Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 10- To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Required

December 10, 2011

Scripture Reading:
Amos 1:1-3:15; Revelation 2:1-17;
Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 29:19-20

It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.  ~Josiah Charles Stamp

Amos 1:1-3:15

Back in the day, when Andrew Jackson became the seventh president of the United States, the cultural elite were horrified when the backwoods people from Tennessee came to Washington D.C. for Jackson's inauguration.  Jackson took a three week journey from Nashville, Tennessee to the capital of our nation, gathering crowds who followed him to D.C.  In the spirit of respecting the common man, Jackson opened the inaugural ball to the general public. The White House was quickly overtaken by a drunken mob.  They were only dispersed by the staff putting bowls of liquor and punch on the White House lawn to draw them outside. This is how President Jackson started his presidency as "just one of the folks."  Today, Amos is a prophet who is "just one of the folks."  He is a shepherd from a small town south of Bethlehem called Tekoa. Amos may be from a small town, but this prophet had a global vision of God's judgment against the nations.

Amos was a contemporary of the prophet Hosea.  Amos lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but he prophesied against the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Usually the prophets start with God's complaints about the sins of Israel and end with the sins of the surrounding nations. Amos is just the opposite.  He begins with the sins of the nations and pronouncements of God's judgment against the nations, and then he deals with the sins of the nation of Israel and prophesies on God's judgment of Israel.  Here are the nations and their sins according to Amos.  Note that these are world powers who surround Israel at this time:
  • Syria is judged for cruelty.
  • Philistia is judged for slavery.
  • Phoenicia is judged for breaking a treaty.
  • Edom is judged for being revengeful.
  • Ammon is judged for being violent in crimes.
  • Moab is judged for being unjust.
  • Judah is judged for despising the Law.
  • Israel is judged for immorality and blasphemy.
Chapter 3 of Amos gives us a very important statement from God about His relationship with the nation of Israel.  In verse 2 God says, "From among all of the families on the earth, I chose you alone. That is why I must punish you for all of your sins."  To whom much is given, much is required.  Enough said.

God has given much to you and me, also.  Do you seek to follow Him in obedience or do you casually sin hoping that His mercy and grace will cover you anyway?

Revelation 2:1-17

In this book we see Christ address the Church (through the seven representative letters to the churches in Asia Minor) and has a personal word for each congregation.  These churches would have been very distinct in their personalities and situations.  Some would have also been well known and influential in the ancient world. The word "church" is mentioned nineteen times in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.  Beginning in chapter 4, the word "church" is conspicuously absent.  This is because the Church is not on earth for Chapters 4-20.  When mentioned again in the book of Revelation, the Church is called the Bride.  After the Rapture we next see the Church is the Bride who is reunited with her Bridegroom in heaven.  The book of Revelation makes this clear to us.

Jesus is personally involved and interested in his Church on earth. He is looking for love and loyalty from his betrothed Bride. He is looking for the Church to fulfill her purpose and role on earth during the times of the Gentiles. Unfortunately, the Church is a flawed entity. As we see Jesus address each individual church, we will see a message from Jesus to all churches throughout the Church age.  He will address characteristics in the Church that should be commended and some characteristics that must be condemned.  

It should be understood that these letters are to the visible Church on earth. The visible Church on earth has both believers and unbelievers in it. Only the invisible Church has all believers. The invisible Church is those whose hearts are truly given to Jesus Christ. Only God can determine who these people are by examining the heart of each person. 

Each of the seven churches addressed represents not only an actual church that existed historically, but also a type of church that is always present throughout the Church age.  

Here are the churches and what each church represents:

  • Ephesus represents the doctrinally orthodox church that has grown cold.
  • Smyrna represents the suffering/persecuted church.
  • Pergamum represents the worldly church.
  • Thyatira represents the church that tolerates sin.
  • Sardis represents the dead church.
  • Philadelphia represents the faithful church.
  • Laodicea represents the apostate/unsaved/fake church.

The first letter is sent to the church at Ephesus.  Our study of Ephesus revealed that it was a prosperous port city covered with streets of marble. These beautiful marble streets led to the harbor.  Education was highly prized and wealth was abundant.  Ephesus was the major city of the worship of Diana or Artemis.  The Apostle Paul converted the city to Christ and the Apostle John was its main pastor.  The Lord writes to commend them on certain things.  Here are his commendations:
  • He commends them that they have good works that have been accomplished in God's name.
  • They have labored for God, even to the point of weariness. 
  • They have been patient. 
  • They have not tolerated evil people in their midst.
  • They have examined the claims of people who have come to minister and claim to be apostles of Christ, but really aren't.
Christ does have some things against them.  By the way, doesn't this seem so personal and intimate?  Don't you have friends whose qualities you like, but who also have qualities you dislike?  Notice how up front, honest, and humble Christ is.  Here are the complaints:
  • They have lost their passion for him as their first love.  Ouch!
  • He wants them to regain their passion or he will remove the lampstand (Christ) from among them.
Christ likes that they have rejected the teachings of the Nicolaitans, who taught that in order to understand sin you must participate and indulge in sin.  This was a false teaching at the time. They also were the first people in the visible Church to promote the idea of a separate clergy class. They believed in a priesthood that was separate from the laity or common people in the congregation.

This church represents churches throughout history that have been orthodox in their teachings, but have grown cold in their love.  Christ admonishes these believers to listen to God and stay faithful. Christ gives promises to provide hope to believers to stay steadfast in faith.

Jesus promises that anyone who is willing to listen to the Spirit of God and understand His message to the Church will eat from the Tree of Life.  Remember the Tree of Life from the Garden of Eden?  God cut mankind off from access to this tree so that men would not live forever in a sinful state.  Now, through Christ's death and resurrection, believers are free to eat of the Tree and live forever in God's presence.


The next letter is to Smyrna.  This city was not filled with rich people like Ephesus.  It was filled with common folk.  They were poor in material wealth, but rich in their spiritual lives!  Apparently, some Jews were slandering this group.  Jesus notes that real Jews love him, but these Jews were from the synagogue of Satan. Jesus warns that this group in Smyrna is going to suffer persecution. The Devil is going to be allowed to throw some of them in prison and test them.  Their persecution will be complete "ten days." This represents a general amount of time that will complete their persecution.  

Jesus reminds them to remain faithful, even when facing death, because he is able to give them a crown of life.  This message is to all Christians who suffer for their faith.  Listen to the promise of Christ.  Here is the promise: Those who hear the Spirit on this and are victorious in death will not be hurt by the second death which completely ends a person's life in hell.


Jesus addresses Pergamum, which in its day was a center of pagan religion. Jesus identifies it as the throne of Satan. We can learn a few things from this statement.  Unlike what many people think, Satan is not in hell. Satan is the prince of this earth and he roams to and fro seeking whom he may devour.  Satan can set up shop in cities and Jesus claims he has done just that in Pergamum. 

This city had statues and worship areas for Zeus, Athena, and Bacchus. You may remember that Bacchus, also known as Dionysus, was the goat-god of wine and revelry.  He was half man and half goat. His head had horns in mythology. This is where modern Christianity has gotten its image of Satan. This is not at all how Scripture represents Satan. In Scripture Satan is a beautiful creature who was an angel of light until darkness was found in him.

Jesus commends this church for remaining faithful in the middle of this difficult environment.  They even remained faithful after a great saint was martyred there by Satan's followers.

Jesus does have complaints. Apparently, the church at Pergamum is tolerating people who teach immorality and idolatry. Balaam in the Old Testament taught Balak to defeat Israel by corrupting them with pagan intermarriage to the Moabites. This introduced them to idolatry and fornication.  This church is also tolerating the Nicolaitans, who the Ephesians hated, but these people embrace. When Jesus says that he comes against them with the sword of his mouth, he is teaching that the only way to defeat false doctrine is with the Word of God. Jesus' promise to those who will listen to the Spirit on this topic is that they will be fed spiritually forever with manna in heaven.  Being full and satisfied spiritually is a prize for those who love Jesus.

This message is for churches throughout the ages who become worldly. Jesus addresses their insatiable desire for worldly things by reminding them that if they are faithful, they will be satisfied in heaven by being spiritually fed with God's manna forever.  God satisfies our needs. This is His promise to the worldly church.

What would Jesus write in a letter to you?  How would he commend you?  What complaints would he have against you?

Psalm 129:1-8

Here is a psalm of complaint about being persecuted.

Proverbs 29:19-20

Discipline is a powerful tool.

What are you seeing as you read?  Please share.


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton

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