This Preaching in Shorts Bible study is on Revelation. Each chapter is read verse by verse with the major points highlighted and discussed.
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Chapters 2 and 3 contain the letter that Jesus dictated to John to the seven churches. These seven churches were in existence at the time the letter was written.
Revelation 2:1-29 (NIV)
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. 8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty–yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives. 14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. 18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. 19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. 24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): 25 Only hold on to what you have until I come. 26 To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations– 27 ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery’– just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor. The temple to Artemis, which was one of the ancient wonders of the world, was located there. The worship of Artemis was a big source of commerce in Ephesus.
Acts 19:23-27 (NIV)
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
Jesus is the one who “walks among the seven gold lampstands” (which are the seven churches) and He holds the “seven stars in his right hand” (the seven stars are the leaders or messengers of the churches).
Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for their hard work, their endurance and not tolerating evil people. However, they have forgotten their first love.
Paul had once commended the church at Ephesus for its love for God and others:
Ephesians 1:15 (NIV)
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,
This church was busy and active but had lost sight of the motivation, which is love.
Service for God must be motivated by love for God.
The city of Smyrna was about 25 miles north of Ephesus. The church there was persecuted by a Jewish population strongly opposed to Christianity, and a Gentile population that worshiped the Roman emperor.
Jesus commends the church for enduring and encourages them to stay faithful because God is always in control.
James 1:12 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
The city of Pergamum was on a hill which made it a natural fortress. It was the center of Greek culture and also the center for four established cults (Zeus, Dionysius, Asclepius, and Athene) which is why it is called the city “where Satan has his throne.”
The believers there were under a lot of stress to compromise their faith, to mix Christianity with the practices of the cults.
Balaam was a false prophet who influenced the Israelites to turn to idol worship:
Numbers 31:16 (NIV)
16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people.
Jesus rebukes the church for tolerating people who are like Balaam, that lead people away from God.
Not much is known about the white stones except that each one will have the new name that Jesus gives to each believer.
Thyatira was a working person’s town, with many trades people. One of Paul’s first converts, Lydia, was a merchant from Thyatira.
Acts 16:14 (NIV)
14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.
The believers in Thyatira were commended for growing in good deeds.
The church was criticized for allowing a false prophetess to teach that immorality was not a big deal. Her name may have been Jezebel or that may be a description of how evil the woman was.