The Book of Revelation

Program # 3 

by: Ronald L. Dart

"I John, your brother, and fellow partaker in the tribulation, and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus. {10} I was in the spirit in the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like the sound of a trumpet, {11}saying, "Write in the book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea." (Revelation 1:9-11).

Thus begins that mysterious book, the book of Revelation, the one that we look at and wonder what does all this mean? What are the signs and what are the symbols? How do we understand it?

The Book of Revelation is a Letter

Actually, it's relatively simple in places because all it is, is a letter. A letter to seven churches and the seven churches are named. These are really, quite specific in their address, they go to seven, and only seven and one might ask, why only seven? And why these seven? For in truth, there were a number of other churches in Asia, at the time this epistle was written. It was written to these churches, by name and to no other. Why?

Down through the years, scholars have pondered this question but, of course, seven is the number of completeness in the Bible and it tends to mean 'whole' and they wondered what does this mean? They think probably it is somehow a mystical reference to the whole church. Some scholars like Jay A. Seitz in his book, "The Apocalypse and the Scofield Reference Bible" look at it as church eras. In other words, these are seven successive eras of the Church of God down through time. The Church at Ephesus represents the apostolic church until the persecutions of around 250 A.D. The Church of Smyrna, which is the one that follows next, is the church of the persecution that lasted from 250 A.D. to Constantine around 316 A.D.

After that, most of the historical distinctions are very vague and actually I'd have to say rather arbitrary as well. It's very difficult and of course doing a post hoc, that is after-the-fact, evaluation of well, this church was Pergamum and this church was Thyatira and this church was, and so you go. How do you know? How can you prove it? How can you put any real reliance on this type of thing.

This Letter Is Written to the Seven Churches

But the fact is that, if we bear in mind that the book of Revelation is written to these people who are called the servants of God and it is written to show His servants things which must shortly come to pass, then we really got to look at the seven churches as seven contemporaneous churches. By 'contemporaneous,' I mean contemporaneous with John and contemporaneous with one another. They are there, they are real, they are real people who meet there with them every week, they get together, they have fellowship together. They do things, they know things, they know people. John knows them and probably could call some of them by name. I gather they might have been his parishioners at one time.

And so this letter is written to the seven churches. However, we have to also understand that Revelation reaches out a lot further than the first century.

The events of history in the first century that are taking place in the Roman Empire, and the events that are taking place in the seven churches, there are very specific people that are mentioned and named and the events, are themselves, a model. We take this, the seven churches that he mentions here, to be typical of the whole church. The whole church when? There is one thing, that is inescapable, as you read through the book of Revelation. It is about the 'day of the Lord' or the 'Lord's day,' the day of God's wrath. The day of God's vengeance. It's about the end time and so it's not hard to see how these seven churches could be laid out before us and analyzed for us in a way or spoken to us as they are, as a model of the entire church or the whole church at the end time.

Who Is Speaking To John?

Now John continues and he says in verse 12 of Revelation 1, "I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands {13} and in the middle of the lampstands was one like the Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet and girded across his breast with a golden girdle."

That of itself is remarkable, but then he says verse 14, "His head and His hair were white, like white wool, like snow, his eyes were like a flame of fire. {15} His feet were like burnished bronze, when it had been caused to glow in a furnace."

Now John is struggling here, because he has never in his life seen anything like what he is seeing. He says it's a man. He is clothed, he has a girdle as it were of gold around his breast. He has a robe that reaches all the way to his feet. He has feet. He has a head, and He has hair.

All these things are there, but he says His feet were like burnished bronze that was red hot as it were, caused to glow in the furnace, so I would assume they were glowing. John says, {15} "His voice was like the sound of many waters," like the roar of the waterfall, perhaps, {16} And in His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in its strength."

You can't look at it, you put up your eyes and you have to look away and you have spots in front of your eyes for some time afterwards.

We need Steven Spielberg here to draw this picture and we need all the special-effects people to put this person here that John saw, His face shone like the sun in its strength. His feet were glowing like burnished brass. We've got something here that is, as they might say in science fiction, pure energy.

Clothes girded with hands, with feet and He held seven stars in His hand and He has a sharp two-edged sword coming out of his mouth. All this of course is very symbolic.

John says in verse 17, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man!"

Well, so would I and so would you! The very idea of suddenly turning around and confronting a vision like this, an apparition like this, would be more, I think, than most of us would be able to handle, something that we have never seen. It imprinted on John's mind so that he never forgot it. He was able to sit down, and who knows how much later, and write out for us a description of what it was he saw and we are left to try to understand, what is the message in his holding the seven stars in his right hand and what is the message of Him standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands.

What is the whole idea behind this, the two-edged sword out of His mouth. This is not to hard to find in the Bible. The Bible is like a sharp two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It says that cutting God's word is cutting asunder to the truth and so that is not difficult.

The rest of it. John gets an explanation from the one He saw a little bit later.

Continuing in verse 17, 'And this one that John saw, "Laid His right hand upon John saying "Don't be afraid. I am the first and the last, {18} the living one. I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and hell."

Who is this? Well, it is the risen Christ, of course, there's no question about that in the Bible.

Jesus Has the Keys to Unlock Death and the Grave

"I am the living one. I was dead," graveyard dead, buried, cold, gone, "but look, I am alive forevermore, and what's more important, I have got the keys. I can actually unlock death. I can unlock hell, that is the grave, and I can let people who are held there, out!"

By His resurrection, Jesus gained power over death, power over the grave, and He can unlock them forevermore.

Jesus says to John in Revelation 1 verse 19, "Write, Therefore, the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things."

Now that's interesting because John has seen only a little so far, and he will write that down. Write what you have seen, write the things that are, in other words, John was writing, out of a specific historical context, and I think when we come to the letters, the specific letters to the seven churches of Asia which will follow in chapter 2 of Revelation, we will find that we are dealing with the things which are, and He also then says, "Write the things which shall take place after these things."

Unfortunately, Jesus doesn't tell us how long after, He doesn't tell us when these things might be coming to pass, but He does let us know, in this passage, that He is dealing with current events, current history, things which are, and that these things are going to be types of things which are going to come to place later.

Mystery of the Seven Stars and Seven Golden Lampstands

Then Jesus says in Revelation 1 verse 20, "As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."

Now this is handy in a lot of ways because not only does it clear up two quick mysteries for us so we understand what they are. It lets us know that a great deal of the things that are are going to be following on the heels of this, are in the same category. We are not looking at lampstands, of which he saw in the vision, but that's not what they were about. The seven lampstands were the seven churches.

Now since Jesus is pictured as standing in the midst of the seven lampstands, there is a clear implication that He is standing in the midst of the whole church. This is all there is. This is representative of the entire church. We can say it is representative of the entire church in any age, we can say it is representative of the entire church down through history, but the one thing seems to be very clear in Revelation, that it is a type of the entire church at the time of the very end.

The First Letter Is Written to the Church at Ephesus

Then begins chapter 2 in which John outlines the letters, the separate letters that were written by this one, to each of the seven churches of Asia.

The first letter is written to the church at Ephesus, but I think it's useful as we approach each of these letters to bear in mind, that this was a real letter, written to a real church, in real time with real people on the ground in the city of Ephesus in Asia minor, in the first century.

Let's begin reading this letter in Revelation 2 and verse 1, and it says, "Unto the angel of the Church in Ephesus write, "The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lampstands says this, "I know your deeds. I know your hard work. I know your perseverance. I know you. I know what you're doing. I know who you are."""

One thing that is worth also noting as you start into these letters is, the letters are addressed to the angel of the Church in Ephesus. I guess we can conclude from that, that this church had an angel. What was it a guardian angel, a guiding angel, a protecting angel, a directing angel, a teaching angel? We don't know. There really is nothing to tell us at all. But there is a spirit world out there and we do know that there are angels who go to and from the throne of God and who do work for Him.

These seven angels which are presented before God, seem to have various responsibilities and certain things happen under their command. And yet, even though each of these churches may have an angel, by the way, there are many commentators who believe that the word 'angel' should be 'messenger' and that what it is really doing is writing the letter to the Bishop of the Church in Ephesus rather than to some spirit angel off somewhere.

I don't think that's altogether important because, as you read these letters, it becomes very apparent that they are directed not merely at a leader and not merely at an angel, they are directed to the people of the church and the things that they did or in some cases, the rather serious things that they didn't do.

So keep in mind that this church is a real church on the ground in Asia minor, but that is a model of the Church of God or a part of the Church of God, at the very end time.

And this is what He says, {2} "I know your deeds. I know your hard work. I know your perseverance. I know that you cannot endure evil men, and that you put to test those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be false."

The Apostle Paul Gives a Warning to the Church in Ephesus

Now there are some very interesting things about this. For one thing, this is a church that the apostle Paul met with, he actually started the church, he went back there, once upon a time and called the elders of the Ephesian church down to meet him on the beach as he was on his way to Jerusalem. He had for those men at that day, a very special message.

There may be some value in giving a warning. The apostle Paul had called the elders of the Ephesian church down to meet him on the shoreline in Asia minor, not that far from Ephesus, but it was easier for them to meet him than for him to go to them. He had something he wanted to tell them. One thing that had been growing in Paul's mind, one thing to become very clear to him, was the way human nature worked in the church, not only human nature, but they also had to deal with the devil as well, as if either one of them were not enough.

Paul called these elders down there and he said, "I have to tell you some things I'm concerned about." He said in Acts 20 and verse 29, "I know that after my departing, because I probably will not see you again. I'm going to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit says that "imprisonment awaits me there." I think this may be the last time we ever talk and I am afraid that after my departing, grievous wolves are going to enter in, not sparing the flock, {30} and also, of your own selves shall men rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves."

Now the men who heard Paul say this, must've looked at one another and probably reacted with disbelief. They had love for one another. They were elders together in the church, they had sacrificed, worked, they had suffered persecution for the name of Jesus and the thought of one of their own going away and speaking perverse things and drawing away disciples and dividing the church was something a little beyond what they were able to handle. I doubt that they believed Paul, at least initially, they were very concerned and they wept, when they prayed with him as he left.

They were sorrowing, most of all, because he had said he wouldn't see their face anymore, but I suspect that after his departure, they gave some thought to his warning because included in that warning was the only antidote he gave to it, and that was, that they would be diligent, that they would work hard, that they would preach, teach, exhort, that they would really ground the church in the truth.

He didn't tell them that the way to protect the church was by putting together some sort of a police force in the church, to keep these people out. He didn't establish some methodology, some system whereby heresy could be crushed and dealt with and people put out and disfellowshipped and marked and avoided and shunned. He did not give anything like that. All he told them was, you inoculate the people against these things by teaching them the truth and by teaching them well.

What Did Jesus Says To The Church in Ephesus?

Here we are much later and Jesus says to the Church in Ephesus, in Revelation 2 verse 2, "I know your deeds and your hard work and your perseverance and I know that you cannot endure evil men, and that you have put to test those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you found them to be false, you found them liars."

So, to some extent it worked, but the fact is that if you really have a grip on the truth, if you really are immersed in the Bible, if you really do know what the Bible says, it is much more difficult for deception, for lies, to get inside your head and to turn you away from the faith, to turn you away from God, and to cause you to fall away from those things which God has given you, in which God has taught you.

So Paul saw that it was important that that work be done and here in John's epistle to the church at Ephesus, we find indications that it had worked.

Jesus says, "I know all these things about you and I know that you have persevered. You have not been the type to give up, you have endured for my namesake and you have not grown weary."

Now that's easy to do, when you struggle over a long period of time. One of the things that happened so easily is that you just get tired of the struggle and the desire to give up and to quit is sometimes almost overwhelming.

He says, "You haven't done that, you had perseverance, you have endured for my namesake and you have not grown weary."

Folks, these people faced a lot more difficulty in being true to Jesus' name than you and I today in the 21st. century would have been true in Jesus' name.

You Have Left Your First Love

In verse four of Revelation 2, Jesus says this, "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

Now that's strange, because He has just told them, "I know your deeds, your hard work, your perseverance, you can't stand evil men, you have endured. You have not grown weary. Man, what does it take to not have left your first love? What could possibly be involved here. Well, the truth is, it is awfully easy to be busy. You can be working hard, you know, and not be accomplishing very much. There is a very large difference between activity, on the one hand, and real work on the other, as many companies find out, much to their sorrow.

You know a lot of churches get very busy. I remember a church that I was a member of once, I mean we would have a meeting of the young boys on Monday night. We would have a meeting of the women's missionary alliance on Tuesday night and on Wednesday night you had prayer meeting on Thursday night you had a girls auxiliary meeting and on Friday night you had something else going on. There finally came a time after this had been going on for a few months, that everybody said, "Hold on!" And they established what they called a Family Night. One night a week when nobody in the church was allowed to schedule any events, so everybody could stay home with their family on that one night of the week.

I can easily see that the first century Ephesian church, being busy with something going on nearly all the time, then what can Jesus possibly mean when He says, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love." Love! LOVE is a very specific word, I think, you can talk about love of God, the love of your brother in the church, in truth those things are almost impossible to separate. We are told that if you can't love your brother whom you can see, how can you expect you to believe you're going to love God whom you can't see (1 John 4:20).

The connection between love of a brother and love of God is pretty hard to break. And He makes no distinction here when He talks about having left your first love. He said, "You have left your first love!" Is it possible that we could confuse activity with worship? If we could confuse busyness with love then we could confuse just the simple projects that we get involved with religion and that somehow in the course of life, we allow the affection to slip away. We allow the warmth to go by the wayside, we allow the caring to disappear and we do things mechanically, we do things because we scheduled to do them. We do things because it's our turn, as opposed to doing things out of love and affection and caring.

We can get to the place where we tithe because it's the thing to do, its automatic, we've always done it. We get to the place where we pray because we have a discipline of 1/2 hour day or 15 minutes a day or three times a day or whatever your discipline is, and you're there, not so much because you yearn for God, not so much because you have a desire to be with Him, not because your heart is full and you want to pour out your heart and your soul before God, but because you're supposed to pray. If I don't pray, God will get me or things go wrong. My life won't work, so I've got to do it. It's the thing that I'm supposed to do and I'll participate in the food drive, because it's a church activity and it's nice that these poor people out there get the food at the other end of it, but somehow there's not the love, the affection, the compassion that might be there.

So He says to this Church in Ephesus, "You have been hard workers. You had a lot of perseverance. You can't endure evil men, you have endured and you have not gotten tired, but somehow along the way, the love has leaked out the cracks and He says to them, {5} "Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at the first, or else I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent."

"Remember therefore from where you are fallen." Yes, I can remember the feeling. Yes, I can remember how I felt. I can remember the urgency that I had. I remember the joy that I had. I remember the love of the brethren and how much I enjoyed being with them and I remember the love of God. You can't remember what you never had. And you can't repent and do the deeds you did at the first unless you did those deeds at the first, and so that there are deeds involved in love is a given. Isn't it? To repent and do the deeds you did at first, in order that the love you had at the first might be demonstrated or shown. Now that's there. That's a part of it.

Then Jesus said, {5} "If you don't do this, I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent."

Be A Light

That is sobering to think about. What it suggests is that a church, that is a true body of believers, who belong to Christ, could stop doing that. They can lose their place, they could no longer be the church, they could no longer be a people who are a light for God, because that's the whole idea, you know, behind the lampstand or candlestick. You actually light the thing and you put it up where people can see it and it gives light to the whole house. To use Jesus' example, He said, "You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:14), and so these churches which are lights in the world, they are lights in their community, they are supposed to have an effect on their community, they are supposed to light up the area about them. Remember this, each of these churches was a light in a town. They were not a light everywhere. So our job is to have an effect on our community.

If God Hates Something, Then We Need to Hate It Too

Jesus went on to say in Revelation 2 verse 6, "You do have this one thing, you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate."

Now we don't know much about the Nicolaitanes, but we know this, if God hates something, we need to get on His side. {7} He who has an ear," Jesus continued, "let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

So if you have an ear on either side of your head, this is for you, "To him that overcomes, I will grant to eat the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God."


He will get to live forever, who will? Him that overcomes!

What do you mean overcome? Overcoming is something we need to do. We do it with the help of God's spirit, God grants us His spirit, God gives us direction, He empowers us, and then He challenges us. The challenge can come from anywhere, but the question is, will you win? Will you overcome? Will you meet the challenge or will you rollover? The fact is, when we think about it, in our modern language, a good synonym for ‘overcoming’ is 'winning.'

Jesus said, {7} "To him that overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life."

In other words, I will give eternal life to the winners! Do you think that God plans to spend eternity in the company of a bunch of losers? There is a funny thing about Christians, it's almost as though we think Christians are supposed to lose, that God doesn't really expect us to win. But the fact is, here it is right on the pages of your Bible, God expects us to win. So why finish out your days here on this planet as a loser, that's not God's will.

Until next time, this is Ronald Dart reminding you, "You Were BORN to WIN!"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This article was transcribed with

minor editing from a Born to Win Radio Program by: Ronald L. Dart

Titled: The Book of Revelation -Program #3

Transcribed by: bb 4-30-23


Ronald L. Dart was an evangelist and is heard daily and weekly on his Born to Win radio program. 
The program can be heard on over one hundred radio stations across the nation.

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