Revelation 3:14, 15-22, ‘These are the words of…the Ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
I am in shock, but not really. I’ve been watching Facebook for the past 24 hours and I’ve really started to see the heart of the people in a different way. In a way that only comes out under situations of duress. I’m friends with many people who are not believers – I’m not at all startled by their reactions. Seriously. Their reactions make sense to me. It’s the believers’ reactions that I’m startled by. There are a lot of pretty right leaning Christians who are obviously ecstatic today, posting stuff that is anywhere from excited to downright rubbing others faces in it. There are even more Christians who are extremely disturbed by Trump winning. They are sad, scared, crying. They are seriously perturbed.
Let’s take a step back and quickly revisit our brothers and sisters who were killed in the early church.
The Roman Empire was no friend to early Christians in the first three centuries. Followers of Jesus, lovers of Jesus, were persecuted because they refused to worship Roman gods or acknowledge the emperor as a divine being. The refusal of this was equivalent to refusing to swear allegiance to your country. But let’s rewind a little more to the night of July 18th, 64 AD. This is the night of the Great Fire of Rome. It was a fire that caused devastation to Rome for six days. The rumor went out that Nero actually caused the fire. Regardless of whether he did start it, he blamed Christians in the city for being the arsonists. (Sound like anyone you know? Nazi Germany circa 1930s would have been my answer). Even after Nero’s reign came to an end, persecution of our beloved sisters and brothers (in Heaven now) continued for centuries. John was given the vision of revelation sometime in the latter half of the first century. And Christians lived through the early persecution faithfully.
damnatio ad bestias
Which translates to English as ‘damnation to beasts.’ It was a form of execution during the 1st to 3rd centuries in the Roman Empire. The traditional lions weren’t the only animals used for human execution, but also panthers, bears, leopards and tigers. The Roman senator and historian Tacitus recorded Christians being wrapped in animal skins by Nero (after the fire) and being attacked to death by dogs. Tertullian recorded that Romans typically blamed Christians for their problems and would say, “Away with them to the lions!”
Yes, I realize that was graphic. I’m trying to illustrate using contrast. I think that was Herbert Schmalz point in the beauty and the torment of Faithful Unto Death (painting above ^). Here we have the very tender beautiful image bearers of God about to die at the hands of the Romans. Of Satan (did you see the curious being kneeling in blood thirst next to one of our sisters?). But they couldn’t destroy their heart, their souls, they were filled with the Spirit and are alive forever more in our Father’s house. But that’s a tangent. My point is that Christians have lived through brutal persecution in the world since Jesus went home after the resurrection. (Let’s not even talk about modern day persecution, especially by ISIS). Now, here’s my question: how is it possible that the earliest Christians (and non-American Christians) could face such horrifying torment for the sake of Christ and stay faithful unto death, but here in America there is an outcry of hate, fear, anxiety, worry and self-preservation like none I have seen before simply because of a presidential race? The outcome of which will not (logically) destroy any constitutional rights or cause physical harm to anyone? Why? But we have brothers and sisters who have endured horrible things and they didn’t snap. They stayed strong.
I think the answer lies in what we see every other day of the week. It’s the constant reposting of memes of basic (and I do mean basic) thoughts and concepts of life with God, mostly flowery, all day every day as the motto for life. It screams that most of the foundation of the laity is filled with very young and immature believers. They are all for building life here, not for storing up treasure in heaven. And so it needs the psychological boosters to keep perspective happy to help build their little Eden in this fallen world. It’s a church that is young, with wobbly knees not able to stand up on its own (and not wobbly knees in a cute toddler way, I mean in a lazy way. Like he’s-been-sitting-on-the-couch-for-two-weeks-eating-ice-cream-and-watching-movies-and-now-his-legs-hurt-when-he-goes-to-the-bathroom-kind-of-wobbly-way). It’s a church that wants to be pursued, but refuses to pursue at all. It’s a consumeristic church, one that cannot stand the idea of being uncomfortable. It’s Laodicea in all her glory. And as we get closer and closer to the end, the birth pains will get worse and worse. We’ll see the fringes of Laodicea start to get cut loose. If you want life here in lieu of a life with the cross, so be it. If you want life with Jesus, so be it. Make the choice.
It’s bad. It’s dramatic, and not in a good epic movie or Shakepearean way, it’s drama. And it’s immature.
Seriously, what do we have to be afraid of? So what? So what if the presidential election draws in the antichrist in the next 3 years? I’m ready for the Tribulation, are you? I’m ready to be home with my family. So what if there’s persecution? I’m not saying there will be, but so what if there is? I’m also not saying the presidential candidate will even try to do that, or that he could if he wanted to. What I am saying is God is running processes on this world that will one day bring about the end times. Let’s do this, we have God, fear has no place in perfect love, God’s perfect love. Can we not strive to live life in such a way that fear is subjugated in our hearts to faith in our Beloved and that we can go about our daily lives resting in Jesus’ omnipotence?
Laodicea, it’s time we grow up. The end is coming upon us like a storm that we cannot outrun. We will be home with our Bridegroom soon. We must stay faithful to the end, we must love others ruthlessly until the end, we must worship our Beloved Jesus with all we have for all time. Jesus’ closing words to Laodicea:
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” – Revelation 3:19-22