Man exists in community. Other people know your name. Your name brings either vague memories of a fleeting meeting, or clear impressions of laughter, love and friendship. In other relationships you meet people to broaden your education at school and college, or to learn from in church or mentoring, formally or informally, however you choose. How special is that sought-after invitation to you by name to an event where the host will lavish food and drink upon you on an extravagant occasion.
Parents never forget the names of their children. Whatever a child may choose to do for the good or the bad, their names are engraved in the hearts of their parents. There might be distance, geographically or emotionally, but their names are forever written in the heart of a parent, not only to be remembered in neutrality and composure, but certainly with longing that brings joy or tears. It is most unusual for a parent to distance himself or herself from a child and when it happens – and it does – it brings overwhelming anguish, heartbreak and emotional trauma. On the other hand, children are expected to leave home and make their own lives, and still, full rejection of parents with neglected contact or none at all, causes a deep sense of loss.
Do you know the feeling when somebody calls your name or knows your name amongst thousands? It is so much more than being a number or just a face among many.
God will never forget your name. He has given you life. Whatever you may choose in life, to reject His love or to respond to His call, He knows you. Hear, truly hear the Word of God, in the deep, anointed singing voice of the ancient prophet Isaiah that echoes through the ages. God says:
Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” Isaiah 43:7
For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me. Isaiah 45:4
Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number. He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power. Not one is missing. Isaiah 40:26
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. Isaiah 43:1
I was a little girl when my mother told me about a gigantic, beautiful desk, a fine, polished leather book inscribed with gold and an enormous angel with a golden quill. My imagination of the scribe of heaven ran wild. I have always loved books, fascinated to this day with calligraphy and all things to do with paper and stationery. How could I ever conjure an accurate picture of the Lamb’s Book of Life and my name written there? In Malachi 3 our names are written in the Book of Remembrance before the Lord as we speak His name and He listens, rejoicing about us and doing good to us.
Pebble pal, your name is written. Rejoice as we hear the word of God to the church.
Sardis – the dead church.
The city of Sardis stood on a ridge of which the sides were smoothly precipitous. It was approachable from one side only, making it almost impregnable. The ridge was too small for expansion, causing the city to expand to the valley. Sardis was therefore divided into two parts – high and low. It was a wealthy city with lots of gold available from mines in the region. The king of Sardis was defeated in war with Persia. During the battle he retreated to higher part of the city, leaving the precipice unguarded, believing it was impenetrable. One Persian soldier found a way up and led the troops up to find the city completely unprepared for the fight. The whole scenario was repeated in a battle with Alexander the Great. With Rome ruling, Sardis was the centre of the wool trade. After a destructive earthquake in 17 AD, the city lost its luster, life and energy. It became symbolic of lost enthusiasm; lacking a sense of duty. Although it was still important for trade it was not inspiring or aspiring to anybody or anything.
Jesus holds the seven spirits (the fullness of the Holy Spirit) and seven stars (the seven churches depicting the whole church). He is the symbol of the comprehensive anointing of the Spirit of the Lord according to Isaiah 11:2. Not one will be snatched from His hand. Jesus holds on to them and will not let go. He informs them of their reputation of deadness and urges them to repent and change their ways. An accusation of pretense is serious. The church should be the answer to the world. It might pretend to be, but it is dead inside and no solution to the need of the unbelievers.
Hear the call of God – wake up. There is still time to do the work necessary. Isaiah called for Jerusalem to wake up. We, the church, heed the call:
Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; Put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean shall no longer come to you. Shake yourself from the dust, arise… Isaiah 52.
Whereas she who lives for pleasure and self-indulgence is spiritually dead even while she still lives. 1 Timothy 5:6.
Timothy warns against pretense as a form of godliness, but denying the power of the true Gospel. (Timothy 3:5) The sinful church is weak and ineffective. We are called to make a difference and live as God’s love-solution to the wickedness around us.
The words of the father of the prodigal son rings true:
… for this son of mine was [as good as] dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found.’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:24
And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. Romans 6:13.
Sin brings death. It is the death of our will, when we cannot break the bad habits. Sin is the death of feelings, when our conscience dies.
Sin is the death of beauty and loveliness, when the craving for power and lust becomes ugly and vulgar.
Although the church receives no formal commendation, the Spirit mentions the remnant, the ones with undefiled garments, in 3:4. They are found worthy to walk with Jesus, clothed in white.
Jesus challenges the church to remember the truth that they have received and repent. To be watchful, is to learn from city’s history and never be unprepared for the spiritual battle.
The only way to remember the truth is to turn back to the Cross of Jesus and the Word.
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
Keep alert to be wise and recognize the ways of evil and false teaching. The promise illustrates the eternity of glory in the presence of Christ when we are clothed for the wedding feast, our names are written in the Book of Life, which is the record of the redeemed to be announced in the Throne room of heaven. The Lamb’s Book of Life is mentioned often in Revelation. (13:8, 17:8, 20:12,15)
Moses speaks of the book God has written – Exodus 32:32.
Writing in a book in the Presence of God is mentioned in Psalm 69:28, Daniel 12:1, Malachi 3:16, Luke 10:20, Philippians 4:3.
In the ancient church white clothes were put on after baptism to symbolize festivity, purity and victory. Jesus will clothe us in the robe of righteousness.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10.
In our beautiful garment our name is announced, not by the footman or doorkeeper, but by Jesus before the Father and the angels.
It is important to again realize that this state of affairs is not for one day in the distant future. It is happening now. Restoration takes place at this instant on the act of repentance. Our names are written and announced right now and the powerful impact of this state of affairs reverberates in our everyday lives. We are called to the table of feasting even in the wilderness of evil and brokenness around us. Psalm 23.
Philadelphia – the faithful church
This is the youngest of the cities called by a name derived from the Greek word philadelphos that means one who loves his brother.
The city was founded for a specific reason: to spread Greek culture, language and philosophy by peaceful means. It has been given an open door by history to pave the way and to know the manner in which to spread the Gospel.
The city was situated on the edge of a great volcanic plain, which made it very fertile, especially for grape-growing. It became famous for good wine.
The earthquake of 17 AD in the region also hit Philadelphia. The city felt tremors for years after, causing daily panic when cracks appeared. The residents were too afraid to live inside the city. They lived outside the city limits in huts. Those who remained inside often fled for their lives.
The inhabitants of Philadelphia could appreciate the promise: – they will go out no more, (3:12). The city was also familiar with new names. It was given a new name after the ruins were rebuilt by Tiberius [Neocaesarea – new city of Caesar] and again Flavia after the family name of Vespasian. Later, the name Philadelphia, was restored.
Throughout history the city withstood onslaughts of the Turks and Muslims. For centuries it was a free Greek city and the last bastion of Asian Christianity. Philadelphia fell to Islam in the 14th century, but to this day there is a remnant of Christians with a bishop.
[Today Smyrna is Izmir and Philadelphia is Alasehir in Turkey. All the other cities mentioned in Revelation are only ruins.]
Christ is described as Holy, which means different and separate, a confirmation of the description in Isaiah 6:3, 40:25,43:15.
Christ is described as True. There are two words for true. Alethes – which contrasts true as opposed to false and alethinos, which expresses real as opposed to unreal. Christ is declared real.
The key of David depicts authority to admit into the New Jerusalem. (Isaiah 22:22) Jesus is the door:
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9.
Jesus opens the door into the Presence of the Father through our prayer and worship. No one can shut the door. Christ gives entrance to the church, which He commends for faithfulness in difficult circumstances. There are always tests in this world in which we must persevere. We need endurance in times of testing. (Hebrews 10:36)
Christ who comes quickly depicts times of trouble where we learn to know Him in the fullness of His redemptive power. If we do not need His miracles and salvation, we will never know what He can do and how He works His righteousness in our lives to transform us into His likeness and build our character to be the true church.
It is in times of trouble that Christ is revealed in His church. It is for this present life, just like the parable of the ten virgins illustrates. Only His wisdom and His Spirit will reveal the deception in the church of those who lie about their identity and are called the synagogue of Satan. Note that the warning is about the falseness IN the church.
The church receives no condemnation, only warning and comfort.
The challenge is to hold on and persist to receive the promise and not lose the crown of victory. (Hebrews 10:36-39)
A long list of promises is made. The church will receive recognition from within and a secure place in tribulation. A pillar in the Temple of God depicts a place of honour and dignity. Security and steadfastness in faith will bring stability.
The name of God and the name of the church, the New Jerusalem, which is written on us, will serve as a branding of love, marked by God’s honour and victory. We will enjoy the privilege of heaven with a new name.
So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:27.
All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” Ezekiel 48:35.
This is heaven – the Lord is there. What more can we ever want.
Laodicea – the lukewarm church
Nothing good is said about this church – a grim distinction from the others. The ancient world had six cities called by this name.
This particular city was important only because of its location. The highway to the East went right through the city. Travelers entered by the Ephesian gate and exited by the Syrian gate.
It was a commercial and strategic centre for banking and finance. The citizens were so rich that they could rebuild the city after the earthquake with their own money. They argued that they did not need Rome or God.
It was also a centre for manufacturing of clothing and well known for the soft, violet-black wool used for the making of outer garments called trimita. The clothing industry was prosperous and proud of it. Spiritually they were naked in the sight of God.
The city was a medical centre famous for eye and ear ointment. Spiritually they did not recognize their blindness.
The words of the risen Christ speak directly to the pride and wealth of the citizens. There was a large population of Jews who were wealthy and influential. The city governor put a ban on the export of currency since so many Jews paid temple tax to Jerusalem. They then paid their temple tax in gold and consequently this was seized as contraband.
Christ is the Amen as stated in Isaiah:
So that he who blesses himself in the earth
Shall bless himself in the God of truth;
And he who swears in the earth
Shall swear by the God of truth; Isaiah 65:16.
It is a solemn statement that guarantees truth. Christ is utterly reliable and true beyond all doubt. Jesus often said: “very truly I tell you”. (Greek = Amen)
He is the faithful and true witness. In Hebrew a statement is often repeated for impact and confirmation. Only few people could read and the letters, prophecies and law were read to an assembly of listeners. To repeat was to emphasize importance through the spoken word so that the audience can remember.
Christ is the beginning of creation, creator of all things (John 1:3).
In Him are all things (Colossians 1:16). He is more that just the beginning; He is the source of all.
Sin and death were caused by the choices of man, not God. God creates and redeems.
The word used for cold is psuchros which means to the point of freezing. Zestos is boiling hot. Tepid or lukewarm is chliaros in Greek. In the neighbouring town was mineral water. When you drink it hot, it had healing power, but lukewarm it made you vomit.
Indifference is hard to break. It is only broken in a committed and loving church so that people are saved. Neutrality is impossible. Non-submission to Christ is resistance to the Gospel.
Meaningless Christianity is strongly condemned and emphasized by the gross description of nausea and vomiting.
The condemnation is fierce: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. (3:17)
The city was physically rich, but spiritually poor. Gold was real in the city, but spiritually of no use. Money does not buy character.
The counsel to the church is to buy from Jesus. Salvation is free, but our character is bought in the refiner’s fire. Our testimonies of miracles and answer to prayer, our faith is gold in the eyes of heaven.
… that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, – 1 Peter 1:7.
Clothing is the remedy for the shame of nakedness, which causes humiliation:
“Behold, I am against you,” says the Lord of hosts;
“I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame. Nahum 3:5.
God honours his people by fine garments, like Joseph, Daniel, Esther and the prodigal son. The beauty that only Christ can give is our white garments. It is soul fashion. The garment of praise (Isaiah 61:3) covers us when sin brings depression, shame, and failure.
With our robe of righteousness we are suitable for the Lord’s presence. It is such a beautiful scripture to be memorized. Here I quote it again:
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has covered me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom puts on a turban, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10.
The church knows what is suitable to God. The entire content of the letters to the Romans and the Galatians is aimed to purify and prepare the church. (Romans 13:14, Colossians 3:9). The Pharisees had fine garments and still they were naked before Christ.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 13:14)
Next, the church is recommended to buy eye- salve. Everything in life is dependant on vision. Can we see the lie? Can we see the outcome? Hagar flees into the desert after the row with Sarah. (Genesis 16:14 and 21) She almost succumbs to thirst and put the child away from her to be far removed from the cruel death she expects. Her eyes do not see the well. The well was there, but her bitterness and self-pity made her blind. It is God who opens our eyes to see our answers.
This is a super important spiritual principle. Let us together always pray the blind man’s prayer: Lord, that I can see.
Jesus states that He chastens those He loves. His love is described in Greek with the word agapan, which expresses unconditional love. It is an unconquerable attitude of goodwill, which nothing can turn into hate or indifference.
For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12
The word used for rebuke is elegchein, which means that the receiver of the rebuke is compelled to see the error. It is not punishment, rather illumination and insight.
Ephesians 4:17-19 describes the darkness in the minds of the unbeliever. We receive correction and insight and rejoice in it. It is further explained in several scriptures to illustrate that the crushed grape makes the wine. (Psalm 94:12, Job 5:17, Hebrews 11:6-8,12)
God is knocking at the door of this church. It is frightening to think of Christ outside the church. The remedy is to let Him in. He knocks as the lover of your soul and the lover of souls. The handle of your heart is on the inside and operated only by choice.
No other religion has the vision of a seeking God.
The word for meal is deipnon. It was the most important meal of the day in the evening with time to linger in fellowship. For most ordinary working people breakfast was light and fast and lunch mostly on the road or in the field. Jesus present at the evening meal pictures a time of complete fulfillment.
A throne in the east was more a couch than a single seat. A victorious throne is to be shared with Christ. Just note the high reward to a disappointing church. God loves His church and will correct so that He can bless.
Thank you Lord Jesus for never letting us go. No sin, shame and blindness can ever separate us from the love of God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rejoice in the declaration of Paul in Romans 8. We share the victorious throne and nothing can change that. If God is for us, what or who can prevail against us?