Revelation 2:4 I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
The second and third chapters of Revelation contain seven letters from the risen Christ to seven particular churches. They contain words of encouragement and challenge, to specific congregations, that can be applied to churches in every place and age.
The church in Ephesus had many good traits, including perseverance and discernment. They were loyal to Christ in other areas, but they were no longer in love with him. This is like being in excellent physical shape, but having heart disease. Jesus wanted the Ephesian church to return to their first love.
Revelation 2:5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
People in love do little things for each other to show how much they care. They are often in each other’s thoughts, and long to spend time alone. If you want to love Jesus more, think of ways to express your love throughout the day. His love for us never cools, and neither should ours.
Revelation 2:10 Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life.
These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church in Smyrna. They were suffering poverty, and were going through persecution. Jesus was aware of this and expected them to be faithful. He was faithful to the point of death for them, and expected them to be faithful to him.
An elevator operator in the 1800’s enjoyed her work, even though it was routine. Then one day, the building caught fire and many were trapped inside. She was tempted to flee, but continued making runs, saving many lives. The power finally went out, and her charred body was found on the elevator floor the following day.
Our service to Christ is often routine, but that can suddenly change. Whether we die heroically, or peacefully in our sleep, Christ’s word is the same: Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life.
Revelation 2:15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church in Pergamum. They were facing opposition, and one of their own had even been martyred. Their perseverance was commendable, but they were tolerating false teaching, which likely included idolatry and sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14). This is not uncommon, even today.
One dear lady returned from church with tears of joy. The preaching was powerful, the music was wonderful, and the fellowship was deep. Best of all, the service concluded with the wedding of a man to a man, all to the singing of Here Comes the Bride. It is bad enough when Christians fall into sin, but when it is taught by their leaders, that church has problems.
The best safeguard against false teaching is a commitment to biblical preaching, and to the inerrancy of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Any church that does not hold to the inerrancy of the Bible, and the Bible alone, is already teaching falsely. The better Christians know the Bible, the less they will tolerate false teaching.
Revelation 2:20 I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet.
These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church in Thyatira. One of their teachers was infecting the church with false teaching that led to sexual immorality. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity (Ephesians 5:3), wrote Paul. Whenever this occurs, the church must take action.
Expel the wicked person from among you (1 Corinthians 5:12), wrote Paul. Defiant sin should never be tolerated in the church of Jesus Christ. The church should be full of repenting Christians, but not defiant ones. Whoever sins defiantly should be removed from the church until they renounce their sin and turn back to the Lord.
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.
These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church in Sardis. They had a reputation for being alive, but were starting to fall asleep. This could lead to spiritual death, so Jesus commanded them to Wake up!
A little boy swallowed poison, and his father called the doctor. The doctor told him to get his son to the hospital, and not to let him sleep, or he would surely die. The little boy began to fall asleep, so the father slapped his face repeatedly to keep him awake.
We too must do whatever is necessary to wake ourselves up to God. This will include doing God’s work so that our deeds will not be unfinished. The word of Christ to drowsy Christians is always loud and clear: Wake up!
Revelation 3:11 Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church in Philadelphia. They were facing opposition, and the struggle was intense. In light of his return, Jesus urged them to hold on.
Years ago I went to a rodeo and watched professional bull riders. The bulls weighed over two thousand pounds, and had a single goal: to throw off the rider as quickly as possible. The bulls bucked, jumped and spun with all their might, while the riders tried to hold on. Some who lost their grip were severely kicked or trampled. The Christian life can be like that, and we must never let go. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
Revelation 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
These are the words of Jesus Christ to the church in Laodicea. They were a wealthy church, and had become lukewarm in their faith. People like their coffee hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Lukewarm Christians are so repulsive to Christ that he wants to spit them out of his mouth.
This seems harsh until we understand that Jesus feels this way because his love for us is so strong. Passionate love must be returned or it will lead to frustration—then anger. When we understand how passionate Christ is about us, we will feel that way about him.
Reflection and Review
Why do some churches disobey the Bible?
How should the church treat believers who justify their sin?
Why is Jesus so demanding?