We call the last book of the bible, "Revelations," but it is named the revelation given to Jesus to show to His servants. I read a little of it last night and was crushed by the first three chapters.
John was alone in the Spirit when he heard a loud, commanding voice declaring that He was the Alpha and the Omega, and that He had words for John to carry to seven churches. When John turned around, he did not see a vision. John saw a Man, maybe 5' 11", standing in the middle of some very real candlesticks.
This Man was like no other, but John knew Him because He was the same Jesus he'd known those fifty or sixty years ago. Now, though, this Jesus looked the part of a King. His robe was bound by a golden girdle, His hair was pure, and His eyes gave a flaming light rather than waiting to receive it. His exposed feet were tanned such that they glowed the light back that had bronzed them. His voice overrode every other sound, like a waterfall covers every noise in the forest.
Jesus meant business. He came to talk to John about seven churches. He carried a light from each church in His right hand, stood in the middle of them as they lit the Holy Place, and spoke with the menace and directness of a sword.
This was Jesus, the One Who had proven Himself ever-loving and Who had purchased a kingdom for His Father. This was the Desire of the Ages in the flesh, and the One Whose love is most to be treasured.
And He reveals Himself to John because He is not happy with the churches.
Reading the next two chapters is not easy.
This high and beautiful One looks at us, the churches, and says, "I have this against you," and our hearts melt away. If we read about Jesus' complaints and praises of the churches, we learn some things. But if we see the One Whose face is like the sun shining in his strength turn those eyes of fire on us and say, "I have something against you," we collapse in terror and shame. We know that whatever He has against us is true, and that we are guilty before Him and His Father, guilty of every word.
He comes to Ephesus and finds they've let their love cool. He walks in Pergamos and finds them greedy, immoral and enslaved to religion. Thyatira is immoral. Sardis is barely alive. These are churches directly taught by the very apostles, and maintained by men the apostles hand-picked as the best and most spiritual of all in a dark, dark time. Ephesus was set to rights by Timothy, but they yet receive a letter from Jesus Himself telling how He is displeased by them.
They will hear these words, and the room will grow cold. The blood will rush out of the faces of hundreds of people at once as they see Him and hear Him. Their spirits will see the Man with the golden girdle and the face like fire, and their hearts will hear His threat, "Remember from where you have fallen and repent. Do the first works over again, or I will come quickly and discard you," and they will faint.
But Ephesus heard praise. Every church heard praise to bouy their spirits and to give them hope, except only one. Laodicea heard only rebuke. They heard only that they would be spit out of their Lord's mouth. They heard only that they bragged to be rich when they were poor, that they stood as pure when they were filthy, that they claimed to see everything when they were blind.
The Laodiceans heard their report last, and I can imagine the room. They heard each pronouncement against their brothers and sisters elsewhere and each person's heart went through melodrama after terror after hope. They knew they were not small like Philadelphia, and hoped to avoid the warnings given to faithful Smyrna. When His anger was breathed out against those who eat food sacrificed to idols, they thought back over the last months, whether any of their number had taken to buying cheap meat. Were any fornicating? Were they dead while they lived?
And with the fear was mingled hope. Might the Lord be proud of the songs they'd written? Might He praise the way they'd kept themselves from the world? Would He commend the visions they'd shared with the other churches?
When the man chosen to read this letter in Laodicea got to this paragraph, the tears he could not restrain would give away the contents before he read the words, before he said their name, "Laodiceans." When he finished telling them that they were truly wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, every fear was multiplied and every hope put to shame.
But Jesus next words had to have done something in the room.
He told them how to become rich, how to become pure, and how to see truly.
Nothing more than that. The anger was over, and the judgement. Immediately there came the answer, the encouragement, the true hope. And the hope was this, "As many as I love..."
"As many as I love..."
Jesus loved Laodicea.
As many as He loves, He rebukes and chastens, so He encourages them forward to repentance. It is to these whom He loved that he stood outside the door and knocked. It was with these He wished to share dinner. It was with these He wished to overcome and sit beside His Father. There was no hesitation on His part, no waiting to see whether His people would repent. Jesus wants to be with His children.
I'm sure Jesus has something against the church of the Americans. When I read these first three chapters of the revelation, it's with just fear. 5 of the churches are commanded to repent, and those were the best founded churches of all time. What hope have we who are awash in money, declare ourselves the moral majority, and publish our wisdom for the ages faster than we can count?
We need the Spirit to come and reveal to us where we can buy gold and garments and eyesalve.
Jesus would come and dine with us.