Sorry, it has taken me a few weeks to close out this series. I don’t like to leave things undone and didn’t mean to leave you hanging. It’s been a busy couple of weeks getting things rolling in Blairsville, so I haven’t had much time to write. I’m hoping to continue writing very soon. If you would like to continue receiving devotional emails or Bible studies from me, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add you to my new mailing list.
Thanks for reading and putting up with my idiotic ramblings for the last few years. I hope that you have found encouragement and strength for your daily walk with the Lord as well as a gentle push to dive into the deep end of God’s wonderous word and study it for yourself. I love and miss you all very much!!! Ok, let’s land the plane and finish this series. Hold on tight because it’s a doozy.
It’s been great digging into this exciting Revelation from God, even if it’s only scratching the surface of what’s inside. There are 19 more chapters filled with some awesome, mysterious, and even scary stuff. It’s been a while since I really dove into these eschatological and apocalyptic waters. It’s very similar to its Old Testament prophetic counterpart, the book of Daniel that we studied a while back. It’s very ethereal, other worldly, or better yet heavenly. While I hesitate to say it because to me it’s not fiction, but it reads a little like science fiction. What the book of Revelation really gives us is a small view of the heavenly realm and things that we really can’t comprehend from a human perspective. To many, God isn’t that impressive and is almost viewed as trivial or irrelevant. God is so often viewed in human terms through finite comparisons that can’t hold a candle to His glory. While there are plenty of awe-inspiring accounts throughout the Bible, books like Daniel and Revelation take it to another level entirely. So instead of just peeking behind the curtain, just swing that thing wide open and soak up God’s awesomeness in Revelation chapters 4-22.
Remember the book of Revelation is in part a book of worship. It’s about recognizing the greatness of God, a greatness that is beyond anything that we have ever known or will ever know this side of eternity. There is no higher authority and no other reason for our existence. He IS or should be the most important thing in our lives. It’s obvious that this Revelation got John’s undivided attention on the Isle of Patmos, but what will it take to get ours? Well, If the first six letters didn’t get our attention, this last one should send a chill up our spines. It certainly does mine every time I read it.
Letter to Laodicea:
Personally, I think this church is the recipient of the harshest criticism. It also contains a word that is only used once in the Bible. Jesus tells them that they are “lukewarm”. While that may not sound so bad, it is according to Jesus. In fact, He is disgusted by lukewarmness. “Lukewarm” in the Greek is ἐμέσαι (emesai). It could be where we get our English word “emaciated” meaning abnormally thin or weak, especially because of illness or a lack of food. So, Jesus is saying that the Laodiceans and their lukewarm faith is weak and thin which in turn is making Him “sick” or nauseous. In Revelation 3:16 Jesus says, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The original Greek meaning of ἐμέσαι (emesai) is “vomit”. In addition, it means “repulsed”, “showing utter rejection” (desiring total separation); and “to reject with extreme disgust”. It’s not a pretty picture to say the least especially since I used the “V” word.
“Yeah, thanks a lot Robby for that image in my brain!”
Again, as we’ve seen in the other letters, there is a side of Jesus that many are not comfortable with. Call it whatever you want, but to some this authoritative and confrontational Jesus is unacceptable. Many want a “buddy” or cute and cuddly Jesus that tells them exactly what they want to hear. One that will “tickle” their ears. In 2 Timothy 4:3 the Apostle Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires,” While our current culture is enjoying a renaissance of ear tickling and unsound doctrine, it’s been going on for centuries. It can be traced back to the early church. This is why this warning from Jesus is so timeless and relevant for us today.
Ok, before I go on, we need to remember that this isn’t about whether God loves us or not. It is about sin, our behavior, intentions, state of the heart, etc. As we learned previously, God wants us burning hot and our Jesus light shining brightly for all to see. You know the “city on a hill” thing from Matthew 5:14. That’s what Jesus and God want from us. While it’s easy to think that being “cold” would be worse than lukewarm, apparently, it’s not according to this passage. Another word for lukewarm is “tepid”. Neither one of these words have a warm glow around them. While I like to swim in tepid water, I don’t like to drink it unless I absolutely have to.
I think I’ve shared this story before, but I think it bears repeating because it applies directly to these words from Jesus. When I was in college at Mars Hill my dad had an accident while inspecting one of the houses that he had designed. He was an Architect for those who didn’t know. He fell headfirst off of a 25-foot ladder and suffered horrific injuries. He actually died on the way to the hospital. Fortunately, they were able to revive him, but his out of body experience was not a pleasant one. According to my dad, he had a vision of God spewing him out of His mouth. While it took my dad a while to recover from his serious physical injuries, he never spiritually recovered from that experience. It shook him to his very core. He was forever changed, but in a good way. His walk with the Lord began to heat up. No more “hot and cold”, on and off again faith. He also became a strong advocate and champion of the truth of God’s word.
Many have doubts about these “afterlife” experiences, and my dad would have agreed with them up until this happened. While he was a believer, he wasn’t taking it seriously enough according to his own testimony. Does that mean my dad was perfect after that? No, he was still human and still susceptible to his “earthly nature” as we all are. Of course, the only time we will ever be totally free from sin is when we are with the Lord. However, my dad’s transformation was real and unmistakably evident in the way he lived from then on. Hopefully it won’t take this kind of experience to transform us into what God wants us to be, but we are stubborn or “stiff-necked” as Stephen describes in Acts 7:51. “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” After which, Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the truth. In our stubbornness, we resist and refuse to surrender our will for God’s. We refuse to repent, to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.” (Matthew 16:24-26)
Is being “lukewarm” really the worst? Well, I’m just speculating of course. No one can say for sure what is “the worst”. Only God can do that, but Jesus’ reaction should be a huge clue. The point of these letters isn’t to scare us to death, which it does because we are all guilty of lukewarmness, of losing our first love and allowing ungodly influences or false teachings to corrupt our thinking. Remember Romans 3:23 tells us that “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. Plus, Jesus coming like a thief in the night is pretty terrifying when you really think about it. Who wants to be caught by surprise? And I know I keep bringing it up. So, way to go Robby! Am I fixated or what?
Anyway, the point of these letters is to wake us up, revive us, bring us back from the dead spiritually, and reignite the fire of our first love. But, in order to do that Jesus says over and over again that we have to repent to get back on track. Of course it’s not going to be easy. Working out our salvation with “fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12 NIV) and spiritual warfare never are. But if we do our best to keep-obey God’s commands, love Him with everything we’ve got, stop falling for cheap imitations remaining unsoiled or contaminated by false teachings and the sinful practices of this world, we can be like one of those faithful “few” from Sardis that we studied about earlier in this series. Let’s revisit Revelation 3:4-5 that says, “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” I want some of that, don’t you?
Just to be clear, I read these letters the same way you do. I’m equally convicted because I know that I am far from perfect or worthy. Like my dad I’m sure that there are things in my life that make God nauseous. My faith is not always red hot and may even seem lukewarm and lifeless at times, but I refuse to give up. I want to keep battling, and part of God’s battle plan or playbook includes daily confession and repentance. The really cool thing is that when we do confess our sins to God and repent 1 John 1:9 says that He is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confession-
While the book of Revelation is not an easy read, there is a multitude of hope within its pages. While Jesus may seem a little rougher around the edges than some would like, it’s still the same Jesus, the same Gospel, and the same message of repentance. Jesus is still offering the same salvation in the same way to anyone who wants it whether it’s from the book of Revelation, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or any other passage of scripture in the Bible. Repentance is not a new word or concept that just pops up from out of nowhere in the book of Revelation. This was God’s plan all along and Jesus as a member of the Trinity or Godhead was in on it from the get-go. Remember God is 3-in-1. This 3-in-1, Trinity, or Godhead is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning, and the end. He/They are the same from Genesis to Revelation from beginning to end. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)
While I’m using James 1:17 to point out that God’s unchangeable nature, I’m also drawn to the meaning behind “shifting shadows”. James is making a contrast between an unchangeable and perfectly consistent God and shifting shadows. This recalls a slang word that apparently goes way back to the 1500’s. To be “shifty” means to behave in a deceitful or evasive manner, to be dishonest or tricky. And of course, shadows conjure up images of darkness and evil. Remember the old TV show “Dark Shadows”? My point is that God is not shifty. So, we can trust Him completely because He doesn’t hide in the shadows. His word is absolutely true. His character is spotless and beyond reproach. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all”. (1 John 1:5 NIV) Hallelujah!
In closing, there is no mention that the five churches that received negative criticism ever got their act together. The physical ground where they met are now historical sites in Turkey which is 90% Muslim. However, I’m hopeful that they did repent, clean house, reignite their passion-love for God, and chose to join those “few” worthy and faithful people from Sardis who would walk with Jesus “dressed in white”. I’m praying we all get that opportunity if we choose to remain faithful and obedient to our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.
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Love and miss y’all very much!