Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and more specifically, is found in the second chapter. When we approach the second and third chapters of this prophetic book we are quickly confronted to a specific set of letters that were written by the apostle John, yet dictated by Jesus Christ Himself. Within the New Testament we encounter a number of epistles that were written—the most notable epistles which were written by the apostle Paul. In addition to the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote, we also find epistles written by the apostles John and Peter, as well as epistles written by James and Jude. We also find an epistle that was written by an unknown author, which was written to the Hebrews. IN the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, however, we find epistles that weren’t written by man, but epistles that were written by Jesus Christ Himself. It’s absolutely incredible to consider the fact that within this New Testament book there was a series of seven letters that were written to seven specific churches within the province of Asia. In the fourth verse of the first chapter we find the apostle John including this disclosure concerning the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ—“John to the seven churches which are in Asia”—while in the eleventh verse we find Jesus Christ Himself speaking unto the apostle John concerning that which he was to write. In the eleventh verse of the first chapter we discover the apostle John being instructed by Jesus the Christ—“What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto PErgamos, and unto Thyatria, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11). IN the final verse of the first chapter we again find a description concerning the reality of the seven churches which were found within the province of Asia: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churchesA: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). When the first chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ draws to a close, we are not only confronted with the reality of seven candlesticks which were symbolic of the seven churches, but also seven stars which are symbolic of the seven angels of the churches.
In order to fully and completely understand the message that was contained within each of the letters of the seven churches of Asia, it’s first of all necessary and imperative that we understand the relationship of Jesus to these seven churches. In the twelfth verse of the first chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we read these words recorded concerning Jesus the Christ—“And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle” (Revelation 1:12). Please pay close attention to the words contained within this verse, for what we find and read here describes Jesus’ knowledge of these seven churches. Within the twelfth verse of this chapter we read how the apostle John saw seven golden candlesticks, yet he didn’t just see seven golden candlesticks. What the apostle John saw when he turned to see Him which spoke to him was One standing in the midst of the seven candlesticks. This is absolutely necessary to consider, for within the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we not only find Him standing in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, but we also find Him walking among the seven golden candlesticks. In the first verse of the second chapter we find the second description of Jesus’ relationship with these seven churches, for we read—“These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1). Thus, within the first and second chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we not only discover that He stands in the midst of the seven candlesticks, but we also find that He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. THE CHRIST WHO NOT ONLY STANDS IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCHES, BUT ALSO WALKS IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCHES! I have to admit that I find it to be incredibly powerful that we not only read of Christ standing in the midst of the churches, but also walking in the midst of the churches, for such a description points to the reality that He is intimately involved with and understands the nature of these churches.
One of the most profound truths contained within the opening few chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is His intimate knowledge of and relationship with the churches. It is absolutely necessary that we come to understand how Jesus not only stands in the midst of, but also walks in the midst of the churches, for such realities reveal how He is intimately involved with the churches. I am convinced there is a powerful prophetic word that is found within this single reality, for there are many who seem to disassociate Jesus the Christ from His church. There are countless men and women who would dare think and/or even believe that Jesus the Christ is somehow not involved with His church within and upon the earth. There are ministers and lay people alike who spend their time thinking that Christ is somehow disconnected from the churches within the world. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul which are recorded in the fourth chapter of the epistle to the Ephesian congregation—“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, w high is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body filly joined together and compacted by that which every joint suppliers, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-17). This reality of Jesus being the head of the Church is also confirmed in the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Colossian congregation—“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:16-19).
The apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear that Jesus the Christ is indeed the head of the church, and that the church is indeed the body of Christ. There is absolutely no separating the head from the body, nor is there any way of separating the body from the head. With that being said, it is possible for one to separate themselves from the body of Christ, and by thus doing so, have separated themselves from Christ. Such a reality is written and expressed in the fifth chapter of the apostle Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian congregation. Consider if you will what is written and recorded in the fifth chapter of this particular epistle concerning a man who had been discovered was engaging in illicit immorality before and against the Lord of hosts—“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8). Within this particular set of verses we not only discover iniquity and immorality being committed within the body of Christ, but also the apostle Paul instructing the church to cut this man off from their fellowship, and to deliver him unto Satan for a period of time in order that he might be preserved in the day of the Lord. Essentially what we read in this passage is a description of how one can be cut off from the body of Christ, and by being in such a place, can in fact be cut off from the Head, which is Christ—if not for a specific period of time.
Within the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we find Jesus the Christ being intimately involved with the churches that were in Asia, for He not only stood in the midst of them, but He also walked in the midst of them. In the prophetic book of Daniel found within the Old Testament we find the preincarnate Christ walking in the midst of the flames of the fiery furnace with Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, while in the New Testament book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we find Christ walking in the midst of the golden candlesticks—i.e. walking in the midst of the seven churches. I do not believe for one moment that we must limit or relegate what we read in this passage of Scripture to Christ walking in the midst of these seven churches alone, for we must also recognize and understand that Jesus walks in the midst of the churches that are contained within and found upon the earth during these Last Days. The very fact that we read of Christ standing in the midst of the churches, as well as walking in the midst of the churches suggests that Christ is very much aware of the activity that takes place within those churches. I would dare say that it is impossible to consider the reality that Jesus walks in the midst of our churches today, and yet is somehow ignorant and/or even naïve to the activity that takes place within them. One of the most pertinent and powerful realities concerning the various letters that were written by the apostle Paul concerning the churches was his intimate knowledge of such churches—a knowledge that not only came by word of mouth through those who were laboring alongside him, but also by his own observation by being physically present within those churches. There was specific content within the apostle’s letters to these churches that was based on visual observation, but there was also specific content that was written based on reports he had received concerning those churches. With that being said, the apostle Paul did not write to any church which he did not found and start, and which he had not labored rigorously within. Consider how the apostle Paul wrote letters to churches such as Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Collassae, and Philippi. There were letters which the apostle Paul wrote specifically to churches within Asia, while there were also letters that were written to specific individual—individuals such as Titus, Timothy and Philemon. The apostle Paul was able to write detailed letters to such churches because he not only labored within those churches, but also walked with the members of those churches.
I would wholeheartedly declare that it is absolutely impossible to write such words as those which are found in the epistles of the apostle Paul without having walked among, within and in the midst of the churches. It is absolutely impossible to write such letters without having established a very personal and intimate relationship with the members that made up such churches. The letters and epistles which we find in the New Testament were found according to, and based on the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord, but it was also based on personal experience with such churches. Similarly, the letters which we find in the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ were written—not based on reports which were heard regarding those churches, but actually walking in the midst of those churches. The letters which we find in the second and third chapters of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ were written based on an intimate knowledge of those churches, and the activity that was taking place within them. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that these letters were written because while Jesus walked in the midst of these seven churches, He became aware of what was taking place within such churches. It’s actually quite interesting and astounding to consider the fact that we not only read of Jesus standing in the midst of the churches, but also walking in the midst of the churches. Christ standing in the midst of the seven churches suggest that He was the center and foundation of these churches, but also that He stood in the midst of them when they gathered together in fellowship and worship before and unto Him. The fact that Christ walked in the midst of these churches suggests that He walked in the midst of them and observed their activity which continually took place. There was absolutely nothing that was hidden to the eyes and ears of Jesus the Christ, for according to His divine nature, He was able to walk in the midst of each of the churches and carefully observe that which was taking place among them in their midst. We dare not be so naïve to consider for one moment that Jesus Christ is not intimately involved with what goes on and what takes place in the midst of His churches—whether they be historical churches, or current and present churches that are found within and upon the earth.
When attempting to read the letters which Jesus dictated to the seven churches of the province of Asia, it’s necessary to note that although the messages contained within those letters varied in their context, they each shared at least three common themes. The first theme that one can find in each of the letters written to the churches is a particular revelation of Jesus Christ Himself. There were seven letters—each written to a specific church in the province of Asia—and at the very beginning and outset of each letter we find a very specific revelation concerning Jesus the Christ. Consider if you the language and text that is recorded at the beginning of each of the letters written to the seven churches of Asia: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1). “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive” (Revelation 2:8). “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges” (Revelation 2:13). “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass” (Revelation 2:18). “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These thing saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars” (Revelation 3:1). “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7). “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14).
Each of these verses breaks down and presents us with a particular and specific revelation of Jesus Christ, and in each of the seven letters this revelation of Jesus Christ is followed up by a declaration of His intimate knowledge of their nature and condition. This particular concept is actually quite telling and revealing, for there would be many who seek to disassociate the revelation of Jesus Christ from the knowledge of Christ concerning the nature and condition of the church. There would be those among us who would seek to differentiate and distinguish the revelation of Jesus Christ from the knowledge of Jesus Christ, yet the seven letters written to the seven churches in the province of Asia reveal something entirely different. While each letter began with a revelation concerning Jesus Christ, each letter was followed up by a revelation concerning the Church itself. In essence, it was almost as if the revelation of the individual churches was set directly against the backdrop of the nature of Jesus the Christ. In fact, I would dare say that it was from the revelation of Jesus Christ that the revelation of each of the churches came into full view, for any true revelation of Jesus the Christ can and will bring us into the place of revelation concerning ourselves. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah when he described the encounter and vision he had in the year that king Uzziah died. Consider if you will the language and text that is found within the sixth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah concerning this powerful encounter: “IN the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Adobe it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of Him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me. And he said, Go and tell this people” (Isaiah 6:1-9). It was from the place of revelation concerning Jesus the Christ that each Church was able to encounter a fresh revelation concerning themselves—a revelation that sometimes was completely contrary to their own opinion, thoughts, and image of themselves.
I find it absolutely incredible that within each of these letters there was not only the revelation of Jesus the Christ, but also a revelation concerning the individuals churches themselves. Within the third chapter of this prophetic book we notice two of the seven churches which had their own opinion and image concerning themselves—an image and opinion that was quickly corrected by the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, and a revelation and declaration concerning their true nature. In the first few verses of the third chapter of this we will read the words of Jesus’ letter to the angel of the church in Sardis—words which contained these words: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). Perhaps the most stinging and striking indictment concerning a churches opinion and image of themselves is found in the final letter contained within these two chapters—the letter addressed unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans. Beginning with the fifteenth verse of this chapter we find these words concerning the church of the Laodiceans: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17). Notice that the church in Sardis had a reputation that it was alive, and yet Jesus pronounced that the church was actually dead. The church of the Laodiceans said to and among themselves that they were rich, they were increased with goods, and had need of nothing, and yet they did not know that they were wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked. WRETCHED! MISERABLE! POOR! BLIND! NAKED! DEAD! These were words that described these two churches—words that ran completely contradictory and contrary to their own belief concerning their condition. The church in Sardis had the reputation that they were alive, and yet Jesus actually declared that they were dead, while the church of the Laodiceans believed themselves to be rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing—not recognizing or realizing that they were poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind and naked.
Each of these realities—the revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as the revelation of the Churches themselves—coupled together with the view and opinion two of the seven churches had concerning themselves brings me to an incredibly powerful truth that warrants strong consideration. While I am convinced that the revelation of Jesus Christ concerning the condition and nature of each of the churches was in direct connection and relation to their own opinion, view and image of themselves, I can’t help but wonder if His revelation of Himself was also in direct connection to their view of Him. If it was possible that Jesus needed to correct their opinion, view and image of themselves by releasing a revelation from heaven concerning their true nature and condition, would it not also be possible that Jesus needed to release revelation of Himself in order to correct their view and opinion of Himself? There is not a doubt in my mind that both the revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as the revelation of the churches were intrinsically linked and connected with each other. I am firmly convinced that it is only from a place of revelation concerning the nature, identity and person of Jesus Christ that we can truly arrive at a place of revelation concerning who we are as saints, as Christians, as disciples, and as followers of Jesus Christ. There are many who would seek to arrive at this place of revelation without and apart from experiencing a true revelation of Jesus Christ, yet the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. We dare not attempt to arrive at a revelation of ourselves without, apart, and separate from a simultaneous revelation of Jesus Christ. Similarly, we dare not and must not stop at a revelation of Jesus Christ, for there is more to the revelation. In many Christian circles, and in many churches there are men and women who have stopped with and stopped at the revelation of Jesus Christ—not recognizing or realizing that there is more to the revelation. THERE’S MORE TO THE REVELATION! Perhaps the single greatest truth we can glean from this passage of Scripture is that there is always more to the revelation of Jesus Christ—and not just a revelation of the nature and condition of the church, but also an indictment and judgment upon the iniquity, immorality and idolatry of the world. The prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus begins with a revelation of Jesus, and continues with a revelation of the churches to the churches, yet once we come to the end of the fifth chapter and move forward in the book, we find heaven dealing and contending with the sin, the transgression, and the wickedness that exists upon the earth.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! These words were popular in a commercial ad that has aired on the television countless thousands of times. As I’m sitting here pondering and meditating upon the words contained within these two chapters, I can’t help but find them strangely relevant to the revelation of Jesus Christ. The entire book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ begins with a revelation of Jesus Christ—a single revelation of Jesus Christ that was revealed unto John as he turned to look upon the voice of the One who spoke unto Him. That single revelation of Jesus Christ which John saw would find its way into the letters which were written to each of the seven churches, for unto each church Jesus Christ revealed a specific reality concerning Himself. What would begin as a revelation of Christ unto each of the churches would ultimately and inevitably lead to a revelation of the individuals churches—a revelation that came whether they wanted or were willing to accept it or not. We must take note of the fact that each church received a very specific revelation concerning their nature and condition, and that no two churches received the same revelation. You can read each of these letters and you will find the only similarities between them being (1) the revelation of Jesus Christ, (2) the revelation of the Church, (3) an appeal to hear what the Spirit is speaking unto the churches, and (4) a call to overcome upon the earth. While each letter contains these four commonalities and similarities, the context and nature of each letter was different from the others. What this means is that while Christ might reveal Himself one way to you, He might reveal Himself in a completely different way to me. This isn’t to say that your revelation is somehow superior to my revelation, or that either of our revelations is incomplete. I am convinced that Christ’s revelation of Himself to each of the seven churches was directly connected to His revelation of the Churches themselves. There are countless times when we may very well receive a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ, and yet we stop with and stop at that revelation. There are very few among us who would actually seek to press on to an even further and an even greater revelation that isn’t centered upon Christ, but is actually a revelation of ourselves. While it is absolutely wonderful to have and receive a revelation of Jesus Christ within our congregations and assemblies,
I would strongly caution us to press on toward and to pursue the revelation that proceeds forth and proceeds from that revelation—a revelation not of or concerning Christ, but a revelation concerning who we are. It is in the light of the revelation of Jesus Christ within our hearts and lives that true revelation concerning ourselves can be experienced and expressed. You and I are being and have been confronted with the powerful reality of whether or not we will continue to press on and to press forward unto a greater revelation concerning themselves. It is only from this place of revelation—this place of revelation of Jesus, and this place of revelation of ourselves—that we can only live in the place of hearing, but also in the place of overcoming. I am thoroughly convinced that it is from a place of revelation that we can operate in the place of hearing, and walk in a place of overcoming. What’s more, is that I am convinced that unless and until we move forward from a place of revelation, we cannot and will not be able to operate in a place of hearing, nor walk in a place of overcoming. Only to the degree and measure we understand and remain in the place of revelation—not only understand who Christ is, but also who we are—will we be able to move in this place of hearing and overcoming. Interestingly enough how Jesus called each of the seven churches to a place of hearing, and to a place of overcoming, and each of the seven churches would only be able to experience that reality after first experiencing the revelation of Jesus, and from that place of revelation they also received a revelation of themselves. Those who are truly able to hear what the Spirit is speaking to the churches are those who have received and experienced a revelation of Jesus Christ, and have received and understood the revelation concerning themselves in the sight and presence of Jesus. Furthermore, those who are truly able to operate and walk in a place of overcoming are those who have both received a revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as a revelation of themselves. Let us this day read the second chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus and truly understand the powerful importance of revelation—both the revelation of Jesus Christ, as well as the revelation of the Church, the revelation of the saints, and the revelation of sons and daughters.