Revelation

First Talk – On the letters to the 7 churches from the book of Revelation.

Revelation Chapter 21.
“I, Jesus, have given this testimony for the churches. All may have the free gift of the water of life. I warn everyone who hears the words of this prophecy: If anyone adds anything to them, God will give them the plagues written in this scroll. If anyone takes words away from this scroll, then the share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, will be taken away. From this scroll witness that I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

These last verses in Revelation make it precarious for anyone to teach about
On one hand do we dare to try to explain the words and prophecies in Revelation?
And on the other hand the real privilege in bringing God’s revelations to others
Our subject is the letters to the 7 churches in what is now West Turkey
7 very different Christian communities all with strengths and weaknesses
Rather than look at each one in turn, I’m going to roll them all together
And look at what it is in a church that pleases and displeases God.
Fist I’ve summarised Chapter 1, the prologue, again do read it all when you get home.

God gave this revelation to Jesus, the Messiah, who shared it with John who was living on Patmos so he can write on a scroll and send this prophecy to the 7 churches. Grace and peace to you from him who is, who was, and who is to come and whose Son Jesus, made us priests to serve his God and Father.

I John, saw seven golden Lampstands and The Son of Man holding seven stars, out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. He said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now I am alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death and Hades. The seven Lampstands are the seven churches and the Stars represent an angel for each.

It is God who is referred to as who was, who is and is to come, for God is eternal
We are told Jesus is the Son of God who does the work of his Father
He is not just a prophet, or a teacher or a miracle worker
He is our conduit to God and the giver of God’s Holy Word
The one who hold each church and therefore each of his followers in his hands

It’s interesting in this passage that we are told that when we accept Jesus as our Lord
We become his priests to serve his and our Heavenly Father.
And the seven churches are all seen as lampstands with each having an angel

All churches are expected to be Lampstand shining God’s light
It has an angel looking over and caring for it.
An Angel for the community of the church and God’s Spirit for the individual
Each of us is part of the Lampstand shining God’s light on everyone around us
A Lampstand and Angel that could be taken away if we don’t do the right things

Jesus’ tongue speaks the words as a double-edged sword
Giving the words that can at the same time both heal yet also harm
His teachings are holy and true, for he is a faithful and true witness of God’s Word.

The revelations given were from God to His Son Jesus
They were then shown to John who wrote to the seven churches about them.
This could be either around 45AD before Paul’s missionary journeys
Or maybe 60 to 66AD in the reign of the Caesar Nero
We don’t know when those 7 churches as well as many others were started
But it’s likely to have been by the Christians escaping Jerusalem
During the persecution after the death of Jesus from 35AD and onwards.

Certainly the 7 churches were not founded on Paul’s missionary journeys
As they were not on his route We know that Lydia from the Thyatire church
Met Paul in Philippi on his 2nd journey and was already a worshipper of God
But she was not fully conversant with the Gospels
Although Paul did stay in Ephesus for over two years around 52AD
And did travel extensively across that territory twice
So no doubt would have meet with the Christians from those other 6 churches.

So it’s probable the 7 churches had not been established for very long
So these new churches and their leaders without any recognised biblical teaching
Would have struggled from diverse influences and taken some wrong directions
As can be seen in the different comment made to these 7 churches
Some were on the right lines while others were not
Each of the 7 churches were independently run,
With different theology and priorities much like churches are today
Such as the main stream Baptist churches also Zion and Grace Baptists,
URC, Methodist, CoE, Roman Catholic, Eastern and Russian Orthodox
Bringing us back to the warning about not adding or subtracting from God’s word

So what was God’s Views on these early 7 churches)
Do his comments apply individually or collectively to any Christian Church today?
And if they are relevant then what should we do about them.
It’ why we were given this book and why are looking at this passage
Across the 7 letter there are 6 main topics, What’s done right,
What’s done wrong Warnings, Prophecies, Advice and Rewards.
Most are self-explanatory so I won’t go into detail on most of the points.
Yet each is valid and should be considered by every church as if in a mirror

God tells them what he likes about what they have been doing,
Your love, your faith, your service, your good deeds, your perseverance,
Your hard work and that you are doing more and more.
You have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
You have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not,
You cannot tolerate wicked people,
You have kept God’s word, you have not denied Jesus and remain true.
You didn’t renounce your faith in me, not even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was put to death in your city.
You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans.
The Nicolaitans were Romans who came into the church and liked to merge all beliefs into one and used idolatry and occult worship within their church.

What does God not like about what some of the churches were doing,
Some had lost their passion and love they first had.
Some are lukewarm and would be spat out of God’s mouth.
Some held to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.
We can read in Numbers (31:16), Balaam was able to use divination, now called the occult, to find answers to question. Balaam was told by God the bless the Jews coming into King Balak country but he then told the king how to get the Israelites to put a curse upon themselves, to do so, they had to enticed to use prostitutes and unclean food that was sacrificed to idols. Many Israelites did these things and God sent a deadly plague to them as a result.
Some in the 7 churches were Nicolaitans, Jezebel their leader called herself a prophet and taught that sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols was something the church members could do. The result of which made their churches very popular but in God’s view they were dead. See the similarity

The Warning given to the churches if things don’t improve.
Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for your deeds are unfinished.
Remember what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent, for if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief at a time unknown.
Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
God is a jealous God and will not tolerate the worship of idol
Those of you who are Nicolaitans must repent, otherwise, I will come and fight against those with the sword of my mouth. And you won’t like what you hear!
The followers of Jezebel who committed adultery with her, need to repent.
If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Prophecy
Don’t be afraid of suffering for the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will be persecuted.
Be faithful, even to death for you will be given life as your victor’s crown.
I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

As Jezebel is unwilling to repent she will suffer, her children will die.
The faithful ones will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. I will come again

Advice
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. – That gold is not money, but faith
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Be earnest and repent of your sins.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Get to know Jesus

Rewards To the one who is victorious,
I will reward according to your deeds. I will give authority over the nations
I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Will not be hurt at all by the second death.
I will give the right to eat from the tree of life in the paradise of God.
I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name
I will give the right to sit with me on my throne

So what is it that makes a church that God is pleased with?
To love him keep to his ways and be passionate about it.
Do good deeds, grow in faith, endure hardships
Don’t tolerate wicked people or false teachers do not renounce your faith in Jesus,
A church without it’s Lampstand can exist but it would not be in tune with God.
Introduction to the Second Talk on the vision given to John
Who wrote down the account in the book called Revelation
A Revelation means to tell or expose something so others can know of it
The problem with John’s writing is that with first century symbolism
We now find it hard to understand

We have two verses at either end of Revelation that are its backbone,
The first a promise, the second a forewarning.

Readings
Rev 1:3. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it.
Rev 20:13 Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.

Revelation makes no sense unless you believe in the following
1. There is a God who is the creator
2. Our creation has laws both in the way everything is made and in how it works
3. The Creator cares for every part of his creation and doesn’t want it abused
4. We have been given free will to decide for ourselves what to do
5. Good and evil are defined by God for our benefit
6. We are warned and then punished when we go against God’s ways

Revelation is often shied away from because its 22 chapters are difficult to understand
Some dislike the book because it is so different from all the other bible books
And they think it shows a side of God that is inconsistence with Jesus’ teaching
By summarising the book I can’t go fully into its symbolism and prophesies
However my intention is to outline its overall meaning and show it is consistent
The first chapters was advice directed at the 7 Christian churches
The next 19 chapters are a mix of warning against Satan and rewards for loving Jesus

Styles of writing include; Letter, Benediction, Doxology Prophecy and Apocalyptic
Its messages are seen as frightening, intimidating and uncomfortable
Which result in often bizarre and dubious interpretations being made
It should not be fearful or terrifying to those serving God
Revelation states those who read, understand, and apply its message are blessed.
All will be judged according to their deeds and rewarded or punished accordingly.
As followers of Jesus are forgiven they have nothing to worry about

Second Talk – Revelation The Vision
It is likely Revelation was written around 64 AD at the time of Nero
This was when the young church was being persecuted for preaching the One God
And Nero proclaimed that he was the one God and had to be worshipped
The prophecies are to do with that period but also have implication for us
The underlying theme of the visions are the rejection of God’s ways
Orchestrated by Satan and those who follow him
Yet Satan, his followers and his ways will be defeated.
The abuses mankind were perpetrating at the time were totally unacceptable
Now prophecies in the bible are concerned with bringing God’s judgement
Normally warnings are given to those who are rejecting God’s Word
If no notice is taken of the warnings then God will intervene in some way.

This second part of John’s vision, enables him to see into Heaven
Giving us confidence there is a heaven, a place where followers of Jesus will go
No matter what suffering mankind brings upon the world.
John reminds us God is the creator and should receive glory, honour and praise
His vision starts with God in heaven and ends with his followers living there

John sees a scroll, it holds the future and only Jesus in the form of the slain lamb
Is worthy to open it and reveal what the future has in store
The scroll tells first men want greater and greater power
Second wars will break out between those in power
Third ordinary people will have to work hard just to feed themselves
And they will not be able to afford luxuries
Yet still the rich and powerful will lord it over everyone
Fourth that due to war, famine and plague vast numbers of people would die
These have already happened and still continue to today.

The fifth seal showed those who were martyrs were entering Heaven
The sixth identified those who had given their lives to God and Jesus
They too will enter God’s kingdom and will never again hunger or thirst again
They will be cared for by The Lamb and every tear will be wiped from their eyes
However sin had to be punished and a warning was given to turn people towards God

The seventh seal when broken allowed mankind full freedom to live as they want
Along with the ability to see in creation The Creator, The One to follow
The earth didn’t happen by accident but by design, it is a living thing
It is always changing and needs to act sometimes forcefully and vigorously
With Volcanoes, earthquakes and storms necessary for its survival
In its construction we can see the wonder and love of God
No wonder he wants to protect it and gave us the task to care for it .

With the last seal came silence in heaven, a moment of anticipation of what’s to come
Like a crowd waiting to see the result of a penalty or golf or snooker shot
The Trumpets warn us things are going to happen
Which should then make people consider the realisation there is a God
And then assess their relationship with God and who he really is.

We’re told of storms, earthquakes, volcanoes followed by evil leadership
Well we know acts of nature can cause terrible problems
Examples like Mount Vesuvius in 79AD the eruption which destroyed Pompeii
Causing the air to be soiled which contaminates water supplies
Crops to fail and at the time bad sanitation often caused epidemics
In 165AD the death toll of the Antonine smallpox plague
Across the Roman Empire was 75 million, a third of the population.

The first six trumpets are used to serve as a wake-up call to follow God
But for the last 2,000 years much of mankind has rejected his ways, but not all.
And therefore the last trumpet has not been sounded for Jesus to return.
That will be when “time is no more, and that the mystery of God is revealed
Jesus will judge all people rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked
Is punishment necessary? Well if it’s not why be righteous?
Yet it is the reward that’s important for those going to heaven will live on

We are told of two witnesses one could be Peter and the church he built in Rome
The 1st century “Jewish Christians” were totally faithful religious Jews.
They differed from traditional Jews by accepted Jesus as the Messiah
The 2nd witness was Paul who supported the Gentile missionary churches
So the two witnesses were the Jewish and Gentile Christians churches
And while Nero persecuted them went underground became hidden
But rose again stronger than ever once Nero died and the persecution stopped

On the last trumpet blast we are told about a pregnant woman
And the Dragon, who is Satan, who wanted to kill her baby, part of the same story
The women being the young church who is protected and goes into hiding
And the baby is the newly formed and is the growing Christian church
When Satan fails to destroy that church he goes off to fight against others
Satan has power over the earth yet he doesn’t have authority over us
Because when we accept Jesus as our lord we are in The Kingdom of God.

Satan will attempt to make people see themselves as being more important than God
Able to ignore God’s teaching and do those things that we were not designed to do.
The dragon is used as the image for Satan.

The various beasts are the dictators, the War lords that follow him,
Powerful corruptors of the world that have brought hurt and destruction.
Yet these people are revered, in the 20th century leaders Mao, Hitler, Stalin,
We can include politician and business leader that look out only for themselves
And have no care for those they are responsible for.
By the way the one coded as 666 in Revelation was Nero

We have seen wars, famines and plagues continue throughout history
In the last century almost 100 million have died of famine,
170 million of Genocide and 450 million in wars.
With no figures for those who have suffered from poverty
And other human abuses caused by evil and corrupt practices.
Yet Christians and particular British Christians have fought to improve things
In education, health care, democracy, unions, with laws and a fair justice system.

The underlying message of Revelation is that Satan encourages evil in this world
Opposed to Satan are all who follow God’s ways
And these have been given by Jesus and the prophets
Revelation tells us once again God is to be feared by those who oppose him
For his judgment is inevitable and unescapable.

We are told to worship God who made the heavens, the earth and the sea
However until the final judgement does come we need to keep his commands,
Remain faithful to Jesus, have patient endurance and worship the Lord.

Revelation tells us that Nero along with Rome named as Babylon, would be destroyed
Like Sodom, Egypt and Canaan before, evil places will be defeated,
God allows people freewill, but when it turns to evil then he will act.
His judgment is true and just for he knows the hearts of people.
First mankind was shown his ways, call it our built in conscience
Then we are taught right from wrong, first the prophets then by Jesus
When we do evil then warnings are given to change our ways and repent
If ignored there is a punishment so we understand the consequences of our actions
Yet no matter what occurs some will refused to repent and will not change their ways.

Now we get to the real point of Revelation, the reward when we do repent
And make Jesus our Lord and try to do the things that pleases God
We’re told Satan is defeated, given a punishment, released to see if he changes
But he returns to his old ways and defeated again then the final chapter is written
All who follow God and his Son Jesus enter the Kingdom of God.

So we come to words from the end of Revelation
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

We are the bride of Jesus and the Fine linen stands for our righteous acts
Everyone is then judged according to what they had done.
But only those whose names were written in the book of life were saved.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth and the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

On reading Revelation it confirms that God does not control mankind,
We were given total freewill to follow God’s ways or to go against them.
When the situation get so bad then God becomes an intervening God
Not an interfering one, this can be at a national, community or an individual level.
In other words he is a correcting God directing us along his right path

Part of our creation in that we are tested for that is what freewill is about.
When things do go wrong we look to blame everyone but ourselves
And for some the best alternative is to blame God and not look at his purpose for us
When facing evil and we ask God to intervene, don’t be surprised when he does
With all the fury, wrath and power of the creator of the world and mankind.

So to sum up Revelation’s letters in 77 words:-
God through Jesus gives John an assessment of seven young churches. Praises for keeping to God’s ways and warning concerning their failures. Then visions of a glorious heaven, advising churches of difficulties, giving prophesies to secular communities telling them of Satan’s plans advising them to turn to God. For those holding true to God’s ways with faith, hard work and perseverance will see God’s Son Jesus, return with his followers receiving the reward of a heavenly home.
Notes on Revelation’s seven letters
God gave this revelation to Jesus, the Messiah, to show to John what must take place.

From John to the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come and whose Son Jesus, made us priests to serve his God and Father.

I John, saw seven golden Lampstands and The Son of Man holding seven stars, out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. He said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now I am alive for ever and ever! I hold the keys of death and Hades. The seven Lampstands are the seven churches and the Stars represent an angel for each.

These revelations were given by God to Jesus to be shown to John who was to write them down and send them to the seven churches.

Jesus

• The words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David
• These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
• When we accept Jesus as our Lord we become his priests to serve our Heavenly Father.
• He is and his word are a Double-edged sword – that heals and also can harm
• First and Last
• Died and came to life
• He Knows what is going on
• He judges
• He councils
• Sharp 2 edged sword
• Eyes like Lighting
• Holy one
• True
• Faithful
• Praise for the churches
• Reject false teaching
• Persevered
• Endurence,
• Not grown weary
• Kept faith
• Spiritual strength
• Loyal
• Did not deny, not deceived,
• Love faith, service, patient,
• Threats and instructions
• Rediscover first love
• Be tested and will suffer
• Be faithful
• Repent
• Keep the faith
• Honour what you have
• Do not be lukewarm
• Promises for the churches
• Crown of life
• Hidden manna
• Authority of Nations
• In the book of life
• Pillar in the temple
• Jesus will be there if asked
• A place on the throne
• Recognition of the Churches
• Each has an angel, a star and a Lampstand plus a Spirit
The seven letters – 6 areas of observation

 I know your good deeds,

• Your hard work,
• Your perseverance,
• That you cannot tolerate wicked people,
• That you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not,
• You have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
• You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans.
• You are rich! Because you remain true to my name.
• You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city.
• I know, your love and faith, your service and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
• You have kept my word and have not denied my name
• You have kept my command to endure patiently,

 Prophecy

• 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 life as your victor’s crown.
• I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
• Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
• I will come again

 I know your bad deeds,

• You have forsaken the love you had at first.
• Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
• There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.
• Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
• You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
• you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
• Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
 Warning

• Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
• I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead.
• If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
• If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
• Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.
• You are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

 Advice 

• Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
• Be earnest and repent.
• I will reward according to your deeds.
• I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
• They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
• Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me

 Rewards The one who is victorious,

• I will give authority over the nations
• I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
• I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
• Will not be hurt at all by the second death.
• I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
• I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name
• I will give the right to sit with me on my throne

Revelation in 100 words:-

God through Jesus gives John an assessment of seven young churches of their current progress advising them of their responsibility to the commitment they have made to him and the consequences of their failure. Vision of heaven are given together with prophesies about difficulties the churches will face and what will happen in secular communities to make them realise they do need to change they ways, repent and turn to God. Those who hold true to God’s ways with faith, hard work and perseverance will see God’s Son Jesus, return with his followers receiving the reward of a heavenly home.
Revelation as Poem in Haiku form:-

Keep faith through troubles
You will be victorious
Join God in Heaven