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Be Zealous and Repent

July 12, 2020 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Crucial Teachings for Chaotic Times

Topic: Church Health Passage: Revelation 1:9– 3:22


An Exposition of Revelation 1:9–3:22

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date: July 12, 2020

Series: Crucial Teachings for Chaotic Times

Note: Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.                                          


What follows is an edited transcript of the July 12 sermon.



I invite you to turn to Revelation. I'm going to start in Chapter 1 and read verses 9 through 20.

We're covering a lengthy passage today – Revelation 1:9 through Revelation 3:22. Understandably, we won't even come close to getting into every detail, but the purpose of this sermon is to give this church family the space and the opportunity to hear what Jesus might be saying to us.

In our passage, we’ll see that Jesus is speaking specifically to seven churches – and these were seven actual, real, historical churches that Jesus was addressing. But there is also a symbolic nature to it, since the number 7 is the number of completeness – and so there's a sense in which these seven churches represent the church as a whole, and in these words Jesus is also speaking to us.


So, let me begin in Revelation 1:9 and read through verse 20:

9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book 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.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:9-20)

This is the Word of God. It is for our good. Let me pray.

Father, we thank you that you have given us this Holy Word, to call us near to you. Father, I pray this morning that you would show us all that we need to hear. Show us our sin, and lead us to repentance. Strengthen us by the power of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Reflecting on Revelation 1:9-20

The Lord Jesus Christ is glorious in holiness and radiant in purity. He is the ever living one. He died – it tells us in Revelation 1:5 that he died for our sins in order to make us a kingdom of “priests to his God and Father” (Revelation 1:5). He died and yet he came back to life, and he lives forever more. He is standing in the midst of the churches. He is there to strengthen them and support them. And he is inspecting them with those “eyes… like a flame of fire” (1:14). His gaze penetrates into the churches and into our hearts. He knows! All throughout these seven letters in Revelation 2-3, he says, “I know your works” (2:2, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). He knows our works, He knows our circumstances (for example, 2:9, 13), and He knows our condition (for example, 3:1). He knows, and he is speaking.

There is a big emphasis on his words, right? His voice is “like a trumpet” (1:10).  verse 10. His voice is “like the roar of many waters” (1:15). Out of his mouth comes “a sharp two-edged sword” (1:16). And he is speaking to the apostle John and he is telling John, “Write” (1:11, 19).  And as we go through chapters 2 and 3, at the beginning of each letter, the Lord Jesus tells John to write – for example, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:” (2:1). Write it down! Jesus is speaking through John to the churches through the written word of God. And in this same written word the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking to us.

When you think about lampstands – these golden lampstands which represent the churches (1:12, 20) – you think of the temple. You think of God's holy place. You see, the Lord Jesus Christ is holy and he calls us to be holy. One of the big questions you can ask as we go through these letters is: Is Jesus at home in these churches? Are these churches reflecting his light, his truth, his holiness, his presence, his character? Because if we are, then Jesus is pleased. But if we are not, if Jesus is not at home in the churches, than he is going to say “I have [something] against you” (2:4) or “I have a few things against you” (2:14). And he says, in essence, If you don't fix it, then I'm going to come and clean it up.

So let's get started. Let’s learn from what Jesus said to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.


Revelation 2:1-7 says –

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:1-7)

The church of Ephesus is the church that has lost its heart.

To be sure, there are a number of good things about the church in Ephesus. They are exhibiting a faithful commitment to living out their faith. They are the kind of church that is serious about moral purity and they are very attuned to right doctrine. They want to make sure that the Bible is faithfully taught. If there's any false teaching, they pick up on it – they discern it and they push it out.

But even though those good things are happening in the church, they have lost their heart. They “have abandoned the love [they] had at first” (2:4). Now people can debate about what exactly this “love” was that they had at first, but I don't think we need to split hairs over it. The very heartbeat of the church, the very heartbeat of the Christian life, is love, right? Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God, and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. We are to love our Christian neighbors (“love one another”!), and we are to love our spiritually lost neighbors.

In the midst of all this activity, the gears of the church were turning, but they had lost their heart. They had lost their love, and Jesus is saying, in essence, Even though you have all these good qualities, if you don't return to the heart of your faith, if you don't return in love to the Lord and to one another and to all that I've called you to, then it's game over. All of those good qualities aren't going to save you as a church. I'm going to remove you from my presence, because I can't be at home in a church where there isn't loving and passionate devotion to me, and the things that I've called you to.

Ephesus is the loveless church.

Before we proceed to the next passage, let me say that all these churches were in a place called Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Ephesus was on the coast of the Aegean Sea, and then you go north – this is kind of like a normal travel route, the names of these seven churches are very deliberately named along a travel route that initially goes north before it turns back to the southeast. So, you go to the north and you come to a church called Smyrna. So let's look at Smyrna.


Revelation 2:8-14 says –

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:8-14)

The church of Smyrna is the suffering church.

Jesus has nothing against this church. He says nothing negative about it. He says one thing positive – he says, “but you are rich”. You see, outwardly they were poor, but inwardly and spiritually they were rich. They were the exact opposite of the Laodiceans – the Laodiceans were outwardly prosperous, but inwardly bankrupt (see Revelation 3:17). But the church in Smyrna, they were truly rich, because they were clinging to Jesus. They were in close fellowship with Jesus, and he was the one who made them rich.

But their outward circumstances were difficult, right? They were facing tribulation, poverty, slander, and the suffering was about to increase. The devil was about to turn up the heat. They are exhorted to remain faithful.

And you know – as a word of application to us – we need to be discerning the times. As I look at our own historical situation in the year 2020, and as I see what's happening, it seems to me that we are facing and about to face more acutely the increase of persecution in our country. And so, I want you to hear these words spoken to you, and spoken to the people who are sitting next to you,

and in front of you, and behind you. South Paris Baptist Church, hear this:

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days” –

this is not a literal ten days, the ten is symbolic and means ‘a definite period of time that is relatively short in light of eternity’ – 

“and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Do you know what a suffering people need to hear? They need to know that Jesus is the one “who died and came to life” (v. 8). He endured suffering. He endured death. He came back to life. And if you follow him faithfully, the second death will never hurt you (v. 11).

Smyrna is the suffering church.

Still going north, now we come to the church in Pergamum.


Revelation 2:12-17 says – 

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

13 “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. 15 So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:12-17)

The church in Pergamum is the compromised church.

The church in Pergamum was doing certain things well. They were holding onto their faith. They were maintaining their faith in Jesus even though they were in the midst of a hostile environment – in the midst of opposition and persecution. They were staying faithful. They were willing to suffer for Jesus’ name. And that is commendable.

But they had a problem. There were some in their midst who were drifting off into false teaching – “the teaching of Balaam” (v. 14) and “the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (v. 15). Whatever the exact nature of these teachings, these teachings were causing God's people to drift from their faithfulness to the Lord. And it was weakening their Christian lives, and it was weakening the health of their church as a whole.

Now you know, if I stand up here and critique the teaching of Balaam and the teaching of the Nicolaitans, you'll all be quite comfortable, right? Because we're all opposed to the teaching of Balaam and we're all opposed to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. But suppose you try to put your finger on something that is affecting us now – something that is affecting the church in America in the year 2020? Now you might get a little uncomfortable! But let me try to put my finger on a couple of things that I think that the church in America – including South Paris Baptist Church – has to reckon with. I've already begun talking about this in some of my previous sermons, but I want to elaborate on it a little bit more.

One of the things that has been really disturbing to me is how obsessed our culture is – at least as it is being communicated through the media and through government policy – how obsessed our country is with physical health and with preserving physical life. Obviously, we value the preservation of physical life, but in our society physical health is in the driver’s seat – it has become priority number one. And this is really distressing to me as a Christian. For Christians, physical health is important but it is down the list of priorities – it is certainly not on top of the list. But our nation seems to be devoted to the physical health gods. I was talking about this with Charlotta – and as we were talking about it, the lights came on. One of the things that Charlotta has been highlighting during this whole thing is that the idols that we have in light of Covid-19 are the idols that we had before Covid-19 showed up, and Covid-19 is just exposing them. And the lights went on. I was thinking: Oh, yeah, that's right. We were devoted to the physical health gods before the coronavirus came on the scene. I mean, as a society, how much energy is put into physical fitness, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, physical image, restoring youth, prolonging life, avoiding the harsh realities of death. It's big business. It's a big preoccupation in our country. And so, the coronavirus shows up and we're just falling down before our idols. I think it shows up in the church too. When you think about a prayer list – I'm not saying it's wrong to pray for physical needs – but when you look at a prayer list and it's predominantly physical needs, we should ask: ‘Where is our heart?’ I mean, you know the prayers of the apostle Paul in the New Testament. Did Paul pray for the physical health of the people? No. Paul was always praying for their spiritual health. And I think as a church, we need to reckon with this.

And one of the things that someone might say in response is: ‘But we should be balanced, right? You know, spiritual health, and social health, and leisure and recreation, and money, and physical health. You know, we should be balanced, shouldn't we?’ Well, let me dig into that a little bit. Does being “faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10) sound balanced to you? Or how about this? Jesus said that if you love father or mother, wife or children, brother or sister, or even your own life more than him, then you cannot be his disciple (Luke 14:25-27, Matthew 10:37-39). Does that sound balanced to you? The apostle Paul said, “I do not account my life of any value or as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24) Does that sound balanced to you? In another passage, Paul said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) Does that sound balanced to you? The Christian life is not balanced. It is incredibly imbalanced, because Jesus is not at home in a church where he is one-sixth of the balancing act. He is at home in a church that understands that He is our life (Colossians 3:4).

Pergamum is the compromised church. What about us?

Let’s proceed to Thyatira.


Revelation 2:18-29 says –

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 2:18-29)

The church in Thyatira is the tolerant church.

To be sure, the church in Thyatira is overwhelmingly faithful, as is evident in verse 19. This church was characterized by love, faith, service, patient endurance, and spiritual growth. On the whole, you have to say that they were doing fairly well, and yet Jesus has something against them. They were tolerating a false teacher who was working within the church community and this false teacher was picking off disciples one by one. You know, we can be faithful – overwhelmingly faithful in our walk with God – and yet we can have this one glaring problem in that we don't want to address sin in the community. We don't want to confront. We don't want to call to repentance.

I think that one of the great weaknesses of the evangelical church in America is that we are soft. We want to be nice. But where is the clarion call to obedience and to holiness and to repentance? And where is the willingness to confront and call out sin – for the good of our brothers and sisters?

It is interesting, the picture you get here of Jesus in verse 18 is that he is holy. And if we are unwilling to deal with the sin in our midst – and this is very similar to what he said to the church in Pergamum (v. 14-16) – if we are unwilling to deal with the sin in our midst, then he is going to come and it is going to be a bloody mess. Because he is going to come and he is going to make war against those who are caught up in the sin (v. 16) and he is going to strike people dead (v. 22-23). And if that happens, and you were one of the people who knew better – because you were generally faithful and yet unwilling to address sin – then you will be ashamed when he comes and makes war against those who are unfaithful.

The promise that is held before us here is one of authority (v. 26-27), and that is what we need. We don't need to be soft. We need to be firm and clear and confident handlers of the word of God. Yes, humble. Yes, loving. But nevertheless firm and strong in watching out for one another in brotherly love.

Thyatira is the tolerant church.

Now I think we're moving to the south or southeast in Asia Minor, on our way to Sardis.


Revelation 3:1-6 says – 

1 And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:1-6)

The church in Sardis is the comatose church.

Jesus has nothing good to say about the church in Sardis – except that there are a few faithful Christians among them (v. 4). But the church as a whole is spiritually asleep, and they need to wake up.

I want you to think about something very important here. There is a world of difference between having a reputation for being alive, and actually being alive. Those are two very different things. This was a church – they're gathering together for worship, they're gathering together for Bible study, they're gathering together for prayer, they're doing ministries together. And you know what? The Holy Spirit is not producing any of it. Worship without the Holy Spirit is noise. Love without the Holy Spirit is niceness. Obedience without the Holy Spirit is legalism, hypocrisy, shallowness. Ministry without the Holy Spirit is unfruitful. Mission without the Holy Spirit is just getting more people on board the sinking ship. Church without the Holy Spirit is a social phenomenon, not a spiritual reality.

I brought this other book with me today for a reason. One of my spiritual heroes is Francis Schaeffer. I was deeply impacted by his writings in my early Christian life. And Schaeffer asks a very significant question. He says,

“May I put it like this? If we woke up tomorrow morning and found that all that the Bible teaches concerning prayer and the Holy Spirit were removed… what difference would it make in practice from the way we are functioning today? The simple tragic fact is that in much of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the evangelical church – there would be no difference whatsoever. We function as though the supernatural were not there.

“If the church does not show forth the supernatural in our generation, what will?[1]

Do you want to see what anti-supernatural looks like? Look at the world. Science, technology, data, trends, control – it's all physical and natural and just operating in a ‘this-worldly’ sphere. But do you know what? That same anti-supernatural thing can be going on in the church. We can have efficiency and good business strategies and all the rest. And yet, where is our conscious dependence on the Lord in prayer? Where is the Holy Spirit producing conversions and transformations and breakthroughs in the church family?

I'll be honest with you – I'm really encouraged. In truth, I think that South Paris Baptist Church might be more like Sardis than you'd like to think. But here is what I'm encouraged about: Jesus is not writing us off, he is waking us up. Jesus is not removing us, he is seeking to revive us. And I've discerned the working of God in our church family over the last month in a way that I never have since I've been here, so I'm encouraged that he's not done with us yet. He has work for us to do! Wake up! Lay hold of what he is doing!

Sardis is the comatose church. Let’s make sure that we aren’t!

Now on to Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love.


Revelation 3:7-13 says – 

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:7-13)

The church of Philadelphia is the faithful church.

I am not going to say too much about this church, except to say that the Lord Jesus is giving tremendous encouragement to this church. Jesus is the one who opens the door into His family, into His palace, into His eternal kingdom – and he has opened that door for the Philadelphians. They are His people. He has chosen them. He has loved them and the path is straight to glory. They must hold on, remain faithful, and keep their crown. And there are a couple of beautiful promises here. Jesus is promising that their enemies are going to ultimately come to the humble realization that this church is loved by the Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus promises that he will protect them in the hour of trial.

Philadelphia is the faithful church.

Finally we move again to the southeast and come to Laodicea.


Revelation 3:14-22 says – 

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22)

The church of Laodicea is the worthless church.

You know, verses 15-16 are quite interesting – I think sometimes we misunderstand the references to cold and hot. I’ve been doing some study recently on Revelation and been learning a little bit about this.

So here's the thing: Laodicea had a really bad water supply. But they were part of a tri-town area (see Colossians 4:13), and their two neighboring towns had much better water supplies. In one direction there was Hierapolis, not that far away, which was known for their hot springs – and people would go there for healing therapy. In another direction was Colossae, also not far away from Laodicea, which had cold, refreshing water. Cold, refreshing water is good and useful. The hot pprings up in Hierapolis, they are also good and useful. And Jesus is, in essence, saying to the Laodiceans: Your spiritual health is comparable to that nasty, lukewarm water that gets piped into your city. You are useless. You are useless in making disciples. You are useless at representing my name. You are useless in building my church. You are useless in advancing my gospel.[2]

And yet – guess what? This church has money (v. 17). They could have big budgets, nice buildings, impressive ministries, and competent professionals. , money; buildings; budgets; ministries; professionals. They got it! Laodicea was a wealthy area, and that wealth rubbed off on those Christians and on their church. They're doing church. They’re self-confident. They think: ‘We’ve got our act together, and we have what we need, and we don’t need Jesus.’ (see v. 17)

But Jesus says, “[You] are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” (v. 17) Do you know what? That's what sinners are. And the only thing worse than being wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked is boasting at how you don't need Jesus. This church is in a miserable spiritual condition.

But do you know what? The letter to Laodicea is a love letter. Let me say it again: Revelation 3:14-22 is a love letter! Why do I say that? Because of verse 19. Jesus says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.” Jesus Christ loves this worthless Laodicean church so much that he sends them a word, and he calls them to repentance, and he is ready to have fellowship with them – if only they would open the door.


So, we have a worthless church (Laodicea), a faithful church (Philadelphia), a comatose church (Sardis), a tolerant church (Thyatira), a compromised church (Pergamum), a suffering church (Smyrna), and a loveless church (Ephesus). What is the Lord Jesus Christ saying to South Paris Baptist Church? What is He saying to you?

I want to give two final words of application here.

Take Individual Responsibility

First, although Jesus is calling the whole church to repentance, there is an individual responsibility that you bear, right? This comes up in each of the seven letters: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). And Jesus talks about “the one who conquers” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). Here’s the deal: I cannot repent for you, and you cannot repent for me. I cannot wake up for you, and you cannot wake up for me.

May God grant us grace to wake up together! But there is an individual responsibility that you bear. If you hear the voice of the Lord, then answer his call and press into his word and draw near to your Lord.  

Adjust Your Expectations

Here is the second word of application that I want to give – and it may involve an adjustment of your expectations.

Did you notice something about the two faithful churches? Of course, I specifically called Philadelphia the faithful church, but Smyrna (the suffering church) was also faithful. Jesus had nothing against the Smyrna church, and he had nothing against the Philadelphia church. And do you know what these two churches have in common? They are outwardly unimpressive.

The Smyrna church is suffering tribulation, poverty, and slander (2:9). And Jesus said that the Philadelphia church has “but little power” (3:8). Those are the two faithful churches, brothers and sisters.

Do you know what our problem is? Sometimes, we just want to be outwardly prosperous like Laodicea and Sardis, the two churches that received no praise whatsoever.

Let me ask you a question.

Would you like to hold on to everything that you have, while Jesus is standing outside the church knocking at the door? Would you like to hold on to what you have, and leave Jesus over there to the side? Or are you willing to let it all go, if only the Lord Jesus Christ would come in and have fellowship with us and dine with us and lead us all the way home?

Let's pray.

Father, I pray that you would do your work – the work that only you can do – the work of reviving, the work of renewing, the work of strengthening. I pray that you would do that work in us, now and throughout this week. In Jesus’ name, amen.


I invite you to stand to receive the benediction:

Brothers and sisters,

“… you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 13:11-14)

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Go in peace.



[1] Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality.

[2] See: 1) D. A. Carson’s lectures on Revelation – available through The Gospel Coalition’s Resource Library: 2) G. K. Beale with David H. Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015: p. 91.


G. K. Beale with David H. Campbell, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.

D. A. Carson, lectures on Revelation. Available through The Gospel Coalition’s Resource Library:

Onesimus Ngundu, “Revelation.” In Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars. Tokunboh Adeyemo, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

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