Listen to What the Spirit Says!
“Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”—REVELATION 3:22.
1, 2. What counsel is repeated concerning Jesus’ messages to the seven congregations named in Revelation?
JEHOVAH’S servants must pay attention to the spirit-directed words of Jesus Christ to the seven congregations named in the Bible book of Revelation. Indeed, each of these messages contains this counsel: “Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”—Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.
2 We have already considered Jesus’ messages to the angels, or overseers, of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. How can we benefit from what he said by holy spirit to the four other congregations?
To the Angel in Thyatira
3. Where was Thyatira, and for what product was it especially noted?
3 “The Son of God” gives both commendation and reproof to the Thyatira congregation. (Read Revelation 2:18-29.) Thyatira (now Akhisar) was built along a tributary of the Gediz (ancient Hermus) River in western Asia Minor. The city was noted for numerous crafts. Its dye makers used madder root as a source for their celebrated scarlet, or purple. Lydia, who became a Christian during Paul’s visit to Philippi in Greece, was “a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira.”—Acts 16:12-15.
4. For what was the congregation in Thyatira commended?
4 Jesus commends the congregation in Thyatira for its good deeds, love, faith, endurance, and work in the ministry. In fact, ‘their deeds of late were more than those formerly.’ Even if we have a fine record, however, we must never be careless about our morals.
5-7. (a) Who was “that woman Jezebel,” and what was to be done about her influence? (b) Christ’s message to the Thyatira congregation helps godly women to do what?
5 The congregation in Thyatira was tolerating idolatry, false teaching, and sexual immorality. In their midst was “that woman Jezebel”—perhaps a group of women with traits like those of wicked Queen Jezebel of the ten-tribe Kingdom of Israel. Some scholars suggest that the ‘prophetesses’ of Thyatira tried to entice Christians to worship trade-guild gods and goddesses and to participate in festivals involving food sacrificed to idols. Let no self-appointed prophetess seek to manipulate others in the present-day Christian congregation!
6 Christ ‘was about to throw the woman Jezebel into a sickbed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repented of her deeds.’ Overseers dare not yield to such wicked teaching and influence, and no Christian needs to commit spiritual and physical fornication or to engage in idolatry in order to realize that the “deep things of Satan” are totally evil. If we heed Jesus’ warning, ‘we will hold fast what we have,’ and sin will not hold sway among us. Because they rejected ungodly practices, lusts, and aims, resurrected anointed ones receive “authority over the nations” and will join Christ in breaking them to pieces. Present-day congregations have symbolic stars, and anointed ones will be given “the bright morning star,” the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, when they are resurrected to heaven.—Revelation 22:16.
7 The Thyatira congregation was warned not to tolerate the evil influence of apostatizing women. Christ’s spirit-inspired message to the congregation helps godly women to keep their God-assigned place today. They do not try to exercise authority over men and do not lure any brothers into spiritual or physical fornication. (1 Timothy 2:12) Instead, such women set an example in fine deeds and service to God’s praise. (Psalm 68:11; 1 Peter 3:1-6) If the congregation guards what it has—pure doctrine and conduct and treasured Kingdom service—Christ will come with blessed rewards, not execution.
To the Angel in Sardis
8. (a) Where was Sardis, and what are some details about it? (b) Why did the congregation in Sardis need help?
8 The congregation in Sardis needed urgent help because it was dead spiritually. (Read Revelation 3:1-6.) Situated about 30 miles [50 km] south of Thyatira, Sardis was a thriving city. Commerce, the fertility of the area, and the production of woolen cloth and carpets helped to make it a wealthy city that once had some 50,000 residents. According to the historian Josephus, Sardis had a large Jewish community in the first century B.C.E. Among the city’s ruins are a synagogue and a temple of the Ephesian goddess Artemis.
9. What should be done if our service activities are perfunctory?
9 Christ told the angel of the Sardis congregation: “I know your deeds, that you have the name that you are alive, but you are dead.” What if we have the reputation of being awake spiritually but we are largely asleep to Christian privileges and our service activities are perfunctory and spiritually “ready to die”? Then we need to ‘continue mindful of how we received and heard’ the Kingdom message, and we should revitalize our efforts in sacred service. We certainly ought to start participating wholeheartedly in Christian meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Christ warned the congregation in Sardis: “Unless you wake up, I shall come as a thief, and you will not know at all at what hour I shall come upon you.” What about our day? Soon we will have to render an account.
10. Even in a situation like the one in Sardis, what may be true of a few Christians?
10 Even in a situation like the one in Sardis, there may be a few who ‘do not defile their outer garments and who can walk with Christ in white ones because they are worthy.’ They maintain their Christian identity, remaining undefiled, without moral and religious spot from this world. (James 1:27) Hence, Jesus ‘will by no means blot out their names from the book of life, but he will acknowledge them before his Father and the angels.’ Pronounced worthy to walk with Christ, his bride class of anointed ones will be arrayed in bright, clean, fine linen that symbolizes the righteous acts of God’s holy ones. (Revelation 19:8) The wonderful service privileges awaiting them in heaven spur them on to conquer this world. Blessings are also set before those in line for eternal earthly life. Their names too are written in the book of life.
11. What should we do if we are getting sleepy spiritually?
11 None of us want to get into the sad spiritual state of the congregation in Sardis. But what if we discern that we are getting sleepy spiritually? We should act quickly for our own good. Suppose we are being drawn to ungodly ways or are becoming lax in meeting attendance or in our ministry. Let us seek Jehovah’s help in earnest prayer. (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) Daily Bible reading and study of the Scriptures and the publications of “the faithful steward” will contribute to our spiritual wakefulness. (Luke 12:42-44) Then we will be like those in Sardis who had Christ’s approval, and we will be a blessing to fellow believers.
To the Angel in Philadelphia
12. How would you describe the religious situation in ancient Philadelphia?
12 Jesus commended the Philadelphia congregation. (Read Revelation 3:7-13.) Philadelphia (now Alasehir) was the prosperous center of a wine-producing region in western Asia Minor. In fact, its chief deity was Dionysus, the god of wine. Evidently, Jews in Philadelphia unsuccessfully tried to persuade Jewish Christians there to retain certain practices of the Mosaic Law or to return to them.
13. How has Christ used “the key of David”?
13 Christ “has the key of David,” and he has thus been entrusted with all Kingdom interests and the administration of the household of faith. (Isaiah 22:22; Luke 1:32) Jesus used that key to open up Kingdom opportunities and privileges to Christians in ancient Philadelphia and elsewhere. Since 1919 he has set before “the faithful steward” “a large door” that leads to Kingdom preaching that no opposer can shut. (1 Corinthians 16:9; Colossians 4:2-4) Of course, the door to Kingdom privileges has been shut to those of “the synagogue of Satan,” for they are not spiritual Israelites.
14. (a) What promise did Jesus give the congregation in Philadelphia? (b) How can we keep from falling during “the hour of test”?
14 Jesus gave Christians in ancient Philadelphia this promise: “Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test, which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth.” Preaching calls for the kind of endurance that Jesus displayed. He never gave in to the enemy but kept on doing his Father’s will. Therefore, Christ was resurrected to immortal heavenly life. If we hold fast to our decision to worship Jehovah and we support the Kingdom by preaching the good news, we will be kept from falling during the present period of testing, “the hour of test.” We will ‘keep on holding fast what we have’ from Christ by striving to increase those Kingdom interests. Doing this will result in a priceless heavenly crown for anointed ones and everlasting earthly life for their loyal companions.
15. What is required of those who will be ‘pillars in God’s temple’?
15 Christ adds: “The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, . . . and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine.” Anointed overseers must uphold true worship. They must stay in line for membership in “the new Jerusalem” by preaching about God’s Kingdom and keeping spiritually clean. This is necessary if they want to be pillars in the glorified heavenly temple and if they are to bear the name of God’s city as its heavenly citizens and share the name of Christ as his bride. And, of course, they must have ears that “hear what the spirit says to the congregations.”
To the Angel in Laodicea
16. What are some facts about Laodicea?
16 Christ reproved the complacent congregation in Laodicea. (Read Revelation 3:14-22.) Some 90 miles [150 km] east of Ephesus and situated at the junction of major trade routes in the fertile valley of the Lycus River, Laodicea was a very prosperous manufacturing city and banking center. Garments made from the black wool of the region were widely known. As the seat of a famous medical school, Laodicea probably produced the eye medicine known as Phrygian powder. Asclepius, a god of medicine, was one of the city’s chief deities. Laodicea seems to have had a considerable number of Jews, some of whom apparently were quite wealthy.
17. Why were the Laodiceans reproved?
17 Addressing the congregation in Laodicea through its “angel,” Jesus speaks authoritatively as “the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God.” (Colossians 1:13-16) The Laodiceans were reproved for being “neither cold nor hot” spiritually. Because they were lukewarm, Christ was going to vomit them out of his mouth. It should not have been hard for them to grasp that point. Nearby Hierapolis had hot springs, and Colossae had cold water. Since water had to be piped to Laodicea over quite a distance, however, it was likely lukewarm when it reached the city. Part of the way, it was conveyed by an aqueduct. Closer to Laodicea, it ran through bored stone blocks cemented together.
18, 19. How may present-day Christians like those in Laodicea be helped?
18 Individuals of the Laodicean type today are neither stimulatingly hot nor refreshingly cold. Like lukewarm water, out of the mouth they go! Jesus does not want them as his mouthpiece, as anointed “ambassadors substituting for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) Unless they repent, they will lose their privilege as Kingdom proclaimers. The Laodiceans sought earthly riches and ‘did not know that they were miserable, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.’ To remove their spiritual poverty, blindness, and nakedness, any who are like them today need to buy from Christ the ‘refined gold’ of tested faith, “white outer garments” of righteousness, and “eyesalve” that promotes spiritual sight. Christian overseers are glad to help them to be conscious of their spiritual need so that they become “rich in faith.” (James 2:5; Matthew 5:3) Furthermore, overseers need to assist them to apply spiritual “eyesalve”—to accept and conform to Jesus’ teaching, counsel, example, and mental attitude. This is a healing remedy against “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.”—1 John 2:15-17.
19 Jesus reproves and disciplines all those for whom he has affection. Overseers under him must with tenderness do the same thing. (Acts 20:28, 29) The Laodiceans needed to “be zealous and repent,” making changes in their thinking and way of life. Well, have some of us become accustomed to a life-style that relegates our sacred service to God to a minor role in life? Then let us ‘buy eyesalve from Jesus’ so that we can see the importance of zealously seeking first the Kingdom.—Matthew 6:33.
20, 21. Who are responding properly to Jesus’ “knocking” today, and what are their prospects?
20 “Look!” says Christ, “I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into his house and take the evening meal with him and he with me.” Jesus often imparted spiritual instruction as he partook of meals. (Luke 5:29-39; 7:36-50; 14:1-24) He now knocks on the door of the Laodicean kind of congregation. Will its members respond to his knock, revive their affection for him, welcome him into their midst, and let him teach them? If so, Christ will feast with them to their great spiritual benefit.
21 Today’s “other sheep” are figuratively letting Jesus in, and such action leads to everlasting life. (John 10:16; Matthew 25:34-40, 46) To each conquering anointed one, Christ will grant the privilege of ‘sitting down with him on his throne, even as he conquered and sat down with his Father on His throne.’ Yes, to the anointed conquerors, Jesus promises the grand reward of a throne with him at his Father’s right hand in heaven. And the conquering other sheep look forward to a wonderful place on earth under Kingdom rule.
Lessons for All of Us
22, 23. (a) How can all Christians benefit from Jesus’ words to the seven congregations? (b) What should be our determination?
22 There is no doubt that all Christians can benefit greatly from Jesus’ words to the seven congregations in Asia Minor. Noting that Christ offered appropriate commendation, for instance, loving Christian elders are moved to commend individuals and congregations that are doing well spiritually. Where weaknesses exist, the elders help fellow believers to apply Scriptural remedies. All of us can continue to benefit from various features of the counsel Christ gave to the seven congregations, as long as we apply it prayerfully and without delay. *
23 These last days are no time for complacency, materialism, or anything else that might cause us to render mere token service to God. Let all the congregations therefore keep shining brightly as lampstands that Jesus retains in their place. As faithful Christians, may we always be determined to pay attention when Christ speaks and listen to what the spirit says. Then we will have lasting joy as light bearers to Jehovah’s glory.
How Would You Respond?
• Who was “that woman Jezebel,” and why do godly women not imitate her?
• What condition existed in the congregation in Sardis, and what can we do to avoid becoming like many Christians living there?
• What promises did Jesus give the Philadelphia congregation, and how do they apply today?
• Why were the Laodiceans reproved, but what prospects are set before zealous Christians?
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The evil ways of “that woman Jezebel” must be avoided
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Jesus has set before his followers “a large door” that leads to Kingdom privileges
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Do you welcome Jesus and listen to him?