I tend to neglect the book of Revelation. We tend to think of it as a book regarding the future, and, frankly, I seem to think I need something to help get me through the here and now when I read the words of God. So, after much time, I decided to open the neglected book, if for no other reason, it seemed like a good thing to do. And right there in the second chapter, Jesus speaks to the churches. These were real churches in the time the Apostle John penned his vision. Also, some think they could be interpreted to a declining universal Church through the ages. Regardless, it seems to me that we can approach the letters with the attitude, “If the shoe fits…”
The first church Jesus addresses is the congregation at Ephesus:
Jesus praises them for their hard work, perseverance, and for evaluating and recognizing false teachers, the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans were a sect of false teachers in the very early church. They were known compromising with the pagan culture, proclaiming that their spiritual liberty gave them leeway to practice idolatry and immorality” (NIV Study Bible notes).
Similar to today, we see people who want to claim the name of Christ, yet not live a life prescribed in Scripture. I think it probably came about logically, as such things often do. There was the accusation of legalism. There was the recognition of freedom in Christ. Yet, people have a difficult time maintaining balance, and the tension between living in the world and not being of it is ever present for all of us.
Freedom became license and license became rejection of some of the basic tenants of the worship of the one True God in the presence and practice of all types of idolatry from Genesis right down to the here and now.
The Nicolaitans did not spring from without; the false perspective was bred right in the Church—perhaps from the church in Jerusalem itself.
Right here in Revelation 1, Jesus states not that He hates the Nicolaitans, but their practices; and the church at Ephesus was commended for their recognition and stand against the false teaching. It’s always a danger to interpret Scripture through the lens of culture instead of interpreting culture through the lens of Scripture.
If we believe the Bible to be the very Words of God—and we do—we must maintain a practice of the later, regardless of the difficulty. And difficult it really is because we also must be sure that we are correctly interpreting the Words of Truth. We naturally tend to interpret Scripture through our lens instead of God’s. Oh, to approach Scripture with the attitude of “teach me your ways, oh Lord.”
Jesus simply ends by stating, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Sprit (God) says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7).
Let us search the Bible to know God better and with the desire to follow Him, for He alone can redeem us. And, He alone can reveal the Words of Life.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything