Home     Revelation     Series     Audio     Notes     Study    

Revelation 2:1-3:22
Series:  The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part Three

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 29, 2019

We are back focusing on The Revelation of Jesus Christ - which is about… Jesus Christ.


The purpose of this prophetic revelation that was given to John is not about our knowing about symbols and numbers and strange beasts and devastation and future history and even someplace in all that… us. 


The purpose of prophetic revelation is about knowing God.  So that we can press more into God - to depend on Him more - to know what it means to have life with Him because of Jesus Christ.


Genesis to Revelation God is revealing what He - God - has been doing and is doing and will yet do even in the drama to come.  The working of the sovereign God to redeem us from our depravity and sin and the eternal death that’s coming.


Jesus Christ is central to all of that. 


So - this morning - we’re coming to Revelation chapters 2 and 3 - which contain seven messages that were given by Jesus to John to give to seven churches that were located in what is today western Turkey.  And we need to be careful.  Because as much as we might be tempted to think that these seven letters to seven churches is about the seven churches these seven letters to the seven churches are about… Jesus Christ.


We are the Body of… Christ.  Being the church is about Jesus - not us. 

So as we move through these letters we need to be thinking about how what’s here helps us to focus on Jesus - moving us to greater faith and deeper dependence on God.


Would you pray with me as we come together before God’s Word.


Your Message Notes is a scorecard for each church.  Also on the back of the Life Group Study Guide is this chart which gives an overview of these letters.  Both of which will be helpful to you to in processing what’s here since there’s way more here than we’re going to be able to deal with today and it might be easy to get lost in what were are dealing with.  Just saying.


Letter number one is the church at Ephesus - which we’re labeling as the backsliding church.


Would you follow as I read for us starting at 2:1:  “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.  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.  I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.


We know from our study of chapter one that it’s Jesus who is holding these seven stars that represent those who will receive and share this revelation with their congregations.  Who are held in Jesus’ right hand - Jesus powerfully holding on to them - so that no one can remove them.


And - we know from chapter one that the seven golden lampstands represent the seven churches of Asia.    And also - because in Scripture the number seven represents fullness and completeness - we know that this revelation is intended not only for these seven specific churches but for the full and complete church list of churches - even Creekside.  (Revelation 1:20)


Meaning that - focusing on Jesus - Jesus who is central to all of what God is doing in His work of redemption - Jesus the Head of the Church - is not off someplace running His creation - some distant and distracted god.  But Jesus is not only holding on to the leadership of the church - but also He is integrally connected with - concerned for - and conscious of what’s going on in the these churches - even here at Creekside.


Jesus tells the Ephesian church that knows their works, their toil, their patient endurance.  Their zero tolerance of false teachers.  That they gave no ungodly teaching or ideas an opportunity to penetrate into their lives.  They’d persevered for the sake of Jesus and had not grown weary.


We may think nobody notices what we’re doing.  Maybe they don’t.  But Jesus does. 


But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  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. 


Ephesus was the most prominent city in the Roman province of Asia.  It had a harbor - theaters - a library.  It was a major market place with trade from all over the world.  It was tourist mecca.  A major religious center for pagan and demonic religions.  It was a lot like our neighbor to west - San Francisco.  To be a Christian was not popular.  It meant persecution - isolation.


The Church in Ephesus - in the midst of all that - they were faithfully serving Jesus Christ.  They’d doggedly stood up against the odds.  Not for themselves.  But for Jesus’ sake.  To carry the message of the gospel forward to where it had never been heard before.    


But they had “abandoned” their love for Jesus.  The Greek word has the idea of gradual neglect.


In the old days we would have called them backsliders.  Meaning they were moving backwards in their faith - away from God - but still thinking they were good with God.


So many churches - or Christians - begin life with God with passion for the things of God - serving God - following after Jesus.  Maybe they still have the outward appearance of all that.  But - at the heart level - where Jesus knows what’s really going on - at the heart level the passion for Jesus is gone.

Like a marriage where over time the passion can fade from neglect.  Two people can live together - existing with a committed - we vowed to do this - love -  but have no passionate love for each other. 


Jesus warns them:  Remember the passion you once had and repent - turn back - and recommit yourself to doing those things you did at the first.  Otherwise the lampstand goes away.  Keep backsliding and the end point is no more gospel witness - no more shining for Jesus.  Without passion for Jesus - for the reality of the gospel being lived out in our lives - there is no witness anyway.


Verse 6:  Yet this you do have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 


Brief back fill:  The Nicolaitans were a group that claimed to have some special knowledge about God.  Ultimately what they taught led people away from God and into all kinds of perverse sin.  The Ephesian church had rejected the Nicolaitans along with the false apostles.


The bottom line at Ephesus wasn’t correct doctrine or demonstrated faith.  The bottom line was neglecting what fueled heart level passion for Jesus. 


These days, what would you say characterizes your relationship with Jesus - backsliding neglect or passion?


Jesus appeals to them - verse 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.’  Listen and turn back to Me.  There are eternal rewards for those who do. 


Church number two is Smyrna - the persecuted church.


Verse 8:  And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last who died and came to life.


Jesus is “The first and the last.”  Jesus rules over all of history - past - present - future.


Jesus is the one “who died and came to life.”  Jesus triumphed over death.  Jesus rose victorious from the grave.


Verse 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. 


Smyrna was a city about the size of Modesto.  Beautiful - prosperous - sophisticated - wealthy.  It was a center of science and medicine. 


And yet in this sophisticated city of great wealth and enlightenment and openness and tolerance the Christians were being persecuted - impoverished - openly slandered - vilified.  Sound familiar?


The word in Greek - translated here as “tribulation” - describes a man under building pressure - being slowly crushed to death under a boulder.

Jesus’ words are of compassion - understanding: 
“I know.  I’ve been where you are and they’ve done to me what theyre doing to you.” 


Jesus - incarnate and crucified - Jesus knows our tribulation.  Jesus knows our poverty.  Jesus knows the slander directed against us.  Jesus knew imprisonment.  Jesus knows what it’s like to be under Satan’s attack. 


In verse 10 - Jesus says “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. 


Those 10 days are symbolic of a short - limited - definite period of time.  There are limits - set by Jesus - boundaries that Satan cannot go beyond.


Jesus promises the faithful of Smyrna:  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 


In Scripture - the Crown of Life is given to those who go through persecution and martyrdom - as a never ending reward for those who remain faithful.


Jesus - the God of history who rules over death - speaks to this persecuted church.  Trust Me.  I get it.  In the midst of what are and what will be fear producing crushing circumstances - you have nothing to fear now or in the eternity to come.


Jesus concludes: He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’   

Are we really listening?  These days - in the drama of your life - are you living in fear or by faith in Jesus?


Verse 12 - Pergamum - the compromising church:  And to the angel of the church of Pergamum write: ‘The words of Him who has the sharp two-edged sword.  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. 


We don’t know a lot about Antipas.  Church tradition says that Antipas was the first martyr in the province of Asia.  That he was roasted to death in a metal bull that was heated to the point of the metal being white hot.  And yet, Antipas kept testifying of Jesus even in death.


Pergamum was that Roman capital of the province of Asia.  It was beautiful.  It was wealthy.  In Pergamum our brothers and sisters were being put to death - in horrible ways - bearing the brunt of Satan’s hatred of Jesus.  They died faithful - publicly declaring Jesus as their Lord and Savior.


Jesus tells them: “I know where you live.  I know what it’s like for you.  I’m seeing what you’re going through.  In the hell hole of Pergamum - where Satan dwells - you held fast.  Faced with brutal persecution you stood firm holding onto your faith in Me.”


Verse 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.  So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 


Two subtle deceptions were undermining the church.  


The first deception involves the teaching of Balaam.


Which refers back to the Exodus when Balaam helped the Moabites to use women to gradually seduce young Jewish men to take part in immoral and idolatrous feasts and to gradually lead them away from God.  So the “teaching of Balaam” has come to symbolize the kind of sin that subtly seduces - that deceives - God’s people away from God - into immorality.


Deception number two was the teaching of the Nicolaitans.


While the Ephesians had rejected the teaching of the Nicolaitans - the Pergamumians had compromised with it.  Why?  We don’t know.  But they’d compromised on what they knew to be God’s truth and were slowly - deceptively - being led farther and farther away from the word of God incarnate - Jesus. 


So, in Pergamum - the faithful were being led away from God - not by straight up persecution - but by deception - because they’d compromised on what they knew to be true.


Jesus - verse 16:  Therefore repent.  Reject that and turn back to me. 

If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of My mouth. 


Jesus had introduced Himself as having the sharp two-edged sword.  Here we see that the sword is the word of God which Jesus speaks - sharp and two-edged - dual purposes.  God’s word penetrates to the deepest levels of our lives to expose our sin and to give us instruction in the ways of God so that we might turn to God and be cut loose from what binds us in sin.


And also - by His word - Jesus will judge and destroy those who have rejected Him and who’ve led His people into sin.  And those who have compromised with them - they themselves will come before the judgment of God’s word.


There’s no way to compromise with truth.  Continued sin will be judged.


Jesus ends with a promise - verse 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 stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ 


Mana is what God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness.  Here it’s symbolic of God’s provision.  White stones were given as invitations to banquets or important events.  Symbols.  To those who conquer - who remain faithful - Jesus will personally give heavenly reward - eternal life.


These days are you soaking in and saturated with God’s word so that nothing will be able to lead you away from it?  Is God’s Word the One authoritative truth that dictates how you live your life?


Verse 18:  Thyatira - the seduced church:  And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, - meaning Jesus who is fully God and fully man - with all the authority and privilege that goes with who He is - who has eyes like a flame of fire - what describes Jesus’ discernment - burning indignation with sin - and His purifying fire - and whose feet are like burnished bronze - symbolic of Jesus’ ability to and trample out sin and crush those who oppose Him.


I know your works, your love and faith an service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.  But I have this against you, that you tolerate that women Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing My servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.  Behold, I will throw her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 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. 


Thyatira was about 40 miles east of Pergamum on a trade route from Ephesus to Laodicea.  Not a very exciting place.  Kind of like Delhi.  If you’re going that way on 99 you go through it.  Otherwise, what’s the point?


What kept Thyatira going was its existence on this trade route.  The town depended on trade to stay alive.  So the whole town was organized into various trade unions that were working together to take advantage of any sucker - any commercial opportunity - that might come along down the road. 


A person couldn’t do business in Thyatira unless they belonged to a trade union.  So, in order for a Christian to do business in Thyatira they’d have to join one of these unions made up of mostly pagans doing pagan and ungodly - perverse - gross - things worshipping erotic idols of the Greeks.


Meaning, while there was no government sponsored persecution against Christians the temptation to compromise - to be seduced - to be lured into the culture around them - was huge.  We’ve got to be practical with our faith.  To live in this society a person can’t be too dogmatic.  A person has to learn how to bend.  How to get along.  How to work within the system. 


So while Jesus starts off by commending the church for being a loving, faithful, serving, enduring congregation - Jesus quickly speaks against their tolerating Jezebel - because they were being seduced by the culture they lived in.


Brief flashback.  King Ahab married Jezebel who was a pagan priestess from Lebanon who appointed hundreds of prophets of Baal while trying to wipe out the prophets of God.  Jezebel lured God’s people into all kinds of perverse immorality and pagan worship


So, in Scripture - Jezebel is a symbol of someone who leads God’s people into sin.  Whether there was actually someone named Jezebel in this church or there were people acting like Jezebel we don’t know.


Jesus’ point is that the church’s moral - God directed - center - was looking more and more like the culture around them - even the pagan teachings the source of which was Satan. 


Jesus:  Rather than staying true to Me and what you know to be true - you’ve bought the lies.  


Verse 24:  But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold to 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.  Only hold fast what you have until I come. 


Hold Fast! - in the Greek it means… “Hold Fast!”


Choose to resist with great strength.  Choose not to buy into the world’s system.  Choose to set boundaries that will keep you far away from compromise. 


Verse 26:  The one who conquers and who keeps My works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 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.  And I will give him the morning star.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’  (2:18-29)


What a promise.  Jesus is coming - eyes of fire - He sees what is and will purify what’s sin - feet of burnished bronze - He will crush what is not of Him.  Jesus - the morning star - rising from the east - will appear for His own - for those who have not been seduced by the world - and we - the church - will rule and reign with Jesus forever.


What Jesus is talking about isn’t about economics or how to do business in the world or our standard of living.  Jesus is calling His church to holiness - to purity in our relationship with God - the core of who we are - as individuals and as a congregation.


These days does your life look increasingly like the culture around us or increasingly like Jesus?


Sardis is the complacent church.  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.


The seven spirits of God refers to the Holy Spirit in His complete and full perfection.  Who Jesus has with Him.  The seven stars are the messengers of the churches that Jesus also has with Him. 


I know your works.  You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up - which in Greek means… “Wake Up!!!” Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have no found you works complete in the sight of My God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard.  Keep it, and repent. 


Sardis - as a city had a wonderful reputation - one of the world’s oldest cities with a glorious past.  And Sardis was a city focused on its past glories.


The cemetery in Sardis was so large that it was part of the city’s skyline.  It was visible from over 7 miles away - a great city of the dead - a memorial to past glory and wealth. 


What was true of the City of Sardis was also true of the Church of Sardis.  The excavated ruins of the church building are envious facilities.  Sardis was a large church - well established - in an important location in the city.  At one time very much alive.  But now they’re complacent and living off their name - their reputation - and they were asleep - spiritually dying or dead.


They were so asleep spiritually - that unlike the other cities we’ve looked at - there was no persecution.   There’s no reason for them to be persecuted.  The lights are on.  But spiritually - no one’s home.


First Jesus says, “Wake up.  Because you’re not done yet.  God has more for you to do.”  Get your head out of the past - get out of the complacency of your comfort zone - start focusing forward again.


Second:  “Remember what you’ve received and heard  The faith of those who’ve gone before that’s been passed on to you.  The testimony and vision that they passed on to you. 


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.  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.  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.  He who has an ear, let him ear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ 


The deterioration isn’t total.  White garments describe the righteous.  Those who are spiritually alive.  Those who will walk with Jesus forever.  Jesus will publicly declare that the conquers - the faithful - are His.


What this church desperately needs is a spiritual jump start coming from the Holy Spirit that Jesus brings with Him.


These days are you resting on what was - “status quoing” your service and relationship with Jesus - or are you desiring more - craving what He may yet have for you to do for Him?


Philadelphia is the favored church:  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.


Jesus is the one and only holy and true God.  Who has the key of David - Jesus fulfills the promise that an heir of David - the Messiah - the Christ - will sit on the throne of David forever.  Jesus who has authority to open what cannot be shut and to open what cannot be opened.

I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you and open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have a but a little power, and yet you have kept My word and have not denied My name.


The Church of Philadelphia was not a big church.  Not a wealthy church.  Jesus says they had “a little power.”  But, Jesus says that theyd kept the Word of God and they’d remained faithful to Jesus.  They’d been using what they had to serve Jesus.


Behold, I will make those of they 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.  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. 


I am coming soon.  [so] Hold fast [hang on to] what you have [guard it - protect it - keep living it], so that no one may seize your crown.


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.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’


Notice - no rebuke.  Only blessing and vindication - favor in the face of opposition.  The faithfulness of the Philadelphia church will be rewarded.


“I know that you have little strength.  You’re not a mega-church with mega-resources.  But, that’s not what’s important.  What’s important is that you’ve kept My word and you haven’t denied My name.”


We’re clear?  It’s not size.  It’s not numbers.  It’s not wealth.  It’s faith.  Faithful obedience to Jesus - the one true God - our Savior.


These days, how are you doing at holding fast to your faith in Jesus?


Last church - Laodicea - the lukewarm church.  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.


Jesus describes Himself as the “Amen”  meaning agreement.  What Jesus speaks and does is in complete agreement with the mind and will and heart of God.


He is “the faithful and true witness”  Faithfully committed to His work on earth even through His death on the cross.  Testifying only of what is true about God’s kingdom and salvation.


Jesus is the “beginning of God’s creation - He is beginning of the new creation as the resurrected and exalted Lord.  The fulfillment of God’s promises.  The One who is central to all of what God has been doing - is doing - will yet do - God’s plan and purpose of redemption.


I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 


Laodicea survived because it never really stood for anything.  The people had learned to compromise and accommodate and accept and adapt to whatever.  They just kind of existed.


The same was true of the church.  They had so accommodated and compromised with the culture around them that the world’s way of doing things and God’s way of doing things had become so muddled - so intertwined - that it was impossible to tell the difference.  And they were so self-focused - so self-deceived - by all that - that they didn’t realize how really messed up wretched they really were. 


Jesus’ summary of all that is that the Laodicean church made Him want to puke.


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.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 


Jesus is appealing to His church:  What you really need is Me.  Not all the stuff in the self-deluding culture and wealth of the city around you.  Come back to Me and let me purify you and make you right before God and give direction and meaning to your lives.”

Verse 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.


Imagine this - Jesus - the Amen - the only faithful and true witness - the source and completion and purpose of creation - the Head and Lord of the Church - God - with the love and devotion of a parent - with humility is standing outside of His Church.


Knocking on the door.  Not pounding.  Not shouting.  Not demanding.  Not ordering.  God who with one thought could blow all this away - poof - gone.  Jesus is just knocking - appealing to His church in love and asking to come in - to eat with them - the intimacy of a meal.  And the church is so spiritually deaf that they have no clue that He’s knocking. 


These days, is the door of your heart open to Jesus?


Then Jesus appeals to His church with a promise.  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. 


Remain faithful and we will sit with Jesus on His throne - eternally ruling and reigning with Him - just as He sits and rules on the Father’s throne.  That’s an amazing mind popping promise. 


Finally verse 22:  “He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” 


Processing all that...

Each of the
seven messages to the seven churches ends with this appeal.  “Pay attention - followers of Jesus - and so live.”


Processing all that, the question is:  Are we?


Each of these seven letters touches on what the church has always struggled with - what we all struggle with.  Maybe some of us can relate to one church more than another.  But we all need to hear what the spirit is saying to the churches.  To be challenged by that - open to what that may show us about ourselves - and how we need to respond to Jesus.


Because all this is about Him - not us.  Being passionate about our relationship with Him  Our being dependent on Him.  Drawing closer to Him.  Following Him through life and into eternity.


Which is homework for all of us.  What we’ll explore together at Life Group. 






Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.