Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes


Letters to Seven Churches
Pastor Steve Schell
Revelation 2:1-3:22
What we call the Book of Revelation was a series of prophecies which God gave John in order to strengthen seven churches in western Asia Minor. Chapters two and three contain specific letters written to these churches. All follow the same structural pattern. First, Jesus introduces Himself using language which that particular church needed to hear. He describes Himself differently to each but, of course, the truths He highlights belong to every church of every age. Second, He compliments them for the good things they are doing, though in the case of two churches (Sardis, Laodicea) He finds nothing positive. Third, He points out the major failings of each church, though in the case of two churches (Smyrna, Philadelphia) He finds nothing negative. Fourth, He gives them a command. In the case of those who were sinning, He commands them to repent. In the case of those who were facing persecution, He commands them to stand firm in their confession even if it means death. And fifth, He gives a promise to those who “overcome.” These promises, like His introductions, are different ways of describing the glories of eternal life and belong to all of us.

Though each of these churches was a real, historical congregation with its own situational challenges, the prophetic warnings given to them speak to every generation. Whether facing temptation or persecution—Satan’s attacks on our heart or our safety—we’re still being challenged by Christ to be “overcomers” and His reward to the victorious is still the same.
A. The Battle
1) Definition: “overcomer”: Greek, Nikao, to conquer an adversary, to be victorious, to win a battle or contest.
Conquering suggests warfare. The Book of Revelation pictures a life and death struggle between God and Satan for the hearts of men and women, and God’s conquerors (“overcomers”) are those whose faith in the cross of Jesus Christ endures to the end (Mt 24:13) and who remain unswervingly loyal to Him even if it costs them their lives.
2) “Overcomers”: 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21
3) Perspective: We’re in a war, not a theatrical production. The outcome is not already decided.
4) These prophecies were written to help these seven churches, and us, make difficult choices.
5) Though it is only God’s power that is able to defend us, we must choose to repent when corrected and lay hold of His resources.
6) The warnings in these letters contradict the doctrine of “once saved always saved”: Rev 2:26; 3:5.

B. The Enemy (Rev 12:7-10) His weapons:
1) Deception: lies that lead us to rebellion against God (Ge 3:1-7).
a) (Rev 2:14) Balaam: Numbers 22-24; 31:16
b) (Rev 2:20) Jezebel: 1 Kings 16:31-33
What deceptions did the five churches face?
- (2:4) Ephesus/loveless orthodoxy, proud, critical suspicious
(Ac 20:28-31)
- (2:14) Pergamum/immorality, idolatry
- (2:20) Thyatira/immorality, idolatry
- (3:1) Sardis/apathy, superficial religion without the Spirit’s power.
- (3:17) Laodicea/materialism, lack of passion.
2) Accusation: demanding God justly punish sin (12:10)
- He who lured you into your sin now demands you be punished for doing it.
3) Persecution: hardship meant to drive us away from Christ (stop confessing Him).
What persecution did the two churches face?
a) (2:9, 10) Smyrna/more persecution
b) (3:9, 10) Philadelphia/more persecution
If Satan can’t get us to rebel, he’ll try to get us to run.
C. The Victory (Rev 12:11)
1) We “overcome” Satan “because of . . .”
a) The blood of the Lamb
- They escaped the judgment Satan tried to bring by repenting and trusting the cross (Rev 7:9, 14).
b) The word of their testimony.
- They confessed Christ even when faced with death (Rev 7:15-17)
- Also: Lk 9:23-26; Mt 24:9-13; 2Th 2:1-3
2) Now, let’s listen to Paul describe in his own words these same two sources of victory (Ro 8:31-39)
a) (vs 32-34) Condemnation removed because of our great intercessor
b) (vs 35-39) The God who loves us so much that He gave His own Son for us, will give us every spiritual resource when we face persecution. His care is so powerful we won’t merely survive persecution but will become (hypernikao) “more than overcomers”

Questions
1) It’s important to realize that there is a devil who plants sinful thoughts into our heads. He hopes to deceive us until we rebel against God. As soon as we sin he shames us and demands that God judge us. If we realize he is the source of these thoughts, how should a Christian respond when tempted?

2) What should a Christian do once we realize we have sinned? What if we sin a particular sin many times? Is it possible for a person to sin so many times God will not forgive us? (Find a passage of Scripture to support your answer).
 


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