Why study the “seven churches of Asia Minor” in the first place

(6th in a series on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“Now, all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

When I asked on Facebook why we should study the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, a professor friend gave what must be the simplest, clearest and best answer:  “Because it’s easier than anything else in Revelation.”  I laughed out loud, realizing that he had expressed precisely what I have felt over the years in turning to that book.

My New Orleans buddy Jim Smith came up with he most creative answer: “Because the churches of Asia Major weren’t so interesting?”

But, back to the question:  Why should we study letters to seven churches we would never have heard of otherwise?

Maybe the Lord is using it for discipline? Like putting us through boot camp, giving us something really hard–and it is that–to toughen us up for whatever lies ahead.

Maybe He wants us to be historians?

Does the Lord somehow need His children to know what went on two thousand years ago?  Are we to be trivia buffs regarding the first century of believers?  History experts?  Why does this stuff matter?

It’s a legitimate question, one every generation asks.

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Jesus’ last word to the church: Repent.

(Fifth in a series on The Seven Churches of Asia Minor. Revelation 1-3)

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30.  Paul’s message to Athens.)

Contrary to popular opinion, the Lord’s final word to the Church was not the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).  It was the message of Revelation 2-3.  To five of the seven churches of Asia Minor, that final word was: “Repent.”

I was 27 years old, pastoring a small church on Alligator Bayou west of New Orleans, a recent seminary graduate, and being interviewed by a pastor search committee.  The chairman of the committee, a distinguished businessman named Lawrence Bryant, said to me, “Pastor, what do you believe about repentance?”

I answered, “There is no salvation without repentance.  Twice in Luke 13 our Lord told people ‘Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.'”

What I did not know was that this was a big deal to that astute layman.  Lawrence Bryant had been a lukewarm church member all his life and knew from personal experience the kind of flawed product easy believism turns out.  At the age of 43–ten years before our encounter–he had been righteously, gloriously, fully saved, and nothing was ever the same.  He wanted none of the easy-going churchism that so often passed for the genuine article if he could help it.

He came to the right boy.  The Lord had been impressing upon me the importance and necessity of repentance in Scripture and in life.

The Greek word for repentance metanoia means to have a change of mind which results in a life change.  The message is preached throughout Scripture, but particularly in the New Testament.  “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

You’re traveling a highway. Suddenly, you realize you’re going the wrong way and look for the next opportunity to do a U-turn.  I’ve done that a hundred  times.  Before the change of direction, there is a change of mind.

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The Lord takes His churches to the woodshed

(Fourth in a series on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.  For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

The Lord Jesus was unhappy with His churches.  Five of the seven congregations scattered across Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) were already getting off-track and needed some swift attention.  The two exceptions were Smyrna and Philadelphia.  But the other five churches received stern rebukes.

To all the seven churches of Asia Minor, the Lord gave four things (with slight variations for Smyrna and Philadelphia):

HIS ANALYSIS.  This is His report card.  His “state of the state” message.

HIS WARNINGS.  Repent or else.

HIS INSTRUCTIONS.  Remedial actions the Lord would like to see.

HIS PROMISES.  To Him who overcomes, blessings await.  Each church gets its own promise.

These four blessings–for they were that–were not given to the unbelieving world, not to pagan religions, and not to political powers.  They were gifts from Heaven to seven congregations for whom the Lord Jesus had great expectations and important roles to play.

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Playing these little games with God’s Word

(Third in a series on John’s Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia….” (Revelation 1:4).

Did you know if you take the seventh letter from the 7th chapter of each book of the Bible, it forms a secret message?  I didn’t either.  But it’s no weirder than some of the schemes people come up with to make Scripture say more than it was intended.

The cults are notorious for finding secret messages in Scripture.

God’s faithful children must be careful not to fall for such schemes and not to try to read hidden messages into God’s Word.

His Word is sufficient.

I’m deep into studying the first three chapters of Revelation, for the umpteenth time in my life.  There is so much here.

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