REVELATIONS 2B - PART II January 8, 2023
Updated: Jan 15
INITIATING DE NEW YEAR OF 2023, PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM BETHANY CHURCH IN RICHMOND, BC, IS RE-TAKING THE SERIES FROM THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS THAT WAS INTERRUPTED AS THE CHRISTMAS SEASON WAS CLOSE.
Before Christmas, we opened the book of Revelation, then the book was abruptly closed with an unanticipated, everything’s on hold, I’m off to Emergency, break. Not the recommended way to pause a series but things are what they are. I opened Revelation with a promise to do my best to avoid wild speculations – like who is the antichrist or when will the tribulation be - rather the true view of Revelation on which we will focus is Jesus and our standing in Him as we consider the future. The look we’re given comes from John’s pen – his encounter with Christ so overwhelming that he fell before a glorified Jesus as dead. This revelation from a glorified and reigning Jesus gives us assurance that our future as His children is secure in Him. So let’s dig in, first with a recap of 2 churches we considered previously and today in Rev 2, expanding on 1 we looked at, then with a first look at one more. First in review the church in:
Ephesus – a church of much activity. By all appearances, this was a showcase church befitting the showcase city in which it lived. A church where you’d take people to see all the great things going on. Programs galore. Great music. Impressive preaching. The parking lot, were there such a thing, filled to overflowing. Lots of busyness, but a scarcity of what needed to be front and center - Christ centered love. Their love and wonder of Jesus had grown cold. A lot of activity and yet no focus on what their faith was to be about – loving Jesus with all their heart.
To this church Jesus says, I walk among you – your teaching good, your programs stellar, your marketing first class, your transforming impact, non-existent. Christ’s word to them, See who you are and repent. Return to wonder. Return to loving Me and the power of the Cross.
Then in stark contrast to Ephesus – Smyrna Izmir, a proud city known for its firsts and in this city, a persecuted church, stripped of everything, some paying for their faith with their lives but despite hardships, remaining faithful to Christ. The vibrant love for Jesus missing in the Ephesian church – here in Sardis, present in great abundance.
To this church, Jesus only speaks words of praise, revealing Himself standing with them as the Resurrected One - 1st in everything - above all powers, all voices and all authority.
Returning us to PERGAMUM – in this city a church where some were living in compromise, trying to live in both worlds – mixing truth with lie, seemingly ignoring that this city is described as, Where Satan has his throne :1,3 where lie, overwhelming evil and persecution dominate. And these Christ followers? - taking the things of God they’d accept and ignoring the things they couldn’t. Hoping for a ‘do what you please’ pass before a closed eyes, not going to look God.
Though many in the church were faithful, some in the Pergamum church not fully embracing God so they could indulge in the ‘pleasures’ everyone else seemed to enjoy. Those pleasures in many cases, outrageous sin. But justified by mixing truth with lie – and in that accommodation, living a divided life – sometimes adding on to what God said and other times, just ignoring, with the result that they had their ‘God life’ and their ‘other’ life. And in this process, the church not adequately seeing they had allowed the enemy to infiltrate their ranks. They had become so accustomed to the enemy surrounding them, that the church had dropped its guard becoming oblivious that a battle was being waged within the church. In part, this was because they were unaware this battle was being played out in ideas. They were looking for weaponry when the battle was for the mind. The enemy knowing that once the mind is captured, hearts follow. Tolerating then accommodating ideas like the morning glory plant lookalike - bindweed, looking innocent enough, even attractive, as it wraps around healthy growth – spreading rapidly as it chokes off all life but its own. In this case and ours, refusing to see sin the way God sees it. That’s what Jesus was speaking to when he referenced the Balaam and Nicolatians in this passage who were teaching the gospel of a divided heart – ‘this much God’ and ‘this much what makes me happy’. Balaam’s story told in Num 22-24 where the Moabite king, Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel. Balak’s plan failed but what followed didn’t, when Israel let down her guard intermarrying with the Moabites, eating food offered to idols and taking their gods. Disconnected from the anchor of God’s Word, they determined their actions and beliefs through the eyes of culture rather than through the eyes of God. Like what happens in our culture where we are told to follow our heart and ‘what feels good’ - that love is never wrong though Scripture tells us, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked Jer 17:9.
ANCIENT CITY of PERGAMUM
SATAN'S THRONE IN
MUSEUM OF BERLIN IN GERMANY
So what were they teaching? Among other things that it was okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Seemingly, no big deal except the issue was far more than unholy rib eye. What was really at stake was opening themselves up to a spirit world that would enslave. Presented as no big deal yet stepping into the world of the demonic. Presented as something physical when in fact it was entrance into the spiritual. Their other main teaching was also presented as just a physical issue – one very familiar in our world. That had to do with sex – specifically that it was okay – more than that, desirable - to have sex with whomever you wanted. This teaching wasn’t just coming from outside the church but from within. I doubt it was presented the same as the debauchery seen in the surrounding pagan temples, rather its appeal likely more acceptable. An appeal of ‘don’t be so up tight about sex. Loosen up a bit, just enjoy some of what others are doing. Don’t be so rigid or so old fashioned. After all, it’s just physical and why deny yourself the physical? Especially if it feels good. Sound familiar?
The orator Demosthenes captured the thinking, “We have prostitutes for pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and for having a faithful guardian for our household affairs.”
Glossing over one problem, among many, that sex is far more than just a physical act. As Darrell Johnson states, “far more than biology is involved in any sexual act. The act involves the ‘soma’, the real self. Which is why two people seldom feel the same toward each other afterward. They have shared more than biology, they have shared their somas, their very persons. This is what the Balaamite - Nicolatians failed to understand.”
Lewis Medes observes, “The prostitute sells her body with an unwritten understanding that nothing personal will be involved in the deal. The buyer gets his sexual needs satisfied without having anything personally difficult to deal with afterwards. He pays his dues and they are done with each other.”
Yet because sex is far more than physical, the price is far higher than that. As Medes goes on, “There is no such thing as casual sex, no matter how casual people are about it. The Christian assaults reality in his night out at the brothel… [whether that brothel is visited by a keyboard or channel changer], nobody can go to bed with someone and leave his/her soul parked outside… The demand for self-restraint is not a kill joy rule plastered onto the abundant life by anti-sexual saints. It is respect for reality. The moral law fits the inner reality of sex.”
To repeat this wasn’t messaging that was being given from outside the church, these were voices from within promoting practices that were sinful. Nowhere is this more powerfully seen than what is constantly being promoted to shape our view of sex.
Where the clear lines of what Scripture teaches have been erased and replaced with dotted lines that leave a lot of room between the dots to justify and allow. And how far we have moved – from a time long ago in the Victorian era where piano legs were skirted for modesty because they looked like a woman’s leg to today when the amount of material used to cover that spindly piano leg is now the fabric bolt to clothe an entire body. And yet even with that miniscule amount, still the requisite cutouts revealing the sexual. All presented as liberation and contemporary. In the church some buying what this philosophy sells like, my boyfriend and I love each other so why shouldn’t we?
Voices re-defining God as someone more understanding and accepting of our sexual needs and a few other things that occupy priorities and attractions. Making room for that, a He’ll understand God, so we can step into that relationship because it promises the love we deserve. An accommodating God, so we can embrace that opportunity because those around me are doing it. Rationalizing and justifying.
And to this, Christ’s call, quit listening to convincing voices even those close to you. Quit being deceived by messages that deceive. Don’t call sin something other than what it is. Quit forming your truth according to what those around you believe.
But more than that – stop and see yourself for who you! Stop and admit the place to which you’ve gone. But don’t just stop – do something about it by confessing your sin and repenting. Because know this, I am coming quickly, without warning; without alerts, so turn from what destroys and turn to the One who forgives. Turn to the One who loves you in a way no one else ever will. Now, while there’s time. Now, because I am coming quickly. To that one I give a white stone with a name no one else knows – a white stone often used to signify a not guilty sentence in the courts but the white stone signified something else. In the ancient world, when the Emperor hosted festivities, honored guests were given a white piece of marble engraved with their name. Here Jesus saying, you who have been shut out, rejected, ridiculed, lost relationships, lost jobs, in some cases, lost life because of faith, Jesus will give His inscribed invitation to His festivities to come, far exceeding any loss suffered, any price paid.
Finally, going from the bad of Pergamum to the worst of THYATIRA. Thyatira was a guild city. Participating in the guild meant that you took on the business, social and religious habits of guild life. Not unlike a fraternity or sorority - going all in behaviour went with the territory. Shared business life, shared social life, shared meals. Idol worship was prominent as was drunkenness and immorality. When you ate, you thanked the gods, then partook in the meat that was first offered to idols. Pay your dues, pray your allegiance and plunge on in to the debauchery of the party made available to you. Just indulge. In short, their identity was your identity. You wear their colours. You chant their chants.
In modern parlance, it’s capitulating to the belief that compromise is just the price of doing business – you have your Sunday, it all looks good life, and then your, I live in a different world Monday to Saturday life. Only this Monday to Saturday life went far beyond a casual lever pull at the slot machine. This was road travel with all that presented – only the adult entertainment wasn’t a computer click away or a pay per view channel, this was part of the benefit package of guild life. And to this, you’re all in. The what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Isn’t it interesting that this slogan isn’t just accepted, it’s promoted? I wonder how catchy it is to the wife who was sent the photo attachment; to the husband who finds his wife’s sexualized text not intended for him; to a child who tries to understand why a parent no longer comes home?
But Vegas life at its worst was what Thyatira was about. Should you choose not to participate, the consequences were profound. The job market was closed to you. One of the ways you expressed worship to the gods was indulging in sexual activities with the Temple prostitutes, your identity indistinguishable from everyone else. Which is to say, there was a great cost in choosing to be different. Christians who refused to participate were shut out of community life.
And the church in Thyatira was little different from the workplace. There are some similarities to Pergamum but here we see where compromise takes us. While Jesus suggests that Pergamum had some who hold to a lifestyle of compromise, there’s none of that distinction here. This church hasn’t just remained silent regarding sin, this church has fully embraced sin. The reference to Jezebel demonstrates how deep the roots of sin have gone. They’ve become seduced with a view of God of never ending LOVE no matter what our actions. After all, “How could a loving God send people into an everlasting Hell?” It’s a view many deconstructionists desperately want to run into – a no consequence, He’ll love us anyway God who turns a blind eye. It’s true, some have embraced deconstructionism due to the hypocrisy they’ve experienced in the church. Others have experienced perversions of Christianity of control or abuse far removed from Christ centered faith. Things like these, a seedbed for adopting an airbrushed view of God. A recent study of 1,000 pastors Cultural Research Ctr found only 37% have a biblical worldview, a similar percentage believing a person can earn a place in Heaven. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine, instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Tim 4:3.
But the reference to Jezebel went further. Jezebel’s actions weren’t to come alongside God; they were to remove completely God and in His place, establish her own god. To that end, she created 850 prophets of Baal, putting to death any prophet of YHWH who opposed. Baal was god of the heavens, particularly the god of fire – the power of fire critically important for those involved in many of the trades.
The god most worshipped in Thyatira was Apollo, the sun god who was also considered the son of God. Added to this was the belief that the Emperor Domitian was the incarnation of Apollo. Domitian named his son, son of God and on his coins he is portrayed as holding 7 stars.
To this church, Jesus comes, returning to how He is seen in Rev 1 – with eyes of flaming fire, feet of burnished bronze and as the Son of God. To this city dedicated to the sun god and to Domitian, whose son is described as the son of god, Jesus reveals Himself as the only Son of God, a title only used this time in Revelation. God over all. Over the heavens, over the rulers, over those who determine the livelihood of our lives, Jesus with eyes of flaming fire and feet of burnished bronze coming to purify and judge. A Holy God of power and righteousness who will judge those who refuse to confess sin. Jesus’ words to this church 22,23 leaving no ambiguity - He will not tolerate sin. His Holiness demands judgment yet His grace reminds again and again, when you repent, His Holiness is satisfied.
Jesus concludes His words to the church of Thyatira with a promise, The one who conquers and keeps my word until the end … I will give him the ‘morning star’ Rev 2:26-28. I think in part this reference answering Domitian’s portrayal on the coins as one holding the stars, Jesus asserting His rule over everything. Only this Jesus didn’t just hold the stars, He created them. The morning star is the star that appears when night is darkest, its light intensifying as it takes over the night. The star depicting that the time of darkness is done. Its effect may last for a time but its rule is over. That tells me that Jesus transforms the darkness, shining His brilliance to accomplish the amazing. But there’s a better understanding of this name given elsewhere in Scripture 2 Pet 1:19 telling us that Jesus doesn’t just function like the morning star rather He IS our morning star – our guarantee of a new morning soon to come.
As we began our study in Revelation, I said that sometimes we err by trying to explain some things when instead we are called to look. It’s why John is repeatedly told, Behold and we are to do the same. Behold, look closely - not to analyze but to bow; not to decipher but to marvel. It’s that looking that put John on his face, as though dead. Let me illustrate, switching to a view of a butterfly under a high power microscope. Its individual parts, appear rather grotesque as the focus zooms in. It’s true, in a close up look, you’ll see incredible design - the complexity of sensors or layered scales on wings but what you’ll miss is so much greater. Missed is its beauty in flight, its colors luminescent in the sun, its lighter than air dance in the wind. Because those things are the butterfly that entertains, that delights, that stops us to look. Giving us a picture of something too wonderful to miss.
Sometimes analyzing is what we do when we try to explain the picture John shows us of Jesus rather than seeing Him. Where we want to explain images like the sash He wears perhaps depicting His role as priest or the long robe, His rule as king. Perhaps but I don’t think these are the point. What we are instead supposed to see is His glory that leaves us in wonder. His brilliance where all else fades. Get that picture right and our faith is transformed.
But when we get that picture wrong, we are attracted by far lesser things. Attracted by sexual temptation that distorts, by power that falsely promises, by gain that never fulfills, by appetite that never satisfies beyond first bite. And as Jesus speaks to these churches and more importantly to us, He is calling us to get our picture right.
Darrell Johnson tells of a congregant who as a businessman travelled extensively in countries where the sexual ‘hospitality industry’ was on full display, access readily available, not unlike what is privately available to us through cable and dark web portals. When another businessman asked how he dealt with the temptation, he related a time he was approached by someone offering her services. He pulled out a picture of his wife and responded, I belong to her and the spell was immediately broken.
Her picture front and center standing far stronger than the temptation that presented. And therein is the problem we often have. Where we’ve back-pocketed the picture we hold of Jesus – a pocket we rarely reference. It’s a picture once front and center in our eyes when we looked into its lustre finding it unmatched by anything. But over time that picture unreferenced and eventually stored away, but not before we’ve adhered other images onto Jesus where He’s become background, His picture more blurred, less impactful from all the other things we’ve pasted over top. Our impressions. Our disappointments. Our desire to run our lives.
And in the absence of the picture depicting Who He truly is, other things attract and take hold. Jesus’ warning to this church, Remain faithful. Hold fast to what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. Live as a conqueror in a world that seeks to conquer.
So as I close:
Is Jesus saying, you’ve been allowing compromise to settle in and are being seduced by things that will harm? You’re tolerating what shouldn’t be tolerated; you’re living with a divided heart – ‘this much God’ and ‘this much whatever else.’ Make things right and trust My leading. Do it now before you go any further down a path that will do incomprehensible harm – in your marriage, in your relationships, in the damage you’re doing to yourself. Repent and turn around. And finally:
Is Jesus pressing in on you, making it clear, you’ve allowed sin to sink some very deep roots. Though others may not know, you do – no matter what you’ve been telling yourself. And today is the day to finally come clean. Now, while there’s time. Jesus coming to be your Morning Star to clean you, change you and bring you new life. But that means coming to Jesus to repent of your sin, bowing before Him as your Lord.
And perhaps some here today have never made the most important step of faith that could ever be made and this morning you want to change that by asking Jesus to come into your heart as your Saviour, making you a new person in Him. Making you a child of God, saved by the shed blood of Jesus to forgive your sin and give you the assurance of everlasting life with Christ.
Jesus’ call is repent because new life never begins without that. And His Promise? - to give you His white stone – His invitation into your new name - a child of God, your forgiveness in Him, your purpose in Him; your destiny in Him; your forever joy in Him; to give you Life and God’s hidden manna to provide for you as you walk through life; His morning star, the assurance for the glory that is ahead. And so much more.
I AM the first and the last, the Living One.
I was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore! 1:17,18
You can visit this website below and watch the message by Pastor Rob Inrig by dates, and also you can follow the message which is writing in here in English and Spanish. Hoping this will gives you the answers you are looking for long time, and embrace the truth that we have an Awesome God, who cares for you and love you
and will never forsake you and me no matter what.