Interpreting the letters

  • Literal - taking it for what it says, Specific and historical
  • Universal - situations and circumstances that remain true throughout the time of the church, general and timeless
  • Prophetic - how are these chapters speaking to us about future events

Structure of letters

  • All have a name of a city
  • All will begin with a salutation
    • Parts of the description of Jesus in Chapter 1 is used in the salutation of each of the seven churches
  • All will have condemnations, exhortations, promises, and warnings


  • All of the seven cities are located in south western Turkey (Asia minor)
  • These letters point to when Jesus appeared to John, until the second coming of Christ
  • Only 150 years ago did people started to notice the letters matched up with history and started to see these letters as prophetic

The church had a beginning at Pentecost and it will have an end around the time of the Laodecia church.

Letter 1 - Ephesus

  • Ephesus was a port city
  • Name means desirable
  • One of the chief sea ports and made the city very wealthy
  • City had lots of temples for false Gods
  • Held the Temple of Diana (Greek temple), one of the seven wonders of the world
  • The salutation reminds the church that he (Jesus) is in charge
  • Nicolaitians means victory over people
    • We are not 100% but it seems a group of people rose into power to rule over the church
    • They were special/holy people that we need to work through to get to God (heresy)
  • They left their first love (Jesus)
    • They don’t want false teachers, clergy. At the same time, the letter hints that they don’t want Jesus to lead their church either
  • It’s the mission of sharing Jesus with the world, that is the reason the church gets together in the first place
    • This is our first love
  • The city over time got further and further from the sea and it was no longer a port city
    • It lost its main source of income
  • The official start of the church was Pentecost
  • The apostles were alive in this time and that is why they had sound teaching
  • Paul’s definition of a Christian: a true Christian is someone who is led by the Holy Spirit and has the Spirit dwelling within them
    • Romans 8:9-11, 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
  • Apostolic church - 30 - 100 AD (dates are a guess)
  • At the end of this period, persecution breaks out

Letter 2 - Smyrna

  • The word Smyrna means death
  • Comes from the word myrrh, which is a spice
    • Used as a fragrant oil
    • In the time of Christ it was mostly associated with burial and death as myrrh was used as an embalming substance.
  • Became a place of early persecution of Christians
  • Roman law prohibited all other religions except emperor worship, with the exception of the Jewish religion
  • It was common for workers to be asked to worship idols and if you did not, you will lose your job
    • This is why it was very likely that Christians were not able to find work and ended up in poverty.
  • The number 10
    • Represents that time (10 days) it took Romans to decide on a verdict of a prisoner
    • 10 is the number in the bible for testimony
  • What does crown of life mean
    • In the new testament, crown represent an award or reward that you receive because you earned it. Note this does not represent salvation as it is not by works you are saved, but by grace.
  • Persecuted church - 100-313 AD

Letter 3 - Pergamum

  • Perga means tower or powerful fortress of some kind. Gamus means matrimony, a marriage
    • Combined, married to a powerful institution
  • Double edged sword was a sword used almost exclusively to execute criminals
  • Jesus talks about cutting off leadership from the church
  • Hidden mana
    • God will provide for them
    • They no longer had to eat sacrificed meat to idols
  • White stone with a new name
    • Historically there were places to get healed in that city and at the end you will get a white stone, write your name and what you have been healed of as a testimony. 
    • Jesus brings this up to tell them he has something much better for the believer
  • Emperor Constantine had a vision and declared that Christianity is the Religion of Rome
    • Persecution stopped for the Christians
    • Infant baptism began and a bunch more Pagan practices began being introduced to Christianity since everyone in Rome had to become a Christian
  • Roman Empire Church 313-600 AD

Letter 4 - Thyatira

  • Meaning is not clear, but some suggest it means unending sacrifice
  • Roman city
  • Just like Smyrna, you had to sacrifice meat to idols to keep your job
  • Flame of fire
    • Means all seeing, Jesus knows it all, nothing you have is hidden from Jesus
  • Feet are like burnished bronze
    • Testing of metal in fire to know if it is pure
  • Jezebel - An evil hearted woman that manipulates a weak man into doing her bidding
  • The morning star - a reference to Jesus himself
  • The church became the Government. The popes were running the show
  • The black plague
    • It began in two cities at the same time, Rome and Constantinople
  • Roman Catholic Church 600-1517 AD