Lampstand Removed

Write to the angel of the evangelical church in America: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.1

Being an evangelical myself, I know how readily we blaze past the Revelation letter to the church in Ephesus to get to the letters to those in Thyatira and Pergamum, using Christ’s warnings in those letters as justification for angrily railing against the sexual immorality in American culture. But that’s mistaken—sexual immorality is wrong, no doubt, but the letters in Revelation aren’t written to Ephesus, Thyatira, or wherever; they are written to the churches of those places. The one that applies to us is not the one that best describes America, for America is not the church; the one that applies to us is the one that best describes the church. So, my evangelical brethren, do you “tolerate the woman Jezebel, who…deceives [Christ’s] slaves to commit sexual immorality”2? Do you “hold to the teaching of Balaam…to commit sexual immorality”3? Of course not—that is what you oppose so vociferously—so the warnings to Thyatira and Pergamum are no concern of yours.

I’ll tell you which church you are, and which warning you should heed—it’s the most terrifying of all, I think! You are the church of Ephesus: intolerant of evil, careful judges of truth and falsehood, longsuffering servants who have endured much ridicule, and, unfortunately, almost completely without love for others. Let me ask you: Is it loving to support and identify with a man whose rhetoric clearly demonstrates (regardless of whatever his true feelings may be) hatred of Mexicans, Muslims, and the poor? Even if Mexicans, Muslims, and the poor are your enemies, did not Jesus command you to love your enemies?

I get why you did it: You were afraid—afraid of what persecution the other candidate’s presidency might have meant for you, and reasonably so. But that’s no reason to hate, nor is it any reason to throw your lot in with a man who hates, even if you don’t. It doesn’t matter whether or not we say we love others or even think we love others, but only that we do loving things toward others; the message we evangelicals have sent with what we have done—giving overwhelming, record-setting support4 to a man who hates—is that we hate. In so doing, we have irrevocably damaged our witness. We have so deeply hurt and insulted so many of the lost who are Mexican, Muslim, poor, or identify with any of the many groups our president-elect has indicated that he hates, that we have hamstrung our chances of bringing them to Christ. Even those few of us who didn’t cast a vote of hate have been undermined by the multitude who did.

You have been afraid and you gave into your fear rather than trusting in God. It doesn’t matter how terrible the other candidate was—you could have trusted God, voting third party or abstaining altogether, and He would have delivered you, but you have placed your trust in the strength of men and forsaken your God. The Bible gives us a great story of someone else who could have been delivered by God had he trusted Him but instead gave into fear: King Asa. “Asa did what was good and right in the sight of the LORD…and the kingdom experienced peace under him.”5 Asa was even once forced into battle where he was outnumbered over 3:1, but he trusted in God, cried out to Him for help, and acknowledged that God was the only One who could, and God answered by helping Asa’s army to wipe out every last enemy soldier. But then Asa became like us: fattened on success and afraid to lose it. Another army came up against him decades later, and this time Asa did not ask for God’s help. Instead he relied on his riches and the power of a wicked Gentile king, and when confronted about this sin by the prophet Hanani, he did not repent but imprisoned Hanani and began to oppress the people. He died of a severe disease a few years later, refusing to repent even unto the end, relying on the strength of human doctors over the strength of God.6

We have been warned, just as Asa was, and we have known that God’s judgement is coming against us for many years—we can see it all around as the attacks on us by secular culture grow stronger and more aggressive. Yet we continue to rely in the strength of men, not God, crying out to government saviors instead of trusting the only One who can actually save us. We have been given a chance to repent, to refrain from voting for a strong but wicked candidate and let the chips fall where they may, trusting God to deliver us from whatever may come, but, like Asa, we keep refusing to repent, all the while allowing our fear to disfigure us into creatures of hatred. And the terrible judgement of God is soon to come upon us for it if we don’t repent—assuming it’s not already too late. God will remove our lampstand from its place—He will remove the American evangelical church from His presence7, for our lack of love makes it clear that, regardless of our efforts with regard to His laws and His truth, we are no longer His church.

Maybe our new president is a temporary reprieve; maybe God will use him to delay our judgement long enough to give us another chance to repent, but I wouldn’t count on it. God can always use us—even amidst our failures—to accomplish His good purposes, but our failures are rapidly reaching the point where our best use to Him may be simply as another dreadful example of His righteous judgement. Judgement is coming upon us soon—upon the church, not upon America—and whether it comes at the hands of this wicked human king in whom we have placed our trust, abusing whatever extraordinary executive powers of surveillance or detainment or suppression of dissent that we eagerly allow him to usurp “for our protection”, or through events beyond his control that beset us during his reign, or at the hands of the tyrant sure to follow afterward, who will undoubtedly eventually turn any new executive powers against us, you can be certain of one thing: It will surely come if we don’t repent now and start loving others, not just in word, but also in deed.

  1. Revelation 2:1-5, (HCSB, v.1 modified for illustrative purposes)
  2. Revelation 2:20 (HCSB)
  3. Revelation 2:14 (HCSB)
  4. Pew Research reports that exit polls indicated that 81% of “white born-again evangelicals” voted for the president-elect—a larger percentage of this demographic than has ever gone to any candidate for as long as the statistic has been measured.
  5. 2 Chronicles 14:2, 5
  6. You can read Asa’s whole story in 2 Chronicles 14-16.
  7. Revelation 1:20 makes this clear: “…the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (emphasis added)

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