THINK: Are you ready to be blessed? That's God's promise to those who read and "take to heart" (v. 3) what's written in His Revelation. Some venture into the book out of strange curiosity, but God wants you to approach it with purpose. Some people avoid it because they feel it's too difficult or even frightening. But Revelation is a celebration of Christ's ultimate victory and conclusive triumph over evil. For those who love God, Revelation provides assurance that all things will be made right in the end. As you read Revelation, you'll notice the use of symbolic language and images to describe real events. Though it foretells the future, it speaks to the present. Looking through the lens of late first-century/early second-century Christianity, Revelation gives a glimpse of things that are unfolding even now as well as things to come.
RESPOND: What does the word that's translated "revelation" mean? (See 1:1 note.) Who provides the revelation and who or what is revealed? Who is blessed by this revelation and how? (See 1:3 note.) What are the seven churches addressed at the beginning of the letter (vv. 4, 11)? (See 1:4 note.) In what way do they represent the entire Church (all fol- lowers of Christ through the ages)? What is meant by "the seven spirits before his throne"? (See 1:4-5 notes.) What do verses 4-5 indicate about Christ's character? What's the primary purpose of Revelation? (See 1:7 note.) How does verse 7 describe Jesus' second coming - when He literally returns to earth? What will His coming mean for those who know Him, and for those who don't (v. 7)? What does it mean that Christ is "the Alpha and the Omega"? (See 1:8 note.) What is Patmos and why was John there? (See 1:9 note.) What does it mean that John was "in the Spirit" when he received the vision? (See 1:10 note.) What do the seven gold lampstands represent? (See 1:12 note.) Who is the "son of man," and what is significant about each aspect of His description in verses 13-15? (See 1:13 and 1:16 notes.) How are the roles of priest and king combined in Jesus? What is the double-edged sword, and what does it do? (See 1:16 note.) In what way does verse 19 give a general overview of Revelation and it's relevance then, now and for the future? (See 1:19 note.)
PRAY: Thank Jesus for revealing himself and His plans for people, both now and for the future. Ask God to help you respond appropriately to His Word. Praise Jesus for His eternal and unchanging character, power and authority.
ACT: Read the Introduction to Revelation for insight regarding the style, structure and interpretation of this unique book.
THINK: Consider the spiritual condition of the churches addressed in this passage. Then ask yourself: Am I staying pure in spiritual beliefs but also passionate in spiritual practice? Am I doing things for Christ, but not taking time to be with Him? Is serving Jesus a matter of convenience, or is it truly costing me something? Am I focused more on what I get from God than on surrendering to Him? Is my outward testimony being threatened by inward compromise?
RESPOND: For what did Jesus commend the church in Ephesus (vv. 2-3)? How did this church respond to false lead- ers, and how is this an example to all churches? What did the Lord have against this church? (See 2:4 note.) In what way had people forsaken their "first love"? Why did this happen? What does it mean to "repent and do the things you did at first" (v.5)? What would happen if they failed to do this? (See 2:5 note.) How can individual Christians and church- es avoid losing their first love? Who were the Nicolaitans and what did they do that the Lord hated? (See 2:6 note.) Who are overcomers and what is their reward? (See 2:7 note.) What social and political conditions did the church in Smyrna endure? (See 2:9 note.) How was the church doing, materially and spiritually? In what way was it "rich"? What warning and encouragement did Jesus offer this church? (See 2:10 note.) What is "the second death" that overcomers won't experience? (See 2:11 note.) Why is Pergamum described as a place "where Satan has his throne"? (See 2:13 note.) In what way were some in the church defying God and causing others to compromise their faith? (See 2:14 note.) What would the Lord do if they didn't repent? (See 2:16 note.) What does it mean to "hear what the Spirit says"? (See 2:17 first note.) What does it mean that overcomers will get "a white stone with a new name written on it"? (See 2:17 second note.)
PRAY: Pray that you'll never abandon your love for Jesus, but that it would grow day by day. Ask God to help you resist influences that could lead to spiritual compromise. Ask Him to help you respond to His Word with obedience and action.
ACT: As you go through the day, consider whether any of your actions or behaviors could give anyone a wrong impression of Christ or what it means to follow Him. Make a deliberate effort to avoid and resist attitudes and actions that could compromise your character or mislead others spiritually. Do things that build people up and give them an accurate impression of Jesus. Also, try to read the article on Christ's Message to the Seven Churches, p. 1914.