We have looked at God as the ultimate power, in this episode we see how through that power he gives us everything we need to be faithful servants. As we strive for faithfulness and wait for the fullness of Heaven, perseverance emerges as a key factor in the life of the disciple. We are not only to persevere when things are hard, we also need to persevere in doing good works. We look at a passage in Hebrews about the joy set before Christ. We also have joy set before us, and we must be patient and persevere if we want to receive it in full, remembering that God gives us everything we need to endure.
Perseverance is a huge concept in the Bible. It tends to get applied by some branches of Christianity as a precondition to going to heaven. The basic argument is, if you persevere, then either you prove that your choice of being born was valid, or you prove that God made a good choice before the ages of the earth to predestine you to be born. But you have to—by good choices—have caused God to have chosen you, or something like that. God, who chooses on his own behalf, will choose because you did. The logic breaks down pretty early, but that’s the basic idea. It’s connected with birth.
The analogy is pretty weak there? How many babies do you know who have persevered? I guess you could say they made it nine months in the womb. But did that involve a lot of will on their part? Were they making a choice to persevere? Were they making a deliberate action to persevere? I don’t think so.
Anybody here remember being in the womb? It kind of escapes me. I don’t remember much about it.
So, I don’t think that’s it. Perseverance is such a big deal because it determines who we become; not who we are, but who we become.
Birth is a free gift. It doesn’t have anything to do with perseverance. Growing up has everything to do with perseverance. Let’s just take a look at some perseverance verses.
Romans 2:5. But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds—
This judgment is a big part of what Revelation is about. This day where Jesus will judge each person. And here’s who gets eternal life:
To those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.
That word patient there is hypomone. Patient, enduring, patient continuance. You keep on doing good.
You know the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished”? That phrase is—I’ve found to be—fairly true. If you do good deeds, people ask you to do more good deeds. If you do good deeds, you will get criticized for not doing good deeds to other people. You did a good deed for this person, why won’t you do a good deed for that person. You gave money to them, why won’t you give money to me? You came to their event, why won’t you come to my event?
If you just stay off the lists, nobody knows about you. They don’t ask anything. Right?
Well, that’s not what God asks us to do. He says keep on persevering and doing good. Why? Because that’s how you seek for glory, honor, and immortality.
We’re not used to that in Christianity. We tend to think we’re not supposed to seek for glory. That’s for other people. Just seek for God’s glory. We are asked to seek for God’s glory.
We’re not supposed to want to be honored. We’re supposed to defer to others. Humility.
That’s true too. But this is all before God. If you go before God and you say, “I really don’t care what you think of me.” God says, “I really want to confess you before my father.” “No, no. I don’t care what he thinks.” Now, don’t do that. “All that matters here is what I think of what I’ve done for you.” You think that would go over really well? I don’t think so.
What God is saying is I want you to keep on doing good so that when you come before me—God—I will say I liked what you did. See, that’s the idea here. Let’s live for what God thinks.
We can go on. Those who are self seeking. To be self seeking is to say, I will just live for me. As long as I’m happy it’s OK. If you’ll listen carefully to people, there’s a lot of religious-ese that’s all wrapped in all that really matters is what I think of myself.
But, no, if we’re self seeking and do not obey the truth—see, obedience is what leads to well‑done‑ness. And if we obey self and say, no, no, all that matters is me, then we will not obey the truth but will obey unrighteousness, which is what we generate on our own, here’s what we get: indignation.
You know, I gave you this opportunity, and you didn’t take it. I’ve opened this door for you, and you didn’t walk through it. Why? Tell me why. I gave you all these gifts. You squandered them. Tell me why. Indignation. Wrath.
I gave you all this opportunity and you—why? Just tell me why.
God is a consuming fire. Remember the guy with the brass feet and the eyes that are blazing and the face that causes the whole heaven and earth to melt? That’s who we’re going to be standing before. On every soul who does evil. There’s obviously going to be a difference between believers and unbelievers in terms of what this judgment is going to do; but fire is fire. And fire burns up unrighteousness.
The joy set before him
Let’s look at another perseverance verse. Hebrews 12:1. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross—endured. That’s it. Patient endurance.
What did he get? He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. That’s what he got. That was his reward. That was the joy set before him.
Sometimes people say the joy is us. And that is supportable in the scripture. In this verse, the joy is to get the authority that he got from his father. While we’re there, let’s just look over to the church of Laodicea. Revelation 3:21. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
The reason we’re fascinated with thrones is because that’s who determines what happens. Authority. Remember what Jesus says in the Great Commission. All authority is given to me. I’m giving it to you, to go teach others. If you will do as I ask, patiently continue to teach, whether people listen or not, if you will do that, I’m going to give you the same thing I got: to sit with me on my throne. You’re going to be part of my court.
It’s interesting, Count Zinzendorf was part of the Holy Roman Empire court, and he set that aside. I’ll bet you he’s going to get something way better. I’m very confident of it.
He is one of my heroes, one of the guys I look at and say that’s who I want to be like, in terms of an earthly example.
And I will keep you from the trial. It’s interesting that if we look at this word trial, it’s the same word as in James 1. And the word hypomone is in James 1. Count it all joy, brethren when you fall into various trials, because it produces endurance. Isn’t that interesting?
This whole thing is wrapped all through the scripture, this idea of preserving, of overcoming trials so that it perfects our faith.
Galatians 6:9 says And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
It’s over and over again.
If we will persevere in doing the role God’s given us, going through the door—even though it’s small. Even though it’s little. Elevation to the throne of the universe. That’s pretty mind boggling.
Verse 11. Behold I’m going quickly! Hold fast what you have—this term hold fast is like clutching. Like, hold, grip!
It’s pretty common in movies for there to be a scene where somebody’s just holding on to the edge of the building, or just holding onto the tree. And the question is, can they hold on? That’s where the tension comes from, the drama. Can they hold on?
That’s the idea here. Just hold on! Keep clutching what you have that no one may take your crown.
We can lose our reward
It’s very interesting that rewards are generally already prescribed for us. The victory’s already been won. The question is will we squander it?
There’s a very interesting passage in 2 John 1:7. For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
These crowns are laid up for us, but if we don’t persevere, we can lose them. Or we can lose a part of them, a full reward. We can get a partial reward.
Behold I’m coming, my reward is in my hand, Jesus says. He wants us to have the life that gives us the full blessing in the future.
This life of living by faith, we can’t reproduce it. We never get another chance to live by faith.
I’m sure there’ll be great opportunities to grow as people by sight, but never by faith; and he doesn’t want us squander the opportunity.
We can be a pillar in the temple
Verse 12. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.
We’ll see later, in the and-is-to-come part, there is no physical temple in the new earth. The temple is God himself. So how do you become a pillar in something that doesn’t exist? I think it’s an analogy that says we’re going to be so close to Jesus that it’s as though we’re a pillar in a building.
How does that happen? I think it happens because when you are living by faith, you get to know Jesus in a way that doesn’t happen otherwise. And he doesn’t want us to miss that.
I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from God. And I will write on him My new name.
I don’t know if this is an apologetic for tattoos, but somehow the name’s going to get on there.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The lukewarmness of the Laodiceans
This period of the Laodiceans is something that is very simple. They’re not doing good. He uses this analogy of lukewarmness. He says you’re not cold or hot.
Some people say that Laodicea had mineral springs, you would go there for healing. They were hot. And it had cold springs coming out of the mountains where you could drink the cool water. And both are useful.
If you mixed them together, it wasn’t useful. It wasn’t anything you could drink, and it wasn’t anything you could get healed by. So, if you put that in your mouth, you’d just spew it out. Perhaps that’s it.
Perhaps because of the spewing out—people like cold beverages, and they like hot beverages, but they don’t really ever order lukewarm for the most part.
Whatever it is though, it’s really clear that Jesus doesn’t like it. He spits it out.
We have need of nothing
Here’s what lukewarm is: It’s saying I’m rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing. That’s what lukewarmness is. I’m okay on my own. Don’t need God’s approval. Don’t need a reward from God. I’m fine on my own. Don’t need other people. Don’t need church. Don’t need the Bible. I can go my own way. Don’t need provision. I’ve got my own material comfort.
And that’s the spirit of our age. Our age seeks comfort. It seeks independence. Not needing anyone else.
But, the reality is when we have fine clothes, and we have a fine house, and we have few material needs, and we depend on those things, what we end up with is lonely and miserable and wretched and poor.
There’s a great book called the Fourth Great Awakening by a guy named Fogel, and he claims that we’re still in a fourth awakening. It started with the Jesus Movement. And he says every time we’ve had one of these awakenings, there’s been huge material prosperity that’s come out of it. The hospital movement. People get well. Entrepreneurship. And people get out of poverty.
I think it’s very insightful.
He says that our material—and he’s talking about America now, the western world—have gotten so good that you can’t really get any better. I mean, our poor people are struggling with eating too much. That’s unprecedented in the history of humanity.
What’s lacking is spiritual blessing, he says. I think he’s right. That’s our big deficiency in this age.
Well, how do we do that? Revelation 3:18. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire—there’s that fire again. How do you get that?—that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve—apparently Laodicea was a place where people would go to mineral baths and get eye salve. —that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.
Their door is closed
Laodicea is doing nothing good. Does Jesus love them? Of course he does. They’re a church. He wants them to overcome. And this is what he does with people he loves: he rebukes and chastens.
Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice—
Hey! Let me in, let me in, church. Let me in, believer. You are living a lonely independent life. If you will let me in, we will now fellowship. And we will dine together. Because, the way to get rich is to listen. To hear.
James 1 has this same basic idea. We get trials. That produces endurance. We have temptations—not because of the trials but because of our own passions. And the way we overcome these passions, that will eventually produce sin and death if we don’t set them aside, is to first learn to listen to other people. Be swift to hear, slow to speak. That gives us the skill to lay aside wickedness and overflow of evil and receive with meekness the implanted word.
When we invite him in, we get riches
When we learn to listen to others to see their perspective, we learn to listen to God and see his perspective. When we do, we’re inviting him in. And when we invite him in, we get true riches, as much gold as we want.
How much gold do we want? Well, get all that you have. Get all you want. Buy all you like. You can get all you want just by listening to me.
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Jesus lived dependent on his father
Jesus has already done this. He endured. He persevered. He was the only person capable of living an independent life, and he lived a perfectly dependent life. I can of myself do nothing, he said. I only do that which the father tells me.
Was that because he was only capable of doing that? No. It was because he left his home in heaven, which he did not consider a thing to be grasped, and took on the form of a bondservant and became like us and learned obedience, even to death on the cross that his name might be elevated above every name. And Philippians tells us, have that mind! Have the same mind that wants to say, God, I’ll lay down whatever it is I possess. I’ll give it to you to do as you ask me to do, whatever that door is that you open for me; and I will walk through it, and I will endure it daily.
Jesus says, if you do that, then you’ve done what I’ve done. And I will do for you what God did for me. If you learn obedience even to death, dying to all your own desires, if you do that, then you will overcome.
And we’ll end with, He who has an ear, let him hear.
What does hearing give us? Untold riches. As much gold as you want.
Read, hear, do
What is the very simple theme of Revelation? I want you to read, hear, do. Read, hear, do. Why? Lay aside overflow of wickedness.
What he’s saying is we’ve got an open door in the faithful church that they’re walking through, and in Laodicea, they have a closed door on their heart, and Jesus is saying open up and let me in. It’s interesting because if they open up and let him in, why do you think he’ll do next? Probably open a door for them, right, so they can go out and serve.
So, let me give you a little prequel, a little teaser: next time we’ll start the what-is-to-come. Listen to this. After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven—There’s a door again. —And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
What was and is, and now we’re going to go to what will be, and we’ll find out about thrones and dominions and authorities and kings and crowns and white garments and armies. And we’ll be right in the middle of it all.