To me, Revelation is one of the most confusing books of the Bible. I read Revelation at the beginning of the week, but I put off writing my blog so that I could soak up all of the imagery and symbolism. Even though I had all week to think about Revelation, I was really just stuck on the Seven Churches. Who are the Seven Churches? Why are they important? Why those specific churches?
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, ‘Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’ ” -Revelation 1:10-11
These churches are called multiple things: the Seven Churches of Revelation, the Seven Churches of Asia, and the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. Even though they are called different names, each name is referring to the same seven churches. As we have learned, a church is a community not just a meeting house or building. These churches are all located in Asia Minor, which is now Turkey. (www.rmsbibleengineering.com)
Each church is written a letter within Revelation. Each church has a specific characteristic that makes it stand out from the others.
Ephesus (2:1-7) – the loveless church
- Ephesus was an ancient city known for the Temple of Artemis. Paul lived here and helped found this church. Paul also wrote to the Church in Ephesus (Ephesians) from prison.
Smyrna (2:8-11) – the persecuted church
- Smyrna was located 40 miles north of Ephesus. This city had many temples and statues to Roman and Greek gods.
Pergamum (2:12-17) – the compromising church
- Pergamum was the Roman capital of the province. It was located 5o miles north of Smyrna. There was a temple to Caesar and many pagan gods/goddesses.
Thyatira (2:18-29) – the corrupt church
- Paul and Silas may have visited this church. It is about 50 miles from the Mediterranean. It was the center of the indigo trade.
Sardis (3:1-6) – the dead church
- Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, and the seat of a proconsul under the Roman Empire. The Sardis Synagogue is located here.
Philadelphia (3:7-13) – the faithful church
- Philadelphia was in the administrative district of Sardis. There is nothing but praise during the book of Revelation about Philadelphia. It means “city of brotherly love.”
Laodicea (3:14-22) – the lukewarm church
- There was a prominent Jewish community here. Laodicea is mentioned in Colossians. First Timothy may have been written here according to some translations.
The Churches chosen were representations of the “spiritual condition” that was going on at the time. (www.discoverrevelation.com) All of these cities were near the island of Patmos where John was exiled. John would have been familiar with these churches and their strengths and weaknesses.
The importance of these specific churches depends on which interpretation is viewed.
According to the Historicist, they believe that each church represents a time period within the Church’s past and future.
- “The age of Ephesus is the apostolic age.
- The age of Smyrna is the persecution of the Church through A.D. 313.
- The age of Pergamum is the compromised Church lasting until A.D. 500.
- The age of Thyatira is the rise of the papacy to the Reformation.
- The age of Sardis is the age of the Reformation.
- The age of Philadelphia is the age of evangelism.
- The age of Laodicea represents liberal churches in a “present day” context.” (www.bluemountainmission.com)
According to the Preterist, all of the prophecies have been completed and were completed during the 1st Century. (preterismmatters.webs.com). The Seven Churches were defined by their characteristics at the time, but are not defined by them now.
Futurist believe that the Revelation prophesies’ events will take place in the future. The Seven Churches were defined by their characteristics and will probably be defined by those same characteristics during the Great Tribulation.
The Idealist view says that Revelation describes the battle throughout the ages between God and Satan and good against evil. This is described by using symbolic language. (www.probe.org). The Seven Churches were described in symbolic language and may or may not have actually been defined by those characteristics.