The Church Kaleidoscope Meditations: Recap 3: Possibilities of the Church
Rev 1:4 To the seven churches
Approach: Because there are different and specific words for each church we will consider each item with its church. There are all the same in that they begin, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious….” except to Thyatira which adds, “and does my will to the end.” This phraseology suggests, “Let every listener hear what the Spirit says to the Churches,” (JBP version) or perhaps more simply, “Pay attention! This is important!” We have commented on this before but I believe it is important to see these concluding words to each church as a challenge to reach for the possibility that the Lord is offering to each church. There are, in other words, words of hope, hopes of what they may yet experience.
Correction: It is important to see that the condition for blessing in each case is repentance, the heart and mind change that will bring about change of actions. Anything less is likely to bring the severe discipline of the Lord which is seen in specific warnings in three of the churches only, plus a more general warning to Laodicea after an earlier warning. Smyrna (afflictions through persecution), Thyatira (judgment on Jezebel) and Philadelphia (who have endured in the face of opposition) face no such censures:
Ephesus: “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (2:5)
Pergamum: “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (2:16)
Sardis: “But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (3:3)
Laodicea: “I am about to spit you out of my mouth….. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (3:16,19)
The Hope for the Church: So here are the hopes presented, the possibilities that are revealed to and through each church:
Ephesus: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (2:7) The thing to be overcome – their loss of their first love, even though they were hard workers and those who discerned the works of the enemy in false leaders. If they overcome they will have access to heaven, to the presence of God and to eternal life. Now the challenge in writing these words is that there is an implication: if they do not overcome they will not, at least here on this earth, have access to heaven to God and the power and wonder of His eternal life flowing in us. Are we undermining our salvation in saying this, for surely these things are our inheritance? No we are not, and yes these things are our inheritance but there is a difference in having them waiting for us in heaven and experiencing them now. How many of us know about waiting in the presence of God and knowing Him? How many of us in prayer catch a sense of heaven coming down to earth? How many of us know the power of His Spirit energizing us, healing us, inspiring us, and lifting us up above the mundane of consumerist twenty-first century materialism? These are the possibilities. Do we experience them?
Smyrna: “The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (2:11) It is probable that most of us in the West do not suffer persecution and certainly that which is life-threatening, and so rarely are we confronting death and wondering what comes next. But this church was living on the edge with some about to be imprisoned for their faith. This church needed the reminder that those who oppose us will one day have to account and stand before the Great Judgment, but for us who hold true, we will be able to stand with a clear conscience – or if there are obvious failures, have the awareness of the work of the Cross – and know we have nothing to fear in the future. Is that you and me? When we are faced with death, is there fear lurking in the background or do we have that glorious assurance?
Pergamum: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (2:17) To the faithful church, those who hold firmly to the faith – in word and deed and Spirit – is the promise of an intimacy with Jesus that involves ongoing heavenly provision and a unique identity in him. It comes with the warning not to merge with the world but to remain holy and distinct. Are we overcomers, do we know this ongoing daily provision from heaven, so we have a sense of a unique identity in Christ?
Thyatira: “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star.” (2:26-28) Faithfulness means continuous faithfulness and perseverance and endurance in ensuring the will of God prevails in our lives. To the one who overcomes and rejects the ways of the world and of the enemy, comes the promise that ultimately has to be the role of reigning with Christ, acting with his authority in the midst of this fallen world, knowing him. He is ‘the morning star’, the last star in the sky saying goodbye to the darkness and heralding a new day, and in this we will share. Are we overcomers who say goodbye to the darkness and herald a new day with the light of Christ?
Sardis: “The one who is victorious will … be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (3:5) The overcomer in this church is the one who is dead but wakes up and comes alive again and the promise is of eternal life and a name in heaven. The shocking implication is that those who are ‘dead’, if they fail to ‘come alive’ will fail to inherit eternal life. Yet there is a glimmer of hope in “strengthen what remains and is about to die,” which suggest the declaration of death is really what they ought to be known by instead of having a reputation for being alive. Their lives, we might suggest hang in the balance. Is this true for more in the church than we perhaps realise? Let’s make sure our faith and destiny is assured.
Philadelphia: “The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” (3:12) In the face of persecution, this church has prevailed and thus they become bulwarks of the church, identified to all as being united to God and to heaven and eternity. They stand out to the rest of the world as a signpost to glory. Is that us?
Laodicea: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (3:21) The overcomer is the one who casts away half-heartedness, who seeks the Lord for purity and strength and vision and righteousness. The one who is all-out for God is given the right to sit with the Godhead, ruling in the midst of their enemies. The obvious question has to be, are we half-hearted or are we all out for God, full of His word, full of His Spirit, blessing the church and the world and bringing glory to God?
And So? What more is there to say? Very little. Go back through these last three analytical recaps and in the first one let the vision of the risen and reigning Christ, the Lord of the Church impact you. Check out, in the second one, the strategies and activities of the enemy and declare you will stand against them. Finally, in this last one, read again the descriptions and ask the Lord for a spirit of revelation to see just where we, as individual local churches are in this kaleidoscope of experiences. Be blessed.