There are many great lessons that we can learn from the letters to the seven churches of Revelation. We need to remember that Jesus Himself is giving these commendations and rebukes, so we need to listen and heed what He says to the churches, because they apply to us also. At the end of each letter Jesus tells those who overcome what reward they will receive. I have left those for the end of this study, as they reveal the great prize that awaits all of us who listen and overcomes. The seven churches also represent the seven spiritual church ages from the New Testament church, right through to the last church before Jesus returns at the second coming. These church ages are explained below.
For a more indepth study of all the seven churches, CLICK HERE.
To The Church in Ephesus
Revelation 2:1-6 ...'Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.'
Spiritual Church Age: Ephesus was the first church age starting with the apostles in the New Testament, covering the first century after Christ.
There was a lot to commend the Christian Church in Ephesus. It had patience and good works, and had tested the false teachers and had remained faithful to the truth. Jesus commends this church for exposing those who say they are disciples of Christ, but their fruits, their works show that they are not. This is something sadly lacking in the Christian faith today, because the professing Christian of today will not take rebuke or correction. I have tried it many times and all you get back is "stop judging me". Yet Jesus commends this church in Ephesus for challenging and rebuking them who say they are Christians, but clearly aren't. This church also hates the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which Jesus also hates. Did you know that the Nicolaitanes were a gnostic sect that believed they didn't need to keep God's Law? They believed in Jesus, but thought they could carry on in a worldly sinful life. Sadly, this is also the state of much of the professing Christian world today, in which it believes that God's law has been done away with. Jesus had to die because of disobedience to God's law, why would it now be done away with?! Let me give you just one verse which describes the true end time church of God:
Revelation 14:12 ...'Here is the patience of the saints, here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.'
Jesus has one rebuke for this church in Ephesus, and that is they have left their first love. Their first love would be for Jesus, therefore He is saying that they have fallen away from the first love they felt for Him and the works they did for Him in spreading the gospel message. Have you lost that first spark you felt for Jesus? This is a serious matter, because Jesus says that He would take the candlestick away from them. This means that they would no longer be His church if they didn't repent of this evil, and return to those good works of believing and giving their all for Him.
To The Church in Smyrna
Revelation 2:8-10 ...'And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.'
Spiritual Church Age: Smyrna was the second church age. We know this because Jesus said that this church would suffer persecution 10 days. These are 10 prophetic days and are actual years (10 years), which matches the 10 year persecution of the true church at the hands of Diocletian between AD303 - AD313. Constantine put an end to the persecution in AD313.
This is a good church as they receive no rebuke, only commendation. This church in Smyrna do good works out of love for Jesus and suffer tribulation because they follow Jesus wherever He goes. They are also a poor church, but are spiritually rich! Did you notice that? Jesus commends them for being poor! Now that sends a sword right through the false gospel that is sweeping America today, which is the 'prosperity gospel'. The prosperity gospel teaches that being poor is a sign that you haven't got Jesus, whereas Jesus says that this POOR church in Smyrna is His church and they are spiritually rich!! Jesus isn't concerned with us being materially rich, but spiritually rich. What can we learn from this church? Be faithful in all tribulation, EVEN UNTO DEATH! We are in the very lasts days, and we very well may need to give our lives for Jesus. Are you ready for that? If not, then get on your knees and pray for strength from the Lord.
To The Church in Pergamos
Revelation 2:12-16 ...'And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.'
Spiritual Church Age: This is the church "falling away" that Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. This church age is from the time of Constantine in AD313 to the time of the Rise of the Papal Church of Rome in AD538, when that "man of sin" was revealed (the pope). This was a period of deteriorating moral standards and doctrinal corruption. Christian standards were lowered, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism through the acts of Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church.
We can see here that COMPROMISE has come into the church. In exchange for religious tolerance and acceptance, the true principles of Christianity were sacrificed to accommodate pagan beliefs. This church is allowing those who hold to different doctrines that are not of Christ to dwell with them and commune with them. Again the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes pops up, which is the doctrine of doing away with God's law. This Jesus hates! God's Ten Commandments is a law of love that will never be done away with. Look at what the Psalmist would have said to this church:
Psalm 1:1-2 ...'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.'
Do we see compromise throughout the "Christian" churches today? I believe we do. You only need to look at the church councils in certain denominations that have meetings to discuss whether or not to allow practicing homosexual men and women as clergy. I mean, come on! Talk about ignoring God's Word!! Some churches have even allowed this to happen recently, like the Lutheran church. They now allow practicing homosexuals to hold positions in the church. This compromise will get worse before Jesus returns. We really need to hold on to a NO COMPROMISE Christian attitude as we near the end. Despite the compromise that came into the church in Pergamos, there were still a few (God's remnant) that held on to the truth of His Word and sought to maintain the true faith of the apostles.
To The Church in Thyatira
Revelation 2:18-25 ...'And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.'
Spiritual Church Age: This is the church of the middle ages, during the murderous reign of the Roman Catholic Church. "Verse 20 is strong testimony that we have correctly applied these churches. Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry, and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking figure could not have been used to denote the Papal abominations." (Review and Herald, vol 8, Oct 16, 1856)
In this time of spiritual darkness, the true gospel was abandoned and Christianity was replaced by the old pagan form of sun worship, dressed in a garb of Christianity. Jezebel seems to be a central influential figure with this church. In the Old Testament, Jezebel led Israel into sun worship. Now this obviously isn't going to be the same woman. This is referring to a spiritual Jezebel. Now in Bible prophecy, a woman represents a church, and this apostate church is leading God's people into fornication with her. In other words, she is leading people into accepting her false doctrines, and instead of Thyatira rejecting what this woman (apostate church) is teaching, they are allowing it. Do we see this today? Oh yes! The Roman Catholic Church has led billions of people astray with her false doctrines, and some Catholic doctrines are still taught in many protestant denominations.
To The Church in Sardis
Revelation 3:1-4 ...'And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.'
Spiritual Church Age: Sardis represents the church age at the end of the protestant reformation in the 1500's, up to the time of the great awakening in the 18th century. A great work had been started in the reformation to separate from the error of Rome and to live according to God's true Word. But instead of carrying on this great work, the reformers submitted to the protection of civil authorities and became subject to the state. And we are now seeing the result of this failure of the reformers to move forward in truth, with many of the original protestant churches re-uniting with the Roman Catholic Church. Jesus confirmed in this letter that the works of this church weren't perfect, which points to the reformers not FULLY separating from the errors of the Papal Church.
There are so many professing Christians who do not study Bible prophecy, and yet Jesus warns us that if we do not watch, then He will return (at the second coming) like a thief. And He is coming as a thief to those who are lost. How will you know when and how Jesus will return if you don't study Bible prophecy? We are living in the end times and we need to grasp the importance of end time Bible prophecy, so that we will not be deceived. Satan is pulling out all the stops to deceive us before Jesus returns, so we need to be rooted in God's Word, studying like we've never studied before, to find out the truth. We need to be watching and eagerly waiting for our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
To The Church in Philadelphia
Revelation 3:7-11 ...'And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.'
Spiritual Church Age: This is the church during the great awakening of the 18th Century and the Advent movement started by the Millerites. The great disappointment in 1844 lead to the discovery of the truth about the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel, and Jesus moving into the Most Holy Place ("I have set before thee an open door") in the Heavenly sanctuary that contains the law of God (Ten Commandments) and the start of the investigative judgment for those who have professed the Christian faith. The "Jews" in these verses are not literal Jews, but spiritual Jews, those who profess to be in Christ Jesus, ie. professing Christians.
This is one of two churches of the seven that don't receive a rebuke. This is a good church that hold fast to the true doctrine of Christ Jesus. They do not let themselves be led astray, because they firmly hold on to the truth of God's Word. This is something that is really lacking in the "Christian" world today, because too many people would rather go along with their 'feelings' rather than the truth of God's Word in the Bible. We MUST hold tight onto the truth. We must stand on the rock, and not be thrown about by every different wind of doctrine that comes our way.
To The Church in Laodicea
Revelation 3:14-20 ...'And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.'
Spiritual Church Age: Laodicea means "judging the people". Which is exactly what the advent movement of the Philadelphian church in 1844 revealed to the world, when proclaiming the three angels message that "the hour of His (God's) judgment is come" (Rev. 14:6-7). This is the last church age and it is the age that we live in right now. God is judging those who profess to be Christians, and when that judgment ends, Michael will stand up and the door to mercy will be forever shut. Are you ready??
This is the only church that has no commendation, and this is the letter for me that perfectly describes the state of the professing Christian world today. The professing church is in a state of being lukewarm. The majority of the Christian world is holding on to Christ with one hand and holding on to the world with the other. Why are we not prepared to completely let go of this world, and the things of it? It is going to be destroyed soon when Jesus returns, so stop trying to hang on to it. We can live and reign with Jesus forever in glory if we would just let those things go that are holding us back. If you stay in this lukewarm state then Jesus is going to spew you out of His mouth and throw you into the lake of fire. Jesus is trying to wake you up out of your sleep. He is standing at the door knocking. So please wake up! Answer the call from the Lord, as time is short, give your all for Him now, and find out how to worship God in spirit and truth.
What else can we learn from the letters to the seven churches? Well, these churches are the churches of God and Jesus is telling some of them to repent. There are many professing Christians today that believe we do not need to repent once we come to Jesus, because He forgives our future sins automatically. Well, Jesus proves here that view to be false, as He is telling HIS people in these letters to repent. Friend, if we sin, even after coming to Jesus, then we need to repent and be sorry for that sin. We cannot receive forgiveness without repenting.
PLEASE NOTE: Jesus says something significant to the last two churches. To Philadelphia He says "Behold I come quickly." Then to Laodicea He says "Behold I stand at the door." During the spiritual age of the Philidelphia church, His second coming was approaching, but now during the spiritual age of the Laodicean church, which is the age we live in, Jesus says that He is AT THE DOOR. In Matthew 24 Jesus is describing the signs of His return, and in verse 33 He says ... 'So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.' ... When we see the signs happening, know that His second coming is AT THE DOORS!! Friend, Jesus is certainly at the door, and His second coming is very close indeed. The loud cry is going out to the world to wake up those who are spiritually sleeping. It's time to wake up friend, and get ready for your redeemer!!
What about the rewards? Those who overcome will:
1. Eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of paradise.
2. Not be hurt by the second death.
3. Receive a new name written on a white stone.
4. Receive the morning star.
5. Be clothed in white garments and walk with Jesus.
6. Be made a pillar in the Temple of God, and receive the name of God.
7. SIT WITH JESUS ON HIS THRONE!!!
Friend, these are the things we need to be aiming for, not more money, or a bigger house, or a newer and better car, or more clothes. We can live with Jesus and our Heavenly Father for eternity!! I hope you can say:
'Whom have I in Heaven but thee O God. There is none on earth I desire beside Thee.'' (Psalm 73)
Please study the letters to the seven churches, and learn the lessons that Jesus is teaching you.