Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 3 * BOOK 59
All right, we’re going to get right back where we left off, Revelation chapter 2, and verse 1. We’re just a non-denominational, independent Bible study, and the only one I have to report to is the Lord of Glory. I don’t take the responsibility of teaching the Word lightly, as you know by now. We just depend on His leading and His guidance, and I don’t purposely try to step on people’s toes, but if in the process of teaching the Word we do, well so be it. Then they’ve just got to pay attention to what the Book says, as well as what the Book doesn’t say. But above all, while studying the Scriptures keep the Word of God divided. What was said to Israel, for example was said under the Law, and what Paul said to the Body of Christ believers was said under grace, and you cannot mix the two. Paul calls that “rightly dividing the Word of Truth,” which makes everything fit so beautifully.
All right, Revelation chapter 2. Now remember, we’re dealing with seven Jewish congregations in Western Turkey, who have more or less taken the place of God’s dealing in preparation for the wrath and vexation that at this point in time is still right out in front of them. We, in the Age of Grace we’re living in, know that God opened up the timeline. He did not bring in the wrath and vexation, it’s still out in the future, but these Jewish believers didn’t know that. They thought the whole Old Testament program was just going to keep right on flowing, and that they would, in due time, be in the midst of the wrath and vexation.
So, now the Lord is dealing with these seven congregations in a particular, unique way. As I mentioned in the last program, the importance of the temple was losing its clout, and by 70 A.D. it would be totally destroyed, and Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the Jews would be dispersed throughout the whole world. So, if John is writing, as I think he is, in probably the 50’s, 55 to 60, somewhere in there, they are only about 10 or 12 years before the temple would be destroyed, and consequently God is using these seven lamp stands as a final testimony of His power and His glory and His coming judgment.
“Unto the angel (or minister, or the leader) of the church (assembly) of Ephesus write;…” Now, I’m going to quit using the word church if we’re not using Paul’s writings, because I’ve explained why I don’t like it. It comes from the Greek word “ecclesia” which is a called out assembly, but these were mostly synagogues. So you can either use assembly or synagogues.
…”These things saith he that holdeth the seven starts in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;”
Or we’ve been calling them the lamp stands. They were the last real source of spiritual light in the darkening clouds of that time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Now verse 2, and remember this is the Lord Jesus Himself speaking. If you have a red-letter edition Bible, it’ll all be in red. And Jesus says to this synagogue of believing Jews – Now when I say believing Jews, I trust you all know what I’m talking about. These are Jews who are still under the Law, but they have recognized and believed for salvation that Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah. And that was the whole crux of their belief system.
They knew that Jesus was that promised Messiah. Yes, He had died, He’d been raised. He’d gone back to glory, but in short order He’d be returning to set up the Kingdom. Now, maybe this is a good time to go back and look at just one or two Old Testament references to that. Come back with me to Zechariah, chapter 14. This is just exactly what they’re looking forward to. This is prophecy. Zechariah is writing about 400 and some years, almost 500 B.C. And how graphically he lays it out, as to what we’re seeing in the Book of Revelation. These are the events at the last part of the Tribulation; this is the battle of Armageddon as you’ve all heard of it.
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, (well, this is the closing days of those first seven years) and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2. For I (God says) will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle;…”
That’s what we refer to as the Battle of Armageddon; when all the nations of the world that are left, will be brought to the nation of Israel by the anti-Christ in one great final push to destroy the Jewish nation, and it ends up in a battle against Israel’s Christ. Now today we can see that so vividly. What is the whole core of the hatred in the Middle East? The Jew. Oh, they hate them. They hate them like you and I cannot believe they hate them. They’re willing to send their little ten and eleven-year old kids with bombs wrapped around them; you know Israel’s picked up a couple of them just a couple of weeks ago. One little eleven-year old chickened out. He was too afraid to go and pull the trigger. Why would people do this?Because they hate the Jew.
I just read one of their clichés last night. “The Arab world loves death more than the Jews loves life.” I think I quoted it. That’s exactly what they figure. Well why? Because they want to get rid of the Jew. They want every semblance of him off the planet. All right, so here it comes. Consequently the anti-Christ is going to bring all the nations of the world against Jerusalem to have the final solution brought to an end.
“…and the city (Jerusalem) shall be taken, and the houses rifled, (they’re going ravage the city) the women ravished; (raped,) and half the city shall go forth into captivity, (it will be overrun) and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Then, when it looks like it’s almost to the place that the world wants; that the Jews are gone.) Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.”
That would be back in Israel’s history. Now in verse 4, here’s the Second Coming as we saw in Acts chapter 1, when the angel told the eleven: “…why stand you gazing up into heaven, this same Jesus in like manner will come in…”
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, (the Second Coming when He returns) which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave(separate) in the midst thereof toward the east (where Christ will now establish His throne, the capital of His world government) and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” And then from that valley will come a great river of water from out of the Throne room in Jerusalem.
“And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the former sea, (the Mediterranean) and half of them toward the hinder sea: (the Dead Sea) in the summer and in winter shall it be.”
And we know from Ezekiel that because of that fresh water flowing into the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea will become a fresh water lake, and all the species of fish that are in the Mediterranean will also be in what is now the Dead Sea. Now, verse 9, and it will all culminate in this great prophecy.
“And the LORD (Jehovah, God the Son) shall be king over all the earth: (not just Israel. Israel will simply be the vortex of it all.) and in that day (when He has established His Kingdom) there shall be one LORD, and his name one.”
Alright, that’s what all of prophecy is looking forward to, and that’s what Israel down through the ages has been anticipating, and even today the heart cry of every Jew that has any spiritual concern at all is what? “Next year Jerusalem” Well, why Jerusalem? Because they’re hoping the Lord will return and yet give them the Kingdom. So that’s the hope that keeps the Jewish people going.
All right, back to Revelation, and the very first verse of chapter 2; he’s dealing with the congregation there at Ephesus. But my own take on this is that this is a separate Jewish congregation, removed from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Just like we have today. We can certainly have a protestant denomination of some sort, and maybe down the street a a few places is a Jewish synagogue, which is Messianic believers, and for salvation they have believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, but they are not part and parcel of what we would call a main stream denomination. So, my personal take is that Paul’s Gentile believers were in a separate congregation from these Jewish believers.
Now, I can’t prove that, but I have got my reasons for thinking that. Verse 2. This is the Lord Jesus commenting on this particular congregation. Now remember, as I said at the beginning of this afternoon’s program, these seven letters were written in one book, and the whole book was sent to all seven Jewish assemblies. So what does that mean? That every one of the seven congregations could feed on all seven letters. Well, it’s just like for you and me. Paul writes to the Corinthians, he writes to the Galatians, he writes the Ephesians, the Thessalonians, all different letters, but what do we do? We feed on every one of them. They have become a composite. Well, that’s the way these little letters were meant to deal with these Jewish congregations. So, now he says to the Ephesian congregation:
“I know thy works…” Now what does that tell you? That smacks of Law, doesn’t it? Law is works, works, works and Jesus knew that their works were according to the Law. Absolutely they were. These believing Jews were never told not to keep the Law.
“…and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou cannot bear them who are evil;…”
Well, that’s understandable isn’t it? If they were Law-keeping Jews, could they condone wickedness? Of course not. That’s obvious and so they were right on with their understanding of the Mosaic Law; that would not bear with adultery and corruption and coveting and idolatry – all those things. No, they couldn’t handle that.
“…who are evil; thou hast tried (or tested) them who say they are apostles, and are not, and hath found them liars:”
All right, back up a few pages. Let’s see how John puts it in his little epistle. I John chapter 4, and they were practicing this and the Lord is commending them for it.
I John 4:1-2
“Beloved, (so he’s writing to again these Jewish believers) believe not every spirit, but try (or test) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2. Hereby know you the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:”
Now you remember, as we’ve been looking at these little epistles over the last year, that was right in line with Peter’s confession back in Matthew 16. And what was Peter’s confession? “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” In John 11 we have Martha’s confession:
“Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the last day. 25. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27. She (Martha) saith unto him, Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
All right, John carries it on here to these little Jewish congregations; that if you confess that Jesus is the Christ and that He’s the Son of God, then you have the Spirit of God. All right verse 3:
I John 4:3a
“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God:…”
In other words, if someone can’t believe that Jesus was God manifested in the flesh, he has no hope of eternal life until he has a change of heart on that.
I John 4:3b
“…and this is that spirit of anti-Christ, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now is already in the world.”
See how John is admonishing these believers, and now he can quote the Lord Jesus. Come back now to Revelation 2, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing. Just exactly like John had instructed. They have held these men up against the Word of God and they claim to be apostles but they weren’t and the Ephesian people had enough wherewithal to see that they were what? Liars! They were false teachers. And the Lord continues to commend them.
“And (You) have borne, (or you have been able to bear these burdens) and, (you) have patience, and for my name’s sake ye have labored (there’s works again) and have not fainted. 4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
All right now, stop and think a minute. Is there anything in those three verses that smacks of any of Paul’s teaching? Not a word! Not a word about the resurrection. Not a word about Christ having died for our sin. Not a word about being in the Body of Christ. See where I’m coming from? This is all Jewish, just as if Paul’s letters had never yet been written, and that’s the way it should be, because Paul’s letters were completely separated from the Jewish program. After having said, in verse 4, that they had left their first love; in fact they’re energized spiritual life all of a sudden was running out of steam.
“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, (what was happening? They were losing their zeal. They were losing their heart in the face of Tribulation and testing. So Jesus writes through the pen of John,) repent,…”
Now, I maintain that the word repent in the New Testament Greek is not a groveling in the dirt being sorrow and begging for mercy, but it’s a change of direction. It’s just simply 180 degrees. Instead of going that way, you go this way. So what have we got here? These Jews were going further and further from Christ and their love for Him and they were getting more lackadaisical; they were probably getting more tolerant of evil and what were they to do? So, He’s saying, “Turn around and go back the other direction”.
“…and do the first works; (get back to where you were at the beginning) or else I will come unto thee quickly, and I will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent.”
Or turn around. And did it happen? Yeah, it did. Before very many years went by, these Jewish synagogue congregations totally disappeared. And of course with them, so also went Paul’s congregations. Now it’s amazing, how that part of the world became so destitute of anything concerning the Word of God when they had had so much.
Back up with me if you will to Timothy, back to II Timothy chapter 1. The same thing that happened to Paul and his little Gentile congregations happened to the seven Jewish congregations in that same area of the world. And remember where is it? Turkey! How much of Christianity is left in Turkey? Some of you people have been there, practically nothing. Now, you can go across the Aegean Sea to Greece, and you’ll still see evidence everywhere of Paul’s ministry and so forth. But this part of the world that we now call Turkey, or what in Scripture was Asia and Asia Minor, is destitute.
II Timothy 1:13-14a
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 14. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us. (Here’s why Paul is admonishing Timothy – “Don’t do as the rest of those folks are doing”) For this thou knowest, that all they who are in Asia (now remember that’s not China and India, that’s Turkey) be turned away from me:…”
Isn’t that awful? Before the man has even ended his life here on earth, that whole area of what we call Asia Minor, or the land of Turkey, had already abandoned Paul and his teachings. And it’s almost like that today. About the same thing is happening to the Jewish synagogue.
Now back to Revelation. So the Lord Jesus is telling this synagogue in Ephesus to turn around from their lackadaisical careless lack of love and get back with it. And God says, “I will remove your lamp stand unless you do.” And like I said, history shows that that’s exactly what happened. All right verse 6, but He still had something that He could give them credit for and that is:
“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Now, there’s more than one take on who the Nicolaitans were. I think the Scofield depicts it as an over-coming of the laity, a clergy. Other commentaries I’ve read have had various others, but the other one I read just again last night was the Nicolaitans were worshippers of a particular pagan goddess. And these Jews, of course, would naturally hate any kind of pagan idolatry, and so they were still up enough on what they believed to hate the Nicolaitans, whichever it was. It was something that was totally false and they hated it, but the Lord said, so do I.
“He that hath an ear, (now this is unusual because here again I think this is strictly a Jewish term of language) let him hear what the Spirit (that is the Holy Spirit) saith to the churches; (congregations. Not singular, plural, so it’s a message to all seven of them. And here it is) To him that overcometh…”
Now again, I think I’ve made mention of it earlier, I don’t think that the Apostle Paul ever speaks of you and I as Grace Age believers as being over comers. But here, these Jews are constantly being reminded to be over comers. And then God says:
“…will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
Well, with that we can make a comment. Tell me, where does the Tree of Life first appear? Back in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden. And after the fall and after the flood, it disappears. Now it seems, from Scripture, that the Tree of Life continued on even after the expulsion because God put angelic creatures in front of the gate to the Tree of Life so that no one would partake of it. But anyway, it disappears from human experience, but here we have it popping up again in eternity as revealed in Revelation.
And so he tells these Jewish believers, that if they would overcome all the things that were working against them and restore to where they were at the beginning, then they would have the promise of eternal life in that world that is to come, that new heaven and new earth. Now, let’s just move on into verse 8 and the second letter, which is to Smyrna. Now of course, you have to realize that the Jewish believers, as well as Paul’s believers, were under intense persecution at this time. It was dependant quite often on the particular Roman Emperor, some were worse than others, but this was a period of time leading up to the destruction of the temple, where the Romans were intense in their persecution against believers. And so Smyrna speaks of that. In fact, the very name Smyrna comes, I think, as a root of the word Myrrh. And Myrrh, of course, was that perfume which was brought about by the crushing of a little seed. The more that little seed was crushed, the more odor would come from it. And so the indication, of course, is that they were in a place of intense persecution.
“And unto the angel (or leader) of the church (assembly) in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, (in other words, again, the Alpha and the Omega,) the one who was dead, (as a result of His crucifixion) and is alive.”
Now stop a minute and think. Is Jesus associating salvation with their believing that? No! Not at all. He’s just simply making it known that the One they’re dealing with is the One who was alive from eternity past, He had gone through death, He had been brought back to life. But He doesn’t associate it any iota with salvation with these Jewish believers. This is the point I’m trying to make. Just because they mention the fact that He was dead and risen from the dead, unless it’s promoted as a means of salvation, then they had no connection that it was for them to enjoy salvation.
Now with Paul, of course, it’s the other way around. He emphasizes that because He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose from the dead for our justification, here in this Church Age, and that is what we must believe in our heart for salvation.
“I know thy works,… (Now, I’m going to make the point. Do you realize in every one of these seven letters works is the preeminent word, because it’s a legalistic religion. They are still under the Law.)
Even though the temple is several hundred miles away and they probably still have to try to get to a feast day, yet these believers that had believed for salvation that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, are for all practical purposes Law-keeping Jews. And in order to be a Law-keeper, I know we’ve got some of you in here that have come out of those kinds of religions; if you are under a Law-keeping religion, what do you have to do? Works! Works, in one way or another, either by opening up your billfold, or doing this, or doing that. Whenever you have a works religion, it is work, work, work. And that’s why a works religion can never be sure of their eternal destiny. Why? Because you don’t know if you’ve worked enough.