Introduction: We have a lot to cover this week! Scholars believe that
John’s message to each of the local churches is also a prophetic
message to the Christian church at various times in its history.
Each local church has certain characteristics and problems that
reflect the overall church during certain historical periods. Of
course, these statements are general descriptions, and I suspect that
each of us will identify with some of the problems outside our
“time.” The last church is Laodicea, and it represents the church
before Jesus’ Second Coming. I trust you agree with me that is our
time in history. Let’s dive into our study and learn what God has
for us in these descriptions of His church!

  1. Smyrna

    1. Read Revelation 2:8 and Revelation 1:17-18. Who is the
      source of this revelation to John? (We decided last week
      that it was Jesus.)

      1. Notice how the message for the church in Smyrna
        restates one of the characteristics of Jesus given in
        the first chapter of Revelation. Why this repetition?
        (We will see this for each of the churches. Jesus
        cites that part of His experience or character that
        is most appropriate for the situation faced by that
        specific church.)

    2. Read Revelation 2:9-11. What faces the church in Smyrna?
      (Persecution and suffering.)

      1. How does Jesus’ introduction of Himself benefit the
        members of the Smyrna church? (Jesus reminds them
        that He suffered and died, but was resurrected for
        them. That is how Jesus is able to promise them “I
        will give you the crown of life.”)

  2. Pergamum

    1. Read Revelation 2:12-13. Today, the phrase “I know where
      you live” is considered a threat. What does Jesus mean
      here? (Jesus understands the circumstances of our life.
      Here, the church is located in a city which was the first
      in Asia to set up a temple to the worship of Octavius
      Caesar, the Roman Emperor. This may be the reason it is
      called “where Satan lives.” A prominent Christian leader
      was martyred in that city, which leads us to believe that
      the Christians there felt surrounded by danger.)

    2. Read Revelation 2:14-15. What is the “teaching of Balaam?”
      (If you want to read the back story, read Numbers 22-24
      and Numbers 31:16. Essentially, King Balak wanted Balaam
      the prophet to curse God’s people. Although Balaam wanted
      the money he would get from the King, God would not allow
      him to curse His people. Instead, Balaam suggested a way
      that Balak could get God’s people to sin, and thus attempt
      to separate them from the true God.)

      1. Read Numbers 25:1-3. What is the sin that Balaam
        suggested? (Moabite women would entice God’s people
        into idol worship.)

    3. Look at Revelation 2:14 again. With this background, how
      do you think some members of Pergamum held “to the
      teaching of Balaam?” (I don’t think the issue is food
      sacrificed to idols or sexual immorality. Balaam taught a
      way around the express desire of God – that His people
      remain faithful and not be cursed. Balaam taught a way in
      which God’s people could bring a curse upon themselves.)

      1. How would you apply this lesson today? Who are the
        “Balaam prophets” that we should avoid? (Balaam
        wanted to enrich himself, and he was willing to try
        to harm God’s people to do it. Thus, I think any
        scheme for personal enrichment of a church leader
        which harms God’s people presents this kind of

      2. Read 1 Corinthians 8:4-9. What does this say about
        eating food offered to idols? (It says it is fine if
        you realize that an idol is nothing (and you do not
        harm the “weak” conscience person who has not figured
        this out yet). This is why I’m doubtful that Balaam’s
        sin was inducing people to eat food offered to

    4. Read Revelation 2:16-17. How does this fit the
      introduction of the message to Pergamum about Jesus having
      a sword? (It reminds us that Jesus also has a judgment
      side to His character.)

      1. What do you think is meant by the “hidden manna” and
        the “white stone?” (Exodus 16 talks about manna. It
        is God’s way to meet the physical needs of His
        people. Robertson’s New Testament Word Studies tells
        us that a “white stone” was used in courts of justice
        and it symbolized being acquitted of the charges
        against you. Thus, God will meet your physical needs
        and His grace will rescue you personally from your

  3. Thyatira

    1. Read Revelation 2:18-19. What kind of deeds does this
      church have? (More than in the past. The assumption is
      that these are good deeds.)

      1. Is this a strong endorsement?

    2. Read Revelation 2:20. In light of what we just discussed
      about Balaam and food offered to idols, what do you think
      is the problem with Jezebel? (This is another person who
      claims to be a prophet. It must be that she promotes the
      entire idol worship system involving sexual immorality and
      food blessed by idols. If she taught that idols were
      nothing, then this would not be a problem. Thus, she is
      promoting values at odds with the gospel.)

      1. Why do you think she is called “Jezebel?” Is that her
        name? (Read 1 Kings 16:30-32 and 1 Kings 21:25-26. I
        believe calling this so-called prophet “Jezebel” is
        symbolic. Her situation is far different than that of
        Balaam. Balaam was a prophet of God who struggled
        with greed. Jezebel was an enemy of God. Thus, when
        the text refers to her urging God’s people to eat
        food sacrificed to idols, she wants them to believe
        that the idols have real power.)

      2. What do you think is the modern equivalent of a

    3. Read Revelation 2:21-23. Would a loving God cause intense
      suffering? (These seem to be enemies of God. They are not
      struggling Christians. If we are not saved by grace
      (meaning our names written in the Book of Life), we will
      be punished and suffer for our bad deeds in the final
      judgment. See Revelation 20:11-15.)

      1. Is punishment only about the final judgment? (I
        contend that the Ten Commandments were given to us in
        large part to make our lives better. We often suffer
        in this life for our wrong choices.)

    4. Read Revelation 2:24-25. How does this characterize the
      teachings of Jezebel? (She is teaching Satan’s secrets.
      This sounds very dark. This is further proof of the nature
      of Jezebel.)

      1. What does God expect of those who have resisted the
        temptation of Jezebel? (To just hold on.)

  4. Sardis

    1. Read Revelation 3:1-3. Remember that the description of
      Jesus has something to do with the nature of the church
      being addressed. How is Sardis dead? (When we discussed
      the “seven spirits” or seven messengers of Revelation 1:4,
      I suggested that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit.
      His role in the Trinity had not been mentioned before.
      Thus, this church is “dead” because it lacks the power of
      the Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Revelation 3:4-6. When these verses refer to not
      soiling clothes, being worthy and overcoming, is this
      talking about the good works of the righteous? (Read
      Revelation 7:13-14. John understands that keeping our
      robes “white” refers not to good deeds, but rather relying
      on the blood of Jesus to cover our sins.)

      1. Why does Revelation 3:4 refer to the “walk” of the
        righteous? (This is the pattern of having a
        relationship with Jesus. These are people who desire
        to do God’s will while realizing that their good
        deeds will never save them.)

  5. Philadelphia

    1. Read Revelation 3:7-10. What is the connection between
      Jesus’ “open door” authority and the saints in
      Philadelphia? (These are challenged Christians. They are
      accused of not being loved by Jesus, their strength is
      fading away, but they are holding on. Jesus essentially
      tells them “keep coming, I’m holding the door open for

      1. Look again at verse 10. Does this suggest that Jesus
        delayed His Second Coming for their benefit – so that
        they would miss the final tribulation?

    2. Read Revelation 3:11-13. What does Jesus promise them if
      they keep on towards the open door?

  6. Laodicea

    1. Read Revelation 3:14-16. What does Jesus’ description of
      Himself have to do with the members of this church? (He is
      true and faithful, and they are compromisers: not hot and
      not cold.)

    2. Read Revelation 3:17-19. What is the primary problem of
      these Christians? (They do not realize their true state of
      sinfulness. They rely on their success, they are self-sufficient.)

      1. What will happen to them? (Because Jesus loves them,
        He will rebuke and discipline them.)

    3. Read Revelation 3:20-22. What does Jesus want us to do?
      (Be serious about being a Christian. Repent of our sins.
      Let Jesus into our life because He wants to come in.)

    4. Friend, do you see your life in the description of any of
      the churches? If this has shown some action that you need
      to take, why not, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do that
      right now?

  7. Next week: Worthy is the Lamb!