"Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 2 :11
The seven churches of Revelation being actual churches, are also a prototype of each church that has ever existed. Which of the seven is yours? What do you need to do about it?
Key point: Christ is Supreme and is to be Glorified in our local church! Revelation shows us a future hope by Christ's finished work and sovereignty, the unity of the Church, and our eternal glory. We are given an eternal perspective to life and our purpose. Thus, we can show our people that need not fear their circumstances or the future. The people need our care, they need to see Hope! They need our loyalty to lead correctly.
Revelation was written to warn against spiritual decay and encourage Christians to stay loyal and faithful even under persecution. The main theme is the ultimate victory of Christ as Lord over ALL. He will return and set things right in His timing. Christ demonstrates His glory, wisdom and power and we respond (Rev. 1:1-20). This shows His authority over the Church, how we are to lead and manage and what not to do (Rev. 2:1-3:21). The rest is about our loyalty and His power and right to judge the world (Rev. 5:1-19:21).
Do not bow to sensationalism! Warning: A lot of Christian writers love to embellish on this subject and give their own version of what will happen. But, the scores of books that have been written in the last hundred years have not panned out in their theories. It is "their" theories, not ones based on fact or careful study of Scripture. The Bible clearly tells us we do not have access to that information, for no one will know the time... (Mark 13:14-37).
Jesus Christ is greater than anything and everything! The Divine Authority, Sovereignty, and Lordship of Christ as well as the important relevance of Christ in us, so that we can have peace and anticipation in Him. Christ is Lord!
This is reality for us, both now and when He comes back for us. Even when all seems lost and hopeless, He is in command and His plan is in commission. We are exhorted to praise and worship Him Who is worthy of our praise because He has freed us from our sins and separation from God by the shedding of His own blood. He has made us a home, a kingdom, and a dwelling for eternity.
The Seven Churches. The first four chapters' principle purpose of the writing is to encourage their perseverance in faith and chastise them for how they were running their churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). We are exhorted to be faithful and discerning between what is false and what is truth, and not to comply with evil, apathy, or compromise. We are told the importance of discipleship and Christian formation so they (we) could be authentic Christians of excellence and distinction, bringing no disrepute to Christ or His Church.
Revelation 2: 1-7: The Church of Ephesus was both good and bad. They were doing some good because of their endurance in persecution. They did not tolerate false teaching or those with bad agendas that were contrary to God's precepts. They were doing so well, most people in their busy-ness who would go to a church like this might not have noticed anything was missing. Or, perhaps they would be the victim of the ugly that happens when a key component of doing Church is left out. They had discernment, but had trouble with loving. They lost the most important thing about being in Christ--the Fruit of His Love flowing through us so it touches others.
Revelation 2: 8-11: The Church of Smyrna was praised, but they were treading on dangerous ground. They were starting to be bitter as their name applies. After facing much persecution, they became belligerent against Christ and turned against one another, forsaking their call and duty. They had the opportunity to learn and grow from their situation; instead, they chose bitterness and strife. They embraced fearfulness instead of faithfulness.
Revelation 2: 12-17: The Church of Pergamum was willing to die for the faith, but they were not willing to live in the faith. They were on a teeter-totter of loyalty, holding on to the faith through persecution on one side, while allowing those who were treating others with deception, compromise, and manipulation continue on the other. We walk on dangerous ground when we say "faith" with our mouths yet do dastardly deeds with our hands. Even to tolerate those who are being deceptive and scheming to others is sin, and will cause extreme dysfunction in our churches. Twisting God's truths to fit our whims and rationalizing our sin is blatantly evil. Do not allow this in your church!
Revelation 2: 18-29: The Church of Thyatira was struggling to improve and seeking to be better in how they ran His Church. They were seeking to be faithful and diligent, yet, this church had a faction that was defying Christ in a big way by allowing debauchery and heinous sin in the midst of His Bride, His Church! On one hand, they were being faithful in their faith. On the other, they were sinning by committing adultery with one another and with God. Jesus is warning them and us to come around to Him and His ways or suffer the consequences!
Revelation 3: 1-6: The Church of Sardis was being told that Jesus knew about their wayward ways, but He wanted them to become strong in Him again as they were before. However, if they refused, they would continue their downspin in sin and darkness. Their own deeds and refusal to repent was the evidence of the judgment that was at their front door. Faith must be developed and used. If we try to "fake it till we make it," we will just fail, there will be nothing there other than a church with no reason to exist and no One to lead it. Only pride and strife will fill its pews.
Revelation 3: 7-13: The Church of Philadelphia, the church of brotherly love. Jesus had a special provision in His heart for this church, even though they were weak in their standing and resources, and tried by persecutions from a demented culture and the apostate Jews that surrounded them. Jesus encouraged them to persevere, and told them that they could do it. Christ plainly tells us that when He gives us opportunities, He also gives us the empowerment to pursue them; therefore, He wants us to take advantage of them. What Jesus does not want from us is apathy or complacency, laziness caused by burnout, or anxiety caused by our failures. We are not to allow suffering or past experiences rule us.
Revelation 3: 14-22: The Church of Laodicea was the church of indifference and foolishness, as they thought they did not need Christ. They thought they were good when they were really bad, and they were sad, as they had no enthusiasm for Christ. Jesus was just a nametag--an idol they pandered to but were neither "hot" (worshipful) nor "apostate" (hateful or misleading others). Jesus is LORD; He is faithful and is in control. He was there in the beginning creating and sustaining (John 1), yet these Laodiceans thought they were above Christ, that He was just a stepping-stone. They thought they had graduated and no longer needed a Lord or Savior.
The main precepts most people ignore in Revelation, it that it is not a Book of End Times as Matthew 24 and 2 Peter are. Rather, it is a Book about Hope and a call to be loyal to God over all else and that He wins no matter what. It is a book on how we are to lead and manage His Church! Revelation has more to do with how we live than what will come. Thus, having a specific view or even something else is not as important as what the beasts in our lives are, as well as in whom and where our hope is put upon.
Revelation and its truth are as precious and timeless as the rest of Scripture, if not even more so (Rev.1: 9; 22:16).
Do not be caught up with the hype of speculations; rather, be caught up with Christ. Do not ignore the veracity of His Second Coming. His Word is explicit; He tells us what we need to know and that is that. It is a tragedy to chase what is fleeting and miss His wonders and Truth! We have nothing to add to His Word and nothing to improve about it. It is us that need to be approved.
© 2016 R.J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org/