Smyrna: Worldly Poverty But Rich In Faith

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THE LETTER – “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11)

Background – Smyrna, an important exporting city, was located on a protected harbor of the Aegean Sea 35 miles north of Ephesus and next to a major road system. One of the great cities of Asia, it was large, prosperous, and a seat of emperor-worship with a temple devoted to the emperor Tiberius. Smyrna was second only to Ephesus in importance and support for the imperial religion. The original city was destroyed about 627 B.C., and was left deserted and in ruins for four hundred years. Alexander the Great contemplated its resurrection, and his design was carried out after his death (“died and came to life again”). The new city was built a short distance south of the ancient one, and became the finest in Asia Minor, being known as the glory of Asia. Its modern name is Izmir and it still has a large seaport.

Polycarp, an early Church “father” and reported disciple of John, was martyred by being burned alive at Smyrna in 168 AD, some eighty-six years after his conversion. Called upon to renounce Christianity he is reported to have said, “eighty-six years have I served Christ, and He has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” He was the bishop of Smyrna, and may have been “the angel of the Church in Smyrna” referenced here. Under the Emperor Diocletian, the believers in Smyrna were severely persecuted by both pagans and Jews (“I know your afflictions”). This oppression led to extreme poverty among the Christians (“I know your poverty”), possibly because they had been robbed of all their goods (or were refused patronage) by their persecutors.

Greeting: What’s in A Name – Christ is portrayed as the eternal One (“the First and the Last”), who suffered death at the hands of His persecutors and then was resurrected from the grave (“who died and came to life again”). This identification of Christ would have been especially relevant to the Christians at Smyrna who, like Christ in His death, were experiencing severe persecution. The greeting was likely intended to comfort the Church of Smyrna in the midst of its persecutions.

The name Smyrna means bitter and is related to the word myrrh, which had a variety of uses. It was offered to Jesus on the cross (Mark 15:23) to numb His pain and was used for His burial (John 19:39). The assembly at Smyrna was persecuted for their faith, which probably explains why the Lord emphasized His death and resurrection as He opened His message. No matter what experiences God’s people may have, the Lord identifies with them.

Praise: What’s Pretty Good – The church members were persecuted (“I know your afflictions”), probably because they refused to compromise and proclaim Caesar is Lord. Like many early Christian churches, the majority of its members were from the poorer class (“I know your poverty”) and likely faced scarcity of employment and harsh treatment. Cities and towns with large concentrations of artisans and craftsmen established trade guilds or unions. As this practice grew, the government gained greater influence in their organization, which often required their members to participate in certain pagan activities like emperor worship. A believers’ unwillingness to participate in these activities likely resulted in their exclusion from the guilds and loss of business.

Christians were not seen as Jewish and thus had no protection against civil requirements for participation in the emperor cult. The Jews, of course, did not have to patronize the imperial cult since their religion was exempted by Rome. The Jews themselves were also antagonistic to the Christian faith. As a result, Christians in Smyrna were exposed to slander and suffering from Jews and Gentiles alike.

Apparently, a local Jewish synagogue (“a synagogue of Satan”) was making blasphemous charges (“I know the slander”) that would result in church members being thrown in jail for a short time (“ten days”) and even causing some to die. They “say they are Jews and are not” does not deny the Jewish lineage of the persecutors but instead mirrors Paul’s assertion that, ultimately, Jewishness is not just outward but inward, related to the circumcision of the heart by faith (Romans 2:28–29). Perhaps Smyrna (and churches in similar situations) could take solace in Scriptures such as those in Figure 5.1.Screenshot (78)Criticism: What’s Not So Good – Christ has no criticism for the persecuted church. The saints in Smyrna remained faithful despite their suffering. They considered themselves to be poor, but Christ considered them to be rich (“I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!”). This contrasts with Laodicea, which thought it was rich yet was poor (“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”). It also contrasts with Christ’s evaluations of five of the other six churches, which He rebuked. Smyrna’s sufferings, though extremely difficult, had nonetheless helped keep them pure in faith and practice.

Exhortation – Unfortunately, worse things were about to come than poverty and slander – prison, persecution and perhaps death. They would receive these (persecution, imprisonment and suffering) for ten days. Ten is a nice round number, and is reminiscent of Daniel 1:12 (“test your servants for ten days”). Several meanings have been suggested:

Specific Period of Time – It is possible that a literal ten days was meant.

Limited but Non-Specific Period of Time – Many believe that the most probable meaning is that there would only be a limited period of time for suffering, citing precedence in Scripture that ten days often meant a limited period of time (Genesis 24:55; Numbers 11:19; 14:22; 1 Samuel 1:8; Nehemiah 5:18; Job 19:3; Jeremiah 42:7; Daniel 1:12; and Acts 25:6).

Indefinite Period of Time – Alternatively, the number could be figurative, indicating an indefinite period of time.

Symbolic of Entire Church Age –Some have taken these words “for ten days” as a symbolic representation of the broader persecution of the church throughout history, and the first and second centuries in particular.

Persecution Under Ten Caesars – Others think it refers to ten waves of persecution from ten Roman rulers (from Nero to Diocletian).

Tribulation Period – Ten is also the number of the world powers that will be hostile to the Church during the Tribulation (the ten horns of the beast in Revelation 13:1).

Christ assures this church that He is aware of the devil’s schemes and that He is in complete control of the situation. The important thing was faithfulness, standing true to Christ no matter what the others might threaten to do. Polycarp’s reply to the earthly judges who urged him to recant, resound still today and bears repeating: “Fourscore and six years have I served the Lord, and He never wronged me, how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?” This cost him his life, as it has cost many other faithful saints through the ages. It costs to be a dedicated Christian. In some places, like Smyrna, the cost is more than in other places and times. And, as the end-time “labor pains” increase, persecution will increase for the Church as a whole. God’s people need to be ready and to “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal” that may be yet to come (1 Peter 4:12).

They are also promised the victor’s crown, or the “crown of life,” one of several crowns promised to Christians (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:6–8; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 4:4). The crown of life is also mentioned in James 1:12. Believers are encouraged to be faithful by contemplating what awaits them after death (“the prize set before them”), namely, eternal life. The Lord reinforced the promise given by James that those “who perseveres under trial…having stood the test …will receive the crown of life” (James 1:12) and assured His people that there was nothing to fear (“do not be afraid”).

Because they had trusted Him, they were overcomers—victors in the race of faith (Hebrews 12:1–3). As overcomers, they had nothing to fear. Even if they were martyred, they would be ushered into glory, wearing crowns. They would never face the awful judgment of the second death, which is the lake of fire. Jesus understands the suffering that the church is Smyrna is facing because of what He suffered. Because He “died and came to life again,” He could say “I know your afflictions.” Assuring them that they will share in His ultimate victory over sin and death was likely intended to give them courage to live fearlessly in times of pressure.

Warning – Just as there was no criticism for the persecuted church there is no warning about a judgment from Christ. There is a warning about persecution from the world. And, as is often the case, a persecuted church is a refined church. Satan goes about as a lion, seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but as is often the case, the persecution only made the church at Smyrna stronger.

Promise to Overcomers – The phrase “the second death” is unique to Revelation. There is a first death that all but raptured saints must face. There is also a second death that only those who die without Christ must endure. This death occurs after the body is dead. It is unspeakably worse than the first death, both in its agony and in its duration. It is the “death” of the soul or spirit – an eternal damnation.

Originally a rabbinic expression, the second death will be experienced by those whose names are not written in the “book of life” (Revelation 20:15). The second death is equated with the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14), or the lake that burns with “fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8), and is described as the lot of “the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted … murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” (Revelation 21:8). Those who are victorious (overcomers) in this life have nothing to fear from the second death.

The first death is merely a physical death (see Matthew 10:28). Although the expression first death does not occur here, the concept is implied in Revelation 20:6 which state that “the second death has no power” over “the one who shares in the first resurrection.” Sharing in the first resurrection would be impossible unless they had previously died (first death). The enemy may kill the body, but the saint need never fear the second death, which is hell. Those who are born twice will die only once. Those born only once will die twice.

Reflection –The church of Smyrna was a church refined by persecution and poverty. As a church today, thus far largely unaffected by persecution and poverty (at least in the western world) we need to guard against comfort and wealth that could lead to contamination rather than purification.

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Up Next – Pergamum

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Cited Sources

  1. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (p. 1074). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 556). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  3. Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
  4. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 573). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 443). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  6. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 2:9). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  7. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 2:9). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1889). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  9. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 802). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 935). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  11. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 2:10). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  12. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2466). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  13. Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 920). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
  14. Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Second Death. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1456–1457). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  15. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 604). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Beyond, Yet Within

2 Chronicles 1:6 – “But who is able to build a temple for Him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain Him?” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – He is beyond us. More than we can possibly imagine. Yet He chooses to live in us. What a privilege. How humbling.

My Advice – Your life is a temple. God’s Spirit resides in you. Remember this wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever you say, whatever you think about, whatever you see. It just may change where you go, what you do, what you say, what you think and what you look at.

Ephesus: Sound Doctrine But Deficient Love

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THE LETTER – “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1-7)

Background – At the time that Revelation was written, Ephesus was a major city of Asia Minor. It was a seaport community and was the location of the great temple of Artemis (Acts 19:24, 27–28, 34–35), which was numbered as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Paul had visited Ephesus about 53 AD, or about 43 years before the letter in Revelation was sent to them. Paul remained in Ephesus for several years and preached the gospel so effectively “that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). This large city was thoroughly stirred by Paul’s message (Acts 19:11–41), with the result that the silversmiths created a riot because their business of making shrines of Artemis was threatened.

The church accordingly had a long history and was the most prominent one in the area. Ephesus was also the home of the magic arts and of the mystery-cults, and was one of the first Asian centers of the imperial cult. The civilization of the city was mixture of Greek and Oriental. Ephesus also had a sizable Jewish population.

Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Its population is estimated to have been around 250,000 during the time of early Christianity. In the time of the Romans it bore the title of “the first and greatest metropolis of Asia.” A part of the site of this once famous city is now occupied by the small Turkish village of Ayasaluk, which is regarded as a corruption of the two Greek words, hagios theologos, which means the holy divine.

Greeting: What’s in A Name – Christ is depicted as holding seven stars in His right hand and walking among the seven golden lampstands. As previously noted by John, the stars were the angels or messengers of the churches and the lampstands were the seven churches. Figuratively speaking, God’s right hand is the means whereby victories are obtained for the people of God (Psalms 17:7; 98:1). It is also an instrument of punishment for the ungodly (Hebrews 2:16). While the right hand of man may be powerless to save (Job 40:14), God’s right hand is more than able to sustain His children in their hour of need (Psalm 139:10). Furthermore, God promises to strengthen the right hand of the person he helps (Isaiah 41:13).

The right hand of God is a place of choicest blessings (Psalm 16:11). Presently, Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for those he redeemed (Romans 8:34). With this description of Himself, the Lord reminded this church that He was in control (right hand) of their ministry. He places the stars wherever He so pleases and sees fit. The ministers of Christ are under his special care and protection. He knows the number of the stars, and calls them by their names.

Walking among the churches expresses a deliberate and measured activity, as He guards the church from both internal and external evils. As high priest, He moves freely to and fro in its midst. Christ is present and conversant with his churches. He knows and observes their state and desires to take pleasure in them. Though Christ is in Heaven, he also walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what may be amiss and what it is that they may be lacking. At this church, He is not on the outside knocking to be let back in.

This is how Christ addresses Himself to the church in Ephesus, whose condition at that time was seen in its very name. Ephesus means to relax or to let go. But how long will Christ continue to firmly hold a church in His grasp that is letting go? Ephesus was also called “the light of Asia,” and “first city of Asia.” But how long can a church’s light continue to shine after it begins to relax its love and fervor for the Lord?

Praise: What’s Pretty Good – This was a serving church, busy doing the works of the Lord and persevering. No doubt their weekly schedule was filled with many “religious” activities. It was also a sacrificing church. The words hard work or labor means to toil to the point of exhaustion. The Ephesian Christians paid a price to serve the Lord. They were also a steadfast assembly. The word perseverance or patience carries the meaning of endurance under trial. They kept going when the going got tough. The church was probably encountering opposition to their efforts, which may have resulted in persecution. Their refusal to conform to the demands of the imperial religion would have also caused social and political tension, causing backlash in commercial dealings and familial relationships.

The Ephesian church was a separated people, for they carefully examined the visiting ministers (2 John 7–11) to see if they were genuine. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would come in from the outside and even arise from within the church (Acts 20:28–31). John had instructed them to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1–6). Satan has his false ministers and the Church must be constantly alert to detect and reject them (2 Corinthians 11:1–4, 12–15).

The Nicolaitans were specifically mentioned as a group that the church in Ephesus had tested, found false and would not tolerate (hated their deeds and expelled them). The word Nicolaitan means to conquer the people. There has been much speculation concerning the identity of the Nicolaitans, but the Scriptures do not specify who they were. But they apparently were a sect that had wrong practices and erroneous doctrine. So much so that Christ hated their practices. The early Church fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian identified the sect with Nicholas a proselyte of Antioch and one of the seven original deacons of Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). If so, he later became an apostate from the truth. The sect appears to have been characterized by sensuality, seducing Christians to participate in the idolatrous feasts of pagans, and to unchastity. They are denoted by the names of Balaam and Jezebel, two leading agents of moral contamination under the Old Testament dispensation. Balaam enticed the Israelites through the influence of the women of Moab and Midian to engage in idolatry and fornication (Numbers 25; 31:16). Jezebel murdered the Lord’s prophets and established idolatry in Israel. The Nicolaitans taught that one must experience the entire range of sensuality in order to master it. They also taught that one could unreservedly abandon himself to the lusts of the body, since they affected only the body and did not touch the spirit.

Criticism: What’s Not So Good – While the church at Ephesus had deeds, hard work, and perseverance, their love for Christ had cooled to such an extent that Jesus said that they had “forsaken your first love.” In contrast, Paul had commended the Thessalonian church for “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). You see, it is not just what we do for Christ, but the motive behind it that really counts. Ephesus was a busy church with high spiritual standards, but their work lacked faith, their labor lacked love, and their patience lacked hope. It might have looked something like Figure 4.1.

Screenshot (71)They could not “tolerate wicked people.” They would not listen to false teachers. They did not grow weary even though the work had been difficult. In every way, it was a successful church from the human point of view. Some of today’s busy churches with their full calendars and weary workers might fit this description as well. But the Son of Man, walking in the midst of the church saw what was missing. They had forsaken (intentional?) not forgotten (unintentional?) their first love (Jeremiah 2:2). The local church is espoused to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2), but there is always the danger of that love growing cold (a warning in the Olivet Discourse). Like Martha, we can be so busy working for Christ that we have no time to love Him (Luke 10:38–42). Christ is more concerned about what we do with Him than for Him. To the public, the Ephesian church was successful. To Christ, it had fallen away.

What is this “first love” Jesus speaks of? It is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited, and openly displayed. It is the honeymoon love of the husband and wife (Jeremiah 2:1–2). While true love deepens, and grows richer, it should never lose the excitement and wonder of those honeymoon days. When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, and life becomes routine, the marriage is in danger. This is also a danger sign in our walk with Christ. It is possible to serve, sacrifice, and suffer “for My name’s sake” and yet not “truly love” Jesus Christ. The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation from the world that they were neglecting their union with Christ. Separation from the world does not necessarily result in closer communion with Christ. Work, labor and endurance are no substitute for faith, love and hope. Purity is not a substitute for passion. Without them, a church (or individual Christian) is nothing more than a “resounding gong and a clanging cymbal.”

Christ used the word agape, speaking of the deep kind of love that God has for people. This rebuke contrasts with what Paul wrote the Ephesians 35 years earlier, that he never stopped giving thanks for them because of their faith in Christ and their love (agape) for the saints (Ephesians 1:15–16). Most of the Ephesian Christians were now second-generation believers, and though they had retained purity of doctrine and lifestyle and had maintained a high level of service, they were lacking in deep devotion to Christ. Sound doctrine and perseverance are simply inadequate without faith, hope and love.

Exhortation – First love can be restored by following the three “steps” that Christ gave (illustrated in figure 4.2).

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  • Remember – “Consider [or remember] how far you have fallen.” Remember (literally keep on remembering) what we have lost and cultivate a desire to regain that close communion once again (as David said, “restore to me the joy of Your salvation”).
  • Repent – “Repent” (change our minds, turn around) and confess our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9).
  • Return – “Do the things you did at first,” return to “the love you had at first.” This suggests restoring the original fellowship that was broken by sin and neglect.

They must retrace their steps until they come to the place where they took the first false step. They must revive and recover their first zeal, tenderness, and seriousness, praying earnestly and watching diligently, as they did when they first set out in the ways of God. In calling the Ephesian believers to repentance Christ was asking them to change their attitude as well as their affections. They were to continue their service not simply because it was right but because they loved Christ.

Warning – A church that loses its love is in danger of losing its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be. Despite the privileges it had enjoyed, the church of Ephesus was in such danger. “I will come” is not referring to the Lord’s return, but to His coming judgment then and there. And that is ultimately what happened. The once glorious city of Ephesus is today but a heap of stones and little or no light is shining there.

Promise to Overcomers – This promise makes it clear that individual believers within the church may be true to the Lord, no matter what others in the church may be doing. In these messages to the seven churches, the overcomers are not the spiritual elite, but rather the true believers whose faith has given them victory (1 John 5:4–5). The word overcome is a favorite with John. He uses it in 1 John 2:13–14 with reference to overcoming the devil. He uses it seven times here in Revelation to describe believers and the blessings they receive (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). He is using the word overcomer as another name for the born-again Christian. Because we have been born of God, we are overcomers.

A story is told of a soldier in the army of Alexander the Great who was not acting bravely in battle. When he should have been pressing ahead, he was lingering behind. The great general approached him and asked, “What is your name, soldier?” The man replied, “My name, sir, is Alexander.” The general looked him straight in the eye and said firmly: “Soldier, get in there and fight—or change your name!” Alexander the Great wanted his name to be a symbol of courage. Christ wants those who bear His name to serve Him in love and to share that love with others. He wants us to be known for our “our work produced by faith, our labor prompted by love, and our endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

The tree of life that is promised here was first mentioned in Genesis 3:22 in the Garden of Eden. Later it reappears in the New Jerusalem where it bears abundant fruit (Revelation 22:2). Those who eat of it will never die (Genesis 3:22). This promise should not be construed as reward for only a special group of Christians but a normal expectation for all Christians (overcomers). “The paradise of God” is probably another name for Heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4—the only other New Testament references to paradise).

Reflection – The church of Ephesus had become a careless church, made up of careless believers who neglected their love for Christ. As a Church today, we need to guard against forsaking our first love. If and when we do, we need to repent and do what we did at first – work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope.

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UpNext – The Church at Smyrna.

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Cited sources

  1. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 933). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Re 2:1). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
  3. Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Re 2:1–7). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 436). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  5. Seal, D. (2012, 2013, 2014). Ephesus. In J. D. Barry, L. Wentz, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair-Wolcott, R. Klippenstein, D. Bomar, … D. R. Brown (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  6. Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.
  7. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 933). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1860). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  9. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 571). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2465). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  11. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 555). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  12. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2465). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  13. http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/tbr/tbr012.htm
  14. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 2:3). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  15. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 439). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  16. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 801). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  17. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 572). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

 

Is Your Head In The Clouds?

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. (NIV 1984)

My Musing – We have a “cloud-based” theology.  We download from the “cloud” when we study God’s Word and pray.  Someday, those who have Jesus Christ as their Savior will be “caught up together with [our loved loves who have preceded us in death] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words

Reunited with our loved ones, and united with Christ forever.  What an encouragement!  But, the encouragement is not just for that future hope.  It is also encouragement for here and now.  In the meantime we should not wander aimlessly with our head in the “clouds.”  For when He does return for us, we don’t want Him to find us idle or involved in things we should not be.  We do not want to be ashamed at His appearing.  I hope to see you there!

 

Clothed With Compassion

Screenshot (61)Compassion – Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion. (Colossians NIV 1978)

The Sympathetic Consciousness Of Another’s Distress … 

Sympathy is sharing the feelings of others, being affected by what affects others.  In all their distress he too was distressed…In His love and mercy He redeemed them up and carried them…. (Isaiah 63:9, NIV 1978)

Together With A Desire To Alleviate It …

Desire stresses the strength of feeling and often implies a strong intention, longing or aim.  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. (Matthew 23:37, NIV 1978)

That Results In Action …

Action is bringing about alteration (i.e., doing something about it).  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15, 16, NIV 1978).

As An Expression Of Love …

Love is unfailing – constant, infallible.  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10, NIV 1978)

That Can Change Lives!

Used in the Gospels to speak of Jesus’ having compassion on someone in need that was often the turning point in their life.  Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:34, NIV 1978).

My Musing – Having become conscious of another’s distress, does this lead to sympathy?  Does sympathy, in turn progress to a desire to alleviate that distress if we could? Does our desire spring into action with the things we can and should do to help out?  Are we motivated by love or duty?

Having been the recipients of God’s unfailing compassion, how can we possibly fail to show compassion to those around us who are in distress?  Who knows, it could be a turning point in their lives that leads them to or back to God.

 

 

 

 

 

How We Appear, or Who We Are?

1 Chronicles 29:17 – “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (NIV 1978)

My Musing – We cannot fool God. How we appear to others, may actually be deceitful. But not to God. He sees our heart and knows whether or not it is consistent with our actions and appearance.

My Advice – Be a man of integrity. Not just when others are looking or when the danger of not being so is too great. Be that way, no matter what, not just because it is right but because it is who you are. There should be no excuses for compromising our integrity.

 

The Commission

Screenshot (53)THE COMMISSION – “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:19, 20)

The Stars – Stars are symbols of pre-eminence and authority (See Numbers 24:17; Daniel 12:3). False teachers are wandering stars (Jude 13; Isaiah 14:12). Jesus identifies these stars as “Angels,” but the exact meaning of the term as it is used here is uncertain. The following are the principal interpretations: Continue reading “The Commission”