“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live – where Satan has his throne, yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives.” ~ Revelation 2:12-13
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and hear; hold it fast, and repent.” ~ Revelation 3:1-3
I remember reading The Odyssey, The Iliad, haikus, sonnets, and Shakespeare in school. I’m pretty sure we had to read those classics to expand our minds, but I got little to nothing out of them. I normally just listened to my teachers explain what we’d read and then regurgitate that information onto tests.
I fear we treat Revelation like I treated those difficult literary texts. I never gained anything from The Iliad or The Odyssey because I never put any effort into them. They were written in difficult language with a lot of symbolism and metaphors. Many characters had odd names, and you really had to pause and think about the meaning after every three words or so. Understanding these pieces would have been a lot of work, and I didn’t want to put in that work, even if it was worth it.
The book of Revelation was written by John. We’re not sure which John it is, but the writer identifies himself as John often. He also makes his purpose in writing the book clear from the beginning: “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must take place soon.” (1:1) John was trying to share a vision he had had about what would take place later: specifically, the end of the world.
Today we’re looking at one specific part of Revelation, so have no fear; it shouldn’t be too overwhelming. In Revelation, John addresses seven churches. To some he gives encouragement, and to some he gives correction. While that’s a very simplistic and limited explanation of what happens in Revelation, it’s a significant part. Take a second to reread the two Scripture passages above and pay attention to the differences between the two.
As we approach the end of this year (not of the world), what do you think God would have to say to you? Look back over the highs and lows, significant moments and mundane details. Based on what you’re remembering, do you think God would offer praise or correction? Why? What parts of your year stick out to help you come to your conclusion?
The good news for us today and all others who’ve read or heard Revelation is that we’re given a chance to right the ship if needed. If we’re heading in a direction we think God wants to correct, now’s our chance to change! The church in Sardis is told to hold fast to the correction they’ve been given and repent. I believe God gives us the same opportunity.
I encourage you to listen to the direction God would ask you to walk in and then do it. If you’re spending all your money on yourself – listen to God’s teaching on giving and start sharing your resources generously. If you’re overly critical of the people around you, read where God calls us all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139) and start looking for the best in others.
Though as the overused saying goes, “none of us are perfect,” if we look at our lives and see the need for change, let’s make the correction. This is the perfect time to do it. Make the change and start fresh.
- Take a minute to read chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. These are the messages John gives to the seven churches. What strikes you? Which one is closest to what you think God sees in your life?
- As you look at this last year of your life, do you feel it should receive more praise or correction?
- What do you think are the benefits of both praise and correction?
- What is one area of your life you’d like to correct in the New Year?