The Seven Churches of Revelation

There are many explanations as to what the meaning of the revelation is. They are often broken down into four major categories. Within each category there are many differences of opinion on nearly every point. Here are the categories.

1.     Preterist: This is the viewpoint that most of the prophecies contained in the revelation were fulfilled during the time of the Roman empire.

2.     Historicist: This viewpoint considers the prophecies have been fulfilled at various times throughout history and are still being fulfilled today.

3.     Futurist: According to this viewpoint most of the prophecies remain to be fulfilled.

4.     Symbolic: The viewpoint here is that the revelation is mostly symbolic and applies to many different events in human history without an actual literal fulfillment.

 

Perhaps your personal opinion combines two or more of these categories or at least parts of them. This I know. I have heard many people that claimed they understood the book clearly and had an explanation for each question raised. The problem is simple; they were all experts but they agreed on very little. The problem is compounded by the fact that they often feel they were given their understanding by God himself.

 

So what do I think? I think the book has a real message about literal events. Many of those events happened in the past and many are yet to come. In some cases it is clear what the symbols represent. In some cases it isn’t at all clear. Sometimes it isn’t even clear if something is intended to be symbolic or literal. Often times it seems there is a duality of fulfillment or even a plurality of fulfillment. Sometimes it seems there is a physical fulfillment and also a spiritual fulfillment. So is this difficult to understand book even important? Indeed it is. When I read Revelation I try to see how it can be applied to the church and me. Perhaps that is the real meaning of the book.

 

Each of these churches had an angel or messenger that was to receive a written account of what God made known to Jesus who made that known to John by an angel. What John received he called a prophecy and it was revealed to John by means of a vision. From the vision John wrote on a scroll what he saw and gave it to the angel or messenger of each church. As the story begins John sees Jesus holding seven lampstands and seven stars. Jesus then explains, “(Rev 1:20 NIV)  The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” OK, on to the churches.

 

1.     Ephesus

(Rev 2:1 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:

a.          Hard work.

b.         Perseverance.

c.          Cannot tolerate wicked men.

d.         Tested and found false apostles.

e.          Endured hardships for the name of Jesus without growing weary.

f.           Yet you have forsaken your first love.

g.         Repent or lose your church.

h.         But in your favor, you hate immorality and idolatrous practices practiced by the Nicolaitans..

(Rev 2:7 NIV)  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

2.     Smyrna

(Rev 2:8 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

a.          I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich.

b.         I know the slander of the self righteous that actually are doing the work of satan.

c.          Some of you are about to suffer and be tested by the devil in prison.

d.         Some of you will be persecuted for ten days.

e.          Be faithful even to death and you will be given the crown of life.

(Rev 2:11 NIV)  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

3.     Pergamum

(Rev 2:12 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

a.          Though you live where satan has his throne, you remained true to my name.

b.         You did not renounce you faith in me, even though they put my faithful witness, Antipas, to death.

c.          Nevertheless, you have people who hold to false teaching about idolatry and sexual morality such as held by those of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.

d.         Therefore, repent or I will come against them with the sword of my mouth.

(Rev 2:17 NIV)  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

4.     Thyatira

(Rev 2:18 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

a.          I know your good deeds.

b.         Your love and faith.

c.          Your service and perseverance.

d.         And that you are doing even more than at first.

e.          Nevertheless, you tolerate an immoral woman that calls herself a prophetess.

f.           By her teaching she misleads my people into sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.

g.         She will not repent.

h.         Those that follow her will suffer greatly unless they repent.

i.           I will strike all her children dead.

j.           I know the hearts and minds of everyone and will repay each of you according to your deeds.

k.         To the others that have not followed her and to those that have learned satan’s so called, “Deep secrets” simply hold on to what you have.

(Rev 2:26-29 NIV)  To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- {27} 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father. {28} I will also give him the morning star (Rev. 22:16). {29} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

5.     Sardis

(Rev 3:1 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

a.          Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.

b.         I have not found your deeds complete in the eyes of my God.

c.          Therefore, remember the true teachings you have received. Obey them and repent.

d.         If you don’t repent I will come when you don’t expect me and you will not be ready.

e.          Yet you have a few people that have not stained their clothes.

f.           They will be dressed in white and their names will be in the Book of Life.

(Rev 3:5-6 NIV)  He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. {6} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

6.     Philadelphia

(Rev 3:7 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

a.          I have placed before you an open door.

b.         You have little strength yet you have kept My word and not denied My name.

c.          Those that follow satan will be made to fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

d.         Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

e.          I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so you don’t lose your crown.

(Rev 3:12-13 NIV)  Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. {13} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

7.     Laodicea

(Rev 3:14 NIV)  "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.

a.          You are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other.

b.         Because you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

c.          You think you are rich and in need of nothing. But you are actually wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

d.         I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

e.          Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.

f.           I stand at the door and knock. Open the door and let me in to eat with you.

(Rev 3:21-22 NIV)  To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. {22} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

 

In the final analysis it might be said the purpose of the Bible is to teach us, to encourage us, to warn us, to make us strive to be better people. It can give us hope, show us as we really are, prepare us for the works God has for each of us. Through the Bible we can see how pitiful we are without God. But we can see our great potential when we are with God. Yet as great as the Bible is, it is not enough. We need to know the truth, cherish the truth, feel the truth, speak the truth and live the truth. God says his word is truth and that His spirit will lead us to the truth.

 

So it is not so important what I say. But it is very important what God says. Listen to the Spirit as you read the Revelation for yourself.

(John 16:13 NIV)  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.