This week we return to Revelations. Revelations is not read that much, the complexity and symbolism is often confusing to many readers. Yet because of its difficulty it is the starting point of many “End Time” theories. From my pew its direction is clear but sometimes we get the wrong end of the stick first. So…from my seat I see it as a record of what must happen first before the end time the final judgement. John is on the Island of Patmos, that is where his vision takes place. I will take a little literary liberty here and doing so I am open to any correction or opinion you might have from this point on. John is the author of the book of Revelation and as John writes “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, I heard a voice like a trumpet, saying to me….write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches.”
To set the scene John is having a vision and has been lifted up to heaven and finds himself in the throne room…the point here is… not to miss that his guide and the voice he hears is that of the risen Christ. It is Christ that instructs him to “write this down” and in chapters two and three we are privy to the message God has for each of these seven churches. These are seven actual functional churches that John has connections to. These are by no means the only churches around at this time but they do fall within John’s ministry. As we go through this, focus on the message God is giving us through the seven churches. Let’s start with a list of the seven churches and scriptural references.
- Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7
- Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11
- Pergamum Revelation 2:12-17
- Thyatira Revelation 2:18-29
- Sardis Revelation 3:1-6
- Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13
- Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22
We will start in chapter two with the church at Ephesus.
Revelation 2:4… Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. There is the acknowledgement of some good but there is also the charge stated in verse 4. The church in verses 2 and 3 is commended for its labour patience and intolerance of evil also for not growing weary…for perseverance in the faith. But that early passion for Christ has fallen to a mindset of cold orthodoxy. Even though they still have their zeal for moral standards, truth and faithful service, they had not yet learned that is no substitute for the love of Christ.
Next we move to the church at Smyrna and we seek out these verses in chapter 2….Revelations 2:8-11…‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a [e]synagogue of Satan. 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 tested, and you will have suffer tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” ’
A little history, Smyrna was intensely loyal to Rome and a large Jewish community in the city was hostile to the early church. God speaks to knowing their works, tribulations and poverty but chides them for having riches they do not acknowledge. Some had become allies of other pagan’s that put Christians to death attempting to stamp out the Christian faith. God tells them there will be a judgement but not to fear. They will be tested and will know ten days of tribulation but those who remain faithful will receive the crown of life. It is not an actual crown but one of a good life, lived well.
On to Pergamos…We can save a lot of space and use less words by simply saying that it was a church that needed to repent who over time had become the capital of Caesar worship. God also saw it as the place of Satan’s throne. Revelation 2:12-17…12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. Simply put Pergamos had become a
In chapter two we are introduced to the church at Thyatira. Interesting to note the number of verses that the words of God require to describe this one. Of course we can just keep it simple and note that the church at Thyatira was just corrupt but then that led to all kinds of speculation. Revelation 2:18-29…‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your [j]patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you…” When we pick up here toward the end of verse 20, things start down hill, the specifics do great harm to the cause of Christianity. There is a women among you, calls herself a prophetess and is allowed to seduce those of your number to commit sexual immorality, eat things sacrificed to idols, all this God considers to be disruptive. God tells them he will deal with this and those that have not followed this woman and have repented of their sins will be judged and rewarded according to their works.
The Dead Church
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
God instructs them to be watchful and to remember those things they have been taught, ‘hold fast till I come’. God tells them some of you have done well, their names will be in the book,Christ will walk with them and confess their names before the father.
Here is a powerful promise and a moment of celebration for those who overcome. This is a letter to the faithful church at Philadelphia… Revelation 3:10 “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
The suggested read here would be verses 7-13. God recognizes they are a faithful church and has seen and welcomed their works of faith…then in verse 9… “ Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” So much, so much the love of God overwhelms. In verse 12 we read the words that every Christian and Church would do well to hear… “12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. 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 My God. And I will write on him My new name.”
Quite a list up to this point, the very last one. The church at Laodicea, there are no good words for this church and as I pondered over this I thought it best to simply turn to the scripture as written… I start with the very last verse. “22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” In this case let your eyes read and your mind and heart absorb these verses.
The Lukewarm Church
14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, 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, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 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.
This has been a long read for a blog, I am grateful for those of you who stayed with it. Did you read anything among these churches that spoke to you of your church? I consider those last verses from Chapter 3 to be of great importance. So much so that next weeks blog will be about verses 14-22.
Join me in the Pew next week…
Life is Good