178. THE LETTERS TO THE SEVEN (7) CHURCHES – SEVEN (7) AREAS TO STAND GUARD AGAINST
(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 4)
I believe that the letters to the seven (7) Churches which Jesus conveyed to John in Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelations were intended to achieve two (2) purposes:
(1) To highlight issues, problems and challenges in the seven (7) Churches then; and
(2) In God’s wisdom and omniscience, to also flag seven (7) main areas that Churches throughout the generations and even today, would be grappling with and need to guard against.
I looked at all seven letters in detail previously in Articles 154, 155 and 156 but in summary, I think it is important to list the seven (7) issues, problems or challenges that every Christian, Church Assembly and the body of Christ in general, should think seriously about and be watchful against today.
If Jesus saw it fit to raise these seven (7) issues, then they present major threats, in my view, to the Church being successful, not as members in a congregation see it or how the world regards it but as Jesus sees it. For, as is evident in Jesus’ letters to the Churches, a gathering could be considering itself to be a Church (as is prevalent today), when some or most of the members are not even regenerated and therefore do not belong to Jesus Christ. Additionally, a Church Assembly that consists of genuine Christians, may delude itself into thinking that it is doing well or well enough, when in fact it is not and Jesus is displeased with its conduct.
In short, based on what I’ve derived from the seven (7) letters, Churches and individual Christians who comprise Churches, should avoid the tendency to give in to the temptations, adopt the practices or veer in the direction of seven (7) areas, as listed below.
SEVEN (7) AREAS TO GUARD AGAINST
As part of the Church, you are to be careful not:
1. To forget your first love –That is, to get caught up in doing work, activities and stuff for the Lord, as a routine, at the expense of ensuring that your love for him, relationship, communion, intimacy and fellowship is being fervently nurtured (SEE Article 154 for a detailed discussion on the letter to EPHESUS);
2. To give up and give in to pressure through weariness, when continuing on with Christ and standing for what is right without compromise, means that you must suffer and lose out on life’s comforts (SEE Article 154 for a detailed discussion on the letter to SMRYNA);
3. To turn away from the authority of God’s Word and to instead embrace false doctrine, particularly that which falsely teaches a licentious view of grace that makes sexual immorality and eating things offered unto idols permissible (SEE Article 154 for a detailed discussion on the letter to PERGAMOS);
4. To turn away from the authority of Jesus’ command by allowing women who are more prone to being deceived by the devil, to take up leadership positions in the Church, to teach and usurp authority over the man and in so doing, lead people astray with false doctrine, similar to the one highlighted at 3 above (See Article 155 for a detailed discussion on the letter to THYATIRA);
(Written March – April 2021)
Today, a few years after writing my detailed views in three Articles (Nos.154-156), on the letters to the seven (7) Churches and concluding most of the above summarizing Article, I happened upon a lovely online Article by A. Sinclair of Crosshouse, Believer’s Magazine, where he gave his views on the letters.
Based on an excerpt from his Article, which I think provides a beautiful summary on the condition of the seven (7) Churches, he wrote:
- “What we must remember is that the letters contain the real condition of these churches. It is not what those around them thought of them, nor what they themselves believed their condition to be. Neither is it what the companies thought of each other, something we are far too often taken up with, or even what the Apostle John thought of them. No, this is the Lord’s assessment of them: it is the view from heaven not earth, and it is not coloured by prejudice or opinion but is the pure, righteous, honest appraisal of the risen Lord! For this reason we do well to examine His words carefully, apply them to ourselves, and take His instruction and correction where necessary…
- Like many of the “sevens” in Scripture these letters follow a pattern. The first and last churches are the only two warned of their imminent removal or rejection, yet they seem to have little else in common. EPHESUS no doubt thought all was well because everything appeared to be doctrinally correct: they were faithful and hard working, yet they had been overtaken by mere formality and observance having lost the devotion which once marked them. In contrast, the LAODICEANS thought that all was well because they were prospering and perhaps numerically strong and thriving, but the Lord considered them lukewarm and false and in need of individual response to Him. Could their demise have lessons for us today, where similar conditions seem to exist all around us?
- The second and sixth churches are the only two to receive no criticism. SMYRNA was suffering and materially poor, while PHILADELPHIA, though faithful to His Word and name, had only “a little strength” and were urged to “hold…fast”. Could it be that these conditions result in commendation without censure and we should learn from this? Are we so taken up with the material side of life that we are neglecting the spiritual? Are we so comfortable in this world that we are not so dependent on the fellowship and “brotherly love” (implied in Philadelphia’s name) of our fellow saints, as we need to be? It is certainly true that our poor and suffering brethren in other lands, though afflicted from outside, are not beset with many of the self-created problems that we seem to have.
- The central church, THYATIRA, receives the largest letter. It, and PERGAMOS and SARDIS on either side of it, are marked by serious departure from sound teaching. They are, in order, criticised by the Lord for their “doctrine”, falling into “the depths of Satan”, and being “defiled”. This terminology shows how seriously He views departure from His Word and should exhort us to avoid the same mistakes. The tendency today is much like that found in these three churches – to compromise and flirt with the world, whether socially or ecclesiastically. We too are in danger of losing our distinctiveness, and as a result one of our main reasons for being here.
- Truly these things written before really are for our learning. The value of the instructions in these letters is not to cause debate among Christians or to come up with clever analyses. No, it is to warn of us of the consequences of continued decline, and the real danger that the Lord may indeed “…remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Rev 2.5). As we look at these letters over this series, may we respond, individually and collectively, to the appeal of our soon coming Lord, as expressed, for example, to some of these companies: “Repent, and do the first works”, “Strengthen the things which remain”, and, “Hold fast till I come”.“
(Addendum written on 9th May, 2021)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 154 – ‘Ephesus Smyrna and Pergamos – My Humble View On The Letters Of The Glorified Jesus To The Seven Churches – (Part 1)’
- Note 155 – ‘Thyatira – My Humble View On The Letters Of The Glorified Jesus To The Seven Churches – (Part 2)’
- Note 156 – ‘Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea – My Humble View On The Letters Of The Glorified Jesus To The Seven Churches – (Part 3)’