The Messages to the Seven Churches of Revelation: Their Meaning and Their Application to Our Lives

The Book of Revelation holds a unique place in Scripture, detailing the astounding events preceding the ultimate culmination of God’s plans for His creation, the glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, and creation’s entry into the indescribable wonders of the eternal state.   It is a book which outlines the dreadful events leading up to that much longed-for time, and as such is replete with cataclysmic judgments and global catastrophes, graphically depicting a future worldwide alliance under Satan’s control resulting in an epic struggle of mankind against the Lord and His people.

Because the book of Revelation deals with such great and overarching themes it is therefore surprising, that the narrative opens with the Lord’s dealings with seven small churches situated in Asia (modern-day Turkey).   In contrast with the rest of the book which graphically relates the account of satanic aspirations to dominate the global economy and religion resulting in divine judgments in which millions of people will lose their lives and in which the earth itself is rocked and shaken to its very core, these seven churches individually received a message describing seemingly everyday issues and attitudes with which nearly any church elder might be routinely confronted.

Why are the seven churches included in an otherwise prophetic book full of astonishing and breathtaking events? 

Why, then, does the book of Revelation begin in such a fashion?  Why are the seven churches included in an otherwise prophetic book full of astonishing and breathtaking events?  There are generally three views concerning their inclusion:

  1. The seven churches represent seven distinct ages of the church, from Pentecost to the Rapture. This view is supported by the fact that Jesus’ messages to the churches would themselves be prophetic in nature in accordance with the overall genre of the book.
  2. The seven churches represent the distinct types of churches found at any given point during the present dispensation. For example, the Ephesian church represents a strongly doctrinal church while the Philadelphian church represents an assembly with a missionary emphasis. According to this perspective, nearly all churches throughout ecclesiastical history resemble in some aspects at least one of the seven mentioned.
  3. The seven churches are historical churches present at the time of John’s writing. Although the churches were literal assemblies of Christians with each church having specific issues and distinct difficulties which the Lord addresses, there are overall principles and spiritual applications that are applicable throughout the present age both in the context of church life as well as the individual Christian.

Which of the above perspectives is the correct one?  I personally believe that all three views are valid.  They are by no means mutually exclusive and each is worthy of careful study.  However for the sake of our present considerations, we’ll be focusing on the third viewpoint, i.e. how does the message of Jesus to the individual church apply to me and to my church life?  I trust the Lord will use this short series to enrich and strengthen your daily walk with Him.

Jim Haesemeyer                                                                                                   (To be continued)

 

The Gift God Wants

The Lord God is a demanding God.  If we don’t do things His way He would rather we’d not do them at all.  He has a very specific standard and what we do must adhere to it.  It’s true.

It is not something we like to talk about.  Nevertheless, God does demand something of us.  Often times we have the attitude that God will accept whatever we may offer.  No. He demands a specific thing.  And that specific thing is our heart!  It all comes down to that.

In the book of Exodus, we find the Lord asking His people to bring certain gifts. In chapter 35 beginning with verse 20, we find a list of the things the children of Israel were to give. They were supposed to give purple cloth. They were supposed to give gold. They were supposed to bring acacia wood.  Notably, however, every mention of their offerings follows a distinct pattern as recorded in the Bible.  Repeatedly the Bible mentions, everyone came whose heart was stirred.

Without fail each offering was preceded by a stirring of the heart.  The same account continues into chapter 36.

Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work. And they received from Moses all the offering which the children of Israel had brought for the work of the service of making the sanctuary. So they continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. Exodus 36:2-3

The people’s hearts were moved to give.  Indeed their hearts’ desire was to give more and yet more to the Lord.   Such was their generosity that Moses actually had to ask the people to stop giving.  There was no more need for materials for the tabernacle.  There was now an abundance of gold, acacia wood, purple cloth, and spun wool.

Remember, however, that children of Israel had been slaves. They had only recently escaped from Egypt.  They had nothing to their names.  But then the Egyptians approached them and said, “Take this, take this, take this…. Please don’t come back and please take God’s wrath with you because we don’t want it.  So here, take all this gold.”  The Egyptians gave to the children of Israel because of what God had done.

Thus there are two important principles.  Firstly, we need to remember that all that we have has come from the Lord.  What we give to Him He has first given to us.  Secondly, God demands that our offerings to Him come from our hearts.   A gift given to God must not be under compulsion. It is to be given to Him as if spreading it out and laying it before Him.

That is God’s demand.  That is what he is looking for.   God doesn’t demand of us that which we can’t do.   Nor does God does say you must do this.  He is asking, will you do this? And will you do it from your heart?

By James Pearson, New Mexico

 James Pearson is a man saved by the mercy of God. Now, he seeks to know the heart and person of God. To know Him, even as he himself is known.

What are you looking forward to?

Are you looking forward to the weekend? A holiday?  Graduating from school?

Or bigger goals like getting married, starting a family, getting that job that you always wanted, or buying a house?

What is it that you are looking forward to?

The things we look forward to always involve a change.  We look forward to something that is going to be different, whether it’s a change in current living situation or to possessing something we don’t have right now.

Jesus tells His disciples about an important change in John chapter 14, verses 1 to 3.

Jesus is about to send His disciples out into the world. They will be dispersed throughout the land and even to distant nations. They won’t belong to the places to which He is sending them.  Additionally, He tells them that He is about to leave them.  Nevertheless, He gives them something to look forward to.  There is something special coming.  A change!

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (Jn. 14:1-3 NKJV)

Although there are many points which could be drawn from this short passage we will focus on only two.  The first point is found in verse 2.  In this verse Jesus relates the purpose of His leaving. He says, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Please note what He doesn’t say.  He doesn’t say, I am going because I am being forced to go. Nor does He say, I am going because I am tired of you.   Quite the contrary, Jesus says that He is going so that He can do something for us.  He says I am preparing something for you.  I am getting a place ready for you.

The Lord is very clear that as long as we live on the earth we are strangers.  We don’t belong here.  Our citizenship is not here.

To a certain degree, we all intrinsically know what this feels like. We recognize in our souls that we don’t belong here. There is something about us that says, you know this isn’t it.  While we can find rest and joy while in this present world we also realize that it but a dim reflection of the fullness which awaits us in heaven.

The Lord said that He would prepare a place for us.  It would not be just a location for us to visit or a location in which we could see Jesus and the Father.  Rather it is a place for us; the place where we truly belong. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

Now the second purpose.  Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.”  Jesus emphasizes that the place He is preparing is not for us alone.  It is a place for us to live with Him.   He doesn’t want us off in an isolated corner of heaven but rather that we may be in His very presence that we may enjoy true fellowship with Him. Verse 3 says “I will receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Can you hear the voice of our heavenly bridegroom? Where I am, there you may be also.

That’s what I am looking forward to!

By DB/JH

 

 

Does God exist?

When and how did the universe begin?

The answers to these questions are far beyond the scope of this article to dissect. For the time; some say in thousands and some in millions of years. For the cause; there are proponents of evolution, creation, and chance. However, there is a key theme which stands out irrespective of the answers to the above questions. That is the fact that the universe had a beginning. It sounds logical and, though late, the scientific community is also coming to terms with it. Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist and cosmologist, concluded his lecture on The beginning of Time by stating, “the universe has not existed forever.” The fact that the universe had a beginning,  whenever it was, undoubtedly necessitates an external cause behind the origin. In simple terms, there needs to be a creative power behind it.  Unless there has been a beginning, we never could have reached a time point as the present. In his book titled The Hidden Face of God, Gerald Schroeder, a Jewish physicist and researcher, writes,  “The discoveries of science, those that search the quantum nature of subatomic matter, those that explore the molecular complexity of biology, and those that probe the brain/mind interface, have moved us to the brink of a startling realization: all existence is the expression of an all-encompassing wisdom.” All that means there is a beginning and most importantly there has to be a cause for this Universe with billions of galaxies. Now ask for yourself, Does God exist?

God, nothing else, can conceivably be the wisdom and cause for the beginning of the universe.

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.” (Sir Issac Newton)

But now how do you explain God?

In the last two decades, unimaginable and amazing innovations in information technology have drastically changed our lifestyle. Each dawn opens up new horizons in research and development. While YouTube is reaching 1.8 billion users, Facebook already has about 2.2 billion active monthly users. Who would have imagined or believed a few decades ago that these mobile technologies would become an integral part of the lives of billions? Moving to our theme, many people argue there is no God just because they can’t comprehend the existence of God. Our limitation in visualizing does not constitute a valid reason for rejecting God. One cannot expect to explain an infinitely existing God when even the brightest human mind struggles to explain simple and common things such as mind and energy.

Nature and scripture unequivocally speak to us about a God who can be truly known and revered by everyone without exception.

Does that mean God cannot be known?

The splendor of the universe attests to a magnificent and brilliant hand behind it. When we know more about science and nature, we are awestruck in adoration. Thus creation attests to the exquisite workmanship and glory of the creator. This emotion and knowledge lead us to worship. In fact, all humans are worshippers. Human history is a story of worship. Sun, moon, stars, waters, kings, animals, man, angels, and even science were a few examples of man’s inclination to worship in the past. The finitude of man’s knowledge and corrupted mind has led to a long line up of an ever-increasing number of deities.  God, however, not only communicated through nature but talks in language comprehensible to us. Scripture, also knows as God’s word, reveals to us the creator and sustainer who truly deserves the adoration and praise. Nature and scripture unequivocally speak to us about a God who can be truly known and revered by everyone without exception.

Moreover, the scientific advancements when closely watched are pointing more towards a Creator who designed everything with his mastery. Unfortunately, many scientists are trying to attribute everything they can to evolution and deliberately trying to deny God. Though science and scientists cannot fathom everything about the sovereign God, for a neutral observer science points toward an Almighty and eternal God.

Is God hidden?

This question is the subject of many discourses throughout the centuries. I would like to point out an important dimension for answering this question: What if man is hidden from God? If we are in the dark, that means we are not able to see God. There is a distinct separation between darkness and light. Does that mean man with his hindered vision can never see the light of God? Fortunately, darkness can always be conquered if the divine light is permitted to shine in you. Look how the prolific gospel writer introduces the Word and His shining glory:

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 4,5)

Dijo John – Renew in Knowledge Core Team Member

References

The Beginning of Time. Stephen Hawking. Accessed on September 17th, 2018 from http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html

The Hidden Face of God. Gerald Shroeder. Accessed on September 17th, 2018 from http://geraldschroeder.com/wordpress/?page_id=29

 

What are the common strategies of the Devil?

The operations of the devil are undeniably evident in the lives of both believers and skeptics. Now some of you may think- I am impervious to the tactics of the devil because I am saved. If you hold to that thought, you are seriously mistaken. The devil is an expert in exploiting your misunderstanding and negligence.  In this article, we will go through some of the common strategies of the devil.

Why should you be aware of the schemes of the Devil?

Apostle Peter writes in his epistle, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV).  In the following verse, the apostle urges believers to resist the devil.  James also writes “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  It is imperative that, if we must resist the devil, we need to be aware of his schemes and plots. Much like a depraved movie director, the devil through his ulterior strategies and craftiness is screening people to persuade them to act according to his will.

Common strategies of Devil/Satan

It may be a good idea to see some of the names of the devil as stated in Scripture and the meaning of those names.  Satan, most frequently used in the Scriptures for the Devil, means “adversary.”  It is inevitable that as a fallen angel Satan would seek to work in a manner adverse to the supreme creator God, which he does by means of his evil and deceptive strategies. The word devil, the second most frequently used name of the director of evil, means “slanderer.” This director of evil continues through the ages using the same strategies to destroy complacent lives. The following paragraphs describe three of these age-old schemes of the devil.

Devil is a master in deception and he can do it so finely at moments when you think you are shining.

  1. Slander

This is the strategy of the devil from which his name is derived. Out of thirty-six verses using the noun diabolos (slanderer) in the Greek New Testament, thirty-three is used specifically to designate the devil.  Clearly, the term devil characterizes one of the actions he is specialized in, which is slandering.  Slander is defined as an “action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.” This is a problem that is so overlooked that many of us may not be even aware that we are engaging in it.  Some of the synonyms of slander such as defame, bad-mouth, malign, tarnish, calumny, backbite, gossip, and libel remind us of the universal prevalence of this malicious act.

  1. Deception

In Revelation 12:9, we read about the devil who deceives the whole world. Deceive means to lead away from the correct path or mislead.   In fact, this strategy of the devil is closely tied to the previous one. He deceives or leads people away by presenting false reports and false facts in diverse ways.  These deceptions can be with respect to God, with respect to other people, or even with respect to oneself.  The latter strategy is a particularly self-destructive one.  For example, the devil may convince a bad person that he is a very good person and vice versa.

Devil deceives subtly.  I am reminded of engaging in complaining and overly criticizing others in my previous days. My tendency was to find fault in anything and everything rather than encouraging. Quite honestly, I didn’t realize the danger inherent in my actions. Gradually, that dragged me from knowing the truth about the state of my own heart to unnecessarily being concerned about others’ state of life.  You see the connection.  An attitude of gossip/complaint progressively and unconsciously leads us into a state of self-deception.

When God graciously exposed my miserable state and opened my eyes to the truth, I have seen greater freedom in my life. In fact, I have been able to better grasp the word of God since I began to evaluate my own life and apply those principles in light of it.  An additional lesson learned through this experience is, for better communication, practice seeing the good in others rather than being a fault-finder. I shared this in order for you to be aware that the Devil is a master in deception and he can do it so finely at moments when you think you are shining.

  1. Temptation

No one can deny that the most common strategy of the devil is temptation. Temptation, in the simplest sense, means enticing to sin. Thus, temptation can lead to sin through thoughts, words, or actions.  The devil tempts by his offers to sin which can temporarily gratify certain desires but eventually leads to profound discontentment.

The plot at the Garden of Eden

All three of the above strategies which we have seen were used by the devil in the Garden of Eden against Adam and Eve.  He was engaging in slander when he presented the question “Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Geneses 3:1).  This cunning presentation was sufficient to cause confusion and doubt in the mind of the woman. The devil, in his false accusation, challenged the limitations set by God and maligned the name of God. This was followed by a deceptive statement of “You will not surely die.”  How much more deceptive can it be? The plot for sure became deadly with his tempting statement “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”.

The importance of knowing the schemes of the devil

The Fall of mankind thus resulted from Satan using a combination of slandering, deceiving, and tempting.  Presently, we are all prone to these three strategies of the devil. The more we move away from God and His word, the higher the probability of our fall. As the father of lies, lying is inherent in his nature. Through his lies and hateful stories, the devil is continuously working to lead us away from the truth. When someone falls into the practice of slander or deception or temptation, his or her joy of fellowship with God and family or friends will be restricted. Let us examine ourselves for ways the devil is operating in our day-to-day activities and resist him by not allowing him a stronghold in our lives. Knowing the schemes of the devil is a vital step in escaping his traps and resisting him.

Dijo John – Renew in Knowledge Core Team Member

(This article is a slightly modified version of a previous article linked here https://renewinknowledge.org/2018/01/26/schemes-of-the-devil-the-director-of-evil/  published 01/26/18)