This can be a challenging book to understand, but this sermon explains it splendidly and offers timeless advice to people of all ages. I highly recommend it.
Category Archives: Bible
OK, so now 1 Peter 4:19 is on a coffee mug . . .
I’m wrapping up a book that I plan to self-publish, and in it, I joked that 1 Peter 4:19 is a verse you rarely see on coffee mugs. So my youngest daughter got me this for my birthday. Kidding aside, it is a great passage to remind us that, as Christians, we are not immune to suffering and that we should continue to do good while trusting in our most faithful creator. One day the suffering will make more sense to us, but in the meantime, it isn’t like God pulled up the drawbridge after providing us with eternal life and more.
Leopard Theology: Not as fun as it sounds
Many Christians teach Leopard Theology* because they believe that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots. They don’t call it that, but that is exactly what their theology is founded upon. And, like the leopard, they camouflage themselves and are dangerous predators. They take on church leadership roles even though they teach the opposite of the Bible.
Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong and unfounded claims.
It implies that God couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way and that despite God’s alleged failings flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not. Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s errors? That the Holy Spirit got it wrong the first time and He needs the world-loving “Christian” Left to fix things for him 2,000 years later?
Why is this a serious problem? It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” choose what “really” came from God. Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable. Some may do it accidentally or out of laziness but others are just blatant false teachers. They have made up their own god and their own religion.
If someone claims the Bible is only partly inspired, ask a few questions:
- How did they come to this conclusion?
- Do they think their favorite verses are inspired? If so, how do they know? How about John 3:16? How about “love your neighbor?” Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians question whether Jesus really said that.
- If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?
- Why is it that God couldn’t inspire the original writings of forty writers, but He can inspire billions of people to properly determine which parts are right and which aren’t?
- If He couldn’t get Paul, Luke, Matthew, John, etc. to record his word accurately, how can He get you to do it?
- Why should I trust your “inspiration” over those who penned the Bible, or over my “inspiration?”
Then there is Advanced Leopard Theology. It is just like basic Leopard Theology, except God is also changing spots and adding or removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives. They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement). They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible. They may also say things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.” Indeed.
Here’s an example: A Methodist pastor named Laurie Hays Coffman did a pro-gay theology piece that made the argument that she wants to “unfurl our corporate sails to catch today’s winds as the Spirit blows afresh.” She said she was challenged by the vision God gave to Peter in Acts 10-11 where God makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, too, and that the Israelites’ ceremonial dietary laws are no longer in force. Her reasoning is that in the same way that God overturned those laws He is now overturning the prohibitions against homosexual behavior. If that looks like a non sequitur to you then you are correct. The problem is her poor Biblical analysis. There are at least nine things wrong with this view:
- The person with the revelation was Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle and a key leader in the early church. It wasn’t made to you, me, or someone like Ms. Coffman. That doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal something important like this to us, just that it is highly unlikely.
- The visions were clear and emphatic. Peter was given the vision three times and the incident is mentioned twice.
- Peter was inclined to reject the meaning of the vision, whereas these Advanced Leopard Theologians have views on human sexuality that are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture and they are glad to accept this allegedly new revelation.
- There was external validation for Peter from the Roman centurion, which also included a supernatural intervention.
- This lesson showed up in the Bible, not outside it. I’m not saying miracles don’t happen outside the Bible. It is just that things appear in the Bible for a reason. God communicating that the ceremonial laws had been fulfilled was one of those “big deals.”
- This vision overturned a ceremonial law, not a moral law. There are zero examples in the Bible of God reversing his moral laws. In fact, the more Jesus talked the stricter the laws seemed to get because He emphasized the spirit of the law and not just the letter (i.e., lust was akin to committing adultery, anger was akin to murder, etc.). The dietary laws never applied to Gentiles.
- The “God has changed his mind view” is primarily being “revealed” to theologically liberal Christians in the U.S. . . . the very ones who often deny the authority of his Word to begin with! So we can’t trust the accurate transmission of the original writings but we can trust their new revelations? I’m skeptical.
- If God is revealing a change, why is it necessarily more liberal? Why couldn’t God make his laws more stringent?
- The Bible gives strong warnings not to add or take away from its teachings.
But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like. Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.
1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce, adultery, and fornication. We need to teach all of scripture with balance. Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are not attractive or Christian things to do.
There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures. We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like. And we truly miss out when we cast doubts on every passage and question if it is really the word of God.
I’ll close with some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.
Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
Proverbs 30:5–6 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
Revelation 22:18–19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
*Also known as Dalmatian Theology.
One of my irritations with the “Christian” Left and their theology is that it pretends to be slightly different from orthodox Christianity while it is usually 180 degrees off when it comes to the essentials of the faith and any current hot topics. Please note that by “Leftist theology” I don’t mean the theology of political liberals. I am referring to people who call themselves Christians but deny the essentials of the historic faith (i.e., the kinds of things countless martyrs died for — Jesus’ divinity and exclusivity, the authority of scripture, etc.) and are indistinguishable from the world on sexual ethics. If you want to debate the disputable matters, go right ahead. I’m flexible on those. But words mean things, and far too many people use the term Christian in error.
For example, claiming that Jesus is one of many paths to God isn’t a little different than saying He is the only way, it is the opposite. There is either one way or there is not one way. The Bible has over 100 passages teaching directly or indirectly that Jesus is the only way to salvation. If you don’t agree that it is your prerogative, but please don’t claim to be a Christian.
Claiming that Jesus isn’t God isn’t a little different than saying He is God, it is the opposite. He is either God or He is not God.
Claiming that the original writings of the Bible were not inspired by God isn’t just a little different than saying they were inspired by God, it is the opposite. The Bible is God’s Word or it is not God’s Word. It includes roughly 3,000 claims to speak for God, so if liberal theologians think those are all false then why do they bother with the Book at all? Their claim is that the authors of the Bible were blasphemous pathological liars because they falsely claimed to speak for God countless times. Here’s an example:
Claiming that miracles never happen (Virgin birth, loaves & fishes, healings, the physical resurrection, etc.) isn’t just a little different than saying they did happen, it is the opposite. The first chapter of the first book of the New Testament clearly teaches the virgin birth. If you refuse to believe that, then put the book down and stop calling yourself a Christian.
Claiming that marriage can be for two men or two women isn’t a little different than saying it is between a man and a woman, it is the opposite. It is claiming that marriage is not just between a man and a woman and that “marriage” is now whatever we want to define it to be. The Bible couldn’t be more clear about God’s ideal for marriage and sexuality.
Claiming that Jesus approves of killing children up their first breath isn’t a little different than saying, “Don’t murder,” it is the opposite.
The “Christian” Left claims the opposite of what historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity does regarding the essentials of the faith. They are entitled to their opinions, of course, but it is disingenuous and misleading for them to call themselves Christians while espousing those beliefs.
They have invented their own religion, which is their right. It would just be less confusing if they would give it a new name. And it would be more intellectually honest to stop taking money from people who do believe in the essentials that those denominations were founded upon.
They appear to worship a fictional Gandhi-Christ. The most accurate description would be that of a Hindu sect (nothing personal, Hindus!).
Run, don’t walk, from the wolves of the “Christian” Left. They are the opposite of Christianity.
Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Picking a lane on election and predestination
Note: While I’m unapologetic about holding to Reformed theology, I’m not evangelical about it. I share the gospel without mentioning it, and gladly fellowship with authentic Christians who hold other views. However, I don’t appreciate the ignorance and arrogance of those who condemn those who believe Reformed theology.
If God didn’t choose to save some particular sinners destined for Hell, then it is because He couldn’t save them, or He wouldn’t save them.
Reconciling God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility is important to think through for orthodox Christians – whether Reformed, Arminian, Molinist, or whatever you like to call yourself (i.e., anyone who agrees that God knew before creation began who would ultimately choose to repent and believe, and that open theism is false because God is omniscient and not learning as He goes). But I see too many people making the task unnecessarily difficult because they forget that our default destination is Hell. They unwittingly create a straw-man situation where God owes an opportunity for salvation to everyone. But then it wouldn’t be mercy and grace; it would be justice.
In other words, aside from Adam and Eve, who could have chosen otherwise but ultimately needed a Savior because of their choices, everyone else was initially destined for Hell. (For simplicity, I’m leaving out any miscarriage and age of accountability scenarios, however one fleshes those out).
So absent God’s mercy and grace, everyone would end up in Hell. People overcomplicate this to try to get God off the hook for eternal damnation. But it is they who put him on the hook. Everyone deserves to go there, but by God’s mercy and grace, He elects and predestines to save some. So humans are always the cause of them not being saved, not God.
I’ve yet to see someone with orthodox Christian beliefs come up with any alternative besides these reasons for why people end up in Hell:
- God didn’t elect them (Reformed)
- God couldn’t persuade them (Arminian or Molinism)
- God wouldn’t persuade them (Arminian or Molinism)
Even if you hold the view that God “looked down the corridor of time” and elected and predestined those who would choose him of their own “free will,” you are still left with those choices for the remainder.
Option 2 means that nothing God could have done would have convinced you to repent and believe. It wouldn’t have mattered if He sovereignly put a stellar apologist next door to you and gave you lots of encounters with solid Christians (i.e., good experiences with Christianity and complete access to the facts and logic behind the faith). That sounds like Reformed theology to me, as it means that God created these people knowing that nothing would persuade them to believe. In his foreknowledge, He elected not to make them spiritually alive (a la John 3:8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”). They allegedly could choose him freely, but He was powerless to convince them.
Option 3 means that God could have persuaded them but elected not to. Again, that sounds Reformed to me.
I’ve heard of people trying to use Molinism (the concept of middle knowledge, where God knows every possible scenario that could have happened) to get around this, saying that God picked the universe where the most people would choose him. But that means that some would go to Hell in this universe but wouldn’t have in another universe, so God chose them to go to Hell. So they unwittingly end up with the same (false) scenario they are trying to explain away.
It is more biblical and logical to say that people have “free will” within their given nature. But as you can’t choose to fly like a bird because it isn’t in your nature, you can’t choose Jesus when it isn’t in your spiritually dead nature. But if God makes you spiritually alive (again, John 3:8) then you can and will choose Jesus because it is now in your nature to be able to do so.
If God didn’t choose to save some particular sinners destined for Hell, then it is because He couldn’t save them, or He wouldn’t save them.
Bonus thought: Why would Paul anticipate this argument if he was presenting anything but the Reformed view? Romans 9:19–20 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
If you want to memorize Bible verses I highly recommend the Bible Memory software. The online version is free and the app is inexpensive. You pick the verses you want, then you can practice typing over them, filling in every other word or typing them from memory. You have the option to just type the first letter of the word, which is a huge time-saver.
I am not good at memorizing, but this app has made all the difference. It takes a lot of repetition for me to remember passages, but eventually I get there. I’ve been able to memorize over 1,000 verses, including individual verses, short passages, the Sermon on the Mount, the Book of Philippians, Romans 8, the Book of Jude and more.
Just start small and select a few verses. You’ll pick up momentum and confidence, and you’ll be surprised how often God gives you opportunities to use the verses you’ve memorized, either reminding yourself of them or sharing his truth with others.
If you remember the book of the Bible from where you got the passage, that’s helpful, and chapters and verses are a bonus. But as you probably know, the chapter breaks and verses weren’t in the originals. The New Testament quotes the Old Testament many times but makes no attempt to even note the book being quoted. Hebrews 2:6 even says, “It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?” The verse quoted Psalm 8 but just noted that it was “testified somewhere.”
I think you’ll be blessed if you make it a practice to learn more and more verses and passages. And as I cycle back through verses I’ve memorized I try to meditate on what they mean, in context. I have to fight the urge to do rote memorization, as if I was trying to remember Pi to 100 places.
Aside from memorizing important theological truths, you can use the app to memorize handy lists, such as the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (Exodus 1:2-4), the names of the 12 apostles (Matthew 10:2-4), the books of Bible (you can edit a verse to add the list), the names of the seven “ites” living in the Promised Land (Canaanites, Hittites, etc. – Joshua 3:10), the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-19) and others.
I go through some verses as part of my morning devotional time and and other times during the day. I have no social media apps on my phone. Instead I can read the Bible or go through memory verses if I have free time or am stuck somewhere like the doctor’s office.
If you aren’t already doing so, give it a try!
Amazing promises from Jesus’ messages to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3
In this post I want to focus on the promises Jesus makes to those who conquer (or, as some translations say, overcome). In other words, if you persevere to the end you get these astounding benefits (they aren’t just for martyrs). Please read closely and be encouraged! And remember the good news that if you are truly among his sheep that you will persevere to the end (John 10:25–30 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”)
Rev. 2 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Jesus is promising you that you’ll get to eat from the tree of life. Whatever the best meal you’ve ever had has been, this will obviously trump that. And you’ll be eating it in the paradise of God, which is Heaven. And you’ll be eating it with countless other joyful believers.
Rev 2 11 The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.
There will be a second death – incredibly and permanently painful for many, but as a believer you won’t be hurt by it at all. All your sins are already forgiven.
Rev 2 17 To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
This section has a double promise. I was just reading through Exodus and wondering what manna tasted like, and this reminds me that we’ll get to know some day. The mystery will be solved! It actually sounds like my kind of food.
And the white stone with a unique name written on it is an interesting gift. I think that some people think we forget other relationships in Heaven or that it is just some mass of humanity, but this is a clear reminder that in addition to joyful, corporate worship we will also have a unique, one-on-one relationship with Jesus and He will give you a special stone and name.
Rev 2 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
It isn’t clear exactly how we’ll rule in the millennium, but it will clearly be an honor and a responsibility. I couldn’t find anything explaining what the morning star is, but if Jesus promised it you know it is good.
Rev 3 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
There wasn’t a lot of good news for Sardis, but Jesus did promise that you would be made perfectly righteous and that He would acknowledge you before Heaven.
Rev 3 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
We won’t be literal pillars, of course, but He promises that we’ll be permanent members with him and be forever aligned with the one true God.
Rev 3 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
We will actually eat and rule with Jesus for eternity!
There you go! Always look for promises when reading scripture. You can barely go a chapter in the New Testament without finding one. Keep this in mind as you persevere through whatever challenges God, in his perfect sovereignty, is laying before you.
Serious warnings from Jesus’ messages to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3
Do not miss this warnings. When Jesus says something, He means it. I firmly believe that they apply to churches and individuals.
To the Church in Ephesus
Rev 2 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
The church in Ephesus did some most excellent things. They sounded like the perfect church. But because they abandoned the love they had Jesus said He would remove their lampstand – i.e., their church. That’s serious. Do you still love the Lord like you used to? If not, heed his warning and repent!
The Church in Smyrna had no warnings — good for them!
To the Church in Pergamum
Rev 2 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.
There are so many churches enticing people into sexual immorality these days, either directly by mocking God’s word or indirectly by ignoring the issue and being afraid to preach about divorce and fornication. It is the opposite of loving God and your neighbor. They love the world more than they love God, and they don’t really trust his word, and it will not end well for them.
Jesus wants churches to purge themselves of false teachers. The church was doing so well otherwise, but that wasn’t good enough. The Methodist church we left was like that. The preacher knew the truth but tolerated a guy teaching classes that the preacher himself called a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The church Ephesus in Ephesus didn’t love what God loved, and churches like those in Pergamum and Thyatira didn’t hate what God hated: false teachings and sexual immorality.
This is where knowing the Old Testament comes in handy. Balaam seemed to get off to a good start by not cursing the Israelites, but he ultimately harmed them. This is also referenced in Jude, where it speaks of false teachers abandoning themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error.
To the Church in Thyatira
Rev 2 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.
And here’s another church that was already promoting sexual immorality. Jesus had some serious punishments in mind for them. This has the “Christian” Left written all over it. And what they are doing isn’t insignificant at all. Jesus himself says that those promoting sexual immorality have learned the deep things of Satan. Keep that in mind the next time some “Christian” Leftist says that LGBTQX behavior or heterosexual fornication is acceptable.
The lack of church discipline is a key problem today. Churches are afraid to call people out who are sinning.
To the Church in Sardis
Rev 3 . . . ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
They sound a little frozen chosen-ish and Jesus is not happy with that. Faith without works is still dead. There are so many ways to serve. Find something and do it, as churches and as individuals.
The Church in Philadelphia also had no issues. Good for them – it can be done!
To the Church in Laodicea
Rev 3 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Not much good going on in Laodicea. Jesus jumped right into his warnings against them to turn back to him.
Again, I think those were warnings to the real churches at that time but also timeless challenges to every church and individual Christian to stay strong, remember our first love and to never lose sight of our mission. Do we really love and trust God? We’ll hold fast to his word and not apologize for it, and we’ll find ways to love our neighbors.
Revelation Chapters 2 & 3 – Jesus’ message to the churches – and to us
I’ve been memorizing chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation and truly enjoying it. I believe that all scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the original writings turned just as He and the human authors intended, but it does seem like these chapters don’t get the same weight as, say, Paul’s pastoral epistles. I’m going to write this overview then do separate posts on the warnings and promises threaded throughout these sections. I encourage you to read the Bible passages closely and really meditate on these eternal truths.
One thing I love about memorizing using the Bible Memory app is that it slows me down to notice countless things that I’d otherwise minimize or miss. This has been completely true with these passages.
I think it helps to back up a bit to chapter 1. We find the apostle John, who used to have a much more casual relationship with Jesus, being greatly humbled by the glorified Jesus. And then in v. 20 there is a good lesson about interpreting things in Revelation (not my strong suit, to be sure, especially in later chapters). But note how symbolism is used then John immediately explains what the symbols mean. We don’t need to overthink some of these things.
Revelation 1:17–20 (ESV) 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
There is a general pattern, with a message to the angel (or possibly church leader . . . I’ve read different views and would appreciate any of your insights) of each church. Then there is usually a positive, a negative with a warning, and a promise, though there are exceptions.
While there are apparently different views on this, I think a few things are obvious: These were seven real churches that Jesus was addressing. His promises and warnings were as serious and true as could be. There have been churches throughout history through today that fit these molds (e.g., the U.S. is probably similar to Laodicea, but others have attributes of us as well). And I think they also apply to us as individuals. I see myself in the good and the bad of many of these.
Revelation 2–3 (ESV) To the Church in Ephesus
2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 “ ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
Each section notes one or more traits of Jesus. In this case, that He is the one who holds angels of the churches in his hand (the seven stars) and walks among the churches (the seven golden lampstands). Jesus is here among our churches!
Again, I’ll cover the warnings and promises more in subsequent posts, but note how Ephesus sounds fantastic (works, toil, endurance, calling out false teachers) until Jesus points out that they have lost their love. Then He threatens to remove their church! We should not get complacent just because we do some things well.
To the Church in Smyrna
8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
9 “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’
V. 8 points to Jesus’ divinity, being first and last, and has a brief but powerful statement of his true resurrection. The “Christian” Leftists like to claim that He was just resurrected in our hearts or some such nonsense, but the Bible never even hints at that.
Jesus had no issues with Smyrna. He promised them the crown of life for enduring to the end, which we will also get. But He also promised them tribulation and noted that despite their poverty they were actually rich.
Trivia fact: Polycarp, a mid-2nd century martyr, was the Bishop of Smyrna.
To the Church in Pergamum
12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.
13 “ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
V. 12 notes that Jesus has a sharp two-edged sword. He isn’t the “how about a hug and a cookie” Jesus that the “Christian” Left portrays him as.
Just a side note: In passing the massive Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Houston once my youngest daughter said, “I’m pretty sure Satan lives there.” That came to mind when Jesus said the Satan dwelt in Pergamum.
To the Church in Thyatira
18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
The words about Jesus’ features, including the sword coming out of his mouth in chapter 1, can be confusing if people take them too literally. But they don’t describe what He looks like (He obviously doesn’t have a literally sword coming out of his mouth as He speaks) but as what He is like.
19 “ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Again, Jesus is depicted as having eyes of flame and feet of burnished bronze and not some doting grandfather. He is not soft of sexual immorality. He calls it out repeatedly in the strongest possible terms. Yet much of the church ignores and even mocks this today.
To the Church in Sardis
3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
If Jesus says you are dead or dying, that’s a bad sign.
For believers, Jesus will actually confess your specific name before the Father.
To the Church in Philadelphia
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
8 “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
The part about patient endurance is noted four times in these message, such as in v. 10 above. It is obviously a major issue to Jesus. Will we endure patiently through trials and still hold fast to his word and not deny his name?
To the Church in Laodicea
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
If Jesus says something once, you ought to obey. But if He says something seven times, such as, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” then perhaps we should really pay close attention.
P.S. After reading the text many times along with study notes from the Bible Knowledge Commentary, I really enjoyed this series of talks from a conference covering this passage.
My favorite Bible reading / prayer / memorization routine
There is nothing like reading a chapter of the Bible in the morning and a chapter at night, along with some study notes. I did that the first time I read through the Bible back in 1996 and it was life-changing. Hey, God’s word does what it promises. Who knew?
While I’ve never stopped reading completely, I’ve had different patterns over the years, usually just once a day. But late last year I started back with the twice a day routine and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. It is just the perfect set of bookends for the day.
I don’t try to get through the entire Bible in a year. Nothing wrong with that, of course. I’ve done it before, and even listened to it over just a few months when I’d play it in the car regularly. The pace I’m on now is a “read the Bible in 20 months” plan.
I’ve always loved the chronological approach, but I do like a mix of Old and New Testament as well. But I think my favorite will be this plan I came across in Logos, where you cycle through 7 different books. Currently I’m going through a few chapters each of Genesis, Ruth, Psalms, Job, Isaiah, Matthew and 1 Corinthians. It is a great mix, where every day or two I’m reading from a different book.
For prayer, I made a personal translation of the Valley of Vision Puritan prayers, where I converted them from old English poetry form to contemporary prose. I read one a day. (I wish I could get it published, as it is so much more accessible than the original, but the copyright owners didn’t even respond to my request.)
I also just started using the PrayerMate prayer app, which is an easy way to keep track of various prayer categories.
Finally, I love the Bible Memory app. I cycle through a batch of verses at least once a day, sometimes more often. When I come across a new verse or passage I add it to the list. Whenever I am bored or distracted I am inclined to reach for my phone to do something. But having taken off social media apps, I now go to the Bible Memory app and do a few verses instead. Aside from being a great part of your devotional time, it is helpful if you are out waiting for something like an oil change or whatever. It really redeems the time.
And while I am not good at memorizing, this app has helped me memorize so many more verses, passages and even whole chapters than I ever thought possible. My challenge is not to just go through them and not think about them. For example, I’ve gone through Jude so many times that I can recite it without thinking about it, so I need to challenge myself to slow down and meditate on what it says.
So that’s it. Morning: Prayer, then reading a chapter of the Bible and the accompanying study notes, then some memory verses. Evening: Another chapter. And perhaps more memory verses at breaks during the day.
I love this routine and its results. Your mileage may vary.
Some people are busier than ever during this pandemic, but others have lots of time on their hands. For the latter, this is a great time to establish good habits in this area. If you can’t do it now, when will you?
And remember that even if you are very busy, you can listen to the word of God on audio – for free! Redeem your commute! Each chapter is only about 4 minutes, so you’ll be surprised at how much ground you can cover. Of course you can’t look at study notes and such, but the word of God is what really matters. And if you get distracted there is always the rewind button.
And if you still say you don’t have time, ask yourself how much entertainment you consume each day, and why God designed the world in such a way that you never have time for his daily bread.