Revelation 2-3 – He who has an ear let him hear…
As we’ve been talking about connecting (see post on Hebrews 11-12) it’s important that we also connect with what God is doing in the Church as a whole, not just the places that we visit on Sunday mornings. In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus communicates with 7 churches, giving encouragement and rebuke, drawing them to a more intimate walk with Him. If you are looking for an in-depth study of this passage you are in no way going to find it here. This is merely a summary and application that will hopefully connect us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s call to us through His letters to the churches. I am by no means trying to show that these letters to the churches should be grouped in the way that I group them. I am simply grouping them for the sake of application to our hearts today, and so that this post isn’t 376 pages long. If you haven’t already, I would suggest reading through the passage. I will not be addressing the passage specifically very often, but will focus on pulling themes and application from the passage.
We will begin by addressing the first four churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. These four have a unique connection due to what Christ chooses to address within each. Problem of persecution and worldly seduction has always plagued God’s people as far back as Balaam in the book of Exodus. But here we see the problems in new light hedged in by issues of doctrine and love. Persecution is always a matter of faith. If one’s faith is weak or, more likely, non-existent, one hardly finds oneself in the middle of harsh persecution for long. And faith historically has been argued from two very popular points of view: religious and social. The religious point of view holds that the most valuable and worthy task of any individual is to search for truth where it may be found and once found held ferociously. Words are scrutinized for meaning. Philosophies stand and fall at the unwavering plum line of reason. Truth and the code of conduct berthed out of it reign supremely and often without mercy. We see it in virtually every corner of the world. The social view, however, is not as concerned with rules or philosophies and is much more concerned with the individual. The social point of view will seek to tolerate and incorporate the myriads of philosophies and even religions. The social is fluid, lacking hard lines and precision, but abounding in acceptance.
These four churches are being called to a higher level of faith. Often it is our usurpation of our faith that often draws us to harder lines on peripheral, unnecessary behaviors while at other times our not holding tight enough to the source of our faith causes us to blur the lines so incoherently that we no longer truly believe in anything. Both in the midst of persecution can be volatile. One will establish an order and become the persecutors while the other will adapt to the societal structure so thoroughly that it will no longer need to be persecuted for its beliefs because it believes in everything. The seductions of Balaam are not limited to sexual immorality and the worship of graven images. The seductions of Balaam are what draw us away from true worship of the Father. The unrelenting pursuit of truth and knowledge can be just as blinding as sexual perversion. The subtle wooing of tolerance without absolutes can be just as numbing as the habitual kneeling before a figure of gold. Christ is calling us to value love and truth. We should have the strengths of the first along with the strengths of the fourth. Only then can we avoid the seductions that come to draw us away from His Name.
In the instructions to the final three churches we can find a similar connection, albeit loose. In what we learn of these three churches we can very accurately account for the majority of those who claim to be Christians. There are those who on the outside look like they have everything together. They are often Sunday School teachers, deacons, volunteers, those who are always wanting to do more and more without regard to family or self. People who try to prove their faith by doing without ever tasting the transformation of rebirth. They simply liked the ideas of Jesus and salvation but never really allowed their hearts to be changed by them. If you have ever worked in or around a church you have met them. Actually, if we could be honest with ourselves, we have probably been them. We have been the ones who on the outside look as white-washed as a Pharisee, but on the inside are as dead and rotting as the world. Then there is the one who can’t decide between Spirit and flesh. The one who is happy to do or even lead the Spiritual things while still having the availability to follow the flesh on occasion. These are the ones who do more than enough good to justify their limited amounts of bad. They have tricked themselves and the people around them into believing that faith is mustered and manageable not given and grown. And then there are those who have endured. Those who have warred. Those who have weathered the storms and come out firmly founded on the Rock. These receive the promise of the Open Door. These are welcomed in by the Father. These are pillars in the House of the Lord. Which are you? Do you pursue acts of righteousness tirelessly without ever entering the rest of the King? Do you believe that you are owed your reward for doing just enough acts in the name of Christ without ever surrendering to Him? Are you one who has seen the Open Door and run through it leaving all else behind? May we all have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us. I love y’all more than you know. Grace and peace,