A study of the seven churches in Asia Minor is, in many ways, like looking into a mirror. Every congregation of God’s people has strengths and weaknesses. There will always be victories and defeats, methods to reconsider, practices to be improved, and work to be done. There is no perfect congregation. The same could be said about those ancient congregations. A complete picture reveals strengths and weaknesses, reasons for commendation and reasons for condemnation.
One noteworthy area of commendation is the resilience of the early church in the face of opposition. Ephesus had borne and been patient (Rev. 2:3). Smyrna suffered through tribulation and poverty yet remained faithful (Rev. 2:9). Pergamos is where Satan’s seat was (Rev 2:13). Thyatira was patient (Rev. 2:19), and even Sardis had a few which had not defiled their garments (Rev. 3:4). Though many of these congregations had problems which needed to be addressed, they were all commended to some degree for their steadfastness in persecution.
Persecution and Christianity go hand in hand (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:12). It is not a question of if but when, and how severe the persecution will be. What must be remembered is that trial and persecution can strengthen us if we endure them faithfully. James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (Jas. 1:2-3). It is interesting to note that nothing is said of Laodicea’s suffering. Perhaps this is a reason why they were lukewarm. Faithful congregations stand for truth and standing for truth will inevitably draw the ire of the enemy. But regardless of the severity of the storm, they stand firm and endure.