sunset December 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Revelation 1, 2, 3

Revelation and Review

Christmas is over for most of us, and we are already thinking of the New Year. News broadcasts will be airing, “The Year In Review.” We will also be reviewing our own lives and wondering what will happen in the next year. Have you ever wondered what will happen in the end times of the earth? The last book of the Bible is The Revelation of Jesus Christ, “which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place [in the last times]. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John”, (Revelation 1:1, NIV). Note: the word “soon” can mean “suddenly,” which seems preferable for our understanding of the book.

Because of his Christian faith, John is exiled on the island of Patmos. There he writes the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ to seven persecuted churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). He is probably the bishop over the churches in that area. It is to him that Jesus makes an appearance in all his glory. He has the appearance of a priest, for he himself was the sacrifice for their (and our) sins. He also has the appearance of a judge.

As head of all the churches, Christ appears walking among seven golden lampstands. Jesus tells John these lampstands represent the seven churches. Christ holds seven stars in his hand representing seven messengers. Some Bible versions use the term “angels” but the Greek term for angels means messengers, and the messengers of the churches are probably, in this case, the pastors of the churches. Jesus holds these seven stars in his right hand, symbolizing possession, favor, and security. We, too, as believers in Christ (sometimes referred to as the sheep of his pasture) are held in the hand of God (John 10:28-29). For these persecuted churches this picture is probably an encouragement and a sobering reminder that God is among them. Jesus as judge now reviews their activities and tells John to write down the report for each one.

The message to each church follows a similar pattern:

1. A commendation (except for Sardis and Laodicea), beginning with the phrase, “I know your deeds.”

2. A condemnation for evil (except Smyrna and Philadelphia)

3. A call to repent or suffer the consequences that would be coming soon (except for Smyrna and Philadelphia).

4. A blessing for those in any church who would overcome, especially during times of persecution.

How would we fair if Jesus were to review our church or our Christian lives?

Ephesus, the first church mentioned, is the workaholic church. She is busy working hard, enduring persecution, and not tolerant of false teachers; but she neglects the relationship with Christ, her spiritual husband. Are we like this? Do we neglect God or our family because we are working too hard? The remedy for that church is also our remedy; repent and do the things you did at first when you were in love, when you had a new relationship with Christ.

Smyrna is the persecuted church. She is exhorted not to be afraid but be faithful till death, and she will be given the crown of life. Are you persecuted? Take encouragement from these words. If you are faithful, you too, will be rewarded.

Pergamum is the inner-city church. It is “sin city,” and Satan has his throne or seat of power there. Prostitution and idolatry are rampant. In today’s society we might liken Pergamum to a church in a city with gangs, pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers who rule the streets. The church at Pergamum does some good things but makes moral compromises. Jesus tells them to cut it out (stop) or God will come against them with the sword of judgment. We need to live for Jesus even when times are tough and our culture is rough. We should live holy lives, separate from immoral and wicked lifestyles.

Thyatira is the compromising church. She does some good things but also tolerates false teaching and immorality. God sees what she is doing and will repay her for her deeds. Do we think God does not see the compromises we make? He does.

Sardis is the dead church. She has religious ceremonies and teachings, but she is dead. The remedy is revival. She needs to wake up and strengthen the things that are about to die. She needs spiritual life. Do we need that? Her remedy is our remedy: Wake up! Repent! Confess your sins! Call upon God to forgive you and bring you spiritual life! (more...)

The church of Philadelphia is the missionary-minded church. God blesses her for her love and patient endurance in times of suffering. Since God holds the key of David (Revelation 3:7 is a possible reference to Isaiah 22:20-22), he was going to give her an open door. This open door represents access and may mean access to spiritual treasures (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T. by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p. 939), or possibly to success in spreading the gospel of the kingdom of God, or both. Do we love God? Do we patiently endure afflictions for the sake of the gospel? If so, God will bless our efforts and give us more opportunities like this church.

Laodicea is the luke-warm church. She has wealth and prosperity but no need for God. She isn’t hot for God to evangelize and suffer persecution. She seeks comfort and convenience. She isn’t cold toward God. She still holds church services, teaches the Word of God and seems religious; she just does not live the gospel. Are we that way? If she does not repent, God will spew her out of his mouth. If we don’t, we may also make God sick and lose favor with him.

Each of these letters ends with a promise. These promises are for those who overcome. Who are those who overcome? John said in a previous letter that he “who overcomes the world … [is] he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God,” (1John 5:5, NIV). In the specific context of Revelation 2-3 the promises for “he who overcomes” are written to encourage those in churches who are faithful in times of persecution. We know from other Scriptures that most if not all of these promises are for all true believers in Christ. Here are some of the promises for he who overcomes:

  • He will be given the right to eat from the tree of life and live forever. (2:7b)
  • He ... will not be hurt at all by the second death [though they might suffer physical death they will not suffer spiritual death (a reference to the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14; 21:8)]. (2:11b, NIV)
  • [Jesus] will give [him] some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. (2:17b, NIV). Hidden manna may be a reference to Christ, who gave his life so we might live forever (John 6:31-35,57,58,63), and a white stone may be a reference to being acquitted of all charges against him.
  • He will be given authority to rule over nations and given the Morning Star (2:26b-28). The Morning Star may have a reference to Christ as being his hope of eternal life (2Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16)
  • [He will] be dressed in white [symbolizing purity and righteousness]. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (3:5, NIV)
  • I will make [him] a pillar in the temple of my God [a pillar signifies a place of importance and stability]. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. (3:12, NIV)
  • I will give [him] the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. (3:21, NIV)

Are you a Christian? While we all sin; it is the nature of Christians to overcome the temptations and trials of the world by God's grace and for his glory. If we are overcomers (true Christians), we, too, share these promises.

Lessons to Live By

  • It is good to review our life at the end of every year. What church are we most like? God blesses those who live to please him and are even willing to suffer for his sake.
  • Is your spiritual life dead? Wake up! Repent! Confess your sins! Call upon God to forgive you and bring you spiritual life! (more...)

Today’s Memory Verse

Revelation 1:3 (NIV) “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

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A Look Ahead: In heaven there will be a review of our life. What is heaven like? In our Next Lesson we look at The Throne Room of Heaven. Find out who will be there and who is invited.

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