Last week, we began a new series on the Book of Revelation, which I am entitling “The Revelation.” And as we learned last week, the reason I am titling it this way is because this final Book of the Bible is not called “Revelations” even though most people refer to it that way. No, in the first verse of this book, the apostle John calls it—the Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
So, we learned that it is not to the Book of Revelations, such as a revelation of the antichrist, a revelation of the tribulation, the revelation of judgment, etc., etc., etc. No, this Book of the Bible’s purpose and intent is to reveal to us one thing—namely, one Person—and His name is Jesus Christ!
But I made the point last week that just as many people do not know how to even refer to this Book correctly, they certainly don’t interpret it correctly either. And the reason I say this is because of how most people steer clear of Revelation because it scares and confuses them. This is not to be the case! As we learned from Revelation 1:3, when we read, hear, and keep the words in this Book, it promises us that we will be “blessed.” And we learned that the word “blessed” can be translated different ways. Yes, it means to be blessed, fortunate, and to be envied, but it also means to be happy and joyful. In other words, to be blessed is not just to have our lives filled with things, it is to have our hearts full of happiness and joy at the same time.
So, the point we made is that the reading, hearing, and keeping of this Book of the Bible is supposed to produce these blessed emotions in people. But, again, when you look at a lot of people who read the things from this Book, they are not happy when they hear its truths. On the contrary, they get depressed, become anxious, and are filled with fear. And I believe a lot of the reason for this is because they are looking at the Book of Revelation through the wrong filter. Yes, they are not hearing the heart of what it is saying because they are looking at it through a carnal mindset—trying to figure out what all of the things John saw mean and only looking at them from an earthly perspective. Church, I’ll tell you—if we look at this Book through the wrong filter, it won’t lead to life & peace. We must be spiritually minded when studying the Book of Revelation!
So, we started last week studying the “End Times” in a way we may never have heard it before. We got excited about the things that lie ahead! We started out rejoicing in the things the Lord has told us were on the horizon! We did this because we emphasized Who this Book reveals to us—JESUS!
And we learned that Jesus is the “apocalypse,” a word that terrifies people because they only associate it with the doom, the judgment, and the woes that are coming on the earth at the end. But the word “apocalypse” is simply the word for “Revelation” in that it comes from the Greek word apokalypsis. So, while the picture that has been painted of the apocalypse is smeared with doom, gloom, destruction, and judgment, technically it doesn’t “reveal” that to us. No, the apocalypse is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
And what we learned last week is that this phrase “the Revelation of Jesus Christ” is used elsewhere in the New Testament, and the apostle Paul used it a lot of times—specifically to describe the revelation of the mystery of our new covenant. We specifically looked at Galatians 1:11-12 where Paul used it this way and learned that this “apocalypse of Jesus” is not a scary thing; it’s actually good news! Likewise, the Book of Revelation is intended to reveal to us the good news of what is to come, not the bumps in the road that it will take to get there.
So, what we did last week was we emphasized the Gospel Himself and we did so by looking at that title Jesus declared about Himself several times in this Book—that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end!
And we saw that what this means is that Jesus is the beginning of the alphabet and the end of the alphabet. And guess what? He’s everything in between too! This is how we should read the Book of Revelation, and, in fact, how we should read the entire Word of God—seeing Jesus in the beginning all the way to the ending. All of these things prophecy of Him!
So, as many have taken in hand to describe Jesus in every Book of the Bible, it seemed good to me to do likewise. And we looked at Jesus in every Book of the Bible! It was awesome!
And the last thing we did was we jumped forward to the nineteenth chapter of Revelation and took a look at one thing that I believe summarizes what the Revelation of Jesus Christ consists of— “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). What this means is that at the very heart of all prophecy is Jesus.
Church, that was the point last week: When studying this Book, we must do what Hebrews 12:2 encourages us to do— “Look unto Jesus!” That means keep our eyes on the prize and off of the struggle of the race that is set before us—for when we keep our focus on Him, we will walk on water. We won’t sink into the depths of fear and despair. No, we will walk in joy unspeakable and full of glory—for our attention is set on the spirit of all prophecy. That is the Jesus who was, the Jesus who is, and the Jesus who is to come. Glory and amen!
THE GOLDEN LAMPSTANDS
So now let’s pick up in Revelation 1:9 and move on to the next thing the Holy Spirit would have us emphasize today:
Beginning in this verse, the apostle John begins to give us the background and setting of this Book: He starts out by identifying with these churches he was writing to by saying, “I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” In other words, he was saying, “I am suffering the same persecution as you guys! That is why I am here on the Isle of Patmos (basically a volcanic rock where the Romans sent criminals to work in granite quarries).”
Then, beginning in verse 10, he gives the account of how he received this revelation: He said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’” So, what this means is that originally, this Prophetic Book was intended for the seven churches located in Asia Minor.
Now there are various theories about these seven churches: Some believe that because they were actual churches in the cities mentioned, Jesus was simply speaking to these seven churches of Asia Minor that represented the early first century church, while His Words certainly apply to all of the Lord’s church even in our generation. However, there are others who see these seven churches as prophetically describing the seven stages of church history. For example, those that ascribe to this say that the last church Jesus addressed—the church of Laodicea—is likely referring to the church of today.
I’m not sure where I stand on all of that, but it certainly could be that it is not just one or the other. It could mean both. However, what we can be sure of is that because Jesus obviously intended this book to be written down and physically sent to these seven churches in Asia Minor, then these were actual churches full of real people that Jesus was talking to. And, of course, we know that these words were not just for them, but they were Holy Spirit inspired words that also apply to us as well.
But then notice what John saw after he turned to see the voice that spoke these words to him: He said, “I saw seven golden lampstands.”
Now this is reminiscent of Zechariah’s prophecy in chapter 4 of his Prophetic Book where an angel came and asked him what he saw, and the first thing he saw was a lampstand made of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps (See Zechariah 4:2).
Now, according to Revelation 1:20, we know exactly what these seven golden lampstands represent: They are these seven churches. And it is significant to me that these lampstands are “golden”—being made out of the most valuable and precious commodity we have on the earth. And as most of us are aware of, these churches were full of flaws and had all kinds of defects based on some of things Jesus said to them in Revelation chapters 2-3. But here is the good news: Even with their imperfections, that does not change how the Lord ultimately saw them! Likewise, even though we are also full of failures and shortcomings today, that does not change how the Lord sees us. So, turn to your neighbor and tell them, “You’re golden!”
Then in verse 13, John goes on to describe what else he saw— “and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man…”
Now I see an illusion here to the three Hebrew boys—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego—in the midst of the fiery furnace, when Nebuchadnezzar looked in and saw one “like the Son of God” walking around with them. And what this illustrates to us is that no matter what we are going through, no matter how fiery the trial, Jesus—the Son of God and the Son of Man—is in the middle of it with us. Glory to God!
Then, in verses 13-16, John begins describing Jesus: He said, “…clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
Now all of these things that John saw in the Son of Man describe His omnipotence and omniscience—His absolute authority and power. They are also reminiscent of the things that Daniel saw in the Son of God in his prophecy (See Daniel chapter 10).
The apostle John goes on to say that when he saw Him, he fell at His feet as dead (See verse 17)—and, church, I can assure you that when we see Him like this, we will hit the deck too!
We see this throughout the Bible—that when people have some sort of physical experience with God like seeing His glory or hearing His voice audibly it always provoked a response of demonstrative worship. And I believe the reason why so many of God’s people today, do not worship demonstratively like by getting on their knees or laying prostrate before Him is because they don’t see Him. We need to see Him too, church, and no, I am not talking about just have supernatural experiences; I am referring to seeing Him in our hearts to where the reality of Him has truly impacted us.
In fact, I don’t believe we have to wait until His Revelation at the Second Coming; I believe we can see Him now and it will breed in us a heart of worship and the true fear of God. May it be so for all of us!
Then in verses 17-20, Jesus laid His right hand on John and said to him, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.”
In verse 19, we see a short description of what this Book of Revelation entails: the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The things which he had seen would be all of the things he had revealed to him about Christ thus far (See 1:9-20). The things which are would be the things going on in the church (See 2:1-3:22). And the things to come would be the rest of this Book from chapter 4 and on. However, there is a possibility that there are things contained in chapters 4 through 22 that had already come to pass at the time that this Book was written.
Then in verse 20, Jesus explains to John what the seven stars in His right hand were and what the golden lampstands were (as we have seen already). The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven golden lampstands are the churches.
THE ANGEL OVER THE CHURCHES?
First of all, I want you to notice that they were all written to the angel of each church—to the angel of the church of Ephesus, to the angel of the church of Smyrna, to the angel of the church of Pergamos, etc.
Now we can only speculate as to what these “angels” were. Some believe that because the Greek word angelos is used here—which is used to refer to angelic beings, but also to “messengers”—that these are letters to written to each church’s messenger. Which is who? The pastor of each church.
But since the word angelos is also the word used for actual angels, this could reveal to us that each church has a guardian angel set over it. If that is the case, I am not sure why the Lord is writing these letters to an angel unless somehow, someway, these angels communicate these words to the pastors, prophets, and others who speak to the church congregation.
But the real point we need to understand here is, the Lord was speaking directly to these seven churches which consisted of real people through some medium agent called an angel or messenger. However, this ought to provide some solace for us too—for it shows us that we all have something or someone set over us who is there to protect us like an angel or direct us like one in the fivefold ministry. Either way, God has given gifts to the church that if we will open those spiritual ears and eyes, we can receive more grace in our lives.
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES
So, what I want us to do now is spend the rest of our time looking at some of the predominant things that we see repeated in these seven churches. In fact, I want us to look at seven things that we see in these seven churches—seven things that we see repeated and emphasized.
You see, while we could certainly spend months talking about everything Jesus revealed to these seven churches, I am going to give an overview of the things we see repeated in and consistencies between all seven letters.
Now most of these we will find repeated to all seven churches. Others are mentioned just to a few of them. But what we can be assured of is that all seven of these things are to be foundational things we are established in, since in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word is to be established.
However, let me encourage you with this—Don’t try to apply all seven of these pillars to your life today. The reason I say this is because the likelihood is that not all seven of them are what the Holy Spirit is saying to you individually today. Now I believe that each of these seven things are a Word from God for somebody here today, but it is highly unlikely that the Holy Spirit wants anyone here to get all seven of them at this time.
So, with that being said, let’s begin with the first of seven pillars of the seven churches that goes along these lines:
PILLAR #1 – HAVING EARS TO HEAR
One of the things that we see repeated to all seven churches is the encouragement for—"He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
You know, this was something Jesus was known for saying throughout His ministry on the earth. In His messages, we see Him saying time and time again—"He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Now we know that everyone who came to hear Him teach probably had two physical ears, right? So, Jesus was not talking about audibly listening to His words. No, He was more referring to hearing with the ears of our heart than just physically listening to Him. And that is the key—not just auditing the Word being preached but having hearts that are receptive to those Words to where they are retained and valued like they ought to be.
So, I begin with this one today because this is the way we should listen to every message, read every verse, and study every Scripture—with ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us through them.
In my experience, I’ve seen two types of Christians who listen to God’s Word:
So, my point is—we need to have the ears of our heart attune to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in this hour. As the writers of Hebrews say, “Today, if you will hear His voice …” (Hebrews 3:7,15). It doesn’t say, “Tomorrow” or “Yesterday”; it says “Today.” We need to be most concerned with hearing the Spirit’s voice today.
So, make sure you write down and meditate on those things that the Holy Spirit is saying to you right now, and don’t become distracted by everything else. These are the things that bear witness in your heart when you hear them. They will be accompanied by peace and joy. Sure, they might be corrective and even involve a rebuke, but will also be accompanied with the witness of the Holy Spirit letting you know it was for you.
So, let’s move on now into some other details of these seven churches.
PILLAR #2 – A SPECIFIC REVELATION OF JESUS
Next, I want you to notice that all seven churches are given a specific revelation of Jesus at the beginning of each letter. In one, Jesus reveals Himself as the First and the Last; in another, He reveals Himself as the One who has eyes like a flame of fire and feet like fine brass. In one, He is the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand; in another, He is the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.
And the fact that Jesus began each letter by declaring who He was, is and evermore shall be shows me that the first thing Jesus wants His church to know is who He is. Yes, even before He addresses the things we’ve done right or the things we’ve done wrong, He addresses His nature and character.
Oh, how important this is to our everyday lives because seeing Him and understanding who He is, is the chief cornerstone that a successful church is built on. If the truth of Christ is not being presented, there will be a faulty foundation. Jesus is the Rock that keeps His house from falling when the storms come, but if the house does not hear and do His sayings, I can assure you it will not stand. Likewise, when any individual member of the Body of Christ does not see Jesus in truth, he or she is building their life on the wrong foundation.
So, a good prayer for us would be— “Father, I want to have the revelation of Jesus Christ! Open my eyes to see who He is in truth! Reveal His greatness and His glory, His grace and His goodness! I want to know You and Your Son! Amen!” And the Bible teaches us that when we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him. Amen and so be it!
PILLAR #3 – HE SEES OUR WORKS
The next thing we notice about all seven churches is that right after Jesus gives the different descriptions of who He is, He would let them all know— “I know your works!”
This is evidently something that Jesus wants all of His church to know—that He does indeed know our works. And when you look at the words He used, it literally means that He “sees” our works. In other words, He knows first-hand what His church is doing. And why? Because He is walking in the midst of His golden lampstands.
I want to tell you—this is important information to have! The Lord knows what we do even when others don’t. I don’t say that to scare anyone, but if it does scare us, then we probably shouldn’t be doing the things we are doing, right? This is just something we evidently need to remain cognizant of because knowing that the Lord is with us everywhere we go and that He knows not only everything we do but also knows everything we think, will help us to not think or do those things.
It’s called integrity—doing what is right even when others don’t see. This is the way we ought to live before the eyes of Him who knows all our works.
PILLAR #4 – A CALL TO REPENTANCE
Now another thing that we see repeated in the letters to the seven churches is the word “repentance.” In fact, the word “repent” is used seven times—not once for each church because some churches didn’t need to be told to repent. But for some churches, they needed a double portion of repentance.
And I can assure you that this is not a favorite word in our modern-day church today, but that does not change the fact that it was a favorite word of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You see, when Jesus came on the scene at 30 years of age, He came with one message— “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” What He was saying was— “Change sides, think a different way, and go in another direction—because the kingdom of God does things differently than this world.”
You see, many Christians do not understand what repentance really is. They think it is simply just feeling sorry for what you did and maybe shedding a tear. Too often sorrow is confused with repentance.
In the Parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), repentance is described beautifully by the Lord Jesus. After the prodigal son left his father’s house and spent all that he had, he came to a place where he was wallowing with the pigs (i.e. he hit rock bottom in sin). Then in verses 17-18, Jesus said “when he came to himself, he said, ‘…I will arise and go to my father and I will say to him ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’…” What this prodigal child did was he confessed his sin (or, acknowledged what his father already knew) and backed up his words with his actions by getting up and heading back to his father’s house.
You see, repentance is a distinct decision to return to the Lord. It is not an emotion, nor is it remorse. It is an act of our will to not continue wallowing around in the sin that we have been stained by.
And the great thing about repentance is that God does not make us do it all ourselves! In the parable of the Prodigal son, after he repented and started on his way back to his father’s presence, his father “ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” God will not make us do all the work of repentance. He will run to meet us, as we have taken the first few steps, and he will put the sandals on our feet, the best robe on our back, and a ring on our finger. God will be there with us to help us return home!!! That is just the loving and compassionate God that He is. He gives us grace to repent! Therefore, repentance is a gift from God. Selah.
So, when Jesus told these churches to repent seven different times, what we need to understand is that repentance is for all of God’s church—yesterday, today and forever. Therefore, we need to be reminded of it constantly and certainly practice it regularly.
PILLAR #5 – HOLD FAST TO WHAT YOU HAVE
Another pillar found a couple of times in these letters to the seven churches was the following phrase— “Hold fast to what you have.” (See Revelation 2:25 & 3:11). And although it is specifically said only a couple of times, it is alluded to throughout the churches—for persevering and having patience is encouraged and celebrated.
And there was a reason for this: You see, the early church experienced a tremendous amount of persecution and tribulation. One of these churches was said to be positioned right where Satan’s throne was! You know that had to be a tough situation. So, what these churches preached on and embraced was “patience”—which literally described “staying under power” meaning no matter how much pressure was put on them, they were to stand fast and, yes, hold fast to what they had.
These churches understood that if they just wouldn’t quit, then they would never lose. They knew what they had, and they understood that if they just wouldn’t relinquish it, there was great recompense of reward. This is why they called this virtue of patience—the queen of all virtues!
I believe this, likewise, needs to be high up on our priority list. Yes, we need to possess this staying under power. For Jesus even said that by our patience we possess our souls (See Luke 21:19). This means that when times inevitably get tough, we will have need of patience so that we can hold on to the things which we have.
How many of you have heard of people losing it when they become faint and weary? Our patience will help us not do that. We can keep our wits, hold on to our faith, and not allow discouragement to enter in. It is ours to hold and it is ours to let go of. Our patience is what we use to possess it!
PILLAR #6 – A PROMISE TO HIM WHO OVERCOMES
Now for pillar #6: What we see at the end of every letter to the seven churches was a promise—a promise to him who “overcomes.”
One thing we must understand about God is He is a rewarder. In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says that in order to please God, those who come to Him must believe that He is a rewarder. So, it’s a big part of Christianity for us to embrace God’s heart to reward us. His desire is not to punish and chasten His kids; His heart is to reward them! Yes, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom!
And He is even good enough to share with us the various rewards that await us like being able to eat of the tree of life, being given the morning star, a white stone with a new name written on it, etc. Now I don’t know what all of these rewards Jesus mentioned are, but how many of you know that you don’t have to know what they are to know you want them!
But the fact is, all of these wonderful things are promised to Him who overcomes: Who is he who overcomes? John answered this in his first epistle (First John 5:4-5), and in short it is he who is born again and he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. It’s our faith! So, overcoming the world through our faith is a big part of the Christian life. In fact, it seems to be the ultimate goal of the faith considering what we see here in the seven churches. Jesus declared that He overcame the world at the end of His ministry in John 16:33, and I believe we ought to be able to say the same thing when our time of departure is at hand.
PILLAR #7 – OUR FIRST LOVE
Finally, and arguably the most important pillar: When you look at the first and the last church—the Churches of Ephesus and Laodicea—you will find the Lord’s call to relationship.
In the Church of Ephesus, the Lord’s lone correction for them was to return to their first love. This is their love for the first thing. And I am convinced that our first love is that pure, zealous and genuine love that we had for the Lord in the beginning of our Christian walk.
But then in His letter to the Church of Laodicea, we see the Lord in Revelation 3:20 where He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Now while most people have used this verse evangelistically to tell the lost that Jesus wants to come into their lives, this is not being written to the lost. This is Jesus’ words to the church—showing us that a believer can be saved, but not experience the fullness of their salvation. Amen?
Many use this as an evangelistic verse, but the fact is, this is written to a church full of believers—not to unbelievers. So, is it possible that a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian can have the Lord knocking at the door of their hearts and not already living in their hearts? Apparently so. Now that doesn’t mean that they are not saved; it just means that Jesus is not occupying their lives like He desires to. And that is a major point: He obviously desires to, or He wouldn’t be standing at the door knocking. Amen? And the way we let the Lord back in is by returning to our first love like He told the Church of Ephesus.
So, my point is, He is not going to kick the door down. He will patiently wait until we decide to open the door by returning to our first love and inviting Him in. Amen?
Church, these are what I consider to be the seven pillars to the seven churches of Asia Minor. And like I said, all seven of them might not apply to your life today, but I believe that all seven of these things are pillars to the Lord’s church. The Lord Jesus evidently wants us to be mindful of these things so that we can be as strong and vibrant of a church as possible. Not to mention these things will certainly keep us ready for His soon return. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.