Man…what a year 2017 has been! We’re on track to break records for the magnitude and frequency of natural disasters this year. USA today says we’ve already tied the record for billion dollar disasters. It is reasonable that people are wondering about the end of the world.
I’ve been asked multiple times if I think these are signs of the last days. My answer is “absolutely”. According to Matthew 24, all of these things – wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, storms, diseases – are going to characterize the world as we wait for Jesus to return. From the time Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, we’ve been on the final stretch of history until he returns. So, yes, these are indicators of that…but in many ways, it’s just another tragic day in a broken world. These are the labor pains as a new world is breaking in. Since labor pains usually increase as the birth draws closer, it seems reasonable that these upheavals will increase as we get closer to the end.
Given that, how should the church be responding to this? What is Jesus expecting from us as this world reels and becomes hazardous? If the world were going to end tomorrow, what does God want to see from us?
That’s what we’ll be considering this Sunday as we continue our study in Revelation, reading chapter 2:1-11.
This begins another section traditionally called the 7 letters to the 7 churches. As we stated before, there were more than 7 churches in Asia Minor, so highlighting 7 of them carries the implication that these instructions are for all churches throughout all time.
The first church addressed is in Ephesus. They are commended for an active ministry and doctrinal purity. They were hard at work, serving each other and holding on to orthodoxy. But Jesus zeroed in on something that was lacking. What was it? They were doing the stuff that most churches are always being prodded towards – but it doesn’t seem to be worthwhile without the component Jesus identifies as missing. Jesus tells them to “remember”, “repent” and then “do”. What would that look like lived out in real life?
What does that tell us about God’s expectations of us as this world rocks and reels? What is our main mission as we march toward the end of history?
We’ll also be reading the instructions to the church in Smyrna. They aren’t corrected for anything – but they are encouraged not to do something. What is it? What does that tell us about God’s expectations for the church in the last days? What should characterize our attitudes and ministries? How does that square with frantic end of the world predictions you’ve encountered?
These are some things to think about!