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Who are we?

The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

Verse of the Day

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Revelations Part Six – 29 September 2017, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!
 The Church at Smyrna
A
nd 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. (Rev 2:8-11)

            It is quite noteworthy that our Lord has only commendation for the Church at Smyrna. I cannot help but love and admire this one church more than the other six combined for I feel it represents, at least to me, the True Church of God through every century. Located on a beautiful coastline of the Mediterranean at the modern city of Izmir, Smyrna was perhaps thirty-five miles north of Ephesus. It was above Ephesus geographically, and it was above Ephesus spiritually, as well. There was no stain or rot in the spiritual heart of this wonderful church. 

            As in the case of the other six, this letter is addressed to the “Angel of the Church in Smyrna” which I believe represents its spiritual leadership under Christ. Each letter to the Seven Churches is addressed to its Angel – or under-shepherd. It seems likely that, based on historical documents of the period, preserved in the writings of Eusebius and others, Polycarp may have been the superintending pastor of this church at the time of the writing of Revelation, and is suggested in the Apostolic Constitution. Eusebius shares an epistle written by the Church at Smyrna to the churches at Pontus describing the martyrdom of Polycarp as bishop of Smyrna contemporaneous with the writings of John the Revelator.

            The name of the Church – SMYRNA – is suggestive of the suffering and sacrifice of the good Christian brothers and sisters there. The name, Smyrna, is derived from the  Greek translation of the Old Testament Septuagint for the brownish-red resin called myrrh. Myrrh is bitter symbolizing the suffering of the Church at Smyrna, but is has a very endearing aroma that also portrays the warm and loving spirit of the Christians of that Church. Myrrh is an ointment used in embalming or preparing the dead for burial. It was one of the three symbolic gifts of the Magi of GOLD, FRANKINCENSE, and MYRRH. Gold signified his royalty as King of Kings; Frankincense to signify His Divinity; and Myrrh to signify His sacrificial death and burial. (see John 19:39) Myrrh was used as a perfume for the living (its sweet aroma emanated from the crushed plant) and as a anointing substance for the dead. The Christians of Smyrna lived as if dead to the world but alive in Christ forever. Many of the Christians of Smyrna lived their daily lives under the threat of martyrdom, but remained faithful to our Lord to the end. It would be interesting to know how many ministers and laypersons would be the same in our American churches. We do have churches abroad that fit this description, however. 

            I do not believe the Church, by any means, was perfect. They presumably had the same shortcomings as the greatest saints and missionaries of our past possessed; yet, they were as faithful to Christ as human flesh could be in following His Holy Spirit and rendering to Him the most abundant vessels of love their heart chambers could muster. God knows our frailty and weakness, but He loves us above all else for our humility and love rendered to Him and His own. Many were poor and uneducated; yet they set an example of faithful discipleship under austere circumstances. I have witnessed a deeper and more fervent faith among our brothers and sisters of the deprived churches of the Pacific Basin and Africa than I have ever witnessed in our modern churches of the West. In view of their present suffering, our Lord declines to mention any transgressions of such a faithful people.

            The Lord offers a meaningful, and unique, greeting to each of the Seven Churches. There is no exception to this suffering church: “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;” Our Lord knows well, better than even we ourselves, the plights and dangers that we face in this life. He knows them long before we saw the sunrise, or were made joyful at the fragrance of a rose. He is ever watchful over His people, and sees every heart-break, every hurt, and every offense done to us. So, He reminds the people of the Church at Smyrna that He is the First, and the LAST – and all in between; and, as such, He is also eternal so that their LAST is not their END. He, more than them, was persecuted, martyred, and buried; but He ROSE FROM THE DEAD, and so will they. The iron-heeled oppressor cannot hurt them for more than a short breath, and then they join company with the Lord at His abundant table filled with the delicacies of spiritual wine, fruits of love, and Bread of Life.

            “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)” I see a most profound meaning in the Lord’s remark here. Though this Church is located in a city of fishers and laborers, and are poor and persecuted, they are truly rich in the important considerations of Eternal Security. This is further evidence that impressive walls and spires do not a church make. There may be more Christian heart and soul in a day of a small wilderness or house church than a year’s worth of attendance at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Our Lord is not ashamed of our poverty, endured for His sake, but He commends us for it. 

            “ . . . . and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” The honorable John Gill described these people, much like those today who profess Christ with their lips and deny Him with every other muscle of their bodies, thusly, (those) “who asserted themselves to be the true Israel of God, Jews that were so inwardly, regenerate persons, or truly Christians; for the Christians, baptized persons , were by the Heathens called Jews; but these were not, they professed Christianity in words, but in works denied it; they were men of bad principles and practices, and both blasphemed the ways and doctrines of Christ themselves, and caused them to be blasphemed by others also; they were false Christians, nominal professors, and shunned persecution for the Gospel; who were not what they would be thought to be: these were the broachers of heresies in this period of time, in which there was a multitude of them, and which chiefly disrespected the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person of Christ; and they were introducers of Pagan and Jewish rites into the church, and were men of flagitious lives and conversations, and paved the way for the man of sin: but were the children of the devil, imitated him, and were influenced by him, and were the forerunners of antichrist, whose coming was after the working of Satan.”

            “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.” No, we should not fear those things mentioned, nor anything earthly powers can work against us. We belong to the King of Kings. Though we may be persecuted in an outlying province of life, He is King there, too, and will exact justice and retribution. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands………… And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Rev 7:9,14) A crown is a royal grant that only a King can make, and the life to which He makes reference is an Everlasting life in the Royal realm of Heaven.

            “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.” Not all sitting in the pews on Sunday have new ears to hear. Their ears are those they had before they half-heartedly professed Christ as Lord. They hear the sermon Sunday after Sunday, yet seemed un-phased by any part of it. They may believe “Those old stories of Adam, of Cain, of David and Bathsheba, of Job, of Ruth, or of Gideon, etc. were not intended, surely, for modern man.” Really? Reality Check! The accounts of the Old and New Testament are intended more for us today than for many in ages past. Have we gotten somehow better? No! We have grown even more wicked and sophisticated in our imaginations. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5) What, has there been a drastic alteration of the DNA of man from that time to this? You KNOW better!


            At the return of our Lord, the small Remnant which He has preserved over the ages will remain small compared to the world. In fact, that Remnant will be reduced to a ‘Camp of the Saints’ against the four quarters of the earth. “And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” (Rev 20:9) That Camp will be small, but large enough to harbor the Church of Smyrna, and every elect member of the Church of God. Will you be found within its walls of defense in that day. If you examine and judge your own heart, the answer may be found therein.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Revelations Part Five – 28 September 2017, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!


The Church at Ephesus

U
nto 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 Nicolaitans, 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. (Rev 2:1-7)

            There are a number of ways theologians have looked at the interpretation of the events depicted in Revelation. Perhaps two that are the most common, even if directly opposed in some particulars, is the Historicist view (to include aspects of partial Preterism) and the Futurist approach to prophecy. The Historicist view is that which has been held by the Church from the time of the Reformation until very modern times, and is still common to the Reformed churches of our day such as Anglican, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches. These are primarily amillennialists or postmillennialists. The Futurist theologian interprets Revelation from the standpoint of pre-tribulation, premillenialist doctrine and attributes the work of God to periods of dispensation – that is, God does not act out His will with identical purpose and measure with all peoples and ages. I disagree with this theory. God is unchanging and constant in His Sovereign decrees. He may use different methods to awaken or to chasten His people, but His will and Purpose remain Iron-Solid across the ages. He foreordains and predestinates His Will for us. The Futurist churches are primarily those of the charismatic, and some Baptist, persuasions (though this is a departure from traditional Baptist doctrine of centuries past).

            Why is this introductory explanation important? It is because I want the readers of this study to understand my view of Scripture meaning and interpretation concerning the prophecies of Revelation (that is, historicist to include partial preterist). I believe I take the proper and true approach; however, it should be stipulated that many good ministers who hold to a contrary view are equally convinced else they would not preach otherwise. But I must travel by the Light the Lord gives me.

            The Lord addresses this first commendation and warning to the government of the Church of Ephesus (He who holds the seven stars). This does not include all ministers for some do not come close to true Christian faith. 

            I will point out that numerology in Scripture is important for understanding. The number ‘seven’ represents perfection. This number opens a path of understanding of Revelation which will open more widely throughout our study. The Creation Week was Seven Days. The Rainbow reveals Seven Colors (which when combined together yields solid white); there are Seven Churches, Seven Stars, Seven Heads, Seven Horns, Seven Eyes, Seven Spirits of God, and Seven Candlesticks. In the Book of Judges, the seventh Book of the Bible (which is judgment), the people of God apostacized seven times; the people repented, and God delivered them seven times. So consider this number as we proceed.

Ephesus was a city of renowned wealth and luxury. The Temple of the sordid goddess, Diana, was there and considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Paul preached at Ephesus for a period of three years. (Acts 20:31) By the way, it is likely that some cultural, yet unbiblical, transfer occurred in our observance of Easter in placing the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs at the focal point in teaching our children. Diana was the goddess of fertility like unto the Babylonian Ishtar – a practice common to both the Christian religion and  that of the Moslems (though the Moslems use the egg in ritual celebration of No Ruz - in Iran - which is their New Year occurring at the Spring equinpox. Curiously, the Moslems also allow their children to “pass through the fire” by jumping through bonfires lit on the streets at the Easter season – perhaps another practice hailing back to God’s warning in 2 Kings 23:10. In a nutshell, Ephesus was the New York City of Asia Minor. 

            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. This angel signifies, in my opinion, the under-shepherd of the Church, for Christ is forever the Shepherd of His Church. It is in the hands of Christ, and under His Authority, that the representative (and actual) ministers of His Church labor. If they lack the authority of Christ, they are false prophets. The Seven Churches represented by those Seven Candlesticks include the historical churches mentioned, but also the Church from the apostolic age until now. Christ is in the midst of that Church. It is for that reason that in the Anglican Church we do not place the minster and his pulpit at the center of the sanctuary, but rather to the side. The Lord’s Table represents the Presence of our Lord which takes center stage, for Christ is forever in the midst of His people.

            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: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Please note the warm and commendable expressions our Lord uses in describing the testimony of the Church at Ephesus. How wonderful if these laudable terms could describe even a tenth of our modern churches! The people of the Church at Ephesus were full of good works even in a city that was known for its opulent decadence. Perhaps they even had ministries to care for people ruined in natural catastrophes as many churches do today. These were tireless in their labors of good works, yet, there was something missing. What was it?

            Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  This terrible conclusion bears ramifications for God’s view of Holy Matrimony which, for the Church, MUST include Christ as the Bridegroom. Suppose a man marries a beautiful and virtuous young lady who epitomizes everything a good wife should be as described in Proverbs 31:10-31. They bear a number of wonderful children, and the father provides well for them through his studied profession. The couple grow older together and are happy; yet, one unhappy day, the man’s interest turn to a younger woman of his associations. He falls in love with this woman and divorces the wife of his youth? Or suppose the woman becomes enchanted with some younger fellow seeking to capitalize on the wealth her husband has accrued, and divorces him for the younger man? This is a tragic and unforgiveable sin to do so. One or the other of the aggrieved parties must live out their old age in loneliness and misery. The one has forsaken his or her first love. The Church (as the Bride of Christ) may do good works and own an excellent reputation, but may forget her First Love which is the Lord Jesus Christ, and seek another attraction in the world that is begotten of pride. Better to heed the words of Solomon: 15 Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. 16 Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. 17 Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. 18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. 19 Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. (Prov 5:15-19)

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. You may remember the day that a sudden light of beauty and grace burst upon your soul the moment that you fully were made aware, by the Holy Ghost, of your salvation in Christ. Remember how happy were the days, and tireless your energies to do all that the Lord desired of you. You may even have felt called of the Lord to the ministry and conceived of a great plan to build a local church. You were tireless in your efforts to preach and witness to all who would hear of how the Lord had blessed you and would bless all others who felt the call of the Lord. As your plans for a building were finalized, a beautiful building began to rise of the chosen foundation. Of course, if that Foundation was any other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the building would have no meaning. As it was being completed, it became a sort of showcase church for the community. Many prominent members of the community were attracted to it and became members. But mere church membership does not constitute a church. As your church grew, other concerns rose to the surface: things such as resolving conflicts among the members over color of carpet, drapes, windows, finances, matrimonial politics, and denominational departures from biblical faith. You could not please everybody, but you certainly wanted to – everybody, that is, but the Lord who had been forgotten in the bustle of labor. This was the Church of Ephesus, too. They had forgotten their first works and First Love.  At first light of realization of this fact, repentance is the only recourse.

            Some of my Baptist friends who are ministers accused me of being a Roman Catholic Church because I had candles and a cross on the Altar. I explained to them in the Anglican Church we do not have an altar, for Christ died once, and for all, for us. No further sacrifice was possible. Instead, we have a Lord’s Table for it is at His Table that we Commune. Furthermore, every Baptist church (to their credit) has a cross atop a steeple. Why should we not have a cross on the Lord’s Table? Furthermore, we have the Gospel and Epistle Candle on the Lord’s Table. Our Lord told the churches of the apocalypse 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. I then tell them that we at St. Andrews STILL have our candlesticks. Of course, these are Godly men and I was simply making a point in humor.

            But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Precisely what is meant by ‘Nicolaitans’ is uncertain, but be it enough to know that they were an evil lot who were apostates of the faith. Some have suggested that this group was formed by Nicolas, a deacon of Jerusalem, who associated false biblical doctrine with Balaam and Jezebel. Whatever the Lord loves, we must love. Whatever the Lord hates, we must hate since we are One with Him. Many today are changing the Word of God as well.

            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.   Believe it or not, there are many, even in churches, who have no spiritual ears to hear. It has been said that perhaps 95% of churches today would go on as they always had gone even if there were no Holy Spirit. That Tree of Life to which the astute hearer may eat is that same which was in the Garden eastward at Eden, and which died on another tree for our sins at Calvary, and which has today been removed to the Paradise of God.


            The Lord is not only speaking to the specific Church at Ephesus, but to every church of every age; and, ultimately, to every Christian professor with ears to hear.