Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 8, 2022
Counting the Omer – Day 15
Here is the proper blessing to be said each day. This is how Jewish people fulfill the command to count.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.
Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about the counting of the Omer. Today is two weeks and one day of the counting of the Omer.
The Messiah’s Seven Worship Assemblies – Part 2 of 3
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: In letters dictated to John, Yeshua addressed seven worship assemblies, commonly called “churches,” that existed in Roman Asia (modern Turkey). These letters form the second and third chapters of The Revelation.
These assemblies were founded in cities along an ancient, circular road (trade route). By discussing the characteristics, successes, and failures of these assemblies, Yeshua prophesied seven future assembly eras in history– from the first assembly in ancient Jerusalem and following assemblies, symbolized by the apostles’ assembly at Ephesus, to the last assemblies throughout the modern world, symbolized by the lukewarm, apathetic assembly which will be predominantly in operation at the time of Yeshua’s return (Laodicea).
Although we can marvel at the prophetic ability of Yeshua, we can also learn from the successes and failures that Believers demonstrated in each of these periods. We Shomair Yisrael congregants are heirs of the rich history of the Messiah’s worship assemblies, accumulated during the past two millennia.
Today and next Sunday, I will discuss pertinent details of these assemblies. I realize the format I use is cumbersome, but I can think of no other presentation than to outline a few pertinent features of each assembly. I mention only the briefest of characteristics. Since entire books have been written about each separate assembly, many features necessarily have not been included.
UNDERSTAND: I will present a cursory historical and spiritual history of seven phases of the Messiah’s congregations in these two RRs. The outline presents seven phases of Yeshua’s assemblies (churches), divided in this manner:
● The Apostolic Assembly– Ephesus;
● The Martyred (Persecuted) Assembly– Smyrna;
● The Compromised Assembly– Pergamum;
● The Roman Catholic Assembly (Roman Catholic Church) – Thyatira;
● The Reformation Assembly– Sardis;
● The Revival (Missionary) Assembly– Philadelphia; and
● The Worldly (Lukewarm, Apathetic) Assembly– Laodicea
Various scholars have suggested different titles for these assemblies.
The letters demonstrate how Yeshua has not been well-served by many of the worship assemblies He established to continue His mission. For example:
● The Ephesus assembly forsake him in time and grew cold;
● The Smyrna assembly suffered greatly under Roman persecution, but remained faithful;
● The Pergamum assembly needed to repent;
● The Thyatira assembly tolerated and was led astray by a false prophetess;
● The Sardis assembly had fallen asleep spiritually, not living up to its potential and calling;
● The Philadelphia assembly, although poor and weak, endured patiently; and
● The Laodicea assembly was lukewarm in faith, which greatly hampered its ability to serve Yeshua.
The outlines in these RRs generally follow outlines presented by others, but the interpretations represented in the outlines are not without criticism, including:
● Certain movements are not readily transposed with Yeshua’s letters.
● The seven assembly periods overlap in a somewhat messy (imprecise) manner, and can be appreciated only in retrospect.
● The periods present only a western (European-American) perspective, ignoring Believer movements in Asia, Africa, South America, and elsewhere, even though Yeshua is worshiped globally.
● The early periods only present a Roman Catholic perspective, ignoring an Orthodox perspective. (Protestantism was unknown at that time.)
● During a given time period, one assembly may do the wishes of God, while a neighboring assembly may ignore His wishes. For example, are all worship assemblies in America worshiping God in the same manner today?
● The latter periods are pro-Reformation. A Roman Catholic reader would probably disagree that a change in the Roman Catholic Church to Protestantism is a good thing, representing the will of God.
● Yeshua’s letters are brief, vague, and not very specific.
● Dates presented, following, are years of primary influence, but doctrines and practices– both good and questionable– may have been carried over from preceding assemblies or passed on to following assemblies.
Well, I seem to be talking myself out of writing this RR series, while discouraging you from reading it. However, I believe there is value in studying Yeshua’s letters and trying to incorporate His messages into our lives. I do not believe Yeshua would “waste” approximately nine percent of The Revelation (two out of twenty-two chapters), unless there is a reason for us to study His words. As you study these assemblies, the Ruach ha-Kodesh may speak a truth to you beyond the meager words written in these RRs. A sermon, RR, or religious document may be meant only to keep you quiet and your mind occupied, while the Ruach tells you something you need to know.
††† THE ASSEMBLY AT EPHESUS (Revelation 2:1-7):
● Common translation of name: Ephesus = ”Desirable, lovely.”
● Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: This congregation had abandoned its first love– Yeshua– and was in need of revival.
● Significance of this assembly: Ephesus, the city, was a premier commercial and cultural center of Roman Asia. Paul founded the Ephesian assembly, later turning it over to Timothy to be its pastor. Paul’s letter, Ephesians, was intended for assemblies in and around Ephesus. Ephesus was John’s home assembly.
● Date of primary influence: ca AD 33 -100 (ca AD 33 = crucifixion of Yeshua; and, beginning of Yeshua’s assemblies on Day of Pentecost– Acts, chapter 2).
● Historical context: Death of Yeshua (ca AD 33); death of apostles (decades after Yeshua’s death); first and second persecutions of Rome against Believers.
● Yeshua’s praise: The congregants were praised for their deeds, labor, endurance, shunning of evil persons, and exposure of lying apostles– all the time persevering in Yeshua’s name without growing weary. They also hated the Nicolaitans, as did Yeshua. The Nicolaitans were followers of Nicolas, a heretical deacon of the Jerusalem assembly, who was a follower of Baal; his conduct was strongly condemned. The Nicolaitans introduced impure practices into the congregation. “Nicolaitan” literally translates to ”victory over the people.”
● Yeshua’s condemnation: The congregants disappointed Yeshua because they had “forsaken their first love” (Yeshua). They were cautioned to repent and return to their Yeshua-honoring deeds. Otherwise, Yeshua would remove the menorah from their congregation (that is, disband the congregation).
● Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer will be granted the right to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the Paradise of God.
● Message for modern congregations: Truth and love must co-exist in any worship assembly dedicated to the Triune God. Doctrinal (Scriptural) truth and demonstration of love must be balanced. In a worship center properly serving Yeshua, lack of doctrinal purity to emphasize love or lack of love to emphasize doctrinal purity are both wrong. Both imbalanced signs indicate a flawed congregation. A balanced worship assembly should teach and practice Adonai’s truth through love.
Jacob (“James”) tried to clarify the balance between works– love in action– and faith– belief in Adonai (James 2:14, 18, 24, 26): What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can such faith save him? [That person should have his/ her physical needs met in love.] |…| But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.|…| You see that a man is proved righteous by works and not by faith alone. |…| For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Read Jacob’s unedited explanation in James 2:14-26.)
††† THE ASSEMBLY AT SMYRNA (Revelation 2:8-11):
● Common translation of name: Smyrna = “Myrrh, sweet fragrance.” (Myrrh, a burial fragrance, was one of the gifts of the magi to the Baby Yeshua.)
● Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: This congregation must stand firm and faithful, even though it would face persecution.
● Significance of this assembly: Smyrna had a large Jewish community, which was most hostile to Believers and Yeshua. The Jews’ slanderous accusations against Believers fueled Roman persecution (Acts 14:2; 17:13).
● Date of primary influence: ca AD 100 – 312
● Historical context: The apostles’ assembly at Ephesus faded, as the apostles and those who knew Yeshua died. Reign of the Caesars occurred in Rome. The third through tenth persecutions of Rome against Believers were experienced during this time. The persecutions were:
□ Third persecution under Trajan (AD 108);
□ Fourth persecution under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (AD 162);
□ Fifth persecution, commencing with Septimus Severus (AD 192);
□ Sixth persecution under Maximus Caesar (AD 235);
□ Seventh persecution under Trajan Decius (AD 249);
□ Eighth persecution under Valerian (AD 257);
□ Ninth persecution under Aurelian (AD 274); and
□ Tenth persecution under Diocletian (AD 303)
The first two persecutions occurred during the time frame of the Assembly at Ephesus. The first persecution was under Nero (AD 67). The second persecution was under Domitian (AD 81). John, while imprisoned on Patmos, received his visit from Yeshua during the reign of Domitian.
SIDELIGHT 1: See The 10 Persecutions of the Christian Church (bibleprobe.com) for a brief summary of the ten periods of persecution early Believers faced from the Roman Empire. END sidelight 1.
SIDELIGHT 2: Did Yeshua prophesy these ten persecutions in Revelation 2:10 in the letter to the Assembly at Smyrna? This verse reads: [Yeshua dictated to Smyrna] “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” “Devil” translates the Greek diabolos, and is a synonym for Satan.
Did “ten days” prophesy ten separate persecutions? Here, “days” translates the Greek hēmera, which is similar to the Hebrew yom. Hēmera may represent a twenty-four hour day or a longer period of time (say, the length of an emperor’s imposition of persecution, even lasting months or years). END sidelight 2.
● Yeshua’s praise: Even though the congregation regarded themselves as under tribulation and to be impoverished, Yeshua regarded them as rich. (What they lacked in material possessions, they more than made up in spiritual possessions.) The congregation withstood the slander of Satan. Yeshua promised those who stayed faithful would be awarded the Crown of Life and would not be harmed by the second death (death of the soul). Notice that there was no promise of harm from the first death (death of the body) then, as there will be no such promise for future times. The Bible clearly promises death (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment,…. We all want to postpone death as long as possible, but we will die. We should spend less time worrying about the first death (death of the body) and much more time worrying about the second death (death of the soul, which is an eternity spent in Hell).
● Yeshua’s condemnation: None!
● Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer shall never be harmed by the second death (death of the soul in Hell).
● Message for modern congregations: Believers are still being persecuted and martyred today. Yeshua’s promises of rewards for persecuted Believers is timeless, being as relevant today as it was at the time of the Smyrna assembly.
††† THE ASSEMBLY AT PERGAMUM, OR PERGAMOS (Revelation 2:12-17):
● Common translation of name: Pergamos = “Height, elevation.”
● Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: This congregation must guard against being seduced by idolatry and needed to repent of sin.
● Significance of this assembly: Pergamos was a center for pagan worship and activities. Yeshua praised the Pergamos assembly for its faithfulness, even when surrounded by strong pagan influences and opposition.
● Date of primary influence: ca AD 312 – 590
● Historical context: Constantine became Emperor, stopping persecutions but entangling church and state. The Roman Catholic Church became– and still is– a political body, existing today as Vatican City State. (In case you wonder about United Nations’ participation: the Vatican City State is an observer, but not a voting member.)
● Yeshua’s praise: The congregation remained faithful to Yeshua, even through persecution and martyrdom.
● Yeshua’s condemnation: Some persons in the congregation held to the teaching of Balaam and Balak to try to place a stumbling block in the path of Bnei-Yisrael. At this time, major offenses– including eating food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality– were taught by the Nicolaitans (following the heritage of Nicolas).
● Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer will be given some of the hidden manna and a white stone, upon which is written a new name known only to the overcomer who receives it.
● Message for modern congregations: To avoid strife, a congregation might have a tendency to normalize or overlook behavior that is unworthy of a Believer, thereby diluting or weakening values of the assembly (1 Corinthians 15:33). But, the Bible addresses this problem (Romans 12:2): Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.
††† THE ASSEMBLY AT THYATIRA (Revelation 2:18-29):
● Common translation of name: Thyatira = “Odor of affliction, sacrifice, labor;” some translate: “Unceasing sacrifice.”
● Yeshua’s reason to address this assembly: This congregation lacked self-discipline and was being led astray by a false prophetess.
● Significance of this assembly: Although this assembly served Yeshua well in many ways, it was set in the Dark Ages, surrounded by pagans. Some pagan practices joined and intermingled with the worship practices devoted to the Triune God.
● Date of primary influence: ca AD 590 – 1517
● Historical context: Set in the Middle Dark Ages, the Roman Catholic Church became an idolatrous church.
● Yeshua’s praise: Yeshua had taken notice of Thyatira’s deeds, love, faith, service, and patient endurance. Those who did not adopt the false teaching of “Jezebel” would be richly rewarded.
● Yeshua’s condemnation: The congregation tolerated an unrepentant prophetess, “Jezebel,” who led the congregation into eating food sacrificed to idols and into sexual immorality. (Compare this condemnation with that made against the assembly at Pergamos.)
● Promised reward for the faithful: The overcomer will have authority over the nations, ruling them with an iron rod, and will have the morning star.
● Message for modern congregations: Just as the Thyatira assembly was led astray by a false prophetess, Jezebel, numerous false teachers and false prophets exist today (2 Timothy 4:3-4): For the time will come when they will not put up with sound instruction, but they will pile up for themselves teachers in keeping with their own desires, to have their ears tickled. And they will turn away from hearing the truth and wander off to myths. Are you concerned, as I am, about what I consider to be self-aggrandizing ministers who promote various books, tapes, schemes to prosper, holy water, prayer handkerchiefs, and the like all in “the name of God,” while soliciting “donations” to their ministries. I am told not to judge others (Matthew 7:1), and I do not judge these people. Personally, however, I would not want to face my Divine Judge after a lifetime of such activity, fearing He would say (Matthew 7:21-23): “I never knew you.” At that moment, riches and fame of this world will be meaningless. Be careful which teachers you follow. Some teachers will be true; others, false.
Modern churches and synagogues are surrounded by pagan influences and must guard to keep their worship practices and dogmas pure. We are told to avoid false messengers who come in their own name, not in God’s name (Revelation 2:24-25): [Yeshua said] “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold to this teaching and have not learned the so-called ‘deep things’ of Satan– I place on you no other burden. Only hold firm to what you have until I come.”
HAVE A BLESSED DAY: Today is Mother’s Day. I had planned to write a tribute to mothers, but the calendar did not quite permit it. Poets and authors have penned innumerable sentiments about mothers, including Charley (Chick) Benetto: “When you are looking at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” Much of any goodness to be found in today’s world is present because of the simple, pure, steadfast love of mothers.
If you are a mother– or, if you ever had a mother (most of us have) – may today be especially blessed. To any mother, know that Yeshua some day will reward you for your hard work, giving you eternal rest, and will wipe away all tears, giving you eternal joy. Your labors will not go unnoticed at your Bema Judgment, even if your husband and children fail to notice now in your earthly life.
I gratefully thank the four mothers in my life:
● My grandmother, “Lula” Longmire;
● My mother, Ruth Finney;
● My wife, Linda Finney; and
● My daughter, Debbie Sosna.
I am a better person because of these mothers I have known. The world is a better, kinder, more gentle place because of the loving labors of many, many mothers.
FOOTNOTE: I quote Charley (Chick) Benetto above. The biography of baseball player Chick Benetto, For One More Day, is an interesting story of the relationship between Chick and his mother and family. (SUMMARY:
TO BE CONTINUED: In next Sunday’s RR, I will discuss the last three assemblies of Revelation (chapter 3). If you read that RR, will you conclude that Shomair Yisrael is patterned after the assembly at Philadelphia or the assembly at Laodicea? It does make a difference, including how Yeshua views Shomair and its congregants. One assembly is patterned after the heart of Yeshua; the other assembly is foreign to Him. Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 08-May-2022 7th of Iyyar, 5782 15th day of the Omer
Le 21:1-15 Isa 63-64 Job 8 (Mt 23) Ro 7