Hopetown Highlights #3: Listening, Hearing, and the 7 (High School) Camps of Revelation

You’ve all heard your parents say, “Are you listening to me?”.

What do you think they’re looking for, when they do?

Response.  You’re not natural responders these days.  You more often just sit…staring…waiting.  Waiting for someone to tell you what to do.  Waiting for someone to engage you.  

Jesus, however, wants something different from you.  He wants you to respond.  It’s the difference between hearing and listening.  It’s engaging.  It’s listening with your heart, rather than just your ears.

In Revelation 1-4, John recounts a vision he has of Jesus, and Jesus’ words to seven churches in the Asia province.  This week, we’re going to call them camps, because, in reality, they’re also his words to us.

‘Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.’ -Revelation 2:7

To each camp, Jesus has a similar type of message.  He 1)speaks to the light inside of them, 2)speaks to the dark inside of them and then 3)makes a promise.  And, if we’re listening, He’s speaking some of these same words to us.

To the Campers in Ephesus:

‘Write this to Ephesus, to the Angel of the church. The One with Seven Stars in his right-fist grip, striding through the golden seven-lights’ circle, speaks:

2-3 “I see what you’ve done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can’t stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out.

4-5 “But you walked away from your first love—why? What’s going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you’ve fallen? A Lucifer fall!

“Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I’m well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle.

6 “You do have this to your credit: You hate the Nicolaitan business. I hate it, too.

7 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I’m about to call each conqueror to dinner. I’m spreading a banquet of Tree-of-Life fruit, a supper plucked from God’s orchard.”

Ephesus’ Light: hard work, courage, perseverance

Ephesus’ Dark: lost your zest & forgot your first love-Jesus

Ephesus’ Promise: a banquet of tree-of-life fruit

To the Campers in Smyrna:

8 Write this to Smyrna, to the Angel of the church. The Beginning and Ending, the First and Final One, the Once Dead and Then Come Alive, speaks:

9 “I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth. And I hear the lie in the claims of those who pretend to be good Jews, who in fact belong to Satan’s crowd.

10 “Fear nothing in the things you’re about to suffer—but stay on guard! Fear nothing! The Devil is about to throw you in jail for a time of testing—ten days. It won’t last forever.

“Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you.

11 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. Christ-conquerors are safe from Devil-death.”

Smyrna’s Light: brave, suffering, faithfulness

Smyrna’s Dark: fear, giving up

Smyrna’s Promise: safety, crown of life

To the Campers in Pergamum:

12 Write this to Pergamum, to the Angel of the church. The One with the sharp-biting sword draws from the sheath of his mouth—out come the sword words:

13 “I see where you live, right under the shadow of Satan’s throne. But you continue boldly in my Name; you never once denied my Name, even when the pressure was worst, when they martyred Antipas, my witness who stayed faithful to me on Satan’s turf.

14-15 “But why do you indulge that Balaam crowd? Don’t you remember that Balaam was an enemy agent, seducing Balak and sabotaging Israel’s holy pilgrimage by throwing unholy parties? And why do you put up with the Nicolaitans, who do the same thing?

16 “Enough! Don’t give in to them; I’ll be with you soon. I’m fed up and about to cut them to pieces with my sword-sharp words.

17 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I’ll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I’ll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name.”

Pergamum’s Light: faith under pressure, bold stand

Pergamum’s Dark: indifference, passive bystander

Pergamum’s Promise: give a white stone with a new secret name

To the Campers in Thyatira

18 Write this to Thyatira, to the Angel of the church. God’s Son, eyes pouring fire-blaze, standing on feet of furnace-fired bronze, says this:

19 “I see everything you’re doing for me. Impressive! The love and the faith, the service and persistence. Yes, very impressive! You get better at it every day.

20-23 “But why do you let that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants into Cross-denying, self-indulging religion? I gave her a chance to change her ways, but she has no intention of giving up a career in the god-business. I’m about to lay her low, along with her partners, as they play their sex-and-religion games. The bastard offspring of their idol-whoring I’ll kill. Then every church will know that appearances don’t impress me. I x-ray every motive and make sure you get what’s coming to you.

24-25 “The rest of you Thyatirans, who have nothing to do with this outrage, who scorn this playing around with the Devil that gets paraded as profundity, be assured I’ll not make life any harder for you than it already is. Hold on to the truth you have until I get there.

26-28 “Here’s the reward I have for every conqueror, everyone who keeps at it, refusing to give up: You’ll rule the nations, your Shepherd-King rule as firm as an iron staff, their resistance fragile as clay pots. This was the gift my Father gave me; I pass it along to you—and with it, the Morning Star!

29 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”

Thyatira’s Light: loving service gets better & better

Thyatira’s Dark: letting the Jezebel spirit free to seduce you into immorality

Thyatira’s Promise: the Morning Star

To the Campers in Sardis:

Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks:

“I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead.

2-3 “Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there’s life in you yet. But I wouldn’t know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God’swork has been completed. Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears—grasp it again and turn back to God.

“If you pull the covers back over your head and sleep on, oblivious to God, I’ll return when you least expect it, break into your life like a thief in the night.

4 “You still have a few followers of Jesus in Sardis who haven’t ruined themselves wallowing in the muck of the world’s ways. They’ll walk with me on parade! They’ve proved their worth!

5 “Conquerors will march in the victory parade, their names indelible in the Book of Life. I’ll lead them up and present them by name to my Father and his Angels.

6 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”

Sardis’ Light: some who haven’t wallowed in the muck

Sardis’ Dark: good reputation, but asleep & oblivious to God

Sardis’ Promise: name in the book of life, be in the victory parade

To the Campers in Philadelphia:

7 Write this to Philadelphia, to the Angel of the church. The Holy, the True—David’s key in his hand, opening doors no one can lock, locking doors no one can open—speaks:

8 “I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough.

9 “And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved.

10 “Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test.

11 “I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown.

12 “I’ll make each conqueror a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, a permanent position of honor. Then I’ll write names on you, the pillars: the Name of my God, the Name of God’s City—the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven—and my new Name.

13 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”

Philadelphia’s Light: passionate patience, loyalty

Philadelphia’s Dark: absent-minded distraction

Philadelphia’s Promise: pillar-permanent position of honor

To the Campers in Laodicea:

14 Write to Laodicea, to the Angel of the church. God’s Yes, the Faithful and Accurate Witness, the First of God’s creation, says:

15-17 “I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, ‘I’m rich, I’ve got it made, I need nothing from anyone,’ oblivious that in fact you’re a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless.

18 “Here’s what I want you to do: Buy your gold from me, gold that’s been through the refiner’s fire. Then you’ll be rich. Buy your clothes from me, clothes designed in Heaven. You’ve gone around half-naked long enough. And buy medicine for your eyes from me so you can see, really see.

19 “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

20-21 “Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors!

22 “Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.”

Laodicea’s Light: I love you

Laodicea’s Dark: lukewarm, oblivious

Laodicea’s Promise: sit alongside Jesus at the head table

We all land in one of these camps.  Everyone here is a mess, in one way or another.  There’s light in you, but there’s darkness, too.  We tend to hide our mess because we think we’re supposed to look good.  Instead, I want you to get comfortable with being a mess.  In Revelation 2:9, Jesus says, “I can see your pain and poverty—constant pain, dire poverty—but I also see your wealth.”  Light and dark.  He sees it…and us.  And then He goes on to tell us not to quit.  Too many kids are quitting today.  They’re quitting because they feel like the pain is too much.  Let me tell you that the pain is never too much.  Jesus knows your pain.  He wants you to know He loves you and is with you.  No matter how much it hurts, you’re richer.  You’ve been given so much.  Don’t quit.  You can live your life because He lives in you.  

There is going to be pain.  I’m not sure who told everybody that there wasn’t.  You are going to have pain.  There is light and dark, inside and outside of you.  But, there is a promise.  He’s going to keep you safe.  He’s going to give you a banquet, and a new name, the Morning Star, a place in the victory parade, a permanent position of honor and a seat alongside Jesus at the head table.  There is always a promise.  It’s faith now…in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the darkness.  But it’s life forever.  Faith now.  Life forever.  Don’t give up.

-Revelation 1-3, The Message