Yesterday at CrossHope Chapel we opened to Revelation 2 and talked about the four churches mentioned in the chapter. Jesus dictated to John letters for these seven churches and in this chapter we have the letters for the first four: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyartira.
The letters have application to each of the local churches of John’s time, an application to the church universal today, and an application as seven consecutive eras of church history from the ascension of Christ to the return of Christ.
Revelation 2:2 — Ephesus was a church and an era of church history that was evangelism focused. The Lord states His appreciation for their works of sharing the gospel. It was also interesting to us when we read, “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people” because we see a division in today’s churches over that very thing. The tolerance of wickedness is leading those who claim Christ into compromise and that leads to apostasy.
Revelation 2:4-5 — Though Ephesus had lost its first love it is good news that it can be regained through doing the things they did at first. We talked about our Christian faith being like a marriage relationship. We tend to give our potential spouses love and attention but once married that effort easily gets relaxed and even forgotten.
Revelation 2:8-9 — Smyrna was a church and an era of persecution and martyrdom. Between AD 98 and AD 315, thirteen different Roman Emperors reigned who supported or initiated persecution against Christians in their governance. Diocletian’s reign was the last of these but it was the most fierce period of persecution and widespread in forcing Christians from society. Jesus’ remark of “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty” underscores Diocletian’s demands to remove Christians from employment leaving most in poverty.
Revelation 2:10 — When we read “ye shall have tribulation ten days” it is hard to not consider the ten years of Diocletian’s severest persecution between AD 303 – AD 313, when interpreted on the basis that in symbolic prophecy a day represents a year (Ezekiel 4:6).
Revelation 2:12 — Pergamos was a church and an era of compromise. We could look back at history and say that Satan changed his strategy from persecution to compromise because this was the period of church history that was influenced by Emperor Constantine the Great. Constantine declared himself and his army Christian, which ushered in an era of acceptance for the church but also transformed simple Christian fellowship into an institutionalized organization with centralized buildings and hierarchical clergy class segregating a laity class.
Revelation 2:16 — Just as mentioned in verse 12, “the sharp sword with two edges” should turn our minds to the symbolism of the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Scripture (Hebrews 4:12-13) as the standard for the church.
Revelation 2:18 — Thyatira was a church and an era of apostasy. This was a period of the Dark Ages in which the papacy ruled Europe as the Holy Roman Empire. Emperor Justinian compelled by law that non-Catholics who would not convert to Catholicism would have their land and belongings confiscated and suffer exile and persecution. The true church and followers of Christ were scattered into the wilderness for their survival.
Revelation 2:25 — There is a lesson here in that for us, when we too are pressed by the circumstances of life or the onslaught of persecution, let’s take the words of Jesus to “hold on to what you have until I come” as our ultimate blessed hope.
Well, there was so much that we covered and discussed but these are just some of the highlights in case you missed it.
Next Sunday, November 21, we will open to chapter 3 of Revelation and look at the letters to the churches of Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.