Revelation as a Blueprint for Discipleship
Begin with the end in mind....
At some point, you've probably run across the phrase “begin with the end in mind.” The general idea is that we should undertake our efforts with a clear understanding of what we're trying to accomplish.
Stephen Covey even says it’s one of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Even before the pandemic, God has been bringing me to the book of Revelation. Specifically, the first few chapters where He is addressing the seven churches.
Now, Revelation is not a book I frequent. It’s made me a bit uneasy ever since reading the “Left Behind” series in high school. There is much in the book that is hard to understand and has many wild interpretations. Some of it is downright weird.
But the part that is very clear is the message that God has for the seven churches. Can the message he proclaimed to those churches help us rise up to be the Church we are supposed to be today? I believe so.
The apostle John is exiled on the Island of Patmos, a rock quarry that Rome sent prisoners to live. At this point he is an old man, likely in his 90’s, and has seen most of his friends die horrible deaths. He fathered many churches and now has been separated from them and is dealing with the sorrow that would cause.
Then God shows up in an amazing way. He probably thought that his best days were behind him. He could have been content to reminisce about the past, but God had other plans. In some ways, when it comes to John’s ministry, he saved the best for last. Revelation 1:12-20
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”
Thankfully we don’t have to wait very long for God to reveal to John what this all means. I feel like we could have come up with some very interesting meanings for the lampstands and the stars if Jesus hadn’t explained it very explicitly.
Lampstands = churches. Stars = angels (or messengers).
While the book does go on to give some very interesting imagery of the last days and the defeat of The Beast (Satan), he begins the book with a word to his bride, the Church. (that's us!)
If we think of the book of Acts as the beginning of the church, then I feel like it’s not too much of a stretch to think of the book of Revelation as an ending synopsis of how well we’re doing as a church.If we think of the book of Acts as the beginning of the church, then I feel like it’s not too much of a stretch to think of the book of Revelation as an ending synopsis of how well we’re doing as a church. Click To Tweet
What if, in the spirit of “beginning with the end in mind”, we used the letters to the seven churches as a blueprint for discipleship in our churches? What could the hits and misses of the seven churches teach us today about what we should and should not be doing in the present age?
John was an actual disciple of Jesus. He was an eyewitness, probably the last one left. Think about this for a minute - the Church was young and you would think that things would not have gotten far off track since not that much time had elapsed since Jesus was actually, physically present.
If the early church had gotten off track in that brief period of time, just think about how off track we could be today when thousands of years had passed by. It’s like the old saying about 1cm not being too far off the mark, but if it’s 1cm every day for 1000 years…. You’d be in a completely different place than you meant to go.
Stick with me to see what God has to say to the seven churches, and we may just find that He has something to say to our churches as well.
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