Amos 7:1-9:15; Revelation 3:7-22;
Psalm 131:1-3; Proverbs 29:23
He who does not punish evil commands it to be done. ~Leonardo da Vinci
In this chapter Amos is able to keep the Lord from bringing certain judgments onto Israel by praying to God and reminding Him to preserve this small nation that He has chosen. God is true to His promises and this passage is a reminder that we are encouraged to talk to God through prayer and remind Him of His character and His promises. Prayer can change things. Amos sees a vision of a swarm of locust that eat all of the crops in Israel. He prays for God to relent. God does.
Next, Amos has a vision of God sending a great fire that devours the whole land and even the sea. Once again, Amos prays for preservation. God hears and answers.
God shows Amos a plumb line in a vision. He tells Amos that he will no longer ignore the sins of Israel. He will test how straight Israel is with a plumb line. That plumb line is God's word as revealed in the Laws of Moses at this point in human history. God is judging Israel's obedience. Are the living the straight line life? The pagan shrines and temples must go. Idol worship will be judged.
In another vision, Amos sees a basket of ripe fruit. God tells Amos that this picture represents His people of Israel who are ripe for punishment. God lists some sins including the greediness that leads to cheating people and dishonesty. God even states that the whole world will tremble for the deeds of Israel. What is God talking about? God is saying that in the end, the end times, Israel's punishment will result in a culminating event on the earth. We know this event as the Great Tribulation.
Verses 7-13 describe events of the Day of the Lord. Remember, this is not one 24 hour day, but a period of time when Israel's indignation and punishment from God occur. Here are some features of this "Day" as given to Amos:
- The land will rise up and sink again. Earthquakes.
- The sun will go down at noon and darken the earth.
- Celebrations will become times of mourning.
- It will be a bitter day of mourning.
- There will be famine of the Word of God.
- Jews will be unfamiliar with God's Word and starving for truth.
God states that He is determined to bring disaster onto the nation of Israel. Please remember that
God has been long suffering with this tiny group of people on the earth. He gave them Truth, revealed Himself to them, rescued them from slavery, promised that the Messiah would come through them, and protected them from many enemies. They have repaid His love with continuous slaps in the face.
Now His patience is spent and Israel will endure many centuries of punishment as a result. They will be scattered and persecuted. God will allow them to remain as a people group on earth. During "the Day of the Lord," God will also restore the fallen kingdom of David (vs. 11). One day during Christ's Millennial reign, the grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested. The vineyards will drip with sweet wine. The Jews will return from their scattering and be back in their land. One day, God will replant them in Israel and they will never be uprooted again.
God resolves His relationship with Israel in the end. The rest of the Gentile world benefits from this relationship as they always have. The Messiah was brought into the whole world through the nation of Israel. His kingdom will reign for the whole world, having been brought through the nation of Israel.
What do you think of God's story?
You may be reading all of this focus on the nation of Israel and wonder how the Gentiles and the Church fit into this story. This portion of the book of Revelation explains how the Church fits. Jesus Christ addresses the Church in these letters with commendations, condemnations, and promises. We see here that the nation of Israel is not the only group to get promises from God. Please note that only the apostate church is warned of punishment. The true Church is cleansed from sin by Jesus' death and resurrection. Therefore, the true Church is promised position, prominence, and propriety in the Kingdom of God.
Note in the salutation that Jesus reminds the Church that He is holy and true. He has authority on earth, which is why He says that he holds the key of David. This is the authority to be the sovereign ruler of the earth. Also, he opens and shuts doors. He controls the comings and goings on this planet.
Christ has opened the door for the people of true faith in Him. Jesus is the door to heaven and the true Church walks through this door into fellowship with God. Although they have little strength in and of themselves, they have obeyed His word and did not deny Christ. False Jews will bow down and acknowledge that Jesus loves true believers like the believers in the church in Philadelphia. Please note that Jesus calls true Jews those who love Him. Jews who do not follow Christ are designated as part of the synagogue of Satan according to Jesus. He claims they are not true Jews at all. The church at Philadelphia represents all those who are part of the true and faithful church of Christ. This letter from Jesus is to those people.
Christ commends that they have persevered in hardship, which in and of itself is obedience to His Word. Notice that there is no condemnation for the church of true believers.
Now Christ makes an incredible promise to the Church of all true and faithful believers. Here it is:
- Christ is going to protect the true Church from the great time of testing that is going to come upon the earth. This testing is for the whole world, who belong to this world. Vs. 10
- I am coming quickly to do this, so that no one takes away your authority in my kingdom. Vs. 11
- Being victorious will lead to you to become pillars in the coming kingdom. Vs. 12
- You will be citizens in the city of my God, which is the New Jerusalem. Vs. 12
Let me explain that the Church is tested with persecution while living on the earth. Jesus indicates in this letter that having passed the test of persecution on the earth and having remained faithful to Him in the face of hardship, all that Christ requires will have been accomplished by the true Church. The Church, therefore, does not need to be tested further. Christ will keep them from this final worldwide testing. Jews and Gentiles who are converted to Christ during the Great Tribulation (and there will be multitudes who turn to Christ on earth during these trials) will have to endure the tribulation. Christians who are part of the true Church on earth prior to the rise of the Antichrist have been promised by God to be taken out and away from this coming judgment. Praise God!
We come to the final letter to the final church. Let me take a moment to say that we have seen in these letters that although these really were churches in Asia Minor at the time that John saw these visions, Christ uses these earthly churches as models or types of churches and periods in church history that represent His Universal Church on earth.
Two of the churches had no condemnations from Jesus. They are Smyrna and Philadelphia. The other five get progressively worse. Let's review:
- Ephesus is strong in doctrine, but has left its first love.
- Pergamum has begun to tolerate sin, even though they follow their faith.
- Thyatira has allowed full-blown evil to infiltrate with the majority of the church being involved.
- Sardis has only a few true believers.
Several things are highlighted in this letter and pertain to the commerce and personality of the city of Laodicea. Their finances are from black wool, eye salve, and their water supply was an issue. It is interesting to note that due to the city's location, water had to be transported for some distance. By the time the residents got their water, it was impure and lukewarm! This city was known as a banking center and also had a medical school that produced an eye salve for healing that was used throughout the Roman Empire. Black wool was a major product produced in Laodicea. Because there is no commendation for this church, we will go right to Christ's condemnation.
- The first thing Christ says is that they are neither hot nor cold. Remember, this would have rung true to people in the ancient world as they all knew of the water situation in Laodicea. Christ says that He wishes that they were one or the other, but because they are lukewarm, He must spit them out of His mouth. This image is of violently spewing forth something that is disgusting. He is vomiting these fake Christians from His presence.
- They rely on their own wealth and think they have no need for anything. They are filled with pride. Materialism is their god. God sees them as poor, blind, and naked. He advises them to buy refined and purified gold from Him. This is a reference to their banking system and investing commerce of the city.
- Jesus encourages them to purchase white garments so that they will not be naked. This refers to their wool industry, which specialized in black wool. Jesus is using this as an illustration that fake Christians are not righteous (white clothes). Their works are like black wool, rather than clean white linen. Self-reliance does not cover us before God. Reliance on the work of Christ must clothe us.
- He encourages them to buy eye ointment to heal their blindness. Remember, this city was famous for selling an ointment that heals the eyes. Jesus is confronting them in areas that they will understand. These people are spiritually blind and will only be able to see spiritual truth through belief in the healing work of Christ on the cross.
- Jesus states that He corrects those that He loves. He tells them to turn from their indifference.
What is Christ saying here? If you overcome sin and death by belief in Jesus Christ, you will rule with Him in the new heavens and the new earth. This is a promise.
Christ is reaching out to an unbelieving world and to a fake/apostate church and to everyone on earth. He loves the world enough to rebuke and repudiate its sin. He calls the world unto repentance. This is what Christ means when He asks a false, lukewarm church to come through the open door to Him. There is a promise of life eternal and ruling with Christ, if they will turn from sin and find salvation through the Amen - the faithful and true Witness. I say, "Amen" to that!
Are you part of the church of Philadelphia or the church of Laodicea? One is the church of true believers and the other is the church of fakes. The true Church is ripe for rapture and ruling with Christ. The fake church is ripe for punishment and condemnation.
Here is the type of humility that God is looking for in His true Church.
Humility brings honor. This is what Christ is talking about.
What are you seeing as you read?