We often refer to Jesus as the Head of the Church (Eph 5:23) meaning He continues to lead every generation of His followers just as He did His disciples during His earthly ministry. And when we open the Book of Revelation we are immediately confronted with this leadership. We soon discover how directly He is involved with our lives. He knows exactly what is happening among His people: the good things and the bad. He stands among us to encourage us and even discipline us if necessary. In fact, these magnificent prophecies were originally given to encourage just seven young churches living in Asia Minor at the end of the first century. They were given to help them be overcomers, but thankfully they have been preserved so we too might read and hear and heed these things and be overcomers in our day (1:3).
In the first three chapters Jesus likens these seven churches to the Menorah that Moses placed in the Tabernacle (Ex 37:17-24; 40:24, 25). Just as those seven lamps lit the outer chamber, Jesus said these seven churches lit Asia with the truth of God. But their light had begun to dim, so the Lord Himself was coming to personally inspect each one (2:5, 16, 25; 3:3, 11, 20; 22:7, 12, 20). Tribulation was also on the way for some (2:10; 3:10). These letters, dictated through John, give an assessment of each church, warning them of their failings and urging them to repent. If they did not a moment would arrive when Jesus patience would end and He would reprove and discipline them (3:19). However, to put it in Pauls words, if they judged themselves rightly they would not be judged (1Co 11:31). Were told that each letter would be assigned to an angel who would carry it to the prophets (His bondservants, 1:1; 22:6, 9, 16) whom God had placed in each church. This role for angels is similar to what we see taking place with John himself (Rev 1:1), Daniel (Da 4:13, 23; 8:15, 19; 10:10-21), Zacharias (Lk 1:8-20), and, of course, Mary (Lk 1:26-38). These prophets would then be expected to faithfully declare the content of the messages until the people responded, hopefully sparing them the discipline the Lord Himself would otherwise be forced to impose.
In addition to His individual assessments, beginning at chapter four Jesus reveals to these churches what human history looks like from Gods perspective. This too is meant to help them (as well as all following generations) to be overcomers. By realizing that they are part of a great spiritual battle which ultimately culminates in Christs return, the defeat of His enemies and the inauguration of a new world, they will be strengthened in the face of persecution and temptation. Against the backdrop of eternity it becomes obvious that the sufferings of this present age are nothing when compared to the reward He has in store for those who endure to the end (Mk 10: 29, 30; 2Co 4:17, 18; Php 3:8).
As we read this prophecy who can doubt that Jesus still stands among us today. We too need to hear these words and evaluate ourselves. And we too need to see human history from Gods perspective, yes, so we can watch for the signs of the times, but even more importantly, so we can keep our priorities in order and shine brightly in our generation, whether or not it be the last.
1. Were listening to their letter (1:1, 4, 11, 20)
- Just like Pauls letter to Timothy or specific churches all who read them can still benefit.
- Each generation must take to heart what He said to them.
- Notice how He is personally present with each church (1:13).
2. He warned them He was personally coming to inspect their condition (1:1, 3; 2:5, 16, 22, 25; 3:3, 11, 20)
- Like Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 18, 19)
- Like Jesus inspecting the fig tree (Mt 21:18-20)
- Like Jesus on Palm Sunday (Mt 21:1-17)
- He was giving them time to repent before He disciplined them.
3. He also warned some that they would be facing more persecution.
- They must be faithful even if it meant losing their lives (2:10; 3:10)
- Mt 24:9-13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
- Roman emperor Domitian (AD 81-96).
4. He likened them to the Menorah (1:4, 12, 20; 2:1, 5)
- The Menorah was Gods promise of spiritual light in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle (Ex 37:17-24; 40:24, 25).
- The lamps burned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The lamps were cleaned and filled with the purest oil twice a day.
- These seven churches were Gods Menorah in Western Asia.
- Notice: the light of Gods truth through Jesus Christ is no longer a flickering flame, its the white-hot brilliance of star (1:16, 20).
- Stars are sometimes a biblical reference to angels (Isa 14:13; Da 8:10; Rev 12:4).
- In the NT the Menorah is now place in the world.
5. He sent His word by an angel to His prophets in each church.
- Rev 1:1, 20; 2:1 etc. Compare: Rev 22:6, 9, 16
- His bondservants the prophets
6. Chapters 4-22. If these seven churches could see this world from Gods perspective they would be strengthened to say no to temptation and endure through persecution.
1. As faithful followers of Jesus Christ Northwest Church has also been called to be a light to our community.
- We too must earnestly desire to hear the Lords corrections so our light will shine brightly.
- We too must keep Gods perspective always before us (our blessed hope Titus 2:13) so we will endure persecution bravely.
1. Churches give light to their communities in many ways. Name as many ways as you can.
2. Jesus wants us to be overcomers. What kind of person is an overcomer? In what area of your life are you struggling to be an overcomer? How does the Book of Revelation help you?