He who has an ear, let him hear…
This study is the twenty-eighth in a series of studies on the books of the New Testament
(Revelation: chapters 1,2, and 3 – read in 8 minutes)
…“What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia…” Revelation 1:11 (NKJV)
Writing, reading, hearing – however communicated, the message is clear: we are to pay attention. God has shared this with his Son, his Son has shared it with the Apostle John, and here John faithfully shares it with us.
Chapter 4 mentions, ‘…a door standing open in heaven.’ (4:1). Before venturing through this door into heaven, John is confronted with the messages to seven churches, all located in modern-day Turkiye, along a major Roman road, walked in about 12 days. They were groups that John would be familiar with, probably visited and written to. He is commanded to write to them again – people waiting patiently, or impatiently, with varying degrees of certainty or doubt, with different levels of belief in the return of the man who had started all this – Jesus Christ. Before going into the heavenly realm, he is directed to address problems in these churches that threaten their existence – and the members’ eternal future.
We have an insight into what is on Christ’s mind regarding the church he commanded his apostles to build: what his priorities are. There are repeated references to his crucifixion and resurrection. In Christ’s own words, “…I am the First and the Last. I am the living one; I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever!” (Revelation 1:17-18 NLT).
Christ is walking among his churches (v.20), represented in heaven by lampstands; maybe each church existing today is represented by a lampstand and the number is something only known in heaven. There is a warning to the Ephesus church that their lampstand would be removed from its place if they didn’t repent of their lost first love. The gospel of Jesus, that the apostles preached, was one of love and obedience to God. Living it was a struggle then, surrounded by servants to many false gods, and it is now, surrounded by servants to a broadly accepted atheism. Potentially, their struggles are our struggles, their strengths and weaknesses ours, and we need to listen to the warnings they were given, and what they were praised for.
The warnings reflect concerns expressed in all the epistles – the threat from false teachers, the pressure from living in pagan societies, persecution from more than one source, the problem of maintaining conviction in the face of a long wait. Those in Ephesus were criticised for forgetting their first love – what it was that led them to Christ. The church in Pergamum had allowed the truth they had been taught to be influenced by pagan practices. Thyatira was following the teaching of a false prophet who appears to have originally been a faithful convert since Christ indicates that he had given her an opportunity to repent. Sardis is criticised for unfinished works – seemingly the result of apathy. The Laodicean church was criticised for allowing wealth to get in the way of their relationship with Christ.
And then Christians in these early churches were commended for perseverance, enduring hardships, spiritual richness, remaining true to Christ, for love and faith, for patiently enduring. The overall picture is of a difficult pathway. Following Christ requires commitment and Christ acknowledges this when he says to the church in Philadelphia, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have…” (Revelation 3:11 NIV).
Heavenly Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, praise to you the First, the Last, the Living One. May we heed your warnings, hold on to what we have that we may fulfil your purpose for us. Amen.
Study by Maggie Mitchell
About the writer:
Maggie Mitchell attends the Market Harborough congregation of Grace Communion International
GCI Market Harborough
9 The Point
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