Introduction to Seven Churches of Revelation
Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation
The letters to the Seven Churches are found in chapters two and three of the Book of Revelation. In the vision of the Apostle John, Jesus dictates letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor that are relevant to the church in any age.
There are different ways to understand the letters to the seven churches. They can be interpreted as relating to the church in universal terms or for the life of the church at different points during its long history.
The Apostle John is very interested in the number seven; he’s instructed by Jesus to write seven letters to seven churches. The letters follow identical formats, and each letter has seven sections.
Seven Sections of the Letters to the Churches
1. Greetings for each of the seven churches
2. Descriptive title for Jesus, who is dictating the letters to the seven churches
3. Insights into the life of the seven churches
4. Criticisms as necessary for individual churches
Note: there are two churches that don’t receive them. Before the criticism that is necessary, Jesus also gives credit where it is due. That way, the criticism will be more likely to be accepted.
5. Warnings and instructions to each of the seven churches
6. Final exhortations
7. Promises and assurances
Messages to the Seven Churches
To the church at Ephesus, he speaks of seven stars and seven lampstands. The seven lampstands are the seven churches showing that the church is expected to be a bright and shining lights The seven stars may refer to either the guardian angels of the churches or the leaders of the churches. Jesus emphasizes that he holds these stars in his right hand and they are secure in Him as well as dependent on Him.
To the church in Smyrna, Jesus is the first and the last, the one who died and came to life again. He is the alpha and omega and everything in between. Jesus lives in the power of endless life.
For the church at Pergamum, Jesus has the sharp, double-edged sword. He is in the position of authority and power and when he wields authority, it’s a blessing for those who follow and a condemnation for those who do not.
To the church at Thyatira, Jesus is one whose eyes are like blazing fire and his feet are like burnished bronze. He has penetrating insight and wisdom in all things. He is also swift to move and in action, and will perform quickly to do what needs to be done.
For the church at Sardis, Jesus holds the seven spirits of God, the seven stars, and the seven-fold spirit of God. He holds those in leadership in his hands, and also provides the seven-fold graces of the spirit.
To the church at Philadelphia, Jesus is the one who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens, no one can shut; what he shuts, no one can open.
To the church at Laodicea, Jesus is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Jesus is the exclamation of what God is saying. He is faithful to all God is, totally true, and is the ruler of all God’s creation. He has glorious authority.
Insights into the Seven Churches
Ephesus: I know your deeds, hard work, and perserverance. You have not grown weary. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it well (and I know what you are refusing, and that you are right in your refusal).
Smyrna: I know your afflictions and poverty, and yet you are rich. I know the challenging circumstances under which you live, and are destitute in material things, but are strong in faith and rich in spirit. Be encouraged.
Pergamum: I know where you live, where Satan has his throne, and you remain true to My Name. (Since Pergamum was a governmental city, it is where emperor-worship started. It was a challenge to not worship Caesar, and Jesus encourages them, in spite of their suffering, to remaining true to him.
Criticisms of the Seven Churches
Ephesus: I know your deeds...Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. In this case, refers to the excitement of loving and knowing and following Jesus has drifted away over time. Then the case of duty and obligation overrides the love of Jesus to do things.
Pergamum: Yet I hold this against you: You have held to teachings of traitors, ate food sacrificed to idols, committed sexual impurity, etc. You are leading (encouraging even) people away from the teachings from Jesus and moving people toward idolatry: putting created things before the creator (to be interested more in the temporal than in the spiritual). This leads to immoral behaviour.
Laodicea: Yet I hold this against you: you have such an exaggerated opinion of your importance and effectiveness, that it has become misleading. You are not even close to being the church that you think you are.
Warnings and Instructions to the Seven Churches
The warning and instruction to each of the seven churches--except for the church in Philadelphia--is that it was time for repentance; specifically, for the church in Sardis, it was time to wake to reality and for the church in Laodicea, it was time to repent. Without repentance, the church would cease to be a church.
Exhortation to the Seven Churches
Listen, take the words to heart, and act.
Promises and Assurances
Jesus promises that, for those who overcome, there are untold blessings to come.
Jesus assures the individual, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. Anyone who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in, I will eat with him and they with me."
Jesus dictated these letters to the seven churches of Asia minor through the Apostle John. They are recorded in the Book of Revelation, but they are just as relevant to churches today, and to the individual believers who make up the church: the body of Christ.