Since our understanding of the second and third chapters of Revelation is keyed to these seven churches, it is important that we define the word church. If you have a misconception about the church then you will also misunderstand this passage.
Definition of the Church.
When Jesus writes to the “church at Ephesus” or the “church at Smyrna” we understand that he is writing to a group of Christians in those towns. But a group of Christians is not the same as a church of the Lord. So what exactly is the Biblical definition of the church?
In the Bible the word church appears 114 times. It is the translation of the Greek word ekklesia, besides church it is also translation assembly 3 times in the book of Acts, during the time that the Ephesians called an assembly, an ekklesia to try and punish Paul who was disrupting their worship and trade in the goddess Diana.
The word ekklesia is a compound word derived from ek out of and kaleo to call. As it is used in Jesus’, Paul, John time it simply means and assembly, called to together for a purpose. Technically this was the word used for the city council meetings of the Greek and Roman cities and it was the word Jesus choose when he said in …
Christ Builds The Church Matthew 16:13-19 13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Jesus said that he would build His church on this rock. That “rock” was not Peter, but the rock that is contrasted with the nickname given to Peter by Christ. Peter’s nickname was petros, the masculine form for rock and it referred to a stone, or a boulder. The rock Jesus builds his church upon is petra, the feminine form of the same word, it means a rock outcropping, a ledge or a sold rock cliff face. Jesus, who Peter identified as the Messiah, was the foundational rock that He would build His assembly, his ekklesia upon.
Matthew 16:18 is the first time the word church is used in the Bible but it is not the occasion when Jesus started His church. That took place in …
Christ Calls The Church - Mark 3:13-14 13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
In the passage we see the exact definition of the church enacted. Jesus calls his apostles to himself and they came, they assembled and then he ordained twelve as apostles and then sent them forth to preach. We see the same event in Matthew 5 and in Luke 6, just before Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount.
The church, by definition, by history and by practice is an assembly. Since it is an assembly it must be local, and it must be visible. You can’t assemble anything and it be universal, nor can you assemble anything and it be invisible. The church is a local, visible assembly of born again, baptized believers joined together to carry out the Great Commission of their Lord.
Quote – I recently saw this quote on Facebook from a former missionary to Africa and now pastor up in Dumas, Texas. He wrote, “The Church is a gift from God - assembly required.” – Pastor Johnny Widener
One final thing, the church is not the same as the family of God, which can be invisible and unassembled, nor is it the same as the Kingdom of God/ Heaven/ Christ. They are all connected but they are not the same thing.
Now that brings us to the book of Revelation where…
Christ Stands With The Churches – Revelation 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
Jesus stands in the midst of the seven lampstand, the seven churches that John will send His epistle to.
Now Jesus writes to the churches in the order that they appear along the road that runs through them all, in the order that the epistle would be received first at Ephesus, where it would be copied and sent to the next church, which would also copy it and send it on until the letter was received at Laodicea and the Book of Revelation would have been created.
In fact, this is how all the New Testament was created. Local churches took the letters, the gospels and teaches for Paul, Luke, Mark, John carefully copied them, persevered them and sent them on. Never let anyone tell you that some council set up by the early Catholic church in 325 AD determined what books you have in your Bible. The “Canon” was determined by the Holy Spirit in local churches almost 200 years before the council of Nicaea ever met.