Jesus faced incomprehensible dread as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
What do you dread?
The first day of school?
A medical diagnosis?
Facing a new job?
Speaking in front of a group?
No matter our circumstances, we all can plug in a memory that makes our palms sweat and our stomachs knot, where we’re forced to tiptoe through a tunnel laced with fear of the unknown.
Do you think Jesus felt dread on Thursday night following the Passover meal? Unlike us, He knew the future because He was God as well as Man. As He entered the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples, as was His custom, He encouraged them to pray that they not enter into temptation.
And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.‘
Luke 22:41-46 NASB
Can you imagine drops of sweat turning into blood?
I researched that condition and found that it’s indeed possible. Blood vessels clustered near the sweat glands can burst under extreme stress, producing bloody sweat. (To read more about drops of sweat turning into blood, follow thislink.)
Luke, a physician, is the only apostle who includes this detail about Jesus. It lends understanding about the tremendous dread our Lord must have felt as He prepared to suffer and surrender His life for the sins of all mankind—past, present and future. God even sent an angel to minister strength to Him in that hour.
On this Maundy Thursday, let’s reverently give humble thanks to our precious Lord who willfully pressed through the dread of the coming cross. There He would painfully bear our sins, knowing He would face temporary separation from the Father—the price He willingly paid to redeem us at Calvary.
The precious blood of the Lamb sets us free from sin and death.
My prayer is for all to find salvation in Jesus, God’s perfect Passover Lamb. Would you like to know Jesus personally? These verses tell how:
…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’
Romans 10:9-13 NASB
Dear Lord, may we come to the cross, confess and turn from our sins, and invite You into our hearts. Thank You for saving us and writing our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life, so we may spend eternity with You in heaven. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
May God richly bless you this Resurrection Season as together we worship our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
Dread in the Garden of Gethsemane by Karen Jurgens Copyright 2017 and 2023 All rights reserved.
Have you ever wondered about the significance of waving palm branches to the Lord? Let’s glean a richer understanding of this Palm Sunday celebration. Come along as I share this nugget from God’s treasure chest with you.
“The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna!“ Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The King of Israel!’”
John 12:12-13 NKJV
Here’s the story…
As Jesus and His disciples approached Jerusalem, He sent two of them ahead to find and untie a colt on which no one had sat. The Lord instructed them to answer anyone who questioned their actions by saying that the Lord had need of it, so they would allow it. As the disciples obeyed, it happened exactly as Jesus had said. They spread their cloaks over the animal’s back where Jesus then sat and led him down the hill into Jerusalem.
When the multitudes who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was arriving, they ran to meet Him. They laid their cloaks on the ground and cut down leafy branches as a “red carpet” for Jesus’s entrance into the city. The excited crowds consisted of those from Bethany who had witnessed Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead and those in Jerusalem who had heard about this great sign. They congregated joyfully around Him, waving palm branches and chanting Scripture taken from Psalm 118:25-26: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:13 NKJV).
The Jews intended to cast off Caesar and his Roman rule and crown Jesus as their king. This uproar, however, distressed the Pharisees because they were losing the fight to suppress His popularity. Caiaphas expressed fear over what would happen to them politically, realizing they had to side with Rome against Jesus in order to save themselves.
What’s the significance?
What is the significance of people waving palm branches? We can trace this practice in both the Old and New Testaments.
In Leviticus 23:39-44 (Click HERE), the Israelites waved beautiful palm branches for seven days during the Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths or Sukkot). This feast memorializes how God brought them out of slavery from the land of Egypt. (For more study about the Feast of Tabernacles, click HERE.)
During Jesus’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the people rejoiced by waving palm branches in His honor. They welcomed the deliverance they believed He was bringing to them—freedom from Roman tyranny and the political occupation of Israel. They honored Him as a king riding victoriously into His kingdom. A worldly king would come riding on a horse—a symbol of war—but He came riding on a donkey’s colt—a symbol of peace. Later the disciples would understand how this act fulfilled Zechariah 9:9:
“‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
Lastly, we find a future waving of palm branches during a thrilling time in heaven. Revelation 7:9 describes those who will be saved out of the Great Tribulation wearing white robes and holding palm branches. They will cry out, “‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (v.10). (Click HERE to read more about it.)
Do you understand why waving palm branches is significant to God? It represents people showing thanks for God’s deliverance.
In Leviticus, God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and entrance back into their Promised Land.
The Gospels describe how the Jews expected deliverance from Rome’s political tyranny and the beginning of Messiah’s reign.
Revelation reveals the Lamb of God who will deliver a multitude from the evil rule of the Anti-Christ. They will stand before God’s throne and will serve Him day and night in His temple.
The triumphant entry into Jerusalem will happen one day in the future. At the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus will be riding on a white horse, not a donkey’s colt. He will come to make war on the Anti-Christ and destroy his reign. This is the age when the Messiah’s eternal reign will begin. (Click HERE to read Revelation 19:11-16.)
As we joyfully wave our palm branches on Palm Sunday, let’s remember to be deeply thankful to God for His gift of deliverance. Jesus loosed us from the bondage of sin and death and gave us the right to become God’s sons and daughters through Jesus’s shed blood. We will be joint-heirs with Christ in His kingdom forever.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
John 1:12 NKJV
Dear Lord, thank you for becoming our King of kings and Lord of lords. We wave our palm branches to you with hearts full of thanksgiving and praise for Your gift of deliverance. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Resurrection Week: Palm Sunday by Karen Jurgens, Copyright 2021 and 2023 All rights reserved.
As we saw in the previous post, King Darius believed in the God of Daniel after witnessing Daniel’s miraculous deliverance from the lions. The king declared:
‘I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.’
Daniel 6:26 NKJV
However, in a day soon to come, a different ruler will arise who will do just the opposite. Instead of a world of peace and godliness, it will be a terrible day where God will pour out his wrath on all the earth.However, just as He rescued Daniel, God has a miraculous deliverance planned for His church.
How it all began…
Remember Satan’s desire to overthrow God’s kingdom, which sealed his eternal fate? God cast him and one-third of his angel followers out of heaven. Since then, Satan’s goal has been to deceive mankind into worshiping him instead of God and to add their souls to hell’s kingdom.
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15 NKJV
Unlike King Darius, a new ruler (who Scripture calls the beast) will arise to control the world with a one-world political and economic system. His sidekick, the false prophet, will create a one-world religion and perform great signs, deceiving people to worship the beast as God.
The beast will face assassination but will magically come back to life after three days, indwelt by Satan himself as Anti-Christ. Following this miraculous sign, he will force every person on earth to take his mark (his name or his number 666) on either the right hand or forehead, without which no one can buy nor sell. The Anti-Christ will force all people to worship the image of the beast or lose their lives, just as in the story of Daniel.
The Anti-Christ will then make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel, but halfway through will break it by seating himself in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, proclaiming to be God. Every person who has his mark will fall down and worship his image, but the Jews will flee to the mountains in Jordan, called Petra, where God will protect them until Christ’s Second Coming. (See Revelation 12:6)
During the seven-year Tribulation, suffering will occur on all sides. God will pour out His wrath through the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, while the Anti-Christ will persecute Christians and Jews.
Where will the Church be now?
God’s wrath is meant for the wicked, not the righteous. Although there is debate about the timing, the Rapture will snatch away all believers in Christ in a nano second and take them to heaven for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV
Those left behind who get saved after the Rapture will endure unbelievable suffering, as they cannot buy or sell without the mark. If caught and captured, they will face a guillotine as punishment for their faith in Jesus. On the other hand, those who take the mark of the beast are cursed by God forever. These will suffer under God’s judgment poured out upon all mankind.
Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.‘
Revelation 14:9-11 NKJV
The last great battle, the Battle of Armageddon, will take place on the plains of Meggido. Many nations will converge on tiny Israel to annihilate it from the earth, thus believing they are annihilating God from the earth. Instead, they are in for the greatest surprise of their lives as they look upward.
‘Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’
Revelation 19:11-16 NKJV
Jesus will defeat the beast and his armies, and He will cast the false prophet and the anti-Christ into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. The double-edged sword from Jesus’s mouth will kill the armies, and the birds will feast on their flesh. Also, God will bind Satan for 1,000 years then release him for a short time and finally cast him into the lake of fire. The White Throne Judgment will take place where God will judge the wicked and also cast them into the lake of fire.
Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), King of heaven and earth and all creation.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’
Revelation 21:3-4 NKJV
As one man, Daniel, experienced miraculous deliverance, so shall all the earth one day soon. The pages of Revelation write the next story, and many of us will witness it. Perhaps its pages are a mystery to those who have never read or studied it. This is the time to take part in the blessing promised to all those who read and heed its warnings.
Although Revelation describes deep mysteries, the most important thing to understand is that Jesus is coming again soon, and we must make ourselves ready for His return. Revelation reveals Jesus Christ as King above all kings and Lord of all. Salvation in Him protects believers and frees us from fear of the coming tribulation.
‘And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.’
‘I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’
And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
Revelation 22:12,16-17 NKJV
Are you ready for God’s miraculous deliverance?
Dear Lord, may we understand the greatness of Your glory as our Deliverer from the wrath to come. Draw all men to Yourself that we may know You as Lord and Savior. Thank you for providing miraculous deliverance through salvation in Your Son. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Miraculous Deliverance in Revelation by Karen Jurgens copyright 2021 and 2023 All rights reserved
Before continuing with the survey of Revelation, let’s pause to delve into the Old Testament. Have you ever experienced a miraculous deliverance? Many stories exist about God’s delivering His people from bondage. Here I’m going to relate the first of two—one from antiquity and the other yet to come.
“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss.”
Daniel 6:1-2 NKJV
Due to the excellent spirit in him, Daniel received high favor from King Darius such that the king considered giving him authority over the entire realm. The kingdom’s satraps and governors, smitten with envy, plotted against Daniel. They tried to dig up charges against him or find mistakes he had made, but all they could uncover was his faithfulness. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God’” (Daniel 6:5 NKJV).
Have we ever been in a position where people made false accusations against us out of jealousy? Perhaps co-workers resented our promotion. Or friends turned against us when we got ahead of them materially or socially. Instead of congratulating us, they plotted to bring us down.
‘King Darius, live forever! All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree…’
Daniel 6b-7a NKJV
These men connived a plan to remove Daniel from his lofty political position by appealing to the king’s vanity. If anyone prayed for thirty days to a man or god and not King Darius, he would be cast into a lion’s den. What’s more, they insisted that the king sign the law according to the law of the Medes and Persians, making it unalterable. Even if the king wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to reverse it.
Appealing out of jealous resentment to someone in higher authority can produce ugly results. Sometimes a boss or friend might suddenly turn against us for no good reason, replacing our peace with fear. We don’t know what is going on behind our backs, but we feel we’re losing favor.
Although aware of the decree, Daniel continued in prayer three times a day, as was his custom. These men found Daniel in the act and reported his guilt to the king. Darius, forlorn, realized he had been tricked, but there was nothing he could do to save Daniel from the irrevocable law.
Have we ever been persuaded into turning against a friend or employee? After the harm was done, we couldn’t undo it, no matter how sorry we were.
So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, ‘Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.’
Daniel 6:16 NKJV
The king spent a fitful night fasting from food and pleasures, unable to sleep. Early the next morning, he ran to the den and cried out, “‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’” (Daniel 6:20b NKJV).
Being tested for doing the right thing is a noble act. That’s when God enters to deliver us through the trial. Note that God doesn’t remove the trial, but He walks with us to the other side. And He always stays with us to the bitter end.
Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.’
Daniel 6:21-22 NKJV
What a miracle! The king was thrilled and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. What’s more, Daniel had no injuries whatsoever because of his belief in his God.
The innocent can trust God to work miracles on their behalf, according to God’s perfect will. Here Daniel’s trial turned into a testimony to the king, who witnessed the power of the living God. The end of our trials will always glorify God, not man.
Furious, the king then ordered the guilty accusers, along with their wives and children, thrown into the lion’s den. Before they hit bottom, the lions crushed their bones and devoured them alive.
If you’re waiting for God’s justice on earth, there is a definite time when that will happen. (Keep following my blog on Revelation to find out when!) No matter our situation, we must let God be the Judge. Let’s wait patiently, and He will avenge our injustices.
A New Decree
King Darius wrote a worldwide decree to all the people of every nation and language on the earth.
‘I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, And steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, And His dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.’
Daniel 6:26-27 NKJV
Can we imagine what the world then must have been like after such a decree? What a wonderful command to fear and worship the living God! However, we can also rejoice because a day is coming soon when Christ will establish His kingdom on earth, and we will reign with Him forever.
Our present-day, however, is just the opposite. Like the story of Daniel, godless men plot and plan to persecute those who worship the true and living God, bringing us to the second story, which is yet to be. (Continued in the next blog post…)
Dear Lord, thank you for encouraging us through the story of Daniel. You are a God of miracles and a God of deliverance both then and today. May we trust You to deliver us in a day of trials and persecution. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.“
Revelation 3:20 NKJV
Welcome to our final destination, Laodicea. Of all the churches, this seventh church possessed a strategic location in regards to commerce and trade. Consequently, it was very powerful and extremely wealthy; so rich, in fact, that they didn’t need finances from Rome to rebuild after an earthquake demolished the city. Secondly, it was famous for its black wool, which was woven into carpets and used for making luxurious clothing. Third, people with certain eye diseases came from far and wide for its famous eye treatments. The Phrygian eye ointment manufactured there was exported all over the Roman world.
However, Laodicea’s physical location had one major drawback: a lack of water. Aqueducts piped in water from miles away, but the end product contained lots of minerals that made it taste horrible. Even worse was its temperature: neither hot nor cold, but sickeningly lukewarm.
These three industries — finance, wool, and eye salve — directly played out in Christ’s stern words to this church.
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”
Revelation 3:14-19 NKJV
How Jesus describes Himself to Laodicea
Let’s be mindful of Christ’s description of Himself to each church, as it specifically relates to His messages to them. This is how He came to Laodicea:
As the Amen, Jesus is God’s final word to the human race, the word of truth. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.
Jesus is faithful and true, first to God, and then to us. As our faithful High Priest, He speaks only truth, and we can trust what He tells us. Psalm 33:4 says, For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
Jesus is the source of God’s creation. Paul clarifies this in Colossians 1:15-17:The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Neither cold nor hot
Following His introduction, Jesus diagnosed this Laodicean church with the fatal disease of being lukewarm. Just as their piped-in water supply was tepid, so were their hearts toward God. Outwardly they appeared to check all the standard boxes, but the life-changing, transforming power that genuine faith produces was absent.
Due to their great wealth and material comfort, they considered themselves completely self-sufficient, lacking nothing. But Christ defined their spiritual condition as wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. This implies the imagery of a naked beggar, homeless and shivering in a blizzard, penniless and blind. Quite the opposite from how the wealthy, comfortable Laodicean church regarded itself.
What about the vast wealth that many churches possess today? Money may make us feel powerful and safe, but that is pure deception. Laodicea’s condition was exactly the opposite of Smyrna’s, a poor church to whom Jesus said, “I know your poverty, yet you are rich!” (Revelation 2:9). The Laodiceans suffered from spiritual blindness, unable to understand Christ’s true identity. They needed faith, the eyesight of the soul. Also, their nakedness implies sin patterns in need of a blood covering or atonement.
What currency would destitute, spiritually empty beggars use?
“You there! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost.”
Isaiah 55:1 NASB
Salvation is free for the asking. Every hungry and thirsty heart will be satisfied through Christ.
“…buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich;” This is the wealth found only in the crucifixion of Christ, spiritual riches of the kingdom of God that can never be taken away or lost. This gold is eternal for all believers.
“…and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed;” Jesus covers our sin (nakedness) with His righteous blood He purchased for us on the cross. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, we will stand before Him, clothed in His righteousness.
“…and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.“ Genuine faith opens our spiritual eyes to see the truth of God’s Word.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” As believers, we can rest assured that Christ will always come after us if stray or begin to grow lukewarm. Just like the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23, Jesus always searches for the one lost sheep and brings him back to the fold. His rebuke and chastening are for our good, to discipline us and train us to grow in His righteousness. Let us repent and turn from our sins, and may the fire of our first love burn brightly for the world to see.
Open the door to His wonderful promises
‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.‘
Revelation 3:20-21 NKJV
These verses about Christ knocking at the door of our hearts are not only for evangelization, but they also apply to believers. The Laodiceans pushed Jesus outside the door of their hearts, forgetting how much they needed Him to survive. As believers, we need to be mindful of Jesus waiting for us to commune with Him through His Word and prayer. That is how we keep the fire burning brightly in our spirits.
‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.‘
Revelation 3:22 NKJV
Dear Father God, open our spiritual eyes and ears to Your truths. May the fire of Christ’s salvation burn brightly in our spirits. May we never turn lukewarm, making you want to vomit us out of Your mouth. Draw us back to You if we wander, and may we open the door of our hearts wide to invite You inside to commune with us and we with You. May we be overcomers and reign with You in Your eternal kingdom. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
On March 6th through March 7th, 2023, we celebrate Purim, the day the Jews received legal permission to defend themselves against annihilation. Most people are familiar with the story of Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus, but Mordecai shines as one anointed and appointed by God—a reflection of Christ.
A protector of an orphaned girl
Mordecai was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
Esther 2:7 NASB
How blessed was orphaned Hadassah when her cousin took her to raise as his own child. When King Ahasuerus invited the virgins of the land to audition for queen, Mordecai supported Esther’s participation. He had wisely cautioned her to keep her Jewish race a secret. After the king chose Esther to be his bride, Mordecai stayed close, monitoring daily for news of her at the king’s gate.
A protector of the king
In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s officials from those who guarded the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.
Esther 2:21 NASB
God placed Mordecai in a key position at the exact time to overhear a plot against the king’s life. Mordecai immediately reported what he had heard to Queen Esther, who informed the king in Mordecai’s name. The two officials were immediately hanged, and the scribes recorded it in the king’s Book of the Chronicles.
An honored man
The king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”
Esther 6:3 NASB
After the king understood from reading his Book of the Chronicles that Mordecai had saved his life, the king asked Haman what should be done for the man the king wished to honor. Haman pridefully believed the king wanted to honor him, so he thought up an ostentatious list. When the king ordered Haman to do just as he said for Mordecai the Jew, Haman was mortified.
So Haman took the robe and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.”
Esther 6:11 NASB
A protector of his people
Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.
Esther 3:13 NKJV
Not only did Mordecai save the king’s life, but he also saved the Jewish nation from annihilation. After Mordecai refused to bow before Haman, whom the king had promoted above all other nobles, Haman became furious. When he discovered that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman talked the king into killing all the Jews in the kingdom through a decree sealed with the king’s signet ring. In fact, evil Haman constructed a gallows on his land on which to personally hang Mordecai.
The news of the approaching genocide spread far and wide. Mordecai fasted in sackcloth and ashes along with every Jew in the kingdom. He appealed to Queen Esther and urged her to beg for the king’s mercy. She explained that her husband hadn’t sent for her in thirty days, and appearing without a summons could cost her her life. Then Mordecai uttered his renowned response:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14 NASB
A promoted man
The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.
Esther 8:2, 15 NASB
During her second banquet, Queen Esther exposed her ethnicity to her husband and Haman as an enemy of the Jews. King Ahasuerus, furious, witnessed Haman falling on the queen’s couch, begging for his life. The king ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows at once. Afterward, he granted Esther’s plea to save her people by giving Mordecai authority to write each province a letter, sealed with the king’s signet ring. This allowed the Jews to defend themselves against Haman’s edict of destruction.
The Jews killed 75,000 of their enemies, and the twelve sons of Haman were also hanged on the same gallows, which Haman had constructed for Mordecai. Mordecai became greater and greater in the kingdom because he had saved the Jewish people.
The Feast of Purim established
Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
Esther 9:20-22 NASB
Instead of genocide, the Jewish race flourished with feasting and rejoicing. They celebrated Purim from that day forward, even until today.
As a savior of his people, we can also discern our Savior in Mordecai.
How does Mordecai reflect Christ?
Just as Mordecai adopted orphaned Hadassah, God adopted us as His sons and daughters.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Ephesians 1:5 NASB
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
Galatians 4:4-7 NASB
As Mordecai saved the king and the Jewish nation, Jesus came to save the world from death, hell, and the grave.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 NASB
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB
Just like Mordecai,God honored and promoted His Son, JesusChrist.
So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
Mark 16:19 NASB
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:11-14 NASB
How do these attributes apply to our lives?
May we fight for the safety and freedom of our children in these evil days. May we protect these innocent ones from all harm and wickedness lurking in the darkness.
May we promote truth, righteousness, and peace in our world, protecting those who stand up and fight for our godly freedoms.
May we expose wicked plans to destroy our free societies and see to it that those evil ones face justice.
May we thank God and rejoice when He defeats our enemies. Let’s remember that we always have the victory through Christ!
Dear Father, let us mature in our faith so that when people look on us, they see Jesus. May we reflect Your attributes and proclaim Your salvation to a lost and dying world. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Learn more about Purim HERE. Read the story of Queen Esther and Purim HERE.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: 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:”
Revelation 3:7 NASB
Welcome to the city of brotherly love, renowned for its great faithfulness. Located in a small volcanic valley about thirty miles from Sardis, Philadelphia was founded by Attalus II Philadelphus in 189 B.C. This city’s purpose was to spread Greek culture and language throughout the region, in addition to growing grapes for its wine industry. Consequently, the Philadelphians worshipped Dionysus, the god of wine, as their main idol.
As the second church to only receive commendationsfrom the Lord, it is important to first pay attention to the four attributes with which the angel describes Christ.
“He who is holy…”
“We find that throughout the Old Testament, God alone is absolutely holy, separated from sin, pure, and completely flawless. The title “Holy One” refers to a messianic title in the New Testament. Peter refers to Christ with this title in John 6:69. Peter calls the church to be holy in 1 Peter 1:16, and Christ Himself declared His holiness, claiming to be God in Luke 22:70.
“…who is true…”
In the Greek and Roman worlds, many false gods and goddesses existed, so Christ distinguishes Himself from them as the only true God.
The Greek word translated “truth” is aletheia, which most closely resembles our English word “reality.” It means “the manifested, unconcealed essence of a matter.” A living, saving faith depends upon the premise by man that God is true in His being and character. The truth forms the basis for a person’s conversion.
God promised King David that his throne would last forever, and one of his descendants would always sit upon his throne. Even Gabriel referred to Jesus possessing the throne of King David when the angel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah in Luke 1:31-33.
A key refers to one in authority, which we find in a prophecy in Isaiah 22:22. Eliakim would be David’s key-bearer, giving him the power of others’ access to the king. Jesus is now the key-bearer who has sole authority of others’ access to His Father and eternal life in heaven.
As saved believers, we gain access to the Father only through this key–the cross and the shed blood of Christ. Just as Revelation 1:18 reveals that Jesus holds keys to death and Hades, He also holds keys to blessing and opportunities for ministry.
“…who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens…”
Here we see the awesome power of our Lord to shut and open doors that no power can undo. His authority is the final authority.
Understanding these attributes awakens us to the realization of what a great and awesome God we serve!
Isn’t it interesting how Jesus reveals Himself to this Philadelphian church. Now let’s examine His promises to them.
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have followed My word, and have not denied My name.‘
Revelation 3:8 NASB
Jesus had opened a door of ministry to this church, and they had been faithful to obey His Word and proclaim His Name. Although their power was weak and could have been stronger, they were faithful. Paul echoes this in II Corinthians 12:9 where he states that God’s grace is perfected in weakness. Therefore, we are encouraged that what matters is Christ’s power working through us as yielded vessels.
‘Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and make them know that I have loved you.’
Revelation 3:9 NASB
How could Jews be false? They might be circumcised outwardly, but their hardened hearts needed to have unbelief cut away. Philadelphia must have endured serious persecution from these unbelieving Jews who were really a synagogue of Satan. Jesus was going to reward this church by having these unbelievers submit and acknowledge that God loved these Christians. As in Psalm 23, God will prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Such a wonderful and reassuring promise!
‘Because you have kept My word of perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of the testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth.’
Revelation 3:10 NASB
The hour of testing refers to the tribulation, which is coming upon the whole world. This promise supports the pretribulationist viewpoint, that the church will be raptured at the beginning of the tribulation (see John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). This comforting promise isn’t just for Philadelphia, but for all believers on that future day.
A command and four final promises
‘I am coming quickly; hold firmly to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Revelation 3:11-13 NASB
First, Jesus commands the faithful believers in Philadelphia to hold fast to what they have so their spiritual crown will be secure. Jesus exhorts the church to continue to be faithful and to patiently endure until He returns for them. Jesus had also promised the church in Smyrna the crown of life if they were faithful unto death. This faith will be proof of salvation, which no one can take from us. More importantly, those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus will be rewarded with eternal life lived in the presence of God.
The four final promises are:
Our salvation will be secure in heaven;
We will eternally and personally belong to God;
We will be citizens of God’s future city, New Jerusalem;
We will forever have our identify with the risen, glorified and exalted Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity.
This letter to faithful Philadelphia shows us that the holy and true God pours out His blessings on churches and individuals who are faithful to Him in all circumstances.
Dear Lord, may we be faithful to You, serve you as You open doors of ministry for us, and endure patiently in our persecution. We look forward to Your coming when You will rapture the church out of the tribulation. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. In Your Name we pray, Amen.
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV
Welcome to SARDIS
Known for its woolen, textile, and jewelry industries, Sardis may have been wealthy at one time, but that was in the past. Its location on top of a hill surrounded by steep cliffs gave it a false sense of protection. Twice attacked and conquered due to its arrogance and lack of watchfulness, this church perfectly illustrates how pride goes before a fall (See Proverbs 16:18).
Worship of the false mother-goddess Cybele, also known as Artemis, engaged the people in festivals of the most debased and impure kind. One of Sardis’ most important temples in the first century honored Artemis (i.e., Diana, goddess of the Ephesians). Additionally, this temple was twice as large as the Parthenon and the seventh largest Greek temple ever built. Unless worshippers donned clean, white clothes, the temple banned them from participating in temple activities.
Like Artemis, Christ expected His people in the church at Sardis to also approach Him wearing white garments, which represented a righteous life and heart. The problem focused on the majority of this church who had defiled their clothes through their apathy to the things of God.
The Sleeping Church
To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Revelation 3:1-3 NIV
The way Jesus appeared to each church pinpointed its problems, and the same is true for Sardis. The reference to the seven spirits and seven stars explains this church’s lack of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
The Seven Spirits of God
Although there is one Holy Spirit, He has a seven-fold ministry that allows us to experience genuine spirituality. As we walk by faith, the power of God enables us to deal with the sin in our lives through honest confession so that we don’t grieve and quench the Holy Spirit within us. (“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30 NASB). “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19 NASB)). Therefore, we see that this church was grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit’s ministry.
The Seven Stars
As Jesus told John in Revelation 1:20, “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.” Many believe the stars also refer to spiritual leadership, who brings forth the Word to the congregation. So, we can assume that the leadership failed to deliver the Word in a way that motivated believers to apply and respond to it. The lack of both the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God resulted in its spiritual deadness. (See Ephesians 3:16-19; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 4:12.)
As busy as worker bees, Sardis looked good on the surface and enjoyed a stellar reputation as an alive church. But her deeds were not like the other churches, which Christ commended. Instead, these were unfinished and about to die. Christ commanded them to repent and return to the basic teachings of the gospel and again find the joy of salvation through obedience to the Word of God..
Let’s remember that deeds alone do not save us, but they are the basis for how we will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:5-8 NASB
Like Sardis, are we arrogant in our walk with the Lord, believing that we are elevated above evil to such a degree that we can relax and coast in our spiritual lives? Do we believe that we are so secure on our mountaintop that the enemy can never find a way to slip in and take us by surprise? Jesus warned sleeping Sardis that unless they repented, He would come like a thief in the night and swiftly bring divine judgment on them.
Promise to the Overcomers
‘The one who overcomes will be clothed the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Revelation 3:5-6 NASB
Although the remnant of true believers in Sardis was weak, Jesus recognized them and promised three things:
#1: Their white garments represent the forgiveness of their sins through the shed blood of Christ.
Here they specifically refer to those who boasted in Christ and not in their past achievements. White garments mentioned in Revelation 7:14 refer to overcomers of the great tribulation; the twenty-four elders in 4:4; the martyrs in 6:11; and the church in 19:7-8 at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
#2: Christ assured them that He would never erase their names from the Book of Life.
The names of overcomers will never be blotted out, but those names not included were never there to begin with. In Revelation 13:8, the names of those who worship the beast are only found in the books of judgment, and never written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (See 17:8 and 20:12.)
#3: Jesus promises to call out the names of believers to His Father and His angels in heaven.
He had made this same promise to His disciples in Matthew 10:32: “Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” And in Luke 12:8: “Now I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before people, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God;” He will commend each believer with the words each one longs to hear in Matthew 25:21: “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
In conclusion, may we always examine our lives so that we find the confidence of our salvation in Christ and His shed blood alone. Let’s also remember Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi which exhorted them to not become like a Sardis church.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13 NASB
Dear Lord, may we always be mindful of our spiritual lives so that we keep the fire of Holy Spirit and the Word of God alive in our hearts. May we be overcomers and stand before You, unashamed, on that glorious day. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze, says this: ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.’
Revelation 2:18-19 NASB
Welcome to Thyatira. Situated thirty-five miles east of Pergamum, it was known for its wool and textile industries, whose trade guilds also doubled as social and religious clubs. Thyatira also means a perfume, a sacrifice of labor.
Why did Jesus appear to this church with fiery eyes and burnished feet?
Bronze is a symbol of judgment. In the Old Testament, priests offered sacrifices on a brazen altar. Fire is also a symbol of purification from sin. Therefore, Jesus came to bring judgment and purification to this church.
First, Jesus commends them.
This church was overflowing with great faith as evidenced by their love for God and man. They persevered in their deeds, which continued to grow in strength and number. But in spite of these good things, He ends with a stern warning:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.
Revelation 2:20-21 NASB
The issue with this church refers back to the same woman in 1 and 2 Kings–the woman who drew her husband, King Ahab, into idolatry, immorality, and false worship, and who helped him acquire a neighboring field by arranging the murder of its owner, Naboth. She worshipped Baal and killed God’s prophets. Read about her threat to kill Elijah HERE.
The main problem in Thyatira involved the church leadership preaching a compromising message, promising freedom from God’s moral laws. Pastors proclaimed that if the spirit were secure in salvation, then sexual sins and idol worship wouldn’t hurt them. The focus was on serving self and being accepted by the world.
Jezebel works with religion and witchcraft to hinder the church from moving forward and advancing the Kingdom. ~ John Eckhard
Does this sound familiar in some of today’s churches? But people can’t get away with these sins—even in our modern age. Listen to the consequences from the mouth of the Lord Himself:
Behold, I will throw her [Thyatira] on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
Revelation 2:22-23 NASB
Wow, Jesus is adamant about severely punishing those who follow the Jezebel spirit. Rather ironic, don’t you think, that Jesus threw this church on a bed of sickness—the same bed where she had committed adultery.
Jezebel is one slick spirit that works in conjunction with the spirit of religion.
Here’s a modern-day picture: A legalistic church tells us we’re fine if we’ve kept its rules, resulting in self-righteousness. The pastorate also loves to bestow a title of importance on people seeking recognition from the world, which goes a long way. Church members, wearing these titles like golden crowns, might be ordered to work shifts every week or month, tithe a certain amount, or perform in some other area to serve the pastorate. Of course, volunteering and tithing are good things that all church members should do, but when they’re forced or bribed into it, that’s where the line is crossed into the Jezebel spirit.
We know from Scripture in Malachi 3:10 that those who tithe receive a blessing from God for their obedience. But the truth is that these rules don’t justify us in God’s eyes—faith does. We find our righteousness in the work of the cross and through trusting in Jesus who performed that work—not in just following the rules and being “religious.”
The Spirit of Witchcraft
Jezebel also works with another spirit—the spirit of witchcraft—which is very subtle and thus hard to detect unless you’re paying close attention. Hidden lies inside partial truths swirl together to twist our perspectives by highlighting our personal wants and needs. This pull distracts us from God’s will and grace for the work He has called us to do. Our focus lands squarely on our needs, promoting and justifying selfishness.
Witchcraft attacks our minds through controlling words.
Watch out for the get-rich-quick gospel where a person must send a seed offering in return for an anointing or a percentage return on a donation—especially when it’s just available to the first three hundred callers!
There are true blessings from heaven and true financial miracles, but we must watch out for Jezebel, full of deceit and lies, lurking to “fleece the flock.” Hence, we all must pray faithfully about the fertile soil where we sow our seeds and plant our tithes.
Another ploy of Jezebel is through the idolatrous gospel.
Unfortunately for many of today’s Western churches, their pastors are idolized by their congregations. Instead of running to Jesus and His Word, some run to the pastor and believe only what he says is gospel truth.
Let’s run to Jesus and idolize Him—not a mortal man who preaches from a platform.
What do you think? Why did Jesus so vehemently warn this Revelation church to repent of her Jezebel spirit of immorality? The severe consequences of disobedience were designed to stop people from following Jezebel’s idolatry and witchcraft.
Knowing that the Lord is patient so that all may come to salvation, these consequences were actually merciful and full of God’s grace. He is patient toward us as He waits with open arms for us to come to Him and receive His free gift of salvation. He concludes with a wonderful promise for overcomers:
But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them-I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:24-29 NASB
Dear Father, Deliver us from the Jezebel spirit that controls through the spirits of religion and witchcraft. Let us not be deceived in our walk of faith to believe lies that lead us into immorality or idolatry. May we be found faithful in our love, service, and perseverance for Your kingdom. Make us to be overcomers. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Our next stop? The Revelation Church in Sardis. Meet you there.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12 NIV
Today we arrive in ancient Pergamum. Have you heard of it? An island city, it was located about sixty-five miles north of Smyrna in the Caicus River Valley. Renowned for its extensive library that was second only to Alexandria, most of its 200,000 volumes were written on costly sheepskin—marking this city as vastly wealthy.
It was also famous for its advanced medical knowledge. Is it surprising, then, that it showcased the temple of Asclepius, a god of healing? False worship was extensive, including three temples devoted to the worship of Rome’s Emperor, and one each for Dionysius, Athena, and Zeus. It’s obvious that their worship was of supreme importance.
Additionally, all-powerful Rome had granted that Pergamum use capital punishment, which established the sword as the city’s symbol.
Why is the sword significant?
The Christian church related to the power of the sword, both then and now. When Jesus addressed this message to Pergamum through the Apostle John, He reminded them that He is “the One who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12a NASB). Ephesians 6:17 tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Residing in the midst of evil
He also acknowledged that this church resided in a very evil place, where believers proclaimed the name of Jesus in spite of persecution leading to death. ‘…and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells’ (Revelation 2:13 NASB). It was an extremely difficult time and place to be a Christian, but Jesus commended them for their courageous faith.
On the other hand, Jesus also had a warning for this church.
‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans’ (Revelation 2:14-15, NASB).
Do you recall the story of the talking donkey? Balak the king wanted Balaam the Gentile prophet to curse Israel. Read about it HERE in Numbers 22:1-25:9.
Who were the Nicolaitans?
We don’t know much about them, but we know that God hated their teachings. They encouraged sinful practices (licentiousness) so that God’s grace to forgive sin would increase, which is false teaching. Paul also addresses this in his admonition to the Romans, saying, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the Law but under grace? Far from it!” (Romans 6:15 NASB).
Lots of false teaching led to sinful actions. No wonder Jesus warned that unless they repented, ‘I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against [you] with the sword of My mouth’ (Revelation 2:16 NASB).
Can we imagine what a modern-day Pergamum might look like?
If we compare this city with the United States, there are uncanny similarities. Like them, our country has vast wealth, extensive libraries, the most advanced medical advances on the planet, and especially the sword of capital punishment.
But, like Pergamum, are our churches engaged in false teaching? Our Constitution affords religious freedom for all, whether we worship or not. But in these days of political correctness, we are conditioned to be tolerant of every religion—except Christianity.
There is even a move to combine the truth of Christ’s teachings with other religions, like combining vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Swirled together, the vanilla gradually disappears, just as the truth of the Gospel cannot be watered down and remain pure. Just as a mouthful of cotton candy instantly dissolves in our mouths, so does the cotton candy gospel. It may taste sweet, but it’s empty. Beware of churches whose main attraction is personal prophesies, signs, and wonders, but devoid of studying the Word of God.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment will protect us from churches preaching false doctrine. We must wean ourselves from milk to the meat of God’s Word so we can grow and mature as Christians. Jesus addressed this issue through John in the last chapter of Revelation.
‘I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.’
Revelation 22:18-19 NASB
Strive for the prize.
Last, after these severe warnings, Pergamum was once again encouraged to strive for the prize. ‘To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it’ (Revelation 2:17b NASB).
Wow! Such amazing rewards await us for our obedience. All the suffering and persecution the world can inflict may be able to take our physical lives, but nothing can take away our eternal salvation. Let that knowledge empower us all to witness boldly to the lost.
His return is so close. Are you ready to meet Jesus?
Dear Father, thank you for Your Word, the sword of the Spirit. Make us overcomers in these days so that we’re not deceived into believing false teaching. May we always be rooted and grounded in Your truth. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Let’s continue our journey to Thyatira. Meet you there!