Sunday Service Times: 10:30 AM & 5:30 PM

X Close Menu

The Seven Churches of Revelation [Dr. Vern Poythress Quote]

Below is an excerpt from Dr. Vern Poythress' book, The Returning King: A guide to the Book of Revelation.  I highly recommend it.  
You can read it free by clicking here

  

The Messages to the Seven Churches, 2:1-3:22:

Christ shows care for the churches by addressing each one according to its needs, with encouragement, rebuke, exhortation, and promise. He shows detailed knowledge of their condition (“I know”). Each of the messages contain allusions to circumstances or traditions of the city, some of which we are doubtless still unaware of. At the same time, all the churches are caught up in a universal calling to faithfulness and endurance until the promises reach their fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem. Their struggles contrast with the peace and satisfaction pictured in 21:1-22:5. The exhortations are reinforced in all but one case (Laodicea) by an opening allusion to some element of the majestic vision of 1:12-20. The exhortations therefore have universal bearing.

Moreover, the churches in view number exactly seven, the symbolic number of completeness. They stand for all the churches of that time and ours. In fact, the triumphs and failures and struggles of these churches are a kind of miniature catalogue of the sorts of things that we can expect to find in other churches throughout history. (But some interpreters have erroneously assigned the seven churches to seven successive ages of church history in order, a procedure for which Revelation gives no warrant.) According to God’s point of view, not all churches are equally healthy. Their faithfulness or laziness or complacency or tolerance of false doctrine are important to him, and make a difference both in how they should respond and how they are judged. We likewise need Christ-like discernment, illumined by the Spirit and by these examples, if we are to evaluate our own church situation accurately and respond faithfully.

Each message has the same basic form:

1. Addressee: “to the angel of the church in … write.”

2. Identification of Christ, alluding back to his majesty displayed in 1:12-20: “These are the words of ….”

3. Claim of knowledge: “I know.”

4. Evaluation: rebukes and/or commendations.

5. Promise or threat: usually “I will ….”

6. Promise to “him who overcomes.”

7. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Elements 6 and 7 can occur in reverse order, and element 5 can occur mixed in with element 4.

Each message in also distinctive, corresponding to the distinctive character and circumstances of the churches. We may summarize the differences in the following table.

The Seven Churches

Church

Character of
Christ

Strength

Problem

Duty

Promise

Ephesus

authority

doctrinal zeal

lost love

repent

tree of life

Smyrna

giving life

spiritually
rich

 

suffer for
Christ

Freedom from
death

Pergamum

warrior
against sin

holding fast

false teaching,

immorality

repent

Spiritual
significance

Thyatira

searching
heart

love, service

false teaching,

immorality
(Jezebel)

repudiate

Jezebel

rule over
nations

Sardis

source of
Spirit

a few
faithful saints

spiritually
dead

awake!

White robe
(honor)

Philadelphia

opening door

keeping the
word

little
strength

continue

Secure
dwelling

Laodicea

true witness

 

worthless

admit need;
receive from Christ

Fellowship

Who are the “angels” of the churches? The underlying Greek word can mean simply messenger. So some people have seen here messengers who physically carried the document and delivered it to the churches. Others have seen here the pastors of the churches, in their capacity as message bearers of God. But the visionary context of the Book of Revelation indicates that Revelation has actual angels in view. Specific angels have evidently been given responsibility with respect to specific churches, in a manner analogy to the attachment of heavenly “princes” to specific nations in Daniel 10:12-11:1. God’s heavenly presence is the power-center for the entire universe. The heavenly and earthly realms therefore interlock, and situations and processes in heaven have correspondences in mysterious fashion to processes on earth. Thus the same messages go both to heavenly angels and corresponding church in earthly locations.