Part Two

The Seven Churches


By Gary Ray Branscome


          John’s first vision begins with the words, “To the seven churches that are in Asia,” (Rev. 1:4). In reading what is said it is important to know that these “seven churches” were seven actual congregations which existed in Asia Minor at that time. As the vision progresses, Christ has a message for each of those congregations, and each of those messages relate to things that were actually going on at that time. However, while there have been congregations throughout history that had similar things going on, and could, for that reason, apply Christ’s words to their particular situation, there is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate that these congregations represent different periods of church history. That is purely the figment of someone’s imagination! Therefore, when those who profess themselves to be wise claim that these seven churches represent a “church Age,” they are, like the false prophets of old, teaching for doctrine the imagination of their own heart (Jeremiah 23:16).


          As we read the text, the words, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” tell us that John is seeing something “in the Spirit,” a vision (Rev. 1:10). Then, as he turns to see who is speaking, he sees “one like the Son of man,” (Rev. 1:13). Notice that he does not claim to actually see Jesus. In his dream/vision he sees an image that looks like Jesus. And Jesus is standing in the midst of seven candlesticks, and has seven stars in his hand (Rev. 1:16). The words, “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks that you saw are the seven churches,” then make it clear that the vision John was seeing was highly figurative (Rev. 1:20). Remember, it is not the words that are figurative, it is the vision which is figurative. Notice also that the seven stars in the vision are said to be seven “angels”. In understanding this section it is important to know that in the original Greek, the word “angel” means “messenger”. This is significant because the context and substance of the messages indicates that they are addressed to the pastor of each congregation, not to a spirit being. [NOTE: The words, “I was in the Spirit” tell us that John was in a trance. See, Acts 10:10, 11:5, and 22:17.]


          As you read Christ’s message to each of the churches, you will find that many of the things said are relevant to situations we face today. For example: The angel/messenger of the church at Ephesus is commended because he, “tested those who claim they are apostles, and are not, and found them to be liars,” (Rev. 2:2). I see that as highly relevant, because American churches are full of men who claim to be teaching Bible prophesy when they are really teaching lies, and leading people away from the Word of God. We know that those who refuse to believe what the Bible says about creation, the virgin birth of Christ, or His physical resurrection are false teachers. But, what about those who claim that the seven churches represent a “church age,” when the Bible says no such thing, or, those who claim that Christ will “rapture” believers before that last day. We know that is a lie, because Christ plainly said that He would raise believers up “on the last day” (John 6:39, 40).

          After commending those things worthy of praise Christ goes on to say, “Nevertheless I have something against you, because you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent,” (Rev. 2:4-5). Far too often, when people read these words they assume that the problem is lack of works. However, that is not point at all! Our works are as filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6). The words, “first love” call to remembrance the love for the gospel, and the zeal for spreading it, that is characteristic of a new convert. And the words, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen,” indicate that he had forgotten how sinful his life was before. In other words, those who do not think they have many sins tend to have less appreciation (love) for Christ and the things of faith, than those who, like Paul, are fully aware of their sin (Luke 7:47, 1Timothy 1:15).   


As to other problems, both Pergamos and Thyatira are rebuked for allowing sexual sin, and that is all too common today (Rev. 2:14, 20). In fact, the words, “I have a few things against you, because you allowed that woman Jezebel… to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication,” sounds very much like a congregation that I have heard of, which has a lesbian pastor.


However, in looking at the statements that might relate to us today we should never loose sight of the fact that these churches were actual congregations that existed at that time. And, because they were actual congregations, some things that are said may seem cryptic to someone living almost two thousand years later. For example: in Rev. 3:18 we read “anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see”. What on earth does that mean? Well, it is interesting to know that archeologists have discovered that eye salve was being manufactured in Laodicea. However, the words, “You say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” tell us that the problem was spiritual blindness, not physical blindness (Rev. 3:17). Christ simply used the fact that eye salve was manufactured there to make a point. Moreover, the words, “You say I am rich etc.” tell us an all too common story. It is easy for people to grow lax in their spiritual life when everything is going well. It is easy for them to become blind to their own sin, and think that all is right between them and God, just because everything is going well. And, that seems to be the problem Christ was addressing at Laodicea.


In verse 20 we read, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me,” (Rev. 3:20). Although this passage is well known and often quoted, the people who quote it generally pull it out of context and misrepresent what it says. Read it carefully! It says nothing about asking Jesus into your heart. If the people at Laodicea had all asked Him to come into their heart it would have not changed a thing. They needed to open the door to Christ by acknowledging their sin and looking to Him for forgiveness. We are not saved by asking Christ into our heart we are saved by believing God’s Word when it says that we are sinners, and believing that Christ died on the cross so that we could have forgiveness.




          Two important things to remember are 1) These seven churches were actual congregations that existed in Asia Minor, and 2) there is nothing in the text to justify the claim that they represent different periods of history, or a “church age”. That claim does not come from the Bible, but from an overactive imagination, and it is being used by Satan to lead people away from what the text actually says.

In the next section we will examine John’s vision heaven and the seven seals.