7 Churches of Revelation Study Notes
The following is a brief study guide/commentary featuring notes during preparation for the 7 Churches video. Enjoy!
--The seven churches were to seven specific churches in the Asia Minor region. However, the admonition “those who have ears should pay attention to what The Spirit says to the churches” indicates this is a message for us all. As some would note, this also seems to have a message throughout each generation. Yes, certain specifics relate to the churches of John’s day. However, the theme and message can easily relate to all believers. Also, during the time of the Two Witnesses, we see that the Two Witnesses are the Two Lampstands (Revelation 11:4). Interestingly, there are Two Lampstands among the seven Churches (lampstands) that are not rebuked.
- The Seven Churches are named for their locations. The Book of Revelation provides descriptions of each Church.
- There were many other churches around in the other cities of Roman Asia. So why are only seven churches mentioned? Well, the number seven in itself is interesting (not a mere coincidence). Seven is often a number for completeness in scripture. So it seems as if Christ chooses seven churches here to symbolize his complete Body. Thus, this is one reason why many would argue that the message to the seven churches, is truly a message to the complete body of Christ. This is likely why it mentions that this letter is from the seven spirits before the throne. The Holy Spirit seems to be referenced here as seven spirits. This seemingly indicates the complete or whole make up of the Holy Spirit within the entire people of God throughout the church age.
The following is a brief summary of the compliment and rebuke that Christ gives to each church:
· Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – Compliment: Patient endurance, good job of holding on to true doctrine and separating themselves from the wicked; Rebuke: having forsaken it’s first love (possibly passion for Christ AND love for others) (2:4). He says if they don’t repent he will remove their lampstand from its place. So, if having a lampstand represents being a church, if you are no longer part of his church, that indicates you are no longer a part of his body! So this is serious! However, he does like the fact that they hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which Christ also says he hates. Therefore, this shows that the heart of Christ does approve of when we detest wicked works and reprove those who claim to be on God’s side, yet are acting in wickedness. Also, we see how Christ was upset at the Nicolaitans for tempting his people into idolatry and sexual immorality.
· Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11)– Compliment: The church is admired for being willing to endure persecution and not clinging to the riches of the world. Christ recognizes them for enduring slander from those who claim to be the true Jews. They are told that some of them will be thrown into prison and will endure tribulation. They are told to be faithful even until death (2:10). Historians say that there was a large Jewish presence in the city, and that there was a great opposition to Christians. So it is likely that these so called “Jews” persecuted the church. Here, Jesus says that these are not “real Jews”. This likely indicates that Jesus considers his people to be those who are not merely externally Jewish, but have become his people through faith (Romans 9:6 –“Not all who descended from Israel are Israel”). Moreover, it echoes Pauline letters regarding how all races in Christ are included in Israel. This may be a prophetic parallel/foreshadowing of some today who claim to be the true descendants of Israel and are slandering those who may not be. Certainly, the message of the Gospel today similarly rebukes such behavior, because it is through faith that one is made the people of God.
· Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17)– Compliment: Holding fast to Christ’s name, not denying the faith. Rebuke: Allowing false teachers and allowing some to be deceived into idolatry and sexual immorality because of these false teachers. Christ said if they don’t repent, he will deal with them personally! The church where 'Satan's seat' or 'throne' is; needed to repent of allowing false teachers (2:16) It is referred to as the place of Satan’s throne. Some scholars say this is because of the large amount of idolatry to Greek Gods and Emperor worship taking place there.
· Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) – Compliment: That they have patient endurance, they have faith, love and service. Also, that their latter works exceed their first works. Rebuke: Lack of discernment and toleration of heresy. They held to the teachings of a false prophetess (2:20). There is a woman prophetess who is leading God’s people into heresy and idolatry. Scholars note that there might have been a literal Jezebel-like woman who was among the idolatry-laced culture of Thyatira. Nevertheless, she seemingly points to a foreshadowing of the prostitute Babylon who also seduces through pleasure, luxury, and Idolatry (Revelation 17). The warning here seems to be given to the “woman” as well as those who are caught up in her ways.
· Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)– Compliment: A few remain pure and loyal; Rebuke: dead works (3:2-3). If they don’t repent, he will “come like a thief”--This is an example showing how this relates to the end time church as well. For he will come “like a thief for those not watchful and ready.” Christ likely also picks Sardis to deliver the message of watchfulness before destruction due to Sardis’s history (It was twice sacked in the past (547/546 B.C. by Cyrus II and around 214 B.C. by Antiochus III when its watchmen failed to be alert).
· Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)– Compliment: The church steadfast in faith, they had kept God's word and endured patiently (3:10). Many around the Church in Philadelphia also were martyred around the time of Polycarp. It says that they will have an open door set before them. For Paul, an open door often signified the opportunity for effective ministry (1 Corinthians 16:9 ; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). Also, this echoes Matthew 16:19 as Jesus has the Keys of David and is said to open the doors of Heaven. He is able to grant Kingdom authority to open, bind, and loose, to whomever he wills. It seems if Jesus will set before them a door standing open in Heaven! This may indicate a grant of power. Moreover, in (4:1) they are said to have little power now. That may indicate how like Smyrna, they were not people of renown status, wealth, ability, etc…However, like Smyrna, even though they may have been poor in many physical/worldly ways, they are spiritually rich for holding fast to Jesus’ word. Also, we see that the synagogue of Satan (those claiming to be the true Jews) will slander them as they did the church of Smyrna. However, Jesus will do something to make these slanderers realize that God is in fact with them! He further says that they will be kept from the trial that will “test those on the earth”. This seems to be another parallel to the time of intensified persecution and wickedness, and God’s wrath that will take place before the consummation. Note here, that this promise does not necessarily say he will spare them from suffering or of martyrdom, but to shield them from his WRATH. Thus, it may indicate how martyrdom can be transformed into triumph (Rev 6:10-11; 12:11). While some say it may refer to a pre-tribulation rapture, others say it refers to God’s promise to safe guard believers from falling away even in the midst of the trial/tribulation.
· Laodicea,(Revelation 3:14-22) – No compliment, only Rebuke: The church was lukewarm, spiritually blind, and insipid (to God) (3:16). They are accused of claiming to be rich and prosperous. However, they are truly blind. They need to repent and seek his grace.
-- The above compliments/rebukes allow us to see the heart of Christ regarding his people. He is a King who demands purity and loyalty. Sexual immorality, idolatry, ect… will lead to unfortunate consequences, even being “spit out of Christ’s mouth”. Surely, we must all pay attention to the message given to each church and apply it to our own lives.
- Based upon the warnings given to the seven churches, here is a list of what those who fall away will receive if they do not repent:
1) Removal of their lampstand
2) War against them with the sword of Christ’s mouth
3) Each judged and given as their works deserve
4) Christ will come as a thief against them
5) Will be spit out of Christ’s mouth!
* Because this is also a spiritual message to us all, one may say ALL of these will apply for each person who does not repent.
- Based upon the promises given to the seven churches, here is a list of what the faithful will receive for repenting:
1) Will be given the tree of life to eat in paradise (Rev. 2:7; 22:2).
2) Will be given the crown of life and not hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11; 20:6; 21:7-8).
3) Will be given hidden manna and a white stone with a new name on it (Rev. 2:17; 21:11.18-21).
4) Will be given the morning star and authority over the nations (Rev. 2:26-27; 2:28; 3:21; 20:4; 21:23; 22:5.16)!
5) Will be clothed in white garments and will never have their name blotted out of the book of life. Their name will be confessed before God and the angels (Rev. 3:5; 19:7-8; 21:2,9-10; 21:27).
6) Will be made a pillar in the temple of God, and participate in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:22-23; 21:10).
7) Will dine with Christ and will be granted to sit with Christ on his throne ‘given co- rulership’ (Rev. 3:21; 20:4)!
* Because this is also a spiritual message to us all, you might say ALL of these will apply for each person who repents and is faithful.
SO THERE IS HOPE!
A primary message in the letters to the seven churches is that even though some were rebuked for wrongdoing, there was still HOPE for them all! They were all told that IF they repent, they will receive the crown of life, rule the nations, eat from the tree of life, won’t be hurt by the second death, will be made a pillar in the temple of God, etc… Thus, even for the most sinful among us in the Body of Christ, there is hope if we will repent and return to our first love. If we turn from being lukewarm, flee idolatry, and heed his message through faith, we also will receive the promises given to the seven churches.
Your brother in Christ, Jerren
AoC Network Narrator
See our Two Witnesses Part II Movie for more on The Seven Lampstands / Churches