What’s Wrong with the Church?
See Jesus, See His Glory and See His Bride!
In a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Christian faith, people often ask if the Bible is still relevant for today? Is God still speaking? Of course, He is. The real question is: Are we listening? Imagine if our church received a letter from Jesus Himself. What would He say about our love for God? Endurance in trials? Faithful service? Would His words bring commendation… or condemnation? We do, in fact, have such a letter. In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, Jesus’ words to 7 churches are as relevant & today as they were in the 1st century.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” 12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
The Book of Revelation tells us the ultimate outcome of history. How does knowing the ending to your story affect the way you live? Is this something you think about often? Why or why not?
The seven lampstands in verse 12 represent Christian churches. What does it mean for a church to be a light? How do we do this?
Jesus is portrayed majestically among the churches (vv. 12-16). What does this mean? How does it apply to our present-day churches and our personal lives?
Name characteristics of the glorified Jesus from Revelation 1:12-16. What do the images John saw suggest about Jesus?
What are some circumstances or events that have happened in your past that caused you to be as overwhelmed by God as John was?
God, let us be amazed by you always. Thank you for changing our lives through your resurrection. Thank you for being in heaven and interceding for us before the Father. We love you! Amen!
Of the truths in this passage, which most motivates you to live a life of urgency and preparation, both in your own spiritual growth and your commitment to sharing the gospel with others? Explain your thoughts.
What is one step you can take to make sure you acknowledge the glory of God every day?
1:9. Tradition indicates the apostle John was exiled by the Roman emperor Domitian to a penal colony on the island called Patmos, about 40 miles southwest of Ephesus in the Aegean Sea, in about a.d. 95. He was released sometime after Domitian’s death in 96. John emphasized being a partner in tribulation (i.e., “suffering, distress”; see 2:9). This is not a reference to the unparalleled time of difficulty just before the second coming of Christ.
1:10. “In the Spirit” refers to the exalted spiritual state that John was in as he received the visions of the Apocalypse. “The Lord’s day” is likely a phrase referring to the first day of the week—Sunday, the day of resurrection—which had become the day of worship for Christians (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).
1:11. Some interpreters believe that Revelation was written as a “book” (i.e., in a codex format), but it is much more likely that the Greek word here (“biblion”) should be translated “scroll”. The seven local churches addressed in Revelation were chosen from among all the churches in Asia Minor to serve as examples of the kinds of realities playing out in church life. These seven were obvious choices since they were located on the roads of a circular postal route, giving them prominence due to their ease of access.
1:12-18. The seven gold lampstands are the seven churches (v. 11; chaps. 2-3). John had seen Jesus Christ in a similar glorified state on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). He had also seen His resurrection body after He was raised (John 20; Acts 1:2-11). John was also acquainted with the rich Old Testament images of the glorified Son of Man (see Dan. 7:13) that this vision on Patmos recalled.
1:14. The similes of the Son of Man’s head and hair being white like wool, depicting wisdom and purity, and His eyes being like a fiery flame, picturing piercing holiness, fuse the vision of the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9) and Jesus’ appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2).
1:15. Unlike the feet of the statue in Dan. 2:33-35, which crumbled, the description like fine bronze... fired in a furnace speaks of strength and stability. A voice like the sound of cascading waters would have riveted John’s attention as he was imprisoned on an island where powerful waves crashed ashore.
1:16. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches (v. 20). The sharp double-edged sword that came from His mouth symbolizes the power of the Word of God to judge (Heb. 4:12). The Son of Man’s face... shining like the sun was another reminder to John of what he saw with his own eyes on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2).
1:17. That John fell at His feet was an act of fear and awe at the Lord revealing Himself so profoundly to mankind (Dan. 8:17). John’s reaction shows he experienced the glory of Christ more fully here than on the Mount of Transfiguration or in His post-resurrection appearances.
1:18. Christ’s authority over the keys of death and Hades was stated in His declaration that He would found the church (Matt. 16:18). This will be exercised when death and Hades are emptied and then destroyed at the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
1:19. The risen Christ here commanded John to write, just as in verse 11. What you have seen is the vision of verses 12-18. What is refers to the present state of affairs in the churches in chapters 2–3. What will take place after this refers to the body of the book (chaps. 4–22), which begins with “after this” (4:1).
1:20. The Greek word translated “secret“is “musterion,” which speaks of something formerly unknown which has now been revealed. The overwhelming usage of the Greek word “aggeloi” in the book of Revelation is in reference to spirit beings and not human messengers (v. 1; 5:2). Perhaps the angels of the seven churches spoken of here functioned like so-called guardian angels for members of those churches (Heb 1:14).