In this section of Revelation, Christ addressed each of the seven churches of Asia about their situation. There are a few things that stand out in these letters that will help us as we examine the churches of today, including the one of which we are a member.
The seven churches of Asia are really representative of all churches of all time. A church today may not be the exact duplicate of one of these churches, but the principles and or facts found among them are found today. For instance, there are churches today that feel they are rich and faithful, but are actually lukewarm (Rev. 3:14-17). Another church stands on its past reputation while it is spiritually dead (Rev. 3:1, 2). We might find a church, though, that is spiritually active in trying to do what is right, but is tolerating a false doctrine or the teachers of it (Rev. 2:14, 15). Any combination may exist.
There is no collective organization among the churches of Asia. They had no headquarters and no entity that tied them to one another. Each church acted independently and was addressed individually by the Lord. In other words, there were no denominations in the first century. There were no collective works, projects, or ministries joined in by multiple churches like we find today.
The churches were addressed publicly. Inasmuch as the Revelation would circulate not only among the seven churches, but also to all other churches, the Lord did not hesitate to openly address their situation. Some of what the Lord said was “positive.” But, He also had “negative” things to say as well. He both commended and condemned. Such action was right and needed; it is still right and needed.
A basic pattern is followed by Jesus as He speaks to each church. It is:
- Addressee (church)
- Identity of Christ (i.e. He who holds the seven stars)
- “I know”
- The good, if any.
- The bad, if any.
- Warning and/or exhortation.
Though each letter describes Jesus differently, He is still the only One addressing each church. Too, though the promises are worded in various ways, they all mean the same thing – heaven. That is, eating from the “tree of life” (2:7) is the same as the “crown of life” (2:10) is the same as the “hidden manna” (2:17) is the same as “power over the nations” and the “morning star” (2:26, 28) and so on.