Last week we began a new series titled “Spiritual Warfare”. In this series we are looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject of spiritual warfare. In our introduction I mentioned the four realities of Spiritual warfare that I will talk about in the coming weeks. Last week I talked about…
Today we will be talking about the enemy or better known as Satan…
Could it be??? SATAN!
Who is Satan? What does he represent? Is he real or is he just a metaphor? If he is real, then how did he come to be? What does the Bible say about him? These are some questions I hope to answer today.
We can have a misconstrued ideology of Satan today. In popular culture he is often represented as either a nightmarishly scary monster who murderously lurks in the night seeking to possess or kill, or he is viewed as a silly horned red creature carrying a pitchfork sitting on the shoulder of someone trying to convince him to make the wrong choice.
But is this who Satan really is? No, it is not. The Bible has much to say about the devil and none of it is either of the pictures our culture paints.
Today we will look at two particular passages in the Old Testament, a few New Testament passages and we will how all of these effects our lives. We will conclude with a personal testimony of one who has encountered evil face to face in the missions field..
“Shining morning star, how you have fallen from the heavens! You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground.
You said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly, in the remotest parts of the North.
I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you will be brought down to Sheol into the deepest regions of the Pit.”
Those who see you will stare at you; they will look closely at you: “Is this the man who caused the earth to tremble, who shook the kingdoms, who turned the world into a wilderness, who destroyed its cities and would not release the prisoners to return home?”
Ezekiel 28:12a – 17
“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every kind of precious stone covered you:
carnelian, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and emerald.
Your mountings and settings were crafted in gold; they were prepared on the day you
You were an anointed guardian cherub, for I had appointed you. You were on the holy
mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was
found in you. Through the abundance of your trade, you were filled with violence, and
you sinned. So I expelled you in disgrace from the mountain of God, and banished you,
guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
Your heart became proud because of your beauty; For the sake of your splendor you corrupted your wisdom. So I threw you down to the ground; I made you a spectacle before kings.”
How Does this Affect Us?
This is a lot of information; so, as believers what are we to do with it all? James 4:7 is a great place for us to start (Submit to God and Resist the Devil). It is important to understand and know that Satan has no power or authority over the believer. He can do nothing without the permission of God (Job 2:2). Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “We should never give the impression that because Satan is the god of this world, God kind of says, ‘Well, what am I going to do? He is the god of this world. I just have to let him do whatever he wants.” No, he has no authority in this world.
Satan is more like a bee without a stinger. He may look scary, but he has no power in his sting because there is no stinger. Or that person who thinks they are in charge of everything, but in reality has no authority over anything at all.
In this short time, I hope I have clearly established the fact that we do have an enemy and that enemy is Satan. He wants to devour you like a hungry lion. We are in a wrestling match with evil and you and I are not strong enough to overcome or pin down the evil one in our world or in our own strength. We will talk about this battle next week. However, we do have the protection and the necessary equipment given to us by God to be successful in this battle.
God does have a protection plan for us! The first thing we must realize as we fight this battle is our strength does not come from us. It doesn’t matter how strong you are physically, how holy you may act or how much you read your Bible, our strength comes from Christ alone! He is our strength, power and authority! God has given us the means to fight this battle and to be protected against the attacks of evil and we talked about it last week with the armor of God.
In the passage we looked at Paul refers to the works of Satan as the schemes of the devil; this reminds us of the trickery and deception of Satan. The Bible tells us that Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light. He is a first-class deceiver and he’s good at it.
In closing, I would like to read a quote from Klyne Snodgrass as a reminder of the evil we are face in in the world. “Evil rarely looks evil until it accomplishes its goal; it gains entrance by appearing attractive, desirable and perfectly legitimate. It is a baited camouflaged trap.”
Thyatira - The City
We know very little about the city of Thyatira, but what we do know is that it was not a large city and was a city of little importance. Thyatira had no natural defenses, so they were subject to repeated invasions over time. Despite these invasions it was a resilient city that kept rebuilding and became a thriving commercial and business center. The city was known for its trade guilds (Fraternal associations of artisans in a particular town). There were more trade guilds in Thyatira than any other Roman province. It was common that if you were to sell your product that you would have to belong to a guild. Guilds had patron gods and Apollos was Thyatira’s. Guilds would hold feasts in pagan temples and eat food sacrificed to gods and it would not be uncommon for the meals to end in sexual debauchery. Some of the trades this city was most known for were its dyeing, indigo and bronze. One of Paul’s first converts in Europe was Lydia who was a seller of purple. She was from Thyatira and it is believed she was a very successful and wealthy businesswoman (Acts 16:14).
(Slide) Thyatira – The Letter
This is the fourth letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. It is believed to be the most difficult passage to interpret and it is also the longest letter of the seven churches. Thyatira has both a commendation and rebuke from Jesus.
Verse 18: Eyes of Flame & Feet of Bronze – Both point to impending judgment. His eyes pierce through the exterior of our person and see the heart of the individuals in the Church. Recall the earlier vision John had of Jesus in his glorified state.
Eyes of fire – Eyes that penetrate and burn to the heart and Jesus is the one who judges our hearts and actions. In his earthly ministry Jesus spoke about how sin was not just an outward physical act of rebellion. Sin is a matter of the heart. His penetrating eyes see the true nature of who we are and is able to judge our hearts as well as our actions. He says that committing sin is not just in the physical act but also in harboring evil in our hearts.
The feet of bronze – Represent strength and stability. Jesus is our fortress and our solid foundation that will not be moved. This would also indicate strength of Jesus in his judgment which will be swift, and He will tread upon the wicked with God’s wrath.
Verse 19: Commendation – “I know your works…” Jesus acknowledges how the Thyatiran church practices love, faithfulness, service to one another and patiently enduring trials. Unlike the church of Ephesus, they were not lacking in love; in fact, their love was great and growing in strength.
Verse 20: However, unlike the Ephesians the church of Thyatira did tolerate false teachings and teachers. We see there is one false teacher in particular who was leading people astray and causing others to commit spiritual adultery with her.
Jezebel – Apparently there was a prophetess in the midst of this church who was practicing and teaching dangerous blasphemous deeds. She was encouraging people to partake in immoral practices that were specifically forbidden by Jesus and the Church. She is represented by the name Jezebel.
O.T. background: In order to fully understand the spirit of this false prophetess we need to first go back and look at the person Jezebel. For the full story of Jezebel, you can read about her in I Kings 16:31 – 19:18 and 2 Kings 9:30. Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who was the wife of the King of Israel Ahab. She was a very influential woman over her husband as she convinced him to his heart from the true God of Israel to Baal worship. She was a wicked woman who practiced pagan idolatry and welcomed and protected pagan priests. At one point she persecuted the prophets of Israel (her nemesis was Elijah) and had 150 them killed at one time. Scholars speculate that her name means “Baal exalts” or “Baal is husband to” or “unchaste”. She has become the symbol of false teachers and ones who seduce and entice people sexually to turn from God.
It is generally agreed that the person spoken of in Thyatira was probably not a woman named Jezebel, but she instead was a type of Jezebel. The name symbolized a woman who was a false prophetess who taught antinomianism (The rejection of the authority of the Mosaic Law on the grounds that it has been superseded by Christian grace and freedom, based partially on Romans 3:8. Some Gnostic sects, such as the Carpocratians, interpreted this freedom as a license to sin because only the spirit, and not the body, mattered. ). According to Stephen Smalley, “In early Christianity women prophesied freely; in contemporary Roman and Oriental cults in Asia Minor women often played the major roles as priestesses.” So it was not uncommon for such a person to rise up in the church. She apparently taught that idolatry was ok, sexual immorality was permissible and she openly engaged in these activities with some of the members of this church. It was probably taught that since individuals were saved by grace that Jesus was ok with his people following the ways of the world because the moral Law of Moses was no longer valid. We can deduce that she was probably instructing people to commit acts of immorality. It was even speculated that she was falsely teaching that these acts were acts that led to deeper insights and that they were actually practicing the deeper things of God.
Verse 21 - 23: Jesus mentions through John that He gave this woman time to repent of her evil ways her time was up. Her refusal to repent had some major consequences.
Church of Thyatira Today
So, what does all of this have to do with us today? What can we take home with us this morning?
The spirit of Jezebel is alive and well in the Church today. There are men and women (most likely influential leaders in a particular church body) who are leading God’s people astray by teaching false doctrines and heresies. It has been said that we are living in a biblically and theologically illiterate culture today. Christians do not have a firm grasp on the teachings of the Bible, and many have little concern or care over true theological doctrines and teachings. It seems that anyone who parades around as a spiritual person is automatically welcomed as a true teacher of Jesus. The reality is that we have just as many false teachers in the world/church (if not more) today as we did in the first century. There are men and women falsely teaching from the pulpits a prosperity Gospel (If you are rich you are blessed; if you are poor you are in sin), a consumerist Gospel (God is at your beckon call. He is here to serve all your needs. Mc Jesus over 100 Billion served). A works Gospel (saved by grace; kept by works). A moralistic Gospel (Just say no to sin and live an upright life and keep the rules). A Universalist Gospel (Jesus is cool with whatever religion you want to hold on to. He wants to be your friend and hang out with you; he would never ever send someone to hell). A Gospel of toleration (Sin is a four-letter word. Jesus understands you have struggles and he is ok with your sin. In fact, don’t worry about your sin because times are changing, and God understands that the Church needs to be relevant and appeal to the masses. Thus, if you are unhappy in life then by golly you need to pursue happiness regardless of who you hurt and regardless of pursuit of holiness).
In this letter to the Church in Thyatira we see that Jesus does not tolerate false teachers and false teachings. He calls his people to hold fast until the day He comes and to keep the Gospel of Jesus before us and let the word of God and His Spirit be our guide for living our lives for His glory. Contrary to what many are teaching today He does require his people to pursue lives of holiness… not because it is our ticket to heaven but because it is an outward sign of the inner change that has happened in us. When we are truly devoted to Jesus, we will pursue holiness because this is his desire for his people. He desires that we know and stay true to the Gospel and protect this message because it is his great news given for all to hear.
As a body of Christ may we be diligent in pursuing God and his Word? This church must remain grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to expose false teaching and not allow dissenters to come in and cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus and take us down a road that leads to straying and tolerating open sin and rebellion. May we hold fast to the Gospel until Jesus does in fact come back for his bride?
 Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson’s new Christian dictionary: The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Smalley, Stephen S. (2005). The Revelation To John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. P. 73
I have never ever come face to face with a demon and I can say that I am glad I haven’t or if I was, I was unaware. Sure, there have been times when I could sense that I was in a place where evil was present, but I can’t say that I have ever willingly or knowingly encountered evil incarnate.
However, I do remember in the early nineties attending a concert in a large concert hall with friends of a band who was anything, but a Christian band and I could truly sense the presence of evil in the place. Now, I have absolutely no proof that there was satanic activity going on, nor did I see evil spirits flying around, but I did have a feeling. It was odd because my friends could sense it as well. We all decided to stay for a little while longer, but eventually we decided that this place was not where we wanted to spend the rest of our night.
Whether we know it or not we are surrounded by evil and unbeknownst to many we are engaged in a battle of good vs. evil and we cannot see what is going on around us, but we can most likely sense or feel the evil activity going on around us.
Today we are going to talk about this as we are starting a new series titled “Spiritual Warfare” and in the next four weeks we are going to look at what the Bible has to say on this subject. In the weeks to come I will talk about the four realities of Spiritual warfare and we will look at…
In our times together we will look briefly at the realities of the war that is being waged on us and all believers. So, let’s buckle up and prayerfully prepare as we engage in this war.
You are probably familiar with Michael Buffer, but you probably did not know his name. In 1984 this boxing ring announcer developed the catchphrase "Let's get ready to rumble!" in his announcing, which gained enormous popularity. He obtained a federal trademark for the phrase in the 1980s and acquiring it in 1992. Consequently, he has earned in excess of $400 million with the license for his trademark.
His trademark phrase often caused the audiences to roar with excitement pumping up the crowd and the opponents for the upcoming match. Boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard once told Buffer, "When you introduce a fighter, it makes him want to fight.”
We are engaged in a battle and it is not a battle against people. We are called to be prepared for this battle before entering the squared circle with our spiritual opponents. Unfortunately, we do not have Michael Buffer following us around to announce the battle we are about to engage in, but we have something far greater than a catch phrase to prepare and pump us up.
We are not in a battle with each other and our weapons do not include guns, tanks, missiles, knives, Filipino fighting sticks, brass knuckles, or other weapons. It is not a war of words or fists. It is a spiritual battle that is fought in the spiritual realm. We are in a spiritual battle and it is the ultimate fight of good versus evil.
Read Ephesians 6:10 -18
War is terrifying. If you have ever lived in a time of war or served in the military during a war or conflict, then you know the level terror involved in warfare. Those of you who have served in the military (especially on the front lines) know better than any of us the importance of having the proper equipment, gear and training before you engage in a battle. You know the necessity of wearing a helmet, having proper training with your weapon and the importance of keeping it in close proximity, and knowing how to use your proper battle gear. Before one is sent off into battle, he is given the necessary equipment and training to both protect and achieve victory. Since it is crucial that a soldier prepare for war, it is just as essential that we non-military civilians be prepared for the spiritual battle we are engaged in. It is necessary to have the proper equipment and training while engaged in this battle.
The passage we just read gives us a look at the battle gear we have and should use for our protection in this spiritual battle. This gear is available to us but is of no use if we leave it sitting beside untouched and enter the battle unarmed.
Schemes of Satan
Vs. 11: The first thing Paul tells us to do in this battle requires action on our part!!! We are told to PUT ON THE ARMOR! We cannot be protected from spiritual attacks if the spiritual armor is sitting off to the side and we never put it on! The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to put on the armor so we can stand against the schemes of the devil. The word schemes in the Greek is “methodeia” and it refers to the works of Satan that he has mastered and those being the crafts of trickery, cunning arts, lies, and deception. 2 Corinthians 11:13 - 15 tells us, “For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be according to their works that Satan masquerades himself as an angel of light.”
Satan is a first-class deceiver. Deception is his business and his business is good. So, in response to the schemes of the devil Paul tells us to put on the WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD. He does not tell us to put on a a few select pieces we think we need, we need to put on ALL of it. Each piece of armor serves a purpose and each piece is vital to fully protect us from spiritual attacks.
Now, the armor serves a twofold purpose.
It is important to understand this because we can never be victorious in battle if we are only always on the defensive and never on the offensive and vice versa. There is a time to protect and there is a time to attack.
Since we will be talking more about the battle next week, I am going to skip down to verse 14 as we look specifically at the armor.
(Weapons of Defense)
Verse 14: The Belt of Truth: The belt or girt in Roman armor (which is probably the style of armor Paul is referencing) was a vital piece of the armor. It was usually a 6-8” leather belt that was wrapped around the waist and all the armor was attached to it and it was also used to tie or secure loose flowing garments. Without the belt nothing would be secured, and the armor would eventually fall off of the person or hinder the soldier as he fought. The belt is a foundational piece of the armor.
Paul describes the belt as the Belt of truth. The truth is foundational to the believer since Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except through me.” Jesus is the belt that holds everything together. In the spiritual battle we are in everything is hinged to the truth of Jesus and the Gospel. We are in a vigorous spiritual battle and God wants us to secure our garments (not be hindered by objects and distractions) and connect all of our spiritual armor to the truth of the Gospel and allow this truth to be the foundation of everything we are in Jesus. The truth prevails in the end.
Vs. 14: Righteousness like armor on your chest. I am not a fan of the CSB translation of this, I prefer the ESV translation that refers to it as the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate was a bronze shield that was strapped over the chest to cover the heart. The heart is an essential organ in human body. Without a heart we would be dead. The breast plate would protect the heat from arrows and swords.
Righteousness simply means being right with God. In Jesus we are made righteous. We are not righteous on our own accord. In fact, we are at the core evil and at odds with God. When we submit ourselves fully to God (As Romans 12:1, 2 tells us) we become righteous in the eyes of God. Since we are made right with God, He will protect our hearts. He will sustain life; he will keep us safe from the attacks of the heart. If the heart stops pumping, then life ends. J. Vernon McGee writes, “Christ is the righteousness of the believer…Only the righteousness of Christ can enable a believer to stand before God.” And I would add, “And to stand against the attacks of Satan.”
Vs. 15: Feet sandaled with readiness for the Gospel of peace. The Gospel of peace is exactly what it says it is; the good news of peace. The word Gospel literally means “good news”. The footwear represents readiness and preparation and the feet represent agility and endurance. As believers engaged in warfare we must always be prepared to share and stand firm in the Gospel. Most importantly we must be willing to live it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of salvation.
Vs. 16: Shield of Faith: The shield Paul has in mind is one that is made up of three layers of wood and covered in leather that was fully soaked in water. According to D.A. Carson, “In battle (the shields) could be locked together with others to form a wall in front, and a roof overhead.” They provided a source of security and protection against the arrows and spears hurled at them. Like a shield, faith in Christ is what protects us from the fiery arrows and spears of the evil one. These arrows or darts that are hurled could be things like evil desires, guilt, doubt, anger, lust, fear, criticism, worthlessness, depression, and anything else that would cause one to take his eyes off God. The faith Paul is talking about in this passage does not refer to what one would call general belief or faith, but instead the saving faith in Jesus. This faith is what gives the believer security in his relationship with Jesus.
Another one of Satan’s tactics is to cause insecurity in the believer, he says, “Oh you did this? Well, God’s not going to accept you anymore.”
“You did that? Well, God’s through with you, He doesn’t love you anymore.” Your faith in Christ will protect you from these fiery darts that Satan will shoot at you daily!
Vs. 17: The Helmet of Salvation: The purpose of a helmet is to protect the head. God’s salvation is our greatest source of protection. The continual reminder that those who have repented of their sins, responded to the calling of God to become one with Jesus. Living a completely submitted and obedient life to Jesus Christ is the believer’s true source of victory. If you do not have Jesus as your personal savior, then this battle cannot be won.
(Weapons of Offense)
Vs. 17: The Sword of the Spirit: The sword is the Word of God (which verse 17 reminds us). Christ is the fulfillment of the Word of God. (I John 1:1) The Word of God is powerful! Hebrews 4:12 says, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. This weapon is not only used as a means of defense but also is used to strike. The Word of God is powerful, when Jesus was tempted in the desert, he used the Word of God to fend off the devil and it was sufficient. We must cling to the Word of God; we must know it and love it, for in it is power.
Vs. 18: Pray at all times in the Spirit: This last weapon is sometimes overlooked. Klyne Snodgrass writes in his commentary on Acts, “The well-armed soldier in Christ’s army, by definition, is continually praying in the Spirit and alert.” Praying in the Spirit strengthens you. When you pray in the Spirit you communicate with God and He communes with you.
The fully armored believer is victorious! This does not in any way imply that we will live lives free from harm and sin, it is quite possibly the contrary. When the enemy is losing ground and being backed into the corner, he will spare no punches. When the enemy is trapped in the corner his claws will come out and the battle will become more violent, even ruthless, and he will attack at full force. This why I hesitate to even preach this series. However, when the enemy attacks at full force we can stand firm in the attack because we are fully armored and covered.
There is a battle going on in this church and churches around the world and Satan is having a field day. Many believers do not realize there is a spiritual battle going on around us. Complacency and apathy in the church and for believers in general is what Satan desires. It is time to take action and our enemy is not going to like this. It is time we stepped into the “squared circle” fully protected by God’s armor and ready ourselves to engage in a battle that can and will be won. But be forewarned, if we enter this battle without the full armor of God and in our own strength we will fail, and we will fall and we will be devoured by the enemy. So, let us take a stand and put on the armor of God for the bell has rung and the battle has begun.
Pergamum – The City
If Ephesus was the “New York City” of Asia, Pergamos (Pergamum) was its “Washington, D.C.” According to the Roman writer Pliny, Pergamum was “the most distinguished city in Asia.”  It was a city that sat high on a hill about 1,000 feet above sea level. The name Pergamon means “fortified” and is taken from the word pyrgos (“burgh”) which means a tower, castle tower or citadel. In the third century B.C. it became the capital of the Attalid territory.
Pergamum was noted for many things primarily having the second largest library (next to the library of Alexandria) in the Greek world with over 200,000 volumes. Marc Antony, as a wedding present to Cleopatra gave her the 200,000 volumes and eventually had them moved to Alexandria. Legend has it that parchment was invented there as a result Egypt cutting off its supply of papyrus.
It was also the location for four major cults of the day with temples and altars built to Zeus, Athene, Dionysus and Asklepios. The latter was considered the god of healing and was represented by a serpent. People would travel from all over in hopes of receiving healing. It is noted that Galen, one of the most famous physicians in the ancient world, was a native of Pergamum.
The city was also the primary location dedicated to the Imperial Cult of Roman worship.
There was a temple dedicated to “the divine Augustus and goddess Roma” but that was destroyed.
Pergamum – The Letter
This is the third letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. Pergamum has both a commendation and rebuke from Jesus.
Verse 12: It is believed that the reason Jesus is represented as “he who has the sharp two-edged sword” was a response to the power of the proconsul. Pergamum was the only city where the proconsul was given the “right of the sword” – which meant he had the power to execute anyone at anytime for any reason. The Proconsul seemingly had the power of life and death by sword. Jesus reminds the church that it is actually who truly wields power over life and death not the proconsul or even Rome. It is he who is the one who should be feared because man cannot kill the soul.
Verse 13: “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.” This is believed to be a reference to the city of Pergamum and not so much the church. Pergamum was an extremely pagan city and as I have already noted it was fiercely loyal to Rome. The city was extremely welcoming to many forms of pagan worship; in particular Roman Emperor worship. This, like the city of Smyrna, would make it very difficult to be a true Christian and live in the city without facing persecution. The “Throne of Satan” is probably a reference to the Imperial Cult of Roman Emperor worship OR some believe it was a reference to the large altar dedicated to Zeus which stood atop the citadel and overlooked the city of Pergamum. Others have even noted that the throne may refer to the cult of Asklepios (the god of healing and who is often called the savior.)
Jesus commends the Church for their faithfulness in staying faithful to Him. Even in the midst of great persecution (the martyr of Antipas) the Church remained faithful. We know little to nothing about Antipas except what is written in this letter and a couple of other references His name is mentioned in an inscription of Pergamum and Tertullian mentions him as well. There is a legend that he was slowly roasted to death in a brazen bull during the reign of Domitian.
Verse 14: “But this I have against you…” Even though they were faithful in persecution they did allow compromise to creep into the church. Jesus has a couple of things against the church of Pergamum; they hold to the teachings of Balaam and they hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. The two are probably closely related if not the same.
□ The teachings of Balaam: A Quick overview– (Read Numbers 22 – 24 for the full story).
Balaam is often the symbol for false teachings and/or teachers. Balaam showed that the flesh of the Israelites was weak and if he could convince the Midianite women to seduce the Israelites then they would ultimately drop their guards and fall prey the sins of the flesh and forget about God. Forgetting about God and living by the lust of the flesh are always common in sexual immorality. The teachings of Balaam were basically rooted in compromise and adapting the world’s philosophies over God’s Word. Apparently, some in the church of Pergamum thought it was better to compromise and go along with the world rather than face persecution. Quite possibly the mindset of some in this church was, “Surely God does not want us to suffer so we must do what we must do to avoid conflict with the world.” Like the Israelites of old there were some professing Christians who were willingly and knowingly eating foods that were sacrificed to idols and were involved with pagan sexual practices. They thought they could mix the world with the sacred without any repercussion from God. Unlike the Ephesians the church of Pergamum did tolerate sin and the practice of the Nicolaitans. Could it be that they were afraid that their stance for truth would get them more persecution thus they allowed the sin to continue because they didn’t want to face it. They adapted to the world instead of denying the influence of the world. Sound familiar?
Verse 16: “Therefore repent” – Since this sin is being tolerated in the church it is time for the church and its leadership to go before God and repent of their sins. There is no indication that the whole church is involved in the practices of Balaam and the Nicolaitans BUT Jesus declares the whole church guilty of the sin because they have not taken action against this sin. They knew what has going on but they were turning a blind eye to sin and figuring they would be found guiltless because they weren’t actually involved in the sin, but they were guilty by association. Indifference to sin is a sin.
If they refuse to repent, then Jesus will “come soon” and this should be read as a judgment. Jesus will send judgment if things don’t change.
Verse 17: The promise of receiving “the hidden manna” and “a white stone with a new name written on it.” “The Pergamos overcomers are promised that they will commune with Him at His feast in the kingdom, since they refuse to commune with demons at the idolatrous meals.” Some have suggested the white stone is an invitation or pass if you will to the Messianic feast. It was a practice in ancient days when an individual on trial would be given by the jurors a stone, a black one indicating guilt, a white one acquittal.  So, the white stone with a new name could be symbolic of our acquittal from sin and declaration of innocence because of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Church of Pergamum Today
So, what does all of this have to do with us today?
May the promises of Jesus ring in our ears as overcomers to feast on the everlasting manna of God and when God does call us home, we will receive with joy the white stone with our new names written on it and declaring us innocent because of the blood of Jesus Christ.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 2:12–17). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 95
 Ibid p. 97
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 2:12–17). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 2:12–17). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Have you ever saved up for something that you have wanted only to be let down when you finally get it? Maybe you bought a car that you were certain was going to be the best car you’ve ever owned just to find out it’s a lemon and spends more time in the shop than on the road. Did you by a new electronic item and it doesn’t do all that you hoped and expected it would? Or, you landed the new job that sounded amazing when you signed on to find that it inevitably winds up a dead-end job and one you hate.
I remember one Christmas as a young child getting a Tycco electric race car track. I was so excited when I got it. I savagely tore open the package and put the track together and began playing with it. The problem? When I clicked the remote to start the cars moving, they would engage and race down the track but when it went around the corners, no matter how fast or slow I went it would never stay on the track. A few days later one of the cars engines burned out and then I rarely, if ever, used the racetrack again. I was so let down, something I was expecting to bring such joy to my life, brought frustration and disappointment.
As adults we still get frustrated when get something that we think should bring joy and happiness fails to deliver. Sometimes we set our expectations so high just to end up frustrated and disappointed. We see this with our kids. I can’t remember how many times we bought a toy that one of the kids really, really wanted and ends up breaking within five minutes of playing with it or it didn’t work the way they expected it. No matter what age we may be, we all get frustrated, let down and angry when our expectations are not met.
Today we are concluding our 4-week series through the book of Haggai titled “When God Builds”. In our series we have looked at the events surrounding God, through the prophet Haggai, calling his people to prioritize their lives and to get back to doing the job He called the remnant to start and complete, namely rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. In chapter 1 we talked about getting on board with what God is doing, so that we can see great things happen for His glory and for His Kingdom. Two weeks ago, we looked at chapter 2:1 – 9 where we focused on the importance of remembering the past, the danger of idolizing it, and the necessity of moving forward into the future with God. Last week we talked about chapter 2:10 – 19 and we looked specifically at what defilement and holiness mean and what the Bible says about the Holiness of God and how we become holy.
Today we will conclude this series as we talk about God’s promises and our expectations.
Haggai 2:20 -23
Vs 20- 23 “The Word of the Lord came to Haggai…” This is the fourth time in this short book that the Lord speaks to Zerubbabel through the prophet Haggai. This prophecy was spoken on the same day as the third one and God makes two declarations
1.The Kingdoms of the world would be shaken
2.The Kingdom of God would be unshaken
Zerubbabel was living in dangerous times. The work set out before him was great, if not impossible to accomplish in the current conditions. The people were frustrated and rebuilding the city walls had not begun, thus the city was vulnerable to attack.
Vs. 21- 22: I am going to… Make a name for myself
Vs 23: “On that day, I will take you Zerubbabel…”
Promises & Great Expectations
So, how does this relate to us today? God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. We are told time and again that God is trustworthy. This should be comforting and assuring to all of us since the Bible is filled with promises from God to His people and they and we live in the expectation that He will keep His promises and his fulfilled promises will not disappoint.
Promises of God
In this Minor Prophet book of Haggai, we see that God is a God who restores. He the LORD of the past, present, and future. He calls us to be committed followers of Him as we serve a Holy God, who calls us to be and makes us holy. He is a God who is faithful in making and keeping His promises. In this account the remnant of Israel believed God was at work and they responded in obedience. Thus, they had the expectation that God is going to do as He promised. He promises to shake the kingdoms of the earth and heaven. We see that God eventually shook the heavens and earth through the advent of Jesus. The people of Israel never expected the Messiah to come in the form of Jesus, but he did and what he accomplished was far greater than what they were expecting. They were expecting a conquering king who would restore the kingdom of Israel. What they got was a humble servant who gave his life so that those who believe would have eternal life. His Kingdom focus was on the heavenly kingdom and not necessarily the earthly
The word expectation means: “A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” So, are we entitled to receive the blessings of God? As children of God we are entitled to the promises because Jesus has given us this right.
So, the question could be asked, is it wrong to have expectations of God?
Should we expect blessings from God? Should we pray expectant prayers? Is it ok to ask for something from God and expect Him to deliver? The answer lies in another question, “What is your motivation?” Are you expecting God to do great things for you because…
We should expect great things from God because He is the originator of greatness. When we pray, we should expect God to respond. Jesus tells us to ask and receive. However, we have to check our motives with our expectations. When we pray according to God’s will He will always exceed our expectations. He may not answer the way you want, but He has a bigger plan in store than you can imagine. God knows what is best for us and we need to submit our wills to His.
I have already talked about the promises that God has made, and we should expect to receive theses promises based solely on the fact that God is trustworthy, Jesus is faithful, and He will fulfill his promises. His promises far exceed anything we could ever ask for.
So, the question remains, “is it ok to ask God for things that He has not necessarily promised?” God has not promised everyone would have a spouse, does that mean as a single person you shouldn’t pray for one? God never promised a life of comfort, so should we not ask God for a good life? God never promised safety to every Christian, so should we not ask God for protection? God never promised His church would grow numerically, so should we not ask God to add to our flock?
The answer is a resounding NO. We need to pray period. But we need to check our motivation and motives in our asking. Is what you are asking for you pleasure only or are you seeking God’s pleasure as well. It is a known fact that when we find joy, completeness, and contentment in God alone He will bless us with the desires of our heart.
Smyrna – The City
The city of Smyrna was the second largest city in the Roman province of Asia Minor. It is the only city of (of the seven churches) still in existence today. It is now modern-day Izmir. There about 200,000 people living in this city. In John’s day it was a city that had been “resurrected from the dead,” in that it had been destroyed 700 years earlier and had lain in ruins for 300 years. Jesus may have alluded to this in reference to His own resurrection (died but alive) in his greeting to the church. 
It was a proud, prosperous and beautiful city that boasted a famous stadium, library, and public theater (the largest in Asia). It is believed Smyrna may have been the birthplace of the poet Homer (The Odyssey & The Iliad) but not certain.
It was a city that was friends to Rome; which means they heartily welcomed Roman rule. In fact, the in 195 B.C. the city erected a Temple to Dea Roma (goddess Roma) which is the earliest recorded establishment to the Roman Cult. In 23 BC they were granted permission by Rome to build a temple to the emperor Tiberius. Caesar worship was common and enforced in Smyrna, so it was very difficult to be a Christian and live in the city.
Smyrna – The Church
Not much is known about the origins of the Church of Smyrna. It was probably formed around the time Paul was in Ephesus on his third Missionary Journey. Ignatius an Apostolic Father wrote in the early 2nd century that the Church of Smyrna was well organized, with elders, deacons and a Bishop (Polycarp: who was ordained as bishop by the Apostle John). He wrote a letter to Polycarp and to the church of Smyrna.
(Slide) Ploycarp is believed to have been a disciple of the Apostle John. At the age of 86 he was burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor. The story goes that when the fires would not consume him, he was stabbed and killed. His account is one of the first well documented non-biblical martyr stories. This was fitting because the Apostle John wrote to the church concerning persecution that was impending.
Smyrna – The Letter
This is the second letter of the Apocalypse written by John and spoken by Jesus. Smyrna is the first of two churches who does not receive a rebuke from Jesus. The letter opens with the traditional greeting “To the Angel of the Church of Smyrna” and then identification of the one who is speaking (and in all these cases it is Jesus). Jesus proclaims that he was dead and is now alive and this could be in reference to the fact as I mentioned earlier that Smyrna was once a city that ceased to exist but then was rebuilt and brought to life.
Verse 9: Jesus acknowledges the hardships or “tribulations” (anguish, burden, affliction) the church is facing. Smyrna was a persecuted and poor church in a wealthy city. It is without doubt the two (persecution and poverty) go hand in hand. The church was persecuted because they refused to bow the knee to Rome. They did not recognize the Caesar as a deity and refused to offer worship to him and refused to renounce their Christian faith. In this kind of violent environment, it is no wonder that the people who were part of this church were poor. Most likely they were unable to get jobs because of their faith so they probably were destitute and had very little material possessions. The people of the church of Smyrna gave up everything to follow Jesus; they did not compromise their loyalty to him by bending the knee to Rome in exchange for a life of comfort which I am sure was a temptation at times.
Jesus reminds them that though they are poor, they are very spiritually speaking. James 2:5reminds us, “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” These are words of comfort and encouragement to the church. Jesus reminds them in these few words that the things of this world do not make you wealthy. Salvation, redemption and future glory may have contributed to the individuals of this church being materially poor individuals however they were the richest people on the planet
In contrast Jesus speaks about the Jews who are a synagogue to Satan. What we know is that the persecution of Smyrna does not just come from pagan Rome; it also is coming heavily from the Jews. The Jews were still hostile against those who followed Jesus. We must remember the Jews believed Jesus was a blasphemer and when they saw the success of Christian evangelism, they wanted to stop what was happening. Jews would physically harm Christians and they would also inform Roman rulers of these Christians and their worship practices and in a city like Smyrna this was very common. These Jews thought they were true Jews, but they were in fact a synagogue to Satan. They were not working for the God Israel; in fact, they were doing the work of the devil.
Verse 10: Jesus tells them “Do not fear” because hardships are coming. Take a moment and listen to that. “DO --- NOT --- Fear”. Tough times were ahead for the church and Jesus is telling them not to allow fear to overtake them. They are about to face some pretty heavy persecution. He informs them who is behind this scheme. Jesus says, “The Devil is going to throw some of you into prison.” Some have speculated that “the Devil” is Rome (and they certainly were the ones who were going to instigate the persecution) but it is the devil himself who will be the one behind the scenes influencing this persecution. Certainly, the people must remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28 “Do not fear the one who can kill the body but not the soul.”
Prison was not a welcome place. The ancient world prison wasn’t a place like it is today. Restoration and rehabilitation was not the purpose of a prison. It was where you were sent to die. The accused were sent there to await execution. Jesus wasn’t telling them they were spending a night in jail; he was telling them that this will end in death for many in this church.
Ten Days – Could suggest a literal ten days, could be a short time, while others suggest it is a long but limited period of time. Regardless persecution was coming.
Be faithful – Jesus tells them to remain faithful to him even unto the point of death. The faithful ones will receive a crown of life. The word for crown here refers to the wreath of garland which was given as the prize for victors in competition (the reward of righteousness).
Verse 11: He who has an ear to hear… The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. Conquers – overcomes. In John 16 Jesus tells his disciples that he has overcome the world. Since he has overcome, they (and ultimately we) are overcomers. He essentially says, “The world will cause great persecution and trials but have courage and know I have overcome the world. The world has no power over me.” John also reminds us in his Epistles that those who are born of God through Jesus have overcome the world. The second death has no power over those who are in Jesus.
Church of Smyrna Today
So, what does all of this have to do with us today? I have three suggestions.
1.Compromise is not an option
There is no doubt we live in a hostile world that has little love for Jesus and embraces compromise. People (even those who once claimed to be a follower of Jesus) have compromised their faith in exchange for comfort, wealth and status. Following Jesus is costly but worth every penny; spiritually speaking. The world is pulling the strings of your heart. It wants your worship and your affection. There are so many things out there that are demanding your heart and entice you to bow the knee to them. The truth is only Jesus satisfies. We cannot compromise our loyalty, love and life to Jesus for something that is ungodly, empty and cannot deliver.
2. No matter how poor you are, you are extremely wealthy
You may or may not have material wealth. God is not concerned with your material wealth as he is with your Spiritual health. Material wealth means little in the Kingdom of God. No matter what your financial status is if you are a child of Jesus Christ then you are the richest person in the world. You have what many who have everything materially, but nothing Spiritually cannot have… salvation, redemption, hope and future glory. It is Jesus who makes us the riches people on the planet.
3. We have overcome because Jesus has overcome
As believers we need continual reminding about the fact that we are overcomers… We are victorious in this life because Jesus was victorious on the cross. The world has no hold on us and we are not slaves to it. The words Jesus speaks to us shows that there is nothing the world can do to take away our joy; and it certainly will try. May we know that in turmoil, pain, suffering, and persecution joy can be found. Let this truth be our foundation. We live in a time of uncertainty, violence, godlessness, amoralism and turmoil and this should not affect our lives in the least because Jesus is still on the throne. We have overcome the world because we belong to Jesus and He is the victor thus we are victorious as well.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 2:8–11). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 91
If you lived in the sixties or seventies or maybe you are a fan of pop culture you are probably familiar with the 1960’s TV show Batman and Robin. This insanely ridiculous show was outlandish and entertaining. The video you just watched is a compilation of 50 “holy” proclamations from Batman’s sidekick Robin. In all 120 episodes spanning three seasons the show aired and a movie, Robin made close to 400 “holy” statements!
Maybe 60s & 70s pop-culture is not your thing. How about. Baseball? You may remember early St. Louis Cardinals announcer and later Chicago Cubs baseball announcer Harry Caray. He was one of the most famous of a long line of baseball announcers who used the catch phrase “Holy Cow!” It is believed he began using it early in his career in order to prevent himself from lapsing into vulgarity. As a young boy growing up in the middle 70s, I remember. watching NY Yankees announcer and Yankee Phil Rizzuto scream, “Holy Cow!” after something big happened. I grew up in NY state and we used to get the NYC cable channel WPIX and I would faithfully watch Reggie Jackson and the Yankees play and fondly remember Phil Rizzuto’s commentary.
We are three weeks into our 4-week series through the book of Haggai titled “When God Builds”. So far, we have looked at chapter 1 where I talked about getting on board with what God is doing, and when we do this we will see great things happen for His glory and for His Kingdom. Last week we look at chapter 2:1 - 9. I focused on three areas…
Today we will continue as we will be looking at chapter 2:10 – 19. We will look specifically at two words… holiness and defilement. My aim is to answer the questions
Haggai 2:10 – 19
Vs. 10: The Word of the LORD comes again about 3 months after Haggai’s initial call from God to talk to Zerubbabel and Joshua about getting back to their priority of rebuilding the temple and about 1 ½ months after God calls his people to move ahead into the future.
Vs 11 – 13: The LORD tells Haggai to ask the question to the priests about what and how something becomes holy and what and how something becomes defiled. In this question He asks, “If a piece of holy meat touches bread or stew or wine or oil or any other kind of food does it become holy?” Basically, he asks can holiness be transferred. The answer is No.
The second question asks, “If something is defiled and it touches something does it then become unclean?” Basically, is sin transferable. The answer is yes.
The conclusion, holiness is not communicable, but sin is.
Vs. 14 - 19: God says, “It is like this with Israel.” They have been living in a contaminated state because their priorities have been in the wrong place. For centuries they neglected God and His call to them to be a Holy country for the nations. Instead they fell into the traps of sin, defilement, idolatry and forgetfulness of God. As a result, everything was contaminated or defiled.
“Think carefully” – Once again God tells them to think carefully or more specifically “consider this”. In the state of rebellion to God and before a stone was laid on the foundation there was trouble, frustration and disappointment. Now God is calling them back and they have turned back to God, thus things will be different from now on. Now that their priorities are in order, they will experience blessing.
The word “defile” can also be translated “unclean”. This is taken from the Hebrew word tame’ (tawmay) which means polluted, profaned, sexually, ceremonially, and religiously impure. In the Old Testament something or someone would be declared defiled or unclean if they were impure in any of the three areas of defilement. One could become defiled through contact with someone or something that was unclean. The Israelites were specifically called to follow the ceremonial cleanliness laws set before them, so that they would be a nation unique and set apart from all other nations. However, they failed to live holy lives before God thus they became a defiled nation and one who was led into captivity. We are warned often in the Bible to stay away from that which defiles. Christians are called to live lives set apart from the world. We are called to holy living, but so often we allow the world to taint or defile us. I used to say to my students when I was a youth pastor, “It is easier to drag someone down to the level of sin than it is to pull someone up to the point of righteousness.” Basically, this means that often it is much easier to give in to sin, than it is to stand firm in holiness.”
So, what is holiness? The word “holy” is derived from the Hebrew word qodesh and means “apartness, separateness, sacred, set apart.” To be holy one becomes set apart or separated from anything impure. God alone is holy. No one or no thing is holy in itself. There is a complete and absolute purity about God and His name. He is the essence of holiness. He and his name are separate from everything and are to be considered holy. Let’s look at three passages that declare vividly the holiness of God
The Apostle John is giving us a glance into heaven. He sees God seated on the throne with these strange angelic beings surrounding this throne, twenty-four elders in white garments, and the seven Spirits of God. These creatures ceaselessly proclaim day and night “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty”. Their primary job to proclaim God’s holiness.
This verse says the one thing that we should all know about God; He alone is holy. There is no thing that is as holy as God. He is holiness defined
We are once again, introduced to another set of angelic beings (probably the same ones in Revelation) who proclaim “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory!” We see that God is not only being referred as holy, nor holy, holy but holy, holy, holy. Sounds redundant doesn’t it? Not really… The threefold repetition of the word holy suggests supreme or complete holiness. According to R.C. Sproul, “(The repetition) represents a peculiar literary device found in Hebrew forms of literature, especially in poetry. The repetition is a form of emphasis.” He continues in his book The Holiness of God, “Only once in sacred scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree… The Bible never says that God is love, love, love or mercy, mercy, mercy or wrath, wrath, wrath, or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy.” He continues “We have mixed feelings about the holy. There is a sense in which we are at the same time attracted to it and repulsed by it. Something draws us toward it while at the same time we want to run away from it. We can’t seem to decide which way we want it. Part of us yearns for the holy while part of us despises it. We can’t live with it and we can’t live without it.”
When Isaiah was in the presence of God what was his first response? Was it praise? Was it joy? Was it a warm loving feeling? No, it was fear and acknowledgement of his unworthiness to be in the presence of a holy God. It was true Godly fear.
Now does this mean we should be scared of God or fearful of Him? No, it means we will give proper respect and honor to Him when we understand that He is completely holy. Understanding his holiness (which we can never fully comprehend) changes us forever. We no longer approach God casually as our buddy from college who we haven’t seen in several years; instead we approach him with reverence, respect and awe. In Isaiah’s encounter with God can see God’s grace and mercy present as well.
How do we become holy?
Notice that God didn’t respond to Isaiah’s, “Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips” with a “Yeah, you’re right now get out of my presence.” No, He responded by sending an angel to place a coal on his lips to purify him and make him worthy to stand in the presence of God. God provided a way for the unclean to stand in the presence of a holy and pure God. This is what God has done for you and me through Jesus Christ. We are unworthy to stand in His presence because God is separate from profane things, but He has cleansed us and made a way for us to stand in His presence in confidence and grace in and through Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 4:14 – 16
In Christ we are able to stand before a pure and holy God without guilt or shame and we can stand in confidence… not because of who we are, but because of what Christ has done for us. Because Jesus is our High Priest, our intercessor we may now boldly approach the throne of grace. Knowing this truth our response should be Holy Amen to that!
This is what the Spirit-filled life is all about… being a person who relies His Spirit in you for your power and ability to live your life for Him. In a nutshell, the way to kill sin in your life is to die to your selfish desires and live in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in you. We are not strong enough to kill the root of sin in our lives… The root of sin is killed by complete submission and commitment to .
Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1045
 Sproul, R.C.: The Holiness of God. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988 p. 38
 Ibid p.42
 Sproul, R.C.: The Holiness of God. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988 p. 61
The Seven Churches - The cities churches located were both postal and administrative centers. It is believed that they highest concentration of Christians were in these cities.
Write - John is commanded to write down in a book what he sees and send it to the churches in these seven cities.
The Seven Letters of Revelation
For the next seven weeks we will look at the seven letters to the seven churches. We will look at them first from the historical point of view (What Jesus said to this historical church) and a modern point of view (What does this letter say to the Church today).
The structure of the seven letters is very similar. They follow a consistent pattern, beginning with the address, which is always “To the angel of the church of [the city].…” This is invariably followed by the identification of Christ as the sender of the letter, usually (though not in every case) describing him in terms drawn from the vision of chapter one.
Jesus’ first message to each church is: “I know your works.” The churches’ works are sometimes commendable, sometimes requiring chastising and sometimes both
Three of the churches have commendation and criticism. Two churches have only praise and two have only criticism.
Ephesus – The City
The city of Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the Roman province of Asia. It was a main import and export center for Asia. There were believed to have been about 250,000 people living in this area. The temple of Artemis (Diana) one of the Seven Wonders of the World was located in Ephesus. She was originally an Anatolian fertility goddess, but under the influence of Greek culture had become the focus of an extensive religious cult. It is also a city of great political importance. It had been granted by Rome the right to self-government. 
Ephesus – The Church
It is believed the Christian faith came to Ephesus with Aquila and Priscilla about AD 52. A church was planted in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul and he ministered there for two years. Some amazing things happened in Ephesus during his time one of which was a riot that Paul unintentionally instigated as a result of his preaching (Acts 19:21 – 41). Timothy (the one Paul wrote both 1 and 2 Timothy) was a resident and tradition states that he may have either been an elder or the Pastor of the church of Ephesus when Paul wrote his letters to him. According to some traditions the Apostle John and Mary the mother of Jesus resided in Ephesus. Mary may have actually died in Ephesus and it is believed John lived in Ephesus up to the point where he was banished to Patmos.
Ephesus – The Letter
Whenever I read the letter to Ephesus in a sick and twisted way I always think of Jesus singing a contemporary song to the church of Ephesus it could probably go something like this…
Verse 2: Jesus acknowledges that he is familiar with the works of the church of Ephesus. He commends the church first because they have been faith in enduring hardships, they have not tolerated people who have an evil agenda and they have exposed false teachers and Apostles. The false teachers Jesus speaks of are probably the Nicolaitans and we come to this conclusion because He references them by name in verse 6. Jesus commends the Church in verse 6 for hating the works of the Nicolaitans just as God hates their works.
The Church of Ephesus maintained integrity by denouncing and exposing the heretical teachings of the Nicolaitans. This is commended by God.
Verse 3: Jesus also states that the church of Ephesus is patiently enduring for the sake of Jesus. The Ephesians not only turned away and exposed false teachers but they also patiently endured persecution and opposition. They did not grow weary during their trials and persecutions but they stayed true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Verses 4 – 5: Jesus did have something against the Church of Ephesus. They had abandoned their first love. Jesus is not specific in detailing what that first love was but it was probably their lack of loving one another and/or their lack of loving God. Ultimately the two are directly related. Lacking love for God eventually leads to lacking love for others. The command of Jesus was very specific “Love God and love others” and apparently the Ephesians had forgotten this and they had abandoned their first love.
All is not lost though… Jesus instructs gives them a remedy to fix this problem…they are to remember, repent and return. I will speak on what this looks like in a few moments. Jesus tells the Ephesians to heed his warning. If they do not do as he instructs then He will come and remove his lamp stand from their midst. This means that if things don’t change soon the church will die; which unfortunately it did. Unfortunately the Church of Ephesus no longer exists.
This should remind us that a loveless Church is a Christless church and a Christless church is a dead church.
Verse 7: The promise – To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. To those who endure persecution and remain faithful they will be given permission to eat of the tree of life which means eternal life and victory over death.
Church of Ephesus Today
There is no Church of Ephesus today but this does not mean the letter is no longer valid nor has no relevance for today. This letter does speak to us today as just as it did to the Ephesians.
We all know good works cannot save us. The Gospel explicitly states that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the truth of the Gospel. Jesus accomplished our salvation for us. However since our good works do not save us does not mean our good works here on earth do not matter. What we do individually AND collectively as a Church matters greatly to God. God has called the Body of Christ to be the Light of the world. I think it is important for us to use this passage as a score card of sorts for the church of Jesus Christ and more so for Southside today. We should be asking…
If you are feeling hopeless, conflicted or convicted at this moment that is good because God is at work in your heart. As I was preparing for this message I felt all three. However I am encouraged because verse 4 doesn’t end with the problem. Jesus has given us a solution…
REMEMBER where you have fallen. Allow God to work on you today. If you or we have failed in any of the areas mentioned above then we are exhorted to find out where it is we have failed. This can be and often is a painful process and should lead to the next step.
REPENT – The word repent means “To think/act differently. To change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins.” Repentance doesn’t mean being sorry. It means being sorry enough to change. This is a painfully freeing process. Repentance can hurt, it can cause tears, it can break your heart but it always leads to freedom and forgiveness.
RETURN – Do the works you did at first. This simply means to allow the Spirit to do his work in your heart. Allow the Spirit to fan into flame the passion and fire you once had for God. It’s synonymous to the words of King David, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me.”
The key here is you/we cannot return if we skip steps 1 and 2. Remembering and repentance is necessary in order for us to return to the place where God desires for you and us to be. We all have ears and we must hear what the Spirit is saying. May God have mercy on us and may we be faithful in responding.
 Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: A parallel commentary (Re 1:20). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 86
Last week we began our four-part series through the book of Haggai titled “When God Builds”. In chapter 1 I talked about when we get on board with what God is doing, we will in turn see great things happen for His glory and for His Kingdom. I set the stage as I talked about the remnant of Jerusalem who returned to the city to rebuild the temple. At first the work was done zealously, but after time and a few hiccups their priorities began to be mixed up and started focusing on their own homes rather than Gods. The prophet Haggai spoke to the Governor and High Priest through the Word of the Lord telling them to get back on track with Him and building His house, fortunately they heeded the words of the prophet and began to do what was necessary to get back on the same page with God.
This week we are picking up in chapter 2 and we will look at the first nine verses. Today I will focus on three areas…
I am excited about this message because as I look at West Bradenton Southside, I see us as a blank canvas that is ready to become a beautiful masterpiece of what God can and WILL paint in our lives personally and as a church. In visualizing the blank canvas I remember surfing the TV channels as a young boy and I would stumble upon this artist Bob Ross. His dangerously large afro and soothing voice would captivate me as I found myself staring mindlessly at the TV screen as this man would create some of the most beautiful landscape paintings. I would watch amazed as Ross would take a stroke of the brush here and dab of paint there and this beautiful scenery would gradually come to life. At first, I couldn’t see what he was creating but after time it would all come together. He would do it with such ease and skill that it felt like almost anyone could do what he is doing.
God is like an artist with a vivid imagination and creativity. He established this wonderful institution that we call the Church over 2,000 years ago and he has been working on it since its inception.
About one year ago Southside Baptist was adopted by West Bradenton Baptist Church. It was because of this small congregation of about 12 faithful members and their love for the church, their belief that God was not finished with them, and their hope in Jesus as they moved forward into the future that God has in store for them. It was also about a year ago that I was called to be the Campus Pastor of this church and lead the charge (with complete dependence on the Holy Spirit) into the future. This is an exciting and terrifying place for me to be. However, I look forward to walking alongside with you all as we move into the future and we walk with and participate in what God is going to do here on 1604 17th St. in West Bradenton FL.
Read Haggai 2:1 - 3
On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the remnant of the people: 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem to you like nothing by comparison?
Vs 3: About one and half months from the initial word from Haggai to Zerubbabel, the prophet speaks once again to the governor and high priest. He tells them to ask the remnant “who is left among you…”.
To better set up the scenario we are in I am going to push pause for one moment as we go to
Ezra 3:10 – 13.
We go back about 15 years prior when the inhabitants came back to Jerusalem and they laid the foundation of the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. We read that at the completion there were shouts of joy and weeping of those who remembered the former glory of Solomon’s temple. On this occasion the people should have rejoiced because God was at work among them and he was going to reestablish and rebuild his temple again. However, those who remembered the temple couldn’t get past the fact that this new temple was not going to be as grandiose as the former. This upset them and they could not get past this idea that things were going to be different now. You know, like all of us… They had a hard time with accepting change in the future and believing the future could be better than the past.
Back to Haggai we have a similar situation before us in chapter 2. God tells the people to look back to the past and as some of them did they looked back at the past with fondness and thinking those were the best years. As the people returned to working on the temple many were overwhelmed with depression as they again realized that this new building would pale in comparison to the former Temple. Those who remembered were stuck in the past and they couldn’t get past the fact that God was now starting something new. This new temple may not have been as good, but it would one day be the place where God himself, in Jesus Christ would come and teach, and worship. This new Temple would ultimately usher in a newer Temple not made with hands, but the Holy Spirit abiding in the believer. The future was looking bright.
Read Haggai 2:4 – 5
“Even so, be strong, Zerubbabel—this is the Lord’s declaration. Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land—this is the Lord’s declaration. Work! For I am with you—the declaration of the Lord of Armies. This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.’ ”
Vs 4: “Be strong…”. In the midst God is telling the people to be strong. Why should they be strong? Because He will be with them as they work. It is the presence of God that makes his people strong. Notice he doesn’t say, “Go ahead and give it your best shot and then I will bless you.” No, he says, “Be strong… because I am with you.” As they build the future they aren’t moving forward for the sake of moving forward. They are moving forward because that is where God is heading. God is moving to the future to do great works. Yes, He is a God who has done great things and we are reminded often in Scripture to remember what God has done, but He has a plan for the future, and He will be with them every step of the way.
Vs 5: “This is the promise I made…” He encourages the people to focus on moving forward by remembering the past. In the past he made promises… He fulfilled his promises and He will continue to fulfill his promises. The people can take courage in knowing that God has been faithful in the past, so they can move into the future with confidence because of His faithfulness. As a result, some inhabitants began looking forward to the future because the best was yet to come.
Read Haggai 6 – 9
“For the Lord of Armies says this: “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all the nations so that the treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord of Armies. “The silver and gold belong to me”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies. “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the Lord of Armies. “I will provide peace in this place”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies.”
Vs 6: “In a little while…” The future
Vs. 7: “I will shake all the nations” There is some debate as to whether this promise is near future or far future. Some believe this will be a literal shaking of the nations in Zerubbabel’s time seeing a collapse of the Persian empire and the establishing of the Grecian empire. Or it may refer to the far distant day at Jesus’ second-coming when the LORD will shake the nations in judgment and establish his Kingdom here on earth.
Vs 9: “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first.” The plan for the future house of God far surpasses the past. I like what Pastor and author James Montgomery Boice wrote,” In my opinion, this refers to people, in the sense that ‘the chosen, the elect out of all nations, those gentiles whom God has from eternity foreknown and predestinated,’ will increase the glory of the true temple, which is the church. That is, the ultimate glory of God’s house will not be a mere physical glory but a spiritual glory that comes from having an increasingly large host of all tongues and nations enter into it.” God’s plan is for the nations. He has a future plan and it includes us.
Vs 9b: “I will provide peace in this place” This speaks of the future peace between man and God. Through Jesus Christ and the cross of Calvary we will experience true peace with God. We are not at peace with God in our natural sinful state. We are at war with Him. It is through Jesus Christ that we finally be at peace with God… True peace.
There is so much we can take home with us today. Being that we are at the one year mark of the adoption of Southside Baptist I want to focus on what God has in store for you individually and us as a church.
If you love the past (personally or the church) more than you love the future, then I believe it is a harsh yet truthful saying that you’re not in God’s will. God wants what is best for us, and what is best is still yet to come. So, here are some truths about the past and the future that we can take home with us today.
We are a blank canvas and God wants to paint a beautiful picture with Southside. Yes, currently we are a small congregation who loves Jesus and we want to share Him with others. My heart and prayer is that we may become a church who goes out and shares the love of Jesus and that we will be a church that grows. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the church studied God’s word, prayed, and fellowshipped and as a result God added to the church daily. Pray with me. Let’s pray big prayers and ask God for big things for His glory, not ours, and let’s see what He does.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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