Reading for Wednesday, Nov 14: Revelation 3
John continues with these letters to the seven churches:
Sardis – This is a hard message: “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead,” (v1). All is not as it seems, which is a primary theme that we’ll discuss moving through Revelation. This seemingly healthy church is in need of reformation. In fact, five of these seven churches receive words of warning. Jesus rebukes them, admonishing them to remove their soiled clothing. “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his nae out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels,” (v5; see Matt. 10:32).
Philadelphia – These believers are known to Jesus by their works: “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name,” (v8). Here we see a church pushed to the margins of society. But this is an opportunity for the church to flourish in faithfulness, despite persecution. The Philadelphians do not seek to acquire position or amass resources to deploy in the culture wars. Instead, they seek simple and authentic faithfulness. This is a timely message for our day. Listen to the promise: “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven…” (v12). As we will see, this image of the new Jerusalem will be integral to the final vision John shares with us.
Laodicea – Jesus addresses these words as “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation,” (v14). In Jesus, we have the Amen, the final Word on it all, the faithful witness that inspires our own faithfulness. But this church is condemned for being lukewarm. Both hot and cold water have their unique purposes. But lukewarm water is good for nothing. The Laodiceans are chastised here for failing to produce good works. Once again, the call is toward repentance. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me,” (v20). Jesus closes with a final nod toward the conquering life: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne,” (v21).
As we read through these letters to these churches, it becomes clear that Jesus wants these believers to embrace the victory He has won on their behalf. The victims have become the victors! The opposition we face from an unbelieving world pales in comparison to what God has done for us in Christ. Let’s look once more at the promises to the conquering believer:
1. Eats from the Tree of Life (2:7)
2. Receives the crown of life (2:10-11)
3. Receives hidden manna (sustenance) and a new name (2:17)
4. Authority in the reign of God (2:26)
5. Clothed in white garments of heaven (3:5)
6. Becomes a pillar of faithfulness in the temple of God (3:12)
7. Sits on the throne w/ God, participates in exultation (3:21)
The image of the throne of God segues into the next section of the letter. In fact, this image will be the dominant image throughout the book, an image of victory and triumph that the church clings to in the midst of trying times.