Wednesday, August 28, 2019

“Philadelphia: The Faithful Church” (Pt. 2) (Aug. 28, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Philadelphia: The Faithful Church” (Pt. 2)
(Aug. 28, 2019)

          Just like the Smyrna church, Philadelphia also faced hostility from unbelieving Jews, who are referred to in the letters to both churches as a “Synagogue of Satan.”  These people “claimed” to be Jews, but their claims were lies.  It took more than mere ceremony to be a true Jew, according to the Lord.  Paul wrote in Rom. 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”  This concept holds true when considering who is a true or false Christian as well.
          It is quite amazing that Jesus tells the persecuted Christians at Philadelphia that those who are persecuting them will ultimately come and bow at their feet.  “Bowing” at someone’s feet signifies total defeat and submission.  What this means is that, in the end, every persecutor of the believing church in Philadelphia would admit that they were wrong.  Admitting they were wrong; swallowing their pride would be tough, but that is exactly what the Lord said they would do.  Scripture also teaches ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
          The believers at Philadelphia had already passed many tests; therefore, the Lord is promising to spare them from the ultimate test.  This promise holds true for all faithful Christians throughout history.  The specific promise is likely a promise to “rapture” or “remove” them from the period of unparalleled tribulation.  Some see this more generally and take it to mean they will simply be “protected.”  Christians must be ready for the return of Jesus at any time.  
          This “hour of trial/testing” in vs. 10 is “Daniel’s seventieth week” (Dan. 9:25-27); “The time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7); the seven year tribulation period.  The Lord promises to keep His church out of the future time of testing that will come on unbelievers.  Because the Lord is coming quickly, there is the necessity to “hold fast” to “what they have.”  What do they have?  They have hope, a reward/crown.  Rev. 2:10 defines this crown more specifically as the “crown of life.”  It is the reward for those who faithfully endure to the end, trusting in Christ alone for their salvation.  Jesus counsels them to be “overcomers” in the continued face of opposition.  He promises to make them a “pillar in the temple.”  A pillar represents stability and permanence and immovability.  Often in ancient ruins, the pillars of a structure would be the only thing left standing after a conquering army had destroyed everything else.
          Christ also promises to write on them the “name of God.”  This is a sign of ownership.  All true Christians belong to God.  He says He will write on believers “The name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of Heaven from My God.”  Christians have eternal citizenship in Heaven’s capital, the new Jerusalem described in Rev. 21.  It is ignorance and/or foolishness to live for today only, when all of eternity lies ahead.  The things God has promised to those who love Him are so glorious they make the things of this world grow strangely dim.
         Finally, the Lord promises believers His “new name.”  Jesus’ name represents the fullness of His personhood and in Heaven, all believers will see Him just as He is.  Not in part, but wholly and fully.  To Him who has ears to hear/receive all this, He again admonishes them to do so. 
          There are not many churches these days who are faithful like the church at Philadelphia.  In order to please man and fit in with the world many churches, denominations, pastors, and individual Christians have compromised.  It is easy to stand for biblical truth when most everyone agrees with it, but when they no longer believe it and one church or one Christian has to be that voice of truth it really separates true believers from the crowd.  Jesus Christ is saying to the church of the 21st century “be faithful.”  It is a simple yet profound challenge.

In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

“Philadelphia: The Faithful Church” (Pt. 1) (Aug. 21, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Philadelphia: The Faithful Church” (Pt. 1)
(Aug. 21, 2019)

          Believers are told many times and in many ways throughout Scripture the importance of perseverance.  Perseverance is defined as “Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” (  To persevere is the responsibility of both individual Christians and churches.  If we simply work hard and give our best to do the things the Lord has asked us to do, He will take care of the rest, even if it takes much more time than we expected.  There is often irony in the way the Lord works.   C. S. Lewis, in his sixties, married a lady named Joy Greshem – an American divorcee with two sons.  After she died of cancer, he committed to caring for the boys – but Lewis himself died two years later.  The youngest son, Douglas, later married and moved to Tasmania.  Neither he nor his wife had accepted Christ.  One day, Wheaton College asked Douglas to participate in a tribute to Lewis – and as an honorarium, the college gave him a folio of Lewis’ books on audio tapes.  Douglas’ wife, Mary, began listening to them, and finally, at the age of 40 received Christ into her heart.  Seven years later, through her prayerful diligence, she led her husband to Jesus.  A great example of perseverance!  Too often we expect immediate results and instant gratification but God’s ways are much slower than ours but much more reliable.
          We see the patient character of God revealed in Romans 12:12 where Christians are commended to “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation continuing steadfastly in prayer.”  Above all, God is simply calling on His people; His church to be faithful to His Word and persevere through all the trials/tests/tribulations that come their way.  The church at Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) was doing what the Lord expected of the church.  They are lifted up as an example of faithfulness.  The Lord had nothing negative to say to this church – only positive – unlike the other six churches.
          The name “Philadelphia” means “brotherly love” in Greek.  The city was small and was located about 40 miles southeast of Sardis.  Its location, vineyards, and wine production made it wealthy and commercially significant.  Christ is described as being “holy,” “true,” the one “Who has the key of David,” and the “One who opens and shuts doors.”  His “holiness” means He is “set apart.”  Being “true” speaks to His faithfulness and being one who keeps His word/promises.  Instead of being “false,” He is “true.”  A “key” in Scripture represents authority.  Whoever has a key has control.  As the holder of “the key of David,” Jesus alone has sovereign authority to determine who enters His Messianic kingdom.  Revelation 1:18 reveals to us that Jesus has the keys to death and hell; here He is depicted as having the keys to salvation and all blessings.  Finally, He is identified as He “Who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.”  Here Christ’s omnipotence is emphasized.  In other words, what Christ does cannot be overruled or overpowered by another or higher authority, because there is no one more powerful!  Jesus Christ is the holy, true, sovereign, omnipotent Lord of the church.
          The deed of the church at Philadelphia caused the Lord no concern, which seems amazing; almost too good to be true!  Jesus’ care for them was solely concern for them personally and not concern because of them.  The phrase “I have set before you an open door; and no one can shut it,” in this context, appears to refer to their entrance into Heaven and “The New Jerusalem.”  It is certainly possible this open door also is referring to “service” and “witness.”  In Colossians 4:3 Paul wrote “Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word to speak the mystery of Christ.”  He writes to the Corinthian church “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Cor. 16:9) 
          Despite the fact they had little strength/power they had made a positive impact on this city.  How did they make this impact?  It was by faithfully keeping God’s Word.  Their love for Christ was genuine and it showed.  Further, they had “not denied His name,” in an environment where it would have been quite easy to do so.  Revelation 14:2 describes the tribulation saints who refused to take the mark of the beast saying “Here is the patience/perseverance of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and faith of Jesus.”
          It is never easy to stand faithful to God in the face of persecution, but it is always the right thing to do.  Former U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote in his autobiography “Sometimes when you are doing the right thing, you have to stay strong, steely, and silent, even though you are getting beaten up by others for doing what is right.  Often it takes a long time for the truth to emerge.” (John Ashcroft; Never Again; 229-30)  Perseverance is about being in it for the long haul!  A good friend of mine, and fellow pastor, told me the first time I met him 15 years ago that the church he pastored had been going through what he called “a 5 year purging.”  He was cautiously optimistic about the future but was also battle worn.  His perseverance did pay off though as that church slowly developed, in the years that followed, as a strong and healthy church that looked much like the church at Philadelphia.  It is always right to do the right things and it is always wrong to do the wrong things for reasons we know and for reasons we do not know.

In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Monday, August 12, 2019

“Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 2) (Aug. 12, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 2)
(Aug. 12, 2019)

          In Sardis, as in any other church characterized by deadness, the faithful remnant needed to wake up!  There was no time for indifference in Sardis and there is no time for indifference right now, right here!  Sin and error need confronted head-on.  Spiritual laziness needs to be addressed.  The remnant in Sardis needed to strengthen the things that remain which were about to die.  The Lord basically was encouraging the true Christians at Sardis to fan into flames the dying embers of the remaining spiritual graces in their church.  Further, the faithful remnant needed to “remember what they had received and heard.”  In other words, they needed to get back to the basics/fundamentals when it came to the truth of God’s Word.  These were the teachings of the Apostles; Paul’s letters which had been circulated among the churches; the Gospel of Christ Himself.  Also, after going back to the truths of Scripture, they needed to “keep” them.  Finally, they needed to repent.  With sorrow and remorse, the believers at Sardis were to confess their sins and turn away from them.  This would be true revival. 
          The consequences for them, if repentance did not come would be severe.  He warns them “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.”  This idea of “coming as a thief” carries with it the idea of imminent judgment.  For Sardis or for any other church or any individual believer to escape the stricter judgment of God is to repent and follow God’s truth.
          The white garments the Lord promises to clothe them with symbolizes their Godly character and faithful service.  White represents purity and holiness.   He further promises “He will not erase/blot out his name from the book of life, but will confess his name before the Father and before His angels.”  This is much more of a promise than a threat.  The “book of life” is a register of all living.  In John’s day rulers kept a register of the citizens of a city.  If someone died or committed a serious crime, their name was erased from that register.  Christ here, is promising to never erase a true Christian’s name from the roll of those whose names were “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (13:8)  Rather, Christ will confess every believer’s name before God the Father and before His angels.” 
          Like the other letters to the churches, this letter to Sardis ends with the exhortation “He who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  What then happened to Sardis?  It was strongly argued by Melito, a prominent man who served as bishop at Sardis several decades after John wrote, that at least some revival did take place in Sardis.  Until Christ returns it is not too late for churches and individuals to repent and turn to Christ!
          The church of the twenty-first century is in need of revival more than anything else.  Although, by looking around these days it would seem that “innovation” is the key to success; or at least that is what is most commonly believed.  Many believe with the right music, the right atmosphere, the right style of preaching, the right programs, etc. you can build a church.  It is true you can use technique to draw a crowd; however drawing a crowd and building a healthy New Testament Church are two very different things.  One of the things that leads to deadness in a church is when the crowd of today decays into dead church members tomorrow.  Those made  alive by the Spirit of our God shines brightly for Jesus.  It is essential we be honest with people and encourage them to count the cost just as Jesus encouraged them to do. 

In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

“Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 1) (August 7, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Sardis: The Dead Church” (Pt. 1)

(Aug. 7, 2019)


          Space is almost incomprehensible to our minds.  The nearest stars to the earth are trillions of miles away.  These vast distances forced astronomers to come up with a  new term – “light year.”  It is the distance light travels in the span of one year.  One light year is 6 trillion miles!  If a star thirty light years away from the earth exploded and died five years ago, we could not be able to tell by looking at it for another 25 years!  Though no longer in existence, the light from that star would go on shining as if nothing had changed.  The light at the church of Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6) appeared to be shining, but the church was dead.

          Scripture teaches that sinful mankind, apart from Christ, is dead in trespasses and in sins (Eph. 2).  That same passage also teaches us that God is the one who has “made alive” all those who are spiritually living.  Sometimes the things that appear alive are really dead.  In other words we, as human beings can be fooled.  But, God does not judge things by the way they look on the outside.  He looks at the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7b says “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.”  When the Lord looked at the “heart” of the church at Sardis, He apparently saw a church that was comfortable, content, cold, and coasting.  It was a church that had reputation without reality.  In America today about 80 percent claim to be believers, but the reality of that claim is nowhere to be found.  Jesus, the Great Physician takes the pulse of the church at Sardis and finds none.

           Sardis was located 30 miles southeast of Thyatira.  It had been a capital city (of Lydia).  An emperor worship cult was very active there.  Also, was worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility.  Sardis was a very wealthy city, as gold was refined from the nearby Pactolus River.  It’s location made it almost impervious to being conquered by an outside force.  Probably the wealth and strength of the city led to complacency and ultimately its downfall.  The church was probably founded as an outreach of Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:10).  Christ is described to this church as “He Who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.”  The “seven Spirits” may be reference to the Holy Spirit (7 being a number signifying completeness).  This would perhaps be another way of saying “The Holy Spirit is His total completeness.”  The 7 stars are “the angels of the 7 churches,” which is most likely the pastors of the seven churches.  Jesus sought to remind the Sardis church that they were lacking the Spirit and without the Holy Spirit of God, the church was dead.

          Jesus has no good words to give the whole church; however He does single out a few as being genuine and sincere.  Even in the worst of situations, and even in the most unfaithful churches, there seem to always be a few that are faithful.  A small remnant in Sardis had overcome sin and had demonstrated a true righteousness.  There were a few who had not had their garments soiled/stained with sin.  The Lord Jesus promises these people they will “walk with Him in white, because they are worthy.”

          Through its outward appearance, this church may have fooled many people into thinking it was alive, but they could not fool the Lord.  MacArthur says “Like so many churches today it was defiled by the world, characterized by inward decay, and populated by unredeemed people playing church.” (John MacArthur; MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Revelation Vol. 1; 111)  Spiritual death in the New Testament is always connected with its cause – Sin!  Ephesians 2:1 describes unsaved mankind as those “Who were dead in trespasses and sins.”  The church at Sardis was merely performing deeds; they were going through the motions.  The deeds they did were apparently enough to fool other people, but not enough to fool God.

          Samson, one of the Old Testament Judges, provides a good illustration of the situation in Sardis.  Samson had been empowered by God with great strength to be used for God’s glory.  But Delilah pressed him daily (Judg. 16:16) to reveal the secret of his strength.  Eventually he told her.  She cut his hair and he lost his great strength; not because of getting a haircut, but because of the disobedience to God.  Then the Philistines came to seize Samson; he tried to stop them but they captured him, tied him up, and put out his eyes.  Sadly vs. 20 sums up the tragedy of Samson’s disobedience.  He said “I will go out as before at other times, and shake myself free!’  But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” (Judg. 16:20)  Although Samson was the same man with the same name; his power was gone.  Although Sardis was the same church with the same name; its power was gone.


In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor