The Messages of Jesus to the Churches

Introduction

Jesus sent seven messages to seven of the churches and these are recorded in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. Although they were sent to specific churches at particular times their applicability is universal and timeless. Each of the messages follow a similar format.


Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7

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To and From:
"To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write: "He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks amongst the seven golden lamp stands says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
"I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can't tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. You have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake, and have not grown weary. But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
Criticised for:
But I have this against you, that you left your first love.
Correction needed:
Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works;
Principle of Church life:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Result if no corrective action taken:
or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent.
Promise:
To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.

Text and Comment

"To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus write: "He who holds the seven stars in his right hand, he who walks amongst the seven golden lamp stands says these things: "I know your works, and your toil and perseverance, and that you can't tolerate evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and found them false. You have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.

Here in Ephesus we seem to have a church which is engaged in many good works and is adhering to the Christian faith and doctrine and correctly testing and rejecting any false teachings. The commendation is considerable; persistence in working, refusing to have any fellowship with evil including the false teachings of the Nicolaitans (see also Pergamum). However their failing, perhaps unnoticed by most, is evident to the Lord and it is that they have left their first love. This suggests that their problem was in the area of their relationship with the Lord. No longer was Jesus the central object of their love, devotion, loyalty and thankfulness. Perhaps this was affecting their worship and their obedience and perhaps they had lost sight of the joy of the gospel. It is the picture of a church toiling but not rejoicing. Jesus wants their love back and no amount of toil can replace this so they are commanded to repent and return to the love which they had at the start. Unless this happens the Lord warns that the church will fade to nothing: "the lamp stand will be gone".


Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11

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To and From:
"To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: "The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
"I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days.
Criticised for:
---
Correction needed:
---
Principle of Church life:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Result if no corrective action taken:
---
Promise:
Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Text and Comment

"To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: "The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things: "I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He who overcomes won't be harmed by the second death.

Here in Smyrna we seem to have a church in the midst of significant oppression and persecution. Our Lord's approval of the church is apparent in that he has no complaint against them. So severe is the opposition against this church that the conditions in which they find themselves are described as a "synagogue of Satan". Firstly, we see that the Lord knows about the suffering of this church. He not only sees it but of course has also experienced it himself. Secondly, we see that the Lord offers no solution, no action plan, to their problems other than himself and his opinion: I am the first and the last and I consider you rich. Here is a faithful church and a lesson for all who suffer for the name and sake of Jesus.


Pergamum Revelation 2:12-17

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To and From:
"To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write: "He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
"I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. You hold firmly to my name, and didn't deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed amongst you, where Satan dwells.
Criticised for:
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise.
Correction needed:
Repent therefore
Principle of Church life:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Result if no corrective action taken:
or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
Promise:
To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.

Text and Comment

"To the angel of the assembly in Pergamum write: "He who has the sharp two-edged sword says these things: "I know your works and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. You hold firmly to my name, and didn't deny my faith in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed amongst you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans likewise. Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes, to him I will give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he who receives it.

Here in Pergamum we seem to have a church in the midst of some difficulty, generally holding firm to the faith but having weakness which is described as the teaching of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. In Smyrna the conditions were described as a "synagogue of Satan"; here it is a "throne of Satan", suggesting opposition is from different direction: perhaps not from 'religious' quarters but from 'worldly' quarters. In some area the church lacked discipline and was tolerating false views. It would appear that the church was holding to some false doctrine in order to excuse or justify some conduct that was wrong. In summary then it appears that this church did not deny any aspect of the Christian faith, but some were adding or over emphasising something that gave some licence to hold onto certain sins and the church was not dealing with this error. The correction is repentance and the Word of God, evident from the picture of the sword and the manna; the word of truth and the bread of life.


Thyatira Revelation 2:18-29

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To and From:
"To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write: "The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
"I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first.
Criticised for:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality.
Correction needed:
But others of you in Thyatira have not followed her teaching. You have not learned the things they call "Satan's deep secrets." This is what I say to you: I will not put any other burden on you. Only hold on to the truth you have until I come.
Principle of Church life:
Everyone who hears this should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
Result if no corrective action taken:
Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works. I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don't have this teaching, who don't know what some call 'the deep things of Satan,' to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you.
Promise:
He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father: and I will give him the morning star.

Text and Comment

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"To the angel of the assembly in Thyatira write: "The Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass, says these things: "I know your works, your love, faith, service, patient endurance, and that your last works are more than the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate your woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. She teaches and seduces my servants to commit sexual immorality, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great oppression, unless they repent of her works. I will kill her children with Death, and all the assemblies will know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts. I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But to you I say, to the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as don't have this teaching, who don't know what some call 'the deep things of Satan,' to you I say, I am not putting any other burden on you. Nevertheless, hold that which you have firmly until I come. He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father: and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

Here in Thyatira we have a church which is increasing in many good works; love, faith, service, patient endurance. But there is a complaint and it is described in terms of the toleration of Jezebel teaching evil practices. In claiming to be a prophetess, this Jezebel was claiming an inspiration and a new revelation not taught by the apostles. Whatever was the particular nature of the teaching its result appears to be the toleration of worldliness and practices which were in conflict with the teaching of Jesus and the apostles; it was causing the church to commit spiritual adultery and look away from Christ. The doom of Jezebel and her followers is clear: unless they repent, the Lord will kill them. Those resisting the teaching of Jezebel are instructed to hold firm. To those that overcome is given the promise of vindication and a share in the authority of Jesus and his light.


Sardis Revelation 3:1-6

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To and From:
"And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis write: "He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
Nevertheless you have a few names in Sardis that didn't defile their garments. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
Commendation and Encouragement:
Wake up, and keep the things that remain, which you were about to throw away, for I have found no works of yours perfected before my God.
Correction needed:
Keep it and repent. If therefore you won't watch, I will come as a thief, and you won't know what hour I will come upon you.
Principle of Church life:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Result if no corrective action taken:
I will come to you and surprise you like a thief. You will not know when I will come. But you have a few people in your group there in Sardis who have kept themselves clean. They will walk with me. They will wear white clothes, because they are worthy.
Promise:
He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Text and Comment

"And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis write: "He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars says these things: "I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and keep the things that remain, which you were about to throw away, for I have found no works of yours perfected before my God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it and repent. If therefore you won't watch, I will come as a thief, and you won't know what hour I will come upon you. Nevertheless you have a few names in Sardis that didn't defile their garments. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.

Here in Sardis we have a church which appears to have declined from a faithful and promising start to a condition where it might be described even as mostly "dead". They did receive the word, they started good works, they even had a reputation, but these things were not being completed and fulfilled. What was started must be refreshed and revitalised with spiritual life otherwise everything will be lost. The promise to those that overcome is the righteousness which comes from Jesus himself.


Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13

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To and From:
"To the angel of the assembly in Philadelphia write: "He who is holy, he who is true, he who has the key of David, he who opens and no one can shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
"I know your works (behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one can shut), that you have a little power, and kept my word, and didn't deny my name. Behold, I give some of the synagogue of Satan, of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie-behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you kept my command to endure, I also will keep you from the hour of testing which is to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly! Hold firmly that which you have, so that no one takes your crown.
Criticised for:
---
Correction needed:
---
Principle of Church life:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Result if no corrective action taken:
---
Promise:
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.

Text and Comment

"To the angel of the assembly in Philadelphia write: "He who is holy, he who is true, he who has the key of David, he who opens and no one can shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says these things: "I know your works (behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one can shut), that you have a little power, and kept my word, and didn't deny my name. Behold, I give some of the synagogue of Satan, of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie-behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you kept my command to endure, I also will keep you from the hour of testing which is to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly! Hold firmly that which you have, so that no one takes your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies."

Here in Philadelphia we again seem to have a church working in the midst of opposition. It appears that the Lord opened a door of opportunity to them and despite their own weakness they have used this, keeping the faith and testifying to Jesus. Even those of the "synagogue of Satan" are compelled to recognise the church; its patience, its faith and its love. Like Smyrna, there is no criticism from the Lord and no need for correction mentioned. The church is encouraged to continue holding firmly keeping in mind that Jesus will soon return. The summary: they had a little power; they had his word; they had his name; they had his promise of return; they are to hold fast. The Lord's promise to the overcomer (he who endures in the faith) concerns the state beyond Jesus return. They will become a solid, integral structure in heavenly worship, dedicated to the name of the Almighty God.


Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22

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To and From:
"To the angel of the assembly in Laodicea write: "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God's creation, says these things:
Commendation and Encouragement:
---
Criticised for:
"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;' and don't know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;
Correction needed:
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Principle of Church life:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Result if no corrective action taken:
As many as I love, I reprove and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent.
Promise:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Text and Comment

"To the angel of the assembly in Laodicea write: "The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God's creation, says these things: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing;' and don't know that you are the wretched one, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. As many as I love, I reprove and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies."

Here in Laodicea we have the only church of the seven for which there is no commendation mentioned. The nature of the two opinions of this church is startling: they describe themselves as rich and having need of nothing but the Lord describes in most pitiful terms; wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. In the standards of earthly wealth this church has plenty, but in the standards of heavenly wealth this church is bankrupt. It seems that this was a church for appearances and of no spiritual substance. The Lord is angry that they are satisfied with this state and have no desire for change. His counsel is to zealously repent and buy everlasting riches from him, otherwise he will remove them, literally, "vomit them out". The promise is that the Lord is eagerly waiting to bless genuine repentance.


Combined Summary

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He who says these things:
  • he: holds the seven stars in his right hand
  • he: walks amongst the seven golden lamp stands
  • he: the first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life
  • he: has the sharp two-edged sword
  • he: the Son of God, who has his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like burnished brass
  • he: has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars
  • he: who is holy, he who is true, he who has the key of David
  • he: who opens and no one can shut, and who shuts and no one opens
  • he: the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of God's creation
Commendation and Encouragement:
  • do: keep working, never give up, endure faithfully
  • do: continue in love, faith and service
  • do: expect troubles, insults and persecution for Jesus name
  • do: speak up about Jesus
  • do: remain faithful even when the enemy attacks
  • do: follow Jesus' teachings
  • do: test those that claim to follow Jesus but teach other things
Criticised for:
  • don't: lose your first love - for Jesus
  • don't: allow false teaching or practices especially on sexual immorality and idolatry
  • don't: do anything that might cause others to sin
  • don't: forget what you have received - mercy, new life and blessings in Christ
  • don't: fool yourselves into thinking you are living for Christ when you are really luke warm
  • don't: think you are OK because you are wealthy and comfortable
Correction needed:
  • take action: repent
  • take action: change you hearts and lives
  • take action: listen to the Holy Spirit
  • take action: buy gold from Jesus - value Him and His words
  • take action: open the door of your heart, let Jesus in
Principle of Church life:
  • do: listen to what the Spirit says
Result if no corrective action taken:
  • if we don't: our witness may be taken away from us
  • if we don't: Jesus will have to correct us himself or punish us if we are in serious error
Promise:
  • followers reward: right to eat of the fruit of the tree of life in paradise
  • followers reward: reward of life
  • followers reward: hidden manna (bread of life)
  • followers reward: a new and personal name, engraved on a perfect stone
  • followers reward: a share in Jesus power and rule
  • followers reward: white clothes
  • followers reward: names in the book of life
  • followers reward: Jesus will tell his Father that you belong to him
  • followers reward: citizenship in the new Jerusalem
  • followers reward: have the name of Jesus written on them
  • followers reward: escape from the time of trouble for the world (tribulation)