Fundamentals

Why the letters to the churches in Revelation are important (It’s about context)

As mentioned several times in this study, the common temptation in Revelation is to disregard the first three chapters. Either (a) the student will assign a deeper theological symbolism to the letters to the churches, or (b) skip them altogether. However, it is the letters to the churches that reveal to us the context of Revelation, and the Lord’s motivation for inspiring the book to be written.

To be honest, the word, “book,” is sort of a misnomer regarding Revelation. Like most of the New Testament, Revelation is a letter. It’s a letter dictated by Jesus, with observations by John, all under the inspiration of the Spirit, addressed to seven churches in Asia, (or, modern-day Turkey.)

With this being a letter from Jesus to seven specific churches, then we have a defined messenger, a defined message, and defined recipients. This means that Revelation is not a coded book of secrets about the future, but rather a direct message to churches about the coming of the Lord, and the preparations that need to be made in the interim.

With that in mind, we can interpret the book of Revelation by reading it as one of the members of those churches would have read it. They didn’t have hundreds of books on Bible symbolism and linguistic training. They took the words of Christ at face value, as we should also.

While there is some symbolic interpretation, the message Christ wants us to take is not one of prophetic knowledge, but one of repentance and faith. Therefore, the letters to the churches should be read, understood, and applied. They are one of the most easily understood and most important passages in Revelation.

With the message of Revelation being repentance and faith leading up to the return of Christ, the letters to the churches demonstrate sins that need to be set aside and repented from, and faith that needs to be applied. If we learn  or understand nothing else from Revelation, let it be the things the Lord wants us to do in light of these letters.

Jesus is coming quickly. Let’s be prepared.

The art of self-deception

The scariest verses of the Bible are not the ones where plagues are pronounced and massive destruction happens. The verses that should scare you are the ones where someone entered the presence of Christ thinking they were Spiritually sound, only to find out they were still lost the whole time.

Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 7:22-23:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Here, you have a situation where people were in the Lord’s presence on judgment day, finding out that they were never saved, and thus stood condemned. They protested, saying they had done a lot of wonderful things for the Lord, yet He proclaimed, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These people had probably spent a lifetime doing works that looked good on the surface, but beneath the surface were impure motives and sinful desires. Yet, they convinced themselves that, because what they were doing was good, the ends justified the means.

They justified themselves, and placed their faith in their works, rather than the Lord, who would have cleansed them from all unrighteousness, justified them, and received them into Heaven.

But because they justified themselves, they deceived themselves into thinking that they were doing God’s work. Consider the words of 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Without a real relationship with Jesus Christ, without repentance from sin, pride and dead works, while turning toward and placing your faith in Christ, you are still lost. Any “righteous” works that you do will still leave you short of Heaven.

If you assess your life and conclude that you are without sin, you are also performing the art of deceiving yourself.

The lesson learned from Sardis, posted in the video above, is that you can believe yourself to be in good shape, and have a reputation of being a solid, Spiritual person, and still be Spiritually dead.

Heed the words of Isaiah 1:18, bring your sins to the Lord, and allow Him to cleanse you.

When the church forgets its first love…

In Revelation 2-3, Jesus dictates letters to the seven churches of Asia. These are actual letters written to actual churches who were dealing with actual issues. Our Lord’s words are not to be taken as allegory, but rather teaching in response to certain situations that had arisen in His churches. We are to take the lessons He taught them, and apply them to our lives.

In the first letter, addressed to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises their ministry and faithfulness, but He takes issue with one thing… they lost their first love. This problem is so serious, it threatened the very existence of that church. So, what was the first love they left? That question has fueled much debate. In this video lesson, we decode the letter to the Ephesians and learn what the spurned first love was.

Decoding one of the most difficult books of the Bible…

Revelation is one of the most argued over, misinterpreted books of the Bible. Because of the massive amounts of imagery, many think that the book cannot be fully understood until the end times. That’s a faulty assumption.

The fact is, the book of Revelation is not an ancient book of secrets. On the contrary, it was a letter written to seven churches in Asia concerning the end times and the return of Christ. If we approach the book the way those churches would have approached the book, and apply basic rules of Bible interpretation to it, there’s actually a lot we can understand, and a lot we can learn.

Stuck? Praise the Lord!

The Apostle John did everything right. He loved Jesus, he preached the Gospel, he ministered to thousands, and spend his entire life dedicated to the Lord.

Yet, he found himself imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos “For the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” meaning he was actually imprisoned for doing what is right.

Yet, when we first see John in the book of Revelation, he is in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, meaning that we can be joyful, hopeful, and have faith in any circumstance, and circumstances don’t affect our worship. Check out the above-posted video for part-two of our YouTube series from the book of Revelation.

Every Step Toward God’s Kingdom

No doubt, Patmos was a horrible place. A wretched, rocky prison island, upon which the Apostle John found himself as a result of a sentence handed down by a Roman judge for the crime of preaching the Gospel.

John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, the disciple who was closest to Jesus, who spent his life preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Yet, he found himself upon this wretched island, persecuted and forsaken.

Yet, on the Lord’s day, John was in the Spirit, and worshiping. It was at that moment that the Lord appeared to John… an overwhelming, yet welcome sight. The Lord’s appearance set off a divine Revelation to John that, despite the troubling things shown in the future, left John feeling at peace and thankful, resulting in the final words of the book, “Even So, Come, Lord Jesus.”

Oh, to be able to look through the pain of today toward the glory of God. Welcome, to our new YouTube series.

Hope (Daniel 9:24)

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Daniel was a man who had done everything right, yet, time after time, adversity and tribulation troubled him. Captured from his homeland of Israel during his younger years, he was one of several elite captives taken from Israel and enslaved in Babylon.

Though Daniel’s assignment wasn’t the worst, he worked personally for the Babylonian king, he still faced troubles, from impure foods being offered, to being thrown in the lions’ den, to seeing his friends thrown in the fiery furnace. (Daniel and his friends were delivered from all of those, by the way).

By the time we get to Daniel 9, the Babylonian empire has been conquered by the Medo-Persian empire, and Daniel is now working for another king. Having lived through the entire Babylonian captivity, Daniel now sees the light at the end of the tunnel,  and the captivity is coming to a close.

Daniel sees God’s deliverance coming, and it is at this time that God begins to show Daniel how He will redeem His people and restore the nation of Israel. In Daniel 9:24, the Lord gives us his plan:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

God would redeem His people, and restore His nation, by ending man’s rebellion, cleansing man from sin, and establishing His Kingdom on earth. Listen to Pastor Leland Acker discuss this message of hope below:

Have You Met Grace?

Grace

Amazing Grace. Grace Greater Than Our Sin.

We are saved by grace through faith. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

Grace.

This word is spoken often in Christian circles, and is a key component of salvation. It’s the subject of hundreds of Christian hymns and praise songs.

But what does it mean?

If your only exposure to the word “grace” is from watching television, then no doubt you probably think it has something to do with the way Sasha Cohen provides a visual interpretation of the music she skates to during the world figure skating championships.

Or, if you were a Seinfeld fan, you probably remember that Elaine was denied a job because she lacked the “grace” of her predecessor, who happened to be Jackie Onassis.

Such is life, and such is the progression of languages. A word that meant one thing years ago no longer has the same meaning at all.

When the scripture was written, grace was more of an attitude than an action. It was a motivational factor, not the factor itself.

Grace, in Biblical terms, is defined as an “unmerited favor,” or an “unconditional love.”

Those who grant grace to others bestow upon them a love, a gift, or a pardon that is not deserved based on the actions or merits of the recipient. In terms of Biblical grace, the One who was the greatest benefactor is God.

God’s grace toward mankind, and toward us individually, is an undeserved love and an unmerited favor. We sinned against Him. We rebel against Him. We try to redefine language in the Bible to suit our tastes.

We’re selfish. We take advantage of others. We sin. From God, we deserve nothing but punishment and accountability.

Yet, God in His grace forbears. He allows us to continue, utilizing the effects of our wrong choices to teach us and correct us. He then forgives, redeems, and blesses. That’s grace.

Ultimately, the grace of God was expressed in that He sent Jesus Christ into the world to redeem us from sin by dying on the cross. That grace is expanded through His forgiveness of our sins and His willingness to give us time to learn and repent. To top it off, He blesses us as well.

We access God’s grace through our faith, our trust that He will forgive us based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Upon accessing God’s grace, we learn just how much we have been forgiven, and thus learn to forgive ourselves, and others.

The attitude the Christian should take toward others is the attitude God takes toward them. Our desire is to see them redeemed and restored, not condemned and destroyed.

Those who have come to an understanding of God’s grace in their lives understand this concept. Those who have not walk in anger. For those, we forbear as God does, and we pray for their understanding and we minister to them, too.

Have you comprehended the grace of God?

  • Do you know and understand that God loves you?
  • Do you know that forgiveness of sin is available through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ?
  • Do you forgive others?
  • Have your forgiven yourself?

May God bless you as you learn more of His love and grace.

This is the greatest cause…

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Have you ever noticed the passion local civic organizations have toward their causes? One organization raises funds to purchase dictionaries for every local third-grader. Another raises funds to purchase eye glasses for local school children. Yet, another raises funds to help children in various ways, from funding youth sports to providing scholarships for graduating seniors.

Other civic organizations raise funds for education, poverty relief, medical care, prescription medications, and one well-known organization actually raises money to operate its own hospital for children.

These are all wonderful causes, very worthy, and highly noble, and we support these organizations passionately pursuing their purposes. It’s worth noting that when you ask the members of these organizations what their purpose is, most of the time, they’ll tell you.

With that in mind, what is the purpose of the local church? Do people even know?

The church’s mission was plainly spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19-20, when He said “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you.”

The mission of the church is to teach others about salvation, and in so doing, lead others to salvation in Jesus Christ. All other activities of the local church, benevolence, poverty relief, fellowship, among others, are secondary.

The question then becomes, “How committed is the church to its mission?” To determine that, we must ask ourselves, “How committed are the members of the church to its mission?”

In civic organizations, the members pay dues, but also dig into their own pockets to donate to their causes. More than a financial commitment, they also donate their time, volunteering many hours to club activities designed to fulfill their missions.

In looking at the local church, how much of themselves do members give toward the church fulfilling its mission?

It is our prayer that in 2020, the members of all churches rededicate themselves to this cause, to reach and disciple the lost and to lead others to Christ. There is no greater cause.

If you would like to play an active role in the Great Commission, we’d love to have you join us at Life Point Baptist Church. Contact us on the contact page to see what opportunities await you. Be prepared. Giving yourself to the mission of Christ will require sacrifice, which is what Pastor Leland Acker discussed in his message this week, which is posted below:

Did Dr. King Know What Was Coming?

More than 51 years later, it is still chilling to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., conclude his iconic “Mountaintop” speech with the following words:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

In concluding this speech, Dr. King asserted that he did not fear death, because he knew God would bring about the racial equality and justice for which he advocated. He compared his plight to that of Moses, who did not get to enter Canaan with the Israelites, but was allowed to go to the mountaintop, and look over into the promised land. Moses died on that mountain.

Did Dr. King know he was in his final hours? Less than 20 hours after giving that speech, his life would be claimed by the assassin’s bullet. Yet, Dr. King was not deterred by the threat of death. His commitment: “I just want to do God’s will.”

What makes the Mountaintop Speech so chilling is that you get the idea that Dr. King had been given a full view of God’s will, the future of humanity, and the glories of His kingdom. Having been to the “mountaintop,” Dr. King’s commitment to doing God’s will has elevated, and he no longer (if ever) feared what would happen in his life, or to his life.

A similar occurrence happened in the Bible. The Apostle Paul said in Acts 20:22-24:

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Notice the similarities.

Dr. King said, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

The Apostle Paul said, “I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing what things shall befall me there.”

Dr. King said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

Both men were keenly aware of where they stood in life. Both men were committed to their causes to the point of death. Both men were driven to advance their message.

Both men were driven by their faith, which was so strong that it had become real to them. We don’t know if Dr. King literally had a mountaintop experience like Moses, but we know that his faith was so strong that it in itself became the mountaintop. Likewise, Paul was so driven by his faith that God’s Kingdom was tangible to him as well.

Such is the nature of faith. The stronger it gets, the more tangible the things of God become. Which is why Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith makes God tangible!

Maybe that’s why we don’t see God move this powerfully in our own lives. Maybe our faith is not strong enough. Maybe we don’t really believe in anything.

Seriously, what do we stand for? What drives us? What gets us out of bed in the morning? What motivates us to speak, or post on social media? What did your preacher preach about last Sunday? And what did yall study in Sunday School?

We, as Christians, need to figure out our “why.” Why go to church? Why give an offering? Why pray? Why read scripture? Why work? What is our motivation?

We cannot invent our “why.” Our “why” is inherent in who we are. So, to find our “why,” we have to find ourselves. While finding yourself sounds like a man buying a motorcycle for a cross-country road trip in the middle of a mid-life crisis, it’s not. It’s simply going back to your roots, and who you are.

And, if you are a Christian, here’s who you are. Here’s who we are.

We are sinners, who, like the rest of the world, were condemned by God for our sin. We’ve all broken God’s law. None of us are righteous. No, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

But God loved us so much, that He sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, to Earth to live our experience, then give Himself on the cross for our sins. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

While on that cross, Jesus took the wrath of God for the sins of the world, more specifically, He suffered God’s wrath for every individual’s sin. Our sin was paid for on that cross (1 John 2:1-2).

Realizing our sin, and our sinful condition, we surrender to the Lord, and trust Him to save us by virtue of His payment on the cross. In doing so, we confess our sin, and confess our inability to save ourselves. (John 3:16, Romans 5:1, Romans 4).

We symbolize our faith and salvation through baptism (Romans 6:1-10).

With this renewed understanding of life, and with the Spirit dwelling within us, we become new people (Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The question is, “Do you believe that?” and if so, do you believe it strongly enough for it to motivate you? Is God’s salvation in your life your “why?” And if not, why not?