Christianity 201

July 20, 2012

Seven Letters; Five Problem Churches

John’s Vision of Christ

(NIV) Rev. 1:9 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.

Not a week goes by when someone doesn’t tell me they’ve heard a sermon, or are doing a study, or want to do some reading on the letters to the churches recorded in Revelation.  I think this particular passage simply strikes so close to home that it reads like a very contemporary message.  Caleb Jennings Breakley wrote about the five problem churches in a post entitled: 5 Kinds of Messed Up Churches—Should We Stay?

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, Jesus speaks to seven different churches (5 messed up), acknowledging them for what is good, rebuking them for what is not (except for the churches in Smyma and Philadelphia), and lovingly calling them to turn from their wrongs.

Some people believe these churches are representative of seven church ages. I’m of the peeps who believe these were seven actual churches in Asia minor. Either way, we can learn from them today, especially the 5 rebuked ones. As you read, consider how these churches mirror churches of our age.

5 Kinds of Messed Up Churches

  • To the church in Ephesus, Jesus speaks highly of the people’s hard work, perseverance and how they do not tolerate false teachers and doctrine, but rebukes them for abandoning their bleeding-heart zeal and joy of when they first believed (passionless church?)
  • To the church in Pergamum, He speaks highly of the people for staying true to the name of Jesus and not denying Him in spite of terrible times of tragedy, but rebukes them for mixing doctrines and following wicked teachings of sexual immorality (biblically shaky church?)
  • To the church in Thyatira, He speaks highly of the people’s ever-growing love, faith and service, but rebukes them for tolerating the teachings of a seductive prophetess (letting leaders say what they want, even-if-it’s-against-God church?)
  • To the church in Sardis, He only acknowledges that there are a few followers who have not soiled their garments, then rebukes them for being known as a church that’s alive, when it’s actually dead (self-centered church that doesn’t focus on the truth and love of Jesus?)
  • To the church in Laodicea, He acknowledges nothing, then rebukes them for being neither hot nor cold in their faith, which He considers wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (this one might be the most scary).

Churches are good in some areas, messed up in others, and God is calling us to overcome the messed up stuff and to run into His arms. The question is: should we stay in messed up Bodies of Christ? Should we be the hands and feet for God in the 5 messed up churches? To what extent? Is there gray area?

~Caleb Jennings Breakey