The Book of Revelation and Its Apocalyptic Implications for the 21st Century (Vol. 2 no.2)

The Seven Churches in Revelation in the Context of 21ST Century Churches

Since every church in every age face from its culture similar pressures to accommodate the world’s values, perspectives, and lifestyles, it is then presumed that John’s vision speaks to the church throughout the ages. The historical grounding in the culture of the Roman cities is fundamental to understanding the messages the churches receive from Jesus. However, each letter to an individual church is heard by all the churches. In some sense, therefore, the letters are to all the churches. Since all churches in John’s day would face the same pressures and temptations as the seven addressed, it is reasonable to presume the vision is for them as well. The seven churches are ordered in a new pattern of ‘Perfect’ Churches, ‘Problem’ Churches, and ‘Perverse’ Churches:

(1) Ephesus (2) Smyrna (3) Pergamum
Problem Perfect Problem


  • Thyatira

All Three

  • Sardis (6) Philadelphia          (7) Laodicea

Perverse                   Perfect                        Perverse

  1. The Church in Ephesus – Revelation 2:1-7 

The Ephesians’ church worked diligently and endured pressures from its Fallen Babylon context. The church was also cautious not to allow any ‘infection’ from Fallen Babylon to enter its fellowship. They had some tests to ensure that no one got into the community if Fallen Babylon tainted them. The church was not denying their allegiance to Jesus and had not become tired of being faithful citizens of New Jerusalem. However, they were not reaching out to their world with the liberating, healing, cleansing, and transforming reality of God’s grace in Jesus. The church was profoundly orthodox but no longer evangelistic. Jesus praises their orthodoxy but indicates that the evangelistic failure has the church on the verge of ceasing to be a community of God’s people (their lampstand is about to be removed). If Ephesus’s analysis of the problem is correct, then orthodoxy and evangelism are the inseparable foci of a healthy church. Both must be kept in dynamic balance. Evangelism without orthodoxy becomes a tolerant pluralism and results in a community formed around diffuse human values and criteria. Orthodoxy without evangelism becomes a cold, harsh legalism and results in a community formed around debilitating “do’s and don’ts. Sound orthodoxy and fervent evangelism with discipleship result in a community of faith whose growing wholeness of life is a powerful witness of the cleansing, healing, liberating life in Christ to a filthy, wounded, imprisoned world.

***to be continued tomorrow


Leave a Reply