In this chapter Jesus Himself speaks to the Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira. We see Jesus so intimately involved in His body (His Church). He knows everything about each of the Churches, their hardships, struggles and their good and bad points. As He walks amongst the Churches He encourages, disciplines, forgives, restores and guides them into how they should be operating. There is a strong message of transparency and hope as God knows everything about His Church. As he brings discipline, His aim is to restore, refine and purify, moving His Church into greater things that will glorify Him even more.
The Church is the body of Christ on earth and who better than to teach and discipline His church than Christ Himself! The Holy Spirit, our Teacher, makes it clear that He sees everything. He graciously encourages as well as disciplines. So long as there is an ear to hear and a heart that is open, humble and willing to repent, then God can restore, as that is His nature. He is acutely aware of the individual struggles and sacrifices of each of the churches. Jesus starts His message to each church with encouragement, followed by discipline/correction and then He ends again with encouragement! What a great model to follow if we ever need to bring discipline – start and end with good points and bring correction in the middle!
The same words repeated to each individual Church is, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.’ Churches have a great responsibility to put time aside to listen to what the Spirit is saying to them. Jesus is the Head of His Church. Each Church is a representation of Jesus’s own resurrected body on earth and Christ will jealously guard and protect that which represents Him to others. Jesus Himself brings encouragement and correction to the church so that His body on earth is all that He intended it to be. This can only happen if Churches have ears to hear, humble hearts willing to repent, and a desire obey their master (Christ). They need to be utterly dependent on His leading, laying down their own agendas to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Churches represent the Holy spotless bride of Christ. Known sin that is not addressed and repented of will be uncovered and laid bare. This chapter of Revelation should bring a fresh fear of the Lord to the Churches.
1/. How Jesus describes Himself
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
These are the words of him who is the First and Last, who died and came to Life again.
These are the words of him who has the sharp double-edged sword.
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those that claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and endured hardships for my Name and have not grown weary.
I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you the devil will put some of you in prison to test you and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life.
I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my Name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful servant, who was put to death in your city, where Satan lives.
I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Repent and do the things you did at first!
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you. You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!
Nevertheless, I have this against you. You tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.
4/. Consequences (if unwilling to repent)
I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
I have given Jezebel time to repent of her immorality but she is unwilling so I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead.
5/. Promises for those who overcome to the end
To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.
He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – he will rule them with an iron sceptre, he will dash them to pieces like pottery – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star.
Let us hold fast to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Let us resolve to put time aside to hear what He is saying to us and to repent if necessary and to move on to all that He has for us and for His Church.
We are overcomers in Christ, through the blood of the Lamb. Let us eagerly look forward by faith to receiving those things He has promised to those who overcome to the end.
We are overcomers in Christ – Hallelujah!