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The Gospel From Patmos
Everyday Insights For Living
From The Last Book Of The Bible
Daily Devotional
Thursday, February 11, 2016

            Remember, therefore, the place from which you have fallen, repent and do the first works, but if not, I will come to you and remove your lamp from its place, if you do not repent. Rev 2:5.



            In 1995 I led a group of students from Andrews University on a tour of Turkey, the modern-day nation that includes the locations of the seven churches. Our local tour guide, Murat, was a secular Turk of Muslim background who had taken an interest in the Christian heritage of his country.
            One day road signs reported that we were nearing the city of Konya in a section of central Turkey where Paul had worked during his first and second missionary journeys. Murat told us that Konya was a city of 500,000 people, but only three or four of these people were Christians, and Murat knew them all personally. When he also told us that Konya was the Turkish name for the ancient city of Iconium, I realized that this city had been the site of a flourishing Christian community founded by Paul (Acts 13:51 - 14:6). We then learned that the church was in a similar condition in the area of the seven churches of Revelation. Ephesus is now Kusadasi, Philadelphia is Aleshehir, and Christians are nowhere to be found.
            When Revelation was written Christianity was strongly established in central and western Asia Minor. In fact, many scholars believe Christians were more numerous in first-century Asia Minor than anywhere else in the world. But in the course of many centuries these churches gradually declined until they were virtually eradicated by Islam. The regions where the early church was strongest (including Syria and North Africa) are now Islamic strongholds. As Jesus warns in our text above, lampstands can be removed from their place.
            Yet it was not Islam that destroyed the church. In North Africa, Christianity was weakened by doctrinal and ethnic controversies. Christians in the Middle East failed to engage the local culture, leaving the way open for Mohammed’s more-contextualized faith. In the Middle Ages the European church leadership sought to revitalize Christianity in the Middle East. But they misunderstood the gospel and chose a method (the Crusades) that made things even worse. It was the church that destroyed the church in the eastern Mediterranean.1
            This history should be a warning to us. Where the gospel once flourished (including Europe, North America and Australia), it is now in decline. Yet regions that hardly knew the gospel two centuries ago (Africa and Asia) are rapidly becoming the center of the faith. You and I dare not take our role in God’s plan for granted. If we abandon our mission, God will raise up others to fulfill it. Lampstands can be removed from their place.



            Lord, rekindle the clarity of my mission today. Keep my lamp trimmed and burning.



1See Keener, Revelation, 77.


 
 
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