{3}         Letter to the 7 Churches (I) (Rev 2:1-29)


Part 2. Letters to the 7 churches (2:1—3:22)

2.1.      Ephesus (2:1-7)                                   2.3.      Pergamum (2:12-17)

2.2.      Smyrna (2:8-11)                                  2.4.      Thyatira (2:18-29)

        The 7 letters all have similar structures: [1] identified the author (Christ), [2] acknowledged the church’s positive achievements, [3] included words of encouragement, counsel, or warning, [4] closed with an exhortation to hear and a promise to those who overcome.

        PICTURE: John is encircled by mystic light from a source that he cannot see. In front of him are 7 giant lampstands in a circle. The glorified Jesus Christ stands among the lampstands. John is commanded to write the letters to the 7 churches, as dictated by Christ.


2:1       EPHESUS was the most important city of western Asia Minor. It was a commercial city with a major stadium, marketplace, and a large 25,000-person theatre.

[1] Author: Christ holds the 7 angels (in His control) and walks among the 7 lampstands (present in their midst and aware of their activities).

2:2       [2] Achievements: “Hard work” and “perseverance” describe the active and passive sides of their lifestyle. They had toiled to the point of exhaustion. They patiently borne the hostility of the society. They tested and rejected the false apostles.

2:3       The church is again commended for its patience, and its willingness to endure hardships.

2:4       [3] Teachings: They had forsaken their first love, possibly both love of God and love of humanity at large, but here it seems to refer to love for one another in the church.

2:5       The church is called upon to remember the earlier days in which love abounded.

2:6       The problem is probably eating the food in the pagan temples, not the meat sacrificed to idols and bought in the market. “Sexual immorality” was part of the pagan festivities.

2:7       [4] Promise: The tree of life is the symbol of eternal life. The paradise is the abode of the righteous dead, where there is perfect fellowship with God.

2:8       SMYRNA was a large city with 200,000 people. It was described as “First in Asia in beauty and size.” The elderly church father Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna.

[1] Author: The church at Smyrna was a persecuted church so the leter comes from the sovereign One (“the First and the Last”) and one who died and came to life again. As He was victorious over death, the believers in the church had the assurance of eternal life if killed in persecution.

2:9       [2] Achievements: The pressures faced by the church (afflictions and poverty) have not gone unnoticed by the Lord. Their poverty was a material poverty as spiritually they were rich.

Christ is also aware of the slanderous accusations directed against the belivers by the Jews.

2:10     [3] Teachings: The devil would try their faith through imprisonment and tribulation. The reward for faithfulness is the crown of life, that is, the crown that is life itself.

2:11     [4] Promise: Overcomers are promised that they will not be hurt by the second death.

2:12     PERGAMUM was called as “by far the most distinguished city in Asia.” It was build on a cone-shaped hill above the surrounding valley. It Greek name (Pergamon) means “citadel”. It was a centre of worship for the many gods. The great altar of Zeus was built in the city.

[1] Author: The two-edged sword reminds Christ’s ultimate power over life and death.

2:13     [2] Achievements: Christ acknowledges their difficulty of living in a hostile environment.

2:14     [3] Teachings: They were guilty of allowing people with the teaching of Balaam among them. Balaam was a prototype of all corrupt teachers who betrayed believers into fatal compromise with worldly ideologies (referring again to food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality).

2:15     Some believe that there were 2 different groups: Balaamites and Nicolaitans, both disobeying the Jerusalem council in regard to idolatrous practices and fornication.

2:16     Unless the church repents, Christ will come and fight against them with the sword of His mouth. While possibly only a portion of the church has fallen to the mistake, the whole church was guilty of not taking action against their presence.

2:17     [4] Promise: The “hidden manna” refers to the pot of manna in the ark. Here, it may mean the heavenly food of spiritual Israel in contrast to the unclean food supplied by the Balaamites.

“The white stone”: As food ir referred here, the stone may be the admission token to the banquet. It is white to symbolize the triumph of their faith and contains the name of the overcomer.

2:18     THYATIRA was a centre for manufacturing and marketing and with many trade guilds.

[1] Author: “Blazing eyes” suggest the penetrating power to see through the heresy of Jezebel. Feet like burnished bronze convey the strength and spendour that can stamp out all opposition.

2:19     [2] Achievements: Christ is aware of the deeds of the church: love, faith, service, and perseverance. The first two are the motive forces, and the other two are the results.

2:20     [3] Teachings: Some were led astray by the prophetess Jezebel into fatal compromise with the secular environment of sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols.

2:21     Jezebel was not willing to repent was her adulterous alliance with the pagan environment.

2:22     Jezebel and her adulterous associates will be cast onto a bed of sickness and pain. Her heresy is the ancient equivalent of the modern “health and wealth” gospel.

2:23     Jezebel’s children: those who have embraced the antinomian doctrines of their spiritual mother.

2:24     “Knowing Satan’s deep secrets” refers to the view that in order to appreciate fully the grace of God, one must first learn the depths of evil. This is wrong. Later gnosticism held such a view.

2:25     For these people, Christ lay no additional burden “except that you hold on to what you have until I come.”

2:26     [4] Promise: The conditions are to overcome and to do the will of Christ until the end. Jewish eschatology teaches that the followers of the Messiah would share in His final rule (Ps 2:8-9).

2:27     Overcomers will rule the nations with absolute power over the rebellious nations.

2:28     “Morning stars”: [a] immortality as in Dan 12:3, [b] the dawn of eternal life, [c] the Holy Spirit.

2:29     Beginning with this letter, the order is changed and the exhortation follows the promise.


        We need to avoid the weaknesses of these churches. On one hand, the church needs to maintain purity of teachings by rejecting non-orthodox teachings that lead the churches to compromise with the moral standards of the pagan world. On the other hand, we need to always act in love.

        We also pursue material wealth in this world, and often neglect to pursue spiritual wealth. This is a wrong focus. In God’s judgment, only spiritual wealth will be counted. The “overcomers” in these letter are those who overcome or succeed in their spiritual lives. Material wealth has absolutely no bearing on success.