Revelation: Messages to the Seven Churches

May 29, 2011

Revelation is a message from the Most High God to seven specific churches at the close of the first century AD. God gave the message to Jesus, who sent it via an angel to the apostle John (Rev 1:1). John wrote it down addressed to those seven churches (Rev 1:4). The message was of highest importance, and would bring great blessings to those who received the message and took it to heart.

The Lord gave John a specific message for each church, followed by a general message for them all. The specific messages are found in chapters 2 and 3. Each specific message was directed to the angel of the corresponding church. Just who was this angel (gk angelos, a messenger)? Considering the chain of messengers through whom the message was delivered, it appears that the “angel of the church” was a human messenger, preacher or teacher at each church. It would not make much sense for God to pass a message through Jesus, then through an angel (in the eternal heavenly being sense), to the human apostle John, and then to another eternal heavenly angel for delivery to a church. Why involve a human between those two angels? So the “angels” to whom John wrote the seven messages were apparently the human preachers at each of the seven churches.

Many good lessons are available on various of these seven messages, so I won’t go into all those details here. Instead, let’s look at the common elements in all the messages. Remember that Jesus is preparing these churches for a dramatic increase in persecution. What were the things Jesus wanted to bring to their attention at this crucial time?

1) Jesus wanted them to remember who he is.

If the churches remembered who Jesus is, they would have the confidence to endure what was coming. Jesus told them that he was the one in the vision who held the seven stars (angels, or leaders of the churches) in his hand. Often it was the church leaders who faced martyrdom, and Jesus wanted them to know he would be there with them. He walked among the lampstands, or churches. So he would also be with the church through the persecution. And he wanted them to know he is well able to handle whatever trouble would come their way. He is the First and the Last. He died and came to life again. He had risen from the dead, and he would raise them also. He has the sharp, double-edged sword. He is holy and his words are true! He has eyes like blazing fire, and feet like burnished bronze. He holds the key of David. What he opens, no one can shut. And what he shuts, no one can open. He is the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Whatever they were about to face, Jesus would be there with them, and he was fully capable to take care of them. He would enable them to endure.

2) He wanted them to know that he knew them.

Jesus knew their deeds, their failures, their struggles, and their victories. Nothing they had done escaped his notice, whether good or bad. And neither would anything escape his notice that would happen to them during the coming persecution. Jesus knew them by name, even calling some of their names in these messages. And he knew what they had to do in order to overcome the test that would soon face them.

3) He wanted them to hold on to the truth.

He commended those who had tested false apostles and found them false; those who hated the practices of others who perverted the Way; those who recognized and identified the false Jews. He challenged them to reject the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, and of the false prophetess Jezebel. If they were going to survive the coming persecution, they had to be firmly grounded in the truth.

4) He wanted their wholehearted devotion

He wanted them to grow in their love for God, and to do more today than they did at first. He wanted them to have a real, vibrant devotion to God, and not just to have a reputation for that. He warned them against being lukewarm. He wanted them to be faithful even when it would cost them their lives. That day was coming, and the halfhearted and lukewarm would fall away.

5) He wanted them to be righteous

Jesus warned two of the churches about idolatry and sexual immorality. They had to keep pagan values and practices out of the church. If they let sin into the church it would destroy them.

6) He wanted them to be prepared for persecution.

Jesus warned the churches that they were about to suffer. Some had already endured hardship. Some in their midst had already been martyred. But it would grow worse. Some of them would face prison, and even death. He challenged them to persevere and to endure.

7) He wanted them to know the rewards that would be coming to those who overcome.

Great blessings were in store for those who would overcome. They would eat from the tree of life. They would receive the crown of life. They would receive the hidden manna, and a white stone with their name, known only to themselves. They would receive authority over the nations, and they would be given the morning star. Their names would be found in the book of life, and Jesus would acknowledge them before the Father and his angels. They would be made a pillar in the temple of God, never to leave it. Jesus would write on them the name of God, and the name of the city of God, and Jesus’ new name. They would receive the right to sit on the throne with Jesus.

All those blessings were promised to those who would overcome. And only to those who would overcome.

While most of us today are not facing imminent martyrdoms from our number, the basic message is still the same for us. We need to realize the exalted position and the power and the holiness and righteousness of Jesus. And we need to realize that he knows everything about us. We need to know the truth and to live by it with wholehearted devotion. And we need to overcome the tests of our faith that come, so that we can receive the phenomenal blessings that are promised.

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