Revelation 011 – Asking for the Ancient Paths

Revelation 011 – Asking for the Ancient Paths
Revelation 2:23-29 • Dr. Andy Woods • August 19, 2018 • Revelation


Dr. Andy Woods

Ask for the Ancient Paths   8-19-18

Revelation 2:23-29               Lesson 11

Good morning everybody.   If we open our Bibles to the Book of Revelation chapter 2 and verse 23.  The Title of our message this morning is Ask for the Ancient Paths.   We continue to move through the Book of Revelation, having launched the series a few months ago, we looked at sort of the background of the book in our first lesson together.  We moved through the prologue which is a fancy way of saying introduction to the book, chapter 1, verses 1-8.  And along the way we’ve seen that the Book of Revelation is intentionally divided into three parts.  John is told to write down the things that he had seen, the things that are and the things that will take place after these things.

Part 1, the things that he had seen, the tremendous vision of the glorified Christ that John saw in chapter 1.  Then he’s told to write down the things that are and that’s the section that we’re in now.  Seven letters to seven very real and struggling churches in the first century there in the Asia Minor area, an area today that we would call modern day Turkey.  Spiritually today, in the 21st century probably one of the darkest places on planet earth.  And yet 2,000 years ago that was once the home of seven very real churches that Jesus addresses.  Each letter to each church has an outline to it that has eight elements.  We’ve talked about those eight elements and we’re using that sort of as a template or a rubric, if you will, for  understanding all of these letters to all of these churches.

We’ve seen the words of Christ to Ephesus, the loveless church; the words of Christ to Smyrna, a persecuted church, the words of Christ to Pergamum, a compromised church, and last time I was with you, last Sunday, we were looking at the words to Thyatira, a corrupt church.  We’ve seen, first of all, the destination of this letter, it’s to the church at Thyatira, there’s where it exists on the map.  We’ve seen how Christ describes Himself to the church.  In each letter to each church Jesus highlights imagery about Himself already revealed in chapter one, that relates to what each church is going through.  Jesus describes Himself to this church as the Son of God, eyes like a flame of fire.  Why He describes Himself that way will become obvious as we move into our verses this morning.  And feet like burnished bronze.

And then Jesus, as He does with each church in general points out what each church is doing well.  He’s done that with Thyatira in verse 19; he’s highlighted her deeds, her love, her faith, her service, her perseverance, and that her deeds were actually increasing to the glory of God.  But then in verse 20 comes a word of rebuke, they had tolerated something; they had opened the door to something.  It’s analogized to the teachings of Jezebel, a very wicked queen in Old Testament times that brought  unparallelled  idolatry into the northern kingdom.  As much as Thyatira had going for it they had turned a blind eye to something, a blatant sin involving immorality and idolatry which was taking place in their very midst.

And so, with all of these letters Christ gives a word of exhortation.  He tells Thyatira and those connected to this Jezebelian doctrine to repent of their immorality, how He had actually given time for them to repent, and yet they had not done so.  And thus Christ, beginning in verses 22-25 begins to describe the consequences for a lack of repentance in God’s people.  These consequences, we have noted, have nothing to do with eternal security; we teach the doctrine that once saved always saved.  We are in the Father’s hand, we are in the Son’s hand, we, as God’s people are in the double grip of grace and nothing can forever change that according to John 10:27-29.  [John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; [28] and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. [29] “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

However, there are things that we do as God’s people in the area of sin that can cause us to lose a lot of things of value, that don’t necessarily relate to our one day arrival in heaven.  There are things to lose as a Christian through disobedience; there are things to gain as a Christian through obedience.  These are consequences that relate to heaven itself and these are the kinds of things that Jesus is articulating here for the church at Thyatira.

Notice, if you will verse 23, and this is a touch place to start on Sunday morning, isn’t it, verse 23, but that’s where we left off last time, verse 22.  [verse 22, ““‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”]  Verse 23 is not exactly what you would call seeker friendly teaching.  Jesus says this, “‘And I will kill her children” now “her” is Jezebel and “her children” would be those influenced by her doctrine.  “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.”

Not notice this word, “I will kill.”  What is that even talking about?  I believe that this is talking about something that has been called by many “maximum divine discipline.”  “Whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens.”  [Hebrews 12:6, “For whom the Lord loves he chastens and scourges every son whom he receives.”]  And many times that chastening can be of such a severe quality that an individual can forfeit their very life under the chastening hand of God.

1 Corinthians 11:30 talks about this in Corinth.  Paul says, “For this reason” drunkenness and disorderliness at the Lord’s table, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep,” which is a euphemism or a polite way of saying God took some of you home early.

Of course, we have an example of this with Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11, they lied to the Holy Spirit in that infant church and they were slain in the Spirit, meaning that God came in with maximum divine discipline and terminated their natural lifespans.

[Acts 5:1-11, “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, [2] and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. [3] But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  [4] “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” [5] And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. [6] The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.  [7] Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. [8] And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”[9]Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” [10] And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. [11] And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”]

People say well, obviously Ananias and Sapphira were unbelievers.  I don’t think so, because in verse 11 it sys “great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”  I mean, why would the rest of the Christian church and world be afraid of what happened to an unbeliever?  When they began to understand that God brought discipline to the point of death to a BELIEVER, that’s what had a purifying effect on the infant church.

And of course, this issue of maximum divine discipline, we need to be very careful with this because many people will take this to say that all Christians who are having health issues, and we heard many of them this morning, didn’t we?  Health scares, health issues, cancer related issues, doctor’s appointments, I mean, are we saying that every single one of them is under maximum divine discipline?  That would be a faulty conclusion from the Word of God.

Paul himself, who was not under divine discipline, Galatians 4:13 suffered from frequent illnesses.  [Galatians 4:13, “but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time;”] I’m reminded of Job, Job who had all of those maladies come against him, including a skin condition, which was of such a severe quality that he had to break potsherds or pottery to scrape himself for some sort of alleviation.  Are we saying that Job was under divine discipline?  Not necessarily at all, in fact Job was a very righteous man.  If there wasn’t any sin in his life, he got up in the morning and offered the appropriate sacrifices and prayed to God that there would be no sin in the life of his children or his household.

So not every health issue that comes into a person’s life is maximum divine discipline.  The reality of the situation is we’re living in a fallen world.  The body itself has been cursed by original sin.  God speaking to Adam and Even in Genesis 3:19 said, “For dust you are, and to” what? “dust you shall return.”  The fact of the matter is, unless we’re the rapture generation, which I hope we are, I can’t guarantee that, the mortality rate is still 100%.  Death is going to get every single one of us because we live in a world that’s groaning and crying out for redemption and renewal.

So, we should not assume that all diseases, all sicknesses are some sort of form of divine discipline.  That was the error or Job’s counsellors, so called (they weren’t very good counsellors as far as I can tell).  Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, they all said well Job, you must be in this condition because there’s got to be some kind of sin in your life and if you would just confess that sin to God these problems would stop.  What a simplistic way of looking at life.  What a simplistic way of looking at the world.

But having said all that there are occasions, like here in Corinth or the church at Thyatira where God basically makes a determination after a grace window of repentance that the behavior is so outrageous that God actually moves in and terminates people’s natural life spans, like He did Ananias and Sapphira and takes people home early.  I think that’s what’s happening here in verse 23 where He says, “I will kill” now look at this, “her children.”  You say well what did the children do wrong?  Well here I don’t think it’s talking about her physical children; I think it’s talking about her spiritual children.

John 8:44, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You are of your father the devil,” he’s not saying there that Satan is the physical father of the Pharisees; he’s saying he’s become your spiritual father.  You’re in his spiritual lineage.  And this maximum divine discipline was not only to come upon Jezebel herself but also those who had been influenced by her doctrine and her teaching, her disciples if  you will, here spiritual lineage.   And it’s very interesting what he says here, “I will kill here children with pestilence,” [Revelation 2:23] and I started to think about that, that’s something that God uses quite a bit in the Bible.

In fact, back in Deuteronomy 28:21 there are blessings and curses in the Mosaic Covenant for the nation of Israel.  And one of those curses would be the Lord will make pestilence cling to you.  [Deuteronomy 28:21, “The LORD will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it.”]

And in that great end time invasion, Gog and Magog invasion in the last days, Ezekiel 38:22 describes God dealing with the aggressors with “pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him….” [Ezekiel 38:22, “With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.”]  Why is God dealing with such severity?  You see the answer as you continue on in verse 23, look at what it says, “and all the churches will know that I am He who searches minds and hearts.  I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”  [Revelation 2:23]

This maximum divine discipline is not just for those in Thyatira, it’s for the rest of the churches to learn a lesson from this.  In fact, when Ananias and Sapphira were slain in the Holy Spirit, and by the way, do we all understand that being “slain in the Holy Spirit” is not a good thing but a bad thing?  I had many students of the charismatic variety that told me wow, how did your weekend go?  It was a great weekend, I got slain in the Holy Spirit.  And I used to think well why are you still alive if you’ve been slain in the Holy Spirit.

But when that slaying in the Holy Spirit happened, maximum divine discipline, it says, and I quoted the verse earlier, “and great fear came over the whole church and all who heard of these things.”  In other words, what was happening in Thyatira would also be learned in Ephesus and Smyrna and Pergamum and Sardis and Philadelphia and Laodicea and every other church in the known world for that matter.

God says, “I am He who searches hearts and minds.”  [Revelation 2:23]  One of the things to understand about sin is sin has a contaminating influence.  It’s sort of like yeast, the Apostle Paul says, Galatians 5:9 that works its way through a lump of dough.   [Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.”]  If it’s not challenged and counteracted it begins to have a contagious influence.  We grossly underestimate the power of sin.  We think we can negotiate with it, we think we can overpower it, we think sometimes we can control it.  And I think many times we ought to go back to Genesis 4:7 and learn what God said to Cain who was contemplating murdering his brother.

He said in Genesis 4:7 sin is desiring you, seeking to control you, but you must control it.  [Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”]  Before it gets out of control and begins to dominate your life you’ve got to get it under control and thankfully in the church age we have the resources in Christ, such as the Holy Spirit, the new nature, etc. by which we can say no to the sin nature.  We sort of play this game of how close can we get before we go over the edge and pretty soon, if we’re not careful we find ourselves in a situation that’s unmanage­­able because that’s the nature of sin.  I mean, if sin weren’t as bad as we think it is then  why would Jesus have to come into the world to pay the  ultimate price to deal once and for all with the sin problem.  I mean, if it was really not that big of a deal why did Jesus do what He did in terms of being a blood sacrifice?

And so Thyatira, you just haven’t gotten this under control and if it’s not under control in Thyatira pretty soon it’s not going to be under control anywhere and so I am bringing maximum divine discipline so all the churches will know that I am He who searches minds and hearts.  [Revelation 2:23, “’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.”]  That’s why Jesus, early on in this letter, we saw it last week, Revelation 2:18, is described as the one who searches hearts and minds, He has eyes like a flame of fire, He is qualified to diagnose maladies within the church and the deal aggressively with those maladies because he is the one who knows, who sees, who perceives what is happening in churches and in our individual lives.  [Revelation 2:18, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:”]

It’s interesting here at the end of verse 23 he says, “I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”  I think this subject of deeds or good works we sort of have a tendency as Protestant Christians to underplay because we all understand Ephesians 2:8-9, that we are not saved by good works but we’ve saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  [Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”]

So somehow in our thinking we start to think well, the good deeds aren’t important, they aren’t significant.  May I just say to you that in God deeds and works that He does through the believer are very significant.  In fact, how many times have we seen this word “deeds” or “works” in these letters.  He’s very interested in their deeds.  We, as Christians, are not saved by good deeds but we are saved unto good deeds, which God has determined in advance for us to accomplish.   Ephesians 2:10.  [Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”]

In fact, I thought of this verse as I was preparing, Paul speaks to the Christians and he says, “For we all must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ.”  Well why is that necessary if I’m saved and going to heaven?  To evaluate our good deeds, not for salvation but for reward.  “For we all must appear” Paul ways “we,” that would include himself, “and Paul, you’ll notice when you study him he uses this future judgment of rewards as a motivational tool for himself.  [ “For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10]

He says in 1 Corinthians 9, I beat my body lest I preach to others I might be disqualified for the prize, speaking of the doctrine of rewards.   [1 Corinthians 9:27, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”]    This is very big in his thinking, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,” notice the word “must,” this is mandatory, “so that each one may be recompensed for his” what? “deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  [2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”]

There’s a reward and there’s a loss of reward for the Christian in heaven who is not saved by good works but is saved for the purpose unto good works.  And you say well, I don’t really see in my personal life a lot of deeds or works as a Christian, what’s the problem, do I need to make my flesh try harder?   You’ll notice in verse 23 that there’s an answer to that question because he mentions first of all, “I am he who searches hearts and minds” and then he says, I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”   [Revelation 2:23, “… 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.”

In other words, what is happening in the heart and the mind dictates what we do.  I found this little ditty here recently as I was preparing.  It says, “Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”  And this 2 x 2 slab of mucous membrane between our gums, called the tongue, gets out of control at times, doesn’t it.  And we say Lord, give me tongue control and the reality of the situation is we don’t need tongue control, we need heart control.  We need mind control or mind discipline.  In other words, what’s coming out of the mouth is simply a reflection of what is already happening in the mind and the heart.

Jesus spoke about this, did He not.   “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”  If anger and cynicism and sarcasm and anxiety are the things constantly spilling out of my mouth as a Christian then maybe those are things that have taken root in my heart and my mind and my soul.  And I have to go to God with those things and submit them to Him and ask for Him to change me and as goodness and graciousness and thanksgiving fill the heart, isn’t it interesting how the speech or the deeds change.  You can tell an awful lot about people just by letting them talk.  You begin to see exactly what’s happening already in the heart, and as Christians we ought to be people of such gratitude towards God for what He has done that what should be normative, not perfect but normative out of our mouths and it should be praise and edification and uplifting and building up rather than perpetual cynicism and doubt and self-centeredness because our hearts should be filled with the things of God.

He goes on in verse 24 and he begins to describe the consequences to a greater extent.  He says, “‘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.”  There were those within the Thyatira church that were following the Jezebelian teaching, but there were others that were not.  So, Christ is very clear here in verse 24 that the consequence will not impact those who do not hold to Jezebel’s teaching.  In fact, he says of that group within Thyatira, I don’t know if they were a majority, I don’t know if they were a minority, but there were some in that church that wouldn’t compromise.  Christ is very clear, “no other burden on you.”  This consequence only relates to those following Jezebel.

And it’s very interesting here that he describes the teachings of Jezebel as the self-called, verse 24, “deep things of Satan.”  The word for “deep” here is the Greek word [can’t understand word] and let me tell you something, Satan has teachings; Satan has doctrines.  You get into the occult, you get into the kingdom of the cults, you get into the teachings, for example, of Mormonism, they’re very deeply into that, the teachings of Islam.  Any false religion has a quality to it where you can go deep into those teachings.

1 Timothy 4:1 talks about in the last days some will depart from the faith, and will follow doctrines of demons.  [1 Timothy 4:1, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,”] What does the word “doctrine” mean?  It just means a teaching.  Here at Sugar Land Bible Church we have a doctrinal statement, we have teachings that we promote because they come from the Scripture.  Well, the kingdom of Satan, the kingdom of the demonic, they have doctrinal statements too.  They have their systematic theology text books just like we do.  And we have the capacity, separated from God, to go deep into those teachings.  A lot of people spend their whole lives deep into the teachings of the underworld.

But it’s very interesting what Jesus said.  He said they’re teachings of death are so-called deep meaning they’re not really deep at all.  They have the illusion of depth.  Just like in Revelation 2:2 He says you’ve got people in your midst in Ephesus that are so-called apostles.  [Revelation 2:2, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.”]  In other words, they weren’t really apostles at all.  And Jesus here is using this expression “so-called” in fact, of Jezebel, she’s a “so-called” prophetess, verse 20, but she’s really not a prophetess.  He uses the same idea here, these are teachings that people think they’re going deep into but they’re depth is “so-called” depth.

In other words, what he’s saying is this is an artificial substitute.  And what a glorious thing it is to discover Jesus Christ and to come out of those systems and renounce them and instead exchange them for true depth which can only be found in Christ.  What a joy it is to come out of an artificial substitute and embrace the real thing.  In fact, when Paul was involved in planting many of these churches, back in Acts 19:19 it describes the wholesale conversion of many people in Ephesus.  And it says, “And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver,” which in that day was a lot of money.  They had invested themselves in these occultic practices; today we would call them palm readings, weegie boards, tarot cards, horoscope, false holy books, and they found Christ and Christ revealed Himself to them and as they began to grow in their new-found relationship with Christ they took all the paraphernalia and they just got rid of it.  The fastest way to get rid of it is to burn it.

I don’t know why a Christian would need or want anything like this in his or her apartment, his or her house, on his or her computer, or I-phone, or I-pad, the biblical pattern is just to get it out of your life.  It’s not there to do anything other than to drag you away from Christ. And if you want to go deep into something go deep into Jesus Christ.  This word “depth” is also used to describe the depth that’s available in the person of Christ.  Ephesians 3:18, “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,” you want depth, Jesus is available.

1 Corinthians 2:10 says, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths” that’s the same word, “the depth of God.”  One of the things that has always impressed me about the Bible is the Bible is simple enough for a child to understand and yet simultaneously it is deep enough for a theologian to drown in.  God communicates so simply because He desires that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  [1 Timothy 2:4, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

The teachings of the Bible are not complex, they’re very simple.  This is why the little children gravitated towards Jesus Christ.  And yet at the same time you can get into certain doctrines of the Bible and you can get beneath the surface and you can begin to plunge the depths of those things.  Why wouldn’t we be able to do that when Colossians 2:3 says, of Jesus Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  You could spend your whole life trying to navigate the things of God and discover that you’ve just barely scratched the surface.  That’s the nature of omniscience and an omniscient God.

You Thyatirans, you’re foolish by trafficking as you are in false religion thinking that’s going to somehow give you depth; it’s so-called depth, it’s an artificial substitute; renounce it, it has nothing to offer you.  It certainly has nothing that could edify you and build you up.  Go to Christ and that’s where you’re going to find depth.

You’ll notice, verse 25 as he continues to speak to this remnant that had not embraced these so-called false teachings.  Look at verse 25, “Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” What does He tell the folks within the church that hadn’t compromised?  What does He tell them to do.  Does He give them a whole list of new do’s and don’ts?  Does He give them a new spiritual maze to go through?  He just says “hold fast” to what you have.  In other words, do what you already know is right.

I’m reminded of the Book of 2 Peter where it constantly says remember.  In fact, I like to think of   2 Peter as a finger, your index finger, you tie a string around it to remember something, when I leave the house tomorrow I want to remember such and such and you tie something around your finger to remember it.  And that’s all 2 Peter is doing: “remember,” not giving them brand new truth, a new complex set of ideas, just do what you already know to be true.

And this really takes all the pressure out of ministry when you think about it.  I used to think very early on in my ministry that I had to teach something new every week.  The fact of the matter is the majority of people you’re preaching to probably can’t even remember what you said last week.  Do people really need something new?

Dr. Toussaint, when he was teaching through 2 Peter, when I had him as one of my professors at Dallas Seminary, he said look at how it emphasizes just to remember.  You don’t have to come up with something new, all you need to do is to exhort people to do what they already know to do.  Most people I would say know already what they’re supposed to do; just exhort them in what they already know.  Just cause them to remember!  We put pressure on ourselves that we need not do. What many of us need to do is simply to be encouraged or exhorted in what we already know.  I’m reminded of Jeremiah 6 and verse 16, where I got the title of this particular sermon.  Jeremiah says, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And there you will find rest for your souls.”  Do you want rest?  Do you want invigoration?  Do you want nourishment?  Do you want encouragement?  Do you want victory?  Then just go back to what you already know to do that’s right.  Hold fast, no set of complex spiritual criteria imposed on these non-compromisers.  Just do what you know to be true.

And yet today what you have with people is they constantly want to hear something new.  Let me ask you a question: what is there to really say that hasn’t already been said?  By my way of thinking what’s new is not true and what’s true is probably not new.  The Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 1 and verse 9 says, “So there is nothing new under the sun.”  Do people need something new?  They really don’t, they need to be directed back to that ancient path, the path that’s well-trodden, that’s well-served its purpose for multiple generations and just go back and walk in that path.

But what did the folks in Jeremiah’s, the Book of Jeremiah, say? Jeremiah 6:16, when they were told to seek for the ancient past, they said, “We will not walk in it.”  [Jeremiah 6:16, Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”]  We’re tired of the old way.  It’s not sophisticated enough.  It’s not complicated enough, it doesn’t appeal to my sense of pride enough, I want to devise my own spirituality.

I’m reminded of Acts 17:21, the Mars Hill crowd.  It says this: “(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)”  If it wasn’t new it wasn’t exciting enough, there was no audience for it and so they just craved with itching ears something new.  And yet what is the Bible saying?  Seek the ancient paths, walk the ancient paths, be satisfied with the ancient paths.

This is one of the reasons I never really fit in well with the world of evangelical academic scholarship.  Part of the reason is in evangelical academic scholarship they told me when I got to the dissertation phase of my academic career they said you need to write a dissertation, and I said what’s that.  And they said you need to come up with something new, you need to contribute to the conversation, you need some fresh insights.  Well, there’s a problem with that because I really don’t have any fresh insights.  All I know is what God has already said for the last 2,000 years, all the way back to the time of Moses 3,500 years ago.  I mean, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said.  What is there to say that’s of a new quality.  But I was able to graduate because I decided to react to somebody else who thought he was coming up with something new.  So because he thought he was coming up with something new and I was responding to what he thought was new they said you’re coming up with something new so that passes.  So welcome to evangelical scholarship.

You know, may we not be like the Athenians where we always think that… our ears are always itching.  You know, whole ministries revolve around this today.  Give me some new insight about some hidden part of the Bible or this or that.  Some people are going around [can’t understand word] for probably twenty years, some kind of hidden mystery code in the Bible.  But the Bible reveals all of these things that you don’t find in the Bible and you say well, I don’t find that in the Bible.  They say you’re reading the Bible wrong, you need to skip every other word and if you skip every other word you’ll see a hidden message, and then when you skip every other word and it doesn’t work out they say well, you’re reading in the wrong direction, you need to read backwards, skipping every other word and if you do that you’ll see what I’m talking about.   I mean, skipping every other word in the Bible… I’m having a hard enough time trying to understand what the Bible says, I don’t need something new, I don’t need something novel.  What I need is to go back to the ancient past and to find it and to walk in it.

You’ll notice as we move into verses 26-28 he gives promises to overcomers.  Take a look at verse 26, look at what he says.  “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end,” now one of the things we talked about is the overcomers.  We believe in Revelation 2 and 3 is a synonym for all Christians; all Christians are overcomers, so these are prophecies that typically come from the last two chapters, in this case the last three chapters, designed to encourage us in the present because no matter what struggles we’re having today we’re on the winning side of history.

See, like becomes bearable, life becomes livable if you know the final outcome.  The final outcome is we win.  Why?  Because there’s something great within us?  No, because of the One we are yoked to, united to, by way of faith.

But one of the things that’s very interesting if you look very carefully at verse 26 he says, “He who overcomes,” which would be a believer, and then he says, “and he who keeps My deeds until the end,” so now he is adding another clause there related to our deeds which would relate not to salvation but to reward.  And I believe he is speaking here of, first of all, rewards or privileges I should say, that will come to all Christians.  All Christians are going to experience these privileges, however, some will experience them to a finer degree, or a greater degree than others because some, within Thyatira, had fallen into false teaching and false doctrine.  Others hadn’t.  All the believers will arrive in heaven; all the believers will experience these privileges, however, as I’ll show you in just a moment some will experience them at a higher level than others.  And I think that’s why he adds that little clause in verse 26, “to the overcomers” which would be the believers “and he who keeps My words until the end.”  He is dealing with privileges to all but there’s a greater quality to it to the believer that perseveres under God’s grace.

And what He promises are two things: the first is given in verses 26 and 27, the second one is given in verse 28.  What is promised here?  Authority over the nations.  Look at what he says there in verse 26, “He who overcomes and keeps My deeds till the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; Verse 27, “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;” you’ll notice that this, depending on what Bible translation  you are using is in quotation marks.  Some of your Bible translations have it in caps, all capitalized letters, which means he’s quoting from the Old Testament here.  And I believe the section of the Bible that he’s quoting from is Psalm 2:9, one of our great Messianic prophecies in the Bible about He, Jesus, “shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”  And in fact this is how Jesus is described in the Book of Revelation, He is the conquering King.

He’s coming back to this world, not to be born in a manger this time around, not to be trodden down and mistreated by the various inhabitants and kings of the earth, not to be rushed through the judicial system so a great judicial mockery can take place where the Hebrews of that time period rushed them through the judicial system to kill Him, mistreated Him, mocked Him by striking Him with their fists saying which one of us hit  you, thrusting the spear into His side, beating Him on the back with 39 lashes.

See, all of that is a thing of the past when Jesus comes back.  He’s coming back in fulfillment of Psalm 2:9. [Psalm 2:9, “’You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”]  Revelation 12:5 speaks of this same posture when it says, “He is a male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.  And it’s authority that He will receive over the earth from His Father.  And guess what Jesus is going to do with that authority?  He’s going to share it with us, and so you, as a Christian, will be in a position to exercise authority over the nations of the earth, not because Jesus needs our help, but it’s part of the privileges of the child of God.

I don’t know how to get this idea across any clearer than I can say it as follows:  We are destined as God’s people for authority.   You say well, you don’t understand, at my job I’m mistreated.  I’m in a body that’s breaking down.  The reality of the situation is all that is just temporary.  When Jesus comes back He will assert and exert His authority over planet earth and because you’re His child you’re right there ruling and reigning alongside of Him in delegated authority.  We start to get a glimpse of this and isn’t it interesting how the petty things of this world have a way of just sort of fading away into obscurity.

The Corinthians were so carnal that they were suing each other in front of pagan judges.  And what does Paul say?  “Do you now know that we will judge the angels?  How much more the things of this life?” 1 Corinthians 6:3. You’re all upset and uptight over these little skirmishes that take place amongst Christians; get your act together Corinthians, don’t you know you’re going to be sitting in judgment on the angels and you can’t even put together or handle the minor issues of this life?

But I did say, going back to verse 26, that this is not just for the overcomer but it’s also for the overcomer who keeps my deeds until the end.”  I believe all Christians will rule and reign but some will have a greater degree of authority than others.  Jesus, in Luke 19:17 says this: “Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing you are to be in authority over ten cities.”  And then a verse or two later in verse 19, Luke 19:19, “‘And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’”  Can you imagine modern day educators dealing with that one?  I thought everything was supposed to be fair.  I thought everything was supposed to be equal; one guy gets five cities, one guy gets ten, where’s the fairness in that God?  It kind of shows me that God is not a socialist, like we think He is, a socialist being a very nice word for Marxist.

God rewards people based on their faithfulness to Him.  There’s a group in Thyatira that had succumbed to these teachings, if they were believers they’re ruling and reigning but in a minimal sense.  The non-compromisers are ruling and reigning in a greater sense.

You see, everything that’s happening in your life right now, as a Christian, is preparatory for the authority that you’re going to wield alongside Christ in the millennial kingdom.  As someone has called this life as merely training time for reigning time.  Every trial, every setback, every heartache God has designed it in your life to prepare you for what He has just around the corner that you can’t see, ruling and reigning under His delegated authority.  And if that’s my future a few problems come into my life,  you know what…  under God’s grace I can submit to those because God is using them to prepare us for the future.

But there’s a second blessing that we have that goes right alongside with the song that we sang earlier, about our relationship to Christ; they will be given, verse 28, the morning star.  Look at verse 28, second blessing, “and I will give him the morning star.”   Now the Book of Revelation is self interpreting; you don’t have to come up with some meaning of “morning star” based on our sanctified imagination, just watch how the book itself interprets itself.  You know who the morning star is.  How do we know that?  Because Revelation 22, the end of the book, verse 16, says, “I, Jesus,” so it’s clearly speaking of Christ, “I Jesus… the bright morning star.”  [Revelation 22:16, “I Jesus have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”]

2 Peter 1:19 also speaks of Jesus Christ as the “morning star.”  “So, we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”  Who is “the morning star”?  The “morning star” is the greatest gift you could ever have; it’s Jesus Christ Himself.  Didn’t we say earlier in Colossians 2:2-3 that, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” what else is there to have besides Christ.  I mean, you have Jesus you have the whole thing.  And He’s speaking of the time period when we, because sin won’t be an issue, have unbroken fellowship with Jesus Christ.  You can’t get any better, you can’t get any higher than that.  Jesus says I’m going to give you Myself, not in sort of the darkened way you have it now because you walk in sin and easily we can break fellowship with Christ, not lose salvation but break fellowship with Christ.

Think of a situation where you’re walking with Jesus and you could never get out of fellowship with Him.  And you have access to all the knowledge and treasures found in Him.  “We have been blessed,” Ephesians 1:3, “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”   You’re going to have authority and you’re going to have an unbroken relationship with Christ Himself.

Now why is Jesus Christ called the morning star?  I found this explanation, actually that slide there shows you where He’s called the morning star. Revelation 2:28, Revelation 22:16, 2 Peter 1:19.  [(2 Peter 1:19, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.”  Revelation 2:28, “and I will give him the morning star.”    Revelation 22:16, “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”]

But I found this explanation here of why Christ is called the morning star, taken from Grant R. Jeffrey’s Book, Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations, p. 83.  He writes concerning this verse, “Christ’s final promise to the Overcomer is that ‘I will give him the morning star.’ Just as the morning star refers to Christ Himself, it also describes a star that appears just before dawn, while night still lingers. Like the morning star, Jesus will come for His bride, the church, without warning before commencing the great and terrible Day of the Lord.”

I love it!  Before morning breaks there’s a precursor to it of this morning star showing up at the darkest time of history.  We look at the world and we say wow, it’s getting pretty dark.  Why don’t we say all right, it’s getting dark!  I mean, it’s getting pitch black which means this is the perfect time for the morning star to show up.  The fact of the matter, beloved, is things in this world are not falling apart; they’re falling into place.  There is a black dark spiritual tapestry across our world today which means I can’t think of a better environment than for the morning star to arrive, take His church into the Father’s house, out of this world, before the great and terrible day of the Lord, which we will be reading about in the Book of Revelation.

This letter to Thyatira concludes, as all of these letters do, with an exhortation to listen.  Look, if you will, at verse 29, “He who has an ear,” very familiar, “let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  As we’ve talked about one of the most ancient commands that God gave to the nation of Israel is to listen, to just listen and receive and stop being so busy and running around and putting out fires all the time, which most of our lives are like that, it’s part of living in a fallen world.  But just to have a moment of just listening to the eternal Word of God.

Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” It’s hard to listen.  I really don’t like to listen to be honest with you.  I guess that’s why I chose an occupation where I could do the most talking.  [Laughter] But the fact of the matter is it’s in the place of listening to God that we hear the voice of God, we hear the Word of God, we receive the sustenance for our souls that we so desperately need.

It reminds me of the Book of James, James 1:19-21, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;”  I’ve told you before that I hate that verse because it’s the opposite of how I am, I want to talk fast and listen less regularly and I want to get angry fast.  But verse 20 says, “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  Where is all this anger that we channel?  Where is it all going to end anyway?  It’s not achieving anything.  [21], “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”  Simply be in a place of humility and dependence and listen to the voice of God.  God can speak many, many ways.  He can speak through private Bible reading.  He can speak through sermons, I hope and pray He does some of that here today.  He can speak through teaching.  He can speak through Spirit filled, Spirit led conversations where you take your advice to someone who knows the Word of God and knows how to apply the Word of God to your circumstances.

And rather than always putting our hand up and asking a question to God and asserting ourselves maybe it’s just time to listen.  But sometimes listening involves silence, doesn’t it?  In fact, I found this little ditty this week also.  LISTEN and SILENT are spelled with the same letters.  Think about it.  So may God help us here at Sugar Land Bible Church to simply listen to the Word of God, receive from God what He might say as we seek for that ancient path, that well-trodden path and walk therein.

Of course, you could be here today for the very first time; you may have never received Jesus Christ by way of faith as your personal Lord and Savior.  Jesus, when He died on that cross was thinking about you as a person.  He wasn’t just thinking about the world as a whole, He was thinking about you as a person and as an individual. And I believe if Jesus had died on that cross and you were the only person on planet earth He still would have died on that cross.  That’s how badly He desires a personal relationship with you.  And you can enter into that personal relationship with God, which is what life is all about.  A person is really not complete without God through Christ in their life.

And how do you enter into that relationship with God?  You can’t on your own terms, that’s what the Bible teaches.  Sin erects that wall, that barrier, that border between fallen humanity and God which cannot be bridged other than what Jesus did for us.  Jesus stepped out of eternity into time, He bore the wrath of God in our place for sins that we could never compensate for.  He bridged the gap between God and man which man has no ability to bridge on his own.  He doesn’t say climb up to God; what He says is God has reached down to humanity through the person of Jesus Christ and what He did through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  And He asks humanity to simply receive what He has done as a gift.

And there’s only one way to receive a gift from God; it’s by faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is” what? “impossible to please God.  Faith is another way of saying trust; it’s another way of saying reliance, dependence.  The Spirit of God convicts a person of their need to trust in Christ and in the quietness of their own mind and heart they simply rest on that promise.  They don’t join a church to get the promise, they don’t give money to get the promise, they don’t do a bunch of good works to get the promise, they simply receive it by faith.  It’s not even necessary to walk an aisle, join a church or any other such thing to receive it; it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you trust in Him and His sufficiency and what He’s done for you.  And if that’s something that you’re doing then on the authority of the Word of God, right now as I’m speaking you’re changing your eternal destiny.  If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk.  Shall we pray.

Father, we’re grateful today having completed Revelation 2, looking very much forward to next week, Revelation 3:1-6 where we’ll learn of the church at Sardis and like the church at Thyatira help us, Father, to take these ancient principles, apply them to our lives as we walk before You as Your people this week.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.