overcomer, who is shown here not to be lukewarm.
Jesus' Self Description
Jesus described Himself in various ways to these different groups. Each shows yet another important aspect of Jesus’ importance among Christians:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands (Rev. 2:1).
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again (Rev. 2:8).
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword (Rev. 2:12).
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze (Rev. 2:18).
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars (Rev. 3:1).
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 (Rev. 3:7).
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation (Rev. 3:14).
Along with the hundred plus different titles for the Lord Jesus, it becomes apparent how important he is to all of us in a myriad of ways.
What Did Jesus Commend and Condemn
1. [Good] deeds. The word deeds in the Greek means labor, work.
2. Hard work (2:2).
3. Perseverance (2:2).
4. Not being tolerant of wicked men (2:2).
5. Testing apostolic claims (2:2).
6. Enduring hardships for Jesus’ name and not growing weary (2:3).
7. Hating the practices and teachings of the Nicolaitans (2:6).
8. Remaining true to Jesus’ name (2:13).
9. Not renouncing faith in Jesus (2:13).
13. Doing more than at first.
14. Enduring patiently.
15. Keeping God’s word.
16. Being hot.
2. Forsaking the love they had at first.
3. People holding to the doctrine of Balaam.
4. People holding to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
5. Tolerating Jezebel—a false teacher.
6. Sexual immorality
7. Soiled spiritual clothes
8. Being dead
9. Being asleep
10. Being wretched
11. Being pitiful
12. Being spiritually poor, blind, naked
Jesus never mentioned:
1. How many people were presently in attendance at their meetings.
2. How much they grew or decreased numerically since the last year.
3. How many were water baptized.
Church values are dangerously different in our dark day which is understandable with all the poor examples and poisonous teachings that are being spread.
Of the first 4 churches only Smyrna never heard I have this against you.
Only two of the seven churches were not told to repent!
Never did Jesus say to any in these church groups that needed to repent and change that they had a false conversion and were never saved to begin with.
The 7 church groups overall:
Not told to repent or anything bad stated (Smyrna and Philadelphia)
Part good and part bad (Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis)
Only bad (Laodicea)
Listed below are the seven times Jesus promised the overcomer of the seven churches of Asia various things. The word overcomes means to conquer, prevail, get the victory.
1. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).
For the Ephesians to overcome would mean they would have to prevail over forsaking the love they had at first.
2. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death (Rev. 2:11).
For those at Smyrna to overcome would mean to continue being faithful till death.
3. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (Rev. 2:17).
For those at Pergamum to overcome would include disallowing those who hold to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitians to continue embracing these.
4. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—“He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery”—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star (Rev. 2:26-28).
For those at Thyatira to overcome would include not tolerating the false prophetess Jezebel, her teachings and sin.
5. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels (Rev. 3:5).
For those at Sardis to overcome would include not being soiled by sin.
6. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him 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 him my new name. (Rev 3:12)
For those at Philadelphia to overcome would include holding on to what they had so no one would take their crown.
7. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne (Rev. 3:21).
For those at Laodicea to overcome would include prevailing over their state of lukewarmness.
The Promises of Jesus To The Overcomers
1. The right to eat from the tree of life.
2. Will not be hurt at all by the second death and given the crown of life.
3. Will be given some hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it.
4. Will be given authority over the nations to rule them with an iron scepter and will also be given the morning star.
5. Will be dressed in white, never have his name blotted out of the book of life, but will have Jesus acknowledge his name before the Father and his angels.
6. Will be made a pillar in the temple of Jesus’ God.
7. The right to sit with Jesus on his throne.
Jesus Knows Our Deeds
Jesus told all seven church groups that he knew their deeds. It is to our great spiritual advantage to be continuously aware of this too. However, in our day, we are told our deeds aren’t really that important, since we can’t lose our salvation no matter how much we sin. But if deeds aren’t important why did Jesus say the following:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false (Rev. 2:2).
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first (Rev. 2:19).
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds (Rev. 2:23).
To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead (Rev. 3:1).
Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God (Rev. 3:2).
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 (Rev. 3:8).
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! (Rev. 3:15)
Please note that Jesus recognizing the deeds of the Laodiceans was not stated in a praiseworthy fashion as with other church groups! (The Lord notices the good and the bad deeds. See 2 Cor. 5:10.)
Important Salvation Quiz
Bible Study Quiz
1. How is it important that the timing of the Lord speaking in Rev. 2 and 3 is after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension? Answer
2. Were the addressees of these seven church messages new converts? Answer
3. Is it clear from those two chapters that the spiritual remedies for certain problems are clearly stated, but it was still their own free will and choice to make those changes or not? Answer
4. Who holds the seven stars in his right hand? Answer
5. Who told the Ephesians if they didn’t repent he would remove their lampstand? Answer
6. Can Jesus holding in his right hand the seven stars (or seven pastors) possibly be an unconditional guarantee that they were protected from all spiritual harm and danger, even if they would blatantly disobey? Answer
7. Were the Ephesians ecumenical? Answer
8. Did Jesus commend them for this trait? Answer
9. Isn’t it assumed that wicked men can be distinguished from righteous men, unlike what the eternal security teachers declare? Answer
10. Does the Jesus of the Bible hold things against those who have already been saved? Answer
11. Did Jesus look at their present spiritual condition or if they were ever saved at any point in their entire life? Answer
12. What is the first and greatest commandment of all the commandments? Answer
13. Must we love Jesus more than our own family to be worthy of Jesus? Answer
14. Is it possible for an unsaved person to love God? Answer
15. When Jesus spoke of the overcomer to the Ephesians, what was it that they had to overcome to get the promise? Answer
16. Did Jesus hate the practices of the Nicolaitans? Answer
17. What wonderful promise did Jesus say the overcomer would get as he addressed the Ephesians? Answer
18. What is the benefit of eating from the tree of life? Answer
19. Did Jesus tell those who forsook their first love to remember what they were like when they were newly saved and do those same kinds of things? Answer
20. Were they also told to repent? Answer
21. Since repent means to turn from evil, is forsaking God as your first love evil? Answer
22. If you can’t remember a radical change in your life as you turned from sin to God, then you were never saved. To get saved for the first time, what must you do? Answer
23. Does that mean we must be willing to obey Jesus? Answer
24. Must we love God to enter his paradise Kingdom? Answer
25. Did Jesus give various descriptions of himself to all seven church groups? Answer
26. Are they all different? Answer
27. Did Jesus tell each church group that he knew certain details about them? Answer
28. Is the Christian race a life or death battle against sin and spiritual deception which we must prevail over? Answer
29. How do we overcome evil? Answer
30. Besides the Ephesians, did Jesus have anything against any of the other church groups? Answer
31. What did Jesus hold against the Smyrna church group? Answer
32. Were the Smyrna Christians rich or poor? Answer
33. What does that fact do to the concept that if one has enough faith he will be financially prosperous? Answer
34. Did the spiritually rich Smyrna Christians have suffering in their lives? Answer
35. Can we assume, even if we didn’t have clear Scripture, the same might happen to the godly today? Answer
36. Do we have clear Scripture that the godly will face sufferings and persecution here and now, regardless how much faith he has? Answer
37. When Paul and his co-workers faced persecution, how did they handle it? Answer
38. Did Jesus tell faithful Christians to be faithful to the very end of their lives to escape being thrown into the lake of fire? Answer
39. Does that refute the teaching of eternal security also known as the perseverance of the saints or once saved always saved? Answer
40. Is it true that your spiritual conditional at the end of your life is the deciding issue that determines if you will enter God’s paradise kingdom or be thrown into unquenchable fire? Answer
41. Must a real Christian doing the will of God and living for Jesus now go through many hardships here and now? Answer
42. Is this life now for the Christian his home or a spiritual battlefield? Answer
43. Is it illogical to believe the seven churches mentioned in Rev. 2 and 3 refer to seven church ages? Answer
44. Why? Answer
45. Is the devil in hell now? Answer
46. Jesus said Satan’s throne was at Pergamum. Was there false doctrine and persecution in that location more so than the other churches? Answer
47. Who was Antipas? Answer
48. Do demons actually formulate certain teachings? Answer
49. Did Jesus have a few things against the Pergamum church that were related to false doctrine? Answer
50. Is sound doctrine important? Answer
51. Who was Balaam? Answer
52. Are there false teachers in our day that are willing to stumble and hurt others spiritually for financial gain they might get? Answer
53. Who is the only evangelist mentioned by name in the entire New Testament? Answer
54. Were the people in the Pergamum congregation holding the same views about the teachings of the Nicolaitans as the Ephesians? Answer
55. What do we know about the hidden manna and white stone mentioned to the Pergamums? Answer
56. Was Thyatira a church that Jesus said nothing good about at all? Answer
57. Were they commended for their deeds, service and for doing more than when they were first saved? Answer
58. Did the Thyatira church have a false prophetess in it? Answer
59. If a false prophetess was in a teaching position in first century Christianity, should we rule out this possibility for us today? Answer
60. Jesus said that false prophetess led God’s servants into sexual immorality through her teachings. Does this imply that the elect can be deceived by false teachings? Answer
61. Isn’t the importance of sound teaching indirectly shown through them being misled by false teachings into sin? Answer
62. Did those deceived have a behavior change for the worse after they accepted false teaching? Answer
63. Was there an Old Testament character named Jezebel? Answer
64. What kind of woman was she? Answer
65. Did Thyatira have a woman like that in a teaching position? Answer
66. We don’t know how she got there, but we do know she was tolerated while there. True or False? Answer
67. Was that tolerance pleasing or displeasing to God? Answer
68. Were there two groups within Thyatira? Answer
69. What did Jesus tell the group that was apparently walking pure before God? Answer
70. Was it their Christian responsibility to do that? Answer
71. Wouldn’t that be a form of works? Answer
72. If one’s theology doesn’t allow for him to hold on under grace, what should he do? Answer
73. In all of these seven churches, who are the beneficiaries to the promises? Answer
74. What were the promises to the overcomer, as cited for Thyatira? Answer
75. Do we have any more information on the morning star? Answer
76. Isn’t it true that what Jesus promised to any one of the seven church groups is only applicable to them alone and none other? Answer
77. The fifth church group was whom? Answer
78. Did Jesus tell them to strengthen themselves? Answer
79. Is a similar truth taught elsewhere in the New Testament? Answer
80. How could those who were spiritually asleep at Sardis come to their senses? Answer
81. It is a good thing to put into practice the word of God, but we don’t really have to do this to be part of the family of God, do we? Answer
82. What did Jesus say would happen if the majority at Sardis would persist in their sleep? Answer
83. Was repentance part of Jesus’ remedy to those at Sardis? Answer
84. Was there a minority of a few at Sardis that remained unsoiled? Answer
85. If a Christian is unconditionally kept by God with his future sins being already forgiven, before they are already committed, why weren’t all at Sardis unsoiled? Answer
86. Who will be worthy to walk with Jesus in the afterlife? Answer
87. In what color will the worthy be dressed as they walk with Jesus? Answer
88. What were the wonderful promises for those with unsoiled spiritual clothes? Answer
89. Is there a book in heaven with names written in it? Answer
90. What is it called? Answer
91. What is the significance in having one’s name in this book? Answer
92. Was Philadelphia one of the better churches of the seven? Answer
93. How did Jesus describe himself to them? Answer
94. Jesus said he can open doors that no man can shut. Did Paul have such doors opened for him to do God’s work? Answer
95. Did Paul request prayer that God would open a door for him for the Gospel? Answer
96. Did Jesus open a similar door for the Philadelphians to labor for him? Answer
97. Did Jesus open that door for the Philadelphians who had but little strength? Answer
98. Does it take only little spiritual strength to not deny Jesus’ name? Answer
99. Did the Philadelphians keep God’s word? Answer
100. Does it take only little spiritual strength to keep God’s word? Answer
101. Why were the Philadelphians told by Jesus to repent? Answer
102. What command did the Philadelphians keep that would enable them to be kept from the hour of trial coming upon the whole earth? Answer
103. Because they would be kept from the hour of trial does that mean they didn’t have any human responsibility to keep God’s command to endure patiently or to hold on? Answer
104. How could the Philadelphians prevent another from taking their spiritual crown? Answer
105. Wouldn’t holding on be considered a work and therefore outside of grace and in the realm of legalism? Answer
106. Can we state such teachers are false and declaring a dangerous message? Answer
107. If the Philadelphians were negligent to hold on to their spiritual crown, what would happen? Answer
108. Would they lose their crown even though it was the Sovereign God's will for them to keep that crown? Answer
109. Is the Christian life filled with tests? Answer
110. Were the Syrmna Christians going to be tested? Answer
111. What did James say about tests in the life of a Christian? Answer
112. Does God test the Christian’s heart? Answer
113. Did God test Abraham and if so, how? Answer
114. Are we tested in the furnace of affliction? Answer
115. Does that mean there will be trouble and problems in the Christian life that are really tests from God? Answer
116. Could it be stated that the Lord Jesus wanted the Philadelphian Christians to know they had something that could be lost and it was up to them to see to it that it wasn’t? Answer
117. Was it important for them to be told that particular truth? Answer
118. Is it serious, therefore, to not only withhold such a truth from Christians, but to go even further and deny it? Answer
119. Is that exactly what is being done by those that teach eternal security? Answer
120. What are the various crowns mentioned in the Bible? Answer
121. Can false teaching destroy a Christian’s faith? Answer
122. Who were Hymenaeus and Philetus? Answer
123. What command did Jesus single out that the Philadelphians kept? Answer
124. In Rev. 13:10 and 14:12 that same command is mentioned again with what else? Answer
125. Do we have to be faithful to God to enter God’s kingdom? Answer
126. After getting born again, is the Christian’s life an easy walk with Jesus in the lead? Answer
127. Is the way into God’s paradise kingdom a difficult one? Answer
128. Was the last of the seven church groups in Rev. 2 and 3 the best of all? Answer
129. Did Jesus say they were cold? Answer
130. Did the Laodiceans think they were doing okay and didn’t need a thing? Answer
131. Would you say they were grossly deceived? Answer
132. How did Jesus see them? Answer
133. Did Jesus say that he would automatically remedy the situation for them? Answer
134. Jesus called himself the Amen. What does that word mean in the Greek? Answer
135. Was Jesus created like some teach? Answer
136. Did Jesus say he preferred them cold over lukewarm? Answer
137. Is being lukewarm a perpetual condition? Answer
138. Can being lukewarm lead to being discharged from the body of Christ? Answer
139. If one is no longer in the body of Christ, does that mean he has lost his salvation? Answer
140. Was Laodicea a rich banking center that also made eye salve? Answer
141. Is it highly possible that there were successful Christian business men there that became lukewarm in their quest to succeed in business? Answer
142. Is it hard for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Answer
143. Is it impossible for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Answer
144. Do some live for money as others live for God? Answer
145. People with plenty of creature comforts can certainly have a spiritual heart condition that is far from God. True or false? Answer
146. Did Jesus say even one good thing about the Laodiceans? Answer
147. What did Jesus promise the overcomer as he addressed the Laodiceans? Answer
148. Did Jesus tell the Laodiceans to repent? Answer
149. Would they have to overcome being lukewarm to avoid being spit out of Jesus’ body? Answer
150. What is the remedy for being lukewarm? Answer
151. Would you say that Jesus’ role, as shown by his various names/titles, in the salvation plan is amazingly vast and important? Answer
152. What were 17 things that Jesus commended as he addressed those seven churches? Answer
153. What did Jesus condemn? Answer
154. What didn’t Jesus mention in a commendatory way, which is often exalted in local congregations in our day? Answer
155. Would you say that church values in our hour are vastly different than reflected by Jesus’ messages in Rev. 2 and 3? Answer
156. Was overcoming ever a salvation issue, as mentioned in Rev. 2 and 3? Answer
157. Did Jesus ever state the reasons why those problematic conditions existed in those churches was because of false conversions and people never really being saved to begin with? Answer
158. Why do so many seem to magnify that Calvinistic concept often into the all-important issue? Answer
1. Because Jesus spoke those things to those under grace, as we are in today. (return)
2. No, they had been saved for an undetermined time period—perhaps for many years. (return)
3. Yes. (return)
4. Jesus (2:1). (return)
5. Jesus (2:5). (return)
6. No, because the same could be removed out of the church. The lampstand stands for the church there which is made up of people. (return)
7. No. They weren’t tolerating wicked men (2:2) and hated the practices of the Nicolaitans (2:6). (return)
8. Yes. (return)
9. Yes. See also 1 John 3:10. (return)
10. Yes. (return)
11. Their present spiritual condition. (return)
12. Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Mt. 22:37). (return)
13. Yes (Mt. 10:37). (return)
14. No (Jn. 14:14, 23, 24). (return)
15. Forsaking their first love. (return)
16. Yes (2:6). (return)
17. The right to eat from the tree of life (2:7). (return)
18. Live forever (Gen. 3:22). (return)
19. Yes (2:5). (return)
20. Yes (2:5). (return)
21. Yes. (return)
22. Turn from sin and place a trusting and submitting faith in Jesus to serve God (Acts 20:21; 1 Thess. 1:9; etc.). (return)
23. Yes. (return)
24. Yes (James 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:9). (return)
25. Yes. (return)
26. Yes. (return)
27. Yes. The Bible says elsewhere he knows something so insignificant as how many hairs we have on our heads and that number is changing all the time (Mt. 10:30). (return)
28. Yes. (return)
29. With good (Rom. 12:21). (return)
30. Yes. (Rev. 2:14,15,20). (return)
31. Nothing. (return)
32. They were spiritually rich and financially poor. (return)
33. It destroys that false concept. (return)
34. Yes. (2:10). (return)
35. Yes. (return)
36. Yes. (See Rom. 8:18; 2 Tim. 3:12; Phil. 1:29; John 15:20; etc.) (return)
37. They endured it (1 Cor. 4:12). (return)
38. Yes. (2:10,11). (return)
39. Yes. (return)
40. Yes, there is no seniority with God. (return)
41. Yes (Acts 14:22). (return)
42. A spiritual battlefield. (return)
43. Yes. (return)
44. Because the first church group, which is supposed to be the earliest one, was not the best of the seven. (return)
45. No (1 Pet. 5:8). (return)
46. Yes. (return)
47. Jesus’ faithful witness. (return)
48. Yes (1 Tim. 4:1). (return)
49. Yes (2:14-20). (return)
50. Yes, very important (Titus 2:1). (return)
51. An OT character who was hired by Balak to put a spiritual curse on Israel (Josh. 24:9,10; Dt. 23:4; Neh. 13:2). (return)
52. Yes (2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11). (return)
53. Philip (Acts 21:8). (return)
54. No. They were the exact opposite. (return)
55. We don’t have any other information except that the overcomers will get them. (return)
56. No (2:19). (return)
57. Yes (2:19). (return)
58. Yes (2:20). (return)
59. No. In fact, there could be many false prophets and false prophetesses in the Christian congregations in our day (Mt. 7:15; 24:11; 1 John 4:1). (return)
60. Yes. (return)
61. Yes. (return)
62. Yes. (return)
63. Yes. (return)
64. She was the most evil woman named in the Bible. She was an aggressive, murderous, idolatrous, controlling and manipulating person, who was also a witch. (return)
65. Yes (return)
66. True. (return)
67. Displeasing. Certainly because of that tolerance evil spread more than would have been the case otherwise. (return)
68. Yes. (return)
69. Only hold on to what you have until I come (2:25). (return)
70. Yes. (return)
71. No, that’s impossible unless Jesus was teaching works. His command is under grace and is the Christian’s responsibility. (return)
72. He should make the vital changes now. (return)
73. Only the overcomers. (return)
74. He will be given authority over the nations and the morning star (2:26-28). (return)
75. It is shown to be Jesus (Rev. 22:16). (return)
76. No. His message was for all the churches (plural). (return)
77. Sardis. (return)
78. Yes (3:2). (return)
79. Yes. (return)
80. Remember what they received and heard; obey it and repent (3:3). (return)
81. Yes we must (Lk. 8:21). (return)
82. Jesus said he would come like a thief and they would not know at what time he would come (3:3). (return)
83. Yes (3:3). (return)
84. Yes (3:4) (return)
85. Some were and some weren’t because a Christian is not unconditionally kept by God with his future sins forgiven before they are ever committed. (return)
86. Those who did not soil their clothes (3:4). In Mt. 5:8 they are described as the pure in heart. (return)
87. In white (3:4). (return)
88. Walk with Jesus, dressed in white, never blot his name from the book of life and acknowledge his name before the Heavenly Father and his angels (3:4,5). (return)
89. Yes. (return)
90. The book of life. (return)
91. To have your name in the Lamb’s book of life entitles you an entrance into New Jerusalem and not having it there would mean such a person will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 21:27; 20:15). (return)
92. Yes. (return)
93. “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” (Rev 3:7). (return)
94. Yes (1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12). (return)
95. Yes (Col. 4:3). (return)
96. Yes (3:8). (return)
97. Yes (3:8). (return)
98. Yes (3:8). (return)
99. Yes (3:8). (return)
100. Yes (3:8). (return)
101. Jesus never told them to repent. (return)
102. They kept Jesus’ command to endure patiently (3:10). (return)
103. No (3:10,11). (return)
104. They would have to hold on to what they had (3:11). (return)
105. No. That would be impossible, since Jesus told them to do this and why it was vital for them to obey this (3:11). (return)
106. Yes, but there are still prominent teachers in our hour declaring that the Christian has nothing to hold on to. (return)
107. They would lose their crown (3:11). (return)
108. Yes. (return)
109. Yes. (return)
110. Yes (2:10). (return)
111. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). (return)
112. Yes (1 Thess. 2:4). (return)
113. God did test Abraham and it was regarding him sacrificing his unique one of a kind son, Isaac (Gen. 22:1,2; Heb. 11:17-19). (return)
114. Yes (Isa. 48:10). (return)
115. Yes. (return)
116. Yes. (return)
117. Yes. (return)
118. Absolutely. (return)
119. Definitely. (return)
120. The crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8), the crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:1-4) and the crown of life (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10). (return)
121. Yes (2 Tim. 2:18). (return)
122. Dangerous false teachers that Paul named. (return)
123. To endure patiently (3:10). (return)
124. Remaining faithful to Jesus. (return)
125. Yes (Rev. 2:10,11). (return)
126. No, there are many hardships (Acts 14:22). (return)
127. Yes (Mt. 7:14). (return)
128. No. It was the worst. (return)
129. No. They were lukewarm. (return)
130. Yes (3:17). (return)
131. Yes. (return)
132. They were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (3:17). (return)
133. No. (return)
134. Trustworthy. (return)
135. No, he is eternal. (return)
136. Yes (3:15). (return)
137. No. (return)
138. Yes. (return)
139. Yes, it would have to. (return)
140. Yes. (return)
141. Yes. (return)
142. Yes (Mt. 19:24). (return)
143. No, Job and Abraham were godly and rich as were others. (return)
144. Yes. (return)
145. True. (return)
146. No. (return)
147. The right to sit with Jesus on his throne (3:21,22). (return)
148. Yes (3:19). (return)
149. Yes. (return)
150. Repent and be hot (3:19). (return)
151. Yes. (return)
(a) [Good] deeds. The word deeds in the Greek means labor, work
(b) Hard work (2:2)
(c) Perseverance (2:2)
(d) Weren’t tolerating wicked men (2:2)
(e) Tested apostolic claims (2:2)
(f) Endured hardships for Jesus’ name and didn’t grow weary (2:3)
(g) Hated the practices of the Nicolaitans (2:6)
(h) Remained true to Jesus’ name (2:13)
(i) Not renouncing faith in Jesus (2:13)
(m) Doing more than at first
(n) Enduring patiently
(o) Keeping God’s word
(p) Being hot
(q) Hating the teaching of the Nicolaitans (return)
(b) Forsaking the love they had at first
(c) People holding to the doctrine of Balaam
(d) People holding to the doctrine of Nicolaitans
(e) Tolerating Jezebel—a false teacher
(f) Sexual immorality
(g) Soiled spiritual clothes
(h) Being dead
(i) Being asleep
(l) Being spiritually poor, blind, naked (return)
154. Because to him many things are not important. Such also reflects how far from the truth the so-called church has drifted from sound doctrine. (return)
155. Yes. (return)
156. Yes. (return)
157. No, not even one time! False conversion was not the problem in any of the seven congregations. (return)
158. Because false doctrine such as this is rampant in our dark day and such teachers seem to always want to protect the foundation of their theology—eternal security. (return)
All Scripture quotes are from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.
Testimony received with regard to this bible study:
Hello. I pray our Father is blessing you both for your work in his kingdom. I read your work on Rev 2 and 3 with a very critical eye on truth. I was very impressed with your work ... you have a gift for this kind of work. To whom much is given much is required. Thank you for your hard work. I can't wait to see you in the kingdom. I pray you will make it to the end, along with myself and all our loved ones. As I study the Scriptures I realize why only a few will be on the road to life. Only a few are willing to give up their lives and die to themselves. If you continue your hard work I am convinced you will be on the narrow path to life. What else in life will compare to making it home to be with Christ. This life you and I are living holds no reward if all we have is this life. However, if we die to ourselves and really live for Christ, how happy we will be once we make it and hopefully have many rewards for a life we dedicated to Christ while here. You are only one of a few people I am impressed with. I feel I could follow you just like Paul said to follow him and I would make it. Thank you again for your part in the kingdom. Keep telling the truth even if no one listens for our God is keeping a watchful eye on you and me and I don't want to disappoint him as I know you feel the same. Love always.
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