A Study of the Letters to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation

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A Study of the Letters to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation

The probable date of the writing of the book of Revelation is about 65 AD or about 35 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the beginning of the “Church Age”.

We are studying Revelation 2 and 3.

2 “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; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

“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.”’

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write,

‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’

12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,

‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: 13 “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14 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. 16 Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

17 “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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,

‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: 19 “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. 20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

24 “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25 But hold fast what you have till I come. 26 And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the morning star.

29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,

‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

13 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also 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.”’”

Jesus dictated these letters to John, who was instructed to write them down and deliver them to each church. Although these letters were written to seven specific churches, I believe that their content also applies to the churches of today. Jesus was judging these churches, assessing their pros and cons, and because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever–“I am the Lord, I change not”–I believe the messages in these letters also extend to the present. The judging and assessing by the Lord goes on until the end of time.

In the letters Jesus addressed each church’s leadership and congregation together, and then the individual members.

The majority of the letters consist of four distinct parts:

1st The introductions: Jesus describes Himself differently to each church. This may have some significance, but, so far, I am unable to see the reason for the way He identifies Himself to  each church.

2nd The good: An acknowledgment of either the good characteristics of the church or the difficulties that the church had encountered and the attitude that they showed during that time.

3rd The bad: An exposure of the negative aspects of the church, a call to repentance and the consequences for not repenting.

4th The rewards: The last statement is directed to each individual, not to the church as a whole. If the individual overcomes (sin, temptation, disobedience, etc.), Jesus describes the awards the overcomer will receive in Heaven. The awards, as in Jesus’ different introductions, are also different for each church.

I am going to lump together the parts so we can compare apples to apples, and study them as a whole and how they apply to the churches of today.

The Introductions: This is the way Jesus identifies himself to the churches:

  • He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.
  • The First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life.
  • He who has the sharp, two-edged sword.
  • The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass.
  • He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.
  • He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.”
  • The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.

Note: He walks in the middle of the seven lampstands (menorahs) which represent the churches. He walks in the churches also today. Beware!

The Good:

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 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.

There are liars in the church today. Beware of being deceived. The love of money and fame impels some leaders to lie. Some called themselves apostles yet Jesus did not recognize them as apostles. This is almost certainly happening today.

Consider that that church tested those “apostles”. Some would call that “judging”. I would call it “righteous judging”. They were pretending to be apostles. The church analyzed their teaching, realized that it did not harmonize with the Scriptures and apparently dismissed the apostle or apostles. Note that they used the Old Testament to test these false teachers since the New Testament had not been written yet.

Every Christian in church and every Jew in synagogue needs to know what the Bible says from cover to cover so that he or she is able to judge what is being taught compared to the Word of God. This is righteous judgment.

I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.  Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

Because Jesus loved this church, He will keep those who kept His command to persevere from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world: the tribulation. This is a sign that the letters are meant for all churches throughout all time, since the tribulation has yet to happen. This congregation was commended for keeping His word, which to me means studying it, respecting it and obeying it. His word, not anyone else’s word. Also, in the face of offenses, derision, rejection or even danger, they did not deny His Name.

“Those who say that are Jews but are not…” what could this mean? I can think of only two possibilities: Jewish people who were not following the commandments of God, or else, non-Jews who were claiming to be Jews and were teaching wrongly. They could be the ones He called “false apostles”.

I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

Jesus’ faith was what we call Judaism today. He was a follower of the “Old Testament”. Jesus was not a Christian. This church was located in a place where all kinds of evil was practiced. The congregation of that church had to live and work in this atmosphere. Even when the people of the city thought that what they did was “normal” and probably tried to influence the church, the congregation followed God’s commands, and did not let fear change their minds.

I know your works, love, service, faith and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.

The One New Man Bible translates “works” as “deeds”. Since Jesus is commending them for their deeds, they were “good deeds” or “good works.” In Hebrew, they are called mitzvah or “deeds of loving kindness”.

The Bad:

I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 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. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

In John’s vision Jesus was standing among seven golden menorahs, one for each of the churches. Notice the warning “repent, do the first works or else I will remove your menorah.” In the Holy Place, both in the tabernacle and in the temple, there was a seven-branch menorah (seven lights) lit 24/7. In the vision, the menorahs seen were probably lit. Churches are to be the light of the world. Removing the menorah would be removing the light, bringing in darkness. Their first love was their desire to obey Jesus in his commands to preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead and cast out demons. This church was doing other things, perhaps becoming a feel-good social club. Jesus would remove their status of “church” by removing the menorah.

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. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

A stumbling block before the children of Israel was eating things sacrificed to idols, which some preachers at that time were teaching was not an important command. Jesus was against this then and forever. He was also against sexual immorality. He still is. Today sexual immorality is “normal”. Churches today approve of or avoid preaching on sexual immorality because pastors want big congregations, and because they themselves are practicing sexual immorality.

I was in a church where a certain practice was encouraged. I heard it in a veiled form from the pulpit initially puzzling me, but later I realized what the pastor meant. Since I was ministering deliverance in that church, I heard confessions from wives who did not want to do it, yet the pastor told them they had to submit to their husband’s wishes.

We all know religious leaders who have fallen into different kinds of sexual immorality. Some repent only to fall again, and others don’t repent at all. Then they are “forgiven” by other leaders, counseled, re-instated and approved to continue in ministry. And the ones sitting in the pews approve too.

The Word of God rules. If you don’t know what sexual immorality is, read Leviticus 18: 6-24 and Leviticus 20: 10-24.

Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden….”

Not every one who calls him or herself a prophet is recognized as such by the Lord. Please note that Jesus was not against the woman because she was ”a woman teaching in the church”. Jesus was against the woman because of what she was teaching, the same as He was against some men because of what they were teaching. She was teaching the same thing that those men were teaching: sexual immorality and eating things sacrificed to idols. And if she did not repent–and the Lord knows if repentance is real or faked–a disease would come to her. Not all diseases come from the devil. Not all tribulation is from the devil.

The ones who were mesmerized by her, probably by her giving them pleasant “words” (or prophesying), were going to be punished even if they were deceived by the woman. The ones who did not follow this woman would not be punished, but also not rewarded, because they allowed her to remain in the church, and they stayed there instead of leaving. They tolerated the immorality.

I know your works, that you have a name (reputation) that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked–I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

This one reminds me of mega and semi-mega churches with great buildings, coffee shops, loud music, large screens and special effects such as smoke machines, special lighting, laser shows and glitter falling down from the ceiling. The kind that is seeker-sensitive, not preaching about sin but about all the good stuff that God is ready to give the seeker. The kind that opens up the sanctuary for everyone to enjoy the Super Bowl on the giant screens. “You are okay, I am okay and anything and everything is okay except not tithing to this church.”

Jesus was knocking at the door but they were too busy with their entertainment to open the door. Maybe the music was too loud to hear the knocking.

The Rewards:

But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. “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.”’

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”

Written to a church, and yet Jesus says, “he who overcomes”. This means that not all of the congregation were overcomers. “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” means He who overcomes will have eternal life. Of the whole congregation, only those who overcome will have eternal life. Once saved, always saved?

“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 to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’

At that time voting consisted of a voter putting either a white or a black stone into a bag, with white signifying approval of the candidate, and black signifying disapproval. Thus came the term “blackballing.” Perhaps this is the meaning of the white stone: Jesus’ vote of approval of the overcomer.

But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron: 
They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ 

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

Again, written to a whole church, yet Jesus says, “you, the church, have only a few that are worthy.” He also said that He will not erase an overcomer’s name from the Book of Life. This implies that the names of the others in the church who did not overcome will be blotted out of the Book of Life; that is, they will not have entry into Heaven. How does this jibe for those who hold the belief of once saved, always saved?

Statistics: In two churches there was nothing bad, and in one church there was nothing good. In four churches there was both bad and good. A CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO BE ALL GOOD, so out of seven churches only two were what they were supposed to be.

How is your church doing?

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