Rev. 2:18-29 – To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame, and whose feet are like fine bronze says: I know your works – your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I will throw her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her practices. I will kill her children with the plague. Then all the churches will know that I am the One who examines minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your works. I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who haven’t known the deep things of Satan – as they say – I do not put any other burden on you. But hold on to what you have until I come. The victor and the one who keeps My works to the end: I will give him authority over the nations – and He will shepherd them with an iron scepter; He will shatter them like pottery – just as I have received [this] from My Father. I will also give him the morning star. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. (HCSB)
Lydia, a seller of purple goods, whose heart God opened to the message of Christ, is from this commercial center steeped in paganism (Acts 16:14). Having heard Paul’s proclamation of the gospel in Philippi, she may have taken the good news back to Thyatira and been among the first to evangelize her city. Thyatira is a military town that also boasts guilds dealing in metals and fabric. Guild members celebrate their patron deities in festivals that no doubt tempt Christians. Some even may have given in to the message of a “prophetess” who promoted illicit sex and food sacrificed to idols. The city is known for its temple to Apollo, the sun god. Thyatira is the smallest of the seven cities yet receives the longest letter, and one of the sternest rebukes, from Christ.
Rev. 2:12-17 – To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp, two-edged sword says: I know where you live – where Satan’s throne is! And you are holding on to My name and did not deny your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan lives. But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the sons of Israel: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. In the same way, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent! Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it. (HCSB)
Also known as Pergamos, this city lies 20 miles inland from Smyrna. It is known for its wealth, like Ephesus and Smyrna, but stands alone for its wickedness. Adherents to the city’s pagan cults worship Athena (goddess of war, civilization, wisdom, strength, strategy, crafts, justice and skill); Asclepius (god of medicine and healing); Dionysus (god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy); and Zeus (the supreme ruler of Mount Olympus and of the pantheon of gods who reside there). The worship of the Roman emperor as a god permeates Asia and is evident in Pergamum. All of this evidently prompts Jesus to refer to the city as the place of Satan’s throne. Pergamum also is famous for its university with a library of 200,000 volumes, and for manufacturing parchment resulting in a paper called pergamena.
Rev. 2:8-11 – To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: The First and the Last, the One who was dead and came to life, says: I know your tribulation and poverty, yet you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The victor will never be harmed by the second death. (HCSB)
Smyrna is a harbor city known for its temple to the “mother goddess” and for its provincial cult temples to Roman emperors Tiberius (1st century) and Hadrian (2nd century). The city is reportedly a beautiful one with paved streets, a library, a gymnasium, and a shrine to Homer, who may have been born there. Evidently there also is a significant Jewish presence in the city. Christian leaders Polycarp and Pionius write about Jewish opposition to Christians there.
According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, “The name of the city, Smyrna, means ‘myrrh,’ an ordinary perfume. It was also used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle, and in embalming dead bodies (cf. Ex. 30:23; Ps. 45:8; Song 3:6; Matt. 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39). While the Christians of the church at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, their faithful testimony was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God.”
Rev. 2:1-7 – To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated [many things] because of My name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love [you had] at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent. Yet you do have this: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (HCSB)
Ephesus is one of the largest and most influential cities in the Roman Empire. It is devoted to the worship of Artemis (Diana in Latin), the goddess of fertility, and to the Roman emperor, who demands to be worshipped as a god. Evidently, Priscilla and Aquila planted a church there around 52 A.D. and Paul ministered there for at least two years and used Ephesus as his base for evangelizing the region (Acts 19:8-10).
The apostle John is instructed to write to the “angels” of the seven churches in Asia, a Roman province that is now part of modern Turkey. Some interpreters believe the angels to be human messengers, perhaps the pastors of these churches, while others argue that the Greek word aggeloi in Revelation is used overwhelmingly of spirit beings and therefore in this context means guardian angels.
In any case, the “angel” of each church bears the responsibility of sharing an important message from Christ with the congregation.
There is little controversy among Bible interpreters concerning the letters to the seven churches, primarily because these letters do not predict future events. This does not mean, however, that the four major views of Revelation – preterist, historicist, futurist, and idealist – are in complete agreement.
For example, interpreters from the preterist and idealist schools, and some from the futurist school, “understand the letters to be addressed to the actual, historic churches named in them, and by extension to any churches that may find themselves in similar circumstances to theirs” (Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views, p. 62).