Church-Autopsy: Earshot by Abidan Shah, PhD

CHURCH AUTOPSY – EARSHOT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Throughout this series, we have been listening to the warnings of Jesus to the 7 churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to “change or else.” Unfortunately, they failed to heed the warnings and eventually died. The 7 letters serve as an autopsy report for churches throughout the ages that if we fail to heed the same warnings of Jesus, we too will die. But before we close this series, we need to notice that each of the autopsy reports has a second signature at the end: It’s the Holy Spirit. All 7 letters end with the refrain – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” In other words, the churches not only failed to hear the voice of the second person of the godhead, but they also failed to hear the voice of the third person of the godhead. Today’s message is the final message in our series titled “Church Autopsy,” and it is called “EARSHOT.” Main point: As Jesus Christ speaks to the churches in Revelation, so also the Holy Spirit. His ministry is to take the words of Christ deeper into our spiritual ears so that we may come to repentance and overcome the snares of this evil world. Although he encourages us in our darkest hours and enables us to worship in the heavenlies, he will also execute judgment on this world along with the Father and the Son. The work of the Holy Spirit is indispensable, as seen in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation 3:22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Context: As we prepare our hearts for Communion, I want to spend the next few moments on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. We don’t have time to go all over the Bible but just as seen in the Book of Revelation. For quite some time, scholars have underemphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Revelation. Albeit, the Holy Spirit is mentioned less times than God the Father and God the Son, this does not mean that he has a small role to play in the last book of the Bible. According to some estimates, there are as many as 31 total references to the Holy Spirit in this book (This message is based on the works of Michael Kuykendall in JETS 2021, 64.3, Richard Bauckham in “Theology of Revelation,” Mark Wilson in Criswell Theological Review, and John Christopher Thomas in “Oxford Handbook of Revelation”). 

1. When do we begin hearing the voice of the Spirit?

1 Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

Galatians 4:6 “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’”

Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Application: Are you saved? Do you have the Holy Spirit?

2. How do we hear the voice of the Spirit?

John mentions the phrase “in the Spirit” 4 times.

  • Revelation 1:10 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,”
  • Revelation 4:2 “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.”
  • Revelation 17:3 “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness…”
  • Revelation 21:10 “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”

What does that mean to be “in the Spirit?” It is an Old Testament expression from the Ezekiel. Ezekiel 3:12 “Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a great thunderous voice…” 14 “So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away…” Ezekiel 8:3 “…and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem…” Ezekiel 37:1 “The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.” 

We will not have the same experience or prophetic utterance like John or Ezekiel, but we will also feel the leading of the Holy Spirit. It will always bring us in line with God’s word and his plan for this world.

Application: Can you sense the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life?

3. What does the Spirit say?

The Book of Revelation tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

There have been a lot of debate over this statement in Revelation 19:10. The meaning is that when the Spirit gives the prophecy, the subject is Jesus.

Application: What is your reason for studying prophecy? Is it to know what is coming or is it to know who is coming? Jesus is coming again!

Twice in the Book of Revelation, we find the expression “the Spirit says.”

  • Revelation 14:13 “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” ‘ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
  • Rev. 22:17   And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

Jesus promised in John 14:26 that the Spirit would be the “helper.” The word is “paraclete,” which means “the one who comes alongside” as a Helper, Comforter, Counsellor, and Advocate.

Some have found even more references to the Spirit in the book of Revelation. I can go on and on. Sometimes the word “Spirit” is not even mentioned, but the person of the Spirit is behind “the seven blazing lamps” (Revelation 4:5), “the water of life” (Revelation 7:17; 21:6; 22:1, 17), and “the eye salve” (Revelation 3:18). 

Some important truths regarding the Holy Spirit through Revelation:

  1. He stands along with the Father and the Son.
  2. He gives life.
  3. He helps us to obey.
  4. He helps us to witness.
  5. He warns us of what is to come.
  6. He teaches us to worship.
  7. He delivers the end-time judgment along with the Father and the Son.

His primary responsibility to cleanse us from sin and sanctify us towards God. He also produces in us growth in holiness and fruit of the Spirit. He helps us to overcome and live victoriously. He encourages us in our darkest hours. His work is not to draw attention to himself but to Christ. When we are sensitive to hear his voice, the name we hear is Jesus. He is not only in charge of giving the prophecy, but he is also part of the prophecy to be fulfilled in the end of times.

Application: Did you know that the work of the Holy Spirit is to remind you of the words of Christ? Some people are looking for something extra from the Holy Spirit, but his work is to emphasize what Christ has already said!

4. What keeps us from hearing the Spirit?

Every letter ends with “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:71117293:61322). In his earthly ministry, Jesus said that (He who has ears to hear, let him hear!) several times, especially after the parable of the Sower.

Also remember, Jesus said in John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Also, John 16:13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”

Application: Is sin keeping you from hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit? Is there any part of your life that you are unwilling to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit? Are you submitted to his leadership in your life? Are you saved?

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