Walking Among the Lampstands
We heard in the sermon this past Sunday that: Paul shows the enormous scope and importance of the church. The church isn’t just God’s earthly mechanism to show Himself to the world. The church has far-reaching influence, even in the Heavenly realms. In the purpose of the church, we find both an earthly mission and a cosmic one. Paul says that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10). The church, as Jesus said, would stand against rival powers including death, Satan, and demons.
I haven’t thought very often of the church’s role in making God’s wisdom known to His enemies. That expands the job description of the church a bit. It draws my mind to the book of Revelation. You know, the book that highlights the details of God’s cosmic purposes and plans through vivid and weird imagery and powerful prophecy; the book that encourages us that while persecution may increase in this hostile world, the final showdown is imminent.
But do you know how the “final-showdown” book begins? With an emphasis on churches. How interesting, and a tie to Paul’s point in Ephesians 3. Before the throne, the scroll, the lamb, the seals, the multitude, the battles, the beast; and before the white horse comes or New Jerusalem descends, God gives us seven real-life snapshots and messages to churches. It almost seems misplaced.
But why place the spotlight on these ordinary assemblies of believers in an otherwise very “other-worldly” book? Why start with the local church when you are heading towards a cosmic conclusion? Because the collective church on earth has a role in making the Victor known.
And I love that Jesus BOTH expresses great love for and trust in the church to fulfill His mission, as well as actively holds the church to His expectations, examining and evaluating it as necessary. He hands us, the church, His big mission and sets in motion the plan that will not change. But he also stays very involved in the lives of His churches. In fact, the image portrayed is of Him standing among the lampstands; and the lampstands are the churches.
Revelation 1:12-16: When I turned around to see what sort of voice this was that was addressing me, I saw seven golden lampstands. And among the lampstands, I saw One like the Son of Man right in front of me dressed in a long robe. Across His chest was draped a golden sash. His head and hair were pure white, white as wool and white as snow; His eyes blazed like a fiery flame; His feet gleamed like brightly polished bronze, purified to perfection in a furnace; His voice filled the air and sounded like a roaring waterfall. He held seven stars in His right hand, from His mouth darted a sharp double-edged sword, and His face shone a brilliant light, like the blinding sun.
Notice that Jesus Christ himself is walking among the churches. There is something extra sweet and extra beautiful to me about that fact. Sure, it’s powerful to imagine the Holy Spirit blowing through our churches, or flames of ﬁre dropping down on the church, or the power of the Holy Spirit shaking the room where the church is meeting. But I love that Jesus Christ, in all His resurrected power, is walking among the churches. He is involved!
The description of Jesus here has eyes like blazing ﬁre –a sign of His penetrating insight. Jesus sees and knows all and he knows these churches well! He is aware of their work, their tribulation, their endurance, shortcomings, sins, failures, and victories. I’d go so far as to say that He never takes HIs eyes oﬀ of the church. We are, remember, His beloved.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t understand that these speciﬁc evaluations and encouragements relate to all churches. Jesus repeats in all seven letters: he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Can you imagine your specific church’s honest report shared with the rest of the world throughout history?! That could be a bit painful. But I am grateful for the example of these churches. It’s relatable the root problems of the early church are the root problems of the modern-day church. The fact that Christ is involved and moved by the conditions, activities, and inner workings of our present churches should keep us on our toes.
May we remember God’s purpose to make His manifold wisdom known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through us. May we take that assignment seriously. And may we keep our eyes on the one who is keeping His eyes on us. May our lampstands continue to shine bright!