LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES OF ASIA.
1. The record does not tell why messages were sent to just seven churches, nor why sent to the seven named.
2. Considering the many times the number seven is used in the Bible, the view that it indicates completeness or perfection appears certainly correct.
A. If so, these churches were doubtless selected because they furnished the occasion for just the amount of instruction, exhortation, and warning necessary in completing the divine record.
3. These were seven congregations of the Lord's people.
A. They were churches of Christ meeting in different cities in Asia.
4. No doubt John had associated with each one of these churches during his lifetime directly or indirectly.
5. The Book of Revelation is the most Jewish of all books in the New Testament.
A. It was written by a Jew, who seemingly was steeped in the background of Jewish culture and life.
B. In the 404 verses of the Book, there are 400 allusions to or from some Old Testament book.
1) So, the Old Testament, and a knowledge of its teaching, have great bearing on the Book of Revelation.
I. EPHESUS: At the time John wrote, Ephesus was the chief city of Asia Minor.
A. It was noted for magical arts and the temple of the heathen goddess Diana or Artemus. Acts 19:19,35.
1. This temple was 425 feet long. 220 feet wide. 60 feet high. The top was supported by 127 marble columns 60 feet tall.
B. Paul was mainly responsible for the establishment of congregation there, having labored for them two years and three months at one time which resulted in the gospel being preached in all of Asia. Acts 19:;8-10.
1. Later, Paul wrote to them the Ephesian Letter. Note: Acts 20:28-32.
C. Jesus is here set forth as walking among the churches and holding the things that they should teach and obey in his hand. Read Rev. 2:1-7.
1. The teachers of the churches were subject to Him.
D. The thoughts and intents of the heart were known by Christ, along with the works that they performed or failed to perform.
1. "And because he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man." Jno. 2:25.
E. They, at Ephesus, tried the evil men and found them false. 1. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world." "We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." 1 Jno. 4:1,6. 2. Paul mentioned false teachers that would arise after his departure. Acts 20:29,30 3. John had instructed concerning receiving false teachers. 2 Jno. 9-11. 4. Paul refers to false prophets at Corinth as deceitful workers. 2 Cor. 11:13-15. F. They had borne up under false teachers and burdens and had patiently maintained their faith. G. But they had left their first love. To love God is to keep His commandments. 1 Jno. 2:4,5. 1. The first love mentioned in vs. 4, is the same as first works mentioned in vs. 5. 2. They were to repent and do the things that they started out to do. 3. If they did not, the church would finally be destroyed because of sin within it. H. They hated the idolatrous and lascivious Nicolaitans, which God also hated. I. In every case, those that had a mind to do God's will and to listen to His commands certainly had opportunity to do so. J. To the one that overcame would be given the pleasures of eating from the tree of life in the Paradise of God. 1. This tree was mentioned in Gen. 2:9; 3:22 as being in the Garden of Eden, and again represented as the tree of life in heaven. Rev. 22:;1-5. 2. Paradise is said to be a Persian word that means a park or pleasure ground; hence, can appropriately be applied to any place especially prepared for enjoy- ment. 3. In Lk. 23:43, It refers to the intermediate state of the dead. a. Especially the blissful portion, that portion where Lazarus went as recorded in Lk. 16:19-31. II. SMYRNA: Smyrna was a populous city about forty miles north of Ephesus. A. Having a fine harbor, it became a great commercial city. 1. It was noted both for its educational facilities adn the worship of idols. 2. It was the home of Polycarp, who personally knew the apostle John for many years and was martyred after he had served the Lord eighty-six years. 3. Read Rev. 2:8-11. B. Tribulation carries with it the general idea of affliction or distress. C. The mention of poverty indicates that they were especially poverty-stricken since that is not said of the other churches addressed. 1. But in spite of it the Smyrna church continued to exist long after all the others were gone. 2. Though poor in material goods, they were rich toward God and in faith, and as a consequence, were "heirs of the kingdom which He promised to them that love Him. Jas. 2:5. 3. This was because they were "rich in good works." 1 Tim. 6:17-19. D. It was not enough to say I am a Jew, but one had to obey and be one from the heart. Rom. 2:28,29. E. They were not to fear the things that they would suffer. 1. Satan was going to persecute them through his workers. 2. This imprisonment would be a test of their fortitude and fidelity to God. F. They were to be faithful unto death. 1. Death does not mean throughout their natural existence till death, although that was also necessary, Matt. 24:13, but up to the endurance of death, if necessary; that is, even death should not move them from their steadfastness. 2. The garland of victory, here called "the crown of life," is elsewhere called "the crown of righteousness" 2 Tim. 4:8, "the crown of glory" 1 Pet. 5:4, an "incorrup- tible" crown 1 Cor. 9:24. G. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. 1. The second death is the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. Rev. 20:14. 2. Since a Christian may fail to overcome, a Christian may be lost. a. This is the unmistakable import of the words, and absolute proof that Christians may so apostatize as to be lost finally and eternally. III. PERGAMUM: Pergamum was 50 miles north of Smyrna. Read Rev. 2:12-17. A. This church is told that the letter came from the one who had the sharp two-edged sword. 1. In the vision, 1:16, John saw this sword proceed out of Christ's mouth. 2. The word of God is called a sword. Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Isa. 49:2; Hos. 6:5; 2 Thes. 2:8. B. They were dwelling in the midst of a wicked place. 1. But they held fast the name of Christ. Even to death. 2. We are to suffer as "Christians". 1 Pet.4:16. C. Some of them held to teaching of Balaam. 1. He loved the hire of wrong doing. 2 Pet. 2:15,16. 2. Some also held the teaching of the Nicolaitans. D. They that overcome would be fed by hidden manna, receive a white stone with his name written thereon. 1. Leaving off the figurative language, it means that joys in heaven will satisfy our eternal wants as bread satisfies hunger. IV. THYATIRA: The three cities already mentioned were near the seacoast; Thyatira was some distance inland and about midway between Pergamum and Sardis, about 90 miles NE of Ephesus. A. In the Bible, Thyatira is specially known as the home of Lydia whom Paul convert- ed in Philippi. Acts 16:13-15. B. Their works were known, love, faith, ministry, and patience. Read Rev. 2:18-29. 1. Also they had increase in their work to the end that thier last works were more than their first. 2. Love to both God and man is always manifested by obedience and service. 3. Faith means not only that they had maintained their confidence in Jesus, but that they had been fruitful in His service. 4. Ministry would include religious as well as moral duties. 5. Patience means that they had borne every trial of thier faith with fidelity to Christ and the church. C. They allowed Jezebel to teach and seduce them in fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. 1. One wicked woman named Jezebel was King Ahab's wife. 1 Kgs. 16:29-33. 2. This woman here led a faction, claiming to be a prophetess of God or to teach according to divine authority. 3. She had plenty of time to repent and would not. 4. The fornication and adultery that she was teaching and committing could either be spiritual or physical. Jer. 3:9. 5. Those that followed after her were considered as her children. a. Those that were influenced by her practice. Jno. 8:44; Isa. 57:3-13. 6. All of her followers would receive according to their works. Matt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:13. D. Those that are addressed as the rest that are at Thyatira mean those who had not accepted the doctrines and practices of the heretical party. E. In Smyrna there was a "synagogue of Satan" 2:9; In Pergamum Satan's dwelling place 2:13; Here in Thyatira, the depths of Satan. 2:24. 1. All this means that wickedness in all places may be in some sense attributed to Satan. F. Those that overcome and keep the works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations. 1. Jesus rules in the absolute sense, being the Author of the law; His apostles rule as ambassadors through whom the law was delivered. 2 Cor. 5:18-20. 2. All faithful Christians rule in a secondary sense by being examples of the applicat- ion of the law. Rom. 5:17. 3. By such faithfulness Christians condemn the world as did Noah in building the ark Heb. 11:;7; or like Abel, who though dead, "yet speaketh" Heb. 11:4; only in this sense may faithful Christians be said to rule over the nations. G. Since Christians rule in a secondary sense under Christ, they rule during the same period He does -- throughout the Christian dispensation. 1. The expression "as I also have received of my Father" means that they received their authority to rule from Christ just as He received His from the Father. Lk. 22: 29 proves the former; Psa. 2:;6 proves the latter. 2. I will give him the morning star. Christ refers to Himself as the morngin star. Rev. 22:16. V. SARDIS: Sardis was the capital of Lydia, a province of Asia Minor. It was situat- ed inland a considerable distance northeast of Ephesus. Read Rev. 3:1-6. A. Jesus is represented as having the seven Spirits. 1. This is a particularly proper way to present Christ; for the word seven indicates fulness and He is said to possess the Spirit without measure. Jno. 3:34. 2. Since Christ promised to send the Spirit Jno. 15:26, and the Spirit was to reveal the things of Christ, there was double assurance here that the revelation to this church would be correct. B. Living yet dead. To have a name to live means that they were nominal Christians, in name only. 1. They professed to be living the Christian life, but were in fact spiritually dead. 1 Tim. 5:6; Eph. 5:14. C. No works had been perfected or completed. 1. That is, their workds had not been made complete, or carried out fully, in the divine estimate of things. 2. They were self-satisfied, but God was displeased. D. Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent. 1. This church is not charged with tolerating any wicked doctrines, as in the cases of Ephesus and Thyatira, but rather with slowly dying from loss of interest in what was accepted. E. They were to watch, for they knew not when the Lord would come. 1. The coming of the Lord sometimes means His personal coming at the end of the world. 1 Thes. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10. 2. But in this case it evidently has the same meaning as in Rev. 2:5,16, a sudden judgment sent upon them for their sins. F. There were a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy. 1. A few names means that there were few members of the church who had not followed the majority off into carelessness adn sin, figuratively represented as not soiling their garments. 2. When they obeyed the gospel they were considered as having made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb Rev. 7:14, that is, they had been purified from sin and made righteous. G. They that overcome were to be robed in white and not have their name blotted out of the book of life and be confessed before the Father. VI. PHILADELPHIA: Philadelphia was located almost directly on a line between Sardis and Laodicea. Read Rev. 3:7-13. A. That Christ had to be David's son is certain from both Old and New Testament teaching. Isa. 9:7; Lk. 1:30-33. B. They were known and they had little power. 1. The words "thou hast a little power" may mean that the Lord noted their weakness poverty, and few members. 2. But in spite of such drawbacks they are complimented as resisting temptations to the extent that they had kept God's word and had not denied their faith in Christ. C. Those of Satan that were called Jews would see the power of God through the church at Philadelphia. D. They would be kept in the hour of trial. 1. His promise to keep them in the hour of trial did not mean that they would be un- conditionally protected, or that they would be allowed to escape all trials. 2. It rather means that through His favors and their fidelity they would be able to meet successfully all trials. E. The whole world could refer to the Roman Empire or the then inhabited earth. F. He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more. 1. The reference here seems to be to heaven, for the overcomer is to "go out thence no more." G. As the name of conspicuous persons might be written on pillars of temples, so the name of God is represented as being written on one who overcomes. He would be known as one belonging to the city of God. VII. LAODICEA: Laodicea was located east of Ephesus, near Colosse. Read Rev. 3:14-22. A. Since the church at Laodicea was "Lukewarm", it was appropriate for Christ to refer to Himself as "the faithful and true witness." B. Neither Hot nor Cold, but Lukewarm. 1. For the church at Philadelphia the Lord had only praise; for the Laodiceans, only censure. 2. In describing their spiritual condition He uses three terms, cold, hot, and lukewarm. 3. He declares that they were neither cold nor hot, and expressed the wish that they were one or the other. 4. The comparison here is based upon water at different degrees of temperature. a. Either hot or cold it is palatable; being neither, but lukewarm, it is nauseating. 5. So the condition of the Laodiceans spiritually was deeply offensive to God. C. They said they were rich and had need of nothing. 1. Those rich in material goods usually are unduly self- confident; those who are cold and unconcerned in spiritual things consider that they have enough and do not need anything. Both are self-deceived. D. But they were actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. 1. The saddest thing about the lukewarm Christian is that he does not realize his true condition and the fatal results that will finally come to him. 2. If he did, he would not remain lukewarm. E. They were told to get gold, white garments adn eye-salve. 1. The worth of true Christianity could not be better expressed than by refined gold. 2. White garments are said to be the righteousness and acts of the saints. Rev. 19:8 3. We clothe the body for both protection and decency. 4. Righteousness protects the soul against sin and prevents the shameful inconsist- ency of professing one thing and practicing something else. 5. Eye-salve would suggest that they carefully consider God's word, applying its teaching to themselves, til they could fully see their pitiable and sinful condition. F. As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent. 1. Note: Heb. 12:5-13. G. "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and opens the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me." 1. Association at a meal has always indicated friendship. 2. Lukewarm saints renew their spiritual strength when they invite the Lord to become their guest. H. "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne." 1. Eph. 1:19-23; Heb. 8:;1; Jno. 18:36; Phil. 2:7-11; 2 Pet. 1:4. 2. He tht would be mindgul to hear, let him tune his ear to the truth of God's word. CONCLUSION: 1. The language of these letters clearly indicates the individual and personal responsibility of man to God. 2. Each congregation received its praise or rebuke, or both, just as its own case required. 3. Even the distinct classes in each congregation were pointed out and held to account for their peculiar sins. 4. The principles that "God is no respector of persons" Acts 10:34, and that "each one of us shall give account of himself to God" rom. 14:;12, are verified in these letters in a most unmistakable manner. 5. Each letter closes with one or more promises on the condition that the individual "overcomes." 6. In order that the full force of this argument on the possibility of apostasy may appear the rewards that may be lost by failing to overcome are not stated: A. Privilege to "eat of the tree of life" which is in the Paradise of God. 2:;7. B. To receive a "crown of life" and not be "hurt of the second death." 2:1011. C. To receive the "hidden manna," "White stone," and "new name." 2:17. D. To receive authority to rule the nations. 2:26,27. E. To be "arrayed in white garments," not have name blotted "out of the book of life" and be confessed before God and angels. 3:5. F. To be made a "pillar in the temple of my God" and have the names of God and Christ written upon him. 3:12. G. To be allowed to sit with Christ in His throne. 3:21. As all of these may be lost, how much more would one have to lose to be eternally lost? The answer is, nothing. By Jim Sasser
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