The churches of the Book of Revelation hold a spiritual ranking. It's not the order found in scripture. It's an order of the churches most pleasing to our Lord, all the way down to the one He said made Him sick. Let's take a fresh look and see what He sees! Let's prayerfully consider how He might rank our church!
The first and the greatest of all the churches on His list, found in Revelation was the church at Smyrna.
He starts out by saying in Revelation 2:9 (KJV): "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
Keep in mind that Jesus is not grading these seven churches on a curve of grace. He holds no punches. He tells it like it is. He gives Smyrna an "A." In verse ten He then predicts great persecution leading to death saying: "Be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life."
Next is number two is the church at Philadelphia. There is a tiny hint of a correction here, a suggestion that that they had little strength. However, He gives them an "Atta-boy," because they had not denied His name in spite of the persecution of the false Jews in Philadelphia. So we see that although this church does rate not as highly as Smyrna, it is in fact doing very well, in spite of the challenges it was facing. So we could speculate that He gives them an "A-minus."
Number three is the church at Ephesus. In Revelation 2:2,3 (KJV) Christ says "I know thy works, and thy labor, and they patience, and how thou canst not bear those which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou has left thy first love."
The members at the church at Ephesus pull down a "B" grade because although they were doing some very good things, in the process they made some big mistakes. They let their relationship with their Lord die down. As a result, they were doing good works in their own strength, directed by their own flesh! He does not leave them there in condemnation he says: "To him that overcometh" and then gives a promise as a reward for correcting their issue.
Pergamos "bangs in" at number four. Jesus starts out in Revelation 2:13 (KJV) by acknowledging the difficulty and challenges that this church faces. He declares that He knows where they live and that the city of Pergamos is literally the location of "Satan's seat." He tells them that they have "Held fast His name." He then named a martyr, Antipas, who was slain by the persecution of Satan's followers. However, Pergamos was messing up bad. In an obvious step down from Ephesus, Pergamos was allowing the doctrine of Balaam to be taught. They were eating food sacrificed to idols and committing fornication. Christ also lists the "doctrine of the Nicolatanes," which essentially taught that the body could be sinful but the spirit could be clean, giving a pass to immoral sexual behavior. Jesus does not mince words here. He says "which thing I hate."
Pergamos, "Assembly of Smog" you get a "C-minus" for your having too much of God to enjoy the world, but too much of the world to enjoy God!
The church at Sardis comes dragging in at number five. In Revelation 3:1,2 states: "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead. Be watchful and strengthen those things that remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God."
Wow, Jesus goes on to say in verse three "Remember!" How you used to hear me? "Hold fast and repent"! OR ELSE! Wow! What He really is saying is, "Or else you are really going to get it!" Once again, he closes out his exhortations by listing certain promises in verse five: "He that overcometh....."
Sardis "Evangelical Blur," He gives you a "D" grade. The members were dead and urgently needed to start seeking Him again whole-heartedly!
Thyatira; it's better for you to be at number six than last, but not by much. You seem to be complimented for what must have been works of your own because the Spirit of God would have been grieved out of your services a long time ago. You allowed that Jezebel false prophetess to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.
In my opinion, Thyratira receives the strongest judgment Jesus spoke over anyone in the New Testament. To the unrepentant Jezebel in that church, Jesus says "I will kill her children with death." Thyratira in Revelation 2:23a. You get an ugly "D-minus"! Even to you Thyratira Jesus with his undeserved love says "To him that overcometh"...
Laodicea, you are last on the list at number seven and you should write a book for the Christian book circuit, "What not to do as a Church!" Jesus has nothing at all good at all to say about you! In Revelation 3:15,16 "I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth."
Laodicea, "Church of Worldly Pleasure," you get a well-deserved "F" grade. Laodicea you flunk out! Jesus concludes by saying to all churches in verse nineteen: "To as many as I love I rebuke and chasten be zealous therefore and repent!"