The book of Revelation is “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place… Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev. 1:1, 3 ESV).
So, this was written to the church, but not just to the seven churches that were in Asia, but for the church of all generations, in all locations. And, although there were literally seven specific church congregations to which these seven letters were written (chapters 2-3), the number seven is also symbolic, in that it means completeness.
So, just like any of the other letters written in Scripture to specific people, or to specific congregations, I believe we can also interpret this to say that this book and these letters are to be read by and applied to the complete church, where it applies. There is an old saying which says, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” And, I believe that is the approach we should take to these 7 letters.
For, obviously not every church congregation in the world is going to identify with all of these specific words in these letters, but we are taught in Scripture that all Scripture is God-breathed and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17 ESV).
And, what is the church? It isn’t a building. It isn’t a denomination. It isn’t an organization or a corporation or a business of human origin, either. And, it isn’t a social club or a civic group. So, we aren’t talking about First Baptist Church or Friendly Presbyterian Church, etc. But, we are talking here about the body of Christ, which is comprised of those of us who have genuine God-given faith in Jesus Christ, by God’s grace.
We collectively are the church, regardless of where we meet, or what days of the week we gather, or what time of day we meet. The early church met daily in the temple courts and from house to house. Right now, in many places of the world, the doors are closed to “churches,” which are mostly businesses of men, but which include members of the body of Christ, too. But, that doesn’t mean the church is closed, for WE ARE THE CHURCH.
Revelation 2:1-3 ESV
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.’”
We are all different, as individual congregations of Christ’s church, his body. We come from different countries, and different cultures, and multiple ethnicities, etc. Some congregations are very worldly and flesh-driven, for they have incorporated the world into their gatherings. While other gatherings of the church are very focused on Jesus Christ, and are very spiritual in that they focus much on holy living, and pleasing God.
We as individuals are all different, too. We have our strong points and our weak points. Some are living right now in spiritual adultery against their Lord while others are walking in close fellowship with their Lord in obedience to his commands. But, we are all still human beings. And, we all still live in flesh bodies. And, we all still have the propensity to sin, and to fail, or to slack off in some areas while we still excel in others.
And, so the Lord may come to us and speak to us, and he may say to us, “You are doing well in these areas, but you are falling short in these other areas.” He will tell us the areas in which we are doing well to encourage our hearts and to help strengthen us in our faith. But, he also needs to let us know when we are falling behind, too, and when we are giving in to weakness, fear, discouragement, and/or weariness, etc.
And, he gives us each other, too, to encourage and strengthen one another in our walks of faith, but also to speak the truth in love to one another if we see a brother or a sister in Christ fall into sin, or give way to fear, or begin to stray from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ.
For, we all need that accountability, especially in these evil times when there is just so much out there to tempt us to stray from our pure devotion to our Lord. We need to pray for one another, but we also need to check in with one another to see how we are doing in our walks of faith, too.
Revelation 2:4-5 ESV
“’But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.’”
Ok, so if we go back and read again the previous section of Scripture, we can see that these are people who are opposed to all forms of evil, who test false prophets, who are enduring persecution for the sake of the name of Jesus and his gospel, and they have not given up. So, they are not living in spiritual adultery against their Lord, in idolatry and in immorality.
So, what is their fault? They have abandoned or forsaken the agape love they had at first. And, this agape love means to prefer what God prefers in every respect. But, agape love is not just the forsaking of sexual immorality, lying and cheating, etc. And, it isn’t just walking in purity and holiness.
I think they have lost their passion for Jesus Christ, their zeal, their enthusiasm for him and for his gospel and for getting out the truth of his gospel to the world around them. They are doing some of the right things, but perhaps it has now become mechanical and routine.
Perhaps they aren’t as spiritually in tune to the Lord’s voice as they once were, and perhaps they are not as respondent to his voice immediately as soon as they hear him speak. They have lost that fire in their bellies they once had for Jesus and for his gospel, and now things have become, perhaps, mundane.
So, the Lord is calling out to them to turn from their lack of passion for him and for his work, and to rekindle that fire of the Holy Spirit within them, and to let the Spirit of God lead and guide them 24 hours a day and night, 7 days a week, and to be in tune to the Spirit’s voice to obey him whenever he says he wants them to speak to someone or write something or go somewhere and to do something specifically that the Lord wants them to do.
And, what is their lampstand? It is their witness for Jesus Christ, or it is God’s specific calling and mission for their lives. If they are neglectful of his calling on their lives, and they don’t repent, then that empowerment of the Spirit of God would be removed from them, for they were not using it. They were letting it die out.
So, it is a lot like that phrase, “Use it or lose it.” We need to be good stewards of what God has given to us, not just financially, but regarding the gifts he has given to us, and the assignments he has given us, too. We must guard our hearts against just going through the motions and we need to keep that connect with our Lord to where we hear him and we keep following him in obedience in whatever he leads us to do.
Revelation 2:6-7 ESV
“’Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
So, the encouragement here for us is to examine our own lives before God to see if we are living, not just moral lives free from evil, but if we are following our Lord moment by moment, day by day, in whatever he leads us to do.
For, his Word isn’t just about morality vs. evil. It is about a walk of obedience to him and doing the things that he did, as he leads us to do, and to not be neglectful of our callings or the gifts God has given to us to be used to encourage and strengthen one another in our walks of faith.
Light the Fire
Songwriter: Curtis Matthew Kirkwood
I stand to praise You
But I fall on my knees
My spirit is willing
But my flesh is so weak
Light the fire
In my soul
Fan the flame
Make me whole
Lord, You know
Just where I’ve been
So light the fire
In my heart again
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