My new book, Letters from Jesus, comes out in a few weeks. Here’s a taste…
In the creviced hills east of the Sea of Galilee, a kibbutznik stumbled on the neck of a partially buried earthen jar. Inside the jar was a roll of parchment. Experts at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examined the parchment and found letters written by someone claiming to be the Son of God. The letters were dated to the first century, and all the evidence indicated that they had been written by Jesus Christ.
A media frenzy followed. Within days the letters were translated into every language known to man. They were circulated online and everybody read them. The letters, revealing a side of Christ that few had seen, triggered a theological cataclysm. Seminarians squabbled, boards bickered, and churches split. Yet many believed that God was sending humanity a much-needed message of love and hope. Feuds ended and wars ceased. So many people turned to Christ on account of these letters that media outlets labeled their discovery the most important event in Christendom since the resurrection.
Everything above is a fiction. I wrote it as a thought experiment, a kind of what-if question. What if someone did discover letters from Jesus? Would you be excited? Would you read them? Of course you would. They’re letters from Jesus. How often do you get mail from the Son of God?
How might the world react to such a discovery? I ask because we do, in fact, have seven lost letters from Jesus. They’ve been hidden in plain sight for 2000 years. I am referring to Christ’s letters to the seven churches, which are recorded in the Book of Revelation. I call them lost because many people don’t know that Jesus sent seven letters, and those who do tend to leave them buried and unread in the back of their Bibles.
It is a miracle these letters from Jesus have survived. They have outlasted the language in which they were written and the cities to which they were sent. In the intervening centuries, empires have risen and fallen; civilizations have come and gone. The letters from Jesus have come to us via a long chain of scribes, copyists, archivists, translators, editors, and publishers. We are blessed to have these letters, but some of their meaning has been lost in translation. How do I know? Because those who love Christ fear his letters. They see Jesus with burning eyes and sharp swords and they don’t recognize him. The Jesus in the Gospels drew people with grace, but the Jesus in these letters seems like Rambo on a rampage. Something doesn’t add up.
What happened to Jesus?
Many people dismiss the seven Revelation letters as too hard, too strange, or too scary. From time to time they may hear a sermon or a teaching on one of the letters, and while the message may give them a measure of joy, it also leaves them confused and anxious. “Did Jesus really say that?”
Take the letter to the Laodiceans. In it Jesus says the Laodiceans are lukewarm and poor, and he is about to vomit them up. What does Jesus have against poor people, you wonder. And how do I avoid being spewed out?
In the letter to Sardis, Jesus describes himself as a thief. Jesus is a thief?!
In the letter to Pergamum, he says he’s coming to wage war with a sword. With a what now?!
In the letter to Thyatira, Jesus says he will cast a certain lady onto a bed of suffering and slay her children with death. Has Jesus gone rogue? Has he joined the Dark Side?
In our confusion we turn to religion for answers and learn that sometimes the Lord directs his anger against his church. “If he punishes us, it’s for our own good.” So he loves us, but he also beats us. Hallelujah.
We are told that the letters contain a mix of praises and rebukes. “Do good, and God will reward you. But do bad, and the Lord will punish you.” In other words, God drives us like donkeys using sticks and carrots. Hee-haw.
And how are we to respond to these letters? Religion offers an unequivocal answer: Work harder for the Lord. “The Ephesians slacked off, while the Laodiceans cooled off. You’d best lift your game or you will be cast off.”
I don’t know about you, but none of this sounds like good news to me. In fact, it sounds exactly like the sort of message that leaves people burdened with debilitating guilt and shame.
I have a different take on the letters from Jesus. Contrary to what you may have heard, I believe they are good news from start to finish. They are seven unqualified revelations of the extreme goodness and radical favor of God. Manmade religion hurts people, but the gospel of Jesus found in these letters has the power to save, heal, and deliver.
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Can’t wait to see the book? Check out all the excerpts and draft chapters available now on E2R’s Patreon page.