What We Learn From Your Letters

We can learn a lot about a person by reading their letters. If we take half a dozen pieces of correspondence from a man or woman we will learn something of their character, personality, likes and dislikes, love and hate, and numerous manners and ways of expressing themselves.

Suppose we had letters written by Christ. What would we learn about him? Would we learn something of his bent of mind, his mental attitude, his personality? Would be learned what he loved or hated? Would we learn what he valued and praised highly? Would we learn whether he could frighten by his language? Would we learn about the promises he could make?

Most serious Bible students know that in the Gospel record there is no example of Christ ever writing anything. Though some who accept the account about the adulterous woman in John 8 will see that the Nazarene was writing in the dirt, in the Gospels we have no letters from Christ. What if we were to discover hidden, secret letters written by Jesus? Letters no one knew about decades after his death?

As it turns out there are such letters. Seven of them. They were dictated over 60 years after his death to his most trusted and closest friend, the apostle John then nearing one hundred years of age. These Christine epistles are found in chapters two and three of the Apocalypse. They were written to the presiding officers of seven different congregations in a region of modern Turkey. Each of the letters followed a similar format:

What will we learn by examining these letters from the standpoint of trying to learn more about the Sender? Many have come to view Jesus Christ is somewhat of a warmly affection person who is generally passive and all-forgiving. Others believe that the only thing he is interested in is faith and love. Some have gone so far as to convince themselves that nothing the believer does can ever break the relationship with Christ. What do these seven letters reveal?

We may divide the seven letters into two categories: a] five of them are written to someone who receives a rebuke; b] two are addressed to two men who are only praised and encouraged. We learn about Christ different things from these two groups. To one he is quite stern and even threatening. To the other he is warm and caring. From this we can learn that our Lord may behave in different ways depending on the focus of his attention.

Note the five different types of angelic presbyters and how Christ introduces himself to these:

Thus, when dealing with those who deserve his rebuke Christ presents himself in serious tones, sometimes threatening. However, with those who receive only his praise he has a softer edge.

Thus, our Lord has not just one side to himself. He may be firm and strong, even fearfully threatening, where is needed, or kind, warm and encouraging to the faithful afflicted.

What is one of the main interests of the Lord when it comes to his concern for the presiding elders and their congregations? One word keeps repeating itself in all of these seven letters - works. He condemns bad works and praises good works. [Revelation 2:2, 5, 6, 19, 20, 26; 3:1, 2, 8, 15] No one can read Christ’s letters and not see the importance of works. Indeed, he states everyone will be judged on the basis of their works. [Revelation 2:20] Christ himself says that his love is manifest by reproof and discipline. [Revelation 3:19]

This does not mean other matters are not also praised by Christ in these letters. He mentions faith a number of times. [Revelation 2:11, 13, 19; 3:14] He also mentions endurance often. [Revelation 2:2, 19; 3:10] The word “love” occurs at Revelation 2:4, 19; 3:9 as do the subjects of service and labor.

What does Christ hate within the congregations? He writes that he hates “the work of the Nicolatians.” This appears to be a sectarian influence leading the congregation members away from Christian love and truth.

What turns Christ’s stomach? What makes him want to vomit? He writes to the angelic presbyter in Laodicea and his congregation that the lukewarm materialistic Christian who feels little spiritual need will be vomited out of his mouth. [Revelation 3:16]

This brief consideration of Christ’s apocalyptic letters makes it clear that our Lord is not a passive forgiver of all. If anything it ought to make us aware that he does walk among the congregational lampstands, fully aware of what each individual Christian is doing for good or bad. He is particularly demanding of those men who would be congregation teachers and shepherds. [James 3:1, 2]

Surely all may learn this lesson and hear the words spoken to each of these congregations: “Let the person with hears listen to what the Spirit says to the congregations!”

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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