Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Letters To Seven Churches (A Quick Peak)

What would Jesus say if he sent a letter to your church or to you as he did to the Churches of Asia Minor (Rev. 2:1-3:29)? Do any of Jesus’ comments about these Seven Congregations accurately describe your own Church or Yourself? If so, what can you do to improve things? Let’s have a quick peak on these Seven Churches and reflect ourselves:

1. Ephesus, Grk. ephesos ‘desirable’ (2:1-7)
Description:- The Loveless Church (quality & intensity of Agape Love is lost).
Praised For:- Labor, patience, not bearing those who are evil/wicked, testing false apostles, perseverance, hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans.
Warned About:- Leaving their First love, without repentance lampstand will be removed.  Do we sense the importance to Christ of not only honoring his name by our true confession but also of reflecting his life by our loving relationship to others? This threat of loss of light bearing applies equally to the other four churches to whom a similar exhortation to "repent" is given (Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea).

2. Smyrna, Grk. myrrh ‘incense’ (2:8-11)
Description:- The Persecuted Church.
Praised For:- Tribulation, suffering, poverty (social & economic rejection).
Encouraged About:- Faithfulness under persecution, suffering & rejection. Under Domitian (A.D. 81-96) Emperor Worship became compulsory for every Roman citizen on threat of death. Such an act was considered as an expression of religious worship, and all a citizen had to do was burn a pinch of incense and say "Caesar is Lord." Yet most Christians, with their confession "Jesus is Lord" (cf. Ro 10:9), refused to do this. Perhaps nowhere was life for a Christian more perilous than in this city of zealous Emperor Worship.

3. Pergamum, Grk. pergamos ‘citadel’ (2:12-17)
Description:- The Compromising Church.
Praised For:- Holding fast to Christ’s name, not denying faith, even faced with martyrdom.
Warned About:- Allowing false teaching having to do with sexual immorality and idolatry, holding to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The combination of "food sacrificed to idols" with "sexual immorality" refer to the common practice of participating in the sacrificial meal of the pagan gods (cf. 1Co 10:19-22) and indulging in sexual intercourse with temple priestesses. It is entirely possible that some Christians at Pergamum were still participating in the pagan holiday festivities and saw no wrong in indulging in the "harmless" table in the temples and the sexual immorality everyone else was enjoying (cf. 1Jn 5:21).

4. Thyatira, Grk. thuateira ‘castle of thya’ (2:18-29)
Description:- The Spiritually Corrupt Church.
Praised For:- Love, service, faith, patience.
Warned About:- Allowing Jezebel to teach and seduce to sexual immorality and idolatry, holding fast and overcoming. As this wicked and deceptive woman in the OT led Israel astray and persecuted the true prophets of God, so this woman at Thyatira was enticing the servants of God to abandon their exclusive loyalty to Christ. Her teaching was no doubt similar to that of the Nicolaitans and Balaamites at Ephesus and Pergamum. This "sexual immorality" is both “spiritual adultery” (i.e., idolatry) and the “cultic fornication” (cf. v.14). A warning is given to unrepentant woman and her followers, they will be punished severely (vv.21-23).

5. Sardis, Grk. sardeis ‘prince of joy’ (3:1-6)
Description:- The Dead Church.
Praised For:- A few faithful people.
Warned About:- Deadness, even though they had a reputation for being alive. How does a church die? Though churches in Thyatira and Laodicea also had serious problems, Sardis had had significant fame as a royal city, but now it was nothing. Their loyalty and service to Christ were in the past; now they were nothing. Perhaps they had so made peace with the surrounding society that the offense of the Cross had ceased, and they were no longer in jeopardy of life or vulnerable to suffering. Death was a special preoccupation of the Sardians, as witnessed by the impressive necropolis. What had been a part of the pagan rites had also crept into the church, but through deception. The Sardian church was for the most part a duped church.

6. Philadelphia, Grk. filadelfia ‘brotherly love’ (3:7-13)
Description:- The Faithful Church.
Praised For:- A little strength, keeping Christ’s word, not denying Christ’s name, perseverance.
Encouraged About:- Holding fast what they had and overcoming during coming tribulations (sufferings). We catch a glimpse of Christ’s promise. The promise to the overcomer is again two fold and related to the experience and memory of the inhabitants of the city. (1) Christ will make the overcomer a "pillar in the temple of my God." Philadelphia was constantly threatened with earthquakes. Often the only parts of a city left standing after a severe quake were the huge stone temple columns. Christ promises to set believers in his temple (the future Kingdom) in such a secure fashion that no disturbance can ever force them out. 

(2) A faithful municipal servant or a distinguished priest was sometimes honored by having a special pillar added to one of the temples and inscribed with his name. This must be the sense of the second promise, "I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, . . . and . . . my new name" (v.12).  The inscribed name signifies identification and ownership. To those who have little influence because of being ostracized, Christ promises recognition in his kingdom worthy of the most noble hero of any society.

7. Laodicea, Grk. laodisea ‘justice of the people’ (3:14-20)
Description:- The Lukewarm Church.
Praised For:- Nothing!!!
Warned About:- Being lukewarm, pretending to be well off spiritually when they were impoverished, need for repentance and overcoming. Most scholars have suggest that Laodiceans were mere professing Christians, half-hearted Christians, who lacked authentic conversion to Christ, which is the essential prerequisite for true discipleship. However, the deeper problem in the Laodicean church was not simply their indifference. It was their ignorance of their real condition: "You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing" (v.17).

This indictment is related to the general condition of the populace at large--rich in material possessions and self-sufficient. The spirit of the surrounding culture had crept into the congregation and had paralyzed their spiritual life. The Laodiceans interpreted their material wealth as a blessing from God and thus were self-deceived as to their true spiritual state.
Christ's revelation of the Laodiceans' actual situation shatters their illusions and calls them to repentance: "But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (v.17). Here it refers to the Laodiceans' spiritual destitution and so pitiful before God. "Poor, blind and naked" refers to the three sources of their miserable condition (cf. v.18).


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