Continuing our preparation for studying Revelation chapters 2 & 3, here are some more observations from chapter 1, laying a foundation for us. Today we will consider Revelation 1:4-8
v. 4-8 This is a typical (to the period) greeting for a Greek letter. It states who it is from, who it is addressed to, and includes a glorious preamble.
People have debated the meaning of ‘seven churches’. Because seven is elsewhere (and often in the book of Revelation) symbolic of ‘complete’ or ‘whole’, some suggest a symbolic meaning – to the complete church. Others have pointed out that the seven specific churches addressed are all verified in history as having existed in the period John wrote. Moreover, they point to the specific situations addressed in the seven letters seeming to correspond with actual circumstances known by historians to have existed in each location. Coincidence? Personally, I have no trouble taking this seven as both literal and figurative. Again, I go back to the purpose John wrote – to assure and encourage the church in the face of persecution and trials. For that reason, I agree with those folks who interpret this section as having been addressed to the literal churches in Asia Minor of that time period. Does this mean that it is not also used figuratively of the whole or complete church? Absolutely not. Just as we studied a letter Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and found that it spoke to us some 2000 years and oceans and continents away, so also these words are recorded by God to speak to the church throughout the ages and around the world.
You’ll see another ‘seven’ in verse 4, referring to the ‘seven spirits before His throne’. Most scholars agree that this seven must be a figure of speech referring to the ‘sevenfold’ or complete ministry of the Spirit. Hence, you see the difficulty in interpreting ‘seven’ literally in one part of verse four, and figuratively a sentence later.
God is referred to as ‘the One who is, who was, and who is to come’ in verse 4. This is closely akin to the name He disclosed for Himself in Exodus 3:14-15, ‘I Am’, and indeed is how He declares Himself in verse 8.
Note the descriptive names and terms assigned to Jesus in this preamble. I’ll only list them here. I recommend you spend some time considering each one. It will greatly nourish your soul! I will try to develop each one a bit as we make our way through the series of studies together.
Jesus is: the faithful witness; firstborn of the dead; the ruler of the kings of the earth; Him who loves us; Him who has freed us from our sins by His blood (all in verse 5); Him who has made us to be a Kingdom of Priests (v. 6).
In verse 7 Jesus’ second coming is promised, and again, speaks tremendous comfort to the church. Note that His second coming will be obvious to all.
Technorati Tags: Interactive Sermon, Revelation, Church, Ecclesiology