What Happened to the Seven Churches of Revelation?

Lessons From Rocks

In the subsequent days after our trip, I’ve processed a few lessons to learn from these ancient ruins and from the letters to the seven churches.

Remember Jesus

This Jesus of the first century is the same Jesus of today. He is described in these letters as the one who walks among the churches (Rev. 2:1), the First and the Last, and the One who was dead and came to life (Rev. 2:8), the one who has the sharp, double-edged sword (Rev. 2:12), the one whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze (Rev. 2:18), the Holy and the True One (Rev. 3:7), the Amen, and the faithful and true Witness (Rev. 3:14). Although these letters occurred at a specific point in antiquity, they bring so much more than historical facts to those who are listening. They are the words of the Living One, and they bear weight on our devotion to him today.

Beware of falling

Jesus couldn’t make it any clearer: following him requires our all. The believers of the first century felt the constant social pressure to compromise their faith by worshiping the emperor in cult worship, tolerating false teachers and leading lifestyles that mirrored the pagan world around them.

Has anything really changed in the past 2,000 years? We may not have neighborhood temples, but Christians today feel pressures to compromise in similar ways. Discipleship of Christ is serious stuff that requires an unrelenting commitment to our only Lord. We must always choose the way of the cross.

Endure to the end

The Christian life is one of mountains and valleys. If we don’t keep a long-term perspective, we will become quickly discouraged and fall away. Christ speaks often of endurance in his letters. “Be faithful until death,” he encouraged the church in Smyrna. Those who endure to the end are called victors and will share in Christ’s glory (Rev. 3:21). Let’s take heart from the faithful examples of those who have gone before us and persevere in fidelity to Christ until our final breath.

Expect God to raise up others

The people of Turkey are not the same ethnic people of the first century. A Muslim people, Turks are proud of their final overthrow of the Christian Byzantine Empire in 1453. Yet God’s church is growing. Throughout the many small towns like Bergama scattered across Turkey, men and women are searching for God. In 2017, almost 10,000 individuals answered an ad to receive a New Testament in the mail. God is raising up his church in this ancient land.

Many of the ruins we visited were desolate. It was just my friend, me and the lizards among the ancient stones. I remembered Jesus’s words to the Pharisees who wanted him to rebuke those who cried, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus told them, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:38Luke 19.40″ data-version=”hcsb” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>40 NIV).

And so they do. Even stones built for pagan worship cry out that Jesus is King. He is building his church, and I want him to find me—find us—faithful in the end.

Want to see more photos from our Seven Churches of Revelation tour? Click here.

This article originally appeared here.

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MadelineArthington@churchleaders.com'
Madeline Arthington is a writer who serves with IMB in Central Asia.