Seven churches of Asia

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This article is about the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation. For other uses of see Seven Churches (disambiguation).
Map of western Anatolia showing the island Patmos and the locations of the cities housing the seven Churches.

The Seven Churches of Revelation, also known as The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse and The Seven Churches of Asia (referring to the Roman province of Asia, not the entire continent), are seven major churches of Early Christianity, as mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation. In Revelation, on the Greek island of Patmos, Jesus Christ instructs his servant John of Patmos to: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."[1]

"Churches" in this context refers to the community or local congregations of Christians living in each city, and not merely to the building or buildings in which they gathered for worship.[2][3]

The seven churches are located in:

Character of the churches[edit]

The seven churches of Asia in stained glass in York Minster by John Thornton
  1. Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) - the church that had forsaken its first love (2:4).
  2. Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) - the church that would suffer persecution (2:10).
  3. Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) - the church that needed to repent (2:16).
  4. Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) - the church that had a false prophetess (2:20).
  5. Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) - the church that had fallen asleep (3:2).
  6. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) - the church that had endured patiently (3:10).
  7. Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) - the church that was lukewarm and insipid (to God) (3:16).

Seven messages[edit]

The letters follow a common pattern. For example: the Lord first addresses each church and identifies himself,[4] then defines things that he knows about the church in question.[5] After this a challenge or reproach is given,[6] followed by a promise.[7] In all seven cases the admonition is included, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches",[8] although sometimes this comes before the promise and sometimes after.

Although the letters differ in length in accord with the needs of each community, all conclude with an appeal to hold fast and to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Each church is promised that everyone who conquers will be rewarded by Christ.

Some Historicists typically interpret the seven churches as representing seven different periods in the history of the Western Church from the time of Paul until the return of Jesus Christ.[9] Scofield states that "these messages by their very terms go beyond the local assemblies mentioned."[10] He is of the opinion that the letters have a prophetic purpose disclosing the seven phases of the spiritual history of the Church. Other writers, such as Clarence Larkin,[11] Henry Hampton Halley,[12] Merrill Unger[13] and William M. Branham[14] also have posited the view that the seven churches preview the history of the global Church

Mosaic in St Mark's Basilica of the seven angels.

Historicism has been criticized by the Eastern Orthodox Fr. Dimitri Cozby, who writes that historicists take a greatly oversimplified view of church history: "Since dispensationalism is Protestant in origin its “Church history” is strictly Western. The dispensations take into account almost nothing of Orthodox history after the period of the early councils which we share with the West." [15]

Angels of the churches[edit]

Chapters 2-3 of the Revelation has specific messages for each of the seven churches. The message of each of the seven letters is directed to the angel of the particular church that is mentioned.

Origen[16] explains that these "angels" are the guardian angels of the churches, a view upheld by Henry Alford. But Epiphanius[17] explicitly rejects this view, and, in accordance with the imagery of the passage, explains it of the bishops.

John sees a vision of the Son of Man, who walks among seven lampstands and has seven stars in his right hand. Revelation 1:20 states that "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches." The comparison of a teacher to a star is scriptural.[18]

Augustine of Hippo's reason for interpreting angels of the churches as the prelates of the church is that St. John speaks of them as falling from their first charity which is not true of the angels.[19][20] Others would say that the falling away relates to the churches, not to the messengers, as each of the seven letters conclude with the words "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

In the New Testament, the Greek word for angels (aggelos) is not only used for heavenly angels, but also used for human messengers, such as John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10,Mark 1:2,Luke 7:27) and God's prophets (Revelation 22:8-9) [21] Scofield has noted that The natural explanation of the "messengers" is that they were men sent by the seven churches to ascertain the state of the aged apostle ... but they figure any who bear God's messages to a church.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Revelation 1:11
  2. ^ John (1994). Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, ed. The Greek New Testament. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. 
  3. ^ Walter Bauer (1979). William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, ed. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. University of Chicago Press. 
  4. ^ 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14
  5. ^ 2:2-3, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15-17
  6. ^ 2:4-5, 10, 14-16, 20-25; 3:2-3, 9-11, 18-20
  7. ^ 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26-28; 3:4-5, 12, 20-21.
  8. ^ 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22
  9. ^ Unger's Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p924
  10. ^ Scofield, W. I., The Scofield Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) p1331
  11. ^ Larkin, C., The Seven Churches, Dispensational Truth, 1918
  12. ^ Halley, H. H., Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978), p688
  13. ^ Unger, M. F., Unger's Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), p924
  14. ^ Branham, W. M., An Exposition of the Seven Church Ages (Jeffersonville, Indiana: Voice of God Recordings) 2005
  15. ^ "WHAT IS 'THE RAPTURE'? (PART 1 OF 2)". 
  16. ^ Hom., xiii in Luc., and Hom., xx in Num.
  17. ^ Hær., xxv.
  18. ^ Dan., xii, 3.
  19. ^ Ep., xliii (al. clxii), n. 22.
  20. ^ Angels of the Churches, Catholic Encyclopedia
  21. ^ Merrill Unger, Unger's Bible Dictionary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975) p52
  22. ^ Scofield, W. I., The Scofield Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) p1331

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.