Mo 12/11Tu 12/12We 12/13Th 12/14Fr 12/15Sa 12/16Su 12/17
2 Chron. 11–12
Rev. 2
2 Chron. 13
Rev. 3
2 Chron. 14–15
Rev. 4
2 Chron. 16
Rev. 5
2 Chron. 17
Rev. 6
2 Chron. 18
Rev. 7
2 Chron. 19–20
Rev. 8

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

More than anywhere else in Scripture, the book of Revelation reveals Jesus to us as Judge of the living and the dead. This is clear from the outset, where the Lord tells us that He has “the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18). By this, we understand that Jesus holds the power of life and death. No one lives, and no one dies, apart from His will. Thankfully, He does not exercise this power capriciously, as the gods of Greek mythology do. Rather, He exercises perfect righteous judgment, because He “searches the minds and hearts,” justly giving to each one according to his deeds (Rev. 2:23).

The whole book of Revelation is a message from Jesus sent through the Apostle John to seven first-century churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Jesus opens with seven personalized open letters to these churches. They give us a well-developed picture of Christ as Judge.

Descriptions of the Glorious Judge

Christ’s work as Judge is revealed in how He introduces Himself in these letters:

  1. To Ephesus: “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands…” (2:1)
  2. To Smyrna: “the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life…” (2:8)
  3. To Pergamum: “the One who has the sharp two-edged sword…” (2:12)
  4. To Thyatira: “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze…” (2:18)
  5. To Sardis: “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars…” (3:1)
  6. To Philadelphia: “He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens…” (3:7)
  7. To Laodicea: “the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God…” (3:14)

These descriptions paint a picture very unlike the lowly baby who was born in Bethlehem. The impression is so different, it should cause us to marvel with great astonishment at the fact that this Holy One—the Son of God who has eyes like a flame of fire, whose feet are like burnished bronze, and who is the Beginning of the creation of God—would (or even could) come to the earth as a helpless child. God’s wisdom, power, and love are truly unfathomable!

The Judge’s Work

These letters also reveal to us the nature of Christ’s work as Judge. First of all, we should note that His work of judgment begins in the household of God (see 1 Pet. 4:17). He will judge the whole world, but He starts with those inside the church.

We also see that Christ’s work of judgment comprises two main parts:

  1. commending righteousness
  2. condemning unrighteousness

Most of the letters begin with a commendation of the things that each church has done well. He commends the church in Ephesus for not tolerating evil men, the church in Thyatira for its love and faith and service and perseverance, and the church in Philadelphia for not denying His name. Only Laodicea receives no commendation, but even they are reminded of Christ’s love for them: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (3:19).

Most of the letters also contain a condemnation of unrighteousness within the church: Ephesus had left their first love; Thyatira had tolerated the teaching of some who promoted idolatry and immorality; Laodicea is famously condemned for their lukewarmness. Only Smyrna and Philadelphia escape explicit rebuke, but even they are exhorted to persevere in the faith, as are all the churches, lest Christ’s judgment come upon them:

  1. Ephesus: “Remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you…” (2:5)
  2. Smyrna: “Be faithful until death…” (2:10)
  3. Pergamum: “Repent; or else I am coming to you quickly…” (2:16)
  4. Thyatira: “What you have, hold fast until I come…” (2:25)
  5. Sardis: “Remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. … if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief.” (3:3)
  6. Philadelphia: “Hold fast what you have…” (3:11)
  7. Laodicea: “Be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” (3:19–20)

The Judge not only judges our deeds; He mercifully calls us to walk in His ways, and to do so until the day we die, or until He returns.

Singing of Judgment at Christmastime

One of our most famous and historic Christmas carols, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” is really more about Christ’s judgment than about His birth. One of its verses finds inspiration in Jesus’ identification of Himself to the church in Philadelphia as the One who “has the key of David”:

O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heav’nly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

When Jesus describes Himself as possessing the key of David, He is quoting the prophet Isaiah:

Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder,

When he opens no one will shut,

When he shuts no one will open.

(Isa. 22:22)

As we remember the first coming of our Lord, we should also anticipate His second coming. Most importantly, this means we should strive to persevere in the faith, living obediently every day in expectation of His arrival, so that we will not be ashamed when He appears. Read and take to heart our Judge’s warnings to the churches in Revelation 2–3. Having begun in the faith, do not grow weary and fall prey to Satan’s lies; do not go after idolatry and sexual immorality.

The temptations to fall away and give up are very strong. Jesus our High Priest knows just how strong they are, which is why He’s supplied us with these seven glorious promises from the seven letters to the churches:

  1. To Ephesus: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10)
  2. To Smyrna: “He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” (Rev. 2:11)
  3. To Pergamum: “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Rev. 2:17)
  4. To Thyatira: “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.” (Rev. 2:26–28)
  5. To Sardis: “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” (Rev. 3:5)
  6. To Philadelphia: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.” (Rev. 3:12)
  7. To Laodicea: “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Rev. 3:21)

VERSE TO MEDITATE ON

I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
—Revelation 3:11

HOW TO PRAY

  • Adoration – Praise Jesus, “the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” (Rev. 3:14)
  • Confession – Confess ways you have “tolerated evil men.” (Rev. 2:2, 20)
  • Thanksgiving – Thank Christ that He is a merciful and patient Judge.
  • Supplication – Go to Jesus to “buy … gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (Rev. 3:18)

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This post by Alex McNeilly

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.

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