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Ephesus (Reading Revelation- 8)

Shawn Boonstra

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Jesus gave a personal message to a group of believers living almost 2000 years ago in a region now known as the country of Turkey. The amazing thing about it is it's also a personal message to you. Join Shawn as he continues his series on reading revelation

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Shawn Boonstra

Speaker/Director for the Voice of Prophecy media ministry.

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  • December 12, 2015
    11:30 AM
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Jesus gave a personal message to a group of believers living almost two thousand years ago. In a region we would now identifies the country of. Turkey and the amazing thing about it. It's also a personal message to you today on The Voice of prophecy We're continuing our series. Reading Revelation. Thanks for joining me on today's edition of The Voice of prophecy. I'm your host. Sean And today we're going to pick up on a project that I started. Quite some time ago. We were actually reading our way through the entire book of Revelation. And after the first seven or eight episodes we really have only made it through the first chapter because the first chapter is just got so much content it's so dense. Today I want to pick up where we left off and start in on the seven churches of Revelation chapters two and three. And I'd really encourage you. If you can. To grab a Bible so you can follow along. Of course if you're out driving or doing something else that makes reading dangerous just. Listen. But if you can follow along. Please do. Because it really helps with things like. Comprehension and written. It's one thing to listen to the Bible and. Actually that's the way the Bible was originally delivered to most audiences just. Someone would read it to them. But your understanding really does go up if you would gauge more of your senses. So if you can grab a Bible. And follow along. I believe that when we started in on the seven churches I mentioned that. Bible Students have long believed that the churches were actually real. Literal places in the ancient world. But they also represent the history of the church. In Advance. In other words. The seven letters to the seven churches are actually prophecies. You'll notice back in Revelation one in verse twenty that Jesus refers to the mystery of the Seven Stars which represents the angels. Of the seven churches. In other words there is a meaning behind the seven churches. A meaning that would be discernible. To Christians in those days. Back in those times a minute wasn't something you could not know. But it was something that would only be understood by those who were on the inside by believers. Remember Jesus told His disciples that it was and I quote. Given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. And you find that statement in Matthew chapter thirteen. But on that same occasion. There were those who were not disciples who did not understand Jesus' parables. A mystery is something that people on the inside. Understand. Now. The same thing is happening here in the Book of Revelation. On the surface. Here are seven letters to seven very real churches. They actually existed over in Asia Minor. To this day you can visit the cities or the ruins of the cities where these churches were located. And the descriptions of the churches actually fit things that were happening back in the first century. But there's more to the story than what was actually happening in John's day. The churches also have a deeper meaning. The prophecies of Revelation follow the same general pattern as the prophecies you find in the ancient book of Daniel. If you go and look at Daniel Chapter two you'll find a progression of world kingdoms that stretch from ancient Babylon down to the. Fragmented Western Roman Empire. And stretching all the way down to the second coming of Christ for that matter. In Daniel Chapter seven eight eleven the prophet goes over those same prophecies but then he adds all kinds of details. Looking at the situation from different perspectives. Now the same thing happens when you read the book of Revelation you have all these sets of seven. There. Or seven churches. Seven Seals seven trumpets and so on. And the general pattern for each set of seven. Is historical. Generally speaking each of these sevens. Is a prophecy that starts on the day of the Prophet or at some other important point in history. And moves forward down through last day events all the way to the judgment or. The second coming. That's what we have in the prophecy of the seven churches. So let's start at the top today. With the letter addressed to the church of F.S.S. will find it in Revelation two and verse one. Here's what it says. To the angel of the Church of F.S.S. right. These things. Says he who holds the seven stars in his right hand. And who walks in the midst of the seven. Golden lamp stands now. Here's what I want you to notice and. Each of the seven letters. Jesus identifies himself using some of the imagery from. Revelation Chapter one. At the very beginning of the book you remember Jesus shows himself to John using a lot of different symbols. And in each of the seven letters he chooses. One or two of those symbols to describe himself. Now in this case. He shows himself as the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven candlesticks and. That's a powerful statement. To the first century Christian church. If you think about it. John was among those who actually saw Jesus and. Heard him speak he knew Jesus personally. He spent three and a half years in public ministry with him. But then. Shortly before his crucifixion Jesus started talking about leaving. It is to your advantage that I go away he said. For if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. But if I depart. I will send him to you. That's in John Chapter sixteen. Then came the moment. When Jesus. Actually left the disciples had already lost him once when he had been arrested in crucified. And now. How they were going to lose him again. The Bible says that after Jesus went up they just stood there staring up into the sky. An angel actually had to remind them to believe Jesus promises and. Get back to the business of. Every day life. So you can imagine the impact that this letter would have for the very first Christians. Jesus introduces himself this way. I'm the one who holds the churches in his hand he says. I actually walk among the churches I have never left. In fact. To use the words from the book of Hebrews. I will never leave you or forsake you couldn't be a more perfect. Introduction for the early first century church. Now let's move on to verse to Jesus says this. I know your works. Your labor. Your patience. And that you cannot bear of those who are evil. As you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars. The sad reality. Of the first century. Is that it didn't take long for false teachers to show up right inside the church. Go read your way through the New Testament and you'll notice that a huge portion of it is dedicated to rooting out falshood. Inside the church. The whole Jesus said. I send you out. A sheep in the midst of wolves. And he was absolutely right. Most of Paul's letters actually deal with. Contrary influences that started to make their way into the Christian church. The devil might have been defeated at the cross he may have been ruined by the death and resurrection of Christ. But that didn't stop him from trying to destroy the church. And stop the spread of the gospel. In fact his defeat at the cross. Seems to have made the devil. Even more determined. If you look over at Revelation twelve you have this unbelievable description of the ministry of Christ. The whole plan of salvation. It starts with war in heaven. And brings us down to the moment the devil is defeated by the cross. Now keep one finger here and. Chapter two but flip over a few pages and look at what it says in Revelation twelve years. Ten. Listen to this. Then I heard this is first him. I heard a loud voice saying and have a. Now salvation and strengthen the kingdom of our God in the power of his Christ have come for the accuser of our brethren who accuse them before our God day and night has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb. And by the word of their testimony. And they did not love their lives. To the death. That's an incredible passage it. Describes the defeat of the devil at the cross of Calvary. And when we get a little further into the Book of Revelation we'll probably visit that chapter that passage again in more detail. But here's the part I want you to see right now in verse twelve. Look at this Revelation twelve twelve. Therefore rejoice so heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth. And the sea. For the devil has come down to you having great. Ralph. Because he knows that he has a short time. According to the Bible the devil. Doesn't think straight. He can't admit defeat and he makes it his prime occupation. To destroy the Christian church. If he couldn't get to Jesus. Maybe he can get to Jesus through the people Jesus loves. Now we're up against a break so flip back to Revelation two Verse three and right after the break. We'll pick up on the story. I'll be right back. Hello. I'm Gene. Do you feel as if you have more questions than answers in your life. Like where is God When people suffer. Or can I find real happiness. And is there any hope for our chaotic world. Are you searching for answers to these and other of life's biggest questions. Well the discover by the guides. Will help you find the answers that you're looking for Visit us at Bible studies dot com. Or give us a call at eight eight eight. Four five six seven nine three three. For your. Discovered by the guides. You continues to study in the format that's most convenient for you. You me there do the lessons completely on line. Or have the mail to write to your home. Post options are completely free of charge. Visit Bible study stop come. And begin your journey today. To discover answers to life's deepest questions. OK We are back from our break. And we are in Revelation to verse three. Jesus is speaking to a real congregation that lived in the ancient city of a city you can still visit to this day. But he's also speaking to the entire. Early Church that first generation of believers that took the gospel to the whole world. Here's what he says in verse three and. You have persevered and have patience and have labored for my namesake and have not become weary. Now this is what the early church got right. Somehow without the benefit of the Internet without email or religious T.V. networks. Those early Christians managed to take the Gospel to the whole known world. The growth of Christianity in the first century was unbelievable. It spread so quickly that Paul was able to tell the kolache ans about a gospel quote. Which was preached to every creature. Under Heaven. That's collections one twenty three. The first century church. Knew their assignment. And they labored. Tirelessly to make disciples of all nations. They refused to get discouraged even one public opinion was against them. Even when. All but one of the disciples died a martyr's death. They stayed the course. And that's what Jesus said they were doing. Right. But unfortunately. He also had to issue a warning found in verse four Listen to this. Nevertheless I have Vess against you. Now. Just try to imagine how painful it would be. To hear Jesus say that he has something against you. If a friend says. I've got something against you I can always tell myself. That's. Due to a misunderstanding he probably got it wrong. But with Jesus you don't have an excuse you can't dismiss it. Nevertheless I have this against you it says in verse four that you have left your first love. You know. I remember the first married argument that my wife and I ever had. Of course we've had some disagreements when we were dating but. Nothing is quite so disheartening as your first argument when you're actually. Husband and wife. It happened on our honeymoon we've been cooped up in the same car for days on end and suddenly we had some stupid disagreement about where we wanted to spend the night. It was just a small thing. But it made us both so mad that we drove right past a perfectly good motel and we drove another hour. In absolute silence. Now. Did that disagreement mean we were no longer in love. Of course not. Disagreements are part of human marriage and I suspect God knows that a relationship with fallen people. Is going to have its moments as well. God knows we are weak and likely to sin so the Bible actually makes provision for the occasional setback. If anyone sins John writes in first John two we have an Advocate with the father. Jesus Christ. The righteous. If there is one thing the Bible is clear about. When it comes to the character of God It's that he's very patient. He's. Long suffering ready to forgive. So when Jesus talks about the early church leaving its first love. He's not really talking about the occasional mis deed he's talking about a much bigger problem. Loving Christ. Means dying. To self. It's a lot like human marriage it means putting your own wants and desires on the back burner. And instead living for what God wants. It's the same thing Jesus did to win our salvation. He emptied himself of everything he made himself of no reputation and went all the way to the cross because that's what we needed. Greater love has no one than this it's. As in John fifteen. Then to lay down one's life for his friends. When you and I come to Christ it's something of a reciprocal relationship. According to Philippians to God expects you to have the mind of Christ. He expects you to follow in his footsteps and put self to one side and. In the beginning that. Comes rather easy. Because you're so excited about the incredible forgiveness that you've been given. But over time. It requires some effort on your part to maintain an attitude of selflessness. That's just like your real. Earthly marriage. In the glow of your wedding it's easy to keep up a strong relationship and live for your partner. But. Five or six years down the road you discover that you still have self-serving tendencies and it takes some. Dedication to keep your marriage. Strong. Now sadly. In the earliest days of the Christian church there were people who fell by the wayside. Five minutes after seeing Jesus back from the dead. It was really easy to be excited about the whole story. But. Two generations later when the first eyewitnesses were practically all dead except for John. It would have taken a little dedication to keep the spark of that first relationship. Alive. I mean just go back and have a look at your own life. When you first come to Christ. You almost drive everybody crazy with how excited you are. But then. Ten twenty fifty years later. Sometimes you have to wonder where that first excitement went. This is why it's so important to maintain a living connection with Christ this is why it's so important to live with a daily. Attitude of repentance. So often. We treat repentance as something that just happens once in your life. But that's not how it's really described the whole Bible. Repentance is more of an ongoing frame of mind an ongoing attitude that should be with you the rest of your life. You have as much to be thankful for to day. As you did the first day you interacted with God. Maybe even more. And you can afford to lose sight of that. Now. Revelation to first five. Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Repent and do the first works. Or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place. Unless you repent. You know I grew up in a Christian tradition that said you can never ever lose your salvation you can never ever Blues' your relationship with Christ. And to a point that's absolutely true. God is not going to break his word to you. The book of Romans says. Neither death nor life nor. Angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come. Nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In other words. Nothing. Can tear you out of God's hands. But if you read that whole list. Carefully in Romans chapter eight. You'll find something that's not there. It's you. God will not hold you captive against your will and heaven will not be populated with people who don't want to be there. Paul once wrote that he had to put effort into his own relationship with God so he would not end up outside the kingdom. Here's what he says in First Corinthians Chapter nine. He writes. But I keep under my body. And bring it into subjection less that by any means when I have preached to others I myself should be cast away. Now. If somebody like Paul. Could throw away his relationship with Christ. If the Great. Apostle himself could find himself. Outside God's kingdom. Then you know that could happen to any of now I don't want to make you. Overly concerned about your personal salvation because you can have absolute confidence in the promises of God. If he says he forgives your sin. That you can take that to the bank. But never lose sight of to him. Porton facts. Fact number one. There is an enemy trying to destroy you. The devil has turned his full wrath against the Christian church. And he will show you plenty of opportunities to neglect your relationship with God in fact Number two a relationship with God is not a mere legal contract where you recites certain words and then God has to accept you. That's not how it works. Christianity is an actual relationship which requires an ongoing commitment. OK we're up against our next break but in just a moment we'll finish this first letter to the churches so don't go away. We'll be right back where in Revelation Chapter two. Hello. I'm Do you feel as if your life has lost its meaning. Tess moving from one task to another without any answers to the really important questions in life. Like is it possible to have a fresh start and to find real happiness. Well the Discover Bible guides will help you find the answers that you are looking for to they're sent to all of life's big questions. Visit us at Bible studies dot com. Or give us a call at eight eight eight. Four five six seven nine three three. For your free to scupper Bible guides. You can choose to study in the format that's most convenient for you. You may either do the lessons completely. On line or have them mailed right to your home. Both options are completely free of charge. And there's that Bible studies dot com and begin your journey today. To discover answers to life's deepest questions. This is the voice of prophecy. And today we're continuing with our series reading. Revelation which is probably going to be a very long series so I'll probably have to spread it out over a number of years there's just so much. In the Book of Revelation and. Even a few verses could keep us busy for days. But for today. Read Revelation Chapter two. And we're looking at Jesus' letter to the church of. F.S.S. I think we're in verse six. If you can please follow along this is revelation. To ham for six. But this you have it says. Now. Notice how Jesus starts with what the church is doing right. And then he mentions what they're doing wrong and now he comes back to what they're doing right. It gives you the distinct impression that Jesus is absolutely in our corner. He loves us enough to warn us. When we're in danger of going off the rails but he loves to well on what's right. About you or six again. But this you have that you hate the deeds of the Nicolay atoms which I also hate. Now. Who are the Nica Latins were not really sure who they were. I mean not exactly. But we are pretty sure that they were a group of people who practiced. Licentiousness. In other words they taught that the grace of God. Essentially allows you to do whatever you want. Some of the early church father suggests that the. Nickel Latins were a sect that followed the teachings of Nicholas of Antioch. One of the. Seven deacons mentioned in Acts Chapter six. From what we can gather. These people separated the spiritual world from the physical world. They were. Dualists. And they taught that certain sin say like sleeping around were just physical state and so they didn't affect your spiritual nature. That's just affecting your body. They said. And of course. That runs completely contrary to the teachings of Paul. Who said that. Sins against the body are still sins. Maybe even the most damaging ones. The Bible. Deals in absolute physical reality. Adam and Eve were created in a very physical world. That was God's. Ideal plan for us not some. Disembodied experience where you float around out there in the ether. The first sin committed was a real physical sin. And every sin we commit. Is rooted in physical reality. So the. Nicolay atoms were absolutely wrong. And they posed a risk to the early church. You might say they were. Anti no me. No that's just a fancy latin way of saying they were against the law. The Bible defined sin as transgression of the law. And the people clearly defined in the Book of Revelation in chapter twelve as the objects of the devil special wrath. Are. And I'm quoting Revelation twelve. Those who keep the commandments of God. It was John who wrote in first. John Chapter two. He who says I know him and does not keep his commandments is a liar. There's no question that God's moral law will always be in effect. And frankly the cross of Christ proves that God couldn't do away with his moral law because it's a picture of his own perfect character. So the only solution for sinful human beings was for somebody to pay the price for our disobedience. Now apparently from what we can gather historically the Nicolet since we're teaching that God's moral law. No longer applies. They were also suggesting that compromise with the prevailing culture is perfectly acceptable. If it means that Christians can live in peace with the world around them. And on that front. We might have to admit that Nicolay it an ism is alive and well. In twenty first century Christianity. I mean if there has ever been a generation that's tempted to compromise with the whole world. It's probably us. In fact it's getting harder to distinguish Christians from the rest of the population simply by the way they live. We now engage in the same habits we consume the same entertainment. We seem to be willing to make all kinds of moral compromises with the prevailing culture. Now that doesn't mean we shouldn't. Love people and exhibit the love of Christ. Of course we should. But moral compromise isn't really love it's more of a cop out. It's a way to deflect the mandate to preach the gospel. I like the way one writer puts it in something I was reading just the other day. It said. Today sin. Is the same malignant thing that it was in the time of Adam. I just thing that can be preached to the center is the truth. Of the binding claims. Of the law of God. Think about it like this. Your neighbor's house is on fire and they're fast asleep. Do you avoid banging on their door because you don't want to make them uncomfortable. Or do you show them the truth so they can escape. Modern day Nicolette an ism says that God overlooks sin it's no big deal. But I've got to ask this if it's not a big deal why did Jesus have to die. The good news is that the early church apparently saw how dangerous that kind of attitude really was and Jesus commends them for that they might have grown weary of well doing. But they had not started to sin with the Banda. Then Jesus finishes with these words down in verse. He who has an ear. Let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. You know. Every one of the seven letters. Ends the same way. He who has an ear let him hear. It turns out that the Book of Revelation is not. Supplemental reading. I know lots of modern preachers have put it in a secondary category because they think it's impossible to understand. But never forget that this whole book starts with a blessing for people who hear what it says. This is not the impossible. Book. Every one of these letters is addressed to real churches in the first century. But every one of these letters is also addressed to Christians living in specific periods of history over the last two thousand years. And then. Every one of these letters. Is also addressed to you. There's a reason John wrote it down. There's a reason you have it in your hands today. You are part of the Church of Christ. And you can follow this faith. All the way back to the first people who read these words. And you will find the same courage of conviction to live like they did. The gospel is as relevant today as it was back then. And Jesus. Still walks among us giving us what we need to be faithful. And this is his promise found in the last. Words of this letter to him. Who overcomes. I will give to eat from the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise. Of God. This is the. Unbelievable part of the story. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Because of sin. The whole human race. Was a scored it. Out of the Garden of Eden to face. A cursed world. And a cursed future. But. Out of an unnatural love for you. God has intervened. He has paid your price. Because the paradise of God. Would always seem incomplete to him. If you weren't there. Listen. I know this life can be hard. I know that to live as a Christian in the twenty first century. Isn't easy. In a lot of ways it's beginning to look like life for the church all the way back in the first century under the Roman Empire. But I've got to encourage you stay the course. Do not tolerate evil. Keep your patience and above all. Live every day for the master. Persevered. Because this is going to be well worth it in one day soon when you step back into Paradise. This life. Will seem like a really. DMN memory. A woman when she is in labor Jesus once said has sorrow because her. Hour has come. But as soon as she has given birth to the child. She no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born into the world. According to Jesus. What lies just beyond the finish line. Is going to be well worth the stay the course. Learn from those early first century Christians. Follow their example. And one day you'll get to meet them in paradise. I'm sure. And this is been the voice of prophecy. I'm now whether you're a classic enter very. John a textbook extrovert. Or somewhere in between like me. I'm sure that you can remember a time when letting someone new into your life. Turned out to be a painful experience. When we interact with others we leave ourselves vulnerable. And yet we also allow for opportunities to glass and to be blast. Perhaps you're wondering right now. What God has in mind for your life. Or maybe you're wondering if he even knows that you exist. If you're searching for answers to these and other of life's tough questions. I know where you can begin to find answers. The Discover guides will help you find the answers that your looking for Visit us at Bible studies dot com. Or give us a call at our toll free number eight eight eight. Four five six seven nine three three. For your free discover Bible guides or visit us online. To begin your journey to discover. Answers to life's. Deepest questions. And log on today. To Bible studies. Dot com.

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