Wednesday, February 29, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-29 [Revelations Reassurances] Our Hero

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 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. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

The next section of Revelation (19:11-21:8) forms the Seventh Act and is the penultimate act in the play. It is probably the most difficult section to understand and has been the cause of much debate. Before we get into it, we must re-iterate the keys we've been using to understand Revelation:

1. We're working with a woman-in-labour understanding of history. Revelation doesn't only speak about the end (the birth), but is relevant for every "contraction".

2. We've seen that Revelation is not chronological, but rather that there are different Acts in the play, and, just like there are different witnesses of a car accident (one witness sees a Ford and a Mazda, one sees a red and blue car, another sees a young student driver and an old lady driver etc), there are different perspectives on this "labour."

This section centers around the Champion on a white horse, it describes the defeat of the beast and it describes two periods of 1000 years in which the beast is bound and the saints reign.

After careful reading and cross-referencing with other passages of Scripture, we understand it as follows:

1. The Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus is the heart of God's victory over Satan.

2. Jesus ascension starts a period where Satan is bound and limited in the world and the Christians are able to spread the gospel throughout the world. This is the age of the church and it is the two sets of 1000 years (imprisonment of Satan and reign of the saints) combined.

3. Once all the contractions of the "labour" are complete (symbolic 1000 years are over), Satan will be released to face the Final Judgement.

One of the best analogies to understand this is from World War 2: The victory of World War 2 came from "D-Day", the day the Allied Forces wedged their way onto Europe's mainland on the beaches of Normandy, but it would take months of fighting before they marched into Berlin for "V-Day" when the war would finally be over.

Our D-Day is the Resurrection of Jesus, the V-Day will be when it is all wound up. We are in the 1000 years right now: The power of sin, death and Satan have been broken by the cross and we can proclaim forgiveness and salvation to all who would receive him.

Our best key to this section and our reassurance is the triumphant picture that the opening verses give us: Not "Gentle Jesus meek and mild" but "Christ triumphant and victorious" - OUR Champion and OUR Hero.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-28 [Revelations Reassurances] Evil Personified

3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 This title was written on her forehead:

The next section in Revelation tells the story of the corrupting and oppressive world systems that have been a snare for God's people. The section is about Babylon the Whore (17:1-19:10). There are Seven Words/Poems/Songs and these are marked by the clear rhythmic poetry of funeral dirges.

As we have seen before, God's people have suffered under the cruel and polluting influence of great world systems in their histories. (Egypt, Babylon and Rome.)

John cannot name Rome as the enemy directly: so he alludes to her by telling us the name on her forehead. The first word, "MYSTERY" is our clue that this is a puzzle to be solved. He's telling us that he is writing in code. Babylon is John's code-word for Rome. A few verses later he makes it clear: "This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits..." (v.9) This is a clear reference to Rome as her designation as the city on seven hills is commonplace among Roman writers (e.g., Virgil, Martial, Cicero).

In this section he describes how Babylon corrupts the world in terms of greed, blasphemy, sensuality, corruption, materialism and gross abuses of power.

He goes on to compose a number of "doom songs" which catalogue what will be the destruction Rome and is in fact applicable to many other corrupt regimes throughout history.

The point of this section? To describe evil systems as seductive and corrupting. We should not gloss over this point too quickly. Just one simple example will suffice: Have you noticed how commonplace blasphemy has become in Hollywood's movies? And we pay money to watch movies where the name of Jesus is used as a cuss-word!! (But we don't "make waves" because Babylon has infected our society and people will think us weird)

The doom songs we see in this section indicate that Babylon has extended her seductive claws into the echelons of trade, commerce and power. When she is destroyed some will cheer but many, who have been beguiled by her materialism will weep. Evil can be very seductive and like a drug, we can become addicted to the systems of the world.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, February 24, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-24 [Revelations Reassurances] Stubborn Evil

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. Revelation16:10-11

We get to the fifth section or act of Revelation: "Punishment of the World" (15:5-16:21.) This short section shows how points in history come where evil-doers are so committed to their evil that they continue in it and must be brought down.

There are Seven Bowls of Wrath:
1. Painful sores on those who worship the beast.
2. The sea turning into blood.
3. The rivers turning into the blood because of the martyrs.
4. The sun and moon scorch people.
5. Darkness, but people still don't repent!
6. Three frog-like spirits that deceive the wicked
7. The final battle (Armegeddon)

As one reads these descriptions, one cannot help but be reminded of Moses, Pharaoh and the Ten Plagues. There's the sores, the water-into-blood, the darkness and the frogs.

Babylon also makes its appearance here, and, as we will see next week, is John's codeword for Rome. There's an important historical context here:
- The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt in about 1500BC
- They were in exile in Babylon around 586BC
- They were oppressed by Rome in the first century AD.

Egypt's army was destroyed in the sea ("it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died" Rev16:3)

Babylon was defeated overnight when the Persians blocked the Euphrates (which had served as Babylon's moat) by night and marched in on dry land and sacked Babylon.

Rome was ultimately sacked by the Barbarians.

The point of this "Bowls Section" is to point out that evil may flourish, but it also self-destructs. Pharaoh's arrogance led to his destruction. Babylon was defeated overnight. Rome would still fall.

The bowls are poetic language and describe how evil festers, infects and self-destructs. If one imagines the smoke, flames, trauma and drama of the actual fall of oppressive regimes throughout history (be it Egypt, Babylon, Rome, or the Nazis), one could quite easily imagine the poetic images of seas and rivers of blood and scorching suns and moons.

The real heartache is that the wicked don't repent even when they receive clear warnings and must face their final Armegeddons.
The reassurance we have is that evil will not endure - it will face its Armegeddon.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 23, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-23 [Revelations Reassurances] Beasts and their numbers

1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea.
And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast
16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. Revelation13:1-18

Here we get to one of the chapters in Revelation that has caused much wild speculation and has caused much confusion. Let's look at this briefly:

We are in the section in Revelation that overviews the drama of history of the church, and these visions are firmly rooted in John's own historical experience.

Yesterday we saw how the dragon (Satan) tried to destroy the Child (Christ) but failed. Now he is trying to destroy the woman (the church.)

The dragon calls forth two beasts: one is a figure of authority. The other is the religious system that serves the first beast. In John's historical context, the first beast was Caesar who declared himself as god, and the second beast was Roman culture and military that enforced emperor worship. Christians could be required by law to burn a pinch of incense before the statue of Caesar and bow down before his statue. Failure to do this resulted in exclusion in the marketplace at the very least and being thrown to the lions in the arena at the worst.

The "mark of the beast" is symbolic. If seven is a symbol of God's holiness and perfection then six is to fall short of that. 666 is a trinity of imperfection. It is a "man's number" and Paul reminds us that as far as humankind goes "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." 666 is a human god-wannabe. Wearing the mark of the beast is to worship a god-wannabe.

Many conspiracy theorists have panicked about the barcodes on food, arguing that it is a 666, but the point is that you don't get the mark of the beast by accident, you get it by worshipping the first beast through the system of the second.

A nice example of how this repeats itself through history would be the way Hitler (first beast) set up the Getstapo (second beast) to establish the state church where people sacrificed true faith for obsessive nationalism (the 666).

Throughout history we have seen and will see these beasts and their mark.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-22 [Revelations Reassurances] Bethlehem revisited

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. 4 His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Revelation12:1-6

This passage forms part of the "Fourth Act" of Revelation which is a re-telling of the world's history from a cosmic perspective.

The woman represents Mary, the Israelites and the Church. Her child is Jesus Christ, our Messiah, and the dragon is Satan who misled a third of the angels (stars) and they were flung to the earth.

The dragon's attempt to devour the Child reminds us of Herod and the command to kill all the baby boys. But the Child is destined to rule with an iron scepter (a rule of power and authority) which points towards Christ's victorious resurrection. The "snatching up" refers to the Ascension.

The woman - now representing the church goes into the desert (a place of spiritual shelter) for 1260 which is three-and-a-half years which is half of seven and simply points out that the church goes through periods of trial and tribulation.

In the verses that follow we read that the Dragon and his followers go to war against the armies of heaven and are finally defeated...

So, here we have the story of the history of human-kind.
As John sees it, it all centres around the birth of the Christ-child and hinges on the Church.

While the Bethlehem-baby-in-a-manger narratives of Matthew and Luke are comforting to us, John's cosmic story reminds us of the high stakes and that the birth of Jesus is really really significant.

Maybe it is appropriate that we consider this passage on Ash Wednesday. It is a powerful reminder that Christmas, Lent and Easter are about a war. A war in which God gave His Son and established the Church. We go into Ash Wednesday cognisant that God went to war for us!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-21 [Revelations Reassurances] Persecution in Perspective

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

Just a reminder... We are in the second act: the suffering church (4:1-8:1) John in the control room of heaven. Creation represented in the creatures and the throne is central. Worship features very strongly. The suffering of the church throughout history is explored and there are Seven Seals that are opened.

Suffering has been placed in perspective as we see that it is no-one less than the Lamb of God who opens the seals that represent suffering. We've already seen the horsemen of conflict, chaos, plague and famine each unleashed by an opened seal and now as the fifth seal is opened, we come face to face with the persecution of the church.

We tend to think that the persecution of the church is something that belongs to history, but the facts tell us that more Christians have been killed for their faith in the last 100 years than in the 1900 that came before. Today in North Africa and some other countries people take huge risks by becoming people of faith.

It's hard to think that God allows His church to be persecuted. In order to take the gospel into the corners of the world, the message must go even where it is not welcomed. In these unwelcoming corners, God's people pay a great price to live out the good news.

They are depicted as being in a privileged position - under the altar because their sacrifices are aligned to what Christ has done for us. In faith they cry out "How long?" and are given a white robe and encouraged to wait and endure.

The white robes represent blessedness, purity and belonging.

Persecution is a tough reality of the life of the church. It is OK for us to cry out "How Long?"
God doesn't always rescue us from persecution, but those who are persecuted are placed under the altar: They are very close to Jesus. They are robed in white because their suffering has brought them to a place of close dependence on God.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, February 17, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-17 [Revelations Reassurances] Suffering in Perspective

"Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Revelation5:2-7

This section of Revelation deals with the suffering of the church over the ages. This is symbolised by a scroll with seven seals on it. The seals represent aspects of the suffering church: The white, red, black and pale horses of conquest, conflict, famine and plague; the cries of the persecuted and earthquakes.

Here in the opening of the seals we are offered a breath-taking and beautiful picture:
John is weeping because no-one can open the scroll - suffering is not something we can afford to be glib about. One doesn't want to stick cheap plaster on serious wounds. Whoever opens the seals can't be a lightweight.

Suffering is something we struggle with and whomsoever deigns to open the seals of suffering needs to have the necessary integrity, authority and comprehension of our struggle with the pain, violation and anguish that suffering causes us.

So who is capable enough to open the seals and the scroll??
Who has the credibility and integrity to open these tough seals of suffering in a worthy way??

John gets his answer: "'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne."

Jesus is worthy to open the painful seals of suffering!
- He is the Lion of Judah who has taken on suffering and overcome
- He is the Lamb who was slain - He has tasted the worst of suffering
- He has sent the Holy Spirit ("seven spirits") into our hearts to comfort us.

Suffering is a theological, philosophical, and emotional heavyweight. We dare not risk cheap answers.
The good and beautiful news of Revelation is that Jesus our Champion takes on the heavyweight of suffering and, at great cost, overcomes and comforts you and me.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 16, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-16 [Revelations Reassurances] The Structure of Revelation

REV 6:1 I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Revelation6:1

Before we can continue with our journey through Revelation, we need to understand its structure. It is a mistake to think that the material in Revelation is arranged chronologically. It is not the case that the things described in ch.16 necessarily follow the things described in ch.12. It's like a movie where you jump between different locations and characters until it all comes together in the grand finale.

Michael Wilcock*, in one of the best commentaries on Revelation that I have ever read, argues that John has written Revelation like a play with 8 Acts. Each act reviews the story of God's dealing with humanity from a certain perspective. To get the full picture, we need to put all the perspectives next to each other. Each of the eight Acts have 7 scenes/themes/symbols/motifs.

I have provided a rough breakdown of the Acts and Scenes below... but what is the point of all this technical stuff???
It's to show that Revelations is relevant whether we live in 1st century or the 21st.

We have already been challenged by the first Act which looks at the Church in the world. Although the seven letters were written to actual historical churches, we saw how relevant their struggles are to ours...

So, let's give thanks for John who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave us an amazing set of pictures to help us grasp how God works in our world.

Here are the eight Acts and their seven sub-divisions
1. The church in the world: 1:9-3:22
Describes the condition of the church in the world.
Seven Letters to Churches in Asia Minor.

2. The suffering church: 4:1-8:1
John in the control room of heaven. Creation represented in the creatures and the throne is central. Worship features very strongly. The suffering of the church throughout history is explored.
There are Seven Seals that are opened.

3. Warnings to the World: 8:2-11:18
Explores the warnings God gives to the evil world throughout history.
There are Seven Trumpets blown

4. Drama of History: 11:19-15:4
Shows what is going on in history: The coming of Christ, the growth of the church, the reality of the enemy: 2 Beasts
There are Seven Visions or Scenes.

5. Punishment of the World: 15:5-16:21
Shows how points in history come where evil-doers are so committed to their evil that they continue in it and must be brought down.
There are Seven Bowls of Wrath

6: Babylon the Whore: 17:1-19:10
This scene focusses in on the destruction of evil. Babylon represents evil and oppressive world systems throughout history.
There are Seven Words/Poems/Songs

7: The Drama Behind History 19:11-21:8
Shows what is going on behind history: Highlights the key players and events.
There are Seven Visions

8: Jerusalem the Bride 21:9-22:19
This is what lies beyond history. This is our hope.
The are Seven Revelations

* Wilcock, M The Message of Revelation, Series: The Bible Speaks Today, J.W. Stott (Editor), IVP, 1975.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-15 [Revelations Reassurances] The THRONE

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being. (Rev4:11)

You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.(Rev5:9) Revelation4:11-5:9

The whole of Revelations chapter four is a description of God's throne in heaven. The One sitting on the throne shines like a jewel and an emerald-like rainbow encircles the throne. There are four living creatures who represent the whole of creation worshipping around the throne and there are twenty four elders who lay down their crowns before Him and say "You are worthy..."

After starting with the church and the call to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, John now devotes a whole chapter to the idea that God is on the throne and should be worshipped.

Why is worship so important?
Because it is the best way to deal with the obvious reality:
God is _so_ big and _so_ good that to do anything other than worship would be an inadequate response.

John uses the word "worthy" in ch.4 and 5. In chapter four he argues that God is worthy of our praise because of creation. In chapter five he shows us that God is worthy of our praise because He alone was able to save us.

God is WORTHY: He created atoms, molecules, quarks and quasars. He lit the fires of the sun and spoke oceans and rivers into being. He paints sunsets and knits babies together in the womb. Whether we discover a universe in our microscopes or in our telescopes, we know it all comes from Him and when our jaws drop at the beauty of the mountains or the power of the tsunami, we recognise that the "Lord God made it all."

But there's more: He was slain! He entered our humanity and came to explain Himself to us in words and in actions that we were able to understand and then He let us crucify Him. There on the cross, He embraced our failure to worship and carried our resulting brokenness on Himself. Then He triumphed over that darkness and brought life to you and me.

Worship is celebrating God's "worth-ship" and John shows us that this just makes sense!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-14 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 7: Laodicea - Lukewarm

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation3:15-20

Laodicea was a very successful trading and banking city positioned on the most important trade route in Asia Minor. It's citizens were so rich that when the city experienced a terrible earthquake, the city refused help from Rome in the rebuilding. They also farmed sheep that produced a luxurious glossy black wool that was used to mass-produce an outergarment for which Laodicea was well known. They also produced an eye-salve that was very popular amongst healers throughout the empire.

The Lord Jesus writes them a tough letter: there is nothing positive about the church in Laodicea.
They are indifferent, inbetween, indecisive and ineffective: LUKEWARM.

It was in their successes that their failures lay.

They thought they were wealthy, clothed and of good-sight. But spiritually they were poor, naked and blind.

Jesus counsels them to get three things:
-Gold refined by fire - be willing to suffer for your faith
-White clothes - pursue righteousness rather than mediocrity
-Salve - Initially eye salve burns and so does facing up to the truth

Here's His challenge to them:
"19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

Materialism, comfort and independence are some of our greatest enemies. When we are not aware of our need for Christ, we tend to live our own lives, becoming indifferent, inbetween, indecisive and ineffective: LUKEWARM.

Let's remember that we were once poor, naked and blind and that in spite of our material comfort, we still desperately need Christ.
Andre' Steenekamp sent me this stunning weblink that lets you look at pictures of these seven churches.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, February 10, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-10 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 6: Philadelphia - Enduring

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. Revelation3:11-12

Philadelphia (Modern day Alashehir) was a city of commercial importance conveniently located as the gateway to the provinces of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia. Its gateway position was by design as it was built to broadcast Greek Culture to these provinces and by 19AD many in these regions had completely adopted Greek Culture. The city was plagued by persistent and frightening aftershocks of a great earthquake that took place in 17AD.

Jesus commends this congregation: Like the city, they have an open door of ministry in front of them and although they have little strength, they have kept and shared the faith in spite of strong opposition.

What does Jesus have to say to this enduring congregation?
- He is coming soon: the people in Philadelphia had learned to live in readiness for the persistent aftershocks. Jesus' coming will be as unexpected as the aftershocks and we should be ready.

- Hold on to what you have: So often we concentrate on what we don't have. Jesus isn't concerned about what we DON'T have. He would like us to use what we DO have. I hear many people say "I can't preach like so-and-so" or "I can't lead like such-and-such." But God asks us to use what we have. His gifts to us are our crowns if we use them to His glory!

- Overcomers are pillars: In Philadelphia, the frequent aftershocks meant that pillars were needed to strengthen the buildings. When your buildings were dodgy and the aftershock came, you would have to run out onto the street for safety. But overcomers are pillars and if your building has pillars you don't have to flee ("leave") to the open when the shaking comes!

Overcomers are those who recognise that Jesus is coming and use what they have to serve Him and He makes them pillars to His glory.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 9, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-09 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 5: Sardis - Snoozing

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Revelation3:1-3

The city of Sardis has an amazing history. It had an impregnable geographic position which made besieging it a pretty hopeless task. But Sardis was twice defeated by small groups of soldiers who mounted a stealth mission to go up a crack in the mountainside and on reaching the top, they found the city gates unguarded and let their comrades in.

The city of Sardis had a reputation of becoming flabby, lazy and complacent in the wake of their past successes. They lacked discipline and were disorganised: Trusting in their past successes, they were asleep in the light.

Sadly, the Church in Sardis seemed doomed to repeat its home-city's mistakes.
- They looked alive, but were pretty much dead.
- The little bit of life they had was slipping away.
- They had very little to show in terms of action.

But they didn't need anything new: they didn't need a new preacher, a new course, or a new angle - they just needed to go back to what they had received and heard. They had all they needed, but they were asleep in the light and needed to wake up.

It seems that one of the church's greatest enemies is comfort and success. The church in Sardis wasn't being persecuted and there were no false teachers misleading them. They had simply fallen asleep. They were flabby, lazy and complacent.

Have we become like this? We have been blessed by God and have enjoyed peace and prosperity and this has lulled us to sleep. We look alive, but actually we are dead. The Risen Christ urges us to:
1. REMEMBER: Go back to simple basics (don't chase "new" novelties)
2. OBEY: Put those simple basics back into action.
3. REPENT: Make sure we don't fall asleep again.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-07 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 4:Thyatira - Flirting

Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her (Jezebel's) teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come.

This letter is unusual: it is the central letter and the longest, but the historical city of Thyatira is not nearly as noteworthy or influential as the others. The most notable feature was that it was on a prominent trade-route and there were a number of trade-guilds that dealt in purple-dyed woven linen.
(Lydia, dealer in purple cloth, converted in Acts16:14, came from Thyatira.)

Jesus commends the congregation for their service and perseverance which came from their love and faith, but he is concerned about a "Jezebel" who leads the congregation into idolatry and immorality. Even more concerning was a notion that in order to defeat Satan one had to enter his stronghold, i.e., experience evil deeply.

In all likelihood, the scenario was that the various trade-guilds would hold banquets in the temples where food would be dedicated to idols and as the wine flowed the immorality started. Not attending these meals would take Christians out of the business "loop."

There are many parallels today: think of the businessman who is tempted to go for drinks with the guys in the office after work and the trouble that often comes from that.

So, there may have been prominent women who were in the linen business, like Lydia was, but who said "It's not so bad, you can go, after all, you don't know whether your faith is firm unless you have tested it!

It's kind of like the teenager who, when caught, said "Yes I am smoking, but I'm not inhaling it into my lungs..."
If you read the whole letter, it portrays a fierce picture of Christ and delivers an urgent message: You can't play on the Devil's Playground and think you won't get hurt.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, February 3, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-03 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 3: Pergamum - Compromising

13 I know where you live--where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Revelation2:14-16

Pergamum had long been a capital city and was once famous for its great library (the word "parchment" is derived from "Pergamum" *) and culture with a temple to Zeus and Asclepsios. Pergamum was also the administrative centre of Asia Minor, making it the place where Caesar worship was promoted and enforced from. This is why Jesus identifies it as the place "where Satan has his throne."

Jesus commends them for being faithful - they live (without running away) in the most dangerous city in Asia Minor. Even when Antipas, one of their leaders, was martyred - they continued to "hang in there."

But there is a concern: Jesus is concerned that they are being tempted to compromise - Baalam and the Nicolaitians are one and the same - both promoted having an "open mind" toward idols and sexual immorality. This form compromise had two key thoughts:
"Go with the flow - don't make waves" and
"If it feels good - do it."

Jesus is greatly concerned at their compromise - He is concerned that they have lost their grip on the truth. Keeping ourselves away from idols and away from licentious living are core-values for those who have their eyes on Christ.

The threat against the church in Pergamum is probably the most relevant to us today. We have a strong history of giants of the faith who have taken their stand, but day-to-day the thoughts and value systems of everyday Christians are being eroded as we are tempted by the idols of wealth, materialism and social acceptance. And while this is going on the media bombards us with sensuality that is far removed from the secure foundation of love and marriage.

Jesus warns that He will come to combat these with the "sword of His mouth" - this is a reference to His Word and we are reminded that solid Biblical Teaching is the antidote to compromise.

Are you clear on where you are being pressured to compromise? If you throw a frog into a pot of hot water, he hops out. Heat the water slowly and he doesn't realise he's in trouble until it's too late...

* The interesting background here is that Pergamum tried to seduce the leading scholar at the library in Alexandria to come to their library. The Egyptians, enraged at this, refused to export papyrus to Pergamum forcing them to invent parchment.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 2, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-02 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 2: Smyrna - Faithful

2 These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

When I look at how easily I complain and get discouraged, I feel a bit like a "Spiritual Wimp" when I look at that challenges that were faced by the church in Smyrna.

The city of Smyrna was the jewel of Asia Minor. It was a city that had been destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch - one of the few cities that had been properly surveyed, planned and laid out. Although it was a free city, it's residents were fiercely loyal to Rome and there was a large Jewish Population.

The letter to Smyrna speaks of the afflictions (Greek: "Huge Pressure") and poverty (literally "destitution") of the church. It speaks of the strong resistance and persecutions that they experienced.

What is chilling is how prophetic this letter turned out to be. Some sixty years after this letter was written, the Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna was put to death by burning and in the account of this we read that the Jews brought wood for the fire even though it was a Sabbath. (This is why the letter speaks of the Synagogue of Satan.)

What rattles my cage is the brevity of the letter. It is terse and crisp - kind of like orders passed on a battlefield. Jesus doesn't spend a lot of time saying "O shame, you poor dears going through such a tough time..."

Here are the key thoughts:
1. Smyrna was rebuilt, but Jesus died and rose again!
2. God knew their suffering and poverty.
3. They experienced a richness of faith in spite of the challenges.
4. There's more trouble coming - so brace yourselves!
5. Be faithful and you'll receive His reward.

The letter to Smyrna reminds me that I have no right to plain sailing or smooth roads. It reminds me that faith requires courage and perseverance. And it reminds me that my ultimate hope lies not in this life's comfort, but the eternal life that Jesus offers me.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-02-01 [Revelations Reassurances] Letter 1: Ephesus - Lovelost

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. Revelation2:4-5

The first congregation to receive a letter is in Ephesus. It was a great and busy city with a congregation founded by Paul, pastored by Timothy and later by John himself. Legend has it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was buried there.

The congregation worked hard and were diligent. Jesus recognises this in the early part of the letter: "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary."

But hard work and good doctrine faded away in the light of the basic diagnosis: heart-sickness. They had forsaken their first love. Going through the motions had become the order of the day.

Sometimes this is us too. We are adept at the rituals and traditions, we say the right things, attend the services and meetings, but the thought of the cross doesn't take our breath away and privilege of worship doesn't make us want to lift our hearts and hands.

There is a prescription for the "lovelost condition."
1. _R_emember what it was like when you first understood God's love.
2. _R_epent of the things that distracted you. (Repent means "turn around.")
3. _R_e-do the things you did when you were "love-full."

As with many prescriptions, it's pretty obvious and simple, but if we follow it, the results are a heart that starts to come alive again.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at