A Message to the Church Today
When we read the letters to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 2–3, we get the sense just by the fact that he’s picked seven when, of course, there were more of those, that it’s almost as if it’s communicating that this is to the entire church. And I think not just to the church in John’s day, but actually to the church today.
These churches were in various situations and they were dealing with very different things. Yet when we look at what they’re dealing with and the things that they are challenged by, I think we can see the church across the world today.
For example, several of the churches are challenged because of their toleration of false teaching. Well, that sounds like the church today. There is a lot of the church that tolerates, encourages, and refuses to deal with false teaching and actually doesn’t see it as much of a crisis. But the book of Revelation would tell us otherwise.
Another thing would be persecution. While we in the West don’t face a lot of outright persecution, we know there are believers in the world today whose lives are on the line because of their bold allegiance to Jesus Christ. And the message of Revelation is, “Hold on. Hold onto your confidence in Christ. Hold onto your bold allegiance to Christ.” It doesn’t actually say, “I’m going to take care of you. You won’t die.” It says, “You may die. But in fact, you will not perish. You will be protected for eternity.”
So this message to patiently endure persecution for Christ is a message our church needs today. And if where we are right now means we don’t need it today, maybe we will tomorrow. So we want to embrace it and build our lives on it.
Another thing is that for many of the churches, the issue is not persecution that threatens them. Actually it’s material comfort that threatens them. They compromise to get along, especially with the trade guilds where they work. They’re willing to do some kind of token allegiance to pagan gods just so business goes well. And while we’re not surrounded by these outright pagan gods in the way that they are, certainly idolatry for the cause of material comfort is a challenge to us in the church today.
Finally, I think about the church where the issue is having lost their first love. I think many of us—both as individuals but also as the church—can make the church and our Christian lives about so many things and so many causes. But this book of Revelation and these letters call us to actually make our Christian life about maintaining and nurturing our love for Jesus Christ.
This is a guest article by Nancy Guthrie, author of Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the book of Revelation. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.
Nancy Guthrie teaches the Bible at her church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and at conferences worldwide. She and her husband, David, are the cohosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 10,000 churches nationwide and also host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Guthrie is also the host of Help Me Teach the Bible, a podcast of the Gospel Coalition.