The Order Of The Churches
The seven churches are always mentioned in the same order: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Usually, when a group of seven things is mentioned, the order has some relevance. However, I doubt that the order of the churches has any particular theological importance.
Thats not to say that the order is random either. If a courier, starting at the island of Patmos, were to visit these seven churches in order to deliver the epistles from John, he would sail from Patmos to Ephesus, which is the closest. From there, the closest remaining church is Smyrna to the north. Continuing this simple strategy of visiting the closest remaining church, he would continue north to Pergamum, then east to Thyatira, and back south to Sardis, Philadelphia, and finally ending in Laodicea .
One can see the logic of this itinerary in the map below:
The Seven Churches of Revelation and Patmos
So then, the order of the churches seems to be simply the most sensible order for delivering the messages from Patmos. This is possibly the order in which the seven churches actually received their respective messages.
What Happened To The Seven Churches Of Revelation
The trip of a lifetime landed in my lapvisiting the Seven Churches of Revelation. Until recently, I didnt even know all seven churches were located in modern-day Turkey. A friend and I flew to Izmir, Turkey, where we rented a car and drove to all seven churches in a quick, three-day trip.
In the end, we saw a lot of rocks.
Dont get me wrong. They were beautiful rocks. But they were rocks, ruins of ancient cities once teeming with people long gone. In the apostle Johns vision of Revelation, Jesus spoke to the Christians in these cities, commending some but warning most. As I read Jesuss words to the seven churches and learned about each location, I wondered how these rocks should change my life.
The Role Of The Churches
In Revelation 1, we find the apostle John in exile on the tiny island of Patmos. Having been the overseer of the churches in Asia Minor, he was banished from society by the Romans to reduce his religious influence . Exile was a horrible sentence, second only to the death penalty. In this context of persecution, John received the most detailed vision of things to come given to any apostle.
When Christ appeared to John, he saw seven lampstands representing the seven churches. Standing among them was One like the Son of Man . Jesus came as the light of the world and then commissioned us to be the light of the world . Johns vision was a physical representation of this imagery. Christ was standing in His rightful place amid the churches.
Every churchthen and nowhas the opportunity to be a lampstand shining forth Christs light in a dark world. The churches do not create the light they reflect it. Christ is the light.
Bearing His light in the world is the Churchs primary purpose.
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The Structure Of The Messages
Each of the seven messages follows a similar pattern:
- An identification of the recipient church.
- An identification of the source of the message, which is always Christ, although He is identified in different ways. In each case, Christ is identified by referring to attributes ascribed to Him in chapter 1.
- Specific remarks to the church, whether it be commendations, rebukes, or both.
- A prescribed course of action to be taken by such a church in order to emerge victoriously.
- Promises to those who overcome or who emerge victorious. In each case, the promise refers to something we see near the end of Revelation, in connection with the coming kingdom of Christ. In this manner, all the messages to the churches are connected to the end-times prophecy that follows in Revelation. Those who overcome victoriously in the end times are described as such in Rev 12:11, Rev 15:2, Rev 20:4, and Rev 21:7.
- The concluding phrase, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Again, this makes it clear that these messages are universal.
Victory Through The Lamb
This book presents the book of Revelation through the lens of one of its key themesvictory. Christians today are looking for hope in todays world mired in conflict and pandemic. Revelation was written to encourage and challenge believers in the midst of similar challenging circumstances. Because Jesus as Lamb was victorious, his followers can also be victorious. Throughout Revelation John skillfully guides his audience through an obstacle course full of spiritual and political land mines. The goal is the new heaven and new earththe promised reward of the victors. This complex prophetic book, with its visions, beasts, and judgments, is presented in a way that is informative and understandable for all Christians.
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The People Of The Local Church
Today, many churches think there are too few people with too little money, too few gifts, and too few opportunities. But remember this truth: When we are weak, Christ is strong. Building the Church of Jesus Christ is not up to us. We depend on the Head of the Church to give His Body the strength it needs.
The Seven Churches Of The Apocalypse
The mysterious last book of the New Testament is not The Revelation of St. John the Divine, as it has been erroneously called. John was merely the instrument of divine revelation, not its source. And, if he were here today, he would be appalled at the title the Divine.
The very first verse of the book provides an appropriate title, and reveals both the source and destination of the message: The Revelation of Jesus Christa perfect titlewhich God gave Him to show His servantsthings which must shortly take place. Ultimately, God the Father is the Source of the message contained in this book. He gave it to His Son to give to His servants. John was merely an instrument through which the message was delivered: And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.
Isle of Patmos – Current Day
John, in turn, passed the message along to the seven churches which are in Asia . He was following the instruction Jesus Christ had given him in a vision while he was on the island called Patmos: What you see, write in a book and send to the seven churches which are in Asia, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea .
So its time we pay careful attention to what the Spirit says to the churches .
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What Are The Seven Churches Of Asia And Where Are They
The Seven Churches of Asia as stated in the Book of Revelation are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Today, all these are existing names in Turkey as they are ancient cities protected by the Culture and Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Turkey. They are located in the Izmir, Manisa, and Denizli provinces of Turkey. Smyrna is the ancient name of Izmir city which will possibly be your starting point of a tour of the Seven Churches of Asia. Smyrna is located in Izmir city and Pergamum is only 2 hours away from Izmir. Thyatira is located one hour east of Pergamum. Sardis and Philadelphia Churches are very close to each other and they are less than an hour away from Thyatira. The furthest Church of Revelation is Laodicea which is two hours away from Sardis. To complete the tour of Seven Churches, you need to drive to Ephesus which is 2,5 hours away from Laodicea. The House of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of Saint John is within the vicinity of Ephesus. In three days and two nights in Pergamon and Pamukkale, you can easily visit the Seven Churches of Asia along with the House of the Virgin Mary and The Basilica of Saint John. If you would like to explore the surroundings of the Seven Churches, you should spare a few more nights in the west coast of Turkey.
The Stars Of The Churches
1.a. What do the stars that John saw in the hands of Jesus represent? Revelation 1:16, 20. Who are to preach the messages to the seven churches?
Note: Gods ministers are symbolized by the seven stars, which He who is the First and the Last has under His special care and protection. The sweet influences that are to be abundant in the church are bound up with these ministers of God, who are to represent the love of Christ. They are but instruments in His hands, and all the good they accomplish is done through His power. Gospel Workers, 13, 14
1.b. What counsel is given to ministers so that they may faithfully fulfill their duties? 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2 2 Corinthians 6:37. What are the results of unfaithful ministry?
Note: The people will seldom rise higher than their minister. A world-loving spirit in him has a tremendous influence upon others. The people make his deficiencies an excuse to cover their world-loving spirit. Testimonies, vol. 2, 645, 646
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Specific Messages To 7 Churches Of Revelation
Some of these seven churches kept closer to the gospel than others. Jesus gave each one a short “report card.”
Ephesus had “abandoned the love it had at first,” . They lost their first love for Christ, which in turn affected the love they had for others.
Smyrna was warned it was about to face persecution. Jesus encouraged them to be faithful unto death and he would give them the crown of lifeeternal life.
Pergamum was told to repent. It had fallen prey to a cult called the Nicolaitans, heretics who taught that since their bodies were evil, only what they did with their spirit counted. This led to sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. Jesus said those who conquered such temptations would receive “hidden manna” and a “white stone,” symbols of special blessings.
Thyatira had a false prophetess who was leading people astray. Jesus promised to give himself to those who resisted her evil ways.
Sardis had the reputation of being dead, or asleep. Jesus told them to wake up and repent. Those who did would receive white garments, have their name listed in the book of life, and would be proclaimed before God the Father.
Philadelphia endured patiently. Jesus pledged to stand with them in future trials, granting special honors in heaven, the New Jerusalem.
Laodicea had lukewarm faith. Its members had grown complacent because of the riches of the city. To those who returned to their former zeal, Jesus vowed to share his ruling authority.
Purpose Of The Messages
While the messages to the seven churches given in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 should be understood individually, it is also important to understand them collectively.
I believe there are two main reasons for these messages:
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Johns Vision Of Christ
If you have ever wondered what Jesus of Nazareth looked like, youre not alone. Biblically speaking, we do not know. The book of Isaiah contains the only reference to His appearancemore than seven hundred years before the Nativity. Isaiah described His appearance as average, not conspicuous in any way .
The resurrected Christ appeared much different to John. He had striking white hair that suggested the age, wisdom, and dignity befitting a judge. His eyes were like a flame of fireeyes from whom nothing is hidden, eyes that will judge all mankind . His feet were like fine brass, another symbol of judgment in Scripture.
John described two features of Christs mouth: the sound and the sword. Drowning out all other voices, His voice evoked thoughts of roaring waterfalls. Piercing soul and spirit, the sword represented the Word of God . When Christ returns, He will slay His enemies by His Word .
In His right hand, Christ held seven stars, representing His authority . I believe the stars stand for the pastors of the seven churches who received authority from Christ to lead their churchesnot their authority, but Christs authority.
This vision of Christ was so awe-inspiring that John fell at feet as dead . He was not the first person to respond to Gods presence in this way. Abraham , Moses , Balaam , Joshua , Gideon , and others all demonstrated terror in the presence of pure holiness and righteousness.
How Each Of The Seven Letters Is Structured
Each letter follows a similar pattern:
- To the angel of the church in a given city, write:
- Jesus says:
- I know
- But I have this against you
- The one who has ears must pay attention to what the Spirit says
- Eschatological promise6
That the message is from Jesus, following the same form as oracles in the Old Testament, plainly implies Jesus deity.
In fact, the descriptions of Jesus glory formally resemble the sort of epithets with which Greeks often addressed their deities, such as those found in Book 1, line 37 of Homers Iliad:
Hear me, god of the silver bow, who stand over Chryse and holy Cilla, and rule mightily over Tenedos, Sminthian god
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Seven Churches Of Revelation Summary
While more complete explanations of the relevance of each message are available in the articles on each congregation, here is an abbreviated summary of the positive lessons we can learn from the instruction God gave each church:
- Ephesus : Dont lose your love for Gods truth or His people.
- Smyrna : Remain faithful in the face of tribulation and poverty.
- Pergamos : Resist Satans influence, even to death, if necessary.
Scope Of The Messages
Even though the messages are addressed to these seven specific, historical churches of Johns day, they are intended for all churches across all the earth and across all time. This is evident from the fact that each message includes the phrase: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Jesus had used this he who has an ear expression before to emphasize important points .
Some of the remarks given in the messages are clearly specific to the historic local church, but in general, the admonishments, encouragements, warnings, and commendations in these messages should be understood as if directed to all churches.
The fact that there are seven churches is probably significant because the number seven carries the meaning of wholeness. This suggests that these seven churches are meant to be representative of all churches and all professing Christians throughout the earth and throughout history. Likewise, the seven messages are meant to convey the fullness of the message that the churches need to hear.
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The Angels Of The Seven Churches
The word angel comes from the Greek and means Gods herald or His messenger. Defines his ministry and state, his power and role about God and man. Firstly, it means that angels are Gods servants and depend on Him, obeying Him there in heaven, where they contemplate Him always in all the majesty of His glory and praise Him unceasingly, as revealed to us by Isaiah in his vision:
Secondly, it is a theory where Branham claims that John wrote those letters to the angels, to the seven church ages. That is to say, those churches that Revelation speaks of are in fact ages. We do not know who are the angels from the Revelation, because we dont find their names directly written in the Book. But in the Bible, it is written that THE SEVEN STARS ARE THOSE ANGELS. However, he had his theories. Branham claims that those angels in Revelation are actually :
- Paul the angel of the Church of Ephesus
According to the Bible, each angel is directly responsible for his church! In Branhams case of his age. So the Apostle Paul receives a letter from John telling him to come back to first love and to stand up again for what is right.
- Irineus the angel of the Church of Smyrna
Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of John. The most important book written by Irenaeus is Adversus Haereses or Against Heresies.
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The Teachings Of Balaam The Nicolaitans And Jezebel
Some of the members of the church in Pergamos had exhibited their loyalty to Christ and His truth even in times of severe persecution and martyrdom . But other members of this church were not so faithful. They are identified as two groups. One held the doctrine of Balaam , and the other held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans .
In the Old Testament, Balaam is a diviner hired by the Moabite king, Balak, to curse the people of Israel, but God causes him to bless Israel instead . Unable to curse Israel directly, Balaam taught Balak how to seduce the men of Israel to commit idolatry, thus causing them to bring a curse on themselves.
The doctrine of Balaam, then, is a teaching that permits mingling idolatrous practices with the worship of God. Apparently this teaching provided a philosophical justification for compromising with evil under certain circumstances. It was especially attractive in a time when refusing to participate in pagan rites and emperor worship could result in severe economic privation or even the death sentence.
Both Balaam and Nicolaitan can mean to conquer the people. The Balaamites and Nicolaitans were apparently two distinct groups who held essentially the same philosophy. As Balaam of old taught Balak how to conquer the people through seduction, the Balaamites and Nicolaitans in Pergamos attempted to conquer the people of God through encouraging them to compromise with paganism.
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