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The Seven Churches of Revelation

The modern country of Turkey is home to all seven of the churches mentioned in the opening chapters of the Book of Revelation. At the time it was written, around 100 AD, the churches were located in a region of the Roman empire known as Asia Minor.

Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, is the last book in the New Testament. While the rest of the New Testament is made of narratives and instructional letters, Revelation is an apocalyptic work. It consists of visions, predicts future dramatic events, and uses a great deal of symbolic language. Interpretation of the Book of Revelation is a task that has kept biblical scholars busy for centuries.

However, Revelation begins like most other New Testament books: as a letter from a prominent church leader to various churches. The author of Revelation identifies himself as John, who had been exiled to the island of Patmos for his Christian faith. This John is generally believed to be St. John the Apostle, the beloved disciple of Jesus and the author of the Gospel of John.

In the opening chapter of Revelation, John send his greetings then describes a vision he had on Patmos. The remainder of the book consists of his descriptions of what he saw and heard. John relates that while he was "in the Spirit" one Sunday, he heard a voice say, "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea."

Turning around, John saw the voice belonged to a brilliant white figure, clothed in a white robe and with eyes blazing like fire. The figure told him the trembling John not to be afraid, and identified himself as the Risen Christ: "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." The vision again commanded John to write everything that he will hear and see.

John's vision that was recorded in Revelation began with specific messages to seven different Christian communities in modern-day Turkey. Some are addressed to the "angel" of that city, the meaning of which is not known for certain. It may symbolize the spirit of that city or refer to an actual heavenly or earthly messenger (the Greek word for angel also means "messenger").

The messages also speak of stars and lampstands, which the robed figure explained in Chapter 1: "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches."

Click on the name of one of the seven churches below for information on the message given to it in Revelation, what the city was like in New Testament times, and what the city is like today.

Ancient Name
(Modern Name)
Revelation Message The Modern City Related Sites
Ephesus
(Ephesus; Efes)
Ephesus receives praise for its perseverance, but criticism for forsaking its "first love." (Rev. 2:1-7) Ephesus is a major tourist destination and main stop for cruise lines due to its extensive archaeological ruins. 1. Basilica of St. John
2. Ephesus Museum
3. Great Theater
Smyrna
(Izmir)
Smyrna's message speaks of false Jews and impending persecution, but encourages perseverance which will be rewarded. (Rev. 2:8-11) Izmir is the 3rd largest city in Turkey, with 2.5 million people. It is known as the " Pearl of the Aegean" and is one of Turkey's most Westernized cities. 1. St. Polycarp Church
2. Archaeological Museum
3. Izmir Agora
Pergamum
(Bergama)
Pergamum, described as having the throne of Satan (the Zeus altar?), is praised for its martyrdom and perseverance but those who hold false teachings are criticized. (Rev. 2:12-17) Bergama is a small modern village overlooked by many tourists. 1. Archaeological Museum
2. Red Basilica
3. Zeus Altar (in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin)
Thyatira
(Akhisar)
Thyatira is praised for its increasing faith and service, but criticized for its tolerance of Jezebel, an immoral women who calls herself a prophetess. (Rev. 2:18-29) The ruins of ancient Thyatira are in a fenced-off area in the center of modern Akhisar. 4th-6th cent. public buildings
Sardis The church of Sardis is described as dead, and it must wake up. However, there are some who have not "soiled their clothes." (Rev. 3:1-6) Sardis is about 50 miles east of Izmir, and is solely an archaeological site. A small village nearby is named Sart. 1. Sardis Synagogue
2. Temple of Artemis
3. Byzantine Church
Philadelphia
(Alasehir)
Philadelphia is praised for having little strength but still persevering. Those who falsely claim to be Jews, but are actually of the "synagogue of Satan," will be judged. (Rev. 3:7-13) Alasehir is a small town of about 40,000 people with narrow winding streets and a Byzantine wall. Few ruins remain at the site of ancient Philadelphia. Byzantine Basilica
Laodicea
(near Denizli)
The church of Laodicea is sharply criticized for being lukewarm. Its wealth hides its spiritual poverty. (Rev. 3:14-20) Nearby Denizli is an attractive market town with a population of about 200,000. Laodicea is solely an archaeological site. 1. Stadium
2. Sarcophagi

Text of Revelation on the Seven Churches

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: 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. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 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. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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. (Rev. 2:1-7)

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. 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.

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. 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. (Rev. 2:8-11)

To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 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.

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. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

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. (Rev. 2:12-17)

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. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

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. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 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. 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.

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): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—"He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery" (Psalm 2:9)— just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 2:18-29)

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:1-6)

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:7-13)

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:14-20)

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