Posted in art, church, ephesus, laodicea, philadelphia, revelation, sardis, smyrna, thyatira

A pictorial representation of the churches of Revelation

This is a creative, artistic rendering of my view of the 7 churches in Revelation. The original photo, which I took, is of an abandoned church in the area in which I live. Photographic manipulation and imagination did the rest.

In the first century, there were 7 churches Jesus caused John to write messages for. These were actual churches with actual congregations, doing and saying actual things. Jesus told apostle John, exiled at Patmos, what to write to these congregations. Jesus spoke commendations, criticisms, and instructions. Not all 7 churches were commended. Not all 7 churches were criticized. All had an instruction, though.

The church at Smyrna and the church at Philadelphia were not criticized. The church at Laodicea was not commended. The rest had both.

The churches were: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.

Can you imagine being assembled on Sunday, hearing a knock on the church door, a messenger arriving and handing a scroll to your pastor, and the pastor reads a letter from the head of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself? Jesus is very much alive and in charge of His global body of worshipers, AKA His bride. He was directly involved then, and He is directly involved now.

Each of the seven churches was not only an actual church but is also a type of church dealing with a problem mentioned in the letters. The problem is not unique to that church for that time. There are always the same kind of systemic problems many churches deal with and have been recurring throughout the centuries. Always, there is a church somewhere that is busy but not alive. Always, somewhere, is a church that is indifferent and lukewarm. On this earth, there is a collection of churches gracefully enduring suffering, or being persecuted. And so on.

Please read Revelation 1-3, it is not hard. Those chapters offer the reader plain language and it’s not heavily symbolic. Meanwhile here are my renderings of the churches in Revelation with their pictorial representation of the problem (or commendation) they had. Below the photo essay is a short artist’s statement of how the interpretation came about.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Artist statement:

Ephesus: I was struck by the fact they had abandoned their fervent love for Jesus. I imagined how hearing this, John might have felt like he had ashes in his mouth and ears. “Nothing cold as ashes, after the fire is gone.” (Loretta Lynn). The photo is as if ashes were smeared on it.

Smyrna: No criticism. Only light, the crown of life in heaven, and joy. The bubbles are angels surrounding the church Jesus commends in love and encouragement.

Pergamos: Compromise was their problem. Anyone who ever had a house built knows that if the contractor compromises on the concrete foundation, cracks appear at the first frost-freeze-thaw cycle. Nothing cracks a structure or an organization faster than compromise. Hence, the cracked door and walls.

Thyatira: This church had a problem with a seductress teaching sexual immorality and the people tolerated it. It is a harlot church, literally. Hence the lipstick on the walls and the hearts and fireworks and pink.

Sardis: Revelation has a change in tone here. Sardis is dead. I used tombstone engraving font for the verse.

Philadelphia: No criticism. This church is loved eternally from above. Its door will never close. Hence the sunburst coming out, the eternal stars above to indicate they will be taken before the wrath, and the font in script like a love letter. This church is beloved in heaven.

Laodicea: Indifferent. Jesus hates that worst of all. He excoriates it with a lengthy invective no other church received in their message. He will vomit this church from His mouth. Hence the bilious green splat from heaven.

(I never said I was THAT imaginative.)

Posted in covering, laodicea, naked, robes

Do you know you’re naked?

New Years are times when we feel we want to start fresh. When everything is new, including resolutions, hopes, plans. We look ahead, not behind. We take a deep breath and plunge in. Like the dawn dew on fresh grass, we haven’t had time to see the fire ants underneath, or the mosquitos above.

There was a day in the Garden of Eden when all things stopped being new. The humans that God had created rebelled against Him. They had sinned. Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness, and it was a problem. The moment they sinned their bodies because a problem to them.

EPrata photo

We usually focus on the part of the verse that states they were naked, and tried to cover themselves. But for now, let’s focus on the word “knew”.

God is so good He sent His son Jesus to die for us and take God’s wrath for sin in our place. That was the most horrible AND the most blessed moment of the entire universe for all time. He died, but He did not remain dead. He conquered death and was raised again, now making a way into heaven for all the rebellious but forgiven humans since Adam and Eve.

God is a God works all things to the good for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Hold that thought for a moment. Let’s go back to another famous naked person. The Emperor. As Steven Goddard posted, the Hans Christian Anderson story is like this:

The emperor’s new clothes

The label given to any fictional item that viewers have been induced into believing as real.

Anderson’s tale involves a vain king who was preoccupied with his appearance and his wardrobe. A pair of swindlers took advantage of this by pretending to be able to weave the finest cloth, which couldn’t be seen by people who were either unfit for office or were particularly stupid. The king decided to have a suit of clothes made from the fabric in order to test which of his courtiers was unfit for office. As he didn’t want to appear stupid or unfit for rule himself, he pretended to be able to see the new clothes, as did all of his courtiers. He paraded the ‘new clothes’ through the streets and the onlookers, also not wishing to appear stupid, all admired them. A small child, who didn’t understand the apparent necessity for pretence, piped up ‘But he has nothing on!’. The bubble of pretence burst and soon all the onlookers were repeating what the child had said, whilst the king continued the procession, attempting to maintain his dignity by pretending that nothing had happened.

Adam and Eve were naked, uncovered, and exposed to the world. That was bad. But there are worse things than being naked. Worse is being naked and not knowing it.

The Emperor in this fable believed his own press, that he was not naked, and he confidently went out and strutted among the people. This state of the human condition is reflected in the bible, you know. Even better to add to the conversation than Hans Christian Anderson’s fable is the verse:

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17).

Jesus accuses the Church at Laodicea of being Emperors without clothes. They did NOT know they were naked. They did NOT know they were uncovered, exposed, all their flesh and flaws visible to the world. Lost and wandering, they did NOT know they were without the covering of Jesus Christ! Worst of all, the Laodiceans thought they were covered. But they were in fact naked, absent the linen robe of righteousness of Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 5:2-3 Paul said,

For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.”

He’s telling the Corinthians to look forward to the resurrection after death/rapture where we have a body, clothed in His righteousness. In Laocidea, they were hypocrites pretending to know Christ, pretending to wear the fine spiritual robes, but and indeed were naked.

In Genesis they knew they were naked. They tried to cover themselves but God covered them. (Genesis 3:21). In Revelation…they did not know they were naked. What a tragic progression from understanding our need for Jesus to selfish self-reliance in a lost state with Jesus as an afterthought.

Are you longing to be clothed with our bodily dwelling from heaven, fine linen robes? Are you relying on the covering of Jesus in the meantime? He is ALL. This is a good verse to use in praise of Him and the righteous deed HE did so as to be able to clothe His Bride:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7:25-27)

Posted in azurdia, laodicea, sin

Laodicean church- hot, lukewarm, cold

I am listening to Todd Friel’s lecture 56 of Drive By Discernment. The theme is, “How people and movements can drift away from the truth”.

Art Azurdia was the speaker in this particular lecture and he talked of Dr. Paul Hiebert.

Dr. Paul Hiebert was a Doctor of Missiology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and missionary for 6 years under the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions. Azurdia explained,

“Hiebert said that the first generation of Mennonites were a people preoccupied with the Gospel and concerned with some social responsibility. The second generation of Mennonites assumed the Gospel, and became increasingly absorbed with social responsibility. The third generation of Mennonites abandoned the Gospel and was consequently altogether was completely preoccupied with social responsibility. Preoccupied. Assumed. Abandoned.”

That pattern reminded me of the verse in Revelation 3:15-16,

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Hot. Lukewarm. Cold.
(Preoccupied. Assumed. Abandoned.)

I wonder where you believe we are in that pattern? Azurdia’s answer was, “Any fair assessment of the evangelical community at least in the United States would have to say, using by description Hiebert’s Mennonite-isms, we are at that second stage of assuming the Gospel, and only one generation away from abandoning it.”

He went on in the lecture to describe the many churches he has guest preached in have had a long absence of preaching about sin. If there is no talk of sin, the Gospel is not presented, Azurdia said.

Just because a sermon or conference or gathering mentions Jesus, does not mean that the Gospel is presented. Azurdia asked, “How does it happen that the Gospel of Jesus Christ gets lost inside of a ministry that at least by confession proclaims its intention to promote the glory of God and the conversion of the nations?”

Jesus asked, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”” (Luke 18:8b)

Come soon, Lord Jesus!