-John begins to pour out what the Spirit of God is saying to the seven churches. The first four churches are addressed in this chapter, those being Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. He uses descriptions of Christ at the introduction to each church, which are repeated from the first chapter describing important characteristics of the Lord with variety. He also concludes with diverse qualities of Christ, each time with the phrase, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29). The text also gives hope to each of these four churches that if can overcome (or conquer), they will be rewarded (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26). The interpretation of these messages to the churches and the spirits behind them can be seen as two-fold, with diversity of meaning according to biblical scholars and theologians. We can say that indeed there was a literal and historical application to these ancient churches of the first century AD. But, there can also be application and significance to future churches during this age of the Body of Christ. Even this has been seen with different hermeneutics. Some will suggest that these churches represent different eras of the Kingdom’s advancement moving towards the completion of all things with the return of Christ. This is a linear view of the message. Others will point out that these characteristics describe what kinds of spirits preside over particular churches all throughout the age of the church with warnings to those who go astray and blessings to those that abide in the Spirit of God. Both can be accurate and should be heeded as we constantly evaluate what the church of the Living God is doing and where it is going. One thing to remember is that the Lord always gives hope and a way to return to Him in each and every situation that the churches encounter. These messages to the churches are designed to be introspective and contemplative. Therefore, we can conclude that John is talking about the things “that are” in this section, but it also has prophetic implications going on into the church age.
-Ephesus was known positively for its good works, hard toil, patient endurance, testing false apostles, and bearing up for the Name of the Lord (Revelation 2:2-3). They also hated the teachings and works of the Nicolaitans, who were heretics seducing people to idolatry and sexual immorality (Revelation 2:6). However, on the negative side they had abandoned their first love and grown apathetic. They had fallen in the area of their passion and were called to repentance (Revelation 2:4-5).
-Smyrna was known entirely positive for its bearing up under tribulation and suffering with lack of material things. They had been slandered by the false Jews of the synagogue (assembly) of Satan. They had no fear for what they were about to suffer with imprisonments and testings. They were encouraged to remain faithful unto death, which would earn them the crown of life with no hurt by the second death (Revelation 2:8-11).
-Pergamum had endured in a tough spot where the throne of Satan was located. This probably refers to the pagan setting they were at geographically, but again there is deeper spiritual meaning to this. On the positive, they held fast the Name of Christ under persecution and martyrdoms, like in the days of Antipas. They were faithful witnesses of the Lord at certain times. However, some of them were holding the teaching of Balaam, who loved money and put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel through Balak so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and practiced sexual immorality. They also had some who held to the teachings of the Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:12-17).
-Thyatira had on the positive some good works, love, faith, service, patient endurance, and growth. However, they tolerated the Jezebel spirit of control, deception, and seduction. There is another reference to eating meat sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality here in this church under this Jezebel influence. This spirit, or spirits, will make people in the church physically sick and bring great tribulation unless there is a repentant turning back to God. Death is even mentioned as a consequence for the downward spiral in ethics and practice. Some in Thyatira were resisting Satan and his teaching. Those are told to hold fast until the Lord would come, who will rule with a rod of iron and possessing the morning star (Revelation 2:18-29).
-*Application* This list of do’s and do not’s is important for us to live out in our days. Consider the traits of the persevering godly as opposed to the things God detests in His church. Don’t let the wrong spirits take control of your own personal life because you, if you have trusted Christ, are a part of His Church. The value is on repentance when we see that we are doing things wrong and going against Christ. O Christian brothers and sisters, do not harden your heart towards the ways of God. Return to Him and get restoration wherever it needs to be applied. He is faithful to forgive (1 John 1:9).
Verse to Memorize: Revelation 2:26