John’s vision for the area’s churches provides us with practical insight today
Many people love the Book of Revelation, the apostle John’s supernatural treatise of the end times. It’s an epic read of God’s awesome power and the amazing, scary, exciting events that will usher us from this world into our eternal reality. Yet readers are often in such a rush to read those words, they breeze through the first three chapters of John’s grand tale.
In chapter 1 of Revelation we read the book’s introduction. The exiled apostle has a supernatural experience, a grand vision. God tells him to write what he sees and send it to seven area churches, those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Revelation 1:10-11).
For each church God shares words of commendation and condemnation. We do well to carefully consider what he says. Though the immediate application applies to those seven specific churches, the broader function informs our churches today.
What can we learn from these churches to affirm and reform our local branch of Jesus’s church today? First we must celebrate what we do well, without a smug sense of pride and with an eye toward maintaining and growing each strength.
More importantly we must ask if any of Jesus’s criticism for those churches rightly applies to us today. If we’re willing to read with an open mind, we will find much to correct, as well as warnings of what to avoid.
I think a third application provides even greater insight for us on a personal level. How do Jesus’s words confirm and confront us?
We need to read Revelation chapters 2 and 3, not to unveil the future, but to unmask our present. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” Revelation 2:11, NIV.
Which of the seven churches do you most identify with? What is one thing you need to change?