Seven Things the Church Needs to Overcome: Revelation 2 and 3
By Don Ruhl
In Revelation 2.1–7 Jesus had many good things to say about the church in Ephesus. However, in verse 4, Jesus said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Jesus commended the church for their works, patience, and exposure of false teachers, yet, He said they lacked one thing.
Our first impression might be, “That isn’t bad.” However, verse 5 says that they had fallen and were in need of repentance. A car with many good features is useless without a gas tank. Despite all the good points of the Ephesian church, they had lost their first love; they had become apathetic; and so were in spiritual danger.
Jesus urged them, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (2.5).
The next church, Smyrna, was told, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer…” (2.10a). This congregation was about to go through persecution and, like all persecution, it could make them fearful. Jesus went on to tell Smyrna, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (2.10b, 11b).
The church in Pergamum tolerated the presence of false teachers and Jesus held it against the church, “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (2.14,15). When a congregation starts to compromise, it becomes weak doctrinally, making the membership weak and ignorant, and immorality becomes a problem. Therefore, Jesus commanded the Pergamum church, “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (2.16).
The church at Thyatira also had a problem of allowing what God did not want, “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (2.20). Many churches do not teach error, but will allow someone to come in and teach error. Sometimes they do this under the pretense of love and toleration. It is neither one of these things. It is ignorance and will destroy a congregation of God’s people. So Jesus told the members at Thyatira who did not approve of the permissiveness, “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (2.24–26).
The church at Sardis seemed to start out good, but put off finishing the work, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God” (3.2). Many works start with good intentions, but people get tired, and a good work falls by the wayside.
Churches need to prioritize and count the cost of a given work and be determined to finish the project, lest shame be brought on the church.
The church at Philadelphia had great opportunities before it, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (3.8). They could not be timid and wonder if it was the right thing to do, for, if the Lord opened the door, it was the right thing to do.
The church at Laodicea simply approached Christianity half-heartedly, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (3.15–17). This church had not ceased working, but did not give a full effort. In their success and ease, they retired from Christianity, like a lion after a feast, they lumbered around and did little. Jesus rebuked them, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (3.19).
*The main points of this article were given to me by Steve Lloyd in 1984.