Revelation: Tribulation and Triumph

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9780970599667: Revelation: Tribulation and Triumph

Often intimidating, and especially open to broad interpretation, the book of Revelation has been the source of controversy for hundreds of years. Now, through this easy-to-ready devotional commentary, Revelation will come alive as you read and study scholarly interpretations and compare the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented. Readers can form their own opinions about the most studied yet least understood book of the Bible.

With its graphic imagery, forthcoming predictions and profound significance, Revelation gives readers a simple interpretation on how the promises—judgment for the wicked, hope for the righteous, and blessing for all “who keep the words of the prophecy of this book”—will come to pass.

 

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About the Author:

Practical Christianity Foundation (PCF) presents a verse-by-verse devotional commentary series of the books of the Holy Bible. Released periodically, each volume of the devotional commentary series is offered as the believer's companion book to encourage personal devotion. PCF earnestly seeks to cultivate personal transformation and real growth in the lives of individual believers and in the church by stirring the desire for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding in the hearts of all who hunger and thirst for God’s truth. PCF is located above the Tampa/Clearwater area in Holiday, Florida.

 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Sample Excerpt: Chapter Three

Revelation 3:1–6

3:1 “To the messenger of the church in Sardis, write: The one who has God’s seven spirits and the seven stars says: I know what you have done. You are known for being alive, but you are dead.

The fifth message was addressed to the church in Sardis. The church would know that the message was given to them directly from the Lord Jesus Christ, described as “The One Who has God’s seven spirits and the seven stars.”

Sardis lay inland approximately thirty miles south of Thyatira and fifty miles northeast of Ephesus.1 Early in its history the city was one of the most influential in the ancient world and served as the capital city of Lydia, a province of Asia Minor.2 It was most noted for the Acropolis, a temple built to Artemis, the Greek name for the goddess Diana.3 The vertical rock walls of the Acropolis rose nearly fifteen hundred feet above the lower valley, thereby providing the city with an excellent natural defense.4 Despite numerous attacks on the city throughout history, its fortress was only captured twice, once in the sixth century B.C. and again in the fourth century B.C.5 In A.D. 17, a catastrophic earthquake destroyed the city. Though Sardis was eventually rebuilt, it never regained the prominence and affluence it once enjoyed, and by the time this letter was written, the city was a pitiful hub of moral debauchery.6

The Lord told the believers in Sardis that He knew their works, and despite their reputation for being a church that was alive, He knew that their works were no longer prompted by faithfulness and loyalty to Him. Within their community, and perhaps throughout surrounding regions, they had gained a good reputation for their Christian works and vitality. Nevertheless, the Lord knew their hearts and recognized that their works were void of any true commitment to Christ. As such, Jesus considered them not as merely sick but as utterly lifeless.

During Jesus’ three-year ministry, before His crucifixion and resurrection, He often encountered the religious leaders, recognizing the hypocrisy that pervaded their religious lives. In one incident, He strongly chastised them: “27bYou are like whitewashed graves that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and every kind of impurity. 28So on the outside you look as though you have God’s approval, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27b–28).

3:2 Be alert, and strengthen the things that are left which are about to die. I have found that what you are doing has not been completed in the sight of my God.

The church of Sardis was far from righteous in God’s eyes. If they did not fortify and rebuild those few remaining qualities still deemed worthwhile, even those things would be taken away. Most of their works were motivated by selfish ambition and not with any intention of glorifying God. Although unclear, Jesus’ message seems to indicate that there was something worth holding on to. It may seem somewhat insignificant in light of the Lord’s overall chastisement of these believers, yet they were warned that if they did not cling to that last shred of true life worthy of mention, even that would be removed from them.

3:3 So remember what you received and heard. Obey, and change the way you think and act. If you’re not alert, I’ll come like a thief. You don’t know when I will come.

Jesus spoke to the believers and told them to hold fast to what they had been taught. If they did not repent of their spiritual indifference and did not cling to the few admirable qualities that they still possessed, the Lord would “come like a thief” and remove those things. Some commentators insist upon an eschatological rendering of “come like a thief” simply because this description resembles those found in “end-times” references, such as 1 Thessalonians 5:2 and 2 Peter 3:10. However, the phrase as used in this passage seems to express the sudden and unexpected manner with which the Lord will act.7 Failure to repent would result in swift judgment.

3:4 But you have a few people in Sardis who have kept their clothes clean. They will walk with me in white clothes because they deserve it.

This verse clearly reveals that the Lord deals with the body of Christ, the Church, as individuals. Jesus knows every person’s heart and motivations and deals with them accordingly. Though He condemned most in Sardis, a few people in this church had not defiled themselves but had remained strong in their faith and lived obediently. The description “kept their clothes clean” does not mean that they were sinless but that they did not compromise their beliefs by succumbing to the lures of worldliness. These few had been found worthy in the eyes of the Lord, and He promised them that they would walk with Him “in white clothes.”

3:5 Everyone who wins the victory this way will wear white clothes. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life. I will acknowledge them in the presence of my Father and his angels.

True and faithful believers of this church were assured eternal life. In heaven, these people would be dressed in white garments, displaying the righteousness received only through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Those whose names are found written within the Book of Life are those who have been redeemed unto Almighty God by the atoning sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Those whose names are not found within the book are those who have been condemned to eternal damnation because of their unrepentant hearts. Later in Christ’s revelation to John, the punishment imposed on those who have rejected Jesus’ sacrifice is very clear: “Those whose names were not found in the Book of Life were thrown into the fiery lake” (Revelation 20:15). “Nothing unclean, no one who does anything detestable, and no liars will ever enter it. Only those whose names are written in the lamb’s Book of Life will enter it” (Revelation 21:27). In addition, according to this verse, the Lord Jesus will vouch for each and every believer before God the Father and His angels.

3:6 Let the person who has ears listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.

For a fifth time, we are told to listen, learn, and apply the Holy Spirit’s message to the churches. Jesus said that this church was virtually dead, and encouraged those few faithful disciples to hold fast to the faith that had been imparted to them. Implied in this command is a call for obedience. Believers should listen to what Jesus said to these churches, carefully applying these evaluations to their lives, and obeying them by making the necessary improvements as the Holy Spirit prompts.

Notes/Applications

Christ admonished the church of Sardis to repent of spiritual lifelessness. Why was this church dead? Was it their lack of passion for ministry, their worldliness, their attitudes, or their craving for self-glory? Any of these reasons would be detrimental to the growth of believers, but we are not told what specific area was amiss among this body. The passage simply states that the members of this church externally appeared to be spiritual, yet they were internally empty and used up.

Even today, churches throughout the world have enjoyed commendable beginnings only to eventually lose their zeal, grow stale, and become ineffective in their Christian witness. The Lord instructs those believers that have lost fervor and vision for their calling to tear down the façade and to reexamine their position in Christ.

God’s Holy Word instructs us not to be indifferent people who dutifully complete the work of the church. This work can only be accomplished within the embrace of our Savior, closely aligned through the Spirit with His every thought, word, and deed. Then, every endeavor reflects genuine joy and enthusiasm when serving Him as we, in turn, serve others as He has served us and given Himself for us.
Thus, on our knees, broken-hearted for our lifeless faith, we pray like David did:

10Create a clean heart in me, O God,
and renew a faithful spirit within me.
11Do not force me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore the joy of your salvation to me,
and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience.
13Then I will teach your ways to those who are rebellious,
and sinners will return to you. (Psalm 51:10–13)

 

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