Jump Start # 3023
Revelation 1:11 “saying, ‘Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
I started a Tuesday class on the Seven Churches in Revelation. Great turnout and great insights and encouragement. Love teaching these special kind of classes. When one comes to Revelation there are two different time periods or dates that people believe it was written. There is the early date, before A.D. 70. Then, there is the late date, around A.D. 96. There are all kinds of articles supporting both ideas. I hold to the late date, A.D. 96. There are several reasons I believe in the late date, but the easiest is Ephesus. I don’t think there was enough time for the church to get established, Paul to write Ephesians, around A.D. 60, meet with the elders in Acts 20, then write to Timothy, (1 & 2 Timothy) who was at Ephesus all before the year A.D. 70, and for the church to already have lost it’s first love. I could be wrong, but that’s how I see it.
So, using the late date of A.D. 96, more than 60 years passed between Acts 2 and Revelation 2. From the beginning of the church, Acts 2, we have two more generations by the time we reach Revelation 2. And, in those two other generations, we see Sardis was dead, Laodicea was lukewarm, Ephesus had become loveless, Pergamum was filled with false teaching. What a mess!
But isn’t there some lessons for us to see:
First, the commitment, conviction and passion of the first generation is often lost in the second and third generation. It was those first people who left idolatry. They had to make the hard choices of staying with what they grew up with or what they now knew was right. Second and third generations do not have to make that choice. It’s made for them. They grow up only knowing the Biblical way of doing things. And, in this, it is easy for second and third generation Christians to take things for granted.
Second, the battles and struggles of the first generation is often very different than the battles later generations face. For those first ones, it was external pressures from a world they were now leaving. Many faced ridicule and persecution because they were so radically different than the culture around them. For second and third generation Christians, the battles are often internal. The fighting takes place within the church as attitudes, opinions and power struggles manifest themselves. In many ways, they have taken their eyes off of the world and have focused only upon themselves.
Personally, I am a sixth generation Christian in my family. Some of the first in my family, back in the early 1800’s, were among the ones who established Biblical worship and a plea for New Testament authority in the county they lived in. They were not only pioneers in the land, but truly pioneers in the faith. And, here I am all these years later, preaching that same Gospel.
What can be done to prevent a generation that leads to a lukewarm or dead church?
First, each person must own their own faith and take responsibility for it. “We’ve always done it this way,” is never the right or proper answer to a question. Teach the Bible. Keep things fresh. Challenge thinking.
Second, evangelize. Invite. Share. Study. Talk. Build. Connect. When we turn our backs to the world, then our focus becomes internal. After a period of that, we become judgmental. Fault finding becomes the norm among many second and third generation Christians. We lose touch with the lost. We forget what it was like to be lost.
Third, realize just a generation away from the word and trouble shows up. It’s that way in Revelation. It’s that way in Judges, after Joshua’s generation died. They were faithful. The next generation did not know the way of the Lord. Why they didn’t know is something to think about. Were they not taught? Were they not interested? Some of the biggest messes in the church has not been created by outsiders but rather by brethren who ought to know better. Nothing replaces faithfulness to God’s word. That echoes through those letters to the churches of Asia.
Finally, the powerful thing about the letters to the seven churches in Revelation is that God is optimistic about their future. Dead Sardis. That’s not the end. God didn’t tell them to close up shop and forget about it. No, not at all. The call to repent fills the air. You can change. You can do better. You don’t have to be dead. The same goes for loveless Ephesus. You can change. Lukewarm Laodicea, you can change. And, that change begins, one by one.
So, if you feel you are walking through the motions, and your spiritual life is useless, make some course corrections and change. Get that passion back. Get excited about worship. Get engaged with God’s word. A dead church doesn’t have to remain dead. Life can resurrect once again through faith and hope in the Lord.
Sixty years had gone by…sure is something to think about.