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

About those churches of Revelation…

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

In the first century, there were 7 churches that Jesus caused John to write messages to. 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.

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’s as cold as ashes, after the fire is gone.” (Loretta Lynn).

Smyrna: No criticism. Only light, the crown of life in heaven, and joy.

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.

Thyatira: This church had a problem with a seductress teaching sexual immorality and the people tolerated it. It is a harlot church, literally.

Sardis: Revelation has a change in tone here. Sardis is dead. Can you believe that a church alive with people can be dead? According to the word of God here, it can and did happen.

Philadelphia: No criticism. This church is loved eternally from above. Its door will never close. 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.

If a messenger were to appear at your church door on a Sunday and hand a scroll written by Jesus to your pastor describing your church, what type of church do you think yours would be? If it is a church sliding into one of the less well-loved type of congregations, is there something you are contributing to its decline? Are you praying for your elders and pastors? Are you helping, or can find a spot to serve that will relieve some of the issues in the church? If your church is gloriously thriving, do you praise the Spirit for this? Pray for your pastor in gratitude for his hard work in the Lord?

EPrata photo
Posted in discernment, theology

What does Jesus think about discernment? This verse tells you

We live in an age where fellow Christians say that to speak of someone specific being a false teacher is mean, or ill-mannered, or inappropriate. “Just let them alone, God will take care if them,” they say. Or they claim that speaking against false teaching is uncivil, and to “Just pray for them.” Many of thems ay, “You can’t know if he/she is false, you don’t know their heart.”

The skill of discernment (and the gift, too) involves vigilance. It is extremely important. John MacArthur wrote,

In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.

Every book of the New Testament (except Philemon) has some passage or chapter devoted to its writer urging fellow Christians to practice discernment in order to combat some false teaching or other. Jude is entirely taken up with the topic. And the exhortations in those books of the Bible are not to stand by and let false teachers be. Those admonishments are not to tolerate false teaching and wait until Jesus comes back to judge it. Not only the NT writers, but Jesus also has some very explicit thoughts about churches that practice discernment. And those instructions are not to overlook it, be passive abou ti, or ignore it. Quite the opposite.

You might know that the book of Revelation is a considered an apocalyptic book. It deals with last things, and Jesus’ return in victory. However the first two chapters are letters to churches of the time, but also warnings and encouragements for us in this day and all present days. Some churches received a commendation only, some received a hard warning only and most churches received a little of both.

In the letter to the church at Ephesus, we read that Jesus directed the apostle John to write,

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. (Revelation 2:2).

In this letter, Jesus opens by congratulating the church for being discerning. They are lauded for their persevering efforts to retain the highest purity possible in their church. How? First, they can’t bear the evil ones in their midst, and second, they tested those who call themselves teachers. Their discernment was apparently a skilled discernment, because Jesus congratulates them for worming out which teachers were false.

Never, ever let anyone tell you that discernment is unnecessary.

John MacArthur preached on this verse from Revelation, saying in part,

Beyond that, verse 3 says something else about them: ‘You cannot tolerate evil men. You cannot tolerate evil men.’ They were intolerant of sin. They were sensitive to the presence of evil. They hated evildoers as God hates evildoers. They resented evil; they resented evildoers. They resented sin; they resented sin in the church. They recognized the damage that sin does to the fellowship and the testimony. They saw that sin in the church destroys the unity of the church and destroys the testimony of the church. They hated all that was morally bad, all that was spiritually bad. They knew that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

…Or, you could say this: ‘You put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false.’ This is a church with discernment.

Where does discernment come from? Well, where does discernment come from; clearly, it comes from a knowledge of the truth, right? The only way you can discern error is know what? Truth. You have to have the truth in order to see the error.

Many evil people come into the congregations, particularly in the early church. Satan was infiltrating these early churches all the time. Judaizers, false teachers were everywhere. This church took the warning seriously.

Read or listen to the full sermon here

Practice discernment, whether you have been given the spiritual gift or not. It matters to Jesus. And if it matters to Jesus, it should matter to us.