Church today is nothing like it was when I was growing up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, during the 70s and 80s; and I understand that as times change, things change. One of the biggest changes that the church has gone through is the lack of commitment to its given mandate and ministries. There are so many distractions today that people tend to work God into their personal schedules, instead of working their schedules around God and His ministry.
This book addresses the challenges and issues of the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3 and speaks how we can strive to be the church that Jesus is coming back to receive unto Himself.
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The Church at Ephesus
One of the things many people do each Sunday is "go to church." This has been something that has taken place for over 2000 years, once the shift was made to "go to church" or attend worship on Sundays as a result of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul makes the statement about giving in the "church" and says that we should do so "upon the first day of the week" which is actually Sunday.
I believe the body of Christ is due for a paradigm shift in its thinking concerning "church" as we understand it, because going to church is not what we do; being the church is who we are!
When Jesus was talking with His disciples one day, He asked them in Matthew 16:13, "... Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" The disciples responded in verse 14, "Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some Elias; and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets." He then went on to ask them in verse 15, "But whom say ye that I am?" It was then that Simon Peter responded in verse 16, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Once this revelation came to light, Jesus talked about the formation of the church when He said in verse 18, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." What was Jesus talking about here? It would appear to me that the Lord was not referring to a building where people assemble, but rather the people who would come to the knowledge of who He is that assemble in the building. He was talking about building His church on the "rock" or "foundation" of the knowledge that He (Jesus) is the Son of God and that those who confess Him as Lord and Savior would be known as the "church."
So the question I believe we need to ask at this point is "what is the church?" The word church comes from the Greek word "ekklesia" and is defined as "a calling out, i.e. (concretely) a popular meeting, especially a religious congregation (Jewish synagogue, or Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both)." I like the think of the church as the "called out ones" or those who have been removed from the "wages of sin" and have gone "out of darkness and into His marvelous light." It's not a building, but a living, a lifestyle, a way of life for those who have accepted Jesus the Christ as Lord and Savior. One day soon, Jesus is coming back for His church, the church that He purchased with His own blood, and we need to ask ourselves the question, "will I be ready when He returns?" and if so, "Which Church Are You?"
The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. Some people choose not to read it because of all the things that are prophesied to take place. For the Christian, if nothing else, when you know your Bible and the Book of Revelation, you can know at least two things: (1) there's a blessing in reading the book - as evidenced in Revelation 1:3; and (2) if you've accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, you won't be here when the Great Tribulation takes place. God has truly blessed us with this book so we would know what will take place and to be ready for that season.
Our focus will be the seven churches in Asia Minor that Jesus is addressing in Chapters 2-3. Each church had its issues and problems, but they all had one thing in common ... they were churches of Jesus Christ. If it is your intention to find a perfect church, you will never find it because the church is comprised of imperfect people. But what makes us special and unique is the fact that we have been forgiven, bought with a price, and washed in the blood of the lamb! Now that's something to shout about!
I want to call your attention to the church at Ephesus. The city of Ephesus was the most important city along the coast of Asia Minor. It was a great commercial city with a natural harbor and its strategic location made it as such because of the main road going through it. It wasn't a Christian city as the temple of the goddess Diana (the goddess of sensual pleasures) was there. We can say that even today there's nothing new under the sun because in the midst of all the churches located across the country, there are still temples of Diana all around - we just don't call them by that name anymore! Today they're call "Gentlemen's Clubs" or "Brothels" and somewhere close by you can find liquor stores located in the vicinity.
The churches were so important to Jesus that He took the time to address them and their actions. Let's see what He said to the Church at Ephesus. First, let's look at ...
The Commendation (verses 2-3)
In these verses, Jesus commends or acknowledges the work of the Church at Ephesus and how they conducted themselves in certain areas. He commended them for their labor, for being patient, and for sticking with doctrine and not being "tossed to and fro" by false apostles. Let me help somebody here.just because somebody throws the title "apostle" or "pastor" or "Elder" or "Reverend" in front of their name does not mean they are faithfully working in that office for the Lord's kingdom. The Biblical requirements for the office of the Apostle can be found in the Book of Acts, Chapter 1. After the death of Judas, only Joseph called Barsabas and Matthias met the requirements of seeing Jesus before and after His resurrection, thus they met the requirement to be considered for the office of Apostle. Trust me, I understand the authority and sovereignty of the Lord, but I also understand that He is a God of order as well. I'm just saying ...
Ephesus was a church that did not sit around and wait for somebody else to get it done; they got up and made things happen. I can imagine that they were the kind of people that didn't have the attitude like "that's not my job so I'm not doing it." Great things can happen in any organization when people work together to accomplish the stated mission. This was a working church, working for the kingdom of God to fulfill the commandments of God. I would venture to say that the church at Ephesus understood Scriptures like Matthew 25:35-36 which says, "For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." To keep this verse in context, Jesus was actually teaching His disciples that whenever they saw somebody in those predicaments hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, etc., and did nothing about it, they were actually doing it to Him. It's a work that requires us to remember that God placed us here and has blessed us to be a blessing, and if we're going to be a blessing, we're going to have to do some work. I've learned that when we do the work for the Lord, we're letting our lights shine. Matthew 5:16 says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." When you're doing the Lord's work, you can anticipate The Commendation.
Next, He deals with ...
The Complaint (verses 4-5)
Think about what was going on here - Jesus had just commended them for all the work they were doing, now He tells them He's got a problem with them! For some this would be the same as saying. "you can't win for losing!" I would submit that it's not completely about what you're doing, but rather how you're keeping things in perspective. The church was so busy doing the work of the Lord that they had really forgotten about the Lord of the work! Be mindful that the Lord is concerned about your work, but He's more concerned about your relationship with Him. Think about it ... if you didn't have a relationship with Him, you wouldn't have a work to do for Him, would you? The Preachers Outline and Sermon Bible says here, "The church and its believers had lost their feelings for Christ. The Greek says, "Your love the first [love]" Believers had left their first love. Christ was no longer first in their lives. They were putting themselves and their own affairs first, and they were putting the church first - the programs, services, ministries, and fellowship of the church. They had become more attached to the church than they were to Christ." I guess you can say they were "going through the motions" of what a church should look like, but they were not actively engaged with the founder of the church. We can never get to the point of thinking that "church" is all about us! And we should not go to "worship" to feel good, but rather we should go to "worship" to feel God!
Barbara Hughes asks the question, "Why do we worship -for God orfor ourselves? The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today's average churchgoer is that worship is primarily for us - to meet our needs. Here's a telltale sign that this kind of thinking is prevalent. After service, everyone asks, 'What did you think of the service today? Or they slip out the door as quickly as possible. The real question should be 'what did God think of it - and of us? We ought to ask, 'What did I give to God?" So our worship cannot be world centered but God centered. We cannot become distracted by the things of the world and leave our first love. The Bible says in 1 John 2:15-17, "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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
If you have left your first love and need to get things right with the Lord, all He wants you to do is confess and repent. Isaiah 55:7 says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
When you have heard the complaint, and corrected it by repenting, then you can get ready for the last thing here which is ...
The Promise (verse 7)
One thing (of all the things) I truly love about the Lord is that He will not leave you hanging! Once we meet His conditions, the blessings or whatever it is He has promised to us will be received. The promise here is that we will have the victory. The Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible states, "There is the promise to the overcomers. The word overcomer has the idea of conflict and struggle. The overcomer is the person who overcomes and conquers and gains victory. He is the victor and conqueror." A close examination of the text tells us that the overcomer has the privilege of partaking of the tree of life. This tree is in paradise and this is the place where God dwells.
* You can't get to God until you get to Jesus first;
* You can't get to Paradise until you get to Jesus first;
* You can't get to the tree of life until you get to Jesus first!
The Bible says in Revelation 22:2 that this tree will bare 12 manner of fruit, and yield one every month, and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
One day, I'm going to make it to that tree, because my Jesus died on a tree that I would have ever lasting life. This is the same Jesus that is addressing the seven churches of the Book of Revelation.
* This is the same Jesus that said in Revelation 1:8, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty"
* This is the same Jesus that said in Revelation 1:18, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death."
* This is the same Jesus that said in Revelation 22:12, "And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be."
He said all this after they hung Him high and stretched Him wide; He said all this after He died on Calvary's cross; He said all this after He was buried; He said all this after He rose early on Sunday morning.
I don't want to just be busy; I want to be about my Father's business! I want to hear the Lord tell me one day ... "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!" (Matthew 25:21)
If you want to hear the Lord utter those words, the question is ... Which Church Are You? Are You Real or Just Going Through the Motions?
The Church at Smyrna
We're living in some crucial times. Trouble is everywhere; trials are everywhere; tribulations are everywhere. Here recently, we made it through the debt-ceiling fiasco during the Obama administration; politicians can't seem to work together for the good of the people they are supposed to be representing, and as time goes by, it seems like it's going to get worse before it gets better. The stock market plummeted in 2009 and investors weren't really sure where they needed to invest, and the east coast experienced an earthquake in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Most recently, our nation has been rocked with an onslaught of African-American men being killed at the hands of police officers, and now people are fighting back by killing police officers across the country. We're living in some crucial times!
Concerning the east coast earthquakes, the news showed pictures of some of the monuments in Washington, D.C. that we hold near and dear to our hearts as American citizens. These monuments showed evidence of falling apart because of the earthquake and when I saw them, what came to mind was how America is falling apart. I've said before that the further we've moved from Calvary, the further we're moving from God.
This is not a time to rely on man; this is truly a time to rely on God, and as the church of the Lord, we have to rely on what He has established for His church to do. I've said before that church is not where we go; church is who we are! The church is not an organization, comprised of by-laws, constitutions, and procedures - it's an organism that's alive, and exist for the glory of God. We who are part of the church should understand that God has placed us here to be light and salt, to show the world that knowing Jesus is not a bad thing; that knowing Jesus has its benefits; that knowing Jesus is the best relationship we can all be in.
Being in this relationship with Jesus will have its ups and downs, not because the Lord is unpredictable, but because life seems to come at you harder because you know Jesus!! The devil does not like the fact that you know Jesus, but that's his problem ... not yours!!!
* There will be times when people will give you a hard time because of your faith;
* There will be times when people will question if you have faith; and,
* There will be times when you will need to exercise your faith.
When your faith is tested, remember who gave you your faith, that you are the church, and Jesus has your back! But to find out just what the Lord can do for you, you must find out ... Which Church Are You?
The word Smyrna means bitter and gets its name from myrrh, one of the chief commercial products of the city. Present day Smyrna is known as Izmir, a city on Turkey's Aegean coast.
The Church at Smyrna was a persecuted church. It was a church preaching and teaching Jesus Christ as Messiah, but the Jews in Smyrna - who were steeped in Old Testament Scriptures, did not accept Christ as the Messiah and gave that church a hard time. The Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible says, "Many of the early converts to Christ were Jews. Here in Smyrna, the reaction of the Jews was severe. They reacted severely and did all they could to influence the city officials to stamp out the church." That sounds a lot like what's happening today ... we have groups of people who have their own agendas, and want their agenda to become everybody else's agenda. The Church of Smyrna was not following their own agenda, they were following directions from the founder of the Church that all men must come to repentance. They had their issues (as we all do) and the Lord had something to say to them. Let's see how He felt about Smyrna. First we have ...
The Proclamation (verse 9)
Jesus proclaims to the Church at Smyrna that He knows what they are going through. He tells them He knows their works. Let me ask a question ... are you working for the Lord? When the Day of Judgment comes, will you have something you can place at the foot of Jesus to show that you appreciate what He's done for you? Smyrna was also a working church, a church not afraid to tell people about their savior, and they went through tribulation for it. There are four things Jesus points out about this church.
* They met up with tribulation. The word "tribulation" comes from the Greek word "thlipsis" which means pressure, afflicted, anguished, and burdened. Here the Lord acknowledges their tribulation and I'm reminded what Jesus said in Matthew 5:10 which says, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake; for theirs is the kingdom of God." Even though they had tribulation, they remained faithful.
Excerpted from "Which Church Are You?"
Copyright © 2017 Dr. Darrow Perkins, Jr., Th.D..
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Church at Ephesus - Revelation 2:1-7, 1,
Chapter 2 The Church at Smyrna - Revelation 2:8-11, 15,
Chapter 3 The Church at Pergamos - Revelation 2:12-17, 27,
Chapter 4 The Church at Thyatira - Revelation 2:18-29, 39,
Chapter 5 The Church at Sardis - Revelation 3:1-6, 53,
Chapter 6 The Church at Philadelphia - Revelation 3:7-13, 65,
Chapter 7 The Church at Laodicea - Revelation 3:14-22, 77,
Other Works by Dr. Perkins, 95,