Bible Study: Revelation 2 – First Four Churches

Revelation is the only book that says we are blessed to read, hear and keep the things that are written, for the time is near. Hence, let us not be like hypocrites without discerning times and seasons. Here we will look into Revelation 2 and understand what it says.

(Rev 1:3) Blessed [is] he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time [is] near.  

(Luke 12:56) “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how [is it] you do not discern this time?

Overview

If we read carefully, Christ is not directly speaking to the churches.

(Heb 1:13-14) But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

John is writing what was told to the ministering spirits by Christ to each of the churches. We will be addressing the first four churches namely, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos and Thyatira. The seven lampstands are identified as the seven churches. Please note that the Spirit when saying to each church, actually addresses to “all” churches regarding the reward for those who overcome.

One of the important question is, are these prophecies for ancient seven churches (or) are these for today as well. Based on some of the prophecies, they are definitely very specific to ancient churches. These can also be used for the edification of today’s churches.

But, are these representing  today’s and/or future churches as well?

(Rev 3:10,12) “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. … “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.   .

(Rev 14:1) Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. 

(Rev 9:4) They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 

 One of the important clues comes from the reward for the church of Philadelphia, which is a specific blessing given only to the 144000. We also see that the 144000 were living in the days of the blowing of the 5th trumpet which is just before the great battle of 200 million army and the great day of the Lord. Also, the hour of trial upon the whole world had never occurred in the days of these ancient churches and this is yet a future event. Hence, it is possible, God had hidden the real message to the saints using steganography with which Revelation itself is written. Steganography is the practice of concealing a message within another. Hence, it is certainly possible that, by addressing to those ancient churches, God is concealing the target audience who are the seven types of churches through out the ages. Which is also why the Spirit says to all churches about the reward for overcoming.

The next question is, are these seven churches represents seven ages of churches? It is certainly possible. Without going into much details, if we see the prophecies themselves for the last two churches, it certainly shows as if they are addressed to the future churches.

Church in Philadelphia: Great Tribulation

(Rev 3:10) “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Church of the Laodiceans: Marriage Supper

(Rev 3:20) “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Hence, the prophecies for the seven churches  refers to the following:

  • Seven ancient churches in Turkey
  • Seven types of churches at any given time
  • Churches in seven ages

Ephesus

(Rev 2:1-7) “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” ’

Below is a tabulation for the above verse which helps to easily understand what was said to the church of Ephesus.

Church of Ephesus
Introduction Christ holds the seven stars in His right hand who are the ministering spirits or angels of the seven churches. He walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.
Appreciation Christ know the works, labor, patience, and that they cannot bear those who are evil. They have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and they have persevered and have patience, and have labored for His name’s sake and have not become weary. They hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which Christ also hate.
Failures They have left their first love for Christ. and have fallen from doing their first works.
Warning Christ will come to them quickly and remove their lampstand from its place–unless you repent.
Reward He will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.
Christ was addressing to a church which was once loving Christ more than anything. They discern everything and test those who say that they were apostles and able to find them as liars. They had persevered and had patience for Christ’s name sake and had not become weary. However, as time passed, they left the first place of love for Christ which they had and loved other worldly things more than Christ. This is the situation of many Christian churches today which had their first love for Christ but as time passes, they slowly had a setback.

Archaeological excavations at Ephesus.

The city of Ephesus was completely abandoned in 15th century AD. We can be sure of the fact that the church of Ephesus no longer exists today. If this represents the first age of churches, it should have also been in the past. Hence, one of the important warning Christ is telling us for today’s and future churches is that not to leave how we loved Him initially. 

Doctrine of Nicolaitans

(Rev 2:6) “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 

(Rev 2:14-15) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.“Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

It is mentioned that this church hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans while the church of Pergamos holds to this doctrine. So, what is the doctrine of Nicolaitans? Doctrine of Nicolaitans is very closely related to doctrine of Balaam.

(Num 31:16) “Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. 

(Neh 13:2-3) because they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing. So it was, when they had heard the Law, that they separated all the mixed multitude from Israel.

Long story short, Balaam wants to curse Israel but God always blesses them. Balaam found it is impossible to curse them as long as they are holy and God is with them. So, Balaam advised Balak to send females to mix with Israelite and decisively turn them against God by worshiping other gods.

(Deut 7:3-4) “Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.

This is also a warning from God Himself. Hence, God’s anger is aroused when they turn to other gods because of intermarriages with gentiles. Hence the deeds/doctrine of Nicolaitans is intermarriage with worshipers of other gods, and creating a stumbling block for believers by making them commit sexual immorality by worshiping other gods as well and eating things sacrificed to other gods.

God forbids marriages with non-believers. Deeds/doctrine of Nicolaitans which is intermarriage with unbelievers is widely practiced among today’s believers which Christ hates.

However, the church of Ephesus hates the deeds/doctrine of Nicolaitans.

Smyrna

(Rev 2:8-11) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” ’

Below is a tabulation for the above verse which helps to easily understand what was said to the church of Smyrna.

Church of Smyrna
Introduction
Christ introduces Himself as the First and the Last.  He also introduces by referring to His resurrection by saying “who was dead, and came to life”.
Appreciation
Christ knew her works, tribulation and the poverty in this world but rich in the sight of Christ. Christ knew the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but a synagogue of Satan. Christ encourages this church not to fear any of the things they are about to suffer. The devil is about to throw some of them into prison, and they may be tested, and they will have tribulation to ten days. Christ encourages them to be faithful until death.
Failures
Nil
Warning
Nil
Reward
Crown of Life. Will not be hurt by second death
Christ introduces Himself as the one who came back to life, referring to the control He has over their life and not to fear of the tribulation they are about to experience. There are no failures or warnings. However, Christ encourages this church to not fear, but to be faithful until death and their reward is crown of Life and they will not be hurt by second death.

Church cross replaced with ISIS flag

The ancient church of Smyrna no longer exists even through the city declined, captured, raided and rebuilt several times in the past. Church of Smyrna today represents a persecuted church. This can be a home church in China or an Iraqi church under ISIS.

Pergamos

(Rev 2:12-17) “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ’

Below is a tabulation for the above verse which helps to easily understand what was said to the church of Pergamos.

Church of Pergamos
Introduction
Christ introduces Himself as having sharp two-edged sword.
Appreciation
Christ knew the works, and the place where they dwell, where Satan’s throne is. They hold fast to His name, and did not deny His faith even in the days in which Antipas His faithful martyr was killed among them, where Satan dwells.
Failures
Some in the church hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus they also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing Christ hate.
Warning
Repent, or else Christ will come to them quickly and will fight against them with the sword of His mouth. 
Reward
To those who overcomes Christ will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And He will give them a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.
The two-edged sword from Christ represents the Word of God.

(Heb 4:12) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Christ identifies Pergamon as the throne of Satan and the please where he dwells. This church holds the doctrine of Nicolaitans. As we saw earlier in church of Ephesus, this doctrine is about intermarrying without unbelievers which becomes a stumbling block for believers and they worship other gods and eat things scarified to idols. To those who hold this doctrine, Christ will fight with His Word. To those who overcome, He will give some of the hidden manna to eat and He will give them a white stone with a new name written which no one knows except the person who receives it.

What is hidden manna?

(John 6:48-50) “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 

(John 3:12) “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Manna is compared to Bread from heaven. It symbolizes Christ in the New Testament. Hence, hidden manna represents hidden things about Christ Himself which are not yet revealed to all.

(Rev 19:12) His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 

(Rev 10:4) Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.”

A good example of His new name that no one knows. I am suggesting that He is going to share His new name but rather, similar to the above, there are several things hidden which Christ will reveal to those who overcome. Another example is what the seven thunders uttered revealed only to John.

What does a new name written in a white stone mean?

(Exod 28:9-10,12) Then you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israelsix of their names on one stone and six names on the other stone, in order of their birth. …  And you shall put the two stones on the shoulders of the ephod as memorial stones for the sons of Israel. So Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders as a memorial.

Names written on onyx stones on Aaron’s ephod is very similar to what Christ had mentioned here. Christ will write a new name for those who overcome on a white stone and give it to them.

The ancient city of Pergamon lay in ruins. Church of Pergamon today represents the group of believers who intermarry and mix with believers, which becomes a stumbling block and follow other gods, arousing the anger of God.

Thyatira

(Rev 2:18-29) “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.  And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations– He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’– as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’

Below is a tabulation for the above verse which helps to easily understand what was said to the church of Thyatira.

Church of Thyatira
Introduction Christ introduces Himself as the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass
Appreciation Christ knew their works, love, service, faith, and their patience; and as for their works, the last are more than the first.
Failures Christ have a few things against them, because they allow Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce His servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. Christ gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality and of eating things sacrificed to idols but she did not repent.
Warning Christ will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. He will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that Christ is He who searches the minds and hearts. And He will give to each one of them according to their works. To the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, Christ will not put on them no other burden.
Reward Those who overcome, and keeps Christ’s works until the end, to them He will give power over the nations– They shall rule with a rod of iron as Christ also have received from His Father; and He will give them the morning star.
Christ is introducing Himself as Son of God and rebuking against a false doctrine of Jezebel and warning of serious consequences including great tribulation. For those who repent and overcome Christ will give power over nations and give them the morning star.

Who is the morning star?

(Rev 22:16) “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

Christ refers to Himself as the Morning Star. Christ had already given Himself to all beleivers. It is possible Christ is referring to Him dwelling within those who overcome.

What is the doctrine of Jezebel?

Jezebel (Israel, Old Testament) Jezebel (church of Thyatira)
Daughter of a King

(1Kgs 16:31) And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.

Self-Proclaimed Prophetess

(Rev 2:20a) “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess

Worshiper of Baal & Asherah

(1Kgs 18:19) “Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

Worshiper of Christ

(Rev 2:21) “And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.

Massacred Prophets of the LORD

(1Kgs 18:4) For so it was, while Jezebel massacred the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah had taken one hundred prophets and hidden them, fifty to a cave, and had fed them with bread and water.)

Seduced servants of Christ to worship other gods

(Rev 2:20) “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Deception

(1Kgs 21:9-10,14) She wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, “You have blasphemed God and the king.” Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die. …  Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.”

Deception

(Rev 2:23) “I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

Stirred To Do Wicked

(1Kgs 21:25) But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up.

Known the depths of Satan

(Rev 2:24) “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.

Spiritual Harlotry

(2Kgs 9:22) Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” So he answered, “What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?”

Spiritual Harlotry

(Rev 2:20) “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

We see striking similarities between the Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab of Old Testament and the Jezebel mentioned in Revelation. Based on what is mentioned, she is a self-proclaimed prophetess, which means, she speaks lies in the name of Christ. She worships Christ which we can see from the patience of Christ giving her time to repent. However, she seduced the servants of God to commit spiritual harlotry of worshiping other gods and thus arousing the anger of God. She is deceptive just like Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab which we can see from the response of Christ about her. Her doctrine also includes the knowledge of depth of Satan. Hence, the doctrine of Jezebel seems to be Christian cult mixing things of other religion, which from outside looks like worshiping God. Today, we can identify Jezebel like a prophet as Mohammed and the doctrine of Jezebel as Islam, since Islam began as a christian cult.

Interfaith Preacher

Today, several churches are like the church of Thyatira, having self-proclaimed prophets who preach all religions lead to God, allowing servants of God and Christ to take part in pagan worship. A good example is interfaith churches. In June 2013, The Telegraph reported a news, Church of England creating ‘pagan church’ to recruit members, which is the sexual immorality warned for the church of Thyatira.

(Rev 2:7a,11a,17a,29) “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Let us therefore, take heed to what Christ says to the angel of the churches and what the Spirit says to the churches.