Day 2

The Seven Churches

from the Revelation reading plan

Revelation 2:1-29, Revelation 3:1-22, Matthew 22:34-39

BY Sharon Hodde Miller

“Things are getting worse and worse.”

When we look at the news, the culture, the entertainment, and even the Church today, it’s easy to feel as if everything is slowly getting worse. It’s tempting to believe that the world is gradually unraveling, and that we are moving further away from truth, instead of toward it.

Whenever we feel this cynicism begin to creep in, the temptation is to idealize the generations that have gone before us. We think, Our parents’ generation, our grandparents’ generation, the earliest Christians—they had it all together. Things weren’t as bad back then!

I struggle with this mentality often. There are days when I feel jaded about Christians and about the Church. I log onto social media and see division and in-fighting, or I read about a pastor failing his congregation and his family. I see name-calling and judgment and the drawing of big, deep lines, and my heart wants to harden toward it all.

On those days when we are tempted to dismiss the world with a flick of the wrist, when we find ourselves looking down on other Christians who “aren’t doing it right,” and when we despair that the Church’s reputation is hopelessly smeared, Revelation 2–3 has a word for us.

In these chapters, written just a generation after Jesus’s resurrection, many churches are distracted and lost. Although they are working hard and striving to be faithful, God also levels the following charges against them:

They had forsaken their first love (2:4).
They participated in pagan rituals (2:14).
They were sexually immoral (2:14).
They embraced false teaching (2:15, 20).
They had a reputation of being alive, but they were dead (3:1).
They were lukewarm, neither hot nor cold (3:16).

All this, only sixty years after Jesus walked the earth.

What this tells us is that the world is not simply getting worse, and neither is the Church. Following Jesus has always been hard. Faithfulness to God has always come unnaturally. Ever since sin entered the world, human nature has found it difficult to obey.

And that is exactly why we need a Savior.

The good news of Jesus Christ begins with the bad news that we are broken. We have always been distracted. We have always resisted the truth. It was true two thousand years ago, and it is just as true today. Therefore, these letters to the seven churches in Asia minor are important for us as well. “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:29).

But our brokenness has never stopped God. Our division, our fighting, our apathy, our immorality, even our bad theology—none of it has ever stopped God. So when we read Revelation 2–3, we can do three things. First, we can remember that humanity is not getting worse, and neither is the Church—the temptation to turn away from God and His ways has always been there. Second, we can welcome this list of rebukes as an opportunity to identify our own areas of need.

And finally, we can hope. In Revelation 3:19, God says, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline” (NIV). When we see darkness in the world—no matter how great—we don’t have to despair, and our hearts don’t have to grow hard. Instead, we can consider the possibility that God is allowing us to see these things, so that He can redeem them.

Post Comments (51)

51 thoughts on "The Seven Churches"

  1. Kayla Eggenberger says:

    “Following Jesus has always been hard. Faithfulness to God has never come naturally.” I LOVE this because while it’s a bit difficult to hear, we are in so much more trouble when we expect it to be easy.

    We suffer by thinking something is wrong with us, feeling ashamed, and hiding the beautiful gifts God has given us to bless the world. And sometimes we even question our salvation.

    When we realize that nothing has gone wrong, and it’s okay if it’s hard, we start to call on our greatest resource…Jesus.

  2. Meagan L says:

    In response to Adrienna P,
    I’m currently reading Revelation, Four Views: A parallel commentary by Steve Gregg. He speaks of removal of the lampstand as meaning “extinction of the church in that location” (p. 65). As of the writing of his book he says that there is currently no city or church in the location where Ephesus once existed and that Islam has been established in that region.

  3. Ally Gould says:

    I am so glad I have ears to hear!!

  4. Kimberly Martinson says:

    It’s been kind of a hard day, but just a normal one, and I’ve been thinking, “why is this so hard?” It is encouraging to hear that things aren’t necessarily worse; just hard as ever. My stuff: kids, sickness, chores, budget, car in shop, etc. Not terrible apocalyptic stuff, but stuff I find hard to find joy and grace within.

  5. Kimberley Rogers says:

    I’m glad there is finally a teaching on Revelation. I wish more churches would preach on this book of the Bible.

  6. Adrienna P says:

    I struggle with 2:4 that says that the Lord will remove the lamp stand. Is that a metaphor for losing salvation? This is a church that professes Christ, trusts and loves Him, but has human failing. Yes, we should be working this out, but Christ died for our sins- even these.

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