1: Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2: I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4: Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5: Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6: But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
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; 9: I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10: Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
12: And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; 13: I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. 14: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. 15: So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 16: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
18: 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; 19: I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. 20: Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21: And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22: Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23: And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. 24: But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. 25: But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. 26: And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: 27: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. 28: And I will give him the morning star. 29: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Right at the beginning we have a clue as to who John is addressing his letters. He says ‘unto the angel of the Church’. The word angel means ‘the messenger’. Now NT churches do not have a single minister, let alone ‘an angel’. However in the Time of the Day of the LORD there will be Jewish congregations that will have a Rabbi who leads each service and he is the secretary of the assembly. He was one of a group of overseers of the Jewish believers, v9. It is to this leader that the letters are addressed. He is representative of the elders and the whole congregation. John’s ministry is focused on the Jewish congregations of Asia.
John writes these letters as the Prophet of God to these Jews. (The Jews had what is called 'The leadership complex'. What this means is that when God has something to say he says it to the Religious leaders (and political if there are any) and they are expected to respond appropriately on behalf of the people that they lead. We see this in the ministry of John Christ and the Apostles and we see it here. Often when Jews are asked about why they reject Christ they will say if Jesus was the Messiah - then why did the Elders reject him in his day? They trust their leaders and always assume that they do right. John addresses himself to the Leaders of each Jewish/Christian congregation. He addresses issues such as their righteous works, Their relation to the synagogue of Satan and the issue of false Jews who say they are Jews but are not. And the call is consistently in the context of The Gospel of the Kingdom i.e. Repentance and a return to the God of their fathers)
In these letters we have an address to Israel as a nation.
The Nation in the wilderness
A. The Nation’s Espousals Ephesus
B. The Nation’s Testing Smyrna
A. The Nation’s Failure Pergamos
The Nation in the Land
A. Israel’s Kings Thyatira
B. Israel’s Kings Sardis
A. Judah’s Kings Philadelphia
B. Judah’s removal Laodicea
His first letter is to the congregation of Ephesus. This is the day of their Espousals. As soon as entering into covenant they leave their first love and go after an adulterous relationship with idols. Christ commends them for their works, labour and patience and for their hatred of the Nicolaitians. However they have left their first love (himself) and therefore he calls on them to repent and return unto Jehovah and ‘do the works’ - in other words keep the Mosaic law because they are Jews after all. If they do not repent then the Lord will remove the candlestick. This is the token of his presence. The promise Christ gives is ‘The Tree of life’ in the Paradise of God – In the Kingdom.
To the Smyrna congregation Christ says, I know your works, tribulation and poverty (Yet they are rich towards God) He says I know the Blaspheme of those who claim to be Jews but are the synagogue of Satan! He gives specific encouragement in tribulation to those who will be imprisoned for their faith in Christ. And he promises eternal life in the Kingdom. This was a reference to a specific time of trial while Israel were in their wilderness wanderings.
To the Pergamos congregation he writes that he knows their works and the evil of the place they inhabit. He even calls it Satan’s seat. However there are a few things he holds against them. They allow those who follow Balaam who caused Israel to Sin. And how that they encourage abominations causing the judgment of God to come. He commends them for their hatred of the Nicolaitians. However he tells them to repent of judgment will come. None of these terms could ever be spoken to a NT Church. This is referring to Israel’s failure and the references to Balaam etc are unmistakable.
To the Thyatira Jewish congregation he writes I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. These he commends, but he warns them of allowing a prophetess Jezebel to teach and draw men into the gross sins of fornication and Idolatry. Christ himself has warned her and yet she has not repented, so He will act in severe judgment and destroy her and her offspring. Those who overcome will share with Christ his rule over the Nations in the Kingdom.
All these messages were strongly Jewish in flavour and addressed to the Jewish synagogues/churches of Asia Minor (Turkey). This letter takes Israel back to that time in their history when they came under the rule of Ahab and the spell of Jezabel.