Friday, October 12, 2012

It Is All In The Name

And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
Revelation 2:8-10

In the post, What's Your Number?,  the thought that the ordinal position of each church was related to the message that Jesus shared with each congregation was explored.  While writing and studying that idea, it also became apparent that the name of each church chosen by the sovereign, omniscient Savior was also related to the message He shared with them thus enhancing the meaning for all generations.  The inspired and inerrant word of God is simply and utterly amazing!

Consider the meaning of the name of Ephesus.  It has two possible meanings.  The first is "permitted" as listed in the lexicon found on Blue Letter Bible and from other various sources.  How does this speak to the idea of unity or primacy since this church is the first one listed and these symbolic ideas are usually associated with the number one in scripture?  The more important question is, "how does one find unity with God?"  Abraham may be the person to ask.  In Genesis 22 he is seen taking his son, Isaac, to the summit of Mt. Moriah in obedience to God.  The LORD was testing the depth of his unity and whether God was first place (primacy) in his life.  As Abraham passed the test, the LORD placed a ram in the bushes nearby and gave us one of the greatest shadows of the sacrificial atonement of Christ in all of scripture.  It was faith in the promise of this future atonement of God's only begotten Son through which Abraham was proclaimed righteous--it PERMITTED him to be in unity with God by faith.  The LORD also revealed himself through the first special covenant name at this time--"The LORD will see to it" or "The LORD shall provide".  

Faith in the plan of God's salvation that He, Himself, oversaw is still what permits each and every believer to have unity with Heaven.  Christ and His sacrificial death permits us to boldly go before the throne of grace while His priestly intercession oversees our transformation as we walk in obedience to His purposes.  Maybe that is why the other possible meaning for Ephesus is "overseer" as is found on the Online Etymology Dictionary.  Grace permits us access with God who in turn oversees our life.  In His overseership, there are times when He must remind us that we have left our first love.

Let's briefly look at the position and the rest of the names of the churches:

Smyrna, as mentioned in the last post, means myrrh.  Myrrh is the Aramaic word for bitter and this is the church that was going through bitter trials.  Furthermore, myrrh was used as a pain killer.  That is also important for a church in severe persecution.  There was also the use of myrrh as an antiseptic.  Maybe this is why it is one of the two churches without condemnation?  Finally, myrrh is a perfume and was used to symbolize prayer.  When you are suffering, do you not want to hear from the One who understands your suffering and pain?  Jesus heard and comforted them with the word above, "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."

Pergamos is the Greek word for a watch tower.  This is also the church that was third--the place of divine completion or perfection.  Yet, they were not perfect as false doctrine was creeping in.  Maybe they needed to be more wary--to be on guard?

Thyratira's name is very fitting for a church wholly given over to godlessness and worldliness.  The name means, "odor of affliction."  When God's people allow worldliness to creep in to the point that the world and the church appear to be the same, it is certain that they look, walk, talk, and SMELL like the world.  Great affliction always come to those who are worldly!

Sardis was the church that was in the fifth place which is symbolic of grace.  Sadly, they were not alive in grace, they were dead in their works based foolishness.  What they needed was the one thing that gives all believers a right standing with God--the blood covering.  When judgement comes our way, God always passes over those who have the blood on the doorposts of their heart even as is seen in the picture of the Passover.  It is interesting to note, then, that Sardis means "red ones".

Philadelphia was the church in the sixth place, the place of man.  Six is the product of 2 and 3.  When believers fellowship (2) correctly with God and allow Him to bring divine perfection into their lives (3), they always produce saints and reach out to the world around them.  That is when they are living under the two greatest commandments which bring both fellowship and divine perfection and makes them the witness God wills.  They are directed by "brotherly love".  "
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."  Romans 13:10

Laodicea, of course, was the church that saw themselves a spiritually perfect (symbolic meaning of seven) but to God they were not what they appeared to themselves.  Christ was left out of their church.  This is certainly the reason that this name signifies, "the justice of the people".  It was the people's church and not Christ's!  What a sad place to be.  Make sure you are His.  As you know, He is Soon2Come!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's Your Number?

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Revelation 2:4

While looking at a synopsis of the messages of each of the seven letters in Revelation that John dictated for the Lord Jesus Christ, it became apparent that each church's commendation or rebuke was also related to the church's ordinal position.  To the first church there was/is a message related to their unity.  To the second there was/is a message related to their fellowship and so on.  These all encompassing letters also have a message for us.  The question dealing with your relationship is then, "what is your number?"

One is the number denoting primacy and unity as was mentioned in the last post, Unity and Fellowship.  Immediately, the correlation of the position of the church and its condition is seen.  Ephesus, the first church the Almighty addressed, had a unity problem.  This was the busy church filled with many good works.  The problem was that they had left their FIRST love.  Though their work for the Lord was praised, their heart was far from Christ.  Jesus must always remain first place in our lives, and we must maintain unity with Him no matter how much we do for His glory!  Christ our redeemer values our heart over our service.

Two represents Christ, the second man on the cross, and His fellowship and suffering on behalf of mankind.  Smyrna, whose name comes from the Greek word for myrrh used as a spice for burial, was in close fellowship with Jesus.  This fellowship also brought them great persecution.  They remind us that there are times when walking with the Lord will bring us trouble but great is the reward of the faithful.  Hear the words of Jesus on this.  "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Three speaks of things that are whole, complete, or entire.  To most outsiders, the church in Pergamum may have appeared to be a complete church.  They held tightly to the LORD and even had those who were martyred among them.  However, they were not whole nor complete.  There was a problem.  They were allowing false doctrine to be taught.  Jesus warned that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  Brood on the fact that even the little foxes spoil the vine.  Deal with those "little" things in your life that the LORD reveals to you immediately before it eats at your wholeness in Him.

Four symbolizes creation or the world.  Thyatira, the fourth church addressed, was spoken to in a fitting position.  This group of believers began to be swamped with worldliness.  They were allowing perverse pagan teaching from a "prophetess" who was leading them astray.  Furthermore, some were worshiping idols, mere statues made from worldly materials.  It is important to remember that this world, controlled by the god of this world, is your enemy.  Any teaching that deviates from "Thus saith the LORD" needs to be cast out.  The Bible alone should direct our lives.

Five is the number for grace.  God's grace brings life!  However, Sardis was a works based mess.  Men's works apart from grace, no matter how noble, bring death as they are an affront to the redeeming work of Christ our Redeemer.  While good works are an important indicator of our faith and trust in the LORD, they are not the source of our salvation.  Christ alone saves.

Six is the number for man.  Usually this number is always associated with that which is negative.  In Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, we see this number representing what God wills for His church--to be a vibrant witness to mankind.  This church had an open door for ministry.  It was a door that allowed "whosoever will, come"!  It was a church where God and man were in close fellowship (2) and where the congregation stood complete in Christ (3).  Isn't 6 always the product of 2 x 3?  ;)  

Seven usually is a number that relates spiritual perfection.  Like six above, we see the opposite in this church.  Laodicea was anything but perfect before the LORD.  Yet, they were perfect in their own eyes.  They were so perfect, according to their pride, that they had need of nothing.  They didn't even need Jesus, so they left Him on the doorstep.  While Philadelphia had an open door to all men, Laodicea shut our the only Man that matters--Jesus Christ.

So what is your number.  Find out and hear the words Jesus spoke often, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent (Revelation 3:3a)."  Also remember as always, Jesus Christ is Soon2Come!