The gospel promises release from the guilt of sin along with the power to escape sin's tyranny and live a clean life.
The gospel does not promise that you can keep on sinning wilfully and God will not see it.
In the Book of Revelation, it becomes clear that Jesus is fully aware of the sins and weaknesses of people in His churches, as well as their strengths.
Let's look at the seven churches one by one.
The Church in Ephesus
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
If Jesus can't see the sins of people in his churches, how does Jesus know that these people have left their first love? How does Jesus know that these people need to repent? And something else, why is Jesus so interested in their works? Why is Jesus wanting the right kind of WORKS from his church? Could it be because works demonstrate the true condition of the heart?
The Church in Smyrna
Jesus doesn't mention any sins of this church. In fact He commends them. They are materially poor but spiritually rich. Faithfulness to Jesus does not always result in the accumulation of material wealth. In fact, its rather hard to accumulate material wealth if you have the love of God in your heart and see the needs around you. Its also hard to accumulate wealth in a society which persecutes the righteous and those who uncompromisingly confess Christ. What does Jesus say to this church?
"‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: 9 “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Jesus promises the crown of life not to everyone unconditionally, but to those who can be faithful to him through the experience of prison, tribulation and suffering, even until death.
If all Christians were going to receive the crown of life, these exhortations would be redundant. Something else you may notice in the passage if you go to the context is this: a promise is made to OVERCOMERS. Jesus made his promises to OVERCOMERS, not to those in His church who are overcome BY sin.
The Church in Pergamos
Jesus has commendations for this church. But he also says:
But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
If Jesus can't see sin, how can He tell that there are some in the church who hold to the doctrine of Balaam, and others to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (probably a reference to domineering church leadership who treat the people of God as human resources for their own egos, incomes and ambitions)? Jesus can see the sexual immorality also. And he tells them that they have to REPENT or else He, Jesusm will come and FIGHT AGAINST THEM?
Has your pastor ever told you that it is possible for JESUS to fight against you?
The Church in Thyatira
Jesus commends this church for quite a few things, but then goes on:
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.
Again, Jesus is not blind to what is going on.
Isn't it clear that it is POSSIBLE that God's servants can be seduced to commit sexual immorality? Jesus didn't say, "people pretending to be My servants". He said, "My servants". I hope we can let Jesus say what He wants to say without trying to correct Him because His doctrine doesn't line up with that of John Calvin or some such person.
Jesus wouldn't call someone in the church "His servant" unless that person was at one time a regenerate person. In the context of church life, an unregenerate person serves themselves, or the devil – not God. Paul makes this clear in Romans 16:18 that some teachers are not God's servants at all.
"For those who are such don't serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent." (Romans 16:18).
But in Revelation 2, Jesus is referring to His servants! These servants were SEDUCED through false teaching. There was a time when they were not fallen. Then they fell through the Jezebelic teaching they received. Jesus sees it all.
For those who say Jesus would never execute any judgment in this life, take a look at this Scripture. He said HE would cast Jezebel into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into GREAT TRIBULATION, unless they repent. Jesus will also KILL Jezebel's children.
Jesus is not your little buddy. He is not someone who died on the cross so you could have this marvellous ministry and live off God's people. Jesus is someone you had better learn to stand in awe of. He is patient, but that does not mean he will tolerate evil in the church forever. His judgments will surely come.
The Church in Sardis
Jesus speaks to this church as follows:
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.[a] 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 You[b] have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
Jesus sees past the reputations of big name churches to their true condition. He says that they have something left but it is about to die. How can people possibly believe that it is impossible for that which is alive in God to never die in the light of this? Jesus tells them to hold fast what they have and to REPENT.
Jesus implies that those who don't defile themselves with sin, especially sexual sin, are worthy to walk with Him and will stay in the Book of Life. The implication is that those who do sin in certain ways WILL be blotted out of God's book.
Again, Jesus sees what is going on and tells His people to REPENT.
The Church in Philadelphia
Jesus has no rebukes for this church, He praises their faithfulness, and makes promises once again to the overcomers.
The Church in Laodicea
Many see the church of Laodicea as a picture of the Western church of today. If this is true, the Western church is in SERIOUS trouble because Jesus is threatening to vomit them out, a Hebrew metaphor for rejection, because they are lukewarm.
The church that thinks it has it all together, especially because they have material wealth, is a church in DANGER of being vomited out by JESUS. Jesus sees all the sin.
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[g] I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Jesus can see that this church is wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. So much for the idea that Jesus will only speak positive things about His "beautiful bride". The Laodicean church is not some "beautiful bride" of Christ. It is going to be vomited out – unless the people in it PAY THE PRICE, and REPENT.
Jesus is requiring ZEAL. If we are not zealous for Him, if we are not ON FIRE, we are lukewarm and we need to repent. Jesus wants intense love. He deserves it.
I hope you can see with me the plain meaning implied in these messages direct from Jesus to his churches POST-PENTECOST. Jesus has always had a high standard and He gives enough grace for His people to please Him.
We cannot afford to be spiritually lazy, or tolerant towards the devil in any way. Without the holy fire of God burning in our hearts, we don't please God and we can't be sure of a place in God's kingdom when our natural lives on earth are over. So we had better do what Paul and Jesus said: BE AFRAID. We had better wise up, get serious with God, and draw near to God so we can get the empowering grace to do God's will.