“Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book (the Book of Revelation), and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus (#1), and unto Smyrna (#2), and unto Pergamos (#3), and unto Thyatira (#4), and unto Sardis (#5), and unto Philadelphia (#6), and unto Laodicea (#7).”
When the apostle John was imprisoned around 95 A.D. on the Greek isle of Patmos for “…the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ”, he had a visit from Jesus Himself! The result of what he saw and what he was told by Jesus comprises the entire Book of Revelation, the most prophetic and very last book of the Holy Bible. Everything recorded here was to inform all of what was yet to come. As Jesus instructed John in Revelation 1:19, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are , AND THE THINGS WHICH SHALL BE HEREAFTER:…” (capitals mine).
John, as he was told, then proceeded to write to each of the seven churches he had personally ministered to (located today in the area of Western Turkey) over his years preaching the Holy Gospel as instructed directly by Jesus. These were seven very real churches still in existence at the time John wrote the Book of Revelation but many Biblical scholars also believe they collectively represent the various stages of the entire 2,000 year history of the Church Age, also known as the time of the Gentiles. Every church was different than the others and progressively have brought us to the state we are in today. So, without further adieu, let me list those seven churches as John did, with each of the strengths and weaknesses Jesus gave John to tell those churches:
- Church of Ephesus, which means Desirable (Revelation 2:1-7) – Ephesus was characterized as having faith and patience with their knowledge of the Bible, but unfortunately they also had strayed from their initial love of Christ as he said, “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
- Church of Smyrna, which means Myrrh (Revelation 2:8-11) – Smyrna had much martyrdom, poverty and persecution and were told by Jesus to continue to have faith, even in the middle of their trials and tribulations, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
- Church of Pergamos, which means Height or Elevation of Power (Revelation 2:12-17) – Pergamos, set themselves up to be closely aligned with the world and to gain much growth outside of the church, but in doing so, also held to many false doctrines.
- Church of Thyatira, which means Sweet smell, sacrifice of labor (Revelation 2:18-29) – Thyatira started moving away from what Jesus taught and had false teachers who taught non-Biblical doctrine. As Jesus said “…I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.”
- Church of Sardis, which means Prince of Joy (Revelation 3:1-6) – Sardis was marked by ritualism and whose faith was dying. The rebuke Jesus gave her was “…I know thy works, and that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”
- Church of Philadelphia, which means Brotherly love (Revelation 3:7-13) – Philadelphia seemed to go back to the church’s roots with a zeal for Evangelism and world missions to bring the Word of God to all. They were told by Jesus, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world…”
- Church of Laodicea, which means Laypeople (Revelation 3:14-22) – This church received one of the harshest criticisms when Jesus said they basically had lost their motivation “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayeth, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing…”
After each of these warnings to the churches John writes “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;…” These were seven churches in existence at the time John wrote the Book of Revelation. As mentioned, there are many who also believe the differences of their strengths, weaknesses and warnings John wrote about correspond to the history of the church over the past 2,000 years. A rough timetable of the way these churches, with their ups and downs, corresponds very close to the history of the Christian church and is well documented in Tim LaHaye’s Prophecy Study Bible:
- Ephesus – 100 A.D. aka the Apostolic/Pentecostal Church (the church that started after the Resurrection of Christ)
- Smyrna – 100 – 316 A.D. aka the Persecuted Church (as Christianity grew, they were persecuted for their faith)
- Pergamos – 316 – 800 A.D. aka the World Church (Christianity spread throughout the world)
- Thyatira – 800 – 1517 A.D. aka the Medieval Church (rise of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages)
- Sardis – 1517 – 1750 A.D. aka the Rise of the State Church (period when church and state became interwoven and ritual usurped belief)
- Philadelphia – 1750 – 1900 A.D. aka the Missionary Church (Word of God is spread throughout the world as more and more accepted Christ)
- Laodicea 1900 – ??? A.D. aka the Apostate Church (enthusiasm for Christ wanes as church goers attend but enthusiasm for Word of God declines). Does this sound like today or what?
Amazingly, if you do a word search of the Bible you will see the word “church” appears 111 times, but it appears only once AFTER John writes Jesus’s admonitions to the churches! That appears in the very last chapter of the Bible when Jesus says in Revelation 22:16 , “I Jesus have sent mine angels to testify unto you these things in the churches, I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Why is this? Simple! At the End of the Church Age, Jesus comes back at the Rapture and will snatch all living believers (“and the dead in Christ…” first) to join Him in the clouds and to be with Him forever. After Revelation 4:1 the vast, overwhelming story in the Book of Revelation are the things yet to come to earth AFTER the Rapture, i.e., the Tribulation; rise of the antichrist; global wars; earthquakes, pestilence, famines, etc.; and, the Second Coming of Christ at Armageddon.
If you will, compare the two Scriptures where we are first advised about the Rapture of the Believers and then what happened to John AFTER he wrote Jesus’s admonitions to the churches. Remember, after the Rapture and for the remainder of the Book of Revelation the church is NOT mentioned (because they are no longer on the earth) again until the very last chapter of the Bible:
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Now compare that to what happened to John upon completing his Jesus-inspired words to the churches (and the end of the Church Age?) in Revelation 4:1:
“After this (meaning his message to the last church of Laodicea) I looked, and behold a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”
Sound like maybe John experienced a preview of what we will at the Rapture? A loud command? A trumpet? I personally believe we will NOT be asked by Jesus if we are Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, etc. Rather, we will be saved exclusively based on our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior and by asking Him to forgive our sins. When Jesus, through John, spoke to the churches he told them what they were doing right and wrong. I don’t know about you but the TWO churches that seemed to have His favor were the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia because they seemed the most centered on what Jesus has asked and expects of His followers. I would love for you to respond to me and let me know which church(s) you think Jesus likes the most! That is the church to which we should ALL belong!
Whatever your response, Jesus has made it clear to us what we must do to gain entry into Heaven forever! Believe He died for our sins and ask Him for forgiveness. That alone is the most comforting thing I can offer and I hope you continue to “…comfort one another with these words” as we are ALL expected and told to do. Please continue to Share/Like this on Facebook and/or LinkedIn and forward your subscriber email to your friends and family. May God continue to Bless You!