Friday, July 28, 2023

Our New Reality Awaits

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "Our New Reality Awaits"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the Gospel that bears his name, John identified himself as “the Apostle whom Jesus loved” at least four times (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). And as of last week’s first three verses in Chapter 4, this same beloved apostle stood in the throne room of God. His eyes beheld His Throne of Glory shining brightly as jewels, surrounded by a rainbow, like emeralds, and then John notices the real beauty that is emanating from the One who sat on the Throne: Jesus who loves him, now in His natural state.

Jesus Himself is more beautiful than the Throne, shining as clear Jasper and ruby stones in the brightness of Himself. Later in Revelation, we will read that the sun, moon, and stars will be gone, and Jesus provides all the light we will need and more! The physical state will be gone at that time, and all is lit in His heavenly presence.

This is the level of love that Jesus wants John to write about while there still exists a dark physical realm, a love so deep that it takes one’s breath away, and provides us with hope. John then notices other things around the Throne Room and begins more descriptions of phenomenal things. I cannot imagine what must have been going through John’s mind at this point. (Jesus left all this temporarily; the Word of God put on human flesh for 33 years, so He could save us!)

Twenty-four Elders were seated around the Throne. The King James Version says the elders are on seats, but notations to the original language indicate that those seats were thrones too. Lightnings, thundering, and voices also emanated from Christ’s Throne. Lighted Golden Lampstands, which are the Seven Spirits of God… If it were me, my eyes would be popping out of my head by this time!

But all of these things are symbolic of things we have read of in the Old Testament, as Jesus fulfills even these things for us in His Word. We will read of the Four Beasts full of eyes too! All these things are real in Heaven, so this is one of the most exciting prophetic chapters in the Bible! This is the reality that Jesus exists in; and it awaits us as Believers and followers of Christ.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” - 1 John 3:2

Sunday Morning Audio Message:
Revelation 4:4-8 (part 2) - "Our New Reality Awaits"


Our scripture reading this morning is from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13:8-13.  In verse 12, Paul explains that in our physical state, reality is that we see through a glass darkly. In other words, we see shadows, images that are not clear. The physical properties of earth do not exist in heaven. God dwells in a reality that is not ours on this earth.  This earthly experience of God’s divine love gives us a taste of His perfect grace and glory. We participate to a limited degree in the full perfection we will one day know and enjoy when we stand in God’s presence in eternity. We will see clearly when we see Him face to face.

In 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul speaks of a third heaven, where Paul was caught up. This is the home of God, or where He dwells. While scripture is clear that there is no place that can contain God (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18, Isaiah 66:1 and many others), heaven, as it were, is His home.

We get a glimpse and some understanding of the third heaven from scripture. Ezekiel chapter 1 describes God's throne in heaven. Ezekiel describes what he saw when God gave him a look at heaven.

In Revelation 4, the apostle John had been given the wonderful privilege of visiting heaven.  In verse 1, John had been to be shown the things which must be here after.  Remember back in chapter 1 verse 19, John was instructed by Jesus to write the things that he had seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. This is the record of what John saw and heard when he was taken to heaven. 

Last week, in part one of chapter 4, we covered the first three verses.  The apostle saw the throne room in heaven, the presence of God and the Lamb.  Chapters four and five set the scene for the judgment which begins to unfold in chapter 6.

Again, John wrote, "behold, a throne was set in heaven," describing the dwelling place of God. The throne is a symbol of sovereign rule, and supreme authority, and it is set, permanently.  His eyes are then fixed on the glorious One seated upon the throne, not described by human features, but represented by a likeness - His surpassing brightness, symbolizing the perfect excellence of His Divine nature, and of His justice. The rainbow is a symbol of mercy and grace. John describes Him as like a jasper, crystal clear, refracting all the colors of spectrum and brilliance.  And Sardius, a fiery bright ruby stone, the Lamb that was slain, without blemish.  There was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  From the time of Noah, the rainbow became a sign of God's faithfulness to His Word. 

This week John begins with a description of the twenty-four thrones around the throne, and seated in them were twenty-four elders, representing, probably, the whole church of God.  The elders' joint rule with Christ, their white garments, and their gold crowns all seem to indicate that these 24 people represent the redeemed (vv. 9-11; 5:5-14; 7:11-17; 11-16-18; 14:3; 19:4).  We don't know who these 24 elders are, there are many differing opinions, but these elders are best understood as being representatives of the church. 

Their sitting denotes a place of honor and rest. They are seated around the throne, in the presence of God, seeing Him face to face. They are clothed in white raiment, which is the imputed righteousness of the saints and their holiness through Christ: and they had on their heads, crowns of gold, signifying the glory they have with Him.

The lightnings and thunderings, and voices (vs. 5) are not the fury of nature, but the firestorm of righteous fury about to come from an awesome, powerful God upon a sinful world (8:5; 11:19; 16:18).

There are seven lamps of fire burning before the throne which represent the seven Spirits of God described in Isaiah 11:2. The prophecy is that the Messiah would be empowered not by seven individual spirits but by the One Spirit, described seven ways:
  1. The Spirit of the LORD
  2. The Spirit of wisdom
  3. The Spirit of understanding
  4. The Spirit of counsel
  5. The Spirit of power
  6. The Spirit of knowledge
  7. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord
John describes seeing a sea of glass before the throne, it was like crystal.  the sea here, is metaphorical.  How do we know, verse 21:1 tells us that there is no sea in heaven.  What John saw was crystal glass, like a sea, around the base of the throne refracting through every imaginable prism that could possibly contain the light of God's glory.  Jesus, the Light of the world.

Next, he describes four living creatures around the throne, full of eyes, front and back.  Although no omniscient, an attribute reserved for God alone, these four living creatures, or beings, angels, have a comprehensive knowledge and perception.  Nothing escapes their scrutiny.

The four living creatures (literally “beings”) are a special, exalted order of angelic being or cherubim. This is clear by their close proximity to the throne of God. Ezekiel 1:12–20 suggests that they are in constant motion around the throne.  One resembles a lion, another a calf, and another with the face of a man, and lastly one like an eagle. 

Revelation 5:6–14 describes the duties or purposes of the four living creatures. They fall down and worship the Lamb, Jesus Christ, offering the same reverence to Him that they did to the Father (Revelation 4:6–9), proof positive of the deity of Jesus Christ. Along with the twenty-four elders, they have “harps and golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Revelation 5:8).

The purpose of the four living creatures also has to do with declaring the holiness of God and leading in worship and adoration of God, and they are involved in some way with God’s justice, for when He opens the first four seals and sends out the four horsemen to destroy, their powerful voices, like thunder, command “come” (Revelation 6:1–8). The horsemen respond to the summons of the four powerful creatures, indicating the power the creatures possess. That power is seen again in Revelation 15:7 when one of the four unleashes the last seven plagues of God’s wrath on mankind.

The four living creatures are very similar, if not the same, beings as those in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10 and Isaiah 6:1–3. They are four in number, full of eyes, have faces like the beings in Ezekiel 1:10, have six wings (Isaiah 6:2), and offer worship as the beings in Isaiah 6:3, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.” They may not be the exact same beings, but they definitely are comparable and probably of the same order.

What do these faces on these cherubim mean? Ezekiel tells us they all had all the faces, but the way they were turned when John saw them, he saw the one with one face, the other with another and another and another. What does it mean? What do they represent? Well, some have suggested that the lion speaks of untamed creatures; the calf or the bull, of domestic creatures; the man, of the greatest of all creatures; the eagle representing all the flying creatures; and that the angels are seen in their relation to the created world, that they have some duty and responsibility on behalf of God to tend to the created world.

It is also possible that the lion symbolizes strength and power, the calf symbolizes humble service, the man symbolizes reason, and the eagle symbolizes speed. It may well be, then, that what you have here are cherubim that are represented as being able to see and be aware of vast amounts of information and action. And that these angels are powerful, dutiful, serving, rational, swift beings in discharging their duty. I like to think that they are symbolic in that regard. Again, the lion symbolizing strength and power; the calf, service rendered; the man, reason; and the eagle, speed. They are swift, they are rational, they are service-oriented, and they are powerful.

We could say, they represent all of God's created order, not only could they represent certain characteristics and attributes of the angels themselves, but it is also reasonable to say that they may even have represented God’s people because in the past, God collected His people under the banner of these four. Perhaps these angels, then, have some special role in the life of Israel.

Pastor Bob will even share how these creatures bear the same attributes of our Lord.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Ever With The Lord

Bobservations' Column
Titled - "Ever With The Lord"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Jesus reveals Himself in all His glory to John in Chapter 1. The letters in chapters 2 and 3 are specific to each of those churches, and bleed into the future as we see the state of the Church revealed in each era of The Church Age. Laid out for the reader is discovery on every page. And each page gives us references to the past from the Torah and the Gospels. Suddenly, movies like “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” and “Fantastic Voyage” pale in comparison to God’s Masterful Works. Mankind’s highest levels of thought and imagination become a baseline for God’s will for Creation and His plan of salvation.

Chapter 4 finds John scooped up into heaven, and he immediately found himself in the spirit, and in God’s throne room. From here on, the chronology continues into “the things which shall be.” John has been tasked with writing of these things, these fantastic things before him. He begins to write of this out-of-this-world experience by using the limitations of his Earthly language skills. The song, “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE” comes to mind right away.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, the Apostle Paul wrote prophetically of the Rapture of the Church, and from here on, the Church (Ecclesia in the Greek) is not mentioned in the Revelation text again until chapter 19 and Christ’s return to earth to begin His thousand-year Millennial Reign.

Once the Rapture of the Church takes place, 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, "…and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” The Rapture will have taken us out of the world, escaping the wrath to come during the Great Tribulation Period. (1 Thessalonians 5:9 – “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But before the Millennial Reign begins, John is to write what rejecting Christ will mean to any and all. The world will fall into chaos like never before seen. Hurtful treachery will explode upon the Earth because the Holy Spirit of God is removed. The Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of Believers. Once they are gone from the earth, so also is He.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8.

Sunday Morning Audio Sermon
Revelation 4:1-11 - "Ever With The Lord"


As we continue our study in the book of Revelation, this morning we will look at the second great vision given to John by the Lord, Jesus Christ, it is a vision of heaven. Chapter 4 begins with the door of Heaven opening and John being raptured from the Isle of Patmos to the throne of God in Heaven.

The Lord has prophetic plans related to the return of our Lord, and these plans will be carried out just as He said they would, according to His timetable.   We are still living in the church age.  The church age began at Pentecost and will end when the church is raptured out of the world to be with the Lord.   As we continue our study in Revelation 4, John is called up into heaven, a type of the rapture.  

One of the important events in God's timetable is spoken about in Romans 11:25. The importance is two-fold.  First, the apostle Paul is speaking in Rome to both Jew and Gentile believers.  He tells them that should not be ignorant of this mystery.  What mystery? The mystery of the gospel of salvation.  God's promise that all Israel will be saved will only be fulfilled when the fullness of the Gentiles is complete.   Israel’s hardening will continue until the divinely set number of Gentiles are saved. When that happens, God will deliver the nation of Israel. The fullness of the Gentiles is directly connected with the salvation of Israel in God's timetable of events. Second, when that last Gentile is saved, the church will be raptured from this earth to be with the Lord, forever. 

Also, the rapture of the church is not the second coming of Christ. They are two different prophetic events.  In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Paul writes, "
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."

In verse 1, John writes, "After this..." After what? After all that was revealed concerning the church age in the previous two chapters.  John is now called up to heaven, as an eyewitness, for the purpose of revelation.  John is taken up to see the events that will take place next, in God's timetable of events.   John has been translated in both space and time - in space to heaven, and in time to the future, and therefore was able to see and hear the amazing events of the future as an actual eyewitness, just as we shall eventually see and hear them ourselves when we, like John, are caught up into heaven to be with the Lord (1Thessalonians 4:16-17).

In the Old Testament, Enoch was caught up to Heaven before the judgment of flood poured over the earth.  John is caught up to Heaven before receiving the vision of the flood of judgment that is yet to come upon the earth.  These are types of the rapture of the church.    In the previous chapter, Jesus words to the church of Philadelphia were, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10). So too, will all believers be caught up to Heaven before the judgment is actually poured out upon the earth.  The church will not pass through the Tribulation but is to be removed before God's wrath is poured out.   The Lord has promised that He would keep His church from that hour.

It's important to note that the church is not mentioned again until ⁠Revelation 19:7-9⁠ when it is portrayed as the “bride of Christ” in Heaven with Jesus celebrating the “marriage supper of the Lamb.” At ⁠Revelation 19:11⁠ the door of Heaven opens again, and Jesus emerges riding a white horse on His way to earth, followed by His Church (⁠Revelation 19:14⁠).

After experiencing Christ ministering to His church, writing down His words for the messenger of each of these seven churches, John is called up by Christ, and He writes, I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven.  At this point, the door on earth was closed to Christ, the fullness of the Gentiles is complete, and the door in heaven is open to John, and to all believers.  

John is immediately in the spirit and the first thing he describes is the divine throne room of heaven. John's focus is on the throne and the one who sits on the throne, and on the Lamb of God. As the chapter begins, we are drawn into John's vision, and we become face-to-face with the ineffable majesty Himself.

Heaven is the abode of God.  It is the place where Jesus ascended into after His resurrection from the dead (Acts 1:10-11, 3:21, 7:55-56; Romans 10:6; Colossians 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  It is also the place where the Lord has been preparing a place for all of us (John 14). 

John sees God sitting on the throne.  In verse 3, "He that sat (on the throne) was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone."  God is not described by human features, but by His transcendent brightness.  The jasper is a transparent stone.  It is a precious stone.  It is crystal clear.  Transparent and yet reflective.  It is perfect without blemish, brilliant.   We can get even a further definition of what the jasper stone is from the end of the book of Revelation, chapter 21:10-11, " And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal."  

John sees God on His throne, He is a clear and brilliant, glorious, splendorous, and magnificent.  

It is noteworthy that the jasper and the sardius were the first and the last stones on the breastplate of the high priest (Ezekiel 28).  They represent the first and the last tribes of Israel; namely Reuben, the firstborn represented by the jasper; and Benjamin, the last born, represented by the sardius.  God is in a covenant relationship with Israel.  Even though judgment is coming, God has not forgotten His promise.  He is faithful and true, and every word of His promise will be fulfilled.  Israel will be saved.  He will fulfill His covenant with them. 

Another interesting note:  Reuben, represented by the jasper, means in Hebrew "behold a son."  Benjamin, represented by the sardius, in Hebrew means "son of my right hand."

Other Old Testament prophets in their visions saw the throne of God and described it for us.  See Isaiah 6:1; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 47:8

Saturday, July 15, 2023

A Tale of Two Brides - Part 2

Bobservations' Column

Titled - A Tale of Two Brides - Part 2
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Lord declared that five of the seven Churches in Asia are in trouble. Only two were commended and encouraged in their faith. In this seventh letter that the Apostle John was to write, we discover who the Laodiceans really were. They were a combination of four of the other six Churches. They were surrounded by Greek philosophies, and Roman laws. This last church had advanced to acceptance in a wicked world, and allowed false doctrines to be taught by false teachers and prophets. Unlike Sardis who had only a few that had not defiled their garments with the world, Laodicea had gained acceptance in the culture because they did not teach against sin. True Christians bend their thoughts and hearts to Christ view, not to the world’s! If this church existed in our modern day (and perhaps it does), Christ’s sacrifice would be left at the curb, and a politically correct social gospel would be preached, and all manner of sinners would be welcomed in, then left to die in their sin.

It is noteworthy that only Smyrna and Philadelphia did not receive a rebuke from the Lord in their letters, because they stayed close to the Word Himself, exalting Jesus, condemning sin and exposing it along with the fakes and flakes. While Laodicea looked like a successful church from the outside, their faith was severely lacking and like Sardis they were a dead church.

John writes in his opening line to them that they were The Church of the Laodiceans. All the others were churches in, or of a city, but this was The Church of the Laodiceans, not the Church of Jesus Christ. It reflected the society around them, not Christ their presumed Savior.

This is the Church we have today; wealthy and in need of nothing. They have everything under control, and they are “The Church!” Jesus says they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. They don’t even see their daily need of Christ in their lives. This is the church’s final state in the church age. They read the words of scripture. But they don’t hear the words that they read.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” Matthew 15:8

Sunday Morning's Audio Sermon
Revelation 3:14-22 - "A Tale of Two Brides" - Part 2


Laodicea is the final church of the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation.  It is the last letter, and it is the worst! It addresses the apostates, the liberals, the Christ-deniers, the Bible-deniers; all those who have elevated themselves above God's Word with a false gospel message producing false converts. 

It is the worst of all possible representations of a church. A church full of people who have a wrong view of Christ, a wrong view of themselves, a wrong view of the church.  

Laodicea was an immensely wealthy city, and extremely self-sufficient city. Not only did the church find its identity in material wealth, but also spiritual wealth. They had money, riches and spiritual pride to go along with material pride. This is the ultimate apostate condition. They know about Christ but have created a false Christ. They know about God but have created a false god and are smugly self-confident in that. This certainly characterizes entire denominations throughout the world, and particularly in today's western culture - including Christian universities and seminaries.

To give you an idea of the attitude of the people of Laodicea, after the earthquake of 60 A.D. which leveled this city along with others in the area, the people of Laodicea prided themselves on rejecting an offer of financial help from Rome because they had enough money of their own to completely rebuild a beautiful city without any help.  Tacitus (a Roman historian) wrote: "Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources with no help from us."

Along with its wealth, banking enterprises, wool industry, the city was known for its medical school which developed a highly valued salve for eye ailments. 

Of these seven churches represented in the book of Revelation, the first six letters begin with, "the church in."  This is not true of the last letter, it is written to, "the church of" which explains a lot.  John 17:14-16 tells us that we are in the world, but not of this world.  A church that is of this world does not belong to Christ.

We know the Lord is writing this letter, and He introduces Himself by referencing His deity.  He is the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, and the Beginning of the creation of God. 

Why is this so important to establish in a letter to Laodicea? Referencing the deity of Christ?  In Colossians 4:16 Paul says this: "Read this letter in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea."    It's interesting that Laodicea was only about ten miles away from Colossae.  It is very likely that what had plagued the church in Colossae found its way to Laodicea, the denial of Christ's deity.  

He is the Amen - This is a unique title, see Isaiah 65:16.  Amen is used in Scripture to affirm the truthfulness of a statement. The Lord is the firm, fixed, certain, faithful, unchangeable Amen, because He is the truth.  What He says is true, His promises are true, His covenants are true.  2 Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."  All of God's promises are validated and made certain in Christ.

He is the faithful and true Witness - Not only does whatever He says is true, He is completely trustworthy, perfectly accurate, reliable.  All testimony which He bears to God, His purposes, plans, promises are faithful and true.  "He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true" John 3:31-33

He is the Beginning of the creation of God - He is the first cause of creation, the Creator and governor of it, He is also the Creator of the Church, the Head of the body, the first born from the dead.  See Colossians 1:18.

After identifying Himself, Jesus says, "I know thy works" He knows everything, nothing is hidden from Him. "...that thou art neither cold nor hot... because thou art lukewarm... I will spue thee out of my mouth."  Laodicea's water supply derived from an artificial pipeline bringing water from the hot springs of Hierapolis.  By the time it reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm.  It was also dirty, foul, tepid water...absolutely nauseating.  It wasn't cool enough to quench, it made people sick.  That's what the Lord is saying about this church, "You make Me sick!"

Why?  Because they are self-deceived.  They are spiritually deceived.  They are self-sufficient.  They don't need anything.  Non-believers cannot assess their own spiritual condition.  They don't know that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor and blind and naked.  They are not Christians.  How do we know?  Because Christians are not wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  The Laodiceans see themselves as spiritually rich, but they are bankrupt.  They have not the riches of God.  They are not clothed in righteousness; they don't know Christ. 

The Lord does not hold back His condemnation of them. There is in this church, apparently, absolutely no redeeming feature. This is the unsaved, unregenerate false church system. 

The Laodicean church is a church that Christ is not in.  How many dead, liberal churches bear the name of Christ in the name of their church.  Yet they deny His deity.  They deny His Word.  They deny Him as Creator.  They deny His Authority.  They create a false Christ in their own image.  They don't need a Savior.  They deny Him as Lord. 

"Therefore, be zealous and repent" - God in His mercy calls us to salvation.  He says Repent!  This is a decisive, zealous, eager act.  Repent and do it fast!  That is the message to the unsaved church. 

Jesus is standing at the door and knocking.  Individually, it is the door of our hearts.  Corporately, it is the door of our church.  "
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" Revelation 3:20-22.

Anyone who hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and abide with you and you with him.  

Friday, July 7, 2023

The Tale of Two Brides - Part 1

Bobservations' Column

Titled - "The Tale of Two Brides" - Part 1
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Ephesus had left their first love. Pergamos? Jesus has a few things against them, and against Thyatira too. To Smyrna, Jesus knew their works, their tribulation, and their poverty, but to Sardis, “Thou art dead.” Coming to Philadelphia, they were given an open door and the promise that He would keep them. It sounds like the promise of John 3:16, from death to Eternal Life for those who believe.

Like today, there were good churches, and bad. Some stayed the course with good doctrine. Others had been led off the narrow path, and onto a broad way. The problem is a familiar one, because churches are led by mankind, and mankind is fickle. But for those who stayed focused upon Jesus, great promises were theirs because Jesus was at the core of their teachings, worship, and hope.

We start today with the Church at Philadelphia. The name comes from the Greek word “phileo” meaning a love based upon relationship, with a give and take. Our own City of Philadelphia, PA, known as the “City of Brotherly Love,” that was the likely motto of that Asian City of Philadelphia also.

But while they were a loving church, they found that their beliefs were at odds with the surrounding world. Just several kilometers to the southeast was the Church of Laodicea, a church that was wealthy, and in need of nothing, and Jesus tells them they are spiritually wretched, poor, and naked.

One might ask how some churches do well in the world, and others that stick close to The Word of God struggle continually. They hear the same words of Jesus. They read of the same Commandments and miracles of Jesus. The only difference is their individual leadership. Enter the human element: fickle, and subject to the goals of the world. Philadelphia, and the last church of the chapter, Laodicea, represent opposite ends of the spectrum of “the church.”

These seven churches represent different eras of the Church Age, and they also represent the different kinds of churches evident in each era. Jesus warns the problematic churches to overcome the temptations of the world: to lead, to be the most beautiful, or to be the largest, most active, most social, or most critically acclaimed for their good works.

Whether we are churches or individuals…

John 14:26-30

Jesus invited Peter to the miraculous: Peter walked on the water, then he saw the waves at his feet. Take our eyes off from Jesus, and we too will sink

Sunday Morning's Audio Message:
Revelation 3:7-13 - "The Tale of Two Brides" - part 1


This morning we are continuing our study in the Book of Revelation from chapter 3, verses 7-13.

In this morning’s text, we will look now at the sixth letter to the churches, the church at Philadelphia.

Remember these were real cities with real churches, but also, they set for us seven samples of kinds of churches throughout all of history. How instructive these verses are for us.

Philadelphia was about thirty miles southeast of Sardis. It was founded by a man name Attalus who was king of Pergamos. Philadelphia means brotherly love.

The writer of this letter identifies Himself. "He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens, and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this." Jesus always introduces Himself with a description of His character, a description of His person.

He who is holy - Who is holy? None other than God. Throughout the Bible, God is repeatedly identified as the One who is holy. The holy One identifies Himself as absolutely sinless, unstained, unblemished, flawless. What does holy mean? It means, separate. From what? Sin. The word holy means separate, and He is utterly separate from sin. In the gospels, Jesus is identified as the holy One, for He shares the holy, sinless, pure nature of God. He is God!

He "Who is true." He is true. He is the Author of truth. He is the Revealer of truth. John 14:6, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." In the midst of a world of so much that is false, so much that is perverted, so much error... the Lord Jesus is truth.

He "who has the key of David." Who has the key of David? Jesus. See Isaiah 22:22. David symbolizes the messianic office. A key is a symbol in scripture. Whenever you see a key, you can equate it with authority. If the word "authority" gives you problems, try the word "control." Whoever has the key has control. Whoever has the key has authority. Jesus says that He is the One who has the key of David. He is the One who can open the treasure house and pour out on you His royal riches. Jesus is the key to all that they need, all that we need.

Not only that, but He alone opens the door. Open the door to what? Open the door to let anybody into the Kingdom. In John's gospel Jesus said, "No one comes unto the father but by me." If you're going to come, you've got to come by me. "I am the way, the truth and the life." John 14. In John 10, He said, "I am the door." Here He says, "I have the key." The key to salvation, to life, to the Kingdom. The open door to blessing and spiritual treasure. The door of spiritual opportunity for service and evangelism.

So, the Lord Jesus is identified as the author of the letter, and He has looked upon the church of Philadelphia. He knows they were not perfect, but He looks and finds that they were faithful.

He characterizes this little church. This is a small church, no doubt just a few, but they had some influence in the city. They have little power. A little dynamite. Small but mighty. It reminds us of 2 Corinthians 12:9 where Paul identifies some of the struggles in his own life, and he sums it up by making a great statement: "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." Sometimes in the weakest vessel comes the delivering of the greatest power, like a grain of mustard seed. This little church, with little strength, is spiritually faithful, lives were being transformed.

This church is characterized by obedience, "and has kept my Word." In John 14:23 Jesus defines the nature of discipleship. "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." This is the character of a believer.

This church is also characterized by loyalty, "and hast not denied my name." No matter the pressure, the trials, the hammering, the detractors, the persecutors, the intimidators and fierce persecution, through it all, they did not deny His name. They persevere. They hang in there. They don't deny His name, the mighty, powerful name of Jesus Christ. The name which is above every name. The name that will cause every knee to bow. They endured patiently and faithfully through it all. Some don't - they cave under the pressure. This church didn't deny Jesus, they were loyal.

In verse 9, He tells they that those who are their persecutors, He will make them bow down at their feet, knowing that Jesus loves them. Those who hated the fact that they were proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, proclaiming Jesus is God. They belong to the synagogue of Satan.

There are more promises to this little church... but you'll have to listen to the audio to find out more.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Things Which Shall Be

Bobservations' Column

Titled - "Things Which Shall Be"
Written by: Pastor Bob Lawrenz

From Thyatira to Sardis brings us to and through the most politically charged era of “The Church.” The Latin Rite of Rome found itself at odds with the Eastern Rite of Constantinople. Eastern Orthodoxy was pitted against Roman Dogma: The Great Schism of 1054 A.D.

Doctrinal differences between the two, and the Universal Authority of the Papacy in Rome were the core of the disagreement. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and Pope Leo IX of Rome brought the Schism to a head by mutually excommunicating one another from “The Church.” This was the watershed that brought full division within the faith, The Great Schism of 1054 AD. There were now two Popes of the Church.

Eastern Theology had its roots in Greek Philosophy, while Roman Theology had its roots in Roman Law. From the point of view of Jesus’ Church, neither was correct in their understanding of His teachings. And besides Rome and Constantinople, there were at times others that laid claim to the Papacy: The Bishops of Alexandria, and Antioch were also in the mix, but to a lesser degree.

Then in 1521, The Roman Church suffered another schism with the 95 Theses of a Roman Catholic Monk, Martin Luther. With Luther came more division: The Protestant Reformation. To say that these 500 years of Church history were filled with tumult, disagreement, doctrinal and cultural differences would be an understatement. It was a period when Apostolic Succession ended, though the Roman Catholic Church still holds to it in spite of its obvious loss. Muhammad brought yet another “truth” between 500 and 600 AD, and Islam became a threat to all the forms and names of Christianity.

False teachings, False Doctrine, False prophets, human egos, and even those that would alter God’s Word have all had their heyday within Church history. Confusion abounds within Christian Denominations, and so it takes a commitment to God’s Word to sift through the mess, and hit the pay dirt of Christ’s simple message of salvation. While East and West have us jumping through hoops, Jesus taught us that Salvation is by His grace through faith in Him, and Him alone.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” - 
Ephesians 2:8-9

Sunday Morning Audio Teaching
Revelation 3:1-6- "Things Which Shall Be"


We are continuing our teaching in the book of Revelation, studying the letters written to the seven churches.

To recap, this book is the Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ which the apostle John received in a series of visions. The first few chapters cover the past, the present, and the future. They are really about Christ and His church, and Christ addressing His church.

When the apostle Paul founded the church in Ephesus, that church became a strong church, taking the gospel throughout the rest of Asia Minor or modern-day Turkey (Acts 19:10). As the gospel spread, churches were established in many cities, seven of them are mentioned here. 

It wasn't long after these churches were established that we see false teachers, error, compromise and sin creeping into the church.  Churches then began differing from each other, straying from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we read the letters to these churches, we find out why.

Background Sardis is the ancient capital of the Lydian kingdom, going all the way back to 1,200 years before Christ; rich in gold, rich in silver. There are some historical indication that it might have been the first place where gold and silver were minted into coins. There was a river there that seemed to be rich in gold from which the gold was mined. Because of its wealth, a city that endured many wars, they were usually victorious because of the geographic location.

They became a center for wool and dying, things that were particularly common in the ancient world. By the middle of the sixth century B.C., the city attained such a high level of respect, that when its downfall came at the hands of a little-known enemy, the Greek cities received the news of it with disbelief. It was conquered. It was conquered not once, but it was conquered twice. It was conquered in 549 B.C. It was conquered again in 195 B.C. The Persians conquered it, and then Antiochus the Great, the Greek, conquered it.

By the time we come to the New Testament era, there’s a temple there to Caesar, to honor Caesar, and there is a temple there to the Empress Livia. There is the normal idolatry there. Seven hundred years before this letter, Sardis was one of the great cities in the world. If you go there today, you’ll find nothing but a pile of ruins near a little village called Sart. But once, it was the glory of Lydian Empire, and it’s greatest king was a man named Croesus. Have you heard that name? Have you heard “rich as Croesus”? Unlimited luxury and wealth.

Sardis stood 30 miles southeast of Thyatira in the fertile Hermus valley near a range of mountains, and it was elevated about 1,500 feet high; almost impregnable, sticking out from Mount Tamalpais like some kind of granite pier. Seemed to be impregnable. Under Croesus, it reached its greatest heights; and under Croesus, it plunged and collapsed.

It had some famous people. You remember the name Thales, the first Greek philosopher? You remember the name Solon, a wise legislator; or Xerxes, the great general; or Aesop, the fable weaver? This was some great city that had fallen into a degenerating cycle. 17 A.D. an earthquake hit it, massive earthquake, turning it into rubble. And Tiberius Caesar came and rebuilt it, and so that’s why they built a temple to Tiberius Caesar in the city of Sardis.

Its history was a history of degeneration. From its glory days under Croesus, it had crumbled into nothing and been rebuilt by the Romans. Politically it had declined, morally it had declined, economically it had declined, and the Christian church also was in a rotting condition. Its vitality and power were gone. It was a kind of corpse, a degenerate church in a degenerating city.

We come to the letter addressed to the church at Sardis. This letter reveals the sad and tragic state of the church - the church is dead. Clearly, we see this at the end of verse 1 where our Lord says, “You are dead.”  How horrifying and shameful.  For this church or any church that has fallen so far as to be called dead, spiritually dead, this is the ultimate shame. A church by definition is a place where God lives.  It is the place where Christ lives, and where the Holy Spirit lives.  God's not dead - He is alive and we have been made alive in Him.  A church is a place where Christians are alive, living out their faith in Jesus Christ, and sharing the gospel with others.  The church in Sardis is not alive, it is dead. This is a dead church, living a fake life.  Going through the motions. 

This church had succumbed to the influences of the world. They opened the door and just let the world in. They too had left its first love and adopted the vain philosophies of men, humanistic values, and compromise.  They had become politically and culturally charged but are spiritually dead.  They not only tolerated sin but indulged in it and even advocated for it. Sin has taken over, and the Holy Spirit is missing. Rather than faithful leaders leading the church, they are being led by false leaders completely void of the Holy Spirit. This church is dead.

This church is so defiled it is dead, decayed on the inside.  Like any liberal church that denies the Bible, or denies Christ and His gospel - it's dead.

What kills a church? False Teachers. False Teachings. Sin. Error. Compromise. No love for the truth. No love or adherence to God's Word. Placing man's ideas over God's Word.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, 
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

Nothing is hidden from the Lord; He sees everything and misses absolutely nothing.  The opening of this letter states, "I know your deeds," and their deeds are unacceptable. 

The church is spiritual, not political, not worldly, not social. Dead churches are concerned with tradition, formalities, appearances, concerned with acceptance (from the world), concerned with social injustice, politics, materialism and an all-inclusive religion.  They are not concerned with spiritual things.  They do not uphold the Scripture. They do not seek the Lord. The do not pursue holiness.  They do not preach the gospel.

Yet even in this church, there are a few who have not soiled their garments. There are always a few faithful, genuine believers who are covered with the righteousness of Christ, among the unbelievers and the hypocrites. 

These few faithful believers are instructed to "strengthen the things that remain."  There is some hope here.  This word "strengthen" means establish in truth.  Remember the truth you received and heard and hold onto it.  He tells them to repent of any and all sin. 

Jesus is coming back, and He is either coming for us, or He is after us.  Those who overcome have their names written in the Lamb's book of life, those who do not will surely see the wrath of God. 

He who has an ear - hear the Word of our Lord and heed it.

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