Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. Revelation 1:19 NIV
Jesus has come to give encouragement not only to the seven churches but also to John. He was going through a difficult time. He was anxious for his flock. He has heard they were going through difficulties as well. Jesus reassures John that He is there with Him and will continue to be with him.
Each of the seven churches was on an ancient mail route in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey. Ephesus was the closest church to Patmos and receives the first message. Even though each church received a personalized message, the letters were sent to all seven churches.
Jesus used the same outline for each church. It is like a report card. Each message begins with a description of Christ.
Jesus says He knows what each church is going through.
He gives praise to the churches because Jesus knows they are struggling against persecution within and without the church.
Each church receives a rebuke where they need to work on. Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only two churches that do not receive a rebuke. Smyrna was going through heavy persecution. They needed encouragement to keep holding on to Christ. Philadelphia was the church of brotherly love.
Jesus gives counsel on how they can improve – repent and hold fast. To Smyrna, He gives further encouragement to be faithful even though they faced death.
Jesus then gives a warning of what will happen if His counsel is not received. Again, Smyrna and Philadelphia receive no warning.
Each church receives a promise for those that hold onto Jesus and keep His commandments.
The letter to the seven churches has a three-fold meaning. It was meant for the church during John’s day. It also represents the history of the church through the ages. Each church has characteristics that apply to us today.