The book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ fittingly closes the volume of Holy Scripture with a most urgent call to repentance. Four times we are told of men whom God had visited in grace and judgment who repented not (Revelation 9:20,21; 16:9,11).
The call to repent is also found seven times in the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. The voice of the Lord comes to all of them, declaring, “I know thy works.” Everything is open to His searching gaze. In these letters the Lord has given us a diagnosis of every condition in which His churches may be found. Because the spiritual state of a local church reflects that of its members, these messages should be carefully considered and applied by every believer.
Laboring but Lacking Love
Ephesus is rebuked because of having left her first love. Mere doctrinal correctness is not enough to keep the Gospel light brightly burning. It is only as the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit that our words count with others. An inconsistent, un-Christlike church will cause the world to turn in scorn from its message. So the Lord calls for repentance.
Surely this call comes to many of us today, coupled with the warning that unless there be a new attitude, a turning back to the Lord in contrition and confession, He will take away the candlestick, and we shall be useless so far as witnessing for Him in a dark world is concerned
Worldly and Practically Unsound
The condition of the Pergamos church is even worse. For there, positively evil things were tolerated and unholy alliances formed, which were an affront to the One they professed to serve. Again comes the call to repent. He cannot tolerate unjudged iniquity in His professed people. To boast of salvation by grace while living in sin is detestable to Him. Could anything be more needed today than such a message as this?
Superstitious and Immoral
When we turn to consider the Thyatira church we are confronted with conditions so grave and wickedness so shocking that we might naturally hesitate to recognize it as a church of God at all. Are there not many such churches at the present time? How often have wealth and prominence protected wrongdoers and seemingly made it impossible to deal with them, lest whole families be disgraced or the church be actually disrupted. But desperate diseases require drastic treatment.
Cold and Formal
In the church in Sardis we see a very different condition prevailing. There, all is outwardly correct, but all is cold and formal. Yet it is evident there was a time when this church was aflame with passionate devotion to Christ. Oh, that in such former strongholds of active evangelism there might be a great turning to God, a repentance that would bring churches to their knees in brokenness of spirit. Only then will God open the windows of heaven and pour out life-giving showers to revive the barren wastes and give the world to see again a mighty movement of His Holy Spirit.
Rich and Lukewarm
Laodicea is lukewarm. It is an easy state to fall into. The believer out of fellowship with God may be quite satisfied for a time, boasting of being rich and increased with goods and needing nothing. Yet all the while the Lord detects the sad lack of practically everything that makes for vital godliness. He stands outside the door, knocking and seeking restoration of fellowship. The door is unlatched only by repentance. Oh, the shame of keeping Him outside the door!
Billy Sunday used to relate a story of a well-known atheist who was seen running to a burning church building intent on joining with others in subduing the flames. A neighbor observing him, exclaimed, “This is something new for you! I never saw you going to church before.” The atheist replied, “Well, this is the first time I have ever seen a church on fire.” Who can tell how many might be drawn to the people of God if they were only on fire for Christ and burning with zeal to win the lost?
—Condensed from Except Ye Repent by H.A. Ironside.