By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Revelation 1-6
Key Scripture Verses: Revelation 1:17-19, 11 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
‘Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’”
“’Write on a scroll what you see and send it the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.’”
The first section of Revelation is written to the seven churches listed here and is somewhat of a report card on how they are doing. John’s vision is that Jesus is speaking to him of the future and how things will turn out. Jesus is reporting on the churches and what they have done well up to this point and where they fall short of his will and what they will be judged for if they do not change.
I thought I would outline the message for all of us, so that we can remember also what we might need to pay more attention to, as I believe that many of the same problems remain today in our churches.
The churches were commended as follows: Ephesus: for perseverance, enduring hardship in Jesus’ name, not growing weary, testing so-called Apostles and not tolerating evil; Smyrna: for having suffered persecution and poverty, being faithful; Pergamum: for the faithful ones not allowing their faith to be shaken, in spite of Satan’s evil being in their midst; Thyatira: for faithful service, good works, and perseverance; Sardis: for first believing and being effective in following him—for having had a good foundation of faith initially; Philadelphia: for faithfulness, following his commands, and exhibiting patience; Laodicea: for nothing (they were lukewarm).
The churches were rebuked as follows, respectively: Ephesus: for forsaking their first love and falling away; Smyrna: for nothing (they had suffered much); Pergamum: for tolerating compromise with their faith, allowing sexual immorality, tolerating sinful activity; Thyatira: for tolerating a “Jezebel” in the church who was teaching immorality as not being a serious concern; Sardis: for being superficial, for going through the motions without worshipful devotion, for being spiritually dead; Philadelphia: for nothing (they were faithful); Laodicea: for being lukewarm, passionate for little, complacent.
All of the churches were reminded that the faithful need to stay faithful and they will be rewarded. Those who fell short of this were to repent and to strengthen their faith, becoming more like Christ himself. Smyrna was reminded to trust and not to be afraid, because Jesus would remember their poverty and their suffering. They all needed to remember God in their day-to-day lives.
We all need to remember that we need to worship with faith and passion, not to become complacent. Laodicea, the lukewarm church, was rebuked with these words from Jesus: “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot or cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). I don’t think any of us wants to hear Jesus say that to us—that we have gone through the motions of dutiful attendance of worship and done “all the right things,” but were so lukewarm that there was no spiritual growth or teaching that was effective from us, that we were ineffective in everything because of not really having any true faith at all except in name only.
May we always remember Jesus and how he loved us so much that he died on the cross for us. May we remember to follow his commandments. May we seek him and trust him with confidence that he will comfort and support us. May we always love him and do his will on behalf of ourselves and others. May we reap the benefits of his love and strive to please him, so that when the day comes when we meet him face-to-face, we will hear him say, “well done, faithful servant.”