"To the angel of the church in....."Revelation Chapters 2 and 3
In the book of Revelation we read about the seven churches. The seven churches are a picture and type of what is going on today across the world. Jesus starts out by commending them on what they are doing according to his will and then he informs them on what is not according to his will.
Although we have problems in the church, it does not justify keeping us away from fellowship and gathering together. We are accountable by discerning what is of God and what is not of God. That comes by the inward witness of the Spirit of God who lives in us and by it lining up with the word of God. God gives us wisdom and direction. Revelation was to address what can happen in the churches.
How do we determine if someone is truly a believer and follower of Christ Jesus? God tells us to judge the fruit of those around you. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Jesus also said that those who are my disciples will obey him and will crucify the sinful nature with its passion and desires (Galatians 5:22,24). We are also told that we cannot go on sinning since we are born of God (1 John 3:9). God has given us power to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony not loving our soul life (Revelations 12:11). Although there are times where we will fall into sin, it should not be a habit or a willful act. It should be more like you were on your way to your destination with Christ, then all of a sudden you have a car crash.
As we take a look at the seven churches, God reveals to us what is happening. He also gave us insight that we may have tares among the wheat. They may be people in the church who appear to be godly, but aren't. Jesus addresses the seven churches with what is going on.
The first church is Ephesus. Ephesus left their first love. They became so involved in doing the works for God that they no longer spent time in fellowship with God. They were doing everything right from hating what God hated, but missing the greatest gift of all which was our personal relationship with God. Sometimes we can forsake God but seeking the gifts and works rather than the one who gave the gifts and works.
The second church is Smyrna. They were the church that is heavily persecuted. They are afflicted and in poverty. They are among the religious who are really like Satan himself. They are under tremendous suffering. They are called to be faithful to point of death.
The third church is Pergamum. This church was described as the church where they were under Satan's throne. This could probably be described as a government of imperialist worship. The church here held to the teaching of Balaam. Balaam led Israel astray to foreign Gods through sexual immorality. These teaching are false, worldly with immorality. These false teachers get believers to compromise the truth for monetary gain.
The fourth church is Thyatira. They tolerated the Jezebel spirit, who calls herself a prophetess. This church tolerated sin, unrighteousness and unbiblical teaching. God desires for us to submit ourselves to him as a living sacrifice and to repent and turn from sin. However, this spirit allows this to continue and even propagates it.
The fifth church is Sardis. This is a dead church. They had the appearance outwardly, but they had forgotten what God had done for them. They were religious. They attended church and did their service, but nothing more. Their deeds are incomplete. He reminded them about what they had received and heard. He also told them to obey it, repent and wake up.
The sixth church is Philadephia. They are the ones who trusted in God and were considered to have little strength. They are the ones who kept his word and did not deny it. They were the ones who God gave the key of David. What it opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open. The door before them was open to accomplish God's will. They will be the one who will be kept from the hour of trial to come upon the whole earth.
The seventh church is Laodicea. This church was the one who thought they had everything going for them. But they didn't. They would not take a side. They were neither hot or cold, but lukewarm. They wanted to make everyone happy. They made everything comfortable for their followers. They based their success with God based upon their wealth. God made it clear that they were naked, wretched, pitiful, poor and blind. He reminds them to put on gold refined in the fire. He was reminding them to pick up their cross and follow Jesus and to put their faith in him and not in what they have.
The churches are challenged today as they were in the past. Each church had those who were faithful to Christ and he encouraged those believers to hold firm until the end. To remain faithful even among those who were unfaithful. Revelation serves as a warning to all churches. Christ desires repentance of all. So today, even if you like me experienced pain from the church hold fast and firm until the end and remain faithful to Christ. For at the end of the journey, we will one day be with our Lord and Savior and this world will no longer have a hold on us.