Seven Churches

In the beginning of the book of Revelation the risen Jesus takes the time to address seven different churches (2:1-3:22). He gives each clarity on their condition and invites all to press forward in pleasing God. All seven were located in an area called Asia Minor, so they shared culture in-common but each city was unique. Within each was a group of believers (church) who were in various places in their spiritual experience.

Each church has characteristics which may provide backdrop for believers in any generation as we move toward Jesus’ goal for us: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”    – Matthew 25:23

As we jump into a look at these seven churches we would be remiss not noting what goes before them in 1:12-16: “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.”

From Jesus’ words to the believers in Ephesus (2:1-7) we understand that one can work hard, do good, and stick with it – yet still take our eye off the King and His Kingdom. This is described as leaving our first love. It is the adversary’s goal of all implemented spiritual distraction. We can become so focused on what we do we forget who we are. Church is not merely a place we go, it is who we are. Jesus is not a religion, He is a relationship. We must stay in love with Jesus and reject the false-love of other things. Sadly this infects many in the church in history – and even today. Is this not how even the most loyal Jesus followers are tempted and tested?

The believers in the city of Smyrna (2:8-11) were tested through troubles, poverty, criticism, and from the presence of the doctrines of demons. Such suffering brings fear and with it recalibration and even a loss of our confidence. Such followers rely upon faith, some even through ultimate sacrifice. Not all of Jesus’ friends live in the relative safety and even prosperity many experience. Troubles, poverty, criticism, and the teachings of demons arise in every corner of the world. How are your current fears being managed in this present climate and with these pressures?

There are three things the believers in Pergamum (2:12-17) were battling: persecution, stumbling blocks, and false teaching. The teaching of Balaam was focused on tripping up God’s people with both half-truths and untruths. The Nicolaitans represent all who choose to blend God’s Word with man-words or the teachings of demons. This hybrid has also been called syncretism. This clearly and painfully describes the world of the adversary, and it is why he is mentioned twice in this passage. He presents himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). This attack is plainly seen among many in the church today. Can you discern it? In what ways?

Jezebel is prominent in and around the church in Thyatira (2:18-29). Her seduction is found in how she tempts the church to immorality of mind, action, and heart, primarily through redefinition. Even though filled with love, faith, service, and perseverance – she is warned of strict judgment for tolerating and even embracing the deep things of satan. Humility plays a deep part in the Kingdom. Could this be insidious and unbridled hubris? How has such humbling impacted you? In what ways do you and your friends bow before the pure authority of the one with the two-edged sword?

Sardis (3:1-6) represents the part of the church who is outwardly alive yet inwardly dead. She has fallen asleep in her pursuit of the King and His Kingdom, and made her purified garments black with impurity. She rejects Jesus’ purifying power by justifying a lack of completion of her purpose, perhaps through laziness or distraction. In what ways do people put a good face on it while covering up our lack of devotion to Jesus and His will? Wake up! The cost of inaction is much too great. We must turn away from such things and turn our faces to God.

In Philadelphia (3:7-13) we find believers who have a “smaller power.” We have done what is right, even taking on the active work of the adversary by our choices to live godly. Yet we have not flourished. Is this through ignorance? Laziness? The lowered expectations of our national and world culture? Yet we can still prepare for what is ahead. What do you know of the power of God? How do you experience it? What are the evidences of His power in the strengths or your life? Do you care about having full power rather than that which is smaller?

The Laodicean (3:14-22) Christ-followers were playing it safe. They were also spiritually obtuse. How many believe suffering is a result of God paying us back for something? Being hot or cold is good – our being lukewarm makes Jesus ill. And yet it is easy to insulate ourselves from the reality of who we are, both individually and as a community. It appears that the Laodiceans were lying to themselves about their spiritual condition. Not only were they putting on airs – they were buying in to redefinition of truth. Here is an exhortation to accept the discipline of God and press into repentance. Is there anything more dangerous than to be self-righteous?

Each of these seven churches provide guidance to evaluate, turn around, and press forward. It is the kindest offer Jesus can make to His imperfect church, as we live in our turbulent world yet press toward becoming His spotless Bride!

When we believe in Jesus we become a part of His church, and are being prepared to become His bride at the end of the age. We are His special treasure, being washed clean, and, even now, are being built up into a spiritual house:

1 Peter 2:4-5
“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Whether we were born in the first or the 21st century, we have been chosen by God to inherit a rich identity and exciting future.

Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus. We will be ready.
Dave and Burnadette

Weekly Updates

Each week we will send an email with the latest links to the podcast as well as our latest thoughts and blog posts.