The last book in the Bible is The Revelation of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of the book are seven letters addressed to seven churches. The letters are written to real communities of faith, but these letters also speak to the church today as we seek to serve God.
The church in Ephesus received a letter commending them for their work, toil, patient endurance, and how those who are evil have tested them. They were criticized for how they abandoned the love they first had when they have dealt with those who have fallen from the faith. I think congregations may struggle with how to treat those who have fallen. We must not forget the love by which we have been called to believe in Jesus. If you find yourself treating another by any form of love different from the love of Jesus, then you must repent.
The church in Smyrna received in their letter recognition of the troubles and poverties that they faced. Jesus warned them that they will suffer even more as the devil works to test them. The believers of Smyrna were called to be faithful, even to the point of death, and Christ will give them the crown of eternal life. I know that there are moments of terrible suffering in the lives of people. I wish I could make it all go away, but the reality is that the devil is cruelly at work seeking to divide us from God and one another. We will remain faithful because the one in whom we trust is stronger than the devil that seeks to attack us.
The church in Pergamum was cautioned about the terrible danger they were in as long as they permitted religious compromise. Ephesus had been reminded to treat those who have fallen with love. Jesus cautioned Pergamum against permitting religious infidelity. How and where compromise happens in the life of a congregation are difficult questions. The letter to Pergamum reminds me that we must not allow ourselves to hide or minimize our Lord Jesus Christ in order to keep peace.
To the church in Thyatira, a letter was sent that showed Jesus will not ignore false teachers in a congregation. Thyatira permitted a Jezebel to teach and seduce the servants of the Lord to practice sexual immorality and to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. How was she handled by our Lord? She was given time to repent, but she refused. Jesus warned the church that he is going to punish her and all those who commit adultery with her. Jesus promises those that remain faithful that they will receive the morning star, the privilege of being with Jesus in all his glory through eternity.
The church in Sardis received the fifth letter. They had a reputation of being alive, but in their letter they were called to wake up. Sardis was known as a city of great wealth and fame. Did this church rest on its reputation and get complacent? Not one of us can sit back and relax on what has happened in the history of our congregation. We all must be awake and strengthened by the Lord.
Jesus told the city of Philadelphia that an open door has been set before them, which no one is able to shut. Please trust in your darkest moments that there is no one that can shut the door of God’s promises on you. While we may have little power and there may be those at work in this world trying to make us feel small. We are called to hold fast to the promise of Jesus as our conqueror.
The final letter was to the city of Laodicea. This city had no water supply of its own and so had water piped in from six miles away. When the water arrived in the city, it lost its chill and was lukewarm. In the letter the people of the congregation in this city were warned they are neither cold nor hot. They were indifferent or noncommittal. Jesus said to them, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” If you are indifferent to the works of Jesus, you will miss the opportunity to see Him.
Do you see yourself in one of these letters? Each of these letters end with these words, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It is time for us to hear the Word of God and not abandon the opportunities that God has given us to be His people.