The Lake of Fire - Part VIII

WHERE IS THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT?

 

PERSECUTED AND SCATTERED ABROAD

Jesus Christ said,

"I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of hell [hades/ unseen/ grave] shall not prevail [be prevailing] against it" (Matt. 16:18).

Prevail means to be of greater strength, to overcome, or to win out. So clearly from this statement, our Lord is telling us that His church will be under GREAT ATTACK AND ADVERSITY, however these evil forces will not prevail or be victorious in totally defeating His Church or bringing it to naught.

Let’s see just how the "gates of hell" have been attempting to annihilate the Church of God ever since its inception. And maybe even more important to my readers: Will everyone in the Church that Jesus built be in the first resurrection and rule and reign with Him in His kingdom? I will state right here, that the majority which make up the Seven Churches of Revelation will, most assuredly not, be in the first resurrection.

Let’s pick up at our parting Scripture from Part VII of this Series:

"And Saul [Paul] was consenting unto his [Stephen’s] death. And at that time there was a GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem; and they were ALL SCATTERED ABROAD throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles… As for Saul, he made HAVOCK of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were SCATTERED ABROAD went every where preaching the word" (Acts 8:1,3-4).

"THE" CHURCH VS. "MY" CHURCH

During Jesus’ ministry, He spoke of "the" church and "My" church. There already existed "the church" (Matt. 18:17), at the very time that Jesus said He would build "MY CHURCH" (Matt. 16:18). For fifteen centuries God established Israel as a church:

"This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear.’ This is HE, that was in the CHURCH in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers who received the lively oracles to give unto us: To whom our fathers WOULD NOT OBEY, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt" (Acts 7:37-39).

We could, of course, trace the church back through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, back to Noah, and indeed, back to Adam.

DEFINING "CHURCH"

Just what is a "church?" Strong’s Greek Dictionary, #1570. ekklesia, a calling out. (1b) Ekklesia, from ek, "out of," and klesis, "a calling…" So the church is those whom God has CALLED OUT to be His "called out ones," hence, Jesus said, "So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last [sorry, don’t have time to explain this unique statement of our Lord]: for many be called, but few chosen." I will take the time to explain this second statement, however.

Notice that the "called" and the "chosen" cannot be the same group, as one is "many" and the other is "few." God has given us a general statement as to whom He has called and whom He has not called. We already know the number of those called is "many." Now we will see the two general classifications of those called:

THE "CALLED" AND THE "NOT CALLED"

"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many [some, but not many] wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

But God has chosen the foolish things [many translations do not insert the word "things" in these verses] of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And the base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Cor. 1:26-29).

So we see that God calls MOSTLY those who are: weak, base, despised, nothings! Are we to believe that God is going to build a SPIRITUAL ARMY of Sons and Daughters by which He will conquer and SAVE THE WORLD?

Hard to believe, isn’t it? I think we can all agree that there is a great deal of work to be done with and to these "nothings of the world" whom God is calling to such a formidable, once-in-an-eternity task!

But of the "many called," we are told, "few are chosen" (Matt. 20:16). Why is that? God has intended it to be such. We are given the parable of the "sower of seed" where much of the seed fell by the side of the tilled soil, and the birds ate it; some had no depth and withered in the sun; still more fell among thorns and were chocked, but some fell upon good soil and produced much fruit. Many seed are sown, but few seed produce good fruit. "Seed" we see everywhere in the Church; "fruit" of God’s spirit is more rare. These few have the added designation of:

"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14).

These are the "very elect" who cannot be deceived any longer by the Great Whore, "Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots, and the Abominations of the earth."

One more important verse regarding our calling, that I will cite out of the Concordant Literal New Testament because I believe they translate the Greek aorist tense properly, whereas the King James uses the past tense:

"Now we are aware that GOD [it is unfortunate that the King James leaves out "God" even though it is in the manuscripts. Most translations do put "God" in this opening phrase. Things don’t just ‘work’ together without GOD doing the ‘working’] is working all together for the good of those who are loving God, who are [being] called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren. Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls [not ‘called’ as all are NOT YET called, it is the aorist tense] also, and whom He calls, these He justifies, also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also" (Rom. 8:28:30).

Now, pay attention: All which God foreknew, He then designates beforehand (He hand-picks them, if you will). And therefore, since He has already designated them beforehand, when they are born in whatever generation God designates; He then calls them. Now it is true that God calls MANY OTHERS whom He has NOT designated to be "conformed to the image of His Son" AT THE TIME that each generation appears in history.

There are many more "called" in each generation than are actually, "chosen" to be conformed to the image of His Son at that time.

All that are not chosen will be in the second resurrection/white throne judgment/lake of fire. These will go the "broad way into destruction" from which they will await judgment at the great white throne. But, those which God foreknows and designates beforehand, He definitely does call, but these designated ones GO ON to be JUSTIFIED AND GLORIFIED. They are not just the "called," but the "called AND CHOSEN" which will go on to glorification in service with Christ, as the manifested Sons and Daughters of God, in the Kingdom of God, to bring the rest of heaven and earth to SALVATION!

When Jesus says that,

"Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord… Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity" (Matt. 722-23),

He is not speaking of a minority but a majority. The "many" NEVER means the minority!

We will see it conclusively proved from God’s Word that the majority in the Church today are going the "broad way," and not the "straight and narrow way." And I am not just preaching to the choir when I say that only a "FEW" will be in the first resurrection and rule and reign with Christ, I am speaking to all the church and to myself as well. I know these aren’t the "soft" words that tickle people’s ears, but what I am telling you is a "hard saying" of the Scripture that is absolutely true. Jesus Christ Himself said that "THE MANY" must "DEPART from Me." Jesus doesn’t "know" the many, in a spiritual relationship, because they are too carnal to be spiritual.

ARE YOU "CALLED AND CHOSEN" OR JUST "CALLED?"

Let me first state that there is an order in the process of being called to Sonship. First you are called, and then you are chosen from among the called. And we have already learned that the "chosen" are also the "few." Quite frankly, not unlike a casting call. Many are called to come to the casting rehearsal, but only a relative few will be chosen for the actual performance. Which are you? I will not be your personal judge, however, as we progress in this series, you will be confronted with dozens of Scriptures by which you can JUDGE YOURSELF by the aid of God’s Spirit.

THE CHURCH OF GOD FROM OUR COMMON ERA—YEAR "0" A.D.

Actually there never was a year "0"—there was "1" B.C. and "1" A.D., but no one apparently ever thought of a year "0" for the starting point of our Common Era (anno Domini, The Year of Our Lord). But then again, Jesus was not born on what would have been year zero anyway, do to the fact that Jesus was born a few years BEFORE our A.D. or Common Era which means Christ was born B.C. or (BEFORE Christ). (My friend, the late Dr. Ernest Martin, wrote a book entitled The Birth of Christ Recalculated, which will straighten this all out for your). But, anyway, as our Lord was growing up in His father’s carpentry shop, there already existed a Church of God in Judea, headquartered at the temple in Jerusalem.

The church headquarters in the wilderness was a portable Tabernacle. When they settled the promised land, it was given to Solomon to build a fabulous permanent temple in Jerusalem. It went through various reconstructions, one of which was by king Herod. It was Herod’s temple that existed at the time of Jesus’ ministry. And as we have already clearly seen, Jesus Christ did not speak many kind words toward the leaders of the church of God headquartered in Herod’s temple, in Jerusalem, in the first century AD.

JESUS GOES TO CHURCH

Perhaps you never thought of Jesus going to Church, but He did. The first time that something is mentioned in Scripture, it is often very instructive. Although it was the habit of Jesus to attend local synagogues during His life, the first time the Scriptures mention Jesus going to the temple as a adult is in Matt. 21:12:

"And they came to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And He taught, saying unto them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the House of Prayer? But ye have made it a DEN OF THIEVES [Gk: ‘burglars’ cave’].’ And the SCRIBES and CHIEF PRIESTS heard it, and sought how they might DESTROY HIM: for they feared Him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine" (Mark 11:15-18).

What a revelation of the church of God we have in these three verses!

Jesus was so angry with the leaders at the temple for turning it into a money-making flea market, that he:

  1. "cast out them that sold and bought in the temple"

  2. "overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and seats of them that sold doves"

  3. "suffered no one to carry vessels [of merchandise] through the temple"

Jesus said that they "made the House of Prayer a DEN OF THIEVES"!

Say, did you notice that they were buying and selling "…in the Temple?" Do you think that just maybe this has anything to do with the fact that,

"…NO MAN might BUY OR SELL, save he that had the MARK OR THE NAME OF THE BEAST, or the NUMBER OF HIS NAME" (Rev. 13:17)?

We will cover the Mark of the Beast in a later installment.

But this is all ancient history, isn’t it? The modern Church of God has not been turned into a "den of thieves" has it? Were the High priests and Scribes, going against the law of either their own religious beliefs or of Rome? No. No, they weren’t. So they were not "thieves" according to the Church or the Roman government. But were they thieves, nonetheless? Yes, they were, Jesus Christ SAID THEY WERE THIEVES, a whole "DEN OF THIEVES"!

At least the modern Church of God is not a "den of thieves," is it? I’m sure not all; you can be the judge:

One of the major factors in the Reformation was the disdain over the practice of the Church selling INDULGENCES. The American Heritage College Dictionary, "indulgence n. 6. Roman Catholic Church The remission of temporal punishment still due for a sin that has been sacramentally absolved."

Make no mistake about it:

"For the love of money is the [Gk. ‘a’] root of all evil" (I Tim. 6:10).

Before the Reformation, it was thought by some that one could practically "buy" one’s salvation.

Jesus "CAST OUT them that sold and bought in the temple." Is there, "buying and selling" going on in the Church today? Excuse me…does a cat have a tail?

Now don’t think that I am against money. Jesus Himself used money in his ministry (but he never sold in the temple, neither did He ever collect a penny in tithe money).

I couldn’t count the number of e-mails I have received in response to my article on tithing being unscriptural under the new covenant, in which they ask how they should pay their church utility bill if the people don’t tithe? I tell them to pay it with a check backed by money in the bank. All those interested in paying the utility bill should contribute voluntary offerings of money for that expense. This is not difficult. But no one under the New Covenant is obligated by law or conscience to pay ten percent of their salaries to a church! People under the Old Covenant, likewise, were not under law to pay ten percent of their salaries to the Levites. And, Yes, they did have money back then.

UNSCRUPULOUS PEDDLERS OF GOD’S WORD

After Jesus THREW OUT those who "bought and sold" in the temple, did they ever return? Not only did they return to the temple after Christ’s resurrection, but they also came into the very Church, which Jesus said HE WOULD BUILD. The whole temple system in Jerusalem was so utterly corrupt that they corrupted the people of Jerusalem and Judea as well.

In and around 70 AD the armies of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and there was an awful slaughter. You can read of these horrible events in the writings of Josephus. But even before the temple with its corrupt religious system was demolished, it had already spread its ugly tentacles into the Church which Jesus built.

A QUICK HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BEFORE REVELATION

Jesus Christ said,

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a movable stone], and upon this rock [Christ, the immovable boulder] I will build MY CHURCH; and the gates of hell [Greek: hades, the unseen realm of the dead] shall NOT prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

What did Jesus mean that the "gates of hades would not prevail against it?" This word "prevail" was translated from the Greek word katischuo and it means, "to overpower." It is used but one other time in Scripture and here we shall see exactly what this word means:

"And they [the chief priests] were instant with loud voices, requiring that He [Jesus] might be crucified. And the voices of them of the chief priests prevailed… And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they CRUCIFIED Him…" (Luke 23:23 & 33).

The chief priests "prevailed" [katischuo] by putting Jesus Christ TO DEATH. But Jesus said that the "gates of hades [realm of the DEAD] will not prevail [katischuo] against it." In other words, His Church would NEVER be overpowered to death.

And so, the Church that Jesus Christ built is still around today.

On Pentecost, Jesus Christ came back to His disciples just as He said He would. He came back as the Comforter. Jesus said that they absolutely could NOT receive the Comforter until He went away. Why? Because Jesus Christ IS THE COMFORTER, but not in the flesh, but in THE SPIRIT!

It was on Pentecost that the first members of the Church of Christ received the Holy Spirit Comforter, just as He symbolized to them when He blew on them, showing that He Himself would come to them in spirit by the will of God. Now for the first time, His disciples were truly converted, baptized in Holy Spirit, possessing the mind of Christ, lead into all Truth (Jesus) by the Comforter—Jesus was NOW BUILDING HIS CHURCH!

"But the Comforter [Greek, parakletos, also called the Consoler, and in I John 2:1, Advocate in KJV, and Entreater in the CLNT] which IS the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

The Advocate or Entreater in I John 2:1 IS the parakletos, The Comforter or Consoler of John 14:26 IS the parakletos,. and we are told that it is Jesus Christ Himself. Furthermore, the "Holy Spirit" that is said to come AS the Comforter is also Jesus Christ,

"Now the Lord IS that Spirit: and where the Spirit OF THE Lord [Jesus Christ] is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17

THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST GROWS

The next mention of the Church that Christ said He would build is found in Acts 2:46-47:

"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord ADDED to the church DAILY [3000 in one day, Ver. 41] such as should be saved" (Acts 2:46-47).

PERSECUTION COMES QUICKLY

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:11).

Those are the words of Paul, and he should know, HE WAS THE CHURCH’S BIGGEST PERSECUTOR!

"And Saul [Paul] was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was A GREAT PERSECUTION AGAINST THE CHURCH which was at Jerusalem, and they were ALL scattered abroad through the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1).

And just who was behind this persecuting of the Church of God? Answer: The other Church of God that was also headquartered in Jerusalem!!!

"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter [murder] against the disciples of the Lord [that would be Christ’s Church], went unto the HIGH PRIEST [of the OTHER Church of God, in the TEMPLE—remember back in Acts 2:46 where the Church of Christ was ‘continuing daily with one accord?’ Yes, that temple!]

And [Saul] desired of him LETTERS [letters of authorization from the highest level of God’s Church—the HIGH PRIEST] to Damascus…"

Letters for the purpose of continuing his persecution and slaughter of Christ’s New Church. I told you it is not pretty picture.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his OWN HOUSEHOLD" (Matt. 10:34-36).

Do you think that maybe a man’s foes could even be of his OWN CHURCH?

But Jesus Christ, being the Masterful Genius of EVERYTHING THAT HE DOES, chose His GREATEST ENEMY (Saul), to become His GREATEST APOSTLE (Paul), and to save time, He converted Paul in about two-and-a-half seconds. ONE FLASH OF BLINDING LIGHT! And today’s Church doesn’t think that Jesus can convert such mediocre persecutors such as Hitler in a trillion centuries. Just wait until Jesus puts him UNDER THE LIGHT! I don’t think he will last two-and-a-half seconds.

How then, after getting rid of the greatest sinner and persecutor and turning him into a great apostle, does the church fare?

THE APOSTLE TO ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS

"But the Lord said unto him [Ananias], Go thy way: for he [Paul] is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE" (Acts 9:15-16).

"Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that HE IS THE SON OF GOD. But they were all AMAZED… But Saul increased the more in strength and CONFOUNDED the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, PROVING THAT THIS IS THE VERY CHRIST" (Acts 9:19-22).

PAUL’S TWENTY-FIVE YEAR GOSPEL TOUR

Paul taught BOLDLY in the synagogues of the Jews:

From Damascus, going in and coming out of Jerusalem, down to Caesarea, to Tarsus, throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, to Antioch, unto Seleucia, to Cyprus, at Salamis, the isle, unto Paphos, to Perga in Pamphylia, to Antioch in Pisidia, unto Iconium, unto Lystra, and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lies round about, Pisidia, to Pamphylia, Perga, into Attalia, and back to Antioch, and up to Jerusalem again, then back to Antioch, through Syria and Cilicia, to Derbe and Lystra, Iconium, throughout Phyrgia, the region of Galatia, to Mysia, into Macedonia, from Troas, to Samothracia, to Neapolis, to Philippi, through Amphipolis and Apollonia, to Thessalonica, at Berea, unto Athens, to Corinth.

In Corinth,

"Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I WILL GO UNTO THE GENTILES" (Acts 18:6).

"And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and MANY of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with you, and no man shall set on you to hurt you: for I have MUCH PEOPLE in this city. And he continued there a year and six months…" (Acts 18:8-10).

Paul continues teaching among the Gentiles, Sailing into Syria, to Ephesus, at Caesarea, down to Antioch, over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia, to Achaia, back to Ephesus, and all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought SPECIAL MIRALCES BY THE HANDS OF PAUL. Paul called unto him the disciples [in Ephesus], and departed for to go into Macedonia, and when he had gone over those parts, he came into Greece, into Asia, Troas, from Philippi, to Troas, unto Assos, to Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogylium, Miletus, unto Coos, unto Rhodes, unto Patara, Phenicia, Cyprus, into Syria,Tyre, to Ptolemais, unto Caesarea where Paul said, ‘for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus, and after those days he went up to Jerusalem, for the last time.

It is not my purpose to freighten anyone or to discourage anyone. Neither do I wish to white-wash the difficulties in walking the walk of faith with our Lord. Hopefully we will not all have to endure everything that the Apostle Paul endured, but rest assured, that if you begin your walk with Christ in earnest, you will have to endure considerable hardships and persecutions.

"Yea, and ALL that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12).

But always remember that there is a promise attached to this suffering:

"It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also REIGN WITH HIM…" (II Tim. 2:11-12).

"Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through MUCH TRIBULATION enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).

And this tribulation comes with a promise also:

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord DELIVERS HIM OUT OF THEM ALL" (Psalm 34:19).

Twenty-five years Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well did Paul say,

"From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Gal. 6:17).

"Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all the churches" (II Cor. 11:23-28).

Remember that Paul was "chief [preeminent] of sinners." God predetermined that Paul was to suffer much, and many things for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul never complained. He rejoiced in his weakness because that is when God used him mightily.

Paul knew that much of his labor in the gospel would fail to bring most of the saints to spiritual maturity. Paul came out of the Great Whore Church, the Mother Church of Judaism. Paul knew that the Church of Jesus Christ would likewise become corrupted and commit spiritual fornication with the world. And so, just as Paul came out of religious Babylon, everyone reared in the daughter harlot churches, must likewise, "Come out of her My people."

PAUL SAW THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL

Only a few years into Paul’s ministry, he told the Corinthian Congregation of the corruption already in the Church:

"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (II Cor. 2:17).

Now I hope you all know that I love the King James, and it is true as stated in this verse that they "corrupted" the word of God, but this verse tells us much more than the King James translators present in this verse. Let’s read a few other translations of this same verse:

"For we are not, as THE MANY, driving a PETTY TRADE with the word of God…" (A New Translation, By J. B. Rotherham).

"For we are not as the MAJORITY, who are PEDDLING the word of God…" (Concordant Literal New Testament).

"For I seek not PROFIT [LIKE MOST] by setting the word of God TO SALE…" (The Epistles of Paul, By Conybeare).

"Unlike MANY PEOPLE, we are not in the habit of MAKING PROFIT out of God’s Message" (The Twentieth Century New Testament).

"For I am no PEDDLER of God’s message LIKE MOST MEN" (An American Translation, By Goodspeed).

"For I am not like MOST, TRAFFICKING in the word of God" ( The New Testament in Modern English, By Montgomery).

"For we are not like THE GREAT NUMBER who make use of the Word of God for PROFIT" (The New Testament in Basic English).

"For we do not, like SO MANY, PEDDLE [for profit] an adulterated message of God" (The Berkeley Version of the New Testament, By Gerrit Verkuyl).

ADULTERATING HUCKSTERS OF GOD’S WORD

Does anyone have any doubts now, as to what this verse is saying? I hope not. But there is still more in this verse that does not meet the eye of understanding unless we check the Greek. The word from which "corrupt," "profit," "peddling," and "trafficking" was taken, is the Greek word kapeleou, and it means much more than simply selling for a profit: Strong’s Greek Dictionary of The New Testament: #2585. kpeleuo (a huckster); to retail, i.e. (by impl.) to adulterate. This word means to be a retailer, to peddle, to hucksterize; hence, intentionally to get base gain by dealing in anything, to do anything for sordid personal advantage." (P. 128). WOW! But wait … here’s one more definition:

From Greek-English Keyword Concordance, "peddle [kapeleu’o], sell at retail, with the insinuation of improper profit, either by overcharging or adulterating"(P. 220).

Can you even begin to understand and believe what you are reading? Paul said that it was the MAJORITY that were retailing, selling, peddling, huckstering, an adulterated version of God’s word by overcharging improper profits far beyond rational living expenses for their own base gain and sordid personal advantage! Not only was this practice CORRUPT, but, it was being done by "THE MANY," "THE MAJORITY!" Tell me that you can’t see this being done in the church today?

MODERN TV RELIGIOUS SIDESHOW AUCTIONEERS

Turn on your TV. The majority are selling, peddling, hucksterizing an adulterated version of God’s word for improper profit and personal gain! Your will hear sermons on such subjects as, "Planting Seed", or "Seedtime and Harvest," or "Making a Financial Covenant with God," or "Becoming a Faith Partner," or "Tithing on the Gross," or "Your Welfare Check Belongs to God," or "At What Age Should One Tithe?" or "Tithing Your Way to Financial Freedom," or best of all, "Will a Man ROB God?" etc., etc., etc.

At various times during the show, you will be offered: BOOKS, TAPES, PAMPHLETS, VIDEOS, STATUES, PINS, TRINKETS, MEMBERSHIP CARDS, PLAQUES, CANDLES, CERTIFICATES (always suitable for framing), COMMEMORATIVE COINS, BAGS OF SALT, VIALS OF OIL, DIRT FROM THE HOLY LAND, WATER FROM THE SEA OF GALILEE, AND EVERY CONCEIVABLE PIECE OF RELIGIOUS JUNK AND PARAPHERNALIA IMAGINABLE, all for big bucks, (plus shipping and handling)!!

Or maybe you could catch one of Pastor Shambach’s "God Told Me…" sermons. Pastor Shambach has been coercing people on international television for the past several years to send two thousand dollars to TBN. He said that GOD TOLD HIM THAT EVERYONE WHO IS IN DEBT AND WANTS TO GET OUT OF DEBT NEEDS TO SEND to TBN TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS (and if you don’t have two thousand dollars, then you are to send it in by smaller installments)! And if you have money left over, you can go to a thousand web sites where these same religious hucksters have whole stores of religious accouterments for which you can spend your money. I opened one site this week just out of curiosity. They boasted over ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND items for sale.

Sorry, I got carried away. Continuing:

  1. God started the church in the Wilderness by bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt (out of sin).

  2. Only a few entered the Promised Land because of unbelief (they wanted to go back to Egypt, back to sin).

  3. From the Promised Land, God drove both Israel and Judah into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians respectively.

  4. Under Ezra and Nehemiah along with priests and Levites, they returned and rebuilt Jerusalem.

  5. Jesus Himself, tells us how utterly corrupt the religious leadership was in His day.

  6. Paul tells us that it was the MAJORITY in his time that were making merchandise out of God’s word, corrupting and selling it for a personal profit!

  7. In 70 AD all of Jerusalem including the whole temple system was totally destroyed, but the Church that Jesus built continued on.

THE CHURCH AFTER PAUL’S DEPARTURE

While in Miletus, before going to Caesarea and then up to Jerusalem, Paul gave us a profound prophetic statement regarding the direction the church would take immediately after his departure:

"For I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to ALL THE FLOCK [the entire Church of God, and remember that ALL of Paul’s epistles were read and distributed by Peter as well to the Jewish saints, II Pet. 3:16-17], over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed THE CHURCH OF GOD, which He has purchased with His own blood. FOR I KNOW THIS, that after my departing shall GRIEVOUS WOLVES enter in among you, NOT SPARING THE FLOCK. Also of your OWN SELVES shall men arise, speaking PERVERSE THINGS, to DRAW AWAY DISCIPLES AFTER THEM. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day WITH TEARS [Paul knew and could see how horribly deceived the Church of God was to become]. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:27-32).

WOW … Not a pretty picture, is it? It gets worse.

Paul knew that just as he had to come out of religious Babylon, those under his evangelism would also have to one day come out of the New Testament Church of God’s Babylonian practices. In our next installment we will see just what these practices and doctrines of the Seven Churches are, that we must "Come out of…"

Peter witnessed and prophesied of the same conditions in the Church. Listen to Peter’s powerful words of admonition in his last epistle for us:

"But there were false prophets [teachers] also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers AMONG YOU, who privately shall bring in DAMNABLE HERESIES, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And MANY shall follow their pernicious [lascivious, licentious, wanton] ways; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be EVIL spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU…" (II Pet. 2:1-3).

Paul again parrots Peter’s warning in his last words to Timothy in the very last epistle he wrote for us:

"But evil men and seducers [in the church] shall wax WORSE AND WORSE, DECEIVING, AND BEING DECEIVED" (II Tim. 3:13).

So Paul didn’t say that the horrible things already in the Church would get better and better, did he? No, he said they would get "worse AND WORSE!" Corrupt spiritual leaders produce even MORE corrupt leaders as well as followers. Didn’t our Lord Prophecy of this very thing:

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte [convert], and when he is made, ye make him twofold MORE the child of hell [Gk: ‘Geenna’ the realm of the ‘dead,’ which Jesus here uses to represent the ‘spiritually dead’] than yourselves" (Matt. 23:15).

We shall now see that Jesus, Peter, and Paul certainly did tell the truth that things in the church would get WORSE AND MORE WORSE, or as some translations have it, "from bad to worse." Peter says there would be false teachers that would bring in DAMNABLE HERESIES. ARE THERE DAMNABLE HERESIES IN THE CHURCH OF GOD? Or did Peter LIE? Paul tells us that evil men and seducers (Gk: wicked men and swindlers) would go from BAD TO WORSE! Did Paul LIE? Notice how bad Jesus Christ said things would become:

"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, [a prophet is also a teacher and prophesying is teaching], and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive THE VERY ELECT" (Matt. 24:24).

WHO ARE THE ‘FALSE CHRISTS?’

Who are they who almost deceive the VERY ELECT and DECEIVE MANY? We read that they are "false Christs" and "false prophets." But WHO are these false Christs and false prophets? How will we know them? What IDENTIFIES them as false prophets, liars, and deceivers? I WILL MAKE THIS SO SCRIPTURALLY PLAIN THAT A TEN YEAR OLD CAN UNDERSTAND IT!

At this time I will give you just two Scriptures where Jesus gives us the IDENTIFYING SIGNS of the these false teachers, and deceivers:

  1. "MANY will say to me [Jesus] in that day, Lord, Lord [Master, Master], have we not:
     
    A: PROPHESIED
    [taught, preached] in Thy Name [Jesus]?
     
    B: In Thy Name
    [Jesus] have CAST OUT DEVILS [demons]?
     
    C: And in Thy Name
    [Jesus] done MANY WONDERFUL WORKS [miracles]?
     
    And then will I profess
    [plainly, openly, tell them to their face] I NEVER KNEW YOU: DEPART FROM ME YOU THAT WORK INIQUITY [lawlessness]" (Matt. 7:22-23).
     
  2. "For MANY shall come in my name, saying [that], I [Jesus] am Christ, and shall deceive MANY" (Matt. 24:5).

Who are the "MANY" today who, (1) Teach and preach in the name of Jesus Christ? (2) Cast out demons in the name of Jesus Christ? (3) Do MANY (not a few, but many) WONDERFUL WORKS (not evils works, but good and wonderful works), in the name of Jesus Christ? Who? The Russians? The Chinese? The Muslims? The Hindus? The Confucianists? The Buddhists? The Shintoists? The Zoroastrians? The Jews? The QUARTER BILLION Ethnic Religionists? The HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION Athiests? Do ANY of these worldwide religions "teach, preach, cast out demons, and do many wonderful works IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST?" No, they don’t!

Well then, WHO ARE THESE "MANY" who do these things?

Do "MANY" of the TWO BILLION CHRISTIANS in the world today, "teach, preach, cast out demons, and do many wonderful works IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST?" Then I would say that we have identified the "many" that Jesus warned us about. It is not enough to preach, teach, heal, and cast out demons in the name of Jesus Christ. One has to also OBEY the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that it is the "many" who do good words, but are guilty of "iniquity" which means "lawlessness."

Next, who are the "MANY" today who say that, "Jesus IS THE CHRIST, THE MESSIAH?" No, don’t be deceived; it is not those few who occasionally claim that they themselves are "Jesus the Christ." They don’t deceive the "many." Only some fool would ever be deceived into believing that some carnal idiot really IS the Christ. Besides, there are NOT "many" who make such a claim in the first place.

But there certainly are "MANY" who say and teach that JESUS is the REAL CHRIST! And so it is not only those who "teach and preach and cast out demons and do many wonderful works in the name of Jesus" who are DECEIVING THE MANY, but also there is a large group (many) who teach that "Jesus really IS THE CHRIST" and yet Jesus said it would be these that are also DECEIVING THE MANY!

Millions of Christians have heard these Scriptures quoted all their lives. But, God forbid that they would pause a minute or two to consider WHO REALLY ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT JESUS IS TALKING ABOUT THAT REALLY DO THESE MANY WONDERFUL THINGS AND YET … DECEIVE THE MANY!!

GOD’S FINAL PROPHECY TO, FOR, AND ABOUT,
THE CHURCH OF GOD

Sometime in the second half of the first century, God appears to John on the Island of Patmos in a vision, and instructs him thus:

"What you see, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia…" (Rev. 1:11).

I spent a lot of time in our last installment showing and proving that the Seven Churches represent the whole church down through all generations of this church age. It would be

absurd to think that the book of Revelation was written to and for seven churches in Asia that have virtually disappeared off the map. Most modern maps do not show the locations of these ancient church cities. My Encyclopedia Britannica World Atlas shows Ephesus and Smyrna, only. Why print billions of Bibles in virtually every language on earth for people to read of seven churches that haven’t existed for CENTURIES and have no application to our lives today? No, this prophecy contains in symbols the spiritual condition of the entire Church of God all through its history in every generation.

As all of Revelation is a book of symbols, it shouldn’t surprise us that the message to the seven churches is also composed of dozens of symbols. But those symbols represent SPIRITUAL REALITIES. We must compare spiritual with spiritual to determine the meaning of these symbols.

REVELATION IS TO AND FOR THE SEVEN CHURCHES

The book of Revelation is to and for the Seven and Churches—First chapter:

"What you see write in a book and send it unto the seven churches" (Rev. 1:11),

Last chapter:

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches" (Rev. 22:16).

If you are a professing member of the Church that Jesus built, then you need to know what Jesus has prophesied concerning that very Church.

I don’t mean to weary my readers by repeating myself, but I fear that no matter how many times I say something and quote Scriptures to prove it, there will still be many who will not have clue as to what God is teaching us.

The words that Jesus spoke were "spirit"—

"…the words that I speak unto you, they are SPIRIT…" (John 6:63).

Jesus taught the multitudes in parables only—

"All these things spoke Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spoke He not unto them" (Matt. 13:34).

All parables have a SPIRITUAL lesson. Not one of Jesus’ parables was to be taken literally.

But to understand spiritual parables, and words of spirit, one must HAVE THE SPIRIT—

"…for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God … the things of God knows no man but the Spirit of God … the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual … But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we [believers in Christ] have the [spiritual] mind of Christ" (I Cor. 2:10,11,13,14,16).

Notice what Jesus said when His disciples asked Him concerning the parables:

"And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given … Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they UNDERSTAND" (Matt. 13:10,11, & 13).

Having "ears to hear" means having spiritual discernment in UNDERSTANDING what one hears. Notice that we must "…see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and should understand with our HEART…" [then God would] convert us and HEAL [save] us (Matt. 13:15).

I have no doubt that some reading these messages from the Scriptures, are beginning to understand. I mean REALLY UNDERSTAND and thank God for this spiritual understanding. If you are such an one, then GOD IS CALLING YOU! You are beginning to "taste" of the good and spiritual things of God.

In Chapter 13 of Revelation God introduces us to, a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns with ten crown with the name of blasphemy, and another beast coming up out of the earth which had two horns like a lamb, but spoke as a dragon, commanding to make an image to the beast and caused all to receive a mark or name or number 666 in their forehead or right hand.

Midway through the chapter God says this: "If any man have an ear, LET HIM HEAR." What does God mean by "let him hear?" We just read it. Only those with God’s Spirit can discern spiritual things, and the Book of Revelation is a book of Symbols, given by Jesus, who always speaks to the multitudes in parables, plus His words are always "spirit." "Let him hear" means let him SPIRITUALLY UNDERSTAND!

We already learned that "7" is a number of perfect completeness in God’s Word. SEVEN TIMES Jesus says to the Seven Churches, "He that has an ear, LET HIM HEAR…" (Rev. 1:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Here is God’s complete message to the Church down through the centuries. Those who have ears to hear [to understand] will understand the spiritual message to these churches.

MORE INSTRUCTIONS ON HAVING ‘EARS TO HEAR’

Who specifically is speaking the words of Christ through John to these Seven Churches: Notice it, for it is most revealing: "He that has an ear, let him hear what THE SPIRIT says…" (Rev. 1:7). It is "the SPIRIT" which is speaking to John and the Seven Churches. How are we going to hear a "SPIRIT" if we don’t have spiritual ears to hear?

I am overwhelmed by the arrogant ignorance of theologians who are constantly informing me that the "unquenchable fire," "furnace of fire," "gehenna fire," and "lake of fire" are physical, material, and literal! Parables, metaphors, allegories, and symbols are NEVER LITERAL! Try this: Jesus Christ (SPIRIT), gives John this Revelation which God (SPIRIT), gave and signified (symbolized—things with SPIRITUAL meanings), by an angel (a SPIRIT), while John was in the SPIRIT, and wrote Christ’s words (which are SPIRIT), and were spoke by "the SPIRIT," in a book, that can only be understood by those with an "[spiritual] ear to hear." And theologians believe that most of this book of Revelation is literal?

The Spirit speaks to each church congregation individually, starting with Ephesus and ending with Laodicea. However, notice this: although the Spirit speaks individually to the various congregations, God informs each individual congregation to "…let him hear what the Spirit says unto churches [plural]." Herein is a most profound truth, which I have never heard anyone explain. God is saying, in effect, "Ephesus, here are your strong points and your weaknesses, but now it is also necessary that you hear what I have to say to THE REST OF THE CHURCHES!"

Why should Ephesus be concerned about the problems or virtues of the other churches? It is because what applies to one applies to ALL. Ephesus "left her first love." Are we so na´ve as to think that Pergamos followed the doctrine of Balaam, and the Nicolaitans, but did NOT leave their first love? Do we think that Laodicea was "luke warm," but did not leave her first love? Do we think that most of Sardis "art DEAD," but that they didn’t leave their first love. Absurd! THEY ALL left their first love! But even "dead" Sardis "had a few names which did not defile their garments [spiritual character]." And thus ALL the congregations also had "a few names," not the majority, who had not defiled their garments.

Some think that Smyrna and Philadelphia had "no faults." I have a large chart that I purchased in a Bible Book Store that lists the seven churches on the top and then has categories underneath. For the category labeled "Faults," the boxes for Smyrna and Philadelphia, say: "NONE."

That’s not true, the chart is wrong. The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were composed of many who "…say they are Jews [spiritually circumcised and converted in heart], but are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." I don’t think that any church that has "the synagogue of SATAN" in their congregation could be said to have NO FAULTS!

THE SPIRIT PROMISES SPIRITUAL REWARDS TO OVERCOMERS

Jesus Christ tells ALL THE CHURCHES to listen and hear [spiritually understand] what the Spirit says to ALL THE CHURCHES, because everything in the individual churches applies to ALL THE CHURCHES. It is essential that we understand this. All "overcomers" in each of the Seven Churches are given promises of rewards.

We will now see that when one possesses one of these rewards, he will possess ALL OF THEM, for ALL of the rewards are the SAME reward! You heard me correctly with your ears, now "hear" me with your heart of understanding. All of the rewards are the same reward for all of the rewards are CHRIST! What is the "prize" spoken of in the Bible? What is the "crown?" What is our "justification?" What is the "high calling?" What is our hope of "glory?" What is it that Paul wanted to "win?" They are all CHRIST!

The word "overcometh" as used in the KJV is a good word and descriptive of what we are to do. However, "conquers" is a more precise word, and adds the dimension of being "victorious," as in battle, as our Christian walk is most definitely a battle.

Notice what "overcomers or conquerers" in the Seven Churches are promised:

THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS

"To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life" (Rev. 2:7).

(1)

That’s CHRIST.

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and [I am] the LIFE┤ (John 11:25).

The KJV translates "tree" in this verse from the Greek word xulon. Here is Strong’s definition of xulon: "timber (for fuel or material); by impl. a stick, club or tree or wooden art. or substance … xulon, wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood." The word "tree" does fit what is spoken of in this verse, but when we come to Rev. 22:2, "tree of life" does not seem to fit as well.

"In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life…" (Rev. 22:2).

How do we have one tree of life on BOTH sides of the river?

One translation translates both of these verses as "wood of life." Another has, "log of life." Interestingly, one translation has this footnote, Wood is the primary significance of zulon, and may here denote, as in Rev. xxii, an aggregation of dendra, or trees, commonly called a wood, or forest; a xulon of life, occupying a place on both sides of the river."

What a marvelous word picture God has presented to us in these words. Jesus Christ is first and foremost, "The" [singular] Tree of Life. This is the Tree of Life spoken of in the Garden of Eden. That tree grew out of the earth, just as Jesus (the source of life—from His Father) came in the flesh (the "earth") to bring life (immortality—deathlessness, eternal life) to all humanity. Interestingly, the first time xulon is used in Scripture is where Jesus said,

"For if they do these things in a green [living] tree [Gk: xulon—wood] what shall be done in the dry [dead wood]?" (Luke 23:31).

Jesus Christ is the "green living tree." Jesus met His death by being crucified. The "cross" of Christendom was really a post, pole, or upright stake that is fastened or planted in the ground manually—it did not grow from that spot. It is not a living xulon or wood or tree. Jesus died on a DEAD wood or dead tree.

But Jesus is now raised from the dead and is the Live Tree, the Tree of LIFE. We get a "taste" of this life when God gives us of His Holy Spirit. But we receive only the "ernest" or down payment in this life:

"…you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the ernest of our inheritance UNTIL [at a later date] the redemption of the purchased possession…" (Eph. 1:13b-14).

At the resurrection we will be changed:

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: for we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2-3).

Jesus also said this:

"As Thou [the Father] has given Him [Jesus] power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life [eonian life, which for the believer includes immortality] to as many as Thou has given Him" (John 17:2).

And so, as Jesus has life in Himself, He will give us that same life. And just as Jesus is the Singlular "Wood [tree] of life," we too will become the Plural "Wood of Life" spoken of in Rev. 22:2. Remember a "wood" is a gathering of trees as in "woods" or "forest." Where do we read of such a gathering of "living trees?"

"And He showed me a pure river of water of life [this is God’s life giving spirit] clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God [the Father has life] and of the Lamb [the Father gives life to Jesus to give to as many as God has given Him]. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river [of life], was there the tree [xulon, wood, or woods or forest] of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Rev 22:1-2).

Jesus is the source of all life because His Father gave Him life to disseminate to others.

"For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the son to have LIFE IN HIMSELF" (John 5:26).

So in Revelation 22 we see the river of life flowing from God and Christ, through the middle of the forest of trees of life (that’s US), and we in return "heal the nations" just as Obadiah prophesied of the coming of "saviours" (plural) to Mt. Zion (God’s headquarters of government throne) to judge the nations.

THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA

(2)

"He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death" (Ver. 11).

That’s because they now have CHRIST, the "tree of life Who abolishes death."

Those who are being judged NOW, will not go through the lake of fire judgment, or be hurt by the second death.

THE CHURCH IN PERGAMOS

(3)

"To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (Ver. 17).

That’s CHRIST, the bread of life from heaven, (John 6:48 & 58). I believe that even most nominal Christians would be agreeable to the fact that Jesus Christ IS this "hidden manna," and that it certainly is not literal food for the physical body!

But when we come to things like "the lake of fire which is the second death," the shout goes out, "IT’S LITERAL; IT’S LITERAL." Everything in the Book of Revelation is symbolic and spiritual. I will take a little more time on this next reward to overcomers, just to show how much spiritual teaching and understanding there is in every single word of Revelation.

And, "a white stone." That’s CHRIST. How is a "white stone," "Christ?" This "stone" is SPIRITUAL. Of what earthly (or heavenly) value is "a white stone" if it is a "literal white stone?" It is foolishness to think that these symbols and metaphors of Revelation are literal! Of what eternal value is a white stone with a name written in it? First of all, "stone" is not even the proper translation in this verse. I once thought it represented Christ, "the Stone rejected by Israel, that became the "Chief Corner Stone," but that is not the teaching of this verse.

The Greek word here is "psephos" and not "lithos" which is a large stone such as a millstone, tombstone, or building stone. A psephos is not a stone per se, but rather a "pebble." Gee, that sounds even less valuable than a stone. It’s a SYMBOL! It stands for something SPIRITUAL AND LASTING OF UNFATHOMABLE VALUE!

This particular psepos pebble was used in casting a secret ballot. Now notice what a definition of ballot by the American Heritage College Dictionary: ballot n. 6. A small ball [or pebble] once used to register a secret vote. Next notice this amazing definition in Strong’s Greek Lexicon, #5586. psepos, "a pebble (as worn smooth by handling), i.e. (by impl. Of use as a counter or ballot) a verdict (of acquittal) or ticket (of admission)." A BALLOT, a VERDICT OF ACQUITTAL (not guilt) or ticket of ADMISSION (not rejection)! The opposite of this white ball or pebble of acceptance, is to be rejected and turned away by being "BLACK balled."

Maybe this doesn’t excite you, but this little "pebble" is just pregnant with Scriptural and spiritual Truths! Here is an example where the symbols of Revelation shine like giant beacons in the night. No, this is not just some ordinary "stone" promised to the overcomers in the Churches, but a "ballot pebble" of "acquittal and admission" which has "a new name written which no man knows (Rev. 2:17)," which is "My [Christ’s] new name" (Rev. 3:12), and "a name written which no man knew" (Rev. 19:12).

This is a pebble ballot, cast in secret ("The Lord knows them that are His," even if the world doesn’t), to pronounce an acquittal. Acquittal means a judgment of NOT GUILTY! If we are truly, SPIRITUALLY, BAPTIZED into Christ’s death, then we are "…JUSTIFIED from Sin" (Rom. 6:3-7).

And "Freely JUSTIFIED in His grace…" (Rom. 3:24). Justify means, "to declare free of blame; absolve. Theology To free (a human) of the guilt and penalty attached to grievous sin," The American Heritage College dictionary. That’s ACQUITTAL! Whom ever possesses this white pebble is ACQUITTED OF ALL SINS AND ALL GUILT!

This pebble also signified "admission." An "admission’ is both the permission to enter something, and the price paid for the admission or entrance. Again, Jesus Christ is BOTH! Jesus Christ paid the ultimate penalty for our sins,

"But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US. Much more then, being now JUSTIFIED by His blood, we shall be SAVED from wrath through Him" (Rom. 5:8-9).

And we can only gain admission and entrance into the kingdom of God through Him. Jesus said, "I am the DOOR…" (John 10:7 & 9), and there is no other. Jesus said to, "Enter ye in at the strait [narrow and cramped] gate…" (Matt. 7:13), and Jesus is the "door" of that gate.

And so this apparently, insignificant little white pebble takes on enormous spiritual value. Our pebble is "white," signifying the purity of both the Giver (Jesus) and the recipient (the overcomer). It is like a spiritual ticket that proves the bearer has been washed clean, forgiven, justified, acquitted of all guilt, and has a paid admission into the Kingdom of God, which Jesus verifies and signifies by His Own written Name! But it is not a literal white pebble with a literal name engraved in it—IT IS A SYMBOL of all of the SPIRITUAL benefits attached to being an "overcomer IN Christ."

"A new name written, which no man knows except he that receives it." [That’s CHRIST, Who] "…had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself … and His name is called The Word of God" (Rev. 19:12-13).

That’s CHRIST, Jesus is "The Word of God" (John 1:1). The world often treats God’s saints as if they were heretics. Only those who possess the Name of Jesus Christ truly "know" what the name is and all that it represents. Not all who speak of the Name, have the name "written" within them. Men’s lips are often far far from their heart.

I already covered how that "name" is representative of THE PERSON WHO BEARS IT. To believe in THE NAME of Jesus Christ is to believe ALL THAT JESUS IS! And the reason we have a "new" name is because all whom are "IN Christ" are "NEW creatures [new creations]: old things are passed away; behold, ALL THINGS ARE BECOME NEW" ( II Cor. 5:17). We not only have a new name, but we become and ARE A NEW NAME as well.

THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA

(4)

"And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Ver. 26).

That’s CHRIST, Christ is the power over the nations,

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ALL POWER is given unto Me in heaven and [‘over the nations’] in earth" (Matt. 28:18).

"And I will give him the morning star."

That’s CHRIST.

"I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the BRIGHT AND MORNING STAR" (Rev. 22:16).

THE CHURCH IN SARDIS

(5)

"He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment [Christ’s righteousness in His saints, Rev. 19:9 vs. Phil. 3:9]; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life" (Rev. 3:5).

That’s CHRIST! Jesus Christ IS "The Book of Life!" This is not a literal, physical book with names written on pages of paper. No indeed, this is not merely "the book of life," this is the book OF SOMEONE’S LIFE! Whose life? Let’s read it and believe:

"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [Satan, the dragon, the devil, the serpent], whose names are not written in THE BOOK OF THE [‘the’ is in the Greek manuscripts] LIFE OF THE LAMB [THAT’S CHRIST] slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8)!

Your "name" (that’s YOU, your name IS WHO AND WHAT YOU ARE), YOU must be "IN CHRIST," Who IS LIFE, or your name is "not written in the book of life."

Oh how much we lose when translators both translate and interpret wrongly. I realize that this was not intentional, however, it was wrong of them to leave out the article "the" in this verse, as it is IN the Greek manuscripts. It is not merely "the book of life … of the Lamb," but rather, "the book of … the life of the Lamb!" WOW! What a difference a simple three letter article makes in the meaning of this most profound verse! This book is not merely a list of the names of the saints in alphabetical order or by chronological number. The "book of life" is the book of SOMEONE’S life—Jesus Christ’s LIFE!

Oh that we would have ears to SPIRITUALLY hear:

"Therefore if any man be IN Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (II Cor. 5:17).

This is the new, converted, believer’s life "IN Christ." And when God comes to judge the world, we will have no fear of judgment for we are being judged now "IN Christ." Highlight this verse in your Bibles:

"And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and He that dwells in love dwells IN GOD, and GOD IN HIM. Herein is your love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: BECAUSE [get ready; here it comes…] As He [Jesus Christ] IS [right now, this minute] SO ARE WE in this world" (I John 4:17).

And just how is that?

We just read it—because we live IN CHRIST, and Christ lives IN US!!! Our names are written in "the book of THE LIFE OF THE LAMB" only if WE TOO LIVE "THE life OF the Lamb," IN THE LAMB! "Abide in Me, and I in you" (John 15:4). I pray for God to give you spiritual eyes to see these grand Truths that have been hid from the blinded eyes of the Church today.

A stern warning: How many does Jesus say through His Spirit, will He "…not blot out his name out of the book of life?" Let’s read it:

"Thou has A FEW names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy" (Rev. 3:4).

Dear readers it is always, just the FEW who will be in Christ in His glory in the first resurrection. All of the rest, ALL of them, will come up in the Second Resurrection, and white throne judgment with its "lake of fire and second death."

I feel it necessary to show you just how sobering our Lord’s statement to the churches really is. Not many escaped the flood that came on the world in Noah’s day because the thoughts of men were only evil continually,

"…while the ark was a preparing, wherein FEW, that is, eight souls were saved…" (I Pet. 3:20).

Are things better now? NO, Paul said things would get worse AND WORSE.

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and FEW there be that find it" (Matt. 7:14).

"So the last shall be first, and the first last: and many be called, but FEW chosen" (Matt. 20:16).

"For many are called, but FEW are chosen" (Matt. 22:14).

THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA

(6)

"Him that overcomes will I make a pillar [a position of great spiritual responsibility] in the temple of my God" (3:12).

That’s CHRIST,

"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner Stone; In Whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an HOLY TEMPLE IN THE LORD" (Eph. 2:21).

Christ is our Temple for we live in Him as HIS BODY, and we are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit that lives and dwells IN US, and Christ IS that Spirit—"abide in Me, and I in you."

And "…he shall go no more out" That’s CHRIST. We are IN Christ, we are the Body of Christ, Christ is our temple, our house, where we dwell "IN Christ."

We abide and dwell in Christ and Christ abides and dwells and lives HIS LIFE in us, so that we will "go no more out," till at the consummations of all the ages, "God may be ALL in All" (I Cor. 15:28).

"And I will write upon him the NAME OF MY GOD, and the NAME OF THE CITY of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him MY NEW NAME."

That’s CHRIST! These are honors and rewards bestowed upon us by Christ. The 144,000 (12 x 12, complete foundational kingdom of God’s government for the new world) are given the Father’s name in their foreheads (Rev. 14:1 & 22:4). Not a tattoo on the forehead skin, but inside their foreheads, in their hearts and minds.

New Jerusalem is the heavenly Jerusalem spoken of in Heb. 12:22, where "the general assembly and church of the firstborn [Christ and His anointed body of believers], which are written in heaven" is found. It is from New Jerusalem and heavenly Mt. Sion that the government of Christ will proceed in bringing Salvation to the Earth and the Universe (Isa. 2:2). I will write upon him My new name. This is the same new name that we discussed in the Church of Pergamos.

THE CHURCH OF THE LAODICEANS

(7)

"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne."

And, of course, that’s CHRIST also. Sitting with Christ in His throne—this is the ultimate in rewards for the overcomer. This means that we share Christ’s Priesthood, Lordship, and Kingship over all the universe!

"And SAVIOURS [plural] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S" (Obadiah 21).

"Saviours—that’s US, if we are "overcomers." We will be saviours ("as He is, so are WE in the world") with our Lord from heavenly Mt Zion and New Jerusalem!

FROM GLORY TO GLORY

There is a progression in the rewards promised to the conquering overcomers in the Churches that is vital for us to see and understand. If one is "saved" (past tense, finished, completed, with absolutely no possibility of losing that salvation at any time before we die), then there are indeed some Scriptural contradictions to such a theory.

We need to get very serious for a moment. Salvation culminates for the believer in the First Resurrection to spiritual life and immortality. However, before that time, during the life of each believer, there are warnings in the Scriptures about ways that one can become disqualified from being in the first resurrection. Let’s notice just a few of them:

  1. "Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed LEST HE FALL" (I Cor. 10:12).
     
  2. "If they should FALL AWAY, to renew them again unto repentance…" (Heb. 6:6), and
     
    "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins. But a certain fearful looking for of JUDGMENT and fiery indignation
    [the lake of fire] which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. 10:26-27).
     
  3. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are FALLEN FROM GRACE" (Gal. 5:4).
     
  4. "Looking diligently lest any man FAIL OF THE GRACE of God…" (Heb. 12:15).
     
  5. "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation FALL AWAY" (Luke 8:13).
     
  6. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a FALLING AWAY first…" (II The. 2:3).
     
  7. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should A CASTAWAY [Gk: disqualified]" (I Cor. 9:27).
     
  8. "Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Tim. 4:1).
     
  9. "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the LATTER END IS WORSE WITH THEM THAN THE BEGINNING [before they were converted]. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, TO TURN FROM the holy commandment delivered unto them" (II Peter 2:20-21).
     
  10. "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough [having begun to follow Christ] and looking back [desiring his old sinful life again] IS FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD" (Luke 9:62).

Don’t think that these verses were written in vain. Jesus said that "many" would say to Him in that day, "Lord, Lord…," but Jesus will tell them to "depart." It is not enough to accept Jesus Christ as your Saviour and go no further. You must continue growing spiritually. We must CONTINUE following Christ all the days of our life.

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you CONTINUE in My word, then are you my disciples indeed" (John 8:31).

There are some encouraging words in the Scriptures, however, that tell us that there is a way to know in your walk with Christ whether you are SAFE from ever falling away, and the message to the Seven Churches contains this same teaching. Peter tells us how we can be SURE that we will NEVER FALL:

"And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brother kindness charity [LOVE] … Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for IF YOU DO THESE THINGS, YOU SHALL NEVER FALL (II Pet. 1:5-7 & 10).

In closing we will now look at this same teaching in the rewards to the Seven Churches.

First I want to call your attention to a most important fact concerning the word "overcometh" in the KJV. Notice that it is not in the past, as in "has overcome" or "overcame." It is in the Greek aorist tense. It shows a CONTINUING ACTION. The Greek is "to the overcoming" or "to the one overcoming" or "to the one conquering." I point out this continuous action to show that Christ does not want any to start and then stop. We must always continue "conquering and overcoming."

We have learned that when we repent and turn to Jesus Christ, He gives us of His Holy Spirit (the earnest—the start, the beginning, the down payment, if you will). Look now at the first reward promised the Churches:

TO HIM THAT OVERCOMES…

"To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of LIFE…" (Rev. 2:7).

That is the beginning of real spiritual life. If we continue in this new spiritual life, we will not be hurt by the "second death" which is the "the lake of fire."

"He that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death" (Rev. 2:11).

Now we are safe, right? We can now rest on our laurels, right? Wrong.

"To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (Rev. 2:17).

We can’t grow spiritually unless we eat SPIRITUAL FOOD. When we eat of Christ’s spiritual body, we grow spiritually; when we stop eating spiritual food we spiritually starve and spiritually die. If we eat spiritual food, we grow, we mature, we are "continuing in Christ’s word" and Christ word is spirit and therefore spiritual food.

What is our next reward if we "continue" overcoming?

"…and will give him a white stone and a in the stone a new name" (Ver. 17)

Now we learned that this stone is really a pebble which is a symbol for a ballot, which acquits us of guilt and justifies us, allowing for our admission or entrance into the Kingdom, signed and signified by Jesus Himself. If we continue to overcome, this white signed, ballot stone of entrance into the Kingdom is waiting for us with OUR NAME on it. Remember "as Jesus is, SO ARE WE…" His name is OUR name. If we continue to overcome, we will be given another great reward.

"And he that overcomes and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Ver. 26).

Say, did you notice that most important phrase, "keeps my works UNTO THE END?" Do you suppose there was a purpose for adding those words at this place in the rewards? You know there was. We must "keep on, keeping on." We cannot look back. We cannot fail to continue in Christ’s words and works. We must take up our cross. We must suffer persecution. We must "fight the good fight." We must "keep the faith." We must "pray without ceasing." And we must make it to the end,

"And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures TO THE END SHALL BE SAVED" (Matt. 10:22).

THEN we will be qualified to have "power over the nations." But reigning requires that we be RIGHTEOUS. We must reign the nations with spiritual power, not with military might. Our motives and our love must be PURE.

"He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment" (Rev. 3:5).

The "white raiment" is the same "clean white, fine linen" of Rev. 19:8, "for fine linen is the righteousness of the saints" (Ver. 8). When we attain to this degree of overcoming, God makes an absolute promise to us:

"I will NOT blot out his name out of the book of life" (Ver. 5).

Just how high do the rewards of Jesus to the overcomer go?

"Him that overcomes will I make a PILLAR IN THE TEMPLE OF MY GOD" (Ver. 12).

A pillar is a main support in a temple. It speaks of a position of GREAT DISTINGUISHED RESPONSIBILITY at the Spiritual Headquarters of the entirety of the universe in Mt. Zion. But if He is going to give us ALL THAT HE HAS, He expects us to do as He DID and become what He IS.

"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me on My throne, EVEN AS I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne" (Ver. 21).

We are to overcome "even as" Jesus Christ conquered and overcame. What was it that Jesus Christ "overcame?" John 16:33,

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but BE OF GOOD CHEER; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!"

Jesus Christ overcame EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING THE WORLD! And here is God’s command to the believer who would become an overcomer and conqueror in Christ Jesus:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world [which MUST be overcome and conquered!]" (I John 2:15-16).

We are to also "overcome the world" just as Jesus did. Not by ourselves, but by Jesus "Christ IN us, the hope of GLORY." Christ lives His life IN the believer, and in the believer Christ will, "overcome the world," over and over again in each new believer. And then one day, Jesus Christ will say to YOU, "Sit with Me on My throne—We are going to save the Universe together."

We already read in Romans 8 that the whole creation is groaning for the manifestation of Sons and Daughters (saviours) to free this world from its vanity and corruption.

And so, there is ONE church, and all overcomers from that church receive ONE reward, the SAME reward, and that reward is CHRIST and all that His many symbols and names represent, all that He IS ("as He is, so are WE in the world"), and in the Kingdom of God as well. These are the highest and most glorious honors ever to be bestowed upon a man or woman of the human race!

"He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches."

 

Home