Thursday, March 30, 2017
 

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Apocalypse 2, 3 ]

APOCALYPSE 2,3
Lonnie Branam

Chapters two and three of the Revelation contain seven letters the risen Christ wrote to seven Churches of Christ located in Asia Minor When Jesus wrote at the end of the first century, there were no denominational churches. There were no Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches etc. The Christian religion was not divided into differing denominational churches for the first 1500 years of church history. At the time Jesus wrote, the church was called only the Church of Christ and the Church of God. We are not told why He wrote to only seven churches and these seven closely located in Asia Minor. These two chapters represent the second division of the Revelation. In Revelation 1:19 Jesus told John to write, “the things which you have seen(the first vision); the things that are, and the things which will take place after this.” “The things that are, ” make up the second division, the things that are about the church at the time John lived. In other words, Christ portrays in these letters the spiritual condition of the church in general at the end of the first century. These seven churches do not symbolize future periods of church history. These letters reveal actual conditions that existed at the time John wrote. These seven churches fitly represented all other Churches of Christ at the close of the first century. We see Christianity as it existed about 100 A.D. It is clear that the church, in general, was in a state of deterioration.

Let us now take a look at these seven churches, and the assessment Jesus made of them. It would be helpful if you would read these two short chapters. Two of them were faithful and well pleasing to Christ. Five of them had serious problems and were displeasing to the Lord. One had lost its first love for Christ. and was declining. Two of them were under the spell of false teachers who justified immoral living and conduct unbecoming to Christians. One church was so worldly and materialistic that Jesus called it a dead church. Still, another congregation was located in a city of great wealth and luxury. Because of spiritual lukewarmness that church had compromised with the world. This church received a severe rebuke from Christ. The Christians in these cities faced four principal dangers: 1. Unsound preachers and teachers; 2. Doctrinal unsoundness as a result of these teachers; 3 .Loose moral living; 4. Loss of religious interest and enthusiasm. Thus these two chapters give us a true picture of the Christian religion after it had been in existence for 100 years. It was not a pretty picture. Furthermore, whatever may have been the dangerous environment, atmosphere and temptations in those seven communities, each letter was an invitation, call and promise to each individual Christian

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in those churches. The matter of pleasing Christ and getting to heaven was an individual matter. For each Christian, everything will depend on his own ethical and moral conduct, whatever may happen to others. One impressive thing about the seven churches is that some Christians had a better opportunity for Christian growth and faithfulness than did others. All did not have the same moral and religious opportunity. It makes a difference what church you are a member of. Which of us would not rather have belonged to the church in Philadelphia than to the church in Laodicea? Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia, “You have kept My word and have not denied My name; you are strong, and I have set before you an open door, and no man can close it.” It's a wonderful blessing to grow up in a church like that. Christians must have more easily held on to his or her faith in the persecuted and dying congregation of Smyrna. Many in that church chose martyrdom rather than to deny the name of Jesus. It was easier to be a faithful Christian in Smyrna than in the great, cold church in Sardis, which had a name to live, but was really dead, that is, spiritually dead. At the end of every letter to every church the Lord said, “To him that overcomes,” he will receive my promise of eternal life. It has to be that way in the kind of world in which we live. We must overcome all kinds of evil.

Moreover, let me say that this difference in advantage and opportunity is still the same today. We should look on these seven churches as fitting representatives of the universal Church of Christ in all generations. The dangers, problems, and unfaithfulness of these seven churches are about all the dangers and problems the church anywhere can get into. We are thankful that the persecutions those seven churches suffered are almost impossible today. However, there are dangers and temptations today that can cause the same displeasure to Christ. One of the dangers of our day is a super abundance of unsound religious teachers in Christendom, that part of society which profess to be children of God by sfaith in Cs hrist Jesus. What an array of doctrines and teachings to allure the Christian? Some are these teachings are taught in Christendom and others are promulgated outside of Christendom.

The scientific world is making an attack on the Christian religion and the Bible. The theory of Evolution denies God created the heaven and earth. The scientific world teaches it is more reasonable to believe that an ape turned into a human being than to believe God created man out of the dust of the earth. No one saw that ape turn into a human being, so how do they know it ever happened? They don't know!.Where is that mother ape who became the mother of all humans by turning herself

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into a human being? How come it doesn't happen today? . If no one saw it happen, and it has never happened since, where is the scientific evidence? There is none; it is only a man-made theory. It takes more faith to believe that piece of fiction than it does to believe Almighty God created the first two human beings. How sad that man will put more faith in man than in God. Christians are in danger of having more faith in what man says than in what God says. Even the educational system is making an attack on God and the Bible. Neither one can be mentioned in the classroom.. There were false teachers in those seven churches who disagreed with the Bible, with Christ and with the apostles, and we see the same thing today in the church and outside the church. Many churches in Christendom have accepted these teachings that contradict the Bible.

Another danger common to these seven churches and common to churches today is loose morals. Numbers of Christians in four of those churches were living far below the standard and universal code of Christian morality. The belief in an absolute standard of right and wrong is fast disappearing from society. It is becoming increasingly accepted that an individual is not responsible for his character. Each one's moral fate, we are told, is determined by habits of his ancestors, either animal or human. The scientific teaching about heredity is lending support to this idea. The doctrine of moral heredity is spreading. One of the most popular false doctrines in the religious world is that we are born in sin, and sin is inherited from our parents. The Bible does not teach it. The Bible says that sin is transgression of God's law, and no one sins until he is old enough to know right from wrong. Sin is something we personally do, not something we inherit from mom and dad.

No one disputes the fact that heredity and environment are important factors in human behavior. They both work together. What does a child inherit from its parents? He inherits chromosomes, genes. He doesn't get all of his two parents genes. He gets only half of those that operated in either parent. Millions of combinations are possible, and this accounts for the variety in looks and size etc. However, one's moral behavior is not influenced by these chromosomes. Sin is something we do and comes into life by the response we make to an evil environment. All sin because all succumb to sin; all disobey God's laws. The greatest cause of immoral behavior is an evil environment and the individual's response to it. In our day the moral standards of society are far. far below the moral standards of Christ.



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It was to Christians who were greatly influenced by the low and loose moral standards of their society that Jesus said you must be overcomers. We must overcome teachings that disagree with the teachings of Christ and His chosen apostles. Jesus said that His word would judge men in the last day. We must also overcome lackadaisicalness. Jesus said, “To him that overcomes, I will give to eat of the tree of life, the hidden manna, a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, authority over the nations, the morning star, the name of my God and My own new name. Then he added that to him that overcomes, he will not be hurt by the econd death, and I will no blot his name out of the book of life. I will permit him to sit down with me on my throne.

All of these wonderful gifts promised to overcomers refer to one and the same thing–eternal life in our home in heaven. They are all synonyms for the crown of eternal life that awaits the overcomers. He did not say that heaven is absolutely certain to a Christian, even if he falls into sin and unfaithfulness. It is a popular doctrine in Christendom that when a person believes in Christ and accepts him as Savior, he wil l go to heaven no matter how bad a life he falls into. If he lives a bad life, he will go to heaven, but he will not receive the honor and reward in heaven that a faithful Christian will receive. No. Jesus did not say that or make such a promise as that. Don't you believe it. That is one of those dangerous false teachings that endangers believers in Christ. Wh at He did say was, “Overcome and eternal life will be yours.” We have to decide what is true and what is not true, what is right and what is wrong. We have got to overcome. So it was with the prophets of old, so it was with the first century Christians, and so it is with us.


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