The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse
Teaching Notes – Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Fr. Joe Rees+
- Apocalypse=”unveiling” or “disclosure”—revealing the vision and message God wants to give to His churches believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Both ‘by’ and ‘from’ Jesus to John the Apostle.
- As early as Justin Martyr in second century A.D. this has been the Apostle, son of Zebedee, a Jew, well versed in Scripture, most assuredly although not completely adhered to by most theologians as the traditional view of authorship.
- Date: Under time of persecution, latter part of Nero’s reign (A.D. 54-68, seems too early) or the latter part of Domitian’s reign (81-96), which most scholars date the book at c. 95.
- John writes under the ‘dictation’ of the Holy Spirit in highly symbolic and apocalyptic identifications. Holy Spirit wanted to encourage the believers in light of persecution and warn of the final showdown between God and Satan…and that it might be immanent. Believers were thus encouraged to stand fast until death if necessary!
- Chapter One: “Blessed are those who read and those who hear this prophecy”! “And heed or keep what is written in it!” (vs. 3)
- “John to the seven churches that are in Asia”—clear reference to author; and location. So where are the seven churches? Vs. 11 id’s: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. All in modern day Turkey, all within 200 mile radius of each other and about 50 miles near to the next church. A long ride on donkey in those days!
- Ephesus was key city, and from which John had been exiled to Patmos. See book at table.
- Exiled due to his preaching the Word of God and Gospel (testimony of Jesus)! John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day! (Oh would that we were all in the Spirit every Sunday!)
- “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen.” Basic premise of the letter.
- God speaks: “I AM the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” John previously wrote the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus. This is Jesus speaking. John is to write what he hears and sees! (vs. 11).
- Seven churches: divine numerology. Sevenfold Spirit—see Zech 4:2; 4:10. Seven “golden lampstands”—seven churches. What do you think it meant symbolically that they lampstands? Light of the world proclaiming the Word. Vs. 20 clearly id’s churches as lampstands. Also, seven stars—‘the angels’ of the seven churches.
- Verse 19—threefold structure of the whole book…”things seen” = prelim vision, “things which are”= letters to churches, “things to come”= everything that is chp. 4 and after. Could be a ‘now & later’ view throughout the book though. We’re going to concentrate on the first two in this study of the seven churches.
- Vision of Jesus…then and now. Seven churches respond to the vision of Jesus then and now. What was Jesus trying to say to the seven churches that He is still speaking to us?
The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse — Part 2 — October 22, 2013
- Chapter 2: The Church at Ephesus. Most important of the seven churches. Home for John.
- Form of the chapter: commendation, complaint, correction.
- “The One” = Jesus Christ. God is walking amongst His Churches.
- “I know your deeds, toil, perseverance”—God knows His Church and her deeds!
- Commended for not tolerating evil; testing with the Truth false teachers, heretics.
– Are we as a church doing the same? Our stands for Biblical Truth…
– We must have greater ‘discernment’ in the coming days.
– What are your challenges that have come from evil?
– Being strong in the Lord through the power of prayer to defend against all forms of evil and its encroachment upon the Church…faithful attendance!
- John knew these churches—he was there! Sir William Ramsay said, “The man who wrote these seven letters to the seven churches had been there, and he knew the local conditions.” As the Apostle, Ephesus was the sending church, John was sent.
- The impact of the Gospel on Ephesus was great…”Four great towers or pillars were placed at the entrance to its harbor, and upon them was the emblem of the cross.” Each monument stood for the Gospel writers; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Only one pillar with the symbol of the cross is still standing today.
- Paul’s great ministry in Ephesus was captured by Luke in his writing in Acts 19:10—“…all who lived in Asia heard the Word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Paul goes on to do miracles in Ephesus “so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.”(19:12) (Gives thought to our prayer quilts today…)
- The church there persevered. “and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” This is an instruction for us in our day!
- “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Their love for Christ and thus for one another must have waned. They like us at times became complacent and lethargic in our care for the Body of Christ. Discuss your observations about us.
- “Therefore…remember…repent…do first deeds”—otherwise the church will be removed. Must repent: change the way you think, go back to Jesus’ directions!
- Final commending: “you hate the work of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
– Nicolaitans—heretical sect ‘within’ the church that compromised with society. “They apparently taught that spiritual liberty gave them sufficient leeway to practice idolatry and immorality. Tradition identifies them with Nicholas, the proselyte of Antioch who was one of the first seven deacons in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5). A similar group at Pergamum held the teaching of Balaam, and some at Thyatira were followers of the woman Jezebel. All three groups were considered in general ‘Nicolaitans’. “ NASB Study Bible p. 1850 on 2:6.
– Perhaps an Antinomian Gnostic cult which taught that one must indulge in sin in order to understand it. Sensual sin predominantly, aberrant sexuality, as that sin would not touch the spirit. Sex has always been a trap of Satan.
- “Spirit says to the churches: to him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.” Admonition to ‘overcome’. We can only overcome through the Blood of the Lamb—Christ. Fight against the cultural invasion of the church. Tree of life has healing in its leaves…Rev 21:7; 22:2.
- The new heaven and new earth. “Behold, I am making all things new.” “He/she who overcomes will inherit these things (heaven), and I will be his God and he/she will be My son/daughter.”(21:7) John is prophesying about the restoration of God’s creation.
- Paradise—God and man in perfect fellowship, restored into the Garden of God, no longer to be invaded by Satan and his evil deeds.
+ As Dr. J. Vernon McGee says in his commentary: “You will recall that man was forbidden to eat of the Tree of Life after the Fall, as recorded in Genesis 3:22-24. But in heaven the “no trespassing” sign will be taken down, and all of us will be given the privilege of eating of the Tree of Life. I don’t know what kind of fruit it has, but I believe it will enable us to really live it up. Most of us don’t know much about living yet. We have sort of a vegetable existence down here, but we will have a good fruit existence up there—we’ll eat of the Tree of Life. We are going to live as we have never lived before.”(p. 72)
+ Of all the churches that are mentioned this is most Apostolic in its intents and zeal. I pray for this for our church as well. We must persevere in our faithfulness to the Person of Jesus. It is most urgent for us to preach a personal relationship with the Savior in order to have His blessings. We need the “first love” kind of power in our relationship. It’s not merely a feeling; it’s an action; it’s putting the Word into our lives and letting the Holy Spirit take charge of our lives. This requires a daily submission to the Lord.
‘O mighty and gracious Lord Jesus, we want to rekindle that ‘first love’ power for You and Your Church, Your people, and the advancing of Your Kingdom. We submit to You Lord our wills, our hopes, and dreams for Your Spirit to re-order our lives in accordance with Your will to live as Kingdom agents on the earth. Send Your Spirit’s power into our hearts and souls and strengthen our bodies and minds to do exactly what Your will is directing us to do as Your Church. Grace Anglican in Oceanside, CA is in Your hands to do with as You please. Help us not grow weary in the doing of our appointed deeds for You. Lord, we give you this church to use for Your glory. In Your precious Name we pray. Amen.’