As we read through Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Timothy, we see that these churches were spiritually healthy as Paul last ministered in this region. But by the time Revelation was written, approximately thirty years later, five of these same churches had suffered serious spiritual decline. Ephesus had left its first love, and most of the rest had been infiltrated by false doctrine and sin. Only two of the seven that Jesus addresses are not condemned by Him in some fashion, Smyrna and Philadelphia, yet today none of the seven currently exist. So, what are we to make of this?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:1-6
“The Holy Ghost revealed much of precious truth and holy precept by the apostles, and to His teaching we would give earnest heed; but when men cite the authority of fathers, and councils, and bishops, we give place for subjection, no, not for an hour. They may quote Irenaeus or Cyprian, Augustine or Chrysostom; they may remind us of the dogmas of Luther or Calvin; they may find authority in Simeon, Wesley, or Gill—we will listen to the opinions of these great men with the respect which they deserve as men, but having done so, we deny that we have anything to do with these men as authorities in the church of God, for there nothing has any authority, but “Thus saith the Lord of hosts.” ” Charles Spurgeon
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation were not only written to the churches Jesus is addressing in the late first century, they were written to all churches throughout the Church Age. There are many insights we need to grasp from these letters. Yes, two of the churches were commended, yet five were rebuked. We need to remember that Jesus Himself is giving these commendations and rebukes, so we need to listen and heed what He is saying because they apply to us today every bit as much as to the seven. As we sit in our pews we should strongly consider which of these churches our own church more closely resembles.