The Most Amazing Guy is Caleb:
Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Joshua 14:6-13
Head-Did not grow weak. Still as strong as when he was 40. Strength for fighting, for travel.
Heart-Still loved God. God kept him alive!
Hand-Connect with that Passion that overcomes adversity.
Caleb is picture of strength, vitality and power, even after 45 years of enduring the complaints and whining of those Jews, until everyone died off. Most of us could not have lasted a year.
Caleb picture of the power of the Holy Spirit, Power of God to conquer the flesh.
JOHN ENCOUNTERED THE REAL JESUS ON THE ISLE OF PATMOS.
Jesus stood up as judge of the seven churches. The standard of His judgment was His love, as demonstrated by the Golden Sash.
We see that same power only in Divine form when we look at the Real Jesus that John saw on the isle of Patmos.
THE GOLDEN SASH is basis for judging churches through the ages. I believe when we stand before Jesus at the Bema seat, He will be wearing His Golden Sash. Revelations 15 reveals that the seven angels will be wearing golden sashes when they pour out God’s full wrath upon the earth.
Jesus earned the right to wear the Golden Sash because of His sufferings and sacrifice. It is upon the basis of His sufferings and sacrifice that those who refused Him will be judged. The wrath poured out upon the earth is that which God has stored up since man rejected His Love!
The first letter underscored the importance of Divine Love in our service and devotion to our God and Savior.
Without agape love, our service, our worship has the danger of taking on selfish concerns. Only when we are willing to risk everything, and join Jesus outside the gate, bearing His reproach, do we have agape love.
Jesus set the bar impossibly high. In fact, agape love is impossible in human strength. Agape love is only possible as we abide in Jesus Christ.
THE LOVE OF I CORINTHIANS 13 IS IMPOSSIBLE APART FROM JESUS LOVING THOUGH YOU. You may think you can love your wife or girlfriend with Divine love, but apart from Jesus Christ, you are just a clanging cymbal. You can imitate him, you can even sacrifice, but Divine Love is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ alone!
Jesus holds up the Golden Sash to the church at Smyrna.
He reveals to them an important aspect of Divine Love.
Love means never having to say you are sorry, so we have been told. However, to the church at Smyrna, Jesus says Divine Agape Love means you will suffer.
However, Divine Love means you will grow stronger in your suffering. You can be like Caleb!
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9
When Jesus tells us to abide in His love, could he be telling us to suffer?
In one Cor 13, we all understand that love is patient and kind, but by the time we get to “Love endures all things”, we are exhausted. Surely, there is a point at which we can say ‘enough is enough’. No, Jesus says love endures everything!
In other words, someone blasts your reputation, endure it. If you lose your job because of some lies that another spreads, you love them. If someone else causes you economic hardship, you love them. Even if someone causes harm to you or a loved one, you love them.
No Jim, you just crossed the line. If someone harmed my child, my grandchild, if someone spoke evil about my family, they have a thing coming. I cannot stand by and let that happen.
I am gonna be like Mattie Ross in “True Grit” and seek justice!
You have just failed the Golden Sash test. You have put your concern and feelings before God’s. Divine Love does not make sense. It runs counter to everything we are taught, everything we feel as human beings. That is why I say it is impossible to have Divine Love apart from Jesus Christ.
Divine Love is the basis of judgment upon each of these seven churches. Divine Love is the measure applied to each of these seven churches. Each of these churches reveals a facet of Jesus Christ, the Real Jesus.
WHITE HEAD & HAIR!
Today we look at the letter to Smyrna. However, before we do, I want to look closer at the Real Jesus that John saw on the isle of Patmos. After John noticed the Golden Sash, he was drawn to note his hair. The hairs of His head were white, like white wool, like fresh snow.
“His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow.”
White hair is the mark of time, exhausted, played out.
Normally, white hair is a mark that his days are near an end. It is something impressive when we see a white haired man full of vigor, with full mental capacities, full strength.
Here we see Jesus, his vigor and strength in spite of His white hair is a testimony that He has defeated time and all that it means. He outlived it, He has expanded it, and He has triumphed over it. Time means death, death means corruption. However, Jesus, the first and the last, is standing, full of energy, girded with strength and authority. He is full of vigor. He is not an old man worn out by the ravages of time.
Imagine Joan Rivers in six thousand years.
His white hair is the mark of eternity triumphing over time. He is the “ancient of days”. (Dan 7)
WHAT IS THE SPIRITUAL VALUE OF THAT?
We can have vigor until the end of our lives. We need not lose spiritual energy, as we get older. Our love for the Lord need not wane just because of time. No need to die in total exhaustion.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalms 92:12-15
THE OUTWARD MAN MAY BE BROKEN, DISEASED, DIMINISHED, BUT WE CAN SHOUT WITH PAUL:
We do not lose heart! Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
So let us stop looking for sympathy by saying we are getting old. The white hair of the exalted Christ is a mark of the Vitality and Energy of Divine Love in the midst of sufferings and the ravages of time.
HOW DO WE KNOW JESUS CONQUERED THE RAVAGES OF TIME?
“His face was like the sun shining in full strength”. Revelation 1:16
We see the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
“The sun shining in its strength.”
The sun shining knows no resistance, no restraint. The sun does not shrink away in fear from anything. There is no shame that makes the sun want to veil his face. He has no reason to shrink, to hold back, to be afraid, and to be timid. There is boldness, there is assurance, and there is certainty. I think that is what is meant by the sun shining in its strength.
The risen Christ has conquered the worst that life can do. He triumphed over pain, the cross, the devil, sin, and death. He defeated all the enemies and He offers victory and the conqueror’s crown.
So we see a further aspect of Divine Love in the Church at Smyrna.
DIVINE LOVE ENDURES ALL WITH STRENGTH
No matter what this life throws at you, does your love for Jesus Christ endure, and even grow in strength? Do you feel as strong in your love for Jesus as you did when you first saw Him as your Savior?
THE LETTER TO SMYRNA
Jesus immediately lets the Symrnan’s know
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first(protos) and the last(eschatos), who died(Nekros-corpse) and came to life(zao). Revelation 2:8
• John tells us that God revealed His Love toward us by sending His only Son to die for us, that we might “LIVE” (zao) through Him! ( John 4:9-11)
• Peter also says we are like “LIVING STONES” … being built up as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5)
• Jesus told the woman at the well that He had “LIVING WATER”! ( John 4:10)
Paul tells us to offer our bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE… (Romans 12:1)
Jesus wants to bring us LIFE, LIFE that overcomes Suffering and Death!
HE WRITES TO THE SMYRNANS:
“‘I know your tribulation [to crush, press, compress, squeeze; evils by which one is pressed, i.e., affliction, distress, calamity. ]
And your poverty (ptocheia means abject poverty, destitution) (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9
This church of martyrdom faced its most intense opposition from those who at one time were closest to God. “Three sources of antagonism to Christians emerge in these seven messages, Jewish (here), pagan (Rev. 2:13+), and heretical (Rev. 2:24+).”
The gathering of Christians at Smyrna is “church” ἐκκλησίαις [ekklēsiais] , whereas the gathering of these blasphemers is “synagogue” συναγωγὴ [synagōgē]
Persecution by the Synagogue was something that Jesus had promised
PERSECUTION FOR TEN DAYS
Meaning a complete time:
The following reference to “ten days” will confirm the meaning of the term as implying a brief and limited time: Genesis 24:55; Nehemiah 5:18; Daniel 1:12; Acts 25:6; Jeremiah 42:7, etc
Meaning 10 persecutions:
Prophetically viewed, this church is a picture of the period of time when (according to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) there were ten separate edicts of persecution from the Roman emperors. It is predicted in this phrase that the Christians would “suffer persecution for ten days.” Historically, there were ten separate persecutions, beginning with the Emperor Domitian in 96 A. D., and continuing to Diocletian, the last emperor before Constantine , the first so-called Christian emperor. The whole period has been termed the “Age of the Martyrs.” It was not the only time Christians have been martyred. (The greatest number of Christians put to death for their faith was not in the 1st century but in the 20th!) However, in this period, they were persecuted in ways almost beyond belief. Their bodies were torn apart on racks. Their fingernails were pulled off, body parts severed. They were hung by their thumbs, oftentimes for days. They were wrapped in animal skins and thrown out for lions to eat or bulls to gore and to pitch around. They were covered with tar and set alight in the gardens to light the festivities of the pagans. If you want the gruesome details get a copy of Fox’s Book of Martyrs and read what some of the early Christians went through.
One of the first was a man named Polycarp who was the bishop of this very church at Smyrna. In 155 A. D., at the age of 86, he was sentenced to death by being burnt at the stake for his faith. He was carried before the proconsul, and condemned to be burnt in the market place.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, “Swear to Caesar, and I will release thee;–reproach Christ.”
Polycarp answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?” At the stake to which he was only tied, but not nailed as usual, as he assured them he should stand immovable, the flames, on their kindling the fagots, encircled his body, like an arch, without touching him; and the executioner, on seeing this, was ordered to pierce him with a sword, when so great a quantity of blood flowed out as extinguished the fire. But his body, at the instigation of the enemies of the Gospel, especially Jews, was ordered to be consumed in the pile, and the request of his friends, who wished to give it Christian burial, rejected. They nevertheless collected his bones and as much of his remains as possible, and caused them to be decently interred.
SWEETNESS IN THE MIDST OF PERSECUTION
The risen Christ is one who has experienced the worst that life could do to Him. No matter then what might happen to the Christians at Smyrna or to us, our Savior has gone through the worst life can bring. As such, He is one who feels for us in our suffering with special love and compassion and is ever present to come to our aid and comfort (Heb 4:15).
The church at Smyrna knew all too well that their city was named for a sweet smelling perfume, myrrh. This was a gum resin taken from a thorn-laden shrub-like tree. Myrrh can only be produced by crushing the thorny branches until the resin drips out. The very name of Smyrna has a picture of fragrant beauty coming forth from suffering!
So it started out as a perfume and then later on was associated with death. And it becomes the picture of suffering in this little church. SMURNA OR MYRRH WAS USED TO TREAT THE DEAD. And it perfectly shows the suffering character of this church, suffering even to death. In order for that thorny tree to yield that fragrance, it had to be crushed. Therefore, you see a little church, the myrrh church, crushed and when it is crushed, it yields the sweet aroma. God permitted Satan to crush them to yield the sweetness of their aroma.
It is like a wounded child fleeing to a loving parent. The crushed Christians at Smyrna fled for refuge to the eternal Lord who said, “I understand, I too died and rose again.” So this little church in the town of myrrh was being crushed because of her love for Christ.
Unlike Ephesus, apparently, there was no leaving a first love here; there was no waning of first love. They really loved. Therefore, because they really loved they were faithful.
Persecution drives the believer to the Savior’s side and keeps first love hot. Therefore, we meet the church, a body of Christ-loving saints destitute, crushed, powerless but sweet, fragrant in the aroma they bring before Christ and us.
I counted dollars while God counted crosses.
I counted gain while He counted losses.
I counted my worth by the things gained in store,
But he sized me up by the scars that I bore.
I coveted honors, and sought for degrees.
He wept as he counted the hours on my knees.
I never knew till one day by a grave,
How vain are the things that we spend life to save.
I did not yet know, ’til a Friend from above,
Said, richest is he who is rich in God’s love!
DIVINE LOVE IS A SUFFERING LOVE THAT GROWS SWEETER WITH TIME!
We look now at Smyrna, and see that a great suffering has come upon the church there, a period of intense suffering in which it will be necessary to be faithful unto death; and so the Lord, SAYS THAT FIRST LOVE IS SUFFERING LOVE. When you risk it all you really do risk it all!
It is indicated by what you will go through for the Lord’s sake and out of love for the Lord, what you will endure, what you will put up with. Suffering love – is first love. Caleb endured 45 years of wandering and battles and grew more in love with God!
JESUS GLADLY SUFFERED BECAUSE HE LOVED US
His last Supper
And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover (pascha) with you before I suffer (pascho): Luke 22:15
On the Road to Emmaus:
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Luke 24:26
JESUS KNEW PAUL WOULD SUFFER
For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:16
JESUS SAYS WE ARE BLESSED TO SUFFER
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “ Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44
PAUL: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14
PAUL When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:10-13
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 2 Timothy 3:12
WHEN YOU SUFFER, JESUS SUFFERS AND HE DOES NOT WEARY!
And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Acts 9:4-5
LOOK WHAT PETER & PAUL SAY:
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 1 PETER 2:20
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 1 PETER 2:23
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; PHILIPPIANS 1:29
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 1 Peter 2:21
Having come to Smyrna, he wrote to the Church at Rome, exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom, lest they should deprive him of that which he most longed and hoped for. “Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!” And even when he was sentenced to be thrown to the beasts, such as the burning desire that he had to suffer, that he spake, what time he heard the lions roaring, saying: “I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”
It has been said that the lives of the early Christians consisted of “persecution above ground and prayer below ground.” Their lives are expressed by the Coliseum and the catacombs. Beneath Rome are the excavations, which we call the catacombs, which were at once temples and tombs. The early Church of Rome might well be called the Church of the Catacombs. There are some sixty catacombs near Rome, in which some six hundred miles of galleries have been traced, and these are not all. These galleries are about eight feet high and from three to five feet wide, containing on either side several rows of long, low, horizontal recesses, one above another like berths in a ship. In these, the dead bodies were placed and the front closed, either by a single marble slab or several great tiles laid in mortar. On these slabs or tiles, epitaphs or symbols are graved or painted. Both pagans and Christians buried their dead in these catacombs. When the Christian graves have been opened, the skeletons tell their own terrible tale. Heads are found severed from the body, ribs and shoulder blades are broken, and bones are often calcined from fire. But despite the awful story of persecution that we may read here, the inscriptions breathe forth peace and joy and triumph.
JULIAN, A NATIVE OF CILICIA, AS WE ARE INFORMED BY ST. CHRYSOSTOM, was seized upon for being a Christian. He was put into a leather bag, together with a number of serpents and scorpions, and in that condition thrown into the sea.
DIVINE LOVE IS ENDURING LOVE
THERE IS A SCENE IN HEAVEN BEING PLAYED AT THIS VERY MOMENT
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. Revelation 6:9-11
WE HAVE A LIVING HOPE OF AN INHERITANCE IMPERISHABLE, UNFADING, KEPT IN HEAVEN
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 PETER 1:3-7.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 PETER 1:3-4
CHILDREN IN THEWILDERNESS SHRUNK BACK
But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:30-31
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:1-4
none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. Numbers 14:22-23
… ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. Numbers 14:28-33
Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. Hebrews 13:13
YOUNG SCANDINAVIAN MAN ARRESTED AND JAILED IN IRAN
Recanted after 48 hours of solitary.
One winter when the Roman emperor Licinius was persecuting the Christians, his Thundering Legion was stationed at Sebaste. Because 40 men in that company had declared themselves believers, they were sentenced to spend the night naked on a frozen pool. A large fire was kindled in a house nearby, and food and a warm bath were prepared for any who would renounce their faith. As daylight faded, 40 warriors continued to resist in spite of the bitter cold—some walking quickly to and fro, some already sleeping that sleep which ends in death, and some standing lost in prayer. These words arose to Heaven, “O Lord, 40 wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that 40 wrestlers may gain the victory!” Finally, one of them could endure the suffering no longer. He left the others and went into the house where Sempronius and his men were on guard. But still the petition went up from those able to speak, “O Lord, 40 wrestlers have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that 40 wrestlers may gain the victory!” Their prayer was answered. Sempronius the centurion was touched by his comrades’ bravery, and the Holy Spirit moved upon his heart. Declaring himself a Christian, he went to the frozen pond and took the place of the one defector. When the long night was over, 40 glorious spirits, Sempronius among them, had entered into the presence of Christ.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39