The Book of Revelation (Part 6): The Seven Churches
August 21, 2019
The Book of Revelation (part 6)
The Seven Churches
The Holiness and purity of God will not allow sin to go unchecked; in an individual, a nation, or in the vast universe…it must be judged.
Jesus’ return is God cleansing the earth of all the negative effects of man’s sin.
Ephesians 1:9-10 (J. B. Phillips)
For God has allowed us to know the secret of His plan and it is this, He purposed long ago in His sovereign will that all human history should be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in heaven and earth should find its perfection and fulfillment in Him.
Gk – apokolypsis (our English word apocalypse is transliterated from this Greek word)
apo – away from
kalupsis – veiling
away from veiling, an unveiling.
March 13 (part 1) – 3 classifications of people that God deals with in the Bible
The Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church
March 27 (part 2) – Four Covenants
April 10 (part 3) – Daniel’s revelation
There are yet 7 years of Jewish time that God revealed to Daniel that must be fulfilled.
The Jewish time clock will begin to tick again when Israel makes or confirms a covenant with its enemies. Seven years from that time the second coming will occur.
July 10 (part 4) – Revelation 1:1-8
July 17 – (Part 5) – Revelation 1:8-17
Tonight – August 21- Introduction to the seven churches
Revelation 1:10-20 (NKJV)
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,
11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
19 Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.
20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
John had been exiled to the penal colony of Patmos in the Aegean Sea by the Roman Emperor Domitian because of his Christian faith.
Jesus appeared to him there (Revelation=unveiling) and revealed to John what was happening in the seven churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and what would happen in His second coming.
These seven letters were directly from Jesus to the seven churches. This in itself is amazing, as this is the only time in the Bible that Jesus spoke directly to churches and had His words printed for the rest of the church age.
Letters from famous people are invaluable today. These letters are of incalculable value to the church today.
The Angel of the Church of…
Each letter is addressed to the angel of the church.
The Greek word translated angel is angelos, and means messenger. This word is often used of angels since they are messengers of God. But, angelos is also used in reference to humans who are messengers. You can only differentiate whether angels or humans are being spoken of by looking at the context of the scripture.
The context doesn’t solve the issue here in Revelation 1 and 2. Some scholars believe this refers to angels, while others believe it refers to men like a pastor or a leader of a church.
These messages are important!
They were dictated to John by Jesus and spoke to the church in the first century just before John died. He was the last apostle left alive, and these churches would continue to spread the gospel after his death, so this message from Jesus was all important to them!
The Apostles had guided the church through the first century, but after John’s death, there would be no more of the original 12 to guide the church. Hence Jesus gives these seven messages to the churches. These messages would give important guidance to the churches until Jesus returns.
Some statistics about the seven letters
Jesus spoke well of each church in their faithfulness and in what they had accomplished.
Jesus reprimanded each church for its spiritual neglect and failure.
Jesus urged each church to correct problems that currently existed.
Jesus also encouraged each member of the churches to be overcomers. They were to trust Him to the end.
Jesus knew the challenging world environment each church faced and was obviously aware of the pressures from Satan and his cohorts. Jesus made them aware that cultural or satanic pressure was no excuse for wrong living or false doctrine.
Jesus also made a difference between the church and the believers in the church. Jesus required right living regardless of pressure. Not everyone in the church being addressed by Jesus was involved in the failure He mentions in that particular church.
Even though a church may be spiritually dead, there were still believers in that church who were very much alive in Christ!
Question: With so many churches that had begun throughout the world, why did Jesus choose these seven?
It could be because they were located along a Roman postal route and were sequentially addressed as you traveled down that route.
John was pastor of the church in Ephesus before his exile, and may have had some kind of authority over them since he was an original Apostle of Jesus.
Jesus could have seen in these seven churches both positives and negatives that are present in the church of Jesus in every age.
In some way these seven churches could show the church in a specific time in the history of the church age.
These churches could show the positives and negatives of the church at the end of the age of grace.
The number seven is significant.
The number seven stands out very clearly in the book of Revelation.
The recurrence of numbers in scripture has significant meaning throughout the Bible.
Seven is found in Revelation fifty-four times!
John speaks of:
7 spirits (Revelation 1:4)
7 stars (Revelation 1:16)
7 lamps of fire (Revelation 4:5)
7 seals (Revelation 5:1)
7 horns (Revelation 5:6)
7 eyes (Revelation 5:6)
7 angels (Revelation 8:2)
7 trumpets (Revelation 8:2)
7 thunders (Revelation 10:3)
7 heads (Revelation 12:3)
7 crowns (Revelation 12:3)
7 plagues (Revelation 15:1)
7 golden bowls (Revelation 15:7)
7 mountains (Revelation 17:9)
The purpose of the Revelation is to reveal Jesus during the seven last years of this age as He returns in power and glory.
Seven is the biblical number for perfection:
In His creative work, God rested on the seventh day.
In the Hebrew calendar, the seventh month is the most important. The Jews celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
The seventh year was important as a land rest year in Israel.
Seven periods of seven years (49) were to be followed by the year of Jubilee where slaves were to be freed and debts were to be forgiven.
Seven weeks plus one day was the period between Jesus’ death (Passover) and Pentecost (the giving of the Holy Spirit baptism).
God showed Daniel seventy sevens of years (490) as he revealed God’s plan for Israel until the end of the age.
There are seven years left of that 490 years that God gave Daniel. These seven years include the birth pangs, the great tribulation, and the Day of the Lord judgments, as well as the rapture of the church and Jesus’ final return for His 100-year reign.
Four perspectives of the letters to the seven churches
1. They are letters to first-century churches, that actually existed with the positives and negatives mentioned by Jesus, that needed encouragement and help.
2. These letters are meant for all church throughout the church age. They show a clear picture of what the church deals with in every era during the last 2000 years of church history.
3. These letters are meant to encourage those living at the very close of the church age. They help the last-era church deal with the enormous pressures they will face as the antiChrist persecution increases.
The church in the first century lived with an expectation of Jesus’ return.
Jesus told us He would go, prepare a place for us, and then return for us (John 14). But He did not tell us when.
The church in the first century had no idea that almost 2,000 years would transpire before Jesus returned. They understood the content of the letters was to show them how to live and give them instruction on how to deal with the difficult days before Jesus’ return.
Jesus addressed the hardships each of the seven churches experienced, and His instructions are also meant for those who would face the evils propagated by the regime of the antiChrist.
Ephesus Church: The Loveless Church (Revelation 2:5) – I will come to you quickly…
Smyrna Church: The Persecuted Church (Revelation 2:10) – You will have tribulation 10 days – or a short duration of time.
Pergamos Church: The Compromising Church (Revelation 2:16) – Repent or I will come to you quickly…
Thyatira Church: The Corrupt Church (Revelation 2:25) – Hold fast to what you have until I come…
Sardis Church: The Dead Church (Revelation 3:3) – If you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know the hour I will come upon you.
Philadelphia Church: The Faithful Church (Revelation 3:10) – Because you have kept my command to persevere [during the great tribulation under the antiChrist], I will also keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world [speaking of the Day of the Lord wrath that comes after the church is raptured], to test those who dwell on the earth.
Laodicea Church: The Lukewarm Church (Revelation 3: 21) – To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also sat down with My Father on His throne.
4. The letters show the state of the church and what kind of character it exhibited during the entire church age chronologically from Pentecost to the second coming of Christ and the end of the age of grace. This view holds that each church in Asia minor specifically related to a time period in history. This view is totally subjective to each person’s view of church history.
The Seven Churches
1. Ephesus – The Apostolic Church
In history, this would be the church from Pentecost through the first century.
Paul founded the church in Ephesus on his 1st missionary journey. Paul also pastored the church in Ephesus for 3 years, and he stayed there longer than at any other church.
Church tradition says that John pastored the church in Ephesus before he was imprisoned and after he was released from Patmos.
This church was founded on the WORD! Ephesians is considered the most spiritual letter in the New Testament. This church had solid doctrine!
Revelation 2:1-3 (NKJV)
To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; (3) and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.
This was a great church. They loved the word. They walked with God in purity.
But, they became stale spiritually. They left their first love. By NEGLECT. Jesus, His attributes and character, had become routine and commonplace.
They quoted scripture perfectly, but their deep love for Jesus was missing.
A judgmental attitude often follows a church or person who grows stagnant and stale spiritually.
Revelation 2:4 (NKJV)
Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
Jesus’ solution for them is to Remember where they were spiritually, change their mind about what they were doing, and begin to do life they way they did at the beginning.
Revelation 2:5 (NKJV)
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.
Revelation 2:6-7 (NKJV)
But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (7) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”
The deeds of the Nicolaitans are mentioned in verses 14-15, as Jesus addresses the church in Pergamos:
Revelation 2:14-15 (NKJV)
But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. (15) Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
(From – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; Hendrickson Publishers – Digital Edition)
A sect or party of evil influence in early Christianity, especially in the 7 churches of Asia. Their doctrine was similar to that of Balaam, “who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev 2:14, 15). Their practices were strongly condemned by John, who praised the church in Ephesus for “hating their works” (Rev 2:6), and blamed the church in Pergamum for accepting in some measure their teaching (Rev 2:15). Except that reference is probably made to their influence in the church at Thyatira also, where their leader was “the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess” (Rev 2:20; compare 2:14), no further direct information regarding them is given in Scripture.
Reference to them is frequent in post-apostolic literature. According to Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., i. 26,3; iii. 10,7), followed by Hippolytus (Philos., vii. 36), they were founded by Nicolaus, the proselyte of Antioch, who was one of the seven chosen to serve at the tables (Acts 6:5). Irenaeus, as also Clement of Alexandria (Strom., ii. 20), Tertullian and others, unite in condemning their practices in terms similar to those of John; and reference is also made to their Gnostic tendencies. In explanation of the apparent incongruity of such an immoral sect being founded by one of “good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (compare Acts 6:3), Simcox argues that their lapse may have been due to reaction from original principles of a too rigid asceticism. A theory, started in comparatively modern times, and based in part on the similarity of meaning of the Greek “Nikolaus,” and the Hebrew “Balaam,” puts forward the view that the two sects referred to under these names were in reality identical. Yet if this were so, it would not have been necessary for John to designate them separately.
The problem underlying the Nicolaitan controversy, though so little direct mention is made of it in Scripture, was in reality most important, and concerned the whole relation of Christianity to paganism and its usages. The Nicolaitans disobeyed the command issued to the Gentile churches, by the apostolic council held at Jerusalem in 49- 50 AD, that they should refrain from the eating of “things sacrificed to idols” (Acts 15:29). Such a restriction, though seemingly hard, in that it prevented the Christian communities from joining in public festivals, and so brought upon them suspicion and dislike, was yet necessary to prevent a return to a pagan laxity of morals. To this danger the Nicolaitans were themselves a glaring witness, and therefore John was justified in condemning them. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul gives warning against the same evil practices, basing his arguments on consideration for the weaker brethren (compare 1 Cor 8).