by Brad Beals
“…and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
~ Revelation 1:5,6
Christ abides with his people, and that is a wonderful, terrible thing. The great truth of the Christian life is that Christ dwells in us. It is an assurance that should bring us both comfort as new believers and inexhaustible wonder as we walk with God through life. And yet our flesh constantly works against the truth of it. With our words we acknowledge that Christ dwells with us, but in our actions we live as though he were only a guest in the house – free to explore certain rooms – and not the owner of it.
The book of Revelation may seem a strange place for wisdom on Christ’s abiding with his people, but it actually tells us much because it tells us much about the risen Christ himself. Here we’re presented with some of the most symbolic imagery in all of the Bible, but parts of the book are very clear. In chapters two and three, for example, Jesus addresses the seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). There’s no reason to believe these churches are spiritualized or symbolic. These were real churches with real people and real problems. And Jesus had much to say to each of them.
He sees their faithfulness. The Ephesians endure patiently and hate the work of the Nicolaitans. Those in Smyrna are suffering tribulation and poverty, yet Jesus calls them rich. The church in Pergamum holds fast to his name and does not deny him. Thyatira’s works are genuine: love, faith, service, and patient endurance. And because Philadelphia has kept his word, they will be spared the coming hour of tribulation. Only Sardis and Laodicea have nothing in them that Christ commends.
He sees their lack of faithfulness too, and this is where it gets frightening. He tells the Ephesians to do the works they did at first or he will remove their lampstand. He warns those in Pergamum to repent of their sexual immorality or he will come and make war with them. Thyatira tolerates that woman Jezebel, who has not repented, and so Jesus will throw her on a sickbed and kill her children so that all of the churches will know that Christ is “he who searches mind and heart.” If Sardis doesn’t strengthen what little remains, he will come to them like a thief. And lukewarm Laodicea he will spit from his mouth. Only Smyrna and Philadelphia are spared admonition from Jesus.
As people of the Word we conform ourselves wholly to the Word. This is our lifetime’s work, our sanctification. In John 1, we read that Christ is the Word. In John 14, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Three chapters later, he says, “Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth.” The Jesus that abides in us is the Truth, the very Word of God; and by his word and the Spirit who testifies to it and administers it to our hearts, we can know the mind of Christ who has all authority over Heaven and Earth.
In an age saturated with felt need psychology, it can be easy to forget that the victorious Christ, the reigning Christ of Revelation, is the Christ who abides with us. He both rules the nations and searches hearts and minds. The Christ who abides is not the soft man of the Sunday school flannelgraph but a warrior bent on conquest and a terror to those who do not hate what he hates, love what he loves, and think as he thinks. The five churches who are admonished had failed to have the mind of Christ, and we too can fail at it. Do you love what he loves? Hate what he hates? And follow his thoughts after him? If not, praise God, there is grace for us! His thoughts are not hidden or hard to discern. He tells us himself that his sheep know his voice (Jn 10:27). He tells us himself that we do have the mind of Christ (1Cor 2:16).
Jesus is our righteousness, our comfort, and our refuge. And he is the LORD, victorious over all. Every life, every nation, every human institution, and square inch of creation belong to Him. He is the owner of the house, and it is a wonderful, terrible thing that such a God would condescend to abide with us, but praise Him! He does!