Reflections on Revelation #2 Ears to Hear

 


Reflections on Revelation #2 Ears to Hear

 

Having studied Revelation we now have a solid foundation to do some reflecting on the Truth we have learned and how it applies to our lives. Last time we noted that Babylon is a culture, it’s the way people live. We considered God’s judgment upon Babylon because of her unrighteous behaviors; her idolatry, immorality, economic exploitation, her pride and arrogance, blasphemy, violence, and persecution of His children.  Because of these entrenched behaviors, Babylon is destined to fall. Every Babylon is destined to fall.

 

That’s why we are warned in Revelation 18:4 “Get out, my people, as fast as you can, so you don't get mixed up in her sins, so you don't get caught in her doom.” To get out of Babylon you must understand what is happening around you, and identify the unrighteousness that is an affront to God. To get out of Babylon we must discern the extent to which unrighteousness has infected us and then ask God to give us a clean heart. Finally, to get out of Babylon you must take a stand against her unrighteousness.

 

It is so hard to escape your culture.  Jesus has given us some warnings, things we are to avoid so we do not become entrapped in a society that is under God’s judgment.  John was instructed to write these warnings to a select group of congregations, 7 churches in Asia Minor to be exact.  Today let’s look at these warnings.

 

We can summarize Jesus' warnings as apostasy. When you bent your knee to the Lordship of Jesus, you pledged your loyalty to His cause.  Apostasy occurs when you abandon that loyalty neglecting to carry out your duties as a disciple of Jesus and become complicit with Babylonian unrighteousness. 

 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

(Revelation 2:7,11,17;3:6,13,22 (NIV)

 

First the warnings.

 

Revelation 2:2-4 (MSG)

"I see what you've done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can't stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out. "But you walked away from your first love—why?

 

The seeds of apostasy are planted when we forget our first love.

 

1 John 4:21 (MSG)

The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both.

 

If we become judges instead of lovers of people, condemning and shunning, we are falling away from our first love, because love for God and love for the people He has created go hand and hand. We can be theologically right and relationally wrong.  When this occurs we stand for Christ but with hate in our hearts. This is so wrong as we bring discredit to God.  Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is God’s kindness that leads people to repentance. When we seek to meet the needs of an individual we are treating them with kindness.  It is a labor of love to love the unlovable until you realize that God loves them as much as God loves you, and then you realize it is a joy of service.

 

Second Warning

 

Revelation 2:14-15 (MSG)

“… why do you indulge that Balaam crowd? Don't you remember that Balaam was an enemy agent, seducing Balak and sabotaging Israel's holy pilgrimage by throwing unholy parties? And why do you put up with the Nicolaitans, who do the same thing?

 

You can read about Balaam and Balak in Numbers 22-24.  Balaam disregarded God’s will for money.  He made a buck by disobedience.  Historians suggest that the Nicolatitans taught it was just fine to participate in Babylonian culture because God had saved them.

 

The seeds of apostasy are planted when we disobey in the small things.

 

1 John 3:4-6 (MSG)

All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God's order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ.

 

1 Corinthians 5:6-7 (MSG)

Your flip and callous arrogance in these things bothers me. You pass it off as a small thing, but it's anything but that. Yeast, too, is a "small thing," but it works its way through a whole batch of bread dough pretty fast. So get rid of this "yeast."

 

God’s commands and the teachings of Jesus are not suggestions, they are expectations that a disciple is intent on being and doing. Believers are called to a high standard of morality, we are to be holy because God is Holy (1 Peter 1:16).  That high standard is demonstrated by your stewardship and how you express your sexuality.

 

Third Warning

 

Revelation 2:20-21 (MSG)

“…why do you let that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants into Cross-denying, self-indulging religion? I gave her a chance to change her ways, but she has no intention of giving up a career in the god-business.

 

Jezebel was the wife of King Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 16-21), she promoted idolatry and immorality among the Jews.  Now in the congregation in Thyatira there is another like her, claiming prophetic authority, promoting idolatry and immorality through her misleading teachings from the Old Testament. Add a refusal to repent when her unrighteous behavior became known underscores the seriousness of her offense.

 

The seeds of apostasy are planted when you sit under false teaching.

 

Unfortunately within the church today there are far too many Cross-denying, self-indulging teachings charismatically preached convincing the naïve believers to get in step with Babylon.

 

2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

To avoid false teachings you need to do your own work studying the scripture. When you get stuck, not grasping the meaning of a verse or passage, ask the Holy Spirit to give you clarity and then seek out a trusted mature believer to advise you.  There are also commentaries on the scripture, which contain the opinions of scholars on the meaning of a text.  Just make sure you pick a commentary consistent with your faith community. I can recommend to you the New Beacon Bible Commentary as a good place to start. As a student of the Word, you develop an intuition when false teaching is presented.

 

Fourth Warning

 

Revelation 3:1 (MSG)

You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone dead.

The congregation in Sardis looked good.  It had all the bells and whistles. Great worship, a dynamic preacher, and a great facility. It had all the programs and all the services that people liked to consume. OK, that’s my conjecture, but let's consider the action of Jesus.

 

Jesus is walking with his disciples towards Jerusalem and spots a fig tree in full leaf.  Having grown many figs in my time, the fruit appears before the leaves and it’s green so as the tree comes to full leaf the figs blend right in as they ripen and become hidden behind the leaves. So Jesus being hungry walks up to the tree thinking breakfast is at hand, but finds no figs. A couple of days later the tree is dead. 

 

The seeds of apostasy are planted when belief does not translate into action.

 

James 2:26 (MSG)

The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

 

The principle Jesus teaches us is that the religious profession doesn’t guarantee a right relationship with God. What you do matters, and fruitlessness means you are missing the mark (Galatians 5:22-23, John 15:5-8). Practice what you believe.

 

Fifth Warning

 

Revelation 3:15-17 (MSG)

"I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You're not cold, you're not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, 'I'm rich, I've got it made, I need nothing from anyone,' oblivious that in fact you're a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.

 

The folks in Laodicea were well off economically.  This led to a sense of self-sufficiency.  When you have all you need, you don’t need God, so the practice of your faith loses urgency.  You tend to just go through the motions, but your heart is not in it.

 

The seeds of apostasy are planted when we are indifferent and complacent.

 

Remember complacency leads to complicity.

 

Hebrews Chapter 11 is all about people demonstrating their faith through what they did.

 

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 

The word earnestly can also be translated as diligently (ekzeteo).  What is required is a serious ongoing pursuit of God.  A casual, easygoing, take-it-easy, relaxed attitude makes God sick.  “God is a Rewarder of those who are hard-working, attentive, busy, constant, and persistent in their pursuit of seeking Him.” (Rick Renner)  Jesus said, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list”

(Matthew 22:37-38 (MSG).  A zealous faith is a hot faith.

 

 

The seeds of apostasy are planted when we forget our first love; when we disobey in the small things; when we sit under false teaching; when belief does not translate into action; and when we are indifferent and complacent.

 

If you see these seeds in your life, rip them out as fast as you can. They are seeds of spiritual destruction.

 

We are to guard ourselves from apostasy, from falling away from the faith, reneging on our vow of loyalty and fidelity to Jesus. These warnings were given to Christians. Heed them. 

 

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

(Revelation 2:7,11,17;3:6,13,22 (NIV)

 

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