Revelation 2 Introduction

Before we come to the text, we need to “re-set” ourselves in the context.  There are a number of things about which we must be reminded.  And my intent in this opening sermon is to do just that, because the messages to the Churches are sent, and received, in context.  And although we might gain much from them for our Church (and I’m sure we will), these are specific congregations that are about to receive words directly from the mouth of the enthroned Jesus Christ; and they are about to receive them at a specific time in history.  And that history is also recorded for us!

First let me call to your attention that it is Jesus Christ (The Cornerstone) and His apostles (the remainder of the foundation) that form the bed-rock of the new temple made without hands.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through His apostles, that constitutes the Rock upon which the Church is built, each of His “little ones” precious stones in the structure of the temple.  It is apostolic doctrine - preaching and teaching - that is the very voice of the Christ…… Living Water flowing into the arid wastelands of pagan nations, causing many all over the fallen and cursed earth to sink their roots deeply into the river of living water.  We have the preaching and teaching of His apostles; and we have all been warned that anything other than apostolic doctrine is anathema.  They are the “scribes” of the new Israel, the inspired authors of The Gospel of God, which is the power of God into salvation to those who are faithing.

Jesus’ last word to them before His ascension was that they disciple the nations, putting His covenant “mark” of baptism on them, and teaching them to obey the One Who has been given all authority in the heavens and upon the earth (Matthew 28).

Secondly, Jesus had told His disciples to continue to scour the countryside for every last one from the tribes of Israel who God had kept for Himself.  He gave them specific instructions about how to find them and recognize them.  Then he told His disciples what to do with them when they found them. 

Having given them the signs of coming destruction of Jerusalem and all of Israel, the apostles of Jesus were to extricate, in this generation, all His people from the danger to come, which is Scripturally described as “desolation”.

The massive job of doing that was hampered by the fact that most of these who God had kept for Himself were the poor and the sick and the dispossessed and the lame and the blind and the deaf…… all of which had been brought about by Israel’s false shepherds, often called ravenous wolves, feeding on the helpless for their own benefits.  But Jesus had come to find His Father’s elect; and the apostles were to continue to hunt for them after the resurrection!  All of them had to be found, and all of them had to be moved from harm’s way before the abomination of desolation.

So the apostles, along with newly elected deacons, prepared (as the first chapters of The Acts of the Apostles indicates) the diaspora – the extrication of all of those who God had kept for Himself from the twelve tribes of Israel.

Those with wealth in property and other valuables sold everything (it would soon be worthless anyway, since the desolation to come would leave nothing of value).  And, in a similar manner as when Israel was freed from captivity and left Egypt with much of their gold and silver, those with properties sold soon-to-be worthless land, homes and other valuables.  They took Israel’s money, pooling it, and giving it to the apostles for the sick and destitute who couldn’t move themselves out of Israel and into the nations.  Scripture says there were 144,000 of them, 12,000 from each tribe, who were to escape the coming conflagration.

Many of these were the ones who had been actually following Jesus, hundreds of them having been healed by Him of their leprosy, their blindness, their deafness, their demon possession, their brokenness, their destitution – all as a result of the savage godlessness of judaistic leadership (and all of this prophesied by the prophet Isaiah).

Having questioned Jesus about what was going to happen (Matthew 24), the apostles knew, from His answer, that this was all going down in their lifetimes; so they had a very short time to get all these thousands of people out of harm’s way.  And just as it was from Egypt, every single one of them got out.   How do we know?  Because that was what was promised.

The entirety of the New Testament was written during this period – thirty five to forty years.    The apostles and their helpers continued, after the resurrection, to travel the whole of Israel, every village and every town and every city, finding the lost sheep of the house of Israel; the Church in Jerusalem continued to feed the sheep with the Gospel, with needed provisions, and with relocation assistance; some of the apostles were preaching the Gospel in the nations and helping the new Churches that were being established by the relocating Jewish Christians; the letters to the Churches by Paul and James and Peter and Jude and John were letters of correction as well as  letters of comfort to all the “little ones” in very perilous and distressing times. 

And let’s not forget the love that all these people had for the homeland that God had given them, and for the “system”, and for their eschatological expectations.  Getting them all out amidst their “hope” for Israel and its Messiah, and for Israel’s re-emergence in the world, would have left them torn between the deep affection for their thousand-year-old nation and their love for Jesus and His apostles.

Thirdly, Jesus had warned His apostles that they, and the Churches, would suffer many things.  And, certainly, the satanic world order and the persecution of the Roman emperors, during a time of turmoil and upheaval in the empire, was a major factor in those perilous times for the Church.

But by no means was that the only factor; and neither was it the most malignant.  There was something that caused even more suffering than did the world order and the Roman empire!

Jesus, in Matthew chapter 23, in excoriating the judaists, told them that they had humiliated, maimed and killed the prophets that God had sent to them (even to John the baptizer).  And now Jesus was going to send the apostles to preach the Gospel to all the nations.  And that the judaizers were going to pursue them from city to city, and try them, and persecute them, and crucify them and scourge them!  And, for that persecution of His apostles and His Church, all of them members of His resurrected and ascended body, all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from Able to Zechariah would come upon them.  And it would come in this generation!

So, you see, the Church of Jesus Christ was going to suffer at the hands of Rome and  especially at the hands of judaizers.  But, having persecuted God’s prophets, and then having crucified the Son of God, the ultimate culpability (the blood of all the righteous and all the prophets) would come upon judaists because of their persecution of the Lord’s people – the Church!  They were The Father’s elect people from the foundation, given to Jesus Christ, and they were united to Christ in His body!  And there would be no mercy to those who persecuted the ones united to Him.

Once again, the terminal point of this culpability was to occur during this generation – a generation during which many of the Lord’s apostles, helpers and deacons, and the lost sheep of the house of Israel would still be alive to see it.  And, as Jesus told His apostles, they would be recipients of that persecution!

So, not only did the new Churches in the nations need correction from Paul and the others, but they needed much comfort.  These who God had held for Himself (the lost sheep of the house of Israel) had to leave their homeland of a thousand years, they had to establish new homelands, new jobs, new households, new everything!  All this amongst Gentiles!  The beloved nation of King David and King Solomon, according to Jesus and his apostles, was about to experience great tribulation.  Daniel’s abomination of desolation was about to come upon them (according to Luke it was the Roman armies- the immediate “means” of that desolation).  The temple and the ceremonial system and the sacrificial system and the priesthood and everything else about the promised land was about to be crushed, dissolved and discontinued; for God was adjudicating, by King Jesus, the covenantal sanctions against Israel.

Thus the letters of comfort from the apostles – including this letter from John.  Surely there is correction for the Churches, and exhortation for perseverance; but the letter is primarily a letter of comfort and preparation for that which was shortly to come.  For, as Jesus told His apostles in Matthew 24, nothing like it had ever occurred, nor will it.  People all over the world would be shocked and grieved, especially these expatriated Jewish Christians.  They were going to suspect that the end of the world had come upon them.  Everything that they had loved, from Moses to the present, was about to be terminated – disestablished – de-created - in the fiery justice of Jesus Christ.

But John lays it all out there for them exactly what to expect; and he comforts them in the terror that is about to befall them and their nation.  Persevere, be faithful, and don’t faint!  Persevere!  Overcome!  Be victorious!  God the Son, the resurrected and ascended Savior of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is doing this, and glory be to His holy Name.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.

Now, there’s another very important contextual issue that needs to be addressed here.  And that is the state of the nations at the time of the writing of this letter.  We’ve covered in some detail, from the words of our Lord Himself, the state of Israel and Jerusalem at this point in time; but hardly anyone ever addresses the state of all the other nations from God’s viewpoint!  Not just Rome, but all of them.

We’ve covered some of this previously, but it’s necessary that we be reminded of these things – especially in the light of these messages to the Church, because all of the Churches in the nations were populated by expatriated elect Jews from Israel.  In addition there were many Jewish Christians who had already lived in the nations, and who were at Pentecost at the outpouring of Holy Spirit, and who were added to the Church at the preaching of Peter and the other apostles!  They went home after that to form congregations of followers of Jesus Christ in their own home countries and towns.

The Church at Rome was a good example of that, wasn’t it? - since no apostle had been to Rome at the point at which Paul wrote his epistle to that Church!  They were Christians who had fled to Rome (and other places) in a former diaspora, and who had returned to Jerusalem for passover and pentecost in 30AD.  Having been elect of God from the foundation, they encountered the Spirit of Christ at the preaching of the apostle, and they went home rebirthed!

So you see there were thousands of Israel-born, baptized followers of Christ; and they were in every nation on earth.  So the Church, by the time John wrote this Revelation of Jesus Christ, had been established, as Jesus Himself had commanded, in every nation, tribe and tongue!  The issue that I want you to address here is: what was the state of those nations in which the Churches of Jesus Christ existed?

Israel, before Jesus’ Parousia, was the central place of worship of God’s covenantal people.  But God said, through His prophets, that Israel had become “Babylon” and “Egypt”.  She had become the whore of all the nations.  That’s why she was being divorced and executed!  God had established her, by covenant, as “heaven and earth” – the new garden of God.  The analogies used in the prophets for her include “heaven and earth”, “the house of Israel”, “son” and “wife”, among others.

The “wife” analogy was for the purpose of illustrating her “adornment” in His grace and love, and for the presentation of an image of faithfulness!  But for a thousand years she adulterated herself with all the surrounding pagan nations!

So, all the other nations were pagan!  They were without God; they were without the written Word of God; Israel was the land of milk and honey; Israel had the temple of God and the Ark of the Covenant; in Israel was the central place of the worship of God.  The “light” was to shine from the mountain of God so that all would know that Israel was the place that God had blessed, and from whence would come The Messiah!

On the other hand, rather than the description of Israel as the land of milk and honey and every good thing from the hand of God, the nations receive the exact opposite description from God in His Word.  They are described as wilderness, dry land, places of ravenous vultures and birds of prey, jackals and other beasts of the field.  They are collectively described as “the sea” of godless humanity in contradistinction to Israel which is said to be “the land”, and “heaven and earth”.

Although God plainly says in His Word that all of them are “in His hand”, they are described by Him as being infested with freely roaming satanic creatures.  In other words there was no constraint on godlessness in the nations.  They were filled with the wicked, the profane and the idolatrous.  Vile and corrupt as they all were, there was no limitation or deterrent to their dead, human nature.  Satan and his minions dwelled there without restraint.  God had left all the nations in their long-practiced rebellion and godlessness.

BUT!  That would not be the way it remained!  In our Lord’s covenant that He cut with Abraham, there would be many from all the nations on earth that would be his seed in Christ.

And all through the newer Scriptures, Jesus and His apostles make it clear that with the decreation of Israel, the cutting off and execution of the whore of Babylon, the casting of the mountain into the sea, the NEW mountain of God would be established above all the mountains of the earth.  And the “strong man’s house” would be invaded, and his goods taken from him.

So the “free reign” of Satan (by the sovereignty of God, of course), would be terminated, and he would be “bound” from stopping the Christ and His Church from rescuing His Father’s elect from every nation on earth!  Our Lord had been given, upon His ascension to the glory cloud, all the nations as His inheritance!  They all belong to Him; and Satan would no longer have his way with them!  And our Lord will be victorious in keeping each and every one of His Father’s people; and the nations will one day bow the knee to the King of Kings!  Satan is bound (where once he had free reign); and he can do nothing about it.

That, in a thirty minute nutshell, is the context with which we have to deal as we read and hear the messages sent to the Church directly from the mouth of the enthroned Jesus Christ.

Nothing like what was about to happen had ever before occurred; and nothing like it would ever occur again.  With the earthly sights and sounds reminiscent of the Glory Cloud, the very Presence (Parousia) of the reigning King of Kings would soon terminate an entire covenant people, terminate the system, terminate the land, and cause the whole thing to come crashing down into the sea in His righteous judgment.  It was a time in history like none other.

And, at the same time, it was the point in history in which Satan’s free reign in the nations was ended, and the doors of heaven were opened to God’s elect people from every nation, tongue and tribe.

As the Gospel of God concerning His Son is preached over all the earth, the strong man’s house is trashed, and his goods stolen, and men and women and children are united to Christ.  And nothing, or no one, can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord.  And the victory of the King of Kings would be total – complete.

Finally, there is no possible good reason why the event specifically prophesied in John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ isn’t continually celebrated by the Christian Church!  The human birth of the Son of God is celebrated; the table of our Lord is celebrated often; the crucifixion is celebrated; the resurrection (rightly) is celebrated; even the ascension of the Lord to the seat of all power in the heavens and the earth is celebrated in some circles.

But there is no more momentous event in the history of mankind than the Parousia of our Lord in 70AD, when Gentiles from every nation on earth were received into the body of Christ…….when the power and authority of the Christ of God was manifested for all the world to see.  (It was especially evidenced to those who murdered Him and pursued His elect people!)

But you see, this most extraordinary event was, to put it mildly, THE indispensable event in our history, for you and I – the Gentiles of the nations – are now included in the body of Christ.  And from all the Churches there should be praise and thanksgiving, holy offerings, rising to the nostrils of God for including us!  And we ought to be singing and dancing and feasting and drinking in joy, that we have been delivered from eternal condemnation.

Listen to the second verse of The Church’s One Foundation……….


“Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth,

Her charter of salvation, One Lord, one faith, one birth;

One holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,

And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.”