As we open to Revelation 2:8-11 we are opening to the second of Christ’s seven personal letters to individual churches of the late First Century. We looked at them as a group, but now we are taking a look at each individual church.
As we read these words, the historical context is that the Church at Smyrna was going through the second wave of persecutions that the Early Church had to endure.
A Short History of Early Church Persecution
Someone told me this week they could save the first half hour of my messages by just “Google-ing” what I talk about, and implied they wanted me to just stick to reading the text of the Scripture. But for the rest of you that are willing, if you will bear with me, I’d like to give you a sanctified mind’s analysis of Church History: something that they could never get on Google.
Perhaps the most unlikely words to be uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ are in our Bibles this morning. Jesus says in modern terms of the church in Laodicea, “You make me sick!”
As we open to Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus writes a letter that all scholars conclude is the most piercing, stinging and scathing letter He ever wrote to any church. That means:
Laodicea is the Worst Church
This morning we are looking back at where we’ve been. Much like getting home from a trip and spending time looking at the pictures that you took while traveling.
We have invested the past year, looking at the only part of God’s Word dictated by Christ, for the express purpose of: being sent to His Church, being read by His Church, and being obeyed by His Church.
There is no part of the Bible so clear, so personal, and so direct: as these three chapters. What exactly did we find in Revelation? We found that:
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This morning we arrive at the eighth chapter of Revelation. This chapter may hold one of the most impacting truths we have studied so far in this final book of God’s Word. This chapter before us contains the twin truths that explain what has happened to the prayers of every believer and saint of every age of human history. The twins truths are that God illustrates for us:
The Destination & Application of Our Prayers
Each time we pray in Christ’s Name that prayer rises before the Face of God our Father.
Please join me in Psalm 119 and look over God’s curriculum in “The School of Suffering”, where our Lord shares with us what He expects from each of us as we go through all the various painful forms of suffering, afflictions, trails, and troubles.
The longest chapter in the Bible is the summary of the entire Old Testament written by Ezra after he had copied all of the chapters of the Old Testament into what we would call Biblical Hebrew, In fact, the famous Dead Sea Scrolls would be copies of the scrolls that Ezra hand wrote as the founder of the Biblical Scribes.
When Ezra was inspired by God to write the 119th Psalm, God used him to give us the most complete explanation of how God uses suffering as a classroom to teach us lessons in His Great Faithfulness that can never be learned anywhere else.
As we open to Psalm 119:71, we as a nation are in the midst of one of the most challenging times American’s have faced for over a generation. But as bad as it may seem, think about how hard life was here in the USA in 1917.
That year, World War I was sapping the finances, wearing down the resolve, and destroying the young men of this nation. In the midst of all that, there was no government security for the sick or unemployed.
People only lived on what they could make and scrape out on their farms or in the cities. Even the churches were struggling. So much so, that one church in Kentucky couldn’t afford to keep their pastor as a paid staff member any longer.
We can see on the horizon this evening, the world Jesus described as Earth at the End of Days.
As we open to Luke 21, remember, Christ’s sermon called the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) was His description of what the world would be like during the Tribulation’s horrors. But He framed His horrific description of the End of Days by these incredible words in one of these three parallel accounts, the one recorded in Luke 21:28:
“When you see these things (listen) BEGIN to happen, look up…”.
When we listen closely to Christ’s words near the start of His ministry, we hear Jesus say to all believers of all time, “Rejoice when you face persecution” (Matthew 5:10-12). At the end of His public ministry, this same Jesus also goes on to say that for those at the end of days, the worst is yet to come (Matthew 24:9-10).
When we listen closely to Christ’s words near the end of His ministry, He tells us of a future time when all of us who know and love Him will suffer greatly; and when we add that to all of the struggles, trials, challenges, hurdles, and disappointments life brings—we get a huge amount of suffering in a lifetime.
So this evening as we turn towards Lamentations 3, we turn to the greatest reminder in all of God’s Word that when there are great sufferings, during them we can find the assurance of God’s greater faithfulness.