Sunday March 16, 2014 | Shawna Boren
9 I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
The Book of Revelation was written to seven churches that were facing persecution for their faith. This week we look at the words Jesus gave to them in order to encourage them to endure during their suffering.
Revelation is meant to reveal to us the Good News of Christ Jesus, not the revelation of the end of time. A mistaken way of viewing Jesus is to see him as a violent God, but God’s character is reflective of a self-sacrificial lamb. In this week’s sermon we learn about the churches that received this letter. These churches were made up of Christ-followers who were either going to be persecuted, were already being persecuted, or had been persecuted. John is delivering them a message of hope through the victory of Christ Jesus.
In order to understand the book of Revelation, we need to understand the letter and who it was written to. This book wasn’t written to a future church, but was written to the Christians of the first century and still has application for us today. To understand this application, we need to understand what was going on. Each church was given a specific message, but they all contained some similarities. Jesus wanted these churches to know that he was with them and knew about their sufferings. Jesus wanted them to know that their present worldly sufferings did not compare to the glory that came through his victory.
These beginning chapters of Revelation often are interpreted in such a way as to instill fear in the present day Christian, but such an interpretation is to read the letter through a roaring-lion lens and not a loving-lamb lens. There have been those who have used the words to these churches as a means by which to frighten them into being ‘ready’ for the rapture. These chapters of Revelation have also been used as a guide by which to determine the years until the world would end.
The churches that John wrote to in Asia Minor were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. All seven of these churches were well known by the Apostle John and the congregations knew him well too. John’s letter included imagery that these churches would have easily been able to identify and understand. The letter was received and read to each church, so all of the churches would be informed about one another.
These churches were receiving a message of encouragement and freedom, not disapproval and fear. They all were in the midst of suffering and persecution, but each church faced their own hardships depending on the area or location of their church. The Apostle John was delivering them a message through the Holy Spirit of hope in their suffering. Jesus had conquered death through his resurrection and promised the same victory to those who believed in him. These churches were to face suffering with lamb like love and not lion like violence. Although today we aren’t facing Christian persecution, victory is still found in living life with the same self-sacrificial love as these churches did in the 1st century.