Consider the past progress and future direction of the Church as a whole by viewing Jesus’ message to the seven churches of Revelation in graph form. It becomes obvious that the overall trend is downward despite the highlights of Christian history. This helps emphasize the fact that believers everywhere MUST stay awake and shine as lights in the dark, dangerous, last age between the first and second coming of Christ!
This graph simply charts Jesus’ basic assessment of each church. When looked at as a whole it reflects the overall condition and trend of the Church. Remember that the book of Revelation is a “prophecy” (chapter 1:3) and therefore contains both literal and symbol facets of meaning. These seven cities were a Roman postal route of the day and all seven messages were to be read by all seven churches, so it seems obvious that they were also meant to be a kind of analysis of church history.
“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’”–Revelation 1:9-11 NKJV
These seven cities are listed exactly as they were arranged along a Roman postal route of that time. I believe this is symbolic of the “route” God’s people would take with His message until Jesus returned. They were also located within a region which linked different parts of the then known world. Therefore, the message Jesus gave them must be vital and common to the cross-section of cultures around the world throughout time. In short, these seven messages contain truths that can never be lost among the church where you live or the church at large! They are a checklist of things to know, both good and bad, about corporate Christian behavior.
There is much valuable teaching here, but I want you to notice seven traits I found in these short letters. These are in general the characteristics that believers will need to cultivate in order to overcome the seven different conditions the church will go through en route to Jesus’ return!
- The Ephesus letter teaches us to value LOVE for God above everything, recapture it when necessary and refuse to allow petty divisions.
- Smyrna is a call to COURAGE. It commands churches to refuse the fear of persecution, to recognize the danger of false religious spirits and to remain faithful.
- Pergamum teaches the importance of protecting true FAITH and dealing with those who peddle false doctrines and deception amid serious satanic influences.
- Thyatira tells us to work hard and FINISH what we start by diligently dealing with those who open doors to seducing spirits among God’s people.
- Sardis is a call to spiritual AWARENESS. We have to wake up, watch our condition and work with what we’ve got.
- Philadelphia was the picture of a church that carried AUTHORITY as a result of their obedience, and was under the protection of God.
- Laodicea teaches us to remain PASSIONATE about keeping Jesus at the center of our lifestyles, or else!
Taken together, this list will keep us prepared to meet the Lord.
This excerpt was taken from Everyday Preparation For Jesus’ Return by Rocky Veach.