Friday, 29 April 2016 19:21

11. The rout of the seven churches * Revelation 2 and 3

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John was commissioned to send Jesus's special message to seven churches in Asia Minor. In Revelation 1:11, we read the names of those churches, listed in this order: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. In the original text in Greek, there is an "and" in between all the church names. This gives the sense that the order of this list is important. So, before we breakdown every single verse for each of the specific church messages, let's take a look at the big picture first.

From a geographical point of view, the order of the church list makes perfect sense. Ephesus was the city in the list that was closest to Patmos. The Romans were famous for their roads, and people traveling between those cities, would travel along roads connecting them in that order. Starting at Ephesus, someone traveling to the next city would go in a somewhat clockwise direction. From each of them, the letters could easily spread out to Greece, and Europe, as well as to Damascus and further East. These seven churches were strategically located. It is interesting to know that they were not the only churches in Asia Minor. The Bible mentions several others: Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:14), Colosse (Colossians 1:2), Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), Iconium (Acts 14:1), Derbe (Acts 14:20), Lystra (Acts 14:6), Troas (Acts 20:5), and Miletus (Acts 20:17).

We can imagine that God had a good reason to select these specific churches, since there were more in the region to choose from. The particular issues and circumstances of each church has to play a very important role in why they were chosen. The fact that there are seven of them cannot be ignored. In the book of Revelation, there are not only Seven Churches, but also Seven Seals (Revelation 5:1), Seven Trumpet Plagues (Revelation 8:2), Seven Last Plagues and Seven Bowls (Revelation 16:1). In fact, the number seven appears frequently throughout the Bible. The first time we see the number is in Genesis. God had finished His creation, and made the seventh Day holy (Genesis 2:2-3). His Creation was complete. Just to mention a few more times the number shows up in the Old Testament, we can see:

- Noah was in the Arc for 7 days before God sent the Flood (Genesis 7:1, 4) - waiting time is complete, and the Flood comes;
- God sets His Rainbow (it has seven colors) on the sky after the Flood (Genesis 9:13) - Destruction of the Earth with water is complete, to never happen by flood again;
- Jacob works 7 years and then another 7 years to marry Rachael (Genesis 29:15-30) - wait to marry his bride is complete;
- Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho for 7 days, with 7 priests carrying 7 trumpets. On the 7th day, they marched 7 times, blew the 7 trumpets, and the walls of Jericho fell down (Joshua 6:1-16) - God gave them that city in its entirety;
- Naaman had to bathe 7 times to be cured from leprosy (2 Kings 5:10) - he was fully restored and he was cleansed.

It is clear now that the number 7 is a number that has to do with completeness, full restoration, full cleansing, victory, and things that are blessed and made holy by God. It is a symbol of God's perfection. Under this view, we can see that the Seven Churches are a full, complete and perfect representation of God's people. In the context of what Jesus tells John, we can also see that these churches are not just the representation of the people of God at that time (time of the "what is now" [Revelation 1:19]), but they are also directed towards God's people in future times (time of "what will take place later" [Revelation 1:19]). Once again, a historical approach is needed to understand this other dimension of these Churches.

The problems the churches were having as a group is a reflection of the problems the individuals of the churches were undergoing. The church is formed by each one of its members (1 Corinthians 12:27). So we also need to interpret the message to the Seven Churches as something addressing what we may go through personally in our spiritual life.

*** Overview ***: The Seven Churches are perfectly selected geographically and spiritually to receive an important message addressing the serious issues afflicting each one of them. The message is primarily directed at those churches in Asia Minor, but they also carry spiritual significance for the churches throughout the centuries, and each individual who is part of the Body of Christ. It is a literal message for the first century Christians, and a prophetic message to the Christians who came later. God's message to the churches is profound, multi-layered, and complete.

   
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