October 10, 2010
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
The book of Revelation is the apocalypse, the unveiling, the revealing of Jesus Christ. It is His revelation. It was given to Him from the Father, who in turn sent it to His servant the Apostle John; via the agency of His angel. It is the only book of our Bible that promises a blessing for the one who hears, reads, and keeps the words of this prophecy. Why? Because the time is at hand. This is an opportune, appointed time. The time of the fulfilling of all things. I believe that time is upon us, which makes the book of Revelation all the more relevant for our time.
Revelation 1:19 shows us that the book was written and is to be understood chronologically. Many ask, “Do you take the book of Revelation literally?” The answer is, yes. I will qualify that answer. I fully realize that this book is filled with much obviously symbolic language. However, when we find symbolic language there are two things to keep in mind: 1) Look for the interpretation of the symbol within the text of the book itself. 2) Realize that the symbols are also interpreted in other places in scripture. In fact, there are over 800 allusions to the Old Testament within the book of Revelation. We read, Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.[Rev. 1:19 NKJV]
We see first the, things which John had seen. That would be chapter 1. Next, we see the, things which are. This would be the material in chapters 2 and 3. This would be John’s message to the seven churches. It has, I submit to you, both a local and prophetic application. They address actual issues within these seven local congregations in Asia Minor, however the number seven is also indicative of their representation of the entirety of the Church Age. In other words, while the book of Acts covers the first thirty years of Church history, the book of Revelation covers the next two-thousand. Revelation covers seven distinct periods of Church history, and I believe that we are now in the seventh, or final age.
Chapters 4 – 22 then covers the, things which will take place after this. The vast majority of the book is therefore yet to be fulfilled. The vast majority of the book is yet future. As Dr. Chuck Missler points out, “In the Old Testament we have Christ in prophecy. In the Gospels, Christ in history. In Acts, we have Christ in the Church. In the Epistles, Christ in our experience. In the Apocalypse, we have Christ in His coming glory.” [Dr. Chuck Missler, Learn the Bible in 24 Hours pg. 271] I like that.
The book of Revelation reveals both the integrity of all of scripture by being filled with references from many other places in scripture, as well as tying together the entire plan of God. For example, we see the entire Godhead involved in creation. [See Gen. 1:1, 2; John 1:1, 2] We see the entire Godhead involved in the culmination of all things in the book of Revelation. John writes, John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. We have, obviously the Father, who is and who was and who is to come,we see the Son, the faithful witness. Then there is a bit of a strange statement, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne. What is this referring to?
This is an idiom for the seven-fold Spirit referenced in Isaiah 11:2. That is,
1. The Spirit of the YHWH2. The Spirit of Wisdom,3. and Spirit of Understanding,4. the Spirit of Counsel,5. the Spirit of Might,6. the Spirit of Knowledge,7. and the Spirit of the Fear of the LORD.
Chapter 1 is the vision of the risen Christ, with again numerous allusions to other places in scripture: The description of His hair is from Daniel 7:9; His eyes as a flame of fire is from Hebrews 1 and 4; His feet are brass, speaking of judgment and referencing the brazen serpent in Numbers 21; His voice is like many waters from Ezekiel 1 and 43, and Daniel 10. These are all familiar labels from the Old Testament.
Chapters 2 and 3 are epistles to the churches dictated directly by the Lord Jesus, and as such are some of the most important in all of the New Testament; yet they are probably some of the most overlooked letters in all of scripture. The things which are, as stated earlier, concerns the message to the churches. Chapter 4 begins the things that shall take place after this. In other words, it concerns the things after the Church. Chapter 4:1 begins with the Greek phrase, meta tauta, “after these things”, and it shows a major division in the book. At the end of chapter 1 Jesus says, The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. [Rev. 1:20 NKJV]
These idioms speak of a church, as a lampstand, bearing light. In chapter 4 these lamps will be in Heaven.
Why did Jesus choose these seven churches to write letters to? The seven churches are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. There are other churches He could have chosen. How about the church in Jerusalem? The church at Rome? The church in Antioch? Why these seven? First, seven is the number of completion in scripture. These seven, somehow, are representative of the Church in total. The letters to the seven churches have a four-fold application:
Locally, these were actual churches, actual congregations. Ecclesiastically, they contain messages for all churches, of all times. There is a personal, or homiletic application, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. This is personal application. This is all of us! Fourth, and most astonishing, these letters lay out, in advance, the entire history of the Church. Again, the book of Acts lays out the first 30 years of the church’s history. Revelation extends the book of Acts for the next two thousand years. Think of this. If these letters had been written in any other order than the one presented, they would not fit the historical model. In this particular order, they fill that gap, that interval in Daniel 9:26, between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week.
It is interesting, within each of the seven letters are seven design elements:
The name of the Church – The name of each church proves to be significant to its particular unique message.
The title of Christ chosen – Jesus will select a title, from those listed in chapter 1, to represent Himself to each church, a title characteristic for the unique letter.
A commendation – Some good news
His concerns – Some bad news
An exhortation – What to correct
A promise to the overcomer – This too will prove to be an interesting structural element
The close – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”
Every detail of the letters will prove important; even the placement of the closing phrase will prove illuminating.
We will delve into these seven letters next time. Join us then.
The Weekly Word is found in Revelation 1:20. Here the Bible says,
The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches. [Rev. 1:20 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson