The book of Revelation, from beginning to end, is to describe events directly related to the second coming of Christ. Thus the letters to the seven churches (Rev 2 and 3) represent the types of churches in the last days, when Christ is about to appear (see my book, The Prewrath Rapture: Answering the Critics, available on Amazon.com for more on this).
This brief document is not intended as an in depth study of these letters. It is to give a general overview of the issues of each type of church. We should examine ourselves by these letters and ask God to reveal where we are at in our life and in the church we attend.
Ephesus – left their first love (or, the love they had at the first). This church is essentially sound of doctrine. They persevere and do good works. But they have either forgotten that their motivation should be love. Instead, it is done out of Law (things like rules about dancing or going to movies, etc). This church tends to be legalistic in practice, rather than doing works out of love. They help others not because they choose to love them, but because it is a work approved of in Scripture. They need to repent. They need a change of motive. Our motive in doing good works matters to God. On a positive note, they hate the DEEDS of the Nicolaitans, which God also hates. As I will show when we look at Pergamos, the Nicolaitans is the Roman Catholic church (and some others). SOME Baptist churches fall into this category, as do others who boldly stand against the RC.
Smyrna – the persecuted church. This church has been faithful with some strength, much like Philadelphia. Because of their stand for Christ they are persecuted and even imprisoned. They live in an area which is especially under the control of Satan and Antichrist. The New World Order has among its leaders some who claim Jewish descent (ex. Rothschild, Soros, and others)– but they are really serving Satan and helping set up his kingdom. While I cannot be certain, this letter suggests those who are imprisoned in the death camps of the Antichrist will have a ten day period in which they can choose Antichrist. If they stand firm for Christ, they will be killed.
Pergamos – the idolatrous church. They commit sexual immorality, which spiritually is idolatry. The RC prays to Mary and various saints approved by the church, and puts up images of them in their churches, and wears icons of them. Eats things sacrificed to idols – the Mass. They hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. This is a compound Greek word from nicao (to conquer) and laitos (the laity); it is excessive authority of the priesthood over the people. For example, In the RC you are expected to confess your sins to a priest, who can assign a penance (usually praying to Mary) and absolve the sin. WE HAVE ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, CHRIST JESUS. The Pope is called the vicar of Christ, basically a physical representative of Christ on earth. Note that Jesus does recognize this as a church – there are some who are really saved who are part of it. This church is noted for good works and for not denying Christ even in times of persecution.
Thyatira – The main difference between Pergamos and Thyatira is that this church does not have the Nicolaitan doctrine. The immorality also relates to having patron saints, as if saints of old have some type of influence over the church or our faith. The only influence should be their lives as a witness to encourage us to continue in the faith (Heb 12:1, 2), looking unto Jesus not the saints. Some of the Orthodox churches, among others, fall into this category.
Sardis – the liberal church. They are popular, have church growth, and appear to be alive, but they are really dead as a whole. The wages of sin is death, so it is because of a soft stance on sin. They preach social justice and are largely politically correct. They are not known for preaching the true Gospel of Christ, which calls for repentance of sin and learning to live a holy life. This is one of two church types which Jesus has nothing good to say about, though He admits even in this church there are a few who have real faith.
Philadelphia – the church of brotherly love. They have the works. They have some spiritual strength, standing firm for Christ and keeping His Word. Because they kept Christ’s command to persevere, He will keep a watchful eye on them to protect them during the hour of testing which is coming on earth to test and prove earth-dwellers. Because this church has already proven itself, God promises His keeping power. This does not mean life will be easy for them, for they will be in hiding or on the run. But God will lead them and strengthen them. Because they were in the habit of following the Spirit of God before the hour of testing, they are open to His leading during that time.
Laodicea church – the lukewarm church. This is the health/wealth and power of positive thinking churches. Notice their attitude is that they are rich and need nothing – that is what the health/wealth church teaches – we are King’s kids and should be wealthy and not get sick. You cannot serve God and Mammon (worldly wealth and values). This church doesn’t serve God because He is God, but because of the worldly blessings He can give. Their focus is not on loving God and others, but on gaining what this world has to offer. This makes Jesus sick to His stomach.