EPISTLES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Reassurance: God's Plan and Promises
ENDURE TO THE END
Chap. 1 Jesus is *God's angel *ruler of the kings of earth *First and Last
*faithful witness *Alpha and Omega *Living One
*first-born from dead *Son of man[kind]
Chap. 2 Congregation at Ephesus *Full of good works *Forsook first love
*Doctrinally correct to a T *Hates clergy system
BUT they could still eat of the tree of life
Congregation at Smyrna *Afflicted by poverty
*About to suffer imprisonment & death
BUT they will have the crown of life.
Congregation at Pergamum *Surviving where Satan has throne *Flaunts eating food for idols
*Refused to deny Jesus to Jews *Has a clergy system
BUT they could still have the new name
Congregation at Thyatire *Full of good deeds and service *Honors a prophetess with "deep
BUT they could still have the morning star secrets"
Chap. 3 Congregation at Sardis *Reputation of being alive, but really dead
BUT they could still have their name blotted out of book of life
Congregation at Philadelphia *Have not denied Jesus
THEREFORE, they will be pillar in temple of God
Congregation at Laodicea *Wishy washy *Materially rich, but spiritually poor & naked
BUT they could still sit with God on his throne naked
EPHESUS: Paul lived here three years (Acts 20:31). He set up a "seminary" for two of those years (Acts 19:9-10). He opposed paganism so ruthlessly and successfully, that finally the pagans ran him out of town upon threat of
death by the "wild beasts" (Acts 19:11-41; 1 Cor. 15:32). Since the establishment of the other six churches of Asia below are not mentioned in the Bible, possibly Christians from Ephesus established them, being the capitol city of the province and having the "seminary" there. They were indeed strong doctrinally, but they have forgotten how to love (Rev. 2:2-4). They had become legalistic. They also developed the Nicolaitans ("nicho" means power and "laitan" means laity, indicating power over the laity), something predicted by Paul toward the elders 30 years earlier (Acts 20:28-30). Indeed, the church in Ephesus, as in the other cities of Asia, no longer exists.
SMYRNA: Smyrna was another seaport north of Ephesus on the Aegean Sea. The Roman senate erected a temple to the emperor Tiberius Caesar in AD 26. It was a refuge for condemned Roman governors. Worship of
Dionesius was prominent here, whom myth says died and came back to life. Yet, Jesus told the church here it was he one who died and returned to life (2:8). It had a large Jewish colony. Both pagans and Jews, therefore, were gearing up to persecute the Christians here (2:9-10). In fact, Polycarp, a student of the Apostle John, was burned at the stake here, the wood being carried by the Jews and the ampitheatre provided by the Gentile pagans. Continually asked to recant by the Romans, he finally said, "Four-score years and six I have served the Lord, and He never wronged me; how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?". (A full account of his martyrdom is given by an eye witness in the book Apostolic Fathers.)
PERGAMUM: Pergamum was famous for making parchments, and it is from the city's name that the word parchment is derived, and its library second only to that in Alexandria. Yet Jesus said it was his words that were sharp
(2:12). It had a royal palace with military barrachs and arsenal which served kings of a dynasty a couple hundred years earlier. An unusually strong wall fortified the city. Yet Jesus said he was the one with the sharp, doubled-edged sword with which he will fight them (2:12; 16).
Pergamum had temples to Athena, Zeus, Hera, Demeter, and Asclepius; and in AD 98 a temple was dedicated to the Emperor Trajan. Asclepius was the god of healing and his symbol was a snake curled on a pole. Thus, when Jesus referred to living where Satan's throne was, it had double meaning; he had just referred to the Jews as being the synagogue of Satan, and now he seems to refer to this god of the Gentile pagans. Antipas was apparently pressured by both groups to renounce Jesus, but refused and so was executed. Also, the Jewish Christians were egging the Gentile Christians to eat meat offered to these idols, even though it went against their consciences, thus causing them to commit spiritual adultery. On top of all this, they had introduced a clergy system, probably because they were used to a priestly system to the gods and it seemed only reasonable.
THYATIRA: There is nothing about this city in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was located in the county of Lydia and was the home town of Lydia, the seller of purple whom Paul converted in Philippi. The county of Lydia
was, indeed, known for its dyed fabric trade. At one time, this small-town's name was Semir-amis, named after an (As)Syrian (on the southern border of Turkey) princess who, according to legend, ruled Assyria 42 years erecting such great cities as Babylon. Jesus said all his followers will rule some day with authority from God (2:27).
Later Semir-amis became known as goddess of fertility, calledin Palestine Asherah and in Greece Astarte. According to the Bible, she had priestesses and male-prostitutes serving in her temple. Jesus referred to a woman "who calls herself a prophetess" (2:20) in their congregation teaching "so-called deep secrets," referring to occult (which means "mysterious") ways, had led other Christians into spiritual idolatry. Such special spiritualistic privileges is not in keeping with Christian teachings of the New Testament. Jesus seems to be saying in 2:24, "my form of Christianity is simple" when he said he would not impose any other burden other than "what you have" already."
SARDIS: At one time Sardis had a great temple to Artemis and was considered the city of (Lydian) kings. It was important due to its military strength, its trade meeting place for Persia and Europe, and its fertile plain in
ordinarily hilly or mountainous Turkey. But this is the only city mentioned in Revelation's salutation wherein, not only does the congregation no longer exists, the city itself no longer exists. Indeed, Jesus warned, "...you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen...about to die" (3:1-2).
PHILADELPHIA: Although the other cities had been founded at least a thousand years previously, Philadelphia was only about 250 years old, having been founded by the Lydian King Attalus II, Philadelphias. It was
called "Little Athens" because of its many temples and associated festivals, being open to all religions. This city was often at least partially demolished by earthquakes and apparently the church was poor, as Jesus told them, "you have little strength." Yet these stubborn people not only continually rebuilt their city, but also had "not denied my name" (3:8-9). There was apparently a strong Jewish community there, as in Smyrna. It was these two cities that Jesus had nothing bad to say about. Apparently the civil authorities in this city were not interested in any feuds led by the Jews, and apparently outside authorities did not take the city politically seriously. The Philadelphian Christians had passed enough tests from the Jews, so Jesus said, "I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test" (3:10).
LAODICEA: This city in the county of Phrygia, was famous for its money transactions, probably being a trade center between Orientals and Europeans, both needed money exchanged. They were so rich that when their city
was destroyed by an earthquake, its citizens immediately rebuilt it with no outside help. Jesus warned them,
"You say, 'I am rich....but you are...poor....buy from me gold refined in the fire" (3:17-18a). They were also known for their fine woolen fabrics; yet Jesus warned, "buy...white clothes to...cover your shameful nakedness" (3:18b). Apparently this trade city was used to compromising and getting along with people of all nationalities, and this compromise mentality had entered the church.
TORTURE AND EXECUTIONS
The following is collected from Foxe's Book of Martyrs:
Just prior to writing this, John had been sent from Ephesus to Rome where he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos off the coast of Ephesus, which is where he wrote Revelation (Rev. 1:9).
A year or two after Revelation was written, some pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogian in Ephesus. Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry. It so exasperated the people that they beat him with clubs so dreadfully that he expired two days later.
Just ten years after Revelation was written, a major persecution arose under Roman Emperor Trajan. A schollar, Pliny, wrote to Trajan saying there were many thousands of Christians put to death, yet none had done anything contrary to Roman law. Among those martyred was Ignatius of Antioch, Paul's home congregation. Some say he was sent from Syria to Rome where he was devoured by wild beasts. But on his way, his guards allowed him limited freedom to strengthen and confirmed the churches. From Smyrna, he wrote the church at Rome not to try to get him delivered from his martyrdom, for "Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing of visible or invisible things....Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!" Then, when the lions were led to him, he shouted, "I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread."
Upon the death of Emperor Trajan, Emperor Adrian continued the persecution until some 10,000 Christians had been put to death. In Mount Ararat in northeast Turkey, many were crucified, crowned with throns, and run through by spears in their sides, in imitation of Christ's death. Among others martyred was a high-ranking Roman commander who refused to sacrifice to a god to celebrate his own victories. Enranged, Emperor Adrian ordered him and his whole family martyred.
At the martyrdom of Faustines and Jovita, brothers and citizens of Brescia, their torments were so many and their patience so great that Calocerius, a pagan, beholding them, was struck with admiration and exclaimed, "Great is the God of the Christians!" for which he suffered the same torturous death.
About fifty years later, there was another resurgence of persecution. Again, from Foxe's Book of Martyrs: The cruelties used in this persecution were such that many of the spectators shuddered with horror at the sight and were astonished at the intrepidity of the sufferers. Some of the martyrs were obliged to pass, with their already wounded feet, over thorns, anils, sharp shells, etc...scourged until their sinews and veins lay bare, and after suffering the most excruciating tortures that could be devised, they were destroyed by the most terrible deaths. Germanicus, a young man...Polycarp [see above] at Smyrna....Metrodorus, Papilus, and a pious woman Agathonica at Pergamum....
Felicitatis an illustrous Roman lady...had seven sons....Januarius, the eldest, was scourged and pressed to death with weights; Felix and Philip had their brains dashed out with clubs; Silvanus was thrown from a precipice; Alexander, Vitalis and Martial along with their mother were beheaded....Justin and six of his companions were commanded to sacrifice to the pagan idols, they refused, and were condemned to be scourged and then beheaded. Several others were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the image of Jupiter.
...raged in France [Gallia where ancestors of Galatians moved to], particularly at Lyons where the tortures to which many of the Christians were put almost exceeded the powers of description. Biblias, a week woman, Attalus originally of Pergamum, Pothinus 90 years old. Sanctus originally of Vienna [Moesia above Greece] had red hot plates of brass were placed upon the tenderest parts of his body....Blandina, on the day when she and the three other companions were first brought into the ampitheater, was suspended on a piece of wood fixed in the ground and exposed as food for the wild beasts; at which time, by her earnest prayers, she encouraged others. But none of the wild beasts would touch her, so that she was remanded to prison. When she was again produced...she was accompanied by Ponticus, a youth of fifteen. The constancy of their faith so enraged the multitude...exposed to all manner of punishments and tortures. [Details can be read in the Apostolic Fathers.]
Beneath Rome are sixty excavations called catacombs used as a cemetery by both pagans and Christians. When the Christian graves have been opened, the skelatons tell their own terrible tale. Heads are found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades are broken, bones are often calcined from fire. But despite the awful story of persecution that we may read here, the inscriptions breathe forth peace and joy and triumph. Here are a few: "Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace." "Lawrence...borne away of angels." "Victorious in peace and in Christ." In contrast pagan epitaphs read: "Live for the present hour since we are sure of nothing else." "I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of twenty."
From Jesus the Universal King
1:6 By Jesus' blood, he HAS (past tense) made us to be his ________________________________ and to be his ____________. Therefore, Jesus' kingdom existed on earth, including the seven churches in (see v. 4) ______________________.
1:7 Compare this promise at the beginning and those at the end of the letter:
1:7 He is _______________________________________________
22:7 "Behold, I am _______________________________________"
22:12 Behold, I am ________________________________________"
22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, "______________________"
22:20 "Yes, I am __________________________________________"
1:9 Did John identify himself as their archbishop, their pope, their anything with a grand title? _________ He called himself their _________________ and _________________________________ (all present tense) (a) in the suffering, (b) and the kingdom, (c) and patient endurance.
1:16 The double-edged sword coming out of Jesus' mouth was symbolically what (see Hebrews 4:12)? _____________________
1:19 This epistle included what has already been _____________________, what is ________________, and what will take place _________________________________ (past, present, future). Therefore, does it cover only the future? ______________
2:1 Jesus is called the Morning _____________________ (Rev. 22:16). The stars what (Job 38:7 footnote in NIV)?
____________________________________ The stars and lamp stands apparently mean the same thing. According to verse 5, what do the lamp stands symbolize? _____________________________________________
2:5 Is it possible to fall? _____________________
2:7 Whereas the tree of life used to be in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9), it is now where (Rev. 22:1-2)? ______________
2:10 Using the chart below explaining numbers, how would you define how long they will be persecuted? __________________ Could this mean possibly even unto death? __________________
2:24 What are some common "deep secrets" some people in churches brag they have because they are so "spiritual"? _______________________
3:1 According to the footnote in the NIV, what is another translation for the "seven spirits of God"? ______________________ According to the chart below explaining numbers, if the stars are the sons of God, how many in general does God hold? _________________________
3:5 Is it possible for a Christian to have his name blotted out of the book of life? _______________
3:7 Jesus has the key of David. Isaiah 22:15, 21-22 says the steward of the palace who held the keys to it would be replaced by another who would have the key to the house of David. He will be a seat of _____________________ for the house of his _______________________. Jesus, a descendant of David, had the seat of honor in his father's house where? _________
3:12 The city of God, the New Jerusalem (a) has? (b) is? or (c) will? come down out of heaven? ____________
3:15 According to this and also 2:2, 2:19, 3:1 and 3:8, God knows our what? ____________________
3:19 God disciplines us so we will be ____________________________ and ____________________________.
3:21 Christians will sit with Jesus on his ____________________ which in turn is his _____________________'s throne.