Church Almost Went Extinct
Real quickly before we pray and go on, I have to tell you this. In 1978, when your parents were born, there was a radio station called Trans World Radio. It was in Bonaire, an island in Monte Carlo, like the formula race which is in Europe. It was on the coast of the Riviera there. Trans World Radio was at the forefront of getting the Gospel into the world. Their studios broadcast the Bible and evangelistic messages in every language of the world. They timed how they bounced it in so it would go to the countries at the right time. For decades, they’d been doing this since World War II, they kept track of everyone that responded. I was in college just like you in 1978 and I got an invitation. I had been supporting a guy named Brother Andrew and sending him money. He wrote a book you’ve probably heard of called God’s Smuggler. He used to write me letters and he invited me to go on a trip with him to take Bibles in.
I got all excited and I started raising money to go smuggling Bibles. It was my junior year in college, and I was all excited. Then it turned out that Brother Andrew’s group was going to a country where I didn’t have a visa, so I had to jump to another group. I didn’t go with Brother Andrew, even though I supported him. we were friends, and we wrote and all that stuff. I went with a German outfit. They told me that I was going to go with seven German speaking students, and I would be the only English speaker. They were going to deliver a Bible to every person in all the Islamic countries that had written to Trans World Radio. They said it’s a very hard mission because 6,000 people have written to us. We have 6,000 Arabic Bibles. We have wrapped all 6,000 Arabic Bibles in brown paper and tied string on them. All of them are ready to be mailed, but we have to take them into the easiest Arabic country to get into, which is Morocco.
They said you have to go with this team and drive this Mercedes bus with the trailer that has 6,000 wrapped up Bibles inside brown grocery bags in the trailer. You have to cross the border into Morocco where they search you. If they find it, you will go to jail. When you’re a junior in college, it sounds like fun, right? Doesn’t that sound exciting? So, we did. The eight of us. We drove 6,000 kilometers to deliver 6,000 Bibles. We crossed the most beautiful landscape. I could describe it all day. We drove across Switzerland on the highways, across France, the Costa del Sol of Spain, to Málaga. We were at Gibraltar, we crossed at Gibraltar. Finally, I was the driver. That’s why I was on the team because I was a truck driver before I went to school. I drove and drove so much that it was fun. I could tell you stories about that all day, but we got to the border, and we got in. It was totally a miracle because of how the Lord timed out getting there.
By the way, we parked in our car with 6,000 Bibles in it and everybody was sweating. All of them were figuring how long before their mother would die because they were in prison and never contacted her again. Everyone was thinking about all this stuff. Me, I was driving, and I was watching. I could see six cars in front of us. In the front car they opened the trunk, they opened the hood, and they opened all the doors. They took out the seats. They unbolted the seats of the car and took them out. They took the carpet out and they were looking for stuff. They were looking for smuggling. I thought you don’t have to unbolt anything; just open the back door and you’ll see 6,000 Bibles. I thought, wait a minute. Every one of those Bibles has a person’s name written in Arabic and their home address. Do you realize Trans World radio was risking every known contact in the Arab world that had any questions about Christianity? Who thought of that?
Of course, I’m a college kid, you just do what you’re told. I was sitting there thinking and I said, Lord if they even open the back door 6,000 unsaved people will be known. Remember I said angels don’t lead churches. What do angels do? Do you remember what it says in the last verse of Hebrews chapter 1? It says aren’t angels ministering spirits who watch over those who shall be heirs of salvation. Do you know what one of the things angels do? They protect people that haven’t gotten saved yet, that God knows are going to respond to the Gospel. That’s interesting. I’m not teaching Hebrews, so I’ll just say that. I’m saying, Lord, I am a little concerned about these 6,000 people that are going to get put in jail.
I was having this thought and I was holding all eight of the passports because the driver needs to have them. I had watched the scene. They’re wearing machine guns, they’re wearing these dark uniforms with those French looking hats, the Moroccan hat. They march up with their machine guns and say something. Everybody gets out of the car and the driver hands over the passports. I had seen it. When they get all done taking the car apart, they hand back the passports and they drive away into Morocco. I watched car one, car two. We were in car six. Car three, car four. By the time we got to car five, they were sticking wires into the gas tank trying to see if anything’s floating in there that they’re smuggling in. They’re on roller boards underneath the car looking under the exhaust pipes. These soldiers are doing that. I thought they don’t have to do any of that to us. We’re this giant long bus and then this trailer full of brown paper bags to the ceiling. Do you know how many 6,000 Bibles there are? That’s a lot.
We come up to the border gate. It’s my turn, put it in park, had the passports in my hand, and reached for the handle to open the door. The door wouldn’t open. I thought, oh, they’re going to think I’m resisting inspection. I started pushing and it gave a little and then I looked over the side of the door, over the window. The soldier had his knee against the door, he was holding my door shut. He was looking over the side. I thought, what is he looking at? I looked over and it was 11:59, the second hand was ticking around the clock. Did you know clocks weren’t digital in the old days? They had hands that pointed at numbers. None of you have ever seen one of those, a clock. Look in a museum.
Here’s this clock. The soldiers holding my door shut. I had the passports almost touching his face. As soon as it hit noon, there was this bell and all the soldiers marched away and the new crew came in. I’m still in the car and the soldier gets up and he looks all the way down the van and trailer. Do you know how long the Mercedes bus and that trailer were? Boy, was that soldier crisp. He had his new uniform on. He just said, Americans, and waved us through. He never let us get out of the car. We drove in. I said this is going to be a great trip. We’re already having supernatural protection. They took five cars apart in front of me, but because the Lord timed us to be at 11:59 we made it through.
What about this guy? Trans World Radio knew there were six born again Christians in Morocco in 1978. They said there’s one in the city of Fes, FES, Fes. You can look it up on the map, Fes, Meknes, Casablanca, all these wonderful cities. We drove into Fes. They said we can’t tell you his address because if they captured you, they would kill him. He is the person that receives these 6,000 Bibles and he knows how to get them distributed. He’s the most important person for the Lord in Morocco, so we will not tell you his address. I said, oh great. How many people live in Fes? They said, oh, I don’t know, 125,000, but if the Lord wants you to get the Bibles to him, you’ll find him. I said, oh good. You know, I’m just a dumb American college student driving a van with seven other sitting ducks around Morocco with 6,000 illegal contrabands.
To make a long story short, I don’t think this happens to everyone all the time because it’s never happened to me before, but I was driving. I said, hey, what do you guys think we should do? One of the people said we should pray. We parked inside the country on the outside of Fes, and we prayed. When we all had finished praying one person said, boy, I know where we’re supposed to go. I said really, you know where he is? They go, ah and we started driving. All of a sudden, another one says it’s that road. I was the driver. Do you know anything about Moroccan cities? They look like the old city of Jerusalem if you’ve been there yet. The roads got narrower and narrower. The buildings started closing in and I’m the driver. I knew I could not back up very far with that trailer behind me. It was starting to get narrow enough that I was having them pull in the mirrors. Each person said one by one I’m sure we’re supposed to go this way. We kept driving a little bit and none of them had any other piece.
Finally, the last one says, I think we should go this way. The road had gotten so narrow we were in the souk; do you know what that is? It’s the central market. We pulled into the town square, and it was my turn because I was the eighth person. I said I have no feelings about what we are supposed to do. I’m going to park, and we should pray again. We all bowed our heads in this big Mercedes bus with the trailer in front of the market. The instant we bowed our heads we heard a loud sound. You know what that is. That is the call to prayer. Morocco’s a very observant Muslim country. People came from everywhere. Most of them were wearing completely black outfits. You wouldn’t believe it; it was just a wave of black outfitted people.
We had not only parked at the market, but it was the central mosque of Fes. They were all streaming by us. They crawled over the trailer hitch. They were brushing against the trailer. They were brushing against the front of the Mercedes. It was like a river of black garbed humanity. We were just all sitting there like this when all of a sudden, a face came up to my window and then the person knocked. I looked at this big smiling face. He said I can’t believe it, in English. He said I was up on my knees. We were parked here, the mosque is here, the markets here. He said I live on the third floor right there. He said, how did you know where I lived? I said, don’t ask me. He said I was on my knees and as I got up from my knees, I looked out. I’d been praying and said, Lord, if they’re ever going to deliver, they’re going to have to deliver during the call to prayer because everyone will be in the mosque, and no one will see them. It’s the only time it will work. When I got up from my knees, he said, I saw the most obvious, gigantic, European outfit. Nobody drives those into the inner city. You get stuck down here.
He said I knew it was you guys. We have exactly 15 minutes while they’re in the mosque. All of them are on their faces on their prayer rugs and doing the things that they do in the mosque. You can get all those bags up here and leave. We did. I thought, what can God do with a person who loves the Lord more than their life? For a person who was one of six in the whole country who is willing to go to jail and probably have his hands cut off for bringing the infidels Bibles in. The praying man in Morocco. I don’t know his name. Of course he wouldn’t tell us his name, but I will never forget that with his face, he smiled like he couldn’t believe it. As if the perfect arrival and delivery could have been set up, only God could do that.
See, that is just in my life in 1978. That was one small slice of a reminder of what God can do. From someone that knows what God’s plan is for the Church. God’s plan for the Church is that we do what God called us to do and love Him more than anything else so that He can do something with us that no one else could do. That’s what He does. That’s the plan He has for you.
The book of Revelation is about how it all ends. This is our final time today, our fifth lesson. Did you know there’s actually a time when the Church of Jesus Christ almost went extinct? That is what we’re going to see as we’re starting to look. We’ve looked at Ephesus right there, see Patmos, you can see the little pink thing and that island is Patmos. Then you see the first one, Ephesus, just north of Ephesus is Smyrna. That’s where we’re going to be in chapter 2 verses 8 to 11.
I started and I spent my half hour in Smyrna. This is what I found. Look in your Bible at Revelation. Revelation 2, starting in verse 8. “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna.” Now, take the s off, myr. Does that sound like any word? Jesus at His birth had gold, frankincense, and what? Smyrna. That’s actually how they say it. We say myrrh. They say Smyrna. He’s going to the place named after the spice you put on people’s bodies when they’re dead. Isn’t that interesting. This letter was written to people facing death for Christ.
Look what Jesus says. To the angel, the messenger, the pastor, the elder of the church of embalming fluid. That’s how we’d say it in English. At the funeral home, that’s what they put into people so that you can have them in a casket, with an open casket. They put in embalming fluid, so you live in the city of embalming fluid. It sounds kind of gross. “These things says the First and the Last.” How does Jesus introduce Himself? Remember I told you every letter is to a city and then Jesus chooses a way to introduce Himself that ends up being very important to the message of the letter.
What does he say in verse 8? “These things says the First and the Last, who was” what? Dead. “And came to”? Life. Thank you. Jesus is identifying with them. What were they facing? Death. What were they hoping on the other side of death would be? Endless life. Jesus said, hey, I did it. I’ve already gone through that whole thing. I even had myrrh put on Me. You’re from Smyrna, isn’t that neat? Only Jesus understands all our struggles I wrote in my journal. He describes Himself as dead and alive as they were facing fatal persecution.
Jesus knows what we’re facing and He’s going to help us. He’s going to help us. He says that’s My whole focus. I’m the coach. I’m on the floor with you. I’m in the game. I’m beside you. You don’t even know it a lot of times. You don’t even pay attention to Me much at the time, but I am right there. I’m committed to making, He that has begun a good work, Philippians 1:6, will bring it to perfection. Jesus is going to finish what He started so don’t worry. If you’re going to go through all the way to death, don’t worry, I’m with you.
I’ve done 350 funerals. I love doing funerals. It’s one of the greatest places to encourage the saints and share the Gospel. Do you know what I always say? We’ve come here to say farewell, but I know exactly where Jesus Christ was. I say in room 509 of whatever general hospital at 7:00 PM, Jesus showed up. How do I know that? Because He said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” Jesus promises He’s going to walk every believer before they go through the valley, before they enter the valley, He gets them and walks them through.
I say, you know what? Jesus showed up at the bedside of sister so-and-so in room 509 of the hospital while everybody was over here. They were doing the boards and checking the monitors. What they didn’t see was Jesus saying come on. She sat up, the real her, the tent stayed behind. She sat up and heard for the first time the voice she knew so well of her Good Shepherd. She just couldn’t believe it. She’s looking around and sees everybody in a flurry with the tubes and everything, and Jesus said come on. He walks us home. Did you know whoever lives and believes in Me, Jesus said in John 11:25-27, will never die?
We don’t ever die. Our body does. We don’t cease to be consciously existing. We see Jesus. He walks us through. Jesus said, hey, I’m your greatest sympathizer. I know what’s going on. Look at verse 9. “I know your works.” I know your tribulations. You’re getting squished. I know your poverty, but you’re really rich. “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not.” I know you’re getting verbal abuse. I know you’re getting physical abuse. I know. I know it all. I’m your greatest sympathizer.
If you’re flying over, this is a picture out the window of an airplane. This is Izmir, one of the most beautiful cities in Turkey. Izmir is what they call Smyrna of Bible times. It’s still there, the whole city. See the yellow, tall, kind of green building and you see the big yellow circle. That is the 1st century agora, the forum of Smyrna. It’s a park. You can go to it. All of you that have been on the seven churches tour of Turkey, were there inside the yellow line. Do you know what the message is of this second church? How does God want us to respond to fear, pain, and struggles? Especially when they appear like they are going to be fatal?
If you go inside that circle, I’m taking you on a tour. By the way, I love doing this. I’ve taken 2,500 people to the lands of the Bible. I love doing that. Today I’m taking 467 people through the lands of the Bible. Today I’m doing it because every week I release another segment on YouTube and they actually go with us through this place. I’m going to take you through Smyrna right now. As you’re looking at that picture, you’re walking through the arched way into the agora, into the forum, into the marketplace, into the heart of Smyrna of Christ’s time, of Revelation 2:8-11. Why are we bothering to do that? Because it helps you understand the message of this letter.
Smyrna was one of the early adopters of the worship of Domitian. Remember I told you that Domitian built the largest place. I was just teaching a group and I took them to Domitian’s Palace. I talked to them, and someone captured it on their cell phone. If I can find it, I’m going to show it to you one of these days. You can actually be in Domitian’s house. Domitian wanted to be worshiped as a god so he offered favors to the provinces if they would force the citizens to bow to him. He sent all these busts of himself, a statue, and they would put it in the agora. Smyrna agreed to do it. It’s kind of like in our Congress, if you’ll go along with it, they’ll build a park in your town. All these perks that taxpayer money goes to. Imperial money went to everybody that adopted emperor worship, so the leaders of Smyrna did it.
All it involved was bringing the townspeople in a narrow single file into the agora and right there on the right, there would have been the city clerk. The city clerk had the roster of all the Roman citizens and all the Roman citizens had to walk by. You told them your name, they found your name and they put a checkmark on it. Next to the city clerk was a little tiny bowl. Imagine, how many people lived in Smyrna? Thousands. Can you imagine how long the line was? You would be in this line. No one actually could see what you were doing because they’re all behind you. You walk up there to the city clerk and the city clerk would ask for your name. They would check it off and you’d reach your fingers into a little bowl of incense. Next to the clerk was a little oil lamp with its flame going. All you had to do was take the incense, pinch the little powder, and hold it over the oil lamp. The incense powder, when it hit the flame of the oil lamp, would be like little flaming sparkles. If you put sugar over a flame it’ll burn, the same thing with incense, a little puff of smoke.
The soldier standing there, the centurion, the legionnaire would hand you a little tiny slip of paper. It was called a libelli. It was a certificate that you were legit, you know a good emperor worshiping citizen. Nobody said anything. Domitian was right there. You were offering worship to him. You were saying I worship you. You’re a god, or you were saying you’re a dummy, but you didn’t say it out loud. You just did it because you wanted to get that slip. If you didn’t do it at that moment, they cuffed you. You are not good. You went to jail. Didn’t know if you’d ever see your family.
They ended up burning the pastor of Smyrna who was 86 years old because he wouldn’t do it. They burned him at the stake. Hey, everybody’s standing behind me. Nobody can see what I’m doing. Just walk through. Say sorry Jesus, I don’t mean to do this. See, you could have the best of both worlds. That’s what was going on in the Church. There was what’s called the lapse Christian, like LAPSE, lapsing, not fully following Christ because people were so afraid to be burnt at the stake. That’s why Jesus said don’t fear those things which you’re about to suffer. Don’t fear. I already died. I’m going to be with you. Jesus walks us through a life of trials.
This is just the beginning. Remember Nero started the persecution in 54-68 and swept up the Apostle Paul and swept up the Apostle Peter. Paul was executed as a Roman. Peter was crucified in Nero’s stadium. Nero had a circus. It was a horse racetrack. It’s in Rome today. Everybody has seen where Peter was executed because the centerpiece of that execution was an obelisk from Egypt. That’s where he was executed in that chariot race arena. Do you know what they built all the way around it? It’s called the Vatican. It’s called St Peter’s. You’ve seen where Peter was martyred and Paul, probably out by the 13th mile marker or wherever where they did the Romans. Domitian now is the second big persecutor. He’s the one that exiles John but look, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius. That’s the one that The Gladiator movie is about. Marcus Aurelius and Septimus Severus and Maximinus and Decius, Valerian, Aurelian. Then we get the worst one and that’s when Christianity almost got to the end.
I call it the near extinction of Christianity. Nero started it. He was sporadic. Nero had problems. He murdered his own mother. He murdered his wife. Historians tell us when he was a little kid that he got a frying pan. He was rich. He was one of Augustus Caesar’s relatives, so he was very wealthy. He would have street urchins collect flies. He would hold the fly, pull its wings off, and drop it in the pan and see how long it could run around the pan over the fire before the fire killed it. That’s what he did as a child. He liked to hurt things. He bought big sandals and had spikes on them. When his wife was expecting and he didn’t like her, he kicked her to death. You couldn’t touch him; he was the emperor. He was bad. Domitian was a calculated killer.
Then we get to Diocletian. He was an engineer. I’ve never watched one, but the most famous cable show was called Game of Thrones or something. The castle thing where it was filmed, that’s Domitian’s palace. It’s on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. His palace became a whole city on the coast that they make movies in. Diocletian started the most complete persecution of the Church.
He did three things. He was an engineer. He was great at doing things. He fixed all of Rome’s sewers. He fixed the water, he fixed the bathhouses, and then he heard about the Christian problem. He’s the only emperor that retired. Every other Roman empire either died of dissipation, the Emperor was assassinated, or died in a fight. Diocletian never lost any battles. Never died in a fight. No one wanted to assassinate him, he was such a good emperor. He didn’t dissipate. He was an engineer. Those engineer accounting types, they’re very methodical. When he got all done, he retired and went to Dubrovnik, the city where the castle is. He said for going against Christianity there are three things you need to do to get rid of Christianity.
Number one, get their holy book. The Legionnaires went out and they went through and ransacked every Christian’s home and every church. They destroyed every complete copy of the Bible. Have you guys had your textual criticism class and Bible survey class and found out that there is no complete manuscript of the Bible? That means one manuscript with all the books together in one place that predates Diocletian. Oh, there are many after Diocletian. He destroyed everyone.
What did the Christians do? The same thing as when I was in communist countries. They would tear up their Bibles into pieces and they’d give this family Genesis, and this family Exodus, and this family Leviticus, so if the communist police came, they only got one book. They had it spread all over the place. That’s what the believers did. That’s why there are so many manuscript fragments, because of this period. He got rid of all the Bibles. He didn’t really, but he thought he did.
Then he said we are going to destroy every place that has a church meeting. Any house or any building the church met in; the Roman legionnaires destroyed them under Diocletian. That’s why in the Holy Land you can’t find any of these cathedrals that have ruins there because they were all destroyed. You can find them afterward in Constantine’s time like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity, but nothing before. Why? They destroyed them all. The last thing he said, we’re going to get rid of every pastor, every one of those messengers in Christ’s hand. They did, they either imprisoned him or killed him. It’s the closest the Church ever got to extinction.
All of you know what happened as they were marching them out. This is one of the artist’s renderings of the arena, the Colosseum, which was built over Nero’s lake. They would march these people out there and they would say if you don’t renounce Christ the lion will eat you. Those legionnaires would watch men, women, and children, defenseless, torn to shreds and they would die singing. They’d die looking up praying and they had this supernatural peace. Wow.
What did Jesus say is going to help them do that? He says, look at verse 8. Hey, I’m the One. I’m the “First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.” You’re sharing in My sufferings. Do you remember what Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12? “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus.” Is that the second or first? I might have a typo here. 2 Timothy 3. Oh no, it’s right. 2 Timothy 3:12. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Not some, all.
Do you know what’s interesting if you read the whole letter to the Smyrnians? He doesn’t promise they’ll escape with their lives. We love the happy ending movies where at the last minute they get rescued. Jesus said to be faithful unto death and I’ll give you a crown of life. Look at what He says. “He who has an ear” verse 11, “let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” If you overcome it, you’ll not be hurt by the second death. Back up to verse 10. “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be to be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful until death.” I’m not going to rescue you and I’ll give you a crown of life. Wow.
What’s the lesson? I wrote in my journal that throughout history God has used the persecution of His Church to advance the Gospel. What did the Lord want them to do? Number one in verse 10, Jesus said do not fear. Do you know what the most repeated negative prohibition in the Bible is? What does God say not to do most? Fear not. That’s the most repeated negative prohibition in the Bible. Fear not, fear not. Why? Because God has not given us a spirit of fear. That’s what Paul told Timothy. What’s the realm of fear? Who runs the fear realm? Satan. We can get paralyzed by fear when we live in fear. That’s what’s so wrong.
None of you are old enough to remember, but we went through this Y2K thing. It was called Y2K and all the Christians thought the world was going to end so what did the Christians do? I don’t mean all of them. A vast majority of them. I was pastoring in Oklahoma, and I know what a lot of people did. They bought places way out in the country, they stocked them with diesel and generators and enough grain to feed 200 people for 400 years. They dug wells and they had gold and machine guns. You wouldn’t believe the stuff. I visited some of these places. I lost a dear friend because he invited Bonnie and me to come with our eight little children and come to his compound. He said, once you come in on Thanksgiving, you can’t leave until Y2K is over. I said, wait a minute.
You probably don’t even know what Y2K was. They said all the computers at once were going to turn off, and the electricity would stop, and the water would stop, and every plane would fall out of the air, and the world would end. I thought, wait a minute, I’ve already read about this in the Bible. What we’re supposed to be doing is running out there and trying to lead as many people to Christ as possible. How can you lead them to Christ if you’re in your compound with machine guns to keep them out? We lost that friendship. They did go to their compound, and they did drop off the radar. No one knew where they were and they survived Y2K, but they lived in what Jesus most often tells us not to live in, fear. Don’t fear. Choose to stop fearing.
Jesus understands that Satan uses fear, 2 Timothy 1:7. God doesn’t give a spirit of fear, so Jesus shares the most repeated negative prohibition. Fear not. Why? Because Jesus goes on to say the devil can cause bad things to happen in our lives. God knows how much we can endure. We learn that in Job. Do you remember Job 1 and 2? I’m sure you’ve already covered the book of Job. Chapters 1 and 2 are one of the greatest passages on the cosmic battle going on. If I was teaching the book of Job, I’d tell you all about things Satan can do.
Satan can affect the weather. He sent a tornado and destroyed the home where Job’s 10 kids were. It says a wind came out of the woods and destroyed the home. Who did that? Satan sent fire from Heaven and destroyed Job’s servants and the flocks. Satan can bring fire down from Heaven. How do we know that? Read Revelation. When you read it this week as your assignment, you’re going to see the false prophet can call down fire anytime he wants, and Satan can send fire. Do you know what that means? Signs and wonders don’t just come from God. Remember how Moses said, if someone does a sign or a wonder don’t believe him unless what they say aligns with the Bible. This is the proof, not the sign, not the wonder. This, the word of God. Jesus limits Satan’s harm to us, but Jesus asks us if we would be willing to lose our earthly temporal life in exchange for permanent heavenly life.
Remember, it’s like the whole argument. I do a lot of Q and A’s. I love doing Q and A’s where people ask questions and I show them from the Bible how to answer that. Do you know what one of the big ones is? Is cremation okay or not. That’s a big question. I think I know the top hundred because I’ve heard them. Do you know what cremation is? Cremation is rapid rotting. Human bodies rot, they decay. After the formaldehyde wears off, gradually they decay in that box. Either you oxidize slowly in decay, going back to dust, or rapidly. Rapid oxidation is called burning, and slow oxidation and decay are called budding. I know that the pagans cremate and all that, but basically, the body is going back to dust either fast or slow. What I’m saying is we’re all going to die, except for those that are alive and remain at the coming of Christ. If you can choose between saving your life and saving all your stuff and moving to the compound and keeping everything safe while the world falls apart, Jesus said, whatever you hold on to until the end you’ll lose, but if you lose your life for My sake, you’ll gain everything.
That’s what prompted Jim Elliot to go to the Aucas. He knew he was probably going to die. If you have ever heard of him, Through the Gates of Splendor guy. That’s what made all these pioneer missionaries do what they did because they said either we’re going to go in the slow boat and rot, or we’re going to burn out. We’re going to burn out. God doesn’t call everybody to that, and Jesus specifically said, if they persecute you in one place flee to another place. He never said stand there and be killed, but he said, don’t deny Me. If they chained you up and said, either deny Christ or die you say, okay, I won’t deny Him, I’ll die. If they haven’t chained you and they say, if you don’t go through that line and worship Caesar, we’re going to kill you, you can flee to another town. You’re fleeing means that you confess Christ and you’re able to share the Gospel with them.
Jesus limits Satan’s harm to us, but we’re supposed to in our hearts be willing to lose everything. How do we do that? Verse 11, if you overcome, you’ll not be hurt by the second death. How it says it in Hebrews 7:16, I love Hebrews 7:16. We live after the power of an endless life. I like how my mentor, John MacArthur used to say it. He flew on airplanes all the time, like Bonnie and I do. Do you know what he used to tell the person next to him? He would sit there studying his Bible and the person next to him would say, what are you doing? He would say it’s a good thing you’re on this airplane with me, it’s not going to crash because I know God’s not done with me yet. The person would say, what did you just say? He would say, good thing you’re on this airplane with me, it’s not going to crash because God’s not done with my life yet. I know that I have to finish teaching through the whole Bible so it’s not going to crash. I wouldn’t do that. That’s a crazy thing to do, but that’s how assured he was that he had been called to Grace Community Church to preach through every verse of the Bible. He just finished recently so I expect his plane to crash. What’s amazing is that we live after the power of an endless life. We will live forever.
Really quickly, oh, we’re on 16. I have to tell you about one more friend of mine. Remember I told you I delivered Bibles; well, I didn’t just do it in Northern Africa. Another summer in ’79 I led a whole team from my bible college. I recruited kids and Bonnie was actually in the chapel. I was asking kids to go on this team with me. I had not met her yet; I wouldn’t have gone on the team if I had known her. I got this team, and we took 50,000 Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.
I’ll tell you about one trip. We would load Bibles into these vans. These were more sophisticated. They had a moveable floor. These were professional smuggling vehicles. They would slide the floor and you’d stick the Bibles one Bible high, the entire frame of the car. It was beautifully engineered in Switzerland. A car could hold 1800 Bibles and we packed them and prayed for each one and put them in and then we would shut the thing and we’d go through the border and just pray that they wouldn’t find them. Our team’s never lied. There was another mission where they taught them how to look right in the eye and say, no, we don’t have Bibles until you didn’t flinch. I said I don’t want to be on that team because God doesn’t bless lying so I went on the team where we were willing to go to jail.
We got our Bibles and we got to Romania. That’s where all the Ukrainians are going these days. It’s right over there on the Black Sea, right by Ukraine. They told us the way we would deliver our Bibles was that we would pull up in front of a factory at 5:00 PM and one of the workers would come right out and not say a word and get in the front seat of our car. That worker was Boaz, and he would take us, show us where the churches were, and we would deliver the Bibles. Do you know where they would put them? Inside haystacks. Have you ever seen The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s on top of the haystack or whatever? I don’t know, is that there? I don’t know. Those big haystacks that are giant were hollowed out inside. They built rooms in them. They had doors and they put hay over them so you couldn’t see it. We would drive up in the middle of the night and they’d move the hay. They’d open the door and we’d put all 1800 Bibles in there. It was a neat way to smuggle Bibles.
The first trip, remember we took 50,000. Boaz shows up and jumps in the car. He tells us where to go. He’s sleeping laid back with his hands folded on his chest. I looked over at his hands, his fingernails were this thick, you see how thick that is. People’s fingernails are not that thick. They were also brown, dark brown, horrible. I thought, wow, he has eczema. I didn’t know what it was. I asked the mission leader. I said, that guy we work with who doesn’t talk much, why are his fingers like that? After the first trip. He said oh, you don’t know Boaz? I said, I don’t know Boaz. He said, oh, he gets caught all the time. He said only they don’t kill him. The police know he helps us, so they tie his hand on a bench so just his fingers are sticking off. The police chief takes a block of pinewood with his jackknife and makes slivers. Then he comes in and he jams these sharp pine needle thin, like toothpicks, under every fingernail and then he pops out his lighter and he lights them all. They burn and it ruins your fingernails. It hurts too. They said that’s what they do to him. I said, they’ve done it before? Oh, they said they catch him every year. I said, and he goes through that every year? Have you ever gotten one tiny pine needle under your fingernail or anything? It really hurts.
We pulled up in front of the factory the next day. We reloaded our car. We pull up and Boaz gets in. I just wanted to kiss that hand of his. I thought I’d never met someone whose faith in Christ overcame their fears. By the way, that summer they stopped doing that to him. The next time we came, he didn’t come out. They tied him to the bench this time with his feet out and they took a rubber garden hose. The police chief had his entire crew whap the bottoms of his feet with the garden hose. Do you know what happens if you hit the bottoms of your feet for so long? It does something to your nerves where you no longer can stand up, so it crippled him. The damage to the bottoms of his feet. We came back another year. I couldn’t believe it when I pulled up in front of the factory, Boaz.
You see, his faith in Jesus Christ, believing that he could trade the temporal for the eternal made him like the people of Smyrna. He said life is camping. It’s uncomfortable. Have you ever camped? It’s damp and there are bugs. If you don’t have one of those nice, neat mats it’s bumpy and there’s smoke. Have you ever been outdoors, and it rains? It’s horrible. You endure camping because Heaven is home. Wow. Okay.
We only have a few minutes to introduce the next church, which is Pergamum. It’s in chapter 2, we’re going to start in verse 12. By the way, that’s what it looks like if you went there today. This is the main cardo, and you can see the columns going up along that ridge. You can see, oh, that’s the incredible theater that’s at Pergamum, and where those two trees are to the right of the theater is where the seat of Satan is. It’s an altar that’s actually in the Berlin museum. We would look at that, but do you know what the problem of Pergamos was? In verse 12 Jesus tells them. “To the angel of the church in Pergamos.” Per-gamos, interesting. “These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is.'” That altar that was right there where those two trees are. “And you hold fast to My name and you did not deny My faith even in days which Antipas was a faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”
Whoa, there’s so much. If you guys pick this chapter, I hope you’re seeing it. Did you know Satan moves around? He’s not omnipresent. At that particular time in history, Jesus knows where Satan is. He knows where all the demons are. He knows every false teacher; He knows what’s going on. He says right now, Satan is headquartered in your town because he liked that altar to Zeus that was right up there, the King of the Gods. Satan is proud and he likes attention. “But I have” verse 14 “a few things against you, because you have there” in your church “those who hold the doctrine of Balaam.” Remember, nothing new. Everything goes back to somewhere else in the Bible.
Do you remember Balaam? Balaam is the one that went up and slaughtered all those oxen and built the seven altars. Balak wanted him to curse the children of Israel. He said, I’ll only say what God wants me to say and he blessed Israel every time. You remember that story from the Old Testament. They got mad at him, they got rid of him and said we’re not going to pay you. When he got down from the mountain he circled back around and talked to them. We found out later that he said you can’t beat God head on. You have to come around the back door. He said, if you’ll send all of your pretty girls out, they’ll entice and seduce and get the attention of the little Israeli boys. If you can get the Moabite girls to sneak into the camp and commit sexual immorality with the Jews, God will kill them for you. That’s exactly what happened. That’s what the doctrine of Balaam is. Infiltrate the Church with immorality. Beware of secret sins.
How many Christian leaders does it come out that have all these horrible things in their life that they’ve hidden? Then someone fixes their computer, or an email gets out. Did you know that the Church has a lot of the doctrine of Balaam in it where Christians allow secret sins to creep into their lives? What happens? Believers compromise Christ’s call to personal holiness. They get comfortable around sin and as believers, as God’s own people, how can you be comfortable around what God hates? By the way, what happens if you do that? We’re going to have to go, but when we come back, I’m going to talk about this. Do you remember Samson? He was killed by God as he pushed down those pillars and Paul comments on that.
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