Characteristics of Churches

Revelation 2 and 3


I.    Jesus is the head of each of these individual churches. 

A.     There is no such thing as a universal, visible or invisible church. 

1.       The church organized by Jesus Christ during his personal ministry is always local, always visible and always observable by Christ as assembled. 

2.       In heaven, all the collective local churches will be assembled together, but in heaven there will be one assembly, and it will still be local – in heaven – and will be worshipping God. 

B.     Of all the seven churches of Asia, only the church at Smyrna and the church at Philadelphia have only good spoken of them. 

C.     Christ knows all about each of his churches. 

1.       Jesus has a particular message to each church, fitted to that particular church.

2.       The message to each church is tailored to that particular church because Christ knows exactly what each church needs and how to present that need to them. 

3.       Christ knows all the good and all the bad of each church. 

4.       Christ is not blind to our faults, but continues to love, guard, protect and provide for each of the members of each of his churches. 

5.       This is grace and mercy because Christ does not care for us according to our ability, or to how much grace and mercy we deserve. 


II.    Why did Christ write only to these seven churches? 

A.     He could have written to any number of churches, all of his choosing. 

1.       There were many churches that were bigger/better known/more popular/more spiritual than these seven churches. 

2.       There were also many church that were smaller/less known/less popular/less spiritual than these seven churches. 

B.     Deuteronomy 7:8 is the key.  The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 

1.       God chose Israel to be his chosen people because he loved them.

2.       God chose us to salvation and service because he loved us, not because of any good we had done, or ever will do. 

3.       God chose to write to these seven churches because he chose to write to them. 

4.       That is all the reason we need. 

5.       We would do very good to consider what he has written instead of trying to figure out why he wrote to these particular churches. 


III.    The message to the churches. 

A.     Jesus always sends his message to the church through the angel (messenger) of the church.  

1.       Ephesus – 2:1 – Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write: 

2.       Smyrna – 2:8 - Unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write: 

3.       Pergamos – 2:12 - Unto the angel of the church of Pergamos write: 

4.       Thyatira – 2:18 - Unto the angel of the church of Thyatira write: 

5.       Sardis – 3:1 - Unto the angel of the church of Sardis write: 

6.       Philadelphia 3:7 - Unto the angel of the church of Philadelphia write: 

7.       Laodicea – 3:14 - Unto the angel of the church of Laodicea write: 

B.     Angel – definition:  that which is sent, or the messenger of God. 

1.       Pastors are not popes, nor are they the only ones to whom God speaks. 

a.      Sometimes pastors come to believe they always speak in the place of God when they are in the pulpit, but that is not so. 

1.)    Pastors are as guilty as anybody else in getting in the flesh and speaking what they believe instead of God says in his Bible. 

2.)    The pastor who declares he always speaks from God’s viewpoint is in error and will never be the pastor God wants him to be. 

b.      The good pastor will listen to the people God has placed him over, as they are God’s messengers to him. 

1.)    I Peter 5:2 states, Feed the flock of God which is among you…, not under you. 

2.)    Apparently James is the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and in Acts 15, he listened to what everybody had to say, then proposed the terms of the letter that should be sent. 

3.)    James is a good example. 

c.      Pastors are not popes, nor should we ever think we are. 

2.       Angels are perfect, but pastors are not. 

a.      Angels always proclaim what God tells them to proclaim, but often pastors preach what they want the people to hear, not what God wants them to hear. 

b.      Pastors often proclaim their personal ideologies, not Godly ideologies. 

c.      The person who denies the pastor is trying to be the messenger of God to the church is in error and will never grow to be what God wants him to be. 

C.     It is important to understand the correct relationship between the pastor and the people. 

1.       I Peter 5:2,3 - Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

a.      The pastor is to take the oversight of the people, but not as a lord (master) over them. 

b.      I Peter 5 is not written to church members, it is written to pastors.  See verse 1. 

c.      Church members have no business applying these verses to themselves, except in the most general terms where other

2.       Hebrews 13:7 states, Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. 

3.       Hebrews 13:17 - Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

a.      Church members are to obey their pastor, because God has given him the rule of their spiritual lives. 

b.      The pastor shall answer to God for the way he fed His sheep. 

c.      Pastors have no business using this scripture as an excuse for "lording" it over God's children. 

d.      Galatians 6:6 - may the church member encourage the pastor by telling him of their spiritual growth, just as the pastor encourages the people Christ has placed under him by telling them of his spiritual growth. 

e.      A church member has no business “chewing out the pastor” and the pastor has no business “chewing out the member.” 

4.       The correct relationship between the pastor and the church members is expressed to each of these seven churches (and to us) when Christ declares to them, He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

a.      Christ did not say, If any man have ears to hear, let him hear what the pastor has to say unto the churches. 

b.      Christ desires each person to hear what the Holy Spirit says unto the churches. 

c.      There is no doubt that God speaks to the pastor, giving him messages to declare to the church members, but the pastor is not the final authority – God’s word is the final authority. 

d.      Pastors should respect church members enough to understand God speaks to them, convicts them, and comforts them, just as he does the pastor. 

e.      Church members should respect God’s order of divine revelation, which involves their own personal study and prayer to God, and God using their pastor to give them understanding of God’s word. 

D.     There is something wrong with every church, except the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia, which Christ warns to remain faithful. 

1.       There are those that are faithful and those that are not faithful in every church, in every situation. 

2.       In every situation, every believer can be a failure, or faithful. 

3.       We cannot blame our failures on our environment, or on the church of which we are a member. 

4.       Failures: 

a.      Ephesus – 2:4 – They have left their first love, but there were still some overcomers in this church. 

b.      Smyrna – 2:10 – It is implied there could be failures of faithfulness, but there are those that are overcomers. 

c.      Pergamos – 2:14 – Some church members held the doctrine of Balaam, but there were also those that overcame. 

d.      Thyatira – 2:20 – The church allowed the teachings of Jezebel, who declared it is okay to commit fornication and eat things sacrificed to idols, yet there were those that did not allow these wicked teaching and were overcomers. 

e.      Sardis – 3:2 – Some things were ready to die. 

1.)    It seems the church should determine through Bible study what these things were and correct them. 

2.)    It also seems apparent there were those that rightly applied Biblical doctrine to their lives, therefore were overcomers. 

f.       Philadelphia – 3:12 – It is implied there could be failures of faithfulness – “to him that overcometh”, implying there could be those in this church that do not overcome. 

g.      Laodicea – 3:15 – The church is lukewarm, not hot nor cold. They are in danger of being spewed out of the mouth of Christ, yet there were also those that were overcomers. 

E.      God always give advice as to how to be faithful in a given situation. 

1.       Ephesus – Revelation 2:5 – Remember and repent and do the first works. 

2.       Smyrna – Revelation 2:10 – Fear none of what you will suffer, but be faithful. 

3.       Pergamos – Revelation 2:16 – Repent of your wicked doctrines. 

4.       Thyatira – Revelation 2:25 – Hold fast till I come. 

5.       Sardis – Revelation 3:3 – Remember and repent.  

6.       Philadelphia – Revelation 3:11 – Hold fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown.

7.       Laodicea – Revelation 3:18 – Buy of me gold tried in the fire, and white raiment, and anoint thine eyes with eye salve. 

F.      There are overcomers in every church. 

1.       In every situation every believer can be an overcomer. 

2.       There is never an excuse that the church we were in stopped us from being an overcomer. 

3.       There is never an excuse that our environment stopped us from being an overcomer. 

4.       Overcomers. 

a.      Ephesus – 2:7 – Overcomers are promised to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. 

b.      Smyrna – 2:11 – Overcomers shall not be hurt of the second death. 

c.      Pergamos – 2:17 – Overcomers will eat of the hidden manna, receive a white stone with a new name written that no man knows except the one receiving it. 

d.      Thyatira – 2:26 – Overcomers will receive power over the nations. 

e.      Sardis – 3:5 – Overcomers shall be clothed in white raiment, and his name will not blotted out of the book of life, but his name will be confessed before the Father and his angels. 

f.       Philadelphia – 3:12 – Overcomers will be a pillar in the temple of God and will not go out.  Christ will write on him the name of his God and the name of the city of God, and Christ’s new name.  

g.      Laodicea – 3:21 – Overcomers will sit in the throne of God. 

G.     Jesus ends every letter with the words “he that hath an ear to hear, let him hear”. 

1.       Scripture. 

a.      Ephesus – Revelation 2:7 - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. 

b.      Smyrna – Revelation 2:11 - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. 

c.      Pergamos - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. 

d.      Thyatira -  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

e.      Sardis - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

f.       Philadelphia - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

g.      Laodicea - He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. 

2.       Just because a person is in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the true church – doesn’t mean they are able to hear what God is speaking to them. 

a.      There is such a thing a rebellious church members, who make up their own mind what they want to do, not listening to Christ, or the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. 

b.      These are saved, scripturally baptized church members, who do not listen to the words of God. 

c.      There is such a thing as lost church members – remember Judas Iscariot? 

d.      The blessing of overcoming is included in being able to hear. 

3.       The message of faithfulness goes out to church members and to this world only through the local churches, never through any sort of universal church. 

a.      The “radio pastor” has no message from the Lord. 

b.      No association, convention, board, missionary society, Bible society, or whoever else has any message from the Lord. 

c.      Any person who attempts to be faithful to God without listening to the word Jesus gave to each local church will never be faithful to God, because they will not hear from Jesus Christ. 

4.       It doesn’t make any different how faithful or unfaithful each church is, they still have the words of Jesus Christ to proclaim to a lost and dying world. 

a.      Churches ought to be faithful to live for Christ and do right in this world, but if they do not, they still have God’s word to proclaim to the world. 

b.      It is hard to listen to hypocrites when they speak, but it is very important to always listen for the truth, regardless of who is doing the talking. 

c.      We might think someone is a hypocrite when God doesn’t think they are.