I am reading through Revelations (otherwise known as The Revelation of Jesus Christ) and I would like to share the first few things that have jumped out at me.
I Know Your Works
The Revelations Chapter 2-3 letters to the seven churches are all about showing us what God expects from us and will be looking for increasingly as it is coming closer to Jesus returning. First lets look at how each letter applies to us now. Notice the predominant theme of Jesus pointing out our works. We will look at why He does that more later. Try and think about which ones you can relate most to as you read.
Letter to Ephesus
-I know your works
-Endurance through suffering and not tolerating evil is good
-Without love we have nothing
-If we can maintain our love for God (our first love) then we get to be close with him forever (tree in the paradise with God) otherwise God will remove our success (our high position of visibility ie. the lamp stand)
Letter to Smyrna
-I know your tribulation and poverty
-Many who are poor in this world are rich in God’s eyes (have many valuable things in the spirit and have many eternal rewards stored up)
-This says we must value eternal rewards over earthly rewards
-Many Christians will be called to death but if they are faithful unto death they won’t be harmed by the eternal suffering of hell (the second death)
Letter to Pergamum
-I know where you live
-Holding to faith when persecuted for it is good
-Any compromise by pursuing/holding onto things of this world over God’s instructions will put us in direct opposition to God’s work (ie. he will fight against us)
-If we don’t compromise for pleasure then God will sustain us (hidden mana) and view us specially forever
Letter to Thyatira
-I know your works
-Increasing in love, faithfulness, service and endurance is fantastic
-If we tolerate people who refuse to repent from sin then God holds it against us
-If we keep true to God’s calling for our lives/the Church and align ourselves only with the people he is aligned with then he will give us authority over the nations
Letter to Sardis
-I know your works
-Many seem to be doing God’s will (seem alive) but are dead in God’s eyes
-God says to these people wake up and protect what remains by repenting otherwise God will take what remains (their salvation)
-To the few that are not defiled God will never take away their salvation and will be proud to stand with you in heaven
Letter to Philadelphia
-I know your works
-some have limited capacity but are still able to do the works of God and stand for what is right
-God will keep these people from experiencing the final testing that God will put everyone else through as these have already proven their endurance
-To these he will ensure that things work out for them (doors open) and will give them a place in his glory forever
Letter to Laodicea
-I know your works that you are complacent and have become comfortable with life as it is instead of continuing to mature
-These people make God so disgusted he wants to vomit them out of his mouth!
-Many think they are rich and have it all together but God sees them as wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked
-God has the things of eternal significance for these people too but they need to repent and change their values in order to seek the things of God again
-Accepting correction as love, repenting and recommitting to the ways of God will earn these people the right to sit with Jesus on his throne
Five out of seven of the churches Jesus most distinguished their works when speaking to them. The word used for works is “2041 /érgon (“work”) is a deed (action) that carries out (completes) an inner desire (intension, purpose)”. I found this definition incredibly revealing! This might seem dumb, but our works complete our inner desires. I never understood why God cared so much about the product of our work when I grew up thinking we should be measured based on our heart motivation and our effort. God looks at the inside right? But this definition helped me to realize God is the one who created our desires so of course he will judge us more based on what we do with what he has given us (works) as opposed to judging us based on what gifts he gave us (desires).Jeremiah 31:33 says “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts.”. How we respond to God’s spirit in us over time is what completes us. This is the completeness that James 1:4 talks about. It is also what God talks about when he says whether our works are complete or not. Have we figured out what gifts he has given us (passions, skills, resources) and how to use them to build his kingdom on earth? If we have done that while keeping a humble heart and not becoming complacent with injustice then he views our works as complete. Our efforts need to remain true when it is hard (endure). That is where the time aspect comes in. It is only over time that we produce the fruit of righteousness. All of the judgments (good or bad) that God gave in the seven letters were about actions over time in light of the circumstances.
God’s Kingdom is like a Startup
God’s interactions with the Church are actually a lot like a decentralized business startup. People are chosen and are expected to bring all the skills they have to help the company succeed. Upon getting hired, each member is given the mission statement of the company and then is expected to show up to meetings to find out what needs to be done as well as to bring their own ideas based on their unique skill set. Occasionally, specific timely tasks are given to a member that really need to be done regardless of skill set. We are generally responsible to show up at church and read our Bible to figure out what needs to be done and how we can apply the resources God has given us to build his kingdom of love. If we pay attention, he will also tells us specific things to do. At the end of the day we will be judged for what we have accomplished regardless of whether we felt like we had clear instructions all the time. We know the mission statement (Love God, Love Others) and that should keep us productive.
Faith is Action Coupled with Belief
We are saved by faith, but when it comes to judging whether we have faith or not, God will primarily look at what we have been working at in order to know if our faith was alive. That is why Philipians 2:12-13 says, “So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” And how James 2 talks repeatedly about how faith without works is dead. And how Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the “giving substance (or reality) to” things unseen. Faith is an active condition not a sedentary one. We apply faith in a situation we don’t simply have faith during a situation. That is why Jesus said to all the people that came to him for healing that their faith healed them. It was their action of coming to him (while risking rejection) coupled with their belief that he would heal them that their faith consisted of. In the same language of Revelations, their faith was made complete through their actions of coming to Jesus. Since we are saved by faith, our salvation is also made complete by our actions.
End of Life Exam
At the end of our days it will be like handing in our end of life exam. God will say I gave you the instructions for what needed to be done and I told you how I would judge you. Did you learn to love? Did you learn how to apply your natural giftings and resources to build my kingdom? This exam is a take home exam. In school exams were a big deal. I spent a lot of money and time to go through the process of university but I only came away with knowledge, a degree and a GPA. 2/3 depended significantly on the exams. That meant I
-really wanted to know what was on each exam!
-I wanted to know which topics were weighted the most
-I needed to figure out how to complete the requirements most efficiently
-If it was open book (which ours is with the Bible) I wanted to study the book and mark it up to be familiar
But in this exam the teacher loves us beyond imagine and will only judge us for what we are capable of. But only He knows what that is!
This can all weigh on one heavily all too fast. God knows he didn’t design us to be able to endure properly without his help. That is why Philipians 2:13 says, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” So not only does God put the desire in us for good, he also helps us to work out his good purpose over time! Note that he helps, not does everything. Our main responsibility is to keep tuned in to what his good purpose is otherwise like the Pergamum church we will end up working against God. Happy suffering and best wishes to all! Like Red Green, Jesus says we’re all in this together.