CDPCKL · He is Here and He is Not Silent (Revelation 22:6-21)

He is Here and He is Not Silent (Revelation 22:6-21)

In the beginning, the Book of Genesis tells us, God created the heavens and the earth. That is: he created the spiritual universe, and the physical universe — which ancient people thought of as a vast ocean called the Abyss, containing the raw materials of creation. And, to clarify this point, Genesis goes on to say that darkness was over the surface of the abyss, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And then, Genesis tells us, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

And what this means is that the first three sentences of the bible introduce God as three distinct persons: God, the Creator; God’s Spirit: the wind, the Breath of God; and God’s speech: God’s Word, the light of God’s revelation. 

And all the way through the Old Testament we can see the writers of scripture wrestling with these concepts. 

Because, on one hand, the bible says: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Jews — and Christians after them — have always believed in One God. 

On the other hand, from the earliest days, God’s prophets have understood that the “breath” — the Spirit — of the One God must be an eternally living breath, distinct from the One who breathed and yet One with him, just as our breath is distinct from us, and yet we would cease to exist without it. And the prophets understood that God’s speech must also be eternally living speech, distinct from the Speaker and yet One with him — like the prophet Isaiah described for us in the passage we read during our Call to Worship today: “My word goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire.” God’s Word does things because it is a living, self-conscious, self-aware Word. 

In addition to all this, God’s prophets understood that it is God’s Breath and his Word that actually enables him to interact with us. In fact, many of the prophets went all the way and promised that one day God’s Word would actually live on the earth in physical form, and that he would have the authority to give God’s living Spirit to people from all nations. 

So God is One, but he is also…Three: ever-living Father, ever-living Spirit, ever-living Word. And let’s be honest: this really puts tension on our brains, doesn’t it? Logically speaking, God must be a united whole or else he is just not God anymore. At the same time, God must also contain some kind of diversity, or else he would be unable to move or act or even communicate. But how can God be a Unity and a Diversity? 

And, really, we have to admire the ancient Jewish people for figuring this out. They are the only ancient people who did. 

Most people denied the idea that God is a Unity: they assumed God must be a diversity, they turned to polytheism — the belief in many gods — and I think the winner in that contest must be the Hindus, who have some 200,000,000 gods. Now, the great benefit of polytheism is that the gods are very flexible, very active and accessible to us. The problem is that such gods are also relatively powerless. 

A few people went the other way. They denied the idea that God is a Diversity: they assumed that God must be a unity, they turned to simplistic monotheism, and the winner in that contest has to be Islam. Now, the great benefit of simplistic monotheism is its simplicity: there is One God, and he is all-powerful, and that’s it. No need to think: just declare it. The great weakness, however, is that God become a completely alien Other: there can be no real connection, no real communication between such a God and anyone else. 

The Jews were the only ancient people who were philosophically sophisticated enough to understand that both sides of the equation are necessary: God must be a Unity in order to be God, and God must be a Diversity in order to interact. They did not understand exactly how these two seemingly contradictory things could both be true, but they held on to both of them anyway. And, really, we would argue that they did not figure this out on their own, it was actually a divine wisdom taught to them by the Father, the Spirit and the Word. 

And the ancient Jewish people continued to hold on to this tension between God’s Unity and Diversity right up to the time of the Roman empire, 2000 years ago. 

But then two things happened: 

First, a man named Jesus of Nazareth showed up, claiming to be the ever-living Word of God, here in physical form just as the ancient prophets said. And Jesus claimed that he was going to pour out the ever-living Spirit of God upon people from all nations on earth, just as the ancient prophets said. 

Now, the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus’ claims, and they had him executed for blasphemy. But that is when the second thing happened: Jesus proved that he is the ever-living Word of God by coming back from the dead. And then he poured out the Spirit of God upon his followers, people from many different nations. He fulfilled every ancient prophecy. And then Jesus’ people, called Christians, began to spread throughout the Roman empire, carrying God’s Spirit and God’s Word with them. 

Unfortunately, when the Jewish leadership saw this happening, they did not join in. Instead, they refused to acknowledge that Jesus really had fulfilled the ancient prophecies. Instead, they deliberately went back and reinterpreted their own scriptures, they rejected the idea that God is made up of Father, Spirit, and Word, they rejected the idea that one day God himself would live with his people in physical form. So: 

Looking back, we are able to see how, during the centuries after Jesus Christ, Jewish theologians reacted by making a distinct shift into simplistic monotheism — an idea that Islam copied from them just a few hundred years later. The Jewish faith that is practiced today is different from the Jewish faith that existed before Jesus came. 

The Christian faith, however, picked up where the ancient Jewish faith had left off. The earliest Christian theologians continued to hold on to the tension of this idea that God must be both One and Three. And their writings were collected into what we now call our New Testament. 

And in reading through the New Testament, it is clear that they are all teaching the same thing: Jesus Christ is God; the Son and the Father are One and yet distinct; the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ, One with the Father and the Son and yet distinct… 

But still: it puts tension on our brains, doesn’t it? And we do not like tension. So when someone comes along and says, “God must be either One, or Many,” we like that. We go, “Great!” Because even if I do not really know enough to make a decision, I can at least flip a coin or something, and then get back to the business of life. But when scripture — and reason — comes along and says, “Uh, actually, God must be both One and Many,” then we go, “Oh…brain-cramp!” 

We are wired to take the path of least resistance. 

That is what Mohammed did, and that is why the monotheism he invented is so simple there is really no need to think deeply about it. In fact, thinking deeply about it is strongly discouraged! — as many of our friends here can tell us from personal experience. 

The path of least resistance was also followed by the fathers of the ancient Hindu faith, and that is why the polytheism they invented is so simplistically shapeless there is really no way to think deeply about it: don’t think, just do. 

And, brothers and sisters, we all need to be aware that there have been many Christian movements down through the centuries who have done the same thing: taken the easy way out and turned God into an either/or, rather than holding on to the biblical tension of both/and. The Oneness Pentecostal Church is an example; the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses; and — more and more recently — certain modern missionaries and evangelists. 

Now, Jesus knew his Church would continue to face this temptation to over-simplify. And that is why here, today, as we read the closing words of scripture, we are going to see that the bible ends where it began: with the revelation that God is One and God is Three, and that he will one day live with his people in physical form. 

And looking back now over the whole book of Revelation, we realize the whole book has really been all about the relationship between Father, Spirit, and Son, how the three persons of the One God work together to rule history. We have seen the Father on his throne invite the Lamb, his Son, to rule alongside him. We have heard the voice of God and of the Lamb speaking from the throne, sending the “seven spirits” throughout the earth to fill God’s prophets, God’s churches with God’s Word. In just the last few chapters especially we have seen the three persons of the Trinity working together to cast the three persons of the counterfeit trinity down into the Abyss and close it after them, making the new creation safe for Jesus’ Bride to descend and take her place alongside her husband, here to reign forever and ever. 

And so, now, the angel who has been guiding John through the last few closing visions says this to John: “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” 

The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent these visions. Therefore, John can know for certain that they are true, and he can be confident that when he writes them down he is writing truth. 

But then, Jesus himself breaks in and speaks directly: [7] “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.” 

…and this raises a question for us: what does it mean to “keep the words of the prophecy written in this scroll”? 

Well, this actually takes us back to John’s introduction. Right at the very beginning, the very first blessing John wrote down was this: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” 

So Jesus’ blessing here at the end is really a repeat of his first blessing for us: have we read aloud the words of this prophecy here in worship? Have we worked hard to hear it and take it to heart? 

…yes. Yes, we have. For six and a half months — a time, times and half a time — our community has focused on the words of this prophecy. And we have discovered that the whole book can be summed up in these five words: “Look, I am coming soon!” Jesus is coming back soon, so hold on! 

Of course, this can be confusing for us after 2000 years have passed. 2000 years does not feel like “soon” at all! 

But scripture gives us two particular words of comfort for us while we wait: 

First, when Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon!” he is speaking from his perspective as God. To God, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.” So, in that sense, we are like children strapped into our car-seats: we think the trip takes forever, but our parents know that it is only a two-hour drive. We ask, “How much longer?” and they say, “Soon, we will get there soon.” 

Second, when Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon!” he also means, “Look, I am coming next.” God’s plan of redemption was basically completed when Jesus rose from the dead and then his Church was baptised in the Holy Spirit fifty days later. There is really only one step left in the plan: Jesus’ return to make all things new. 

So this is what it means to keep the words of the prophecy written in this scroll: we cling to the truth about God the Father, Spirit, and Son — no matter what happens. Babylon the Great is great, and seductive, and ruthless to those who refuse to live according to her values. She wants us to be simplistic monotheists, or simplistic polytheists, or simplistic atheists, she actually doesn’t care which one we choose! as long as we do not choose the narrow path, the nuanced path, the path that leads to the true knowledge of the true God. She does not care what kind of idol we worship, just as long as we worship an idol of our own design. 

And just in case we miss this warning against idolatry, John makes a confession here: 

[8] I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. [9] But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!” 

So now, for a second time, John admits that even he — the last true Apostle of Jesus Christ, the writer of this Book of Truth! — fell into idolatry: he worshiped an angel, twice! Once back in Chapter 19, and now here again: he worshiped the messenger instead of worshiping the One who send the message, the One who is the Message: Jesus Christ. 

And if even a man like John, who knew Jesus face-to-face as a personal friend, could screw up like this, well then: how much more likely are we to fall into idolatry? 

And again, the reason John was honest about his own mistakes is because he knew that we are all too easily impressed by revelations and signs and wonders. His visions have made it clear that, as the final Judgement approaches, our human societies will be flooded with miracles and miracle-workers, sent by Satan to lead us away from true worship. John has been saying, again and again through this book, “Do not be fooled by false teachers, false prophets, demonic miracles, or you will end up following them right into the lake of fire!” 

But the even more painful truth is this: we are so prone to idolatry that we are even willing to take true messengers like this angel, and worship them also. 

So we must be on our guard, on at least two levels: we must be on our guard against worshiping false teachers, and we must also be on our guard against worshiping true teachers. 

There is only One God: the Father, the Spirit, and the Son. And we must worship him alone. And when we fail — as John just did — we must repent as soon as we become aware of our mistake. 

Then the angel goes on to say, [10] “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. [11] Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” 

The prophet Daniel, at the end of his visions in the Old Testament, was told that his book would be “rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.” This meant that his book would not really be understood until the Messiah came to make everything clear by pouring out God’s Holy Spirit upon his people. 

Well, now the Messiah has come, and the Holy Spirit has been given to his Church. So John is told, “Do not seal up the words of this prophecy.” From now on, God’s revelation is going to be open, available to anyone who comes and submits themselves to God’s living Word and his living Holy Spirit. 

But one thing has not changed since Daniel’s time: the wicked will continue to be wicked. The angel is basically telling John, “Look, as of this moment, the written Word of God is complete. The entire truth about God’s true being and character is now available to the world. But this does not mean that everyone who reads it is going to be convinced: most will not be. But that is not your problem. They will hate God, hate God’s Word, and hate God’s people. But you will continue to do right, you will continue to be holy.” 

And this is good practical advice for us also. It is always tempting to believe that, if we preach hard enough, if we work hard enough, we will redeem the world, we will convince everyone of the truth. But it does not work that way! The earth will only be made new when Jesus returns; our only responsibility is to announce the coming kingdom, and live according to the values of that coming kingdom. We cannot force that kingdom to come! We cannot force people to repent. We can only live and die as examples of Christ, and trust the Holy Spirit to save whoever he has determined to save. 

So, [12] “Look,” Jesus says for a second time, “I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. [13] I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” 

In the introduction, it was the Lord God who said, “I am the Alpha and Omega.” Now Jesus calls himself the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus is simply reconfirming that he is God, that the Son and the Father are One. The Word was there in the beginning, speaking light into the darkness; he is still here at the end, still speaking, still shining upon creation. He knows the difference between the one who does wrong and the one who does right, and he is the one who is going to sort us all out at the final Judgement: he is the one who will gather the precious wheat into his barn, and sweep the left-over scraps into the fire. 

And then Jesus goes on to tell John how he will be able to tell the difference between the one who does wrong and the one who does right. 

[14] “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” 

The one who does right is the person who wears the white wedding dress that Jesus has given the Church. These white robes symbolize the righteous acts of God’s holy people — an image we have discussed a few times over the last weeks. 

But there is more to this image here than just wearing Jesus’ white robes, we are also called to wash them, apparently. What does this mean? 

Well, this concept of “washing” was first mentioned back in Chapter 7, when John saw that great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, standing before God’s throne, wearing white robes. And John was told that these people had come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 

In other words: those were God’s people, all of them, who had joined the great 42 month-long symbolic exodus across the wilderness of earth’s history. It is hard to continue to do right in a world so committed to wrong; it is hard to continue to be holy in a world that hates holiness, but this great multitude had done it! — and they had suffered for it: rejection, humiliation, even death…just like Jesus. 

The person who washes their robes in the blood of the Lamb is the person who responds to God’s living Word and God’s living Spirit by changing the way they live — and then holds on to those changes even in the face of rejection, humiliation, even death. 

But [15] outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 

This is a list describing those who deliberately continue to do wrong. 

Now, what does Jesus mean when he says “dogs” here? Well, in the Old Testament, a “dog” is a male temple prostitute, specifically a man who claims to be one of God’s people and also claims that he is selling his body as an act of worship to God. In the New Testament, a “dog” is a teacher who claims to be Christian but also claims that people can save themselves by doing good works, or claims that Jesus has actually set people them free to pursue any pleasure they want. So that is interesting: in Jesus’ opinion, people who teach that legalism or lawlessness are pleasing to God are essentially the same as people who believe their sexual sin is pleasing to God. 

What about “those who practice magic arts”? Well, these are people like astrologers, mediums, bomoh: people who claim they can “stand in the gap” between the physical world and the spiritual world. 

The sexually immoral are people who consistently practice and endorse sex outside of marriage. Murderers are people who kill for profit or revenge. Idolaters are people who worship any god other than the One. Everyone who loves and practices falsehood — that one is pretty obvious. 

But this is actually not the first time we have seen this list. Back in Chapter 9 we were told that, even after God’s judgement destroys the Roman empire, the rest of the nations will disregard that object lesson and continue to practice idolatry, murders, magic arts, sexual immorality and thefts. Then again, in Chapter 21, we were told that the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars will end up in the lake of fire. So we keep finding these common themes listed: greed, murder, sexual immorality, magic, idolatry — but above all: lying. All throughout the Book of Revelation, lying has been condemned again and again. And that is because lying is actually the most foundational of the sins on this list. 

For instance, “Do not lie” is the 9th commandment, just before “Do not envy.” And we could be excused for thinking that after murder, adultery, and stealing, those last two commandments are just…bonus commandments, not nearly as important as the earlier ones. 

But the truth is, nobody starts with adultery and murder. They start with envy, the most invisible of all sins. But envy, when it is indulged, always leads to lying. Lying leads to stealing, stealing to adultery, adultery to murder, murder leads to rebellion against authority, which leads to a slave-driving workaholic society, which is a society that misuses God’s name, deliberately lies about who God is, which leads people to invent their own gods made in their own image, and by that point the entire structure of that society has become corrupted from top to bottom. And it all begins with envy, followed by the love and the practice of falsehood. 

In John’s Book of Revelation, deception is Satan’s primary weapon against mankind. The lust for power and prosperity, idolatry, sexual immorality, slavery and tyranny — these are all after-effects, really. And deception is Satan’s primary weapon against the church — it has been this way from the beginning. First we begin to believe lies about who God is and what he wants from us. Then we begin to tell those lies to each other. Then we start lying to the world about what it means to be a Christian, first in our words and then in our actions, and after a while we are no different from the rest of the nations. 

And this is why Jesus says, next: [16] “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 

Back in verse 6, it was the Lord God who sent these revelations. Now, Jesus says that he is the one who sent these revelations. So, once again, Jesus is reconfirming that he is God, that the Son and the Father are One. 

More than this, Jesus is also claiming that he is the source and the center of God’s revelation: the Root and the Offspring, the cause and the effect, the foundation and the roof, the beginning and the end, from the first verses of Genesis until now. 

These are the closing words of the whole bible. So it is appropriate for them to draw us back to where everything started: back to the living Father, back to the living Word, and — next, in verse 17 — back to the living Spirit: 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. But [18] I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. [19] And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. 

In the first verses of Genesis, the Father, the Spirit, and the Son brought light into the darkness. He planted a garden centered around a tree watered by a river, and he invited all creation to come. Those who entered the garden in humility and submission got to eat and drink and live forever in peace. But any creature that entered in order to lie and destroy was cast out: they lost their share in the tree of life and in the holy garden. 

Nothing has changed, friends. Here, in the final verses of the bible, we find a river and a tree and a garden-city newly made. So, listen! if you are here today and you are not yet a Christian, it really is as simple as this: the tree that is the living Cross of Christ stands ready; the river that is the living Word of God is flowing. All you have to do is come and eat and drink, without money and without cost, and you will live forever. 

And now, for a third time in this passage, Jesus speaks: [20] He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” 

Three times he has said it now: “I am coming soon.” And in scripture, when something is repeated three times, this symbolizes certainty. 


So, clearly, even if we understand nothing else, Jesus wants us to know: “I am certainly coming soon!” 

But why is it so important for us to know this? What practical effect is this knowledge supposed to have on our lives? 

Well, in our search for our practical application today, we are going to go back — for the last time — and visit the last of the seven churches Jesus spoke to at the beginning of the book. Though, I should say, this may be the last church for us, but really this is the first church on the list of seven: this is the church in Ephesus. 

Ephesus called itself the “Supreme Metropolis of Asia”. Built on the coast, at the intersection of three major highways, Ephesus was the major trading center of the region, so important that the Roman governor lived there. It was also a major religious center: the city contained the Temple of Artemis, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Thousands of priests and priestesses were employed directly by the temple, many of them as temple prostitutes. But the resulting religious sex tourism had also created a booming economy for many more people in the city: silversmiths who made little models of the temple, for instance, and magicians — bomoh — who were happy to offer tourists mystical advice from the gods…for a price, of course. 

Now, the Book of Acts tells us that the Apostle Paul, working with a small launch team, took about three years to plant the first church in Ephesus. And as Christianity caught on, two things happened: first, many of the bomoh realized they were actually serving demons, so they joined the church, gave up their jobs and burned all their books of magic. Second, Christians stopped working for the idol factories, Christians stopped buying idols, Christians stopped supporting the temple. As a result, the religious sex tourism economy declined, and this eventually resulted in a major riot — the followers of Artemis trying to wipe out the followers of Christ — a riot that was only stopped when the government stepped in. And so the Ephesian church survived its first great clash with the great pagan church of Artemis. 

But Paul was not actually very worried about persecution from outside, he was far more worried about the far more subtle dangers that can come from within. And this is why, in his final good-bye sermon to the Ephesian elders, he told them, “Be on your guard! Because I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” 

Well, today, as we read what Jesus said to the church in Ephesus forty years after it was planted, it seems the Ephesian elders really took Paul’s words to heart. Because this is what Jesus says: [1] “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. [2] I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. [3] You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” 

Well done, Christians of Ephesus! You have been on your guard! You have fought off the savage wolves, you have protected the flock from false teachers. 

[4] “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” 


What does that mean? What “love” exactly have they forsaken? 

We do not know, exactly. Many have interpreted this to mean that the Ephesians loved theology, they loved God’s pure Word — which is good! — but they had forgotten how to love one another. Others suggest that the Ephesians had actually lost their original love for Jesus: they loved the “theory” of Jesus, but they had lost track of the person of Jesus. Still others suggest that the Ephesian church, although theologically pure, had become too exclusive: they were no longer loving their neighbors, especially the poor. 

And, really, these three interpretations are related, they are just focused on different aspects of the same problem: Christians who have forgotten how to love one another have clearly, also, forgotten how to love Jesus; and those who have forgotten how to love Jesus will also forget how to love their neighbors. 

And the problem becomes even clearer when we look at what Jesus wants them to do to correct it: 

[5] “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” 

And what, exactly, did the Ephesian Christians do at first? 

They responded to God’s living Word and God’s living Spirit by washing their robes in the blood of the Lamb: they changed the way they lived — and then they held on to those changes even in the face of rejection, riots, and threats of death. In those early days they loved Jesus by rejecting magic and superstition, refusing to live in fear of demons like everyone else did; they loved one another by sticking together when members quit their jobs for the sake of Christ; they loved their neighbors by refusing to participate in the abusive sexual worship of Artemis — a kind of worship that victimized the poor especially — even though their neighbors did not interpret their actions as loving. 

In short, in those early days, the Ephesian church stood out. They were different, and they made a difference. They were not loud. They were not pushy. They simply loved Jesus, loved one another, and then lived out their faith in ways that affected their daily worship, their income, the foundational structures of their lives. And the city noticed. 

“Listen,” Jesus goes on, “if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” 

In John’s very first vision of Jesus in the book, he saw Jesus walking among the seven golden lampstands with seven stars in his right hand — just as Jesus reintroduced himself to the Ephesian church here. 

The lampstands symbolized the churches, and the stars symbolized the seven spirits of God that are really the flames that burn upon those lampstands and make them what they are. Without a flame, a lampstand ceases to be a lampstand: it just becomes a fancy golden stick. In the same way, without the Spirit of God, a church ceases to be a church: it just becomes a group of people, a social club, no different from any other nation. 

So this is a very stern warning. Only one other church of the seven received a warning this severe. Two were simply praised. Three were mixed up with false teachers in various ways, and Jesus promised he would be separating out the true believers from the false ones on Judgement Day. But the last church — Laodicea — and the first church — Ephesus — are the only churches where Jesus says, “Look, I am about to throw you away completely.” In Laodicea’s case, this was because they had completely abandoned good theology and had followed their false teachers into an obsession with prosperity and power. 

But Ephesus has not abandoned good theology! In fact, this is such an important point that Jesus goes on to say it again here in verse 6: 

But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” 

The Nicolaitans — the name seems to mean “The People Conquerers” — were apparently a group of false teachers who taught that sexual immorality and idolatry are okay for Christians. Three of the seven churches were struggling to reject these teachings, but the Ephesian church had not been fooled. 

And yet, despite their pure theology and their perseverance in the face of suffering, somehow the Ephesian Christians have forsaken their first love. Their flame is dying out of neglect, the flame that makes all the difference between a church and a social club. And so Jesus is saying, “Please repent and go back to your first love. Let me rekindle your flame so that you can shine as I do, like the bright Morning Star. If you do not, then your lampstand is really nothing more than a golden stick, and I do not actually need a golden stick. Repent, or I will throw you away.” 

[7] “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” 

Jesus has told us, three times today, that he is coming soon, that his coming is next on the list of things God has to do. But like the church in Ephesus, as time goes by we can lose track of that truth, we can end up putting our hope in our own theological purity, in our own stubborn perseverance, we can fall into the belief that it is up to us to make all things new, and in our passion to make a difference in the world we end up being no different from the world. 

So, for those of us who have already sworn to follow Christ, this is what we are called to do in response to this Good News that Jesus is coming soon: let’s keep on keeping the words of the prophecy written in this scroll. Let’s keep on washing our robes in the blood of the Lamb, letting our values and our lives be transformed. Let’s keep on repenting, and keep on returning to the things we did at first, let’s keep on taking up the Cross of Christ. Let’s keep on following him outside the city of this world, bearing the disgrace he bore, remembering that here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 


In the beginning, the Father, the Spirit, and the living Word lived in a garden with God’s people. God’s people were naked, yet they felt no shame. When they sinned, they were ashamed, and then God had to clothe them. 

In the end, everyone who has allowed Jesus to clothe them in this life will live forever clothed in glory in the paradise of God, and we will feel no shame. 

[20] He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” 

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 

[21] The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. 

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