very church has people in it. That means every church has problems. God revealed Himself to us in nature, in the Bible and in Jesus. We should be grateful that God did not create us and then leave us without a knowledge of Him. That would have been awful. The same is true of His creation of the Church. God gave us detailed instructions about being kind, good, generous, joyful, fair, etc. to our brothers and sisters in the Lord. However, we are not very good at obeying His commands. Because of that, we run into a lot of difficulties. Our problems are myriad. Our greed, self-centeredness, need to be applauded, etc. causes us to mistreat and offend others. None of us is immune to this malady and none of us is spared from the hurtful actions of others. I think we can all agree that every church has issues. But wait, there is good news. God has given the ultimate solution; the solution that works in every instance in every church.
Many before me have identified Revelation chapters two and three as teaching that applies to every church in every geographic location and in every age. The seven churches mentioned in this passage seem to be representative of all churches. I agree, but I would argue that the message to the church begins in chapter one. Revelation 1:1 is the purpose statement for the book, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to Him to show to His bond-servants.” (NASU)
Clearly the book is a revealing of Jesus. Just as clearly, it is a gift from God the Father to God the Son. Plainly, the intention is for God the Son to pass it on to the Church. Looking for anything other than Jesus will cause the reader to go astray in understanding the book. Staying focused on Jesus is exactly what the book tells the Church to do at all times as the solution to each and every difficulty that the Church faces.
Jesus groups the seven churches together as early as 1:4. He does it again in 1:11 and twice in 1:20. There are not seven messages. There is one message given seven times. Jesus identifies different problems for each of the seven churches. However, He does not give seven solutions. He gives the exact same solution to each. Revelation 1:12-20 paints an awesome picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapters two and three, each time an issue is identified in a church, that church is pointed back to the illustration of Christ in 1:12-20. We are given seven different looks at the same message. Ephesus is told to look at the One who walks among the churches. Smyrna is told to look at the One who was dead and has come to life. Pergamum is told to look at the One with the sharp two-edged sword. Thyatira is told to look at the One with the eyes like fire. Sardis is told to look at the One with the seven Spirits of God. Philadelphia is told to look at the One who has the key of David. Laodicea is told to look at the faithful and true Witness. Christ brings every church back to the description of Him in chapter one because there is no other message, “Do not take your eyes off Me.”
Each church had fallen into the same hole, the same trap: taking their eyes off Christ. The solution to every church problem is for every member to fix their eyes on Jesus. That takes care of every issue.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.