Summary: The messages to the seven churches are vital to the survival of the church in any part of the world at any time in history. The lights of the church go out all through history and produce dark ages when Jesus is not heard and heeded.

If someone asks you, "What is the modern name of the country where Paul was born?" Would you


If someone asked you, "What is the modern name of the country where Christians were first

called Christians?" Would you know?

If someone asked you, "What is the modern name of the country where Noah's Ark landed and

the new world began?" Would you know?

If someone asked you, "What is the modern name of the country which became the center of

Christianity after the fall of Jerusalem, and which became the center of world power and spread of

Christianity for 16 centuries?" Would you know?

The answer to all of these questions is the same: It is the land of Turkey. I must confess I had no

idea that Turkey was a major Bible country, but the fact is, it is. All 7 of the churches Jesus sent

letters to in this book of Revelation were in Asia Minor, which today is Turkey. The Hittites of the

Old Testament developed this land. Abraham came here on the way to the Holy Land. It was

famous in Greek history as the land where they deceived the city of Troy into taking their wooden

horse in which were hidden some of their soldiers. They took this famous city, and the story is

recorded in Homer's famous Iliad.

Turkey is the bridge between Europe and Asia, and it is famous for more than most of us realize.

This is where Florence Nightingale paved the way for modern nursing. This is where Hippocrates

the father of modern medicine came to work centuries before. Dr. Luke got his training here, and

Paul spent most of his life here, and a great deal of his ministry was in this area. John the Apostle

served the churches here, as did Timothy. Mary the mother of Jesus lived her last days and was

buried here. When Constantine the Roman Emperor became a Christian he transferred the capital of

the Empire from Rome to Constantinople in what is now Turkey. For 7 centuries, which is three

times as long as the United States has existed, this was the center of world and Christian power.

The first ecumenical council where Christian leaders from all over the world met was in Nicaea

in 325 A.D. There they established basic Christian doctrine held by all Christians to this day. Not

only is a good portion of the New Testament written to churches in what is now Turkey, but out of

that area has come the theological foundation for all the creeds of Christiandom. Everyone of us has

been greatly influenced by what happened in the land of Turkey. The reason I share this is two fold.

First, because most Christians never think of it or hear of it. It is lost knowledge because we don't

know history. Second, it becomes a startling piece of evidence as to the consequences of not

listening to Jesus when he speaks to the church. Jesus warned these churches that if they did not

listen they would be removed, and would no longer be lights in the world, and that is exactly what


This center of the Christian faith was destroyed, and today it is 98% Moslem, and the Christian

church has very little influence. The churches and even the cities are nothing but rubble and

wasteland because the church stopped listening to her Lord, and went her own way just like the

people of Israel did, and the glory of the Lord departed as it did from the temple of Israel.

The messages to the seven churches are vital to the survival of the church in any part of the world

at any time in history. The lights of the church go out all through history and produce dark ages

when Jesus is not heard and heeded. This background should make us realize how seriously we

need to give heed to these letters of our Lord to the church. Most all of the churches of Turkey have

been turned into Mosques or museums because they had ceased to listen. History teaches us that

Jesus says what He means and He means what He says. We want to look at what He says to the first

church-the church of Ephesus. This letter is really second Ephesus, for Paul wrote one of his most

impressive letters to this church several decades earlier. It was a great church in a great city.

In the original list of the seven wonders of the world which goes back to the second century B.C.

The second one on the list was the temple of Diana in Ephesus. Pliny the Roman Historian called it,

"The most wonderful monument of Grecian magnificence.." It took a 120 years to build it. It was

425 feet in length and 225 feet wide with 127 60 foot columns, each given by a different king so

that all of Asia joined in the building of this temple to their favorite goddess. The Greeks called her

Artemis. Diana was her Roman name.

Ephesus was the city of greatest renown, and it was wealthy because people came from all over

the world to see the temple. It was the Orlando, Florida of Asia Minor. Paul almost started a riot in

Ephesus because one of the silversmiths by the name of Demetrius made silver shrines of Diana and

sold them to the masses of tourists. Paul came along and said manmade gods are not gods at all.

Demetrius, fearful of losing his money machine, stirred up the people and the whole story recorded

in Acts 19 says the crowds became furious for two hours as they shouted,

"Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The officials finally got them quieted down, but this gives you a

glimpse of what life was like in the city of Ephesus. It was a pagan capital of worship, and with a

temple which was awesome. In the shadow of one of the seven wonders of the world Paul

establishes one of the seven churches in Revelation.

Ancient writer after ancient writer raved of the magnificence of Ephesus. It was the home of the

world's most popular goddess. She had an army of priests and prophetesses, theologians, choristers,

and even acrobats. What chance did a handful of Christians have in that environment. It would be

like setting up a tent along side a great Cathedral and trying to compete. Paul knew it would be

tough, and it was. He spent three years in a lecture hall having discussions everyday on the

Christian way. The Apostle John followed Paul and gave leadership to this church. That area

became the nursery of Christiandom. After the fall of Jerusalem, Ephesus became the new center of


Diana is a mere record of history known only to scholars, but the letter of Paul to the church of

Ephesus, and the letter of Jesus to Ephesus are read and studied by people all over the planet. The

once proud city is now a heap of ruins, and the church is gone, but the messages it brought forth

from Paul and Jesus live on to challenge and change the church the world over.

Ephesus was the first of the seven churches to be addressed by the Lord of the church. It was the

closest to the island of Patmos where John received the revelation. The seven churches were key

churches in the area, but they were not all the churches that were there. There were many others, but

these seven represent the total church as seven represents totality all through the book of Revelation.

Jesus begins His revelation of the plan of God from the first century to the last century of history,

and on into eternity with these messages to the churches. The reason is, the church is His key tool to

change history and get people ready for His coming and the eternal kingdom. He does not have

another plan. His church is His body, and by means of it He will fulfill His plan for this world.

The amazing thing we see in these letters is that they are far from being perfect instruments.

Jesus was the perfect man and he fulfilled the will of God perfectly in His death and resurrection.

But now as the Lord of the church He has to finish His work in history by means of His church, and

it is still made up of people who live in a fallen world and who are yet far from perfected. All of the

churches have defects, problems, and weaknesses. If you feel the church is not all it should be, that

is not surprising, for Jesus felt the same about the early church. They had all kinds of problems, and

some of them quite serious. Jesus was very critical of His churches, but it was always with the goal

of getting them to repent, change, and become what they had the potential of becoming.

The first thing we need to learn from these letters is that the church needs to be in constant

renewal, for it is a fallible human organization, and thus, it is in constant decay. It is a tool that is

getting dull all the time and needs perpetual sharpening if it is to get the job done that Jesus left it

here to do. These were the cream of crop churches, but they had plenty of problems and were in

need of revival. Every Christian alive is to be a overcomer, for that is a major theme in these letters.

In Ephesus they were growing cool and losing their first love. Jesus says in verse 7, "To Him that

overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life." Problems and bad attitudes of believers

can be overcome and reversed. That is why these letters exist: To bring that very thing about, and

make Christians of all churches perpetual overcomers.

At the conclusion of each of these letters you read of a reward to be given to those who are

overcomers. Overcoming sins and weaknesses is what being a Christian is all about. It is basic

ministry of the church to be ever engaged in overcoming all of the things that make Christians less

than the ideal tool Jesus needs to get His purpose done in this lost world. Even to the most deficient

church of the lot-the church of Laodicea, which was making Jesus sick so that He was about to spit

them out of His mouth, He concludes in 3:21, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to set

with Me on My throne, just as I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." The worst

can still have the best. The church, no matter how short of the mark, can still be an overcomer and

succeed in fulfilling the purpose of Christ in the world.

The Lord of the church is optimistic about the church and its potential for perpetual renewal. It is

always going to the dogs, and Christians are cooling off and following some fool fad or heresy, but

Jesus is ever ready to forgive and restore and use this fallible tool for His glory and the salvation of

the world. Jesus never gives up on the church, for it is a living organism, and it can listen, respond,

repent, change, and get back on track, even when it goes astray and is part of the problem instead of

part of the solution to this world's mess.

The church is just people, a great variety of just ordinary people. There are people with varied

gifts and personalities, but everyone of them not yet perfected. So when you get a number of them

together they do not create perfection. If two wrongs don't make a right why should 200 make a

right? Church is never wholly right or ideal and free of defects. If you find one you should let the

Lord know right away because He never found one in His search. There are no perfect churches in

the New Testament, and it is safe to assume there never has been such a church. Every church can

be criticized, and it is valid to do so, but to be Christlike about it the goal of the criticism is to be

constructive so as to help them to be overcomers.

You do not forsake your yard because weeds or dandelions began to take over. You work to

make it better. You do not throw away your car when it gets dirty and tires get worn. You seek to

wash it and replace the tires. So it is with your house and your body. If people abandoned their

body every time it developed a defect that made it not function as it was designed to function, the

suicide rate would be almost 100%. We do not abandon the body even though we get very critical

of it. We seek to make it better and restore it to health. That is how Jesus deals with His body-the

church. He seeks to restore it to health when it is sick. To be Christlike is to be ever seeking for

ways to help the church be healthy. If you cannot stand an imperfect church, you are in the wrong

world because that is all there is in this world. I love the way Eugene Peterson says it in his book

Reversed Thunder.

"The churches if the Revelation show us that churches are not

Victorian parlors where everything is always picked up and

ready for guests. They are messy family rooms. Entering a

person's house unexpectedly, we are sometimes met with a

barrage of apologies. St. John does not apologize. Things are

out of order, to be sure, but that is what happens to churches

that are lived in. They are not showrooms. They are living

rooms, and if the person's living in them are sinners, there

are going to be clothes scattered about, hand prints on the

woodwork, and mud on the carpet. For as long as Jesus

insists on calling sinners and not the righteous to repentance,

and there is no indication as yet that he has changed His policy

in that regard-churches are going to be an embarrassment to

the fastidious and an affront to the upright. St. John sees them

simply as lamp stands: They are places, locations, where the

light of Christ is shown. They are not themselves the light.

There is nothing particularly glamorous about churches, nor,

on the other hand, is there anything particularly shameful

about them. They simply are."

The body does a lot of things even when it is sick or defective. It is inadequate, but it still works

and loves, and makes a difference in the world. So the defective church is still the church. It's light

is often dim, but its still points people to the light of Christ. It has plenty of sin of its own, but it still

leads people to find forgiveness of their sin. Christians are often more concerned about their

crabgrass than a lost world. But the lost are still won by a world wide outreach.

At a church supper there may be more gossip than casseroles, yet people are loved and cared for,

and they get support to survive one crisis after another. Christians may be more interested in the

sports world yet the Word of God does get through, and there is a measure of growth in having the

mind of Christ. Christians want to be in an atmosphere of the holy with little interest in being holy

themselves. You can go on and on about the defects of Christians, and all of it is true, but none of

which is a valid reason for forsaking the church. Jesus knew that the critics of the church would be

correct. He is the first and the greatest critic of them all. But He also makes it clear that a critic

whose goal is not to help the church overcome its defects does not have his mind toward the church.

Look at the shocking criticism He levels at the church of Ephesus. He has just said, I am

impressed with your deeds, hard work, and perseverance. You have been orthodox in your theology,

and have not grown weary in enduring hardships. Jesus really butters them up as being a great

church. But then in verse 4 He says, "But there is this one thing I hold against you. You have

forsaken your first love." He just as well have poked them in the eye with the golden lampstand, for

this was a devastating accusation. What good is all the rest without love? Everything minus love

equals nothing. If you lack the basic thing, what good is it that you have a lot of lesser things?

Jesus admits this is the basic thing to have love, for He makes it clear if they do not repent and get

restored to their first love, He will remove their lamp stand. In other words, they will cease to be His

light in the world. A church without love is like a candle without a wick, a flashlight without a

battery, a bulb without electricity. There can be no light where there is no love.

Here we see the bride and the groom when the honeymoon is over and the hot summer has

changed to winter, and just when they are most needed, the coals of fire have grown cold. First love

is honeymoon love. It is the love that warms life and makes people happy to be alive. Jesus loves

this kind of love too. The radiance of the real hot romance is everybody's favorite kind of light.

Jesus is a jealous groom, and He wants His bride to keep that romance alive and not let it grow cold.

It is of interest to note that the problem in our relationship to Christ is the same as our problem in

relationship to our mates. We let the flame go out and try to live by the ashes of yesterday's fire. In

our romantic and religious life we become cold and dull, and just follow a routine. Mates can often

adjust to this and live together for 40 years after the fire is out. Jesus is not content with this sort of

relationship. He expects to be loved today just as He was yesterday, and as He expects to be loved


The fascinating thing here is Jesus says it is a matter of the will. You lose your love because of

choices you make. You can choose to remake these choices and get back to your first love. Love is

not just an emotion, love is a choice. Jesus says you can repent and stop doing what you are doing,

and start doing again what you did at first. First love is a priority, and it is a choice you can make.

People act like love is some outside force like a flying saucer, and unless one hits you you cannot do

anything to make it happen. But love is not so, it is an inside job. It is what you choose to do with

your life and energy. We choose to love or we choose not to. It is not an external that we have no

control over. It is an internal we have full control over. Jesus says you forsook your first love. It

was your choice. Now make another choice to get back to it, or you are no longer a part of my

team, and you will be sidelined for good.

They had some good things going for them, but it was like a car that has run out of gas. It will

keep going for quite a ways because of the momentum of past power.

They were sort of coasting along not realizing they had run out of the fuel of love, and would soon

come to a halt. Jesus says, get back to your fuel supply of love, or you will be going nowhere. It is

interesting to note that he says in verse 6 that they still had their hate working. They hated evil and

that was good, but their love had conked out. Hate of evil is easier to keep going than love for

people and the Lord. You find Christians who are powerful haters of evil who have lost their love for

the evil people they so hate.

Hate of evil is good Jesus said, but it cannot be the light that represents Him in the world.

Their hate is going strong, but if they don't get back to their first love, they will be removed. No

church can be moved by hate of evil alone and be what Christ needs in this world. Without love the

best hater is of no ultimate value. Hate of evil by itself is worthless for the purpose of Christ. Hate

only has value when it is a servant of love. Show me a Christian who is a great hater, but who is not

a great lover, and I'll show you a Christian whose light is about to go out, for such a Christian

cannot represent Christ in the world.

Augustine of Canterbury insisted that the 3,000 monks in Bangor Wales strive to evangelize the

Saxons. "No way," said the Abbot, "We will not preach the faith to this cruel race...who have

treacherously driven our ancestors from their country..." Augustine said, "Since you will not show

them the way of life, I am sure they will show you the way of death." Not many years later Ethelfrid

invaded Wales and many of these monks were massacred. They were excellent haters, and possibly

even the best ever, but that did not prevent their light from being snuffed out. Hate does not shine,

only love does. If love does not shine, hate will not save the day, for it can never be a substitute for

love. There is no substitute for love.

The world needs saving more than it needs condemning. The truth is not God so hated the world

that He planned to judge it, but He so loved the world He gave His only Son to save it. The Bible

makes it clear that to God the priority is love.