Seven: 7 Lessons for
As we continue this morning on our series, 7 I would like to start by giving you a little back drop info so we can get a clear and practical understanding why Jesus sent 7 letters to the 7 churches in Revelation.
The book of Revelation is one of the most unique books contained in the 66 books of the Bible. The prophetic imagery given to John throughout the 22 chapters is almost unbelievable to comprehend. Far many people who do not clearly see why John wrote down what he saw view it through lens of fear.
The purpose of the book—especially the 7 letters for the 7 churches—was To strengthen the faith of the members of the present-day churches by giving them the assurance deliverance from the evil powers arrayed against them was close at hand.
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John wrote about events that would lead to the end of this age. The link between John’s day and the time of Christ’s return is the prophetic time period pictured by seven Church eras outlined in Revelation 2–3.
The letters to the seven churches describe actual conditions in each church at the end of the first century AD. However, the letters are also prophecy of the future. Jesus Christ’s words in these key chapters—chapter 2 & 3 of Revelation—explain the 7 eras, or the 7 periods of the church, and reveal the spiritual condition of God’s Church throughout history —where it has gone astray, and what you and I need to do about it!
The church conditions described in the letters prophetically describe the conditions that would prevail in each successive era. John addressed the book of Revelation “To the seven churches” (Revelation1:4), indicating the letters to each church were to be read in all the churches. We need to understand what these letters reveal about the eras of the Church—especially our modern era—and how their lessons apply to us today.
These seven cities were located roughly thirty to fifty miles apart along a circular road that went north to Pergamum, turned southeast to Laodicea, and returned full circle to Ephesus.
This explains the order the churches are listed. If you were dropping off these letters, you would reach these cities in this order.
Now, it’s interesting that there were actually other churches in this area, some of them more prominent. So why did God choose these cities and these churches?
We know these cities served as the headquarters for the postal districts in these areas. So it might just be a strategic decision. Maybe John (and ultimately Jesus) wanted these letters to get to as many churches and believers as possible. So he sent them to the cities that could most easily make copies and get them out.
But there’s another possibility that is even more likely. All of these cities had temples, priests, or altars dedicated to emperor worship. So perhaps, these letters were written to these cities because they were meant to be attacks on the front lines of the enemy.
It is good to note that every letter follows the same basic structure and form:
- Revelation of Christ – At the beginning, there is a description of Christ that is specifically selected for each church from the vision in chapter one.
- Encouragement – Then, there is encouragement – what is the church doing well? What is Christ pleased with in that church?
- Rebuke – Next, for 5 out of the 7 churches, there is rebuke.
- Invitation – At the end of each letter, the message is individualized. Each letter ends with “To the one who overcomes…” So even though the letter is addressed to the church as a whole, the message requires a response from individuals in the church. YOU ARE THE TEMPLE OF GOD. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE TO LOOK AT THESE SEVEN CHURCHES AND SEE YOUR OWN WALK WITH JESUS THROUGH THIS LENS.
- Reward – And finally, there is a reward mentioned for those who overcome. All of the rewards are pulled from the vision of the New Heavens and New Earth in Revelation 21 and 22.
Let’s quickly look at The Lessons of the 7 Churches
Ephesus: Casual/Complacent Church—“Left its First Love”
Revelation 2:4-5 – 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.
Smyrna: Conflicted Church—Faithful in Trials
Revelation 2:8-10 – “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: 9 “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.
Pergamos: The Compromising Church
Revelation 2:12-16 – “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.
Thyatira: The Corrupt Church
Revelation 2:18-21 – “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.
Sardis: The Corpse Church—Looked alive because it was financially rich, but inside it was dead.
Revelation 3:1-3 – “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. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 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.
Philadelphia: The Consistent Church—Persistent and Faithful
Revelation 3:7-10 – “And to theangel 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”: 8 “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. 9 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.
Laodicea: Calloused Church/Lukewarm
Revelation 3:14-19 – “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.
The message that Jesus gave these 7 churches is not outdated. It is not timestamped and has no expiration date. It timeless and still valuable to churches and individuals today.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
It’s a filter we should pour our purpose, passion, perspective and priorities through. It’s a call to action for the church become alive and get up. It’s also a personal challenge to change. It’s a command to clean house even in your own life because you are the temple of God. In the positive, it’s a celebration because of the promise to receive a crown.
The key for the church in 2022 is that we are able to learn from these 7 lessons Jesus gave the 7 churches. Seven times in these 2 chapters, Jesus said, “He that has an ear to hear let him hear what the Spirit says.” What could Holy Spirit be saying to you?