Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:29 (NIV)
One of the things that I’ve observed about human nature is our penchant for mysteries and secrets. We love a good yarn like National Treasure and The Davinci Code. I can find all sorts of documentaries streaming about secrets and conspiracies. Nostradamus remains a popular figure. A couple of decades ago a book came out about The Bible Code that claimed to unlock secret numerical codes within the text of the Great Story.
When it comes to the book of Revelation it is tempting to lean into that desire to unlock the secrets of what it has to reveal to us hidden beneath the text. Yet along my spiritual journey, I have observed that it’s easy to seek out the secret mysteries beneath the text to the point that I ignore the simple truth that’s staring me right in the face.
Today’s chapter kicks off a series of seven letters which the glorified Christ asks John to pen to Jesus’ followers in seven towns of Asia Minor, not far from where John was exiled on the island of Patmos. The chapter has four of the seven letters which generally contain a pattern of Jesus:
- Commending the believers (“You’re doing this well…”)
- Cautioning the believers (“I have this against you…”)
- Encouraging the believers (“Now do this…”)
- Offering a word of eternal hope (“To those who…I will…”).
These places were real cities in which the issues addressed were very real. The Roman world was an immoral culture. Pagan gods and their worship were steeped in prostitution and sexual immorality. The Roman Emporer Domitian led a revival in the Emporer Cult in which he (and some of his family members) were considered gods. Followers of Jesus had faced long periods of persecution (from both Romans and Jews) for their worship of Jesus as the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” and their rejection of Roman debauchery and polytheistic paganism.
Much like Paul’s letters to the believers in Corinth, the letters to Jesus’ followers in Asia Minor make it clear that there were those who were teaching that one could be a follower of Jesus and still participate in pagan religion and Roman revelry. Jesus’ message through John dispels this notion and encourages His followers to shun these ideas.
Because of their inclusion in John’s Revelation, there are those who inflate the meaning and importance of these letters. It’s often argued that they are representative, allegorical, or parallel to the larger history of the church.
Fine. Buy me a pint and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.
I find it fascinating that the glorified Christ uses the same phrase in His dictation to John as He did with His parables during His ministry: “Those who have ears, let them hear.” During His earthly ministry, Jesus was typically making a very simple spiritual truth cloaked in a metaphor. I believe the same is true in today’s chapter.
In the quiet this morning, I’m reticent to expand the meaning of rather straightforward messages. Instead, what I’m “hearing” is to reduce the message to very simple truths: Be in the world, but not of it. Keep the faith. Press on.
And so, I enter another day and will endeavor to do so.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.