Revelation 2-3: Counsel for Seven Branches of the Church

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 165–166

Revelation 2–3 contains counsel that John gave to seven branches of the Church in his day. You will notice, however, that John was simply the messenger; the words are the counsel of the Lord. Like the counsel given to us today through our leaders, the purpose of the counsel in Revelation 2–3 was to encourage members to live according to Christ’s teachings and receive the blessings of the gospel. It should not be too difficult to understand how the counsel given in these chapters applies to Church members in our day. You will especially want to note the promises the Lord gave to the faithful. They are still true today.

Understanding the Scriptures

Revelation 2

Bear (v. 2)Put up with, endure 
Tried (vv. 2, 10)Tested (to see if they were true) 
Borne (v. 3)Endured 
Nicolaitans (vv. 6, 15)A group of people who believed in certain false teachings and who allowed—even encouraged—immoral actions, but who apparently acted secretly 
Tribulation (vv. 9–10, 22)Trials and suffering 
Blasphemy (v. 9)To speak lies or irreverently about sacred things 
The second death (v. 11)To be shut out of the presence of the Lord forever 
Thou holdest fast (vv. 13, 25)You stay faithful 
Martyr (v. 13)A person who is killed for his or her beliefs 
Seduce (v. 20)Lead away, tempt 
Vessels of a potter (v. 27)Clay pots 
Shivers (v. 27)Pieces 
The morning star (v. 28)Refers to Jesus Christ (see Revelation 22:16) 

Revelation 2—Important Changes from the Joseph Smith Translation

The Joseph Smith Translation for Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, and 18 changes the word angel to servant. (It is also changed for Revelation 3.) In Revelation 2:22 the Joseph Smith Translation changes the word bed to hell. It also changes Revelation 2:26–27, making it clear that the “rod of iron” by which Jesus rules is the word of God (see 1 Nephi 15:23–24) and that He rules with truth, justice, and equity—not with the seeming harshness verse 27 conveys.

Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19 (see also Revelation 3:1, 8, 15)—“I Know Thy Works”

The Lord made it clear to each of the branches that He sees and knows all their doings. He could say the same to us. He knows all of our thoughts, words, and actions.

Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26 (see also Revelation 3:5, 12, 21)—“To Him That Overcometh” or “He That Overcometh”

The Lord’s promises to the branches of the Church are worded differently, but they all refer to eternal life and exaltation in the celestial kingdom. It is helpful and interesting to read the different ways exaltation is described in Revelation 2–3.

  • The “tree of life” (Revelation 2:7) refers to eternal life (see Revelation 22:2).

  • The “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10) and the promise of ruling (see Revelation 2:27) refer to the blessing in the celestial kingdom of ruling as kings and priests forever (see D&C 76:56).

  • The white stone with a new name on it (see Revelation 2:17) is only given to those who obtain the celestial kingdom (see D&C 130:10–11).

  • Those who are clothed in white and whose names are written in the book of life (see Revelation 3:4–5) are those who are sanctified and inherit the celestial kingdom (see D&C 88:2).

  • Those who have the name of God written on them (see Revelation 3:12) are gods themselves, which is the promised blessing of those who are exalted (see D&C 76:58).

  • To sit with Christ on His throne (see Revelation 3:21) is to be as He is. This blessing is only given to those who inherit exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see D&C 132:20).

It is significant that these promises of exaltation were given after the Lord explained ways the people had sinned. The Lord is merciful, and those who have sinned can obtain eternal life if they will repent.

Revelation 3

Thou holdest fast (vv. 3, 11)You stay faithful 
Defiled (v. 4)Made unclean (spiritually unclean through sin) 
Key of David (v. 7)The power to rule 
The Amen (v. 14)A term, referring to Christ, that means “the true one” 
Wretched (v. 17)Enduring troubles, afflicted 
Eyesalve (v. 18)Eye medicine 
Rebuke and chasten (v. 19)Correct and discipline 
Zealous (v. 19)Sincere and diligent 

Revelation 3:1—“Thou Livest, and Art Dead”

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: “There are many people in this Church today who think they live, but they are dead to the spiritual things. … Their service is much of the letter and less of the spirit” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1951, 105).

Revelation 3:20—“I Stand at the Door, and Knock”

Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told the following story about Revelation 3:20:

“Holman Hunt, the artist, felt inspired to capture this stirring scripture on canvas. One day he was showing his picture of ‘Christ Knocking at the Door’ to a friend when the friend suddenly exclaimed: ‘There is one thing wrong about your picture.’

“‘What is it?’ inquired the artist.

“‘The door on which Jesus knocks has no handle,’ replied his friend.

“‘Ah,’ responded Mr. Hunt, ‘that is not a mistake. You see, this is the door to the human heart. It can only be opened from the inside.’

“And thus it is. Jesus may stand and knock, but each of us decides whether to open. The Spirit is powerless to compel a man to move. The man himself must take the initiative” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 212).

Studying the Scriptures

Do the following two activities (A and B) as you study Revelation 2–3.

Activity A iconOrganize What You Read

The Lord’s counsel to each of the seven branches of the Church in Asia follows a pattern: He repeated one of the descriptions of Himself from Revelation 1, He told the members of the branch what they were doing that pleased Him, He told them in what ways they needed to repent, and He told them of the blessings that would come if they were faithful. Make a chart in your notebook like the one below, and fill it in with information you find in Revelation 2–3.


Description of Christ

What they were doing that pleased the Lord

What they needed to repent of

Promised blessings

Ephesus (see Revelation 2:1–7)





Smyrna (see Revelation 2:8–11)





Pergamos (see Revelation 2:12–17)





Thyatira (see Revelation 2:18–29)





Sardis (see Revelation 3:1–6)





Philadelphia (see Revelation 3:7–13)





Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14–22)





Activity B iconApplying the Scriptures to Your Life

  1. 1.

    What counsel given to the seven branches of the Church in Asia do you think most applies to the Church today? Why?

  2. 2.

    Which of the promises the Lord gave to the seven Churches (see “Understanding the Scriptures” for Revelation 2) most inspires you to seek eternal life? Why?