By Mike Dodson
When Jesus’ words were recorded by John under the Spirit’s direction, the seven churches hadn’t been in existence very long; yet, they each needed some degree of refocus or renewal. In fact, throughout its history the Church has followed that pattern: growing, decaying, and being restored. We who follow Jesus know from experience that the body of Christ will sometimes drift—drift from her first love, from Jesus and His teachings, and from His mission.
Because of this tendency, remembering who Jesus is and being renewed in His mission for the Church is vital. In Revelation 1, Jesus is revealed as the Eternal Son, Risen Lord, Sacrificial Savior, and Glorious King. The Jesus revealed in Revelation is definitely not a wimp. He calls His people to live confidently in Him. Jesus isn’t passive or removed from this situation. He walks in the midst of His churches to observe, evaluate, correct, and renew because He paid the ultimate price to build an army of priests who would fulfill His mission, build His kingdom, and bring Him glory (1:5-6).
The Jesus of Revelation confronts:
- The self-motivated actions of the church in Ephesus (2:1-7), calling them to repent and to be motivated by Christ’s love for them (2Co 5:14-15).
- The self-reliance and self-sufficiency of Christ’s people in Laodicea (3:14-22), calling them to zealous repentance and reliance upon His provisions.
- The complacency and compromise of the body of Christ in Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis (2:12-17,18-29; 3:1-6), calling them to repent, reject false teaching, stop being immoral, and wake up to their mission.
- Any sense of self-pity that might creep into the poverty and weakness of the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia (2:8-11; 3:7-13), affirming them and calling them to continue to be courageous, faithful, and on mission.
Not only does Jesus call it like He sees it, but He also messes with the status quo. Five of the seven churches need some radical change, and four of the seven specifically need to repent— change their mind, heart, will, and actions about some specific things. Many churches that need to change—have the need to refocus and revitalize—actually want the communities in which they live to change while they remain the same. But being the real church requires following the real Jesus revealed in these chapters of Revelation.
T. S. Eliot summed up well the church’s ongoing need to be refocused and renewed: “The Church must be forever building, for it is ever decaying within and attacked from without; for this is the law of life” (Collected Poems, 153-54).
John summed up well the way the body of Christ can be renewed in its belief of who Jesus Christ really is and refocused on the mission Jesus has given His Church to fulfill—”To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen” (Rv 1:6).
This essay was taken from The Mission of God Study Bible Copyright 2012 by Holman Bible Publishers.