God's People In Cities
Jesus’ Messages to the Seven Churches
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. Galatians 3:22, KJV
This week’s study deals with the churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Prophetically we understand these to be representative of the church from the earliest proclamation of the gospel to the very end of time in which we are now living. The lesson quarterly does a good job of pointing out these time periods and their applications. In a sense, we can look at these time periods as the birth, growth, and maturity of the great gospel movement, each with its own challenges, failings, and promises. Please consider accessing http://waitarachurch.org.au/understanding-revelation/ and other resources recommended in the first Sabbath School Insights of this quarter. Much more historical detail is available than we can possibly cover here.
In addition to understanding the historical application of these messages we should also be exploring the personal application of these messages. There are in the Christian walk different phases of experience and growth in which our challenges are unique, and the grace of God is needed in particular and unique ways to help us to overcome as Jesus overcame.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21
The gospel is the good news of salvation from sin. We have a Savior who knows all about our weaknesses, and can sympathize with us. He also has just the counsel we each need. Each of the messages to the seven churches have a call to hear what the Spirit says and to overcome the sin which so easily besets us. Praise God, there is still time to hear and overcome!
Smyrna - the Persecuted Church (member)
After the early days of perseverance and patience we found in Ephesus in last week’s lesson, with its temptation of losing that first love experience, the Christian may face such persecution like that of Smyrna, so that life itself is laid on the line. This may come from family, “friends,” or enemies. But He Who “was dead, and came to life” removes all fear of death, having promised victory over the real thing, the second death. A willingness to die to self is inherent in any right stand for Christ, and the ultimate death to self that Christ experienced is the gift we must receive as we receive Him daily into our hearts.
Pergamos - the Compromising Church (member)
There is a temptation for the Christian as he purposes to hold fast to the character (name) of Jesus, and the faith of Jesus (“My Faith” as Jesus puts it here). It is to compromise by ignoring the Word of Jesus, the Sword of the Spirit which discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. This inevitably leads to imbibing the spirit of the world, ending in idolatry and immorality. The solution is the hidden manna of the Word properly discerned through the Spirit, eaten and incorporated so that the mind of Christ becomes ours, and our own identity is both pure and rock solid, a new name as it were.
Thyatira - the Corrupt Church (member)
We may have love, service, faith, patience, and be working very hard for God. But failure to address our own compromises will lead us to justify them by teaching others to do the same (by precept or example), corrupting both those around us and the prophetic call we share in this end time movement. At best, it weakens our witness. At worst, we may end up knowing “the depths of Satan,” whose desire is to destroy us and our children. See Isaiah 49:25. Jesus is also a righteous Judge (note His penetrating gaze, feet of brass, and the rod of iron), Who gives to each according to our works, or His works in us - “he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end.” Judgment is best experienced now, letting His Spirit cut us to the quick while His divine surgery can still be effective.
Sardis - the Dead Church (member)
Only the giver of “the seven Spirits of God” can revive the dead bones (Ezekiel 37), strengthening what remains. The perfect seven-fold Spirit (see Isaiah 11:2) of He Who made the stars has the power to bring life to the dead. We may drift into a near death experience in our walk with the Lord. But His desire is that we remain in the Book of Life. His white robe of righteousness is our only hope. If we will accept rest in Him, He will provide wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and respectful awe of His ways to enliven us.
Philadelphia - the Faithful Church (member)
Even as we are faithful to any degree (in the “little” things), we must have a constant recognition that our strength is “little” and we overcome only by continued trust in holding on to what we have in Him, holding on to His word and His name. What keeps us persevering is the knowledge that He has loved us. (see Revelation 3:9; 1 John 4:10) Like Peter’s love, our phileō falls short of His agapaō. But His promise is that we can dwell in the true city of God as permanent, labelled pillars of His agape - with the names of the Father, the new name of the Son, and the New Jerusalem written indelibly upon us. Let us believe His promise!
Laodicea - the Lukewarm Church (member)
The name Laodicean means “justice (or judgment) of the people.” What a tragedy to have climbed the ladder of success in the Christian walk and to find that spiritual pride has blinded us to our true condition! Self-reliance, thought in this world to be a strength, is a fatal weakness in God’s kingdom. The good news is that His love rebukes and chastens. And that He will come into our hearts and break the bread of life with us personally, individually, just as we need it. Oh, we need a Faithful and True Witness to tell it like it is! And to heal us from all our diseases.
Soon the history of the church on earth will come to a close. As it does, our personal story here will close as well. Every spiritual blessing is found in Christ, Who desires more than anything for us to “overcome even as He overcame.” Will we give Him the rightful desire of His heart? Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
“But God must show, not only to the world, but also to the angels, what He can do with poor, fallen, humanity, so that the perfect life of Jesus may be reproduced in all the true church for a testimony to the power of God. The glory of God must be revealed, and all flesh shall see it; it must be so, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
“You remember that in the account of Saul's going to consult Samuel, it is written, ‘Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.’ Now read the message to the Laodicean church: ‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.’
“To whom does this message come? - To everybody. Each one needs the eye-salve, that he may see. And when he sees, what will he be? - A seer. What will he see? - God, and the things of God, the message comes, Go, and tell what thou hast seen. That is the whole thing. Then it will be the testimony of Jesus, will it not? Christ said, ‘I speak that which I have seen with my Father.’ When we get our eyes open, that we may see, we shall be seers, and we shall simply go and tell people what we have seen. We shall be speakers for God, the Holy Spirit filling us, and speaking through us. Our mouths will simply be the mouths of God. O, when God speaks with multitudes of mouths, yet with but one voice, what a mighty voice it shall be! I cannot speak loud enough, neither is there any person who can utter the voice loud enough; but when that one voice has utterance through ten thousand - yea, ten thousand times ten thousand - mouths, what a mighty sound it will be!” February 17, 1899 EJW, GCDB 14.
“Zeal for God and His cause moved the disciples to bear witness to the gospel with mighty power. Should not a like zeal fire our hearts with a determination to tell the story of redeeming love, of Christ and Him crucified? It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to look for, but to hasten the coming of the Saviour.
"If the church will put on the robe of Christ's righteousness, withdrawing from all allegiance with the world, there is before her the dawn of a bright and glorious day. God's promise to her will stand fast forever. He will make her an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Truth, passing by those who despise and reject it, will triumph. Although at times apparently retarded, its progress has never been checked. When the message of God meets with opposition, He gives it additional force, that it may exert greater influence. Endowed with divine energy, it will cut its way through the strongest barriers and triumph over every obstacle.
“What sustained the Son of God during His life of toil and sacrifice? He saw the results of the travail of His soul and was satisfied. Looking into eternity, He beheld the happiness of those who through His humiliation had received pardon and everlasting life. His ear caught the shout of the redeemed. He heard the ransomed ones singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
“We may have a vision of the future, the blessedness of heaven. In the Bible are revealed visions of the future glory, scenes pictured by the hand of God, and these are dear to His church. By faith we may stand on the threshold of the eternal city, and hear the gracious welcome given to those who in this life co-operate with Christ, regarding it as an honor to suffer for His sake. As the words are spoken, ‘Come, ye blessed of My Father,’ they cast their crowns at the feet of the Redeemer, exclaiming, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.
. . . Honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ Matthew 25:34; Revelation 5:12, 13.
There the redeemed greet those who led them to the Saviour, and all unite in praising Him who died that human beings might have the life that measures with the life of God. The conflict is over. Tribulation and strife are at an end. Songs of victory fill all heaven as the ransomed ones take up the joyful strain, Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again, a triumphant conqueror.
“‘I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.' Revelation 7:9, 10.
“'These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ ‘And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.’ Revelation 7:14-17; 21:4.” AA 600-602.