Do you realize that Jesus not only spoke to the seven churches in the book of Revelation through John, but that He was also speaking to the church today? I believe we are living today in the last generation before Jesus Christ will return to earth with His feet touching the Mount of Olives. (Zech. 14:2-4)
The seven churches of Revelation; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, were basically centers of seven postal districts in the interior of the province of Asia. By sending letters to these seven churches, they would be shared with the smaller churches in the outlying districts. During the time that John wrote the book of Revelation, he was stranded on Patmos and the church was coming under severe persecution by the government of Rome. John wrote the Apocalypse by means of signs, symbols and cryptic language in order not to be martyred by the Roman government. The number “seven” was and is considered to be the perfect number, which stands for completeness. As the true author of the Book of Revelation, Jesus was delivering messages of commendation,condemnation, encouragement, hope, warning and reward to the church of John’s day, the church throughout history and today’s church.
The book of Revelation is part of the canon of Scriptures; thus, it is the inspired Word of God, and Jesus Christ Himself is the true author, using John as His secretary. Rev. 1:1 starts out by stating for the record: “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” Rev. 1:10-11 reads: “I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me, a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia…” Rev.1:17-19 records: “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” It is intuitively clear that Jesus Christ is the author, and He alone is speaking to us today. It is with the authority of God Himself that He commends, condemns, warns, rebukes and calls us to repent and be faithful lest we not only loose our power, anointing and gifts of the Holy Spirit, but most importantly our place in the Lamb’s Book of Life itself.
Let’s look closer at the church of Ephesus, beginning with Rev. 2:1: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks...” Here John is saying that Jesus is addressing the Pastor (angel) of Ephesus, and also Jesus holds the other Pastors (stars) accountable for the condition of the churches (golden candlesticks). Verse 2 and 3 read: “ I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars. And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.” Jesus in verse 2 and 3 commends this church and those like it for their hard, busy, active labor; “toil which exhausts”. He also commends them for their patience, meaning their “triumphant fortitude”. In the area of orthodoxy Jesus commends them for being able to discern between good and acceptable or bad and false teachers. To discern between a true or false teacher and to have the fortitude to confront and deal with wrong teaching is so important because so many churches are being torn apart by teachers of heresy and nobody challenges or stops them from spreading their lies. So this is a busy, active, strong church by outward appearances. Possibly they were involved in evangelistic activities to add members to the church. Their members were not afraid to work to build the church physically and cause it to grow numerically.
First we saw Jesus’ commendation, but now in verse 4 we read Jesus’ condemnation of the church in Ephesus: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Jesus follows up with a command to remember their past sweet relationship with Himself and their brethren and a warning to repent for allowing it to slip away in the business of life and replacing it with wrong motives for building a mega church. Verse 5 reads: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen and repent and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” Saints, we all need to be careful not to neglect our worship of Jesus in exchange for serving Him with wrong motives, which might build a businessman’s mega church, but Jesus Himself condemns it. When we truly take daily quality time to love Jesus, then we exhibit His characteristics to those around us; love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. (Gal. 5:22,23) In a living relationship with Jesus Christ we are kind one to another and we have mercy on the widow and the orphan. We treat the street people with respect and compassion and visit those in prison. We feed and clothe the poor and pray for those afflicted whenever we come in contact with them, not just in front of a nationally televised audience. There is such a lack of genuine ministry today that the heart of Jesus grieves as ministers of notoriety showcase their supposed gifts of the Holy Spirit and build their mega churches with wrong motives. The strong warning was to “repent” or Jesus would “remove thy candlestick”. To “remove” means to judge, and history records that the church of Ephesus did not take Jesus’ warning seriously enough. Today in Ephesus there is no Christian church! When a person or church looses their “first love”, anointing starts to leave. If that church will not repent, the Holy Spirit continues to depart, as in Ezekiel’s terrible vision, and like Samson who shook himself not realizing that the Spirit of God had left! Samson was judged; Israel was judged; Ephesus was judged; and the question is, are you or your church being judged today?
Jesus goes on in verse 6 to commend: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which also I hate.” Nicolaitans were followers of Nicolaus, a heretic. Jesus hates heresy! The Webster’s Dictionary defines “heresy” as “religious or ideological belief opposed to orthodoxy.” Jesus hates heresy because it confuses people, thus leading them away from Himself, consequently giving their allegiance to another person, god, philosophy, church or religion, etc. Jesus hates cults because their teachings deviate from the canon of Scripture and from the infallibility of the Bible.
Orthodox Christianity believes in the following essential fundamentals of faith:
1) the inspiration of Scripture and the inerrancy of the Bible;
2) the Trinity;
3) the deity of Jesus Christ;
4) the virgin birth of Jesus Christ;
5) the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ’s death;
6) the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead;
7) salvation is a gift which comes through faith in Christ alone;
8) the literal return of Jesus Christ (the second coming);
9) a literal heaven;
10) a literal hell;
11) a literal lake of fire.
Cults center around a strong charismatic person who either opposes Jesus Christ or misrepresents Jesus Christ. Cults deny the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Cults do not accept the canon of Scriptures as the final authority. They either reject it or say they have other revelation that supersedes the Bible. Some also rely heavily on their religious tradition, which to them outweighs the authority of the original canon of Scriptures.
There are over 2000 cults in the United States alone today.The following are just a few from Dr. Fleming’s book, “Gatebreakers”:
These are organizations that purport to be Christian but teach some marvelous revelation (vision, dream or some angel appeared to them) that has greater authority, supplements or supersedes the canon of Scripture. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unity, Christian Science, The Unification Church, and The Way International are examples.
Scientology, Mind Sciences, The Forum (E.S.T.), UFO’s,etc. In his book “Understanding the New Age”, author Russell Chandler gives this definition: “New Age is a hybrid mix of spiritual, social, and political forces, and it encompasses sociology, theology, the physical sciences, medicine, anthropology, history, the human potentials movement, sports, and science fiction…Identifying individuals as full-blown New Agers is baffling. Some subscribe to certain portions of New Age, some to others… The New Age influence touches virtually every area of life, and thousands of New Age activists seek to transform society through New Age precepts…Although new in style and vocabulary, the movement is in many ways as old as the Eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, Western occultism, and the mystical oracles of ancient Greece and Egypt. New Age has simply recast the theory of reincarnation into the language of Western humanistic psychology, science, and technology.”
Originate from Hinduism and Buddhism. Jainism, Sikhism, Hare Krishna, the Divine Light, the Vedanta Society, ISKON, Theosophy, Rajneeshism, Dravidians, Transcendental Meditation, etc.
MIDDLE EAST CULTS
Islam, Bahaism, The Sunnites, The Shiaites, The Sufi Muslims, etc.
Satanism, Witchcraft (WICCA), Spiritism, Eckankar, Freemasonry, etc.
Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate, Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, Aum Shinrikyo etc. Remember the dialogue to the seven churches of Revelation is from the Risen Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He tells them emphatically that he hates cults, false teachers who lead people away from Him to themselves and their false gods etc. Let us take a look at what some cults say about who Jesus is. 1 John chapters 2 & 3 warn us that Jesus Christ is the son of God that Jesus Christ is God and if anyone or any other spirit contradicts this reality it is an anti-Christ.
Jesus was one of nine great world manifestations. There is no Trinity. He is not God. He is a prophet beneath Baha’u’llah.
Deny Jesus Christ is God. Gautama Buddha who rejected certain features of his native Hinduism, taught that man’s release from sorrow was not obtainable by any act of sacrifice or pilgrimage which might be interpreted as trying to gain favor of a deity. He also taught that this release came from the all absorbing knowledge that man’s selfish desires were rooted in dualistic delusions about the self. Buddha has been regarded as a naturalistic atheist by many both critics and disciples.
Jesus is only a divine idea.
Denies the deity of Jesus Christ. This false doctrine where man is not made in the image of God but is an evolved animal has provided a license and justification for evil without guilt. The relationship between false religions and the heresy of theistic evolution is strong. Evolution is the foundation and structure upon which humanism has built its societal plagues of euthanasia, abortion, divorce, racism, homosexuality, pornography, population control, reincarnation and every other de-Christianized program of the United Nations and their One World Religion which is syncretism.
To them Christ was a mystical figure. Jao-bul-on is God, all men have divine potential. Freemasonry uses deception to get men involved and entraps them by secret ritual rites and secret blood oaths. It blasphemes the true name of God and purposely removes the name of Jesus Christ from its Scripture quotations. Its own writers teach paganism, spiritism, and the occult. Read the book “The Truth About Masons”. The Shriners strive to be the face of the Masonic brotherhood to the public. If you look carefully at the red fezzes, you’ll see an Islamic sword and crescent encrusted with jewels on the front. The city of Fez represents a bloody slaughter of 50,000 Christians in the eighth century by Islamic barbarians. The Muslim murderers dipped their caps in the blood of the Christians as a testimony to Allah. In order to become a Shriner, a man must have risen through all the degrees of either the Scottish or York Rites. After an initiation rite in the Shriners that is obscene, the candidate swears a blood oath that is four and a half pages long; agrees that it is non-revocable, and then takes an oath in the name of Allah. When people first enter the Masons, I believe most do not realize the cult they have just joined. It is not until one progresses up the ladder and continues to receive their teachings pertaining to that level of Masonry do they start to recognize the satanic depths of Freemasonry. The general teaching of the degrees and rituals is that the candidate is in darkness without the light of Masonry that reveals hidden mysteries. The following are examples of some of the oaths they have to take:
1) Entered Apprentice—Candidate is blindfolded, left arm and breast naked, wears blue pajamas with one leg missing, noose around the neck, led around from darkness to light. It is here that they are given the white apron. This represents purity and the covering of sin which is supposed to save them at judgment day. Masons wear this when buried. Part of the oath they take at this level is: “having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out from its roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea.”
2) Master Mason—The legend of Hiram Abiff. Candidate pretends to be Hiram Abiff, the builder of King Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:13). Their legend teaches that Hiram was privileged to know the name of the one true God. He was killed and the name was lost to men. The initiate acts all of this out. However, in the end of the ritual the initiate is raised back to life with the strong grip of the Lion’s paw by “King Solomon”. This grip is very important to secret societies. It is used in the witchcraft rituals of Wicca and is known as the “Strong Grip of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” Part of the oath at this level is: “my body severed in two, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes etc.” (If they revealed the secrets of the order.)
3) Royal Arch Degree—Candidate stands before someone dressed in a high priest outfit and has revealed to him “the lost word”--the “lost name of God” that Hiram Abiff knew. This is the name that the Mason has been searching for throughout the rituals of Masonry. He is told that the true name of God is Jabulon (or Jaobulon). Now lets break this name down because in this initiation ceremony three Masons reveal the name to the candidate by speaking their part of it, Jao-bul-on. Jao = Jah meaning Yahweh or Jehovah, God of Israel. Bul = Baal or Bel, God of Canaan. On = Osiris, (Egyptian sun god), God of Egypt.
It should be noted that there are many references to Jehovah and Adonai also in the Masonic rituals, but the names are blasphemed because they are perverted to represent other than the God of the Holy Bible. The oath of this level is: “I would sooner have my skull off than divulge any of the secrets of this degree unlawfully…and have my brain exposed to the scorching rays of the noonday sun.” Some other oaths at different levels are: Past Master of the York Rite, “binding myself under no less penalty than to have my tongue split from tip to root.” Tenth Degree of the Scottish Rite level, “I do promise and swear upon the Holy Bible, to keep exactly in my heart all the secrets that shall be revealed to me. And in failure of this by obligation, I consent to have my body opened perpendicularly, and to be exposed for eight hours in the air, that the venomous flies may eat of my entrails, my head to be cut off and put on the highest pinnacle of the world.”
Note that in the 17th degree of the Scottish Rite the candidate is taught that ABADDON is a sacred name to be honored. ABADDON is the king over the demons in the pit of hell. Manley P. Hall, one of the highest level Masonic authors, claims that the key demon of the Masons is BAPHOMET, known as the satanic Goat of Mendes. Albert Pike substituted a triangle for the cross and said that it referred to Shiva, Krishna, and Brahma, The Hindu Trinity. Albert Pike books are considered by some Masons as authoritative. He was given the honorary thirty-third degree of the Scottish Rite in 1857 and became the Grand Commander of the Supreme Council in 1859 and reigned as the undisputed head until his death in 1891. The murder of William Morgan in 1826 triggered a national political movement - the anti-Masonic party--the first mass movement in American history organized to destroy Freemasonry. William Morgan worked in Batvia, New York, as a stone mason. Having been initiated as a Royal Arch Mason, he understood the workings of the lodge and the rituals within. He became disgruntled at his Masonic brothers for refusing to start a Masonic chapter in Batvia where he hoped to be given the contract for building the Hall and decided to publish a book entitled: “Illustrations of Masonry, Exposing All the Rituals, Secrets, Handshakes, and Oaths”. The Masons retaliated by kidnapping and murdering Morgan.
Jesus was an enlightened vegetarian teacher of meditation, maybe Krishna.
Jesus Christ was a guru, a teacher, or even avatar of Vishnu. Modern Hinduism allows for millions of gods. The majority of Hindus, about 79 percent, worship Vishnu while other millions worship Shiva, the god of fertility, whose rituals are as evil as those of the Canaanites who God commanded the children of Israel to destroy.
Muslims believe Jesus is only a prophet. They exalt Allah, a moon deity, and Muhammad.
Jesus is Michael the Archangel. The first being God created. He came as a man, died, and rose as an invisible spirit; came back invisible in 1914 to Brooklyn to head Watchtower.
MOON’S UNIFICATION CHURCH
Jesus was a man who failed; Moon is the Second Coming. Rev. Sun Myung Moon has declared that he is the new world Messiah. Moon claims to have had regular contact with Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Moses, John the Baptist, and other prophets. Moon claims that Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision admonishing him to carry out the task that Christ had failed to complete. The Unification Bible, ‘Divine Principle’ was published in 1957.
It should be noted that the immorality charge for which Moon was arrested was based around a blood-cleansing sex ritual called Pikaruna. “Pikaruna” is based on the belief that because original sin came through Eve’s sexual intercourse with Satan, a woman could have sex three times with Moon, the perfect man, and thus liquidate her original sin. After intercourse with Moon a woman achieved a perfected status, and male church members could have sexual relations with her and liquidate their own sin. Couples experiencing this blood cleansing [could] produce perfect children. If practiced widely enough, such a ritual could save the world. His theology, based upon the 1936 vision, also includes the divine need for him to have sexual relations with 70 married women, 70 widows, and 70 virgins.
Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan; one god in a pantheon of gods; born through physical incest.
Jesus was an ascended master, guru, and spiritual guide, but not God and not Savior.
Romanism should be regarded as a deformation of Christianity, in fact as its lowest deformation. And this deformation expresses itself not merely at some, but at every point of doctrine. They do believe Jesus is God but historical Christianity places the Bible, the Logos as supreme in authority, but this is not so with Catholicism. Catholicism equates their tradition with the Bible and thus places the directives of the church (at times) in a higher authority. This is quite serious as it undermines the Bible and what it teaches (Col. 2:8 and Mark 7:6-9). On November 21, 1964, Pope Paul VI proclaimed “the title of Mary as Mother of the Church”. To non-Catholics this proclamation seems preposterous, ridiculous and outright heresy since the Bible says nothing about Mary being the Mother of the Church. But the mind of a devout Catholic would willingly accept this lie because it was spoken by the Pope, who according to Catholic tradition is the Apostle Peter’s successor and speaks with infallibility regarding doctrines of faith and morals. This is scary stuff for Christians because we know that the Pope is just another man who is not infallible and he does make mistakes. We also know the Pope’s decisions on doctrine at times is totally unscriptural and so is his position and title. The Bible shows a number of facts that refute Catholicism’s claims of the Pope and Peter concept:
1) Neither the word ‘pope’ nor the office of it are mentioned in the Bible.
2) It is not clear that Peter was ever even in Rome. Paul did not mention it.
3) Jesus changing Peter’s name proves nothing because he changed the names of others as well, Mark 3:16-17; 1 John 1:42.
4) Paul’s work seems greater than Peter’s in comparison, but he never sought ultimate leadership. Neither do we see him submitting himself to Peter. Once, he even rebuked him, Gal 2:11-14.
5) James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19) appears to be the head of the early church in Jerusalem not Peter.
Consider the following evidence: James was named first among the pillars of the church in Gal. 2:9. Peter distinguished the name of James in Acts 12:17 after he was miraculously released from prison by the angel. “Go, tell these things to James and the brethren.” At the great Jerusalem Debate over circumcision, Barnabas, Paul and Peter submitted to James’ decision. In Acts 15:19 we see James running the meeting and deciding: “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.” Flavius Josephus is considered one of the most reliable Jewish historians of all times. He was born in 37 AD. It is remarkable that he highly regards James for his righteousness. Indeed, he speculated that the “desolation” of Jerusalem was because the Jews murdered James, but nowhere does he mention Peter.
Martin Luther, a Catholic Monk and Theologian, after studying the Bible, protested against the Church of Rome in 1517 by nailing 95 points of disagreement to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, coming against Rome’s unscriptural teachings on the church, the Scriptures and tradition. Martin Luther was convinced that the office of Pope was unscriptural. Luther said: ‘I believe in neither pope nor councils alone; for it is perfectly well established that they have frequently erred, as well as contradicted themselves.
Jesus is a manifestation of cosmic consciousness.
Jesus is a false implanted memory in people’s mind.
Jesus is an advanced medium in the 6th sphere of astral projection.
Jesus is no greater than other religious leaders since all men are Christs.
Jesus was an enlightened guru who never suffered for anyone. This is one of dozens of Hindu-related religions that have sprung up in America as many gurus sought a following in America.
Jesus was a good man that followers mistakenly deified.
Jesus was a man who perfected a divine idea.
Jesus is the Son of God, but not God the Son; they deny the Trinity.
Denies Jesus is God. The teachings and techniques of yoga were incorporated into the Hindu religion about 100 BC by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Yoga became one of six schools of thought regarding salvation through knowledge (Jnana Marga)…Yoga means ‘yoke or union with God.’ God is the Impersonal All and Universal Soul to which they want to yoke themselves…In the Western world, yoga is often thought of as simple isometric exercises, but it is much deeper than that. Yoga has become the leading method for Hindus to transcend this world of illusion. The union with their god that a yogi hopes to achieve is supposedly reached only after living a moral life, gaining inner and outer purity, and training the body through various exercises and postures.
I could go on and on listing cults and their teachings. What they all have in common is a deviation or outright rejection of the canon of Scriptures. They all reject Jesus is God or they have a person who now can add or nullify the Scriptures by their own authority and church tradition. They all have some teacher, prophet, guru, apostle, bishop, pope etc., who has received new revelation or additional revelation from a dream, vision, angel etc. Gal. 1:6-9 warns: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
The Canon of Scriptures did not include the Apocrypha and the Canon warns us clearly not to add or subtract from the Scriptures lest we be damned. Revelation 22:18-19 reads: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
The Apocrypha is a Greek word meaning hidden or concealed. The Apocrypha books were rejected from the canon of Scriptures because they did not meet the criteria for canonization. Examples of criteria for books to be considered inspired, infallible: 1) the word of God had Apostolic Authorship; 2) was recognized and used by leading churches or the majority of them; and, 3) a conformity to the standards of sound doctrine as from the Lord. The church fathers had a standard and followed the rule, “if in doubt, throw it out.”
Orthodox Christians who submit to the canon of Scriptures reject the Apocrypha. Roman Catholicism has included it in their own Roman Catholic Bible to support their church tradition and teachings which go against the Bible, thus making the Word of God null and void in those circumstances. The priests and Pope totally disregard the strong warnings in the canon of Scriptures against adding or subtracting or drawing the glory away from Jesus and giving it to a man or woman. Thus, Catholics in many instances go against the teachings of Jesus Christ in order to obey the teaching of the Pope.
Dr. Fleming in his book, “Gatebreakers: Answering Cults and World Religions with Prayer, Love and Witnessing”, states the following: “The reasons the Apocrypha was and is rejected as authoritative and God-inspired Scripture is: One, Jesus never quoted the Apocrypha and did not acknowledge it as Scripture. Two, the first century apostles did not quote it or recognize it as equal to Scripture. Three, the books were rejected by the Jewish Council of Jamnia (A.D.90). Four, it is rejected by modern day Jews and not a part of their canon. Five, it was not originally included in the Greek Septuagint by the seventy. Six, Jerome never regarded the Apocrypha as Scripture. He only translated the books under coercion and never accepted them as Scripture. After his death, the books were added to his Latin Vulgate. Seven, Augustine did acknowledge the Apocrypha in his early writings, but his later writings clearly reflected a rejection of these books as outside the canon and inferior to the Hebrew scriptures. Furthermore, he presided over the African council of Hippo that canonized the New Testament, rejecting all other books. Eight, the Roman Catholic Church itself did not recognize these books until the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and this was done as a reaction to the Protestant Reformation and to legitimize some of their doctrinal matters. (Example: 2 Maccabees 12:45-46 gives them their doctrine of praying for the dead). Nine, the books abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies. Ten, they teach false doctrines that are at odds with other Scripture. Eleven, they lack the distinctive elements that give Scripture divine character. Twelve, the books never claim to be the Word of God or given by prophets.”
Rene Pache in his book, “The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture”, points out some of the many problems with the Apocrypha. He says: “Except for certain interesting historical information (especially in 1 Maccabees) and a few beautiful moral thoughts (e.g. wisdom of Solomon), these books contain absurd legends and platitudes, and historical, geographical and chronological errors, as well as manifestly heretical doctrines; they even recommend immoral acts (Judith 9:10,13).” Pachs contends that Rome added the Apocrypha to justify their human traditions. “Now, we must remember that it was the Jews who were called upon to compile the Old Testament. As Paul said, it was to them that the oracles of God were confided (Romans 3:1-2). We received those oracles from their hands and no one else. Why, then did Rome take so new and daring a position? Because confronted by the Reformation, she lacked arguments to justify her unscriptural deviations. Consequently, she declared that the Apocryphal books supported such doctrines as prayers for the dead (II Macc. 12:44); the expiatory sacrifice (eventually to become the mass, (II Macc. 12:39-46); almsgiving with expiatory value, also leading to deliverance from dead (Tobit 12:9; 4:10); invocation and intercession of the saints (II Macc.15:14; Bar. 3:4); the worship of angels (Tobit 12:12); purgatory; and the redemption of souls after death (II Macc. 12:42, 46).”
For your information, the books of the Apocrypha are 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the additions to Esther, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, the additions to the Book of Daniel (the Prayer of Asariah and the Song of the Three Young Men; Susanna; and Bel and the Dragon), the Prayer of Manasseh, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees.
Jesus finally ends with a warning to the Ephesus church in Revelation 2:7: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
Once again, the number “seven” represents completeness or totality. Jesus, the Risen Lord Himself, is speaking to the churches then and the churches now. In Ephesus we see some good things that the church was doing. In fact, originally it was out of a loving, pure heart. Nevertheless, over time, the cause and intent became wrong. Where initially they worked with their hands, energies, resources and talents to build a church, building with the holiest of motives for Jesus’ glory and to truly bring the lost into the kingdom, eventually that became secondary. Without realizing it, pastors and elders were continually developing and glamorizing the structure for their own prestige. In the beginning they evangelized to actually bring people out of paganism into the light of Jesus Christ and into eternal life because of their deep first love (Jesus). Now they were doing evangelism for themselves to show how correct, powerful and respected they were and are amongst the church community and society. Consequently, they compromised more, failing to deal with each person impartially. Instead they considered their position in wealth, in the church, and within the community. They were slowly but consistently loosing their first love and making decisions based on (as Solomon would eventually admit) vanity.
Jesus was and is telling the church to love Him first and foremost with all their heart so as to develop His character and grow in His image whereby they actually can represent Him here on earth and render correct justice and judgment. With passion and compassion they are to feed the poor, take care of the widow and orphan, visit and comfort those in prison, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed and possessed, and walk and grow with power and anointing.
Jesus used the term “to him that overcometh” because He knew the mentality of the Ephesian culture with their games, rewards, etc. In Asia, during the time of the Ephesian church, the governor had a palace in the city of Ephesus. Also, the Pan Ionic Games, which were second only to the Olympics, were held in Ephesus. The city has been called “the Vanity Fair of the ancient world”. As does Seattle, Washington, Ephesus possessed one of the greatest seaports, so she was a very rich and proud city. One of the seven wonders of the Ancient world, the Temple of Artemis was located at Ephesus, which made Ephesus a very liberal, immoral, and pagan city. Heraclitus, a philosopher in Ephesus is reported to have said: “The inhabitants of Ephesus are fit only to be drowned. The reason I never laugh or smile is that I lived among such terrible uncleanness.” He was referring to deep immorality such as homosexuality, lesbianism, adultery, fornication, etc. As an athlete in Ephesus had to train to win and overcome, Jesus told the church that they too must be as dedicated to fight in this battle against conforming to the culture and values of this world. Out of their first love for Him they must with all patience (fortitude) spend daily time alone with Him in worship, meditation, study and prayer. They must, in the power of their relationship with Him, confront those around them in this pagan community and win them over, just as an athlete in the Roman games wants to finish first, overcoming all of his competition and resistance. The Christian now must overcome the temptations to conform to society’s lifestyles, and, instead, daily try to convert the people to Jesus’ kingdom. Where the athlete who won the games in Ephesus ate and wallowed in the beauties of Ephesus, Jesus promised those of us who “overcome” will eat from “the tree of life” and enjoy the glories of heaven forever.
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