In chapters, 2-3 Jesus addresses the seven churches.
Jesus identifies a part of himself for each church. He also addresses the needs of each church. These churches existed. They were real. But are they are also symbols. There is no conflict between being literal and symbolic. These churches have problems other churches have. We face these same issues today. But not all churches have the same problems. Nor do they have the same strengths.
Seven will appear several times in Revelation. It is an important number. It will come up over and over. There are seven churches. Seven Letters. Each letter has seven elements:
- Christ commands John to write
- Christ identifies himself
- Christ praises the good works
- Words of accusations
- Christ calls to repentance or encouragement
- Chris exhorts the churches on how to live
- Concludes with a promise
The sins identified in the letters are sins of worldliness or idolatry. The churches had become like everyone else. They adapted their culture. They were seeker sensitive. They strove to be relevant. They lost their distinctiveness. They committed the same sins as Israel in the Old Testament. Churches today commit the same sin.
In the letters, Christ identified specific enemies.
- Rome i.e. civil government
- Leaders of synagogues of unbelief
- Pagan religion
- False teachers who claimed to be Christian
We would do well to realize these remain the enemies of the church. The government is not our friend. We should not rely on the government. Christians have a King. Christians do not live in a democracy.
Many of the churches today are houses of unbelief. They are lead by men and women who never preach Christ and Him crucified.
The world hates us because we refuse to accept their false gods. They oppose the church because they oppose Christ. They rebel again the Lord to of all.
There are many teachers. They teach false beliefs. Many call themselves evangelical. Many call themselves mainline, Catholic, or pentecostal. They come in all stripes. How can you tell a false teacher? Does what they teach square with scripture? The only have to know that is to study scripture.
Christ distinguished between the faithful and unfaithful church as well as church members. Individuals were to pursue truth. Even when they were part of an unfaithful church.
The letters are arranged in a Chiasm. This was a popular literary structure in the ancient world.
In the first and seventh letters, Christ is critical. He threatens to remove their lampstand. The second and sixth letters contain no criticism. In them, Christ only commends the churches. The third, fourth, and fifth letters are a mixture. Christ criticizes them. But He does not threaten to remove their lampstand. He is not as harsh with these churches.
Each letter has the same basic form:
- Addressee: “to the angel of the church… write.”
- Identification of Christ. This alludes back to His majesty in 1:12-20
- Statement of fact: “I know.”
- Evaluation: Christ rebukes or commends.
- Promise or threat: usually “I will.”
- Promise to “the one who conquers.”
- Exhortation to listen: “He who has an ear.”
In some letters, 6 and 7 are reversed. In some letters, Christ includes 5 within 4.
The Christ addresses the churches in the order the letter would be delivered.
These were real cities. On the map, they formed an arch. John received this revelation while he was on the isle of Patmos. Patmos was thirty-five miles off the coast of modern Turkey. The closest city was Ephesus. Ephesus was the first church addressed. John knew Ephesus well. According to tradition, Ephesus is John’s burial place.
Smyna was on the coast seventy miles north of Ephesus. Pergamum was also on the coast. It was eighty miles north of Smyna. Thyatira was inland. It was about 75 miles southeast of Pergamum. Sardis was thirty 35 miles southeast of Thyatira. Philadelphia was thirty miles south of Sardis. Laodicea was a commercial center. It was 70 miles southeast of Philadelphia.
All the letters contain allusions to circumstances or traditions of that particular city. Christ called them all to faithfulness and endurance. They were to endure until the promises reach their fulfillment.