June 12, 2011

Monday in Whitsun Week

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.139, Rev. 1:17-20, 1 Cor. 3:9-17
Evening - Ps. 105, Jer. 31:31-34, Acts 4:13-22

Commentary

Those having the 1928 Book of Common Prayer have probably noticed the difference between its Lectionary and the one at the top of this page. The Prayer Book Lectionary calls for a reading from the Apocryphal book of Wisdom, while this one replaces it with a reading from Revelation. Why is this? The AOC does not place the Apocrypha on equal standing with Holy Scripture. Scripture is given by the inspiration of God while the Apocrypha consists of works by devout people who were not inspired. Thus the Apocryphal books may be read as commentaries and devotionals, but not as the Word of God. It has long been my practice to read only Scripture in the daily lessons, so I have taken it upon myself to change the non-Scriptural reading in Wisdom to the Scriptural reading in Revelation.

Today's passage shows the risen Christ in the midst of the seven churches. These are not symbols of seven ages of the Church, or the Church in different eras of time. They are seven specific and real churches located in the area known as Asia Minor in the time frame of the middle of the first century A.D. These churches, with others throughout the Roman Empire, were in the beginning of a time which the Bible calls the tribulation (Rev. 1:9). It was a time of blood. Many would leave the faith, and many more would consider leaving it. Revelation was written to these churches in their time to prepare them for what was coming and to encourage them to stand firm in the faith at all costs.

In the coming chapters our Lord addresses each church with a message that affirms their faith, and also admonishes them for their shortcomings. Obviously our Lord is trying to prepare them for that great Day when they stand before God to give an account of their lives and their works. But there is also a more immediate application of His words. The tribulation is upon them and it is going to grow stronger and more devastating before it gets better. Any church, or Christian, that does not have an undivided, single minded faith will not be able to endure it, and only those who endure to the end will be saved. Thus, they need to get their houses in order. They need to decide here and now where their loyalties lie, and who their God is.

This is the essential message of the book of Revelation. The pictures of the fall of God's enemies are included only to encourage the Church in faith. Empires may rise and fall, attacking the Church like ravenous beasts. They will pass away, and God's true people will abide. One day, they will be cast into an eternity of living death, but the Church will be with God in unimaginable joy forever.