The opening chapters of this great book of prophecy (Rev 1:3) describes 7 carefully arranged portraits of churches in the western part of modern day Turkey. It is possible to see in them a snap shot of the condition of the church historically. As we reflect upon them we are compelled to consider them practically; what kind of church am I in? Beyond this the challenge is surely to consider these churches personally; what am I in my church? It comes as little surprise to realise that the book of Revelation begins as it continues; that is prophetically. These 7 churches sketch out the history of the western Christian church for the past 2000 years:
Ephesus - the early Apostolic Church
Smyrna - the church persecuted under successive Roman Emperors
Pergamos - the mixed marriage of professing Christianity and paganism triggered by the professed conversion of Constantine.
Thyatira - the development of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy
Sardis - the rediscovery of truth and reformation
Philadelphia - the explosion of evangelism through the open door of mission in the 18th to 20th century
Laodicea - the self contented, self amused and financially prosperous western church of today
The problems with the church began early with Ephesus. Right at the beginning Christ presents Himself as He ought to be considered and honoured; at the centre of His church; tragically from this His people have drifted in heart. Here lie the source of 2 millenia of problems.