Equipped to Live

   I.      Introduction

In our lifelong journey, we all want to be better than we are.

We want to be healthier.  We want to be taller.  We want to have more money.  We want to have more friends.  We want a nicer car.

And once we become Christian, we want to be a better Christian.  But I sometimes think we equate being a better Christian with being a better person.  And then we look around at all the perfect people in church and think, “I wish I could be like them, but there is so much garbage and filth in my past, I can never be as good as they are.”

Our perception of what it means to be a better Christian is flawed.  We are putting the cause before the effect, we are putting the “after” before the “before”.  Christians are not better people because we have Christ.  We are blessed because Christ has us.  And that is how we should live.

Peter is writing his letter in 1 Peter 4 to the early church, talking to those who have recently given their lives to Christ.  We have spoken before of this initial transformation of the young Christian; how they one lived as enemies of God and slaves to their own sin, but now chose to be slaves of Christ and begin their eternal lives.  Their eternal lives begin, not after death of the body, but the death of the old life.  We are “born again” into a new family.  But this can be a difficult transition; some new Christians may look back at their old lives and see their old friends partying and enjoying their old sin.  Let’s face it, sin is fun.  Satan doesn’t entice us to the dark side with healthy vegetables.slide2  He entices us with pumpkin cream cheese pancakes.Slide3.JPG

Let’s begin with the first part of our scripture today.  We are in 1 Peter 4, and we have 11 verses to cover.  There are about 35 separate topics in these 11 verses, but we’re going to focus on just 2 or 3 because, well, lunch.

II.      We Are Not Who We Were, 1 Peter 4:1-4

1 Peter 4:1-4,

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.  For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

The chapter begins with “therefore” and when you see a “therefore,” we have to ask ourselves what it is there for.  This refers back to 1 Peter 3:18 which describe the life of Christ,

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

This was the purpose of Christ, to save lost sinners like you and me.  The death of Christ brought us forgiveness through grace in 3 ways –

  1. Christ’s death fulfilled the Old Testament Law of a sacrificial offering. We know that Jesus answered the Pharisees accusation by saying that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  Therefore, an unblemished lamb was sacrificed.
  2. Second, Christ died as a propitiation for our sins. I confess I heard this term for years before I finally studied it, and it’s just a big word for a simple concept.  The bible says that God is a righteous and holy God, and God will not allow sin to go unpunished.  It’s not in His holy nature to say, “well, boys will be boys, I think I’ll let that one slide.”  No, God is a holy and righteous God, and God will punish every sin.  The wrath of God is a terrifying righteous thing.  And over the centuries, man has certainly given God plenty to be angry about.  None of us are innocent; Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The Good News, the gospel itself, is that this wrath has already been satisfied when Jesus was put to death on the cross.  The wrath of God was satisfied when God’s own son was put to death.  That is what propitiation is – God’s wrath, satisfied.
  3. And third, Jesus was a substitution. A guilty man cannot take the punishment for anther guilty man.  Each must serve their own.  But Jesus was perfect, sinless, innocent.  He had no punishment of His own, so He is able to take our place.  And as God, Jesus can take away the sins of you and me.  Jesus can take away the sins of the world.

So this first “therefore” in 1 Peter 4 is powerful.  Jesus suffered and died to defeat sin with his body.  Therefore, we should arm ourselves, we should put on the whole armor of God, and put our sinful past behind us.  We are done with sin.  We are done with sin.

Sin might not be done with us, though.  Our old lives, our old friends, our old decisions, our old life choices want to follow us.  1 Peter 4:3-4,

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.

But we are done with sin, and we have armed ourselves in the Armor of God, have we not?  Our old friends are still living that life, and our old friends are surprised when we say we are done with sin.  And when we say, “no thanks, I have a new life in Christ,” they taunt us, they heap abuse on us.  Call us names and ridicule us.

And let’s be honest – when that taunting and name-calling comes from friends, it’s hard.  But the worst part is that the words echo in our old sinful selves, and we taunt and ridicule ourselves.  “Of course I’m not good enough to hang with those perfect Christians and their perfect spouses and their perfect 3.2 children.  I’m a drunkard, carouser, idolater.  Don’t they know what I’ve done?”  We put ourselves in a self-induced purgatory, too good to be with our old sinful friends, but not good enough to be with our new perfect Christian friends.

That’s Satan’s lies.  Our God is bigger than that.  Our God is bigger than any sinful thing we have ever done.  Our God is omniscient, seeing into our black sinful hearts.  Our God is omnipotent and brought His wrath upon our sin and utterly destroying it, separating us from our sin as far as the east is from the west.  Our God saw the worst we had to offer, and yet loved us so much and decided we were worth saving.  He sent His son to die for those sins so we don’t have to live them anymore.  We are free of that past.  And I don’t mean just the past from 20 years ago, but the past all they up to this morning until the moment you walked into this class.  You are an adopted child of the God, the Creator of All.  Your past is gone, yesterday is a closed door and you don’t live there anymore.

You see, we look in the mirror and we see what we have done.  But God looks at us, and He sees what He has done.  He has done a miracle in us.

III.      Judgement Day, 1 Peter 4:5-7

Our primary motivation for living our new eternal lives is gratitude and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done for us while we were still yet sinners.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  We know that Judgement Day is coming.  1 Peter 5-7,

But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

God gives us a choice on how we would like to be judged.  Our old sinful lives want to be judged by sinful human standards.  If our mind is on worldly things and we desire the approval of worldly people, and turn down the free gift of salvation offered through Christ Jesus, then God gives us what we want.  We are judged according to our deeds, our words, our thoughts.

Revelation 22 is the final chapter of the bible.  The end of history.  In Revelation 22:10-11, it says,

Then he (the angel) told me (John), “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.  Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

The words “let him” implies “let him make his final decision.”  The God Almighty has provided a free choice.  After the Millennium Kingdom, The Book of Life is opened, and for those who have accepted Christ and their names are listed in the Book of Life, they proceed to the Judgement Seat, or Bema Seat of Christ, described in 2 Corinthians 5:10. As Christians, we are judged for our works while in this body, and we receive rewards for those deeds.  And there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, for Christ died to pay the price for where we fall short.

Those that do not choose this gift of life and have decided to be judged on their own efforts and works, they appear at the Great White Throne described in Revelation 20 and judged exactly as they wished.  And everyone at this judgement, without exception, falls short of the glory of God and is thrown into the Lake of Fire.

So this “let him make his final decision” is God granting us our free will forever and ever.  God will not force us to accept His will, but that choice is final.  Dinesh D’Souza gave a speech at Liberty University on Friday night, and began it with this thought:slide10

https://twitter.com/DineshDSouza/status/787270366469222400

That is why Peter tells us,

The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

The end of all things is near, but as mortals, we have short attention spans.  We forget our eternal destination and focus on the world around us.  Peter himself was an example of what happens when we take our eyes off of Jesus.  When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, Peter’s eyes were on Jesus and Jesus called him.  And Peter walked on water!  But then Peter looked at the world around him and noticed how high the waves were and how deep the sea was and started to sink.  Peter’s salvation was still secure – Jesus reached in and caught him – but would Peter have sunk if his eyes remained on Jesus?

In the middle of going to work, shopping for groceries, exercising at the gym, we look at our watch and we never think, “What time was the world supposed to end?”  The end of the world seems less important to us than picking up the dry cleaning.  But the end of all things are near, and it’s not hard to imagine the last days becoming closer.  If you forget the end is near, turn on the TV and watch the news for 5 minutes.

So we keep that in mind when we pray, remembering the urgency that comes with the end of the world.  We need to be alert and focused.  But to have effective prayers, the NIV says we must be alert and sober.  The Holman Christian Standard Bible says serious and disciplined.  The NASB says sound judgement and sober spirit.  Others says clear-minded and self-controlled, serious and watchful, earnest and disciplined.  We must be focused on what God wants, not what we want.  We clear our minds and we seek God’s will.

I confess it is a mystery to me why God answers prayers.  He alone is worthy; He alone is just.  He doesn’t need my advice when I come to Him in prayer.  But the bible is clear that our prayers move God to act and that our prayers are like a fragrant aroma to Him.  It pleases God for us to pray.

So we pray for ourselves, we pray for our loved ones, we pray for our neighbors, we pray for our enemies.  We pray out of love for one another, that nobody should face the Great White Throne of Judgement without our Advocate in Christ Jesus at our side.  We pray out of love.

IV.      We Are Not Who We Will Become, 1 Peter 4:8-11

1 Peter 4:8-10,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

I think it is of no surprise that the word for “love” here is “agape,” the love that loves others so much that it is willing to sacrifice for others.  We are to sacrifice for each other with no hesitation or reservation.  I don’t think the NIV captures the essence of the word “deeply” here.  The Amplified bible calls it “intense and unfailing love for one another.”  This agape love is from God working through us and has nothing to do with how we feel.  Sometimes we don’t “feel” loving.  Love anyway.  Sometimes we feel irritated.  Love anyway, because love covers a multitude of sins, both their sins and especially our own sins.

What is agape love?  1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us exactly what love is and what is not.  As an engineer, I’m sort of spreadsheet oriented and I’ll eventually have the entire bible categorized properly in a giant spreadsheet like it should be, but for now, here’s a spreadsheet on love that you can stick on your refrigerator:

1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Attitudes Actions
Love is Love is not Love does Love does not
Patient Jealous Rejoice with truth Brag
Kind Arrogant Bears all things Act rudely
Provoked Believes all things Seek its own
Hopes all things Keep a record of wrongs
Endures all things Rejoice in unrighteousness

slide13Love is easy, and love is complicated.  But it’s worthwhile to reflect on this list.  It’s easy to say we love someone, but harder to actually love someone in action and in attitude.

For instance, the very first words of this list is, “Love is patient, love is kind.”  I don’t know about you, but if this is a definition of love, I didn’t even make it past the first two words.  I’m not always patient.  What’s that old joke, God grant me patience, and grant it to me now?  The things in my life that are my biggest source of frustration seem to be life-long battles.  And I once thought of myself as patient, but I have a better understanding.  Not that I’ve been able to put it into practice, but at least I have a better understanding of where I fall short.

How long does patience last?  A couple of hours?  A week?  A year?  I think any number does the word “patience” an injustice.  In Genesis 18, The Lord is going to wipe Sodom from the earth, but Abraham asks God if the Lord will destroy with righteous along with the wicked.  Abraham starts by asking if 50 righteous people are found for the Lord to spare the city, and the Lord agrees.  Through a serious of humorous bargaining, Abraham then tries to make it easier on himself, so he asks if 45 people are enough.  Then 40, then 30, 20, and then 10.  And the Lord agrees.  But no righteous people were found; Lot and his family were spared, but not because of their righteousness.

Fast forward to 2 Peter 3:9,

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

When Peter says, “The end of all things is near,” and then his next letter says “The Lord is not slow about keeping His promise,” I think of 1 Corinthians 13 saying “love is patient” and John 3:16 that says, “For God so loved the world” that over 4000 years have passed since the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  But the end of times hasn’t yet arrived.  So patience is at least 4000 years if you love someone.  To truly understand patience, we must be patient.

As for “Love is kind,” has anyone ever said an unkind word?  It’s hard to keep our tongue in check.  James 3:6 has these kind words to say about our ability to control our tongue:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Now I understand why some monks take a vow of silence.  Ouch.  I have had some progress in this regard by remembering James 3:9, just 3 verses later:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.

The thing to remember about how we express love and to who and what attitude we have while we do it … well, that seems to sum up our purpose while we are visiting this big blue marble in preparation for our eternal kingdom.  We are to love our family; we are to love our friends.  We are to love our neighbors.  We are to love our enemies.  In short, we are to lead a life of love that demonstrates the light of Christ in us.

What comes out of our mouth reflects what is really inside our hearts.  When I read about some celebrity or sports figure apologize for something they said, I’ve been seeing this phrase being used, “That’s not who I am.”

A NYPD detective abusing an Uber driver, caught on tape.  “I let my emotions get the better of me…. That’s not who I am.”slide16

Marco Rubio when he was running for President implied that Donald Trump had a small… something.  It was insulting to a man.  But Rubio’s apology? “It’s not who I am and I shouldn’t have said that.”Slide17.JPG

Isaiah Crowell, running back for the Cleveland Browns, after a police shooting death of two black me, posted a graphic picture of a cop with his throat slit.  He apologized, donated a game check to the Dallas Fallen Officer Association and said, “That’s not who I am.”slide18

Dani Mathews, 2015 Playmate of the Year, took a picture of a heavier woman who was naked in a gym shower, with the caption, “If I can’t unsee this, then you can’t either.”  After an uproar, she apologized saying she accidentally posted the photo and … “that’s not who I am.”Slide19.JPG

I find the trend disturbing; people are essentially claiming they are innocent – “that wasn’t me.”  Like somehow if I robbed a bank at gunpoint and say, “That wasn’t me, I don’t rob banks.”Slide20.JPG

But it was them.  And as Christians, we certainly are not immune to saying ugly things.  The only reason it comes out of you is because it was in you.  The only way to keep it from being in us is to fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit so full there isn’t room for our own iniquities.  And if something ugly comes out of our mouths, then we apologize and say, “That was me.  I am sorry.  I am trying to be better but I still often fall short of the glory of God.”slide21

Our scripture verses today end with 1 Peter 4:11,

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

When we profess to be a Christian, every word we speak represents Christ on earth, for we are Christ’s ambassador to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to our family and friends, to our neighbors, to non-believers.   Every word we say reflects our heart and reflects Christ, so we should speak slowly and choose each and every word carefully.  Once you say them, you can’t take them back.

  V.      Conclusion

Our sanctification process is to be a better Christian daily.  We look in that mirror and see what we’ve done or what we’ve said, but God sees what He has done.  We want those two visions to be the same; we want to see what God sees.  And we cannot do this on our own, for we battle daily with our sinful nature and the principalities of this world.

Some days, I hate to admit, that old sinful nature is going to get the upper hand briefly, and we are going to say or do something that hurts somebody.  It will be unloving because we didn’t fill ourselves up with goodness, and we will reflect badly on ourselves and be a poor ambassador for Christ.

Don’t beat yourself up too badly.  It will happen to all of us sooner than later.  Some sooner than others.  None of us are perfect.  And our closest family and friends?  They, too, will say or do something that is hurtful.  But our key verse that wraps all of this together for us is 1 Peter 4:8,

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Because of the love our family has for us, we can fail and it’s ok.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  Because of the love we have for others, they can fail and it’s ok.  Love covers a multitude of sins.

Because God so loved the world and gave his Son as a perfect sacrifice, a perfect propitiation, a perfect substitution, we can fail, and He still loves us.

Love covers a multitude of sins.

To God be the glory.

Advertisements

Revelation 12, Jesus Defeats Satan

  I.      Introduction

History and prophecy.  God uses both throughout time to display to all creation that He alone is in control.  There is prophecy that tells what God will do, then, when God fulfills His promise, the prophecy becomes history.  And then there is new prophecy.  Some prophecies have already come true; others are yet to come.

Open your bibles to Revelation 12 and this morning we’re going to study both prophecy and history and examine the battle between good and evil, God and Satan, throughout time, beginning thousands of years ago and is ongoing today and is still yet to come.

Ever heard that statement, “Jesus never says He is God?”  While technically accurate, if you’re a student of the bible you know it isn’t true.  Jesus used word specifically to indicate to the Pharisees that Jesus was Lord, and the Pharisees turned him over to Pilate to be crucified for it.  Also, the entire book of Revelation points to the deity of Jesus and His Kingdom and millennial reign.  Revelation doesn’t even try to justify the deity of Jesus with words like, “Jesus is God because…”  No Revelation just states it as fact.

II.      Christmas and Easter, Revelation 12:1-5

Today’s study is intense with symbolism, verse 1 begins with “a great sign appeared in heaven.”  But just because it’s symbolic doesn’t mean it’s hidden from us, or cloaked in mystery.  The passages of Revelation open up to us if we examine the scriptures carefully and try to understand each verse separately, then put them all together to understand the story that is being told.

Slide3

And Revelation is meant to be understood, it is “revealed” so we can understand our place in this world and the parallels in the heavenly realm.  The Greek word for Revelation is Apokalupsis which means to reveal that which was before unknown.  To reveal the things that have been, that are, and are to come.

There is a system to understanding the symbology Revelation.  First, search the immediate verses.  Throughout Revelation, 26 times the interpretation is given in the immediate verses.  If that doesn’t provide the interpretation, then search the Old Testament for the same symbol.  There are 404 verses in Revelation, and 278 of them are explained in the Old Testament.  Most of the symbology refers to Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.  In particular, the visions of Daniel are represented.

The first 5 verses of Revelation 12 are a history lesson from the perspective of heaven.  It’s a story that needs earthly translation, as God says, “His ways are above our ways.”  Let’s read verses 1-5 –

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads.  Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born.  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.

Ok, there’s some symbolism here, but it’s relatively easy to figure out.  There are three characters in this symbolic story so far, let’s see if we can figure out who they are –

  • Verse 1: A woman.
  • Verse 3: A dragon.
  • Verse 5: A son.

Let’s take them in reverse order.  The son is a male child who will rule the nations with an iron scepter.  Let’s take a peek at the Old Testament where this phrase is used in Psalm 2.  Psalm 2 laments that the nations conspire against the Lord and the kings and rulers of the band together against the Lord.  The Lord responds by saying in Psalm 2:5-9,

He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter,
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Our male child is the Messiah, savior of His people, ruler of nations.  And when Revelation 12:5 says the male child was “caught up unto God,” it’s reminiscent of Acts 1:9, when Jesus ascended into heaven in sight of His apostles.

The second character in our story is a dragon.  And the dragon is the devil because I can skip down to verse 9 where it says the great dragon was called the devil.  I could figure that one out on my own, didn’t need any bible study guides at all.

Slide8

The third character in the story is the woman, and she’s a little harder to figure out.  For years some scholars posited that she was the early Christian church, but that can’t be right.  The woman gives birth to the male child, and the Christian church didn’t give birth to Jesus.  Quite the opposite – Jesus through His sacrifice opened God’s grace to the gentiles and the Christian church was born.

Since the surrounding verses don’t positively identify the woman, let’s see if we can find our clues in the Old Testament.  The woman is described as having the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  Let’s go all the way back to Genesis 37, where Joseph had a dream.  Joseph was the son of Jacob who God renamed Israel, Joseph was Israel’s favorite, and Jacob’s brothers would eventually drop him in a deep well and leave him.  But just before that, Joseph had a dream he told to his family.  Joseph said, “Listen, I had a dream, and in this dream the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  His father Israel rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream you had?  Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”  In this dream, we understand that the sun is Joseph’s father Israel, the moon is Israel’s wife Leah (Rachel had already died by this time), and the 11 stars are Joseph’s brothers who became eleven tribes of Israel, which Joseph becoming the twelfth tribe.

Slide10

The woman in Revelation 12, then must be Israel.  The twelve stars are the tribes of Israel, and the woman brought forth Jesus, who brought forth His church.  And then we realize Revelation 12:1-5 is the Christmas story as told from the heavenly perspective.

Let’s look at the exact same story from the earthly perspective, told in Matthew 2 and is already very familiar to you.  Jesus is born in Bethlehem.  The Magi from the East, commonly referred to the Three Wise Kings, stop at King Herod’s and discuss the birth of the new King of the Jews.  Herod is so disturbed by this, that his rule may be overthrown, that he orders every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed.  The angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and tells him to take Mary and the baby to Egypt.

Slide12

Jesus was born, this is the Christmas message.  Matthew 2 tells the story from the perspective of the earthly realm, Revelation 12:1-5 tells the same story from the spiritual realm perspective, as Satan tries to prevent the birth of our Savior.  Revelation 12:1-5 tells us a history lesson about Satan’s failed strategy to prevent the birth of the Messiah..

Verse 4, the angelic realm’s perspective of the devil trying to destroy the Messiah before He was born, we have to realize that this isn’t the only time Satan tried to destroy the Messiah.  Throughout the Old Testament, the devil tried many times to prevent the arrival of the Messiah.  Satan is trying a preemptive attack, trying to prevent the arrival of the Messiah and prevent God’s prophecies, because the devil knows he loses the spiritual warfare and Jesus will conquer death.  Satan is a fallen angel that believes he can take the place of God, and he used Herod’s insecurities to kill every baby in Bethlehem, but Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt and escaped.  Before that, the devil tried for millennia to prevent the birth of Jesus.

Before Herod (Matthew 2), Cain killed Abel.  Satan believed since God had accepted Abel’s sacrifice, then the Messianic line would certainly come through Abel (Genesis 4, 1 John 3:2).  God’s plan, though, was through the lineage of Abel’s  younger brother Seth.  Then, in Exodus 1, Pharaoh tried to drown all the Jewish babies.  In 2 Chronicles 22, Athaliah tries to destroy all the royal offspring of the house of Judah, but the priest hid Joash in the temple and the Messianic line is preserved.  In the book of Esther, Haman tried to exterminate all the Jews.

Satan is called the prince of this world, and he doesn’t want to give it up.  It’s all he has.  He even tried to tempt Jesus in Matthew 4:5-7 by offering Him the kingdoms of this world.  Jesus didn’t disagree that Satan was the prince of this world.

But the history is past, God is in control, and the Messiah, our Savior is brought into this world.  The devil loses.  How wicked, how dangerous the devil then becomes.  Now the devil needs a new strategy; to destroy Israel.

III.      War in Heaven, Revelation 12:6-12

God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that in him, all the nations of the world will be blessed.  Israel is the only nation that God started directly and has a covenant with God.  God will bless Israel, and Israel will bless the world, that’s God’s plan.  Israel has already blessed us.  Israel has provided scripture – all the authors of the bible with the possible exception of Luke were Jewish.  It says in Romans 3:2 that the Jews were entrusted with the very words of God.  The Jews gave us a Savior.  Did you know Jesus wasn’t Baptist?  No, He was a Jew.  And it says in Isaiah 2:2-3 that the Kingdom in the future would be headquartered in Jerusalem.

Slide13

So just like Revelation 12:1-5 is Satan’s past failed strategy, Revelation 12:6-17 is Satan’s present and future strategy, also failed.  Satan is trying to do a preemptive strike to destroy the nation of Israel to prevent the coming of the kingdom.

Satan knows that the kingdom is coming to the earth through Israel.  He is trying to destroy Israel like he once tried to destroy the messiah.  Verse 6 is set in the future to the 2nd half of the Tribulation.  It says,

The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

To understand the symbology, the woman is Israel, as we’ve studied.  The wilderness most scholars believe to be the city of Petra, in the wilderness, to be taken care of my God.  And 1,260 days means… 1, 260 days.

Slide15

The study of eschatology is the theology of the end times for mankind and the word.  We’re not going to get into the various comparisons, other than to note that not all scholars agree on how the future unfolds.  In the eschatology of a pre-Tribulation worldview, first comes the Rapture where believers meet Jesus in the air according to the 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Then begins seven years of Tribulation as God pours out His wrath, and Jesus comes to establish 1000 years of the millennial kingdom on earth.

Slide16

At the midpoint of the seven years of Tribulation, there is a blasphemous desecration of the temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus tells the Jews in Matthew 24:15 that they are to flee to the mountains.  And this is where we find ourselves in Revelation 12:6 as the woman flees to the desert for 1260 days, which is 3 and 1/2 years.  We are looking at these verses that describe the spiritual war from the angelic realm.

Revelation 12:7-12,

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”

Satan is furious.  Christ is coming, the Lion of Judah, and bringing the Kingdom of God.  Up to this point, Satan believes he can still thwart God.  Satan has access to God’s throne room – remember in Job 1 where God and Satan have a discussion about Job’s future?  Satan is in God’s throne room, not to worship as other heavenly beings do, but to accuse.  In fact, this verse says Satan accuses us before our God day and night.  We should be careful we ourselves do not become accusers.  The side doing the accusations has an ally that we should want nothing to do with.

But now, halfway through the Tribulation, Satan is thrown down from heaven, permanently.

IV.      War on Earth, Revelation 12:13-17

Then we look at verse 13, and Satan is losing the war.  He has already failed in the past when he was unable to prevent the coming of the Messiah, then he loses access to the heavenly throne room as he is thrown down, and here in the future, furious, Satan pursues Israel in earnest because he knows he only has 3 1/2 years to prevent God’s kingdom on earth.  And just like God rescued the Messianic line from Satan’s plans, now God rescues the woman Israel.

Verse 13-17,

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.  The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.  Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

The most difficult part of Revelation 12 for me to figure out was “time, times, and half a time.”  Sounds like a math problem, and I’m an engineer, I should be able to figure this out.  It’s just a weird way of saying 3 1/2 years or 1260 days.  “Time” is “1 year,” “times” is “2 years” and then add “half a time” for a total of 3 1/2 years.

Satan’s final efforts to destroy Israel will also fail.  Notice Israel is given “the two wings of a great eagle.”  This symbology comes from Exodus 19:4, when God protected Israel from Pharaoh.  God tells Moses to say to the people of Israel, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”  The image of being carried on eagles’ wings shows God’s protection during persecution, carried safely out of harm’s way.  This is God’s divine protection.

Slide21

Also, a favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Some scholars have tried to interpret the eagles’ wings as being protected by the USA who has the bald eagle as our emblem.  I’d like to say we will continue to protect Israel, but sadly, that’s not to be the case.  The USA, too, will one day persecute Israel.  Indeed, just in the last month the USA struck a deal with Iran so that Iran will have nuclear technology.  Iran then chants, “Death to America” and pledges to wipe Israel off of the map with nuclear weapon technology provided by the USA.

Wiping Israel off the map, though, would actually be an improvement, though, because the official world map from Iran doesn’t even show Israel.  I guess that means they will put Israel on the map first, then wipe Israel off.  Psalm 83:4 sounds exactly like something the leader or Iran might say.

“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

Here is a map of the Middle East showing the Muslim countries, with Israel at the center.  They say there will be peace in the Middle East if Israel just gives up a little more territory.  Here’s what Benjamin Netanyahu says about the Middle East peace process:

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel.”

Slide23

Satan been trying throughout the ages to destroy Israel.  Perhaps he thought for a while he succeeded – the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem in 70AD and the Jewish diaspora were scattered throughout the earth.  Even without a country, the Jewish people and culture survived, so Hitler and his Nazis destroyed 6 million of them in World War II.  And still Satan was unsuccessful, and when the United Nations reestablished Israel as a nation in 1948 after nearly 1900 years without a country, Satan realized his plan was failing again.

One cannot underestimate how furious Satan is.  Look at some of the words used to describe Satan’s emotions:  Verse 12, “filled with fury,” verse 13, “persecuted.”  Verse 15, “sweep away,” Verse 17 “war” and “enraged.”    God’s divine protection is in place, though.  In fact, the word for “persecuted” in verse 13 is the exact same Greek word that is used on Jesus’ sermon on the mount when He says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

Satan knows scripture, and he knows how badly things end for him.  But he believes he can replace God, and there is no end of his deceptions and lies in order to thwart God’s will.  1 Peter 8 says that your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  And if you think the deceptions and lies and accusations he uses against Christians are tormenting, it pales when measured against Satan’s fury against Israel.

Slide24

See, God’s plan is to bless Israel, and Israel will bless the nations.  Satan’s plan is not.  I believe antisemitism, and hatred of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is driven by Satan himself.  The desire to wipe out Israel is our earthly demonstration of the war in heaven and is rooted in the angelic conflict of good versus evil.

Jerusalem will be at the center of the Kingdom of God and of His Christ according to Zechariah 14:17 and several other verses.  Satan hates this.  Once the kingdom comes, his kingdom of this world is permanently ended, he is permanently bound and thrown into the lake of fire.

  V.      Conclusion

Be ever careful and vigilant to stay on the side of good.  Nobody is immune from Satan’s lies and deceits.  We have a God of love and forgiveness and grace, and all hatred is against His will, but antisemitism is especially evil and comes from the devil.  Satan has an evil plan for this hatred of Israel.

This battle in heaven with the battle on earth that mirrors it is widely perceived as a struggle between good and evil.  There are wars and famine and death in this world that may seem evil is winning, but it’s not.  Sata is dangerous, but Satan also is defeated.  The battle isn’t even close.  Jesus wins overwhelmingly.

To God be the glory.

The Seven Churches of Revelation

  I.      Introduction

Slide1

In the last days of the Apostle John’s life, his faith in Jesus Christ led to his persecution.  John had been living in Ephesus, but Rome exiled John to a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea called Patmos.  I suppose the Romans thought to take a spiritual leader and move him out of the way so he wouldn’t spread any more dangerous ideas about this new disruptive Christianity, but exiling John to Patmos didn’t have the intended effect.  John spent his time in worship and prayer, and it was here on Patmos that John was given a powerful revelation from Jesus about the spiritual health of the churches and a vision of the end-times to come.

The seven churches are

  • Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – the church that had forsaken its first love.
  • Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – the church that would suffer persecution.
  • Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – the church that needed to repent.
  • Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – the church with a false prophetess.
  • Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) – the church that had fallen asleep.
  • Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) – the church that had endured patiently.
  • Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) – the church with the lukewarm faith.

Slide2

All seven churches are located a Roman mail route in Asia Minor; the remains of each of these churches still exist today in what is now modern-day Turkey.

The seven churches described in Revelation 2-3 are seven churches that existed during the time John the apostle was writing Revelation. Though they were literal churches in that time, there is also spiritual significance for churches and believers today.  So while the letters themselves are written to the churches, we can use the message to gain understanding of how both the churches and we as individuals relate to Jesus.

Each letter from Jesus to the churches follows a pattern.  First, Jesus describes Himself, His Authority and His Power.  Then He offers encouragement to the church, and a warning about their practices or their behavior.  And to those who are victorious in Christ, a command and a promise.

  • Jesus is…
  • Praise
  • Fault
  • Warning / Promise

Let’s turn to Revelation 2 and begin.

            II.      To the Church in Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

This is Jesus speaking to John, telling John to write down precisely the words of Jesus.  Like much of what we’re going to study, there are several possible meanings in each verse.  The Greek word is “angelos,” and usually means “spiritual messenger.”  The “angel” of the church could refer to a guardian angel of each church, but some might wonder why Jesus would have John write a letter to an angel.  A more earthly view is that the “angelos” was a human messenger that visited John, an elder or a pastor entrusted with the letter to share with the church.  I think the rest of verse 2 clarifies it somewhat.  Jesus describes himself as –

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.

This is why Revelation seems so difficult to me.  I like my scripture to be more literal.  When Jesus says, “forgive one another” or “love one another,” I get that. And it’s easy teach, too.  “Forgive one another, love one another, walk among the lampstands.”

Sometimes the symbolism in Revelation is hard, but for today’s symbolism, I found a simple trick to understanding it.  At the end of the previous chapter, Revelation 1… can somebody read out loud the very last verse of Revelation 1?

The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Ah, that makes it easy to understand.  So this means Jesus walks among the churches and He holds the pastors of the churches in his hand.  Got it.

Now Jesus tells the Church of Ephesus what He likes and what He doesn’t like –

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Ephesus was a large seaport for its day, one of the largest cities with 400,000 people.  In John’s day, Jesus is pleased with what He sees.  The Ephesians work hard, they discern false teachers and wicked people, they are persecuted yet remain faithful.  All very good things for the church and for you and me.

But there is a balance between truth and love, and both must be present in the will of the Lord.  Ephesus triumphs in truth, but has forgotten that the purpose of the gospel, the good news, is love.  Jesus is love, a sacrifice for we who do not deserve God’s gift of salvation but were given it anyway.  If our Christian faith is marked by legalist, condemnation, accusations, then we are no better than Pharisees.

And this love is something we do, it’s not an emotional, “I love you, now go on about your business.”  Love is hospitality, love is helping those who need it, particularly the widows and orphans, the poor, sick, and needy.  Jesus’ love was to do for us what we could not do for ourselves: die for our sins and be saved.  This was a mark of the early Christian churches; pagan and secular cultures did not care for the poor.  When the Christians showed love, they were advertising the love of God in them.

But the Ephesians had forgotten their first love, and Jesus says that if they do not repent of their unloving nature, then He will remove their lampstand.  I heard a term recently called “The Ephesus Syndrome” where Christians and churches become totally preoccupied with fine points of doctrinal theology, pre-trib vs mid-trib, and find they have drifted away from makes surrounding to Christ all the worthwhile – a fervent love for the God who created us, and a love for one another.

About 4 years ago I was blessed to take a trip to Israel and some of the destinations on Paul’s journey.  The city is amazing; the amphitheater where Paul taught could hold 25,000 people.  The city library was enormous.  But there is no active Christian church there today, no weekly congregation, no worship services on the Sabbath.  Their lampstand has been removed.

For those who remember that our number one commandment is love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength, and also to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, Jesus gives this promise –

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

The tree of life was there in the Garden of Eden, and will be planted again many times over in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 22.   Jesus was victorious over death, and those who love the Lord share in that victory and live forever.

III.      To the Church in Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11

I think we have to move along more quickly.  There are seven churches, and if I spent only 4 minutes a church, we’ll use up our half hour.  So our second church is Smyrna, and following our pattern, Jesus tells us who he is,

To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

Jesus is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last.  The entire purpose of the Old Testament is to give us insight into who God is and point to a Messiah.  The New Testament give us the Good News that we are saved from the death of our sins, and Revelation will tell us our future, our lives forever with the One who loves us so much he was crucified for us, who died and now lives.

The praise to Smyrna:

I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!  I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days.  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

The people of Smyrna lived in a culture of Jews, non-Jews, pagans, and the early church.  The word “Satan” literally means “the accuser,” so the synagogue of Satan was full of Jews accusing the early Christians of all kinds of wickedness.  As a result, they were persecuted and imprisoned, suffering as Jesus did to demonstrate His love for us.

And the fault Jesus finds?  None.  Only in the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia does Jesus find nothing to condemn.  For those that hold to the end, willing to demonstrate the love of Jesus even under persecution, imprisonment, and death, Jesus praises them as victors.

IV.      To the Church in Pergamum, Revelation 2:12-17

Church number three, the Church in Pergamum.  Jesus announced himself as –

To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

This echoes the words in Hebrews 4:12,

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And the beginning of the book of John 1:1,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Jesus is the Word, and if you let the Word into your heart, read the scripture and pray for wisdom, the Word will show you what is unworthy and must be surgically removed, cut out of your life.  Jesus calls us to repentance from our sins.  We will always struggle without our own sins, but I discovered it is impossible to sin while calling on the name of Jesus.  Can’t do them both at the same time.  If I’m am doing or saying something I ought not to be doing or saying, I am also trying hard not to think of Jesus.  And if I am thinking of Jesus, I find it impossible to willfully sin.

And the more we imbue ourselves with the Word, the more righteously we wish to live, and the more shortcomings we find in ourselves, and the more we give thanks that we don’t have to fail in our sins.  Jesus has already saved us, and we start that process by reading His Word, the two-edged sword the shows us what is truly in our hearts.

Now the praise for Pergamum –

I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

Pergamum was the seat of Roman power in the region.  Paganism was the culture, temples built to worship prostitution, idolatry of self.  The very seat of evil.  Yet the little church in Pergamum was faithful, despite being surrounded by wickedness.

So how do we live when we are surrounded by wickedness?  When living in a culture that celebrates sin?  A culture that celebrates homosexuality, that celebrates selfishness and pride?  There were two stories in the news this week that revolted me.  One was an app called Ashley something, I didn’t bother to go look it up again.  It’s an app for adulterers.  Married men who want to have sex with married women other than their own.  The app promised confidentiality so you could have your affair without all that bother of your spouse finding out.  I was appalled there was an app for that.  But some hacker broke into their database and copied all the names off the credit cards used.  The users might be confidential, but they still had to use a credit card with their name on it.  Busted.

The other story was the Planned Parenthood selling baby parts for profit, and discussing how to preserve the parts in a “less crunchy” way so they could make more money.  Again, I was appalled.  They also claim that abortions aren’t killing babies, they’re just a clump of cells to which I ask, then where did these little hearts and brains and arms and legs come from?  In the Old Testament, the evil Ammonites worshipped Molech, a protecting father figure.  To bring about Molech’s protection, a statue of Molech was made of bronze and their outstretched arms were heated red-hot.  Living children were then placed in Molech’s arms and died there.  The way some in our culture worship Planned Parenthood, Molech is alive and well in our country.

Like Pergamum, we are surrounded by evil, but we are called to be in this world, but not of this world.  Jesus praised Pergamum for remaining faithful.

But Jesus had something against Pergamum –

Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality.  Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Some in Pergamum tried to remain faithful *and* blend into the culture.  They welcomed teachings of Balaam alongside teachings of Jesus.  The Nicolaitans were also mentioned in the Church of Ephesus earlier, but we don’t know much about them except Jesus hated their teachings.  They enticed the Israelites into sexual immorality, and I cannot help but see the parallels with those liberal churches in our country performing same-sex marriages.  Jesus is not pleased and fights against this evil with the sword of truth, the word of life, the Holy Scripture.

And the promise,

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

The “secret manna” is God’s truth, hidden in scripture.  For those who believe, it’s spiritual nourishment, and for those who don’t, it’s nonsense.  And the white stone is a ticket of admission to God’s Kingdome, personally engraved, and represents a new, intimate relationship.  Jesus has a special name for you and me if we are victorious, a nickname that Jesus gives us known only by us.

  V.      To the Church in Thyatira, Revelation 2:18-26

Church number 4, the Church in Thyatira.  Who does Jesus say that He is?

To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:

These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

Jesus sees all and nothing is hidden from His sight, a blazing fire that compels us to repent of our hidden things.  The burnished bronze feet may be a reference to the city of Thyatira which was known for its trade guilds, particularly trade in smelting copper and bronze.  The coins minted at the time showed the local Roman ruler, Apollo Tyrimnaeus, the patron deity of the bronze trade, and on the other side, the Roman Emperor who was also known at the time as the ‘son of god.’  The imagery here shows that whatever our boasts of our own importance, Jesus stands on and above everything.

Jesus’s praise for Thyatira,

I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Jesus recognized them for their love and faith and service and perseverance, all good things.  But His complaints are more focused –

Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.  I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.  So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Like Pergamum allowing the teachings of Balaam, Thyatira is faulted for allowing “Jezebel” to live among them, a reference to 1st and 2nd Kings and the story of Ahab and Jezebel.  Jezebel introduced the worship of Baal into Israel.  Immoral sex was a temptation into a pagan worship that corrupted the pure faith of the Israelites. Allowing a freedom of sexual immorality into the church teachings corrupts the purity of the faith, and Jesus is not pleased.  The church has no business condoning any sort of pagan practice or sexual immorality.

For those that remain faithful,

Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ – just as I have received authority from my Father.  I will also give that one the morning star.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

One day, every knee will bow to the authority of Jesus, and those who place their faith and trust in the Lord will share in that day, and Jesus will give the morning star to them.  Jesus is the morning star, showing how loving and how intimate our relationship with Jesus will be as He gives Himself to us in love.

VI.      To the Church in Sardis, Revelation 3:1-6

Jesus says this about Himself –

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

The seven stars we already mentioned, these are the leaders and pastors of the seven churches.  The seven spirits are mentioned four times in the book of Revelation, and refer back to Isaiah 11:1-3 where each of the spirits are named in a prophecy about the ancestry of Jesus,

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—

    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and of might,

    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Jesus has praise for the church of Sardis, but their lack of enthusiasm shows.  The church will die without a love for the will of Jesus –

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

To the church of Sardis, this was a powerful message.  Six hundred years before Jesus, Sardis was considered unconquerable.  It sat on a high hill and was impenetrable.  And the people became lazy about their security.

Slide22

But King Cyrus of the Persians did it.  Cyrus sent an advance scout at night who climbed the high walls and opened the gate.  By the morning, the Persians had conquered the city.

The same thing can happen to us if we let our enthusiasm wane.  The seven spirits keep the church alive – the Spirit of the Lord, wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear.  We must be ever vigilant that we continually focused on the will of God so that we do not become complacent and lazy.  If we become lazy about our faith, sin will find a way in.  We must be ever vigilant against the evil one, and keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

The promise from Jesus is that all is not lost

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Those who walk with Jesus are considered worthy before the Lord and will walk with Jesus.  Our names will not be blotted out of the book of life.  After Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, and found out that while he was gone, Aaron had made a golden calf for the people to worship, God says in Exodus 32:32-33 that those that sinned will be blotted out of the Lord’s book of life.  And in these days when John was writing Revelation, it was common for Greek cities to maintain a list of all the citizens.  But when a citizen was condemned to death, cities didn’t want their reputation to be tarnished.  Cities never executed their own citizens.  First, the city would blot the name of the offender from the list of citizens, *then* they would execute him.

Sin separates us from God.  Jesus saves us from eternal separation and makes sure our names remain in the book of life, never to be blotted out.  And Jesus will acknowledge us – personally, by name, in front of God the Father.

VII.      To the Church in Philadelphia, Revelation 3:7-11

Church number six is Philadephia.  About Himself, Jesus says,

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

The imagery of the key of David comes from Isaiah 22:22.  All authority has been given to Jesus, and his royal key can open any heart, a message for us when we spread the good news that it is not us, never has been us, that brings salvation to another.  Jesus alone holds that key.  It is our responsibility to share what Jesus has done for us, and Jesus will unlock the hearts of those who hear Him knock.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.  Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.  The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Jesus has only praise for the Church of Philadelphia.  They teach truth, they practice love, they endure patiently.  The synagogue of Satan isn’t intended to be anti-Jewish; this message is written to the Jews that have accepted Christ as their long awaited messiah.  Those that accuse will one day realize that the very messiah they have been waiting for has come and loved those who place their faith in Him.

Those that are victorious in Jesus will wear a crown of victory and become a pillar in the temple of God.  Not of stone and marble, but of Jesus and His faithful followers.  Today, we have the Holy Spirit living inside, and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, but eventually we will be pillars of the temple of God.  And His promise of intimacy with Jesus is given again to us, that he will write His name upon us, signifying that we belong to Him forever.

VIII.      To the Church in Laodicea, Revelation 3:14-22

Last church, church number 7.  I wasn’t sure we’d get through all seven churches today.  Two or three churches would have been plenty for us, would it not?  But there’s actually a purpose to going through all seven – the number seven is God’s perfect number – seven stars, seven lampstands, seven spirits, seven churches.  I didn’t want to stop at half-perfect.

About Himself, Jesus says –

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Jesus is faithful, completely trustworthy, reliable, dependable.  He sees all and rules all, and we can trust His promises.  It’s not that Jesus is the best, but that Jesus is the only.  There is no other place to put our trust other than in the Son of God.  He will never leave us, abandon us, mislead us.  He is the Amen, the faithful and true witness.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

While Jesus had only praise for two of the churches, for Laodicea He has nothing good to say about them.  There is no redeeming feature.  This is a worldly church.  The people dressed fine, every family was perfect with 2.3 children, and all of the people were above average.  They believed they were rich and had everything they needed.

While the city of Laodicea was rich, one thing they were missing was a good supply of water.  They were located on a Roman aqueduct system near the river Lycus which is not a big river. Sometimes it dries up completely in the summer.  But to the southeast of Laodicea is the town of Colosse with a excellent supply of water.  Ice-cold, flowing down from Mount Cadmus, it was fast-flowing and plentiful, excellent to drink.  But by the time it flowed to Laodicea 6 miles away, it had warmed by the sun and lost it’s refreshing taste.

Slide29

To the north of Laodicea was the town of Hieropolis.  It has hot springs that are still operational today.  The water comes out of the ground, hot and bubbling, full of minerals.  That water today is channeled into hotel bathing pools.  Aqueducts brought this water to Laodicea, but it had cooled, no longer suitable for bathing.  Worse, the concentration of minerals and chemicals made it unsafe to drink.

The word ‘lukewarm’ is translated from the Greek ‘chliaros’ and means “tepid, nauseating, unusable or barren.”

There’s a saying that if Satan isn’t bothering you, then maybe he’s happy with the way you live.  Jesus is telling the church that He wants them to be on fire for Him, or get out of the way.  Instead, the church is full of smug, self-righteous apathetic lukewarm people.

The single greatest cause of Atheism today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny Him by their lifestyle.

This is utterly disgusting to our Lord. He’d rather one be an atheist than a so-called Christian who doesn’t care.  Such people the Lord will vomit out of His mouth.

The rich clothes the Laodiceans wore?  Filthy rags.  The money they had?  Worthless.  They strutted around in their fine clothes and said to the world, “look how fabulous we are.”  And Jesus tells them that their worldly wealth was worthless, and instead of being dressed like royalty, they were really wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.  The only thing we can wear that has eternal value is Jesus.

Jesus longs for us to want him, to persevere on His behalf, to be His hands and feet, delivering the love that He first gave to us.  He will fellowship with us and be our friend if we just open the door to His love.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

To those who are faithful to our Lord, He offers more than we can imagine.  C.S. Lewis opened a sermon once with these words,

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The Lord desires our love in action.  In return, he invites us not just to a place somewhere in heaven, but right next to Him on His throne.  Such glory I cannot fathom, to see all of creation sitting next to Jesus on the throne.

IX.      Conclusion

The messages to the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 show us that the Church was destined to face trials throughout the centuries before Jesus Christ would return. Yet God promised to reward His Church and individual members if they would remain faithful to Him.

These rewards include eating from the tree of life (Revelation 2:7), being given the crown of life (verse 10), being given a new name (verse 17), being given power over the nations (verse 26), having one’s name written in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5), becoming a pillar in God’s temple (verse 12) and sitting with Christ on His throne (verse 21). This encouragement from God reminds us that serving Him is well worth the effort.  And Jesus alone has the authority and the power to give us new life.

Let’s not settle for anything less.

To God be the glory.

Rebuilding the Walls

              I.      Introduction

Nehemiah 1 Rebuilding the Walls

We covered Esther in two weeks and Ezra in two weeks, like we were in a hurry.  But we’re going to slow down and spend the next several weeks in Nehemiah.  Let’s dive right in with an introduction to Nehemiah, who he is and what he’s doing.

            II.      Background History

The Jewish people had sinned and God had judged them; it was approximately 605 years before Christ.  God used Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon, to invade Judah and lay siege to Jerusalem.  In 597 BC, the prophet Ezekiel (who we studied just 2 months ago), documented the pillaging of Jerusalem and the deportation of Jews to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar installed Zedekiah as the tributary king of Judah.  However, despite Ezekiel’s warning, Zedekiah entered into an alliance with Pharoah Hophra of Egypt.  Nebuchadnezzar II responded by sacking Jerusalem a second time in 587 BC and destroying Solomon’s temple. The Jewish king Zedekiah was forced to watch his two sons executed, then the king’s eyes were put out and the king was imprisoned until his death.  The remaining healthy Jews still in the city were taken to Babylon, leaving behind only the weak, the poor, the sick.  The city of Jerusalem was raised to the ground.

Thus began the Diaspora of the Jews which continues to this day.  The Diaspora refers to Jews that live outside of the Kingdom of Judah.  Today, about 44% of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel, the rest are the Diaspora, Jews scattered mostly in the US and Western European countries.

The Jewish people lived as servants in Babylon, and many, like Daniel, Mordecai and Esther, and Nehemiah proved themselves trustworthy and faithful.  They understood the exile as a consequence for their sins.

Nehemiah 1 Diaspora and Aliyah

Fifty years go by, and the king of Babylon is now Cyrus the great.  In 538 BC, Cyrus’s Declaration was issued which permitted Jews to return to the land of Israel.  Then began the return to Zion, called Aliyah by the Jews, which continues to this day.

In Nehemiah’s time, there were 4 waves of Aliyah, returning to Zion, after Cyrus’s Declaration.  The prophet Ezra tell us the first Aliyah was small, approximately 1000 young Jews led by Sheshbazzar to rebuild the holy temple on the temple mount in 538 BC.  The second Aliyah was larger, later that same year, and led by Zerubbabel, and totaled nearly 50,000 people.

A third Aliyah was led by Ezra himself when Ezra was an old man, years later in 458 BC, and 5000 additional Jews returned to Zion.  Ezra strengthened religious laws and the use of the Hebrew alphabet which was critical to the identity of the Jewish people as separate and holy.

Nehemiah 1 Diaspora and Aliyah 2

The book of Nehemiah chronicles the life of Nehemiah and the fourth wave of Aliyah.  In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 1, Nehemiah identifies a mission, a service to the Lord, and we can learn much about how he learns of his mission, how he prepares for his mission, and how he executes his mission.  Let’s look at Chapter 1, and I love the way this book begins.  It identifies Nehemiah’s mission and right away how he approaches God.

The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:

 In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.

 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.  Then I said:

 “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you.  We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.

 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.  Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

 I was cupbearer to the king.

Nehemiah learns that the place of his ancestors is in poor condition and in need of help, and it moves Nehemiah to tears.  Nehemiah cried and fasted and prayed to God, and his prayer is a study on how to pray.  There is praise and worship, there is confession, there is adoration and supplication and application of scripture.  Nehemiah was a man of prayer which is also why I believe he was also a man of action.  God was with Nehemiah because Nehemiah was constantly with God.  Nehemiah did not act without praying first, and did not pray without acting.

Nehemiah is the king’s cupbearer, a position of no small importance.  Wine presented to the king would first pass through Nehemiah, who would taste the wine for signs of poison.  Nehemiah, as cupbearer, would be in nearly constant presence of the king, and so would also be an unofficial advisor with the king’s ear.

Nehemiah Hebrew Calendar

Months go by without an answer from God.  Chapter 1 says Nehemiah starts praying in the month of Kislev.  He prays throughout the month of Tevet, the month of Shvat, the month of Adar, the month of Nisan.  And in the month of Nisan, Nehemiah is in the presence of King Artaxerxes, looking sad.  The king must have been very familiar with Nehemiah’s presence, notices Nehemiah’s sad face and asks why.  Nehemiah explains that he is sad because the city of Jerusalem is in ruins.  Chapter 2, verse 4, the king said, “What is it you want?”

And again Nehemiah shows us why he is such a man of God.  He’s been praying for 4 straight months, but when he is finally in the right place, right time, in front of the king, verse 4 says Nehemiah first prayed to the God of heaven, and then answered the king.  We don’t know the content of this prayer, but by necessity it had to be a short prayer.  Maybe it was “Lord have mercy” or “Thank you O Lord” or “Lord be with me” or “Your will be done, O Lord.”  It shows that Nehemiah knows this meeting with the king is the answer to his prayer in Chapter 1, and Nehemiah is going to go to the Lord before he says or does anything.

          III.      Power of Prayer and Patience

Prayer is powerful, and I confess I do not fully understand why.  I am a flawed man, full of sin and selfish pride.  God’s judgment and wrath rightfully belongs on me for my sin, but instead, God has extended His grace to me, given me mercy by sacrificing His own son for me.  It is only because of the blood of Jesus that I can approach God and His holiness at all, and when I do approach God, God listens to me.  He cares for me.  He loves me.  And He loves it that I pray to Him.  I have nothing to offer God except me, and I only exist because God willed it. And yet, God loves prayer.  Proverbs 15:29 says,

“The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

And James 5:13-16 says,

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

We are only righteous because of our faith and obedience to Christ Jesus, not of our own doing.  But it pleases the Lord to answer the prayers of the righteous.

Nehemiah prayed for months.  Sometimes he prayed aloud, other times he prayed silently.  Nehemiah prayed patiently for 4 months.

How long is patience?  Is being patient waiting for 4 months?  While 4 months is a long time, you and I may have prayers that last longer than that.  I know I do, and I have unanswered prayers that go on for years.  How long is patience?  I think it’s always 1 more month.  Or 1 more year.  Or 1 more whatever.  Just keep praying.

God always answers prayer.  Sometimes the answer is “no” or maybe the answer is “not yet,” and it’s not the answer we were looking for.  But we go to God in prayer, in faith that the Creator God of the Universe can answer it.

That’s how Nehemiah prayed.  And the Lord God moved the heart of King Artaxerxes to provide all the materials necessary for Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem.  But not all were pleased to see the Lord answering prayers; Nehemiah 2:10 says,

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.”

Even when the Lord is answering prayer, obstacles may still exist.  Often those obstacles are people, naysayers, they tell you it cannot be done or that it’s not worth doing.  Or that your God is a little god and isn’t really on your side.

But our God is an all-consuming fire.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  And when God is for us, who can be against it?  Nehemiah led the fourth Aliyah to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, knowing God was answering prayers.

            IV.      Twelve Gates of Jerusalem

Let’s take some time out to examine the work before Nehemiah.  He’s rebuilding the city walls for two reasons.  One is to protect the small Jewish community that returned to Jerusalem from attack; the walls had collapsed or been torn down, leaving little or no defense.  The other reason is to bring glory to God; this was city of the temple of the Lord.

You might think Nehemiah chapter 3 looks boring with its list of gates and builders.  And if you read Nehemiah 3 by itself, I might agree with you.  I’d rather watch old reruns of “home Improvement” with Tim Allen that read this old boring list of people building gates.  But you may have heard that every word of the bible is important, so let’s dig a little further and see if twelve gates of Jerusalem are described anywhere else in the bible.  If we read all the way to the end of the bible, we find the twelve gates of Jerusalem are described in Revelation 21.

Revelation 21:9-14

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west.  The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The twelve gates of the New Jerusalem have their origins in the twelve gates of the Old City of Jerusalem, and suddenly we realize that we’re not just studying Nehemiah restoring Jerusalem, but it is also a prophetic picture of God restoring His church, the spiritual City of God.  Revelation goes on to describe each door as a single pearl, but we also know that Jesus is the pearl of great price.

Revelation is written with some amazing imagery and symbolism, and the one of the keys to understanding Revelation is to understand the Old Testament picture first.   Each gate had specific meaning to Jews in their daily life, and each gate has a spiritual meaning for Christians.

Nehemiah Twelve Gates

The Sheep Gate, rebuilt by Eliashab the high priest.  The Sheep gate led to the sheep markets where lambs were sold for sacrifice in the Temple.  The gate also led to Golgotha, the path Jesus walked to His crucifixion.  For Christians, the Sheep Gate is the first gate into our lives, where we accept Jesus as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus is the door by which everyone must enter to be saved.  And if we read all the way to the end of Nehemiah 3, the last gate mentioned is the Sheep Gate.  We’ve come full circle around the walls of Jerusalem, and realize that everything starts and ends with Jesus’ death on the cross.  Jesus is our high priest that restores our relationship with the Lord.

It’s interesting to me that when Eliashab rebuilt the Sheep Gate, Nehemiah 3 says they “dedicated it and set its doors in place.”  Every other door we’re going to study says they rebuilt their gate and set the doors and bolts and bars in place.  The Sheep Gate has no locks on it.  The sacrifice of Jesus is always open to every sinner, and access to the other gates is impossible without first accepting Jesus.

Also, look how much work Eliashab did rebuilding the Sheep Gate.  They went as far as the Tower of the Me’ah or the Tower of the One Hundred and to the Tower of Hananel which means “God’s mercy.”  Remember when Jesus said if a shepherd loses a sheep, he’ll leave the other 99 and go look for it?  Between the Tower of God’s Mercy and Jesus looking for His lost sheep, God is calling to us.  And we’re 3 verses into this list of gates and builders and we realize there is great meaning in this list of gates and builders.  The Sheep Gate is the Gate of Salvation.

Next to the Sheep Gate is the Fish Gate where merchants brought fish to the fish market.  Jesus told Peter, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  After receiving the Lamb of God through the Sheep Gate, God begins to use us to reach other unbelievers.  The Fish Gate represents the Gate of Witnessing, of spreading the message.  And if you look at verse 5, the fish gate was “repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work. “  Jesus didn’t come to spread the good news to the rich, but was born in a manger, among the common people.  During the ministry of Jesus, He gave us many warnings how wealth can hinder our walk with Him.  Whether rich or poor, the message is for everybody.

The third gate is the Jeshanah Gate which means the Old Gate.   This is where elders of the city would meet to discuss important matters and issue judgments on disputes.  God’s truth never changes, it’s as old as time itself.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And the wisdom of our elders should be respected.  Let’s call this gate a Gate of Foundation.  I started thinking of it as the Gate of the Old Testament.

The Valley Gate led out to two main valleys that divided Jerusalem.   To the west was the Hinnom Valley.  The Ammonites had built an altar here to Molek and sacrificed children by fire.  Josiah rendered the valley ceremonially unclean by spreading human bones over it in 2 Kings 23.  The name itself “Ge Hinnom” is also used for hell itself, the Lake of Fire.  The other valley is Kidron that Jesus crossed to go to the Garden of Gethsemane.  In 1st and 2nd Kings, this valley was used to burn pagan altars and images during the cleansings of Jerusalem.  The Valley Gate is a Gate of Suffering for Spiritual Growth, as Jesus showed us the night before his crucifixion.  But though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

The Dung Gate.  Yuck.  The garbage of the city was taken out of this gate.  Notice it also leads to the unclean Hinnom valley.  It represents the sin in our lives.  But the blood of Jesus cleanses us of all sin if we just accept Him.  Then we can place all of our sin and shame at the feet of Jesus, whose blood cleanses us of all sin.

The Fountain Gate, primary access to the Gihon Spring, the sole source of water to Jerusalem.  All of the fountains like the Pool of Shiloah were fed from this spring.  What do you think this represents to us?  Jesus is the Fountain of Living Water.  If anyone is thirsty, let them come to Him and drink.

The Water Gate is the 7th gate, and 7 is the Bible number for perfection.  This gate needed no repair.  The water symbolizes the washing by the Holy Spirit.  Later, in Nehemiah 8, Ezra will stand in front of the Water Gate and read from the Book of the Law to the people.

The Horse Gate, where the King’s chariot passed through.  In the bible, the horse represents both discipline (James 3:3) and warfare (Zechariah 10:3).  Make no mistake, we are in a spiritual battle, for which we must put on the full Armor of God.

The East Gate is also called the Golden or Beautiful Gate and it symbolizes the return of our Messiah and waiting on the Lord.  In Zechariah 14:4 it says, “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.”  The week before His crucifixion, Jesus spent each night on the Mount of Olives . Each morning he would enter through the East Gate.  He later ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives and will return the same way He left. At that time He will again pass through the East Gate into the city of Jerusalem.

The Miphkad Gate.  Miphkad apparently is a difficult word to translate, it means meeting place, muster point, appointment, numbering in a census, or inspection.   Appointed Place or Inspection seems the best translation, and this is the final gate before the entrance to the Temple.  It is the place where God calls his people together at the final judgment.

The other two gates are mentioned later in Nehemiah.  The Ephraim Gate is described in Nehemiah 12 and was associated with the Feast of Tabernacles which is God’s feast for the harvest of the last days.  It means “Doubly Fruitful” and could refer to “Jew and Gentile” or “Earthly and Heavenly”.

Prison Gate, in Act 12 Peter is led by an angel through this gate.  All wickedness will be judged, and only those who have accepted Christ Jesus as their advocate escape punishment.

The order of the twelve gates represents our spiritual growth. We begin at the Sheep Gate by the forgiveness of our sins by the sacrifice of our Savior.  We become fishers of men at the Fish Gate and tell everybody about the Christ Jesus.  The Old Gate is our foundation of our faith, the Valley Gate is our purification.  The Dung gate is the rejection of our old life and sinful ways.  The Fountain Gate as we drink from the Living Water of Christ Jesus, the washing of our sins by the Holy Spirit at the Water Gate.  We put on the full Armor of God at the Horse gate to stand ready to fight the spiritual battles.  We await the return of our Messiah at the East Gate.  The final Miphkad Gate is a gathering of God’s people at the final judgment for eternal life, paid for by the blood of Jesus at the Sheep Gate.

              V.      Conclusion

The diaspora of God’s people.  We have been separated from God by our sins.  The Aliyah of God’s people.  We return to the Lord, our sins paid for by the blood of the Christ.  We are patient and prayerful until His final return, we gather for an eternity with Him inside the Twelve Gates of the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21 again, verse 1:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

When will this day come, the day of our resurrection and dwelling in New Jerusalem forever?  We must continue to pray and be patient, for however long “patient” lasts.  The day will come when I will stand with you, my brothers and sisters, inside the walls of the New Jerusalem and sing the praises of Christ our Savior.

Nehemiah New Jerusalem

To God be the glory.