Ok, so I am doing something now that has been on my heart for a while: an in-depth study of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the letters to the angels of the churches of Asia Minor. For the next seven days, I will have a new post every day on the next letter in the series.
For those unfamiliar with what is going on in the Book of Revelation, the apostle John, son of Zebedee, is given a revelation by Jesus Christ of the end of this world, in which God triumphs over sin and destroys this earth, and creates a new earth and a new Jerusalem for those whose faith is strong and whose names are written in the Book of Life. But before John tells the story of what God must do to destroy sin completely, he is given letters to send to the churches of Asia Minor, which is what I will be discussing. This post will be a general overview of the content of the letters as a whole, what they mean, why they were written, interpretations of the letters, and how to read the letters.
To start, lets look at the structure of the letter, which is shared by all the others. It begins with a declaration of the author of the letter. Each letter introduces Jesus Christ as the author, and describes a different aspect about his sovereignty. He is described as the First and the Last, the holder of the double-edged sword(mimicking Hebrews 4:12), the ruler of God's creation. Jesus is King, and in each letter he exerts his authority over the recipients so that they may know the power of the words they are about to hear and do as it says. Next, Jesus tells the church what they are doing well, commending them on their good deeds or strong faith. He wants them to know that their works are not unseen, and that everything they do in God's name is good. But Jesus has a purpose with these letters, and he then tells the churches where they fall short of His glory. He tells them the mistakes they are making within the church and exposes the corruption within. Jesus urges the churches to repent of their ways and continue to do all they can to glorify God in the way that God has designed, not by their own power. He finished the letters with a promise of a reward should they repent and do as the letter says.
But there is one thing to note when reading these letters: they are not directed solely at the one church. You may read it and say to yourself that these mean nothing to you because you are not a part of that church; but notice how the letter is not written to the church specifically, but to the angel, or messenger, of that church. The angel of the church watches over all the members of the church, but how do you know that angel isn't watching over you too? And further, in verse 2:7, Jesus explicitly tells anyone who listens to take to heart what is said, that no one is excluded from his commands. There is also another matter to think about when reading these letters. Since they apply to all who hear the words, everyone who hears must then judge for themselves if they belong to the church stated. Each church has one place where is excels and one where it falls short, and in my experience, most Christians will fall into at least one of these groups, and I personally can see myself at various points in my life in nearly every letter. And being that these letters were included in the larger letter of Revelation, these were intended to be read by everyone who read John's revelation, not just the churches they are addressed to.
But why were these letters a part of the revelation? Why were they included in the book of Revelation and not as an individual letter? Well the immediate answer is that they were given in the same revelation to John by Jesus and the seven churches of Asia Minor were the original recipients of Revelation. But beyond that, in my interpretation, these letters are also a revelation of Christianity through time, all the way until the end. The way these churches behave and treat Christianity is exactly how people will still be treating it when Jesus returns. And being that these letters are the very first things Jesus tells John in the revelation, John is essentially getting a glimpse of the lives of Christians throughout all time, and after seeing how Christians live, he will see what God must do to atone for the sinful ways in which they live. Another interpretation is that these letters represent a timeline of Christianity, beginning with the early Christians as represented in the church in Ephesus, and ending with the Church in Laodicea just before JEsus' return. However, i reject this view because it seems to give some semblance as to when Jesus will return; in other words, if the majority of Christians on Earth are acting like a certain church, then we have a rough estimate of when Jesus will return. And the reason I do not like this is because in Matthew 24:36, we are told that not even Jesus known when he will return; it will be a complete surprise to everyone except God the Father.
So for this next week, I will be discussing each letter in detail and relating it to our lives and other verses in Scripture.