Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Study in The Revelation - 1:5-2:7

Hello friends,

We continue in our study of The Revelation. In this installment, I lead the class through the Greeting, John's call and commission from the Lord, some thoughts on the various names of Jesus, and the message from the Lord to the church at Ephesus.

As always, I will present the options of interpretation when there are options, as well as my opinion on which option seems best. However, whereas there are certain teachings from The Revelation that are absolutely undeniably clear, there are some that we need not nor should not become too dogmatic.

The point of the book - "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him." (1:7)  

I trust the Lord will have his way in your heart as you study his word. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll address them at our next class. You will be able to hear my response to your question on our next recording. (I hope this is helpful to those not in our area who are following this class.)  You can write your questions to:

God bless you as you study and respond to His Word!  To God be the Glory...Come, Lord Jesus!

Kirk McCormick

** Before we start, should you miss a class you can listen to the podcast of any class by going to the church’s podcast site:

…or, better yet, by going to my (Kirk’s) blog where you can also get the notes for the class. Notes are not available at the church’s podcast site.  If you would, also, like to register for my blog, you can do so at the blog site. You will then receive word whenever I write an article, preach a sermon, etc.   Here is the blog address:

** Also…some abbreviations to help you decode the notes.

“c.f.” = cross reference…you can find this same teaching in another part of the Bible
“v.” = the single verse of the chapter are we discussing
“vs.” = the multiple verses of a chapter are we discussing
“e.g.” = from the Latin, exempli gratia, which means “for the sake of example” or “for example”
“i.e.” = from the Latin, id est, which means “that is”
“OT” = Old Testament
“NT” = New Testament

Revelation 1:4-20

Note: There are churches in other parts of the Region (e.g.: Colossae (Colossians 1:2), Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13), Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 20:5), Miletus (Acts 20:17)), so why these Seven?

Possible Answers:

1.     The Seven were the churches located on the main trade routes of the area. The others were more remote.

2.     John uses the number “7” throughout the book as a demonstration of the perfection of this vision.  In fact, “Seven” occurs fifty-four times. There are actually seven sets of seven. They are the:

·      seven candlesticks (1:12),
·      seven stars (1:16),
·      seven lamps (4:5),
·      seven seals (5:1),
·      seven horns and seven eyes (5:6),
·      seven thunders (10:3),
·      seven angels, plagues and bowls (15:6–8)

3.     Other commentators (the Futurists and Idealists) postulate that these 7 represent the church in throughout the ages, present and future.  If this were the case, the meaning would be:

·      Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7) - the church that had forsaken its first love (2:4)
·      Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) - the church that would suffer persecution (2:10)
·      Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) - the church that needed to repent (2:16)
·      Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) - the church that had a false prophetess (2:20)
·      Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) - the church that had fallen asleep (3:2)
·      Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) - the church that had endured patiently (3:10)
·      Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) - the church with the lukewarm faith (3:16)

4.     Some commentators (the Preterists) believe that John addresses these “7” because they represent the condition of the whole, universal church in John’s day.

5.     Others believe that these 7 were chosen because of their distinctive and extreme practice of emperor worship.

6.     More than likely, however, John likely writes to these seven because he has special authority over them as their Bishop. He knew and loved them best, so he could be the most severe and honest with them.  And they are listed in the order that one would travel (i.e.: circuit ministry) if one used the Roman road system.  Ephesus would be first if one was coming from Rome by ship. One would then travel clockwise to Smyrna, making Laodicea the last to be visited on the circuit.  John, of course, would follow that same circuit, so this makes practical sense, too.  This is the Historicist approach. (See the maps below)

Revelation 1:4-6 – The Greeting

·      “Grace and Peace” is the standard greeting

o   “Grace” = the mercy of God’s undeserved favor
o   “Peace” = Hebrew: shalom… a greeting of well-being indicative of a life restored/recreated by God through Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s heart/spirit

·      “…from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,  and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the
dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

The Revelation comes from the Father, through Holy Spirit, and is testified to/given credence by Jesus Christ.

o   “Is” (i.e.: the Object of Creation), “Was” (i.e.: Source of past blessings), “Is to come” (i.e.: Focus of future promises)… see: Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 41:4
o   “seven spirits”… this is unusual language, even for John (who never uses the name “Holy Spirit” in this book)
§  Some believe this to be Holy Spirit. Their reasoning:
·      However, a Jewish tradition was to think of Holy Spirit’s work as a seven-fold ministry in God’s people.  See Isaiah 11:2,3 - “The Spirit of God will rest upon him, a spirit of [1] wisdom and [2] understanding, a spirit of [3] counsel and [4] might, a spirit of [5] knowledge and [6] godliness; the Spirit will fill him with [7] the fear of the Lord”
·      So it is Holy Spirit that is referred to here, making this Revelation a gift to the churches from the Trinitarian God: Eternal Creator, Spirit, and Jesus.
·      And why would a created being (i.e.: angel(s)) be included with the Father and Son as John establishes the authority/source behind the Revelation? It makes more sense to include Holy Spirit, no matter how strangely Holy Spirit is named.
§  Others believe the “seven spirits” are in reference to the angels over each of the seven churches. Their reasoning:
·      Nowhere in his writings does John use “Spirits” for the Holy Spirit, but angels are always created beings in the service of God.
·      Each of the 7 churches has an “angel” (i.e.: messenger) assigned to it. This seems to be an individual angel/messenger, not just that church’s portion of Holy Spirit working in it.
·      So the “seven spirits” represent the fraternity of angels assigned by God to communicate with the churches in that region. Some might call them the 7 Ministering Angels (i.e.: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Gabriel, Saiquael and Jeremiel – the seven “Archangels” mentioned in the Apocrypha, of which only Gabriel and Michael are mentioned in the NT) around the Throne who go in and out of God’ presence according to his command.  (This is common language used in the Apocryphal books of the OT:  Tobit, Enoch, etc.)

Kirk’s Opinion: In the final conclusion, I believe this is likely a reference to Holy Spirit…yet it is not something that matters as God is clearly the source of the Revelation John is recording.

o   Jesus is the
§  “faithful witness” = the teacher is explicates the Word of God truthfully
§  “firstborn from the dead” = the prototype of all who will be saved
§  “ruler” = under whom all authority rests…he has absolute dominion over all creation

·      Then John, in the final part of the Greeting, reminds the reader of the Focus of this book:

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”  (1:5, 6)

Jesus Will Return (1:7-8)

** “Coming in the Clouds”…referring to the imminent return of Jesus in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13, Zechariah 12:10, Matthew 24:30, and John 19:37, to mention a few.

** Jesus calls himself (v. 8):

1.     The “Alpha and Omega” – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet
o   Here Jesus reminds the reader he is Creator (Alpha) and Judge (Omega). In other words, he is sovereign over all.

2.     “Who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” –
o   Similar to verse 4, Jesus now applies the name of the Eternal God to himself.  Let there be no mistake, Jesus declares himself the Almighty whose power and authority cannot be denied.

Point: In short, these two verses are Jesus way of saying, “All that you are about to witness and experience are designed to fulfill prophecy and the promises I’ve made.”

A Little Background to the Coming Revelation (1:9-20)

The Setting to the Vision (1:9-11)

** John was in exile on Patmos (for the location, see the previous map) because of his commitment to Jesus Christ.

1.     He’s a “brother and companion”
2.     He’s suffering (Greek: thlipsis = pressure…being “squeezed”) for the sake of the kingdom, willing to endure patiently (Greek: hupomone = intentional courage in face of adversity) for Jesus

Point: The way to the kingdom is through suffering and endurance. i.e.: there is no easy way to live for Christ in a world hostile to the Gospel.

** John is “in the Spirit” (v. 10) = either worshipping or in a transcendent state when God interrupts (“heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet”) when God gave him his marching orders:

“Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches…” (v. 11)

The Vision Begins (1:12-16)

** John turns and sees:

·      7 Golden Lampstands – c.f.: Zechariah 4:2, symbols of the 7 Churches (see v. 20) of Revelation 2 and 3
·      Someone, like a “son of man”...
o   …dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet with a gold sash around his chest – part of the  priestly garment described in Exodus 28:4
o   …White hair on his head – symbol of respect indicating wisdom
o   …Eyes blazing fire – penetrating scrutiny of those on earth, and fierce judgment of what he sees (c.f.: Daniel 10:6)
o   …Feet like bronze glowing in a furnace – glowing fire is symbolic of the Glory of God (c.f.:  Ezekiel 1:13, 27; 8:2) that is unstoppably marching toward victory
o   …Voice like the sound of rushing water – the irresistible voice of God commanding all things that happen (e.g.:  God “spoke” and Creation happened in Genesis 1 and 2)
o   …Right hand held 7 Starts – right hand is hand of power…7 stars are angels at his command (v. 20) who are assigned to the 7 Churches (Chapters 2 and 3)
o   …out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword – “double-edged” is judgment that cannot be thwarted, stalled, rejected.

NOTE: This is a unique double-edged sword (rhomphaia vs. machaira in Hebrews 4:12 – “the Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword”) , unlike ever seen in the Bible

o   face like the sun shining brilliantly – the shekinah glory of God, same as Moses saw and reflected

Point: So here we have the Risen Messiah who is coming back as Warrior Priest, not as Suffering Servant.

Jesus Commissions John to Write The Revelation (1:17-20)

** Remember…John has seen the Resurrected Jesus…so when he sees him again, he:

1.     …falls to his knees to worship him, to show respect and reverence (v. 17)
2.     …but he is also afraid – we know because of Jesus’ first words to John, “Do not be afraid.”

Question: Why would John be afraid of Jesus?

Answer: Because Jesus’ appearance had changed from when John last saw Jesus. Again, Jesus goes from Suffering Servant to Warrior Priest.

** More about Jesus (vs. 17-18)

Note: All of these names for Jesus in this chapter will be used throughout the Book, in particular with the addresses to the 7 Churches.  ALSO, John takes titles about God from the OT and applies them to the Risen Christ.

·      Jesus is:
o   The “First and the Last”
o   The “Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive”
o   the Holder of “the Keys of death and Hades”

** Then the simple commission (v. 20) – “Whatever you see, write it down!”

Revelation 2-3: Jesus and the Seven Churches

** John is writing to actual churches in the “Asia”. In the Bible, “Asia” does not refer to the continent, but to the Roman province encompassed in modern-day Asia Minor (or, more specifically, Turkey).

** You can tell so much about Jesus’ intent in speaking to each church by the previously-mentioned title he invokes at the beginning of his address to each church. 

Ephesus – Revelation 2:1-7

Who is Speaking? …the one who “holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands” (i.e.: the true leader and foundation of the church: Jesus)

Positives: They are hardworking and persevere for the faith. They do not tolerate false prophets.

Negatives: They have “forsaken their first love.”  Could mean they have fallen into idolatry or are acting on their own authority. Or, more than likely, they were just going through the motion of appearing faithful without a solid connection with Jesus by the establishment of a spiritual “higher class” – the result of their strong work.

Admonition:  Repent and return to Jesus.  Stand firm against the Nicolaitans = the establishment of a spiritual hierarchy via an extra priesthood “spiritual giants”.

Key Teaching Points:

** When you are feeling apart from God:
1.     Remember - the past closeness to God.
2.     Repent - turn away from what distracted you and turn back to Jesus
3.     Repeat – the things that once brought you close to God

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.