Now we will be looking at the next two chapters. Chapters 2 and 3 are the epistles to the seven churches. Both the Lord and the Spirit talk to the churches and all churches must heed the warnings to the others. The seven churches are separated into two groups. The first group is a group of 3 and the second group is a group of 4. Three represents the trinity of God and four represents the creatures of the earth. Separating the churches like this lets us know that God’s will is being completed and He is being added to the created man.
Church of Ephesus
The first church mentioned is the church of Ephesus. This church did good works and labored for the Lord. They persevered for His name. They even hated the work of the Nicolaitans like Jesus did. However, they fell away from Christ, their first love. I know this might seem like a side track but it’s important to know who the Nicolaitans are. Firstly, the Greek word is 2 words combined: conquer and common/secular people or laity. Therefore, it means conquer the common people. Nicolaitans are people who feel they are better than other believers. Roman Catholics and Protestants use this system. Love helps keep us in a proper relationship with the Lord. Repentance is needed for the church of Ephesus. We ALL need to turn back to Jesus and repent! Ephesus failed to heed Jesus, who made good on His words. The weed-covered desolation of Odeum, the smaller theater in Ephesus, symbolizes the state of Christianity today in Turkey, where Ephesus is located. Turkey, once the heart of Paul's ministry to Asia Minor, is 99% Muslim and devoid of Bible-based Christianity today.
Church of Smyrna
The next church is the one in Smyrna. The Greek word for Smyrna is myrrh. Myrrh signifies suffering; therefore Smyrna was a suffering church. It was under persecution of the Roman Empire from the first to fourth centuries. This church was poor in material but rich in the Lord. Those who claim to be Jews but are false slander against the church, just as those who say they are Christian but are not really. When he says they claim they are Jews means that they just label themselves as that but don’t live their life like a Jew. The church suffered persecution for 10 days. The number 10 signifies fullness and ten days signifies a full, yet brief period of time. It indicates the ten periods of persecution suffered under the Roman Empire from Nero to Constantine. The second death is that of the spirit when we are judged by God. This is one of only two churches to not be rebuked by Jesus in his letters to them.
Church of Pergamum
The third church is Pergamum. The Greek word means marriage and forfeited tower. This prefigures the church that entered a marriage with the world. Multitudes of unbelievers were baptized into the church which was considered a spiritual fornication to the Lord. Satan’s throne is the world. Although the church is on earth, where Satan rules, they remain loyal to Christ. Antipas means against all. Antipas is the Lord’s witness that stood against all that the worldly church practiced and helped Pergamum hold fast to the Lord’s name and true Christian faith. The word Greek word for martyr also means witness. Not only was Antipas a strong witness but he was also a martyr. Although the worldly church held fast to Christ's name, they distracted believers from enjoying everything Christ had to offer. Balaam was a Gentile prophet who, for money, enticed God’s people to sin. At this church, some people followed his teachings. There are also Nicolaitans at Pergamum. If the church doesn’t repent, they will be judged and condemned. The hidden manna is for those who overcome the worldly church. Pergamum was issued by the Roman Catholics, signified by Thyatira. In our human nature we are clay. But once we receive divine life, we are stones to help God’s building. The new name signifies a new life and a white stone signifies one who is pure and sinless, washed from sin.
Church of Thyatira
The fourth church is the church of Thyatira, the compromising church. Thyatira, in Greek, means sacrifice of perfume or unceasing sacrifice. Thyatira prefigures the Roman Catholic Church, formed as the apostate church (full of sacrifices) by establishing the universal papal system in the late sixth century. The church has love and faith in Christ but they don't stand firm. Jezebel, the woman mentioned here, was the pagan wife of Ahab. She is the same woman prophesied about in Matthew 13:33. She added leaven, signifying evil, into the flour, which represents the purity of Christ. She claims to be a prophetess just like the Roman Catholic Church appointed themselves as prophets. The Roman Catholic Church leads believers to fornication. Thyatira is incurably sick, hence the bed of suffering. This bed is meant for those who do not repent. In verse 23, when He says He will strike her children dead may refer to the destruction of the Church through the Antichrist and his followers (Revelation 17:16-17). Those who overcome this church will reign with God in the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4,6).
Church of Sardis
Now we move onto Chapter 3, the final three churches. The fifth church is the church of Sardis, which in Greek means the remainder or the restoration. This is the dying church. It prefigures the Protestant Church after the Reformation. This church hasn’t completed the works that they began for God. Everyone believes it is a strong church but in reality they are still spiritually dead. They had restored things during the Reformation like an open bible and justification by faith. The Protestant Church will be unaware of Christ’s coming because they have fallen. There are some left in this church who live accordingly and are pure so they will wear white, the color of purity and they will not be removed from the book of life so they will spend eternity in Heaven. He will defend them during judgment.
Church of Philadelphia
The next church is the church of Philadelphia. This is the church of brotherly love. Only through the Lord can the recovered church be separated from the world. This is the second church that God has not rebuked. He is pleased by them doing their best and staying true to the Lord. They don’t denominate themselves, therefore keeping Christ’s name. In 2 Corinthians 2:11 it says that the espoused church should have no other name besides her husband’s, which is Christ. They will be raptured before the Great Tribulation, which is signified by the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets, which include supernatural calamities of the sixth seal and the first four trumpets. They will be one with God. They need to stay firm in their faith so that their everlasting life in Heaven will not be taken from them.
Church of Laodicea
The final church is the church of Laodicea. Laodicea, in Greek, means judgment, of the people or of the laymen. It signifies the degraded recovered church. When 3:14 refers the Christ as the Amen, it is implying that Laodicea is not a firm witness of God. The degraded recovered church is boastful and spiritually blind. It needs to buy gold and jewels to be rich. He still loves them, that is why he is disciplining them.
We must take these warnings to the churches of Asia Minor and apply them to our own lives. We should be like the church of Smyrna and of Philadelphia. We should strive to be better. Many people have told me they don't read Revelation because it's scary but we can't look at it that way. We should be glad that John was given a vision while in captivity on the island of Patmos so that we may know the signs of the end and help prepare us for the Rapture. I hope you have learned something from this discussion and that you return in the future to understand the rest of Revelation.