The Lake of Fire - Part VIII
WHERE IS THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT?
PERSECUTED AND SCATTERED ABROAD
Jesus Christ said,
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:
"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:
We could, of course, trace the church back through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, back to Noah, and indeed, back to Adam.
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"
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 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, 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,
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:
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:
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,
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:
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,
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:
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!
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,
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:
PERSECUTION COMES QUICKLY
Those are the words of Paul, and he should know, HE WAS THE CHURCH'S BIGGEST PERSECUTOR!
And just who was behind this persecuting of the Church of God? Answer: The other Church of God that was also headquartered in Jerusalem!!!
Letters for the purpose of continuing his persecution and slaughter of Christ's New Church. I told you it is not pretty picture.
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
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.
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.
But always remember that there is a promise attached to this suffering:
And this tribulation comes with a promise also:
Twenty-five years Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Well did Paul say,
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Paul again parrots Peter's warning in his last words to Timothy in the very last epistle he wrote for us:
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:
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:
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:
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,
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:
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:
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"-
Jesus taught the multitudes in parables only-
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-
Notice what Jesus said when His disciples asked Him concerning the parables:
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 naive 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
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.
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,
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:
At the resurrection we will be changed:
Jesus also said this:
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?"
Jesus is the source of all life because His Father gave Him life to disseminate to others.
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
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
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,
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."
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
That's CHRIST, Christ is the power over the nations,
THE CHURCH IN SARDIS
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:
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:
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 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:
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,
Are things better now? NO, Paul said things would get worse AND WORSE.
THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA
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).
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
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!
"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:
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.
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:
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...
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."
Now we are safe, right? We can now rest on our laurels, right? Wrong.
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?
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.
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,
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.
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:
Just how high do the rewards of Jesus to the overcomer go?
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.
We are to overcome "even as" Jesus Christ conquered and overcame. What was it that Jesus Christ "overcame?" John 16:33,
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:
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!