The second and third chapters of Revelation consist of messages from Jesus to seven churches in seven cities of Asia Minor: the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Today we know a few things about these cities but essentially nothing about the churches that existed in them. Why did God inspire John to include messages to obscure first-century churches in the apocalyptic visions of Revelation that seem so relevant to us today?
An important clue is the fact that there are seven churches. In the Bible seven signifies completeness. In his first view of Jesus, John saw Him dressed as a high priest walking among seven lampstands; He told John that the seven lampstands are the seven churches. Jesus in His priestly majesty is not just present in seven ancient churches; He is present and active in the complete, universal church in all places and at all times. This suggests that the seven churches are symbols of the different phases or aspects of the universal church, encompasing the whole world through all of history. In this sense they are like all the other sets of seven in Revelation (seven seals, trumpets, thunders, seven last plagues) which are all universal and prophetic.
The book of Daniel is the Old Testament book most like the book of Revelation, and in fact Revelation unseals the sealed prophecies of Daniel. All of Daniel’s prophecies begin with an overview of the history that has most affected God’s followers, from the time of the prophet until the last days. With this in mind we can conclude that the seven churches trace the history of the universal church of God from the time John wrote Revelation until the time of the end. A careful study of the messages to the seven churches shows a remarkable correlation with the history of the Christian Church.
Those interested in church history will find these messages fascinating, and all Christians need to understand the universal importance of this first part of the Book of Revelation. The messages to the seven churches trace the attacks of Satan against God’s people and how the church has reacted. How did the church lose its first love? How did the “synagogue of Satan” invade the church? When did the church face a great tribulation for “ten days”? Who was “Antipas” and how did he resist the idolatry that was creeping into the Christian Church? What were the doctrines of the Nicolaitans and of Balaam that devastated the church? How did “Jezebel” seduce God’s servants? How did the church get to be almost “dead”? What was the “key of David” and the “open door” that God set before His people? And most importantly, how can we, the lukewarm church of the last days, escape from our “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” condition?
All of these questions and much more are explained in detail in the book “A Revelation of Jesus.” You can read it online; chapters 2 and 3 of the book give scriptural support and fill out the details of the messages to the seven churches. Click on the link “Book” at the top of this page to start at the beginning. Or you can order a hard or E copy (see the link “Order the Book” at the top of the page).