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A. Characteristics of cities and churches

1. Church in Ephesus – Spiritual toil without the motive of love (2:1-7)

  a. Important commercial center located at the mouth of the Cayster River.

  b. Enjoyed the independence as a “free city” – self- governing without quartering Roman troops.

  c. Credulous and superstitious people:

(1). Temple of Diana – 425 feet long; 60 feet wide; 127 marble

pillars – 36 overlaid with gold, only the center of the temple covered with a roof.

(2). Grotesque image of Diana (Artimes – Greek) hid beneath

                                                            the veil; covered with many breasts for the symbol of  fertility.

(3). People kept their valuables behind image for safety.

(4). Criminals were immune from arrest within a “bow shot” – 200 feet of the temple.

  d. Home of the festive sporting games – provided and governed by Asiarchs (Acts 19:31).

  e. Paul first visited Ephesus on his way home from 2nd. journey (Acts 18:19-21).  Returned on 3rd. Journey       working 2-3 years in the area (Acts 19:10, 22-20:1).  Wrote commending letter to church from prison in      Rome in A.D. 62).

  f. Some 34 years later, the church is tirelessly laboring for the purity of the gospel, but no longer motivated by      love.

2. Church in Smyrna – Poor and persecuted, but in truth rich and   victorious (2:8-11).

 a. A great trade center located 35 miles north of Ephesus.  Known as

                       “Paradise of Municipal Vanity.”  Smyrna Proud – claimed to be the birthplace of Homer.

 b. Like Ephesus, Rome declared it a “free city” – enjoyed independence of self-government.

 c. Praised Rome: in 196 B.C. erected temple to “Dea Roma” –  goddess of Rome.  In A.D. 26, sought and won      the honor to erect temple to the honor of Tiberius – Caesar worship has popular roots in Smyrna.

 d. Citizens receive yearly certificate when they offered a pinch of incense in worship unto the Emperor.

 e. Large population of Jews who were antagonistic toward the Christians- encouraged the martyrdom burning of      Polycarp.

 f. In a prevalent area of emperor worship and Jewish agitation, the Christian was tried with thread of death and         loss of means to make living (cf. Rev. 13:17).

3. Church in Pergamum – Faithful during evil doctrine (2:12-17).

 a. Ancient capital city.  From 231 -133 B.C. it was capital of Attalid Kingdom.  In 133 B.C., dying King willed it      to the possession of Roman Empire.  Rome made it a capital province of Asia which it enjoyed until A.D. 130.  b. Known for developing writing material “parchment,” “vellum” – animal skins; home for library of over 200,000      volumes.

 c. Center of idolatrous worship.  Example: Aesculapius – god of healing, serpent as emblem.

 d. Some in the church were holding to the doctrine of Balaam, and teaching of Nicolaitans who compromise he      truth of God with socially acceptable practice of Idolatry; Antipas did not follow, and died for faith in Christ


4. Church in Thyatira – Growing in good works, but tolerating compromising idolatry (2:18-29).

  a. Associated with expensive purple dye (Acts 16:11-15).

  b. Many trade guilds which incorporated festive, but immoral idolatrous practices.

  c. Christians tried to compromise one’s holy service to God for the acceptance of guilds which affected their       ability to make a living for their families.

5. Church in Sardis – Reputed to be living; but in truth, dead (3:1-6).

  a. A great trade center – “The center of a knot of five different roads:” One to Thyatira (N.W.); one to Smyrna                   54 miles away (W); one to Phrygia (E); one to Philadelphia (S.E.) one to Ephesus 63 miles (S.W).

  b. Ancient capital of Kingdom of Lydia – the rich King Croesus.  First coins minted in Asia Minor were minted                   here in the days of the rich King.

  c. Fortified in front of Mount Timolus on a high narrow ridge – almost impregnable.

  d. A church untroubled from without; being lulled to death; needs desperately to “watch.”

 6. Church in Philadelphia – a church of opportunity (3:7-13).

  a. Founded by Attalus II in 140 B.C. who was called “Philadelphos.”

  b. Strategic sight – borders three countries: Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia.

  c. Attalus found it as a missionary city promoting Greek culture to the barbarians.

  d. A faithful church with opportunity to promote the message of Christ.

 7. Church in Laodicea – A lukewarm church (3:14-22)

  a. Founded in 250 B.C. by Antiochus II (Seleucids) and named after his wife.

  b. Enjoyed history of self-sufficiency; Unlike Sardis and Philadelphia, who accepted Tiberius’ offer to help to       rebuild cities after earthquake of A.D.17, they refused outside heap.

  c. Proud of special breed of black – woolen sheep.

  d. Home of a medical school: developed ointment of nard to cure sore ears; Phrygian eye powder.

  e. Church, blinded by material wealth, became spiritually insipid.

B. Similar characteristics of Letters:

1. “Unto the angel of the church” (2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14).

  a. Angel – messenger of the church to carry message.

2. “I know…” (2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15)

  a. God is in the midst of the churches, knowing their inward attitudes and outward deeds.

3. “To him that overcometh…” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

  a. “Overcome” occurs 17 times in this prophecy – means – “victory.”

  b. Must be faithful in conflict before the victory.

4. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)

  a. Invitation to act from one’s own free will – God forces no one to obey Him against his own will.

  b. Though letters are written to churches – instructions must be applied individually.   

C. Characteristics of Letters

1. Ephesus (2:1-7)

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: Authority over churches and in the midst of them (2:1; cf. 1:13-16).

  b. Commendation: Praised for works of toil and conquering patience; tested and exposed false apostles; hates                   evil.

  c. Condemnation: Left first love – outward deeds are an empty shell.

  d. Counsel and Warning: Remember from whence they had fallen; repent or lose right to God’s light bearer.

  e. Promise or Reward: Life eternally sustained in Heaven.  

2. Smyrna (2:8-11)

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: “the first and the last;” “was dead” but was raised from the dead – “lived again”                  (2:8; cf. 1:17-18).

  b. Commendation: faithful though physically poor, and suffering persecution from outside forces.

  c. Condemnation: none

  d. Counsel or Warning: Though some shall be fully tried by the Devil, be faithful even if it means death; do not                   fear.

  e. Promise or Reward: if faithful, will enjoy the crown of faithful service – eternal life – not hurt by final and                        permanent second death.

3. Pergamos (2:12-17)

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: substantially equipped for battle – possesses sharp two-edged sword.

  b. Commendation: praised for works of faithfulness of not denying Christ’s authority even when Antipas was                   “slain.”

  c. Condemnation: some hold doctrine of Balaam and Nicolaitans – “the people conquer – meaning of                       “Balaam” in Hebrews and “Nicolaitans” in Greek.

  d. Counsel or Warning: repent or Lord will come quickly to powerfully fight against them.

  e. Promise or Reward: Will enjoy he new sustaining relationship of eternal life – newness because of victorious       through faithfulness.

4. Thyatira (2:18-29)

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: Penetrating, all-knowing eyes; with feet refined for judgment (2:18; cf. 1:14-15).

  b. Commendation: Praised for their love and service of faith which was growing.

  c. Condemnation: they tolerated the evil influence of the false prophetess, Jezebel.

  d. Counsel or Warning: those who are influenced by impudent and mysterious Jezebel will be destroyed with                   her if they do not repent…no other burdens placed upon the church.

  e. Promise or Reward: will enjoy spiritual victory and rule over the nations through the power of Christ – a                   new day dawns for the Christian.

5. Sardis (3:1-6)

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: possesses authority over spiritual servants who are ready to do God’s bidding                  (3:1; cf. 1:16).

  b. Commendation: some have not defiled themselves with evil.

  c. Condemnation: reputed to be alive, but are dead; no works perfected before God.

  d. Counsel or Warning: remember how they had received truth; keep it, repent and be watchful – establishing                   the good that remains.

  e. Promise or Reward: Jesus will acknowledge them before God and angels; not blotted out of the book of                       life.

6. Philadelphia (3:7-13).

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: holy and true, the ruler promised of David’s seed; opens for all a permanent                   access to God.

  b. Commendation: praised for using their little strength and to stand against false teaching of Jewish antagonists                   – a place of opportunity for good.

  c. Condemnation: none

  d. Counsel or Warning: hold fast for the Lord will come quickly, and make the false brethren acknowledge                   your truth.

  e. Promise or Reward: enjoy permanent life in the heavenly abode of God.

7. Laodicea (3:14-22)

  a. Christ’s Self-Designation: solid character; the faithful and true witness; the active agent of God’s creation                   (3:14; cf. 1:5).

  b. Commendation: none

  c. Condemnation: Neither cold nor hot in their service – lukewarm; truly wretched condition.

  d. Counsel and Warning: come to the Lord for their true need of spiritual blessings…God rebukes and chastens                   those He loves…be fervent and repent.

  e. Promise or Reward: enjoy fellowship in victory at the throne of God.




1. Identify the “angel” of each church addressed in all the letters:

2. Give examples that show first, what is sobering, and then what is comforting about the Lord saying, “I know…”:

3. What is implied in “him that overcometh…?”  

4. How does the Lord imply that he does not force people to serve him against their will?

5. How did the church in Ephesus test and expose the false apostles?


6. What had the saints in Ephesus left when they “left their first love?”

7. What did the church in Ephesus “hate?”  Is the an “un-Christian” attitude?

8. Why would the Lord remove the Ephesus’ “candlestick?”

9. Why is it important for the lord to identify Himself to the church in Smyrna as “the first and the last, who was dead, and liven      again?”

10. Why could it be said that Pergamos was where Satan’s throne was located?

11. Why could Antipas’ death be described as a “martyr’s” death?

12. What was the teaching of Balak?

13. Describe the religious practice connected with the prophetess Jezebel:

14. What was the Lord willing to give time for Jezebel and those connected with her to do?  

15. What spiritual truth is being conveyed in the reward promised to the faithful in Thyatira?

16. Why should people look deeper into a reputation of a church than just their “good name?”

17. What “action” is connected with “watching” according to the Lord’s warnings to the church in Sardis?

18. Explain how the church in Sardis was “dead” but had some in the church “worthy” to walk with the Lord in white?

19. Describe the works being done in the church of Philadelphia that allowed the Lord to only praise and not condemn them:

20. What does a church, which can only be praised, still need a warning?

21. Why had the church in Laodicea become a “lukewarm” church?

22. Why is “chastening” an important part of true “love?”

23. A “zealous” church will be made up of people who are willing to ___________.