Repentance often receives short shrift when the book of Revelation is considered, because the study of Revelation is so caught up with eschatological and apocalyptic themes. But Revelation contains significant teachings about repentance.
Revelation is written to the seven churches in the province of Asia. In the first three chapters, repentance is a clear, dominant theme. It’s as though John is saying, before we get to the part that’s going to cause uncertainty, argument, predictions of the end of time, and fear–the part that speaks of the scrolls, the seals, the dragon, the beasts, the Lamb, the angels, the plagues, the thousand years, and a new heaven and a new earth, let’s be reminded of something that’s rock solid throughout scripture: repentance. In other words, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
All seven churches had problems. The people of those churches needed to repent. Before you think about a place where there are no more tears, repentance.
The church in Ephesus had forsaken the love it had at first. Love of Christ? Love of church? Or just love, which according to scripture, is the most important thing there is? John says, “Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5) Do we do the things we did when first becoming Christians? Do we have the kind of love we had then?
The church in Smyrna lived in overwhelming fear of the persecutions it was about to suffer. It was seared by slander. It was mixed up about poverty and wealth. Jesus says through John in 2:10, “Be faithful” (or repent of your fear and confusion), “and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
Some members of the church in Pergamum held to the teaching of Balaam. “Repent therefore.” (2:16)
Some members of the church in Thyatira followed Jezebel and participated in her acts of sexual immorality. All who followed her would suffer intensely unless they repented. (2:22)
The church in Sardis was dead, having unfinished deeds. Jesus through John said remember what you were supposed to accomplish and repent. (3:3)
Some members of the church in Philadelphia had little strength and were part of the “synagogue of Satan.” They must fall down and acknowledge Christ’s love (or repent) to avoid the coming persecution.
The church in Laodicea was neither cold or hot. Jesus said he would spit its lukewarm members out of his mouth unless they repented. (3:13, 19)
To which of the seven churches do we belong? Let’s think carefully. Then repent!