7 Churches – Smyrna & Pergamum

posted in: Messages | 0
Good morning and welcome to what is now the fourth week of what will be a very, very long series as we are doing a deep study through the book of Revelation and all the End-Times prophecy. As you can see, it’s called “The End of the World as We Know It.”
The story of Polycarp that you just saw will come into play in a few minutes, so keep it in mind.
If this is your first week, don’t worry, we haven’t gotten very far yet as we just got started on chapter 2 last week with the first of the seven churches that Jesus tells John to write to. If you have missed any of the talks so far, I strongly encourage you to go online and watch them or listen to them on our podcast. If you want to be able to understand what is going on, don’t miss a single one. This will become especially important once we get past chapter 3.
For right now, we find ourselves in Revelation chapter 2. Last week I covered the first church, Ephesus, and also explained to you that these letters are actually addressed to the whole church of all generations until Christ comes back – so that means us!  Here’s that outline again. We are currently looking at the letters, so we are in the church age and we have a long way to go.
Last week, as I mentioned we covered the first of the seven letters – the letter to Ephesus. Here you can see the churches on a map.
As you can see, Ephesus is the city closest to Patmos, which is where John was when he had these visions. And the rest of the letters go in order clockwise around that circle that the cities make.
Now, This order could simply be due to the probable postal route that the letter carrier would take – beginning in Ephesus where the ship from Patmos would certainly harbor, and then making a circuit around these cities that are all on major and connecting roads. Jesus, of course, would have known these things and ordered the letters accordingly as he dictated them to John. So, it’s possible that is the full explanation of the specific order the churches are listed.
But there is another view among many scholars that suggests the order has historical and prophetic significance – hence it is called the historical-prophetic view. This view suggests that the churches listed not only represent these seven literal cities that existed when John had the vision, and represent the whole Christian church throughout the church age, but that each specific letter/church is also representative of different successive periods in the history of the church since the church age began at pentecost until it ends with the rapture.
And to be honest, when I first heard of this I didn’t fully buy into it. But the more I have studied this from various sources, the more convinced I am that the theory is true. That doesn’t mean that it is. It’s not specifically spelled out in Scripture, but as you will see as I go through all of these letters – there are some pretty convincing similarities between each letter and different periods of time. Overall, this falls into the “we don’t really know” category, but I think it’s worth considering.
Here’s a quick summary of the different church periods that have been suggested and their corresponding letter:
slide11
We will revisit this timeline and each church in detail as we go along and you can decide for yourself if you think this theory holds any water.

Now let’s talk about Smyrna, the second letter.
For that, we find ourselves in chapter 2
Revelation 2
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 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. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
THE CITY
Smyrna Video
THE CHURCH
We don’t know much about the church at Smyrna at the time of John’s vision, but it does have a special history in the years after. As the persecution of Christians ramped up, it was the place of many martyrs. Including the famous Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp, who we saw in the video at the start of service.
It is to the church that this man led that Jesus writes this letter – and notice, he has nothing bad to say to them.
Let’s break it down…
THE AUTHOR
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
 
Just as for Ephesus, Jesus refers to himself by one of his many titles. This time he speaks of his resurrection. There are two reasons we can see why he chose to emphasize this title for this church.
One, like the video said, is that the city itself was known as the city that was dead but came back to life. Jesus would know this, of course, so he is saying…no, I AM THE one who died and came back to life. And I will live much longer than you oh prideful city.
This introduction would also be an encouragement to a persecuted church that will see much death for his name. He’s reminding them that just as he died and came to life again, they do not need to fear death.
No doubt they would be reminded of his words recorded in the Gospel of John and be encouraged.
John 11:25-26
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
 
THE COMMENDATION
I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
 
Jesus says I know your afflictions and your poverty. They were severely afflicted and drastically poor. One of the things we may not understand from looking back at these times through the lens of our modern American background is that being a Christian in that society cost them far more than we can imagine.
In that society, religion was everything. They had temples everywhere to all of their various deities and you had to pay homage to do anything – politics, business, social events, etc. They ALL included some kind of god or goddess or emperor worship – it’s just what they did. The whole economy was driven by it. And if you refused to participate – you became poor and you were outcast.
So, these people were in really bad shape humanly speaking – but Jesus points out that despite all of that they are actually quite rich – why? Because they have the only treasure that really matters and will last forever – Jesus Christ himself.
 
And Jesus himself promised that when we forego the worship and accumulation of worldly treasure, we are storing up treasures in heaven.
Matthew 6
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And this part of the famous beatitudes:
 
Matthew 5
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
That is a promise that this church held onto despite fierce opposition – even from the people who should have been their friends!

Next, Jesus says he knows about the slander of those who say they are Jews but are not – what does that mean?
To answer that, we have to answer the question – what is a Jew from Christ’s perspective? This may be confusing, but it’s also going to be important later.
What Jesus is referring to is the difference between an INWARD JEW and an OUTWARD JEW.
To understand this, we need to back up a little.
The history of the Jews began with Abraham. God called Abraham out of his home country of Ur and brought him to Canaan and promised him he would have this land forever and his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham believed God and obeyed him, and God counted him righteous for doing so. As a sign of the covenant, Abraham was instructed to be circumcised – he and all the males in his household now and all generations to come. Hence circumcision was the physical mark of a descendant of Abraham.
After Abraham came Isaac, and then Jacob who had is name changed to Israel. He had twelve sons who became the patriarchs of 12 tribes of people – hence the 12 tribes of Israel – the Jewish nation. It was a nation based on heritage, not political ambition.
While it was possible to convert, be circumcised, and become part of the group – the people throughout the generations up until the time of Jesus understood their Jewishness to be based on their birth family. They kept careful records of their lineage so that each Jew could trace their ancestors all the way back to Abraham. That’s why they would claim that Abraham was their father, which made them heirs to the promise God made to Abraham and thus better than the gentiles who were not in the family. In addition to their hereditary claim as Jews, they also had the law of Moses, which they prided themselves on following and also used as a demarcation of their jewishness because the gentiles did not obey the law and were unclean.
All of that is what the Apostle Paul calls an OUTWARD JEW…
Romans 2:28
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
 
And up until Jesus came on the scene, no one would have ever suggested that there was a different kind of Jew, and especially no one would suggest that just because your mega-great-grandfather was Abraham and you are circumcised that doesn’t mean you are a true Jew. In fact, suggesting something like that might get you killed…
But that is exactly what Jesus showed all the proud Jews of his day. He made it clear over and over that it’s not what you do on the outside that counts, but what you are on the inside. It’s not what you say and the rules you follow, it’s about what’s in your heart.
 
Matthew 15
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
 
And so, what Jesus did was redefine what a real Jew is. A real Jew (as in a true child of God and heir to the promise of Abraham) is one that, like Abraham, believes God and obeys him from the heart.
Paul echoes this in his theological dissertation we call the letter to the Romans…
 
Romans 2:29
No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
All of that to say, what Jesus means by a person who claims to be a Jew but is not – is a person who considers themselves a Jew because of their heritage and obedience to the law, but in their heart they have rejected their Messiah- Jesus himself. Hence, they are only Jews on the outside, which in God’s eyes, is really no Jew at all.
In God’s eyes, the true Jew – his chosen people, the people of promise and the spiritual descendants of Abraham are those that, like Abraham, believe God and obey him, which must include believing in his Son, Jesus, the Messiah. Consequently, that is what marks a true Christian as well.
Now, for the rest of this study I will do my best to indicate which kind of Jew is being talked about – it comes up a lot. I will refer to the true Jews as “true Jews” or “heart Jews” – which really means “Christians”. Although even that title has the same problem. There are many people who claim the title of Christian, but it’s only on the outside.  Anyway.  I will refer to the heritage/law jews as “Law Jews”.  Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it clear as we go along.
Please note: I would not go around explaining this to your Jewish friends. They would probably take great offense to this -just like the Jews of Jesus’ day did – and apparently they were still causing trouble at the time John wrote this letter.
So, Jesus says he knows about the slander the church in Smyrna was receiving from these Law Jews, and he has some harsh words for them. He calls them a synagogue of Satan! And they have been slandering his Heart Jews, the Christians, and causing them trouble.  Jesus says he knows all about it and he has some encouraging words for his church.
 
THE PROMISE
10 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. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Notice he doesn’t encourage them by telling them their suffering is going to stop, but rather that they should not be afraid when they inevitably go through even more suffering and eventually even death. Why? Because he is the first and the last, the one who was dead but is now alive – which means you will live too, even though you die.
And not only that, if you remain faithful – never yielding to the pressure to reject Christ and worship Caesar, even if they kill you (like they did Polycarp) then you will get the crown of life.
Now, not all scholars agree on this, but I believe that the crown of life is not referring to salvation.
It’s referenced in two places in Scripture. Once here, and the other in James.
James 1:12
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
It’s no coincidence that both times, the crown of life is a reward for persevering under trial.
This is not just a participation trophy for being a Christian. We are going to receive rewards and responsibilities in the new heaven and new earth based on what we did on this earth. This life is a test and it’s not pass-fail. We will get grades.
One thing that tells us this is how Paul talks of it.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
I don’t have time to get into all the passages that speak of our faith as a race or endurance or standing true until the end because there are many. It’s a common theme.
Another clue is in the term itself – crown of life. In the Greek, they had two words for crown.  STEPHANOS  refers to a crown that is earned, like in the olympic games. DIADEMA refers to a crown of royalty – a crown that is not earned by effort, but belongs to the wearer by right. This difference will become important later.
This crown of life and the other crowns Scripture speaks of Christians earning is a STEPHANOS – a reward earned for faithfulness to God despite opposition and hardship. And just so your imagination is correct, we’re not talking about British crowns but these leafy crowns that were used in ancient Rome. That doesn’t mean that’s what our crowns will look like, just wanted you to have the same picture that John sees when we talk of crowns again.
These crowns are some of the treasures we can store up in heaven. Not everyone will get one. But it’s not a competition against each other – it’s a goal to reach because you love and want to honor your king who rescued and redeemed you!
Now, about the ten days, again there is disagreement. Remember there’s a lot of uncertainty because we are talking about future events which haven’t happened yet – AND – historical events that may not be recorded anywhere.
One plausible explanation for the ten days was that this is how long the Roman court system might have worked – especially for these unwanted problem-causing Christians. They didn’t keep them in jail for very long because it was costly and pointless in a society that would rather just send them to the arena to fight wild animals or be tortured and killed for entertainment. 
And if you think about it, that was a kind thing for Jesus to do – letting them know how long the ordeal would last once it got to the worst part. Knowing when the end is coming would certainly help them steel their nerves and endure, knowing the great reward that awaited them.
THE REWARD
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
The one who is victorious – those who are saved – will not be hurt by the second death, they will live forever – again he’s promising heaven to all believers. If there is a participation trophy, that is it. All believers get into heaven, but not all get crowns or treasures or great responsibility. 
Many try to ignore all the talk of earned rewards in the bible because they are afraid it makes faith something you have to earn. Well it doesn’t.
1 Corinthians 3
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Basically, it’s possible to be saved by the skin of your teeth and end up with no rewards but heaven itself. But why would you want to strive for that?
THE LESSON
Be like the church at Smyrna. Jesus had nothing bad to say about them and encouraged them to endure and receive the reward.
I believe a time is coming when the true Christian church is going to be persecuted here in America. The rapid spread of apostasy and the departure of our society from the things of God on all fronts is going to make it difficult to hold to a biblical worldview when the world around us demands we worship the Emperor whose name is Tolerance and Relativism. We will see the same opposition they saw in Rome when we suggest there is only ONE WAY and ONE TRUTH in a world obsessed with COEXISTING. There are some things that we just cannot do or accept without turning our back on our Lord and Savior. And for those of us who refuse to compromise on God’s Holy Word, the same fate may await us, but we must determine now to be resolute for we are promised the same reward if we persevere.

OK, we will quickly talk about the historical period and then move on to Pergamum
The historical period that Smyrna possibly represents is the church after the Apostles died. It was a time of severe persecution from both the Roman government and from the OUTWARD Jews. Many were martyred during that time, including Polycarp who I already talked about. It’s really a miracle that the church survived at all during this time, but instead of dying it actually thrived and grew in numbers. If this was indeed a letter to the church in that time of history, it was appropriate to what they were going through.
The church remained in this persecuted state from around 100 AD until 312 AD when something wonderful and horrible happened at the same time. The Roman Emperor, Constantine became a Christian – which ended the persecution, but also married the church to the state, beginning the Pergamum church period. 
Let’s read the letter to this church.
Revelation 2
12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me,not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam,who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
This one is quite interesting.
THE CITY
Pergamum was the capital city of Asia Minor. It was the seat of the local governor who had the “right of the sword.” Meaning he could decide life and death cases without needing to go to Rome.
It was a preeminent city for many reasons. It had great art and architecture and it boasted a library second only to the one in Alexandria with some 200,000 books.
It was also a place of many pagan temples including Asculapius – which was a snake idol and supposedly the god of health and healing. Hence, Pergamum had the Asculapeion School of Medicine in honor of this god which was famous for healing. This is actually where our modern medical symbol comes from.
They also worshipped Zeus, Athena, Dionysus, and the Emperor. It was not a friendly place for the one-God Christians.
THE CHURCH
All that we know about this church comes from this letter, so let’s go through it.
THE AUTHOR
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
 
We see this imagery elsewhere in Scripture.
Hebrews 4
12 For the word of God is alive and active.Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 
 
This is not an encouraging introduction, but one that is pointing out Christ’s judgment by the Word of God.
Now, in our modern world whenever we hear the word “judgement” we immediately think “condemnation” – but that is not what judgment is. Judgment is simply right discernment. Like what judges do at sporting events. When they judge the athletes, they are not condemning them – they are supposed to be impartially rating their performance.
So, Christ as judge can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on you.
There is also another important point about the sword being the WORD of God…
John 12
47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Let that sink in for a minute. Jesus won’t judge us – but his words will, because they are God’s words.
So, anyway, you can sense that Jesus might have some choice words for this church by his introduction.
 
THE COMMENDATION
13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
We don’t know anything about Antipas other than what Jesus just said. But apparently he was martyred there in Pergamum – where Jesus says Satan lives and has his throne. What exactly that means, we are not sure, but it doesn’t sound very good. Some suggest that the snake-god cult could actually be a Satanic cult, but we don’t know.  Either way, the church here is commended for staying true to His name in what is clearly a dangerous place to do so.
THE CONDEMNATION
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
 
Here we see the Nicolaitans again, but this time the church doesn’t hate their teaching but is embracing it – something Christ hates. Many scholars think their teaching is linked to Balaam which Christ also mentions here.
Balaam is an interesting story. We find it in Numbers 22. Balaam was a prophet of God who did some bad things. First, he was convinced by the King of Moab – Balak – to try to curse the Israelites his enemy. Seems like a crazy request since Balaam was supposed to be a prophet FOR the Israelites, not against them. To his credit, he refused the first few times, but finally they offered him enough money that he come. On his way, he had the incident where his donkey started talking to him because an angel was about to kill him and Balaam couldn’t see it and the donkey could.  Well, the angel didn’t kill Balaam but told him he better do all that he says. Balaam goes to the king of Moab and tells him he can only do what the Lord tells him to do and proceeds to bless Israel several times when Balak wants him to curse them.
It would seem, then, that Balaam wasn’t so bad. Well, we learn later in the book that while he couldn’t curse Israel, he gave the King of Moab a different strategy that he employed 
Numbers 25
1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods.The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.
Basically, Balaam told the king the best way to defeat the giant and powerful army of Israel was to infiltrate them with their women who will seduce the men into sexual immorality and soon after into worshipping your god, Baal, which will anger the God of the Israelites and He will fight them for you. And sure enough, that’s just what happened. I won’t go into the gory details, but it ended with the death of 24,000 people.
And Jesus is saying the same thing is happening in this church. They are allowing sexual immorality to corrupt and poison their ranks. It’s really no surprise as it was rampant in the culture of that day. Most of the worship of the various Roman gods consisted of sacrificing animals, eating the meat, then sleeping with the temple prostitutes – having orgies and the like, and homosexuality was everywhere.
Ironically, the proliferation of homosexuality in the ancient Greeks and Romans is actually one of the fundamental arguments for its acceptance in our society today. And guess what large parts of today’s church are doing – falling for it!  The Pergamum church is alive and well today!  And Jesus has this to say to them…
 
THE WARNING
16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
He says STOP – change your mind – change your ways – turn from your sin – stop following these lies and corruption. Or I am coming to fight you with the sword of my mouth – with the condemnation due them by my words.
In the Greek it’s not just fight – it’s make war against! Now you might have picked up on the YOU and THEM – I will come to YOU and fight against THEM. That is not suggesting YOU are safe. John MacArthur calls it a Hebrew Idiom in the Greek in which both pronouns are referring to the same object – this church and the people in it. The YOU is actually referring to the angel or leader of the church, remember?
No it is clear, Jesus isn’t just going to wage war against those practicing such things but against the church that’s allowing it, praising it, promoting it!
So, what do you think that means for us?
I for one would rather fight against the world than have Jesus wage war on our church.
THE REWARD
17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
This is an interesting reward. Hidden manna, white stone, new name.
Manna was what God fed the Israelites with while they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Manna represents provision – heavenly provision. It’s hidden, indicating it is not in this world, but in the next.
The white stone is very interesting. In Pergamum at the school of medicine, one of the practices was that the people that went in for treatment – when they came out would take a white stone and write their name and what they were healed of and place it in rows in front of the school as homage to the healing god. And it acted as a nice advertisement for the school.
And also, in Roman practice, a white stone was given to someone who was declared not-guilty in court to indicate their innocence.
Jesus giving this white stone to the overcomer is him saying you are innocent and healed of your sin.  And on that stone is a new name known only to the one who receives it.
We will see this again in Jesus himself. He also gets a new name which no one knows but himself.
Having a God-given new name is something we see throughout the bible. Abram became Abraham. Jacob became Israel. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul.  Each of these name changes had significant meaning, as all names mean something. Also, often we see names change when becoming a part of a new kingdom. Daniel was renamed in Babylon, along with his three friends. Joseph was renamed in Egypt. So getting a new name might also have to do with entering the new Kingdom of God.
Either way, it’s still Jesus talking about heaven, and it’s sounding pretty sweet.
THE HISTORY VIEW
Before we finish today, I want to talk a bit more about the historical period this church is said to represent.  It’s the period from 312 AD when Emperor Constantine became a Christian and effectively took over the church until the fall of the Roman empire around 600ISH AD.
This was a time when the church became married to the state and controlled and corrupted by it. The name Pergamum is actually Pergamos in the Greek, which comes from the Greek word “gamos” which means married. (Polygamy, Monogamy)
When Constantine had his conversion, he made the state religion Christianity and forced everyone to be a part of it – just like everyone had been forced to worship the Emperor and all the other gods. Since people were forced, they just brought in all their customs from before and integrated them into Christianity causing a great deal of pagan rituals to infiltrate the church. Also, Constantine appointed all the church leaders and started requiring infant baptism so that everyone could be part of the church as soon as they are born. 
Basically, he recreated the Jewish culture that Christians had been set free from, only with different names and relics. The Jews were born into the religion by being circumcised on the 8th day. Christians were born into the church by being baptized. Neither by choice.
And if you remember what the pagan worship entailed… well now it was all part of the new “Christian” church.
Talk about corruption!  There were still people that held to the truth. But out of this formed the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages that became so corrupt that it forced the start of the reformation. But we’ll talk about that stuff next week.

So, we’ve made it through three of the seven churches now. It’s going to take us three more weeks to get through the other four.
And while not all of the teaching throughout this series will have direct practical application – these letters certainly do. They are letters from the REAL JESUS addressed to us, so we better listen.
So, let’s recap what we’ve learned.
Ephesus
Persevere and hold onto our first love. Do everything in love rather than duty. Serve, give, invite because you love your savior and Lord and you want to please Him. If that’s not our reason, then we are doomed.
Smyrna
Persevere, endure, don’t give up. Trouble will come and things may get bad, but hold onto the truth. Be faithful, even unto death and you will have a crown of life waiting for you in heaven.
Pergamum
Do not tolerate evil in your church. Do not let the world trick you with the lies so clever they sound like the truth. Do not allow the enemy to infiltrate us with the biggest trap of all – sexual immorality. There’s a reason why it is called out more than any other sin in the bible. It’s not the same as other sins.
My friends, of all the books of the Bible, and all the letters to churches from Paul and John and James and Peter – what we are covering right now are letters – messages from Jesus Christ himself to his church, his bride. And he’s telling us now, before he comes back to get us, what he expects from us as he walks among us with his eyes blazing, his feet burning, and so on. We need to listen and take heed to these words of our Lord and King. Because he’s serious.
Let us not take them lightly.