REVELATION CHAPTERS 2-3: THE SEVEN CHURCHES
- Ephesus: The Ephesians are praised for perseverance and knowing the right teachings of the Apostles. They can identify false teaching and reject it. The Ephesians are warned about departing from their first love… perhaps lack of deed or action in which they believed was right.
- Verse 7: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
- Smyrna: The Smyrnaeans are praised for enduring and suffering in name of Christ. He warns them that their faithfulness will soon be put to the test and they must endure even to the point of death. Verse 11 is an encouragement to them, but also to future believers. Everyone who hears the Word and conquers (put faith in Jesus as their Lord and overcome by His death) will not be harmed by the second death. The ‘second death’ is defined as the eternal punishment handed out by God Himself on the Last Day or the Day of the Lord. The parallel here is ‘life’ and ‘death’ just like Matthew 10:28. In Matthew 10:28, only God can destroy both body and soul… the ‘psyche’ which we take to mean ‘breath of life given to Adam (humans) at his creation.’
- Verse 11: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
- Pergamum: The Pergamites live in a city full of Satan and yet they have not denied the Name of Christ and their faith in Jesus. The Pergamites are warned about following the false teachings of Balaam (Numbers 22-24) and the Nicolaitans (form of gnostic teaching). Together this means some in the church fellowship were involved in eating food sacrificed to idols and sexual misconduct due to false teachings in the church.
- Verse 17: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
- Thyatira: The Thyatirans have a wonderful praise that focuses on deeds, love, faith, service, and steadfast endurance. All of those have improved over time. There is encouragement from Christ to continue with good deeds for the promised reward of reigning along with Christ over the nations. The Thyatirans are warned about the rot of the ‘teachings of Jezebel’ which center around sexual immorality among some in the church. Repent or disease. Repent or die.
- Verse 29: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
- Sardis: The Sardisians are pretty much dead and there is no praise for them. It is possible for a church fellowship to be completely dead and still be meeting. The warning to the Sardisians comes from the One Who holds the Seven Spirits and seven churches, Jesus. Thus, the One Who really knows what it is to be alive and complete in faith is doing the warning. He knows their reputation is false. He knows they are not alive and are near death.
- Verse 6: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
- Philadelphia: The Philadelphians are praised that they walked through the open door presented by Christ and they did not look back or shrink back. They are not called to repent, but to endure. Verse 10 points out a trial will be coming soon to the whole world. Verse 11 encourages them to hold on tight to Jesus so they do not lose their reward (Jesus). Verse 12 calls to mind 1 Peter 2:4-6 which brings together the Name of God, His People, His Spirit, and standing stones built into the Kingdom of God. Together, believers will dwell in the place of God.
- Verse 13: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
- Laodicea: The Laodiceans have no praise from the Lord. The Lord, the One worthy of making the statements and giving advice (verse 14) and the One who knows them intimately (verse 15) is going to vomit them out of the Kingdom (verse 16). Why? The Laodiceans are warned in verse 17 that they are lukewarm and are wretched, pitiful, blind and naked.
- Verse 22: Whoever has ears, hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
COMMENTS TO HELP YOU STUDY:
It may be that the Seven Churches of chapters 2-3 are a symbolic representation of the whole Church. Each church ends with the “whoever has ears to hear” phrase meaning “whoever needs to hear this, hear it.” We need to repent of whatever we find if it matches what is described in the passage. All Scripture is for the whole Church and we must hear the Spirit and take note of the praises and the warnings. The warnings? Get rid of those things. The praises? Do those things. These items are for them (the original recipients in those church fellowships) but is also for the whole Church.
Why these 7 particular churches? We don’t know and we want to try our best to stay away from speculation in these studies and to rely only on what is presented in the Scriptures. The Apostle John is the receiver and writer and so perhaps he has influence in these churches and could get the message to them without the message being lost. It is also true that from the Island of Patmos, the 7 churches mentioned are those on a route north following the Roman roads of the day.
REMINDER: Make sure to keep in mind that Revelation interprets Revelation. Scripture interprets Scripture. As we look at passages in Revelation, we will see how other passages (some before the passage and some after the passage) are interpretive lenses by which we have meaning in the verses. By looking at Revelation as a whole, we will understand its parts and passages.
In these two chapters, Jesus calls His Bride to fullness by praise and warning. The Kingdom of God is always in focus in this book… always. The Kingdom of God is the Church full of those who believe in Christ. The Church is the Bride of Christ. The Bride of Christ is the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ has full authority over them because He is the King, the Head of the Church, and the Bridegroom. Pick a term for they are all true. Jesus knows His teachings and how He wants followers to follow Him. He knows His witness. He also knows when the people in His Kingdom are not following Him. He can tell them to shape up. He can tell them where they do well and where they are failing. He can do that.
Over and over in these two chapters the Spirit speaks to the churches and they are to listen. We find what was specific for these churches is also for the Church as a whole. It is clear that the Church should seek to get praise in the ways Jesus applauded: not denying the name of Jesus, good deeds in love, testing teachers, and calling out false teaching. It is clear that the Church should repent of those things Jesus condemns: following false teaching, not loving people, being lukewarm, and trusting in riches.
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