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Lesson 12: The Church Militant *

Introduction: What do you think about the book of Revelation? Do the scary beasts stand out in your mind? How about deep mysteries regarding the future? We turn our attention this week to a different part of Revelation, the part that deals with God's advice to the Christian church. Although this section of Revelation gives advice to specific churches that existed at the time the book was written, most Christian Bible scholars believe that these churches also represent a description of the Christian church during different periods of history. The church in Laodicea represents the last period of history before Jesus returns again. If you believe, as I do, that we are living in the end time, Laodicea is a description of us. Let's dig deep to see what lessons we can learn from the advice to Laodicea!

  1. Introduction to the Churches

    1. Read Revelation 1:1-2 and Revelation 1:4-5. On whose behalf is John writing this message? (Jesus. However, Jesus brings greetings on behalf of God the Father and the "seven spirits" before His throne.")

      1. To whom is he writing? (He says "seven churches" which are located in "the province of Asia." This tells us that we are dealing with seven actual churches.)

    2. Read Revelation 1:19-20. To what are the churches compared? (Golden lampstands.)

      1. Why compare a church to a golden lampstand? (Recall two weeks ago we studied that we should do "gold standard" work for the church? God is looking for gold standard churches that will shed the light of the gospel to the world.)

      2. What does the "one angel for one church" suggest about your local church? (That it has an angel assigned to it!)

        1. Wait a minute. Consider this. If "lampstand" figuratively means the church, is the word "angel" also figurative for the minister or leader of each of the churches? (This is debated. It could be a reference to the local clergy, but Revelation 1:1 starts out with a reference to an "angel" that is clearly a supernatural being.)

      3. What does the phrase "what will take place later" suggest? (That this is not simply advice to seven literal churches, but it is advice for the future church as well.)

  2. Laodicea

    1. Read Revelation 3:14. Instead of writing to Laodicea, John writes the angel assigned to Laodicea? Why? (It must be that the angel conveys God's message to the church. Remember that when we studied Cornelius and Peter's vision of the sheet, we read that it was an angel that spoke to Cornelius. Acts 10:3-4. Thus, angels give messages to humans, and this is the message the angel of Laodicea is to give to that church. On the other hand, if we think "angel" is a figurative reference to the clergy leading the church, this shows God gives His message through His divinely appointed leaders.)

      1. Who is the author of the message to the angel of Laodicea? We learned at the beginning of this study that Jesus is the author of messages to the churches. Has the author of the message to Laodicea changed? (Instead of giving a name, it gives a description, "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.")

        1. Who does that describe? (Re-read Revelation 1:5 and read Colossians 1:18. These are still the words of Jesus.)

        2. Why, from a practical point of view, does this matter? (Jesus experienced our life! This is advice from One who knows what it is to live the human life.)

    2. Read Revelation 3:15-16. Why does Jesus want us to be one extreme or the other? What is wrong with "middle of the road," "temperate?" (Jesus compares us to a drink, which causes us to recall that we prefer cold or hot drinks. Lukewarm is not our favorite.)

      1. A drink is an analogy. Jesus is talking about deeds. What are lukewarm deeds?

    3. Read Revelation 3:17. Here is our definition of "lukewarm." What do the members of this church think? (They are rich and life is great.)

      1. What are they in reality? (Wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.)

        1. I don't know about you, but that sounds great to me. What if everyone you knew who was "wretched, poor and blind" thought life was great? It would mean you would not have to worry about them, right? (It would be a wonderful cure for poverty and disease world wide!)

        2. Does this mean that if you are literally poor, and you think you are poor, "lukewarm" does not apply to you? It only applies to rich people?

      2. What do you think Jesus is actually telling the angel of Ladocea? (Being "rich" and "poor" are extremes, they are not lukewarm, middle of the road. Thus, I think it unlikely that we are talking about those who literally think they are rich, but are literally poor and blind.)

        1. What would make sense of the reference to us being "lukewarm?" (Rich, poor and blind must refer to our spiritual condition. We think we are spiritually on track. We know a great deal about God. But, in fact, we are spiritual beggars.)

        2. Most people are not rich, so the advantage of thinking this refers to those who are literally rich is that you can say, "That does not apply to me!" If Jesus is talking about literal wealth, what is the message? (That you depend on yourself. You are comfortable. You are a Christian, but that might be more of an identity than an activity.)

    4. Read Revelation 3:18. Does this show that Jesus wants us to become rich? Do you think that Jesus means that we should literally purchase gold? (It is hard to imagine that Jesus has a "gold store" somewhere. The fact that the gospel is not a financial transaction reinforces the idea that Jesus is talking about spiritual matters.)

      1. What is the cure for our spiritual poverty? (First, to realize that we are not rich. We need more gold.)

      2. What is the gold that we must "buy?" (Read Philippians 3:7-9. Paul writes about a comparison between actual money and the value of knowing God and understanding grace. This means that knowing God is gold.)

        1. Do you realize that by reading this lesson you are mining for gold?

      3. What are the white clothes to wear? (The parable of Matthew 22:1-14 shows that this is a reference to Jesus' robe of righteousness that He gives to us.)

      4. What is the salve for the eyes? (Understanding what we are just discussing. Our own spiritual "wealth" is absolute poverty in God's eyes. Instead, we need to "buy" from Jesus the gold of understanding Him which will open our eyes to understand righteousness by faith - the righteousness of Jesus given to us as a free gift.)

    5. Read Revelation 3:19. What can we expect if we do not correctly understand grace? (Jesus says that He will rebuke us. If we find that our views on grace are changing, this may reflect a rebuke. Perhaps life is not going well and this reflects a "discipline" to focus our mind on Him. The goal is to understand grace correctly. We need to be earnest and repent.)

      1. Notice that the text says nothing about "grace," it says that if He loves us we can expect rebuke and discipline. Is love the trigger for rebuke, not a failure to understand grace? (You don't rebuke your children simply because you love them. You rebuke they are doing something harmful. Love is not the trigger, taking the wrong path is the trigger.)

    6. Read Revelation 3:20. What encouragement do we get from this verse? (Jesus is pursuing us on this, not the other way around. We don't have to agonize about whether we correctly understand grace, if we are earnest and "open the door" Jesus will come in an bring us light.)

      1. Notice the elements of gaining grace: 1) Jesus comes to each one of us. He will not force us, but He will knock. 2)We are simply called to listen and open our hearts and minds to Him. 3. He will become a part of our life. He will make Himself known to us.)

    7. Read Revelation 3:21-22. What is the "payoff" for letting Jesus into our life? (That we will be able to sit with Jesus on His heavenly throne!)

    8. Friend, are you comfortable in your current spiritual state? Are you alert to Jesus' "knock" on your door? If not, why not ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to help you open the door to Jesus so that you can "buy" His "gold," "white clothes," and "eye salve?"

  3. Next week: Redemption.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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