Lessons from the Seven Churches

The Word has a lot to say about the strengths and weaknesses of the church. In Revelation 2 and 3, the Lord talks to the seven churches. He starts off by commending them for characteristics that please Him, but then He calls attention to what displeases Him and calls for them to repent. Let's look briefly at each of these churches and see what we can learn about what God desires for the victorious, overcoming church.

The Church at Ephesus: The Church That Has Lost Its First Love
Revelation 2:1-7

This church at Ephesus had lost its zeal for God and its zeal for God's program—God and His agenda were no longer the number one priority. This church did have some patience and some good works—they were involved in a lot of religious activity—but  they didn't do the things that constituted Jesus' church: witness, teach, and pray.

Jesus not only establishes churches but also removes them when they lose their value to the kingdom. You can look at the histories of some denominations and see that they started out on fire for God, but quickly became cold and started losing members. What happened? Their candlesticks were removed. The only way that you can do the works of God is if the Lord builds the church. You can build a church in the flesh, but there will be no credit, no anointing, no move of God, and no revelation. It will be only an institution.

This church at Ephesus had something in their favor: they hated the evil deeds of the Nicolaitanes, people known for their lascivious life style, for false teaching, and for error. They wanted the priesthood to be restored, but they also wanted the church to be controlled by laymen. Men elected by men are not supposed to rule men called by God. When you have laypersons trying to run what God planted, you will never get what God wanted to happen because they aren't called and anointed for that role.

The Church at Smyrna: The Persecuted Church
Revelation 2:8-11

There are churches today, or portions of the body of Christ today, that are undergoing serious physical persecution. I have preached in some of these nations where a person can lose their job, family, home, and life just for being a Christian.

If you are a member of a persecuted church, stick with God all the way. Do not fear; know that believers are praying for you and that God will provide a supernatural exit and provisions for you. Don't stand and say, "I don't belong to Jesus." If necessary, you must be willing to give up your life. There is no way satan or his antichrist is going to win.

The Church at Pergamos: The Idol-Worshiping Church
Revelation 2:12-17

Pergamos was a place of strong satanic activity. They worshiped almost everything: the sun, the moon, animals, etc., a practice they had adopted from the cultures around them. They were eating in honor of these idols. They were associating with idolaters in the heathen temple. In other words, they were going places they weren't supposed to be. They partook with pagans in their religious festivals, following teachings that led them into idolatry and lasciviousness.

The Lord asked this church to repent and be an overcomer; supernatural provision and authority come to overcomers.

The Church at Thyatira: The Self-Promoting Church
Revelation 2:18-29

Thyatira was a corrupt, self-promoting church, and Jezebel was a self-promoter who called herself a prophetess. The Holy Ghost is the promoter. If you are always trying to promote yourself, to get to the pulpit, or to do something so that you are noticed, you will not get very far. The Holy Ghost gives you the gifts. He gives you the talents you have. He gives you favor where favor is necessary. Your responsibility is to do what your hands can find to do, and do it with all your might.

The Lord gave Jezebel time to repent, but she failed to do so. Justbecause the hammer doesn't fall when you are doing what you shouldn't be doing doesn't mean that you are getting away with anything. God may be giving you time and space to come to your senses and understand what you are doing. 

Jezebel was the center of the problem, but there were folks that decided to follow along with her idolatry. Again, Scripture talks about idolatry in the form of fornication and adultery. You are married to God. If you have any other before Him, you have entered into fornication and adultery. Nothing—no one, no situation, no thing—is supposed to come before God.

The Church of Sardis: The Dead Church
Revelation 3:1-6

The church of Sardis said they were alive, but they were dead. They had an outward form and a profession, but that was all they had. There was no power. There was nothing real about it whatsoever. Again, this church had moved from what God wanted it be and had become a church of forms, customs, show, and religion. This church had moved so far away from any revelation or understanding of the Spirit that they didn't even know that they were living in the last days and that the return of the Lord was nigh. They were totally blind to all spiritual truth and understanding. Their lethargy and religion would cause them to become totally backslidden and return to the ways of the world.

The Church of Philadelphia: The Overcoming Church
Revelation 3:7-13

Because this was an overcoming church, it was going to have manifestations of God. Man cannot stop what God is going to do. Those going the wrong way, those going the false way, are going to come, see, and know that God's hand is on you.

This was a Word church, a faithful church, and a true church. Faithfulness is the character quality that ensures that you do the right thing, whether anyone is watching you or not, whether anyone is keeping tabs or not. When you are faithful, you do it with the right motive, and you can be counted on all the time. Everybody in the body of Christ likes people who are faithful, especially pastors. Pastors can give the faithful something to do and not have to think about it any more!

The Church of Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church
Revelation 3:14-22

This church was prosperous and had allowed its prosperity to dull it. I have been in the ministry my entire adult life, and I have seen this time and time again. Many times people start out working hard and experience success. They experience blessings. The pressure isn't on them any more. Their bills are paid, and things are going well. That zeal becomes dulled, and they become lukewarm.

God is not against prosperity, but He is against prosperity changing you. The Lord said, "If I love you, I will rebuke you." People misread this statement. They think that love means allowing people to do what they want and never saying a cross word, but God doesn't love that way. The Lord will chasten you, and He chastens you with His Word.

God's desire is that the church be victorious! Jesus is seated at the throne, the right hand of God, which is the seat of all authority and power in the universe. The overcoming church, the true church, has a throne next to Jesus. They have authority. They rule. They reign.

Leaders, stay true to God. Stay in His Word. Be guided by the Holy Spirit. Stay faithful unto the end.

This article is written by Bishop Keith A. Butler

In his signature line-by-line style, Bishop Keith A. Butler travels the world teaching the Word of God without compromise. Bishop Butler is dedicated to teaching believers how to live their faith. He is the founder of Word of Faith International Christian Center and the Senior Pastor of faith4life churches in Round Rock and Dallas, Texas.

As Bishop, he oversees 14 ministry operations in the United States. Bishop Butler has also established several international ministry works. The Word of Faith Ministerial Alliance is a fellowship of ministers and Christian leaders who have received Bishop Butler as their spiritual father and/or mentor. Through its companion website, faithleaders.com, ministers and Christian leaders can find valuable resources to aid them in their ministry callings.

Bishop Butler has a nationally televised program on the Golden Eagle Broadcasting Network called “Live your Faith”.He is the author of over 24 books with such titles as Living Life on Top, The Art of Prayer, God’s Not Mad at You and God’s Plan for Man. With the support of his lovely wife, Pastor Deborah L. Butler, and their children: Pastor Andre Butler and wife Tiffany Butler (granddaughters Alexis, Angela, & April), Pastor MiChelle, and Minister Kristina Butler Bishop Butler continues to plant churches worldwide.