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Introduction

“Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11)

In the Apostle John’s vison on Patmos Jesus instructed him to write to the seven Churches in Asia. John wrote these letters to the Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea. These cities are located in what is now today Turkey. The ponder I have here is that these Churches were not the most important Churches of their day as well as today. Why not the Church of Rome which was the capital of Christianity for most of Church history? Or the Church in Jerusalem which is where the Church was born? Yet they were addressed to seven lessor significant Churches in Asia.

The answer may be that each letter was written with a specific purpose and the Churches the letters were addressed to were representative to that purpose. When we read each letter we can view it from four plains of relevance.

First each of these letters provides an historical picture of the Church of that day. All these seven Churches actually existed and each one of them was experiencing the problem the Lord had addressed in the letter. All Churches have their problems because all Churches have people attending them. With people problems can be on the trivial level and then they can be of the highest concern. How these problems should be gaged should be measured in how the Head of the Church the Lord Jesus Christ views them. We have often heard the Pastor muse what would happen if Jesus walked into our Church one fine Sunday morn? What would He think of the way we praise Him? What would He think of the way we worship Him? What would He think of the way we teach His Word? It needn’t be that we think He is not aware of these activities in His Church. We have His promise that, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) We have the promise that His Spirit will abide in His Church. “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:24) So our Lord is aware on what is going on in His Church today. Here then, in the historical context of these seven Churches we learn of seven of the severe problems that our Lord is telling us to correct.

Second these individual letters were to be read to all the seven Churches. Even though each letter addresses a specific problem unique to the Church it was written to, the topics of each letter are admonitory to all of them. The seven letters are also admonitory to our Church as well. I do not want to say that these problems are common to the Churches as a whole as not all Churches may be suffering all the issues that the Lord is addressing. But each issue was important enough for the Lord to have addressed them in the Book of Revelation which means they are pitfalls that every Church should go to great lengths to avoid falling into. Sin is sin. Small sin and big sin is a decision that man has made. We have the little white lie that is acceptable to some but if it is a big lie, well that’s not okay. But in the eyes of a righteous Savior all sin is evil and bears the same cost, His blood. Therefore, it is proper that we should hear of and learn from the mistakes of others. We are told by the writer of Hebrews not to forsake the gathering that we may encourage each other. (Hebrews 10:25) So it should be same with the Churches that we should work together that we may build each other up that we can avoid the pitfalls the adversary places in our path.

Third, each of the letters end with a personal challenge and a promise. The letters to the seven Churches were personal as well to the whole of the congregation. Sometimes when we look at big corporations and big congregations the personal relationships of the whole are not existent. People get lost in the cracks and their personal needs get overlooked. The field of the Church is large and the workers are few. Fortunately we serve a Lord that is big enough to be a personal Lord. People have problems and they need help and support but the Church leaders are few and sometimes just not available. If we love the Lord more than we love our parents, wives or husbands, and friends, then we should be spending more time with the Lord than they. Prayer and studying His Word should be a top priority for each day of the week, not just Sunday school. Ronald Reagan said, “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.” So each of these letters to the seven Churches has a personal word for each of us.

Forth, the letters to the seven Churches are prophetic. Let us look at Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks.

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.” So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:24-27)

In the 70 week prophecy of Daniel there is a missing week and this is the Church age. It is the age of Grace which we are in now. The order that these letters are in outline Church history.

Each letter begins with a title from one of the twenty-four given Him in the Book of Revelation. The title of the Lord in each letter gives us an indication of the letter’s theme. Each Churches name also provides us with a clue. There are seven parts to each letter with the Lord’s title being the first. These seven parts are: 1) Title. 2) Commendation. 3) Criticism. 4) Admonition. 5) A call. 6) A challenge. 7) A promise.

This study will be rewarding to each of us in this class. We will gain a better understanding of Church history, we will learn the pitfalls that as a Church we must avoid, and we gain an insight into from where the Church has come and to where it is going as we move rapidly to that great day when the Lord shall call us out to be with Him.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, September 28, 2014

Durant Bible College

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