It is almost Christmas. We are all ready to begin our story of hope all over again. A Savior is born unto a virgin, God walks among us. Yes, we all love this time of year. We even know the rest of the story! Angels, Wisemen, Shepherds, this is the story that brings us hope for peace on earth! This year, let us take a look through a different perspective. We all know the story but how did our God close the Book? What is it that God wants us to understand about Christmas?
The Greek name for the book of Revelation, (apocalypse), means “Uncovering” or “Disclosure.” It is, in a sense, the last advice written for mankind from God. The book uncovers things that had been hidden from us and then discloses events that will happen in our future. The Apostle John wrote Revelation at the age of 92 while exiled as a prisoner of Rome on the remote Isle of Patmos. Both John’s Gospel and Revelations carry unique characteristics. At the time of the writing of both the Gospel of John and Revelation, John may have been the last of the Apostles still alive. John was probably the last living apostle who saw the resurrected Christ after His death. He was, therefore, the best, and perhaps only person available to put a book end on the Bible itself. The Apostle John had watched humanity respond to the Gospel’s message for many years. John was in the unique position to offer his discerning opinion so that we would understand what the world was misunderstanding about our Savior, Christ. His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection all could benefit from clarity. John had watched and lived it all!
One of the topics in Revelation that John chose to write about were seven churches established in Asia Minor (now Turkey). Revelations, therefore, stands to offer Christians examples to learn from. To find these specific stories, we need to go to chapters two and three of Revelations. John presents them as individual letters:
Ephesus had abandoned the love it had at first. They lost their first love for Christ, which in turn affected the love they had for others.
(Revelations 2:4)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
Smyrna was warned that it was about to face persecution. Christ encouraged them to be faithful even unto death and He would give them the crown of life, eternal life.
(Revelation 2:10) – “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 your life as your victor’s crown.”
Pergamum was told to repent. The church had fallen prey to a cult called the Nicolaitans. Nicolaitans were considered heretics who taught that since their bodies were evil, only the human spirit was good. This led the church into sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. Christ encouraged Pergamum by saying those who conquered such temptations would receive “hidden manna” and a “white stone,” both symbols of special blessings.
(Revelation 2:16) – “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Thyatira had a false prophetess who was leading people astray. Christ promised to give Himself (the morning star) to those who resisted her evil ways.
(Revelation 2:20) – “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”
Sardis had the reputation of being a dead church, or asleep at the wheel as we might say today. Jesus told them to wake up and repent. Those who would follow His instructions would receive white garments, have their name listed in the book of life, and would be proclaimed before God the Father.
(Revelation 3:2) – “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.”
The congregation in Philadelphia had endured patiently. Jesus pledged to stand with them in any future trials, even granting special honors to them in heaven, the New Jerusalem. They were called to preserver.
(Revelation 3:10) – “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”
And the seventh church was Laodicea. Laodicea had lukewarm faith. Its members had grown complacent because of the riches of the city. To those who returned to their former zeal, Jesus vowed to share His ruling authority. You can find a detailed Bible Study on Laodicea HERE.
(Revelation 3:16) – “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Even though John wrote these letters nearly 2,000 years ago, his words still apply to Christian churches today. While Christ remains the head of the worldwide Church, many modern churches have wandered from biblical truth. This can happen when denominations or local congregations selectively remove parts of God’s Truth to tailor the Gospel’s message for more inclusiveness. To understand the seven churches better, here are some points to consider.
- In Scripture, the number seven carries the meaning of wholeness. This number suggests that these seven churches are to be representative of all churches and all professing Christians throughout the world. The messages are meant to be a full message, with applicability to every church.
- John is careful to identify each church. These were real churches that existed at the time of the writing of Revelations. The seven letters were based on facts.
- John is not the source of the message, but it is always Christ. Remember, these are Christ’s churches whom He loves.
- For each church, Christ provides specific commendations, rebukes, or both.
- The good news is that Christ is not giving a final judgement on any of the churches. He provides a course of action to be taken by each to emerge victoriously. The theme, repentance, and perseverance.
- Christ ends each commentary with His personal promise: to those who “overcome” or who emerge “victorious” will receive Christ’s Kingdom as their reward.
It is not a coincidence that Christ draws repentance and persecution into each of His messages. Persecution will flush a true church out because false Christians do not stick around long. It is always easier to find another church who agrees with you or is accommodating to our world rather than to endure persecution or seek repentance. While the Nicolaitans are gone now and so is the church of Pergamum, there are still millions of Christians being tempted by a sinful world. The false prophetess of Thyatira has been replaced by TV preachers who avoid talking about Christ’s atoning death for sin. It is often replaced with the “Prosperity Gospel.” Countless believers have turned from their love of Christ to idolizing material possessions. As in ancient times, reading these short letters to the seven churches in Revelation serves as a meaningful reminder. In a society flooded with temptation, they bring us back to the One and Only True God who is the only One worthy of our worship this Christmas.
Yes, Christmas is around the corner. What will you do with it? Decorate, shop, cook and bake, have friends and family over. Go to worship, listen to the Christmas music, gather in hope for a better world! But how will you celebrate the Incarnation of God into a human who came to us as our Savior? Christmas should not the beginning of hope or even a hopeful reminder. Christ-mas should be the roadmap to “Hope.” As the Apostle John wrote his closing arguments of our Bible, he did not to forget about “repentance and perseverance.” Don’t forget about Christ either! Wouldn’t these three make beautiful gifts for everyone’s tree this year!
(Isaiah 9:6) – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Merry Christmas from Lostpine.com
- How do you put Christ into Christ-mas?
- Ideas to Explore: Family traditions, church traditions, special decorations of the nativity, etc.
- What is the world doing to chip away at your traditions?
- Ideas to Explore: Cancel culture, war on religion, removing God from schools, etc.
- What can you personally do this Christmas season to remember Christ, repent, and assure that you can persevere with Christ?
- Ideas to Explore: As you celebrate this holiday, make Christ first!
- 1NIV New International Version Translations