Monday, May 20, 2024

A Tale of Two Churches


By Jared Green

    To begin the book of Revelation, Jesus reveals to John in a vision the content of letters that he was to write and send to seven churches in Asia Minor. In the letters, Jesus gives a specific, pertinent message to each church. Jesus’ purpose is to both fix any issues going on within the churches and encourage the Christian recipients with messages of hope to remain faithful to Christ amid difficult times. 

    In 2:8-11, Jesus writes to the small but strong church in Smyrna. To them he says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan” (2:9). While the Christians who made up this congregation felt the sting of persecution and poverty—and maybe were struggling to remain faithful because of their struggles—Jesus reminds them that they are rich. According to Jesus’ message, their riches come not from monetary gain but from something much greater. In encouraging the Smyrnaeans to remain faithful as they experience persecution, he says to them, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). The Smyrnaeans’ riches were a result of God’s grace in salvation, and Jesus encouraged them to use that grace to stand firm. 

    Later, in 3:14-22, Jesus writes to a church that, from the outside looking in, seemed to have everything together. The reality, however, was much different. Jesus tells the Christians in Laodicea that he will spit them out of his mouth due to their lukewarm nature. They are neither hot (actively for Christ) nor cold (actively against Christ). Jesus goes on to explain the reason: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). The lukewarm nature of the Laodiceans came from their desire to rely on themselves rather than Christ. 

    When studying this tale of two cities, Jesus clearly gets to the heart of the matter. In Jesus’ mind, the church who had nothing really had everything, while the church who had everything really had nothing. In a world full of trials, Jesus calls for churches to rely on him rather than themselves. In a world full of trials, Jesus calls each individual Christian to rely on him rather than himself or herself. As tempting as it is to feel as though we have ‘made it’ when we are rich by worldly standards, may we always be a people who seek to be rich in our Savior’s eyes. God loves you, and so do I. 

- Jared Green preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


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