There Is Hope!
Revelation 1 -- 3
Some years ago a submarine was rammed by a ship off the coast of Massachusetts.
It sank immediately.
The crew was trapped and death was almost certain.
Every effort to rescue the crew was futile.
A deep-sea diver, who was desperately trying to find a way to rescue the crew, heard a tapping
on the steel wall of the sunken sub.
He placed his helmet against the side of the vessel and heard the tapping message,
which was in morse code.
The message was: "Is there any hope?"
The book of Revelation is a message of hope to all Christians.
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father
-- to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God,
"who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (NIV)
John refers to Jesus as "firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." (Rev. 1:5)
The powerful Roman government is persecuting the church.
The Book of Revelation is a message of hope to the those churches and to us today
that God is still in control.
The Roman government is powerful, but God is all-powerful and He will judge Rome
for her persecution of God's people.
The message of Revelations reminds us that God is in control of all history.
John writes, "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen."
Persecuted Christians needed the massage that God knew about their troubles
and that He had not forgotten them and He will bring their persecutors to judgment.
The Book of Revelation brings the hope that they needed.
Christ is with them; He is with the churches of Asia.
John sees Christ among the seven candlesticks, which represent the seven churches of Asia.
"I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me.
And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
And among the lampstands was someone, like a son of man,
dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.' "
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.
His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.
His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this:
The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.' "
Christ is present among the churches of Asia.
He knows their struggles.
He knows their weaknesses and their strengths.
The church of Ephesus had left her first love. (Rev.2:1-7)
But Christ still loved them.
John sees Christ holding seven stars in His hand as He walks among the seven golden candlesticks
He knows what is going on.
He cares for the church.
He holds its destiny in His strong right hand.
He has observed its virtues and its flaws.
He said to them:
"I know thy works and thy toil, and thy patience."
This was an active and aggressive congregation as signified by its "works."
"Toil" refers to the effort that produces work at the cost of pain.
They worked with great difficulties.
This was an active, working church.
"Patience" indicated the persistence in the toil that produces work.
This tells us that they stayed even when the burden was heavy.
They held on even under extreme persecution.
"Thou canst not bear evil men" tells us that they stood firm against the gnostic teachers.
The church had tested them and found them to be false and rejected them.
What could be wrong in this church.
They carried on in the face of suffering and false teachings.
They hated sin. They did not give up.
But the Lord with His piercing eyes of fire saw a great flaw in this church.
"This I have against thee -- thou hast left thy first love."
They had lost their fervor and love that they had in their early experience with Christ.
They were active and aggressive, but they no longer had the right motive for worship.
When love for Christ is missing, worship and working for Christ means very little.
Christ tell this church to remember, repent, and return.
He tell them to remember their early love and joy in their zeal for His work.
Then He calls upon them to repent of serving without love,
and to return to their first state of serving Him with love.
Christ warns that if they do not return they are forfeiting their right to exist as a church.
If they do not repent and return to that first love, He will remove their candlestick.
The candlestick is the church. (Rev. 1:20)
He also promises them: "To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life,
which is in the garden of God."
To overcome is to be victorious over the circumstances in which they live.
God never fails His church in its time of need.
He will provide all our needs, and He expects us to live victoriously.
In Revelation 2:8-11 is the church at Smyrna.
This church was a church of suffering saints.
Smyrna had been a prosperous city.
History tells of the persecution at Smyrna and of the martyrdom of Polycarp.
It is possible that he was pastor when this letter was written.
Only good is spoken of this church.
The Lord tells them that He knows what they are going through for He is
"the first and the last, who was dead and lived again."
He commends them and comforts them.
He brings no complaint against them.
He knows their tribulation and their poverty.
These Christians have lost all their material possessions.
Yet, Christ says, "You are rich."
They were rich in Christian character, but not in material possessions.
God does not promise to take away their difficulties.
He does warn them of even more suffering.
They will be tempted by outside pressure for ten days.
The "ten" was a number symbolizing extreme, complete tribulation.
He promises: "Be faithful even if it means death and I will give thee the crown of life...
He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.."
Christ tells them that eternal life awaits them so there is no reason to fear death.
Those without Christ will die and find another "death" awaiting them;
but when the believer dies he will never die -- he has eternal life.
The church at Pergamum is in Rev. 2:12-17.
Pergamum was the headquarters for emperor worship.
This was the chief city of the province.
The "concilia" was located here.
The "concilia" was in charge of enforcing the worship of the emperor
and in charge of all the matters of state religion.
They were in charge of the incense offering before the image of the emperor.
And they were unrelenting in their persecution of this church at Pergamum.
In verse 12 the Lord identifies Himself as the one who has "the sharp two-edged sword."
This symbolized His protection in the midst of their persecution.
It could also symbolize the power of discerning judgment.
He comes with the sword of his mouth, and with keen and accurate judgment to deal with the false teachers.
Christ commends the church for their fidelity under such extreme difficultly.
They dwell "where Satan's throne is."
In 29 B.C.an altar was erected for the worship of Augustus in Pergamum.
Many Christians suffered martyrdom in this city.
The Christians were true to the name of Christ.
The name Kurios Kaisaros (Lord Caesar) was pitted against the name Kurios Xristos (Lord Christ).
This was the test of the Christian.
To acknowledge the Lord Caesar was to escape persecution.
To acknowledge the Lord Christ meant persecution because they professed their loyalty to Christ.
They were commended for not denying their faith in Christ.
They were loyal to Christ at great risk of their lives.
But there were some in the church that were not so loyal.
Heresy had entered the church.
There were some in the church who were following the "teachings of Balaam."
In Numbers 23-24, we read that Balaam was gaining materially
while he was setting aside his spirituality.
He led in idol worship and impure living for Israel.
There were some in Pergamum doing the same.
They were compromising spiritually in order to further their material safety.
They were teaching evil living as a means of being friends to the Romans and as a way to escape persecution.
They were following the wrong creed and living the wrong conduct.
The Lord would not tolerate this.
The church is warned to repent of their leniency and toleration of these sins.
If they do not eliminate this evil, the Lord will "make war against them,"
with the sword of His mouth.
He promises that He "will give the hidden manna" to them if they will be faithful to Him.
He will provide for them.
He will give them spiritual sustenance that the world cannot give or understand.
He states the He "will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written."
This reference was understood by them to increase their loyalty for the Lord will provide the victory.
The church at Thyatira is found in Rev. 2:18-19.
They are involved with with Jezebel.
We must remember the story of Jezebel from the Old Testament to understand the depth of wickedness
by which they were being seduced.
Jezebel was seducing Christians to eat meat offered to idols and to participate in sexual immoralities.
The church had many great qualities.
Christ recognized her good deeds, her perseverance and her faith; but she was unfaithful.
She was involved with Jezebel.
He warns them of the consequences of continued their relationship with Jezebel.
And He calls them to return to their first love.
Sardis had a reputation for being alive, but she was dead.
She put on such a good show that others thought she was on fire.
But she was dead.
Christ reminds them of the love of the gospel they received
when they first fell in love with him, and he urges them to hear, obey and repent.
As we study these churches we learn that Christ not only speaks to those who have serious problems
in their relationship with him, but He also speaks to those who have been faithful in their love and service for Him.
"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David.
What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews
though they are not, but are liars -- I will make them come and fall down at your feet
and acknowledge that I have loved you.
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial
that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.
Never again will he leave it.
I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem,
which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (NIV)
The church at Philadelphia had little strength to combat the forces against her,
but Christ's love for her was all she needed.
Sometimes we think the world is too powerful to overcome.
But we must remember Who is in charge.
Jesus is the only one capable of opening and closing doors of opportunity for us.
The doors He opens no one can shut, and the doors He closes no one can open.
Then there was the church at Laodicea who had become rich and no longer needed Christ.
The church at Laodicea was escaping much of the persecution because of her riches.
She turned away from Christ and trusted in her riches.
She was a lukewarm church.
Christ threatens to spew them out of his mouth.
He warns them to repent or else.
How's your relationship with Christ?
Maybe you are having trials and tribulations and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Are playing around with sin?
Have you allowed your love for Christ to die?
Do you feel as though there is nothing to hold on to?
The message of Revelation tells us there is hope!
There is hope in Christ!
Today with all you are facing, He wants you to know that there is hope!
"When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
-- Edward Mote, 1797-1874
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White