We can picture the Book of Revelation delivered to the seven church in Asia. Perhaps a letter-carrier visited each of the seven cities, gathered together the churches, and read the letter aloud to them. Maybe the letter-carrier went from one city to the next to the next.
These seven churches had their different strengths and weaknesses. And each of those seven churches would have heard the commendation and criticism of Christ to each of the other churches. Those seven churches – a number of completion – would have discovered they weren’t alone.
I don’t think the messages to these churches were only for a singular time and a singular place. I think the messages contained in these letters contain eternal value. Every local church, I suppose, faces some of the issues presented here.
A lot of churches are like the church in Ephesus, which was good at discerning bad teaching but also was a little lackluster in actually doing the things of the faith. A lot of churches are the church in Smyrna, facing persecution and slander from the world.
A lot of churches are like the church in Pergamum, which also faced persecution but did so with a weak will, falling prey to false teaching and idol worship. And a lot of churches are like the church in Thyatira, a split congregation – some listening to the “deep things of Satan” and some holding firm in the true faith.
And there are three other churches to consider, which we will do tomorrow.
Today, we might think about ways we might be emulating some of these churches – for better or worse. We might consider what kind of letter Jesus would write to us. He might have some positive things to say. And he might have a few things against us, as well.
One of the images that caught my attention was in the letter to the church in Thyatira, the church that was struggling with a “Jezebel” teacher but that had a remnant that was hanging on to the gospel, not falling into sexual immorality or idol worship. Jesus addressed that remnant.
“Only hold fast to what you have until I come.”
What were they to hold? The true gospel? The people who were part of their remnant? Or both?
I suppose it was probably both, and I suppose the believers there knew exactly what Jesus was telling them to do. They didn’t need to do anything new. They didn’t need to create any new programs. They didn’t need to change course. Just “hold fast to what you have.”
Protect it. Nurture it. Don’t let it drift away. Don’t let it die off.
I wonder whether there is something here for our church.