Journey with Daniel
7 Letters to 7 Churches
Do you get a lot of mail? Do you get letters from family, friends? Typically what fills my mailbox is bills and ads. Imagine with me – today Rickie goes outside to the mailbox outside of the church building, and in our mailbox is a letter addressed to the church at Campbell Road – a letter written from Jesus. In the letter He shares with us what He sees in this church – the things done well, the areas of weakness, the encouragement for the future. What would His letter say?
In Revelation 2-3, Jesus has a message for each of the 7 churches of Asia (1:4, 11). Each of the 7 letters follows a certain pattern:
§ Identification – Jesus gives a description of Himself (2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). Many of the descriptions are echoes of what we read in chapter 1.
§ Approval – Each church except Laodicea is commended for some good (2:2-3, 6, 9, 13, 19; 3:4, 8, 10).
§ Disapproval – Each church except Smyrna and Philadelphia have things Jesus rebukes them for (2:4, 14-15, 20; 3:1, 15-17)
§ Direction – Christ calls the churches to either future faithfulness, or to repentance from their sins (2:5, 10, 16, 25; 3:3, 11, 18-19).
§ Promise – For those who listen to the Lord, who overcome, Jesus gives the promise for a reward to come (2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 20-21).
While these words were intended for the specific churches at that specific time, we can’t help but see similarities in our times, in our lives. The areas where they struggled are areas we often struggle. The things they were commended for are things that we commend each other for. As with most churches, and most Christians, there are areas of strength and areas of weakness.
These chapters remind us of some very important truths:
Christ knows. To each church Jesus said, “I know your deeds.” Nothing remains hidden from God. Who we are, the character of our heart, the sincerity of our walk before Him – He knows it all.
Satan Works. One name found throughout these letters is Satan (2:10, 13, 24; 3:9). He is crafty. He is evil. He is powerful and effective. His influence can corrupt the church, sometimes from the inside (2:20). Remember this – we have an enemy. He is ruthless and dangerous. He wants your soul. He wants your home – your mate, your children. He wants to corrupt the church. He wants to undo the good that is done.
We Can Overcome. The one word found in each letter is the word “overcome.” Troublesome times will come. Temptations will arise. Satan will stop at nothing to win the battle for our souls. But we can overcome. We can endure. We can stand strong. We can remain faithful in difficult times. We can win the battle and be victorious through Christ who gives us the victory (12:11).
If Christ wrote a letter today – whether to the church I’m a member of, or to me, what would it say? May we seek in all things to be pleasing to Christ, transforming each day more and more to the image of Christ.
“Wonderful and glorious Christ – You are our Lord and our Savior, our majestic King who stands in the midst of Your churches. You know us better than we know ourselves. You see us for who we are. Thank You for Your patience. For my areas of weakness I ask for your forgiveness and further patience. Help me and mold me into Your image. Thank You for Your words of instruction, rebuke, encouragement and comfort. Help me this day to be more like You. Help me remember the battle being waged daily for my soul. Help me remember I can overcome. In You there is strength. In you there is hope. In you there is victory. All glory to You, the alpha and omega, the head of Your church, the Lord of my life.
Jesus is introduced as Prince who came to the earth, Ruler, Redeemer who loosed us from our sins by His blood. Revealed by our God who is said to be the Alpha and Omega. This is to people who believe He is the Alpha. He began this process. He is God Who became flesh and came into this world.
But the thing these people of God want to know is, will He be the Omega. The One who had been there at the beginning will He be there when it is all over? He was there when all this process of creation and redemption began, will He be there when it all ends?
John tells them, the answer is, “YES!” We too can have confidence because of:
Who He is: Christians were being tempted to renounce their faith in Christ. They would be pushed to the extreme to deny His name, to destroy their witness in the world. But their model is of the Lord Jesus Christ Who came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37), even though it would cost Him His life. He had the chance before Pilate to just say one word, and He would have spared His life (1 Tim. 6:13). But Jesus refused to budge one inch from all that the Father had told Him to do.
What He has done: In short, He redeemed us. And, notice the progression, “loved us,” “washed us,” and “made us.” Our salvation initiated in the undeserved love of God for us. This lead Him to shed His own blood on the cross, which in baptism washes us from our sins. But then, remarkably He then made us kings and priests of God. In other words, He left us in the world to have the glorious privilege of serving the purposes of God. Christ has the right to evaluate the church, because He is the one Who loved us, He is the One who saved us, and He is the One Who has left us with work to do.
What He will do: Jesus will be the final judge, and not a soul will escape His sight. And those who have been keenly anticipating His coming and preparing for His evaluation, it will be a time of glory. But, for those who have pierced Him, both literally and figuratively, what a day of judgment and mourning that will be.
Revelation for us:
Seeing Christ gives us confidence for living. I find it interesting that in Scripture the command that most often fell from the lips of the Savior was, “Do not be afraid.” When you have a clear understanding of who Jesus is, and what He has done for you, and what He will do, and you put your faith in a God like that, there is no need for fear. And you can have confidence that living for Him is right in any circumstance. That’s why Jesus could say in Revelation 2:10,“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Because of who I am, I will give you the crown of life.”
Seeing Christ makes us consider how we are living. You see, Jesus is walking among His church not just to comfort it, but to evaluate it. And that will become clear in the next two chapters. Jesus has the right to evaluate us, and that should make us stop and consider very carefully how we are living. For soon He will come again and give a final evaluation that no one will escape.
A Month of Victory
For the month of February we’re going to spend some time with the book of Revelation. This book is often overlooked and underappreciated. It is unique in its writing style. Certainly, all the symbols and imagery can be a bit confusing. But the over-all message is clear. It is one that applies to all people of every time. Revelation describes the conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, Satan and God. The message of Revelation is one of victory. God will win over evil, and His people will live victoriously.
The words of Jesus to these churches are just as relevant and applicable to churches today. The words of warning, the call for patient endurance in the face of adversity, the comforting words of hope, the assurance of victory – the words given then are words we need to hear today. Like John we need to see God on His throne. The answer for troubling times rests in the hands of the King. Our God promises victory. Claim it! Live it!
We encourage you to join us as we read, reflect and pray through Revelation this month. May these words from the past help strengthen and encourage our faithful commitment to God.
Before we start with our reading tomorrow, I thought I’d share some helpful keys to understanding the book of Revelation.
Keys to Revelation:
- Realize the Specific Audience. The book of Revelation was written to a specific group of people. The book was written to 7 churches of Asia (1:4, 11; 22:16). Any interpretation that proves meaningless to the original audience must be questioned.
- Realize the Specific Setting. There were unique circumstances which prompted God to write the book of Revelation. The Christians were being persecuted by Rome. Passages such as Rev. 2:10, 13; 6:9; 13:7 identify this trouble. Statements like “war” and “tribulation” (7:14) refer to the great trials that the Christians were going through.
- Realize the Specific Time Table. The book of Revelation is a prophecy about future events (1:19). The question is how far in the future? Passages such as 1:1, 3; 22:10 state that the time was short rather than long. The majority of this book has already taken place.
- Realize the Specific Style of Writing. The book was written in symbols or figures (1:1 “signified). It is a divine picture book. It should not be read as we read Acts or Proverbs. Things are representative of other things. Numbers and colors are used to stand for other things. Therefore, a 1,000 year reign means something other than a literal 1,000 years.
- Realize the Specific Purpose of the Book. The book is written to encourage the faithful of God. The book shows the victory of Christ and His people, and the defeat of Satan. The expression, “overcome” is used 11 times. The book is about faith and victory. It is a book of hope and strength. 17:14 is a good summary/theme for the book.
Hear The Lord
Moses’ emphasizes to Israel the need to hear the Lord (Deuteronomy 4). All through this chapter there is the emphasis on listening to God’s word. Moses uses the expression “Take heed” repeatedly. He appeals and he warns. Again, Deuteronomy is Moses’ last letter to Israel. This is a review of what has already been taught. As he closes his life he wants them to remember the importance of what God has said to them. In fact, it is so important that he warns against adding or taking from the word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2).
There was no other nation with whom God was as near as Israel (Deuteronomy 4:7). In spite of what God had done for them they turned from Him to idols.
Why was it so important for Israel to know and obey God? For one thing, it was the guarantee of their success in taking possession of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 4:5). The two times Joshua didn’t seek God’s wisdom the nation experienced humiliating defeat (Joshua 7, 9).
Second, knowing God’s wisdom, the people would know how to succeed in their mission and also be an example to other nations. People who live according to God’s wisdom can’t help but demonstrate to others that God is real and that following His wisdom brings blessings. Everything about God is superior to the pagan idols Israel came to worship. It is so easy to live in the midst of God’s blessings. We take them for granted and begin to imitate others rather than God.
Third, following God’s wisdom helps us build godly homes (Deuteronomy 4:9-10). Surrounded by worldly people, Israel was one generation short of losing God’s blessings. If we don’t invest the word of God in our children today, the next generation will not know the Lord (Judges 2:7-15).
We can influence our children to trust the Lord when we keep it near our hearts, and when we remember what God has done for us. We share His word and what He has done for us with our children. Further, it is the responsibility of the older generation to teach the younger. Teaching can be done in word or by example.
All along, Moses is telling Israel how they can be successful as they enter the land. He will not lead them, Joshua will. But, he wants to leave them a legacy to follow. Therefore, he spends a lot of time teaching them and setting an example for them. God had chosen Israel. God had invested Himself in Israel. Moses had given all he had for them too. Now, as they enter the Promised Land it is up to them.
Eventually, it all comes down to me. What will I do with God’s word? What will I do with God? No one else, just me and God.
The 3rd chapter of Deuteronomy continues to retell the journey Israel took to Canaan, their victory against Og of Bashan, and the settling of 2 1/2 tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan (v. 12-17). The chapter ends with Moses stirring up the people to cross over into the land and claim what God had given them. He encourages Joshua (v. 21-22), and then makes a tender plea (v. 23-27).
You can't fault Moses for making this request. God spoke about to Moses about this promised land back in the burning bush. It has been on their minds for over 40 years. Now they reach the land, they are preparing to enter and claim it, but Moses will not be going with them. You can feel his disappointment. This wasn't how Moses intended his story to end. You can sense the sincerity in his request. He wants to enter the land.
Instead God calls Moses up on mount Pisgah to view the land from a distance. That's grace. God lets the leader of Israel see from a distance this special promised land. Imagine getting a tour of Canaan by it's creator - by God. "Look to the North..." "See that river..." "Notice the hills...". What an incredible scene! There Moses would stand, facing the end of his story yet staring at Israel's next chapter. By faith he could envision what it would look like occupied and claimed by Israel.
Moses also saw Israel's future before he climbed the mountain. God told Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua who would continue on as Israel's leader (v. 28). Moses knew the in's and out's of being Israel's leader - there were much more heartaches than joys. He knew the burdens. He heard the complaints. He cared for them as a shepherd cares for his sheep. And now he's handing the role over to someone he knew, he trained, he watched grow up. It was time for Joshua to lead. How bittersweet this must have been for Moses - he had been preparing Joshua for this role - yet he wouldn't live long enough to see Joshua lead. But in Joshua there was hope. Joshua was a man of God. He would lead with integrity and character. As hard as it would have been to climb Mount Pisgah, Joshua made that climb easier. It's easier to let go knowing your hard work will not be undone or forgotten.
I imagine we all will face our mountain moment like Moses - when our life comes to and end. It may not be when we want it to. Like Moses we may wish we had seen more, experienced more - maybe it's that we live long enough to see the family restored and reconciled to one another, or that we live long enough to see a loved one return to the Lord. Truth is that much of our life is planting seeds, the fruit from which we'll never see - yet it may be a blessing to another generation. Moses led them to Canaan. They wouldn't have made it without Moses. Do the good you can today, be busy in good works, help teach/train/prepare the next generation for their service to God, so that when your time comes (whenever it may come) you leave this life having done what you could with what you have been given. Serve the purpose of God in your generation (Acts 13:36). Is there any more that could be asked of us?
Almighty God, we thank You for the gift of life, that You've allowed us to experience life - no matter how long or short it truly is a gift. Thank You for those who have gone on before us - the Moses's, David's, Peter's and Paul's, the great cloud of witnesses who have made such an impact on our lives. Through this study we thank You for Your servant Moses - what an incredible leader, such a humble heart. We're encouraged through his example, thank You for sharing his life with us, and for using Moses in such meaningful ways. Our Father we ask that You take our life and use it for Your purposes. Let us be instruments of Your grace, examples of Your holiness, people who point others to You through the way we live. Help us to leave the world, and this local church, better than how we found it, for the next generation. Like Moses we stand on Jordan's stormy banks, looking over into the promised land - the home You've prepared - we see it by faith! Let our life be used for Your glory, to be a source of good for another, and when our time has come, lead us home!