THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION
Lesson 1 (Chapter 2:1-11)
To show that God knew what would take place during the Great Parenthesis period and to make applicable to pupils lives the message of Christ to them as revealed in these letters.
POINT OF CONTACT
When we studied Daniel, what did we learn would take place between the 69th and 70th Week (THE CHURCH AGE)? In Revelation we have that period covered also, along with the Seventieth Week.
In chapters two and three, we study the second phase of the outline of Revelation -- that dealing with "the things which are" (chapter 1:19). This is often referred to as the church age. After chapter three, the church is conspicuous by its absence. Up to chapter four the church is mentioned nineteen times. From chapters four through twenty (the Great White Throne Judgment) the church is not mentioned one time. So during this period, where is the church? It will be in Heaven.
These seven letters have a three-fold interpretation:
(1) Contemporary -- They were written to seven literal, existing churches in Asia Minor.
(2) Composite -- There is something that is applicable to all churches in all ages in each message to each individual church.
(3) Chronological -- The panoramic history of the church is given in these seven letters from Christ to the time of His Second Coming. Ephesus represents the Apostolic church; Smyrna represents the suffering church (100-300 A.D.); Pergamos represents the church that joined the world (300-500 A.D.); Thyatira represents the Roman Catholic church (500-1500 A.D.); Sardis represents the Reformation church (1500--on); Philadelphia represents the Evangelistic church of our day (1800 - on); Laodicea represents the lukewarm church of the end time.
The Lord follows a rather well-defined system in addressing each church.
(1) Some feature (attribute, characteristic) of the glorified Christ from the vision in chapter one is emphasized in addressing each church.
(2) The letters are addressed to the angel (pastor) of each church.
(3) He begins by stating to each church, "I know thy works."
(4) He first gives a commendation, then a condemnation. The exceptions should be noted: there is no word of condemnation to Smyrna or Philadelphia; there is no word of commendation to Laodicea.
(5) Each letter contains a warning, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith."
(6) The Second Coming of Christ is mentioned in five of the seven letters. The two exceptions are Smyrna and Laodicea.
I. The Church of Ephesus -- The church that left its first love (chapter 2:1-7)
A. The Christ (Verse 1) -- The Lord Jesus holds His churches' pastors in His right hand. They are something special to Him. We should respect God's pastors above everyone else. Discuss Pastor-pupil relationships (Hebrews 13:7,17,24; I Timothy 5:17-19). Note: Remember, Obey, Salute. Our Lord is in the midst of His churches. He is Omni-present.
B. The Characterization -- "I know thy works." He knows all about us.
(1) His Commendation (Verses 2,3, and 6)
a. They were a laboring church. There are three kinds of people in churches: shirkers, jerkers, and workers. It was the kind of labor that involved a great cost.
b. They were a patient church. They had triumphant fortitude. No matter how they were beaten down, discouraged, or persecuted, they did not quit. They stayed with the work.
c. They could not bear (or stand) those who were evil. It is possible to get so accustomed to evil that you hardly notice it. "Vice is a monster of such frightful mien." Note: A powerful church and a sinful church membership do not go together. This church hated sin! Oh, how that is needed today.
d. They were an orthodox church. Some men came into their group that said they were apostles and they examined them and found they were not sound in doctrine. This church was sound in the faith. They had doctrinal convictions.
e. They were a reproach bearing church. They bore reproach for Christ. His name has never been popular in this world and to be a real church means that you will have to bear His reproach. When a church really gets down to meaning business for God, there is going to be a certain stigma about it. Thank God for the privilege of bearing reproach for Jesus.
f. They were a faithful church. They had patience and for Him they laboured and had not fainted. They were faithful in guarding doctrine, in preaching salvation, and in sticking to it. So many people drop by the wayside. They use to sing in the choir, teach a Sunday school class, etc.
g. They hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes which God hated (verse 6). The Nicolaitanes were a group even then being formed who wanted to have a ruling class in the church such as bishops and priests, etc.
(2) His Condemnation (verse 4)
This is only mentioned after He had commended them. We should all do that. Always, commendation before condemnation.
They left their first love. They did not love Jesus like they once did nor the souls of men. How tragic! But that is so prevalent in churches and in Christians today. What causes Christians to lose their first love?
a. Sometimes it is a craving for prosperity and success.
b. Sometimes it is a desire to shine in the social world.
c. Sometimes it is because some secret sin has crept in.
d. Sometimes it is due to an ill feeling you have toward someone.
Let us always keep the sweet, pure love of our honeymoon with Jesus.
C. The Consequences (verse 5) -- Remember our first love. Repent of a cold heart. Do again the first works that were so evident when we were in love with Jesus for saving us.
The first works are witnessing, soul winning, regular church attendance (Sunday morning, night, and Wednesday night), OR ELSE! I will come and remove your opportunity of service. Many a Christian and many a church have been removed from service for God because they stayed out of God's will too long. Many churches have ceased to be churches because they were not winning souls.
D. The Conqueror's Reward (verse 7) -- Those who conquer, those who overcome, who turn back to their first love could eat of the tree of life in paradise. The practical application for us is that paradise means the sum total of all the good things that God has for you and me, with Christ in the center. So if we can return to our first love, we can partake of everything good that God has for us here and hereafter.
II. The Church of Smyrna (verses 8-11) -- The Church that was both rich and poor
A. The Christ (verse 8) -- Smyrna was from the word myrrh and means suffering. This church suffered terribly at the hands of the Roman Emperors. Many Christians were thrown to the lions or burned at the stake.
Jesus writes to them and tells them that He is the first and the last. Satan was behind their persecution but Jesus was before Satan and Jesus will be with us when Satan is long gone. Jesus was dead but now He is alive so we need not fear death (Matthew 10;28). In times of persecution it is good to think about Jesus.
B. The Characterization (verse 9) -- This church received no condemnation.
(1) Jesus knew of their tribulation which meant the great pressure of persecution and sorrow and death.
(2) Jesus knew of their poverty or beggary. They were absolutely and utterly destitute even though Smyrna was one of the richest cities in the Roman Empire. They were poor in material things but they were rich in spiritual rewards.
(3) Jesus knew how they were blasphemed or slandered. They were terribly slandered by those who professed to know God and yet did not. The word "synagogue" means "gathering together." There are many religious groups that are gathered together and yet are not churches. Church means "called out ones." The Devil has his gatherings and God has His churches.
C. The Consequences (verse 10) -- Because they willingly suffered and stayed true to Christ, Jesus promised them eventual victory and a special reward (A Crown of Life). This is a special crown for those who are faithful to Him regardless of the cost until death. Will you get it?
D. The Conqueror's Reward (verse 11) -- The Second Death is that of eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:14,15). What a consolation it is to know that our suffering will only be in this life, heaven is our home, and that we will never enter into condemnation (Romans 8:1).
One day we will all stand before the Saviour. Those who have been saved and who have been faithful to him will hear Him say to them, "Well done thou good and faithful servant. Here is your crown of life." Will you receive this reward?
THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF REVELATION
Lesson 2 (Chapter 2:12-29)
To show that Jesus is watching over us and knows all about us and that one day He will commend us and/or condemn us.
POINT OF CONTACT
Did you know that the hairs on your head were numbered (Matthew 10:30)? Well they are! Jesus knows all about us and is ever watching us (Psalms 139). Today we will study about two churches and learn what Jesus knows and said about them.
In lesson one we began studying about seven churches that existed in Asia. Review the introduction to the study of these churches.
I. The Church of Pergamos (Chapter 2:12-17) -- The Church that was next door to Satan's Throne This church represents the churches of the period between 300 and 500 A.D., approximately. The word "Pergamos" means "thoroughly married." Between 300 and 500 A.D. the church became "thoroughly married" to the state and the church was elevated to a place of authority even exceeding that of the state in many cases. Constantine accepted the apostate Christianity of the day (believing Baptism necessary for salvation -- 313 A.D.) And made Christianity the state religion. Pergamos was the capital of ancient Asia.
A. The Christ (Verse 1) -- Jesus comes to this church with a sharp sword which speaks of the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). He corrects the church with the Bible (I Corinthians 11:31-32). The Word is not only a way through the world, but a way to keep the world out of the church.
B. The Characterization (Verses 13-15)
(1) His Commendation (Verse 13)
a. He knew where they dwelled, even where Satan's Seat is. "Seat" means "throne." Satan's throne is in the city. Rural areas have sin, but sin prevails and dominates city life. So God had a church in this wicked city and He should have in every city. Let us make a notable church in this city where Satan dwells.
Specifically, Satan's throne here refers to the rulers of Pergamos who were the priests of the old Babylonian religious system started by Nimrod in Genesis 10. The high priest of their cult held the title of "Chief Bridge Builder," signifying his mediation between mortals and the world gods. Attalus III, who was the last king of Pergamos willed his kingdom to Rome. So in 133 B.--., Pergamos became a Roman possession. In the process of time most of the Babylonian priests moved into Rome. In the process, the Roman Emperors assumed for themselves the title which they admired "Chief Bridge Builder," or as it is in Latin "Pontice Maximus." In time (366 A.D.) A Bishop of Rome (Damascus by name) demanded that as leader of the church he be given the title "Chief Bridge Builder." Since that time the Popes have assumed the title "Pontice Maximus," and Rome has been the center of Babylonianism -- a false Christianity, Satan's throne has been and now is at Rome.
b. "And thou holdest fast my name." They believed and declared Jesus to be the Virgin Born, Son of God, who lived a sinless life, died an atoning death and was raised with a glorified body showing His death satisfied the just demands of God for the punishment of our sins.
c. "And hast not denied my faith." They were straight on the plan of salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9).
d. Even in those days wherein Antipas was slain they had stayed true to God during one of the fierce attempts of Satan to persecute. However, in this persecution thy lost their pastor, Antipas. The word Antipas means "against all." Antipas was against all sin and evil and boldly so. Once an emperor urged a Christian to denounce his faith saying "The whole world is against you." The Christian said, "Then I am against the whole world."
(2) His Condemnation (verses 14,15) -- I have a few things against thee.
a. There were some who held to the doctrine (teaching) of Balaam (Numbers 22-25; 31:15-17). Note: When the devil discovered he could not hurt the church from the outside, he joined the church and did his works on the inside. Those in the Pergamos church who were following Balaam's example were teaching that strict moral requirements were not necessary, after all, we are saved by grace, and why then have so many meticulous regulations? Separation is not necessary. The essence of Balaamism is worldliness. We are to be in the world but not of the world. A ship in water is fine, but water in a ship is tragic.
b. The Doctrine of the Nicolaitanes (See notes on chapter 2:6).
C. The Consequences (verse 16) -- Repent, or else, I will come quickly. God expects a church to keep worldliness out of its membership and its practices and to keep Him as their Head. God does not like a ruling class in the church and the church must operate as He would have it. OR ELSE -- He will come to that church and make His Work clear. If that fails to straighten them out, then they will answer for it at the judgement.
D. The Conqueror's Reward (verse 17) -- To him that overcometh is the definition of a genuine Christian (I John 5:4,5; Romans 8:37-39). The believer knows that the victory is won by Christ and not by himself (Philippians 1:6).
(1) The hidden manna -- The Spiritual interpretation is this: God has hidden truths to teach us but He will not let us understand them if we are living in the world. When we come out of the world, then will God let us understand the hidden truths of His Word.
(2) A white Stone suggests that the believer will never be blackballed. Our sins have been acquitted for they were placed upon our Lord on Calvary.
(3) A new name written -- This evidently refers to a new name of Christ and not a new name for the believer. The believer will continue to learn more about Christ throughout eternity. He will mean something personal to each believer that He means to no one else.
II. The Church of Thyatira (Verses 18-29) -- "Thyatira" means "continual sacrifice."
A. The Christ (verse 18) -- Jesus refers to Himself here as the "Son of God" because this church represents the Roman Catholic Church which has deified Mary. He is pictured with eyes of fire and feet of brass. Brass and fire both speak judgment and He is reminding this church that He is a God of judgment (Romans 2:6).
B. The Characterization (verse 19)
(1) The Commendation -- Notice that all of the good things that God said about this church are positive things. They stood FOR some things but did not stand against anything. Our Gospel is both positive and negative. You will notice that this church was rich in social service. God did not commend them for soul winning but He did for social service. That is good but is NOT the main service of the New Testament Church. To build hospitals, schools, etc, is good, but they are second to the reaching of souls for Jesus.
Their last works were more than at the first. It was a growing church and that is good. We should all work together to make our church grow so that our church can do more for the Lord.
(2) The Condemnation (verses 2 and 21) -- Jezebel was probably the preacher's wife or at least some woman in the church who was like Ahab's wife (I Kings 16:29-19:21; 21:1-29); II Kings 9:22-37; Jeremiah 4:30; Nahum 3:4) Several things about her are mentioned:
a. She was worldly.
b. She was out of place
(1) She probably tried to run the church. She was a seducer.
(2) She led in the church when she should have taken the place of a woman which the Bible says is to follow. Bossy women are an abomination to God.
She should not have been allowed to teach in this church because she mislead the people. This church was just too sweet to make the Devil mad.
This church went off into idolatry. This pictures the Catholic Church which began and fostered idolatrous and pagan practices along with Christian worship. They prayed to Mary and Saints, changed Bible doctrines by church decrees, and had mass said for the dead, instituted the doctrine of purgatory, indulgence, etc.
It is a terrible thing to get away from the doctrines of God's Word. God gave this church and has given the Catholic Church time to repent but neither have repented (verse 21).
C. The Consequences (verses 22-25) -- Verses 22 and 23 -- This church will go through the Great Tribulation Period after the Rapture and all of the churches also that have come out of her. Eg: THE REFORMATION CHURCHES
D. The Conqueror's Reward (verses 26-29) -- "Nations" means "Gentiles." Faithfulness will be rewarded, during the Millennium and also throughout eternity. Verse 27 -- Jesus will rule with a rod of iron during the Millennium. The Morning Star is Christ Himself (Revelation 22:16).
Both of these churches were commended and both were condemned. We should be constantly aware of the facts that Jesus knows all we do and think. One day we will stand before Him and give an account of our lives. Will He commend you? Condemn you? Or both? I just want commendation. How about you?
1. Where is Satan's throne?
2. What does the word Pergamos mean?
3. When did Christianity become the State religion?
4. What did Constantine believe about salvation?
5. What does Jesus use to correct His churches?
6. The High Priest of the Babylonianism Religion was called the _____________.
7. In what city was this High Priest's headquarters after they left Babylon?
8. What city is now the capital of the Babylonian Religion?
9. Who started the Babylonian Religion?
10. What was the church at Pergamos commended for?
11. What was it about them that the Lord did not like?
12. The essence of Balaamism is __________.
13. What is the doctrine of Nicolaitanes?
14. What does the word "Thyatira" mean?
15. What condemnation did the Lord level at Thyatira?
16. What did the Lord commend the church at Thyatira for?
17. What did the White Stone mean?