Revelation 2 and 3 contain seven miniature epistles written by Jesus Himself to seven churches that were evidently on the regular circuit or itinerary of the Apostle John as he went about his work in Asia Minor (Turkey). These letters are convicting and vital for today’s church. We can say three things about them:
- They were literal letters to seven literal churches.
- They are formula-istic. Each paragraph is addressed to the messenger of the church, includes a description of Christ taken from the vision in chapter 1, provides a commendation and/or correction , and ends with a promise or warning.
- They are perennial in application. In every age there are churches like the ones in Revelation 2 and 3; and in every church there are Christians who fit the descriptions of these churches.
1. Ephesus was the church that had lost its first love. (Aaron Pontius taught this passage last Sunday night)
2. Smyrna (35 miles north of Ephesus) was the church that was facing persecution. Some of the members were struggling with financial ruin because of their allegiance to Christ. Jesus commended them for their perseverance, told them their persecution would last only ten days (i.e., a short time), and promised them the crown of life.
3. Pergamum (20 miles inland from Smyrna) was the church with some immoral members. The congregation had remained true to the Lord despite the capture and execution of one of its leading members, a man named Antipas (about whom nothing else is known). They had stood for Christ despite living in a city wholly in the grip of Satan. But some members were “sleeping around.” They were following the error of Balaam (see Numbers 22-24, and especially Numbers 31:16). Some of the members were being influenced by a group called the Nicolaitans, about whom little is known except they probably advocated an immoral lifestyle. The Lord warned these members to repent. Those who remained true to Him would eat of the hidden manna (compare John 6:48-51—personal nourishment of the soul by ministry of Jesus) and would receive a white stone with their names on it (a sign of acquittal in the ancient courts).
Takeaways: Stay in love with Jesus (Ephesus); don’t be afraid of opposition for your faith or intimidated when you live in a place dominated by Satan (Smyrna); and keep yourself sexually pure (Pergamum).