- Rev. 1:1-3:22
Today begins our five-day look at the last book in the Bible, Revelation. Sometime between 65 and 95 A.D., Jesus appeared to the apostle John, while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, through a vision and told John to write what he saw in a book. John was a prisoner on Patmos because of his defense of the gospel, but we don't know exactly what he did to be imprisoned there. The book of Revelation contains a lot of symbolism and figurative language which can be very difficult to confidently understand. There is a close similarity between Revelation and the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel in the Old Testament. In our devotionals I will explain the letter as I understand it.
The letter begins with John writing to the seven churches in the province of Asia (modern-day Turkey). The Christians in these seven churches are the letter's primary audience—that is, its first readers to whom the entire contents directly applies. John repeatedly states that the things he is writing must soon take place. The vision begins as follows:
9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
(Rev. 1:9-20 NIV)
After saying these things, Jesus then gave a personalized message to each of the seven churches in Asia. Of the seven groups, only two (Smyrna and Philadelphia) received a completely favorable message. The other five were encouraged to repent for various reasons. Ephesus was told that they had left their first love, which I understand to mean that they had turned their attention away from Jesus. Smyrna was told that they were about to suffer for "ten days," indicating a brief period of time. Pergamum was warned that there were some who "hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin" and those who supported the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hated.
Thyatira was warned that they tolerated a wicked woman referred to as Jezebel, who misled Christians into sinning. Jesus said He had given Jezebel time to repent and she was unwilling, so He was about to punish her and those who sinned with her. There were some at Thyatira who were complimented for their godly living. Sardis was told that they "are dead" and needed to wake up. Lastly, Laodicea was told that they were neither hot nor cold, therefore Jesus would spit them out of His mouth. They thought of themselves as rich and needing nothing, but Jesus said they were "pitiful, poor, blind and naked."
What would Jesus write to you personally if He were to send you a letter today? What would He write to your church? Would you be praised like the Christians at Philadelphia, or would Jesus rebuke you for sinful living? Would He tell you He was going to spit you out because you were just lukewarm and "going through the motions" of being a Christian in name-only? Although Jesus doesn't write letters or speak directly to us today as He did to these churches in the first century, He is still very much the King of kings and Lord of lords and He is watching. He knows all the time how we are living, what we are doing, and what thoughts are in our hearts.
Therefore consider yourself and your church and see if you are approved of GOD. The only way is to examine yourselves in light of His word, like a man looking into the mirror.