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A Study in Revelation
The Seven Churches
As we continue from the previous chapter, John heard this voice which was the voice of Jesus Christ. And Jesus commanded him to write down in his vision what the sees and send it to the seven churches. In this vision in which John was in the spirit, he turns to see the voice that spoke to him, which was the Lord. Jesus was in the midst of seven candlesticks and He was dressed in white garments His head and his hair was white as snow and his eyes were as a flame of fire. And He had in his right hand seven stars, and out of his mouth was a sharp two-edged sword...
And when John saw Jesus, he fainted at Jesus' feet and Jesus laid his right head on him and told John not to fear because Jesus is the first and the last. Jesus is the one who lives and was dead but is alive forever, and He has the keys to hell and death.
Jesus reiterates His command to John earlier "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter," referring to the vision John saw. And write down the mystery of the seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks which were: and are and what is to come:
The seven stars--The seven angels of the seven churches;
The seven candlesticks--The seven churches.
As we continue we will examine key issues of the seven churches.
THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus these commendations:
They cannot bear them that are evil
They tried those who were so-called apostles. They tested them and found them to be liars
They hated the deeds of the Nicolotians which Jesus also hated
They have endured and persevered for His name sake and gained patience and didn’t become weary.
However, He had this against them:
They had lost their first love.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus gave the the church the commandment that they should one love another. John writes this his letter:
He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
1 John 1:9-10
Jesus warns this church to repent from where they have fallen where they have lost their first love. Or else He would come to return their candlestick from their place. 1
If they overcome:
He will give them to eat from the tree of life2, which is in the midst of God’s paradise.
THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Smyrna these commendation:
He knew their works and tribulation and poverty although they were rich
And he knew the blasphemy of the Jews who were not Christians. Jesus said they belong to the synagogue of Satan.
These Jews were persecuting the church at Smyrna. Remember in the Book of John, Jesus said to those Jews who wanted to kill Him the devil was their father because they do the works of Satan.3
Jesus told these believers in Smyrna that the devil will cast some of them in prison so that they may be tried and that they will have tribulation ten days. Jesus assured them to have no fear for these trials which they were to come suffer but to be faithful unto death and He will give them the crown of life.
And Jesus told the seven churches He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. This second death is mentioned near the end of Revelation when death and hell are emptied into the lake of fire.4
THE CHURCH AT PERGAMOS
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Pergamos these commendations:
They hold fast to His name
They have not denied the faith
They kept the faith even in those days when Antipas, Jesus’ faithful martyr was slain among them where satan also dwelled.
However, He had this against Some of them:
They They held on to the doctrine of Balam who told Balac to put a stumbling block before Israel to eat food that was sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.
(And unlike the Christians at Galatia) There were others in the church who held on to the doctrine of the Nicolatians.
And if they didn’t repent, Jesus would come to some of these of Pergamos quickly!5 And He will come to the church and fight against them who held on to false doctrines with the sword of His mouth. 6
And Jesus told the seven churches:
The ones who overcome:
Jesus will give to them hidden manna to eat
And He will give him a white stone with a new name written on it which no man knows.
As we have read through the first three churches, there are those who believe the seven churches represents seven periods of history. However, this isn’t found in John’s writings. And it cannot be applied to these churches. Jesus told the Church at Galatia to repent or He will come to remove their candlestick among their midst. And He told the Church at Pergamos that if they didn’t repent, He will come and fight against them with the sword of His Mouth. In the context of Revelation, there is no mention that Jesus is coming until Revelation chapter 19 when Jesus is seen coming from heaven with a sword coming out of His Mouth!7 And this is not a pre-trib moment for this church! Therefore, the view that the seven churches are the seven different periods of church history is incorrect. And there will be more comment at the end of this chapter.
THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Thyatira these commendations:
and their deeds of late were greater than the first.
However, He had this against them:
They tolerate the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess.
Her teachings lead men in the church astray in which they commited acts of fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Jesus gave this woman time to repent of her evil deeds. And if she refused to repent, Jesus would cast her into a bed, and those who commited adultry with her into great tribulation, and Jesus would kill her children.
Jesus searches the minds and hearts’ and Jesus will give to them according to their deeds.
But upon those who did not hold on to the teachings and doctrine of Jezebel, He gave them no other burdens.
And they were to hold fast until He comes.
And they that overcome and keeps His words till the end:
He will give them power over the nations. And they will rule the nations with a rod of iron
And He will give him the morning star.
THE CHURCH AT SARDIS
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Sardis this commendation:
They have a name that they’re alive
But Jesus gave them this warning:
They were dead and He did not find their deeds completed before His Father
Jesus warned them to wake up and strengthen what remain which were about to die.
And he gave them this requirement.
Wake up or else He would come upon them like a thief, and they will not know what time He would come upon them.8
There were few in this church who had not soiled their garments, and Jesus said they will walk with Him in white because they were worthy.
And they that overcome:
shall be clothed in white garments
their name will not be erased from the book of life
Jesus will confess their names before Hs Father and before His angels9
Pre-tribbers claim that "the thief in the night" refers to Jesus’ coming before the tribulation. However, in the words above, he comes "as a thief" to those who are not on the alert for His coming which comes after the tribulation. There is only one reference in Revelation when Jesus comes "as a thief." And that’s at the sixth bowl when Anti-christ gathers the kings and their armies for battle at Armageddon on the day of the Lord.10
THE CHURCH AT PHILADELPHIA
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Philadelphia these commendations:
They have kept His word and
They did not deny His Name.
The Church at Philadelphia had from the Lord Jesus an open door which no man could open and shut. This church had little strength and held on to the Lord. They were facing persecution from those who called themselves Jews, but Jesus said they were not Jews, but liars. These Jews were enemies of Christ because they denied the gospel. Jesus was to make these (who were not) Jews to worship at the Philadelphians feet.
Because the Philadelphians kept the word of Jesus’ patience, He will keep them from the hour of temptation which is to come upon the whole world to try them that live on the earth.
Jesus told them to behold, He will come quickly and to Hold fast on what they have so no one take their crown.
For those who overcome, Jesus will:
Make them a pillar in the temple of His God
Write upon Him who overcome the name of His God and the name of the city of His God, which is New Jerusalem which will come out of Heaven from His God11
Write upon Him a new name.
This passage of scripture has been used by pre-tribbers to claim that since they will be kept from the Hour of Temptation, Jesus is promised to this church that they will be delivered by a pre-trib rapture. However, as you read further Jesus tells them He is coming quickly. And their is no mention of His coming until the nineteenth chapter. And Jesus said He will come quickly at the end of the book of Revelation which is related to His coming after the tribulation.12
A further examination of this verse is in a past and revised article Hour of Temptation.
THE CHURCH AT LAODICEA
In John’s message from the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus gave the church at Laodecia this warning:
Their works were lukewarm.
Jesus wished they were either hor or cold, But they were lukewarm. And because they were lukewarm Jesus said He will spew them out of His Mouth.
There was a reason why Jesus said these Laodiceans were lukewarm:
Because they said they were rich and increased with goods and need of nothing when they knew they were poor, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked.
Jesus gives the church this requirement:
Buy from Him Gold tried in the fire (refinement) and white rasinment
Be clothed so their shame doesn’t appear.
Anoint their eyes with salve so they may see
Be zealous and repent.
As many Jesus loves, He chastens and rebukes.
Jesus tells this church to behold, He stands and the door and knocks, and if anybody hears His voice and openss the door, He will come into them and dine with them and them with Him.
For those who overcome :
Jesus will grant to sit with Him in His throne.
In all the closing statements addressed to these churches, Jesus said "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." If anyone hears what the Lord said to the seven churches, then what He said can be applied to them as well.
As mentioned earlier, There are those who believe these churches represent the seven periods of church history. And as concluded, this part of scripture does not confirm this idea. Jesus said He will come to them. And the only reference to His coming is after the tribulation.
And there are those who believe the first six churches represent church history up to the rapture and the Laodicea represents the apostate church that will go through the tribulation. However, even though these Laodiceans are lukewarm, Jesus tells them to repent. And that the ones he loves, he rebukes and chastens. There are weaknesses in the other churches as well. The characteristics of these churches can apply to any other church throughout history including today.
There are others who believe the seventh church, Laodicea, represents the church at the end of church history up until "the rapture." However, in their scheme of things, Philadelphia is raptured out. Therefore, this view is also incorrect. We must remember, we must interpret scripture by what is given, not at an implied idea.
As Peter wrote:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man; but holy men as God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
2 Peter 2:21
As a final comment Jesus instructed these churches that if they overcome, their names would not be blotted out of the book of life. Therefore, the church is called to obedience and holiness to the Lord. And tribulation is one of the ways God uses to purify His church. for further study, please read Daniel 11:33-35 and Acts 14:22.
1. Revelation 1:20.
2. Revelation 22:2
3. See John 8:39-44.
4. Revelation 20:13-14.
5. Revelation 22:7;12.
6. Revelation 19:15
8. John 10:10; Revelation 16:12-16.
9. See also Luke 12:8-9.
10. Revelation 16:12-16.
11. Revelation 21:2.
12. Revelation 22:7;12.