1. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:
The Church must know, first of all, that it is Jesus who speaks to them. As Luther rightly saw, the Word of God is threefold in form: Jesus is the Word of God; the Bible is the Word of God; the Sermon is the Word of God. All three are Godís Word to humanity, and none can be done without.
Every Christian should realize that God does speak and that he does have the right to speak to His people and to be heard. When the Christian listens to God, he or she will not be able to hear the voice of the false spirits.
The Christian should also realize that he or she stands or falls by hearing or failing to hear the Word of God in its three fold form. And that Jesus is really present and so really knows what is going on in His Church (for it is, precisely, His Church and not ours).
2 I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;
3 and thou hast patience and didst bear for my name's sake, and hast not grown weary.
4 But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love.
Does Jesus not have the right to rule His Church? Does he not have the right to send it messengers? And does he not have the right to determine whether or not it is fulfilling its functions? The answer to all these questions is yes.
The problem that had arisen in the Church was not that it was no longer the Church; nor that it had completely forgotten Christ; rather, it was doing its work, but without love! The warm, brotherly affection which should characterize the Church was absent from them. The Church was, therefore, sick.
5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.
They need to consider loss of love their greatest sin and recognize it is the sin which gives birth to every sin. They need to bring themselves back under the rule of love. They will thereby receive forgiveness and will be freed to love again.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Concerning these Nicolaitans we know only what the Church says later on. Apparently it was a group of folks who, like the hippies of the 60ís, believed in "free love". In short, it was a group involved in orgies and open sex as part of the requirements of belonging to the "church". These heretics were rightly condemned by the Church and were not allowed membership in orthodox communities.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.
The call to repent is based on the promise of redemption. When we repent we are drawn ever closer to Christ; we are filled with his love; and we are filled with his Spirit. The end result of such a repentance is that the person who turns back to God will experience the joy of paradise and the eternal presence of God near the tree of life.
8. And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and lived again:
9 I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they art not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
They are experiencing the very depths of evil in the trials they suffer. They should not be surprised if Satan hates them since they love God!
10 Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, anf life.
11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
The struggle of the Smyrnian Christians is not to be too long. There will be an end to it; or, there is light at the end of the tunnel that is already visible. Besides, Christ knows that they are suffering and therefore they are not suffering alone.
But why does God allow this to happen? So that the believers become stronger rather than weaker. When trials come we can either grow through them or be crushed by them. And since God wishes us to grow he will give us the grace we need just when we need it to overcome any trial. Will they remain true to God? Is their faith real? Trials provide the answer, not for God but for them.
In the face of any trial they should work for Jesus with great joy.
12. and to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith he that hath the sharp two-edged sword:
13 I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan's throne is; and thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth.
The throne of Satan is the place where persecution originates. Thus, they are in "a hornet's nest". A very difficult place to live.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.
They find themselves not quite able to remain completely faithful. (How many does this accurately describe in every age!). The sin of Balaam was the desire to lead the people of God astray into the service of other gods; thus the people here were easily led away from the truth into error.
15 So hast thou also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner.
16 Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
If they do not repent they will find themselves fighting God Himself! Not really the battle a wise person would choose!
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.
The giving of Manna is a reminder that God gives what we need each day. The white stone was given to slaves when they were freed; and thus we are reminded that we are free from the bondage of sin and to sin. With justification we receive a new life. The new name means that we have a new relationship to God -- a special relationship which makes us the very special children of God.
18. And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like unto burnished brass:
19 I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that thy last works are more than the first.
20 But I have this against thee, that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess; and she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
Many of the Christians at Thyatira had returned to their pagan pasts. They must realize that impurity in the Church cannot be tolerated in the name of toleration. Their circle is broken!
Jezebel is a well known Old Testament person who led Israel into the worship of foreign gods. She was highly despised in the Judaism of the first century.
21 And I gave her time that she should repent; and she willeth not to repent of her fornication.
22 Behold, I cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works.
They must repent of their idolatry. For, if they do not they will perish as Jezebel did.
24 But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, who know not the deep things of Satan, as they are wont to say; I cast upon you none other burden.
25 Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till I come.
Yet even in the midst of the most "backslidden" churches there are people who struggle to do the will of God. Instead of involving themselves in secondary matters they keep their eyes firmly fixed on Christ.
26 And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations:
27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers; as I also have received of my Father:
28 and I will give him the morning star.
29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
Their work must reflect and mirror the work of Jesus if it is to have any lasting value. The one who rightly hears the word of Jesus will rightly do his work. And just as the rising of the morning star reminds them that the night is over, so will they also, in their work for Jesus, be constantly reminded that the night is almost over and the day is about to dawn.
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