Summary: What were the things that you used to do when you first fell in love with Jesus? What are the things that you stopped doing since then? Remember … repent … and then start doing them again!
The “revelation” of John …
What does the Book of Revelation “reveal”? Is it a book that “reveals” what is going to happen in the future? Yes. But more importantly … much, much more importantly … it is a revelation about the One … with a capital “O” … who holds the future in His hands. The Book of Revelation is about the “revelation” … or “revealing” … of Jesus Christ.
Right from the start, we get a revealing insight into who Jesus really is: the Alpha and Omega … the First and the Last … standing among the seven golden lampstands … the churches of Ephesus … Smyrna … Pergamum … Thyatira … Sardis … Philadelphia … and Laodicea … holding the seven stars … the seven angels … of these churches in the palm of His mighty right hand … clothed in a long robe … with a golden sash across His chest … His hair white as wool, white as snow … His eyes flashing with flames of fire … His tongue a double-edged sword … His voice like the roar of many rushing waters … His face shining brighter than the sun … and His bronze feet ready to trample His enemies and evil underfoot.
In chapter 2, Jesus turns His eyes … those fiery, penetrating eyes … on those seven lampstands and He begins searching the hearts of those seven churches. Whoa! Imagine, for a moment, Him turning those fiery, searching, penetrating eyes on this church … on us!
Well … guess what?
Just as Jesus stood amongst those seven lampstands or churches in Asia Minor, He still stands amongst His churches today. Don’t kid yourself … without a doubt, His eyes are searching and scrutinizing Canton First and Beaverdam United Methodist churches and … as scary as that might sound … I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. In fact, I don’t even think it’s a scary thing.
You see, He searched the hearts of those seven churches to enlighten them … not to destroy them … but to keep them from destroying themselves. His goal was not to humiliate them but to strengthen them … to remove the dross and purify them …to make them shine brighter … to make them holy. We should welcome Jesus’ penetrating gaze. We should earnestly pray that Jesus keeps His fiery, penetrating eyes upon us, that He speak to us like He did to those seven churches … giving us His divine perspective … a perspective that comes from His heart, His love for the churches that He has created. “Those I love,” says the Lord, “I rebuke and discipline. Therefore, be earnest and repent” (Revelation 3:19).
The reason that we’re reading these letters is that I believe that many … if not all … of the problems facing the modern church today can be solved by reading the recommendations that the LORD made to those seven churches. It’s a good thing to get the perspective of the Head of the Church, don’t you think? As one Bible scholar put it: “What Christ thinks of the church is a question no professing Christian can ignore.” True, amen?
We are going to be taking a look at these seven historical churches to see how we can apply Jesus’ message not only to our churches today but to our personal lives as well. These were real letters written to seven real churches located in seven real cities that existed in real countries. While John was in exile, Jesus spoke to him about these seven real churches and the realities of their situations. Each of Jesus’ seven letters begin with the words: “I know ….” And each letter contains a promise to those who will listen and obey the letter’s Author. Each letter is tailored to the specific needs and issues of the church that it addresses but it also has offers practical and spiritual applications for every church and every Christian in every age, amen?
Jesus’ first letter is to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a wealthy, culturally diverse seaport of about 300,000 people in what is modern day Turkey … located about 60 miles east of the island of Patmos. We learn from the Book of Acts that Ephesus was the home of one of the seven wonders of the world … the temple of Diana … the Romanized version of the Greek goddess Artemis. Artemis or Diana was the goddess of the hunt, chastity, childbirth, wild animals, and the wilderness (drivethruhistory.com) … similar to the Babylonian or pagan goddess Asherah. Modern-day excavations have revealed three smaller temples dedicated to the worship of Artemis – slash – Diana in or near Ephesus.
These temples and the worship of Diana attracted a lot of visitors to Ephesus and the city generated a great deal of revenue from selling “religious” trinkets and silver idols of Diana. The temple itself served as a bank where people could safeguard their money. Even though Diana’s title was “The Virgin Goddess,” she was worshipped as the goddess of fertility. Prostitution was part of the religious practices of the city (Biblestudytools.com). Stop and think about that for a minute. Prostitution at the temple of Diana was not done for the purposes of making money like it is today … although the priests and priestess did charge for their services. The “act” that they engaged in was believed to produce or encourage fertility … fertility for your crops and fertility for your livestock, as well as, shall we say, personal fertility. The good Christian brothers and sisters of Ephesus lived in a city that taught and practiced the occult, astrology, and the magical arts … as well as make money from the sale of curses, potions, rings, scrolls, amulets, bracelets, and necklaces that claimed to have magical or supernatural powers (drivethruhistory.com). In fact, the term “Ephesia Grammata” … which means “Ephesian words” … was the most popular “magical system” in the ancient Mediterranean world and became a popular and commonly used term to describe any type of magic.