Eleventh Sunday after Trinity Morning Prayer (28 August 2022)
In order to redeem humans from their sins, Jesus came into this world as Lamb of God. During His short time of ministry, He transformed the lives of many people. Although Jesus performed many miracles, the Jewish leaders did not accept Him. They considered Jesus to be a big threat to themselves and their religion. When Jesus died and was resurrected, the Jewish leaders wanted to stop the spreading of the Gospel by the disciples. They were forbidden to preach and worship Jesus. The early Christians were persecuted because of their faith. But the apostles spread the Gospel throughout the country and even to the gentiles. Romans ruled most of the world during the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Roman Emperor Domitian was persecuting Christian preachers. Patmos was one of the islands in Asia minor and was a prison during Roman empire. John was Jesus’s favourite disciple and brother to whom Jesus entrusted His mother. John was sent to Patmos as prisoner. Bible theologians say that John’s vision was destroyed and he was sent to Patmos as a blind person. John wrote this letter to the seven churches in Asia minor when he was a prisoner there.
Revelation is from the Greek work ‘apokalypsis’ which means unveiling. God revealed what would happen in the end days to John, so the book is called Revelation. The early churches suffered very much because of the Jewish leaders and Roman emperors. At this time, God gave his promises and caution to the seven churches in Asia minor. Every promise has a condition that needs to be fulfilled. These promises and cautions are applicable for us also today, so let us look at a few of the promises and words of caution.
1. I will give to eat of the tree of life
This promise was give to the city Ephesus, which was the capital of Asia minor during the Roman Empire. Paul preached the Gospel in Ephesus. In Acts 19:8 we read that “he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” The temple of Artemis was one of the wonders of the world and was built in Ephesus. The idol worshipers and the Jews were the greatest challenges faced by the early churches. When we read Acts 19:23-40, we read about Demetrius, the silversmith in Ephesus, who was causing trouble to Paul’s ministry. In spite of all these challenges, even when the government was not in favour of the early church, the church in Ephesus grew and the people had some good attributes. God appreciated their:
· good works and good labour for God
· discerning spirit
· hating the principles of Nicolaitans
On the other hand, God says that they left their first love.
We can correlate our present situation with the church in Ephesus. There are external factors that affect the churches, but we can still grow. We should also self-examine ourselves: today, do we have the same level of love that we had when we first turned to Jesus? Revelation 2:7 says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
2. Crown of life and shall not be hurt of the second death
This promise was given to the church in Smyrna. Smyrna means tribulation. There were two kinds of people in the Smyrna: the traditional Jewish people and those new to Christianity. The challenge was for the church to balance both and it was also a barrier for them to grow in Christ. The church was in tribulation, but the people in the church did not work for God but worked to earn for themselves. In Revelation 2:10 God said, “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”. In many verses we are encouraged to be faithful even during tribulation. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”. 1 Peter 3:14 says, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled”. Romans 8:18 says, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. God also gave His promise through Revelation 2:10&11, “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”. We can read two births and two deaths in the Bible. The first birth is from the mother’s womb and the first death is our death in this world. The second birth refers to being born again with Jesus. John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”. We have to be born again with Jesus to enter into heaven. Revelation 20:14,15 says, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire”. Those who have second birth with Jesus in spirit will not be experience the second death. We do not have any choice with our first birth and death but have complete freedom to choose second birth and death.
3. Hidden manna and New name
This promise was given to the church in Pergamos. God was upset with this church because they were eating foods sacrificed to idols, committing fornication as per Balaam’s false teaching and were following the principles of Nicolaitans. God cautioned the church in Pergamos through Revelation 2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth”. Revelation 2:17 says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it”. Is God upset with something that we are doing? Is any of our habits or practices not pleasing to God? Let us repent and turn to God.
4. Power over nations and Give him Morning Star
This was the promise given to the Church in Thyatira. God appreciated the church in Thyatira. In Revelation 2:19 we read, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first”. But they also inclined to Jezebel’s false teaching. Jezebel’s spirit has two attributes: one is the beguiling spirit and the other is the spirit of pride. Genesis 3:13 says, “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat”. This spirit separates us from God by false teachings. James 6:6 says, “ But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” Revelation 2:26-28 says, “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star”. We should receive the Holy Spirit who will guide us in the right path and also receive the gift of discerning the spirits so that we are not deceived by false teachings and separated from God’s presence.
5. White raiment, Name in the book of life and confess before Father and angels
This promise was given to the church in Sardis. The church was not very active and was considered as dead because most of the congregation were name sake Christians. In Revelation 3:2 God said “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.” God expected the church to also hold fast and repent. Revelation 3:5 says, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels”. If we want to be robed white, our garment needs to be washed by the blood of the Lamb of God. According to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. If we need to repent from something God is speaking in our hearts, we should not delay it because we do not know when Jesus will come. We should watch and pray and be always ready to meet God.
6. Pillar in the temple, New Name and the open Door
These promises were given to the church in Philadelphia. This church was formed by the church in Pergamos. God was very much pleased about the works in the church. Even when they had very little strength, they did not depend on their own strength, but put their trust on God. Even when they walked through the difficult situations, they didn’t deny Jesus. Revelation 3:12 says, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name”. We may be weak but if we trust in God, He will strengthen us to walk through the difficult situations. We only have to look up to Him and ask for His strength and guidance.
7. God’s throne
This promise was given to the church in Laodicea. The works of this church was neither cold nor hot. God couldn’t accept this attitude. This church said “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”. But God said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Revelation 3: 21 says, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne”. Our worldly possessions will not take us to heaven. Our riches cannot buy eternal life. Only repentance and forgiveness of our sins with the blood of the Lamb can do that.
Bible says he stands at the door and knocks to restore us. If we open the door, he will come in and sup with us. God is giving us chance to turn to him.
Although this letter was written to the early churches in Asia minor, it is relevant for us even today. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand”. We can compare the present situation with the early churches and analyse ourselves. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Jesus is standing at our heart’s door and knocking. We have many options: we can leave him knocking, we can open the door and say hello and shut the door or we can open the door and invite Him into our hearts. He will come in to our hearts only of we invite Him in. The verses repeat “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. It is our decision and choice. We have very limited time. Let us prepare ourselves to meet Jesus and also bring others to Him.
Revelation 22:7 says, “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” May the God of Israel prepare us to receive these blessings. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen.