In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, you’ll find 7 letters delivered by Jesus to 7 different churches. These letters contain some of the greatest encouragement and communicate some of the harshest consequences in all of scripture. And every one of them speak to the church today.
The letters to the 7 churches of Revelation were delivered by Christ in a vision to the Apostle John who wrote the book while imprisoned on the island of Patmos.
The book of Revelation has the ability to fire the imagination like few others can. It is a fantastic account that’s full of illustrative imagery and visions unprecedented since the time of the Prophet Daniel.
Sadly, many teachers and pastors avoid it altogether, gloss over this book, or they skip to the wildest scenes. Others formulate untamed notions on their own that just don’t fit the context of the book of Revelation.
And much worse than that, some churches reject the book of the Apocalypse all together! There are entire denominations that will not teach from it and that actively discourage their congregants from reading it. For example, as far as I can find, the Lutheran Church does not reject Revelation. However, Martin Luther did say this about the book,
To my mind the book of the Apocalypse bears upon it no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character… Everyone may form his own judgment of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it.Sammtliche Werke, 63, pp. 169-170, ‘The Facts About Luther‘ (affiliate link), O’Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p. 203.
I get it. Many believers, denominations and churches want a non-threatening Jesus who doesn’t use a “winnowing fork” (Matthew 3:12) or a winepress (Revelation 14:17-20) to crush his enemies. Baby Jesus is safe, and dying Jesus seems harmless, but returning King and Judge Jesus is difficult.
One Important Observation on the Letters to the 7 Churches of Revelation
Each letter begins with the phrase “to the angel of the church.”
It’s important to point out that the word John used for “angel” in each of these letters is angelos. That word is best understood as “messenger.”
It’s possible that Jesus was addressing a supernatural being that served as a messenger. After all, angels do fill that role throughout scripture. However, the context of these 7 letters give reason to conclude that the messenger being spoken to is the leader of each congregation. You can think that because it’s the function of a church leader to proclaim a message.
Had Jesus been speaking to a spiritual being, like an angel, he probably would have used pneuma, which means “spirit.” You can see that he does this throughout Revelation, like in Revelation 1:4, “…and from the seven spirits (pnuema) who are before his throne.’
Take a look at these resources on Revelation (affiliate link) including books, commentaries, study guides, and lots more!
Approaching the Book of Revelation
As with any part of scripture, you must be careful how you approach this book, but you should certainly not avoid it.
Much like the Armor of God in Ephesians 6, teachers may have a tendency to over-sensationalize Revelation, or under-emphasize the importance of the visions.
When you approach the book of Revelation, you should first understand that it exists to glorify God, not to increase man’s knowledge. It is, after all, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
It contains a lot of information about many colorful creatures and characters, but it’s ultimately about Christ. Keeping Him in mind is exactly how you should approach His Revelation.
The Purpose of Revelation
You can read the book of Revelation knowing that it’s about the past, present, and future of Jesus Christ.
What in the world do I mean by that? Check out 1:19:
Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.Revelation 1:19
It’s what has been, what is, and what will be. All of creation and time is held together in and through God because,
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.Hebrews 13:8
Another way to think about the events of Revelation in this context is that His Kingdom has come, is present, and will return! Jesus was before time, is in time, and is to come in due time because,
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.Revelation 1:8
The 7 letters of the Apocalypse today
Here’s just one example that you’ll find in these letters that communicate to the church through all ages: persecution.
If you’ll think about first century Christians who lived at the time this book was written, you’ll see why they thought they were living in the end times. They were burned alive, dipped in burning oil, hunted down, beaten, imprisoned, and murdered.
Now think about Christians in some parts of the world today. In some places, Christians are hunted down, beaten, imprisoned, burned alive, and even crucified. These saints also believe they are living in the end times.
You see… tribulation was, is, and tribulation will come. Revelation speaks quite a lot about things that were, that are, and that will be.
Yet at the root of it all is the Messiah, Christ Jesus, the only one to whom we should look to, and the only one we should look for.
What I Hope You’ll Take Away from the 7 Churches of Revelation
Here is a main point of Revelation: it provides the information that completes the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the crucified Messiah, risen Lord, and returning King:
- He has come.
- He will return.
- Jesus will receive those who love him. Those who confess Him as Lord and Savior in this life will be welcomed into eternal life.
- Those who do not will be judged accordingly.
My purpose in teaching about the letters to the 7 churches of Revelation is that you’ll see that while they applied in their first century time, they carry an application for you today.
The 7 Letters of Revelation
From Ephesus, the first church of the Apocalypse, to Laodicea, here are the letters from Jesus to the 7 churches of Revelation. Each link below will take you to the teaching page for each of the 7 letters.