“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like the son of Man,…When I saw Him I fell at his feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said:…’Write therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery…” Revelation 1:12-20
Everybody loves the underdog story-including Jesus! This is why He took the time to include some very practical and uncomfortably personal letters to a specific group of normal local churches, before unveiling His own mysterious revelation of future-world events. Smart believers never read past its less enticing initial chapters when curiously studying the mother of all Bible prophecies.
This is because they contain the hidden keys to understanding how to overcome the inherent dangers of being associated with Jesus, regardless of one’s particular place on the timeline of history. Take a moment to absorb the emphasis He places on those believers who have continued to gather together around Him in the midst of great persecution. John actually sees them first as He turns to face the One speaking to him from behind with such a, “great voice”! They are depicted as the elaborate menorahs (7 in 1 candlesticks found in the Temple’s, “Holy Place.”). By today’s standard these 90 pound, pure gold pieces of furniture (made to reflect the light of God’s own glory) would be worth nearly $2 million!
Now that we understand its true value, we can begin to recognize the level of importance the concept of a local church carries from a heavenly perspective. These letters also provide a playbook for the church at large to survive the nature of satan’s cumulative attack in the very last days. Notice that the language Jesus uses is all about “overcoming”. This word (Greek, “nike”) is used 15 times in the entire book of Revelation and once to each church in summing up the things He had to say to them.
According to Jesus, His Church is purposely being built to “prevail” against the forces of Hell (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, “overcoming” is a natural attribute of being a Christian, which is why it is reinforced in the last part of the Bible. Notice how each of these seven local churches is commanded to finish strong with an attached promise of reward for doing so (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). The Lord knows how to “sweeten the purse” for those willing to go all the way in their believing!
Finally, the One who sees and knows all is sure to make detailed comments and give specific directions for each group. Jesus wants us to know how to proceed before knowing what to expect. He is calling His “Body” to adjust and make a “comeback” to the place of thoughtful divine alignment with Him, the “Head”. Since these churches most likely illustrate all churches everywhere throughout history, we should expect to be able to learn how to function together going forward in any era…especially our own!
So here is a checklist of the things Jesus said to DO to each church if they were serious about finishing His race:
- The Ephesians needed to get back to the work of LOVE. Rev 2:5
- Smyrna was to keep doing what they were doing by not losing hope amidst their unfair, yet intense persecution. Rev 2:10
- Pergamum needed to repent & correct the errors dividing their congregation – impure spirituality & make believe religiosity. Rev 2:16
- Thyatira had gone further, allowing wrong spirits to control the church through a permissiveness which had created fake leadership and left a trail of “dirty deeds” unchecked in their midst. Rev 2:20
- Sardis was told to simply strengthen the “remnant” or what was left of its legitimate group so they could finish His work there. Rev 3:2
- The Philadelphians were hanging on as a whole and making progress but had weaknesses and real enemies – so they were told to purposefully walk through the open door in front of them. Rev 3:8, 11
- The Laodiceans had let everything lapse! They serve as our mirror church in this era – their unthinkable dilemma was deciding to LET GOD BACK IN the door they had shut in His face! Rev 3:20