Revelation 1-3

Revelation 1-3 (Reading – Rev 1:10-20; Rev 2:1-7)
Christ dwells in the Church that lives in the World Today

In our last study, we looked at the first 3 verses of Revelation chapter 1. 

I hope you still recall the key points of our study.

We learnt why we ought to study the book of Revelation.

We learnt that there were 4 schools of interpretation for this book.

And we learnt the key message of the book of Revelation.

The purpose of the book of Revelation is to encourage Christians in every day and age when they are facing difficult times.

Revelation shows us that God is in control and seated on the throne in heaven.

If you attempt to read the book of rev as a sequential series of happenings from chapter 1 to 22, you will certainly be confused.

Instead, Revelation gives us 7 visions depicting world history.

These visions convey the same key message from different perspectives.

These visions depict world history from the time of Christ’s ascension to heaven to His 2nd coming at the end of the world.

And these visions convey the operative principle that is in force during this period of time.

Today, we shall look at the first vision which stretches from chapters 1-3.

This first vision shows us that Christ dwells in the Church that lives in the world today.

To provide some structure to our meditation, we shall attempt to answer 3 questions:

1) Who is speaking to these 7 Churches?

2) Who are these 7 Churches mentioned in chapters 1-3?

3) What is being told to these 7 Churches?

1) Who is speaking to these 7 Churches?

The answer is obvious.

It is our Lord Jesus.

It is not just our Lord Jesus, it is our Lord Jesus glorified.

I want you to notice how Jesus introduced Himself here.

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The essence of these phrases is similar to what the LORD God Jehovah described Himself to be in Ex 3:14.

In Ex 3:14, the LORD said to Moses “I AM who I AM”.

Do you see the unity of our Triune God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit?

The Three are One.

God the Son, here, uses a title of the same essence for Himself, just as God the Father.

Because Jesus is God.

And we believe in a Triune God.

For the Bible in many other passages describe each Person of the Holy Trinity as equal in essence.

Yet the Three are One.

And that is our God.

Now, Rev 1:12-16 also provides us with a description of Jesus in His glorified state.

Do not attempt to visualize this description.

You are not meant to do this.

Rev 1:10 tells us that John was in the spirit when He saw this vision.

In other words, he saw something that was outside of what our 3 dimensional minds can understand or imagine.

It was like the Apostle Paul when he was caught up to heaven in 2 Cor 12:4.

He saw things which he just could not describe with words.

The only appropriate response to what he saw was awe and worship.

And this is exactly what the Apostle John did.

In Rev 1:17 he says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead…”

If only each one of us could experience the presence of God in the same awe.

We would be so overwhelmed that our only rightful response would be dutiful worship.

Jesus says in Rev 1:18 …… I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

So, Jesus is the one who can take away life if He chooses to.

You will not last one day more or 1 second less without Christ’s approval.

Because He holds the keys of Death.

And He is the one who can cast sinners into hell.

This is great encouragement for Christians who are undergoing trial and persecution.

Their lives may be threatened.

But no one can take away their lives.

Because Jesus is holding the keys of death and hades.

And this Jesus is now going to speak to the 7 Churches.

And we must all pay attention because this is God speaking.

2) Who are these 7 Churches mentioned in chapters 1-3?

These 7 Churches are real Churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time of John.

Today, they are places in modern day Turkey.

These 7 Churches represent the Churches that exist in the world throughout the ages in history.

The issues experienced in these 7 Churches may be what we are facing now as a Church or as an individual.

“Rev 1:16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.”

Rev 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

These 2 verses tell us several things: 

a) The lampstands are the 7 Churches.

We are told in Rev 1:20 that the lampstands are the 7 Churches.

Rev 1:13 tells us that Jesus dwells in the midst of the lampstands.

In other words, He dwells in the midst of the 7 Churches.

So, the Churches are not alone in their struggles in this world.

Jesus is right there with them.

You may not see Him because you live in a physical 3-dimensional world.

But the reality is that Jesus dwells in the midst of the Churches.

And the Church is not a physical building.

The Church is a people of God that worshipped Him together.

The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom where His people submit to Him as King.

Jesus knows in detail what is happening at each of these Churches.

He knows the good work and faithfulness of His servants.

He also knows those who appear to be faithful but are in effect serving satan.

He knows because He dwells in the midst of the 7 Churches.

b) The second thing we are told in verse 20 is that the 7 stars are the angels of the 7 Churches.

Now, these are not guardian angels as some like to believe.

The seven angels represent the leaders of the Churches.

Jesus upholds the angels or 7 stars in his right hand because they are the definite targets of the evil one.

We need to be very careful when electing a Church leader.

When a leader of the Church falls, the Church will be badly impacted.

That is why the scriptures are very specific in the criteria required of Church leaders.

And so, we should never treat the election process for our Church leaders carelessly.

It should always be held up with much prayer and even fasting.

And here, we are told that Jesus upholds these leaders with His right hand.

So, Jesus knows exactly what is happening in each of His Churches.

He walks in their midst.

And He upholds their leaders in His right hand.

And it is in this context that He speaks to them and addresses specific matters as we come to question 3.

3) What is told to these 7 Churches?

Each of the 7 Churches were given the following 4 things:

i) Commendation

ii) Rebuke

iii) Instruction

iv) Blessing or promise for adherence to instruction

To help us remember these 4 things easily, you will notice that the first letter for each of these 4 things spell the word “CRIB”.

For those of you who are parents, this should remind us of how we should admonish our children.

The first thing is to do is to “Commend” them for what they do well in.

In this way, you probably can get their listening ears better.

Too often, we start with “Rebuke”.

This often makes the entire communication process break down because we tend to start with a negative.

Now, please note that I am not advocating that you play up commendations and play down rebukes.

And I do not subscribe to any positive thinking ideas either.

I am simply suggesting that there is a way in which you can get a listening ear better.

And there is a way in which you can break down communication immediately.

You, as a parent, have to take that responsibility of getting the listening ear when you talk to your children.

We also cannot and must not end up dwelling only on the positive things.

If we do that, we will not be truthful.

Sometimes, the truth does hurt.

But it is the “truth that will set us free”.

Hence, we must never avoid delivering the truth if a rebuke is required.

But it is always good to provide commendation first and then rebuke.

These 2 must always be held in good balance.

But we must also not stop at the Rebuke.

Here in Revelation, Jesus gives specific instructions of what He expected and wanted the Churches to do.

Very often, agitated parents just rebuke their children.

And this is not followed by clear instruction as to what they expected from them.

It leaves them high and dry because the only thing they got was a Rebuke.

There is no direction as to what is expected and what they must do.

Jesus Commends, Rebukes and instructs each of the 7 Churches.

The instructions were specific and actionable.

And then He gives them a promise of Blessing if they were to adhere to the instructions given.

As parents, we need to also instruct and guide our children with regard to why they need to do what we tell them to.

We need to point them to the bigger picture of the blessings that can result from their obedience.

Now, let me speak to the children.

Not just the children, but also the teenagers.

When your parents give you Commendation, Rebuke, Instruction and Blessing, what is your response?

Do you ignore and react negatively?

Or do you receive it with respect because they are your parents?

Because they are God’s appointed authority for you here on earth?

I urge you to examine yourselves and to do what is right.

Let us now look at the key commendations, rebuke, instructions and blessings of promise that Jesus gave to the 7 Churches.

1) Commendation

The Church at Epesus was commended for rejecting evil and persevering in patience.

The Church at Smyma was commended for gracefully enduring suffering.

The Church at Pergamos was commended for keeping the faith of Christ.

The Church at Thyatira was commended for their love, service, faith and patience.

The Church at Sardis was commended for keeping the faith.

The Church at Philadelphia was commended for persevering in the faith and honouring the name of God.

So, now we know what we need to do to receive the commendation of our Lord Jesus.

We need to reject evil.

We need to endure suffering.

We need to persevere in patience, love, service and our faith.

So, when Jesus looks at us individually or as a Church now, will He be able to commend us in these areas?

Or will we be like the Church at Laodicea?

Because, only the Church at Laodicea did not receive any commendation.

Because there was really nothing that they could be commended for.

Is this our personal situation?

Is this the situation of our Church?

Let us examine ourselves very carefully.

And let it not be the case.

2) Let’s now look at the Rebukes

The Church at Ephesus was rebuked because their love for Christ was no longer fervent.

The Church at Pergamos was rebuked for tolerating immorality, idolatry and heresies.

The Church at Tyatira was rebuked for tolerating idolatry and immorality.

The Church at Sardis was rebuked for being a dead Church.

The Church at Laodicea was rebuked for being indifferent about everything.

It appears that tolerance of immorality was a common problem.

This reminds us that immorality will be a challenge for individuals and the Church in every day and age.

Young people in our midst, I want to remind you that this is especially rampant in our Internet age today.

You need to especially guard yourselves against this.

And good Christian fellowship may be one way against this.

Always ask yourself what company you are keeping.

Are your best friends and those you spend the most time with Christians?

Remember that it is possible for any Church or Christian to be in any of these states described here in Revelation.

It is definitely not desirable to be in any of these states.

But the reality is that we may find ourselves in such situations.

Remember that the bk of Rev tells us what will happen from the time Jesus ascended to heaven to the time He returns again.

So, we may be in the same situation that some of these things that these 7 Churches are in.

And we may need the same rebukes, whether as an individual or as a Church.

So we really need to examine ourselves as to whether we are guilty.

And we need to take heed to the instructions that follow each of these rebukes that were given to the Churches.

3) Instructions

The Church at Ephesus was asked to do the works they did at first.

In other words, to return to the same fervency they had when they first turned to the faith.

The Church at Smyrna was asked to be faithful until death.

The Church at Pergamos was asked to repent of their sin of immorality, idolatry and heresy.

There is no second way about this.

Repentance was absolutely necessary.

The Church at Thyatira was warned that judgement was coming if they continued tolerating idolatry and immorality.

They were to repent and keep the faith.

In the same way, the Church at Sardis and Laodicea were asked to repent.

Strengthen what you still have now, they were told.

Keep the faith.

Maintain your zealousness.

That is the same call to all of us.

Is there a sin or even just an immoral attitude within us that we are tolerating?

We need to take heed to the instructions of our Lord Jesus here.

We need to put it away, repent and strengthen what we have.

Else, we will miss all the blessings that are promised for faithfulness to our Lord Jesus.

4) Blessings

The blessings promised to the various Churches are as follows:

For Ephesus, it is the tree of life.

For Smyna, it is the Crown of life.

For Pergamos, it is hidden manna and a stone with a new name.

For Thyatira, it is to rule over nations and receiving a morning star.

For Sardis, it is honour and being clothed in white.

For Philadelphia, it is a place in God’s presence, having a new name and the New Jerusalem.

For Laodicea, it is a share in Christ’s throne.

Now, these are all associated with being with God in eternity.

The question I have for you is this: “Do you desire it?”

Are you looking forward to it?

Is there any anticipation for it?

If so, we must take heed to the rebukes and the instructions.

If we have no excitement about these things in eternity, then it is clear that we are like some of the 7 Churches.

Are we lukewarm, dead, having too much desire for the things in this world?

Are we tolerating some immorality?

Whatever it is, we must repent of it immediately.

Else, we will miss the blessings promised here.

How sad it would be when we have all the resemblance of being Christians, but never make it to heaven.

Oh, let us pray that this never happen to us.

Let us now recap the 3 questions that formed the headings for today.

1) Who is speaking to these 7 Churches?

It is the Lord Jesus in His glorified state.

2) Who are these 7 Churches referred to in chapters 1-3?

These 7 Churches are real Churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time of John.

These 7 Churches represent the Churches that exist in the world throughout the ages in history.

3) What is being told to these 7 Churches?

They were given commendations, rebukes, instructions and blessings/promises.

My dear Christian friends, let us take heed to the message of the book of Revelation.

Let us pray.

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By Grace through Faith…..Eph 2:8-9

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