Jesus' Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation

Ideas for this web page were developed in concert with a Bible class at the Dover church of Christ in Dover, Arkansas, during the fall of 2019. The ideas expressed here may be those of Dr. Roper, of class teacher Sid T. Womack, or of class members.

The Revelation through John to the seven churches of Asia pose some relevant questions. Is "seven" one of those symbolic numbers invoked in apocalyptic writings? If so, do these letters represent seven typical profiles of strengths and weaknesses of the entire brotherhood of churches near the end of the first century? And do these depictions of the seven churches of Asia represent where the churches of Christ are today? If so, what can we learn from these seven letters?

Even the first-time reader sees the letter to Laodecia and says"I wouldn't want to worship at a church like that!" And most would look at the letter to Philadelphia and say "That's where I want to go to church!"

We wanted to learn as much as we could about these seven churches, realizing all along that the Revelation has much symbolic languge in it and has places where exact meanings can be tedious. We designed the following speadsheet:


Church Letter contains a threat? Condemnation for church? Condemnation for individuals Remedy or remedies given? Commendation(s) for church or individuals?
1. Ephesus Rev. 2: 1-7

1. Verse 5--"Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent. "



1. They had left the love they had at first. verse 4

The group condemnation could have come about in at least two ways: An obvious group decision which was not wise, or by tacit agreement by individual members.

1. None mentioned. 1.Repent (verse 5) and do the first works.

1. Verse2, 3, --"I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them which call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;
Rev 2:3 and thou hast patience and didst bear for my name's sake, and hast not grown weary."

v. 6--"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. "




2. Smyrna. Rev. 2: 8-11

2. None



2. None 2.None 2. Encouragement rather than remedies. Verse 10: "Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life."

2. v. 11--"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."





3. Pergamum. Rev. 2: 12-17

3. Rev. 2: 12--"And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write; These things saith he that hath the sharp two–edged sword:

Another passage that speaks of a two-edged sword is Hebrews 4: 12-- "For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two–edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. "



3. The church there as a whole seemed to be struggling, perhaps failing, but with individuals who were holding fast.


3. "Some" of verses 14 and 15. 3. Verse 16--"Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. " Condemnation plus a threat.

3. Verse 13--"and thou holdest fast my name, and didst not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth. "





4. Thyatira. Rev. 2: 18-29

4. Rev 2:23 "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works. "


4. Rev. 2: 20. The church as a whole was not standing up to the woman who was characterized by the name Jezebel (beginning with I Kings 16: 31). 4.Not for the individuals who did not succumb to the teachings of Jezebel. 4.Rev 2:24 But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, which know not the deep things of Satan, as they say; I cast upon you none other burden.
Rev 2:25 Howbeit that which ye have, hold fast till I come.

4. "Hold fast what you have" verse 25. Evidently what they were holding was sufficient.





5. Sardis. Rev. 3: 1-6

5. Verse 1--"...thou are dead."



5. "...for I have found no works of thine fulfilled before my God." Rev. 3: 2
5. Rev 3:4 "But thou hast a few names in Sardis which did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy."
5. Rev 3:3 "Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear; and keep it, and repent."

5. Rev 3:4 But thou hast a few names in Sardis which did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy. Rev 3:5 He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.





6. Philadelphia. Rev. 3: 7- 13

6. No



6. No 6.No 6. Rev 3:11 I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.
Rev 3:12 He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and mine own new name.

6. Rev 3:10 Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.





7. Laodecia. Rev. 3: 14- 22


7. Rev 3:16 So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.



7. Yes. Verses 15-17.

7. There is no distinction in this passage between the entire church and its individuals. Whether they beame lukewarm collectively or as individuals did not matter. 7. Rev 3:19 As many as I love, I reprove and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

7. No commendations for the church or its individuals. Jesus does hold out hope: Rev 3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. "






Churches with no threats or remediations:

Smyrna and Philadelphia. Two of the seven.



Churches with major work to do to become acceptable again: Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis.

Church with very limited hope: Laodecia.

Lukewarmness is the saddest state of all!



We filled it out as class went on. We wanted to share the results of our study.

Some other questions: Is it possible for a scripturally baptized individual to go to Heaven while attending a congregation that has some of the doctrinal problems that were in churches such as Ephesus, Pregamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodecia? It appears so. Christians who are strong in the faith can help congregations that are trying to find the truth or are trying to return to it. It could it be that the very worst time to leave such a church is when it is having deep-seated problems. Be careful of "pulling the plug" or "jumping ship" too soon.

How far do we go in trying to straighten out a problem situation? When is it time for the strong Christian to leave? There are examples both ways in the Old and New Testament.

Lot in Genesis 19 was told to leave Sodom. It is easy to infer from the text of Genesis 19 that Lot had become so accustomed to the sinful ways of Sodom that it was hard for him to leave, and that his sons-in-law could not even be helped to see that there was a problem (Genesis 19:14). The verse also indicates that Lot had not been very successful in leading the people of Sodom to repent, if he could not even convince his sons in law to leave, even after the miracle that had happened at Lot's front door.

By contrast, Jonah was sent to preach to the very idolatrous people of Ninevah. In Jonah's estimation, Assyria's situation (capital city of Ninevah) was "water over the dam." God knew differently, and insisted that Jonah preach to the people. They repented in sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3: 6-10).

In the New Testament, we are reminded to exercise realistic judgment about how long to persist in correcting wrongs that persist. We become accomplices in false teaching if we befriend and give aid to false teachers (2 John 9-11"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works.") We should not endlessly expend our efforts on false teachers who insist on their way when scriptural evidence has been plainly shown to them (Titus 3: 10-11 --"A man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self–condemned.") Jesus told His disciples to shake the dust off their feet to the people who heard His message proclaimed and refused to respond to it (Luke 10: 11, 12).

Will judgement be by groups (churches) or individually? We will appear individually before the throne of God to be judged. 2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all be made manifest before the judgment–seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The depictions of the judgment scene in Matthew 25 show individuals coming before Jesus and the holy angels to be judged. However, how we have chosen a congregation to work with and how loyally we have helped that church will be on the test.

Acknowledgement is given to Dr. David L. Roper's fine book Truth for Today Commentary: An Exegesis & Application of the Holy Scriptures: Revelation 1-11, published in 2002 in Searcy, Arkansas.

To return to the Sermons index page, click on the doorway.