Thursday, 22 October 2020
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:22
The Lord now provides His final words to those at Laodicea, and – indeed – to all the churches He has addressed in chapters 2 and 3. He again uses the same formula as with all the other churches, beginning with, “He who has an ear, let him hear.”
One last time, He is calling to attention something of the highest importance. To “hear” means more than just sound entering into the ears. It calls for heeding what is conveyed. Both attention and obedience are to be applied to what is heard. Thus, He is calling out, “Heed what you have heard, be attentive to it, and be obedient in your attention.” But more, He again states, “what the Spirit says.”
This isn’t just a call to remember what was heard in order to write it down. Rather, it is what the Spirit, who is the member of the Godhead who inspires Scripture, was speaking through Christ. There is One God displayed in three members of the Godhead. Each works in accord with the other to reveal God’s intentions, purposes, and word. In this case, it is what the Spirit says, “to the churches.”
As noted in 2:7, these words could be taken in one of two ways: 1) everything said to all the churches, or 2) everything said to each church. In other words, the first option is that the Spirit is conveying one message to all the churches combined – every person in every church should heed everything that is said in all seven letters. Or, He is conveying a message to Ephesus, one to Thyatira, one to Sardis, and so on. Each church is to pay heed to what is said to it.
The answer is that all people (He who hears) are to listen to everything that is said to all the churches. There are seven letters to individual churches, but the message to each church is to be heard by all people. The repetition to each church is to call to attention its own issues, but all people in all churches are to know what the status of all churches is. Thus, they can fully know what is pleasing, what is displeasing, and what the promises of overcoming are.
In this, it is evident that the seven letters address specific problems within each church, but they are problems that can be expected to arise in any church at any time in all of history. Thus, the seven letters to these seven churches are, together, an all-inclusive list to be heeded by all bodies of believers throughout the church age. No specific church or denomination can be singled out as being represented by one of these seven churches.
For example, it is popular to ascribe the failings of a particular church to the RCC and say, “This letter is speaking of Roman Catholicism.” This is an improper way of viewing these seven letters. The Roman Catholic Church has had (and continues to have) all kinds of error in its history. Such error within the RCC can be identified in the problems of any given church within these seven letters. It, and any other denomination or body, is to take heed to what is said to all seven of these churches and to ensure that the failings of that church (or the notes of commendation) are to be identified and responded to accordingly.
This concept is stated articulately enough by the Pulpit Commentary –
“The seven messages were not merely separate admonitions addressed only to each particular Church, but all the epistles were meant for all the seven Churches, and, after them, for the universal Church. Each Church had an especial failing brought more emphatically before it; but still the seven warnings are one whole, for the edification of all. As it behooves the individual Christian to avoid and repent of all sin, and yet to fix his attention on the cure of some besetting sin to which he is peculiarly liable, so these messages, though intended to be read by all, and heeded by all, place vividly before each Church its besetting sin, which more particularly requires attention. And as the sins to be avoided are to be avoided by all, so the separate rewards arc promised to all who overcome. They are, therefore, not really distinct rewards, but rather different phases and views of one great whole, which shall be enjoyed in its entirety by those who have struggled victoriously with the trials and temptations of the world.”
Life application: If you have been carefully following the words of Jesus as given to us in these seven precious letters, and if you have taken to heart the messages He has given us, then you should be fully prepared to know when you or your church is diverting from His admonitions, and you should have an understanding of how to handle such a diversion.
Jesus is not the cosmic pushover that people portray Him as. He is the Prince of Peace, but He is also the God who avenges His people, the Judge of sin, and the One who will someday return to weed out all wickedness and unrighteousness. Jesus is speaking this one last time to “He who has an ear,” and when we listen and take heed, we will receive all of the wondrous promises given to the one who overcomes.
Thank You Lord Jesus for the wonderful promises You have given to those who have trusted in You alone for their salvation. Thank You for the wisdom You have given us in Your word which is meant to guide us, correct us, and lead us to You. And, Lord, give us the wise understanding to follow Your directions there all the days of our lives. Amen.