The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: R

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Rev, 7 letters of

"Hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

The message to the seven churches, or ecclesias:

  1. is direct from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
  2. is urgent, as it deals with things soon to take place.
  3. points to specific church activities and attitudes which need to be changed before Christ's second coming, which is repeatedly said to be "soon".
  4. is clearly relevant and immediately applicable to believers in modern times, around the world.
  5. has power to save: to save us from ourselves, and to save us from the big troubles that are coming on this world.
Many disciples are reluctant to read, much less study, the book of Revelation (sometimes called the Apocalypse, from the Greek word meaning "that which is unveiled, or revealed"). Some potential readers are simply daunted -- they feel completely inadequate to understand all those symbols and prophetic sayings. Some have the impression they need an encyclopedic knowledge of history in order to properly interpret the text -- and they have no inclination to become historians. Some have heard several different expositions of the book and find themselves totally discouraged -- if different interpretations are going to cause turmoil, the best thing is to avoid getting into the fray. Finally, some rightly perceive that effort is required to come to a reasonable understanding of the book -- and they basically don't like studying.

Yet see the blessings missed by such reluctant students:
"Blessed is he who reads the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written therein; for the time is near" (Rev 1:3).
Because the book itself promises a blessing to the reader, and a double blessing to those hearers who keep (do) what is written (taught) in the Revelation, we encourage everyone to read and study the Bible text for him/herself. You will find the effort immediately rewarding. You will discover that the text often explains itself. You will perceive that the general struggle between the "good guys" (eg, the Lamb and his followers) and the "bad guys" (eg, the Beast and its followers) is similar to what the rest of the Bible talks about. Finally, you will be pleased to learn that at least the first three and last two chapters of the book (that's almost 25%) are relatively easy to understand, and certainly quite relevant to your life of discipleship. So make the effort.

Take an initial or another first-hand look at the words, and absorb the teaching of the message.

Your reading of Revelation 2 and 3 is to begin the three-step process stated in the verse cited earlier:

"Blessed is...

Reading is the easy part. Hearing is more difficult; it implies that you are paying close attention to what the words actually say, with the intention to do something about them once they are understood. Keeping is the most difficult, since it means living out the teaching of Scripture in our daily lives. The daily doing of God's commandments is the test of whether we truly love God (cf 1Jo 5:2,3), but it is made possible only by the help of God Himself.

The basic message of the Revelation is crystal clear: Jesus, the Lamb of God, has defeated Sin in his first coming, and will score the final victory over Sin (and the world of wickedness) in his second coming.

If you are one of the faithful, hang in there!

If you are one of the wayward, REPENT, and then hang in there!

If you are one of the opposition, you are not only going to lose, you are going to be destroyed -- maybe you should think about switching sides?

So make sure you keep/get on Christ's side before it's too late!

Interpretation is generally straightforward. Take the first few verses in Rev 1. The opening verse tells us that it is "the revelation of Jesus Christ...". Although the verse goes on to say that God gave it to Jesus, the emphasis seems to be on the glorified Christ, and how he has been commissioned by God "to show to his servants what must soon take place". Thus Jesus "made it known by sending his angel to his servant John..."

When this angel speaks, it is like Jesus himself speaking. So the voice in Rev 1:10,12, and Rev 1:17 onwards, comes from a representative angel who is depicted as a glorified high priest (Rev 1:13-16) and asserts that he is the resurrected Lord (Rev 1:17,18). With this authority, the Jesus-angel claims to hold the seven churches in his right hand (Rev 1:20), to walk in their midst (Rev 1:13; 2:1), and to bring a specific message for each of the seven churches (Rev 1:11). So when the phrase "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" is repeated seven times (Rev 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22), this is a matter that demands our attention!

Study, analyze, outline, and draw your own conclusions. The point is that anyone and everyone can do this kind of study and will profit from the work. If you are still doubting whether or not to make the effort, consider this: a disciple cannot "keep" the words of the book unless he/she first understands them. God's blessing only comes to those who "keep the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev 22:7).

You can bet your life on the trustworthiness of these words. They are certain. They come directly from the Lord. And they are urgent. Read them for yourself:

"These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place. And behold, I am coming soon" (Rev 22:6,7).

General characteristics of the seven letters

  1. Each letter begins with "To the angel of the church in ______ write: The words of him..."
  2. Each introduces Christ by some description from Rev 1 appropriate to the particular church, and ends with a promise which agrees with this description.
  3. Each has "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches".
  4. Each opens with "I know your works" or its equivalent.
  5. Five churches are told to repent. The other two are promised a crown.
  6. A coming of the Lord is referred to in five of the letters; "Satan" is mentioned in four.
  7. Each church is unique, and despite serious sin in their midst, all still belong to Christ.

Two interesting points that tie the letters together with the rest of the Book:

First, "These are the words of him who..." always introduces an aspect of the great One Like the Son of Man in Rev 1, or Christ:

Secondly, "To him who overcomes, I will give/do..." always introduces a promise which has been developed in more detail in the body of the Book of Revelation, later...

Thus the message to the seven churches unifies the whole of Revelation... because in these messages the identity of the speaker AND the promises of God are tied together.

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