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Introduction to the Seven Churches

Discerning The Times / Brian Thomas
The Truth Network Radio
February 10, 2024 12:00 pm

Introduction to the Seven Churches

Discerning The Times / Brian Thomas

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February 10, 2024 12:00 pm

We begin our series on the letters to the seven churches of Revelation with an introduction of the message that Jesus prepared for seven congregations of Asia Minor. 

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Blessings to Israel presents Discerning the Times, a program committed to encouraging you to view current events through the lens of the Bible. Now, in honor of the one and only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, please join us for today's program. Welcome to Discerning the Times.

My name is Brian Thomas. So great to be with you as always. And today we're going to dive into my favorite book in all of the Bible.

I am referring to the very last, which is the Book of Revelation. So I'm joined by my co-host, Dr. Bruce Logan. And Doc, I know we talk about this a lot offline, but we've been looking forward to getting into Revelation and specifically we're going to get into the letters to the seven churches. So this week we'll sort of do a set up, a sort of introduction to the seven churches, and then we'll dive deeper into it in the weeks to come. But how are you doing this week?

I'm doing great. And it's good to be back on with you. And again, to get into this most important topic, dealing with the seven churches is a topic that really should be preeminent, you know, in terms of what's preached over most of our pulpits, especially in light of what's happening in our world and in our country. But it just seems to be something that just pretty much dismissed or ignored or just really not even addressed at all. And this is a very, very, very important book. And we're going to be touching on some things, you know, in this series that are relevant to the time and the churches in our day and time. All right.

So we'll start with the groundwork here shortly. But before we get into that, I want to remind you, as we always do, that your eternal state is far more important than your current state. If you have never received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I urge you to do so today. Otherwise, you will spend eternity in the lake of fire separated from God. So will you please receive the free gift that Jesus Christ already paid at Calvary when he died on the cross for all sins?

Will you receive that gift and give your heart to Jesus Christ on today? So, all right, Dr. Logan, let's dive into it again, the letters to the seven churches. But we're going to start with some background, as I stated earlier. So talk to us, if you will, about the author of this book and how this book really gives us a view of the return of Jesus Christ.

Well, just a little bit of a background. What John gives us here in the Book of Revelation, and John being the author of the Book of Revelation, Revelation actually gives us a panoramic view, or under the influence of the Holy Spirit, God gives John a glimpse into the future, a panoramic view of the return of Christ, the establishment of God's kingdom, and the culmination of God's wonderful and merciful plan of redemption for the human race who had originally failed all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Now, one of the things I like to kind of insert and point out when I talk about God's plan from a big picture perspective is that we need to understand that when man fell in the garden, when Adam sinned, that God had a decision to make, and God could have made a decision to completely wipe man off the face of the earth and just start all over again from scratch.

But he chose not to do that. He chose to implement a plan that would eventually culminate in the death, burial, and resurrection of his only begotten son. And because of that redemptive plan, that we're going to be able to have redemption and be able to be restored in a way that's even more grandiose than the original Garden of Eden. Revelation is the culmination of God's redemptive story, and it's also a reason why I think it's so important that we really dive into it, because most of the Christian preaching that we get today is centered around this life, having the best life now, having the abundant life in this world, being blessed in this current age. But if you follow Bible prophecy, in particular, the Book of Revelation, the emphasis is not going to be on this life, or our focus should not be on being blessed in this life, as we'll see as we get into the study of the seven churches, but our real focus needs to be on hearing him say well done in the next life. And that's one of the things that's going to be emphasized as we look at and begin to unpack this section of scripture that's referred to as the seven churches of Revelation.

And I love that point that you're making, and I stress always at the top of our podcast that our eternal state is more important than our current state. And as you said today, most of what we hear with preaching is more focused on the here and now. But when we look at the apostles, including this author John, they were not focused on their present day life at the time they wasn't they weren't focused on making that great matter of fact they went through tremendous suffering. And but they knew that what was to come the future that eternally being with Christ, and we need to get eternally minded more and more as you said and I wish so much we would hear that more from from pulpits today. And I love the fact that when we look at the Apostle John, when we look at chapter one revelation he said I'm your brother and companion in tribulation. And now let me be clear that when he said in tribulation he was not referring to tribulation capital T, which is that period to come in the future which Jesus said is the worst time that the world would ever see, or has ever seen but he's referring to the time in which they will be in persecuted the early church.

So they call that a time of tribulation but again we refer to that as tribulation little t not the seven year period that is coming. But although john was a bishop and a pastor in that area he still didn't look at himself as being over the people instead he he related to the people and said I'm your brother and companion in tribulation so I think that speaks a lot of john's character. Amen. Amen.

Absolutely. And that's a great point that you made, because it's most people or Christians limited today especially in the United States would not even begin to be able to fathom the level of persecution that the first century Christian, we're dealing with it was it was something that was just, we were really wouldn't be able to keep our minds around. And so the, if you preach the message, you know the abundant life message the prosperity message to a first century believer, they would look at you like you're crazy, you know they wouldn't be something they would even be able to relate to because they were undergoing persecution that, you know, we today really wouldn't be able to comprehend. You know they were being martyrs fair to lie and they were being persecuted in fact, the reason why, you know, of course we know that the background of revelation was given to john, because he was in exile on the Isle of Patmos, and he was put in exile on the Isle of Patmos, simply because he refused to obey the edict of the new Roman Emperor by whose name was the mission and the mission have proclaimed himself as a god, and he made an edict throughout the Empire, that you had to worship him as a god, you had to make incense and burn incense to him as a god you had to, and you had to have a paper like a, like a, like a sticker or a ticket in order to prove that you had performed this act for the Emperor, and of course Christian, they couldn't do it. They were martyred, and in the case of john, he was fit into exile on the Isle of Patmos, and which, you know, our Patmos was basically a place for banishment of political prisoners and people who were considered a threat to the Roman Empire and that's of course, if you weren't executed or martyred first. So, yeah, so that they were living in a time of some incredible persecution.

Yeah. I've heard it said that the exile that john was in on the Isle of Patmos is sort of like something we can relate to in our modern day is sort of like an ancient day Alcatraz. We know Alcatraz is no longer in existence in our time as far as a prison but but a lot of people are familiar with it, it wasn't that long ago when some of the worst criminals were sit there, and I just love when we look at men like john and you know so many others who they just had this this dedication to the Lord you know john was boiled in oil he survived it Peter said crucify me upside down and we don't hear many people talking that way today many definitely not here in the United States of America saying well let me suffer in that way for Jesus Christ but that again speaks to the character of john and what was happening during this time in which he wrote this letter to the seven churches of course, and we'll talk about it here shortly how he received that letter. So let's now get into the purpose and the theme of the book of Revelation. Well, the purpose of Revelation, of course, was multifaceted but number one was to give courage, comfort and encouragement to the faithful believers into this newfound Christian group for the specific reason, because they were going, they were undergoing such persecution that they needed to be encouraged they need to be motivated that if you go through if you suffer, there was going to be a reward in the future not award reward in this life as so much of modern preaching seem to recommend, but in this particular instance, if you suffer until the end, there will be laid up for you a crown of life for an example.

And this is what it was by was about thinking eternally, as you always say, and as you reiterate it, our internal state is going to be more, more important than our current state. And that was to encourage and comfort believers for the future was as a main and final, or was one of the main points that was reasonable main purposes for the writing of Revelation. Another one I would like to point out, it was to kind of which kind of related to the previous point is that it was given as a word of encouragement, but the final victory is going to be ours, that final victory is going to be assured for the believer. And of course, revelations as we can see in the end, the final victory is going to be ours when we come back with the Lord, when Jesus comes back and we ride and follow him on on white horses, and the ultimate theme of course of the book is the victory of Christ and his church over the Satan and his helpers. The theme is stated, the ultimate theme is stated in Revelation chapter 17 verse 14, that they will make war on the lamb and the lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and the king of kings and those with them are called the chosen and faithful. So, in terms of the ultimate purpose and theme of revelations that can be summarized probably in that verse. All right, and we can sort of look at Revelation, the way it's laid out is sort of in three sections because when the angel came to John here in the first chapter, and we know that he brought the message, which came first from God, then to Jesus Christ, then to the angel and then to John. And so he said, write the things which you have seen, the things which are and the things which shall be hereafter. So John was writing about things past, present and future, correct?

That is very correct. As a matter of fact, you just actually quoted the verse, which I consider to be the central verse in the entire book of Revelation. I call it the central verse because many people use as an excuse to not study Revelation.

And I would argue to the contrary that if you study Revelation chapter one verse 19 that you just quoted, it gives us an entire encapsulation of the entire book of Revelation. In other words, he says write the things which you have seen. What were the things that he had seen? The vision of Christ in chapter one.

And then which are the things that are? Which is the next thing to write, which was specifically a letter to the seven churches, which he will reiterate, by the way, in verse 20. And the seven churches were seven literal existing churches at the time that John was writing this letter. They were seven churches.

They had actual literal congregations and they were actual people dealing with real issues under real circumstances and that existed historically at that particular time. And that would involve chapters two and three. And then it says write the things which shall be hereafter. In other words, things that have not yet occurred. And beginning, and we'll notice if you did a deeper study, which our focus here is going to be just on chapters two and three, the seven churches. But once you get to chapter four on, everything that occurs from chapter four on are events that are yet to take place in the future. And so if you have that three part breakdown, then it's easy to just kind of encapsulate or unpack the Book of Revelation, the rather, and it makes the teaching of it or the study of it a lot more understandable. Yeah, absolutely. And I'm glad you touched on the fact that these were seven literal churches that existed during that time in what was known then as Asia Minor.

Today is modern day Turkey. And it's so important, folks, that when we read the Bible, we read it in its proper context, because so many people today read a scripture and they just open the Bible and they say, OK, what does this mean to me? What's in this for me? But there were certain things that were written to specific people at specific points in time, and we can still get application out of it. But it's very important that we have that understanding that these were seven literal churches. So, again, in the weeks to come, we're going to take each church one by one. But for this week, let's let's just give a high level overview of what each of those seven churches were. So the first one that we're going to going to talk about is the church at Ephesus in Revelation, chapter two, verses one through seven. Well, one of the things that will stand out if you just look at each of these letters and that there are four distinct levels of application to each each of these letters.

There were seven again, as we already referred to the application. Number one is that these were seven literal church communities that existed in the first century that were dealing with very real issues and circumstances. And these letters address their particular issues head on. The second distinct level of application is the fact that he makes a point by saying is every letter ended with an admonition that says. He that has an ear, let it be what the spirit has to say to the and note this to the church is plural. So, in other words, even though these letters were written to seven distinct churches individually, it also has application to every church that existed not only at that time, but throughout history, including today. In other words, this was a these were universal messages or corporate messages, meaning that every church was to pay attention to the message in each of these individual letters. And then, of course, there was a third level of application and that these letters not only had a corporate meaning or corporate application, but there were also personal applications for each individual believer that we can garner from.

And lastly, and somewhat controversially, and then we won't get a chance and I won't spend a lot of time on this last point. But there were several theologians that believe or they question or wonder why they why did God choose these particular seven letters or seven churches rather to to have John right to. Because if you if you just looked at a map of the first entry in the New Testament map, which you can just look online and you can see a number of examples. There were many other churches in in the in that particular region that that were left out for that could have been part of these these letters or messages.

But God chose not to just for an example. The the area of Colossae was just nine miles away. Colossae was just nine miles southeast of Laodicea. So why didn't Colossae get a letter? And or just northeast of Colossae was the area of Galatia. And then if you travel west, you had Corinth, you had Thessalonica, you had Philippi.

But only these particular seven churches that were on the on the western coast of Asia Minor received a letter. And so it was interesting. And some theologians, they theorized that it was had a dispensational bent or dispensational motivation.

And I used to be a proponent of that thought. But I'm not so much anymore, simply because as I studied more and I begin to look at the churches at our day and time that you see elements and attributes of every one of these churches, even in existence today. And we're going to unpack that as we get through them and go to a church by church. And there was no one final thing I want to just point out that each of these seven churches contain several elements or reports.

They contain what I like to use the term. They had a report card. Right.

So so what I mean by a report card, they had like the name of the church. And then that was followed by a description or title that Christ chose us for himself or chooses for himself, rather. And if you notice that it's a description of himself that's contained in chapter one. For an example, in the first letter to the Church of Ephesus, he writes to the angel of the Church of Ephesus. Right.

These things say and notice this. He that holds the seven stars in his right hand and who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Well, that's, of course, a description that he made of himself that you can go back and read in chapter one. OK, so and he can he'll continue to use, in other words, different aspects of the vision that John saw in chapter one. Jesus will isolate and pick out to each as he addresses each of these seven churches as description of himself. And then, of course, there's an exhortation, things that you've done well.

And then, of course, there are issues, you know, things, you know, I got a little concern I'm concerned about. In some cases, there is an areas of condemnation and then you'll have a promise to the overcomer. And then, as I mentioned earlier, you have a closing phrase in each of the churches.

And this is very important. And it says that he that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches. And then one one final quick point I want to make is that I want to point out that two churches received nothing but condemnation.

I mean, commendation rather. There was nothing negative said about the two churches, about these two churches. And those two churches were Smyrna and the Church of Philadelphia. And then there were two churches that received nothing. Nothing good was said about them. It was all condemnation. And that's the Church of Sardis and a church of Laodicea. And then there were three churches that received a mixed report of commendation and condemnation, which, of course, was Pergamos, Ephesus and Thyatira.

Yeah, that's that's an excellent overview. And I love the fact that as we'll see when we get into this deeper, Jesus ended the letter to each of the churches by saying he that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. And we'll unpack that more in the weeks to come. But I think about how we can hear things.

But we do not necessarily perceive things. And I can recall a time when my son was younger and he was getting close to bedtime. And he may have been occupied playing a video game or something. And I would go to him and sort of give him a warning as is getting close to bedtime. And I might say, well, son, you got 30 minutes and maybe 15 minutes to get ready for bed. And there were times when I could tell he wasn't perceiving what I was saying, even though he might say, OK. And I would say, OK, son, what did I just say?

And he say, ah, what did you say, daddy? And so, you know, we are all guilty of doing that, though, you know, where you can hear someone, but you kind of tune it out. And Jesus is saying, don't don't tune out. Don't go through the motions. Listen and adhere to the things that I'm saying, because this is vital.

This is critical. And as you said, we're going to see in the weeks to come that there was a church that it left its first love. And Jesus is saying, come back, do the things that you did in the beginning, sort of like in a marriage when you are all in love in the beginning. But time, you know, as time goes by, you sort of drift apart.

So so you need to do the things that you did back when you were courting that person. So we're going to see that. And and then we're going to see the church that thought that they were just wealthy and rich and had everything, did not need anything. But Jesus is going to say, no, you were really poor. And I see that so much, Doc, in our churches today, in our nation, because we see some very wealthy churches with extravagant buildings, but doesn't necessarily mean they are rich in the things of God. And so I'm really looking forward to to what we're going to discuss in the weeks to come concerning these seven churches. And as you said in the opening, I really wish and desire that more people and more pastors would be willing to dive into Revelation, because it's not a book, folks, that if you on the right side of the Lord, if you're in right standing with him, you don't have to be afraid.

You don't have to worry. I've heard so many people say they heard growing up, they're reading Revelation is going to drive you crazy, is going to make you lose your mind. And that's nothing but a deception of the devil to try to keep you away, because as we said so many times before, it says in the very beginning, there's a blessing for anyone who reads and adheres to this book. And so we are wanting to encourage people to to go into the book, because ultimately it is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. And that is the ultimate goal for us is to be with him, to live with him in eternity.

So I'm excited about it. And before we wrap things up, you have any closing thoughts for this week? Yeah, basically, you kind of stole my thunder because I wanted to quote that verse that you just quoted, because every time I study or talk about Revelation in any way, shape or form, I'm always reminded of an incident that happened in my early Christian walk where a minister friend told me that whatever you do, stay away from the book of Revelation and stay away from Daniel.

Yeah. And then so I would say, like, why in the world would I mean, why should I stay away from Revelation? So I go home and, you know, being that I didn't know any better being I was just a young Christian, I open up Revelation and I'm just three verses in and it says blessed is he that readeth and he that understands. So automatically I'm perplexed as a new person because we have this minister that's telling me to stay away. But Jesus is saying that I would be blessed if I read it.

Of course, I follow Jesus instead. And the more I study, you know, Revelation, the more intrigued I became with the Bible in general. And that's the thing that people need to understand, because the revelation is a culmination of everything from Genesis all the way through. And in order to understand the big picture of God's plan of salvation, you can't understand it without studying Revelation.

That's like trying to watch, trying to read a novel and you read the beginning, you read the body, but you don't read the end, the conclusion to see how everything is played out. And that's kind of what it is when we dismiss or ignore the book of Revelation. And so I'm so excited about this opportunity to be able to unpack these seven churches because there's so much relevance, theologically speaking, but just in daily application to the times that we live in today. So I'm just I'm excited and I'm looking forward to it.

Absolutely. That's very well said. And I want to encourage the listeners that as we go through this, think about yourself as an individual and then think about the church, the local assembly that you are a part of and and just ask yourself questions. Do you see yourself and do you see your church in what is going to be stated in these these seven letters and and then make any type of adjustments that are needed in terms of what the Lord is calling us to do. So it will be a blessing to you because it is the word of God.

And as we said, he said that it would be a blessing for those who read and adhere to the words. So looking forward to it in the weeks to come. So we want to thank you all for tuning in, Doc. Always good to talk with you and looking forward to being back together again next week. Amen. Looking forward to it.

All right. So please come back and join us as we continue to discern the times by viewing life through the lens of the Bible. Until then, remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Bless God's great nation of Israel to the only wise God. Be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Thank you for tuning in to discerning the times. Please come back and join us next week as we continue to encourage you to view current events through the lens of the Bible.

Until next time. Remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Bless God's great nation of Israel and seek first the kingdom of God. Discerning the times is presented by blessings to Israel.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-10 12:15:58 / 2024-02-10 12:26:39 / 11

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