Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tree of Life - Revelation 2:7

Let’s pick it up today in Revelation 2:7 where it says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” I remember when I was in Bible College, I had a teacher who used to tell us that the reason God gave us one mouth and two ears was so that we would listen twice as much as we talk. That is very true.

What the Lord is saying is that we would all be wise to listen to both the compliments paid and the warnings given to this first Church of Ephesus. They were complimented for their great work, love, labor, patience, and because they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans that we discussed last week. However, they were warned because they had left their first love. Yes, we would all be wise to take those compliments and warnings to heart.

If we do listen, we are told that God will give us the opportunity to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God. The first place the tree of life is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 2:9 where it says, “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam was later told by God that he could eat of everything in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). The implication is that he could have chosen to eat of the tree of life, but when given the option, choose not to do so.

Instead he chose to eat of the one tree God told him not to. Isn’t that just like us? You tell a child to do a hundred things but one, he will choose the one. It’s his rebellious nature that he inherited from you. You received it from your parents and they received it from theirs. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The Bible says in Isaiah says in Isaiah 30:9, “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:”

What if Adam had chosen the tree of life first? He would have lived forever! But no, he chose to rebel and do exactly what God told him not to and ate of the tree of knowledge. It cost him paradise and his life. He and Eve were expelled from the garden because God did not want to allow them to turn and then take of the tree of life and live forever in their fallen sinful state. That’s the first time we see the tree of life in the Bible, but not the last.
Where is the tree of life now? We were just told in Revelation 2:7 that it is no longer in the Garden of Eden but in the “midst of the paradise of God.” That’s not the Garden of Eden, but Heaven. We are told this again in Revelation 22:1-2 where it says, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” And then again in Revelation 22:14 it says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

Today, we have the same choice set before us: death or life. Unfortunately, Adam’s rebellion has already infected us all for it was passed down to us. However, there is a way of escape. We can still take of the tree of life through Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” If you do, you’ll live forever!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nicolaitanism - Revelation 2:6

Today, we pick it up in Revelation 2:6 where it says, “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. In these verses we see another compliment paid to this Church of Ephesus in that they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans which God also hates. So the question is: Who were the Nicolaitans and what did they do that was so bad? Well, let’s start out by looking at their very name. The first part of the name “nico” comes from the Greek word which means “to conquer or enslave.” The second part of the name “laitans” comes from the Greek word meaning “people.” It’s from where we get the word “laity” today. Hence, their name means “to conquer or enslave the people.” 

The Nicolaitans were a group who divided the laity from the clergy in an effort to re-establish the priesthood that was done away with by the sacrificial death of Jesus upon the cross. God hates this. Why is this so hated by God? We are told in Matthew 27:50-51, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom….” Notice that the veil in the temple was ripped from top to bottom upon Jesus’ death. Why? - It signified that there was no longer a need for a priesthood after the order of Aaron. Remember that only the High Priest was allowed to go behind that veil once per year to make sacrifice for the sins of the people. That veil was really the only thing that separated the “laity” from the “clergy”. Upon Jesus’ death, it was once and for all removed. However, the Nicolaitans immediately set out to re-hang it and have been trying to do so ever since.

Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me....” He was saying that the people no longer would have a priest between them and God. Instead, He would be their High Priest. That’s why the Apostle Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”

In effect, when Jesus died upon the cross, the priesthood was abolished and Jesus Himself became our High Priest. That’s why the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the “mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). Jesus is the Mediator. He is the “go between” between us and God now. If we want to get to the Father, we must go through Jesus!

Now many will nod their heads in approval with all that I’ve just said, but will turn around and go to another man or an idol as a means of reaching God. It should not be! This damnable doctrine was introduced by the Nicolaitans and was hated and still is hated by God to this day. It is also interesting to note that here in the Church of Ephesus the works of the Nicolaitans are described as “deeds”. However, by the time we get to the Church of Pergamos in Revelation 2:15 that they are called “doctrines”. Deeds refer to a one time action that is carried out. While doctrines refer to a body of principles presented for acceptance or belief. In others words, what started out as deeds in the Church of Ephesus became full blown excepted doctrine by the time the Church of Pergamos came on the scene. 

We are encouraged in Colossians 3:1, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Why is Christ Jesus sitting at the right hand of God?  He is acting as our High Priest.  He is making intercession for us to the Father. Hebrews 3:1 says, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;”

In conclusion, Jesus is our High Priest. He is the one we all must go to for salvation and no other. If we will but go to Him, He will go to the Father for us. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus is the only way!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unrepentant Sins - Revelation 2:5

Let’s pick it up today in Revelation 2:5 where it says, Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”  Last week we discussed the fact that sometimes we do leave our first love.  We stray away from the things of God for one reason or another, but we also learned that it’s never too late to come back.  The way to do that is threefold.  First, you must remember from where you have fallen.  Remember when you first gave your heart to Jesus, the feelings of love, joy, and peace that flooded over you? 

Second you must repent.  Tell God you’re sorry.  Turn away from your sin.  There is a process in the Bible that we would all do well to learn.  Luke 17:1-4 says, “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!  It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.  Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”

What we see here is that repentance must come before forgiveness can be given.  Now this passage is speaking specifically of our relationship with our brother or sister, but it is also speaking of our relationship with the Lord.  The process is as follows: God rebukes us, we remember, we repent, and God forgives.  So then, it must be argued that repentance is the requirement for forgiveness.  Without repentance there can be no forgiveness. 

As a pastor, I’ve had conflict in my church.  I’ve had people do and say things that they should not have done or said.  When they are confronted with it, they choose to either repent or go into denial.  It’s within our very nature to deny our own sin.  When God confronted Adam in the Garden after he and Eve had disobeyed His commandment to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge, he chose denial instead of repentance.  God said in Gen 3:11-13, “Who told thee that thou wast naked?  Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”  Listen to what Adam said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”  He had the audacity to blame God and the woman that God had given to him for his sin!  Eve didn’t do any better.  God said to Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” and she said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”  She also refused to acknowledge her sin and blamed the serpent!  Denial can never lead to forgiveness: only repentance.

It’s the same thing in our relationship with God.  Once we’ve done and said things that we should not have done and said; their must be repentance before forgiveness or the fellowship will be broken.  Are there some things that you need to repent of to a brother, sister, or your church?  Do it today so that forgiveness can be given and the relationship can be restored. 

And then finally, after remembrance and repentance, you must return and do your first works.  Start going back to church, praying, fellowshipping with fellow Believers, etc…

Now, the question must be asked, “What if I don’t return to my first love?”  “What if I don’t repent?”  The answer is given in v.5, “…or else I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

That’s pretty strong language from God Himself.  Usually when someone uses the words “or else”, there is a threat forthcoming!  God is saying to this church, “If you don’t repent, I will remove your church.”  "If you do not repent quickly, I am going to remove your light.”  “You are going to lose your testimony."  “I will write Ichabod (the glory has departed) over your doors.”   

You don’t have to go very far to see the crippling effects of unrepentant sin.  Towns all across America are filled with churches that are empty shells with no reality, no joy, no enthusiasm, and no burden for the lost.  Why?  Because of unrepentant sin!