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Seven Letters for Seven Brides (Reading Revelation- 6)

Shawn Boonstra

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There are seven letters in the book of Revelation that defy all explanation. For the last 2000 years, those letters have been marking the passage of time, predicting exactly what’s going to happen. Today Shawn talks about how in 2000 years those letters have never been wrong.

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Shawn Boonstra

Speaker/Director for the Voice of Prophecy media ministry.

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  • March 28, 2015
    11:00 AM
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There are these seven letters in the Book of Revelation that defy all explanation for the last two thousand years. Those letters have been marking the passage of time predicting exactly what's going to happen. And in two thousand years they've never been wrong not even once. Today on The Voice of prophecy seven letters for seven brides. Welcome to another edition of The Voice of prophecy. I'm your host Shawn Boone Stra And today on the program I'm going to pick up on a theme that we've been working on now for a number of weeks off and on I mean I haven't talked about this every week but once in a while we keep coming back to this what we've been doing is reading our way through the Book of Revelation and to be really honest. There's a part of me that would love to do that every single week until we hit every verse of every chapter of Revelation. And the reason for that is because it was really the prophecies of the Bible that made a convert out of me. It really became hard for me to ignore the stuff I found in books like Daniel and Revelation. That was information that I was forced to deal with I had to face it. How in the world of the Bible gets so much right so far in advance so you might say that the Book of Revelation was instrumental in my own spiritual development and over the last twenty years or so I've spent thousands of hours studying the book of Revelation. So there's a huge part of me that would just love to do this topic every single week. But I understand that might not be everybody's cup of tea so we'll read through revelation on a fairly regular basis and then I'll sprinkle other broadcast. Between just to keep things interesting. And anyway today we are all the way up to chapter one and verse nine and that should give you some indication of how slowly we've been moving through Revelation I think this might actually be our fifth episode maybe the sixth on the topic and all I've covered so far of the first eight verses. But you know there are the reason for that is because the first few verses of Revelation are so rich they have so many layers that they're worth slowing down and reading carefully. They really give the all important context for understanding the rest of the book. So I've already covered the opening the greeting the benediction and the tribute to Jesus Christ as Alpha and Omega the Beginning and the end. And now today we're going to look at John's account of what actually happened to him on the island of Patmos. We're going to look at how his vision begins. Now technically speaking the Bible doesn't really tell us how John ended up as a prisoner on the island of Patmos except for a few words in verse nine where John says this I John both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Now that's all John says this is a crime of conscience that he's been penalized for. John's been preaching the gospel and because that was considered a threat to the security of the Roman Empire he was exiled to a little island in the Aegean Sea roughly forty five miles off the coast of Asia Minor. Today that same island is owned by Greece and according to an article in Forbes magazine it's actually considered one of the nicest places to live in all of Western Europe. The population of Patmos today is about three thousand people and it's something of a. Tourist destination mostly because it's the place where John wrote the book of Revelation or at least the place where he got the vision and perhaps wrote it down later. So today in this century Atlas is considered a vacation hot spot. But back in John's day it was a prison camp a prison colony. You really didn't want to end up in Patmos. It was the kind of place they saved for dissidents undesirables because it was far enough off the coast that you couldn't be a problem for the Romans. You couldn't incite a riot from Patmos you couldn't stir up controversy you were just safely out of the way. And according to John the reason he was there. Well it was because of his witness or because of his preaching. If it wasn't for some ancient Christians who faithfully recorded their early history for us that's all we'd know because all John says is I was sent here for my witness. But historically we probably know more of the story. John also mentions that he's a brother and companion in tribulation which tells us that he wasn't the only Christian in trouble. The Roman Empire didn't like Christians at least not when they figured out what Christians were. In the very beginning when the church was getting started the Romans kind of lumped Christians in with the Jews and the Jews actually had privileged status in the Roman Empire because of a deal they struck way back when with Julius Caesar. The Jews were one of the few groups that didn't actually have to worship the Caesar they were given an exemption. They were considered a religio a national state religion and of course that Latin word religio is where we get our word religion. You see the pagan nations had no problem adding Caesar to their retinue of gods they were glad to worship him. In addition to everything else but the. Just couldn't do that. The Jews worshipped only one God. So Julius Caesar gave them an exemption. They didn't have to worship the Emperor all they had to do was promise to pray for him and well that was something they could easily do. So at first the Romans didn't really make a distinction between the Jews and the Christians because Christianity was a Jewish sect. Jesus was a Jewish teacher. The disciples were all practicing Jews and so the Romans didn't see a difference. But then over time as Jews distanced themselves from Christians and Christians distanced themselves from Jews the distinction became more and more obvious. And the Christians were now considered a religion in their own right and that kind of led to a problem because the Christian faith was not a national religion. They didn't call it a religio. The Romans called them a super state you know and that's where we get the word superstition and those kinds. People didn't have a legal exemption if they didn't worship Caesar. They were in defiance of the Empire and that's something the Romans would not tolerate. You see in reality the Romans were very tolerant of other peoples religions they didn't actually force their own religion on anybody except for this little matter of worshipping the Caesar. So if you were a pagan of a different stripe no problem all you had to do was add Caesar to your list of gods and if you were a Jew you had that legal exemption. But if you were a Christian you had a huge problem because you could not worship Caesar and you had no legal loophole to protect you so you were considered a threat to the empire you were a threat to Pax Romana the peace and stability the Romans brought to the ancient world. You know in reality nobody actually believed the Caesar was a God The Romans weren't stupid the leaders in the community knew the Caesar personally. They grew up with him they knew he wasn't divine but the Emperor was. I'm Bolick of the empire. He was the embodiment of Roma the goddess of Rome he was a symbol of unity stability greatness and all the Romans asked was that every subject once every year would just offer a little pinch of incense just paid lip service to worshiping the Emperor. You didn't have to believe he was a god. Yeah I just had to go through the motions it was a national symbol. But Christians wouldn't do that because if you follow Christ if you worship him as the Son of God There is no other lord of your life and you're not even going to fake it with the Caesar. You're not going to go through the motions. You're not going to pretend that the emperor is anything but another sinful human being and that's what got them into trouble. Now that's not the only thing that got them into trouble but it's a key piece of the puzzle and one of the reasons that John was a prisoner on the island of Patmos. Now historically we actually know a little bit more about what happened to John but I'm up against a break right now so hang tight and I'll come right back and tell you what we know. Hello I'm James. Do you feel as if you have more questions than answers than your life. Are you searching for answers to some of life's biggest questions. Well the Discover Bible guide can help you find the answers you are looking for is a death at Bible study dot com You can laugh at eight eight eight four five six seven nine three three for your free discover Bible God is the Bible. Then he thought come and begin your journey today to discover answers to life's deepest questions. All right we are back from the break. My name is Sean Moonstruck. You are listening to the voice of prophecy and today we're looking at the Book of Revelation and in particular I'm looking at the Author John and how he ended up as a prisoner on the island of Patmos. Now in the Bible account we only have a brief reference to the persecution of Christians and then John mentions that he was. Exiled for preaching the Word of God and if all we had was the biblical account that's all we would know about the situation. But fortunately we actually have a little bit more data. And of course the outside references the stuff not found in the Bible it isn't inspired So you do have to take it with a grain of salt. But we're reasonably certain of what happened toward the end of the first century. The Roman Emperor was a guy by the name of Domitian and history records that he was a very brutal man. He had a bunch of Roman senators put to death for all kinds of reasons and then even killed his own brother. And as always seem to happen way back when the Christians became a bit of a scapegoat whenever something went wrong in the empire. People began to turn Christians in they blame them for the things that went wrong and the mission was more than happy to oblige those who turned in Christians. He actually had the Bishop of Jerusalem crucified a guy by the name of Simeon and he had John arrested and history tells us he tried to kill John. When I listen to this by cooking him alive in a pot of boiling oil now I don't know if you can imagine how awful that would be I mean nothing hurts quite like a burn. And John gets immersed in oil he's literally deep fried but something goes wrong somehow jaunts survives this doesn't kill him so he's banished to Patmos instead. Now you can read the account in Fox's Book of Martyrs and again it's not inspired So you do have to take it with a grain of salt. But the consensus of the Christian community for the last two thousand years has been that the mission tried to kill him and failed. So off John goes to Patmos in Patmos must have been an awful experience in a lot of ways because isolation is never easy at this point in history John is actually the bishop or the. A pastor of the church an F.S.S. a city in Asia Minor which is now modern day Turkey or or close to it. John is forty some miles off the coast. He's sitting on an island a long way across the water from his church and his family and everybody he knows and loves. And every day on Patmos when he looks out to the ocean he knows that the other believers are out there somewhere but he's all alone. Now that's the context for the Book of Revelation. John is a prisoner. John is utterly alone and then he gets a visit from Jesus. Here's what it says in Revelation one verse ten John says I was in the spirit on the Lord's day and I heard behind me a loud voice as of a trumpet saying I am the Alpha and the Omega the first and the last. Now think about this for a moment. This is probably the darkest hour of John's life. He's the last living disciple by this time all the other disciples are dead. They're martyred. John's been banished to an island he's been separated from the other believers and now he hears a voice that he hasn't heard in decades not since Jesus went back to heaven. It's the voice of Jesus. It's a message telling John that God has not forgotten him. You aren't really alone. You're not really the last one standing John because I am still alive. I have seen you out here on this awful piece of rock way out in the ocean and I happen to know what you're going through. So don't lose heart because I am Alpha and Omega I am the first and the last. I am the beginning and the end and I am the one who gets to write the end of your story. I don't know about you but I can't imagine someone I'd rather hear from in prison. Then Jesus I can't think of someone I'd rather hear from when my world is falling apart. The message is you aren't actually alone. And if that message was true for John let me assure you it's also true for you. How do I know that. Well it's the fact that John wrote all this down for you to read. It's the fact that he mentions everybody else who is suffering tribulation. Remember he says I am your brother in the tribulation when Jesus shows up in Revelation Chapter one. It's not just a personal appearance for John not just a personal friendly visit. This is all about every believer from John's Day Up till this moment right now this is about you. It's God's word that even in your darkest moments the Alpha and the Omega is still watching. He hasn't forgotten. And he gets to write the end of your story. If you're still not convinced this book is about you just listen to the whole verse. This is Revelation one verse eleven Jesus says I am the Alpha and the Omega the first and the last. And what you see write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia and then he lists the churches F.S.S. that's John's home church Smyrna Pergamos by a Tyrus artist Philadelphia and Laodicea this message to John is not a private message. This whole book is Jesus speaking to seven churches in Asia Minor. It's not just for John it's for all believers it's for everybody who was suffering along with John to everybody who is now patiently waiting for Jesus to return. Now of course that's not exactly what it says it doesn't actually say this is for everybody but I want you to look at that specific list of seven churches very carefully because there's something really interesting about it. These were not the only churches in Asia Minor. There were lots of Christian churches and some of the most notables aren't even mentioned in this list. I mean for example you've got a church in colossi the one that Paul wrote to in the book of Colossians that church is also in Asia Minor but it's not on the list. And there were other churches lots of them. But the list is restricted to seven. Now any time you have seven objects in the Book of Revelation you need to pay attention seven in Bible prophecy is a very symbolic number it represents perfection or completion. It's the number of God I mean don't forget the world created in six days and God rests on the seventh day creation happened in seven days and it was so perfect that God says it is very good. Seven is the number of completion and perfection and every time you see a group of seven in the Book of Revelation and there are lots of them you really have to pay attention because there's more going on than first meets the eye. Seven is a complete set of. Something it's the beginning and the end. It's Alpha to Omega and it stands for something very important. So the moment you see seven churches start digging a little bit deeper. These seven churches were all very real churches in very real cities and they all existed along the same highway and if you traveled that highway you would go to these cities in the same order that the cities are listed in Revelation Chapter one at the beginning of the road you had F.S.S. and then you would work your way all the way down to Laodicea at the end. The idea was that John would send a letter to the first church and they would read it out loud and they'd probably copy it and then they'd send it to the next church. So these seven churches are very real churches in very real places and they were the first audience for The Book of Revelation. But the fact that there were only seven exactly seven in the list says something important. These might have been messages for real first century churches but there are also messages for us all through the Book of Revelation you have groups of seven. Seven Churches seven seal seven trumpets and every group of seven paints a complete perfect picture of God dealing with his church. So the seven churches were real churches but they also pointed forward to believers who would live in the future. It's a complete timeline written in advance a complete timeline of church history from John's day all the way through to the second coming. And you know it's at this point that serious students of Revelation begin to realize there's something very special about this book. Each of these churches represents a key period in church history. It turns out that God chose these seven churches because they had an important characteristic to them or characteristics that actually painted a picture of how the Christian church as a whole would behave in the centuries to come. Now this is something that Christians have recognized ever since the book was written. Go back over the last two thousand years and you'll see that most Christians have agreed that the seven messages were a prophetic timeline. They actually foreshadowed what was going to happen in the future and even to this day in the modern age where one hundred books on Bible prophecy would give you one hundred different opinions. Most Bible Students still agree that's what the seven churches do they show us Church history written in advance. Now in the time we've got today I can't go into a lot of detail about what each of the seven churches represents but in coming episodes of The Voice of prophecy as we move into the future I will look at each of the seven churches in detail. But right now I'm going to take a break and then I'll give you a brief overview of all seven churches and will set the table for the study that we're going to do together so don't move a muscle. I'll be right back. Hello I'm Gene Boone do you feel as if you have more questions than answers in your life. Like where is God When people factor or can I find real happiness and is there any hope for our chaotic world. What are you searching for answers to these and other of life's biggest questions. Well the Discover Bible guide 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 hundred eight four five six seven nine three three for your free discover Bible guides you can choose to study in the format that's most convenient for you you may need to do the lesson completely online or have them mailed right to your home. Post options are completely free of charge. Bible studies dot com and begin your journey today to discover answers to life's deepest questions. Welcome back to the final segment of this week's voice of prophecy. My name is Shawn Boone strip and if you're just joining us today we're talking about the seven churches of the Book of Revelation and how they were actually real literal churches that existed in Asia Minor back in the first century. But just before the break I was mentioning that these are also prophecies. These seven churches are put together in a timeline where predictions about God's church in the centuries to come. And what's really interesting about this phenomenon is the near universal agreement even to this day in the twenty first century as to what each of the seven churches represent. I mean you've got the Church of emphasis a church that is described in relatively glowing terms a church that will not put up with false teaching. A church that tests every messenger that shows up on its doorstep against what the Word of God says to see if these preachers are trustworthy. FS This is a church that perseverance in the face of conflict. And most students of Bible prophecy agree AFA says is a striking picture of the early first century church. This is the early Apple Dalek church. Then the next one is Smyrna which is eight. If you really persecute a church and most students agree that it represents the Christian church as it suffers under the iron fist of the pagan Roman Empire. This is when the Romans realize all this is different than Judaism and they begin to persecute the Christian religion. The third church you get Pergamos it's the compromising church and it paints a picture of Christianity as it starts slipping toward the dark ages. Then you got fired Tyra. The corrupt church and this is the church as it was in the saddest years of the Middle Ages and we all know the history there was mass ignorance and infighting and persecution and corruption. This is the stuff we all read about in our high school history classes and this is the stuff that skeptics use to this day to make fun of Christianity. Then you have started as the Dead Church at the very bottom of the dark ages and it had a key message for people who wanted to restore Christianity and there are some words of encouragement there a little bit of foreshadowing just a hint of the Reformation that would come. Then you got Philadelphia which is a stunning portrayal of the church as it heads into the first and second great Awakenings the huge revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and finally you have the Church of Laodicea which is the modern lukewarm church the church as it is sadly right before the return of Christ. Now I know that wasn't fair I just went through all seven churches way too fast and you're left asking well how do we know all that but I promise you as we move into the future here we're going to slow down and look at every single letter to every single church and I promise you this stuff is so amazing when we get to it it's going to blow your hair straight back I mean it it did it for me and I know it'll do it for you. Well all right your your hair might not actually move but I'm telling you it was this stuff that made a believer out of me. There's no way anybody could make. This stuff. Nobody's that clever. Nobody can get this much history I mean two thousand years of history that right that far in advance. But for our purposes today the message is really pretty simple. Revelation is a letter for people who have hit bottom. This is for exiles for people who feel like this world isn't really their home. This was given to John in his darkest hour but it's also for you this is a letter from your Creator from your god and it's addressed to his whole church for all time. And that means it's for you. So let me introduce you to the man who's trying to get your attention it's Revelation one verse twelve. The Bible says I turn this is John speaking. I turned to see the voice that spoke with. May and having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands now there's that all important number seven again. I saw seven golden lamp stands and in the midst of the seven lamp stands one like the son of man clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. This is a message from Jesus but you'll notice he doesn't appear as the all powerful god he appears as the Son of man. And it really was one of Jesus' favorite titles. It's the one he use most often when he was here with us. It's a reminder that you and I are not alone. John was not the only one to suffer. He was actually following in the footsteps of the master who went all the way to the cross himself. This is a God who understands what it means to live in this world. The Bible says that Jesus was despised and rejected that he was mocked and ridiculed. He knows what it's like to be lonely to be outcast to be tired to be afraid. He gets what it means to live in a world that doesn't seem to want you. He understands what it is to live here and I can assure you in your darkest moment he'll always be there. John was the. Last Living disciple the last of the twelve and Jesus shows up to remind him that none of God's people are actually alone. So he says to John make sure you write everything down because for the next two thousand years a lot of people are going to need to read this. So here's what I want to say just before I sign off for this week. I want you to go and take John's other books and read them read the Gospel of John. Get to know this son of man. Read it again and again and then we're going to go on into the Book of Revelation and other programs and we will go through all seven churches but to get ready go back read the Gospel of John. Watch the Son of Man as he buys your salvation and then promises in the book of Hebrews he will never leave you or for sake you and ask yourself Is this a God I can trust. I want you to forget what everybody says about him. Quit clicking on those links on the Internet and seeing what this person says about Jesus or that person says about Jesus. Forget what people say about the church or people who go to church in the weeks to come I want you to go to the source material. I want you to go to John's writings. Read the Gospel of John and then we'll read Revelation and you'll see that God gets everything right. He even predicts the church's most embarrassing moments. That's right. The stuff that critics criticize that skeptics make fun of pointing to Christian behavior over the centuries. It was also all predicted. God got everything right. But as you get ready for this study I want you to forget what everybody says and go meet Jesus for yourself. You can consider it your homework assignment. And I promise you if you read it as we go through the rest of Revelation you'll be really glad you did. So that's your homework. And until we meet again I'm Sean Moonstruck and this has been the voice of prophecy. Thanks for listening. Hello I'm Jeanne Boone's dress. Do you feel as if your life has lost its meaning. Just 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 send to all of life's big questions is that as that Bible studies dot com or give us a call at eight eight eight four five six seven nine three three for your free discover Bible guides you can choose to study in the format that's most convenient for you. You may either do the lessons completely online or have them mailed right to your home. Both options are completely free of charge. Visit Bible studies dot com and begin your journey today to discover answers to life's Dina's question. I'm with you. No.

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