Cover to Cover
What are you overcoming? Jesus spoke to these seven churches and encouraged them to overcome and to continue to overcome. Is there something He has revealed to you that needs overcoming? Maybe you are doing everything as you should, and you just need to keep overcoming every day.
SARDIS: The Dead Church
Jesus describes Himself as having the seven spirits of God (also Revelation 1:4; 4:5) and the seven stars. We know the seven stars are the seven pastors over local churches in Asia (modern day Turkey). We don’t really know what the seven spirits are, but we do know there is only one Holy Spirit. Perhaps that are some kind of spirit being that have a special function. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd, and He knows the Sardis church members by name.
Sardis was the capital of Lydia, a luxurious city, known for issuing the first gold coins. It was a place with much opportunity, but the church at Sardis was apathetic. Jesus said their works were not perfect, or full. They were lacking. Jesus called them dead, or inactive, or useless. Faith without works is dead, or unproductive. For real reliant faith to have fruit, it has to be put into action, obedience. Jesus told His followers to go and make disciples. Jesus told His followers to take care of the poor, heal the sick, and cast out devils. A few in Sardis where doing that, and Jesus knew who they were. He knew them by name (3:4). He considered them individually, and he considered them collectively. They also lived a life consecrated to God, living a holy lifestyle. However, the church in Sardis, in general, didn’t do much, if anything, for the cause of Christ.
Jesus takes notice of our churches today. Are we attending? Are we studying? Are we serving? Are we reaching out? Are we tithing? We can’t pick and choose – these are all things that Jesus requires of those who follow Him. He knows who is being faithful, and He knows who isn’t.
Jesus says to be watchful, pay attention to yourselves and your responsibility in the kingdom of God. Are you doing your part? Are you taking on your responsibility? Jesus says to strengthen areas of weakness. Give them support and build them up.
For the one who overcomes, Jesus will dress him or her in white garments. He will NOT blot out their name from the Book of Life (the eternal record of the redeemed) 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3). Jesus will confess his or her name before the Father and His angels. It sounds as if Jesus is truly Lord, we submit to Him and His Word. Some carry the name of Jesus, but they never made Jesus their Lord. They are dead in their heart and dead in their actions.
PHILADELPHIA: The Faithful Church
Jesus describes Himself as holy and true. He describes Himself as having the keys of David, covenant authority of the Davidic kingship. He says He can open doors that no one can shut, and He can shut doors that no one can open. Then he tells the church at Philadelphia that He’s opened a door for them, He has given them access and opportunity. They have walked through that door and have served the Lord in ministry.
The church at Philadelphia was the only church that didn’t receive a correction. This church did not deny the Lord, but instead they kept His Word, even though they were weak in themselves. They have stood strong, even among the Jewish persecutors (Jesus called it the synagogue of Satan), whom Jesus said He would one day make bow at their feet.
If they continue to overcome in this life, Jesus gave them promise of a future blessing in the New Jerusalem. This shows us that what we do on Earth has an impact on our future.
Jesus said He was coming quickly. The Greek word for quickly means “soon, without delay.” Here we are nearly 2,000 years later. What did Jesus mean by saying He was coming quickly? Thousand years doesn’t seem soon. First of all, the way we look at time and the way God and the Christ define time are different perspectives. In 2 Peter 3:8-9, we see that a thousand years is like a day to the Lord. Second, it could be translated, “I’m coming without delay.” Jesus isn’t dragging His feet. He will come as soon as the appointed time arrives. Third, before Christ returns, the Gospel would need to spread around the world. That’s not a lot of time to accomplish that great task; yet here we are, two thousand years later, and the Gospel has, just recently, gone into every nation whether through a missionary, an angel, a vision, satellite television, a video, a printed page, the internet, or some other means. There are nearly 8 billion people on the Earth today – there is still a great harvest to reach and not much time left.
LAODICEA: The Lukewarm Church
Jesus describes Himself as the Amen (the truth), the Faithful and the True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God. Jesus was there in the beginning. He saw and heard creation forming. To the Laodiceans, who were very self-sufficient, Jesus appeared as the One to whom they should rely.
These proud believers thought they were rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing and no one. They were haughty, depending on themselves rather than on God. Instead of being filled with a hunger for God and a zeal for God to move in and through their lives, they were complacent. They weren’t on fire for God. They were completely cold. They were half-hearted. Christ was not accepting their lukewarm position.
Jesus exhorted them to be zealous, the Greek word is zeloo (2206), meaning “to burn with intensity, to pursue ardently.” He told them the motive for His rebuke and chastnening was love. He said He was standing at the door of their hearts, not pushing the door down and focusing His way, but knocking, asking them to yield and open their hearts in surrender. If they would overcome, Jesus promised a place of authority in the future.
All these things Jesus spoke to the seven churches apply to us today. Let’s take them to heart and apply them to ourselves and to our local church.
Starting in 11:12 and into chapter 12 and the beginning of 13, Hosea has a message of anger and judgment against Judah and Israel. In the end of chapter 13 and into 14, we see God’s plan of restoration for the nation. God promises to heal them from the harm that comes from backsliding. He promises to love them freely, forgiving them completely. He promises to ransom them from the power of the grace, redeeming them from death. He says that there will be those near to His that will return to their land and they will be revived.
Hosea is a book of love, forgiveness, and restoration. It is a message of faithfulness to covenant, even when the other party is unfaithful. It is a book of prophecy that promises reconciliation and regathering after captivity, and ultimately, the reign of Jesus Christ on the Earth. What a good Father!