The human penman John obeyed God’s command to write, “the things which thou hast seen,” which are the things of the past; and “the things which are,” that is this present age; and then, “the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19). When we come to the second and third chapters of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we are dealing with that second assignment that God gave John: to write of this present age.
The Lord Jesus Christ came to earth and became a man without ceasing to be God. He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was robed in flesh (that is what the word incarnate means, “robed in flesh”), but He did not cease to be God. He lived among us, “Emmanuel…God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
While on this earth, Christ established the New Testament church with His disciples, and it was empowered at Pentecost. The church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15). Our responsibility is to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
The Bible tells us in Matthew 16:13-17,
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples…whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
The Lord Jesus went on to say, “Upon this rock”— that is upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ—“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The word used for church is a word that was already in use at the time. It means, “a called-out assembly.” What He said was, “It is My called- out assembly.” When the Lord Jesus established that ekklesia, or called out assembly, as His church, He established that it was not our responsibility to build His church. It is not His responsibility to build our church. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church.” It is His to build, and He builds it. Our work is to obey the Lord and to believe that God gives the increase as we obey Him.
The first century church was a dynamic body of believers that marched forth throughout the known world preaching the gospel. When we come to the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, God reveals more to us about this present church age.
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, our Lord names seven churches. In these seven churches, we have for us the entire church age represented. Why did God choose these seven churches? They represent to us the types of churches that exist in every age. In every age, all seven types of these churches can be identified
The church age has gone on now for over 2,000 years. Within the 7 churches given in Revelation 2 and 3, the Lord also gives us the progression—or the digression—of the church age. When we come to the last church mentioned, the Lord Jesus Christ is on the outside knocking on the door to gain entrance.
Many people have no use for the church now because they have no regard for the things of God. We ought to love the church because Christ loved the church. He not only loved the church, but He gave His life to establish the church.
Each of these seven churches received a different message directly from the Lord. Notice carefully the way the Lord Jesus expresses Himself. The angels mentioned here are the messengers of God. The stars are the pastors. The candlesticks or lamp stands are the churches in God’s hand. The Lord Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, is walking among the churches.
Does it do anything to your heart to think that while you are worshipping, Christ Himself is in our midst? He is here. We worship Him, and He is present. What does He observe in our worship? One of the things that many people have forgotten entirely in places of worship is the power of the presence of Christ in worship. When we are aware that He is here, when we are aware that He is among us, that He is working in this church age, it is a staggering thought. Let us name these 7 churches and go through God’s message to them.
God’s Message to the Church of Ephesus
Read Revelation 2:1-7. The Lord tells the church of Ephesus that He is the One “that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” He sees all, He is walking in the midst of us.
Verse four is often misquoted as, “thou hast lost thy first love,” but the word here is not “lost,” it is “left.” This is a deliberate decision to move away from or leave it.
For each church, there is a different address given by the Lord: a message fitting for that church. This message was about having left their first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. In each church, we must listen intently to the message the Holy Spirit gives us.
God’s Message to the Church of Smyrna
Next, we come to the message God has for the church of Smyrna, and the Bible says in Revelation 2:8, “And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.” To the church of Ephesus, God said that He is the one who holds the seven stars in His hand and walks in the midst of the seven churches. To the church of Smyrna, He says that He is the one who is “the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive.”
Read Revelation 2:9-11. You will find this phrase repeated in every message to every church, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Sadly, the last thing many people are doing is listening to God speak to them, to guide their lives, and to show them His way.
God’s Message to the Church of Pergamos
We come to this third church of Pergamos in verse twelve. How He addresses Himself here has much to do with the message He is going to deliver. “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works,” and then He tells us in the seventeenth verse, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
God’s Message to the Church of Thyatira
Then we come to the fourth church, and the Bible says in verse eighteen, “And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass.” To this church He speaks of judgment. Finally, He says to them in verse twenty-nine, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
God’s Message to the Church of Sardis
When you come to the third chapter, the Word of God says, “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” How would you like for God to say that to your church? “You have a name. You have every pretense to be alive, but you are dead.”
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die” (Revelation 3:2). That is the message for all churches, but particularly for this church in Sardis.
Then He says again, what He will do, and then in verse six, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
God’s Message to the Church of Philadelphia
In Revelation 3:7, the Bible says, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” Imagine how you would feel if you were thinking, “We don’t have that opportunity,” and then God spoke to you or your church and said, “I open doors that no one else can open, and when I shut them, they are shut and no one else can open that shut door!”
And He says again, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
God’s Message to the Church of Laodicea
When we come to Revelation 3:14, we reach the seventh of these churches. “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write.” It is as if the Lord is saying, “Pastor, receive this message: this is Who I am!” “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”
God says of them, “You are neither cold nor hot.”
And He says in verse twenty, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” And then He gives us this message again in verse twenty-two, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
God is speaking to us. He is speaking to us, of course, of things to come, and we shall study them. And He is speaking to us of things that are past. But He is also speaking to us of the things which are now. We are living in the church age, and the Holy Spirit is at work in the world reproving and convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). As the Lord Jesus speaks to us, He says, “If you have a spiritual ear, if you can understand spiritual things because you have been born of the Spirit, understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
The Bible tells us the reason we should give attention to the Holy Spirit: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” That moment is right before us: the coming of the Lord. The trumpet will sound, and we will be caught up. Our work will be over. The church age will be ended, and we will be with the Lord. While we still have the opportunity, we must be attentive, hear the Spirit of God speak to us, and be obedient to the Lord.
Hear more about this passage from Revelation 2-3 by watching the full sermon given by Pastor Sexton here.