The Seven Churches

NAS Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

3 tn Grk “These things says [the One]…” The expression τάδε λέγει (tade legei) occurs eight times in the NT, seven of which are in Rev 2–3. “The pronoun is used to add solemnity to the prophetic utterance that follows. …In classical drama, it was used to introduce a new actor to the scene. But the τάδε λέγει formula in the NT derives from the OT, where it was used to introduce a prophetic utterance. Thus, the NET translation “this is the solemn pronouncement of” for τάδε λέγει is very much in keeping with the OT connotations of this expression.

sn The expression This is the solemn pronouncement of reflects an OT idiom. The LXX has the same Greek phrase (τάδε λέγει, tade legei) about 350 times, with nearly 320 of them having “the Lord” )Heb הוהי, Yahweh( as subject. That the author of Revelation would use such an expression seven times with the risen Christ as the speaker may well imply something of Christ’s sovereignty and deity. Cf. also Acts 21:11 in which the Holy Spirit is the speaker of this expression. {NET Notes}


“The Things Which Are” – “In the second chapter of Revelation the second major division of the book begins. In chapters 2 and 3 the messages to the seven churches are referred to in chapter 1:19 as ‘the things which are.’ There has been some debate concerning the theological significance of these seven churches. Each message has its own distinctive characteristics, but there are many similarities. Each message begins with the expression ‘I know thy works.’ Each offers a promise, ‘to him that overcometh’ (KJV). It is obvious, as there were many churches located in the area where these churches were found, that God divinely selected seven and seven only, and did not send messages to other churches that conceivably might have been more important. Swete states that there were from 500 to 1,000 townships in the province of Asia in the first century, some of them far larger than the cities of Thyatira and Philadelphia, and undoubtedly a number of them had Christian churches. He suggested that the answer to the problem of selection is found in the geographical location of the seven churches in the form of a gentle arch and located on a circular road connecting the most populous part of the province. The messages directed to these seven churches should therefore be considered as sent to the rest of the province and other churches as well. The geographical order of presentation is followed, beginning at EPHESUS, moving north to SMYRNA, then farther north to PERGAMOS, then east to THYATIRA, south to SARDIS, east to PHILADELPHIA, and southeast to LAODICEA. However, other churches in this area were ignored, such as the church at Colossae and the churches at Magnesia and Tralles. It is understandable that the number of churches should be limited to seven as this is the number of completeness and universality in the Scripture, but there undoubtedly were other principles which determined the selection. Many of the evils and shortcomings which exist in the church today are a direct outgrowth of neglect of the solemn instruction given to these seven churches” {Walvoord}.

Chapter 2 Is Closely Related to Chapter 1 – “The letters to the seven churches of Asia (chaps. 2-3) form a distinct unit in the book of Revelation. That they are integrally related to the vision in chapter 1 is indicated by the fact that in the introduction to each letter the writer (Christ) identifies Himself by means of a descriptive phrase taken from the vision and appropriate for the specific church. Most contemporary commentators understand the letters as an integral part of the Apocalypse, but differ as to their nature and purpose. Dispensational writers take them as real letters to historical churches, but also as a preview of church history in its downward course toward Laodicean lukewarmness” {Mounce}.

A Remarkable Progression in the Message – “What is claimed by many conservative expositors is that there does seem to be a remarkable progression in the messages. It would seem almost incredible that such a progression should be pure accident, and the order of the messages to the churches seems to be divinely selected to give prophetically the main movement of church history” {Walvoord}.

Words of Warning, Notes of Encouragement – “It has often been noted that what we have are not true letters, but ‘messages,’ ‘special words,’ or ‘proclamations.’ They form a sequel to chapter 1 and are part of a common epistle sent to all seven. Feuillet suggests that a greater emphasis should be placed on their being oracles. Christ comes to inspect His churches, and issues words of warning and notes of encouragement. These utterances, says Feuillet, resemble the prophetic oracles of the O.T. more than the epistles of the N.T. In any case, the messages are a vital part of the apocalypse as a whole and are intended for the exhortation and edification of the church universal. Each oracle contains the challenge, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (the plural is significant!)” {Mounce}.

The Letters Themselves – “The symmetry of the seven letters has long interested scholars. Each letter is prefaced by a charge to write to the angel of that specific church. This is followed by an identification of the author in descriptive phrases taken from the vision in chapter 1. The body of each letter is composed of an acknowledgement of the church’s positive achievements (except in Laodicea and, perhaps, in Sardis), followed by words of encouragement, censure (disapproval), counsel, or warning. Only Smyrna and Philadelphia escape some note of censure. The letters close with an exhortation to hear and a promise to those who overcome. The orderliness and symmetry of the seven letters betray a purpose that goes beyond ethical instruction to seven particular churches in the Roman province of Asia. The entire sequence is a literary composition designed to impress upon the church universal the necessity of patient endurance in the period of impending persecution. It is the motif (theme, repeated design) that binds the oracles to all that follows in the subsequent chapters. In the final conflict between Christ and Caesar, believers will need to hold fast to their confession of faith and stand ready for whatever sacrifice may be required. Bruce writes that the letters give a vivid impression of Christian life in Asia at a time when ‘pressure is being brought to bear on the Christians to be less unyielding in their negative attitude to such socially approved activities as emperor worship and the like’” {Mounce}.

“Angel” – “Based on the evidence found in the historical allusions in the seven proclamations, John was familiar with the situations in each church. Since John consistently uses the Greek term ἄγγελος (ahng-ge-los), angel, messenger, of supernatural beings subordinate to God, it is likely that the term has that meaning in each of the proclamations” {Aune}.

I came across this chart when I taught through Revelation years ago have referred to it numerous times since. You may find it a helpful overview or quick reference as Pastor Matt leads us through this great book now.


“The Letters to the Seven Churches”

Christ Commendation Rebuke Exhortation Promise


Holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. Deeds, hard work, perseverance.

Does not tolerate wicked men.

Endures hardships. Hates the practice of the Nicolaitans.

Has forsaken her first love. Remember; repent; do the things you did at first. Will eat from the tree of life.


The First and the Last, who died and came to life again. Suffers persecution and poverty. Do not be afraid. Be faithful, even to the point of death. Will receive a crown of life; will not be hurt by the second death.


Has the sharp. double-edged sword. Remains true to Christ; does not renounce her faith. People there hold the teachings of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans. Repent. Will receive hidden manna and a white stone with a new name on it.


The Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. Deeds, love, faith, service, perseverance, doing more than at first. Tolerates Jezebel with her immorality and idolatry. Repent; hold on to what you have. Will have authority over the nations; the morning star.


Holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. Deeds; reputation of being alive. Dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains.

Remember what you received, obey it, repent.

Will be dressed in white; will be acknowledged before My Father and His angels.


Holy and true, holds the key of David. Deeds, keeps Christ’s word and does not deny His names, endures patiently. Hold on to what you have. Those who overcome will be pillars in the temple; the name of God, of the New
Jerusalem, and of Christ’s new name, will be written on them.


The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Ruler of God’s creation. Lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. Wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Buy from Christ, refined gold, white clothes, and eye salve. Be earnest, and repent. Overcomers will eat with Christ; will rule with Christ.

Chart taken from Bible Knowledge Commentary

– Professor Thomas A. Rohm