Have you ever thought about that?
It’s actually the perfect way to honestly access your church from a Scriptural and Spiritual perspective. I believe that the words from Jesus about the churches mentioned in Revelation were purposely given to us for many reasons; and among those reasons was for us to be able to take a hard look at our own churches.
No church is perfect because it is made up of imperfect people. But I believe that the key to an acceptable church in the eyes of God is whether the Holy Spirit is not quenched, but allowed to do His work among the people.
Let’s first look at the Seven Churches from Revelation and and summarize what Jesus had to say about them:
- Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) – The church that had forsaken its first love
- Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) – The church that would suffer persecution
- Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) – The church that needs to repent (2:16)
- Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) The church that had a false prophetess
- Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) The church that had fallen asleep
- Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) The church that had endured patiently
- Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) The church with the lukewarm faith
I am taking excerpts only from gotquestions.org on the words of our Lord to the churches in Revelation. I strongly advise the reader to click on the source links to read the full commentary on each church by gotquestions.org.
Is your church like Ephesus? -source
Jesus affirms the Ephesians’ positive actions: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:2-3). The Ephesian church was a hard-working group of believers full of fortitude. Also to their credit, they were gate-keepers of the truth and did not compromise with evildoers, and they showed patient endurance in bearing up under hardship.
However, Jesus also notes their shortcoming: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love” (Revelation 2:4). They were hard working, but they no longer had the same passion for Christ as when they first believed. Their work was no longer motivated by love.
Is your church like Smyrna? -source
There is much in gotquestions on the letter to the church of Smyrna about the “synagogue of satan” and how these persecuted and slandered the members of the Smyrna church. To read about this, please click the source link above. This reminded me of when “Christ in the Passover” was presented at a local church, there was a “rabbi” outside handing out propaganda to those entering the church. He was desperate in his attempt to bring back believing Jews (such as myself) to traditional Judaism.
But here is the heart of our Lord’s letter to the church of Smyrna:
After commending the church in Smyrna for their spiritual victories, Jesus warned of coming persecution: “You are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days” (Revelation 2:10). Some of the church members would be imprisoned, and this wave of persecution would last for ten days. However, Jesus gives hope to His church: “Do not be afraid,” He says. The Smyrnan believers would have the courage to face the trial (Matthew 5:11-12).
Jesus calls them to remain faithful in their suffering: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Here, a specific crown is mentioned for those who die as a result of suffering for Christ. This same “martyr’s crown” is also mentioned in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Jesus makes a final promise to the believers in Smyrna: “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11). The overcomers, or “conquerors,” refer to all believers (1 John 5:4-5). The second death is a reference to the final judgment of the wicked (Revelation 20:6, 14; 21:8). Believers will not be hurt “at all” by that judgment; their sin was judged at the cross, and, in Christ, there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1).
Is your church like Pergamum? – source
First, Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives” (Revelation 2:13). The Pergamene believers lived in a difficult place, surrounded by pagan influences, yet they held fast to Christ’s name and did not deny Him during difficult times.
The church was not perfect, however, and Jesus took note of their sin: “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:14-15). The “teaching of Balaam” is explained in the context, as Christians were eating food that had been sacrificed to idols (religious compromise) and committing sexual immorality (moral compromise). The original Balaam’s deceitful work is described in Numbers 25:1-3 and Numbers 31:15-16. The Nicolaitans are mentioned only in this letter and in the letter to the Ephesian church (Revelation 2:6). They were likely a group similar to those who held the teachings of Balaam, though the exact nature of their doctrine and practice is unknown.
Jesus then issues a clarion call to repent of their sin: “Repent therefore!” (Revelation 2:16). Our Lord hates religious and moral compromise. He calls His people to live differently.
Is your church like Thyatira? source
After identifying Himself, Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first” (Revelation 2:19). Five qualities are listed: 1) love, 2) faith, 3) service, 4), patient endurance, and 5) greater works.
Next, Jesus notes their sin: “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20). Apparently, a false prophetess was leading believers into compromise. The church was engaging in sexual immorality and dabbling in idolatry. It is possible that “Jezebel” was her real name, but it is more likely the name was a metaphorical reference to the Jezebel of the Old Testament—another idolatrous woman who opposed God’s ways. Rather than rebuke this false teacher and send her out of the church, the believers in Thyatira were allowing her to continue her deception.
Jesus pronounces judgment on this “Jezebel” and calls the church of Thyatira to repent of their sin: “I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead” (Revelation 2:22-23).
Then Jesus encourages those who had remained faithful: “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:24-25). The faithful believers did not fall into Satan’s trap, and they only needed to remain faithful until Christ’s return.
**I personally believe that the reference to “Jezebel” refers to churches who have not adhered to the Word of God, which strictly forbids a woman from being a pastor or exercising authority over men in the church.
Is your church like Sardis? source
Jesus quickly and clearly condemns the lifeless state of the Sardian church: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:2). This church may have had a good reputation, but they were spiritually lifeless. In other words, the church was filled with unsaved people going through the motions of religion. There were many tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30).
Jesus then calls them to repent of their sin: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you received and heard; obey it, and repent” (Revelation 3:2-3a). To “wake up” means to start paying attention to their need of salvation, to stop being careless about their heart’s condition before God.
After the warning, Jesus encourages those in Sardis who had remained faithful: “Yet you have still a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). The faithful remnant had not soiled their garments (participated in sin). They are “worthy.” The idea of walking worthily is also found in Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10; and 1 Thessalonians 2:12. To be “worthy” is to “match up” with something—the profession of faith in the mouth matches the reality of faith in the heart. The faithful ones are promised to walk with Jesus in white (see Matthew 22:11-12; Revelation 19:8).
Is your church like Philadelphia? source
Jesus affirms the church’s positive actions: “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). The church of Philadelphia was weak in some respects, yet they had remained faithful in the face of trial. Because of this, the Lord promises them an “open door” of blessing.
Jesus provides a final promise to the believers in Philadelphia and to all believers: “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down from out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name” (Revelation 3:12). Professor Thomas Constable notes, “God promised that He will not just honor overcomers by erecting a pillar in their name in heaven, as was the custom in Philadelphia. He will make them pillars in the spiritual temple of God, the New Jerusalem (21:22; cf. Gal. 2:9; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-10).” (Source: Thomas Constable, Notes on Revelation at http://soniclight.org/constable/notes/pdf/revelation.pdf.)
Is your church like Laodecia? source
In contrast to the other six churches, the Laodicean church has nothing to commend it. Jesus begins the message with condemnation: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17). Jesus emphasizes their “lukewarm,” apathetic nature three times. As a result of their ambivalence to spiritual things, Jesus would have nothing to do with them. He would “spit them out,” as the people of Laodicea would spit out the tepid water that flowed from the underground aqueducts to their city. With their apathy came a spiritual blindness; they claimed to be rich, blessed and self-sufficient. Perhaps they were rich in material things. But, spiritually, the Laodiceans were in a wretched, pitiful condition, made all the worse in that they could not see their need. This was a church filled with self-deceived hypocrites.
Jesus calls the Laodicean church to repent of its sin: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18). Their material wealth had no eternal benefit, so Jesus commands them to come to Him for true, spiritual riches (see Isaiah 55:1-2). Only Christ can supply an everlasting inheritance, clothe us in righteousness, and heal our spiritual blindness.
Jesus then notes His concern for His church in Laodicea: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:19-20). His rebuke is not born of animosity but of love. “The Lord disciplines those he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). The desired response to God’s reproof was zealous change and true repentance.
In summary, the church at Laodicea had become apathetic in their love for Christ. They were allowing “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things [to] come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). Christ called them to repent and live zealously for Him, to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). The Lord Jesus issues the same call to those who say they follow Him today.
Brethren, now we should honestly consider which of these churches is closest to where you fellowship and receive teaching. As I’ve said, there certainly is no perfect church on earth. But Jesus has clearly told the 7 churches what He has against them, after he commends most of them for the good things things they have done in Him.
The church of Laodecia, which was luke warm and we know what the Lord has said about those who are luke warm:
“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:16).
But even with this church, the Lord chastised them out of love because He wants none to perish.
I would encourage the readers to print this article out. In this way, you can read it many times and see the words of our Lord Jesus concerning each church.
Those who truly love the Lord and are on fire for Him and his Word long for these words:
“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25: 21).