(From Revelation 1 and 2)
By Iverna Tompkins
Transcribed by Jane Vaughn
As I was prayerfully seeking God for a message to bring to this particular meeting of Pastors and church leaders, I had a number of thoughts race through my mind, but I had to know: “God, what would You have me say to them?”
We could talk about transition – but we’ve been talking about transition for how long now? “The Body of Christ is in transition, moving from one season to another.” Or we have heard: “I personally am in transition right now. It’s such a hard place to be – sort of not knowing…” You know what they’re talking about: “birthing.” That’s the difficult and painful time before the emergence of something wonderful and new – we hope. :-) And it really is a hard place to be.
We also have been talking about Jesus’ return – since I was a little girl. I was just certain the Lord was going to come back then! I’m still voting “Yes!” by the way. :-) “Come Lord Jesus!” Sometimes I think we want Him to return just so we can get out of our messes! :-)
Then, speakers have been promising so many different things as we go to all the conferences and meetings. I like to go to hear those that promise what I want. :-) And the truth is, there are many people who are doing just that – making promises the people want to hear! I like to listen to ministers who are saying: “There’s coming a great Revival! It’s on the horizon! We are going to be successful! (“this time,” is implied!) And all the promises God made to us are going to be fulfilled!” Those are my kind of ministers! :-) I love to hear all that!
The other day, however, I found myself being really honest with God. Do you ever have those moments? :-) I was reading that passage of Scripture which I know better than to read! :-) It says, “If you run with the footmen and he has wearied thee, what will you do in the day of the Jordan and its rising?” (Jer.12:5). What will you do? Now, Jordan – has to do with “judgment.” Jors– is “spread out” and Dan is “judge.” So, we can understand this: “What are you going to do in the day of spread out judgment?”
I read it again and declared, “Lord, You said, ‘If you run with the footman and he has wearied thee…’” Well, I have – and he has! :-) And I detect by your little chuckle that you are with me in that. :-) But I think it’s really true. I think we are weary. We’re doing well… :-) (cf. Gal.6:9) – but I know there is a weariness that has set in, especially on leaders in the Body of Christ.
I have good news and bad news for you. :-) Which do you want first? The bad? Okay – the bad news is – it isn’t going to let up. :-) The good news is – neither is the Lord! Hallelujah! He has no intention of letting up on our behalf! That which is pure and holy and bright is going to be purer and holier and brighter still, because the separation is taking place. (And some of us say, “Finally!”)
Many of the younger ones in Church history have grown up during “gray” days. That’s when what was considered sin depended on what church (or denomination) you attended. That’s a sad comment! But I’m here to tell you now that the Lord has changed that situation into a new season. It will be a season of clarification. You won’t have to look to someone else and say, “Is this wrong…?” “Pastor, is it wrong to do this?” “Is it wrong, Counselor, to do that?” You won’t have to do that any more! We are going to know! It’s going to be absolutely clear. God is sharply defining according to His standard.
When I was meditating with the Lord about this message, I felt He laid out something so familiar to you. I strongly doubt that most speakers, Pastors, or traveling Ministers, haven’t spoken from Revelation 1 and 2. I’m relatively certain you have studied this for yourselves, but that is our text for today.
Let’s read Revelation 1:9-17 for our foundation: “I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands. And in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girded about the breasts with a golden girdle. His head and his hair were while like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were like a flame of fire; And his feet like fine bronze, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice like the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in its strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, ‘Fear not; I am the first and the last;’”
All of God’s children are described as lights in the world – holding high a light for the world to see. We need to know that or we won’t understand The Book of Revelation at all. Every one of us is a light. Each one of us makes up the lights (lampstands) that are spoken of here. It takes each one of us coming together to make up the whole of the group.
Read on - 2:1 – “These things saith he who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear them who are evil, and you have tried (or, tested) those who say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; And you have borne, and have had patience for my name’s sake and have not fainted – become weary. Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember, therefore, from which you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else…” :-)
“Or else.” That’s what it says. :-) We ramble on and ignore that little phrase, but that is what it says: “Or else.” This is one of God’s “or elses” (Pastors, that’s a good sermon title.).
Continue in verse 5. “…or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
We have to understand (or comprehend) some important things in order to look at this Book with any great appreciation. The first thing we have to recognize is that we are in it. We’re here in the Book of Revelation. What we miss so often is that this Book was – and is – and is to come. But He gives the whole key when He says, “I am the First and I am…” – and the indication is that He is also everything in the middle – “and I am the Last” (1:17).
So often we see this Book as an opening or a revealing of future events – and then we have to have charts! :-) The dispensationalists go left – and the un-dispensationalists go right – and the people end up voting with dice! :-) You know, each “side” can support its position, and the people are left with questions: “What do you think? What does this all mean?” “I don’t know – just roll the dice and pick one!” :-)
We really do not come away from reading the Book of Revelation with much clarity of thought. That is because we are endeavoring to glean from this wonderful Book, that truly does finalize so many things, but our intention is to glean what is not going to be revealed by God – until its season! I know. We like our nice neat little packages of understanding all tied up with a pretty bow! But there are just some things we are not to know – yet. There are certain times of revelations and God has not shown us everything yet. But sometimes we try to force it and that accomplishes nothing.
When my father, a long time pastor and church planter, was in his dying days, he lamented to me, “I feel so badly that I didn’t see the things you and your brothers are preaching.” My reply to him was: “Dad, they weren’t revealed in your day.” Now that’s true again – there are some things being revealed today that weren’t revealed when I was younger. Thank God He goes on unfolding – unveiling – showing us some things we’ve not seen before.
So, when I looked at this concept and the context, I wondered: “Well, if we’re here in this Scripture, how do we fit?” My first thought was: we’re the light. Jesus said, “You’re the light of the world” (Mt.5:14). “Ye are” – there’s no question about it. There’s no: “I wish you would be.” Or, “You’d shine brighter – if you weren’t this or that.” There’s no conditional qualifying – it’s just: “Ye are the light of the world.”
When He opens the Book of Revelation to us, He says, “I want you to know that the pastors are going to be spoken to now.” In my little mind, I wonder… I always seem to take a path to understanding that isn’t as clear, maybe, as others – but I do wonder how John felt. John has been banished to the Isle of Patmos – for preaching the Gospel. He is out there alone… Listen – John is the number one worshipper in the New Testament (according to me which makes it true :-)). He is just – read his Gospel – his letters. He is such a lover! He just worships the Lord with all his heart and soul, mind and strength (cf.Mk.12:30). Look, he’s out there on a Sea Island and still he’s worshipping God. He says, “It was the Sabbath and I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Rev.1:10).
You see, when we’re in those places, “in the Spirit,” we feel spiritual. Tell the truth! I love to be in those places – those places of worship where all the people around me become dim. It’s like the old chorus: “And the things of earth shall grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” I’m sure you’ve been there – some of you – in your quiet times with the Lord. And it’s just… oh, so wonderful! I want never to come back down!
But the Lord interrupts John on that day. “John, I have a message.” I can just imagine his reply: “Later, Lord! I’m worshipping…” :-) Have you ever missed a great moment with the Lord – by asking Him to come later? :-) Right “now” you’re just so busy – doing His work! :-)
And today, we are so weary of the world being against us. “Oh, don’t you just wonder? We can hardly just speak truth anymore – you get into such trouble when you do.” In trouble? With whom? “Well, they’ll snatch your – tax rights.” Aren’t you teaching your people that that is not the right motivation for giving? If that thing was snatched – your 501c3 – if your giving people couldn’t get tax credit – governmental tax credit for tithing – would they still tithe? If they wouldn’t, it’s because you have not taught them that the blessing of tithing is so much more than whatever they get off their taxes!
I still hear people say, “I can’t afford to tithe.” You know, Pastor, the honest answer to that is: “You cannot afford not to tithe!” Well, that’s a fairly standard response. But we simply haven’t taught the blessings of going beyond tithing. And the reason we haven’t, as pastors, is simply because: if everyone would tithe, those who attend our church and call us “pastor,” there would be no lack – at all. The tithe would be sufficient!
The truth is, God has set this whole thing up. He is the Administrator of Administrators. He knew exactly how to meet the financial needs of every group who meets in His name. But it never stops there. The Word doesn’t just say, “Make tithers.” It says: “Make disciples!” (Mt.28:19).
So then we go a step further and teach “Giving.” Now we have become very clever – and of necessity, I might add – but we’ve become very clever at how to motivate people to give. I’ve been – listen, you know my age (77) – I’ve been to churches where they promised all kinds of crazy little things – little gifts – if the people would just give. Like, “Put your name on a brick”? :-) Come on! :-)
But, I believe the pressure that is going to come from the world is going to come very quickly now. And further, I believe it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to the church. Pressure. Think about it. If you’ve read the Book of Acts, they really weren’t much of a church till they started getting shot at. :-) Serious persecution.
If you look around this room, you’re thinking – each one of you could be – thinking of 10 pastors that ought to be here! So, why aren’t they here? You see, we just don’t feel the need for one another. We’ve got it pretty good in this country. No pressure really. No real persecution.
Jesus says, “I’m going to come for a Church without spot or wrinkle” (Eph.5:27). How do you think He’s going to iron us out? :-) We’re kind of a mess as we are, trying to come together in unity. I suggest He’s going to press our little warm bodies together! :-) Truth is: you’ve got a little trouble – and I’ve got some trouble – so, let’s tell each other! :-) Let’s encourage each other! Let’s pray together about our circumstances – about our city! We need to recognize the need for one another – but that hasn’t happened yet. Not really. Not here!
Go to Part 2