The 7 churches in the Book of Revelation exist today, in one form or another, because some things never change.
The Seven Churches of Revelation
The seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation were actual physical churches in the names of the locations John gives, so the letters that John writes to these churches were actually delivered to these cities, so these letters may have less to do with seven different church ages (as some scholars believe), but rather real churches that existed at the time John wrote to them. If there are similarities between the churches in the last 2,000 years, then it may be a message to them, but these tendencies still exist today in the churches around the world. That doesn’t mean they are all lost, but that each church has its own struggles, but this we do know; the churches John writes to have very specific strengths and weakness, and these strengths and weaknesses exist in churches today. Can you see the similarities in the churches of today? Don’t miss the fact that each church and church age has had its struggles that are unique to them, just as it is with individual Christians.
The Church at Ephesus
The first church the Apostle John mentions is the Church at Ephesus, and by the time that John writes this, there are already false teachers and so-called “apostles,” so Jesus says, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Rev 2:2)…so far, so good because churches must be diligent and discerning in keeping out those who label themselves, “apostles” and bring in false teachers, but now Jesus says this church has “abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:4-5a), otherwise “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev 2:5b). Having their lampstand taken away may mean that Jesus will allow the church to die out, especially if Jesus is not the Head of it.
The Church at Smyrna
To the Church at Smyrna, Jesus had John write, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9). Could this be talking about false converts, since he who is a Jew is one inwardly (Rom 2:28-29), and if you are Christ’s, then God sees you as a child of Abraham? The Apostle Paul writes; “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7). John ends this letter by warning them, that some of them will be thrown “into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).
The Church at Pergamum
The Church of Pergamum has an altogether different letter (or problem). John gives them Christ’s message, writing, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith” (Rev 2:13a), so this church is not denying Christ before others, so they know that He will not deny them before the Father and all the holy angels (Matt 10:33), however this church is seriously watering down the truth about sexual purity, so Jesus says, “I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality” (Rev 2:14-15). Balak was an Old Testament king of Moab and he tried to bribe Balaam, an Old Testament prophet to put a curse on Israel, but he couldn’t since God forbid him, so instead, Balaam persuade Balak to send women to prostitute themselves and bring down God’s judgment on Israel…and it worked…and the church at Peragum (and many churches today) were compromising with sexual immorality and that’s serious sin to God. It cannot be allowed in the church, and even more, behind the pulpit.
The Church at Thyatira
The Church at Thyatira also received some encouragement from Christ in the beginning, but again, there are serious issues with sexual immorality in this church, so Jesus tells them, “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality” (Rev 2:20-21). Here’s what happens if nothing changes in these churches, and really, if a Christian is living in sexual immorality, Jesus says, “I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart” (Rev 2:22-23). That’s not where you want to be as a church or as a person.
The Church at Sardis
To the fifth church, the Church at Sardis, Christ says, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God” (Rev 3:1b-2), possibly showing that the church is not walking in the works that God had prepared long ago for them to walk in (Eph 2:10), such things as serving others (Matt 25:34-39), as doing it unto Him (Matt 24:50), or doing nothing at all for Him (Matt 25:41). If they don’t repent of their spiritual laziness, lacking works for God, Christ says, “I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Rev 3:3).The Church at Philadelphia.
The Church at Philadelphia
This church is one of love, since that’s what the name means, but this is the only church where Jesus does not rebuke it. Rather, He tells them, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Rev 3:8), so apparently this church is walking through doors that God has opened to them for the gospel. Could this be the great age of revival and the height of the missionary movement?
The Church at Laodicea
This church is very much like the churches we see today. I am not saying they are all this way, or even most, but certainly many churches are neither hot (on fire for God) nor cold (refreshing to those who are thirsty). Jesus rebukes them by saying, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16). Lukewarm soft drinks are not popular, and neither is cold coffee (with a few exceptions), so when Jesus spews them out of His mouth, it’s as if they make Him sick to His stomach. In having the greatest wealth in human history, today, we have more than all of our ancestors combined in wealth, so Jesus tells them that they say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). They are financially rich, especially compared to most of the world, but they are spiritually and morally bankrupt. Blinded by Satan (2nd Cor 4:3-4), thinking they’re rich, yet in God’s eyes, they are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”
Did you notice that Jesus always comes out with something positive before He corrects the church? Jesus is encouraging them, and I would say, encouraging us, to keep the faith, and rekindle that first love Remember when you were first saved? I do, and even though I was a bit over zealous for some time, it was because of the joy of being set free in Christ, and having been reconciled back to God and awaiting the Day of His Return. If you are in a solid church, thank God, and if not, don’t give up…Christ is coming, and He’s already sent the churches a letter ahead of time…the question is, will they read it?