Revelation 2-3: When Jesus Gives His Grade

The Revelation of Jesus given to John is not written about seven church ages.  It is written to seven particular churches.  In making this statement, I am aware that many godly interpreters disagree with such a conclusion.  However, Revelation 1:4 presents John as writing to seven churches existing in Asia.  In 1:11, he lists these seven specific congregations.  They are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  These churches are presented in a clockwise, geographical order from the perspective of Patmos.  These are the seven lampstands amongst whom the Savior walks. (1:12, 20; Also Exodus 25; Numbers 8; Zechariah 4)

Then, in the second chapter, these specific churches or lampstands are reviewed.  While most Bible studies focus on each church individually, we will lump them all together.  Therefore, we will see a list of characteristics of the King, commendations, condemnations, calls to action, and consequences.  We will then be encouraged to be the church that is pleasing to Christ, profitably persevering till the end.

Characteristics of the King: Many of these attributes were found in Revelation chapter one.  However, another list of divine attributes can be compiled by looking at the various church addresses.  John’s Christology continues with:

  • He who holds churches in his hand (2:1; 3:1)
  • He who holds ministers in his hand (2:1; 3:1)
  • He who is the alpha and omega (2:8)
  • He who is the formerly dead but resurrected one (2:8)
  • He who is the sword-wielding judge (2:12)
  • He who is the majestic Son presented in Ezekiel and Daniel (2:18)
  • He who knows it all; he searches minds and heart (2:23; 3:1)
  • He who is coming again (3:3; 11)
  • He who is holy (3:7)
  • He who is the truth – wisdom (3:7)
  • He who has the keys to man’s eternal destiny; the Keys to the Kingdom (3:7)
  • He who is the Creator (3:14)
  • He who is the loving disciplinarian (3:19)

Commendations: When Jesus reviews his churches, he encourages them in the areas in which they have followed his will.  Affirmation is given to believers and congregations who:

  • Work hard and serve well (2:2, 19)
  • Patiently endure the abuses of Satan and his friends (2:2,3, 9-10, 13-14, 19)
  • Purify themselves from evil hypocrites (2:2)
  • Have proper discernment and divorce themselves from false teachers (2:2,6)
  • Love one another (2:19)
  • Believe God’s word and have faith (2:19; 3:8)
  • Obey (3:8)

Condemnations: Jesus also rebukes his churches for their unfaithfulness.  Characteristics which Jesus finds to be repugnant are:

  • Having apathetic communion; loosing first love (2:4; 3:15)
  • Lacking concern for personal holiness; tempting your brothers (2:14, 20)
  • Lacking concern over false teaching (2:15, 20)
  • Focusing on a great reputation but ignoring poor character (3:1)
  • Focusing on eternal prosperity over internal spiritual vitality (3:17-18)

Calls to Action: Jesus died on the cross for all the sins listed above.  They are covered by his sacrificial blood.  However, he died to rescue men from sin that they might live in it no longer.  Jesus calls his church to:

  • Realize their past faithfulness and wake up (2:5; 3:2)
  • Repent and obey (2:5, 16; 3;3, 19)
  • Keep obeying; persevere and be faithful unto death (2:10, 24; 3:11)
  • Be zealous (3:19)

Consequences: Depending on their response, further discipline or blessing will follow:

  • Rebellion results in lampstand removal or Holy Spirit quenching (2:5)
  • Rebellion results in personal destruction (2:16, 22)
  • Rebellion results in generational destruction (2:23)
  • Submission results in blessing (2:23)
  • Submission is the response of those who find paradise (2:7, 11)
  • Submission is the response of those who miss hell (2:7; 3:10)
  • Submission is the response of those who receive the crown (2:10; 3:11)
  • Submission is the response of those who eat with God (2:7, 17, 20)
  • Submission is the response of those with new names (2:17; 3:5, 12)
  • Submission is the response of those ruling victoriously (2:26-27; 3:9, 21)
  • Submission is the response of those with new garments (3:5)
  • Submission is the response of those I will proclaim as mine (3:6)
  • Submission is the response of those with whom God dwells (3:12)

With all this in mind, I might suggest the following.

First, let us confess our sins of commission and omission.  Let us talk with Christ about those things we ought not to have done.  Then, let us talk with Christ about those things we ought to have done, but have not.  Half-hearted worship is not acceptable.  It is something we need to confess and address.

Second, let us be less satisfied with external prosperity and reputation, and more concerned regarding internal vitality and character.  Many of these congregations looked good on the outside, especially the church from Laodicea.  But God sees the heart, and he is not as easily impressed.  It would be a shame to have sharp buildings, impressive ministries but no Holy Spirit.

Third, keep your eye on the prize.  Like Abraham, we are to long for the heavenly city.  Like John, let us clothe ourselves with the garment of God so we can enjoy the presence of God.  Some day soon we will be in the place of God, and there we will eat with God.  Paradise is not here yet, but it is coming.

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