The seven cities were regional centers on an important circular road. The order Ephesus, then Smyrna, Persona, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea is thier clockwise order on that road . The letters both exhort, praise and rebuke as needed. These historical churches are, as well, prophetic types of churches and individual Christians today. Philadelphia and Smyrna seem to be the only ones that are not rebuked for their walk.
They are good guys, discerning and hard working. Diligent in "prooving the spirits".
Rev 2:4 But I have against you that you left your first love.
The focus should always be God. (see Eph.Chp.1) :
Mark 12:30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul" and with all your mind, "and with all your strength." This is the first commandment. (cp.Deut. 6:4, 5) 31 And the second is like this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is not another commandment greater than these. (cp. Lev. 19:18)
i think that the brethren of Ephesus are getting a little distracted with the fruit (works) and neglecting the roots (faith).
Rev 2:5 Then remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works. And if not, I am coming to you quickly, and will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
They are told to put "first things first" or their "first" place shall be no more. Calling to mind that works are the fruit of faith and not the other way around.
Rev 2:6 But you have this, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans , which I also hate.
Most Greek language sources posit that the Nicolaitans represent a clergy that "rules" over the laity (rather than guides) and is "privy" to the "real stuff". ( elitism and gnosticism in one puffed up package ). It would seem to be an all too common characteristic of alot of today's "churchmen". Remember that John was taken to The Lords Day which is in our future.Rev 2:7 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To the one overcoming, I will give to him to eat of the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. (LITV)
Smyrna is persecuted and materially poor yet perseveres in faith, outreach and love; because of their faith, love and endurance they are wealthy in Spirit. There are those calling themselves "Jews" but are really claiming to be such under false colors in order to persecute and deceive.John 8:38 I speak what I have seen with My Father. And you therefore do what you have seen with your father. John 8:39 They answered and said to Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus said to them, If you were children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham.
They are really "out to get" Smyrna but in spite of their evil intentions Smyrna is to be faithful unto Life Eternal.Rev 2:11 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. The one overcoming will not at all be hurt by the second death.
Rev 2:12 And to the angel of the assembly in Pergamos, write: These things says the One having the sharp, two-edged sword: 13 I know your works, and where you dwell, where the throne of Satan is. And you hold My name, and did not deny My Faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful witness; who was killed alongside you, where Satan dwells. 14 But I have a few things against you, that you have there those holding the teachings of Balaam, who taught Balak to throw a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat idol sacrifices, and to commit fornication.
The third church is at the "convention center" for the heathen world. The temple of Esculapius, the pagan "god" of healing was in Pergamos. Here the church was adapting their "Christianity" to blend more closely with their heathen counterparts allowing all sorts of abominations into their "worship". Does the word "ecumenical" come to mind ?
Rev 2:15 So you also have those holding the teaching of the Nicolaitans , which thing I hate.
They remind me of cockroaches, it's not so much what they carry off, it's what they fall into and try to mess up !
Rev 16 Repent! But if not, I will come to you quickly, and I will make war with them by the sword of My mouth. 17 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To the one overcoming, I will give him to eat from the hidden manna. And I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name having been written, which no one knows except the one receiving it.
Rev 2:18 And to the angel of the assembly in Thyatira, write: These things says the Son of God, the One having His eyes as a flame of fire, and His feet like burnished brass: 19 I know your works, and the love, and the ministry, and the faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last being more than the first. 20 But I have a few things against you, that you allow the woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My slaves to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol sacrifices. 21 And I gave time to her that she might repent of her fornication. And she did not repent.
They are allowing a false teacher, (prophetess) to hold forth a "gospel" of lust and ritual indulgence. That specific (historical) person was a woman.... as satan is an equal opportunity employer, i'm sure that men are equally intransegent. God issued a warning to these folk that has gone unheeded.
Rev 2:22 Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and into great affliction those committing adultery with her, unless they repent of their works. 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the assemblies will know that I am the One searching the inner parts and hearts. And I will give to each of you according to your works.
"Unless they repent !"; wow what love and patience our Father has towards us.
Rev 2:24 But I say to you and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this teaching, and who did not know the deep things of Satan, as they say: I am not casting another burden on you; 25 but what you have, hold until I shall come. 26 And the one overcoming, and the one keeping My works until the end, "I will give to him authority over the nations," 27 and "He will shepherd them with an iron staff" (they are "broken to pieces like clay vessels"), as I also have received from My Father. (Cp.Psa. 2:8, 9) 28 And I will give to him the Morning Star. 29 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
What comfort, how joyful ! No matter what garbage surrounds us, we will not be soiled as long as we worship and obey the one true God.
Rev 3:1 And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis, write: These things says the One having the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars: I know your works, that you have the name that you live, and are dead.
Even though they are nominally "Christian" their fruits indicate that they are "dead".
Rev 3:2 Be watching, and establish the things left, which are about to die. For I have not found your works being fulfilled before God. 3 Then remember how you received and heard, and keep, and repent. If, then, you do not watch, I will come upon you like a thief and you will not at all know what hour I come upon you.
God wants them to shape up or ship out.
Rev 3:4 You also have a few names in Sardis which did not defile their robes, and they shall walk with Me in white because they are worthy. 5 The one overcoming, this one shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not at all blot his name out of the Book of Life; and I will acknowledge his name before My Father, and before His angels. 6 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
In Sardis as in all the Christian congregations there are some good guys left.
Rev 3:7 And to the angel of the assembly in Philadelphia, write: These things says the Holy One, the True One, the One having "the key of David," "the One opening, and no one shuts; and shuts, and no one opens:" (cp.Isa. 22:22);  8 I know your works. Behold, I have given a door being opened before you, and no one is able to shut it, for you have a little power and have kept My Word, and have not denied My name.
Although their power in the world is not great, these good folks have not caved in.
Rev 3:9 Behold, I give out of the synagogue of Satan those saying themselves to be Jews, and they are not, but they lie. Behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they shall know that I loved you.
Those "fellow" Jews who pretend to be pius believers will be shown who God's chosen really are.
Rev 3:10 Because you kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep you out of the hour of trial which is going to come on all the habitable world in order to try those dwelling on the earth. 11 Behold, I am coming quickly. Hold what you have that no one take your crown.These folks are not to be tempted in the "hour of temptation".
Rev 3:12 The one overcoming, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall not go out any more. And I will write the name of My God on him, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem which comes down out of Heaven from My God, and My new name. 13 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Whosoever perseveres obtains the Eternal Priesthood.
Rev 3:14 And to the angel of the assembly of Laodicea, write: These things says the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Head of the creation of God: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold, or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, I am rich, and I am made rich, and I have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.
Jesus is telling these people that despite their high opinion of themselves and their smug arrogance, they are "wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked". They are so "wishy-washy" that they are about to be thrown up and out like a tainted piece of meat.
Rev 3:18 I advise you to buy from Me gold having been fired by fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, and your shame and nakedness may not be revealed. And anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 I, as many "as I love, I rebuke and I chasten." Be zealous, then, and repent. (cp.Prov. 3:12) ;  20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will enter to him, and I will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 The one overcoming, I will give to him to sit with Me in My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father in His throne. 22 The one who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Our Father still loves all His children and will gladly embrace any and all who would repent, learn His Word and practice It as best they can. Selah !
Ed.Note: This is my take on the letters to the seven churches; please do not take my word or that of any other man as to what our Lord is telling these churches (and ourselves). Do your own prayerful study of The Word. To promote your own study of the Precious Word of God here is an excellent downloadable source of Bible translations, Strong's Concordance etc.