About Me
Turkey Photos Pictures from My Tours



As stated in Revelation 1:11 Christ sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. The order was geographic. A messenger would naturally travel the route from the seaport Ephesus 35 miles north to another seaport Smyrna, proceed still farther north and to the east, to Pergamos, and then would swing further to the east and south to visit the other four cities (1:11).

There has been much debate as to the meaning of these messages for today. Obviously these churches were specially selected and providentially arranged to provide characteristic situations which the church has faced throughout its history. Just as Paul’s epistles were addressed to individual churches but intended for the entire church, so these seven messages also apply to the entire church today. There were many other churches such as those at Colosse, Magnesia, and Tralles, some larger than these seven churches in Asia Minor, but these were not addressed.

As we consider these letters, it is clear that they are, first, messages to these historic local churches in the first century. Second, they also constitute a message to similar churches today. Third, individual exhortations to persons or groups in the churches make it clear that the messages are intended for individuals today. Fourth, some believe that the order of the seven churches follows the order of various eras in church history from the first century until now.

There are some remarkable similarities in comparing these letters to the seven churches to the movement of church history since the beginning of the apostolic church. For instance, Ephesus seems to characterize the apostolic church as a whole, and Smyrna seems to depict the church in its early persecutions. However, the Scriptures do not expressly authorize this interpretation, and it should be applied only where it fits naturally. After all, these churches all existed simultaneously in the first century.

Though each message is different, the letters have some similarities. In each one Christ declared that He knows their works; each one includes a promise to those who overcome; each one gives an exhortation to those hearing; and each letter has a particular description of Christ that related to the message which follows. Each letter includes a commendation (except the letter to Laodicea), a rebuke (except the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia), an exhortation, and an encouraging promise to those heeding its message. In general these letters to the seven churches address the problems inherent in churches throughout church history and are an incisive and comprehensive revelation of how Christ evaluates local churches.

This portion of Scripture has been strangely neglected. While many turn to the epistles of Paul and other portions of the New Testament for church truth, often the letters to these seven churches, though coming from Christ Himself and being climactic in character, are completely ignored. This neglect has contributed to churches today not conforming to God’s perfect will.


V 2:1. At the time this letter was written, was a major city of Asia 
Minor, a seaport, and the location of the great temple of Artemis (cf. Acts 19:24, 27-28, 34-35), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Paul had visited Ephesus about A.D. 53, about 43 years before this letter in Revelation was sent to them. Paul remained in Ephesus for several years and preached the gospel so effectively “that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10). This large city was thoroughly stirred by Paul’s message (Acts 19:11-41), with the result that the silversmiths created a riot because their business of making shrines of Artemis was threatened. 

The church accordingly had a long history and was the most prominent one 
in the area. The pastor or messenger of the church was addressed as the angel. The word’s principal use in the Bible is in reference to heavenly 
angels (William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of 
the New Testament. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, pp. 7-8). But it is also used to refer to human messengers (cf. Matt. 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52). 

Christ was holding seven stars in His right hand and walking among the 
seven golden lampstands. The “stars” were the angels or messengers of the 
churches and the “lampstands” were the seven churches (1:20). 

V 2:2-3. Christ commended those in the Ephesian church for their hard work… perseverance, their condemnation of wicked men, and their identification of false apostles. (False teachers were present in each of the first four churches; cf. vv. 2, 6, 9, 14-15, 20.) In addition they were commended for enduring hardships and not growing weary in serving God. In general this church had continued in its faithful service to God for more than 40 years.

2:4. In spite of the many areas of commendation, the church in Ephesus was 
soundly rebuked: Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first 
love. The order of words in the Greek is emphatic; the clause could be translated, “Your first love you have left.” Christ used the word agapeôn, speaking of the deep kind of love that God has for people. This rebuke contrasts with what Paul wrote the Ephesians 35 years earlier, that he never stopped giving thanks for them because of their faith in Christ and their love (agapeôn) for the saints (Eph. 1:15-16). Most of the Ephesian Christians were now second-generation believers, and though they had retained purity of doctrine and life and had maintained a high level of service, they were lacking in deep devotion to Christ. How the church today needs to heed this same warning, that orthodoxy and service are not enough. Christ wants believers’ hearts as well as their hands and heads. 

2:5-6. The Ephesians were first reminded to remember the height from which you have fallen! They were told to repent and to return to the love they had left. Similar exhortations concerning the need for a deep love for God are frequently found in the New Testament (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; John 14:15, 21, 23; 21:15-16; James 2:5; 1 Peter 1:8). Christ stated that one’s love for God should be greater than his love for his closest relatives, including his father, mother, son, and daughter (Matt. 10:37). Paul added that love for God should even be above one’s love for his or her mate (1 Cor. 7:32-35). In calling the Ephesian believers to repentance Christ was asking them to change their attitude as well as their affections. They were to continue their service not simply because it was right but because they loved Christ. He warned them that if they did not respond, the light of their witness in Ephesus would be extinguished: I will… remove your lampstand from its place. The church continued and was later the scene of a major church council, but after the 5th century both the church and the city declined. The immediate area has been uninhabited since the 14th century.
One additional word of commendation was inserted. They were commended because they hated the practices of the Nicolaitans. There has been much speculation concerning the identity of the Nicolaitans, but the Scriptures do not specify who they were. They apparently were a sect wrong in practice and in doctrine (for further information see Henry Alford, The Greek Testament, 4:563-65; Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, pp. 60-1; Walvoord, Revelation, p. 58).

2:7. As in the other letters, Christ gave the Ephesian church a promise addressed to individuals who will hear. He stated, To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. The tree of life, first mentioned in Genesis 3:22, was in the Garden of Eden. Later it reappears in the New Jerusalem where it bears abundant fruit (Rev. 22:2). Those who eat of it will never die (Gen. 3:22). This promise should not be construed as reward for only a special group of Christians but a normal expectation for all Christians. “The paradise of God” is probably a name for heaven (cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4—the only other NT references to paradise). Apparently it will be identified with the New Jerusalem in the eternal state.

This encouragement to true love reminded them again of God’s gracious provision for salvation in time and eternity. Love for God is not wrought by legalistically observing commands, but by responding to one’s knowledge and appreciation of God’s love.


2:8. The second letter was addressed to Smyrna, a large and wealthy city 35 miles north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus, it was a seaport. In contrast to Ephesus, which today is a deserted ruin, Smyrna is still a large seaport with a present population of about 200,000. Christ described Himself as the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Christ is portrayed as the eternal One (cf. 1:8, 17; 21:6; 22:13) who suffered death at the hands of His persecutors and then was resurrected from the grave (cf. 1:5). These aspects of Christ were especially relevant to the Christians at Smyrna who, like Christ in His death, were experiencing severe persecution.

The name of the city, Smyrna, means “myrrh,” an ordinary perfume. It was also used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle, and in embalming dead bodies (cf. Ex. 30:23; Ps. 45:8; Song 3:6; Matt. 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39). While the Christians of the church at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, their faithful testimony was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God.


2:12. The third church was in or Pergamos, about 20 miles inland 
from Smyrna. Like Ephesus and Smyrna it was a wealthy city, but it was wicked. People in its pagan cults worshiped Athena, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Zeus. 

Pergamum was famous for its university with a library of about 200,000 
volumes, and for manufacturing parchment resulting in a paper called 
pergamena. The atmosphere of this city was adverse to any effective Christian life and testimony. 

Anticipating Christ’s rebuke for their being tolerant of evil and immorality, 
John described Him as the One who has the sharp, double-edged sword (also 
mentioned in 1:16; 2:16; 19:15, 21). The sword is a symbolic representation of 
the Word of God’s twofold ability to separate believers from the world and to condemn the world for its sin. It was the sword of salvation as well as the sword of death. 


2:18. Thyatira, 40 miles southeast of Pergamum, was a much smaller city. 
Thyatira was situated in an area noted for its abundant crops and the manufacture of purple dye. The church was small, but it was singled out for this penetrating letter of rebuke. In keeping with what follows, Christ is introduced as the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. This description of Christ is similar to that in 1:13-15, but here He is called the Son of God rather than the Son of Man. The situation required reaffirmation of His deity and His righteous indignation at their sins. The words “burnished bronze,” which describe His feet, translate a rare Greek word chalkolibanoô, also used in 1:15. It seems to have been an alloy of a number of metals characterized by brilliance when polished. The reference to His eyes being “like blazing fire” and the brilliant reflections of His feet emphasize the indignation and righteous judgment of Christ. 


3:1a. The important commercial city of Sardis was located about 30 miles southeast of Thyatira, on an important trade route that ran east and west through the kingdom of Lydia. Important industries included jewelry, dye, and textiles, which had made the city wealthy. From a religious standpoint it was a center of pagan worship and site of a temple of Artemis, which ruins still remain (cf. comments on 2:1 regarding another temple of Artemis). Only a small village called Sart remains on the site of this once-important city. Archeologists have located the ruins of a Christian church building next to the temple. In addressing the message to the church Christ described Himself as the One who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, similar to the description in 1:4. Here Christ said He holds them, speaking of the Holy Spirit in relation to Himself (Isa. 11:2-5; cf. Rev. 5:6). As in 1:20 the seven stars, representing the pastors of the churches, were also in His hands (cf. 2:1).

3:7. The city of Philadelphia was 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It was located in an area noted for its agricultural products but afflicted with earthquakes which destroyed the city several times, most recently about A.D. 37. The city was named for a king of Pergamum, Attalus Philadelphus, who had built it. 

“Philadelphus” is similar to the Greek word philadelphia, meaning “brotherly love,” which occurs seven times in the Bible (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thes. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7 [twice]; Rev. 3:7). Only here is it used of the city itself. Christian testimony continues in the city in this present century. 
Christ described Himself as the One who is holy and true, who holds the 
key of David, and who is able to open or shut a door which no one else could 
open or shut. The holiness of Christ is a frequent truth in Scripture (1 Peter 1:15), and being holy He is worthy to judge the spiritual life of the Philadelphia church. “The key of David” seems to refer to Isaiah 22:22, where the key of the house of David was given to Eliakim who then had access to all the wealth of the king. Christ earlier had been described as the One who holds “the keys of death and hades” (Rev. 1:18). The reference here, however, seems to be to spiritual treasures. 


3:14. The wealthy city of Laodicea was located on the road to Colosse about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia. About 35 years before this letter was written, Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, but it had the wealth and ability to rebuild. Its main industry was wool cloth. There is no record that Paul ever visited this city, but he was concerned about it (Col. 2:1-2; 4:16).
In addressing the church Christ introduced Himself as the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Ruler of God’s creation. The word “Amen,” meaning “so be it,” refers to the sovereignty of God which is behind human events (cf. 2 Cor. 1:20; Rev. 1:6). In speaking of Himself as “the faithful and true Witness” Christ was repeating what He had said earlier (1:5; 3:7). As “the Ruler of God’s creation” Christ existed before God’s Creation and is sovereign over it (cf. Col 1:15, 18; Rev. 21:6). This description was in preparation for the stern word of rebuke which Christ would give the church in Laodicea.