JESUS LOVES THE CHURCH
Jesus loves the church for which he gave himself. John said “To him who loves us…” (1:5). It is out of that context that Revelation chapters 2 and 3 flow. It is out of that context that he speaks to the church sometimes hard and difficult words as well as words of comfort and strength. Some would like to say these letters represent church ages, others that being seven it represents the total sum of what God says to the church, neither of which is adequate. These were written to specific churches at particular time for a paricular reason, and in no way do they cover all of the problems we might find in the church. In fact while revival is taking place in one area, a church may be dying in another.
In chapters 2 and 3 we have seven letters to seven churches. Each of these letters comes out of the context of Jesus as the ascended Lord of the Church, who walks among them. The church in Revelation was going through a difficult time. Persecution was on the increase. It was tough. Nevertheless that doesn’t rule out other aspects of life and in these letters Jesus addresses each of the churches with a divine diagnosis.
These are prophetic words. The argument is raised that preterists empty Revelation of it’s prophetic content, but that is to limit prophecy to futurism. The fact of the matter is that much of prophecy in the Bible is of the nature of divine diagnosis and remedy, and that is what Revelation is about. How we need that divine diagnosis today, and the remedy God provides – Something to be noted here is that he doesn’t say the same thing to each church, a mistake that seems to be commonly made today where all churches are put in the same boat, and the same diagnosis and remedy applied.
In each of the letters we read, “I know…” That God knows can be both comforting and disturbing, comforting about the struggles and trials we face as Christians and churches, but disturbing when it’s about the things we thought we could hide, and get away with. We may feel we can make a good impression, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing that is hidden from him – he knows. What does he know about you?
Nevertheless the “I know…” here is redemptive, he knows and he reveals his knowledge of us not to condemn, but to change. So often we are blind and don’t see clearly. We are also very good at justifying ourselves – “Yes, I know, but you don’t understand…” Such arguments don’t stand a chance with God.
I wonder if such a word were to come today what would God say of you and your church? And would you be willing to hear it?
Which brings me to the recurring words, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches?” Listen is probably a better word as we know all to well we may hear but not listen – we heard what our mother said, but we didn’t listen! Are we listening. Yes the Spirit speaks today, the prophetic voice can still be heard – if we are willing to stop ad listen. Perhaps the churches in Revelation thought they were doing OK given the circumstances, but God’s voice cuts through all of that and diagnosies their real condition, and reveals every situation for what it is.
Repent occurs in six of the seven letters. Repent is not a word we like to hear, as it involves admission of guilt – being in the wrong. It’s a humbling word, but with God it also becomes a lifting and saving word. The word to six of the seven churches involved a call to repentance, a recognition of what was wrong and a change of direction/action.
What do you need to repent of? Don’t delay, thats the devils way – it can wait til torrow. No, do it today, and be a recipient of God’s geart mercy and grace.
For one church there was no such call – Philadelphia; the challenge was to hold on. That’s what some need to hear. God knows the difficulty, the trial, he is with you and he says ‘hold on to what you’ve got, don’t let let anyone take your crown.’ Earlier John had spoken of the people of God as a “kingdom, priests” or ‘kings and priests,’ (1:6). This is not about the heavenly crown, but the crown of life, their reiging in life (Romans 5:17).