There is SO much to learn from the book of Revelation! Overall, I thought there were a lot of messages from chapters 2 and 3 that apply to us today! Remaining faithful and steadfast in our faith in spite of the anti-Christian world around us. Focusing on what's really important rather than getting caught up in attaining success and wealth. Living our lives as an example to those who don't believe, in hopes that they might see God working through us. And living life with passion and love for God!
Read on about some of John's letters to the seven churches of Asia, keeping in mind that while they were addressed to those seven churches, the seven churches are symbolic of the entire church. Thus, there are also written for us today!
1. Ephesus (2:1-7)
John praised the Ephesians for being so orthodox in their faith. They knew all the rules and they followed them, but something was missing - their intimacy with Jesus Christ. John rebuked them for losing the love that they once had, and he instructed them to love and serve the Lord again. In return, he promised that they would receive the tree of life.
This is a great reminder to not get so caught up in following the rules of the church that we forget to love. I'm not at all saying not to follow the rules - they are there for a reason and we should follow them. However, we should also constantly seek to improve our relationship with God, and we should be passionately in love with Him!
2. Smyrna (2: 8-11)
The people of Smyrna were living in a rich city where Caesar was worshiped. John called some of the members of the city "the assembly of Satan," as the culture was very hostile to Christianity. John tells the people of Smyrna that they would be tested by Satan, but they should not be afraid. They were also promised that if they were victorious, they would receive the crown of life and they would not be harmed by the second coming of the Lord.
This is so applicable to our culture today where God is constantly being pushed out of our lives and people are hostile to Christianity. It's a great reminder to stay persistent in our faith in the midst of this hostility, remembering that we will one day be rewarded.
3. Pergamum (2: 12-17)
John praised the people of Pergamum for holding fast to his name and not denying their faith. However, they were all rebuked because some of them were worshiping Balam. They were told to repent, or else God would wage war with the sword of his mouth. They were promised to receive hidden manna (the food of life) and a white emulut (a symbol of power, victory, and joy) if they persisted in their faith.
We decided at our Bible study that the reason why everyone was rebuked, rather than just the people worshipping Balaam, was to remind us that we are all one body in Christ. Thomas and I were also thinking that it had to do with standing by and watching sins occur, but not doing anything about it. I think this is a tough one to do something about! You see people around you not doing what is right, but you don't say anything out of fear of being judgmental or intolerant.
4. Thyatira (2:18-29)
The people of Thyatira were rebuked for falling into the trap of listening to the teachings of the false prophets. The overall message from John was that the people must be intolerant of immorality. They were promised authority over the nations if they repented and were faithful to God.
We're so often tempted in our society to compromise on our beliefs, whether it's seeking money or success, or not defending our faith so we will not upset other people or appear intolerant. John's words to Thyatira show us that this is unacceptable, and that we must not make compromises in our spiritual lives.
5. Sardis (3:1-6)
John said that the people of Sardis were had a reputation for being alive on the outside, but they were spiritually dead. They were consumed by money, living in a very secularized society. While John praised the other churches for certain things, he praised the people of Sardis for absolutely nothing. They were warned to wake up and strengthen what they had left in them, and if they did, their name would live forever.
Sardis is the most strikingly like America. There are so many who believe in God, but do not live their lives accordingly. There are so many who profess to be Catholics, yet they believe abortion is acceptable. There are also so many people appear to be vibrant, alive, and successful, but on the inside they are spiritually dead.
6. Philadelphia (3: 7-13)
The people of Philadelphia were praised for keeping the word of God and not denying his name in spite of living in a place that was against Christianity. John told them to hold fast and to make unbelievers fall at their feet. He promised those who were faithful that they would be made pillars in the Temple of God.
This is another community that encourages us to remain faithful and steadfast in spite of living in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christians. We have be faithful and joyful witnesses so we have an impact on those who do not believe.
7. Laodicea (3:14-22)
Finally, John wrote to the church of Laodicea. They were known for being extremely wealthy, and they were not praised for anything. They were rebuked for being lukewarm Christians and for being caught up in their wealth. They were told that God would spit them out for being lukewarm, and they must repent.
This is a good reminder for us to be passionate for Christ! We can't just have a go to church on Sunday kind of faith, but rather a life that is filled with love and gratitude for our Savior, and our actions will reflect that attitude.
Interestingly, each of these letters says this "Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches." We learned from Jeff Cavins, hearing is shema in Hebrew, which means doing. We have to read these letters, and then act on them. He encouraged us to pray for the Holy Spirit to show us what ways we need to change, and then to make those changes. We must change, and our motivation can be the rewards that are promised to those who are faithful!