Viewing: Dr J Stewart Gillespie - View all posts

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

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

Of Thrones and Rainbows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with

 

Grace in Christ 

 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

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

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

graceinchrist.org

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

Revelation chp 3 vs 7 to 13 - The 7 churches of Revelation - Philadelphia - Surprising Origins and Unexpected Destinies - JS Gillespie - 17112021  

Philadelphia shines brightly against a backdrop of dark and dismal failure. It would be impossible to predict that unadulterated commendation of the church at Philadelphia would have followed after the preceding failures of Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira and Sardis. When God's Grace is operative it is impossible to predict the end from the beginning. Let us be encouraged, we may come from humble circumstances, we may have had an unpromising start in life, in the estimation of the world we may not amount to very much but when the grace of God is operative the outcomes and end point are consistent not with our limitations but with the immeasurable Glory of God's Grace in Christ. The unqualified commendation of this church after so much correction and condemnation in the other churches of Revelation, comes as a striking and refreshing surprise. It does not follow the pattern of past failure. As is so often the case, when God's grace blows afresh on glowing embers it is impossible to predict how high these glorious flames will rise.

Perhaps we have scratched our heads over the details of 1 Samuel chapter 17. Why the details of David's errand to deliver bread and cheeses to his brothers in the valley of Elah? The answer of course is very simple. 1 Samuel chapter 17 is actually all about David's errand to bring the bread, cheeses and parched corn to his brothers and their captain in the valley of Elah. David was sent on a simple errand of delivering bread and cheese to his brothers. The rest of chapter 17, the details of David's fight with Goliath, his victory over the Philistines, his gaining of a bride and his ascent to the throne of Israel is really an add on, an extra to what he had been sent to do; deliver bread, cheese and parched corn!

When the Grace of God and the power of the God of Israel is operative it is utterly impossible to predict the outcome from the beginning! It may have been a simple task David embarked upon, perhaps even a task like the foot washing of John chapter 13 that the disciples thought beneath them, but this led to David's first and greatest, that of the slaying of Goliath and the path to the throne. 

The key to the success of Philadelphia lay ultimately in their likeness to Christ. They kept His word and honoured His name; a path of truth and holiness (3:7). When the door was opened they were ready and waiting to go through that door. 

The door was undoubtedly one to mission and ministry, service and success in evangelism. As with all service, which can at times be onerous, involving sacrifice and commitment, service was the direction and not the ultimate destiny. The end point of this journey, through the open door, a door which was opened by David's anointed (Isaiah 22:22),  was the heavenly Jerusalem and God's eternal presence (Rev 3:12) just as the keys held by the typical Eliakim in Isaiah chapter 22 were keys to house of David, and to the temple; the "Father's house" (Isaiah 22:24). They too were to become 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 - 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 - Sardis - The Shame of a Name - Revelation chp 3 vs 1 to 6 - Dr J Stewart Gillespie  

The church at Sardis, the 5th of the 7 churches of Revelation is:

  • Insensitive to the Spirit
  • Unresponsive to the Scriptures
  • Unenthusiastic in service 
  • Uninterested in the preaching of the Word of God 
  • Inactive in worship

Sardis may have had a name, a reputation of being the place to be, but it was a name, like the city, based on past glory and memories of the 'good ole days' which may not have been that good after all. Sardis spiritually as a church seemed to have imbibed some of the flavour of the city of Sardis historically. Sardis living in the light of past glory, had been the capital of the Lydian Empire, ruled by Croesus, a king of legendary wealth. In the days of Croesus the Lydians of Sardis had worked out how to purify gold and separate it from silver, to a very high standard. Sardis of a by gone day was renowned for minting the highest standards of pure gold coins. 

Re-echoeing the themes of the church of Sardis in Revelation chapter 3, the secular historian Herodotus describes the fall of the city to Cyrus the Great in the 6th Century BC. Like the church the city had been caught out sleeping! Caught off guard and failing to be 'watchful' the apparently impregnable Sardis fell. One of Cyrus's troops whilst watching the ramparts of Sardis saw a Lydian soldier lose his helmet over the wall, climb down to the helmet and retrieve it. 

The Lydian soldier realised if he could find a way up to that point there was a path thereafter. This provided Cyrus and his forces with the break through they needed, That night Sardis fell, unwatched, and unguarded. A parable indeed of the church of Revelation chapter 3.

Living in the glory of the past did Sardis no favours. Such a practice tends to render us disengaged from being like David and "serving our generation." 

The path to recovery for Sardis lay not only in WHAT they knew but in returning to HOW they discovered the fresh fires of revival "remember therefore how thou hast received" (Rev 3:3). That HOW was by the experiential ministry of the 7 fold Spirit of God (Rev 3:1; Isaiah 11:1-2). God's Spirit brings the Divine into personal experience. He is the Spirit of: 

Intercession (Rom 8:26ff)

Revelation (John 16:15) 

Communication (1 Peter 4:11)

Education (1 Jo 2:27) 

Consolation (john 14:16) 

Transformation (2 Co3:18) 

Direction (Rom 8:1)

Without His ministry, Christian life becomes, dead dry and unresponsive.

It was by the work of the Spirit of God that the revival fires of the days of reformation were fanned. It is to the days of reformation that Sardis would particularly relate in the panorama of Church history. After the days of compromise under Constantine in the period of church history typified by Pergamus, following the orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism of Thyatira, truth was in part recovered in the days of Sardis as the Spirit of God once again was depended upon to reveal the truth of the Word of God to the people of God. This was "how they had received and heard" (3:3); to this they must return.

 

Yours by 

 

Grace in Christ

J Stewart Gillespie

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Yours by 

Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

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

 

Ephesus - the early Apostolic Church

Smyrna - the church persecuted under successive Roman Emperors

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

Thyatira - the development of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

Sardis - the rediscovery of truth and reformation 

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

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

 

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

From a bible teaching series expounding the book of Revelation.

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

 

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

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Systems of Christianised religion with a lot in common: 

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone missing?? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 v20 - "to teach and to seduce my servants" 

2 separate condemnations perhaps here? 

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

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

cf. Romans chapter 1: 

  • Idolatry 
  • Heathenism 
  • Atheism 
  • Homosexuality 

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

  • Invincible 
  • Indestructible 
  • Blaze 

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

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

Let us be wary of the: 

  • busy 
  • popular 
  • appealing 
  • easy 

Christianity - especially with what it spawns 

"with death" 

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

 

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

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

2:25 "till I come" 

3:3 "I will come on thee" 

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

3:10 "behold I come quickly" 

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

The last 4 continue until the end! 

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

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

From a bible teaching series on the 7 churches of Revelation 

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

Ephesus - the 7 churches of the Revelation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfectly / Positionally / Eternally in Christ 

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cf 

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

What has happened to: 

Faith 
Love 
Hope 

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

What happened to … 
How could anything happen without… 

It is absolutely astounding, that you could remove: 

Faith 
Love 
Hope 

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

That is a phenomenal observation! 

This is a church in a coma! 

Why? How? 

Habit 
Ritual 
Routine 
Sense of duty / expectation 

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

 

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

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

But not the PERSON of Christ! 

What would such a church look like? 

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

As opposed perhaps to Pergamos and Thyatira: 

Exciting Heresy 

Or Laodiceas 

Entertaining Vacuum 

Ephesus seems to be dogged with the problem of: 

                              ‘Fatal Distraction’ 

Ephesus has become focused on: 

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

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

Ephesus is the NT church so dogged by distraction: 

1 & 2 Timothy: 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

They appear to have addressed: 

Moral Problems 
Doctrinal Problems 
False Teachers 
Inactivity 

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

“thou hast left thy first love” (v4) 

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

So what was this problem? 

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

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

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

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

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

That this was a problem of INTENSITY of PASSION 

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

 

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

How much is enough? 

How can I have enough? 

How can I know I have enough? 

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

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

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

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

Not WHAT but WHO 

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

The solution to the problem then is not: 

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

But rather 

How do I get closer to the person? 

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

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

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

Starting with communion with Christ will tackle the problems however. 

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

We know relatively so much about it 

Only Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians 4:16 

That is useful for there are some fundamental issues here: 

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

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

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

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

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

This is very misleading. 

This is almost a salvation by works. 

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

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

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

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

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

History may not repeat itself but it certainly rhymes! 

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

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

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

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

How did that happen? 

Failed to grasp the obvious 

The all sufficiency of Christ 

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

Christianity is all about Christ 

Neglected the essentials 

The centrality of Christ 

Distracted by their own attainments and spirituality 

False teachers 

False teaching 

The world 

Distracted by the utterly irrelevant 

and then inevitably: 

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

What is the content to this our first love? 

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

This is a relationship with a person 

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

That relationship with Christ is pre-eminent 

His Person 

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

  

His Presence 

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

His Peace 

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

Prayer 

Communion with Him is two way 

Personal Communion 

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

'Thou hast left thy first love' 

Here is the first church 

Here is the first condemnation 

The first condemnation of the first church 

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

Leaving our first love is a prelude to disaster 

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

It is like the distinction between Mary and Martha: 

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

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

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

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

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

The tactics so far from Satan have been: 

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

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

 

2 - Persecution and attack – Smyrna 

 

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

 

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

‘per’ – mixed 

‘gamos’ – marriage 

 

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

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

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

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

The old paganism was adopted into Christianity. 

Old pagan priests, places, practices were all Christianised. 

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

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

A serious illness but not a terminal prognosis. 

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

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

Here is the sword of discernment 

Christ decides 

Christ discerns 

Christ divides 

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

Here is the need of the moment met by Christ. 

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

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

Vs 13 – The setting, circumstances and Satan 

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

 

Perhaps we have not fallen like them 

Perhaps we have not been tested like them! 

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

‘seat’ : throne: ‘θρόνος’ 

Is it a specific place at Pergamos? 

There are certainly plenty of contenders for that title: 

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

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


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

2 - Temple of Asclepius 

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

3 - Temples to the Emperor cult – Augustus, Roma 

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

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

Antipas: 

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

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

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

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

V14 – great pressure to compromise. 

The doctrine of Balaam – a doctrine of corruption and compromise 

Notice the power to overcome compromise: 

Discern: 

  1. Doctrine 
  2. Diet 
  3. Desires 

Of the world around you 

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

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

The Nicolaitans appear to promote exactly this: 

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

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

The encouragement and consolation: 

Hidden manna: the manna of the Holy of Holies: 

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

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

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

A ‘white stone’ and a ‘new name’ 

Is this a white stone for: 

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

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

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

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

A new name in recognition of our faithfulness to Christ? 

Was that not the case too for Simon Peter? 

Or Cephas? (Syriac) 

Or Psephos : 5586 : stone 

He was the stone with a new name! 

This ministry from Pergamos has enormous practical implications for us: 

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

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

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

Living out Christ in intense adversity 

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

Doctrine from society 
Diet of that world 
Desires of that world 

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

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

Yours by Grace in Christ 

 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

The seven churches of Revelation - Smyrna 

Much could be said of Smyrna 

Smyrna comes from the Greek word Myrrh, which derives from the Hebrew word  ‘mor’ the word for bitterness. 

What was a fragrant perfume: 

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

was also a bitter resin. 

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

Smyrna is a faithful church that suffers! 

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

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

The power of the mind 

‘Man’s search for meaning’ – Viktor Frankyl 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ministry to Smyrna, highlights the importance of ministry. 

The importance of right thinking and of Bible teaching. 

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

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

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

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

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

An argument formulated by Greek philosopher Epicurus: 

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

If He is able but not willing then He is malevolent 

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

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

 although perhaps most succinctly put by CS Lewis: 

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

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

If His people are not happy then: 

               God is not good 

               God is not all powerful 

               God is not 

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

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

It is a logical argument – what makes you think that a random universe can throw together a brain of atoms, undesigned and unchecked against any standard that results in being able to draw any reasonable conclusion about anything? 
The solution lies in the argument that happiness is dependent on goodness – herein is the simplest point! The argument presumes that a good God desires happiness, ie happiness is dependant on goodness; thus absolute happiness is dependent on absolute goodness; a condition we do not have. We cannot have a square circle! A square circle remains absurd even if we prefix it with the term ‘God’ or not. A fallen world is the consequence of free choice, to have no fall is to have no choice, to have no choice is to have no humanity. You cannot have it both ways. 

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

 

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

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

               

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

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

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

They have the ministry of a Person 

Their Suffering is Defined 

‘first and last’ – setting the boundaries 

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

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

Christ sets the limits 

There is purpose 

There is a prospect 

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

A Person, pre-eminent and in control 

Purpose and Presidency 

A ministry of empathy 

He understands 

He ‘was dead and is alive’ 

He has been there! 

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

Death is not the end 

Suffering is not final 

“was dead and is alive” 

Suffering Discerned : “I Know” 

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

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

There is the prospect and promise of victory. 

Here is the antedote to despair – a correct perspective 

‘good things happen to good people’ 

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

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

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

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

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

Purpose 
Perspective

 

From an expository bible teaching series on Revelation and the seven churches preached at New Cumnock.

Yours by Grace in Christ

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfectly / Positionally / Eternally in Christ 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cf 

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

What has happened to: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Love 
  3. Hope 

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

What happened to … 
How could anything happen without… 

It is absolutely astounding, that you could remove: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Love 
  3. Hope 

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

That is a phenomenal observation! 

This is a church in a coma! 

Why? How? 

Habit 
Ritual 
Routine 
Sense of duty / expectation 

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

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

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

But not the PERSON of Christ! 

What would such a church look like? 

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

As opposed perhaps to Pergamos and Thyatira: 

Exciting Heresy 

Or Laodiceas 

Entertaining Vacuum 

Ephesus seems to be dogged with the problem of: 

                              ‘Fatal Distraction’ 

Ephesus has become focused on: 

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

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

Ephesus is the NT church so dogged by distraction: 

1 & 2 Timothy: 

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

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

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

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

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

They appear to have addressed: 

Moral Problems 
Doctrinal Problems 
False Teachers 
Inactivity 

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

“thou hast left thy first love” (v4) 

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

So what was this problem? 

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

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

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

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

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

That this was a problem of INTENSITY of PASSION 

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

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

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

How much is enough? 

How can I have enough? 

How can I know I have enough? 

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

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

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

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

Not WHAT but WHO 

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

The solution to the problem then is not: 

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

But rather 

How do I get closer to the person? 

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

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

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

Starting with communion with Christ will tackle the problems however. 

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

We know relatively so much about it 

Only Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians 4:16 

That is useful for there are some fundamental issues here: 

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

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

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

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

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

This is very misleading. 

This is almost a salvation by works. 

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

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

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

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

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

History may not repeat itself but it certainly rhymes! 

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

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

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

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

How did that happen? 

Failed to grasp the obvious 

The all sufficiency of Christ 

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

Christianity is all about Christ 

Neglected the essentials 

The centrality of Christ 

Distracted by their own attainments and spirituality 

False teachers 

False teaching 

The world 

Distracted by the utterly irrelevant 

and then inevitably: 

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

What is the content to this our first love? 

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

This is a relationship with a person 

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

That relationship with Christ is pre-eminent 

His Person 

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

  

His Presence 

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

His Peace 

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

Prayer 

Communion with Him is two way 

Personal Communion 

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

'Thou hast left thy first love' 

Here is the first church 

Here is the first condemnation 

The first condemnation of the first church 

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

Leaving our first love is a prelude to disaster 

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

It is like the distinction between Mary and Martha: 

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

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

Yours by Grace in Christ 

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

Ephesus - the 7 churches of Revelation - On Automatic Pilot - JS Gillespie  

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.  

 

From an expository series of bible teaching messages on the book of Revelation and the 7 churches of Asia.

Yours by Grace in Christ  

Dr J Stewart Gillespie

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

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

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

Probably out of the 7 churches of Revelation I have heard more ministry from Ephesus than any of the others, with Laodicea a close 2nd. It would be and has been very easy to take this verse and to do violence to the verse and use it to berate the believer. 
That is not only an unproductive approach but is also an erroneous one. 
Over the years I have heard this text used to chasten the Christian that they have left their original intensity of affection to Christ, that their current levels of devotion and love for Christ are insufficient and that that intensity, devotion and passion must be augmented to previous levels.  
This is very misleading. 

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

Why do I say that? 

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

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

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

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

Like Adam in the garden (2:7) the tree of knowledge of good and evil, deceived by Satan, crept in and became the priority. 

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

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

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

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

This is why at the centre of 1 Timothy in 3:16 we have THE GREAT MYSTERY, far surpassing anything you could be offered in any of the mystery religions! 
False teachers had been making inroads; not so much to simply take the edge off of devotion to Christ but to present another gospel and keep believers from enjoying a real relationship with Christ and prevent unbelievers from ever knowing Christ! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To each of the 7 churches: 

    “I know…” (2:2)  

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

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

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

More meetings 
More preaching  
Longer meetings  
More activities  

More is only the solution if less is the problem! 

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

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

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

1.    Failure to grasp the blindingly obvious 

The all sufficiency of Christ 
As the foundation and cornerstone of the building, the head of the body and the bridegroom of the church. 
Christianity is all about Christ 

2.    Willingness to neglect the essentials 

The centrality of Christ 

3.    Distraction to something else (2 Timothy) 

False teachers 
False teaching 
The world 
Distracted by the utterly irrelevant 

and then inevitably: 

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

The 'angel' (2:1) 

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

2:1 'right hand' 

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

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

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

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

'first love' 

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

•    First person 
•    First object 
•    First religion 

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

•    Priority 
•    Importance 
•    Pre-eminence 

Rather than first in: 

•    Primacy 

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

They have drifted away from: 

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

to mere activity! 

In their affections. 

Ephesus had: 

•    works 
•    labour 
•    patience 

But something seems to be missing? 

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

what about the: 

•    faith 
•    love 
•    hope 

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

•    Activity 
•    Sensitivity 
•    Discernment 

And yet: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the content to this our first love? 

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

This is a relationship with a person 
First the person, not the religion, not the activity but the person 
That relationship with Christ is pre-eminent 

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

2.    His Presence 

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

3.    His Peace 

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

4.    Prayer 

•    Communion with Him is two way 

5.    Personal Communion 

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

'Thou hast left thy first love' 

Here is the first church 
Here is the first condemnation 
The first condemnation of the first church 
This becomes the primary, the root condemnation for each of the failing churches, leading to all of the condemnations thereafter. 

Departure here from their first love, results in: 

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

Leaving our first love is a prelude to disaster 
It is easy to see how that could happen when the heart of Christian experience has been removed. 

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

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

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

'the first works' : 

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

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

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

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

•    A Holy priesthood 
•    A Royal priesthood 

The distinction? 

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

It is like the distinction between Mary and Martha: 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

But here we ‘see that voice’ 

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

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

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

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

Appearance – Priest 
Activity – Prophet 
Attributes – King 

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

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

Appearance – that of the Priest: 

In the midst of the 7 lampstands 

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

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

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

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


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

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

 

“eyes as a flame of fire” (v14) 

The perception of Jesus – He knows, He knows all 

Cf the man of Daniel 10:5ff 

To see 

 

 

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

Discernment – To discern 

 

 

“feet like fine brass” (v15) 

Judgment – to judge 

Brass is: 

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

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

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

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

Old – static – law 

New – dynamic – Spirit 

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

The OT – static – at Sinai the law is given 

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

@ Sinai Moses encountered the law 

@ Sinai the nation encountered the law 

Here in Revelation we encounter the law giver 

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

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

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

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

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

The reality of a relationship maintained / disturbed / disrupted. 

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

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

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

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

He knows 

He knows all 

Discernment 

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

From His mouth comes the 2 edged sword: 

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

Cf Rev 19:15 

Cf Isaiah 49:2 

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

Judgement 

“fine brass in a furnace” 

His feet – His means of moving 

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

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

Brass in the OT: 

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

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

 

 

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

That sounds immediately strange and so it is! 

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

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

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

That vision only comes because: 

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

 

John hears a “great voice as of a trumpet” 

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

The trumpet is so often in scripture an alarm: 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Here in Revelation chp 1 we have not only the: 

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

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

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

Here we see ‘the voice I saw’ 

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

Presence of God 
Revelation of God 

But: 

Day of the Lord 

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

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

The content of that voice: 

“Alpha and omega the first and the last” 

Cf verse 8: 

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

The title “I AM” is of significance 

V8 – beginning “arche” 

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

V11 – first – ‘protos’ 

V11 – last – ‘eschatos’ 

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

He is the cause and conclusion of all! 

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

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

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

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

That is: 

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

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

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

The Lamb 
Alpha and Omega (Rev 21:6) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Appearance is that of the Priest 

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

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

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

He is: 

Priestly 
Kingly 
Prophetic

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