In the previous chapter, John was told to write down what he had seen, what is now, and what will take place later, which forms the three sections of the Revelation. Accordingly ,in Chapter 1, John wrote down what he had seen when the Lord appeared to him among the seven lampstands, which forms the First Section of the Revelation. In Chapters 2 and 3 John writes the Letters to the Seven Churches, which contain the Lord’s instructions concerning what is now, which forms the Second Section of the Revelation.
The Letter to the church in Ephesus
“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 people, 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. Rev. 2:1-3
In this letter, the church in Ephesus is described as being hard working, persevering, intolerant of wicked people, and testing those who claim to be apostles but were not. In addition, the church in Ephesus is described as having forsaken their first love and told to repent.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far 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. Rev. 2:4-6
When we look at the above instructions we see that the letter to the church at Ephesus could be applied to many segments of the church today. This will also be true of the letters written to the remaining six churches. Accordingly, when we read the Letters to the Seven Churches, we find events and circumstances that will soon take place in our own time as well. In this way, the Letters to the Seven Churches still describe what is now.
The letter to the church in Ephesus ends with the following instruction to whoever has ears, which is the Scriptures way of addressing anyone today who has ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev. 2:7
In this passage, those who are victorious refers to those who will be martyred for the faith. This definition comes from the following passage, found in the letter to the church in Laodicea, where this same word is used to describe the Lord’s victory over sin and death.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev. 3:21
When the Lord is described as being victorious, it is a reference to His work on the cross where He defeated all the works of the enemy. Thus, the message to the one who is victorious refers to those who will remain faithful to the point of death.
The Letter to the Church in Smyrna
“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 about 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. Rev. 2:8-10
The letter to the church in Smyrna follows the same pattern as John’s letter to the church in Ephesus and begins by describing the events that are now; meaning they will take place in John’s own lifetime. As with the previous letter, the instructions found in the letter to the church in Smyrna could also be applied to any church suffering the same circumstances today. In this way John’s letter to the church in Smyrna has a dual application to the church of the First-Century and the church today. As with the previous letter, the letter to the church in Smyrna ends with a special promise to the martyrs, which is addressed to those who have ears to hear.
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. Rev. 2:10-11
The promise of the victor’s crown to those who are faithful, even to the point of death, is another instance where martyrdom is equated with victory.
The Letter to the Church in Pergamum
To the Church in Pergamum “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, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
The letter to the church in Pergamum begins with praise for their faithfulness, despite living where Satan has his throne. In the Scriptures, the demonic entities that rule over kingdoms and nations are described as princes. Accordingly, Satan, is the chief prince ruling over this part of the world.
Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed 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. Rev. 2:14-16
In the above rebuke, we find that the church in Pergamum had among them false teachers who promoted sexual immorality. This is another example where the churches of the First-Century were facing the same issues as modern-day churches, which tells us that the Letters to the Seven Churches still describe the events that must soon take place. As with previous letters, the Lord ends with a special promise for the one who is victorious, which, again, refers to those who will maintain their testimony to the point of death.
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. Rev. 2:17
In the above passage, the promise to the martyrs is preceded by the phrase, “Whoever has ears, let them hear”. This same phrase is used in each of the Letters to the Seven Churches and is always followed by instructions concerning the martyrdom of the church. The only other use of this phrase in the Revelation comes in the following passages where it also precedes instructions regarding the martyrdom of the church.
Whoever has ears, let them hear. “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people. Rev. 13:9-10
The Letter to the Church in Thyatira
“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 prophet. 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, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’ Rev. 2:18-25
The letter to the church in Thyatira contains similar warnings as were given to the church in Pergamum concerning sexual immorality in the church. The message to the local church is followed by a promise to all future martyrs who will do God’s will to the end.
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Rev. 2:26-28
In these passages, the martyrs are told that they will rule over the nations with an iron scepter. This is a specific reference to Reign of Christ on earth when the martyrs will be resurrected to rule with Christ. The Reign of Christ on earth will be discussed in future chapters.
 (Dan. 10:4-21)