Revelation Commentary – the Seven Churches – Part II

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God does not want the information in the Book of Life disclosed until the drama of sin has ended. At that time, God will open the book and reveal what he knew before any beings were given life. When God the Father shows that He foreknew, He will prove that “yes,” He has perfect omniscience. At that same moment, He will silence every accusation that He uses His omniscience to manipulate His creatures for personal gain. When the Book of Life is opened, He will prove that He will not use His omniscience to prevent the death of another member of the Godhead – namely, Jesus! So, when the Book of Life is opened, the love of God will be seen with such clarity and grandeur that every living creature – saints and sinners alike – will bow down!


Isaiah 45:23   By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.


Isaiah 45:24   They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone is righteousness and strength.’”  All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.


Isaiah 45:25   But in the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.


The third problem concerning the Book of Life centers around the fact that the book of Life has nothing to do with man’s salvation. The Book of Life contains a pre-recorded history of the world that the Father wrote and sealed up with seven seals before any life was created. (Revelation 17:8) Books of records, recorded by angels as events transpire, are used to judge humanity (Daniel 7:9,10), but the Book of Life remains sealed until the end of the thousand years. The Book of Life IS NOT used during the judgment of mankind because it remains sealed!


The last misunderstanding that I want to address is that some people believe that an over comer is a sinless person. Carefully consider two statements:


1.   It is impossible for a sinner to become sinless.

2.   It is impossible for a sinner to live a sinless life.   


The point here is that overcoming sin is not only possible it is necessary. However, overcoming sin to the point of sinless living remains impossible until the sealing occurs.


No one other than Jesus has lived a perfect life and no one can live a sinless life until the carnal nature is removed! This is good news. John tells us there is a sin that does not lead to death. This sin is accidental sin. (1 John 5:16, 17; Romans 7:19) If we say that we are without sin, the Bible says that we are liars. (2 Chronicles 6:36; 1 John 1:10)


So, the promise Christ gave to the over comers in Sardis have to be kept within the context of all His words to the seven churches. What did the church of Sardis need to overcome? They have substituted church life for spiritual life and as a result, they had become spiritually dead. Jesus insisted they wake up so that He might walk among them and make disciples of them!


Everyone who overcomes this temptation will never have his name blotted out of the Book of Life.


The Church At Philadelphia:


Revelation 3:7   “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key (to the city) of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.


Revelation 3:8   I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.


Revelation 3:9   I will make those who are the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.


Revelation 3:10   Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole earth to test those who live upon the earth.


Revelation 3:11   I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.


Revelation 3:12   Him that overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will be leave it. I will write on him the name of my god and the name of the city of my god, the New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write upon him my new name.


Revelation 3:13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


The church of Philadelphia, like the church of Smyrna, was suffering from persecution. Some people say that Philadelphia is the only church of the seven that didn’t have an internal problem. True, Jesus did not condemn the church at Philadelphia, but that church had a problem. The church at Philadelphia struggled with “the synagogue of Satan” just like the church at Smyrna. Each of the seven churches were beset with problems.


Ephesus had lost its first love.

Pergamum was beguiled with the devil’s lies and Gnosticism.

Thyatira was corrupted with Jezebel’s teachings about sexual immorality.

Smyrna was hammered by persecution and Philadelphia was weakened by those claims to be Jews, but the church was hanging on.

Sardis was an active church but is was spiritually dead and

Laodecia had grown lukewarm and indifferent     


As Jesus tenderly looked down from Heaven upon the seven churches, there’s no wonder He wasn’t very happy with six of them.


The message to Philadelphia contains some wording that is often distorted by Christians needing texts to support the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture. The problem here is that the words of Jesus do not imply there will be a pre-tribulation rapture.


Because the church in Philadelphia was suffering from persecution, Jesus told them that He had set before them an open door. He had made a way for them to go through their suffering. This is the point of “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” By His grace and in His power, the church could go through this experience and overcome it.


Being trapped in the jaws of persecution is equivalent to being hemmed in by brick walls – there is no way out. But, Jesus is not restricted by walls. He can open a door in a solid brink wall. He makes a way possible through the impossible!  Let’s look closely at the words of Jesus. He told the church that He would keep them from*the hour of trial to come upon the whole world.


Revelation 3:16   is often used by pre-trib rapture advocates to defend their belief that they will escape the Great Tribulation. However, when this verse is aligned with everything the Bible has to say about the end-time, this verse does not teach what is purported to say. Consider this: Does Revelation 3:10 really mean that the church of Philadelphia (whomever they may be) will be taken to Heaven before the Great Tribulation begins, but the other six churches must stay on Earth and suffer? No. Don’t forget, there are a total of seven churches in Revelation. So, what happens to the other six churches during the Great Tribulation?


Jesus did say, “…I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.” This statement is consistent with everything said in the Bible about the end-time because the judgment of the living occurs during the Great Tribulation. Because salvation comes through faith, Jesus is going to test every living person to see whether he has faith or not. The faith-full will receive the seal of God and be saved, but the faith-less will receive the mark of the beast and be destroyed.


Let’s take a look at the Greek word ‘ek which is translated as “from” as in “…keep you from the hour of trial…” One of the best Greek lexicons on early Christian use of the Greek language is A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (written by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich). The word in question is a Greek preposition ‘ek and it is translated ‘from” both in the NIV and KJV. Therefore, the phrase reads, “… I will keep you from the hour of trial…” However, according to Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, (4th edition 1952) this preposition is also translated in a variety of other ways in the NIV and KJV and it has more than a dozen different English equivalents. For example, ‘ek can mean “from, out of, away from, coming out of, descending from, by, because of, beginning from, begins from, for,” etc. On page 235 of this edition, the authors indicate that when the preposition is followed by a measurement of time – as in “the hour of trial,” ‘ek can convey the meaning “beginning from.” In other words, a person is justified in reading this verse as follows: “I (Jesus) will also keep you beginning from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world…”


When a theological point is disputed because of one word, especially a preposition, we have to take a closer look. In these situations, we can and should turn to additional lexicons and other word study helps for insight. Although this effort is valuable, it is not the highest authority regarding the intended meaning of the verse. The higher and more weighty evidence must come from the Bible itself. So, here are two points for you consideration showing why Revelation 3:10 should be understood as “beginning from the hour of trial:”


a.   Jesus told His disciples,” … And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (world (KJV).” (Matthew 28:20) We should take this verse at face value. Jesus plainly said He would be with His children to the very last day when He physically and gloriously appears in the clouds. This idea concurs with this reading of Revelation 3:10: “I (Jesus) will also keep you beginning from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world…”


b.   Several verses in Revelation indicate that the saints will be on Earth during the Great Tribulation. The word ‘saints” is mentioned 12 times in Revelation (NIV) and 13 times in the KJV. Except for the 144,000 servants who are taken to Heaven at the seventh trumpet and the 24 elders who were taken to Heaven at the time of Christ’s ascension. Revelation does not place the living saints in Heaven before the Second Coming. In fact, Revelation places the saint on Earth! Notice what happens to the saints in these verses: “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of the remnant, (KJV) of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus…  He (the beast) was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation…. If anyone is to go into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. …” (Revelation 12:17; 13:7; 13:10)


I do not find support in Scriptures for the idea that some saints are enjoying the bliss of Heaven while others are living through a hellish tribulation on Earth. No, the response of the Great Tribulation is to test those people who live on Earth and to expose who the saints really are! Revelation 14:12 also confirms the idea that the saints will suffer because they obey God. John wrote, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who (suffer because they) obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”


The point here is that Revelation clearly puts the saints on Earth during the Great Tribulation. Therefore, Revelation 3:10 should read, “I (Jesus) will also keep you beginning from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world….”


The reason words about the Great Tribulation were spoken to the church in Philadelphia is two-fold. First, the saints in Philadelphia were already weakened and discouraged by persecution from the Romans and frustrated with religious baggage of Jewish converts. This is why Jesus said, “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”


The second reason Jesus wanted to encourage the church at Philadelphia is that he did not want them to be overcome with discouragement after they read the contents of this vision (the book of Revelation) because the book of Revelation predicts even more suffering is to come upon the saints. Because the church in Philadelphia was already hurting and weak, knowledge of the Great Tribulation could cause some to give up their faith in Christ altogether.


So, Jesus prepared them for the message in Revelation saying, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will keep you from (falling during) the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to testthose who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”


Bottom line: Jesus promised to sustain the church at Philadelphia with His strength and not theirs. Jesus encouraged them saying, “Hold on to what you have…” These words are crucial when the fires of persecution are hot. Its human nature to give up to stop the pain. So, what is the good news for the members of Philadelphia: Those who overcome the adversary will be rewarded beyond their widest imagination!


All over comers will be given a special name tag when they get to Heaven. Jesus said, “I will write on him the name of my God… the name of the city of my God, and I will also write in him my new name.” This name tag will permit its owner to travel anywhere in God’s universe in a stretch-limo with a hundred angels attending. Ok, I may be pushing the point a little bit, but you get the idea. When we receive this name tag, we will be recognized throughout God’s universe as a VIP because WE were trained through suffering on Earth for the exalted role that God will give us throughout eternity and remember, the saints will reign with Jesus!


Your victory in overcoming the world makes you very special to Jesus and He wants everyone to know it, thus, a glorious name tag awaits every over comer. Can you say, Hallelujah! Discipleship hurts?”  


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