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Bible verses about Churches of Revelation 2-3
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Revelation 2:2-3

Any saint who has sorted right from wrong doctrine, discerned good from evil leadership, and patiently continued to labor in Christ's name can identify with Ephesus! Identifying today's false apostles was not initially easy either, but many have seen how church leaders have turned true grace into lawlessness and voided God's law from their lives (Jude 4; Psalm 119:126; Romans 3:31). If we have continued in patience and good works, we can be encouraged by Christ's initial words to Ephesus, for they apply to us in principle, if not directly.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Ephesus


 

Revelation 2:7

The sense is that these messages for each church—for all Christians. This means that the attitudes and conduct described dominate the group accused or complimented by Christ, but they also exist in the other groups as well. Otherwise, the advice to whoever hears would not apply.

In other words, the Ephesian attitude might also be in Smyrna, Pergamos, Laodicea, Philadelphia, etc., but it dominated the church in Ephesus. The attitude that dominated in Smyrna would also describe, though with less accuracy, one or more of the other groups. The same would be true of Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

All the messages apply to all of the churches. All the messages apply to each of us as individuals, and it is a matter of "if the shoes fits, wear it." That is God's approach here. We are to live by every word of God. It is only under this principle that we can apply these messages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:9-11

Smyrna is the only one of the seven to receive no criticism whatsoever from Christ! Philadelphia does not receive harsh criticism, but Christ says it has "a little [spiritual] strength," while He mentions nothing at all negative about Smyrna.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Smyrna


 

Revelation 2:9-11

Apparently, a certain number of people today fit the Smyrnan category: They have no major flaws worth mentioning. They are not self-righteous, for that would be pointed out as a major flaw, as said of Laodicea. The Laodicean church is wealthy in physical goods and assumes spiritual wealth, but this is a false self-assessment. Smyrna is apparently of little material wealth, but rich spiritually, as Christ attests (Revelation 2:9).

However, Christ commands those of Smyrna to overcome just like the others if they will be in the Kingdom of God. No one is without sin (Romans 3:23), so Smyrna must grow in faith, love, and obedience like the rest. Some in Smyrna will be tried in tribulation and persecution—jailed and tried to the point of death. Some of them may even die as martyrs! As Christ says, He will prune even a good branch that it might bear more fruit (John 15:2).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Smyrna


 

Revelation 2:13-16

Pergamos means "thoroughly married," like in a binding relationship. However, the context of these verses shows that they are in a relationship with a system—the wrong one! The doctrines of Balaam are in their congregation, as well as the doctrines of the Nicolaitans. Thus, He tells them to repent because some there, unlike Smyrna, had drifted away from what they had previously learned. They had not been faithful in the relationship to Him, even though they gave lip service to the doctrines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:14-16

God knows all and sees all. He can read the intents of the heart and understands our frame (Psalm 103:13-17). These people were faithful and held fast His name under trying circumstances and great temptations, but they also tolerated evil. He instructs them to repent or face "the sword of My mouth" (Hebrews 4:12-13). To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Pergamos


 

Revelation 2:14

No one in today's greater church of God overtly teaches we should worship idols of wood or stone (Exodus 20:3-5) and eat meat offered to them, as occurred among the early churches Paul administered. Nor does anyone openly teach fornication as a personal or religious practice, as happened in the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. However, anything that comes between us and devotion to God, including self-worship, is an idol, and any concourse with this world that diverts our attention from Him is spiritual fornication. Paul slew the idol of self daily (I Corinthians 15:31). We too often tolerate spiritual idolatry and fornication in ourselves and others, giving Christ plenty of fodder for His criticism.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Pergamos


 

Revelation 2:14

If we consider that these letters are written not only to the historical churches since the first century, but also to the seven churches that exist at the end time—churches that have the attitudes described in these letters—then this verse brings Balaam and his doctrine (his error, sin, rebellion) right down to our time. It is something we should think about and be wary of.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)


 

Revelation 2:20-21

The world's corrupt, godless society influences God's people beyond our realization, and spiritual fornication and idol worship in particular have long been the bane of both physical and spiritual Israel. For instance, when Judah's exile ended, only a remnant of the people (42,360) returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64); the vast majority chose to remain in pagan Babylon. How many of us today put the things of this world ahead of God? The Bible suggests only a small faithful remnant will pay the price to return to God with their whole hearts and "come out of her" in the end time (Isaiah 1:9).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Thyatira


 

Revelation 2:25

This verse indicates that some of the Thyatira church will be alive on earth in the end time, just prior to Christ's return.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 2:25

One can hold fast only to what one has previously been given. They had been given something in the past. They had drifted away into a relationship with the world. Idolatry was present in their character. But Christ says, "Hold fast to that which remains"—something that had previously been given—so that they would not drift any further.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:3

If they were all going to die before He came, the last sentence would make no sense. They will be alive when He comes, because otherwise the threat carries no weight.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:8

There is criticism or maybe it is simply a statement of fact. They are weak. They do have good characteristics, but they are weak. They have "a little strength."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:8

We tend to think of the Philadelphians as being without fault because Christ does not make a pointed and detailed listing of their sins. Notice, however, that they have "a little strength"—they are weak. This is not a put-down but an honest appraisal. He is in fact commending them for doing as well as they have.

We need to consider this in terms of our recent lives in the church. The evidence shows that the Philadelphia group lacks the spiritual strength of the beginning of the Ephesian group. We have not seen many mountains moving out of their places.

We are among the generation addressed by Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). A careful scrutiny of these verses shows something is missing that almost all assume is there: They do not say the church at Philadelphia is full of brotherly love. Philadelphia is the name of the city, and we draw an assumption that Christ calls them "Philadelphians" because they exhibit remarkable love for one another. To be honest, we would have to make the same assumption for each of the groups, and no one has been able to make a significant conclusion in this vein for the Ephesian group in regard to the name "Ephesus," or for the Thyatiran group with "Thyatira," or for the others. Perhaps only one name does fit somewhat: Laodicea, which means "judgment of the people."

The Philadelphians have one fine quality—they are faithful. This is what He compliments them for being, meaning they have a commendable measure of obedience. Nevertheless, the Philadelphians, though faithful, are somewhat weak. The Laodiceans are largely derived from a base that came from the Philadelphians, making them weaker still, due to their lackadaisical inattention to their relationships with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 5)


 

Revelation 3:8

In Revelation 3:8, the phrase "open door" is being used, not so much as an opportunity, but as a reward. Young's Literal Translation shows this emphasis: "I have known thy works; lo, I have set before thee a door—opened, and no one is able to shut it, because thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name" (emphasis ours). Christ sets before the Philadelphian an "open door" because he has only a little capacity for mighty works, and yet he still keeps God's Word and does not deny God's name by the way he lives his life. He still is able to overcome.

The door Christ opens to the Philadelphian, the door no man can shut, may well be the door to the Kingdom itself! In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, the door is open to some of the virgins and closed to others (Matthew 25:10-12). In the description of New Jerusalem, the gate is open only to those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27; 22:14). Christ opens the door to the Kingdom because of the Philadelphian's faithfulness, just as He promises to keep him from the hour of trial because of his perseverance (Revelation 3:10).

God may have given him only two talents, but He knows that if he is faithful with a small amount of power, in the Kingdom he will faithfully administer all of the responsibility and effectiveness that God bestows upon him. Individually, we may only have a little "power," but if we are faithful with what we have been given, God is pleased, knowing we will also be faithful with great power. As Christ says in Luke 16:10, ". . . faithful also in much. . . ."

David C. Grabbe
Power


 

Revelation 3:10-11

It seems that some of the Philadelphia church will be around at Christ's return. Otherwise, there would be no need to mention the hour of temptation or trial that would come upon the whole earth—this is not some minor tribulation taking place in a corner of Asia Minor but an event happening all over the world. That has not happened yet. However, the message to Philadelphia indicates that elements of the Philadelphia church will be extant when that hour of temptation is occurring.

Compare this example with the message to Pergamos, where a certain individual is named Antipas. His is not a name one would associate with the end time; Antipas is a Greek name from the time this book was written (about AD 95). It is possible that Antipas had died shortly before this was written. Little details like this suggest a movement of time within Revelation 2-3.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 3:10

God promises protection to the Philadelphia brethren—and we can be sure that this is a Rock-solid promise! However, we should be careful not to be complacent about this comforting promise. We should never assume that God considers us Philadelphians. It is likely that we have been in the Laodicean era for quite some time. We have to prove to God that we deserve to be considered Philadelphians in attitude while amidst the Laodicean era.

Although God's promise to this faithful church is sure, it applies only to those who are truly Philadelphian. Jesus identifies them as having kept God's Word, not denied His name, and kept His command to persevere. Those who fail to meet these three criteria cannot count themselves as Philadelphians and cannot claim God's promise of protection through the end-time trials and persecutions. We all need to wake up, listen to, and act upon the frequent and strong warnings against Laodicean attitudes that still exist within the church today!

Staff
No Greater Love


 

Revelation 3:12

Because Christ criticizes Philadelphia very little, opens doors before her, and offers protection from the Tribulation, it is easy to think we "have it made" if we were or are part of Philadelphia. Yet Christ admonishes Philadelphia just as He does the other churches: Overcome! A Christian must never rest on his oars, no matter what his situation or era. We all must overcome the world (I John 5:4), our nature, and Satan to be granted salvation, and if we do, entrance to God's Kingdom is an absolute promise!

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 3:16

Christ's grotesque use of vomit spewing from His mouth captures the violent and repulsive scattering of the church. No part of His church has escaped the scattering of God. We have all sinned and come short of His glory. None have been righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10-23)! Among the curses for following the Word of God improperly is scattering and withdrawal of blessings (Deuteronomy 28:15-47; Leviticus 26:33). Some still claim God is blessing them greatly, but these are mainly empty words and false hopes. The scattering continues and will do so until God is satisfied that repentance has been achieved. God's objective is to show us that we are still far too complacent, not having turned to Him wholeheartedly, merely feignedly.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea


 

Revelation 3:22

When Christ says, "He who has an ear to hear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches," that is what the Greek literally says. But what it most closely approximates in the English is, "Now, think through what I have said."

This phrase only appears a couple of other times in the Bible—three times in Mark and once in Luke. But it appears almost twice that many times in just two chapters of the book of Revelation. If God says something once, we need to pay attention to it. If He repeats it even one or two times more, then what He has to say, He is drawing attention to, and it is very important! But, if He says it seven times in the course of two chapters, then He is intensifying what He says considerably.

Revelation 2 and 3, when combined with Christ's discourses in the Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) shows Christ's concern regarding what His people should be focusing on just prior to the end. His vision of the times we live in was clear enough to foresee that we would have more distractions to grab our attention than at any other time in the history of man. He could see that the ease and rapidity of communication would attract our senses, and it would be difficult for us to keep ourselves focused on our prime concern.

Not that it would be difficult for us to keep focused on the outworking of prophecy. The book of Revelation is devoted to prophecy, and just about every Christian seems to be concerned with it, as everybody wants to have insight into what is going to happen. We want to have advanced news because it piques our interest. Perhaps some vanity is involved because we want to know before somebody else does so that we might have the privilege of telling them what we understand about prophecy.

But this, giving us insight into the future, was probably not Christ's primary reason for inspiring the book of Revelation. Something else is exceedingly more important, and most of it is contained in chapters 2 and 3, right at the beginning of the book. The most important part of Christ's revelation is contained in the letters to the seven churches.

In this confusing world, what is difficult is keeping our personal life focused, yet it is a responsibility each one of us has before God. No one else can do it for us. Individually, we must make the choices about what we will do with our time and energies. This is what Revelation 2 and 3 is concerned with.

This phrase is a solemn warning that what is addressed in one letter may also apply to the others in other congregations not affected by the attitude dominating their congregation. In other words, a person might have an Ephesian problem while attending a Sardis congregation.

In this way, each letter is written to each member of the body of Christ. And if the description fits, then we are to make the changes Christ commands.

What does Christ say in the letters? We also need to consider what He does not say because it is relevant to this period of time we live in. For instance, there is no mention, either positive or negative, of preaching the gospel. This omission can help us see its relevant importance compared to what Christ did say. Remember, these scriptures do not stand alone. Preaching the gospel is part of the church's responsibility, and it should not be minimized. However, it is not even directly implied in these two chapters.

Instead, Revelation 2 and 3 is a ringing call for things far more important to salvation, reward, witnessing effectively for Him, and making disciples.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

 




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