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Hear Christ’s Message

Hear Christ’s Message
LHC: Message Thirteen (980524AM)

Week 13: Hear Christ’s Message
(Revelation 2–3)

As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you hear Christ’s message in Revelation!
SUNDAY: Hearing God’s Voice God, who . . . spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things. —Hebrews 1:1–2, emphasis added When Congress “pulled the plug on NASA’s elaborate search for radio signals from alien life,” a newspaper reported: “The American scientific community is mourning the loss of NASA’s elaborate search for radio signals from alien life. Some speculate that alien intelligence might beam vast streams of coded information, a virtual encyclopedia galactica, with insights into the origin of the universe and immortality.”1 (Emphasis added.) The SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) project had been an American scientific community priority for many years. Because of the evolutionary belief system so prominent in our culture, there is also a desire to find more highly evolved life forms. Some even hope that such aliens can provide solutions to help solve the ever-increasing problem of violence in our society. The violence issue is unsolvable, however, unless people turn their lives over to their Creator. What our culture is experiencing is exactly what the apostle Paul predicted: in the last days people will be without self-control, brutal (2 Timothy 3:3). Whether it is in the scientific or the social realm, our world is desperately searching for answers. Yet they continue to show an absolute disregard for the indisputable fact that there is already a stream of infinite knowledge available. You see, God has coded all the answers to man’s questions in His Book—a virtual stream of encyclopedic galactica for which we do not even need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for radar dishes to receive. The highest intelligence of the universe has already beamed us about our origin, and He’s freely offered immortality to all! The answer to all life’s struggles is in God’s Word. Did you know that 2,000 years ago Jesus wrote some letters to you as a member of His beloved church? He sent them by way of the last living apostle, John. These letters were a group message, customized for seven churches that represented all the churches then as well as now. If you were to ask any Bible student how many epistles (letters) are in the New Testament, the answer would probably be twenty-one: thirteen authored by Paul, plus
Hebrews, which appears anonymous; and the seven “general epistles” by Peter, James, John, and Jude. The seven most important letters in the Bible are usually overlooked—the seven authored by Jesus personally, and sent to us individually. For many reasons, those seven letters, comprising chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, are probably the most important part of the Bible for you and me. For in them, and in chapters like the following, Jesus has written the secrets of: how we can live forever (John 17:3); how we can have a joy-filled life (John 10); how we can experience real love (1 Corinthians 13); how we can be prosperous no matter what the economic, social, or political climate (Joshua 1:8–9); and how we never need fear the future. (John 14) My Prayer for You This Week: Oh Lord, I pray that by Your grace and for Your glory, You will help every one of us to have an ear to hear Your message. I pray that we would look at this Book differently. The world around us is waiting for some alien intelligence to tell them what to do. But we have You, the Creator of the universe, who has already told us what to do, and we want to obey You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
MONDAY: God Speaks through His Word “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” —John 5:39, emphasis added The Bible is like many textbooks in school: all the answers are found at the end of the book. The end of the Bible is, of course, the Revelation of Jesus Christ that John recorded for us. The Bible is composed of sixty-six books, written by forty authors over fifteen centuries, yet it possesses a supernaturally engineered message. The guiding hand of God, through the Holy Spirit inspiring each human author, placed every word, letter, name, place, and number there. Thus every detail of God’s Word was orchestrated by God to reveal himself and His plan. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in Revelation. Its 404 verses, which hold allusions to over 800 Old Testament verses and passages, tie the entire Bible together in a grand finale. In fact, if you understand the Old Testament, you will understand Revelation. Jesus wrote messages to the seven churches that we all need to hear. There were many other churches at that time which would seem to be more historically significant than the seven that Jesus addressed, such as the churches at Jerusalem, Rome, Galatia, Corinth, Antioch, Colossae, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and Miletus. So why did Jesus select just these seven: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea? The reason is that they represent all of us today. Seven is always God’s “number of completion.” He picked seven local, individual congregations to write to, using some very interesting words. His message was not only to them there and then but also to us here and now. Jesus actually gives us at least a four-level message in each of these letters.
Jesus gives a specific message: “to. . . the church in . . . ” (Revelation 2:1 NASB). He spoke to the local churches that were in those geographic places then. Jesus is likewise interested in today’s churches. God’s Word speaks to individuals in the twenty-first century because God knows what they are doing at church, at work, and at home. He knows what is going on in private and public lives. He says, “I know what your church is doing; I know where you are headed.” When we offer worship to God, if it is cold, it is because we came in cold; if it is fervent, it is because we came in fervent. Jesus gives a universal message: “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7). This is plural and speaks of an admonition to all churches throughout all the history of the church. Here Jesus addresses His divine expectation that He wants our devotion to Him. Jesus gives a prophetic message: This is perhaps the most fascinating part of Revelation, as Jesus describes, with divine precision, the seven successive eras the church would pass through from Pentecost to the last days of apostasy. Jesus was also describing the seven types of Christians who would make up the visible church throughout the church age. Jesus gives a spiritual message: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7). To Him, the one with the “ear” is the individual “who overcomes.” This is the most valuable part of these letters. Jesus goes from speaking to the local church to all the local churches throughout the ages, and then He zeros in on the individual. At the tail end of all seven of these letters is the greatest set of promises in the Bible. Because it is a spiritual message, the most valuable part of this book is probably to singular-eared individuals who listen to these practical, personal messages and respond in faith and obedience to the Lord—and actually live the lives Jesus calls them to live. Jesus’ seven letters describe the unfolding of all subsequent church history. In any other order, this prophetic panorama would not be true. Just as the book of Acts covers about thirty years of the growth and ministry of the church, the second and third chapters of Revelation cover the next 1,900 years and seem to be the explanation for the interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth “weeks” of Daniel 9. (For a full explanation of Daniel’s seventy weeks, see Week 31: “Remember the Plan of the Ages.”) I pray that you are among the singular-eared individuals who will listen to Christ’s practical, personal messages and respond in faith and obedience to the Lord by actually living the life Jesus calls you to live!
TUESDAY: God Speaks to Us “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” —Revelation 2:7, emphasis added THE SPECIFIC MESSAGE-Christ is speaking to His church. Each letter to the churches has all or part of these seven components:
1. Jesus addresses each assembly: “To the angel of the church in . . . ” (2:1a NASB). 2. Jesus also addresses specific individuals. Jesus knows all about the problems of the local church—He is not out of touch. 3. Jesus addresses each church with authority: “[He] walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands” (2:1b). 4. Jesus addresses each church with an approval: “I know your works, your labor” (2:2–3). 5. Jesus addresses each church with an admonition: “I have this against you . . . ” (2:4). 6. Jesus addresses each church with an appeal: “Repent and do the first works” (2:5). 7. Jesus addresses each church with an assurance: “To him who overcomes . . . ” (2:7). Jesus knows what is going on in both your local assembly and your life. This is His message to each of His local churches! THE UNIVERSAL MESSAGE—Christ is waiting for His church. To all churches throughout history Jesus says, “I always expect your devotion to me!” That is phenomenal! The seven churches in every age represent seven varieties of Christians—true and false. Everyone who professes Christianity is like one or more of these seven. The Church at Ephesus: These Christians had a great start but left their first love, their all-consuming passion for Christ. Jesus told them, “You started out so well— you could not get enough of My Word; you could not get enough of fellowshiping with My people; you could not get enough of worshiping Me; and you could not get enough of doing everything for Me!” That is Christ’s universal message throughout the church age: some will start great, but sooner or later their devotion will wane. So Jesus says, “Listen to what I have to say, for I am all you need! Be an overcomer and come back to Me!” Overcomers know that Jesus is all they need, so they will repent and return to their first love! The Church at Smyrna: The Smyrnean Christians stood fast during great persecution. No matter what the devil threw at them, they became even more purified. Christ’s universal message to the churches is this: saints should expect to suffer and, as a result, be purified. Are you suffering in your family? Are you suffering through spiritual warfare in your private communion with the Lord? Are you suffering at your job or at school? Wherever you are suffering, Jesus says, “I know that you are being purified by persecution. Be faithful!” Overcomers know that Jesus is all they need, so they will remain faithful to Him at all costs. The Church at Pergamos: These Pergamite Christians were drowning in worldliness. Some were wed to the world like “country club Christians” with no standards. Do you have a focus and grip on your money, your car, and your job? Have
you decided that you will do what is socially acceptable—even if it compromises Scripture’s absolutes? Are you more concerned with fashion than with holiness? In every church there are “country club Christians.” There are always those who try to reconcile Christ to the world. They try to make Him palatable so that no one is offended. Overcomers know that Jesus is all they need, so they will resist worldliness and keep their eyes on the Lord. The Church at Thyatira: The false teacher, Jezebel, seduced the Thyatiran Christians. Some believed her and started following a false doctrine, which had a social gospel rather than a divine call to the new birth. They thought that God just wanted to clean up the world, but not the individual. To them, the gospel was a call to society, and not the sinner. Overcomers know that Jesus is all they need, so they will resist all such evil teaching and lifestyles. The Church at Sardis: These Christians had a big name, but no life. Throughout the centuries, the persecuted in Christ’s church have sat right next to the cold and lifeless. Jesus said that His message universally goes to all; He calls us where we are, and asks us to come to Him! Sardian Christians are as dead as last week’s cut flowers—cold and lifeless—in a spiritual stupor. Overcomers know that Jesus is all they need, so they will not defile themselves with the “corpses.” The Church at Philadelphia: Jesus gave these believers no condemnation or blame. Philadelphian Christians of today are sound in doctrine and zealous in ministry, and are reaching out to the world with their deep love for the Lord Jesus Christ! Overcomers know that Jesus is all they need, so their heart beats for Christ alone. The Church at Laodicea: These individuals are apostate, counterfeit, and sickening to Christ—members of the Christless church that will thrive in the Tribulation under Satan’s leadership. They are part of the visible church in name only. Jesus therefore told them that He would spit them out of His mouth! This is Jesus’ universal message: the whole church is comprised of these seven types of Christians—there are some of each in every age. So, in a most emphatic way, if you are a born-again Christian, this letter is addressed to you. If you are among the persecuted, remain faithful! But if you have left your first love, remember what Jesus did for you. Repent! Repeat those things you did at first for Christ! Go back to Him with your whole heart!
WEDNESDAY: God Speaks about the Future “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’ ” —Isaiah 46:10, emphasis added THE PROPHETIC MESSAGE—Christ is being faded away by His church. The church throughout the ages has gone through seven successive stages. There are seven letters in Revelation 2 and 3 that show us the church from God’s prophetic perspective. The seven churches represent seven phases or periods in church history, stretching from the time of the apostles to the coming again of Christ. Each has
a characteristic that is set forth within the letter and, interestingly enough, within the name of the church. Each name of these churches represents the age in which they lived. The Ephesian Period (A.D. 30–60): This apostolic era was a time of warmth, love, and labor for Christ. However, defection began by the gradual cooling of the love of some, the false professions of others, and the incoming of undue exaltations of the clergy and church offices. The church mushroomed and grew rampantly through the Roman Empire. But as it grew, it gradually cooled. The Smyrnean Period (A.D. 60–313): This was a time of martyrdom. It was a sweet savor to God when His children showed “faithfulness unto death,” but this period was also marked with further developments of defection through the establishment of castes and orders, the license of Judaizing inclinations, and consequent departures from the true simplicities of the gospel. However, the church was purified in this era because of the persecution. History records that in Bythinia, in Asia Minor, the Roman governor marched all the inhabitants of one city out to a cliff. He ordered them to deny Christ and say “Caesar is lord,” or the soldiers would throw them off the cliff. Ten thousand were executed in that manner. The Pergamite Period (A.D. 313–500): True faith more and more disappeared from view. Clericalism gradually formed itself into a system: the church united with the world, and Babylon began to rear itself aloft. When Constantine legalized Christianity in A.D. 313, he put a whole group of pagan priests into the church. Robes, beads, candles, headdresses, mass, and purgatory came from paganism into the church—not from the Bible. This was the time the church became wed to the world. The Thyatiran Period (A.D. 500–1500): This was the era of Romanism with its purple and glory for the corrupt priesthood and darkness of truth. It was the age of clerical domination in which the church usurped the place of Christ, but His witnesses were given dungeons, stakes, and inquisitions. It was the age of the enthronement of the false prophetess, Mother Mary, reaching to the days of Luther and the Reformation. The Sardian Period (A.D. 1500–1800): This period represents the separation of the church from the world and the return of Christ’s rule. There were many great revivals and many worthy names, but this time was still marked with deadness overall, and having great need of repentance. This was an age covering the spiritual lethargy of Protestantism, which was centuries before the great evangelical movements began. The Philadelphian Period (A.D. 1800–1948): During this time, there was great missionary fervor, evangelistic outreach, and devotional godliness. The world was penetrated with the gospel during these years like no time since Pentecost. The British Empire was worldwide, and its monarchy wanted Christ exalted! The Laodicean Period (A.D. 1948—): This speaks of the time from 1948 until the end of the age. Why 1948? Because the steps to globalism were started that year more than any other year in history. What steps? The birth of the United Nations (so we can have Revelation 13), the birth of the World Council of Churches (so we can have Revelation 17), the birth of the computer/transistor (so we can have Revelation 18), and the rebirth of the State of Israel (so we can have Revelation 12–19). In our western culture, churches are full of lukewarmness, self-sufficiency, empty professions, and false
peace. Judgment day will reveal the unthinking multitudes who have supposed that they were Christians, but were not.2 Jesus maps out the course of history for the church, and He says, “I am in every age!” I wonder: have you been able to discern which church period most describes your own life at the moment?
THURSDAY: God Tells Us His Plan You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. —Psalm 16:11, emphasis added THE SPIRITUAL MESSAGE-Christ is seeking out His church. The last message Jesus has for us is His wonderful plan! He has spelled out what He wants us to be like, and He has detailed how He, by His grace, will enable us to live such a wonderful life! Christ offers an abundant life: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). This means that true believers have abundant lives in paradise regained. Jesus described what we have in Him as an overflowing life: “He who believes in Me, . . . out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). There is no life like Christ’s in us! It is an extraordinary life: He came “that [we] may have life, and that [we] may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The word “abundant,” perissos, means “over and above, more than is necessary, exceeding abundantly, supremely.” This is what grips the world. This is why, when you are going through a prophetic study, you must come to terms with this question: If you lost all your physical assets— real estate, stocks, bonds and retirement accounts—what would you have left? Your real treasure—Jesus Christ! Think about it: while your things still have value, give them to the Lord instead of regretting it later when their value is gone. God says, “What you keep you lose, but what you give lasts forever!” Christ offers an indestructible life: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:11). There are two very powerful truths that are assuring to us. Jesus promised that we will be secure from any physical adversary: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. . . . My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29). Paul reminds us that we are also secure from any spiritual adversary: Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38–39).
Christ offers an inexhaustible supply: “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). Jesus promises that all our spiritual needs will be met: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Non-Christians look at us and, on the surface, they may see only our suffering. Yet a Christian, even one in the hospital suffering from cancer or another deadly disease, can still encourage fellow believers when they visit or phone the patient. This is God’s inexhaustible supply! Jesus also assures us that all our spiritual desires, those prompted by the Holy Spirit, will be fulfilled: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13–14, NIV). Wherever you are—hospital bed, retirement home, on the job, or on the road—you can have His inexhaustible supply and, through prayer, see God acting to take His glorious power to the ends of the earth. The checkbook of faith is backed by an inexhaustible account. All the power of the Godhead is operational by faith through our prayers. Christ offers an inexpressible future: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26). God will reward us with immeasurable treasures: “There is no One who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time . . . and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30). As you follow Jesus, you should be willing to leave all behind for the sake of the gospel. If you do, God will one day overwhelm you with unbelievable pleasures! The apostle Paul, after he had been “caught up into Paradise,” would have excitedly shared what he saw and heard, but he was not permitted to do so. For God said that it was “not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). But this we do know: Paul experienced a remarkable foretaste of what Christ has in store for those who love Him! Are you excited about all that He has planned for you?
FRIDAY: Christ Speaks Your Name “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and . . . I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” —Revelation 3:5, emphasis added Christ has something far better than insurance coverage: He has promised that He will never forget us, and will someday confess our name before His Father in heaven. Could there be anything greater than that? Many would like to be related to wealthy people because they hope to inherit a fortune some day. But we have something far more precious—Christ as our garment, our Advocate, and our relative.
 Christ is our garment: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:14).  Christ is our Advocate: He . . . has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is . . . able to save to the uttermost . . . , since He always lives to make intercession for [us] (Hebrews 7:24–25).  Christ is our Relative: And if children, then . . . joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together (Romans 8:17). True believers have an inescapable destination: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Revelation 3:12). We are a pillar because we are secure: “Let not your heart be troubled. . . . In My Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And . . . will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3). We have a new name because we are a love gift from the Father to the Son: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory” (John 17:24). In light of all He’s done, and is doing for you, what have you done for Jesus?
SATURDAY: God Wants to Talk to You “Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” —Isaiah 48:18, emphasis added We commonly struggle daily: we get up in the morning, bleary and tired, and we read our Bibles. We then try to read again when our minds are clearer. Then at night we remind ourselves to study and pray. There are many distractions that come and go, and we have to focus our minds on so many things. We struggle with the flesh, spiritual warfare, and all the disappointments of life. But God promises intimacy to those who will rise above their distractions in life and truly seek Him: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).  Intimacy is a Person: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).  Intimacy is permanent: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). Make a choice to live in hope: In every one of Christ’s letters to the churches, He says, “he who has an ear.” Do you have “an ear” to hear Him? Jesus always gives an invitation. Do you hear His voice? Have you received what He offers today?
If you have not yet heeded His call, find hope in Christ by hearing Christ’s message and becoming an overcomer (Revelation 3:20)! Admit that you are lost; open your eyes to behold Jesus in all His beauty; turn from darkness to the Light, and from the power of Satan (Acts 26:18). Then believe that only Christ saves, and receive forgiveness for sin through the saving faith of Christ. And finally, confess Jesus Christ with your mouth (Romans 10:9–10). If God is speaking to your heart right now about your relationship with Him, bow and thank Him for this message that the world is searching for—the message He has already given to us. Now reacquaint yourself with the words of this wonderful old song! I encourage you to worship the Lord as you sing it from your heart! The Church’s One Foundation The church’s one foundation Is Jesus Christ her Lord; She is His new creation, By spirit and the Word: From heav’n He came and sought her To be His holy bride, With His own blood He bought her, And for her life He died. Elect from ev’ry nation, Yet one o’er all the earth, Her charter of salvation, One Lord, one faith, one birth; One holy name she blesses, Partakes one holy food, And to one hope she presses, With ev’ry grace endued. ‘Mid toil and tribulation, And tumult of her war, She waits the consummation Of peace forevermore; Till with the vision glorious, Her longing eyes are blest, And the great church victorious Shall be the church at rest. —Samuel J. Stone (1839–1900) 1 San Diego Tribune (November 5, 1993).
2 Drawn from J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lecture on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983).