Revelation Chapters 2&3 – The Seven Churches of Asia Minor

The Apostle John was directed by the Lord Jesus Christ to send the letters to all his churches explaining Jesus has judged His churches by His Spirit. Jesus wants it made known to them what the Spirit of God sees in them. We can see from the table below that John was writing to seven actual churches of which he was the apostle, but then with hindsight we may see that he was revealing seven periods in the Church Age.

Therefore we can say his writing is historical and prophetic. Over the Church Age we can find seven periods in Church history: the persecution from pagan Rome and then from Papal Rome upon the saints and anyone who stood in their way. J.A.G. Rolley, makes this list which outlines the structure of each letter. Every letter has a definite pattern which is followed.

1. Each letter commences with. “To the angel of the Church of.”

2. Each letter describes the Lord in one of His Divine roles.

3. Each letter states: “Thus says He.”

4. Each letter states: “I know your works.”

5. Each letter has: A judgment or an encouragement.

6. Each letter has a warning: “He who has an ear, let him hear.”

7. Each letter has a promise: “To him who overcomes.”

8. Each letter has the promise of life in the Kingdom of the Lord.”

Ps. David McCracken from New Zealand and now living in Australia once explained that a prophetic message may have a link to the past, present as well as to the future. Briefly below are some points of history to link in with the following chart along with Chapters 9 and 10 of our book. You will find that the prophetic thrust of John has had its outworking over history.

1. Ephesus – Around 100 A.D. We had false teaching. Legalism, Gnosticism claims that the Bible was not sufficient for teaching. Already there were people going about teaching things off the top of their heads, rather than from the Bible.

2. Smyrna – 100–313 A.D. We saw emperor worship, which was compulsory in the Roman Empire; failure to do so was punished by death. Polycarp was burned to death.

3. Pergamos – The Age of Constantine, 313 to 606 A.D., Christianity became the State religion, losing its spirituality.

4. Thyatira – Around 606 to about 1517 A.D. we saw the rise of the Papacy with its evil power. Jezebel comes into the picture as people are taught to worship Mary the “Queen of Heaven”.

5. Sardis – Around 1517–1739 AD. Known as the era of the Reformation of the Church.

6. Philadelphia – 1739–1830. In this era we saw the Evangelical and Missionary period, come out and proclaim the Great Commission to the world. Bible Societies started translation of the Bible into different languages.

7. Laodicea – starting around 1830 and will continue until Christ returns. It has to deal with Humanism, Liberalism, Futurism, and the lukewarm Christians.

The 7 Churches

The 7 Churches2

Revelation Chapter 1 – Verses 10 – 18 and 19-20

Vision of the glorified and glorious Son of God

Verses 10-18

John states he is in the Spirit referring to being with the Godhead on the Lord’s Day, a distinct day of the week given for worship (v10) when God tells him to write down in a book what he saw and sends it to the seven churches (v11). When John turned to see who was speaking to him he saw seven golden lamp-stands and the Son of Man, dressed in long garments with a golden sash (vv12-13) (Ephesians1:18-23; 5:23; Colossians 1:18). This is a reference which has a connection to Daniel chapter 10:1-9 and other references that describe Jesus (Exodus 28, Isaiah 61:10 and Joshua 5:13).

John in Revelation1:13-18 says, “… I saw One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and tied around the breast with a golden band”, which again describes the High Priest of God. Therefore we see in this passage Jesus in all His glory and sound (Ezekiel 1: 24) causing John to feel weak or even dead, just as Daniel mentioned in his book chapter10 and 7:9-10. John describes Jesus holding seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword (v16) referring to Isaiah 49:2, Psalm 149, Hebrews 4:12, and holding the keys of death and Hades (v18) ( Acts 2:24, Hosea 13:14).

Verses 19-20

In these two verses we see an instruction given to John to write down what he sees, that are and the mysteries that lay ahead. Then in the same statement the mystery is revealed; the seven stars are the angels and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches. This links this to the next two chapters. It is worth reading Zechariah 4:2 to see a similar lamp-stand . The Bible is a mysterious book but those who have spent time not just reading it, but studying it will find a matrix of hidden meaning.

Revelation Chapter 1:1-9

Vision of the glorified and glorious Son of God

Verses 1-3

We start with “… The Revelation of Jesus Christ…”as this book’s main purpose is to reveal Christ. Verses 1 and 2 deal with a witness to Jesus and things which must come to pass and the testimony of Christ in its contemporary period shortly after His crucifixion as revealed by God to John, to prepare us for what is to come[1].

Rolley opens his book called “A Study on the Revelation of Jesus Christ”, with a beautiful comparison of verse 3 to the Beatitudes, drawing a comparison with Matthew 5: 10; or to Psalm 1: 1. He says, “This blessing is threefold, “… Blessed is he /she who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it, for the time is near…” Thus we can draw a conclusion John was talking about the time period in which he lived, but we would do well to adhere to this principle in our day. We can also draw a comparison with similar wording and theme from Daniel 8:26, 12:4-9, Matthew 13:16, 24:15, Luke 11:28, Romans 13:11, 12, 1John 3:2-3, 2Peter 3:8 where we are exhorted to read the total counsel of God for understanding.

Verses 4-9

Verse four starts with the greeting from John to the seven churches in Asia on behalf of Jesus, as found in this statement “Him who is and who was and who is to come“, and also the seven spirits before his throne (Isaiah 11:2, Zechariah 3:9, 4:10, Acts 2:9, Romans1: 7). The true witness of God’s great power Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, meaning resurrection into eternal life, freeing us from sin (v5). John here is alluding to a statement in Daniel 12:2 where Daniel makes a reference to two resurrections, one of believers and one of non-believers. Then in verse 6 Jesus has made us to be a kingdom and priests (Genesis 18:18, 22:18, 26:40, Exodus 19:3-6), which when connected to the next verse 7 where there will be visible, physical signs and mourning at His return (Zechariah 12:10-14, 13:6). This is an indication of remorse of the House of Judah, Israel and all who did not believe that Christ was the Messiah. It also indicates that the coming together of the house of Jacob will take place after Jesus returns and sometime in the following thousand years (Ezekiel 37:15, Isaiah 11:1-13).

The work of this restoration will be under the rule of Christ and His Church, who are the royal priests. The matter is settled by God in the beginning and the end (v8). John also makes it clear that he is the companion of the saints who were suffering because of the Word of God. They will rule and not any by natural descent of a nation, but by a spiritual nation the Church. As we saw the prophecy in Deuteronomy 28:49; 57 gave us an insight into the symbol of this empire as the “Eagle” that will destroy the nation of Israel and the Temple. Now John is facing the time of this abomination that causes desolation, the persecution under Rome. Like Daniel in chapter seven, who revealed that in the end the Kingdom of God will be given into the hands of the saints, John does the same thing here (9).

In Daniel chapter 7:9-18, where we saw the Ancient of Days coming. Jesus pre-existed as the Word, and not only that, but He is God. This statement by John shows that Jesus was with God before He came physically to this earth. Daniel describes the purity of God (Christ) by using the theme of white and also describes the awesome power that God has as He destroys the beast and sends him to hell.

Least read Book-Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the least read book of the New Testament and consequently the least understood. Although this book has often been neglected because of its mysterious character, it is the only book in the Bible which contains:

(a) A special promise to obedient readers (1:3);

and

(b) At the same time promises a curse upon those who tamper with its contents (22:18-19).

The central figure of the Book of Revelation is the Lamb of God – the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Lamb who alone is worthy to receive all honour and glory. The Lamb is mentioned 28 times in this Book. The word “revelation” means to “unveil” or “uncover”, and the intent of this book is to reveal the person of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14).

The Book has a two-fold purpose –

(i) To encourage the seven churches in Asia Minor;

(ii) To reveal the future of the church, with a special emphasis on the “end of the age”.

The Book of Revelation belongs to a particular genre of literature, known as “apocalyptic”, expressing meaning through symbols and imagery. It finds its origins in the Old Testament and clues to its meaning can be gleaned by comparing Scripture with Scripture.

Genesis is the book of beginnings. Revelation is the book of the consummation of God’s great plan for mankind. The divine plan of redemption is brought to fruition, and God is over all. Revelation is the only book which focuses completely on prophetic events, for it reveals God’s program for the closing of this age. Please note here, not the end of time but an age. It tells of the revealing of God’s holy city, the New Jerusalem, of Paradise restored and accessibility once again to the Tree of Life.

The visions of the book belong neither wholly to the past nor wholly to the future, for the prophecies of God are written in such a manner as to be read, interpreted, and applied by each succeeding generation and most often have primary and secondary fulfilments.

That is to say some of it has happened, while some is happening, and some will happen, but to place the whole book in the future conflicts with Scripture.

The Praetorists could then be right in finding early fulfilment, the Futurists in expecting as yet undeveloped ones, and the Historicists in looking for fulfilment along the whole line of history.  History repeats itself, and the predictions of the Bible are not exhausted in one or even many fulfilments. Many prophecies have an immediate fulfilment for the day in which they were written, a further fulfilment in future years, and for an ultimate fulfilment in the drawing together of God’s great plans both for the nations and His all-enveloping plan of redemption.

We believe that the Historicists view is by far the best approach to hermeneutical investigation of the Book of Revelation as it produces an understanding that does not conflict with other scriptures.

In HIS hands Dr. Ian Traill

 

Outline of Revelation

  • Introduction and greeting (1:4)
  • The things he saw, a vision of Christ – (1)
  • A message to the seven Churches (Chapter 2 & 3)
  • A description of heaven with seven parts of the vision. (4-22)
  • The Seven Seals (6:1-8:1)
  • The Seven Trumpets (8:6-11:19)
  • The Seven imageries to describe people (12:1-13:18)
  • Seven Bowls (15 – 16: 21)
  • Judgment of Babylon (17:1-18:24)
  • The Return of the Lord Jesus Christ to set up His Millennial Kingdom (19:1-21)
  • God on the Great White Throne for judgment (20:1-15)
  • Eternal State with the New Heaven and New Earth (21:1-22:5)
  • Imminence of Christ’s return, Epilogue, the closing benediction, Christ speaks (22:6-21)

John’s letter is one of encouragement and correction.

The symbolic metaphoric language style used in Revelation was chosen to hide the true nature of the book from the unbeliever. The believers would understand what John meant and be encouraged. This however may have made the Romans very angry if they knew the meaning. Others, non-believers, found this language confusing. In much of the symbolism, John was portraying the account of Jesus’ life and death, the inauguration of the Church and the final salvation of the Church by the returning King.

Most commentators agree that the significance of Revelation 11 is that, whether it is symbolic or literal, the use of Old Testament imagery and its hermeneutical structure has theological significance, as shown in Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 22:1. It is a Hebrew apocalyptic message like the Book of Daniel. John expands the prophecy of Daniel 2, 7, and 12 drawing comparisons to the beast of Daniel 7:1-8, to Revelation 13:1-2. John used apocalyptic language, referring to the Babylonian exile and how the judgment would come upon the offenders and the final Divine intervention to save the faithful.

It is advisable to have a historical understanding of that period along with an overall Biblical concept to understand the information hidden within. The Book of Revelation sets up the picture of the Godhead in its pre-eminence and holds them in their rightful awe and majesty.

In HIS hands Dr. Ian Traill

 

THE GOSPEL OF REVELATION

This is John’s final account. He was on the Isle of Patmos where he had been exiled by the Romans under Emperor Domitian, 81 to 96 A.D., because of teaching about Jesus and the Word of God. Patmos is southwest of Ephesus and west of Miletus.

The Church was under external pressure and the deterioration of society was forcing Christians to go underground. John wanted the churches to return to their first love through repentance, renewing their spirituality in the face of persecution, in the light of the Lord’s return. There is some dispute about the apostle John being the author of this book, but it is certain that this John had several churches under his leadership, thus we would conclude he was an Apostle too. The majority of early church leaders such as Melito, Bishop of Sardis, Ireneus, Tertullian, Clement, Eusebius and Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis believed that the Book of Revelation was written by John, the son of Zebedee, who also wrote the Gospel of John.

We may call the Book of Revelation, “The Fifth Gospel”, as it gives a clear picture of the life of Christ, His death and resurrection. It outlines the history of the Church under persecution along with a section concerning correction to the churches under John’s apostleship. The Book of Revelation covers the whole of Church history. Revelation records that John had seen things, the things that were happening in his present day in chapters 2 and 3. He was also commanded to write that would happen in the future chapters 4-22.

The apocalyptic writing style in the Old Testament is seen in Daniel, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and many more are used when referring to end times. John, the writer of Revelation, draws from this wealth of synergy to construct his final teaching. The prophets of old as well as John saw the vision as an outflow of the history of the Church. Eschatological teaching and language were used to bring about a conceptual understanding of the world around the Church and what had happened, what was then happening and what would happen. The reader is impacted by the use of numbers, symbols, colours, stars and allegories to give a significant picture of future events. Many of the symbols had a particular meaning for that time, but some have applied it to our own contemporary situation, which may or may not be right. That is the mystery of the Book of Revelation.

Dr. Ian Traill