Christ’s Message to the 7 Churches in Asia Minor (from the Full Life Study Bible)

Christ’s Message to the 7 Churches in Asia Minor (from the Full Life Study Bible)

The goal of the messages of Christ to seven first-century local churches existing in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey; see Rev 1:4, note) was to challenge, encourage, warn and build up believers and churches throughout church history, even to this day (cf. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The value of these messages for churches today includes: (1) a revelation of what Jesus Christ himself loves and values in his churches as well as what he hates and condemns; (2) a clear statement from Christ about (a) the consequences of disobedience and spiritual neglect and (b) the rewards for spiritual alertness, diligence and faithfulness to Christ; (3) a standard by which any church or individual may judge their true spiritual condition in relation to God; and (4) an example of Satan’s methods for attacking and working against the church or individual Christian (see also Jdg 3:7, note). Using a question and answer format, this article examines each of these aspects of Christ’s messages to his churches.

(1) What does Christ praise or commend? Christ commends a church for (a) not tolerating wicked individuals whose aim is to undermine or weaken the congregation’s loyalty to God and its effectiveness in ministry (Rev 2:2); (b) evaluating the life, teaching and claims of Christian leaders before accepting what they teach (2:2); (c) persevering in faith, love, witness, service and suffering for Christ (2:3, 10, 13, 19, 26); (d) hating what God hates (2:6); (e) overcoming sin, Satan and the corruption of the world (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21); (f) refusing to conform to immoral beliefs and behaviors that are common in the world and refusing to accept worldliness in the church (2:24; 3:4); and (g) honoring and following God’s Word (3:8, 10).

(2) How does Christ reward churches that persevere through challenges and remain loyal to him and his Word? He rewards such churches (a) by rescuing them from the time of ultimate tribulation and judgment that will come upon the whole world in the last days (3:10); (b) by blessing them with his love, presence and close companionship (3:20); and (c) by ultimately giving them eternal life with God (2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12; 21:7).

(3) What does Christ condemn? Christ condemns a church for (a) weakening, abandoning or rejecting intimate personal devotion to himself and to God the Father (2:4); (b) neglecting or abandoning true Biblical faith (2:14-15; 3:1-3); (c) tolerating immoral church leaders, teachers or laypersons (2:14-15, 20); (d) becoming spiritually dead (3:1) or lukewarm (i.e., complacent, apathetic, halfhearted; 3:15-16); and (e) substituting outward success and prosperity (3:17) for real inner spirituality (i.e., devotion to God, moral purity, spiritual wisdom and right conduct by God’s standard; 3:18).

(4) How does Christ punish churches that decline spiritually and tolerate immoral beliefs and behaviors? He punishes such churches (a) by removing them from their place in God’s kingdom (2:5; 3:16); (b) by withdrawing his special favor, his guiding presence, the power of the Holy Spirit and the protection of their members from Satan’s destruction (2:5, 16, 22-23; 3:4, 16; see Mt 13, notes); and (c) by placing their leaders under God’s judgment (2:20-23).

(5) What does Christ’s message reveal about the natural drift of careless churches toward spiritual stagnation (i.e., emptiness, laziness, lack of growth and progress), decline, loss of faith and outright rebellion against God? (a) The seven letters suggest that without proper precaution, churches will slowly go their own way, accept false teaching and adapt to the evil practices and anti-God elements of the world (see Gal 5:17, note). (b) In addition, we see that churches can often be negatively affected by false Christians and by other wicked and unfaithful people (2:2, 14-15, 20). For this reason, a church must never take its spiritual condition for granted. A seemingly right relationship with God at the present time is never a valid test or guarantee that the church is fulfilling God’s highest purposes or that their beliefs and teaching are absolutely accurate. The original message and teaching of Christ and those he authorized to deliver his message as we have it today in his written Word (i.e., the Bible) are the highest and final authority by which to measure truth and falsehood.

(6) How can churches avoid spiritual decline and the resulting judgment by Christ? These letters offer several ways. (a) First and most importantly, churches must be willing to “hear what the Spirit says” (2:5-7, 16-17, 21), which means they must listen and respond with obedience to God’s direct message. The Word of Jesus Christ must always be the church’s guide (1:1-5). His Word, as revealed to his NT messengers through the Holy Spirit, is the measure by which churches must examine their beliefs and activities and constantly renew their spiritual lives (2:7, 11, 17, 29). (b) Churches must continually examine their spiritual condition in relation to God and his standards. If necessary, they must correct their actions and their degree of toleration of worldly and immoral beliefs and behaviors among their members (2:4, 14-15, 20; 3:1-2, 14-17). (c) Spiritual decline can be stopped and corrected in any church or group only if there is sincere repentance (see Mt 3:2, note on repentance) and a sincere return to the original love, truth, purity and power of Jesus Christ and his original Biblical revelation (2:5-7, 16-17; 3:1-3, 15-22).

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