I Have This Against You

7churchesScary words of Jesus. These are harsh, critical and condemning words of Jesus to the church at Thyatira (Rev 2:20). To the church at Ephesus and Pergamun, Jesus also spoke equally critical words, “I hold this against you” (Rev 2:4), and “I have a few things against you” (Rev 2:14). That’s not all. To the two worst churches among the seven churches that Jesus addresses, he said, “I know…you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead” (Rev 3:2), and “I know…you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth…you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev 3:15-17). Wow! It does not sound like a very Christian thing to say. Surely, no church likes to hear such words. Yet these are the very words of Christ spoken out of his love for the seven churches in first century Asia Minor, which are representative of all churches throughout history.

I want to be blessed. I hesitated studying Revelation for the longest time. Yet this book promises a blessing to anyone who reads it, hears it and takes it to heart (Rev 1:3). Since I want to be blessed, I began to read several books in order to understand apocalyptic literature, which is the genre of Revelation. Last year, while in Manila, I preached on The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1-20), What Is Heaven Like? (Rev 21:1-22:5), and Christian, Listen Up! (Rev 2:1-3:22); my intent was to cover what Jesus says to the seven churches in one sermon. I wanted to be done with it. But the Filipino UBF leaders asked me to teach on the seven churches at their Easter Conference (Apr 29-31, 2013). So I had to restudy them…again. I was surprised how relevant it was to me and to our contemporary churches. This is a very brief summation of what I learned.

Ephesus: Discernment Without Love (Rev 2:1-7). They were very good and solid with truth, but they lacked love for others. They loved Jesus, but their dwindling declining love for people displeased Jesus.

Smyrna: The Riches of Poverty (Rev 2:8-11). This is one of two churches with no rebukes, because they were willing to suffer, be imprisoned and martyred by not denying the name of Jesus.

Pergamum: Compromising and Defiled (Rev 2:12-17). Though they were true to the name of Jesus like Smyrna, yet they compromised with idolatry and sexual immorality, thus defiling themselves.

Thyatira: Love Without Discernment (Rev 2:18-29). They were the opposite of Ephesus. They were doing more out of love than before, yet like Pergamum they compromised with idolatry and sexual immorality.

Sardis: Giving False Impressions (Rev 3:1-7). They were very good at making themselves look like a really good and lively church. But Jesus saw that they were dead.

Philadelphia: Keeping God’s Word With Little Strength (Rev 3:7-13). This is the second church after Smyrna with no rebuke. Despite having little strength they kept Jesus’ word.

Laodicea: The Poverty of Riches (Rev 3:14-22). They are the opposite of Smyrna, who was poor yet rich. Their wealth and self-sufficiency made them lukewarm, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!

Hear what the Spirit says. To all seven churches, Jesus exhorts repentance and faithfulness to Jesus to the end, and says, “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” To all who overcome and are victorious Jesus promises ultimate blessings that nothing in this world can ever give.

Do I love as I did at first? Personally, I perhaps relate most to Ephesus, since I love the Bible, but might have trouble loving as I did at first…especially when I am annoyed. Living in affluent America, the temptation of idolatry, immorality, duplicity and money is ever present, which was the defilement of Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea. I pray to live the faithfulness unto death of Smyrna and the unwavering perseverance of Philadelphia despite having little strength.

Does Jesus have anything against you? Which church do you most relate to?


  1. The messages to each of the churches are all highly convicting to me. I am aware that I must be careful of the Pergamum problem as I explore liberalism and the “dreaded” left…

    Speaking of repentance, I have an admin note to share here publicly, for the sake of H.O.T communication:

    Admin Note: We (I) dropped the ball on the admin email here. That has been remedied as of tonight when I replied to each missed email. So if you submitted an article or emailed the admin, thank you for your patience! The admin is awake now :)