Monday, May 3, 2021

The Epistle of Jesus #2: To The Churches, Revelation 2-3

The Epistle of Jesus #2: To The Churches, Revelation 2-3

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Introduction: 

Quote: "The apostolic church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death and heaven. The early Christians were looking, not for a cleft in the ground called a grave but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory." - Alexander MacLaren

The Seven Churches

The book of Revelation, that we are calling the Epistle of Jesus, was written at His command by John. Jesus said in Revelation 1:7, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

Jesus identifies himself as the writer in…

Revelation 1:17–20… I am the first and the last: 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. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Then in chapter 2 Jesus addresses in turn each of the churches according to the needs in each church. The were real churches that John who had been the pastor in Ephesus in the past, knew quite well. Each church was along a highway that led from Ephesus in a circular path which then ended at Laodicea. The order of the letters is the order that you would travel along that coastal to valley trade road.

 The Church Jesus Constructed

Since our understanding of these 2 chapters is keyed to these seven churches, it is important that we define the word church. If you have a misconception about the church then you also misunderstand this passage.

Definition of the Word Church.

When Jesus writes to the “church at Ephesus” or the “church at Smyrna” we understand that he is writing to a group of Christians in those towns. But a group of Christians is not the same as a church of the Lord. So what exactly is the Biblical definition of the church?

In the Bible the word church appears 114 times. It is the translation of the Greek word ekklesia, besides church it is also translation assembly 3 times in the book of Acts, during the time that the Ephesians called an assembly, an ekklesia to try and punish Paul who was disrupting their worship and trade in the goddess Diana.

The word ekklesia is a compound word derived from ek out of and kaleo to call. As it is used in Jesus’, Paul, John time it simply means and assembly, called to together for a purpose. Technically this was the word used for the city council meetings of the Greek and Roman cities and it was the word Jesus choose when he said in …

Christ Builds The Church Matthew 16:13-19 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 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. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Jesus said that he would build His church on this rock. That “rock” was not Peter, but the rock that is contrasted with the nickname given to Peter by Christ. Peter’s nickname was petros, the masculine form for rock and it referred to a stone, or a boulder. The rock Jesus builds his church upon is petra, the feminine form of the same word, it means a rock outcropping, a ledge or a sold rock cliff face. Jesus, who Peter identified as the Messiah, was the foundational rock that  He would build His assembly, his ekklesia upon.

Matthew 16:18 is the first time the word church is used in the Bible but it is not the occasion when Jesus started His church. That took place in …

Christ Calls The Church - Mark 3:13-14 13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,

In the passage we see the exact definition of the church enacted. Jesus calls his apostles to himself and they came, they assembled and then he ordained twelve as apostles and then sent them forth to preach. We see the same event in Matthew 5 and in Luke 6, just before Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount.

The church, by definition, by history and by practice is an assembly. Since it is an assembly it must be local, and it must be visible. You can’t assemble anything and it be universal, nor can you assemble anything and it be invisible. The church is a local, visible assembly of born again, baptized believers joined together to carry out the Great Commission of their Lord.

Quote – I recently saw this quote on Facebook from a former missionary to Africa and now pastor up in Dumas, Texas. He wrote, “The Church is a gift from God - assembly required.” – Pastor Johnny Widener

One final thing, the church is not the same as the family of God, which can be invisible and unassembled, nor is it the same as the Kingdom of God/ Heaven/ Christ. They are all connected but they are not the same thing.

Now that brings us to the book of Revelation where…

Christ Stands With The Churches – Revelation 1:12  And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

Jesus stands in the midst of the seven lampstand, the seven churches that John will send His epistle to.

Now Jesus writes to the churches in the order that they appear along the road that runs through them all, in the order that the epistle would be received first at Ephesus, where it would be copied and sent to the next church, which would also copy it and send it on until the letter was received at Laodicea and the Book of Revelation would have been created.

In fact, this is how all the New Testament was created. Local churches took the letters, the gospels and teaches for Paul, Luke, Mark, John carefully copied them, persevered them and sent them on. Never let anyone tell you that some council set up by the early Catholic church in 325 AD determined what books you have in your Bible. The “Canon” was determined by the Holy Spirit in local churches almost 200 years before the council of Nicaea ever met.

So, though the natural order of these churches would be Ephesus through Laodicea, I’m going to categorize it under two points, the churches Jesus corrects and the churches Jesus comforts. Of the seven churches 5 of them must be corrected to a small or a great degree by Jesus. He starts with Ephesus.

The Church Jesus Corrects

The appraisal of each church by the Lord contains mostly the same elements but specifically dealing with the issue of each church.

Each appraisal contains

A description of Jesus as the head of each church.
A description of condition or situation in the church
A recommendation, remedy or call for repentance for each church,
A reward for the church if it obeys the Lord and
An invitation to any individual in the church

Ephesus – The Church That Left Their First Love: Revelation 2:1–7 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Description of the Lord Jesus, Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Each description of the Lord is taken from the first vision John had of Jesus back in chapter 1. This description shows Jesus as the one who has the authority over the churches and pastors.

The Description of the churches is, in most cases, both positive and negative only two churches have no negative attributes and only two have no positive ones. Jesus says to Ephesus, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:  And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 

This was a hardworking, involved, active church. It did not tolerate evil, or false teachers, it was strong and enduring for the name of Christ. This was a busy church, standing for truth and standing strong in the midst of trial.

And yet there was something that the Lord needed to correct, and it was not a minor issue. “Nevertheless, he says, “I have somewhat against thee, because you have left your first love.”

Ephesus the most important city in the region, with the most important church had left their first love. First love here means first in order of priority. The first love of a church is Jesus Christ and Ephesus had fallen out of love with their Savior and Lord.

The Lord now tells the church, “5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. This church had to do two things, it had to “Remember and repent, in order to do the first works. Get back in love with Jesus and to the reason they were saved, baptized and joined together as a church.  

If they respond to the Lord’s invitation then he says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcomes, I will give the reward of eating of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

This invitation from Christ is to any individual within the church who will respond to the word given by the Spirit and begin to bring a change in the church. All of the rewards to the churches and the individual in the church who would respond are always reminders of what awaits them in heaven. Here it is to eat of the tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God. The tree that once stood in Eden and one day will stand again in heaven.

Jesus says this will be given to him that overcomes, to him that conquers. That title of overcomer is not something that super Christians can accomplish. John had earlier defined an overcomer in 1 John 5:4–5 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

We have become so engrossed in the work of the Lord that we have forgotten the Lord of the work. - A. W. Tozer

Pergamum: The Worldly Polluted Church - Revelation 2:12–17 12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Jesus is now described as, “he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” He holds judgment over the church. From the very start his assessment of the Pergamos church is negative.

He does tell them that they still honor his name and have not denied his name. They do honor Jesus name, in spite of their surroundings. They have not denied the faith, even in the face of death and martyrdom.

But this church which once stood strong even when confronted by death, has now opened itself to the teachings of Balaam and also allowed in their membership those which believe like the Nicolaitans. Balaam was an OT prophet who set Israel on the path to compromise with the idolatrous nations around them, and Nicolatianism is a word that means "Rule over the laity" in other words these were people who were spiritual elitists, they believed they had superior ability or spiritual insight and therefore they should rule over others in the church.

Jesus tells them to “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

If they repent then He will, “give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Without going into detail for sake of time, again these rewards to the overcomer centers on Jesus and our reward in heaven.

A Pergamos church is one which has allowed the world to mix or even define its worship of Jesus. This is a church which has usurped local church authority, with elitists either inside the church or boards, conventions, or presbyteries outside the local church now ruling in the place of Jesus Christ through each person within the church membership.

Let me give you some more quotes for Tozer who was well know as a critic of the modern church even though the church he criticized was over 50 years ago.

Evangelical Christianity is now tragically below the New Testament standard. Worldliness is an accepted part of our way of life. Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship. We are not producing saints. Our models are successful business men, celebrated athletes and theatrical personalities.

Christianity is so entangled with the world that millions never guess how radically they have missed the New Testament pattern. Compromise is everywhere. The world is whitewashed just enough to pass inspection by blind men posing as believers.

The Church has sprung a leak and the world is leaking into the Church. – A. W. Tozer

Thyatira: The Church Of Compromised Morals - Revelation 2:18–29 18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; 19 I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. 20 Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. 24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. 25 But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. 26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Jesus is seen as the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;” This shows Jesus as holy, pure and worthy to judge his church.

Thyratria is a working church, it is a church that exemplifies charity, service for the Lord, and faith in the Lord. They are doing more now than they were doing when first founded.

But, there is a serious problem of immorality, you allow that woman Jezebel, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

Jezebel in the Old Testament was a prophetess of Baal, she brought the worst form of paganism and sexual immorality into the nation of Israel, this Jezebel was bringing paganism and sexual sin into the Lord’s church.

Once again the Lord tells the church to repent. And his punishment is extremely harsh, “ I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, and I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

For those who still faithful in this polluted church, Jesus tells them to hold fast to the good that they still have. And if they do, he will give them power over the nations and give them the morning star. This of course is another name for Jesus. The reward is more of Jesus.

Sardis: The Dead, Dying Church - Revelation 3:1–6 1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. 4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. 5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

To Sardis, Jesus presents himself as, “he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars. This shows Jesus as having complete and absolute power over this church

The church at Sardis has no qualities that the Lord can commend. It is truly the dying church. Jesus tells them, “1b. .I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. 2  Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

They had a reputation, or perhaps a high opinion of themselves but the truth was that they were actually a dead church, incomplete and imperfect before God.

He tells them to hold fast to what remains and repent. And if not he will come like a thief and they will not see Him coming in sudden judgment. Interestingly the city had been conquered twice before while they slept, and now the church was in the same situation.

For the few names even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy…the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. The undefiled ones will walk with Christ in white, (a symbol of righteousness.) The overcomers will not have their name blotted from the book of Life and Christ will confess their name before God and the angels.

Laodiceans: The Lukewarm Church - Revelation 3:14–22 14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

To the Laodicean church Jesus is, “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;” He is the final word, the faithful and true witness and the causative force or creation itself.

The church he describes, as lukewarm and he warns them he will spit them in disgust out of his mouth, away from himself. The church sees itself as rich and needed nothing but Jesus sees them as wretched, miserable, poor blind and naked. Once again just like Sardis there is nothing positive, nothing good that the Lord can commend the church for. This not too bad and not so good, lukewarm church had a false sense of their worth, but Jesus says they are utterly wretched, poverty stricken and blind to their own nakedness.

The remedy Jesus tells them was to buy gold tried in the fire from Christ. This description signifies suffering and sacrifice on behalf of Jesus.  White raiment speaks of purity and righteousness.  Eye salve speaks of healing and spiritual sight.  When they were rebuked they must repent.

Jesus invitation to this, one of the worst churches, is his most personal and passionate. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne

Transition

After all those problem churches lets conclude with the two churches that Jesus does not tell to repent and has no correction. Lets look at the

The Churches Jesus Comforts

Now we come to the churches that Jesus comforts the churches that he doesn’t correct but only encourages and comforts.

Smyrna: The Church Under Persecution - Revelation 2:8–11 8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; 9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

To the church in Smyrna, Jesus is portrayed as “the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.” Once again the description taken from chapter one. To a church like Smyrna which was under severe persecution this description give them hope. Hope in their Savior who even overcame death.

He describes the church by looking at their tribulation, and poverty as the world see them, but he tells them that in His eyes they are rich, the exact opposite of  and I know, the exact opposite of Laodicea which saw themselves rich but in Jesus eyes were spiritually destitute. Jesus also says he is aware of the lies, the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, who are persecuting them and are not Jews at but are actually members of Satan’s synagogue.

This church which seems to have so little, Jesus sees as having so much and He has nothing negative to correct

He comforts and encourages them by telling them to not be afraid. Yes they will be tried, but the trail will be limited and those who are faithful will receive a crown of life. They will overcome, because they are believers and the second death will not touch them

This is a church that is undergoing a life-threatening trial or persecution but they will overcome because they are believers. Believers, the true children of God will remain faithful no matter the trial, pain or suffering they might have to go through. They are faithful because they are the children of God.

A church like Smyrna must remember that Jesus has not forgotten them, he knows what they are going through and He is honored by their faithfulness much more than their productivity.

Philadelphia: The Church Of The Open Door - Revelation 3:7–13 7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. 12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. 13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Now to the church in Philadelphia, Jesus shows himself as, “He that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth:” This is Jesus as the one who has the authority and power both over Israel, the church and the world.

He used keys once before to show authority, this time the authority he was giving to the church, Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This was the power of the Gospel, given to the church to open the doors to the kingdom of heaven.

When he describes the church it once again from his perspective and not ours, He says they have been given an open door, opened by Himself and no man can shut it. This speaks of God given opportunity for the church to take the Gospel and change the city of Philadelphia and the authority to go wherever the door is opened, no matter what man, governments or nations might try and shut. Missionaries were illegally crossing borders long before it became a national news headline.

Jesus opens this door, for a reason we often miss, “for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” He does this because they were weak in their own strength but mighty in His Word and faithful to His name. Like Smyrna the Lord has nothing negative to correct in the church of Philadelphia.

He promised to reward them by proven they were justified and to make those who persecuted them, once again those in the synagogue of Satan, to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

He also promises that they will not go through the great worldwide tribulation that was to come upon the earth. He tells them he is coming quickly and to hold fast what they have and not to let anyone take their heavenly crown.

The reward to the overcomers is to be a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name o the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.  Three times in this passage the reward involves things associated with God, Jesus and heaven. The reward, as all the others, are about being with God and Jesus in heaven.

Wouldn’t it be great to be a Philadelphian church? A church where real revival is happening. Where people are excited about coming to church and people are getting saved and baptized so fast you can’t keep up. It has happened before, I pray it will happen again and I pray it will happen here. But I can’t make it happen and neither can you. Jesus must open the door, but we must keep our selves always ready to walk through once it open. A church that is not like Philadelphia or Smyrna, one that is weak in their own strength, poor in their own eyes but strong in the Lord and holding fast to the testimony of Jesus, only those churches will be used by Jesus when He opens the doors.

The Typical Church

There was a reason, that Jesus chose these churches other than where they were located and that John had a relationship with them. He chose them first of all because they were His and there were problems, that needed to be dealt with, Jesus related the problem, the remedy and the reward for each church. He also chose these churches because they would be a type of all the churches throughout history, until He returns and claims His Bride.

Some believe that in the order they are given, they also represent the eras of time, that the church, as a whole, has worked upon the earth. Eras of times in which the whole church was under persecution, or times when the church had great open doors and began sending missionaries around the world. As well as the time of lukewarmness, which is usually seen as the modern church. There is a serious problem with that interpretation, in that it simply can’t be applied in such broad strokes across all the churches of any age. If I accept the idea that the modern “Church” with a capital C” is lukewarm, I would have to ignore 10s of thousands of churches in place like Africa, China and south America that are on fire for the Lord. Thousands in attendance and hundreds accepting the Lord every week. Hasn’t it always been that way, as the churches in England became lukewarm, the church in the USA were just starting to burn. As our churches in our country have turned from God, churches in places like Mexico and South America are sending out missionaries, some back to our own country.

Instead the churches are Typical, they are Types of every church that has every existed and over the life of the church, we can sometimes see all the churches of Revelation.

We have all been members of churches that lost their first love, or had grown lukewarm, or even caught up in terrible heresy and ungodly immorality of the world.

The purpose of Revelation 2-3 is to be a measure of where our church is today. To judge ourselves, to see the need and then to do as the Lord commands, repent and return to our first love, refuse the corruption, rebuke the false doctrine and come back to Jesus our Lord, our founder, our Rock, our first love.

Should we not repent, then Jesus tells us what will be the outcome. “else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place” Jesus will remove the church, remove it first from His care and protection, second from His truth and authority and finally from existence. It will die. Just as a lamp cannot light without oil, neither can a church live without Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion: Which Church Are We?

After a study of the 7 churches, we are left with a question, Which type of church are we? Are we like Ephesus, so busy we have left our love for Jesus Christ? Or are we like Pergamos, so worldly and  ignoring or condoning immorality? Like Laodicea, are we the lukewarm church that disgusts the Lord by our complacency and apathy. Could we like Smyrna, endure persecution? Or like Philadelphia, can we be faithful and ready that Jesus will open the doors of Athens and east Texas and people will hear the Gospel and get saved?

I do know this, the type of church we are is up to each individual, to each one of us who has an ear and will hear, what the spirit says to the churches. It begins with me and it begins with my heart.

Jesus said, “Behold I stand at the door and knock.” That is the door of the church and any person in this church can and must open that door. Jesus comes into this church through our individual hearts. I pray we hear the knock and let the Lord come into His own church.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Epistle of Jesus #1: Behold The Coming King Revelation 1

The Epistle of Jesus #1: Behold The Coming King

Key Verse: 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.

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Introduction:

A old-time preacher was into this message about heaven. He was getting excited as he came to the conclusion and then called out in a fervent voice to the congregation. “How many of you want to go to heaven?” Of course everybody in that small church raised their hand high except one old guy who usually slept through the sermon. He didn’t raise his hand and so the pastor called out again, “How many here today want to go to heaven? There were amens and hallelujahs from all those with their hands raised, but not the old guy, who just set there, kind of bewildered at all the hands raised around him. Finally, the pastor got personal, called the man by name and asked him, “Brother don’t you want to go to heaven when you die?” The broke into a smile of relief and he said, “Well of course I do, but the way you was a preaching I thought you were trying to get up a group and leave this minute.”

Sometimes preaching or studying the book of Revelation can be like that. We look at the symbols, the warnings and the times we are in and begin to think we’re leaving right this minute. I believe in the immanent return of Christ meaning He can come back at anytime, but I don’t want to be looking for signs and events and then think His return is immediate. Immanent means at any time and that what we need to believe, but immediate can make you fearful or foolish and that is not what we need.

I’m praying for a different perspective and outcome as we go through the book of Revelation.

Greeting -  Revelation 1:1-4

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2  Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3  Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4  John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

Purpose Revealing of Jesus

In the very first verse, John writes, that this is, “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word revelation is the Greek Word: ἀποκάλυψις, which is transliterated for us today as, apocalypse. It does not mean end of the world, cataclysm, or dooms day. It simply means the revealing or the unveiling. And so, John is saying that this epistle is the revealing of Jesus Christ. That is its first and primary purpose.

To really benefit from the Book of Revelation you need to understand and keep in the uppermost of your mind that purpose. The book of Revelation, the apocalypse, was not written to give us details of the future or help us name the anti-christ. (Hint: it wasn’t Donald Trump or Barack Obama. Nor was it one of the Roman Emperors or one of the popes, Mohammad or Hitler.) Revelation was not written so we could know the future, but it was written that we might know Him who holds the future. It was not written to know when the Lord is coming back but to know and rejoice in Him who is coming back.

It was written to give hope to those in John’s time suffering under the persecutions of the Jews, and the Roman emperors. It is also written for us when we go through persecution, pain and sorrow that we will know this is not the end, for Jesus is Lord and has the keys of death and hell. He will come and all pain and sorrow will be conquered. Finally, Revelation was especially written for those who will be caught in the Great Tribulation, those who put their faith in Jesus after the rapture, and specifically to the Old Covenant people of God, the believers of Israel, who will then recognize their coming Messiah, was truly the long rejected Jesus of Nazareth. This letter from Jesus to them will give hope and they will know that this time is not the end of the world but only the beginning of eternity.

John writes that the letter was “sent and signified by his angel (his messenger) unto his servant John” The word signified means “to show by a sign.” That’s important because John is saying, this vision is signified, proven with the things John saw, beginning with his vision of Jesus.

John as amanuensis for Jesus, Jesus’ epistle to the churches

I have entitled this series, The Epistle of Jesus, to focus on its purpose, to reveal Jesus the returning King. It was recorded by John in a sense writing as Jesus’ amanuensis, his scribe. In Revelation 1:11 Jesus commands, “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches.” And the Jesus proceeds to supernaturally show in a vision, the Revelation you now hold in your hand.  This is the only time Jesus told any of the New Testament writers to write. The Gospels, Acts, the Epistles and personal letters that make up the New Testament were inspired and supervised by the Holy Spirit but this book, this is the epistle of Jesus, given to John directly by the Lord.

John wrote while he was on the island of Patmos around 96 AD, which at that time was a Roman penal colony, a rocky, hot, volcanic island prison. It served the same purpose as Alcatraz or Devil’s island would centuries later. The members of the early church of Jesus had undergone persecution from the Jews in Palestine and anywhere the Sanhedrin had authority, then the church had to endure the persecution of the full power and authority of the Roman empire, under Nero, who blamed the new sect called Christians for the burring of Rome in 64 AD. Under Nero’s authority, both Peter and Paul were executed.

Now in 96 AD another emperor descended from the same family that had destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, begins to persecute the people of God. Emperor Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus; usually called Domitian. He deified himself and began referring to himself as Dominus et Deus (“Lord and God”). This of course put the followers of Jesus, those who would only name Jesus as Lord and God, in direct conflict with the emperor. The book of Revelation was written during this very dangerous and dark time.

It was dark for all the people of God but it was especially dark for the last apostle of Jesus, John. John now around 100 years old was the most important living person of the still young Christian faith. It was John who testified in his first epistle, 1 John 1:1-2,  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

To control the Christians, Domitian, needed to shut up John and so he was sent to the rocky island prison of Patmos, hopefully to die but definitely to be shut up. But oh, my what a different outcome came from that island of isolation. Instead of controlling the last apostle, Domitian, unleashed the coming eternal King, Jesus. Domitian wanted worship as deserving a god, but instead he was killed the same year John wrote this epistle. Domitian wanted others to believe he was eternal, instead his life was measured in just months and John from that island prison revealed the only true eternal one, Jesus God’s own Son.

Transition

Lets go to verse 5 and we are going to see, listen and experience with John, Jesus Who was, Jesus He is and Jesus Who is To come.

Jesus Who Was - Revelation 1:5-8

5  And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6  And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7  Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 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.

Jesus as John Knew Him

John in his greeting to the seven churches, address it from himself and from Jesus Christ. He then begins to describe and praise his Lord and Savior. In this opening section, John remembers the Jesus who was, the Jesus he knew, loved and has served for over 70 years.

Take note of the Jesus John knew and praises.

John says, He is the faithful witness. By this he means that Jesus was God the Father’s witness, the word witness is martyr in the Greek and it here is especially means that Jesus gave the ultimate testimony, his own life to be a witness of God’s truth and love.

 John’s praise continues as he says that Jesus is the first begotten of the dead, a phrase which means the He is the first above all others who have been or will be resurrected from the dead. Jesus is above all. Jesus was not the first to come back to life, but He is and always will be the only one who in his own power conquered and overcame death.

He is the prince, the ruler of Kings of the earth. Many kings are seen in the book of Revelation, but just as Jesus is above all those who are resurrected, he is also above all kings and rulers. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

John praises Jesus for the three-fold work that He accomplished upon the cross: He loved us, washed us from our sins in his own blood, and made us kings and priests.   A way of saying he has made us a kingdom of priests. (There is a three point sermon outline in just that phrase and by the time we are finished we all might wish I had just gone with it.)

John’s praise then crescendos, reaches its climax with “To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen!

Also, take note that the Jesus John knew, had promised to return.

John says, “Behold, he comes with clouds and every eye shall see him and they also which pierced Him and all the kindreds of earth shall wail.”  

He finishes his thought with Even, so Amen, a doubly assurance, written in both Greek, the even so and Hebrew, the amen. Even so, Amen means it is doubly sure, doubly true to both the new and old covenant people of God. It is also a prayer to God.   Even though his coming will cause many to wail, and others to have such aching regrets, even so, let it be.

Then John quotes the Jesus he knew. 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. Three times in this opening passage Jesus will claim the title of Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

In just the first 4 verses we are given a powerful, praiseworthy picture of Jesus from the apostle who know Him best and had served him longest.

And as we consider the Jesus John knew we must consider …

Do We Know This Jesus?

Do we know Jesus as the faithful witness who died on the cross for the truth of God’s promises? Do we know Jesus who went to the cross to prove his love for us, to wash away our sin with his shed blood and do we know Him who has made us a kingdom of priests through His death on the cross.

Do you know this Jesus, because if you do not then you will be one of those who instead of saying Even so, Come Lord Jesus, will be among those wailing when they think of Him coming in the clouds.

You must know Him as John did, as one who has had his sin washed in his blood or you will know Him as one who is guilty of His blood. Know him as Savior or know Him as judge. Know him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords or know him as the avenging captain of the Lord’s host, carrying the sword of God’s wrath.

Do you know Jesus today because waiting until he comes in the clouds will be too late.

Illustration: The Man Born Blind (?)

Do you remember the story of the man born blind that Jesus healed? It is one of the longest accounts of any of the miracles of Jesus. It begins with the apostles asking Jesus why was this man born blind. Jesus heals him in answer to their question. “This man’s blindness is an opportunity for God’s work to be revealed in him.”

Jesus then heals him, but he does not tell the man who he is. The man is sent by Jesus to wash eyes in the pool of Siloam and he can see. It is such a miracle and because it happened on the Sabbath, the Pharisees question and man, reject his explanations and kick him out of the synagogue. When Jesus hears this, he goes in search of the man and when he finds him, asks him. Do you believe in the Son of God? What a question! It is perhaps the most direct invitation Jesus ever gave to an individual. The man in utter sincerity says, “Lord, Who is He?” and Jesus answers you have seen him he is talking with you now.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.”

In a sense that story is true for everyone, The Holy Spirit through God’s word asks, “Do you believe in the Son of God? Do you know Jesus?” That man came to know Jesus and much more important than his sight being restored, his soul was saved. Today could be the day that if you don’t know Him, then he will show himself to you, through His word and my prayer would be that you would answer, “Lord I believe.”

Transition

Now John brings us into the events as there were happening to him. And he shows us Jesus in the present that day with him. He shows us the …

 Jesus Who Is - Revelation 1:9-11

9  I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10  I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11  Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

(This is) Jesus As John Heard Him

John calls himself their brother and companion in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. He is with them in the family of God, with them in suffering for God and with them in the work of the Kingdom or heaven and waiting for Jesus Christ.

He relates to them, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” Do you know what John was doing when Jesus gave him the greatest vision ever given to any one man? He was in church. He was worshipping God on Sunday, the Lord’s day. What an appropriate time to hear from Jesus. And that is exactly what happened.

John says I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.

He is then commissioned by Jesus to write the epistle of Jesus. He is to send this epistle to the seven church in Asia, to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

John heard the voice of Christ as a trumpet, a voice you could not ignore, a sound you could not mistake. What a fitting sound for the voice of the returning King. Trumpets are thought the book of Revelation; in 4:1, the trumpet calls John up to heaven, in 8:2ff, trumpets signal that the wrath of God poured out on an unrepentant world. The trumpets of the Old Testament assembled God’s people to the tabernacle, proclaimed war, and announced the feasts and holy days of God. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read 16  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise. In Matthew 24:31 it is another trumpet that sounds to bring Israel home to their God, 31  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

And now John hears Jesus speak in a voice like a trumpet and commissions him to write this book and send it to the churches who were suffering under the persecution of a pagan emperor who wanted to be god and was willing to murder any who would deny him the title.

John in the depths of his darkness, in the sorrow of his separation, in the blackness of his banishment, hears the voice of Jesus sounding a call of faith and hope. Just when he needed it Jesus called out and John heard that unmistakable powerful voice filling the emptiness of that desolate place, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I have not forgotten you, I have not left you alone and once more, I have a task for you. John, write what you will see and send it to others that they will know I have not forgotten them.

Do We Hear Jesus Now?

I wonder do we hear Jesus today? Do we hear Him in the depths of our sorrow, the isolation of our loneliest nights and the pain of our most hurtful days? When John had lost all that he had, his family, his friends, his church and was near to losing his life, he heard the voice of Jesus sounding behind him like a trumpet call of hope.

I have never spent time on the island of Patmos, I’ve never been imprisoned or banished but I have found myself alone, I have felt bound in cares and worries and cut off from those I love. It is at those times when I’ve most clearly heard the voice of Jesus calling.

When as a young foolish teenager I found myself stranded on a cliff face, I heard Jesus saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” On the day my heart literally failed and I collapsed, I heard the words of Jesus reassuring me that He held me in His hand and no man could take me from Him. Before my surgery to repair that heart, I took my little visitation Bible and put tabs on every scripture where God spoke of His love, care and protection. When I went into open heart surgery, I had LeeOra write Psalm 27 on my wrist. Psalm 27:11 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? I wanted the voice of my Lord and God to be the last thing I thought of when I went under and the first thing I could read as I woke up. Of course when I did wake up and looked at my wrist it was wrapped completely in tape and an IV neatly punctured the writing. But it didn’t matter. That was only ink written on my wrist, but God’s word, Jesus’ promise was written on my heart and just like the trumpet of Jesus’ voice when John needed to hear it, I heard it that day. For the child of God, it will always be that way.

Let me tell you without hesitation and without equivocation, that if you are God’s child and you are hurting, alone or afraid then listen. Listen because Jesus’ voice is calling out to you in assurance and strength. “I am the first and the last, the Almighty God, turn from your fear and hear to my voice.

Illustration: I hear the Voice of Jesus say

The wonderful hymn “I heard the Voice of Jesus Say” was written in 1846 by Horatius Bonar, a Scotts Presbyterian Preacher. The Third Verse says.

 

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk,
Till trav’ling days are done.

Jesus voice still calls, we just need to listen and turn toward Him.

Transition

John on that incredible Sunday, worshipped the Lord he had known and in the midst of his worship, he heard His call and turned and then he saw the…

 

 Jesus Who is To Come - Revelation 1:12-19

12  And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13  And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14  His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15  And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16  And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17  And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 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. 19  Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

Jesus As John Saw Him

John turns and the Jesus he sees is the Jesus that will one day return to this earth. He does not see a wandering rabbi. He does not see a man of obscurity; he does not see a condemned man dying on a cross. No those were the Jesus that was, but this, this is the Jesus who is coming back.

Let’s look with John at that Jesus.

First John sees Jesus standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks, seven oil lamps on long stands and in the middle of those seven lamps, he sees one like unto the Son of man. Not a son of man, but the Son of Man, put a capital letter on those words because this is Jesus’ title. John recognizes him for who he is but just as it was for Mary when Jesus appeared to her so unexpectedly that first Sunday morning, this Jesus is different.

John looks and he sees that Jesus is wearing a long robe, down to his feet, and wrapped about his chest and down to his waist is a golden girdle or sash.

His head and hair are as white as combed wool, white as snow, John says. And his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like fine, pure, polished brass, glowing as if they had just come from the refining of a furnace. This shows Jesus as pure, holy, righteous and victorious.

John listens again and now the voice of Jesus is like the sound of a great, rushing waterfall, so intense that nothing else can be heard.

John looks and sees that Jesus holds seven stars in his right hand, seven stars that are the angels, the messengers, the pastors of those seven churches represented by those golden lamps. Then perhaps strangest of all, John sees a sharp two-edged sword going from the mouth of the Lord as he speaks. In these we see Jesus as the one who hold in protection and in judgment his own churches and with them the messengers of those churches. In love he holds them and protects them or in judgment corrects them out. They are His completely and absolutely.

His overall appearance, his countenance, John says,  was as like the sun shining at noonday, in all its strength, power and glory. Again this shows Jesus in all his righteous, purity and holiness, darkness cannot stay in His presence.

This isn’t the Jesus, John had known 70 years ago, this was Jesus as he would return to take what was rightfully His as Creator, King and Judge.

John hears and sees the glory of the coming King of Kings and he falls at the Lord’s feet like as if he were struck dead. He is overcome, overloaded and overawed by what his eyes behold. He has seen the Sun in the Son of Man,  in all his glory, all His power, all His purity, prepared as a captain of war to return for one final terrible battle and John’s senses can’t take it all in. Even greater than Moses at the burning bush, or Isaiah in the temple, or Ezekiel seeing the chariot of God, greater because now Jesus is fully revealed, this is the apocalypse, this is the revelation, it is Jesus no longer hidden in a stable, no longer obscured in a tiny village called Nazareth, or a tiny country called Israel. No this is Jesus coming in the clouds, this is Jesus that every eye shall see, this is Jesus that will cause all the people on the earth to cry out and wail. This is the Jesus John sees and he falls at the returning King’s feet.

And what does Jesus do, when he sees John fall? He is clothed in power, glory and splendor, he is arrayed for war, yet he reaches out and gently lays his right hand on John, His faithful servant, His loyal friend, His loving disciple. John feels Jesus touch and he hears Jesus’ voice say, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: 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.”

What John needed at the lowest place in all his long life, was to hear the loving voice of Jesus and to feel his gentle touch. He needed to hear his Lord say, “Fear not.”

Are We Ready for the Jesus Who Will Come?

As I prepared this message, my goal was not to explain all the symbols, or give you all their Old Testament associations. We will come to those things as we preach this series, but my goal, was for us to see Jesus in a small way as John saw him that day. To grasp the purpose of this epistle, that it is not to know more of the future, but it is to know more of Jesus.

For us to know Him as the one who died for us and washed our sins in his own blood shed on calvary, for each of us in the times of pain and hurt to listen for that voice that calls out to us and tells us to turn from our sorrow and turn to our Savior. My prayer and hope was for all of us to see the Jesus that is coming back, no longer hidden by the centuries of time that has passed or by my own familiarity with church and religion, but to see Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Prince of Peace and Captain of the Lord’s Host.  

In our lives we need our own apocalypse, something that strips away the veils of rut, routine and religion and lets us see the revealed King of Glory.

You and I will never share the experience of what John saw that day but this one thing we can share with him. When I have collapsed, when I’ve fallen then just like John I need to feel the touch of Christ. I need to hear the voice of Jesus, saying “Fear not. I am the first and the last. I am the one you trusted in, I lived, I died but now I live forever. I hold the keys of hell and death. Don’t fear because even the power of hell and death are under my authority.”

Illustration:

Yesterday, I heard that a close friend, a man I have spent untold hours with talking about life, God’s word and the Lord’s church, lost his wife in a terrible car wreck. I’m praying that he will feel the touch of his Savior and hear His loving voice.

I’m praying for my family in the loss of my mother, I’m praying for your family in the loss of those you loved and cared for, I’m praying for Jesus gentle touch on your shoulder and Jesus loving voice in your heart. As a pastor all I have are weak words of encouragement but I know Jesus and his words, and his touch are never weak or wavering.

Conclusion: 

 Years ago when I was pastoring in the Houston area, I had a church member named Annie Champion. She was up in years and down in health. We were in and out of the hospital time and time again with her. And she was afraid, she knew the Lord but she was afraid of being alone. Once as I visited her in the hospital she told how she felt and I held her hand and prayed. I prayed for Miss Annie and asked the Lord to be with her when her family or I couldn’t be there. I prayed that she would know that Jesus was in the room even when the heart monitors were going off and the doctors rushed in to pound on her chest. I prayed that just as she could feel my hand right then, she would feel Jesus hand holding on to her.

The next time we visited she couldn’t wait to tell me what had happened, how that her heart had stopped and the doctors rushed to get it beating again, Then she smiled behind these big old glasses that magnified the joy she was sharing. She said, “Bro. Kris. He was here.” I didn’t know who she was talking about, I though she meant one of the good looking doctors she was always flirting with. “Who was here, Miss Annie?” She looked at me in surprise and she said, “He was here. Just like you prayed. Jesus was here and he held my hand, while they were beating on my chest.” I had forgotten but she hadn’t forgotten and when she needed it Jesus took her hand and gave her strength. “Fear not, he told her. Fear not.” When she passed away back in her home. I know Jesus came to her once again, said, “Don’t be afraid, Annie Champion. Then He put out his hand and led her home.

This morning are you ready for Jesus to come to you? Have you know Him in the past as your savior, do you hear his voice now in the present and are you prepared his return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Perhaps this is your time, this is the place to come to know him. Or perhaps it is a time and a place where you just need to feel the touch of Jesus, just as John did worshiping the Lord on that long ago Sunday. He’s here in the midst of His church and He ready to reach out.