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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 5 - Worthy? Ask the Angels!  

Tears begin to flow in Revelation chapter 5 at the possibility that this book in the hand of God could remain unopened. It is the losing of the seals of this momentous book which determines all else that subsequently happens in the unfolding purposes of God in this final prophetic conclusion to the Bible: the book of Revelation. This book, in the hand of God, is destined to be opened and read at the great white throne judgment, determining the destiny of God's redeemed people. It is the eternal list of those, sealed, saved and secure. This is the Lamb's book of life! That such a book should remain unread would be unthinkable. 

There is to be found only one who is worthy to break the seals and thus open the book. Redemptive character and power are needed for this task. This alone is can be undertaken by the Lamb.

Revelation chapter 5 concludes with a great, unified, although diverse chorus of praise to the worthiness of the lamb, affirming that indeed He is worthy to take the book and unloose the seals. Each individual in heaven, in turn affirms who the Lamb is, what the Lamb is and what He has done.

To the elder He is the only one fitted by might and by moral right to take the throne of the universe. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and has proven His worth and character as a man born into and through the line of Judah. The Lamb upon the throne is uniquely qualified for this role. Unlike mere human and mortal kings the Lamb does not reign purely by inherited right nor even by convincing others of His personal ability nor might. His path of ascendency came through humanity, through the tribe of Judah. His life is an open book in the Gospels and in the scriptures. We see His character, "He did sin... He knew no sin... in Him is no sin." In every way He was tested like we are yet found to be without sin. He is worthy of the throne. He is worthy to reign.

To John He is marked with the attributes of God; all powerful with His 7 horns, all knowing and seeing with His 7 eyes and omnipresent with the 7 Spirits of God sent forth upon all the earth.

To the living creatures and 24 elders His motives and character are above and beyond reproach for He not only has a people, not only has He redeemed a people but the Lamb has redeemed them with His one blood. His people are precious to Him, infinitely and personally precious.

Finally we ask the angels for their perspective on the Lamb? Is He worthy? Ask the angels! He above all inhabitors of a throne is able by the purity of His character to handle absolute power, riches, wisdom, honour and glory without pride and without tyranny. 

The one who sits today on the throne of the universe is absolutely trustworthy and dependable.

Part of our series of systematic Bible Teaching in the book of Revelation, brought by Dr J Stewart Gillespie.

Graceinchrist.org where bible teaching never sleeps.

Revelation chapter 5 verses 1 to 5 - Heaven's Best kept Secret and Why John Wept  

 

It is John who assures us in Revelation chapter 21 vs 4 that there will be no tears in heaven and yet it is his very description of heaven that opens with the intensity of his own tears (Revelation 4:4). This is indeed a strange and sorrowful introduction to the tearless place. We may be unsurprised that the description of disaster, famine, plaque and pestilence of the subsequent chapters are preceded by tears. What is about to unfold in the 7 seals, the 7 trumpets, and the 7 vials amounts to global catastrophe and world wide destruction. The 4 riders of the apocalypse are followed by the veiling of the sun and the blood moon. The 7 trumpets announce the destruction of 1/3 of the land, 1/3 of the sea. 1/3 of the rivers as well as the solar, lunar and stellar disasters. The bottomless pit is opened and the demonic plaque of locusts are released upon the earth followed by 200 million horseman reeking destruction on the earth. Boils and sores are followed by seas and rivers of blood as the satanically inspired Kingdom of the beast comes crashing down along with the global economic and religious systems. Yet it is not because of any of this John weeps! Even more astounding than the weeping of John in heaven is his reason for weeping. John weeps that these seal may not be loosed and the book may not be opened!

Whatever this book contains the glory of the book is infinitely greater than the grief which it causes! This is a book which demands the redemptive rights of the lamb to open. This is not title deeds of the universe which in reality do not exist. The earth is and always has been the Lord's and the fullness thereof. He did not purchase, neither did He lose the earth. The earth is His by rights. The Creator needs no work of redemption to judge a fallen world; that is His Divine prerogative! Neither does this book contain the story of future events, not the book of revelation in part nor in whole. The story of Revelation chapter 6 to 19 are the product of the seals and not the scroll. 

The identity of this book, is perhaps heaven's best kept secret and can only be that of the Lamb's Book of Life of Revelation chapters 20 and 21. It is only this book which requires redemptive rights to handle. It is only the Book of Life who's eternal Glory eclipses the grief of the loosed seals. It would be an unopened book of life which truly would be worth the tears of John for if the Lamb's book were never to be opened the fate of all would be that of eternal loss and damnation. This is indeed why John wept, he wept for you! The opening of this book determines the eternal destiny of all those whose names are contained within it's pages. Once this book is opened John will in chapters 20 and 21 present to us the presence and reality of the opened book of life of the Lamb. Let us value greatly the cost and consequence of our salvation.

Listen below or watch online to the full bible teaching message preached on Revelation chapter 5.

 

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

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

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

"Our Father which art in heaven..." 

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

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

And so after:

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

"Thy will be done on earth..."

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

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

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

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

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

You can't have the donuts without the calories! 

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

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

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

Graceinchrist.org where bible teaching never sleeps.

What is Heaven Like? The Tragedy of Heaven! Revelation chapter 4 verses 6 to 11  

 

Our 3rd message in our series of studies in Revelation chapter 4 - What is heaven like? 

So far for the student of the Bible our studies of heaven in the book of Revelation has yielded few surprises!

Heaven we can see:

  • Has a door (Rev 4:1) - with this we are familiar from John 10:9 - we know the door; "I am the door" 
  • There is a voice (Rev 4:1) - a voice as a trumpet, the same voice John heard in Revelation chapter 1. In fact the first voice John heard in heaven was the last voice he heard upon earth - the voice of Jesus.
  • There is a throne (Rev 4:2) - a throne we know well of even from the Lord's prayer we are well aware that heaven is the domain of God's rule; "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." 
  • Upon that throne there reigns the Son (Rev 4:3) - symbolised by the Jasper and the Sardine stone. An explanation of this is given in the video above. 
  • There is a rainbow -  the symbol of a covenant keeping God from Genesis chapter 9 
  • There is a crystal sea - the echo of which we find in the temple of Solomon. Here there is no need for cleansing. Purity and holiness is a condition for entering into heaven, nothing that defiles and can enter. 

For those who miss the door of heaven and the provision of the cross work of Jesus Christ, heaven is a tragedy!

Here in Revelation chapter 4 we glimpse the character of God in the 4 living creatures. 

In character God is:

  1. Lion like - sovereign, powerful and in control - ordering the world and the lives of all that are in it, ordering each of the circumstances of our life. 
  2. Calf like - He is the one who has made the provision for sacrifice and reconciliation, He has made the sacrifice for the sinner. Six times in the New Testament we will read of the calf. Three times it is slaughtered in Luke chapter 15 for the prodigal son and twice it is used in reconciliation and sacrifice in Hebrews. 
  3. Face of a Man - He is the God who became man, incarnate, no one has seen God at any time, the only begotten who is in the bosom of the Father He has declared Him.
  4. Eagle like - aerial, air born and soaring as the Spirit of God does (cf John chp 3). He is the one who convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. He is the Spirit who reveals Christ and sanctifies the believer.

What is heaven like?

For those who never reach it heaven is tragic.

It is the place we do not reach but ought to have reached for the God of heaven was active in revealing Himself and seeking us all of our life; revealing Himself behind the scenes, sovereign as the lion, providing for teh salvation of teh sinner as the calf, incarnate as Jesus Christ and active as the Spirit of God.

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

Revelation chp 3 vs 14 to 22 - The 7 churches of Revelation - Laodicea - Its not What you Make of Life its what Life makes of You - JS Gillespie  

Laodicea - the 7th and final of the 7 churches of Revelation:

Laodicea - popular? progressive? prosperous? or poor?

Described as divergently as those who assessed it.

Laodicea themselves assessed their own progress from a place of complacency and lukewarmness. That was a tragic mistake. They considered themselves rich and successful as judged by the criteria of what they had made out of life! The standard against which the Lord would measure them was altogether different. The question was not what had they managed to make out of their life but rather what had life made out of them? All of their life was significant, not just the bottom line on the spread sheet.; "rich increased with goods and need of nothing" meant nothing to their Lord and judge who found them lukewarm. The church of Laodicea reflected something of the character of the city of Laodicea. Like the water supply of Laodicea so too the spiritual temperature of the church; lukewarm. The neighbouring city of Colossae was known for its cold water supply and the adjacent city of Hierapolis for it's hot springs. By way of contrast the water supply at Laodicea was neither. A city high above the Lycus valley it lacked sufficient water for the expanding population of the city. Where did the water come from at Laodicea? The mystery was resolved by excavations in the area of Laodicea in 2006 by a Turkish archaeologist Celal Simsek; who published a paper entitled “water springs of Laodicea and its distribution systems.” Pipes were discovered at Laodicea running for many kilometres to the separate water source of the Baspinar Spring. These pipes had heavy calcium deposits, carried water from some distance and so provided a slow running and thus likely a lukewarm water supply to Laodicea. 

Just like the lukewarm water supply of Laodicea the church likewise was lukewarm. What is somewhat surprising is the desire of the Lord Jesus; "I would that you were cold or hot." It is perhaps easy to understand that the Lord water desire an increase in their spiritual temperature from lukewarm to hot but why cold? A place of complacency and ambivalence is the most difficult place to bring about change, after all why do I need to change? I'm ok am I not? I mean I am better than the next person, I'm not so bad as ....

It is so often the case that in shaping His people God moves them from a place of lukewarmness, to first of all a cold place where their need is perceptible before moving them to a place of warmth. This was the pattern for Saul of Tarsus the self righteous Pharisee, he had to first be broken on the Damascus road before being brought to salvation on his knees. This was the case for Moses, brought from the palace to the pasture, in the back side of the desert for 40 years before then becoming the leader of the nation of Israel. This also was true of Samson, brought finally to a place of weakness, humiliated and mutilated, led by a young lad until finally and uniquely in his life he prayed, "strengthen me only this once." That final and painful prayer marked the closing transition of revival in a life of at best lukewarmness.

Christ looked for "gold tried in the fire." All of their life under the hand of God, God had moulded and shaped them, bringing out gold tried in the fire, Christ like character!  That type of character forged in the furnace of adversity, to which Job refers in Job23:10 "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10.

Claiming the Divine title of the "Amen" of Isaiah 65:16 (Rev 3:14), the Lord reminds them that He has the final word after the end. The Amen speaks. After the conclusion of their lives and service, after the study days are past and after the exam has been sat, it is Christ, who as the Amen brings the final verdict. He is the conclusion after the end. His is the terminal assessment of all people. He is the end beyond the conclusion and His assessment proves a lot less flattering than their own! 

Yours by 

Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

The 7 churches of Revelation - Pillars in the Place of Holiness - Philadelphia (Revelation chp 3 vs 7 to 13) - JS Gillespie  

Philadelphia the church that breaks the mould. Arising from the unpromising soils of corruption and compromise Philadelphia has found the secret of success. The character of Christ is seen in His church; holiness and truth. They value His presence and His Word. Prepared with such a grasp of Divine truth and character they are ready to enter through the open door of opportunity, a door leading to a far greater destiny than service itself. They are destined as pillars in the place of holiness!

From a series of Bible teaching messages on the seven churches 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 - 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

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

Revelation chp 1 vs 9 - I John - JS Gillespie - 20072021  

Revelation chapter 1 verse 9 : "I John"

Consider the apostle John: 

The difference one man can make in adversity and how he can make it! He is :

  • The right person (v9) 
  • The right place (v9) – Patmos 
  • The right preparation (v9) 

               Same kin 

               Same Kingdom 

               Same kind of conditions 

  • In the right condition (v10) 

Then John was a right help to the people of God! 

It took him until he was about 90 to be: 

  • That person 
  • In that place 
  • In that condition 

God was not in any hurry with the life and ministry of the apostle John, even if I am in a hurry for God to do something with my life, my gifts and my talents!

‘I John’ - consider the significance of this simple, humble statement in verse 9 of chapter 1 of Revelation. This greatest of biblical, prophetic revelations was given to a humble fisherman: to John! This was the John who leaned on the breast of Jesus. From that past experience of John, that proximity to the person of Jesus Christ, extends that reality of Jesus to these Christians now. This is of course the pattern for all true Christian ministry; to draw others into the proximity and experience of Christ, as I too have enjoyed it!

It was that same disciple and apostle John who: 

  • Travelled with Him 
  • Talked with Him 
  • Listened to Him 
  • Watched Him 
  • Rested on Him 
  • Wrote the gospel all about Him 

John summarises His experience of Jesus in 1 John 1:1-2: 

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)" 1 John 1:1-2

The same John so close to Christ now draws close to Christians, that is his priestly ministry. 

This is the same ministry of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ who: 

  • Bore our griefs and carried our sorrows 
  • Who washed the disciples feet 
  • Who being in the form of God thought not Deity to consist of grasping after (Phil 2) 

John’s ministry was a priestly ministry 

All Christian service is priestly service 
The service of Christ was priestly service (Phil 2, John 13) 
The pattern of spiritual service is priestly; Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Daniel 


John’s service isn’t only about preaching to people but is about reaching people. John doesn’t just appear out of the blue and start preaching to everyone about Jesus! John has a history, from history experience, an ongoing experience of Jesus! That history began with the call of Jesus on his life (Matt 4:21) and the obedience of John to that call may have seemed to some a tiny step; let go of his fishing nets and stop mending nets and follow Jesus. That first small step and call of John to follow Jesus, and the subsequent series of tiny steps though have led us and John here to the greatest prophetic revelation of the Bible! 

For perhaps the bulk of the gospel narrative an intelligent onlooker may well be forgiven for questioning wither or not  all of this sacrifice of job, security, family and finance was really going anywhere? Perhaps especially when we see Christ crucified and the 2 on the road to Emmaus despondent and discouraged. Had John made a colossal error of judgment? Perhaps he even wondered this himself? Returning it would seem at one point to the fishing in John chapter 21? 

The first book of the NT records where John came from – humble beginnings, unpromising and unqualified, uninspiring, but listen it is left for the last book of the Bible for us to learn as to where John went to! Not just Patmos but somewhere way more glorious than that:

From the sea of Galilee 

To 

The crystal sea (Rev 4) 

 

This journey from earth to heaven, to the eternal Glory of God is not uniquely John’s journey, this too is our journey! 

Is it not encouraging to see that the glory he gained was infinitely greater than the small steps of faithful obedience John took! This was a journey of many small steps of faithful obedience, to leave behind the mending of nets, to leave the fishing and boat and father and follow Jesus. Those many small steps of obedience and tiny steps of faithfulness brought John on a journey which concluded here with the statement: “I John” (1:9) 

I wonder if there will be many looking back from the edge of the crystal sea and wondering; seriously did I ever consider any of these passing and fleeting sacrifices of time of any real value and significance, past and now long forgotten; compared to the perspective that is now mine in eternity; on the edge of the crystal sea? 

“these light afflictions” – did I ever entertain the thought that such light afflictions, such tiny costs, such trivia might seriously be a hindrance or discouragement to me reaching this destination! Oh those light afflictions are so out of proportion to a far more eternal Weight of glory! 

Did I ever get: 

               Discouraged 

               Distracted 

               Doubt the purpose 

For such trivial gains? 

 

Little did John anticipate where these individual steps of obedience would lead him to! A life filled with many small steps of obedience can lead somewhere glorious. 

God uses / calls a man of experience in the Apostle John! From experience comes revelation and exposition. How much of a help can you be John? That question is in essence synonymous with another question: "How close are you to Jesus?" 

John is serving Christ and the people of God in his suffering (verse 9). Serving as a "brother" and a "companion in tribulation" for the sake of the gospel. Serving opens the ear to the saving word of God, consider:

  • John 11 and the table set for Jesus with Lazarus 
  • Cf the miracles of healing 
  • Cf Naamans maid 
  • John chapter 13 and the washing of the disciples feet 
  • John chapters 8 + 9   

Serving demonstrates the sincerity of the concern and care of the Christian in testimony:

  • We are not a cult 
  • We care 
  • We care because God cares 
  • We serve because Christ serves 
  • We deal with people as people who have a will to be won over 

This is the ‘Kingdom’ (v9); not the earthly kingdom of Pilate; ‘art thou a King?’ A kingdom not of this world; entrance to this kingdom is by much tribulation. This is a kingdom foreign to this world, belonging to another world, to be part of this kingdom is to be foreign to the world. 

 

 

A message preached as part of our series of Bible studies on the teaching of the prophetic book of Revelation

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie 

Revelation chp 1 vs 4 to 6 - The Mystery of all Mysteries - From Tragedy to Triumph - JS Gillespie - 29062021  

The mystery of the Trinity in Revelation chapter 1: 

Note reference to the Trinity in verses 4 and 5 of Revelation chapter 1: 

  1. God the Father (verse 4) : "Him which is and which was and which is to come"
  2. Spirit of God (verse 4)
  3. Jesus Christ (verse 5)

This is a thoroughly Trinitarian section 

These opportunities are empowered by the 7 fold spirit of God (v4), able to meet the need of Gods people. 

V5 “and from Jesus Christ.” 

We note in these 2 verses reference to the doctrine often referred to as the ‘Trinity.’ 

Not a Biblical term admittedly but a soundly Biblical teaching and truth and pattern. 

God is 1 essential being with a 3 fold personality. 

Compare Human nature – not 3 persons but 3 aspects of the 1 individual:

  1. Body
  2. Soul
  3. Spirit

 

Not 1+1+1 but 1X1X1 

The truth of the Trinity is taught throughout scripture and especially in the NT: 

  1. God the Son – John 1:1,14 
  2. God the Father – John 6:27 
  3. God the Holy Spirit – Acts 5:34 

All 3 Persons involved with: 

  • Incarnation of Jesus – Matt 1:18, 20, 23; Luke 1:35; 1 John 4:14 
  • Miracles of Jesus 

Performed by Jesus – John 2:11 
In the name of His Father – John 10:25 
By the power of the Holy Spirit – Matt12:28; Acts 10:38 

  • Baptism of Jesus – Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:22 
  • Resurrection of Jesus Christ 

God – Psalm 16:5-10 
Lord Jesus – John 10:17-18 
Spirit of God – Rom 1:4 
God the Father – Rom 6:4 

  • Salvation of the Christian 

Spirit of God – 2 Thess 2:13; John 3:6 – the one who performs / is the executor of the work of saving a soul. 
Lord Jesus – John 10:28 – whose work provides that salvation 
God the Father – 1 John 4:14 – with whom the plan of salvation originates 

  

  • Indwelling if the believer 

Spirit of God – John 14:17 
Lord Jesus – John 14:18 
God the Father – John 14:23 

  • Baptism – Matt 28:19 
  • Teaching of the Believer / Apostles – John 14:26 
  • Our relationship with God – Ephesians 2:18 
  • Prayer 

In the name of Jesus – John 14:13,14; 16:23 
To the Father – Luke 11:2; Matt 6:9 
By the Spirit of God – Rom 8:26 

  • Fruitfulness in the Christian life: 

Father – John 15:1-2 
Son – John 15:1,4-5 
Spirit of God – Gal 5:22 

  • Comfort and Consolation to the Christian 

Father – 2 Co 1:3 
Son – 2 Co 1:5; 1 John 2:1 
Spirit – John 14:16-17 

  • Eternal security of the Christian: 

Jesus – John 10:28 
Father – John 10:29-30 
Spirit of God – Ephesians 1:13 

  • Testimony in the heavens (1 John 5:7) 
  • Inspiration of Scripture 

Is this a NT doctrine only? 

Consider Deuteronomy 6:4 :         

Elohyenu – plural title for God 
Echad – the Hebrew word for a composite unity compare the use of the same word in Genesis 1:5; 2:24; where it is also used for composite unity.

 
Yahid – by way of contrast, not used here in Deuteronomy is a word for singular unity – used in Gen 22:2 

 

Taken from a bible teaching series of studies in the book of Revelation.

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

 

Revelation chp 1 vs 4 to 5 - God Sovereign Eternal All Sufficient Triune - JS Gillespie - 22062021  

Revelation chapter 1 verses 4 to 5 - God Sovereign Eternal All Sufficient Triune: 

We have seen so far in our series of bible studies in the book of Revelation: 

  • Significance of the author – John 
  • Source of the Revelation – Jesus Christ 
  • Subject of the book – Jesus Christ 
  • Structure of the Book 

Significance of the author – John 

For John the book of Revelation is the 5th and final of John’s New Testament books. This interestingly is comparable to Moses who is the human author of the first 5 of the Old Testament books of the Bible. The closest parallels between these two authors exists between Moses first book; that of Genesis and John's final book that of Revelation.

Consider the parallels in particular between Genesis and Revelation: 

 

Genesis 

Revelation 

Creation 

New Creation  

Satan comes in as the serpent 

Satan the serpent and dragon removed 

Sin and the fall 

Redemption and eternal salvation 

Sin, sorrow and suffering begin 

Sin, sorrow and suffering ended 

Tree of life guarded 

Tree off life freely available 

Plagues of Egypt 

Plagues on whole world 

Mark of Cain 

Mark of the beast 

Sun and moon created to give light 

Sun and moon no longer needed for light 

Babel its origins 

Babylon its fulfilment 

Manna for the Israelites 

Manna for Pergamos 

 

 

Subject of the book of Revelation is Jesus Christ 

Consider the following as suggested outlines of the book of Revelation:

  • Plan of Salvation (chp 1) 
  • Presence of Christ amidst His people (chp 2 to 3) 
  • Power over the world (chps 4 to 19) 
  • Purpose for Universe (chps 20 to 21) 
  • Pre-eminence in all things 

Structure of the Book 

Cf 1:19 

  • Lord in the midst of His people 
  • Lamb in the midst of the throne 
  • Lion over the world 
  • Lover of the Church 
  • Light in eternity 

Or we can divide the book of Revelation according to the locations in which the parts of the revelation were given: 

  • In Patmos (1:9) 
  • In Heaven (4:1,2) 
  • By sand of the sea (13:1) 
  • In wilderness (17:3) 
  • Great and high mountain (21:10) 

Consider the Setting in which this great book of Revelation was given to John. John was imprisoned on the prison fortress of Patmos. A penal colony and possibly also a quarry, to which prisoners were put for forced hard labour. John’s circumstances are greatly constrained, movements restricted, imprisoned and held on an island; possibly even set to work in a limestone quarry. These are not circumstances of his choosing by any manner of means!  Yet this island of Patmos was also conveniently situated just across the water from the port of Ephesus and this close to the 7 churches of Asia, addressed in the opening chapters of the book of Revelation. Whilst it may well be true that of all the places we might choose to be Patmos would not be one of them! It is also true that our disappointments can be Gods appointments! If life gives you lemons! John could either live according to circumstances he would like to be in and proceed to hit his head against a brick wall or he could live according to the circumstances that he was actually in! 

This is not just about making the best of a bad situation of course but rather making the most of a God given situation and opportunity! If we understand that God is in control, as we can certainly see here in Revelation then that injects purpose and infuses meaning into every part of human life and experience! If we understand that truth from anywhere in the scriptures that God is in control, it is surely from the book of Revelation! 

The 7 churches are in a geographical loop and sequence; interconnected by the Roman roads and each a postal town in the old Roman administration. Ironically the the infrastructure of hostile Rome provided for free movement and facilitated the distribution of the Gospel! John grasps the opportunity that presents itself to him and ministers within the new sphere of service given to him by the sovereign hand of God!

John discerns the hand of God in his circumstances and goes through the door that has been opened to him rather than trying to navigate around about the door. 

John is placed here in Patmos by GPS: 

  • Global Positioning System? 
  • God’s Providential Sovereignty! 

So far as God is concerned John's imprisonment in Patmos is: 

  • The Perfect Person in 
  • The Perfect Place for 
  • The Perfect Purpose 

This may not follow our plan or the normal pattern of life either; let’s not get irritated nor frustrated by Gods sovereignty. 

Note that John is thought to be around 90 years of age here! His greatest contribution to the scriptures and to the church and God’s people waited till he was 90 years of age! 

Normally we may be used with the secular pattern for life, a progression through: 

  • Childhood 
  • Maturity 
  • Education 
  • Adulthood and service 
  • Old age and retirement 

Christian life and service doesn’t necessarily comply with that pattern! Moses was aged 80 before God started to use him properly. Esther was present in the palace for one single crises in the 4000 year history of the nation of Israel. 

Are we willing to be so used?

Are we only willing to be who and what we wish to be, where and when we want to be? 

Like Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5:12) “are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel?” Are we only willing to do what we want to do or are we willing to be obedient and humble ourselves to do what God instructs us to do? Are we willing to confess with Christ; "not my will but thine be done"?

This ministry from John is no mere rhetoric or platitudes but is backed up by: God “which is, which was, which is to come.” This is the New Testament parallel to JeHoVaH. In the Old Testament Hebrew title for God, often translated as Jehovah or Yahweh or simply as The LORD, the consonants from the Hebrew word, are derived from the 3 parts of the Hebrew verb ‘to be’; signifying in one title: 

  • He who will be 
  • Who is 
  • Who has been 

We note that the order of tenses is different here between the Hebrew title and the New Testament order here in Revelation chapter 1! 

This present order of tenses in Revelation chapter 1: 

  1. Is 
  2. Was 
  3. Shall be 

Consider also the presentation of a similar pattern in the life of the Lord Jesus in verse 5:

  • “who is the faithful Witness” – In the present - He Is 
  • “first begotten of the dead” – An event in the past for Christ - Was 
  • “Prince of the kings of the earth” –  Awaiting future fulfilment for its full revelation - Which is to come 

Consider also the repetition of this theme in verse 8 and verse 18. 

The pattern seems to be consistent. 

As if we see God from the present extending back to the past and forward into the future; like an eternal light house casting His light into the whole of human history. It is not so much that God has a past and a present but rather it is that God is eternally present throughout history, providing a structure, order, plan and narrative to the whole of history. He is eternally present throughout history and over history; as Alpha and Omega (1:8) the originator and terminator of time and history; as the eternal “I AM” ever in the present! Recall the significance of “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” quoted by the Lord to establish the reality of life after death to the Sadducees in Mark chp 12: 

“And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:26-27) 

For this to establish the continued existence of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob there is an inherent assumption in this statement; that God Himself does not change! This statement presumes that the relationship of God to time is different from our relationship to time. For me to state that I am the friend of….. does not provide for them the assurance of their perpetual existence! Yet this statement regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does! For God; what is, will always be because God does not simply have a past / present and future tense but He is the eternal being present in and over past, present and future. 

The continued existence beyond death of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is established because they are connected by the perpetual “I AM” to an unchanging God, an eternal being, not simply a person subject to and passing through time. They are "fastened to the Rock which cannot move, Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love."

 

“For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) 

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) 

The God whom Abraham met is exactly the same God we meet today! He has not changed, He cannot change! 

The eternal character of God orders and ordains not only events today but in the past and present and future. 

This gives a coherence, order, plan and structure to all of time. 

This brings all of history to an ordered conclusion and destiny! 

 

We note in these 2 verses; verses 4 and 5 of Revelation chapter 1 there is reference to the doctrine often referred to as the ‘Trinity.’ Not a Biblical term admittedly but a soundly Biblical teaching, truth and pattern. 

verse 4 : "from Him which is and was which was and which is to come" - God the Father 

verse 4: "the seven Spirits" - God the Spirit 

verse 5: "and from Jesus Christ" - God the Son 

 

God is 1 essential being with a 3 fold personality. 

Cf. Human nature :

  1. Body
  2. Soul
  3. Spirit

Not 3 persons but 3 aspects of the 1 individual. 

Not 1+1+1 but 1X1X1 

The truth of the Trinity is taught throughout scripture and especially in the NT: 

God the Son – John 1:1,14 
God the Father – John 6:27 
God the Holy Spirit – Acts 5:34 

All 3 Persons of the Trinity involved with: 

  • Incarnation of Jesus – Matt 1:18, 20, 23; Luke 1:35; 1 John 4:14 
  • Miracles of Jesus 

Performed by Jesus – John 2:11 
In the name of His Father – John 10:25 
By the power of the Holy Spirit – Matt12:28; Acts 10:38 

  • Baptism of Jesus – Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:22 
  • Resurrection of Jesus Christ 

God – Psalm 16:5-10 
Lord Jesus – John 10:17-18 
Spirit of God – Rom 1:4 
God the Father – Rom 6:4 

  • Salvation of the Christian 

Spirit of God – 2 Thess 2:13; John 3:6 – the one who performs / is the executor of the work of saving a soul. 
Lord Jesus – John 10:28 – whose work provides that salvation 
God the Father – 1 John 4:14 – with whom the plan of salvation originates 

  

  • Indwelling if the believer 

Spirit of God – John 14:17 
Lord Jesus – John 14:18 
God the Father – John 14:23 

  • Baptism – Matt 28:19 
  • Teaching of the Believer / Apostles – John 14:26 
  • Our relationship with God – Ephesians 2:18 

 

  • Prayer 

In the name of Jesus – John 14:13,14; 16:23 
To the Father – Luke 11:2; Matt 6:9 
By the Spirit of God – Rom 8:26 

  • Fruitfulness in the Christian life: 

Father – John 15:1-2 
Son – John 15:1,4-5 
Spirit of God – Gal 5:22 

  • Comfort and Consolation to the Christian 

Father – 2 Co 1:3 
Son – 2 Co 1:5; 1 John 2:1 
Spirit – John 14:16-17 

  • Eternal security of the Christian: 

Jesus – John 10:28 
Father – John 10:29-30 
Spirit of God – Ephesians 1:13 

Testimony in the heavens (1 John 5:7) 
Inspiration of Scripture 

Is this doctrine of the Trinity  a New Testament  doctrine only? 

Consider Deuteronomy 6:4 :         

Elohyenu – is a plural title for God 
Echad – is the Hebrew word for a composite unity compare the use of  the same word in Genesis 1:5; 2:24 
Yahid – by way of contrast is the word for a singular unity – used in Genesis  22:2 : "your only Isaac"

 

A sermon preached from our bible teaching series on the book of Revelation 

Yours by Grace in Christ  

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Revelation chp 1 vs 1 - Revealing Reality Beyond - God Gravity and Glory - JS Gillespie - 15062021  

 

The closing book of the NT, bringing the entire Bible to a conclusion after more than 2000 years of inspiration! 

We might expect a massive finale, and we get one! 

This is the conclusion to: 

  • The Bible 
  • History 
  • Israel 
  • World 
  • Satan 
  • Evil 
  • Death 
  • Suffering 
  • Sin 

This is quite a conclusion 

There is a lot in it 

Revelation addresses: 

  • The meaning and purpose of life 
  • The destiny of humanity 
  • The end of the world 
  • The plan for the universe 
  • The battle of good over ever 
  • The ultimate and final victory 
  • The mystery of suffering 
  • The perplexity of seemingly unanswered prayer 

 

Perhaps we may feel overwhelmed by this, discouraged from studying the book with so many symbols, demanding such a thorough knowledge of the rest of scripture and maybe even a good working knowledge of  Church history. 

Perhaps as CA Coates has observed this is the reason for the encouragement of 1:3; the Spirit of God well understanding that we may indeed by discouraged from grappling with the book! 

Revelation 1:3 encourages us to personally engage with the book. 

Not only engage with someone who has engaged with the book; which may indeed be very tempting. 

There needs to be on our part, a fresh appreciation and application of the text of Revelation: 

Read 
Hear 
Keep 

All this given to the Apostle John. 

The first book of the Bible – Genesis – written by Moses 

The final book of the Bible – Revelation – written by John 

Each are responsible for writing 5 books in the OT and the NT 

Much of what Moses set the scene for in the first 5 books of the Bible will find its completion here in the final book by John. 

The symmetry through the ages of inspiration is striking: 

Genesis 

Revelation 

Creation 

Old world passed away 

Satan comes in 

Satan removed 

Sin and the fall 

Redemption and eternal salvation 

Tree of life guarded 

Tree off life freely available 

Plagues of Egypt 

Plagues on whole world 

Mark of Cain 

Mark of the beast 

Sin, sorrow and suffering begin 

Sin, sorrow and suffering ended 

Sun and moon created to give light 

Sun and moon no longer needed for light 

It would seem justified to open the pages of Revelation with a degree of trepidation and humility, it is after all the magnum opus of John, given to him in his 90s after a long and deep experience of Christ and the gospel! 

It took a man of deep spirituality to write it, the author of the deeply spiritual 1 + 2 + 3 John! 

The apostle who served his apprenticeship leaning on Jesus breast and who gave to us the epistles of love, life and light. 

To John is given the task of writing the only completely prophetic book of the NT! 

Many books of prophecy in the OT: 

Major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel 
12 minor prophets 
A significant proportion of the Psalms 

At least 16/39 OT books could be classified as prophetic books, yet only 1 completely prophetic book in the NT, although parts of other NT books would have a prophetic content; Matthew, 1 + 2 Thessalonians, 2 Peter, and 2 Timothy. 

Interesting perhaps to reflect on why we might have that pattern / disparity? 

The great burden of  OT prophecy is to point us forward, not so much to events nor even a programme but to a person, that is Christ. 

The bulk of the NT now looks back at the person; that is Christ. 

The NT Gospels take the place mainly of the OT prophets, both from their own perspectives bringing us to Christ prospectively and then retrospectively. 

What was prophetic for the OT authors is now historical for the NT. 

The prophetic burden is not that God’s people become sign watchers, nor experts in geopolitics but rather that the Lord’s people look off unto Jesus! 

It is surely a great challenge to read it and apply it! 

Back to the book of Revelation at 50! 

It has been an interesting 50 years 

The intervening 35 years have shed considerable light on the revelation not so much from a biblical perspective but from human history and the areas of: 

technology 

 infectious diseases 

mechanized warfare 

Global politics 

eg Rev 1:7 “every eye shall see Him,” and the two prophets of Revelation 11 

the general witness of the Nations to two dead in Jerusalem. 

In the first half of the twentieth century Christians were unable to explain how this could happen. In the second half of the twentieth century in my younger days some saw the possibility of this by means of the television 

Now at the beginning of the 21st century such a statement is completely compatible with current experience, there is no explanation needed. 

The mark of the Beast is likewise enabled by modern technology implantable microchips are already in place. 

Illust: Story told of Albert Einstein setting a university exam for his students. His assistant professor asked ‘but isn’t that the same exam you set for your final year students last year? Exactly the same exam? You can’t do that! To which Einstein famously replied ‘yes the questions are the same but the answers have changed.’ 

 

As we come to look afresh at Revelation, the questions, the text, the inspiration, the Spirit remains exactly the same but we come with a fresh perspective as to what some of these texts could potentially mean in the light of recent, very recent changes in the world in which we live. 

Perhaps we can see just how close these events have become, how easily and quickly our society has been and can be changed: Mass surveillance of the population; contact apps for ‘disease monitoring’ 
Control of financial transactions via electronic means 
Threatened and real abandonment of physical monetary transactions eg Wuhan province 
Attractiveness of implanted microchip technology 
Removal of civil liberties eg right to assemble and control of movement and monitoring of social media information feeds for ‘misinformation.’ 
Imposition of a closely policed state 
State interference in privacy 
Compromise of data and confidentiality –

How easily and quickly he Kingdom of the beast could emerge with: 

Monitoring 
Financial control 
Restriction of personal freedoms and liberties 

Outlines? 

Can’t go wrong with the one given: 

1:19: 

Thou hast seen (chp 1) 
Things which are (chp 2 to 4) 
Shall be hereafter (chps 5ff) 

Or: 

Grace (chp 2+3) 
Government (chps 4 to 19) 
Glory (chps 20 to 24) 

Or thinking of Christ: 

  • Lord in the midst of the lampstands 
  • Lamb in the midst of the throne 
  • Lion over the nations 
  • Lover in the midst of the marriage supper 
  • Light in the midst of heaven 

 

Consider the differing perspectives we find here in Revelation: 

  • In the Isle called Patmos (1:9) 
  • In heaven before the throne (4:1ff) 
  • Upon the sand of the sea (13:1) 
  • Carried into the wilderness (17:3) 
  • On a great and High mountain (21:10) 

 

Perhaps my own 7 fold outline of the changing themes and scenes of Revelation: 

  1. Revelation of the Person and Character of Christ (chp 1) 
  2. Revival in the Church (ch 2 + 3) 
  3. Reigning and Ruling over the world (chp 4 – 19) 
  4. Response to the prayers of the saints 
  5. Retribution on the wicked 
  6. Removal of evil (chps 13 to 19) 
  7. Restoration of Righteousness 

 

The righteousness of God is seen in the person of Christ impacts: 

Personally 
On the Church chps 2 + 3 
On the world chps 5 to 19 
Into eternity chps 20 to 22 

“the revelation of Jesus christ” (1:1) 

The whole of the Bible is the 'Revelation of Jesus Christ' 

In the sense that it is the revelation about Jesus Christ 

'Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.'(Joh 5:39) 

The scriptures are full of prophecies / patterns and parables of Christ 

Luk 24:27 'And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.' 

This revelation is a little different 

This is not the Revelation 'concerning' Jesus Christ but rather the revelation from Jesus Christ. 

This revelation is very special: 

This is the revelation from the Revelation of scripture. 

This is the revelation within a revelation, to reveal the truth behind appearance, reality behind perception! 

Genitive of Origin? 

Notice the flow here: 

God gave the Revelation to Jesus 

                              

               Jesus Christ "Him" 

                                             

                    By His angel 

                              

"Unto His servants" / "unto His servant John" 

                              

               To show unto His servants 

God gave the revelation to Jesus 

Jesus gave his revelation to us 

This is the revelation from Jesus Christ as we follow the flow of the revelation through these verses. 

It is hard to miss the significance however of the fact that the whole of the Word of God is a Revelation of Christ: 

OT – pictures, prophecies, pointers and parallels 
NT – Person and work of Christ 

And here crowning it all – the concluding Revelation of Jesus Christ! 

Here we see that out of the: 

Trial and Tragedy comes Triumph 
Disaster comes deliverance 

All has as its destiny the glory of Christ. 

As the alpha He is the origin 

As the omega He is the destiny 

With all things headed up in Christ in chapters 21 and 22: 

The bride is the bride of the Lamb 
The apostles are the apostles of the Lamb 
The temple is The Lord God and the Lamb 
The Light is the Lamb 
The book is the Lambs book of Life 
The throne is the throne of God and of the Lamb 
The river of life flows from the throne of the Lamb 

History is His Story! 

This is about to come as something of a shock to a world which has universally rejected Christ : 

“14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” Luke 19:14 

“38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Luke 23:38 

And still so: 

‘By the world rejected and by the few enthroned.’ 

Therein lies the missing piece of the jigsaw of this world 

If only he were not so universally rejected there would be no: 

Gender confusion 
Broken marriages 
Murdered unborn 
Racial tensions 
Tribalism 
War, famine, and man made disasters 
Corruption 
Despair 

This is indeed a book all about Jesus Christ; charting His life from: 

Grave (1:5) to the Glory (Rev 22) 
Cross (1:5) to the Crown (Rev 19:12, 16) 

Yet all of the Bible is about Jesus Christ! 

In the OT: 

Pictures 
Patterns 
Parables 
Prophecies 

In the Gospels – biography – Person of Christ 

In the epistles – doctrine 

This is the ‘Revelation of Jesus Christ’ – the unveiling! 

This is a unique glimpse behind the fabric of space and time, behind and beyond what we can see, to what we can’t see. 

This book reveals that righteousness is not random. 

Here is what lies behind the veil of reality, what is behind the scenes! 

Not only do we see that righteousness is not random, but we also perceive that evil is not random: 

Christ and the Church 
Satan and Babylon 

As He is progressively unveiled; we perceive Christ and: 

His Plan of Salvation (chp 1) 
His Presence in the midst of the Church (chp 1 to 3) 
His Power from the throne, in judgement (chp 4 to 19) 
His Purpose for the universe (chp 20 to 22) 
His Person supreme and glorified over all and in all 

We peel away the layers of what we refer to as reality and behind the appearance of what we perceive to be transpiring we see that hand of Christ! 

We gain a glimpse into the deep mysteries of this universe, beyond the dimensions of space and time. 

The Bible is full of mysteries, 14 specific NT mysteries of which we find 3 in the book of Revelation itself: 

The NT mysteries: 

Mysteries of the Kingdom – Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; and Luke 8:10 
Mystery of blindness on Israel (Roms 11:25) 
Mystery of the Gospel to all peoples (Rom 16:25ff) 
Mystery of the Cross (1 Co 1+2:7ff) 
Mystery of the Rapture (1Co 15:51) 
Mystery of His will, of all things in Christ (Eph 1:9) 
Mystery of Jew and Gentile in 1 body (Eph 3:3ff) 
Mystery of Christ and the Church (Eph 5:32) 
Mystery of Christ in you (Col 1:25ff) 
Mystery of Iniquity (2 Thess 2:7) 
Mystery of Godliness (1 Tim 3:16) 
Mystery of the 7 churches (Rev 1:20) 
Mystery of Gods judgement (Rev 10:7) 
Mystery of Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5-7) 

What is a mystery? 

Perhaps we have often heard the memorable phrase: 

'Truth once concealed and now revealed' 

With the thought of 'mystery' often attribute to previous concealment, ie that they once were a mystery. 

Is it? 

Certainly this highlights one important aspect of the NT mysteries – that they are NT mysteries and that if anything can be discerned of them in the OT can only really be discerned in retrospect! 

But as definitions go its not the best: 

It's not very precise, that definition would apply to any NT revelation or doctrine not clearly revealed in the OT for example; the incarnation, life and ministry of Christ, justification by faith etc. It is not very informative. 

It tells us nothing about the subject or content of the mysteries, it’s a rather cryptic definition of mystery! Having heard the definition of the mysteries of scripture, if I were to then ask; 'what is a mystery?' we would really be none the wiser. 

It's not entirely accurate – there are some mysteries which are not yet revealed (eg 2 Thess chp 2 and 3 mysteries in Revelation). 

It demystifies mysteries! Mysteries seem to maintain the character of mysteries in the NT rather than surrendering that character now that they are 'revealed' eg 1 Tim 3:9. This definition almost dismisses / denies the mystery aspect of these truths. 

What are the NT mysteries? 

''μυστήριον'' : from 'mustes' – a person initiated into the sacred mysteries, from 'mueo' to initiate, learn a secret or esoteric knowledge. 

Linked to the sacred mysteries. 

At the heart of many of the ancient religions lay a secret, an answer, a hidden insight into the nature of reality, the meaning of life, the destiny of existence, the mysteries! 

This is still seen in some today: Mormonism, Free Masonry etc. 

There is a reason we come to a place of worship, to a gathering, a reason we read the Bible! 

One of those reasons is our search for answers, for meaning, for purpose. 

We seek answers to why we are here, where we are going, the meaning of life, the answers to the big questions of life. 

There are answers in the Bible. 

The Bible is exceedingly interesting! 

The Word of God contains God's answers to the reason why, who, what and how! 

God's answers to: 

Why I am here 
What in the world is happening 
How I can find God 
Who God is 

These are the NT mysteries! 

These are Gods answers to the question why? 

Gods hidden agenda. 

They are justification for the conspiracy theorists paranoia that there is an agenda behind the scenes. 

Gods hidden agenda, revealed not by time, not by a time delay switch but revealed to those that have ears to hear, those who have the Spirit of God! 

'he that hath ears to hear let him hear' (Matt11:15; Luke8:8) and also Matt 13:11; Luke 8:10. 

Not so much: 

Concealed in the past and revealed in the present but 
Concealed to the unregenerate and revealed by the Spirit of God 

The distinction between: 

concealment and revelation 
mystery and understanding 

lies not so much in time but in aptitude and ability. 

The mystery is unlocked not by time but with a key; and that key is Christ. 

Not so much a distinction between: 

then 
now 

But rather: 

without the Spirit 
with the Spirit 

It is not time that is the key but Christ who is the key (Matt 16:19; Rev 1:18; Rev 3:7) 

God's agenda in human history has not been hidden. 

God's desire is for a world saturated with the knowledge of God: 

Habakkuk 2:14: 'filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord' 

Isaiah 11:9: 'They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of -- the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.' 

It is the insight into what is happening behind the scenes that is specific to Revelation. 

History is not chaotic 
Evil is not sporadic 
Righteousness is not random 

Revelation gives us a glimpse behind the scenes of this universe, into dimensions not apparent. 

It is interesting that science is perhaps catching up here! 

String theory – multiple dimensions beyond this world – possibly 11 
M-Theory – membrane / mystery / magic theory! 
Problem of the low value of gravity – cf. magnetic forces 
An attempt to identify the graviton via the SERN collider 
A hope to understand why the force of gravity is so low and the possibility of leakage into another dimension? 

Much is speculative of course but one thing is clear, that mainstream science and physicists are seriously entertaining the idea that there is more to this universe than appears on the surface, there are more dimensions to this universe than we have before appreciated! 

This is the “revelation of Jesus Christ” 

Not only is it all about Jesus Christ – which of course the rest of the Bible is too: 

  • Prophetically in OT 
  • Pictorially in the OT 
  • Parable in the OT 
  • Person in the Gospels 
  • Doctrinally in the epistles 

Here we see Christ hidden, cryptically, in secret and now unveiled: 

  • His Plan of Salvation (chp 1) 
  • His Presence in the Church (chps 1 to 3) 
  • His Power from the Throne (chps 4 to 19) 
  • His Purpose for the World (chp 19 to 20) 
  • His Pre-eminence Eternally (chp 20 and 21) 

 

Babylon, Satan, the Beast and false prophet are very much to the fore up until chapter 19; wickedness, death, destruction and chaos ensues, until reality is unveiled in chapter 20 and behind the scenes of the chaos of the apparent in the reality of one working all things according to the counsel of His own will; working all things for His Glory. Christ pulls the trigger on these judgements, from the very first seal which is opened till the final destiny is reached. He has been behind the whole of human history from the very beginning until the end. 

His Person sovereign supreme 

Righteousness is not Random 

Evil is not chaotic 

There is order, and organisation. 

Consider the coordinated and pan European attack on the Jews in WW2 and consider the ‘spontaneous’ almost world wide rise in woke culture, identity politics and the promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism. None of this is coincidental nor disco-ordinated. 

If the DESTINY of this world is headed to Christ so too is the 

DIRECTION of this world headed to Christ and by implication, the path too – the DETAILS as to how we arrive at that DESTINY. 

“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 
12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10-12) 

Not only is the ultimate DESTINY of all things ultimately leading to the revelation of Christ (Rev 22), but the route there, the DETIALS of that journey likewise reveal Christ – His Grace in the church, His Government, power and judgment over the world and His Glory eternally. 

 

For there to be a definite destination there must be a definite direction. 

To reach this destination the direction of all of human history is ordered and ordained! 

The reason Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees 
The reason Israel sheltered in Egypt 
The reason behind the Exodus 
The reason Ruth accompanied Naomi out of Moab 
The reason for Daniels captivity in Babylon 
The reason for the census in the days of Herod 
The reason Elizabeth bore John 

Was that all might be brought to Christ! 

Here is a fitting conclusion to the whole of the Word of God. 

“to show unto us his servants” 

The object of the revelation is for His servants. 

If you serve the Lord, or if you desire to serve the Lord, you can claim a right to this revelation. 

Why is this relevant to those who serve the Lord? 

Because these revelations: 'must shortly come to pass' 

These Revelations: 

put service to the Lord into context 
condition the outlook of the believer 

This conditions the mind of the servant, the focus of the servant 

The mindset of the servant, to leave all and follow, to not take the eye off the goal, to not get distracted. 

Why? for curiosity? 

Why bother? 

What is the purpose? 

Is it sufficient that it is: 

The Word of God 
It is about Jesus? 
It is in the Bible? 

Is that enough? 

Yet so much of the Bible has a clear purpose: 

The Gospels: 'these things are written that you might believe and that believing you might have life through His name.' 

Romans: 'the Gospel of Christ, it is the power of God unto salvation' – presenting and defending the gospel. 

Epistles: 

sanctification truth – 1 Corinthians 
Church truth: 1 Corinthians, pastoral epistles 
Work of Christ: Hebrews 

But what would I think of Revelation? 

What does it do? 

What is it for? 

Revelation is the 'apocalypse' of John 

That Greek word has come into the English language. 

The apocalypse, the unveiling. 

The unveiling of what? 

The clue is in the name 

It is the unveiling of what we see. 

It is the unveiling to what lies behind what I see! 

What lies behind the veil of reality! 

Revelation is the true nature of absolute reality. 

This is God's plan and purpose and agenda, not ours! 

When the veil of appearance is dropped we see the nature of realty beneath it. 

That reality is very different from the one we have come to know. 

No rather to show the sovereignty of God in all things! 

To give a future eternal perspective on life. 

This makes sense of life! 

“if in this life only we have hope only in Jesus we are of all men the most miserable” 

‘laying up for ourselves treasures on earth’ is hardly an option! 

Do you see what happens to earth? 

Taking the easy way out? 
compromise with the world? 
collusion with the enemy? 

These are doomed to failure 

reassurance despite the difficulties and confusion there is a plan new life 

it is imperative to live in the present for the future. 

'shortly come to pass' (v1) 

Imminent? 

But was this not 2000 years ago? 

Shortly come to pass – possibly from the Divine perspective. 

The blessing is to (1:3) 

Read 
Hear 
Keep 

Surely blessing in all of the Word of God, but particular blessing here, why? 

Sense of perspective in life, seeing that all these things shall be dissolved. 
Thus a sense of priorities 
A sense of Divine purpose; seeing the underlying and hidden purpose of God in all things. How can I know my purpose in life if I don't know God's purpose for me? 
For the purpose of my life to be meaningful it must align with Divine purpose. 

The content of the book ought to influence our life practically

A sermon preached from our bible teaching series on the book of Revelation

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie