Chapter 2 begins the account of the seven letters to seven churches in the province of Asia; Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. We will see that five of the churches are criticised but two, the church at Smyrna and Philadelphia, are fully commended.
All the letters are addressed to the ‘angel’, or ‘messenger’ (pastors?) of the church. Each letter identifies Jesus is a special way: ‘He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands’ (v.1); ‘the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life’ (v.8); ‘He who has the sharp two-edged sword’ (v.12); ‘the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass’ (v.18) Then each letter reveals an intimate knowledge of the particular church addressed, indicating that there is nothing God does not know about them, or about us! Finally, each letter concludes with a command to either correct a problem or to warn the church, with a promise of reward to the victor who responds obediently, ‘He who has an ear’ (v.s 7, 11, 17, 29; Rev 3: 8, 13, 22).
What are the lessons to be learned from the (four) letters we read today? As Christians we need to guard against busyness and losing our first love; we will endure persecution if we stand firm; we need zero tolerance of immorality within the church; and we need to ensure sound doctrine is taught. So, what happened to the seven churches (all located in modern-day Turkey)?
Ephesus - Over time Ephesus physically shifted to what is now the small town of Selçuk. The town is Muslim—as is 99 percent of Turkey;
Smyrna - The modern city of Izmir is filled with secular modernists—officially Muslim by name but sincerely disillusioned with Islam and the current political climate. There is a thriving Christian community and although many of the churches are historically Catholic or Orthodox, there are a growing number of evangelical Protestant believers as well;
Pergamum – Today, Bergama is made up of an “old city” of narrow, cobbled streets and a more modern city. There are few known believers around Bergama, but apparently no churches.
Thyatira - The scant ruins of Thyatira are unearthed in the modern city of Akhisar. Contemporary apartment buildings line streets teeming with buses and cars. There is no church in Akhisar and no known believers!
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Prayer: Father, help me to keep my first love; to stand firm; and to adhere to sound doctrine. Amen.