The Seven Churches


As we conclude our look at the Seven Churches of Asia Minor found in the second and third Chapters of Revelation we see that most of the Churches had a condemnation from our Lord. Yet He always gave them an exhortation to send them onward. Each of these seven Churches were real and suffered from the critiques that Jesus spoke to them. But we must remember, as with the Church Epistles of Paul, James, John, Peter, and Jude they and the letters in Revelation are just as relevant today as they were when written in the first century. Jesus closed each letter that makes it clear that the letters were for all the ages. None of the seven Churches exist today, but, the Church of Jesus Christ shall endure forever and the gates of Hades will not prevail against them. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18) Jesus expressed the same command to each Church at His closing. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22)

Let us take a quick look at the advice that Jesus gave to each Church. To the Church at Ephesus Jesus said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4-5) The Church at Ephesus had become so consumed with their tradition and activities that they had forsaken their Love for God and each other.

To Smyrna He said, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:9-10) The Church was about to face tribulation and poverty and Jesus is advising them to remain faithful in the hard times that were to come. We are always to praise God in the good times and even in the bad times. For He is faithful and true and will cause all to work for the good for His people. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

And to the Church at Pergamum Jesus said, “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. ‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Revelation 2:14-15) Our adversary is always on the prowl to destroy us but he shall not prevail in the end of time. The Church is to resist Satan even to the death and we have this promise found in James. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Ours is the Kingdom of Heaven and there is our eternal home. A place of peace and complete Joy.

To the Church of Thyatira, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. ‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:20-23) There are many warnings in the Scriptures of false teachers and false Messiahs and we are told to test the spirits to see if they are true to the teaching of the Scripture. “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.” (Titus 1:10-11)

And to the Church at Sardis Jesus wrote, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:2-3) The Church is to remain strong in that they have and be zealous towards the gospel truth and pure in their conduct for the Church is the light in a darkened world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16)

There was no condemnation to the Church at Philadelphia but Jesus did call them to move ever forward to the upward call. “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8) Perseverance throughout the ages has always strengthened the Church. God continues to open doors that man cannot open and the Church is to walk through these doors to further the gospel ministry. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

And Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16) We are either totally committed in our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ or we are not. It is more than going through the motions of Christianity. It is a personal relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ. The Law reads, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) And Jesus taught us in His Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Some have taught the Letter’s to the Seven Churches represent certain groups of people and are Church eras. An example I found in one commentary is as follows.

  • Ephesus – Exact dates uncertain: from end of persecution of Nero to death of the Apostle John. “Not Lasting”; historically, the shortest time. Spiritually, it had lost its “first love”.
  • Smyrna – Death of the Apostle. John, to Edict of Milan, 313 AD. “Bitter Sweetness”; The Church persecuted under the Roman Emperors. One of the best.
  • Pergamum – Edict of Milan, until the reign of Charlemagne, 800 AD (or Battle of Tours, 732 AD) “Divorce”; The Church as the state religion of, and spiritually married to, Rome.
  • Thyatira – Reign of Charlemagne, (or Battle of Tours) until end of the Crusades, 1290 AD. “Constant Labor” and/or “Guarding the Door”; The early Holy Roman Empire.
  • Sardis – End of the Crusades, until Martin Luther, 1517 AD. “Of the Flesh”; The Roman Catholic Church of the Renaissance. One of the worst.
  • Philadelphia – Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, until the American Revolution, 1776 AD. “Brotherly Love”; The Protestant Church of the Reformation. One of the best.
  • Laodicea – American Revolution, until the beginning of the Great Tribulation. “People’s Opinions” and “People Judged”; The present lukewarm Church. One of the worst.

There are other time frames that I have seen all depending on who you are reading. I am not arguing against their thoughts but I do say this that the Bible is written for the instruction of the saints through all time until the Lord returns. At that time Jesus will be the ultimate judge. “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:1)

I believe there is a message in each of the Seven Churches that applies to all Churches as with the Epistles to the Churches. And the end of the message is the same for each and every one. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 26, 2016

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