I have rarely studied the Book of Revelation – or, more correctly, the Apocalypse of John (or is it the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ from Rev. 1:1?). But, several months ago, Alan Bandy from “Cafe Apocalypse” reminded me that the all of the churches were instructed to hear what the Spirit was saying to each of the seven churches in Chapters 2-3 (see “The Churches of the Revelation“). I thought I would take this opportunity to work through the seven letters to the seven churches in order to determine what we can learn from what Jesus says to these churches.
We know there is much symbolism in the Revelation. But, in the case of the seven churches, the author explains some of the symbolism:
As for the mystery of the seven stars that 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 are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:20 ESV)
In this case at least, we know that the seven stars represent seven messengers, but we don’t know if these are heavenly or earthly messengers. However, we should admit that in all other instances in the Revelation, “angel” refers to a heavenly messenger.
We also know that the seven lampstands represent the seven churches. However, we do not know what Jesus means later when he says that he may remove a lampstand. It doesn’t sound good, but does this mean that the believers will die, or that they will no longer be consider God’s children? We’re not told.
Even though there is a lot of symbolism, I think it is possible to learn from these seven letters. I think it is possible to compare ourselves to the good, the bad, and the ugly in these letters. When we do, we can begin to see how we compare to these churches and how we compare to Jesus’ desire for these churches. We may even begin to see where Jesus would want us to change, or where he would praise us.
Primarily, as we begin this series, let’s remember that these are the words of the one who is “in the midst of the lampstands” (Rev. 1:13). I see this as great encouragement to us in the church today. We are God’s children, and he does not leave us alone. He remains with us and walks among us. This statement can also serve as warning. God is intimately interested and intimately involved in his work on earth. It is not our place to determine what to do or how to do it. Instead, it should be our desire to determine what God wants us to do and how he wants us to do it.
For the most part, I would like to stay away from the discussion of the reality and the timing of the events featured after chapter 3. If you would like to discuss these issues, I hope you will write your own post on your blog and let us know here.
I hope you enjoy this series as we attempt to have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.