Sunday School lesson. August 2
Christ messages to the churches
Revelation chapter 2
Some quotes from the lesson:
(1) This lesson is the first of two that explore letters from the Lord, sent by John to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The structures of the letters are similar, starting with commendation, moving to rebuke, and ending in a promise with occasional variations. Students will be challenged to hear the spirits message to each church and apply it both individually and corporately. Though separated by time and distance from the context of the original readers, the message of the letters still resonate clearly. Consider how the message to each church can be applied today.
(2) Jesus commended the Ephesians commitment to purity in deed as well as commitment to truth and righteousness. They had refused to put up with wicked people among them. Furthermore, they had tested and exposed false apostles in their midst. Years before this message, the apostle Paul warned the Ephesians elders that they would face such challenges. We are not told what these false apostles taught, though the Nicolaitions may be in view. This group mingled Christianity with sinful self-indulgence and immorality.
(3) In addition, the Lord commended the Ephesians perseverance. Amid the pressures of a city that promoted idolatry, magical arts, and emperor worship, the Ephesian Christians remained true to the gospel with persevering faith.
(4) While the Ephesians endured hardship and maintained purity, the intensity of their love had waned. While they had their doctrines and practices in order, they no longer had the close, living fellowship with God they once enjoyed.
Jesus offered a way of amends, calling them to re-capture their earlier zeal and return to their first love. Three words are key: remember,repent, remove. They needed to change their ways by recalling their former state, Then repenting of the neglect that led to leaving their first love. If they did not return to right relationship with the lord, he would judge them, removing their lampstand, and no longer walk in their midst.
(5) Jesus concluded each letter with a promise to the ones who overcome. These promises are connected to the challenges faced by each community. Just as the Lord wanted the Ephesians to return to their original affections, he promised that if they did so, he would give them fruit from the tree of life. The promise of everlasting life would be theirs- as it is for all who overcome and remain true to the savior.
(6) Readers today should note the rebuke to the Ephesians. It’s not enough to just keep rules and maintain doctrine. We must also cultivate our love for the Lord. Consider carefully how you might keep your love for God strong.
(7) Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only churches of the seven that the Lord commended and did not rebuke. In both cases, He acknowledged their perseverance in the face of opposition And charged them to endure.
(8) First, the Lord acknowledged their poverty and tribulations. Their poverty is notable given the historic wealth of their city. Likely this hardship was a result of their faithfulness to Jesus and refusal to participate in idolatrous activities. In the pagan ancient world, religion, politics and commerce were thoroughly mixed. The refusal to participate in idolatrous activities could have negatively affected the economic well being of the Smyrnan Christians. Their hardship was temporal, but their spiritual wealth was eternal.
(9) Yet Jesus encouragement came with a warning. The Smyrnan Christians would face a time of intense persecution. Although human authorities would be the instruments, Jesus made clear that the instigator would be the devil. They must remain faithful to the end, even in martyrdom.
(10) Two promises are given to the Smyrnan Christians: Those enduring the coming persecution would receive a crown of life, and those who overcome would not be hurt by the second death. The letter to the Smyrnans is a study in contrasts. They are poor and rich. They will face death and receive life. In short, they will follow Christ in suffering and in victory.
(11) Jesus contrasted the temporal, physical reality of the Smyrnans with their spiritual, eternal reality. Ask God to speak to you this week about the reality of your situation from heavens perspective.
(12) Jesus acknowledged the challenging environment faced by the Christians at Pergomas, naming the city as the habitation of satans throne. Jesus praises the church for holding fast to the truth in the face of hostile demonic powers.He also singled out a faithful Christian man named Antipas, who was killed for his faith there. The Christians of pergamos knew that following Jesus in the city of satans throne could be costly.
(13) Like the church at pergamos, we face external pressures that threaten to infiltrate and pollute the purity of our faith and conduct. The lord warns us of the dangers of such threats and calls us to look toward the reward given by him in the end.
(14)However, Jesus penetrating vision sees all. The Christians In Thyatira had been careless with false teaching, leading into licentiousness. A false prophetess referred to as jezebel had led some into mixing the Christian Faith with idolatry and immorality. Jezebel refused to repent, meaning that she had been confronted. Therefore she would face judgement.
(15) Jesus ended with a note of comfort to those who have not participated in these sordid sins. Though they currently suffered, ostracized by their neighbors and tempted by their friends, they could find hope in the message of Christs return.
(16) Today, the message endures: follow Jesus in fidelity and good works. The church is called to faithfully pursue truth and holiness, including godly knowledge and behavior. The voices of those who have overcome should encourage us. Victory over death and hell, and the hope of everlasting life, awaits all who respond faithfully to the words of Jesus. It is a call we all should answer.