(Notes Compiled by F. M. Perry.)

Section 1. Chapters 1-3, Christ in the Midst of the Lamp Stands.

A. Chapter 1, Verses 1-3, Introduction.

"(1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place, and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant, John, (2) who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (3) Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." NASV.

Notice the links in the chain of origin and communication. "The Revelation ... which God gave to Him", that is, to Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ was "to show it to His bond-servants." The first in the links is God. The second in the links from God to man is Jesus Christ. Then Jesus Christ communicated it by the third link, "His angel." And from the angel the Revelation was given to the fourth link, John, to write down. Verse 3 says, "Blessed is he who reads". So the fifth link in the chain is the reader. There is still another link in the chain. Verse 3 also refers to "those who hear". So the sixth link is the hearer.

It may seem strange to us to differentiate between the reader and the hearer because in our day almost all who hear can also read for themselves. But, in John's time, perhaps, there were not so many who could read. And there really were not many books, because all books, or scrolls, were copied by hand. So, in each church congregation there, perhaps, was only one copy of the Revelation. So the communication of the Book to the Christians was by means of a reader who read to the assembly. This is true today in many "third world" countries. When my wife and I lived in Pakistan we visited small village congregations where there was only one man who could read, and he read the Bible to the entire congregation. Verse 3 says, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear." (This is often referred to as the first beatitude of the Book of Revelation.) So the fifth and sixth links in the chain of communication from God to man was the reader and the hearer.

Note that the information communicated through those links was, in the case of the Revelation, "the things which must shortly come to pass." That is, they would begin to happen at once at the time of John's writing. Noting that the Book was written in the first century and was addressed to seven specific churches of the first century, we know that the first readers and hearers were to understand the Book in terms of what was happening in and around their lives then, or was soon to be happening during their lifetimes. The Revelation was to strengthen them in their Christian lives on earth in the first century.

One might ask, how then does the final judgement fit into this understanding? The final judgement seems to be clearly envisioned in the Revelation and it has not yet occurred. Almost 2,000 years have elapsed since the Christians of the first century received the Book. All of the first century Christians have died and they did not see the second coming or the final judgement during their lives. How does this fit with the prophecy that "the things must shortly come to pass?"

In answer to this question, and many questions like it concerning the meaning of the Revelation over the centuries, we must remember that fleshly death for the first century Christians was shortly to come to pass, as it is even now for twentieth century Christians. The fleshly life span of any of us is very short in God's grand scale of things. The Hebrew writer has reminded us, "It is appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgement." So, in this respect the final judgement was not far distant from the first century Christians, as it is not far from each one of us today. And, even though none of us as yet has seen the final judgement, we all will see it in our spiritual lifetime.

How Christians conduct themselves while they live their short lives on earth determines what happens to them after fleshly death. The Revelation reveals that God has already made provision for every eventuality, judgement for every enemy, salvation for every son. Choices are given to people only during their short fleshly lives on earth. When the bodies of Christians "go to sleep" in the dust of the earth, their immortal souls and spirits are conducted into the unseen spiritual realm, effectively removed from finite earthly time. For those who die as God's enemies, God's time of patience toward them is ended. For those who die as steadfast Christians, the victory is achieved through Jesus Christ. The time of testing and purification is over at fleshly death. Although the length of the Christian dispensation has already stretched to almost 2,000 earth years, to those Christians who have already passed from the earth, the time may have been but a moment. The Lord has given us the Revelation and its message transcends time. It is truly Revelation of things which must shortly come to pass. We must heed the things which are written in it now, for "the time is near" fo each of us.

B. Chapter 1, Verses 4-6, Salutation and Adoration.

"(4) John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne; (5) And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood, (6) And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." NASV.

John addressed the Revelation to "the seven churches of Asia." The old Roman province of Asia was an area which is now entirely contained in the modern country of Turkey. Even in John's day there were more than seven churches in the province of Asia. In addition to the seven which are named in verse 11, there was a church in Troas (Acts 20:6), in Colossae (Colossians 1:2), and in Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). This is three more, and added to the named seven there were at least ten churches in the province of Asia. Yet Christ directed John to write to seven of them only. Why? We conclude that these seven specific churches were chosen as symbolic models of all church congregations. The number "seven" was probably chosen because it was a "sacred" number to the Hebrews and it was used to symbolize "the whole" or "completeness" of something. Thus, these seven specific churches were intended to symbolize all the congregations of the church throughout the world. Apparently, these specific churches were picked because there was something about them, each of them, that every church and every Christian should heed. The complete lesson that Christ wanted Christians to have required the use of these seven churches as examples.

The phrase, "Him who is and who was and who is to come," signifies that God is eternal and unchangeable. God transcends earthly time to which human beings on earth, for their own good, are subject. Therefore God can be relied upon to give the true Revelation which puts all things, both natural and spiritual, into proper perspective.

Note that "the seven Spirits who are before His throne" were closely associated with God and Christ in presenting this Revelation. The phrase "the seven Spirits" seems to be a way of referring to the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Godhead in the fulness of His operations and influence in the church and in the world. The one whole church of God on earth was represented by seven churches, so the One Holy Spirit of the Godhead seems to be symbolized by Seven Spirits.

Here Jesus Christ is referred to first as "the faithful witness" which reminds us of His life in the flesh on earth. After that He is described with reference to His death and resurrection, "the first-born of the dead." That is, He is the first born of all those people of God whose flesh dies but who will be reborn or resurrected when Christ comes again. Christ is the first fleshly being to have that full experience. Then He is described with respect to His present exalted position, "the ruler of the kings of the earth." Notice in the writing that Christ is the ruler now, that is, at the time of the writing by John. Since Christians today are still part of the same Christian dispensation as the Christians of the first century, Christ is still "the ruler of the kings of the earth." In all this, it is most amazing to realize that the Member of the Godhead who came to earth and took on flesh to become one of us, a human being, is still one of us in His present position in heaven. He is the "first born," or the first to be resurrected of all God's children on earth. He has blazed the way to heaven for each of us.

Then Jesus Christ is singled out for adoration as the One through whom the Godhead has visited humans in the flesh. Because of His love for us and His past sacrifice for us, glory and recognition of His kingly dominion is owed to Him forever and ever. Christ's love for Christians is shown to be constant in that He loves them now, in the present tense, and that He "released" them from their sins, in the past tense. And He has made, past tense, the assembly of Christians to be His kingdom, and He has made, past tense, Christians to be priests to His God and Father. Christ is King, and Christians make up His Kingdom now, in a Kingdom that started before the Revelation was written.

C. Chapter 1, Verse 7, Announcement of Christ's Second Coming.

"(7) Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen." NASV.

This announcement of Christ's second coming is made in almost the same words that Jesus announced it when He lived on earth in the flesh. He said then, "All the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky." (Matt.24:30). This announcement was certainly a source of great comfort for afflicted believers. Note that the coming will not be secret. Every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced His side and nailed Him to the cross. All shall see at that time, believers and unbelievers, that He is, indeed, the Christ.

I doubt that the mourning among the tribes of the earth at that time will be the mourning of repentance, at least not acceptable repentance, for at that time it will be too late. Later in another vision of the Revelation we will see that unbelievers will be trying to hide themselves in caves and in rocks of the mountains at that time for fear of the wrath of the Lamb.

Thus, in this introduction (verses 1-7), before the first vision is described, the stage is set for the Revelation of what "will shortly take place" from the time of Christ's first coming to the time of His second coming and the final judgement.

D. Chapter 1, Verse 8, Christ's Self-Designation.

"(8) 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'" NASV.

In this verse John quoted the One he called "the Lord God," who spoke to him. However in the verses just preceding this, John stressed the eternal power of Jesus Christ. Then, later in verse 12 he turned to look at the One who spoke and he saw Christ. Christ also said "I am the first and the last," the same meaning as "I am the Alpha and the Omega." John addressed the One who spoke to him in the vision as both "Jesus Christ" and "the Lord God." Perhaps the point was that the same things are true of Christ the Son as are true of God the Father. Both are called "the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." The Almighty Father and the Almighty Son are united in sending the Revelation to us.

E. Chapter 1, Verses 9-11, John's Commission to Write.

"(9) I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, (11) Saying, 'Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea." NASV.

John tells us that he was on the island of Patmos when he received the Revelation. He said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." Apparently, being "in the Spirit" was a specific state of being, probably a state over which John had some personal control. What does it mean to be "in the spirit?" Jesus said while He was in the flesh, "the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23). Perhaps many of today's Christians feels that this means that we should have in our minds the right attitude while we perform the specific acts of worship mentioned in the Bible as practices of the first century church. This is good as far as it goes, but it fails to take into account that spirits are real beings. Spirits really exist. Our personal spirit is a specific part of us. And some day we will be changed into wholly spiritual beings.

The Bible tells us something of what it means to be "in the spirit," as John said that he was "in the spirit" on the Lord's day. Each of us has a personal spirit, along with a soul and a body, which actually exists. (1st Thess. 5:23). The body of the Christian, along with his soul and spirit, make up a "temple" (1st Cor. 6:19). The Christian's personal spirit serves as the "most holy place" of that temple for God's Holy Spirit goes there to indwell the Christian when he is baptized. Paul said, "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1st Cor. 6:17). And Paul also said, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (Romans 8:16).

When we "worship in spirit" we should have a picture of real immortal spirits communing together, our spirit with God's Holy Spirit. There is an actual communion between us and the Godhead. If we are "in the spirit," that communion actually can take place. When John was "in the spirit," he had, with full knowledge of God's word, put his soul fully in subjection to Christ, and therefore had freed his spirit to communicate his worship directly to God's Holy Spirit. If he had not been in full spiritual communion with God, he would have been unable to see with spiritual eyes and receive the spiritual message God had for him to write and deliver.

Because John was "in the spirit," he could hear behind him the loud voice like the sound of a trumpet. Had he not been "in the spirit," but instead "doing his own thing," he could not have served the Lord in bringing the Revelation to us.

Thank God that John did hear the voice of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said, "Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches." That was John's commission, to see and write, and John did see and write, exactly what he was told and shown by our Lord.

The seven churches mentioned were actual congregations and they were named by John in the order in which one would naturally travel were he to have visited them one after the other.

F. Chapter 1, Verses 12-16, The Vision of the Glorious Christ.

"(12) And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lamp stands; (13) and in the middle of the lamp stands one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. (14) And His head and His hair was white like wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; (15) and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. (16) And in His right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was lie the sun shining in its strength." NASV.

John saw first the seven golden lamp stands, which he said later in verse 20 were seven churches. The New Testament teaches us that each local congregation of Christians is the church in all its fullness. The Revelation seems to be asserting that the church is the New Israel through which God's light shines upon the world. The congregations, individually and collectively, are to illuminate the world for the Lord.

John saw "in the midst of the lamp stands One like a son of man." The implication from this and all that follows is that this "One like a son of man" was in the midst of the churches to inspect them, to warn them, to teach them, and to assist them by judging and purging them before the time of the final judgement. The words "like a son of man" imply that He was different from a son of man on earth, but He still looked somewhat like "a son of man." This vision was of the Christ as He is now in all His glory.

John revealed Jesus Christ as He looked to him then in the vision, a spiritual being, perhaps as we should think of Him now for we live in the same Christian dispensation. However, the vision is a symbolical one for we cannot see spirits with fleshly eyes.

A predominant thought is that Christ stands with His congregations in their midst all during the Christian age until the time of the final judgement. This reminds us of what Christ said to His disciples just before His ascension into heaven, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:30).

This description of Christ, as a whole, is as One clothed with great power and dignity, yet One to be viewed with awe and, perhaps, even with terror. The robe down to His feet and the golden girdle were marks of rank and dignity. They were marks, perhaps, of a high priest, for Christ is the Christian's high priest. However, His appearance was rather the marks of a judge. The white hair may be reminiscent of Daniel 7:9 where the white hair belonged top the "Ancient of Days." The white hair is an attribute of Deity which, of course, befits Christ in this vision. The eyes like a flame of fire indicate the omniscience of Christ. He can penetrate all disguises and is able to judge all things as they really are, not as they pretend to be. His feet of burnished bronze appear as when the metal is glowing with heat. Where such feet tread they utterly blast everything they touch or even approach. The voice as of many waters denotes that the entire voice is full of majesty and power.

The sharp two-edged sword proceeding out 0f the Lord's mouth symbolizes the word of God. "The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword." (Heb. 4:12). Christ in this vision, with the two-edged sword proceeding from His mouth, is seen in His eternal role as the personified "Word of God." He is in the midst of the churches teaching the word of God. And with the word of God He is also judging. Jesus said when He was in the flesh, "the word I spoke is what will judge him (the one who rejects Jesus) at the last day." (John 12:49).

In the Shining of His face like the sun, He is manifested in the same way as He was on the mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 27:2). Christ was in His Kingdom when John wrote and He is in His Kingdom now in our time. He is most glorious in His Kingdom.

G. Chapter 1, Verses 17-20, Effect of the Vision on John, and Christ's Comfort and Instruction to John.

"(17) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, (18) and the living One; and I was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. (19) Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are and the things which shall take place after these things. (20) As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands; the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches'". NASV.

Although John had walked with the Lord on earth and knew Him intimately, when he saw the Lord spiritually in the vision, he fell at His feet as a dead man. The glory of the Lord was such that even a Christian like John who was "in Christ" fell down as though dead before Him. (When we see Christ as John saw Him, unless He lifts us up, will we be able to stand before Him? I think not.)

The Lord tells John, "I was dead," meaning that His body had experienced death. But He says, "Behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades." His body had been raised from the tomb and His soul had been removed from Hades. So He unlocked death and Hades and, with respect to humans like us whose bodies die and whose souls go to dwell in Hades, He holds the keys that can release us from death and Hades. The "death" that He died was the fleshly death of the body. We now know that, as Christians, we need not fear the death of our fleshly bodies nor the loss of our souls in the unseen place. The Lord will raise 0our bodies and claim our souls when He comes again.

When the Savior was killed on the cross, His soul and spirit were not and could not be killed. His body was buried in a tomb and His soul entered into Hades. Whereas fleshly death and the tomb is related to the fleshly body, Hades is related to the soul. Hades is not Hell (GEHENNA). It is merely the unseen place where the soul goes after the death of the body. Our Savior's soul entered into Hades as soon as His body died on the cross. He said that His soul would go to a place in Hades called "Paradise." (Luke 23:43). The soul of our Savior was not left in Hades. (Acts 2:27). He emerged after three days when His body was resurrected from the tomb. He now has the keys of death and of Hades. Christians take great comfort from this because we know that He will use those keys to raise our bodies and restore our souls when He comes again.

In verse 19 Christ instructed John to write the things that he saw, that is, to describe the vision he was given of Christ among the churches. Then John was to write "the things which are," which seems to mean the condition of the churches at that time. And then John was to write "the thing which shall take place after these things," that is, the things which would happen to affect the church in the future. The problems revealed in the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3 are representative of the problems which would plague the churches throughout the entire Christian dispensation. And, of course, the remedies to the problems revealed by Christ will be the remedies which are to be applied in any century of the church after the first century.

In verse 20 Christ indicated there were details in need of further explanation. For instance, concerning the "seven stars" Christ said to John, "The seven stars which you saw in My right hand are the angels of the seven churches." We see later that each letter to each of the seven churches was specifically addressed to the angel of that church. Who is the "angel" of a church who is to receive and act on the letter?

It appears as though "the angel" bore responsibility for that church. Heavenly angels are purely spiritual beings who serve the Lord. Surely they are not responsible for the actions of a church or its members. It seems likely that the angels referred to here are Christians acting as messengers for God. Many times in the Bible human beings are referred to as angels simply in the sense that they served as messengers. But who is the "star"in the right hand of Christ, or the "angel" of a church. The Bible teaches us that no one individual in any congregation has responsibility for the entire congregation. The Bible calls for a plurality of elders or bishops and does not speak of anyone as a chief or presiding bishop. Each Christian in a congregation is responsible to carry out his own part in the Body of Christ. This reasoning leads us to the conclusion that the "angel" to whom each of these letter is addressed is symbolic of the members of the congregation. Perhaps the "angel" of a church represents the members of the congregation actively engaged in carrying out the Lord's commands. The angel represents each member and all of the members. When the Lord through John sent a letter to the "angel" of a church, He sent it to each Christian individually and to all the Christians collectively of that church. Each Christian individually and all of the Christians collectively are to receive the letters, even the Book of Revelation.

This Christ who looks like the description given in chapter 1, was standing and walking in the middle of His congregations then, and He continues to do so now. As Christians, if our spiritual eyes are open we will see this sight with John and we cannot help but be greatly affected by it. The effect on John was that he fell down as if dead at the Savior's feet, The effect on us is that we can never just carry on mere routine church services if we see this Christ among us. But, if our spiritual eyes are closed, we do not see Him. Nevertheless, He is there. He is there to warn us, to teach us, to assist us, to judge us, to discipline us, and to love us. All that, He does in love for us. It is urgent that we see and respond to Him now.

Christ commissioned John to write down seven messages to seven selected congregations of His church. The complete number seven suggests that the seven congregations represent the complete church or the entire church in John's generation as well as in every generation during the Christian dispensation. These seven churches are types describing conditions which occur all the time throughout the Christian dispensation.

The seven churches were all located in one area of one Roman province. There were many other churches throughout this and other provinces which could have been mentioned. But we must have faith that the Lord chose just the right seven churches to illustrate the points He wanted to make to the Christians of this final dispensation.

Although the seven messages were addressed to seven specific churches, all seven messages were distributed to all the churches. All that John wrote became a part of the New Testament to be read and studied by all Christians in the first century and in every century since that time. It is clear that the messages are for all congregations, not just the seven mentioned.

Each of the seven letters had a similar four-fold format.

1. Christ described Himself in terms of some part of the vision of His glory which was given in chapter 1. In each letter, the qualities of the Christ which are mentioned anticipate some fact about the church being addressed. This just shows that Christ is competent to meet every need and has every attribute necessary to serve as the Christians' High Priest, their King, their Judge, as well as their Savior.

2. Each letter makes a report of Christ's examination or judgement concerning the church to which addressed. Both good and bad points are mentioned in most of the letters. However, two churches (Smyrna and Philadelphia) receive only commendation from the Lord, while one church (Laodicea) receives only censure.

3. Christ makes an appeal to each church to accept His instruction, to right the wrongs noted, and to stand fast in their good points.

4. Christ makes a promise to each church. Each promise is on the condition of "overcoming" or "gaining the victory," and being faithful until the time of fleshly death.

When we study the history and contemporary background of each of the seven cities mentioned in these letters, we see that very often the churches were greatly affected by the environment within the cities. In some cases the church was persecuted by people of the city, but the church had stood fast in spite of the persecution. In a number of cases, the evil conditions of the city influenced the church to embrace evil. The problems of the churches were very often related to the problems of the cities.

H. Chapter 2, Verses 1-7, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Ephesus.

"(1) To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: (2) 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; (3) and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary. (4) 'But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (5) 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent. (6) 'Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (7) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.'" (Revelation 2:1-7 NASV).

Ephesus was a center of commerce with a good harbor and good roads leading out to the inland cities. It had a measure of tolerance toward all religions. There was not a lot of persecution against Christians there. There were various schools of learning there where various philosophies could be studied. However, there was no love of fellowship among the people of Ephesus who practiced these philosophies. Paul worked there for more than two years being allowed to reason daily in the School of Tyrannus. As a result all who lived in the province of Asia heard the gospel of Christ. Very likely the time of Paul's work in Ephesus was the time when the seven churches mentioned in Revelation were first established.

The church in Ephesus learned well to combat false teachers and to persevere in the fight. Christ commended them for that. But over the years of contending for doctrine, they forgot how to love. This was Christ's report of their condition. They had once been filled with love. So Christ appealed to them that they should only have to remember from where they had fallen. Christ's appeal was for them to contrast their earlier service of love with their later service of ritual. Go back, repent, and practice again the active love you once practiced.

Christ had already identified Himself to them as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand. Those stars represented the "angels," or "messengers," to receive the messages at each church. Thus, the messages were to be received and acted on by each member of each congregation. The very ones to whom the message was addressed were the ones held in the right hand of Christ. In the message Christ related their need with what He had to offer. Christ claimed them for His own and showed that He loved them. It is as though Christ said, "I love you; I hold you in my hand; I have not left my first love. Now won't you return to your first love." They had forgotten how to love because they had forgotten Christ's love for them. And Christ told them that after they had overcome in the fleshly life, He would give them a spiritual reward: "I will grant you to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God."

I. Chapter 2, Verses 8-11, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Smyrna.

"(8) And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: (9) 'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (10) 'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (11) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.'" (Revelation 2:8-11 NASV).

Smyrna was a center for the cult of Emperor worship. Smyrna's inhabitants tried hard to be the most outstanding example of Emperor worshipers in the entire Roman Empire. It was a rich city with many wealthy inhabitants. Yet, apparently the Christians were very poor materially. This suggests that the Christians, who would not acknowledge the Emperor as a god, were excluded from the commerce and social life of the city. Undoubtedly, Satan used the situation in Smyrna to tempt the Christians to modify their stand so that they might enter into the business circles of the city. The Emperor worshippers did not care how many other gods s person might worship as long as he acknowledged at the appropriate times and places the Emperor as god. The Christians were probably urged to play along with the Emperor worship for the sake of business connections and social standing. But they did not, and Christ commends them for that.

In paraphrase Christ said to them, "I know you are poor. But actually, in the spiritual things which endure beyond this life, you are rich." Christ did not promise to relieve them of their tribulation during this life. Instead He told them that He knows what they are about to suffer, "Some of you are going to be cast into prison," He said. "You will have additional tribulation, but only for a figuratively short period of ten days. You have been faithful. Now continue to be faithful unto death and I'll give you a crown of eternal life. Compared to that, ten days of tribulation is very short."

Christ had already identified Himself as the One who is qualified to make this promise concerning eternal spiritual life. Christ offers what the church needs. He said, in paraphrase, "I am the first and the last, the One who was dead, and has come to life. Be faithful until the death of the flesh and you will live on with Me eternally as a spiritual being. You will not be hurt by the second death." We are reminded that Jesus told His disciples, "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell" (Matthew 10:28). "Hell" is another word for the "second death." Jesus made it clear that the one to fear is that old spirit, the devil. He can take both one's soul and body into Hell with him.

Christ made it clear that back of all the trouble in Smyrna was that spirit being, Satan. A spirit, Satan, was at work trying to control the Christians of Smyrna. Christ said that among them was a "synagogue of Satan." Satan was causing some of them to be sent to prison and was causing tribulation to all the Christians. Christ said that Satan has the power to bring on a Christian's fleshly death, but he cannot hurt a Christian in the second death, the spiritual death.

J, Chapter 2, Verses 12-17, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Pergamum.

"(12) And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword, says this: (13) 'I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith, even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. (14) 'But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. (15) 'Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teachings of the Nicolaitans. (16) 'Repent therefore, or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. (17) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'" (Revelation 2:12-17 NASV).

Like Smyrna, Pergamum was also a center for Emperor worship. But, where Smyrna sought to become important and well known for Emperor worship, Pergamum was already important as an official center of Emperor worship. It contained the first temple ever built to Rome. And it was the capital of the province of Asia. Perhaps this was why Christ said it was "where Satan's throne is.

The church at Pergamum had not succumbed to the intense pressure that undoubtedly was brought upon its members to recognize the Emperor worship religion. But in Pergamum Satan had a throne. Satan was largely in charge there in Pergamum. Satan must have exerted every influence he could to make the people of Pergamum destroy Christianity. One Christian, Antipas, had already been killed. Christ commended the church for holding fast to His name in that environment and not denying the faith.

But there were some who wanted to compromise, indeed, had already begun to compromise with idol worshipers and immoral practices associated with the idol worship. Perhaps it was because of their desire for good business connections or social acceptance that they compromised. Perhaps it was for fear of their lives. It seems clear that the church in Pergamum was not preaching the word in its fullness and were letting false teachings creep in. Satan does not usually try to knock out a church with one blow.

Christ identified Himself in this letter as the "One who has the sharp two-edged sword." And He told them that if they didn't repent He would make war against them with the sword of His mouth. We learn today that, as Christians, we must preach the word in its fullness or else that same sword coming from the mouth of the Christ will judge us.

The things Christ promised the Christians of Pergamum were the spiritual counterparts of the things of which they were deprived in Pergamum. They were deprived of a material livelihood. They were disowned by the populace and deprived of any prestige in the city. They were given a bad name by the people of Pergamum. But Christ promised them "hidden manna," that is, spiritual sustenance while they lived in the flesh in a desert of sin. And He promised them a white stone, that is, a sign of spiritual innocence and victory. And He promised them a "new name," that is, a special form of Christ's name to be worn by those who overcame Satan in the Christian age. We will have more about this new name and all the spiritual things as we go on in the study of the Revelation.

K, Chapter 2, Verses 18-29, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Thyatira.

"(18) And to the angel of the church in Thyatira, write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: (19) 'I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. (20) 'But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bondservants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. (21) 'And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. (22) 'Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. (23) 'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. (24) 'But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them--I place no other burden on you. (25) 'Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come. (26) 'And he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS; (27) 'AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father; (28) and I will give him the morning star. (29) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" (Revelation 2:18-29 NASV).

Thyatira was an armed garrison town guarding and protecting the approaches to Pergamum, the capital of the province. It was noted for its manufacture of purple dyes.

As Christ started His message to Thyatira He identified Himself as the One "who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze." Christ saw everything, both good and bad, and He was able to rebuke and bring the wrath of God upon the bad. While the troops of Caesar housed in Thyatira were ready to wage material war, Christ reminded them that He waged significant war, spiritual war, that finally overcomes everything else.

Christ first said that He saw their good deeds, their love and faith and perseverance. And they were even growing in these virtues, He said. But they had something like a time bomb in their midst and they had to deal with it. Back in Pergamum there was a tendency for the Christians to compromise with the people who practiced idolatrous worship. But in Thyatira there was a self willed member, a woman like the Jezebel of the Old Testament, who was deliberately leading the Christians into evil compromise. She had already been warned to repent and she had been given time to repent. But she did not want to repent. The wrath of God was going to descend upon her and upon all her followers unless they quickly repented. God's wrath was to consist of nothing more than justice. If they would not repent, she and her followers were to receive according to their deeds. If Christians insist, God will allow them to have what they want, even evil. But the evil Christians insist on having destroys them. This woman of Thyatira called herself a prophetess and claimed to reveal the "deep things"to the Christians. But they were the "deep things of Satan," not of God, said Christ.

It is clear that the Lord's patience was growing short with this woman. There was a warning inherent here that the wrath of God against her evil can reach to others as well, who have been influenced by her.

There were Christians in Thyatira who did not hold to the evil teachings of this woman, but, apparently, they were tolerating her. Christ held this against them. Christ placed but one burden upon them and none other. Deal with this woman, He said. Get this evil out of your midst and call for all concerned to repent. And hold fast until I come again, He said.

Christ promised those in Thyatira who overcame, who kept His deeds until the end, "to give them authority over the nations." In the fleshly realm this city of Thyatira was a garrison city which had authority over the surrounding countryside. Christ had showed Himself to them as the One who had all authority over both the flesh and spirit and over all the nations. He had shown Himself able to wield even destructive power toward the unrepentant. He promised to share His spiritual power with those who overcame in the fleshly life.

L, Chapter 3, Verses 1-6, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Sardis.

"(1) And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. (2) 'Wake up and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. (3) 'Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. (4) 'But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. (5) 'He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (6) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" (Revelation 3:1-6 NASV).

Secular history tells us that Sardis in the first century was a dead city. That is, it had reached the zenith of its existence and was on the downgrade. Some 600 years earlier Sardis had been an impregnable city, a fortress which no army had ever taken by storming it. But, finally, it had been taken by stealth and trickery on two occasions. Overconfidence had led to its downfall. Finally, in 17 AD it was devastated by an earthquake and the fortress part of the city was destroyed. The city had then moved out of its old fortified location and had begun to decline.

The condition of the church in Sardis paralleled the condition of the city of Sardis. Christ said of the church there, "I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive. But you are dead". Unless the church could be awakened, it was going to remain dead.

Christ identified Himself in this message as "he who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." The seven Spirits of God represent God's Holy Spirit in His fullness. God's Holy Spirit stood ready to restore the church in Sardis. The seven stars were the messengers to receive and deliver the healing message of the Holy Spirit. The angels, or messengers, represented the members of the church at Sardis who were willing to take the steps that would allow the Holy Spirit to make the church alive again.

Sardis, evidently, was not experiencing persecution. The church at Sardis probably had ceased to be evangelistic for, in the province of Asia at that time, if the church had been preaching the word as it should, there would have been opposition. Sardis was a peaceful church but it was a peace as in a cemetery. Christ said to the church, "I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of God." Christ commended only a few in Sardis whom He said "have not soiled their garments." All the rest had "soiled their garments" through inactivity, through spiritual arrogance, perhaps, and through lack of evangelistic zeal.

Christ's appeal to the church at Sardis was to "wake up and strengthen the things that remain." Repentance and rededication was required. Christ told them, "If you will not wake up, I will come as a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come." The Lord was dealing patiently with them in the sending of this message. But His patience was not to last forever. Eventually there would be no more warnings. The church was to start acting even in their hostile environment. They might not have peace any longer because opposition in Sardis would almost surely be stirred up. But the seven Spirits of God, that is, the Holy Spirit, could awaken them and strengthen them if they truly desired to accomplish God's will. We today must remember that it is the Spirit that God imparts that gives life in every sense. Only God's gift of the Holy Spirit to one when he becomes a Christian can give eternal spiritual life.

M, Chapter 3, Verses 7-13, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia.

"(7) And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: (8) 'I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. (9) 'Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie--behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you. (10) 'Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. (11) 'I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown. (12) 'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. (13) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Philadelphia had been founded as a center to spread Greek culture through the surrounding region. It's founder, Attalus, had been known as one who loved his brother. So this city was called Philadelphia which means "city of brotherly love." Christ approached the church in Philadelphia in His message with a challenge to missionary work of a much higher and grander sort than that which Attalus envisioned.

Christ identified Himself as "He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens." The significance of Christ being holy and true is clear. Christ is divine and perfectly truthful in all things. That he has "the key of "David" means that He alone has the right to admit people to the King, that is, to God. In the Old Testament time of King Hezekiah, Eliakim was given the "key to the House of David." Everyone had to go through Eliakim to reach the king for an audience, for Eliakim alone had the right to open or shut the door to King Hezekiah's presence . (Isaiah 22). Jesus Christ stands now in this special relationship between mankind and God (1st Timothy 2:5; John 14:6). Jesus gave a special challenge to the church at Philadelphia to become a great missionary center.

Christ told them, "I know your deeds." As a result of what Christ knew about them, He put before them an open door which no one could shut. The church at Philadelphia had opposition. The Jews of the city were persecuting the church. The Jews were stirred up to persecution of the Christians by Christ's spiritual foe, Satan. But the opposition will be defeated, said Christ. No one could close the door open to the church at Philadelphia, no matter what opposition. Christ didn't promise that they would not have opposition. He promised that the opposition would not be able to stop their work of bringing people through the door into the presence of the Spiritual King. Christ found no fault with this church. He enlisted them in more and greater work as His co-worker. >BR>
And Christ promised them that He would keep them from the hour of testing that was coming on the whole world. We Christians today receive testing when Christ decides we need it. Perhaps the church at Philadelphia had already been tested and had profited from it. Whatever the reason, they didn't need testing. They were progressing and growing with Christ." Christ was using them to accomplish His purposes.

Christ promised them that after this earthly life, in the spiritual temple of God, they would be "pillars", and they would be secure in that temple for eternity. In the spiritual life with God, they would bear the name of God, the name of the city of God, and the new name of Jesus Christ Himself.

N, Chapter 3, Verses 14-22, The Letter to the Angel of the Church in Laodicea.

"(14) And to the angel of the church in Laodicea, write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: (15) 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. (16) 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. (17) 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, (18) I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may cloth yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eyesalve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. (19) 'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent. (20) 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and I will dine with him, and he with Me. (21) 'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat own with My Father on His throne. (22) 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

Laodicea was a city known for its wealth. It was a proud and self-sufficient city, needing no assistance from any outside sources, even when it was heavily damaged by an earthquake.

The church at Laodicea was the same way. Christ quoted the church as saying, "I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." The result of their attitude was that they were "neither cold nor hot" but "lukewarm." Christ said, "I will spit you out of My mouth." There was nothing good for Christ to say about this lukewarmness.

The church at Laodicea did not understand the condition of the human race before God. Christ told them, "You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." They were oblivious to their true spiritual condition.

The only hope for the church at Laodicea was for it to turn from its smug self-sufficiency to a genuine dependence upon the Lord. It needed "gold refined by fire", that is, spiritual treasure, not material wealth. The church needed "white garments, that you may cloth yourself," that is, genuine spiritual purity that could only be gotten from Christ. The church needed "eye salve to anoint your eyes that you say see," that is, to cure their spiritual blindness. The spiritual things the church needed, it could only get from Christ. The church said they had need of nothing. In truth, they had desperate need of the Lord and all His spiritual gifts.

Christ reminded the Laodiceans that He rebuked and chastened only those whom He loved. "Be zealous therefore, and repent," He said. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." Christ loved them. He pleaded with them to open up and again depend on Him rather than to try to be self-sufficient. His promise to them was, "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

Note that, even in the first century when the Revelation was first written, Christ had already sat down with His Father on His throne. Christ ruled as King then and He rules as King today. Many people in the world today dispute that fact and look forward to the start of Christ's reign some time in the future.