The Church Kaleidoscope Meditations: Recap 1: The Risen Lord
Rev 1:17,18 I am the First and the Last. 18 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.
Approach: Trying to get an overview of these seven letters is difficult because they have similarities and differences. To each of them Jesus comes with a different description of himself, but it is a description that matches what he needs to do with that particular church and so in what follows in this particular summary/recap study we will just look at what he says about himself and what he will do in the light of that description. In the next one we will look at the commendations / challenges and then the promises to the overcomers.
The Seven Churches & Descriptions of Jesus:
Ephesus: “him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” (v.2) “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. (v.5) This is the Lord of the Church, the head of the body, the one who gave his life to bring the Church into existence. This is the watcher who walks among the churches, the one who not only brought the churches into being, but also the one who can remove the churches, any one, any time. So often we feel so secure in our complacency, our enjoyment of life, that we feel it will go on for ever and ever regardless. We look at our leaders and, like we look at the world, we feel nothing will change – but that ignores the head of the church. I have watched those who felt so secure in their leadership and I have even brought a word to one leader aboard about him being taken out. I am sure he felt secure but four weeks later (and I don’t know the details) he was out of leadership, out of the church. When Jesus calls us to repent, we would be fools to ignore him.
Smyrna: “him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” (v.8) “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (v.10) This is the eternal one who stepped into time-space history and gave his life for us, only to rise from the dead. This is the one who has passed through death and therefore knows the stresses that come with life-threatening situations, that come when the opposition rises up against us, this is the one who will be with us in such times and so this is the one who is not being unthinking when he calls us to be faithful even when it is life threatening.
Pergamum: “him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” (v.12) “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (v.16) This is the one whose words can be devastating, penetrating, painful, chastising, disciplining, correcting, words that come like a two-edged sword. How to avoid this? Make sure we keep pure lives, righteous lives, spirit-filled lives, godly lives. Check them out.
Thyatira: “the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” (v.18) “So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.” (v.22) This is the one from heaven, the very expression of the Godhead before us, one who came and was tried in the fires of opposition and death but who stayed true. This is the one who holds accountable those who oppose him, who oppose the will of God, who turn to the enemy and to the world, who relish their sin. This is the one who will deal with them. Again, make sure we give him no cause to gaze on us with his eyes like blazing fire, eyes full of anger and the righteousness and wrath of God.
Sardis: “him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” (v.3a) “But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief,” (v.3b) This is the one who brings life by the power of his Spirit, the one who brings the very life of the church out into the open, the one who calls us to be awake to his presence and his moving and his desires. This is the one who watches and watches, looking for signs of life (so that perhaps we think he is not there and not concerned) but who in a second when he knows the time is ripe, comes like a flash of lightning, suddenly without any warning. We have already had all the warning we need.
Philadelphia: “him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (v.7) “I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.” (v.9) This is the one who can open the doors of the kingdom and usher in the works and will of God, the one who makes opportunities for us to go through those doors and experience the wonder of the life, the activity, and the power of the kingdom – and expects us to take those opportunities.
Laodicea: “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” (v.14) “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (vb.18) This is the one who came to the earth from heaven and suffered all the temptations the evil one could lay before him, this is the one who received all his taunting as he hung there on the cross, this is the one who suffered misunderstandings, betrayal, rejection and denial but remained true to the purpose of his Father in heaven. This is the one who now rules at his Father’s right hand, ruling over the world in the midst of his enemies, ruling until the time is ripe for him to return in triumph and hand the kingdom back to his Father. This is the one who laid down his life for his Father and for his future people, so this is the one who can now call those people to live similar lives, lives on fire for him, lives that are all out for him, lives that glorify the Father in heaven. And amazingly, this is the one who still holds out his hands of love and acceptance calling for our repentance so we can come again and share his life afresh, share fellowship afresh with him, commune with him, shares hearts with him.
And So? The Lord of the church shows himself to us as the one who is holy, the one who is faithful to his Father’s calling, the one who remained true during the trials of life on the earth, the one who gave his life to win us and redeem us, this is the one who see everything, knows everything and calls us all to accountability. And when we face him with our failures and our weaknesses, he looks for three things: first our repentance, our acknowledgment of having got it wrong, then our reliance upon his work on the cross on our behalf, letting him be our Savior, and finally our reliance upon his guidance and direction and empowering as we let him be our Lord. Kneel before him in submission, in honesty and in worship.