The Tares and the Wheat: A Flawed Understanding

•11/23/2016 • Leave a Comment

Introduction:

Jesus spoke many parables, and some, he repeated more than once.[1] All, in turn, have shared in the overall fame, if you will, of the One who taught them. One particular parable that has garnered wide attention and interpretation is the parable He shared regarding the tares and the wheat.

In this blog, I intend to give a simple exegesis of the parable, and in so doing, explain how this parable is constantly misunderstood by many who speak of it, or teach about it.

For starters, let’s look at the entire parable, as seen in Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43,

  1. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
  2. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
  3. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
  4. He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
  5. But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
  6. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
  1. Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
  2. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
  3. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
  4. The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
  5. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
  6. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
  7. And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  8. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

From this parable, many teachers, preachers, pastors, and saints make the following assumptions:

  • There are saved and unsaved in the Church (the “tares sit with the wheat” is a common expression)
  • The Devil sends tares into the Church to cause disruption and disunity (from verses 25 and 28)
  • It can be hard to tell the saved from the unsaved (real life tares look almost exactly like stalks of wheat; only as it approaches harvest do the differences truly begin to manifest. Similarly, many make a very good outward show of faith, but inwardly, it is feigned)
  • In the Church, there really isn’t anything that can be done to maintain the saved while ousting the unsaved (per the instruction to let them grow together until harvest; we just have to let God sort it out)
  • Coming to terms with the above four sentiments is the only way to truly have peace about all the problems that exist in the Church, and those who cause the problems
  • But in the end, since the “Lord knows them that are His”, when the rapture hits, we’ll finally tell who truly was and wasn’t saved in the Church, as some will be taken, others will be “Left Behind”, as the popular book series attempts to reveal through a fiction

Dear Readers, I submit to you that all of the above is false, based wholly on a misunderstanding of the parable. But before I attempt to prove this assertion, please allow me a few more minutes of your time, to wax rhetorical, as it were, and ask and answer some thought-provoking questions:

Question #1:

How is it possible that anyone who has never been saved, or has backslid so far as to lose their salvation can, in anyway that makes sense, said to (still) be in the Church?

Observe:

The Church is the Body of Christ.[2] To insist that all over the world, there are people in the Church, or Body of Christ, who are unredeemed and/or in disobedience to the Gospel, is a grand mistake. One cannot simultaneously be lost in sin on their way to Hell, and be a citizen in the Kingdom of God on their way to Heaven.

Granted, in any meeting of the Church, at whatever level, local or otherwise, there may be people who attend the meeting who are not saved. They may even act as though they are, they may attempt to participate as though they were, but, if they are not, no matter what they say or do, they are not members of the Body of Christ. To say otherwise is to allow a soul to remain a transgressor of the Law of God (See 1 John 3:4), while making no attempt to evangelize him or her even though he or she is doomed.

Additionally, Christ is the Head of His Body[3]. The Headship of Christ implies authority and ownership. How is it that a man or woman can both be in the Church under the authority of Christ, yea, even owned by Him, if he or she hasn’t obeyed the Gospel, or has apostatized and rejected the Gospel that had first saved him or her?

The Church is the Temple of God/Temple of the Holy Spirit[4]. This ought to be self-explanatory, but just in case it isn’t obvious, let it be asked:

Does God dwell in the unsaved? Do the unsaved make up His Temple? A temple is a place of worship and adoration, of the deity believed to dwell within its precincts. Does the unsaved man or woman worship and adore God as the resident Deity enthroned in their soul as the Temple?

No, my brethren. I think not. The Church is not made up of saved and unsaved, but only of the saved.[5]

Question #2:

Does the Devil have such power to so rigorously afflict the Church that he can place unsaved people into it so as to, presumably, infiltrate the Body of Christ in order to destroy it from within?

Contemplate these verses of Holy Scripture:

Matthew 16:18,

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Hebrews 2:14,

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil

1 John 3:8,

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

It looks to me like the Devil has been thoroughly trounced by Christ Jesus, and that Satan has no real power at all to do much against the Church of the Living God.

Again, as said above, it is fully possible for someone who is not saved, to be motivated by an evil spirit to attend a meeting or try to “join a church”, and so, cause havoc and hurt. But also again, let it be said that these are not people who make up the Body of Christ. They are “spots on our feasts of charity” (See Jude 1:12), to be sure, and they may even be antichrist (See 1 John 2:18-19), but never Christians, no matter what they profess. Therefore, there are no Satan-implanted “tares” in the Church, only (potentially demonized) sinners trying to attach themselves to the Church for whatever ungodly reason(s).

Question #3:

If it’s so hard to tell who is saved from who isn’t saved, because real life stalks of Lolium temulentum[6] and real life stalks of Triticum aestivum[7] look so much alike, how can anyone in the church ever successfully discern who is their real life brother or sister in the Lord, and who is not?

There are certain parameters, clearly located and explained in the pages of Holy Scripture on who is saved and who isn’t.

The first and foremost of these parameters is the Gospel, and obedience to It (See Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Anyone who has not received and obeyed the Gospel isn’t saved, no matter how kind, gentle, or loving they may otherwise be.

Secondly, another parameter of who is and who isn’t saved is found in who manifests a distinct indication that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and that God is the sole object of their worship (See, e.g. Ephesians 4:4-6). People who are not saved don’t do this, even if they once upon did, when, once upon a time, they were saved, but have since given up their calling and election for the sake of the world and its god.

Another parameter to distinguish who is and who is not saved is in realizing that the saved have a sincere passion and desire for the Church and all things related (See, e.g. 1 Peter 1:22 and 1 John 3:14).

These three and many more like them all throughout the pages of the New Testament show this assumption to be false. The reason tares and wheat looks so much alike, as it pertains to the parable given to us by the Lord, is for altogether different reasons.[8]

Question #4:

If there really isn’t anything a saint in the Church can do about there being tares in the Body of Christ, as per the parable in Matthew 13, what’s the point of all the New Testament verses regarding admonishment, correction, reproof, rebuke, and ex-communication?[9]

It ought to be obvious that these things exist in the Body of Christ to help those who have come into the Kingdom of God to remain steadfastly citizens of that Kingdom, which is to say, these measures have been ordained of God for the purpose of keeping those whom He has saved, saved. Why, even the ex-communication of incestuous fornicator can lead that backslid sinner back to his salvation! This then being the case, there is much the saints of God can do about those in the Body who are becoming unruly or disenfranchised with living for God, before it’s too late, that is, before a saint becomes a sinning tare.

And as far as the never saved tare is concerned, their lack of salvation would become quite apparent the first time they were scolded for any wrong-doing. You see, the closer the time of harvest comes, tares stiffen and stand up straight, whereas stalks of wheat, heavy with fruit, genuflect, as it were, toward the ground, thus indicating that the former is full of pride, vanity, and ego, and the latter is naught but humble, submissive, and meek.

Question #5:

If coming to terms with the first four assumptions from our list above is the only way to achieve peace in the face of problematic dynamics in the Church, then what’s the difference between coming to terms and simply just giving up?

Let’s face it. If we have to wait until the Last Trump to see the tares removed from the Church, and since the tares are the product of the Devil operating in the Church, and there isn’t a thing we can do about it but leave it up to God, then every time there’s a problem with a member in the Church, these assumptions can only lead us to logically conclude that the problems that arise within the Church can’t be solved or resolved, which is to say, whenever a problem causing person causes a problem, we simply have to throw our hands up to heaven and hope it all works out, which is just another way of saying “I quit”.

Really, is that what God wants us to do when issues and problems arise in the Church? Let’s just wait until Christ returns and whoever was a tare can go to Hell, and all the rest of us will go to Heaven, as if to say anyone going to Hell is no biggie, doesn’t matter much at all, we’re just here to get our card punched, don’t mind me, I don’t want no trouble?

That is not the Church! If we cannot put aside our differences and work through every single one of our inter-relational problems among us as believers, then what hope has the world of ever seeing Jesus through our witness? All the world will see is a bunch of in-fighting Tiburon mobsters who turn on each other instead of turning the other cheek, the moment there’s blood in the water.

Rather, the world should be seeing this:

Ephesians 4:21-32,

  1. If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
  2. That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
  3. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
  4. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
  5. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
  6. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
  7. Neither give place to the devil.
  8. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
  9. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
  10. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
  11. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
  12. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

A Church that can get past all its hang up and issues will surely evangelize the lost and be an epicenter through which God can move to establish His reign over the hearts and minds of everyone in the world.

To simply give up and wait for train to take you away from all those tares you allegedly couldn’t do anything about is an affront to, and denigration of, all that God called and elected you to be.

Question #6:

If it’s only at the end of the world that the Church is finally free of the tares that hampered and hindered Her so, how can the Church ever hope to be ready for Christ when He does arrive?

All the way down to the individual level, the Church is supposed to be holistically sanctified and preserved blameless at the appearing of Her Savior (See 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

When we are presented to Christ as His Bride, we are supposed to go before Him as a chaste virgin, espoused to no others (2 Corinthians 11:2).

Indeed, we are supposed to be a “glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing”, so that we might be “holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

My Dear Readers, if the Church is supposed to suffer all these satanic tares right up until Judgment Day, there’s no way She can go before the Lord in the manner described in the three verses directly above. All the problems that tares cause will work against Her, no matter how hard She tries to remain above it all. There will be sickly stalks of wheat all over the globe when Jesus comes, because the tares have been sapping their soil of the proper nutrients needed to help the wheat grow strong and true into maturity. The ministry will be burn out dealing with and tolerating all these fakers for so long, so much so, that no real ministry in the Church will ever be accomplished on any major scale.

Tares left to their own devices, to flourish and prosper in the increase while the wheat in the Church suffers them will make the Church a beaten up bride that won’t be able to stand before Christ when He arrives.

The Flaw:

I hope I have, through the above rhetoric, shown ample proof that this parable has been woefully misunderstood, that tares and wheat do not “sit together” on the pews, as if a saint had to stay on constant watch for any sign that the person in front, behind, or beside them, of being a tare. Such nonsense only engenders suspicion, distrust, fear, and eventually paranoia, which leads to judgmentalism and condemnation.

These things being the case, please allow me to show you where the mistake in understanding this parable is, through a verse by verse exegesis of Matthew 13:36-43, so a more accurate rendering of its meaning can be made known.

37. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;

Verse 37 gives us Christ’s own interpretation of the parable He put forth before His students a few moments earlier. Just as I intend to do, Jesus goes through the parable line by line, giving His class a point by point understanding of each symbolic element.

The first symbol is the sower of good seed. Jesus says it’s the Son of Man, which is to say, the sower of good seed is Jesus. This, right away, should cause us to realize something about the Church. If the only kind of seed Christ sows is “good seed”, and as the next verse shows, the “good seed” are the saints, then the only type of people in the Church are saintly and goodly seeds. To say otherwise is to say Jesus indirectly, through an act of permissive non-obstruction, causes the tares to take root in the Church. Such a thought is nothing more than a blasphemous accusation against the Head of the Church. We ought to know better!

38. The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

Ah, here it is! This is where so many stumble and misunderstand the parable. Look very closely at the first five words of this verse. Allow me to help:

The field is the WORLD.

The field into which Christ sows the children of His Kingdom, and into which Satan cast his tares, is not the Church! It’s the world! In the world, there are two kinds of people: saved and unsaved, children of God or children of the Devil. All across planet earth, two kingdoms are constantly at war with one another: the Kingdom of the Spirit of Christ, and the Kingdom of the Flesh, through which evil spirits may align themselves to have their way.

These Kingdoms each have their own invisible borders. They do not overlap per se, but they do seemingly diffuse into each other from time to time. What I mean is, as the saint lives in this world, he or she exists in a setting that is not his or her true home. While here, the mindful saint, longing to share the Gospel with the lost, righteously presumes to cross the invisible border and establish a beachhead into Satan’s territories. Once there, he or she brings the Gospel to whosoever has ears to hear, and in the process, offers an immigration policy par excellence to those willing to ex-patriot themselves from underneath the clutches of the Wicked One.

Conversely, as already explained, those emissaries of antichrist also make attempts at infiltrating the Church, to terrorize Her much as many modern day terrorists do through the deployment of sleeper cells.

Spiritual warfare then, occurs in both Kingdoms. But let it be said unequivocally, they are not in a truce, there is no armistice between them, and neither the Kingdom of God nor the Kingdom of Satan intend to give the other any quarter. Yes, everyday, citizens of each country are changing sides, some for eternity. But the world is not the Church, and the Church is not the World.

39. The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

Here Jesus makes it plain that the field into which both He and the Wicked One cast their seed, is going to come to an end. This ought to be clear for the student who takes the time to reason out what Jesus means by this.

Is the Church going to come to an end? I thought our salvation was eternal? I thought the Gospel that saved us is an “everlasting Gospel” (See Revelation 14:6)? So then, how can Jesus say the harvest is the end of the world unless the World, and not the Church, is really going to come to an end, in which case, it becomes even more obvious that tares aren’t planted into the Church, since both they, and the farmer—Satan—who cast them into the field of the world, along with the world, are all going to perish, even as the saintly wheat and the farmer—Jesus—who cast them into the field of the world, will be rescued at the time of harvest.

40. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

Again, the world and the tares in the world, are going to be made history, engulfed in flames of fire, of the judgment of the Son of God (See, e.g. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The Church isn’t going to be saved by fire, but from fire!

41. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;

This is where the stumble from verse 38 turns into a fall. A student of the Lord’s reads this verse and sees the phrase “his kingdom” and automatically assumes kingdom = church. This is a faulty concept, mostly due to the fact that so many have been incorrectly taught regarding the reign of Christ as King. So many have been led to believe that as of right now, or rather, as of Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus only reigns over Heaven and the Church. To them, all the other “kingdoms” that exist out there in the world are still autonomously their own, and that, only at some future point will all the kingdom of the world be made “the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ” (See Revelation 11:15).

The practical application and reality of this ideology means that people who believe this don’t see Jesus as sitting on the throne of the universe, that literally all things created and existing, are under Him (See 1 Corinthians 15:22-28). Sure, there are many corrupted, vain things, among them evil spirits and many millions of people, who refuse to be subjugated, even as the grace of God abounds over sin (See Romans 5:20 – 6:1) and the Lord patiently waits for all to come to repentance and the acknowledgement of the truth (See 2 Peter 3:8-10 and 1 Timothy 2:4).

But this doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t rule over them. Even evil spirits were subject to Him, right?!?[10]

If you are having trouble with this idea, consider for a moment the following.

Jesus said that He was the light of the world (See John 8:12 and 9:5). You believe this, don’t you, Dear Reader? I am sure you do. Now, take that conviction and apply it to this, an alternate rendering:[11]

I am the Illumination of the Cosmos.

For Jesus to be the Illumination of the Cosmos incontrovertibly demonstrates that He rules as King over not just Heaven and the Church, but the entirety of Creation (See, e.g. John 1:1-5). This being the case, the phrase “his kingdom” in Matthew 13:41 is talking about the cosmos. Whatever corrupt and vain thing that exists in this universe that won’t submit to Him as King is going to be forcefully removed and destroyed.

42. And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth, of course, will be completed by the tares, those children of the Wicked One, who lived in the field of the world alongside the wheat, but would not consent to Christian conversion. What a horrific fate to be had!

43. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Here, finally, at the end of the Lord’s explanation comes the truth. Once the Cosmos is purged and unfettered by all things that offend and do iniquity, the saints of the Church will be able to “shine forthin the kingdom of their Father”. You see, just as much as Jesus is the Illumination of the Cosmos, so, too, are we. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”.

Conclusion:

There are no tares in the Church. Only saints of the Most High. Sure, many are weak, being new or under-fed by an often ineffectual ministry. Sure, many local assemblies are fraught with difficulties and problems ranging from unruliness and a love that is waning, or from bad teaching and a lack of attention toward fulfilling the perfect will of God. But remember, even the Corinthians were still a church, with all their carnal problems and immature proclivities toward unrighteousness.

Yes, the Church is often found smarting from some attach, whether externally or internally, but She is going to make it. Her lamps are always full of oil, no matter what comes against Her. She will have preserved Herself blameless for when Her Lord arrives. Any dead weight seemingly clinging to Her garments are but the children of the Wicked One looking for a some other way into the sheepfold (See John 10:1). But they are of the world, always were, always will be, except they repent.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] See: Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, by Dr. Bruce Chilton, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2000.

[2] See, e.g. Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 12:27, Ephesians 4:12, and Colossians 1:18.

[3] See, e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 5:23, and Colossians 1:18.

[4] See, e.g. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 2 Corinthians 6:16, and Ephesians 2:19-22,

[5] For the sake of time and space, I have limited myself here. Another possible consideration is that the Church is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Someone who isn’t saved does not represent the truth of God as either pillar or ground. It’s plain fact.

[6] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolium_temulentum

[7] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat

[8] The reason the two seeds look so much alike, is, since they represent people, is because both saints and sinners are human, and both have fallen short of the glory of God, both have a law of sin in their members, and, among many other things, but have the capacity to repent and be saved.

[9] See, e.g. Matthew 18:15-35, Romans 15:14, Colossians 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:12 and 14, 2 Thessalonians 3:15, 2 Timothy 3:16, Ephesians 5:11, 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:13, Titus 2:15, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Corinthians 5, and 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

[10] Mark 1:27 clearly shows, along with many other Gospel verses, that even before Christ was crowned at the cross, He had been given all power and authority, even over, or rather, especially over, demonic spirits.

[11] There is amply justification for this translation. Any simple search through a Biblical lexicon will show that light, or phos in the Greek refers to something luminous, i.e. anything that shines and so, projects rays of light. Additionally, these same Biblical lexicons will show that the word for word is kosmos, from whence we arrive at “cosmos”, a synonym for “universe”.

The Seven Churches of Revelation and Their Messengers

•08/19/2016 • 2 Comments

The Book of Revelation is a very controversial portion of the New Covenant Scriptures. Much is preached and taught from the book on any given basis, in any given church, in any given denomination or lack thereof, all over the world, and much of what is preached and/or taught is likewise just as controversial.

I’ve heard my fair share of ideas and sermons and lessons over the years that have taken some part of the Revelation of Jesus Christ as their source. One place in particular that seems to be highly utilized by the ministry is the second and third chapters, which deal with the Lord’s direct address to, as it is written “the angel” (or messenger) of each specific church. Like anyone else, I’ve heard some good ideas and some bad or mistaken ideas, and some ideas for which I hold no opinion either way.

But there is one bad or mistaken idea in particular upon which I intend to focus. I suppose the mistake is made due more to ignorance/lack of knowledge than out of any intentional desire to mislead. And for that, we can first, be grateful, and second, give some grace to those who have mistakenly taught something regarding the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 and their respective messengers.[1]

But before I dive in, I want to explain how the mistake happens, which should give some indication of just what the mistake is.

We English speaking Christians sometimes don’t realize how the way we understand our native tongue negatively affects our ability to understand the Bible. We pick up whatever English translation we prefer, read and study, maybe do some research into any given text for greater insight, and go about our way, thinking we’ve understood pretty well whatever part of the Holy Scriptures we’ve studied.

And perhaps, rightly so. But sometimes, some part of the way the English language works and is used, whether grammatically, syntactically, or otherwise, even if a small part, makes it nearly impossible to completely understand what the Bible is “saying”, as it were, unless someone who has invested the time and effort, or just happened to stumble upon a grammatical or syntactical (or otherwise) disconnect when studying a text, makes their discovery known.

And that is what I’m attempting to do here: make a discovery known. I am by no means the first to have found out what I’m about to share, and I’m certain to not be the last. But of the various circles of Christianity in which I have personally traveled, whether in casual or intimate fellowship, I have never seen anyone ever talk, write, preach, or teach on what I’m going to share.[2]

So, if I’ve gained your attention, and if you’d like to take the time to learn something you may have never known before about the seven churches of Revelation and their messengers, then by all means, read on and I hope, be enlightened and blessed, as I was.

To begin, please allow me to share each of the two chapters in Revelation in full, from the King James Version (since most people I know are KJV readers):

Revelation 2

1. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2. I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3. And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9. I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28. And I will give him the morning star.
29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Revelation 3

1. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
8. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
9. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
13. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
14. And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

These chapters are very well known. But what is not so well known, at least in my experience, is that sometimes, as Jesus speaks directly, He doesn’t directly speak to the entire church, but rather, only to the respective messengers of each church. Here’s what I mean:

In English, we can use the personal pronoun “you” or the possessive pronoun “your” and mean either a single individual, or we can use the same exact personal pronoun, or the same exact possessive pronoun, and mean more than one individual, and still be grammatically correct. Even the conjugational forms of any accompanying verbs are the same!

And because this is so, we tend to glance over the different uses in the King James Version of “ye” and “your”, not really paying attention to whether or not the audience being addressed in any given verse is singular or plural. As it pertains to the second and third chapters of Revelation, this is a mistake. A really bad one, as it turns out. I will show how, but in order to do so, I will have to do some color coding to help you the reader make sense of what I’ve been trying so far to communicate.

Take Revelation 2:1-7,

1. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2. I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and [thou] hast found them liars:
3. And [thou] hast borne, and [thou] hast patience, and for my name’s sake [thou] hast laboured, and [thou] hast not fainted.
4. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

First, you’ll notice I emboldened the word “angel“. I did so to make it stand out. Note that here, as well as in the underlying Greek text, the word is in the singular, that is, Jesus is only addressing one specific angel or messenger (as opposed to several). This is an important fact as we continue. Next you’ll notice that I changed the font color to red for every instance of the following words: thy, thou, and thee (including the various uses of “thou” I inserted in [brackets] to help make the sense of the text stand out).

The reason I changed the font color to red for each “thy”, “thou”, and “thee” so they will stand out is because in Greek, they are all instances of either singular possessive or singular personal pronouns.

This means that, as verse 2 begins, all the way through verse 6, Jesus isn’t speaking to everyone in the church at Ephesus. He is merely speaking to the angel/messenger. Jesus isn’t commending and/or condemning the entire assembly for their works, labor, patience, abandoning first love, and etc., He is commending and/or condemning the angel/messenger only.

So what about verse 7? We see here the word “church” is plural, as in “churches”. Does this mean a change has occurred? Is there now a different audience? In a word, yes!

After Jesus directly speaks to the angel/messenger, and shares with the angel/messenger His commendations and condemnations, Jesus leaves off  by telling the seven churches what the Spirit is trying to say to them collectively, as it pertains to overcoming and the rewards inherent to overcoming[3]. By this point, then, neither Jesus or the Spirit is speaking directly to the angel/messenger.

Let’s go on:

Revelation 2:8-11,

8. And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;
9. I know thy works, and [thy] tribulation, and [thy] poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Note I did the same thing here with “angel” as I did with 2:2, since both in English and in Greek, angel/messenger is in the singular form (i.e. I emboldened the text). As before, I made some words red. This time, however, I also made some words blue. The words that are red (including the words in [brackets]), are again instances of the singular forms of either the possessive or personal pronoun. The instances where I changed “you” and “ye” into blue is where the pronouns change to plurals in Greek.

So as before, where the red is, Jesus is only speaking to the angel/messenger. But where the words are blue, Jesus is speaking about more than one person, while still speaking only to the individual angel/messenger. Essentially the Lord is telling the one angel/messenger that both he and some other angels/messengers are going to be cast into prison by the devil and etc. But note! At no time has Jesus addressed anyone else. As with Ephesus, so with Smyrna. Jesus isn’t speaking to or about the entire church. Likewise, as with Ephesus, so with Smyrna: it isn’t until verse 11 that Jesus changes the addressee, to share with the seven churches what the Spirit has to say about overcoming and the rewards thereof.

How about the next church?

Revelation 2:12-17,

12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and [thou] hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

The pattern again emerges. An emboldened reference to a singular angel/messenger, along with several uses of the singular possessive and personal pronouns. In each case where I have changed the color to red, it again signifies that Jesus is speaking to the angel/messenger and to no one else. The one use of “you” that is in blue is plural, and refers to both the angel/messenger and the other members of the church.

To finish out the second chapter of Revelation, let’s move on to verses 18-29.

Revelation 2:18-29,

18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;
19. I know thy works, and [thy] charity, and [thy] service, and [thy] faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
20. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.
21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
23. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
24. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.
25. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.
26. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
27. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28. And I will give him the morning star.
29. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

This is a longer passage than the first three, but the pattern is still mostly the same, but with one twist toward the end (represented by green text). One “angel” or messenger addressed, thus indicating that Jesus is not speaking to the entire church. Jesus knows the following things about this one angel/messenger:

  • Works
  • Charity
  • Service
  • Faith
  • Patience
  • Works (a second time)

And yet, even with the above, Jesus still has something personal to say to the singular angel/messenger. Jesus has a few issues with him (not the whole church, mind you, just the angel/messenger). This angel/messenger tolerates Jezebel, and allows her to teach and to seduce the sundry servants[4] in the church which constitute the ministry of their local assembly. See how the blame, then, falls upon the shoulders of the angel/messenger, and not upon the entire church at Thyatira?

However, eventually, Jesus leaves off talking to the angel/messenger, and instead, begins addressing the various servants/ministers of the church in Thyatira (see verses 23.), as demarcated by the blue font[5], who had committed fornication and eaten things offered to idols. This indicates that the individual servants/ministers who had succumbed to the seduction offered by Jezebel will face a “reap what you sow” type of judgment.

Lastly, Jesus finishes the chapter by talking directly to the church at Thyatira, as seen in the green text. Here, both “you” and “ye” are in the plural in Greek, and so, represent a group, as opposed to an individual, being addressed.

Finally, as before, Jesus begins speaking generically about what the Spirit is saying to the seven churches as it pertains to overcoming and the kinds of rewards available to those who overcome, although He presents this portion in reverse order, mentioning first the rewards of overcoming, then concluding with the standard comment about the Spirit and what it’s saying to “the churches”.

Going into chapter 3, should we suppose that the pattern remains unchanged? Let’s find out.

Revelation 3:1-6,

1. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2. Be [thou] watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Beginning in chapter 3, we again see Jesus only addressing one individual, namely the angel/messenger of the church that is at Sardis. Much like the last angel/messenger of the last church, Sardis receives from the Lord a scathing rebuke, that is, He accuses the angel/messenger of being dead spiritually all the while pretending to be alive in the Spirit. He tells the angel/messenger that his works before God are incomplete (according to the Greek meaning behind the word “perfect”). This is heavy, dreadful language couched in an awful tone.

After the accusation, Jesus directly threatens the well-being of the angel/messenger. The Lord’s last direct remarks to the angel/messenger are to tell him that there are in Sardis a few saints who, unlike the angel/messenger, haven’t defiled their garments (which is to say, endangered their salvation through unrighteousness[6]), who then, because this is so, receive a grand promise, having been found worthy of it.

And lastly, as before, so again, here the Lord addresses the churches at large to tell them what the Spirit is saying to them regarding overcoming and the rewards that pertain to those who overcome.

So far, we’ve read about five different angels/messengers for or of five different churches, and in each one, we’ve seen the same basic pattern, with only a few minor divergences. How will the Lord speak to the last two angels/messengers? Read on to find out.

Revelation 3:7-13,

7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
8. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and [thou] hast kept my word, and [thou] hast not denied my name.
9. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
11. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
13. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Of all the seven different angels/messengers, we finally read of one shining example of godliness and perfection, without flaw. Imagine being on the receiving end of these kind compliments. At no point in His address to this angel/messenger does the Lord have anything negative to say. But note! Each instance where either the possessive or personal pronoun is used (e.g. thy, thee, and thou), only the singular form in Greek is present. This means the accolades spoken here by the Lord are not addressed to all the saints at Philadelphia; rather only the angel/messenger is being addressed.

And now, for the sixth time, we read of what Jesus tells us the Spirit is saying to the members of the seven churches regarding what good will come their way if they but hold on and overcome.

Revelation 3:14-22,

14. And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be [thou] zealous therefore, and repent.
20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

The infamous Laodiceans! But oh, what a bad rap they’ve received. And why, you ask? Because, as has already been the case the first six times, so is the case here, at the last. In every instance as seen above by the red font, when Jesus speaks directly to someone, it is always and only that, to someone and not to someone’s. There is only one audience here, and it is only an audience of one. Jesus is only speaking to the angel/messenger, not to the entire church about the church. Only the angel/messenger is being condemned and admonished.

Here’s where people get confused: First, they don’t know that the underlying Greek text indicates a difference between singular and plural forms of the 2nd person possessive and personal pronouns. Then, second, because translators haven’t done a good enough job in showing this to be the case, the meaning is obscured completely, in English. Finally, third, because in each instance of address, Jesus tells John to write to the angel of the church. This has caused many people for a long time to think that everything written after John’s use of the word “church” to then pertain to the saints that make up the church, when the reality is far different.

The only time Jesus has anything to say to the entire body of believers in each city is when He tells them what the Spirit is saying to them about overcoming as it pertains to the various rewards that await them individually and collectively if they do.

See this:

JESUS DOESN’T HAVE A SINGLE NEGATIVE THING TO SAY TO ANY OF THE CHURCHES AS A WHOLE!

Rather each church and its members, as a whole, are encouraged by the Spirit to pursue an overcoming life and lifestyle, simply for the fruit of doing so. And what fruit it is! Here’s a list:

  • The right to eat from the Tree of Life in the middle of the Paradise of God
  • The Second Death will not cause harm
  • The right to eat from the “hidden manna” (whatever it is)
  • A white stone with a new, secret name individually given to each person who overcomes
  • Power over the nations
  • The right to rule over the nations with a rod of iron, to break them like pottery is broken
  • The morning star (whatever this is or means)
  • The right to be clothed in white raiment
  • A guaranteed place in the Book of Life
  • Jesus will vouch for each and every one who overcomes, before the Father and the angels
  • Be made a permanent, lasting pillar in the church of Christ’s God
  • The name of Christ’s God will be written upon the saints who overcome
  • The name of the city of Christ’s God will also be written upon the saints who overcome
  • Jesus will write His new name upon the saints who overcome
  • The right to sit in the throne of Jesus Christ

All these great rewards are displayed before the seven churches, and so, by extension, to all the local churches throughout the world, present and past. The reason? To encourage and embolden the believers to keep striving for holiness and perfection. To never quit or give up hope.

These things are not promised to the seven angels/messengers. Rather, six of the seven are commanded to repent or suffer dire consequences, even though four of the six were also highly lauded by the Lord for the good that they did.[7]

What does this mean? And what is the mistake I mentioned in the beginning?

If you’re like me, and you’ve heard someone preach or teach on the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, you’ve likely heard the preaching or teaching from “The Pastor”, as the phrase often goes. And sometimes, “The Pastor” specifically states, or sometimes, merely intimates that he, as “The Pastor” is the angel/messenger, that is, just as he is the one called by the Lord to preach or teach in the church, i.e. to share with the congregation sermons he calls “messages”, thus making him the messenger (or angel), so also back in the first century, the individual, respective angels/messengers of these seven churches would have been “The Pastor” of whichever of the seven churches being discussed.

Then what happens, is that “The Pastor” attempts to draw comparisons between the church he “pastors” and one or more of the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, by using—and this is key—either the compliments the Lord gave to the individual, respective angel/messenger of whichever church being discussed (and thereby partaking in the compliments as the reason the church is receiving them since he’s such a good “Pastor”), or the condemnations the Lord heaped upon the individual, respective angel/messenger of whichever church being discussed (thus distancing himself from the church he “pastors” so as to not appear as guilty as the church he “pastors” for their obvious flaws so he can blame them and not be the reason the Lord is condemning them).

This is a terrible mistake! It has caused a lot of confusion and hurt feelings. “The Pastor”, if he really is the angel/messenger[8], if he is going to try to use the Lord’s words from Revelation 2 and/or 3 to either compliment or condemn the church he “pastors”, is either going to seriously misuse Holy Scripture by causing the members of the church to believe the Lord is complimenting them with words He only ever assigned to one person in the Bible, i.e. to the angel/messenger (i.e. “The Pastor”) or, he is going to seriously misuse Holy Scripture by causing the members of the church to believe the Lord is condemning them with words He only ever assigned to one person in the Bible, i.e. to the angel/messenger (i.e. “The Pastor”).

Admittedly, the second misuse, in my opinion, is far more damaging then the first. But think back to when you, the Reader, ever heard a sermon or lesson on these seven churches. Did “The Pastor” or whoever it was that preached or taught, try to use the things we now know Jesus only ever said to the angel/messenger to make comparisons with you and the other members of the church?

The fact is, is that if the word angel/messenger, as found in Revelation 2 and 3, does refer to “The Pastor” as most people have come to believe, then that means the angel/messenger/pastor is the one—THE ONLY ONE—who gets to receive any of the credit or the compliments for the success of his ministry. Conversely, if, for example, a Jezebel, whatever she be, whether literal or figurative, is teaching and seducing members of the ministry, it is the angel’s/messenger’s/pastor’s fault, and his alone.

Additionally, if “The Pastor” of a modern day, local assembly is anything like the angel/messenger of the church at Sardis, then the few who are there who don’t defile their garments don’t do so despite the reprehensible moral failings of the angel/messenger/pastor.

Finally, while I could attempt a point by point critique, please allow me finish by going back to the first of the seven angels/messengers, namely the angel/messenger of the church at Ephesus. From what we’ve learned, if “The Pastor” is the angel/messenger, let it ever only be said that the only one who can be accused of abandoning his or her first love is “The Pastor”. Let it ever only be said that the only one in danger of having his candlestick removed is “The Pastor”, not the church.

I conclude with this:

James 3:1 (NIV) reads,

1. Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

When a person presumes to teach the Word of God to others, whether they have an actual invitation from the Lord to be a teacher or not, they must always realize the risk. Every time a person begins to teach, that is, to indoctrinate others into and with the Holy Scriptures, they are in danger.

Just as, for example, a police officer, a fireman, a pilot, a welder, a road construction worker, a stunt double, or a foundry worker is constantly in danger as they work, as long as they know what they are doing, and do what they are supposed to be doing, at all times, according to the methods put before them when they were being trained, they will consistently be okay and complete their tasks safely.

What about the Bible teacher? Will he be okay? What risks does the Bible teacher take when he opens his mouth to speak the words of God? The risks are great, as the judgment God will bring forth upon the teacher, if the teacher is in error, can cost the teacher greatly, even in terms of eternal rewards.

As stated near the very beginning of this blog, I don’t think most anyone who has made the mistake of not recognizing the underlying difference between singular and plural uses of the 2nd person pronouns (and etc.) are inherently evil, or are maliciously lying to gain an advantage.

But let’s be honest. Whenever a mistake is made in Bible teaching, all are damaged. The teacher is damaged, as his ministry, anointing, and potentially, even his soul, hangs in the balance. The church is damaged, as many have been trained to believe and obey everything the ministry says regarding the Word of Truth.

If the teacher in question has enough popularity or has an extensive ministry that reaches beyond the local congregation, even more of the church is damaged when he makes a mistake in what he teaches.

This is why we need to be so careful in what we say. Let us not so often speak in certain absolutes. Yes, some parts of the Bible are without question readily understood, and so, can be affirmed without fear. But look how one tiny little piece of information, namely, in just who is and who is not being addressed by Jesus in Revelation 2 and 3, if the teacher is lacking that one tiny little piece of information, can lead to such a severe error and a terrible presentation and representation of Bible doctrine, that entire churches fall under, and into, condemnation and heresy, simply by ignorance.

I challenge you, Dear Reader, to take James’ warning to heart. I challenge you to do everything within your power and means to make certain you’ve looked at every verse from every angle, in every conceivable way, before you presume to teach others about it. I challenge you to humbly admit to not knowing something when you don’t actually know it. I challenge you to confess and repent, when you’ve been shown something you never knew, something which proves you’ve been wrong for as long as you’ve been teaching the error.[9] I challenge you to allow others to scrutinize and critique your teachings, so that possible flaws can be discovered, and remedied, if so.

I challenge you, Dear Reader, to continually submit to Rabbi Yeshua, and the work of the Spirit of Truth, which He sends into your heart by faith. Perhaps spending more time with Him, and less time in a “pulpit” of whatever kind, trying to teach things we don’t really understand, will go a long way in furthering a decrease in our lack of Bible knowledge and acumen.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

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[1] Once I get into the analysis, I want the Reader to realize I am using an Interlinear English-Greek New Testament, which not only has the actual Greek text with a literal English translation, it also has all the parts of speech listed (i.e. which words are verbs (with their moods and tenses), which are nouns, which are prepositions, which are pronouns, which ones are masculine, with ones are feminine, which are singular, which are plural, and etc.). All the information I provide below can easily be verified beginning here: http://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/2-1.htm

[2] As a matter of fact, I learned what I’m about to share from a comment I happened to read made by a servant of the Gospel from Canada on an online forum.

[3] In Greek, here, and through the Lord’s address, to overcome indicates a meaning closer to triumph or conquer from the literal definition meaning to subdue. It’s a military term, evoking mental images of war and battle, and the successes or failures thereof.

[4] Here, the Greek word is doulos, and is the most common word used by Paul, Simon Peter, and other writers of the New Covenant Scriptures when they call themselves the servants of God. This seduction then is a seduction made by Jezebel toward the ministry. In 1 Kings 21:25, we read that Jezebel “stirred up” her husband Ahab to commit wickedness. There, the Hebrew word for “stirred up” is suth and it means to seduce. It is possible, but uncertain, that this Jezebel either represents a collective term being used by the Lord to represent one, some, or all of the individual wives of the various servants. Also possible, but uncertain, is that Jezebel is a stand-in name for an evil spirit which had successfully seduced the servants (i.e. ministry) of the church in Thyatira.

[5] As with the other uses of the blue font, these uses of the possessive and personal pronoun (i.e. you and your) are, in the underlying Greek text, pluralized.

[6] A little later in Revelation, we are told that the garments of the righteous are clean and white, and as fine linen (See Revelation 19:8). It appears then, for the angel/messenger to have, with other members of the church at Sardis, defiled his garments, means they were to no longer be considered clean and white. Unrighteousness can easily saturate a person’s spiritual garments with grime and filth, that is, of a sinful nature.

[7] As mentioned, only the angel/messenger of the church at Philadelphia is lauded without reproof. Only this angel/messenger is not indicted as guilty before the Lord and so, commanded to repent.

[8] And that is highly debatable, as there is no clear consensus on just what Jesus meant when he told John to write to these seven different angels/messengers.

[9] And do so publicly, if the error was taught publicly.

Hold The Line!

•07/25/2016 • Leave a Comment

I have come to realize, and therefore believe, that the true mark of Christian spirituality is simply this: faithfulness amidst adversity.

These last few years, I find myself hardly ever impressed by the any of the preaching, teaching, singing, dancing, praising, outreaching, ministering, and etc. of anyone in the Apostolic Church (Please take no personal offense, as none was intended. I mean no slight against anyone in particular.).

Rather, what I am impressed with is the saint who gets hit in the mouth everyday by the Adversary, who gets jumped spiritually all the time, wrestling against principalities, who suffers and strains, and digs deep, and doesn’t fall or move.

Give me a saint that is getting beat up and down, inside and out, and doesn’t quit, no matter what, because loyalty to Jesus is more important than having a “blessed day”, and I will show you someone way more like Jesus than almost anyone else out there.

2 Corinthians 4,

1. Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
2. But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
3. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4. In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
5. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
6. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9. Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
13. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
14. Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
15. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
16. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Some Early Undeveloped Thoughts On Evangelism

•06/26/2016 • 2 Comments

Many saints preach and witness to family, friends, and co-workers, and rightly so! Good for them. Others also go on outreaches of whatever kind or variety in order to be a light for the Lord in their community. Well and fine.

But there is still something amiss. The goal of nearly all of the evangelism attempted by the saints today, in whatever form it takes, is to get someone to, ultimately, “get saved”, as we like to say, and in doing so, join our version of the local church club we’ve created and become an active member in whatever form of churchianity we embrace.

Now, I realize that might come across as mean-spirited, but I don’t mean to be mean. Churchianity is, admittedly, a negative term, as most often used, but this is what it means:

Churchianity makes our faith as much about the church as about the Lord of the church (A mistake). It attracts members at the local level not just for the sake of their souls (that is, salvation is merely a by-product of what we are really after), but also to be a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating organization, run on “love and money” I once upon a time often heard from the pulpit on a fairly regular basis (Never once said or even intimated in the pages of the Holy Scriptures of the New Covenant).

Let’s face it. When a person joins a local church, it isn’t long before they are expected to get with the program, learn the lingo, conform, and become acculturated into the mores and norms of the local church, most often spoon-fed to the congregation week after week in the form of lectures otherwise called “sermons” or “bible studies”.

I know this seems pessimistic, but please bear with me still!

The Biblical pattern of evangelism is not to create members in a tax-exempt, state recognized entity with officiants, boards, and other trustees, and what have you. Nor is it to create pew-babies who grow up to learn how to be passive spectators while 20% of the saints do 80% of the work (most of which has its place not in actual New Testament writings, but in the tradition of men and the false church).

Biblical evangelism is about making disciples of Jesus Christ, who then make more disciples of Jesus Christ. It is not about generating local church members to pad our numbers and increase our roll call, so whatever denominational organization of ours can announce its total constituency year after year (and also report it to the IRS for legal reasons. Think about that for a moment!).

Not all brainwashing is evil; in fact, the Bible highly recommends a certain kind of brainwashing necessary for Christian living. As a parent I am daily “brainwashing”, if you will, my children. My wife and I tell them what to believe, how to act, what to say and not say, and etc., all the way to table manners and using the potty!

But a group of people constantly and consistently meeting to renew their vows to a program of wash, rinse, and repeat liturgy is not what Jesus had in mind. IT JUST ISN’T!!!

In “church”, people adapt and learn to go with the flow of someone else’s burden, vision, and mission, and are subtlety coerced into agreeing with it, sometimes unintentionally, but sometimes completely intentionally, by those who set the agenda, occasionally, but hopefully never more than that, by threat of rebuke, censure, public humiliation, dispossession of ministry, and/or expulsion.

As they adapt (or die) to the church culture, they begin to sacrifice a portion of themselves and in so doing, they throw away and give up on something God might have wanted them to become, in order to prop up the local “church” in all her typical fashion and display. Few true disciples are ever made this way.

Consider this: Can you right now, drop everything in a moment’s notice to share the Gospel with someone and lead them to Jesus…in your workplace, your corner market, your city park, your living room, and etc.?

(And when I say “lead them to Jesus”, I don’t mean bring them to the clergy at the duly appointed times, i.e. Wednesday P.M. and Sunday A.M. so they, and not you, can lead them to Jesus.)

If the answer is “no”, it’s not because you’re weak of faith, faint of heart, or aren’t anointed, or not called. It’s likely rather that you’ve been trained in a form of evangelism that is centered on the “high-water mark” of bringing people to church, instead of bringing people to Jesus.

Ask yourself a few questions:

Without thinking too hard about it, can you name the following for your next church service:

  • Who’s going to greet you at the door with a flyer, inside of which is a short devotional and other church news and digest
  • Who’s going to lead the pre-service prayer?
  • Who’s going to be the worship leader?
  • Who’s going to be the back-up band/worship “team”?
  • Which songs are likely to be sung?
  • Who’s going to take up the offering?
  • Who’s going to give the announcements?
  • Who’s going to ask for prayer, and for what?
  • Which children are going to go to Sunday school or nursery?
  • Who’s going to teach Sunday School or oversee the nursery?
  • Who’s going to preach or teach? What subject?
  • Whether or not there will be an altar call?
  • Who’s going to go up to the altar, and who’s going to stay in their chair?
  • Who’s doing all the behind the scenes work to make the service happen (i.e. sound booth and a/v team, church cleaners and grounds crew, and etc.)?
  • Where everyone is going to go afterward to get a bite to eat?

Do I have you thinking yet? If you can answer most or even all of these questions, perhaps with barely a thought, you might question whether or not you have been introduced to true Biblical Christianity or a form of it otherwise known as Churchianity.

Look deeply into the Gospels and Acts. Not once will you find such time and again, structured and orchestrated ways of following Jesus and living out the life and calling He has given us.

It’s just not there! Find me one time in Acts where one of the disciples ever “brought a sinner to church”, as we usually mean it today?

Where do we see anyone attempting to acculturate a new convert, not just into the Apostle’s Doctrine, but also into the various peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies of a local church (in some ways, women have it worse then men here)?

Find me one time in the Acts of the Apostles where any saint pawned off an unsaved person on another so that the other could minister to them instead?

I realize these thoughts might be very contrary to your own. I realize that they may come across as radical, perhaps even unseemly to some. But please read them in the tone with which I have hoped to share them: one of passion and zeal tempered by mercy and grace, with love throughout.

If you know me, you know I don’t have it in for anyone, and I’m not interested in scandal or outrage. But I do want what’s best for God’s people, and regardless of these “early” or “undeveloped” thoughts of mine, or what you might think of them overall, there can be no doubt that the way we evangelize compared to the way the 1st century believers fulfilled the Great Commission is vastly different.

And that fact is proven week after week after week after week after week after week (get the idea?) by the fact that all our efforts to create an hour and a half, not too short, not too long, get home in time for the game “church service” produce so little fruit compared to what we read in the Gospels and Acts.

I challenge you to pray and seek God about this. Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good. Despise not prophesying.

And if this is “good”, or even “prophetic” to your soul, then next time you feel an urging in the Spirit to evangelize, I challenge you to not invite anyone, not even a single soul, to “church”. Instead invite Jesus to work through you, right then and there, to bring whoever you meet this week, at work, at the corner store, at the park, in your living room, or wherever, to Him, instead.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

Antagonisms

•05/05/2016 • Leave a Comment

We sing their songs. We read their books. We make use of their devotionals. We quote them often. We use their study tools. We peruse their websites. We teach and preach from their Bible translations. We make use of their scholarship. Sometimes, we attend their universities, seminaries, or Bible schools. We share their blogs on Facebook. We re-tweet their pithy, spiritualized comments and insights to one another.

We completely and incessantly co-opt the entire catalogue of Trinitarian Christianity output, and yet, we completely shun and disregard them as damned to hell.

The Oneness Pentecostal movement, by and large, is highly antagonistic toward those who believe God eternally exists as Three Persons in a Tri-unity. To be fair, some Trinitarians are likewise caustically abusive toward Oneness believers. But for the most part, the hate, and yes, I realize I’m using the word “hate” here, is on the side of Oneness proponents.

To me, this is sheer hypocrisy. We’ve got to come to terms with a few things. If all Trinitarians are lost and condemned to eternal death in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, as so many Oneness believers tend to believe, just for believing in the Trinity, then to what end, or for what purpose, do we so routinely make use of their materials and contributions to Christianity at large?

Are we lazy? Uninspired? Not anointed enough to offer as many and as varied materials and contributions? A case of the outside looking in? An inferiority complex? Just for the fun of it?[1]

I don’t imagine it’s anything like the above. Rather, we see the spiritual benefit and blessing of huge portions of the Trinitarian offering, and so, we rightly claim it for ourselves. Now, admittedly, not everything that is said, written, or done by a Trinitarian is going to go down easy with your average Oneness believer. But then again, there is a whole lot of what Oneness adherents say, write, and do, that doesn’t gel with Trinitarian thinking, either.

But note how one very famous Oneness preacher claimed he couldn’t learn anything from a Trinitarian, as if by virtue of being a Trinitarian, said Trinitarian automatically became disqualified from being able to offer any valuable input regarding the Christian faith, the Christian community, and/or etc.[2]

Of course, this same preacher reads his preaching texts from the King James Version of the Bible, a Bible translation commissioned by a Trinitarian king, and created by a group of Trinitarian scholars, WHO WERE NOT FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. In fact, all Bible translations into English, whether then, before then, or now, are created by Trinitarians, usually by committee. This means that there isn’t a Oneness believer alive today who has come to learn anything about God or His Son, or about salvation and faith, through the Word of God, but that he or she learned it, if only indirectly, from a Trinitarian, who helped create the version of the Bible from which the Oneness believer first read when he or she first came to faith in the Messiah.

So what is this? It’s antagonism simply for the sake of.

Here is a Biblical fact:

God gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who obeys Him. See here:

Acts 5:32,

32. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

These are the words of the same man who preached Oneness adherent’s bread and butter verse![3]

So guess what? All those Trinitarian Pentecostals, Charismatics, and various other peoples in whatever denomination or non-denomination, who have all received the Holy Spirit “with the evidence of speaking in other tongues”[4] have, Biblically speaking, and according to Simon Peter, obeyed God. The Holy Spirit bears witness, or else Simon Peter was wrong, or the Word of God as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles is faulty.

Now see this:

Acts 11:18,

18. When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

This is the Biblical conclusion of the elders and apostles in Jerusalem, after Simon Peter explains how the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household, and they spoke in tongues.

So, speaking in tongues as evidence of Holy Spirit reception is also called being “granted repentance unto life”. The Holy Spirit bears witness in all those who receive It, including Trinitarians, that receiving It in the first place proves God has accepted their genuine and heartfelt repentance and so, conceded to them His forgiveness by acknowledging their sincere contrition and remorse for unbelief and sin.

This, however, begs a question most Oneness people don’t want to ask:

If God grants Trinitarians repentance unto life, and He gives them His Holy Spirit as proof of that granting, and they, that is, Trinitarians, speak in tongues the same as any Oneness believer, thus indicating that God effectively declares and recognizes their obedience to Him, then does that mean that believing God is a Tri-Unity of Persons is not a sin that will destroy someone eternally?

Let me break it down. In order to receive the Holy Spirit, a person needs must repent of their sins. People who believe God is a Trinity repent before Him of their sins, and He gives them His Holy Spirit as a seal proving He has forgiven them. They speak in tongues, ALL THE WHILE NEVER ONCE REPENTING OF THE FACT THAT THEY BELIEVE GOD IS A TRINITY!!!

Why doesn’t God require Trinitarians, if the Trinity doctrine is so wicked and soul-damning, to repent of their conviction that He is a Trinity? Why would God allow someone to receive the Holy Spirit, when He knows what they believe about Him is wrong (at least according to the Oneness camp)?

Should all Trinitarians have to convert to and adopt a Oneness view of God before they can be granted full repentance and receive the Holy Spirit? It doesn’t make sense, if what so many Oneness people have been saying about Trinitarians over the last 100 years or so is true.

Years ago, I was in a meeting where God administered the charismata through those assembled. There was a diverse tongue, and then an interpretation of that diverse tongue. The person who interpreted the diverse tongue was a visitor, a friend of a member of that Oneness congregation, who happened to be a Trinitarian Pentecostal.

The interpretation of the diverse tongue was valid. It moved hearts as he spoke the words God gave him. Why would God operate His spiritual gifts through a Trinitarian when all Trinitarians are (allegedly) lost, as so many Oneness people believe?

I knew a Oneness pastor who was adamantly opposed to the Trinitarian view of God, proclaiming time and again, that Trinitarians weren’t saved. And yet, this same Oneness pastor played a recording of David Wilkerson’s “Five Calamities” sermon, in which God gave Brother Wilkerson a prophetic vision of what was to come upon the United States of America.

David Wilkerson, prior to his death, was a firmly founded Trinitarian, a licensed minister with the largest Trinitarian Pentecostal group in the world, namely, the Assemblies of God.[5]

The fact is, it’s time for Oneness people to either put up or shut up. Either admit that Spirit-filled Trinitarians are brethren, and begin fellowshipping with them and sharing in the joys of the Lord together, or stop singing their songs, stop reading their books, stop making use of their devotionals, stop quoting them, stop using their study tools, stop perusing their websites, stop teaching and preaching from their Bible translations, stop making use of their scholarship, stop attending their universities, seminaries, and Bible colleges, stop sharing their blogs, and finally, stop re-tweeting their pithy, spiritualized comments and insights to one another.

We can’t have it both ways. We can’t verbally send all these Spirit-filled Trinitarians to the Lake of Fire while at the same time making use of all their materials in order to do so.

A Christian’s mouth is supposed to only have one side!

The fact is, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation. It is the Gospel that saves, not Theology. It is clear that God will fill any hungry soul, who wants to be saved by Him, with His Holy Spirit, if they but confess and repent of their sins. Whether they think of God in Oneness or Trinitarian terms, or whether their theological understanding of Him will down the road one day change, the fact is, God has filled millions more Trinitarians with His Holy Spirit that He has with Oneness believers. Can the Oneness collective accept that and not cry foul?

I close with this:

A huge number of the people God has filled with His Holy Spirit are children. I’ve personally, more than a few times, seen children as young as five years receive the Holy Spirit. I prayed with some of them as they did so.

Of the ones I personally witnessed receive the Holy Spirit, none of them could give a clear, concise but Biblical statement of faith regarding the nature of the Godhead, the Incarnation, and etc. All they knew is that someone was telling them about Jesus, about how much He loves them, how He died for their sins on the cross, and that He wants them to be saved so they can go to heaven and live with Him forever.

The point is this: Children who can’t make a coherent Theological or Christological statement receive the same Spirit as adults who likewise can’t make coherent Theological or Christological statements. And both these children and adults receive the same Spirit as every Oneness and Trinitarian in the world, who might be able to, in their respective ways, define God accordingly. There aren’t two Holy Spirits, folks.

The litmus test of one’s salvation is Christ crucified and resurrected from the dead, and faith in that. Yes, the Spirit of Truth can and does lead people into all truth, and some, in that process, end up changing their Theology. But that didn’t stop God from saving them first. Believing in the Trinity doctrine does not encumber, inhibit, or restrain God one lick from acknowledging their obedience to Him by granting Trinitarians repentance unto life by filling them with His Holy Spirit. It’s just a fact.

And if our God and Savior is so un-encumbered, so un-inhibited, so un-restrained, as it were, why then are we so encumbered, inhibited, and restrained from embracing all Spirit-filled Trinitarians as brothers in Christ?

The answer should be “There is nothing that encumbers, inhibits, and/or restrains us”. Hopefully some day, Oneness (and Trinitarian) Pentecostals will get there.

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

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[1] In various Oneness circles I have over and again heard the phrase “keep the meat but throw away the bones”, as it pertained to different books, sermons, and etc., especially those that came from Trinitarian sources.

[2] The video was removed from www.youtube.com, unfortunately. The Oneness preacher has the initials L. S. Can you guess who it is?

[3] Namely, Simon Peter in Acts 2:38.

[4] A very popular phrase among Oneness believers.

[5] For more on David Wilkerson, see: https://www.worldchallenge.org/page.aspx?pid=462

 
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