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A few weeks ago, we were encouraged to do this task in the word of God: to match the 7 elements the apostle Paul said we are to overcome, that is, trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword,[1] with that which the seven churches in the Revelation 2 & 3 were to overcome. I couldn’t find the links. Instead, the Lord revealed that five out of the seven churches had sinned against the Law of Jesus and the rebukes to the churches were based on the disobedience against HIS WORDS.

The Law of Jesus is all the words of Jesus. The authority of the Law of Jesus exceeded that of the Law of Moses because the Father commanded us to listen to Jesus. If the Father did not tell the disciples of Jesus to listen to Jesus, it would not be a sin for a disciple of Jesus to follow the words of Moses.

So, in the process of understanding what the true taint of sin is, the Lord has redefined sin. For a disciple and believer of Jesus, sin is not just about a moral code of behaviour. It is a code of behaviour based on the words of Jesus. Therefore, for a believer and disciple of Jesus Christ, morality and immorality are judged according to the words of Jesus because all things have been committed to Him by the Father,[2] and all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Him.[3] Sin is the disobedience against the words of Jesus, that is, the failure to obey His commands and negligence in putting all His words into practice. Jesus said He came to fulfil the Law. But the Father told the disciples to listen to Him, not to Moses.

In Revelation 2 and 3, five out of the seven churches had committed specific sins against the Law of Jesus. They had failed to obey specific commands of Jesus that are recorded for us in the Word of God.

1. To the angel of the church in Ephesus, Jesus said, “Yet I have this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.[4] You may think that the sin of the church in Ephesus was that she forsook her first love, and in a way you would not be wrong. However, if we listened to Jesus at the standard to which we are called, we would understand that the church in Ephesus sinned because she failed to obey this command, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”[5]

If the New Living Translation (NLT) did not contain this translation of Revelation 2.4, “You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” I would think that the first love is actually the love of enemies because Jesus first taught this to His disciples as early as Matthew 5.43. But the love for one another is declared by Jesus as the new command under the covenant of the forgiveness of sins.

However, the love of enemies does fit into this because Jesus said in John 14.15 and 14.21, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command. If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.” Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Failure to obey this command (and others) means that you do not love Jesus.

Is the command to love one another more important than loving your enemies? Look at it this way. Jesus said that if you love your enemies, you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. You may be perfect and merciful as your Father in Heaven is perfect and merciful, therefore it is a reward for you.

But if we love one another as Jesus loved us, Jesus reaps the rewards. He said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”[6] This love for one another in obedience to this command achieves the complete unity to let the world know that the Father sent Jesus and has loved us even as the Father has loved Jesus.[7] Through disciples, the world can learn that Jesus loves the Father and that He does exactly what the Father commanded Him.[8]

Do you know what that is? The world’s acknowledgement of Jesus’ love and obedience to the Father as undeniable, irrevocable, irrefutable truth is justice for Jesus, justice for the One who laid down His life for His friends and so displayed the greatest love. Greater love has no one than this. Jesus laid down His life for His friends. Were we not all His enemies, yet are His friends now because we choose to obey Him?

He said we are His friends if we do what He commands. So what would we become if we not only obey, but love and live for what Jesus commands and do exactly what He commands? What if it wasn’t a burden? What if practising His words is a constant delight? What if we took pleasure in sitting at His feet, listening to every word? What if our hearts are not weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life,[9] and they cannot distract us because our faces are resolutely set to Jerusalem, where He is arriving? Wouldn’t that be to His Father’s glory, that we bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be His disciples? For Jesus only spoke the words the Father gave Him and we are like Jesus if we only practise the words the Father gave to Jesus, to us.

Therefore repent for we have not loved one another as Jesus loved us at the standard to which we are called.

2. The church in Smyrna did not receive a rebuke.

Jesus said, “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich![10] They are rich for their rewards await them: “Blessed are the poor in spirit [or those who realize their need for Him (NLT)], for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [and justice (NLT)], for they will be filled.”[11]

3. To the church in Pergamum,[12] Jesus said He had a few things against.

Firstly, she had people who hold onto the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Secondly, she has those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

The sin of Balaam is that he sold the favours of God for a fee. He sold the blessings and the curses of God for a fee for divination. For wasn’t he hired and paid to curse the Israelites? His way is that if he sacrificed bulls and altars, God should answer his requests. This was the sorcery of Balaam.

Sorcery is a practice of faith that only gives to receive. There is no love, only the intent to take. And divination is the speaking out of that faith. The sin of the teaching (note: singular teaching) of Balaam is that it had enticed this church to practise teaching like this: tithe to the church so that God may bless you; if you don’t tithe, God will not and cannot bless you. What is this- is this not a bribe? I was not aware that I should bribe my own Father.

The church in Pergamum has sinned against these words of Jesus, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former[13]… Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”[14]

The second sin of the church in Pergamum is that she held on to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. It is clearly written in Acts 6.5 that Nicolas was a convert to Judaism. Therefore, the teaching of the disciples of Nicolas is the conversion of believers and disciples of Jesus Christ back to Judaism, by way of the partial practice of the Law of Moses.

This is the spirit of Judaism – it aims to lead the church back into the Kingdom of Israel where there is no salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, only the incomplete act of atonement of sins by unending works. It was commented once that James the Younger spoke what he did in Acts 15 because of a certain spirit in him, a spirit that wants to usurp Jesus’ rightful Kingship in the Kingdom of Israel because Jesus is not the son of Joseph, in the lineage of King David.

The truth is: Jesus’ lineage to David was not by blood, but by grace. Just as David’s appointment as king over Israel was by grace and not by blood, for David was not the son of Saul. If anything, Jonathan, the son of Saul, should have inherited the kingship from Saul, but he did not. Why? Because the appointment of kings is by the sovereign choice of our Lord God Almighty. Perhaps even Solomon would not have been king if the first child of David and Bathsheba was allowed to live.

See that the spirit of Judaism is a spirit of slavery. The spirit of Judaism in the church is a conversion to mislead its people back into the slavery of the laws of the Kingdom of Israel, instead of the freedom of the Law of the Spirit of Life in the Kingdom of Heaven and of God. The spirit of Judaism led James and men from James to spread teachings that combine the Law of Moses and the Law of Jesus, making every follower of those teachings a hypocrite and thus a liar. These teachings still circulate today as they travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, they make him twice as much a son of hell as they are.

Sons of hell are sons of the evil one, who cause sin and do evil. They are people who claim they believe in Jesus yet do not listen to Him nor put His words into practice at the standard to which they are personally called for, be it ten, five or one talent. Sin for a believer and a disciple of Jesus is disobedience to Jesus’ commands. The spirit of Judaism works against Jesus in this ongoing battle because it knows that the angels will weed the sons of the evil one at the time of harvest.[15] The sons of the evil one are all believers of Jesus who are the wicked, lazy servant who did not listen and put to work the words of Jesus given to him so that He would receive a profit of His words. Open your eyes and look at the fields, they are ripe for harvest now.

The teaching of the Nicolaitans is a call for atonement of sins by works through partial observance of the Law of Moses to add to the perfection of the forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ through repentance. It is saying that faith in Jesus and listening to Him alone is somehow not sufficient in the worship of God.

Therefore the church in Pergamum has sinned against the words of Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near… The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news![16] And they have not obeyed His command to teach all nations to obey everything He has commanded us.[17] That is why Jesus said, “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” He will come soon to fight against their teachings and lies with the sword of His Truth. Jesus is the Truth and He is the Sword.

Therefore repent for we have not preached repentance and we have not tithed in accordance with the words of Jesus.

4. To the church in Thyatira,[18] Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”

The sin of that woman Jezebel against Israel is that she had urged Ahab to worship idols.[19] Jezebel is a false, self-proclaimed prophetess. The Lord did not send her. The Lord said in Jeremiah 23.16 that false prophets speak their own mind and not from the mouth of the Lord, and they fill listeners with false hope.

The teaching of the rapture is an example of a false hope sowed into the churches. It is about being taken from Earth as a form of protection and escape from the tribulation. Some say that the rapture will happen at the coming of the Christ so that they may enjoy the wedding feast of the Lamb, while all the “unbelievers” will suffer on Earth. That is one of many theories found on the Internet.

The sin of the church in listening to the teaching of Jezebel, which has led to sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols, is the disobedience against this command of Jesus, “Be careful. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”[20] By her hypocrisy, the church fell into adultery with the teaching of the false prophetess. What is the true prophecy about this church? Jesus said, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”[21]

Therefore be on your guard against every teaching that does not draw you closer to listening to Jesus and worshipping the Father in Spirit and in truth AND preparing for the return of Jesus so that He may find faith when He returns. But then how would you be able to tell them apart unless you have been listening to Jesus carefully in the first place? Therefore be earnest and repent.

5. To the church in Sardis, Jesus said, “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 not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.”[22]

This is a church that has disobeyed John 11.25-26. In the NLT version, Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Martha was the sister who busied herself while Mary Magdalene sat at Jesus’ feet to listen intently. Jesus knew her deeds but they were not complete in the sight of His God. How are the deeds of the church incomplete? When there is John 6.66 in them, as when the teachings are too hard and offensive and they turn away from them. A church is meant to have faith in all of Jesus’ deeds and words. A church should be listening to Jesus, praying to the Father in secret, then practising the words of Jesus under the counsel of the Holy Spirit.

There was another time when the disciples of Jesus could not stay awake and keep watch with Jesus. On the night before going to the cross, Jesus said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”[23] But when Jesus found them sleeping, He said, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

The church who does not wake up or stay awake is the church who cannot keep watch. She has failed to obey this command of Jesus, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”[24] No wonder Jesus said to her, “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.”[25] For Jesus will come like a thief. He said so in Revelation 16.15, “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” But there are a few in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with Jesus, dressed in white, for they are worthy. I propose that as Jesus has those who are worthy to walk with Him, He will be given more than enough, an abundance.

If we do not believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and believe that we who live and believe will never die, and living this faith today, we will fall asleep and be dead, because we will not be focused on the return of Jesus. We will not fully acknowledge the privilege of the First Resurrection, and we will not strive to enrich our testimony of Jesus and of the Word of God so that we may lose our heads for Jesus and be able to refuse the mark of the beast.

6. The church in Philadelphia did not receive a rebuke from Jesus since she kept His command to endure patiently.[26] So she earned this reward, “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the Temple of My God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him 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 him My new Name.”[27] Jesus said that the church in Philadelphia had little strength but she kept His word and did not deny His Name. Thus she fulfilled these words of Jesus, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[28]

For the church in Philadelphia was persecuted by the synagogue of Satan who claimed to be Jews, but were liars. In return, Jesus will make these liars, these fake Jews, fall at her feet and they will acknowledge that Jesus loved the people of this church. Why? Because the synagogue of Satan had been spreading lies that Jesus did not love the people of this church, even though she had kept His command to endure patiently. This is to vindicate Jesus’ own words, “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.”[29]

7. To the church in Laodicea, Jesus said, “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.”[30]

This church says it is rich not only because it disobeys these words of Jesus in Matthew 6.24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” She is neither hot nor cold, neither one nor the other, because her deeds are founded on a split loyalty between serving God and money, where the deception is so deep that this loyalty has merged into one as a lukewarm attitude towards the Lord and His return.

More importantly, this church has failed to obey these words of Jesus to disciples, “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”[31] That is why she thinks she is rich; she doesn’t need a thing because she still has her home, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children and fields.

Yet Jesus said, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the Earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’[32]

And the NLT translated these words of Jesus in Luke 14.26 slightly differently from the NIV, “If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be My disciple.” And the Peshitta version writes, “He who comes to Me and does not put aside his father and mother and his brothers and his sisters and his wife and his children and even his own life cannot be a disciple to Me.” He said, “if you love your father or mother… son or daughter more than you love Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me, you are not worthy of being Mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for Me, you will find it.[33]

If your following Jesus doesn’t come at a personal price (a price pre-paid in Christ by grace) – if you have not let go and harden your heart against something or someone precious by first seeking the Kingdom of our Father and His righteousness, so that you may grow further in the Lord and are not held back in your maturing into the stature of the Son – or if you did not gain something from the Lord that you thought was lost forever, be it your health or a hope fulfilled – and if your faith in Jesus cost you nothing and you are never challenged to advance, and you never had to rise to an occasion due to your faith in Jesus – you will become lukewarm and you will lack passion because there is no sense of urgency or importance. It will not be at the forefront of your thoughts and speech and action.

Your faith will become a casual relationship, a part-time worship and a lacklustre fellowship without delight in striving to overcome all that is on your plate, without pleasure in the freedom of your faith and without treasuring everything that you have been given in order to become a son or daughter of God from a sinner.

And so it was, it is and it will be. In any case, we must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day, because Jesus our King, our Brother, our Life, is arriving soon in Jerusalem. “The time promised by God has come at last!” “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

All churches who gather in the Name of Jesus Christ and are willing to hear, should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches[34]: Now fear the LORD Jesus and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the teachings of your forefather James under the Law of Moses, and listen to the LORD Jesus. But if listening to Jesus seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will listen to, be it the teachings of your forefather in whose land you are living, or as for us and our household at this Holy Spirit’s Workshop, we will serve the LORD and listen to Jesus.

Thank you Father.


 

[1] Romans 8.35-39

[2] Matthew 11.27 & Luke 10.22

[3] Matthew 28.18

[4] Revelation 2.4

[5] John 13.34

[6] John 13.35

[7] John 17.22

[8] John 14.30

[9] Luke 21.34

[10] Revelation 2.9

[11] Matthew 5

[12] Revelation 2.12-17

[13] Matthew 23.22

[14] Luke 11.42

[15] Matthew 13.40-43

[16] Matthew 3.2 & Mark 1.15

[17] Matthew 28.20

[18] Revelation 2.18-29

[19] 1 Kings 21.25

[20] Matthew 16.5

[21] Matthew 15.7-8

[22] Revelation 3.2

[23] Matthew 26.38

[24] Matthew 26.42

[25] Revelation 3.3

[26] Revelation 3.10

[27] To the church in Philadelphia- Revelation 3.12

[28] Matthew 5.11-12

[29] John 14.21

[30] Revelation 3.15-17

[31] Mark 10.29-30

[32] Matthew 10.36-38

[33] Matthew 10:37-39 [NLT]

[34] Revelation 2.7 [NLT]

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