Why are only 7 churches addressed by Christ when there were more than 7 churches in Asia Minor?
Numbers are symbolic in Revelation.
As Dr. Campbell explains: Seven, rooted in the creation account, is the number of God and completion…If the seven churches are representative of the universal church, as the numerical symbolism indicates, then the contents of both the letters and the visions are also applicable to the church throughout the ages.”
Therefore, what Christ commends in these 7 churches will also be found in the universal church today, and what He has against them will also be found in us.
This makes Revelation so relevant to us. The 7 churches are us.
Consider the first church we will study this week: Ephesus. They are commended for sound doctrine and not tolerating false doctrine. But they are rebuked for not loving as they did at first. Jesus warns them: “If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand…” What does this mean? I asked Dr. Campbell this question and this was our dialogue (his response is in red.)
Would you say that removing a lampstand means Christ will leave that church? They may continue meeting, but the Holy Spirit will be gone? There will be no true spiritual life?
Yes exactly – to me, this is a description of most liberal churches today. They are religious institutions, not churches in the Biblical sense. What we have to watch is that legalism, as one example, or hypocrisy or hidden sin does not come in and endanger our lampstand even when our doctrine is still correct – this was the danger facing the Ephesians. When love is no longer apparent in the fellowship, the fellowship is in serious danger of dying.
One of the false doctrines the Church at Ephesus would not tolerate was the doctrine of the Nicolaitans which involved sexual immorality. Christ commended them for this for He hated that false doctrine as well, seeing how it destroyed people He loved.
It is vital to hold to sound doctrine. How we need to do this today as well — including in the area of God’s plan for sex. But when we do that, we certainly need to combine it with love, and with humility about our own sin, or we will just be seen as judgmental finger-pointers.
Eberhard Arnold lived during the time of Hitler and saw how he was perverting Christian doctrine, and Eberhard said:
How terribly relevant this is for us today. How challenging it is for us to hold to the true doctrine of God’s plan for sex, yet do so with compassion and LOVE! So this week, just to show you how relevant each message to the churches is to us, I will address this.
There are those who believe the LGBT agenda is a “watershed issue” for the church. Here is a one-page excerpt from a recent discussion on the podcast The World and Everything In It. (Please read!) Transcript of Discussion on Why the LGBT Discussion Could Become Watershed Issue on Christian Doctrine Their main point, which certainly could apply to the whole area of Christian obedience, is “Are we going to let God decide what is best for us, or are we the captains of our fates and the masters of our souls?” For those who want to hear the whole discussion, (under 10 minutes) here is the link:
For many of you, this is extremely relevant. Someone you love has same-sex attraction, or someone you know seems repulsed by Christianity because they think Christians hate those who have same-sex attraction. I have a ten-year-old granddaughter who came home from her public school and told her mom: “Did you know there are seven different ways I can be?” And this week I’ve been in Nebraska with my youngest, and they are endeavoring to bring a program to the public schools where they begin in kindergarten showing children “different kinds of families” and after each picture, the children are to parrot together:
“And that’s okay!”
We must not be deceived, this is a spiritual battle as well with the forces of darkness, who twist the truth, portraying those who hold to Scripture as haters. The following clip is from the movie “Prom,” typical of what the media is telling the world about us, and I see the father of lies behind it.
One of Satan’s common tricks is to quote Scripture with a twist, as he did with Eve, and again with Jesus in the desert. For example, in this clip, the Christians (who are all portrayed as hateful) are told, “You can’t cherry-pick the Bible.” There is truth in that, yet, oh, how he misapplies it. People in the world do this all the time, but it is important to see our real enemy beneath their words. Satan wants us to be our own god, and I believe he wants to destroy the family. We are in a battle and we must fight with truth and love.
In this clip, you’ll see how he twists scripture, but the worst is the way he twists the words of Jesus in the chorus. See if you can discern that lie, for that is the lie being repeated in the world. “Love Wins” was the title of Rob Bell’s book that twisted the gospel. We must combine love and truth. We’ll talk about how to do that this week — together!
Please listen to this. (Under 4 minutes)
Here also is the link to Keven DeYoung’s sermon, which is a great optional resource for you this week.
Dr. Campbell continues to be so helpful. Last week a couple of you questioned his reasoning that the tribulation is occurring during the whole church age, which was different than you believed. I wrote him and his responses are in red if you are interested in that — here’s the link: Campbell on Tribulation
Word Document to Print off Questions:
Sunday: Getting Started
- What stands out to you from the above and why? From the 4 minute video?
- What lies do you discern in the Prom “rap” song Love Thy Neighbor? Jesus did say in Matt. 22:40 that “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:40) (The two commandments being “loving God and loving our neighbor.”) How is what Jesus said being twisted by the rap “Love trumps them all?”
Monday: The Pattern
3. In the opening paragraph of Chapter 2 of Mystery Explained, Dr. Campbell explains the pattern that we see as Christ addresses each of these seven churches. Outline the typical pattern.
4. What does Campbell say all the letters deal with? How is this also true for us?
5. Now, read Revelation 2:1-7 and answer:
A. To whom is the letter addressed? (Rev. 2:1a)
B. How is Jesus described? (Rev. 2:1b)
C. For what are they commended? (Rev 2:2-3)
D. For what are they rebuked? (Rev. 2:4)
E. How are they to respond to this rebuke? (Rev. 2:5a)
F. Find both the warning and the promise. (Rev. 2:5b-7)
Tuesday: The Church with Truth But Not Love
6. Read the following and describe what you know about the church at Ephesus:
A. Acts 19:23-28
B. Acts 20:25-36
7. Read the section about the Church at Ephesus in Mystery Explained and answer:
A. In the first paragraph, how can we see that somehow heaven and earth are connected?
B. In the second paragraph, how do we see that these letters to the churches go beyond pastoral letters?
C. In the third paragraph, how does Dr. Campbell summarize Christ’s message to this church?
D. In the fourth paragraph, which begins with “the rebuke continues” we learn about the symbolic nature of the lampstand. What does it represent?
E. In the fifth paragraph, what do you learn about the practice of the pagan culture of Ephesus?
F. Read the rest of the section on Ephesus and share anything that stands out to you.
8. Dr. Campbell writes: “The church, when functioning properly, is always counter-cultural, for which a price, from loss of popularity to loss of income to loss of life, will often be paid.” How do you see this happening to individuals today who are standing, in love, against the lies of the LGBT agenda? How might you have to pay this price if you do likewise?
Wednesday: Kevin DeYoung Sermon
I realize I might be overwhelming some of you, so you may skip this, but I’m hoping many of you will listen and share your notes, for it is so well done. You can listen while you multi-task. But if you can’t, here are a few highlights that spoke to me personally:
Listen most carefully to the church where the praise is like you, for probably the rebuke will fit at well.
The Ephesians’ careful eye for doctrine became a careful eye for finding fault in one another. Fighting got in their blood! They were just shining their light at each other and seeing problems, instead of shining their light to the world.
As in Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr Valiant for Truth must meet up with Mr. Great-Heart.
9. Listen to the Kevin DeYoung Sermon above and share what stands out to you.
10. Pastor DeYoung pointed out the Remember, Repent, and Return turns out nicely in English. How could you apply this to your walk with Christ? Possibly to your marriage?
11. What warning in Revelation 2:5 does Jesus give to the church at Ephesus?
Because I don’t want you to miss this, here is a quote from Dr. Campbell:
…if they do not remember and repent, their lampstand will be removed. The church which had been used so powerfully to bring light into darkness might be cast into darkness itself. Israel had also been a lampstand (Zech. 4:2, 11) but when the Israelites turned their back on God’s commission to be a light to the nations (Isa. 42:6-7; 49:6) their lampstand was removed and they were replaced by the church. (Rev. 1:6)…The church is called to be a witness, in the way Jesus talked of the lamp which was to be put on a lampstand. (Mk. 4:21, Lk. 8:16)
Thursday: Begin with Love
If we begin with love, as Jesus did, we are much more likely to be heard. With nearly every church He begins with a commendation.
Before this Covid pandemic, I was a guest in a home where the parents had one child who identified himself as bi-sexual and was living with another man. The parents have not compromised on their biblical view, but they also have been showing love. They invited this son to bring his roommate home for Thanksgiving. When the two young men left, the roommate told the son: “Don’t you ever tell me your parents are bigots again. I’ve never felt so loved in my whole life.”
12. What are some ways that you could show love to the world in which you live with both deeds and words? Be prayerful first, asking God to show you — for He may call you to show love to someone in particular and in a particular way. What does He impress on your heart?
Friday: Speaking The Truth in Love
13. When a non-Christian, or even a professing Christian disagrees with a biblical truth, and brings it up to you, what are some scriptural principles you should apply? What do you learn from James 1:19-20?
14. Tim Keller says that when you disagree with someone, you must show them how you have heard them by repeating back to them the argument they have made. This could be doctrinal such as “A good God wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” Or behavioral. “It’s smart to live together before marriage.” It is only after they know they have been heard that they might listen to your rebuttal. Have you done this? If so, tell us briefly about it.
I think the main thing we need to gently express concerning behavioral disagreements, is that God’s boundaries, while they may seem heartless, are full of wisdom and love, for He is our Maker, and knows the best way for us to thrive. With sex, when used as our Maker intended, acts like a pure stream, cleansing and refreshing. Used as unintended, it becomes like a flood that destroys and kills. My absolute favorite author on this subject of homosexuality practice is Wesley Hill. You can find his books and talks on the internet. But in Washed and Waiting, he tells of how C. S. Lewis was the one who opened his eyes to the lie of the enemy:
Many might say that for me as a gay Christian to abstain from homosexual sex means that I’m choosing to prudishly, pitiably shelter myself from the only life worth living. Lewis turns the tables on this kind of objection, audaciously claiming that, no, in fact, it’s the sexually active homosexual person who misses out.
There’s more in this book that is of great value, but this is always the lie of the enemy. You are missing out if you don’t eat of the fruit of the tree! He still whispers it to me — you won’t be happy unless you give in. But he is such a liar.
Here is one idea — but the Spirit will lead differently with each situation. How about preparing to share an area where you were deceived, and how you went on that destructive path and it brought pain?? But then how God released you. That helps overcome the offensive belief that we think we are better than others.
I will often tell people how I thought making side-ways comments (instead of speaking the truth in love to someone who was upsetting me) was a good idea. But I was so wrong, for all I had to show for it was broken relationships. God has delivered me and healed my relationships.
15. Your turn:
A. How might you be vulnerable about a sin God delivered you from? What lie did you believe? How did He rescue you? Be brief.
B. How might you gently share how God’s boundaries often seem heartless but are just the opposite?
16. Challenge question: How might a young mother explain God’s plan for sex to ten-year-old that would include why we should allow God to define our gender instead of deciding for ourselves?
17. What’s your take-a-way this week and why?