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Posted on CCPC's website 2022
The study Index page.
A quick review, and perhaps an observation or a conclusion or two about what we just read.
There is no doubt that The Apocalypse of the Apostle John is one of the most powerful pieces of writing ever undertaken by humanity. Even those who do not hold it as a religious text admire it, as we saw with the quote from HST on our “5W's” page but is replayed below just because we can do that.
There was, and is, some discussion about whether or not Revelation belongs in the Bible, or should be relegated to a footnote and a bit of interesting outside literature as is the Book of Enoch and the Gospel of Thomas. Most of those arguments appear to be made by people and institutions with agendas of their own who are uncomfortable by the book's summary judgment of those who can be called 'false teachers', which appears to be the biggest complaint Christ has with the Seven Churches.
Even notables such as Martin Luther has issues with the book:
“About this book of the Revelation of John, I leave everyone free to hold his own ideas, and would bind no man to my opinion or judgment; I say what I feel. I miss more than one thing in this book, and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic. ....One has to wonder if Luther had read the book. However, he did include it in his published German translation of the New Testament. It is also worth noting that Luther also had some heartburn with Hebrews, James, and Jude in the NT, and Esther in the OT. And in his first full edition, he had left out the Jewish Torah (the five books of Moses), as well as Job, among others.
“Finally, let everyone think of it as his own spirit gives him to think. My spirit cannot fit itself into this book. There is one sufficient reason for me not to think highly of it,-Christ is not taught or known in it; but to teach Christ is the thing which an apostle is bound, above all else, to do, as He says in Acts 1:8, 'Ye shall be my witnesses.' Therefore I stick to the books which give me Christ, clearly and purely.”
- Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)
introduction to Revelation in his German translation of the Bible, circa 1520 (link below)
The first chapter sets the stage. John introduces himself, explains where he was, and what happened to him. And a bit later in one, we meet an unusual gentleman who is walking around a lighting display who John goes to some lengths to describe.
The messages to the local churches in chapters two and three CAN make for some difficult reading. EVERY CHURCH that has EVER EXISTED has at least a problem or two that are listed in the seven letters. And some have had more.
Maybe a local church doesn't exactly have a Jezebel who is teaching things like those mentioned, but there may be somebody who has a few ideas that aren't Scriptural, and they are spreading them. And eventually, with enough 'input' from enough people, even what seems to be a minor issue today could become a Salvation Issue to them, AND involve the entire local church. Which is the next point.
The issues raised in the seven letters are not the usual, weekly, petty, “sustainable organic fertilizer”, Stuff that is leaking out the windows of every local church in the land. Things like (and these are all real issues this study writer are familiar with): Whether or not artificial flowers should be used for the Easter decorations on the stage. Whether they use paper or plastic plates for a church pot luck dinner. The playing of card games on 'game night'. The singing of popular choruses and modern songs instead of hundred year old “Red Book” hymns. The ever popular “we've always done it this way”. And, to our current point, if terms like Saint John the Divine, should be used in reference to the author of Revelation.
Over the centuries, issues like these have caused everything from friction to division in churches. And they ARE NOT of Salvation Caliber. To put it bluntly, these minor issues DO NOT MATTER. If you do not like it, so what? Get over it and move on.
The problems listed in the Seven Letters ARE about Salvation. If the local church doesn't fix it, He will Remove their Lampstand. THAT is a bit more important than whether or not the congregation sang “Why Me, Lord” by a songwriter who is still alive, and who isn't the best example of a traditional hymn writer that you could name.
If you strip away John's poetic language and obscure references, the problems are simple and direct. Other than the false teaching thing, there was other issues. The one of those was 'love', or the lack thereof.
Several of the Seven Churches did not SHOW love for others, they may have talked about it, but they didn't do it. When the choice of taking care of the people in the community and keeping to themselves, they made the wrong choice. The local church is to reach out to other people, it doesn't matter if they are in this church, another church, or no church. Christians are to take care of the basic human needs of others, period.
That Is Love.
OK, now we'll deal with the Sasquatch sitting in the back corner that Christ had to paint in neon colors so these local churches would see it. Some of them tolerated doctrine that was clearly counter to what they had been taught by the Apostles. Today, it would be counter to Scripture. Not opinions on things that were a sideshow, but differences of the handful of core beliefs, the Ordinances established by the Christ and the Apostles. There is a difference. There aren't many of them, but they are CRUCIAL. And it takes a solid foundation in The Word to know what they are, and what is one of those 'other things'. And often, the difference is only a matter of degree when it is not a “thus saith The Lord” in Scripture. If it were, there probably wouldn't be a problem.
The point is this, while WE should not get all wrapped up in the trivial nonsense that comes up in every congregation, we also must not let those matters fester until they Do become something serious. Many of these sorts of problems arise from those that can truly be called “babes in the faith”. They really do not know any better, and the matter of how long they have been a Christian is irrelevant, whether they have been a believer for two years or two decades, or more, they haven't grown and matured in the Faith, Paul said they were still on milk instead of meat (Hebrews 5. And also 2 Peter 2) . And while there are some that Do Not Want To Grow, there are many more that do not know How to grow, or Why they should, nor have they been taught In Love. Without something else to do, they become concerned about the wallpaper in the restroom, or where the streamers for VBS were purchased. You see an example of the good new believers can do in Revelation 2 : 19 when they are brought along properly.
Yes. We SHOULD, in a word: pick our battles. Work first on the serious matters, the Salvation Issues, the things that are truly bad, such as outlined by John in his seven letters. We should also keep minor spats from growing, while teaching those who raise concerns over actual nonsense about what is important in the church, and in The Church, and what is not.
And then when faced with somebody who is actively choosing to be divisive, aggressively and intentionally disagreeable with others, or is spreading false teachings like John mentions to those who are those babes, we need to take action such as is mentioned elsewhere in scripture. If We the Local Church don't, Christ Will, as seen in the opening chapters of The Apocalypse.
Example in a Tangent:John makes it known that there were Good Christians, and maybe even some Great Christians in the Seven Churches in Asia. He points that out explicitly in Thyatira.
A “church of Christ” board member walked out of a meeting, and quit a local church, because the board was considering buying a new pulpit that was made of “manufactured wood” instead of solid hardwood to replace an aging, broken, and somewhat ugly unit. He felt that only 'real wood' should be used in such a prominent location during the worship service. The board felt that a pulpit made of 'fake wood' was a better use of the church's money as the hardwood model cost more than twice as much.
When it was pointed out to them that there is no mention of church furniture in the New Testament, they replied with a statement about ' properly and orderly' and their feelings, then got angry.
That quote we mentioned:
“'And I will give him the morning star.' That is from Revelation-once again. I have stolen more quotes and thoughts and purely elegant little starbursts of writing from the Book of Revelation than anything else in the English language-and it is not because I am a biblical scholar, or because of any religious faith, but because I love the wild power of the language and purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.”
- Hunter S. Thompson (1937 - 2005)
Selected Sources for this review:
Martin Luther's translation http://www.godrules.net/library/luther/NEW1luther_f8.htm
A summary of the message to the seven churches, and a commercial for a cruise to go see them! https://livingpassages.com/7-churches-of-revelation/
oh, and see the ("traditional") cave where John wrote it!
Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/1.htm
the Geneva Bible downloadable https://archive.org/details/TheGenevaBible1560
the 1611 KJV https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/1611-Bible/
The study Index page.
NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.
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