As we continue our study in Revelation on The Point, it is important to remember that the book is really a letter being addressed to seven individual churches in Asia minor. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, where John was incarcerated for his ministry in Ephesus, to give him the word to deliver to those seven churches.
The Lord’s purpose in appearing to John and giving us the Book of Revelation was three-fold. (1) He appeared to remind us that He is returning. (2) He appeared to give us hope by reminding us of His return. (3) He appeared to warn us to correct the sin in our lives in preparation for His return.
It’s important to keep this context in mind, as many theologians make the mistake of treating Revelation like some artifact found by Indiana Jones. Instead of considering it as direct communication between Jesus and seven individual churches, they look for mysterious codes hidden within the text that will unlock some deep truth that will give them a special insight into the future of the human race. This is how cults get started.
With the understanding that Revelation is merely a letter dictated by the Lord (or His messengers) to seven individual churches, we can reject the notion that the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 somehow symbolize seven ages, or seven different classifications of churches. Instead, we can simply look at what the Lord has to say to those seven churches, and learn from it.
So, in Chapter 3, we see three letters written. One was written to Sardis, one to Philadelphia, and one to Laodicea.
Sardis had all the appearances of a church that thrived. They were reaching many. The church was growing. In modern times, their programs would have been working. Jesus told Sardis that they had a reputation that they lived, but were dead (Rev. 3:1). He added that their works were not perfect before Him (Rev. 3:2), which could mean that they did things with impure hearts, or that they had wandered from truth. Either way, they were warned to “strengthen the things which remain (Rev. 3:2)” and “Hold fast and repent (Rev. 3:3)” so that they would be prepared for the Lord’s return.
This teaches us that life is more than our reputations. It doesn’t matter what people think of us as much as it matters what God thinks of us. Therefore, we are to do all things according to His truth, and obey His calling on our lives, regardless of what others think.
Philadelphia was a good, faithful church. Notice that the Lord offers no correction to Philadelphia, as none is needed. Instead, He praises their faithfulness and promises that their suffering will not be in vain. He then encourages them to stay the course.
This teaches us that life is more than the pain we feel right now, and that the Lord sees our suffering, and will reward our faithfulness. Continue in your faith. You will not be disappointed.
The final church mentioned in Revelation 3 is the church at Laodicea. Many preachers have preached that the church of Laodicea is symbolic of the modern church age, where we have become so prosperous and lazy that we are no longer making an impact for the Lord. While some may point to the modern, American contemporary church as the fulfillment of this text, the Christian in Southeast Asia who is being tortured for his faith is nowhere close to being an example of a Laodicean Christian.
Those who say that the modern church is a fulfillment of the Laodicean church age have an American-centric view of Christianity, and have disregarded the plight of the majority of Christians around the world, who have been sentenced to poverty, imprisonment, slavery, and torture as a result of their faith.
That being said, the words Christ spoke to the Laodiceans should be observed by the American church, and any church that has grown lackadaisical. The Lord wants to be an active part of our lives, and He wants us to stand for something.
This teaches us that life is more than our material wealth. Life is about what we do for Christ. What are you doing for Christ?
The overall lesson from Revelation 3 is that we need to prepare for the return of the Lord by recommitting ourselves to Christ and to let our faith in Him propel us through our day to day lives. As we move forward into the book of Revelation, “things get real.” Are you prepared to meet Christ?