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Revelation chp 11 vs 14 to 19 - 5 Good Reasons to Worship and Everything going Well isn't one of Them - JS Gillespie  

A surgical incision into the closing section of Revelation chapter 11, reveals an unexpected heart beating at it's centre! After 7 seals and 6 trumpets and a third woe pending, this section gravitates around a nucleus of worship (Rev 11:17). This may seem to some a surprising conclusion to death, disease, catastrophe, global conflict and demonic attack upon the earth! Yet we ought not to be surprised at all. It was:

  • After Israel apostatised in worshipping the golden calf and the tables of the law were smashed that Moses worshipped
  • After Job had seen the death of his family, the destruction of his home and the decimation of his wealth that Job worshipped
  • Surrounded by the apocalyptic destruction of Jerusalem, the wall and the temple that Ezra worshipped 
  • On the storm tossed boat with their life in jeopardy that the disciples worshipped
  • Possessed by a legion of soul wrenching demons that the Gaderene worshipped 
  • Whilst he was dying and leaning on his staff that Jacob worshipped

Revelation chapter 11 verses 14 to 19 give us five good reasons to worship and everything going well with the world and our lives is not one of them! We can rejoice that God is in control of:

  • The woes that befall the world - ordered and announced by Him
  • The world and it's kingdoms 
  • The wicked and their judgment 
  • The reward of the godly 
  • The worship of the one true and living God 

His word is settled forever in heaven. Despite what we may perceive as the chaos and catastrophe of the past we cannot on that basis predict the plans of God! 

Revelation chp 11 vs 1 to 13 - The Last Revival - JS Gillespie  

 

 

Grace upon grace, God has poured out on a fallen world. Generation after generation, God adds to His grace. It is almost as if century upon century God is declaring that He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). By the time we reach Revelation chapter 11 many a mercy has moved towards man. God's dispensations or administrations have rolled through creation, conscience, government, law, grace and tribulation. In each movement of the Divine hand God calls men to repentance and to Himself. 

Here in Revelation chapter 11, God brings all of His movements of mercy to a pinnacle. The miracles of Moses, the signs and wonders of Elijah (11:5-6), the plagues of blood and drought, the power of the Spirit of God (11:4) and all under the shadow of the cross, rain down upon man. Some respond, a remnant turn to give Glory to the God of heaven (11:13). 

Tragically many reject the message of God. With even greater catastrophe they confuse the message as the product of the messenger and not as the revelation of God. Gloating and glorying over their corpses, the product of the satanic attack of the Beast, the rejoicing of the world is premature. God is still on His throne and 3 and a half days into their death, resurrection power raises them again from the dead. 

A study in Revelation chapter 11 from our systematic series of expository bible studies in the book of Revelation. 

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chp 11 vs 1 to 6 - Gods Place Gods People Gods Power be Part of it - JS Gillespie  

 

It's not every day that a man out does God! Death defying is a frequently used phrase but on only two historical occasions have men actually achieved that feat! The Old Testament contains two strange anomalies. Both Enoch (Genesis 5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2) pass from earth to heaven, from time to the eternal without passing through death. This is not only an intriguing record but it also challenges the truth of Hebrews 9 :27 "it is appointed unto man once to die". Did they manage to escape and defy death? Mor importantly did they find a way around conforming to the pattern of Hebrews 9? Fast forward a few thousand years to Revelation chapter 11. Two witnesses appear in Jerusalem at the mid point of the tribulation period. There is something distinctly familiar about this pair! The impact of their ministry extends for a period of 3 and a half years, like that of Elijah (James 5:17), they call down fire from heaven; like that of Elijah (2 Kings 1), they stop the rain, again like Elijah and stand alone against the world, again reminiscent of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Could we have here these two old testament characters? Does this solve the bible long mystery? Have these men, not so much escaped death, but been reserved and set apart for a future service and ministry in the last days?  John observes, John records but perhaps like us, John participates in what God is doing (Revelation 11:1) in this chapter. He measures what belongs to God. It isn't big in the eyes of men. An inner court of 30 by 30 feet, yet it is God's patch, God's place and God's people. God values what belongs to Him, so does John and so do the two witnesses. The interest they have in time, as an interest that continues into forever (11:12). In chapter 11 it is only those with an interest in God's people and place on earth who continue to enjoy that place in heaven!  Revelation chapter 11 looks off into future days of tribulation, yet the character, the interests of these witnesses is not foreign or new to us. They have an interest in God's work and worship here and serve God in His power and by His Spirit.  Yours by Grace in Christ  Dr J Stewart Gillespie From a series of systematic bible expositions in the book of Revelation, free to download audio mp3 and free to watch online at graceinchrist.org

Revelation chapter 10 - The Sweet Taste of Victory from the Little book of Mystery - JS Gillespie   

A chapter which calls time on the mysteries of God and invites us to eat a book doesn't have to try hard to be intriguing. Revelation chapter 10 is such a chapter. Key to our understanding of this mysterious chapter of Divine mysteries is verse 7; announcing that the "mystery of God should be finished." This is not simply the announcement of 'time up' but the anticipation of the completion and fulfilment of the Divine purposes of redemption. The 14 great mysteries of the New Testament find their fulfilment now with the blowing of the 7th trumpet.  

The mystery of the Kingdom  

The mystery of the blindness of Israel (Romans 11) 

The Mystery of the spread of the Gospel (Romans 16) 
The Mystery of the Cross (1 Corinthians 1) 
The Mystery of the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15) 
The Mystery of all things headed up in Christ (Ephesians 1) 
The Mystery of Jew and Gentile in one body (Ephesians 3) 
The Mystery of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5) 
The Mystery of Christ in us (Colossians 1) 
The Mystery of Iniquity (2 Thessalonians 2) 
The Great Mystery of Godliness (1 Timothy 3:16)  
The Mystery of the Churches and Stars (Revelation chapters 1 to 3) 
The Mystery of God (Revelation chp 10) 
The Mystery Babylon the Great  

All of these 14 mysteries seem summed up in the one mystery here - the mystery of God.  

The open book of the Divine purpose in redemption is open and as John tastes it, there is in it's inner workings a bitterness, a pain and a sorrow, the same bitterness we can detect in history as well as in the lives of individual Christians. Men like Joseph, Moses, David, Samson, Daniel, Paul and John all experienced bitter sweet lives. Lives that were bitter in their execution and yet sweet in their exaltation.  

The shadow of the cross casts itself over the workings of history as well as the lives of God's people.  

Here in chapter 10 the mysteries of God unify and complete. From chapter 10 onwards a new word will be injected in the vocabulary of exposition, that of victory. God had a plan and a purpose in the rainbow of Noah, in the law of Sinai, in the pillar of fire and cloud to guide and finally and fully in His Son. All of these pictures are reflected in the unified language of chapter 10 verses 1 to 3 as the angel announces that victory is near.  

We may not be on the easiest side but we are on the winning side!

Revelation chp 8 vs 6 to 13 - When Prophecy becomes Apocalypse Now - The Day God deconstructed the World and Man Grew Up - JS Gillespie   

 

 

Revelation chapter 8 opens with a silence of separation (8:1), a silence separating all that has gone before in heaven and upon earth from that which is about to happen. So dramatic, terrible and catastrophic are the events which are about to unfold that a line of demarcation is drawn between before the silence and after the silence. This unprecedented silence will forever be a line of separation, a turning point in God’s dealings with His world. 

Before this half an hour of silence God had dealt with this world in: 

  • Creation 
  • Grace 
  • Providence 
  • Upholding sustaining power extended as general grace to all men 
  • Redemption 

Even up until chapter 8 God’s judgments were on the whole passive and consequential upon the opening of the seals. The judgments so far were indirect, as a consequence of the opening of the seals rather than being directly commanded of God. The judgments so far pronounced drew, on the whole from natural causes and instruments in man’s world, familiar to us; eg war, famine and death. You might from the perspective of earth look at the four riders of the apocalypse and the natural disasters of the 6th seal and not clearly appreciate nor apprehend that these events had a Divine and supernatural cause! You could live through the first 6 seals and still hold on fairly tenaciously to your atheism, putting the events you experienced down to man made catastrophes, political upheaval and natural disasters. That is all about to change! 

Revelation chapter 8 verse 1 signals a line of bold demarcation, not only in John’s apocalypse but also in the foreign policy of heaven. Earth now becomes the object not of: 

  • Creation 
  • Grace 
  • Mission 
  • Salvation 

But of unparalleled judgment. 

For half an hour the chorus of heaven ceases. 

  • The worship of the innumerable company of martyrs of chapter 7, angels, living creatures and elders (7:11) is silenced 
  • The harps of the 24 elders are set aside (5:8) 
  • The chorus of the redeemed (5:9) is no longer heard 
  • Holy, Holy, Holy is cried no longer (4:8) 

Heaven falls silent. 

This silence may occupy only a single verse of that vast volume we call the Bible, but don’t be misled, this is no minor matter! This is a silence that brings to a halt the Holy, Holy, Holy of Revelation chapter 4 and the 4 living creatures! 

What is about to transpire is a judgment of unparalleled proportions. A judgment that is unlike any previous activity of heaven. The judgments of heaven move from the natural to the supernatural. In  chapter 8 of Revelation we see not only nature turned against man; as it was in chapter 6 but we see: 

  1. Heaven and the angels (8:6-13)  
  2. Hell and the demonic (chp 9) 

Mobilised against man! 

Here is a half hour of silence. A half hour for: 

  1. Awe 
  2. Grace 
  3. Forgotten prayers 

A half hour of: 

  1. Awe – a reasonable and rational response to greatness and the Glory of God eg Zechariah 2:13; Romans 3:19 
  2. Grace – even in the epicentre of Divine judgment God’s character has not changed. As late as Revelation 16:9 there remains an echo of the hope for repentance. “God...is longsuffering to us-ward not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 
  3. Forgotten prayers. Here are the prayers of “all saints” (Revelation 8:3), including those ‘forgotten’ prayers of Rev 6:10 and who knowns how many other prayers long offered and thence forgotten. God does not forget the prayers of His people, even if those who offered such prayers have already gone home to Glory. He did not forget: 

 

  • The blood of Abel (Genesis 4:10; Matthew 23:35; Luke11:51) 
  • The murder of Zacharias (Luke 11:51) 
  • Prayer of Abraham (Genesis 15:2) 
  • Prayer of Zacharias (Luke 1:13) 

 

These prayers are now offered in this interlude with the “smoke of incense” fragrant and powerful. Incense added to the fragrance of the believer’s life “for we are unto God a sweet fragrance of Christ” (2 Co 2:15). How much more effective and powerful could my prayers be if the incense of my life truly complemented the fragrance of heaven? 

The sounding of the first 4 trumpets (Revelation 8:6-13) 

In the sounding of these first 4 trumpets we have the outpouring of Divine judgment in a hitherto unknown and unseen fashion. This is the systematic deconstruction of man’s world. You could draw parallels with the 10 plagues of Egypt with the hail (v7), waters of blood (v8), destruction of the plant life (v7) and subsequently of course the plague of locusts (9:3ff). This is bigger than the 10 plagues of Egypt. This is global in extent and spiritual in character. 

In these first 4 trumpets man’s world and man’s place in the world is shaken and deconstructed. Each and every sphere of the world as we know it is shaken and impacted part by part: 

  • The earth and land (8:7) 
  • The sea (8:8-9) 
  • The rivers (8:10-11) 
  • The heavens above (8:12-13) 

Piece by piece man’s world is systematically deconstructed! 

Here is the deconstruction of the creatorial work of Genesis chapter 1. 

Here is God’s definitive response to man’s most ancient of sins; idolatry. 

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and -- fourth generation of them that hate me;” (Exodus 20:3ff) 

It is here that God’s jealousy for His own glory finds final justice and satisfaction. The material world adored by man, where man dug deep his foundations and denied his creator crumbles. 

  • Nature 
  • Civilisation 
  • Commerce 
  • Industry 
  • Culture 

 

Utter devastation and catastrophe abounds, and yet there is in all of this at least one great grace. This is the new enlightenment! Many will be familiar with the that period of western history in the 16th and 17th century we refer to as the enlightenment. A period of time marked by a mushrooming of: 

  • Science 
  • Human rights and individualism 
  • Political changes and democracy 
  • Pursuit of happiness 
  • Materialism 
  • Secularism 

A period of time in which men attempted to: 

  1. Find their place in the world 
  2. Find their happiness in the world 

Often this led many to abandon God or at least distance themselves from God and His demands morally and spiritually. These ideas have grown ever since coming down to us today in ever expanding forms. 

Here is the new enlightenment! Here is a stage closer to reality. In these days men will have to rethink who and what they are. Chapter 8 challenges us to consider not: 

  1. What man is in the world 
  2. What man is without the world 

“whose then shall these things be which thou has provided?” 

If everything I have, all I possess, all I have laid by in store for this world was gone, would I have anything left? 

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” (2 Peter 3:11) 

Edwin Blum: “Peter here makes the impending disintegration of the universe the ground for a personal challenge to his readers” (Expositors Bible Commentary) 

Is this not why we are given now an insight into events then? 

Where today does our foundation lie? 

Where today do we lay up treasure? 

What today are we distracted by? 

Is it worth it? 

Will it endure? 

What of the details of these first 4 trumpets? 

Many an interpretation has been given. 

  1. Symbolic – trees representing great men, grass the temporal nature of man’s glory, great mountain the kingdoms of men, sea as the nations. I have difficulty with this. The symbols appear to me very stretched and a bit arbitrary; are you really sure trees are great and powerful men in this context? Where trees are used as symbolic of great men there is usually an indicator or clue in the passage that they are being used in that way (Amos 2:9). 
  2. Literal – 4 literal judgments, distinctive, instigated as a sovereign act of God. What will happen is just as described. That being the case there would be nothing further to expound. The description is as it stands, simple and literal. 
  3. Descriptive – there are some elements of Johns description here that would suggest that a completely literal interpretation is probably not what is intended; eg sea “became blood” (v8) – a biological material produced by the bone marrow of animals, a complex protein structure carefully controlled by biological hormones, growth factors and cytokines. It is unlikely that such vast quantities of a biological substance would be found in the ocean, nor would they likely survive for any significant period of time in the oceans. Note also the description that the waters became “wormwood” (v11). Wormwood is a plant from which is made Absinthe, a potent and at times toxic alcoholic drink, contains a vast array of biologically active compounds, anti cholinergics, anti cholinesterases, it is toxic. Unlikely however that 1/3 of the waters will be literally turned to wormwood! 

These first 4 trumpets may then announce 4 distinct catastrophes from God, supernaturally authored and destructive individually as described: 

  1. Hail and fire 
  2. Meteor or comet hit to the seas 
  3. Comet strike affecting waters 
  4. Eclipse of some form 

However bearing in mind that this section has descriptive elements to it, ie not entirely literal, is there anything that we know of today which might fit with the figurative descriptive language of this section? 

There is one modern scenario which does pretty strongly parallel the description which we have here in Revelation chapter 8. A scenario unknown of course to John and to humanity for the next 1900 years. 

Allow me to describe from secular academic sources the likely scenario of a nuclear holocaust. 

In the event of a nuclear strike: 

Likely targets of a nuclear strike would include key population centres and cities in the world: Washington, LA, San Diego, Moscow, Vladivostok, Tokyo, Beijing. 

An epicentre of variable size depending on the size of the nuclear warhead would extend out from the point of impact over an area of 5 to 10 miles. Within that epicentre there would be total vaporisation, complete destruction. The episode would be engulfed in intense heat and flames. Everything flammable would be consumed, buildings, vehicles, people and plants. The vaporised products of that explosion would rise as a mushroom cloud, to fall to earth as black rain, embers and burning material. Approximately 50% of the debris from the initial nuclear strike would fall locally within the first 24 hours. A scenario not dissimilar to the hail and fire of verse 7 linked with the burning of vegetation. Interestingly notice that in the description of verse 7 some plants fair better than others. All of the green grass but only 1/3 of the trees were burnt up. This could likewise fit with fires extending out from nuclear epicentres in which some vegetation would be more resilient than others. In Hiroshima hit by the A bomb in 1945, all vegetation above the ground was vaporized extending out in a diameter of 3 km. Some plants with roots deep underground survived including approximately 170 broad leafed trees, including the Hibakujumoku tree. Ground based plants did not survive. 

The fallout of radioactive particles would contaminate all surface waters making them undrinkable (consider verse 10). 

The smoke and ash from that nuclear strike would rise 20 to 50 miles above the surface of the earth and stay there for a period of years. It is this smoke which would in part block out the light of the sun and moon, resulting in what scientists refer to as a nuclear winter. Note the 4th trumpet in this respect of verse 12. As a consequence, corn and wheat yields would drop depending on how large the nuclear holocaust was. From a relatively small nuclear conflict eg between India and Pakistan it is estimated that food production would drop by up to 40% and 1 to 2 billion people would perish with 90% of the worlds population starving to death in a nuclear winter. 

A nuclear hit on or around the sea would likewise have catastrophic effects on the marine life and nearby coastal regions, not only at the epicentre but in the extended area around it as the pressure way dissipates through the water. A nuclear marine hit would cause massive aquatic death, increase the sea temperature locally and change nutrient concentrations in the vicinity from decomposing marine life. 

Interestingly in response to changing sea temperatures and nutrient compositions many areas of the world experience red tides in California, Gulf of Mexico, Maine, British Columbia, Florida. This is caused by the overgrowth of a variety of toxic algae species such as Karenia Brevis and bacteria, Cyanobacterium Trichodesmium, Red tides have also been observed as a consequence of overgrowth of Alexandrium species of bacteria in sea temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The toxins from Alexandrium species are responsible for Toxic Shellfish Poisoning, these toxins form the bacteria being absorbed by the shellfish. 

In a recent paper published by Jae Young Oh, it has been discovered that some marine algae possess radioprotective phytochemicals, radioprotective polysaccharides and carotenoids. The radioprotective qualities of red algae have been extensively studied. 

At the Chernobyl site in Ukraine it was found that following the nuclear accident at Ribiyart that Cryptococcus Neoformans were able to feed on radioactive material turning radiation into chemical energy! 

Tanks at sellafield nuclear reactor have grown Haematococcus resistent to radiation. Haematococcus produces astaxanthan part of the carotenoid group of substances, which occurs in algae and causes the pink red colour in Salmon. 

“Wormwood” : 

Ukrainian – Chernobyl – perhaps a little echo of what is to come?

Part of our systematic study of the book of Revelation presented by Dr J Stewart Gillespie, at the Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock. 

Revelation chapter 8 vs 1 to 5 - The Silence of the Lamb - JS Gillespie  

 

Revelation chapter 8 verses 1 to 5, the half hour silence in heaven at the opening of the 7th seal and prior to the sounding of the 7th trumpet Heaven, the place of angelic adoration, worship and singing by the redeemed and the sound of eternal praise comes to a total silence. The sound track of heaven is silenced for half an hour. This deadly silence separates chapters 8 and 9 of Revelation from all that precedes. Here are a series of judgments about to be poured out upon the earth which has qualitatively and quantitatively distinct from all that precede them. These judgments unleash not only death and judgment from the sphere of nature, as did the losing of the 7 seals but these trumpets announce, directly and deliberately the unleashing of all the power of heaven (Revelation chapter 8) and of hell (Revelation chapter 9). Destruction now will be on a scale hitherto unrealised and unwitnessed.  Here also is 30 minutes of Divine Grace from a God who is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance even as late on as Revelation 16:9, this remains the case. It is during these 30 minutes of silence that heaven is punctuated with prayers past ascended and long forgotten by those who once prayed for justice, judgment and vengeance. The prayers of God's people are not forgotten. The prayers of God's people do not fall to the ground unheard and unnoticed keep praying. From a message preached at Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock by Dr J Stewart Gillespie on Revelation chapter 8 vs 1 to 5 - The Silence of the Lamb  Part of a verse by exposition of the book of Revelation, free to download audio and video.

Revelation chapter 7 vs 9 to 17 - Heaven - The Taste of a Place, The Touch of a Person - J Stewart Gillespie  

For the martyred multitude of Revelation chapter 7, heaven was worth it and heaven came as no surprise. With every strain of the sinews, every stretch of their muscle fibres and with each tensing of the tendons, this great multitude of God's people felt they were stepping upwards, higher and higher to the heavens. Reaching the summit came as no surprise. The clouds seemed closer with every step, the atmosphere of earth thinning and the sun a little brighter. Their journey had been one of progressing a little higher day by day. Along that upward path they had known the:

  1. The Taste of the Place
  2. The Touch of a Person 

Heaven was reached by a palm tree paved path from the:

  • Palms of the oasis of Elim bringing refreshment from the wells of God's provision for His people on their earthly journey
  • Palms of reflection as His people dwelt annually under the booths of palm leaves, reminding them of their pilgrim character on earth 
  • Palms of revelation under the palm tree of Deborah 
  • Palms of relationship adorning the temple 

Each step of the pilgrim journey home had a taste of the place, a fragrance of heaven. 

That journey to the dwelling place of the Lamb was likewise assured by the presence and provision of the Shepherd along the path. The one who had lead them by the still waters and who had made them lie down in green pastures was the same one who had lead them to the source of that supply. Psalm 23 with its closing promise of dwelling in the House of the Lord forever, is the doorway into the eternal vista of Revelation chapter 7. Still waters in the valley of Psalm 23 find the eternal and abundant source in the "living fountains of water" of Revelation chapter 7. In this eternal abode hearts are fully satisfied (verse 16) with Christ. 

It is at the conclusion of the journey for God's people, faithful martyrs for Jesus Christ, men and women who have come through persecution, suffering and death that we are finally able to weigh up the worth and value of all that has transpired before the eternal. Has earth been worth it? Has life been fare? Have the means been worth the end? Can we make sense of life now in the light of forever? The reflection and response of those martyred for Jesus is a resounding volley of praise and worship (verse 12); an emphatic 'yes'. Perhaps like them it would be wise for us to reserve judgment and assessment on our own trials and difficulties until finally we see life in the light of the Lamb, time from the perspective of forever. 

A message preached in our systematic series of studies in the book of Revelation at the Bridgend Gospel Hall, New Cumnock by Dr J Stewart Gillespie. 

 

Revelation chapter 7 vs 12 - Blessings from Brokenness - JS Gillespie  

 

Revelation chapter 7 verse 12 is a high point of praise and worship in the book of Revelation. It is perhaps all the more surprising that this praise comes from the lips of and in the presence of those who have come through the most extreme of experiences of persecution, death and martyrdom. From the embers of suffering comes a choir of praise and worship. Such praise is not naïve nor short sighted but rather founded on an appreciation of the power and wisdom of their God. 

Part of our ongoing series in the book of Revelation, a practical and devotional exposition of John's Apocalypse. 

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chapter 7 verse 9 - The Palm Tree Paved Path to the Presence of the Lamb - JS Gillespie  

 

Revelation chapter 7 is a play of two halves. From the events on earth in verses 1 to 8 we move upward and heavenward to the innumerable multitude of martyrs before the throne of the Lamb in verses 9 to 17. We leave the gloom of God's Grace withheld from a fallen and falling world in the first half of Revelation chapter 8 to the Glory of God's grace revealed and all sufficient in the later half of chapter 7. The Lamb is indeed all the Glory in Emmanuel's land! 

This "great multitude which no man could number" stands distinct from the 144,000 of the the first half of Revelation chapter 7. This is an international and cosmopolitan company, innumerable in quantity and present in heaven. The 144,000 are numbered, of the 12 tribes of Israel and resident on earth. This vast company have emerged en masse, martyred from the persecution of tribulation days (Revelation 7:14). Undaunted and undiscouraged by the prospect of and reality of martyrdom, they pass through the fire and the flame to gain heaven and home. What motivated this drive? What fed this tenacity? As was asked of Samson in the book of Judges; what was the secret of their strength? Perhaps we have a clue here in verse 9. These martyrs of the tribulation period stand, having grasped finally in their hands the final mention of the biblical 'palm' tree. 

The path to their final destination in heaven, was a path paved with palm tress, right the way to the throne of the Lamb. Heaven was no surprise. Heaven was no vague hope. Heaven is home. The fragrance of that place, scented the entire route to glory. The one to whom they went was the one with whom they went. It is the same Lamb, the same Lord who gave them strength for the way, who waited for them at their destination. 

Israel redeemed from Egypt needed REFRESHMENT in their wilderness journeys. That refreshment from the 12 wells of Elim was enjoyed in the shade of 70 palm trees (Exodus chapter 15). 

Each year the collective consciousness of the nation of Israel would be impressed by the reflection and REMINDER that there presence passing and transient. God had called them out of Egypt for Himself. The character of the nation ought to be that of pilgrims and strangers and so between the two Sabbaths of rest they would rest in booths, under the shade of the palm trees. 

The place of REVELATION, a word from the Lord, to guide, direct and inform, came in the days of the Judges from Deborah, under the shadow of the palm tree. 

Their RELATIONSHIP with God, centred around the temple of Solomon in 1 Kings 6:29, was surrounded by the image of palm trees. 

Finally the REALITY of the presence of Jesus amongst them was marked by the raising of the palm tree (John 12:13). 

It is from that constant lifelong taste of heaven, that daily drinking of the living waters of heaven, that feeding in the bread of heaven that strength is given to face whatever persecution and pain and trial this world will throw at them to gain heaven. Heaven for these martyrs is the final step of faith and not the only step of faith. 

An excerpt from the audio and video recording of our exposition of Revelation chapter 7. Part of our bible teaching series as we study systematically through the book of Revelation. 

Yours by Grace in Christ, 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chapter 6 verses 1 to 8 - It's the End of the World - But not Quite Yet - JS Gillespie - 15th March 2022  

 

Recent events in the Ukraine and past catastrophes at times of international upheaval have led us to ask the question; 'Is this the end of the world.' The ignorance of unbelief is oblivious to the truth that just as life and creation were deliberate so too is the end of the world. Revelation chapter 6 is not the end, maybe not even the beginning of the end but perhaps the end of the beginning, laying the foundation for the series of future catastrophes which await a world under the judgment and wrath of God. 

The four riders of the apocalypse introduce this series of judgments. These are the product of the opening of the first 4 seals of the book of Revelation chapter 5. Introducing each of these 4 horses of the apocalypse is one of the four living creatures (or beasts) of chapter 5. One by one these heavenly living creatures, stamped with the character of the eternal God present their earthly antithesis in the 4 horses. 

To reject the kingly lion character of God (Rev 5:7; 6:1) is to embrace the autocratic dictatorship of the expanding kingdom of the rider of the white horse. An omen of empire building. This is a warrior armed with a bow but no arrows, with thunder but no lighting, and given a crown he has not taken. The first phase of judgment lies within the realm of an expanding empire of rule and influence, more perhaps by threat and fear than by battle and blood. 

To refuse the sacrificial and atoning character of Christ in the calf (Rev5:7) is to embrace slaughter and death (6:3) in the merciless red horse. 

To reject man glorified in Christ is to degenerate to man emaciated, corrupted and destroyed in the black horse and to reject the heights of glory to which His Spirit eagle like can sore (Revelation chp 5 vs 7) will ultimately end in the depths and depravity of death and of hell (6:8). 

Here is the apocalyptic vision of John for a world which has come to an end, but not quite yet. 

Part of the graceinchrist.org systematic bible teaching series on the book of Revelation delivered by Dr J Stewart Gillespie.

Graceinchrist.org where bible teaching never sleeps.

Revelation chapter 5 verses 1 to 5 - The Book with the 7 Seals - Thy Kingdom Come - JS Gillespie - 01022022  

Upon the fulcrum of Revelation chapter 5 the whole of John's great prophetic book turns. John has introduced us to heaven in Revelation chapter 4 and to the God of heaven. In chapter 4 we learn WHAT God is; He is the covenant making and covenant keeping God of the rainbow encircled throne. All of His rule is founded on the principle of faithfulness and of God's unbreakable promises. He is the God of the crystal sea, impeccably Holy, absolutely pure. We glimpse WHO God is in the Jasper and the Sardine stone. The stones of the breastplate of Israel's high priest contain the names of Benjamin; the Son of His Father's right hand and Reuben: behold a Son. The God of eternity seated upon the throne of glory is the Son. This is the Jesus of the bible! Write above chapter 4 of Revelation: 

"Our Father which art in heaven..." 

Here is God in His dwelling. Here is God seated upon His throne! 

From chapter 6 to 19 of Revelation John will describe in detail not so much WHO God is or WHAT God is like but WHAT God will do. Chapter after awful chapter, catastrophe follows disaster and yet these calamities are anything short of natural or accidental. These earth shattering events are deliberate, ordered, designed and ordained; each one triggered by a definitive act of the Lamb and His angels. These events can in fact be traced back to the opening of the seven seals of Revelation chapter 5. 

And so after:

The 4 riders of the Apocalypse; harbingers of war, famine, death and disease you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

After the veiling of the sun and the blood red moon you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

After the destruction of 1/3 of the land, 1/3 of the sea, 1/3 of the rivers; you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

As the solar system moves and the stars fall; you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

As the bottomless pit is opened and as Apollyon leads the demonic locusts on their merciless mission; you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

As 200 million horsemen emerge to destroy 1/3 of mankind, you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

As Armageddon rages, the beast and Antichrist arise and the global financial and religious systems fall; you can write:

"Thy will be done on earth..."

With so much in these chapters as to who God is, what God is like and what God will do; what indeed is the purpose of Revelation chapter 5, and more particularly a scroll or book unsealed, one seal at a time unleashing global destruction? This pattern teaches me that:

  • Pain has a purpose
  • Grief has a Glory 
  • Madness has a meaning 

All of these subsequent judgments; wars and destructions are the essential forerunner to the opening of the book. It is in other words the opening of this book which heralds in Gods eternal Kingdom and New Jerusalem that necessitates the opening of this book. You can't have the open book without the preceding catastrophe!

You can't have success in life without the sacrifice!

You can't climb a mountain sitting on your sofa with your slippers on!

You can't have the donuts without the calories! 

You can't have a world of sin, rebellion, and separation from God without first the purging of fire, the fulfilment of the ultimate and eternal consequences of sin, the judgment of Satan and rebellion. To be separate from the God of life, light and love necessitates the experience of death, darkness and despair! 

The tragedy of Revelation has meaning and purpose as does all tragedy and turmoil under the hand of a sovereign God. 

To open the book that leads to Glory means to lose the seals which each demand judgment!

Graceinchrist.org where bible teaching never sleeps.

Revelation chapter 5 - The Book with 7 Seals - Outline Notes - JS Gillespie  

 

The Book with 7 seals:  

Book within a book  
Scroll within the seals  
Meaning within the Mystery  

Book within a book:  

Revelation chapter 5 presents us with a book  

It is a book on the hand of God  

It is a book in the hand of the lamb  

This is an interesting and strange phenomenon  

Here we are reading God’s book – the Bible, in God’s book the Bible we read of a book in the hand of God!  

That is rather strange!  

Herein is a book within a book!  

That of course is not completely unique in the Bible, the Bible does contain a number of references to ‘external’ books:  

The Book of the prophet Shemaiah  
The Book of Jehu the Son of Hanani  
The Book of Gad the Seer  
The Book of Nathan the Seer  
The Book of the acts of Solomon  
The Book of the Wars of the Lord  
The Book of Jasher  
The Books of the Kings of Babylon (Ezra 4:15)  
The Books of the Chronicles of Media and Persia (Esther 6:1; 10:2)  

Often of course a book or piece of literature will cross reference other works to give validity to it’s own thesis or ideas; as if the author is saying; ‘here you can go away and check the facts for yourself.’  

Intriguingly of course of all of those external books referenced by the Bible, none are still in existence. If you were to place your inter library loan request it would be returned as ‘volume unavailable’.  

The Bible has no real need of external validation in any shape nor form! The Bible is the absolute source of validation itself.  

It is interesting too, to reflect upon the unique character of the Bible we hold in our hands. That whilst all of these other books have been lost, some that perhaps we might think ought to have been preserved; the histories and chronicles of the Kings of Persia and Babylon, the histories and records of the greatest empires in the world, this book the Bible has bee preserved. Down through the centuries and generations, men and women have been persuaded of the unique value and content of this book and through fire and flame have preserved the Bible at great personal cost.  

In the archives of Yad Vashem are scrolls from the synagogues of Eastern Europe, texts of the Torah, preserved through the holocaust, scrolls stained with blood and burned by fire.  

Even for those who perhaps do not have faith in the Christ of the Bible, they must surely acknowledge the uniqueness of His book.  

Within the pages of this unique book; the bible, there is hidden another book; a book within a book, almost like the Russian dolls of old, a doll within a doll.  

We open the safe of the Bible, a book of phenomenal interest in and of itself and within it we find a locked safety deposit box!  

Perhaps we ay suspect that this book within a book will contain something of even greater and deeper interest? Some hidden mystery? Some deeper secret?  

In fact the hidden character of this book of Revelation chapter 5 is even deeper than that. The bible as we know it, is a title taken from the Greek ‘ta biblia’ which literally means the ‘books’ or the ‘scrolls’ plural.  

In our hands we not only have God’s book, but within that book we have 66 of God’s books; ‘ta biblia.’  

The book on the hand of God in Revelation chapter 5 is thus:  

A book within  
A book within  
A book  

That makes it of course a very interesting book indeed!  

It is perhaps also worth noting that what is translated as a ‘book’ in Revelation chapter 5 verse 1 is in reality a ‘scroll’ – a rolled up parchment or papyrus.  

The ancient word for book was of course ‘biblos’ which was the same as the word for a scroll. The word came from the Lebanese port of ‘biblos’ through which the exportation of papyrus came.  

The Book here in Revelation chapter 5, sealed with the 7 Seals would have been in the historical context and from the description given, in reality a scroll. That would be significant to notice for later.  

This is not only a book with a book but it is also:  

A Scroll within 7 seals:  

What may that indicate?  

Many over the years have been very caught up on what the contents of this book may be but perhaps an even better or more fundamental question lies in the very existence or description of this scroll with 7 seals.  

Why should the unfolding of the subsequent chapters of Revelation be dependent upon the loosing of the seals of this scroll?  

Why are chapters 6 to 19 dependent directly and indirectly on these scrolls being broken?  

Chapter 5 is positioned strategically within the book of Revelation  

It would be easy to miss the significance of the transition between from chapter 4 to chapter 6.  

In chapter 1 John has a vision of the Lord Jesus  

In chapters 2 to 3 – We are presented with practical and prophetic and personally ministry on teh 7 churches.  

Chapter 4 brings us into heaven and a glimpse of:  

Where God is  
Who God is – the Son of God – Reuben and Benjamin  
What God is like – sovereign, covenant making and covenant keeping, a God of absolute holiness  

In chapters 6 to 19 we see what God will do.  

Why bother then with chapter 5 and the book with 7 seals.  

Why break these seals?  

Why make everything else in the book of Revelation dependant upon the breaking of these seals? It is the breaking of these seals one by one that triggers:  

The 4 riders of the apocalypse  
The judgment upon the son, moon and stars  
The sounding of the 7 trumpets  
The destruction of 1/3 grass, sea, rivers and stars  
The release of the locusts from the pit  
The 200 million horseman of the apocalypse  
The rise of antichrist  
The pouring out of the 7 vials on man, sea, rivers, sun, moon and stars.  
The battle of Armageddon  
The fall of Babylon  

All of these catastrophic events are dependant upon the opening of the 7 seals!  

Had we no chapter 5 we would see:  

Who God is (chapter 4)  
What God does (chapter 6 to 19)  

But we would have no idea as to Why God did it!  

It is chapter 5 that teaches us that all of the events of chapters 6 to 19 are not simply reactive, ie their ultimate cause and purpose does not lie with man, these chapters are not solely focused on the subject of man’s sin and judgement, there is a bigger picture and a grander theme and goal.  

The cause of these global and universal events lies here in chapter 5. All of these subsequent chapters unfold, as a consequence of the breaking of the seals. These seals are broken that the scroll might be read. All subsequent events have this as their cause – the reading of the scroll.  

It is this scroll with its ultimate glory that demands the grief oo chapters 6 to 19, it is this scroll ultimately of salvation that requires the suffering of subsequent chapters.  

This is perhaps too a truth I can apply to my own life and experience. That the grief and the suffering are in the hands of the Lord the unwrapping of Divine blessing!  

These chapters are not solely the means of judgment  

These chapters are in fact the path to glory.  

Christ with a security and guarantee which comes from Him. Christ promised that we are safe and secure, in His hand and in His Father’s hands (John 10:28-31). Our salvation is signed, sealed and delivered. For our security we have the Word of Christ, we have His Word for it, ‘heaven and earth shall pass away but my Word shall not pass away.’ In these chapters we will see that Destiny is so secure, that in order to open and declare it, this world must indeed pass away and having passed away His eternal Word and purposes remain immutable.  

Here is a scroll passed from the hand of God to the lamb (5:1)  

This scroll in ‘On the right hand of Him that sat on the throne’(5:1), offered out for the lamb to take from His hand.  

From Revelation chapter 5 onwards, the story of this scroll reads like a mystery novel, like a cliff hanger film, or a children’s book that constantly teases the reader with, ‘but what’s in the scroll.’  

The story of Revelation from chapter 5 to chapter 19 is essentially the story of the unsealing of this scroll. The breaking of the 7 seals occupies chapters 5 to 6, the 7th seal includes the sounding of the 7 trumpets which is the subject of chapters 8 to 10, the 7th trumpet announces the transfer of the kingdoms of this world to Christ (chp 11) which results in the outpouring of the 7 vials, occupying chps 15 to 16 with the consequent fall of Babylon in chapters 17 to 18.  

The bulk of the book of Revelation pertains to the opening of this scroll.  

The question then remains – what does this scroll contain?  

What is in it?  

Title deeds of the world  
The future plans and purposes of God for the world  
The subsequent events of Revelation  
The book of Daniel chapter 12  
The lamb’s book of life  

hat is in it?  

Title deeds of the world  

Seems like a reasonable suggestion  

Whatever is in the hands of God must be important after all, that seems pretty important.  

By the time all of the seals are open the world is now ready for Christ to receive His Kingdom (11:15); so it may seem reasonable that these are the title deeds to the inheritance that Christ is about to receive.  

We also know that title deeds in Jeremiah were recorded on a scroll and sealed.  

We know historically that title deeds recorded on a scroll were sealed and witnessed and the names of the witnesses were written on the scroll, which may well relate to Rev 5:1.  

But:  

There is no clear statement in Revelation that these are title deeds.  

Certainly title deeds could be written on a scroll as they were in Jeremiah, but go along to any Roman museum such as the one outside Hexham and you will find that party invitations were written on them too!  

The identification of this scroll as a title deed seems greatly dependant on extra biblical knowledge and the serendipity of archaeology, a means of interpreting scripture with which I would take issue. Is not the child of God indwelt by the Spirit of God able to interpret the Word of God? John 14:6; 1 John 2:27.  

Why is it that in order to open the scroll one must be found who is ‘worthy’? Surely if this is the title deeds for the world then the only qualification to open the scroll is that of Deity?  

​ ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.’(Psalm 24:1)  

Why are redemptive rights needed take the book (5:8-9); do the deeds for the earth need to be redeemed? Do they need bought back? Were they lost? Were they not always Gods? Who can steal the deeds of the whole earth from God?  

The future plans and purposes of God for the world  

Certainly a reasonable suggestion and more or less the same as (3)  

The problem here of course is that it is the opening of the seals, blowing of the trumpets from the 7th seal and the pouring out of the vials which actually occupy the bulk of the book of revelation, no specific reference is made to the contents of the book referencing a plan as such.  

It seems a good suggestion but lacking substantial evidence.  

The subsequent events of the book of Revelation  

See above  

The book referenced in Daniel chapter 12 verse 4?  

I would consider this to be the book of Daniel itself, corresponding not to the book of Revelation chapter 5 but to the book of Revelation itself, cf. Rev 22:10.  

The lamb’s book of life  

Let me make another suggestion, unusual amongst the commentators, although not unknown.  

By the time the seals are opened, trumpets have sounded and the vials have been poured out we reach the closing chapters of Revelation, in fact the repercussions of those events take us to the threshold of chapter 20. The book appears to have been forgotten about if the previous interpretations are correct. No further mention of any of the contents of that scroll despite the fact that the unsealing of the scroll had global and universal repercussions throughout the book of Revelation. All of that pre amble and expectation, then according to the views that this is the deeds of the earth or the future plans for the earth, this all seems to evaporate in the most massive anticlimax of the entire book of Revelation, if not the bible.  

Details are added and developed regarding this book through the book of Revelation:  

Rev 13:8 : ‘And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’  

Rev 17:8 : “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.’’  

These 2 verses appear to be transitional, stepping stones from the ‘book’ taken by the lamb freshly slain in Revelation chapter 5 to the ‘book of life’of Revelation 20:12, 15.  

This would explain the need for one worthy to open the book in Revelation chapter 5 and that the qualifications of redemption. This is the Book of Life, only possible because of the work of redemption.  

As these seals are opened and the book of Revelation unfolds this qualification of Rev 5:9 is critical in the opening of the scroll. The unfolding purpose of God in Revelation is not primarily that of judgment upon a lost world but rather this book concludes with a new heaven and a new earth and a redeemed people. The emerald rainbow of Revelation 4 sets the scene for the subsequent chapters. Grace informs government, the elect are sealed, preserved and saved (Rev 7, 13, 14) and ultimately brought to the Kingdom (Rev 20) and to eternity (Rev 21-22).

Revelation chapter 5 - The Book with Seven Seals - J Stewart Gillespie  


We may expect something secret, something special, some deep and mysterious purpose in the book we discover inside the book of the bible. Not without significance do we discover in the final book of the bible, the book of Revelation, a book hidden within the book and kept secret till the very end. Of all the books external to the bible referenced by it, the book found in Revelation chapter 5, is one of the few whose whereabouts we know of. Many enquire as to what this book contains. Is it the title deeds of the world or universe? Probably not since the earth has no title deeds! The earth is the Lord's and then fullness thereof. No special qualification of redemption is needed by God to claim what is rightfully His! Does this book contain the details of future events? Does it detail what is to be revealed in chapters 6 to 19? It is not the reading of the scroll which provides the content of subsequent chapters but rather the losing of the seals. Not until all 7 seals are broken can the scroll be opened and read!

Perhaps a better question would be not so much what do we find in the scroll but why do we have the scroll? What purpose is there here in the scroll? Is the scroll here for mere dramatic effect? What purpose is there in the progressive breaking of each successive seal?

The meaning of the symbolism appears to rest in this simple observation that for the scroll to be opened the seals must be broken! From these broken seals, all of the subsequent events of Revelation flow. The reason behind the 4 riders of the apocalypse, the sounding of the 7 trumpets, the pouring out of the 7 vials of judgement, global destruction, the loosing of the locusts from the pit, the release of the 200 million horseman, the rise of the antichrist, Armageddon and the fall of Babylon, lies here in Revelation chapter 5. All of these catastrophic events find their cause not in man and not purely as a reaction or response to man's sin but rather in the eternal purposes of God. All of the judgements and events of Revelation chapters 6 to 19 are triggered by the opening of these seals. These seals are broken that the book might be opened. Gods purpose is to be found not in destruction but construction, not in grief but in the eternal glory beyond the judgements of this world, in the new heaven, the earth and the new Jerusalem, in the eternal glory of His Son. 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

What is Heaven like - The Crystal Sea of Heaven - Revelation chp 4 vs 6 - JS Gillespie  

 

Part 2 of our studies in Revelation chapter 4 - What is Heaven Like?

It is surprising that a book about God, from God doesn't say more than it does on the subject of the dwelling place of God! The bible is written of course precisely because man is isolated and alienated from heaven! We live on the wrong side of Eden to enjoy heaven with God. In reality however heaven is in essence a minority interest. The path to heaven is difficult and narrow and there few who embark on that road to eternal life. Heaven may well be a word found on the lips of many, especially at times of loss and bereavement but the heaven of popular imagination, as the universal destiny of all souls, the place of general reunions or the perpetuation of earthly pleasures bears no relationship to the heaven of Divine revelation.

 

In Revelation chapter 4 we gain a unique insight into what heaven is actually like. The heaven of Revelation chapter 4 is God centred. This heaven has a door, only one, the voice that calls His sheep on earth (John 10:3) is the same voice we hear in heaven, calling us through the same door (John 10:9). For John as for us all, the last voice we hear upon earth; the voice of the Lord Jesus (John 10:27); is the same voice, ever so familiar that we will hear in heaven. Heaven is the place of God's throne, it is the place where God rules and reigns. This ought to be no surprise to us. Perhaps even from our earliest repetition of the Lord's prayer we were aware that heaven was the place where "thy will be done"; heaven is the place of God's rule and the origin of God's Kingdom; "thy Kingdom come."

Seated upon that throne we glimpse the Son of my right hand (Benjamin), the Son of His mother's sorrow (Benoni); behold a Son (Reuben); symbolised by two stones from the breast plate of the High Priest of Israel. The jasper stone was the stone of Benjamin (the son of my right hand) and the sardine stone was the stone of Reuben: 'behold a son'. Here finally we behold the Son of His Father's right hand, who is also the son of His mother's sorrow 'Benoni.'

For heaven the floor is the crystal sea, and from the perspective of earth it becomes a crystal ceiling (Ezekiel chp1). The pattern of Solomon's temple echoed of this with the molten sea for the cleansing of the priests. In this place all cleansing is past. This sea is crystal clear, it does not function any longer to remove sin. This sea excludes sin, for in this place there is nought that defiles that can enter therein. There is no possibility of rolling out of earth and into heaven. Absolute holiness is a condition of entry and not a consequence. Only the "blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses from all sin."

with Grace in Christ

J Stewart Gillespie

What is Heaven Like? Of Thrones and Rainbows - Revelation chp 4 vs 1 to 5 - JS Gillespie  

Part 1 of our studies in Revelation chapter 4 - What is Heaven Like? 

Of Thrones and Rainbows

It's been a long journey but finally we have got there: heaven! The mysterious object of human conjecture, spoken of little even in the Bible. Perhaps the greatest mystery of all concerning this, the dwelling place of God lies in the fact that it isn't that mysterious after all!

There is a door to heaven (Rev 4:1), we already knew about that from the words of the Lord Jesus; "I am the door, by me if any man enter in He shall be saved."

There is a voice, a voice familiar, a voice as a trumpet we have already heard in chapter 1. This is the voice of Jesus. The first voice John hears in heaven is the last voice he heard on earth! This is of necessity true for us all. Entrance is by the door and called by the voice of Jesus, the same voice who called us on this side of the eternal (John 10:3-4).

Whilst heaven is to us a place unfamiliar, our relationship with heaven is in some aspects not so different from our relationship with this world. Here upon earth we are ignorant of the familiar, understanding little of what lies behind the commonplace. Heaven is a place of the unfamiliar. It is a great paradox of Revelation that as we begin to understand the unfamiliar, that is heaven, light is shed on the familiar of earth. What we learn from heaven explains ever so much of what lies behind the reality of earth. 

Heaven is the throne room of God; He reigns, He is in control, there is a plan and a purpose and meaning to life and creation, He brings to fulfilment those 300 ancient prophecies concerning Jesus. He moves empires and kingdoms, He orders and ordains the details of our life.

His throne is surrounded by the emblem of covenant promise; the rainbow. It is the ordered covenant keeping character of God that underpins the laws physical and spiritual behind the universe. We can no more break the laws of gravity and magnetism than we can the spiritual laws of reaping and sowing. He is reliable in the physical universe. He is reliable in the spiritual; His salvation is forever; "I give unto my sheep eternal life and they shall never perish."

The identity of the throne sitter seems obscured by two stones; the Jasper and the Sardine stone; yet turn them over and read the names written from the days of Exodus 28. These are the stones found upon the breast plate of the High Priest and containing inscribed within them the names of Jacobs sons; Benjamin, the son of my right hand, also named by his mother Rachael; Benoni and the Sardine stone of Reuben. The one upon the throne is the Son of His mother's sorrow, (Benoni) the Son of His Father's right hand; (Benjamin) can you 'behold a Son' (Reuben)? 

with

 

Grace in Christ 

 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

What is Heaven Like? - Revelation chapter 4 - JS Gillespie (25/06/2022) - Translated from English into Telugu  

Dr J Stewart Gillespie shares a study in Revelation chapter 4 - What is Heaven Like? In this chapter we gain a glimpse beyond earth into heaven. God has waited for thousands of years through the writing and inspiration of the Bible before He reveals to us what heaven is like! By the time we get to Revelation chapter 4 we find that the most surprising feature of heaven is that it is not that surprising after all. There is a door into heaven, a door we have heard of before in John chapter 10 There is a voice we hear in heaven, the same voice we heard upon earth in Revelation chapter 1. There is a throne in heaven, the same throne we have known of over many years, as we prayed, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We glimpse the one seated upon the throne in the Jasper and the Sardine stone and perceive that here is the Son of God. We discern the absolute holiness of God in the crystal sea. Only Jesus is able to fit us for such a place. Only the precious blood of God's sin is able to cleanse us from all iniquity. This message is given in English and translated into Telugu.

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

graceinchrist.org

The 7 Churches of Revelation - Thyatira - Facing Jezebel - Revelation chp 2 vs 18 to 29 - JS Gillespie  

 

Thyatira proves the adage that the most difficult problems we face are the ones we inherit. Prophetically Thyatira reflects that period of church history which develops after the wholesale sell out to paganism by the Emperor Constantine. From the practices of paganism amongst others comes the:

 

  1. Error of the Altar - inferring that the work of Jesus on cross is not yet finished nor sufficient
  2. Error of the Priesthood - inferring that the work of the Holy Spirit as our intercessor is not sufficient 
  3. Error of our view of God - confusing the identity and supremacy of the one true God of heaven with many false Gods.

It was the first of these errors which prevailed at Thyatira. Here was a church trying their level best to work their way to heaven (2:19) and still with a sympathy for the altar, any altar (2:20). 

For the first and only time in these 7 letters to the churches, the church is dominated by the feminine; by Jezebel. Reflecting back on church history, we see at this point in time the development of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy with the unbiblical elevation of Mary and the development of an ideology totally at odds with her biblical place as the earthly mother of Jesus. By 1954 and the papal bull of Pope Pius XII, in Ad Caeli Reginum, Mary is elevated to the "Queen of heaven"; an ancient pagan title for Astarte and she is assigned a form of Divinity seated "at the right hand of God" (point 16); a place reserved for Christ (cf. Psalm 110). It is asserted in the papal bull that "heaven and earth are filled with the sanctity of thy glory" a blasphemous theft of the Divine glory from Psa72:19 and Habbakuk. Borrowing from the pagan myths of Semiramis and Tammuz; Isis and Horus, the edict conflates Mary as not only the mother of Jesus but also the bride of her Son! The crowning absurdity to the apostate view of Mary comes with the assertion in point 37 that Mary, usurping the place of the Holy Spirit (Heb 9:14) "freely offered Him for us" and thus "assisted in our redemption". Here is the period of church history corresponding to the error of the false revelation of Jezebel.

 

Jezebel needs to be faced, not an easy task. For recovery to come they must:

 

  1. Take Christ Seriously as Lord and judge with his eyes as flames of fire and feet of brass
  2. See Christ uniquely as "The Son of God" - His Glory He will not share with another 
  3. Be satisfied with Christ completely - rest in His finished work 

 

From a series of bible teaching messages preached in New Cumnock, as part of our exposition of the book of Revelation 

Yours by 

Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 Churches of Revelation - Revelation chapter 2 vs 1 to 7 - JS Gillespie  

The opening chapters of this great book of prophecy (Rev 1:3) describes 7 carefully arranged portraits of churches in the western part of modern day Turkey. It is possible to see in them a snap shot of the condition of the church historically. As we reflect upon them we are compelled to consider them practically; what kind of church am I in? Beyond this the challenge is surely to consider these churches personally; what am I in my church? It comes as little surprise to realise that the book of Revelation begins as it continues; that is prophetically. These 7 churches sketch out the history of the western Christian church for the past 2000 years:

 

Ephesus - the early Apostolic Church

Smyrna - the church persecuted under successive Roman Emperors

Pergamos - the mixed marriage of professing Christianity and paganism triggered by the professed conversion of Constantine.

Thyatira - the development of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

Sardis - the rediscovery of truth and reformation 

Philadelphia - the explosion of evangelism through the open door of mission in the 18th to 20th century

Laodicea - the self contented, self amused and financially prosperous western church of today 

 

The problems with the church began early with Ephesus. Right at the beginning Christ presents Himself as He ought to be considered and honoured; at the centre of His church; tragically from this His people have drifted in heart. Here lie the source of 2 millenia of problems.

From a bible teaching series expounding the book of Revelation.

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chapter 2 verses 18 to 29 - The 7 churches of Revelation - Thyatira and the Error of the Altar - JS Gillespie  

Thyatira prophetically follows on after Pergamos; the church of the mixed marriage. The period of Thyatira relates to that phase of the church during which Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy develops. Constantine after his profession of Christianity imported many pagan practices into the church; the 3 greatest of which were:

 

  1. The Error of the Altar
  2. The Error of the Priesthood 
  3. The Error of the understanding of God 

 

The error of the altar infers that the work of Christ is not complete and requires repetition or a contribution from us. This is the problem underlying the failures at Thyatira. The church is characterised by works, works and more works, motivated quite possibly by a desire to earn salvation.

In the multicultural and apathetic setting of Thyatira, to some Jesus became one amongst many Gods and His uniqueness became blurred. Unlike Apollo, the patron God of Thyatira Jesus was not 'a' Son of God but Christ is 'THE' Son of God! He is:

  • Unique in His birth
  • Unique in His death
  • Unique in His sinless humanity 
  • Unique in His resurrection 
  • Unique in His miracles
  • Unique in His claim to be the way of salvation 
  • Unique in the testimony of scripture
  • Unique in His impact on history 

Let us see the uniqueness of His Person 

Let us understand the uniqueness and completeness of His work

 

Part of our sermon series on the exposition of the book of Revelation 

The seven churches of Revelation - Thyatira 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 churches of Revelation - Thyatira - Recovery against all Odds - Revelation chp 2 vs 18 to 29 - JS Gillespie - 27102021  

Bible teaching on the subject of the church at Thyatira from the 7 churches of Revelation 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chp 3 vs 18 to 29 - The 7 churches of Revelation - Thyatira - The Tragedy of the Altar - JS Gillespie - 20102021 

To the church of Thyatira Christ is presented as the "Son of God" (v18). This is the only time He is so presented to any of the 7 churches! Surely such a title goes without saying? Surely the Lord Jesus does not need to introduce Himself to His own church as the "Son of God"? Perhaps here at Thyatira He does? 

The uniqueness of who Jesus is has been eclipsed by affections for other things! 

Historically this church would relate to that period of time between: 

606 AD -  Bonificae assumes the role of universal Bishop of the church up until 

1517 AD - the beginning of the protestant reformation with Luther and his 95 Theses nailed to the church door at Wittenberg.

That is interesting because within this time period lies the development of: 

  • Roman Catholicism 
  • Eastern orthodoxy 
  • Russian orthodoxy 
  • Coptic orthodoxy 
  • Ukrainine orthodoxy 
  • Greek orthodoxy 

Systems of Christianised religion with a lot in common: 

Veneration of 'saints' 
Adoration of relics 
Representations of the image of Christ / God 
Position given to the virgin 
An altar adopted from paganism - often given pride of place in their buildings - ought really to have a sign on it: 'out of order since AD34' 
Liturgy 
Symbolism 
Charms 
Rosary 

A very 'crowded' system in which Christ could well be seen as part of something bigger, one of many?? 

In case you think that is a very uncharitable assessment of these systems allow me to remind you of how even the best of men, momentarily lost sight of the uniqueness of Jesus on the Mount of transfiguration; 'let us make 3 tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses and one for Elijah,' as here the voice from heaven had to declare; 'this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased' 

In a Roman Catholic Church in the centre of Gdansk there is one of the old Roman Catholic churches in the city, built by the Carmelite monks, nominally Christian. There displayed in that place is their shield, a coat of arms, their insignia; a shield with 3 stars: 

  1. a star for Elijah 
  2. a star for Elisha 
  3. a star for the virgin Mary 

Anyone missing?? 

  • This is my body 
  • This my Bride 
  • This is my Building 

The 2 missing features from Revelation chapter 1 are seen here: 

To Pergamos - the Lord presents Himself as the one who has the sharp 2 edged sword - speaking of His discernment but to the church at Thyatira; the Lord presents Himself with:

  1. eyes like a flame of fire - speaking of His perception 
  2. Feet like fine brass - speaking of His judgment 

Here at Thyatira it is perhaps not so much a case of lack of discernment as being quite aware: 

  • of their compromise? 
  • of the error 
  • of the sin 

and yet still deliberately pursuing it, as if God will turn a blind eye? 

The case of Jezebel seems to be a case in point: she was responsible for the murder of priests and of Naboth. 
Both Jezebel and the compromising believers at Thyatira knew their sin and thought they would get away with it! Here it is the perception and the judgment of Christ which is presented. There is no evading His judgment nor His discernment. 

 v20 - "to teach and to seduce my servants" 

2 separate condemnations perhaps here? 

  1. A woman out with her God given sphere - teaching in the church; a significant error. Consider 1 Timothy chapter 2 and 1 Corinthians chapter 14:34 
  2. The seduction as a consequence - error. 

v21 - God does judge sin at times by abandoning men to their own error and sin 

cf. Romans chapter 1: 

  • Idolatry 
  • Heathenism 
  • Atheism 
  • Homosexuality 

Often sin in the life of the believer is 'believing sin'! That is sin from the perspective of grace! Sin with a smattering of Theology. We can be deceived into believing that the grace and goodness of God will not abandon us to the consequences of our sin! I would liken it to that spirit of youthfulness that considers itself: 

  • Invincible 
  • Indestructible 
  • Blaze 

Believing itself beyond vulnerability, taking risks, living dangerously. But with a 'faith' that nothing can harm us surely? Wearing faith as an amulet that protects us from the consequences of our own folly is a deeper folly still! 

v23 - It is often the case that the consequences of the sin and failing of one generation can ultimately reach their fulfilment in the next generation! 

Let us be wary of the: 

  • busy 
  • popular 
  • appealing 
  • easy 

Christianity - especially with what it spawns 

"with death" 

"death" as a definite entity rather than the passive absence of life 

 

If you are happy with the prophetic aspect of the 7 churches then you will note an intriguing division of the 7 churches. 

When you arrive at the 4th to the 7th churches a phrase begins to appear that does not appear in the first 3: 

2:25 "till I come" 

3:3 "I will come on thee" 

3:10 "I will keep thee from this hour" 

3:10 "behold I come quickly" 

3:20 "behold I stand at the door and knock" 

The last 4 continue until the end! 

"Rule them with a rod of iron" - the moral consistency of life necessary for it to be extended into ministry! 

"I will give Him the morning star" - the neglected Son of God - gifted to them that are Holy.

From a bible teaching series on the 7 churches of Revelation 

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 Churches of Revelation - Smyrna - Confidence in Catastrophe  

The 7 churches of Revelation : Smyrna : Revelation chapter 2 

Much could be said of Smyrna 

Smyrna from the Greek word Myrrh from the Hebrew word  ‘mor’ for bitterness. 

What was a fragrant perfume: 

Psalm 45:8 
Prov 7:17 
Song of Solomon 1:13; 5:5 

 was also a bitter resin. 

Myrrh was a bitter tasting perfume, both bitter and fragrant, herein is the paradox of Smyrna! 

A church that suffers! 

  • Tribulation (v9) 
  • Poverty (v9) 
  • Suffer (v10) 
  • Trial (v10) 
  • Tribulation (v10) 
  • Death (v10) 

One aspect of Smyrna perhaps not so often considered is the importance or value of understanding, insight, ‘philosophy,’ the importance of a right outlook on life, the right perspective on life. 

The power of the mind 

‘Man’s search for meaning’ – Viktor Frankyl 

Survival not only dependant on physical strength or endurance but also dependant on the mindset of the person; eg Christmas 1944 – many died. 

“everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms – to choose ones attitude in any given set of circumstances, to chose one’s own way.” 

“Ever more people today have the means to live but no meaning to live for” 

“Those who have a why to live can bear with almost any how” (Nietzsche) 

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer” 

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances but only by lack of meaning and purpose” 

“If there is meaning in life at all then there must be meaning in suffering” 

“we who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

The ministry to Smyrna, highlights the importance of ministry. 

The importance of right thinking and of Bible teaching. 

The importance of looking behind the immediate set of circumstances and experiences. 

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances but only by lack of meaning and purpose” 

“If there is meaning in life at all then there must be meaning in suffering” (V Frankyl) 

One of the great issues to which Smyrna introduces us is that subject of suffering; the problem of pain. 

Herein lies one of the great arguments against God, a problem that discourages men from faith in God and discourages the faith of those who trust in God. 

An argument formulated by Greek philosopher Epicurus: 

“Is God willing to prevent evil but not able – He is not omnipotent. 

If He is able but not willing then He is malevolent 

If He is both able and willing then whence cometh evil? 

If He is neither able nor willing then why call Him God?” 

 although perhaps most succinctly put by CS Lewis: 

If God is good He ought to desire His people to be happy. 

If God is all powerful He ought to be able to make His people happy 

If His people are not happy then: 

               God is not good 

               God is not all powerful 

               God is not 

On the surface a fairly straightforward and robust argument but one which suffers from at least 5 failings: 

It is a moral argument – if there is no God as the argument suggests you are going to have a difficult time in shoring up your idea of morality! You are going to flounder to prove that unhappiness is bad, bad for you but maybe good for me. Cutting lives short for example may well reduce the sum total suffering of that life and the effect of that life on others. 

 

It is a logical argument – what makes you think that a random universe can throw together a brain of atoms, undesigned and unchecked against any standard that results in being able to draw any reasonable conclusion about anything? 


The solution lies in the argument that happiness is dependent on goodness – herein is the simplest point! The argument presumes that a good God desires happiness, ie happiness is dependant on goodness; thus absolute happiness is dependent on absolute goodness; a condition we do not have. We cannot have a square circle! A square circle remains absurd even if we prefix it with the term ‘God’ or not. A fallen world is the consequence of free choice, to have no fall is to have no choice, to have no choice is to have no humanity. You cannot have it both ways. 

 

It limits the sovereignty of God restricting God to act in a way and using means which only ever act to result in happiness, immediate pleasure. What makes you assume that God is so small that He cannot work all things according to His own will, even the rebellion of men? 

 

It assumes that no ultimate good can come from sorrow, sadness and suffering. Suffering and sacrifice can ultimately bring good. 

It is these later 2 points that we see at Smyrna. 

That God is able to use the trials and the tears, the suffering and pain, sorrow and the sadness for our good and His Glory and that from the deep and difficult experiences of life there does and can emerge meaning and purpose and Glory. 

               

The view of God that others have of Him is at times way too small; your trials and afflictions are ordered, defined and determined cf Daniel 9:24-27 

They are all bookended within the purposes and plans of He who is the first and the last. 

The idea that suggests that if evil happens then God is not in control is wrong on so many levels; one of which is that God is so omnipotent, so in control that He is able to work the purposes of men into the fabric of sovereign purposes to bring about the fulfilment of His will! 

They have the ministry of a Person 

Their Suffering is Defined 

‘first and last’ – setting the boundaries 

There is nothing so difficult to cope with than a trial which seems to: 

Have no real meaning / origin, no definite course / beginning, no purpose, pointless. 
No prospect of an end in view 

Christ sets the limits 

There is purpose 

There is a prospect 

Time and experience are defined by the boundary conditions I set for it! 

A Person, pre-eminent and in control 

Purpose and Presidency 

A ministry of empathy 

He understands 

He ‘was dead and is alive’ 

He has been there! 

Suffering destroyed by victory! Destiny - In this there is the promise of victory! 

Death is not the end 

Suffering is not final 

“was dead and is alive” 

Suffering Discerned : “I Know” 

Define, redefine, reframe what you mean by ‘rich’ by success, don’t just judge your life by the material. 

Discouragement – don’t get discouraged by the opinion of others, take a step back and consider God’s opinion of them; what does God think about those who think about you (v9)? 
This trial is defined and limited to 10 days – 10 years of intense persecution? 10 persecuting emperors? 10 specific days for Smyrna? 
Results – from affliction comes fruitfulness (v10); from faithfulness, a crown of life, 
Do not fear the suffering (v10) – the fear can be greater than the reality! 
The story is not over until it is over (v11); “should not be hurt of the 2nd death”   

There is the prospect and promise of victory. 

Here is the antedote to despair – a correct perspective 

‘good things happen to good people’ 

What’s the point – I’ve done everything correct and now look at the mess that I’m in! 

The perspective that difficult circumstances are evidence of Divine displeasure brings despair and defeat. 

That perspective is of course not necessarily correct as is evidenced in the life of Christ. 

Let’s look a little deeper, take a glimpse behind the veil, looking behind the appearance to reality. 

This is the path the Saviour trod (v8) 
There is material poverty (v9) but spiritual wealth (v9). Behind the appearance of the material lies the eternal and the spiritual! It is a great error to conflate the two! 
Might is not right (v9) just because they are powerful does not mean that they are right. 
Satan is behind the attack (v10) 

Purpose 
Perspective

From a bible teaching series on the book of Revelation presented at Faskally House Pitlochry, Families week.

Yours by 

Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 churches of Revelation - Ephesus - It was really Boring without Him   

Ephesus - the 7 churches of the Revelation:

Within this 1st of the letters to the 7 churches of Asia we have what is arguably the most significant statement made throughout the entire 7 letters. 

‘In life the most important thing is that the most important thing remains the most important thing.’ 

At Ephesus it would appear that the most important thing, or better the most important person, becomes number 2, 3 or 4 in a list of revised priorities! 

If I managed to convince you last week that these 7 churches could be viewed in 5 ways; 4 you will find elsewhere, and the 5th known only to you and me: 

  • Historically 
  • Practically – ‘what kind of church am I in?’ 
  • Personally – ‘what am I in this church?’ – in each there is the ‘overcomer’ and the exception (2:24; 3:4) 
  • Prophetically: 

The significance of ‘7’ 
These stars and lampstands are ‘mysteries’ (1:20) 
This whole book is a book of prophecy 

Perfectly / Positionally / Eternally in Christ 

What is a lampstand on earth is also a star in heaven. 
The temporal has a link with the eternal. 
The earthy is a reflection of the heavenly; as was the tabernacle and temple of old. 
What is done of Christ on earth, before men and in time has an abiding worth and dignity in heaven, before God and eternally. 
That reward never passes away!  
All of the ministry to these 7 churches has as its goal the conformity of each church to the eternal and heavenly standard for it – its star in heaven! 
Every step of obedience to this ministry and conformity to it brings us closer to God’s glorious vision of His church in Christ. 
The star is what the church is in Christ – its perfect heavenly representative and the lampstand what that church is on earth. 


Cf Elizabeth Elliott who speaks of love as being God’s gift to allow us to see another person the way God originally intended them to be. 

 

If we appreciate that prophetic aspect to the 7 churches then we will see that in Ephesus that we have the PRIMITIVE church – the very first of the 7 churches, the church of the apostolic era and first century church. 

It will be appreciated that problems and errors affecting the foundation of a structure could potentially have lasting and catastrophic effects on the whole of the structure subsequently; like a bad foundation to a house or like the sin sown into humanity in Eden! So it is here. The fundamental problem identified in Ephesus resonates through the subsequent churches; an empty hunger seeking fulfilment throughout the 7 in different avenues. 

The church at Ephesus is unique in this list of 7 – it is the only one that we have any other NT letter addressed to: Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy. It is only Laodicea out of the others which is mentioned elsewhere in Colossians 4:16. 

That turns out to be particularly helpful in our understanding of what is actually going on here at Ephesus! 

Verse 2 – the deficit at Ephesus has often been noticed: 

“I know thy works, and thy labour and thy patience…” 

Cf 

“Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;” (1 Thessalonians 1:3) 

What has happened to: 

Faith 
Love 
Hope 

That is of course a very pertinent observation, however for me the more pressing question for me is not only: 

What happened to … 
How could anything happen without… 

It is absolutely astounding, that you could remove: 

Faith 
Love 
Hope 

Strip away the essence of Christian experience and yet everything seems to run on regardless!! 

That is a phenomenal observation! 

This is a church in a coma! 

Why? How? 

Habit 
Ritual 
Routine 
Sense of duty / expectation 

Many people find great reassurance in going through the same rituals and routines week after week month after month, never really critically examining what and why they are doing what they are doing, if anything is coming out of it. 

 

This church seems to have become focused upon / satisfied with: 

principles, precepts, dogma and teaching; “and hast found them liars” (v2) 
practices 
patterns of behaviour 

But not the PERSON of Christ! 

What would such a church look like? 

Boring Orthodoxy? – routine and ritual with no reality of the presence of Christ and the power of the Word of God?? 
Respectably backslidden? 

As opposed perhaps to Pergamos and Thyatira: 

Exciting Heresy 

Or Laodiceas 

Entertaining Vacuum 

Ephesus seems to be dogged with the problem of: 

                              ‘Fatal Distraction’ 

Ephesus has become focused on: 

Activity for Christ (v2) – Toil 
Standards of Christ (v2) – Testing 
Truth about Christ (v3) – Truth 
Persevering because of Christ (v3) – Testimony 

Ephesus strikes me as being like a bad marriage; in which one or both partners are so busy doing and working and earning that they are never present for one another! 

Ephesus is the NT church so dogged by distraction: 

1 & 2 Timothy: 

  • False Teachers – 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17ff 
  • False Teaching – 1:4ff; 4:14ff; 4:16; 4:2; Asceticism (4:3ff) 
  • False Gospel of works righteousness – 1 Tim1:7-9; 1:13ff 
  • Immorality – 1:5, 10; 1:19-20; 3:1ff; 3:9, 12; 4:2; 5:20-24; 6:5; 2 Tim 2:18-22; 26 
  • Materialism – 6:5-10; 6:17-19 
  • Lack of fervour in prayer – 2:1ff and evangelism 2:1ff; 2:8 

 

It is Ephesus which ultimately becomes canvas upon which is painted the fatal distraction and false desires of the other loves of the last days: 

 

  • Lovers of Self (2 Tim 3:2) 
  • Lovers of Money (2 Tim 3:2) 
  • Lovers of Pleasure (2 Tim 3:4) 

 

Intriguingly the Ephesians appear to have tackled many of these problems highlighted by Paul to Timothy: 

  • Deficit in activity – Rev 2:2 
  • False Teachers – Rev 2:2 
  • False Teaching and the Truth – Rev 2:2 
  • Immorality and evil – Rev 2:2 

They appear to have addressed: 

Moral Problems 
Doctrinal Problems 
False Teachers 
Inactivity 

But they haven’t really managed to tackle the underlying problem! 

“thou hast left thy first love” (v4) 

In many ways our understanding of this statement is critical not only for our understanding of Ephesus but also for our understanding of the other 6 churches, since this error lies at the foundation of all subsequent churches and their problems! 

So what was this problem? 

It is a problem which reflects the central concern of Paul for the Ephesians in 1 Timothy 3:16: 

  • 1 Timothy chp 1 – Law and Sin 
  • 1 Timothy chp 2 – Sacrifice and Saviour 
  • 1 Timothy 3:16 – The Sanctuary ark and the mercy seat 
  • 1 Timothy chp 4 – The lamp, the loaf and the altar of incense 
  • 1 Timothy chp 5 – The sacred 
  • 1 Timothy chp 6 – The secular 

The deficit lies in what ought to be at the centre of our Christian life – Christ! 

What does it mean to have ‘left your first love’? 

Often times this is interpreted to mean that the church at Ephesus has left the ‘intensity of the love it had at first’. 

That this was a problem of INTENSITY of PASSION 

The problem with that is that if it primarily means the INTENSITY of PASSION it really has little meaning at all. 

 

The problem with setting a fail or a standard based on ‘not enough’ you need a ‘bit more’ is that this will always be true! There is always more that we could love. 

How much is enough? 

How can I have enough? 

How can I know I have enough? 

An unrealistic expectation founded on an unjustified assumption leading to an unachievable standard! 

I would suggest that the primary issue here is more concrete, down to earth and practical. 

This is not so much leaving the intensity of love but rather leaving the object of love. 

Not primarily a matter of PASSION but rather a matter of the PERSON. 

Not WHAT but WHO 

That seems hinted at by the use of the word “left” : ἀφίημι  - used approximately 167 times in NT and almost always used of leaving a person or of leaving an object eg nets, a cloak, debts. 

The solution to the problem then is not: 

How do I work up a greater passion – which will never succeed – there will always be a greater passion 

But rather 

How do I get closer to the person? 

In 1 & 2 Timothy they had got caught up with all of the distractions, here in Revelation they had got caught up with dealing with the distractions and all the activity of being a Christian! 

What now seems to hinder is not the problem but rather the solution to the problem! 

Starting with the problems won’t necessarily bring you into communion with Christ. 

Starting with communion with Christ will tackle the problems however. 

Ephesus is unique amongst the 7 churches of Asia in that we have other NT letters written to this church: Ephesians, 1 + 2 Timothy 

We know relatively so much about it 

Only Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians 4:16 

That is useful for there are some fundamental issues here: 

Ephesus is the first of 7 churches 
Error at the foundation may well make its way through the whole of subsequent church history, if you do as I do take a church perspective on the pattern of the 7 churches. 

As you travel through Europe and see the impact of Christianity on city skyline can’t help but be impressed by the impact that Christianity has had. Yet as you take a closer look you are equally struck by the amount of other things and the tangents that people have gone off on. 

Probably out of the 7 churches of Revelation I have heard more ministry from Ephesus than any of the others, with Laodicea a close 2nd. It would be and has been very easy to take this verse and to do violence to the verse and use it to berate the believer. 

That is not only an unproductive approach but is also an erroneous one. 

Over the years I have heard this text used to chasten the Christian that they have left their original intensity of affection to Christ, that their current levels of devotion and love for Christ are insufficient and that that intensity, devotion and passion must be augmented to previous levels. 

This is very misleading. 

This is almost a salvation by works. 

This is not the quantity nor even the quality of a believers devotion to Christ this is the presence or absence of it as a fact! 

Its not the kind of love but the reality of that relationship that is absent! 

Instead of a relationship with Christ being number 1, that relationship became number 2. 

Like Adam in the garden (2:7) the tree of knowledge of good and evil, deceived by Satan, crept in and became the priority; displacing the tree of life (2:9) from it’s Divinely appointed centre place. 

The beginning of the Church seems to re-echoe the fundamental problem at the beginning of creation! 

History may not repeat itself but it certainly rhymes! 

1 + 2 Timothy are so important; these letters give us the background as to what had been making inroads at Ephesus: 

  • Hedonism (1:19ff; 3:1ff; 4:12) 
  • Antinominism (1:19ff) 
  • Jewish mysticism and the mystery religions (1:4ff; 4:7) 
  • Legalism (1:7ff) and asceticism (4:3ff) 
  • Materialism (6:10) 
  • Demonic deception (4:1ff) 

This is why at the centre of 1 Timothy in 3:16 we have THE GREAT MYSTERY, far surpassing anything you could be offered in any of the mystery religions! 

They have let their first love (2:4). 

How did that happen? 

Failed to grasp the obvious 

The all sufficiency of Christ 

As the foundation and cornerstone of the building, the head of the body and the bridegroom of the church. 

Christianity is all about Christ 

Neglected the essentials 

The centrality of Christ 

Distracted by their own attainments and spirituality 

False teachers 

False teaching 

The world 

Distracted by the utterly irrelevant 

and then inevitably: 

'thou hast left thy first love' (2:4) 

What is the content to this our first love? 

His Person 
His Presence 
His Peace 
His Personal ministry 
His Prayerful communion 

This is a relationship with a person 

First the person, not the religion, not the activity but the person 

That relationship with Christ is pre-eminent 

His Person 

in the scriptures 
in prophecy 
in picture 
in patterns 
in the gospel 

  

His Presence 

'Jesus Himself drew near' 
'Lo I am with you' 
'There am I in the midst of them' 
'I shall not leave you comfortless, I will come to you' 
'The joy of the Lord is thy strength' 

His Peace 

That surpasses understanding 
The peace of the upper room 
'my peace give I unto you' 

Prayer 

Communion with Him is two way 

Personal Communion 

'God is in you of a truth' 
'let him speak as the oracles of God' 

'Thou hast left thy first love' 

Here is the first church 

Here is the first condemnation 

The first condemnation of the first church 

This becomes the primary, the root condemnation for each of the failing churches, leading to all of the condemnations thereafter. 

Leaving our first love is a prelude to disaster 

It is easy to see how that could happen when the heart of Christian experience has been removed. 

It is like the distinction between Mary and Martha: 

Luke 10:40-43 “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

From an expository series of bible teaching messages preached at Faskally House, Pitlochry as part of the Families Week 2021.

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 Churches of Revelation - Pergamos and the Virus of Compromise - Revelation chp 2 vs 12 to 17 - JS Gillespie  

The seven churches of Revelation - Pergamos and the Virus of Compromise:

The 3rd of 7 churches in Revelation chps 2 + 3 

The tactics so far from Satan have been: 

1 - Drive a wedge between the believer and Christ – Ephesus. 

Satan sought to distance from a person rather than simply from the intensity of a passion! The attack at Ephesus was not really about quantity / quality but rather about reality. The reality of the churches relationship with Christ! It’s the old error back again – substitution and distraction (v7). The same error as Eden; Satan presents something better than God! This is distraction from the true centre which at Eden was the tree of life rather than the attractive centre of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 

 

2 - Persecution and attack – Smyrna 

 

3 - Compromise – probably the most successful tactic so far! 

 

Pergamos – can be translated as marriage, although some maintain that it ought not to be translated as marriage but rather as citadel. 

‘per’ – mixed 

‘gamos’ – marriage 

 

The fact that it could be translated as marriage is nonetheless interesting since that would fit very well with what appears to have been happening at this church; union between church and the pagan world around it! 

Pergamos would relate to that period of the church prophetically beginning with the professed conversion of Constantine and the Edict of Milan 313 AD 

With the conversion of Constantine, this created a massive problem. Constantine was himself regarded as a god and headed up the whole Roman cultic system! 

What do you do with paganism when the man at the top of the system gets converted? 

The old paganism was adopted into Christianity. 

Old pagan priests, places, practices were all Christianised. 

  • Christian buildings with altars and idols 
  • Altars 
  • Priests 
  • Holy water 
  • Rosary 
  • Mother and child cult 
  • The mysteries, sacramentum, sacraments – mystery of the mass and baptism 
  • Symbolism of saints 
  • Purgatory 

Pergamos is one of the 7 churches with serious problems, although not necessarily with a terminal prognosis. 

A serious illness but not a terminal prognosis. 

For the first time and the only time to these 7 churches Christ presents Himself as the one with the “sharp sword with two edges.” 

The sharp sword proceeding from His mouth (1:16) – the Word of God (Heb 4:12) 

Here is the sword of discernment 

Christ decides 

Christ discerns 

Christ divides 

He is able to discern and divide even when they are not. 

Here is the need of the moment met by Christ. 

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not…” (James 1:5ff) 

This is a sword that will not only bring judgment but will also bring salvation by separation! 

Vs 13 – The setting, circumstances and Satan 

Sometimes Christians struggle and fail where we haven’t but perhaps they have fallen and failed in circumstances and under pressures and trials through which we have never passed! 

 

Perhaps we have not fallen like them 

Perhaps we have not been tested like them! 

Their circumstances, intricately linked with Satan; ‘where Satan’s seat is’ (v13) 

‘seat’ : throne: ‘θρόνος’ 

Is it a specific place at Pergamos? 

There are certainly plenty of contenders for that title: 

1 - The altar of Zeus and Athena – the great altar of Pergamon; a massive altar on the hillside. 

Zeus – the head of the Greek Pantheon of gods; the ‘god of gods’ in paganism according to Plato Paul taught the Corinthians that behind the idol are devils (1 Co 10:20); Clement made the conceptual leap that since Zeus is the head of the false gods, he must be Satan! 


The Pergamon altar was excavated by a German archaeologist and transported to Berlin in the early 1900’s. The exhibition opened in the Pergamon museum in 1930. This became the inspiration behind the design for Alberts Speir’s Nuremberg stadium from which Hitler made his first public declaration of the ‘final solution.’ 

2 - Temple of Asclepius 

This represented the second largest temple in the Asian world to the cult of Asclepius and symbolised by the serpent on the pole. A symbol of course highly suggestive of Satan. Treatment at the temple involved lying on the floor under the influence of hypnotics and allowing snakes from the temple to crawl over you. Not that hugely effective I would think, but a great way of keeping the waiting lists down. 

3 - Temples to the Emperor cult – Augustus, Roma 

This was for the Christians of Pergamos very dangerous and ominous. A pinch of incense was required to be offered on the altar to Caesar. This was a dangerous place for a Christian to be who refused to deny his faith and blaspheme the God of heaven by worshipping false gods. Some later writers suggest that it was this that Antipas fell foul of. 

Plenty of options – which one? It is impossible to say. Surely the atmosphere of the entire city is that of idolatry however, of demonism and satanic influence. Pergamon is the Asiatic stronghold of Satan; perhaps in a similar way to Jerusalem being the city of the Lord! 

Antipas: 

Little in the way of details given of his martyrdom, but interestingly referenced externally in other Christian literature. 

Simon Metaphrastes, a Byzantine writer in the 10th century makes reference to the tradition that Antipas refused to offer a sacrifice to false gods, and refused to recant, that he was put inside a hollow brass bull and roasted alive and that he died under the persecution of Domitian. 

Antipas is also referenced by Tertullian in the 2nd century and Andrea’s of Caeserea in the 6th century 

There is also a later tradition that Antipas was challenged by his persecutors with; ‘behold the whole world is against you.’ Unphased by this Antipas is reputed to have replied ‘well that must mean that I am against the whole world!’ 

V14 – great pressure to compromise. 

The doctrine of Balaam – a doctrine of corruption and compromise 

Notice the power to overcome compromise: 

Discern: 

  1. Doctrine 
  2. Diet 
  3. Desires 

Of the world around you 

If it arises from a world foreign to God then its ideas, philosophies, appetite and entertainments are immediately suspect. 

Almost by definition if it is good in the eyes of the world, it is probably bad! 

The Nicolaitans appear to promote exactly this: 

Iranaeus of Lyon; in his book ‘Against the Heresis’ comments that the Nicolaitans were a group who “lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.” 

Nicolaitans could also be literally translated as ‘nico’ – over and ‘laitanes’ – people – probably a double meaning here in the name – both literal and symbolic in the context of the prophetic meaning of the church. 

The encouragement and consolation: 

Hidden manna: the manna of the Holy of Holies: 

Hidden in the sanctuary 
Hidden under the mercy seat 
Hidden in the golden pot 

Here is the Divine provision for those excluded and uncompromising – feeding on the bread of life, the bread of God, the bread that came down form heaven. 

A distant experience of the world equates with a deeper experience of Christ. 

A ‘white stone’ and a ‘new name’ 

Is this a white stone for: 

Voting – white for innocent / black for guilty? 
Invitation – to a social gathering 
Reward for running well and winning – an entitlement to be kept at the publics cost for the rest of your life? 

Such interpretations are very dependant upon the serendipitous bequests of ancient history; not too struck on that idea. 

Probably a reference to the stones on the breast plate of the high priest. 

Not only are we guaranteed an appreciation of Christ but we are brought into communion in the sanctuary. 

A new name in recognition of our faithfulness to Christ? 

Was that not the case too for Simon Peter? 

Or Cephas? (Syriac) 

Or Psephos : 5586 : stone 

He was the stone with a new name! 

This ministry from Pergamos has enormous practical implications for us: 

It is possible to live for Christ even when circumstances appear impossible! It is possible but costly. 
Contrast this with Laodicea – it is not always easy to live for Christ when circumstances are easy! 
The danger to the church in difficult circumstances when oppression and persecution is present comes primarily from compromise rather than conflict; compare verse 14. The great enemy of compromise” 

Cf Israel and idols 
Cf. Demas and the world 
Cf. Priesthood and foreign brides in the days of Ezra 
Cf. Israel and Baal Peor 

Here is proof if you need it, of the words of Jesus: “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

Living out Christ in intense adversity 

Christ is able to discern and distinguish His people, all is not lost! He has the sharp two edged sword! 
Beware of Compromise in a society which is antithetical to the Word of God; the template for the Christian is that of “Antipas” – ‘against all’ ! 
Compromise is more dangerous than conflict! We are responsible for preserving the truth not for preserving ourselves! 
We must identify, define and reject: 

Doctrine from society 
Diet of that world 
Desires of that world 

Be confident that the Saviours words can be trusted; “I will build my church....” 2000 years later at Bergama – Zeus has gone, Aesclepius is but a symbol, the cult of Caesar regarded as a bizarre historical curiosity but still today there is a small Christian community in that city!

From a series of bible teaching messages preached on the seven churches in the book of Revelation.

Yours by Grace in Christ 

 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie