Revelation & The Messages to the 7 Churches
One of the compelling parts of the Book of Revelation is in chapter 2 and 3 where Jesus gives a message to the seven churches.
We can learn from the issues they were facing and look at our own lives or as leaders consider the condition of our local church. Jesus saw good things about their condition, things that must change and exhortations for them.
Here is a brief overview.
1. The Message to the Church in Ephesus - Rev 2:2-4 NLT
We begin with the church at Ephesus. At the time this letter was written, Ephesus was a major city of Asia Minor and a seaport.
Jesus said to them, “I’ve seen your hard work and patience endurance and that they don’t tolerate evil.”
Must Change -
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first.
2. The Message to the Church in Smyrna - Rev 2:8-10 NLT
Smyrna was a seaport city about 35 miles north of Ephesus. It has been described as the most beautiful of the seven cities. Today it is called Izmir, Turkey.
“The Greek word translated ‘Smyrna’ was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, to translate the Hebrew word for myrrh, a resinous substance used as a perfume for the living (Matthew 2:11) and the dead (John 19:39).
Its association with death perfectly pictures the suffering church at Smyrna. Like myrrh, produced by crushing a fragrant plant, the church at Smyrna, crushed by persecution, gave off a fragrant aroma of faithfulness to God.”
This was a message meant to encourage them in light of what they were facing presently and was about to face in the future. The church at Smyrna was to undergo some intense persecution and tribulation. Jesus wanted to encourage them to stand strong, even if it meant physical death.
“I know about your suffering and poverty but you are rich and I know the blasphemy of those opposing you.”
Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison.
If you remain faithful when facing death – I will give you the crown of life.
3. The Message to the Church in Pergamum - Rev 2:13-15 NLT
Pergamum had served as the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor for over 25 years and was an important religious center for a number of pagan cults. It was the first city in Asia to build a temple to Caesar and it became the capital of the cult of Caesar worship. Of Pergamum an ancient writer said it was “given to idolatry more than all Asia.”
Many writers have noted that Pergamum comes from the Greek word gamos that means marriage. This letter pictures a church married to the world rather than to Christ.
The church at Pergamum was surrounded by a pagan culture, just as we are surrounded by an increasingly godless culture.
“I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne and yet you have remained loyal to me.”
“You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city.”
“You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam.”“You have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. 16 Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
4. The Message to the Church in Thyatira – Rev 2: 21
Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities, but the one that received the longest letter. It lay about 45 miles to the southeast of Pergamum and was famous for its textiles, especially the production of purple dye and its trade guilds.
This church was doing many things well, but someone teaching false doctrine was leading them astray. Evidently a woman claiming to be a prophetess had been influencing some in this church to join the local trade guilds without which a tradesman could not work in Thyatira. This meant participation in the guild feasts that included immoral acts and the worship of idols.
“But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.”
“…those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.”
“Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.”
I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,
To them I will give authority over all the nations.
5. The Message to the Church in Sardis – Rev 3:?-8
The location of Sardis on a hill some fifteen hundred feet above the valley floor made the city very secure. The hill on which Sardis was built had nearly perpendicular walls on three sides and the city could only be approached from the south via a steep, difficult path. Its seemingly secure location caused the inhabitants of Sardis to become overconfident and on two occasions the city was conquered. Overconfidence and complacency led to defeat as they let their guard down.
“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.
2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.
3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly.
Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.
There are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
6. The Message to the Church in Philadelphia - Rev. 3:7-13
The town received its name from his nickname, Philadelphus or brother lover. This king had a special devotion to his brother, Eumenes II. The city stood in a wine-producing area and was the so-called gateway to central Asia Minor. The modern name of this town is Alasehir.
If I could choose one church to be a part of out of these seven churches, it would be the church at Philadelphia. My prayer is that we would be a “Philadelphia” church in today’s times.
The door God opens, no one can close; and what He closes, no one can open.
8 “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.
You have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.
12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
7. The Message to the Church in Laodicea – Rev 3: 15-21
The city was also famous for the soft, black wool it produced and its ancient medicine, particularly an eye salve. All three industries – finance, wool, and eye salve – came into play in this letter. Laodicea’s water supply was also relevant to the message in this letter as the water had to travel several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city. Therefore, the water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid – lukewarm, just like the people in the church.
15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.
19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
What stands out to you in these messages?