The Compromised Church (continued); Revelation 2:18-19
Three things are said in Revelation 2:18 about the Lord Jesus Christ: He was the Son of God; He had eyes like a flame of fire; He had feet like fine brass. The title Son of God emphasizes His deity. Of the forty-five times that that title is sued in the New Testament it is only used once in the book of Revelation, and that is in this particular verse. It is therefore a title that is emphasizing the exalted Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and it is emphasizing His authority as the Son of God to judge mankind. There is a particularly interesting connection inside this particular letter related to the Son of God mentioned here in v. 18, and the final reference to the overcomers in verses 26, 27. Verses 26 and 27 come out of Psalm 2, and Romans 1:4 is a New testament verse that borrows from the imagery of Psalm 2:7, that Jesus Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead." What Paul is referencing there in Romans 1:4 is a verse in Hebrews 1:5 which is a quote from Psalm 2:7. That is, that at this future time there is a reference, a declaration made by the Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of the Tribulation He is going to remind everybody of a previous declaration, a declaration that was made at the time of His resurrection. That was a declaration that He was the Son of God. But in that Psalm it just refers to Him as the Son, and the phraseology there brings together the sonship of David and the sonship of God in that one person. So there is a recognition in the Old Testament, based on Psalm 2:7, that the Messiah would be also divine. That is seen in Acts 13:33, "he [God] has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "'You are my Son; today I declare you begotten [lit. from the Hebrew].'" So this all connects together as background for understanding this letter to Thyatira.
Psalm 2:8, "Ask of me [the Father speaking to the Messiah], and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession." Verse 9, "You will rule them with an iron scepter ; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." Those verses are quoted in Revelation 2:26, 27 at the end of this particular epistle.
What does all of that mean? All of that means that there is an inherent unity in this particular evaluation report. This vision of the Lord Jesus Christ focuses on His being the Son of God so that there is a connection made internally with our future position to rule and reign as joint heirs with Him in the Millennial kingdom.
The next thing that is said is that He had eyes like a flame of fire, and that is a picture of judgment. The eyes are a picture of knowledge. This is indicated again in Revelation 19:12, "His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself." The point of this verse is that Jesus Christ, when he returns at the second advent, is coming in judgment. So He knows who is to be judged and what the basis is, and that is the emphasis of the eyes like a flame of fire.
Then there is a reference to the fact that His feet are like fine brass, or burnished bronze in some translations. Actually it is a bright shining metal and we don't really know what it was. But the idea is that it has gone through a purification process, and the emphasis is that the Lord Jesus Christ went through that purification process during the first advent. When he came to earth in hypostatic union He was undiminished deity, united with true humanity, and during the period of the incarnation He went through many different tests giving the opportunity to apply the doctrine that he has learned, to apply Scripture to all of these circumstances and situations. And, as the writer of Hebrews says, it was through these things that he suffered that he was matured or perfected in His humanity. So the whole imagery that we have seen focuses on His role as a judge. He is coming to evaluate the church.
Revelation 2:19, "I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first."
In this verse we have to address one of those technical little issues known as textual criticism, that there is some difference in the Greek MSS. There are well over 5000 either whole or incomplete MSS of the Greek New Testament. We have more documentary evidence of what was stated in the Greek New Testament than we do anything else. It is true that there were copyist errors but for the most part these copyist errors were simply errors of spelling, errors of punctuation, sometimes they would get words in different word order, but when you have more than 5000 different MSS you have a lot to base your conclusions on. But in the study of textual criticism (the science of studying these MSS, weighing the evidence, trying to determine what the original reading was) there have been a couple of different theories set forth that have been popular in the last 100 years or so. The one we will start with is called the Textus Receptus [TR]. The TR is what was used to translate the King James version. It was made up of about nine or ten MSS, that is all they had at the time, and they weren't very old. In the 19th century when they began to discover some more ancient MSS that predated the TR by as much as seven or eight hundred years, then scholars came along and said that these older documents must be more accurate. So they set forth the theory that older was better. But if you have something written out in the third century that is a bad copy of something that was written in the second century, and you have a MS dated to the seventh century that is a perfect copy of a MS written in the early second century, what is better? The older one or the more recent one? The more recent one, because it is an accurate copy. So there was a flaw there. Nevertheless scholars really debate this. Many different issues are involved, but most of the modern translations—NIV, NASB, New Century Bible, all but the New King James—are all based on this older is better theory. In the mid-20th century another view of textual criticism came forward called the majority text view. This was the view that the reading that was in the majority of documents was the best reading. There is a lot more to this but we have tried to boil it down and make it easy to understand so we can see what is going on here.
Revelatoin 2:19 in the NKJV reads, "I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience…" Notice the word order: works, love, service, faith. Also notice these are listed with nothing but a comma between the nouns. "…and as for your works, the last are more than the first."
If you compare that with the NASB, it reads: "I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first." Notice the different word order. Then you also have the inclusion of these "ands" which in the Greek are the word KAI [kai]. The word order of the NASB is correct here because both the older documents and the majority text agree. Only the TR has the reading that it has.
Corrected translation: "I thoroughly know [OIDA/o)ida] your production…" When applied to God OIDA indicates complete and total intuitive knowledge. It indicates His omniscience, and so it is a thorough knowing. The Lord Jesus Christ knows everything there is to know about you or any church. There is nothing hidden from that perspicuous glance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Production refers to that which is produced as we are advancing to spiritual maturity. Then we have our first KAI, and it shouldn't be translated like a simple conjunction "and your love". It is an ascensive use of KAI and should be translated "even your love and faith." These two stand out as the main emphases of this commendation part of the epistle. Why do we begin with love and faith? Because these two character qualities—love is AGAPE/a)gaph and faith is PISTIS/pistij—are both produced by God the Holy Spirit as the fruit of the Spirit. They are the inherent character qualities produced by the Holy Spirit. Then the next two attributes, "service" which is DIAKONIA [diakonia] means to serve or minister in a local congregation with reference to Christian service; "and endurance," that is, the word HUPOMONE [u(pomonh] and it means steadfast obedience, long-term continuous application of the Word despite opposition, despite testing, temptation, and everything else. Service and endurance in terms of application grow out of love and faith, so that love produces service. Christian service is a form of impersonal or unconditional love for all mankind. Faith here should be translated "faithfulness." The primary meaning of faith is trust or reliance, but PISTIS [pistij] on occasion means faithfulness, as it does in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. So faithfulness produces endurance. So we stand with two character qualities produced by God the Holy Spirit, and then the application of that character in terms of the Christian life and the ministry within the local church. Then it concludes that "your recent production is superior to the initial production." That shows growth, maturity. They have been ;learning the Word and they have been advancing, step by step, so their production in their spiritual life at this point is much greater than it was before. This, as we will see, applies to only a small group in the congregation.
We have seen that these two nouns that are listed are both listed as fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love [AGAPE], joy, peace, longsuffering [MAKROTHUMIA/makroqumia], kindness, goodness, faithfulness [PISTIS]. So these are fruits of the Spirit. That means that as you grow and mature in the Christian life the Holy Spirit internally is transforming your character. Your volition is not passive to that, you have to exercise your volition. It is not the old "Let go and let God" mentality of the Cheswick movement. You don't just surrender yourself to Jesus or the Holy Spirit and it automatically happens. It is very important here to understand the mechanics of the Christian life which under gird the Galatians 5:22 passage.
You start off with the filling of the Holy Spirit plus the Word of God. These are the two aspects necessary for spiritual growth. They don't work independent of one another. The focus of the filling of the Holy Spirit—literally, by means of the Holy Spirit—is to fill your soul with the Word of God. If we take Ephesians 5:18, which is the mandate to be filled by means of the Spirit, and look at the context, the verses that follow talk about being submissive to one another, about giving thanks in all things, about singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and there is the same list of consequences over in Colossians 3:17ff. If X action produces Y result, and A action produces Y result, then A action and X action ought to be similar; they work together. The command in Colossians 3:16 is to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you. When you let the Word of Christ richly dwell within your soul it produces certain consequences. When you are filled by means of the Spirit it produces certain consequences. The filling by means of the Spirit is the divine side; the letting the Word of Christ dell within you is your volitional action. You have to study the Word in right relationship to the Holy Spirit and He fills your soul with Bible doctrine. This is what the Bible refers to as EPOGNOSIS [e)pignwsij]—not just GNOSIS [gnwsij], academic knowledge—a full knowledge. When we take that EPIGNOSIS doctrine that is stored in our soul by the Holy Spirit and we are walking by means of the Holy Spirit (the command of Galatians 5:16) the Holy Spirit produces character transformation. That is the fruit of the Spirit.
As the Holy Spirit produces character transformation, in this instance we have two characteristics that are developed: on the one hand love, and on the other hand faithfulness. In relationship to the evaluation of the church in Thyatira the love is producing Christian service, which is an aspect of our impersonal love for other believers. The faithfulness, on the other hand, is producing endurance. Endurance is crucial to further spiritual growth. James 1:2-4. You have to endure in that application of doctrine. It is a faithfulness that focuses on faithful study of the Word; it is a faithfulness that culminates in endurance.
In our verse, Revelation 2:19, we see that in the KJV [TR] it restructured the order: love, service, faith, endurance. Somewhere along the line the scribes understood what the correct interpretation of the passage is but because of the difficult Greek grammar they tried to redo it so it would be clear that the love would be related to service and the faithfulness was related to endurance. That explains why the word order got twisted around. But the way it was originally written was to emphasize first of all the character qualities and then secondly the results of those character qualities. So it should read: "love, faithfulness, Christian service and endurance." So the character that was produced in them by the Holy Spirit culminated in application in their Christian life.
Love is one of those doctrines that is so poorly understood today because we live in such a self-centered emotional society that we think of love only in terms of emotion. Yet, when the Bible talks about love emotion is the last thing associated with it. In fact, if you study what the Bible says about love you end up thinking that emotion needs to be driven far from love. If you are going to have real love it is non-emotional. If it is emotional it is not stable. One day emotions are up, the next day they are down. Emotions get tossed to and fro by every wind of circumstance. They get changed around by chemical balances in your body, by how much sleep you have, what kind of food you have eaten, and all threes things change your emotions and effect your emotions.
In Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus was asked a very important question by one of the scribes: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, and the quote emphasizes the fact that we should love the Lord our God with our soul, not with our feelings. Heart, soul, and mind are synonyms in the passage. These are not three distinct elements of the immaterial part of man. The word "heart" which is the Greek word KARDIA [kardia] is a word that emphasizes the innermost part of a person. We think of heart as a physiological organ that pumps and circulate blood through our body. That is not the point of the metaphor here. In fact, studies indicate that even in English the word heart is used metaphorically to refer to something that is at the center of something, at the core of something. So heart is a term that used in Scripture refers to the innermost part of man, what we would call the soul. The soul is made up of different components: consciousness, thinking facility (the mind), a conscience where our norms and standards are located. Sometimes the word "heart" in Scripture refers to the entirety of the soul. So when Jesus said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart," he was talking about all that makes you who you are. In fact, in some places "heart" is used as a reference to the first person singular pronoun, so it refers to who a person is. In the second phrase He says, "with all your soul." That is with every ounce of your being. "With all your mind" uses the Greek word DIANOIA [dianoia] for "mind" which indicates the thinking part of the intellectual center of your soul. So love for God is not just some sort of vacuous emotion to God, it is based on thought. What you will find from critics of Christianity is that they will say, "Well, you just have to put your brain in neutral and accept all that stuff." It is just the opposite. If you understand biblical Christianity it is the most thoughtful, the most intellectual of disciplines. You have to think, you have to know, you have to study in order to love God. It is not just sitting around and singing, O how I love Jesus. It is entering into an understanding of His thinking which is expressed in the Word of God. The word KARDIA, according to the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, refers to the inner person, the seat of understanding, knowledge and will. Most of the time the word "heart" refers to the thinking operation of the soul.
The second thing that He mentioned (verse 39): "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" That is what all the Mosaic law is about. It is how people live together in society. But as we get into the Old testament we realize that loving God is related to a very objective criterion, and that is called obedience. Obedience to the Word, keeping the Word, doing what the law says to do. We know that the law is not for today but nevertheless there are mandates in the New Testament, and Jesus Christ said the same thing: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Deuteronomy 7:9 says, "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands." Deuteronomy 10:12, "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" So you obey the Lord, you love the Lord by serving Him. That is the outworking of that second commandment, you serve the Lord in terms of ministry to other believers. Deuteronomy 11:1, "Love the LORD your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always." How do you know if you love God? It is not how you feel, it is by your obedience or application of doctrine. That is the criterion.
That mandate in the Old Testament is reiterated seven times in the New Testament: Matthew 5:43; 19:1; 29:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8. These passages all restate this mandate to love your neighbour as yourself. But there is a shift in the New Testament. John 13:34, 35: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this [act of loving one another] all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." The reason we use that term "impersonal love" is because we don't need to know the other person, the object of your love. It is a person you find stranded on the side of the freeway perhaps, or a person you are interacting with at the grocery store. You don't have to know then, you don't have to have a relationship with them to treat them in a kind way, to treat them in a biblically loving manner. This is the reason the Lord gave the parable of the good Samaritan.
When we look at this commandment and contrast it with Leviticus 19:18 we should note a couple of important differences: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." The command is the same, it is to love. But the object of your love in Leviticus, in the Mosaic law, is your neighbour. That is, anybody who lives next door, anybody who comes into your periphery whether they are a believer or unbeliever. Their spiritual status is irrelevant to this command. What is the standard that is given here? You are to love your neighbour as you love yourself.
Every person loves themselves. Adolf Hitler had a high self-esteem; Saddam Hussein had a great self-esteem. The problem isn't that people don't love themselves, the problem is that they love themselves way too much. Nobody has a poor self-esteem, that is just human viewpoint garbage. The Bible recognizes this. Over where it talks about marriage in Ephesians chapter five the husbands are to love their wives as their own body. The Lord recognizes that everybody inherently puts themselves first. That is part of the sin nature. So we are to love others and put them first, not ourselves. That is the model.
The Lord Jesus Christ jacked it all up. He said: "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another." The one another here doesn't refer to unbelievers. This isn't replacement and saying we don't have a responsibility to exercise impersonal love to unbelievers, but this is a higher standard towards other members of the body of Christ. How are we to love other believers? "As I love you," not as you love yourself, that is a low standard. The new standard is "As I love you." How did Jesus Christ love us? He went to the cross and He died for our sins. He went through unimaginable agony for us so that we could have salvation. That is how we are to love other believers. When we were as obnoxious and unattractive as we could be, Jesus Christ went to the cross and died for our sins. That is the background for Christian service. Christian service isn't a basis for spiritual growth; Christian service is the result of spiritual growth. But there is, nevertheless, in Scripture that we need to be involved as members of the body of Christ with one another, ministering to one another. That is why the local church is important. If the assembly of believers wasn't important the Lord would have said: "Go get a copy of Paul's letters and read them on your own." There are a lot people who think that all they have to do is just sit with a tape recorder and they have it made. Well, they can grow and they can learn doctrine, and they can advance; but they can't operate like they are supposed to in the body of Christ. That is why we are given spiritual gifts; it is to serve one another.
The first aspect that is mentioned in Revelation 2:19 is "I know your love," and that produces service. Second, "I know your faithfulness," cf. 2 Timothy 2:22 where it is translated that way. We need to be faithful, and that means to be consistent in taking in the Word day in and day out. That means it must be a priority in your life. Faithfulness also means to be consistent in the application of the Word, consistency in fellowship, consistency in application of impersonal love and Christian service. Endurance is related to testing, it is staying with it over long periods of time. Endurance is consistent application of doctrine which leads to spiritual growth.
In conclusion we have to recognize that the fruit of the Spirit—love, faithfulness—is the result of walking by means of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is the result of walking by the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit is an active voice verb, it is not passive. It is active step by step dependence upon the Holy Spirit and what is taught in the Word. Walking by means of the Spirit involves staying in fellowship, i.e. abiding in Christ, taking in the Word of God consistently and applying the Word of God. The Holy Spirit doesn't understand the Word for you, the Holy Spirit is going to enable you to understand it. That means you have to think about it. It is the Jewish concept of meditation. You have to think about it, you have to understand it because in the next step you have to believe it and you can't believe something you can't understand. After you understand it, then you make another decision, and that is to believe it. When you believe it, that GNOSIS is transferred by the Holy Spirit into your heart, the innermost part of the soul, as EPIGNOSIS doctrine, and that is usable spiritual knowledge. It doesn't produce growth, it is just usable. Then you are going to get opportunities to apply it, and that is your third opportunity to use your volition to make decisions for application. When you get to that point of application that is when the Holy Spirit uses it to produce spiritual growth. So when Bible doctrine is assimilated into your thinking under the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit then the Holy Spirit uses it to produce spiritual growth. Along with spiritual growth comes the realization that I need to engage my volition in terms of Christian service, and in terms of endurance, sticking with it. Christian service is not the means to spiritual growth but the result of spiritual growth. The application comes at the end of a process. That process is where growth it taking place. Christian service relates to family responsibilities. The idea is that the body of Christ is a family. There is an intimacy, a care for one another that is a part of family life. They watch each other's back; that is what it is all about. That is what Christian service is, utilizing your spiritual gifts to pray for one another, admonish one another. Christian service relates to fulfilling various functions within the local body of Christ, as well as outside of the local body of Christ.