Summary: A personal word of Hope that would meet their need, suit their case and would be beneficial to every other church and to all Christians in general. Christ knows and observes their condition; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth. The Church has a glorious future!
The Glorious Future of the Church
The Apostle John, now much encouraged by what he saw, continues a discussion on the future of the church. In the next two chapters of Revelation we are given an overview of the Church’s present condition and God’s future for His Church. The Church must be reminded of its bright future. There is so much division, disappoint, distrust, and disillusionment within and without the church, this is a most necessary message. There may be those here who have contemplated leaving the church. There may be others who have become critical of the Church. It is good to know that we are no different from the great apostle John who needed encouragement.
God, himself allows John to see the condition of the churches as God knew them and assures John that He was still at work in His Church. These churches were in different stages of development: different levels of purity in doctrine, different levels of godliness, and different levels of compromise. Each church received a personal word from Christ that would meet their need, suit their case and would be beneficial to every other church and to all Christians in general. Christ knows and observes their condition; though in heaven, yet he walks in the midst of his churches on earth, observing what is wrong in them, and what they lack. So not only is Christ walking among them, holding each messenger in hand, sustaining all parts of it, He is there securing its future!
These is a personal epistles to the churches in Asia, with warnings and encouragements, in chapter 3, to the church at Ephesus; (1-7) at Smyrna; (8-11) at Pergamos; (12-17) and at Thyatira. (18-29) in chapter 4 to the church at Sardis; (1-6) at Philadelphia; (7-13) and Laodicea. (14-22) I will not attempt to be exhaustive in this lesson, but simple observe their warnings and encouragements.
First let’s look at Ephesus: Every message is sent to the Angel, the messenger or minister of the congregation. You see, no matter what we say, everything that happens within the church is tied to its leadership. This church was patient in labor, but impatient of error, the Ephesus church occupied a high position. Would to God that all believers were in as good a condition as the Ephesians were. The church left, not "lost" its first love. If they left it, this was not a misfortune or accident. They left it or departed from it. We ought to love Jesus better as we grow older in the faith and learn more of him. To decline in our love for Him is to do Him great dishonor.
The Church of Ephesus seemed to have suffered an invasion of men who preached up licentious freedom under the pretense of spirituality like certain vicious sects in America. Uncleanness is very hateful to the Lord. The imagery of this first promise and blessing is taken from Eden, the Paradise of God; God was showing John and us that there was nothing lost in Eden which grace of God cannot restore to us. We have a glorious future because God promises restoration.
Now let’s turn our attention to the angel of the church in Smyrna. These things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and now much alive. This church was sorely persecuted but remained faithful. It has been called "sweet smelling Smyrna, the poorest and the purest of the seven." That ye may be tried. The persecutors of the Christians, in the endeavor to force them to deny Jesus, would put them to the test, even to the point of death. They may die once, but not twice; they shall inherit life eternal. John is reminded, that serving the Lord will pay off awhile. Death is not the end of God’s saint, for they will live again! This text encouraged me when I am going through. This world with all its pain has an end. We have a glorious future because God promises not only restoration, but also eternal life.
Now the church of Pergamos, this church was faithful to the name of Jesus, yet there were evils within it. In every church you may find a segment of evil. Jesus will not tolerate unrestrained filthiness in a church. He will go to war with unrestrained filthiness and will not endure it. The church was tolerating Satan dwelling among them. Known fornication was present and idolatry was being tolerated, consequently, the Lord expressed His displeasure. Without prayer and repentance, the Lord himself would declare war on them. Yet, if they repent, the Lord offers the equivalent to triumphant acquittal. The Old Testament priest would reach in a bag of black and white stones to determine guilt or innocence. A black stone meant guilty and a white stone meant innocent. The Lord says, I will take out the black stone, denoting condemnation. Our blessed Lord says, I will put in a white stone; and will pronounce you pardoned at the judgment seat, completely justified and accepted in me." John is informed, that there is hope for all in Christ. We have a glorious future because God promises not only restoration, eternal life but also complete pardon, free from condemnation.