To gain a perspective on where these churches were geographically, look up a map on Google. They’re pretty easy to come by if you search for 7 churches of revelation maps

For each church, we’ll look at some background information, Jesus’ greeting to them, the positives Jesus has to say about each place, the negatives, and then we’ll look at the promises He makes to each church.

  1. Ephesus
    1. Background
      • Ancient Greek city in Western Turkey where the Temple of Artemis was – one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Many ancient writers who came up with their lists of 7 wonders called the Temple of Artemis the greatest of all the wonders in its scale and grandeur.
      • Paul spent over two years here evangelizing an extended region surrounding Ephesus, but he didn’t found it.
    2. Greeting
      • The one who holds the seven stars – Jesus is telling the church He is the one over the angelic hosts that fight for each church.
    3. Positives
      • Hard work, laboring through hardships for His name.
      • Won’t tolerate false apostles – men who claimed spiritual authority over churches but preached a “different gospel” than that of Jesus saves – not just bad teachers or teachers who teach error.
      • They hated the “Nicolaitans”, which Jesus hated.
        • They were possibly a group that preached lascivious living
        • Greek literally means “destroyer of men.”
        • Not entirely certain what they stood for
        • Ephesus stood against heresy
    4. Negatives
      • Lost their first love – why? We’re not told. He speaks to them as if they know exactly what He’s talking about. He tells them to return to their “first works.” We can understand the same for our lives. When Jesus rebukes us, we seldom need extended clarification.
      • Chillingly, Jesus tells them that if they don’t repent, he will take away their lampstand – what we learned in chapter one stood for the church itself. Jesus is telling them He will remove their church if they don’t change.
    5. Promises
      • Eat of the tree of life – one of the restorative aspects of Revelation
  2. Smyrna
    1. Background
      • Modern city of Izmir, Turkey
      • Prosperous city at this time
      • Christians suffered financially amidst a prosperous city
    2. Greeting
      • The beginning and end and the one who rose again – Jesus alludes to himself as He is sung about in chapter 4 – the one who is worthy because of His suffering. Jesus is telling the Smyrnians their suffering is worth it because He is worthy.
    3. Positives
      • They are poor and have suffered, but Jesus tells them they are rich – they have traded earthly wealth for eternal riches
      • Jesus prophesies to them that those who persecute them will do so for a little while longer, but encourages them to stand strong as they already have
    4. Negatives
      • Smyrna is one of two churches to have no negatives
    5. Promises
      • Jesus tells them to be faithful unto death and He will give them the crown of life. This is much like the paradox of their poverty but promised riches
      • Won’t be hurt by the second death – eternity in hell
  3. Pergamum
    1. Background
      • Pagan center of worship
      • Temple of Asclepius – god of health who was a snake on a pole – much like Moses’ during the Exodus. This is where we get our medical symbols today of one or two snakes around a staff
      • Temple of Zeus (which still exists today in Berlin)
      • Imperial cult was strong here – worship of Caesar
    2. Greeting
      • Sharp, two edged sword – we will see later this is the Jesus who will judge – His word will cut and divide those who do not follow Him
    3. Positives
      • Have stayed faithful in a city where Satan lives, even in the midst of martyrdom.
    4. Negatives
      • People participating in sexual immorality like Balaam (this story is referencing mostly extra-biblical background information about the story of Balaam and Balak from Deuteronomy)
      • People holding to the teaching of the Nicolaitans
    5. Promises
      • Hidden manna – the bread of God
      • A white stone with a new name on it: This is a reference to innocence as white stones were often used by juries to give their verdicts of innocence. God is proclaiming us innocent and gives us an intimate name that only He knows.
  4. Thyatira
    1. Background
      • Had a very openly sexual temple culture. Ancient Roman culture often had mass orgies and in Thyatira there is evidence this took place on a regular basis as part of pagan worship
    2. Greeting
      • Eyes like fire and bronze feet – possibly referencing Jesus’ passion and His strength.
    3. Positives
      • They have labored patiently for Jesus
    4. Negatives
      • A woman named Jezebel led them into sexual immorality. May be a reference to Ahab’s wife, but the only similarity is their name.
      • Jesus will judge she and her family (maybe physical family or figuratively those who follow her) and show that He sees and judges all
    5. Promise
      • Jesus tells those in this sinful culture to simply hold on to what they have until He returns
      • Rule with a rod of iron – Jesus will give to us the same authority and rulership over heaven that God has promised to Him
      • The Morning Star – Again, this is another promise of Jesus that He will share with we who overcome
  5. Sardis
    1. Background
      • Wealthy ancient city
    2. Greeting
      • Holds the seven spirits and stars: Jesus is the one who rules all of heaven
    3. Positives
      • Jesus has nothing positive to say to Sardis
    4. Negatives
      • Reputation for being alive, but they are dead – Jesus sees what is on the inside
      • Tells them if they don’t repent, He will come as a thief, the language Jesus uses for unbelievers in 1 Thessalonians 5
    5. Promises
      • White robes – they stand for the righteous acts of the saints as we will find out later
      • Name will be in the book of life – the highest honor given to saints; eternal life
  6. Philadelphia
    1. Greeting
      • The Key of David – this references 2 Kings 19 when Hezekiah sent servants to Isaiah to find out if Assyria would destroy him. Isaiah told Hezekiah he wouldn’t even have to fight, but to one servant he promised death and disgrace and the other was promised David’s Key, a reference to access to God by way of the Temple.
    2. Positives
      • He knows their works
      • Will make their accusers (they synagogue of Satan) bow at their feet – Jesus will vindicate these saints
    3. Negatives
      • None
    4. Promises
      • Jesus will keep them from the hour of trial because they patiently endured trials
      • He will make them a pillar in the eternal temple – like His greeting, they will have the Key of David – eternal access to God
      • He will write on us new names – the intimacy and inheritance that we don’t deserve but that He gives freely
  7. Laodicea
    1. Background – this was one of the smallest and most obscure cities of the 7
    2. Greeting
      • Faithful and True witness, the Creator – He is worthy and has authority to make any and all claims that He does
    3. Positives
      • None
    4. Negatives
      • Lukewarm – their works are neither hot or cold and they are blind to see it.
    5. Promises
      • Sit on Jesus’ throne – Jesus is again offering us the very thing that God offered exclusively to Him

Each promise to each church is universal for all believers, and we can learn from each church and apply the negatives, positives and promises to each of our lives.

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