Summary: Who owns this church is a spiritual question not a legal or financial one. Revelation offers God’s answer.
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Who Owns This Church?
Introduction: Struggles of major denominations right now—Episcopal, Presbyterian and others---about who owns the church property if the congregations wants to leave the denomination. In years past, fierce court battles were waged by churches similiar to ours over property rights. Hargrove and Dowling of Lincoln Bible Institute were frequently called as expert witnesses to help the court settle the claims. This was a fear of this church year ago when we went leave our former associations and become independent.
Real spiritual issues matter even more than the legal matters. Who owns this church? Human answers/divine answers—this world answers and heavenly answers; determines a lot about how you do church…settle a lot of problems.
Rev 2-3—memo to the churches; what Christ thinks of the church
Some theorize that these seven letters are really an outline of church history –ages/epochs—nothing in text; a conclusion that must be read into the text
If read at face value, these are real churches; real issues
On the other hand, they are also representative—nothing new under the sun
In a sense, they are symbolic—illustrating principles that all churches all time need to know
Tendency to see only the odd and evil in Revelation—beasts, mark of beast, etc.
Really Revelation is about Christ—Note the seven descriptions of Christ in the seven letters
1. Christ Owns the Church
1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false
“The One who holds the seven stars.”
“The One who walks among the seven lampstands.”
His church—each of them; he is present; he holds fate and future; present and problems
2. Christ is the Provider of the Church
8“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
First and last—beginning and end; no surprises---How different things would be if we know past/present/future clearly---Scrooge in A Christmas Carol
If death conquered—what fears remain; Eugene O’Neil famous play “Lazarus Laughs”—what can you threaten a man with once death has been defeated.
We can too even in the face of persecution.
The risen Christ is one who has experienced the worst that life could do to Him. No matter then what might happen to the Christians at Smyrna or to us, our Savior has gone through the worst life can bring. As such, He is one who feels for us in our suffering with special love and compassion and is ever present to come to our aid and comfort (Heb. 2:15-18; 4:15).
The risen Christ has conquered the worst that life can do. He triumphed over pain, the cross, the devil, sin, and death. He defeated all the enemies and He offers victory and the conqueror’s crown.
But this calls for our loyalty and commitment to Him, not simply for rewards, but because of what we have in Him and love Him.
3. Christ is the Message of Church
12“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
Again, as in each of the seven messages, the message is related to the picture of the glorified Savior in chapter one. This serves to stress His sufficiency and our need to live in the light of His person and work, past, present, and future.
“Sword” is a long spear-like sword, but here it is seen with two edges to emphasize the double-edged, sharp, penetrating character of the Word of God or God’s truth as it is found in the person and work of Christ and God’s holy Word as it reveals Him.
The word “sword” is mentioned a total of nine times in Revelation is mentioned five times and the short Roman two edged sword, is mentioned four times. The was the long and heavy, broad sword used by the Thracians and other barbarous nations who often marched irresistibly over one country after another as God’s instruments of judgment. First of all, then, it symbolizes the irresistible authority and devastating force of our Lord’s judgment (cf. 19:15).
In Revelation 1:16 and 19:15 the sword is described as proceeding out of the mouth of Christ. The mouth, an instrument of speech, portrays this as the Word of Christ. In Revelation 19:13 Christ is called the Word of God and then, in verse 15, we have the statement about the sword that proceeds out of His mouth and by which He will slay the wicked.