The Throne Room
The letters to the church are now complete. All seven churches in Asia Minor have received commendation, or criticism or both from the glorified Jesus Christ. The vision now turns from the church to a glimpse of the throne room in heaven and this should serve as a reminder to the churches that should be encouraged because they are also under God’s sovereign rule.
Vs. 1: “After this…” – The vision continues but we see & now we see a future time that has yet to take place.
John sees “a door standing open in heaven” this is similar to Ezekiel 1:1 – where the prophet saw “The Heavens were opened”, and he sees a vision of God – The door John sees is open, it is not opened but this could imply that the door to heaven is open wide or some suggest that the door means that vision is limited to John alone.
“The first voice…” This is the voice from chapter 1 and he now invites John to enter through the door to heaven.
“I will show you what must take place after this…” In chapter 1 Jesus tells John to write the things that must come to pass; now He is going to show him those things. These events must happen, they are the outworking of God’s divine will. He is in complete control. John is not writing about matters of chance, but about events that will certainly take place for they are God’s divine will.
Vs 2: “behold a throne stood in heaven” John is interested in thrones. He uses the word “throne” over forty times in Revelation out of sixty-two references in the New Testament. He speaks of the throne of God in almost every chapter of Revelation. The throne symbolizes the absolute sovereignty of God.
Fun Fact: This Heavenly scene with God on the throne is believed to be the inspiration to Handel’s Messiah.
Vs 3: “he who sat there had the appearance of…” The one sitting on the throne does not appear in human form but is instead portrayed as the brilliance of light reflected from precious stones. (Cf. Ezekiel 1:26 – 28)
The three stones held a place of honor in ancient times. They are among the twelve precious stones that adorn the breastplate of the High Priest. In fact, the Jasper and Carnelian (sardius) are the first and last stones in the Breastplate.
Jasper – Represents or suggests qualities as majesty, holiness, or purity.
Carnelian or some versions say Sardius – Represents or is interpreted as wrath or judgment.
“Rainbow that had the appearance of emerald” – a reminder of God’s eternal covenant.
Vs 4: “Seated on thrones were twenty-four elders clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their head.” It is uncertain who the twenty-four elders are, but generally it is believed they are an exalted or superior angelic order who serve and worship God.
The white garments speak of holiness, and the golden crowns speak of royalty.
Vs 5: “From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder,” This is symbolic of the awesome power and majesty of God. Thunder in the Old Testament is often associated with the voice of God.
Before the throne are the seven spirits of God According to the chapter one concerning the “Seven Spirits…” Some interpret this to represent the complete manifestation of the Holy Spirits being. Some see this as a reference to the seven archangels of Jewish Tradition. In Enoch 20:1 – 8 these angels are named Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. However, this is unlikely since it would be a strange intrusion of Jewish tradition into Christian thought. There is uncertainty as to what these seven angels represent conclusively but we can deduce that they are part of a heavenly entourage that has a special ministry in connection to Christ.
Vs 6: “Before the throne was as it were a sea of glass” John is not giving an exact description, but he is speaking in symbols. We need to remember that modern ideas about glass did not apply in the first century. Glass was dark, even opaque. Clear glass would have been extremely expensive. The text speaks only of “what looked like a sea of glass.” We are intended to understand it as a visual phenomenon that adds to the awesome splendor of the throne-room scene. Its crystal surface stretches out before the throne, reflecting the flashing, many-colored light from the throne, furnishing a surface for the activity around the throne, and creating for the Seer an unspeakably heightened sense of the transcendence and majesty of God.
Around the throne are “Four living creatures” they are related to the cherubim in Ezekiel 1, but there are several differences. They could also be similar to the Seraphim in Isaiah 6:2 – 3 who lift up their voices to sing. It is believed they are also an exalted order of angelic beings, who guard the throne and lead the heavenly hosts in worship.
Four living creatures –
Eyes in front and behind signifies universal watchfulness
Vs. 7: Some commentators say that the description of the creatures is to interpret them as having the strength of a lion, ability to serve as an ox, the intelligence of man, and the swiftness of an eagle. Others say the four forms suggest what is noblest, strongest, wisest, and swiftest in animate nature.
When I look back on my life, I realize that I am where I am today because of the providence of God. In fact, we are all where we are today by God’s providence. What do I mean by this? The providence of God on a grand scale is the divine agreement, which is the Lord’s working in and through His creation and His creatures to bring about what He has planned. On an individual scale it is God working and orchestrating in our lives to accomplish His will in and through us personally.
Now, it is important to understand that God’s providence is always good because there is no evil in God, He is righteous (Psalm 92:15) and when His will is accomplished it is good because He is glorified, and we reap the benefits as we will be forever changed for His glory. However, His divine providence is not always something we enjoy in the moment. When we look at God’s providence on a grand scale, we wonder about things like is the coronavirus part of God’s plan? Are the world events we are currently witnessing something God has planned? Are the stories we read about heinous crimes, abuse and death ever be God’s will? These are very difficult questions to answer briefly, so I am not going to try to answer the question specific question this morning, but hopefully by the end of the message you will have a better understanding.
How about providence on the personal side? How do we respond to God’s providence during the good and the bad times? In my life I have experience many intense moments of joy where God is glorified through the events of my life where his will is accomplished. Some include, for example, my marriage to Carrie, the birth of my children, and His call on my life to ministry. I have also experienced intense heartbreak, disappointment, and hurt. These would include losing loved ones, hurting those who I love more than anything in the world, and being betrayed by individuals whom I thought I could trust and depend. However, the one unifying factor in God’s providence in my life during the joy and the heartbreak is that God worked in and through these situations (good or bad) to shape me and mold me into the person He has called and created me to be.
Last week we began our four-part series in the book of Ruth titled “Redeemer of the Ordinary”. In the introductory message we looked at chapter one. In this chapter the stage is being set for the remainder of the book. Our main female characters Naomi and Ruth both lost their husbands and now Naomi (Ruth’s mother-in-law) decides to go back to her homeland in Judah. She encourages her Moabite daughters-in-law to stay in Moab so they can start new lives and to let her go back home in bitterness. Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law, seceded, but Ruth pledged loyalty to Naomi, her God, and her people. So, Ruth and Naomi go back to Judah, Naomi is bitter, and Ruth is there to love and care for her mother-in-law during these troubled times. With the stage being set we are privy to God’s involvement in the situation. We read about a woman who feels she is cursed by her God and decides she is not useful anymore, but God has a different plan for her, and it is one that will forever change hers and ruth’s life and ultimately the course of the world.
(Ruth 2:1 – 7)
Vs 1: Enter Boaz… Boaz is a relative to Naomi’s husband. Now there is some discussion as to whether Boaz is an actual relative or as some commentators believe, that he was not necessarily relative but more of a connection through her husband. According to commentator Leon Morris, “Family here denotes a larger group than does a family with us, though a close community is certainly implied. It is rather like a Scottish ‘clan’.” Either way, in the text he is mentioned as a relative.
“He was a prominent man of noble character…”
His prominence is believed to suggest he was a warrior or more akin to a knight. If you recall they were living in tumultuous times and it would not be out of the question that Boaz was a skilled fighter or warrior. It also suggests that he was a powerful landowner. So, the text proposes that he was an upstanding citizen, who was powerful and influential in his community.
Vs. 2 - 3: Ruth informed Naomi that she was going to the field to glean after the reapers. It just so happens that the field she chose was part of Boaz’s land.
The law of gleaning is a Mosaic Law which states that when a person reaps in their fields, they are not to pick their entire crop; instead they are to leave some for the sojourners, widows and orphans to pick for themselves. This was not something that landowners did to be nice or on a whim, it was a law that they were required to adhere. In some ways it was the Jewish food assistance program.
Lev. 19:9, 10: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the resident alien; I am the Lord your God.”
Deut. 24:19: “When you reap the harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It is to be left for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
Vs: 4 – 7: Ruth gleans from the field and she eventually catches the attention of Boaz. He asked the man in charge of the reapers who she was, to which he responds that she was a Moabite woman who was the daughter-in-law of Naomi and has asked permission to glean in his fields.
(Ruth 2:8 – 13)
Vs 8 – 9: Boaz then talks to Ruth. He tells her that she can glean all she wants and then asks if she would do so in his fields exclusively. Ruth does not understand why he is showing her favor, so she asks why he is being so kind to her.
At dinner Boaz tells Ruth to “See which field they are harvesting, and follow them.” They and them is feminine in form and probably refers Boaz’ female workers. It also indicates that the young women (“they” and “them”) had some function to perform in the reaping. It is probable that in the harvesting the men would cut the crop and the women would tie them into bundles. The women may have also done some reaping. So, it is believed the men and women would have normally worked together at harvest.
Boaz also informs Ruth that he has informed the men of the field to not touch her. This enabled her to work close to the reapers and it would put her in a position that would be especially favorable for gleaning. But it would also expose her to the possibility of rude jests and even inappropriate mishandling from the workmen. However, he tells her that he has guarded against this by giving instructions to the reapers that they were to leave her alone. He was offering her protection and provision.
Vs. 10 – 13: Ruth understands the grace she has been show in this situation. She bows to him and asks again why he is being so kind to her. Ruth understood she was a foreigner in this land, and she did not expect to be put in the place of honor that she was in. Her reaction is genuine thankfulness.
Boaz tells her that he has heard about her loyalty and love for Naomi. He knew about her giving up her family, customs, and gods out of love and loyalty to Naomi.
(Ruth 2:14 – 16)
Vs 14: As they were all eating together Boaz invites Ruth to eat a meal with the reapers. Her place next to the reapers shows that she was now accepted as one of the parties and Boaz’ act in passing the roasted grain was, it would seem, a mark of special favor. However, it was more than a nice gesture, because we are told that Ruth had all she wanted to eat and still had food left over to take back home to Naomi. Boaz gave her more than enough food to eat. This shows that Boaz was starting to take a liking to the Moabite woman.
Vs 15 – 16: After the meal she goes out to glean some more and Boaz instructs his reapers to let her glean as she pleases, in fact he instructs that they let some of the grain fall from their baskets. The law gave the gleaners the right to go over the field after the reapers. They must do so only after the reapers had finished their work and had taken all they wanted from the field. Boaz was showing kindness and grace by now going beyond the legal rights of the gleaners and allowing Ruth to glean before the reapers were through.
(Ruth 2:17 – 23)
When Ruth had finished, she took her gleanings to her mother-in-law and Naomi was excited and then asked where Ruth had gleaned. Naomi realizes that Ruth has been shown a special kindness.
Vs 19 - 20: “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz.”
Vs 21: Naomi continued, “The man is a close relative. He is one of our family redeemers.”
A Redeemer - A relative of the same family. It was the right of the “kinsman” to receive the inheritance of a family without heir (Nu 27:11). He was also obligated to reclaim property of a kinsman who had gone into debt (Lv 25:25–28), especially if it involved someone’s enslavement to a non-Israelite (vv 47–49). In this function the kinsman becomes the kinsman-redeemer  We will talk more specifically about this in Chapter 4.
Vs 22 – 23: Naomi tells Ruth to continue doing what she is doing and to keep close to the young women until the harvest was over. Ruth did all she was told.
As we have been reading through this beautiful account, we are seeing few things come to light. The curtain is opening, and the story is coming together. We now see that this story is more than a Hallmark Channel love story. It is rich with symbolism and truths that are applicable for us today. I find that there are two truths present in this story up to this point that we can “glean”.
BUT I can give A reason… The providence of God. We do not know how or why God works in the ways he does, but Romans 11:34 says, “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” We are also told in Isaiah 55:8, 9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” So, to answer the question as to why it is akin to what we say at work, “It’s above my pay grade.” We can’t always know what God is up to because…
We all know the frustration of going through hardships, heartbreak, and loss. But the mindset I try to have during difficulty is not “God, why are you allowing this to happen to me?” Instead, it is “Lord, I trust you, I may not like it at this moment, but give me the perspective to see beyond my situation or circumstance and to ultimately know you are at work. Thank you Lord for You are teaching, molding, and shaping me in this moment.” Wherever you are in your life today, know that God is at work and He not only knows what is best, but He determines to give you what He knows is best for you, for His glory and our benefit.
 Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (786). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
City of Laodicea
Laodicea was a prosperous city; probably the wealthiest in the area due in part to the banking industry which was one of the features of the city. Their wealth was so great that it has been recorded that after an earthquake in 607 AD the city rebuilt without any financial assistance from Rome. Another contributing factor to the city’s wealth was that the countryside was perfect for raising sheep and the area gained great wealth from the soft black wool of their sheep.
It was also well known for its medical school. The school of physicians followed the teachings of Herophilos who believed compound diseases require compound medicines. He would create mixtures of medicines including ointment for ears, and an eye salve made from a mixture of power and oil.
The city was located in an area where there were not many natural resources, so they had to bring water to the city from springs about six miles away through a system of stone pipes. During dry seasons it was not uncommon for the city to be left in a vulnerable and dangerous state.
The Letter to the Church of Laodicea
The Church of Laodicea, like the Church of Sardis, receives no word of praise or commendation from Jesus in this letter. If you recall last week, I mentioned that most churches (if not all) either think they are or want to be like the Church of Philadelphia. Who wouldn’t want to receive the wonderful praises of Jesus? Well just the opposite is true of Laodicea. I have found just as many churches refuse to believe or want to be likened to the Church of Laodicea and for good reason.
Verse 14: “The words of the Amen…” – This is a reference to Jesus.
Amen – So be it, trustworthy, firm. It is an expression of absolute confidence and trust. When used at the beginning of a discourse it means “truly, truly or of truth”. At the end means, “So be it, so it is, may it be fulfilled.” When we use this word (generally at the conclusion) in our prayers we are declaring that we put absolute trust and confidence in the one we are praying to. The word is almost identical to Hebrew word that means “believe” or “faithful”.
“the faithful and true witness” – This is a reference to Revelation 1:5 where it declares Jesus as the faithful witness.
“the beginning of God’s creation” – (The Alpha) – This is a reference to Colossians 1:15, 18 where Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and He is the Beginning. We also see in Revelation 22:13 where Jesus declares, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, beginning and the end.” Jesus is beginning and He is end and he is the absolute trustworthy, faithful and true witness. Nothing exists before him and nothing can exist after him and nothing is more trustworthy or deserving of trust than Jesus. He is all… He is eternal.
Verse 15: “I know your works…” Once again Jesus declares (as with the letters to all the churches) that he is familiar with their works. He is actively watching their deeds. Unfortunately, in Laodicea’s case their works are not pleasing to Jesus. In fact, they are repulsive as we will soon see.
“you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!” The Church of Laodicea is an ineffective church at best. Maybe they are just a church in name only
□ Cold – of cool water OR it can be a metaphor for sluggish. Some can take this to mean that this church was frigid and sluggish in their faith. However, I believe that it can be connected to positive sense in cool waters that bring refreshment.
□ Hot – boiling hot. Kills germs and could be used for medicinal purposes.
Verse 16: Lukewarm – Tepid or ineffective. Since the city got its water from springs nearly six miles away the water of Laodicea was usually tepid and gross. So, the Laodiceans knew what Jesus was saying in these words. This is certainly symbolic to the faith of the Laodicean church. The water was essentially ineffective as it came out of the pipes and Jesus states that the church is ineffective as well because of their lukewarm state.
“The adjectives “hot”, “cold” and “lukewarm” are not necessarily to be taken as describing spiritual fervor (or lack of it) of people.” The contrast is between the hot medicinal waters of Heiropolis and the cold, pure waters of Colosse. Thus, the church in Laodicea was ‘providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick.’”
Because they were lukewarm Jesus’ response is much like ours when we partake of something that is lukewarm (especially when you are expecting a hot or cold item).
“I will spit you out of my mouth” - Spew, vomit or throw up. Their sluggish and ineffective faith made Jesus want to vomit. These are very graphic words (and a very vivid visual). Because they were spiritually ineffective this was repulsive to Jesus and it made him sick.
Verse 17: (Their perception) “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” – Since the Church was in a prosperous city it is believed that the church was probably a wealthy church. Unfortunately, the people thought that since they were experiencing prosperity that God was ok with them (a common fallacy even today). They believed he was blessing them or probably more likely they weren’t even seeking the counsel of God at all. This seems all to true of people and churches of great financial wealth. They begin to believe that all is good, and God is ok with them or maybe even blessing them. They all but forget about God and their attitude becomes more like this, “He doesn’t need to be active here because there are so many other churches that are struggling and need his assistance. Don’t bother with us Jesus we got everything under control.”
(The reality) However Jesus was telling them different. “not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” In their prosperity they failed to see the truth… “We are not all we thought we were. We may be rich financially, but Jesus isn’t pleased with us at all. In fact, we are making him sick.”
Verse 18: (What the Church needs to do) “buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich.” Because of their spiritual depravity Jesus counsels them to take their eyes off of their physical wealth and invest in Spiritual wealth. The purchase, so to speak, is to be made from Jesus himself because only he can provide the true wealth and health they need. If they do this then they will become truly rich.
“and white garments so you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen.” Certainly, the individuals were well dressed because of their wealth. This may have given the illusion that they had everything together spiritually. However, Jesus says they are naked and pitiful. The white robes symbolize righteousness and the covering of their nakedness is symbolic of judgment. Jesus tells them to invest in these garments of white so they will be clothed in righteousness and escape judgment.
“and salve to anoint your eyes.” Certainly, this is in reference to the school of medicine and Herophilos. The Laodicean church is spiritually blind. They cannot see the spiritual state they are in. Jesus counsels them to get eye salve from him and anoint their eyes. Quit trusting in the remedies of man and trust Jesus. When this happens then you will truly see.
Verse 19: Jesus is not turning his back on this church. He loves the Church of Laodicea; certainly, he is not pleased with them, but he tells them, “I am telling you to do this because I love you. You may think I am being a harsh and mean God, but I am telling you this for your own good.” Overall Jesus is admonishing the Church of Laodicea to wake up from their spiritually dead and ineffective state and seek him so they may be a church that is pleasing to Him and share in his glory. He tells them to be zealous (desire earnestly or strive after) for Him and repent.
Verse 20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.” Jesus is addressing the believers in this congregation. The text suggests that Jesus has been at the door for some time. It also implies that he is continually knocking, patiently, waiting to be invited in. He is at the threshold of their lives and church calling for them to open the door of repentance so that he may come in and have true fellowship with them once again.
If the believers at Laodicea will heed to his knocking he will then enter once again and sit at the table of fellowship. It seems as though Jesus will be the guest and not the host. In the Middle Eastern culture eating a meal together is a sign of intimacy and trust. I believe the main idea behind this particular passage is Jesus’ desires to restore fellowship with the Laodicean believers and him. This can only happen through repentance, heeding to the call and responding to the knocking of Jesus that would ultimately lead to them being effective followers of Jesus Christ and of his Kingdom.
Verse 21,22: The continued promise to those who conquer or are victorious as they participate with Jesus in his sovereign rule. This is the promise given to all the churches (and individuals) who heed the words of Jesus in the letters to these churches.
The Church of Laodicea for Us Today
The one thing a church does not want to be known for is their ineffectiveness. The Church has a glorious calling to be the light of the world, to represent Jesus to the nations and to be the hands and feet of Christ. To be considered tepid or ineffective by Jesus should be cause for concern for not only the Church of Laodicea but for us today. As a Church body I feel it has been necessary to evaluate where we stand in the eyes of Jesus according to this letter. Are we cool waters that bring refreshment to the spiritually weary? Are we hot medicinal waters that bring about spiritual healing? Are we warm tepid water that is essentially useless and ineffective and infected with germs that cause harmful results?
How about you personally? How would you evaluate your personal relationship with Jesus in comparison to his words to the Church of Laodicea? Are you under the false impression that you have everything you need when in fact you are blind, poor, wretched and naked? Are you spiritually bankrupt? Is Jesus standing at the threshold of your life calling you back to fellowship with him? Bring your spiritual destitution to Jesus be zealous and repent. Personally, I believe Jesus stands at the threshold of all of our lives and desires to come and dine and fellowship with him. He wants intimacy with you. He desires for you to commune and converse with him. The fact is Jesus loves you and wants to restore or resume fellowship with you once again. He desires to sit and sup with you at the table of fellowship. As a follower of Jesus, how will you respond to his knocking?
 The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Revelation (1977) Mounce, Robert: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing. P. 125
When someone mentions the Hallmark Channel, he immediately thinks of Christmas, because it feels like Christmas and the Hallmark Channel have essentially become one in the same. I am sure it would not surprise you that the Hallmark channel is the most watched cable channel during the months of November and December, especially among 18 to 54-year-old women. According to reports in 2019 about 100 million people watched at least one Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel. According to an article on the website av.com Why are Hallmark Christmas Movies So Addictive? the author writes, “If you happen to flip on the Hallmark Channel at any point between late October and early January, you’ll be transported to an alternate dimension that looks vaguely like our own but where the teeth are whiter, the snow is faker, and the unbridled passion for Christmas is frighteningly forceful. No one in a Hallmark Christmas movie can just casually enjoy the holiday season—they must either have a manic enthusiasm for Christmas or their lack of zeal must be a major plot point to be resolved.”
She continues “films range from a successful workaholic planning a Christmas charity event with a hot chef to a successful workaholic planning a Christmas charity event with a hot firefighter. (Or for example) Christmas At Graceland, meanwhile, is about a successful workaholic singing at a Christmas concert with a hot music promoter.”
I do not go out of my way to watch Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel, but it may surprise you that one my favorite movies is WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. In fact, you would be surprised to know that I love watching romantic comedies. I truly am a sucker for romantic comedies (rom com) and even tear-jerking love stories. Now, I need to show my man card and say that I also love a good of horror, action, and science fiction movie but… BUT… in my book, nothing beats a good ole story about a man and woman falling in love. Yes, I even get my fair share of rom com’s by watching the Hallmark Channel… I make this confession so as to say that I really love the Old Testament story of Ruth because the story itself makes for a perfect romantic movie.
The book of Ruth is a short story nudged in between Judges and 1 Samuel. It is a simple story that is told in a direct way probably from female perspective. One can read it at both a surface (casual) level and a more in-depth level. At the surface it is a love story between a man and a woman. But at a deeper level, it is not just a love story between a man and woman, but also a love story with the underlying truth of God’s love for his children that is displayed to us through the act of redemption.
It is a story of…
We are unsure of the date for writing this book; some have suggested anytime between the first and second century B.C. We do know the approximate time the events of this story take place, per the opening line in the first chapter; during the time when the Judges ruled (prior to Israel’s monarchy). Most likely towards the end of the rule of Judges. Geographically the story begins in Bethlehem, then moves to the land of Moab and concludes back in Bethlehem.
Overview of the Main Characters of Ruth
There are three key characters and four minor characters who all have some sort of role in the story. They are as follows…
Ruth – A Story of Romance and Redemption
Vs 1 – 2: “During the time of the Judges…”
This is the period time prior to the Israel’s monarchy. The time of the judges was when judges were the men and women of God who delivered Israel out times of trouble.
Vs 2: “A man went to sojourn in the country of Moab… and his wife”
The name of the man was Elimelech (“My God is King”) and his wife is Naomi (“lovely, delightful”) and they were from Bethlehem. When a famine occurred in the land, they took the 70-mile journey to Moab to live.
Their sons: Mahlon (“weak or sick”) and Chilion (“failing”) were the sons who married Moabite women (Ruth and Orpah).
Moabites - The Moabites were descended from Lot and his oldest daughter (Gn. 19:37), They were a people group who had been hostile towards when the Israelites had approached from Egypt after the exodus (Nu. 21:29). The god of Moab was Chemosh and it is believed that Chemosh and Moloch were one in the same. Child sacrifice was a form of worship to the god Chemosh. It is believed to be early in the period of the judges when Eglon King of Moab had invaded and dominated the Israelites for eighteen years (Jdg. 3:14). Needless to say the Moabite women were not followers of Yahweh at the time. These marriages were, in fact, interracial marriages.
Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Naomi’s husband dies and soon thereafter her two sons die as well. She was is alone, a childless widow.
(Ruth 1:6 – 18)
Vs 6: When Naomi hears in Moab that the famine is over in Judah, she decides to return to her homeland. She starts her trek back on the road to Judah.
On the way she tells her daughter’s-in-law to go back to their homes, families, and gods so she could return to Bethlehem. They refused. Naomi says to the girls, “May the Lord grant each of you rest in the house of a new husband.” She kissed them, and they wept loudly. She believed there was no future for these young women in her homeland. According to the CSB Study Bible, “Naomi assumed that no other family in Bethlehem would be interested in marrying Moabite women, and she emphasized the certainty of there being no other sons from her own line who could fulfill the role of levirate marriage.” At first both daughters said they wanted to go with her, but she convinced them that she was of no use to them. She addresses the girls tenderly as though they are her own. “But Naomi replied, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why do you want to go with me? Am I able to have any more sons who could become your husbands?’” Orpah was persuaded to leave, but Ruth was not so easily persuaded as she shows her loyalty to Naomi as she clings to Naomi and insists on going with her the word “cling” is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the marriage bond.
Vs 15: Naomi tries to convince Ruth that since her sister-in-law has chosen to return to her country and gods that she should do the same.
Vs16, 17: Naomi urges Ruth to go back to her people and to her gods but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi; she says, “Don’t plead with me to abandon you or to return and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you live, I will live; your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me, and do so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” Ruth’s response shows her fierce love and loyalty to her mother-in-law. Ruth fully realizes and understands what her commitment to Naomi means; she is going to be cut off from her own people Moab, and she will adopt Naomi’s people as her own. Her decision also has religious implications of which she is fully aware. Naomi’s God (Yahweh,) will be her God (not Chemosh). This does not mean that she has no religious principles or that she rates friendship above faith. In fact, some have suggested that Ruth has already adopted the faith of her mother-in-law. This is mere speculation.
“Where you die I, will die…” Ruth’s loyalty and commitment to Naomi was not shallow. She is in for the long haul. She will stay with Naomi until she dies and thereafter. Ruth has pledged he allegiance to Naomi, her people, and her God. It is presumed that Ruth was much younger than Naomi (she was probably around 50), and her commitment will remain even after Naomi dies. She is making a promise that she will not break. She goes so far as to say that if she does break the commitment there will be divine judgment on her.
Vs 18: Naomi sees Ruth’s commitment, so she stopped talking to her. This probably means that Naomi stopped arguing and conceded to Ruth’s persistence and accepted her plea.
(Ruth 1:19 – 22)
Vs 19 – 22: The two traveled to Bethlehem and upon their arrival all of Naomi’s friends recognized her. They were excited that she had returned.
Unfortunately, Naomi was not as enthusiastic as the women of Bethlehem. She informed them that her time away was anything but pleasant. She lost her husband and her two sons. She suggests to the women that her name is no longer Naomi it is Mara (“bitter”); because the Lord has dealt bitterly with her.
The expression barley harvest (probably towards the end of April) is found in the Gezer Calendar which speaks of ‘Month of pulling flax. Barley harvest is the Month when everything (else) is harvested.’ This is significant to the story as we will see in the weeks to come; this harvest will be a game changer in the life of Ruth
In this first chapter we see in Ruth, a person of integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty; all the qualities that make for a true friend. When we look at this story today, we should ask ourselves, “how is this first chapter of Ruth useful for us today?” I fully believe our takeaway for today is how we can find and foster friendships that are rooted in true integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty.
The Qualities of a Healthy Friendship
I personally believe it is important for all believers to have AT LEAST one person in their lives that is a person of…
My challenge to you today is that you find, seek out or foster a friendship that has these qualities. No matter your age, it is always important have someone who is a friend to the end and one who will seek to edify and bring out the best in you. True friendship rooted in Christ is a friendship that will never end.
As I conclude this message the scene is set for chapter two as we are introduced to another key character, Boaz. We are going to see in this how the qualities that Ruth possesses integrity, sacrifice, and loyalty are key to her fulfilling the divine call of God on her life.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Ru 1:1–7). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Duguid, I. M. (2017). Ruth. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 402). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
 Duguid, I. M. (2017). Ruth. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 403). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Four weeks ago, we began our series titled “Spiritual Warfare”. In this series we have been looking at what the Bible says on the subject of spiritual warfare. We have looked in detail at many aspects of the topic. More specifically we have been talking about the four realities of Spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. So far, we have talked about…
We have talked about the battle plan and the war we are engaged in, and today I will talk about the outcome of our battle. Rarely, if ever, does a person, team, or country enter a competition or battle without having the end goal be victory. We do not enter sporting competitions, contests, and conflict with failure as the objective. No, we plan for victory. The problem is, in everyday life, temporal competitions, and battle we don’t always emerge victorious.
However, in spiritual warfare we are given a promise of victory against our opponent. We are guaranteed to have our hands raised and celebrate the victory that has been won. Isn’t that a great feeling? We all know the feeling of elation when we have fought hard for something and emerge victorious. We are in a spiritual battle, it is intense, it is ongoing, and it is exhausting but we must take solace in knowing the outcome for the believer is guaranteed victory. So why would we not fight with all we have?
The spiritual war battle was waged at the beginning of time. We see the roots of this battle found in Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden. Satan has deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, she convinces her husband to do the same. The sin has been committed, Satan believes he has won, but we see this is just the beginning of the war.
God curses the serpent, the devil above all creation because of his deceit and craftiness. In fact, chapter three begins by calling the serpent craftier that all other creatures and now he is cursed over all creatures. He is cursed to be on his belly and the text implies that he will now slither on the ground.
Genesis 3:14- 15
“So the Lord God said to the serpent: Because you have done this, you are cursed more than any livestock and more than any wild animal. You will move on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life.
I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
In this passage God speaks of enmity or hostility between the snake (Satan) and humanity. From a literal perspective some interpret this as a natural hostility between man and snakes (and I know that feeling because I have a great hatred towards snakes), but a long-established translation implies much more. From this point on the serpent (who we have come to know as Satan) will continually be at war with humanity. Satan knows that humans are created in the image of God and that He has a special care for us over any of his other creation. Satan will spend the remainder of his days trying to destroy and separate humanity from God. He succeeded initially in the garden. However, God speaks of an offspring (which could refer to humanity in general) but the interpretation more specifically points to One offspring in particular.
Verse 15 – This verse is what is called “Protoevangelium” or the first gospel account in the Bible. The Offspring refers to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The Offspring of the woman is foretold as being at war with Satan and his “offspring” (his followers, the demons and evil powers). Biblical scholar and commentator Gordon Wenham writes, “(This curse) declares lifelong mutual hostility between mankind and the serpent race. Of more moment for interpretation is the question whether one side will eventually prove victorious in the battle, or whether the contest will be never-ending.” But as we all know this will be a war for the soul that Satan cannot win. A prophecy is spoken and proclaimed over the serpent.
He shall bruise/strike your head – Death, resurrection & redemption. Jesus delivers a fatal blow to Satan and his demonic kingdom because His will is the perfect sacrifice for humanity. All who believe will be redeemed and made right with the Father; thus, destroying the work of the devil.
You shall bruise/strike his heal – Satan will seemingly celebrate a short and temporary victory as the crucifixion unfolds. The death and rejection of Jesus will be painful and harsh and temporary… non-lethal (bruise his heal). From the offset it will appear Satan has won but in the end Jesus will be victorious.
So, this brings up a valid question, “If Satan knows he is defeated, then why does he continue to fight?” What is the purpose of fighting if you already know you have lost? I don’t think anyone in this room would knowingly or willingly enter a fight if they were guaranteed failure. I think this question could be answered relatively simply. The Bible is very clear about the nature of Satan, he is a master deceiver; deception and lying is what he does, and he is very good at it. I think the devil is so good at convincing others of his lies that even he believes his own lies.
I am sure we have all met someone who is so good at the art of lying that over time that person begins to believe the lies he or she tells. I have met individuals who have a harder time telling the truth than lies. I have had conversations with individuals where they tell me one thing, then a few days later tell me something contradictory and when I called them on it they are convinced they never said what they previously said. It is impossible to talk to someone, let alone trust someone like this. I feel sorry for these people because I know they have convinced themselves to believe their lies, and Satan is no different… Except I don’t feel sorry for him.
What does victory look like…
1 Corinthians 15:56, 57
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
We are told in the Bible that all who believe in Jesus are children of God (1 John 3) so we are victorious, or we have overcome the world. The word “overcome” is derived from the Greek root word nike (ni-Kay) which means victorious. We are victorious in this life. The darkness of this world, Satan, and his demons cannot overtake us because we are victorious. The reason we are victorious is because Jesus Christ.
God’s love for us is so great that He has fought and continues to fight the battle for us, and He has declared us victorious. Through Jesus Christ we now have a new life, a life where we are fully alive, thriving and in need of nothing because the Spirit of God dwells in each of us. The old ways; the sinful, dark ungodly ways are gone, and we no longer need to live in the murky waters of the world. We now live in the fresh waters of Jesus Christ; living victoriously over sin, Satan and all his evil beings. We are thriving in the Kingdom of God and sharing the Good News that Jesus and His Kingdom has come. Satan and his minions will try and beat you down but take comfort and security in the understanding that nothing that comes your way can defeat you or hold you down in this life or the life to come because Jesus has defeated death and sin.
Romans 3:23 – 25
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented him as the mercy seat, by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.”
The believer is justified – This is a judicial term that simply means to declare righteous. To be acquitted by God from all charges brought against a person because of his or her sins.
According to Romans 3:23 all of humanity is guilty before God of sin (Genesis 3:16) thus we are condemned. But, in verse 24 Paul writes that we are justified by God’s grace by the redemption of Jesus Christ through faith. Jesus took our place and received the punishment and condemnation that we all deserved by his death on the cross. Thus, our justification is by grace or unmerited favor through faith because it is not based on anything we did. When we are justified, we are able to stand free from condemnation before God. Satan will try to accuse us and try to convince God that we should be condemned but because of God’s grace we will not be condemned.
So, what does victory look like to Satan? It looks like hell.
Revelation 20:1 – 3, 7 -10 “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven holding the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan,, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the thousand years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle. Their number is like the sand of the sea. They came up across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the encampment of the saints, the beloved city. Then fire came down from heaven and consumed them. The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Victory in Jesus results in eternal condemnation for Satan. Jesus wins and because of Him, so do we.
As I conclude this series today, I think we need to continually remind ourselves about the fact that we are victorious in this battle because of our faith in Jesus. Satan or the world has no hold on us, and we are not slaves to him or to this world. We are victorious in Christ, so we need to live victorious lives. There is nothing the world can do to beat us down, take away our joy or cause us to live our lives in defeat because of evil and darkness. The world can and certainly will try it’s hardest to beat us down, Satan will work overtime to lead us down the paths of doubt and uncertainty, He will try to take away a joy that cannot be taken away from us, so let us start living as victorious Christians. Jesus has conquered Satan and the world! Let us acknowledge and believe that in turmoil of battle, pain, suffering, and persecution joy can be found. Let the truth that we serve a victorious king 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. We have overcome evil and the world because Jesus has conquered the works or Satan, the world of darkness and evil. We belong to God and He is the victor ensuring that we can live victorious lives as well.
Today we are going to look at the sixth letter of the Apocalypse written to the Church of Philadelphia.
The City Philadelphia
I am sure you are all aware that this in not the US city that prides itself on cheese steak hoagies, Rocky Balboa and the Liberty bell. The Philadelphia I speak of today is a small town located in Asia Minor. Today it is known as Alaşehir located in Turkey. To this day it remains a relatively small town and there is still actually a small Christian community in this area. One of the main reasons it was a small town was because it was located near a fault line. It was an unstable area and people were afraid to live there because earthquakes were somewhat common. In 17 A.D. one leveled the city (and 11 surrounding cities) and it faced a long series of tremors that followed. This was also the same quake that destroyed Sardis. The city was named after Attalus II because of his strong affection and devotion to his brother (Philadelphus means lover of his brother). Mounce p.115
Philadelphia was a prosperous city due mostly to agriculture and industry (dyeing). Grapes were one of the main resources in the area, so it is not surprising that the worship of Dionysus (the god of wine) was prevalent.
Around the 6th Century it was known as “Little Athens” as it had many pagan temples and religious festivals. The earthquakes have destroyed much of the historical artifacts of the area but there are still some remains from the later centuries standing today.
Letter to The Church of Philadelphia
I have heard literally dozens of sermons on the letter to the church in Philadelphia and I have come to a conclusion… Every Church either wants to be or thinks they are the Church of Philadelphia today and for good read. Jesus has nothing but good things to say and many comforting promises as well. It is believed that this church was probably a small church in a small town (not unlike ours) that didn’t really have a huge impact on society and the city, yet it was significant enough to Jesus to speak to them and commend them for their works.
Verse 7: This is the first letter that does not have a description of Jesus taken from John’s vision of chapter one. The whole letter is dominated by the sure and certain prospect of life in the kingdom of God. Jesus declares himself the one who is “The holy one, the true one and the one who holds the key of David.” It is his way of declaring his authority, his trustworthiness and power over life and death.
The key of David: Is a reference to Isaiah 22:22 and indicates ownership over the house of David (this points to the Messiah). Jesus is the only one who has the authority to posses the key to both life and death (Rev. 1:18). He is the one who allows or forbids admittance into the eternal Kingdom of God. It is only through Jesus Christ that one can enter into life eternal.
The door which no one opens or shuts: (The door has two possible meanings… 1) The opportunity for effective evangelism [1 Cor. 16:9 & 2 Cor. 2:12] and 2) the door represents the admittance to the Kingdom of God). It is most commonly held that the door represents the entrance to the Kingdom due to the fact of the promises Jesus makes later in the letter. This door can only be opened and closed by Jesus and no one else.
Verse 8: I know your works… You have but little power. I noted earlier that this was probably a Small church in a small town that had little impact on the city. However, this was not a deterrent instead they hold fast to the Word of God and remained faithful to Jesus’ name.
Verse 9: We are introduced to the term’s synagogue of Satan in the letter to Smyrna. This term is believed to represent the Jews who were persecuting Christians. The Jews still believed they were God’s chosen people; but had since forfeited that right because of their disbelief. The Church of Jesus Christ has now become the chosen avenue of God’s grace to the nations. In their persecution of the Church they thus became known as the synagogue of Satan. These Jews thought they were true Jews doing God’s work, 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.
Bow down before your feet: Why will these people bow to the feet of the church? According to Isaiah 60:14, the Jews believed that the Gentile nations (their enemies) would one day bow or bend the knee before them and thus humbly acknowledge them as God’s chosen people. Now Jesus is declaring that there will in fact be a day when even the Jews humble themselves as they acknowledge that Jesus is the true Messiah and his Church is His chosen people. They will bow not in worship but in respect to the fact that the Church is the people Jesus loves.
Verse 10: The hour of trial: Since the Church of Philadelphia has patiently endured during their trials and tribulations Jesus is promising them protection from judgment. This promise is certainly consistent with Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Many hold this hour of trial to be a reference to the Great Tribulation spoken of later in Revelation that is believed to occur before or after the rapture of the Church or even before the second coming of Jesus Christ. The major question is whether Christ is promising deliverance from the period of trial or safekeeping through the trial? This is an argument that has been debated for years and I am not going to settle it today. However, if we use the high priestly prayer of Jesus as our guide then we can note that Jesus prays that believers would not be taken out of the world (physically taken away) but that we would be protected (preserved through judgment). One could deduce that Jesus actually prays for preservation and protection for believers during the time of great judgment.
The early church is expecting trials which precede the return of Jesus Christ. “The idea of this ‘ordeal’ (trial) was inherited and transposed from early Judaism, in which it was anticipated that a period of intense distress and suffering would immediately precede the eschatological victory of God (his return and judgment) … The fact that God’s people will be ‘kept safe from the time of ordeal’ cannot mean they will escape it physically. The ‘testing’ process will affect the whole living world, but the faithful will not be hurt by it spiritually.”
Verse 11: I am coming soon… There is a sense of urgency in Jesus’ words here (Jesus mentions this three times in Revelation). He is coming back. When? Nobody knows. So, what is the Church of Philadelphia to do? Hold fast to what they have in the coming days of trials and judgment. They have the Word of God; the truth of the Gospel. They are called to remain faithful so that no one can seize or snatch away their crown (N.T. describes three kinds of crowns life, glory and righteousness). The believer can have assurance that their salvation is secure if they remain faithful to Jesus Christ and obedient to His Word.
Verse 12: The one who conquers Jesus will make him a pillar in the temple. A pillar would be symbolic of stability or immovability. Because of faith in Jesus Christ the believer will remain sturdy and immovable. This was probably comforting to the people who lived in an unstable town. He will remain in this eternal city forever. Jesus will also write on the believer the name of God, the name of the city of my God and my own new name. What does this mean? Ultimately the one who overcomes will overcome and will become a citizen of the eternal city (the New Jerusalem) not because of his/her deeds but because He is a son of God and belongs to Jesus.
The Church of Philadelphia For Us Today
It’s no wonder every Church either claims or wants to be the modern-day version of Philadelphia. There are some wonderful promises and commendations in this letter. I take comfort in knowing this great letter was written to a small congregation that seemingly had little impact in their earthy dwelling… However, God was pleased with them and acknowledged the good works (remaining faithful to Jesus and His word). This is one of the greatest commendations a small church can receive and pursue. I have stated before that we live in an ever-changing culture where truth is relative. We certainly live in a society that has mixed up its priorities and even the Church (i.e. larger denominations) seem to be following suit of mixed up priorities. Now, more than ever it is important for the TRUE Church of Jesus Christ to hold to the truths of God’s Word and remain faithful to the name and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us the promise of entrance into the eternal Kingdom of God when we remain faithful to him and his word.
We must also be ready for he is coming soon. I wish I could tell you when this will happen, but nobody knows the day, hour, minute or year. Since we do not know we are to hold fast to what has been given to us; namely the Gospel message, the Great Commission and the Great Commandments and live our lives with these as our foundation.
Finally, for those of us who are overcomers we need to continually keep in focus the prize that awaits us. Take comfort in knowing that whatever difficulties or judgments we may face God will preserve us and give us the strength to endure in the last day. We need to live as victors and be reminded that we are children of the Living God and we have a secure place in the Kingdom of God (the City of God) and His name is written on us so we belong to him and him alone.
 New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.) (Re 3:7–13). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Smalley, Stephen S. (2005). The Revelation to Johns: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.
Two weeks ago we began our series titled “Spiritual Warfare”. In this series we have been looking at what the Bible says on the subject of spiritual warfare. In our introduction I mentioned the four realities of Spiritual warfare that I will talk about in our four week series. Two weeks ago, I talked about…
Ephesians 6:11, 12 (ESV)
This morning I have chosen to use the ESV translation of this passage because I think it gives a relevant look at the battle, we are engaged in. We are in a spiritual battle or a wrestling match, but our opponent is not human. The text says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” which is translated as human/mankind. We are not in a physical, emotional or political struggle with our fellow man; it’s not a battle of man against woman, Republican against Democrat, or church against church…our battle is spiritual. It is against rulers, authorities and evil powers of the spiritual realm. The enemy we wrestle with hates us, he wants to destroy us, and he will do whatever it takes to overpower us. This is frightening but as we will soon see this is nothing to be fearful of.
The Greek word for struggle or wrestle is the word “pale” (palay) and it means “wrestling (which is a contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck).” According to Webster’s 2 New Riverside Dictionary the word wrestle is defined as “struggle with an opponent in an attempt to throw or pin him down.” This is the goal of the sport of wrestling is, whether fake or real, the goal is to pin down your opponent.
Wrestling is a sport of strength, endurance, the mind and manipulation. Many moves of a wrestler are not the ones where you overpower with sheer brute strength your opponent, but many are moves of strategy where you set up your opponent (manipulate him) so you can use a tactical move that will give you victory.
There is a saying, generally said before going into battle or even before a wrestling match or any sporting event, “Know your opponent.” Why is this? Because if we have done our homework, studied our opponent’s tactics, and we have properly trained and prepared for our match, then we will have a plan than can lead to victory. This is why sports teams watch films of their opponents the week before a game; so, they can be familiar with plays, strategies and weaknesses and be victorious. The same goes for Christians in Spiritual warfare.
I talked about this last week. We need to know our enemy because he is crafty, deceitful and he will do whatever it takes to pin you down and destroy you. Our struggle or wrestle match is taking place in the spiritual dominion. Our opponents are the spiritual beings, authorities, powers, forces and rulers of evil in the heavenly realm. These include Satan and his legion of dark angels.
One of Satan’s maneuvers is to deceive people into believing he doesn’t exist, a metaphor or he is just a figment of our imagination. He is this character that people made up to represent evil. Some people think if you believe in this Satan character then you may be delusional or mentally unstable. However, the Bible talks about the reality of the devil, Satan, the dragon or Lucifer quite a bit. Jesus talks about him and many of the epistles reference him as well. He is alive and well and he is doing whatever he can to try and destroy God’s people. Another tactic he uses is convincing people he does exist but conclude that he is not as bad as he is made out to be.
The Devil’s Tactics
Satan’s tactics are always subtle. In the introduction I mentioned our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual dominion. Now, this is not to say that our battle does not make it into the physical or human realm. There are times our enemy influences others, meddles in relationships, and causes conflict and division among God’s people. This is also part of the battle and we must always remember it is not the person we are at war with, it is the spirit behind the battle. We will talk a little more about that in a moment.
Would you believe me if I told you that often conflict among believers and/or Churches is one of the main sources of our Spiritual Battle? Satan is never happier or pleased when God’s beloved children battle one another. However, the real question lies in what or who is the source behind our conflict? We are children of God who are saved by grace, since this is true why is it that we fight so often? There is a saying that goes like this, “Where two or more are gathered there will be conflict.” According to author Ken Sande, “Conflict affects our marriages, families, churches, neighborhoods and workplaces. It affects Christians and non-Christians alike, bringing us low, damaging our relationships, and tarnishing our witness to the world.” Is this what God wants for his people? I can boldly answer that question with an emphatic, “NO!”
James 4:1 – 6: “Where do quarrels and fights among you come from?” The answer, “It comes from selfish desires that are at war in us.” When we look at any unhealthy disunity or conflict in our lives it is almost always a guarantee that the root of the problem is selfish desire. We see this in the modern church. There are conflicts or fights over the style of music that is played for the time of worship, communion, baptism, theology, placement of furniture in the building, our core purpose, jealousy, bitterness, anger and they are all rooted in selfish desire. Douglas Moo writes, “The seventeenth century Jewish philosopher Spinoza observed: ‘I have often wondered that persons make boast of professing the Christian religion – namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men – should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith.’ Some battles to be sure, need to be fought. But even they must be fought without sacrificing Christian principles and virtues.”
In the second verse James expands on the nature of these sinful desires and he uses some strong language to describe their actions like envy, kill, and covet. Now it is uncertain as to whether these people were actually killing one another out of selfish desire (which isn’t entirely improbable) but we can safely assume that he is using an analogy like Jesus as he describes.
At the beginning of the message I showed a video of the The Screwtape Letters which is a fictitious (but theologically sound) book written by C.S. Lewis. It is a fictional story about a demon named Screwtape who writes letters to his nephew, a junior tempter demon named Wormwood. He writes his letters with the purposes to advise him on methods to get the “Patient” (John Hamilton) to falter in his faith and fall into sin.
Lewis writes in the preface,
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.
Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”
In writing Lewis gives many examples of how the spiritual battle that is ongoing is engaged and fought. As he mentions and the Bible states, “Satan is a liar” and he will do whatever it takes to engage and overtake us in battle. I have three subtle tactics the devil uses to invite and engage us into a spiritual battle.
How to Fight the Battle and Win
So, this battle is intense. It is a fight we are engaged in whether we like it or not. There is a battle going on all around us and the Devil desires to do whatever he can to overthrow God’s people. So, how do we win this battle that we are in? There is no better battle plan than Jesus’ battle with Satan found in Luke 4:1 – 13.
First things first… If Jesus was tempted by the devil, then you and I must acknowledge that we are not exempt from the attacks of Satan. Since we are not Jesus, we are more vulnerable to his attacks. We are in battle and there is only one way to emerge victorious… By holding fast to God’s Word. We win the battle by the Word of God.
Jesus’ temptations were both plausible (they made sense) and attractive (enticing) just as they are to us today. Satan is a master deceiver so he will appeal to the intellect and he will appeal to the flesh. This is why it is important to hide the Word of God in our hearts. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.” We are not strong or smart enough to ward off the Devil, but God is, and His Word is powerful enough to give us victory. Next week we will look at the victory that is promised to us.
 Biblical Peacemaking: Applying the Gospel to Conflicts of Daily Life (Peacemakers Ministries 2011), www.peacemaker.net
 Moo, p. 181
Sardis - The City
The city of Sardis was one of the wealthiest and powerful cities in the ancient world around the sixth century B.C. It is believed that gold and silver coins were first pressed there. It also claimed to be the first city that discovered the art of wool dyeing.
The city is located on top of a high mountain. It was a fortified city with nearly perpendicular walls reaching 1500 feet above the lower valley which provided a natural fortress. Over time as the city grew, they developed a lower city at the bottom of the mountain it was located on.
Archaeology has discovered that the lower city had a theater, a stadium and a large temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis (which was destroyed but some pillars remain today). The patron god of Sardis was Cybele (who is identified with Greek goddess Artemis).
Cybele was believed to possess the power over life and death.
In 546 B.C. Cyrus defeated the city and thus becoming the seat to the Persian governor. In A.D. 17 an earthquake destroyed the city. It was rebuilt with the help of Emperor Tiberius who gave the city about $1 million and five years of tax reduction. In A.D. 26 the city put in a bid for the privilege of building an imperial temple but lost out to Smyrna. Naturally it was a very pagan city and this culture had some major influence on the church as we will see Jesus has some harsh words to the city.
Sardis – The Letter
This is the fifth letter of the Apocalypse written by the Apostle John and spoken by Jesus. Sardis is the first of two churches in which receives only criticism and no commendation.
Vs 1: Having a reputation can be a good thing or bad. The church of Sardis had a reputation; however, it was not a good one. They have the appearance of being a church that is alive but is actually spiritually dead. From the outside looking in everyone would think this church was doing fine and seemed healthy, but Jesus saw through this façade and brought to light the true nature of this church… He saw that they represented spiritual death and decay. Their works were anything but pleasing to Him.
Vs 2: Jesus tells the church to wake up… This is significant because Jesus is speaking a language the people of Sardis understood. Twice in Sardis’ history the city was defeated (546 B.C. & 218 B.C.) due to inadequate watches. As I mentioned earlier that it was a city that was nearly impregnable however due to slumber the city was overtaken. Both times the enemy struck while the city watch was not paying attention or possibly sleeping. Because of their unwatchful eye they were overthrown by the enemy unexpectedly. Jesus is calling the church of Sardis to awake from their spiritual slumber. They are called to strengthen the areas that seem to be salvageable (there must have been some) for if they do not, they are about to die along with the church. As I have noted already the church may seem like they are alive to everyone around them, but Jesus sees their works and they are not favorable in his sight.
Vs 3: The call to remember… Jesus tells the church of Sardis to do the same as Ephesus and remember. They are to remember what they have heard and what they have received. This was most likely the message of salvation through faith. We are not told what works are unfavorable to Jesus, but He certainly calls them to return to the message of hope and faith in Jesus Christ. They seemed to have lost sight of the message that was given to them and that was once received with open arms. He tells them to keep it and repent. One would think that all is lost with the church of Sardis, but Jesus is not finished with her. He exhorts them to not only wake up from their spiritual slumber but also to repent of their evil works. Repentance is always one of the first steps to returning to a right relationship with Jesus. The warning… If they do not wake up, then Jesus is going to execute imminent judgment that will come swiftly and unexpectedly (Like a thief).
Vs 4: The majority of the church was not walking with God however there are some who remain faithful. They have not soiled their garments. In Asia Minor soiled clothing would disqualify one from worshiping their god and was also a sign of dishonor to their god. Robert Mounce sees this as a reference “to the danger of contaminating the Christian witness by accommodation to the prevailing standards of a pagan city mind.” The church was in a wide state of compromise and most of the individuals in this church were living double lives. They wanted the best of both worlds. Those who do remain faithful in this pagan filled church are promised garments of white because they remain faithful and ultimately will walk with Jesus. They are considered worthy because of Jesus and his grace. The garments of white are symbolic of victory, justification and walking with Jesus equates communion and fellowship with Jesus. It is very important to note that those who are “worthy” are not considered worthy because of anything they have done it is only by the grace of God that some did not compromise their faith.
Vs 5: The promise to the one who remains faithful and obedient; he will have his name written in the book of life. Jesus assures them that they are secure because they belong to him. He will confess them before God the Father, and they will receive eternal life.
Church of Sardis Today
So, what does all of this have to do with us today?
In this letter of rebuke to the Church of Sardis we can apply a lot of what is said to our own lives personally and as a Church. In this I believe there are warnings and promises that we should heed today. If the Word of God truly is sharper than a two-edged sword, we should see that what Jesus says cuts to the heart of the believer and the Church today.
 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. 108 - 109
 Ibid p. 112
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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