Posted in coaching

revelation 2-3

King Jesus reigns over heaven and earth. And he has an amazing master plan! He begins with a message to his Church. What was the Spirit saying to the seven churches in the first century? What he says to every generation! As you read Revelation 2-3, consider how the descriptions are like what’s happening in the church today.

There are always churches like the church of Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7). Some churches labor faithfully for the gospel, endure patiently, and do not tolerate false teaching—but they aren’t very loving. Without love, theological purity is meaningless (1 Cor 13:2). “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” through truth and love.

There are always churches like the church of Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11). Some churches suffer great persecution and need strengthening words of encouragement from the One who knows all too well the pain of slander, ridicule, abuse, and death. Those in the fire of affliction have nothing but Jesus—so they have everything! “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” through faithfulness not so-called “success.”

There are always churches like the church of Pergamum (Rev 2:1217). Some churches hold on to their faith in Christ amid a satanically charged atmosphere. But unfortunately, they also embrace heresies that compromise their witness. Why root out heresy? Heresy always diminishes who Christ is and what he has done. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” by contending for the faith.

There are always churches like the church of Thyatira (Rev 2:1828). For some churches, diligence in ministry abounds in blessings over time. However, in the effort to love well, they end up openly supporting immoral lifestyles as well. God is love (1 John 4:16); we cannot separate his love from his holiness. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” through his sanctified, transforming love.

There are always churches like the church of Sardis (Rev 3:1-6). Some churches are good at marketing themselves. They present the image of being alive, but it’s just a façade. When church activities become “showtime,” it’s time to wake up and repent of “going through the motions.” “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” through meek and unpretentious ministry.

There are always churches like the church of Philadelphia (Rev 3:713). For some churches, their lack of size, resources, and money is no obstacle to accomplishing great things for God’s kingdom. They’re always looking for new opportunities to serve and Jesus keeps opening doors for them! “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” through patient endurance. 

There are always churches like the church of Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22). Some churches seem so confident and prosperous—but they are clueless about their spiritual poverty. They are like lukewarm water, useless in God’s kingdom purposes. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”: God’s people “conquer” through brokenness and humility.

The seven churches reflect the Church in every generation. King Jesus continues to stand in the midst of his people, exposing threats from within, dangers from without, and calling his people to overcome adversity, heresy, and compromise.  

Posted in coaching

revelation 1

With winged and wild creatures, locust plagues, and a crazed woman riding a seven-headed beast, you might think, “Hooray! Season four of Stranger Things is finally being released!” Sorry Netflix bingers. It’s just the book of Revelation. Why is this book so difficult to interpret? Usually people jump right to “what does it mean?” without considering “what is Revelation?” Revelation is an apocalyptic-prophecy-epistle. What’s that?
 
Revelation is an epistle. John wrote this letter to seven real churches from the island of Patmos at the end of Domitian’s reign (AD 95). Domitian was demanding that everyone worship his statue as if he were a god. He terrorized anyone that refused to bow to him. John was on Patmos due to imperial banishment.
 
Revelation is a prophecy (Rev 1:3; 22:18–19). Biblical prophecy “speaks” to the time of the author and into the future. This form of communication is like poetic impressionist paintings. They present God’s message through vivid images, colorful metaphors, and symbols that often parallel one another.
 
Revelation is apocalyptic. Apocalyptic literature arranges its material in numbered sets. When these sets are put together, the events they describe parallel and intensify as God exonerates the righteous and brings an end to history. Thus, when John says, “then I saw” countless times in Revelation, he’s simply indicating the sequence in which he received the visions.
 
The purpose of Revelation is to reveal the victorious, glorious reign of King Jesus. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ–not the revelation of the antichrist (Rev 1:1)! Christ’s ascension proved that he has “the keys of Death and Hades” (1:18). He alone is “seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Eph 1:20-23; cf. Matt 28:18). “In putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb 2:8). But make no mistake about it, Jesus is alive, and he is Lord.
 
Why is it important to know that the rule of Jesus Christ is not something that is going to happen only at the end of history? Revelation reveals how Jesus, “the ruler of the kings on earth,” actively reigns through his Spirit-filled people—a people whom Jesus made “a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Rev 1:5-6; 5:10). Jesus’ kingdom power operates through and becomes evident in our proclamation of the gospel and acts of selfless love. Even our worship and prayers for mercy and justice influence world affairs (5:8; 8:3-4). So, when Jesus says, “I am the Alpha,” the one who began it all, “and the Omega,” the one who completes on earth what he started, he is essentially saying that he has a plan that will progressively intensify the spiritual conflict between God’s kingdom of priests and the forces of evil until he returns to usher in the eternal Age to Come (1:8).
 
What timeframe in history does Revelation focus on? Jesus explains this, too. Revelation concerns things “that are” (John’s day), and “things that must soon take place” (after John’s day), and things “that are to take place after this” (long after John’s day; 1:1, 19). Revelation pertains to every generation since John’s generation.
 
Although it’s easy to get caught up in the details, it’s important to remember that Jesus begins and ends his Revelation with a blessing for those who not only read and hear the words of this book, but for those “who keep what is written in it” (1:3; 22:7, 9). How can you “keep” what is written in this book? Stay tuned!