The Churches of John's Vision
When I woke up this morning, I had absolutely no intention of opening my Bible to the Book of Revelation. Rarely in my life have I felt led to specifically read it as part of my morning quiet time with God. I often go to the Bible for encouragement and to be challenged in my understanding of God's character, who He is and how He wants me to behave in this world, but I don't usually seek out reading about the "end times".
I know that's a popular topic for many and the Book of Revelations should not be ignored. However I often feel like it's used by some to scold and scare others instead of a book to help us reflect on ourselves.
So this morning, as I entered my quiet time, I really didn't feel led to do anything specific. I thought, maybe I'll just close my eyes and pray for a bit, or maybe I'll continue reading The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit by Matthew Henry. But nope, the Holy Spirit had other plans. I opened one of my favorite prayer apps, Lectio 365, and listened to todays devotional. It talked about our bodies being a temple and that because they are a temple, where the Holy Spirit resides, that also means our bodies are a house of prayer.
I immediately heard in my spirit, "How healthy is your prayer life?"
I said a short prayer to ask God to clean my heart and change it's disposition so I could hear Him and grow in Him more. And then, as I sat quietly thinking, I heard "Revelations".
So I grabbed my Bible, flipped to Revelations and began to read.
Actually, lemme be completely honest, I did immediately grab my Bible and flip to the Book of Revelations, then I looked to see how long it was, thought, "really Lord? do you want me to read this entire book right now?"...and then I began to read.
Revelations is literally "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by senfing his angel to his servant John" who bore witness and wrote it all down. (Revelations 1:1-2)
It begins with a message John is given for each of the seven churches. He tells them that he was on the island of Patmos, he was spending time with God and was in the Spirit and heard behind him a loud voice like a trumpet. As he turned to see the voice that was speaking, he was shocked to the point that he fell out. If you don't believe me, read it for yourself in Revelations 1:9-20.
The voice tells him to write what he sees in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
John was also writing to you and me.
As I read through his letters, I began to connect the messages to myself and our world today. Often as Christians we make the mistake of thinking God's rod and correction are meant for others. That when He calls out sin or unrighteousness, He is talking about non-believers or that other Christian sitting on a different pew in the sanctuary.
But nope, He's talking to you and me too.
I'm not a Bible scholar, I'm just a normal Christian like you, learning day-by-day and making lots of mistakes along the way. As I read John's message to each church, which is actually God's message to each church, I was struck by how relatable they are to our churches today.
Relatable to the congregation of the church you personally attend and relatable to the universal church, especially in the United States of America today. The Bible is not written for America specifically. I think that's a trap we fall into too, but that conversation is for another blog....
Today I just want to share what I got out of each letter. I hope in reading this you'll get something out of it too.
In order to be ready when that trumpet sounds, we must examine our own hearts and make sure we're ready. Yes, we must witness to others, but the biggest ah-ha moment that came out of my Bible study time today is that even those who consider themselves Christians may not be ready. Remember, John was told to write these letters to churches, not to non-believers.
What is God saying to you?
Grab your Bible and flip to the Book of Revelations with me.
I invite you to read each passage and then come back and read my thoughts that I've shared below. Don't get offended by my questions....or if you do, take that up with God, not me. I'm preaching to myself as much as I'm sharing with you.
What is each letter saying to you? Can you see yourself or your church community reflected in the warnings?
To the Church in Ephesus
Read Revelation 2:1-7
Although they work hard against those who are evil, calling out false prophets, they have abandoned, forgotten about, took their focus off of their first love. They may think they are righteous, but God is telling them they must repent. They must turn their focus back to loving God first.
Do you focus so much on the sin of others that you have fallen into sin yourself and have taken your focus off of loving God first and foremost? Do you spend as much time expressing your love for Him as your distain for false prophets?
To the Church in Smyrna
Read Revelations 2:8-11
There are false believers among them. Those who profess to love God, but who actually belong to the evil one. Those who life to themselves and others about their true faith. All will be tested and have tribulation, but those who are faithful to God even in the face of death will receive everlasting life.
Can you recognize a false believer? Some of us are "playing church" but don't actually practice what the Bible teaches. Examine your heart and those believers who you listen to, to make sure that things line up with God's Word and have not been twisted by the enemies influence. When your faith is tested, will you be proved faithful?
To the Church in Pergamum
Read Revelation 2:12-17
They live in the midst of evil, it's all around them. Yet they are faithful and bold followers of Christ, not ashamed of the Gospel, even when Antipas, a believer was killed. But they still must rep0ent for entertaining those who practice idolatry and sexual immorality.
Are you bold and unashamed, yet also trip over the stumbling blocks the enemy places in your life? Do you struggle to live in the world, but not become of it?
To the Church in Thyatira
Read Revelation 2:18-29
There are those who act with love, faith and service towards God and listen to false prophetess Jezebel's teachings that seduce them into idolatry and immorality. There are those who do not believe her teachings and they must hold fast until Christ's return, for they will be rewarded for not giving up. They will be given authority over the nations as God gave authority to Jesus.
You cannot serve both God and the enemy. Do not be double-minded believing in the "universe" and God. The universe has no power, it is not God. God created it. Crystals do not have power. All power comes from God. Be careful not mix Biblical teachings from the Word of God with new age philosophies created by man. Hold fast to The Truth.
To the Church in Sardis
Read Revelation 3:1-6
They have a reputation for being alive but they are dead. Their works are worthless in the eyes of God. There are only a few people among them who are true followers of Christ and are worthy.
Just because a church or it's leadership is "famous" in Christian circles, it does not mean they are aligned with Christ. They can be doing great things in the world, things that have positive impact, yet they can also be doing these things without a true heart for God. You don't have to be a Christian to do good things. There are many good people who are not Christians. Be careful not to find yourself among those who use Christianity as their brand, but are not actually believers in all the teachings of Jesus Christ.
To the Church in Philadelphia
Read Revelation 3:7-13
They have kept God's Word and are true believers. They will be kept safe during the time of testing that those who pretend to be followers of Christ will go thru. He encourages them to hold tight to their faith so that no one can steal their crown and their place as pillars in the temple of God.
Live encouraged! Hold tight to your faith, even when the world is in chaos. Do not let anything steal your faith or your joy as you continue to persevere until Christ's return and eternity with Him on the other side of Heaven.
To the Church in Laodicea
Read Revelation 3:14-22
They are lukewarm in their faith. They are content because they are not in need. They do not seek their lack of fervor for God. He tells them to repent and knock at the door of the Lord. To awaken them from their slumber and engage in relationship with Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit before it's too late.
Just calling yourself a Christian is not enough. Living a good life and going to church on Sunday is not the same as having a vibrant and growing personal relationship with God. Is your faith lukewarm? We all go thru lukewarm seasons, but don't let that be your testimony. Do you have a testimony? What is it? What valleys has he brought you thru? What mountains has he helped you climb? How can you go deeper, grow deeper in your understanding of who He is? Are you knocking at His door or are you just sitting comfortably waiting for Him to make the first move?
I truly hope something in my random Bible study rambings and notes convicts you to actively seek God's wisdom on the condition of your heart and where He wants you to grow.
I want to be like those in the church at Philadelphia that God calls worthy believers and whom He encourages to continue to hold fast to their faith. But if I'm honest, I can definitely see reflections of the behavior of the other churches in my life and my spirit. What about you?
Let's discuss and encourage each other in how we can live lives worthy of the high calling of Jesus Christ and be ready when that trumpet sounds. Comment below or join me inside the Loved and Blessed Ladies online community where we constantly encourage and challenge each other in our spiritual growth.
Jamila is the founder of loved+blessed. On her personal mission to leave a legacy of encouragement, she blogs about her own life lessons with the hope that it will bring joy into others’ lives and help them find the courage to keep walking in faith knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Read her testimony of how God turned her misery into ministry.