Author: Leland Acker

Pastor of Life Point Baptist Church, morning host on News/Talk 102.3 KXYL.

Why the letters to the churches in Revelation are important (It’s about context)

As mentioned several times in this study, the common temptation in Revelation is to disregard the first three chapters. Either (a) the student will assign a deeper theological symbolism to the letters to the churches, or (b) skip them altogether. However, it is the letters to the churches that reveal to us the context of Revelation, and the Lord’s motivation for inspiring the book to be written.

To be honest, the word, “book,” is sort of a misnomer regarding Revelation. Like most of the New Testament, Revelation is a letter. It’s a letter dictated by Jesus, with observations by John, all under the inspiration of the Spirit, addressed to seven churches in Asia, (or, modern-day Turkey.)

With this being a letter from Jesus to seven specific churches, then we have a defined messenger, a defined message, and defined recipients. This means that Revelation is not a coded book of secrets about the future, but rather a direct message to churches about the coming of the Lord, and the preparations that need to be made in the interim.

With that in mind, we can interpret the book of Revelation by reading it as one of the members of those churches would have read it. They didn’t have hundreds of books on Bible symbolism and linguistic training. They took the words of Christ at face value, as we should also.

While there is some symbolic interpretation, the message Christ wants us to take is not one of prophetic knowledge, but one of repentance and faith. Therefore, the letters to the churches should be read, understood, and applied. They are one of the most easily understood and most important passages in Revelation.

With the message of Revelation being repentance and faith leading up to the return of Christ, the letters to the churches demonstrate sins that need to be set aside and repented from, and faith that needs to be applied. If we learn  or understand nothing else from Revelation, let it be the things the Lord wants us to do in light of these letters.

Jesus is coming quickly. Let’s be prepared.

Do something!

One of the most common criticisms of the Laodicean church, based on the words of our Lord in Revelation 3, is that they were rich, slothful, and to a certain degree, prideful. They loved their riches, and proclaimed, “I am rich!”

The problem was that their faith was weak, and that faith could only be strengthened by the Lord’s refining process, which involves trial by fire. The Apostle Peter wrote about such trials in 1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

The Lord invited them to have their faith refined.

This weak faith that the Lord critiqued led to another situation He addressed, the fact that the Laodicean church was lukewarm. This means that the church didn’t really do anything, and didn’t really stand for anything. It just sort of existed. The picture almost becomes one of a social club. There’s no real celebration of redemption. There’s no concerted effort to advance the cause of the Gospel.

Because this church was lukewarm, the Lord threatened to spew them out of His mouth. He then invited the church to let Him in so that He could fellowship with them.

There are multiple lessons from Laodicea. (1) Trust the Lord and allow Him to refine your faith, even when that refining process brings pain. (2) Stand for something, and do something. Don’t merely exist, do something for the Lord. Take a stand for the Lord. (3) Open the door and allow the Lord in. Fellowship with Him. (4) Don’t be so consumed by worldly things that you neglect your Spiritual condition. That leads to true poverty.

Trust the Lord. Love the Lord. Live for the Lord. God bless you.

Don’t sweat the disappointments

Moment of transparency: The shelter-in-place orders of the COVID-19 pandemic have scared me. I do not fear death, disease, or loss of income. I do fear passing the disease to our church members, and I fear losing the church. My biggest fear is that I am not doing a good enough job keeping the church together while we remain in isolation. At the end of the day, God is the One Who does that anyway, and I should have no fear.

The first Sunday we went totally online, our data failed toward the end of the sermon, and I had to finish up early. Two weeks later, my mobile device I was using to stream failed during a Wednesday night message.

Meanwhile, other churches who had already maintained an online presence were putting together top-notch presentations. And while I am not jealous of those churches, and I am not offended when a church member seeks wisdom from the teaching of another pastor, I worried that I had not done enough to minister to my flock. Indeed, the Gospel is being preached more online than ever, and thousands are being reached. Am I doing my part?

Then, I read the letter to the church at Philadelphia, which encouraged a church that was remaining faithful despite mounting obstacles and opposition. The Lord told Philadelphia that they would be spared from the hour of temptation, and their enemies will worship at their feet.

The lesson here is that God honors faithfulness, and He delivers and gives the victory. So, if you are struggling with whether God is pleased with your in-home, quarantined worship, He is. If you are a pastor who cannot get your messages uploaded due to spotty internet service, God still honors your faithfulness.

Turn to the Lord, and He will turn to you. Trust the Lord, and He will deliver you. God bless you all.

The art of self-deception

The scariest verses of the Bible are not the ones where plagues are pronounced and massive destruction happens. The verses that should scare you are the ones where someone entered the presence of Christ thinking they were Spiritually sound, only to find out they were still lost the whole time.

Consider the words of Christ in Matthew 7:22-23:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Here, you have a situation where people were in the Lord’s presence on judgment day, finding out that they were never saved, and thus stood condemned. They protested, saying they had done a lot of wonderful things for the Lord, yet He proclaimed, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These people had probably spent a lifetime doing works that looked good on the surface, but beneath the surface were impure motives and sinful desires. Yet, they convinced themselves that, because what they were doing was good, the ends justified the means.

They justified themselves, and placed their faith in their works, rather than the Lord, who would have cleansed them from all unrighteousness, justified them, and received them into Heaven.

But because they justified themselves, they deceived themselves into thinking that they were doing God’s work. Consider the words of 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Without a real relationship with Jesus Christ, without repentance from sin, pride and dead works, while turning toward and placing your faith in Christ, you are still lost. Any “righteous” works that you do will still leave you short of Heaven.

If you assess your life and conclude that you are without sin, you are also performing the art of deceiving yourself.

The lesson learned from Sardis, posted in the video above, is that you can believe yourself to be in good shape, and have a reputation of being a solid, Spiritual person, and still be Spiritually dead.

Heed the words of Isaiah 1:18, bring your sins to the Lord, and allow Him to cleanse you.

God’s patience runs out

The church at Thyatira, like the other churches in Revelation, had a lot of things going for it… but one issue God took was the sin and immorality that was infiltrating the church. God allowed time for those involved to repent, but they didn’t, so the day of reckoning was coming. From this, we learn that now is always the time to repent.

Watch for pitfalls

Jesus had high praise for the church at Pergamos, but unlike their counterparts in Smyrna, there was an issue. Pergamos had those that held to the doctrine of Balaam. What does that mean?

To understand that, we need to go back and read the story of Balaam from Numbers. Balaam was willing to work with Balak to sabotage or pronounce a curse on Israel, that is, until God told him to only speak the words the Spirit gave Him. Upon heeding those instructions, Balaam proclaimed a blessing on Israel.

What happened next, however, is kind of subtle. With Balaam’s direction, the people of Israel began to worship idols and commit sexual immorality. The result was God’s punishment upon the people.

It is easy to get distracted from our relationship and faith in God by enticing sins and temptations which present themselves. Such was the case at Pergamos. They were faithful to the Lord and endured affliction, but at the same time, they had fallen into temptation.

You can be a faithful Christian, and have issues. You can believe in the Lord and be saved, and yet, struggle with sin. The Lord takes issue with that, therefore when we identify that sin, we should repent of that sin and get it out of our lives.

Or as Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Jesus knows your pain

In his letter to the church at Smyrna, Jesus said, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)”

Smyrna was in a difficult situation. They were being persecuted, they were facing hardships, and they were poor. Jesus said He knew this. Jesus knowledge of the plight of the Smyrnan church went beyond an awareness of their suffering, He understood it, because He experienced it during His earthly ministry.

Jesus gave them hope. He told them that their suffering would not be long, and that it would be rewarded.

For us, the Lord not only knows what we are going through, but He experienced it Himself. Therefore, He is sympathetic (Hebrews 4:15). He will hear your prayer and respond.

In the meantime, the trials and tribulations through which you suffer are not pointless. God uses them to transform you, and He will reward you. Keep looking up, and have faith in the Lord.

When the church forgets its first love…

In Revelation 2-3, Jesus dictates letters to the seven churches of Asia. These are actual letters written to actual churches who were dealing with actual issues. Our Lord’s words are not to be taken as allegory, but rather teaching in response to certain situations that had arisen in His churches. We are to take the lessons He taught them, and apply them to our lives.

In the first letter, addressed to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises their ministry and faithfulness, but He takes issue with one thing… they lost their first love. This problem is so serious, it threatened the very existence of that church. So, what was the first love they left? That question has fueled much debate. In this video lesson, we decode the letter to the Ephesians and learn what the spurned first love was.

Decoding one of the most difficult books of the Bible…

Revelation is one of the most argued over, misinterpreted books of the Bible. Because of the massive amounts of imagery, many think that the book cannot be fully understood until the end times. That’s a faulty assumption.

The fact is, the book of Revelation is not an ancient book of secrets. On the contrary, it was a letter written to seven churches in Asia concerning the end times and the return of Christ. If we approach the book the way those churches would have approached the book, and apply basic rules of Bible interpretation to it, there’s actually a lot we can understand, and a lot we can learn.

Where is Jesus?

In Revelation 1, John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), worshiping in spite of the fact that he is confined to a prison island. As he worships, he hears the voice of the Lord behind him.

When he turns to see the Lord, he describes an indescribable sight of the Lord Jesus in His glorified form, standing among seven golden lamp-stands, and holding seven stars His right hand. Jesus tells John that the seven stars are the seven angels to the churches of Asia, and the seven candlesticks, or lamp-stands, are the seven churches.

“Angels” is translated from the Greek word, “angeloss,” which was a word that simply denoted a messenger. The seven angels (messengers) of the churches were those responsible for delivering God’s message to the churches, namely, the pastors.

It is significant that Jesus held them in His right hand, as He holds all of us in His hands who are His people, and who carry His message forth to the world.

It is also significant that Jesus was standing among the seven candlesticks.

The message to John was bright, if not clear. “John, though you are on this island, I am still holding you in my hand. And though the churches be in disarray and persecuted, I am still among them.”

No matter how bad things get, remember that the Lord still loves us, still holds us, and is still with us.