Finding your Church in the Book of Revelation

Bible Book: Revelation 
Subject: Church; Christian Living
Introduction

Some pseudo-ecclessiologists claim that the modern church in no way resembles the church of the New Testament. Such statements are ludicrous and reveal ignorance on the part of the speaker for there are many different types of churches in the New Testament. The Church at Jerusalem was a soul-winning and unified church; the Church at Corinth was carnal, confused church; the Church at Macedonia was mission-minded and giving church; the Church at Berea was a Bible-centered church. We could go on but I think you get the idea. Churches in the New Testament concentrated on various issues to their gain or to their loss.

In Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, we discover seven churches, all of which are addressed by the Lord. In fact, at the end of chapter 1, we see the Savior walking among the churches with the angels (messengers or pastors) held in His hand. Frankly, this is the only place I know of in the Bible where a pastor is called an angel!

Some people think of Jesus as being far away in heaven, floating on some ethereal cloud. The Book of Revelation shows Him moving around in His churches. Then, in chapters 2 and 3, we see Jesus addresses the seven churches of Asia. Please note that the seven churches mentioned in these chapters were actual churches. But also take note that seven is the number of perfection in the Bible – the number seven represents completeness. It is fitting to look at the seven churches in our text today as representing all the churches that have or will exist during the church age. The church age began at Pentecost and will end when Jesus comes to rapture into Heaven all Christians.

Thus, when we look at Revelation 2 and 3, we are looking at all the churches of all the ages. That means that our church ought to be in here somewhere. I want to ask you to help me find our church among these seven churches. Let's look at all seven and then decide where we fit in to this picture.

I. The Cold Church - The Church at Ephesus - 2:1-7

(The theme verse is 2:4)

The Church at Ephesus was active but lacked adoration. They took duty seriously but their devotion to Christ was deficient. They were busy, they believed and they behaved, but they did not love Jesus first and foremost! This was a cold church.

II. The Confronted Church - The Church at Smyrna - 2:8-11

(Theme verse is 2:10)

The Church at Smyrna was a suffering church becaue they were confronted with hostility and animosity. Not a word of condemnation was spoken against this church by Jesus, for they held to the truth despite the torturous manner in which they were treated. A modern equivalent to Smyrna might well be seen in the dedication of Christian in Communist countries over the last 100 years. Believers in these countries have flocked to churches by the thousands whenever given the slightest opportunity. A preacher who was allowed to preach in Russia prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall told how hundreds of people crowded into a small building two hours before the service and with no where to sit, they stood with tears in their eyes waiting to hear from God's Word. What a contrast to the church in most of the free world.

III. The Contaminated Church - The Church at Pergamum - 2:12-17

(Theme verse is 2:14)

The Church at Pergamum was contaminated with sin and symbolizes congregations today that wink at sin and make light of wrong-doing. As a boat is to be in the water but water is not to be in the boat, so the church is supposed to be in the world, but the world is not supposed to be in the church. At Pergamum, the world had gotten into the church. The water of compromise was sinking the church. Dear friend, be sure of this, when sin is taken lightly, the church will be taken lightly by the world in which it exists. Perhaps that is one reason the church is in decline today! A church that winks at sin is not far from losing its influence and authority in the world where it is called and planted to serve.

IV. The Comprising Church - The Church at Thyatira - 2:18-29

(Theme verse is 2:20)

The Church at Thyatira could well be called a church comprising. We are told that Jezebel was there and that she deliberately led the people away from truth. Certainly the term Jezebel used in this passage is figurative, but what does it mean? If we go back to the Old Testament we are made to remember that Jezebel was the wicked wife of the ungodly King Ahab. She was a liar and led the nation astray, along with her husband who did the same. This is the church of false doctrine. This church denies the Bible truths and supplants them with selfish, worldly, popular, false doctrines.

V. The Comatose Church - The Church at Sardis - 3:1-6

(Theme verse is 3:1b-2a)

Sardis was a dead church, or one that was dormant, sleeping and needed to be roused. How many churches are there that need to be shaken and awakened from their sleep. The true Church of Jesus possesses limitless strength, perfect truth, and promised victory. Why would a church desire to sleep when great work awaits to be done?

VI. The Commissioned Church - The Church at Philadelphia - 3:7-13

(Theme verses is 3:7-11) (The conquering Church)

Oh, sweet Philadelphia. Just as we are about to be depressed with the list of failing congregations, our Lord points out the conquering, commissioned church at Philadelphia. This is the church of the open door. This is the church to which even the enemies of God come to bow down. This is the kind of church that sees a woman like Ms. Roe, of the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision, accept Christ and be baptized. This is the kind of church that sees a Chuck Colson turn to Christ and give his life to helping prisoners. This church is missionary. This church is Christ-centered, Bible-based, mission-minded, Spirit-led and divinely-empowered!

VII. The Conceited Church - The Church at Laodecia - 3:14-22

(Theme verse is 3:17)

The last of the seven churches turned the stomach of Christ and will sour our own if we think seriously about it. It is a church conceited and deluded. This church thinks it is a Philadelphia church when it is anything but that! This church is lukewarm, and is advised to repent or lose its influence completely. That is what is meant by the threat to remove the candlestick from its place. This church is far too representative of the modern Christian church. You see, if we become pround and self-centered, God will take the light away from us and we will be as dark as the world around us. No wonder this church made Christ sick!

Conclusion

Where are we in this list of churches? Understand something very important, churches are made up of individual members. A church will have an overall character, but most churches have some members from each of the seven categories above. Jesus longs to make us a Philadelphia Church - a commissioned church with an open door that no man can shut!

Look carefully at chapter 3:19 and note the plural usage of the word "those." Yet, in verse 20 when Jesus stands at the door and knocks, he calls to "anyone." Jesus visits churches where people gather in plural groups, but He calls in singular tones of appeal. He calls to each one of us. What kind of church member are you? Are you cold, having left your first love; are you confronted with persecution, before which you stand courageously; are you contaminated with habits that displease Christ; are you mixed up in doctrine and belief; are you sleeping when you ought to be working; are you conceited and thinking better of yourself than you should? Or, are you on fire for Christ, living before an open door of ministry that no one can close?

Many of us today need to listen to a knock at our heart's door. Not because we are lost, but because Jesus is seeking to have a closer walk and fellowship with us and we have locked Him out. We need to pray for our church, that we will always be a Philadelphia Church - empowered by our Lord to serve Him faithfully in this wicked world.

Extra Illustrations:
Judgmental Churches

A doctor in a mission hospital gave medical treatment to six young prostitutes and then invited them to church. But the members in the congregation couldn't see beyond the girls' shameful reputation. They gasped when the young women shyly walked into the sanctuary, and for two successive Sundays the people completely ignored them. Then someone started a whispering campaign, and soon there was a demand that such undesirable be kept out of the church. But action wasn't necessary‑‑the girls never came back.

Lifeboat Drill

Bruce Revel tells about taking a cruise on a large ocean liner. Soon after boarding the craft, he found out that everyone would be required to participate in a lifeboat drill.

"One requirement was that everyone had to wear a life jacket. When the alarm sounded, all passengers and crew gathered at the appointed location. The scene was amazing. Every man, woman, and child on that ship was wearing the same kind and color of life jacket. Finely dressed ladies with expensive jewelry were wearing exactly the same kind of life jacket as the cleaning women. Men in elegant tuxedos wore the same life jacket as the men who worked in the kitchen.  "This is a beautiful illustration of the reality of the church. Every time the people of God gather, it is like that lifeboat drill. No matter what our status or economic level, everyone must have the same life preserver‑‑Jesus Christ."  [Clergy Journal, Apr 1993. Page 36.]

Living Things

What are four characteristics of living things? (1) Living things are made up of cells. (2) They need food. (3) They grow. (4) They reproduce. The church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive, but they were as good as dead. The Lord didn't give us a direct explanation for His words "you are dead" in Revelation 3:1, but it is reasonable to believe that these Christians were weak in the same four areas that are unique to a living organism. First, the cells of this church body were not working well. While some members were walking with the Lord (3:4), many others had ceased to function properly. Also, this church had stopped taking in the right spiritual food. The Lord admonished them to begin listening to His Word and Spirit once again (3:3,6). Third, they had stopped growing as a body. although they had knowledge, their actions left much to be desired. Finally, it is probably safe to conclude that a church in such bad shape was reproducing very little. When Christians get weak and cold, they stop multiplying.

A Cold Church

The South Pole could be called the healthiest place on earth, because there's no pollution, no dust, and very few people. The air is as fresh and clean as it must have been everywhere before man began pouring industrial wastes into the atmosphere. Furthermore, it's one of the few locations where man is not bombarded by germs. Not only is it too cold for them to be active, but there's nothing for them to live on. And since winds start at the South Pole and move northward, they tend to keep away any contaminants from that region. Now, you'd think people would be eager to live in such a germ‑free environment, but they're not. With temperatures that drop to 100 degrees below zero, it's just too cold! Some churches bear a striking resemblance to that kind of atmosphere. The truth of God is preached. Error has no chance to survive. Scriptures are meticulously quoted by the chapters. But there is no corresponding obedience or love, and the spiritual temperature is sub‑zero. Unloved and untouched, many people leave. The poor are given the cold shoulder (Jas. 2:13). Those weak in the faith are engaged in icy arguments (Rom. 14:1). Brothers in Christ are left outside because they're newcomers, and they pose a threat to inbred relationships (3 John 1:5‑10).  A cup of cold water should go in the mouth‑not down the neck.

Frost Bell

A man was visiting a floral shop when he suddenly heard the sound of an electric bell. "Frost!" exclaimed the proprietor as he rushed to the greenhouses. When he returned, he explained that the fires had nearly gone out because the watchman had fallen asleep. Then he said, "If it hadn't been for my 'frost bell,' I'd have lost hundreds of plants. This device, which is now used by many florist and fruitgrowers, is an electrical unit connected to a thermometer. It detects when the mercury drops below a certain point, and immediately a warning is sounded. Many crops of fruit and flowers have been saved in the past years by this useful invention."

Pastor Raymond Biddle writes, "Our church has a good, clear ringing bell, but yesterday we were ashamed of it. The first dull sound sent me looking for the bellringer, who soon found out what was wrong. Nearly an inch of snow and sleet had blown in on it during a night storm, and it was thoroughly encased in ice. What a poor call to worship it gave.  "Then the Lord impressed on me the thought that Christians often become sheathed in the sound‑ deadening things of the world. As a result their witness becomes 'ice‑encased.'"

Rot from the Inside

After a violent storm one night, a large tree, which over the years had become a stately giant, was found lying across the pathway in a park. Nothing but a splintered stump was left. Closer examination showed that it was rotten at the core because thousands of tiny insects had eaten away at its heart. The weakness of that tree was not brought on by the sudden storm; it began the very moment the first insect nested within its bark.

Compromise

A hunter who had his gun aimed at a large bear was ready to pull the trigger. Just then the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice saying, "Isn't it better to talk than to shoot? Why don't we negotiate the matter? What is it you want?" The hunter lowered his rifle and answered, "I would like a fur coat." "That's good," said the bear. "I think that's something we can talk about. All I want is a full stomach; maybe we can reach a compromise." So they sat down to talk it over. A little while later the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful‑‑the bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had a fur coat!

Life in the Cellar

A father was telling his young son about Holman Hunt's picture, "Christ Knocking at the Door." The boy said thoughtfully, "Father, did He get in?"

"I don't think so."

"Why not?" he asked.

"I don't know, Son."

The little fellow was silent for a moment, and then exclaimed, "I think I know, Dad. They must have been living in the cellar. That's why they didn't hear Him!"