Danger and Faithful Endurance
The opening words remind us that these visions were first recorded for the benefit of the seven churches in what is now Western Turkey (Revelation 2:1-3:22). Each of those letters concluded with similar words, "He who has an ear let him hear …" In other words, although Jesus is speaking and the divine vision has been faithfully written down, the message will do no good unless people want to receive what God has to say. Jesus used the same words during His ministry (Matthew 11:15; 13:9). Many of the Lord's teachings were not received by the crowds, nor understood by the disciples until they were with Him in private and asked for His explanation (Mark 4:9-12).
The meaning of these verses is plain. The hatred of the beast against God's people will increase to bring considerable suffering (Revelation 13:1-7). Although the Lord will give courage to His people to resist the mass worship of the beast (Revelation 13:8), there will also be casualties in the battle. Persecution, imprisonment, exile or death will attempt to destroy the church and thereby prove that God cannot protect His people. But that is what Satan and the crowds thought when Jesus died. Like Him, the martyrs will live again. The great resurrection will prove the power of Christ to establish His eternal kingdom.
So what is the message to the church? Firstly to be prepared, so that this tidal wave of hostility does not take us by surprise. That preparation will involve being firmly rooted in God's Word (Luke 8:13). Hearing words involves more than being aware of a noise: it is an intelligent interaction with the speaker/writer because the listener wants to understand, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). Secondly to be determined to stand firm in the truth that has been heard, understood and believed (Ephesians 6:10-13). Thirdly, to persist in faithful allegiance to Christ until the end, as Jesus commanded (Matthew 10:22).
Salvation is a long term business. Its effect will last for eternity and must not be thrown away in the short term (Hebrews 10:35). There will be extreme provocation; believers will be tempted to walk out of trouble … that is Satan's ploy … but there is no future if we walk out of Christ. These visions were given to the church 2000 years ago; the time delay is not a mistake but to give us time for repentance (Revelation 3:3). It also gives us time to be equipped through the study and practical application of God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In a world which is increasingly mesmerised by easy consumerism, the church must think differently. Development of Christ-like character takes time, intentional learning and practical application. Pastors must not short-change their congregations of the 'meat of the word' (Hebrews 5:12) which is necessary for building faithful spiritual resolve in the face of hostility. Believers must not think they can surf into God's kingdom on sound-bites and friendships. If agriculture, Olympic sport and warfare are hard work – so is the Christian's preparation for the tests to come (2 Timothy 2:1-7). Are you ready for that time of testing? We hope that Word@Work will aid your understanding, and that church and workplace fellowships will enable you to be prepared and accountable to others. It is essential investment for the unknown tomorrow.
© Dr Paul Adams