Our Lord’s earnest confession for a true church through the letters sent to the angels of the 7 churches. – Seven Churches
Why were the seven cities – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea recorded in the beginning of the Revelation of John in which the mystery of the last days of the world is embedded?
The epistles that our Lord sent to the seven churches through the apostle John are true time-and-space-transcending guidelines for all the churches that have existed throughout the history, and also the synthesized message covering all the words of God in the Old and New Testaments.
In addition, this book is a real indicator of the church with which our Lord is pleased, so it is expected to awaken as many churches in the world.
The teachings on the seven churches that are recorded in the Book of Revelation by the apostle John are the epistles of the Lord. The records on the seven churches give very important lessons to the churches set up by the name of the Lord, the believers in Him, and they present to the readers the very type that is of the most ideal church. The seven churches recorded in the Book of Revelation—the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, the church in Pergamum, the church in Thyatira, the church in Sardis, the church in Philadelphia, and the church in Laodicea represent all the churches established in the gospel of the Lord.
After Jesus Christ’s ascension into Heaven, His apostles and disciples stayed in Jerusalem and concentrated on prayer while waiting for the Promise of God. Not many days later the Holy Spirit descended upon them and they became filled with grace and power. Afterwards the foundation of the church was laid in Jerusalem through His apostles. Later, the apostle Paul and other disciples set up churches in the city of Antioch, which was the foundation of the ministry for the Gentiles. This was the way of the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise recorded in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
These churches are called the ‘Early Churches’. As time passed, however, some of the early churches began to become corrupt. In our time how many believers in Christ are there who have lost their first love for the Lord, backslid in faith, stayed at the same level of faith, or have lukewarm faith? The number of Christians who neither believe in God completely nor acknowledge the Savior Jesus Christ, nor accept tangible works of the Holy Spirit is continually increasing. The letters of the Lord recorded in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation also apply to the modern churches of today as well.
- Spiritual Significance of the Seven Churches
The Book of Revelation was recorded by the apostle John, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He was persecuted and even cast into a pot of boiling oil, but he did not meet with death in the providence and protection of God. He was then exiled to the island of Patmos where he recorded the Book of Revelation by the revelation of the Lord.
The number 7 spiritually refers to ‘completion,’ so the seven churches refer to all the churches set up in the name of the Lord. In this sense, the seven churches recorded in the second and third chapters of Revelation refer to not only the seven churches located in the seven areas of Asia Minor—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, but they are also representative of all the churches that have been established by the Lord in the era of the Holy Spirit.
The message on the seven churches is a perfect milestone that helps the believers in the Lord examine their faith and the churches lay the firm foundation in the Lord. It is also considered as the composite summarization of all the words of God recorded in the Old and New Testaments. That’s why it presents important teachings of the exact milestones for the God-pleasing churches.
- The Messages of the Lord on the Seven Churches
1) The Church in Ephesus that was Reproached for Forsaking Their First Love (Revelation 2:1-7)
The Lord first commends the church in Ephesus for their deeds, toil and perseverance. He commends them for the obedience to the Word of God. He complimented them because they had not tolerated evil men, but had put to the test those who called themselves apostles. But, they were not, and they found them to be false. He also acknowledged that they had endured for His name’s sake without growing weary (Revelation 2:2-3).
As time passed, however, they left their first love of the Lord. They distanced themselves from the truth and befriended the world. The Lord rebuked them for this wrongdoing and then asked them to examine where they had fallen, repent and ‘do the first deeds’. This church also refers to the churches that had fervor for the Lord in their early days of the church ministry, but become arrogant and their love and fervor for Him cooled down after accomplishing revival.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do 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 grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:4-7)
2) The Church in Smyrna that Overcame the Trials of Faith (Revelation 2:8-11)
The church in Smyrna suffered many afflictions and trials including the martyrdom of Polycarp, and the Lord neither praised nor rebuked them but just gave them advice. He also promised them that they would receive the crown of life if they could be faithful until death. This church refers to the churches that are suffering from afflictions for the Lord’s name’s sake and overcoming them.
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for 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 will not be hurt by the second death.” (Revelation 2:10-11)
3) The Church in Pergamum Was Imbued with Heretical Teachings (Revelation 2:12-17)
The Lord praised the church in Pergamum because they kept their faith under many persecutions and afflictions, but He rebuked them severely because there were some believers who followed the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. This spiritual corruption is more crucial to a church than outward persecutions. The Lord warns us of the teaching of Balaam who compromised with the world due to a desire to seek selfish benefits and also of the teaching of the Nicolaitans who deceived many believers saying that though they sinned, they would still be able to receive salvation because their spirits are pure despite many sins in flesh. This church refers to the churches that compromise with the world and grow imbued with the heretical teachings.
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.” (Revelation 2:14-16)
4) The Church in Thyatira that Ate Things Sacrificed to Idols (Revelation 2:18-29)
Prior to rebuking them, the Lord first praised the church in Thyatira for their deeds, love, faith, service, and perseverance saying that their deeds of late were greater than at first. Then, He rebuked them because they accepted the woman Jezebel who called herself a prophetess and tempted the believers to commit acts of sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. This church refers to the churches that follow the external forms of faith, but are then found to compromise with untruths and stand against God.
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” (Revelation 2:20-25)
5) The Church in Sardis that Had a Name that They Were Alive, but Dead (Revelation 3:1-6)
The church in Sardis was rebuked by the Lord because they said they believed in God and the Lord, but they had dead faith that was not accompanied with the deeds of obeying the Word of God. But there were a few believers in the church who endeavored to keep their faith. This church refers to many churches that have a few members of which are trying their best to act by the Word and pray, but the majority have ‘dead faith’ and they must turn their faith into living faith accompanied with the deeds of obeying the Word.
“But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and 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.” (Revelation 3:4-6)
6) The Church in Philadelphia that Was Only Praised for Their Faith (Revelation 3:7-14)
The church in Philadelphia was praised by the Lord for they had only a little power, but they kept their faith. ‘A little power’ here refers to the faith as small as a mustard seed given to new believers in the Lord. Because they kept the Word of God even with such a little bit of faith, they were given the key of David with which the doors to all blessings are opened and they gained the proofs of God’s love for them. In addition, they received the promise of the Lord that He would make them pillars in the Temple of God in the city of New Jerusalem. This church refers to the churches that are following the same example of the church of Philadelphia and keeping the Word of God even with but a little power, and thereby being accompanied with God’s powerful works including miraculous signs and wonders in the name of Jesus Christ.
“I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. ¡| I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and 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 My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:8, 11-12)
7) The Church in Laodicea that Was neither Cold nor Hot (Revelation 3:14-22)
The church in Laodicea was rich in economics and abounded in many things, but they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked in spirit. The Lord reproved this church because their faith was neither cold nor hot, and then eagerly urged them to repent and be zealous. This church refers to the churches that say they are rich and lack nothing and neither have zeal for the Lord nor endeavor to be transformed in the Lord anymore.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:14-19)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today there are many churches that are the same types as the seven churches, so it is really a requirement that believers in Christ should examine their faith with the messages on the “seven churches” and choose to follow the teachings of the Lord in wisdom from above. May you be the imitators of the believers of the church in Philadelphia and be praised for keeping the Word of God with a little power, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I pray!
- Deeds of the Nicolaitans
The Nicolaitans refer to the gathering of the followers of Nicolas. Nicolas had been chosen as one of the seven deacons of the early church but he later betrayed his faith and formed a heretical sect. He claimed men can go to heaven no matter how many sins they commit in flesh, because their spirit is pure. The deeds of the Nicolaitans include everything that craftily changes the truths and tempts believers to commit sins.
- The Synagogue of Satan
The synagogue of Satan refers to the gathering of those who consider themselves as believers in God but oppose the works of God that are not related to their benefit and thoughts. When two or more believers gather in the church and cause problems of complaints, grumbling, passing judgment and condemnation on others and then form a faction, it is a synagogue of Satan. If a synagogue of Satan is formed in the church, the love between believers grows cold and God’s works stop.
- Deeds of Balaam
Balaam had the knowledge of the will of God, but when Balak king of the Moabites bribed him with riches and honor, Balaam fell into the temptation and caused Israelites to commit acts of immorality before God (Numbers 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15). In this sense, the deeds of Balaam apply to those who say they love and serve God but are found to be double-minded and compromise with unrighteousness for the love of money and desires to gain fame and honor.
- Believers Compromising with Untruths and the World
Some believers think they lead a Christian life that is appropriate, but they compromise with untruths and befriend the world like Balaam did. They have friendship with the world because of the love for money (1 Timothy 6:10), and also break the Sabbath day and rob God of tithes and offerings because of the desire for money (Malachi 3:8). Because they lead a Christian life they think fit, some pastors are covetous of money and fame and seek worldly power, even though they have to concentrate on the Word of God and prayer.
- Heretical Sects
Heretics deny the Lord Jesus Christ who bought them with His blood (2 Peter 2:1; 2 John 1:7). They may have a semblance to believing in the Lord, but are totally different from evangelical Christians because they do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior. They say they believe in God and have the same organization as Christian churches, so that Christians may fall into their temptations. Heretical sects are eventually found to have wrong or false doctrines that have nothing to with salvation. Those heretical doctrines are fundamentally different from the gospel of Jesus Christ, and anyone who spreads and accepts the false gospel is to be accursed and led to destruction (Galatians 1:8).