Let the Church Be the Church

I have bad news for mystery lovers. mystical teachings of jesus 3, the listing of seven churches in the old Roman province of “Asia”, contain no mysteries. There is no generation of history that corresponds to each of these churches. Try as you may, you can’t make it fit!

If it is not a law of interpretation by now, I am now going to create it: where there is no need to read between the lines, don’t!

But oh! what a marvelous passage has been recorded for us by the Spirit-filled apostle John. For these seven churches, every one of which has its echo in every generation of the church, exist yet today and remind us of who we are and the repenting we still need to do. Even individual church members can find much upon which to ponder.

Ephesus is the hard-working, patient, trodding fellowship that champions truth. Being correct is more important to them than being popular. Discerning and weeding out false teachers is their specialty. But hidden beneath the surface is, perhaps, some less than perfect motivation. For the original fire is missing. The passion. The excitement. The reason for it all. Repentance, or else, for this church and this Christian.

Does this Church exist today? Oh yes! Has it always, in every generation? Oh yes! No mystery here.

Smyrna’s Christians are troubled but hard-working. They are poor but still progressing. They are persecuted. They are suffering. And God has no discouraging word for them. A true model of what “church” ought to be.

Does this Church exist today? Oh yes! Has it always, in every generation? Oh yes! No mystery here.

Pergamos has been faithful to the Lord over-all. It too is persecuted, and it is a “front-lines” church, in the thick of the battle for the Kingdom of God. But its popularity has attracted to it a series of false teachers. Some of them have by their life-style or their teachings, caused the people of God to go astray in matters that deal with the flesh. There has been compromise with the world on the part of a sizable number of these believers, probably in the name of being “open” to all of the Body of Christ. Divisiveness would not be allowed here, only unity. But its liberty has brought about worse division, the kind that Satan accomplishes through ripping saints from their place of holiness.

Does this Church exist today? Oh yes! Has it always, in every generation? Oh yes! No mystery here.

Thyatira is a loving church, working harder and harder all the time, patient, persevering, and filled with servant hearts that could never hurt a flee. Trouble is, creatures worse than fleas have entered in, and no one wants to raise a hand. The serpent has found a home in Thyatira. Some of the same snakes that entered Pergamos, in fact. Paul’s admonition about female authority has been ignored here, and a “Jezebel” has captured the church’s heart and mind. More sexual problems. More worldliness. The church is in trouble and is called to serious repentance.

Does this Church exist today? Oh yes! Has it always, in every generation? Oh yes! No mystery here.

The church at Sardis has a sign outside that says “Church of Jesus”, but it could just as well be a grave-marker. Sardis is dead. Except for a few faithful souls, this congregation has dead members, dead works, dead worship, dead teaching. They need to pack up and move on, and admit they have no reason to call themselves disciples of Jesus.

Does this Church exist today? Oh yes! Has it always, in every generation? Oh yes! No mystery here.

The Philadelphian congregation, which as all the others, will exist in that last day before Jesus comes, is promised here a measure of protection from the hour of trial that shall come to the whole earth. Their faithfulness reminds one of Noah and Lot, who were spared the awfulness of flood and fire in their day. Here is a weak but faithful church. Growing, persevering, obedient. Prospering the way God intended it to, not by appealing to flesh or to the media. Soul-winners. Holy living. Telling the truth. In the end, this church will be a signal to the devouring antichrist that he simply cannot have it all. Daniel (ch. 12) saw these “blessed” ones that will be allowed to endure to the very end before Jesus comes.

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