Revelation 1:19-2:1 1:19 Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. 1:20 As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."
In the New Testament we see God raising up a bride for His Son, an organism that is to bear forth the good news to all the world, a people of God who are to live in this age, a called out assembly which in over 100 places is referred to as "the church". In this blog today I want to use the imagery of a battleship to aid us in understanding what John is writing here in Revelation 2 and 3. This blog post we will simply call: "God's Battleship". Why God's Battleship? In other passages such as 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 and Ephesians 6:10-18, we see the imagery of warfare and battle characterizing the nature of the church's journey through this age. Furthermore the Bible uses naval imagery at times to describe the church in passages such as 1 Timothy 1:18-19 and Hebrews 6:18. Two headings will be used to aid us in our navigation through Revelation 2-3:
1. The Battleship's Identity - The Church
2. The Battleship's Captain - Jesus Christ
The Battleship's Identity - The church
The identity of God's battleship in Revelation 2-3 is non-other than the church. In thinking of the seven churches as literal and representative churches, we see in Revelation 2-3 the church floating on God's ordained sea of time - "the church militant". This is a battleship that has been shot at, war torn and bears the marks of the ages. Though the church is shot at, she will never be sunk nor overcome. (Matthew 16:18) Its course was charted by God in eternity past and commissioned forth by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. In Acts 2 the battleship called "church militant" was launched forth into the sea of time by the Holy Spirit.
The battleship of God, the church militant, has sailed on a sea of high waves and cross winds. Enemies from above, aside and below have attempted to sink God's battleship. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:11-18) When you look at these seven churches in the Book of Revelation, we see the trials and triumphs that come upon Christ's church, and we see seven things desired by Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus wants a loving church. 2:1-7.
The Battleship of God is to be one of love, and yet at times she has been loveless - like Ephesus. Thus Christ wants a loving church.
2. Jesus wants a courageous church. 2:8-11.
At other times God's battleship: the church militant as been brought to the brink of death, like the Smyrnans. The waves of persecution hit her prow and powers below shoot holes in her hull and yet she plows through the enemy. Though vulnerable, God's battleship will not be vanquished. Thus Jesus wants a courageous church.
3. Jesus wants a vigilant church. 2:12-17
John writes on to the third church, the church at Pergamum. In history the church there have been wolves in sheep's clothing who have attempted to teach contrary doctrines to God's Word. The most dangerous attacks on God's battleship occur not from the outside but inside. Thus Christ wants a vigilant church.
4. Jesus wants a church of conviction. 2:18-29
Fourthly we see the church at Thyatira. It was a church at the cross-roads, and at times in the sea of history as well as churches today, God's battleship has had to make a choice - conform to the world or conform to Christ. Thus Jesus Christ wants a church of conviction.
5. Jesus wants a revived church. 3:1-6
Fifthly Jesus addresses the church at Sardis. In the black of night God's battleship passes through the storms of history. No lights can be seen on its decks and the church of Sardis is depicted as the dead church. God has throughout history raised up reformers and revivalists to ring out the words of Jesus: "Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die." God's battleship - the church militant, has at times stopped dead in the water. We are reminded of the fact that Jesus desires a revived church.
6. Jesus wants a faithful church. 3:7-13
God's unstoppable grace and the Spirit's breath of His word has touched hearts, and the church has come to life time and time again. The Philadelphian church was the most commended of the seven churches. At times on the stormy seas of history, God's battleship has pressed the enemy to the shorelines. It seemed at times that evil would be vanquished. Jesus no doubt wants a faithful church.
7. Jesus wants a committed church. 3:14-22
However God has left that work of bringing the Kingdom not to the church, but to His Son when He returns. It is in that final seventh letter to Laodicea that we are reminded that God's battleship in this present age must fire the 66 cannons of God's Word. We are not called to declare "all is at ease in Zion" until God's battleship has crossed this mighty sea of time. The battle will wage at its pitch at the time prior to Christ's coming. Jesus Christ wants a white hot church and a church that can quench spiritual thirst like cold water. Lukewarm churches are to useless and worthy of nothing more than a spewing forth from His mouth.
Christ's battleship: the church militant, is depicted literally and by representation in the seven churches of Revelation 2-3. Jesus rebukes five of them, commends two of them and addresses all of them to express what He wants His church to be. Tomorrow we shall behold the Battleship's Captain....