1.INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK:
The opening statement itself declares the book as a “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is very precise to remember that the book is not the Revelation of St. John. The title, “Apocalypse of John the Divine” is a traditional designation which was given to John the apostle by an angel when he was in exile in the island of Aegean sea. The word “Revelation” comes from the word” Apokalypsis” which means uncover, disclose or unveil. The purpose is “To shew unto his servants the things which must shortly come to pass.” The book as a letter, mainly addresses to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Jesus Christ is the authentic author of the book while John is the instrument or agent by whom the things are recorded. The whole book is a book of consummation. The book has mainly two facets –
(i) The judgment facet to the whole world.
(ii) The blessings and promises to his saints.
There are seven beatitudes in the book.
(I)Blessed is anyone who reads the words of this prophecy….Rev.1:3
(II)Blessed are those who die in the Lord……Rev.14:13
(iii)Blessed is anyone who has kept watch….Rev.16:15
(iv)Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Rev. 19:9
(v)Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection;…Rev.20:6
(vi)I am coming soon! Blessed are those who keep the prophetic message of this book…..REV.22:7
(VII)Blessed are those who will have washed their robes clean…Rev.22:14
2. THE AUTHOR:
The author is identified as John the apostle the son of Zebedee (1:4,9,22:8,9). Although the style and the language of Revelation is quite distinct from the Gospel and the three epistles of John, we cannot conclude that the author of Revelation was a deferent John. Being apocalyptic in nature, the style of the book varies from other books. The early church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Irenaes, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria etc. are all in its opinion that the Apocalypse was written by John the apostle.
3. DATE AND PLACE OF WRITING :
The book was written during a time when Christians were persecuted most probably during the reign of Domitian in between 81-96 AD. This date was held by the church father Irenaes and other early Christian writers. During this time John was in exile in the island of Patmos in the Aegean sea. Probably he was entailed hard work in the island. Many Christians were killed and many imprisoned because of their faith and testimony for Christ.
The Purpose of the book is clearly stated in 1:1 “to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass,” The letters to the seven churches and the book as a whole were intended to encourage the Christians to stand firm till the Christ’s advent and to show that there is a glorious and wonderful plan for every faithful believer.
5. THE THEME:
“The everlasting reign of Jesus Christ and the glorious hope of the believers”. The book of Revelation has mainly two facets of glory.
(i) The everlasting rule or reign of Jesus Christ.
(ii) The glorious hope of the believers.
Throughout the revelation given to John, we see Jesus as a perfect Judge and a perfect king by divine prerogative. He judges the whole world, the nations and at last the Devil. The Devil is overthrown and cast into the lake of everlasting fire. Together with him all his followers will also find their place in the fire. He reigns over the kingdom of the world (11:15), in the Millennial kingdom and then in the New Jerusalem for eternity. The kingship of our Lord Jesus has superseded the entire book. It is significant that such words like king, kingdom, rule, throne conquer, power, war, dominion, kill, slay etc, have got promises, blessings and hopes for the believers (Rev 1:3). The Final Judgment described in apocalyptic terms is closely associated with the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the eternal abolition of the Satan and his followers, the eternal eradication of all evil from the creation and the creation of a new Heaven and a new Earth. It is therefore a great source of hope for the believers and at the same time full of curses for the unbelievers. The blessed hope that a believer can ever hope for is that he will also rule with Jesus in the new heaven for ever and ever.
6. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE THEME:
The theme is very significant because of the fact that the Book of Revelation has a clear cut message to the churches today. The Book as a letter was addressed to the then existing seven real churches in Asia Minor. These seven churches mentioned in the Book are the representatives of the churches today. Therefore these letters are meant for every church and every individual in the church. The book is as a whole Christ’s pruning instruction for the believers so that they can set themselves apart from all kinds of ungodliness and prepare themselves for the blessed return of the Lord and rule with him in the New Jerusalem i.e., heaven for ever and ever.
The Prologue comprises the purpose, the theme and the nature of the whole book. The book is a revelation of Jesus Christ himself to John the apostle by an angel of the Lord. The Prologue promises blessings to each individual who reads the book and hears the words and keeps them.
The book as a whole can be subdivided into five main divisions. They are
(1) Vision of Christ Ch. 1
(2) Vision of the Church Ch, 2,3,
(3) Vision of the Tribulation period Ch. 20
(4) Vision of the Millennial Kingdom Ch. 21-22
These are all in the process of development towards its consummation. It starts with exhortations and warnings to the churches giving them the panoramic view of the future things which is shortly to come to pass i.e., the tribulation period. There is the most blessed hope for the saints of God after the Tribulation which is the Millennial kingdom. After this, comes the final judgment followed by the eternal state described as the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, where the children of God will reign with God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
1. The Vision of Christ:
When John was in the island of Patmos in exile, he was led by the Spirit and was given the most extensive revelation of the future. John heard a great voice as of a trumpet. The voice was a command to John to write “What thou seest” and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamum and to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia and to Laodicea. Very precisely the seven churches also represent the present day local churches.
The first vision of John was the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ himself and the seven churches. The seven golden lamp-stands which John saw are the seven churches in Asia Minor (1:20) and the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches, The vision explains Christ’s purpose for the church used is synonymous to the symbolism found in the book of Daniel (Ch. 7) Ezekiel and Isaiah which describes the majesty and the power of God.
2. THE VISION OF THE CHURCHS:
The seven churches mentioned here are not mystical but real existing churches who had the moral and doctrinal problems. Secondly these churches were also the representatives or typical of the churches in every church in every generation in this dispensation. The letters contain commendation of works, complaints, exhortations, warnings and promises of blessings to the over-comer.
(1) The letter to the Ephesus : 2:1-7
The first letter is addressed to the angel of the church in Ephesus. It is very precise to remember that the letter is not from John but from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, “who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp-stands” (2:1). John worked only as an instrument for Christ. Ephesus was one of the most important commercial city in Asia Minor and also the main sea port. The city was known as the chief city of Ionia. It was prosperous, magnificent and also known as “Asiae Lumen” a meeting place of oriental religious and Greek cultures. It was located near the river Meander entering the Agean sea. It was very famous for the celebrated temple of Diane one of the seven wonders of the world. Diana was the Asian goddess of fertility. Paul labored hard for three years here in Ephesus and laid the foundation of the strongest Christian church of the first century. Jesus Christ highly commended for their hard works, labor, patience and perseverance of faith. In spite of their hard works and patience. Jesus very strongly rebuked the Ephesians believers because they lost their first love for Jesus. Love is the basic foundation in Christian life. Work without love strikes at the root of all Christian lives. The Ephesians were really orthodox in their belief but without love. The only remedy for them is to repent and remember the height from which they have fallen and lost their first love. Christ would remove the candle stick from its place if they disobeyed God. Again obedience to his command means receiving the promises of blessings. The word of the Lord came true because after the 5th century the church as well as the city itself declined. The are itself is now uninhabited since the 14th century.
(II)The letter to Smyrna: 2:8-11
The second letter is addressed to Smyrna. Smyrna was one of the most excellent cities in Asia Minor in those days still in existence in modern Izmir. It is also known as ‘the Ornament of Asia’ the fairest and noblest of Ionia situated on the east shore of the Aegean sea an thirty five miles north of Ephesus. Coins described the city as “First of Asia in beauty and size.”
Smyrna is one of the two churches for whom Jesus did not have any word of rebuking but commendation and praise. Smyrna had a very hard times for they had to undergo a severe persecution at the hands of the Jewish and heathen persecutors. It was exceptionally very difficult for a Christian to live in Smyrna. Smyrna was the richest city in those times but they were poor. They were poor from their worldly point of view but in spite of the fact they were rich before Christ. “Rich” here it means rich in God’s grace, having treasures in heaven. The believers at Smyrna were promised with a crown of life if they remain faithful unto death. Again the over-comer is promised that he shall not experience the second death i.e., the eternal separation from the presence of God.
(iii) The Letter to Pergamum :
The third litter is addressed to the angel of Pergamum is situated about ten miles inland from the Aegean Sea. Pergamum was another magnificent city of Asia full of antiquity, greatness and splendor. The worship of the pagan gods – Zeus, Athens, Dionysus and Asklepios was prevailing in those days. The sovereign Christ who holds the two-edged sword reminds them of the power of the living God. He has some words of commendations towards them for their faithful witness for Christ. In spite of the fact that they were living in a city where all kinds pagan worships were prevalent “Where the Satan’s seat is,” they did not deny Christ. But Christ’s rebuking is that some of them were holding fast the doctrines of Balaam and Nicolaitans. The reference to Balaam is that Balaam used to advise the Midianite women to beguile the Israelite to play with the harlot with the Moabite daughters. Likewise Nicolaitans also were influencing the believers to pagan society and worship. And some of the believers were turning to the teaching of these false teachers. Jesus has a warning for them. The only remedy is to repent. If they don’t Christ would come and fight with them with the sword of his mouth. One who overcomes, to him he promised to give the hidden manna and a white stone. Both of these terms refer to the sufficiency of Christ in believers life.
(iv) The Letter to Thyatira :
The fourth letter is addressed to the angel of the Thyatira. Thyatira is situated on the south bank of the Lycus Valley a fertile valley famous for the manufacture of purple dye. A lady called Lydia who as a seller of purple goods brought the gospel to Thyatira (Acts 16:14). Christ has few words of commendation on for the church for her works, love, service, faithfulness and patience. But she was morally corrupt. There was a woman named Jezebel whose teaching and influence led the believers to commit adultery and eat things sacrificed to idols. A warning of terrible judgment is therefore awaiting for her and also for them who committed adultery with her that they will be cast into tribulation unless they repent. There is also a word of promise for one who overcomes that he will be given power over the nations. He is also given a promise of “the morning stars”. The morning star refers to the Lord Jesus himself (Rev 22:16) or it may be the immortal life that is in Christ Jesus.
(v) The letter to the angels of Sardis. :
This is the fifth letter addressed to the angels of Sardis. Sardis was the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Lydia one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world also a city of wealth and fame. But the church of Sardis was dead church. She is the most severely of denounced church among the seven. There is no commendation of this church but only a few who have not defiled themselves. She is condemned for her lifeless profession and also for her incomplete works. The promise for the over-comer is that he will be clothed in white garment, his name will not be blotted out of the book of life and Christ will confess is name before the Father.
(vi) The letter to Philadelphia :
The sixth one is addressed to the angel of Philadelphia. The city of Philadelphia is situated on the high ground on the south side of the river Cogamis. The city itself was a commercial importance. The word Philadelphia means lover of his brother. It is the only second church among the seven which does not receive any condemnation from the Lord Jesus rather it receives commendation from the Lord for her strength even though she was little, for her doctrinal preservation and her true loyalty to Christ. The church of Philadelphia is promised that she will be kept from the hour of trial and temptation because of their faithfulness to the Lord. The Lord also promises to the over-comer to make him “a pillar in the temple of God” which is the New Jerusalem. He will also receive a new name belonging to Christ.
(vii) The letter to Laodicea:
The seventh and the last letter is addressed to the angel of the church of Laodicea. The city was located in the Lycus valley in southwest Phrygia south to the Mediterranean at Attaleia.
Laodicea was the richest city among all the cities in Phrygia. The ground of the Lycus valley being very fertile provided good grazing for the sheep. So the city was famous for the producing a soft glossy black wool. Laodicea was also famous for her school of medicine. The main rebuke against the church was that she was neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. The church was very wealthy but spiritually barren. In the language of the Lord they were the poorest, the wretched and miserable, blind and naked. The sad thing is that they did not realize their condition. The only remedy for cure for them is to repent. Jesus asks them to buy from him the gold tried in the fire to be rich and the white garment to be clothed and the eye salve to anoint their eyes. Those are all figurative to enrich their spiritual condition but which have also some kinds of relationships with their profession such as their production of black wool and the medicines for eyes. Here is the personal invitation to all. The picture is very incredible that Christ has to stand outside the door of his own church. But how gracious he is that he is still seeking entrance.
3. The Vision of the Tribulation period : Ch. 4-19
This section of tribulation period begins with the vision of the throne in heaven. The vision describes symbolically the power and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ himself who is shortly going to come and rule over the whole world and bring judgment upon the wicked one and his followers. He is the only one who is worthy to be worshiped and receive glory and honor.
The next vision of John is about the seven sealed scrolls in heaven. The one who was sitting on the throne was holding the scrolls. No body was worthy to open the book. No man in heaven, neither in earth nor under the earth but Christ himself, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David was able to open the book. The book spoken of is the Book of Redemption which contains the story of man’s fall through sin and redemption through Christ. Here again Christ is portrayed as the slain lamb having seven horns and seven eyes referring to his strength and wisdom in the fullness of the Spirit of God. The twenty four elders worshipping him with harps and golden vials and songs signify that only the slain lamb is worthy to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and all blessing.
The seven sealed scrolls expose the seven dramatic judgments of God to fall upon the whole world in the time of tribulation. The vision of the seven sealed scroll is related to the vision of Zechariah (1:8-17;6-1-8). The vision corresponds to the character of the rider and the tribulation days.
The first seal symbolizes cold war, the second an open war, the third famine and scarcity, the fourth death and bloodshed, the fifth martyrdom and the sixth physical disturbances. These are all pictures of the day of the Lord. Luke, Mark and Mathew also record about the wars and tumults, nation rising against nation, great earth quakes, famines, pestilences, great signs from heaven and persecution (Lk 21:9; Mk 13:7; Mt 24:6). Many of the scenes depicted in the seals are seen taking place upon the earth which shows that the day of the Lord is at hand.
After the sixth seal opened there is a break, an interlude describing the sealing of the redeemed of the 144000 Israelites in the tribulation period. These are the Jews people taken from each of the 12 tribes of Dan was in omission because Dan was guilty of idolatry on many occasions. The great multitude of gentiles mentioned are those people who will be redeemed during the tribulation period.
There is a silent pause in heaven as soon as the seventh seal is opened. It is a dramatic pause which reminds of the dramatic judgments which is to fall upon the earth. The silence is immediately followed by the seven trumpets by the seven angels. The role of the seven angels plagues which is to fall upon the earth. The trumpets may be literal or symbolical but eschatological in character. They herald the coming of the day of God’s wrath. The kinds of calamities are associated with the sound of each trumpet. The first six trumpets introduce more severe judgment. The first trumpet is associated with hail stone and fire mixed with blood being thrown into the earth. The second trumpet results in judgment upon the sea. The third trumpet affects water supply. The forth trumpet results in a revere in the creation. The fifth trumpet is associated with the severe judgment upon the men who do not have the seal of God i.e., those are not the children of God. They will suffer a torment, a torment of a scorpion. Men will seek death but they will not find it. The sixth trumpet results in killing a third part of men. The vision speaks of the four angels released from the river of Euphrates and 200,000,000 cavalrymen. After the sixth trumpet, there is an interlude; the vision of the Mighty Angel and the little scroll.
The Angel descends from heaven from the presence of God with a mission of crucial significance for the persecuted church. The little scroll which John ate is a message to the believing saints during this tribulation time.
The Temple of God and the two witnesses.
John might have drawn the symbols here from Ezekiel (40-41). John’s measuring of the God’s temple indicates God’s divine protection and care for this own people. The temple of God may also be referring to the literal temple which will be built during the tribulation days in which Jewish worship will be carried on during the first part of that period. The forty and two months refers to the last half of the tribulation period. This is the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan 9:27).
The identity of the two witnesses.
They are evidently two members of the latter day saints who will witness for Christ. They will preach clothed in sack cloth which is a symbol of mourning for the grievous sin and wickedness of Israel and Jerusalem. Their message is of Christ’s kingdom here on earth and his coming again. They will be given miraculous powers like Eliza and Moses. But at last they will be killed by the beast i.e. the Head of the Roman Empire. Their corpses will be dishonored in Jerusalem but soon be translated in the cloud. Meanwhile there will be earthquake and 7,000 people will be killed and one tenth of Jerusalem will be killed. The seventh trumpet announces the reign of Jesus Christ in the kingdom. The ark, one hidden away in the most sacred and inaccessible part of the temple is now visible to all. The way into God’s presence is wide open,” The ark of his Covenant” speaks of God’s faithfulness to his covenant and promises with Israel.
John’s vision of the woman and the dragon
The woman stands for God’s chosen people Israel, for she is dressed in royal and governmental splendor. The 12 stars illustrate her 12 tribes. The women’s travail symbolizes Israel’s agony during the great Tribulation. During this triviality the nation will give birth to the godly Jewish remnant which is closely associated with male child Christ (Mic 5:2-3). The dragon bent on destruction is Satan himself. His seven heads and ten horns identify him with the final form gentile world power also portrayed in Dan 7:8. Four things are associated with the male child, Christ (1) his birth (2) his destiny (3) his ascension (4) his position on God’s throne. The flight of the woman describes Israelis flight during Satan’s terrible persecution. But Satan’s time is short. Soon Michael and angel will fight against the dragon, the Satan and overcome. The main message is clear that God’s people are in secure under his sovereign protection.
The vision of the beast and his false prophets:
These are the two agents of Satan who makes war against the believers. The beast with seven heads coming out of the sea is identified as the Antichrist who will far outstrip all his predecessors in his blasphemous ways. The number of the beast i.e., the Antichrist, 666 serves as a persecution against the charge of sedition. The number is still a riddle. Whatever may be the correct interpretation of the number, one thing is true that this number will play an important role in the identification of the Antichrist in days to come.
The Redeemed and the Lamb on the Mt Zion:
The 144,000 redeemed people are identified as the living Jewish remnant during the great tribulation. They are identical to the Israelites mentioned in 7:1-8 who have been sealed for preservation. They will meet the Lord Jesus Christ upon Mount Zion the earthly Zion in Jerusalem. They are the first fruits unto God and to the Lord. During this time an angel coming from heaven will preach the everlasting gospel of salvation on the earth, to every nation and kindred and tongue and people. This will be the last call of grace of God to the world before the return of Christ to judge the world, then will come the fall of Babylon.
Babylon stands for the Satanic world system the centre of all evil, idolatry and oppression. But ultimately Christ will bring the final judgment upon it when the hour of judgment comes. The judgment of God has to do two things. Firstly, it is the harvest. Harvesting refers from the wicked. Secondly, the vintage which refers to God’s wrath outpoured on sinners.
The Seven Bowls:
The seven bowls signify the climax of God’s judgment upon the world. The seven bowls are the seven last plagues filled with the wrath of God. These seven bowl judgment are the third series of if seven closely related sequence of the sealing and the trumpets. The visions of these symbolic occurrences are the vivid portrayals of eschatological truth which precisely indicate the chronology of the consummation of God’s judgment upon the evil world. Between the sixth and the seventh bowls there is a parenthesis of the Satanic Trinity and Armageddon. Literally, Armageddon is the “Hill of Megiddo” in Hebrew” Har-Magedon” which symbolized the place of the gathering of the nations for war. Babylon is described as the Mother of the Harlots. Though there was a city called Babylon by the Euphrates River, Babylon the Great mentioned in revelation is a symbolic name for Rome which will be a center for the false religious system headed by the Antichrist. But the Lord judgment will be consummated in a single day. There will be a great rejoicing in heaven celebrated by the great multitude, angels and the 24 elders.
4. The vision of the Millennial Kingdom
Along with the fall of Babylon, a new chapter begins which describes the greatest occasion which is the marriage of the Lamb. For the saints and the angels in heaven it will be a time of great rejoicing. The bride spoken of as ‘wife’ symbolizes the NT church. The wedding itself symbolizes the inner spiritual union of Christ and the church. The coming of Christ is described very majestically. Christ’s bodily return to this earth is of three fold ---
(i) To receive his bride, the church.
(ii) To establish the millennial kingdom and
(iii) To judge the world.
Armageddon is a vivid demonstration of Christ’s final judgment and the total destruction of his enemies. The Satan represented by the dragon, the old serpent and the devil will be bound in the abyss for one thousand years. During this period Christ will reign with his saints in this earth and righteousness will flourish and peace will be universal. The first resurrection includes all the righteous who will be raised before the millennium begins. But the classes of saints reigning with Christ are distinct from the church. Because the church will be taken up by that time. They comprise all the redeemed in the O.T., those martyrs of the tribulation period and those individual remnant who had not worshipped the beast during that period. After 1000 millennial kingdom, the Satan will be loosed for a while who will rebel against God and his people. Gog and Magog are the symbolic names for the world wide coalition against God. But the result will be the complete supernatural destruction of the rebel and finally he will be thrown into the lake of fire – the second death and along with him all the unsaved people will also suffer in the eternal hell.
5. The Vision of the Eternal state:
The New Heaven and the New Earth: chs 21-22:5
John’s vision of the New Heaven and the New earth was the promise of God in the book of Isaiah where He said, “I will create new heavens and new earth” (Is 65:17)
The new Jerusalem is the heavenly city, the heavenly abode of the saints, the bride of Christ and dwelling place of all believers for all eternity. The magnificent symbolic description of the new Jerusalem in spectacular gem of universal brilliance and color speaks about the perfection of the city in beauty and in holiness, in peace and in righteousness where Christ will reign for ever and ever.
6. The Epilogue . Ch. 22:6-21
John affirm the truth and the certainty of the return of Christ. The coming of Christ is full of blessings and rewards to them who believe and obey but it is also full of judgments who do not believe, His closing words are full of urgency because Christ’s return is very imminent. There is an open invitation to all. The guarantee of the book nor is that nobody can add to the book take away the part of the book of prophecy. God will add the plagues written in this book one who adds something to it and take away his part out of the book of life that is the tree of life who takes away its part. “Behold, I come quickly” are the words of Christ, the final message to the church.
7. CONCLUSION :
The book of Revelation is a wonderful book, the strongest book in the NT. It is the most intimidating book in the entire Bible. It is intimidating because the book is full of unfamiliar symbols and obscure details and for this reason most of the readers are plagued by them. It is therefore a very careful systematic study along with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit is of an utmost necessity in order to understand the book. So far we have studied the book we have found that the book has mainly two sides CURSES (plagues) and BLESSINGS. The book is a book of curse or warning for those who do not believe. At the some time, the book is a book of blessings, a book of life for those who believe and obey the things written on it. The book is full of promises of our Lord Jesus. The other main characteristic features of the book are as follows-
(1) The number seven is the predominant feature. Seven candle sticks, seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven spirits, seven starts etc.
(2) O.T. references. There are at least 550 references to OT, including 79 to Isaiah. The book is closely parallel to the Book of Daniel.
(3) The book itself can be called as the book of one world since it comprises the whole as its jurisdiction. The phrases like, “many people and nations, and tongues and kings (Rev 10:11;11:9;17:15), “The kings of the whole world (16:4;17 17:2,18;18:9;19:19) occur in the book. The book speaks of Satan as “the deceiver of the whole world (12:9) and of Christ it says Christ will reign over” the kingdom of the world” (11:15).
(4) The kingship of our Lord Jesus has superseded the entire book. It is significant that such words like, king, kingdom, rule, throne, conquer, power, war, dominion, kill, slay, have got a dominant place in the book.
(5) The concluding chapter of Revelation receives a striking contrast to the opening chapter to Genesis. In Genesis we see the entrance of sin into the world, the triumph of Satan and the exclusion of man from the tree of life. In Revelation, we see the creation of new things, sin banished, Satan overthrown and man admitting to the “tree of life”. There was curse in Genesis but there is blessings and rewards in Revelation.
(6) ‘The Lamb’ is the central figure in the book of Revelation. The word ‘Lamb’ is found over thirty times in the book in a very exclusive way. The Lamb is portraited as the over-comer over all the allied powers of evil.
The Supplementary Topic
“The Purity of the Churches,”
The prime concern of our Lord Jesus Christ in his letters to the seven Churches in Asia Minor was the purity of the churches. For the church in Eph 5:27, we read that Christ gave Himself to present her to Himself as a perfect, clean, holy and unblemished bride. And this is His purpose. Also in Rev 14:7,8 it says,
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, is the righteousness of saints.”
‘His wife’ is the church which he has purchased with has own blood (Acts 20:28). He wants her to be clean, holy, perfect without any spot as he is. This is Christ’s high priority to his church. As we study the letters to the seven churches. We will see how Christ has warned, rebuked and disciplined the churches and challenged them to live a clean life, a holy life by setting themselves apart from all kinds of ungodliness. We see how he has approached the churches in the riches of his grace and the power of the holy spirit cleansing and renewing them for himself.
All these seven churches were the real churches, all existed and located on one major highway system in Asia Minor. John the human author of the book has given numerous hints to the historical bank grounds of the cities where the churches originally existed. It is clear from the records that the letters never hint or represent the stages of church history as some try to misinterpret it. It is also clear from close analysis that church history never parallel these seven churches. What is more true in fact that these seven churches also represent the present day existing churches in this dispensation. The letters are more relevant to our own times where the churches are facing the same moral and doctrinal problems. Jesus is instructing us through the book the way we should live and wait for the glorious day of the Lord.
The Divine author :
John the apostle was the human author of the book while Jesus was the divine author. In his vision of Christ, John saw the majestic glory of Christ (Rev 1:9-20) while he was a prisoner on the island of Patmos. John saw Christ standing in the midst of his churches in his resplendent glory with his white hair, flaming filled mouth and shining face. Dr. Richard Mayhue has interpreted this sighting and symbolical glory of Christ as follows –
White hair (Rev 1:14) – eternality and wisdom flaming eyes (v14) – Omniscience
Burnished feet (v15) – purity and strength
Deep voice (v15) – power
Right hand (v16) – sovereignty
Sword –filled mouth (v16) – will and word
Shining face (v16) – glory #
These all speak about Christ’s divinity and deity and his authority over all things. As Christ himself has said in Mt 28:18,
“All authority is given unto me both in heaven and on earth- “Christ is the centre of Christian theology. Christ is the centre of the whole Bible. Christ is the central figure in the book of Revelation while church is the central theme in Rev 1-3. Christ stands in the middle of the churches, in the middle of the seven golden tamp-stands. The seven stars held in Christ’s hand portray the authority and centrality of Christ in his church.
Christ in different names and symbols:
Let us see how Christ has introduced himself to his churches in various names and symbols.
(1) In his letter to the angel of the church of Ephesus we see Christ holding “the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lamp-stands” Rev 2:1
The seven stars represent the human leadership of the church while the seven golden lamp-stands represent
# Dr. Richard Mayhue,
Christ and the church, (p7)
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The seven churches.” Stars in his right hand” shows the authority and power of Christ over his church. cf Mt 28:18
92) In his letter to Smyrna Christ introduces himself as “the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive,” 2:8
This speaks of his deity, his self existence and his eternal nature. He was dead but risen again. Christ has shown to the saints at Smyrna the way to a victorious life through the power of his resurrection.
(2) “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges” 2:12
(3) “—I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” 2:16
The two-edged sword represent the sword of the spirit, God’s word (Eph 6:17)
Heb 4:12 says,
“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to divining soul and spirit, joints and morrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12)
The mouth of Christ represents the source and the authority of his word to his churches.
(4) “the son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass, “ 2:18
Jesus referred to himself as the son of God, the true deity. His eyes are like blazing fire (cf Rev. 1:14; Dam10:6) Symbolizing his all knowing and discerning power. He says, “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts” 2”23. His feet are like burnished bronze which symbolize his strength and purity.
(5) He has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. 3:1
Jesus refers to himself as the one who holds the seven spirits (also see 1:16,20; Zech 4) and seven stars. He uses the imagery of Zech 4. The seven spirits of God refer to the holy spirit of God. The “seven stars” refer to the leadership of the church. This show that Christ holds in his hand the authority over the church.
(6) Christ pictures himself as “holy and true who holds the key of David” 3:7
Peter recognized Christ as “the Holy one of God.” (Jn 6:69). Jesus himself declared himself as the truth (Jn 14:6). John identified him as true God and eternal life (I Jn 5:20).
Jesus “holds two key of David”- It means that all authority is delegated to him that allows him to open and shut the doors. This imagery is taken from Is 22:15-23 where ti reads,
“I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David;
What he opens no can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (V22).”
Christ has received this authority from his Father,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Mt 28:18
(7) He is pictured as
(1) The Amen
(2) The faithful and true witness
(3) The beginning of the creation of God.
(1) The Amen : It is a term of affirmation, the last word on truth.
(2) The faithful and true witness:
He is faithful as he only is the truth,
His witness is perfect and inerrant and
His words infallibly true.
(3) “The ruler of God’s creation (NIV):
This shows that he is all powerful, the omnipotent God, the source of all truth, as he is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (22:13).
Through his letters to the seven churches Christ eventually and truthfully affirms his deity and his sovereign authority over all things.
The seven letters and the seven Churches :
As to the character of the churches we can divine the churches in three main categories.
1. The first category:
The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia are grouped in the first category. They are the only churches that received a glowing commendation and no condemnation at all.
2. The second category of churches
The churches that received commendation as well as condemnation and needed renewing are grouped in this category. The churches that belonged to this group are Ephesus. Pergamum and Thyatira.
3. The third category of churches
There are two churches which are identified as spiritually most bankrupt. They are Sardis and Laodicea. These two churches received nothing but condemnation from the Lord Jesus.
1. The First Category of Churches:
(a) The church of Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11)
The city of Smyrna was one of the most excellent cities in Asia Minor in those days still in existence in modern Izmir. It is also known as “the Ornament of Asia” the fairest and noblest cities of Ionia situated on the east shore of the Aegean sea and thirty five miles north of Ephesus. Coined described the city as “First of Asia in beauty and size”. The skyline of Smyrna was dominated by pagan religion. Zeus was the chief god of the Greek Pantheon.
Smyrna, the church had a very hard times for they had to undergo a severe persecution at the hands of the Jewish and heathen persecutors. It was exceptionally very difficult for a Christian to live in Smyrna. Smyrna was the richest city in those times but the Christians in Smyrna were poor. They were poor from their worldly point of view but in spite of the fact they were rich before Christ. ‘Rich’ here it means rich in God’s grace, having treasures in heaven.
The church of Smyrna receives a glowing commendation for their sufferings for his sake, for their testimony and remaining faithful unto the end despite tribulation and poverty.
The church of Smyrna receives no condemnation but praises and promises from the Lord. The believers at Smyrna are promised with a crown of life if they remain faithful unto death. Again the over-comer is promised that he shall not experience the second death, i.e., the eternal separation from the presence of God.
(b) The Church of Philadelphia:
The city of Philadelphia is situated on the high ground on the south side of the river Cogamis. The city itself was of a commercial importance. The word Philadelphia means lover of his brother. It is the only second church among the seven who does not receive any condemnation but praise and commendation from the Lord for her strength even though she was little, for her doctrinal preservation and her true loyalty to Christ.
The church of Philadelphia is promised that she will be kept from the hour of trial and temptation because of their faithfulness to the Lord. The Lord also promises to the over-comers to make him “a pillar in the temple of God” which is the new Jerusalem. They will also receive a new name belonging to Christ.
A pillar in the temple of God – speaks of importance and permanence which is eternal. It means that the over-comer will remain forever in the presence of God.
-- a new name – It is God’s name on the over-comer which is God’s stamp or mark for eternity.
-- the name of the city of my God – speaks about the eternal citizenship in the city of God.
2. The second Category of Churches :
(a) The Church of Ephesus
Ephesus was one of the most important commercial city in Asia Minor and also the main sea port. The city was known as the chief city of Ionia. It was prosperously magnificent and also known as “Asia Lumen” – a meeting place of oriental religious and Greek cultures. It was located near the river Meander entering the Agean sea. It was very famous for the celebrated temple of Diana one of the seven wonders of the world. Diana was the Asian goddess of fertility. Paul labored hard for three years here in Ephesus and laid the foundation of the strongest Christian church of the first century.
Jesus Christ has highly commended for their hard works, labor, patience and perseverance of faith. But in spite of their hard works and patience, Jesus very strongly rebuked the Ephesians believers because they lost their first love for Jesus.
Love is the basic foundation in Christian life. Work without love strikes at the root of all Christian lives. The Ephesians were really orthodox in their belief but without love. The only remedy for them is to repent and remember the height from which they have fallen. Christ would remove the candle stick from its place if they disobeyed God. Again obedience to his command means receiving the promises of blessings. The word of the Lord came true because after the 5th century the Church as well as the city itself declined. The area itself is now uninhabited since the 14th century.
(7) The Church of Pergamum:
The capital city of Pergamum is situated about ten miles inland from the Aegean sea. Pergamum was another magnificent city of Asia full of antiquity, Greatness and splendor. The worship of the pagan gods – Zeus, Athens, Dionysus and Asklepios was prevailing in those days. The sovereign Christ who holds the two edged sword reminds them of the power of the living God. He has some words of commendations towards them for their faithful witness for Christ. In spite of the fact that they were living in a city where all kinds of pagan worships were prevailing “Where the Satan’s seat is”, they did not deny Christ. But Christ’s rebuking is that some of them were holding fast the doctrine of Balkan and Nicolaitans. The reference to Balaam is that Balaam used to advise the Midianite women to beguile Israelite to play with the harlot with the Moabite daughters. Likewise Nicolaitans also were influencing the believers to pagan society and worship. And some of the believers were turning to the teachings of these false teachers. Jesus has a warning for them. The only remedy is to repent. It they don’t Christ would come and fight with them with the sword of his mouth. One who overcomes to him he promises to give the hidden manna and a white stone. The hidden manna refers to the bread of life, the Christ Himself i.e., the sufficiency of Christ in the believers life.
© The Church of Thyatira :
Thyatira is situated on the south bank of the Lycus valley, a fertile valley famous for the manufacture of purple dye, a lady called Lydia who was a seller of purple goods brought the gospel to Thyatira (Acts 16:14). Christ has few words of commendation to the church for her works, love, service, faithfulness and patience. But she was morally corrupt. There was a woman named Jezebel whose teaching and influence led the believers to commit adultery and eat things sacrificed to idols. A warning of terrible judgment is therefore awaiting for her and also for them who committed adultery with her that they will be cast into tribulation except they repent. There is also a word of promise for one who overcomes that he will be given power over the nations. He is also given a promise of “the morning star”, The morning star refers to the Lord Jesus Himself (Rev 22:16) or it may be the immortal life that is in Christ Jesus.
3. The third category of churches:
4. The church of Sardis:
Sardis was the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Lydia one of the most powerful city of the ancient world also a city of wealth and fame. But the church of Sardis was a dead church. She is the most severely denounced church among the seven. There is no commendation of this church but only a few who have not defiled themselves. She is condemned for her lifeless profession and also for her incomplete works. But the promise for the over-comer is that he will be “clothed in white garment”. His name will not be blotted out of the book of life and Christ will confess his name before the father.
(b) The church of Laodicea:
The seventh and the last letter is addressed to the angel of the church of Laodicea. The city was located in the Lycus Valley in south west Phrygia south to the Mediterranean of Attaleia. Laodicea was the richest city among all the cities in Phrygia. The ground of the Lycus Valley being very fertile provided good grazing for the sheep. SO the city was famous for producing a soft glossy black wool. Laodicea was also famous for her school of medicine.
The main rebuke against the church was that she was neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. The church was very wealthy from the worldly point of view but spiritually barren. In the language of the Lord they were the poorest, the wretched and miserable, blind and naked. The sad thing is that they did not realize their condition.
The only remedy for cure for them is to repent. Jesus asks them to buy from him the gold tried in the fire to be rich and the white garment to be clothed and the eye salve to anoint their eyes. These are all figurative to enrich their spiritual condition but which have also some kinds of relationship with their professions such as their production of black wool and the medicines for eyes. Here is a personal invitation to all. The picture is very incredible that Christ has to stand outside the door of his own church. But how gracious he is that he is still seeking entrance.
The evaluation of these seven letters to the seven churches reveal that Christ loves each one of the churches. However worse the church may be, Jesus has not forsaken it. He rebukes, disciplines and asks her to repent. Jesus has abundance of promises and blessing to every repentant believer. Repentance is the turning point to every child of God to gain the favor of God.
These letters to the seven churches are very relevant to the 21st century churches to evaluate themselves and present before the Lord as holy, pure and unblemished. The voice of the Lord is clear.
“He who an ear, let him hear what
The spirit says to the churches” Rev 3:22
To those faithful hearers the Lord Jesus has abundance of promises.
The promises to the over-comers –
1. “I will give to eat of the tree of life” Rev 2:7
The tree of life here symbolizes eternal life.
2. “I will give thee a crown of life” Rev 2:10
The eternal glory of life in heaven.
3. “I will give to eat of the hidden manna and will give a white stone and in the stone a new name written.” Rev 2:17
4. Hidden manna – signifying the bread of eternal life
i.e., Christ Himself
A white stone with a new name – the stone most likely speaks abut the redeemed person in Christ Jesus, while white color may represent his righteousness new may refer to the new character of the person in Jesus Christ.
“Behold, I make all things new”
Rev 21:5 cf II Cor 5:17
5. “I will give power over the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron,” 2:26
Also see Lk 22:29,30; I Cor 6:2; rev 5:10; 20:4,6.
6. “I will give him the morning star” 2:28
Jesus himself is the Morning star. Jesus said,” I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright Morning star,” Rev 22:16
7. “He that over-cometh --- shall be clothed in white raiment” 3:5. It speaks of the righteousness of the saints whose garments are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Rev 7:13,14
8. “—will not blot out his name out of the book of life –“ 3:5
The names of the believers (overcomes) are written in the Lamb’s book of life and will remain there eternally never to be erased. It means that they will live with the Lord Jesus eternally.
9. “--- I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” 3:5
Jesus will confess the names of the believers before the father. The same has been told in Mt 10:32
“whoever acknowledge him before My Father in heaven.”
Also see LK 12:8
10. “Him that over-cometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.” 3:12
It means that the overcome will remain forever (permanently) in the presence of God. The pillar also speaks of the importance of the believer in the kingdom of God.
11. “I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem – I will also write on him my new name,” 3:12
‘the name of my God, -- speaks about the sealing of God as a mark of identification and recognition. The over comer will be forever his.
‘the name of the city of my God’ speaks of the permanent citizenship in heaven.
‘my new name’ – one of the names of Christ from among the hundreds of different individual names given to him in the scripture. It also refer to the new character of the individual in Christ Jesus.
12. “I will come into him and will sup with him and he with me,” 3:20
This is a marvelous illustration which reveals Christ’s attitude to every repentant believer and his willingness to commune with him. The picture is very incredible that Christ stands i.e., to turn from their own ways to the ways of God and accept Salvation free of cost.
13. “He that over-cometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne,” 3:21
This is a wonderful promise of the Lord given to the church. So Christ ends his letter with a note of a wonderful hope. Christ is now sitting at the right hand of the Father (Heb 1:3). But He has also given the right to sit with him on his heavenly throne to all the overcomes.
These are the wonderful promises given to the churches by our Lord Jesus Christ. This shows his attitude as well as his relation towards his church. He has also warned the churches of the consequences of not remaining pure and undefiled in this present world of conflict. When he calls, he also equips. The children of God are challenged to grasp hold of the vital truths that are going to take place shortly and depend upon the riches of his grace.
AN ANALYTICAL OUTLINE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION.
I. The introduction 1:1-8
A. The prologue Vs 1-3
B. B. Greetings and doxology 4-8
C. (i) Greetings to the seven churches V4
D. (ii) Jesus the original writer V5
E. (iii) Doxology Vs 6-8
F. II. The vision of John in Patmos 1:9-3:22
G. 1. The circumstances of the vision 1:9-11
H. (i) John in Patmos V9
I. (ii) John in the spirit V10
J. (iii) Voice from the Lord V11
2. The vision of the seven golden lamp-stands and the son of man Vs 12-16
3. The mystery of the vision explained Vs 17-20
4. The letters to the seven churches 2:1-3:22
(i) The letter to Ephesus Vs 1-7
(ii) The letter to Smyrna Vs 8-11
(iv) The letter to Pergamum Vs 12-17
(v) The letter to Thyatira Vs 18-29
(vi) The letter to Sardis 3:1-6
(vii) The letter to Philadelphia Vs 7-13
(viii) The letter to Laodicea Vs 14-22
III The Tribulation Period 4:1-19-21
1. John’s vision of God’s throne 4:1-11
(a) The vision of the throne 4:1-3
(b) Exaltation of he Elders Vs 4-8
(c) Elders and living creatures worship the creator Vs 9-11
2. The seven sealed scroll in heaven 5:1-14
(a) The scroll V1
(b) Insolvable Mystery Vs 2-5
(c) The slain Lamb Vs 6-7
(d) The song in the honor of the Lamb Vs 8-14
3. The first six seals of judgment 6:1-7
(a) The first seal-cold war 6:1-2
(b) The second seal-open war Vs 3-4
(c) The third seal-famine Vs 5-6
(d) The fourth seal-death Vs 7-8
(e) The fifth seal martyrdom Vs 9-11
(f) The sixth seal – physical disturbance Vs 12-17
4. The interlude 7:1-17
5. The seventh seal of the living God. 8:1-5
6. The seven angels with seven trumpets 8:6-11:1-19
(a) The first six trumpets 8:7-21
(i) The trumpet : the earth smitten 8:7
(ii) The second trumpet : the sea smitten Vs 8:9
(iii) The third trumpet : the waters smitten Vs 10:11
(iv) The fourth trumpet : the heavens smitten Vs 12-13
(v) The fifth trumpet : men smitten 9:1-12
(vi) The sixth trumpet : men killed Vs 13-21
(b) The Little scroll 10:1-11
(c) The two witness 11:1-14
(d) The seventh trumpet 11:15-19
7. War 12:1-17
(a) War on earth I Vs 1-6
(b) War in heaven Vs 7-12
(c) War on earth II Vs 13-17
8. The beast and his prophet 13-1-18
(a) The beast 13:1-10
(b) The second beast 13:11-18
9. The fall of Babylon ch. 14
(a) The lamb and the Heavenly chorus 14:1-3
(b) The followers of the Lamb Vs 4-5
(c) The Angel having the everlasting Gospel 14:6-7
(d) The prediction of the fall of evil powers V8
(e) The Devil worship Vs 9-10
(f) Unrest of the wicked Vs 11-13
(g) The two harvests Vs 14-20
10. Prelude to the bowl judgments 15:1-8
11. The bowl judgments 16:1-21
(a) The first bowl : grievous sores Vs 1-2
(b) The second bowl : seas smitten V3
(c) The third bowl : rivers smitten Vs 4-7
(d) Fourth bowl : scorching Vs 8-9
(e) Sixth bowl : darkness Vs 10:11
(f) Sixth bowl : Euphrates dried Vs 12-16
(g) Seventh bowl : Widespread destruction Vs 17-21
12. Babylon the great, the mother harlot 17-1-18
(a) The description Vs 1-7
(b) The interpretation Vs 8-18
13. The commercial Babylon 18:1-24
(a) The Announcement Vs 1-3
(b) The Appeal Vs 4-8
(c) The Anguish Vs 9-19
(d) The Acclamation Vs 20-24
14. The second Coming of Christ 19:1-21
(a) The announcement Vs 1-10
(b) The Advent of Christ Vs 11:16
(c) The Armageddon Vs 17-21
IV The Millennium 20:1-15
(a) The Satan bound 1-3
(b) The saints resurrected 4-6
(c) Sinners rebelling 7-9
(d) Satan doomed V10
(e) Sinners judged 11:15
V The Eternal state 21:1-22:5
(a) The new Jerusalem 1-8
(b) The Description of the New Jerusalem 9:27
(c) The Blessings of the New Jerusalem 22:1-5
VI Epilogue 22:6-21
(a) The variety of the Revelation 6-10
(b) The fullness of time at hand 11-12
(c) Conditions of entrance into the city 13-16
(d) The last invitation 17-19
(e) The closing benediction 20:21
1. Mounce H. Robert,
The book of Revelation
WM B. Ecrmands Publishing Co.
Grand Rapids, Michigan.
2. Dr. Mayhue Richard
Christ and the churches.
Blessing Youth Mission.
3. Trench Chenevix Richard
The Seven churches
Klock 4 Klock Christian Publishers.
2527 Girand Ave N
4. Unger F Merrill
Unger’s Bible handbook
Moody Press, Chicago.
5. Walvoord F John, Zuck B Roy
The Bible knowledge commentary.
Victor Bookm wheaton, III inois.
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