The Apostle John was on the Isle of Patmos “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:9) The Lord Jesus appeared to John there and said to him in verse 11, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” The Lord was about to show John many wonderful and fearful things. He wanted John to write down these things in a book and send them to these seven churches in Asia, which is really Asia Minor.

We read in Revelation 1:17-19, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” Here, the Lord refers to Himself as ‘the first and the last’. This leaves no question that Jesus is indeed God. We read in Isaiah 44:6, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Christ also refers to Himself as ‘I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore.” These words show that he is the eternal God who has life in Himself. He became a man and died for the sake of mankind that we might be saved. He rose from the dead and now He will never die again!

The Lord’s message was for John to write “the things which thou hast seen” (chapter 1), “the things which are” (chapter 2-3), and “the things which shall be hereafter” (chapters 4-22). It is in chapters 2-3 that John writes letters to the seven churches in Asia, each one of them different as he writes to the needs and conditions of each church. We can look at these churches and their letters in two different ways. First, we realize that these were actual cities that John wrote to. It is interesting to see these cities on a map, where we see they are positioned in a circle. John wrote to each of them according to the leading of the Lord. Each city would benefit from their individual letter.

The second way we can look at these churches is to consider them as ‘church periods’ beginning at the writing of this book until the end of the church age. If we consider the history of the church, we can see that the conditions described in each church easily line up with different periods of the church, ending up with the church of Laodicea, which is a church in ruins, spiritually and morally. It is this church that the Lord describes as “Lukewarm”. Neither hot nor cold. Useless to one who needs hot water in which to bathe or cook, and likewise useless to one who needs a cold drink to satisfy a great thirst or to cool down with. Lukewarm water can be nauseous, so the Lord tells them in Revelation 3:16, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” This church is characterized by pride, ignorance, self-sufficiency and a great sense of apathy. So much so that the Lord threatens to throw them up! How sad that the general condition of the church today reflects the characteristic of the church of Laodicea.

There is another way we can consider these letters to the seven churches. We can consider them in a personal way. Which one of these churches describes your spiritual life? Can the Lord say to you, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil.”? (2:2). Can He say to you, “thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.”? (2:13). Can He say to you, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works.”? (2:19). Or must He say to you, “thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”? (3:19). If so, I encourage you to repent of the failure in your spiritual life, and return to the Lord. He will receive and restore you. (283.2)