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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 

 

 

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.

Revelation chapter 2 verses 18 to 29 - 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

 

Smyrna - Confidence in Catastrophe  

 

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

Ephesus - It was really Boring without Him   

 

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: 

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.”

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

 

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

The tactics so far from Satan have been: 

Drive a wedge between the believer and Christ – Ephesus. 

Distance from a person rather than a passion 
Not really about quantity / quality but rather reality 
It’s the old error back again – substitution and distraction (v7) 
Distraction from the true centre – the tree of life rather than the attractive centre of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 
‘left’ : ‘aphiemi’ – used 148 X in the NT almost always of leaving a person or an object rather than a principle or attribute 

 

Persecution and attack – Smyrna 

 

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: 

Altar of Zeus and Athena – the great altar of Pergamon; massive altar on the hillside. 

Zeus – the head of the Greek Pantheon of gods; the ‘god of gods’ in paganism according to Plato; 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 excavated by a German archaeologist and transported to Berlin in the early 1900’s, 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.’ 

Temple of Asclepius 

2nd largest temple in the Asian world to the cult of Asclepius 
Symbolised by the serpent on the pole; serpent = 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 but a great way of keeping the waiting lists down. 

Temples to the Emperor cult – Augustus, Roma 

Very dangerous and ominous 
A pinch of incense was required to be offered on the altar to Caesar 
A dangerous place for Christians to be! 
Some later writers suggest that it was this that Antipas fell foul of. 

Plenty of options – which one? 

Impossible to say. 

Surely the atmosphere of the entire city is that of idolatry, 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: 

Doctrine 
Diet 
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; ‘Against the Heresis’ : “they 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!

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