7 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. I will allow those who emerge victorious to eat from the tree of life, which is in God’s paradise.
11 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Those who emerge victorious won’t be hurt by the second death.
17 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. I will give those who emerge victorious some of the hidden manna to eat. I will also give to each of them a white stone with a new name written on it, which no one knows except the one who receives it.
26 To those who emerge victorious, keeping my practices until the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 to rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like pottery— 28 just as I received authority from my Father. I will also give them the morning star. 29 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
5 Those who emerge victorious will wear white clothing like this. I won’t scratch out their names from the scroll of life, but will declare their names in the presence of my Father and his angels. 6 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
12 As for those who emerge victorious, I will make them pillars in the temple of my God, and they will never leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God. I will also write on them my own new name. 13 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
21 As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne, just as I emerged victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
The “letters to the seven churches” in Revelation 2 and 3 either praised or rebuked specific attitudes or behaviors in those churches. We can learn valuable lessons from those warnings and praises. But we too often overlook or brush past the promises made to “those who emerge victorious” in every one of the seven churches. Yet those promises were a key part of Revelation’s overall message of hope.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the assurance that I can emerge victorious, not in my strength but in yours. I’m grateful that, thanks to you, I can depend on having my name on “the scroll of life.” Amen.
80s kids may remember this, but when I was growing up, we had these choose-your-own-adventure books (I think they were actually called “choose-your-own-adventure books”) where you’d read a bit of the story and be faced with a choice. To make choice one, turn to page 13; to make choice two, turn to page 63. And then you’d read a bit about how that choice played out, and you’d have to make another choice. There were all kinds of choices in these books that led to some drastically different stories.
Well, the thing about these books is that every path you took had an ending, and it wasn’t always a good ending. In a book about time travel, making the wrong choices might lead to you being stuck forever in the land of the dinosaurs. Taking the wrong path in a book about alternate dimensions might lead to your doppelganger trapping you in a pocket dimension. One time, I kid you not, I could not figure out how to not get killed by ninjas—ninjas got me every time. I’d read these books, and I got really stressed out about the bad endings, so I’d hold my finger in the book at a choice point I was anxious about. A few pages later, I’d get anxious about another choice, which meant another finger in the book. Soon, I’d have trouble holding the book, and I didn’t even remember some of the choices I was holding onto.
The opening chapters of Revelation have letters written to seven churches to address very different situations and problems. Reading them today, though, it’s a bit like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books in that we can see what choices these churches made, and we can see where John was saying these paths led. Some of these paths look like blessings and some look like harsh rebukes, but there’s probably at least one of these letters that looks like the choices you’ve made and are making. And there are probably some that will tell you about paths you will take in the future.
The thing I love about these letters is that, no matter how good or bad each path seems, every path has a happy ending. John promises each of these churches, if you just hold on, if you just keep pressing on, there will be a happy ending for you. John offers seven very different “endings” for these paths. Some of them lead to peace; some lead to reward; some lead to protection; there’s even one that has a happy resolution in the next life; but all of them have a happy outcome.
That’s so freeing. I don’t have to keep a finger in the book for a choice that I made six months ago, two years ago, or half a lifetime ago. Each ending can look very different, and I ultimately don’t know which of the endings I’ll get, but I take comfort in the fact that even the churches here that made the worst choices got a happy ending if they stuck to the good and kept pressing on.
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