“Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are,
and the things which will take place after this.”
One of the key truths that explains almost everything pertaining to the Christian life today is found in the second and third chapters of the Revelation. Here our Lord Jesus writes seven letters to seven churches that are, on the surface, intriguing. But once you dig deeper into the meanings of these letters, they are breathtaking and prophetic. In fact, they chronicle all of church history from the days of the Apostles until now. They are a timeline of church history and, for us, present church life. And once we come to grips with that fact alone, the meaning and purpose of the life we live, or try to live, or claim to live, or don’t live in Christ today opens up and unfolds like a spring flower. Everything becomes clear and focused.
But, as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. Let me step back and explain.
Seven Letters to Seven Churches
In Revelation 1:19 John is given a command by the risen Lord Jesus. He is told to, “Write the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” Here we have the outline from Jesus Himself for the entire book of the Revelation.
First, John is told to write what he has seen— the seven lampstands, the seven stars, the sharp two-edged sword, the Lord Jesus in all His glory, for example. All this takes place in chapter 1.
Next, John is told to write “the things which are”— the current church situation, the seven letters to seven churches in what we would now call Asia Minor. He is to write what the Lord says to the churches at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7), Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11), Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17), Thyatira (Rev. 2:18-29), Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6), Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13), and Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22). When we look at these seven letters to these ancient churches with strange sounding names we often see them as something mystical, something confusing, and something that we don’t really need to bother ourselves about except maybe in a purely academic sense. But that would be a grave mistake on our part. These seven letters are anything but dry, academic and boring. As stated before, chapters 2 and 3 reveal to us all of church history, our history, from the Apostles to the coming rapture of the church. They show us why we do the things we do, good or bad, in the name of Christ. They show us why we worship the way we worship, why we “do” church the way we do, and why we live the way we live. These letters show what the Lord commends in His church and what about His church He abhors. And they also show us what about His church literally makes Him sick on His stomach. But I am getting ahead of myself again. We will talk more about that later.
Finally, John is told to write the “things that will take place after this.” He is to write about events that will take place in the future, the incredible events that make up chapter 4 to the end of the Revelation. These events speak of great tribulation, of two witnesses, of the throne of God and the scroll sealed with seven seals, it speaks of the Lamb as if slain, the woman and the dragon, the Whore of Babylon and much more.
As you can see, John is given the outline for the entire book of the Revelation and of human history. In fact, the Revelation is the only book in the Bible that promises a special blessing to those who read it. It begins with these words, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written in it; for the time is near.”1 Or, as Chuck Missler would say, “Read me, I’m special!”2
Tomorrow we will look at the seven letters in detail and show how they reveal to us past church history and, amazingly, our current church situation. These letters from the Lord to His church are as timely as any news blog and as prophetic as the book of Daniel or Ezekiel. In fact, you will learn more about yourself from these letters, especially the last one, than you would have thought possible. And finally, you will see how God views His church, and you and I, compared to how we view ourselves— and the difference will take your breath away and drive you to your knees.
Are you ready for an incredible journey? Then let’s begin.
1. Revelation 1:3
2. Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 271.