Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 27 February 2017

The Truth Speaks (Rev. 3:14)

 Laodicea was located six miles from the city of Hierapolis, ten miles from the small town of Colosse, and about one hundred miles east of Ephesus. Christian churches existed in Hierapolis, Colosse and Laodicea by the date of Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (Col. 4:13). He mentions in Colossians 4:15-16 that he had written a letter to the Laodicean church. 
The city was noted for its activities, three of which Jesus alludes to in his letter to the church. The three were a thriving wool industry, a famous school of medicine particularly for eye problems, and a financial system. The city was so wealthy that when it suffered great damage because of an earthquake in AD 60, it did not need outside help from the Empire for rebuilding. It was self-sufficient, which was a good thing for the city, but it illustrates the problem with the church – it was also self-sufficient. 
Jesus introduces himself as the ‘Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God’ (v. 14). We are used to saying amen in church services, mainly at the close of a prayer. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that one reason why believers should use amen is because of God’s promises centred in Jesus. The word is connected to truth and was used of God in the Old Testament (in Isaiah 65:16, where it is translated as God of truth). So Jesus reminds the church that he will speak the true words of God because he is God. 
Jesus repeats this when he says that he is the faithful and true witness. A witness is someone who reports what he has seen. Because he is faithful and true, it means that what Jesus will say about them will be accurate. There will be nothing in his criticism of their church life that will be untrue. At the same time, he will tell them what they have to do in order to receive his approval. 
Perhaps some might have responded to his criticisms by saying that they were powerless to change. If that did happen, they could be reminded that Jesus possesses divine power, and they could see that power in the creation that he brought into existence. 
Depending on one’s personal state, this description would have been either a threat or a comfort. It was a threat because it indicated that Jesus could remove their lampstand and they would cease to be a church. Yet it was a comfort to know that he had the power to resolve the situation, should they repent. The same options always apply. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Heavenly Glory (Rev. 3:12-13)

Several times in this promise to the overcomer, Jesus refers to ‘my God’. He is speaking of the Father, but is describing the relationship he has with his Father – Jesus is the mediator, the Father’s servant. We can see his activities in this connection described in Isaiah 53, where the prophet mentions both the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. As the servant of the Father, he has the role of outworking the divine plan and some of its details are mentioned in the promises here. 
Jesus says that he will do two things for those who overcome. One is that he will make them pillars in God’s temple and the other is that he will write three names on each of his people. Probably, the idea behind a pillar is stability and the idea behind the writing of names is security. In both cases, the outcome is eternal. 
The temple of God is another way of describing the new heavens and new earth. Calling it a temple reminds us that one of the main activities of the eternal state, as well as being one of the main expressions of eternal life, is worship, with the leader of the endless praise being Jesus himself. Each of his people will continue as a devout and enthusiastic worshipper for ever. 
It is possible that there is a connection between the pillar and the writing, with the names being written on the pillar so that others can read them. This was a common use of pillars in ancient times. Writing a name on something indicated ownership and here the three names are Father, new Jerusalem and Lord (Jesus was given this title in a new way at his ascension, as Paul says in Philippians 2:6-11). So the names say that each true believer will be a son of the Father, a resident of the eternal city, and a subject of the sovereign Saviour, and all of them for ever.  

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Jesus exhorts the church (Rev. 3:9-11)

Jesus had reminded his people in Philadelphia that he would  yet reverse the situation of insignificance that they currently had. When that reversal will take place, on the great future day of judgement, the opponents of the church will recognise that Jesus loved his people. The recognition will include different ways in which he loved them. His love for them was eternal, it led him to become a man and go to the cross to pay the penalty for their sins, and it caused him to look after them in numerous ways since they became his disciples. On that day, those who despised believers will discover and see the greatness of Christ’s love for his people.
Jesus, who has the key of authority (as he mentioned in verse 6), then informs the church in Philadelphia that he would protect them during a looming worldwide crisis. He does not say what the crisis would be. Perhaps there would be political turmoil, with its dangerous consequences. Whatever it was, Jesus promised his people in that city that they would be safe. Here we have a reminder that sometimes Jesus prevents trouble for his church whereas he allows it elsewhere, as he did with the church in Smyrna. 
Instead of being concerned about worldwide events, they are told by Jesus to remember his second coming. What is the proper response to the fact that Jesus is coming again? It is not to speculate about it. Instead it is to serve him faithfully Day by day knowing that he always has the key of authority.
Who is the one trying to seize their crown, that Jesus warns them about? It cannot be Jesus because he wants to give it to them. It is not likely to be another believer. Instead, it is the enemy, those encouraged by the devil. The point is that a good church can become a useless one if it loses hold of its priorities and allows the enemy to affect their commitment to Jesus. Jesus did not want that to happen to the church in Philadelphia. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Encouragements from Jesus (Rev. 3:8-9)

Jesus points out to the church in Philadelphia that he has given to them an open door. What does he mean by that? He is referring to his use of the key in the previous verse that symbolised his authority. Does he mean by his door that they have access to heaven or entrance into his kingdom or does he mean that they have access into the community around them?  
They may have been barred from areas of life in the city. The Jews may have stopped them from attending the synagogue and the city authorities may have prevented them from having opportunities for work. Whatever doors were closed by their human opponents, they could not close the door that Jesus kept open. 
The implication is that they were meant to go through the door and use whatever the access was that was available to them. They could go into the presence of Jesus in prayer and they could enter the community with the gospel. It looks as if Jesus is describing an entrance that no power on earth could ever close, which would indicate that the open door is entrance into the presence of God at any time. 
This would have been a great encouragement from Jesus to a church that was regarded as insignificant in the community. They were small in number probably and had little influence in the city. Yet they had remained true to him, even when they were opposed by others. 
The opposition to them seems to have been led by the Jews, which was a common experience for the New Testament church. Because Jesus has the key of authority he is able to deal with that situation. He informs the church there that on the Day of Judgement they will be recognised as belonging to him, with that recognition including their opponents bowing down before them. In the Old Testament, it was predicted that Gentiles would bow to God’s people, and no doubt the Jewish opponents of the church had assumed that the church would be among the Gentiles. Jesus reveals that those Jews would be among the Gentiles who would acknowledge the place that Christians will have through their connection to Jesus. So he gives them encouragement from their future blessings as well. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Jesus, the divine Ruler (Rev.3:7)

Philadelphia means ‘the city of brotherly love’. Whether that was true of the city is unlikely. Yet it was true of the church there because Jesus finds no fault within it. It is the second of the seven churches to have this level of commendation, along with the church in Smyrna. This means that the city of brotherly love had a community of brotherly love within it. 
In describing himself, Jesus says that he is both God and man, which is how we should think of him when focusing on what he has done since his incarnation. His deity is seen in his description of himself as the one who is holy and true. Yet they would also be accurate descriptions of his human nature. As the one who is holy and true, he cannot tell a lie, which would be of great comfort to the small church in Philadelphia as he makes promises to them about their future. 
The significance of him having the key of David is connected to what is described in Isaiah 22:20ff where the prophet reveals that the Lord is going to remove Shebna from his place of power because of his unfaithfulness and Eliakim in that position of power. The key symbolised the power that Eliakim would have. They revealed that the king had given him authority to act. Jesus means by this description that as the Messiah he has been given full authority by God the Father.  
The person who had the key in the palace in Jerusalem could go into any room he wished. He also allowed or prevented other people from having access to those places. In other words, nothing could happen without his decision or permission. In a far higher sense, nothing happens without the permission of Jesus. He has access to everything in heaven, including the details of God’s eternal plan. Therefore, he can make definite promises to the church in Philadelphia.
It is obvious that Jesus wanted to communicate this information to his people. He wanted them to get the benefits that come from knowing that this is his role. It would mean that whatever happened to them should be connected by them to the key that Jesus possesses as God’s Messiah. The same is true for us. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Overcomers from Sardis (Rev. 3:5)

The Saviour mentions three blessings that will be given to overcomers and each of the blessings is connected to the Day of Judgement. One of the blessings, that of wearing white robes, refers to what took place when people celebrated great victories. They would wear white garments of triumph.

In the previous verse, Jesus had stated that the faithful few in Sardis would walk with him in white, which is probably a reference to victory parades when loyal soldiers would be given the great privilege of accompanying the triumphant leader as he led the celebrations. Spiritual overcomers are going to share the victory of the King. Of course, they will give him all the praise, and we know that he will deserve eternal honour. Nevertheless, several times in Revelation God’s people are described as clothed in white robes as they rejoice in the triumphs of Jesus (7:9-10; 19:14).

The second blessing is guaranteed residence of the heavenly city. Ancient cities had registers containing the names of the residents. Of course, the register was only as viable as the competence of the rulers to ensure the existence of their cities. If they could not, and Sardis had known such failures, having their names recorded was of little worth. In contrast, those whose names are written in the register of heaven will enjoy it forever.

It seems that a resident of Sardis who received the death penalty would have his name deleted from the city register. Perhaps Jesus is indicating that some of his people there would experience that in the future when they were martyred. Yet even if their names were removed from the register in Sardis, they would not be taken out of the book of life. Their eternal security did not depend on anything on earth.

The third blessing is that Jesus will confess their names before his Father and the angels. Perhaps the idea is that he is reading out the names in the book and indicating their place in his city. It is a beautiful picture of the sovereign and his subjects. Confession by definition is public, and here Jesus promises to state publicly that they are his people. Perhaps the best sound they will ever hear.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Sardis is rebuked (Rev. 3:1-4)

The striking feature of the church in Sardis is that no defects are highlighted. The sins that marked Pergamum and Thyatira are not mentioned, nor is the lack of love that marked Ephesus. Yet although those churches were rebuked for those sins, they were also commended for what they did as churches. Sardis was not commended as a church for any activity. There is no mention of the Nicolaitans or other false teachers that they resisted. They were not experiencing persecution either, which suggests that neither the state or the powers of darkness regarded them as a threat.
Obviously, other churches had a very high opinion of the church in Sardis. Since Jesus does not list the practices of the church, we do not know what it was that caused other congregations to admire. The problem with Sardis seems to have been their inability to complete what they commenced to do. They did not have spiritual energy because they had grieved the Spirit. They are described as moribund and asleep.
Therefore they are commanded to obtain strength, otherwise even what they still have will die. Where would they get strength from? They would find it when they utilised what they had already received and heard about.
What had they received and heard in the past? No doubt, there is a reference here to the gospel and other instructions that the church would have received. Yet it is unlikely that they would have departed from them because other churches would have noticed such a relapse and not regarded them with such enthusiasm. There was something else missing that they once had, and I suspect that the reference is to the workings of the Holy Spirit. They had become a church without power because they had grieved the Spirit and he was no longer empowering them to serve the Lord. We can see now why the Saviour introduced himself to the church by reminding them that he could give the Spirit to them.
What would happen if they ignored his warning? If they did not repent, Jesus states that he will come suddenly and sort out the situation. The implication is that Jesus prefers the church to go out of existence rather than remain in a sleeping state.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Hope for the Church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1)

Jesus describes himself as the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. The seven spirits of God are mentioned in the doxology in Revelation 1:4-5 as being, along with the Father and the Son, the source of divine grace and peace. Since only a divine person could be so described, and since the Father and the Son are also mentioned, the seven spirits of God must be a way of describing the Holy Spirit. The number ‘seven’ is often used to describe perfection. 
Jesus received the Holy Spirit in a special manner when he ascended to heaven. He had described this reception as being connected to a promise made by the Father to give him the Spirit in this new way. Jesus also stated that the coming of the Spirit from him to his disciples would mean that they would experience incredible power as they declared the gospel and commenced the New Testament church. We see what this looked like in Acts 2. 
It is clear from the description of the church in Sardis here that they were not experiencing the power of the Spirit. Instead of being marked by spiritual life, they were the opposite. What they needed was to experience anew the refreshing presence of the Spirit in their meetings and activities. So when Jesus describes himself as having the Spirit, he is making an incredible offer to the church there. He is reminding them that they can have the Spirit in power once again. 
I suspect that many churches go through a Sardis experience, some for longer than others. The church in Sardis seemed content to stay there, and other churches had not realised there was a problem. Yet it is not difficult to work out if the Spirit is present in power. Are there conversions? Is the gospel drunk as living water? Is brotherly love obvious? If not, Jesus has the remedy – the presence of the powerful Spirit of God. 
The reference to Jesus having the seven stars (the angels of each of the seven churches) is probably another reference to his power and authority. Maybe the church in Sardis would not like to hear what Jesus had to say to them through his messenger. They needed to be reminded that the messenger had Jesus behind him as they listened to what was in the letter. Maybe we need to hear it as well.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Jesus in the letter to Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29)

Jesus reminded the Christians in Thyatira that he is the sovereign appointed by the Father after ascending to heaven. He mentions this appointment when referring to the authority he will yet give to his people. The position Jesus has is connected to his role as the Mediator. He has been given supreme authority as a reward for his work on the cross and he reigns over all things in order to gather in his people from all periods of history.

Jesus also reminded the church in Thyatira that he is the searcher of hearts. He can do this because he is divine, possessing all the attributes of God, one of which is omniscience. When he searches the hearts of his people, there is nothing that they can hide from him. From one point of view, this would be frightening, but we should remember that he also comes as the good physician to heal what is wrong with us. It is better to have a Saviour who sees all our faults than to have one who did not know our defects.

And Jesus speaks here of his works that his followers have to hold on to. Those works also seem to be their works that he approved of earlier in the letter, which he said were increasing in number and flowed from love. Those works were done in obedience to his commandments. We could say that those works are done for him initially because of his grace and are then appropriated by him to bring blessings to others.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Promise from Jesus to Thyatira (Rev. 2:26-29)

Jesus gives two promises to the overcomers. One is authority over the nations. The authority is similar to that which was given to Jesus by the Father. It is an authority to implement punishment as we can see from its description as being like a rod of iron that crushes pots in pieces. I would say that this is a promise connected to the dignity that believers will have on the Day of Judgement. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 6 that Christians will judge angels and the world. In some way, they are going to be involved in the process when Jesus judges the enemies of his kingdom.

The second promise is connected to the morning star. I would suggest that there are two ways to consider this. First, later in the book Jesus says that he is the bright and morning star (22:16), so he could be promising to the believers in Thyatira that they will have Jesus with them and for them for ever.

Second, the morning star is the star that is visible just before sunrise, or just before the day dawns. So here Jesus is informing his followers that they will see the arrival of the eternal day after the long dark night of sin. So in this promise, Jesus reminds his people what they will get (himself) and when they will receive the blessing (at the start of the eternal day).

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Criticising the church in Thyatira (Rev. 2:20-23)

There was a similarity between the wrong practices in Pergamum and in Thyatira, which was that false teachers were advocating participation in pagan temple practices. The difference between the two churches is that the sinful teaching in Thyatira came from a woman who claimed to be a prophetess.  She is called Jezebel, the name of the pagan queen in the Old Testament who opposed the true worship of God.

Her influence had divided the church, with some tolerating her ideas and others opposing them. She managed to convince some of the believers to adopt her instructions. We can see that they were true believers because Jesus calls them ‘my servants’. Of course, this is a reminder that sometimes true Christians can be led astray.

Initially, the Lord had shown patience with her, giving her time to repent. Probably, the patience had been expressed through others attempting to correct her. Whatever the approach, she had refused to change her instructions. The outcome would be severe punishment. She would become ill and those who joined her in attendance at pagan temples would find trouble. Jesus mentions his use of power when he says that he will throw her and them into locations of trouble. When he says that her children will be killed, he means that her followers will die, and her movement come to an end.

The outcome would be a discovery for other churches. They would realise that Jesus can read the secrets of each heart, which means he knows the motives behind the actions of every person. Moreover, they would learn that Jesus will judge those who try and blend together pagan religion and Christianity.   

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Commendation of Jesus (Rev. 2:19, 24-25)

The commendation of Jesus once again shows the variety that exists in church life. He mentions the kinds of work in which his people in Thyatira engaged for him. Unlike the church in Ephesus, which was described in the first letter, their love was stronger now than to begin with. But unlike the church in Ephesus, they tolerated a false teacher and seemed not to know what to do with her and her followers.

We can see the strength of their inner lives in the commendation of Jesus. They had love, loyalty, desire to serve and determination to continue as his disciples. It looks as if they wanted to increase in their activities for him. Since their activities were connected to their love, they probably would find more areas of service.

We would regard a church with those strengths as a church to imitate. Its members did not have a cold Christianity. Those who joined the church must have found it to be welcoming and caring. It is not surprising that the devil would want to disrupt and destroy the witness of such a congregation. Perhaps we can say that the detail that was missing was alertness to his inevitable hostilities. They did not notice that he had planted some tares among the wheat and was working for their destruction. But Jesus had decided to come to their rescue and deliver them from the dangers they faced from false teaching, which is a reminder that he is the Good Shepherd who protects his flock.

Jesus then says in verse 25 that they should hold fast to those strengths, whatever would come their way. They were to remain as devoted until he comes. The reference to his coming may mean when he would deal with the false teacher and her followers, although that is unlikely because he intends to deal with them soon and he would want his followers to continue in their devotion after that time. So he is probably referring to his second coming.  He delights to see a church holding such strengths continually.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Jesus Comes to Thyatira

The individual from Thyatira that most Christians know about is Lydia, who came to faith in Christ when she heard Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:14). It is not known whether she was involved in helping commence the church in Thyatira, although we can assume that she would have identified with it when she was in the city.

Apparently, Thyatira was the least important of the seven cities, which then makes the fact that it received the longest letter something to think about. Maybe Jesus was saying to the church that while the city was not of much consequence in the eyes of the emperor such could never be said of a church and its Lord. Churches in unimportant places are important to Jesus.

The description of Jesus that is given to Thyatira reminds them that he is a divine speaker, with penetrating knowledge and purity and strength. The implication is that his words will come with precision and with power. Jesus is contrasting his speech with the teaching given by the false prophetess who had influence in the church there.

There are usually connections between details in each of the seven letters and what went on in the relevant city. So we can ask why Jesus referred to himself as the Son of God. An answer could be that a focus of the pagan worship in the city was on Apollo, who was regarded as a son of Zeus. Perhaps those criticised in the letter went to activities connected to the false god. If so, they were reminded that whereas Apollo could not see anything Jesus could see everything, a reminder that there is a huge gap between false religion and the religion of Jesus.

One of the trades that was prominent in Thyatira was bronze-work and there may be an allusion to that trade in the description that Jesus makes of his feet. He does not say that his feet are burnished bronze, but like it. The meaning of having feet like this could be a realisation that Jesus can treat his opponents with great power.

It is also likely that the feet of Jesus are being compared to other feet that walked in the church. In contrast to the feet of the false teacher who led her followers into sinful practices, the path that Jesus walks is one of purity because he is pure. Saying his feet are like bronze could be an allusion to the way that metals were purified. Of course, Jesus did not need to be purified because he was always pure. Because he is pure, he will speak pure words about what he sees in the church.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The White Stone (Revelation 2:17)

Sometimes an illustration from ancient times is difficult for us to understand because it can have more than one usage. This is the case here with the reference to the white stone. Its meaning is open to several suggestions, but three have applications in the context.
One suggestion is that a person was given a white stone when he was healed from an illness. There were temples in Pergamum where healings were claimed by priests. Maybe a person received a stone after he had recovered and mistakenly assumed that the temple priests had brought it about. Inevitably, Christians would suffer physically from undergoing persecution, should it continue there. In addition, they would die eventually. The prospect of eternal health would be a great comfort. After all, the resurrection is the final stage in the provision of total health for believers. So the Christians in Pergamum could have thought of this aspect when they read about the white stone.
Or they could have thought about the practice of using a  white stone in a courtroom when declaring a person innocent. The Christians in Pergamum may have seen a black stone of condemnation used against Antipas when he was arrested. They also knew that each of them faced that possibility from the authorities. In contrast, there was coming an event when they would be handed a white stone, as it were, and that would be at the judgement seat of Christ. As the Shorter Catechism says, on that day believers ‘will be openly acknowledged and acquitted.’ The prospect of that declaration would be an encouragement to them should they face a false earthly condemnation.
The third possibility, which seems the most likely of the three options, is connected to the practice of using a white stone with a name on it as an invitation to a meal or a festivity. The celebration that Jesus has in mind is not a temporary occasion such as would have been held in Pergamum. Instead it will be an endless festivity, attended by a number impossible to count.
Yet the heavenly festival will be a very personal event for each guest, because a new name, unique to that person, will be inscribed on it. A new name points to a change of status – instead of being the unknowns in Pergamum, they will be the well-knowns in heaven. Moreover, this new name will be a secret between Jesus and the guest, which points to the reality that heaven will involve intense individual contact with Jesus as well as communal contact. It is also a reminder of the bigness of Jesus since he will be able to engage personally with all of them simultaneously.

Friday, 3 February 2017

The Consolation from Jesus for Pergamum (Rev. 2:17)

As with the other churches, the promise that Jesus gives is connected to the future life of believers. This future life is referred to in the illustration of the white stone. It may also be referred to by the illustration of the hidden manna. We will think today about the reference to manna.
Manna was the bread sent from heaven in a miraculous way as provision for the children of Israel as they travelled through the wilderness from Egypt to Canaan. This heavenly provision was a picture of Jesus as the bread of life (John 6). So Jesus here could be saying to the believers in Pergamum that he would supply their spiritual needs.
Some manna was kept in the ark of the covenant, and from that point of view could be regarded as hidden. Yet it could also be regarded as hidden in that no one knew where the original manna was kept – it was hidden, but it appeared when needed. In a far higher sense, spiritual provision is hidden in heaven and is sent to believers when required.
Therefore, in the context of this letter, the hidden manna is the opposite of the temple meals that the compromisers in Pergamum were participating in. Those meals led to sin whereas spiritual provision from Jesus leads to holiness.
The difficulty with saying that this applies to the present is that Jesus promises it to the overcomer, which suggests that he is referring to what happens at the end of life and therefore to what will happen in heaven. He could be stating that believers should overcome daily (the manna was provided daily for Israel in the desert). If he is referring to a future heavenly experience, he is stating that one of the activities of heaven will be to feed on Jesus and all the resources that are found in him.
Both an earthly and heavenly experience could be covered by the reference to manna. And both kinds of experience point to the centrality of Jesus for believers, whether on earth or in heaven.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Challenge of Jesus to Pergamum (Rev. 2:14-16)

Jesus states that he has found a few things to criticise in the church in Pergamum. We are not to assume, however, that the fewness indicates trivialities. Each of the things that he mentions was serious and would lead to divine judgement. A church should not assess itself by the number of its faults, but by the seriousness of them. The few things in Pergamum were going to lead to solemn consequences.
It may have been the case that the persecution caused some of the church members to look for ways to alleviate the intensity of the opposition, and it would have been quite easy for such a way to be found. All that they would have to do would be to participate in the worship activities at the pagan temples, which included eating at religious feasts and engaging in immoral activities with temple prostitutes. If they did so, they would indicate their loyalty to Caesar.
Jesus regards those that engaged in such teaching as false prophets. He likens them to Balaam who helped the Moabites attack the children of Israel by such means, and caused severe divine judgment to fall on the Israelites. Although the false teachers may have imagined that they were being clever, in reality they were being duped by the devil. After all, his tactics are not limited to physical persecution. Any call to compromise, if heeded, will lead to disaster.
No one knows who the Nicolaitans were. It may be of interest to know that the meaning of both Balaam and Nicolaitans is similar – they both can mean ‘conquer the people’, which points to the opposite kind of conquering that Jesus wants his people to have as overcomers. The names of the false prophet and of the heretical group also tell us that false doctrine and practice, even when they have slight differences between them, bring about spiritual bondage for believers.
The call that Jesus gives is for repentance. So repentance is a Christian activity. Sometimes, the call for repentance is addressed to an individual because of his or her sins. At other times, the call is made to a church, as here. Jesus calls the church as a whole to repent, which indicates that toleration of wrong doctrine and practice is a sin just as the promotion of it is. In this situation, repentance would be shown by sorrow for their tolerance and then by separation from the wrongdoers. If the church did not do this, then Jesus would come himself and remove the wrongdoers (he will ‘war against them with the sword of my mouth’).
We can apply to ourselves the necessity of separation from those who teach wrong doctrines and who advocate sinful practices. The Saviour reminds us here that if we don’t bring this about, then he will do it himself. But we should also remember that repentance marks our every move in this type of situation.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Pergamum Commended by Jesus (Rev. 2:13)

As with his messages to the other churches, Jesus here informs the believers living in Pergamum that he knows their circumstances. They live in a location where Satan has a powerful stronghold – the city was a centre of pagan worship and it also was known as a city devoted to emperor worship. With regard to the latter practice, Pergamum was one of the first cities in the empire to build a temple for emperor worship (in AD 29). So the Christians were living in a city where paganism and politics went hand-in-hand.
The city was also known for its devotion to Aesculapius, a religious cult that had a serpent as its symbol. This cult was connected to healing, but Christians there would have linked the symbol with the account of the serpent (the devil) in the Garden of Eden (and references are made later in Revelation to this dual identity).
In the main, the church in Pergamum had remained loyal to Jesus. They had come through a time of persecution which had taken the lives of one of their members. Probably the opposition would have targeted a leader in the church with the aim of causing others to compromise their faith in Jesus. Despite the ordeal, most had remained true.
The description that is given of Antipas as a faithful witness indicates that it was a public witness, that he had the opportunity to deny Jesus, but did not do so. Moreover, Jesus gives to Antipas the same title as was used of Jesus in Revelation 1:5. The Saviour was faithful unto death when he appeared before Pilate and here we have a reminder of the ability of Jesus to sympathise with his suffering people and of the appreciation of Jesus for those who express their love for him to such an extent. We can assume that the Saviour would have shown the same loving interest in the martyrdom of Antipas as he showed towards Stephen when he was martyred.
The obvious application that comes to us from this commendation by Jesus is the necessity that we show loyalty to him which flows out of love for him. There are many reasons why we should love him, especially what he did for us on the cross and also what he is doing for us now in heaven. The way to be loyal is not by merely gritting our teeth and continuing stoically; instead, there must be ongoing love in our hearts for him and a willingness to stand up for his cause.