Marks of a Great Church: Keep on Living

marks of a great churchRevelation 2:8-11; 3:7-13

A great church keeps his word
(3:10; 1:3, 2:26, 14:12; 16:15; 22:7, 9)

The earth-dwellers are the wicked who invite judgement (6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 17:2, 8 )

The heaven-dwellers refer to the righteous. Those who overcome will be

±Be given a victor’s crown (2:10)

±Welcomed into God’s temple as a part of it (3:12).

Two tricky phrases

1. “Synagogue of Satan” (2:9)

We cannot recycle first-century Jewish-Christian denunciations of their Jewish opponents in an anti-Jewish way. Christian anti-Semitism has erected the largest barriers to belief in Jesus that many modern Jewish people face. The biggest barrier may be the widespread premise that Jewish person cannot be faithful to their ancestral heritage and believe in Jesus.

2.  The “hour of trial”

±Testing before the end (9:15; 17:12)

±The final hour at our Lord’s return (3:3, 14:7, 15)

One commentator complains that the “effect of this ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ is to dissociate Christian readers from any persecution and suffering at the hands of the Beast and to deny the church’s identity as a martyr church..

Can do better

1. Prepare for death (2:10)

“If we have not prepared ourselves and our congregations to die for Christ’s name, if necessary, we have not completed our responsibility of making disciples” (Mark 8:34-38).

Billy Graham points out, “suffering has a mysterious, unknown component”, whereas Smyrna would face greater suffering (2:10), Philadelphia would be delivered through theirs (3:10). In the same way, James was executed but Peter was released (Acts 12:2-7), some experienced miraculous release while others died (Heb 11:35), Corrie ten Boom survived the Nazi prison camp but her sister died there. We cannot explain why some suffer much more than others. “All I know from the short letters in Revelation,” Graham concludes, “is this: Christ commands us to ‘Overcome!’ in the strength He alone can supply”.

2. Depend on God’s power (3:8)

Power is easily abused, but weakness leads to dependence on God’s power (Ps 51:17 Is 57:15; 66:2, James 4:6).  God judges us “not on what power we start with, but on what to do with what he has given us”. God has a special concern for the broken. God promises to live with and embrace especially the broken and humble, just as he is far from the proud and self-sufficient (Ps. 51:17 Isa. 57:15; 66:2, James 4:6).

3. Participate in God’s worship (3:11)

We are close to our eternal destiny when we are glorifying God in worship or inviting others to recognise his greatness (5:9-10, 12). Worship involves recognising God’s and Christ’s true identity and work (cf. 5:9-10, 12), so that we are in awe of not merely sublime sounds but of the Lord himself. When we know what is truly like, we cannot withhold the honour due him.