I have had the opportunity to talk with many Christian people about the state of the church and the importance of credibility of the witness of the church in our respective societies. There has been much written about the nature and mission of the church which has summarized very well the ecclesia. I am not going to write a dissertation on the nature of the church but to say a few thoughts. The church is a light to this world of darkness and our witness to the Lord Jesus Christ should be taken as the most honourable thing in our lives both individually and as a people. We are the bride of the Lord Jesus which is destined to attend the marriage feast of the lamb. The Church is the covenant people who are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9). We are to declare the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in proclaiming Him to the whole world, to teach and baptized the nations for His glory alone (Matthew 28:18-20). We are those who have received the honour of worshipping the only true God as a people who have been set apart to be His privileged people. The scripture tells us to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27) which is conducting ourselves with a spirit of holiness. We, as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus, must be always conscious that we as the church are reflective upon Him.
One problem that exists today is that the church sometimes doesn’t reflect the light of Christ as it should. It is not always an easy task to do so and it takes a tremendous amount of work, sacrifice and love for the things of Christ to such a degree that it could be said that we’ve given our lives for the sake of Him. It is a battle that never ends and continues until the day the Lord Jesus returns for His bride. This, unfortunately, is really apparent in North American churches where many if not most churches are seriously lacking in proclaiming Christ, discerning and dealing with false teachers, participating in spiritual adultery is rampant or even worst the deception of having the appearance of a thriving church when inside it is nothing more than a graveyard filled with apathetic individuals. The church of Jesus Christ which consists of those who have received the faith once delivered is in bad shape!
In the days of the rule of Domitian, between A.D. 90-95, the churches in the province of Asia Minor were in a state of great persecution and turmoil. Many church members had suffered extreme hardships, physical calamities and even death at the hands of the Roman Empire. Faithful Christians were stripped of their livelihoods and put to death all for bearing an uncompromising testimony to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The churches were plagued with false teachers, false philosophies, apathy, self-righteousness, ignorance and compromise. There were faithful witnesses found in each church but there was a dire need for repentance and revival. Again, the church of Jesus Christ which consisted of those who had received the faith once delivered was in bad shape!
It was around this time that the faithful apostle John, residing on an Island called Patmos just on the outskirts of this province, wrote a devastating letter to seven churches in Asia Minor. This letter has had many names but today it is merely referred to as the book of Revelation. The letter was given to him by none other than the Lord of the Church Himself, Jesus Christ. The purpose of the letter was very specific and bold. The Lord of the Churches commanded them to repent from their spiritual idolatry, to continue in what was good and most importantly to persevere through suffering at any cost. His message was clear as to say that all who overcomes will receive His blessings but to those who do not persevere, judgment would be swift. The reason why they should persevere is given to us throughout in that He had conquered, He is the ruler over those who were perceived as ruling over them and they should stay faithful to Him.
The exhortations that were given to these churches are timeless and I believe are still relevant to the churches today. If more churches would just take the time to heed the message given to these seven congregations in Asia Minor, there would be a true revival in the churches. If we could flush out all the hypocrisy, apathy, worldliness and doctrinal impurity, we would have a far stronger and more effective witness to the world. Most importantly, we would be honouring the Lord of the church even today.
My goal over the next few weeks is to post my study of the message to the seven churches in Asia Minor. My hope is to make application throughout the study to our time as I go through the text. I hope to give an exegesis of chapters 2-3 of the book of Revelation that is consistent with the time it was written. I will begin with an exegesis of chapter 1 simply because the first chapter gives us introductory statements that are essential to understanding chapters 2-3. Without an examination of chapter 1, my study would be far more difficult and I simply would be referring back to chapter one without any background.
My prayer is that perhaps my readers may think through the message that was given so long ago and apply it to their church settings today. I especially would like to make a plea to both church elders and the congregation as a whole. The examination of this text should be taken very seriously and considered a benchmark as to what the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, expects of His bride. We have much here of the will of the Lord for His people that should be considered. Please pay special attention to this fact: Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church and the elders are caretakers only. Elders must realize that everything revolves around pleasing the master of the church and hence all that is done should be with a clear and explicit attempt to please Him. It is the responsibility of the elders to discern the false teachers, false practices and protect the congregation against the wolves that creep in even rebuking Satan if need be. Peter made this clear in His epistle:
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:1-5)
I would also like for those who would be the congregants of the gathering. The perseverance that is demanded of us is not merely corporate but also individualistic. We must encourage each other to strive for what the Lord desires and hate what the Lord hates. We must have the mindset that our goal as individuals and as a corporate body is to do the will of God. If our sole purpose in the church is to complain and expect to be served then we have missed the message entirely. We must, as individuals, come to the church with a heart of love even when we are not completely satisfied with the things of the congregation. We must approach the church with the spirit of servitude and not with the expectation to be served. We must exhort one another to live a life of purity that honours Jesus Christ our Lord.
May we examine these things carefully and pay special attention to its exhortation and warnings. Let us read this letter afresh with an open heart for change and to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.