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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.

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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!

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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

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

The 7 churches of Revelation - The Bitter taste of Fragrance - Smyrna (Revelation chp 2 vs 8 to 11) - JS Gillespie  

The seven churches of Revelation - Smyrna 

Much could be said of Smyrna 

Smyrna comes from the Greek word Myrrh, which derives from the Hebrew word  ‘mor’ the word 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! 

Smyrna is a faithful 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 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 an expository bible teaching series on Revelation and the seven churches preached at New Cumnock.

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 churches of Revelation - Ephesus - How To Completely miss the Point - Revelation chp 2 vs 1 to 7 - JS Gillespie  

 

The 7 churches of Revelation - Ephesus - How to Completely miss the point 

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: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Love 
  3. 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: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Love 
  3. 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. 

Illust: Failing driving test and need to do better, and again and again 

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: 

Luk 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 a series of sermons in our bible teaching series on the book of Revelation and the seven churches.

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chp 2 vs 1 to 7 - Ephesus - A Boring Orthodoxy - JS Gillespie - 24082021  

Ephesus, the first of the 7 churches of Revelation. 
Ephesus is unique amongst these 7 in that we have 3 other letters written to them in the scripture, only Laodicea is mentioned elsewhere as a footnote in the Colossian letter and Thyatira referenced in Acts. 
There may be a reason as to why we have so much on Ephesus elsewhere in the NT – that we may be given an understanding of the fundamental problem identified in Ephesus. 
The first problem of these 7 churches is the problem at Ephesus; it is this problem which is fundamental to the other 7 and critical for us to understand, fortunately we have the key to unlock the mystery! 
The fundamental problem at Ephesus: 

“you have left your first love” (2:4) 

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. 

It is an unachievable goal based on an 
Unjustified assumption leading to an 
Untenable exhortation 

Why do I say that? 

The assumption that passion was better and stronger in the past in anyones Christian life is clearly a presumption; what makes you so sure that it was? 
That that passion / intensity of affection needs to be increased is an unachievable standard. How much is more? How great is greater? How strong is strong enough? How far is far enough? If I don’t know how much more passion I need, how can I ever know that I have enough? 
This is an impossible ideal founded on an unjustifiable assumption. 
This is almost a salvation by works; you need to love more and enough, serve with a greater passion than the one that we presume you once had!  

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. 

That is why 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) 

There appears to be so many threads to the problems facing the Ephesian church, so many that scholars struggle to bring those thread together. 
What was the challenge at Ephesus? 

•    Judaisers teaching the law? 
•    Was it an early form of Gnosticism? 
•    Do we have here in 1 Timothy the whole spectrum of problems which we could encounter as a Christian? 

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! 
False teachers had been making inroads; not so much to simply take the edge off of devotion to Christ but to present another gospel and keep believers from enjoying a real relationship with Christ and prevent unbelievers from ever knowing Christ! 

An unexpected link perhaps between Revelation and pastoral epistles 
This is the 4th epistle to the Ephesians: 

•    Ephesians 
•    1 Timothy 
•    2 Timothy 
•    Revelation chapter 2 

Decisions have consequences, a little leven, leveneth the whole lump. 
Disasters have an origin 
Problems don't just appear as if by magic and out of the blue 
It is easier to nip a problem in the bud than deal with a full blown catastrophe. 
The Ephesian epistle is an incredibly Christ centred epistle with an exhortation to be 'filled with all the fullness of Christ' 
The church is the body, the building, and the bride of Christ. 
Probably the most Christ centred of all the NT epistles 
cf. Eph 1:10 – God's purpose. 

Perhaps we have illustration of this idea in the 2nd marriages / relationships of the patriachs and others in the OT – with affections drifting and distracted and resulting in all of the contention and problems subsequently: Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and his wifes and concubines, Elkannah and his 2 wives; Solomon and his wives! 

By 1 & 2 Timothy, the church at Ephesus is drifting quite a bit 
Paul needs to emphasise the centrality of Christ to the Ephesians in 1 Timothy 3:16, as well as addressing key doctrines: 

•    Resurrection (2 Tim 2) 
•    Salvation by justification by faith through the gospel (1 Tim 1:5ff) 
•    Moral compromise 

Now by Revelation chapter 2, they have left their first love (2:4). 

To each of the 7 churches: 

    “I know…” (2:2)  

He knows all about me, nothing escapes his knowledge and understanding. 
Cf. 1 Thess 1:3: 

‘works’ but no faith? 
‘labour’ but no love? 
‘patience’ but no hope? 

Halfway to paradise 
The problem at Ephesus is the problem since the beginning of the Bible; their added problem is their attempt at a solution to that problem; their attempt to get back to where they were; their attempt to overcome the problem they perceive they have. 
The wrong diagnosis results in the incorrect treatment. 
Sensitive enough to appreciate that something isn’t right but not spiritual enough to know what is wrong. 
They decide to run faster on the same treadmill! 
Agitation in response to inadequacy! 

More meetings 
More preaching  
Longer meetings  
More activities  

More is only the solution if less is the problem! 

•    Works without faith 
•    Labour without love 
•    Patience without hope 

•    Lots of activity 
•    Lots of intensity 
•    Lack of reality 

They have let their first love (2:4). 
How did that happen? 

1.    Failure to grasp the blindingly 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 

2.    Willingness to neglect the essentials 

The centrality of Christ 

3.    Distraction to something else (2 Timothy) 

False teachers 
False teaching 
The world 
Distracted by the utterly irrelevant 

and then inevitably: 

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

The 'angel' (2:1) 

John Baptist is described as an 'aggelos' in Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27, messengers of John Baptist (Luke 7:24) 
Messengers of the Lord (Luke 9:52) 
Consider the ministering spirits of Heb 1:14 
The angel – likely to be the messenger or correspondent of the church. 
It would seem unlikely that the apostle would be writing to an angel, a physical letter to a spiritual being is a little improbable! 

2:1 'right hand' 

cf. 'sit thou at my right hand' 
Place of dignity? 
The place the church ought to have? 
The dignity bestowed on the church by Christ. 
Do I live up to it? 

2:1 'walketh in the midst of the 7 golden lampstands' 

'there am I in the midst of them' 
Christ in the midst of His people 
'golden' : marked by a sense of the Divine 
'lampstands' : shine light; Christ like 

2:2 Ephesus certainly marked by activity and labours (v2) despite drifting from Christ, we can be busy and active and yet having left our first love! 

'first love' 

First in what sense? 
First in order? 
Is Christ the: 

•    First person 
•    First object 
•    First religion 

They have ever given their affections to? 
Probably not! 
First rather in: 

•    Priority 
•    Importance 
•    Pre-eminence 

Rather than first in: 

•    Primacy 

What is this? 
Perhaps evidenced by how little it takes to distract me from Him! 

They have drifted away from: 

•    Devotion to a person 
•    Care for a person 
•    Enjoyment of that personal relationship 

to mere activity! 

In their affections. 

Ephesus had: 

•    works 
•    labour 
•    patience 

But something seems to be missing? 

“work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1Th 1:3) 

what about the: 

•    faith 
•    love 
•    hope 

This is not what we do but what we are! 
This is not Christian service but Christian character. 
This is a consequence of being 'with' Christ rather than doing things 'for' Christ. 
They certainly have a sense of morality, a sensitivity to evil 

•    Activity 
•    Sensitivity 
•    Discernment 

And yet: 

•    Activity in service (2:2) 
•    Perseverance in trial (2:2) 
•    Sensitivity to evil (2:2) 
•    Discernment of teachers (2:2) 
•    Adherence to the truth (2:2) 

Is not the same as holding to and is not necessarily preventative of leaving our 'first love' (2:4) 
This perhaps causes me to ask the questions; was all of this: 

•    Activity in service (2:2) 
•    Perseverance in trial (2:2) 
•    Sensitivity to evil (2:2) 
•    Discernment of teachers (2:2) 
•    Adherence to the truth (2:2) 

Merely religious fervour? 
Merely orthodoxy? 
Merely self serving pride? 

Perhaps like the proud orthodoxy that can be seen in any religious system, defending its traditions, position and orthodoxy? 

Religious fervour but lacking personal devotion 
Religion without relationship? 
Cult without a personal Christ? 
Preaching sermons but never encountering Jesus? 

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 

1.    His Person 
•    in the scriptures 
•    in prophecy 
•    in picture 
•    in patterns 
•    in the gospel 
  

2.    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' 

3.    His Peace 

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

4.    Prayer 

•    Communion with Him is two way 

5.    Personal Communion 

•    'God is in you if 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. 

Departure here from their first love, results in: 

•    Distraction to false gods at Pergamos 
•    Deception at Pergamos and Thyatira 
•    Doctrinal confusion at Pergamos 
•    Defilement at Thyatira 
•    Self deception of Laodicea – quite content with what they are and yet they are a million miles away 

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. 

Doctrinal exposition is critical, there must be a faithfulness to the Word of God but who expounds the Word of God? 
Jezebel? 
Nicolaitanes? 

Sound exposition of the Word of God must be with the same Spirit of God who gave it! 
Any sound exposition of scripture, any presentation of the Gospel, must be founded on a sound devotion to Christ, otherwise I am just an empty vessel, a tinkling symbol. 

Verse 5: Better days in the past “remember” 
They had put Christ first in the past 
He had at one point been their first love 

'the first works' : 

A difference between 'duty' and 'devotion' 
This is not the same as has been done 'for my name's sake' (2:3) 
This is the distinction we often see in a family setting, in family relationships, what goes wrong at times: 

•    To do things for someone 
•    To do things with someone 

There is a distinction between the two 
Works not so much 'for' Him, as many well intentioned works can be, but rather 'works' or encounters that 'focus' on Him. 

It is like the distinction Peter makes in 1 Peter 2: 

•    A Holy priesthood 
•    A Royal priesthood 

The distinction? 

•    Serving God in the temple 
•    Serving for God amongst men 

It is like the distinction between Mary and Martha: 

•    Luk 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.” 

It is perhaps the distinction too, between 1 and 2nd Timothy: 

•    1 Timothy – Christ at the heart of the assembly and at the centre of Timothy's experience 
•    2 Timothy – Timothy transformed by that experience

From a bible teaching series on the book of Revelation and the 7 churches 

Revelation chp 1 vs 12 to 17 - Facing The Face of God - JS Gillespie - 03082021  

 

 

We did note the interesting connection between Revelation chapter 1 and Mt Sinai; that on both occasions: 

The trumpet sounded 
In the midst of a kingdom of priests 
Announcing a revelation 
From the presence of God 

There was one great prohibition in Exodus chapter 19 + 20 that of drawing close to God, that of seeing the God who spoke! 

“And he said, I beseech thee, show me -- thy glory. 
19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious -- to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy -- on whom I will show mercy. 
20 And he said, Thou canst not see -- my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. 
21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: 
22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: 
23 And I will take away -- mine hand, and thou shalt see -- my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:18-23 

But here we ‘see that voice’ 

Consistent with the priestly / high priestly / great high priestly appearance of Jesus!! 

“no man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten who is in the bosom of the father He has declared Him…” 

Here then is something hid from Sinai (v12); a glimpse of the glory of God! 

It is finally here in Revelation chapter 1 that we are able to catch a glimpse of God, a glimpse of Glory, a glimpse of Christ! 

Appearance – Priest 
Activity – Prophet 
Attributes – King 

His identity is as that at Sinai: ‘behold your God’ 

“9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.” Daniel 7:9 

Appearance – that of the Priest: 

In the midst of the 7 lampstands 

With the girdle (v13) – the use of the girdle associated with the office of priest (Exodus 28) and prophet (eg Elijah and John the Baptist). 

Golden girdle, cf Isaiah 11:5 – ‘righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins and faithfulness the girdle of His reins’ 

‘Gold’ is linked in the OT with righteousness, and holiness (Mal 3:2; Ex 28:36) 

The garment ‘down to the foot’ (v13) – same word is used of the High Priest in Exodus 28:4 (LXX) 


As we progress through His ministry to the 7 churches and in the remainder of the book, the priestly ministry of Christ emerges in its completeness: 

He is the one who “liveth and was dead” (1:18; 2:8) – the qualification par excellence for our High Priest (Heb 2:14ff; Rev 2:8) 
He is able to meet our needs (Rev 2:7) 
Marked by an intercessory ministry (3:5,10) 
We see the care and protection of His own in chps 7 and 14. 
He Succours, Sympathises and Saves as He does in the Hebrew epistle 

 

“eyes as a flame of fire” (v14) 

The perception of Jesus – He knows, He knows all 

Cf the man of Daniel 10:5ff 

To see 

 

 

“out of His mouth a sharp two edged sword” (v16) 

Discernment – To discern 

 

 

“feet like fine brass” (v15) 

Judgment – to judge 

Brass is: 

Known for its strength and resilience, used for the structure of the tabernacle – the sockets of brass for the boards of the altar 
Used for armour and protection 

The material of choice and often found in connection with sacrifice and offering: 

Resistant to fire and flame 
Used for the altar and the instruments attached to the altar 
Used for laver for washing 
It is the vehicle, the container of Divine judgment 

Here is a 2nd great distinction with Sinai, a distinction between the old and New testaments. 

Old – static – law 

New – dynamic – Spirit 

The scriptures speak of the deadness which flows from the law (Rom 7:6; 8:3); or the powerlessness of the law to make alive. 

The OT – static – at Sinai the law is given 

Here Christ is encountered and the reality of the Divine standard encountered dynamically in a living relationship and experience of Christ. 

@ Sinai Moses encountered the law 

@ Sinai the nation encountered the law 

Here in Revelation we encounter the law giver 

This is not a set of dry, dead rules for you to keep, this is a relationship for you to experience. 

You become sensitive to the Divine standard, feel the pain, the distance, the sorrow in your heart because of that vital relationship with Christ cf. Romans 8:2-4 

“2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:2-4 

The Divine standard is worked out in the Christian life by the Spirit of God! 

Practically here is one of the ways by which this happens; the reality of relationship, of a daily encounter with Jesus Christ! 

The reality of a relationship maintained / disturbed / disrupted. 

The description here in Rev 1:14-15 is reminiscent of the man of Daniel 10:5-6. 

An encounter with Christ will result in a 3 fold experience: 

Perception (v14) – eyes as a flame of fire – knowledge and understanding 

1 Kings 15:5; 16:25 
2 Chron 16:9 “for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth” 
2 Chron 29:6 

He knows 

He knows all 

Discernment 

He is not passive in His knowledge 
He is not agreeable with all I do and say 
Everything is not ‘ok’ 
What He knows He discerns 
Cf Heb 4:12 

From His mouth comes the 2 edged sword: 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 

Cf Rev 19:15 

Cf Isaiah 49:2 

The 2 edged sword ‘distomos’ is used in Rev 1:16; 2:12 and Heb 4:12 and in the LXX in Ps 149:6; Prov 5:4; Isa 49:2 

Judgement 

“fine brass in a furnace” 

His feet – His means of moving 

As He walks and moves His feet are like burning brass; fine brass or copper (Rev 1:15; 2:18) same word as Dan 10:6; Ezek 1:4,7; 1:27 

It is used to describe the man in the Sapphire throne (Ezek 1:27) 

Brass in the OT: 

Structural – noted for its strength and resilience; used in the sockets of the tabernacle (Ex 26; 27; 36; 38) and for the hooks and the tacks (Ex 26) 
Strength – Lev 26:19; Judges 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7; Job 40:18; Isa 48:4 
Sacrifice – those parts of the tabernacle pertaining to the sacrifice and to the work of expiation – the satisfaction of the flames of judgment on the sacrifice of the altar of burnt offering; the items pertaining to it – fire resistant – the pans and shovels and grate (Ex 27; 28; 39) 
Satisfaction – to check on the purity of the priest, the laver was made of brass (Ex 30)

Revelation chp 1 vs 10 to 13 - The Voice I Saw - JS Gillespie - 27072021  

 

 

John now shares with us what he saw (v12) – the voice I saw! 

That sounds immediately strange and so it is! 

You don’t see a voice, but there is a significance attached to this, as we will see. 

John is “in the Spirit” (v10) – there are many times in the scriptures when unusual things are seen and heard, and at times few hear and see: 

Paul on the road to Damascus 
Paul in the third heaven 
John in Revelation 
Balaam’s ass! 

That vision only comes because: 

They listen when others only hear 
They perceive when others only see 

 

John hears a “great voice as of a trumpet” 

That small detail ties this event into a whole series of significant events in the OT scriptures. 

The trumpet is so often in scripture an alarm: 

To wake 
To watch 
To warn – Exodus 19; Neh 4; Jer 6; Ezek 33 
To war – Judges 7; Josh 6; Jer 4; Jer 42; Ezek 7 
To worship – Exodus 19; 20 
To warning – Exodus 19; Neh 4; Jer 6; Ezek 33 
To assemble 

 

The first time we hear the trumpet sound is back in Exodus chapter 19 at Mount Sinai; where the new nation of Israel received her first and foundational revelation from God; the only one written by the hand of God: 

Here in Exodus 20; Deut 9:10 
In the days of Belshazzer (Dan 5) 
In John 8:6 with the woman caught in the act of adultery! 

In Exodus chp 19 + 20; the trumpet announces a revelation from the presence of God in the midst of a Kingdom of priests (Ex 19:6). 

Why would we hear such a trumpet here in Revelation chapter 1? For exactly the same reason! 

Here in Revelation chp 1 we have not only the: 

Son of man 
Son of Mary 
Son of Abraham 
Son of David 
Son of Joseph so called 
Son of the Blessed 
Son of the Highest 

But we have also the eternal Son of God – the God of Sinai and so the trumpet sounds! 

At Sinai there was at least one great distinction as the trumpet sounded in the midst of a Kingdom of priests – that Kingdom of priests was expressly prohibited from looking on; “lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze and many of them perish” (Ex 19:21). 

Here we see ‘the voice I saw’ 

You will find also that the trumpet sounds at the end of the OT, in a series of final references in the minor prophets; announcing not: 

Presence of God 
Revelation of God 

But: 

Day of the Lord 

And the conclusion of all things is anticipated; Joel 2:1; Zeph 1:14ff; Zech 9:14ff 

The trumpet is also presented by God to be sounded on the day of Jubilee in acknowledgement that the earth and the rules governing this earth are the Lords and not mans (Lev 25:23) and that both man and the land enter into a Sabbath of rest; perhaps that too may be relevant here as ultimately this book will conclude with an eternal rest. 

The content of that voice: 

“Alpha and omega the first and the last” 

Cf verse 8: 

“I AM alpha and omega the beginning and the ending” 

The title “I AM” is of significance 

V8 – beginning “arche” 

V8 – ending “telos” – an end, termination, a completion 

V11 – first – ‘protos’ 

V11 – last – ‘eschatos’ 

As the first and the last we glimpse the character / the nature of Christ; at the dawn of time and at the conclusion of time He was and shall be there, as such, as a consequence of such, as preceding all and succeeding all He gives rise to and concludes all. 

He is the cause and conclusion of all! 

The book of Revelation then whilst it is the Revelation from Christ grammatically (1:1) is also the Revelation concerning Christ thematically (1:8). 

This book which deals with the conclusion of all things brought into being by Christ as the cause is dependent upon Him for its conclusion! All is directed from His throne! 

Interestingly the bulk of Revelation is book ended by 2 great thrones: 

The Sapphire throne of Revelation chp 4 + 5 
The Great White throne of Revelation chp 19 + 20 

That is: 

The Throne that governs, instructs, ordains, determines 
The Throne that judges, concludes and completes all things 

Between these 2 great thrones lies the bulk of the book of Revelation and the entirety of human history! 

What is especially of interest to us is the identity of the one who sits upon that throne : 

The Lamb 
Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:6) 

That is it is Christ – He is the beginning and the end of all things. 

When John turns to see the voice, first he sees the 7 lampstands! Where else would we expect to find Christ but in the midst of His people? Where would people find the voice of Christ today in this dark world?? 

The first glimpse of Christ in this book is very interesting (v13) – a garment down to the foot and a girdle about the chest. 

The girdle is associated with the priestly office and the prophetic office (eg Elijah and John the Baptist) 

The garment down to the feet is the same Greek word used for the priestly garment in the LXX . 

Righteousness is the girdle of His loins (Isa 11:5) 

His Appearance is that of the Priest 

His Attributes are that of the King (1:13, 18; 3:7; 1:16; 19:15-16) 

His Activities are that of the prophet in chapters 2 to 3 

All together He is the God of heaven (Dan 7:9; Rev 1:14) 

He is: 

Priestly 
Kingly 
Prophetic