A Lesson in Holiness: Jesus to the Seven Churches
Pray For Believers - America's Churches are Dying.
Let Us Pray For Our Local Body of Believers First.
There is no compromise when Jesus calls us to personal godliness, but it always tempered with kindness and mercy to the true child of the King.
A Call to Godliness
- Ephesus - Destroyed from within. Remember and repent! What forgetful creatures we are. The communion of believers, whether celebrated weekly, monthly or annually, is a testimony to our forgetfulness; how could any of us forget our Lord's unfathomable act of love upon the cruel cross? Yet we do and Jesus knew we would. When we are admonished by the Word or godly preaching, it is a great sign that it is not too late to change our direction in our service to our God. Hard Words - The outcome of turning a deaf ear to His charge is to lose our usefulness to our Lord. One's heart could be so cold that they care not and would finish out this life on earth as an unfeeling, better than thou, believer. The hard cold facts will fall on a changed heart when we, as the Bride of Christ, are judged for our works within the body. Encouraging Words - They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans as much as Jesus did. The sad news is they did not repent and voila, the church in Ephesus ceased to exist. Sometime in the second century A.D., Ephesus succumbed to the warning that Paul had given the elders in Acts 20:29-30 that ravenous wolves would arise from within and lead them into apostasy. It is interesting that if an attack comes from without, the troops rally but when it comes from within, it can be an incurable cancer.
- Smyrna - Be faithful and fearless! Their lot was to suffer for our Lord's sake where prison awaited many and others will face death but not to fret for a crown awaits them. A few years past I was having a conversation with a church elder about the amazing growth of the Chinese church amid some of the worst of persecution. His reply was that may be true, but their teaching and believing (doctrines) are all over the place. Notice that Jesus did NOT have specific instructions for this church concerning doctrines or practices. To those whom much is given, MUCH is required. They had nothing, their lot was to suffer and NOTHING else was required. It is amazing how we judge another when we do not know their calling and we are even lax in our calling.
- Pergamos - Faithful with little. Repent! We must address the heresies within our own congregations; nip anything that is contrary to Scripture in the bud. Jesus, jealous for His Bride, WILL step in and take care of the situation for His name's sake. Once a pastor friend of mine made the statement that "Satan was running amok within the Church". Not possible. I have been through a church split over doctrine and the godly left the church. If Satan had a role in the split, it was only by the Lord's permission. Just as He raised a godless Assyria to be His rod against Israel, and in Hebrews 12:27, He will shake things up so that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Today that church still exist and is an office complex.
- Thyatira - Heretics will not escape judgment. Hard Words - There is no call to corporate repentance as a the wicked element with the church was given warning and ample opportunity to change (repent). God will personally take on the heretics and execute the death penalty to protect His own. Believers and non-believers will always be held accountable for their own personal works; no one gets away with anything. Encouraging Words - Again, isn't amazing that even in such a heretical situation where His believers find themselves, He will put no other burden upon them then that which they were already doing; no matter how insignificant it may appear to us. We should be getting a feeling about now that it is very wrong for us to judge everyone that may be associated with a questionable body of believers in our own minds. I would be very careful playing god.
- Sardis - The elect may be found anywhere. Remember and repent! The same admonition as given to Ephesus; the difference being that Sardis was already "mostly" dead and as stated in the awesome movie The Princess Bride, that means they are partly alive. Their name was useless to our Lord, but somewhere down deep a few embers existed that have not completely been extinguished. Hard Words - If they didn't fan the embers into flames, at a time they would never see coming, Jesus would extinguish them. Encouraging Words - Even in a church as dead as Sardis, believers existed. Geography may have been the reason for real believers remaining with this church but again no other burden is placed upon them. This should make us stop and think; whatever we may think of another congregation, there is a great chance that Jesus has some of His own attending. Why they stay could be because of family, tradition or even as a babe in Christ who does not know any better.
- Philadelphia - Strength found in weakness. Hold fast! They were to keep doing what they have been doing from the beginning; relying upon the strength of Christ and not upon their own strength. The crown (stephanos - a crown of a victor, not the crown of life or a diadem - the crown of a King) was theirs for their faithfulness. Encouraging Words - Temptation was coming upon the world to try those who are not the believers and they would be safely held in the ark of our Lord's care. We as believers, when we put our trust in ourselves, have opened the door for temptation to overcome us. We in America live in temptation central and our churches for the large part have succumbed to too many of the world's devises and the dwindling numbers of the faithful attending our churches today testify to this fact.
- Laodicea - Lazy, self-satisfied and indifferent. What great love Jesus has for this church as He does not ask them to repent of their evil deeds or remember but offers His merciful counsel! He has already rebuked them for being fence sitters; halfway to being cold and halfway to being hot. They have been blinded by their wealth and like too many Christians today in America, we equate wealth with being blessed by God. It is not to be considered a blessing but a burden of enormous proportions. A friend of mine went to Uganda as a missionary and while there he found out that the Christians in Uganda pray for American churches. They think of us being in a most difficult place to be a Christian because of our wealth. We who were born in the U.S. did not choose our place of birth but our Lord called us to Himself to serve in the most difficult place to be a sold out believer. Every day we fight battles against temptations that most of the world cannot imagine. We struggle daily to keep our walk pure and it is in that struggle that Jesus has such compassion. His words to Laodicea are "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent."; not from wicked deeds but from a lukewarm heart. His heart's desire is to have an intimate fellowship with us and He is always at the door waiting for us to invite Him into our midst.
We must never try to size up any one church as fitting the example of one of the "seven", for we live in a very eclectic society. The odds are, we could find one or more of each of the traits of all the churches not only within our own community, be it large or small but possibly under one roof. We are not to judge before we judge ourselves first. we must handle one another as compassionately as Christ handled us.
Joy, Joy, Oh Heavenly Joy
What Joy Awaits the Faithful Overcomer!
Take note: the word overcometh in the Greek is a present participle; meaning, this is what you are, not what you can become. This word only applies to a believer and would be better stated in English as one who is an overcomer.
The prize that awaits the child of the King is always prefaced by, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Every joy and gift though parceled out among the seven churches for their encouragement belong to every believer as well has the instructions to the seven churches are to be heeded by all. Let's see what awaits us!
- The Tree of Life. Eternity is ours. Revelation 22:2, the Tree is found in the Paradise of God which is found in the New Jerusalem.
- The Crown of Life. The Second Death cannot touch us.
- The Bread of Life and an invitation to the wedding supper of the Lamb. When the Romans held games or races, often times one who had won his competition in an extraordinary manner was given a "white stone" with a message only he would know as an invitation to a party after the games ended; hosted by the governor of the games. I have no idea what my new name will be but when I am called up yonder, I will know it.
- The authority to rule and reign as kings and priests with Christ; the Morning Star (Rev 22:16). Per Revelation 1:16 our Lord's countenance was as the sun and we know that every eye shall behold Him and they shall be filled with terror. We who overcame though, we few shall behold Him as the Morning Star, one of great beauty, wonderful to behold.
- Jude 24 "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." White robes which "...is the righteousness of saints' (Rev 19:8) and kept securely until that day. Our names were written in indelible writing before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).
- We will be Pillars of the New Jerusalem society forever. 1 Kings 7:21; Solomon's temple had two pillars; one called Jachin (God will establish) and the other called Boaz (strength is in Him). As the Church is the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem is referred as a Bride; we will be always identified with the New Jerusalem.
- The Throne. We will rule with our Lord as if we were upon the Throne of our God. Per Matthew 19:28, the apostles shall sit upon 12 thrones and judge Israel; per Luke 12:43-44, faithful servants shall rule with the Master over His dominion and per 1 Corinthians 6:2, the saints shall judge the world.
What has been written is still truly hard to grasp but every promise made to the seven churches of Revelation apply to all the saints forever.